Roasted Red Pepper Spread Sandwiches

IMAG0566
This recipe is derived from the Roasted Red Pepper Spread Sandwiches recipe from the All-New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook as part of my 2017 A Year of Cooking Light Challenge.

Servings: 4
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Approximate Cost per Serving: $1.50 / plate

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 seedless English cucumber
  • 1 (7-oz) bottle roasted red bell peppers
  • 1 (8-oz) block/container of light cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup red onion
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 8 slices sandwich bread
  • 8 lettuce leaves

Kitchenware:

  • Cutting board
  • Kitchen knife
  • Paper towels
  • Measuring cup
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Rubber/silicon spatula (recommended)
  • Garlic press

Steps:

  1. Line a plate with several layers of paper towels.  Finely chop the cucumber and set on the paper towels.  Drain the roasted red bell peppers, then chop.  Add them to the paper towels with the cucumber and let sit 5 minutes.
  2. While they sit, mince the red onion.  Press the garlic over the medium bowl and add the onion.  Also combine the cream cheese and salt.  Stir with a fork until well blended.
  3. Add the bell peppers and cucumbers to the bowl, carefully transferring them so as not to break the wet paper towels (a rubber or silicon spatula works well).  Combine until well blended.
  4. Put the spread on the bottom slice of bread.  Top each with two lettuce leaves and the top bread slice.
  5. Enjoy!

 

The Secret Life of Fat

The Secret Life of FatAuthor: Sylvia Tara, PhD
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

I will never look at fat the same way again.  Before diving into this novel, I held the common conception – fat was this annoying, unhealthy lard sticking to my body and weighing me down.  I did not realize it was an organ.  I did not realize it can create its own vessels to supply itself, the same way tumors do.  I did not realize that it’s more than genetics and diet and exercise – it’s viruses and your microbiome and bacteria and hormones.  It is vastly complex and I knew nothing about it.

I first learned about this book through this episode of Probably Science at the end of last year.  It is not a podcast I religiously listen to, but one that I peak at every so often.  It was almost happenstance I stumbled across this episode, but as soon as I did I had to get my hands on a copy of this book.

The Secret Life of Fat is not your typical dieting book.  It is not a laid out, foolproof plan on how to kick those calories to the curb.  In fact, this novel explains why those types of diets often fail – and just how unique our fat is to us as individuals.  This is not a book for someone who wants the cheat to weight loss.  It is a novel of the development of fat research, as well as a look into current studies in the field.  It is scientific, in case you hadn’t noticed the PhD at the end of Tara’s name.  It’s fascinating, even if it is a little dry and hits a few narrative pitfalls (such as lengthy physical descriptions of ‘minor characters’).  But if you love science, I think you’ll enjoy this book even if you don’t need to shed any pounds.  It already has me adjusting the foods I eat to try to better my microbiome, and I tried out HIIT this past weekend to give it a whirl.

White Mac and Cheese

IMAG0540This recipe is derived from the Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese recipe from the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2014 cookbook as part of my 2017 A Year of Cooking Light Challenge

Servings: 6
Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Approximate Cost per Serving: $0.75 / plate

Chef’s Note: The hubby and I agree, this is one of the best recipes so far this year and definitely a repeater.  While not the healthiest recipe in my challenge, it’s still better than a lot of dinners out there and super cheap to boot, especially when you plan ahead and buy the pasta and cheese on sale (I always get ours BOGO).

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Salt
  • 10 oz small shells pasta
  • 2 Tbps canola oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 large (2 tsp) chicken bouillon cube (can sub vegetarian bouillon)
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz light cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Kitchenware:

  • Stove
  • Medium pot
  • Strainer
  • Garlic press
  • Dutch oven (or large pot)
  • Wooden stirring spoon
  • Whisk
  • Oven
  • 1.5 – 2 qt casserole dish
  • Cooking spray

Steps:

  1. Fill the medium pot halfway with water.  Add salt and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside when done.
  2. Preheat oven under broiler setting to high.
  3. Heat the Dutch oven over medium heat.  While heating, peel the garlic.  When heated, add the canola oil and swirl to coat.  Press the garlic over the pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add 1 cup of water and half (1 tsp) of the bouillon cube.  Stir to combine and dissolve the bouillon.  Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute.  While waiting for the mixture to boil, combine the remaining 1 1/4 cups of water with the remaining bouillon, milk and flour.  Stir with a whisk until well blended.  Add this mixture to the Dutch oven.  Return to a boil and cook 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to thicken.
  5. Remove the Dutch oven from the burner.  Add the cream cheese, salt, and pepper and stir until smooth.  Add the pasta to the Dutch oven and mix to coat.  Let stand for 5 minutes.
  6. Coat the casserole dish with cooking spray.  Pour the mac and cheese into the casserole dish and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.  Broil 3 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.  Remove and let stand 5 minutes.
  7. Enjoy!

Panthers, Fungus, and Hate Speech

Good evening all!  I am starting what I hope will be a weekly new segment on my blog.  Since I have a hard time completing my weekly check in on a weekly basis, I wouldn’t hold your breath, but I sure as shoot am going to try.  I have dozens of sound bits of interesting facts cluttering the harddrive of my voice recorder, but I never have the time to download, listen to, and transcribe all of them, so they never make it over here to the blog.  I still wish to share my love for science, history, and learning in general, so I’m going to try this as an alternative.

Are you ready?

You don’t look ready.  Straighten your back, your posture is sloppy and bad for your spine (do as I say, not as I do).  Okay, that’s better.

Podcast of the Week:

These are not necessarily podcasts that aired this week, but are podcasts that I finally got around to listening to this week.  We are doing podium style, so top three, take it away!

Third Place Goes To (Drum Roll Please):
How Free Speech Works from Stuff You Should Know (SYSK)
The greatest irony presented in this podcast is that the same rights that MLK built his platform on also gave the white supremacists and KKK the right to hate speech.  Hate speech, however, let’s you debate the topic in public, which has helped the gay community come a long way with work for equal rights.  Hopefully it can do the same for science and climate change in the following years.

Runner Up (A Very Close Second):
The Black Panther Party from Stuff You Should Know (SYSK)
I will admit I was an ignorant American in this topic.  If I learned about the Black Panther Party in the past, I have long since forgotten it.  The craziest part of this podcast was that it wasn’t the members walking around open carrying machine guns that scared the government, it was the fact that they also set up community outreach programs such as school breakfast for poor children, medical clinics, etc.  I hope a lot of people will look back on this time and take a lesson from the history books.  It felt eerily relevant in current times.

First Place Goes To:
Life After Radiation: Sickness, Death and Sustenance from Stuff to Blow Your Mind
Congratulations, my mind was blown with this one.  Mission: success.  There were so many interesting facts I bombarded my hubby (let’s just call him Frank) with for our Fact of the Day.  The craziest one?  The dark fungus that “eats” radiation and turns it into bioenergy.

Station Eleven

Station ElevenAuthor: Emily St. John Mandel
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

“Are we supposed to believe that civilization has just come to an end?”
“Well… it was always a little fragile, wouldn’t you say?”

I’m embarrassed it took me so long to read this novel.  It was by no means a reflection of the novel itself, but a sign of the rapid shrinking of my free time.  Should you find yourself in a similar position with a never ending to read list and a lack of time to read, I recommend bumping this one up the list.

I recently listened to a podcast about literary fiction versus genre fiction and how the two hardly ever cross the party line.  Station Eleven is one such outcast.  St. John Mandel blends beautiful prose and a haunting insight into the human psyche with a post apocalyptic world decimated by a pandemic.  It follows numerous characters through a nonlinear narrative, navigating life both before and after.  It’s chilling how sometimes the same sentiments crossed over.  Due to the current uncertainties we face, as a country and as a species at large, Station Eleven struck a chord with me, as did most of its characters.

While some readers might find the pacing slow, St. John Mandel makes up for it with her talented writing style and relatable characters.  I have to nitpick to bog you down with why I opted for 4.5 stars instead of a 5 stars rating, so I won’t bore you with the technical details my nerdy brain honed in on.  Station Eleven is worth the read, even if you aren’t a fan of the post apocalyptic genre.  Like the first few seasons of The Walking Dead, Station Eleven focuses on the characters more than the setting.

Maclay Gardens State Park

I was recently in the Florida state capital for an event and had the opportunity to visit the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park.  I had never been before, so it was a treat.  Though not a national park to cross off the bucket list, it is a state park.  This particular state park holds a fondness in the hearts of many in my extended family, so it was a pleasure to be able to visit it with some of them and learn some new family stories while walking through the beautiful gardens.  We could not have asked for better weather.

While gardens may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it was a wonderful way to enjoy the early spring temperatures and to catch a breath of fresh air.  Our schedule for the trip to Tallahassee severely limited the length of our visit, so I would love the opportunity to come here again in the future to fully take in the scenery.  While we missed the initial blooming period, there were still plenty of flowers to enjoy (as my allergies can attest to!).

Check-In

Well, it’s been more than a week, but I’m here and still kicking (even if the force behind my kicks has weakened).  It’s been tireless nights of work and exhaustion, but I think I’ve passed the zenith for the season.  An old childhood injury (thanks to the numerous organized sports I played and quit) flared up for a while, which altered my BikingTheTrail challenge.  While I still aim to travel the entire length of the AT, on days where my injuries keep me down or the availability of a bike is null, I will “cheat” and revert to my pedometer for the distance walked in the day.  Though I will no longer bike the trail, I will still traverse its distance, which I think is still an admirable goal.

Progress on the Trail:
Tuesday, 28 February: 3.46 miles
Wednesday, 1 March: 2.80 miles
Thursday, 2 March: 4.30 miles
Friday, 3 March: 7.70 miles
Saturday, 4 March: 5.35 miles
Sunday, 5 March: 2.80 miles
Monday, 6 March: 4.40 miles
Tuesday, 7 March: 6.39 miles
Wednesday, 8 March: 6.75 miles
Thursday, 9 March: 7.64 miles
Friday, 10 March: 4.22 miles
Saturday, 11 March: 6.48 miles
Sunday, 12 March: 5.31 miles
Monday, 13 March: 6.27 miles
Tuesday, 14 March: 6.67 miles
Wednesday, 15 March: 7.56 miles

Week Eight (1/2) – Ten (1/2) Total: 88.1 miles
Distance to Go:  1,759.55 miles (2,190 miles total)

 

Cooking Light Annual Challenge Rundown:
I’ve had a lot of pitfalls here as well.  I tackled some under the weather time, as well as some severe reactions to a medication which made it difficult to stand, let alone to cook.  So I won’t detail out all the days, but I will mentioned what I cook in the time that has passed.

Cold Noodle Salad with Sesame Crab: This was even better the next day for lunch.  If you have time, I would let it chill overnight.  We couldn’t find udon noodles at our local grocery store, so I used pad thai noodles, which seemed to work fine.  And fresh crab meat was way too expensive, so we got the imitation crab meat.  It worked just fine.

Burger Patty Salad: This recipe should be called the pita-less gyro.  I was halfway through making it when I realized I was crafting tzatziki sauce.  I used all ground turkey instead of beef and lamb, but it was delicious!  We are also not a big fan of kale after the “kale chips” incident of 2016, so we used leftover baby arugula instead.

Seared Mahimahi with Tomato-Cucumber Relish: this one was not our favorite, but I think it had more to do with the fact that we used free fish my boss caught out on his boat instead of mahi-mahi.  Our fish had little flavor and was mostly just “fishy”.  The salsa relish, though, was good.

Thai Braised Beef with Coconut Milk and Ginger: I had coconut milk leftover from the amazing rice previously, so I looked up Cooking Light recipes that included it and this one stood out (to be fair, there were only about five to choose from).  I did not, however, realize it would take over TWO HOURS to cook.  I thought I’d only picked 30 minutes or less recipes when preparing my shopping list for the week.  As such, this one was a little of a nightmare that included a two night ordeal to cook and reheat, but it was rather savory.  Not sure it was worth the time though.

Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese: I aim to post this recipe soon if I can spare the time to type it up.  Mac and cheese is my comfort food and with the hubby – let’s just call him Grendel – away for the evening, this one hit the spot.  Plus, it was a treat to take a break from work long enough to cook.