Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Snacks I've been obsessed with lately

I have a tendency to become fixated on things, for about two weeks, then when the novelty wears off, I forget about them. So in a way to help me remember these awesome snacks, I'm making a list.  And to prove to you how portable they are, I took these snacks to work and photographed them at my office!

This is my latest obsession.  I discovered them last Friday at Target, and I've had a bar everyday since, sometimes even two bars!  I love peanut butter and jelly, and I love granola bars, so I knew I would love these granola bars! What I like about Annie's products is that I can pronounce all the ingredients, so I can feel good about eating them.  Plus they are relatively  small and portion-controlled at only 120 calories a bar. 

Before that, I was obsessed with these toasted coconut almonds. (And yes, that is my keyboard and Lexis Nexis printouts in the background there.) I kept a can of these in the drawer of my desk at my office.  They are so good! They remind me of some sort of tropical cocktail. What I do to control my portions is a pour out a small handful into a cup, and then bury the container back in the drawer out of my sight.  The second step is key, or I would just keep eating them all! 

I've talked about yogurt with fruit preserves before for breakfast.  But you can also make your own "fruit-on-the bottom" yogurt cup.  Put a tablespoon of fruit preserves in a leakproof container, and pour in about 3/4 cup of plain yogurt. Cover and bring with you to work/school/wherever you need to go! (Okay, I took this picture in my kitchen at home, but I promise you I brought a tupperware of the stuff to work!) 

So there you have it, my latest snack obsessions.  What do you bring to snack on during the day?

Note: I was not compensated for mentioning any of these products.  I just really like them! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Great Greek Salad Debate

Last Saturday night, J. and I had a deep discussion on a topic of utmost importance: What goes in a Greek salad?

The Greek salad I have come to know has lettuce, feta cheese, kalamata olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  Bonus points for roasted red peppers, or regular bell peppers.  Meats, such as grilled chicken or lamb are optional.  My experience is based on New Jersey diners (many of which, are owned by Greek immigrants).

According to J, peperoncini is a key element to the Greek salad.  He bases his Greek salad experience   from a place called The Parthenon in Western Massachusetts, where he grew up. To me, this was preposterous.  Peperoncini is a product of Italy.  Why would you put it in a Greek salad? But J. insisted that because The Parthenon had peperoncini in their Greek salad, it was not optional.  

So in order to resolve this debate, I did what I do with any other heated dispute we have: I looked it up on Wikipedia. It turns out we were both right.  Or maybe we were both wrong.  According to Wikipedia,

 Lettuce, tomatoes, feta, and olives are the most standard elements in an American-style 'Greek salad', but cucumbers, peperoncini, bell peppers, onions, radishesdolmades, anchovies/sardines and pickled hot peppers are common. 

And if it was on Wikipedia, it had to be true, right?

Bell peppers and peperoncini are both common elements.  But really, it seems, as long as you have the core ingredients, that is lettuce, cheese, olives, and tomatoes, then you have a Greek salad. 

Here is what we put in a Greek salad:

Core ingredients:

Leafy greens (baby spinach or mixed salad greens, which ever we have on hand)
Kalamata olives
Feta cheese

Optional ingredients:

Roasted red peppers
Bell peppers
Peperoncini (I don't care what J. says, I still think these are optional)
Sliced red onion
Carrots (not traditional but we always seem to have them)

Question of the Week:

What do you put in a Greek salad?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Brussels Sprouts and Chinese Sausage

Last night, I just didn't feel right blogging about food.  My heart goes out to all those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.  Although the longest distance I have ever run is 6.2 miles, I can only imagine the heartbreak of the runners and their loved ones on a day that was supposed to celebrate months of hard work and training, which turned to devastation and tragedy.  To learn more about how you can help, Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers has compiled some useful links and resources.  

This is what I would have blogged about last night: 

I've been on a bit of a brussels sprouts kick lately.  I've learned that brussels sprouts are best when cooked with a cured meat, such as bacon, ham, or corned beef.  But since I didn't have ham or corned beef handy, and all of our bacon was an icy frozen block in the freezer, I had to rummage through the fridge to find a good substitute.  Sure enough, I found a ziploc bag of Chinese sausage, or lap cheong. hidden in the back of the fridge.  Unlike breakfast sausage or Italian sausages, Chinese sausage is salty and sweet in a way that's hard to describe. While it is a little different in flavor from the Taiwanese sausages I grew up with, Taiwanese sausage is hard to come by unless you have a live-in Taiwanese grandmother in your house.  So it's good to have around a substitute to throw in stir-fries and fried rice.  When I was growing up, I remember my mom and my grandma would use leftover bits of sausage to flavor cabbage stir-fries.  So when I found the forgotten sausage links in the back of my fridge, I had a culinary epiphany! Chinese sausage  and brussels sprouts! Perfect. 

The rest was improvisation.  I sliced the sprouts into quarters and minced the garlic,  I thinly sliced the sausages on a diagonal just like my grandma used to.  But to season the sprouts, I mixed together my own concoction of fish sauce, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and sriracha.  The combination of the fish sauce, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce mimicked the sweet and saltiness of the sausage, while the sriracha added just the right kick of spiciness. J. and I both loved how this dish came out. So I gave myself a virtual pat on the back, and mentally drafted how I was going to write this post.  

Today, I did a quick google search on "brussels sprouts and chinese sausage," which produced approximately 162,000 results, including this recipe from Steamy Kitchen, one of my favorite blogs. It turns out either I just reinvented the wheel, or on some subconscious level I was remembering reading this recipe.  

And here I thought I was so clever.  

Oh well, I still say this is a a great recipe, and I take full credit for my method and seasoning.  

Brussels Sprouts with Chinese Sausage

1 package brussels sprouts, halved or quartered, depending on size of sprouts 
3 links Chinese sausage, thinly sliced on a diagonal
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs hoisin sauce
a few dashes of sriracha sauce, to taste

Heat large skillet.  Cook sausage until fat is rendered (about 2 minutes), be careful not to burn it.  Remove sausage from the pan, while keeping as much of the fat as possible in the pan.  Drain sausage on a paper towel.  Return pan to medium heat.  Add brussels sprouts and cook until lightly browned.  (Try not to stir it around too much or it won't brown).  Push sprouts to the sides of the pan to form a well in the center of the pan.  Add sesame oil to the center of the pan.  Add garlic to the oil and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir garlic with the sprouts.  Add sausage, fish sauce, soy sauce, hoisin and sriracha to the mixture and toss until combined. Allow to cook for about another minute or until heated through.  Serve immediately with rice. 

Other Brussels Sprouts and Chinese Sausage of recipes (since apparently I am not as original as I thought I was): 

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Few Announcements...

No formal post for tonight due to work and other obligations. (Still gotta file my taxes!) But I wanted to make a few announcements on some new developments here on Food Judicata:

1) After about 15 months of dieting and exercise, I've finally reached my weight loss goal! I'm very happy and excited to embark on the "maintenance" phase of my fitness regimen. More on that later.

2) I've started a Facebook page - Be sure to "Like" it to continue to receive updates, new blog posts, pictures, quick notes on restaurant openings, and other food-related thoughts that cross my mind.  

3) I've also started a Pinterest page.  It's very much a work in progress and I'm still working on adding new "pins."  I've also added a "Pin It" button at the end of each post for you Pinterest users to pin my pictures to your boards.  (I'm very new to Pinterest and still learning the lingo...)

As you can see, Food Judicata has finally joined the 21st century with these new changes (well, with at least the last two).  I'm always looking for new ways to develop my blog, so I welcome any feedback in the comments section!

Question of the Week:

Are you on Facebook or Pinterest? Do you find either of these sites to be useful tools for sharing information?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Guest Post: Lighter Mac and Cheese with Suvarna!

Please welcome my friend and law school classmate, Suvarna, who is also a lover of food and the law.  You may remember Suvarna from our earlier cooking adventure in 2009, when we made a delectable, but very rich baked mac and cheese. Here, we take on a lighter and healthier version. Enjoy!

As the readers on this site already know, Cheryl’s blog is called “Food Judicata – Food that has been judged.”  I’ve been and fan and avid reader of Cheryl’s blog since we graduated from law school because I too love food and civil procedure.  I think Cheryl has been so courageous in sharing her recent journey to a healthier lifestyle. She has inspired me and shared countless tips about calorie counters on phones, steaming vegetables, and portion control.  Accordingly, when planning my visit to Cheryl’s I challenged the both of us to come up with a recipe that would incorporate the ice cream from a local Jersey City ice cream shop, Torico.  Cheryl came up with the idea of making these delicious banana-split mini bites  and our cooking plans and my visit to Jersey City were set.

Right before our Jersey City day of cooking, I emailed Cheryl to check if she needed any ingredients.  Not surprisingly, she had everything we needed!  However, she did top my healthy ice cream recipe challenge with a healthy macaroni and cheese challenge!  Cheryl was kind enough to let me guest cook with her back in 2009, where we made a baked macaroni and cheese using this beautiful blue Le Creuset pot that I purchased with my Westlaw points. She thought on our second time cooking together, and in the spirit of healthy eating, we should revise or previous macaroni and cheese recipe with a new healthier one.  So we chose this one from Skinny Taste.  On a side note, Cheryl is a mac n’ cheese expert, having also made and written about the much loved dish in 2011. Then on the train ride up to Jersey City, I received a text from Cheryl asking if I liked asparagus.  I wrote back of course I do and that I loved the fact that it was a “spring” vegetable.  Thus, we added asparagus to our ambitious day of healthy cooking.

Upon arriving in Jersey City, I immediately realized what a fun place it is to live.  There was a huge sign at the train station announcing an upcoming Indian Holi celebration, food vendors, and so many cute shops and corner grocery stores.  Since Cheryl had all the ingredients for the recipes, and I just could not go to celebrate a new apartment empty handed, I stopped at a flower store to pick up some spring tulips.  I love flowers and since my mother is a tireless gardener flowers fill our home all year long.  Incidentally, Cheryl’s family is in the floral business and she has random knowledge about flowers – like the fact that tulips open during the day and shut at night!  Anyway I know I digress, I was so excited about seeing not just an ordinary ice cream shop, but instead “Torico Homemade Ice Cream Parlor.”  They have so many cool flavors like avocado, lychee, and ginger, in addition to the traditional flavors. 

After getting a grand tour of the apartment (what a gorgeous kitchen) and catching up (I think I hadn’t seen Cheryl in over year!), we got down to work.  The author of the recipe touted it as being kid-friendly and it did not disappoint!  We added spinach and used home-made bread crumbs.  Cheryl also added a secret ingredient – cayenne pepper – amazing.  The difference between the 2013 and 2009 recipe is visible – our new version looks not as greasy as the first and it tasted delicious. We may have made enough macaroni and cheese to last Cheryl and J. for the entire spring – but I suppose you can never have too much of a good thing! 

The cheese mixture with our "secret" ingredient
Ready for the oven!

The finished product
The recipe for the new and improved macaroni and cheese can be found here

As for the asparagus, we steamed it, tossed it in olive oil, added some chopped raw almonds, and some salt and pepper (in Cheryl’s cool new pepper grinder).  Cheryl taught me a new trick where you run the asparagus under cold water so that it stops the cooking process and the vegetables remain crunchy.  

Asparagus after a cold shower

Unfortunately, after a busy morning of cooking, we did not have time to make dessert!  J. is one of the founding members of Jersey City Ties, “a new group for young professionals that focuses on fun social events, networking, and helping out the Jersey City community.”  The group was hosting a NCAA March Madness Event and so we ended our day of cooking a little early to go enjoy some basketball and meet up with new and old friends.  This is a really great group of people and anyone in the Jersey City area should check out an event if they have the chance.  I’m not too worried about the banana split mini bites, I’ll just have to make another trip to Jersey City in the summer – apparently the ice cream parlor is the place to be in the warmer months!!

On a final note, “Grazie Mille,” to Cheryl for being so gracious to let me guest blog once again, write my first ever blog entry, show me around Jersey City, and introduce me to a new great group of people.  Special thanks to J. for helping eat all that mac n’ cheese and raid his kitchen too!