When the Moon Hits Your Eye…

cashew pizza1
Cashew, Kale, and Pepperoni Pizza from Sobro’s Pizza Co.

Like a big pizza pie…that’s amore, take it away Dean Martin!

I recently went to an amazing pizza restaurant in San Antonio that served one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted. But there was a catch: it had nuts on it. I’m the kind of person who shuns Snickers and Kit Kats for 60% dark chocolate. I hate Rocky Road ice cream with a passion. So why did I have mouthgasm from this cashew-strewn beauty? The contrast of lemony kale, creamy mozzarella, spicy pepperoni and strangely rich cashews married very well, to my delight! So, pizza. Whether you’re eating  a cauliflower crust with cashew cheese or meat lovers supreme, pizza is for everyone. Great for late night study sessions, post-workout splurges, a night in with friends, loved ones and a movie, or lounging decadently on the couch alone Netflix-bingeing iZombie episodes. Today, you can find all kinds of different pizza recipes. Buffalo chicken, Mac and cheese,  even spaghetti pizza, although many modern recipes sound like something an 8 year old would concoct! I might do a weird pizza post later, but for now, I just wanted to sing an ode to a few of traditional Italian pizzas, lest the past be forgotten!

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The Standard Slice: Pepperoni 
You can’t really go wrong here. This is the most basic, fundamental pizza the universe put on this earth to feed men. Along with inalienable rights, like the pursuit of happiness.

Pizza Margherita

The Margherita
This is the Sophia Loren of pizzas: classy, elegant and fiercely Italian. It’s a simple formula of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and torn, fresh basil leaves for one bite of la bella vida.

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Pizza Bianco
White Pizza is something of an anomaly. A pizza with no sauce or meat, what’s left? White Pizza is essentially just extra cheese. A drizzle of olive oil, spread of ricotta cheese and a few slices of mozzarella or provolone draped across the top is standard procedure. The addition of torn, fresh oregano or basil leaves amps it up nicely. Check out this version with roasted garlic cloves, rosemary and red pepper flakes! Perfect for a winter’s night meal.

bismarck pizza

Pizza All Bismark
This is like the original breakfast pizza. Some Italian housewife woke up one morning and remembering the pizza she had made for dinner the night before, figured the usual eggs and bacon sounded good on a pie! Kidding. This would be perfect for breakfast with coffee.

For Love of Salad

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Southwest Chicken Salad with Monterrey Jack, Corn and Beans

A few months ago, I had to tweak my heavily southern comfort cooking preferences to a more heart health conscious style for someone in my life who suffered from heart arrhythmia and palpitations. It was a scary time in my life, when I thought someone I cared about could die if I did not change the way I cooked for them, as well as encourage them to lead healthier lives. I learned that to help, I needed to lead by example. I looked at myself and saw that I was almost twenty pounds overweight, depressed, and generally unhealthy. I knew it was bad when climbing the hills and stairs on campus left me breathless, light-headed and wheezing, and finally realized how unhealthy I had become when I decided to check out the gym at my university one day, and could barely last ten minutes on an elliptical machine!

Desperate times called for desperate measures. If I wanted to help others, I needed to learn to help myself. So I tried fad dieting, the 17-day diet, in which I completely cut out carbs and reduced my sugar intake dramatically. I’m talking no breads, pastas, potatoes, rice, corn, fatty meats, melted cheeses or anything within an inch of frying oil or breading. Fast food was out. White sugar was replaced with agave nectar, and I ended up surviving on only turkey bacon, egg whites and cottage cheese for two weeks straight. Survive I did. At first, I was hungry all of the time which made me cranky, tired and nervous. I got used to stomach pangs and dizziness. I hadn’t realized how acclimated my body had gotten to fried foods, butter, full fat dairy, oily pastas and fatty cuts of meat, not to mention portion control. But eventually, my mind became sharper. My body became leaner, even without exercise, and I lost 10 pounds in two weeks, just from a low carb, veggie-heavy diet. Not to mention the strange fact that my palate actually became more sensitive. That is, I could taste my food better! When you’re accustomed to only noting how much butter, salt or rich fat you taste in your food (I know, totally gross!) it is eye opening to detect different flavors. I added beans, corn, raspberries and nuts to salads with chicken or canned tuna for lunch and dinner. I used cheese in place of meat, and relied more on spices and sauces than on salt and fats for flavor. I learned how to make the best fish tacos on the planet and started working out at home and staying on my diet, albeit with a few allowances.

Today, I might grab a burger on a Saturday or grab a pumpkin spice latte (420 calories!) on my way to class one morning during the week. I don’t force myself to work out every day, but love the treadmill, and have developed a true appreciation for my health . My body is leaner, my mind is sharper, and I feel more confident and happy. All in all, altering my food habits didn’t just help someone I cared for… it changed my life!

Check out my story – and experience with eating healthier on Storify! Just click the link below.

The Art of Salad – ln Storify

Ingredient spotlight: Tatziki

Not every post needs to be a long-winded, well researched essay worthy of a Pulitzer prize in journalism. My recent favorite ingredient? Tatziki. tatziki

It goes on everything from chicken shwarma, to grilled fish to salads. Yum! Here is a simple recipe for tatziki dip. Below is a slideshow of possible accouterments for this delicious Greek sauce!

2 cups Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large English cucumber, diced
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh dill or mint
salt and pepper, to taste

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mechanics of Modern Food Blogs

After scouring food blogs for a couple hours, I came up with a short list of a few of the best highlights! I find myself drawn to food blogs that have writing with personality, good visual graphics, videos, quality digital photography. Below, I’ve listed a few of the more memorable foodie blogs I found.

                           pen and palate

Writing with personality is essential to successful food websites and blogs. Funny and cute .gifs are also a huge plus! Pen and Palate combines both intriguing writing and adorable graphics to go with the writing. Regular contributors Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen write about their memories of food, personal lives and how they connect with food in their daily lives. This blog reads like a collective memoir and has a simple, clean white design that emphasizes its’ adorable graphics, like the one above. Pen and Palate was the Editor’s Choice of Best Writing for The Huffington Post in 2014.

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                                             perennial plate

“Chef and Activist, Daniel Klein and Filmmaker Mirra Fine are traveling the world exploring the wonders, complexities and stories behind the ever more connected global food system.” -The Perennial Plate

Videos add that extra layer of interest to a food blog. This website, the Perennial Plate has a very interactive interface with pull out videos of the authors’ adventures. This website features videos from around the world, exemplifying socially responsible and sustainable food choices. With a blog for articles, recipes, and well shot videos of places around the world, this blog has a variety of content to keep readers interested. This blog has won a James Beard Award for Excellence.

edible road trip
                                                edible road trip

Digital Photography makes food blogs more interesting if it’s not just of food. Edible Road Trip is a Canadian food blog that gorgeous photos of lush landscapes, native people, zoomed in shots of meals being made and various other cute kitschy items. Pictures of food are important to food blogs, but character and setting make the experience more relatable for viewers. This blog also features music pairings, a foodie job board, and recipes. The authors will be travelling through Canada for an upcoming project.

These are just a few things I noticed about successful, visually pleasing and truly interesting food blogs I have encountered for this post. More to come soon!

Hearty Bean Salad Lunch

I just want to take a short moment to appreciate easy, portable food! This is just a short post of one of my simplest recipes, perfect for lunches on the go or light dinners. Just pack a plastic container of my Hearty Bean Salad in your purse, gym bag, or lunch satchel! This recipe is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins from the veggies, beans and quinoa. Add grilled chicken or fish, even thinly sliced steak or canned tuna to make it more filling. Check out my very first short recipe demo and forgive my camera-shyness. Enjoy!

Hearty Bean Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 chopped assorted bell peppers, red, green, orange, or yellow

1/4 finely chopped red onion or 2 sliced green onions

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup cooked quinoa, chilled

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. dried basil

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. cilantro, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package instructions and cool. Rinse and drain canned beans. Chop veggies and add other ingredients. Toss with lemon juice, oil and seasonings. Allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and bon appetit, my friends.

Using green onions or onions soaked in vinegar will prevent any acrid, burning onion breath. Feel free to add some red chili flakes for spice. So please enjoy my video, it was my first time doing a recipe demo, so I do seem a little nervous. But I hope the food makes up for it! Until next time.

Mediterrean Mixed Fish with Lemon Pepper Asparagus

In my last recipe post, I shared my secret recipe for Spicy Fish Tacos. Continuing my experiments with fish, I decided to try something different while visiting family in San Antonio this past weekend: Mediterranean fish with olives, capers, and tomatoes. I typically make tilapia fish because it is economical, but we had fresh tuna and salmon steaks, so I decided to think outside of the box. Sorry for the potato photo quality, I did not realize until later that my lens was a little filmy.

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This recipe is definitely on the pricey end of the spectrum, and not something I could normally afford. Fish is expensive, but cheaper varieties like tilapia or swai can be substituted. With the addition of a big salad, this meal can be stretched to 3 servings, making it an ideal healthy lunch option for the next day or two. Tuna and salmon are packed with essential fatty acids like Omega-3’s, which help reduce inflammation in the body and prevent heart disease. With the addition of olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil, which is high in trans fats, this meal is very heart-healthy.

Ingredients:

1 8 oz. salmon steak

1 4 oz. tuna steak

1/4 c. assorted olives, roughly chopped. I used kalamata and green.

1/4 c. cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves

1/4 c. assorted baby bell peppers, cored and sliced

1 tsp. capers

1/4 tsp. basil

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Olive oil

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Salt and Pepper

Coat both pieces of fish in olive oil, salt and pepper, basil, and garlic and set aside. Chop veggies. In a large sauce pan, over medium high heat, fry fish for 10 minutes, checking that the bottom doesn’t stick every now and then, tuna is a very dry fish. Actually, as long as the pan is hot and there is not an excess of oil, fish should not stick. Add veggies and lemon juice to the fish and cover. Cook for 20 more minutes on medium heat. Serves 3.

I served the fish with a simple salad of spinach, chunks of mozzarella cheese, cucumbers, pepitas, or pumpkin seeds and my favorite bottled dressing. I baked the asparagus simply in olive oil and lemon pepper seasoning. Delicious!

xx, Cristina

A Foodie’s Journey Into Popular Literature

chandelier

One might not think literature greats like Steinbeck, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or Jane Austen cared much for food. Between sweeping romances, dramatic ethical dilemmas and complex plots, details like what the main characters are eating can almost seem like an afterthought. It makes one wonder, who cares? I want to know if Elizabeth will accept a dance with Mr. Darcy at Netherfield Hall, not what punch was served behind her when she swept a haughty curtsy to the rich debonair Lord of Pemberley. After some thought, I have concluded that things like what the characters eat, what the heroine wore, and where the star-crossed lovers gave in to their passions do matter.

Details set the stage for a story and entice the reader to get pulled into the author’s imagination. Food writer Adam Gopnik said it well in a 2007 article of The New Yorker called “Cooked Books” that food is used to tell the reader something about the characters. Holden Caulfield is eating a Swiss cheese sandwich in Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye, while James Bond sips on a Vesper Martini and Proust dips a madeleine in linden-flower tea. Why are these details important? Gopnik writes that recipes in literature are not meant to be made because they have literary purposes, “and one of them is to represent the background of thought. Every age finds an activity that can take place while a character is meditating; the activity surrounds and halos the meditation. “

Check out the article, Here, to learn more. The following dishes comprise a literary-themed meal of recipes from popular literature.

pride prejudicewhite soup2

“By the by, Charles, are you really serious in meditating a dance at Netherfield?—I would advise you, before you determine on it, to consult the wishes of the present party,”

“I am much mistaken if there are not some among us to whom a ball would be rather a punishment than a pleasure.”

“If you mean Darcy,” cried her brother, “he may go to bed, if he chooses, before it begins—but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards.”

“I should like balls infinitely better,” she replied, “if they were carried on in a different manner; but there is something insufferably tedious in the usual process of such a meeting. It would surely be much more rational if conversation instead of dancing made the order of the day.”

“Much more rational, my dear Caroline, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a ball.”

Velvety White Soup is made creamy with almonds and egg yolks. With celery, onions, herbs, cream and bread as ingredients, this soup is an example of the refined decadence found in Austen’s Regency England.

Jane_Eyreseed cake2

“Having invited Helen and me to approach the table, and placed before each of us a cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel of toast, she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seedcake.’

‘I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you,’ said she, ‘but as there is so little toast, you must have it now,’ and she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand. We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the least delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification with which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.”

This Seed Cake recipe, adapted from Mrs. Beeton’s Cookbook of Household Management, benefits from such flavors as citrus peel, caraway seed, brandy and nutmeg. I’m sure Jane Eyre felt mightily uplifted from her dull existence in a dreary British girl’s academy by such aromatic flavors.

moby dick

New England Clam Chowder recipe from scratch.

“A warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me,”

“It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition.”

Melville wrote an entire chapter about this delicious Clam Chowder in his book Moby Dick. The extensive description of this seafood stew shows that the author was clearly enamored with fish on more than one level. Bacon, onions, potatoes and cream make this hefty soup that would be perfect on really cold, winter nights.

cannery row

beer milkshake“While he ate his sandwich and sipped his beer, a bit of conversation came back to him. Blaisedell, the poet, had said to him, “You love beer so much. I’ll bet some day you’ll go in and order a beer milkshake. He wondered what a beer milk shake would taste like. The idea gagged him but he couldn’t let it alone. It cropped up every time he had a glass of beer. Would it curdle the milk? Would you add sugar? It was like shrimp ice cream. Once the thing got into your head you couldn’t forget it.”

This playful take on Steinbeck’s whimsically named Beer Milkshake uses dark Guinness Stout beer, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Creme de Menthe and vanilla ice cream. Am I the only one who thinks this sounds awesome?

Narnia“The turkish delightQueen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight.”

Turkish Delight is a candy flavored with rosewater, orange and pistachios that is then dredged in confectioner’s sugar. This 15th century gummy candy is aromatic and sweet.

Have you read a mouth-watering food description in any books recently, or perhaps in a favorite novel? Let me know your experiences of food in books! To try the recipes from the pictures above, simply click a picture to be directed to the corresponding website, and feel free to have your own literary-themed dinner party or date night. Until next time!

xx, Cristina