Tag Archives: Food

If it’s green, it belongs in this smoothie

In my mind, it began as a Green Elvis smoothie. The King of Rock and Roll enjoyed peanut butter-banana sandwiches, so goes the legend, and I figured I wouldn’t even taste the fresh spinach I picked up at the grocery yesterday in there.

But the only peanuts I had were salt-and-pepper peanuts, and that was more savory flavor than I could stomach in a smoothie. You like kale in your smoothie? You might like salt-and-pepper peanuts, too, I don’t know, but I’ve tried kale in my smoothies, and it’s disgusting. Smoothies should be like dessert, not like a meal for a toothless old coot.

(I’ve also heard Elvis liked bacon in those peanut butter-banana sandwiches, and for a brief moment, I considered putting bacon in the smoothie and calling it a Green Elvis & Ham Smoothie, but no. That’s just wrong.)

OK, so how about a little less Elvis and a little more green? How about pistachios, a green nut?

Perfect.

And what’s this in my fridge? Leftover avocado? Green apple? It’s destiny.

Thus, my breakfast yesterday morning was born. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs 400-calorie smoothie that’s a perfectly balanced mix of carbohydrates, fats (the good kind) and protein. The yogurt makes it creamy, and the chia seeds make it thick. I’m sure Elvis would have hated it (he probably slept through breakfast), but you might like it.

Green Smoothie

Green-Greener-Greenest Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1/4 avocado, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 ounce pistachios (shelled of course, do I need to say that?)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I prefer fat-free)
  • 1 scoop vanilla-flavored whey protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon green tea leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoons stevia
  • 1/4-1/3 cup water (you need only enough water to help your blender work; too much, and your smoothie will be more drinkable than spoonable, and that’s no way to eat a smoothie)

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender (I love the single-serving glasses for saving on washing dishes later). Blend until smooth. Consume with gusto.

She stuck a feather in her cap and called it macaroni

Be creative is my mantra for 2017.

cre·a·tive /krēˈādiv/ relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work

That’s me this year. A regular fountain of original ideas.

But it’s tough to be creative when one is preparing paperwork to have the taxes done or packing, say, every single thing you own. Paperwork and packing are boring.

But I’m sneaking in a little originality when I can.

So today, I’m cleaning out the pantry.

(Any good native of Minnesota starts every story with “so”).

Anyway, I’m cleaning out the pantry, and I find a plethora of pasta.

I didn’t exactly “find” it. I knew it was there, haunting me in my dreams. I’ve tried to think up ways to eat it up, but there was just so much. Or more precisely, so many. Lots of packages, mostly half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective on the world).

Lasagna noodles, soba noodles, egg noodles. Rotini, cavatelli, gemelli, fusilli, elbow macaroni, skinny elbow macaroni, spaghetti, angel hair spaghetti, quinoa spaghetti, supergrain spaghetti, multi-grain spaghetti, ready-cut spaghetti. And stelline (for your chicken and stars soup, you know).

Seventeen packages.

Yes, I know. Please don’t heap any more guilt on me. Why did I buy so much? Why haven’t we eaten it? Why did I keep it?

So I came up with an ingenious way to get rid of it without just throwing it away.

I posted the following on the local Facebook classifieds page:

Do kids today still do macaroni art? I’ve got 17 opened boxes and bags of various kinds of pasta that would work for a daycare or preschool. Yes, 17 — don’t judge. I can’t give away to the food pantry because it’s open, but the waste of dumping seems extravagant. FREE — all you’ve got to do it pick it up. Anyone interested?

As any good marketer knows, presentation matters. So rather than post a picture of a messy pile of half-empty pasta containers, I got creative. (Do you feel like you’re listening to a Lake Wobegon story yet?)

macaroni-art

This is me. Looking at you.

Hey, it worked! Someone’s coming for my leftover pasta on Monday.

A gratin even a vegetable-hater might love

brussels

Brussels Sprouts Gratin, half devoured

You know the Brussels Sprouts Gratin recipe making the rounds? I’ve seen it in Country Living magazine and multiple times on my Facebook feed (and now I’m adding to it, too) so the Brussels sprouts growers and Gruyère cheese makers are either thrilled with the attention or happy with their marketing efforts.

Anyway, I made it tonight to go with the rotisserie chicken my Beloved picked up at Costco, and it was universally a hit, kind of like macaroni and cheese with Brussels sprouts instead of macaroni. So if you’re compiling a list of side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner this week, this one is a keeper.

Here is a link to one version of the recipe.

Nothing fishy about this date

If Jesus had been Japanese instead of Jewish, he would have fed the 5,000 with two fish and five maki rolls.

Fish and rice is as simple in one land as fish and bread in another.

Add a little soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger, and you transform simple into divine.

My Beloved and I went out for dinner and a movie tonight, and we enjoyed “Arrival” and sushi. Both were sublime.

“Arrival,” starring Amy Adams, is pure science fiction. With a nonlinear timeline to boot. It’s the kind of movie that makes me wish I could write a screenplay like that. Adams is awesome in it. I’ve loved her since I saw her in “Enchanted,” in which she pulled off a live action Disney princess.

I’ve loved sushi since my first bite of it on a business trip to Tokyo. If I tried sushi before that, I don’t remember it. And I’ve tried to recreate the authentic Japanese experience ever since. Sushi in Chicago can be delicious, but nothing beats fresh raw fish prepared by a proud Japanese master. Illinois is just too far from the ocean.

I remember a lunch break with my Japanese colleagues. They suggested sushi and led me to a tiny little basement sushi bar where the entire menu was in Japanese. Of course it was in Japanese. I was in Japan! I wouldn’t have known what yellowtail was in any language. So they ordered a mixed plate of maki rolls, and I struggled to manipulate my chopsticks. It was with this generous group of people that I learned to mix a little wasabi into the soy sauce first before dipping in my roll. And to eat each piece in one bite. Gulp! I remember avoiding the pieces with the big orange fish eggs — I didn’t like how they popped in my mouth (I now love a sprinkling of tiny roe across a fancy roll).

Later that day, I enjoyed sucking salty edamame from the shell with hot sake over happy hour. A habit had begun.

Today my Beloved and I tried a new sushi joint. Salty edamame. Hot sake. Authentic Japanese sushi chefs well practiced in creating maki rolls to tempt American palates.

Like “Arrival,” it was out of this world.

Yellow, golden, amber autumn

fall-day

What a beautiful day.

It’s Nov. 5, which means it could be cold, windy and raining. Or snowing. It could be snowing.

But it’s not. It was a sun-soaked day in which the temperatures in northern Illinois reached the upper 60s.

Here’s the view from my back deck overlooking the back yard and the nature preserve beyond my fence just before sunset. I swear I heard crackling in the underbrush while I was clicking away; deer have been known to bound through (maybe even live in?) the tree-filled water retention area back there. It’s not a good time of year for deer, but I certainly appreciated the lovely autumn day.

I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.

~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

OK, so I didn’t spend the day outdoors, but my Beloved left open the screen door to the deck. I could hear barking dogs and honking geese while I chopped and cooked ingredients for not one but two pots of soup. Normally, soup is perfect for warming up during a quiet Saturday night in November. Well, it’s perfect on a warm autumn night, too.

And the best part? Looks like it will be similarly beautiful tomorrow. And we’ll all have an extra hour to enjoy it! Don’t forget to fall back!

A story about dinner

In anticipation of giving away the chest freezer in our garage when we blow this popsicle stand, my Beloved and I have been eating our way through months of Costco deals, food finds, meal ingredients my stepdaughter purchased but decided not to eat and various leftovers.

Well, we can’t just throw it out. That goes against my constitution, which is one founded by a girl who grew up in the ’70s when a bag of Doritos cost 25 cents and people were starving in Africa.

(I know. They’re still starving in Africa.)

In any case, freezer diving makes for some interesting meals. Last week, I found a zippered bag of smoked pork tenderloins. Not one pork loin. Not two. Three smoked pork tenderloins.

One was shredded and dressed with a leftover half bottle of barbecue sauce in the fridge to become delicious pulled pork sandwiches.

The second pork tenderloin became a pot of posole, which used up a huge can of hominy and another huge can of green chili peppers we picked up in New Mexico (we visited New Mexico in April).

And just when I couldn’t bear to eat another bite of pork, I whipped up a batch of creamy chicken enchiladas. Made with two-week-old corn tortillas. And pork instead of chicken.

The creative cooking continued today when I found a ring bologna in the bottom of the freezer.

Let’s be clear. I don’t buy ring bologna.

I might buy turkey kielbasa. Maybe polish sausage. But never anything called bologna. Bologna is for politicos. Not for eating.

In any case, my Beloved — who loves almost any form of sausage as much as he loves me — must have found this ring bologna in some butcher shop on one of our travels.

(Label indicates its of Wisconsin origin. Of course.)

Fortunately, Google provided a recipe for Ring Bologna with Sauerkraut. And I had a can of sauerkraut. As well as celery seeds and caraway seeds — we hit the “use it up” lottery!

For a side dish, I had a craving for spaezle but no interest in making it from scratch (“press dough through a large-holed colander”? are you kidding me?). But look! I had a have a half a bag of cavatelli in the pantry. What’s cavatelli, you ask? Right! Only I would have a half a bag of it in my pantry sitting next to the red quinoa and the Italian pearled farro. Cavatelli are small pasta shells that look like miniature hot dog buns (Wikipedia is awesome, don’t you think?). And, the first recipe I found after typing “buttery cavatelli recipe” into Google included asparagus. Yes! I’ve had 15 spears of asparagus sitting in a water-filled cup in the back of my fridge for at least three weeks. Time to use it up!

I would have taken a picture of my plate if I had thought of it. Because I have no shame and I don’t mind filling other people’s Newsfeeds with pictures of my dinner. Honestly, what’s the alternative? Inflammatory posts about the political candidate you can’t stand? My dinner looks pretty good compared to that. To be fair, I saw a lot of Halloween costumes in today’s Newsfeed. But you get my point: It could be worse than my dinner. In any case, I didn’t take a picture of it because at dinnertime I hadn’t even given Thought One to a blog post. So you’ll just have to imagine it.

But now, as the Chicago Cubs warm up their November baseball bats, I’m writing a blog post because it’s November 1, and I’m trying to turnover a new leaf in a month known for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

It ain’t a novel.

But it’s something.

 

Meal planning give you the blues?

Can I hear an “Amen!” for Blue Apron?

Haven’t heard of Blue Apron? It’s a prayer answered for a cook who hates grocery shopping.

Like me.

My sister gave me a subscription to Blue Apron — touted as “a better way to cook and eat” — for my birthday, and I started enjoying the benefits back in February. I’m still hooked.

It’s part of my solution to weekly menu planning which, if you’re disciplined, you’re probably doing this fine Saturday morning. Before you head out to the supermarket, you’re figuring out what you’re going to serve for dinner in the coming week.

If you’re not disciplined, you don’t have a plan, you shop only at 5 p.m. every day and you end up eating out or dining on cold cereal.

I always intend to plan before I head to the grocery store. You know what they say about the road to hell.

With Blue Apron, an insulated box arrives on my doorstep once a week, and I’ve got the ingredients and directions for three complete meals for my Beloved and me (Blue Apron offers a family plan, too). This costs $59.95 (about 10 bucks per serving), but it’s worth it to save me the trouble of getting creative (never the same meal in a year!), shopping (remember, the closest supermarket worth visiting is 20 minutes away from my house) and the heartbreak of leftovers that never get eaten.

Here’s how Blue Apron looks when it arrives at your door:

blue apron packing

Underneath all the fresh produce is an icy compartment for the meat.

Here’s what the first two weeks of meals looked like:

To be fair, only one of these meals took less than 30 minutes to prepare. But I appreciate learning new tricks. I’ve made that seared chicken more than once, and the mapled carrots made a great side dish for guests. And who knew pita bread was an alternative for hamburger buns? Not me until Blue Apron introduced the idea.

Occasionally, we get weird stuff. My Beloved, for instance, refused to each the beet salad. In those instances, more for me!

And sometimes the weird stuff is an introduction to something yummy that I never would have tried. Earlier this week, we dined on pink lemon.

pink lemon

To prepare, I was directed to remove the peel, pith and seeds, then dice and marinate with olive oil, salt and pepper. Whodathunk? The result decorated the salmon on my Seared Salmon Salad. Delish!

Seared Salmon Salad with Arugala, Peas & Pink Lemon

If you’re interested in trying Blue Apron, I can hook you up. I have five invitations to share. You sign up, and you’ll get two meals for free (see? they have great marketing, too). Make a comment her (or on Facebook) to share your email address and you’re golden.