College, Black Beans, and Brownies

People always said, “Oh yeah, once you are in college, you will miss having a home cooked meal every night.”  And the true meaning of this statement never sank in until I was actually in college.  I have eaten cafeteria food for a little less than a month, and I cannot wait to go home and eat my parents cooking.  Not that our cafeteria food is bad, it just isn’t the food I’m used to. For all my UC school friends that still have another three weeks of summer, savor every bite of home cooked food.  Appreciate it in its entirety.  You will miss it.

I was assigned to live in a room with three other girls.  I was very unsure of how it was going to turn out because living in a cramped space with complete strangers for nine months could go many ways.  Then, the week before I left to go to school, one of my roommates emailed us and informed us that she toured the room and we have a full kitchen and bath in our room.  Um, excuse me?  What?  How is this possible?  As it turns out, we were randomly assigned to the Resident Director’s apartment that was converted into a student dorm.  We basically won the entire housing lottery.  It has been such a blessing to have a kitchen and be able to make my own food once in a while.  The truth is that I wish I could make every meal for myself and not even have a meal plan.  But alas, since I’m living on campus, I must have a meal plan and I should use it or it would be a huge waste of money.

Anyway, I have made eggs, chocolate chip banana pancakes, two batches of chocolate chip cookies, toast, and as of an hour ago, black bean vegan brownies.  I even sent some cookies home to my mom and sister, because my sister made a comment over the phone that she and my mom were down to their last homemade cookie after sending me so many in a care package and how it was too hot to even think of turning on the oven to make more.  So I sent them some dorm-made cookies because I wanted to repay the care package favor.  Because really, no one should be without homemade cookies for too long, especially after school has just started.  That cookie in your lunch very well could be the highlight of your day some days. (Sadly, this is the case once or twice in life; you have bad days that require a cookie to make it better.)  I learned to check with the person who ships your package as to how long it will take for it to arrive, because once they got back home, they were a little crumbly and drier than expected.  It’s the thought that counts, right?

Anyway, tonight I made plans with a friend(yes, I made a friend. Can you believe it?) to try out this new vegan recipe I found on Buzzfeed.  We had no idea how it was going to turn out, but after being sick all weekend and therefore doing nothing but homework and sleeping, I had a little free time tonight to try it out.

The verdict is that they are super fudgy, rich, and dense, and completely and unexpectedly good.  When I heard they had black beans in them I was a skeptic, but these are definitely brownies I would make again.

 

I stole this picture from Farmgirl Gourmet (link at the bottom of this post). It was way better than any picture I could have taken. But mine did turn out looking like this. :)
I stole this picture from Farmgirl Gourmet (link at the bottom of this post). It is way better than any picture I could have taken.  Props to her for this excellent piece of food art. :)

 

Here is the recipe that I got from Farmgirl Gourmet, and then tweaked to fit the ingredients I had in my dorm:

 

Dark Chocolate Vegan Brownies

Ingredients

1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and filled with new water

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder (I used regular unsweetened cocoa powder, because it was cheaper)

4 tsp instant coffee powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup of water (the original recipe calls for Guinness beer, but seeing as I am underage, that wasn’t going to happen)

3/4 cup chocolate chips (or nuts, if you so desire)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Drain the can of black beans into a colander, rinse the can clean and the beans until all bean juice is gone.  Pour the cleaned beans back in the can and fill the can back up to the top with fresh water.
  3. Puree the beans and water in the blender and set it aside.
  4. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and instant coffee powder. Mix together.  Make a well in the center to pour your liquids into.
  5. Pour bean purée, water, and vanilla into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix together, being careful not to overmix.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips or nuts and pour into a greased 9 by 13 pan.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes and rotate the pan halfway through.
  8. Let cool and enjoy! :)


Note: Depending on whether you like coffee or not, I would adjust the amount of instant coffee powder.  The four teaspoons definitely makes it so you can taste the coffee-ness but not in a bad way.  I don’t drink or enjoy coffee, but I loved the extra layer of flavor it gave the brownies and it complimented the chocolate very nicely(as expected). Also, I haven’t tried it with beer yet, but I am curious as to how it tastes, so when I get home I will be trying it again, this time with the beer.  Lastly, I am not vegan, so I didn’t worry about using butter to grease the pan, so if you are vegan use canola oil or cooking spray.

PS Don’t worry, I promise I have made more than one friend.  I mean, who doesn’t want a friend who will bake them yummy goodies all the time? :)

Click here to see the original recipe!

Reflections on the Past Four Years

Robert Fulghum wrote a poem back in 1990 titled All I Ever Needed to know I Learned in Kindergarten.  In it he writes,

“These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some

and draw and paint and sing and dance and play

and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,

hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:

The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody

really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even

the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.

So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books

and the first word you learned – the biggest

word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.

The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.

Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into

sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your

family life or your work or your government or

your world and it holds true and clear and firm.

Think what a better world it would be if

all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about

three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with

our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments

had a basic policy to always put thing back where

they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you

are – when you go out into the world, it is best

to hold hands and stick together.”

 

As I was pondering what to do for my senior project and reflecting on the abundance of lessons I learned in high school; I realized I really wanted to write a letter similar to Fulghum’s poem to both freshman me looking back, and my sister as she is going to be a freshman next year.  Here is what I came up with.

Dear Freshman me,

All you really will ever need to know, you’ll know.

and even on the perchance that you don’t know,

being the resourceful girl you are, obviously you’ll Google it.

Knowledge will not be found in the $100,000 of college tuition debt, but rather in the classroom, on the playing field, and in everyday life.  These are the things you will learn by graduation day:

Everything is better with food.

Attitude is everything.

Find a couple of things you love and apply yourself to them.

YOLO is not the best way to make major life decisions.

Stress doesn’t get you anywhere in life.

A smile and a greeting can make a persons day.

Don’t give up; on people, on life, or in class.

Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Dream big, because  if you reach for the moon and miss you’ll land on a star.

Take risks.

Waiting until the night before to start anything is a bad idea.

Don’t be afraid of change, change is healthy.

Make friends, and “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together”.

Family is everything.  They have been yours from day one, and they will always love you.  Appreciate them.  Spend time with them.  Savor those dinnertime moments, those times where you are laughing so hard it hurts.  Soon you will be moving over 1000 miles away, eating dinner without your family; your presence at the dinner table thoroughly missed.

Dad and i edited

But take heart everything will be okay.  You will still be able to Facetime, go home on the holidays, go on family camping trips, stay home for summer, and sleep in your own bed in your own house.  You can still go home and eat home food; you don’t have to be a vegetarian forever.

Cherish those times with your sister.  Those she may sometimes feel like an annoyance, imitation is the highest form of flattery.  Go easy on her and make memories; she is only going to be an innocent middle schooler for so long.  Have fun.  Take adventures together. Be spontaneous.

rachel and i

When you start following these tips, there is one very important thing that you must do.  Can you guess what it is?

Have fun. Though that’s a good one; it’s not the most important piece of advice I have for you, because you will have fun anywhere and with anything.  The biggest regret you will have is not taking enough pictures. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so take pictures on top of pictures on top of pictures.  There is no such thing as too many pictures, so snap away.  Capture the memories, you are only in high school once.

With love,

Senior you

senior Lindsey

Making an Impact

This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and in honor of it, I am posting something I wrote about my current English teacher, Mr. Theriault.  He is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for forcing me to do so.

“Young lady, do you need to change seats?” It was the first day of school my sophomore year, and I had completely forgotten to bring lined paper.  I had quietly turned around to my friend sitting behind me to ask for a spare sheet so I could write our essay on the assigned reading we had over the summer.  I was in shock and intimidated that I was scolded for asking for a piece of paper, especially on the first day of school.  I was so scared of my new English teacher that I left class that day thinking, “Okay, breathe and relax, if it doesn’t get better, you can always switch to another class.”

Switching to another class would have been one of the biggest mistakes in my academic career, if not my life.  I know it seems cliché, but it is true. I would have missed out on having an extraordinary teacher who does not just teach English, but teaches life.   Shortly into the school year, amidst his ridiculously hard bi-weekly quizzes, he told us, “I am going to grade you on your effort in this class.  The standard measures of competence and effort [by tests and quizzes] will have less value in my class; not so you can slack off, but so you can stretch yourselves to new levels without fear of damaging your grade because of it.”  Though his class is one of the most challenging classes I have had, it is addicting; there are too many days in which I walk out of his classroom, wishing I could stay in English all day, thinking “This is way more worthwhile and meaningful than any of my other classes.”

It was in his class that I first learned how to properly read and annotate a book and was able to enjoy analyzing the syntax of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.  It was in his class, that student presentations became something to look forward to, instead of a waste of a class period, as more often than not, they came with goodies and plenty of audience interaction which kept it interesting.  It is in his class, and really only in his class, that I feel completely at home.

The wheels are always turning in Mr. Theriault’s head, thinking of how to make himself a better teacher, his lessons more fruitful, keep students more engaged, and how to make education less daunting.  He is never afraid to share what he is working on with his students as well as the rest of the world through his blog and Twitter.  Mr. Theriault has taught his students to share their work and thoughts, by assigning weekly blogging and a twenty percent project every year.  Through blogging, I have written more this past year than ever before in the entirety of my high school career altogether.  He has given us the freedom to develop our own voice, something that is so hard to teach, yet so critical for higher level writing.

Mr. Theriault is one of the only teachers I have encountered that will take time out of his class period, his precious fifty-four minutes of teaching time, to ask how students are doing.  He will ask about the sports events that he couldn’t make it to and other school related topics, but he will also ask students how they are doing personally.  If he sees that someone seems down, sick, or just exhausted, the first thing he says is, “Is there anything I can do to make your day better?”.  From chocolate and hot tea to sharing half of his lunch, he is always there for his students.  He realizes that sometimes his class isn’t the most important thing in our lives, and that our overall well-being is much more important than anything he could teach in an hour. He genuinely cares for his students.

I have been blessed to have Mr. Theriault as my English teacher both sophomore and senior year.  As the number of days left until graduation dwindles down, it is a bittersweet feeling; the excitement of graduation and college combined with the sad realization that my time in Mr. Theriault’s class is coming to an end.  I can see why he always has college students coming back to visit him; days in his class are treasured memories and visiting him brings them all back.  Mr. Theriault makes a huge impact on student’s lives every year, and I can only dream of a world in which all teachers were as committed, caring, and compassionate as he is.

"Mr. Theriault, can we take a picture?" "Sure, how do you want to do this? Selfie style?" "Okay" He laughs. "I never take selfies" Personally, I think this one turned out great.
“Mr. Theriault, can we take a picture?”
“Sure, how do you want to do this? Selfie style?”
“Okay”
He laughs. “I never take selfies”
Personally, I think this one turned out great.

 

Secret Garden Salad

There has always been a garden in our backyard.  My mom was raised in the same house we live in now, so even decades before I was born, when the house was brand new, there has been a garden.  My grandpa grew potatoes, corn, tomatoes, avocados, oranges, apricots, and beans.  Today we grow apricots, spinach, romaine lettuce, swiss chard, garlic, beets, onions, kale, broccoli, snap peas, green beans, tomatoes, olallaberries, lemons, oranges, tangerines, basil, cilantro, potatoes, carrots, and avocados.  Needless to say, we grow a lot of our own produce in the right seasons.  Right now, the lettuce, chard, kale, and broccoli are booming.

The weeds in the garden used to annoy me so much; there were so many of them and I HATED pulling weeds.  I didn’t like it because I wanted perfection and didn’t want to see a single weed in the entire garden.  The task was daunting, so I usually pulled weeds in maybe a two foot square area and gave up.  Then one day something clicked.  I realized that I don’t need to pull out all the weeds at one time.  Like everything that needs fixing and adjustment, it becomes more manageable if you do it a little at a time.  Now, every time I go out to pick fruits and veggies, I pull fifteen weeds or so, and toss them in the compost bin.  Maintenance is always easier than overhaul.

Anywho, because our veggies are booming, we have been eating salad right out of our garden and it has been wonderful.  We got a recipe for an awesome salad that we fell head over heels for probably four years ago.  Since then, I can count on one hand the number of times we haven’t eaten some variation of this salad with dinner.  And we have salad with dinner almost every day, for sure an average of 6 out of 7 days of the week.  The dressing is homemade and simply amazing, and we have altered the recipe to our liking and to make it easier to prepare every night.

This isn't a picture of one of our salads, but its very similar and you get the idea.  It's a delicious salad.
This isn’t a picture of one of our salads, but its very similar and you get the idea. It’s a delicious salad.

My mom was hesitant to even give me the secret recipe to post, because it is so wonderful.  Caroline on Sweetly Lemon specifically asked for it, so here it is!

 

Roberts Family Famous Salad

Salad:

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped

spinach, kale, chard(whatever greens you have available), chopped

broccoli(cut into small bite sized pieces)

¼ to ½ cup red onion

a good sized handful of dried cranberries

6-10 strips of cooked bacon, diced

2 handfuls of Pita Chips, crushed

Put it all in a bowl together and wha-lah! We only have bacon in it for special occasions, and never measure any of it specifically, the measurements are just guidelines; feel free to alter them based off of how many people you are serving.  Don’t put the pita chips on until the last-minute, as they will get soggy quickly and just roughly crush them in your hands and sprinkle it on top.

Dressing:

1 cup canola oil

½ cup sugar

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

a couple cloves of garlic, smashed(just leave them floating in the dressing container, remove it before pouring it on the salad)

We always have the dressing on hand in a protein shake type container because we use it so often.  I would recommend making it in advance-it tastes way better that way.

 

This salad has been particularly amazing as all the produce is home-grown, straight out of the garden.  I highly recommend this salad, as well as planting a garden, but the garden requires much more time and space than the salad.  Happy salad making!

Gluten Free Culinary Perfection

Ever since day one, my family and I have had almost weekly dinner with our family friends(more like family) that live four houses down the street from us.  The meals are sometimes more elaborate, and sometimes its a “whatever we can make with what’s in both fridges” dinner.  Either way, the food is always great and I always look forward to it.

I can’t even count the times where we have called our family friends or vice versa and said, “Hey! We’re trying a new recipe tonight, would you like to join us for dinner?”  (I’m pretty sure normal people don’t invite people over for dinner when they are cooking a new recipe, just saying.)  The fun thing is that whenever we try a new recipe; there is always the possibility that we will have to call for pizza, and we are all willing to take that risk. In all my years of eating these creations, I can’t remember a night where the dinner has been so terrible that we actually have called for pizza.  That being said, this environment has always encouraged me to try new recipes, and wing it, even if you don’t have all the ingredients and are under a little pressure.

Over the weekend, my grandpa came down to visit and attend my sister’s soccer game.  We all completely forgot that he had recently(within the past two weeks) become officially gluten intolerant, and didn’t remember until he said, “This is amazing! It’s the first bread I have had in two weeks!” when we made him a sandwich.  He ate the sandwich, thinking it would be okay just for that meal, but it didn’t go over so well.  He told us what he had been eating and how much he was missing noodles and toast, and especially cookies.  He LOVES homemade cookies.  He wasn’t even aware that they made gluten-free substitutes for bread and noodles, and was blown away that I could make him some gluten-free cookies.

I, being the extremely resourceful person I am, googled some recipes, found a promising one, went to Sprout’s for the gluten-free ingredients, and embarked on a gluten-free cookie journey.

The reviews I read for this recipe were all very good, and praised it.  My goodness, I followed the recipe to a T and I ended up with gloppy, crinkly, soft, and gooey cookies that wouldn’t even come off the cookie sheet.

It was a mess. These are just the ones that came off the sheet looking at least a little like a cookie.
It was a mess. These are just the ones that came off the sheet looking at least a little like a cookie. The rest was only fit for ice cream toppings and/or immediate sampling.  Needless to say, there were several cookie fatalities that night.

 

I finally got so frustrated with it that I stuck the remainder of one sheet back in the oven to hopefully crisp up and be easier to remove while still maintaining the cookie shape.  Meanwhile, I ranted to my mother about school, checked Facebook, lamented the sad state of my cookie disaster, looked at another recipe-realizing I forgot to pick up half the ingredients, made an entire new batch of cookies after tweaking the recipe, got them all set up on the cookie sheet, turned on the oven, took a picture of my kitchen mishap, and finally looked at the oven to see why it was seemingly taking forever to heat up.  And this is what I found…

My First Ever Burnt Cookies :(
My First Ever Burnt Cookies :(

I have never, ever, burnt ANYTHING this badly. EVER.  It was terrible.  I burnt everything so much that the chocolate chips were crummy.  Boy was I frustrated.  I don’t really like failing at things I normally excel at.  Like I have said in earlier posts, I don’t mind failure, knowing that failure is the only way to learn, but seriously, I have been making cookies since I was old enough to be in the kitchen with my mom.  Thinking back on it, I think I was more frustrated that my cookie pride was hurt, not really that I had “failed”.  It wasn’t a complete failure as the undercooked ones tasted good, but just didn’t hold their shape.

Being my hardworking and stubborn self, I wasn’t going to let these cookies have the best of me, I put the newly altered recipe batch in the oven and watched them like a hawk.  The reward was SWEET REDEMPTION, both literally and figuratively.

Much Better
Much Better

Lesson learned, just like Aunt BethAnn has always said, don’t ever be afraid to make a dish, based on how it will turn out or how it did turn out; you can always order pizza and try again another time.

Professional chefs have had their share of meal mishaps and burnt food, and look where they are now.  Maybe burnt food and mishaps are just a step in the right direction towards culinary perfection.

Anyway, I almost forgot to include the recipe(the one I changed).

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 9-11 minutes

Total Time: 26 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups of your favorite GF all purpose baking/flour substitute
  • 1 teaspoon guar gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (for chocolate mint chip cookies, use 1 teaspoon peppermint extract)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) gluten-free chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375° F / 190° C

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly oil

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg and sugar and beat with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy. Add butter and beat on high until combined. Add extract and beat briefly. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (optional).

For 1 dozen large cookies use a 2 tablespoon (1/8 cup) ice cream scoop or drop heaping tablespoons of dough on prepared baking sheets.

For 2 dozen small cookies use a 1 tablespoon ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon.

Bake in preheated oven for 9-11 minutes or until cookies are crisp on edges and slightly soft in the middle. Cool on baking sheet.

Sweet Memories- Dairy Free Ice Cream

ice cream quote

Growing up, my grandparents, aunts, and my family all went camping together over the 4th of July in Lone Pine, at the base of Mt. Whitney.  The campground itself is about six miles outside of Lone Pine proper; it is a dry campground, meaning pit toilets and spigots for water, and unless you bring a solar shower, y’ain’t showering.  We would celebrate my birthday on the 5th; side note: my grandma without fail would bake a cake and bring it up when she and my grandpa came(usually a day or two later after my family), just so I could have a proper birthday cake on my birthday.  We would hike and fish and play in the stream and go exploring and offroading in our Jeep.  There wasn’t cell service or electricity; it was pure uninterrupted bliss.  Midway through the trip, like clockwork, either my grandpa or my dad would decide we were going to go on an adventure.  My sister and I would ask, “Where are we going?”  to which he would reply, “Crazy.”  We would drive into town to the Frosty Chalet for soft served, hand-dipped in chocolate ice cream cones.   It was always such a treat to sit down to a cold, sweet, delicious ice cream cone, as we were all hot, sticky, covered in dirt, and probably some fish guts too.  Coming from our mutual love of ice cream, wherever we travel, we eat ice cream at least once.  It’s a tradition, just like cinnamon rolls and egg burritos are on Christmas Day.

With that being said, one of the biggest things I miss about not being able to eat dairy is, as you might guess, ice cream(cheese is a close second though).  I have tried the soy and almond variations of ice cream and liked most of them, but it is so expensive to buy.  I thought regular ice cream was expensive, and then I started buying dairy free and paying double the price for half the volume.  It is ridiculous.  Add that on to the fact that many ice cream places don’t have a dairy free option(I wouldn’t expect them to, but it would be awesome if they did), and it is kind of a bummer to go out as a family for ice cream to uphold the tradition, and not be able to eat any of the thing I love so much.

So being the resourceful young lady that I try to be, I decided that making my own dairy free ice cream must be cheaper than buying it, and it must taste better too because everything that is homemade tastes better!  I searched online for recipes, and found that a lot of them called for ingredients that I wasn’t so sure about like xanthan gum(where do you even buy that?) and others, but I finally came across one that looked relatively simple.  Cocoa powder, bananas, almond milk, and sugar.  It was simple enough and pretty healthy looking too, so I tried it.  The result was a great base to start with! I, personally, think it needs to be a little less banana flavored, but it still was really good.

 

Ingredients:

2 ripe bananas

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  1. In a microwaveable bowl or cup whisk 1/2 cup almond milk with the chocolate cocoa and sugar until fully incorporated. Microwave for 40 seconds and then stir.

  2. Place bananas plus the remainder of the almond milk into a blender along with the cocoa mixture and purée for about 10 seconds.

  3. Place mixture in the ice cream maker and process for 20 minutes or until thick.

  4. Serve right away or store in the freezer for later use or to firm up a bit more if desired.

dairy free iC

NOTES:  I topped mine with chocolate chips and cinnamon, which made it better, but it still needs some help.  My sister and I decided that crushed Oreos, mini chocolate chips, or peanut butter cups could be mixed in as it is in the ice cream maker to give it a better and more ice cream like flavor.  Next time, I am going to try it with Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk instead of regular to see if I can intensify the chocolate flavor and get less of a banana flavor.

I hope to find and try a mint chocolate chip recipe soon; it is one of my favorite flavors.  If you have a recipe that I should try, feel free to comment with a link to it, otherwise I will make sure to make an update post once I perfect a couple different flavors.

 

Cauli-Power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

cauliflower

I was filling out an interest survey today for a class, and one of the questions was, “Where is your favorite place and why?”.  Interestingly enough, one of my favorite places in the world is at our family’s dining room table.  Not just because my parents make amazing food, but because its my one hour in every day where I can relax and be with my family.  Sometimes our schedules are so jam-packed that the only topic that gets covered is the “family’s” schedule.  Other times I end up laughing so hard that I cry, because we are just that funny.  And then there are times where we just catch up with one another or have another family over for dinner, and those are both great too. I just love that precious hour (longer on the weekends), stenciled into my schedule every day, that I spend with them just sitting at the table.  I remember the moment in elementary school that I found out that other kids my age didn’t eat dinner with their families every night.  I was mind blown, completely and absolutely astounded.  It seemed so normal and comforting to me; this new revelation about them made them seem almost alien to elementary school me.  I felt bad for them and wanted to invite them over for dinner, so that they could eat dinner like I did and see how wonderful it was.  I still feel bad for those people who don’t eat dinner with their families on a regular basis; they don’t know what they are missing.  I encourage you to start small this week by trying to eat dinner with your family for just one night, if you don’t normally do so.  The memories and positives that come out of it will far outweigh any negatives.  Go ahead, you could even try it with the new recipe I am posting below.  I would suggest that you could cook it together too, but I don’t want to get too crazy.

With my enjoyment of the dinner table and all it brings, it only seems natural for me to like cooking and baking new things for us to eat.  And I do.  Cooking and baking are therapeutic for me.  So, consequently, I like to try new recipes and experiment with old recipes.  This recipe was an adventure for me.  It was vegan, soy free, and sugar-free.  And it required nutritional yeast.  I had no idea what in the world nutritional yeast even was.  As far as I was concerned there was only one kind of yeast-the kind you put in breads to make them rise.  Boy, was I wrong.

Anyway, I actually found this recipe on Buzzfeed (which lead me to Oh She Glows-link at bottom) , but it appealed to me because it was dairy free.  When I started my freshman year, my immune system fell apart.  I was sick almost every month with colds that wouldn’t completely go away for around two weeks.  It wasn’t until last year that my dad and I discovered that running cross-country put so much stress on my body that it couldn’t defend itself against the common cold AND eating dairy made me more susceptible to colds and intensified them.  After that discovery, I limited my running, giving my body time to fully recover from the colds, and I began to transition off of dairy products.  The result was I got sick less often and felt way better because I wasn’t congested all the time!  Now, after reducing my dairy intake to little to none, when I cheat and eat it, I get a nice stomach-ache.  A long story to say, I am trying to find healthy dairy free foods so that I can avoid the stomach-ache.

My first attempt at photographing my own food! Please excuse the lighting, our kitchen suffers from bad lighting.
My first attempt at photographing my food! Please excuse the lighting, our kitchen suffers from bad lighting.

Wow, I have taken so long to just get to the review of the recipe.  Overall, this was really good.  I over sautéed the garlic once, Facetimed my dad to double-check that it was burnt, and started over.  TIP: Only sauté the garlic until just golden brown, on medium low heat.  DON’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF OF IT!  The nutritional yeast is surprisingly good and has a nice flavor-make sure to get the powder/flake form and not the pill form(seems like common sense but they sell both).  I added an extra garlic clove, and used the larger amount of pepper and garlic  powder- the result was a pretty spicy sauce.  Next time, I am going to tone down the garlic, both clove and powder, and pepper.  I can always add more after the sauce is blended if it needs it.  I threw in some mushrooms on top to garnish with the parsley. NOTE: I wasn’t a big fan of the parsley garnish at all- it looked pretty though! I suggest saute-ing the mushrooms and then putting them on top at the end.  One could also add bacon to this if they were looking for extra flavor, but it certainly doesn’t need it.

 

Cauli-power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 heaping cups cauliflower florets (1 small/medium cauliflower)

  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (from 2 med/lg cloves)

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened and unflavored almond milk (or nondairy milk of choice)

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste

  • Fettuccine pasta of choice (I used whole wheat)

  • Fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Add cauliflower florets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a low boil. Once boiling, cook for another 3-7 minutes until fork tender. Drain.

  2. Meanwhile, add the oil into a skillet and sauté the minced garlic over low heat for 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant, but not browned.

  3. In a high-speed blender, add the cooked and drained cauliflower, sautéed garlic, milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until a super smooth sauce forms. If using a Vitamix use the tamper stick as needed. The key here is to get a really smooth sauce so don’t be afraid to let it run for a minute or so. Set aside.

  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your desired amount of pasta and boil for the time instructed on the package. Drain pasta.

  5. Add cauliflower sauce into the pot (you can use the same pot!) and add the drained pasta. Heat over low-medium until heated enough to your liking. Salt again to taste (the pasta dilutes the flavour).

  6. Serve with fresh minced parsley and black pepper. Feel free to add in your favourite sautéed or roasted vegetables. I think peas, spinach, or broccoli would work very nicely! I added mushrooms, but I wasn’t overly crazy about them in this dish.

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2014/01/20/cauli-power-fettuccine-alfredo-vegan/#ixzz2s8gs81Q3

Sweet Potato and Chorizo Tacos

I haven’t written about my passion for food before on this blog, but if you didn’t know; I love food.  Homemade meals are my favorite thing ever, and goodness knows what I am going to do when I have to leave for college.  I hope this post will be the beginning of many posts about my food adventures as I try new recipes and dishes.  My english teacher encourages us to always “try the peanut butter pie” meaning if you are given the choice between trying/eating/doing/etc. something you know you like and something unknown, to try the unknown because that is how you develop new favorite things.  Thus, this new section of Life as a Fish out of Water will be called “Trying the Peanut Butter Pie” and it will represent the adventurous foodie side of me.

I have hated sweet potatoes for as long as I can remember.  Every year on Thanksgiving, I would eat a mandatory tablespoon size bite of them, just to avoid “the look” from my mother and to respect my grandma, who lovingly made them every year, much to my dismay.  My grandma loved them, to her they were the best thing about Thanksgiving(food wise anyway, family was always her favorite aspect of the holidays).  I never understood why she liked this mushy, orange, gloppy, mashed potato-impostor thing, called sweet potatoes.

These were my thoughts up until two weeks ago, when I had my first baked sweet potato.  I was instantly addicted and wondered, “Why did I hate this amazing veggie so much?” It was simple, baked in the oven, cut open and served with a light sprinkling of butter and brown sugar.  All of the objections I have to regular baked(and streamed) potatoes were gone.  It was moist, flavorful, and nutritious. Since that eye-opening day, I embarked on a sweet potato craze.  I have tried them in many forms(even pancake form), but my favorite so far has been Sweet Potato and Chorizo Tacos.

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-potato-chorizo-tacos-50400000133216/
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-potato-chorizo-tacos-50400000133216/

My sister found the recipe in the Sunset Magazine, and decided that we HAD to try it.   We didn’t have chorizo on hand, so we substituted in a spicy sausage(not in link form, more like ground beef consistency) that we had in the freezer from a friend in Wyoming.  Like I said before, they are amazing, and certainly have become a staple in our household.

Here is the recipe(from Sunset Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 medium orange-fleshed sweet potato (often labeled “yam”)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound Mexican chorizo*, such as Silva brand, removed from casing
  • 12 corn tortillas (6-in. diameter)
  • 6 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 2 ounces cotija (crumbly white Mexican cheese)* or feta
  • 2 firm-ripe avocados

Preparation

1. Peel onion and sweet potato and dice into 1/2-in. cubes. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion, potato, and salt and cook until onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potato is just tender, 8 to 9 minutes.

2. Increase heat to medium-high and add chorizo. Cook, breaking up sausage with the back of a spoon, until cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat tortillas in an oven or a microwave, or char over an open flame until warmed and softened. Wrap in foil or a clean kitchen towel to keep warm.

4. Stack and thinly slice lettuce; combine in a bowl with juice of a lime half and cotija. Halve, peel, pit, and thinly slice avocados; put in another bowl and toss with juice from remaining lime half.

5. Spoon about 3 tbsp. chorizo-sweet potato mixture into each warm tortilla. Divide lettuce and avocado among tacos.

*Find Mexican chorizo and cotija at well-stocked grocery stores and Latino markets. Avoid the very soft, bright orange chorizo–it’s too oily.

*Find the original recipe at  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-potato-chorizo-tacos-50400000133216/