Sunday, March 9, 2008

Canned Tuna Improvisations

I haven't been able to post nearly as much as I'd like to lately. This mostly has to do with the fact that I'm working out again, mostly running and yoga with some other activities thrown in. As much as I love kicking the crap out of myself with a good workout, it takes away at least an hour from my evening, and usually I'm drained enough afterwards that I find myself incapable of cooking, cleaning, writing, and being generally productive. Even worse, my already fast metabolism goes bonkers when I work out, and I'm almost always hungry, and my newfound desire to not eat so much processed food is not jiving well with my need to eat something marginally tasty every two hours.

I've been trying to balance my time properly and not eat like crap (the last time I was working out a lot I ate a lot of fried eggs and ramen), so I've been improvising a bit lately with a giant pack of canned tuna I got from Costco. I had one meal of canned tuna with cheddar cheese melted on top, and that wasn't so hot. I wanted to make a tuna melt, but well... no bread. I stopped buying bread when I realized how cheap it is to make it, but with the aforementioned busy-ness, I obviously haven't made any bread.

The time after that, I tried to make tuna salad, but I had no mayo. I had what I needed to make mayo, but wasn't exactly motivated enough to do so (I'd just run five miles), so I looked in Joyand it suggested whisking some extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice together instead, which I promptly did. Their tuna salad recipe just has that, a can of tuna, and some celery in it. I added some scallions from Z's garden and it was still mighty bland, so I threw in some salt and pepper and hot sauce and god knows what else until it was somewhat edible. Oh, and pasta. For carbs. I need carbs. But still, not so great.

That meal prompted me to go out and buy a four-pound jar of mayonnaise from Costco. I wasn't going to originally because it was "Best Foods" mayo, and I only like Hellman's, but then I found out they're actually the same thing (thanks, internet). Also purchased on that trip to Costco: four lbs of grapes and four lbs of pretzels for healthy snacking (so I don't go eat a bag of pork rinds before a run like I did last week), 3.5 lbs of mahi-mahi (since Costco's frozen salmon is farm-raised Atlantic - uck), 3 lbs of organic ground beef (!), 3 lbs of walnuts for baking, some cereal, organic chicken stock, 5 lbs of organic frozen corn (snack food), and 2.5 lbs of mushrooms (I don't know what the hell I bought these for).

So armed with 4 lbs of mayo and some canned tuna, I made tuna-pasta salad again tonight. And it was actually pretty good! Here's what I did: Make some pasta (something with small shapes like ziti or rigatoni or elbows - no spaghetti). While you're waiting for the pasta to cook, take a can of tuna and flake it with a fork and throw it in a big bowl. Chop up two ribs of celery and put that in your bowl. When your pasta is done, rinse it off with cold water and let it drain well. Throw the pasta in the bowl, then put two big spoonfuls or however much mayo you think is necessary into your bowl, and mix everything up. Add some freshly ground black pepper and some glugs of tabasco sauce, and you've got a pretty quick (however long it takes the pasta to cook), somewhat healthy fast meal. You could make it healthier by putting in that olive oil & lemon juice mix instead of the mayo, or by using whole wheat pasta if you wanted. Hell, you could probably throw some other vegetables and maybe even some fruit in it too. Maybe I'll try that next week.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cheesecake Brownies

I love cheesecake. I love brownies. I really love cheesecake brownies, which I was first introduced to in the college dining hall. My school had pretty heinous cafeteria food, but for some reason they had some outstanding desserts, including the chocolate death cake, the chocolate devil's food cake roll, and their cheesecake brownies, which were made with a pleasant looking swirl and were normally served on chicken finger day (which was also spring roll and hot and sour soup day, for some reason).

I was planning on making some brownies for the guys at work, since random acts of baked goods are always appreciated (and, uhm, it's review time) when I saw the 3-lb brick of cream cheese I bought at Costco a while back. Now, being somewhat devoted to responsible financial habits lately, I've restrained myself from buying a springform pan (even though the one I want is a mere $12) in lieu of going snowboarding, since the stuff is all going to melt soon with this warm weather we've been having. Anywho, soon-expiring 3-lbs of cream cheese and no springform pan? Cheesecake brownies. Gotta use it or else I'll lose it. Recipe: Joycomes to the rescue as always, except theirs doesn't include the happy swirl. I generally followed the recipe exactly, except I creamed the butter and sugar first, since that seems to give me a brownie density that I like.

Apparently, a lot of people have never had cheesecake brownies before. The work guys (I'm a programmer... I work with guys) were slightly befuddled, but like most people, they love cheesecake and they love brownies and consequently, they loved cheesecake brownies. Three-quarters of them were gone before lunch, and the rest disappeared shortly thereafter. They are extremely fudgey and chewy on the bottom, and the cheesecake is light and fluffy and a good contrast.

In experimentation news (aka "must use this damn cream cheese" news), these are also excellent if you substitute the vanilla extract in the cheesecake with some mint extract instead, making mint cheesecake brownies. They are kind of liked the baked-good equivalent of York Peppermint Patties.