29 December 2008

Quick Thoughts

1) I know, I know. So much for catching up over the break. I got called in to pet-sit and I just cannot concentrate with the animals running around.

2) Nature hates me today. I planned quad shot espresso brownie cupcakes à la Gretchen on the 25th to use up some heavy cream, but realised I needed eggs. Planned to come back to apartment to make them today, the day before cream expires. Go to CVS, they're out of eggs, so I can't make the bus. Get eggs elsewhere, get home, cream has gone bad. F** it.

3) Is anyone else bugged by people calling things "adult" food. "Adult" mac n cheese, "adult" candy. Do adults not eat mac n cheese and candy? Am I delusional?

4) Food Network is far too addicting. This is why I don't have a TV. This is also why I'm getting no work done. And I was tickled pink to find that not only is there now an American version of Iron Chef but Pim was a guest judge. It's so weird to see a person you read all the time, who feels almost like a friend despite your total lack of commenting ability, on television. Bloggers represent!

22 December 2008

Holiday Desserts

Since I'm highly unlikely to get to this year's holiday desserts before the holidays are over (though I am all about the mint chocolate creme brulee I just had for breakfast, mm mm) I thought I'd go the route of some other bloggers and post a list of links to previous recipes that would make good holiday desserts. All of these are desserts I enjoyed, though check the posts for specific tips on how to make them turn out right. Credit is given on individual posts for non-original recipes.

Black and White Truffles
Chocolate Chess Pie
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Figs Baked in Muscat
Fig-Whisky Jam
Ginger-Ginger Cake
Mint Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cookies
Mooless Chocolate Pie
Red Velvet Cake
Ridiculously Amazing Pumpkin Pie Thing
Spice Cake
Vegan Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
Whisky-Peanut Fudge
World Peace Cookies

20 December 2008

Well You're Just Plum Crazy!

This particular dessert wasn't really a success, nor a failure. I got the recipe from Meeta, who served them with a sabayon (or zabaglione). The big difference is that I used the red plums, which are bigger, and so there wasn't much reduction/losing of shape/etc. The brandy did improve the flavour of the plums, though, and they were a tasty snack to have around. I think next time I will try David Tanis's White Wine Peaches and see if I have better luck.

18 December 2008

Blog Party Traditions: Eggnog and Grapefruit

Okay, so my traditions may seem a little bit weird, but everyone pull up a chair, grab a grapefruit half and a glass of eggnog, and I'll explain. Two of my aunts have places in Key West, Florida, and so every Christmas for the past few years one of my mom's presents has been a big box of grapefruits and tangelos, which means that December and January are pretty much citrus months for us. Even before that, we'd always get a tangerine or two in the stockings, though I always gave mine to mom because I don't like oranges. I still don't like oranges, but I love grapefruit. My tradition is to dump a million pounds of sugar on top, but I'm learning to go without. I also loved eggnog when I was a kid, and was happy to drink it from November to January if I could. I still usually drink it plain, though occasionally add a drop of brandy or bourbon. I tried to make it from scratch once for an Australian roommate who'd never heard of it, but our house in Ireland didn't have an electric mixer so even after an hour of whisking it tasted a bit eggy. I still remember sending our other roommate Jen for supplies, though. "Get eggs. And nutmeg. And alcohol! I don't know, any alcohol!" Happy holidays, everyone! Stay safe, and thanks as always to Stephanie for hosting us.

Judith's Tips for Eating Healthy and Losing Weight

I was thinking today about how easy it is, really, for me to lose weight when I put my mind to it, but also about how difficult it is for me to actually eat healthy - balanced diet, not too much sugar, fat, or sodium, enough vitamins, etc. I figured I'd share some things I've learned over the years with you. These tips can be applied to pretty much any diet, or to a healthy lifestyle change in general.

Me 1-1/2 years ago, at close to my skinniest, enjoying some strawberries, brie, chocolate, and wine: proving point #1

1. Don't give up your favorite foods. Yes, eat in moderation, but there is really no point in giving up what you love the most, or even what you're badly craving at the moment. If you're miserable, you'll probably give up on your diet. Sit down, though, and think hard about what foods you really, really love, what foods you're so-so on, and what foods you don't like. For example, I like potato chips, but I've not had them for months without noticing anything missing. On the other hand, cutting chocolate cold turkey might kill me. If something you kind of like but aren't in love with is incredibly bad for you, then it'll probably pretty easy not to eat it - not necessarily giving up entirely, but just don't eat it once a week.

2. Keep a record of what you eat. It seems time consuming, but then you get into the habit and it's no big deal. Keeping a record, even if you're not on any diet, will make you eat healthier, just because you're paying attention. When I'm not writing it down, I'm given to random binges where I just keep eating and eating, but if I write it down, I don't do that. It's also a good way to find out, if you use a program or website that can give you a fairly detailed nutrition analysis, if you're eating way too much of something or way too little of something else. It helps you balance because you're seeing on the screen just how much bread and potatoes you're eating (or whatever).

3. Ease into smart shopping habits. Throwing out all the tasty food in the house won't put you in a very good mood, but once you've done the analysis in step one, you can stop buying the junk you don't honestly love all that much and phase in some healthier choices. Vegetables and fruits can be surprisingly filling, and make good snacks. An apple with a moderate amount of peanut butter keeps me going in the afternoon and doesn't have that many calories at all. Frozen veggies are similarly my lifesavers. As you start shopping healthier, decide whether you want to buy things fat-free or sugar free or reduced or lite or whatever. I recommend buying a single unit of whatever it is in a reduced version and seeing whether you like it or not first. For example, I can't tell the difference between reduced fat and regular cheese, but after years of never touching real butter, I learned that it really is superior for some baking products. Also, I don't mind diet soda, but using splenda in tea or coffee makes me ill. Figure out your preferences and replace things when you can't tell. Keep butter around for when you need it, but don't use it on your veggies or toast if you like margarine just as well.

4. Don't go long periods without eating. Once again, being miserable about your diet is a bad idea. Being hungry is miserable. Space your meals according to when you get hungry. It's amazing how much weight you'll lose if you normally overeat and then start eating only when hungry - but always eat when you're actually hungry. For example, I eat a medium-sized breakfast like a bowl of cereal or a bagel, and if I got up early, need a morning snack, but if not I won't get hungry till around 11:30 and I'll have lunch. I may need a couple of afternoon snacks to make it till 6:30 or 7 for dinner, but I don't need anything after dinner most nights. Figure out what works for you. Similarly, eat moderate portions and stop before you feel full. Wait twenty minutes, and if you feel hungry still, have another portion, but usually, if you're eating a moderate amount, you won't be hungry later. This is especially true if you take your mind off the food by clearing away the dishes right away and doing something else.

5. Drink plenty of water. Like vegetables, water is really good at keeping you from being hungry all the time and is healthy besides. Obviously, water is not going to keep away a major hunger pang, but if you drink it regularly you'll go longer between periods of feeling hungry.

13 December 2008

Help, help, I'm drowning!

Not in water, nor in work, but in an addiction. I'm addicted to recipes. Recipes, you say? But recipes are good! I like recipes! Yeah, me too, but this is getting out of hand. I very reluctantly hit the "delete" button on FoodGawker in my Google Reader today, and I had to keep saying to myself "this is the right thing to do, this is good." Because let's face it. The point of copying all these recipes diligently into my database is supposedly that I can have a lot of great things to cook. But I don't have time to cook, I certainly don't have time to plan meals, and lately I haven't had time to blog or leave comments or enjoy this community that I'm in because I've been so busy diligently going through my reader, bookmarking recipes, and then importing them one-by-one into YummySoup. This seriously has to stop. In the interest of catching up a little, I've trimmed back so that I'm only using Tastespotting and the individual blogs I like, and I'm only copying recipes that are actually unique or really something I want, and I'm using this post to dump some of the photos that I'd like to blog about but let's be honest - I don't even remember how I made these things from September or October! So it's not quite cold turkey, but it's a start, and maybe I'll even dig into some of the wonderful cookbooks I own and sit down and plan some meals, instead of getting swept so heavily into the hurricane force winds that are the internet.

This was a sort of middle eastern-style toss up I made with roasted eggplant, yoghurt, lemon, onion, parsley, and dill. I'm becoming very attached to plain yoghurt, and I tried to have some vanilla the other day for breakfast and it was just painfully sweet. Maybe that's good news for my sugar addiction.

In case you ever wondered how I normally start my day, this is it. I'm still addicted to Adagio, though I'll admit that Mighty Leaf ginger twist and rainforest maté are tasty enough that I considered going back to them just for those two at the Christmas sale. The multigrain cheerios are my normal starter, except in the dead of winter, and I have six boxes in my closet from a sale at the grocery store.

I never did give you a final verdict on the Sachertorte. I liked it, though next time more apricot jam. It was predictably dry, as European cakes are, but the Schlag always fixes that. The Austrian professor was happy that I'd remembered it, though he did mention that he has Sachertorte for breakfast every morning. Psh. How was I to know?

Before cutting back on sugar, I went on a bit of a Choxie binge. Their chocolate isn't cheap, but I do highly recommend this key lime thing, which has bits of graham cracker in it, as well as all their various espresso/coffee flavours and the cake flavoured truffles. You can get Choxie at Target.

Rita and I had a seminar together this semester, and she came over one day to work on our research together and put together this lovely little spinach salad.

I meant to take my camera with me when my friend Matt and I finally got a chance to try out Seoul Grille, but I didn't, so behold leftovers. It was actually quite good, though I had to do some bargaining since there wasn't anything vegetarian on the menu. Fortunately, they could do this dish with tofu and without the egg, which I didn't really want. There were lovely bits of marianated seitan (or maybe it was tempeh) and all sorts of vegetables to throw in (or eat alone).

This tasted better than it looks, but you have to admit that the combination of blue cheese and caramelized onions is a good one.

03 December 2008

A New Favourite Standby

Admission: I'm still posting recipes from October. Yes, I know, I know. School has been kicking my arse lately, so please forgive me. But the good news is that I'm cooking lots and still have plenty to post, probably more quickly after December 19th.

Can I just say how much I love this macaroni? No, love is not a strong enough word. Worship. Am infatuated with. It's simple, actually, very simple, but three good experiences with it is enough to call it a winter. The first taste was back in May, when my friend Audra brought it cooked in a crockpot and shared the recipe (warning me not to freak out because she didn't use any meat). I kept meaning to make it, but finally got around to it early in October. I used white wine instead of broth, which I highly, highly recommend. It gives it a very sophisticated taste. I used Pinot Grigio, and as you can see I like a glass with my macaroni. I also only used 1/2 a cup each mozzarella and (freshly grated) parmesan and rounded it out with 1/2 a cup each havarti and fontina. I didn't do the extra cheese on top, and I used a 13 x 9 glass pan. This is the result.

The second time, a couple of weeks later, I repeated the recipe but used the fantastic Sortie Sara cheese I told you about receiving for Blogging by Mail. Oh. My. God. This blew me away, quite seriously. I can conjure the taste up in my mouth perfectly now, two weeks later, and wish I had a plateful. You have to like strong cheeses, but if you do, it's perfect. I did put the extra cheese on top, which was a good move. Well, you can clearly see that. Would you like a little macaroni with your cheese, sir? Yes, this macaroni does involve a teeny tiny bit of work in terms of grating cheese and making a sauce on the stove, but not too much. With the Sortie Sara, I just diced it, and you could do that with any soft cheese. Play around with cheeses and combinations, and don't be afraid of the strong stuff. Bon appetit!

(Oh, and speaking of that - do you know how happy I am that Bon Appetit has budget recipes this month? I haven't looked at them yet, but I've been disappointed with Bon Appetit since I ordered it a few months ago and hopefully this will change my mind.)