Saturday, January 23, 2010

POM Wonderful Giveway: And the winners are.....

Hey folks! Sorry this didn't get posted last night as promised, but you'll read more about what's going on in my next post. Anyway, here are the 4 lucky, randomly selected winners of my first real giveaway (the PGEW To Go Tea Stain Edition was a complete fluke, lol)!

~ Cindy H. (Life on Print)
~ Steffie C
~ It's Me - Jen E!
~ Chef Aimee

Congratulations, everyone!!! Please email me as soon as you can with your full names & addresses and I'll get these out to you next week. Thanks to all who entered - you all had fabulous ideas that I can't wait to try myself! And don't worry; I'm sure I'll have another giveaway coming up in the next couple of months. In the meantime, stay tuned for a new recipe!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Recipe: Poor Girl's Beef Stew (aka, The Hardest Blog I've Had to Write)

Pardon my French, but this has been an utterly shitty ass week.

Monday night/Tuesday morning, I was awakened by what I thought was a terrible migraine and a mangled ear; it turned out to be the ramifications of an inner AND middle ear infection, which I haven't had for a good 6 months. Tuesday or Wednesday I called my Daddy and found out he is definitely not doing well physically (cognitively, he's doing quite well after the stroke; it's all the physical stuff that's killing him), so much so that he told his wife he can't talk to me very much, partly because he feels unwell and partly because he feels badly about only being able to talk to me for 30 seconds at a time (if he only knew how valuable those 30 seconds are to me!). And yesterday I found out that my temp assignment had ended. Financially, it's a terrible hit; morally and personally, it's not the worst thing in the world, as I was feeling ridiculously stifled there. I won't get into all the details of it all, but let's just say that I'm a bit too liberal to work where I was working, so I suppose it's all for the best. Still, it aches. I don't like rejection in any form - especially when I was practically being offered the permanent position - and when it takes a direct hit to my finances, it sucks big fat hairy toe.

(You thought I was going to say something worse, there, didn't you? :P)

Alas, it was a temp job and I should be able to find SOMETHING in short order; I have to, right? I simply have no other choice and there is no time to wallow (Okay, so I did set aside 60 minutes to cry about it and then I started job hunting). But when life gives you lemons in the middle of a cold, rainy, stormy, disgusting January, dammit, you don't make lemonade, you make beef stew. Not with actual lemons of course, but with the acidity of the harshness that life throws at you, the kind that requires real, hearty, deliciously warm comfort food.

I had some random leftover cut of beef in my freezer and thawed it this week in the hopes of using it in something (Lord knows what; I just wanted beef). I'm not sure what else it would have worked with, as it was a rather awkward cut of beef. I decided this might be good to use in stew because I wouldn't have to worry about adding too much extra fat in the form of oil and I could hack it up into random pieces, but I wasn't sure if I had everything needed to make a proper beef stew. After perusing my kitchen contents, it appeared I had everything but the Burgundy wine, which was just dandy as I probably would have drunk the wine anyway, lol. Not only had I lost my job, but my old computer took a dive and my DVD player just died with a new Netflix movie inside of it, so I needed something warm & comfy to make me feel better. Not to mention a longer cooking process to keep my mind busy.

So here it is. It's not the most gourmet of beef stew recipes, but darnit, it's still super tasty and proves that you can make things like stew even if you're minus a crockpot! It has plenty of meat and plenty of veggies, so you can feel semi-good about indulging in this winter staple. I like mine to be a little on the tomato-ey side, so be aware that tomatoes WILL be used in this recipe, as opposed to most beef stews. And if you make it just right, it doesn't cost you all that much. A wonderful thing if you are in between temp assignments!!!

Poor Girl's Beef Stew (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $2.50)

1 1/2 lbs stew meat or thick cut of steak like chuck roast
2 medium russett potatoes
2 medium carrots
1 medium white onion
2/3 c canned diced tomatoes in juice
2 14.5 oz. cans beef broth
1/2 c water
1/2 c green peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 t + 1/2 t salt
1 t ground black pepper, divided
1/4 c flour
2 T olive oil

Rinse, peel, and chop all the veggies into 1" pieces. Combine the flour, 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t black pepper together and mix well. Add the stew meat to the flour mixture and toss until everything is properly coated. In a large pot heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the meat. Be sure not to crowd the beef pieces so that they brown properly (if you have to work in a couple of batches, do so). Brown on all sides and remove from the pot.
Use about 1/2 cup of the beef broth to deglaze the bottom of the pot before adding the potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic and all the herbs & seasonings. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add the browned beef, balsamic vinegar, the remainder of the broth and the water. Bring to a rapid simmer then reduce the heat, cover, and cook for about 35-40 minutes (this is a small pot of stew, so it will be done quickly!). If needed, thin the stew with a bit more water or broth before adding the peas. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Serve hearty amounts in large bowls with plenty of warm, toasty bread, and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tastemaker Program Recipe: Bananas Foster Breakfast Parfait with Special K Granola

The week before last I got home to find yet another wonderful Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program package with some goodies from the fine folks at Special K. I've always been a huge fan of Special K Cereal, especially when they introduced the Special K with Berries (heaven in a bowl of milk!), and I've been eager to try some of the new stuff they've come out with, like their protein shakes & granola. Though I didn't get a protein shake in my care package, I did get a nice box of their new Touch of Honey Granola and a box of their 100 calorie fruit crisps, which I have to admit I inhaled in short order (they're a wonderful between-meal or post-workout snacks). Not wanting to subject my granola to a perpetual sentence of being submerged in milk, I started throwing it on top of some fruit or in some yogurt. Then it occurred to me that I could throw the fruit and yogurt on top of IT instead, and got to work.

Now, let me warn you: though Special K is supposed to be about good things like health and weight loss, this is one recipe that will not fall into that category; nor would it fall under Kimberly's Non Diet label. It's simply far too rich, even if I did make some modifications to the Bananas Foster that would make this a bit less evil. Traditional Bananas Foster is filled with pounds of melted butter, tons of brown sugar, and gallons of rum (okay, maybe not that much, but I like to round up), and I've done my best to get rid of at least half of this evil while retaining the integrity of this incredibly rich, delicious dessert so that it could become breakfast fare. This is one of those breakfast or brunch recipes that should only be enjoyed after a festive weekend or when you have some fantastic company over (or in my case, when you just want to indulge in something completely sweet & sinful). But what it does do is help you make something completely fabulous for breakfast that costs well under $1.50/serving, something you could NEVER get at a hotel or restaurant during their Sunday brunches (a box of Special K Granola will cost about an average of $3/box). And it takes practically zero time to prepare. Gotta love that!

Bananas Foster Breakfast Parfait with Special K Granola (makes 2-3 servings; total cost per serving: $1.30)

2 medium bananas
2 T butter
3 T brown sugar (eek!)
1 t ground cinnamon
1/3 c apple juice
1 c plain nonfat yogurt
1 c Special K Touch of Honey Granola

Peel the bananas and cut them into 1/2" pieces. Over medium low heat, melt the butter and brown sugar in a small skillet. Add the apple juice and cinnamon and allow to the sauce to cook for about 2 minutes on its own. Next add the chopped bananas. Cook for about 3-4 minutes (depending on ripeness of the bananas) or until the bananas start to turn slightly soft & tender. Remove from heat.

Assemble your parfaits by adding a layer of granola followed by a bit of the bananas in their syrup, followed by a couple tablespoons of yogurt into 4-6 oz. glasses (remember, this is rich!). Repeat until you reach the top of the glass, top with a bit more of the Special K granola, and indulge! Er, ENJOY! :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Recipe: POM Berry Smoothie Pops + Giveaway!

It's been awhile since I've posted any frozen confections on ye olde blog. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this in the past but I'm one of those crazy folks that loves all sorts of frozen treats during illogical times like a cold, rainy winter. I'd been toying around with some ideas when I was serendipitously contacted by the fine folks at POM Wonderful, wondering if I'd be interested in sampling their products. Pomegranates being one of my favorite fruits and POM Wonderful doing the best job at bringing real PJ to the masses, I jumped at the opportunity to have some. Pomegranate juice is an amazing multitasker that one can not only drink for one's health but use in countless recipes as well. (And after the recipe I'll tell you how you can win some POM Wonderful of your own!)

Because I've been buckling down since December and making sure I do two things that do wonders in terms of any weight loss endeavors - exercising daily and eating breakfast - I thought I'd start off my PJ consumption with a very simple smoothie recipe to help rejuvenate me after a Pilates or Yoga session. Growing up going to Colombia almost every summer, I got used to having fresh fruit juices and shakes, so a good fruit smoothie is very near & dear to my heart. The problem with most smoothies is that after all is said and done, you could easily consume anywhere from 250-500 calories in one fell swoop, depending on size. I should know; I gained a lot of weight on my daily 24 oz. Jamba Juices when I was in college, not taking into account that my "healthy" drink was super full of extra calories! So nowadays when I have a fruit smoothie, I make sure it's of a smallish nature (12-16 oz) and only a couple of times a week. My other problem with smoothies is that, unless you have a loaded gift card from your favorite smoothie shop, it's not the most economical meal or snack you could have. That bugs me (well, not me; my wallet). Like the daily latte that can take a lot of one's disposable income, so can the daily smoothie at $3-5 a pop.

So how'd you fix this for yourself, Poor Girl? Easy! I make one giant smoothie and use it to make smoothie pops. I can usually get at least 6 popsicles out of a 24 oz. smoothie (depending on how much I have for "quality control"), dropping the calories of my snack from 400-ish to 65-ish and my cost per snack from $4.75 to about $0.80 or so. And of course, they last longer, stretching out the value of all those fun, not-so-cheap ingredients like fruits, juices, and the occasional protein booster. These make great after-workout snacks, breakfasts-on-the-go, or a lighter, healthier dessert than an ice cream sandwich. And because it's filled with berries and pomegranate juice, these popsicles are packed with Vitamins A & C and other antioxidants, so you can feel good about indulging in this little treat. Let's look at the recipe before moving on to the contest!

POM Berry Smoothie Pops (makes 1 24-30 oz. smoothie or 6 popsicles; total cost of recipe: ~ $4.25)

8 oz. POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice
1/2 c frozen mixed berries
1/2 c plain nonfat yogurt
2 T honey (optional)
2 T soy protein powder (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender (or if you don't have one, use a sturdy plastic glass & an immersion blender) and puree until completely smooth. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 2 hours. When they're ready, run cold water on the mold to loosen your popsicle and enjoy!


Of course, this was just one uber easy way to make use of such an amazingly versatile juice, so please don't feel bound to adding this to smoothies for the rest of eternity. Pomegranate juice can be used in a variety of different ways, from desserts to soups to salad dressings to random dipping sauces, the latter of which will be making an appearance on PGEW very soon so stay tuned for that.

Anyway, because I got so many little bottles of this deliciously tart, ridiculously healthy juice, I decided to share some with you fine folks! Sure, I could find a zillion ways to use all this juice but I'd rather see what you all can do with it, too. So, for my first contest of 2010, I'm giving away 4 bottles of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice to 4 lucky winners!

To enter, simply leave a comment here on the blog about how you have used/would use pomegranate juice in a recipe (don't worry if you've never cooked with it; that's a perfectly valid comment!). You can earn bonus entries by tweeting about the contest: "RT Win a bottle of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice from @PoorGrlEatsWell!" and emailing me at poorgirleatswell [at] gmail [dot] com that you have done so. Facebook fans can also earn bonus entries by posting a different pomegranate use comment on the Facebook fanpage. That's all there is to it! I'll be announcing the lucky winners on Saturday, January 23rd.

(NOTE: to be considered as a valid entrant, please refrain from going "Anonymous" here on the blog as I'll have no idea who you are! Thank you!)

Good luck, everyone! :)

Recipe: Polenta with Shrimp, Spinach, and Tomatoes

The other day I was FINALLY able to go to Trader Joe's after years of not stepping inside of one. *cue applause* Okay, maybe it was more like months, but it certainly felt like years and I like to round up. :) Because I had only allotted myself a very strict amount of money to spend I couldn't go too crazy, which was a great way to keep my euphoria in check. I stocked up on a few staples that I find to be far more affordably priced than if I were to buy them at other stores (extra virgin olive oil, $3.99/17 oz.; sea salt, $1.99/1lb 10.5 oz.), and on things like large amounts of organic, reasonably priced baby spinach, and my shrimp, something I haven't had in simply ages ($5.99 for the 70-90 count). I made an impulse buy of their delicious organic polenta ($1.89/18 oz., not bad considering they've done all the work for you) and knew I had some almost immediately, such was the craving to have something different.

Polenta is one of those amazing things that you can turn into almost anything you want it to be: creamy or crispy; breakfast or dinner; healthy or sinfully rich. You can top it with just about anything, making the meal possibilities almost endless. And because polenta basically amounts to really good cornmeal, milk, some spices, and a lot of elbow grease, it's something truly affordable that should be a staple in everyone's kitchen. I really should quit being so lazy and just make my own because it's way less expensive, but this TJs organic version is not a bad deal at all for something so convenient. It's pre-cooked so all you have to do is cut it into thick rounds and do with it what you wish (of course, this won't really work as well for creamy polenta, in which case you should make it from scratch). With some diced tomatoes, spinach, a few shrimp and plenty of spices, this becomes a wonderful entrée that costs way less than you'd pay for something similar at a restaurant. The shrimp mixture is very close in flavor to the Shrimp in Smoked Paprika-Tomato Sauce that I posted last November, only with a spicier, sweeter touch and some healthy spinach for added color & vitamins. Pairing this with a nice wine makes for a lovely weekend dinner when you want to indulge without emptying your wallet entirely. And now for the recipe!

Polenta with Shrimp, Spinach, and Tomatoes (serves 3-4; total cost per serving: $~3.75)

12-14 oz. cooked polenta
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
20-30 medium cooked shrimp
1/2 c baby spinach
1/4 c chopped yellow onion
3 T olive oil, divided
1/4 t salt
1/4 t paprika
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T brown sugar
3 T dry red wine

Slice the polenta into 1/2" thick rounds, triangles, or squares. Heat half of the olive oil in a large skillet and add the polenta pieces. Cook over medium heat until golden brown, about 6 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Combine the diced tomatoes, salt, garlic, wine, brown sugar and both kinds of pepper in a medium bowl, and mix together thoroughly. In a large skillet heat the remaining half of the olive oil and add the tomato mixture. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat and add the shrimp. Cook for about 2 more minutes and add the baby spinach. Cover and remove from heat to allow the spinach to wilt without turning bitter.

To serve, place 3-4 slices of polenta on a plate, spoon a generous amount of the shrimp, spinach, and tomatoes on top and enjoy!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help PGEW help Haiti

Okay, here’s the deal.

I have a couple new recipes and that Poor Girl’s Shopping List post that I’ve been meaning to put up on the site for the past couple of days, but I haven’t been able to do anything blog related since I heard about the monstrous earthquake that devastated the people of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Tuesday. I start cooking and I stop to look at the latest coverage of the devastation; I start writing some witty remark about my current financial hell and I start feeling guilty, images of the rubble, the ruin, the tortured faces of these poor people flashing before me. Yeah, I'm backed up on rent and I just had to make payment arrangements with the utility companies again, but I have a home. I have food and potable water. My God, I have my LIFE! As it stands now, the death toll estimates in this area of Haiti range from tens to hundreds of thousands of lives lost. The rest of them are struggling to live through darkness, hunger, thirst, and the utter chaos of aftershocks that continue to ravish this island.

I have decided that I cannot, in good conscience, continue to post about my own battles when this type of devastation is afflicting so many. I doubt there's anyone with a heart and soul that doesn't feel compelled to help in some way. This is what I have decided to do in order to help, and it involves you joining in with me: from now until February 28th, 30% of the proceeds of Poor Girl Eats Well - To Go! purchases will go towards relief efforts in Haiti.

I know it's not much, but as someone who has been the recipient of some unexpected help in the past week, I know that when it's truly needed, ANY little bit can help. I have chosen Food for the Poor, Inc. as one charity these proceeds will support, as I feel it is both urgently needed aid and relevant to this blog. I am also working on how to donate to Catholic Relief Services, so I will let you all know how that pans out. There are several of you who have been writing in to get 1 or more copies of my mini-book, and I really appreciate the interest & support! The time has finally arrived for you all to get one, and now you can help a country who desperately needs it, too.

For those unfamiliar with the PGEW - To Go! mini-book, it features some reader favorite recipes and some of the most popular tips from the site, to help you on your way to eating ridiculously well on a miniscule budget. It's a 46-page volume with all the full color photos you've come to love, only with a bit less banter before the recipe. :) There is always a 2-3 week turnaround time in regards to shipping, as I work on all of this on my own in addition to blogging and that full time job I so desperately need, so please keep that in mind when you order. (The holiday orders were especially rough on me because I was a gimp and extremely sick, but that was an unusual situation.) Other than that, the ordering process is very simple: just look to your left and you'll see the tiny 1-product store I've set up and follow the ordering process. If you have any questions, you can always email me at poorgirleatswell [at] gmail [dot] com.

Of course, you could donate directly to any charity, but wouldn't it be nice to have a little something along with the satisfaction of helping others? :) Seriously though, I think this makes it easier on those who, like me, are strapped for cash but would still like to help in some way (many charitable organizations ask for minimum dollar amounts that not everyone can afford). And yes, for you skeptics, I will let you know when & how much is given as I give it to each respective charity.

I hope you will all join me in my effort to try to give back the way that so much has been given to me when I've needed it. Thanks for letting me get on my soapbox and thanks in advance for your orders. And stay tuned for a new recipe this weekend! You may even get more than one just for being such awesome, generous folks. ;)


Friday, January 8, 2010

Recipe: Penne Primavera

So I've really been bare-bonesin' it lately, as I'm so backed up on bills & rent due to all the missed work from my evilly sick November/December that it's not even funny. The fact that, as a temp, I have zero vaction/sick/holiday pay makes things even worse, so I've been trying really hard to subsist on leftovers of recent PGEW recipes and a lot of milk. However, there's only so much of that that one can do without fainting, and since I've been doing Pilates workouts thrice daily, my body is demanding real food. I've been doing great as a light eater during the day; always have, probably always will do. But I don't know if it's the 1/4 Spaniard in me or what, I just need to eat a larger, more substantial meal at night, I just do! My favorite joke when I first lost all that MAJOR weight was that I would eat healthy during regular business hours (9-5, M-F) and eat whatever I wanted afterwards, and frankly, that really worked for me. One thing I've learned in all my weight loss travails is that you cannot deny yourself anything; that's just setting yourself up for failure because all you do is focus on that deprivation (I should know; you don't keep 70lbs off for over 5 years without some good tricks!). Since I know what I need to do to be at my tiny size 4 again and HOW to do it, I've adopted all my former tricks; and this is one of them.

Anyway, the other day I kinda overdid it and ate far too lightly during the day, which is not good if you're hypoglycemic. By the time I got home I was ready to faint and to eat my bookcase for carbs & fiber, but opted for a lovely pasta dish instead. Because I haven't been able to ambulate in the general direction of my favorite farmers market lately, I haven't had the chance to partake in fresher veggies, so the frozen ones have been my dear friends as of late. And they're not bad friends to have during the winter; there are more nutrients in frozen veggies than in canned, and they have a far better texture and flavor than their cannéd (yes, I am bringing back accented English) counterparts. I figured this would be a good way to have a nice pasta primavera in the dead of a dismal, gray, foggy-ass winter. And so I did.

Pasta Primavera is, in general, a no-brainer and this one is no different. Because we're all freezing in this particular country, I'm sure a lot of us are having a hard time finding quality fresh vegetables, so please do partake in any of the frozen options out there if you're looking for something more warm and sunny to look at and eat. I use a far bigger veggie-to-pasta ratio than most recipes do, and as opposed to a lot of the more recent primavera recipes in this world, it's not as rich & creamy-sauce laden, so it's actually a fairly decent option for those of us who are trying to eat more healthily. And really.... how can you go wrong with pasta & veggies for a good, economical meal, right? Enjoy, my friends. And if you're really in a pinch for the Parmesan cheese at the end, just follow the tips I've given you in the past and you'll enjoy just as hearty a meal as I have. :)

Penne Primavera (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: ~ $1.75)

2 c cooked whole wheat or brown rice penne pasta
3/4 c broccoli florets
3/4 c cauliflower florets
1/2 c green peas
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
8-10 medium white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 T butter
1/3 c white wine
1 T nonfat/reduced fat milk
1/2 t salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t dried basil
1/2 t dried rosemary
1/4 t dried oregano
Grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the garlic; cook until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the carrots, broccoli and cauliflower florets and sauté until they become slightly tender. Add the mushrooms and peas, and sauté for about 1-2 minutes. Add the sliced onions, tomatoes, herbs, salt, pepper, milk and the wine and allow to cook over medium heat for another 2 minutes. Finally, add the cooked penne pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until everything is warmed through and well-combined.

Serve generous amounts on medium plates, garnish with the grated parmesan and more fresh ground pepper if desired, and enjoy!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Recipe: Cranberry Raisin Quinoa with Yogurt

This week I’ve been having some pretty light breakfasts that have been just fine in terms of giving me some energy & sustenance for the beginning of the day: a fruity protein shake, some scrambled egg whites with spinach & veggies, etc, etc. Today, however, I wanted something a bit heartier - just a giant bowl of something warm & filling. I contemplated having oatmeal but realized I was out of the instant kind and didn’t really have the time to go into the whole oatmeal-from-scratch making process, so I opted to have a hearty bowl of quinoa instead. Because I was also out of apples (and because it’s just a bit too sinful of a breakfast to be having just yet; I have to exercise some restraint here!), I couldn’t really indulge in my Warm Breakfast Quinoa with Cinnamon Apples, nor could I have my Mixed Berry & Almond Quinoa Bowl because I was also out of berries. But darnit – I WANTED QUINOA FOR BREAKFAST! What to do, what to do?

Well, this was one craving I wasn’t going to ignore, especially after resisting the siren call of Pancho’s Cocina Mexicana yesterday (it’s so wrong to watch your coworkers go without you and then come back smelling like enchiladas. *sigh* Still, I saved some much needed dinero by not going!). I had raisins, I had Craisins, heck, I even had some yogurt and nuts to throw into the mix – breakfast would be served in no time. This bowl of goodness couldn’t have turned out better, and I lightened things up a bit this time by not using any of the evil cinnamon-sugar-butter concoctions that I’m apt to put in everything. It’s packed with protein, of course, and the addition of some creamy yogurt tied everything together beautifully.

I know, I know; on a weekday it’s probably easier to head to McDonald’s and get a McGriddle or something, but is that really the way you want to start the new year? (The correct answer is NO.) This is inexpensive and good for you, and not all that time consuming if you organize your morning just right. Hooray for healthy workweek breakfasts that don’t cost an arm & a leg!

Cranberry Raisin Quinoa with Yogurt (makes 2-3 servings; total cost per serving: ~$2.35)
1 c quinoa
1 c apple juice
1 c nonfat milk
¼ c raisins
¼ c dried cranberries
1 t cinnamon
1 c nonfat plain or vanilla yogurt (Greek style if you’ve got it!)
1/2 c chopped nuts of your choice

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly before cooking. In a medium saucepan combine the apple juice and milk and bring to a low boil. Add the quinoa and cook for about 20 minutes or until the quinoa grains have burst and are tender (but not mushy!). Add the cranberries and raisins and cover for about 2-3 minutes to let the steam plump them up a bit.

Spoon a generous amount into a bowl, top with ½ cup of yogurt and plenty of chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans, and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Recipe: Pesto Couscous Salad

I’m not sure why, but so far I haven’t been able to get my act together for 2010. I’m not completely discombobulated or anything, but I had hoped I could get into the groove of having my work lunch already made the night before so all I’d have to do was pack it and go. So far, no luck with that one unless I’m having leftovers. It’s not that big a deal, however, considering I’ve gotten really good at throwing stuff into a bag and hoping it turns out okay once lunchtime comes around. It worked beautifully for the Garbanzo & Avocado Salad from last month, and I feel it worked out just as well this time around. As I was flying around the house trying to corral StuKitty and give Hana her insulin (yes, I have a diabetic cat) before heading to work, I quickly packed an avocado (seriously, $0.67/each at Safeway last week??? I had to buy a metric ton), a small red onion, some dried couscous, and my one lone tomato, the last one I’d been hoarding for a couple of days just so I wouldn’t have to suffer sans tomato during the workweek. As an afterthought I also threw in a jar of pesto that came in my Foodbuzz Blogger Festival swag bag, remembering I was also sorely out of decent dressing ingredients. Surely this would work; pesto goes with EVERYTHING, right?


Now, I love making my own pesto at home and prefer to do that rather than buying it pre-made because it just tastes better. Alas, I haven’t been able to go to the farmers market in weeks because of the stupid ankle and refuse to buy dead, overpriced herbs at other stores, so I haven’t made homemade pesto in quite sometime. Fortunately, the pesto we got was no ordinary pesto; it came from Mezzetta, purveyors of delicacies such as fine olives, sundried tomatoes, and a wide variety of peppers, so I was not disappointed by its flavor & consistency in the least. My only issue with it is that it comes in such a small jar! But as with all quality ingredients & foods, a little definitely goes a long way, and after doing some research on pricing, this has to be some of the best jarred pesto I’ve tried for its price. It costs around $4.75 per 6.25 oz. jar, a steal considering other brands offer lesser pesto for about twice that much. So if you’re in a bind like I was and can’t make your own right now, I highly recommend trying the Mezzetta pesto.

Anyway, back to the food! (I got a little sidetracked there.) I couldn’t be happier with this little salad as it has everything Poor Girl could wish for in a recipe: flavor, health and value. I have also decided I will be using pesto more often to bless my food when I have no dressing options. I do that a lot with fresh salsa, using it on everything from salads to soups to rice dishes, and pesto is just as versatile. Though it’s a little on the fatty side because of the olive oil, parmesan and nuts, you don’t need to use much, so it’s a great way to add some flavor to your food without having to resort to mayo or sugar laden dressings. The combination of the crisp onion, smooth avocado and juicy tomato with the tender couscous is already a light, healthy winner in the lunch department, but trust me – the pesto makes all the difference in this one! Just be sure to bring a breath mint for later. :)

Pesto Couscous Salad (makes 3 servings; total cost per serving: ~ $1.05)

1 ½ c cooked couscous
1 large avocado
1 large tomato
½ medium red onion
1-2 T pesto (or more if you’re a pestoholic!)

Chop the avocado, tomato and onion into ½” pieces. Gently toss the veggies together with the cooked couscous, then add the pesto and mix until well-combined. Serve by itself or on a large bed of greens, and enjoy!

Newsworthy: PGEW an official contributor to News10!

So this is fun - after a few months in the works, PGEW is finally an official contributor to News10's website! is the official website of Sacramento's ABC affiliate and they are quite the amazing news station with some of the best anchors out there. Anywho, after some waiting, PGEW and some other amazing Sacramento bloggers became a part of the family and I couldn't be more proud of all of us. I'm featured in the "Surviving the Economy" section of the site, aptly enough, and I invite all of you - local or not - to check it out, as there's a lot of good info on there on how to weather this tough economy, from job links to news stories to cool blogs that can help you in your time of need. ;) Right now, PGEW and another amazing Sacramento blog, Juniper James, are the featured bloggers in this section, and I encourage you to check out JJ as she's seriously the PGEW of fashion (I'm floored by the awesome outfits she can create on a dime!). We'll be on there for quite awhile, I hope! I'm so incredibly honored to be a part of this and hope that you all check out the page, regardless of your location. Though I've got the food thing pretty much covered, we can all use some tips and insight on how to weather these tough economic times, so any bit of advice is helpful.

Anyway, check out the link and share it with your friends if you can! I'm just proud to be part something hyperlocal that will reach many folks in the region in which I live, and I can't wait to show a ton of new folks how they, too, can eat ridiculously well on a miniscule budget. :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

What's in Store for January

So I was seriously considering ditching my whole What's In Store feature for the new year because frankly, I'm not that good at keeping up with it. I have all these newfangled ideas in my head at the beginning of each month and then life happens, making all my plans go awry. Like my newest installation for PGEW TV (technical issues) and my granola recipe (coming way sooner than you'd think, though). I am filled with the best of intentions that cannot always be fulfilled. Still, I rather like having a touchstone for every month, and shall therefore continue with my little monthly blurb. And so it goes for January of 2010...

~ Buñuelos are still on the way, yo. I swear. I cannot blame this on anything other than sheer fear that I will not explain it correctly, so I may need to consult my mommy for technical support on this one. But it's coming, cheese fritter lovers, I promise.

~ I am on a very serious mission to be a size 4 once more (hey, that rhymed) and I'm taking you along with me. Except for the occasional dessert and evil crepe here & there, expect to embark on a journey of many, many uber healthy things this month. I don't do resolutions, I go on missions; and I want you to join me! :)

~ I'm FINALLY working on something that a lot of you have been writing/asking/waiting for: a PGEW shopping list. This is a goal I set for myself back in November of 2009, so this will DEFINITELY be making an appearance this month. Hope this helps those of you who are PGEW die hards!

~ I have a new breadmaker (that I scored for FREE, as those of you on Facebook know) and so far, it appears to work. If you have a good, low-cost bread recipe that you'd like to share, email me! I'd love to get some suggestions. :)

~ If you're not a fan on Facebook, you should definitely become one! I'm not the best Twitter user so a lot of my updates come from FB, and as PGEW grows, that means that cool things like giveaways will be made more readily available to anyone who's a Facebook fan. Don't be shy, join today!

That's it for now! Stay tuned for new crepe recipes, another $25 Shopping Cart excursion, and all sorts of other random stuff on PGEW this month. Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Recipe: Honey Glazed Roots & Sprouts with Pan-fried Garlic

So did everyone have a good time ringin' in 2010? I had an absolute blast with a few friends and even found a new restaurant/bar to review, only I will wait until I can afford to go again on a night that isn't in full party mode. Yesterday I took it easy (wasn't hungover, just turned around with my sleep schedule, since I'm used to early nights due to work) and watched a few movies while I contemplated removing the Christmas decor around here. I decided to put that off for a wee bit longer and set about making some sort of veggie-filled dish for lunch so I could get back on track after all the New Year's Eve indulging. It occurred to me that except for the giant bag of Brussels sprouts hanging out in my crisper, I was sorely lacking in any fresh vegetables. I contemplated making a salad with the sprouts but felt I should leave that recipe for later, after I've perfected the dressing. Finally, after much poking around, I realized I could make use of all the root veggies I had been neglecting. I love roasted Brussels sprouts and I love roasted root vegetables, so it seemed like an ideal situation.

A lot of you saw my lamentation on Facebook regarding the lack of decent and affordable fresh tomatoes these days, and I'm suffering from withdrawals of many fresh items because of the weather and mobility issues (the latter of which has seen vast improvement as of late! I'm even wearing matching shoes!). Because of this I have become far more fond of root veggies like potatoes, carrots and turnips, not to mention the occasional parsnip. Most are in season right now and they do keep longer than some of our favorite summer veggies & fruits, making it easier to cut back on their cost. Except for having them roasted or puréed as a side, I hadn't really done much with them. I haven't done much with this either, aside from roasting everything together in a garlicy honey glaze and adding pan-fried garlic at the very end. It's simple but really enhances all of the flavors, especially the garlic and how it lends a smoky aroma to the natural nuttiness of the Brussels sprouts. This sounds fancier than it actually costs and is a delicious way to get in a ton of veggies with minimal effort, especially for those of you who may have most of these ingredients in your home gardens. No moaning and groaning now! It's a new year and it's time to eat more vegetables, so let's do it! :)

Honey Glazed Roots & Sprouts with Pan-fried Garlic (serves 3-4; total cost per serving: ~ $2)

2 medium carrots
2 small parsnips
2 small white or purple turnips
4 medium red potatoes
1/2 lb (about 10 small) Brussels sprouts
2 T honey
1 T olive oil
1/2 t granulated garlic
1/4 t sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 T cooking oil

Preheat the oven to 425°. Whisk together the honey, olive oil, granulated garlic, salt & pepper and set aside. Rinse & peel the carrots & parsnips (I like to leave the skin on the potatoes & turnips but you may also peel those if you like) and chop all the root vegetables into 1" pieces. Rinse the Brussels sprouts thoroughly, pat dry and cut in half. Combine the roots and sprouts in a large bowl with the honey glaze and toss together until everything is evenly coated. Place in a baking dish lightly sprayed with cooking spray and roast for 20-25 minutes, until the root veggies are tender and the sprouts begin to caramelize.

While the vegetables are roasting, place the cooking oil in a small frypan or skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the finely chopped garlic and allow to fry until it turns a deep golden brown but doesn't burn. Drain on a plate with paper towels until crispy and remove about 1 tablespoon for garnish. Remove the vegetables from the oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes before adding the rest of the pan-fried garlic and tossing together until combined. Serve as a side or as a nice meatless entrée, garnish with extra garlic and enjoy!


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