Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Food Diaries: Busy Busy Busy

Greetings Everyone! Life has been pretty crazy over the past couple months, it has been very difficult to stay on top of the blogging as of lately. We had a change in our contract at work, so our schedules and our responsibilities have been very topsy turvy! With working nights now, and recently moving into a new apartment, I haven't had a chance to get back into a good blogging groove. But I'm not here to make excuses, I'm here to blog about my cooking adventures and recipes on staying healthy!

So going forward, I plan on getting back into the blogosphere and getting things up and running again. I am very much looking forward to seeing all of you in the coming weeks!

Hope everyone is having a great summer so far!

~Mr. McLovin

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quinoa

When I first accepted this blogging challenge, I was kind of worried about several letters that I might not be able to find an ingredient for. In itself, I think Q is a bit of a strange letter. Thankfully, I stumbled upon quinoa. I can't recall if it was something I came across in a grocery store or during my internet travels, but it seems to be the perfect fit for today's blog post!

Quinoa, pronounced Keen-wah,  has been given a "super food" status in recent years and is growing in popularity due to its list of health benefits. You could consider quinoa as a grain (even though it is just a seed), much like wheat or rice, but it is actually more closely related to spinach or beetroot. Since ancient times, this grain oddity has been grown by the Inca people and was referred to as "The mother grain". The Spanish colonists despised this seed, because it was associated with the native people. Due to Spanish law and active suppression of the plant, quinoa was almost banned into extinction. Little did the Spanish know, quinoa was prized by the natives for reasons that can only be fully understood in this current age.

To say the least, this super food packs a punch! Quinoa is a great source of manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, zinc, and of course fiber. For all of you out there who are interested in boosting your protein intake, quinoa roughly contains 24 grams of protein in every cup! If you, or any of your friends have gluten allergies, quinoa might be just what you are looking for; quinoa is gluten-free because it is not related to wheat or other grains.

I have never actually used this seed before, but it sounds like I have plenty of reason to. Have you ever tried quinoa? I have heard that it is somewhat on the bland side, so I am rather curious to see how people usually eat it. Thanks for read, and I hope everyone has a great Easter!

Till next time,

~Mr. McLovin

Friday, April 18, 2014

P Is For Pomegranate

Pomegranates are an amazing fruit. They have a tantalizingly sweet, yet very sharp taste, a magnificent crimson red color and are full of all sorts of vitamins and minerals. I have loved this odd package of color and flavor since a young boy, and was rather excited to blog about it. The first thing I had originally planned on doing was talking about how this fruit got its nick name “Indian apple”; I have always called it this and became interested on the history behind it. It turns out, I couldn’t find anything about the name online or how it came about. I was so surprised! I thought everyone used the term Indian apple so I just assumed that it would have been a popular topic online. I was also under the impression that pomegranates originated here in the USA, which I was also dead wrong about.

Contrary to my popular belief, pomegranate is widely believed to have originated in Iran. Thanks to the ancient trade routes, the pomegranate made its way across the Middle East, through Europe and eventually Asia. The pomegranate wasn’t introduced to the fruit until about 1769, when Spanish settles visited California and Latin America.

In the United States, the pomegranate is largely popular for its acute flavor. In other parts of the world, the pomegranate tree is used widely for decoration as well. In Japan and Korea, the plant is used frequently in Bonsai for its unique bark
A freshly opened pomegranate
attributes. As for myself, I love cooking with it just as much as I enjoy eating it plain. I really enjoy using pomegranate juice in sauces and salad dressings that I make, and I love using the seeds with breakfast either in yogurt, a bowl of oatmeal or just in a smoothie.

Do you know the story behind the Indian apple name? Even though my search came up fruitless (pun intended), I would still love to know the origin of the name! Thanks for reading; I hope to see you tomorrow when I will be covering the ingredient “quinoa”.

Till next time,

~Mr. McLovin

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O Is For Oysters

There are two different kinds of people in this world: the kind that love oysters, and the kind that utterly despise them. If you're unsure on which side you may be one, it should only take you about T-minus 10 seconds after you slide your first half shell back. The first time I had an oyster, was about 12 years ago. I was about 14 years old and on spring break with my family down in Florida, the experience was traumatizing to say the least.

Doesn't this oyster look tasty??
Even at a young age, I have always loved trying new foods. While on vacation one Spring break, we met up with some family friends at an all you can eat Chinese buffet. I have never heard of oysters before this point, my parents despised them and refused to bring them anywhere near our home. Our friends were eating these oysters by the dozen at the restaurant, so I thought that they couldn’t have been all that bad. I have had stuff clams and other kind of shell fish before, which I have loved, so how could it be that much different? I asked my parents if they could pass me one over for me to try, and they eager obliged as they couldn’t wait to see the reaction on my face. All in all, I kind of choked on it… and then kind of gagged on it. Everyone had a good laugh afterwards, except for me, I thought I was going to be sick! Love them or hate them, oysters are widely popular around the world and will be here to stay; eating them has its benefits and I’m sure are better than eating something like fast food.

Surprisingly, oysters are actually pretty good for you. Like most other sea food, oysters are high in protein. With about 16 grams of protein per 6 ounce serving, they might be exactly what your bodybuilding buddy needs tonight after his hard workout. Oysters are also a great source of vitamins and minerals, such a zinc, calcium, iron and vitamin b-12. These bivalves are also known for being aphrodisiac, which some scientific research has backed to be true. Zinc has been linked closely to testosterone levels, so that might have something to do with it being linked to boosting your sex drive. The 2 major downfalls to eating oysters, besides being a fatal mistake for anyone with a sea food allergy, is the high sodium and cholesterol content.  If you already have issues with blood pressure or with cholesterol, then you might want to sit this food out.

I'm not sure why, but I have been seriously wanting to try oysters again this past month or so. It has been over a decade since my last oyster experience, many of my taste buds have changed since then so who knows if my adult preferences will like or hate this notorious shell fish. I am always kind of leery of trying them at restaurants because I don’t want a repeat of last time. I have heard that the best time of year to enjoy them is during the cooler months, so I might have to put off my next oyster experience until later on this year.

What have been your experiences with this slimy little shell fish? Do you have any advice for how I should enjoy my next attempt? Thanks for reading and I hope to see you tomorrow!

Till next time,

~Mr. McLovin

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Garlic Roasted Hummus

If you’re tired of eating unhealthy chip dip and are searching for a healthy alternative, look no further. Hummus is a delicious alternative that you can easily make and enjoy on the fly. Besides being easy, hummus is rather good for you! The main reason for this is because of its simple yet nutritious ingredients.

8-10 cloves of garlic
16 oz chick peas
4 Tbsp Tahini paste
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp pepper flakes
1/3 tsp salt


1)   The first thing we want to do is roast the garlic, so preheat the oven to 400° F. If you are going to roast the whole head of garlic, all you need to do is peel the outer most skin and then cut off the top ¼ inch from all of the cloves. I decided that I only wanted to make what I needed, so I removed and peeled the 10 cloves. Next you are going to lightly coat the garlic with about 1 tbsp of olive oil; make sure that the garlic is completely covered. Now, you are going to take your garlic cloves/head and wrap it in aluminum foil.

2)   Once your garlic is prepped and your oven is heated, you want to roast your garlic for about 20 minutes.

3)   While your garlic is roasting, you can take this time to get the rest of your ingredients ready. You will want to strain the chick peas and add them, including the rest of your ingredients to a blender or food processor.

4)   After the garlic is done roasting, carefully open the aluminum foil so the garlic can cool. Allow to cool for a few minutes. If you roasted the whole head of garlic, you will want to remove the necessary cloves. The individual skins on the cloves should be soft and pliable, so all you need to do is give the clove a little squeeze/push and it should pop right out. Now add the garlic to the blender.

5)   After all of the ingredients have been added, you want to blend/puree until it has a smooth texture. When I was blending, I had to stop the blender several times and manually push some of the ingredients around. Hummus has a thick consistency, so your blender might need a little help with getting things in the right place to properly mix together. You can always add a little bit of water or more oil if needed, so things get blended well.

6)   Now all you need to do is enjoy with chips or pita bread! It’s as simple as that!

Food For thought

I have been eating this like crazy for the last two days; I guess I am making up for not eating any over the course of the last couple years! I think next time, I might throw the whole head of garlic in there or maybe just a raw clove or two. My first batch was really delicious, but I am a huge garlic fan and I wouldn’t mind just a bit more garlic kick in there! I also used Milanese Gremolata as my olive oil, which I think made the lemon taste come out just a tad much. I’m not sure if I was looking in the wrong places, but it took me forever to find chick peas and the tahini, thankfully my searching paid off and a Meijer had some. If you are having issues finding the tahini, which is a sesame paste, you could always try making it yourself!

Thanks for stopping in, and I hope you enjoy this easy and delicious recipe! Please like, comment and share. I would love to hear what you think or what you might change.
Till next time,

~Mr. McLovin

N Is For "Natural Flavors"

So far, all of the ingredients this month have been things you would want to cook with and could be used regularly in the kitchen, today is going to be a different story. BE WARNED! Today's topic is not for the faint of heart, as the truth of the matter is rather disgusting. Today’s ingredient, “natural flavoring”, is almost an anti-ingredient and should never be used in the kitchen. Out of all the other tasty foods in the world that starts with the letter N, why would I choice this thing? Well, "natural flavoring" is actually pretty common in processed foods, the kind you might want to avoid in the store, so it is a more common ingredient than you think.

This is what the trappers harvest for the flavor...
To sum it all up, I think this video does a great job of explaining this ludicrous ingredient. It will only take a few minutes to watch, and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I have; Do you eat beaver butt? That’s right, the anal gland of beavers produce a secretion that is used in the food we eat and in other products such as drinks and perfumes. This secretion, known as “castoreum”, is primarily used in the food industry as a flavoring in some types of vanilla substitute, as well as raspberry and strawberries substitutes. They say the consumption is relatively low in the USA, about 300 pounds annually, but it makes you wonder what companies are allowed to put in their food as the term natural flavoring is so broad and generic…

The definition of natural flavor under the Code of Federal Regulations is: “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional” (21CFR101.22).

Here is a lovely close up of our carmine friend.
Another fun additive companies will put in our food is called cochineal and sometimes carmine. Cochineal and its close cousin carmine (also known as carminic acid) are derived from the crushed carcasses of a particular South and Central American insect. When crushed these little bugs provide a lovely red hue to whatever we add them to, such as a strawberry milkshake or a brick red lip stick. Carmine can also be identified on food labels as Crimson Lake, Cochineal,  Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470 or E120, just in case you were interested in looking in the future. I am no food additive expert by any means, but if you ask me, that is quite a bit of leeway for what they can put in our food.

I’m sure the government wouldn't allow companies to put anything harmful into our food, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily want to be eating it. If anything, I hope today’s blog post makes you a bit more aware of the ingredients list on the packaging of the food you buy. It is good to be informed, that way we can make better decisions about our diet and our lifestyles! And maybe, just maybe, this new knowledge will spark a new desire to visit the blog more and to cook a bit better going forward! Thanks for reading, don’t forget to like, comment and share, and I hope to see you tomorrow!

Till next time,

~Mr. McLovin

<< M Is For Muenster Cheese                                                              O Is For Oysters>>

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Food Diaries: Fancy Olive Oil

While on my way back home from a birthday dinner, I had to stop and pick up some olive oil for my hummus I wanted to make. I was planning on just stopping in at Kroger later to buy it, but I couldn't help but walk over to the international oil and vinegar store that was next to the restaurant. It wasn't the first time that I visited this establishment, I will usually drop by and just window shop when I go to the mall. They have great samples and a very friendly staff, so it is always a pleasure to walk around and taste their unique products. Since I actually needed oil this time, I thought it was a great opportunity to give them a sale.

The worst part of my visit, was that I was already stuffed from dinner. I had no intention of eating anything else for the rest of the night, so taste testing was out of the question. The courteous young lady, who was on duty, seemed to know plenty about the oil selection; I had to rely on here experience to get me something good. After chatting about flavor preferences and what I was planning on using the oil for, I ended up purchasing the Milanese Gremolata blend.

Milanese Gremolata Olive Oil
Overall, I would say I'm pretty content with my purchase. The Milanese Gremolata has a nice savory herbal aroma and flavor, but the lemon zest is just a tad bit much. After using it in my hummus recipe, I learned that I will have to reduce the amount of lemon juice as this oil brings the overall lemon flavor out a bit to much. The dip turned out good, but I will have to slightly adjust it for next time. I will have to finish up that blog post so I can post it tomorrow.

After my fancy oil experience, I have come to the conclusion that making flavored oil or vinegar might be something interesting to do. I already have a little herb and pepper garden growing, maybe I can use some of those plants to infuse some oil and experiment with flavors. I guess I will just keep it in mind and look back into it once my herbs are fully grown.

Till next time,