Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Falafel, Origin Uncertain

I recently visited a local Mediterranean style restaurant, Mediterranean Cruise Cafe – http://www.medcruisecafe.com – and enjoyed the delicious falafel, among other tasty dishes.  That scrumptious meal inspired me to search for a falafel recipe.  I admit, until I started researching recipes, I was ignorant and didn’t know that falafel was essentially a garbanzo bean fritter (croquette in international settings).  I learned fava beans are also used in many parts of the world and may have been the original primary ingredient.

Wikipedia sources note that the origin of falafel is unknown and somewhat controversial.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falafel
It is thought to have originated in Egypt.  In modern times (did I really write that?), falafel is considered a street food or fast food and often served as a sandwich.  It seems the question of origin has been so passionate that it has generated accusations of copyright infringement.

I was delighted to discover that creating falafel is quite simple, especially if you bake it, rather than the traditional method of deep frying.  End result – baking is healthier and just as tasty!

I discovered various falafel recipes in my search.  Most included flour and some included baking powder.  I did find my preferred baked falafel recipe on the about.com internet site.  http://video.about.com/mideastfood/Baked-Falafel.htm

Baked Falafel

•1 – 15 oz. can garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas)
•3 cloves garlic
•1 small onion, diced
•3 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
•2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
•1 tsp. cumin
•1 tsp. coriander
•Juice of 1 lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)
•1/2 tsp. kosher salt
•1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
•2 Tbsp. flour
•1 tsp. baking powder
•2 Tbsp. olive oil

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.
Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse well.
Place the garlic in a food processor, and pulse a few times to chop it roughly. Now add the onions, the chickpeas, the parsley, cilantro, cumin, coriander, and lemon juice to the food processor. Add the salt, the red pepper flakes, flour and the baking powder.
Cover and pulse until the mixture is well combined. You don’t want a complete puree, just a mash, sort of like the texture of a chunky hummus. Now, drizzle about a tablespoon of the olive oil onto a baking sheet.
Form the falafel into 1-1/2-inch rounds and flatten slightly with your fingers. Place on the oiled baking sheet. When you’re finished, brushed the falafel with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven 15-18 minutes until golden brown on the bottom.
Turn, and return the falafel to the oven to bake another 5-7 minutes until browned on the other side.

When I made this recipe, I did not measure the olive oil on the pan and used an olive oil spritzer to coat the tops of the falafel patties.  It was definitely not enough olive oil and the cook time was much longer.  I think the longer cook time was due to using canned garbanzo beans.  You may have a different experience with dried beans.  Use best judgement on olive oil and monitor the baking.  If the patties are not getting firm, increase cooking time and/or add olive oil.  I had to do both.

I mixed up a yogurt-cucumber dressing for the falafel, but it is not my favorite – too bland.  I will share a recipe when I find a good one.

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Is the Original Chex Mix recipe truly the original?

No, it’s not!  The current “original” recipe includes bagel chips and seasoned salt.  Bagel chips did not exist in the 1950s, when Chex Mix was invented.  I’m fairly certain the seasoned salt blend had not yet been invented, either, but I cannot find any data to support my theory.  Chex Mix was a staple and a tradition in my family’s holiday treat collection.  I remember being very impatient about how long it took to make, since you could smell it in the oven after about 25 minutes.  I admit, when I made it tonight, I dipped into it before the instructed 60 minutes of baking was completed! Chex cereal was introduced in 1937 by Ralston Purina.  By 1952, recipes for “Chex party mix” appeared on boxes of Chex cereal.  It is reported that, in 1955, the wife of a Ralston executive in St. Louis served the snack at a holiday function, which launched its popularity.  Apparently, the invention of television spurred creativity in developing recipes for  snacks that could be enjoyed without interrupting television watching.  The commercially packaged versions of Chex Mix came about in 1985.  While the commercially packaged product can serve as an emergency fix, it does not compare to the oven roasted version.   A few years ago, I consulted my mother to find the true, original recipe; or, at least the one she used when we all were kids.  She did use pretzel sticks, which I always found very annoying.  The inside of my mouth was continually stabbed with the pretzel ends.  Seriously, how could a mom do that to her children?  I chose to replace the sticks with tiny twists – oh, so much safer! Here is Chex’s current link to the Original Recipe http://www.chex.com/recipes/the-original-chex-party-mix/4698168d-747c-4f96-8f7a-521736e49071

Here is the recipe from my mother.  When you compare them, you immediately notice the difference in the amount of butter or margarine.

Original Chex Mix – circa 1965-1975

1 cup butter
4 Tb Worchestershire sauce
3 tsp celery salt (another missing ingredient in the current original recipe)
3 tsp onion salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp garlic salt
1 lb Virginia peanuts
4 1/2 cups Rice Chex
4 1/2 cups tiny twist pretzels
4 1/2 cups Corn Chex
4 1/2 cups Wheat Chex

In case it is not obvious, Chex Party Mix is not Weight Watchers friendly.  However, it is one of my favorite indulgences and a weakness.  I delayed making it until I knew I could get it out of my sight quickly.  I will be packing and shipping much of it and storing the rest well out of my reach.  I had 3 large handfuls this evening!

If you choose to use the oven instead of the microwave, follow the instructions on the Chex cereal boxes.  Be sure to melt the butter and stir the seasonings in before adding cereal, etc.  Bake at 250 degrees for one hour and stir every 15 minutes.

Single, Healthy Quiche

Healthy cooking is challenging, but single-serving healthy cooking is doubly challenging.  I normally use a small pie pan to make quiche and heat up the remaining portions for future meals, but a great idea leaped into my head this morning.  Why not just use a single size container?

Years ago, my sister came up with a simple and healthy quiche crust – wheat germ, regular oats, and olive oil as a binder.  Mix it up until it sticks together and press into your pan.  Cook at 350° – 400°, depending upon pan size, for 10 to 20 minutes, until lightly toasted.  This provides a solid base for the egg mixture. 
Today, I didn’t have wheat germ, so I mixed up cracked wheat, regular oats, olive oil, and pressed into a Corning Pyrex 8 ounce custard cup.  It’s the perfect size for a single serving quiche!

I surveyed the refrigerator and freezer and found baby portobellos and cooked bacon.  Penzey’s Herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and shredded Parmesan cheese finished the dish.  I used an immersion blender (excellent invention) to blend 1 egg and the egg white equivalent of one egg.  I cooked the mixture for about 20 minutes at 350° Fahrenheit.  It was wonderful and satisfying!

Rotting Lettuce?

Are you frustrated when you purchase lettuce at the market and it ends up rotting in the refrigerator?  I am and there is a solution.  Plant a lettuce bowl!

Lettuce bowl supplies are basic and inexpensive.

  • Any bowl or container with drainage that can safely hold dirt and water
  • Quality garden dirt or compost
  • Seeds of your choice – lettuce, spinach, greens, etc.

Fill the container with the dirt or compost, sprinkle the seeds on top, and cover with a light dusting of more dirt.  Place the container where it will receive the most direct sunlight.  Keep the seeds moist until germination, 7-14 days.  Most lettuce varieties mature in 40-50 days.  Pick the leaves and enjoy!  Add seeds every few weeks to ensure a lush crop.

Anyone can enjoy fresh greens all summer long.  The seeds can also be started inside in late winter.

—-Update 5/22/11—-
Healthy growth!

Not in Fitness Kindergarten!

I started working with a fitness trainer in March, realizing that I needed and wanted to increase my level of body fitness.  After the first couple of orientation sessions, the real sessions began and I felt completely and absolutely out of my element.  I felt like I was in fitness kindergarten.  Fitness has certainly changed over the past 25-30 years, since I was a youth in gymnastics, swimming, and diving.  No one referred to the “core” back then, but it is logical.  The core of the body must be strong to support everything around it.

Chris, the fitness trainer, has educated me on what the fitness industry looks like today.  He also assured me I’m not in fitness kindergarten, but perhaps junior high.  Fitness in 2011 is all about integrating movement, mobility, flexibility, and strength.  Instead of the simple, static stretching of the past before a workout, dynamic and multi-purpose movement is selected.  I am a fan of efficiency, so this concept really works for me.

I was proud of my posture and body form — at one time.  My 25 year profession has included a desk, chair, and computer.  I realized at my second or third fitness training session that I lost that posture and form, in addition to some balance.  I thought about whether it had to do with age, but, no, it doesn’t.  The movements and workouts I was learning and now using are directly opposite to my work body position, which is exactly what is needed. 

In a relatively short time, I’ve regained body and fitness awareness and seen the results of focused and balanced workouts.  I hesitate to write it, but I may be transforming into someone who doesn’t hate exercise.  I purchased foam rollers and resistance tubing, and moved the dining table to make room for strength workouts.  The NordicTrack needs lubrication from hours of use, not as a clothes hanger.

See what I wrote about exercise back in November 2010 …
https://twocutes.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/honk-if-you-di…ke-working-out/

Zoom In

Today is the 5th of May, also known as Cinco de Mayo, a day of Mexican celebration.  Until I did an internet search, I believed it was a day to celebrate Mexico’s independence from Spain.  That is apparently NOT true.  May 5 is a date observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, and to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War.  [Thanks to Wikipedia for a fairly solid reference.]  In the Mexican state of Puebla, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army‘s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.  The United States celebrates the occasion more than Mexico.

Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16.  September 16, 1810, is the event that marks the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence and is the most important national holiday observed in Mexico. The “Grito” was the battle cry of the Mexican War of Independence by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest.  He led a planned revolt against the Spanish colonial government.

Now that history is sorted…
I’m sad to report that I am a Google failure, when it comes to the smartphone.  I don’t normally drink margaritas, but I thought it festive for today’s date.  So, I stopped by the liquor store after work to purchase margarita ingredients and discovered that I didn’t really remember the ingredients.  I’m standing in a store aisle, trying to Google without my reading glasses, and every site I try to bring up on the BlackBerry results in a HTTP error.  Arrggghh!  What makes it even worse is that I need to Zoom In on every page to even begin to read the text.  Back in the day, I could read tiny font.  Now, not so much.  I distinctly remember the ridicule I received from friends when I bought a Kindle earlier this year and was setting the font size, in hopes that I wouldn’t need reading glasses.  The Kindle adventure is a different subject for a different day.  I do use reading glasses with the Kindle.  Back to the liquor store – I gave up on the margarita idea and just bought wine.  When I got home, I could load and read the internet pages for margarita recipes.  Basic ingredients include tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice.  There are numerous sites with great margarita drink recipes and a myriad of variations.  I searched a bit more for origin and history of the margarita drink and found that no one really seems to agree.

I had quality tequila and lime juice, but no sour mix, flavored liqueur, or Grand Marnier – only a few drops of raspberry liqueur.  I also had amaretto, but that just sounded disgusting.

I chose a Corona Light out of the refrigerator, added Key lime juice, and approximately 3/4 shot of Tres Generaciones.  It wasn’t a margarita, but was my tribute to the Puebla region of Mexico.

Not a Gym Rat

Like I’ve written before, I do not enjoy exercise just for its own sake.  Sure, I recognize the benefits to health and fitness.  To be motivated, I need to be entertained in some way.  Music or video doesn’t do it.  I would rather hike up and down a mountain all day than get on a treadmill for 30 minutes.  Exercise has never been my highest priority.  If I am given a choice between social/happy hour or a dinner with fun people and a workout session, the exercise session will never win.  I’ve never been nor will I ever be a gym rat.

Since I embarked on my transformation last fall, I have been spending small, but consistent, amounts of time on a classic NordicTrack and performing sit-ups and push-ups.  When I reached a weight I historically considered sustainable, but still had (have) 8-10 pounds to lose, I decided to move to phase 2.  I needed to step up the exercise, much as I dislike it, to meet my weight and fitness goals.

I knew the big box gyms wouldn’t work for me (been there, wasn’t impressed), so I researched alternatives.  I found a locally owned gym that specializes in customized, personal training options.  I took advantage of a marketing offer and gave it a try.  The first meeting was an information and requirements gathering session.  Erik, the gym owner (also a trainer), asked questions about my fitness background, eating and exercise habits, current weight and fitness goals, and schedule availability.  He recommended a trainer and we scheduled the first gym session.

I admit, I was feeling a bit cocky about what I accomplished on my own over a long, long, winter in the Upper Midwest.  The first couple of personal training sessions involved assessment and refining of goals – setting a baseline.  When I came to the first, real workout session, I came face to face with reality.  Yes, I had accomplished great things on my own.  However, I had gaps in my flexibility and was out of balance with quadricep (dominant) and gluteus muscles.  In the short time I’ve been working with Chris, the personal trainer, I have learned more about body and muscle awareness than I ever did from participating in gymnastics and swimming/diving in my youth.  I have also learned how to keep my now slightly arthritic and spurred right shoulder loose and increase its strength.  With just a couple of personal training sessions and applying those concepts at home, I am already experiencing positive changes.  I’m filling the gaps and learning the skills to maintain more complete body fitness.  Admittedly, personal training services are not inexpensive.  If a person partners with a friend or small group, the services become much more reasonable.

The fitness industry has changed significantly since the 20th century.  For example, I discovered the foam roller.  It’s a very simple concept – use a firm foam cylinder to massage tight muscles.  In the past, I was always very flexible; but, it seems 25 years of sitting at a keyboard has changed that and I am now working to regain posture and flexibility.

When used properly, a person can obtain the equivalent of a deep tissue massage with a foam cylinder.  Below is one example, but there are many more.

The local sports retail chain sells one size and brand for significantly higher cost than online retailers.  Shop around – you will not be sorry.  It’s the greatest thing!