Happy February!

So the January Recipe Challenge was somewhat of a failure.  I ended up making recipes from 4 of the 7 continents!

I missed Australia, Antactica (which doesn’t really have civilization) and North America (which basically should constitute everything I eat everyday).

Overall, this was a very fun challenge!  Even though I didn’t make it through all the continents, I discovered some great recipes and had fun in the process!

I was pondering the idea of a February Challenge; however, I’ve decided against it.  In February, I’m going to concentrate on healthy eating/living and getting back into the swing of school.  That doesn’t mean I won’t try fantastic new recipes and share them with you all!  Do you have a February Challenge?

But on to today…  I started February off with some spice!

Not that kind of spice!

I give you, Mexican Chocolate Oats!

In the mix:

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • Chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Dash of Cayenne
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 oz greek yogurt (for added creaminess and protein! stirred in at the end)
  • 1 tbsp natural peanut butter

Pretty delicious!  The cayenne gave it a nice kick to jump start my morning.

According to the World’s Healthiest Foods (anyone else love this site???), Cayenne has many health benefits!

Not only does is make your meals more exciting, but it also fights inflammation, reduces blood cholesterol, boosts immunity, helps prevent stomach ulcers and even helps in weight loss by raising your body temperature which uses more energy! (source)

Eat your Mexican Chocolate Oats! Basically any plain chocolate recipe can be made “Mexican” by adding cinnamon and cayenne.  Try adding some to plain chocolate cupcakes!  Sooo good!

Today is my first discussion section as a TA!  Wish me luck!!

Hope your February is starting out well!  Have a fantastic day!!

What’s your goal for February??

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January Recipe Challenge: South America

I go through travel bug stages.  Last year, I was itching to go to India, then I went.  This year I’m itching to go to China and Peru, I’ve yet to go.  Not entirely sure why I want to go to those places but they seem awesome!  I really would love to do the Inca trail.

So tonight for the January recipe challenge, I made Peruvian Chickpea Stew.  Sorry for all the soups/stews, I’m a huge fan of soup/stew, and when I look for recipes I look for things that I would like.   Peruvian cuisine is such an interesting mix of many different cultures.  I find it really intriguing.

I first tried Peruvian Chickpeas at Super Pollo.  If you live in the Washington DC metropolitan area, please please please go to Super Pollo in Arlington, VA for some wonderful pollo a la brasa (yes I’m promoting meat eating because this stuff is amazing).

Tonight I put my chef planning kit to work!  I decided I needed some company for dinner, so I had a mini dinner party.  I only invited a few people so we could all fit at my tiny table (plus sadly I can’t afford to feed the 20 people I wanted to invite).

Peruvian Chickpea Stew

inspired by Recipezaar’s Peruvian Chickpea Stew

1lb dry garbanzo beans/chickpeas
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions or 3 small onions, diced
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 can whole canned tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 tsp coriander powder
3 tsp cumin powder
3 tsp allspice
2 small yellow squashes
8oz (approx) of vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

First,  cook your chickpeas until tender, a little under cooked is fine as they will simmer for a while later. You can probably use canned garbanzo beans too, but honestly I don’t think those taste as good.  You’d be amazed at how much better cooked dried beans taste over canned beans.

Then sautee the onions and garlic in the olive oil on pretty high heat until slightly browned and translucent.

Then add the chickpeas, tomatoes, spices, squash, and broth.  Stir and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

Serve with quinoa for a high protein very healthy meal!

I really liked this recipe.  It’s very healthy but hearty and tasty!  The spices are an interesting flavor combination.  I definitely recommend this! It wasn’t the same as the ones I had at Super Pollo but still delicious and probably a million times healthier!

To round out my mini dinner party, I made an Arugula and Pear salad using this recipe from Eating Well.  Honestly this salad was ridiculously good.  I tweeked the dressing a bit adding a bit more dijon mustard and a little less olive oil.  I also only used arugula, no other lettuce.  It was delicious!  I highly recommend this salad if you’re looking for a wonderful side dish!

For dessert, I made Fitnessista‘s Almond Butter Chocolate Chip cookies!  They were a hit!  No one knew they were vegan!    I made a few tweeks as well.  Instead of maple syrup, I used agave nectar and omitted the molasses since I didn’t have any and didn’t want to spend all that money for a teaspoon of molasses.

I just realized, actually this whole meal was vegan!  Very tasty and very balanced. Here’s my plate:

Salad side above and chickpea/quinoa side below.

A note about calories:

I decided to not count my calories for this meal.  I enjoyed it and made sure not to over eat too much, I filled half my plate with salad, 1/4 with chickpea stew and the other 1/4 with quinoa.  I also had 2 cookies, no big deal.  I splurged a bit, but I’m okay with that.  By the end of the meal, I wasn’t stuffed I was good and satisfied.  Yes, I probably could have eaten more but I didn’t feel the need to.  Life is about balance.  I want my weight loss to be manageable and sustainable, not painful.  One meal is not going to derail my efforts, I tracked the rest of the day (see my sparkpage) and tomorrow will be a normal day again and all will be well in the world.

I like to live by the 80/20 rule: Eat well 80 percent of the time and indulge 20 percent of the time.  Good rule in my opinion. What do you think?

Anyway, I’m off to watch more Mad Men!  Have a great night!

January Recipe Challenge: Asia

The lovely fella lives in the Silicon Valley.  The first time I visited him here was when I had just gotten back from India in July of 2009.  I kept noticing a ton of Indian markets, restaurants and shops.  I’m not sure if it’s because I had India on the brain or there are legitimately just a lot of Indian places!  Apparently, the Silicon Valley (or the South Bay in general?) has a large Indian population.  So for yet another addition to the January Recipe Challenge, I decided to make something Indian!

Indian is probably one of my favorite foods, I love everything from curries to dosa, but I’ve always been too scared to make it as it seems really daunting. With the availability of Indian products and the January Recipe Challenge as my impetus, I sucked it up and decided to try making something Indian.

Tonight, I actually made two recipes!  Palak Paneer (Spinach and Cheese) and Channa Masala.  Both are fairly common at any North India/Punjabi restaurant.  They are also vegetarian!  Actually in case you didn’t know… A lot of people in India are vegetarians for religious reasons.

I found two great recipes from Manjula’s Kitchen.  I really liked her site because she had videos of her making the recipes!  This inspired great confidence in her!

Just as in the Swedish recipes I made earlier this week, I had to make due with the appliances the lovely fella has, which means no measuring cups or spoons or a blender which was kind of necessary.  I had to eyeball it all but surprisingly it turned out really well!  So here are the recipes with the tweeks that I made to them (remember I eyeballed these amounts).

Palak Paneer

Inspired by Manjula’s Kitchen Palak (Spinach) Paneer

4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
6-7 oz store bought paneer
1/2 can tomato puree
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
salt to taste
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tomato, sliced for garnis
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Ingredients all together:

Can you believe they have Goofy on the spinach package?! Not sure how I feel about this...

First we quickly browned the paneer in a bit of oil and then set aside.

Then we added a tad more oil (probably a total of 2 tbsp, you really don’t need to add more in my opinion…) and added the spices (coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds) and cooked those for about a minute.

Then we added the tomato puree and ginger and let that cook for a few minutes.  Once the tomato sauce reduced by half, we added the spinach and a little bit of water (I saw her do this in the video that’s why I did it too) and covered it and let it simmer on medium/low heat for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, we combined the cream and flour in a small bowl.  After the spinach mixture has simmered, we added the cream mixture and let it cook for a few minutes.  Then cover it again and let is simmer for about 5 minutes.  Then added the paneer back and and let is simmer for a few more minutes! Then it’s ready to eat!

Ours didn’t look quite right but I think it was the lack of blender.  It still tasted great!

Next we made the Channa Masala.

Again we didn’t have all the necessary equipment (mainly a blender and measuring spoons so I eyeballed it all and just finely chopped all the ingredients).  Also note that the channa masala is also vegan!

Channa Masala

inspired by Manjula’s Kitchen’s Chola (Channa Masala)

1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 can tomato puree
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 small green chili (use less for less picante!)
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp garam masala powder

I forgot to take a picture of all the ingredients for this one but they were kind of similar to the Palak Paneer ingredients.

First, we heated the oil in the pan.  Once the oil was hot, we added the cumin seeds and cooked them til they made a cracking noise.  Then we added the flour and cooked it for about a minute. Once that had cooked for a minute or so, we added the tomato puree, ginger, green chili, coriander, turmeric and red chili powder.  This simmered for about 4 minutes.

Then we added the garbanzo beans plus 1/2 cup of water and let that simmer for about 7-8 minutes, stirring every so often.

Lastly, we added the cilantro and garam masala and let that cook for a minute and it was all ready! Serve with rice, naan, raita, tomato slices or anything else you like!

We enjoyed these two fabulous dishes with some Naan we got at Costco (the Costco here sells a ton of India products… large Indian population I guess…).

Of course, it was eaten with fingers not silverware…

I thought this was very delicious!  The lovely fella liked it too!  The Channa Masala was a little too spicy for him but nothing a little water couldn’t fix.  We actually realized we pretty much doubled the green chili, so it was extra spicy.  I thought it was perfect but I really like spicy food.

I know Indian food sounds intense and complicated (or at least it did to me) but give it a try!  It really wasn’t that difficult, just requires a bit of ingredient hunting!

Tomorrow I’m headed back to LA then Friday I go back to Ithaca!  I don’t want break to end, but I have a little bit of a blog revamp coming when I get back to Ithaca so stay tuned for that!

Have a great night!

January Recipe Challenge: Europe

The lovely fella bought a Swedish cookbook at Ikea last week.  So I thought it would be a great for the January Recipe Challenge.  Again, I don’t know much about Sweden other than its neutrality in WWII, they have a lot of immigrants and Alexander Skarsgard is from there… so I have no idea how authentic this is but it looked delicious and vegetarian (which seems rare in Swedish cuisine from looking at that cookbook!).

We decided to make Forest Mushroom Soup (Soppa på blandsvamp).

The only difficulty in making this recipe was finding the right mushrooms and the fact that the lovely fella doesn’t have measuring tools.  So here’s our tweeked version (estimated as we couldn’t actually measure):

Forest Mushroom Soup/Soppa på blandsvamp

inspired by Ikea’s Swedish Cooking

2 tbsp butter
8oz cremini mushrooms
3.5 oz shitake mushrooms
6 oz portabella mushrooms
1 onion
1 garlic clove
3-4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons red wine (or really just a splash!  The recipe called for sherry but we didn’t want to spend money on it so we decided to use red wine instead… not the same… I know but it was still really good!)
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
about 1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

We enjoyed a glass of wine while we cooked!  The lovely fella got me this bottle of wine for Valentine’s Day last year with the intention that we would drink it then but it didn’t happen and he’s had it ever since.

It was very tasty, especially after it aerated for 20 minutes!  So we gathered the ingredients:

Then cleaned and sliced the mushrooms then chopped the onion and garlic.

From what I’ve heard… Mushrooms should be wiped with a damp cloth or paper towel not run under water.


We melted the butter then sauteed this all for about five minutes.

Then added the flour and stirred it.  Added a splash of red wine.  Next we added the broth, cream, salt and pepper and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Then we served and enjoyed it with our wine!

This recipe was quick, easy and delicious!  The mushrooms were fantastic and made it really “meaty.”  It was a perfect light meal!  It would be great with a big hunk of crusty bread (unfortunately we ate our fair share of bread and cheese while the soup simmered!).

Then we went to see It’s Complicated, which was hilarious!  I won’t spoil it but I really enjoyed it!

Tomorrow, we’re headed to Napa for wine tasting and all around fun!  Hope you had a great weekend!  Goodnight!

January Recipe Challenge: Africa

In undergrad, I was a Development Studies major.  In other words, I studied the political economy of developing nations.  You’d think I would know a bunch about Africa (since it is the least developed region of the world), but honestly I don’t.

In searching for a recipe for the January Recipe Challenge, I wanted to stay away from Moroccan food, which I think is the African food that most people are (or at least I am) most familiar with.

In my search, I came across a recipe for West African Vegetable and Peanut Stew, which sounded delicious!  So in keeping with my peanut butter filled day I decided to give it a try.   I’ll be honest and say that I have no idea whether or not this recipe is authentic.  As I mentioned earlier, I know very little about Africa, aside from some political/economic history. This recipe just sounded interesting and from the little research I did, seems to have West African flavors.  I also liked how many vegetables it had: sweet potato, carrot, okra, green beans, onion… oh my!

In case you’re curious, the countries considered part of West Africa (as defined by the UN) are:  Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Ghana, The Gambia, Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Sierra Leone, Benin, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania and Niger.

West African Peanut Stew

From Food & Wine

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
One 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, with their liquid
4 cups water or canned low-sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth would work too)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups frozen whole okra or 6 ounces fresh whole okra
1 cup frozen green beans or 1/4 pound fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (I thought we had some, but we did so I left this out)
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
Lime wedges, for serving

First gather all your ingredients

Even super old curry powder should be okay (fresher is probably better.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this stuff is older than me)

Chop the onions, jalapenos (if you want this dish spicier then leave some of the seeds), ginger and garlic.  Word to the wise: don’t touch your eyes after chopping the jalapeno.  It hurts… Also make sure you don’t have any cuts on your fingers.  My finger is still burning!

Then sautee it in the oil for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.   Then add the curry powder, stir and let it cook for a few more minutes (about 2).  Then add your peanut butter, tomatoes and water (or vegetable broth, I used water).  Stir and cook for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, peel and chop your carrots and sweet potato.  Then add it to the soup.

Simmer for 20 minutes.  Lastly add the green beans and okra and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Garnish with chopped peanuts, cilantro and a lime wedge!

The recipe said it can be served with rice, which sounds delicious!  Enjoy!

I thought this soup was pretty delicious!  It was also vegan in case you were wondering!

The flavor combination was really interesting and surprisingly creamy (probably from the peanut butter).  The carrots and sweet potato added an interesting sweetness.  Next time, I would make it a little spicier (maybe I would have tried using that spicy peanut butter from PB and Co… one of my many peanut butter jars that needs to be used) and cut my green beans a little smaller.

I know a lot of people don’t like okra, but seriously… try this!  It’s not slimy at all!

Have you tried any other types of African food?

I’ve had Ethiopian and Moroccan!  Both were REALLY good!  The lovely fella didn’t appreciate the Ethiopian much but I thought it was delicious (I can really appreciate any time I can eat with my hands)!

January Recipe Challenge: Food Around the World!

The December Recipe Challenge was a ton of fun!  I loved trying new recipes full of veggies!

I want to continue this but with a new flare, a global flare.

The goal will be to make a recipe from each continent!

1. North America
2. South America
3. Europe
4. Asia
5. Africa
6. Australia
7. Antarctica (not sure how this is going to work out just yet as Antarctica doesn’t actually have a human civilization to my knowledge, except scientist).

This means I will do around 2 recipes per week!  I’m pretty excited to try new things!  Just like the December recipe challenge, these recipes will be vegetarian and veggie filled!

If you’d like to join me (vegetarian or not), write a post on your blog and I’ll link you!  If you don’t have a blog, not to worry, you can do a guest post! Just e-mail me at foodologie00@gmail.com

Also, if you have a recipe/dish to suggest, I’d love to hear about it and try it out!

Come back soon to see new recipes!

Miracles Happen, Once in a While

My mother hates cooking.  But today, she was in rare form.

She made tilapia!

It was pretty good (Yes I eat fish.  Although this may change, right now I do.).  Really simple, just salt, pepper and onion powder.  The cooked on medium heat for a 6 minutes total.

I made a salad.

Later I started preparing Christmas dinner. On the menu for tomorrow:

Turkey, Ciabatta Stuffing (minus the pancetta)Potato-Apple Gratin, My Sister’s Green Bean Casserole, and Sweet Potato Casserole. I’m sure there will be a salad on the side as well.

I always make that stuffing for Thanksgiving, but since I wasn’t here for Thanksgiving this year, I decided to make it for Christmas.  The bread is diced and waiting to be made tomorrow.  Tonight I started on the Potato-Apple Gratin.  It’ll be fully made except for heating/browning tomorrow in the oven.

It looks pretty good so far!  I hope it is.

Tips for Cooking a Large Meal:

-Plan your menu in advance
-Make sure you have all your ingredients
-Make as many things as possible the night before.
-Do all the chopping and prep work the day before so all the hard work is done with early.
-If you’re having a dinner, start cooking early in the day so you have time to clean up (both yourself and the kitchen)

Do you have any tips for cooking a large meal for many people?