In My Kitchen: March-Detox Veggie Stew

DSC_0167

Eep!  I guess the writing everyday thing isn’t really working out so far.  Partly because as Max pointed out this morning “No one comments on [Megan’s] blog anymore.” But when I was sitting here just now thinking about how to spend the next hour or so, I remembered that I started this blog for me, and so it shall continue on at whatever speed makes me happy.

I’ve been devoting all my time (and most of my mental fortitude) recently to dealing with our puppy, Roo’s, separation anxiety.  It started out mild and has steadily gotten worse.  It is impossible to leave him alone now.  We are working with some professionals because apparently dog separation anxiety is a big deal.

IMG_5400

Poor Roo. (And poor me for having to clean up after an anxious pup)

It is rather consuming of my time and energy with so much at stake, so I haven’t been going to the gym.  I even put my membership on a one-month hold.  Because of that, I’m extra conscious of what I’m putting into my body right now.  When the only exercise I’m getting is via copious dog walks, I need food that will minimize the damage I’m doing with my more sedentary life right now 🙂

So this family soup recipe seems appropriate.  I hesitate to even call it a recipe when the entirety of it is comprised of stewing down every veggie you can get your hands on in a giant pot with chicken broth, but it is thing of beauty that should be shared so that everyone knows how delicious this non-recipe is.

Now, it is a soup (aka hot), and I did make this in February after my mom left as a way to sort of detox from all the deliciousness we consumed together, but I think it works for any time you need to jumpstart a new period of healthier eating.  My mom used to make this for us regularly, and when I found out you can eat for a week off one pot I started making it regularly, too!

All I can say is that this soup/stew is more than the sum of its individual veggie parts.  When all are combined and time and heat have worked their magic, you have a surprisingly hearty and satisfying meal.

DSC_0160

Step 1: Chop all your veg.  The only veggie I don’t recommend throwing in is spinach.  Somehow doesn’t work.

DSC_0161

Step 2 (and Last Step): Stew in a giant stock pot for many hours until all the veggies are cooked down and soft.

Add a swirl of ketchup on top for the acid if you want to do it old school.

In My Kitchen: February-Asparagus Soup FTW

IMG_5168IMG_5162

This past week I made a really dope chicken shawarma-esque recipe out of the NY Times in an attempt to create my take on Max and my favorite chicken shawarma plates from Al Wazir Chicken in LA.   When Max lived in Hollywood, we used to go there just about every other day!  Aaaand now I’m homesick and craving Al Wazir.

I healthied it up a bit by adding some extra veggies and made a Greek yogurt-garlic-lemon juice-mint sauce.  Anyway, that was fun. Max and I both crave chicken shawarma on the reg, and we are constantly saddened by the total lack of shawarma up here in SF.  If you have any leads on places we should check out that might change our mind and rival our beloved Al Wazir (or even Zankou, if we’re slummin’ it), PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do tell.

Ya know, I try to keep this from becoming a total food blog, because I could do that.  It would be pretty boring, but it could be done. And I have another post (another freakin’ soup post at that) that I plan to create this month, but I absolutely could not not tell you about the asparagus soup I made to go with my chicken shawarma because it is NUTS good.  Like restaurant-good.  And it is ridic healthy and stupid easy and quick to make.  I definitely emailed the recipe to my mom, so you know it’s the best of the best.

So let me just direct you to the recipe, which has approximately 3 steps, but is basically sauté onions in butter, add asparagus and chicken stock, boil, remove from heat, add cream cheese (or Greek yogurt, which I used and works like charm), blend with hand blender.  The end.

Also, you should probably check out Skinnytaste and see what’s up.  I haven’t had a chance to go browsing, but I will when I’m looking for my next meal inspiration for sure.  Looks like a goldmine!

 

In My Kitchen: January-Detox Enchiladas

 

DSC_0014

The last few months, or rather the last third, of my 2015 was a mess.  I thrive on order and routine-it keeps my anxiety at bay, yet I disregarded every single schedule I had put in place in favor of taking lots of naps and watching way too many hours of TV.  And I LOVE TV, so that is really saying something.

The holidays are just one more reason to throw up your hands in defeat when you realize you’re in for days, if not weeks, of straight partying and there is no escape from the aftermath in the form of leftovers.  You can’t really fight it, so you just give in.

In my case, I had let go of all of the things and controls I instituted in my life that kept me feeling on-top-of-it.  Things I don’t really “like” doing, but I do because I like the way I feel once I’ve done them.  Things like exercising regularly and cooking healthy meals for myself. Even writing consistently in this here blog!  I was bloated, yet empty, yet full of excuses.  And no one likes to be bloated AND empty.  Not cool.

So I guess that’s why so many people press the reset button come January.  It may be possible clear your social calendar a little bit so you can actually focus on treating yourself right with the holiday celebrations and entertaining finally over.

Look, I know there is no magic date on the calendar that makes it the right time to “do better” at life.  I mean, ideally we’d be striving for our best selves with each new day, right? But with a new year it does feel kind of right to make a new start or at least resume doing the things you know are right for you, personally.  Plus, everyone else is doing it and that makes it easier.  Jump on that bandwagon if it helps.

Since December 28, 2015, I’ve been a very good girl.  I’ve been eating well and going to the gym three times a week.  I even finally took that boxing class I’d been dying to take!  P.S. Boxing is so much fun!  I’m incorporating it into my exercise regime as a regular thing.  Hitting stuff rocks!

But on the culinary side, one of the first big successes of 2016 has been these detox enchiladas.  I’m not quite sure what makes them “detox” as opposed to just a healthy alternative to the ridiculously fattening regular enchiladas we all know and love, but I gave them a try because they sounded good and I like the word “detox”.  Makes me feel good. Plus-KALE.  So much kale.  It can’t be bad.

Big success over here because, not only did I eat and enjoy them, but Max did, as well!

I grabbed this recipe from a website called Joanne Eats Well With Others, so I will direct you there if you’re going to be taking this on. I am giving her and her site full credit for adapting this recipe and writing it down, and I hope that satisfies her requirement that I do so 🙂

In essence, the recipe just takes the unhealthy components of your tradish enchiladas with a green goddess dressing and replaces them with healthier alternatives.  I always like this method of preparing dietetic food because I like those familiar tastes and experiences, but clearly don’t want all the fat, calories, and processed carbs.  So it is along the same lines as cauliflower bread recipes and zoodles.

The filling is chickpeas, onion, corn, and Ro-Tel, plus herbs and spices.  I, however, misread the recipe before going shopping and forgot to purchase Ro-Tel, so I just used leftover salsa I had in the house, and it totally worked, though I’m aware this accidental substitution did add sugar that I didn’t need.  I also added half a chicken breast chopped up into super small bits to sort of lull my husband into submission.  Half a chicken breast spread throughout a 9 x 13 casserole dish, does not a lot of chicken make, let me tell you, so it was really just about the fact that it was in there at all.  Once you cook all that together, you let it cool and then add in a little bit of low-fat cheese, so the inside looks melty when you bake it.  That’s it-easy filling.

DSC_0003

You wrap those up in corn tortillas, which sounds easier than it is if you want them to look pretty at all, and then pour the “green goddess dressing” over the top.

I’m not sure if there’s a trick to this, but I found the wrapping process frustrating, and I cursed at those tortillas like a foul-mouthed sailor. I curse quite a lot in the kitchen, actually. Maybe it’s just me. The problem was that, even though I heated the tortillas in the over as called for, they kept cracking or wanting to unwrap and spill their contents all over the baking dish. I was dismayed at how ugly and unprofessional they looked when they were sitting there dry, but there is a happy ending.  No worries.

DSC_0012

The mess I made of things while I was trying to get these babies wrapped and tucked in there! 

 

A quick note on Green Goddess dressing. It is a salad dressing, typically containing mayonnaise, sour cream, chervil, chives, anchovy, tarragon, lemon juice, and pepper, so it is green and creamy.  Appropriately, it is said to have originated at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the early 1920s. There are now all sorts of bottlings and variations, but they tend not to be healthy because there has to be something really creamy in there like mayonnaise, sour cream, or sometimes tahini.

This recipe is like the green juice equivalent of Green Goddess dressing, as it uses kale, green chiles, veggie stock, scallions, and low fat greek yogurt. All good things.

DSC_0005.jpg

That’s a VitaMix full of kale, people.

Add a light sprinkling of low-fat cheese you used in the filling to the top of your enchiladas now covered in the dressing and bake it. You’ll see that no matter how ugly and cracked your dry enchiladas looked, this dish is very visually forgiving because when the sauce permeates the tortillas it all sort of smooths out.

The result is a very attractive dish that fed my family of two for a few days.  The inside is creamy AND spicy from that greek yogurt and the salsa and chiles.

DSC_0018

If you’re looking to start that diet in the new year, consider this dish as it is one of those meals that feels much more decadent than it is, and it will help ween you off the delicious, rich holiday foods you’ve probably now gotten used to.  I know I did.

Happy New Year!

In My Kitchen September: Lamb Stew

DSC_0053

Ok, so technically it is now October, hence the double post today.  I have a different idea of what I’d like to post for an “In My Kitchen October” post, so this has to go up right now.

Even though the weather has only shown it in the last few days (and seems to be back to its warm self today), Labor Day and the end of August signal the start of Fall to me.  Even if I have to force it.

I knew I wanted to make a stew, so I was sitting in bed looking up recipes, when Max looked over my shoulder to see what I was researching.  “Stew,” he said, “is all technique.  You don’t need a recipe.”  I insisted that I, in fact, did need a recipe while he may not, but he started narrating the process to me instead.  At the end, I still had tons of questions-like “when do the beans go in? after or before the greens?” and “how long should I let the meat rest after I’ve removed it from the stew before shredding it and putting it back in?”  He must have felt sorry for me (or wanted to make sure it turned out well so he could eat it), because the next morning he got up earlier than usual and helped me with most of the heavy-lifting.

Laying it all out so Max could chop it :)

Laying it all out so Max could chop it 🙂

Showing me how it's done.

Showing me how it’s done.

He showed me proper technique for cutting vegetables because chopping is lame and boring and I’m GOING to injure myself one of these days.

DSC_0043

"This is your only chance to add color to the meat"

“This is your only chance to add color to the meat”

DSC_0048

Then he flowered and browned the lamb and got the stew going.  I told him we should make a video of him coaching me Food Network style, but it was early in the day for him and he was in no mood for that. Side note: I don’t know why we decided to go with lamb.  Lamb is really more of a spring thing to me, but whatever.

Before the shred.

Before the shred.

After that, I was on my own to finish it up and use my own judgement as to when to pull the lamb out.  I worked and waited and tested to see if the meat was “falling off the bone”, my indicator that it was done.  Once it was, I pulled it out and let it rest until it was “cool enough to handle” when I shredded it, removed the bone and put it back in.

So now everything that already in the stew is cooked; the heartier veggies and the meat.  I added the beans next and when I was ready to eat it-super last minute-I added the collard greens.  Max suggested that ideally you’d put the greens in each individual portion as you heated it up to keep the greens’ texture, but come on, I’m not having that.  Trust me, it is still excellent if you put all the greens it at once.

DSC_0052

I think a stew is a classic that needs to be served up to your family at least once a year in the colder Fall and Winter months.  Max and I ate on this one batch for over a week! I mean, not every single day, but you know what I mean.

May this serve as your inspiration to go forth and stew!

Chankonabe is All The Rage

I have a quick need to brag about the mad skills of this handsome man that I get to enjoy from time to time.

My person

My person

Max has always been super good in the kitchen.  Our library is 99% cookbooks and books about food and wine, and he READS THEM, you guys! He actually sits in bed eating Goldfish crackers and reading recipes from the world’s greatest restaurants.  He’s like really, really good in the kitchen, and I was lucky enough to get to enjoy that through law school and several years thereafter.  Coming home to a meal based off a French Laundry recipe or Alinea.  Not too shabby.

Max cooking for our friends in 2009.

Max cooking for our friends in 2009.

These days Max isn’t afforded a lot of time in the kitchen, and when we decide to make dinner at home he veers toward simplicity and always, always Japanese food.  The other night we had a “family night” in together and he prepared a rendition of Chankonabe;  a Japanese stew commonly eaten in vast quantity by sumo wrestlers as part of a weight-gain diet.  Clearly, it required some alterations.

IMG_3754

Anyway-look how beautifully it turned out.  It was so healthy and fresh.  We were both able to eat the leftovers, too.  Bonus!

IMG_3698

IMG_3699

So grateful to have this guy to introduce me to new things all the time like sumo-wrestler stew.  Delicious and super pretty to look at.  Not unlike the man, himself (Not sorry for the terrible sappy joke.  Ok-a little sorry)

In My Kitchen: Zucchini Noodle Bake & Tuna Stuffed Peppers

As I sit here sipping my vanilla malt that I ordered “to-go” after finishing my tuna melt & fries, (Yes, I have done that more than once) I thought it would be a really great time to talk about healthy eating. haha.

At this time, I’m still too self-conscious to talk about how I maintain my figure, so to speak, but I have absolutely no trouble talking about food.  I fucking love food.  A great deal of my world revolves around it.  While this can be absolutely wonderful, it can be a double-edged sword situation.  Quality problems, what can I say?

My work around is that I try to eat pretty cleanly and avoid carbs during the week (unless there’s a good reason not to-or even a halfway decent reason).  However, I’m not super great in the kitchen and I resent all time spent cooking for myself alone, so I try to make things that are healthy, but also very quick to throw together in the evening.

I just wanted to share two of the bigger successes I’ve had in the kitchen recently when cooking for a party of 1.

Zucchini Pasta Bake

In my July 10 post about the Heart of the City Farmers Market, I mentioned that I had picked up some zucchinis.  Zucchini pasta/zucchini noodles are all the rage these days.  (Side note: Have you all noticed that they’ve started selling shredded cauliflower at the markets for use in making pizza dough, etc.?  I’ll have to look into it more, but I’m guessing that you still have to cook it, which still leaves you with having to dry it-the truly difficult part.  I can toss my own damn cauliflower in the food processor for the extra money, thanks).  I’ve done them a ton since I started with the cleaner eating a while back.  I make enough zucchini noodles that I received a veggie spiralizer from my mother for my bridal shower.

Nothing to this one-I simply had some mozzarella balls that needed finishing up, so I bought the zucchini with this dish in mind. You simply “spiralize” the zucchini, which is my favorite part because it creates beautiful green ribbons, toss in some olive oil in a pan to soften slightly, and then dress them however you would any pasta.  Seriously, it could not be simpler.

I’ll admit, “spiraling” 4 zucchinis is a little hard for me.  I think I have weak wrists.  It is most evident when trying to generate torque to turn keys in locks and/or ignitions.  Weird. But hey, I get by 🙂

This was my first attempt at baking zucchini noodles.  The recipe simply required that I skip the step where I soften the noodles in the pan.  Cool-make it easier.  Fine by me.  I put the raw “noodles” in the baking dish, mixed in sauce and some greek yogurt, and broke up the mozzarella balls for a rustic look.  I was imagining trendy pizza when I was arranging the cheese.

IMG_3623IMG_3626

The dish came out tasting lovely and looking kinda pretty, if I do say so myself, but word to the wise, zucchini noodles (and spaghetti squash noodles) will always be wet.  I either drain the excess moisture or simply ignore it and don’t eat the last few bites.  I mean-whatever.  It’s like a few more bits of VEGETABLES for God’s sake.  Let them sit in their own fluids. Bwahaha!

IMG_3625

Finished product.

Tuna Stuffed Peppers

So here’s something super DUPER freaking easy that turned out much better than anticipated.  This is a riff on someone else’s recipe, but since it no longer resembles that recipe at all, I’ll just explain what I did.  You can always Google how to make a tuna stuffed bell pepper if you’re really curious.  You’ll be ok.

So for this one, you stick the bell pepper (I chose orange, but its happy summertime and you have choices in your produce right now, so make them thoughtfully!) in the oven on broil.  The pepper gets kind of soft and bubbly.

While that’s goin’ on, you mix your tuna filling.  Mine was comprised of (surprise, surprise) tuna, cottage cheese (trust it), chopped olives, red onion, lemon juice, and a quick shot of olive oil.  I didn’t measure-nothin’.

IMG_3631

IMG_3633

When your pepper comes out of the oven you de-seed it and cut it in half, stick the tuna mixture in there and then shove it back in the oven on bake this time.  You’re not really cooking anything at this point, just warming through, so keep it in there until it’s warm, yes? Then enjoy.

I hope you are all making the most of this summer produce.  I, personally, have been in smoothie mode this past week.  Such sweet berries and stone fruit in season right now!  You all go eat your fruits and vegetables, ya hear!

Don’t mind me, I’m just finishing slurping down my malt!

Low Carb Grilled Cheese, Yes Please.

I love what a huge dork I am.  Who wouldn’t? hehe

I finally made it to the grocery store today for the first time since we got back from LA.  It is bad when you go to your fridge and cupboard in the evening thinking of what to make yourself for dinner (don’t forget Max is always working in the evenings) and you just sort of give up and decide to have a handful of nuts and three mini candy bars for dinner.  It is even worse when your husband asks if you might swing by the grocery store today because there is “no food”, and he is totally right.

Things I’ve noticed about grocery shopping in San Francisco:

1. I can’t buy in bulk because I have to be able to carry home everything I purchase.  I don’t think I’m alone in this because the baskets are way more popular than carts here, and it is the opposite in LA.

2. The produce is generally of a higher quality.  I think this is true.  Everyone says it is true.  I’m able to buy really delicious cherries and heirloom tomatoes right now.  Max always tells me this is why the restaurant scene is generally better up in Northern California.  He says you have a better chance of walking into any little joint in San Francisco and having it be really good than you do in LA.  Probably not true of Mexican food.

Anyway, last night when I was uninspired, I happened upon a can of tomato soup.  With that in mind, I decided today to try a new recipe that made that soup sound 100% more appealing.  It needed a grilled cheese, duh.

IMG_3535 IMG_3533

CAULIFLOWER CRUST GRILLED CHEESE

Cauliflower crust “bread” slices
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets (should yield 3 cups of cauliflower rice)
1 free-range organic egg, lightly beaten
½ cup / 1.7 oz / 50 gr shredded mozzarella cheese
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepperPreheat oven to 450°F (220°C) and place a rack in the middle.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and liberally grease it with olive oil. Set aside.
In a food processor rice the cauliflower florets (it should be evenly chopped but not completely pulverized).
Transfer cauliflower rice (about 3 cups) to a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 8 minutes, until cooked.
Place the cauliflower rice in a tea towel and twist it to squeeze as much moisture as you can (I usually squeeze out over a cup of liquid). This is very important. The cauliflower rice needs to be dry, otherwise you’ll end up with mushy dough, impossible to use as slices of bread.
Transfer the cauliflower rice to a mixing bowl, add egg, mozzarella, salt, pepper and mix well.
Spread cauliflower mixture onto the lined baking sheet and shape into 4 squares.
Place in the oven and bake for about 16 minutes until golden.
Remove and let cool 10 minutes before peeling them off the parchment paper (be careful not to break them!)

I pulled this recipe from a blog I found, which looks really cool.  Right up my alley in that the guy, Mike, makes a lot of traditional “comfort foods” but makes them healthy.  I only provided the part of the recipe for his cauliflower bread slices, sotr of figuring you know how to make a grilled cheese from there, but if you want the full recipe, and you should, go to http://www.theironyou.com/2014/05/cauliflower-crust-grilled-cheese.html.

The cauliflower dough thing can be tricky. I really think it comes down to getting all the moisture out.  This is not super easy.  The whole day I had the handyman here.  Seriously, the whole day, and on and off I was squeezing moisture out of the cauliflower shreds and even blowing them with a hair dryer, which is tricky because the shreds do fly everywhere.  I had done a cauliflower pizza before and it had been mushy, so I was extremely sensitive to this issue.  I mean, the stakes were kind of high.  If I didn’t get it right I would be stuck with that unappealing can of tomato soup (which was very yummy) that had left me so uninspired.

But I got it so right this time. So freaking right. I sent pictures to my mom and Max.  It was gooey.  It was awesome.  I win at cooking today.

Possibly, I’m much too proud right now for the task I’ve accomplished. Big deal for me.  I don’t do a lot of cooking (though the fact that this is my second cauliflower bread substitution attempt, I think, makes me decent).  Anyway, the point is, it was super good.  Totally tasted like grilled cheese.  Even better than zucchini pasta, of which I’m a huge fan.  I’m tricking my brain. haha.

All this wonderful food in San Francisco and I’m making cauliflower bread grilled cheese.  It wasn’t even organic.