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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

cooking up a storm

cooking up a storm

Cadie and I got home from Christmas on Boxing Day. She had been with my Mum since December 21, and I got there on December 23, so by the time Christmas night rolled around I was ready for my own bed. I was ready for my own schedule, and also, I was anxious to get home ahead of the snow storm that was due to hit around dinner on the 26. So we woke up bright and early, and we were home by noon.

Cadie, being an adventurer, was ready to head out, to go and sniff the news and leave some gossip of her own, and she danced happily in front of the door while I made my lunch and changed my clothes.

I wanted to do something nice for Cadie. She had been gone nearly a week, and before that I had been working like a Trojan. So I decided that instead of spending Boxing day at the sales, we would spend it on the trails. There’s nothing like clean, cold air filling your lungs to encourage you to walk faster, and the sun…we hadn’t seen the sun in almost a month. So we headed out, with plans to hike through the Brickworks trail and the valley, and then come home through the cemetery. It’s one of our favourite evening walks during the nicer, warmer, lighter months.

But it had been a while since we had really walked, and as I made my way up the gentle incline of the city streets I felt my calf muscles crack, like they had been encased in wax and were just now breaking free. The further I walked the more my calves cracked, until I felt that I was totally free of my doldrums, and I could feel my muscles breathing freely. They expanded and contracted with every step, and with every step I was reminded why I like a healthy, active lifestyle. It was while I was walking my exuberant dog that I decided that I needed a make over. Not a physical make over—I decided to make over my freezer.

December is the perfect time of year to fill our freezers with yummy things like cakes, cookies, and appetizers. After living on this food for most of December I started to feel poisoned, or toxic. So I set about to fix that. I dedicated the last bit of my Christmas holiday to starting the year off with a healthy bang.

Step 1: I emptied the freezer of all of those delicious freezer cookies. This was hard work, but luckily my estimates had been pretty close, and I didn’t have to “dispose” of too much. Then I settled on 3 meals: high-yield recipes that I could make, one day at a time, and fill my freezer with nutritious meals that I could grab and eat without too much fuss.

It looks and tastes so good I couldn't eat just one serving

It looks and tastes so good I couldn’t eat just one serving

First I made Chef Chloe’s macaroni and “cheese.” It took only 45 minutes to prepare and cook, and tasted spectacular. I love mac and cheese, and I was worried that making it without any real cheese the dish would be inedible. I was wrong. I’m new to the plant-based diet thing, but I am constantly amazed at the good that nutritional yeast flakes can do. They gave the meal its cheesy taste, without adding the cheesy texture that I don’t really like. I have since made this meal again, and fed it to carnivores, who also loved it. I was able to get 8 meals out of this.

On the second day I made another of Chef Chloe’s recipes (I’ll give you two guesses at what my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas). This time I made a gorgeous apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. It was the first picture I fell in love with as I sat flipping through the book Christmas morning, and I was so excited to try it out. Lentils are really good for us, being a good source of protein, as well as offering a host of other benefits including lowering cholesterol, and stabilizing blood glucose. It’s hard to ignore food that offers so much goodness, but I needed an appealing delivery system, and this stew fills the need perfectly. It was sweet, warm and filling with an unmistakable earthiness. My stew isn’t nearly as beautiful as the one in the book, but it was oh, so tasty, and I got 7 additional meals.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Apple, lentil and butternut squash stew. My favourite of the three.

Finally I made a chilli. I love chilli, and I make it all the time, so when I was buying my cooking supplies I made sure to pick up the chilli supplies. There was nothing special about it: onion, veggie round, tomatoes and beans, all simmered together until they become one. Chilli is just the most satisfying winter meal, and I got 6 meals out of it. All of this means that my freezer is just packed to the gills with tasty, vegany goodness, so now I don’t have any excuse not to eat healthy meals throughout January.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

It never hurts to have a pot of chilli on hand.

I’m not really doing resolutions this year; I haven’t found them to be very successful in the past, so I decided not to push myself into the self-punishing exercise of self-improvement. Instead I’m going to focus on doing things that make me stronger and healthier and, most importantly, that make my life easier. So now that I have no excuse not to skip lunches in the caf, I’m hoping that a month of nothing but good, healthy food will leave me feeling like a clean, well-oiled machine.

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The Rhone at Avignon.

My mother and I are planning a trip to Provence. I know, I’m so excited! I haven’t been on a trip since 2006, when mum and I went on a cruise of the Adriatic. This time we will cruise down the Rhone for something like 12 days, then we’ll send 3 days in Paris, then we’ll fly back to Toronto and collapse exhaustedly into our beds. Mum will rest, and I’ll have to get up and go to work, but there are worse fates.

The point is, when we booked this trip my mother made me promise that I would try to lose some weight. Our experience on the European cruise ship in 2006 told us that we were heavier than we should be, and, in fact, we were heavier than just about everyone else around us. Mum wants to make sure that we fit in. Maybe “fit in” is the wrong way of putting it, but she doesn’t want us to stand out either.

So I wish I could stand here today and tell you that I have been trying really hard, and then show you some fabulous before and after pictures of me and my fabulous new body. Unfortunately that just isn’t the case. Not because I’m not trying. I dutifully log onto my fitness pal every day: in fact it tells me that I’ve been logged on for 100 days in a row. I watch my food intake and try to balance it out with my energy output, but in spite of that I haven’t lost a pound. Not 1 pound in a 100 days. Not a goodwill pound, not an atta-girl pound. Nothing!

I have to stop giving into temptation and making these types of treats.

Don’t misunderstand me; this isn’t a mystery. I know why I’m not losing weight. For all the tracking and balancing that I’m doing, I’m still eating yummy things like cakes, cookies and homemade peanut butter cups, and that’s just my snacks. For lunch and dinner, I’m eating my greens, and my corn, as well as squash and tomato, but I’m doing it in veggie burgers and on pizzas.

Controlling my food intake has always been a challenge for me. When I was 16 my grandmother told me that I had the appetite of a man, and went on to say that she had never seen anything like it. Still, I was young, and healthy, and active, so it seemed to me that it was only normal that I should eat like a horse.

At 12 I lost a ton of weight, maybe as much as 30 or 50 pounds. I’m not sure, I didn’t have a scale. I just worked out in secret until all of the weight was gone. My eating habits were once again the topic of conversation, as my family, some friends, and their mothers all remarked that I had lost a ton of weight; they added that they hoped that I had the good sense to know when to stop.

What was I thinking when I made these?

My goal in life has never been about being stick thin, rather it was about reaching a healthy weight and then being able to maintain it. That way, I told myself, I wouldn’t have to have these humiliating and debasing conversations with well-intentioned people. Unfortunately, I once again find myself needing to lose weight, but this time I’m struggling to find exercise that won’t hurt my back, while also struggling to get the binge eating under control. As delicious as it all is, these treats are interfering with my life, and my goals. I’d like to go to France lighter and with more energy so that I can make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

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Three toothbrushes
Image via Wikipedia

Last week I went to see my periodontist, to see how the graft was doing. Great news, the graft took really well. So well, in fact, that the doctor said “the only problem is that it makes the tooth in front look terrible.” So that slag aside, I’m going to focus on the good news and tell you that I am now cleared to eat solids. I’m still waiting for the palate to heal. The doctor said it would be another 3 or 4 weeks, but still, at least I know that this procedure was successful. The bad news is two-fold:

1) My gums are “terrible.” I already knew that, but it really drives it home when you hear a specialist say it in those words. But it’s not just my hurt feelings, it means that the doctor wants to see me back in 10 months, where we will probably do another tooth, and maybe more.

2) I had to buy a new toothbrush, and relearn how to brush my teeth. Apparently I need to be paying attention to the angle that I use to hold my toothbrush, I need to separate my mouth into quadrants and ensure that I spend 2 minutes brushing, gently, so that I remove plaque, and bacteria, but don’t brush away the gum. (As an aside I’m pretty heavy handed, so this is really challenging for me, and causes me no small amount of stress for 4 to 6 minutes every day.)

But that’s enough about the downside. let’s get back to the upside…the food. As I think I have mentioned I’m not a huge fan of going to restaurants. I like the companionship of eating out with friends, but I’ve often found restaurants over-priced. I mean, $14.00 for a chicken wrap and fries? I’m pretty sure that I can make that or something much nicer at home for about the same price.

So, now you know about me, you know that I don’t care to pay to eat out every day, but I do like going out for a treat that I can’t make at home. This includes Sushi, Indian food, and of, course bi bim bap. These are just foods that I haven’t learned how to make yet. Though I should also tell you that I like eating tamer foods like fish and chips and hamburgers, these are just foods that I can’t make as well as most restaurants.

Penelope doesn’t post as much, so you may not know as much about her. She loves going to restaurants. I don’t know what her favourite dish or restaurant is, but I know she loves to go. You may not know either that Penelope is a vegetarian. And until recently I privately referred to her as a “boring vegetarian.” Penelope is very committed to her beliefs, and she doesn’t cheat. But, I have argued in the past, neither does she take advantage of the delicious variety of vegetarian and pescatarian foods.

The photo taken above came from my birthday dinner; that was the first time Penelope agreed to try Korean bi bim bap. And I’m pleasantly surprised to report to you that she likes it! She really likes it!

Bi bim bap is a yummy meal in a bowl, that has sprouts, and veggies like peppers, zucchini, and spinach to name just a few possibilities. It’s brought to the table in hot cast iron bowls with white swirls of steam billowing up toward the ceiling. When the waiter puts the bowl on the table they mix in a full serving of white rice, and then add as much or as little spice as you like. I like to have chicken in my bowl, while Penelope goes for the mixed vegetable bowl. We like to pair this meal with cool, creamy milkshakes (orange, pineapple and mango for me, and strawberry banana for Penelope.)

 Knowing that Penelope likes bi bim bap as much as I do makes me really happy. So when I found out that my graft had taken and that I was going to have a joyful reunion with food, I decided that we should go to Korean Grill. We ordered our chicken and veggie bowls, along with our milkshakes, and we had a nice conversation while I ate my steaming dinner very slowly, being careful not to burn the roof of my mouth. I have to say I thought the chicken looked really strange: large, white and really soft. Yup that’s right, I had the veggie bowl, and I was eating tofu. Apparently 3 weeks of nothing but Carnation Instant Breakfast and oatmeal (YUCK!) has completely erased all memory of the way food tastes from my brain.

But, no harm, no foul, Penelope and I exchanged doggie bags and I packed the chicken to take to work for lunch the next day. Too bad that I then left my lunch bag on the counter all day. Oh well, Korean Grill isn’t going anywhere. Now I have a reason to try to make Penelope go back for another meal.

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Cooking is new to me. I know, it’s not much of a confession, anyone who knows anything about cooking, baking, grocery shopping or being in the kitchen can tell that I know next to nothing about cooking. Imagine my humiliation last week when I announced that I had made a spaghetti squash dish, only to discover that it was actually a butternut squash. And thank you to all of you who did not make fun of my total ignorance. In my defence, the squash were mislabeled at the grocery store, so really, I would like to shove the blame onto someone else.

This is a spaghetti squash. Now I know. I also know that I love butternut squash, so I guess there is a silver lining. As you can see spaghetti squash is very tough, and bested even my best and sharpest knife. It was so scary that I considered locking the dog in the bathroom until I was done cutting.

As you can see I made it through, and I still have all of my original fingers and toes. I also did not stab myself in the abdomen and the dog is still alive, so…all things considered it was a success.

I was a little bit concerned about waste, but I decided it wasn’t worth risking more knife work to salvage what was left of the squash. So I took what I had and seasoned with butter, pepper, coarse salt, and then my hand landed on the cumin, and I thought “why not?” so there’s also cumin in this dish.

I roasted the squash for 45 minutes, but I don’t think it was enough; my squash was a little el dente.

I was totally stunned by just how much like spaghetti this looked. Nature does some funny and amazing things sometimes.

Then I added in my warmed up quinoa, tomatoes, zucchini and onion. I also added more seasoning: Salt, pepper, butter, and..why not, more cumin!

Finally, I added the salmon and a touch of lemon juice. I mixed it all together until I ended up with this.

Yum! So I would do a few things differently: I would roast the squash longer, so that it’s just a little more tender. Also, I would use a little less cumin. It was good, just a little too much for my taste. Otherwise, I loved it. I found it very filling, and I would totally make it again.

But first, I need to get a much better knife.

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Women in a Publix grocery store: Tallahassee, ...

Image by State Library and Archives of Florida via Flickr

As you know, adding Step classes once a week was one of my goals for 2011. That being said, I haven’t had much luck getting to Step Class this month. I had to work late last Tuesday, and this week I had to hurry home because I was worried about Cadie. Originally, the plan had been to take Cadie for a good, long walk, then head out to Body Pump at 7, but I was without food, so instead of going to Body Pump, I decided to do my grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping, it’s kind of like ironing to me; that being said, I love having fresh food waiting for me at home. Here are some of my treasures.

Firstly, I did not buy pizza, french fries and chicken strips. How these items ended up being photographed in my kitchen is inexplicable to me.

Feed me tomatoes! I think I’ve been eating too much comfort food; I want fresh food that makes me feel light and happy. Tomatoes always make me light and happy, plus they are cancer fighters. So they got a big check as I added 2 different varieties to my cart.

I have also been craving zucchini. These zucchini don’t look all that good–in fact, I think you can see just how beaten up they are, even in this picture. Still, the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants zucchini. Until tomorrow my sweet.

Root vegetables–so you can see that I’m not totally over comfort food. I can’t wait to play around with these vegetables. Oh, and wipe the stove. Life is good!

Some necessities. I can’t stand not having milk in the apartment. So yes, I buy 4L, and it’s all for me! I also bought eggs and butter, so now I can bake again.

If I’m going to take my journey for health to the next level I need to start addressing some of my weaknesses. I bought these lovelies to take to work for easy snacking. I have no idea if they are seeded or seedless (though my money is on seeded). I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. (I have so many plans to eat so many things tomorrow–this is the upside of grocery shopping:D).

I was so excited to find the Quinoa, oh the things I will do with this…will tomorrow never get here?

A little treat for after dinner. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I don’t believe in depriving myself of the things that I love, and I LOVE ice cream, but I can nudge myself closer to a healthier lifestyle by choosing frozen yogurt.

My colonial mind is addicted to crumpets. So warm and buttery. MMMMMMM.

What goes with crumpets? Tea, of course. I’ve got Lady Grey for the office and lemon ginger for right before bed. A word on Lady Grey, if you haven’t tried it yet you should. It’s a lovely, light black tea with a hint of citrus.

I never buy shrimp, let alone cook with it, so here’s hoping I don’t ruin it. I also bought chicken, but I consider it to be a staple, like milk and eggs.

Oh no, that’s the end. Still, it’s a good haul for one trip to the grocery store.

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ummm...do you have any real cake?

I love magazines. There’s something so appealing about the beautiful pictures, the glossy paper, the laid-back, though polished writing style. I can’t get enough. I’ve been known to pour over everything from TV Guide to Sports Illustrated with many stops in between for magazines that deal with fashion, health, home decor, lifestyle, and even sports.

For the most part I’m just admiring the artistry, the choice of fonts, the fabulous DPS (double page spreads) and occasionally the writing. In the past I was drawn to fashion magazines, as I dreamed of all the pretty clothes I would buy and how chic I would look coming out of the grotty subways in my designer duds. More recently, I have a new obsession. I now gaze at and dream about cookies.

I can’t help it, they just look so appealing…no, they are gorgeous, and most intriguingly the magazine seems to think that I can make them. So in addition to being unable to pull my eyes away from the designer cookies that jump out at me from the glossy pages I am now also obsessed with trying to make these same cookies.

Here are the Empire Cookies from a magazine spread:

Perfection!

And here is what I was able to produce. Even after an hour plus I still didn’t have the patience or skills to make them look good.

Empire cookies, experimental batch

Next I saw a picture for some shortbread cookies with tea leaves, shaped like a tea leaf. I immediate recognized that this was beyond my abilities. But…the more I looked at it, well…the more plausible it became. So after discovering that there is no such thing as a tea leaf-shaped cookie cutter, I set about in my attempt to recreate this beautiful cookie.

This doesn't look half bad does it?

Somehow I managed to make the cookies so that many of them looked like leaves, although most looked like blobs with lines cut in them. The problem was that in doing so I overworked the dough, and lost the shortbread-like texture that makes them so sumptuous.

Oh well, maybe I don’t have a career as an artistic cookie maker, but I can always embrace my inner Agnes Skinner and start a scrapbook of all the cookies and cakes that I find so pretty.

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Homer Simpson in the Cerne Abbas

Image via Wikipedia

I remember that there was once a time when I cared so much about maintaining my weight that I was able to politely decline treats, and, even more amazing, I was able to enjoy them in moderation. I can’t figure out where that person has gone. It’s funny how 3 years of poor lifestyle can so quickly undo nearly 20 years of restraint and training. I mean not funny like Simpson’s funny, but funny like…weird funny.

I joined a gym last week. I joined for a couple of reasons:

1) I’m not getting anywhere on my own, and I used to do very well at the gym.

2) Since it’s just the dog and I most evenings I’m starting to feel like the walls are coming in on me.

3) Losing weight is a much bigger undertaking than I had imagined and I really needed to feel like I had made a positive step, since my weight loss goal is pretty aggressive.

The gym, though, is only part of the equation; the biggest battle I will have to fight is in the kitchen. Apparently I am not drinking enough water, which was news to me, since tea is full of water. I am eating too many sweets, and worst of all, I eat too many meals that have a nutrition facts table, which means that I’m not getting enough fresh vegetables, fruit, or meats.

To make matters worse, it’s that time of the month again: the time when I run out of groceries. With payday coming at the end of the month, I’m spending these last few days trying to scrape together meals out of food I have at home. But as always at this time of the month, I am dreaming about all the food I will eat once my cupboards are restocked.

The problem is that I’ve tried nothing, and I’m all out of ideas. The other problem is that I’m sick of everything I’ve been eating. So now I am craving change. Searching out new recipes and wanting to experiment in the kitchen a lot more than I have been doing. So now it’s time to shake the flies off and find some super stellar recipes that involve a lot of vegetables. Maybe a stew? Or a chili…and that’s where I get stuck. There’s got to be more to life than stew and chili.

I will ponder this problem a little longer (while I try to find a solution that isn’t a salad, even though I have a couple of lovely avocados waiting for me at home) while I tell you more about the gym. But it’s a long story so bear with me. I don’t read my horoscope daily, mostly because I forget, but I do make an effort to find my annual horoscope on my birthday, you know the one that lays out the plan for the upcoming year. Last year’s predictions were all about new opportunity, new jobs, and they have all come true, which has only strengthened my belief in the accuracy of “science.”

This year my horoscope told me that I would start a relationship with a man at work. All of my coworkers are either married or soon to be so, and even if they are single, I don’t date coworkers as a general rule, it’s too messy. So I had written it off as a sloppy prediction by a sloppy practitioner. Until last night, I was walking around the gym, looking for something, when I saw one of my neighbors. I run into him a lot while I’m out walking the dog. I don’t know much about him at all, but now I’m starting to wonder if the horoscope was right, but what it meant was that I would start a relationship with a man I work out with. Possibility? Anyhow, I was on the verge of waving when he turned his head, and I decided that I didn’t really want to run into him at the gym anyhow. So much for that theory, what do you think?

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