Monday, July 21, 2014

Healthy Cooking for the Single Girl

It applies to those of us in long distance relationships every bit as much as those who are single - cooking for one, especially healthy cooking for one, can be quite a feat.

When you contemplate all the dirty dishes, the grocery shopping, the chopping, the preparation time, and the fact that you're probably only saving pennies on the meal, if that, it can be really tempting to just throw in the towel and call it a Seamless night every night.

But guess what happens then?

The Seamless delivery guy starts inquiring into your personal life. You get personal fortune cookie notes saying things like, "tomorrow, you will order the California Roll - am running out of avocado for the Avocado Roll" and "Don't tip with crinkly bills because the vending machine won't take them." And when you're finally not living like a single girl anymore, you'll realize you've lost all your mad Martha Stewart skills and regressed to soggy ramen and burnt toast.

A good goal is to aim to cook at least three or four meals at home per week. How much you end up doing, whether it's a little below that or way above that, depends on your lifestyle, budget, and what works for you.

But three or four meals a week, even if they aren't all elaborate seven-course stunners (let's be honest - elaborate three course stunners is already a huge stretch) are enough to keep you in the habit.

There are a few tricks that make cooking for one easier.

Buy ingredients you just need a tiny bit for from the salad bar. Dying to try a cool new recipe with a million ingredients, each of which is only about a tablespoonful when scaled back to a single portion? Instead of buying the ingredients in the grocery store, and ending up either having to make that recipe a million times to use everything up, or having to toss it all out because it goes bad before you finish it, shop the salad bar!

You can easily get a little bit of diced tomato or diced onion for your stew there in exactly the amount that you need.

Try dishes that have easy spinoffs. I went to boarding school and college after, so I've had plenty of time to pick up the sly tricks of the cafeteria workers - remember how there was meatloaf for dinner on Tuesday and Shepard's pie on Wednesday that tasted suspiciously like the meatloaf with an extra layer of mashed potatoes?

That sly trickery can serve you well. If you're making pasta with tomato sauce one night, make a little extra and you have the pizza sauce for your next dinner's personal pan pizza! It's a huge time saver, as long as you can do a little planning.

Look for longer shelf-life alternatives to the ingredients you need. Swapping out super perishable ingredients for less perishable alternatives, like frozen vegetables for fresh in a stew (flash-frozen veggies maintain most of the nutrient content) can save you a lot of money and headache. Some swaps can even make your food healthier!

My favorite less-perishable, healthy swap is using chia seeds instead of eggs!

Just like eggs, chia seeds are a powerful binding ingredient for cakes, loaves, baked oatmeal, etc. - but you can keep a bag of chia seeds in the pantry for way longer than you can keep eggs in the fridge. The powerful little seeds also pack a lot of fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, making them a great addition to your diet!

Not burnt (I swear) just that chocolatey - I got a special type of baking cocoa and used 100% baking chocolate squares
I like to use them in microwave cakes (hey, hey, hey healthy chocolate) and favor Nutiva black chia seeds (and white chia seeds, for vanilla microwave cakes or thick smoothies!) for consistently high quality and great bags that keep the powerful seeds fresh even longer.

What are your favorite single portion recipes? Links are welcome!

Do you have any single portion cooking tips?

How often do you eat out per week? And are you happy with it or working on changing your patterns?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Green Yums Review: Bringing The Farm To The City

I've been living in NYC for almost two months now and all-in-all, I love it.

I love big cities and small towns. I love convenience and constant access. I love writing, fashion,   crunchy-granola vegetarian food, and acting. Guess where the most auditions are outside of LA (and the only audition-heavy place with a great public transit system)?

It's not a surprise that I chose NYC for my first post-grad home!

There are just a few things I don't love: mobs when I'm trying to walk around, slow walkers, the high costs of EVERYTHING, aaaaaaand - crappy produce options.

Brazil Tears

Honestly, if I'm paying $3 for a frickin' apple, I expect it to be crisp, sweet, manna-like perfection. That's not asking too much, is it?

And if I'm paying $5.99 for a bag of spinach (with a whopping two servings in it) I expect it to be crisp and green and, well, not wilted and 90% of the way to decomposed.

Zeytuna, Gristedes, Jubilee Market, and all the other grocery stores around here seem to disagree, however. High price, low quality - UM what? There has to be a better option.

^The better option
I decided to give a produce delivery service a spin, because:

(a) it's convenient
(b) it's not actually more expensive than getting groceries from the store, given exorbitant city prices
(c) the quality can really only go up, right?

Spoiler: I'm glad that I did. I ordered from Green Yums and would definitely recommend them to all city-dwellers facing similar produce deserts, because they're not only as convenient as can be, but the value is also so much better than shopping for produce at the grocery store.

Delivery is easy. They packed the produce in a cooler box that held them fresh from their delivery at around 10am until I got home from work (and then my weekly five hour on camera acting class) at around 11:30pm. Impressive!

It's a great way to try new things. Like dandelion greens!

I would never have chosen a bunch of these weed-looking greens for myself (they seem like something I would have fed my pet guinea pig, Diddle, back in the day) but I'm glad that I got the chance to!

They made for a really different, but delicious, green smoothie. Just add extra honey/fruit/sugar/agave nectar, because dandelion greens are more bitter than spinach or even kale!

I also got to try this funky looking leaves:

I'm still not sure what they are, but they're great sauteed in walnut oil with a little grated parmesan or vegan parmesan on top.

Limes, cantaloupe, pears, zucchini, corn on the cob, and nectarines rounded out the list of things I don't normally buy. But my staples, apples, bananas, and cucumbers were also represented!

It was a really great haul that had me inspired to get back into the kitchen - quite a feat after how uninspired I'd been feeling later. It's hard to get excited about wilted spinach from Zeytuna!

The value is far superior to city-priced produce. You don't actually pay more, but every piece of produce was totally crisp, high quality, and even organic! Everything tasted great and nourishing and was visually appealing.

It was a much needed change!

Where do you live - in a city, a suburb, a town...?

Where do you buy your produce most often?

Have you tried a produce delivery service?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Recipe: Mocha Green Smoothie

While this definitely hasn't been the hottest summer in history (thank all things good) it's still July in New York City and that means heat and humidity. 

Until September brings blessed 70 and 60 degree weather to the city, I know I'm not the only one constantly in search of some way to cool off. 

I've been enjoying a lot of yummy Red Mango froyo creations to help me cool off.

Red Mango is definitely my favorite place for froyo and there's one just two or three blocks from where I live.

When I'm looking for something a little healthier, though, smoothies are a great choice. Green smoothies are my favorite kind of smoothie and this one is refreshing, sweet, and simple. Yum!

Mocha Green Smoothie
Serves One

* 1.5 c. spinach
* 1 frozen banana
* 1/2 tsp. vanilla (don't use imitation - the real stuff makes a real difference)
* 1 tsp. instant coffee (I used Folgers)
* 1 c. coconut water (I used Zico)
* 1/2 tsp. NuNaturals Chocolate Syrup

Combine all ingredients in your blender (I love my Ninja - thanks, Mom and Dad!) and blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!

I used NuNaturals chocolate syrup in this smoothie and it gave it just a hint of delightful chocolate - it would have been more if I used more, but I wanted just a hint this time. 

It's a new product and really cool, because it's the consistency of traditional chocolate syrup. 

Chocolate syrup without the sugar spike and crash, that is!

Since it isn't a liquid or powder, it's really versatile and great not just for using as an ingredient or a sweetener, but also as a topping for ice cream, an unexpected addition to a peanut butter sandwich, or a yogurt topping! 

The options are pretty wide-reaching, I'm looking forward to experimenting more. After all, you know my sweet tooth.

Would you rather be too hot or too cold? Assuming just right isn't an option.

What is your least favorite month of the year?

How are you staying cool this summer?

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