/> Clean Convenient Cuisine

Clean Convenient Cuisine

Reset your tastebuds!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Redirecting to ChicagoNow

Hi, guys! We have been invited to join the ranks at ChicagoNow, so bear with us as we make this transition over the next few days. We will try to get all of the previous posts on there, so we can have the same archives. The new address will be www.chicagonow.com/blogs/clean-convenient-cuisine

Spread the word, and thanks for following!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Perfect Fridge

Have you ever opened your refrigerator and felt like a homeless person lives at your home? Or a frat boy? Why is it that when you really need something to eat, you are left with nothing but condiments, sticky door trays and maybe a can of coke or a block of cheese? Moldy vegetables are often another concern (though, certain fridges make the produce bins at eye level now, so you are constantly reminded about them). There are several tricks to stocking your fridge the right way to keep an organized system.

Tips For The Perfect Fridge

1. The first obvious tip is only buy what you need for a few days or the entire week. Take a menu with you to the grocery store, so you are aptly prepared. If you know it's unrealistic for you to buy for the whole week, plan out 2-3 days or breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It doesn't have to be complicated. When you get home, cut up veggies or do your "prep" work. Sundays are great days for this, and then store your prepared snacks or meals in the proper bins or shelves.

2. Before you go to the store, clean out your fridge. Think of it as "spring cleaning," something you should do every few months to make sure you're not holding on to almost empty containers of salad dressings and ketchup bottles. Clear out the inside of any half-open jars, old condiments or moldy veggies. Get rid of leftovers if they have been in the fridge more than 48 hours. Think about how you will organize your fridge when you return.

3. Do not overcrowd fridge, as this prevents proper air circulation.

Contents Of The Perfect Fridge

At the store, try to concentrate on the following:
Nuts, seeds, peanut butter
Bottled water
Chicken, fish, turkey, tofu
Yogurt, cheese, milk
Oatmeal, brown rice, bread

Work around the perimeter of the store and only pop into the aisles when you need to pick up jars or boxed grains.

Organizing The Perfect Fridge

1. Store vegetables and fruits separately. Store veggies in GREEN BAGS, so you don't have to keep them in the crisper. They do best in a warmer part of the fridge (around 50 degrees). Often times, when we put foods in the crisper, they go bad, because we forget about them. Use a lower shelf and keep them visible, so you know when to use them. Look at your menu. Position the fruits and veggies you will be using that day at the forefront, and then rotate to the next batch for the next day. Lettuce and herbs often go bad when they come in contact with plastic, so wrap them in paper towels first before putting them back in plastic bags. Apples also emit a gas that can cause other produce to spoil, so keep them out of the crisper drawer or store them by themselves.

2. Keep similar foods together, so you know where they are.

3. Store yogurt, cheese, dips, butter and smaller items on the top shelf, so they are at eye level.

4. Store meat at the bottom of the fridge on a "meats-only" tray, as some products can drip in their natural packaging.

5. Position eggs in their original carton near the top of the fridge, as the temperature is cooler here than in the egg tray.

6. Store drinks, bottles, jars and condiments on shelves near the inside of the refrigerator door, but only those that you will use. Don't buy in bulk. Make sure all lids are tightly closed.

Clean your refrigerator. Use common sense when storing cooked meats and leftovers (use glass containers instead of plastic).

Happy shopping!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Butternut Squash Fries!

As the seasons change, butternut squash is a staple in many dishes. I had a friend ask if I'd ever eaten butternut squash fries, to which I replied, "Um, excuse me? Butternut squash fries?" I was immediately intrigued. A big fan of sweet potato fries, I had not let my imagination wander over to the possibility of squash fries. That is, until yesterday.

A type of winter squash, butternut squash tastes similar to pumpkin and can be roasted, toasted or pureed to make a variety of dishes. A natural way to reduce inflammation, it can help those with joint pain. It is also high in beta-carotene, which can help reduce the severity of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

So, the next time you are craving fries, check out this nutty, sweet indulgence.

1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
olive oil
spices (paprika, curry, cayenne, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Use a sharp knife to cut away the peel from the squash. Cut the squash into sticks like French fries and throw into a bowl. Toss with olive oil and spices, place a lid on the bowl and shake until evenly coated. Arrange squash pieces on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, turing halfway through baking. Fries are done when they start to brown and become crispy. (Cooking times may vary.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Have A Gluten Allergy!

Food allergies can strike at any time. Blame it on the environment, the additives and preservatives in food, an unhealthy lifestyle, genetics or mother nature, but having food allergies can make it hard to eat in restaurants (or even at home).

Gluten allergies are becoming more common, but it is one of the easiest ingredients to stay away from without affecting your overall health or diet. In fact, you are likely to improve your diet, because most foods with gluten are processed.

What exactly is gluten? A mixture of two proteins, present in cereal, grains and wheat, gluten is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. Some people are unable to digest it, hence a gluten allergy (or celiac disease). Luckily, numerous store bought foods now come gluten-free. When you have a gluten allergy, the main things to stay away from are wheat, rye and barley, though gluten is often unassumingly present in numerous foods. (If you suspect you might have an intolerance, you can ask for a complete gluten intolerance test at the doctor - or simply eliminate foods with gluten to see if you feel better.)

Foods safe to eat in the "grain" variety are corn, potato, rice, soybeans, arrowroot, carob, buckwheat, millet, and quinoa. Always look at the package label to determine the ingredients. This is a chance to comprise your diet full of whole, natural foods with lots of fresh veggies, proteins, healthy grains and fruits.

However, if you do have this allergy and you occasionally want to bake something sweet, there are many wonderful options (entire shops and blogs are now dedicated to a gluten-free lifestyle). Below is a delicious, gluten-free recipe to make on those days when you want something sweet but healthy!

Pumpkin Quinoa Cookies

1 cup Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flakes
1 cup sorghum flour (or fine brown rice flour)
1/4 cup millet flour
1 tbs. tapioca starch or potato starch
1 tsp. xantham gum
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cups organic light brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup spectrum organic shortening
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1 tbs. pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp. light tasting vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup golden raisins or currants
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (quinoa flakes down to cloves). Add in shortening and combine the mixture until it's crumbly. Add in the pumpkin down to the lemon juice and beat to combine. Stir in chocolate chips, raisins and nuts and drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the parchment paper. Bake until golden and firm.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's For Dinner: Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas

You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this healthy, delectable entree. I first discovered sweet potato quesadillas at The Chicago Diner and have been hooked on them ever since. If you need a little extra protein, you can use ground turkey, chicken, or like the Diner, seitan (derived from the protein portion of wheat). I enjoy them just with the black beans and sweet potatoes. It's an easy, quick recipe ready in about 15 minutes that can be enjoyed any night of the week!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas

1 25 oz. can organic black beans
2 large sweet potatoes
4 large spinach or wheat tortillas
1 cup spinach
1 bag soy cheese
1 avocado, mashed
soy sour cream (tastes exactly like the real thing)
homemade salsa (or diced tomatoes and onions)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Microwave the sweet potatoes until tender. Peel and mash by hand. Rinse the beans in cold water and heat on stove. Right before they are done, mash lightly with a fork. Spread the sweet potato and bean mixture on 4 tortillas, sprinkle with soy cheese and a few leaves of spinach. Fold each tortilla in half and heat in oven until tortillas are crispy. Cut each into four equal squares and serve with mashed avocado, salsa and soy sour cream. A healthy, enjoyable treat for the whole family! 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Make Your Own Protein Bar!

I've perused the store numerous times in need of something quick and healthy, and protein bars usually do the trick. Though there are healthy bars out there, most of them come with an ingredient list a mile long. Some have the right amount of protein, but a ton of fat. Some have a ton of fat, but no protein. Some have lower fat and higher protein, but a ton of sugar. Some look good, but are full of cheap ingredients. There doesn't seem to be that perfect ratio of ingredients - until now.

Making your own protein bars allows you to control what goes into them, based on your own personal preferences and dietary needs. And the best part is most of them don't even have to be baked - just refrigerated for a few hours. In our case, Alex and I want something that can be eaten as a snack, has a little healthy fat, a good ratio of carbs and protein, and organic ingredients. As you will note, most of these contain oats, peanut butter and whey, so if you don't want any of these ingredients, play around with different types of protein and nut butters to come up with your own perfect recipe.

No-Bake Energy Bars

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
1 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
1 cup dried, chopped fruit
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup organic honey

Mix all ingredients well and freeze, then cut into bars.

Quick Protein Bars

3 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup skim milk (or whatever milk you prefer)
4 scoops protein powder
dash of cinnamon

Mix until a sticky batter is formed. Use a large spoon to spread the mixture into the bottom of a glass or metal cooking tray sprayed with Pam. Put in the fridge overnight and cut into 8 equal bars.

285 calories, 11 g fat (good monounsaturated fats), 26 carbs, 21 g protein

Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars

1 cup oat flour
1 1/2 cups whey protein powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 cup stevia blend (or organic sugar)
2 egg whites
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9x9 baking pan with wax paper. Combine all dry ingredients in a blender. Process for about two minutes. In a bowl, beat eggs and peanut butter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. With an electric mixer, slowly add the water until dough becomes gooey. Pour batter in lined pan, pressing dough to an even thickness. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool, first on wax paper, then on a plate. Cut into 8 bars.

250 calories, 7 g fat, 24 carbs, 24 g protein

3 Ingredient Protein Bar

1/4 cup natural nut butter
40 ml Half-n-half
25 g chocolate whey protein

Combine whey and nut butter in a bowl. Mix slightly and then add half-n-half. Remove from bowl and shape into a bar!

A Little Bit of Heaven Protein Bar

3 cups organic raw oats
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened organic shredded coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
2 cups organic nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup + 2 tbs. raw agave nectar or honey
1/2 cup organic peanut butter or almond butter
1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic coconut oil, melted
1 bar of organic dark chocolate, chopped or 1 cup organic dark chocolate chips
1 cup organic chopped seeds or nuts
1/2 cup chopped dates, raisins, figs or other dried fruit (optional)
1 cup vanilla or chocolate whey protein powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread a 9x13 inch baking dish with coconut oil or cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients (oats through brown sugar) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients (greek yogurt through coconut oil). Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, and then mix in the chocolate. Taste and add more peanut butter, fruit or protein powder. Mix well using clean hands.

Spread the mixture into prepared dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove, let cool and then slice them. Spread the bars on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 more minutes. Allow to cool and then wrap and store in refrigerator.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How To Fix 10 Common Cooking Mistakes!

It's happened to the best of us. In an attempt to cook for a party, yourself, or guests, something goes wrong. The food is overcooked, it's too salty or sweet, and you have no idea what to do. Not to worry - even the most experienced chefs experience cooking blunders. We have answers to some of the most common cooking problems.

1. It's Too Salty! If you've over salted sauces or soups, add a raw, sliced potato to the mixture. Potatoes absorb excess salt. Just be sure to toss before serving. You can also add more liquid, sugar or vinegar to equal out the mixture.

2. It's Too Spicy! If there's too much heat, add more of the other ingredients in the dish, or hot water to tame the heat. Adding tomatoes, ketchup, sugar or even a dollop of plain yogurt can help as well.

3. It's Too Sweet! Add a spoonful of cider vinegar, a bit of lemon juice or a dash of olive oil to reduce sweetness.

4. It's Too Acidic! Try adding a bit of baking soda or salt to reduce acidity.

5. It's Too Thin! If you're cooking a sauce and it's too thin, try adding a bit of flour or cornstarch to thicken it up. Use sparingly, however, as a little goes a very long way.

6. It's Too Thick! It might seem obvious, but adding a bit of liquid will work. However, add only a bit at a time not to thin out the mixture too much.

7. It's Too Mushy! If you've overcooked vegetables, turn them into a puree or a soup, by combining with a broth or cream in a blender. You can also mash the veggies with a little milk, especially if the veggies are potatoes, cauliflower or carrots.

8. It's Too Bland! If you feel like your dish is missing something, remove a small part of it, and play around with adding different spices to that small section, before you add seasoning to the entire dish.

9. It's Too Dry! If you've made fish or a meat that's dried out, simply whip up a sauce to cover it, or just mash up the meat to make salmon cakes (or a chicken or turkey burger).

10. It's Too Burnt! If you've burned a sauce or rice, you know it can take on a different flavor altogether.  The first tip is to move the burnt food to a new pot. If you have burned rice, wipe two or three onions with a clean, damp cloth and remove the papery outer peels. Take those peels and spread them over the unburned rice. Cover the pot and let sit for 15 minutes. The onion peels absorb the bitterness. Discard before serving.

The bottom line is not to panic if you've made a cooking mistake. Get creative, remember these tips and come up with some of your own!