Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hello. My name is Ellen, and I am a sugar addict.

This is somewhat embarrassing to admit. I consider myself a pretty healthy person. I bake with whole wheat flour. My top ten favorite food list includes brussels sprouts. I have a t-shirt that says "Eat More Kale" for crap's sake. But over the years, slowly but surely I have come to see cookies as an always food. It is the unfortunate combination of having only a modicum of self control and surrounding myself with tasty confections. My mom was a baker extraordinaire when I was a kid. There was always a homemade tasty cookie, cake, pie, or bread around the house. Which rules when you are a kid and have someone there to tell you not to have pie for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner.  

As an "adult" I have failed at policing myself. Somewhere I went from enjoying a treat for dessert to eating cupcakes for breakfast and calling them muffins because I didn't frost them.

Laura and I have discussed our mutual love for our cristalline friend and we are ready to break the cycle. Care to join us Chardracers? For the next week we are committing to eliminating/decreasing our sugar intake. Let's really stick it to that snotty sugar.
Ugh, look how haughty sucrose looks.

Hopefully putting this in writing will help me hold myself accountable. So I say here, on Lord of the Chard, the most sacred of all blogs, that I will abstain from superfluous sugar from May 1st though May 7th. May the world have mercy on me. And you if you choose to join me.

It is 11:28 pm on April 30th as I write this, so I better go get one last squeeze of the chompo bar in. Please leave any messages of support, sugar avoidance tips, or smack talk about how stupid sucrose looks in the comment.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

...cause I can tell that we're going to be friends...

Everyone has posted such delicious meals these last few days! I have been trying to find something new for breakfast. Usually I have my cup of coffee and a box of Multi-Grain Os (that's right, I am too cheap to buy the name brand) that I keep in my car. As I drive to work in the morning I throw handfuls of MGOs into my mouth this ritual results in my car appearing as if I drive a toddler carpool. Anyhoo, I love me a banana bread but my Betty Crocker recipe has a LOT of sugar in it. Seeing as I just downed 3 peeps, you might assume that sugar reduction is not a concern for me but, as Elle and I have recently discussed, we will be shortly announcing the first LOTC (Lord of the Chard) challenge to reduce sugar in our diet (details to follow).
So I tried making a healthy version of the nanner classic. (Elle could you provide the citation?) (This recipe is from The King Arthur Flour Cookbook which I wholly recommend - E)

Banana Crunch Bread
1 c. oat flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
3 medium mashed nanners
6 oz. cup plain yogurt (I used greek for extra protein)
1 t. vanilla
1 t. pumpkin pie spice (I used Penzey's Apple Pie spice)
1/2 c. oats
1/3 c. brown sugar (I used less)
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 T. butter
1/4 c. nuts

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8x8 pan. Whisk the first three ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate large bowl cream butter and brown sugar and then beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in dry mixture and bananas, alternating until both are integrated. Add yogurt, vanilla and spices. Pour into pan. Mix all of the topping ingredients together and spread over the top of prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes (our oven in on the fritz so it took 50ish minutes).
A shout out to my guinea pigs, and friends of the blog: Tammy and Eric (Daniel's parents) who have very discerning palette. Here are their comments!
Tammy-"I love it, full of banana flavor and really moist cake. I like the topping and don't think it is too dry. Filling breakfast."
Eric-"Somewhat dry...but good flavor. Recommend eating it over the sink. Like raspberry chocolate torte better."

These comments pretty much sum up how I felt: I too felt that the topping was a bit too dry (in the above recipe I cut down the oats by 1/4 c. I think this will do the trick next time). But it did have a really good flavor and, of course, I felt good about eating it (unlike the chocolate torte)!
Coffee is a perfect friend to this bread!

A Mediterranean Feast

On Friday I had some friends over for a very merry Passover Seder. I decided to put a little skew on the traditional feast of matzo ball soup, roasted eggs, and roast beast by looking to our friends in the Mediterranean. Amanda worked as my loyal sous chef and here is what we whipped up:

Watermelon Feta kebabs with mint
Baked chickpea fritters served with sliced pickles, cucumbers, carrots, and greek yogurt
Collard green dolmas stuffed with a quinoa salad
Roasted eggplant dip
Israeli pickles
Lebanese carrot salad (which I completely forgot to serve...)
Honey cake

Alex and Sarah were all star guests and provided charoset (I finished the leftovers today for breakfast), and some of the best homemade macaroons I have ever had.

Sadly when I remembered to take some pictures my camera only took one photo before informing me that the battery was dead!

Alex does not look impressed here

Saturday night I had some leftovers and was able to take a shot of the dolmas I so painstakingly rolled. Dolma just means "stuffed" or "filled" in its original Turkish, which inspired me to roll these up in collard greens instead of the usual grape leaves. Also I did not have grape leaves... They took forever and were really fussy, but a fun food for a dinner party.

Collard dolmas, steamed collards, and quinoa salad with feta

I also wanted to use up my leftover collards so I steamed them according to this method from Healthy Tipping Point. I had never made collards before and honestly they were sort of "eh." A little too slimy for me. Maybe I cooked them too long? I'm really hoping to learn to enjoy them since they are basically nutrition bombs and wildly inexpensive.

Collards steaming - you can see how little they cooked down to in the photo above

After noshing on all of those healthy greens I finished off the meal with the remainder of the honey cake. My grandmother sent me the special passover mix specifically for our seder. I was a little nervous it was going to taste super dry (it uses potato starch instead of the forbidden flour), but it was actually very moist and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It tasted just like a spicy pumpkin cake.

It was the last piece - I ate it straight from the pan

Today the sun is actually out in Boston and it is a beautiful day. I am going to go stroll around the harborwalk and get some vitamin D on my fur!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pepperoni Roll-Ups

My mother in law is one amazing cook. I had a lot to live up to when I married Matt. Luckily, she is not stingy with her recipes, and has given me quite the arsenal of "Matt's favorites" so I can cook them myself. She makes this thing called "pepperoni bread" that's basically a pizza, all rolled up like a cinnamon roll. YUM. I used her idea, but my own bread recipe and filling ideas.

3 cups AP flour
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t dry active yeast
1 cup water
2 T olive oil
Place all ingredients in your bread machine and use "dough" setting. When finished, roll it out to a large rectangle (like you're going to make cinnamon rolls). Top it with the following:

Mix the following:
Lots of yummy cheese (mozzarella, provolone, and/or colby jack)
Lots of yummy meats (pepperoni and/or salami)
Optional: bell pepper, tomatoes, tomato sauce, artichokes, olives

Spread filling mixture on the dough rectangle. Roll it up, fold over the ends, and place it on a cookie sheet or baking stone. Cut a few slits in the top. Brush with egg wash (just break up an egg with a fork) and dried basil or oregano. Bake @ 400 for 45 minutes or until the crust is nice and golden brown.

Of course I had to turn it into a dessert too:
Use the same dough recipe.
In a saute pan, mix the following until the sauce becomes bubbly and the apples soft.
1 1/2 cups apples, chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar

Follow the same directions as above for a yummy dessert!

Garden Update

Unlike Laura, I do not have much garden space. Matt build me a 5 by4 foot raised bed and I also use large containers for tomatoes. In the raised bed I've got my peas growing (in the very back), lettuce going around the edge, and spinach (it's tiny--but it's there!) between the lettuce. Carrots are still in the mini greenhouse.

Matt and I are taking a European vacation this summer! Fun! However, that means I will have to leave my garden for something like 21 days. Not fun. Any ideas on what I can do to
keep my plants alive? (PS: I live in a condo. do not have a hose. do not have a cute neighborhood girl who can come water my plants for me.).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Well chardfans, it has been a rough week here in Lord of the Chard's New England division. Maybe it is Boston's refusal to have nice weather. Maybe it is the terrifying reality that I will be done with school in less than four weeks. Or Maybe it is the post apocalyptic book I am reading where everyone dies of influenza. Whatever the cause I have been in a bit of a funk. I thought I would share with you all a few unrelated ideas.

On Saturday my roommate Amanda hosted The Manor's (that is what we call our apartment) third annual Cambodian New Year. It was lots of fun and there was much merrymaking and carrot shaking. Brian and I acted as sous chefs, and I must say I totally dominated spring roll rolling. Here is a picture Amanda took of our feast.
Not pictured: French 75s, the cocktail of the colonizer.
The feast reignited my love of wrapping things in rice paper and has inspired me to bring some spring rolls in my packed lunch. Rice paper is insanely cheap and you can wrap them full of any combination of veggies and proteins you desire. They are portable and you don't have to worry about refrigerating them if you are planning on having them for lunch. Win!

Monday was the day of the Boston Marathon aka "Patriot's Day" so everyone was off from work and school and they city was clogged up like a heart that was one step away from a myocardial infarction! After watching insane people run 26.2 miles I felt motivated to work out and finish with doing 1000 skips on my jump rope. I know it sounds kind of silly but I cannot recommend jump roping enough. It is weirdly hard and your calves will be sculpted like something on greek statue. Jump ropes are cheap, but if you have a boyfriend who you can steal one from, all the better. I followed up my jumping with a green smoothie. A VERY green smoothie.
Kale, papaya, pineapple, non fat plain yogurt, banana
I also wanted to let you all know about my new go to quick dinner. I was inspired by seeing this 101 cookbooks recipe for quesadillas. Of course she makes hers much fancier than mine, but I followed the same idea and am addicted. Better still I have been able to find a new use for a kitchen item. I have had a crepe pan for some time now (nicely given to me by my mother or grandma), but to be honest had only used it once to make crepes. Well, let me tell you, it is the perfect pan for quesadillas. Nothing sticks to it!
Said crepe pan
 First I scramble up one egg with salt and pepper and pour it into the heated pan.
Once the egg is half gooey/half cooked (this will only take a minute or so) place a tortilla on top, pressing it into the egg so they are glued together. Place your hand on the tortilla and flip it over so the tortilla ends up on the bottom. I guess you could use a spatula or something, but why dirty another utensil?
What you will have post flipping
 Now sprinkle on a small amount of shredded cheese. I like to add black beans as well. I don't think I have to tell you peppers or tomatoes would be good here too.
 After the cheese has melted take it off the heat and either roll it up or fold it like a traditional quesadilla. I recommend adding spinach and some hot sauce too.
Having mine with leftover jicama from Cambodian New Year
Honestly this all takes less than 5 minutes and it is weirdly amazing. Tastier than the sum of its parts for sure. Since I often get home late from school and THE HUNGOR has come out to play this is a perfect quick supper for me.

Anyone else have any quick supper ideas? Maybe we could do a series of posts: "What to eat when you have HUNGOR, aka when you are going down."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How does your garden grow...

Despite my lack of any substantial cooking in the past week or two, (Daniel has been helping with my New Year's pledge of one new meal a week) I thought I would share some pics of my garden now that it is up and running.

Last week I recieved my seeds in the mail! This year I decided to order them from Seed Savers Exchange. The online store carries heirloom seeds and you can feel safe since they store all the varieties in a bunker in Sweden in case of a nuclear war (really!). I went out on a limb this year and decided to try to grow my own tomato starts. After last year's planting disaster (#cherry tomatoes in our yard last summer was greater than the # of blog posts I have read this last week covering the royal wedding) I decided that I would plant tons of "normal" tomatoes and just one or two plants of the cherry variety.

Since our last frost date occurs at the end of May, most seeds cannot be planted until after that date. However, peas tolerate frost well, so I put three rows of pea pods and four rows of shelling peas in today. I also sowed (sew?) chamomile flowers in hopes that I can dry them and to make tea. About three minutes after I had finished up with the peas, I saw RWAs (Robins with attitude) trying to find the seeds! Moses needs to get to work chasing those birds away.
I did get my starts going this week at the moment they include Brandywine tomatoes, Heart of Gold cantaloupes, and a grand variety of hot peppers. You can see the cantaloupe plants starting to sprout already. Moses is posing in the sun with my little greenhouse starter (it has a top as well) we have sort of odd lighting from our windows so I try to move the seeds around to the areas that receive the most sun during the day (yes, I a bit obsessive). Note, the giant pile of recycling that is spilling over in the corner...
Our irrigation just turned on so I started "prepping" my raised beds by giving them a good soak. This is my newest bed that Daniel constructed during spring break (wooo!). Note: our pretty magnolia bush blooming.

Toiling in my soil reminds me that life does not have to run around thesis writing, teaching classes and worrying about job applications. I love it.

Anyone have tips to dissuade RWAs from eating all my seeds?
Will I ever get my cooking mojo back?
Will Kate Middleton wear an awesome feathered hat/veil at the wedding?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Banana Cupcakes and Spring

Good morning Chardheads. I don't want to jinx anything, but I think spring may have finally sprung in the Northeast. My amaryllis sure thinks so.

A closer look
Friday was Erik's birthday so after pestering him incessantly he finally relented and agreed to let me make banana cupcakes to celebrate. I have made this recipe a dozen or more times. It is my go to "crap I need to bake a treat for something and have nothing in my house but oh god they are so good" recipe. The extra good part about this recipe is that it does not use eggs so you can lick the bowl with reckless abandon.

Banana Cupcakes/Muffins
Makes 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup very ripe banana
3/4 cup AP flour
1/2 cup whole wheat (or white whole wheat) flour
1/4 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
2/3 cup "milk" (soy, almond, mammal)
2 t vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In your food processor/blender/magic bullet blend the banana well until there are no chunks. In a large bowl combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a separate small bowl whisk together banana, oil, milk, vanilla, and almond. Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in mixing slowly. Try not to over mix. Pour batter into cupcake liners and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Right out of the oven. If you look at the column on the left you can see I am not great at distributing the batter evenly
If you want to eat them plain they are more like a muffin and can therefore technically be eaten for breakfast!

Since I was baking for celebratory purposes I made peanut butter frosting to go with them. Is there anything better than banana and peanut butter? I used this recipe from allrecipes and it worked just fine.

The finished product
Oh hello
After my baking frenzy I had a workout followed by a green smoothie.
In the mix: Kale, water, plain non-fat yogurt, pineapple, and banana. Pow - energy straight to my core!

What was your best birthday cake/treat ever?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Still Not Spring

Friends, this is what I saw when I pulled up the weather today:

Yuck. It feels like spring is never going to come. There is nothing to do but to make bread from scratch, look longingly at your flip flops, and make tons of soup. Tonight after I got home from class I made a recipe that I bookmarked last week - Swiss Chard and Chickpea Minestrone. I mostly followed the recipe but left out some ingredients I didn't have. Instead of making a bouquet garni (seriously?) with a parmesan rind and bay leaf I added a bunch of penzey's spices and used vegetable stock. I also substituted the tomato paste for a can of diced tomatoes. The soup was warming and the flavors all worked well together. Adding chard or kale to soups like this is one of my favorite texture tricks. Also since they get wilted it is a great way to add dark leafy greens to your diet.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I'm learning to cook with Beans

I have been trying to find receipes that are quick and easy and include beans. Beans are low in fat, high in protein, fiber, iron, and calcium. This one is from my friend Beth and is called Pasta e Fagioli. First I gathered at the ingredients. Ingredients:.

2 TBSP olive oil..

1 onion diced.

4 cloves of garlic.

6 cups chicken broth (low sodium).

28oz diced tomatos (I added an extra 14 oz).

28oz cannellini beans (I used white beans).

1.5 tsp rosemary.

1 tsp oregano.

1/2 lb ditalini pasta (I would use 1/3 lb or less).

Saute garlic, onion in olive oil until tender..

Make sure to use a big enough pot, which I didn't and had to switch about half way through the next step.


Add broth, tomatoes with juice, beans, rosemary, oregano, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add pasta and cook until tender.

pasta will continue to absorb the broth, so best if you add it right before you want to eat it.

This makes a large pot, so if you can't eat it all in one week, freeze a portion before you add the pasta to use for later.

Eat with cheese, crackers and grapes. So yummy and works great for leftovers!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Glug, glug, glug, I am drinking my veggies!

Are you looking to increase your servings of fruits and vegetables?
Would you like more fiber in your diet?
Do you need a quick breakfast you can have on the run?
Is there a picky eater in your household you would like to trick into eating more veggies?
Do you have a boatload of frozen overripe bananas in your freezer that you have been meaning to use for ages?
Has your jaw been wired shut, forcing you to only consume things in liquid form?

If you answered YES to any of those questions allow me to present to you the GREEN SMOOTHIE. Now I did not invent this - in fact I'm not even sure where I first read about the idea of adding greens to your smoothies. But I have been incorporating green smoothies into my diet for the past year or so and therefore I award myself my own personal Iron Chef award for smoothie Queen.

The idea is simple. Each smoothie has 3 main components plus optionals. Here are some ideas for each.

Part 1: Fruits and veggies
  • I recommend you use at least 1/2 frozen banana. This will make your smoothie creamy and banana has a strong flavor so it will over power stronger veggie flavors.
  • Frozen Mango
  • Pineapple (Canned, frozen, fresh)
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Blueberries (I am generally not a huge fan of things like raspberries since I'm not keen on seediness, but that may not bother you)
  • Frozen cherries 
  • Beets
  • Carrots
Part 2: Greens
  • Spinach! This is the green beginners should use.
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Dark leaf lettuce
Part 3: Liquids
  • H2O
  • "Milk" (soy, almond, mammal, etc.)
  • Yogurt
  • Any juices
This is a smoothie guys, you can't really break it. Just pick a few options from each category and throw them in the blender. If you are new to green smoothies I suggest you start out with 1/5 greens and 4/5 liquid and fruits. Ease into drinking beet and chard smoothies. 

  • Don't use strong pungent greens (e.g. mustard greens). Laura can tell you what a mustard smoothie tastes like.
  • Don't use all fresh fruit/veggies. Otherwise you will have green juice. Frozen fruit (especially the banana) gives you a slushy/creamy consistency.
  • Don't be too nervous about adding veggies. Generally the fruits are much more potent and you won't taste a lot of the veggies. Plus, it if is gross it is not big deal.
  • Don't forget to give it a good long blend. You don't want to suck up lots of chunks of chard through you straw. 
Here is the green smoothie I made yesterday to have after my workout.

Fruits and veggies: Banana (I used frozen but they looked ugly so I photographed fresh), cooked beets, papaya (Great deal - that whole papaya was only $0.65 at the asian grocery store)

Greens: Kale! My favorite for smoothies. Again, if you are new to green smoothies I suggest you start with spinach.

Liquids: Soy milk and water

Optional add in: Ground flax seed (this gives sort of a nutty taste)

I blend my greens and liquid together before adding in the fruits/veggies. This helps ensure that the greens get liquified and you don't end up with a chunky smoothie.

Finished product. You can't tell because of my camera and the poor light (due to a SNOWSTORM), but the color is a beautiful brilliant red. Yes, beets will stain.

One more from the top.