Tuesday, May 15, 2007

from 4/2/2007

Well, I wasn't quite the cooking/baking wonder that I'd imagined I was going to be over the weekend, but I did make a ginormous shopping trip and made a few simple things this weekend. I need to go get a few more things that I'd realized I'd forgotten either today or tomorrow, but otherwise I'm really, really well-stocked right now. Still need: mangos, seitan and a molcajete y tejolote. A molcajete y tejolote is a mortar and pestle made from Mexican lava rock. It's traditionally used for making salsas and grinding spices, and is reputed to release many more layers of flavor in your food than using a food processor. I found a place close that carries them, so if I have time after work, I'm going to stop by and get one. I can't wait!

I did get some really exciting new ingredients on my shopping extravaganza! My favorite is mesquite meal. I'd read about it in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Foods, and she said something like, 'if I can convince you to track down one esoteric flour, it would be mesquite'. And, since I'm Heidi's number one fan, and also Matt (from the WF's vegan cooking class) praised it, too, I had to find out what they were talking about it. I found it at the co-op; it's a raw Argentinian "wild-crafted", pesticide-free Mesquite Meal from Nature's First Law (www.rawfood.com). It's a pricey $17.99 for 16oz., but I'm convinced it's worth it. You can use it as either a spice or a flour (substituting about 25-30% for your regular flour). So far I've just used it as a spice, and it's amazing. I can't wait to bake something with it (Heidi has a recipe for mesquite chocolate chip cookies!). It comes from the ground pods of the mesquite tree, and has a warm, sweet flavor that's like a mild, smoky, chocolately, carmelly cinnamon-type flavor with no bitterness. And, it's not only delicious but also has an amazing nutrition profile! It's perfect for adding to banana-based smoothies, too. Yuh-um.

Approximate Nutritional Value of Mesquite Pod Meal
Protein 16 g
Fat 3.4 g
Calories 380
Fiber 36 g

Barium 3.7 mg
Boron 3.2 mg
Calcium 520 mg
Chromium 0.12 mg
Cobalt 0.03 mg
Copper 0.8 mg
Iron 18 mg
Magnesium 140 mg
Manganese 2.3 mg
Molybdenum 0.05 mg
Phosphorus 215 mg
Potassium 1712 mg
Sodium 12 mg
Sulfur 222 mg
Zinc 3.0 mg

Right now I'm eating my favorite breakfast (soaked steel-cut oats w/ fruit & yogurt), and it's better than ever! I used Fage 0% greek-strained non-fat yogurt which has this awesome texture and creamy taste (texture is sorta like ricotta cheese), and sprinkled a little mesquite meal on top (and I cut my brown sugar in half since the mesquite has a sweet taste--not sugary, but sweet like cinnamon and nutmeg are sweet), organic fuji apples and organic blueberries. The yogurt is another nutrition star! For one cup, it has about 120 calories and 20g of protein! I'm just using about 1/4 c. in my breakfast, but still. Wow. I'd like to get a yogurt maker soon, and start making my own, and I'll probably use Fage as a starter since it's so nice.

Yesterday I had a lazy day. I watched the Food Network, read magazines and cookbooks, and took a couple naps, all before heading out last night to see Rocky Votolato at Garfield Artworks (he was good, and so was Owen, but it was hot, humid, sweaty and stuffy--I always swear I'll never see a show there again, and then he gets someone I want to see). But, I did make a couple of really tasty snacks to accompany my slacking. I made a bean tostada--a homemade whole wheat tortilla (from Heidi's Cooking 1.0), smashed pintos, avocado, salsa, grated cheddar and a faux sour cream (used the aforementioned Fage 0% yogurt with some fresh cilantro, crushed cumin seed, cayenne, coarse sea salt & pepper). For something dessert-y, I had some oatmeal (cooked steel-cut oats) with some banana and walnut that I carmelized with a little pat of butter, brown sugar and coffee liquer), and sprinkled it with the mesquite meal. Dang, it was tasty. And, then went to Pho Minh before the show, and had some lemongrass tofu and a fresh roll. (my fresh rolls still kick both their and Tram's asses, though. just sayin').

I bought stuff to make the fabulous quinoa pudding, but Ellen surprised me by returning one of my containers full of it! Man, it was so freaking good! I think I'll make it when my parents visit (weekend after next). I want to cook a fabulous feast for them that won't scare them, and also pick a restaurant that'll please all our palates. They generally stick to meat-n-potatoes kinds of stuff, and eat out at places like Applebee's and such--not so big on the ethnic foods (except Mexican and Italian). Hmm...if anyone has suggestions, please let me know! They're willing to step out of their comfort zone a little, but definitely don't like either Japanese or Indian food (two of my very favorites!). They came to visit last Easter, and I took them to Casbah for brunch, and they loved it. Oh man, I just looked at their menu (it changes daily, but they have the 4/1 menu online), and woah. Sounds so good. Raw milk cheeses, local organic ingredients and wild ramps!! They're pretty meat-heavy, but they do have fantastic food, and seem to use tons of local, organic ingredients.

You may know that I'm a little ramp-obsessed right now. Ramps are a wild, onion-type plant that's sort of a mix between leeks, shallots and garlic, and one of my favorite things about West Virginia. They're indigenous to Appalachia, and so I grew up going to ramp festivals in the spring. I'm definitely hitting at least one ramp festival this year--just trying to decide which, and which might have the best chance of having some vegetarian options (ramps are traditionally fried with bacon drippings in WV). And, I just want to get a whole mess of ramps to bring home and cook with. I've heard of people pickling and drying them for use later in the year, so I'd like to try that also. I even have some ramp wine that I picked up a couple years ago but have always been too afraid to try. I think it's more of a novelty than a fine wine, and ramps are so, so potent that it could be dangerous! I'd like to head down to southern WV so I could visit the fam (my neice Savanah!), get some ramps, go morel-hunting with my step-dad, and see my grandma. I might have to make it a long weekend.

In my last post I mentioned things I'd done at the beginning of my healthquest to make immediate, healthy changes, and one of the biggest for me was to cut out soda. I was used to drinking two or three cans of coke a day, but now I never drink soda. I read somewhere a few years ago (I wanna say it was in USA Today or something) that you could lose 15-20 pounds in a year just by quitting soda and making no other changes. Wow! That's a lot of high fructose corn syrup I'm not consuming! Now, I drink water almost all the time. I'll have the occasional soy latte or juice spritzer or herbal tea or beer/wine, but I feel healthiest when I'm drinking water all the time. I've read that even diet soda is bad--for one it's full of artificial sweetners, often high in sodium, and because it's sweet, it still signals your body to crave more sugars. Plus, it tastes like ass.

I'm going to see David Sedaris speak tonight! I've seen him several times before, and he's just seriously the funniest man on the planet. My friend Megan was supposed to come up for it (from WV), but forgot and now can't, so now I have an extra ticket. I just offered it to my friend Ani, but haven't heard back yet whether she can do it or not. So, I may be sending out a last-minute offer this afternoon...


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