Brown Bag Challenge *FINAL WEEK* Recap

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Can I say that I am extremely relieved! The Brown Bag Challenge is officially over and life can become semi normal. For week 4 because the finish line was in sight it gave me the motivation to really push myself to bring my lunch to work. And boy was I successful. On Monday I brought tomato stew and rice; Tuesday saw me eating baked chicken with cabbage, potatoes, bell peppers, and carrots; Wednesday there was a work picnic (Yayyy free food!!); Thursday was a repeat of Tuesday; I went out to lunch on Friday so nada on that front. But overall it was a win.

For the last week of the challenge I saved $56. WOW!!! 🙂 🙂 To date on the challenge I banked $154.

The challenge, as you all saw, was extremely difficult for me. But I can say that my eating habits have improved and I will be more cognizant of bringing my lunch to work. I can’t promise that I’ve been doing this daily but I wont be going months without bringing my meals. So if you ever want to save money in a small way, I would say go ahead and try the brown bag challenge!

Quick & Easy Chili Nachos

Seeing that I had a plethora of Chili in my fridge last week, I had to find ways to swag it out so that I didn’t feel as if I was eating the same thing almost everyday (I was though 😦 ). In a bought of laziness I decided to make my own chili nachos at home. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted in the end. (Forgive this post! It’s not a picture laden as normal)

What you need:

3 cups of Tortilla Chips

1 cup of Chili

1/2 cup of salsa

1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used a prepackaged Mexican blend)

6 leaves of lettuce

Take the cup of chili and heat it until warm.

Wash and dry the lettuce. Then chop it into small pieces.

On a large plate, spread the tortilla chips into one layer.

Pour the Chili over the tortilla chips.

Sprinkle with cheese, so it can melt over the Chili.

Top with the lettuce, and finally your salsa.

Voila!! You have your Chili Nachos. A quick, easy, and delicious meal in less than 10 minutes.

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Brown Bag Challenge Day 3

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Day 3 of the Brown Bag Challenge was much better than Day 2. I had the battery in my car replaced so everything was good on that front. In terms of my meal I had fruit salad for breakfast, and Chili…again. 😦

It still tastes good but I seriously over it at this point. Next week I will definitely try to make more dishes so I have variety in my lunches. But overall today was a success.

$14 banked. $42 saved overall.

El Golfo

El Golfo is a Mexican Restaurant nestled on the outskirts of Silver Spring offering traditional and vegan fare. The unassuming exterior leads to a pleasant surprise once you enter the restaurant and realize how relaxing and colorful it actually is.

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Once seated a complimentary basket of Tortilla Chips and Salsa is brought to the table while you go through the menu looking at the options.EG3-min

I decided to to start off with Yucca Fries, cassava chips, and a creamy Chipotle dip. The appetizer alone could have made my meal complete but being my fat self, I wanted more.

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I followed with Beef Tamales with a Tomato and Onion Salsa. The tamales were wonderfully flavored. And met my craving, seriously I’ve been looking for a good place for tamales for the longest time! If you have any spots I should check out just put it in the comments. My stomach thanks you in advance.

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To finish it all off I had Tres Leche Cake for dessert. As soon as it hit my tongue it was an out of body experience. I just had to order some for the road.

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So you are ever in the Silver Spring make sure to stop by El Golfo. It will be an experience you wont forget.

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for Icecream

 

I will be the first to admit that I always viewed no churn ice cream recipes with a lot of skepticism, especially when folks touted it as only taking 2 ingredients. Well…I have to eat crow. After making some. I have to say that this will be my go to for the summer. The ice cream is quick and easy to make; light in terms of texture and consistency; and far better tasting than most store brands. I know, I know you think I’m exaggerating. But I challenge you to try the recipe for yourself and see how it goes.

You need:

1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 Pint of Heavy Whipping Cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Toppings of your choice (In my case crispy m&ms and twix)

Chilled Bowl

Hand mixer

Freezer safe container

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Pour the heavy whipping cream into the bowl.

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Take you hand mixer and place on a medium setting and whip.

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Initially you will just be looking at a liquid but as a couple minutes go by the cream will start to thicken.

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Add vanilla and whip the cream until its mixed well.

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Now pour in all the condensed milk.

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Whip the cream again to till the consistency is thicker and matches what is seen in the picture.

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Now add your toppings. (I attempted to crush the twix in the wrapper…it didn’t work too well -_-‘.)

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Whip until the candy is evenly distributed.

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Spoon your cream mixture into you freezer safe container and freeze overnight.

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The next day take out your icecream, serve and enjoy!

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Hummus in 5

These days I find myself getting home pretty late. And because I don’t feel liking prepping a full meal, I “graze”. Which literally means that I snack on whatever is available in the fridge or pantry. In an effort to stop this habit and have some semblance of a healthy snack, I started making hummus to have something to eat with veggies, crackers, or pretzels with. It’s extremely simple and very quick to make.

You will need:

1 can Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)

1 jalapeno

1/2 a small yellow onion

1/2 a bell pepper

1 clove of garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

First take the your veggies and cut them into pieces that can be processed easily by your food processor.

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Next drain, and rinse your chickpeas and place it in the food processor. Followed by the veggies.

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Add the olive oil and salt to taste. Blend.

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Blend until the hummus has a smooth consistency. Voila! You now have hummus. Enjoy ;).

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Baking & Roasting My Chicken

My week has been pretty hectic and I’ve been looking for meal ideas that are delicious, but require little prep work. So while at the grocery store when I came across a 6 dollar bird a light bulb went off and I immediately knew what I would be making. Roasted Chicken with potatoes, a “one pot meal” of sorts.

What You Need:

1 Small Whole Chicken

1/2 A head of Cabbage

1 Yellow Bell Pepper

1 Yellow Onion

6 Baby Red Potatoes

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

2 tablespoons of Chimichurri

2 tablespoon Olive Oil

Salt

1 baking pan

Mrs. Dash

Curry Powder

First preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wash and cut vegetables and place in baking pan.
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Drizzle olive oil over them and add a dash of curry, salt and Mrs. Dash. Toss the vegetables to make sure everything is covered with the oil and seasoning.BC 2

Take the chicken, rinse with water and remove the giblet and other goodies.  Pat dry with paper towels. Place in the pan with the vegetables and rub with the unsalted butter. Follow with the chimichurri and rub all parts of the bird with as much of the sauce as you desire. (You can replace this with the seasoning of your choice). Stuff the bird with some of the potatoes you’ve seasoned.BC 3

Take a piece of aluminum foil and cover the pan. Place in the oven and cook for an 1 hour 20 minutes. 40 minutes into the bake time remove the foil.BC 4

After the the bird has finished baking take it out and enjoy. As you can tell from the picture below I got carried away and forgot to take a picture before i started to serve myself :). Enjoy!!

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Shimmy for the Chimichurri!

My co-worker introduced me to true greatness when she brought in some “adobe sauce” as dip for for pita chips. The mix of olive oil, parsley, cilantro, garlic, and jalapeno really pushed the snack over the edge and gave it the ultimate status. So I had to make it for myself.

After researching for a bit I discovered the”adobe sauce” that my co-worker had given me was actually called Chimichurri. An Argentinean condiment that is used to spruce up meats, and vegetable dishes. In a way it’s the ketchup of Latin America.

Because of the green nature of the sauce I decided to push it a bit further and add an unusual twist to the recipes I saw by adding spinach, for the cocktail of vitamins it offers, and cucumber, for vitamin K. The difference in the taste of the sauce is extremely subtle, so I managed to retain the taste while adding more nutritional content. Below is my take on this simple but awesome sauce. The sauce which I have been using to spruce up pretty much anything from rice to sushi.

What you need:

1/4 Yellow Onion

1 clove Garlic (if you like garlic add more)

1 jalapeno (or pepper of choice)

3 mini snacking cucumbers

2 cups Spinach

1/4 cup Parsley

1/4 cup Cilantro

1/3 cup Olive Oil

2 teaspoons salt

First gently wash your vegetables. Keeping the spinach and herbs in a separate container as they are more fragile.

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Next place your spinach, salt and herbs in the food processor with the olive oil and blend.

Now chop up your vegetables and add them to the processor and blend.

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Voila!!!! Your Chimichurri is ready. It was so quick and easy that it doesn’t even feel as if you were cooking. 😉

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All I See Is Green….

Green is really all I’m seeing at the moment. Except it’s not money :(. Lol! Oh Well it’s something better. Sauteed Kale and Spinach. Just how is it better you ask? Well Kale is high in vitamin K, iron, and antioxidants. While Spinach makes you as strong as Popeye the sailor. Seriously Spinach has vitamin B6, zinc and a whole slew of other things. But together the two greens make you beautiful both inside and out. And who doesn’t want to be beautiful?

What you need:
1 medium size pan
4 cups of Kale
4 cups of Spinach
2 tbspoons of Olive Oil
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of Dill Weed
1 teaspoon of Parsley
1 teaspoon of crushed Coriander Seeds
Sea Salt for taste

ks 2After placing my Kale and Spinach in a bowl to the side, the first thing I did was prep my
coriander seeds. I measured it out and placed it in a zip-lock bag, then crushed it with a cup. Easy.

I did the same with my garlic.

ks 1After completing this I then took my pan coated it with the olive oil and added my garlic, dill weed, parsley, and coriander. I put this over medium heat until my garlic started to become translucent. Do not allow the garlic to brown.

 

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Next, I added my spinach and kale to the oil mixture in the pan. I made sure to coat the greens with the oil and spices. I also added salt to taste. To keep this on the healthy side, make sure you don’t add too much salt that promotes hypertension. (Just saying) Cook the greens for about 5 minutes max. Let them wilt slightly.

ks 5Voila! You’re done and have a healthy meal. This can go well with potatoes, salmon, rice. Pretty much anything. So give it a whirl.

 

Let’s Get to Stewing!

One thing you notice quickly when dealing with West African Cuisine is that the basis of most sauces (stews going forward) are tomatoes. Making Cabbage Stew? Start with tomatoes. Agushi Stew? Start with tomatoes. Making Spinach Stew?…You get the idea 🙂 It’s pretty clear that once you’ve mastered how to create a tomato stew then you’re set for life.

Tomato stew isn’t just a base. It acts as a stand alone sauce and can be eaten with a variety of things such as yams, rice, plantain, gari, pasta, even bread! Only your imagination can limit its usage. So let’s get you started!!!

What you need:

1 medium size saute pan

1 tablespoon olive oil (any oil of your choice)

1 1/2 medium tomato

1 clove of garlic

1/2 yellow onion

Salt

Pepper

Mrs. Dash Original Seasoning

First cut your vegetables andts2
set them aside. Take the saute pan and coat the bottom with oil. Now add the onions and garlic.Stir with a wooden spatula to cover them with oil. Turn on stove and cook at a medium heat.

Allow for the onions and garlic to wilt and start to approach translucency.

Add the tomatoes.ts3

Stir everything together and allow it to cook for about 5 minutes.

Now add salt, pepper, and a dash of Mrs. Dash to the stew. (Seasoning is to taste so feel free to doctor.)

Mix well and allow the stew to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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As you’re cooking your stew will look very liquidy, don’t worry as it continues to cook the water will evaporate. After 10 minutes your stew should be done.ts10

Voila! You’ve made West African tomato stew; you are now ready to conquer the world. Enjoy ;).