Tag Archives: food

No Free Lunch

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Are you willing to spend more money to purchase better quality food?  Do you find a difference in quality of food at organic/health stores (i.e., Whole Foods) versus your local chain grocery store (i.e., Pathmark, ShopRite, Kroger, Ralph’s, Safeway)?

What’s That You Say?

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Adventures in Pumpkin

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The local grocery stores have been sold out of canned pumpkin for weeks so, when I finally spotted some yesterday, I loaded up with at least eight cans of the stuff.  I was anxious to use some right away and decided to experiment with pumpkin soup.  I browned a tablespoon of diced yellow onion in a tablespoon of olive oil.

I poured in 3.5 cups (a 29-ounce can) of pumpkin.

I mixed in half a cup of unsweetened applesauce.  I thought it might add some natural sweetness but balance out the pumpkin.

I poured in 1.5 cups of vegetable stock, added a dash of nutmeg, and dumped probably a tablespoon of cinnamon in it.  (I love cinnamon.)  I mixed everything up and let it simmer, covered, on low heat.  (Please–cover, cover, cover your pumpkin or you will quickly have a pumpkin-colored kitchen!)  There was no need to use a blender–I just poured a bit into a bowl and garnished it with roasted pumpkin seeds.

It was…okay.  It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t knocked out by it.  I definitely should’ve chopped up the onions a little finer.  Other than that, I’m not sure what I should’ve done to give it more flavor.  Left out the applesauce?  Added a tablespoon of maple syrup?  Added cream?  I don’t know.

What do you use in your pumpkin soup?

Eleven Weeks Way-In

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I’m eleven weeks way into my new healthy lifestyle.  Last week, I challenged myself to tackle the elliptical machine and recumbent bike at the gym, and to do a couple of days of restorative yoga.  I only met half of my challenges.  I tried the elliptical for three minutes.  I just don’t get it.  I didn’t feel comfortable on it, and I’m not even sure I was doing it right.  The ellipticals are really popular at my gym–there’s usually more people on the ellipticals than the treadmills.  Why?  I enjoy the treadmill a lot more.  As for my other goals, I totally skipped the bike.  My left knee is not 100% and I’m afraid the bike would wreck it.  (That’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it.)  As for yoga, I only had one yoga session that I felt was restorative and focused.  Maybe I should start doing more yoga at night, as opposed to before work, so that I can totally relax in it without watching the clock.

As for my other activities for the week, I averaged about 12:20 per mile on the treadmill.  On Sunday, I decided I needed a break from the treadmill and ran around the hilly neighborhood instead.  (Everything in moderation, right?)  I followed it up with yard work.  (Now that’s definitely something I do in moderation!)

I’ve lost about 17-18 pounds overall, and I think it’s starting to show.  There are certain parts of my body that look a bit more toned, although there are other parts that still look just as soft and flabby as ever.  It’s a process, though, so it takes time.  However, I had to go shopping–had to, I swear!–because my black suit was literally falling off me!  I tried on a bunch of size 12 suits and dresses, and was amazed at how well they fit.  Shopping is definitely a more pleasant experience these days.

It seems, however, that my weekends are not as pleasant in the sense that I’m not as good with exercise and diet on the weekends as I am during the week.  On week days, I have a very structured schedule with meals and snacks at certain times of day, lots and lots of water (at least 64 ounces per day), occasionally yoga in the mornings, and the gym in the evenings on at least 4 week days.  But on the weekends?  Forget it.  My “meals” turn into sloppy foraging in the fridge at random times of day, and I don’t drink nearly as much water as I do during the week.  It leads to unhealthy choices.  For example, on Saturday I sorta forgot to eat lunch, so I was ravenous by the time Hubby and I were at a street fair on Saturday afternoon.  We decided to get lunch right away.  Rather than choose a restaurant offering fresh, healthy food, we dashed into a bar and ate nasty pub food.  I actually apologized to Hubby because the “food” was obviously thawed-out, microwaved crap.  I didn’t eat much of it, but I followed it up with a sugary drink from Starbucks.  On Sunday, I ate beyond feeling satisfied at lunch, then went to dinner with a friend and had a bit too much sangria.  My poor weekend food choices showed on the scale this morning.

So, my goal for this week is, again, to do more restorative yoga.  Also, I want to be more consistent with diet and exercise on the weekends, especially with my water intake.

What are your goals for the week?

Sing For Your Supper

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If you’re not much of a cook, or you’re new to preparing healthy foods, spending time in the kitchen can be daunting.  I like to turn my cooking sessions into mini-parties to get me in the kitchen and keep me there awhile.  Sometimes I enjoy a glass of red wine while I cook, and I listen to a kitchen-inspired playlist on my iPod.  Here are some of my favorite cooking songs:


 
If I Knew You Were Comin’ – Eileen Barton
Everybody Eats When They Come to My House – Cab Calloway
Cornbread and Butter Beans – Carolina Chocolate Drops
Home Grown Tomatoes – Guy Clark
When I Take My Sugar to Tea – Nat “King” Cole
You’re the Cream in My Coffee – Nat “King” Cole
Sugar Dumpling – Sam Cooke
You’ve Gotta Eat Your Spinach, Baby – Tommy Dorsey
Tea for Two – Benny Goodman
Coffee in the Morning – Terra Hazelton
Hey Sweet Potato – Buddy Johnson
Beans and Cornbread – Louis Jordan
Boogie Woogie Blue Plate – Louis Jordan
Chicken Soup with Rice – Carole King
Peel Me A Grape – Diana Krall
How Do Ya Like Your Eggs in the Morning – Dean Martin
Let’s Have Another Cup of Coffee – Glenn Miller
It Ain’t The Meat – The Swallows
Sing for Your Supper – Mel Tormé
Shortnin’ Bread – Fats Waller
Hey, Good Lookin’ – Hank Williams

 

What are your favorite food songs?  What gets you in the kitchen and ready to cook?

Ten Weeks Way-In

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I can’t believe it, but I’m already 10 weeks way into my new healthy lifestyle.  I’m truly astonished and pleased that I’ve made it this far.  No matter how healthy (or unhealthy) I am right now, it’s quite an accomplishment to stick it out this long considering that my prior attempts lasted maybe 2 months.  Here’s hoping I’ve really developed long-lasting habits.

This past Tuesday, I joined a gym.  I went to the gym 4 times last week and used the treadmill and the weight machines.  (I also did yoga and other things at home.)  I definitely felt it as my muscles have been a bit tight or sore.  Nothing serious, but I wonder if it means I should work out more or less?  In any event, I really killed it on the treadmill and ran a mile in 11:47 on Friday!  Then I ran another mile!  It was a big day for me.  Not only did I run two miles, but I did it in 24:40.  Two months ago, I never, ever, ever thought I’d be able to run two miles, much less at a pace of about 12 minutes per mile.  I followed it up on Saturday by running a mile in 12:21, then I did a cool down for a quarter of a mile and called it a week on the treadmill.  (Yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not the type to set big fitness goals for myself everyday.  I’m more the type to keep going slow and steady, and then be really surprised when it actually works one day.)

I’m surprised that I’ve been able to maintain the home cooking aspect of my healthy diet.  Last year when I tried a healthy lifestyle, I got frustrated at meal planning and preparation, and ultimately I gave up and went back to pre-packaged junk food.  I think that’s because, last year, I was focused on counting calories, so it was very easy to quickly throw up my hands at the thought of planning meals every day with a certain amount of calories.  It was overwhelming.  Now, I’m focused on eating real, whole foods, and it’s been more of a pleasure exploring new foods and new ways to cook them.  I’m also surprised by how easy it is to prepare a lot of meals with whole ingredients.  (I’m talkin’ to you, soup.)

For this upcoming week, I’d like to tweak my workout at the gym.  I’m kinda afraid of the elliptical machine, so I’d like to tackle that and see if I can handle it for a few minutes.  I’m also kinda afraid of the bikes, just because I’m worried it’ll really mess up my knees, but I’d like to try a bike for at least a couple of minutes.  Finally, I think I need to spend a couple of days doing some restorative yoga.  I feel like I’ve haven’t really devoted much time to truly practicing yoga lately, and the little bit of yoga I’ve done lately has felt rushed.  I need restorative yoga to balance everything out.

What are your health and fitness goals for this week?

Tomato Soup

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I got a new toy:  an immersion blender.  Of course, I had to try it out and make soup.  I decided to make tomato soup for the first time.  First, I poured a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a hot pan, then added 1 chopped clove of garlic and about a teaspoon of chopped onion.  (I’m not a big fan of onions.)

I washed 6 medium-sized, vine-ripened tomatoes and cut each tomato into 8 pieces.  After the onion and garlic browned, I dumped the tomatoes into the pan, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and added bits of fresh thyme.

The whole concoction was covered with 2.5 cups of vegetable stock.

I cooked the soup for 20 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Finally, I used the immersion blender in the pan to puree the tomatoes.  I ladled the soup into a bowl and enjoyed it with a hunk of rosemary olive oil bread.

It was tangy yet smooth, and truly delicious.  I couldn’t believe I actually made something that tasted so good!  I used the bread to sop up the last bits of soup from the bowl.  There was enough for about 4 bowls, so I put the leftovers into a sealed plastic container.  I’m really looking forward to leftovers at lunch!

p.s.  Sorry the photos aren’t the greatest quality.  Seems like I find myself cooking when there’s no natural light in the kitchen.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie With Almond Milk

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Seems like all the cool kids are using almond milk these days, so I decided to try it out for the first time.  Pure almond milk is made from almonds and water, but the packaged store brands usually contain some other ingredients like vitamins and vanilla extract.  Not only is almond milk vegetarian-friendly, but it has no lactose and no cholesterol (a big bonus for me).

I poured 1 cup of almond milk into the blender, along with 1 banana and 1/2 cup of frozen strawberries.

I pulsed the ingredients until smooth.  Voila–smoothie!  So simple, quick, and delicious.  It made the perfect amount for one tall glass, and it was just (naturally) sweet enough for breakfast.

What’s your favorite smoothie recipe?  What’s your favorite almond milk recipe?

Lemon & Goat Cheese Veggies

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I love the combination of lemon juice and goat cheese.  It seems strange to combine the tartness of lemon with the creaminess of goat cheese but, trust me, it works, kinda like lemon pie with a meringue topping.

My latest creation stemmed from running around the kitchen at lunchtime wondering what the heck I was gonna make with the ingredients on hand.  Asparagus?  Tomatoes?  Goat cheese?  Presto–lunch!

I washed the veggies, threw the grape tomatoes into a plastic container, trimmed the woody ends off the asparagus, broke the remaining stems into pieces, and threw the asparagus into the container with about half an inch of water.

I covered the container and microwaved the veggies for about 1.5 minutes (until the tomatoes started to explode, teehee).  I drained most of the water, splashed some lemon juice into the container, and mixed in about a spoonful of goat cheese.  Yum, yum.

This dish also works with pasta.  If you use pasta, drain most of the water from the pasta, add the goat cheese, mix well, then add the lemon juice and veggies.

Layered Tomatoes & Eggplant

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I tried a variation of homemadeadventure’s scalloped tomatoes using eggplant instead of polenta.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and coated the bottom of a casserole dish with a thin layer of olive oil.  I sliced a small-to-medium-sized eggplant and a couple of tomatoes.  A row of eggplant was laid across the dish, followed by a row of tomatoes, and so on.

I sprinkled salt and pepper over the layers.  The fridge revealed some left over Chavrie goat’s milk cheese and Montchevre goat milk cheddar cheese which I dabbed on the veggies.

I’m a sloppy cook.  I wanted to use balsamic vinegar in this dish.  Did I check to see if I had any before I sliced up the tomatoes and eggplant?  Nope.  Did I have any?  Nope.  So I improvised and used red wine vinegar instead.  I splashed olive oil and red wine vinegar over the dish.

I shredded bits of oregano and sprinkled it over the layers.

I cooked the layered tomatoes and eggplant for 25 minutes.  It wasn’t as pretty as the dish from homemadeadventure, but I enjoyed it.  The goat cheese and vinegar were a nice, tart contrast with the meaty eggplant and fresh tomatoes.

Trigger Happy

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Trigger foods are those foods that you just can’t resist.  It’s nearly impossible for many people to merely nibble on their trigger foods–before they know it, they’ve gobbled until they’ve gorged on it.

My trigger food is more of a group.  I love bready carbs like croissants, pastries, muffins, biscuits, cookies, cake, and pasta.  The more processed, the better.  It’s been hard putting down the sugary white breads and picking up whole grain breads instead.  In the past two months, I haven’t had any spaghetti, linguine, or macaroni, nor have I indulged in biscuits, cake, or muffins.  I’m not gonna lie–I miss them like crazy.  But I know that I can’t eat a recommended serving of any of those goodies.  Stop at half a cup of pasta?  Me?  Are you kidding?

I cope by trying to eat three meals and two snacks a day, and make the most of them.  If I skip a meal or snack, then I’ll get super hungry and/or cranky, and then I’ll be more likely to stuff my face with whatever I can find as fast as I can get it.  I try to eat slowly and fill up on veggies and fruit, then I’ll be less likely to sneak in a cookie or piece of bread.

What are your trigger foods?  How do you keep from stuffing yourself with them?

The Wonderful Wizard of Dr. Oz

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The September 12, 2011, issue of Time magazine has a cover story devoted to nutrition.  The featured article is by Dr. Mehmet Oz (yeah, Oprah’s guy).  I recommend you read the article.  It’s a quick, interesting read, and Oz even throws in a few one-liners.  There’s a photo of Dr. Oz’s average daily menu, and I couldn’t help but be a little excited that I eat over half of the same things Oz eats.  Follow the yellow squash road, indeed.

Oz ultimately focuses on the magic word:  balance.  “No one pretends that achieving and maintaining an ideal weight is an easy thing to do, but the list of rules to get you there is nonetheless simple:  Eat in moderation; choose foods that look like they did when they came out of the ground (remember, there are no marshmallow trees); be an omnivore (there are multiple food groups for a reason); and get some exercise.  Human beings are the only species in the world that has figured out how to be in complete control of its own food supply.  The challenge now is to make sure the food doesn’t take control of us.”

A House Divided Cannot Eat

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Hubby and I grew up in very different circumstances and in very different cultures.  Although I didn’t eat a particularly healthy diet as a kid, it did have some variety, including meats, veggies, and grains.  Hubby ate a lot of white rice as a kid.  He rarely had meat, and it was usually of the cheapest-questionable-cut variety.  As an adult, he still likes to eat a lot of white rice, and he uses every opportunity to eat meat.  The man loves a big steak, spicy sausage, and beef jerky.

This presents an interesting dilemma when we shop for groceries or cook, especially now that I’m eating a healthier diet.  I’m trying to avoid processed foods and most meat, and I’m trying to use whole grains and a whole lotta veggies.  When it’s my turn to cook, I go heavy on the veggies and often skip the meat.  Hubby will eyeball the plate I give him, douse it with sriracha sauce, and often sneak in a bit of meat if he can find some.  Although Hubby supports my lifestyle, he’s not really ready (or willing) to change how he cooks.  When he cooks, he usually stir fries a ton of meat and some mushrooms, and dumps the concoction over a giant pile of white rice.  Lots of food, not much color.

Do you encounter this in your household?  Are you a vegetarian living with a meathead, or a health nut living with a junk food junkie?  How do you and your housemates meet in the middle at dinnertime?