BURN IT ON PURPOSE: How to Char Peppers without a Grill

I’ve always heard you could stick some peppers on the burner of an electric stove to blacken them, but never tried it. It seemed… weird. And as someone who once made the mistake of getting a plastic mixing bowl too close to a burner, I was worried the pepper would melt and be impossible to clean.

Well, everyone was right! You can char a pepper on a stovetop just by putting them on the burner and using heat-resistant tongs to turn it every minute.

This is something you have to babysit – no leaving a pepper on the stove and then running off to check Facebook! You need to be able to turn the pepper and, general safety, not burn down your house by leaving it unattended.

As you turn the pepper, the inside is also cooking. Once the outside is mostly blackened, allow the pepper to cool before you handle it.

Once cooled, you can practically wipe off the blackened skin, scraping it a little with a knife of fork, or just by using your fingers.

This would be great in salsas, added to a burrito, stirred in a Mexican inspired veggie and rice dish, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

I used it along with some roasted sweet potatoes for a sweet and spicy soup. Love!

 

Eco-Art: Geometric Modern Wall Art (DIY!)

Since moving, I have about double the room I used to have in my old condo, and the ceilings are twice as high. I have a lot of artwork for the walls, but not nearly as much as I’d like.

I also had a TON of left over paint color samples from design school projects – I’ve hung on to them for some reason, and finally found a way to use them up!

Behold: The Free Paint Sample Paper Wall Art

I bought a canvas from the art store while it was on sale for 40% off, got some spray adhesive, and arranged the paint samples in random colored rows. Once the paint samples were stuck, I coated everything with a layer of Modge Podge to seal it in. (Many thanks to my ex for showing me the wonders of using this stuff for art! It seals it in and makes the colors pop!)

THATS IT!

(Pierogi was so excited at the new colorful addition, he kneaded extra-long on his favorite owl toy.)

Cost for project (canvas, adhesives): about $22.00

Now, go make something beautiful (and then take photos and share them here)!

So(ba) What!? Soba Noodles

Soba noodles are those thick, chewy japanese noodles often found in soups or traditional asian dishes. Aside from having great flavor and texture, soba noodles are a great alternative to white flour noodles, as soba is made with buckwheat flour.

Despite the word “wheat” in the name, buckwheat is a gluten-free and wheat free food. This makes it great for people with gluten intolerances (read all labels because some soba noodles may be made partially with wheat flour!), and makes the carbohydrates in the noodles slow-releasing. (No wacky blood sugar spikes and dips.)

Soba noodles are also packed full of vitamins and minerals, and have TWICE the amount of protein found in rice! Hmm, anyone else hungry for stir fry?

If you’re worried about fat or calories, don’t fret – a full cup of cooked soba noodles has only 113 calories and almost non-existent fat.

Soba noodles are SO versatile and can be used in and endless number of dishes – recipes and cookbooks everywhere can offer some culinary inspiration. But if you have nothing more than a pack of soba noodles and a well-stocked pantry, try this 5 ingredient recipe:

5 Ingredient Soba Noodle Dish

  • 8 oz. soba noodles
  • 2 green onions, sliced thin
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp tamari sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Cook noodles as per directions. Toss everything in a big bowl, and dig in!


NEW VIDEO: (This is My Favorite One Yet!) Cheezy Kale Chips

Confession: I’m a fat kid at heart. Forever and ever. I have this habit of watching a lot of the Travel Channel and Food Network when I can’t fall asleep, and that always makes me want to eat bold, flavorful food.

The nutritional part of me wants to say “Bad, bad Jaime! Stop eating right before bed you dummy!” but sometimes I am legitimately hungry and can’t sleep until I fill up the bottomless pit that is my stomach.

Enter: KALE CHIPS. Somehow I never made these until earlier this week, and could kick myself as I have seriously been missing out. These addictive snacks fulfill most of my late-night cravings – crunchy texture, cheese-type flavor, and spicy. And, because they are kale, they are GOOD FOR YOU.

(The late night eating is probably not.)

Here’s my new video for kale chips! (I was in an extra-good mood so this one is a little goofier than the rest. I’m also playing around with how to make them more fun and not just “Hey… I’m standing behind a counter…” Let me know what you think!)

Super simple and inexpensive kale chips should find their way into your homes and bellies. Here’s how to make them:

RECIPE FOR KALE CHIPS

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 to 2 TBSP olive oil (start with 1 and add more if needed)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • a few dashes of sea salt

Remove the stems from the kale leaves, and cut or tear leaves into bite size pieces. Put kale in a large bowl, and add olive oil, MASSAGING into the kale (sexy!). Kale will be coated and shiny. Add remaining dry ingredients and toss with hands.

In an oven set at 250 degrees, put kale on a rimmed baking sheet and spread out (use more than one baking sheet if needed). Leave in the oven for about 25 -35 minutes, until kale is crispy and still a little chewy.

Eat entire bowl full. (It’s going to happen, I’m just being honest.)

*Some people like their kale chips REALLY dry and crispy, so that’s up to you. For me, when they are completely dehydrated they taste a little too “ashy”, so I like them to maintain just a bit of moisture. Keep an eye on them in the oven and take them out when the texture is to your liking.

Storing: If you are making them a little wet and chewy as I suggest, they are best eaten on the same day. They can be stored in tupperware but become more bitter by the next day. Completely dry kale chips will taste the same the next day and can be stored longer, but it’s still best to eat them the sooner the better.

There are MANY recipes for kale chips, so search the internet for more! I made them this way, and they taste like spicy, cheezy deliciousness so I haven’t tried anything else. Let me know if you have a favorite recipe!

(“Fat Kid” print via Rar Rar Press, Etsy $15)

Recipe Improv: Last Night’s Dinner

Wow, 95 degrees AND thunderstorms. What the heck are you supposed to do with weather like that? Last night was one of those times it’s simply too hot to eat. Except, of course, that I’m always hungry. My solution? Make a mostly raw, light dinner.

Here’s what I came up with:

Corn, Black Bean and Strawberry Salad

  • 3 ears of raw sweet corn, kernels removed
  • 1 diced poblano pepper
  • 2 tomatoes with seeds removed, diced
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 pound strawberries, diced (half of a container)
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • a few shakes of garlic powder

Using a knife, carefully cut the kernels off the cobs of corn. Add to large bowl. Chop a poblano pepper after seeds have been removed, and add to bowl. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze the seeds and liquid into a bowl and discard. Dice seeded tomatoes and add to bowl. Add black beans, cilantro and strawberries.

Mix together. Drizzle a little olive oil and toss. Add cumin and garlic powder and toss again. For more sweetness, cut and add more strawberries.

I turned this salad into a wrap:

  • 1 quarter avocado, sliced, per wrap
  • whole wheat wrap

I put the salad into a wrap and added some fresh avocado to get some healthy fats in there. (Plus, come on, do you need to list reasons to eat avocados? Isn’t the fact that they are delicious simply enough?)

The strawberries blend well with the sweetness of the raw corn, and make this a light and very refreshing meal. You could play up the spicy factor and add more hot peppers or make a hot sauce, or compliment the sweet strawberries with a balsamic glaze. I ate it without any dressing or sauce and it was really fresh and tasty!

This is great weather for eating fresh, raw foods but man, I want it to be September. I long for sweater weather.

SUBSTITUTE TEACHING.

Yesterday I had a lovely morning in the Wise Bean cafe (ahem, see yesterday’s HEART OF STEELcity post!) with my buddies, and one friend that recently lost a bunch of weight by following a very specific weight loss program said she’d like to try using dairy substitutes when she starts eating “real food” again. She’s not vegan or vegetarian, but has found that the way her body feels and reacts to her eating dairy is, well, negative.

That got me thinking about today’s post. Once I said the blatantly obvious, “Low fat soymilk!”, I had a flood of other simple switches for healthier, animal-free (and thus, entirely cholesterol-free) alternatives for cooking.

For a CREAMY texture: Try nuts, like raw cashews – but be wary of added fat if you are looking to lose weight. Great Northern beans (white beans) also have a very mild, almost neutral flavor that help to thicken soups when pureed. And of course, silken tofu.

If you aren’t familiar with different kinds of tofu, silken tofu is sold off the shelf in an aseptic box as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. If you’re making a soup, sauce, or salad dressing the “soft” kind will thicken it and also add protein. It’s neutral in taste, so you get all the creamy texture you want without any fat of a heavy cream! For things like desserts or pies, try “firm” or “extra firm”.

Healthy/Healthier Sandwich CONDIMENTS: Fat is tasty. It just is. That’s why so many people like mayonnaise – it’s just oil and raw eggs Β whipped together. (Sorry to freak you out if you didn’t already know that!) If you want to keep the fatty, creamy mayo taste and feel, consider switching to Vegenaise. This stuff is freaking delicious. Even people that don’t like mayo love it! It’s not exactly low-fat, but it’s free of dairy, eggs, refined sweeteners, etc… It is sold in the refrigerated section of the “health food” department at your local store.

Other great options for sandwiches and veggie burgers are: hummus, something you buy pre-made or make your own with hummus-style spread by blending beans of your choice with garlic, onion, herbs, or spices. You can also make a homemade pesto-type spread with herbs or green veggies blended with nuts and garlic.

Replacing EGGS in Baking: These are great alternatives for people looking to lower their cholesterol (the yolks of eggs are little yellow orbs of that stuff!), or just use better alternatives. Eggs are a binding ingredient, so depending on what you’re baking, you achieve similar results by using fruits like mashed banana (this is AMAZING in muffins and pancakes!) or mashed avocado. Applesauce is a common replacement when you can have a more wet batter, or you can buy Ener-G egg replacer – white powder that looks like baking soda that you mix with some water. But one of the healthiest and best egg-alternatives is ground flax seed.

It’s best to buy whole flax seeds (you can sometimes find them in bulk bins at the store), and grind them in a coffee grinder or equivalent. Grind 1 Tablespoon of flax seeds, transfer to a bowl and add 3 Tablespoons of water. When you whisk it or mix with a fork, it will become goopy and sticky and this will replace 1 egg. This is best use for things that aim to taste whole-grainy, as flax seed has an earthy, nutty flavor.

un-TUNA Sandwiches: If you like cold, meat-based salads like tuna or chicken salad, you can create very similar vegan salads! You can use all the seasonings you’d normally put in the tuna salad, use Vegenaise instead of mayo, and the filling can be mushed chick peas! Just mush a can of chick peas into a bowl and it will make that “meaty” texture! Or, try using textured vegetable protein (TVP), which is small dehydrated pieces of soy flour that has been pressed and formed into little chunks. If you’ve ever used “fake ground hamburger”, imagine that but without the flavor added. Once rehydrated, a flavorless food that takes on the flavor of whatever you mix it with.

You can also try crumbled tempeh. Tempeh is a thick cake-like food made of pressed soy and grains that has been fermented. Don’t let the f-word deter you! It has absolutely wonderful texture. It can be cut in cubes for a stir fry, sliced thin to make tempeh-bacon, or crumbled up for a sandwich filling. If you like grainy, textured artisanal breads, you’ll love this. It’s best to steam the tempeh for about 10 minutes before you use it to remove any bitter flavor.

Sugar-Free SWEETNERS: The problem with sugar isn’t so much that the one teaspoon you add to your coffee will hugely effect your health – a teaspoon only has 16 calories – it’s that huge amounts of sugar are put into EVERYTHING (processed foods), often in the form of high fructose corn syrup. If you aren’t eating many whole foods, chances are you are consuming a surprising amount of sugar from places you wouldn’t expect.

Agave Nectar has been getting rock star treatment as a great sweetner alternative. It’s sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way, and has the consistency of a thin syrup. It’s made from the agave plant (same as tequila! woo hoo!) and doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels. It does have about 60 calories in a Tablespoon, similar to white sugar but obviously less refined and processed. You can also use brown rice syrup which is more mild than agave nectar, but it does cause blood sugar to spike so it may not be great for diabetics. Β Maple Syrup (the REAL kind, not Aunt Jemima’s – no offense to her) is a better alternative than honey as it is much lower in calories, and is a great source of manganese and zinc!

Please feel free to comment with some of your favorite substitutions!

What smells so good?

I have been the busiest bee! I’m mostly feeling excitement, but some exhaustion and feelings of being overwhelmed creep in. I’m curious to try some aromatherapy as a way to relax, slow down a little, and recharge my mind.

There are various aromatherapy products on the market, but the most basic form of use is to dip cotton in some of the scented oil and inhale through the nose, allowing the scent to take over your senses and calm you. Some of the most frequently used scents for stress and stress-related problems are:

Anger, Anxiety: Basil, bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, cypress, frankincense, geranium, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, ylang-ylang

Depression: Basil, clary sage, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender, melissa, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, ylang-ylang

Insomnia: Basil, chamomile, lavender, mandarin, marjoram, melissa, neroli, petitgrain, rose, sandalwood, thyme, ylang-ylang

Nervous Exhaustion: Basil, cinnamon, citronella, coriander, ginger, grapefruit, hyssop, jasmine, lavender, lemon grass, peppermint, nutmeg, rosemary, ylang-ylang

Nervous Tension: Basil, bergamot, cedarwood, chamomile, cinnamon, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, palmarosa, rosemary, vetiver, ylang-ylang

Remember that scents are also great memory-triggers, so you can find one that brings up nice memories or that smell of a calming place to help you visualize something positive. And if you’re really lucky, you may be able to convince someone to give you a nice back massage with oil or oil-scented lotion!

Diffusers are also available, which are like small clay pots with a bottom half that holds a tea candle, and a top half above the candle where you can pour the oil of your choice, and let the scent fill a room, similar to a scented candle.

They won’t get all of your emails answered, and using scented oils may calm you down. If not, using aromatherapy certainly won’t have a negative effect! Scents can be found in some specialty grocery stores, health food stores, and online.

Check out Auroma’s website for everything you could ever want to buy or know about aromatherapy: www.auroma.com

What are your favorite calming scents?