Spicy Black Bean and Kale Grilled Cheese

So a few weeks ago I told you about how Green Mountain Mustard sent me some of their mustard for me to try.  I originally proposed to make a grilled cheese sandwich and then stumbled upon the epic idea that became my German Nachos(ish).  But ever since, I’ve been thinking about how delicious their mustard is, because really it is, and how I NEED to make a grilled cheese with it.  But not just any grilled cheese, an amazing one and so I finally did.

Yesterday, all I could think about was grilled cheese, and since it was Meatless Monday, why not make something epically delicious to show the world how wonderful meatless can be.

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I mean. Can we take a minute and observe the cheesy goodness?

 

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Now I’m going to have to come clean with you.  I probably ate this in about 3 minutes.  I didn’t have a stop watch, but before I knew it, it was gone.  I think that’s a good sign.  Then my mouth was a little bit on fire, because this mustard is straight up PICANTE.  If you’re a fan of spice, you’re going to love this.  If spicy isn’t your thing, it’s cool.  We can still be friends, use regular mustard, or skip it.

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Spicy Black Bean and Kale Grilled Cheese

1 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp cilantro finely chopped
1 kale leaf, veined and chopped
1/3 cup black beans, cooked

1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp butter, softened
2 slices of whole wheat bread*
1 tbsp Barn Burner, Red Habanero Mustard

2 slices sharp white cheddar

Grease small skillet and turn on to medium heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, and kale.  Sautee a few minutes until soft.  Add black beans, cilantro, cumin and salt and pepper.  Cook a few minutes then transfer to plate.  Using a fork, mash beans lighly and set aside.

 

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(Note: I didn’t fit all of this in the sandwich so I just ate it on it’s own and it’s delicious. The end.)

Spread bread with butter and turn over then spread with mustard.  Lay 1 slice of cheese on each side (on the mustard side, since you’ll be grilling the buttered side).  Spread one side with black bean mixture and put the sandwich together.

Place sandwich on griddle heated to low.  Cook a few minutes until golden, flip and cook a few more minutes until golden and cheese is melted.  Remember when it comes to grilled cheese, slow and steady wins the race.  In case you forgot here are my tips for fabulous grilled cheese.

 

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Serve immediately and slice if desired.

*Note: I got my bread at Black Market Bakery. If you’re in OC, try it! Amazingly delicious, fluffy and fresh! Also free of preservatives!

This combo was amazingly delicious.  Obviously I’m biased, because I LOOOOOVE black beans, but you should definitely give this a shot.  I think this would be even more amazing dipped into sour cream, because who doesn’t love dipping sandwiches in sauces?

Please also note that if you decided to add bacon and avocado to this, I wouldn’t judge you.

If I could, I would invite you all over for this spicy black bean grilled cheese, but since we’re far away, make it and tell me if you love it.  How does that sound?

What’s your favorite grilled cheese combo?

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My Search for the Best Protein Powder

I read a lot of health and fitness blogs.  I’m definitely a fan, but one of the things that sometimes irks me is that their lives don’t seem real to me in the sense that many of my favorite blogs are run by full-time bloggers.  They work from home, and have a schedule where they can work out at a variety of different times and can prepare their meals just before eating them since they’re at home.  In that sense, I can’t really relate.  My breakfasts don’t normally look like this:

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Ok so they don’t have breakfasts like that everyday either, but doesn’t it seem like it sometimes?

During the week I don’t really have time to make elaborate breakfasts.  Most days sleep and convincing myself to get my butt to the gym are more important.  Consequently, most mornings are a little bit like this:

Rushing out the door with a smoothie in a jar, my purse and my lunch bag.  A smoothie for breakfast is great, because I can drink it in the car or at my desk when I get to the office.  Lately, I’ve been trying to add protein to my morning smoothies to help keep me fuller longer.  I’ve had a container of protein powder sitting in my cupboard for over a year and honestly, I hated the taste.

I decided to go on a mission: to find the perfect protein powder.

My criteria are pretty limited: calories and taste.  I don’t want something too high in calories or sugar, but I definitely want it to taste good and keep me full til lunch.  So I went to the store and found as many single serving protein packets as possible.  Let me tell you about some of the ones I tried.

As a control, I mixed all of these protein powders with: 1/2 banana, mango chunks, spinach, kale, water, ice.  I figured that’s what I normally would want to have it with, so if it tastes good with that, I’d be pleased.

Just a note: I bought all of these protein powders on my own, I was not compensated for any of this.  This is just my opinion based on my palate.  I’m not a nutritionist or any type of expert on protein powder, I’m just a consumer sharing an opinion.

1. Garden of Life: Raw Protein

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Flavor: Real Raw Vanilla (they also have a chocolate and vanilla chai, I believe)

Taste:  Good.  A little on the sweet side.  It’s sweetened with stevia, which isn’t terrible.  I guess if you just mixed this with water or almond milk it might be the perfect sweetness (since mango and banana I mixed it with are sweet also)

Texture:  A tiny bit gritty, but not too bad.

Price: the small packet I got was $2.79, which is kind of expensive for a single serving.  On Amazon, a 22oz (approx. 28 servings) container costs $25.83.  That comes out to about $0.92/serving.  Not too bad, price wise.

Calories: 90 Calories for 17g of protein.  Keeps the smoothie pretty low cal, which for me is great.

Overall: I really like this one.  The flavor is great.  It was a little grittier than the others but I didn’t mind it.  I definitely like that it’s vegan, raw and plant-based.  I’m considering buying the large container of this one.

2. Vega One All-in-One Nutritional Shake

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Flavor: French Vanilla

Taste: Super tasty!  It reminded me of a milk shake, but that makes sense.  This isn’t actually protein powder.  It’s like an all-in-one nutrition shake, that said it had 15g of protein so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Texture: Super smooth.  I was definitely a fan of this.

Price: Probably the most expensive one.  Roughly 22 servings for $55.99 on Amazon.  That comes out to about $2.55 per serving.  Priceyyyyy…

Calories: 135 calories for 15g of protein.   BONUS: 6g of fiber! 50% of your daily vitamins and minerals.

Overall:  This was really good.  Loved the flavor and the texture.  It kept me full for a long time, but honestly, the deal breaker for me is the price. Woh woh.

3. 100% Whey Gold Standard

Flavor: Chocolate. I’m not really a fan of chocolate protein powder but I gave it a try anyway. My Co-worker gave me a serving of this to try.

Taste: Ok, not too chocolatey when mixed with the fruit and greens.   My complaint is that it has that whey protein after taste that I’m not a big fan of, but that’s subjective and also sorta just the nature of the beast.  I found myself guzzling this as quickly as possible just to get it over with… womp.

Texture: Very smooth!  Not gritty at all.  Definitely a bonus.  If you like frothy (which I hate), this (like other whey powders) gets frothy in the blender (even just mixed with water).

Price: On Amazon, it costs $53.99 for 73 servings.  That comes out to about $0.73 per serving.  Can’t beat that.

Calories: 120 calories for 24g of protein, pretty darn good.

Overall: Not bad.  Don’t think I’ll get it just because of the after taste but I’d be curious to try the other flavors like banana or vanilla.

4. Designer Whey

Flavor: French Vanilla

Taste: Ok so this is the protein powder that started the search.  I bought this one at Trader Joe’s and at the risk of sound harsh.  I hate the taste of this protein powder.  I don’t like the after taste at all.  It’s really hard for me to even finish a smoothie with it, and I am definitely not a picky eater.  A lot of times I found myself adding scoops of unsweetened cocoa powder to my smoothies to cover up the taste.  No bueno.

Texture: Smooth, frothy, not chalky.

Price: On Amazon, 4lbs for $45.19.  Not bad in terms of price.  Comes out to roughly $0.72 per serving.

Calories: 100 Calories for 18g of protein.  Not bad.  I think I’ll take Garden of Life over this one any day…

Overall:  I just can’t stand this one.  I’m pretty much convince I just don’t like the taste of any whey protein powder.  If you mix it with water and chug it, it’s fine, but if you’re going to sip over the course of half an hour (like I do with my morning smoothies), it’s not pleasant.  This one is a no-go for me.

5. Plant Fusion

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Flavor: Vanilla Bean

Taste: The package says “Amazing Taste.”  It’s good but I’m not sure I’d call it amazing.  It was a little sweet for my taste (sweetened with stevia).  To be honest, the taste was sorta “meh” for me.  Maybe I’m raising my protein powder flavor standards?

Texture: Smooth, not chalky or gritty when blended up.  I was a little concerned because there seemed to be a lot of powder in the packet, but it all smoothed out.

Price: On Amazon, it’s $30.31 for 2lbs, that’s about 30 servings.  So about $1 per serving.  Price isn’t terrible.

Calories: 120 calories for 21g of protein.  That’s pretty good in my opinion.  Up there with the 100% Gold Standard Whey, which probably had the best calorie to protein ratio, but I will say I much prefer the taste of this one.

Overall: This one is not bad.  It’s probably my second choice in terms of protein and price.  This one is a blend of pea protein, artichoke protein, amaranth powder and quinoa powder.  I’m definitely a fan of the fact that it’s plant-based.

I think so far, Garden of Life Raw Protein is the winner for me.  I love that it’s plant-based (we love the Earth, right?) and it tastes pretty darn good.  The fact that it’s low calorie just sort of sweetens the deal.

I’m going to keep trying more to find what I like but this was a good set I tried so far.  I’m really interested to try egg white protein powder.  I think I just need to stay away from whey.

Do you use protein powder? If so, what’s your favorite kind?  Suggest away because the search continues for me (maybe)!

Not Juice

What the f*** is juice?

You know what I’m talking about right?

If you don’t, then watch this:

I apologize if you’re easily offended.  I just happen to have a ridiculous sense of humor.

So speaking of juice (not drink)…

My father and brother are currently obsessed with juicing.  Now I see where I get my nuttiness from.  My sister lent/gave them her juicer a few days ago and they’ve been obsessed ever since.

For some reason, I’m a juice hater.  I know.  I should be supportive of their juicing endeavors, but no.  I’m not.  I just don’t understand drinking juice and I don’t care what you tell me, celery in your juice is just not tasty.  I love vegetables as much as the next person, actually probably more than the next person, but drinking vegetables isn’t really my thing.  I’d rather eat them, but oh wait…

Green smoothie on the other hand…

I’m all for it.  Especially made with 1 frozen banana, half a mango, a few handfuls of spinach, some kale, ice and water.

I vote yes.  So let’s be clear.  This is not juice.

Fig-Arugula-Goat Cheese Sandwich with a side of Kale

I have a confession.

I hate cooking at night.

Not always but most of the time.

Most days, I wish someone would cook dinner for me so that I wouldn’t have to touch the kitchen past 2pm.  I guess that’s not totally true.  Cooking for others at night is fun.  Cooking for myself, not so much.

Baking in the morning is my favorite.  Making elaborate lunches runs a close second.

Like this guy.

No no, that’s not a boring sandwich.  Don’t be fooled, it’s amazing and perfect in every way.  I plan to eat it for the next few days. You should try it too.  Here’s what you do to make 1 wonderful lunch (or dinner I suppose):

Fig-Arugula-Goat Cheese Sandwich with a side of Kale

2 slices of bread (I used oat nut something or other), toasted
1-2 oz goat cheese
2-3 figs, sliced (I have a tendency to eat pieces as I slice, so 3 for me)
1 handful of arugula
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 cups of chopped kale
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

Place 1 sliced fig and 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until reduced (about 5 minutes, you can do this while you prepare the rest of the sandwich).

Spread the goat cheese on the toasted bread (either on one side or both, I did one side).  Lay the sliced figs one side, the arugula on the other.  Once the balsamic reduction is ready, drizzle it on the figs and arugula and your sandwich is ready.

Next make the kale, heat oil in a pan to medium/high.  Add kale, garlic, salt and pepper and stir around.  Add some water if it’s too dry.  Once the kale has cooked (but is still pretty bright green), top with remaining (or just some, if you don’t like things too acidic) balsamic reduction and cooked figs.

Crumble some more goat cheese over it, if you’d like, and serve along side your sandwich!

Best eaten at lunch but works well for dinner too… If that’s your thing…  And if it is, come over and make me dinner!

Also Reminder:  Summer in a Box Giveaway ends Saturday!

Remix to…

…Ignition

Well, maybe not. More like Remix to Curried Kale with Lentils and Mango.

Somehow that doesn’t sound as good as Remix to Ignition.  I’m going to stick to my day job… err that is searching for one…

Anyway, I remade curried kale with lentils and mango.  I made a few changes, I only used 1 tsp of olive oil, omitted the shallot and used 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar instead of lemon.  Everything else stayed pretty much the same.

Pretty delicious.

Take that R. Kelly… or something…

Speaking of day jobs.  I’m off to work on some job applications.  Wish me luck!

Layers of Lunch

Yesterday, I had a meltdown. I cried in the hallway on campus and in the computer lab for probably at least an hour… maybe two.

This had something to do with it.

But really that was only the tiniest part of it.

Today was a better day.  I went to the gym.  I made split pea soup and layered it with sauteed kale.

Then I shared it with a friend.

Why not bring your friend lunch in a peanut butter jar?  Especially if she sat with you through a meltdown.

Then I went to class.  Got a little frustrated.  Went to Wegman’s to buy baking supplies.

Tomorrow will be even better.

Empire Farm Days

Today was the beginning of Empire Farm Days, basically a big New York State (Empire State) farm fair!

I didn’t talk too much about my internship because of the semi-sensitive nature of my work.  But now that it’s over, I’ll share a little bit about it without disclosing too much.  My internship was with the Cornell Farmworker Program and we had a table in the Cornell Cooperative Extension barn/shed/tent.

My partner in crime, Xochitl, and I drove to Seneca Falls bright and early this morning to set up our table.

We provide information for migrant farmworkers in the state, as well as information on farmworker economic and community contributions.  Interesting stuff.

We got there a little early so we walked around to see what Empire Farm Days had to offer.

I thought this was really interesting because while a know a fair amount about food security and food systems, I know very little about actual farming.

There was a ton of information about new technology, sustainability, techniques.   Pretty interesting for a self proclaimed “city girl” like myself.  I like getting to learn different lifestyles and experience new things.  Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I chose Cornell for grad school.  I could have stayed in LA or gone to NYC, but I wouldn’t have learned fun new things about agriculture and rural life!  When else would I get to spend 2 years living in the middle of nowhere!?

Obviously, the most exciting part for me were the animals.

Goats

Horses

and Cows!

The cows were in the Beef Producer’s tent.  You know what that means…

Overall it was interesting, especially as someone who doesn’t eat meat.  I think I’ve said it before but I don’t think eating meat is wrong.  My concern is with animal treatment, environmental issues and overall health and overconsumption issues.  I know this sounds weird but I was pretty glad there was a live cow next to this Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner poster.  It’s important to know where your food comes from.  At the risk of offending card carrying PETA members, I will say petting a few cows didn’t stop me from thinking the BBQ stand not far away smell amazing!

Aside from livestock, there were tractors everywhere…

I got to see what tractor ROPS (Roll Over Protection Structures) look like in real life!  I’d only heard about them through my internship when we talked about on the job safety.  Safety first!

Concentration is essential.

Xochitl knows all about tractor safety.

After a few hours, we headed home.  I was pooped!  After a nap, I made a simple, meat-free dinner.

Sun-dried tomato waffle topped with some kale sauteed in pesto.  The waffle was as delicious as the first time I made it.  If you still haven’t tried it, I suggest you do so soon!

Also, if you’re in the Upstate/Western NY area I suggest you take a little trip to Seneca Falls to check out Empire Farm Days.  Even just from a foodie perspective, there were a ton of interesting things (a lot of which I didn’t photograph)!

Off to watch Modern Family and pack for my trip to Florida on Thursday!  Have a lovely night!