Thursday, July 28, 2011

Recipe of the week: Chickpea potato curry

So I've been living in a small town in New York for the last year, with my partner Dustin, after living in Chicago for two years. Before that I lived in Madison, and will soon be moving to Michigan while Dustin goes back to school. In each place, I have met such fabulous people, and some of our most enjoyable get-togethers have revolved around food. I especially love potlucks, which allow each person to showcase what they most love to eat and cook. Last night, a bunch of friends came to our house for a potluck, and the variety of foods was amazing. Our friends from Spain brought salmorejo, a cold soup made with tomatoes and bread; another friend brought home-brewed beer that he crafted; another couple brought hot dogs from their hometown of Buffalo. The whole experience of a potluck, with all its sharing of food and conversation, always leaves me excited about life.

While I don't have any signature dishes that I'm known for making, I made one of Dustin and my favorite go-to dishes, that we use whenever we want a lot of food for not a lot of effort. This recipe for Chickpea Potato Curry is from the recipe blog Simply Recipes. It's easy to make and delicious, especially if you like the flavor of Indian food. For a spicier version, add more cayenne pepper (which is what I did last night, and consequently gave all the leftovers to a friend since I have such a low spice tolerance). Enjoy!

Chickpea Potato Curry Recipe 

  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • one 14-ounce can stewed tomatoes with chiles [if you can't find these, buy stewed tomatoes and add half a 4-ounce can of diced green anaheim chiles]
  • 6 baby Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked Jasmine or Basmati rice
  1. In a large pot, combine the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, butter, ginger, 1 teaspoon of salt, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Stir to mix and nestle the potatoes into the liquid.
  2. Set the pot, uncovered, over medium heat. Simmer vigorously for about 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add more salt to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the Jasmine rice according to the package directions.
  4. Serve the curry in bowls over the rice. Serves 4.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Organic water? and other ploys that take advantage of people's attempts to be healthy

If there's one thing that drives me crazy, it's big corporations trying to take advantage of people's desires to live healthy and sustainable lives. In the last ten years or so, the general public has become much more aware of the importance of "being green," which in and of itself is not a bad thing. It means that many people (who have the money and the ability) are searching for organic and fresh food, recycled products, and energy-efficient appliances. This, in turn, raises demand for such products, and they become cheaper and more readily available.

But, this being corporate America, many companies are taking advantage of people's noble consciences, and trying to make a quick buck off of them. Everywhere you look these days, you can find dozens of products that are labeled "green" or "eco-friendly" or "sustainable" or whatever the current buzzword happens to be. Most of the time, these products are no more environmentally friendly or healthy than their unlabeled counterparts. Someone I was with bought a Snapple last week, and it was proudly labeled "gluten-free." I'm relatively certain that Snapple was never made with wheat products, but "gluten-free" is a current buzzword and makes their product sound healthier. Similarly, McDonald's boasts that their smoothies are "made with real fruit!" but they still contain 44 grams of sugar (twice the recommended daily value). Freakonomics has an interesting podcast on "conspicuous conservation," in which they discuss people's willingness to pay for products that make them look environmentally conscious.

But my favorite example of trying to make money off of the latest health craze: organic water. Water, which is in no way alive and therefore could never be grown organically or otherwise, is currently being sold in bottles that brag about its lack of growth hormones and genetic modification. We should avoid buying bottled water in any case, since virtually everywhere in the U.S. tap water is safe to drink, but we should especially avoid paying $4 a bottle for organic water!

There's nothing wrong with looking for keywords that will indicate a healthier food or product choice. Fruit that is labeled organic will have fewer pesticides and probably taste better. Paper that is 100% recycled will kill fewer trees. And so on. But there are hundreds of products out there that are inaccurately disguised as something healthy. Take a closer look at the nutrition label, the product history, or the company itself before you purchase.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health

The Environmental Working Group just put out a really great resource called the Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health. It doesn't tell you not to eat meat, but instead recommends which types of meat and protein are best for your health and the environment. Below is the graphic they use to show the greenhouse gas emissions of twenty common foods. Surprisingly, cheese is listed as the third worst food in terms of environmental impact! Chicken, fish, and eggs are much better (less impactful) sources of protein than cheese, beef, and lamb. To see the graphic up close, as well as the rest of EWG's report, click here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Recipe website recommendation

a recipe I found on Gojee, that I'm
going to try tonight: Peanut Pesto
and Peas Pasta Salad
My friend Tad sent me this recipe site which I've really started to love. It's called Gojee, and it customizes recipes better than any other recipe sites I've used. You have to make an account, which is free and quick, and then you can start to search for recipes in a couple ways. You can enter which types of food you are craving, and it'll give a bunch of recipes that include that food. For example, I entered "beets" under I crave, and it came up with the following delicious looking recipes: Roasted Beet Salad with Walnut Dressing and Cheese Crisps, Beet Gratin with Goat Cheese and Greens, and Red Beet Pasta with Balsamic, Poppy Seeds and Mint (among lots more).

You can also enter any ingredients you don't like or are allergic to under I dislike. And, my personal favorite feature since food always goes bad in my fridge, you can add ingredients that are currently in your fridge, and they'll make sure it's included in the recipes.

The website aggregates recipes from all different places, so it seems to have a wide variety. Hope you enjoy! Here is the link again:

Image sourced from, the source of the recipe I'm going to make tonight

Monday, July 11, 2011

Some reading on running

So, the last few weeks have been extremely busy for me, as often happens during the summer. Consequently, I've been ignoring the blog and also been ignoring my running routine. For a while there, I was running 3-4 times a week and doing yoga once a week. In the last month, I've done enough traveling and working that I've barely run at all. Consequently, I wanted to find some inspirational reading that would motivate me to get moving again. This morning I went for a quick fifteen minute run and have felt better all day. And lo and behold, the internet/blogosphere provided me with a lot of reading to keep the motivation high. I thought I would share:

Zen Habits posted 10 Life Lessons from a Reluctant Runner. I relate to so many things on this list, including dating a runner who convinced me of its benefits, as well as sometimes hating runs (but loving it after I get back from one).

NYTimes has an interesting article on the science behind why exercise makes us feel good. Turns out it reduces anxiety, and makes stressed out rats a lot more resilient. I think the only reason I got through my first year of teaching is because I picked up running.

I also like this article on Thomas Farley, New York City's health commissioner, who is doing some pretty admirable things to advocate for a healthier city. He also exercises every day, which is what I someday hope to say is my habit as well.

Plus, exercise improves memory!

Hopefully this will be enough to keep me motivated to run even though it's going to be 90 degrees all week...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tasty (and not so tasty) tomatoes

I used to hate tomatoes. Well, I used to hate a lot of foods, in particular most vegetables. (I know tomatoes are actually considered fruits...but I still didn't like them.) I was averse to the texture and taste of tomatoes, whether on my sandwiches or in salads, and I would certainly never take a bite out of a tomato purchased at the grocery store. It wasn't until I had a tomato right off the vine, grown in my parents' backyard, that I realized what I'd been missing. Sure enough, the tomato was sweet and juicy and flavorful, not bland and mealy. Last year, my partner Dustin grew Sungold tomatoes, and I couldn't get enough of them. They truly pushed me over the edge into tomato-loving land. This year, I can't wait for tomatoes to become available at farmers markets and in our community garden (which Dustin and I have been completely neglecting, so I'm not sure if we'll have dibs on the tomatoes).

Regardless, I still don't like tomatoes from the grocery store if it's not tomato season. Even if the tomatoes look red and juicy and are labeled "vine-ripened," chances are they were ripened by a chemical fog, in a truck on the way from Florida, and won't taste very sweet. NPR had a really interesting interview with the author of Tomatoland, a book all about industrial tomatoes (the ones available at most grocery stores). You can hear the interview on Fresh Air here. It gives some great information on where our tomatoes come from, and why we have to put up with such terrible tasting ones. (Simple answer: because they come from far away and are out of season most of the year).

Grow tomatoes if you can. Buy them at the farmers market or a farm if you can. You'll have to look harder and wait longer for them, but it's worth it for a delicious tomato.

I also wanted to include a recipe for canning tomatoes, which is a great way to preserve fresh-tasting tomatoes so you can eat them year-round. Last summer, when Dustin grew lots of tomatoes in the garden, I used this recipe to can whole tomatoes. The results were great, because we used the tomatoes throughout the year when making homemade pizza sauce.

Last but not least, here is my favorite recipe using tomatoes. Homemade pizza dough + Margherita pizza.  Delicious.
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