Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mom's Cabbage Soup

....Since obviously anything Mom makes is always the best. In this case, that is 100% true. With cabbage, tomatoes in various forms, and caraway seeds (the stuff that gives rye bread it's rye-ness) this is not only tasty, but crazy healthy. If you want something that is incredibly filling but low-cal, this is the soup for you. Waaay better than your standard vegetable soup. You also have to be really kitchen-stupid to not be able to make this; it pretty much doesn't get any easier. The recipe makes like 12 or 14 cups or something ridiculous like that, so either make this for a crowd or plan on freezing some; it is extremely freezer-friendly. Also, as if there wasn't enough to love already, it's dirt cheap.

Ah, my priceless Dutch oven that I use for everything....further proof that vintage cookware is the best.

Mom's Sweet & Sour Cabbage Soup
-2 T. margarine (I use Earth Balance)
-2 T. oil, whatever you've got
-2 med. onions, minced
-1 med. head o' cabbage, finely shredded
-3-4 shredded carrots
-2 cloves crushed garlic
-1/4 c. white sugar
-1/2 c. brown sugar (I usually do 1/2 c. Splenda and 1/4 c. brown sugar to cut calories, but 3/4 c. sugar in this recipe doesn't make a big difference calorie-wise because this makes a MASSIVE amount of soup)
-10 c. water (when I make it I don't usually use this much, though...usually 8-9 or however much your pot can hold)
-28 oz. can organic crushed tomatoes w/ liquid OR the equivalent in pureed fresh if you have them
-10 oz. can tomato soup
-1/4 c. organic tomato paste (it's only a $.30 difference! Just do it!)
-1 T. + 1 t. caraway seed, crushed with knife
-1 T. salt
-1 T. black pepper
-1/2 c. lemon juice (optional)

1. In large pot, melt butter over med. heat, add oil, and sautee onions 1 min.
2. Add carrots, cabbage, garlic, and sugars. Sautee until softened and light golden in color (takes a solid 5-10 minutes for me, and I usually have to add the cabbage gradually, since it cooks down so much).
3. Add remaining ingredients.
4. Simmer, covered, on med. heat 2-2.5 hrs - stir occasionally. Adjust S & P to taste. Like most soups, tastes better the next day.

Serve with sour cream and black Russian bread if desired.

Loose tea rocks my world!

I'd like to devote this post to the greatness that is loose tea. I really try to avoid drinking coffee, for a few reasons: 1) I don't need to get addicted to caffeine 2) if I do need caffeine, I want just a little to be effective! While green and black teas do contain caffeine, its about a quarter that of coffee, so not nearly enough to get addicted to. Well, I guess you could get addicted if you drank like three pots a day, but that's a little insane 3) I'm vain and don't want to stain my teeth. Yeah, tea stains too, but not nearly as bad. A nice cup of tea in the morning perks me up, or is a great alternative to drinking plain water all day. Plus, I don't need to tell you about all the health benefits tea has been found to possess.

Why loose tea over the standard stuff that comes in bags? I've always chosen it because it is better-tasting and it just makes me feel cool. More details can be provided here and here. It also is a great value compared to bagged teas, especially as "craft" teas become more and more prevalent. If I'm spending $5 on tea, it's not going to be for 10 bags of the shit they sell at Starbucks, that's for sure. That is way too expensive for dried leaves!

Now, the problem many of people have with loose tea is the convenience factor. I think that's a crock, because there's barely a difference. Once you spring for the brewing supplies, the process is exactly the same. I really recommend Bodum teapots - it's what I use and it rocks! There are also a ton of other options out there, like individual mugs w/ mesh cups inside for the tea, tea spoons and balls you drop into a mug, etc.

Remember that your water should be just under boiling when you add your leaves to it. Follow the instructions for seeping (generally about 3 min. for green or herbal, 5 min. for black) and make sure it doesn't seep too long - this can lead to a bitter flavor.

One easy way to be frugal with your tea, loose or otherwise, is to seep it twice. I generally reuse my leaves once, essentially doubling the amount I can make. I'm not a crazy tea snob, so I can't tell a difference between the two batches.

Happy sipping!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

11 Best Foods

I love it when the greatness of the vegetarian way of life is confirmed! This article appears on the NY Times blog, and is titled "The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating." Only one isn't vegetarian, and it's sardines. Ew. I don't think those that eat meat want to eat them anyway. Otherwise, I consume most of these foods pretty regularly, and there are numerous tastey dishes that utilize them.

Here are the foods, and some of the ways you can incorporate them into your diet!

1. Beets: To be honest, I don't really eat these. We have some on our counter, and I swear I've been meaning to try them, but I haven't yet. I've heard they're great raw, shredded in a salad or on a sandwich.
2. Cabbage: Especially awesome because it's dirt cheap! Only until you shred a head of cabbage and see the vast quantity you've just unleashed do you truly understand what a great value this stuff is. My all-time favorite preparation method is my mom's cabbage soup (recipe to come soon), but steamed/sauteed cabbage and potatoes are really good. It's a little bland, but sometimes bland is good. Mmm Irish comfort food. Add some sliced veggie sausage to make it a meal.
3. Swiss Chard: Sauteed greens! Yummmmm. Swiss chard, collards, mustard greens, etc. can all be prepared basically the same. My favorite method is braising: you sautee your greens for a few minutes then steam them. I use a little olive oil and garlic, sautee for a few minutes, then add a little bit of both water and tomato sauce, then cover and steam for about 5-10 minutes.
4. Cinnamon: Sprinkle on your oatmeal. Also, it's really good with peanut butter. I'd suggest a pb, banana, and cinnamon sandwich. Cinnamon in coffee is also tasty. And if you want to be a fat kid there's always spice cake :)
5. Pomegranate juice: I haven't jumped on the exotic juice bandwagon, but I can see the benefits to drinking this regularly. However, right now I'm an invincible 23-year-old and don't want to shell out the cash it takes to drink this stuff regularly. But Pama, pomegranate liquor, makes delicious martinis!
6. Dried plums: Aka prunes. These actually work really well as a fat replacer in darker baked goods, specifically chocolate things. Just blend or food-process with a bit of water. They're also supposed to be good on their own, but I honestly haven't worked up the courage to try that yet.
7. Pumpkin seeds: Also known as "pepitas," these are tasty. Unfortunately, I'm lazy, so I never buy pumpkins and do the whole scooping, rinsing, and baking thing. If you're like me, you can buy these in the bulk section of your local natural grocery store!
8. Sardines: Yuck. Yeah, they have omega-3's and lots of vitamins, but so do flax seeds and other nuts. Eating little fishies is gross. Plus, commercial fishing is killing our oceans.
9. Turmeric: One word: Indian. Turmeric is a staple spice in Indian cooking, and it is so damn tasty. Apparently it's a "superstar spice" that makes you fly and live forever. Not really, but pretty close. Turmeric is also great in tofu scramble!
10. Blueberries: Many people don't buy blueberries alot because they're really expensive. That's why I do one of two things: buy a bunch when they're cheap during the summer and freeze them or just buy frozen. It is important to try and buy organic berries, since they are one of the foods where the toxins from pesticides can stick around.
11. Canned pumpkin: I never realized how awesome canned pumpkin is until I started reading Hungry Girl. She has a ton of great healthy recipes incorporating this stuff. My personal favorite: subbing pumpkin for the fat and liquid in cake and brownie recipes.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

4.5 miles!

Today's long run was 4.5 miles - and I did it!

I've been doing some thinking about that whole "runner's high" thing...I would think that by now I would hit it, but apparently haven't. I always heard that once you hit it, you can just keep running forever. Riiiiight. Well, I kind of think I've experienced that now, both during last week's long run (4 miles), and today. I wouldn't exactly call it a "high," but kind of a plateau where the run stops getting increasingly difficult.

It's not this euphoric, pain-free state. When I first started running, at the end of each run I was DYING. I felt that way even at the end of my first 5K two months ago. It's very different now. I'd say the first 2 miles are the worst part of my run, but then I just hit a point where I can power forward. It still is a uncomfortable, since y'know, you're running a shitload, but not nearly as painful as my runs used to be and I don't feel like my heart is about to beat out of my chest. In fact, these past two long runs I felt like I could have kept going at least another half mile. The distance hits me about an hour or two later, when I get tired and can really feel that I just burned like 700 calories!

Now I'm excited to run a 10K in two months, because I'm already so close!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Roasting Brussel Sprouts

My favorite veggie of the moment is most definitely brussel sprouts. No question. Now, I'm not talking about the soggy gross brussel sprouts that emerge from the microwave - no, no, those are still as nasty as they were when I was eight. Roasting brussel sprouts, however, produces an entirely different result that seriously will make you excited about eating your veggies! It's really weird how many people don't know about this technique, actually, because it's super fast, easy, and addictive. Just try it. Even if you suck at cooking you can do this, and then you'll feel like King (or Queen) of the Kitchen after you do.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
-Sprouts (however many you want!)
-Olive oil
-Salt (I prefer sea salt, but you don't have to be as snobby)
-Pepper (fresh ground is so much better! Get a pepper mill already if you don't have one!)
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare the brussel sprouts: rinse in a colander, then peel off any yucky looking leaves or cut out any bad spots. Using a paring knife, cut all sprouts in half. Once they've all been halved, toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and arrange on a baking sheet cut side down. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over them, then pop in the oven for 20 min. Remove when they have started to brown. After that you're ready to enjoy some fantastic brussel action!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pasty Time!

Today the BF and I had quality time, cooking pasties (pronounced PASS-ties, different from PASTE-ies). We went to school in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where they are a staple food. Pasties are to the UP what burritos are basically anywhere else in the country. They are originally Cornish, but were eaten by Finnish miners in the UP as an easy and portable lunch that was hearty enough to fuel their days in the mines. Traditionally they are eaten with ketchup or gravy. They also usually have a gross assortment of leftover beef/pork bits, but I obviously left that out. I like them best hot, but if you pack one for lunch you could definitely eat it at room temperature.

Michigan Pasties

For the dough:
-3 c. flour (I used 2 c. white + 1 c. whole wheat pastry to be healthy....if you use any whole wheat make sure it's pastry, because the normal kind will make the crust too rough/hard)
-.5 T salt

-.75 c. combination of margarine and Crisco....I used an equal combination of the two but you can use one or the other if you want
-6 T. ice water

1. Combine the flour and salt, then cut the fat in with two knives.
2. Use your fingers to crumble the fat into the flour to combine it. You'll be done crumbling when it kind of looks like corn flakes and is evenly distributed.
3. Then add the water a tablespoon at a time. Firmly knead it all together a few times to make sure it's all mixed together well. Wrap it up and throw it in the fridge for at least an hour.
Alternatively, if you really suck at making pie crust (which is essentially what this recipe is), you can buy store-bought crust. But that's not nearly as fun.

Classic filling (all veggies are diced into 1/2 inch pieces):
-1 rutabaga
-2-3 potatoes, depending how big they are
-3 carrots

-1 small onion
-salt and pepper

For our filling, we used a few unconventional ingredients. For my veggie pasties, I used potato, rutabaga, yuca, and a little bit of celery, carrot, and onion. Seasoned with just salt and pepper, of course. You can basically throw any tuber in there. Sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, are limited only by your imagination!

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide it
into six even dough balls. Roll one out to about 10" diameter.
3. Put some of the filling in the middle and fold one side over, make sure to seal the edges up. Poke a few holes in the top with a knife to let
the pasties breathe
4. Pop 'er in the oven for 60-70 minutes and you're done! Serve with ketchup and some margarine for an authentic midwest taste.

These also freeze REALLY well.

My UP cookie cutter was put to official UP pasty!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Official 2009 Running Goal

Alright, I've decided to committ to running the Seattle Rock N' Roll Half Marathon at the end of June. By proclaiming it here, on my Facebook, and to anyone who asks, I'm committting myself that much more. Frankly, I need the risk of semi-public embarassment if I don't complete this to motivate me, because it's going to be difficult. I can run a decent distance now, but I am not fast, nor do I absolutely adore running like some freaks out there. Well, maybe after this I will. Anyway, I really just want to see what's it like to basically be in peak physical shape: see what I look like, see what I feel like, etc. If I lose some weight, sweet, if I stay exactly the same, well that obviously proves I was meant to be a size 14. And then if a doctor/trainer/whatever ever critizes my weight I can have the satisfaction of saying "well, this fat ass of mine can run a half marathon, so fuck off!" This lovely piece in Newsweek echoes my sentiments nicely, and this woman is my hero.

Here is my training schedule (my weeks will be Sat.-Fri.)
Jan. 3-9: 2, 3, 3, 2 Total: 10
Jan. 10-16: 4, 2.5, 3, 1.5 Total: 11
Jan. 17-23: 4.5, 2.5, 3, 2 Total: 12
Jan. 24-30: 5, 2.5, 3, 2.5 Total: 13
Jan. 31 - Feb. 6: 5.5, 2.5, 3, 3 Total: 14

And so on and so forth....basically I am doing one long run a week, increasing that mileage by half a mile each time. Then, I only want to increase my total mileage by 1 mi/wk just to make sure I am totally comfortable with the distance and so my body doesn't crap out on me. On the shorter runs (specifically like 2.5 miles or less), I'm trying to run at least .2-.3 mph faster than my latest 5K time, so I can gradually speed up.

It should be an interesting experience, to say the least!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Best Stuffed Acorn Squash

Well, I'm sure it's not The Best, but it is definitely the best you can do if you want it ready in less than a half hour. It's vegan, low fat, and has tons of fiber and protein. Basically the perfect winter meal.

Have fun with it. All you really need is the squash, a fabulous grain, and a legume of some sort; quinoa and black beans just happen to be particularly delicious. And then some assorted veggies, of course.

Easy Stuffed Acorn Squash
-1 acorn squash
-1/2 c. dry quinoa (or: millet, couscous, bulgar, brown rice. Those are listed in order of my preference for this recipe. Do not fear quinoa, though – it is the only grain that is a complete protein and it’s crazy easy to make!)
-1 c. black beans
-1 c. broccoli florets, steamed, and chopped up a bit
-1 c. steamed kale (sub spinach if you’d like, or just leave out the greens, but kale is tasty and good for you – available in the fall/winter)

1. Start by getting the quinoa ready. I just throw mine in my $20 Target rice cooker with double the amount of water (1 cup) – if you don’t have a rice cooker you really need to get on that. Luckily, the conventional preparation method is really easy. Put the quinoa in a saucepan with double the water and bring to a boil. Cover, and simmer on low for about 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa’s translucent cover is visible.
2. To prepare the acorn squash, prick a bunch of holes in it with a knife or fork and microwave it for 10 minutes. You could do it in the oven, too, but that takes forever; if you really want to do that, Google directions. Once the squash is done, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and guts.
3. Mix the cooked quinoa and all the other ingredients together and fill the squash with it (it will overflow, that’s ok.)
4. For seasoning, I like to whisk together a quick maple balsamic drizzle. Mix together some maple syrup, brown sugar, splash of balsamic vinegar, a little oil, and some water, then nuke it for about 30 seconds to warm it up so you can dissolve the sugar. The sweet, tangy taste compliments the ingredients nicely. Sometimes I add some mustard to that, sometimes a little BBQ sauce. Any store-bought dressing would work, too, like a sesame ginger or sweet lemon poppy seed. You get the idea.

Pictured here is the stuffed squash (though I didn't add any broccoli this time) along with some BBQ tempeh. Tasty!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Red Hot - Tacoma, WA

On Tuesday the BF and I decided to a little bit of a date night out, so we headed over to The Red Hot in Tacoma. We actually read a review about it in a NW beer magazine, so it had to be good, right?

It was AWESOME! It's basically the most perfect bar ever. The only food they serve is an extensive hot dog menu, nachos, Fritos/chips, and moon pies. They also have many great microbrews on tap. The best part of all of this is that it is CHEAP! The hot dogs (they have veggie dogs, too) are all around $3.75, their wine is always $3.50/glass, and I'm pretty sure the beer is just as cheap. Since we went on a Tuesday, there was a tap (bartender's choice) that was $2/pint. On Tuesday it just happened to be Left Hand Milk Stout, so we both stuck to that and it was tasty. I had a Chicago-style veggie dog, with a sesame seed bun, mustard, relish, tomato, onion, pickle, peppers, and celery salt. YUM!

The vibe of the place is perfect, too. It's pretty small, and definitely not high-end or trendy, but it doesn't feel like a dive bar, either. You can tell there are alot of regulars, which is always a good sign.

Overall, I'd say it's a 10. Good food with ample vegetarian/vegan options, stellar beer selection, good prices, laid-back atmosphere, and great specials. If you're down in the South Sound definitely make it a priority!