Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Salads and a Slice of life

Consistency is clearly not my strength when it comes to posting on here. However, even when I don't post, I still eat and I still love it.

I've been on a healthy salad, soup, and sandwich kick lately.

Recently my wonderful in-laws gave me the book "Eat for Health" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. If you're looking to make some life style changes that include eating healthier, I *highly* recommend this book. While the book talks about many aspects of healthy eating, the thing that really stood out to me was that  (and I'm paraphrasing here) 'the goal is not to eat perfectly at every meal, but know how to make wiser choices.' Basically, my take away message was 'try to eat healthy, but don't beat yourself up if you eat a cookie'. A prime example of this was when I was texting a friend. We were talking about food, and here is part of the conversation:
me "I made chocolate chip cookies - which completely negated the power smoothie for breakfast and salad for lunch"
friend: "It didn't unless you ate the whole pan."
It really got me thinking that sometime I eat one cookie or sugary snack and think "Well great, I just blew that whole 'I'm going to eat healthy today' plan that I had." When in reality it didn't. It might not have been the best choice, but it wasn't the same as eating cookies for breakfast, lunch, and a snack.

I also think the self-talk we engage in about food, eating, and cooking are a huge contributor to our health - but that's a different topic for a different day.

Now, I say all this because I've been having a hay day with salads. After getting home from a week with my in-laws who were eating very healthy, I decided to dive in as much as I could. Knowing that 'perfection' wasn't my goal, I decided to see how we'd fare if we shifted towards more foods recommended in "Eat for Health" - leafy greens, steamed veggies, low fat meats, legumes, and no dairy. I started serving larger salads and smaller portions of meat and eating lentil soup for breakfast*. I can honestly say that once I learned the 'rules' of eating healthy (and making salads) that it became more enjoyable to eat healthily.

After a few months of eating healthier here is what I have found:
I feel better when I eat better.
No one approach is perfect, a cure all, or good for every situation.
Learning to listen to your body takes time, effort, and patience, but it is worth it.

I've said all the above simply so I can post this picture and go on about how much I love these baby greens!!!

I don't particularly care for regular kale, chard, or collard greens because they are a tougher green and not quite as crisp as I like. However, I've found this 'Baby Green' mix that has baby kale, baby Swiss chard, and baby spinach. These baby versions are on par with baby spinach and when mixed with some arugula and romaine, it makes for a delicious salad base. I've been trying different types of nuts, dried fruits, occasional cheeses, and various salad dressings.

Baby Swiss Chard, Baby Kale, Baby Spinach

This massive tub of greens was around $4 at Sam's Club - which is a steal in this area.
 You can also find it in smaller quantities in the pre-packaged salad section of most grocery stores.

I can't figure out how to rotate these pictures. Anyone know how!?

My slice of life is the White Elephant Christmas Party we're planing! These are the invites:

We'll be serving hot apple cider, cream cheese with cranberry chutney on crackers, apples and caramel, other munchies, and having indoor s'mores. I. cannot. wait!  Pictures to follow :)

Thanks for reading! Hopefully it won't be a month before I post again!

*Eating lentil soup for breakfast was inspired by Tim Ferris' book "The Four Hour Body" and the 'slow carb diet'.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Caprese Salad

Rich balsamic glaze.... Deliciously ripe tomatoes....

Soft fresh mozzarella.....and a crunch of green basil.

All these things make this is a go to favorite of mine. It's a great balance of protein from the cheese and sugar from the tomatoes, making it a great afternoon 'tea time' snack. It's also versatile - it can stand on it's own, and pairs well with a soup or sandwich.

Today while out grocery shopping I saw these amazing tomatoes. I've seen them before, but never bought them. They were on sale and I had basil and mozzarella at home, so I thought I'd impulse buy these and work a caprese salad into my weekly menu plan.

Let me tell you - they did not disappoint. I'm not sure if I'd buy them at full price, but they were worth every penny I spent on them today.

Brown 'Kumato' Tomatoes

I also found out that in addition to tasting great, brown tomatoes have a really interesting history. They contain a higher amount of sugar than regular tomatoes and were developed in Spain during a round of cross breeding experiments. As a result of being a 'select' variety, the seeds and cultivation of them is highly controlled and 'reproduction rights' are only given after a very detailed selection process. For more information check out this wikipedia link. Now if you're thinking you'll be a smarty pants and plant seeds from the tomatoes you buy at the store, be my guest. However, because the tomatoes are a hybrid the plants grown from the seeds will not be the same as the parent plant. Thank you genetics!

Anyway, this gem of a salad is tasty, beautiful, and really fun to serve at dinner parties. You don't have to make it with these 'invite only' type tomatoes. Any beefsteak style tomatoes will work. Because you're eating them fresh, try to pick the best ones you can.

A view from the top


1 package of Kumato Brown Tomatoes (usually 4 in a pack)
16 oz ball or log of fresh mozzarella cheese
1 bunch fresh basil
Balsamic Glaze
Extra virgin olive oil

Slice each tomato into 3-4 slices. Cut the mozzarella* into the same number of slices. If you end up with 12 tomato slices, make 12 mozzarella slices.

Layer  the cheese a tomatoes, starting with cheese and ending with tomato on top - this prevents the stack from sliding around if you plan on moving your plates. Stack basil leaves in a stack, roll, and cut into ribbons and loosen gently with fingers.

Drizzle olive oil and balsamic glaze over each tomato and cheese stack, then sprinkle with basil ribbons.

Serve immediately!

*Tips - to slice mozzarella without totally smashing it, use a marble cheese slicer (I have this one), or dental floss! Wrap the floss around your fingers and press firmly but gently down on the cheese. Check out this video for a quick tutorial. If you didn't know - dental floss has many many uses in the kitchen.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Caramel Apple Pie

You want to talk about a knock your socks off apple pie? Well this is it! I don't even LIKE apple pie and my heart was giggling as I ate this it was so good.

Around this time of year apple picking starts getting really popular. And lets face it, upstate New York is beautiful in September, so who wouldn't want to spend sometime in a beautiful apple orchard? The leaves are thinking about turning into beautiful falls colors and the cool wind gently lulls you into your favorite sweater.

The sweet apples are baked in a spiced, caramel like sauce which is surrounded in a flaky, buttery crust.

The crust is delicate and sweet in a way that only well made pie crusts can be. And the apples, moist and tender from having cooked in the caramel sauce are wonderful to sink your teeth into. Eating this is like eating Fall itself. Satisfying, delicious, and decedent when served with rich vanilla ice cream, this pie should not disappoint.


1 pie crust recipe (See below for a two 9" crust recipe. And no, there is no shame in buying pre-made or frozen ones if you want.)
8 cups of apple slices

1 stick of butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1/4 cup water or apple cider

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 475º.
Line pie dish with one crust. Fill with apple slices. Pile them up into a mound as they cook down! Use the additional crust to make a lattice top. If you want to do a full crust covering, make the caramel sauce as indicated below, then place the crust on.

In a small sauce pan, on medium high, mix sugars, corn starch, and water/cider. Once warm, add butter and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add spices and mix thoroughly. Carefully pour mixture over and through the lattice crust, making sure not to spill. With a brush or a clean finger, gently spread the liquid over any missed spots on the crust. If you used a full crust on top, reseve a bit of the caramel to brush over it.

As you can see below the caramel is gently brushed over the top, and my edges are messy as messy can be. I make no effort to make my crust edges look pretty, as I'm going to eat the darn thing as soon as it cools enough to eat. However, if you're into braided edges, cute leaf cutouts, or imprinted patterns, go for it!

Bake at 475º for 15 minutes. Turn oven to 350º  and over loosely with a sheet of foil and bake for an additional 60 minutes or until apples are soft.

Allow to cool before serving. Refrigerate left overs.

Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cup flour
1 cup butter or shortening
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a food processor or with a pastry knife, combined salt, sugar, flour, and butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs or corn meal. Slowly add water, mixing until a soft dough forms. Using hands, remove from bowl, and kneed gently a few times. Divide dough into two equal parts. Roll each part into a ball before rolling flat with a rolling pin.

For an even more excellent pie crust, I recommend this recipe. For a tutorial on how to do a lattice top, check out this website.