Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Best Tacos!! Weekend Destination: West Chester, PA

West Chester PA, with its pedestrian friendly walkways of shops, restaurants and coffee houses, is also home to the best tacos I have eaten to date. Behold (photo courtesy the replete athlete): simple tacos made with corn tortillas, a specially spiced tinga chicken taco (on the left) or asada (beef) on the right. Served with diced onion and cilantro and lime wedges, this simple taco is a taste sensation. The plain soft corn tortillas are wonderful! and squeeze some lime over the top of the taco and oooooo its good. This place isnt much for looks. But you'll leave happy. La Rancherita, Gay St, West Chester PA.

When youre done eating, stop by the Iron Hill Brewery for some wonderful brews. I sampled the raspberry wheat and Iron Hill Light Lager-- both of which are delicious! The light lager is a real light beer, and has good flavor without that heavy filling quality that marks darker beer. The raspberry wheat was sweet, but not too sweet, and felt light and refreshing. The ambiance was nice, we had plenty of room on a Saturday night to stand around and drink casually. Check it out:

If you want to get crazy, check out the nightlife at Barnaby's (on High St).. but be forewarned, it is loud and full of young people. Fun none-the-less.

There was also a little book store called the Armadillo Book Company-- every book in the store is $5.. and they had some great stuff! I ended up picking up two books, one about a man's bicycling journey across Australia (called Cold Beer and Crocodiles) and another about strange hikes this nature enthusiast experienced throughout his lifetime (called Weird Hikes). Exciting!

West Chester. Surprisingly fun weekend getaway. Try it out!

Chez Delicious Consumption, cafe style lettuce wraps

Welcome to Chez Delicious Consumption, the organic and inviting cafe that I call home. The menu du jour: Ham and Cheese lettuce wraps, fresh blackberries, fresh snow peas, and a sprinkling of potato chips.

Large leaves of Romaine Lettuce serve in place of bread for this light lunch. Organic Romaine sold unpackaged, usually has the largest leaf structure. Packaged (bagged or in a carton) Romaine works as well, you just might need two wraps to feel satisfied, since the leaves are smaller. In this version, I added slices of ham, Cabot Cheddar Cheese, tomato slices, and spicy brown mustard. Remember that the entire romaine leaf is edible, the stalk portion is delightfully crunchy and shouldn't be wasted!

With cold and flu season raging its last battles before the calm of summer, I must declare my love for EmergenC, the 1,000 mg vitamin C supplement powder that mixes with water to form a fizzy flavored concoction. My favorite so far: pink lemonade. Don't forget to drink your water.

Enjoy, and turn your everyday dining into a cafe experience!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fried Rice and other musings

Scramble your eggs in this easy vegetarian (ovo-lacto veg) fried rice, don't scramble your brain trying to figure out whats for dinner!

1 egg
1 to 1-1/2 c cooked rice (leftovers work wonders)
1/3 c mixed veggies, fresh or frozen
2 Tbsp soy sauce
hot sauce (optional)
Add rice to frying pan with a bit of oil. Add soy sauce, and break up the rice pieces (if using leftover rice and it is dry, add a little bit of water to re-steam, and to help break up any chunks). Add veggies, cook for 1-2 mins. Move the rice mixture to the edges of the pan, leaving a volcano like hole in the middle. Add 1 egg (I break the egg up a bit in a bowl before adding, to make the scramble part easier) and scramble in the pan. When the egg is fully cooked, mix in with the rest of the rice. (Don't mix uncooked egg with the rice.. it will become stringy and wont cook well).

I've been tossing this idea around my head: The everyday vacation. I think I like it. Here's the gist of it: Have you ever been on a vacation and been very energized to run and do yoga, etc? What about a vacation in which you didn't reach for the coffee pot in the morning? Ok, so maybe those are the extreme examples-- but what about that feeling of relaxation and calm that comes with vacation?

What if we could reclaim that feeling in every day life? What is it about vacations that are so wonderful anyways? I think part of it is the fact that you are doing exactly what YOU want to do. A vacation, if done properly, is a very ego fulfilling thing-- no boss, no pressure, no "to-do" list (unless its full of fun things you really want to do). Of course we can't live in vacation mode forever, reality is full of things that must be done, fun or not.. but wouldn't it be nice to have little "vacations" midday? Like a personal re-boot, to bring that sense of "aaaahhhh" to your life.

Today's everyday vacation: a long tea time. Midday is really a stressful time for me, because I usually finish one big task in the morning, and then struggle the rest of the day to pick up another thing (or even decide what other thing I am going to do!). I respond by taking an extended break, and chatting with co-workers, with the usual result of me wasting time until the end of the day... and only accomplishing one real task that day.

Today, instead of the total avoidance path (me in normal life) I decided to take an "everyday vacation" with some calming tea (ok I fess up, it was called sweet dreams tea). This did exactly the opposite! It calmed my nerves and allowed me to focus on my intention for the day (accomplish 2 big things).. and made me alert and ready to work. I was even interrupted by co-workers, but I had the will power to let em know I had things to do and couldn't chat today!

I bought mine at the grocery store-- but you can order it here:

Have fun and find peace with your personal everyday vacation!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Jacksonville, FL-- good eats!

I did bring snap peas and carrot sticks to eat on the I suppose that is healthy.. but as soon as we landed in Jacksonville, FL, and picked up the rental car, Potato and I went in search of food. We found this lovely establishment called WHATABURGER...from what I understand, its a fast-food chain common in the South.. but oh was the burger good. It reminded both of us of Bonanzafreeze in Butte, MT (ohh you guys should seriously try that!) with the ample pickle, lettuce, tomato, and onion on the burger. That was potato's order, some sort of double stacked bacon burger. Mine was just OK.. I ordered a fish sandwich which was uniquely breaded in cornmeal and was delicious.. but the fish only came with lettuce and tartar sauce, so it seemed a bit lacking compared to Potato's delicious monstrosity.

We went to the Anheuser Busch (makers of Budweiser) brewery for a great little factory tour, and free samples at the end!! Potato tried the "Wild Blue" a very blueberry beer (we both loved it) with a higher alcohol content..and I tried the Michelob Raspberry Pomegranate (actually very good! not as sweet as Smirnoff Ice, but definitely not a "beer flavored" beer)

And the last food related thing was a trip to a restaurant called the Crabcake Factory.. for some Cajun style lump crab cake that was delicious!! I had the Maryland Crab Soup, which was kinda ironic considering we had left the DC area to go to FL.. the best part about it was the peices of crab. We also had a large plate of broiled shrimp, scallops, and a traditional lump crab cake with garlic mashed potato... OOOOOO delicious. If you're in Jacksonville, FL, go there! Its a little on the pricy side, but what seafood restaurant isnt?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Snacks for the office worker, Part 1

It is 3PM. Your lunch is wearing off, and Mr. Texas Claw doughnut is calling for you from just beyond the vending machine glass. Eaaaat mee.. its only a dollar... sweet sugary goodness... E7. ohh yea.. thats the stuff...

Snap out of it! In this new series of posts, I am going to provide alternatives for Mr. Texas claw that will leave you satisfied and feeling well, not ill. Fresh veggies! Carrot sticks, sugar snap peas (ohh soo delicious), and bell peppers (amazing how zingy they taste as a fresh raw snack). Total investment: 5 mins of chopping vegetables. Reward: this wont put you in a food coma, or make you feel ill with preservative and sugar glut.

Green tea works wonders around mid-afternoon to curb sleepiness at the office (although eating mostly veggies and protein for lunch helps prevent the sleepiness altogether). So next time you want to grab a snickers.. think twice and know that you arent alone...We ALL want those snacks, but we also have the power to choose a better way to get over that afternoon slump.

Arugula Peanut Pesto with Tuna Lettuce Wrap

I present you the humble organic arugula bunch. I found this unassuming leafy green sitting in the produce section of Whole Foods, sandwiched between the leafy lettuces and leafy herbs. I have passed by this green several times only to decide, naa, not this time little guy. Well his time has come, and boy was it delicious!

I googled recipes for arugula. It seems that most people eat it raw in salad, using the leaf to add a subtle peppery flavor to the mix. I also found recipes for Arugula Pesto, in which a combination of arugula and basil are blended with pine nuts and grated parmesan cheese. It sounded interesting, but it was already 6PM and I was still at work. I definitely didn't want to stop at the grocery store for basil and cheese (when I am hungry, I buy the entire store.. and usually something bad and highly processed to eat on the way home).. So I adopted my own version.. Peanut Arugula Pesto!

Here is the recipe:
3 cups arugula leaves
2 Tbsp roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves
1 tsp yogurt
1/2 tsp olive oil
crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Add peanuts and garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add in Arugula leaves and cilantro to the peanut/garlic mix and pulse till the mixture is well blended and resembles pesto texture. Add wet ingredients (lemon juice, yogurt, olive oil) and salt, give it a quick whir to combine. And Voila, you're done! Its important to note that I guesstimated the quantities above.. but don't be afraid, there are some troubleshooting tips in case the balance doesn't taste right:

too peppery: add lemon and cilantro. Check salt level also.
too salty or lemony: add more leaves! Arugula and cilantro
too mild: add crushed red pepper flakes (I did this)
too wet: add leaves, arugula and cilantro
too dry: add olive oil or yogurt

I made mine on the salty side, because I mixed it with bow tie pasta, which compliments a salty sauce.
To balance out my meal nutritionally, I decided to add a lettuce wrap with tuna salad filling. I happened to have some very ripe tomatoes that I wanted to use, so I made a modified tuna salad.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1 can tuna, well drained and flaked
  • 2 roma tomatoes, halved and microwaved for 2 mins then chopped
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped celery
  • 1 tsp mayo
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

Mix all of the ingredients together. Mine was a little too wet (I ate it like that anyway) but for my leftover portion for lunch, I squeezed the mixture against the side of the bowl with a broad flat spoon and that removed the excess liquid. For the lettuce part of the wrap, I used red leaf lettuce, but romaine or Boston or any broad leaf lettuce would work. So would iceberg lettuce, but iceberg lettuce has very little nutritional value compared to red leaf, romaine, or Boston leaf.

So I got my protein, greens and carbs in this wonderfully delicious meal! I highly recommend the "pesto"-- give it a try and let me know what you think :D Happy Cooking!