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When I’m at home in Connecticut, I really love making salmon burgers. If you haven’t tried salmon burgers yet, they’re a great alternative to beef burgers with less calories while still retaining high protein. As an additional benefit, salmon also provides omega 3 fatty acids.

My only issue is that right now I’m living in an apartment at college and am keeping a tight food budget. I can’t currently afford to buy salmon. But why give up fish burgers entirely when this is the perfect time to experiment?

So after a few weeks of tuna sandwiches an tuna wraps, I decided to create my own tuna burger recipe.

FAST AND EASY TUNA BURGERS (makes 5 patties)

Ingredients:

1. 2 cans of tuna fish, drained

2. 2 tbs mayonaise

3. 2 egg

4. 1/2 cup breadcrumbs *I just put 2 pieces of fiber dense bread into a blender because I don’t trust a lot of breadcrumb brands-check the ingredients for high fructose corn syrup

5. 1/3 cup finely chopped celery

6. 2 tsp lemon juice

7. salt and pepper to taste

To make these burgers is the easiest part! You literally mix the ingredients together, form into patties and drop onto a lightly oiled skillet. These tuna burgers are light, packed with protein, wonderfully flavorful and don’t involve expensive ingredients or tons of time. I would definitely recommend busy parents to try this recipe, or college students like me who are on the go and need a quick and healthy meal.

I eat my burger broken into pieces and tossed onto a wrap, but this is a great recipe to get creative with!

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So, even though I’m off on summer vacation as of last week I won’t have access to an oven until May 24th at the earliest. This means that I’m still living in my dorm room, currently surviving on peanut butter sandwiches, oatmeal and frozen vegetables. This is what happens when the most technological piece of kitchen equipment in your dorm is a microwave.

like this only a lot less high tech

So, in short I’m rapidly running out of bread because the most I can do to spice up a meal is put it in the microwave.

Right now I’m on a hunt for the healthiest whole wheat bread I can find (and hopefully something reasonably cheap as well). Although my main grocery options are Kroger or CVS, the internet helped me find a fantastic website that will help me significantly in my search for a peanut butter sandwich.

If you haven’t heard of it before, check out fooducate.com.

This website rates products based on their overall nutritional value going beyond the standard nutrition label of calories, fat content and sugars. For people who really want to know what’s up with their food, fooducate will you tell you that

Great Grains Bakery 100% Whole Wheat & Honey Bread:

  1. has 120 calories per serving (per slice)
  2. has caramel coloring

The caramel coloring fooducate goes into detail on as a point in this product to watch out for. As fooducate explains:

Homemade caramel is made by melting sugar in a saucepan.

Brown coloring in sodas and some other products is not the same thing.

Industrial caramel coloring is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures. The chemical reactions create 4-methylimidazole, which in government-conducted studies caused lung, liver, or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats. This is why California recently required foods containing caramel color to be labeled as potential cancer-causing agents.

But you won’t see this warning label any time soon – manufacturers simply reduced the use of caramel color enough that the labeling requirements no longer applied.

Caramel color varies slightly between products – when in beer, sauces or baked goods it has just ammonia and when used in soft drinks, it has both sulfites and ammonia. Neither one is a “good” option.

Although the bread has an A- rating and is by most reviews a high quality product, fooducate wants its readers to be as healthy as possible and know what they’re eating beyond the basic nutritional information.

I’m still on the look out for the perfect bread, but now I have a few ideas of what to look for in my bread choices beyond the obvious avoidance of high fructose corn syrup. While I would much rather make my own bread, that won’t be an option for another 9 days.

If you have a bread you’re interested in highlighting or recommending me to try, please suggest it! I’m looking forward to starting up my Product Placement line again.

 

 

I went home for spring break and had a fantastic vacation, not just spending time with family, but spending time in my family’s kitchen.  After three months of not baking, I needed to get back in the swing of things. But there were so many things I wanted to make and experiment with! I had so many ideas for muffins and breads, that cookies just seemed so bland.

But I was flipping through my book of recipes for Cheryl’s Confections and remembered that over the winter break I made a chocolate chip cookie that had bittersweet chocolate in it, peanuts, and pistachios. Unfortunately this was out because I didn’t have pistachios or bittersweet chocolate. But I did have peanuts, and I had all the ingredients to make a twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie.

My additions to my classic gooey chocolate filled cookie includes dried craisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and raisins. The salty peanuts complements the rich chocolate, and every time you feel the additional crunch of a sunflower or pumpkin seed, or the sweet tartness of a craisin, your taste buds with thank you for the experience. If there has ever been flavor explosions in a cookie, this is it.

I am proud to also announce that this cookie is made with whole wheat flour, and organic cane sugar and organic brown sugar.

In the past few weeks I’ve been experimenting pretty heavily with my diet. As I may have mentioned, for all that I love to cook and work with food, I’m a pretty picky eater. I hate cheese, most milk products, almost every kind of sauce or topping, and sandwiches.

I have a bad habit of taking sandwiches apart. I take the meat off the bread so the bread won’t get soggy, I remove any type of condiment that may have been slathered on it, I take off the lettuce and tomato to eat separates (if at all) and by the end of the process my sandwich is barely recognizable.

Wasn’t I disappointed last week when the alcohol peer educators event I went to served sandwiches. But if I learned anything from my trip to Israel in December, it’s that if I enjoyed a falafel with everything on it, then there was no way I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a sandwich.

The poison I chose was one part tuna, one part roast beef. And though I have made it a point in my life to not eat tuna with bread, this was delicious. I still removed the tomato, but the bread was not soggy, the tuna did not overwhelm me with a fishy taste, and the mayonnaise was a perfect compliment. I eat tuna at my grandfather’s house, and I eat it without bread or crackers while I try not to imagine how much mayonnaise he uses to make it taste good. Enjoying a tuna sandwich was a big deal.

I was equally surprised by the roast beef. I left the tomato on this time–trying to be as adventurous as possible after my first success with the tuna–and even though the top was coated in mayonnaise, I enjoyed it as a part of the whole.

Tomato included, my opinions of sandwiches have been altered. This might not be breaking news, but it’s a step for any picky eater to learn that you might be wrong about what goes well together. And especially for a chef or a baker, it’s always a good idea to change up what you eat. It keeps your diet fresh, but also tips you off to what you can be doing in your own kitchen.

Off Hiatus

My apologies for the long break from food blogging, but this year I got a different job as a tutor for my college’s Center for Writing and Speaking and administration wasted no time in telling me that I could no longer work in the kitchen.

After this initial disappointment (to put it mildly) it was difficult to talk about food and my food experiences when I was not only allowed to cook (no ovens) but also not allowed to be around food preparation.

Yet:

Baking and cooking is such a major part of my life and one of the primary ways I feel I can experience the world in a tactile way. This is how I get my hands dirty. And if I can’t literally dirty my hands I’ll do so figuratively.

A little over a month ago I took a 10 day trip to Israel through the Birthright program and GA Hillels. Now I’m a pretty picky eater, for all that I love talking about and making food, and I was concerned that I would not find food abroad I actually enjoyed. I don’t like many sauces. If things come with toppings I prefer them plain. That’s the attitude I went to Israel with.

And then the first full day we were in Israel, we stopped for lunch at this mall-complex and I stood waiting in a line behind at least 50 people to get a falafel. Although this might make me a bad Jew, I had never had a true falafel before. Sure I had had the chickpea balls, but I had only eaten them outside of the pita and in all honesty they were poorly prepared and incredibly dry. Yet here I was waiting in line for something that I had only a vague concept of and did not know what strange toppings would be applied to my lunch.

As I got closer to the front of the line I realized that at the falafel man was crazy! He was moving rapid speed, tossing every single ingredient into the pita and I couldn’t even tell what the separate toppings were because they were all mixed together through the quickness of his movements. He kept yelling things like Yala (let’s go) and Yeehaw!  just for the fun of it. When it was finally my turn to order he had already packed my falafel with everything and though I wanted to ask him to at least hold the sauce, he was already drizzling some white sauce on top of it all.

This is approximately what it looked like:

I would love to say that I learned something that day, but that would be a lie. I learned more than one something. I learned I like hummus and tahini sauce (the white drizzle I was so scared of) and that tomatoes are not just gross things to pick out of chunky pasta sauce. There was something so full in the flavor of the falafel that I wouldn’t have expected because at least three of the main ingredients (the falafel itself, the hummus, and the tahini) all come from chick peas. Yet each chickpea item added something to the overall taste where nothing felt like you were tasting the same food three times.  And the best part was that although the falafel balls are fried, the dish didn’t taste, or even feel, oily! It was great.

As we traveled through Israel, falafels became my go-to food because they were cheap, easy to find, and easy to eat on the go. Even if you never get a chance to go to Israel, I highly recommend giving a falafel a try.

Hey, I’m back in GA! I do believe I got in enough baking and making my own recipes to last me a little while (or at least I can tell myself that) and I’m back and ready to continue my Product Placement. My schedule has been a bit off what with moving back into the dorms, but I’m all set to make some inroads on talking about products to buy or stay away from.

I was at a Leadership Conference the past couple of days and at breakfast there were these sleek looking black pitchers of cranberry juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice, you name it they had it. Now, I’ve already discussed my love of grape juice and apple juice  but I do love orange juice as well. I just hate pulp and generally find the juice to be too sweet. I’m very picky when it comes to my orange juice.

The point, though, is that I was lured in to believe that this jazzy design for the pitcher meat the juice had been fresh squeezed. We were at a hotel and the entire conference can only be described as needlessly swanky, so I had reasons to believe that fresh squeezed juice was not outside the realm of possibilities.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Nope. I drank the typical Tropicana juice and unfortunately didn’t realize it until the next morning that it was typical Tropicana Juice until the hotel staff moved to refill it. From a carton.

Needless to say my spirit was crushed for a bit.

This is not to say Tropicana is a bad company or that their juice is disgusting. It’s not. I was just expecting to be blown away by the fresh squeezed variety and no matter what Tropicana claims on their website about from ‘Grove to Glass’ it’s packaged and it’s loaded with sugar.

I don’t care how many vitamins and minerals the juice has because it has 28 grams of sugar per serving. Something that claims to be healthy for you should not have that much sugar. Ever. There is no excuse. I am particularly critical here because this juice falls under the category of ‘masquerading as healthy’. If people don’t read the nutrition label they won’t know that although there’s 120% of their daily Vitamin C in that 10 oz glass of juice they’re also ingesting needless amounts of excess sugar that will then need to be burned off.

There are other ways to get your vitamin C (and occasionally Vitamin D if the juice is enriched). Try eating an actual orange, eat kiwi fruits, cherries, strawberries, and even red and green peppers are high in Vitamin C. For more information on Vitamin C rich foods check out: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/top-sources-vitamin-C-44102808

If none of these are in season (like strawberries, etc) you can always find oranges at the local supermarket and buy a small orange juicer to get the job done yourself. Small juicers like these are incredibly cheap and can be bought at a local Macy’s, or possibly even Target. You don’t need a fancy juicer in order to make healthy juice drinks. Juice away with all the health benefits and none of the added sugar.

My mother, always the wonderful genius that she is, gave me the idea to take some pistachios that we had left over from homemade pistachio pudding and turn it into pistachio  butter. We were out of peanut butter, which in itself is a living nightmare for me, and I was struggling to figure out what to eat for lunch. I had recently made sandwich bread and decided to follow the advice of my mother, make pistachio butter and put it on a piece of my toasted bread.

It was okay. The pistachio butter tasted better on its own, in all honesty.

But then I had the new issue of what to do with pistachio butter?

The following day we bought peanut butter and I immediately knew what I wanted to do. I could combine three of my favorite things: peanut butter, pistachios, and muffin recipes.

The following recipe is an adaptation of the original I made because I am operating under the assumption not everyone wants to make pistachio butter in order to make this recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup peanut butter (consistency doesn’t matter)

1/4 cup oil

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup milk

1/3 cup plus 3 tbs crushed pistachios

DIRECTIONS:

1. Grease six large muffin tins.

2.In a medium bowl combine, flour, baking powder and brown sugar. Stir until combined.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, vanilla, milk, oil, and peanut butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.

4. Mix in the 1/3 cup crushed pistachios. Pour the muffin batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining pistachios. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

*NOTE: I’m back at school and so no longer have access to an oven or photographs of what I make.