Monday, April 29, 2013

I Knead You!

Okay, cheesy title, I know but it had to be done.

Ah, fresh dough. The smell is so aromatic. Is there anything better?

No, I don't think so. I usually don't have the best luck with dough. I always make a huge mess, and get the dough all over my hands while cursing at myself and all those Betty Crockers who make it seem so effortless. But this.. oh this time, I got it right. Hallelujah! I guess the 3rd 4th 10th time really is the charm, eh?

What was different this time, you ask? For one, I made a smaller batch.. that might have helped. I just wanted a little dough to make a small pizza. Two, I did research, ensuring proper portion sizes of flour/water/yeast/sugar. Basically, I was prepared for this. You'd think I'd always be prepared, but then you really don't know me. :p

I didn't use regular flour, since I have none. Instead, I used flaxseed and oats ground up in a coffee grinder. Use whatever you might have on hand that can be ground into flour, I say. Oats, buckwheat, chickpeas, whatever! Go crazy! Cooking, I've found, is really a way to express your creativity and innovation.

Super Yummy Pizza Dough

[makes 1 small pizza]

1 1/2c flour of choice (mine was 2/3c ground flax and the rest oat flour)
1/2c warm water
2 1/4t active dry yeast
1t sugar of choice (I use organic coconut palm sugar)
Extra flour for kneading

1. Mix the warm water with the sugar until it's dissolved. Add the yeast and let it sit until it's super foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
2. Add the 1 1/2c flour and mix. It'll be super sticky, so don't touch it with your hands unless they're floured! 
3. Using a spatula, spoon the dough until a well floured surface. Adding more flour as needed, begin kneading the dough. Knead and add flour until it becomes less wet and doesn't stick. It should be elastic-like and be a little difficult to knead towards the end.
4. Place dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise for about 30 minutes.
5. Punch down the dough and let it rise another 30 minutes.

Voila! Now you can either refrigerate for later use, bake it up, or do what I did.

Make a personal pizza! This was about 2-3 servings worth of pizza. I simply rolled the dough out, placed it in a small 8x8 baking dish, brush it with olive oil mixed with garlic and onion powder, and topped it with my own homemade tomato sauce, which was really my "ketchup" mixed with some Italian spices. Then I added some sliced red bell pepper, mushrooms, arugula, a couple basil leaves, onion, baked egg plant, and nooch.

This. Was. Divine. So easy to adjust to one's own taste, that's why I love pizza. Basically, you just just throw whatever veggies you might have on top and toss it in the oven.

It's magical, really.

What's your favorite pizza? :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Challenge Accepted!

As per our bet, Lindsey will continue to eat cheese that’s not really cheese and other weird stuff while I shall feast on delicious yummies.  Tonight’s course: duck!  Now I’ll be the first to admit, I have no idea what sauce they cooked this duck in, but it is sweet with just a slightly tangy flavor to it, and it is awesome.  So suck on that Linz!  Well, actually, suck on some imitation cheese.

This week I’ve started a new/old tradition.  I’ve started playing tennis again, with plans on playing at least four times a week.  I first started playing tennis back in high school, and I’ve been playing on and off ever since.  It’s only fitting that now that I’m trying to be health conscious, I should pick it up again.  Tennis makes for a great work out because it boasts a full body work out, taking everything from your legs to your arms, to your core and back through a full range of movements.  If you play at a fast pace, it makes for a great cardio work out too.

What I like most about tennis as a workout, though, is that it’s not boring.  Some people find it easy to hop on a treadmill and just run, or spend time in a gym working out, but I’ve never really been able to get into that because it’s boring.  Treadmills have almost made me feel like a hamster on a wheel, and despite having one in my room right now, I simply never use it.  Tennis, however, is fun.  Rather than repetitive action tennis has decision making and strategy, skill, and competition, which just gives me so much more motivation to get out there.

I guess my message tonight is that whatever exercise you choose to engage in, make it something you enjoy, because that just makes it a lot easier to stick to.

Oh, one last thing!  If you are into tennis and anime, I highly recommend Prince of Tennis.  It is an anime about a tennis prodigy that parodies the typical anime genre with flashy shots and intense dramatizations around tennis.  Prince of Tennis is the reason I started playing tennis in the first place.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

You Feelin' Lucky?

So on Monday, my lovely boyfriend proposed that eating junk food in moderation would still allow one to lose weight. The obvious response to this is that, while of course you would lose weight since this really is just a matter of physics, the point of my approach to weight loss is to be healthy. Since I am a diabetic and have high cholesterol, eating junk food is not the way to go for me. However, I propose a challenge to you, Michael! We'll continue our opposite approaches to weight loss, and in 6 months time we shall get blood work and see who has the healthier blood work! You game, or you chicken? YOU FEELIN' LUCKY?

Okay, enough of the tough guy act, it's time to share some amazing food with y'all.

About a week or two ago, I tried my hand at making my own veggie broth.

Yes, I love onions.

It turned out okay, but a bit bland.

This week I tried again and succeeded in making a phenomenal broth.

At the end of making the veggie broth, I was left with a bunch of soggy veggies that I wasn't sure what to do with.. there was no way I was gonna throw out all those veggies! I decided to go with veggie burgers. As per my  usual creation routine, I searched my pantry high and low to see what I could find and I came up with chickpeas! I'm calling these burgers Falafel Veggie Burgers; I'm not sure how accurate a name that is, but I think it has a nice ring to it.

These burgers turned out so phenomenally that I am going to write a legitimate recipe up for y'all so you can try it yourself. You won't regret it.

Falafel Veggie Burgers

[makes about 8-10 burgers]

3c Leftover veggies from broth
1c dry chickpeas
1/2-3/4c flaxseed, whole
3T tahini
1T curry powder
1t cumin
1t dry cilantro
1/2t coriander
1/2t cardamom
1/2-3/4c sesame seeds, lightly toasted
olive oil for frying

1. Begin by boiling about 2-3 cups of water. Add the dry chickpeas and cook for about 30-45 minutes.
2. Puree the veggies in a blender or food processor and pour into a large mixing bowl. 
3. Add the cooked chickpeas to the blender or food processor and process/blend until they're fairly well chopped up but still have some bigger pieces. Pour about half of the chickpeas into the bowl with the pureed veggies then process the rest of the chickpeas again until they're a finer consistency. Add the remaining chickpeas to the large mixing bowl.
4. Add the tahini, curry powder, cumin, cilantro, coriander, and cardamom. Mix well.
5. Process the flaxseed in a coffee grinder (food processor or blender might work) until it's a fine flour consistency. Add to the mixture, and let it set for a couple hours in the fridge. The amount of flax you need may vary, so start with 1/2c and if you need more, add more.
6. Form 8-10 patties and cover them with the lightly toasted sesame seeds on both sides.
7. Heat some olive oil in a skillet and fry each patty for a few minutes on both sides. I over cooked mine on purpose because I like the crispy outside and slight burnt flavor, but to each their own!

These burgers are so yummy! You must try them.

After frying these up, I was trying to think of a sauce that would work well with them. I decided to make my own Ginger Tahini dressing and WHOA did it turn out delicious. It's creamy, sweet, tahini-y. Delicious. Once again, I love this dressing so much that I'm gonna post an official recipe! Look at me, being all chef-like.

Super Yummy Ginger Tahini Dressing

[makes about 3/4c]

1/4c tahini
1T maple syrup
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 inch ginger root
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1t soy sauce
water for thinning

1. Blend all the ingredients, except the water, in a food processor or blender.
2. Add water slowly until you reach a consistency you love!

Folks, this sauce/dressing is pure joy. Pure delicious. Pure YUM.

Go forth, try these recipes. Love me for it. :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cheeseburger Diet?

Back in college I had a physics professor who made the argument that losing weight was simple: all you have to do is consume fewer calories than you expend over the course of a day.  He suggested that even a diet of nothing but cheeseburgers would produce results so long as the calorie count was correct.  Now, granted, a cheeseburger is a massive source of calories, and for many people, one or two cheeseburgers a day, while not very filling, would satisfy their calorie needs for that day, but the premise remains.

A while ago a “documentary” type movie came out called Supersize Me, and the entire premise of the movie was that eating McDonalds every day would cause someone to gain weight.  The central person in that movie did just that, and indeed, he gained weight, a lot of it.  I’m sure a lot of people who watched that movie were deathly afraid of McDonalds afterwards, the whole thing was actually a hoax of sorts.  In the movie, the guy was eating way way more than a normal person should consume.  Had he stuck to a more appropriate calorie intake, he likely wouldn’t have gained as much or any weight.  Of course, then the movie would have flopped.

Back to me!  I’ve been back on the Weight Watcher’s diet now for about a week, and during that week I’ve enjoyed cheesecake, white rice, peanut butter pretzels, polvoron (a type of Filipino cookie), and even fried chicken.  The variety of foods I eat in a given week did not change all that much, and yet in this past week I’ve lost about 6 pounds.  Why?  The Weight Watcher’s diet, while it takes in values such as protein, dietary fiber, carbohydrates, and fat, is basically a calorie watching diet.  You eat what you want, but you are forced to make trade-offs so that your overall calorie consumption does not rise.  For example, The day I ate the cheesecake, and man, that was one delicious slice of cheesecake, I skipped out on two meals of rice to make up for it.  When I had fried chicken, I only had a couple of pieces instead of the three or four I usually eat.

This brought me to the question of what it really means to eat healthy.  Is it true that you need to eat a certain balance of foods and ignore certain foods altogether in order to be healthy?  For example, Lindsey is looking at slowly omitting certain foods from her diet, and she has already nixed dairy!  No sour cream?  Bummer!  Or, can healthy eating be achieved with any combination of foods so long as certain minimums are reached and certain maximums aren’t exceeded?  If you have high cholesterol, maybe the cheeseburger diet isn’t for you.  If you suffer from low potassium, maybe you should eat a banana or two.  Calcium?  Drink a glass of milk. 

But should you omit foods entirely from your diet?  No, I don’t think so.  At least, I know I couldn’t do it.  The other night I turned down In-N-Out, and I love In-N-Out.  I had already reached my point maximum for the day, so I made the conscious choice to skip it, because I knew I could simply plan it into another day.  If I were never allowed to eat a Double Double again, well, I’d likely cheat, a lot.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Home Is Where The Heart Is

One of the things I've grown fond of while living a healthier lifestyle is making everything from scratch. I hate buying canned goods.. you never really know what's in there.. or maybe that's just my trust issues manifesting themselves. Either way, the only canned good in my apartment is a can of tomato paste, and eventually I'd like to make that from scratch too.

I've done a lot of experimenting in the past week from my own dressing recipe to tahini to homemade ketchup.

Before making tahini myself, I'd never had it before.. never tasted store-bought. Therefore, I had no baseline to go by as to how it should really taste.. I think I did something wrong. It tastes pretty bitter. Other than the bitterness, it DOES have a good flavor.. just that bitter aftertaste.. I'm wondering if maybe I over toasted my sesame seeds? I'm not sure, but I still used it to make a " goddess dressing" that I kept reading about through the blogs that I frequent.

Once again, never tried the store bought version of this stuff. Because of the bitterness of my tahini, I had to add a tablespoon of maple syrup. After doing that, it actually tastes pretty good. It has a very unique taste, and at first I wasn't sure if I liked it. It's one of those things though where the more I ate it, the more I liked it and wanted more.

I still think I prefer the taste of my own dressing creation: Curry Banana Vinaigrette. It isn't quite as universal as the goddess dressing - you can't just eat it with any veggie. For example, I found that it doesn't taste good with tomatoes, but it tastes great with broccoli. The flavor of this dressing is amazing though, and it oddly looks identical to honey mustard dressing.

Don't be fooled though! It tastes nothing like honey mustard dressing. It's very sweet, with a little tang, and a lot of deliciousness.

Curry Banana Vinaigrette

[makes about 3/4c]

1 banana
2T red wine vinegar
2T olive oil
1T maple syrup
1T curry powder
1t garlic powder
1t onion powder

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor! Voila!

This dressing wasn't my only discovery of the week!

Homemade ketchup! I saw a few recipes for this online.. boy do they vary a lot. So I used what I had on hand and took bits and pieces from different recipes.. and added my own secret ingredient!

Yes! Worcestershire sauce! Okay, I admit that I'm really bad at keeping secrets, but I seriously think this added an awesome taste to this recipe. The only comment I have to make is that if you decide to recreate this recipe, you might want to reduce the sugar. It's quite sweet, which I don't mind because I have the biggest sweet tooth ever, but some people might find it TOO sweet... crazy people, that is.

Delicious Ketchup

[makes about 3c]

4 medium tomatoes, pureed
1/2c apple cider vinegar
2/3c packed brown sugar [maybe reduce to 1/2c if you prefer less sweet]
2-3 cloves of garlic, depending on size, minced
1 red onion, chopped
2-3 small celery sticks, chopped
2T Worcestershire sauce [The not-so-secret secret ingredient!]
1T olive oil
1t cinnamon
1t allspice
1t ground mustard

1. Begin by heating the olive oil in a pot, and saute the onion with the garlic until the onion is all soft.
2. Add all the rest of the ingredients!
3. Simmer until the mixture becomes a nice thick sauce-like consistency. This takes about an hour. Stir occasionally, but once you get near the end of that hour, stir more frequently so it doesn't burn!

Go forth, my friends! Make something homemade this week! A dressing, sauce, condiment, whatever! It's definitely worth it, they taste so much better made from scratch. :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mung Beans?

Are mung beans a super food?  Now that I'm watching what I eat, I have to actually check out the nutrition data on what I eat, and today I ate mungo, a Filipino dish for which the primary ingredient is mung beans.  One cup of mung beans has two grams of fat, one hundred and thirty grams of carbohydrates, 49 grams of protein, and 34 grams of fiber.  I had to recheck the values several times because they simply did not make sense.

Of course, as I was typing this, I mentioned it to Lindsey, and she replied that beans in general are that way. I checked, and found that black beans have similar nutrition data.  Maybe mung beans aren't so special after all.  So much for my great discovery!  In any case, I'll leave you with this:

Bean beans the wonderful fruit.  The more you eat, the more you toot.  The more you toot, the happier you are.  So beans beans for everyone!

In case you were wondering, below is a picture of mungo:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Less Whine, More Cheese!

Vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, paleo -- There are a lot of diets out there, each one with its own merit! How do you choose which one is the best for you!? Personally, I'm still trying to figure that one out, but for now I'm going by trial and error. My latest trial is the paleo diet; basically, you eat lots and lots of veggies and fruits, grain-fed meats, fish, and nuts & seeds. That's about it, no legumes, no wheat, no dairy, very little sweets. I've found from past experiences that changing one's diet too drastically too quickly is a bad idea -- So I'm going step by step.

Step 1: 

Bye bye milk.. bye bye cheeses. :(

I've been on step 1 for about a week now, and I'll probably stay on step 1 for a couple more weeks. It's a big step for me! I loooove cheese and milk and all the yummy things you can make with them!

So, my main focus as of late has been to discover and create authentic tasting vegan cheeses! So far, I've only found one -- I know that seems dismal, but to be fair, I've only tried two. Fifty percent isn't too bad! My one major success was a vegan Parmesan cheese

This stuff is DELICIOUS. I didn't exactly follow the ratio that the recipe states, mostly because I didn't feel like looking the recipe up when I decided to make it. I just guessed and did 1/2c cashews with 1/4c nooch , and I didn't add the salt. But regardless, this stuff is incredible. The cheesy flavor is just phenomenal; I really can't say enough amazing things about it.

While on a roll with this amazing vegan Parmesan cheese, I decided to attempt a "vegan cheese sauce." I didn't simply blend the Parmesan with water, though. First, I soaked a cup of cashews all day then blended it with a few tablespoons of olive oil and about 3/4c of nooch. Behold!

Cheese sauce! This stuff is as amazing as I thought it'd be. Creamy, cheesy, yum. Now that I have this amazing cheese sauce, though, I had no idea what to do with it.. You'd think I'd have had a plan? Well, that's too logical! I was just too excited to create this! I scoured around my kitchen to see what I had, and this is what I came up with:

Are you thinking what I was thinking? Well, I don't know, but I was thinking cheesy potato soup! And that's exactly what I did. Using 4 cups of my homemade veggie broth, a whole red onion, a whole head of garlic, 3 grated carrots, a 1.5 lb bag of fingerling potatoes, and my creamy cheese sauce (I decided to omit the fresh herbs) I created the most amazingly creamy and cheesy potato soup ever!

It's amazing what you can create when you have to be creative!

How about you guys? Anyone have a phenomenal vegan cheese recipe they'd like to share? I'm up for trying anything! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Starting Point!

If this weight loss plan is going to work, I have to be honest with myself.  There are many reasons why I've failed to lose weight and keep it off in the past, including cheating and just not sticking to the plan.  A few years ago I tried Weight Watchers on my own, not part of the group thing, and it actually worked for me.  I did manage to lose about 30 pounds, before I started cheating, and then outright stopped doing it.  So today I've decided to try again, for good this time.  The first step is to be honest about where I'm starting.  So here's me:

26 years old
6'2" tall
305 pounds (I thought I was 295 but somehow I gained 10 pounds in 3 days?!)

My goal is to make it down to 200 pounds, and to do that, I'm going to:

1.  Stick to Weight Watchers
2.  Drink at least 3 cups of water every time I eat
3.  Exercise daily (My lovely girlfriend Lindsey suggested the Circuit Trainer App on Android.)

I've got a long road ahead of me, and this is my starting point!