How many times have you heard people say that they can’t afford to eat healthy? Sure, McDonald’s Dollar Menu is cheap but there’s a lot of other good deals out there. A great place to shop for produce is the Reading Terminal Market. I think a lot of people associate the market with a tourist attraction and a fun place to go sampling with friends but I associate it with bargain shopping. The same conventionally grown tomatoes selling for $2.99/lb at Whole Foods are here for .79 cents! That price differential holds for most items including potatoes, apples, and mushrooms.

@ Iovine Brothers Produce

Aside from produce, I also heart the 12th street Cantina: Handcrafted Mexican Food. The 5 years my boyfriend spent in LA have messed with his taco shell standards and since tacos are an easy week night meal 12th street Cantina offers a great option. 10 hand made corn tortillas for $1.50.

12th Street Cantina

The tomatoes and corn tortillas led to a 20 minute, market to table meal. My boyfriend makes the ground turkey with taco seasoning while I prepare a plate with fillings: guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, and shredded cheeses. Very easy, filling, and the corn tortillas give it an authentic taste.

Market to Table to Belly

Does anyone know of any other great deals in Philly – shopping or eating out?

I visited Philly a few times during college and remember being unimpressed. Now that I’m a local, I find the same city amazing.  Something I never caught as a visitor, but love as a resident is the Schuykill Path which extends along the river for miles and miles. One minute you’re in the heart of the city competing for roadway with cars and the next your on an endless path with other bikers, runners, strollers, rollerblades…moving , active people basically. My bf and I love riding along the path to the next town over, Manayunk, and getting lunch on the river.

Roundtrip is almost 20 miles and takes about 2 hours. Its great exercise, beautiful scenery, and the break for lunch makes it perfect half day activity. Today’s 90 degree weather made the ride a bit more challenging, especially when my shorts seemed to glue themselves to my skin.

Our favorite place for lunch is the Manayunk Brewery. Does anything really beat eating on the water?

We had been here before in the spring and I was bummed by their salad selection (I think the options were garden or Caesar)  but now that its’ summer the salad options had expanded. This was my choice:
Riverside Salad
Jumbo lump crabmeat with marinated roasted shrimp, served over fresh field greens drizzled with sweet roasted red pepper vinaigrette and garnished with shitake mushrooms, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Review: Generous portion of field greens (I hate when restaurants are skimpy on the greens), the shitake mushrooms were cooked perfectly, big chunks of crabmeat, and the dressing was one of the best I’ve ever had out, as in I asked for it on the side and proceeded to use all of it.

My beer choice was the Blueberry, which was thirst-quenching and gave me an instant buzz 🙂

I love activities that get your heart going and lead to something yummy. Does anyone have any fun ideas for Philly?

I took a 4 month hiatus from blogging and in getting back to it, I had a lot of questions from people about my overall thoughts on the AFPA Nutrition and Wellness Program. While I was enrolled in the program I wrote 2 reviews, which you can read here and here.

I am going to be completely honest, I think I retained 3% of the information from the course. When I signed up for the program, I thought it sounded like a great way to learn more about nutrition and have something food related in my life since my job has nothing to do with food. For the cost of the program, I’d have been better off taking a few fun cooking lessons. I suppose that if you had an impressive resume in a particular field such as finance or marketing and you were working in an industry such as telecommunications and you wanted to switch to food, an AFPA Nutrition certificate on your resume would show that you were serious about your food interest. However, I think linking to a food blog that you maintain would also show that interest.

You know when you start the program that it will be an individual effort, but I really wish there was an online community for the program to at least bring like minded people together. As far as the difficulty of the course, its super easy. Its multiple choice and you can basically find 95% of the questions in the text, likewise with the open ended questions. The case study is also an easy exercise in that you work with someone you know and can basically make stuff up. I know that’s not a very serious way to take it…

Mostly, Registered Dietitians go through such a rigorous program before consulting with patients that its hard to believe its appropriate for someone with an AFPA certificate to do the same. In states such as New York, its not enough, but other states are more lenient.

So in the spirit of full disclosure, I did not benefit from receiving the certificate. If you have any specific questions, please post and I’ll do my best to answer.

Is collecting recipes a hobby? An obsession? I’m constantly bookmarking webpages, tearing pages out of magazine, ordering cookbooks, and drooling over tastespotting postings. At this point I’ve got enough recipes in que for the next 1000 meals, give or take a few. Disappointingly many recipes are forgotten as soon as they are marked and some just don’t get the buy-in from those who have to eat my cooking/baking.

The gratin featured in this post is different from the forgotten recipes though. This root vegetable wonder has been in the front of my mind for over a year and yet I never made this easy and delicious meal. Something about the cooking time of over 1.5 hours and the use of a mandolin  created a roadblock. But, for the small dinner party I hosted on Saturday, the gratin was finally featured.

We started with a few cheeses from the beautiful Di Bruno’s located in the Italian Market.

Several bottles of wine later, the gratin, which bakes in chicken broth for an hour, and then in cream for half an hour, was finally ready to be served.

Root Vegatable Gratin – instead of using 2lbs of rutabaga, I added a parsnip to the mix, and instead of heavy cream, used light cream. Calories were reduced and taste was unaffected.

Look at those beautiful layers! If you love root vegetables, this is a winner. How else do you get to have butternut squash, sweet potato, rutabaga, and turnips all in one meal? As a plus, all the vegetables were purchased from small vendors at the Italian Market.

The gratin recipe was from Food & Wine so in maintaining the theme, I also chose a salad from Food & Wine: Asian Pear and Arugala Salad with Goat Cheese. The mandolin to make the gratin was on loan and it was also used for the pears in the salad. The pumpkin seeds in the salad were just the right addition to the citrusy lemon dressing and pears. Seeds were purchased at The Spice Corner.

I’m really excited to have checked this root vegetable gratin off my recipe list. Are there any recipes you’ve been thinking about but haven’t executed?

This is one of my week night favorites, about 20 minutes from fridge to table, and so good you want to lick the bowl clean…which I might do if no one is around.

My recipe for Chicken Pad Thai is adapted from the Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. I bought this cookbook when I was in a vegan phase and some of the sauces are outstanding. You could use chicken, shrimp, tofu, or just veggies in this pad thai, it really doesn’t matter because the peanut butter sauce is the star.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces of rice noodles or wide Lo-Mein noodles may be easier to find
  • 1/2 tbsp for cooking
  • 2 chicken breast (~12 ounces)
  • 1 red pepper, cut into slivers
  • 2 cups snow peas
  • 2 cups mushrooms
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

Directions

  1. Mix together ingredients of your sauce and boil the water for the noodles.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan, and add chicken. Flavor with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes.
  3. When chicken is almost done, add all veggies. The veggies should be on the crunchy side so after 3 minutes add the peanut butter sauce mixture.
  4. Turn the heat on high and help the peanut butter melt into the mixture. Remove from heat.
  5. Drain your noodles, add to the chicken, veggies, and sauce.
  6. DONE!

Makes approximately 4 servings, 330 calories.

One of my very favorite bloggers, steph chows, is hosting a cookie exchange. Steph’s baking is fantastically creative and if there’s any trick to removing butter and sugar without sacrificing taste, she’s using it. Almost 30 people decided to participate in Steph’s first cookie exchange and I received the daunting task of baking for Steph herself. Intimidating? Definetly.

I knew I wanted to continue down the path towards making the perfect healthy cookie and since I probably wasn’t going to blow Steph away on taste, she’d at least appreciate the attempt to try a few new replacement tricks. With toffee as the splurge ingredient, I attempted to create two versions of healthy cookies, both under 100 calories.

#1 Toffee Sugar Cookie

My curiosity was peaked by this recipe because it uses water. Cookies with water? There’s also no eggs and a minimal amount of water. I made one additional healthful tweak, and subbed half the flour for whole wheat.

#1 Toffee Sugar Cookies

Adapted from a Taste of Home, found on http://lobsterandfishsticks.com/

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (split in half btw all purpose and whole wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup crushed heath bar candy (2 bars)

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Beat in the water, oil and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets; flatten with the bottom of a small glass. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Remove to wire racks. Yield: 4 dozen. About 90 calories per cookie.

Taste Review – they grow hard quickly, but the texture is that of a cookie. I haven’t used butter in baking for so long I was actually caught of guard by the texture. I think the batter works, the whole wheat flour isn’t noticeable and adds some fiber. However, I think the batter would work better with a more flavorful cookie, more spice, cranberries, crystallized ginger; the toffee just doesn’t give it enough. Improvements to this recipe will continue…there’s hope.

#2 Toffee Oatmeal Cookies

Unlike baking with butter, I am no stranger to baking with oats and applesauce. Including prep and baking, these literally take 20 minutes and almost every ingredient adds a healthful benefit.

Adapted from Shortbread Bakery

  • 3/4 cup plain quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup crushed Heath bar (1 bar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar substitute of your choice (I used splenda b/c I know Steph likes, but I would have used brown sugar or agave if it was just for me)

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Microwave Peanut Butter for 1 minute until smooth. Meanwhile, combine quick cooking rolled oats, wheat germ, egg whites, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, chocolate chips and applesauce in a large bowl. Mix then add in to the sauce pan with the Peanut butter. Drop onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until golden. Cool and ENJOY! Makes about 14 cookies, about 9o calories per cookie.

Taste Review if I had just left these in the oven for another 3 minutes they would have been better, a bit gooey they sadly ended up. Please forgive me Steph, I was running to a class at the gym and had to pull them out. BUT, I really like these cookies. The toffee adds such a sinful flavor and texture and everything else is healthy ingredient that gives lasting energy.

***

What other baking tricks can I use to cut down on butter?

Its been exactly a month since my last post.

After my appendix surgery, I wasn’t able to work out for several weeks, my appetite was screwy at best, and I was taking painkillers. For someone that defines themselves by terms such as “workout junky”, “health food nut”, and “I-will-only-take-advil-if-dying”, this was a hellish several weeks. I lost my identity. I felt false, like things I said weren’t true anymore. It made writing about leading a healthy lifestyle too frustrating. By the time the stream of holidays came around, I was eating cookies and toasting champagne with the rest of the world and feeling, big surprise, even more unhealthy.

But, its a new year. And, I, like everyone else, I get to regroup and make and meet goals.

I stumbled back to the gym last week, surrounded by the eager New Years Resolutioners, and feeling like a stranger myself. The treadmill looked so daunting, have I ever been able to run? By the third workout, I started to remember “the workout high” and by the fifth workout, I got on the treadmill. It was a pathetic showing at best, as my endurance is non-existent, but its ok.

Its a fresh start.

Happy belated New Year everyone.