Opinions on food, drink and articles/TV shows involving them

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Meatballs served 3 ways (3 Meals in One!)

I love making meals that can be transformed into other things: meatballs are one of those meals. You can serve them with pasta, vegetables, or on  burger. One day, I decided to make meatballs using ground beef, pork, and veal.

I like to add veggies to food whenever I can, so to the meatball mixture, I added sautéed yellow peppers and onions. I also added coconut flour, egg, salt, and pepper. With the ingredients, you might notice that this recipe is paleo. While I haven’t made the plunge into complete paleo-ism, I have enjoyed exploring cooking this way. My mother-in-law has celiac, so paleo is an easy way to make sure she doesn’t get sick when I’m cooking (always a plus!)

Although I haven’t tried a Paleo diet consistently for any length of time, I had a friend who ate paleo for a month and she said that she had a lot of energy, so I’m sure there are a lot of health benefits to it. I am a big believer that we need fat to fuel our brains, so I enjoy my steak and bacon, but balance it with other veggies and other foods!

For the meat mixture, I decided to try putting the meat into portobello mushroom caps as well as form some meatballs to enjoy on their own.

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Here is a pic of the meatballs when they were done. I baked them at 350 degrees until they had a nice golden brown on them. They were delicious! I have swallow fried them before and that way they get some char on them, but this way, they brown slightly. I would say the swallow fry might be better if you’re going to eat them all in one sitting and baking them in the oven would be better if you’re planning on freezing some for later.

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Here is a picture of the stuffed portobello mushroom cap. I decided that putting the meat in raw cooks the mushroom a little more than needed. After researching, I found that when people make something like this, they tend to cook the meat first at least slightly, then chop or grind it to stuff the mushroom. Overall, they tasted great, but if I were to do it again, I would try to cook the meat a little first.

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The third way I made the “meatballs” was to transform them into burgers. These are packaged to go into the freezer until a nice warm day when we want to grill.

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I’d definitely recommend making meatballs this way. It’s easy and you can make several meals at once, which I love doing!

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Rachel vs. Guy Kid’s Cook-Off

I love that kids are being exposed to cooking at earlier ages. I have many foodie friends who let their children help with age-appropriate tasks during meal-prep.

Growing up, my mom baked a lot. When she was baking a cake, she would give my brother and me a pastry bag and a small plate and let us decorate the plate. I learned to do some really nice piping on cakes. This may also be where my love for sugar came from, though this yearning for the sweet stuff has waned as an adult.

When I was older and staying home with my brother after school, my mom would often hear those dreaded words “I’m bored”. (I grew up in the time before the internet and IPads, so I was in the generation is where being bored was a thing). She would often tell me to bake something, as we kept a lot of boxed baked goods in the house.

One time when I was a kid I baked a cake for my mom’s birthday and frosted it within 45 minutes time. I had band practice after school and knew I’d have limited time, so I asked my brother to mix the batter for me. I quickly threw it in the oven to bake. The box said to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then cool completely, but the only part I read was the “cool for 10 minutes” part. I frosted the cake and, surprise, the frosting did not melt completely over the cake. It actually turned out well and my mom was so surprised at how I did it in such a short period of time.

It wasn’t really until college that I began cooking on my own and watching the food network. I fell in love with Wolfgang Puck’s accent and his restaurant “The Source” in DC is super yummy. It was in college that I also encountered the genius that is Alton Brown for the very first time. After college, I started to cook more and more and loved it. Sometimes, I wish I had started cooking even earlier.

Rachel vs. Guy Kid’s Cook-off shows 10 to 12 year-old kids making things that I only found out how to make in the past couple years. It’s really amazing some of the things these kids are doing; I would have never imagined cooking with brie or lobster at their age.

I was a little bit disappointed with the finale. There were so many kids left at the beginning of the finale, I thought there were too many to fairly pick a winner. I think it would have been better if there were more episodes and a few more kids eliminated before having a finale, but I guess it was more of a surprise this way. The winner was Gibson, who didn’t have any wins near the end of the show, so it was definitely a surprise.

One nice thing about the show was that the kids were helpful to one another. When one was scrambling and another was finished early, they went to help each other. This was such a nice gesture! On the shows with adults, the contestants are usually all out for themselves. I find it refreshing to have shows with kids who are looking out for one another.

Are there any other food shows you really enjoy? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

MyPlate and Other News

I can’t help it, I’m interested in nutrition. So, you’ll get the occasional “sorry I haven’t cooked anything, but have something else to say” post. The government came out with a new symbol for dietary guidelines: MyPlate. More information can be found here: http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/usda-food-pyramid-is-out-food-plate-is-in. I like the new design.

I just started reading Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” and I’m wondering how much his book may have influenced the look of the plate. I’m only on the 4th chapter of the book, but I’m not giving anything away when the first couple sentences of the book are: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The USDA’s new plate symbol embodies just that as it depicts fruits and vegetables taking up half the plate.

I won’t give away any more of the book and I haven’t formed an opinion regarding Pollan’s other claims, but they are certainly things to think about. The way that food and what you should and should not eat has changed over the years is a very interesting topic to me. I will say that before I started reading the book, I thought it was written by someone in the dietetics or nutrition field, but finding out that he was in neither was somewhat surprising to me. I supposed because there is lettuce on the cover, I was immediately thinking nutrition. If you’ve read Pollan’s book, what is your take?

Jumping into another topic that Pollan addresses in book is the debate about fat and low-fat diets. I found this article and was intrigued by it: http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/food/is-skim-milk-making-you-fat-2479492. I try to stay on top of nutrition trends and, was glad when many of my family members made the switch from (gasp) 2 % milk to skim milk. And, now this article tells me that we might be wrong?!

I can see how our conceptions of what is right and wrong in the food world can be so ingrained in our culture after being told something for so long. The articles sites that skim milk might actually make you fatter than whole milk. It sounds odd because it’s counter-intuitive, but that’s just the way some things are until somone else comes along and proves or disproves it.

The fact is that for every nutrition trend of what is healthy for the moment, there will be several other foods that could lead to a slow death if enjoyed too frequently. There must be some sort of healthy balance between enjoying food without overindulging (or at least, not overindulging too often). The key is certainly to eat a variety of foods. That way, we can know that maybe we haven’t eaten too much of the latest food that’s thought of as a contributor to cancer, heart disease, or other diseases.

Quesadillas and Bacon Lasagna

Lately, I’ve focused on some simple, quick and easy recipes, as well as the occasional more complex one. In this post, I’ll address both of these categories.


We’ll start with quick and easy. One night, after a hard workout, I was very hungry and didn’t have a lot of time to make dinner. So, I checked the fridge and thought: quesadillas. I sautéed some peppers and onions with a little salt and pepper. I used whole wheat tortillas, but any tortilla of your choice will do. Put the tortilla in a pan that has been sprayed with a little cooking spray. On top, add the peppers, onions, and other vegetables of your choice, along with cheese (I used a Mexican cheese blend), pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Place another tortilla on top. Heat on medium low until tortilla browns slightly, then flip and heat again. Slice into wedges and serve with salsa, sour cream, tomatoes, guacamole, cheese, or any of these you have in your refrigerator.

I’ll give this recipe 3 stars. It’s quick and easy and can be tailored to your likes and dislikes. The cumin gives it a nice Mexican flavor. Meat, such as chicken or steak, or beans can also be added to made a heartier quesadilla. Enjoy!


Carla Hall, from Top Chef, recently appeared at the White House Easter Egg roll and made quesadillas. She mentions that quesadillas should be the new peanut butter and jelly and I agree. They are nice and easy, have less carbs and sugar and are packed with veggies. Here is a link to her blog where she makes quesadillas in the first video: http://www.carlahall.com/2011/04/25/white-house-easter-egg-roll/

Now, on to something a little more complex. The other day, I had some friends over for dinner. I made a couple of types of lasagna and I’m going to talk about the one containing bacon.

The past couple of times I’ve made lasagna, I’ve made lasagna rolls instead of a pan of lasagna. They are slightly more time intensive because instead of putting layers in the pan, you have to roll each one individually; however, in my opinion, they are easier to serve. They are a little messy to make, but you simply add the ingredients spread out on a cooked piece of lasagna and roll them up. Then, add them to a lightly sauced and greased pan or casserole dish, add sauce and cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered.

For this recipe, I used whole wheat lasagna noodles and balanced out the healthiness with a velvety cream sauce. For the base of the sauce, I used Mario Batali’s bechamel sauce recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/bechamel-sauce-recipe/index.html. Bechamel is basically a fancy way of saying cream sauce.  Start by using a frying pan to sauté finely chopped shallots and mushrooms (about 1/2 cup and 1 cup respectively) until almost cooked, then add 1 small bag of spinach and cook until the spinach is cooked. While that is cooking, chop about 1/4 cup of sun-dried tomato and 1/3 cup of roasted red peppers. Cooked about 10 pieces of bacon until crispy and chopped them into small pieces (reserve some of the bacon grease and add it to the cream sauce for an extra bacon kick). Then I add all the vegetables to the sauce. I used about 1/3 cup of sauce per piece of lasagna and added a small slice of goat cheese before rolling it up. I also added some extra goat cheese and sauce to the pan on top of the rolls and cooked them as directed above.

Here is a picture of the sauce just as I added the bacon:

I don’t have a picture of the finished product, but I can tell you that it was very popular and went very quickly. I’ll give it 4 stars. I’m not sure that the goat cheese was able to shine through amongst all of the other flavors, but it might have been more prominent if I had used more of it or if it was used with a tomato sauce instead of a cream sauce.

Pizza Hut’s pizza bites pizza

I saw this article the other day about foods that speed weight loss and was very happy to see that cheese was on the list: http://health.yahoo.net/experts/healthieryou/7-foods-speed-weight-loss. I know that the amount of cheese recommended here is quite small (1 oz.), but at least it’s something. I think of the other foods on the list, such as coffee, green tea, peppers, and almonds as typical weight loss foods that one often hears about in the media. In this article, cheese seemed to be the fully loaded outlier.

I often choose cheese as a snack and now I have more of an excuse to eat it, not that I needed one. I don’t believe that people should deprive themselves of the foods they crave, but moderation is key to anything in life, including food. That being said, I definitely have some weaknesses when it comes to food and cheese is near the top of that list. At any rate, this article was a good excuse to get pizza!

Pizza Hut has a new pizza that I wanted to try: the Cheesy Bites Pizza. I had to try it after a long week. The crust is nice and garlicky, but a bit dry. The sauce that comes with it is definitely necessary to combat the dryness.

When I saw this pizza, I thought, why not just get a stuffed crust pizza? At the same time, food in small portions is incredibly cute and trendy, so why not market it. One thing that sets this pizza apart from a regular stuffed crust pizza is that the cheese is coming out of the cheesy bites and is a little bit charred on the edges. I think that characteristic is what makes this pizza better than a stuffed crust pizza.

I also tried the pizza as leftovers the following day and found that the crust softened, so that it was not as dry as the first day, which improved the taste. Overall, I’ll give it 2.5 starts….pretty good for a commercial pizza!