Monday, May 4, 2009

Mushroom Pork Stir-fry

A friend and I went to Super H Mart over the weekend. It took us almost an hour to get there as I took the wrong exit thinking I was in the right place and we proceeded to drive up and down the wrong road for 20 minutes wondering why we couldn't find the market. Haha. When we finally got there, it was a madhouse as usual with tons of older Asian woman clamoring to grab the best bargains on meat, produce, and seafood. I picked up quite a number of good deals myself including longans (aka dragon's eyes) and enormous tiger shrimp.

Everytime I am at the Asian markets, I pick up something new to try and this time was no exception. On my friend's advice, I bought a small bundle of brown beech shimeji mushrooms for stir-fry. These were prewashed and just had to be stemmed and separated, so they were an easy addition to King Oyster mushrooms, ground pork, and green beans sauteed with oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, and a sprinkling of sugar (I find sugar gives stir-fries a more complex flavor).

Stir-fries always make me feel pretty healthy - lots of veg, minimal meat (about 1/3 of a pound in this batch which made 3 large servings). Not to mention that they are totally delicious over a bowl of steaming hot rice! Yummmm!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BBQ Leftovers

Hmm, I seem to write about using leftovers an awful lot. I guess making bentos naturally lends itself to using leftovers, and being a naturally thrifty person, I never like wasting food anyway. This time, I took leftovers from a small bbq with friends to create three different meals.

sweet potato and sausage hash

First up, I had a plethora of sliced and roasted sweet potatoes, along with a couple grilled chicken sausages. I diced them both, sauteed them with onions (both the normal and green variety - I like onion!), seasoned the whole mess with a bit of chipotle chili powder, and topped it all off with a fried egg over easy. This was a delicious weekend breakfast.

miso chicken stirfry

Next, my friend had brought over a veggie tray that went uneaten. I personally dislike veggie trays as the veg always seems a bit less than fresh. Rather than eat them raw, I tossed the veg into a miso chicken stirfry. I used the celery and carrots from the tray, added frozen broccoli and corn, and sauteed with the chicken plus plenty of garlic, miso paste, oyster sauce, chicken stock, and a couple splashes each of Chinese cooking wine and rice wine vinegar. This tasted fresh and healthy over white rice. I made enough for me and the boyfriend for dinner, plus a bit leftover for my lunch.

tuna pasta salad

That veggie tray also included a handful of cherry tomatoes. I had the odds and ends of a few zucchini leftover from grilling, and I also had a can of Trader Joe's yellowfin tuna in olive oil that I had been meaning to try. I used the olive oil from the tuna to saute the diced zucchini, garlic, and tomato. I mixed that with the tuna, shell pasta, lemon juice, and plenty of fresh parsley for a quick and surprisingly mouthwatering dinner (with plenty leftover for lunch the next day). I definitely recommend the TJ's tuna! The olive oil packed tuna tastes much better than the stuff in water.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rotisserie Chicken Bentos

I posted last week about my chicken chili made of leftovers including some shredded rotisserie chicken. I didn't have any pictures at the time, but I later managed to take a picture of my chicken chili bento, eaten with a few slices of a delicious sunflower seed honey bread.

I had a small serving of shredded chicken leftover which I used for a very simple bento with leftover roasted brussels sprouts and frozen rice. I tossed the chicken with a small splash of soy sauce which helped both flavor and moisten it.

This is just a sampling of the 101 ways to use a rotisserie chicken!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Acorn Squash and Bacon Bread Pudding

I recently found myself with a stale half loaf of very nice bread from the farmer's market. Being the thrifty person I am, I started brainstorming ideas for what to do with it. Freezing and reheating to eat as normal bread was no longer an option since the bread was almost rock hard. I could have ground it up for bread crumbs but I rarely use them and really - half a loaf's worth of bread crumbs?? So my mind turned to savory bread pudding, something I'd never eaten before but for some reason, that's what popped into my head.

I ended up adapting this recipe from Cooking Light, using acorn instead of butternut squash and adding bacon and frozen spinach (the latter counteracts the unhealthiness of the former, right??). I also used only 3 eggs with no additional egg whites, and omitted the nutmeg (have never been very fond of the stuff except in pumpkin pies). I was surprised and pleased with the results - a gorgeous crusty top and a soft custardy interior. The bacon definitely helped as it probably would have been a bit bland otherwise. Yum!

It also made a really nice bento atop a bed of arugula with some juicy tomato slices alongside. I took this to class, extracted the bread pudding and heated it in the microwave, tossed the arugula and tomato with a bit of italian dressing, then put the warm bread pudding back on top to slightly wilt the arugula. It was a totally delicious and gourmet-looking dinner!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chicken Chili

I've mentioned before that I love being able to create something new out of leftovers, and my latest creation was supremely satisfying. I added pantry items to my leftovers for two hearty and delicious servings of chicken chili, all cooked up in less than an hour (most of the time allotted to simmering on the stove). No pictures (ate it too fast) but here's the basic recipe:

3 very ripe tomatoes, diced with juices saved
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can beans (pinto, black, kidney - doesn't matter), rinsed
-- save about 1/2 can liquid
-- mash 1/4 can beans and leave the rest whole
couple handfuls frozen corn
1 cooked chicken thigh or breast, shredded with skin removed
chopped parsley or cilantro
taco seasoning (mixture of cumin, paprika, oregano, garlic powder, chili powder, and red pepper flakes)
salt and pepper
olive oil

In a large saute pan over medium heat, sweat onions 5 minutes or until translucent and tender. Add green pepper and garlic, cook for another few minutes, then add tomatoes with juice, whole and mashed beans, bean liquid, and corn. Season with taco seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste. Lower heat and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken and parsley, let warm through, then remove from heat. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream as desired.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Unhealthy Weekend Eating

It was a rather fatty and cholesterol-laden weekend. Starting with pizza and fries for dinner Friday night, then an egg over easy and leftover pizza on Saturday morning, continuing with shrimp pasta for both dinner that night and lunch the next day, and finally ending with baby back ribs for Sunday dinner. Oh, not to mention the impromptu batch of cheddar rosemary garlic biscuits I whipped up to go with the ribs.

The biscuits were pretty darn good though, and came out well even for me! Usually my biscuits are hard and dense. These weren't as fluffy as I would have liked but definitely flakey and flavorful. I followed this recipe without the kneading (that tends to make biscuits more dense and tough) and brushed the tops with butter before baking. I also cut the biscuits into squares to avoid waste, then rounded the corners by molding them in my hands. Finally, I had to jazz them up so I added a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of rosemary, and a handful of shredded cheese. Definitely will make again!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lazy Me

Two days of eating out for lunch totally messed up my food diary. Thursday, we had another team lunch at Cafe Deluxe and I was too embarrassed to ask for a nutrition fact sheet. Yes, I am a wuss! I could try to come up with the nutritional information by looking up each separate ingredient, but a) I am too lazy and b) I probably don't want to know! Cafe Deluxe has fabulous gruyere mac and cheese, so I split a side of that with a coworker IN ADDITION to my grilled chicken, avocado, and onion sandwich with fries. And two Cokes. *shame*

For dinner Thursday, I had leftover Shepherd's Pie, which I made for dinner Wednesday with the boyfriend. I also ate Shepherd's Pie for lunch yesterday (not one to waste food) followed by an exorbitant amount of beers at happy hour and a couple slices of pizza for late-night dinner. What a healthy few days this has been!

I'll probably try to count the calories for yesterday's meals and definitely will start over today. First thing on my menu is a sunny-side up egg from the Farmer's Market last weekend. Yum!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day Off from Food Diary

I had a team meeting today and the company paid for lunch at Cactus Cantina in Tenleytown. I've tried for the past half hour to find nutritional information for the food I ate, but it's extremely difficult as I had a variety of items in one platter and don't know if the information I'm finding online is anywhere close to accurate. Therefore, I'm counting this as a day off from the food diary! I don't know how people keep track of restarant meals when the nutritional information is not readily available.

I have another team meeting tomorrow with lunch at Cafe Deluxe. This time I'll look for a nutritional information sheet - hopefully they'll have one I can take home!

By the way, I had the Laredo platter at Cactus Cantina, which is one shredded beef enchilada, one chicken enchilada, and one chicken taco, with Mexican rice and frijoles a la charra (a kind of bean soup). It was delicious!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Food Diary - Day Two Results

What I ate:
1000 mg Vitamin C
Dannon Thick and Creamy Strawberry Yogurt (best flavor ever!!!)
Acorn squash and bacon bread pudding (for both lunch and dinner)
1/4 cup cashews
small mixed greens salad with 1/2 tomato
52 oz water

How it added up (percentages are of recommended daily intake):
Calorie Daily Value 962.50 65%
Calories from fat 368.90 83%
Total Fat (g) 40.50 81%
Saturated Fat (g) 15.50 310%
Cholesterol (mg) 268.00 89%
Sodium (mg) 1,908.00 80%
Potassium (mg) 523.00 15%
Total Carbohydrate (g) 77.00 41%
Dietary Fiber (g) 10.00 40%
Sugars (g) 31.00 48%
Protein (g) 40.00 54%
Vitamin A 23%
Calcium 69%
Vitamin C 1684%
Iron 34%

Sorry for the horrible formatting. I started using Google Documents for my Excel spreadsheet and the formatting doesn't follow through when I paste into Blogger. Boo. I'll have to figure something else out. Also started leaving out the more obscure nutritional information like thiamin and biotin (what is that stuff anyways??)

Anyway, it appears I ate way less than my recommended caloric intake today. I feel vaguely hungry but not enough to do anything about it. I also drank the right amount for my recommended water intake, which probably explains the increased number of trips I took to the bathroom today! That also probably helped with the hunger. I also did a lot better on both cholesterol and sodium intake today; the latter was a lot higher yesterday due to the deli meat in my sandwich. Ew!

I'll have to do research on some of the nutritional values that I'm not really hitting, like potassium and iron. I think bananas contain potassium but I don't know what a deficit is doing for my health. The internet does have all the answers though!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Food Diary - Day One Results

What I ate:
33 oz water
1000 mg Vitamin C tablet
Activia peach yogurt
Sandwich (potato bread, oven roasted chicken deli meat, smoked provolone, tomato, mustard, mayo)
Reduced fat Cheez-its
Bacon and acorn squash bread pudding

How it added up (percentages are of recommended daily intake):
Calorie Daily Value 1266 85% Calories from fat 403.4 90%
Total Fat 45 90%

Saturated Fat 18 350%

Cholesterol 343 114%

Sodium 3635 151%

Potassium 346 10%

Total Carbohydrate 151 81%

Dietary Fiber 11 44%

Sugars 25 39%

Protein 64 86%

Vitamin A 10%
Vitamin C 1677%
Calcium 81%
Iron 47%
Vitamin D 0%
Vitamin E 0%
Thiamin 20%
Riboflavin 15%
Niacin 8%
Vitamin B-6 0%
Folate 16%
Vitamin B-12 0%
Biotin 0%
Pantothenic Acid 0%
Phosphorus 0%
Iodine 0%
Magnesium 4%
Zinc 4%
Copper 0%

Overall, I did fairly well on caloric intake. I usually eat a lot more at dinner, which represented about half of my caloric intake for the day. What I didn't realize was how hard it is to stay within the recommended amounts of saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium! While this may have something to do with the bacon I added to the bread pudding, everything else contains fairly high levels of all three of these "no-no" ingredients. My sandwich alone satisfied my saturated fat intake for the day.

Also, I already knew this, but measuring the actual amounts of water I drink reinforced my knowledge that I do not drink enough. My recommended intake is about 51 oz. It's now 10:30 pm and I have almost 20 oz to go to meet that! Of course, I don't want to be up all night running to the bathroom so I think I'll just try to do better tomorrow. ;P

Food Diary

I'm going to try something new here, and I might not follow through with it but it's worth a shot. I'd like to write down everything that I eat and its nutritional information. I'm not doing this to lose weight but I'm interested in whether or not I'm eating healthy. I'll have to do some research on my recommended daily intake of protein, carbs, etc. but for now I'll settle for making note of what I eat and what's on the packaging. The easiest way to do this will be in Excel but I'll try to post daily recaps of what I eat along with summaries of my daily caloric and nutrient intake. We'll see where this leads...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tofu Curry

Not everyone likes tofu. Its spongey texture and bland taste are rather unappealing. But I think the real appeal of tofu is its ability to soak up flavors from everything else while remaining a healthy source of protein. I especially like tofu in curry with a small amount of meat (usually ground pork or beef) and a variety of vegetables. The boyfriend really likes this combo as well so it's become part of our regular dinner rotation.

Typically, I mix about a tablespoon of curry powder with a couple blocks of Japanese curry base. The other ingredients vary from different meats (cubed chicken, ground beef, ground pork) to different vegetables (potato, carrot, frozen peas, broccoli). The results are always extremely tasty and there are always plenty of leftovers that are even better the next day.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Quick and Easy Mexican

Sometimes I get home from work and the last thing I want is to make a complicated dinner for one. At the same time, my thrifty self won't allow me to order takeout very often - in fact, I almost never get takeout except for the occasional (less than once a month) cravings for pizza or Chinese. Instead, I resort to quick meals like ramen (the curry flavored version is surprisingly good) and hot sandwiches (I have an aversion to cold sandwiches; they taste like sawdust to me).

Recently, I discovered that the Mexican restaurant next door sells their homemade corn or flour tortillas by the dozen for takeout. At less than $3 for a fresh, piping hot batch, they make the perfect base for a quick and easy Mexican dinner. I fill them with the leftover odds and ends of veggies, a little bit of protein (usually chicken), and a sprinkle of shredded cheese, then pan-fry them for crispy, golden quesadillas. Alternatively, I keep them soft and warm while I whip up a batch of refried beans, then eat them soft taco style filled with the beans, diced tomatoes, and whatever else is handy - hopefully a ripe avocado.

Refried beans are surprisingly easy and cheap to make as well. This may be the cheater's method but it works and it tastes delicious. Zero points for healthy meal here, though. The sodium in canned beans and the bacon fat used for frying makes this an indulgent treat that is often spread out over a few days to assuage my guilt.

Cheater's Refried Beans

1 can pinto beans
1-2 tbsp bacon fat (I guess veg oil would work too but olive oil might taste too strong)
handful diced onions
couple cloves minced garlic
handful shredded cheese
few sprinkles tabasco

Heat a frying pan with the bacon fat or oil over medium heat. If using, saute onions and/or garlic until fragrant, then add the entire can of beans including the liquid. As the beans heat up, mash some with a wooden spoon until the beans reach the desired texture (I like mine chunky). Add tabasco and cheese if desired, mix well, and serve right away. No additional salt is needed as the canned bean liquid will be pretty salty.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lemon Curd Cookies

Whenever we visit my boyfriend's family in Tulsa, we have to buy a batch of lemon curd cookies. Sweet-tart lemon curd sandwiched between buttery cookies dredged in powdered sugar... they are insanely delicious. We've never seen them anywhere in DC so we tried making our own with this recipe from Epicurious. While it's a bit time consuming, it's truly worth the trouble. The lemon curd lasts at least a month (we've had ours for a month and a half now and it still tastes pretty darn good), and the cookie dough can be formed into logs and frozen for later use. I could even eat the cookies by themselves with no curd or sugar - they are rich, buttery, and oh-so-tasty! Whip up a batch if you get a chance. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kohlrabi Stir Fry

My local Harris Teeter sells bunches of baby kohlrabi for about $3.50. They're really cute but I never thought there would be enough edible portion in the baby ones. What I didn't consider was the leaves. Thoroughly washed, chopped, and ribs removed, they make a hearty addition to a stir fry with chicken, carrots, and the bulb of the kohlrabi.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

B.A.T. Stuffed Chicken

With a couple weeks break from school, I've found that I have far greater motivation to make creative meals after work. I've also been using a lot of leftovers in new ways, something that makes me pretty happy since I am typically prone to waste and often find unmentionables in the back of my fridge.

Last night's dinner of fish tacos with avocado, tomato, and refried beans cooked in bacon fat resulted in a bounty of leftovers: half an avocado, half a tomato, four strips of bacon (minus a nibble here and there... who could resist??), and a bowl full of beans. Setting aside the beans for soft tacos throughout the week, I combined the remainder to make B.A.T. Stuffed Chicken. Get it? B.A.T. Bacon, Avocado, Tomato! See recipe below.

B.A.T. Stuffed Chicken

two boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
half an avocado, diced
half a tomato, diced
four cooked bacon strips, roughly chopped
two slices smoked provolone (substitute any strongly-flavored cheese)
one handful shredded mozzarella (substitute any mild-flavored cheese)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a ovenproof saute pan over medium high heat. Salt and pepper each chicken breast, then on each breast, place one slice of provolone and approximately one quarter each of the avocado, tomato, and bacon. Roll up the chicken, tucking in the ends. Secure with a toothpick if necessary. Sear chicken, seam side down, in the hot pan. Rotate and sear all sides, then return chicken to seam side down. Top each chicken roll with shredded cheese and the remaining bacon, then place the pan in the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. When chicken is done, top with remaining avocado and tomatoes before serving.

B.A.T. Stuffed Chicken with roasted broccoli and couscous

Friday, February 13, 2009

What I've Been Cooking/Eating Instead of Blogging

chicken or pork (forget which) in mushroom sauce, roasted red potatoes, green beans

roasted cherry tomato and smoked sausage medley (served over pasta)

kabocha soup topped with toasted kabocha seeds, brie and sesame crackers

miso chicken lo mein

homemade meatball sub with not-so-homemade tater tots

fish tacos with cilantro yogurt sauce

roast chicken and veggies

lor bat go (turnip cake) fried with egg

bento with edamame, pork/leek dumplings, hard-boiled egg

Monday, January 5, 2009

Food-Related Presents

After almost 4 years together, my boyfriend knows me well enough to anticipate that food-related presents will be the best-received (besides jewelry, of course - what girl doesn't like some sparkle?). But I didn't think that he would be so attentive as to pick up on a food-related problem that I've been having for the past few months...

A few posts ago, I complained that the lack of sunlight has greatly decreased the quality of my food photography. Taking photos with flash washed out all the vibrant colors, but taking photos without flash were either too yellow (indoor lighting) or blurry (unsteady hand). As a result, I just stopped taking as many food photos as I have in the past.

Much to my surprise, the bf noticed and decided to do something about it! He made me a homemade light box using white foam board, clip-on lamps, and full spectrum lightbulbs. He also bought me a mini tripod to help with the shaky hand problem. The light box wasn't quite done until yesterday but I have used the tripod a number of times already, which has really improved the non-flash photos, even without special lighting!

Chinese leftovers bento: Singapore noodles, sesame chicken with broccoli, lemon cookie, and honeydew gummy

soy/brown sugar salmon, israeli couscous, roasted asparagus

Besides the lightbox and tripod, the best present I got this year was a Reynolds Handi-Vac from the bf's mother. If you haven't heard of this before, you MUST try one! It creates a vacuum seal in ziploc bags which protects frozen foods from freezer burns and helps refrigerated produce stay fresh longer. It is insanely awesome and so much fun to use. I now have a fridge and freezer full of little vacuum-sealed packets!