Saturday, August 16, 2008

perfection in a summer's afternoon

The pacific northwest is going through a heat wave this week, and Ellensburg is definitely in the middle of it. With temperatures reaching 110 degrees, doing anything feels like a chore, including eating. An easy summer lunch or dinner idea, which not only tastes and looks gourmet, it takes just a few minutes to make and can be adjusted to any one's palette.


this salad idea really doesn't need a recipe just some basic blueprints.

to start out it uses a basic pizza dough. (I love trader joe's pizza dough because it tastes great and I can bring it home, weigh individual portions out and store them in the freezer for quick fix meals.) A serving size is about 2 ounces (57g) so for this lunch I double the size to 4 ounces. (A scale really helps out when trying to measure out portion sizes, and knowing just how many calories you are consuming. The one I use is from Bed Bath and Beyond, and it works perfectly!)

Pre-heat the oven to the temperature on the dough directions. Stretch out the dough to a fairly thin circle, at this time you can add cut up vegetables that you want roasted. Spray with Pam, and cook on a pizza pan or stone for about 6-8 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.

While the crust is warm spread on any toppings you like, for lunch today I was in a summery Greek mood, so I spread fresh hummus over the warm crust. Other yummy ideas are soft goat cheese, olive tapenade, or pesto. From there add your greens, chiffonading the leaves makes it easier to eat and adds a unique texture to the meal. All you have to do is layer the greens (tender leaves work best like arugula,spinach or basil) on top of each other and roll into a log, take a knife and cut fairly thin strips, that resemble ribbons.

On top add anything your heart desires..try not only mixing flavors like salty, savory and sweet but mixing textures. I love adding seasonal fresh fruit along with dried fruit, cheese, fresh vegetables, nuts and a little protein, this way not only is your stomach satisfied but your mouth is too.

Lastly top with a light dressing, or go without, let the ingredients shine on their own

For my salad, I added some roasted zucchini, hummus, spinach ribbons, some golden raisins, crumbled feta cheese, diced watermelon, chopped kalamata olives and drizzled the top with just a little aged balsamic vinegar.

The way you eat it is just as creative as when you made it, either eating it like a salad, or folding the bread over and eating it like a sandwich.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Maybe we can sleep in, I'll make you banana pancakes, pretend like it's the weekend now...

OK the title is deceiving (no pancakes today,) but the comfort is still there...

YUM! Perfect with a glass of milk!

I woke up early this morning and it was overcast and cool, not the sight I’m used to when day after day since the start of summer it’s been in the nineties starting at nine a.m. I enjoyed the change, instead of feeling like I was bogged down by the heat I felt energized to finish my never ending to do list. However, at the same time I just wanted to curl up with my exciting chem book and a cup of tea and relax on my window seat having Jack Johnson play in the background (Aaaw...)

Summer classes are coming to a close, and the stress of coming out strong on my finals is starting to grow. I don’t know what it is, but when I’m stressed I always resort to the kitchen for comfort, it's a huge reliever of tension, especially baking. Perfect timing, since the bananas I had bought a few days ago were now tar black thanks to the heat, (nice appetizing image, i know.) As you could guess I had the idea to make banana bread, hence the only reason you intentionally keep bananas that long.

The only time I buy bananas is when I have the urge to make banana bread, because any other forms of bananas are not personally enjoyable. This distaste went as far as telling people I was allergic to bananas as a child, so I wouldn’t have to encounter the odd fruit. I was not a picky kid when it came to fruits and vegetables, but somehow the smell and taste that tickled my throat as I tried it, was not pleasing. I never thought I would acceptingly come across any form of banana unless it was against my free will, (to me that would be a horrible torture,) until I tried a piece at a local coffee shop. The combination of the fruit being in an over ripe stage and breaking down during the baking process turned the once unpleasant fruit into a sweet moist ingredient in an almost-pound cake-like dessert.

Most recipes I’ve read have the basic ingredients of flour, sugar, vanilla, butter and the star of the show, way too ripe bananas. Now, this is a fine start, and has turned out nice tasting breads, but that’s what they tasted like, dry-crumbly-holds up to it's name sake-bread. The bananas added moisture, but the butter seemed to dry it out (even with the fat content) and turn it into a dense sweet bread with a crisp crust. Finally I found a recipe from MyRecipes that tasted more like a cake, and was packed with moisture, but knowing myself, I always find ways of improving recipes. This recipe was already considered low-fat with 187 calories a slice, but after looking over the recipes I found better ingredients to both replace the existing ones, and add flavor, yet keep the moisture.

For the reason that this cake really is a cake and over exceeds the expectations of bread, the name has been changed accordingly.

Gooey Indulge-Away Banana Cake
Adapted from

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
½ cup clover honey
4 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
2 egg whites
4 large ripened bananas (mashed)
1/3 cup non-fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup malt sweetened carob chips
Cooking Spray

Yields 1 loaf, 16 servings (1 slice is 140 calories)
Pre-heat oven to 325°F

In medium size bowl, whisk or sift dry ingredients (salt, flours, and baking soda) together.

In separate large bowl, blend together applesauce and sugar. Spray measuring cup with cooking spray and measure honey (for easy removal), add to bowl and continue to blend. Add eggs and whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add yogurt and vanilla. Add bananas and blend until desired texture,(I like to leave the bananas slightly chunky for a bigger flavor.)

Slowly Incorporate dry ingredients into wet batter, after fully mixed fold in carob chips until evenly distributed. Pour batter into 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan that is coated lightly in cooking spray, and bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes. Check after 30 to make sure it is browning evenly. Once a tooth pick comes out clean the cake is done. Cool for 10 minutes, and remove from pan, cool another few minutes and eat, or store wrapped in cling wrap in the refrigerator to hold in the moisture.

What am I getting myself into?!

I've been thinking about doing a blog for a little while now, (inspiration coming from my dad after I think he was getting sick of me calling him at all hours every time I came up with a new recipe I created from my teeny tiny kitchen.) and I guess I finally decided to do that at midnight, when my creative ability is at its best (I'm a college student...Do you expect anything less?) I'm no where near a newbie to the kitchen, however, I am new to my OWN kitchen.

My life has been filled with food ever since I came into this world. Every celebration, no matter how small was rewarded with food. That may have been a downfall at times, but we'll get to that a little later. My family is full of fantastic cooks, my dad can make gourmet meals at the snap of a finger, and don't worry, there will be leftovers. ( My mom and I always joke that my dad should be the chef for the Seahawks football team, since the amount of food he makes could feed the whole team AND their families.) My mom is the best baker I know, supplying me and my roommates with plenty of care-packages full of yummy baked goods through out the years, and making those holidays even more delicious. Then of course there is my sister, who as crazy as I like to think of her, creates amazing vegetarian dishes, that would make anyone turn vegan. She's also the one that peaked my interest in local fresh ingredients and organic cooking.( Don't tell her I said that, wouldn't want to give her even more bragging rights as an older sister) Then there's me..

I'm a young 20 year old college student originally from the Seattle area now Central Washington resident, who is enjoying every second of life! ( cliche, not to mention unbelievable! ) In truth I'm surviving, trying to enjoy the little surprises that life holds, and not get too bruised when life decides to knock me on my keester, (happens more times than not.) Recently this past year I declared my major in nutrition, more specifically dietetics. I thought by declaring my major, it would relieve most of my stress, which in part it did, but at the same time opened a new flood gate of "I have two years to complete a 100 credit major, filled with chemistry and biology classes I thought I said sianara to in high-school" (if you cannot tell science was not my favorite subject!) But then I realized to do what I wanted in life, I had to suck it up and power through it, (with the occasional scream and panicked phone calls to my mom before a big exam, allowed.)

I happened upon nutrition out of necessity, really. About the time of me entering middle school, the whole nation was on the new diet craze on different ways of loosing weight, from low cal to low carb, to no fat, to the very strange grapefruit diet. Well my parents were in full swing of embarrassing the new ways of eating, my dad doing the low carb Adkins diet, and my mom choosing the low fat diet. Then there was me in the middle of the whole thing, eating what was being offered to me, (a ten year old making the choice between steamed fish and veggies or a big's not rocket science what was selected!) Well those choices made got me on a one way track to the now leading health problem among adolescents. I struggled with my weight up through middle school, and into high school, and there was no diet, cleanse or pill I hadn't tried. It wasn't until my freshman year in college, where I knew I had to change no matter how drastic I took it. (This is not the best mind set someone should be in, but I'm the person that it's all or nothing, and my perfection-ish quality took hold.) I started reading books, and learning from the ground up, literally. I'd always been passionate about cooking, but now I was learning how to prepare items that added little calories, were as little processed as possible and didn't skimp on the flavor. This new revelation for me was hard to follow, as I was still in my spring semester at school, and a slave to the "tasty-no wonder they call it freshman fifteen-food". I started by recording the food I was eating and choosing healthier options, but the results didn't happen until I went home for the summer. Being surrounded by local farmers markets year round with inexpensive fresh wholesome foods, was a gift, and a realisation that I could loose weight cooking wholesome organic foods that tasted fantastic. A year later, I've lost almost 60lbs. and have adopted this new way of living. It was hard at school to do because of the limited space I had and sans kitchen, so most of my cooking was done at friends houses when I would cook for dinner parties or when I would come home and be my parent's personal chef ( they complained!)

View of Seattle from Kirkland, my home town

Now I start a whole new journey in my life. I have my own loft apartment, with the tiniest kitchen imaginable. However, the food I make is no where near little in any ways. Most the food is easy and simple to make, since I still go to classes during the summer days and am looking for a job to support my culinary adventures the other times. I'm still a amateur chef in the making, with great ideas, but still learning the technical aspects, so mistakes and "woops, shouldn't have done that"s are allowed and will happen (trust me!)

My teeny tiny kitchen apartment with clean dishes every where, a usual nightly event without a dish washer)

Hopefully this blog will give me a place to dump all those recipes and experiments I've eaten, altered, and created that have been written down on scratch pieces of paper and scattered all over my kitchen. As well as a place to express the process of a girl living on her own, new chapter, scared as hell, and hanging on by a whisk and oven mitt. (Not like you haven't heard the plot line before, I just add my twists to it!) Enjoy!

My new herb garden, filled with every day herbs (chives, basil, oregano and spearmint)