Eating at home

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I ended up in defense mode this morning when someone told me that I was able to cook healthy food for myself and my husband because I didn’t work.  This was her response to my recommending different ways to prepare vegetables that she might find palatable.  I should know better than to try to get a grown woman to eat vegetables because I don’t know how to do that.  What I do know is that I love to cook and this love of cooking has allowed me to figure out lots of ways that I enjoy eating lots of different things.  And yes, I work and have many interests but my main one is food.  So there is that too.

How is one “supposed to eat?” It’s not complicated but in this world, it seems to be so complicated.  Plus, there are many tomes written on it so I can only tell you my takeaway.  My philosophy here is eat quality food in variety.  Nothing is off limits but a loose rule is when in doubt, eat more vegetables.  They just make me feel good. Avoid processed and packaged food too.  If you don’t know what is in it, it’s probably not great for you.  None of this to say that I don’t enjoy cake.  Or bacon.  Or chocolate.

What is my expertise?  Well, I’ve been living in the world and eating for over 30 years.  that’s about it.  I’m not a nutritionist.  I’m not even a scientist.  I just want to be able to move my body with ease and live well.

Now, back to time management.  Because that’s what it is, right?  I could tell you that I cooked from scratch when I was in full-time graduate school or working a demanding full-time job with an hour commute both ways.  Or now, I cook most of our meals from scratch when I work less than full-time and I have no commute.  Sure, it’s a lot more fun these days.  I have time to make those recipes that I had been saving for “some day.”  I can make a meal with more components on a week night.  But it’s about priorities for me and food is a high priority for me because of a few reasons.  One, I get to make what I want to eat without reliance on someone else to get it right.  Two, I want to fuel my body well so I can feel good.  Three, I just love food and how it tastes.

Yes, it takes time.  But when did we get the idea that eating well shouldn’t take time?  We do it three times a day (or more) and that is a lot of time, just spent chewing.  Spending 30 minutes to an hour to make quality food is the same amount of time it takes to go out to eat.  Maybe even shorter.  Also, spoiler alert, this demand for speed has gotten many in a lot of trouble from a health standpoint.  We live a long time and I want to enjoy that time more than not.  If that enjoyment means that  I will spend a few hours in the kitchen per week, than I see that as a small price to pay.

I feel sorry for people who do not make this investment in their health. I feel sad for the people that don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  I think it’s a tragedy and one we as a nation needs to change.

I know that my philosophy doesn’t start and end with me.  I was raised in a family where this was important.  Fresh food, family meals, and scratch cooking.  Does it mean I never had a boxed brownie? No and I probably wouldn’t reject one today.  I’m so thankful to my mother for showing me how the garden grows and how that translates to a bounty on the table.

What’s the takeaway from this ramble?  Oh, I don’t know.  Make an investment in your health.  It’s all you have.

Double Chocolate Cookies

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I’ve come to the conclusion that most people want to eat better or the best version of something they grew up eating.  This is why I try to stick to just improving the basics until they are the best.  Don’t even get me going on the “basic” chocolate chip cookie.  Sure, I tailor the best item to the recipient – I know my dad wants a buttery cookie to have with his espresso and my husband is always going to say the gooier the better.  However, I feel confident that regardless of your preferred flavor/texture profile, this cookie will exceed all expectations.  First of all, they are huge.  The recipe is not lying when it says that it makes 9 cookies.  Also, I have a major sweet tooth and i cannot eat more than one.  One is so satisfying.  And if you just need a nibble, half is pretty dang satisfying too.

This lovely recipe came from Blue Bottle Cafe (awesome coffee – seriously if you are on a coast, go) and was published by Joanne from Eats Well With Others.  She has a fabulous blog and I thank her for giving me this recipe.

A few notes about the recipe.  It makes HUGE cookies.  9.  That is no joke.  Just do it.  Each one is like eating a chewy, soft, chocolate dream.  It’s the chocolate cookie that will live up to expectations.  Which brings me to my next point: USE QUALITY COCOA.  Don’t use that garbage from the dollar store and expect these to turn out well.  Same for the chocolate pieces.  I have found that chips are fine to use, make sure they are quality.  At a minimum, I use Ghirardelli.  Usually, mo’ money, better chocolate.  Finally, you can triple this recipe, but any bigger than that, your artisan stand mixer from Kitchen Aid cannot hang.  Tripling is pretty intense for it as it is.

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I can’t stop writing about these cookies.  I just watched Billy Eichner and his manic energy inspired me. Just know that everyone loves them and they are the best.  Make them for your cookie trays for Christmas or make them for the nice firemen down the street.  Be nice to each other and do something for something for no reason other than love.

Oh yeah, and these cookies were what I made for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. You get some pretty awesome cookies from awesome bloggers (Michele at Alwayz Bakin’, Erika from Nommable, and Melissa from Ice Cream Inspiration) and you donate money to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.  What could be better?

Blue Bottle Double Chocolate Cookies

Yield: 9 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup natural cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp good quality coarse salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3.5 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

 

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and salt on medium speed until fluffy, about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla to the bowl, beating on medium speed, until well-incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then mix again for another 30 seconds.
  4. Scrape down the bowl and then add the flour mixture. Mix on low until combined and uniform in texture. Scrape down the bowl and add the chocolate. Mix on low until just combined. Refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  5. When you are ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 350F.
  6. Divide the dough into 9¼ cup portions and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or two) at least two inches apart.
  7. Bake for 11-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Let cool for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chicky chicky parm parm

  
I grew up with some variation on chicken parmigiana as a family favorite meal.  However, it was called, “chicken cutlet.”  Why? I have no idea.  Take chicken breasts, beat a few eggs in a shallow bowl, put seasoned breadcrumbs on wax paper, and dip chicken breast in the egg, and then the breadcrumbs.  Pan fry the chicken and serve on noodles with marinara sauce.  This was when I became obsessed with marinara.  Marinara with big chunks of tomatoes was my preference.  But, I digress.  Because this was missing large chunks of cheese, I didn’t know that it was almost chicken parmigiana!  

Anyway, early in our marriage, I wanted to make chicken parmigiana and used this recipe from Tyler Florence.  I like it because he adds fresh basil and olives to the sauce.  I’ve been making this crock pot marinara which is great too. Finally, this week, I made a grain free version of chicken parmigiana and served it over spaghetti squash.  I know, it’s blasphemy and I don’t regret it one bit!  I loosely followed the recipe for the breading and it worked well.  Working with grain free ingredients is always an experiment for me since they don’t behave like regular flour.  I didn’t love that the cutlets didn’t get a nice golden color when cooked, but the crust was nice.  Also, let’s face it, when slathered with cheese and marinara, the color is less of a factor.  My husband was in heaven, especially since I made him wait 20 minutes so we could melt the cheese and he was a little hangry.  
Mangia!

Prepping for a busy week: tasty leftovers

  
Whenever I go out of town, I forget that my sweet husband once took care of himself and is able to feed himself.  As a result, I make lots of plans to make it easy for him.  I want to make sure he has food that is convenient and that he eats nutritiously in my absence.  Plus, I don’t like to think that he is all alone and subsisting on beef jerky and gummy bears.

I usually go grocery shopping on Friday night and this past Friday, I got extra food to make extra meals here and there so my sweetie would have more leftovers on which to nosh.   This week, I made Turkey Marinara Sauce With Spaghetti Squash and Turkey Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.  Since the spaghetti squash and the sweet potatoes had to bake, I stuck them both in the oven at once.  Currently, the sweet potatoes are waiting to be stuffed, but that can happen just before eating.  Add some green salads and he will be in good shape for the week!  

Chocolate Coconut Cashew Butter

  
Via 

I’d like to say that I never buy nut butter, but I do.  However, I know how easy it is to make your own.  I try to steer clear of too many nuts because they don’t make me feel full, but after reading about this Cashew Butter, had to give my own sugarless version a shot.

So.  Freaking.  Easy.  [if you have a food processor]  I knew it was possible, but seriously.  I will not lie to you and say this tastes like Peanutbutter & Co’s Dark Chocolate Dreams or candy or any other nonsense.  However, it is really good.  It tastes really rich and has some natural sweetness from the coconut butter and the cashews.  Enjoy.

Chocolate Coconut Cashew Butter

adapted from How Sweet It Is

Ingredients

10 oz raw unsalted cashews

2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

2 tablespoons high quality cocoa

Instructions

1.  Process the cashews in the food processor until they start to ball up.

2.  Add the coconut butter and process.

3.  Add the cocoa and process.  Taste and adjust according to your wishes.

4.  Enjoy!  I like to heat it for a few seconds in the microwave.  Store in the fridge.