February 28, 2012

Bananas Foster Quinoa

Big news, friends!  It looks like my celiac has unfortunately caused secondary lactose intolerance.  So, no gluten, no dairy.  Going dairy free is really pretty good for just about everyone.  The health benefits are unbelievable, and thanks to vanilla soy milk, I'm still able to happily enjoy my favorite food:  cereal!...although, I'm pretty limited to Chex these days--good thing those are so delicious!  The hard news here is what do I eat for dessert now?  Not too many options.  Also, comfort foods are a little hard to come by.  So what did I cook to ease the pain of a strained back this morning?  Bananas foster breakfast quinoa!!!

I know I've already mentioned the joys of breakfast quinoa on here, but this really took the cake!  Here's what you need for one serving:
-1 cup vanilla soy milk (or any other dairy substitute)
-1/2 cup quinoa
-sprinkle of cinnamon
-1/2 Tbsp. Earth Balance buttery spread (doesn't that sound terrifying?!  actually, it tastes just like butter and       there's nothing weird in it either)
-1 Tbsp. brown sugar
-1 banana, sliced

Okay, in a sauce pan, bring your soy milk to a boil.  Then add your quinoa and cover.  Reduce the heat to low and let cook for 15 minutes.  Next sprinkle in a little cinnamon, recover, and finish cooking on low for about 8 more minutes.

In the mean time, add your "butter spread" and brown sugar to a saute pan, and let them get nice and bubbly and a little thick before adding your sliced banana in an even layer.  After a minute or so, flip your banana slices and revel at the beautiful caramelization!  Yum!!!  Then just top your quinoa with your bananas, and you have the most deliciously comforting breakfast or dessert you could ever hope for!

February 14, 2012

Vietnamese Barbeque Pork Noodle Bowls!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this lately, but I have the best boyfriend in the world.  I haven’t been doing too well this past week, and William hasn’t left my side.  Running errands, cooking meals, cleaning my apartment, he is the best nurse anyone could ever wish for.  No, we don’t have Valentine’s plans.  We’re actually not too big on presents for birthdays or Christmas and especially not for Valentine’s Day.  Not only are we broke twenty-somethings, but we’d also rather spend our little money on trips to Asheville, Charleston, or Nashville.  Instead, I am requesting his amazing Vietnamese barbeque pork noodles bowls for our Valentine’s dinner.  Yes, he just made this two days ago, but I really can’t get enough of this. 
            First, cut a pork chop or two into long, thin strips, and marinate it in soy sauce, a splash of rice vinegar, a pinch each of star anise and cinnamon, a good bit of cayenne, minced garlic and shallot, ginger, several splashes of fish sauce, and a little white sugar.  It’s good to let this sit for a few hours. 
            SIDE NOTE:  Fish sauce is scary, especially if you’re not used to cooking with it.  It smells Terrible, and our brain naturally associates bad smells with bad tastes, but don’t let the smell deter you!  Fish sauce is a classic flavor in Vietnamese cooking, and they know how to do it right.  So plug your nose and cook away!
            Time to get cooking!  Wrap the pork and a little of its marinade in tin foil and cook in a 250 (this is not a typo!) oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  While the pork is cooking, fix your “nuoc chan” or noodle sauce.  Combine fish sauce, white sugar, rice vinegar, and a little water in a small saucepan and let it slightly reduce.
            When the pork is almost done, boil water and pour it over a big bowl of rice noodles.  Let this sit until the noodles are soft.  Then drop them in a bath of ice water to cool them off.  Drain and set aside.  The last step is to brown your cooked pork in a very hot pan with a little oil.  This will just give it a nice crunchy crust.  Mmmmm, maillard reaction!  Toss everything together and top with thin slices of cucumber, carrot, cilantro, basil, and crunchy lettuce. 
            This is SOOO delicious!  I know the whole thing sounds a little odd, but you have to give it a shot.  It really is incredible.  And Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

February 12, 2012

Football Feast

William and I are not big football fans, but I personally have always loved the Super Bowl...because of the food.  Bill and I made our favorite football foods and ate them while we watched reruns of 30 Rock.  Here's what we made.

Guacamole:  an oldie but a goody.  Avocado, onion, tomato, cilantro, lime, cumin, red pepper.  Yum!

Fried Chicken:  this was a masterpiece!!!  William said he likes it better than normal fried chicken.
        In a food processor, grind 5 or 6 corn tortillas until they look like corn meal, but don't go too far or you'll have a paste.  Set aside in a shallow bowl.  Fill two other bowls--one with cornstarch and one with a well beaten egg.  Set these bowls aside while you cut 2 chicken breasts into tenders.  In a large heavy pan, heat up enough oil to cover the entire bottom of the pan.  Then start breading!  Cornstarch, egg, ground tortillas.  Then just fry them in the oil.  Easy, easy, and incredibly crunchy and delicious!  We dipped ours into hot sauce and loved it.

So it's not the healthiest of menus, but who cares?!  Super Bowl only comes but once a year.

February 5, 2012

Back on Track!

            One of my best friends, Kelsey, recently got diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  Kelsey and I worked together in Clemson, but we really became friends because of our illnesses.  When we met, both of us had been sick for years, and neither of us had been diagnosed.  We seemed to bond over everything:  how our teachers thought we were faking it, how our doctors thought it was all in our heads, how are boyfriends were sweet and stuck by our sides, and most of all, how hard it was to deal with an illness that could shift suddenly from day to day. 
You never know how you’re going to feel when you wake up.  Some days you feel almost normal.  It’s an amazing feeling—you can do anything!  Maybe you’re getting better!  Maybe you’re always going to feel like this!  But on these days, you invariably do too much, and by the end of the day you’re a wreck.  Other days, you are certain that it’s impossible to get out of bed.  On these days, you spend half of your time in the bathtub, usually with a cup of tea or, more realistically, a cup of tequila. 
The key for people with a chronic illness is to make a schedule and stick to it.  Everyday.  No matter what.  On good days, don’t do too much.  On bad days, get the hell out of the bath and maybe even put on a little mascara.  I’m finally settling into my schedule.  I wake up around 8, go for a walk, do some yoga.  I eat breakfast and write and look for jobs.  I play my guitar, hang out with William, and finally go to work around 1:30.  After work, I cook dinner, get in bed by 10, and read a book, something positive.  I’m one of those people who needs a lot of positive reinforcement. 
Kelsey has her schedule too, and you know what?  We’re actually pulling it together.  Yes, some days are still hard, but we’re sticking to our schedules and growing stronger everyday.  We’re eating well and exercising and encouraging each other, and we’re both doing really well.

What I’ve Been Eating:

Nuts and berries
Apples and peanut butter
More tacos
….I’ve really got to get back to cooking!