Free Eggs!

I was alerted by the MoneySavingMom blog today about the Good Egg Project.

It’s really neat!  For every pledge to live a healthier lifestyle (isn’t that what this blog is about?) and give back to the community (which is part of developing a healthy community), a group of egg farmers will donate an egg to feed America.  In addition, if you sign the pledge you get a coupon for buy one dozen eggs, get another dozen free! Warning to Mac users: I have been having serious problems with printing from coupons.com. I would suggest printing on a different computer if you don’t want to deal with a hassle.

So share the love, sign the pledge and get a healthy, cheap source of protein!

I Pledge to Eat good. Do good every day.

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It’s like a banana, but better!

Today was a lazy, snacky day at home.  For dinner I decided I didn’t need much… just something a bit sweet, yet savory at the same time.

I knew exactly what to make.

Oh hi beautiful fruit!

Before my first trip to Puerto Rico, I always thought that plantains and bananas were essentially the same things.  I had certainly never tried one before.  Now, I know better and they are one of my favorite foods.  A staple in Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean, you can get your plantains several different ways, depending on the ripeness of the plantain:  mofongo, tostones, and amarillos.

I’ll go into the other types of plantains and how to cook them as I learn, but tonight I knew I wanted amarillos.  Amarillos are yellow, very ripe, sweet plantains lightly fried in a frying pan.  These are so fast and easy to make and make a great snack or side dish!

Ingredients:

  • Plantains
  • Oil
  1. Pick a very ripe yellow plantain.  You may notice that the one I have above looks black and kind of bad on the outside.  While this is a bad thing for regular bananas, it is GREAT for amarillos!
  2. While you heat up your skillet with a thin layer of oil, peel and slice up your plantain.  It is typically difficult to peel a plantain, so use your knife to cut a slit the length of the plantain and peel from there.
  3. Place your plantains on your skillet and lightly fry them on both sides until they start to brown slightly and are a bit translucent.
  4. Take them off the skillet and soak up some of the oil with a paper towel

These are typically served as a side dish in Puerto Rico, but I love to have them for dessert as well.  Cooking time total?  Around 8 minutes, including prep.  For those of you interested in calories the only thing I could find (here) says that fried plantains have about 116 calories per one cup, with 3g of fat.

Doesn’t get much better than that!  I know that plantains aren’t local, but I’m not quite ready to give them up for that reason. I’m so happy that I can get these without going all the way to the islands.  I see more homemade Puerto Rican meals in my future…

Just Desserts…

I never expected my week to be filled with yummy desserts, but thankfully it has.  I’m addicted to sugar, and while I know that is a bad thing in general, I’ve had such great random desserts this week that I really don’t mind.

I’m traveling this week for work in the lovely city of Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh has exceeded my expectations so far… I’m having a far different view of the town than the steel city history tells us about and my previous trip to the city on a band trip 10 years ago (seriously… how am I this old?).

And in this town, I have discovered some wonderful sugar rushes… all completely by accident.

First surprise sugar delight… gourmet cupcakes at Dozen.

Image from Dozen Cupcakes Website

I had been craving sugar (see above:  I’m an addict) after a long day of meetings.  I did a quick web search, but everything seemed far away.  My fellow travelers and I decided to head out to explore anyway.  My friend had noted that there was a bakery nearby and they might have cupcakes.  It turns out it was a bakery that I had found online and wanted to go to, but they had listed a completely different address that was too far away.  I was excited to buy my officemate his first cupcake ever (he just came here from China) and I hope he enjoyed it.

Overall review:  I had the key lime pie cupcake.  The cupcake was dry, but the icing was fantastic.  Original flavors and vegan cupcakes are available there, so I think it was a good find in a city I am not familiar with and still way better than what I can find in my hometown.

Second surprise sugar delight… burnt almond tort at Prantl’s Bakery.

While munching on our sandwiches from the Pittsburgh landmark, Primanti’s, a woman was walking around the square wearing top chef gear and passing out flyers.  Flyers for free dessert, promoting the new Top Chef:  Just Desserts.  To say I flew out of my chair might be an understatement.  I thought that maybe the contestants had made the desserts and this was one of their challenges… and as a huge Top Chef fan, I have always wanted to be one of the challenge tasters.  Sadly, it was just a promotional thing for the premiere tonight.  It was a great dessert though and it was fun to try two famous Pittsburgh treats in one day (Primanti’s and the almond tart).

Overall Review:  If the almond tarts are any indication of the other desserts at the bakery, then I would definitely seek this place out again.  Tons of almonds, just the right amount of a cream and a free sugar rush make for a great combination.  Bonus, you can order these online and have them shipped!

Third Sugar Surprise… frozen yogurt at Sweetlix.

I find tangy, tart frozen yogurt with fruit toppings to be the ultimate refresher.  It almost beats out gelato… almost. While I can get this kind of frozen yogurt at home, I really needed something refreshing, I stumbled across the shop, and Sweetlix did the job.

Overall:  Exactly what frozen yogurt should taste like, with lots of toppings to choose from.  I wasn’t adventurous this time, but they seemed to have flavored yogurt as well.  It is hard to lose with good fat free yogurt with live cultures.

Sadly, my camera has been bumming out on me as well, so these picture are not my own.  But, I still wanted to share the sugar love with you all and encourage you to seek out some great desserts the next time you head to Pittsburgh. I’m hoping there are more good sugar surprises to come, but given that the conference ends tomorrow, I sadly doubt it.

Stuffed Tomato Yumminess

It is no secret that I love summer and summer produce.  I have been going to the farmer’s market regularly and hoarding their fresh tomatoes and basil like a crazed girl trying to get enough to stay satisfied through the long cold winter.  It won’t work, but it is certainly worth a try.

The other day, I was inspired by these gorgeous, huge, ripe tomatoes I found.  I decided to experiment with stuffed tomatoes and I was very happy with the results.

Stuffed Tomato Yumminess

Ingredients:

  • 3 huge, firm tomatoes
  • 1 cup of uncooked brown rice
  • 1 cup of diced mushrooms
  • 2 sliced hot peppers
  • 1 tablespoon of jelly
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons of greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
  • Half a cup of sharp cheddar cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Begin brown rice on stovetop or rice cooker.  Add whatever amount of water needed for your cooking method.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up your mushrooms and hot peppers, if you haven’t already.  Add them to the brown rice for the last five minutes of cooking.
  3. While the rice mixture cooks, cut a lid into each of your tomatoes and scoop out the innards.  I used an Oxo scoop to take mine out after failing with the knife.  Make sure to save the innards for a marinara or salsa so they don’t go to waste.
  4. When the rice mixture is done, mix in the greek yogurt, jelly, salt, cumin, pepper, and half of your cheese.  For the jelly, it just adds a touch of sweetness to match the spiciness of the hot peppers.  We had a great tomato basil jelly that we used, but I think apple or even grape would give the correct taste and texture.
  5. Stuff the tomatoes with the rice mixture.  Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the top of each of your tomatoes, then cover with cheese.  Eat any leftovers that don’t fit into a tomato 🙂
  6. Place tomatoes in a dutch oven and drizzle with olive oil.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Again, this is one of those recipes that screams for customization!  The rice stuffing could be made with practically anything, including other grains like quinoa.  The portions can be adjusted down for one person or increased for a family.  I was also originally going to try this with tofu, but ran out.  This definitely a recipe I’ll be making again soon to perfect it.

Tomato Basil Israeli Couscous Salad

Sorry for the lack of a food post last week… if you couldn’t tell, life was crazy, and I didn’t spend much time making food, much less chronicling it!

But with the rush over and the beginning of the school year, it was time for our annual church pork roast picnic.  I decided to make a cold salad from ingredients from the farmer’s market and Israeli Couscous (which is a small, wheat-based pasta).

The great thing about this dish is that it is easily adaptable.  You can make enough for just one person, or for twenty.  You can add or subtract ingredients to your taste.  I’ve just listed the general ingredients, but not the quantities because it is SO adaptable.  Just throw in what you want, to your taste.  It’s fast, healthy, and full of yumminess.

Tomato Basil Israeli Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

  • Israeli Couscous (I prefer the texture and size of Israel Couscous, but I’m sure you could substitute other grains or pastas very easily)
  • Fresh Tomatoes
  • Fresh Sweet Peppers
  • Fresh Basil
  • Parmesan cheese (All I had on hand, I usually use feta)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper

Prepare the couscous as you would any other pasta.  Meanwhile chop up the tomatoes, sweet peppers, and basil and set aside.  When the pasta is done, drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking and let fully cool.  Then, mix in the tomatoes, sweet peppers, basil, and cheese.  Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste and refrigerate overnight to really let the flavors mix in well.

I now this seems like a really vague recipe, but I feel the best recipes are adaptable to what is in your fridge, your personal tastes, and your dietary restrictions.  The key to making this taste great isn’t how much you add of each ingredient, but how fresh are each of the ingredients (especially the freshly ground pepper… it makes a world of difference!).  There were leftovers from the church picnic, and I’m so glad to have some for lunches later this week!

Favorite Fast Meal–Portabellas

This week has been a more crazy, stressful week than usual.  At times like these, not only do I have no time to cook, but very little time to eat.  I thought it was appropriate that this week’s food post feature one of my favorite meals to eat when time/energy is limited.

True story:  until about three years ago I couldn’t bring myself to eat mushrooms.  I was repulsed by them.  I couldn’t mentally get over the fact that they were fungus and most are grown on manure.  Then one day, I was over it and now mushrooms are one of my favorite things to eat or add to meals.

Enter the wonderful, filling portabella mushroom.

The great thing about portabellas is that they are filling enough to make up a meal on their own, they are versatile and take little preparation.  In fact, many times at the grocery store you can find them already packaged with toppings on them, sometimes for a cheaper price than plain portabellas.

That was the case this week.  I found these lovelies on sale at the grocery store for $2 a package all ready to go with spinach, mozzarella, and spices while the same two pack of plain portabellas was on sale for $3.50.

All I did was brush them lightly on the bottom with olive oil and place them on our pre-heated grill pan.

I let them cook until all the cheese had melted and they lost their spongy texture and were moist all the way through.  Usually this takes about 10 minutes, but could go a bit faster or slower depending on the temperature of your pan.  I generally just set a timer and let them do their thing while I take care of the other million things I have going on.  Then I come back, sprinkle with some pepper or vinegar, and chow down.  In winter, when it isn’t so hot, I’ll often just throw them in a baking dish in an oven set at 300 for about 15 minutes with excellent results.

Step 1: Preheat Griddle

Step 2: Brush mushroom lightly with olive oil

Step 3: Wait (im)patiently for cheese to melt and mushroom to become moist

Step 4: Chow down on yummy mushroom and sides, maybe sprinkle with balsamic vinegar (ooo)

Yummy to eat plain, on top of rice, noodles, on a bun like a burger, or with another side.   While my go-to fast portabella is the spinach/mozzarella combo (esp. when a good deal comes up at the store), you can be really creative in your topping of plain portabellas.  I also love topping them with a fresh tomato slice and some pesto sauce or with a bit of salsa.

Local Food

This summer has been great for my healthy goal of eating more fresh, local foods.

For those of you wondering why foods being local makes a difference in health…  Local foods travel fewer miles, meaning they are often fresher and bonus–less emissions for transporting them, which is better for the environment.  Better environment=healthier us.  I’ve heard that many types of produce lose their nutrients quickly after picking and often the local foods are picked much more recently than your grocery store finds, meaning we are getting more of the good stuff.  It makes sense, although I need to really look into that claim more…

We were going to originally take part in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to get some local goods, but decided against it after seeing how much we would be out of town for the summer.  We also live in an apartment, so gardening is not an option.

However, our local farmer’s market has really blossomed over the past year.  We have great new facility and a consistent showing of farms and other local producers.  Bonus:  much of the food, in addition to being local is also organic.

In honor of Virginia Farmer’s Market Week, here are a few of my favorite farmer’s market finds:

  • Arugula!  I *love* this stuff.  Love it.  I put it on everything.
  • Honey.  Local honey is supposed to be good for allergies, but we just got it, so I’ll have to update you later on my experiences.
  • Edible Flowers.  How cool are these?  I wouldn’t know which flowers are ok to eat or not and these are beautiful and hopefully delicious.
  • Basil.  I love pesto and fresh basil on pizza.  One day I might have a garden of just basil…
  • Squash blossoms.  I didn’t buy any because I didn’t have a plan for them, but I’ve always wanted to try them!

I’m kind of concerned about winter though.  I could self can (without BPA), but I’m not really equipped with the right tools or space to do so.  Freezing is also an issue at the moment because of the small size of our freezer (although I did freeze some of my parents surplus peach crop).  I’m not even sure what grows well here in the winter, so it will be a learning experience as my awareness grows.

To find some local food near you, try checking at this website:  http://www.localharvest.org/.

Websites I like for what they give or I receive:

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