Budget Epicurean

Budget Epicurean: May 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Less than 5: Spanish Rice

This Less Than Five post will be the all-around qualifier: it takes less than 5 ingredients, less than $5, and less than 5 minutes (if you don't count inactive cook time). 

When I have an idea for the main dish but need a quick side, rice is always my first thought. Rice is so versatile, you can put almost anything in it and it will taste great. And since I got my new rice cooker, I eat rice at least 3 days a week because it is so easy!

Even if you don't have a rice cooker, rice is super simple to make. 

Stove top: Put 1/2 cup rice and 1 1/2 cup liquid in a pan, heat to boiling. You could use water, broth, tomato sauce, juice, whatever you want. Add any fresh or frozen vegetables too. Lower to simmer, and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and enjoy!
Microwave: Put 1/2 cup rice and 1 1/2 cup liquid in a microwave-safe bowl with plenty of room for the rice to boil. You could use water, broth, tomato sauce, juice, whatever you want. Add any fresh or frozen vegetables too. Microwave for 15-20 minutes on high, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Fluff and enjoy!

Now, for this spanish rice I cheated a little and used a boxed mix because it was on sale for $0.73. You could also use a tbsp chili powder and a small can of tomato sauce for about the same price and taste.

Rice: Bought on sale with spices included. = $0.73
Can of corn: On sale 2 for $1, one for $0.50. = $0.50
Can of diced tomatoes: Usual price is $0.69. = $0.69
Total: $1.92 for about 5 servings = $0.38 per serving!

1 box Spanish Rice mix
(Or 1 cup rice, 1 small can tomato sauce, 1 tbsp chili powder)
1 can of corn
1 can of diced tomato
1 cup water
Step 1: Spray the rice pot lining, combine all ingredients. Don't drain the corn or tomatoes, the juice adds extra flavor.
Step 2: Turn the rice cooker on and let cook for ~20 minutes. Or use one of the above cooking methods.
Step 3: Serve and enjoy. I made chicken legs to go with my rice. But this would be delightful in a taco or burrito, as a side to enchiladas, baked into a frittata, or on its own as a vegetarian meal.

What's your favorite easy side dish?

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Balsamic Marinated Portobello Mushrooms

Portobellos are definitely my favorite mushroom for grilling. They are delicious in just about anything else too. I love their thick, meaty texture that feels almost like a burger patty but for only 10 calories per ounce (NutritionData). My favorite marinade for meaty things has to include balsamic vinegar. It gives that salty, umami depth of flavor to whatever you put it on. I got some portobellos on sale and marinated them in this, and they turned out wonderful!

You could put these babies straight on the grill as a burger, or stuff them with grain/veggie combo. I sliced them and put them in a taco, you could also put them in stir fry or on a panini.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp Nature's Seasons mix
Step 1: Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl or plastic bag. The best route is likely a platic bag so you can flip it, but I just poured the marinade over the mushrooms in a shallow pie pan.
Step 2: Place in the refrigerator and marinate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. They are like little sponges and will soak up all those tasty flavors. After a few hours they get soft, don't panic.
Step 3: Put on an oiled grill or fry in a pan. You could also roast in the oven at 400 for 15-20 minutes. I cooked mine for 5-10 minutes each side on the stove top, then sliced into strips.
With some avocado, cooked rice, roma tomatoes, and feta cheese, I had the perfect vegetarian burrito! Portobellos also have 1 gram of protein per ounce, plus the avocado and cheese. It will very filling without feeling heavy. These mushrooms will be a staple part of my summer cooking repertoire for sure.

What do you do with mushrooms?

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup Bread Bowl

Broccoli cheddar soup is definitely one of my favorite go-to soups. It is relatively easy and quick to make, and I almost always have frozen broccoli on hand. I've tried several ways, adding and taking out ingredients as I had them available, but this batch was the best by far. It was thick, smooth, and creamy, with a perfect balance of flavors. I had some large bread rolls so I hollowed them out to use as bread bowls, and it was a perfect meal. Try it yourself!

2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 cup frozen broccoli florets
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
3-4 tbsp butter/margerine
Salt & black pepper

Step 1: In a sauce pot, bring butter, chicken stock and milk to a simmer. Cook the broccoli for 5-10 minutes, until heated through and soft.
Step 2: In a blender, combine the soup, spices, cheese, and sour cream. [You can use an immersion blender if you're fancy enough to have one] Reserve 1 cup if you want broccoli chunks in the finished soup. Blend until smooth and return to the pot. Heat through, about 5 minutes.
Step 3: Hollow out a large round bread roll by cutting at an angle with a sharp knife all along the edges. Pull the middle out, and fill with hot soup. Sprinkle a little cheddar on top, and enjoy!

This soup was so good I had to have two bowls. Luckily the bread roll was big enough that I had plenty left for dipping. If you'd like to make this vegetarian soup vegan, just omit the milk and cheese, maybe use some vegan cheese product instead.

What's your favorite soup to eat in a bread bowl?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Breakfast Pancake Burger

Yeah, this one is definitely inspired by my adorable carnivore SO. Meat-man loves beef, pretty sure I only trump steak by a few points. Therefore, when we had a grill-out at a park with some friends and came home with some leftover burger patties, he was a happy camper.

As I often do on weekends, I woke up early, checked email and Twitter, blogged a bit, and decided what fancy thing I would make for breakfast. I love weekends because there is so much more time in the morning to make something other than pop-tarts or a smoothie. (Don't get me wrong, I looooooove smoothies.)

I decided on pancakes. 

About this time, meat-man comes stumbling sleepily into the kitchen, and heads straight to the fridge. Upon noticing the nicely browning pancakes, and seeing the leftover picnic food, his eyes light up. I quickly made the connection too, and though it breaks so many nutrition rules, I had to admit I was curious.

Yes, I'll let you have a pancake burger. For science.

It grosses me out personally, and makes my arteries cringe, but if the happy noises and time it took to demolish (about 15 seconds) is any evidence, it's damn good. So if you're feeling brave or want to make a man you know speechless with joy, have at this breakfast beast.

2 eggs, scrambled
1 burger patty
Maple syrup
1 slice of cheese
*Not counting this as a less than 5, because individual ingredients (pancake, burger) take several more ingredients to make.

Step 1: Scramble the eggs in a small bowl. Add to a hot, sprayed pan, and cook into a small patty themselves by pushing the sides into the middle with a spatula as it cooks.
Step 2: If you haven't yet, make pancakes, at least 2.
Step 3: Make or reheat your burger patty, and place on top of one pancake.
Step 4: Cover with egg, cheese, and some syrup.
Step 5: Top with the other pancake.

This bad boy was about the size of my face.

Then when you finish it all, you can go right back to bed in a food coma. If ever I have a restaurant (le sigh) this will totally be a food challenge on my menu.

What's your dream breakfast?

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Turkey porcupine meatballs

So one day, I was running late at work. I text my SO (significant other) that I would be late, and he asked if I wanted him to start dinner. Bonus points already for asking! Yes please. We had some cooked rice in the fridge, and always have ground turkey on hand. I had mentioned porcupine meatballs previously, to which he responded with a weird look. To explain, adding rice makes meatballs 'porcupine'. We used to have these all the time growing up, maybe it's a Polish/Slovak thing. 

Anyways, so since I had planted the idea earlier, I suggested that as an option, with some healthy tweaks. An additional can of pinto beans mashed in, plus a can of diced tomatoes or two ups the protein, fiber, and vitamins from the usual just meat/rice combo. Using ground turkey over beef helps cut down on saturated fat as well.

Of course, the only side dish you're allowed to have with porcupine meatballs is mashed potatoes. Sometimes you can take shortcuts and make them healthy, but sometimes you gotta go all-in: butter, milk, sour cream, and garlic salt. You just know by the look and feel of the potatoes when you've added enough of each. Creamy and smooth without being too liquid, with a slight hint of yellow, and a strong smell of garlic. Starting to drool just thinking about it. 

And of course, the whole shebang gets drowned in a homemade tomato sauce. Simply perfect.

1 pound ground turkey
1 cup cooked rice
1 can beans
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
Italian seasonings
Garlic salt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
6-10 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

Step 1: In a bowl, mix turkey, rice, drained beans, drained diced tomatoes, and some seasonings if you like. Form into golf to tennis sized balls and place in an oven-safe pan.
Step 2: Bake these at 350 for 50-60 minutes. You can use a meat thermometer to check, or cut one open and make sure there is no pink inside.
Step 3: For the sauce, combine 1 can undrained tomatoes, 1 can tomato sauce, and spices. Leave chunky or mix in a blender for a smooth sauce.
Step 4: Pour the sauce over the meatballs. You can do this before or after cooking them, if you do it after simply return to the oven for 3-5 minutes to heat through.

Mmmm don't these look fabulous!?
Step 5: Boil the diced potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork. Drain and return to the cooking pot.
Step 6: Add milk, butter, sour cream, and spices (maybe some cheddar cheese too?) a little at a time, mixing with a potato masher or hand blender, until desired consistency is reached.
Step 7: Scoop a hearty pile of potatoes onto a plate and dollop with extra sauce. Add a meatball, and dive on in!
This is seriously a total bliss flavor combination. Reminds me of childhood and home every time. Definition of comfort food, with less fat and tons more goodness. I'm lucky to have such a good cook to come home to.

What food(s) reminds you of childhood?

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Breastfeeding: All about it

For a process as old as humanity itself, breastfeeding gets a lot of media attention. 

I've read many articles and arguments over the years, and decided to spend some time looking into the matter. Not that I need to worry about it, having no children myself. But maybe someday, who knows. 

And it has to do with two of my most favorite topics, money and food. How so? you may ask. Well, breastfeeding saves you money because your body naturally makes it. It is free food for several months for this little critter you just popped out of your body. And food, because that's what breast milk is.

Also I'm just insatiably curious. I read this article on Yahoo, and it stirred something in me. 

Why does the entire world think their opinions are needed, welcome, or necessary about what a woman does with her own body? I've always been of the opinion that what I do is my business and what you do is yours

I object to smoking in public because I hate the smell of smoke, it makes me gag and cough, and actively damages my health. If you want to smoke in your own house or car or whatever, that's your life decision. If you dress like a hooker or wear your pants down to your ankles, yes I will silently judge you. But you aren't actively harming me or stopping me from living my life, so I have nothing to say to you about it.

It is the same with breastfeeding. I've seen women in public and private doing so, both with and without covers. I'm more comfortable if they use a cover, sure. I feel super awkward if a lady's breast is all hanging out, but that doesn't mean I have to look at it. Look away, or go somewhere else. If she doesn't feel the need to cover up, that's her choice.

Anyways, time to get down off my soap box and look at some facts.

How it works

"Breastfeeding" is exactly that, the act of feeding an infant with milk produced by a female human breast. This production of milk is lactation, and is a natural anatomical event which begins after giving birth. Newborns only minutes old already have a suckling reflex which enables them to latch on to a breast, suck, and swallow milk. Surprisingly, Wikipedia has a very complete and thorough page all about breastfeeding.
Photo from SMAHCP

Common recommendations are that babies be breast fed within an hour of birth, exclusively breastfed for the first six months, then supplemented with age-appropriate foods until age two or "as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby" (American Academy of Pediatrics).

During pregnancy and after giving birth, the woman's hormonal endocrine system drives milk production in the milk duct system of the breasts. Progesterone, estrogen, prolactin, oxytocin, and others all influence development and production of milk. The milk ejection process, known as let-down, is triggered by oxytocin in response to the baby's suckling. It can also become a conditioned response, as in beginning at the cry of the baby.

The milk is made from the nutrients in the mother's body and bloodstream, and consists of just the right balance of fat, sugar, protein, and water for the baby. How much milk is produced can change depending on the age of the child, how often they nurse, and how much they consume per nursing session.
From the Wikipedia page: Formula (left) next to breast milk (right)

Many years ago, and in some poor countries today, your only option is to breastfeed. With the invention of formula, this freed mothers to allow others to feed their child if for some reason they could not. A third option has been even more recently made available through the widespread use of pumps. This combines the benefit of using your own milk with the convenience of having stores whenever the baby is hungry and using a bottle. The choice is personal, and unique to each mother's situation. 

Women who are nursing or pumping need to be careful of what they eat, as you can pass on toxins, mercury, and alcohol through breast milk. Alcohol-containing breastmilk has been shown to have a detrimental effect on motor development. Additionally, excess caffeine in breastmilk can cause irritability and restlessness in infants, so keep it under three cups of coffee (or 300 mg) per day.

Health/cognitive effects

Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as heart disease, respiratory diseases, and diabetes, are a growing concern in the developed and developing worlds. These diseases have a complex interaction of causes from genetics to gender, age and ethnicity, to environmental factors and lifestyle choices.

The major risk factors of chronic NCDs include smoking, hyperlipidemia (high lipids in the blood), hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperglycemia (high levels of sugar in the blood), obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. A review titled "The protective effects of breastfeeding on chronic non-communicable diseases in adulthood: A review of evidence" looks at the current body of literature researching the effects of breastfeeding on NCDs. There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that breastfeeding has protective roles for the infant against obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and type II diabetes mellitus during adulthood. 

Mother's milk has been a staple of child rearing for decades, maybe millennia. Its nutritional content and makeup has been adapted to feed a newborn infant into a strong, healthy toddler. It also contains antibodies from the environment of the mother, and thus the baby, helping the baby's immune system develop. There are numerous physical, emotional, psychological and health benefits for mothers too.

In addition to its short-term benefits, encouraging breastfeeding can have long-term beneficial health effects at individual and population levels. 

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality stated in their review Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries, that "A history of breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of many diseases in infants and mothers from developed countries."

For baby

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, research shows that breast feeding provides advantages with regard to general health, growth, and development for the baby. Infants who are not breastfed are at a significantly increased risk for a large number of acute and chronic diseases including:
  • lower respiratory infection
  • ear infections
  • bacteremia
  • bacterial meningitis
  • botulism
  • urinary tract infection
  • necrotizing enterocolitis
  • weak jaw and jaw muscles
There are numerous studies that show a possible protective effect of breast milk feeding against sudden infant death syndrome, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, lymphoma, allergic diseases, digestive diseases, and a possible enhancement of cognitive development. However, the association between breastfeeding and 'intelligence' is not clear.

Regardless, it is hard to argue that breastfeeding will in any way harm your baby's health. In fact, the vast majority of mothers plan on breastfeeding, but various health, behavioral, or social factors get in the way and prevent them or cause them to stop early.

For mom

Breastfeeding can have numerous benefits for mom, in physical, mental, and financial terms. Benefits for the mother include: 
  • Assists in post-baby weight loss (breastfeeding uses up about 500 calories a day)
  • Uterine shrinkage (apparently that's a good thing?)
  • Decreased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer (if you nurse a female child, it also decreases her lifetime risk of breast cancer! that's pretty flippin cool)
  • Decreased rates of depression 
  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis
  • Bonding experience for both mother and baby
  • Less expensive than formula
  • Lactational amenorrhea - delays return of fertility by suppressing ovulation, however is not 100% guaranteed, so please don't use this as the only form of birth control if you don't want another little on to follow on this one's heels
Breast milk was developed over millennia of evolution, and as such is perfectly suited to its job of feeding infants during their first few months and years of life. Studies have shown that the caloric intake of breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers was not very different, therefore breastfeeding is a cost-effective way of feeding an infant, providing nourishment for a child at a small cost to the mother.  Breastfeeding soon after giving birth increases the mother's oxytocin levels, making her uterus contract more quickly and reducing bleeding. And of course it bonds baby and mom closer together at every meal.

If you cannot or choose not to directly breast feed but still want to give your baby your milk, you can use a breast pump to express the milk and store it. Milk can be stored in special freezer bags (6-12 months) or in bottles in the refrigerator (6-8 days). This frees the mother to return to work or other daytime duties, enables other partners or caregivers to feed the child, and still offers all the benefits of using natural milk. Research suggests that the antioxidant activity in expressed breast milk decreases over time but it still remains at higher levels than in infant formula.

Any drawbacks?

Sometimes, due to drug use, infections, mastitis, or other health problems, a woman cannot use natural breast milk. There are still options available. If you want your child to still receive human breast milk, there are breast milk banks where kindly new mothers can donate excess breast milk. The milk will not be tailored to your baby, but will still be nutritionally superior to formula. See the Human Milk Banking Association of North America website for a bank near you. Or elsewhere in the world, a quick Google search should find some.

The process of weaning a baby can also be somewhat traumatic for both mother and child. Many mothers dread the loss of the bonding experience with their child. Weaning is the process of introducing other foods and reducing the frequency of milk, until the child is no longer receiving any breast milk. Most mammals stop producing the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. This can lead to lactose intolerance. The frequency of lactose intolerance rises over time, and varies among human populations.

It is also unconfirmed that breastfeeding causes any type of permanent disfigurement or 'sag'. This is more correlated with age, weight, lifestyle, and other factors.


The whole concept of to breastfeed or not seems to have a long-running polarizing effect. Again, I am not a mom, and have no intensely strong opinion either way. I think we are all free to make our own choices, and should respect each other as women and human beings in the choices each other makes. 

However, it seems moms on both sides of the fence take issue with the other side. Both choices are beset with the notion of being "right" or "good", while the other choice is wrong and hurts the child, mother, or both. 

This is silly. As women we are genetically and evolutionarily programmed to keep an offspring alive. And this is really the key. NO ONE is perfect. Everyone messes up sometimes. Everyone sucks sometimes. And that's okay. RenegadeMothering gets it.

The controversial TIME magazine cover "Are you MOM enough?"
The upsetting part though, is that society has developed a super-negative view of breastfeeding, especially in public. Women get stares, glares, and sometimes even asked to leave places, all for trying to provide food to their hungry babies. Yet no one objects to a lady on a park bench with a bottle.

Negative perception of breastfeeding in has led women to feel discomfort when breastfeeding in public. Wikipedia says: "Even though many women are educated about the health benefits of breastfeeding, less than 25% choose to breastfeed their children". 

A major driver of this is the over-sexualization of breasts. As they say, sex sells. And we like to sell lots of stuff. Therefore, we see lots of breasts in ads, on billboards, in magazines, on TV, on the subway... Every day we are bombarded with images of sexualized women and men trying to make us buy things. Thus, the thought of someone bearing one of those in pubic touches a nerve because people do not like to associate feeding an infant with sexual pleasure.

Societal judgment along with limitations as to when and where you can breastfeed in public leads some women to give up much sooner than they would have otherwise, which could have negative health effects for the baby later on in life. Shame should not be used as a tool to advocate breastfeeding, rather women should be able to individually define what a good mother is. 

As a society, we need to move towards providing women with education on the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as problem solving skills for women who may find it difficult.

More great blogs and websites to check out

  • http://www.kidspot.com.au/why-im-glad-i-was-told-to-stop-breastfeeding-in-public/
  • http://healthfoundationsbirthcenter.com/2013/11/19/15-cool-facts-about-breastfeeding/
  • http://thegothicmommy.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/pressure-to-breastfeed/
  • http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/en/
  • http://www.unicef.org/mozambique/media_9256.html

References - made using EasyBib (the world's best auto-citation site!)

Kelishadi, Roya, and Sanam Farajian. "The Protective Effects of Breastfeeding on Chronic Non-communicable Diseases in Adulthood: A Review of Evidence." Advanced Biomedical Research 3.1 (2014): 3. Print.

Much, Daniela, Andreas Beyerlein, Michaela Rothbauer, Sandra Hummel, and Anette-G. Ziegler. "Beneficial Effects of Breastfeeding in Women with Gestational Diabetes Mellitus." Molecular Metabolism 3.3 (2014): 284-92. Print.

Slusser, W. "Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes In Developed Countries." AAP Grand Rounds 18.2 (2007): 15-16. Print.

World Health Organization. "10 Facts on Breastfeeding." WHO. N.p., Feb. 2014. Web. 

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Less than 5: Big-kid Ramen

Another in my "Less than 5" recipe series. All recipes beginning with that title will have less than 5 ingredients and/or cost less than $5. Bonus for ones that also take less than 5 minutes. =)
Ramen used to be the greatest after-school snack ever. Then in college, it was pretty much a daily staple. At 10-20 cents per pack, the good people of Ramen keep poor college kids worldwide from starving. When I started graduate school, and started taking this blog more seriously, I figured Ramen was no longer part of my life. I had graduated to frittatas, lasagna, and white bean chicken chili. Big kid food. 

But then in my masters study, my Taiwanese advisor had Ramen for lunch nearly every day. She just fancied it up by adding a handful of fresh spinach and an egg. Well of course I had to try it, as the chicken-salt smell of Ramen is hard to resist. Adding veggies ups the nutritional value (which previously was negative zero) and an egg or tuna will bump up the protein.

It turns out to make a decently healthy meal, for way less than a dollar per serving. Ever since then, when I have a random Ramen craving, I give in with the justification that at least it's "big kid" Ramen. Now you can too!

1 package Ramen noodles
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables or spinach
1 egg
Spices (I used parsley, parmesan, and red chili pepper for kick)

Step 1: Heat the noodles and water for 3 minutes in the microwave. Let stand for another 3 minutes.
Step 2: Add the vegetables and egg. Break the yolk so it doesn't explode. Microwave another 3 minutes.
Step 3: Stir in seasoning packet and spices, enjoy!

The chili flakes gave it a nice bite of heat, and I like the frozen mixed veggies because of the corn and carrots' sweetness. You can get creative with this. Use tofu, beans, tuna, chicken. Any cooked vegetable will work well. I'm partial to the chicken flavoring only, but there are beef and shrimp flavorings too. For 0.10 (noodles) + 0.10 (egg) + 0.10 (frozen veg) = $0.30 not a bad meal!

What do you put in your Ramen?

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Recipe Review: Strawberry Cheesecake Shake

As you may or may not know, I love this website called SparkPeople. They have trackers for all sorts of things: water drank, workouts, foods, weight, recipes, etc. It's a great community and only getting bigger. People are really supportive, and there are so many inspiring weight loss stories! All for free. Anyway, a lot of my recipe inspirations come from there, and when I saw this Strawberry Cheesecake Shake appear in my inbox the other day, I knew I had to try it.

See, I ordered some Whey Protein Powder on Amazon, and love it. BulkSupplements has some great, clean supplements, and the best price-per-ounce out there. (I have their anhydrous caffeine powder too, for really slow mornings!) As with all supplements, you need to be safe, and use your best judgment. Ask your doctor if you aren't sure what or how much to take. Anyways, I like this protein powder because it is just powdered whey (like from milk) so there is no added sugars or calories or flavors. I can put it in anything. And this shake calls for protein powder, so I think perfect breakfast! 

The claim is that this tastes like strawberry cheesecake. Really? Does anything "healthy" taste like the unhealthy food it claims to mimic? I've had way too many promising sounding yogurts turn out to be chalky and awful. But stick with me...
this one's a winner.

With only 3 ingredients (if you don't add the extras) and about a minute to make, this one qualifies for my "Less than 5" too I think.

1/2 cup milk (I used vanilla soymilk)
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen)
*2 tsp almond flavoring (optional, or vanilla)
*2 squirts liquid stevia -- use the sweetener of your choice. Honey, splenda, sugar, naked...
*1 tbsp whey protein
 * = all optional, add to taste or don't add, your choice
Step 1: Blend the milk and the cottage cheese together until smooth. This is the important part, make sure there are no cheese chunks left. Pulse in the blender for 30-60 seconds, then dip in a spoon. If you pour it off and no chunks are left, you're good, continue.
Step 2: Add the sweetener, flavoring, protein powder, and strawberries. You could use any fruit here really, peaches would be good, or raspberries. Strawberry-banana is always a solid bet.
Blend for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
Step 3: Pour into a container and enjoy! I took this for breakfast, and I swear to you it really does taste like a liquid strawberry cheesecake. The protein from the cottage cheese and the whey powder made it extra filling, so I wasn't the least bit hungry until lunchtime. This would be a good post-workout snack if you cut it in half too. Enjoy!

Nutritional Info

  • Servings Per Recipe: 1
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 236.3

  • Total Fat: 2.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 10.5 mg
  • Sodium: 518.6 mg
  • Total Carbs: 36.4 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 6.2 g
  • Protein: 19.4 g
  (Note: Adding protein powder will increase the protein level and likely calorie count)

What's your favorite pre- or post-workout snack?

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mascarpone-Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls

With Mother's Day just around the corner, what better way to make mom's day than to have a batch of these ooey-gooey, sticky, sweet, decadent Mascarpone-Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls and a big glass of milk and/or coffee ready for her?!? These have become a super favorite in our house ever since my own mom discovered the Pillsbury "Mascarpone-Filled Cranberry-Walnut Rolls" recipe around Christmas time. Now she makes it her own way with a variety of fillings and toppings. Feel free to experiment yourself. Try ricotta, cream cheese, or goat cheese, use any dried fruits, jams, honey, maple syrup, add mixed nut, walnuts, pistachios. As long as there's butter, biscuit, sugar, and love, they are sure to delight!

1/4 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped 
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup white or brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 can (12 oz) biscuit mix (or make your own if you're feeling extra brave)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese or cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter or margerine
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk 

Step 1: Heat oven to 350, grease a round pan or 8x8 square pan. Mix any nuts and/or fruit you are using in a small bowl. Lay out two shallow bowls or plates, one with melted butter and one with cinnamon/sugar.
Step 2: Put a glob of mascarpone in the center of one biscuit round (about 1 tbsp) and pinch the sides up around it. Roll into a ball, making sure cheese is completely covered. You could add the nuts and fruit in the middle here, or reserve to sprinkle them on top. 

Step 3: Roll each ball in the melted butter, then in the cinnamon and sugar. Place seam-side down in the greased pan. Once all biscuits are stuffed, spread remaining melted butter and sprinkle with the rest of the cinnamon and sugar.


Step 4: Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes, until biscuits are nice and brown. Mix 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tbsp milk until a thin glaze forms. Drizzle over the warm rolls.

These things are simply incredible, warm and chewy, sweet and cinnamony. That's my sexy "Time for Science" shirt in the background, drowning the rolls in icing!

Who wouldn't want to wake up to these!?! Make them any time really. Every day? Maybe if you're also a marathon runner...

What will you do for your mom on Mother's Day?

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How to cook a whole Brisket

Beef brisket is by far one of my favorite cuts of meat. Brisket comes from the chest area of a cow, and is chock full of connective tissue called collagen. This is what can cause meat to be tough and chewy. This is also why brisket requires a loooooooong cooking time. Chefs and home cooks will all have varying opinions on the best rubs, sauces, and ways to cook brisket. In my opinion, there really isn't a wrong way, as long as brisket is being served I'm a happy camper! 

If you're intimidated by trying to cook such a large chunk of meat (since stores usually sell it by the whole brisket, i.e. the entire chest muscle) you can probably ask a store butcher to cut it into smaller sizes. But let me assure you, if I can pull this off in my tiny apartment kitchen, you sure can too! Do be aware that a whole brisket is typically upwards of ten pounds. Though some part of that is the "fat cap", a thick band of fat connected to the meat, and you probably want to cut that off before eating. But leave it on for the cooking part, as it helps keep the meat tender and juicy, and tasting awesome! 

If I had a huge grill, I would use that baby on low and slow all day. Since I don't have that, I made due with baking in the oven. And I'm totally not mad about that. I used mustard as the base for the rub, to get it to stick, and to add flavor. And made the rub from some spices I had around the house. You can change it up to use whatever spices you want, add some BBQ sauce, get creative.

1 14 pound beef brisket
1 cup yellow mustard
1 cup pork rub spices
1/4 cup dried onion
1/4 cup garlic salt
Ground white pepper
Black pepper

This is what the brisket looks like a the store. Quite the hunk of beef.
Ready and waiting to become a masterpiece.
Step 1: Smear a healthy amount of mustard all over the brisket, flip it, and cover the other side too. Use your hands and get all around the edges and in the crevices.
Step 2: In a small bowl, mix together all the spices.
Sprinkle the spice mixture liberally all over the meat. This is very thick, so it's pretty dang difficult to over-season at this stage. Rub it all over so you get a crispy, flavor-filled crust.
Step 3: Place the brisket in an oven-safe pan with the fat cap upwards, so all the delicious melting fat will drip through your meat and keep it moist. Cover with foil and place into an oven set at 275. Add a cup of water or beef broth to keep it moist.

Now the hard part. Wait. This baby needs to cook for about 6-8 hours, low and slow.

When there is no longer any pink, or if you have a meat thermometer make sure it reads 150 or more, your brisket is ready to be enjoyed!
This. Meat. Is. Amazing.
I served the brisket with roasted whole new potatoes and onion, and steamed broccoli the first night. There were leftovers all week, and no one was upset about that. Made some pulled brisket BBQ sandwiches, brisket salad, just ate chunks of the salty, beefy goodness cold. 
The drippings were delicious too, but had a lot of the melted fat in it.
That didn't stop us from using the drippings as a gravy!
Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow was this good. Makes me consider changing careers to be a cattle farmer, just so I can have this once a month. Then I'd probably also have a heart attack within a decade... Worth.

Have you ever made brisket? How do you cook it?

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