Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Baking with Stevia

I recently started substituting Stevia for sugar in recipes for baked goods and have been surprisingly satisfied. I am not typically a proponent of sugar substitutes, but after reading about its wonders as one of Dr. Gillian McKeith's 12 Super Foods (, I decided to give it a go. She claims it's great for regulating blood sugar levels and keeping sugar cravings at bay. Stevia is different from most calorie-free sugar alternatives in that it is an herb and not a chemical. Furthermore, it has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years, so it's not some kind of new-to-humans trial that people might start dropping dead from tomorrow.
I did some research on it on the Internet and found that while some studies have shown negative effects (birth defects, etc.) on lab rats when administered at high doses, the amount necessary for a batch of baked goods (75g for a batch of 12 muffins) is so negligible in comparison that I'm not worried. Plus, studies have shown that sugar in high doses causes pancreatic cancer so it's by no means a safer alternative (not to mention its many other more obvious effects like type II diabetes, tooth decay, weight gain, etc.).

So why not? At $10 for a 1oz. bottle at Trader Joe's, it's not cheap, but a little goes a long way.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tahini-free Hummus with Sundried Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, and Rosemary

This is one of the recipes my friend Val pulled together on limited resources while we were backpacking through New Zealand. Store bought hummus was one of our staples (as was canned beans and sundried tomatoes) because we'd sometimes go hours without refrigeration. Fresh rosemary was often found wild in abundance, so we incorporated that into a lot of our cooking as well. Val threw this hummus together one Sunday afternoon with what we had on hand in one of those bullet blenders and it was so far superior to the store bought stuff that we gobbled it down straight away. We didn't have tahini so we had to do without, but I honestly didn't miss it at all.
Today I made it for the family with these ingredients:
2 cups garbanzo beans (I cooked my own from dehydrated, but canned works just as well)
1T sundried tomatoes in oil
1tsp. sundried tomato oil
1/2 lemon (juice from)
2 garlic cloves
1T fresh rosemary (It grows wild in abundance. I found some in front of a neighbor's house.)
15 kalamata olives and juice
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2tsp red chili flakes

I threw it in the food processor instead of the blender because I like it chunky - but either works just fine.
Calories: 50/oz.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Experimenting with Sprouts: Cold Sprouted Adzuki Salad

In my first attempt to throw a dish together around my freshly sprouted adzuki beans, I went for a cold side-salad to go with dinner. The sprouts have a jicama-like taste (and look like sperm), which I'm not crazy about but don't mind at the same time. This salad has a crisp, refreshing taste. Here's what's in it:
2 cups sprouted adzuki beans
1/2 an English cucumber
2 tomatoes
juice of 1 lime
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh green onions, chopped
1 T white wine vinegar
1/2 T olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sprouting Adzukis

After reading about all the wonders of living food enzymes in Dr Gillian McKeith's Living Food for Health, I couldn't wait to get some sprouting going myself. I started with dried adzuki beans (from the fruit & veg stand), which I rinsed and covered with a few centimeters of water in a glass, then covered the glass with a piece of cheesecloth and let it sit in the (turned off) oven (any dark, warm place is fine) overnight.
Before going to bed, I checked on them and saw that they had already absorbed all the water, so I spread them out over three glasses instead of the one. By the morning they were plump and all the water had been absorbed.
Next I transferred them to a colander and rinsed them twice a day before returning them to the (turned off) oven. I did this for 5 days. On the 5th morning, I let them sit out on a window sill for a few hours' blast of sunlight (no sun in San
Francisco that day, so filtered sunlight through the overcast sky had to do). I then put them in an airtight container to store in the fridge. They'll keep for 3-4 days. So far, I've made a salad and have been otherwise sprinkling them on most things I eat anyway (sandwiches, millet stew, etc.). They taste a bit like jicama (very crunchy), which I'm not crazy for, but the taste is not very strong so usually whatever you put them in overpowers it. Next I'll try lentils since those I know I like.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Slow Cooked "Millet non Pollo"

I'm taking our new love of millet and running with it! Another vegetarian cookbook I recently borrowed from the library is Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. Since school's back in session now, the slow cooker is going to be my saving grace. Surprisingly, I've managed to eliminate nearly all processed foods from my daily diet, without much upset. We'll see how that holds up now that I'll be considerably more busy...

For this recipe, I took "Arros non Pollo" and substituted millet for rice. This made the cooking time longer by nearly an hour, so next time I'll add in the millet in two hours before the end of cooking time and keep an eye on it. Here's the recipe (which I doubled):

1T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp saffron threads
14.5oz can diced tomato, w/ juices
3 cups veg stock
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
8oz green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1in lengths
15.5oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup millet
3/4 cup your favorite salsa
1/2 cup frozen peas (I used petite peas)
1/3 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained

Heat the oil in a lg skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion, carrot, cook until softened, about 5 min.
Stir in the garlic, oregano, cumin, saffron, cook 2 min. longer.
Transfer the veg mix to a lightly oiled (I used spray olive oil) 4-6qt. slow cooker.
Add the tomatoes, stock, bell pepper, green beans, chickpeas, salt and pepper.
Cover, cook on low for 6-8 hours. *Do not remove the lid during cooking! This adds about 20
min. of cooking time with each peek.
About 2 hours before the end of cooking time, stir in the millet.
About 10 min. before serving, stir in the salsa, peas, olives, and cover.

Makes 4 servings at about 335cals each.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cooking in Tahoe

I just got back from a mother-daughter weekend in Lake Tahoe with one of my college roommates and our mamas. It was great fun - all the more so because they have a time share where we stayed in central South Tahoe, complete with its own full kitchen! I find cooking and eating together generally more enjoyable than eating out (especially in chain-restaurant/casino buffet land, where the eating out is not such a treat), especially since my friend and I are both really in to experimenting with different flavors and foods while keeping it all healthily delicious.

Our best meal was pesto chicken made with homemade pesto (fresh basil, almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil, spices), accompanied by steamed green beans, grilled eggplant (sprayed with olive oil and s&p and thrown under the broiler for 10 min.), and yam fries (chopped into "fries" and baked until desired softness with s&p to taste). Eating away from home is easiest to do healthy (and still tasty!) when you can make it yourself (and have fun collaborating with fellow food lovers:).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Move Over Cous Cous, Make Way for Millet!

I'm now reading Dr. Gillian McKeith's Living Food for Health: 12 Natural Superfoods to Transform Your Health, and am trying to incorporate these "superfoods" into my diet. Millet, a grain similar to quinoa, is one of the twelve and I decided to incorporate it into tonight's dinner. I didn't have a recipe to go by so I just improvised, incorporating two additional "superfoods": fresh parsley and sunflower seeds. And millet has won us over! Mom and I are now millet converts. I may never cook cous cous again.

Here's what I used:
1 1/2 cups millet
3 cups veg broth
1 T olive oil
1 red onion
1 T chopped fresh ginger
4 yellow squash, chopped
10 kalamata olives
1 T sundried tomatoes in oil
1 chive, chopped
fresh chopped parsley
2 roma tomatoes
1/4 cup + 2 T sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Bring the millet and veg broth to boil and reduce to simmer, covered, until all liquid is absorbed.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
Add onions and ginger and sautee, about 3 minutes.
Add squash, pepper flakes, salt&pepper and sautee until fully cooked (about 5 minutes).
In a large bowl, combine the millet and squash mixture, once both are fully cooked. Add remaining ingredients and toss. Enjoy!
Yields 5 servings at 330cals each.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tasty Meat-free Pasta

I have been experimenting more with meatless dinners to kill 3 birds with one stone: the budget bird, the busy schedule bird, and the questionable history of farm animals bird (without killing any birds at all since vegetarian - oh the irony). Going meatless saves a lot of money and since a lot of the alternatives (canned beans, dehydrated lentils, beans, and grains, etc.) can keep much longer than meat, you can buy in bulk (saving even more money) and keep them conveniently on hand to save trips to the store.
So the other night I made a pasta dish by combining two different recipes from Quick-fix Vegetarian, and am happy to report it was an overall crowd pleaser. It also happened to work out that we already had all of the ingredients in the pantry.
Here's the recipe:
1 bunch baby spinach
1 T olive oil
5 garlic cloves
1 24oz can diced tomatoes
1 oz sun dried tomatoes (the dehydrated kind, not in oil)
1 15 oz can chickpeas
15 pitted kalamata olives, cut into halves lengthwise
1 T capers, drained
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and fresh ground pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
12 oz penne pasta (I mixed whole wheat and regular b/c that's what we had but any tube
pasta will work fine)

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds before adding spinach until wilted.
Then add both tomatoes, chickpeas, and spices. Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Add olives, capers, and parsley.
Toss with the cooked pasta.
Garnish with additional parsley if desired and voila! Dinner is served.
Yields 6 servings at 335 cals each.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cherry Scones

Scones are my favorite! I love scones of all flavors, shapes, sizes, color, and creed. Today I made my first attempt at my own and actually followed a recipe to the letter (no substitutions *gasp*). I got it from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking cookbook and since this was a special weekend breakfast treat, I decided not to tamper with the recipe and risk a scone disaster. Despite my best efforts, however, when it came time to knead out the dough, it was way too wet and sticky, making a total mess. I thought maybe this was because I let the butter get too soft, after refrigerating the dough overnight without any better results, I think I must have mis-measured the flour (which would be totally typical). So this morning when I attempted to roll out the dough again, I sprinkled about half a cup of whole wheat pastry flour over it, which seemed to do the trick. They baked for about 15 minutes and were DELISH (and more filling for fewer cals than the last batch of muffins, which are supposed to be a healthy, non-treat breakfast)! Definitely better warm though, because I tried a bite of a cooled one earlier this evening when I was putting them away to freeze (hopefully they freeze well..) and it was nothing like the fresh out of the oven taste. So if you make these and don't eat them all at once, pop 'em in the toaster oven for a few minutes before serving.
Here's the recipe:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, sliced
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup chocolate chips or chunks (ok, I might have used a little less)
1 lg egg
1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 cup skim milk and 1T vinegar)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray baking sheets with canola oil.

Whisk flours through salt together in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter pieces into the dry mix until resembles bread crumbs (*butter must be v. cold!). Add the cherries and chocolate and mix with a fork.

Whisk remaining wet ingredients in a small bowl and add all at once to the dry mix. Stir with a fork until mixed. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 3-4 times. I separated the dough in two and cut one half into 6 large scones, and the other into 8 medium sized scones. The recipe says to brush the tops with milk and/or coarse sugar, but I did neither. Bake for 15-22 minutes until golden brown. They rise a lot, so don't despair if they look very small going in!

Recipe yields 16 scones at 220 calories, 3g fiber each.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Vegan Sunflower Raisin Muffins

I am on the quest for a healthy, satisfying, low cal breakfast muffin recipe to replace the Zen Bakery bran muffins I am addicted to. Mostly, I've been playing with various recipes and replacing some of the higher cal ingredients with lower cal substitutes. This morning I took a recipe from my favorite restaurant in New York, Angelica Kitchen, and cut down the amount of currants (and used raisins instead), sunflower seeds, replaced half the oil with unsweetened apple sauce, and half the maple syrup with apple juice concentrate. I also used regular whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour, which is finer, and therefore packs more per cup and therefore more calories.

The result: a nice tasting muffin that's less sweet and slightly more dense than the original. But, at 265cals per muffin, they're much lower cal than the original, but one is not satisfying enough for breakfast. Even with a side of fruit, I need at least one and a half to feel full, which is way more in calories than the Zen Bakery muffins. What is their trick?? The quest continues. In the meantime, here is the recipe I used:
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup rolled oats
4tsp. baking powder
4tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1tsp. seasalt
2 cups unsweetened apple juice
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup apple juice concentrate
1/3 cup canola oil (the original recipe calls for olive but the last time I used the one we have it
was too overpowering)
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce

Whisk dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry bowl once mixed, and don't over stir. Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes. Yields 14 muffins at 265 calories each.

Added bonus - sunflower seeds are a super health food!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Slow Cooker Success

I recently checked out a book called Quick-fix Vegetarian from the library and decided to make one of its slow cooker (crockpot) recipes for dinner tonight. The slow cooker is one of my kitchen fav's., especially during busy times. It's great for throwing together a meal that's ready for you at the end of the day (and usually greets you at the door with pleasing aromas) and often times you can make enough to keep for the rest of the week (especially with stews, chilies, etc.). Tonight's meal was sweet and sour stuffed bell peppers, which was a crowd pleaser among my family. I was on the fence, myself. Sometimes I find I can't really taste my own food - does that happen to other people or is it just me?

The prep. work was surprisingly fast and easy. First cook a cup of couscous (I used whole wheat) in broth or water with one 15oz can of garbonzo beans and 3 chopped scallions. Then in a medium bowl, mix a 24oz can of chopped tomatoes with 2T brown sugar (the recipe called for 3), 1T apple cider vinegar (recipe called for 2), 1/4tsp cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. I also added chopped fresh mushrooms because we have some that need to be used. Then take 5 bell peppers (the recipe was for 4 but we had a potential guest and there was plenty of the couscous mix left over), cut off the tops, hollow the membranes and seeds, stuff with the cous cous, replace the tops, and place upright in the cooker. Then just drizzle the tomato mixture over and around the peppers and leave on low for 4-5 hours.

Total calories per pepper (with tomato-mushroom sauce) around 300calories. Not bad at all (and quite filling)!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Baby Carrots (Be Warned)

Has everyone seen this already?
I think I'll switch to the full-sized ones, thanks very much.

A Cauliflower Quick Trick

In general, I am not a huge fan of cauliflower. I do not like it raw nor steamed, how it most frequently crosses my path. There is a lovely cauliflower gratin in white cream sauce (with fresh chestnuts)recipe my aunt makes, but I think at that point you can't really count it toward your daily veg intake. A quick trick to making cauliflower sweet and tasty, which completely changes its texture (if you're one of those "texture" people) is to chop a head into bite sized florets, spray with olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper, then pop it in the oven at 400F for an hour. The end result is an exceedingly high fiber, low cal snack or side dish with minimal effort. If your oven has one of those handy cooking time settings where it automatically shuts off after the time you indicate, you can even leave it and walk the dog without a worry. An hour to cauliflower perfection - no more, no less. Well...unless you live at a different altitude I guess. In which case - adjust accordingly, please!
A medium head of cauliflower (shown) at about 1lb.5oz., is 150 calories and 15 whopping grams of fiber!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Dose of Dosa

I had dinner out with a friend tonight, which is a real treat for me since the costs of eating out in San Francisco are exorbitant and out of bounds for an unemployed student type like myself. We went to a trendy South Indian restaurant on the Fillmore, called Dosa, which during happy hour, is surprisingly affordable (all happy hour menu items, including appetizers shown here are $5 each). The choices are surprisingly healthful too! In the first photo is a mungsprout salad (freshly sprouted lentils, tomatoes, cucumbers, ginger, coconut, chiles, flavored oil of mustard seeds), which was lovely and reminded me of how I wanted to explore the world of sprouted, raw foods. Lentils are super easy (and inexpensive) to sprout (see my sprouting posting) and add a nice crunch to a variety of different foods since they do not have a strong flavor themselves.
In the second photo are sardines (omega 3s!)in the front and spicy (organic) chicken with (organic) yogurt sauce in back. Both very tasty and spicy, if a little on the salty side. The portions are generous (3 appetizers were more than enough to satisfy two hungry girls) and everyone else's dishes (off the "regular" menu) looked equally delicious. I would definitely recommend Dosa and might even have to give the mungsprout salad a go in my own kitchen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pizza Night

Inspired by a couple fresh tomatoes and some wilted basil that needed attention in our fridge, I thought homemade pizzas would be a nice alternative to the obvious pasta option. I was even inspired enough to make my own pizza dough...until a closer read of the recipe revealed it would take hours (between all the mixing, rising, kneading, repeating, etc.) so opted for the next best thing: Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza dough. I was too lazy to bother hunting out the rolling pin, so I just stretched it out with my hands (it's not obvious though, is it?) after dividing the dough in two.
Pizza #1 has spinach, garlic, and a shallot sauteed in olive oil and, mushrooms, more of the unmeltable low-fat brie, and a sprinkling of sundried tomatoes in oil.
Pizza #2 has the basil, fresh tomatoes, fresh garlic, and fresh mozzarella slices. Muy fresh indeed!
I sprayed the dough with olive oil before adding the toppings and added a generous portion of red chili flakes to my slices after they cooked. Result? A quick, easy dinner option that makes good use of whatever bits you can find in the fridge. I didn't use any sauce, but it really wasn't missed (and I'm usually a sauce fiend). Calorie count? A 4th of either pizza came to around 400cals. I might even attempt my own dough next time...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Replacing A Staple: Bars

And I don't mean the drinking kind! One of the most difficult processed foods for me to give up is the bar, as in the granola or energy varieties. In particular Kashi's TLC bars and Cliff's Luna bars. Although of the gamut of bars available these are probably among the mildest offenders, they both still contain soy derivatives, which I am trying to avoid. They're just so handy - a great afternoon or pre-workout snack, or even a breakfast on the go. So today, I attempted my own version, loosely based on a recipe I borrowed from an ad for egg whites. Overall, for taste they were there, but as for holding together, not quite. I used ground flaxseed mixed with water to replace the eggwhites but next time I'll either go for the eggwhites or add more of the flaxseed substitute.
Here's the recipe I followed (and the original one if you're interested
4 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 bar dark (72%) chocolate, coarsely chopped (47g)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons water with 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
Yields 27 at 135 calories; Baking instructions same as recipe link above

Getting Real And Laughing Out Loud

I just read a comment someone left on my last entry and had to laugh. In reference to my remark on what a challenge it is in the US today to buy foods that are not genetically modified, do not contain added hormones, or are not fed by compounds produced in lab rooms, he told me I must not have seen much of the world and should get real.

First of all, I did not say that the US is the only place where this is difficult. After living in Asia for a year and subsisting on mostly instant oatmeal and protein bars because I had such severe reactions to the MSG that everything seemed to be bathed in, I know full well the ills of eating in the developing world. But that's just it - that's the developing world. I should think that comparing essentials like food (also healthcare, education, etc.) in "developed" vs. "developing" countries would be like apples and oranges. Otherwise, what's really the difference?

Secondly, while I was living in Europe last year, I couldn't get enough butter because it tasted so damn good. I saw eating bread as an opportunity to eat butter and therefore did so far more liberally than I do here. And not just in one country, either. Irish butter, French butter, Greek yogurt...I would take any of them over what we get here in a heartbeat because you actually can taste the difference in quality. So there is room for improvement in this country because as Americans, don't we deserve better? If not for us, then just think of the children.

So yes doll, I am getting real. Real foods that is;)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Backup Dinner: Trader Joe's Frozen Tamales

Sunday nights are usually a good opportunity in our house to finish up what needs to be eaten in the fridge before starting the week with a new shop on Monday. Our veggie bin had a wee head of lonely broccoli that needed a home, so I steamed that up along with a frozen beef tamale from Trader Joe's. (It might just be a mental thing, but I feel steaming vs. microwaving makes them less processed?) I discovered these on a pinch during exams one night in our freezer and have been hooked ever since! At 240cals, they make a handy quick meal and can be steamed in the same pot as your veg of choice. Nutrition-wise, if you look at the ingredient list, everything is both pronounceable and recognizable, so it's not too bad on that front. I doubt the beef is grass-fed though, nor did the package mention gmos or hormones. God that's tough in this country. Hard to believe that was something that used to be just taken for granted, eh? Still is in other parts. But until I obtain an EU passport, moderation and overall awareness will just have to suffice.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

When Life Gives You Soft Peaches...Make Grilled Peach, Plum, Brie, and Arugula Paninis!

I like my peaches like I like my men: yummy sweet and firm to the touch. (Joking! Well..kinda) And there's nothing my mom and I hate more than soft peaches. (OK slight exaggeration there because there's loads of stuff I hate more than that. Like traffic...or stepping in dog poo...or terrorists.) So when our firm-at-purchase stone fruit began going soft, I recalled a recipe I watched Giada de Laurentiis make on The Food Network (and modified it slightly, of course). Hers called for peaches sauteed in butte and honey, which just sets the calorometers in my head spinning, so I decided to grill mine, along with some soft plums, instead. For these, I sprayed a grill pan with (surprise!) olive oil and sprinkled the sliced fruit with cinnamon and nutmeg.
For the paninis, I used fresh ciabatta rolls from Trader Joe's, which are surprisingly high in fiber! I usually don't even bother to look at fiber counts on fresh "white" breads, assuming they're all made with bleached white flour. Boy, was I proven wrong. A 56g roll, packs 4g of fiber and 140 cals, and the their focaccia rolls are 210cal and 7g of fiber. It's like finding money in your pocket! They're both made with whole wheat, unbleached flour. (So how are they white?). Anyway, upon weighing, I found the rolls were actually 80g, but after scooping out the inside of the top halves, brought them down to 62g, 155cal, and 4.5g fiber per roll.

These I stuffed with arugula, the fruit, and "light brie", which is 70cal/oz., vs. regular double-cream brie, which runs 90-100cal/oz. In the future, I will definitely spring for the regular, double-cream. The light version (surprise, surprise) doesn't pack much flavor, nor does it melt quite the same way full fat brie does (slight duh factor there since fat is what gives cheese its 'melting quality'). I don't have a panini maker, but a George Foreman grill (but be careful when handling - that sucker burned my finger!) works just as well, so I sprayed ours with (gasp) olive oil and threw the paninis on for about 7 minutes. As a side, I threw some leftover steamed and roasted veggies on the same grill pan I used for the fruit so they picked up some of the same flavors, which was actually quite nice. Also one less pan to clean, so a nod to laziness. All in all, a 260cal sammie and veggies made for around a 300cal lunch (and 10g fiber!). Will definitely make again.

A Few Friends

Let me take a moment to introduce a few of my best friends in the kitchen! First up is Keurig single cup espresso maker. These guys are made by a number of different companies these days and you can find a good deal on a used one on craigslist or in a thrift shop. The Keurig one can take the coffee pods that you pre-buy, or you can buy an attachment filter so you can use your own coffee, which is both more cost effective and environmentally friendly. I like Tully's coffee because it is a good value for good coffee (you can typically find the 12oz. bags on sale for around $6) but for a special treat I'll go for Peet's (if it's on sale, of course;). I usually drink 1-2 americanos in the morning and one in the afternoon, formerly with unsweetened soy milk, but more recently with rice milk (see previous entries). I love good coffee.

Next up is my digital kitchen scale, a calorie counter's number one accomplice! It's great for baking and cooking too, since weighing ingredients directly into the mixing bowl eliminates using multiple measuring utensils and yields a more accurate measurement. Now, I want to clarify a couple of things that my aunt brought to my attention: 1) I do not vilify all high-calorie foods, since many very healthful foods are naturally calorie dense (think avocados, nuts, olive oil, wine) or just plain nom noms (think chocolate cake, scones, cookies), I just eat them in moderation and adjust the portion sizes to fit in with whatever else I'm eating that day. Or there are the "special occasion" all out counting-free splurges (think vacation, birthdays, CHRISTMAS!!). My calorie counting has more to do with my own neuroses than my diet (in busier times, I used to schedule my days to the minute...yes, I know I sound like loads of fun, but really I can usually hide this stuff pretty well). And 2) not all healthful foods are created equal for all people (ie, those who have special dietary needs like diabetics, celiacs, etc.). Fortunately, aside from slightly elevated cholesterol levels (which, I believe are genetic), I do not have any serious dietary restrictions (that I am aware of), so the way I eat does not take these into account.

Last, but by no means least, my trusty sidekicks, spray olive oil and fresh ground pepper. I use them on veggies, in baking, in nearly everything I make, in one form or another, not necessarily always together. Thanks you two - ye've been grand!