May 31, 2010

Great Harvest Bakery Comes to Charleston!

Last week I made it over to the Belle Hall Shopping Plaza to check out the newest addition: Great Harvest Bread Company! Finally, Mt. Pleasant has a healthy bakery! Great Harvest focuses on 5 ingredients to perfect their bread:

  1. Fresh-ground whole wheat flour
  2. Filtered water
  3. Fresh yeast
  4. A pinch of salt
  5. Something sweet (usually a local honey)
They do not use preservatives or additives either! Their whole wheat comes from Montana, but is ground fresh in store daily. The whole wheat comes from family farms, which means Great Harvest supports local crops. 

When I walked in, I had to smile at two familiar smells: fresh paint + fresh bread. Not usually smelled together, these two scents definitely brought a smile to my face. I was greeted by two friendly employees who immediately offered me samples of today's products. They had several different things shoppers could try: a couple of their daily breads, two different types of scones, a muffin, and and a huge assortment of dips, jams, oils, and nut butters! This was perhaps more exciting than the fresh smells!

First I tried a sliced of the Apple Crunch Bread with Naturally Nutty Honey Roasted Cinnamon Peanut Butter one half and Butter Toffee Peanut Butter on the other half. I was so excited to see the Naturally Nutty butters in their store! I was really impressed with the bread, and loooveddd my half with the cinnamon peanut butter. 
Next I tried a small slice of the Cinnamon Chip bread with whipped honey. This was ridiculously good. Both breads were so soft, had plenty of flavor and the ingredients were mixed well throughout. I also tried a bite of a Berry Cream Cheese Scone and had to feel my pulse to make sure I hadn't just checked in at Heaven. Nope, still alive. 

Here are some pics of the inside of the store:
Fresh breads that change daily. Pick up a schedule in the store!
Cookies, muffins, bars, scones, and cakes:
Sodas, teas, and local coffee:

Apparently each bakery's owner has some control on the products they offer. They call this a "Freedom Franchise" because "each owner has the freedom and flexibility to make their bakery a one-of-a-kind neighborhood destination." In the Mt. Pleasant bakery, they sell some exciting goodies:
Naturally Nutty butters, Great Harvest jams, oils, and whipped honey:
Soup and chili mixes:
On my first visit, I bought a loaf of the Nine Grain bread. It's a really light, whole-wheat bread with a hint of honey. It's so good that I've eaten a piece at least once a day with honey, peanut butter, avocado butter -- anything really! A few days later I couldn't stop thinking about that whipped honey, and ended up going back for that. Two days after that I was back for a Carrot Cake muffin! If you live in the Charleston area, you must must must check this place out. And be sure to sample at least a couple different breads, a scone or muffin, and the whipped honey!!

May 27, 2010

Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato Tian with Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

Last year for Auntie Kelly's birthday, I gave her a subscription to Cooking Light magazine. The June 2010 issue featured an interesting recipe that we wanted to try: Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato Tian. FYI: a tian is a baked, layered vegetable dish. It could be eaten as a vegetarian entree, but we cut the ingredients in half and made it as a side. Roasted chicken and potatoes completed the meal.

Neither of us really knew what to expect from the eggplant as we've both only ever had it fried. Bad bad. While Kelly tended to her beloved chicken and potatoes, I assembled the Tian. After slicing the eggplant and zucchini, I had to roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes -- I think because these take longer to cook than tomatoes. After those softened, it was time to layer:
 Between layering half of the vegetables, you sprinkle the top with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil. To complete the tian, you must have breadcrumbs (or, in our case, a roll that has been destroyed in a food processor), herbs, and cheese. I mixed those ingredients in a bowl and sprinkled them on top of the vegetables. 
The final step before baking is to sprinkle the bowl with just a little bit of chicken broth to soften the bread crumbs during the baking process. This also adds flavor to the dish.
Here it is after baking:

And Kelly's roasted chicken:
And potatoes:

Everything on the plate!
The chicken was really moist and the tian was a success. A tian is a really cool concept because you get the chewy veggies with the crispy crust, and the ooey gooey cheese throughout! Such a good combination!

And now, for the super high quality video that I promised: How to Carve a Chicken

Yes, we are a very strange family, but we always have an awesome time together. Especially when food is involved!

Questions for you lovely readers:
1) Do you prefer a balanced meal that has a meat, veggie, and carb? Or do you just like throwing stuff together on a plate and calling it a meal?

2) What are your food/kitchen/restaurant pet peeves? 

I'll be gone for a few days because this weekend my best friend, Nicole, is getting married!!

Have a great weekend!

May 25, 2010

Stuffed Chicken, Mashed Purple Potatoes and Wilted Spinach

I finally had a Sunday where I did a whole lot of nothing. Nothing = relaxing at the pool with a good book and going to Target for unecesssary fun goodies. I had plenty of time in my day to make a real meal. I recently came to the conclusion that Whole Foods' chicken breast are 45,000 times better than Publix's. I swear they are plumper and juicier - kind of like the difference between these two ladies:
Jennifer/Publix -- you're satisfying enough, but Whole Foods/Angelina really has what I want.

Now that I sound like the lesbian that I am not, let's discuss my meal choices and not Brad's. I thought about stuffing chicken with goat cheese, but let's face it: I've been there, done that. My cooking partner suggested we use Fontina. Fontina is a cow's milk Italian cheese that is usually semi-soft and melts well. The WF cheese lady suggested we also stuff the chicken with some of their marinated roasted tomatoes. We also picked up a bag of spinach (I was desperate to get my veggie on), some goat cheese, and a few purple potatoes.

To make the chicken, I pounded each breast until it was thin enough to stuff and roll. I discovered that a full wine bottle works as an excellent meat pounder if you don't have one. Seriously. Here we have the chicken with fontina, roasted tomatoes, and spinach leaves:
I folded one end over the other, sprinkled fresh ground pepper on top, and baked for 30 minutes at 350*. While that was being prepped, my sous chef cut up the purple potatoes for boiling:
Aren't they pretty? Throw in some sweet potatoes and we could have a Clemson party! After these boiled, they were mashed with skim milk and goat cheese! The consistency of the purple potatoes was just like regular potatoes - soft enough to mash with the back of a fork, but even more fun to eat. 
I also cured my green craving by throwing the remaining spinach into a pan with leftover olive oil from the roasted tomatoes, plus some garlic. I sauteed the spinach long enough to wilt -- it only takes a couple minutes. 
Everything plated and ready to be devoured by yours truly:
Everything was so good, but the potatoes were my favorite. I think I just had fun eating them because they were purple. If only lime green potatoes existed...

And here's a shot of the chicken from the inside:
Yummy mummy!! Later this week I'll be featuring another meal with chicken, potatoes, and veggies...but with a very special video on how to carve a chicken. Trust me, it is special.

May 22, 2010

Third Time's a Charm at the Mustard Seed

Not that the Mustard Seed doesn't charm me every time I dine there, but the third time in eight days really stole my heart. Let's just say that if this restaurant took human form, I'd bend down on both knees and propose. (Shh, don't tell Chick-Fil-A.) Remember last Thursday when I went there for lunch with Grammy and Auntie Kelly? Well, I had another chance to take family there the following Monday when my second cousins were visiting from Massachusetts. On Monday night I had my favorite dish: sesame crusted chicken with a raspberry soy glaze, fresh vegetables, and garlic mashed potatoes. I've had this dish several times and always enjoy it.

My roommate hadn't yet gone to Mustard Seed, so we decided to go last night. Aside from the usual menu, they always have specials with lots of fun ingredients. Today's specials blew us away:
The funny thing is, that morning I emailed Diana the menu and she immediately knew she wanted the shrimp & scallop risotto. She said she had never met a risotto she didn't like. Determined to something new, I decided I would have the grilled lemon-oregano chicken with tomato feta relish. Well our 11am selections flew out of the window when we saw that chalkboard menu. Diana knew she wanted the tuna and I was torn between the tilapia and the trout. I love both fish; it was the sides that were killing me! Goat cheese whipped grits or a pineapple infused Jasmine rice cake? hard. After the recommendation of our server, I opted for the tilapia and was really eager to devour whatever this rice cake concoction was.

Both of our jaws dropped not only when we were served, but when we took our first bites. DELICIOUS!

My cashew-crusted tilapia over a spicy spicy pineapple infused rice cake, stir-fried carrot ribbons, micro greens, and sesame plum graze:
I forked the fish, dipped it into the sauce and looooooved life. I was also fascinated by these "micro greens." It sounded pretty scientific but really I think it was just a few four-leaf clovers on top of sprouts. LUCKY me :) I then remembered there was a rice cake under all this prettiness. The rice cake was a square of sticky rice with bits of pineapple throughout. So tasty. Even my carrots were good!

Diana's pepper dusted yellow fin tuna, house-made gnocchi pasta salad, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, red onion, vine ripe tomatoes, arugula, sweet peas, and a balsamic pomegranate reduction:
We were both surprised to find that the pasta was cold, but the sauces were SO good. I am a very saucy person, so the fact that this dish came with two made me happy...even though it wasn't even my dinner. We tried each others meals and were very impressed with both. If you're a single man out there and feel like taking me tonight I'd be glad to get these two dishes and share with you. Haha. I'm 50%  kidding.

PS  - To the Anonymous commenter on my last post: I had to laugh that you recognized me at Social since I was there for a whopping 3 minutes!! Love it! But whooooo are you??Reveal yourself, por favor! And next time come say hi -- I'm super friendly. :)

Hope everyone has a great Saturday! 
Mustard Seed (Mt. Pleasant) on Urbanspoon

May 21, 2010

God Bless a Chick Pea

Oh, little ball of wonder, you are so good to me. Not you -- a chick pea. These cute little nude-colored balls are one of my favorite super foods. Nutty and buttery-flavored, chick peas are a versatile legume that packs a good amount of protein. Otherwise known as garbanzo beans, chick peas are a good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. Fiber, my favorite topic of discussion, came up last night between my nursing student roommate and me. On Saturday, I bought a bottle of these fiber gummies I found at Target:
For 2 gummies you get 5 grams of fiber and these suckers are delicious. I told Diana I've been eating them like candy and she looked at me like I was wacky. I told her they weren't doing the trick but they tasted great. She asked me, "Well, are they soluble or insoluble fiber?" Excuse me, what? I heart fiber so much but I never pay attention to different kinds of fiber! Well, nursing student/genius pulled out her school books and we learned the difference:
  • Soluble fiber: binds with fatty acids, attracts water and turns to a gel during digestion. Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol and regulates blood sugar. It is found in oats, oat bran, rice, quinoa, barley, beans, lentils, peas, oranges, apples, pears, berries, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, and celery.
  • Insoluble fiber: helps the food pass more quickly. Insoluble fiber prevents constipation and therefore reduces your risk for colon cancer. It is found in wheat, wheat bran, green beans, onions, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, seeds, nuts, raisins, and grapes.
I grabbed my bottle of "candy" and checked out the nutrition label. A serving size is 5g of soluble fiber. Hear soluble - think SOLID. So I'm thinking I have like 25 gummy bears packed together in my intestines right now. LOVELY!

And if you're still reading, let's go back to the chick pea. The main reason why I love them is because lots and lots of chick peas = hummus! Hummus is essentially chick peas, olive oil, fresh garlic, tahini and lemon juice. Easy to devour on pita chips, and just as easy to make at home. 

I put the following ingredients in a food processor. I omitted tahini because I couldn't find it at Publix and was too hungry to go to Whole Foods.
  • 1 15 oz can of chick peas, drained 
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt & pepper optional
 Process for about 5 minutes or until you achieve your desired consistency.
Make sure you make just as much of a mess as I did:
And store your hummus in a completely appropriate container:
 Making hummus is easy (chick) peasy!

May 20, 2010

Blogger Help!!

Hi everyone!!

This is a real quick post and only about tehcnical stuff.

I am seriously considering moving my blog from blogger to my own domain. It seems overwhelming, but apparently it shouldn't be that hard. I'm just not sure where I should begin.

Does anyone have advice on how to make the switch, who to host with, and how to start the design process?

Thanks so much!

May 13, 2010

Mustard Seed Makes Me a Happy Girl

Grammy Orso from Massachusetts arrived Tuesday evening!! Grammy comes down every Spring and every other Christmas. Unfortunately we have to share her with the other half of our family, but it's always exciting when she comes! Grammy's visits typically include a lot of eating out, chocolate chip cookies, and Kelly and I secretly teasing her for getting old. For a grandmother, she's pretty young at just 66 years old. My aunts (more like my sisters) and I keep her in check with reality: she now has a facebook, has learned how to send one text message, and FINALLY learned that you're supposed to keep your cell phone on at all times and not just when you're making calls. (This last lesson took about two years for her to figure out, bless her heart.) She's pretty much the coolest woman in my life because of her cookies, Chicken Marsala, awesome hugs, and the fact that she still calls me her "sunshine" after almost 26 years. I was her first grandchild and I'll always have a special bond with her because of that.

Sappiest post ever.

Onto the food: I met Grammy, Auntie Kelly, and baby cousin Zachary at Mustard Seed in Summerville. Mustard Seed is another one of Sal Parco's creations, with locations in Summerville, Mt. Pleasant, and James Island. The Mustard Seed offers fresh and healthy entrees that include ever-changing specials. They also serve wine, beer, and deadly delicious desserts. If I had to choose, I'd say that Mustard Seed is my favorite local restaurant. The reason for this is that their food is creative, always fresh, and they make great use of seasonal vegetables. They consistently serve great meals and I have never left unsatisfied. Their portions are excellent and fairly priced. 

One of my favorite items from their menu is the Mustard Seed Pad Thai: Thai noodles, shrimp, chicken, fish sauce, egg, mushroom, sprouts, peanuts, fresh cilantro & lime. It's not your typical Pad Thai found in Thai restaurants - the sauce is more of a broth than a paste. It tastes a thousand times healthier, and doesn't sit like a brick in your belly. I carbo-loaded like it was the night before a bridge-run on this dish and enjoyed every bit! They serve the Pad Thai with Sriracha hot sauce and chopsticks for those who are feeling hot and, er, sticky.
Pad Thai with a Camelbak cameo:

Both Grammy and Kelly ordered the Crab Cake special: two crab cakes served over a bed of greens with a buttermilk-chive dressing. I'm not typically a fan of crab cakes, but these were delicious! They were really light and soft. The dressing on the salad was also light, but had a creamy taste. 
The three of us thoroughly enjoyed our meals, and baby Zachary enjoyed his banana and Sesame Street cinnamon cookie sticks. 

Question Time! 
A few of you asked me questions in my Greek Yogurt giveaway post:

Kaye asked "I thought you only BBM?" - Yes, Kaye, I have a severe addiction to BBMing (Blackberry Messaging) but not every one on this planet is fortunate enough to own a Blackberry. SAD FACE. Because some people don't know what "bbming" is, I had to put "text" in my title. Texting is such a throwback activity to Blackberry users, it makes me laugh a little.

Erica challenged me with two questions. She first asked me what my top favorite Charleston restaurants are. That's so tough, but here goes: 
  1. Mustard Seed - Consistently fresh food, reasonable prices, casual, friendly staff.
  2. Mozzo Deli -  Crazy good sandwiches, salads, breakfasts, burgers and desserts.
  3. Baked - A bakery in Charleston that serves ridiculously delicious naughty food
  4. Basil - Thai restaurant in downtown Charleston.
  5. Chick-Fil-A - Ok, I know this isn't a local restaurant, but my God, it's my obsession. It has to be on this list. Go read that post for a laugh or 50.
And my favorite color? LIME GREEN!! My collection so far includes a lime green laptop, camelbak, Blackberry cover, Longchamp tote, key chain, and Victoria's Secret bikini. If it's lime green and under $1,000, I want it. 

Ali asked if when I got my wrist tattoo and if I was glad I got it: I got it when I was the tender age of 18. I don't "regret" it per se, but I don't want it there anymore. I've had it for 8 years and I'm just over it now. Thankfully I can cover it up with a watch so it's not a huge deal. It will be removed eventually though, because I don't want it on me when I have (gasp) children.

Jeny and Terry asked about protein snacks. My ideas are: Greek yogurt, fat free cottage cheese, edamame, hard-boiled eggs w/ hummus, tuna, and Luna bars.

Jessica asked if I'm happy with my body and how I've become so comfortable with it. YES, I am happy with my body. Of course I'd like my stomach to be a tiny bit flatter, but I'd never give up my cookies to have that. I am comfortable with myself because I eat right, work my butt off in the gym, and still indulge occasionally. Eye sexing at the gym and compliments from randos don't hurt my confidence either. 

And as far as the questions about my exercise go, um...can I give y'all Julius' number? All I know is that he pretty much beats me twice a week. On my own time I do a lot of running, push-ups, weighted lunges, assisted pull-ups/dips, leg curls, vodka curls, cartwheels, and booty dancing. The last three items are essential for my success.

I loved the questions, and they were so tame! Keep 'em coming! :)

Mustard Seed (Mt. Pleasant) on Urbanspoon

May 10, 2010

Asian Sesame Noodles That WILL Make You Cry

Lately I have been more than obsessed with these Asian sesame noodles at the Whole Foods' salad bar. I think I've eaten them three times in the past week, and my budget is not a fan of this kind of behavior when it costs $7.99 per pound. On Sunday, I went to get my fourth serving, and CRISIS OF THE CENTURY they weren't on the bar. I frantically ran over to the deli woman and muttered, "Um...are there by any chance Asian sesame noodles anywhere else in this store?? Like the ones at the bar?? Because they're gone and I really want them." Of course she looked at me funny, but I didn't care. She checked in the kitchen, returned, and shook her head saying, "No, baby girl, we didn't make them today." WHAT. Like they are there every day, lady. Just because it's Sunday doesn't mean you get to rest on sesame noodle making. Just when I thought I was going to starve to death, a fluorescent light bulb lit up in my head and I asked her, "Oooh, can you give me an ingredient list so I can make them at home?" 
BAM! Gotcha Whole Foods - I can do this myself! Not that this was a competition in any way, I still felt like I had won. Christina, 1 - Whole Foods - ZIP. So when I looked at the ingredients, I was a little alarmed -- three different oils? Yowsas, this is what I've been eating? No wonder I've been feeling so slimy. I knew I could revamp this "recipe" that I didn't actually have, and make it MINE! Christina, 2 - Whole Foods - ZIP. Another thing I constantly see with Asian recipes is that there are a billion ingredients, and you only ever need 1-2 tablespoons of each. My budget doesn't love that either. I had picked up all these different sauces and oils when I noticed this little gem in the salad dressing section. Seriously, I was a winner all over this grocery store.
I drove home faster than Jimmie Johnson so I could create this recipe.

  • 1/4 - 1/2 lb noodles of your choice
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 cups baby carrots, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Tamari Ginger dressing
  • 1-2 tsps crushed red pepper
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • Lime slices, optional

  • Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Drain and set aside to cool.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine ginger, garlic, carrots, dressing, and crushed red pepper.
  • Add mixture to pasta and toss. 
  • Add sesame seeds and cilantro as desired.
  • Serve with lime slices for squeezing over pasta.

Besides all the chopping, this recipe doesn't take long to make. Obviously I wanted them ASAP, so I stuck them in freezer to cool. I'm lying. I took three bites, and THEN put them in the freezer to chill while I cleaned up the horrific mess I made.

I finally got to eat them and oh my word, they were dragon-breath hot. Apparently 1/2 tbsp was an outrageous amount of crushed red pepper. (Recipe above is adjusted.) Halfway through my bowl, I was sniffling, crying, and reaching for the nearest mango to shove in my mouth. The mango didn't help, but I finished the bowl anyway. Bad idea. I cried a little more and thought about the only thing that could make my mouth feel better:
Good stuff, right? Now check out the inside of the jar:
Yeah, I went there. I also went here:
pistachio gelato

Earlier today, my facebook status was about how shocked I was that I didn't have any injuries this weekend. Well, I spoke too soon. While cleaning up my disaster, I dropped a bowl and sliced my palm open. OOPS.

And FINALLY -- the winner of the Greek Goddess Package is...

Congrats, Megan! Please email your contact info to: Gracias chica!

May 6, 2010

Calling All Greek Yogurt Fans! Siiike, I Only Text.

Last week I walked into my apartment and saw a large box. Large and in charge. My Blog Spark and Yoplait teamed up and sent me an awesome “Nourish Your Inner Goddess” gift pack. Just what I needed after a killer Julius beating. So what was in the large and in charge box? 

A wrap towel, exfoliating wash cloth, exfoliating scrub brush, a nail brush, and a massager! Heck yes. Now I just need to find a man willing to massage my back after my workouts...JULIUS? ARE YOU READING THIS? ;) 

Also included in the gift pack were two coupons for Yoplait's Greek Yogurt. This new line features four 6 oz flavors: 
  • Honey Vanilla
  • Strawberry
  • Blueberry
  • Plain
With my coupons, I picked up 1 strawberry and 1 plain. The strawberry flavor packs 12 grams of protein in only 130 calories, and the plain packs 14(!!) in a mere 100 calories. Cha Ching! My thoughts: the strawberry flavor is great, with a light strawberry flavor, not too sweet, with a good creamy consistency. The plain seemed thicker and did not have the too-tart flavor that some Greek yogurts have. Overall, both flavors impressed me, but neither were extremely flavorful. If you're looking for a Greek yogurt that is similar to regular yogurt, then Yoplait's line is for you. 
When I pulled the yogurts out of the refrigerator I accidentally punched a hole through the top. Is this a sign I'm getting too buff? Darn, guess I'll stop having thumb wars.
Want to win your very own Goddess gift pack and coupons? Leave me a comment telling me your favorite Greek yogurt brand & flavor and I will randomly select a winner on Sunday. I'd also like to take this opportunity for you guys to ask me one question you'd like me to answer on the blog. Ask anything you want! This contest will be open until Sunday, May 9th at 12PM EST. If you're not interested in this giveaway (silly!), you can also download a $0.30 off coupon here.

So I thought it would be funny to pose in the new wrap towel because I'm actually quite obsessed with it. It has Velcro at the top so it stays on your convenient for someone with attention problems. I will no longer be dropping my towel and accidentally baring my goodies! After a major beating at today's training session, I look horrendous and the pics came out the opposite of cute. BUT, since the gauge on my shame tank is on empty these days, I will post anyway! 

WHEN on earth did this happen? I never look at my back, bc well, it hurts my neck, but apparently I grew some baby muscles. 
 Anatomy of Xtina:
 So ashamed:
And also disgusted with myself:
And did yall think I was nakey under there? SIIIIIKE, I was still wearing my gym clothes.
I wonder if I'll lose or gain readers because of these, haha!