Monday, June 27, 2011

Recipe: Golden Barley

It has recently come to my attention how much I enjoy barley. It is inexpensive, a low/no processed grain, and it tastes great.  Cooked, it has a starchy quality like risotto but the grains themselves literally burst with flavor when you bite down on them.  By adding a few ingredients as the barley is cooking you can flavor it any way you like to make a great side dish with minimal effort.

You will need:
1 cup barley
2 1/4 cups low/no sodium chicken or vegetable stock
Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon butter

Optional Garnish: A sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley might be nice

In a saucepan bring the chicken stock to a boil.  Add in 3/4 of a tablespoon salt, two teaspoons of garlic powder, two teaspoons of paprika, a few shakes of pepper, and the teaspoon of butter.  Add the cup of barley.  Stir to combine.  Cook for thirty minutes over low heat where the liquid is still simmering, stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat and allow to sit for ten minutes.

Serves 4-6

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recipe: Spiced Ground Lamb with Veggies and Brown Rice Medley

A while back I did a spiced ground beef dish over potatoes, but as I was making it I was thinking, "You know what? This would be good with lamb."  Today I was at Wegman's and saw their ground lamb on sale for around $3.50 for a pound.  Of course I snapped a pack up, came home, and went to cooking.  The rice mix I used was the Brown Rice Medley (with black barley and Daikon Radish seeds) from Trader Joes.  The directions say to use 2.5 cups liquid for one cup of Medley but you should only use 2 cups.  If you use more it won't be absorbed.

You will need:
1 lbs Ground Lamb
One 16oz bag frozen mixed vegetables
One pack baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed
Garlic Powder
Chile Powder
Flour (optional)

1 cup Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley
2 Cups Chicken Stock or Water

For the meat and veggies:

Season the lamb with salt, pepper, plenty of garlic powder, paprika, chile powder, and a pinch of cayenne.  Place the ground lamb in a hot skillet and cook until almost all the pink is gone.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking.  As soon as all the pink is gone Add the frozen vegetables.  Cook together until the vegetables have thawed and cooked.  Re-season with all spices, salt, and pepper to your taste.  Use the cayenne with care.  If desired stir in a few teaspoons of flour to help thicken the juices and create a gravy.

For the Brown Rice Medley:
Bring two cups of chicken stock or water to a rolling boil.  Add the brown rice mix and a touch of butter as well as a pinch of salt.  Cook, covered, for 35 minutes.  Stir occasionally to avoid sticking.  When finished remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for ten minutes.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Recipe: Mango-Avocado Salsa

Apparently I like mangos now.  I was in the store and saw one for 79cents so I decided to pick it up.  Then I started thinking about what would go well with it and I decided to keep things simple with avocado and tomato.  The silkiness of the avocado goes perfectly with the bright mango and the tomato adds some nice color and texture.  This dish can keep but is probably best served soon after making.  You can also serve it in different ways; it can be a side on its own, a topping for grilled meats/burgers/regular sandwiches, or even a fun and colorful appetizer with chips for your guests.
Note: If you want the salsa to have more of a kick you could finely dice a fourth to a half of a seeded jalepeno pepper and add it in.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tips: Use Smaller Plates

This blog has also become somewhat of healthy eating blog.  As my lifestyle has changed I hope to also bring my thoughts on eating healthy to also eating cheap and cooking easy.  This post, however, is about a choice you make before the food is served: The Plate.  Many of us grew up eating on a 12 inch plate, but what would happen if you switched to an 8 inch plate?

Actually it will do two things for you.  First, obviously it will put less food on your plate as you have four less inches to fit it.  BUT, when looking at your plate your brain will think you are actually eating more.

There is also a trick I've found when fixing your plate, and it seems the government has adopted my strategy with their reinvention of the food pyramid.  Start your plate with your fruits and vegetables, which should fill about half your plate.  Next plate your protein.  Finally plate your carbs (hopefully the whole grain/whole wheat ones).  This strategy helps you eat the recommended amounts of food for each meal.

I hope these thoughts help you in your quest to eat healthy, delicious, and easy.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Recipe: Vegetable Smashed Potatoes

Like mashed potatoes? Of course you (probably) do.  The big problem is that they really have little redeeming value as most delicious foods often don't. This can be remedied by tossing in some veggies. In this case I added some thawed frozen broccoli cuts and carrots that had not been used.  You can choose to add anything you like from fresh to frozen to sauteed.

You will need:

1 packet mashed potato mix (I used garlic and herb)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of each vegetable you want
2 1/4 cup chicken stock (use vegetable stock to make it vegan)

Cook the mashed potato mix according to package directions substituting the chicken stock for the water, milk, and butter (you won't miss them, don't worry).  Cook the vegetables as you wish.  When the stock begins to boil add the potato mix, salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Add some salt to the vegetables and smash to desired texture.

 I left mine fairly whole but if you have children you might consider chopping them smaller or even putting them in a food processor to hide the "evidence".

Combine the potatoes and the vegetables.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Pairs well with: Meat and a salad

Tips: Hydrate

This post is not specifically about food, though as a post about keeping you alive so that you can eat that food I suppose it is relevant.  Water is a vital and often underused nutrient, yes, I said nutrient.  Our bodies are almost 70% water, our brains almost 80%.

So how much water should we drink everyday? 64oz at least, which is 8 eight ounce cups, or many variations of smaller cups.

What does water do for me?  Outside of keeping you alive water can help you eat less often, and less in general.   The feeling for hunger and thirst is often not distinguishable, so sometimes when you think your body wants food what it really needs is hydration.  Next time you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water first and see if it subsides.  On that point, drinking a glass of water before meals is also a great way to eat less as you stomach will begin the "digestion" process and feel like there is already something in it.

Drinking ice water can even help you burn calories.  If you drink 64 ounces of ice water a day you will burn 70 extra calories.  Not enough to replace eating well or exercising but every bit helps, right? Also drinking 16oz of ice water in the morning when you wake up can help kickstart your metabolism (if you don't believe me, go check out Discovery Health).

If you are not a fan of water try it in green tea which also adds antioxidants to the mix.  Skip on the sugar and instead add lemon or orange slices.  As a plus it can be served hot or on the rocks.

Its summer time, and the living is HOT so make sure you keep the water coming in!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Recipe: Mushroom and Lima Bean Salad

Hear me out foodies, this one is tasty and filling (vegans listen up too).  Having just finished a broccoli side dish, I wanted to switch things up.  I know at first glance that the combo of mushrooms and beans might seem a bit strange, and perhaps it is, but this dish works hot or cold and the beans alone pack 5g of fiber in one serving.  I initially wanted to try fava beans with this recipe...but after not being able to find them, and finding out how labor intensive they were, I switched to the large lima's.  They have a wonderful buttery texture that pairs great with the firmer bite of the mushrooms.

You will need:
2 packs brown baby pearl mushrooms, stems removed and tops wiped with damp paper towel
2 cans large lima beans, drained and washed
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cooking onion or small yellow onion, chopped fine
1 handful parsley, chopped (to taste)
1/2 lemon
Oil, salt, pepper

Add a drizzle of oil into a large saute pan over medium high heat.  When hot add the onion and saute until just soft.  Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the onion is translucent and the garlic is just lightly browned, about 2-4 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add the mushrooms, cooking for 5-8 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked through.  Taste one to check for doneness and then salt and pepper the mushrooms.  Add the drained beans and stir gently with a large spoon to combine, being careful not to crush the beans.  Taste, salt and pepper if needed.  Add the chopped parsley and the juice of half a lemon.  Stir to combine.  Can be served warm, room temperature, or cold.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tips: Spices

Spices are a great way to add flavor and depth to a dish without adding calories, fat, or cholesterol.  While they are initially expensive as long as they are used they pay for themselves in great tasting meals.  For example, if trying to lose weight, you could eat only boiled chicken breasts.  But doesn't a chicken breast roasted in the oven or cooked on the stove top covered with spices sound much better? I believe that part of the reasons diets fail for people is that they don't eat exciting food.  Some of my favorite and go to spices (many I assume you can guess from reading my recipes) are:

Garlic Powder: With the taste of real garlic this is an excellent stand-in if you are short a garlic bulb and need the flavor.  It pairs well with the whole gamut of meats and vegetables.

Paprika: The smokey, slightly hot taste works great with meats giving a deep background flavor that compliments the natural taste of the meat.  Also, its red color adds visual interest to chicken and fish.  You eat with your eyes first, so a pop of color is always welcome.

Chile Powder:  This comes in many different forms, from regular to chipotle to ancho, etc.  Each provides the essence of that chile and gives a lovely smokey/spicy taste to meats, potato dishes, and yes even the meal that takes its namesake.  Experiment to see which you prefer.

Black Pepper/White Pepper: An old standby and a lesser known counterpart.  There are a wide variety of peppers out there to experiment with.  From the sharper black to the milder white (which is often used in white sauces as to not stand out) there is plenty to try.

1.  Spices can go bad, so if you've had a spice on the shelf for more than a year it is time to change it out.

2.  When cooking you can "bloom" spices by adding them to a pan of warm oil.  This wakens up the oils in the spice so they can permeate the whole dish more easily and the full impact of their flavor is reached.

3.  Experiment!  One of the easiest ways to change up a dish is to change out the spices.  A chicken salad can be curried, chile'd, or garlic'd with just a shake of the wrist and voila a whole new dish emerges.

What are your favorite spices and what ways do you like to use them?