Teaching and Tasties

Delicious eats and daring, death-defying teaching feats

Cheap Eats Challenge March 3, 2009

Filed under: Food — tlsussman @ 8:38 pm

A friend of mine (along with another two friends of hers) decided to challenge herself to spend no more than $100/month on food.  They are calling it the Cheap Eats Challenge.  Each of the three gets $100 plus four “tokens” – meals with family and friends.  I think this is a really cool idea and quite helpful to the rest of us.  Not only are they going to save money, but they will be posting recipes and ideas.  Further, they compared three or four major grocery stores on basic items.  Although I don’t know that I could handle $100/month, I actually come pretty close.  The problem is not as much the cost, but how much food goes to waste!  I do ok on most of the fruits, but somehow the veggies always go bad.  I have tons and tons of ideas for recipes, but I never seem to get to them all.  I have definitely been doing a better job on that front, but there is still too much food going to waste.  I also realized that I have a freezer full of food.  I always put stuff in there in case I don’t get a chance to cook or something, but somehow I never get to it.

All that being said, I think I will start my own Cheap Eats Challenge.  I won’t limit myself to the number of meals I eat with family (I really enjoy eating with them and I have to go for shabbat dinner – which would take up my 4 meals), but I am going to work on eating what is in the pantry.  I have tons of dried beans and other things that can be used, that should be used.  When I think about buying fruits and veggies, I think I will buy 1 less than I think I need, since that seems to be where I go wrong.

Between Brian and me, we spend about $250-$350 per month.  I would like to take this to $200-$300.  I’m pretty sure it’s possible.  Why not?  Right?!?!

I will keep tabs (loosely) on here and I have put the link to the Cheap Eats Challenge in the blogs section.  Might as well use their info to help me out too!


A little Rachel Ray never hurt anyone…right? February 21, 2009

Filed under: Food — tlsussman @ 8:43 pm


Recently, I received a copy of Everyday with Rachel Ray in the mail.  Unbeknownst to me, I guess I subscribed.  While at first I thought this might be a HUGE mistake, I decided to give it a try.  A lot of the foods she cooks I would never eat – gluten-free or not – because they are full of pork and other assundry foods that I don’t eat, but I figured I would give it a look-see.  I would say that in 2 issues, I pulled out a decent size stack that can be made GF and allergy friendly.

As it was Sunday, it was cooking day, so I decided to give it a try.  Why not, right??  I just happened to go to an Asian food mart the week before and I picked up some really pretty rice (red and sweet black).  I had no clue what either tasted like, but I figured, if nothing else, they were pretty and different.  The red rice made me think of Mexican/Spanish rice, which led me to a recipe for chicken mole, one of my fave Mexican dishes.  The recipe was pretty easy and turned out quite well (if I may say so myself).  So here it goes!

veggie oil (I also used chili oil to give it a bit more flavor)

chicken wings


2 tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp allspice powder

3 tbsp tomato paste

3 oz dark chocolate, coarsly chopped (I used baking chocolate, but any would do)

1 tsp hot pepper sauce

drizzle of agave or honey (My addition)

chopped cilantro

1. Brown chicken in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, turning ocassionaly; transfer to a plate.  Add garlic, chili powder and allspice and cook, stirring, for 1 min.  Stir in tomato paste, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom.  Add 1 C water, chocolate, hot sauce, agave and pinch of salt and cook, stirring until chocolate is melted.

2. Return wings to the pan, lower heat, cover and simmer until the wings are cooked through and sauce is reduced to a thick glaze; about 20 min.  Sprinkle with cilantro.

I found the recipe to lack a bit of sweetness that mole often has, so I added some sprinkles of agave nectar.  I also adjusted the chile sauce to give it an extra kick.  I really liked the taste of the chicken cooked in chili oil as well, I think it just kicks the recipe up a notch.  The nice thing about all of this, was that it took no more than 30 minutes for the whole thing and it looked amazing at the end, without much help!

Recipe #2 was just as easy, although I didn’t really follow it. (A bad habbit, perhaps?)

I’ve tried numerous times to make zucchini or potato-ish pancakes, but they never seem to want to stay together.  Last time I tried, they fell apart so badly that I used the veggie-egg mix to make fried rice, which I have to admit was really good!

Zucchini & Sweet Potato Pancakes

1 large zucchini, peeled and grated (I used the mandolin, since they were sorta on their way out)

2 sweet small potatoes, peeled and grated


GF flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill baking flour)

Spanish smoked paprika (although any kind will do)

Salt & Pepper

2 eggs

Dijon Mustard

oil for frying

1. Mix the zucchini, sweet potato, scallions, flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and dijon mustard.  Add to  zucchini mixture and combine well.

2. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add 1/3 cup mounds (I used a measuring cup as a scoop), flattening into rounds.  Lower the heat and cook until golden.  Transfer onto a paper towel-lined plate.

These had such a great flavor between the sweet potato and dijon mustard.  The Spanish paprika added volumes to the flavor, as well, because of its’ sweet-smoky taste.  I really love the stuff and everyone should own it!  The great thing about the pancakes, is they were SO inexpensive to make and are a wonderful side dish or snack.  According to Rachel Ray, they cost $6.00 total, which is $1.50 per person.  BUT, she used ham, so you can even knock some money off that.  I love a great treat that is easy on the wallet.

On a totally separate note…

I ordered some goodies from a bakery in Floriday.  Look out for my report!!!!


I <3 Sundays! January 25, 2009

Filed under: Food — tlsussman @ 6:05 pm

When I was little, I thought Sunday was the worst day of the week.  My family didn’t do much on Sundays.  I went to Sunday school and sometimes we ate lunch out.  Being the overachiever I was (am), I was already finished with homework, so all that was left to do was sit around.  Well, that has all changed.  Sunday has becoe one of the best days of the week.

I’m trying really hard to eat home more.  Save some money, worry less about feeling like crap and I get to explore the wonderful world of new flavors and fun recipes!  Sunday, therefore, is the perfect day for me.  I have a week of work ahead and need lunch and dinner for the week.  Although I would prefer to cook dinner every night, cooking on Sundays for the entire week ensures that eat healthy, delicious food and do not go out (as much!).

For the last few Sundays, my boyfriend, Brian, has been out all day.  (He’s working on some side projects I hope I will get to write about soon!)  I’ve taken this opportunity to whip up some really yummy dishes to get me ready for the upcoming week.

All of the following recipes come from Veganomicon (a.k.a. my new bible).  I have changed them a bit to match my tastes and what’s available in my cabinets and fridge.

The first dish for this week is a sweet and sour soup with nappa cabbage.  Extremely easy and quite tasty.  It isn’t quite the traditional soup, but I like that it has a ton of goodies in it to be a bit more filling.


Soak mixed, dried mushrooms in boiling water for 20 min.  Add 1/4 cup soy sauce (GF, of course!), 1 tsp sesame oil, 4 cups veggie stock and 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar and chile oil in a pot.  Add sliced nappa cabbage and fresh mushrooms to the pot.  Simmer until cabbage wilts (about 5 min).  Drain mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces and add to the soup.  Dissolve 1 heaping tbsp of arrowroot powder in 1 cup cold water.  Add to the soup and stir to mix.  Add grated carrot and sliced tofu (cut into matchstick pieces).  Cook until warmed through.  Serve 🙂

Next on tap was the Mexican Millet.  This is SO easy and quite tasty.  I actually really like mine for breakfast.  However, tonight, it will be a side to tacos.


Anyway…the ingredients are:



1 jalepeño, seeded and diced

1 cup millet

2 cups stock

tomato paste

1 tomato, seeded and diced



Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic.  When it starts to sizzle, add onoins and jalapeño.  Saute for 5 minutes or so and add the millet.  Toast the millet until it is golden brown and then add stock, tomato paste, cumin, salt and diced tomato.  Bring to a boil.  Stir once and cover.  Lower the heat and simmer until the water disappears.  Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes.  Fluff millet and eat!

I have to say that the first time I ate millet, I don’t think I was so enchanted.  However, this recipe is perfect.  The millet is a little soft and a little crunchy and is a great replacement for rice.

Finally, tonight’s main course.  I was at the farmer’s market this weekend.  I know, amazing, but Chicago’s Green City Market (which is TOTALLY fabulous and huge in the summer) is in for the winter at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum.  It is every 2nd Saturday of the month.  The market was a little weak, if you ask me, but it was nice to go and see what was there.  The veggies were EXTREMELY expensive – $7 for a bag of spinach?!?! – but there were some goodies that made it worth the while. One vendor sells black beans.  They were harvested this fall and are suppsed to be extremely fresh and fantastic.  I bought some and will let you know.  The most exciting find, however, was huitlacoche.

Huitlacoche is a Mexican corn fungs.  It grows naturally on corn and is then harvested and sold 🙂  Brian had some when he was in Mexcio and has not stopped talking about it since!  When I saw it, I knew I had to have it.  It was sold to me frozen, but the plan is to saute the huitlacoche with some taco seasonings, onions and red pepper.  I am really excited.  It was a bit expensive, but perhaps worth it.  In fact, I should buy it more often…Brian actually offered to be home for dinner!!!

The huitlacoche was tasty and added really nice flavor to the tacos.  I’m sorry to say, however, that between the huitlacoche, the corn tortillas and the chilaquiles I had for breakfast, my body was raging at me.  I think I slept through the next three days.  Try teaching a bunch of middle schoolers when you are half asleep 🙂


A delicious start to the year January 4, 2009

Filed under: Food — tlsussman @ 10:46 pm

What a wonderful way to start the year…having my girlfriends over for good food and conversation.  After being out of town, it is always nice to have friends over.  It seems like everyone had a nice winter break (yay for being a teacher).  We did a little potluck action, and I got to try a new recipe!

I am deeply in love with this Veganomicon cookbook.  The recipes are very tasty and pretty easy to make.  I was going to make soup, but came across a pasta dish that sounded too good to pass up.  It was so easy to make it allergy friendly, since it was already dairy free.  So, I just switched the noodles and the breadcrumbs.  Easy as pie…or pasta 🙂

Pumpkin Casserole with Sage Breadcrumbs

Pumpkin Casserole with Sage Breadcrumbs

As much as I would love to give all the steps and ingredients, there are just too many on this one!  I will say that it includes a cashew ricotta, which was pretty easy to make and tasted just like ricotta. I think I would use that to make a lasagna also.

The bread crumbs were thanks to the Gluten-Free Goddess (Karina)!  Take some Vans waffles and toast ’em up.  Let them cool, then rip them into pieces and put in the food processor.  They worked pretty well.  I used the flax waffles, but you could use different ones depending on the flavor.  The flax were more savory, while the buckwheat had a sweeter taste.

The casserole was pretty tasty, although I think the filling could use a bit more flavor.  I substituted agave for sugar, but I might use maple syrup instead.  It has a flavor that is well suited with pumpkin.  It also called for cayenne, which I might use more of.  I would even put a little vanilla.  The “ricotta” sorta makes it bland.  But it is definitely filling and tastes just as good the next day!

As a side note, I did not realize that buckwheat was not actually a member of the wheat famiy.  It comes from a berry.  This is good to know…perhaps I could eat more things at a Japanese restaurant.  I do believe that soba noodles are buckwheat. 🙂

Anyway, we also had some great roasted potatoes, which my friend made.  Simple and tasty.  A little olive oil and some rosemary and salt.  Perfect combo!

The best part may have been the brownies.  Black bean brownies…who woulda thought!!  They were totally amazing and I am so glad my friend left them behind!  I can wait to have the last one tonight.  It makes me feel so much better to know that they are almost good for me.  Good protein and fiber!  A great way to get my system working with the wonderful taste of chocolate!  Even the less adventurous of the group had to admit that they were really good.

All in all, a wonderful meal and great fun.  If only I didn’t work, I could spend my time entertaining friends and cooking.  I guess I would also probably be very fat!

Which leads me to my new year’s resolution…which I suppose we are all subject to make at this time.  I would like to eat out less and cook more.  I love to cook.  It is relaxing and enjoyable.  I can sample food from all over the world that is just as good or better than some restaurants.  It is part of a bigger resolution to spend less money on needless things.  Eating out should be a treat, not an everyday occurrence, especially with food allergies.  We shall see how it goes…so far, not so good!  But tomorrow is a new day!  Right?!?!


Healthy Ice Cream? December 19, 2008

Filed under: Food — tlsussman @ 9:55 pm

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I have discovered (ok, maybe I didn’t discover it) healthy ice cream.  Being allergic to dairy, ice cream and I don’t really get along too well.  Although I love the tasate, I do not love what it does to my GI tract.  I have long forgotten ice cream, in fact, until today.

I was reading through some raw recipes and came across a very complicated “ice cream”, only to realize it just a bunch of frozen bananas.  Although skeptical, I happened to have some bananas in my freezer that were calling my name (or maybe that was my newly acquired sweet tooth).  I threw 2 of them in the blender with some chopped pecans and let ‘er rip!  It takes a few minutes to get everything smoothed out, but the result is the consistency of ice cream.   From here, add what you like!  I put some carob powder in mine and had chocolate ice cream that, to me, tasted just as good as the real stuff.  Next time I will try some fruity flavors – made some strawberries or something.

No added sugar.  No added flavor.  Why don’t we market this stuff?!?!  I could be rich!

BTW – sorry there’s no picture…I ate it too fast!!


It’s the most wonderful time… December 13, 2008

Filed under: Food — tlsussman @ 8:32 pm


The holidays have descended upon us, which means food, lots of food.  For some reason, people believe that the holidays must mean that it’s also time to eat tons of sugar and chocolate.  This is OBVIOUSLY ok since New Year’s is right around the corner.  I can just make a resolution then and solve my weight gain or advance towards diabetes (let’s hope not).  So not only do I have to worry about students brining me chocolates and candies (I guess they didn’t get the hint that I like shoes), but my friends also want to have a cookie party.  The best part about this cookie party is that it is not an exchange, but rather, we show up at my girlfriend’s house with our boyfriends and such, and she provides the cookies.  Although less work, where’s the fun in that??

Along with taking away my fun, my friend has also given herself twice the work, as cookies for me are just not that easy!  We did find a gluten free cookie mix, but I’m not sure how good it is.  So, in the nature of the holidays (and my own curiosity) I began my search for EASY gluten-free cookie recipes.  While I have the whole cooking thing down, baking and I don’t usually get along.  I’m just not that patient!!!!  Surprisingly, I came across some delish recipes on allrecipes.com.  I was a bit surprised to see that this site had a decent amount of recipes from the very easy to the very complicated.

As an aside…I dont’ bake because it is complicated.  And now?  With the need for xanthum gum and sorghum flour?  Really?  It makes me want to bake even less.

So I found two yummy looking recipes.  The first is for Candy Cane meringues.  I have always loved meringues and I knew they weren’t too complicated and didn’t involve too many ingredients.  The only problem here is the amount of sugar.  While I can eat sugar, too much actually makes my head throb and sometimes, when eaten in ginormous quantity (as in more the whole bag of Skittles), makes my mind and eyes a bit blurry.  That being the case, I wasn’t sure about these.  I figure, however, if I make enough of them, the sugar is divided out enough that it wouldn’t be too bad.  As much as I searched, I didn’t find a sugar-free recipe without using some nasty fake sweetner.  I thought about stevia, but I’m not sure how much or if it would work.  Something to think about for next time…

Candy Cane Meringue

2 egg whites

1/2 C sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

2 crushed peppermint candy canes

  1. Preheat the oven to 225º
  2. Mix the egg whites, salt and cream of tarter until soft peaks form.  Slowly add in sugar until stiff peaks form. Spoon meringue onto a foil-covered cookie sheet about 1″ apart.
  3. Bake for 1 and 1/2 hours until the inside is dry.  Turn off the oven and crack door.  Keep meringues in oven until cold.  Remove with a spatula and place in an airtight containter.

Well, they look delicious.  I think it was totally worth tiring out my arm waiting for those peaks to show!  Let’s just hope my head can take the sugar!  If not, I’m sure there will be plenty of sweet teeth to save the day!

Recipe two was also easy and quick.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 C peanut butter    img_0003

2 eggs, beaten

1 C honey or agave nectar

cocoa powder (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Mix peanut butter, honey and cocoa powder until smooth.  Add eggs and continue to mix until smooth.
  3. Place spoonfuls on oiled cookie sheets.  Smooth dollops into thin patties.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until small holes form on the top.  Remove from oven and allow to cook 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Now, I have to be honest and say that this is definitely doctored a bit to make me feel better about eating cookies. I didn’t have chocolate chips, so I figured cocoa powder would be just as good.  Since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, I decided this would be ok.  I also did my best to avoid the sugar on this one.  Honey and peanut butter go together so well…I figured What the heck!  In fact, they are quite yummy.  I think I put a little too much honey in the first batch, so maybe just less than 1 cup would be better.  Although I like the taste, it was a little too strong.  I also used creamy PB, but I bet the chunky would be really good and would hep the texture along as well.

They’re great!  They have that chewy cookie texture with no flour and no fuss!

I would say that today’s baking adventure turned out pretty well. Tomorrow…I try some recipes from my new cookbook…Veganomicon by Isa Changra Moskowitz & Terrry Hope Romero. The recipes look like they are to DIE for!!!


The discovery of wikis… December 7, 2008

Filed under: School — tlsussman @ 4:51 pm

I always knew wikis existed, but I did not know their educational potential until recently.  As a Spanish teacher, we do SO many projects, which I love.  It lets the kids really push themselves and think and write and do outside the box.  So I was thinking back on my techie camp and came across wikispaces, a wiki that gives free space for educators.  I figured, what the heck?  Nothing to lose on this one…

At this point, I have create 3 assignments for one class.  The first, a group project, went well, but not as well as I wanted.  The benefit of the wikis is that anyone can edit them from anywhere.  For my site, it only allows those I have invited, which makes it extra safe for the kids!

Our most recent project was a weather report.  I would say, in general, it went really well – until a student decided not to follow directions. (BIG surprise there!)  I made a page for each kid, but he decided that instead of editing his personal page, he was going to edit the main page, the one with all the directions.  Lo and behold, my directions are all gone, as are the connections to all the other students’ pages.  THANKFULLY, he is a bit behind and chose to do his project after everyone else had turned theirs in!

What is great for me, and potentially sucks for the kids, is that I can see their every move!!  In fact, they can see what everone else does too…they just aren’t quite quick enough to figure that out.  (Man I love these kids!)

Checking upI can hit the “history” tab at any time and see who edited what, at what time and what he/she added or deleted.  So for a group project, when a kid says he did all the work…I can really verify it!  I think it definitely holds the kids a bit more accountable.

Our new project should be interesting.  The kids are to draw a monster, person, being, etc. and write a paragraph describing it.  They post the paragraph on the wiki and a friend draws what they imagine from reading the paragraph.  The picture is then posted and so is the original.  The two get together to compare and contrast, which is also posted.  It’s great, because the page is easy to set up and the directions are right on the page:

picture-11Sometimes I create the pages for the kids and other times I let them.  I think this time, they will get to start the page.  It will be a test in following directions, as they will need to make sure the page shows up in the right place!

Since this is the third project they have done, I am hoping they can move a bit quicker (ha) and get this done in the 2 weeks before break.

Pray for me!!