Friday, January 30, 2009

Superbowl Grub

I have to admit that I'm not that into football, which is weird because I love sports in general. There's something about the constant start and stop of the game, the giant men crushing each other, and the fanfare that goes along with the sport that I just don't like. I'm a social watcher, if there's a get together revolving around a game, or if I ever get tickets to go, I'm all about it, but going for the love of the sport, I can't say I have.

What I do love is cooking for the big event. It's a great excuse to eat appetizers in place of a meal, because really, aren't appetizers the best part anyway?

Here are some of my past superbowl-friendly foods:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Doctored Up: Baked Beans

Born in 1913, my Grandma's formidable years took place during the Great Depression, and you could tell. She was always one to cut coupons and take sugar packets from restaurants (don't all Grandma's do this?), taking home leftovers in a doggy bag, even if there was only one bite left. Her frugality showed in the kitchen as well, she was able to "doctor up" something that cost two dollars and make it taste like a million dollars. My mother does this too; I'm beginning to think it's something ingrained in mother's minds, the ability to stretch a buck. I'm attempting to learn it as well.

My favorite meal as a kid, the one I requested often for my Birthday was hot dogs and beans. Though it's not the healthiest option (I did find gluten-free, casein free, uncured turkey hot dogs from Applegate Farms that are only 45 calories each recently!), I still enjoy it. Whether it was my Mom or my Grandma making it, it was the best. This isn't really a recipe, but the way in which the matriarchs in the family make a can of two dollar beans into a tasty treat.

Grandma's Doctored Up Baked Beans (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 28 oz can of baked beans, I used Bush's Original Recipe
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard (yellow works too)
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon molasses
2 strips of bacon, cut in half (I use this kind)

Preheat oven to 375. Place the beans, onion, mustard, ketchup and mollasses in a dutch oven or casserole dish and carefully mix until combined. Taste if you'd like and adjust ingredients. Add the strips of bacon on top and cook for 25-30 minutes until the bacon is cooked through.

Poor Henry can smell bacon from a mile away.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Honor of Grandma

I'm sorry for the lack of posts lately. My ninety-five year old Grandma, the one who I speak about often on this blog, passed away last Wednesday night. Fortunately, my Dad (who she absolutely idolized) and I were there with her when it happened. I was talking about it today and it hit me how cyclical life is: less than a year ago I was witnessing the sheer beauty that is birth with the arrival of my niece. Now, just a few days ago, I witnessed the death of my dear Grandmother; two experiences you cannot describe without experiencing them yourself. When it comes down to it, when my Grandmother died it was horrific, but there was a moment, right before my Grandmother went, that we locked eyes -- it's a moment I will be forever grateful for.

My apologies for the depressing thoughts on a food blog, but the title of this blog came from her. My Grandmother is the one who called me "the good eatah." Along with my father, sister and mother, I spoke at my Grandmother's funeral service and I'd like to share what I said:

A lot of my heartache feels selfish. No one will ever love me quite like her. No one will call me "My Lizza." No on will dote over me like she did, calling me in the middle of the week, leaving a voicemail and saying "Hi Kwepie Doll. Call me when you get a chance. I love you." No one will send me notes in the mail with a ten dollar bill enclosed that read "I hope you're being a good eatah" signing them, "Love" - always in quotations, like it was her supposed name, "Grandma."

No one will refer to my dog, whose name is Henry, as Peter, or Oscar, or that little devil. Not because she couldn't remember his name, she was sharp as a tack up until the very end, but because she thought it was funny, and I did too.

We had a special relationship; we were "buddies" as she called us. We had little secrets, like the time last summer when she could barely walk after breaking her hip, she had one of her nurses drive her to my condo to surprise me, just because she wanted to see it. No one ever knew about that.

Growing up I couldn't have asked for a better Grandma. While getting sick was no fun as a kid, it meant a day with Grandma, being pampered, watching the Price is Right with her and Grandpa, eating hamburgers and having her rub my back, singing her signature song: Ah, ah, baby. No one took care of me quite like her.

She had two single beds in her room, one being hers and the other was mine, always ready for a sleepover. I remember the last time we had a sleepover, a little over a year ago on Christmas Eve; to give the visiting nurses a night off, I offered to stay overnight with her, to keep an eye on her after breaking her hip. This wasn't at all noble of me, I wanted her company more than ever at that moment, for it was a Christmas when the A-man was serving in Iraq and I knew her love would make me forget that.

Right after Grandma passed away, I was holding her hand, sobbing and the first thing that came to mind was, "you almost made it." This was another secret we had, once I got engaged to the A-man, Grandma told me that she could go now, that she could die and that it was okay because I was going to be taken care of. I obviously didn't like that statement, and told her that she better make it to my wedding day. Four and a half months shy of the date, I know it's okay for she more than approves of the man I'll be marrying.

It's uncanny that it was exactly twelve years ago on this day, January 24th that my Grandpa, her husband Sam, passed away. There's no doubt in my mind that they're both together now, looking at the family they created, content on the love they gave and on the impact they made in their lives.

Life sure won't be the same without her.

In honor of Grandma and the way she impacted my life through food, I share with you recipes of her own creation, or those inspired by her:

Grandma's Stuffed Cabbage

Mom's Stuffed Pumpkin

Lithuanian Kugeli

American Chop Suey

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Phriday: Dog Sled

We learned this past vacation that Henry and Elsa (my parents dog) probably don't have any Husky in their genes. The A-man decided to MacGyver up some rope and attach it to the dog's harnesses and see if they could bring me around on a sled. It didn't quite work, but it sure was fun trying. I have first-person video of the ordeal; perhaps that will make it for next week's Video Phriday.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Simple Soup

I unfortunately don't have a lot of time to write about this soup, so I will keep it simple: it's mighty good. For the time it makes to put it together and for simplicity of the ingredients, it's stellar. I used my Vitamix to "chop" the vegetables, but you can do it by hand, or with a food processor. It's quite good cold as well and taste very similar to gazpacho.

Simple Chunky Vegetable Soup (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, paleo)
serves 2 as a meal

1 8 oz can of diced tomatoes (or one large tomato if it's in season)
3 stalks of celery, leaves included
1/2 yellow onion
4 smallish carrots
1 heaping cup of fresh spinach
salt and pepper if needed

Place all of the ingredients in your vitamix or food processor and blend (on level 3 for about 30 seconds) or pulse (until food is chopped, but not pureed). Eat now cold. Or, place in a saucepan, add about a cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer for about ten minutes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wedding Musings

In case anyone's curious, this is a quick snapshot of part of the grounds where the wedding will be. It's an estate on 90 acres of land with sheep and llama and lots of natural beauty.

The wedding is now under five months away and it has me thinking:

I'm trying not to be one of those brides. You know the kind: obsessing over whether the tablecloths will clash with the color of grass that time of year, the kind who goes on extreme diets so that she looks emaciated on her wedding day, or the kind that freaks out that her bridesmaids have tattoos. Thankfully, I could really care less about those sorts of details. The goal for the A-man and I on our wedding day is to profess our love to one another in front of the people that mean most to us in the world, and for our guests to have a whole lot of fun.

However, I am a bit neurotic about one thing: I have a deep desire to feel at my best on my wedding day(and really, what bride doesn't?); the keyword there is feel. Sure I want to look good too, but I believe they go hand in hand: if you feel good, you will look good.

Here's my goal: I want to be in the state of mind to fully enjoy the day, to jump-out-of-bed feeling energetic yet calm, muscles feeling tight but not sore, totally aware, not feeling hungry and not feeling full, skin hydrated, with my heart beating at a calm rhythm. In order to achieve this goal I know my life has to be in perfect balance. It's a balance that I would like to achieve daily, but if I can do it for a few months before the wedding, it's a good start.

1. I have to be eating right, which in my case, along with being gluten and casein free, also means no sugar, very little caffeine and eating loads of vegetables. I'm attempting to figure out if carbs are the best thing for me too.

2. I have to be physically well and in an attempt to be that way I will try to keep up on taking my vitamins daily and staying away from alochol which I know knocks my immune system down a bit.

3. I want to be in the best shape I've ever been in. Not the skinniest, but the most fit. I have fond memories of the way my body felt when I was deep in college tennis season: running and playing tennis for at least three hours a day. I don't have time for such things now, but I will outline my exercise plan come February (meanwhile, I've been chronicling my workouts on the sidebar of this blog)

4. Stress has to be at a minimum. This will be difficult to achieve due to the stress involved in planning such an event, but relying on family and friends to help out and dealing with my stress through yoga, deep breathing and venting to friends will help. Massage is only something I've received a few times, but surely makes a difference for me. Accupuncture is also something I'm interested in.

Anyone out there with stress-free suggestions? Tips on feeling good? Exercises they love? I'm all ears.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Photo Phriday: Sleepy Henry

Henry's really great in the car; when we travel short distances he tends to curl up next to me in the passenger seat with his head resting on my hand, falling asleep peacefully. Well, he had his first significant road trip (5+ hours) after Christmas. The A-man and I drove up to Maine to visit his family for a few days and we had to get a barrier to keep Henry from coming to the front seat and distracting us. He didn't mind being in the back too much, except for this one time when he was so lonely back there that he rested his head on the barrier and fell asleep standing up.

Oh yeah, and there was that other time during the trip when he just stared at us for twenty minutes straight:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Paleo Friendly: Spaghetti Squash with Spinach Walnut Pesto

My friend and co-worker Carol has been following the elimination aka caveman aka paleo(lithic) diet for close to a month now. Her original intentions were to see if she had any trigger foods, or allergies, that were affecting an ailment of hers, but ended up losing weight and feeling significantly better as well. I've been interested in the paleo diet for quite some time too (please note, this isn't a diet in the sense that people go on it to lose weight), as I was the one that suggested it to her. After being on the diet for two days she approached me and said "how did you do this!?" to which my reply was "well, I haven't actually done it. I just heard about it." But after a few days of getting over cravings, she's stated it's actually really simple to stick to. So, I think someday I may dabble in it and see how it makes me feel. I agree with the research and theory behind it.

In fact, I'm really interested in the topic, but don't have time to write a lengthy post on it now, so I will just post a paleo-friendly recipe that I whipped up the other day. I'm kind of obsessed with it actually, as it mimics a linguine with pesto without the refined carbs and dairy. And inspired by Carol's journey, I plan on going through my recipes and labeling those appropriate with a "paleo" tag.

Spaghetti Squash with Spinach Walnut Pesto (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo)

1 cup of "meat" from spaghetti squash (to bake, cut in half, scrape out seeds and place on cookie sheet at 375 for 35 minutes rind side up and scrape out meat after squash has cooled)
1 loosely packed cup of spinach
1/4 cup walnuts
2 small, or one large clove of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix the spinach, walnuts and garlic in a mini food processor until blended and add olive oil until a pesto forms (you may need more of less olive oil). In a skillet over medium heat, add the spaghetti squash and the pesto and cook for five minutes or so until the flavors are incorporated. Serve as a meal, or as a side dish.

I ate a completely paleo meal and didn't realize it until now! The meat is a turkey tenderloin with almond meal, cranberry and pecan stuffing (with some thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper -- though I don't know if that's paleo). I simply placed the "stuffing" on the flattened out tenderloin, wrapped, closed with toothpicks and baked for 25 minutes at 350. I think Henry's more interested in the turkey over the spaghetti squash.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

7 Randoms

My sister of a k8, a cat, a mission fame recently tagged me to do a "7 Random Things" meme and I'm currently procrastinating, so here it goes:

1. Throughout the years I have been diagnosed with a long list of ailments: scoliosis, asthma, raynauds disease, a heart murmur, a short eustachian tube, a hyperactive thyroid and borderline high blood pressure.

Luckily, my scoliosis doesn't really bother me anymore (I was diagnosed with it in junior high). My lung capacity isn't great, but my asthma (diagnosed as a child) has pretty much gone away. The raynauds disease is basically just a nuisance. The heart murmur was only discovered three years ago during an annual physical and (hopefully) has no serious repercussions. My short eustachian tube makes flying painful and annoying and caused me to perforate my eardrum when scuba diving (I could get surgery for it, but I don't miss scuba diving that much). My hyperactive thyroid was discovered by a GI doctor a few years ago, but was never treated (it's not terribly overactive, just slightly) and my blood pressure hasn't been checked since cutting coffee out of my diet three weeks ago, so hopefully that made a difference.

Medically, I'm just strange. But I count my lucky stars that all of these ailments are easily lived with.

2. I'm the runt of my family at 5'5 1/2. My sister is 5'8. My mother is 5'8. And my father is 6'0.

3. My wedding is exactly five months away today. I've already had nightmares regarding the ceremony and forgetting my vows. I'm worried about it raining (it's supposed to be outside) and I haven't even sent the save-the-dates out yet. But! I know how lucky I am to be marrying the love of my life; if there's a hurricane, if I completely flub up my vows, if the save the dates get lost in the mail, it won't really matter as long as we're standing there together, saying "I do."

4. I get really pissy if a few days pass and I haven't worked out.

5. Henry and I went for a walk today that was only supposed to be 45 minutes. It ended up being 1 1/2 hours long because I forgot my keys, got locked out of my place, and my mother had to drive from 15 miles away to open up the place with her extra set of keys (reminder: my parents are saints).

6. My sister is acting as the celebrant (ie she's marrying the A-man and I) at the wedding. Massachusetts has a great law that let's individuals get one day liscenses to marry people. I did the same for her wedding.

7. I own close to fifty sweaters. I think it's time to donate some.

I tag everyone that reads this, and especially my favorite twenty-something, female, gluten-free bloggers: Jenny of Sugar and Spice and My Gluten Free Life, Ali of Sorry I Can't Eat That, Marlow of Gluten Hates Me But I'm Surviving, and Jill Elise of Hey! That Tastes Good.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tastes Like Chicken: Dry Style Mushrooms

A new year, a new set of goals; just one of mine is to eat more vegetables.

I'd like to think that I'm in a constant state of evaluation, looking at my life and seeing what needs change, but I'm also just like the majority of people this time of year and the new year has motivated me to reevaluate and resolve, again, to do things differently, to live a better life, to reach my goals throughout 2009. I have a mental list (though I should write these things down, and plan on doing so for my next post) of the things I'd like to achieve, but this small goal -- eating more vegetables (and in this case, fungi) -- got a kick start this morning with some hearty mushrooms.

I already eat more vegetables than your average American, but I'd like veggies to play more of the leading role on my plate, and act less like just a side dish. I'm not turning vegetarian or vegan, I'd just like to eat less meat: for health and environmental reasons. So making mushrooms with this technique, mimicking the texture of chicken is a great recipe to get that goal started.

The first photo on this post if of a mixture of raw mushrooms, the second photo was taken after they were cooked and just above, a mushroom scramble or sorts. Mushrooms have a lot of water in them, and when cooked with this technique (adapted by Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) become, in a good way, more chewy.

Mushrooms Dry Style (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

4 oz mixed mushrooms (mine were mini potabella, porchini and button)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

In a pan with a tight-fitting lid on medium-high heat, add the oil, the mushrooms, and the salt and pepper. Mix slightly, turn to medium low heat and cover with the lid and let cook for 6-7 minutes. Then, take off the lid, stir again and put back to medium high heat and cook for another 3 minutes undisturbed until the water has evaporated. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally until they get crispy brown.

Serve on their own, in a salad, in an omelet, or whichever way you please.

Doesn't Henry look like he's wincing in this photo?