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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Homegrown Ingredients Used In Simple Recipes: Proven To Make Them 1,000 Times Better

Pizza made with garden fresh basil

Picked the basil from the back yard for our pizza enjoyment

My boyfriend and I started a small garden in early spring, which is now a very large garden. We are growing lettuce, basil, radishes, beets, onion, cucumbers, kale, chard, beans, zucchini and more. It has taken us awhile to see things start to reach full growth but it has finally started to happen! We picked and ate radishes, similar to chowing down on a carrots. That was fun, and interesting. We were just so excited to eat them, that preparing them in any fashion seemed like too much work.

The other night for dinner I made a homemade pizza, which I do quite frequently, when I can't think of anything else to make. The only thing I used from our garden was the basil, yet I was very excited to do so, since I usually buy tons of basil and then half of it goes bad.

So in honor of my homegrown ingredient, here is my simple pizza recipe.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

- Whole wheat pizza dough (mine is Trader Joe's)
- Whole wheat flour
- Olive oil
- Pizza or Marinara sauce
- Oregano
- Basil leaves
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- One small sweet onion
- One Kumato Tomato
- Salt

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Coat a large piece of wax paper with whole wheat flour to make it easier to roll the dough out.
3. Place dough on wax paper and roll the dough out until it is your desire shape and size. Have fun with it. Make it thick, thin, round, oval, square, it's your pizza, go crazy!
4. Slice the onion into long pieces. Place in frying pan with enough olive oil to coat the onion in order to caramelize it. Heat the onion on medium heat until it starts to turn golden. I like mine burnt, but that's just me.
5. Coat the dough with olive oil to your liking. I like to only do a thin layer, just enough so the dough is glistening and the dough with be the right amount of soft/crunchy when it is cooked.
6. Spread desired sauce over the dough. The amount you use is up to you. Sometimes I am not in the mood for a very saucy pizza, especially when I am using yummy veggies.
7. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pizza, again to your liking.
8. Slice one Kumato tomato and place generously over the pizza.
9. Sprinkle with salt.
10. Spread the caramelized onions over pizza.
11. Bake for 10 minutes or until the dough starts to rise and is golden brown.
12. Place basil leaves over the pizza to your liking. Do this after you cook it! Cooked basil is an acquired taste and it gets soggy.
13. Okay, time to eat. Yay!


Fate Forcing Change: The Upside of Being Broke and Jobless

Taking advantage of my new lifestyle and relaxing.

The focus of this blog has always been to learn how to balance the things you enjoy (and those you may not) and live a happy life. I tend to focus a lot on food because for me, that is what makes me happy, and I believe that it is at the center of many other people's lives. However, I was in a personal slump due to my work situation, making it hard to be motivated or inspired by much. I have been waitressing for about 5 years, due to not having an exact professional goal and unforeseen circumstances. Waitressing is not all bad. I made good money in a short period of time, I met a lot of great people and I learned a lot about food and business. However, at the end of the day, it simply did not make me happy anymore. I tried to be positive and I tried to look for other jobs, but I worked 6 days a week, some doubles and all nights, making it hard to get anything accomplished or see anyone.

I started to get irritable and depressed. I never saw my friends or family. I could never make plans and I tried to stay away from buying tickets for events since getting off of work was simply a miracle. Waitressing is a hard job and a respectable profession, but I became almost embarrassed to tell people what I did. When I was in Florida, people would ask what I do and it killed me to answer. My boyfriend caught on and like the gentleman he is, started jumping in to talk about his job at the IRS, which is way more interesting anyway. Bottom line, I knew I needed to make a change. But change is scary. So I stalled. I thought about going back to school, but the amount of student loan debt I carry around with me already is stifling. I applied to different kinds of jobs in different places but nothing seemed to work out. Then fate decided for me that my waitressing career had reached a close. Thanks fate!

Returning from my vacation, where I had spent too much money on amazing food and drinks and massages and more, I found that one of the places I worked at was bought out and the other was severely damaged by a flood, which caused it to close almost 2 months ago. I had to find a job. Quick. I knew that this was my chance to stop waitressing, so I took it.

I went on an interview for an organic bread company in New York City. I loved the company and the product. The interview felt more like a friendly conversation than anything else. I wanted the job. I got a second interview! Things looked good. Until I stopped and really thought about what my life would become. It would mean being up at 4:30 a.m. to be on a train at 6 a.m. to make it to work by 8 a.m., only to work an eight hour day and then rush to make the train so I could be home by 6 p.m. and be in bed by 10 p.m. to only get about 6 hours of sleep. I have no intention or desire of moving to the city and all of the commuting and time gone would not make my social life any better. Not to mention the strain it would put on my relationship. I actually took the time to consider what would make me happy and before they could give me an answer about the job I wrote them and graciously declined the position.
Instead I am now a full-time employee at Trader Joe's. They are a company that I whole-heartedly support and have since I was a kid shopping with my mom. Everyone there is nice, I get to work with food all day and the schedule is flexible. Oh, not to mention the fact that I get health insurance. I have been working there for about three weeks now and I can honestly say that I am happy. I do not mind going to work and work does not have to be my life now. I was able to spend a great few days in the city with my best friends and see my brother and his wife this past weekend when they came to visit. Those things probably would not have happened in my previous work situation.


I am now.
What I have learned is that even if it is scary, change can make you a million times happier. Also, the options that seem great in the beginning might not actually make you happy in the long run. You need to continuously have an internal dialogue with yourself and your desires. I am happy to end one sub plot of my life and move onto the next.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Love is Part of a Balanced Equation

Courtesy of sfist.com

I love love. I always have. I am one of the biggest hopeless romantics, even when I thought I was crushed and jaded and would never love again, I still loved love. In my opinion it is one of the most important factors of our lives, whether it is family, friend or intimate love. It is essential in keeping us balanced and has the most influence to make us completely the opposite. I think everyone is entitled to whatever kind of love they choose as long as at the end of the day, they are happy. Which is why I have always supported gay marriage. For me personally, I can not remember a day in my life where I thought otherwise. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions and I am not the kind of person to drill my own into other people. One of the great things about America is that we can all have different ideals, but there are some things that I believe so deeply in, that it is hard for me to imagine someone else feeling differently.

Yesterday President Obama made a historic announcement by stating his support for gay marriage. I can not claim to be a heavily political person. I watch the news from time to time, I get updates on my phone from Newsday and News 12 and I get a large amount of my contemporary issues knowledge from John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I have never had a huge problem with Obama, yet I do not know enough to back him blindly. I did vote for him in 2008. He seems like a cool guy, someone you could hang out with. Maybe even start a band with him and Bill Clinton, since apparently Obama can sing. What really moved me and surprised me is that during an election year Obama chose to voice his opinion on a very split issue and stand by it. Just the night before I told my boyfriend Obama couldn't make a stance on the issue, even though Biden was hinting his support, because it would ruin his campaign. He proved me wrong and for that simple fact alone I am proud to have him as my president right now.

I had to touch on this issue because human rights and civil liberties are a very important factor in what contributes to an American's inner balance and I know I am guilty of taking advantage of them. I admit that I day dream about my wedding day and marriage a lot. I'm a girl, sue me. But I also know that these dreams are possible, and legally acknowledged. I have seen the downside of marriage (See: my parents tragic divorce) but in a world where we have fortunately progressed over the years and have made slaves free and have given women the right to vote, how on earth are the ones still being persecuted, the gays? The first historical mention of same sex marriage occurred during the Roman Empire. How is it possible that we as a people have become more closed minded?

Love me or hate me for these views, but I live in a world with rose colored glasses where I want everyone to be happy and everyone to be loved. So, Obama, I salute you, not even necessarily as my president, but simply as a person.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rainy Day Slimmed-Down Grilled Cheese

Rainy Day Satisfaction

We have been getting some much needed rain recently. I am the minority who loves rainy overcast days because it gives me an excuse to do as little as possible and not feel very guilty about it. I also love the way rain smells. It gives me a sense of balance when nature is washed clean. Okay, enough hippy talk for now. Onto the goodies...

On rainy days I also love to eat and eat and...eat. And the chances that I make it to the gym are cut in half since I think I hear the rain telling me I look good in sweat pants and an over sized shirt, eating crap. One of the warm, comforting meals that I crave is tomato soup and grilled cheese. I managed to bypass the soup since I have not tried to make my own soup yet and the sodium in the cans makes me bloat for two days (Side note: Please, please do yourself a favor and look at the sodium counts on both canned and frozen foods before you buy and ingest them. I know they are convenient, but I swear you will feel 15 pounds lighter if you go for fresh versions, where you control the amount of salt that is included). I could not resist the grilled cheese, however. I always associate grilled cheese with the tag of "extremely unhealthy," but I realized something recently. I pack myself sandwiches or wraps almost every day and the only difference between those and the grilled cheese version is that it is warmed and the cheese is melted. The trick is to limit the butter and cheese, and not have more than one. I know, I know, those are all the good things. I promise you, this creation will leave you satisfied.

The Weather channel says that it should start to get nice out tomorrow, so either eat this is the warm sunshine or save it for a rainy day.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

- Whole Wheat or Gluten Free Bread
- 1 Roma tomato, sliced
- Yellow Onion, sliced
- 1/4 Avocado, sliced
- Earth Balance Spread
- 2 slices Organic Cheddar Cheese
- Salt

1. Grab two slices of whole wheat or gluten free bread (white flour is simply no good for you) and spread the Earth Balance evenly on one side of each piece. Earth Balance is dairy and gluten free but I swear it tastes as decadent as butter. Put the bread aside.
2. Slice the tomato, onion and avocado.
3. Warm the frying pan on medium heat while you prepare the rest of the sandwich.
4. Place a piece of cheese on each piece of bread and load the sandwich up with the tomato, onion and avocado. Season with salt to taste, since avocados and tomatoes really burst with a little bit of sodium.
5. Place sandwich in pan and warm each side evenly. Cut in half and serve!

All of this should not take more than 10 minutes, of course unless you burn it, which I have done a few times with grilled cheese. This is a filling meal with a lot of different tastes that does not overload you with fat from butter and cheese. As always, let me know how it goes if you try it!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cinco de Mayo Quesadilla Recipe

Eat Me!

I love Mexican Food. It is an option that is vegetarian friendly and with about 5 ingredients, you can create 10 different Mexican dishes. In honor of Cinco de Mayo I am going to share my quick and easy, but most importantly delicious, quesadilla recipe.

Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 13 minutes

Ingredients:

- 2 Whole Wheat Wraps or Tortillas
- 1 Roma Tomato, chopped
- 1 Small Sweet Onion, chopped
- 1/2 Hass Avocado, sliced
- 1/4 Can of Organic Black Beans
- Your Favorite Salsa
- Shredded Mexican Cheese
- Sour Cream, optional
- Salt

1. Chop tomato, onion and avocado and put aside.
2. Let pan warm on medium heat for two minutes. Spray with olive oil to prevent the quesadilla from sticking or burning.
3. Place wrap in the pan and cover with Mexican cheese to your liking. Place the other wrap on top and press down with a spatula, encouraging the cheese to melt between the wraps.
4. Flip continuously, being careful to not let cheese fall out of the quesadilla, so both sides are equally cooked.
5. Remove from pan and cut into fours.
6. Cover the quesadilla with a coating of salsa. Toss the tomato, onion and avocado and place on top of the quesadilla. Season with salt to taste.
7. Spoon out black beans and spread on quesadilla.
8. Enjoy!

Be cautious when eating this! There are a lot of goodies involved and the wraps can start to get limp and soggy quick, which is why I always eat it with a knife and fork. I put all of the good stuff on top of the quesadilla because a lot of the times it falls out of the middle anyway and I find it more enjoyable this way, but feel free to adapt this process as you like.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I will be attending a gathering, wearing an itty bitty sombrero and drinking Abita Strawberry Harvest while eating mango and banana guacamole that I plan on making. What are your plans for the day?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Food Inspiration: Whole Wheat Pasta Creation

Sometimes I feel like I have a ton of food but nothing to make. However, when I am feeling very inspired and creative I stand in the kitchen with all the cabinet open looking at potential ingredients that I could use. The other night I surprised myself with a great pasta creation.

The end result was a whole wheat pasta with a herb and garlic goat cheese and butter sauce, tossed with chick peas and oven roasted tomatoes. I sent my boyfriend to work with the leftovers the next day and was told it is great cold also.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: Approximately 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:

- 1 package of whole wheat penne pasta (I used Trader Joe's brand)
- 2 Roma tomotoes, sliced
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1/2 package of garlic and herb goat cheese (I used Trader Joe's brand)
- 1 stick of butter
- Salt, pepper and oregano to taste

Preparation:

1. Fill pot with water add salt and cover. Heat until water starts to boil and pour pasta in. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Place sliced tomatoes on a roasting pan or baking sheet. Drizzle or spray olive oil to coat tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano and toss until all peices are covered. Bake for 25 minutes.
3. Place chickpeas in a sauce pan and heat for about 8 minutes or until tender.
4. In a sauce pan melt butter with the burner on medium heat. Make sure to stir constantly so the butter does not burn.
5. Once butter is melted add the garlic and herb goat cheese. Half of the package should make it slightly thick. Adjust amount to your liking.
6. Once all ingredients are cooked thoroughly, strain the water from the pasts and mix all ingredients together. Let sit for at least 5 minutes, as the sauce will thicken slightly.
7. Eat and Enjoy!!