You can have your decadence and chia seeds too!

My first foray into the world of chia seed pudding was a touch to ambitious, like attempting a swan dive when all I had done was a splash inducing cannon ball. Despite my seemingly crunchy food habits, I had not yet acclimated my taste buds to the slightly nutty essence of chia seeds, nor their inherent sliminess; the raspberry chocolate pudding was a throw away disaster. For months the package of chia seeds sat untouched, until I got the courage to try them again by adding them to green smoothies.  Soon I was finding excuses to add a pinch here and there, when last week I decided it was time to try out the pudding again. You know, get back on the horse. It needed to be the healthy, but still naughty tasting, a pudding that felt like a decadent dessert, but could also be eaten in the morning, for it’s never too early for sweets.

First I needed a good base: something thick and substantial. I set about making chia gel which consists of 1/3 a cup of chia seeds and 2 cups of water. Chia seeds like liquid. Once submerged the seeds bulk up and slowly start excreting a gel. If you are on the fly you can make chia gel in 15 minutes, but it’s best to let it sit for at least two hours. The cool thing about chia gel is that you can keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three weeks—no rush to use it! It also starts to lose the nutty flavor (which is great for me) and starts to smell slightly sweet.

After I had my gelatinous base, I started to think of all the great things that go into a pudding. There is the richness, but also the creaminess. A duh: bananas and peanut butter. My secretly healthy, but delicious tasting pudding baby was conceived.

PB & Banana Chia Pudding (2 hearty batches)

½ cup of Chia Gel

2 Tbs of Peanut Butter

1 Sliced Banana

1 Small Capful of Vanilla Extract

A Couple Dashes of Cinnamon

Place all the ingredients into a food processor. Checking every so often on the banana slices, blend until you’ve reached a smooth consistency. Let it sit in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour to allow the flavors to incorporate and settle.

Filled with healthy fats (peanut butter), fiber and potassium (banana), and omegas (chia seeds), this treat is also the gift that keeps on giving. Much like flax seeds, chia seeds encourage (no, practically enforce) you to drink water, which in turn keeps you even more dehydrated and less bloated. I finished up the pudding before I went to work and easily drank a 32 ounce bottle of water. Honestly, how could it get any better?

Peel Away ❤ Jocellyn

When Funds Be Low, Rice and Beans I Go!

I’ve noticed that on my days off I commit myself to cleaning the dishes, scrubbing the tub, and going on a cooking frenzy. Today my cooking was a little bit of this, and little bit of that, and a whole lot of prayer.

A few weeks ago my car decided to throw yet another hissy fit and subsequently went through multiple repairs. The whole ordeal cost my dad nearly two thousand dollars, and my bank account is, well, pretty dismal.  I started my new job yesterday (can I just say how luxurious all the fabrics are!) but I won’t be getting paid for a few weeks. Essentially, I should only ask for money from my parents when I’ve literally eaten my last tomato and bag of frozen vegetables. Eee gad! After fishing through the cupboard I keep all the dry and canned goods, I decided rice and beans was exactly what the your-a-super-broke-college-student doctor would prescribe.

I’m a big planner when it comes to cooking. Every week before I go out I meticulously plot out a shopping list that will carry me through the week. I’ve been known to think of my toes, but that generally only applies to dessert-esque munchies. Dinner ad-libbing leaves me feeling a little frazzled. Thankfully, rice and beans allows for a certain amount personal flair, pizzazz, and culinary showboating. I threw in some corn, a jalapeño, onions, and canned tomatoes, mixed in what I would consider the most en point pot of rice I’ve ever made, and stirred away. Sweet bliss. I now have a humble, though delicious, pot of food that is not only healthy and colorful, but it was insanely cheap and will last me a few days. I’m sure I’ll grow tired of eating it, but at least I have something to eat, which is a lot more than most.

Loving how photogrid makes it easy to document my steps and then share over instagram 🙂

After giving myself a pat on the back, I decided I should at least indulge in my sweet tooth, because she is such a needy little you-know-what. Erring on the side of health, I cracked upon the forgotten can of coconut milk that had been hiding behind the tomatoes. Again, sweet bliss. Into the food processor went the coconut milk, a good amount of frozen raspberries, a dash of cinnamon, and a tiny capful of vanilla extract. Whirr, went the blades; plop, plop, plop, went the pink gobs on their way into the ice cube trays. The kabob sticks, unfortunately, were much stronger than expected, and wouldn’t yield under any of the knives. Instead of pops I ended up with little cubes that I have to hold in my fingers and lick away at; what a horrid life, right? Nevertheless, they are quite delicious, and I’ve always been a fan of finger foods.

Sometimes I wish I could just live in a giant kitchen, because I love that room oh so very much. Living rooms and bedrooms are terribly overrated!

 

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

Fish Tacos

As of late, I’ve been having a love affair with avocados. Curvaceous, soft, subtle—I love this green being. There is something satisfying about scoring the inside and gently manipulating the peel to easily pop out perfect dice size pieces. And taking the bumpy peel off is quite exciting as well. Whew, stop me now!

I’ve been trying to find ingenious ways to sneak this green goddess into my meals. Its soft mouth feel, fitting for a teething baby, offsets harder foods, and the cooling affect is a welcome reprieve against hot, spicy sauces; I’m kind of a baby when it comes to anything about a “medium” level.

Naturally, tacos seemed to be the way to go. Last week I made some delectable pork tacos, but this week I was craving some fish. Please, tell me what could have been a better way to merge my love of seafood and the overabundance of corn tortillas I had lurking above the microwave.

I love tacos because you can use your creativity by going after the long, laborious recipes featuring different sauces and slaws and spices. Or you can be lazy: sprinkle some taco seasoning on your meat, and while that cooks on the stove top (or in the oven, which is even less labor involved) slice up a few vegetables and warm up your tortillas. Crack open a cold drink and enjoy the texture party thumping away in your mouth.

Easy-Peasy, Lime-Squeezey Fish Tacos

Haddock

Taco Seasoning (pre-packaged for ultimate laziness)

1 Lime

1 Avocado

1 Roma Tomato

1 Can of refried beans (will only be using a small amount)

4 Tortilla (2 per meal)

 

1 Preheat oven to 325 F. While the oven heats up, put fish (haddock, tilapia, or whatever floats your net) in a tinfoil lined oven safe dish. Coat with cooking spray or olive oil. Sprinkle fish with taco seasoning and place one slice of lime over each filet. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

2 While the fish cooks, prepare your innards. In this case, slice up ½ an avocado and ½ a Roma tomato. Put Aside. Wrap up the other half of the avocado and tomato for later on. To best preserve the avocado, save the side with the pit for later use. Rub a little bit of lemon juice on the exposed flesh. This will cut down on oxidation, which is what turns the avocado that icky brown. Use within 24 hours.

 

3 Open can of refried beans and microwave according to instructions on the label.

4 Heat up skillet to a notch over medium. Melt small amount of oil or butter (regular or Earth Balance) in the bottom and place the tortilla on top. When the tortilla starts bubbling, flip over with fork. If not crispy enough, flip back over and give it a few more moments. When both sides have been warmed, place on plate. Repeat with a second tortilla.

5 Gently scoop some of the refried beans onto the tortilla and spread, with the backside of a spoon, as evenly as possible. Take care if using corn tortillas, as these are thinner than flour tortillas.

6 When the fish is done cooking, remove from oven and let cool for 3 minutes. While cooling, start to assemble the tortillas. Place all items onto one side to make folding easier. Add on your tomatoes and avocados. When fish is cool, add to the pile.

7 Gently fold the slices and insert into mouth. Chew. Swallow. Smile

Fiscal Flash: for this meal I bought ½ a pound of haddock and spread it out over 4 tacos (2 per meal.)  Haddock is a flakier fish, but I left the skin on, which kept everything together. The ½ pound of haddock only cost me $3.37. The avocado was $1 and one Roma tomorrow is probably equal to 30 cents.  I believe one lime is 40 cents as well. The tortillas I already had, along with the refried beans (a can of the Full Circle Organic line is $1.39/ can, and I only used a minuscule amount.) Rounding the total cost up to $5.07, I ended up paying $1.275 per serving. That’s taco bell prices, but the quality is obviously better.

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

Morning Cookin’

I’m a morning person, meaning the daylight doesn’t send me flying back under my sheets as if I were Nosferatu (except when I’m royally hung over, in which case a total eclipse would be most appreciated.) However, I like to really blend into my mornings. I hate being rushed. It’s not that I’m the high maintenance type of girl that needs hours to apply layers of makeup—mascara, maybe, and I’m out the door—or finagle her hair into a fun do—clearly, I don’t have a lot to work with—but I like to spend my mornings mentally preparing myself for the day, which means ample time for oil pulling, a shower that isn’t hurried, time to make 3 outfit changes incase I’m feeling a little chaotic, and moments to listen to a few dubstep beats that are owning my wobbly soul at the time.

An original player in the Dubstep genre 🙂

Can I have her legs, please?

 

Sometimes inspiration poor planning means I have to get extra beauty sleep in order to wake up and concoct some meal. Plus, I totally dig the morning sunlight for photos. Here is a lunch/dinner I found that will hold me over for 4 meals! It all starts with salmon. During my pesco days I adored this pink fish. I just couldn’t get enough of it. And then I was kind of over it after trying haddock that wasn’t breaded, battered, and fried into oblivion. Salmon took a back seat. I find salmon to be a finicky fish to cook, despite protests that it’s so easy to work with. Mind you it isn’t difficult, per say, but if you walk away for a hot second to long you’ll come back to a pink slab of tough-mess. Edible, but not savory. I’ve charred more than my fair share of salmon, and I admit it’s still a fish I’m working on. Questionable-ness aside, this is hands down the most delicious salmon meal I’ve ever had.  The glaze was perfect: not too sticky and not too sweet. Unlike the partners on Dancing With the Stars, the glaze and salmon meld together, taking care to work in harmony and not outshine the other one.

Fiscal Flash:  don’t be financially intimidated by this meal. I’ll be honest and say I don’t have the money to buy wild Alaskan salmon which is well managed, full of all the good stuff, and yada, yada, yada. If you are eating salmon on a regular basis then farmed might not be the way to go, but for the occasional meal a little bit of farmed salmon is not going to kill you, just like the occasional Big Mac won’t send a healthy person into cardiac arrest. It may seem tempting and easy to buy frozen filets, which I’ve done before, but don’t be afraid  to venture on over to the fish counter. Look for salmon per pound. Those perfect portion filets might seem the good way to go, but I was able to get 1.20 Lb of salmon for $7.50, whereas each 6oz salmon filet would have cost me $4; you do the math per pound and per serving.  Finally, to skin or not to skin? I’m personally a huge fan of the skin. It tastes great and is absolutely gorgeous to look at, like marbling on a perfectly aged steak (which I haven’t actually seen in real life, but it looks amazing on T.V.)  If you are frying or grilling salmon keep the skin on to make flipping it easy. If you are oven baking it you can go skinless. As with all cook, it’s really up to you, but you’ll likely only find skinless on the pre-portioned selection.

To accompany the fish I used rice noodles, which are very rapidly becoming a key player in my shopping cart. For gluten-free ladies and gents these are a god send. Even better, you don’t have to stand over a hot pot making sure they don’t stick together.  Just place them in a bowl, pour boiling water on top, and let them sit for 5-8 minutes (or whatever the package says.) Drain and give them a quick rinse with cold water. They are a little bland on their own, but great covered in whatever sauce and glaze you are making.

Okay, enough of the nitty gritty. Savor these pictures and check out the recipe.

Gorgeous!

 

Noodles soaking up the sauce. I let them rest for about 20 minutes and drained the excess.

Lunch!

What happens after “the talent” is done getting pics taken.

A mix-and-match breakfast! I used the “runt” piece as a taste tester. Boy, I was soooo amped for lunch

 

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

 

 

Leisurely Lunches

Lunch has always been a meal I’ve grappled with, and since going GF and DF (gluten free and dairy free) it has only become more difficult. Sandwiches are pretty much out of the question, and even the quick slice of pizza most people can grab on rushed days would send my tummy, hands, and head into a frenzy. Lately I’ve been learning the fine art of leftovers, which are great for days when I have an internship. But on my days off when I have the whole afternoon to myself to languidly slip through the day, I like to get a little creative—I grab my camera for naughty food porn, I listen to some Netflix, and I pad around the kitchen imagining I’m cooking for my dashing, attractive husband in our fabulous beach house; wishful thinking on most accounts, but if I crane my neck, I can kinddddddd of see Lake Champlain….

Until then, I have this to work with.

I’ve been gently re-introducing food, which my taste buds and energy levels are most grateful for, and I’ve found myself craving healthy fats and protein. Some crispy corn tortillas covered in avocado mixture filled with simple spices and runny egg to top it all off and served with a side of two honey and rosemary covered drumsticks seemed like a fresh and healthy idea. Not to mention it was insanely cheap. I bought a package of 5 drum sticks for $3.46 and ate 2 of them. Corn tortillas are less than $3 for a huge bag. One avocado is $1. The spices you probably have in the cupboard (or you can just omit them). Healthy, satisfying, and unique meals don’t need to be super pricey.

If I could change anything I would use a little less salt and up the rosemary

When it comes to chicken breasts I go skinless, but in the case of drumsticks I like leaving the bumpy layer and fatty bits on. Treat yourself 😉

Drizzle some honey on a plate to roll the chicken in before rubbing on the spices

Tinfoil is always, always, always your friend.

The avocado has a rich & cream  mouthfeel, but light flavor. The chicken packs a flavorful bunch. Opposites always attract.

 

Yes I’m a girl. Yes I Instagram photos of my food. Yes I’m proud of it ❤

 

 

Here are the recipes, which I tweaked slightly by adding honey to the drumsticks and tortillas instead of pitas. You might have noticed I used 2 tortillas (with a thin layer of avocado in between to act as glue.) Unlike flour tortillas which are sturdy, corn tortillas are delicate little butterflies. They are also much smaller than their wheaty cousin.

Avocado and Tortillas

Drumsticks

 

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

If only living was as smooth as my smoothies!

It has been a longgggg past few days. About a week ago my world was rocked when shocking rumors were brought to my attention. I was so angry, embarrassed, and humiliated. I hadn’t felt this way since high school, or, well, maybe since the ex-neighbor car incident (hint, hint: it involved the same people. Shock and awe.) I was a complete mess and kind of zombie like, which, if you know me, is pretty uncharacteristic. Thankfully, my good girl friends were there to lift me up; it is so nice to have others lift you up from time to time, as it saves you the hassle and sweat 😉

We celebrated ladies night with gusto, stumbled the night away, and I got to wish a friend a happy birthday.  It was just what the doctor ordered.

But I was still a little upset about the events and starting to feel sick.  If I can catch a cold while it’s still in breathing-on-the-back-of-my-neck mode, I will usually only have a day of feeling horrible and not a week! So I’ve been taking the last few days easy (not that my summer has been exactly a non-stop work fest…ahem), eating what I please, watching Netflix, and sleeping when necessary. Frankly, a cat would be jealous. But in the midst of my laziness and mild emotional eating debauchery (a post to come on that soon), I found the time to make several green smoothies when I was hankering for something sweet to drink while I watched Pretty Little Liars **spoiler alert: I knew it was Mona! …Yes, I’m a bit behind**

You may already know this, but I love green smoothies. In case you’re popping in for the first time, lemme catch you up to speed. When I first started eating healthy, green smoothies were a very clean drink I added to my diet. So, I guess you could say they are kind of like my first born child that can do no wrong. You can whip one up in three minutes, they aren’t nearly as cumbersome to clean up after compared to fresh juices, you get to use the fiber, and you aren’t stuck with a smelly trash can full of left over pulp.

This is what my typical green smoothie looks like. I’ll rotate the fruit around (frozen blueberries are finally cheap enough to buy again and the kiwi was an unexpected add in, but I gotta get to them before the fruit flies do!), and sometimes I’ll use some ground flax seed in place of chia—though I’m totally digging chia at the moment—but this is the basic set up.

I’ve been doing this by feel for the past year and a half, meaning I don’t use exact measurements except with the chia and flax (1 tablespoon). I know what fruit flavors don’t come through as strongly, which, depending on the mood, may mean I’m less liberal with the spinach. I know if I’m using chia seeds to add them in last; if you put them in first they will get stuck at the bottom of the blender and it’ll be a pain in the cheekies to clean. I know pineapple leaves a horrible stringy mess which irritates my texture phobic mouth and gets stuck all up in my teeth. But I have faith you’ll figure out the perfect ratio for yourself!

I really enjoy the energy these drinks give me, and how clean they are, but every now and then I like to treat myself to a “naughtier” smoothie. I was marinating some Moo Ping earlier (yup, the Thai food kick is still going strong), and I had a lot of leftover coconut milk. And thus the coconut milk smoothie happened. This one has a lot more calories since I wasn’t using water at the base, but coconut milk has some great benefits (unfortunately #10 isn’t terribly useful for me!). Consider it a very special treat or make it as a breakfast or lunch for a day you know you are going to be busy and might not be able to snack as often or get in a full meal. I haven’t had a coconut milk smoothie in about 7 months, so I think I can take the calorie and fat hit.

Coconut Milk & Blueberry Smoothie

1 Cup of Coconut Milk (see what I mean! Don’t make this on a daily basis)

1 Banana

1-2 handfuls of fresh or frozen blueberries

1 TBS Chia Seeds

 

Pour in coconut milk and sliced up bananas. Blend for a few sections. Then add in blueberries and chia seeds. Blend until mixed together, when there is no more white showing.
Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

Gluten Free Dumplings: Patience, Patience, Patience.

My relationship with dumplings is similar to the situation where you meet someone and really aren’t into them in the beginning, but out of nowhere you start falling for them at space shuttle re-entering the atmosphere speed—so, like, every middle school relationship, right? I had my first dumpling in high school. It was filled with veggies and I wasn’t digging it. Fast forward to freshman year during my short lived semester at High Point University, and I was regularly eating them with Steph and Maria, the two lovely ladies who kept me sane during those horrid months. We’d get together every week to do homework, listen to music, and eat boxes of dumplings. In fact, we had such a good rapport with the local place that one day when they told us the wrong amount, meaning we were short about $15, they let it slide because we were such great customers.

Once I left HPU my dumpling habit diminished and was quickly replaced by even more vodka and Wings over Burlington, which is sort of the rage for all dorm dwellers at Champlain. By the time I learned about the famous dumpling stand on Church Street (Hongs) I wasn’t eating meat, and thus could not partake. When I finally broke my pescetarian ways, I shuffled down to Church Street to gorge myself on a few of the doughy, fatty, bundles of joy. I remember driving with a Styrofoam plate on my lap precariously filled with six dumplings and sauce, stuffing bite after bite into my mouth because I just COULDN’T wait to get home and eat like a proper lady. (Though after admitting yesterday that I licked the sauce off my plate, I guess I’m not really that prim and proper anyway!) Sadly, my plump loves were ripped away from me very soon, as my gluten issue was coming to a catastrophic climax. It would be months before I ate one again. Thank goodness I found a nice gluten free substitute.

I must say that if you are gluten free and haven’t yet worked with gluten free dough, be prepared for frustration, ad-libbing, and acceptance the first few times around. GF dough likes to stick. It likes to rip. It likes to wrap itself around the rolling pin (yes the one that you have already doused in layers of the expensive GF flour mix you normally use at rates so conservative Rick Santorum looks like a bleedin’ heart.) Unless you have some wonderful beginners luck and the magic rolling touch, accept that everything might look a little, erm, not so cue.

Case in point: My dinner tonight.

Dumplings with the look only a mother could love. But you know what, despite their overflowing sides and vastly differing shapes that were sometimes pieced together with excess scraps  and looked nothing like dumplings, they were still very delicious. This recipe was messy, time consuming, and I obsessively checked the water every some often to make sure I wasn’t burning a red hot hole through my neighbor’s pan. I wouldn’t say this will happen on a regular basis (maybe a twice a year treat), but it was oh so worth it.

Gluten Free Pork or Chicken Dumplings

 

Mischievous Dough Ball

 

Pork Filling

 

Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids. A gluten free alternative to soy sauce (your taste buds cannot tell the difference!)

 

You flour up with the best of intentions…

 

…And then this happens three times!

 

And you still have to do a little bit of wiggling and praying

 

Something tells me this is too much meat and that I should have cut the dough into squares and not strips…

 

A valiant attempt.

 

They didn’t get better looking as I went along, but they steamed fine and tasted mmm-mmm-good.

 

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

 

Cooking for the ones you love: Why Italian mamma’s are always so happy

Sometime last week I was making dinner and wondering why it just felt different. Was I still easing my way into the new kitchen? Was I too lazy? Were the issues I was dealing with hampering my appetite?  These were all legitimate and probable ideas, but then it dawned on me halfway through. Chris was out, coming home sometime, and I wasn’t exactly making dinner for us. I was making dinner for me, myself, and I. And he would stumble in sweaty from basketball, ask what pans I was using, and then make dinner for himself.

Perhaps loving him made eating healthier, especially in the early stages, more enjoyable. I wasn’t nourishing my own body but someone else. I had another set of taste buds to please (or to wallow with me when I made a stinker of a meal.) Perhaps that is why I still regularly save a small spoon or fork full for him whenever I try out a new Thai-inspired sauce, which I’ve been doing quite often as of late. Part of me thinks I’m still showing off, but maybe I’m just trying to keep that small sliver of mutual satisfaction alive.

So this epiphany, though bittersweet, has inspired me to add another dimension to living a healthy lifestyle. It goes beyond healthy eating, exercise, mental clarity, and self esteem. You got to do it from the heart. And I mean do it from the heart for someone else. Love yourself. Love yourself a lot. But don’t forget to love others too when it comes to working out (invite a friend on a run or to yoga class!) or trying a new all natural skin care recipe with a gal pal (there is always so much left over anyway) or, in the case of this blog post, cooking a meal for someone (only the Pope should have to eat alone.) This other person doesn’t need to be a lover. It can be an old friend, a new friend, a sick or down classmate/co-worker, or your parents. Even if it is once a week—or even once a month—try making a commitment to that person (or large group of people) to get together and cook for each other. I know I had tons of fun making cookies and sangria when the girls came over awhile back. The meals don’t need to be extravagant. Bring your seven layer dip, your favorite mixed drink recipe, or your mom’s perfect chicken marinade. There’s no need for a theme, or dressing up, or pomp and circumstance (unless you want all of those , in which case pomp away.) As long as you are surrounded by people you enjoy (people that will gladly help you wash dishes) then I think that is love enough!

Okay, enough with the sap. You want a sappy black woman talking? Go watch Oprah, mmmhmmmm.

Here’s the recipe for the aforementioned Thai style meal: an orange-soy glaze over scallops.  Where I shop a pound of large scallops (not the small ones) is $16.99 and  that is probably on the cheap end. Check to see if your market sells scallop pieces, which I get for $7.99/LB! Your stomach won’t be the wiser, but your bank account will be much, much happier.

 

Seared Peppered Scallops with Orange-Soy Glaze

From Bon Appetit (don’t tell my internship supervisor @ EatingWell!)

“ Ingredients

4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided (I used coconut oil. Feel free to use whatever you have around)

1 1/2 pounds sea scallops, patted dry with paper towels

2 teaspoons ground peppercorn blend, or ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)

1/2 cup orange juice (freshly juiced if possible!)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon (packed) grated orange peel

Preparation:

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle scallops with pepper blend and salt. Working in batches, add scallops to skillet in single layer; sauté until brown on outside and just opaque in center, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer scallops to plate, leaving drippings in pan.

Add garlic and remaining oil to drippings in skillet; stir 30 seconds. Add orange juice, soy sauce, and orange peel. Boil until sauce thickens to syrup, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.

Pour sauce over scallops and serve.”

I served this with a plate of green beans covered in salt and pepper that I cooked up in the cast iron. Okay, I do admit this recipe might be the one you make with a LONG TERM significant other or a best friend that you’ve known for ages, you know the one that held your hair back as you puked. Why? This sauce is to die for. Like, lick the plate clean to die for—I speak from experience. Your besties or beau will love you (well, they might have a disturbed look on their faces), but the first date and new found friend might, well, not call you back for round two!

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

4th of July Spanish Style: Sangria

Some people want to be known for the stellar potato salad they bring to the party. Other the recipe guarded pie passed down generation to generation. I want to be known for my sangria.

I first had sangria last summer and was blown away. How had I not known of this delicious wine punch that has fruit floating around that gets you more drunk than the wine? So when I needed a girly slumber party last week, we didn’t resort to juice boxes of our yester years. Instead, I put together a big-ass-bowl of my favorite antioxidant rich drink *wink, wink*

I’m all for good wine, but I love the fact that pretty much every sangria recipe calls for cheap wine. Hello sweet merriment, see you soon slightly worse than usual hangover. However, the payoff is the fun night you’ve had with friends, because I don’t think anyone can get angry over a bowl on sangria! Watermelon vodka is a whole ‘nother ball game.

The good thing about sangria is there is lots of wiggle room for creativity.  Think of the fruits you want swimming around in the bowl. People traditionally slice up some apples and oranges. First off: I don’t have time to slice and dice apples and oranges. Second: I absolutely hate suck-chewing on an orange slice, so I wasn’t going to subject my guests to such savagery and possible dribbleage, so I went with fresh strawberries (which are much easier to cut uniformly) and frozen peaches. Grab your punch bowl (I got mine at Goodwill along with a million little punch cups for $4.99—sadly no discount anymore)  and start layering in the fruit. Next, grab the wine and slowly pour it in, taking care not to slosh everything. Sangria isn’t just wine and fruit. You actually need to spike it with a little bit of brandy  (I learned this the embarrassing way when my mom balked at the hard-liqourless sangria I had been drinking last summer.) Since I’m not a huge brandy drinker, I saw no point in buying a bottle, so I went with some nips (the little ones you would get on an airplane.) Then add in ½ a cup (depending on how much wine you use…eyeball it) of a soda like Sprite or Seven UP, 2 spoonfuls of sugar, and mix around. I didn’t make it ahead of time, but ideally you should let the sangria sit for awhile, which makes for some potent fruit. However, I also heard that you shouldn’t let the citrus sit for long because it can leave a bitter flavor (all the more reason to go the berry route.)

Only the finest

The fridge only kind of smelled like a winery

One thing to think about with sangria is transportation. In case you don’t know, liquid is, like, really heavy. Really, really heavy. I cannot stress it enough. That seemingly innocent punch bowl was a workout in disguise. Even if your friend lives only a block away, you probably will have to stop every few feet to give your arms a rest. And being driven with a bowl on your lap will lead even the staunchest atheist to start praying to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So plan ahead to ensure a potent brew and stain-free clothes. My first batch didn’t kill anyone, and I’m excited to improve over time!

On the East Coast it still isn’t noon, so why not run out to the store, grab yourself a jug of wine, and make a last minute batch for this evening’s festivities?! It’s not as patriotic as Bud Light, but I personally think it gets the job done a lot better.

Peel Away (and be safe) ❤

Jocellyn

Pad Thai Oh My!

When I go out to a restaurant the last thing I order is something I can already make at home; you’d be hard-pressed to see me ordering some basic salmon or grilled chicken. Why pay a premium mark up when it’s something I can make for a fraction of the cost? Nope, I tend to frequent restaurants that make time consuming dishes that I don’t have the ingredients, patience, or cultural prowess to whip up. Case in point: Thai food. I was introduced to Pad Thai sometime in high school. I dabbled around on Thai menus—some drunken noodles here, some yellow curry there—but I always found myself returning to the “spaghetti and meat balls” of Thailand.  Thankfully, Pad Thai isn’t expensive (I don’t think I ever have paid more than $12 for a heaping dish), but I always wanted to try it out in the kitchen. You could imagine my discontent when I pulled up a recipe and was greeted with an ingredient list that rivaled the one I would put together for Santa Clause. Jeeze Louis. Not to mention many of the spices you need for Thai food aren’t necessarily going to be found in a bulk bin or be very cheap.

For months I thought I could only get my Pad Thai fix at the local restaurant…and then I met Pinterest. I was doing my daily peruse of the platform, pinning DIY projects I know I’ll never get around to, when I spotted an easy (and apparently more “authentic”) version of my favorite, noodle dish. If only I had a fainting chaise. I didn’t need to buy any bean sprouts, I could easily leave out the peanuts, and I finally could snub my nose at the long parts of scallions that I always picked out and unceremoniously wiped on my napkin. But would it taste good or be a subpar version of those “DIY Pad Thai Kits” you can get in the International aisle of the grocery store?—do yourself a favor and never, ever get those.

I won’t leave you with baited breath through the pictures and ingredient list, wondering if this recipe made me swoon. I’ll be upfront: it did. I’m officially in love. True, it tastes very little like the Pad Thai of restaurants, but the new flavors were refreshing, muted, and a welcome change. Not to mention it was so easy to pull everything together. Major plus: it reheats far better than the restaurant kind, which is great because they always give you such massive portions, and  I’m always stuck with deciding if I should bring it home and try to reincarnate it the next day, or shovel it all in and accept the inevitable food baby. So many problems are now solved!

Pad Thai

Serves 4 (more like a meager 4 or a hearty 3)

8 ounces dried, wide and flat rice noodles
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 squirt (about 1/8 teaspoon) Sriracha (optional)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 scallions (green onions), white and green parts, separated and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large eggs, light beaten (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts

  1. Soak noodles according to package instructions. Drain.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, and Sriracha.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add scallion whites and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add eggs and cook, scraping skillet with spatula until eggs are almost set (about 30 seconds). Transfer eggs to a plate.
  5. Add noodles, scallion greens, and sauce to skillet. Cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are soft (about 1 minute). Add egg mixture and toss to coat, breaking eggs up gently.
  6. Serve noodles with lime wedges, topped with cilantro and peanuts.

I happened to have some fish sauce that I’d just bought for another recipe this week, so I did 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and a little less than 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Leave it as is or add some chicken or shrimp.

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn