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

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get in my belly!

I go through phases when it comes to my meat consumption. Some weeks I eat it often and with gusto; Some months I hardly touch it; Some nights I crave a nice bleeding steak; Some afternoons I desire the simplicity of squeezing fresh lemon juice over chicken and garnishing it with some pepper. Instead of feeling like I need to eat X-amount of meat meals a week (or limit myself) I simply listen to what my body needs. This past week my body needed something nourishing– and a tad bit sweet, I admit.  I knew exactly what to make: lemon and brown sugar chicken.  As someone who has fiddled around (usually unsuccessfully) with brown sugar and garlic chicken—can you say sticky, icky pans?—I enjoy the pre-determined amounts this recipe has to offer. And since it’s baked in the oven I don’t have to open all my windows and brandish a dish towel at a wall of smoke creeping its way toward the smoke alarm. I found that when I first started cooking, I thoroughly enjoyed the allure of sautéing items on the stove and dancing around the kitchen with flourish and ease, bouncing back and forth between four pots and pan. Perhaps this summer I will be drawn back to my multitasking roots. But it is the end of the semester and motivation and energy is running on fumes. Learn to love the timer on the oven. A bonus, oven baked chicken is always juicy and cooked to perfection.

 

30 Minute Lemon Brown Sugar Chicken- Recipe found on the blog: Eat, Live, Run

serves 4

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

juice of two large lemons

1 T lemon zest

1 cup flour

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp sea salt

1.5 T canola oil

2 T brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Using a meat mallet (or ice cream scoop), pound the chicken breasts thin. Set aside.

Combine the flour, paprika and sea salt in a cake or pie pan. Drop each chicken breast in the mixture and toss to coat completely.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Drop each chicken breast in the oil and brown on both sides (should take only about four minutes). Remove chicken breasts and keep warm on a plate.

Pour the lemon juice in the pan and stir to deglaze. Put chicken breasts in a casserole dish and pour juice on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and lemon zest.

In they go!

Bake for thirty minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165.”

Don’t get freaked out by this recipe in case you are missing a few items. Feel free to use olive oil or coconut oil in place of canola. If you don’t have any paprika lying around then use chili powder (I had to the other night, and couldn’t tell the difference from the other times I’d made the recipe.) If you don’t have some of these spices, and aren’t entirely jazzed about having to buy a big jar of it, find the cheap spice section in your store. There is a Latin brand called Badia Spices and you can generally find it in the international section. This is a great option if you don’t live by a store with a bulk section. They sell packets of spices for under a dollar. These are great in a pinch if you want to try a recipe but don’t think you’ll need an entire jar of a particular ingredient. Of course, these aren’t the highest quality (source), but they aren’t terrible either. I bought some paprika for 88 cents and was able to use it for three different recipes.

If there is anything you absolutely need for this recipe it is a zester. I don’t know how I lived without one. You’re able to easily take the peel off without getting all the bitter pith, which will happen if you try to use a vegetable peeler. A cheap lemon juicer will also save you time. No longer will you have to pick out those pesky seeds! Oh yeah, use more lemon than you think! Once it hits the pan you need to deglaze Mario Super-Speedy Andretti style or the juice will evaporate. #beentheredonethat

Gluten free: If you cannot eat flour, have no fear. Just use an all purpose gluten free flour. Sadly, these mixes are kind of pricey. If the recipe calls for 2 cups of flour use a little less than 1 cup. Honestly, you don’t need to use it all. Waste not, want not.  I suppose this trick can be applied to regular flour users as well!

Test drive this recipe! Maybe it’ll be something you add to your dinner rotation.

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

Butter Me Up

Life would be so boring if you always did everything the same. I mean, creating habits is important, but everyone should be willing to wiggle. Experiment with your wardrobe. Experiment with your workouts. Experiment in the bedroom. And, for the love of all things delicious, experiment in the kitchen! It’s a regular occurrence for me to see something online and decide I need to try it even if I have no clue what the end product will be.  A few weeks ago—I know, a little overdue—I was struck with this strong urge to go Indian. It had been ages since I had tasted the pillowy goodness of naan bread; enough was enough. I scoured the internet looking for an acceptable gluten free naan recipe. The bread was okay, though it didn’t live up to my expectation. The process of making it wasn’t extremely cathartic either, but all was not lost that day. I had decided to tackle not one but two kitchen feats. Earlier that morning, I made some ghee.

So what exactly is ghee? I didn’t really know much about it. But from the brief research I did, I learned it is a clarified butter that is extremely popular in Middle Eastern and Ayurvedic cook.  You use organic, cultured butter and let it melt (preferably in a cast iron) over heat. Within a few minutes the butter will start to crackle (and smell absolutely delicious) as the water floats to the top and creates a white foam and the milk solids sink to the bottom. The liquid in the middle will be a rich, clear yellow and the whole process smells heavenly. Visit this blog to see how I went about making this.

Ghee is a good butter alternative for people with high cholesterol: “Dr. Jay Glacer, in his book ”Body Renewal,” suggests that ghee is rich in natural antioxidants, composed mainly of short chain fatty acids, and its cholesterol fraction resists oxidation. This is important since cholesterol becomes harmful when it is broken down or oxidized by free radicals that lead to clogged arteries and heart problems. The short chain fatty acids present in ghee are metabolized and used for energy immediately by the liver and resist being stored in the body as fat. (Source)”  Ghee can also be stored on your shelf for up to six months—just make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight! Since it has a higher smoke point than butter, it’s great for stir frying and has a unique taste.

It didn’t take very long to make and I was able to find a good cultured, organic butter for around $4. You only have to skim the top layer off, so you barely waste any of the butter you buy, which was an initial concern I had. I admit I don’t use it often, but I really enjoyed learning about a new way of cooking and being successful on the first try. Are there any new recipes or techniques that you’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to try out? If so, set aside a specific day every week where you have more free time to try out new recipes or ones that are more elaborate. Thursdays are never dull in this apartment; Mondays are another story 😉

Peel Away Those Kitchen Insecurities and Expand Your Culinary Resume ❤

Jocellyn

Tools of the Trade!

Healthy living is a complex balance of proper food choices, exercise, reduced stress, and a relaxed attitude. I find that the last two come naturally after we have found a way to properly nourish and exercise our bodies. In America especially, exercise is extremely popular. But I don’t think we exercise correctly. I am always seeing people at the gym, grunting it out for miles on the treadmill, spending their precious time only to go eat horribly the next day. It’s a vicious cycle. Although I believe exercise is an extremely important part of being a healthy person, I believe most Americans need to get their eating habits majorly in line first. How ironic that the acronym for Standard American Diet is such! This post and the next will lay the foundation for you to build a fertile diet (and I mean diet in how you eat on a regular basis, not diet as in starving yourself!) I call this post: Tools of the trade!

Anything you do in life is not going to be enjoyable without the correct tools that you feel comfortable using. Let’s first start with the knives. You can’t always pop healthy food in the microwave for 3-4 minutes, stir, reheat again for 30 seconds, and let sit until cool; you have to prepare it. Not having anything but steak knives, or having dull knives, will immediately make food prep undesirable because it becomes cumbersome and quite possibly dangerous! Now I’ll be the first to admit that I check on Williams-Sonoma and lust over the Wusthof knife sets—you best believe the 20 piece collection will be prominently featured on my wedding registry—but the average chef can make do without spending 2 grand. I got a cheap knife set at the new goods section of The Goodwill for $15. They are really nothing special, and they get the occasional water marks, but they haven’t let me down.  Check e’m out! You can also go to a store like TJ Maxx and buy a high end chef knife to have around as well. Big brands like Henckels and Wusthof do have entry level sets costing around $100, but the quality is not the same as their top lines, so scope out reviews on various websites before you buy! And to the vegetarians: buy a knife set as well. You might not need all the steak knives, but you will need something burly to chop through root vegetables.

Humana ❤ Humana. Some day...

 

The next important items you’ll need are a variety of Tupperware containers. I notice people tend to use them just for leftovers and they grow dusty in the cabinet. Not anymore! At the beginning of the week, and whenever I have a spare ten minutes, I’ll chop up the fruits and/or veggies I’ve bought and pop them into a container. That way they’re all ready for salads and omelets, so I have no excuse except for sheer laziness to not throw something together quickly.  I also think it looks more visually appealing than a fridge haphazardly packed. I strongly suggest you invest in one or two containers that are specifically made for salad eaters. There will be a spot for you to store a little canister of dressing so you won’t have to lug around extra containers or bottles.  I use the word invest fairly loose since I got some for $1.50 each at The Christmas Tree Shop! Woop, Woop. As we come more concerned with the safety of our plastics, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to purchase a set of glass bowls with Tupperware tops. The glass won’t break down or warp in the microwave, and it doesn’t stain or hold smells like plastics will. Because, really, who hasn’t had a perfectly good container stained by marinara sauce?!

Another novel idea is having variety in your kitchen. Think twins. Buy more than one spatula, one cutting board, one stirring spoon, etc, etc. This partially stems out of pure laziness. You’re rushing out the door, you forget to clean the spatula, and you go to make eggs later and are greeted by a hard mess of yellow. So you pull out your other spatula. Problem solved (as long as you don’t forget to wash that one as well…) Buying different cutting boards can also clear up any potential health risks. My boyfriend and I don’t have a dishwasher in our apartment (or a double sink, which is a whole other story to gripe about), so we try to be as careful as we can to not leave traces of raw chicken, fish, or red meat. One cutting board can be designated for meat, the other veggies, and so on. It also wouldn’t hurt to get a mini cutting board for the times when it is unnecessary to pull out the big guns, say, when you’re cutting up baby portabella shroomies!

Finally, strongly consider buying a blender and food processor. These two appliances, especially a blender, are really helpful in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Blenders make great smoothies and cold soups. Food processors, although not as crucial, are great for creating homemade tomato sauces and decadent raw vegan treats like chocolate mousse and avocado and coconut-milk ice cream! I don’t even want to get started on how I obsessively pine for a Blentec or Vitamix Blender, both are around $400, but a $30 Proctor Silex one will do the trick. The same goes for a food processor.

My mom says she loves us all, but I'm not afraid to pick favorites. I ❤ my blender

 

Take these few essential ideas and begin marching toward your new healthy life. As a college student paying my way, I can attest that you don’t need to buy expensive items and appliances to make kitchen adventures exciting and easier. Check your mail for coupons to your favorite stores, watch prices, read (and read and read) lots of reviews, and check out second hand shops to find what you need for even less. Buying these items yourself will hold you accountable for using them, because no one wants to see $30 collect dust!

Now Go Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn