Recipe: Rice Pudding

We spent Christmas in Binghamton with Mister’s family, and it was a heavenly few days of stretchy pants and food.

On a Christmas fueled sugar high, Mister and I stocked up on greens and fruit to help regain some sense of nutrition.

110We started with a great breakfast, eggs over sauteed greens and mushrooms with fruit and peanut butter on the side.

Then we decided to make rice pudding, and the nutrition was postponed for another time.

127.JPG Just looking at this picture is making me regret not packing some up for myself. [Sidenote: Mister and I are still living long distance, so he’s got the rice pudding leftovers]

I followed the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, with a few tweaks as usual.

It was my first time making rice pudding, and definitely won’t be my last.  You can certainly reference the linked recipe for specifics, but here is the main gist of what went down:

Cook rice with half milk, half water. The recipe calls for more liquid than you would usually use for making rice, I believe.  Specifically, use medium grain rice.  I picked some Goya brand up for around $3 for a big bag.  Pioneer Woman also called for cream at this point, but since we both stay away from most dairy, buying this whole milk was the most I was willing to commit to; I knew anything else would just get chucked in a few days, which felt wasteful.

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After simmering, covered for about 20 mins, you have some mushy looking milk-rice. I was actually getting a little worried here, because I’m notoriously terrible at cooking regular rice, and this wasn’t looking pretty.

But then came these ingredients:

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Vanilla, Cinnamon, and sweetened condensed milk.

123 Now that looks  more like rice pudding! I returned the pot to stove for about 5 minutes.  Then came the weird part.

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You crack one egg into the hot pot of rice pudding, and mix vigorously to cook it in the retained heat.  I’m not even sure why.

But seriously, this was really really good.  We omitted the raisins for Mister, and I didn’t bother with any topping; I ate mine warm, he ate his cold.  It was super creamy, rich and decadent while still feeling very much homemade and comforting.  I can’t wait to make this again.

Crave: Albany, New York

This past weekend was spent in Albany, while it was a little cooler than it has been it still doesn’t feel like the holiday season.

Saturday evening, I had signed up for the Albany Last Run 5k.  I was grateful that it wasn’t super cold, since I ended up still having to run with two pairs of pants, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt, and two workout type sweatshirts, a headband, and knee high socks.  Once I got going, it was great, but I felt like I was sucking ice into my lungs which didn’t make the hills of Washington Park very friendly.

Thankfully, I had prepared by wolfing down half of a sub from Andy’s about two hours before race time.

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That was a really great sub, easily one of our favorites.  Unfortunately I can’t remember what it was beyond the fact that it had some meats and muffaletta spread on it.

Anyway, back to the Albany Last Run 5k; It was a really fun crowd, and once again solidified for me why I love running 5ks; there is a sense of camaraderie, like we’re all here doing this stupid thing at once and we’re excited about it.  That and I always think its like running in a parade, which makes me feel pretty darn special. I hope to eventually move up to 10k, or even longer distances, but at the same time I think there is something fun about the less competitive, more accepting 5k races.

Post race, I took a very hot shower and then we celebrated my 28 minutes of athletic movement at Hollywood on Lark Street.

There was after a beer (or two), and a round of pool at Hollywood; one of the staff members was talking about how he had just ordered food from Crave.  Now, Mister and I are not fans of the food at Hollywood, but for someone in their own kitchen to admit they prefer takeout said a lot.  So it was decided, we were going for some burgers.

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I knew exactly what I was craving, and went with the build your own burger option.

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Turkey burger, with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, bacon, and avocado.  It was really, really good.  It felt like the healthiest, freshest fast food burger; in that it was slightly gluttonous, but still not greasy or heavy in my stomach.  I scarfed it down pretty fast.

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I know, turkey burgers don’t look that great.  But I knew what I wanted, and this hit the spot.

Mister went with the Black and Blue burger.

“Peppercorn crusted beef patty, Gorgonzola, caramelized onion, arugula, horseradish garlic aioli.”

He really liked it, and we honestly offered each other bites but I was too invested in my own meal and vice versa.  Which is rare!

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Mister did love the way the burger was cooked; we’re both fans of a rarer burger.

We also decided to split some Loaded sweet potato fries.  These were crispy and pretty tasty.  I appreciated that they weren’t mushy, which is the reason I’m usually hesitant to go with sweet potato fries.  (Mister prefers them though) They didn’t come with any special dipping sauce, despite what was listed on the menu.

This was a pretty solid meal, and we’ll probably go there again, but not too often.  It was about $30+ for our two burgers, a shared order of fries, and a shared iced tea.  I know its good stuff, but I definitely saw frozen fries in the back, so I’m not sure how much is genuinely homemade etc.  I’ve read about this place with the quality of ingredients being a huge selling point, but frozen fries are frozen fries regardless of what you put on them.  I also can’t really say that we crave burgers all that often, now that I think about it.

 

 

Cooking Light: Not the Same Old Chicken

I wish it were the same old chicken.

This recipe was pretty awful.  Its like they someone wrote a bunch of things that sounded nice, without ever testing it out.

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I had to improvise several times throughout the recipe, adding more seasoning, switching pans, eliminating ingredients. And it still wasn’t that great.  Not magazine worthy, that’s for sure.

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Started with pounded chicken breasts, olive oil, and fresh thyme in a hot, oven-proof skillet.  Okay, I like where this is going.  Then you flip, and put the skillet in the oven.  Still okay.

Then you’re supposed to take the pan out of the oven, remove the chicken, and add boiled potatoes, quartered mushrooms, lemon, milk and and flour.  Well when we took the pan out of the oven, there was a lot of liquid, and when I added the mushrooms there was even more liquid.  They never had a chance at browning.  Thankfully Mom had the foresight to roast instead of boiling the potatoes, but we still got stuck with soggy string beans and undercooked mushrooms that had to be transferred to another pan.

So Mom assisted with some triage; we removed the string beans and put them in a bowl, sauteed the mushrooms separately in another pan.  Then we add minced garlic, white wine, thinly sliced lemons and flour to the skillet to make a pan sauce.  Add the mushrooms back in, then eventually stirred back in the string beans.

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039.JPG Crispy, oven roasted potatoes, chickens, mushrooms and string beans in a lemon-wine-thyme sauce.  Eh, not worth it.

Meal Prep: Lentils, Quinoa, Veggies, Smoothies

I’m going to apologize in advance, I genuinely didn’t know I had that many posts with “Meal Prep” in the title.  Does that make my blog easier to read or just boring? I’m going to try my best to stick to the above format, just to make it easier to scroll.  For all five people that might be scrolling through here, but hey you  never know!

 

I try to meal prep, which has become a sub culture of crazy fitness freaks and health gurus.  I just think it makes it easier to cook a bunch of food at once and then not worry all week.

This particular week, I was inspired by the book “Go Clean, Sexy You”, which is about seasonal cleanses.  I’m not sure how much validity there are to cleanses in terms of science, but I know sometimes it feels good to reboot and get the druck out of your system.

Instead of making one particular dish, like my stir fry from two weeks ago, I stuck to a few ingredients I could mix and match.  From start to finish, my meal prep took about 2 hours tops, including cleaning up.  So for people that say they don’t have time to cook something nutritious, or that fast food and snacking is their only option I’m calling shenanigans.  Sometimes I grab food on the go, and heck yea it can be great, but don’t you start to feel like a busted can of biscuits after a while?

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I cooked up some lentils (about 2 cups) in vegetable stock, with whatever seasoning I managed to grab from the cabinet.  You can’t really go wrong here.  I did the same for quinoa.  So now I’ve got two big containers of whole grain, carb, protein, filling good stuff.

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To go with that, I roasted up some vegetables (parsnips, butternut squash, mushrooms)  My recommended way to roast any vegetables: cut up to uniform sizes, coat with olive oil and seasoning.  I used garlic powder, some ginger, salt, pepper, and I’m sure a few other mixtures.

Pop those in the oven, and please don’t forget to be timing everything.  By this point, I had the lentils simmering, the quinoa was almost done, and I started on smoothies.

I recently looked into how to make smoothies ahead of time.  My normal daily routine is as follows: I wake up(430am), grab something small to eat in the car on the way to the gym (5-520am), then I work out and get ready at the gym (520-7am) then scarf something down at work.  So it needs to be healthy, filling, and easy.  Smoothies are great, but I currently live with family and I don’t think Mom wants me using the blender at 430am.

So I invest in some 1 1/2 pint Ball mason jars (Amazon.com) and some plastic lids (Amazon.com).  What I did was blend the smoothies (one per day, so five total) and then store them in the freezer.  The night before, at about 9pm, I pull the smoothie from the freezer and put it in the fridge.  In the morning, I pop the smoothie into my bag and then by the time I get to my office is defrosted enough, but still has the smoothie frostiness.  So far so good! (I picked up some Power Protein Banana Chocolate Chunk muffins from Trader Joes to eat in the car before the gym)

I made some different smoothies, just for the sake of variety throughout the week.  Some had almond milk, some had water.  I think they all had spinach and the super seed blend.  Half had banana, half had avocado for creaminess.  Some had berries, others had clementines.  Fill to the line specified on the jar, and freeze. Couldn’t have been easier.

These are a really nice size, they’re like a large drinking glass.  I use a straw, but could easily drink out of these.  They feel nicer than a plastic bottle as well, and weren’t a huge investment.

Also, at this point, everything was done and pulled from the stove/oven.  I threw some baby broccoli in the oven for a few minutes to cook lightly and then everything was pretty much set.

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Some days I’ll mix the lentils, quinoa, and veggies all together.  Some days I’ll eat the lentils and broccoli cold with some almonds on top.  Two days this week I’ll add protein in the form of a packet of salmon, or a tin of smoked trout.  I know that trout sounds funky, but trust me its great stuff from Trader Joes.

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I’ll snack on rice cakes with peanut butter (one of my all time favorite things) and probably a few chocolates.  But that’s a week’s worth of breakfast and lunches.  Done.

 

Weekend Indulgence

Its all about finding the balance.  The vegetables with your cheese plate; don’t torture yourself eating what you don’t like.  Its not worth it.

Just for fun: here’s a bit of what I ate this weekend. This weekend was an unusual case for me, because I wasn’t with the Mister and didn’t have any big plans.  It was a great opportunity to just snuggle up with the dog, and enjoy a relaxing time to de-stress.

Breakfast on Saturday was two fried eggs over some leftover mashed cauliflower.  I crisped up some fresh sage leaves in olive oil, and then sprinkled parmesan over the whole thing.  It looks fancy, and I think that’s all the more reason why I liked it.  If you plopped eggs and cauliflower mash on a paper plate, it would be a blob of boring white.  Make food you want to eat and bonus points for making it pretty.

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Saturday afternoon I enjoyed this fruit bowl [apples, grapes, and banana] topped with apple pie spice and some cashew butter.  I put half of what I made in the bowl to be eaten, and the other half was saved for Sunday.

I had cheese, tea, some more fruit, and then a lot more cheese.  Between the two days I definitely ate a lot of cheese and crackers.  Hey I wasn’t cooking for anyone else, and I like cheese.  My solution to preventing myself from eating way too much was to cut a few pieces, put it on a plate and then pack up the rest.  Its just like the old trick of portioning out chips or pretzels, don’t let yourself have the whole bag sitting open in front of you.

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This weekend I finally got to enjoy a few beers I had picked up a week or so ago from the Fresh Market.  This Bells Christmas Ale was really good, so was the Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout.  Beer and cheese, cheese and beer.  I mostly just snacked for dinner.

Sunday morning I made this Pumpkin Spice quick bread that had been gifted to me for Chanukah.  I added some crushed walnuts and ginger, mostly because I was afraid the batter was too sweet.  It came out so moist and perfectly spice balanced.  We enjoyed it warm with cream cheese, and scrambled eggs for some healthy balance.

103.JPGNow this beauty I’m pretty proud of.  A used a whole wheat tortilla and some shredded cheese left over from my casserole, combined with leftover brisket and carrots from a weeknight dinner.  Brisket quesadilla, with sour cream on top.  I really liked this one.

082I followed all that up with a super fantastic trip to Trader Joes, and prepped breakfasts and lunch for this entire week.  Its okay to eat cheese all weekend if you follow it up with some whole, nutritious foods and protein power muffins.

Tex-Mex Casserole

I’ll be honest, I usually call this Mexican Lasagna [mostly in my head…because I’m not talking about it all that often to other people in casual conversation] but I feel like its never referenced as that when I’m searching for similar recipes so we’ll just go with Tex-Mex Casserole.  This is mostly because I love casseroles, and the idea of a one dish, comfort food for a family.

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Just look at that cheesy goodness, gosh I’m proud of that and its making me a little hungry again.

I did research a few recipes to get ideas, then kind of figured it out as I was going along. I know thats not super helpful if you’re trying to copy this recipe but here goes:

010Brown some ground beef (I’m sure turkey could work just as well), Mom was a great hand model here.  She was nice enough to supervise the meat while I was chopping up red and green pepper, and a small onion.

Mom drained the beef in a colander, and the same pan was used to soften up the peppers.  I added chili powder and garlic powder to both the beef and the peppers.  I didn’t cook the peppers to 100% softness, because I wanted to reserve some texture for the final dish.

I cooked the onion with some Trader Joes frozen corn.  I love this stuff, its the fire roaster or grilled corn, something like that; it has a great flavor and can instantly pump up eggs or taco salad with minimal reheating.

Then came the fun part, assembly.  I used store brand, whole wheat tortillas because that’s what I decided on in the supermarket, no real reason. Use whatever you want, go nuts.

Cut the tortillas in half, so they can fit in the pan easier. Here’s the layering I went with:

  •  I did a light layer of enchilada sauce (canned, yup no shame), then tortillas
  • Thick layer of refried beans (also canned, please don’t tell me to make them myself when I can buy these babies so easily)
  • Beef and enchilada sauce
  • Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • Tortillas
  • Peppers, onions, corn
  • enchilada sauce

The whole thing was then covered with aluminum foil and baked for about 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Uncover, put as much cheese and you can fit on the pan and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes until browned and bubbly.  [I did increase the oven temp in the last 5 minutes just to help hurry up the melty goodness]

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After letting it cool for about 5 minutes, we dug in and oh man was it good.  Sour cream and guacamole on the side, fresh jalapeno for me as well.

It has the fire roasted flavor and pop of the corn, the crunchy peppers and onions, melty cheese, hearty refried beans, protein, not a ton of carbs and was really good.  I’m sure it will be even better reheated when it’s had a chance to really stick together a little more.

Meal Prep and a Prepped Meal

Two nights ago I made up a big batch of bean and kale soup to eat for lunch throughout the week.

Super simple, and I like making the effort to eat less meat-centric meals more often.

  • sauteed garlic and onion in olive oil
  • added kale, red beans and white beans, sage
  • add vegetable stock, garlic powder, salt and pepper
  • simmer as long as you want

Then last night, in an effort to honor Chanukah and stay on the lighter side of things, Mom made a twist on a latka involving a cast iron skillet and shredded zucchini.  (Along with brisket of course)

Shredded zucchini, potato, egg, salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, Parmesan (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few other things) were mixed together after the zucchini and potato were properly drained. Then they were squished into a hot, oiled pan and crisped up a bit before being put into the oven for finishing.

Its always nice to have a meal cooked for you, especially on a holiday.  Along with the franken-latka we enjoyed this really great wine that my sister had picked up for my birthday.

 

Food always tastes better with wine, right?

Quick and Easy: Honey Dijon Salmon

075Dinner win.

So I’m sure people will roll their eyes at the “Quick & Easy” title, but seriously this couldn’t have been easier to make last night, for my sister and I.

I picked up two portions of salmon from the Fresh Market, along with some cauliflower and garlic.  The rest of the ingredients were pulled from the pantry (although they’re all easy to get if you have no reserves).

Here’s the meal from start to finish:

Put a pot of water to boil while you put away some other groceries. Chop some cauliflower, and put the salmon on a tin foil covered toaster oven sized pan.

064Mix 1 part dijon mustard to 1 part honey. Slather that stuff on your salmon.  Put the pan in the toaster over (or regular oven) on broil for 10 minutes.

While that’s broiling, put the cauliflower in the boiling water.  I know most sites or recipes say to steam; is anyone really doing this? Is there a difference?

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Once the cauliflower is fork tender, scoop it out and put it in the blender with some Laughing Cow cheese, a bit of cream cheese maybe, salt, pepper, garlic.  Then stare at it while it does nothing and your sister tells you to add milk. Then puree until it has the consistency of mashed potatoes sort of.

With that ready, the salmon almost ready, I heated some olive oil in a pan.  Added frozen string beans and some minced garlic on high heat.  Saute until done and then plate everything up with some extra cheese.  Always remember the extra cheese.

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Birthday Dinner: Yeomiji, Scarsdale

Yesterday was my birthday, so my Mom and older sister treated me to dinner.  We planned on going to Namu in Scarsdale, but when we arrived we saw that it had turned into Yeomiji apparently four days prior.

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Not deterred, we requested a grill table and settled into the booth like table comfortably.   They seemed to be short staffed, with just one waiter in front until a woman whom we assumed was the owner appeared from the back after another table was seated. Another girl was behind the bar, bringing out a few dishes intermittently but that appeared to be the only waitstaff.  Regardless, they all did a really great job answering questions and replenishing our banchan.

The three of us agreed on the mixed grill to share, which was around $60 I believe, and included short ribs, chicken, rib eye, and pork.

We were started with flavorful miso soup [is that Korean?], and started with a few side dishes while the grill was prepared.  Some were great (seaweed in mayo sauce), some weren’t as great (jellied bean curd).

The woman took charge of the grill for us, which at first we thought was strange but after tasting the masterful cooking we realized it could have been a disaster if we attempted it ourselves.

Full disclaimer, I was the only one at the table who had never had Korean BBQ, so I really had no clue what to expect, whats the norm, or what I was doing.  But it was really good and I loved that we got to linger over a long dinner.

I rolled some meat, rice, and a bit of the paste that was provided (not sure what it was beyond fish sauce and scallions) and devoured.  Some kimchi, bites of rice, alternating bites of crunchy, salty, and tender. I ate a lot, but it didn’t have the weight of a big pasta meal or overly sauced food; it was really just enough of everything.  It was a perfect birthday adventure, and I loved the opportunity to spend it with my family.  Can’t wait to see what another year has to offer.

Meal Prep: Tofu Stir Fry with Soba Noodles

After the five day binge fest that was Thanksgiving, I needed to really get a grip on my eating.  There had been wine, cheese, cake, pie, cookies, and stuffing.  Noticeably absent was adequate protein and just about anything from the vegetable category.

I knew I needed some veggies, and something that wasn’t too heavy but flavorful enough to keep me satisfied.  After perusing some vegan and vegetarian recipes online, I decided on a stir fry with as many veggies as I could manage.

After work yesterday, I went to Stop&Shop to pick up some ingredients.

  • 1 package Soba noodles
  • 2 broccoli crowns
  • 1 bag sugar snap peas
  • 1 container of ready to eat edamame
  • 1 package of extra firm, sprouted tofu
  • 1 bottle of white miso base
  • 1 red pepper
  • nub of ginger root
  • lime
  • garlic

 

By the time I got home it was almost 7 and I was tired, hungry, and ready to get cooking.  I’ve learned to just get all the prep out of the way; I know everyone says this, and a lot of people ignore it, but your timing will go a lot more smoothly when you just go ahead and chop everything at once.

I put a big pot of water on to boil and then minced the ginger and garlic, sliced the red pepper, diced the tofu, and cut wedges out of the lime.

When the water came to a boil, I added the soba noodles, and broke the broccoli into chunks right into the pot.  I don’t know if this is easier, its just the way I usually handle broccoli. [I cut the stems up into cubes to be cooked separately]

Set a time for 5 mins.

In a large pan I added a drizzle of peanut oil.  Once hot I added the cubed broccoli stems and the edamame first.  Then the tofu, ginger, and garlic.  Last the red pepper, white miso, and Braggs amino acid. I turned the heat up so everything would sear, I really like when tofu has that little char on the outside. There’s nothing worse than soggy stir-fry from low heat and/or too much liquid.

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When the timer goes off,  drain the noodles/broccoli and rinse with cold water. Put everything in a giant Tupperware to be eaten throughout the week.  Ta Da!

But wait….those sugar snap peas?! Yea yea I know.  I hate soggy sugar snap peas.  Yuck.  My game plan, is to add a handful to my bowl when I eat lunch; after either reheating everything or just enjoying it all cold.  Squeeze the fresh lime wedge over the dish right before eating. There will definitely be a splash of sriracha on top.