Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Crazy Carrot Machine

A few people have asked me about the carrots in my previous post. The little machine that makes these cute carrot spaghetti strands is the Benriner Cook Help from Japan. I ordered it on Amazon.com a few weeks ago after evaluating a few gadgets that did similar things. This one got the best review.

It's not hard to use however getting it "right" takes a little practice. Picking the right carrots is the first step. Fat carrots work best as the gripper at the top has more to hold on to. Your carrot can't be too tall or it won't fit under the gripper and the corresponding metal spike on the platform. About four inches is a perfect fit.

The machine is also exclusively a right-handed machine as I discovered when I, as a lefty, naturally tried cranking it with my left hand. Nope, didn't work! Finally, I figured out that it must work like scissors and switched to my right hand. That did the trick.

It comes with an assortment of comb shaped blades for different cuts. I have only tried carrots and daikon radish but I've read that it makes great zucchini "angel hair pasta." I look forward to trying that this summer.

This machine is not a time saver--just shredding carrots is much easier but it's a fun way to add carrots to your salads and certainly is much prettier than shredded carrots. Cleanup isn't horrible but you do have to be very careful of the sharp blades..I already nicked myself. The combed blade can be easily unscrewed for easier cleaning.

I won't use this machine when I'm in a rush but it certainly adds a visual appeal to my salads which of course, means I'm more likely to eat them!

Check it out on Amazon.com

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Sunday Routine

Although I am very lucky that my office is just a 7 minute walk from my house and that I eat almost all my meals home, I still need to prep in advance if I want to eat well. So I'm bordering on being compulsively organized (I promise that I'm not wearing a matching twin set and pearls!) but hey, it works. 'Cause you know that throwing away veggies that went bad because you didn't get around to cutting them up for a meal is just, well, a rotten feeling..pun intended.

Maybe it's just me (but I don't think so) but sometimes when I'm in a rush just the idea of washing lettuce and putting it in my salad spinner is too much. Especially at lunchtime when you are supposed to be finding a moment of peace in the middle of a hectic day. I mean, maybe someday I'll see the zen in salad spinning, but it isn't happening for me right now!

So I decided that advanced prep for veggies is essential especially if I want to meet my salad a day quota. Recently I found these cute little non-pvc plastic containers at Whole Foods and they are perfect for the task.

Here's what I add:
Romaine lettuce, shredded into bite-size pieces
Carrots spiraled in my carrot machine

When I serve the salad, I add in avocado and cherry tomatoes. I do not add these in advance because they don't do well pre-prepped (the avocados turn brown and the tomatoes will spoil more quickly in a sealed container).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I'm Nuts About Almond Milk

I have tried just about every kind of dairy alternative out there..for years I was a soy milk girl but I seemed to have inherited my mom's slight soy intolerance. I can still have the stuff but in smaller quantities so I've switched to almond milk, saving my soy allowance for yummy tofu and other soy-based foods. And now I'm finding that I actually love the almond milk more than the soy stuff. I have been enjoying a glass of it, warming in the micro with a few drops of almond extract..yum and so soothing and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Since my name means "almond" in French ("Amande") this was meant to be undoubtedly!! I've tried the Pacific brand but Blue Diamond (remember them? the nut people?!) is my brand of choice. I go for the unsweetened original so I can use it on cereal or in recipes. You can order it online directly from Blue Diamond which is kind of unusual for a manufacturer this big but it's a good option since there's a run on this stuff at my local Whole Foods. I usually try to pick up several if I see them in stock 'cause many times they are out when I need it most! My Whole Foods usually has it on sale for $2 which is a bit cheaper than ordering it from Blue Diamond.


Above is a picture from Wikipedia of an almond plant. When we were traveling in Spain a few years ago, we saw some almond trees blossoming and found some wild almonds in their fuzzy casings on the ground. Being from New England, it's not something we get to see on a regular basis and we were quite amazed by it!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fergie-less Black-eyed Peas

I picked up two cans of black-eyed peas in the market a few months ago figuring I'd think of something to do with them. Well, a recipe just didn't materialize and, honestly, I didn't make much effort to find one either. Until today when I took the two cans out of the cupboard and realized that there was a recipe printed on the label! It seemed simple enough so tonight I tried "Texas Black-eyed Pea Salad"...the result was hubby-approved which says a lot! The recipe didn't call for measurements so I just winged it..

2 cans black-eyed peas
1/2 chopped large onion (or 1 medium one)
1 container chopped cherry tomatoes (or 2 chopped medium tomatoes)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground red pepper
1 tbsp. lime juice

Mix and combine. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Serve with fresh bread or as a side dish!