Tuesday, January 21, 2020

How to Keep "Healthy" Food from Being Boring As F***

The idea for /this blog post has been floating around my head for a while but never made it to paper (errr....screen) as most of my blog posts do.  (or don't)

What made me finally get around to writing it was my coworker.  My 9-5 (more like 7-3:30) is for a school district and 2 of my friends who are registered dietitians were going to present for a series of culinary classes at the high schools.  The bulk of their presentation was focused on intuitive eating and trends but she asked  me if I there was anything I would have liked to have known when I was back in high school and taking the same class.  

This. This is what I wish I could have learned.  That "healthy" food doesn't have to be boring. (healthy is in quotes because we all have different definitions of it.  It's pretty arbitrary but this is all about what works for YOU)




How many of you have ever met a person whose sole idea of "health" is eating salads?  I don't know it irritates me so much but it does.  "Well, I've been eating salads everyday so I'm being a lot more healthy"...as I stand there biting my tongue so hard if I opened my mouth I think the tip of  of would fall to the ground.

Or all the peoples whose weekly meal prep photos they post consists of a sea of tupperware full of broccoli, dry ass chicken breast....and maybe a side of fruit or sweaty looking sweat potato cubes if they're lucky.

Here's the thing, by all means eat the salad or plain ass chicken and steamed broccoli.  If that's  your thing, do it.  I'm just here to give a few ideas for those of us who need a little more pizzazz and flavor.  Some simple tricks can help with variety and stave off  food boredom.

Utilize Cooking Techniques That Enhance Flavor

Boiling isn't doing a damn thing for most foods. Grilling and roasting for example impart MUCH more flavor than steaming and boiling.  

What's better: Steamed brussel sprouts or roasted?

 Exactly.

Simple cooking technique swaps can make a HUGE difference.


Season, Season, Season!

Ok, so maybe not everyone is already like me and eats tomato slices as a side like I'm 85 but you might consider eating more things if you if you just added a little flavor.  Avocado,tomatoes, and even hard boiled eggs are delicious on their own topped with Everything But the Bagel Seasoning (which is good on pretty much everything)  Things like radishes, jicama, and cucumber are perfect for topping with Tajin or even just chili and garlic powders.  Brainstorm ways you can introduce more veggies and proteins into your day with a little sprinkle of somthin' somthin.

Herb is the Word

When you think of herbs what kind of dishes come to mind?  Maybe you think of basil in a caprese salad or cilantro in salsa.....but overall I tend to think that fresh herbs are underutilized.  There's so many other ways you can use them to really add a punch of flavor.  

Here's some ideas:
  • Add chopped rosemary to your popcorn
  •  Try adding fresh herbs to your salads.  We fill our salads with allll kinds of other greens but forget about herbs.  Cilantro is great and brightens up any boring salad.  Or how about a fun play on a Vietnamese spring roll...ever had one? The kind that are cold and have shrimp, (or other proteins) veggies, and herbs all rolled up in rice paper. You could mimic those flavors by adding basil and mint to your salad with carrots, cucumbers, and shrimp.
Marinating

I'm sure you know this already, but marinating is the best!  That plain ass chicken would be waaaay better given a little time in a marinade first (then even better if you use one of the flavorful cooking techniques mentioned earlier) Sometimes I think people over complicate it in their head thinking they need to follow an exact recipe with a million ingredients, but just look around your pantry and fridge and I'm sure you'll have plenty of things you can pair together to whip up something tasty.  

Some of my favorite ingredients to use are:
  • Acids (citrus, vinegar)
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • Seasonings
  • Herbs
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salad dressings
  • Soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • Dijon mustard
Some other things to remember is that you don't always need to marinate for hours and hours. Even an hour will do you better than nothing.  And marinating isn't just for meats!Try marinating beans and veggies too.

When I Dip You Dip We Dip....and Sauce
Sauces and dips can make even the most boring foods more exciting to eat.  I'll eat ANYTHING if I can have it with aioli.  It's great as a dip for roasted veggies, slathering on burgers, chicken, and fishcakes....literally anything! 

But I guess there are some other things besides aioli that are pretty good too 😜..........
  • Salsas
  • Simple pan sauces
  • Aiolis (in case you hadn't picked up on that earlier
  • Hummus
  • Babaganoush 
  • Pesto
  • Romesco
  • Vinaigrettes  
  • Mustard
  • Chimichurri
....and so much more!

Drop Some Acid!

Adding a touch of acid can be soooo beneficial to food and in my opinion is forgotten the most. It brightens the flavors of food and can help cut through richness in creamy/fatty things.

  • A squeeze of lemon over salad greens with some olive oil makes for an easy dressing
  • Citrus (both the juice and zest) adds some freshness to cream sauces and aiolis (cuts the richness as mentioned earlier)
  • Acid can also be added in the form of pickled items (think pickled onion on a street taco) for an extra pop of flavor.
Texture with Crunch

Having a variety of textures in my food is important to me.  I can't do just a big plate of soft food....I need a little crunch for interest!  

  • Add roasted chickpeas to your salads in place of croutons.   You can season them a million different ways.
  • Add nuts and seeds to your salads.  I'm always adding sunflower seeds.  
  • Try adding toasted nuts to your rice (whether it be the actual grain rice, cauliflower, or broccoli the idea is the same)  My go to picks are toasted almonds and pine nuts.  That little added crunch makes all the difference.



.Well there you have it folks.  Hopefully this helps spark some ideas on how to keep your healthy food from being boring as f***.  What do you do to keep your food interesting?


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A Christmas Traditions List

Ahhhh...traditions, I'm a real sucker for them.  There's nothing I love more than having set things to look forward to every holiday season.  It makes things that much more magical to me!  I'm also one of these weird detail orientated freaks who loves to know what other people do.  Like I'm the weirdo who asks my coworker what they ate for dinner the night before and dives into their childhood memories ...some might call it nosy, I call it curious.



My love of traditions and knack for being nosy has collided together with this holiday post.  I asked people what their holiday traditions are to compile a list of ideas to share.  Whether you are actively looking to start traditions and need some inspiration, or you just like to know whats what with everyone else out there....I got you covered.



First I'm going to start with my own holiday traditions.....

Festive Friday



I don't think holiday clothing should be just for Christmas Day and Ugly Sweater Parties.  Extend the holiday spirit by wearing it all  month long!  I instated "Festive Friday" at my job.  Every Friday the whole office (well....the fun ones) all wear our Christmas gear.  Ont the last Friday, the office is open but nobody really comes in so we take it a step further and wear our PJs








Christmas Crumb Cake



The first Christmas after my parents divorce it was just my mom, myself, and my older sister just above me.  I made crumb cake for Christmas morning for something light to eat while we opened gifts (well, as light as a cake laden in butter can be at least) and going forward....it just stuck.  Now Christmas morning wouldn't be the same without it.  Even though we all live apart now, I still make it every year and see that they get a small pan to take home.





Tour the Trees



Growing up we spent all our holidays with my dads side of the family. While I could do without most of the traditions (the Christmas morning talent show starring all 467 cousins.....hard pass) one that I really loved was Tour the Trees.  In place of our normal Sunday dinners at my Grandparents house, we spent Sundays going to all the different aunts and uncles houses to see their houses all decorated for Christmas.  Each house put out appetizers and I just remember thinking it was so much fun.  Some Sundays we doubled up and did two families based off what side of town everybody lived in (we were pretty spread out so it was easier to lump the East side houses together into one night so there was less driving each week)  This isn't something I continued but would love to in the future with my sisters.


Adult Dinner

It's not as XXX as the name may sound. This is another tradition from my childhood that I have only done once but I think is a good idea.  Each year all the aunts and uncles had an adult Christmas dinner party.  It was literally the only gathering of the year where all the 7464373 cousins werent running around.  They ate dinner and had a white elephant gift exchange. I just always liked the idea of them having their own little party. 




Cousin Sleepover



The first Saturday of December for the last 6 years or so I have had my nieces over for a sleepover. The activities have varied a little over the years but a few of them seem to have become staples.  We go look at Christmas lights, play games, do our nails, and watch movies.  It's casual and relaxed but always fun.  I look forward to it every year!


One of my nieces at the very first sleepover


Boozy Bike Ride



I started this tradition myself 4 years ago.  On Christmas I get on my bike with a drinky drank in hand (cup holder actually) and peddle around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights.  Sure, you could do this any night of season, but I find it to be extra magical on Christmas Eve. You smell the food of people cooking their holiday feasts, hear the laughter and bustle of people gathering to celebrate with their families and friends....it can't be beat.  And when I really like the decor of a house, I ring my little bell at them. This year I'm taking it a step further and leaving small thank you card print outs with a candy cane left in their mailbox.  I thought it would be nice to let people know that their effort is appreciated and enjoyed.


Also, last year my friend and coworker made me a shirt for my birthday to wear for my bike ride.  It says "Too Lit to Quit" and I absolutely adore it!



*Of course, this idea can be made more family friendly. Swap the booze for some hot chocolates to go and round up the kiddos.*


Our Tradition Is There's No Tradition



I was never a fan of the idea of repeating the old ham, turkey, mashed potato business for Christmas dinner.  Instead, my family does something new each year.  We'e done Mexican food, Greek, Spanish tapas, soups in bread bowls, southern food.....you name it! It's really fun to have the tradition of variety...if that makes sense.  It's really fun getting the chance to write a new  menu every year.



The Razr Box



My very first cell phone waaay back in 2006 was a pink Razr cell phone.  My mom saved the box as it was a good size for small Christmas gifts.  She wrapped a gift in it that year and every year since.  Now it has become it's own tradition. Whoever gets a gift from her in that box has to give it back to her so she can use it the next year.  It's just a silly little tradition but I find it funny.




BLT for Santa 

In my family, we never left Santa cookies, he always got a BLT. My mom used to say that he was sick of sweet stuff and would be happy to have a sandwich instead.  I of course didn't put two and two together that BLTs were my dads favorite...

The first Christmas that The Boy and I were together he got me this BLT ornament and it has become one of my favorites because if its meaning behind it.




Enough of mine, here are some traditions other people submitted to me


"I put an advent calandar out every year I made that has little envelopes with every day of December. I put candy, small toy or note with what we will be doing that day in each one (visit Santa, look at lights, things like that)"





"The whole extended family gets together as a group to go cut down our Christmas trees."



"We eat Mexican Food every Christmas Eve"



"I start baking cookies in early November and freeze them to giveaway in cute packaging to family/friends/coworkers."


"Every 1st weekend of December is Grinchmas in our house.  We make a roast (roast beast) and hash brown casserole (Who hash) and watch the Grinch. My Christmas Decorations are all Grinch, we love him."







"Christmas Eve we watch movies and I make appetizers to snack on all day."



"My husband and I take a picture in front of our Christmas tree each year in our Christmas pajamas, which is probably my favorite tradition.  When our dog was with us he was in the pictures too so to have so many of him is everything! And now of course the baby.  Such a fun way to see how everyone changes."



"Every Christmas Eve we go out to eat at a diner."



"We do a themed Christmas each year.  We've done sports, Grinch, A Christmas Story, and match the food to whatever it is that year."


"I thrift a mixture of Christmas and non Christmas books, 25 of them for 50c-$1.  They get to unwrap and read one each day in December."

"Christmas morning my brother and I knew we were allowed to come out of our rooms and downstairs to begin opening presents when we heard Christmas music playing throughout the house."

"We open our presents at midnight.  I'm not really sure why, we just always have LOL"

"We always have cinnamon rolls for breakfast before opening presents and going to church."

"Every year my kids and I bake a cake and sing Jesus happy birthday lol  They love that!"

"On Thanksgiving night I give my daughter new Christmas pajamas and other small Christmas items like chapstick and a small toy or book.  It's a fun way to kick off Christmas season"






Sunday, December 15, 2019

8 More Christmas Gifts for the Boring Ass Adult In Your Life

This post contains affiliate links BUT per usual, I only link items that I love and have bought myself or genuinely think are awesome!.

I'm back again for another round of......






Juicing was all the rage about 10 years or so again when everyone was watching documentaries like "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead."  Things settles a bit, but now it's back.  This time though, it's all centered around juicing celery per the research of the man who calls himself The Medical Medium.  One of the keys to his theory on juicing it to introduce heat during the juicing process.  This juicer is the one I own and not only does it work great, but it is a masticating model so you don't have to worry about the juice being subject to any heat



The Boy came home from the annual Man Trip this year raving about the fire pit our friend had. Apparently, because of its design there is NO SMOKE!  You still use wood but don't walk away smelling like a brisket




My sister has this flat top grill an she swears it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE! She loves being able to cook dinner outside and simply be able to scrape it down at the end leaving your kitchen mess free.  Smash burgers, fajitas, bacon....think of all the things you can cook on it!  There are several different models to choose from and many of them are portable for tailgating. You can also buy lids and legs for the portable ones if you don't want to put it on a tabletop.  The one pictured below is meant to be more stationary.




Same sister also swears by her air fryer. Between the flat top and her air fryer she barely has to clean her kitchen! Ok....that's a stretch of the truth....but she does have WAAAAY less dishes to do!  Air fryers cook super fast and gets things amazingly crispy.  This one is extra large capacity which is great for being able to fit dinner for the whole family.  This exact item is on my wishlist this year.





This is an oldie but a goodie.  I got my husband a Sodastream for Christmas about 4 years ago.  He has been using it consistently ever since.  Sparkling water is super trendy right now too.  Between La Croix, Bubbly, Perrier (my personal favorite) and countless other brands, I'm sure you have someone on your list who you see lifting one of those cans to their lips on a consistent basis .  They can save money making their own at home and flavor it however they please!






The Instant Pot is one of those products that has a cult following.  People swear by it and how quickly you can do everything from hard boiling eggs, braising meats, and even making yogurt.  There are a ton of different capacities to choose from to meet the needs of a bachelor all the way to a large family.




The Boy is the one who pointed this gem out to me, a gas pizza oven.  Think of how fun it would be to host a build your own pizza party in your very own backyard! 




The last one is the only thing besides the solo stove that doesn't pertain to food or drinks. Although, you can roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the solo stove...so scratch that....this IS the only gift unrelated to food. (Can you tell I like to eat and drink?) What do you give the person who has everything?  We an ancestry DNA test of course!  It's one of those things you wouldn't necessarily buy for yourself but as a gift it would be fun and full of interesting info.  There are different packages ranging from just ancestry information to ones include helpful health related data.





Check out my list from last year too for more gift ideas for the boring ass adult in your life



Wednesday, November 20, 2019

12 Layer Jello- "The Special Jello"

Growing up, Thanksgiving (and all major holidays actually) were spent at my grandparents on my dads side.  My grandma Helen was an AMAZING cook.  (doesn't everyone say that about their grandma though?)  She put a crazy amount of time into cooking weekly Sunday dinners for 30+ people from scratch, endless church events, and delivering people special meals for their birthday. She had shelves upon shelves on cookbooks and magazine clippings, and several deep freezers full of food. It was truly her biggest joy and hobby.

Grandma Helen had 5 kids, 4 boys and one girl.  Unfortunately, my one aunt did NOT inherit the cooking gene....,at all.  She cooked as little as possible and her offerings at family dinners were simple or store bought.  Despite her lack of cooking schools though, she had one dish that we all looked forward to every single Thanksgiving, her 12 layer jello.  Thanksgiving just wouldn't be the same without it!

Fast forward some years later and actually having cut ties with my dad and subsequently that whole side of the family (makes this whole post sound a little more awkward now doesn't it? lol) I decided that I wanted to make it myself for the nostalgia factor.

Welp, it was a hit, especially with my niece Elsa.  Now every year she asks "are you making the SPECIAL jello!?!?"  How could I not?

Thanksgiving 2014 





So here's the thing about the jello, it's not hard to make,  Jello almost never is.  It just takes time and patience.  I suggest carving out a minimum of 3 hours of your time to getting it done. If you did one layer every 15 minutes you can get it done in that time.  15 minutes between layers is almost always the perfect amount of time for me.  You can't have it be less or the previous layer might not be set enough and then you risk mangling or having them bleed together.  Too firm and then the layers won't "stick" to each other enough and they are more likely to peel apart when you go to slice and serve it.

What we're looking for is mostly set but not super firm.  Know what I mean? As long as you get that part right, the rest of the process is just mixing and pouring.



12 Layer Jello

(1) 3oz box of each flavor:

  • Lime (bottom of dish, first layer you pour)
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Cherry
  • Berry (or whatever you can find in blue)
  • Grape (top layer)
32oz container vanilla yogurt


Starting with the lime and working your way to grape last, dissolve the jello in 1 cup of very  hot water.  

Pour 1/2 cup of the jello into a 9x13 pan, tilting as needed to ensure the entire pan is coated.  

While that layer sets, mix the other 1/2 cup of jello with 1/3 cup of vanilla yogurt.  

After about 15  minutes, check the the previous layer by lightly touching it with your finger.  You want to leave a light fingerprint in it but not have it stick to your finger.  Set, but not overly firm. Once it is properly set, pour the yogurt and jello mix over top, tilting to evenly coat as needed.

Repeat this process for all the flavors. Each flavor will have one regular layer and one cream layer.



Sunday, November 17, 2019

Thanksgiving Shows & Movies Round Up

I've brought this topic up several times over the years, how Thanksgiving gets the shaft in the holiday season. This meme sums it up perfectly.


Don't get it twisted...I'm a Christmas fanatic. But I also feel strongly about giving Thanksgiving it's time to shine too.  

I think part of the reason it gets overlooked is people don't see it as something past a one day celebration. One way I think you can start looking at it as a "season" is through finding other ways to celebrate it.  

While I completely understand that it will most likely never be on the same level as Christmas, we can do better! 

Christmas gets a full month of movies and TV shows dedicated to it....why not Thanksgiving?

Below are a list of some of my personal favorite Thanksgiving shows and movies that I love to watch in the week or some leading up to the big day.



Friends

"The One Where the Underdog Gets Away" S1E9
"The One with the List" S2E8
"The One with the Football" S3E9
"The One with Chandler in the Box" S4E8
"The One with all the Thanksgivings" S5E8
"The One Where Ross Got High" S6E9
"The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs" S7E8
"The One with the Rumor" S8E9
"The One With Rachel's Other Sister" S9E8
"The One with the Late Thanksgiving" S10E8

I knew I had to put Friends at the top of the list.  Besides a questionable episode in season 2, it has a Thanksgiving episode for every season it was on air.  From potatoes 3 ways, Chandler losing a toe, and a trifle made with beef and onions....there's a plethora of Thanksgiving feels to be had.




Roseanne

"We Gather Together" S2E9
"Thanksgiving 1991" S4E10
"Thanksgiving 1994" S7E10
"The Last Thursday in November" S8E8
"Home is Where the Afghan Is" S9E10

There are several Thanksgiving episodes to choose from over the course of Roseanne.  Usually they come with some big revelation, like how Roseanne and Jackie's dad has been cheating on their mom for years and is spending the holiday with his girlfriend, Jackie becomes a cop, Roseanne was conceived out of wedlock, and Bev even comes out as a lesbian.  The first two episodes listed are BY FAR my favorites, but all are worth giving a watch for the sake of Thanksgiving spirit. (On second thought....the last two are pretty bad, you can totally skip them)    The thing I appreciate about these episodes (and actually the show as a whole) is they give a somewhat realistic view of the average family at the holidays.  The ever changing family dynamic and drama,  and the struggle to pull it all together for the sake of family and tradition. Blue collar humor at it's best.





Pepper Ann- "Thanksgiving Dad" S1E10

Hopefully some fellow 90s kids out there appreciate this as much as I do.  Pepper Ann is a gem of a cartoon that is often overlooked and underrated but goes down as one of my favorite kid shows of all time.  In this episode Pepper Ann's mom and neurotic aunt attempt to redeem themselves after a disastrous Thanksgiving past that is even more humorous now as adult. The main plot centers around Pepper Ann and Moose awaiting a surprise from their dad which of course results in plenty of day dreaming by our favorite 7th grader. I have to give the writers kudos for always doing such a good job of portraying divorce so well for a kids show...which wasn't too common back in those days.




Mama's Family- "An Ill Wind" S3E9

I honestly can't remember how I first discovered Mama's Family as a kid, but however it happened I'm sure glad it did.  I could only watch it during summer break because it only aired at 1AM on CW.  I would nap in the afternoon just to make sure I would make it to through it's entire 2 hour window.


The Thanksgiving episode centers around a Tornado, a broken gravy boat, and rum balls. Thelma, Bubba, Iola, and the whole gang are a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving list of shows.





The Cosby Show- "Cliff's Wet Adventure" S6E9

I have watched this episode every year without fail for at least 5 years.  The running gag throughout the episode is that Cliff is sent out in the rain to buy some missing ingredients.  Between forgetting some things and other disasters, it turns into several trips.  The main plot of the episode revolves around Denise inviting Paula (Olivia's bio mom) to dinner while she is in town for a layover.  As a kid I thought Lisa Bonnet was the most gorgeous woman ever so I liked that there was a holiday episode focused on her character.




Planes Trains & Automobiles

Let's just start off by acknowledging that anything starring Steve Martin and John Candy is bound to be good....and this movie does not disappoint! It's pretty much everything we love about 80s comedies with a hint of holiday. Ad exec Neal (Steve Martin) is trying to get home to his family for the holidays but a giant blizzard hits.  He ends up begrudgingly teaming up with Del (John Candy) to try and make their way home anyway possible.  They're polar opposites, hilarity ensues, and it ends with a little tug at the heart strings.  Just what you want out of a holiday comedy.





A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

I had to hit you with an obvious classic.  What's thanksgiving without watching Snoopy and Charlie Brown put together a feast of popcorn, toast, and jelly beans? Like usual, Peppermint Patty is a rude and entitled bitch, but considering it's pivotal to the story line so I will sort of set aside that rant for the time being.  




Gilmore Girls-  A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving S3E9

Those crazy Gilmore Girls committed themselves to four different thanksgiving gatherings.  Between Richard and Emily's, Sookie, Luke, and the Kim's they are running all over town trying to see everyone.  While entertaining enough on it's own, the real star of this episode is Sookie,  For the very first time she has relinquished control of cooking dinner and let Jackson and his friends take the reigns.  She is horrified that they are deep frying it and as a result gets more and more drunk on margaritas to cope. Oh! AND Kirk gets a cat. It's an episode not to be missed! 





The Wonder Years- The Ties that Bind S4E7

This episode doesn't provide a ton of comedic relief (any, really) but it's a good episode.  One of the reasons I love The Wonder Years so much is because it goes a step further than the typical "coming of age" series by really being able to dive into the growth and lessons through the commentary of adult Kevin.  In this episode, Jack has recently taken a new job that requires him to travel.  He gets stuck and can't make it home in time for Thanksgiving dinner.  Kevin watches closely as his mom tries (in typical 60s wife fashion) to put on a smile and cook and serve dinner as normal for the rest of the family even though he can sense she is deeply disappointed.  I won't go into all the details but Kevin comes to the realization for the first time that they are more than just "mom and dad."  They are also Jack and Norma, a couple first and foremost.





Garfield's Thanksgiving

Coming at you with a lesser known Thanksgiving cartoon.  Garfield is taken to the vet the day before Thanksgiving and to his horror is put on a diet! Jon has the hots for the vet and invites her to Thanksgiving dinner for a date. She's uninterested and cold but agrees to it anyway. Jon can't cook, Garfield is crankier than normal due to his diet, and you can pretty much guess how the rest of it goes.  But in case you can't....it's not a bad way to spend 20 minutes and give it a watch.




The King of Queens- Supermarket Story S1E10

Ahhh King of Queens. Another show I love that seems to be overshadowed and underrated. I love the Heffernans and Arthur is the perfect unruly sidekick that every show needs.  In this episode, they go shopping for dinner the day before.  Carrie planned to just pick up prepared meals but Arthur guilts her into making a meal from scratch for the first time. 




Well, there ya have it! Will you give shining the light on Thanksgiving a shot this year?