Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thirst For Lamb

It doesn't happen often, but when I get the urge for a Gyro I will travel to the ends of the earth (or at least the city) to get one. Unless, of course, I'm in the mood to make them from scratch. In this case, I did travel to the end of the city; to Pita's Mediterranean Wraps on the North side of Peoria.

Pita's makes their pita bread from scratch and bakes it in a brick oven. They are a bit thinner than a regular pita, and available in two sizes, 8" and 12." They were fresh and yeasty with the characteristic brick oven flavor; better than most pitas I had in central Illinois. I ordered the 8" gyro with a side of 3 falafel. The gyro came wrapped in foil and the falafel in a little paper boat, all of which were nested in a paper-lined plastic basket. I got rid of the foil, cut the gyro in half, and rescued the falafel from their greasy little boat which provided a much better presentation for the photograph. The gyro meat was standard fill, and the wrap as a whole wasn't very hot. I was disappointed/concerned about this, but I didn't get sick. On the other hand, the falafel were very hot and a bit greasy. The leading flavor of the falafel seemed to be nutmeg, which I though was a bit odd. I prefer falafel with a bit more herb and garlic flavor, but these were acceptable. The total meal was around $8.00, not including tip.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Purple Berries

Western Eggplant (left), Asian Eggplant (right)

Saturday morning I had the pleasure of going to the Farmer's Market in Bloomington. Unfortunately, I slept in and missed all the tomatoes. On the bright side, I found these beautiful eggplants and just had to take a photo. I did not, however, take any actual eggplants with me. I really love them, but have a hard time justifying spending money on an item with such little nutritional value. Besides being a healthy source of fiber, they have little to offer. I will surely plant a few when I get my garden going, though, because I really enjoy cooking with them.

I hate to leave you without any recipes, so here's a link to some Alton Brown recipes that are very good. I've tried the pasta and Baba Ghannouj.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Smooth Move

Recently, Becka has inspired me to bring back an old favorite of mine, the smoothie. One of my first (edible) concoctions as a child consisted of Orange Juice Concentrate, Ice, Milk, and a touch of water blended until smooth. It was my attempt at the coveted Orange Julius which was only to be found at the mall; and in retrospect, was far better than the actual product. As my smoothie making skills developed, I began to learn about tropical fruits, berries, and yogurt. I was always skeptical about yogurt because I couldn't stomach the smell, but after I tasted it in a smoothie I was hooked. I also began to omit ice, substituting frozen berries, but occasionally I'll use a bit of ice to stretch a smoothie on a hot day. Becka has also taught me to add a dose of peanut butter for extra protein in breakfast smoothies; it's a nice touch.

Smoothies are generally pretty fool proof, but as I have been consuming them on a daily basis (sometimes twice a day), I have been weighing my ingredients to ensure portion control - it's a chef thing. Also, my real blender has been out of commission for a while, so I've been using an immersion blender which is adequate, but not as nice as the real deal. It is, however, easier to clean which I am a fan of.

For my breakfast "energy" smoothie:

First, the blender jar goes on the scale and gets zeroed out. The following ingredients are added by weight and in order:

1 oz water
2 - 250mg capsules of Guarana, discard the capsules (or 1 - 200mg caffeine tablet, crushed)
1 - 600mg capsule of Panax Ginseng Rush, discard the capsule
- swirl the powder into the water to hydrate

1 ripe banana, about 3.5 - 5 oz
3 oz strawberries, frozen - or substitute fruit
3 oz pineapple, fresh - or substitute fruit
3.5 oz yogurt, plain lowfat. NOT non-fat!
2 oz peanut butter - optional

Blend well, and add water or milk to thin to the desired consistancy. You can add sugar or honey if necessary, but I never need to. This recipe will yield about 20 fluid ounces of smoothie and contains 180 mg of caffeine, unless you opt for the 200mg pure caffeine tablet.

For my afterwork smoothie (as pictured above):

Same methodology as before:

1 ripe banana, about 3.5 - 5 oz
5 oz strawberries, frozen - or substitute fruit
5 oz pineapple, fresh - or substitute fruit
4 oz yogurt, plain lowfat. NOT non-fat!
2 oz peanut butter - optional
A splash of white wine to thin. And by "a splash", I mean at least a glass (5-6oz).

I used Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, but a sweet white wine would be acceptable if you're into that sort of thing. Failing that, tequila works nicely - just make sure it's "100% de agave." And you might not want to use 5-6oz, unless you do - then go for it! This recipe yields about 24 fluid ounces of smoothie.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008