Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quick Thai Chicken and Vegetable Curry

I want to use as much as possible of the little jar of Thai red curry paste before it goes bad. I read in one of the recipes that it will keep for about a month and I am approaching that point. I found this recipe from Eating Well magazine and it looked pretty similar to the slow cooker one, but with a greater variety of vegetables and (obviously) made on the stove instead. I made some brown jasmine rice to go with it, which absorbs the curry and makes it less liquidy (my personal preference).

I am glad I found this one because it was very, very good. The leftovers were lovely as well. I had it for lunch one day, and dinner the next, and there is still some left! You can estimate the amount of vegetables - I used a little more cauliflower - and you could probably add/swap some other things in here as well, if you have a handle on their cooking times. I definitely plan to make it again, and I might try it again with tofu instead of chicken.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I got an Aerogarden for Christmas (I ordered it myself through a fire sale on my mom's Amazon account and she just wrapped it and gave it to me) and I finally got to plant it last week.

It came with seed pods for Genovese basil, dill, thyme, oregano, mint and chives.

So far the basil and thyme have sprouted, and I can see one tiny little leaf down in the oregano pod.

They should be ready to harvest in 3-4 more weeks, I think :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pan-Glazed Tofu with Thai Red Curry Sauce

I made this Deborah Madison recipe today for lunch. I made some rice and sauteed mushrooms to go along with it. It was pretty good. I like Thai red curry. (I bought the little jar for this slow cooker recipe, but I had to find some other ways to use it too, and this is one I stumbled upon.) I don't love tofu, but I should probably eat a little more protein. I liked how it tasted this way, although I might cut it into smaller pieces next time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Does organic seriously cost more?

Today I went to pick up a few things at the grocery store, mostly produce, and I decided to check up on some of the price differences between organic and conventional items. I was pretty surprised at what I found. Organic was the cheaper choice, or equal in price to conventional, in most cases.

Conventional: $1.29 each
Organic: $1.50 each

Apples (Gala)
Conventional: $1.99 per pound (on sale)
Organic: $1.99 per pound

Apples (Granny Smith)
Conventional: $1.99 per pound (on sale)
Organic: $1.99 per pound

Conventional: $0.79 per pound
Organic: $0.79 per pound (on sale)

Conventional: $0.79 per pound
Organic: $1.29 per pound

Conventional: $3.99 per head
Organic: $3.99 per head

Oranges (navel)
Conventional: $2.99 for 4 (on sale)
Organic: $2.99 for 4

Red peppers
Conventional: $2.99 per pound
Organic: $4.99 per pound

Romaine hearts (pack of 3)
Conventional: $2.99
Organic: $2.69 (on sale)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Classic Tomato Spaghetti

Dinner tonight was classic tomato spaghetti from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution book. There could not be an easier, more delicious dinner. This took literally 15 minutes. I see no reason for time to ever be a reason to not make dinner again.

Banana Cereal Muffins

This morning I made the Banana Cereal Muffins from Good to the Grain, my new favorite book. Written by Kim Boyce, a pastry chef turned stay at home mom, these recipes are designed for optimal performance rather than nutrition - something that always bothers me until I get to the delicious finished product. I plan to try the recipes as-is first, then begin to tinker a little to cut down on some of the all-purpose flour she uses. I'm not a pastry chef, so a flatter muffin top won't really bother me.

Some of the ingredients this recipe calls for: cracked multigrain hot cereal, whole-grain rye flour, bananas, molasses. Yum. The multigrain cereal, which I really bought with this recipe in mind, is actually delicious as a cereal if you like cream of wheat, oatmeal, etc. (which I do). I made it for breakfast (plain, with water only) and reserved the 1/2 cup needed for the muffins for when I had more time to make them. I made much more cereal than I could eat so I had it for breakfast for the next two days as well. I reheated it in the microwave with a generous splash of soymilk, which made it sweet enough for me. I hate ingredients that have only one purpose because they fill up my cabinets and refrigerator and then I spend hours looking for recipes to use them up.

I have never used rye flour before, which made it more interesting when I opened the bag and saw what it looked like - kind of like gravel. Yuck. But no, it was good in the muffins. I can understand why the recipe was written with 1 cup rye flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour as I don't know if I could stand the taste of rye alone.

I did forget an ingredient - a teaspoon of cinnamon. I had it sitting out on the counter after making oatmeal cookies the other day, and I thought to myself, "oh good, it's already out," and then I forgot to put it in. Fortunately the muffins are still delicious - I was very concerned when I realized what I'd left out halfway through the baking time. Molasses is a unique flavor of its own, which I think helped to save it, and so did the bananas. But next time I will include it and I do think it will be better that way.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to Pack a Healthy Lunch

Never give yourself an excuse to stop at Wendy's again! Here are my tips for packing a delicious, healthy lunch.

Standard equipment: a lunchbox, preferably insulated; a reusable ice pack; good plastic containers that won't leak; sandwich and snack size ziplock bags; a thermos; reusable or plastic utensils

Important tips
- Prep things at the end of the weekend for the upcoming week.
- Consider a balance between carbs, protein and fat. Aim for a mix of each. Adding a small amount of healthy fat to a snack (for example, having a handful of nuts with your nonfat yogurt) supposedly keeps you fuller for longer.


: They come in their own edible package, so you only have to wash and go if you want to bite right in. If you want slices for dipping, just toss with lemon juice or take a lemon wedge, squeeze a bit of juice on the slice, and rub it in with the wedge.

Oranges: Peel and divide and put in a ziplock if you will be able to refrigerate. If not, take a knife and slice all the way around the circumference, then do the same thing again perpendicular to your first line.

Avocados: Be careful that you don't bump and bruise your avocado, but otherwise they are great to-go foods. You can cut them with a credit card if you don't have a knife, and they can be eaten with a spoon right out of the shell.

Bananas: A prepackaged fruit that is easy to eat and not messy and doubles as really good for you! Although they may develop brown spots on the outside, they can withstand being carried back and forth from home, so always pack one. If you end up not eating it, it will still be fine tomorrow.

Dried fruit: Fresh fruits contain a lot of water, which fills you up faster, so watch your portions when eating dried fruit. I don't often eat dried fruit out of hand, but apricots are my favorite for that. Dried cherries and dried figs are great for baking.


Carrots: A great snack with many kinds of dip - buy them by the bunch on the weekend. They will definitely keep all week, so you may want to save them for mid-week when you start running low on healthy snacks. You can also cut them into sticks on Sunday to have for the whole week - just peel, slice and store in a plastic container full of water. Carrots with the green tops still attached will be fresher (and that's the only way to tell). In terms of dips, I like to make my own hummus using Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and I also like the ginger-miso dressing sold in bottles at the sushi counter at Whole Foods.

Peppers: Some people eat plain peppers cut into strips as a snack. (I don't, but some do.) This could be a nice way to switch up your carrot/dip snack and add some color to your diet.


"Regular" salads: keep all of the components for salads on hand, chopped, washed and ready to go - but keep them separate. You can easily throw together a salad in the morning or even the night before. Keep salad dressings in small separate containers and mix together just before you eat to avoid sogginess. If "regular" salad bores you, find a recipe or combination that you like and keep those ingredients ready to go, enough to have it as a side salad for a few days. One unusual salad I like is this broccoli salad.

Grain salads: A lot of grain salads are intended to be served at room temperature, which makes them an easy choice for lunch when you have no refrigeration or reheating capabilities. They are also easy to mix up in a big container for you to scoop some out when packing each lunch. This could also be your solution to "boring" salads - just add a scoop of grain salad to a nice pile of spinach leaves, and you won't even remember the standard "lettuce, tomato, cucumber" combo. This wheat berry salad is one of my favorites, and so is the Ottolenghi Red Rice & Quinoa featured on 101 Cookbooks.


Muffins: Freeze muffins as soon as they cool and they will retain their quality. A regular-size muffin should defrost entirely in a little over 2 hours, though it may still be cold. If you have access to a microwave, 20 seconds should do it, depending on how frozen it is. Tiny muffins are also great for a bite of flavor with far less calories. I like this sour cream muffin recipe, which goes great with blueberries. (Swap the sour cream for nonfat yogurt for a slightly healthier muffin.) Also, banana bran and fig bran (from Ellie Krieger's book So Easy) are some of my favorites.

Scones: In general, these are not healthy, but when you are tempted to stop at Starbucks, you will be glad you made a batch of these scones with whole wheat flour and oatmeal and stuck them in the freezer for a time of need! To keep the calories in check, cut them into mini-scones before baking (just be sure to watch them carefully in the oven). I also successfully (and accidentally) used half the amount of butter in the linked recipe.
Granola/Breakfast Bars: Homemade, of course. If you can't make your own for whatever reason, very carefully examine the nutrition label before you buy. Be careful of the sugar content in particular. I like to make my own granola bars using Alton Brown's recipe. My all-time favorite breakfast bars are the Walnut and Dried Cherry bars from Ellie Krieger's book So Easy. (I freeze those as well, but take them out the night before rather than trying to defrost them in the microwave.)


Yogurt: Stick with plain and flavor it yourself. Avoid any brands with added sugars! You can purchase larger containers and portion them out yourself to save money. Yogurt was featured in a recent issue of Self magazine as the #1 weight loss food! Plus, it is just plain good for you. I like to have plain greek-style yogurt with a little honey or a handful of nuts. I have also heard of mixing in a spoonful of 100% fruit preserves rather than purchasing flavored yogurt with added sugar, but I haven't tried this yet.

Main Courses

Soups: It's easy to make lots of soup at a time, so freeze it in leftover Chinese takeout containers since those are made for soup anyway.

Casseroles: Who really wants to eat baked ziti for lunch AND dinner 3 days in a row? Freeze portions in plastic wrap in a ziplock bag. I use plastic containers as a mold by lining them with plastic wrap, filling it with ziti, and wrapping it up. Then I take it out and put it in the labeled ziplock.


Water: Stick with a refillable water bottle. Not only is it zero calories and good for you, there is a good chance you will find a water fountain somewhere during your day so that you can refill. I like to fill mine with ice cubes, then water so it stays colder for longer, but in warm weather this produces a lot of condensation so wrap it in a paper towel too (or small reusable towel).

Spritzers: If you need a little more flavor in your day, consider making juice "spritzers" with seltzer and juice. This way you get the flavor of the juice with less calories. I like to use pineapple juice. Always make sure you use 100% juice - anything less than 100% and you know the rest is added sweeteners. As a multipurpose alternative to an icepack, buy small 100% juice boxes and freeze them. By lunchtime, it should be defrosted but still cold, and will have kept your lunch cool too. You can mix this with the seltzer you brought along with you to make your spritzer!