Falafel at Home

I’m in love with the falafel from Tzatziki Grill in New Rochelle – they’re soft on the inside, crispy, spicy. I eat almost an entire order to myself every time we order takeout.

When I saw a box of falafel mix at Stop & Shop this past weekend, it inspired me to try making an at home version.  Falafel mix, tahini, some olives, and some feta for good measure.

It was surprisingly easy – and yes I know its because I didn’t really make the falafel from scratch. I get it.

Falafel mix + water. Set aside.

Scoop into the shape you want – fry in a lot of oil.

Drain. Layer on pita with lots of toppings.

Making the tahini dressing was only slightly more complicated.

Mix tahini paste, water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and salt. I had to keep tasting and adjusting to get it where I wanted it – which seems to be the basis of this recipe.

The flatbreads I also picked up at Stop & Shop; they were really good and the nutritional information was incredible. 15 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbs, and 180 calories per pita.

Flatbread, tahini, shredded romaine, sliced tomatoes, feta, red onion, falafel.

Olives and stuffed grape leaves [canned from Trader Joes] on the side.

I had one, Mister had 1.5 with the other 1.5 packed up for his lunch. I take that level of enthusiasm as the highest compliment.

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Sometimes I impress myself with how well I pack up his lunch.

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Spicy Margarita, Bread, and Something for the Dogs

This past weekend was pretty low key – and one of the first weekends that Mister and I both had busy Saturdays planned separately.  While Mister went skiing with my Dad, I met a few women for brunch in Manhattan.

It is nice being walking distance to a Metro North station in Westchester – within 35-40 ish minutes I can go from my front door to Grand Central. Thankfully, the women I met up with were kind enough to choose a place just a few blocks from Grand Central to make brunch even easier.

Salvation Taco was the perfect spot for a girl’s brunch ; there was a steady stream of spicy margaritas and sangria while we were able to lounge around a coffee table on couches.   Thankfully one of us took command and ordered food for the table, which meant we were all able to share tacos, quesadillas, and wings. Everything had great flavor, and I personally loved the extra salty chips that came with an order of guacamole.

By Sunday morning, we were both excited for a lazy couch day – especially Mister after a very early and long day of skiing. We had mini bagels with the works [i.e. smoked salmon, tomato slices, and red onion] and coffee while on the couch. 010.JPG

While waiting for the coffee to brew, I spied the bread cookbook my Mom  had gifted me last week and thought the rainy Sunday was a great time to give something a try.

Bread Illustrated   is an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook – which means I was in love with it before even cracking the binding. For all beginners, scientists, curious cooks, or experimenters – try America’s Test Kitchen. What I love is they explain the why and the how to every single thing. For example, with my favorite meatloaf recipe of their’s – they showed the results from baking it in a glass loaf pan, a metal loaf pan, and free form on a sheetpan. They explain the merits of each situation, and ultimately recommend free form on a sheetpan for the ability to crisp up all the edges. I trust their recipes because they work, and they explain why.

Bread and rice seem to be my two nemesis in the kitchen. I can’t cook rice, and I struggle with bread.

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While it didn’t rise as much as I would’ve liked, the Whole Wheat variation on the American Sandwich Bread was perfection. The taste, texture, and even crust was really impressive. Thanks to the cookbook, I think I was able to pinpoint why the rise wasn’t ideal [water wasn’t warm enough for the yeast in the first rise, and it might’ve been too cold/drafty in my kitchen for the second rise].

I can confidently say, however, that I used said bread for my lunchtime sandwich at work today.  Feels pretty good to say, hey look I made this! [I didn’t actually do that, because I’m pretty sure that would just be strange. But like if someone asked…]

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While all this baking was going on , I felt bad for the dogs. Yes I’m a crazy dog mom, but we keep the dog treats on the counter where I was baking and they kept running in exactingly.  Since I had the oven going, and we weren’t doing anything other than laundry and watching tv most of the day, I decided to try a batch of dog biscuits as well.

I happened to have a set of dog related cookie cutters we had received as a wedding gift – so I was able to come up with a pretty sizeable batch of dog bone shaped treats.  I purposely under baked them by a few minutes, to keep them soft per my dogs’ preference.  These were a HUGE hit – so much so that I’m considering making them as regularly as I can.

 

They Aren’t All Great

Not all of my dinners are magic.

Sometimes I’m tired, and something sounds good but the follow through and execution stink. Mister is excellent at pretending otherwise.

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If I posted this on Instagram with a fun caption, you would think it was another great dinner worthy of pictures and hashtags. But it sort of sucked.

I thought of making burrito bowls as a way to use up some odds and ends from the pantry and fridge.

  • ground beef cooked with taco seasoning
  • rice cooked with Goya sazon seasoning
  • red peppers and zucchini
  • red beans with onions and sofrito

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I forgot to defrost the beef ahead of time, so I was desperately flipping a frozen block of ground beef in an oily pan with a prayer that it would cook before 10pm. The rice was medium grain (leftover from making rice pudding ), which meant it was mushy and overcooked.  Even with the Goya sazon flavor packet, it tasted exactly like the rice they served in my elementary school cafeteria.  You know the kind that was sort of like a rice mush? You could see grand of rice but it was more like oatmeal.

The vegetables were the only real saving grace. And the beans. I love beans. Two cans of red beans added to sauteed diced onion, a can of tomato puree, a few spoonfuls of Goya sofrito. Let simmer in a covered pot until everything else is ready.  They were almost good enough to save the rice.

It was edible, nutritious. It helped get rid of a zucchini on the verge of mold, and a few cans of beans.  I’m still trying to work on that giant bag of rice, which apparently isn’t good for anything other than rice pudding. Even though this is the second time I’ve purchased this bag of rice, I’ve not yet learned my lesson.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

tuna noodle casserole.

This is a phrase that is used almost as a parody of itself; the iconic food that no one wants to eat. The epitome of an era of convenience casseroles where processed comfort food reigned supreme before kale and cauliflower were popular.

But I actually like it. Fortunately, so does mister.

I debated whether or not to post this; is it weird that I’m embarrassed to make and eat a certain food?

  • canned tuna (this is the only item that wasn’t store brand, definitely the most expensive ingredient)
  • canned cream of mushroom (the cheaper the better)
  • ritz crackers
  • egg noodles
  • frozen peas

I did the math on Peapod.com: $17.13 for this casserole and that will leave you with four extra sleeves of Ritz crackers. With approximately 8 servings you’re looking at $2.14 a serving. There are carbs, proteins, something green. Sure there’s enough sodium for a few days, and maybe you don’t need the extra preservatives, but for a comforting bowl of noodly goodness its well worth it.

Cook the noodles, mix with the rest of the ingredients, top with crackers and cheddar cheese.

013.JPGBake for 30ish minutes at about 350.

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Serve with a salad so you feel slightly better about the creamy, carb laden goodness you’re about to ingest.

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What food don’t you want people to know you eat?

 

Meal Prep

It was a deep rut.

Christmas, New Years, Snow Storm. Flannel pajamas, baggy sweaters, cheese, wine. Christmas cookies, french toast, more cheese.

How to break the deliciously cozy cycle when New York has been colder than Alaska lately?

ACV.

Apple cider vinegar. Its a little routine that I can never stick with too consistently (despite my best efforts), but its a great way to jump start a little nutrition and pry yourself away from caramels and Camembert.

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8 oz of cold water, squeeze half a lemon, 1 – 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Drink this before you start breakfast, while you’re getting ready in the morning. Before coffee, before brushed teeth, before the stretchy pants get too comfortable.

It may be psychological, total placebo affect – but for me personally, it curbs my sweet tooth and allows me to hit the reset button my nutritional intake.

While I sipped my ACV, I cooked a big batch of food for the coming week to allow myself to really trudge through the winter apocalypse with some vitamins and hopefully a few less pounds in the stomach area.

New Gym Connundrum

This isn’t about food. I’m sorry in advance if that’s a problem.

The long weekend of New Years Eve started with a visit to a newly opened gym, so see if I could get back in the groove of working out regularly in a gym. This was in part due to the New Year push everyone falls into – partially due to the slump I’ve fallen into recently.

While in Albany, I worked out as regularly as possible at a close-ish, franchised gym that was reasonable priced, had plenty of parking, and had classes. Unfortunately, in Westchester – that sort of gym doesn’t seem to exist. Or at least I havn’t found it yet.

For a while, I was working out at Blink Fitness across the street from my office in the Bronx. This meant leaving for work an hour earlier, showering at the gym and eating breakfast at my desk. It was a routine I actually found that worked pretty well for me but there were some issues; the gym is very small, the weight equipment was always crowded with some intimidating groups (not the friendliest neighborhood), they didn’t have any sort of classes or really enough room to try new things. When Mister moved from Albany to Westchester, we shared a portion of our commute which meant that early mornings weren’t an option anymore and I cancelled my membership.

That was just about a year ago and since then, I have worked with a personal trainer in a private gym regularly, tried Soul Cycle classes sparingly (too expensive), tried one Barre Class (too intimidating), a handful of yoga classes (couldn’t find any that fit my schedule and were within my budget).

Lately, for the most part, I work out in my basement. We invested in a second hand elliptical a few months ago, I have two sets of weights, and a kettlebell. Motivation, and the cold, are my biggest hurdles now. The basement ceiling is too low for the elliptical, so we have to keep it in the garage. The unheated garage.

For reference it was 8 degrees when I woke up this morning. Thats about 30 degrees too cold to be working out in the unheated garage. Thats not to say I don’t do it – but I’m finding a hard time staying consistent.

When I pay for classes, I feel committed to going. But the cost adds up and I lose enthusiasm. For at home, I’ve tried the Beachbody workouts, and on demand – I don’t really have the space in our basement to be jumping around that much and try to stick to strength based workouts.

Suggestions? Great class recommendations? At home workouts worth the money? Motivation?

Oh and yes I did check out that new gym. The traffic getting there from the office, and the traffic getting home, were terrible. Like I would never want to be driving in that direction.

As if that wasn’t enough, all of the amenities advertised weren’t available yet;  i.e. the pool/sauna/steam room level weren’t set to be finished for a few months. But the gym bills itself as having those amenities, and therefore membership is more expensive then the locations that do not have them. Which is absurd to if you can’t use them.

Add to that, it was like trying to work out in a shark tank. The sales team was pushing hard to lock in a deal, and nearly every person working out there was either with a personal trainer, or taking a lot of pictures of themselves while listening to incredibly loud music via headphones. It wasn’t friendly, it wasn’t encouraging – in short I’ll never feel comfortable working out there.

The new gym versus my home gym

 

Meal Prep: 5/22

This past weekend was on the busy side, so I didn’t have the time for a full meal prep, but I’m pretty proud of how I improvised.

Saturday Mister and I went suit shopping, he wanted a good basic suit that could be worn to a handful of weddings we have coming up. We went to Lord & Taylors, Rothman’s, and Nordstroms.  We eventually took a break for lunch at the Iron Tomato, and went back to Lord & Taylors for the first suit he tried on of the day.  I think he finally has an idea what wedding dress shopping has been like for me!

Sunday, we went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour on Broadway as a belated birthday present for my Mom.  We went to Liebman’s in Riverdale for dinner after, which brought us back to Mom’s house with little energy and less time.  I ran to the grocery store with a specific list, and managed to get my all the meals done in record time.

For this week, I relied on my pantry for breakfast; I’ve said it before, but I always have granola, almond milk, oatmeal, and protein powder on hand as a backup. This was perfect for this week, when I didn’t feel like baking something or eating anymore egg whites really.

Lunch was salad mason jars.  I know that mason jars have been done to death, but these particular size and shape are just so convenient.

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I brought in a bag of romaine lettuce and a bag of arugula to be mixed as a base for these toppings.  Each jar has either chickpeas or red kidney beans layered with black olives, diced cucumber, and cherry tomatoes.

These new topper options, and I picked up some new salad dressings (Cesar vinaigrette and raspberry walnut).021.JPG

Every day I can toss together the contents of a jar, over some lettuce, add any of the toppings, and or roasted red pepper and or tuna or salmon. Its like a choose your own adventure salad.

I’ve learned that I can eat the same thing every day, but I can’t eat the same salad every day.  Even if they’re all practically the same, just the tweak of a different dressing, or a different crunchy topping, can make it a different salad for me.

As always, I made sure to grab some snack options as well; having my breakfast and lunches all planned out can still be a recipe for disaster when that 3pm sweet tooth hits if I don’t have a planned snack.

Snack options: sabra hummus single serve with pretzels, sargento balanced breakfs (cheese, nuts, dried fruit), and mini chocolate rice cakes.  I try my best to include options that cover salty, sweet, crunchy, and savory.  That way, no excuses for running out and grabbing a junk food alternative.