Wednesday, March 20, 2013

four year blogiversary!

Today marks four years since I sat down in my college apartment and decided to become a food blogger. A LOT has changed since that day. That fact, plus the fact that in general I feel like I’m at a big exciting transitional period in my life, results in me having a lot to say.

Obviously, not all (not most. Not half. Not even 1%, in all likelihood) will fit in this post.

In lieu of that, another of my rambling posts that you have so grown to love and a few promises for more and ever-so-slightly different content.

We begin with a recipe, because new recipes have been few and far between; a peculiar and disheartening fact that must be remedied because recipe developing is one of my favorite things about blogging!

Choco chip goodness!


A few facts about this recipe: yes, I already have a chocolate chip cookie recipe. It is my godmother’s, and you can find it here: My Godmother's Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies. That being said, that recipe serves a CROWD, and there are times you want to simply not tempt yourself with several dozen cookies in your home.
I also liked the idea of an eggless recipe, since I am always loath to use my tasty and special farmer’s market eggs in a recipe where they’ll completely disappear. The eggless fact means that the recipe can be made vegan if you use a vegan butter like Earth Balance. Plus, flax is fun: right now I only have whole flaxseed (which I think is better since those big bags of pre-ground flax go rancid so quickly). SO, I take some whole flaxseed, put it in a bag, and whack it with a meat cleaver til the seeds are crushed! Heaps of fun and a great stress reliever.
Finally, this recipe is on the healthier end of the spectrum because it’s 100% whole grain (I used my godmother’s trick of using ground up oats for most of the flour: note that I have not tested this, but I imagine you could make this recipe gluten free simply by using certified gluten-free oats and a gluten-free baking mix for the flour). Despite that, the cookies are tender- oat flour has a wonderful, softer texture in whole-grain baking. This recipe also has less fat and sugar because it gets some moisture and sweetness from a mashed banana, a trick I picked up in this Daily Garnish recipe. And I added pecans because nuts are good for you and taste AWESOME.

Final note: I baked them on a tiny tray in my wonderful, tiny, energy efficient toaster oven. It took about three batches, which is just thirty minutes of baking. LOVE that guy.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 T ground flax
3 T water
1 cup oat flour (you can make your own by grinding 1 1/4 cup of oats in a food processor or blender)
1/2 cup whole oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 T canola oil
2 T melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Combine ground flax and water in a small bowl, and let sit for five minutes or until the water becomes gel-like.

Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients (oat flour through salt) in another small bowl.

Mix together oil, butter, and sugar and beat (I used a stand mixer) until the butter is light and fluffy. Then add the banana, flax egg, and vanilla. The mixture will be very thin and mushy; that is okay.

Keeping the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients a bit at a time, scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Continue until all the dry ingredients are added. Then take the bowl out of the mixer and use a spatula to fold in chocolate chips and pecans.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray (or grease with butter). Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to put dough on the sheet. Don’t worry too much about spacing them out, because they don’t spread much. Push down on the tops of the cookies with a spatula or your fingers (you may want to use a little grease since the dough is a big sticky) to spread them out into a cookie shape.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the tops of cookies feel set up.

This made about two dozen for me, but they were teensy- I used a cookie scoop but flattened, not heaping. So.. that makes me feel better about the very LARGE quantity I ate of the very tiny cookies!

As you can see, the batter is soft and squishy, not super held together. And it’s eggless, so you can snack to your heart’s content.


I enjoyed my first (fully baked) cookie by the window, in the sun. I thought this would be an opportunity to show off my new favorite shoes.

Fact: my aunt is a bit of a hoarder (not, yknow, in a clinically crazy way; just a loveably kooky one) and has been getting rid of shoes like it’s her job. Fun fact: I am her size! Such benefits.


The cookie was great.


The brainchild for these cookies actually originated on a HARDCORE HIKE! In that Steve and I took a hardcore hike and I was sort of incurably hungry for the following three days. So I made some nice energy dense cookies.

Not for the first time, Steve and I set out to climb Old Rag, Virginia’s highest mountain. Not for the first time, we planned poorly. Last time, we didn't realize how long the hike would be and figured out we wouldn’t be able to finish it before sunset. This time, we had enough daylight (partially thanks to Daylight Savings Time).

The problem was, we dressed for nice, temperate, sea-level Northern Virginia, not hardcore mountain Shenandoah conditions. And wore shorts. As we traversed our way to the snowy mountain cap.

Silly kids!

The climb was fine, once we warmed up. More than fine. Stunning!

DSC02698 DSC02701

I found myself mortified at my athletic condition, though. I foolishly thought that since both of my parents have, on separate occasions, climbed this mountain successfully at middle age, I’d have no problem being so young and spry.

Dude, the climb is HARD! Steve had to literally push me up the mountain a coupla times. Grabbing rocks with bare hands (poor planning #2) feels hardcore, but also… hard! Sore!

The top is an endorphin rush like nothing else. Buttttt… then you have to climb down. And if you do the loop, well, recognize that the way down is the cold side of the mountain. To specify, the frozen, ice-covered side of the mountain. It was slowwwwwwww going.

But we made it!

Now for something completely different: Lent!

Because I’m Greek Orthodox, my Easter (and thus my Lent) are on a different schedule than everybody else’s. So, it just started. Lent for me means not eating meat (if you’re going about it the full way, you abstain from all meat AND all other animal products, but I’m not at a place physically or mentally where I can handle quite that level of strictness).

Fortunately, not eating meat is easy when you make ETHIOPIAN FOOD!

Leftovers from wunnerful Ethiopian Cabbage Dish, a recipe I modified just slightly by using 1/4 cup of oil instead of 1/2 cup, because I just don’t like greasy food.

This is such a lovely, nutritious combo.


I also made some chickpeas, which I toasted up in olive oil til they had golden spots on them, then added these spices:


Plus a little tomato paste and water, and mashed them. Delicious.

Speaking of chickpeas, I made wasabi hummus (!) Somewhat inspired by Trader Joes’ magnificent horseradish hummus. A can of chickpeas plus some water plus some tahini plus some wasabi powder. Great with carrots!


On a final Lent note, I’m not drinking for Lent. I don’t think I have an alcohol problem, but my genetic profile suggests I’d fit right in if I got one. I’ve felt for the past few months like sometimes I drink alcohol not because I actually drink alcohol but because other people are, or because it’s there. There are times when I’m like, “Yesss! A glass of Malbec would be perfect right now!” and those are the times I want to have a glass of Malbec.


I thoroughly enjoyed the environment in which I drank that glass of mead (Mad Fox Brewing Company) and the mead was good, too, albeit SWEET. (It was ginger-pear. I HAD to order it!)

However, upon drinking that mead, I decided that I needed dessert. So Steve and I split a mini mason jar of butterscotch pudding. Yes, it was delicious, but two bites in I knew it wasnt really what I wanted (it was essentially un-bruleed creme brulee, a heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar bomb). And yet there it was, and I was loath to waste it. And it cost money!

Example #892359163597263598237502837502875028750283750283750827308235 in the history of the world why people don’t make their best decisions after having consumed alcohol.

Next item on the Lent agenda, products! One vegetarian friendly, one vegan friendly.



DON’T BOTHER. I bought them because they were on sale, and I thought to myself, “how could anything with mushrooms and mozzarella be less than awesome?”

Well, couldn’t tell ya how they did it but these were not awesome and in fact not very good at all. I ate them in reasonable good cheer by crumbling them up on salads and enhancing them with wasabi hummus- :) – but there are much better veggie burgers on the market.

Next product, also bought on sale:


So the original price on this guy was $35, but a special at Whole Foods and a manufacturer’s coupon given to me by the guy demo-ing it reduced that price to $20, and this is a big container, so that struck me as a “deal” (so much as protein powder can be).

I was impressed first and foremost by the taste (the advantage of getting to sample something before you buy it).

Then I was impressed by the nutritional info.


Then I was IMPRESSED by the ingredients. [Note: I am not a dietitian yet and am discussing the fact that this product was good for me, someone with no major health issues. My godmother is an R.D. at a hospital, and one of her first steps on starting there was taking the sprouts out of the salad bar because they can harbor bacteria that can do a number on immunocompromised people. Buy the products that work for your needs!


Fact: my sister did a little PCOS research and learned that whey protein isn’t recommended for women with PCOS because we pump our cattle so full of hormones and women with PCOS already have hormone drama. So I dug that this was whey-free and had only pronounceable ingredients. (Well okay maybe you can’t pronounce some of the probiotic strains. But I am currently a microbiology student, so I can! :D)

I used the powder to make the first actually good protein pancakes of my life!

I used:
1/4 cup Safeway brand organic whole wheat pancake mix (the kind you add milk and eggs too; not the kind you just add water to)
1/2 scoop of the protein powder above
1 flax egg
scant 1/4 cup milk

It cooked up like a dream, even with the flax egg.


Annnnnnnd the pancakes were totally beautiful and tasty. A first for me, in trying protein powder pancakes! An added bonus of protein-rich pancakes, of course: you can top them with just syrup and feel good about it :)


Speaking of my sister, she’s coming home for Spring Break tomorrow! Lovely.

Remember the beautiful flowers she sent for no good reason?


Had to do a followup blossoming picture. So. Gorgeous!


So I have a LOT of hopes and aspirations for the future right now. Some of them are blog related. Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts I have.

- I just read Health at Every Size and I have way too many thoughts about it to summarize in this post, but it’s getting its own. Short version: I thought it’d be a book-length version of a Dove commercial with yadda yadda self love yadda yadda everyone is beautiful. It is, in fact, an exquisitely researched, chock-full-o’-facts rebuttal to everyone in our society who squawks about skinniness in the name of health. J’adore.

- I’ve been taking a lot of science classes and in general have been thinking a lot about science in the media. Every woman knows what antioxidants are; many know hunger-related hormones like leptin and ghrelin; some are savvy on aerobic conditioning and the effect of various workouts on metabolism. But who can tell me what your gall bladder does? What your blood cells are made of? What vitamin D actually does in your body?
A brief thesis: the science available in women’s magazines is not incorrect science. It’s just tiny, narrow snippets of science with a nearly 100% focus on how you can apply it to weight loss.

- In general, the media’s just breaking my heart right now. Steubenville, anyone? Looking at my two most recent issues of Health magazine (a magazine to which I subscribe, so I’m not trying to pile on attack speech, but here me out), I’m struck. On each, the top word, directly under the title, first thing on the left which catches your eyes first if you’re reading, as in English, left to right: LOSE.
LOSE is the first word. LOSE, the word that’s the opposite of WIN. Or GAIN, as in GAINING the right to vote, GAINING confidence in your job, GAINING friends and supporters. One says “Lose 10 pounds in three weeks” (yeah not healthy), the other “Lose your belly fat”. LOSE. First thing. Food for thought.

- I have spent various points in the past four years thinking of food in an exclusive way. Food as the solution to EVERY problem. Or, later, food as the cause of EVERY problem. The truth is, you know what food solves for me? Hunger. That’s it. I have worked hard to get out of that myopic view of the world and I want my blog to reflect it. SO, I’d like for my blog to talk about food in a happy, positive way (recipes, reviews of ONLY the products I choose to buy [because all the blogs I’ve spent the past few years reading and enjoying have all had a troubling association between commercial success and vending of total bullshit products], recaps of fun and special trips that involve tasty food, explorations of the delicious ethnic cuisines my hometown has to offer).
But I’d also like my blog to be about ME, and my life is about a lot more than food. Always has been, but I’m seeing it better now. I want to talk about what I’m learning at school, what my personal reading has done to teach and inspire me. What’s going on in the world. And while I’ve done various recaps of individual dates in my life, I’d like to share about me in a less ADHD way. Like, yknow, WRITING, rather than recapping. For example, here’s what’s new with me: I’m still a chem and microbiology student. Now I’m doing some freelance writing and I’m also exploring my first personal chef-type job that I could later see as a business when I’m a dietitian.
I’d also like the blog to involve more discussions. Hands down one of my favorite blog posts I’ve ever read- fellas, hide your eyes- was this "green your period" post at Healthy Tipping Point that discussed my now-beloved Diva Cup. There were hundreds of comments on that post! Not saying that because I’m jealous of her readership- saying that because I think it’s rad when blogs can be forums for a community discussion. To that, if you read my blog, tell me about you! My hits aren’t huge, but they add up to more than my loyal family and friend readers. Is there more content you’d like from this blog?

- On a final and less dramatic note, I hate the name of this blog. I have almost since the day I created it. I can’t explain it to anyone verbally without sounding like an idiot. Very few people call me Lele, and my boyfriend cannot for the life of him remember that it’s “Lee lee”, not “Lay lay” (which sounds pervy). I’d like a simpler title that I can actually tell people without a great deal of explanation and spelling. I’d also like to switch to Wordpress, because I’ve heard it’s so much better. If any of y’all have successfully done it, tips are SO welcome!

1 comment:

Steven Alexander Heathcliff Basil Bert said...

Ileana, sorry about the “Lay-lay” thing. I know I’ve said it a couple of times in error. I still sometimes say Fay-ta instead of feta. It just happens. It’s like midway through a sentence an accent comes to life. Like Ted when he’s shouting from behind his Sensory Deprivator 5000.

Anyhow, congratulations on your four years of blogging!

I thought of some ideas that I would like to read about:

The Food Mood Post – are there any foods that tend to make us think or feel a certain way? I know there are crazy yahoos in parts of the world that eat bizarre dishes to increase their libido. I’m not talking about that. I mean, do you have any food and mood connections. Or are there any scientifically studied connections?

Top Three for You and Me: If you could get us to change our eating habits in three simple ways, what three ways would have the best impact on our overall health? And how so?

DC Chef analysis: In your opinion who has the skills? Which Chefs are worth the hype and which are utter bunk?

What is your foodie wish list? If you could dine anywhere in the DC metro area, where would you go? Why? Can you pinpoint what you love in dishes? Are you able to discern what makes a dish absolutely gosh-wow?

Okay I’m out. Four ideas for your four years! Congratulations again Lee Lee!