Sunday, 29 January 2012

Quick AND Good-for-you: Quinoa and 'Stuff' Salad

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One of the most difficult things about eating healthily is the time, energy, and money it requires.  I know it's worth it – we all know that – and the bf and I are lucky enough to usually have the time (if not always the money), but some people have half an hour at best in which to assemble a meal, and often that's simply not long enough to prep and cook something truly healthy.  So we fall back on ready meals or eating out, telling ourselves it'll be 'just this once' and then falling into patterns that are, if not unhealthy (after all, frozen fish cakes aren't exactly on par with McDonald's), not as healthy as they could be.

But there's a way to make healthy meals much faster, without always relying on completely prepared dishes: using some pre-cooked ingredients to make food that's almost from-scratch.  Apparently, some lady named Sandra Lee has sort of hit upon this (not the healthy part, though, from what I hear) in a show called Semi-Homemade.  But my version is much less terrifying: roast chickens from the supermarket, shredded up to make chicken noodle soup; pre-chopped onions and pre-peeled garlic cloves to make your pasta prep go faster; and this latest discovery, pre-cooked quinoa.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Best of Both Worlds: Nutella Sea Salt Fudge

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I think it's time for a break from attempts at healthiness, don't you?  It's the fourth week of January, after all, which means we've been good for a very long time (well, you have, and I've been trying to support your efforts).  I think this sea salt-sprinkled Nutella fudge is just the ticket for a brief holiday from Healthtown.

Most people have cravings that lean one way or another: toward salty foods or sweet ones.  My mom, for example, isn't that fussed about chocolate or cakes, but put a bag of salt and vinegar Kettle chips in front of her and she'll have to work very hard not to eat the entire sharing-sized container, and then run her finger along the inside creases and lick off the salt.  Similarly, my brother was never as into candy as I was when we were growing up, but he loves a rich, heavy, fried or creamy savory meal. 

My dad and my sister, on the other hand, love the sweet stuff.  When I was in high school, my sister used to always have a drawer full of chocolate-covered fruits from the Whole Foods bulk section, and if you opened her freezer there would be at least two kinds of ice cream, usually Ben&Jerry's and frequently involving chocolate.  And my dad can't keep his hands out of bowls of jelly beans or hard candies (which he chews immediately).

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

So Easy It's NUTS: Spiced Almonds for Snacking

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This recipe was inspired back in November by a friend of a friend, who showed up at a pub quiz I attended with a gallon bag full of holiday-spiced almonds, which she'd made herself.  I had a cold, so I didn't want to be reaching into the bag all night, but I wanted to try them to be polite, so I had my friend Sophie tip a few nuts into my palm.  And then a few more, and a few more... all I can say is, thank god for that cold and my reluctance to pester Sophie, or I would have eaten the whole damn bag!

I asked the girl how she'd made them, and she basically listed a bunch of spices, some salt, and an egg white as the ingredients.  I wasn't paying enough attention to write the spices down, but they were your baking basics: cinnamon, nutmeg, maybe some cloves (which I tend to skip).  The minute I got back to London, I bought a jumbo bag of raw almonds – I was all set to make my own amazingly addictive roasted nuts.  And then I put the nuts away in the cupboard, in the midst of a tidying frenzy, and I promptly forgot about them.

Monday, 9 January 2012

An Easy, Healthy Dessert: Baked Apples

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I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions.  If I had to guess, I'd say my hesitation is born of cynicism, which is in turn born of too many resolutions made and broken.  I try to make year-round changes, because for me the pressure of 'this is your one shot this year to make a change' is just asking for a massive (and early) failure.

That said, I'm fully aware that the clean slate of a new year is a helpful motivator for a lot of people.  And what's the most common resolution, in my experience?  Lose weight!  Or just eat better and be fitter (sort of my constant resolution).  And in support of that, and of all y'all who tire of my constant butter and sugar assaults, I give you baked apples!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Old Favorites Remembered: Gram's Deviled Eggs

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One of my favorite treats when I was growing up was my grandmother's deviled eggs (and her chocolate chip cookies, and the Mexican brownies...).  She used to bring them sometimes when she drove to visit us, and I just remember my mouth watering as she peeled back the cling film from the plate and set them on the kitchen table.  The minute I was given the go-ahead from my mother, I'd dart forward like a small rodent and grab an egg, stuff it whole into my mouth, and bite down into the rich, soft, yolky center.

My mouth would fill to bursting with contrasts: firm white and silky yolk; smoky paprika and sweet relish; spicy mustard and cool bland egg.  I was convinced I could eat a whole plateful by myself, if I'd been allowed to be so glutinous.