Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rice Cooking Tips

So heres the thing about rice. Everyone loves it.... But a lot of people don't know how to cook it. Or people know how to cook it, but not how to make it tasty. People overcomplicate it... I know I used to... but honestly it's ridiculously simple.
  1. The Ratio - First things first. The most important thing you need to know about rice is the ratio of rice to water. If you know this you can put rice and water in a pot and let it boil and you will achieve cooking rice. It won't be a flavorful rice..but it will be edible.. and I guess that counts for something. So the rice ratio is 1:1.5. For every 1 cup of (white) rice you will add 1.5 cups of water. So for 2 cups of (white) rice you will add 3 cups of water (For brown rice every 1 cup of rice gets 2 cups of water).
  2. Wash your rice - I use a strainer for this... It allows me to clean the rice well without loosing any down the drain. Cleaning rice helps it to taste better, it gets rid of starches on the surface of the rice and prevents clumping. Besides that it's just sanitary to rinse any raw foods before using them. You rinse fruits, and vegetables and you should rinse your rice too.
  3. Add Vegetables - Adding vegetables to your rice will add flavor and texture. Even adding corn into white rice adds so much flavor and is absolutely delicious. You can also add peas, onions and bell peppers.
  4. Add Soup - Now this may sound odd, but most of the time all I do is add a bag of soup to my rice. No salt, no pepper, just soup. The trick is powdered soup. You don't want to use a creamy soup (If it's a creamy soup it will probably say so on the bag.. like "cream of...") Just a basic brothy soup is fine. This soup is chicken flavored with noodles and vegetables, it's my personal favorite, the rice comes out full of flavor, color and most people will think you really came up with something because of the noodles and whatnot. I use this stuff:
  5. Choose the right flame - I know that people are always afraid their rice will burn.. So you need to make sure your water is at a simmer... NOT a rapid boil. Now you DO want to bring the water to a rapid boil, but once it's there you should put the stove on a medium-low (more to the low side) flame. Not so low that the water is sitting still, but low enough that it isn't boiling too harshly, but maintains a simmer. On my stove that happens with my flame on 3 (out of 10). If the flame is too high for too long the bottom of the pot will burn. So put the flame on high just long enough that the rice starts to boil, then lower it to a simmer.
  6. Toast your rice - I like to do this for 2 reasons: First, it give the rice a nice flavor, and it's the perfect time to add any seasonings to your rice (like salt, pepper, veggies). Second, it helps to have the rice hot already when you add your water. Remember that you don't want to have the flame on high for too long. So having the rice hot helps the water to boil a little bit faster. Now when I say toast your rice I just mean warm up a bit of oil, then put your rice in the pot and stir it. Allow the oil to coat all of the rice and it should let off a nutty aroma (your rice won't taste like nuts). If you want to add veggies to your rice put the veggies in the oil before the rice and cook them on low for a few minutes, then add the rice and stir it around allowing the rice to toast a bit, next you would add any spices or powdered seasonings. 
  7. Don't stir your rice - Now this tip will explain why it's best to add seasoning during the toasting process. Once you have added your water you want to keep your stirring to a minimum! Stirring your rice after you have added the water will make it mushy and sticky. This is why I like to season the rice while it's toasting and I can stir it all I want. I am able to get the seasoning all over the rice before adding the water. Personally, I try not to stir more than 3 times after I add my water. I push any small pieces of rice past my water line into the water and them give it 3 good stirs, after that my lid goes on and my flame goes up.
  8. Measure! - A HUGE mistake I used to make was not measuring certain ingredients. For example, If you are adding tomato sauce to your 2 cups of rice take a measuring cup and put the tomato sauce inside. Now we know 2 cups of (white) rice needs 3 cups of water. So if your measuring cup is filled 1 cup with tomato sauce you will only add enough water to get a total of 3 cups (so 2 cups of water + 1 cup of tomato sauce = 3 cups of liquid). I use this method when adding things like tomato sauce, coconut milk, beans, or my soup. Sometimes I will even season my water if I'm in a rush and don't have time to toast my rice. I will put all of my seasonings in a measuring cup and then add enough water to get the amount of liquid I need. I mix the liquid up really well and then add it to my rice. Still making sure to only stir 3 times.
  9. Turn off the flame - People have different opinions as to when you should turn your rice off.. Some people watch the rice to see when the water is evaporated to the point that you can't see it anymore, and then listen to hear if water is still boiling. I don't. once I cant see the water I turn off the flame and let the rice sit for no less than 5 minutes (sometimes more If i'm busy.. the rice won't burn after this point) I DO NOT take the cover off of the rice yet. The heat in the pot will complete the cooking process and prevent your rice from becoming too dry. 
  10. Cold Water is your friend - If at some point you smell that the rice is burning grab it right away and let cold water run on the bottom of the pot. Not everytime, but most times  this will help. The rice will still be burned at the bottom of the pot but the rest of the rice will be saved from that burned smell and should still taste fine. Once you've rinsed it well put the rice back of the flame to finish cooking if necessary.
  11. Fluff and uncover - Finally be sure that when your rice is done you don't stir it but fluff it. This just means putting your spoon at the edge of the pot down to the bottom and pushing the rice at the bottom of the pot upward. This step helps to let the rice breathe and let the excess moisture out. Finally uncover your rice for a few minutes to finish off the evaporating process. This also helps to get rid of excess moisture and makes the rice perfect.
Happy Eating!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Vegetable Frittata : Breakfast Recipes



Vegetable Frittatas are a delicious and simple vegetarian recipe. Now I'm no vegetarian but I absolutely love veggie frittatas. The great thing about these is that you can literally put anything you want in it. Chicken, bacon, Turkey, mushrooms. peppers, onion, cheese... Anything!

When I make My Frittata I like to have more veggies than eggs. I like the veggies kind of sticking out of the egg, with plenty of veggies in every bite. In my own I add plenty of peppers, onion and mushrooms. But Like  said, You can add more or less of anything you like. Anywho... Let's get started.

 Here is what you'll need for this recipe. I won't list them here. I'll list them in the actual recipe... I made sure all the labels were facing front so you could read them right from the picture. Assuming you could read, since you're reading this. But I will say that the jar on the right with the white cover is my Sofrito.

So first I put some olive oil in my pan and added my peppers and onions. I let this sweat for a little and then added my mushrooms.

Next I added my salt, pepper, curry powder, adobo and sofrito


Let that cook for a second and in the meantime whisk your egg and egg whites. And once they're all whisked up pour the veggies into the bowl.


Stir it a few times so that the egg can distribute evenly around the veggies. In the meantime wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and re-grease it with olive oil. Make sure its greased really well especially if you aren't using a non-stick pan.

Once the pan is clean and greased down, pour the mixture back into the pan. It's going to look oily at first but don't worry about that. Keep the stove on a medium heat and allow the edges to cook. Use your spatula to pull the edges away from the pan like this:


Then tilt the pan to the side to get the egg in the open space. This will help the egg cook evenly. One most of the edges are cooked and it seems like you just have to get the middle to cook but ya just can't... pop it in the oven.


Cook it at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. After the 8 minutes are up stick a knife in it to make sure it isn't runny. This is a little tricky though because it will be moist from the veggies, plus the olive oil. Honestly, Im pretty sure its done. just trust me. Dont over cook your frittata. Finally turn off the oven and put some cheese on top. Leave it in the oven for a few seconds and voila!


Vegetable Frittata

Ingredients:
1 cup total of the following (split it up however you want) or 1/4 cup of each will work fine:
Diced white onion
Diced green pepper
Diced red pepper 
Diced yellow pepper
Diced orange pepper
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
4 tbsp olive oil or butter
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp adobo
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sofrito
salt to taste
1 egg
1/4 cup egg white or the white of 2 eggs
Shredded mozzarella cheese to garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. 
2.Heat a small pan, and grease it with HALF the oil or butter (whatever you chose to use)
3. Allow the onion and peppers to sweat out in the pan for about 2 minutes.
4. Add the mushrooms and allow them to cook down with the other vegetables for another 3-4 minutes.
5. Add the salt, pepper, adobo, sofrito and curry powder and let that cook while you scramble your eggs and egg whites.
6. Pour the veggies into the bowl where you scrambled the egg and egg whites. Stir that up to make sure they are well incorporated. 
7. Wipe out the pan and re-grease it with the other half of oil or butter.
8. Pour the egg and veggie mixture into the pan
9. Allow the edges of the egg to cook. Pull back on the edges and tilt the pan so that some of the egg in the middle can redistribute and cook as well.
10. When little to none of the egg is running to the edge of the pan when tilted put the pan in the oven for 8 minutes.
11. Turn off the oven and cover the top of the frittata with shredded cheese. Leave the pan in the oven so the cheese can melt.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Black Girls Workout Too Review

1. My Stats at the Beginning:
155lbs - 5 feet 3 inches
35.5 inch - Bust
31 inch - Waist
39.5 inch - Hip

2. Before We Begin the Review...
Yesterday I finally got the Black Girls Workout Too workout DVD. And it took me forever to get it. I bought my dumbells, my albolene and my waist trainer months ago because I was so sure I was going to get it then.. But I didn't. Oh and incase you don't know what Black Girls Workout Too is:


When I first heard about this DVD I was so excited to try it. All the Amazon reviews made it seem like It was the best workout DVD for black women. Around the time I had heard of it I had just found out who Anowa Adjah was. When I stumbled upon her YouTube page I had fallen completely in love. Anowa stands 5'10 over 200lbs, with an AMAZING body. Fit, toned, curvy and thick. Everything a black woman wants.


 As a black woman I hate the idea of losing weight, and getting skinny. I've never met a black woman who wanted to be skinny. I've met numerous who would rather be overweight and keep her curves. In fact, in our community being overweight is ideal, most black men want a woman with curves, few want a skinny woman. 

I loved the idea of black women teaching other black women to lose weight and keep their figure. Someone who understands me better than Jillian Michaels or Tony Horton. Because you can't help a black woman lose weight if you don't understand her. You have to understand what it is that she wants to gain, and what it is shes afraid to lose. 

Because these women understand what we want, they can help us to want to lose weight. I trust their program because I know It is targeted towards what I am looking for in my body. I think this is a great start to pulling women of color out of obesity. I think more DVD's like this could make a huge difference.  It something we can trust and have faith in. Anyways... on to the review.

3. The Review:

The video starts off with some before and after pictures of women who have completed the program and have seen great results. Here are a few for you that I found on google images: 



Next Ellen Ector and Lana Ector introduce themselves and let you know that they are looking to stop plastic surgeries, butt shots and undergarments and help you work for the body you want. There are no shortcuts in fitness and they are ready to show the world that black Girls Workout Too.


Now on to the workout. The video goes back and forth between Ellen and Lana. Ellen takes care of mostly upper body work while Lana will squat you and lunge you till you cant squat and lunge no mo! She also does a set of core exercises. It really works for them because looking at Ellen, her arms are crazy ripped. You can tell she is super strong. Lana on the other hand is fit. She is a fitness vixen with a round booty, and great abs. There is no timer on the bottom of the video which for me helped. (When there are timers I can't ever stop watching them). I didn't think I would make it through the whole 45 minutes, but I did. Which was surprising because I can't do the Beachbody Brazil Butt Lift Workout and thats only 30 minutes!



Throughout the video there is usually 4 girls along with either Ellen or Lana. There is no stretch. So if you are someone who needs a stretch you will have to do one beforehand. The warm up was jumping jacks, butt kicks and rotation of the arms. For me personally I wasn't feeling warm enough after this warm up. So all i did to bump it up a little was continue to do some but kicks and jumping jacks during her transition from the warm up to the actual workout. Theres a 35 second break between the two. Sounds like nothing but jumping jacks for another 35 seconds was all I needed to get my heart rate where I wanted it.

The first workout is with Ellen, doing a mixture of upper-body strength and cardio. For example you will do about 30 seconds of bicep curls then 30 seconds of knee smashes. You will go through quite a few of these sets. Doing different arm workouts and different cardio workouts. You will do shoulder presses, Front Lateral Raises, Bicep Curls, a tricep exercise, overhead tricep curls, and what I guess is a chest press with dumbbells. In between these you will do a shuffle, stomp laterals, knee smashers, run in place, and the gymnetics giggle. 

This part was actually pretty fun. Ellen is encouraging and I enjoyed the "shuffle" workout, I also love knee smashes. I like the fact that it goes back and forth between cardio and strength. I just tell myself "if i can get through this I get a break (If i tell myself this during cardio my break is strength, and vice versa). It's also nice that Ellen actually does the workout with you. For the entire workout she does every move with you. And did I mention shes 60 years old. Theres no better way to say "If I can do it, so can you." 

For the entire video you need 5lb weights (more or less is fine depending on your fitness level. I did 3lbs for upper body and 10 for lower body, I also use 2.5 ankle weights) After about 15 minutes it goes on to Lana. 



Lana Will have you do standard squats and deep squats a number of times. I really try to get into this and listen to what she is telling me to do. I definitely feel it. 

The editing starts to get really bad at this point. From here till the end of the video the editing is all over the place. When this happens I just continue doing whatever exercise I was doing until they have clearly moved on to the next one. I just try my best to keep moving.

Now the video moves on to cardio boxing. This felt like a break to me. After all the squats I had just done my legs were in pain so being able to stand up straight and punch seemed ok. You will have to pivot and lean into the punch, but even that isn't as painful as doing anymore squats lol. I am able to get into the boxing, but I find it pretty easy since I've done a few Tae Bo videos. I try to punch hard because I know it takes more energy. My cardio boxing trick is to find a spot on the tv, (or sometimes my cable box because it is directly under my tv) and picture the face of someone I'd like to punch. Then I swing with all my might. It helps me make the workout work for me. 


After this you will do another lower body workout, with saddlebag kicks, lunges and kick squats.

Next, during the Ab workout you will definitely feel a burn, If you aren't something is definitely wrong. I was sweating and shaking during this part. By this time I had stopped to take a quick break... Speaking of breaks you do get a quick 10 second break at some point. I took advantage and had a bit of water during this time.

Finally you will move back to Ellen and she will do some back exercises (that are a bit of a mixture of core exercises). She has created her own "row" using dumbbells because she loves the row machine. There is some more bad editing here but the workouts are effective. I was definitely feeling a burn in my arms and shoulders once i started moving slowly.

All in all it was a great workout. I give it a 4 out of 5 because I felt like the exercises were targeted to what I want but I do have to make adjustments in-order to really feel it. Still, with this DVD i'll have a small waist and fit booty in no time. Bravo Ellen and Lana. I cant wait to see my results.




French Dressed Chicken Drumsticks Recipe: Easy Dinner Meals


So I wanted to whip up something quick a few nights ago and came up with this easy chicken recipe. I started off how I usually do, with my sofrito. And then was stuck. "What can I add to this to make it different?" So I opened my fridge and did that blank stare I usually do when I have no idea what's going to happen next:


I checked the body of my fridge, I checked the veggie drawer, and even the fruit drawer. Then I checked the door. And there it was swooping in to save me like a knight in shining armor. Except it was French salad dressing, in a Wish-bone suit..



So Like I said, the chicken was already smothered in my sofrito, so now I poured that French dressing all up in it.

Once It was all seasoned up, I let it sit while I made my rice. Once that was done I put it in the oven. Not in a pan or anything, I just wrapped one of my oven racks in foil and rubbed it down with a bit of olive oil.


Next, I put the oven on a high broil, not directly under the broiler, but two notches down. I let the drumsticks cook 10 minutes then turned them, and did 10 minutes on the other side. I then moved them directly under the broiler and did 6 minutes on one side and 6 minutes on the other side.

Once It looks something like this you can move your chicken back to the middle of your oven and brush them with the French dressing. 


 And since I've always been a bit nervous about broiling chicken I decided to let it bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, then flipped them over and brushed them again and let them cook for another 10 minutes on that side. The result was a delicious chicken,  with crispy skin and a ton of flavor. I served mines with Spanish brown rice and broccoli. 


French Dressed Chicken Drumsticks Recipe

Ingredients:

4 lbs of Chicken Drumsticks (or 12 Drumsticks) Skin on
1/2 cup of sofrito
3/4 cups French Dressing (I used Wish-Bone French Deluxe Light)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Put the sofrito and 1/4 cup of French Dressing on the chicken with the salt and pepper, mix that up.
Save the rest of the dressing for later

2. Let that marinate for about 15 minutes

3. Broil the chicken on high in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes on one side, then flip it and do 10 minutes on the other side.

4. Move the chicken rack so that it is directly under the broiler and broil for 6 minutes in one side then 6 minutes on the next side.

5. Bring the rack back to the middle of the oven, brush the chicken with half of the French dressing you have left, bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. (No need to wait for the pre-heat timer)

6. Flip the wings over and brush with the remaining dressing. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Enjoy!









Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stuffed Baked Plantains : Easy Dinner Meals

If you're one of those people who stop and think "What can I do with plantains" this recipe is for YOU.




I found this recipe on Immaculate Bites. An amazing site on African foods. I have a thing for African foods so this is naturally a site I would love. At Disney World last year Jacob and I went to Sanaa. A gorgeous restaurant featuring African food with Indian flavors. I've been searching for a good African restaurant ever since.



Any who... I was pretty excited about making this recipe. We're on a diet in my house and this a pretty healthy meal. The plantains are baked and the meat is a bunch of peppers, and tomato sauce with lean ground turkey. PLEASE don't feel obligated to follow the directions exactly. You can easily swap the turkey for beef, choose to use only some vegetables, or different vegetables. I even thought of dicing some zucchini and adding it. It really is completely up to you. I'm just going to give you the recipe the way I made it. You can use no vegetables if you want. The only things that are an absolute must for this recipe is the plantains, some sort of ground or shredded meat, and tomato sauce.

For my recipe I decided to dice up some orange, green, red, and yellow peppers. Also some white onion and grated garlic.



I put some olive oil in the pan and set the flame pretty low. I let all of those veggies get all sweaty (except the garlic of course)... Which fit my situation perfectly because I was hot and I was sweating too.. Oh how I love spring. 

Any who... After they were sweaty I added some tomato sauce and let that simmer. after it simmered for about 5 minutes I added my garlic and let that simmer a bit more.



At this point I need to stop and explain that If you did follow my same recipe your house should be smelling amazing by this point. The smell should make you want to jump in the pot and swim... If you don't feel like swimming, something isn't right... Bathing suit anyone?

Any who... Now I add my lean ground turkey into the mixture. And my turkey must have loved the smell to because it drank all of my sauce.. so I added a bit of water.



While all of this was going on my plantains were in the oven baking at 375 degrees 20 minutes on one side and 20 minutes on the next side. When they were all done I slit them down the middle and pushed the two ends together like a potato. I filled them with meat sauce and sprinkled some cheese on top. I then turned the oven off and put the plantains in the warm oven just to let the cheese melt. Yummy!



Stuffed Baked Plantains:

Ingredients:

For plantains:
5 Ripe Yellow Plantains
some olive oil

For Meat Sauce:
1/3 cup diced orange peppers
1/3 cup diced yellow peppers
1/3 cup diced green peppers
1/3 cup diced red peppers
2/3 cup white onion
2 cups tomato sauce
4 cloves of garlic, grated
1 lb Ground Turkey
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
Grated cheese to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
2. Peel the plantains and grease a pan with a bit of olive oil. Rub a bit of olive oil over the plantains. Let the plantains bake on each side for 20 minutes
3. In a hot sauté pan put about 2 tbsp of olive oil. sweat the peppers and onion for about 8 minutes
4. Pour the tomato sauce in with the vegetables and bring that to a simmer, allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir continuously to prevent burning. 
5. Add the garlic. 
6. Let that simmer another 5 minutes, continuing to stir.
7. Mix in the ground turkey. Mix it well incorporating the sauce and peppers into the meat. The meat should soak up the sauce for the most part. If it is to dry, add the 1/2 cup of water. If not add ice to the water and have a drink, you look thirsty.
8. Allow the meat to simmer in the sauce for 15 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.
9. Take the Plantains out of the oven and turn the oven off. Let it cool enough that you can make a slit down the middle. Push the two ends together like a baked potato and fill it with the meat sauce. 
10. If you want you can sprinkle a bit of cheese on top and place them back in the oven (with the oven still off). The warm oven will melt the cheese.

Enjoy!