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Posts Tagged ‘Mindless eating’

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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I had a very productive weekend. I spent a little bit of time reflecting on my “lessons learned” from a week with the food log, and ultimately decided that I could start implementing small changes to my diet to make my food intake healthier.

As a general rule I usually make a big batch of food every two weeks. This is when I make enough pasta and chicken korma for me to get through the next two weeks. Typically I make noodles (pasta) and rice (chicken korma) and package them in lunch-sized servings, which are then placed in the freezer so that I can grab them on my way out the door for work.

This week I decided to shake things up a little, in a couple of different ways. First I made a huge quantity of pasta (I have another 4-cup store in the freezer waiting for the next round of pre-packaged lunches.) Secondly I decided that I would make a big batch of chicken soup for my dinners as well. Finally, I decided that I was going to add vegetables to my pasta, so that I will get closer to my recommended daily intake (RDI) of fruits and vegetables.

As always good food starts with good, quality ingredients. I purchased some, but the peas and corn have been in my freezer since March (the last time I really cooked), and as I am a cheap person, I didn’t want to throw them out. They are a little stale, and frostbitten, so they aren’t really suitable as a side-dish anymore. However, they are perfect for a soup.

I don’t know if my photos give you an idea of just how small my kitchen is, but it is tiny, in fact, I would go as far as to say that it is teeny tiny, and sadly, it is bigger than my last kitchen. My kitchen is so small that I ultimately decided to remove the microwave, as it was taking up too much valuable counter space, and really wasn’t used that often. However, what this means is that tasks like heating the pasta sauce, which could be done quickly in the microwave, take much longer on the stove top. As you can see, I was a very busy girl on Sunday night.

The pasta came together quickly. As I said I made a ton of noodles, but I also made 2 different kinds of sauce, four cheese  (Penelope would love it!) and vodka sauce (Penelope does love it). I added carrots, cut into coins as a way of increasing my vegetable intake, and at the last second I decided to add cucumbers as well. I won’t lie, it’s unusual, but very tasty.

A couple of years ago at work we were all fascinated by the work of an American nutrition researcher named Brian Wansink. In 2006 he published a book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, in this book he explained that the problem with overeating in North America is due to the fact that it is too easy to eat too much food, completely unawares. In this book he argues that one way to cut calories is to create an eating environment that will “mindlessly” keep you on track.

Having studied this doctrine for so long I decided to finally put this theory into practice. Instead of “eye balling” my portion sizes I decided to be scientific. I carefully measured out 1 cup of cooked pasta for each lunch; this is plenty of pasta for a lunch meal. I also carefully measured out 1/2 a cup of pasta sauce (again, it might sound like it’s a little, but it’s actually plenty). As I said earlier, this will help me stay on track, I now know approximately how many servings of grains, vegetables and “others” I eat every day at work.

   delicious lunch!

And best of all, I have a freezer full of pasta, so I won’t have to worry about lunches for another 3 weeks!

I did likewise for the soup. My after work schedule is as busy and hectic as my work schedule, related to the marathon walks that Cadie insists she needs before she will eat her own food. As a result I really don’t have time to cook in the evenings. Over the summer I would come home and quickly prepare some cut vegetables and eat them along with some Vache qui rit cheese. But that didn’t happen frequently enough, and I often ate cereal or ice cream for dinner. In keeping with my goal to be healthy most of the time, I decided that it was time to take the guess-work out of dinner as well.

So I made soup, consisting of chicken, corn, carrots and peas. It is beautiful to look at, homey to smell wafting out of the kitchen after a long day, and filling to eat. Like the pasta, I carefully measure out my servings (2 cups of soup per dinner). I’ve frozen most of it and kept the rest out so that I can make it lickty split. So by the time I’ve fed Cadie  and changed from our after-work walk, I have a lovely bowl of homemade soup waiting for me. Yum!

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