Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Christmas in July: Chickpea Stew without the Chicken

Smells of cinnamon wafting through the kitchen remind you of Christmas, right? Add cumin, cilantro, chickpeas, zucchini, and tomatoes for a fun and flavorful, wonderfully beany delight for Christmas in July. Self.com recipes can be pretty hit or miss--they're all centered on being healthy, which doesn't always translate to tasting good. But this chickpea stew recipe is the third of my successful attempts at recipes from the site and probably the most repeatable.

It's simple, especially since you don't need to add the chicken if you're a veggie like me.  Pretty much use everything else and swap the chicken for veggie broth and you're good to go.

The flavors in this dish are very Middle Eastern, mild and tongue-pleasing: all characteristics which determine how often I'm likely to re-make a dish.

I actually made it two nights ago but didn't end up eating it for lunch yesterday. It tastes just as good two days later.

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Being a Health Nut...Sort Of

Groupon/LivingSocial/Bloomspot/GoogleOffers/other-similiar-sites-I-have-not-yet-learned-about can be great sources for getting you hooked on a particular place or service...right? I've read how Groupon ruins relationships, how people are obsessed with getting a deal for some activity they never before wanted to try. As it becomes increasingly easier to be a consumer, I'm sure all this buying leads to waste, disappointment when a purchased deal goes unused and expires, and perhaps, arguments between friends and loved ones.

I certainly am not immune to the sway of a good deal, though I can pretty easily talk myself out of a 3/5/7-course meal that I wouldn't have had in the first place. After all, I can eat enough on my own without being encouraged to eat MORE. My obsession with these sites mainly lies in snatching up the gym/fitness/yoga-related deals. Recently it's gotten to the point where I had enough deals going at once that I needed to create a spreadsheet to keep track of all of my classes and when they would expire.

This has my coworkers and friends thinking I'm really dedicated to exercise. Well, maybe. I definitely am a little obsessive/compulsive about planning and what better to plan than something you can do on your own without worrying about other people's scheduling? Looking back now, I haven't actually gotten hooked on any of these places I've bought deals to. They were ok. Tolerable. Sometimes even entertaining. But my favorite dance classes and new favorite yoga studio are places I found out about through internet searches, past experiences in D.C., and word of mouth.

I think this means I'm done with purchasing random deals for awhile. I'm quite satisfied with my Zumba and Hip Hop Fitness classes with Carly Mayo at M Dance Fitness, any of the FIT, basics or techniques classes at Dhoonya, and so far all of the yoga classes I've taken at Kula.

But then again, I just received an email about a new site called GoRecess that lets you search for workout types by what you're in the mood for, location, and day. I think I'm sticking to my guns for awhile but because I'm evil, it's your turn to go nuts. Happy exercising!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Middle Eastern Cooking at Home

"It's all in the presentation" is a phrase that oft comes to mind when thinking of a great meal out or an elaborate meal prepared at home. For me, this is true even before the food hits the plate. There's something about certain containers that get me especially in the mood to cook. Perhaps being able to see the potential for food inside and being able to gauge its freshness at a glance is the quality that most draws me to the mason and pickling jars.

This past weekend I finally fulfilled my months-long goal of acquiring some jars of my own thanks to an afternoon stop in ps coffee tea n spices post brunch at Juventino.

My new collection of 2 baby jars, a medium-size mason jar, and a large metal tin with snappy closure is just the beginning of what I hope to be a beautiful friendship with food preservation/storage. The first occupant of the two baby jars was an Afghan cilantro chutney I prepared from a not-too-involved recipe in a new cookbook that is all Middle Eastern, all vegetarian (in other words, the best thing ever). The cookbook promised this stash would keep for 2 weeks, but I'm already 1.5 bottles in so I'm not able to confirm this timeline at this juncture, but what a great first foray into the use of these wonderfully cute devices!

This next part doesn't have so much to do with containers so much as the wonderful surprise of an elaborate, slightly time-consuming meal actually turning out really good. I'm not sure I've been this surprised at such a feat since my early years as a vegetarian attempting to make elaborate Indian and Thai dishes for holidays and family member's birthdays.

If you're a tomato lover, you will love this dish...sundried and fresh tomatoes (cherry, beefsteak, Roma--you choose), basil, scallions, and some other stuff rolled into balls or kufteh in a tomato pastey sauce. I thought I'd defy the recipe's suggestion and serve over couscous but Campanelle pasta was definitely the better choice. This foray turned out to be one of those dishes with the potential of being light yet filling. It only turned out to be heavy and filling because it was so surprisingly tasty, I had trouble putting my fork down.

The best lesson from this experience was actually something Ms. Frizzle told me many moons ago (my fellow former Magic School Bus fans, you know what I'm talking about): "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!" What a motto to live by in the kitchen.