Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Shrimp and Grits: The Truly Southern "Meal"

I know a few Southern chefs and restaurant entrepreneurs (entreprawneurs...I am full of the pun dickens today) who will chase me down and slice me up for this recipe blog but I have taken it upon myself to keep the public informed and informed they shall be.

The truth is, there is simply a lot of danger involved in eating seafood. It's full of bacteria, mercury, chemicals, and the industry is overwrought with environmental destruction and human rights violations. The Old Testament forbids the consumption of pork and shellfish. Well...there's probably a good reason for that according to health sources including Dherbs.com, distributor of various body cleanse supplements:


"Shrimp is a scavenger that thrives off of eating the flesh of dead creatures.

If you eat shrimp, you should be aware that you might be eating feces as well. The dark-colored tube on the shrimps back is the intestinal tract of the shrimp and it harbors bacteria. If you enjoy eating shrimp, you should remove the intestinal tube by running a small pick down the back of the shrimp until the tube falls out."


According to Greenpeace, tropical shrimp farming is harmful to the environment as well. And our grocers aren't doing an excellent job of keeping toxic fish and other seafood off of our plates either. I was dismayed to realize that Kroger barely escaped Greenpeace's fail grade because of "red listed" seafood. The red list primarily addresses seafood sustainability. But what about health?



("...even if they are labeled organic.")

Don't worry! I'm not here to completely rain on your parade! I'm not saying never eat seafood again. I am, however, encouraging you to know your source of seafood.

I am blessed to live in the best Southern Commonwealth ever where "our fish are clean before you ever take a knife to them." Virginia offers blue crab, sea trout, clams, and so many other varieties along with species fact sheets and suppliers directories. If you're going to buy shrimp for your grits, I would recommend that they hail from Alaska or if you're also a Virginia native, you can buy shrimp from any number of aqua-farms:


"Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network is a Virginia based co-op comprised of 25 member/owner aqua-farmers.  Our farmers raise chemical-free, sustainable channel catfish, rainbow trout, hybrid striped bass, and freshwater shrimp (prawns).  All of our products are farm-raised without the use of chemicals or hormones.  Our products are raised in all-natural environments with quality being our number one priority.  Our products are only harvested when orders come in to ensure absolute freshness to our consumers.  All of our farmers practice sustainable aquaculture while limiting their impact on the environment.  If you want the best quality and the ultimate in fresh fish and shrimp then we are right for you.  Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network, Raised Right…Raised Here, in the USA!!"


(Chincoteague Virginia Shrimp and Grits)




ingredients


  • 1 cup(s) quick-cooking grits
  • 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pound(s) large peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 2 teaspoon(s) Cajun or blackening seasoning (no salt added)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoon(s) fresh lime juice
  • 2 clove(s) garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup(s) frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 bunch(es) spinach, thick stems discarded

directions
  1. Cook the grits according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with the Cajun seasoning and 1/4 tsp salt and cook for 2 minutes. Turn and cook until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the lime juice and toss to coat. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the corn and cook until heated through.
  4. Add the spinach and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper and cook, tossing, for 1 minute. Return the shrimp to the skillet and toss to combine. Serve over the grits.

Nutritional Information
(per serving)
Calories384
Total Fat9g
Saturated Fat1g
Cholesterol214mg
Sodium452mg
Total Carbohydrate44g
Dietary Fiber4g
Sugars--
Protein29g
Calcium--

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Vanilla-Chocolate-Strawberry-Mocha Pound Cake??

When you have ADHD you have to consciously slow down to read. Otherwise, you'll miss a number of things including but not limited to the big picture and important details. It happens to me all the time even though I attempt to slow down when reading (it takes a great deal of effort) and this time it cost me a pretty swirl in my Vanilla-Chocolate Pound Cake. Instead of a tablespoon of boiling water, I got ahead of myself and added a 1/2 cup--the measurement for the batter mix.

Needless to say, the swirl was far less swirly--bordering on non-existent.

Being the optimist that I am, however, I was able to inject my ADHD creativity to introduce a new line of pound cakes that are far more impressive that a simple chocolate/vanilla blend. Albeit some may be less of a contrast, each is guaranteed to be delicious.

Dreamscicle Pound Cake

For this recipe you replace the whole milk with orange flavored milk and substitute the hot chocolate mix for International Coffee's Orange Cafe.


Latin Pound Cake

This recipe calls for Nestle Abuelita Mexican Style coco mix, which you can find in the International section of your grocer. As you may already know, I add a pinch of Ancho chili pepper to my coffee filter each morning along with cinnamon for that extra kick. You may add a bit to this mix to make it bite back. 


Yin Yang Pound Cake

For an darker contrast try a dark chocolate coco powder like Moonstruck Dark Chocolate which uses the Dutch process to enhance the color. They advertise this flavor as "rich and decadent." 

Since I've cut out a lot of sugar from my diet I crave sweets more often and the drive for dessert is far greater than it used to be. So I allow myself dessert but I try to find ways to cut down on the intake of sugar. My greatest affinity is for Gummy Bears, so I bought fruit Popscicles since the candies are full of corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. I prepared a small slice of pounds cake with half a serving of Greek yogurt ice cream and for an added touch I tried new Dole Dippers--frozen strawberries covered in rich, dark chocolate! They come in packs of four and also go well with vanilla Greek yogurt.




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Slow-Cooker Sliders

Marmalade was discovered by the Romans and is distinguished from jams and jellies because of the inclusion of the actual citrus peel. While orange marmalade is the most popular pectin, you can make marmalade from limes, lemons, grapefruit, and kumquats.

If you're a weirdo like me and find canning super stress-relieving, then you might get creative finding a way to "pair" (or pear as the case may be...) and can your own marmalade: lime margaritalade made with cilantro, lemon and ginger, papaya blood orange. pear-melo.

While fruit spread may encourage thoughts of English muffins, marmalade makes a marvelous dip, glaze, cookie, and a perfect partner to pork and while it makes sense for breakfast, don't sell it short when you're preparing dinner.

A sprinkle of smoked paprika can be added to the recipe for chipotle flair.


ingredients

  • 1 navel orange
  • 1/2 cup(s) sweet orange marmalade
  • 1/4 cup(s) packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon(s) ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoon(s) cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon(s) cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 1/2 pound(s) pork shoulder, trimmed well and cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup(s) reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 head(s) romaine lettuce
  • 8 small rolls, split
  • Potato chips, for serving
  • Pickles, for serving      


directions

  1. Grate 1 teaspoon orange zest into a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the marmalade, brown sugar, cumin, 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
  2. Add the pork and onion and toss to coat. Cook, covered, until the pork is tender and shreds easily, 7 to 8 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high.
  3. Ten minutes before the pork is done, squeeze 1/4 cup juice from the orange into a large bowl. Add the sour cream, remaining teaspoon vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Shred the lettuce. Add it to bowl and toss to coat.
  4. Using 2 forks, shred the pork and stir it into the cooking liquid. Form sliders with the rolls, pork, and romaine slaw. Serve with potato chips and pickles, if desired.

Review: Wen is a Wen-ner for Me!

If you relied solely on the reviews of the general public, you would think that Wen by Chaz Dean is one of the most surreptitiously deviant and poorly formulated products on the beauty market:

"I tried Wen hair care, hoping it would help with split ends. It was not a helpful product for my hair. I have fine but thick hair, and I ended up with sticky feeling hair with flyaway dry ends. But to add insult, I was encouraged to set up an account so I could get advice from a Wen Consultant. DO NOT DO THIS!! I have been charged monthly and shipped products I have not ordered."

"I've used this product twice. The first time, my hair certainly didn't feel clean afterward and it definitely didn't stay clean. I usually wash my hair twice a week, no problem. It's Wednesday, and I'll be washing tonght for the third time this week. I'm so disappointed because the commercials make it look so great. Sad deal, not worth it."

"Do not buy Wen products and especially DO NOT BUY THEM FROM THEIR ADS! Their ads lie and their guarantee is tough to get back. The product is not that great - just use your moisturizer as shampoo that is what Wen is... moisturizer works better, is cheaper and you won't have to deal with the scam tactics that the company uses & keeps billing even though you call to cancel."

The first issue I would like to address is that Wen is a "scam." I want to preface my review by clearly stating that I am not reviewing this product for any benefit besides lending wisdom to the general public and venting and I did not receive these products from any other means than a regular consumer. That said, I have worked in the call center of several businesses and despite my personal feelings about how those businesses are managed a few concrete facts became clear to me after working with thousands upon thousands of customers:

1. People want something for nothing. And I mean nothing.

Customers want free shipping and free services and they have no dignity when it concerns getting these things. They will lie, degrade you, threaten you, and steal from you. It happens every single day to businesses who are simply offering a decent product and would like to remain lucrative. 

2. People make purchases and don't read the fine print. Oh wait, people don't read the large print either.

One scenario that I will use to festoon the necks of at least 95% of people who wrote reviews for WEN calling it a "scam" is that Erin Entitlement went online, made a purchase without reading any of the details of how the company operates, and then became surprised and outraged when the terms she lackadaisically agreed to ACTUALLY TAKE PLACE. Not only did she want a free product, but she also wanted a representative from Wen to visit her home, pick up the product, package it, take it to UPS, and pay for the return shipping. Or maybe she thought that Wen just sends free product and then grants your money back 3 months later when you remember to call to cancel.

3. Companies will charge your credit card if you provide it to them because you PURCHASED THEIR PRODUCT.

This is pretty straight forward. Again, businesses don't hand over free product or services and just say,"Oh we just asked for your credit card because we're taking surveys on how many customers use Visa as opposed to Mastercard. We didn't really intend to charge you for that stuff you've had 3 months. It's ok. Keep it. If you want to make a donation later, it's tax deductible."

If you want to become completely disillusioned about humanity, work in a call center. I have worked for Christian organizations, clothing companies, and credit scores businesses. My advice would be, don't call religious hotlines because you're talking to someone who has a personalized, scripted prayer for you and just spent the last half hour talking to their neighbor about how drunk they became the night prior. Besides that, just be a decent human being and an honest consumer and research what you purchase.

That said, I had no problem whatsoever ordering Wen. I went online, and immediately changed my shipping frequency to every 10 months so I would not be charged again in a few weeks. I returned the empty bottles after a month and a half, kept the free gift, and sent the package insured mail. It arrived a week later and I received my FULL REFUND a week after that. I didn't have to call anyone at any time. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to read.

The product itself was good for me. I realize everyone is different and my hair is now more fine than thick. My best friend tried the product too and her hair is very thick and curly. She didn't like it as she said it made her hair more "poofy." I thought it made my hair greasy at first but then I realized I was not rinsing well enough. Don't use it in the bath--only the shower so you get a very thorough rinse. Once I rinsed it as the instructions stated, I will admit I was somewhat impressed. I typically have to wash my hair every day due to an oil scalp, but I have dry ends. Using Wen, I didn't have to wash my hair every day, it felt lighter, cleaner, and super moisturized. Plus the lavender brand that I purchased honestly smelled like lavender and in reading the ingredients I was pleased that it was shorter than other shampoos and I could easily identify and pronounce all of them.

I really needed all the extra fullness and moisture. Using the deep conditioning was a laughable event since I let my hair air dry and I ended up looking like a poodle. 

Wen offers a started kit in 3 different "flavors"--lavender, sweet almond mint, and pomegranate for different types of hair. They have a money back guarantee and ordering online is very simple. 





Monday, September 1, 2014

Grilled Spiced Chicken and Fry-Like Sticks

So here's the thing--when I can't get to my regular butcher for local, organic meat, I shop at Kroger for their Simple Truth line. As far as I can tell the difference between "natural" chicken and "free range" chicken is that free range chickens can eat bugs. This confused me a bit because who cares if chickens eat bugs but then again, if they can eat bugs in on the prairie, who knows what else they're getting into?

Also, despite the fact this recipe calls for an entire chicken I will say no thank you. I tried cutting up a chicken once and I didn't care for it all that much so until someone teaches me the fine art of butchering, I'll stick to my drums in a package or on itunes.

That said, I threw a side dish to compliment this spiced chicken and also if I just eat chicken and salad I'm definitely going to be hungry again in less than an hour. So I added my fry replacement: parsnip sticks:


Parsnips contain more sugar than other root vegetables like their cousin carrot so they can help curb a sweet tooth. They are higher in nutrients than potatoes and I season them with olive oil, salt, and in this case, the same coating I used for the chicken. You can use anything from old bay to cayenne pepper, then broil them until they're crispy like fries.

Any time a recipe calls for iceberg lettuce I think "eww" and then I think "no" so for this recipe I used lamb's lettuce for the salad instead of the nutrient-lacking iceberg lettuce. Mache is also prettier for those of you who like to make googly eyes at your food. I know I do.


I'd like to give a special shout-out to my mother who allowed me to borrow her spices. Coriander is $5-7 a bottle. Also it is essentially cilantro seed which I didn't realize.

Meanwhile pass the ketchup. These parsnip sticks are crunchy.

What's the Issue?

"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

I have unfortunately noted a trend in womanhood--acidic to the soul, crippling the ability to incorporate sound choices, a silencer. 

Why is it such an issue for women, wives, and mothers so neglectful to approach the subject of their own needs?

Shame can arrive at any moment: we may see our own faults in the actions of our children or become fearful at any given moment that our own flaws or past mistakes or regrets may surface, manifesting in order to wound us again, to harm and shame the ones we love so much.

If you are struggling with approaching God--maybe for the 10th time in one day--to receive mercy and grace, consider who confidently interacted with God in the Bible:

1. Hagar

Hagar was chosen by Abraham's wife to bear children for him when God's promise was not manifested quickly enough to provide the promised son. She was Abraham's concubine, an Egyptian servant of his wife Sarah. Hagar began to despise Sarah when she bore a son. Abused and rejected, Hagar fled.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count...She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 

This is the first time the Angel of the Lord,believed to be Christ,appeared to a person in the Bible--a  servant woman chosen by man to fulfill God's promise, abused, rejected, and sent away in shame. Yet she responded to God in confidence, naming Him "the One who sees me."

2. The Canaanite Woman


 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment
This example has generally caused a fair amount of controversy among those who feel it was rather indignant of a loving Christ to send away someone asking for help. After all, he offered to heal the Centurion's son and he was a Roman man--a Gentile. I would encourage you to study the Scriptures to learn more about Israel's relationship with Canaan but for now, we'll remained focused on what was obvious.
This woman called on Jesus by name. She knew who He was and what He could do. She knew she was being a nuisance and she didn't care. She loved her daughter and she was desperate. She took an insult and turned it into opportunity by refusing to become scorned. And she was rewarded by immediate gratification.

3. The Woman with the Issue of Blood
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
Here is a woman who had a chronic illness that would have also made her "unclean"--another excellent topic to research as it would have made life even more difficult in addition to suffering and seeing physicians. Another desperate woman, it would be safe to assume she was alone, she was definitely broke, and most certainly broken. Great risk was involved in touching Jesus for a variety of reasons and here she was trembling with fear yet courageous enough to be honest with God. 
Our confidence does not have to come from who we believe we are, where we were raised, what we know, or how we perform. Our confidence to approach God's throne for mercy and grace comes first and foremost with the knowledge of who He is and what He is doing. 




Saturday, August 23, 2014

You Say Tomato, I Say Gazpacho




So, I left out that I added garlic. But here is my smoothie/gazpacho recipe. The thing about blending is that you can mess up a sauce and call it dressing or in this case, make a rough smoothie and call it soup. The blender is a universe in which the possibilities are vast and endless. If this were a Sci-fi Veggie Tales you'd see a cucumber Spock and a tomato Captain getting beamed up and whisked away to the planets of Dip and Dressing.

Green Gazpacho/Fiber Smoothie:

1 stalk celery

5 green olives

1/2 a tomato

1/4 cup parsley

1/2 large cucumber with skin

1/2 cup chopped pineapple with juice

small garlic clove, smashed

a shake of cinnamon

a dash of hot sauce

I've linked all of the ingredients to health sites so you know what kind of nutrition you're getting. Cinnamon is a big part of my life--I use it every day. It dates back to Bible times and you can find it in the Mediterranean diet that has proven to prolong life and vitality.

If I really were going to make green gazpacho, I would add avocado, salt, olive oil, and artichoke hearts in brine with a pinch of Ancho chili powder.