food blog

Strain then Stir (Episode 6): Chrissy Teigen’s, Cravings: Hungry for More

One of my goals for 2019 is to cook my way through a cookbook. The whole thing. No recipes left behind.

My choice for this feat? Chrissy Teigen’s, Cravings: Hungry for More. And let me tell you, I made the right choice. Not only have the recipes been the good kind of challenging. But they’ve been absolutely delicious!

Here are some of my favorites so far:

(Note: all credit and rights to the photos belong to the team behind the cookbook.)

Salted Maple Granola

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This was the very first recipe I tried, so naturally I assumed I was ruining it the entire time it was cooking. To add to that, I’ve never been a big granola person because I’m not a big yogurt person and for whatever reason I thought they were the PB&J of breakfast foods—can’t have one without the other—so I just avoided both all together. Turns out, you can totally eat granola like trail mix. And since the recipe made a big batch (I had about three medium sized mason jars full) I was able to munch on it for almost two weeks. It made for the perfect mid-morning snack!

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Veggie Couscous

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It took me three trips around the grocery store to figure out where to find the couscous—which ended up being on the bottom shelf in the rice aisle, by the way—but it was worth it. Couscous ended up being the fluffy love child of rice and quinoa I never knew I needed in my life. Did you know it cooks in, like, THREE MINUTES?! Talk about instant gratification. And then this recipe called for both sweet potatoes and zucchini to be simmered on the stove in broth with cinnamon, cumin and cayenne pepper and ahhhh my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Is it possible to miss couscous? To long for it? Because that’s what’s happening.

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Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad

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Since I could probably count the number of times “a salad” was my answer to the question, “what are you making for lunch?” on one hand, it was understandable why my sister stopped in her tracks when those words came out of my mouth on a Saturday afternoon. “You’re what?” she said, and I shrugged, pulling the carrots out of the oven, trying my best not to talk myself out of the whole thing. If you happen to be a fellow salad shunner, allow me to introduce you to our new friend. This salad is DELICIOUS. The carrots. The dressing. The avocado. The crunch of the sunflower seeds. I was genuinely sad when I finished this salad and I can’t wait until I make it again.

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Thai Seared Tuna Salad

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While this goal is supposed to broaden my horizons in the kitchen, it has also opened my eyes to new corners of the grocery store. I mean, would you know where to find a tuna steak off the top of your head? Because I sure didn’t. But you better believe that when I found it—at the fresh fish counter—I ordered it like I’d done it all my life. “Yes, one pound of the tuna steak please.” This is another untraditional salad recipe, and my sister and I were pleasantly surprised by how filling it was. I did forego the Thai bird chiles (because I’m a baby that can’t handle spicy foods) and the cilantro (just because I hate it) but it was still delicious and made me feel like an accomplished adult capable of cooking something both healthy and yummy. Hummy? Yealthy? You get it.

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Thus far, I’d 100% recommend this cookbook for anyone looking to spice up their life. The recipes are different than anything I’ve ever made before, but they are not impossibly difficult, which is encouraging and fun. I look forward to many more mornings, afternoons and evenings spent in the kitchen half stressing out, half excitedly stirring, all while consistently and pridefully stuffing my face. Thanks, Chrissy!

Baked Cheeto State of Mind

So first off, let’s just get it out of the way and say that yes, I LOVE Baked Cheetos, but that’s not exactly what I’m here to talk about. I’m not going to go into detail about why crunchy is better than “puffs” and why baked is better than regular or cheese explosion or whatever other flavor exists out there, even though all of that is true.

The reason I’m here today is to explain how Cheetos, yes, Cheetos, taught me a thing or two about chasing my dreams.

NO DON’T! Don’t click away yet, just give me a second (or 60). This is (maybe) worth it, I (kind of) promise.

Anyways, back to Cheetos.

So about a year and a half ago I was at Costco shopping for snacks to fill up the vending machine at work, when I came across a box of various flavored chips including, you guessed it, Baked Cheetos. At the time I probably hadn’t eaten a Cheeto in a solid 6 years, but alas, I instantly added the box to my cart. Maybe I was hypnotized by the tiger with shades, I don’t know. Regardless, I bought the box, figuring that even if no one at my work liked a single bag of chips that were in the variety pack, at least I could check out this whole Baked Cheeto scene and check one box off the Snack Food Bucket List—which I don’t actually have. (Yet.)

As you may have guessed from reading the first paragraph, I fell in love with these Cheetos. We’re talking head over heels, can’t eat (save for more Baked Cheetos), can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of stuff. (It Takes Two reference anyone?)

Needless to say, after this there was not a Costco trip that went by without purchasing these. Every couple weeks I’d stroll down the first aisle on the left—past all the non-gummy vitamins I figured I should start looking into as a 25-year-old adult—and I’d grab the brightly colored box featuring the one and only fire orange keeper of my heart.

That is, until one trip when the box wasn’t there.

What?

Yes, this is actually a dramatic pause regarding chips.

I stood in the aisle perplexed, distraught, shattered really, that Costco had essentially failed me by selling out of my favorite snack and not restocking the shelves before I arrived.

The nerve.

At the end of the day however, I knew that in the grocery store business these things happen, so I tried not to hold it against old Costco, and I grabbed a different box of chips and headed back to work.

Two weeks later, it was time. It had been a rough 9 days of work without my traffic cone colored companion and I was ready for a big cheesy reunion. Upon arrival however, I was heartbroken to find there were still no Cheetos.

I went back again two weeks later, still no Cheetos.

Turns out, they’d stopped carrying them as, apparently I was only who was buying them because apparently everyone else that shops at Costco is crazy.

But alas, this was the truth I had to live with, and, if I’m being honest, I didn’t handle it well.

I spoke of the loss to everyone I knew, suggesting Costco had given me the biggest heartbreak of my life, and wishing I’d never seen that variety pack in the first place. (As dramatic as this sounds, this is also where the whole “Cheetos helped me pursue my dreams” thing ties in.)

After a few weeks of shameful complaining and undoubtedly annoying mourning however, I decided to make it my mission to find Baked Cheetos again, whether it be for the vending machine at work or just a big ass bag for my house.

Mercifully, my friends and family actually put up with this. Supported it even. Once they learned of my ultimate goal, they did everything in their power to help me achieve it. For as ridiculous as this quest was, they knew it made me happy, and when you surround yourself with people that genuinely love you, they tend to go out of their way, regardless of the consequence, to achieve just that.

These days I’ve distanced myself from the obsession, though that’s not to say I wouldn’t buy them. I still have moments when I feel like nothing can quench my munchies like a (completely underfilled) bag of Baked Cheetos, just like sometimes I feel like nothing could make me happier than writing a blog post or visiting the world’s largest raisin box. And it’s nice to know that no matter how outlandish the goal, if I set my mind to it, I can accomplish it, if not on my own then with the help of those that love me.

So whatever your bag of Baked Cheetos is, go get it.

Also, grab me one. An actual bag of Baked Cheetos that is, I’m starving.

 

 

 

The Juice Cleanse

Have you ever done something that is so sickeningly stereotypical of your hometown? Something that makes you sigh in frustration knowing that you are so conspicuously French or Icelandic or Floridian. Like if a Texan said, “Yee Haw!” or an English girl invited you over for tea and crumpets, or an Australian man was attractive. It’s all so predictable.

I often try not to be predictable, but I often fail. I’m from Southern California and I don’t hide it well. I say “dude”, “oh my gosh”, “totally”, and “like,” way too much, I talk about freeways and traffic on a daily basis, I do yoga, and I put on a jacket when it is less than 70° outside. If that wasn’t enough to give it away however, maybe this next thing would be.

A few months back I decided to do a juice cleanse. My sister had been interested in trying one for quite some time and had finally come across one that fit her well.  So, at her request for solidarity, my mom and I decided to do it with her.

The first step was to go shopping.

Here was our list:

Green vegetables, all of them that have ever existed.

Some apples and lemons to make it seem casual

The one vegetable I prayed we wouldn’t have to get

A vegetable I had never heard of

A vegetable that made my colon audibly whimper

Vegetables that I was 99.9% sure did not contain any juice

A few vegetables that I had heard of but never wanted to drink

A candy bar to rub against my face when I was regretting this decision (which they didn’t let me get)

Six Nalgene bottles (in the color of our choice!!!)

When we unloaded our groceries at home, our refrigerator looked like the doorway to vegan Narnia.

The cleanse would last 3 days.

We were starting on a Thursday morning. Our thought process was that Thursday and Friday are generally the easiest days of the work week because of the impending weekend, thus the promise of Saturday would distract us from unending hunger. So late Wednesday night, we juiced.

I had juiced before.  I had let my sister make me juice before, so I knew the general principle of it. You clean the fruits and vegetables, you cut the fruits and vegetables and you stick them in the white tube of death where all solids go to die. You then watch as the mouth of the juicer vomits fruit and vegetable guts into your cup, you stir it up, and you drink it. YAY HEALTH.

For this 3 day cleanse, the 3 of us would have to drink 64 ounces of the juice each day. 8 ounces every hour starting at 8 a.m. As you can imagine, juicing the 192 ounces needed for the 3 of us took quite a bit of time. By the end of Wednesday night I thought I’d never stop smelling celery. I just assumed that from that night on, every smell I would ever smell, would be a slight shade of celery. Luckily, this passed by the next morning.

That Thursday morning I awoke like I do every morning, overwhelmingly hungry and excited for my bowl of cereal. When I walked into the kitchen however, the lingering smell of liquefied celery torsos reminded me of the handcuffs on my daily diet. I touched the cereal cabinet, trying to absorb the processed sugar, and then opened the refrigerator door. There they were. 6 Nalgene bottles of green…stuff dying to be consumed at 8 ounce increments. After some internal groaning I grabbed the 2 blue ones and headed out the door to work.

Accessorized with 64 ounces of slime, I clocked in at 8 a.m., stuck the bottles in the mini fridge, and took a seat at my desk. After powering up my computer I came to the unfortunate realization that bringing the bottles to work was only half of the task at hand. Apparently being in close proximity to the juice wasn’t the same as drinking it. So, I reopened the door, gulped down 8 ounces, slammed the door shut and whispered “chocolate” under my breath.

I’m going to be completely honest with you, the juice wasn’t actually that bad. Unlike my original expectations, the juice did not taste like garden farts. It was definitely juice-ish. It tasted healthy and earthy, but without the underlying hints of dirt one would expect.

Thursday went relatively smoothly. The specific cleanse we were on allowed us to have lean protein for dinner, so after the 8 hours of sipping fruit and vegetable blood we were rewarded with some chicken and WHAT? more vegetables. Woop.

Friday was not a good day. Although I spent most of the day feeling like a chunk of cilantro was slowly choking me to death, the 8 hour juice cruise to start my day went swimmingly.  The trouble came that night.

Quick tip to anyone considering trying a juice cleanse at any point in their life: Double check your schedule before starting. Do not, I repeat do NOT decide to start a juice cleanse when you have Friday night Dodger tickets. You will spend the entire game watching people eat hot dogs and churros and pizza and malts and nachos and everything else that you could ever imagine outside the world of lean protein. You will hate yourself for choosing such an agonizing path and you will spend most of the game visualizing what it would be like to juice live humans.

Saturday was the last day. We had been weakened by the Dodger game and wanted to call it quits that morning, but with a fridge full of slime filled Nalgene bottles, we knew that we had to finish what we started. Not long after our first juice gulp, my Grandpa called and invited my dad, sister and I over to watch the Dodger game that night. After we agreed, my sister and I decided that we would finish our allotted juice for the day and then eat whatever Grandpa wanted for dinner. Grandpa would set us free.

I had woke up feeling really good that morning. I don’t know how, but the juice had managed to keep me both satiated and energized while simultaneously making me feel lighter, cleaner even. To put it simply, my body felt totally and completely refreshed. A.k.a the slime worked.

When it came down to it and I had my chicken burrito for dinner, I decided that I would recommend the juice cleanse to anyone who asked about it. When you put your head down and do it, it’s not as bad as you make it out to be.

Here are some tips:

  • Don’t be alarmed by how much you pee. It will be a lot.
  • Don’t let your dad convince you to go hiking before you visit your Grandpa. Not only will your body be fatigued, reminding you with each step that you have in fact only consumed slime, but you will also, as mentioned in tip 1, have to pee most of the time.
  • Don’t forget to check your schedule before starting.
  • Don’t put yourself in situations that make you want to murder people at the hands of hunger.
  • Don’t quit before it’s over. The end result is worth the struggle.

If you’re interested in trying the cleanse I did, you can find it here.

Good luck and happy vegetable murdering!

The Quest.

Tuesdays are like any other day, except when there are donuts.

This particular Tuesday started out like the first 24 that 2014 had to offer. My alarm went off at 6:45, so I got up at 7. Work started at 8 and ended at 3:30.

I’ve been housesitting for some friends of the family, so after dinner and a shower I was ready to drive over to the house and go to sleep (watch Orange is the New Black).

Upon arriving at the house, my sister and I couldn’t find it in ourselves to turn on the show that had captivated us for the last few nights. There was something off, there was something missing. The answer smelled like pure sugar and was both filled and topped with chocolate chips. The answer was donuts.

The decision to leave the house required zero deliberation.

She slipped on a hoodie, I put on pants and we were off.

She knew a place down the street that she had visited a few weeks prior. She said the people were nice and they had the type of donuts we were looking for.

Think of this donut like the Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s wanted by many, gives life, and has the power to kill creepy dudes with no noses. (All proven facts)

We arrived 4 short minutes later and walked up to the counter. My eyes glazed (pun intended) over the rows and rows of sugary treats. Sprinkles and chocolate and bear claws, they were all there. But there was no sign of the SS. I reviewed the contents of each row carefully, assuming my excitement was hindering my ability to spot it in a crowd. But the truth of the matter was, like my hopes and dreams, the SS was no longer in the building.

I paced a little, contemplating my next move while my sister double checked with the nice woman behind the counter (who may or may not be an enemy conspiring against us that had hidden every SS she could get her hands on, bitch.) that they were in fact out. When she replied with a nod, my feet swiveled and I was out the door in seconds. I would not settle for your beautifully crafted sprinkle creations that were singing songs of merriment next to the cinnamon rolls.

This was no longer a simple trip for donuts, this was now a quest.

As we reentered my car, we spotted another donut shop across the street and made a (slightly) legal dash to the potential treasure trove. I parked next to an older couple who were slowly exiting their vehicle and sauntering towards the donut shop.

WHAT IF THEY ARE LOOKING FOR THE SS?! WHAT IF THERE ARE ONLY 2 LEFT?!

We must beat the elders. We must run.

We powerwalked, Olympic event style, swiveling our hips side to side at a rapid pace. We held the door open for the 2nd place donut shoppers, and made our way up to the counter. A quick glance told me that either this place had been ransacked by a group of salacious donut thieves, or the man behind the counter (another potential enemy) was getting ready to close and was selling the last of his product.

I smiled at the man, swiveled my feet, and was back in the car in seconds.

“Find donut shops, NOW,” we told Siri.

“I’m sorry I didn’t qui—“

Screw you Siri.

Just then we remembered, there was a donut shop two streets over, and it was open 24 hours.

“Gas, gas, frustrated brake, and more gas,” said my foot to its pedals.

We turned into the parking lot, and two steps into the shop I saw them. Top left shelf, sitting side by side.

I eagerly pointed at the two bars of chocolate chip covered joy, and the man bagged them up.

(It wasn’t until later that I realized what we must have looked like running into this shop at 10 p.m., hair disheveled, mismatched socks, with smiles that radiated from the stray hairs on my head all the way down to my unpainted toenails. There had to be no doubt in this guy’s mind that we were higher than the blood pressure of an obese walrus. And if the looks didn’t do it for him, it’s possible that what we did when he told me the price did.)

“$2.80 please. Cash Only.”

You got it dude.

I grabbed my wallet knowing I had three $1 bills waiting to be spent. I smiled as I reached into the slit where I keep cash, but my face fell when my fingers only felt fabric. I checked the 4 other slits, but still only found fabric. I looked back at my sister, desperate for spare change.

“I found a quarter! I found another one! One more! I have a few dimes too!”

She found a total of $1.10.

I had exactly 10 nickels, rounding our total to $1.60.

Suddenly I was frustrated with my choice of outfit. There was no way I could flirt my way into underpaying for these donuts. I knew putting my bra back on was a bad idea.

Just then I spotted a liquor store across the parking lot. I signaled to my sister, told the man to hold those donuts for us (necessary, since there were exactly 0 customers behind us in line or anywhere in sight) and ran to the neon sign marked ATM just inside Push not Pull doors.

To further prove my dedication to the SS, I paid a convenience charge to the ATM which was more than the total cost of my donuts, before receiving my $20 bill. And once the green faced Andrew Jackson slid into my fingers we ran back across the way and picked up the beautiful brown paper bag that was waiting for us on the counter.

Upon returning home, I ate the donut in its entirety, without one ounce of regret.

And like any good quest, it ended with a glass of milk.