March 31, 2010

Country Crock o' sh*t

So you know that I am a cheapassmama, right?  And I am trying to eat cleaner, right?  

What happens when my cheapass-ness conflicts with my cleaner-eating-ness?  

In the case of pre-existing unclean food still currently in the house, cheapness wins out.  Meaning once the not-so-clean food is gone, I won't re-buy it. BUT, I am not throwing out edible food.

Sorry Jillian.  Just.not.doing.it.

With one exception.

Country Crock. This is not edible. Or food.

All 5 lbs (yes, we had a 5lb tub from BJs) barely used.  And it went into the garbage.

Why o why did I ever buy this spreadable hydrogenated soybean oil crapola?  Because like many, many people, I actually thought margarine and spreads were better for me than butter.

I mean it *is* vegetable oil.  See, there is vegetable in there!

And butter, well animal products are high in cholesterol and cholesterol is bad for me, right?

Wait. What did I just say?  Animal products are bad and chemically altered vegetable product is good?

Oh crap.

I am a smart woman.  I have two higher-ed degrees. And I got suckered like many, many people into thinking that food is a bunch of nutrients rather than food as a whole.

Michael Pollan writes, "We have come to look upon "nutritionism" as a valid means of determining (healthy) value in our diet; food has been reduced to its composition of good and bad nutrients, but are we really eating healthier?"

And if you think about it, margarine contains trans fat.  So essentially, as Pollan discusses in In Defense of Food and Omnivore's Dilemma, we took a food that could potentially be bad for us and replaced it with something that could kill us.

Oh and by the way, just because something says "NO TRANS FAT PER SERVING" doesn't mean that it *doesn't* have trans fat.

According to the the Food and Drug Administration (and as posted on Country Crock's site), companies that contain a "small amount" (less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving), they don't have to list it.  So that glob o' margarine that provides "structure and texture" is trans fat.  

Greeeeaaaat.

So what is a girl to do? Especially one that has children that request; nay DEMAND "buttered bread"? Yeah, butter doesn't spread all that well.

And the answer is....Land o Lakes Spreadable Butter with Canola oil.

Let's compare.


Land o Lovely: Cream, Canola Oil, Salt.


Crock o Crap: Vegetable Oil Blend (Liquid Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil), Water, Whey (Milk), Salt, Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, (Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA) Used to Protect Quality, Citric Acid, Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A (Palmitate), Beta Carotene (for Color).

Hmmmmm. Which do you think is better?


Just because it has calcium, or omega-3 added or lower in fat than butter, doesn't mean that it is better for you than butter.

And as the great Julia Child said, "If you are afraid of butter, use cream."

March 30, 2010

Keen on Quinoa

I watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution this weekend.  If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend you watch it on hulu.com or abc.com.  And then look up the school lunches in your area.   Get informed.  Sign a petition. Cook a meal yourself at home. Maybe try quinoa. 

After watching, I promptly quizzed *S* on the veggies in our fridge. (Thank goodness we actually had veggies in there. Less than 2 months ago those drawers were filled with diet soda!)



One of the other cool things from the show...


JO gave out "I tried a new food" stickers to the kids during their lunch.  We need those!  And if we did have them *S* and *I* would have gotten them last night.  


We made quinoa (KEEN-wah) and *S* and *I* had it for the first time. *S*'s review: "Mama this is AWESOME!" Two helpings of awesome!


Our quinoa came from Trader Joe's. I made it with chicken broth rather than water to give it a little more flavor and we had it with some leftover roast chicken and squash from our CSA.  






Ingredients 
1 c. quinoa
2 c. chicken broth


Directions
Rinse the quinoa at least 3 times.  Really massage them.  It is very bitter if you don't wash it well.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  


I did an experiment - one on the stove and one batch in the rice cooker.   I don't think I got the right amount of liquid in the rice cooker.  (Yeah, I know, how do you screw up a rice-like-substance in a rice cooker?? That would be me.) So the rice cooker version was a tad nuttier.  


The little balls were nuttier?  *tee hee*   I really did escape puberty, I swear!


Serve with anything that you where you would normally serve rice.


I think we will try it with some diced tomatoes and onions next time.  Please comment; I'd love to hear your ideas!


So the tally....
NI: 160 cals/3g fat/3g fiber/6g protein
Cost: The box was $3.99 with the chicken broth, it comes to $.34 per serving.

March 29, 2010

Alien brains have invaded my fridge! Brainiac? Nope. Celeriac.

Mondays we get our list of CSA vegetables and fruits that are ready for pick up on Thursday.  A couple weeks ago, we got some celeriac. 

WTH?  

I have know idea what a celeriac is, how to prepare it or what it is.  Yes, Google is your friend. 


According to wiki...

Celeriac, also known as 'celery root,' 'turnip-rooted celery' or 'knob celery', is a kind of celery, grown as a root vegetable for its large and bulbous hypocotyl rather than for its stem and leaves. The swollen hypocotyl is typically used when it is about 10–12 cm in diameter; about the size of a large potato. Unlike other root vegetables, which store a large amount of starch, celery root is only about 5-6% starch by weight.
I know many o' peeps that would love to be known for their large and bulbous hypcotyls.  *ahem* 




The celeriac is that alien brain looking tentacle thing on the right. I think it was the star in one of the movies David watched and reviewed on Tomb It May Concern. 


But I digress. Back to the food.


I found this on a blog called Tiny Urban Kitchen and after having this soup at the Monday Club in Harvard Sqaure, she made it herself and graciously posted the recipe.  

Ingredients 
1 celeriac root (peeled and chopped)
2 medium sized Idaho potatoes (peeled and chopped)
1 large apple (peeled and chopped)
1/2 onion, diced
1 Qt chicken broth
1 T butter
1 T oil
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped bacon for garnish

Directions
Saute onions in butter and oil under medium heat for a few minutes until browned and translucent. Add the celeriac and potatoes. Saute for about 8-10 minutes until they are cooked. Add broth and apples. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Blend in batches in the blender. I'd like to eventually get an immersion blender for soups like this.

I served the soup with bacon and we enjoyed our roast chicken with roasted CSA vegetables.  The entire meal was either from the CSA, organic or free-range. 


The Tally....
NI: 143 cals/6g fat/3g fiber/3g protein
Cost: $4.83 or $.73 per serving

March 27, 2010

Clean up your plate pancakes

Saturday is "Mama" day to the kids and the one day a week I make breakfast for *S* and *I*.

Of course, by make this used to mean pour Cheerios and milk into a bowl.

David still has to remind me to give them a drink. Why do I always forget their 1/2 water 1/2 juice concoction?

Ok, PCE (pre-cleaner eating) I *did* occasionally make pancakes with the kids, but they were used to be the Joy of Cooking variety; ya know, white flour, white sugar, covered in margarine (*blech*) and Aunt Jemima. (And you *know* how I feel about Auntie J.)

Today we cleaned up our beloved pancakes. Instead of sugar we used local honey, we replaced most of the flour with whole-wheat flour. They were so darn good, not one of us even requested said Auntie J.

This is for a double batch.  We freeze most of the pancakes to be used as 30 second nuke jobs on other mornings.

Ingredients
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
6 Tbsp melted butter
3 c. milk
1/4 cup of honey
1 peeled and chopped apples with cinnamon for 1/2 the batch (Enterprise Farm apples)
1 mashed banana for 1/2 the batch

Directions
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the remaining ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients in with the dry.   Separate them back into two bowls and put the mashed banana in one and apples in the other.  Add some more flour if you like your pancakes a little thicker.  We added about 1/4 cup more flour.

Pour 1/4 cup of batter in a pan or griddle with a little oil. Brown on both sides.

After we made the batches, I sprayed a cookie sheet with cooking spray and placed the leftover pancakes on the sheet and in the freezer.

The kids didn't even bat an eyelash at the cleaned up version.  I might try using all whole-wheat flower the next time.

The Tally...
NI: 158 cals/2g fat/1g fiber
Cost: Cheaper than Denny's.  I'll get back to you on how cheap.

March 26, 2010

Thai one on!


Thai take out is my kryptonite. Especially Siam Delight.

*drooling*

Three problems with this:

1. Siam is 40 miles away (ok, so not really a problem when you are trying to steer clear)
2. It's 'Spennnnnsive!
3. I am clueless on what actually goes into and exactly how many points/calories are in my lovely yellow curry tofu. (I usually save up my 35 weeklies and count them all just in case.)

So....

I have found the next best thing! In fact TWO next best things.

*heavens open*

*aaaaahhhhhh*

TJ's Red Curry Sauce and TJ's Yellow Curry Sauce.






So here is another learning experience. I eat tofu take out all the time.

I'd never actually made it until about a month ago when I had my come-to-Jesus eating lifestyle transformation.

So how does one make tofu and make it like Siam Delight?

Again, google is your friend.

And another thing, tofu is cheap!  $1.49 for a lb of TJs organic tofu!?

Ready for the recipe portion of our blog....



Ingredients
TJ's Organic firm tofu
2 Tbsp of canola oil
Grape tomatoes
1 onion (cut into chunks)
1 red pepper (cut into chunks)
TJ's Red curry sauce
Cilantro for garnish
Jasmine Brown rice

Directions
Cut the tofu into rectangles and dry them with a paper towel. One person suggested to put the tofu beteen a few towels and then put a telephone book on top.  Whatever gets them dry.





*sidebar*

When I was on WeightWatchers, I always struggled to get my GHG's (Good Healthy Guidelines).  These include things like 2 servings of milk, 2 servings of healthy oils (canola, olive, flaxseed, safflower, or sunflower).  It's kinda hard when you only eat things from a box.  Anyway, using canola or olive oil (not vegetable oil) to cook veggies and tofu is an excellent way of getting these in. 

*sidebar complete*

Cut the dried tofu into squares and fry them with 1 Tbsp of canola oil. About 10 minutes on each side until they are light brown. Meanwhile cut up the red pepper and onion in to chunks. 


Remove them from the pan and put them on a paper towel. 



Fry up the red peppers, onions and tomatoes for about 2-3 minutes. 


Add the tofu back in.


Pour in the Red curry sauce.

Remember, I am a cheapassmama, so I add water to the bottle (about halfway full) and pour that in with the veggies and tofu. 

Simmer.  


Serve over cooked jasmine rice. 

And because portion control is an issue for me.  I put the leftovers in containers right away. 


I will never pay $10.50 for Thai take out again. OK, that's a lie. But at least I will have plenty for lunch next week. 


The Tally....
NI: 319 cals/9g fat/5g fiber/13g protein
A meal for 6 cost about $7.25; much cheaper than take out. 

Has anyone seen my Birkenstocks? I smell granola. Not patchouli.


Cliché alert. 

I learned how to make granola at Oberlin

I know.  It is really a rite of passage.  Along with not shaving. Except your head.  *Bzzzt*

Anyway, I learned how to make it, but I haven't actually made it in (oh, good crikey!) umpteen years. Until about two weeks ago. It was like riding a bicycle.... A fish without a bicycle....oh nevermind. 

This.is.officially.a.staple.

The other nice thing about granola, you can experiment and it rarely turns out bad.  Toasted oats and a little sweet.  

Here is how I made it last night.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients
8 c. Rolled Oats (We accidentally got 1-minute Quaker oats and these worked very well too.)
1 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. canola oil (I have used butter instead)
3/4 c. honey or maple syrup (or HFCS infested Aunt Jemima...ya know, if you're *ahem* trying to use it up.)
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Almonds
Craisins
Raisins

Directions
On medium-high, heat up the oil, honey (or syrup), water and vanilla in a pot until thin.  With a wooden spoon, stir in the oats, flour salt and cinnamon until the oats are coated and look moist.  Yup, *moist* IS a funny word. 

Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet, crumbling the clumps of oats.  Pop it into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes - turning the granola every 10 minutes with a spatula.   During the last 10 minutes, add dried fruit and nuts if you want. 

Breakfast these days for me is granola mixed in with fat-free greek yogurt (Chobani honey, peach or strawberry are my favs and cheapassmama tip... stock up by the case when they are $1.00)

Since portion control is an issue for me, I put a 1/2 cup container in with the granola and when I have it with my breakfast, I store it in a little 1/2 cup container.  And yes, the handful walking past the pantry is oh so tempting!  

Oh and seriously, re: Birkenstocks.  I have at least 4 pairs and I can't seem to find them anywhere.  I think they are in a box in David's mom's attic. Maybe. 

Tally....
NI: Approx. 225cal/15g fat/4g fiber/7g protein per 1/2 cup
Cost: Varies...here Approx. $3.83 for the batch, so $.20 per serving.

March 25, 2010

You say potato. I say gourmet goodness.

Since this whole cooking thing is new to me, I rely very heavily on recipes. Especially ones that involve vegetables from our CSA.

And since our lovely CSA wants to keep us as happy customers, they send along recipes with each week's newsletter.  Good thing because googling kale was getting old.

But...

What they don't send is cheese.

I don't think I have ever bought cheese that didn't come from behind a counter, named after city or quarterback name like Monterrey or Colby.  Or shaken from a green can.

They really should consider putting cheese in alphabetical order in the *cheese* section for people like me.  Good thing I knew enough not to look for Gruyère by the cream cheese & bags of pre-shreded orangey-yellow stuff.

But I still wanted to pronounce it Goon-yere.  Yes, Matt, I now realize there is no "N" in Gruyère. Grew-yair.  

Ok, on to the potato recipe.  I made this last night for tonights dinner.  In the midst of preparations, right after the potatoes came off the stove, our lovely *I* decided she wanted to fall out of her bed and need some Mama time.  This actually turned out to be perfect timing. Because I learned something.

1. *I* much prefers my bed after a fall. 

2. Potatoes don't crumble if you wait for them to cool before slicing.  The first two sliced potatoes were crumbling all over the place pre-fall.  The next sliced like a hot knife through cold buttah. Purfect.

So here is the wonderful recipe.  It takes a lot of time, but well well worth it.  We had it with a wonderful ham steak.


Greens and Potato Gratin
Recipe adapted from Martha RoseShulman’s recipe in the New York Times, March 8, 2010.  Shared by Sarah M. & Enterprise Farms

Ingredients

2 - 2.5 pounds greens (chard, beet greens or kale), stemmed and cleaned (I used kale)
3/4 pound small potatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup, tightly packed)
1 ounce Parmesan, grated (about 1/4 cup)


Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375º. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water (you’ll be cooking the greens in the same water), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover partially, and boil the potatoes until tender when pierced with a knife -- about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, stem the greens and wash the leaves thoroughly.

2. When the potatoes are done, remove from the water and set aside to cool; cut them into 1/2-inch slices. Bring the water back to a rolling boil, and add the greens. Blanch for about two minutes (three or four minutes for kale) until just tender. Remove from the water with a slotted
spoon and transfer immediately to a bowl of cold water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 –60 seconds. Stir in the greens, potatoes and parsley, and gently toss together. Season to taste with
salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

4. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Stir in the Gruyère and Parmesan, and add more salt and pepper. Combine everything thoroughly.
Adjust seasonings to taste. Scrape into the gratin dish. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the top, and place in the oven.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned on the top. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving. 

Serves about six people. Can be kept for up to three days, or made up to three days ahead.



The Tally....
NI per serving: 160cals/6g fat/3g fiber/10g protein
Cost: The whole pan - about $7.00

Pass the beano, please

You can't plan everything.  If only.  *sigh*  

I didn't get to make the potatoes I planned to make on Tuesday night for Wednesday's dinner, so we had to punt last night.  

The choices: reheat some frozen meals from the ghost-of-meals past or dig through the pantry.  The kids chose the pantry.  

Here is what we created.  *S* picked the ingredients. 

  
Trader Joe's low-carb whole wheat tortillas (these things are so pliable, the best I've found so far)
Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Corn & black bean salsa
1/4 Avocado (TJs has a bag of 4 for 3 bucks)
Leftover rice 
Can o' black beans, rinsed (Yes, these did come from a can.  I recently bought a pressure cooker to make my own.)

*googling how to make and can beans*

Maybe some day we'll can.  Yeah, some day. Ya gotta walk before ya run, right?
  
Anywhoo...I put the beans in the micro with some water, salt, pepper, a little cumin, rice and cooked them up Tico style.

The nuked the tortillas & cheese for 20 seconds and put the concoction on the tortilla for the kids.  The review?  *S* says: Very tasty.  

He ate the rest of his sister's avocado.  



The Tally....
NI: 435cals/18g fat/8g fiber
Cost: about $1.60 for 2 burritos 

March 24, 2010

Chard. Like Chardonnay? No, Ch-ch-chard.

I've never met a Swiss Chard I didn't like.

Ok, so I've only had it once.  

But...

I will have it again.  


This one, even the kids ate.  Yeah, I know!  The syrup helped.


Sweet and Spicy Chard (adapted from allrecipes.com)


Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of chard - leaves and stems separated and chopped 
1/3 chopped yellow onion
2 slices of fresh ginger root (about the size of tip of your thumb) peeled and julienned. (And yes, I had to google "julienned" - It means cut into really really skinny long strips.)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp maple syrup  (Ok, confession time....we don't have maple syrup. yet. I won't buy it until the boat-load of HFCS* infested Aunt Jemima from BJs is gone. CheapAssMama won over cleaner eating on this one.)


Directions

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the chopped stems, onion and ginger in the hot oil until they begin to soften; add the salt & pepper.  Add the leaves to the skillet and turn heat down to low. Cook until the leaves are wilted - about 2 minutes.  Drizzle the syrup over the mixture; stir to coat evenly.  Remove from heat and serve. 

The kids had this one with grilled cheese sandwiches.  I told you we still have to work in sammmiches.  Eh, at least they got a vegetable in. 



The tally....

NI: 60cals/3.5g fat/4g fiber
Cost: $.59/per serving

*High-fructose corn syrup 

Yup, still in love.

Of course I am in love with my husband.  And food.  


Hence, I like to make my husband food. *ahem*  Food for my husband.  


These two got the mouthful-thumbs-up at the keyboard.  And one even a shout out on FB. 


Chicken Curry Salad
Leftover roasted chicken (or cooked cubed chicken)
finely chopped red onion (about 1/2 onion)
2 Tbsp curry powder
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp lime juice
handful of raisins


Eat at the refrigerator with a spoon.  
Or on whole wheat bread with lettuce.


Cheapassmama note:  Do not buy your spices in the "McCormack" aisle.  Look over in the international section first.  Many times there are packets of spices for 1/2 to 1/4 of the cost.   


This one was posted by some WeWa peeps.  Shockingly, I actually had all the ingredients in the house and nothing was bought "special" for the recipe.  How awesome is that!  


Lime Chicken w Avocado Salsa

Marinade Chicken in:
1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
3 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 tsp salt

Salsa:
1 cup chopped tomato
2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, peeled and finely chopped

Preparation

1. To prepare chicken, combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss and let stand 3 minutes. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done.

2. To prepare salsa, combine tomato and next 5 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium bowl. Add avocado; stir gently to combine. Serve salsa over chicken

I cut up the chicken into pieces before cooking and divided up the servings into 5 small containers with some rice.  I put the salsa in little 1/2 cup containers.  The acid from the lime will keep the avocado from become brown.  I froze 2 servings including the salsa.  I'll keep you posted on how well the salsa freezes.  

NI: 345cals/8g fat/3g fiber/25g protein
Total Cost:  About $7.00 ($1.40/meal)

O-M-G I love my C-S-A!!!

Can I just say how much I freakin' love my CSA!?

Community Supported Agriculture is an easy way to get healthy, organic, locally (mostly), grown food each week.  Some call it beyond organic.

Me, I call it: YUMMY.

Since joining Enterprise Farms year-round farm share (East Coast Farm Share in the Fall/Winter and Local Farm Share in the Spring/Summer), we eat at least one item a day from our share.  

Here is one of my favs I made this week:

Chicken with Baby Bok Choy in a Ginger Soy Sauce 
(adapted from allrecipes.com)





Ingredients
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (We got antibiotic-free frozen chicken.) 
½ tsp garlic salt
Baby bok choy
2 tbsp peanut oil
1½ tbsp cornstarch

Sauce:
1 cup chicken broth (Free-range organic cartons from BJs are a good buy; or make your own)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger

Directions
  1. Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes. Sprinkle these cubes with the garlic salt and let them sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the baby bok choy and pull the stalks from the base, discarding the base. Then cut the leaves and stalks into large 1½ or so inch chunks keeping them separate. Then set them aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the sauce and set it aside.
  4. In a small cup, mix the cornstarch with a little warm water just so that it dissolves and set it aside.
  5. Heat a non stick pot or wok on high. Once the wok is hot add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and let it get hot. Then add the chicken cubes and stir fry them for about 6 to 8 minutes or until brown. If you let the chicken sit on one side for about 2 minutes before stirring, it will brown quicker. Simply let it sit for 2 minutes and then stir, and then let it sit for another 2 minutes and stir again. Repeat this until most of the chicken is brown.
  6. Once the chicken has browned, remove it from the wok and set it aside.
  7. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the wok.
  8. Once this oil is hot add the baby bok choy stalks and stir fry them for 2 minutes. Then add the leaves and stir fry for another minute. The stalks are stir fried first because they are denser than the leaves and therefore take longer to cook.
  9. Return the chicken to the wok and add the sauce. Then bring everything to a boil.
  10. Once it boils, add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thick.
  11. Serve with either steamed or fried rice.

I cannot believe how good this was!  I made this Sunday night, divided it into 5 separate containers, had one for lunch Monday and froze the others.  Forget Lean Cuisines.  These are ChristyZ Cuisines.  YUM!

And the tally...

NI: 300cals/6g fat/29g protein
Cost: about $6.50 for 5 servings; so $1.30/each