Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pinto and Black Bean Chili

Yesterday was a loooong day. First I taped two episodes of Veggie Bites with my awesome crew (I think after our next taping I'm going to take pictures of all of them and do a post on them!) and then played a game of kickball with my brothers. By brothers I mean my fraternity brothers; I'm in Alpha Kappa Psi which is a co-ed business fraternity. While I do love to exercise I am not that athletic. I remember having anxiety when I was in kindergarten over soccer games due to my poor hand-eye coordination! I actually did OK at the kickball game, but I think I'd rather use my strength with a hand blender! All of these activities brought me to around 6p.m. when my roommate, Tina let me know that our friend Dave would be joining us for dinner. Luckily my other roommate, Rebecca (we call her Rebs), was already at Whole Foods getting some provisions.

On the menu last night was pinto and black bean chili, which is a great dish if you're having last-minute guests because it's so hearty. I laid out the ingredients and asked Tina to cook for me so I could do my WMM workout and shower. Here's how she made it:

Pictured above: 1 yellow onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 red peppers, tabasco sauce, 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, 1 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, 1 15 oz. can black beans, cumin, paprika, black pepper and corn starch.

Add tomatoes to a pan on medium-high heat. Once the tomatoes begin to boil, reduce heat to medium and add crushed garlic and chopped onion. Let sit for 5-7 minutes and then add chopped red pepper. Wait an additional 5-7 minutes and add in the remaining ingredients.

Add in beans, 2 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin, a few dashes of tabasco (judge by how hot you like it!), 1 tsp black pepper and a tbsp or so of cornstarch to achieve thickness.

We served this with the Newman's Own Peach Salsa I was raving about a week or so ago and some tortilla chips. Top your bowl with a heaping spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt and enjoy with 4 friends! I posted a picture of my serving last night on Twitter. It was delicious with just the right amount of spice, thanks Tina (and thanks for taking photos!).

With health,

Melissa

Friday, February 26, 2010

Veggie Bites, Season 2 Episode 2 plus Robert Kenner!

The theme for the second episode was Indian food, so naturally we (myself plus my friend Emily) made curry. There is virtually no such thing as curry served without some goodies on the side so we also made coconut Basmati rice and a pitcher of mango lassi. The episode's normally go up on Thursday nights but we lost and then found the last segment (whew!). Thanks to the amazing editor Jordan Coughenour for finding it! You can locate the entire episode here:


Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4


Basmati Rice

· 1 cup dry rice

· 1 tablespoon butter

· ¼ cup coconut milk

· 1 1/2 cups water

· Dash of salt

· Dash of sugar

Add liquids and rice to a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let sit for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and sugar and serve. Serves 4.


Vegetable Curry

· 4 ½ cups water

· ½ cup coconut milk

· 1 cup brown lentils

· ¼ teaspoon fresh ground ginger

· ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

· ¼ teaspoon cumin

· ½ tablespoon mustard

· 1 tablespoon tumeric

· 1 tablespoon corriander

· ½ pound cauliflower

· Dash of cardamom

· 1 teaspoon black pepper

· 1 teaspoon salt

· 1 large russet potato, peeled

· ½ pound cauliflower

Bring water and coconut milk to a boil and add lentils. Add spices and let sit for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Fold in potato and cauliflower and let sit for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with basmati rice and naan bread, garnish with cilantro. Serves 4.



Mango Lassi

  • 1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1½ cups mango pulp
  • 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar
  • Dash of powdered cardamom

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate or pour over ice and serve immediately. Serves 4.

I hope you enjoy this episode.... I know I enjoyed eating the food we made!

On Thursday night Robert Kenner came to speak at American University through the Kennedy Political Union and Eco-Sense (both are organization's on campus). Robert Kenner produced the now massively-popular "Food, Inc.," a documentary largely about the food industry in America and how it has changed from the small farmer with a straw hat to enormous factories that plop out meats and produce, squirting chemicals about along the way. Now I have to admit something; I've not yet watched the movie. I looked up movie times over the summer but never got in my car to get there. Then my parents bought it for me for Valentine's day and there were several times in the past week or so when I almost popped the DVD into my laptop and then hesitated.

I watched a ton of clips and interviews on the movie but I just couldn't bring myself to actually sit down and watch it. The thing is, I know that once I see it I'm going to go into freak-out mode. I can and do control the things that I eat via the choices I make at the supermarket, but I love (LOVE) dining out. Once you're in the hands of a cook other than yourself, you can't be sure that what you are eating, no matter how delicious, hasn't been processed or hasn't been grown without the help of chemicals. Luckily, there are a ton of restaurants moving toward locally-sourced, organic foods, but they I want to be able to eat this way for all kinds of cuisines! I don't want to watch the movie and be terrified of eating out again. OK, now I am being a bit dramatic, but you see where I'm going here.

While I hadn't seen the movie I could not pass up hearing this man speak. I know how important this film has been (some of my friends and family members who have seen the film have completely changed the ways in which they buy food) and will be (hopefully in terms legislation like decreasing or eliminating farming subsidies for corn and soybeans and creating healthful school lunch programs!) and I knew I would learn so much through the insight he has gained in producing this film.

One of the most important things that he said was "I love to eat, it's really fun." Hmm. If the man who saw factory farms first-hand still loves to eat, there must be hope for me too! He went on to say that he hoped that this film did not "scare" people out of eating and that that was not the intent. From the clips he showed us (in addition to the ones I've seen), I definitely am still a bit "scared" but I think I need to push that fear away and watch the damn movie!

Since my parents bought it for me I want to watch it with them, so in a week and a half or so when I am home for spring break I will watch it (although I might watch it before then!) and give you my review plus some of the commentary he gave us while watching clips. The trailer alone is thought-provoking so definitely check it out if you have not done so yet!

I'm taping the next two episodes of Veggie Bites bright and early in the morning-- I can't wait for you all to see what's up next!

With health,

Melissa



Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cherry, Date and Almond Snack Bars

Yesterday I did end up waking up early (woo hoo!) but stayed up too late (boo!) and for some delusional reason I made the snack bars I spoke about on Monday at around 2a.m. Anyway, I realized that today would be a more interesting day to tell you about my internship because I knew I would have something to show you, but more on that later!

Over the summer I used my lunch breaks at my internship (an ice pop manufacturer... for real) to scour the Internet for food blogs. As you all know, I am a big fan of Oh She Glows, and the site/blog really inspired me to make my own snack bars. The recipe I originally found on the site is based off of the Banana Bread Larabar (which is fantastic). Larabar's are absolutely delicious and include nothing but dried fruits, nuts and some extra juices here and there, but that's really it! They are a bit expensive, so if you are really into this sort of snack bar it might pay to make them yourself. Here's my version:


1/3 cup sliced almonds, 1/3 cup chopped dried cherries and 1/3 cup chopped dates. (A tip: buy your almonds already sliced and cut the fruit with a chefs knife to make for easy chopping) How cute are my roommate, Tina's, measuring cups?!


Place the almonds in a food processor, pulsing until they reach a grain-like consistency, and then add in the dates and cherries. Process all of this together for a minute or so and then transfer onto parchment paper. Once on the paper, drizzle with a tablespoon of honey (if you're not into honey just add some more dried fruit at the beginning).


Squish the ingredients together as you form a rectangle and then place another piece of parchment paper over the fruit and almonds. Roll a rolling pin over the paper to even out the mixture and to ensure that everything has been compressed.

Remove the top piece of paper and cut the mixture into four large bars. Fold the bottom sheet of paper over the bars, place the bars inside of the parchment paper in a plastic bag and then put them in your refrigerator. (You can use plastic wrap to contain all of the bars individually but I get sort of weirded out at the idea of the chemicals in the plastic getting all over your delicious, home-made snack, but it's totally up to you!). These bars are delicious and not too sweet because of the dates. They are perfect for those 3p.m. food cravings!

Now onto the internship... last Wednesday I started interning for Ping Pong One LLC! I loved the restaurant last semester in London and I am so grateful, lucky and excited to be a part of their U.S. venture! I am especially grateful for my friend Myca, the Marketing Manager, who I e-mailed vigorously for weeks in order to make sure my resume was going to get into the right hands. It did (yay!) and now I'm working with Myca to build the brand. I am having the most amazing time at Ping Pong and I feel like restaurant marketing/promotion/PR is the right fit for me for the future, but we'll see about that... in the future! I intern on Wednesday's and whenever there is an event so every Wednesday I am going to be hosting a Video Log to tell DC foodies all about what's going on in-store and what promotions we will be offering that week! To be fair, I do have to say that I did not yet have the internship when I wrote my posts about the restaurant and you can definitely check out my London blog to learn how much of a true ping-ponger I am.

I seem to have found myself up late again-- jeez! I'm still on my waking-up-early mission though, but let's see if it happens tomorrow!

With health,

Melissa

Monday, February 22, 2010

In Need of Energy

Ever since the "snowpocalypse" I've felt sort of energy-less. If you know me, you know that I can slap on a smile at the drop of a dime but even those mid-afternoon spurts of sunshine that I am known for have gone away. This is sad.

I've been letting myself sleep thinking, "Well, if I sleep later I will feel more energized in the morning." Wrong-o. I think I've been sleeping too much (9ish hours per night) and tomorrow it's about to change. Tomorrow I am going to wake up at 7a.m. Yup, seven o'clock in the morning. (to all of you real-world people out there who wake up earlier than that everyday, I commend you, I bow down.) There are times when you just need to kick yourself in the butt and via that butt-kicking alter your internal clock a bit so that you get out of your funk and into more productive behavior. That's what I intend to do.

In addition to waking up early tomorrow, I will be showing you how to make homemade snack bars and I'm going to tell you all about my exciting internship for the semester!

With health,

Melissa

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Julia's Empanadas

Today I realized two things. The first is that the DC buses are definitely still not back on their normal routes and the second is that there is a true gem on Connecticut Avenue in Dupont. Last Spring I worked at Hello Cupcake, which is right down the block from the empanada shop, but never went in. People would stop in with their Julia's Empanadas bags and tell me about the menu and for some wacky reason I never made it over to that block. Well, I'm happy that I did today because their savory empanadas are seriously wholesome. The storefront is entirely unassuming and when you walk in there's a cafeteria-style sign stating the menu with little rubber numbers to indicate the price (about $3-4 for a savory empanada, $1-2 for fruit). There's a small space for standing and eating, and a display case in the front at which you order your empanada.


I ordered the SalteƱas empanada (chicken, potato, green peas, hard boiled egg, raisins, green olives and onion)


and Will picked a Jamaican Style (ground and chopped beef, onion, potato, curry and spices).

For dessert Will got an apple-filled empanada and I chose pineapple-coconut. The apple filling was hearty and cinnamon-y but the pineapple-coconut tasted artificial and the interior was simply not worthy of the hearty crust.



Will studied abroad in Argentina in the Winter of 2008 and while these empanadas were definitely larger than the ones he was used to eating (I guess that's what happens when you bring them to America!), he gave them his stamp of approval. This is definitely a cheap, filling eat to check out if you're in Dupont!

With health,

Melissa

Friday, February 19, 2010

Risotto and Pad Thai (not at once!)

This week I made two veggie-friendly dishes for non-veggie friends. They liked them (woo-hoo!), so I am passing them onto you. I made risotto several times when I was studying abroad in London and sort of "mastered" the technique. Making risotto is not very difficult; we see something like Risotto ai Funghi Porcini on a menu and we think, wow. That must take hours, maybe even weeks to make. And it sure looks expensive. It's not! It takes about 40ish minutes to make all and all and the way I make it involves the following inexpensive ingredients: 2 cloves of garlic, 1 sweet onion, vegetable stock, arborio rice, butter, dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc or chardonnay) and grated parmigiano-reggiano. OK, the cheese can get a bit expensive I'll admit but a little can go a long way in this already-creamy dish. Cheese sections of supermarkets typically offer different sizes of cheese or "leftover" slivers, so you can buy a small chunk and grate it yourself to save a buck or two.


To start, you'll need to boil about 4 cups of liquid (I used 3 cups of water and 1 cup of vegetable stock) in a small sauce pan. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 crushed cloves of garlic and a chopped sweet onion to a pot om medium-low heat, and let that baby sweat! Once the onion has begun to release its moisture, add one cup of arborio rice and coat the dry rice in the onion and butter.


After about 5 minutes of folding the rice, onion, butter and garlic together, add a cup or so of the liquid (once the liquid has boiled be sure to reduce it to a low heat!). Stir the rice and liquid until all the liquid has absorbed, and repeat 3 times for the remaining 3 cups of liquid (about 20-25 minutes). At this point you are going to want to taste a bit of the rice to see where it's at in the cooking process-- if it is soft there's no need to add more water or stock, if it's hard add another cup of liquid and let that absorb and repeat if necessary. Once your rice is a thick, creamy consistency add 1/3 cup of the dry white wine and fold the entire rice mixture.


Transfer the rice to a glass bowl, and add about 1/3-1/2 cup of parmigiano-reggiano. You are going to want to add just a bit at a time so that you can stop to fold the cheese into the rice. Like I said earlier, the arborio rice is going to be creamy even before the cheese is added. This is because it releases a TON of starch while cooking, so if you aren't very into cheese you can skip this step and add some salt instead. Serve while the risotto is nice and warm and garnish with a basil leaf! I steamed 3 pieces of zucchini, chopped into discs, with a bit of salt, pepper and garlic to serve on the side of this dish. Your 4-6 friends will be very impressed with your risotto-making skills!

I made vegetarian pad thai tonight because Will likes tofu. Yup. He likes tofu and he asked me to make something with it. Now, I bet you're thinking to yourself that you could never get anyone to eat tofu, maybe you don't even like it yourself. I challenge you to try out this dish, which uses a firm tofu, and then let me know if you've changed your mind! Tofu adds a ton of protein and really interesting texture to a dish which is why I love using it.


For this pad thai you're going to need an 8oz. package of rice noodles. Unlike pastas, which are made using wheat or flour, you don't need to boil rice noodles. The reason for this is because they are typically thin and will cook very quickly in boiled water. Super flimsy rice noodles don't taste that great, so stick your noodles in a bowl of warm water for a half hour or so (follow the directions on your package) and they will continue to soften as you add them to the rest of the ingredients without becoming overly soft and gooey.


Scramble 2 eggs in a pan with a bit of canola oil and then reserve them in a bowl for later. Add 2 cups of shredded carrot, 2 chopped sprigs of green onion and 2 cloves of crushed garlic to a pan with a tablespoon of canola oil. Stir the vegetables for a minute or so and then chop up a block of firm tofu and add to the pan.


Whisk together 4 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter, 2 1/2 tablespoons of roasted red chili paste, the juice of one very juicy lime and 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce together in a bowl. Peanut butter is not traditionally included in pad thai sauce, but my favorite thai restaurant at home offers a peanut butter sauce on the side and I always end up mixing it in! Once the sauce has been whisked together, pour it over the vegetables and combine everything with tongs.


Add the scrambled egg back into the pan along with 3-4 cups of bean sprouts and the rice noodles. Bean sprouts are absolutely my favorite part of this dish because of the crunch they offer. You are definitely going to want to add these at the end so that they stay nice and crisp! Once everything has been combined, taste the dish to determine whether you need any more of the sauce ingredients (if you like spice you are probably going to want to add more chili paste!). Finally, transfer to a bowl, serve, and watch 4-5 of your tofu-hating friends become believers. Amen.

Tomorrow I will finally be going to Julia's Empanadas in Dupont Circle. Can't wait to tell you which empanada(s... who am I kidding?) I try!

With health,

Melissa

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Be KIND

I'm a big fan of snacking. I think that if you don't eat when you're hungry or craving something, you'll just end up going to the twinkizzlerollo bar later on. So if I'm hungry in between meals I'll eat something, but I won't go for potato chips (I actually don't even like potato chips, is that strange?). I picked up a mango macadamia-flavored Kind Plus bar over the weekend for my Amtrak ride back to DC. I somehow forgot to eat the bar on the train and I went directly from Union Station to the AU photo lab, suitcase and all. Two-and-a-half hours and four rolls of developed film later I was hungry. I suddenly remembered that I had this gem stowed away in my suitcase (yes, I wheeled my suitcase into the photo lab with me), so I ripped it open, took a bite and smiled. Those Kind people have got it down. This might sound crazy but as I consumed the first bit of the bar I thought to myself "this feels like a vacation in my mouth." I don't know whether it was from the chemicals or if I was just delusional from sleep exhaustion but I really did think that! The bar was loaded with dried mango pieces that were plump and juicy and the macadamia was chopped ever so slightly so that you could get actual chunks in your mouth. For February they are featuring the Kind Plus Cranberry Almond bar. Yum!

photo from fitsugar.com

With health,

Melissa

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Weekend

Friday morning I woke up determined to blend my beautiful kale into a nutritious Green Monster. The ingredients:

Blend 1 cup of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt with a peeled peach, 3 pieces of frozen mango and two large (torn) kale leaves. Add a bit of water while blending to get things going and serve! Sit back on the couch with your drink while watching the E! special on "Football Wives." OK... that last part it optional.


After my smoothie I felt energized and ready for my trip up to Delaware to visit my boyfriend, Will. Will went food shopping with me on the other end of the phone while I sipped the drink so that we would be ready to feed the masses on Saturday.

Burritos. They're filling (usually), delicious (mostly) and nutritious (if you do 'em right). I felt as though making a TON of burritos-- 15 to be exact-- would be the best way to sneak some vegetables into the guy's pizza-and-grilled-chicken diet. Plus, if the way to a man's heart is his stomach, I figured I'd be granted at least a few minutes on the coveted Rock Band microphone later that night... I was. I made burritos on the very first episode of Veggie Bites and these are a variation on that recipe:

Follow the directions on your rice package to make 9 cups of cooked rice. Approximately 4 3/4 cups of water and 2 tbsp butter in a pot for 25-30 minutes.


Pour a 28 oz. can of crushed tomato into a pan on medium heat with three cloves of crushed garlic. Add 2 tsp. salt and pepper.


Chop one white onion and add to your pan with the juice of one lime. Roll out the lime before cutting and squeezing so that you can get all of those juices out!


After 8-10 minutes, fold in 8oz. of fresh spinach followed by a 15oz can of corn and a 15 oz can of black beans. Make sure that neither of these are pre-seasoned and drain the liquids from both before adding them to the tomato mixture.


Once all of the vegetables are combined, transfer the contents of the pan into the pot of cooked rice and fold in 3 cups of a mix of Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses. If you are a vegan, soy cheddar would work wonderfully here because it melts so well! Let the mixture sit for 5 or so minutes on a low heat and add salt and pepper to taste.


Tear a square of aluminum foil that is just a bit larger than your tortilla. Place a tortilla on the foil and top it with a heaping scoop of the vegetables and rice.

Move the mixture to the bottom of the tortilla and fold the two sides of the tortilla inward like closing a closet. Roll the foil up with the burrito as you begin to fold it foreward, keeping your thumbs at the base of the tortilla and holding the sides together with your index fingers.


Serve in the foil with sour cream, salsa, chips or even fresh slices of avocado!

These burritos were a definite crowd-pleaser and the leftovers are easy to reheat since they are already wrapped in foil. Just place a wrapped burrito (or burritos) in the oven on 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes and you'll have an ooey-gooey center even the next day!

After our filling lunch, Will and I decided on lighter fare for dinner. As it was our 4-year anniversary (yes, 4 years!) and Valentine's Day (almost!) we decided to drive into Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia and go to a Japanese restaurant that was recommended to me by my friend Emily. The name of the restaurant is Osaka and as I mentioned in yeaterday's post, it was fresh. Literally. The sushi was some of the best I've had in my 13-or-so years of sushi-eating and that is entirely attributed to the quality of the fish. As a rule, eating sushi should never be a jaw exercise; it should melt in your mouth smoothly and require little to no serious chewing. The sushi, paired with the Asian-chic muted-tones and dimly-lit atmosphere was fantastic. Here's what we got:



Garden of Ginger


(Starting Clockwise) Salmon, tuna, egg, tobiko, avocado and crab wrapped in cucumber; Salmon Avocado Roll; Spicy tuna and crab wrapped in seaweed and rice, topped with avocado and eel; Dragon Roll (eel topped with avocado and eel sauce). The online menu varies a bit from the menu we were given last night so I couldn't match up two of the rolls with their respective names.


Unless you're ordering sashimi, an evening of sushi will usually involve a lot of rice; probably more than you realize you're eating. A roll such as this, which is wrapped in crunchy, light cucumber sans-rice is a great option!

The menu also features a vegetarian section with yummy rolls such as the Yasai Maki which is asparagus, avocado, cucumber and baby greens. Not into sushi? The menu includes Osaka Crab Cakes, Lobster Ravioli, Seoul Ribs and of course several Teriyaki preparations.

It wouldn't be a true celebratory dinner without an outrageous dessert. We opted for the tempura-fried green tea ice cream and banana:


As good as the sushi was, the dessert was definitely the highlight of the meal. Most Japanese restaurants that I've been to have lacked in the dessert department so this was definitely a pleasant and tasty surprise! When eating fried foods, it's always good to have someone to share with :)

I had a fantastic food-filled weekend with my best friend, what could be better?

With health,

Melissa

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Busy Weekend

On Friday I made a fantastic Green Monster.

Today I made 15 vegetarian burritos for 7 hungry men and 3 hungry women and went out to a fresh (yes, "fresh") Japanese restaurant in Philly.

I took photos of all these things and cannot do any of them justice, especially the latter, without said pictures. Seeing this, when I am back in my apartment tomorrow night I am going to update this blog with a loooong post. About food. Naturally.

With health,

Melissa

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Veggie Bites Season 2, Episode 1!

Check out Season 3 Episode 1 below! If you live on the American University campus, the show will also air on ATV tonight at 7pm:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Vegetable “Pie”

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 white onion

2 pieces of zucchini

2 pieces of yellow squash

3 carrots, peeled

1 cup vegetable stock

1/2 -1 cup flour

Pinch of salt and pepper

Serves 4

Chop all vegetables. Add oil to a pan on a medium-low heat and add garlic and onion. Once onions begin to appear translucent (about 5 minutes), add the remaining vegetables and ¼ cup vegetable stock. Gradually add more vegetable stock and flour over the next 20 minutes or so, folding the flour into the mixture. Let vegetables sit in pan for about 20 minutes, add salt and pepper and serve.


Phyllo

4 3x3 inch squares of phyllo, 7 sheets each

1-2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tbsp butter, melted

1 egg

Serves 4

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with oil. Cut phyllo into 3x3 inch squares. Have melted butter and whisked egg ready in two separate bowls. Lay a single sheet of phyllo onto baking sheet, top with melted butter and repeat until 7 or so sheets have been used. Brush egg on top of the finished square and repeat until 4 squares have been made. Place baking sheet in the oven for 15-18 minutes and use squares to top pie.


Mash

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled

1 tbsp. butter

1 tpsp. cream

1-2 tbsp. milk

1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped

1 tsp salt and pepper

Serves 4

Chop Yukon gold potatoes and add them to a boiling pot of water. Reduce heat and let sit until potatoes become soft (25-30 minutes). Transfer potatoes into a serving bowl and add butter, cream, milk, rosemary, salt and pepper and mash.



Tonight for dinner I went to Ping Pong (I promise I also go to other restaurants and will be blogging about them!) because my friends and I needed to get out of the house, and we wanted to take advantage of their Dim Sum Happy Hour. We ordered a lot of food. A LOT.
Steamed Crabmeat and Prawn Dumpling


Crispy Hoi Sin Duck Spring Roll x2 and Chicken and Black Pepper Spring Roll x2


Chicken Puff x2 (a DEFINITE crowd pleaser if you're going out with picky eaters!)


Griddled Spinach and Mushroom Dumpling

Dishes not pictured include the Vegetable Wonton Soup, Pork Puff (x2), Traditional Sticky Rice, Vegetable Bun (x2), Char Sui Bun, Crispy Asparagus (x2) and Spicy Pork Dumpling. I love tapas-style eating because it allows you to relax and enjoy the company instead of just worrying about when the food will come. The meal unravels much more organically this way and you can also be sure that your food is coming out as it's ready!

Tomorrow I am facing the snow yet again to make my way to Delaware where my boyfriend, Will, goes to school. Hopefully the snow will be plowed up there so I can share another restaurant with you!

With health,

Melissa



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bok Choy

Tonight I was incharge of making two side dishes to go along with salmon filets that my friend Alex would be making. My mind instantly went to mashed yams (with butter, salt, pepper and cinnamon) and bok choy. I love using bok choy with fish (or as a main vegetable in a spicy Thai soup-yum!) because it has such delicate flavor but really interesting texture. The bottom is crunchy and the top is a leaf:


The two items I found while slowly pushing my cart through the supermarket yesterday were a bottle of Ginger Soother and sesame oil. I've eaten sesame oil before but I had never used it myself so I wanted to try it out! I love bok choy and ginger together so I thoroughly washed the vegetable and did the following:

Break apart stalk and add to a pan with 1/3 bottle of Ginger Soother (ginger, lemon, honey, water). Let simmer and add 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a pinch of salt. Remove bok choy from pan once the top leaves are wilted (about 10 minutes) and serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a drizzle of sesame oil.





The result was delicious and the Ginger Soother added an interesting taste to the vegetable. Plus, I now have the rest of the bottle in the fridge in case I get a stomach ache! All of you ginger ale lovers out there who use it to ease stomach pain, make sure your ale has got the real stuff in it because ginger truly does work wonders when your stomach is sick.

I am so pleased to say that the first episode of Veggie Bites for this season is up on YouTube! The episode will (hopefully!) air on ATV tomorrow night and be on their website as well. Tomorrow I will share the episode with you and also give you the recipes for the dishes I made on the show!

With health,

Melissa

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snowed Out

Unfortunately the snow has rained (or snowed) on my parade; the first episode of "Veggie Bites" for this season, which was supposed to have aired tonight, will not be airing until American University opens again. I am SO excited for all of you to see this episode as we are filming all of the shows this semester from my apartment! I think it adds a home-y feel to the show but as you'll see in the coming days, I had a difficult time adjusting myself to the new location (hopefully you'll find this funny!). On a brighter note, my roommate Tina served up this sweet and savory peach salsa with some nachos tonight and it was so delicious I had to share it with you:


It was extremely flavorful and went well with the chips, avocado, corn, black beans, shredded cheese, red pepper and red onion. YUM!

I've had a case of cabin fever these past few days so me and my roommate, Rebecca, and our friend Ashley faced the cold to do some shopping followed by food shopping. I snooped around the food store a bit so that I could find an ingredient that I've never used before (remember my challenge from a few days ago?) and I found two! Well, one is an ingredient and the other is several ingredients in one convenient bottle. Anyway, I will keep you posted about the first episode of "Veggie Bites," but tomorrow I will show you how I incorporate my new finds into an Asian-inspired dish!

With health,

Melissa

Monday, February 8, 2010

Feed the Children (Apples and Broccoli)

I used this snow day as an opportunity to read up on some food issues and came across this interesting article in The New York Times. The issue of unhealthy foods being served in schools is not new by any means. The intent behind school lunch programs was positive, but as many school's already have limited budgets for textbooks and computers, it seems that the cheapest food is what will get served. My desire to stay away from all things processed began during my freshman year of high school and I remember my excitement when I learned that my school was going to take some initiative and make our school "healthier." While the PTA baker sales did come to include some freshly cut melon and grapes, not much else changed.

Sodas were swapped for things like orange-flavored bottles of high-fructose corn syrup and packs of Oreo's were traded in for the brand's 100-calorie version. Here's the thing about packaged foods; if something says "low calorie" or "low fat," it probably means that either chemicals or sugars were added to it to make it that way. While some school cafeterias may offer salads and fresh fruits, once that 3 o'clock bell rings, students are stuck with the vending machine as their only hope for a snack.

If you have a child who goes to a school that is not interested in making changes in the food it serves, bring it up at your local board meeting or write a letter to the Superintendent. An excellent example of how the foods served in schools can alter the eating habits of children in general is Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me." The film covers school lunch programs, among other domestic health-related issues, and is a real eye-opener. Until our schools make advancements toward fresh, chemical-free meals and snacks, I suggest brown-bagging it.

One of my favorite after-school snacks in high school was banana protein muffins and honey-wheat sticks from Trader Joe's. The muffins had chocolate chips in them (can you say kid-friendly?) and were supper-filling. I also always made sure to have a piece of fruit on hand as well as an all-natural snack bar so I didn't have to fall for any of those vending machine traps.

Schools are not the only places that can lead us toward processed foods. Ever had to stay late at work unexpectedly with only a bag of pretzels and the candy bowl as your source of food? Pack yourself and your kids some healthful snacks for the day to avoid those last-minute lack-of-food dilemmas.

No matter what age you are, though, you have at some point been in a school where you were stuck eating overly-processed french fries and gelatin-filled fruit-flavored snacks. Look back to those days and ask yourself this: our supermarkets have expanded themselves to include competitively-priced, all-natural or even organic food options, so why haven't our schools? Just some food for thought.

With health,

Melissa Smith

p.s.- Slow Food USA is an enormous advocate for real food in school cafeterias, so check out their website for updated information!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Willpower

While I don't really enjoy watching the Super Bowl (especially once all the food runs out...), I do admire the players. They've all got a ton of self control. To be able to exercise, go to practices, eat a specific diet and play in drastically varying temperatures has GOT to be difficult. Today was my 7th day of the Whittle My Middle (WMM) challenge and I think while it is certainly a great ab exercise, it is also a good exercise in willpower.

Whatever your goals are for your body-- whether it's to lose weight, or gain weight or just build up muscle in your arms-- you can't simply stick a post-it on your door reminding you of what you want and then expect that thing to happen. You've got to work at it.

The reason why I like the WMM challenge and other quick, but daily workouts so much is that you need to practice restraint in order to do them. You have to take the ten or so minutes out of your day in order to complete the set, and if you do, I promise that you will feel so accomplished. Now, you might think that anyone in the world could set aside 10 minutes for strength-building or some stretching but it's not so easy! You need to change your clothes into something move-able, tie up your hair if it's long and move around your desk chair or coffee table to make sure you've got room! That being said, I think that part of having willpower is being able to plan ahead. With exercise, you can set out your gym clothes and iPod the night before. Stick that post-it note on your door, too, but not without real intent behind it!

The same thing goes for food; if you know you've got a busy day ahead of you, throw some almonds in a bag and clean off your apple so that it will be ready for grabbing the next day. Planning ahead is the first step in helping you have some true self restraint and reaching your goals. I encourage you all to think about a goal you would like to accomplish this week and plan accordingly to make it happen. My goal for the week is to drink more water (which I honestly have not been doing enough of lately), so I am going to make sure to leave my water bottle out on the kitchen counter so that I can remember fill it up on my way out the door. It's a simple goal, but simple goals lead to greater accomplishments!

With health,

Melissa

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow Weekend

Sorry for not posting yesterday-- this snow has got me in slow motion! I really do believe that the weather can make us do crazy things such as watching four episodes of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" in a row (not that there's anything wrong with that!), or spending 30 minutes on your eye makeup without having anywhere to go. The snow in D.C. right now is surely beautiful but definitely debilitating. I am SO lucky to have gone food shopping earlier in the week so that at least I wouldn't be trapped inside without anything to eat. Now that would have been a true "snowpocalypse."

Grocery shopping is tricky. Some people hate it, some people don't know how to do it and some people have it down to such a science that not even the most intriguing coupon in the world could get them to purchase 10 cans of stewed tomatoes. I'm not really sure where I fall in these categories, but I am certainly not the former. My freshman year at AU I took a college writing seminar called "Eating in America." We read works by Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle and even had a "Super-Marketing" assignment where we had to root out the schemes in our local supermarket. I'm the type of person who likes to make lists, so I usually do make a food shopping list but I rarely ever follow it. Knowing the things that I do about how a supermarket is formatted and designed, you'd think I would avoid all of the pictures of grass-fed cows and happy farmers and just get in and out of the damn store and be done with it. Wrong-o.

Shopping for food is my favorite sort of shopping. In a way, I want to let myself be distracted by all of the marketing so that I can learn more about how to do it effectively (or judge whether or not I think it has been done effectively) and so that I can learn more about food. That's right, there is more inside of a supermarket than just apples, milk, cereal, bread, cold cuts and frozen vegetables. There is A LOT of information inside of a supermarket and you should take the time to suck it in. I'm not saying you need to spend hours going food shopping, but if you could set aside an extra hour one day to slowly walk through the aisles of your favorite supermarket, I bet you would be surprised to find out how much variety there is. The more new things you discover, the more creative you can be inside of the kitchen. This week I challenge you to discover one new food item in the supermarket and use it in a recipe. I will do the same and let you know how it goes!

I very sneakily took some candid shots of my food while it was going down the belt on Wednesday:







I bought a pack of frozen cherries and an avocado for my Green Monsters; Gardenburger Veggie Medley veggie burgers, pita, provolone cheese and a red pepper for lunches; Whole Soy & Co. vanilla and raspberry-flavored yogurt, Fage 0% Total Greek yogurt (great for smoothies and a creamy snack-- maybe add some granola?); blueberries and milk to go with my Honey and Nut Morning O's; strawberry's and confectioner's sugar to make icing for that chocolate cake in a box (hey, you can't always make things from scratch!); Yukon Gold potatoes for mashing and broccoli for steaming and then sauteing in a pan (with garlic); popcorn for snacking and a few other goodies here and there.

I had planned on going food shopping again today so that I could make some Super Bowl-ish foods, but the snow just wouldn't have it. Since I have nothing football-related to make, I will try to have something (sort of) football-related to write about tomorrow.

With health,

Melissa

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pink Monster

This morning as I was setting up the ingredients for my Green Monster I realized I had forgotten to purchase a key ingredient-- kale! Duh! Alright so you may think I'm crazy but ask yourself this: how many vegetables have you eaten today? Ketchup, by the way, does not count as your vegetable for the day. Green Monsters are a great way to pack in those greens your body needs and is especially excellent if you are a picky eater! By no means am I a picky eater but I am always on the lookout for ways to bump up my vegetable intake.

The reason why I like kale so much is because it is a dark, dark green. The rule of thumb is the darker the green, the more nutritious, which is why you should replace all of that iceberg lettuce with some spinach, romaine or arugula... Anyway, kale has great antioxidant and anti-cancer properties as well as being a great source of vitamin C. My only issue with kale is that it is a very rough green, which makes it a bit difficult to eat raw. Steaming it with garlic would be delicious but you could also tear up three leaves and throw it into your blender along with your favorite smoothie ingredients. Your smoothie will turn green with envy (from all the benefits your body will receive from it!) and you will just have fulfilled part of your vegetable requirement for the day. Woo-hoo!

While I forgot the kale, I did remember my other ingredients:

1 cup 0% fat Greek yogurt
1/3 frozen banana (freeze your browning bananas!)
6 frozen cherries
1/2 cup water
1/2 avocado


Just throw everything into a blender and in a minute or two you will have a creamy smoothie that you will swear is sinful. If you want your smoothie to be a bit thinner just add more water while blending. While it ended up being a Pink Monster due to the cherries and lack of kale, this sucker kept me full for the entire afternoon!


Check out Oh She Glows for more Green Monster ideas! I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be stuck in my apartment tomorrow, so I'm going to give you all a peak into my grocery shopping habits!

With health,

Melissa