Hmmm… Better Do Something With These Pigeon Peas!

November 26, 2013

I’ve been in fridge-clean-out mode for the past few days. This happens before I travel – I make an effort to consume all my fresh produce, so nothing goes bad while I’m gone. I’m headed to Colorado for Thanksgiving tomorrow (Have you taken my Thanksgiving Pledge yet? Click here), and want to come home to an empty crisper drawer so I can fill it with fresh new things.

The other night, I found these in the back of my fridge:

pigeon-peas-in-hand

Pigeon Peas! I bought these at the farmers market, and they got pushed behind a taller item in my fridge. Thankfully, they were in a container designed to extend the life of produce, so they were still good! But I’ve never eaten pigeon peas before, so one question remained: What was I going to do with them?

Read the rest of this entry »


Brussel Sprouts!

October 18, 2011

It’s Tuesday.  Looking for a weight loss chart update?  You’re gonna have to wait longer.

Full Disclosure Part One:  Although I didn’t put it up until Tuesday afternoon, I actually wrote this post on Monday evening, so it’s not weigh-in time yet.

Full Disclosure Part Two:  I haven’t decided if I’ll even weigh myself at all this week.  It’s been two weeks since a weigh-in (you can see my last weigh-in here), and, for the last week, I’ve felt pretty good about not needing validation from my scale.  It helps that my scale is currently off my bathroom floor and on the top shelf of my closet.  I put it there because I had a few weeks where I was becoming obsessed with the number on the scale, and was weighing myself daily (or more often than that), and I thought moving the scale out of sight would be a better option than getting tied into a straightjacket and being put in a padded room at the loony bin after going crazy.

So.  When will I weigh myself again?  Possibly tomorrow (which, as you know from Full Disclosure Part 1, will have already passed by the time you read this).  I’ll see how I feel in the morning.  If I’m chomping at the bit to see what I weigh, than I’ll bring down the scale and get to business.  If I don’t, I’ll probably keep the scale where it is, and continue on with my week.  I’ll start chomping at the bit eventually, I’m sure of it.  And when that happens, I’ll weight myself.  Makes sense to me!

Moving on… I have a recipe to share:  Dijon Brussel Sprouts!

I love brussel sprouts, but haven’t bought any in a while.  One time, I even had a brussel sprouts stalk as a roommate!

With a name like Dijon Brussel Sprouts, this may seem like a rerun from last week’s Dijon Green Beans post, but let me assure you, there are some big, major differences.  One, I doubled the recipe.  Two (and perhaps more obviously), I left out the green beans and added brussel sprouts.  Three, I added another ingredient.  Here, I’ll walk you through it:

I started with about three pounds of brussel sprouts.  I cut off the stems, and since they were pretty big, I quartered each one.  They all went onto a baking sheet, and I put them in my 400 degree oven for 40 minutes (per Barefoot Contessa’s suggestion, although I didn’t add oil, salt, or pepper).  I forgot to take a picture of the brussel sprouts pre-oven – oops!

While the brussel sprouts were roasting, I started on the other stuff.  First up, halving nearly 2 pints of cherry tomatoes.  I bought heirloom cherry tomatoes at Whole Foods – one pint all purple (although they showed up looking red in the pictures), and one pint a variety of colors.  I tried a tip from my friend Debbie on how to cut a pint of tomatoes in half in one fell swoop:  First, collect all the tomatoes on a Tupperware lid:

Then put a similarly sized lid on top (which I’m in the process of doing in that picture) to hold the tomatoes in place, and run your big, sharp knife between the two lids.  Voila!  All your tomatoes have been cut in half!

I did that with the multi-colored pint as well, and they all went into a bowl:

Then I thinly sliced an entire medium red onion:

Next up: the dressing.  I started with 2 teaspoons olive oil and 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar in a bowl:

I added 3-4 teaspoons of dijon mustard, some salt and pepper, a little garlic powder, and the new ingredient I mentioned above:  2 tablespoons soy bacon bits:

Bacon and brussel sprouts go great together, and these fake soy bacon bits are a wonderful alternative to the real thing.  A serving (which is 1.3 tablespoons) of the fake ones has 25 calories and 0.5 grams of fat.  Plus, they’re vegan, which makes this a great dish to serve to your vegan friends!

After whisking it all together, I got:

When the brussel sprouts came out of the oven, I added them to the bowl:

They were technically done, as they were tender all the way through, but when I make this recipe again, I’m going to let them go a little longer so they get a little more color.

Final step:  Toss it all together!  I also added another tablespoon or two of the fake bacon bits, because I thought the ones in the dressing might have gotten a little soggy.  The end result (it’s a weird picture because I tried to use the last lingering natural light coming in from my window):

I took this dish to a party I went to this past weekend, and they were a hit.  Lots of compliments.  So you should try it yourself!  It’s easy to cut in half if you aren’t cooking for 10-12 people, like I was, but I ended up taking the leftovers home, and eating them yesterday for lunch at my new job.

Keep it up, David!


Produce Plus Skyscraper

October 16, 2011

Two topics on this lovely Sunday afternoon:

1) Produce Haul.  Brought home a ton of produce from Whole Foods yesterday.  Some of these items were specifically for recipes that I’m going to share in the next couple days, but most are for my general consumption.  I didn’t look for produce that I’ve never tried before, but I ended up bringing home a couple items that I’ve tried (and blogged about) in the past, and haven’t bought since, for whatever reason.  Here’s everything:

I gotta figure out a new way to photograph mass amounts of produce.  This picture has too much glare for my liking!

Moving clockwise from top left, we have: parsley, a container of celery, scallions, 2 honeycrisp apples, 2 persimmons, 4 red bartlett pears, 4 zucchini, red grapes, French radishes (which I’ve carved bullets from before), brussel sprouts, carrots, a container of cauliflower and broccoli, a container of mini sweet bell peppers, cucumber, red onion, lime, 2 pints of heirloom cherry tomatoes, and 2 dragon fruit.

2) New Skyscraper.  I had a great day at the gym yesterday.  I started with the 15 burpees I’m doing every day this month (3 days down, 27 to go!), then 30 minutes of weightlifting, followed by some cardio.  I decided to get on the StairMaster, and I set the clock for 15 minutes, but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I thought I could power through all 15 minutes, but I couldn’t.  I lasted a solid 8 minutes – burning 150 calories and climbing 45 floors – but I was glad to get off.  I finished up my workout with 17 minutes on the elliptical.

But 45 floors is nothing to sneeze at – especially if you’re a resident of Iowa, where the latest skyscraper in my skyscraper collection is located.  This is the 801 Grand building, in Des Moines, Iowa:

There are lots of 45-floor buildings around the world, but I picked the 801 Grand for a few reasons:

  • It’s the tallest building in Iowa.
  • Iowa is (and will continue to be) topical right now, since we’re only a few months away from the 2012 Iowa caucuses.
  • The 801 Grand is home to 801 Chophouse, a fancy-pants steakhouse that offers, on their menu, an item called ‘The Carnivore,” which is a 40-oz bone-in delmonico.  That steak is over three pounds!  The menu specifies that it’s intended for two people, but still – that’s 20 ounces per person!  My stomach hurts just thinking about it.  It comes with a bone morrow butter bath (don’t know what that is), roasted marrow bones, shallot confit, and baguette toasts.  The price tag? $101.95.

But what really sold me on the 801 Grand is that, in addition to all that, I found not one, but two models of it made out of Legos.  I love Legos, and used to have a whole Lego city in the basement when I was a kid.  I once designed and built a Lego stadium and entered it in a Lego contest (I didn’t win).  I would play with Legos all day every day if I could!  This Lego model of 801 Grand uses over 40,000 Legos:

Source.

This model is a lot smaller – only about 19 inches high – but equally impressive:

Source.

See how the 801 Grand stacks up (get it? Lego humor!) to the other skyscrapers in my collection on my Skyscraper Collection Page!

And now I’m off to the gym again.

Keep it up, David!


Cactus Salad. Yep, Cactus.

July 5, 2011

How was your Fourth of July weekend?  Mine was quite nice, thank you very much for asking.  I got some stuff done around the house, saw a movie at the $3 theater in my neighborhood (we saw Fast Five, and I’m glad I only paid $3 for it), and yesterday, went to a lively and fun BBQ at my friend Jen’s house.  Since I don’t like coming to events empty-handed, I told Jen I’d bring along a salad, and after some thinking, I knew exactly what salad I wanted to bring.

A few months ago, my aunt Annie made a delicious 3-ingredient salad (which you can read about here).  It had onion, cilantro, and the star of the dish, cactus.  Yep, cactus.  It was the first time I’d ever eaten cactus, and it was delicious.  I’ve been wanting to make the salad ever since, and Jen’s BBQ gave me the perfect opportunity.  If you know me at all, you know that I can’t make a recipe without tweaking it here and there and making it my own, and that was the case yesterday as well.  So this is no longer a 3-ingredient dish.  It’s a 7-ingredient dish.  It’s still easy-peasy, and the guests at Jen’s BBQ confirmed that it’s a crowd-pleaser (and conversation-starter).

So what do you need to make my cactus salad?  For starters, cactus:

Not all cactuses (cacti?) are edible.  The edible kind are called nopal, and they’re native to Mexico, where they’ve been eaten by the indigenous people for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years.  In fact, in the 14th century, the Aztec people were told by one of their gods to build a new city on an island in a lake, and they would know which island, because when they went there, they would see an eagle, perched on a nopal, eating a snake.  The Aztecs found the eagle, and built their city, which grew and eventually became Mexico City, and the story of the eagle, snake, and nopal is immortalized on the Mexican flag.

Nopalitos, or “little Nopals” are the tender cactus pads of the Nopal cactus.  I’ve seen them whole and raw in the produce section at Mexican supermarkets in Los Angeles, but that seems like such a hassle, because you have to trim the thorns off them, and that seems like an engraved invitation for me to get 10,000 puncture wounds in my hands.  I think I’ve also seen them trimmed up, thorn-free and raw in the produce section, too, which would be a big help, but you know what’s even easier?  The jarred version I ended up buying.

The 30-ounce jar of  Dona Maria-brand nopalitos pictured above cost me $2.99 at Superior Grocers.  The nopalitos have been trimmed, cooked, and pickled, and for this recipe, I used two jars, which I drained in my colander, and rinsed under cold water, to remove the excess vinegar and salt.  Then, they went into my bowl:

Some people say that nopalitos taste similar to okra, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve had okra (it was years and years ago), so I can’t confirm or deny that.  I think they taste (and look) quite like green beans.  They’re very limp and a little on the slimy side, but then again, they’ve been pickled.  Nopalitos are a good source of fiber and vitamins A, C, and K.  They’ve been shown to reduce the glucose in diabetics’ blood, so you can find nopal-based supplements and pills.  My jar of nopalitos says that a serving only has 5 calories, but a serving is only 2 tablespoons, and I suspect the serving size is so small because the pickling process adds so much salt – those 2 tablespoons have 560mg of sodium, or 23% of your recommended daily intake, which is precisely why I drained and rinsed them for the salad – hopefully I washed some of that sodium away.

Back to the salad.  Ingredients 2 through 5 are all vegetables, which I uniformly diced pretty small, so they’d be smaller than the nopalitos:

From left to right, I used:

  • 1/2 of a white onion.  I would’ve preferred to use red onion, because of the color, but I had a white onion in my fridge that I wanted to use up.
  • Tomatoes.  I used 3 small Roma tomatoes and 1 regular tomato, because that’s what I had lying around.  I scooped out the seeds and core of all of them them before dicing, to limit the amount of liquid in the salad.
  • 1 cucumber, deseeded and diced.
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced.

They all went into the bowl.  Then, this guy:

A jalapeno pepper!  I thought it’d be nice to add a little heat to the salad.  You can leave it out if you want to – it’s no big deal.  Jalapenos (and all other hot peppers) hold a majority of their heat in the ribs and seeds, so be sure to remove them before chopping it up (and don’t touch your eyes!).  I chopped it up as finely as I possibly could, because I didn’t want anyone getting a big bite of jalapeno:

I went ahead and minced the entire jalapeno.  Why not?

The 7th and final ingredient?  A handful of cilantro:

Then I tossed it all together (for a long time, to make sure that jalapeno got distributed everywhere evenly), and here’s the end result:

Because of the lingering brine from the nopalito jars, there’s no need for a dressing of any kind, which makes this salad even easier!   I did, however, make it a few hours before heading to the BBQ, so it could all marinate together for a while.  And I did serve myself a little sample, because I couldn’t wait until the BBQ to give it a try:

Mmm-mmm!  It was flavorful, and the mix of tender napolitos with crisp fresh vegetables provided a nice variety of textures.  And for anyone weary of the jalapeno, it wasn’t very hot, either – just a nice hint of heat.

Hopefully you’ll give nopalitos a try – this salad is an easy way to introduce a new food to your family and friends!  And if you liked this recipe, check out some my other recent lettuce-less salad ideas:

One more fun fact about the nopal cactus – it’s also called a prickly pear cactus, and the prickly pear fruit (sometimes called cactus pear) comes from the same plant.  I tried prickly pear for the first time last fall, and they’re dangerous (read about them here)!  It’s pretty cool that one plant provides both a vegetable and a fruit, and I’m glad that I’ve tried both products.

Keep it up, David!


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