Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sandwich Boats

So I have been slowly changing my diet. I have always been a vegetarian, same with the rest of my family, but I have been looking more closely into what I eat recently.

It started when I read Michael Pollen's, In Defense of Food, a great book that presents a cohesive argument about why we should be more aware of what we eat, where it comes from, what time of the year we eat things, etc. It is also what prompted me to eat mostly organic.

Anyways, I have recently been making an active effort to cut down on the amount of carbohydrates and gluten in my diet. Carbohydrates, that lovely thing bread is made of, is basically sugar. There have been plenty of arguments made that a lot of Western diseases stem from our diet heavy in carbohydrates, overuse of dairy, etc.

So I've been trying to change the carbohydrates that I eat in my life, trading in my regular pasta for less tasty, but still good whole wheat pasta. Trading in regular ride, for brown rice. Byebye white bread, hello 12 grain and whole wheat. Woah, tasty whole wheat pizza dough. 

Basically, switching from things that have a high glycemic index (things that are digested fast) with thing that are low glycemic index (things that are digested slowly). 

But somethings are just really good with just plain old all-purpose flour. Like baguettes. I found these really tasty rosemary olive oil baguettes, and we had some tasty goat of course I had to do something with them.

But I didn't want all that bread...ergo...sandwich boats! 

Sandwich Boats
Your favorite baguette
Goat Cheese
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh mozarella balls
1 avocado
Fresh baby spinach
Your favorite dressing (mine is Brianna's Poppy Seed) 
Salt and pepper taste

Cut your baguette in half, and pull out the inside of the bread so it's mostly just the crunchy crust. Spread the goat cheese on the inside. Then put in the tomatoes and basil. 

Cut the avocado in half, and then scoop out the fruit onto the basil. Top it with the baby spinach, add the mozarella balls, put on the salt and pepper to taste. 

Then top with the dressing, and there you have it! A tasty, healthy sandwich!

You can put almost anything in this sandwich -- 
--pizza sauce, cheese, veggies = pizza

--cucumber, black olives, red onion, carrots, garbanzo beans with a olive oil vinaigrette  = Mediterranean sandwich

--Beans, cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream = mexican sandwich 

--Goat cheese, mascarpone, honey, cinnamon = dessert sandwich

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tomatoes from the garden, mini-pizzas, and a mango smoothie

My parents planted a lovely garden in our backyard with okra, tomatoes, mini-yellow tomatoes that are shaped like bells, cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, green bell peppers, eggplant, spicy peppers, and basil. It's lovely, especially the tomatoes. 

Aren't they lovely? 

Anyways, so I made pizza dough. It was good. Then I made mini-pizzas, and a smoothie, they were really good. 

I like to keep pizza dough in the fridge/freezer, it's easy to pull out, defrost, bake up, and make pizza. It sounds complicated, but it's really not. One recipe can make four pizzas. Make one, and freeze three. 

And the better part is making mini-pizzas! 

So I'll tell you how: 

Pizza Dough

**3.5 cups all purpose flour
**1 cup whole wheat flour 
1.75 tsp. salt
1 tsp. active, dry yeast
0.25 cup olive oil
1.75 luke warm water
Cornmeal (optional)

**You can mess with the amounts of whole wheat to APF, you can make it all APF, or half and half, I will say, half and half will change the flavor a great deal**

In a small bowl, mix together the warm water and yeast. Make sure the water is only luke warm, you don't want to kill the yeast. Let it sit for 2 minutes. 

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, olive oil, and then finally the yeast. Knead together for 5-7 min, or basically until sticky but not wet. 

Divide it into four separate balls. So now the dough is basically done. So you have a few options:

1. Use it right away? Let it rise, in a covered bowl, in a warm spot, for 2 hours. It should double in size. 

2. Use it in the next 2-3 days? Keep it in the fridge wrapped up in plastic wrap. Before you use it, pull it out, and let it rise for 2 hours in a warm spot.

3. Use it in the next month? Freeze it in plastic wrap. Defrost it in the fridge the night before you want to use it. Pull it out and let it rise for 1 hour, and use it.  

How to Bake Them:

While it's going, preheat your oven to 450F. If you have a pizza stone, put it in there 45 minutes before you bake on it. If not, you can bake on a regular round baking pan. Roll it out or stretch it out to the size you want. Dust your pan with cornmeal, and place the dough on top. Bake the dough for 8-10 minutes. Then pull out, put your favorite sauce on top, and your favorite toppings, and bake for another 6-8 minutes. 

Anyways, what I did was I made tasty mini-pizzas for lunch. I used one dough ball, and pulled it apart into tiny rolls, and rolled it out into tiny pizzas. Baked them for 10 min, then put the toppings on top, bake for another 5-6 min. 

My dad's hand in the corner grabbing at them!

Om nom nom

Then I made a mango protein smoothie! Seriously, it didn't taste like a protein smoothie, it was awesome! The protein helps keep you filled up throughout the day, and it tasted great! 

Mango Smoothie
1 cup milk (soy, almond, whole, 1%, 2% whatever you like)
1 mango, peeled and pitted
1 apple, seeds removed
0.5-1 scoops of protein powder (depends on what you want) 
0.5 cup yogurt (I used Activia vanilla yogurt) 
Ice cubes 

Blend it all together, and pour it out! :-) It's tasty, it's filling, and it goes well with the pizzas. 

Blurry but tasty!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Back to TFA

Ramble Time. 

As of today, I have been a teacher for...eight months and change. Now I only have 18 teaching days left. 

Today was the National Honors Society Induction. Remember that? It was that group in high school that you and your friends were initiated into? You got a pin? A rope for graduation? 

Yeah, it's a vague memory for me too. But I when I sat at the induction today, I realized how important it actually is to my students. I say my students because, even though I've never really had any of them in my class (I teach Freshman, they were all Juniors), they all still seem to know my name as, Ms. S, the biology teacher and the holder of the bathroom keys! 

Anyways, the ceremony was after school and the students came dressed up. I mean the girls were in fancy dresses with nice heels, their hair done, and make-up on. The boys were in nice shirts, and some even in suits. It was the suits that got me. They were either too big, or too small. There was not a boy who was wearing a jacket that fit him. There was one student, whom I actually taught before, who was wearing his father's suit. It was old, and it was huge, but he was wearing it. 

It broke my heart just a little. I don't know why. I mean, I guess it was the juxtaposition of the importance of the event with how little my students actually have.

Do their wealthier peers care about NHS? Does it mean anything? I don't know, I can honestly tell you it didn't mean much to me. But seeing the students look super professional, their parents running around taking pictures with their phones, most with tears in their eyes. Well, it got to me. These 27 inductees were the top of the top at my school, and the 14 current members were among 60 graduating students at my school. 

They need help, the community does. I mean, I have known this all along, all year, you see it every day. But I guess this time it was different for me, because it hit really hard. 

I know that a lot of people say they are going to dedicate their lives to helping the under served, but dammit, I see it. I work with it. I know the potential these students have, and where all the competing social and economic factors are pushing them. There is no way in hell I can turn my back on it now. The kid in his dad's suit was ridiculously happy when he walked across the stage. There is no way I can turn my back on that. 

So I guess I'm saying, TFA was painful, but I'm sure as heck glad I did it, because my eyes are wide open, I know what I'm getting into, and dammit, I want to do it. 

Okay -- here end-eth the ramble. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Coconut Macroons! (Gluten Free)

Ever since coming home, I have focused more and more on gluten-free cooking. I have made a gluten-free pizza crust which was surprisingly good, some gluten free Indian foods, and other cool stuff. 

But for Father's Day, I wanted something that my mother could eat too for I though, maybe my chocolate-sprinkle rice krispies treats? No...Maybe some french macroons? Naw, too time intensive, and she'd want me to hang with the family...ah ha! Coconut Macroons...light, beautiful, and not too much sugar. Epic.

They're really not time mixing, so cooling, some baking, and you're done. You can jazz them up any way you want, you can pipe some ganache on them after they're cooled, you can dip the bottoms in chocolate like my inspiration did on 17andbaking, or you can dip the tops in chocolate and call it an opposite mountain. 

I opted against that...preferring a plain, simple, presentation. No chocolate, no fuss, no nothing. Also, I was lazy. 
Oh yeah, this is a picture of my dog. Doesn't he look like a Macroon? 

So a Happy Father's Day to y'all, I hope your fathers all had a lovely day!

Coconut Macroons
adapted from

3 cups sweetened coconut
0.75 cup egg whites (~4-5 large eggs)
slightly less than 0.25 cups of granulated white sugar
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
0.25 tsp. almond extract

In a medium saucepan mix together the egg whites, the coconut, the sugar. Mix over medium-heat for about 7 minutes, until the mixture goes from liquid-y to kind of pasty but not dry. Take it off the heat and mix into extracts. 

After that, spread it out on the mixture on a sheet pan, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 300F.

Pull it out, and either scoop it into the a mini-ice cream scooper or spoon it into a 1/4 cup measuring cup for a dome shape. Place each coconut dome on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. 
Put them in the oven and bake for 25 min, or until brown on top. Pull them out, and let them cool on a wire rack. 

After that, you dip them in melted chocolate(6oz. chocolate with 1/2 cup heavy cream over a double boiler), and let them cool in the fridge on parchment paper, or you can serve just as they are...or on top of a tasty scoop of ice cream! Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Bon apetit! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weiner's Bride: An Example of Sexism in Politics

Mass media storm about a congressman with the unfortunate last name recently: Anthony Weiner. This post is sort-of about him. It's more about his wife. Let me provide some background: 

Huma Abedin graduated from GW University, worked with Hilary Clinton since 1996, and is now one of her deputy chiefs of staff. So she's a pretty big deal. 

I read this article, Weiner Resigns in a Chaotic Final Scene, and a particular quote from the article got me thinking

She said Mr. Weiner’s wife was “very smart,” and urged her to ignore any suggestion that she leave her husband. “If she wants to have a marriage and a life,” Ms. Hodja said, Ms. Abedin should consider modeling her behavior on that of her boss, Mrs. Clinton, who famously stood by President Bill Clinton during marital infidelities. 
What bothers me about this quote is the implication that to have a future ("a life"), Abedin must remain with her husband. Does her future career and potential rise in politics (she was named one of the "40 under 40" by Time Magazine) depend on her marriage? Perhaps this is not what Ms. Hodja meant to imply by her words, but it definitely got me thinking.

I've heard from many different people, that Hilary Clinton would not have risen to such prominence had she not remained with Bill Clinton after his infidelity, that it would have reflected poorly if she had divorced. 

Why? It's a personal decision whether she wants to stay with him or not, but why would it matter career-wise? There are many men in politics who have had notable divorces for much less than infidelity and are still prominent figures (Regean? Gingrich anyone?). Why then, is it any different for a woman? 

Sexism, that's why. Politics is still a man's game, and the few women that play must abide by certain rules to stay in. Yes, this is a topic that we all know a lot about...female politicians being regarded for their choice of clothing or hairdos to the exclusion of their political skills. Indeed, there are still too many jokes about a menopausal woman in the oval office being problematic. Perhaps we should revoke the driving licenses of women over 50, for fear they'll have a "menopause moment" and just step on the gas? Don't get me started on the number of 50+ women I have seen with handguns. Men, take cover. 

There are women in politics that are divorced with little problem, but when it is a scandal there is clear media and constituent pressure on the woman to stand resolutely beside her man. This is unacceptable. No, we must progress farther. Women in politics must be able to choose for themselves and not feel the external pressure to mend relationships based on an outdated ideal of feminine duty. We need more cracks in that glass ceiling

So to Mrs. Abedin, I say choose! If you want to stay with your husband and support him, by all means do so, but do not let the sexist expectations of other dictate your actions.

Monday, June 13, 2011

For H- (Black Bean Burgers)

So a while back, T- and I had a friend over for dinner...and I figured I'd try my hand at Homemade Black Bean Burgers. T- and I had started making black beans and keeping them in the fridge for random protein, plus they're tasty to have with anything...tacos, with eggs, etc. 

So I made them, and they turned out really good actually, and she asked me to post the recipe!...that was two months ago. 

Soooo...H-, this is for you. Black Bean Burgers, a la me. 
 Homemade Black Bean Burgers

1 can (16 oz.) black beans, T- and I used home-soaked black beans, so just guesstimate.
0.5 green bell pepper, chopped up
0.5 red onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 egg white
1 tblsp. chili powder
1 tblsp. cumin
0.5 cup italian breadcrumbs 
chili sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut up all the veggies, and blend them together. Strain liquid out of the veggies completely. This is the most important step, if you don't strain the liquid out completely, then it will just keep the burgers from holding together. After you strain it, place the veggie mesh on to a paper towel to soak up more water.
In a separate bowl, mush up the black beans with a fork until it's thick and paste-y (there should still be some whole beans). Add in the strained veggies, and stir together. Add in salt and pepper to taste. 

In a small bowl, whisk together egg white, cumin, chili sauce, chili powder. Add that in to the mushed beans, and mix it all together. Mix in the bread crumbs in three parts, making sure that the bean mixture is sticky enough to form into balls, but not too dry. 

Form the mixture into small balls, and pat down into patties. 
You can either bake them at 375 by putting them on a lightly oiled baking sheet for 10 min, or you can grill them on foil, or you can do what I did, and cook them on a saute pan with a bit of olive oil and salt. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Invitations and Layered Triple Berry Ganache Chocolate Cake

It's getting real. We sent out invitations. They're so beautiful...

How crazy is that? I'm getting married. Luckily I kinda like guy I'm marrying ;-)

Honestly, people keep asking me how it feels. I don't feel different (except for the decision making, but thank god for my mother whose doing most of the foot work and planning). I don't know, I don't think you're supposed to feel different. 

I mean I'm excited about the wedding. It's wonderful to know I'll be bound to someone I love so deeply for life. But I don't think I'll feel different after the wedding, just happier because it'll be for real. Does that make sense?

Someone told me the other day that they were so happy I had found my soul mate.

I find that term unsettling. Soul mate. To me it's a word that connotes perfection. Two people ideally suited for one another, in a way that no one else can can. It rubs me the wrong way. I think that relationships, marriage, etc. take time, effort, and work.

Two people aren't just going to stick together because they're "soul mates" Arguments happen, life happens, you need to want it to work out, not just expect that it's going to.

And I don't think there's just one person you could stay with forever. I think you could make it work with a lot of different people. It seems...odd to believe that there is only one person out there for you. 
I think you can make someone your soul mate. Love, like, affection, respect, trust, passion,  effort, investment, etc. can make someone your version of perfect. That's what I want with T- :-) 
Anyways, speaking of perfect...I made this Layered Triple Berry Ganache Chocolate Cake. A friend of mine invited me to the lake the other weekend, and what other way to thank her than with this beautiful cake. It was surprisingly easy actually...

Layered Triple Berry Ganache Chocolate Cake
Adapted from 17andbaking

Chocolate Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2.5 cups sugar
0.75 cups cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 tbsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sour cream
1.5 cups water
2 tbspn. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs room temp.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt)

Whisk in the sour cream and canola oil until smooth. Beat in the water slowly, in three intervals. Add in the vanilla and the vinegar and mix well (the batter should turn a little lighter, because of the reaction betwene the baking soda and vinegar. This is what gives the cake extra fluff!)

Then beat in each egg separately, mixing well after each addition.  

Line two cake pans with parchment paper and butter the bottom and sides. Dust the inside with cocoa powder. If you don't, it'll be difficult to get the cake out, and they might break. 

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, and tap them to get out any air bubbles. 

Put them in the oven for 30 min.

Berry Ganache Frosting 
15 oz. dark chocolate 
1.5 cup frozen berries (raspberries, strawberries, I used mixed berries, and it was great!)
Raspberry Ganache (below)
8 oz. butter, room temperature (2 sticks) 

Put a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water to make a double boiler! Put the chocolate and butter into the bowl, and whisk occasionally as it melts. Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl (that's too hot!) 

While that's going, put the frozen berries into a bowl and microwave them for a minute. Mash them together with a fork after that. Then put them in the microwave for another minute, take them out and mash them again. Do this again until they're soft. 

Then strain the juice off the berries...the juice is what you'll add to the ganache! Reserve the berries to add between the layers of the cake. 

When the chocolate and butter have melted and been combined, slowly add in the warm berry juice.

Taste it, if it's not sweet enough for you, you can sift in some powdered sugar. Make sure you sift...otherwise you'll get clumps!

Take it off the simmering water and let it cool until its spreadable. Don't stick it in the'll mess with the texture. But you can cool it to room temp. then stick it in the fridge for a while!

Putting the Cake Together
After the cakes come out of the fridge, make sure they cool for about 15 minutes. After that, run a knife around the edges to loosen them. And pop them out of the pan. 

Then...stick them in the freezer for 10 min. Honestly, this will help when you're icing it. 

Get a plate ready with parchment paper on it. The parchment paper will make it so you don't get frosting all over your plate.

When they come out of the freezer, put the first layer down on your plate. Level the cake with a knife. Spread a layer of ganache on the bottom layer, then spread the layer of reserved berries (the ones that we strained the juice out of), on top, then another layer of ganache.

Stick the next layer on top. Then take your frosting spatula (or knife), and spread ganache on top. Cover the top completely. To get the sides, covered...put some ganache on the edge of the top layer, then push it down, and spread. Don't worry about it looking pretty first, after you're done icing everything, you can make it smooth by running your spatula around it. 

You can top it off with fresh berries! I chose raspberries...they worked beautifully! You can also make it pretty by dusting with a little powdered sugar.

And viola! A beautiful cake!