Category Archives: foodie

Favorite Ingredients: Chickpea & Arugula Salad

I’ve been wanting to find a way to incorporate some of my go-to recipes for awhile now. Somewhere along the way, I realized that it’s not so much the recipes, but the ingredients I re-visit time and time again.

Initially, my goal was to feature a specific ingredient each month, with a new recipe using that ingredient posted each week. But given the fact that I can barely muster one post a week, that may be ambitious. For now, we’ll start with one ingredient and one recipe!

Chickpeas.

I love me some chickpeas. They’re a bit of a super food, being high in fiber and protein and being a “healthy” carb. And as a frequent eater of “unhealthy” carbs, chickpeas are my savior.

One of my new favorite recipes is adapted from the one and only Mark Bittman and his cookbook, How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Warm Chickpea Salad w/ Arugula

A couple bunches of Arugula
3 T. Olive Oil
1 T. Fresh Ginger (I use a refrigerated tube of it that I bought at my grocery store. Lasts long since I rarely use it.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. Honey
1 T. Red Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper

While these are the recommended measurements, I typically eyeball everything and haven’t had it turn out wrong yet!

First, rinse your arugula and throw it in a bowl. Then, add your olive oil, garlic and ginger to a skillet on medium heat. Let the garlic soften and add the chickpeas. Add a little salt and pepper and let the chickpeas get hot, stirring occasionally. After about 3 minutes, remove the pan from heat and add the honey and red wine vinegar. Stir and begin to mash the chickpeas against the side of the pan. They should be soft, and you don’t need to mash them all, it’s more about roughening the mixture up a bit. Add the chickpeas to the arugula and toss. You could also add other salad toppings (onions, hard boiled eggs, etc.), but I never have.

This salad may require a stove and a pan, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard. The arugula gives it a bitter taste, but it’s softened with the sweetness of the chickpea mixture. By warming the chickpeas, the salad is comforting, making it great for every season. Last but definitely not least, because you’re essentially marinating the chickpeas in the dressing, the salad has just the right amount of dressing. I *hate* overly dressed salads, and this is simply perfect.

Served alongside an equally easy pork loin that I’ll have to share, too.

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Filed under foodie, Recipes!

Super Girl v. Sugar

Every three months, I see my nephrologist (read: kidney doctor). It’s just a usual check-up, and after seven years of living with a kidney transplant, my health care is pretty low-maintenance.

The one thing that does continue to be an issue – more for me than the doctors – is my blood sugar. For the last few years, it’s been hovering just under the level that would qualify me as diabetic. So, in theory, I don’t need to worry just yet. My doctor explained that developing diabetes is normal in some kidney transplant patients. If it ever does become a reality for me, it will probably be as simple as taking a pill every day.

But still. Diabetes kind of freaks me the f*ck out, for two reasons:

  1. I feel as though God has given me my limit of health issues and there’s no need for him to offer any more.
  2. The idea of cutting sugar from my diet makes me incredibly depressed, to the point that I feel I need a piece of tiramisu to feel better.

I don’t do well with self-control, especially when it comes to food. Dieting has never been a part of my repertoire, and I’m lucky that I inherited genes that have never made weight an issue.

Yet, clearly I shouldn’t be drowning my feelings in dessert.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been making a semi-conscious effort to cut out sweets by refusing to keep them in my house. I do make special exceptions for holiday leftovers and the occasional pint of Ben & Jerry’s. But overall, I’m pretty good about avoiding the sugar aisles at the grocery store.

But just because I don’t keep dessert items at my house doesn’t mean I’m not overindulging nearly daily. I’ll never turn down a baked good and I happen to work in a place that places high value on muffins, pastries, and other tasty treats. Many weekdays I’ve got a sugar high going before 10 a.m. and then another one at 3 p.m. when I dip into the office candy drawer.

My other downfall is carbs. I rarely eat meat, so pasta has become my mainstay. I’ve tried to take the carbs down a notch by occasionally using spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti. I’m also conscious when meal planning to limit my pasta dishes to one or two over a 2 week time frame, which, with leftovers, means I’m still eating it a few days a week. However, that doesn’t take into account the “off nights” – which occur at least once a week – where I don’t feel like cooking the planned meal and instead make an easy and comforting helping of mac & cheese.

After today’s check-up, I thought the prescription was to keep trying to lower my sugar intake. But my doctor said that may not help. When I keep track of my food, I’m usually within the daily allotment of carbs and because of my small size, there’s not much room for me to cut nutrients out of my diet. Diabetes may be less about my diet and more about my kidney transplant and family history.

So, I’ve decided that I’m not going to beat myself up over my love of pasta and dessert. But, my inner control freak is still going to make a conscious effort to diversify my diet and just say no to the office baked goods. One of these days the control freak has to beat the genes, right?

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Filed under foodie, rambling nature, transplant

A lasagna that might change your life

A few posts back, I mentioned a spectacular lasagna recipe. It’s my go-to meal when I have folks over for dinner because I’ve finally perfected it and can guarantee that it will turn out fab. Now that I’ve gotten it just right, I want to share it with you!

A sidenote — my camera died just as I went to take photos, and the iPhone photos did not turn out as expected. I promise to do better next time.

White Lasagna with Spinach, Artichokes, and Mushrooms
Adapted from a yoga magazine I picked up in 2006.

TO 

The ingredients
Lasagna Noodles
4 Cloves Garlic
1 T. Butter
2 to 3 C. Ricotta
16 oz. Mushrooms (white or cremini)
1 can (14 oz.) Artichoke Hearts
10 oz. Frozen Spinach (you can use fresh if you roll like that)
3/4 C. dry white wine
1 Bag Shredded Mozarella
Parmesan

The utensils
Pasta pot
baking dish — 9×13 works, but I use one that’s a little smaller because I’m just one person!
Non-stick skillet or pan
Chopping knife, regular knife, spatula, stirring device
Garlic mincer (optional, but AMAZING)

The How-To

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Cook lasagna according to package directions
  3. While that’s going, mince your garlic and chop your artichokes and ‘shrooms. A rough chop is fine, and don’t forget to drain the artichokes. No need for all that extra liquid.
  4. Throw a tab of butter and the minced garlic into a nonstick pan on medium heat. Let the butter melt and the garlic cook — but don’t let it burn!
  5. Throw in the artichokes and ‘shrooms. Let the concoction cook down a bit (maybe 3 minutes), allowing the mushrooms to darken/soften.
  6. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Cook 1-2 minutes more so the liquid reduces slightly.
  7. Add the frozen spinach. If you’ve thawed the spinach, or you’re using fresh spinach, you can also wait and layer it in when you’re building the lasagna. I don’t do this for two reasons: I’m too lazy to actually thaw the spinach, so cooking it with everything else allows it to thaw a bit, and I make sure I don’t forget it, which I’ve been known to do when I add it on its own.
  8. Buy this point, it’s time to drain the pasta. Here is where the wheels usually fall off the wagon. If you’re not careful, the noodles will rip apart. So, I’d suggest draining them and then running cold water over them so you can pick them up by hand instead of using tongs.
  9. Now, fill your baking dish with a bottom layer of noodles and spread ricotta on top. I still haven’t found a good way to spread ricotta, so I just kind of glop it on the noodles. Then, add half of your spinach, mushroom, artichoke mixture. Don’t worry if a little of the cooking liquid makes it into the dish, it’ll just maximize the taste! Finally, top the layer with some Mozzarella and Parmesan.
  10. Layer another set of lasagna noodles and the rest of your Ricotta, veggie, Mozzarella mixture.
  11. Add the final layer of lasagna noodles and top with the remaining mozarella.
  12. Cover with foil and put in oven for 20ish minutes. Since you’ve already cooked the lasagna noodles, you’re really just melting the cheese and melding all the good parts into one fabulous dish.

While it’s getting all bubbly and ooey-gooey, go ahead and clean up the kitchen, throw together a quick spinach salad, and open a great Cabernet. You’ve got the time.

When the cheese is nice and bubbly, remove from oven and serve immediately, but not before adding a bit more Parmesan. After all, you’ve got so much cheesy goodness going on already, why not add a bit more?!

When I make a pan, I can typically eat it for several days (again, I’m just one person and it makes a lot). I’m also a notorious bring-my-lunch employee, so a pan of this ensures I’ll have lunch for at least part of the week.

Enjoy!

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Filed under foodie, Recipes!

How I spent my summer vacation: The birthday

As a final nail in the recap posts, I figured I’d touch on my birthday, way back in June.

It passed earlier this summer without much fanfare. On the Monday before, I found myself at a Marine’s funeral. Then came the work meetings and the book club and the catch up and the general things that life brings.

When the weekend arrived, it didn’t seem to warrant much celebration. Frankly, after two weekends of dealing with death and family, we probably would have preferred to collapse in bed and sleep for a weekend. But, DD and I had long before booked a little jaunt to Windsor, Ontario, for dinner.

I can practically see Canada from my apartment, but I hadn’t been since I was 19 and it was the only place I could legally drink. So, I was excited to go for dinner and we found a great little place in Little Italy. DD got me a new and much improved yoga mat and other gear. Low-key, but just what we  both needed to get back into the swing of life.

What IS noteworthy is that it was the last birthday of my 20s. The next time June 13 comes around, I’ll be celebrating the big 3-0. While I’m not one to be all whoa is me about the impending end of my 20s, I am one to give it pause.

After a brief conversation with DD last spring, I’m relatively confident I’ll be engaged by the time I’m 30. So there’s that.

More recently, I’ve been thinking that the next decade may mean lots of changes. Changes in career. Changes in my status as a non-mother. Maybe even health changes. I can’t help but think that all of these things are inevitable. Isn’t that the way life works?

My 20s were pretty stable. The love life was rocky, but I found my compliment. The career was a rock. Through thick and thin, I’ve been there since I graduated college. Aside from a kidney transplant, the health was pretty stable as well.

It was good. But I’m probably due for something different. Will my career demand a new direction? Will my health take a turn? These transplanted kidneys don’t last forever, you know.

I think I’m ready for a new decade and all the changes that come with it. There may be a few I’m a bit terrified of — hello, motherhood! hello, second transplant! — but overall, I’m excited. (Except for that second transplant. That can hold off forever if I have my way.)

30 has a good ring to it. Now, let’s just see if I’m wearing a ring when it comes along!

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Filed under DD (aka My Man), decisions, foodie, glass half full, loft style living, rambling nature, relationships, transplant, Y is for Yoga

Friday Foto, Week 5

This week has kicked my ass. I suppose that’s typical for any post-vacation first week. But, honestly, it’s been this way since 2010 started. I don’t know what it is, but while the year is flying by, each week feels like an entire year on its own.

Obviously, I’m thrilled that it’s Friday. I’ve got some fun stuff planned this weekend, including volunteering and DD’s nephews’ birthday party.

Before we get to that, though, it’s time for another Foto Friday!

In case you haven’t noticed, I like food. Luckily, Detroit kind of rocks on the food front. We’ve got neighborhoods that specialize in Polish, Greek, Middle Eastern, and Mexican. Not to mention the one-off restaurants that do their thing and do it well.

Mexicantown is in Southwest Detroit — you’ll recall my recent Foto Friday about their local supermercado. In addition to buying quality Mexican food, Mexicantown also has a host of fabulous restaurants where I can have the food served to me.

There are a couple “tourist” favorites, and then there’s the local hangouts. Evie’s Tamales is one such local joint and when I want Mexican, it’s where I head.

If restaurants can be considered “dives”, Evie’s would fit the description perfectly. Sure, it’s clean and friendly, but it’s tiny, cramped, and, well, perfectly homey. Walking in, you may find the Cinco de Mayo decor up from last Cinco de Mayo. It’s a seat yourself kind of place, and the tables mostly seat 4 or 8. During busy times, I’ve nearly had to join strangers to eat my lunch.

Hey, it’s a way to meet new people!

The menu is simple and has all your faves. Chicken mole, enchiladas, tacos, and of course tamales. While I’m not a tamale fan, I hear they make the best in town. My typical meal is the cheese enchilada lunch special for $5. Basic, yes. But cheesy, saucy, Mexican goodness? At Evie’s, I’m never disappointed. Between the enchiladas and the saucy salsa (I prefer saucy to chunky), I find it hard to leave.

To top it off, there’s a free cookie for the road. The cookies won’t win any high class baking awards, but I still can’t pass one up.

The only downside is that, to my knowledge, they don’t have a liquor license. They also close early-ish, so it really is more of a lunch spot than a dinner spot. But it’s a spot nonetheless.

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Filed under Detroit, foodie, Friday Foto, glass half full

Michigan Love: Slow’s BBQ

I can’t remember how long I’ve been reading Sillygrrl, or how I found her. But I love her short and sweet posts, and awesome photos. I’m also completely jealous of her crafty skills and will at some point get her to make me one of her awesome rings. Until then, let’s see what she has to say about one of the best restaurants in town, Slow’s. It’s won national accolades from Food Network, Bon Appetit, and a host of other publications.

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I’ve been vegetarian for eight years and if there’s one thing I miss, it’s barbecue. Sweet, salty, messy, delicious barbecue, but you can’t just slather sauce on a block of tofu, it doesn’t even come close.

So you can imagine my delight when I was introduced to Slows for the first time. It was in the fall, two years ago, I was hanging out downtown with my then-boyfriend when two of his friends picked us up (If you’re a reader of my blog, one of them was Jessica of Double Trouble fame) and took us to Corktown.


The restaurant is nestled in a block of rundown bars and vacant store fronts. It’s quite easy to walk right by the big wooden door as it doesn’t look like a door at all. Inside the restaurant is modern with exposed brick and wood paneling matching the front door.

Judging by the 2+ hour wait your find on weekends I’m sure the real meat bbq is great, but I’m all about the non-meaty deliciousness that is The Genius. Perfectly meat-like, fake chicken slathered in sauce, topped with coleslaw and pickles on Texas toast. And waffle fries! They have the best waffle fries! Excuse me while I drool on my keyboard.

Each table is loaded with 6 different bbq sauces, which I try every time I dine at Slows because I can never remember which is my favorite.

At every other restaurant I’m notorious for only eating half my meal to save room for dessert, but I have never managed to do this at Slows. Based on the amazingness of their fake bbq, waffle fries and mac ‘n cheese, I’m sure their desserts are equally as good, but I just cannot stop myself from eating my entire meal.

One other thing that adds to the fabulousness of Slows is the view. Now we’re not talking about oceans and mountains and beautiful city lights, no I’m talking giant, scary train station. It often reminds me of the pre-slime covered museum in Ghostbusters 2. It is enormous and run down and beautiful.

So if you learn nothing else about Detroit while Super Girl is away, remember this, while it may look like the city is wasting away, the spirit of the people is incredibly strong and there are absolute gems hidden within the rubble.

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Filed under Detroit, foodie, glass half full, love affair, Uncategorized

The evolution of cooking

Last week, I found myself cooking tofu for the first time. Sure, I’ve eaten it before, but it was my first foray into making it myself. As I was frying it up, I began to think about how cooking in my family has evolved over the generations.

It’s actually been longer than a week that I’ve been thinking about this. About a month ago, I visited my mother’s mother, and was fed her best fare: sloppy joes with canned green beans, pot roast with mashed potatoes, and hamburger and onion pizza from the local pizzeria.

Oh, and don’t forget the canned mandarins as the fruit serving. Ugh.

This is the typical menu when visiting grandma. My grandfather is an old school, meat and potatoes guy and my grandmother is an old school, eat on a budget, cook. I would never tell my grandmother that I can’t stand sloppy joes and that canned fruit and vegetables give me the heebie-jeebies. I am grateful that she invites me into her home and feeds me, horrific 1940s food and all. But, it’s also a good thing I’ve never officially become a vegetarian. I’d starve to death each visit.

Then there’s my mother. Her cooking is a vast departure from canned beans and pot roast. I grew up on frozen or fresh vegetables. Lots of fish. A healthy dose of meat, but an equally healthy does of vegetarian options. I love my mother’s cooking. I love her kitchen. She has every gadget imaginable, and all sorts of fabulous recipes stored away from years of cook books and cooking magazines. Her kitchen is the place we gather on a regular weeknight, chatting about our lives, or stand around in at holidays, munching on bruschetta and sipping the latest cocktail concoction she’s found in Martha Stewart Living.

She never really taught me how to cook, a Type A who always preferred to handle things herself, but I still learned all I know about food and cooking from her.

That doesn’t mean I’m a culinary whiz. When I first started out, macaroni and cheese was my only culinary feat. I was a master at boiling pasta and throwing some cheddar cheese on top. But that was about it. In fact, my lack of cooking ability was just one in a litany of reasons that my old boyfriend called it quits when I thought we’d be headed down the aisle someday.

If only he could see me now. Frying tofu. Testing out homemade cream sauces. Cooking with chorizo instead of hamburger meat. Trying things my mother never did and her mother never thought of. Finding joy in making dinner for DD and having him enjoy it.

I don’t plan on being Susie Homemaker like my mom. But I do plan on making a home — and a kitchen — in my own, modern way.

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Filed under family values, foodie, glass half full, Hmm, rambling nature, Uncategorized