Zucchini Pasta

I’m a huge fan of pasta. This week I am going to be focusing on different pasta dishes.

I started this week by attempting to make zucchini pasta. I looked up many different recipes for zucchini pasta and they all differed slightly, but all included zucchini and salt. Some of the recipes had you actually cook the zucchini while others proposed eating it raw.

Salting the zucchini

Salting the zucchini

I began by peeling the skin of the zucchini off. While the skin has extra fiber, I wanted the texture to be as close to pasta as possible, so I didn’t use the skin. Then I continued to slice the rest of the zucchini into long, linguine-like slivers. Next I used sea salt to cover the pasta and drain out the excess water. I waited 10 minutes for all the water to drain out and then used multiple paper towels to soak up the excess water.

In a skillet, I used about half a tablespoon of olive oil. I placed the zucchini into the skillet and stirred it gently. I let it cook for about 5 minutes, before it started browning.

I finished it off by putting just a little bit of tomato sauce on top and a bit of parmesan cheese.

Overall, I have to say, I was disappointed. I suppose I had used to

Finished zucchini pasta

Finished zucchini pasta

much salt in when trying to dry the zucchini, but I really tried to be cautious. The zucchini came out very salty and did not have a very pasta-y texture. While it was edible and I did eat it for dinner, I don’t know if I would make it again.

Grades:

Health: A-. Everything is good, but just make sure the cheese is in moderation. Also, the salt content is pretty high if you are too heavy handed with the sea salt.

Taste: B-. As I said, it was edible, but still it had a strange, crunchy texture.

Cost: A. I was able to purchase 2 medium sized zucchinis for less than 2 dollars. The amount of 0live oil, sauce, and cheese I used was negligible.

Overall: B. The taste just doesn’t really make me want to make this again.

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Healthier Fish ‘n Chips

I love fish. It can be prepared so many ways and contains so many important nutrients including omega-3s which can help keep your heart healthy and reduce the risk for stroke and arthritis.

Breaded fish

Breaded fish

This was the first time that I ever cooked fish, so I didn’t want to do something too difficult. Still, I bought fish at the farmers’ market and cut it into small slivers. In other bowls, I filled one with egg whites and the other with whole wheat panko breadcrumbs. Similarly to the breaded chicken for my General Tso’s chicken, I dipped the fish into the egg whites and then made sure to thoroughly coat all sides of the fish. Then I laid them out on a lightly greased pan. Once I had repeated these steps about 8 times, I put the fish into the oven at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

Potato chunks

Potato chunks

As the fish was cooking, I cut up potatoes into small chunks. I lightly sprayed them with olive oil. Once the fish was done, I cooked the potatoes for about 20 minutes.

I added some carrots and some parsley. I cut up a lemon to give the fish a bit more flavor.

I am very happy with how this meal came out. In all honesty, this is probably one of my more successful meals, and definitely something that I can do all on my own.

Yum!

Yum!

Grades:

Health: A-. Overall really good, but potatoes are full of carbohydrates and could be substituted with lower carb Popchips, or another healthier chip alternative.

Taste: A. One of the best meals I’ve made so far.

Cost: B+. Fish is pretty expensive, but everything else is pretty cheap. Not too bad.

Overall: A-. Really enjoyed making and eating this. As did my mother.

 

Chicken Stir Fry

As stated in my last post, this week I am going to be focusing on East Asian cuisine. I started this week by making a chicken stir fry. I looked at recipes, and ultimately made up my own recipe.

My recipe is as follows:

2 carrots

1/2 cup of broccoli

1/2 cup of peppers (yellow/orange/red/green, your choice)

1/3 cup of cucumber

4 oz of chicken (rough estimate)

1/3 cup of onions

Ginger

pepper

1/2 tablespoon soy sauce (less if that’s what you prefer)

 

I started by cutting up all my vegetables. I sliced my carrots, cucumber, onion and cut up my broccoli and peppers. Then I sliced my chicken into thin, but not too thin slices. I first added the carrots, broccoli, and onions to the work, because they take the longest to cook. This is my first time using a wok, and wow it’s really amazing, but more on that later. Then I added the chicken. Next was the cucmber and peppers. And finally the ginger. I let it cook until the chicken looked thoroughly cooked, constantly stirring. Lastly I added the pepper and soy sauce, but I used less than 1/2 tablespoon because I didn’t want it to be too salty.

Cooking

Cooking

 

Attempting to flip

Attempting to flip

 

The dish came out great! I completely made this dish on my own and it turned out awesome! I cooked up a bit of brown rice and placed my stir fry on top of it in a bowl. I still have to work on my flipping skills. While I really enjoyed using this stir fry pan, it was a bit too heavy to flip.

 

 

 

 

 

Grades:

Health: A. The chicken is a great source of protein and it is full of veggies. The only thing to watch out for is the salt, but just don’t use too much soy sauce

Taste: B+. It’s a bit bland. Next time I add more spices to make it a bit more lively.

Price: A-. Surprisingly, the vegetables were not too expensive, but unfortunately most of them are not in season, so I could not buy them at the farmer’s market. Still, I can make multiple servings and with the amount of vegetables I purchased, I can probably make at least 6 portions.

Overall: A. This is a great dish, and can have as many or a few vegetables as you like. Try it out for yourself and maybe try it with some different sauces!

Finished dish. Stir fry over rice

Finished dish. Stir fry over rice

 

Week 3

This week is going to be a little different. I am going to be focusing on more of a variety of dishes. Because this week is passover, I am going to try to make some of my favorite Passover foods. I am interested in matzo balls and a kugel. I have found some recipes already that I think are possibilities. This recipe for  matzo balls seems great, and I liked that the author wrote that the matzo balls were “light and fluffy.” In my opinion, that is the most important part of matzo balls, and I want to make sure if I am making a recipe of matzo balls they will also be light and fluffy.

I am also interested in making the classic macaroons. I have been looking at many different recipes, and have found many that are not only healthy, but some only use 2 or 3 ingredients!

Lastly, I have been having a bit of a chocolate craving, and therefore found a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake that looks interesting.

Now that I have my recipes ready, I am off to the farmers’ market and store again.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches

Oops, I forgot to post this after the oatmeal cookie disaster. It was in my drafts! Anyway…

After my oatmeal cookie disaster, I wanted to make something that I could share with my classmates. I decided to try something a bit easier and looked up recipes for healthy cookies. Healthy and cookies generally don’t go together, but I did find some recipes. Many of them used complicated ingredients as substitutes, but I did find one recipe that intrigued me. This recipe was for chocolate chip cookies. It only used 1 cup of sugar total, 1 cup of flour total, and used

Chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate chip cookies

egg whites instead of whole eggs. I began by combining the baking soda, flour, and salt. I used two kinds of flour: whole wheat pastry flour and all purpose flour. From my past experience, whole wheat pastry flour is pretty heavy and dense, so to offset it, I used all purpose flour as well. Then I added sugar, butter, applesauce, an egg white, and vanilla. I just mixed those ingredients together and I got a thick, cookie-like batter. I was so happy after my previous cookie disaster!

I put tablespoon sized balls onto my greased cookie sheet. I let them bake for about 8 minutes and I could tell they were done because of the wonderful smell that was permeating from my oven!

Filling

Filling

To make these into a “sandwich,” I found a recipe for Oreo-like filling. Oreo filling has shortening in it, and I didn’t have that in my house, so I had to use an alternative. I simply used butter, confectioners sugar and a bit of vanilla. It came out well and I was able to make these chocolate chip cookies into sandwiches.

Cookie sandwiches

Cookie sandwiches

 

I handed these out in school and I had a couple comments. For starters, everyone said they were delicious, but I really wanted to hear about how I could improve them. A couple of my friends noted they were too sweet. I think this is because of the filling, which had the majority of the sugar content. Next time I will definitely use less sugar. Another comment I had was that the cookies should be a bit flatter. I completely agree, and next time I may use a different recipe for the cookie. I was going for a whoopie-pie type sandwich, but I could not find a healthy recipe, so I used this one instead. Thanks to all my friends who gave me feedback!

Grades:

Health: B-. What can I say, they’re cookies. Still, they are healthier than alternative cookies.

Taste: A. Great, but as noted they were a bit sweet.

Cost: A-. I had all of these ingredients in my home already, but some of them such as whole wheat pastry flour can be a bit costly.

Overall: B+. They’re cookies, so how healthy can I really make them? I think this is a great dessert to make if you want to try to eat healthier, but still want something sweet!

 

Cooking for My Local Shelter

Once a month, my family volunteers to cook for the local church’s shelter. Usually, I help by cutting up a store-bought baguette or making a simple package of pre-made, pre-cut cookies. Because I was inspired by all the cooking I have been doing, I decided this time was definitely going to be different!

I thought about what I could make on a large scale that would be healthy. My mom and I looked through her many cookbooks, and we decided to make a home-made chicken pot pie. The recipe was very simple. It only required vegetables, including carrots, onion and celery. It also needed potatoes. The sauce consisted of butter, flour, chicken broth and a bit of white wine. Lastly, it needed a puff pastry.

Squaring chicken

Squaring chicken

I made this dish all on my own and I am very proud of the way it came out. I began by poaching the chicken in a broth. My mom taught me how to do this, because my other experiences with chicken have all been by grilling or in an oven. I was surprised how much moisture the chicken retained. This is definitely a way I will cook chicken in the future!

After cooking the chicken, I squared them into smaller cubes. This was a pretty easy and relaxing task.

After that, I cut up the many different kinds of vegetables needed for chicken pot pie. Like cutting up the chicken, I found this very relaxing as well.

photo (7)

Cutting up veggies

Then I made the sauce by combining the buttery, flour, chicken broth and white wine. This is where I think the dish went a bit awry. The sauce needed more flavor, because the dish was ultimately a bit dry. After reading this article, I realized there were some really easy ways to make dishes more flavorful. If I were to make this dish again, I would maybe add just some leeks or chives.

While this chicken pot pie was a bit bland, I was happy with the way it came out. I made a smaller version for my mother and I and we both enjoyed it. We added some pepper to our portions and it helped flavor it a bit.

One of the biggest things I want to express is the cost. Cooking for 10 to 12 people is much more costly than cooking for a family of 4. Because of this, not all of my ingredients were local or organic. Still, the ingredients used were all pretty healthy and I think this is a great meal that can served to a large group of people.

photo (8)

Chicken Pot Pie

Grades:

Health: A-. Besides the butter, everything is healthy. Chicken is a great source of protein and vegetables are filling, but don’t have many calories.

Taste: B+. Good, but as noted in the full rundown, it was bland.

Price: B+. I used mostly conventionally grown ingredients, so the price was okay. If I were to use organic and/or local ingredients, I don’t think I would have been able to afford to cook this meal for 10-12 people, and the grade would probably be much lower.

Overall: B+. This was a good meal that I would definitely have again.

 

 

Review: Food, Inc.

 

Food, Inc. is an eyeopening movie that really shows the horrors of the food industry. The film started with an introduction by Michael Pollan, the author of Food Rules as he tells about the supermarket and how many of the products we believe are healthy are actually just chemicals.

One of the biggest things I learned from the movie is that 4 companies own the vast majority of the meat market. Because they own so much of this market, they are able to treat their animals however they wish. Therefore, they usually treat them in extremely inhumane ways and they do whatever they can to produce meat for the cheapest price possible. The problem is consumers do not have other options because these monopolies own so many of the animals. Most of these chickens, never see sunlight and they are injected with hormones that make their organs grow too big for their bodies to handle. The scenes where chickens are trying to walk, but can only take a few steps at a time is devastating.

It was a difficult movie to watch because of how graphic it was. Far too often when I am eating chicken, I don’t even think about where it came from or how it was treated. Seeing the overcrowded slaughterhouses in this movie was disturbing and the images will probably stay with me for the rest of my life.

I definitely think everyone should watch this movie. While I feel like I am an educated consumer, there are definitely even more things that I should be thinking about while shopping. Unfortunately, not much is going to change until the “carrots are a better deal than the chips.” At the end of the movie, I was left with a disappointment that not much had been done. Kevin’s law, which would have been a bill to close down factories with contaminated meat, did not pass. Many people were still eating chips rather than carrots and Monsanto still owned (and contaminated) at least 90% of all soybeans. I hope in the future more people will understand that what we eat now can effect not only how we feel and act today, but in the future too.