31 July 2012

Tomato Bake

It's been a few days (well, more than a few days :) ), but I think I'm back! I'm working out a regular posting schedule, which should commence shortly.  :)

The last few days, I've been using fresh tomatoes to make what my mom and I named several years ago when there was an overload of tomatoes from the garden: The Tomato Bake.

The recipe is simple:
  1. Chop up tomatoes into large chunks. 
  2. Put whatever else you want in it. 
  3. Put in oven or, in my case, toaster oven, and bake.  
  4. Eat.
In the past, I've used things like other vegetables (including sweet potatoes!), cashews, or some sort of other protein like leftover chicken to mix with the tomatoes. Every time, though, I use TONS of spices.

I usually add a good amount of garlic, oregano, basil, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. This time, I used some of the above spices along with a touch of chili powder, that actually added a really interesting flavor. I also put a few pieces of pepperoni in it, and sprinkled it with asiago cheese.


The bowl doesn't come out looking very pretty, but it's oh so yummy, especially if you're a tomato addict like I am!

Question of the day: What is one food you LOVE to cook with?

Cheers!

22 July 2012

Roasted Yellow Squash and Radishes with Rosemary

* Roasted Yellow Squash and Radishes
* Homemade Pizza
* Pizzelles
Roasted Yellow Squash and Radishes with Rosemary


When we arrived in Oklahoma, we were greeted with a wonderful overflow of produce in my sister's house. Among the selection were A LOT of radishes and yellow squash. I'm not a huge fan of radishes, and have never really experimented with other ways to eat them besides raw and in a salad.  

But, since they were there, I decided to try roasting them, or they weren't going to get eaten. I love yellow squash, so I threw those in with the radishes.


I drizzled them in olive oil and used a mix of garlic and onion powder, salt, pepper, and rosemary. 


The yellow squash was delicious, but the radishes were just kind of...blah. The peppery taste they normally have when they are raw was gone, but what was left was not really a whole lot of flavor, even with the spices added, so if there's ever a next time with them, now I know they're going to need a lot more help if I'm going to eat them!


Later in the week, we made homemade pizza using our family's recipe!! YUM!!


I completely forgot to take a picture of the end product. (Sorry!) I guess we were all just so hungry we dug right in! ;)


Oh and we can't forget the pizzelles my sister made! My family is Italian, and these were cookies my mother used to make a lot. We decided to break in Emily's new pizzelle iron with a couple batches of regular and chocolate! Mmm

Food question of the day: Do you have any family recipes you love to make?

17 July 2012

Rock Hiking?

Do you like to hike?  Do you like to go rock climbing?  Looking for a pretty good outdoor workout?  If yes, great!  Maybe you'd want to to try rock hiking!

This is what I've named our little "hiking" excursion we took the morning after we arrived at our sister's house (Sunday).  It wasn't really hiking, but it wasn't really rock climbing either.  It consisted of mostly giant steps, jumps, balance tests, and "strategizing."  (i.e. Well, we've made it to the top, now how are we going to get back down?)  

Sound like fun to you?  It was!  

The "mountain" we conquered! (It looks bigger in real life! ;)  )
Here's a quick recap for the rest of the last couple days:


Yesterday, we started our day with a nice, brisk walk around the reservoir, where we saw a mama duck and her ducklings riding the waves!

Poor little guys...
Which happened to remind me of this little video:


At least they were all okay! :)


Today, we decided to walk the path at a golf course close by, which apparently came with many hazards to watch out for:




What's a Mississippi kite?

It's a bird...Emily said she saw someone get attacked by one of them, so we took the sign seriously...


After our walk we went to the pool and spent the afternoon poolside. What a beautiful summer day!


Off to start my contribution to dinner! ;) Have a great evening!

16 July 2012

Southwest Travel Adventure

As my lovely Nonna would say, "Oooooklahoma where the sun comes shining through the clouds la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la PLAIN!"  We have arrived!

My sister Emily and her husband live in Oklahoma, and we (my other sister and I) decided to visit her.  

However, we live about a 20-hour drive away in good ol' central Ohio, and we were having trouble deciding what the most cost-effective way of getting to Oklahoma would be. Flying all the way became less of an option as we saw the prices of a simple one-way ticket, and we weren't sure if we wanted to drive ourselves all the way. (i.e. Would we make it without hurting each other?...just kidding!) 

So what did we come up with? We decided to make it a bit of an adventure. 
Our Route
It was still a lot of driving time, but we ended up taking the Megabus (a first for both of us) to Chicago, where we had to catch a different bus (still Megabus), that took us to St. Louis. From there, we took a train to the airport and flew into Oklahoma City, where Emily and her husband picked us up and drove us the couple hours to the town in the middle of nowhere in which they live.

After 24 hours of travel, we finally arrived at our destination! Hmm, bus, train, plane. I would have to say that's an expert utilization of public transportation! ;)

On the top level of the double decker Megabus
We had several hours to kill in Chicago, so we decided to put our bags in lockers at Union Station and walk to the lake to eat breakfast. We stopped in Millenium Park and saw a group of people doing tai chi. There was even a woman on a stage with a mic leading them. 

After our tai chi excursion, we walked along the lake to the Field Museum. We had heard that it was free on the weekends, so we decided to see if it still was. It didn't open until 9, so we had about an hour to find something to do. 

And what did we do? We played BananaGrams, of course! (Warning: If you like Scrabble, you may become VERY addicted to this game.)

BananaGrams!
When the museum opened, we waited in line for several minutes before indecision kicked in. The aquarium was just next door! Unfortunately, when we walked over, we saw a pretty long line already. 

Looking at the time, we realized we probably wouldn't have time to wait in line and explore the aquarium, so we walked back to Union Station and had just enough time for lunch (which consisted of some yummy Chinese for me) before we had to hop on the bus again.

We didn't have as much time in St. Louis so we just went straight to the airport. It wasn't a long flight and we were in Oklahoma City in no time! Travel to Oklahoma = Successful!

I'm really curious to see how popular the Megabus is. I had never heard of it until my sister suggested we take it. Have you ever ridden it? How many modes of transportation have you taken in one day/what's your craziest travel adventure? 

12 July 2012

Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry with Lemon Ginger Sauce

Chicken Veggie Stir Fry with Lemon Ginger Sauce

I LOVE stir-fry. It's easy to make, and practically anything goes! 

On a whim, I decided to randomly choose three herbs or spices from the spice rack and test out the flavor combo. Here's what I picked: Garlic Powder, Ginger, and Black Pepper. To make it a "sauce," I added some lemon juice.

The base ingredients I used were: Chicken, mushrooms, carrots, onions, zucchini, and broccoli.
    

The verdict? 


YUM! I will definitely be using this sauce again in the future. (As a side, I munched on some fresh cherries.)

Question of the day: Have you ever had a food experiment or flavor combination go terribly wrong?

11 July 2012

Vegetable Quesadilla with Coriander

Today I was reminded again just how much I LOVE my job! It was my organization's summer field day, and I spent all day playing outdoor games with the kiddos from all over the city that we teach. The weather was beautiful, everyone got some A LOT of exercise, and I wish I would have remembered my camera! I'll see if I can snatch a few from some coworkers!

Lunch the other day was TRULY an experiment. I had a bunch of "random" vegetables, and I decided to just throw them all together as a giant mélange in a quesadilla.  



I used a whole wheat tortilla, put 1 Tablespoon of sun dried tomato-basil hummus on it, then layered baby spinach, leftover green beans, zucchini, and mushrooms, sprinkled with a little asiago cheese and ground coriander.

I love asiago cheese because it's strong enough that you only need a little to get a lot of flavor. If you use salt often, you don't need to add any to a simple dish like this because the asiago cheese is salty enough. (If you're a pepper person like me, all you need to add is, well, pepper!)

Here's what the quesadilla looked liked after it was cooked:  


It actually tasted really good! I found I didn't need to precook the zucchini (the green beans were already cooked), and the mushrooms and spinach cooked perfectly in the time I left the quesadilla in the pan. The coriander added GREAT flavor! I added some plums and almonds, and it was a yummy lunch!


Enjoy the rest of your week!

10 July 2012

Garlic Hummus

Here's another simple, yummy recipe for homemade hummus!

Garlic Hummus


What Food You'll Need:


~ 3 Tablespoons lemon juice (I used bottled this time but normally we use fresh lemons)
~ 2 Tablespoons ground sesame seeds (It's like a paste, and can be found in most grocery stores. Check the international aisles if you can't find it elsewhere in the store. I used Peloponnese.)
~ 1/3 Cup water
~ 2 Cloves garlic
~ 1 Can (about 15 oz.) garbanzo beans (or dried, just cook them before use)
~ Salt/Pepper to taste


If using canned garbanzo beans, choose the "No Salt Added" or low-sodium options. If you choose the low-sodium can, rinse the beans before use! This way, you reduce the sodium content a little and the hummus will taste "cleaner." 


Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Done!



If you like hummus, you might also like:




Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Hummus

For a long time, I refused to try hummus. It didn't matter to me that it was only mashed up garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), I didn't go anywhere near it.  

Several years ago, however, I decided it was time to overcome this "fear of hummus." I picked up a baby carrot, dipped it in, and took a bite. I instantly loved it.

A little while after that, we decided to start making our own hummus. It only requires a few ingredients, so we thought why not try to save a little money and make it ourselves?  Here is my mother's recipe for Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Hummus.

Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Hummus




What You'll Need

~ 1 Can (about 15 oz.) garbanzo beans (Or you can use dried, just cook before use)
~ 1 Tablespoon fresh basil
~ 2 Cloves garlic
~ 1/4 Cup sun dried tomatoes, reconstituted 
~ 2 Tablespoons olive oil
~ 1/2 Cup water
~ Salt/Pepper to taste

If using canned garbanzo beans, choose the "No Salt Added" or low-sodium options. If you choose the low-sodium can, rinse the beans before use! This way, you reduce the sodium content a little and the hummus will taste "cleaner." 


Put all ingredients in a food processor, blend until smooth, and you're done! Easy peasy right? It's not the prettiest color of hummus out there, but it's pretty flavorful and goes great with practically anything! If you're a hummus lover like me, do you make your own as well? What flavors have been successful/not successful for you?

09 July 2012

Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip

This dip was inspired from something I saw the other day from Keep Your Diet Real (See Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip for original recipe; it's delicious!) 


Of course, being me, I decided to tweak it a little and see what happens.  The result?  A (still) tasty anytime dip!

I would like to point out that I do not count calories.  I do, however, watch how many high energy dense foods I eat per meal.  That's why when my mother introduced powdered peanut butter to me that was only 45 calories for 2 Tablespoons (compare to that of 190-200 calories per serving of regular peanut butter!), was lower in sodium, and still had tons of protein, I knew I was eventually going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen with it! The best part? It's literally just crushed up peanuts with significantly less added salt and sugar!    

(I am not, in any way, being paid to review this product)  :)   


Only 45 Calories per serving!
Here is what you'll need for the peanut butter dip:


1/2 Cup of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons of powdered (or regular) peanut butter
1/2 Tablespoon of honey

What I did:

Simply mix all three ingredients together and enjoy! (There is no need to mix the powdered peanut butter with water before adding it to the yogurt. Just put the powder right into the bowl!)


Do any of you use powdered peanut butter too? 

08 July 2012

Tomato and Basil Hummus Tuna Salad

So you're hungry and in the mood for some sort of seafood, but not something too fishy, and you want something healthy and quick. What do you make?


Perhaps tuna salad? Instead of using mayonnaise for your tuna salad, why not try using hummus? This healthier alternative can give you a much BIGGER burst of flavor, which means you can also sneak more veggies in! 


Any kind of hummus will do. I usually use roasted garlic, but this time I happened to use my mom's flavorful homemade sun dried tomato and basil hummus!


Tomato and Basil Hummus Tuna Salad


What food you'll need:


~ Zucchini squash
~ White onion
~ 2 Cherries
~ 1 to 2 Fresh bella mushrooms (or any kind you want)
~ Fresh spinach (I used organic baby spinach) 
~ Pomegranate seeds
~ 1 Hard boiled egg white
~ 2.5 oz (17 g) Package (1 package) of tuna in water
~ 2 Tablespoons of hummus

What I Did:
  1. Drain tuna and scoop into a bowl
  2. Load up on the veggies (I used 1 to 2 Tablespoons of each, with a little bit more of the spinach) and add them (chopped), as well as the hard boiled egg white, to the tuna
  3. Add the hummus, mix together, and enjoy! (If desired, add some seasoning like pepper, but if you used a flavored hummus, it's already going to be pretty flavorful)
DONE!



Since I am not a big seafood fan, this is one of my go-to recipes because you can't even really tell it's fish! I'll use whatever veggies and hummus I happen to have at the time. How did you like it?

07 July 2012

Banana Pomegranate Egg White Omelet!

Good Morning!

A few years ago, as I was stumbling groggily around the kitchen one morning trying to decide what to eat for breakfast, I opened the fridge and the first thing I saw were the couple dozen eggs sitting on the top shelf. So what does my brain automatically tell me? Omelet!

I began looking in the veggie drawer for some tasty fillings, but then decided, since there happened to be a lot of fruit that was ready to be eaten, why not try adding some fruitiness instead of the usual veggies and asiago cheese? 

After all, crepes are made with a lot of egg, right? And people put fruit in those!


Yum! (Photo taken from: http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/recipes/r-penzeysfruitcrepes.html)
Thus began my days of fruit omelet exploration.

This morning, after realizing I hadn't made any in a while, I decided to bring those fruit omelets back! 

With some leftover fresh pomegranate seeds I had on hand and some bananas that were getting just a bit too ripe for me to eat by themselves, I made a delicious, you guessed it!,

Banana Pomegranate Omelet!



What food you'll need:



~ 2 to 3 Egg whites, lightly beaten with a fork (I used 3)
~ 1/2 Banana, sliced
~ Pomegranate seeds
~ Cinnamon


That's it!


What I Did:
  1. Lightly grease a nonstick skillet, preferably with just a drop of olive oil or cooking spray, and turn burner onto medium-high heat
  2. Pour egg whites into the pan
  3. Place the banana slices flatly onto one side of the omelet, trying not to overlap, then sprinkle desired amount of pomegranate seeds on top of bananas
  4. Lightly sprinkle with cinnamon
  5. When whites have coagulated enough to hold firm on the bottom, flip the empty half of the omelet on top of the fruit-filled side, then flip.
  6. Since the omelet gets thicker because of step 5, I usually cut my omelet in half in the pan to make sure the whites get cooked through
  7. Garnish with any leftover banana slices, a few pomegranate seeds, and a dash of more cinnamon.
DONE! Simple yet delicious!

The almost-melty bananas add more moistness, the pomegranate adds a burst of juicy sweetness, and you get the added potential health benefits of cinnamon, like headache and migraine relief! I added a fresh mango, half a piece of whole wheat toast, and a giant glass of ice water, and voilà, breakfast!

06 July 2012

Bienvenue!

Hi there!  Well, here I go! :) I thought I'd begin my inaugural post (woohoo!) with some motivation.  Who doesn't crave it every now and then, right?


I love this statement: "When you feel like quitting, think about why you STARTED." I feel like this can apply to nearly all aspects of life, not just physical health.  Often times, for whatever reason, we get so caught up in the difficulties that pop up, whether it be that we feel like what we're doing isn't changing anything or that we just can't seem to get something right, and we tend to start losing that drive that kickstarted the whole behavior.  It's important to remind ourselves why we began to take our health into our own hands.


I would like to thank a blogger I recently discovered for her statement: Perfection isn't happy. (See PerfectionIsntHappy.com) I couldn't agree more!  Health, to me, largely means that we can maintain a healthy life...happily!  When we strive to be "perfect," or rather, what other people are telling us perfect should be, we can deprive ourselves of being as healthy as we can be.  I suppose you could say that my motto is to live your life in a way that facilitates your pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, happily.  What do you think?