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)?
I borrowed an idea from Mixxedtape for an oatmeal add-in this morning. I sautéed an apple with a little bit of olive oil and a lot of cinnamon, stirred some honey into my oatmeal, and mixed the apples in with my morning bowl of oatmeal.
I poured myself a cup of ambition, and enjoyed a yummy, comforting breakfast.
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?
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?
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.
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?
Thanks for everyone’s suggestions on how to improve the overnight oatmeal! I used your tips. I mashed a banana in a bowl.
I spooned in the leftover oatmeal.
I splashed a little bit of milk into the bowl. I wanted to add applesauce, but I didn’t have any at home.
I mixed everything up and nuked it in the microwave for a couple of minutes, then mixed in some cinnamon. (I love cinnamon–I think it makes everything taste better.)
The oatmeal tasted so much better! I enjoyed it with a cup of coffee. It was a good start to the day.
As it starts to cool in the northern hemisphere, it starts to feel like harvest time. If you’re like me, you try to eat locally and seasonally when possible. If you’re like me, you don’t know what’s in season. I checked the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as a nifty map at Epicurious, and learned what’s in season. In my corner of the world, September brings apples, beets, cabbage, eggplant, grapes, raspberries, and potatoes. I’m crazy for apples, so watch for upcoming apple recipes and dishes.
When I was 16 and a healthy weight, I still struggled with diet- and stress-related medical issues. I was diagnosed with an ulcer, and my doctor told me I had the cholesterol level of an 80-year-old man. He also told me to lay off the pizza. Did I listen? Of course not–I was 16.
I started packing on the extra pounds by the time I was 18, and I gained about 40 pounds or so in less than 4 years. As you can imagine, my body was not too pleased with this, and my gall bladder surrendered. It was surgically removed when I was just 21 years old. Did I make any changes? Of course not–I was 21 and still stubborn and stupid.
So fast forward to about age 28. Got my cholesterol checked and it was a whopping 280. (It should be below 200.) My doctor told me to exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get my cholesterol checked every 3 months. Did I do any of those things? Of course not–I moved and got a new doctor.
Here I am today in my early 30’s and, finally, I’m ashamed about my cholesterol. My doctors know about my history, and they’ve repeatedly told me to get my levels checked at a lab (one doctor practically yelled it at me!), but I haven’t done it in years. I’m just not ready to face what will probably be failure and disappointment.
I am ready, however, for a change in my lifestyle. I want to spend some time exercising and eating healthy, and then, maybe, I’ll be ready to face that ugly little blood test. Part of eating healthy means finding foods that are not only low in cholesterol (bye-bye, egg yolks), but that promote cholesterol absorption and healthy arteries. Harvard and the Mayo Clinic agree that oats are where it’s at. Oatmeal has soluble fiber which binds to cholesterol and pulls it out of your body, thereby reducing the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream. Studies show that 2 servings of oats per day can lower your bad cholesterol by more than 5% in just 6 weeks.
So my breakfast of choice these days is a bowl of steel-cut oats, usually with a handful of blueberries on top. Blueberries have some fiber, but they’re better known for being packed with antioxidants (which are nutrients and enzymes that help counteract damaging oxidation in our tissues) and studies indicate that they help prevent heart disease. I’ve been using McCann’s quick & easy steel-cut Irish oatmeal. It’s not loaded with sugar and additives like Quaker instant oatmeal which is good, health-wise, but leaves a little something to be desired, taste-wise. So, I sprinkle a little cinnamon on my oatmeal, mix in about a teaspoon or so of local honey, and mash in some blueberries. It’s a yummy, hearty start to my day.
What’s your favorite oats dish?
I’ve been trying to eat healthier foods, including lots more fruits and veggies, and trying to expand my food repertoire. I wasn’t exposed to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as a kid; seems like mom & dad kept it to potatoes, apples, bananas, and broccoli. (Unless you count bacon as a vegetable–we sure ate it like it was wilting fast!) In fact, I don’t think I’d had a real cherry or mango until I was well into my adult years.
One thing I’d never tried at home was kale. Kale is supposed to be one of those wonder foods: it’s low in calories but loaded with nutrients, like vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, iron, vitamin K, and carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Whew! I was ready to experiment so I asked Hubby to pick some up on the way home. When I say we’d never tried it before, I mean it: Hubby had to ask the produce manager at Whole Foods what kale looks like.
He brought home a bag full of the stuff, and we dug in. I rinsed off the leaves and broke off the stems. I sliced and diced a clove of garlic, opened and drained a can of cannellini beans, and washed and chopped a big, juicy tomato. I poured about a tablespoon of olive oil into a warm frying pan and tossed the garlic around for a couple of minutes. Then, I threw in the whole bunch of kale and stirred it around for about five minutes. I quickly discovered that kale shrinks while cooking–mental note for next time to use a lot more of the green, leafy goodness. I tossed in the tomato chunks and poured another tablespoon of olive oil into the pan, mixing everything up. Finally, I emptied the can of beans into the pan, and let it all simmer for a couple of minutes. Hubby and I each had enough for dinner, and we probably could’ve squeezed a third helping out of it. It was delicious, hearty, and filling. It was so good that Hubby didn’t douse it in rooster sauce like he usually does; he just sprinkled a little salt and pepper on it and chomped away happily.
Now that I know how easy it is to cook with kale, I will definitely be using it more often!