Archives for category: recipe

On my new crusade to save money, I have been scrutinizing my spending habits. A year or so ago, my doctor told me I had high cholesterol. One of the ways I chose to combat that was by adding oatmeal to my diet (it didn’t hurt, btw – my cholesterol dropped 60 points in a couple months, although oatmeal wasn’t the only measure I took). I was buying boxes of pre-made, microwavable oatmeal at the health food store. They were about $5 a box and contained six packets of oatmeal.

At the grocery store not too long ago, I spotted this in the health food section:

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Organic oats, ELEVEN servings for $1.40. That’s right. Twelve cents per serving!! Versus almost a dollar per serving in the packets! I bought the bag.

Obviously, I needed to doctor up the boring oats. I played with a variety of additions that I had on hand until I found a combination that tastes good and keeps me full until lunch. Most mornings, I add a packet of stevia, a splash of maple syrup, some flax seeds, sliced almonds, dried berries, and apple pie spice. The prep takes me all of four minutes, and it’s kind of fun. I pour almond milk over the mixture and let it soak until I get to work. Then I pop it in the microwave for 75 seconds, and voila! My cheap-a$$ breakfast is ready.

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Even if you add the cost of the almond milk, stevia, and other miscellany it is still cheaper than $1 per serving. Who knew saving money could be delicious?

I read an article a while back about chefs in New York who were cooking up delicious recipes while under the influence of The Pot.  While it was interesting, and certainly explained the whole cupcake fad, it didn’t provide much insight into exactly how one puts together a Brand New Recipe.  What were the steps? Are there even steps?  Is it more art than science?  More science than art?

Last weekend, I decided to take a stab a creating a recipe of my very own.  Since I don’t participate in Illegal Drugs, I was left to rely on my own creativity and, er, skills.  This is what I came up with:

DELICIOUS BLACK BEANS

Since I enjoy steps,  I will include some steps for beginner recipe inventors (like me):

STEP 1) Pick something to make.  Amendment:  Pick something EASY to make.  We’re aiming for success here.  Remember Icarus.  Save that Coq au Vin attempt for another day, fancypants.

STEP 2) Consult The Internet for many versions of your recipe to rip off.  Make note of ingredients that make repeat appearances, and approximate amounts/measurements.

STEP 3) Start cooking! In my case, I knew I wanted to make a spicy, flavorful black bean dip.  So, I started with a can of black bean and a can of diced tomatoes.  I sent them into the blender with a teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder.  I added a few shakes of garlic powder, sea salt, and a liberal pinch of cayenne.

STEP 4) Secure an honest taste tester.  My boyfriend was was nearby, and I know I can depend on his reliable, albeit charming and Southern, honesty (“I don’t really care for that”=”This is disgusting”).  He dutifully took a corn chip piled with the blended beans, and chewed thoughtfully.  “Eh,” he finally determined with a shrug.  “What does it need?” I followed him, “Corn? Something sweet?  Or spicy?? Maybe it should be spicier?”

STEP 5) Revise, taste.  Repeat.  I tried the dip myself and found it to be blander than I’d hoped.  The consistency was also too thin.  I added two chipotle chilies in adobo sauce to the blender and gave it another whirl.  While they gave it nice, smoky kick, they didn’t help the fact that it more closely resembled soup than dip.

STEP 6) Use The Science.  At this point, I knew I had to do something to thicken this up.  It also needed texture.  To that end, I diced an onion and sauteed it over medium heat.  After it was translucent, I dumped in the “dip”.  To fix the consistency, first I would invoke evaporation – how much could this thing cook down? If that failed, I would try adding a bit of cornstarch.  Either way, I had A Plan.  If I hadn’t had A Plan, I would have consulted The Internet for A Plan to rip off.

STEP 6.5) Take a leap.  After it had cooked for a bit, I was thunderstruck by a Great Idea.  I spooned a small amount of The Dip into a bowl, grinning in anticipation. The smell of the cooking chipotles jarred loose the distant memory of a meal I had enjoyed years ago while on vacation in Mexico.  It was shrimp served in a luxurious, buttery chipotle-cinnamon sauce.  Cinnamon!!  Of course!  I eagerly sprinkled the spice onto the beans and lifted it to my mouth in triumph…only to be bitterly, bitterly disappointed.  However, it was worth a try! (Maybe another day, cinnamon-chipotle sauce!)

STEP 7) Fail or gloriously succeed.  Dubiously watching the beans bubble in the saucepan, I was fully prepared for either of these outcomes.  The sink was piled high with spoons and small bowls, smeared with the remains of The Dip at various stages.  It had cooked down to a more dip-like consistency, and the chipotles and cayenne had melded nicely to create a rich, smoky layer of spice.  But it was still missing something.  Suddenly, something from the dusty, forgotten reaches of my brain sang weakly out:  Sweeeeeetness, moron!!  It needs sweetness!

I made a face.  Sweetness?  Really?  I mean, I guess I could try it.  As I rummaged for sweeteners, I considered the idea carefully.  I HAD put a whole can of tomatoes into the beans, and a time-honored Italian trick to perfecting some sauces is to add sugar or carrots to bring depth of flavor to the tomatoes.  I ended up choosing honey.  I spooned some beans into a ramekin (out of bowls at this point) and added a tiny drop of honey.  Upon tasting it, my eyes widened in disbelief.  It was EXACTLY what the dip was lacking!  I added a teaspoon of honey to the beans on the stove and brought a loaded chip back to the Boyfriend.  He took a bite, then gave me the thumbs up.

I had done it!! I had  invented a recipe!!

And now, you can too.  No drugs required.

 

When I was a little kid, one of my favorite toys was my chemistry set. I loved “conducting experiments” with the neatly marked white bottles (of real chemicals! This was the 80’s, folks, we didn’t even have to wear bike helmets), making red liquid turn into blue liquid, making things bubble or crystalize, peering at blades of grass with my microscope – I felt like a real scientist, and I reveled in the magnificent sense of possibility.  My poor parents gazed on, probably thinking one day I’d be running a research lab at MIT.  Sorry, guys!

These days, the mad scientist in me gets unleashed in the kitchen. Things have not changed so much. I still love “conducting experiments”, albeit now my bottles are spices and herbs, and I can be found peering critically into the oven window rather than down a microscope. This week’s experiment was The Loaf. I read about The Loaf in a blog a couple of weeks ago and the name of it – “Life-Changing Loaf” – dazzled me with its promise.  

I began collecting the ingredients excitedly.  “I’m making a weird bread,” I needlessly explained to the kid at the health food store who poured psyllium husks into a bulk bag for me.  He smiled kindly, definitely thinking, “Whatever, weirdo.”

“I’m making a weird bread!” I announced to the boyfriend yesterday before commencing the experiment.  He shot me a quizzical look and went back to his work, immune by now to my “experiments” and behavioral oddities. 

Later, we both peered down at the decidedly unattractive mixture. “It’s a weird bread,” I offered again, this time apologetically.

The Loaf, pre-oven (yes, those are chocolate chips cookies behind it because I am nothing if not a study in contradictions)

So The Loaf, in its nascency, is definitely not cute. When I explained to the boyfriend that the loaf required a full night of sitting on the counter, “resting”‘, he announced that under no circumstances would he be partaking in The Loaf.   

So now it’s just you and me, Loaf. 

Ever the optimist, I popped Loaf in the oven this morning.  Filled with hope, I waited eagerly for Loaf to transform from a slimy mess into a delicious, golden rectangle of nutrition. I waited for it to deliver on its promise. And behold:

The Loaf!

It sort of did!! I was afraid that biting into it would ruin the magic of this victory (it looked sort of like the picture from the blog!), but no! It’s dense, chewy, and pretty darn good!! That’s right! Score one for science today, kids! 

The boyfriend still turns his nose up at The Loaf. More for me. 

With the holidays fast approaching, I’m doing what I can to eat as “clean” as humanly possible.  See, I realize the caloric onslaught will be unavoidable (technically, I could avoid it, but that’s not any fun), so I’m doing what I can to minimize the damage.  One of my stop-gap measures has been having a green smoothie for breakfast.  It’s cheap, it’s pretty quick, and by God it feels healthy going down.

I normally prepare my smoothie shortly before I leave for work, after my boyfriend has already left.  Last week though, I had to be in early so I was in the kitchen blending away when my boyfriend was leaving.  He peered at the blender, a look of unmasked disgust across his face.  I was happily shoving another handful of spinach into the frothy green concoction.

“You know,” he remarked, “this process usually takes place inside the body.  It’s called mastication and digestion.”

“You know,” I calmly replied, “this process (gesturing to my blender) usually takes place when you’re already at work, so I don’t have to hear commentary from the peanut gallery.”

Zing! Hee-hee!

There are a million different green smoothie recipes out there. Mine is the down and dirty, cheap as sh!t version.  I can’t always afford to buy organic produce, so I’ve pared this down to ingredients I can reliably find for a reasonable price.

Handful or two of spinach

If you have it, maybe a little kale although romaine is a little more palatable

Two apples, cored and chopped.

One banana, cut into pieces.

Extras: juice of half a lemon, a stalk of celery, a pear if I feel fancy.

I chuck these into my blender a bit at a time with a good amount of water, and blend the crap out of them until it’s like a green milkshake.

Then I drink it.  Allllll of it.  It tastes pretty good, in spite of my boyfriend’s snarky comments (he won’t even try it, so what does he know!). The trick is to really blend it well.  If you have a Vitamixer: USE IT, fancy-pants!

Let’s raise a glass of green goodness to our health, happiness, and ability to zip our jeansgreen without pliers and prayer come January!

Xoxo,

SY