Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Introduction to Magic

I enjoy playing with food.  In fact, I used to get paid to do it.  Now it's just a hobby.  But I'm going to start doing something with ingredients in the recipes I post that will hopefully teach you to love playing with your own food.  There are 2 recipes posted here, so be sure to go all the way to the bottom!

It's snowing again.  The perfect night for warm, toasty, stick-to-your-ribs stew.  Tonight's dinner is:  

Beef Barley Vegetable Stew

Olive oil
The cute little rosemary trees sold here at the holidays.  <3
6 c. water
2 Tbsp. Beef bullion
1 lb. lean steak pieces
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp garlic salt plus more to taste
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (just because I have some left I need to use)
1 ear of corn removed from cob
2 large carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 stalks of celery (that's 2 pieces: not 2 bunches!)
a handful of kale with the hard stem removed, chopped into small pieces
1/2 c. onion chopped coarsely
1 bay leave or 1 tsp of the crushed leaves
1 c. cooked barley

Put some olive oil in a large-ish pan and set it on to heat.  In a plastic bag, mix your flour, 1 tsp. garlic salt, and 1 tsp. of black pepper together.  Put the meat into the bag and shake to coat.  This is what's going to make your stew stew and not soup :)

II.  Saute the garlic and the meat in the oil until the meat is browned.  Some of the flour is going to stick to the bottom of the pan and this is totally fine.  Melt the bullion in 1 cup of the warm water.  When the meat is brown on all sides, add in the bullion you've made.  Use your spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan as all stuff that stuck to the bottom is one of the things that's going to make this taste delicious (and save you time scrubbing it later!).
III.  This is going to look like a nice thick gravy once it stops bubbling.  Reduce your heat and then add in the rest of the water.
IV.  Get your veges sliced.  You're going to be putting half of them into your soup now.  The rest you'll save til it's about halfway done.  If you're using dry uncooked barley, add it in now also.


And don't forget to share the wealth with The Rocket Dog, or whoever it is that happens to be underfoot in your kitchen!

I have this great tool called a Kernel Cutter that I got from Pampered Chef for removing corn kernels from the cob.  It cost me about $8 and I use it all the time!  I highly recommend them!

Season it to your taste now with extra salt/garlic salt/pepper.  Then turn your stove down to its lowest setting.  You just want to be able to see a bubble pop to the top every few seconds, not anywhere near a boil.  Let this simmer on the stove for about 15 minutes.  After the first 15 minutes, add in the other half of your vegetables.  This is so that they don't all get mushy in the cooking process, but you get the benefit of their taste as the stew simmers.

This stew takes about 45 minutes from start to finish and is perfect for a cold winter night.  It's nice and thick and sticks to your ribs.  I serve it with some chunks of sharp cheddar thrown in to melt, or a few crumbles of feta cheese on top.

Now:  Here's the playing with your food part!  Here's the same recipe a different way:

Beef Barley Vegetable Stew II

Olive oil
6 c. water
2 Tbsp. bullion   (beef if you're using steak, chicken if you're using chicken, or either/vegetable if you're making this vegetarian/vegan)
1 lb. meat 
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp garlic salt plus more to taste
1 tsp pepper
1 c. frozen corn
1 c. of frozen peas and corn combination
1 c. frozen green beans...basically, just put in a total of 3 cups of whatever frozen veges you have in your freezer!
If you happen to have onion and garlic, chop some up and toss it in when you cook the meat.  Basically, whatever vegetables you have on hand can also go in.  Potatoes will work great!  So will turnips, spinach, asparagus, chopped tomatoes...use your imagination!
1 tsp of any 1 of the following:  dried basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and (again), even poultry seasoning if that's all you have!
Any kind of grain you have on hand.  Quinoa would work well as would brown rice!  Use 1/2 c. uncooked, or 1 cup cooked.  

Now, follow the instructions as above omitting anything that no longer applies!

Recipes are guidelines.  That's all.  But working in the kitchen is alchemy: transforming matter from one thing (or many things) into something else entirely!  Baking a little more so than cooking as leavening comes in to play, but if you break a recipe down to its bare bones (using the above as an example) you get: water, bullion, flour, and seasonings.  Anything after that can totally be substituted for whatever you want!  Try this the next time you're looking online for recipes.  I've come up with some of my favorite original recipes by just throwing a little of this and a little of that into a pan and seeing what happens!  If you're not sure, imagine the tastes of what you plan to combine and whether or not you think they'd go together.  And taste as you go!  They don't have to be bowlfuls, just a taste to see where you're at in the building process! :)  All of the recipes I post here are my own original recipes unless I've provided a link to the original poster.  But the only real "secret" to making up your own is to use your imagination!  Be resourceful!

And don't forget to share with the rest of us what you come up with!  It takes a village to make a good blog, and your ideas are important too.  I'd love to hear how you take my recipes and change them to suit yourself, as well as the reactions of the people you're serving.  And for those of you who have opted to receive my posts via email, don't forget to click on a link to the blog itself from time to time to see what might have been posted on the other tabs, or (as above) to leave a comment about what you're doing differently!

Now:  Off you go!  Go forth and play with your food!  It should be fun, not drudgery.  You're creative and intelligent and you've totally got this!!!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

It's Sunday Again?!

I can't believe it's already the start of another work week.  This week it will be one month since I started posting about eating well on a budget of both time and money.  I hope that it's helped you see that you really can do both!

Here's this week's receipts:

I spent a total of $106.80 this week.  I should point out that the receipts I've posted for the past four weeks are for 2 people and cover 3 meals a day per person plus snacks.  We eat out a couple of times a week, usually on the weekend once or twice and maybe once during the middle of the week if I have to work overtime or if the urge strikes for pizza.  But this amount, using just today's receipts, breaks down to approximately $7.62 per person per day.  You'll spend more than that for one meal out.  And since I'm a member of my grocery stores rewards program, it also has the added financial bonus of giving us up to $0.50 off per gallon of gas at least once a month!  And I can't even begin to list the health benefits.  But this is actual, visible proof that one can eat healthy on a budget.  

Here's what it bought:  

The following took me 2 hours:  
  • I put the eggs on to boil for hard boiled eggs for Rik's lunch.
  • I chopped and sauteed the veges for his muffin cup omelettes and got them put together and in the oven.
  • While they were in the oven, I mixed up 2 batches of breakfast muffins and got them ready to go in the oven when the  omelettes were done.
  • By then, the omelettes were done and the other muffins went in when they came out. 
  • The eggs were now done so those came off the burner and under cold water so I could get them peeled.
  • While those were baking, a mixed together a loaf of Healthier Zucchini Bread.
  • And also prepared a baked tofu that I like (way to healthy tasting to post here though I think!)
  • While the vegetables were still out after grocery shopping, I chopped the ones I plan to use for tonight's dinner and then got them put away.  
  • When the muffins were done, I put the zucchini bread in to bake along with the tofu strips.  
  • I got the grains on to cook, and then cut up a pineapple and 2 pints of strawberries so they're ready for the week if Rik wants to use them in smoothies, or if I want them as a snack.  
  • I made 1 jar of Refrigerator Oatmeal and got it in the fridge. 
And here's what 2 hours yielded!

From top left clockwise (on the cooling racks):  Tofurkey Omelette Muffins, Breakfast Brownies, Pumpkin Oat Bars, [hard boiled eggs], my version of Breakfast Oatmeal Cupcakes To Go, and Healthier Zucchini Bread.

Sadly, the muffins didn't turn out so great.  I tried Pumpkin Oat Bars that I substituted coconut sugar for the brown sugar, and I'm not sure if it was my mistake or that the recipe was disgusting, but they tasted like nothing.  Really gross.  The other muffin was Breakfast Brownies (which strangely have no chocolate whatsoever) and were okay, but not something I'd make again.  Very bland and dry.  You can't win 'em all! But the zucchini bread is quite good.  I substituted the sugar in the recipe for agave nectar and it turned out really good!  

So for tonight, all that is left for me to do is grill 2 salmon steaks for Rik's lunch this week and fix dinner!

Here's dinner:  

Kale Fritatta With Asparagus and Rosemary

Prep Time: 10 minutes  Baking time:  20 Minutes  Start to finish: 30 minutes
Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary, destemmed and chopped (or 1 Tbsp if using dry)
8-10 Asparagus stalks broken into bite sized pieces
8-10 Cherry tomatoes, diced
1 cob of fresh corn removed from cob (you can substitute 1 c. of frozen)
2 large handfuls of kale, hard stems removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 c. sliced leeks (you can substitute onion or green onion for this)
1/3 c. diced red bell pepper (you use any color bell pepper)
8 Large eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes, a dash

Heat your oven to 420 degrees.

I.  In olive oil, saute the leeks (or onion) and pepper.  When they start to get soft, add in the kale and saute until it wilts.  Add in the asparagus, tomatoes, and rosemary.

II.  Beat the eggs with the cottage cheese and milk.  Season them as you would scrambled eggs.  Add in a dash of red pepper flakes.  
III.  In a 9 x 9 inch square pan, spread your sauteed veges.  Pour the egg/milk/cottage cheese mixture over the veges and give it a little stir.  
IV.  Top with the Parmesan and bake for about 20 minutes or until a butter knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  

Like stir fry, fritattas are those fast, perfect meals for times when you're A) feeling lazy; B) feeling tired; C) have veges you need to use up, or D) want comfort food on a cold winter night.  Tonight, I was all four.  It's also a recipe that's very forgiving when it comes to ingredients.  If you follow this alternative recipe below, you'll end up with something equally delicious.  I came up with this recipe because I had kale I needed to use, the cherry tomatoes were developing wrinkles, the corn on the cob wasn't going to last another week in the fridge, I'd bought a leek last week as I've never really cooked with them before and was curious but it needed to be  used, and Rik wanted something higher in protein for dinner.  But use what you have on hand! I even threw in a small handful of shredded zucchini that I had left over from the bread and didn't want to just throw away. 

2 c. of a green leafy vegetable (the sturdier kinds work best like spinach or kale)
1 c. of a savory vegetable like onions
1 c. of any other kind of vegetable you have lying around, or a combination of different vegetables equaling 1 c. or so
8 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 c. grated cheese of any kind (drier cheeses have less fat)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes, a dash
1 Tbsp. of dried savory herbs.  Almost anything will work: thyme, dill, oregano, basil, even poultry seasoning if that's all you have!  Remember that if you're using fresh herb, use twice as much as you would dry.  Dried herbs are more concentrated in flavor.  

Otherwise, follow the directions and you'll come up with a delicious and completely nutritious meal with 2 servings of vegetables in a single slice, with leftovers that are delicious cold or heat up in the microwave in about 30 seconds for tomorrow's lunch!

Happy Week everyone!  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sweetness By Any Other Name

So I've been working on a healthier kind of coffee creamer using only whole ingredients and ended up learning a whole lot about the 'non-dairy creamers' that I know and love.  Far more than I thought I knew already which was apparently in more of an abstract sense than with any true facts.  I had almost given up on ever being able to adequately replace my Carnation Coffee-Mate Caramel Macchiato or International Delight Vanilla Caramel creamer.  But I think I've found a solution.  And just in time, because I don't think I can ever in good conscience drink it again. <insert very sad face here>  But since I've begun to take the approach that "If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it", I'm beginning to understand that ignorance isn't bliss anymore.  

In case you've not read the back of your creamer container and, like me, have enjoyed it immensely for the last 20+ years in happy ignorance, (or have read it and considered the possibility it's written in a language other than your own), let me change that for you.  Here's a quick low-down of what exactly it is that we've been using as part of our every-single-morning ritual.  The following is taken directly from the back of the Carnation Coffee-Mate Fat-Free Liquid Nondairy Creamer bottle and is found in every version of their creamers with small variations for taste.  Remember, the ingredients are listed in order of greatest amount of each ingredient contained to the least, so keep that in mind as you read further:  

  • The first ingredient is water.  That's where the 'good-for-me' ends.  
  • The second largest ingredient is corn syrup solids (found in everything from granola bars to lunch meats) which have been found (among other things) to concentrate in the liver because  it's so difficult for the body to process, with a proven effect to impact your triglycerides (bad cholesterol).
  • The third ingredient listed (which means besides water and corn syrup, the bulk of this product is made from...) is partially hydrogenated oils (which most of us know by now is on the 'bad for you' list) which is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil.  It's main purpose is to increase the shelf life and flavor of foods. Think MSG on steroids.  
  • Next is modified corn starch (used for thickening and increasing shelf life, made by treating starch with an acid or enzyme until it degrades slightly) which has been linked in more than one study to irritable bowel and Crohn's disease.  It's also used to keep all the hydrogenated oils from separating and congealing at the top of your creamer bottle so you don't open it up and pour a few tablespoons of oil into each cup of coffee.
  • Sodium caseinate is said to be a derivative of milk but actually contains no milk products and is used to provide a bit of dairy flavor and make the 'creamer' look like real cream and make your coffee feel creamy when you drink it.  It's true that it's made from milk by coagulating the caseine found in all milk types, pasteurizing it, neutralizing it with sodium hydroxide, and then drying it in a spray dryer. Sort of like milk without the milk.  Well, to be honest, it's like milk....without anything.  Ok.  It's nothing like milk.
  • Dipotassium phosphate, another manufactured ingredient, is used to make that creamer nice and thick, last super long in your fridge, and can actually be physically dangerous for people with liver or kidney disease to consume.  
  • Next, artificial colors are something we're all familiar with by now and are commonly accepted and known to aggravate the symptoms of ADD and ADHD, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health advocacy organization, recommends that we avoid all artificially colored foods.  
  • Mono and diglycerides: They're what happen if you take a trigylceride and mix it with the right chemical...all you need to know right there.  But it's main reason for being in your 'creamer' is (again) to keep all that oil from separating.
  • Polysorbate 60 is made by combining corn sugar with sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that the body metabolizes very slowly and will cause a laxative effect because it's so poorly digested.  In fact, the FDA requires that if a certain amount of this is in our food, it has to list the 'side effect' of causing diarrhea!  And the name should actually have been a warning...it's a manufactured item also.  
  • Sodium searoyl lactylate is a food additive and is considered from an organic source made by combining 2 acids (lactic and stearic), treating it with sodium hydroxide to make a calcium salt.  What's its use?  Bingo!  To keep all that oil from separating!  (By the way, are you noticing the trend here?  Exactly how many ingredients it's taking to keep this stuff which is mainly water, sugar, and oil from separating?!)
I've not listed sources as all of this information is readily available to you from sites such as the FDA-run 'Labelwatch.com', to Wikipedia, to other food bloggers and health advocates all over the internet.

On a happier note, here's the version I've been using this week and, though it's not as addictive as the creamy (not!) goodness of your store-bought creamer, I can drink it to my hearts content and in good health and conscience.  Remember, it's a concentrate, not something you'd drink straight, so if you taste test it and find it super sweet, you've been warned!  It will dilute nicely in your favorite blend tomorrow morning.  :D

Vanilla Amaretto Coffee Creamer

1 c. vitamin D milk (whole milk)
1/2 c. 2% milk
1/3 c. Agave nectar
2 tsp. vanilla extract (use the real stuff, not the flavoring)
1-1/2 tsp. almond extract

Find a good glass container that you can reuse, or use your now emptied non-dairy creamer container that you've decided to never touch again! :)  I recycled this cute glass salad dressing bottle as I can toss it in the dishwasher between uses.  Pour all ingredients into your container and shake well to combine.  Remember to shake before each use, though I've not had it separate on me.

  • Do you like the Coconut Creamer?  Substitute the almond extract for coconut extract.  Is Hazelnut Creamer your favorite?  Substitute the almond extract for hazelnut.  Use your imagination!  Go to the baking aisle of your grocery store the next time you're there and see what flavors you can experiment with.  
  • If you like your coffee super creamy, use a higher fat milk like half-and-half or even cream.  I experimented first with half-and-half and 2% milk, but then switched to whole milk in a 2:1 ratio as I'm trying to limit my fat intake right now, and honestly didn't notice a huge difference in the creaminess of my coffee.
It's a bit scary to start learning what it is we've been consuming.  And this research made me a little sad, I've got to be honest!  There's no substitute for something that's fake, chemically made to taste far better than it's naturally-occurring counterpart!  And I'm not trying to scare-tactic you in to a change for which you're not ready.  I started on this journey of educating myself as I really do want to get off the medications I'm on that keep me functioning since my accident.  And being successful for me means making sure that things I'm putting in my body aren't going to be counterproductive, such as foods or additives that are known to cause inflammatory reactions.  And there's just no long-term data out there about what our turn from whole, naturally-occurring foods to items that are mass-produced and no longer contain anything real or naturally occurring.  We're consuming more calories than ever and are literally malnourished.  I want more than anything to be free of the pain I have every day, and free of the drugs that make that pain tolerable so I can be a productive human being.  But if you're reading this blog, you too have an interest in what you're putting into your body, and I encourage you to do your own research.  The internet has given us an invaluable source for access to information of all kinds.  Sure, there's a lot of misinformation out there.  But there's also a lot of really good information if you're willing to take the time.  

Just a little 'whole food' for thought in case you too want to make the switch.  :)  

Friday, February 21, 2014

And Tonight's Dinner...

...takeout deli sandwiches and a shared pint of Ben & Jerry's! 

Happy Friday Everybody!! 


Thursday, February 20, 2014

More is More

Sometimes I feel like all I do is eat.  I remember when I used to eat whatever happened to be in the cupboards or fridge and didn't give a lot of thought to quantity or quality.  One of the things I've noticed when eating clean (as in whole, unprocessed foods) is that we seem to spend a lot more time eating.  Clean foods tend to be lower in calories and fat.  Once your body begins to accustom itself to less of the processed foods and refined sugars, it seems to process the real foods it's receiving more efficiently, so eating when  you're hungry rather than by the clock becomes the norm.  Smaller meals more often mean that I rarely feel that ravenous feeling I used to get between meals, and when I am hungry, it's now a whisper rather than a shout.

Tonight's dinner is super light and super filling.  I really like stir fry because it's so versatile.  Take whatever vegetables you have in the fridge.  If they're a little old, this is the perfect way to use them up.  And almost any combination of veges, with or without meat, can turn into a dinner so tasty you'll forget it's healthy.  I found this great article a while back on Allrecipes.com that shows you quick ways to put things together for fast stir fry with ingredients you probably already have in your fridge.  And this particular stir-fry is a go-to meal if I'm short on time as the prep time is very short.  Start to finish, this takes me about 20 minutes.

Pepper Steak Stir Fry

Stir fry
1 lb. cheap cut of steak sliced thinly across the grain
1 Green bell pepper
1 Red bell pepper
1 Yellow bell pepper
1/2 Red onion sliced
1 clove fresh garlic minced
(I also had some mushrooms that needed using, so they're in there too though not part of the usual recipe)
Olive oil

1/2 c. red wine (you can omit this if you'd like and double up on the water)
1/2 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. beef bullion 
1/2 c. low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1-1/2 Tbsp. corn starch

Melt the bullion in the warm water, and then combine all of the other sauce ingredients and mix well.  I like to marinate the meat overnight when I can.  It just gives it a much richer taste.  But this will work just as well if you don't have the time.

Get your veges sliced before you start the oil to heat.  As with all stir fry, you need to have everything you need ready before you start cooking.  

In a large-ish skillet heat about 2 Tbsp. of olive oil.  Remember, the flash point of olive oil is much lower than vegetable oil, so don't leave it alone on the stove once you kick up the heat under the pan.  It will heat and burn very fast.  Add in your garlic first and saute it for just a minute or so.  

With a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the marinade and add it to the heated oil and garlic.  Set the marinade aside.  Stir the steak and garlic well until the steak is almost done but still slightly pink.  

Add in the rest of your veges and stir well.  Stir it often so that the veges get done about the same time throughout.  You just want them to be warmed through, still nice and crisp.  

When they reach this point, stir your marinade to get the corn starch from the bottom where its settled, and pour it over the meat and vegetables.  Turn the heat down and allow this to simmer for just a bit stirring pretty constantly so the sauce will thicken.  If you don't cook it long enough, the corn starch doesn't incorporate well, so make sure you let it simmer just a bit.

You're ready to eat!  Ladle the stir fry over warm brown rice or cooked soba noodles, or just eat it as it is if you're watching carbs or calories.  

Here's our food for the day:  

Breakfast:  Overnight Fridge Oatmeal with Bosc Pears
Snack:  Green juice
Lunch:  Salmon steak and pearl barley
Snack:  Chocolate milk and a Beachbody P90X protein bar
Post work-out recovery drink
Dinner:  Pepper Steak Stir fry over brown rice

Breakfast:  Sprouts 6-Grain Hot Cereal with honey, and coffee with homemade creamer (recipe soon)
Snack:  Dried bananas and papaya
Snack:  Oatmeal Muffins to Go
Dinner:  Pepper Steak Stir fry over brown rice

So it's been a few weeks now...what changes have you made?  What differences, good or bad, are you noticing in how you feel?  I've heard from a few of you (though I wish you'd share on the blog so everyone can hear your awesome stories!) who have made some easy exchanges, some who have been working out and eating clean, and some who have lost weight.  

Remember, it's all about the little changes and being kind to the body you have.  Not the body you want, the one you live in right now.  After all, it's going to be with you for the rest of your life regardless of what happens to it in your combined future.  And the you that you are now is the basis for the you that you will become.  Give it a hug for me!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Short and Sweet

It's been a typically insane week, so I'm gonna throw tonight's post at you sort of like I threw dinner together.  :D

Had to make a quick grocery store run for the things I forgot in Sunday (mainly tortillas, honey, and spaghetti squash).  Here's the receipt:  
I spent $25.57.  This brings the weeks total up to $161.75, but remember that $30 plus was for all natural juices that Rik wanted which is an expense I don't usually put on the blog as it isn't part of our regular grocery bill.

Tonight's dinner was soft tacos, and sticking with the gluten-free theme this week (for me), I tried a different type of tortilla.  I did this only because whenever we've purchased the amazingly delicious, melt-in-your-mouth tortillas from the Mexican bakery down the road (you know..the ones that are still warm when you buy them and  which I can't resist eating at least 3 on the drive home that literally only takes me 5 minutes?) I knew I wouldn't have the wherewithal to eat a single one for dinner and then toss out whatever remained so I don't succumb to the next 2 days of tortillas warmed in the microwave and then slathered with butter...  

Anyway, I honestly can't say I endorse the gluten free version as, though they didn't taste particularly 'healthy', they didn't particularly taste like anything and they had the consistency of the plastic tortillas I would imagine might come in the Little Tykes (Multicultural) Kitchen (if such a thing existed)...you know...those little plastic kitchens with the plastic food that we used to play with as kids?  Yahhhh....so there's that...

Anyway, here's the recipe: 

Turkey Soft Tacos With Vegan Guacamole

1 lb. raw turkey burger or ground turkey
1 package Taco Seasoning and water (follow directions)
Tortillas of your choosing
Sliced lettuce (I was out of lettuce so used thinly shredded Napa cabbage)
Sliced tomatoes
Diced onion
Shredded cheddar cheese
Plain Greek yogurt

Cook the turkey until done.  Drain it well, preferably into the dogs bowl (there isn't much to drain) and stir it into half a cup of her food because then she'll love you forever and ever instead of just forever!  

Mix your package of taco seasoning as directed into the well-drained and cooked turkey and heat it until it's well combined.  

Slice up your veges.  I heat the tortillas in the microwave and then make the burritos after they were warm.

Layer the turkey on the bottom, topped with cheese so it melts nicely, then lettuce, tomato, onion, guacamole and sour cream.  

Feel free to switch this up with whatever you happen to have on hand.  I was unsure about using turkey burger rather than hamburger, but it cooked up nicely and I couldn't tell a huge difference other than it wasn't as greasy. :)

2 avocados (only because they had to be used today)
A good dollop of Vegenaise
Garlic salt
Chopped tomato
Chopped onion

Peel and pit the avocados saving the pits.  Smash the avocados well.

Add in your dollop of Vegenaise, a sprinkle of garlic salt to taste, and a spoonful of chopped onion and tomato.  Stir it well.  

If you're not planning on eating it right away, put the pits back into the guacamole as they will keep it from turning brown (oxidizing).

Each burrito comes in at about 210 calories each (I'm averaging here).  

Here is our food for the day:  

Breakfast:  Oatmeal with brown sugar
Snack:  Oatmeal cupcakes to go, fresh strawberries and pineapple
Lunch:  4 oz of grilled steak, brown rice, and a Golden Delicious apple
Anabolic recovery drink post-workout
Dinner:  Turkey burritos on whole wheat gluten-free tortillas

Breakfast:  coffee with homemade creamer (I know...I know...)
Lunch:  Brown rice with steamed asparagus and cheddar cheese
Snack:  2 Oh Mega Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies
Dinner:  Turkey burrito on a whole wheat gluten-free tortilla

The rice I cooked on Sunday turned into today's lunch which was a repeat of something I had last week but whose recipe I didn't post.  I took a 1 c. scoop of brown rice, broke a about 6 asparagus (they were super fat ones) into pieces and tossed them on top of the rice, then put the bowl in the microwave for 1.5 minutes, topped it with a small handful of sharp cheddar and a sprinkle of garlic salt, stirred it up and let the cheese melt and it was SO GOOD!  As in good enough for a side dish good to serve other people good!  There wasn't a ton of cheese in it, but it tasted like there was.  

And it took me only took me about 3 minutes to make!!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Day Late

This weekend feels like it flew by.  So fast in fact that I'm having a hard time getting with my Sunday afternoon cooking ritual.  We went to a fantastic party last night, got home late, got up late, and feel like we've dragged ourselves through the day.  Not a lot has gotten done.  And that's okay.

Here's this weeks receipts:

We spent a total of $136.18, though $30+ of this you'll notice is organic juices that Rik wanted for the week. I actually only added that to the list because somehow they ended up in the "What It Bought" picture below.

Here's what it bought:

A reader asked if I have a grocery list before I shop.  The answer is sort of.  I usually ask Rik what he'd like to have for dinner in the upcoming week and he gives me one or two ideas (this week it was tacos or burritos and a spaghetti squash rerun).  I know I'll probably want some sort of soup or stew (if it's going to be cold out), so I make sure I've got what I need for that just in case.  This week, Rik said he wants to do some juicing, so I picked up extra veges for that.  I know I'll be making omelette muffins for him for breakfast along with the oatmeal muffins to go, so that goes on the list.  I think I've probably got my home made creamer recipe down now (finally!!!) so that goes on the list.  Then it's just staples like which meats I want to grill this week (salmon and steak), salad fixings, and staple veges and fruits.  But since we've been eating this way for some time, I generally just take an inventory of what we have before I leave the house and then make notes of those things that either I don't generally purchase (this week: Agave nectar) or things from parts of the store I never go (basically the entire middle).  But to actually post a list, it wouldn't be helpful based on what I already have at home to hand and since I don't generally stick to a set eating plan written out ahead of time.  

The last few weeks my weight loss has totally stalled.  In fact, I think I gained 2 pounds.  But I've not been super careful about my eating during the week in cutting out ALL bread, and a few days I used coffee creamer with all the gross junk in it that tastes so dang good.  And I found that losing weight (for me) means absolutely zero sugar or refined food of any kind.  

I've also done really well with fixing food ahead of time for Rik, haven't been doing so well with fixing food ahead of time for me.  So this week I rectified this by cooking up some extra brown rice and making a few snack-type foods for my afternoons, a time where I tend to turn toward foods that aren't going to help me reach my goals, like toast with almond butter and honey which, though not 'bad' foods, for me won't help me reach my goals as bread for some reason is one of those things that keep me from losing weight.  Guessing it's a gluten thing.  

Another thing I focused on this week was microsalads, something a little bit sweet for my afternoon sugar craving that generally hits around 2 o'clock.  You know how sometimes eating vegetables your jaws get tired of chewing long before your stomach gets full?  Microsalads are a good solution for this.  As I've stated before in this blog, I like a handful of crisp baby carrots.  And I love a nice juicy apple.  But eating both if you're pressed for time (like on a break) might be a bit difficult.  That's a lot of chewing.  Enter the micro-salad concept: I can enjoy both, in rather large quantities, in under five minutes thereby helping to reach that target daily fruit/vege servings-per-day and enjoy the process at the same time!  Here's what I came up with:  

Apple Carrot Confetti Salad

Two large handfuls baby carrots
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and coarsely chopped
2 soft dates, pitted (if you want it a little sweeter)
1/2 cup sliced fresh pineapple

Add all to the food processor fitted with an s-blade and pulse until carrots and apples are in small pieces but not applesauce.  

The acid from the pineapple will keep the apples from turning brown, and the sweetness of the dates will add just that little bit of yum to the otherwise juicy and slightly tart deliciousness that has now become your 2 PM snack! 

This recipes makes about 2 good-sized servings.  Here are the stats:  

Calories          123
Potassium       531 mg
Fiber                  6 g
Vitamin A       308%
Vitamin B6      9.5%
Vitamin C      15.6%
Calcium           4.5%

I wasn't able to finish this post yesterday so the date is wrong and you'll end up getting Monday's post later on today.  Enjoy the rest of your day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love Your Heart

Sooooo...this week life sort of got in the way of my posting and not a lot of cooking has gone on here at Casa de Us.  Tuesday dinner was spent celebrating a dear friend's birthday at Red Lobster (I ordered the Maple Grilled Chicken, baked potato, and salad -- and then ate half,  Rik got a half-order of Shrimp Linguine, and we refrained from seconds on the absolutely amazing home made spice cake) and despite a bit of an overdose on Cheddar Bay Biscuits (omg...they're so delicious!!!), I think we did pretty well.  Wednesday night was spent working overtime, so dinner was gluten free pizza from Dominoes.  Yeah, we've fallen off the wagon a bit this week.  Tonight I'm firmly climbing back on though.  As much as I love 'free days' or those special occasions where you can justify stuffing your face with buttery, cheddary-cheesy biscuits, I notice that I sort of feel crappy for a few days afterwards.  And I'm noticing that since I've been trying to eat closer to the way I did on the Conscious Cleanse, that my failure to cut out gluten is apparently hindering my weight loss.  So tonight's dinner was adjusted to be gluten free.  Usually, my meat loaf includes bread crumbs.   But since, at least today, I ate completely gluten and sugar free, I didn't want to lose my progress today so it doesn't have bread.  The original recipe as taught to me in my early 20s by an old friend who grew up in the south, this was covered in bacon and then baked to crispy perfection with gravy made from the drippings.  Yeah.  That won't be happening, but damn was it delicious!

Here's a version that will be a little kinder to your heart.  And wait til you see the numbers!  I was shocked! Start to finish, this recipe took me 45 minutes.  That's from the time I opened the package of raw meat to the time we sat down.

Healthy(er) Meatloaf and Garlic Mashed Potatoes (that are really cauliflower)

1 lb. hamburger
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 raw egg
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, add your chopped onion and seasonings to the raw burger along with a raw egg to hold it all together since we're not using breadcrumbs.  Mix this well with your hands.  

In a glass dish, smoosh it down into whatever shape you want.  Given the date and the fact that technically I think we can still be considered newlyweds since it hasn't been a year yet (and I still like him), I made ours into a heart.  Since I only used 1 lb of hamburger, the usual meatloaf shape just seemed like a brick, so I got creative.

Pop this in the oven and bake it for about 30 minutes.  This will of course depend on how thick you made your loaf.  

Mashed (Not) Potatoes
1 head of cauliflower
1 good sized clove of garlic
1/2 c. shredded cheddar
A good dollop of Greek yogurt
Salt and Pepper to taste (I used garlic salt)

While the meatloaf is cooking, cut up your head of cauliflower into smallish florets.  The smaller they are, the faster they're going to steam.  Put them into a steamer pan or basket along with the garlic.  About halfway through your meatloaf baking, put them on the stove to steam.  You'll want them to be super well steamed before you try to mash them.

Once they're super well steamed (you should be able to smash a test piece easily with a fork), dump them into a pan or bowl and mash them along with the now steamed garlic.  

When they're thoroughly mashed they look a bit like kernels of rice.  Add in your cheese, a nice big dollop of Greek yogurt and seasonings and stir it up good.  These cooled off super quick after I mashed them, and so I'd probably add in a step to reheat them once you've seasoned them. Another option would be to put them in a small casserole and toss it into the oven to bake just a little bit.  They would get a little bit crispy around the edges and taste delicious.

Pull your meatloaf out of the oven and drain it well, and you're ready to eat!

And here's the final product!  This was the first time I've made my meatloaf this way (healthier) and the first time I've ever tried mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes.  Honestly, it wasn't too bad!  

Here are the stats:  
Healthy(er) Meatloaf
1/4 of the loaf
Calories                    261
Potassium                17.3 mg
Carbs                        0.9 g
Protein                       21 g

Garlic Mashed (Not) Potatoes     
(1 c serving)

Calories                         53
Potassium                   60.2 mg
Carbs                           10.5 g
Fiber                              4.8 g
Protein                             4 g
Vitamin B6                 21.3%
Vitamin C                 148.3%
Iron                              4.7%
Thiamin                        7.3%
Zinc                             3.6%

Look at some of those numbers!  Holy cow!  Especially if you compare a cup of Betty Crocker Real Garlic and Cheddar mashed potatoes that clock in at 210 calories per serving and 10 grams of fat!!!  I don't generally like the taste of cauliflower, but this was really good.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Here's our food for the day:

Breakfast:  Oatmeal with brown sugar
Snack:  Protein shake
Lunch:  Chicken Salad in a whole wheat pita bread (made with grilled boneless skinless chicken breast, Dijon mustard, and Greek yogurt) and a hard boiled egg, pear
Snack:  Protein shake and an apple
Post-Workout:  Post-workout recovery drink
Dinner:  Meatloaf and Mashed Cauliflower

Breakfast:  Bob's Gluten-Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal with honey and coffee with homemade creamer (going to try making it with maple syrup this weekend as all other attempts have NOT been successful)
Lunch:  Leftover lentils from the other night
Snack:  Some raw hazelnuts and an apple with almond butter and honey
Dinner:  Meatloaf and Mashed Cauliflower

And a Happy Valentines Day to all of you wherever you are.  And whether or not this year finds you with a Valentine, don't forget to love yourself: today and every day.