The Green Tea Debate

You know what they say, too much of a good thing is a bad thing – the same can be said if you’re a huge fan of green tea. Now before you go all crazy on me and start reciting all of the positive benefits that come with green tea, let me make it clear that the supplements are what you should be paying very close attention to. The tea? Not so much…

Recent studies have been released that suggest the intake of green tea supplements that exceeds the recommended daily dosage can do more harm than good. Green tea has been thought of as a cancer-fighting, heart disease ass-kicking, belly flab buster for quite some time due to extensive research on polyphenols. Polyphenols have even been shown to alleviate some pain for those suffering with rheumatoid arthritis. But, new research has shown that excessive intake of polyphenols can lead to high levels of toxicity in your liver and kidneys.

Like I said earlier in this article, supplement takers should be wary since green tea in pill-form can contain up to 50 times more polyphenols than a single cup of brewed green tea. Researchers suggest those who take these supplements do not exceed that daily recommendation or to just swap out the pills with the real stuff. Why? Green tea sippers can drink 10 cups of green tea a day without experiencing any of the negative side effects that the supplement users may experience.

They even conducted some experiments that showed how easily it is for a human to “overdose” on green tea supplements – it showed extreme levels of toxicity. They then rectified the situation by cutting green tea supplement pills out of their daily regimen, which made those symptoms vanish. However, they then asked the study candidates to start their green tea supplement regimen all over again only to see the same levels of toxicity return.

The moral of the story is, everything can be fine in moderation. If you happen to take green tea pills, just make sure you are being responsible with them – do not exceed the daily recommended dosage and always take with a full glass of water. As for my fellow green tea sippers, bottoms up!

Soyrizo Tacos for Monday Night Football

First off, I want to apologize for the quality of this image. I left my phone that I usually use to take pics on my desk at work and this is all I have!

Last night was the Broncos game and I wanted to make something easy so Nick could just watch the game while I made dinner. Trust me, I didn’t mind – I’m not the biggest football fan in the world, but at least I try to make an effort. I had a hankering for Mexican food and remembered that I had purchased a package of Soyrizo when I was feeling spicy one day and it was just lounging in the fridge waiting for me to turn it into dinner. Not to mention that Fresh and Easy was having a killer sale on ground beef – it seemed like our destiny to have tacos.

That’s right – DESTINY.

The cleanest, easiest and prettiest way to make a taco spread is to set up a taco bar of course! Taco dishes have to be one of the cheapest dinners to make – yet still so incredibly satisfying. We kept it simple and just used the basics: shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole and crispy taco shells. There’s something about that crunch that just makes the taco. I also served it along a bed of Cilantro-Lime Rice to pull the dish together.

Soyrizo Tacos:

The Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package vegan soyrizo (or beef and taco seasoning for hungry bear boyfriends)
  • 12 corn tortillas, crispy or soft (I prefer crispy)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • pico de gallo
  • Limes for garnish

The Method:

  1. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat.
  2. Cook the soyrizo according to package directions.
  3. Place about 1/4 c. soyrizo (or beef) in each tortilla, top with cheese, lettuce & pico, or serve family style & let everyone make their own tacos.
  4. Make sure to squeeze some lime juice on each taco for garnish. I like a lot of lime so I do about 1/2 lime per taco.
  5. We ate these with Cilantro-Lime Rice on the side. It would have been good in the tacos too!

Whole-Grain Artisan Loaf

Sometimes, the best way to spend a weekend is by doing absolutely nothing. Okay, so maybe we did go to the Diamondbacks and Giants game but the other two days were pleasantly lazy – especially Sunday. One of my favorite and most relaxing things to do is to make bread. There really is nothing better than that fresh bread smell blanketing every room and that first bite into crusty goodness J.

One of my new favorite snacks is a slice of homemade wheat bread, toasted with a dollop of ricotta and a smear of agave nectar/apple butter. YUM.

Other than running errands and pretending to watch football with the boy, this is what my Sunday amounted to.  Recipe below:

Whole-Grain Artisan Loaf:

The Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (2 packets) granulated yeast
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 4 cups lukewarm water

The Method:

1. Use dry-ingredient measuring cups (avoid 2 cup measures, which compress the flour) to gently scoop up flour, then sweep the top level with a knife or spatula. Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt and vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl, or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container or food-grade bucket. Lidded (or even vented) plastic buckets designed for dough storage are readily available.

2. Heat the water to slightly warmer than body temperature (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit). Add to the dry ingredients and mix without kneading, using a spoon, food processor (with dough attachment), or heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You may need to get your hands wet to get the flour to incorporate if you’re not using a machine. Don’t knead! It isn’t necessary.

You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes, and yields a wet dough that remains loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.

3. Cover with a lid (not airtight) or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flatten on top), which will take about 2 hours. Longer rising times — even overnight — will not change the result. Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. So, the first time you try our method, it’s best to refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours) before shaping a loaf.

After it’s been refrigerated, the dough will seem to have shrunk back upon itself. It will never rise again in the bucket, which is normal for our dough. Whatever you do, do not punch down this dough! With our method, you’re trying to retain as much gas in the dough as possible, and punching it down knocks gas out and will make your loaves denser.

On Baking Day

4. First, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal (or lining it with parchment paper or a silicone mat) to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. Dust the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter-turn as you go to form a ball. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the ball may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds. If you work the dough longer than this, it may make your loaf too dense.

5. Stretch the ball gently to elongate it, and taper the ends by rolling them between your palms and pinching them.

6. Allow the loaf to rest — covered loosely with plastic wrap — on the pizza peel for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

Alternatively, you can allow the loaf to rest on a silicone mat or greased cookie sheet. Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise during this period. More rising will occur during baking.

7. Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other rack that won’t interfere with the rising bread.

8. Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top of the loaf with a little water. Sprinkle with the seed and nut mixture. Slash the loaf with quarter-inch-deep parallel cuts across the top, using a serrated bread knife.

9. After a 30-minute preheat, you’re ready to bake. With a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated baking stone. If you used parchment paper instead of cornmeal, it will slide onto the stone with the loaf. If you used a silicone mat or cookie sheet, just place it on the stone. Quickly but carefully pour about a cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch (smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time).

If you used parchment paper, a silicone mat, or a cookie sheet under the loaf, carefully remove it and bake the loaf directly on the stone or an oven rack when the loaf is about two-thirds of the way through baking.When you remove the loaf from the oven, it may audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room-temperature air. Allow the bread to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.

10. Store the remaining dough in your container in the refrigerator and use it over the next couple of weeks. You’ll find that even one day’s storage im¬proves the flavor and texture of your bread. The dough ferments and takes on sourdough characteristics. When your bucket is empty, don’t wash it! Mix another batch in the same container. The aged dough stuck to the sides will give you a head start on sourdough flavor. To take it even further, incorporate up to 2 cups of your old dough.

 

Guest Blogger: F. Antonio Cante

I like to spice things up a bit with this blog. I, personally, am not a huge cupcake fan, but I do know an entertaining food review when I see one. Allow me to introduce, F. Antonio Cante – he’s one of my co-workers and the occasional tester of some of my food. He wrote this review about one of our catered cupcakes here at work. Although neither one of us made this treat, I found his review to be uniquely hilarious and outrageously entertaining:

Four score and 3 minutes ago I looked upon the white porcelain plate on which lay the soft white scattered remnants of what can only be described as the Marilyn Monroe of cupcakes, the iPhone of baked goods. The Napoleon Dynamite of desserts. If this cupcake asked me to wash its chonies, I’d say how and when.

The great white hope as I have affectionately come to name this small miracle of baked perfection. A meticulous marriage of soft effervescent  ( I was going to use another word here. I’ll give you a hint it rhymes with HOIST but then I thought nope thats not gonna work. Instead I decided to go with effervescent. Ok back to my review) cake with a generous yet meticulously placed layer of swirled frosting topped with a subtle sprinkling of coconut flakes adorning the top.

A marriage of ingredients hasn’t come together this well since honey nut met Cherrios and cheese decided to hang out with a burger. The ingredients mix together in perfect harmony to form a euphoric explosion of  flavors. Like a haboob of sweetness (haboob, thats a word I don’t get to use as often in the English language as I’d like ok  I think I’ll say it again HABOOB)

All encapsulated in a baked gem in the shape of Justin Beiber’s hair-do. If only we as people could learn to come together like these ingredients we could abolish racism, end poverty and  learn how to drive without texting and let the healing begin.   If you only eat one cupcake this year, then you need to get out more often. But if you eat two cupcakes this year then make sure this is one of them, you will be a better person for it.

 

F. Antonio Cante

Internationally unknown deep thinker

 

So what do you guys think? Shouldn’t he start his own blog?!?! 

 

Triple Smoky Mac ‘n’ Cheese and More Football Food!

Well, it’s football season folks! As a vegetarian, it’s a lot of fun to get crafty in order to entertain your man-friend and a couple of his buddies. Nick wanted to entertain a group of his friends for the UofA game that was on Saturday night. I went to ASU myself, so I had to put my “big girl” pants on and buck up and cheer on the Wildcats while flipping back and forth to the Sun Devil game. Both teams won, thankfully – but I don’t think I‘ll be able to stay so neutral for the ASU vs. Arizona game come November. Get your claws out, Jorgenson…

We decided on grilling some burgers, and preparing mac n’ cheese and a salad for side dishes. I left Nick to grill while I prepared the side dishes. The boys has savory beef patties and Nick grilled up a nice Gardein burger for me J.

I felt the urge to impress Nick’s friends since one of them had just come back from Mongolia (figured he wanted some traditional cheesy and yummy tailgating food), and I was in a room full of UofA boys. I’m sure most people are aware of the rivalry between ASU and UofA… so the chances of a roast were very high. I couldn’t just make typical mac n’ cheese, so I opted for what I like to call Triple Smoky Mac n’ Cheese. As for the salad – I went with Alicia Silverstone’s Sexy Inspired Salad.

I want to give a big shout-out to Dave for chopping an avocado like a champ. I’m serious – dude’s got mad skills.

I’m hoping the yum-factor of the side dishes wiped their memory clear of the fact that I am a Sun Devil (and proud of it)!

Triple Smoky Mac ‘n’ Cheese

The Ingredients:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (I used shells because thats what I had on hand)
  • 6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • Half an onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced, or
  • 1⁄4 cup Frontera brand chipotle salsa
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • 8 ounces smoked cheddar, grated, or substitute regular cheddar if you can’t find smoked cheddar
  • 8 ounces smoked mozzarella, grated
  • Kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 cups Homemade Bread Crumbs made with 2 cloves minced garlic added. Recipe in the book.

The Method:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pasta according to package directions, draining when it is just becoming al dente. This will bake more in the oven, so don’t overcook it. Drain, transfer it to a bowl, and toss with 2 tablespoons of the butter.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

3. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk pretty constantly for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Add the onion, smoked paprika, rosemary, chipotle, oregano, and nutmeg. Bring to a gentle simmer and keep cooking, whisking occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

4. Reduce the heat to low. Whisk in the grated cheeses, a handful at a time, stirring each addition of cheese until melted. It is important to do this gradually, to avoid graininess.

5. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning to your preference. It will probably need just a little salt, depending on the cheeses. Add more chipotle if you’d like it hotter. Remember that the sauce should be pretty intense, because it needs to flavor a full pound of pasta.

6. Stir the macaroni into the sauce. Pour the pasta into the baking dish. Scatter the bread crumbs evenly over the top.

7. Bake until you can see bubbling around the sides and the bread crumbs are nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Let the dish rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Alicia’s Sexy Inspired Salad

The Ingredients:

  • Fresh salad greens such as red leaf, butter lettuce, or romaine (I used Romaine)
  • 1 small handful of arugula
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1/2-1 heirloom tomato (optional but nice)
  • 1/2-1/4 medium cucumber, chopped into bite size pieces (peel only if the cucumber is not organic)
  • 4 dandelion greens (optional, but good for you)
  • 1/2 carrot, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 3-4 chopped fresh basil sprigs
  • 4-5 chopped fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon hemp seeds (optional)

Dressing

  • 2.5 tablespoons truffle-infused olive or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • juice 1/2 lemon
  • juice 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated vegan Parmesan cheese

The Method:

  1. Add all the dressing ingredients together and whisk together.
  2. Get a big salad bowl that makes you happy with a lot of room to toss and play. Wash, tear and throw in the lettuce. Add the arugula, avocado, tomato and cucumber. Top with the dandelion greens, carrot shavings, and herbs. Toss with dressing and sprinkle with the hemp and sunflower seeds.

No-Rise Pizza Dough

Back from the madness of an overwhelmingly unproductive 3-day weekend, last night’s dinner wasn’t too creative. I have, however, adapted a new mantra so I can keep tabs on myself and posting: No Excuses. Blog like a champion.

So I made my favorite kind of pizza, my Smoked Mozzarella , Radicchio and Onion Jam pizza. I posted about this pizza before – you can see the recipe here. Since I’ve been a bad blogger, the last thing I wanted to do was repeat a recipe – which I promise I’m not going to do here.

Have you ever craved pizza but didn’t want to settle on generic delivery? Have you ever craved pizza so much that you were even willing to drive to the grocery store only to realize you have no gas? Okay, maybe some of those scenarios haven’t happened to everyone; what I’m trying to get across here is that I have a recipe for thin pizza crust WITHOUT RISING TIME.

Yep, you heard me… NO RISING TIME. That’s like, instant fresh pizza – and literally dinner in MINUTES. And I’ve decided to share it with my beautiful blogging community so everyone can have fresh pizza whenever they want.

No excuses. Eat pizza like a champion.

The Ingredients: 

Makes 2 pizzas

  • 3/4 cups (6 ounces) of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of active-dry yeast (if using instant yeast, you don’t need to dissolve it during the first step)
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

The Method: 

  1. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, heat the water until it feels barely lukewarm when you test it with your finger (if the water is so hot that you can’t leave your finger in it, wait for it to cool down). Add the yeast to the water and use a fork or whisk to stir it into the water. Set this aside for a few minutes and allow the yeast to dissolve. It’s ok if the yeast doesn’t bubble, but it should be entirely dissolved and the mixture should look like thin miso soup.
  2. Measure out the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and use your hand or a whisk to combine.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the water-yeast mixture. Use your fingers or a wooden spoon to combine everything together.
  4. When it comes together into a cohesive ball, turn it out onto the counter along with any extra flour in the bowl that hasn’t yet gotten worked in.
  5. Knead the dough until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic to the touch–about five minutes.The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If it’s sticking to your hands and counter-top like bubble gum, work in more flour one tablespoon at a time until it’s smooth and silky.
  6. Use a bench scraper to divide the dough in two.
  7. Shaping the Dough:
  8. Tear off two pieces of parchment paper roughly 12-inches wide. Work one piece of the dough in your hands and form it into a large disk. Lay the disk of dough on the parchment paper.
  9. Working from the middle of the dough outwards, use the heel of your hand to gently press the dough outward until it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick or less. You can also use a rolling pin for this part. We like to make free form pies, but if you’d like a circular pie, you can trace a large circle on the back of the parchment to use as a guide.
  10. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
  11. Note: The dough will stick to the parchment paper, making it easier for you to roll out. You’ll bake the pizza right on the parchment paper. As it cooks, the dough will release from the parchment, and you can slide the paper out before serving.

Then just decorate the pizzas with whatever you want. I prefer to broil the pizzas which only takes about 5 minutes each… Seriously, if you decide to broil them, check on them every minute. It only takes 30 seconds for something to go from perfectly broiled to a charred brick. Bon appetit!