Recipe: Healthy Garbage Smoothies

So Future Foodie is like the weather lately with her eating habits.  One day, she LOVES broccoli. The next day, it’s like I’m making her eat dirt.  So…it’s been “fun” having our nightly family dinner together lately.  But it has forced me to be a little bit more creative in how I can get nutrients into that little body of hers.  So I started making smoothies and literally threw in anything nutritious into the mix to see if she would drink it.  Hallelujah! She downs them like it’s her job.

To make the smoothie, I start with a bullet. I throw in a whole banana, any other fruit we have in the house (apples, pears, grapes, frozen blackberries, cantaloupe, etc.), a tablespoon of ground up  (omega-3’s), a heaping tablespoon of our homemade yogurt, lots of soy milk, and some Cranberry juice. I also add in SPINACH! or BEETS! She doesn’t even notice, it is so awesome. Anyway, I blend it all up and say “Bon appetit” to Future Foodie.  It’s great.  But I’m sure, just like the weather, she will soon stop drinking even these.

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Recipe: Homemade Yogurt

J’s family takes its Labne or Lebanese yogurt as I like to call it, very seriously.  It’s a staple in their diet and his entire family makes their own batches of yogurt.  They all use the same yogurt culture that has been passed from family member to family member.  The culture originated with J’s grandmother, Alice, who while alive, was a fabulous cook.  The family still talks about her food.  Each Sunday evening, she would have the entire family over, anywhere between 15 – 30 people at her house and she would cook enough food to feed ALL of them.  Amazing. Takes my breath away just thinking about it.  J still makes the yogurt and he eats it every morning (with granola) for breakfast.  We wanted to share the recipe.

Ingredients

Half a gallon of whole organic milk

Half a cup of yogurt with live cultures

A cheesecloth

Instructions

In a pot, heat the milk over low heat until it reaches 180 degrees.  Make sure to check it often so that it doesn’t burn.

Take the pot off the heat and let the temperature go down to approximately 130 degrees. An aside, J’s grandmother would use her “10 second” rule of putting her finger in the milk until she could hold her finger in there for 10 seconds.  We don’t really use this pseudo masochistic way of testing the milk and use a thermometer instead.

Once the milk has reached 130 degrees, you temper the yogurt by adding one tablespoon at a time of the hot milk to the yogurt (only about a half a cup of milk is needed to do this).  This prevents the culture from being shocked (by the heat, not indecency) when it’s added to the milk.  You stir it each time you add a tablespoon.  Once you’ve added about a half cup of milk in, pour the yogurt/milk mixture into the pot of warm milk.

Wrap the pot in a blanket or towel and place in a warm area in the kitchen (but not a hot oven!).  Let the mixture sit for 6 to 8 hours.  You can see it’s done when the top of the mixture has solidified.

Place the clean cheesecloth over the mixture, make sure not to push on the top, just rest it there.  Place in the refrigerator.  For the first three days, ring out the cheesecloth, rinse it under cold water and place it back on top of the yogurt.  Repeat this process twice a day for the first three days.  After the three days, keep the cheesecloth on the yogurt, but only ring and rinse once a day.  In addition, the yogurt is ready to eat after the first three days but the more water you pull out, the thicker the yogurt will get.

As you get towards the end of your batch of yogurt, save some for the next batch, so that you can keep regenerating that same culture.

If you’re going to add any additional flavors, make sure not to contaminate your clean batch of yogurt.

Enjoy the tangy taste of this home made yogurt.  Smear it on Arabic break, make tzatziki, plop into a smoothie, go crazy with it.

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Awful Arby’s

Don’t be grossed out but we got Arby’s on Sunday during a momentary lapse in reason.  We were on our way home from LI and had foolishly stopped at Woodbury Outlets thinking that it would be a nice break in the drive.  BAD MOVE.  The place was PACKED to the gills with tourists lugging huge rolling suitcases filled to capacity with shopping bags.  Everywhere we looked, there was either a crush of cars or people, it was kind of draining and overwhelming.  But the good news is that J got a pair of Kenneth Cole loafers and Timberland snow boots for under $100!

Anyway, we were starving on our way out of the outlets and I saw an Arby’s and thought, hey that might be good.  I was dead wrong.  We got two roast beef with cheese sandwiches.  As you can see from the picture above, I’m not sure any portion of those sandwiches were actually grown from anything found in nature.  The cheese was a step below cheese whiz and the meat, UGH, the meat.  It had like this weird brown gray color and these weird holes in it.  I took one bite and immediately regretted it.  Gah, it was gross.  J being J, ate his whole sandwich. I ate my chicken tenders that I also ordered, which actually were good and at least made up for that sorry excuse Arby’s calls a sandwich.

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Recipe: Vegetable Lo Mein

My favorite thing about my husband is that he takes our family recipes and makes them taste even better. He just has this knack.  One of the dishes he really makes well is vegetable Lo Mein.  It’s the opposite of what you get at Chinese restaurants, all the vegetables are crisp, the noodles are al dente, and the dish isn’t dripping with oil.  It’s pretty healthy too. You can add any veggies and proteins you want to the dish, it’s very versatile.

Ingredients

Carrots

Snow peas

Mushrooms (mostly Baby Bellas and a handful of shitakes)

5 Eggs

Chinese Noodles

2 Scallions

1 garlic clove

Sesame Oil

Rice wine

Soy Sauce

Instructions

Julienne carrots and snow peas.  Chop scallions and garlic.  Slice the mushrooms.

Cook noodles (use a good handful) like you would pasta, until the noodles are al dente. Make sure to rinse noodles with water when they are done so that you remove the starchiness.

Scramble eggs in a pan or wok. Add a dash of salt and white pepper.  Cook and place in separate bowl.

Change to high heat.  Add some vegetable oil to the pan and cook the mushrooms until they start emitting some liquid (about 5 minutes). Add some soy sauce, cook for another 1 minute and a half.  Set aside in a separate bowl.

Add a little bit more oil to the pan, add carrots, and cook for 5 minutes.  Add snow peas, scallions, and garlic. Stir all ingredients frequently so that garlic doesn’t burn. Add noodles, mushrooms, and eggs. Mix everything together. Add a generous amount of soy sauce, but add in small batches so you don’t overtake the dish with soy sauce.  Add a 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil.  Add 1 tablespoon of rice wine.  Keep mixing and add soy sauce until you achieve a flavor/saltiness level that you want.

Serve. Add Sriracha for additional tastiness.

 

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Peter Luger Steakhouse, the biggest disappointment of my year

My little brother turned 21 on Saturday (yay!) and as a birthday present, our family took him out to Peter Luger’s for a steak (which has been a family tradition for a while now).

The evening didn’t start off too well.  We all ordered drinks at the bar, my brother was excited he was able to legally drink in front of other adults.  I ordered a dirty martini, and I kid you not, it tasted like I was drinking vodka with a cup of salt in it.  It was undrinkable. Now I’m no dirty martini expert but I’ve had one or twenty in my past and none of them were even close to as salty as this drink was.  I was being a weenie and didn’t feel like saying anything, so I made my mom do it.  She asked the bartender very, very nicely if he could make me another drink as the martini was way too salty.  Well, that just set him off. He started to literally have an adult tantrum in front of us, slamming glasses, throwing the drink out, exclaiming very loudly that he’s “made thousands of these with no complaints ever” and “it’s made with olive juice, didn’t we know that? That’s what makes it dirty” and apparently undrinkably salty.” My mom, bless her heart, was being so nice about it, while I literally wanted to take his big, ugly face and knock him down, but I kept all my seething inside.  He then says that we ordered it wrong, and that we should should have said to make it only a little dirty. So he finally he sets down his drink in front of me and I take a sip, still very salty but at least I could suck that stupid $12 drink down.

We finally sat down and the waiter was very nice. We ordered a steak for four, which was very pricey at $173 plus a $30 steak for one. We also ordered an appetizer of huge beefsteak tomatoes and french fries and creamed spinach for sides.

The tomatoes came out. They were predictably huge, but completely tasteless.  They looked like they were genetically modified and grown in a hothouse. You’re supposed to spoon the famous Peter Luger Steakhouse on it, which we did, which was okay tasting but still. It was $10 for some slices of bleh tomato.

The steak came out a little while later. It was huge and delicious looking.  Peter Luger is famous for its dry aged steak which is supposed to make it very tender. However, all six of us who ate that steak unaminously agreed that the steak didn’t taste like it had been dry aged for even an hour, and there was absolutely nothing special about it to warrant that huge price tag.  We probably could have had the same steak at Outback for a fraction of the price.  It was seriously disappointing.  As I said, it’s been a family tradition to go out to Peter Luger’s for a usually melt in your mouth tender steak.  We grew up going there. But this steak was nothing to write home about, instead it almost made me angry because the taste just did not match what we thought we were paying for.

The creamed spinach and french fries were the highlights of the evening.  The spinach was very flavorful with a strong spinach flavor and no overpowering creaminess to it.  The french fries were big, crispy, and hot.  But still, those are items you can get anywhere.  We also got crappy, not crispy onion rings.  Just another disappointing thing to add to the list.

It makes me sad to write this post because I really used to love Peter Luger’s and would rave about it to anyone who would listen.  Now I will do the opposite and say that it does not live up to its hype.  All we got was an overpriced meal and rude service.  Needless to say, we will never go there again.

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Luso, my favorite Long Island restaurant

On Saturday, my family and I made our second trip in two weeks to Luso in Smithtown on Long Island. Side note, we decided to make our car our permanent residence.  It’s pretty cozy in there with the three of us and all of our luggage. We have food, a portable dvd player, music, and the company of each other, what more could we ask for?

So Luso is a Portuguese chartcuterie.   They bbq meat over wood briquettes and their signature dish is the bbq chicken.  This is the only reason to go to the restaurant.  Seriously, it’s cha-bang – out of of this world!  I’ve been there three times now, and have ventured to other areas on the menu and have been underwhelmed (my friend got fish and didn’t like how much butter they used, the sangria is overly sweet, and the kale/sausage soup is okay but J’s is better).  Whenever we go, we order the chicken for two for $18.95.  Sounds a little steep huh? But it’s really like the deal of the century, since along with that delicious grilled chicken, you also get as much salad as you want and tons of side dishes.  The salad is very good and very simple, just a mix of iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and white onions dressed with oil and vinegar.  It’s very European and with a little salt and pepper, it’s kind of addictive.

My sister literally ordered four plates of that salad; she was going a little nuts for the salad.  Then the chicken came out. They use a special marinade when grilling the chicken and the meat has so much flavor.  The skin is so crispy and good. It’s probably one of the best grilled chickens I have ever had (besides the grilled chicken we had out in Portugal).

The real kicker is when you put (or pour like J does) the Portuguese hot sauce, Piri-Piri sauce, on the chicken. We discovered the amazing Piri Piri sauce on a trip to Portugal a few years ago and have never forgotten it.  We even tried to recreate it but to no avail. The Portuguese use a special hot pepper that we couldn’t locate here.  Anyway, it gives a nick kick to the chicken and we literally clean the restaurant out of their Piri Piri whenever we eat there.

When you order the chicken, you also get a few very generously portioned sides:  rice, steamed vegetables, french fries, and home made potato chips. I mean, it’s a food fest all for less than $10 per person, AMAZING!

We all devoured the chicken and the rest of the food and let satiated and happy.  Service is efficient and the restaurant itself has a great outdoor back patio with huge outside heat lamps, and the inside is simple and cozy.  There’s always a ton of Portuguese people there which to me is a great sign.  If you’re ever on Long Island, check out Luso and get the chicken.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Maureen’s Kitchen: A Long Island Institution

So I’m one of those annoying morning people and more so now that Future Foodie wakes up at 6:30 AM on the dot every day.  This past Saturday, we were visiting family on Long Island.  It was 7 AM, my sister and I were up with Future Foodie and I decided that it would be just awesome if the whole family got up and went to breakfast at Maureen’s Kitchen in Smithtown.  So one by one, I woke my grumpy ass, the opposite of morning people up and told them we were having a family breakfast TOGETHER.  There was cajoling, demanding, and straight up yelling but I was absolutely determined we would get to Maureen’s Kitchen together and early.  That place fills up very, very quickly and I hate waiting for food, especially with a toddler.  So we collectively arrived at 8 AM and were promptly seated.

It’s super cute inside, there’s a big cow theme. Seriously, cows EVERYWHERE.  My parents took my sister and I took to Maureen’s kitchen when it was literally this tiny shack around 20 years ago and it’s been there ever since and has morphed into a bigger and nicer restaurant over the years.  The big thing at Maureen’s are specialty pancakes. I wasn’t feeling any of them so I got something I had never seen before, croissant french toast.  I mean yum, right?  Yum they were too!  Lightly dusted with powdered sugar, they were heavenly. They were not overpoweringly sweet, soft but not mushy.  I seriously ate my entire plate of food (sausages included), and a side order of the best corned beef hash I have ever eaten.  I was so happy. 

My mom got some awesome banana walnut pancakes.  They were delicious with walnuts baked right into the fluffy pancakes.  She took half of them home since she couldn’t match my voracious appetite and I finished them off the next morning.  I love leftovers!

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The power of salt

No, I’m not talking about the movie, although part of it was filmed in good old Albany and a big contributing factor to why I want to see it.  Anyway, I’m talking about salt the ingredient.  Not only does it make everything taste better, but it has also had a starring role in our household this past week.  I’m suffering from some hardcore allergies and my poor husband and daughter are both getting over colds, and salt is helping us getting over our maladies.

I’m a fervent believer in the neti pot, which basically looks like a little tea pot with an extra long snout., which you then use to put up your nose (sexy huh?).  The idea is to have the water flow through each nostril and rinse the sinuses using a salt and sodium bicarbonate mixture (baking soda).  I buy the premixed packages but you can Google neti rinse recipes.  It’s not the most attractive thing to be doing, but GODDAMN, do my sinuses feel clear after a good neti rinse. J was really, really against the neti pot for a long time, but he finally came around and is also a true believer.

So salt helps clear my sinuses, but gargling with a salt water mixture also helps ease the effects of cold symptoms (according to this NY TIMES Article).  J has been doing just that this past week, and it’s definitely helping.  So salt is pretty freaking amazing, isn’t it?

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Recipe: Duck Congee

Duck Congee was on a regular food rotation in our house growing up.  I have always loved it. My mother would make it whenever we had left over Peking Duck and I would always end up eating the majority of it, much to my little brother and sister’s dismay.  As you can see, I’ve always had a big appetite.  This past weekend we were in Long Island and my mom hooked me up with some left over roast duck.  This is serious comfort food, it’s warm, filling, and so tasty since the duck flavor infuses the rice stew.

Ingredients

Short grain rice


Canola oil

Roast duck – we used about half a duck (just pick some prepared roast duck at a Chinese restaurant)

Bok Choy

Scallions

Salt

White pepper

2 garlic cloves

Instructions

Use a cup and a half of rice.  Rinse thoroughly.

Use a large sauce pot, put in rice and 1 tablespoon of canola oil.  Add a lot of water, we filled the pot halfway up with water.  Start with medium high heat, when water boils reduce heat to low.  Cook the rice for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Add duck.  Cook for another 25 minutes.

In the meantime, clean and wash bok choy.  Chop finely, should have about 2 cups of chopped bok choy.  Mince two garlic cloves.  Use a saute pan, add some oil, add the garlic.  After two minutes, make sure not to burn the garlic.  Add the bok choy, saute for 5 minutes.  Add in to duck congee and mix.

At this point, you will want to add salt and white pepper to taste.  Serve with chopped scallions.  Enjoy!

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Maine, Part 2

On Monday, J, Future Foodie, and I went to the Side Street Café for lunch. It was very charming inside, with bright colors, and local paintings on the wall.  I ordered a burger with avocado, bacon, and aioli.  Wooheee, was that burger delicious!  It was tender, the bacon was crispy, the meat had flavor to it, the bun was nice and soft.  I devoured it.  J ordered a lobster roll (are you sensing a theme here?).  He thought the roll was divine, kind of what Thurston’s should have been.  It had a perfect blend of mayo, lobster, and spices.  We ordered macaroni and cheese with spinach for Future Foodie.  It was very impressive because the kid’s order was huge, it came out piping hot, and it was delicious.  We were definitely sneaking our bites in as well.

We stayed in for dinner again and J made crab cakes using Faidley’s recipe (a famous crab cake stand in Baltimore).  They also bought steamer clams, which J liked because he found them to be creamy, but our friends disliked them for the same reason.

On Tuesday, we stayed in Portland.  We made a beeline for Duckfat.  Let me just say this, BEST FRIES EVER!!! In Portland of all places! Who knew? I mean I’ve had fries in the birthplace of fries and I go and find the most delicious fries ever in Maine of all places.  They are fried in duck fat (duh) and are so crisp, and come out so hot, and stay hot (how, I’m not sure).  We got garlic aioli and truffle ketchup to dip the delicious sticks into. Yum.  We ended up getting three orders of fries, because we started with a small order of regular fries and we wanted to try the poutine (fries covered in melted cheese curds and gravy).  The poutine was pretty good but I preferred the naked fries.  Then after eating both of those, I decided we needed another order and proceeded to finish that one as well.  Reading that over now, kind of makes us seem like total gluttons.

Lest you think all we eat are fries, we did order the carrot and ginger soup (for Future Foodie who wanted nothing to do with it) and I orderd the tomato fennel soup (creamy and delicious, with just a hint of fennel).  J ordered the ruben Panini made with beef tongue.  He thought it was good, but nothing to write home about because the tongue didn’t have that “tongue” texture which he likes.  We also got a strawberry milkshake, which was so damn good that Shake Shack should be ashamed of itself.

We actually did take out for dinner from the Dogfish café.  We were so tired and we really couln’t envision ourselves sitting down to another semi-stressful meal trying to entertain Future Foodie and eat at the same time.

We shared the Dogfish burger (8 oz, with an onion ring, bacon, tomato, mesclun mix, and bbq sauce). It was another mouthwatering burger.  You had to open your mouth very wide to take a bite but that bite had so much going on with it.  The tasty burger itself, the vegetables, and the crisp bacon and onion rings, and the spicy bbq sauce.  It was a delight. I also ordered a half rack of ribs, which got better the more I ate them.  I wish the meat was more tender, I really don’t like having to rip the meat off, I prefer it to fall off the bone by itself, but the bbq sauce was really tangy and spicy and kind of addictive.  I also enjoyed the cole slaw, it was wonderfully crispy with red and green cabbage and some carrots slices thrown in.


The next morning, we ambled over to Hot Suppa!, a local place devoted to fresh ingredients and local ingredients.

The restaurant itself had a nice, cool, hip vibe to it with a GIANT chalkboard with specials on it.  It was pretty quiet when we got there.  Our server, a young guy, was great, really friendly, welcoming towards Future Foodie, and most importantly, great at being a waiter.  J and I both ordered the corn beef hash as it’s highly lauded (even in national food magazines).  J, very smartly ordered a side of hash browns with it.  Future Foodie got a fruit plate.

The food came out fairly quickly and J immediately declared it THE BEST CORN BEEF HASH EVER. I thought it was good, but it didn’t blow my socks off.  Here’s why I wasn’t so crazy about it and for the same reason, why J loved it.  It’s not a traditional hash, the corn beef is more shredded in bigger chunks, and there’s a very small amount of potatoes.  It was tender and tasty, but didn’t blow my mind. It also bugged me that it wasn’t hash like.  That’s what I like best about corned beef hash, the mushy quality of it.  I just felt like I eating big chunks of corned beef.  But J loved it and raved and raved.  Although I do have to say, his hash browns ROCKED.  They were so crispy and perfect. He mixed them into the corned beef.  So I caved and ordered some too.  The fruit plate for Future Foodie was great: sliced bananas, grapefruit, orange slices, strawberries, and grapes. She was loving it.

I am almost embarrassed to admit to this level of gluttony but J and I just had to have Dogfish burgers again. So we each had our OWN burger. I knew this time to order extra bbq sauce (I love my condiments).  J and I went to town on those burgers and finished the big things in like five minutes.  I’m getting misty eyed thinking about it because I know it’s going to be a while until I have it again.

That pretty much concluded our Maine trip.  As you can see, eating played a huge factor in the trip, as it always does.  We loved Maine. We want to retire in Maine.

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