Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Father's Day and Cake Mixes

We hosted a cookout on Father's Day - it's a tradition at this point. It was a typical cookout - burgers, BBQ chicken, baked beans, macaroni salad (made with gluten free elbows), green salad, etc. We did some munchies earlier in the day - clams steamed in gluten free beer, shrimp cocktail, that sort of thing. Of course we moved the cookout indoors due to the fact that we've seemingly had nothing but rain for - well, ever. (Yes, I know the day before was sunny. It just feels like way too much rain for June in NY).

Anyway. In my latest issue of Cook's Country, I found this recipe for a pina colada cake. And I just had to try it. In lieu of their recipe for yellow layer cake, I subbed gluten free yellow cake mix. And It. Was. Awesome. I should have taken a picture of the cake before I cut into it, but there's none left to photograph.

I also found that I'm now a devotee to King Arthur Flour gluten free mixes. I'd always used the Betty Crocker mixes before - but a couple of things bugged me about their mixes:

  1. I always had to doctor the mix in order for it to taste good. 
  2. Starting the next day, the yellow cake was a bit stale tasting, and it didn't last more than a few days. (Full disclosure: I never tried the other mixes, because the hubby doesn't eat chocolate). 
  3. A single box only gives you one 9" round. So that means buying two boxes for a layer cake. Since these mixes are over 5 bucks a pop at my local Price Chopper, that's starting to get a bit pricey for a cake mix, even a gluten free cake mix. 
King Arthur's yellow cake mix was better on all fronts. At least, I liked the taste when it wasn't doctored, I made the cake the night before and it still tasted fresh and was spongy the next day, and I got two rounds out of the box, halving the cost from a Betty Crocker layer cake (the cake mixes are pretty similarly priced per box). Not too shabby, right? 

We've tried a couple of other King Arthur mixes - their muffin mix was pretty good, and their bread mix cam out looking and feeling better than  my homemade bread (my crust gets a little lumpy and uneven, and has to be frozen so it doesn't get too stale too quickly) but my husband thought it rather bland tasting, so we haven't bought it again. 

Have you tried King Arthur Flour mixes? Are there even better ones on the market? 

Monday, May 27, 2013


Last week, my husband and I went on vacation to celebrate our five year anniversary (as well as my MBA graduation!). We chose an Eastern Caribbean cruise to Nassau Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. (Albany people - if you are looking for a cruise travel agent contact me and I will refer you to the person we used!).

We had a ton of fun! Some of the highlights: 
  • I was extremely impressed by the dinners on the ship. We had an awesome waiter who made sure my husband had more gluten free bread than he could eat each night. 
  • The breakfasts and lunches, notsomuch. I thought a lot of the food was mediocre. A chef walked around with my husband and showed him what he could and couldn't eat but my husband didn't trust a lot of it - for example they said the bacon was fine, but later in the week we found out they put toast at the bottom of the pan. Be forewarned. 
  • That said, they did have gluten free pancakes, bagels, hot dog and hamburger buns, and even Udi's GF cookies available. Individually wrapped, which was nice. 
  • St. Maarten was by far my favorite island of the three. We went kayaking, snorkeling, and shopping there and had a blast! I also thought they had the nicest beaches. We stuck to the Dutch side. 
  • St. Thomas is supposedly this place where you can clean up and get super-cheap jewelry... I didn't find that to necessarily be the case, or maybe I'm just cheap. 
  • Atlantis, on Paradise Island, is pretty amazing. 
  • The best drink that I had, hands down, was a rum drink in a coconut in Nassau. Yes, in a coconut. Awesome. The second best was on the ship, a strawberry daiquiri mixed with mango sherbet. A-mazing. 
  • The cheesy game shows and events hosted on the ship are often hilarious, and are must-sees, even if you think the description sounds lame. We died laughing most evenings! 
  • We had layovers in ATL airport. The first time was around breakfast time and NOTHING had gluten free dining options. That was OK since we brought food. The second time we were coming from the ship (and are not allowed to bring fruits through customs) so we had nothing and had to pick up some lunch. Places with GF menus don't know enough to not put bread on salads. It took two thirds of our hour-long layover just to get a salad that was supposedly safe to eat. Not impressed. 
  • It was 45 degrees when we got back. When did that happen!?!? 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Changing eating habits

Last year, my husband and I had a lot of fun - and most of that revolved around food. Every social gathering we had - and there was something going on every weekend - revolved around food and/or drinks. When it was just the two of us, we got into a nice Sunday routine of hanging out in the backyard, getting toasted on sangria, and then grilling some amazing food for dinner - ribs, bacon wrapped filets, etc. Always accompanied by sides like loaded baked potatoes, caprese salad, etc.

Incidentally, we also both put a few pounds on during the last year.

This December was an eye-opener for me when I realized a lot of my clothes either didn't fit me or didn't look good. So I did the cliche of, make a New Years' resolution to eat better and drop the weight. My goal - 15 lbs. by May - seemed unbelievably hard. I can look at fries and immediately gain 10 pounds.

And in the beginning - OMG it was hard. I tried to keep all of my beloved starches in my diet - and it left me with puny portion sizes, no free calories to snack, and a grumbling tummy about an hour after dinner. After a week of this misery, I'd hop on the scale and lose... half a pound. Obviously, the plan of making myself miserable to lose weight was a loser.

Next, I joined a CSA after having a talk with my husband. He had to be on board with trying a whole bunch of new veggies, and not letting things go to waste. He was - so our meals gradually became protein- and veggie- based, with starches still there but fewer and farther between. Rather than be hungry, we're filling up on volume of food. We've both lost weight. We both feel better. I'm not yet ready for full-on paleo - I may never be because I like cheese too much - but we're definitely eating a lot "cleaner" than before. And it's also lowered our grocery bill by about 30-50 dollars a week - less packaged crap and junk food filling our cart.

I also made a rule - alcohol only on weekends or special occasions. That saves us money and calories - and also doesn't mess with our sleep schedule during the week.

So what do we eat?

  • Friday night, we were in the mood for starchy comfort food and made loaded baked potatoes (russet potatoes with cheddar, bacon, fresh chives and some fat free greek yogurt) served with a green salad and water. In the past this would have been accompanied by ribs or some other meat, and wine. 
  • Saturday, we had teriyaki marinated grilled 90% kosher beef. Served with another green salad, and sauteed mushrooms and sweet onions from my CSA. We did have wine with that. 
  • Today (Happy Cinqo de Mayo!) we started the day with Skinnytaste huevos rancheros, and are making sangria and chicken fajitas on the grill tonight - a healthier recipe from America's Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2011. Dessert: watermelon slices. 
  • Monday: Wood-grilled salmon with green salad. I'll also be roasting some red CSA potatoes with fresh chives, but that'll probably be more my husband than me. 
  • Tuesday: Shrimp cocktail with homemade cocktail sauce (I got fresh horseradish root in my CSA bag) and a huge green salad with egg and garbanzo beans to be extra filling. Dessert: grilled fresh pineapple. 
  • Wednesday: More loaded baked potatoes with salad and aqua. 
  • Thursday: We're grilling chicken with Dino BBQ sauce. Veggie TBD depending on what comes in the CSA bag. 
  • Friday: TBD - it's the weekend! 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Purple potatoes

My CSA came with a ton of goodies this week. I didn't take pictures of most of them because, well, a lot of it was the same ol', same ol' stuff I've been snapping lately. Pea greens, potatoes, lettuces, apples, frozen veggies... however, I was shocked to see a new color when I was cutting up potatoes to roast: 

Purple potatoes? Yup. I have found a legit purple food. 

I did some reading and apparently these purple bad boys are South American in origin, and pack a pretty hefty nutritional wallop. They're high in antioxidants and have been shown to reduce blood pressure. And, they're rumored to do so without causing weight gain. Does that sound too good to be true or what? (I'm guessing here that we don't have liberty to eat our weight in potatoes and still have to practice portion control in order to get that particular benefit ;-)). 

Anyway, my purple potatoes came with a couple more traditional red-skinned potatoes with white flesh. I sliced them all up, tossed them in a bit of EVOO, seasoned with seasoned salt and pepper, and roasted them. They were delicious! My husband thought the purple potatoes tasted the same as regular potatoes but I thought they had a slight nuttier and earthier flavor - I liked them more. 

I'll keep an eye out for these in the future. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fro yo

In the past year or so there has been an explosion of fro-yo in the Capital Region.

The ones I can list off the top of my head: 
  • Lemon Drop - I love this place. It's convenient (on Wolf Road next to Trader Joes) and all allergens are clearly labelled on electronic screens. 
  • Sweet Frog, which just opened up in Mohawk Commons. This is dangerous - it's close to my gym AND my nearest Chipotle. They also get points for allergen labels on their signs. My husband was a little disappointed in their flavor selection (his only option was vanilla) but to be fair - they had a lot of gluten free options, he just hates chocolate and most fruit flavors. 
  • TCBY, which I believe has the most locations in the area. They get points for awesome labelling on their website, but the stores I have been to don't label gluten free so you either have to ask or have a smartphone on you. 
  • Menchie's, which is opening (soon?) in Rotterdam. I am looking forward to trying them out! 
  • Plum Dandy - this one is still my favorite in Saratoga. I love their homemade whipped cream. And yes, they have signs up indicating what their GF flavors are. 
  • 16 Handles - I love this place too. I can't remember if we had to ask about gluten free yogurt or if it was labelled when we went to the Clifton Park location. Trying out the East Greenbush location is on my TODO list, but last week's sleet made me not want yogurt that much. 
  • There are others in the malls too. 
Now - this is awesome because a lot of yogurt is naturally GF, it's self serve so you can decide how much or how little you want, and you can make your dessert quasi-healthy by choosing non or low fat versions and adding fruit toppings. It's also dangerous because I always want yogurt - and I wonder how they'll stack up against our seasonal outdoor ice cream stands. 

I also suspect the fro yo trend has also had an impact on the cupcake craze of a few years ago based on some of the recent closings that I have seen. :-( 

Overall though, in my social circle at least, "let's go meet for fro yo" has replaced "let's go meet for cocktails." 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lots of restaurants

Happy Sunday!

There was no post last week because we were out of town. Hubby and I went to NJ for the weekend (I bought him Wrestlemania tickets - the event was definitely an experience, I had a lot more fun people watching than I would have thought). We ate a ton of food there - the two highlights were a chain called Cheeseburger in Paradise where we got awesome burgers on gluten free buns and fries. Also, breakfast at Six Brothers Diner, where they have a pretty extensive gluten free menu. I was surprised that my hubby didn't go with pancakes or french toast, but he wanted an omelette with a GF english muffin since that's hard to come by at restaurants around us.

I don't know why, but it seems that wherever we go - California, Boston, NYC, NJ... these places have so many more GF options than our area does. Don't get me wrong - we're definitely getting better each year - but other areas just seem much more progressive. There are no pancake houses with GF options here. PF Changs is the only Chinese restaurant I know in the area with a GF menu. And it's still a crapshoot whether many servers understand what gluten is and what cross contamination is.

This weekend, we tried a Groupon to Simply Grille in Albany. I never heard about them before until they advertised on Groupon and between the prices and the fact that their menu is mostly GF I had to pick up the Groupon to try it. We had lamb and beef kebabs for lunch and they were pretty decent. The basmati rice was my favorite part of the lunch - we'll definitely be back again. We also had dinner at the old standby Bangkok Bistro. I love that place. Wow, we've eaten at a lot of restaurants this week! I really need to work on scaling back on that, because it's hard not to gain weight when we're eating out all the time - and I have 2-3 pounds (depending on the day of the week) to go to hit my May goal of 15 lbs lost since January!

This last week, my CSA subscription resumed too. Yay! Here's my haul this week (not sure why I can't rotate it):
Shiitake mushrooms, kohlrabi, apples, frozen corn and flat green beans, microgreens and garlic cheese nuggets. 
  • The corn was a side dish on Thursday with leftover BBQ grilled chicken before my Zumba class. 
  • We tried the garlic cheese nuggets with dinner on Friday. Verdict: meh. The flat green beans were also for dinner on Friday, sauteed in EVOO with garlic, salt and pepper. They were delish. 
  • The shiitake mushrooms are going in this mushroom soup recipe, I'll just sub the flour for a GF flour. 
  • I'm going to roast the kohlrabi again, since that's so easy and just awesome. 
  • The apples are basically gone, with lunches. 
  • I figure that I'll try the microgreens on more time. I bought some fish to make at home this weekend - I might try that as a garnish (copying Prime from a couple weeks ago). 
So, meal plans this week: 
  • Tonight: a cajun-style stuffed pepper recipe with chicken andouille sausage, rice, onions, garlic, and monterey jack cheese - and of course, Red Hot. I love one-dish dinners. 
  • Monday: grilled shrimp with spicy lemon garlic sauce with salad and homemade GF garlic bread. At least, it looks like Monday's the best grilling day so far. 
  • Tuesday: Mushroom soup with salad and homemade GF garlic bread
  • Wednesday: Pan fried tilapia with Old Bay; roasted kohlrabi and salad. Served with either small cups of leftover mushroom soup or else small baked potatoes. 
  • Thursday: Cleaning up leftovers.
  • Friday: TBD.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Random thoughts

  • No CSA delivery for two weeks. I miss the veggies and am looking forward to getting them next week! I've been making do with grocery store veggies, lots of salads, that sort of thing. 
  • However, I still have not found a way to enjoy kale. I just don't know if I can like it. 
  • We tried O'Toole's in Albany last weekend. Had drinks, nachos, and sandwiches. It's great to enjoy pub food and not feel disgusting afterwards like we do with some other places. We'll definitely be back! Wish I had been able to make the buffet in Queensbury, but it's just too far away on a weeknight.
  • Bought Groupons to the Melting Pot and Simply Grille. Can't wait to use them. 
  • I need to find time to go to Wednesday wine dinner at For Love of Wine. 
  • Had Easter brunch with family at Riverstone Manor. All of the sauces were GF, which meant that only the obvious stuff (breads, pastas) was off limits. I thought it was a little on the pricey side (though probably all Easter events are), but it was nice.
  • New fro yo places have been popping up relatively close to my house. I feel this is dangerous. I also feel that it is my responsibility to try them all. ;-) 
  • Grilled for the first time this week! It finally feels like Spring. 
  • Working from home vastly increases my mini egg consumption. Thank goodness I don't have many left. When they're gone, they're gone. 
  • Dinner date last night at 677 Prime. First time I've been there and It. Was. Awesome.
  • Now that I know what microgreens are, I see them everywhere. 
  • As of this week, I am done with school! No more homework! No more classes! Yay!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Learned a few things this week

So, I learned a few thing this week!

First, I learned that the Albany Pump Station has a gluten free menu. We had been there a few years ago for a Jack and Jill shower and they didn't have a lot of offerings - it looks like they've greatly improved, serving burgers and sandwiches on gluten free bread, pasta dishes, etc. I used to love that place when we were dating and I'm excited that we can go back and try it again!

Also, a friend told me that O'Toole's is gluten free friendly. There are two O'Toole's restaurants, in Albany and Queensbury. The Queensbury location has a gluten free menu including burgers, fries (in a dedicated fryer), wings, tenders, fajitas in corn tortillas, pasta dishes, etc. They also have a few different GF beers and hard ciders (including Angry Orchard and McKenzie's hard cherry, two of our favorites!). The Albany location calls out GF items on their app and dinner menus. My friend told me she thinks they have a dedicated fryer but I haven't confirmed yet, so definitely check if you go! I can see my hubby and I stopping by for an after-work drink and nachos one of these days, though!

The same friend also told me she heard Juicy Burgers has gluten free buns - I have not confirmed yet, but that would be awesome! Anyone know for sure?

Also - when I went to Price Chopper yesterday I found out that Price Chopper is making their own store-brand gluten free mixes now. I saw chocolate chip cookie mix (didn't pick it up because the hubby doesn't like chocolate) but the box said they have knockoffs of all the Betty Crocker mixes. I foresee a yellow cake or pancake mix taste test in our future... :-)

Finally - the last thing I learned - and a mini rant.

Last winter CSA bag

Happy weekend! Hope everyone's doing well and looking forward to a forecast of 50 degrees or so on Easter! (Let's hope that lasts!)

We've been pretty busy, but mostly with work/school/other commitments. I did get the last CSA bag for two weeks this Thursday. There were a ton of great things in there:

  • Lots of onions: 

  • Rome apples: 

  • My favorite addition: hydroponic basil and arugula! 

We also got a root veggie grab bag (beets, carrots, and a couple of potatoes), frozen butternut squash and frozen kale, and an awesome muenster cheese from Palatine farms. Yum!

So what did I do with all this stuff?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lots of green stuff

Happy Saturday! Is it just me or did this week go by extremely fast? Our weekend and week were extremely busy, that might have something to do with it. Anyway, here's what we did for food with last week's haul
  • Thursday night I tried making daikon pickles. They weren't my favorite, but I'd try the recipe again omitting the oil, because my co-worker said they taste just like Van's. 
  • Saturday night a new-to-GF friend came over. We made baked ziti using Bionaturae GF pasta, Italian bread (and a loaf of rosemary-garlic bread, yum!) and a batch of gluten free cupcakes using Betty Crocker's mix. I had some homemade buttercream frosting in the freezer too, so that worked out perfectly. For greens, I sauteed the frozen green beans we received in last week's CSA in garlic and EVOO. 
  • Sunday I made a roast chicken with garlic mashed potatoes. I also sauteed the mushrooms with some peas in garlic and EVOO for a side, and made brown sugar beets. I'd never had beets before but I've gotta say, I was a big fan. They were delicious. 
  • I also made kale chips from the frozen kale. So far, I'm not that big a fan of kale. 
  • Monday, I made tilapia. I was on a garlic and EVOO kick so I made more of those green beans, and leftover rice in the fridge. 
  • The rest of the week? Leftovers! Love those weeks. :-) For veggies the rest of the week I just took veggies out of the freezer and heated them up. 

Here's a peek at what I got this week: 

Carrots, pea greens, cabbage, apples, a green basil garlic cheese, and frozen corn and blueberries. (I also received microgreens that I gave to a co-worker). 

So, what to do? 
  • Friday night we picked up some red crab on sale at Price Chopper (3 day sales are awesome). I used up the rest of my mashed potatoes (made them loaded with cheese, bacon bits and chives that I had on hand) and then sauteed the pea greens in EVOO and garlic. (I used up that last of my frozen garlic, can you believe it!?) I was surprised by how small the pea greens ended up after cooking them, but they tasted really good. 
  • Tonight, I'm probably not using any of them. I promised the hubby I'd make homemade mac and cheese before we go out. 
  • Tomorrow night, I'm planning on trying this milk can supper recipe from Cook's Country. I saw it in the latest issue of their magazine and it uses the cabbage (since we can't really do corned beef and cabbage without malt vinegar). It looks good and easy too - with lots of leftovers. 
  • The carrots are going right in the fridge - they keep a while, so I have time to figure out how to use them. 
  • The cheese and apples may be lunch today! 
  • The corn and blueberries went right into the freezer. I now have 2 things of frozen blueberries - I need to figure out something good to do with them! Maybe pancakes? 
Hope that everyone has a great weekend! I have quite a busy weekend planned - meeting up with some friends tonight to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, doing quite a bit of homework, meeting up with one of my best friends for lunch and to do wedding-related stuff (yay!) and some other stuff here and there. :-) 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

CSA veggies this week

Here's my CSA goodie bag from this week: 

I got:

  • Frozen kale and green beans
  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Potatoes
  • a Daikon radish

So, what have I done so far? 

  • Friday night, we did Skinny Texas Cheese Fries with the potatoes: 
  • Sauteed the green beans with EVOO and garlic, and the crimini mushrooms
  • Brown sugar glazed beets - this was my first experience with beets, and YUM!
  • Daikon radish pickles - Now I admit these weren't my favorite. I added the sesame oil and that's all I could taste. Big mistake. My co-worker did not use as much sesame oil and said they came out exactly the same as Van's. So - next time!
  • Made kale chips. I don't know if it was the fact that they were frozen first, but I was underwhelmed. 
  • Apples will go into work with us for lunches. :-) 
Have a great week! 

Friday, March 8, 2013

For a new-to-GF friend

Putting this together for a friend - have I missed anything? 

Brands we use

·         Kraft will not hide gluten on the label – so if it does not say wheat, rye, barley or oats it should be GF. This includes all the brands they own – Full list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Kraft_brands
·         General Mills will not hide gluten on the label either, and a lot of their products are labeled GF. This includes all the brands they own – full list here: http://www.generalmills.com/Brands.aspx
o   Many Chex cereals including Cinnamon, Corn, Rice, Chocolate and Honey Nut are labeled GF
o   Many Progresso soups are GF
·         All Boar’s Head products are gluten free. This includes meats, cheeses and condiments.
·         99% of Dietz and Watson products are gluten free: http://www.dietzandwatson.com/gluten-free/ Also, you can ask the PC deli counter people to wash down their station before cutting your cold cuts, or call up and ask them to cut them first on the equipment to avoid cross-contamination.
·         Bionaturae pasta or PastaMia pasta is our favorite ($$$ but worth it!)
·         Bread goods – try Rudi’s or Udi’s. Usually sold in GF sections/in freezer aisles. Our Price Chopper carries both. Rudi’s makes really good cinnamon raisin bread. Udi’s also makes hot dog buns and hamburger buns.
·         Convenience foods – Starfish GF battered cod, haddock, shrimp, etc. is really good and is sold at Price Chopper. Bell & Evans, Tyson and Perdue make GF chicken nuggets and chicken tenders (Bell & Evans at Uncle Sam’s in Latham or Nisky co-op; Tyson at Glenville Wal-mart; still looking for Perdue)
·         Heinz list of GF products (inc. Ore-Ida, Classico, SmartOnes, etc.): http://www.heinz.com/glutenfree/products.html
·         Price Chopper’s list of GF products: http://www.pricechopper.com/fresh_ideas/gluten-free
·         Hannaford’s list of GF products: http://www.hannaford.com/category/Grocery/Gluten-Free/pc/28272/46486.uts
·         ShopRite’s list of GF products: http://shopriteforms.mywebgrocer.com/glutenfree.aspx
·         Trader Joe’s list of GF products: http://www.traderjoes.com/lists/no-gluten.asp (they also hav
·         Wal-mart Great Value brand products will label all GF items as Gluten Free or Naturally Gluten e an icon on the package itself) Free
·         Condiments:
o   Hellman’s mayonnaise is labeled GF
o   Heinz ketchup is GF (and I believe they have started labeling)
o   French’s mustard
o   Frank’s Red Hot
o   Dinosaur BBQ sauce is labeled GF, as is Sweet Baby Rays.
o   Soy sauce: La Choy, Wheat Free Tamari
o   Wish-Bone salad dressings are labeled GF
o   Ken’s GF salad dressings: http://www.kensfoods.com/glutenstatement.php
·         Booze:
o   Wine is GF J
o   Beer: Estrella Damm Daura and Omission are brewed with Barley and then made GF. There are also a lot of sorghum-based beers out there – Bard’s, Green’s, New Grist, Redbridge, Dogfish Head Tweason Ale, etc.
o   Cider: Woodchuck, McKenzies, Angry Orchard (often on tap!), etc. naturally GF

Restaurants with GF menus

·         Outback, Carrabbas, PF Changs, Pizeria Uno, 99 Restaurants – most chains will have something if you look for it, but some are more accommodating than others
·         Cheesecake Factory does not have GF menu, but ask for a manager and they’ll tell you what you can have
·         Delmonico’s has a GF menu with pasta
·         Chipotle – everything is safe but the flour shells, and employees will change gloves on request; Moes also has GF options. These are the best fast food options for GF around here!
·         Wendy’s has a GF menu – mostly salads, chili and baked potato
·         Urban spoon has a great list: http://www.urbanspoon.com/t/79/1/Albany/Gluten-Free-Friendly-restaurants Not all of these have GF menus, but you can ask your sever and they will usually accommodate you.
·         Hattie’s in Saratoga/Wilton is working on a GF fried chicken this year – not yet, but we’re so there when it comes out!
·         Circus CafĂ© in Saratoga has a decent menu.
·         Wheatfields has a GF menu (though we aren’t that thrilled with them)
·         We have not come across a fro-yo place around here that doesn’t have GF options. Toppings bar is at your own risk (cross-contamination possibility)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happy weekend!

Happy weekend!

So this week was pretty interesting. Not a lot of cooking has happened. Mostly because on Tuesday I came down with the latest bug that's going around. I was out sick a bit from work this week and we ended up eating a lot of convenience foods because I wasn't up to cooking.

I did end up making the roasted kohlrabi recipe I talked about last week and... amazing.  Definitely a fan. I also tried the frozen corn which was sweet and tasted like it came just off the cob. Perfect with a little Promise and salt.

We also had another... interesting... thing happen on Thursday:
Yup, that's the puggle. On her third bath that night, after tangling with a skunk, and losing.  close to our house, so the smell seeped in even with out her. I learned a couple of things:
  1. Up close, skunk spray smells harsh and chemically - almost like burning rubber. And skunk spray can get through anything, even the most stuffed up noses.
  2. A mix of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and Dawn makes a great dog de-skunkifying shampoo
  3. The best way to deodorize a stinking house is to boil a combination of vinegar and water on the stove.
Anyway, back to food.

My CSA haul this week included frozen broccoli and frozen tomato puree (not pictured), as well as parsnips, sweet potatoes and apples: 

 Pea greens:

 And microgreens:

Parsnips and microgreens are new-to-me, and I've only eaten sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. So, what to do?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

CSA week two, plus grocery findings

Good morning and happy Sunday! Hope that everyone had a great week and weekend so far! Our week was pretty busy and I did some "throw together" dinners during the week without many pictures. However, I did get a pretty nice CSA haul this week:
I didn't do the extra fruit share this week - mostly because it was still apples, and living in Upstate NY has spoiled me to want apples when they're in season. Still, I got: 
  • 2 kohlrabi (a new-to-me veggie)
  • Frozen green beans, corn and blueberries
  • Oyster and shiitake mushroms
  • A handful of onions
  • A big bag o' garlic 
  • Stella Vallis Tomme cheese
I also still have a decent amount of veggies from last week:
  • Onions and potatoes are being stored right now (I also got a free bag of russet potatoes from PC!)
  • Still have carrots from last week 
  • Still have frozen broccoli from last week
Okay, so what have I done/am planning to do with all of these veggies?
  • Last week's garlic bulb was gone in a couple of days. I am realizing how much I use garlic in just about everything! 
  • I'm storing the onions and potatoes in modified Trader Joe's paper bags, in cool dark locations, so hopefully they last well until I need to use them. 
  • The carrots are in my fridge - I need to use them up soon. 
  •  The pea greens from last week ended up being polished off by me - raw - Sunday as a snack while preparing lunch. 
  • The apples from last week were brought in to work with lunch by my husband and myself. The last of the apples were sliced last Sunday, and eaten with brie. 
  • The watermelon radishes were all used up in salads. 
  • The frozen broccoli, green beans, corn and blueberries are all in the freezer still, so I'm holding off on using them up. 
  • Friday night, we brought a rotisserie chicken home from Price Chopper for dinner. I sauteed the frozen kale with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and used some leftover mashed potatoes. It was good - and an easy meal!
  • Saturday night I made chicken tortilla soup from one of my light and healthy cookbooks, but the only thing I put in it from the CSA haul were onions and garlic. 
  • The cheese will be tried today, after my boot camp class at the gym! Cheese, once it's opened, never lasts more than a couple of days in this house. 
  • This evening, we're planning broiled steaks with sauteed mushrooms and onions (with garlic) and, if I feel ambitious, homemade garlic and rosemary bread. 
  • The rest of the garlic will get chopped up, mixed with EVOO, and frozen. (Food safety tip: it's important to freeze that mixture, and not refrigerate it!)
  • During the week I'm planning an cooking tilapia, and making this kohlrabi recipe to go with it: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/roasted-kohlrabi/
  • Carrots may get used in salads. If not, I have to make a soup next weekend! 
I also found some interesting stuff to stock the freezer with during my travels on Saturday:
  • Walmart now carries more gluten free frozen goods! I found Tyson gluten free chicken tenders and nuggets in their freezer and picked up the tenders. I still haven't found the GF Purdue chicken anywhere. Once in a while when we feel like being bad, chicken tenders/nuggets with homemade french fries is a necessary dinner.
  • Price Chopper had Contessa frozen  convenience dinners on sale (Buy One, Get One) last week. I haven't tried them, but they caught my eye and some of them were labelled GF! After reading the ingredient label, they're not that bad for a convenience meal - each package has 2 servings, and they're between 300 and 350 calories per serving. We picked up the Shrimp Fried Rice and Paella meals to store in the freezer for when we need a quick meal.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My first CSA

I've been toying with the idea of subscribing to a CSA for a couple of years now. I'll admit that the reason I haven't is basically laziness - I didn't really want to be bothered having to go somewhere inconvenient to me to pick stuff up. Last week, though, I started a Field Goods subscription for the first time, and I am really impressed! 

As those of you who follow me on social media know, I've been trying really hard to eat healthier this year. So far it's paying off, and my clothes are fitting much better (I even dropped a size when I bought new pants for work a week ago!). But, the fact that Field Goods drops off to a location convenient to my office, combined with the fact that I'd like to incorporate more veggies into my diet, made me sign up. 

Right now I'm signed up for a $37 subscription. That gets me: 
  • The "Small" fruit and vegetable share, which they say is good for 1-2 people. 
  • The extra fruit share
  • The herb and allium share
  • The cheese share (which is what my husband was most excited about, lol)
All right, so what did I get? 

First, not pictured: 
  • We got a Caerphilly cheese from the cheese share. Man, that stuff was good - didn't last long enough to take any pictures. 
  • We got frozen broccoli and kale, which is sitting in my freezer as we speak. 
  • Carrots (which I forgot to take a picture of for some reason)
Pea greens (I've never had these before, but they were good!):

Yukon gold potatoes: 

Watermelon radishes, another "new-to-me" veggie: 

From the herb and allium share, I got a whole bag of onions, and a bonus bulb of garlic (not pictured):

Also, I got a whole bunch of yummy gala and fuji apples (from the combined fruit and small fruit and vegetable shares): 

All right, so what have I made with these so far?

First, there's this awesome salad: 
Organic baby greens, pea greens, watermelon radish, cucumber, red bell pepper, carrot, mushroom, and chickpea. That's one good (and colorful!) salad, and I still have some left over for tomorrow's lunch. And I love how the radishes really do look like little watermelon slices! :-)

Then, last night's dinner, szechuan style shrimp. I use this base recipe, but I double the sauce (and obviously use gluten free soy sauce) and add a lot of veggies. In this case, I wanted to use up some veggies that I had on hand, so I threw in snow peas, the last of my red bell pepper, mushrooms and baby corn. I serve it with jasmine rice, and I was so stuffed by the end of the meal that I didn't even have room for more of that awesome salad (but I guess I did get a lot of veggies in the main dish). 

Other stuff that I didn't take pictures of - Well, for breakfast a couple days I did a hard boiled egg with a sliced apple, and yesterday's lunch was apple slices and light brie cheese. I also polished off the pea greens (raw) yesterday. Right now I'm storing the onions and potatoes and carrots, and hoping to find something to make this weekend (if nothing else, maybe a chicken soup). 

Can't wait to see what this week's bundle brings!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! ... and humbling experiences in the kitchen.

Happy New Year all and I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! My husband and I were both off starting Christmas Eve, and we go back to work tomorrow. We've enjoyed our relaxing vacation and a lot of fun times with family and good friends, but now it's time to get back into the swing of things - going back to work, eating slightly more healthy (and trying to trim down for an upcoming cruise!) and not skipping as many workouts. :-)

However, I do have to say, I have one complaint about this past holiday (technically, two, but they're rolled up into one). I had not one, but two, incredibly humbling experiences in the kitchen over the holidays. I like to think of myself as a good cook - I may not always cook the healthiest, lightest stuff around but it always tastes good. I haven't royally messed anything up in a long while, but I think it's fair to admit when I do - and see what lessons I can learn for the next time!

The first, was my in-laws' holiday party. My mother in law asked me to bring a couple of things, including my gluten free pepperoni pizza puffs. Based on the number of people we expected to attend, we decided that a double batch would probably be best. Now, I was rushed that day - I came home from bootcamp at the gym and had just enough time to shower and cook before heading out to the party - and I didn't want to cook two separate batches, so I borrowed her mini muffin tins and crammed all four tins in my oven. I cooked them for the usual amount of time, figuring that since more stuff was in the oven I'd check them and see if they needed more time. Unfortunately - I'm guessing due to the fact that the tins were much closer to the side of my oven than usual - I ended up burning about half of them. Not. Cool.

So - lesson one: When doubling a batch of anything, try to keep the amount in the oven the same if possible. And if cramming more in the oven than usual, keep checking on everything starting at the halfway point! 

Anyway, the pizza puffs ended up not being quite the catastrophe that they could have been, because the party guest list was halved due to snowy weather. Still, that's so annoying!

The second, was last night. New Years' Eve. A couple of close friends had decided that a low-key night with board games was the best way to ring in 2013. We had a gluten free restriction, a vegetarian (but eggs and cheese were OK), and a white/black pepper allergy. We decided that keeping it low-key was in order, so I decided to make pizzas - I made my favorite white broccoli pizza, along with a half-cheese/half-mushroom pizza and a pepperoni pizza. I also made buffalo chicken dip, Indian relish dip, and put out a cranberry spice cheese with Glutino cinnamon bagel chips (yum - my mother in law found that combination over the holiday, and it's like crack). And I made my champagne punch, as well as a requested toxic party punch (toxic because it doesn't taste like alcohol and goes down smooth, but is extremely potent), so we were all set! We also had macaroons and amarettis from our Christmas baking extravaganza, and friends brought an awesome fruit platter!

First things first - I bought Penzey's pizza seasoning, but when I read the ingredient label I saw black pepper. You know that scene in Bridget Jones' Diary, where her boss catches her on the phone with a friend, and then catches her lying that she was talking to a dead author? .... Yeah, that was my reaction. I texted my friend quickly, asking her if she wanted a pizza with plain marinara sauce, but fortunately her allergy isn't that severe, so she said she'd take a Benadryl and to season away! So I did, but kept it on the light side.

My master plan here was to make the pizza crusts ahead of time, and then just put the toppings on them when everyone got to the house. Sounds good in theory, right? Well, unfortunately, keeping them in the oven on warm for half an hour dried out the crusts so they were hard and rather unappetizing. :-(

So - lesson two: New cooking techniques are better to be experimented on just us, first, And New Years' Resolution: Find out how to make pizza crusts ahead of time, so they can just be taken out and warmed up with toppings, and still taste great! 

Ah well. We still had a great time, played games like Cards Against Humanity and Dirty Minds, enjoyed good company and good conversation, and rang in 2013 in style. Even with my culinary mishap.

Final lesson - lesson three: Don't let a kitchen disaster ruin your night! 

Hope you all have a wonderful New Year!