Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day/ Weekend. I started the Holiday on Thursday by going out to lunch with a friend to an area known as “Little India” (http://littleindiasd.com/). It’s located off of Miramar Road on Black Mountain Road, and it’s close to I-15, so it’s easy to access. “Little India” consists of a few restaurants, some Indian stores, and a grocery store. Miramar Road is a little crazy. There are probably hundreds of stores on the street, and everyone is driving at least 50 miles per hour, so if you are looking for a particular shop or side street (like Black Mountain Road), it can be a little daunting. But if you are in the market for furniture, car window tinting, a growler from AleSmith or Rough Draft Brewing Company, or an Indian feast, look no further than this area.

Mart
If I had to rank my favorite cuisines, Indian would be in my top 3. There’s something so comforting about it. I love the smell of the spices, and the heat of the food combined with lighter components like coconut and cucumber just scratches me where I itch, to quote Kramer.

We decided to have lunch at Surati Farsan Mart which opened in 1986. I was overwhelmed when I looked at the menu. Take a look at their website and you will understand. My friend, Christin, advised that I order Dosa. I had never had one before, so I was excited to try something new. It’s a thin rice crepe that is somewhat crispy. There are a few filling options, so I opted to copy Christin and I ordered the Mysore Masala Dosa. It is stuffed with vegetables that have a little kick that is tamed by the coconut chutney that is served under the Dosa. When you lift it up, you will find the chutney and your silverware. On the side, a delicious vegetable soup is served which can be poured over the crepe, but I opted to dip my Dosa into it. If you have any soup left over, take it with you and pour it over some rice for another great meal at home. We easily could have split one between us, but I didn’t realize just how filling one would be. We ordered an appetizer, Chole Samosa, that was so full of flavor. If you haven’t had a Samosa before, just go here and order any one listed on the menu. You will love it! Just don’t be like Michael Scott from The Office and confuse Samosas with S’mores.

Mysore Masala Dosa

Mysore Masala Dosa

Chole Samosa

Chole Samosa

The one we ordered was topped with a sauce containing chickpeas and onions. The flavors were so fresh and bold. If you want a meal that will wake up your mouth, this is it.

Coconut Chutney - SOOOOO Good!

Coconut Chutney – SOOOOO Good!

I must say that I am so disappointed with myself. I feel like I’m an adventurous person food wise . I must note that in any other aspect, I am not adventurous. I did a zip line over Fremont Street in Las Vegas, and I thought I was Evel Knievel. Anyway, I’ve never ordered an Indian dessert. I never liked the look of them. Again, I’m so mad that I acted that way. Christin ordered a few desserts to take home to her husband, so she let me taste a couple. My hesitation with Indian desserts was that they look super sweet, like baklava. (And I like baklava, it’s just not a favorite of mine.) First, she had me try Jalebi. The orange color was what discouraged me from trying this item. It is coated in honey, which was another deterrent for me. Surprisingly, it wasn’t super sweet. It feels like you are holding fried air, if one could deep fry air. What a wonderful place that would be!

Genius Jalebi

The next dessert my friend introduced me to, which in the past I always passed right by because of the look of it, was Barfi. It had just a hint of sweet from the condensed milk and sugar. It had some crushed cardamom on top that gave the dessert some complexity. I loved it! I bought a box of assorted desserts to share with my husband, and he thought Barfi tasted somewhat similar to cheesecake, possibly a Ricotta Cheesecake because it isn’t creamy at all. I could eat this all day long!
The Chocolate Rose Coconut Roll was my favorite. I loved the color, and Franz loved that they tasted like one of his great loves: Strawberry Zinger.

Chocolate Rose Coconut Rolls

Chocolate Rose Coconut Rolls

Barfi and Rose Kaju Anjir Barfi

Barfi and Rose Kaju Anjir Barfi

The only treat Franz and I did not enjoy was Kaju Badam Roll. Unfortunately, the appearance reminded us of a dog treat. But that wasn’t what we disliked; it was the flavor. It is a cashew roll with an almond filling, but for some reason it had a smoky flavor which reinforced the dog treat idea. It is just not for me. I was happy I tried it though!

Kaju Badam Roll in Foreground

Kaju Badam Roll in Foreground and Rose Anjir Barfi Behind on the Right

Chocolate Badam Barfi was just in the middle of the road for me. It was an almond square layered with chocolate and almond slivers. There was nothing wrong with it, I just preferred some of the other desserts more.

Box of Goodies with Chocolate Badam Barfi on Top Near the back

Box of Goodies with Chocolate Badam Barfi on Top Near the back

The most interesting dessert was Rose Kaju Anjir Barfi. It is similar to a cookie, and it is cut into quarters. You can opt to order just a quarter which would be one bite for most people. It has a fig, cashew and almond filling. Apparently nut allergies are not a problem in India. It is flavored with rose-water, and I am usually not a fan. However, the rose-water was very subtle and it went really well with the other flavors. What I particularly enjoyed was the silver coating. It flaked away so that the bright red of the cookie shows through. I thought it was gorgeous, and I thought it was cool that it was safe to eat! If you go to the store’s website, you can order any of these desserts and have them shipped.
Visiting Surati Farsan reminded me to be open-minded. Sadly, I thought I was! I love when something surprises me!

Have You Tried These?
If you are in the mood to cook an Indian meal at your house, and you are not close to a Little India where you can buy spices, another option is Penzeys Spices ( http://www.penzeys.com/). There’s one in my neighborhood of Hillcrest, but they are located throughout the country (http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/penzeysstores.html). The first one I visited was in Cleveland, Ohio near the West Side Market.  I love visiting this store because they have sample containers around the store so you can smell each herb and spice. See how long it takes before you sneeze. And if you prefer someone else creating a certain blend for you, they sell that as well. For example, they sell Old World Seasoning which could be compared to Lawry’s. Take a look at their online catalogue or, if you are lucky enough to have a store near you, stop in. The people who work there are always happy to help.

I Love This Section of the Store!

I Love This Section of the Store!

They have cute gift packages for special occasions, like a wedding or house-warming party. If you go, let me know what cool stuff you found!

It's Fun To Compare!

It’s Fun To Compare!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Surati Farsan on Urbanspoon

Here a Kale, There a Kale, Everywhere a Kale-Kale

I love food trends.  It’s fun to see what people create with the hot item of the season, or the month, or the minute.  I over indulged one weekend in New York City when pork belly was all the rage. Bad idea.  My husband and I couldn’t even look at pork belly for about a month.  Then there was the ramp craze.  That wasn’t a big hit with me.  It was just ok. Then kale got the spotlight.  It was (and seems to still be) everywhere!  Is kale even cool anymore?  I will never tire of it.  Of course you could swap it out for turnip greens or Swiss chard, but I still really enjoy kale.  And there are many types to choose.  Check out this blogger who documents 6 kinds: http://www.pigandvine.com/2013/01/garden-6-kinds-of-kale.html

Top Ten Reasons to Eat Kale

  1. It goes with anything! Just Google recipes for kale, and you will find a combination you like.  Say you don’t eat veggies often (a la Ron Swanson), add some quinoa and some grilled chicken.  You prefer sweet entrees?  Make a nice vinaigrette, add some strawberries, maybe throw in some sautéed shrimp, and dinner is served.
  2.  It is super filling. It’s like eating a bowl of rice.  It seems to really expand, and yet I’ve never felt uncomfortably full.
  3. Talk about healthy!? It’s one of the healthiest foods on the planet! It has a ton of fiber, calcium, vitamin B6, A and K, magnesium, etc., etc.  However, I have read that too much kale may interact with some medications and can interfere with the absorption of calcium, so have that milkshake from Jack in the Box another time, and speak with your doctor about drug interactions. I even think you get health benefits for just reading about it!  So well done.  You’ve just increased your magnesium!
  4. You can eat kale, and then feel ok about that Jack in the Box milkshake you will gulp down later!
  5. It’s really tasty, and you feel good eating it.  You know when you donate to a worthy cause or finish a charity run?  That’s how I feel after eating a bowl of kale.
  6. It doesn’t have to be 100% healthy.  Go ahead, throw a pork belly on it.  It won’t judge you.
  7. You can bake them and eat them like potato chips! Or you can have someone else do the work for you.  Thanks, Trader Joe’s! Kale Chips
  8. I think it keeps one regular.  Just being honest.
  9. You can try growing it and talk about it at farmers’ markets so you sound really cool.
  10. It’s so pretty!  You can use it in a floral or table arrangement!

I had lunch the other weekend at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas.  My husband had a delicious steak, and I thought it was very reasonably priced for Vegas.  I ordered the Frisee, Kale, and Warm Bacon Salad with a Soft Poached Egg. Divine.  Again, it doesn’t always have to be healthy!  However, I’m in love with a recipe that doesn’t clog the arteries.  I discovered this recipe in Good Housekeeping (April 2013).  It’s a Dr. Oz recipe (and I now love him because through his show I discovered the cleanse I did last month), and I think it’s a great one for people who already love kale and for those who are not so sure about it.  Another option with this recipe is to blanch the kale first or add the quinoa hot if you are not crazy about eating kale raw.  I’ve read that it is even healthier to eat kale cooked.  You have so many options with this simple recipe!

Apple and Baby Kale Salad

  • 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (*see note below)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I used avocado oil just because I like to mix it up every so often.)
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 6 cups mixed baby kale (Or use any kind of kale you like.  I like them all!)

Cook quinoa according to the directions on the package; let cool.  (I didn’t let it cool that much.  I just threw it in.)

Whisk together mustard, oil, lemon juice, green onion, and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Add apple, kale, and cooked quinoa; toss to combine. And, of course, it’s great topped with sriracha.  Like I even need to mention that (insert eyes rolling).

Why do I love this particular recipe?  First of all, I love the unexpected sweetness of the Granny Smith apples. Second, if you (or someone you know) think you might not like kale, it’s a great introduction.  You could add more quinoa and not use as much kale.  **You could replace the quinoa for something all together – you could add orzo!  Why not?  It would be like a pasta salad with some kale.  Maybe throw in some blue cheese?  OK, I’m just getting hungry now.

Kale and Apple Salad

Even if kale has jumped the shark, I’m not letting this trend go anytime soon!  What’s your favorite food trend?  I’d love to hear about it! And if you head to Vegas anytime soon, check out Mon Ami Gabi.  There’s a patio (no reservations accepted for that area) that is on the strip.  Talk about a great day:  A bottle of wine, steak, kale and watching the lovely people of Vegas walk by!  What could be better?

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Mon Ami Gabi on Urbanspoon

To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse? I Have My Answer!

Hello everyone!

Two very cool things happened this week.  First, I finally have a new computer!  Woohoo! Thanks, Costco!  Now I can finally post to my blog and read other people’s’!  I’m old-fashioned.  I really don’t like reading very much on my phone.  (I need to get used to Windows 8, too.) The other bit of news is that I finished the 30 day Clean Cleanse – without cheating!  I began this cleanse as a test.  I wanted to see how I would feel after giving up processed foods, dairy, alcohol, etc. I’m so happy I did.  Here’s a list of why I loved this cleanse:

  1. My mind seems a little sharper.
  2.  My mood is much brighter. But like I told my husband, this cleanse will not change your personality.  Sometimes (and only sometimes) I can be a bit annoying.  A cleanse is not a cure-all.  Sorry.
  3. I have more energy.  For some reason, I had zero energy on Saturday.  I have no idea why, but I just felt exhausted.  I went for a run with Franz, and I could hardly run a  block.  Again, this cleanse will not make you perfect.
  4. It was fun going out with friends and not thinking about food and drinks.  Sounds crazy, right?  I feel like I take forever studying menus, taking pictures of my food, thinking about what I could write later, etc.  This month felt like a break.  I went to Alpine Beer Company with a group of people, and it was nice just sitting outside and hanging out.  Hopefully I’ll go back for their beer and food another time.  It looked and smelled amazing.  Check out the menu: https://alpinebeerco.wordpress.com/pub-info/pub-menu/
  5. I love that I lost a few pounds – 12 in total.
  6.  I had my blood pressure taken Monday, and the nurse commented that I must have been very calm.  I’ve never had a problem with my blood pressure, but it was really good!

I’ve got a feeling, and it’s all good!

I must mention that I am so impressed with 3 places that enabled me to stick to the cleanse when I wasn’t home.  I went to Mammoth for a ski weekend (about 6 or so hours from San Diego), and I had a blast.  After skiing one day, we went to the food court at Canyon Lodge.  I was expecting not to have too many options.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The woman in charge of the salad bar made me an amazing kale salad with roasted red beets, grilled chicken, and a ton of excellent fresh veggies.  I just pointed and she piled it into a large silver bowl.  She could tell I was hesitant about the dressings available, so she pointed out the vinegar and oil to me, I added them to the bowl, she tossed away, and lunch was served!  Two other restaurants that impressed me were Point Loma Seafoods and Pita Jungle in Hillcrest.  Fresh grilled fish with a gorgeous view of Point Loma Marina and downtown San Diego is a great way to stick to a cleanse.  Pita Jungle has awesome hummus (which is allowed on the cleanse) and a salmon dish that is truly filling and only $12.99.  I went to C-Level and had a meager salmon dish for $30.  It was tasty and fresh, and you can’t ask for a better view of San Diego, but this meal did not satisfy my hunger.  It’s a cleanse, not Hunger Games! Thirty days went by relatively fast.  I plan on sticking with a few things that I’ve done over the past month.

  1. I didn’t eat a whole bunch of processed foods before, but I will further decrease my consumption.  For example, no more Lean Cuisine and I will greatly cutback on cereal.  I plan on treating cereal as a dessert as opposed to breakfast.
  2. I will continue making smoothies for breakfast.  They really give me the energy I need, and it keeps me full until lunch and beyond, if necessary.
  3. I’m obsessed with cooking with coconut oil.  I love the flavor it imparts.  Seriously, give it a try, if you haven’t already.
  4. I will continue snacking on kale chips, almonds, dried kimchi (Trader Joe’s has made me an addict), unsweetened coconut flakes, hummus and almond butter.  All of these things give me energy as opposed to a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate which just makes me want to eat 4 more squares.

The last comment I will make regarding the cleanse is one that may need to be addressed.  A couple of people have asked, so I’m assuming more people out there might have the same question.  It’s a question concerning bowels.  Yep, you might wonder about this aspect of a cleanse.  I will be straight with you.  I’ve never had a problem in that department.  If you do have difficulties, and you start a cleanse, I would guess you may notice a big change.  For me, I noticed that I would go more often throughout the day – usually after a meal or even a snack.  However, it was never a problem.  Depending on your body, you may or may not need this product: http://www.hulu.com/watch/10308

Some of you have mentioned that you are on a cleanse or thinking about starting.  Let me know how it’s going!

Take Care and Happy Eating!