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Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

I don’t really like to watch too much TV, but sometimes on weekdays I have off I’ll cruise the channels a little bit with my morning coffee or tea until I’m fully woken up. Today I caught a show on Lifetime TV (which I usually HATE mind-you) called “Cook Yourself Thin.” As most shows on the Lifetime network that aren’t reruns of “Frasier” the show was a bit condescending, pandering and corny. But I thought the recipes were good. The basic concept is that the women who host the show go to the house of a woman who wants to lose some weight and they’ll examine some of her typical recipes, then show her ways to health it up while still making it taste good. That’s a pretty common-sense concept to those of us who’ve been doing this thing for awhile, but I can see how it’s kind of a novel thing for some people to change up what they’ve been used to doing for so many years. The particular episode I caught did a healthier quiche (and I LOVE quiche!), a grilled eggplant dish that was meant to take the place of a very fattening, deep-fried eggplant parmigiana, and a lighter version of cupcakes as well as a light version of those frou-frou coffee drinks you get at Starbucks and the like that usually have a zillion calories per serving. I could take or leave the frou-frou coffee thing as I enjoy my coffee unadulterated (I drink mine black and unsweetened), but the cupcakes looked pretty good. Something to think about for when I make my contribution to take to our family holiday gatherings this year. It had about a third of the calories of a traditional cupcake recipe and looked pretty tasty…doesn’t mean you can eat 10 cupcakes, but still not a total calorie disaster by comparison to the “fully loaded” version.

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Oh, my. Public transportation in a small city can lend so many opportunities to look at your own life and go, “wow, I ain’t got it so bad!” These are seriously the people I look at and think, “Gawd, no matter what happens, I’m not going to let that happen to me!”

I’ve been fighting a particularly nasty case of bronchitis that antibiotics alone aren’t going to fix. Needless to say, I was sent home from work. I’m not used to using the public transportation during that part of the day. All the saddest, most pathetic people ride at that time of day because they don’t have jobs (hey, I’m not hating, just stating the obvious). So I was on the bus home, not feeling well, just wanting to come home and transition into pajamaland and turn on the humidifier and maybe start a movie. An obviously drunk man boards the bus holding a box. He comes to the back where I’m sitting (oh, boy), and announces to everyone that he found this chocolate covered pumpkin pie in the dumpster and wants to share it with everyone! How special! Now, I’ve eaten food that was past-date before, and I’m not a snob about dumpster diving, but that’s only the case if I’m the one who found said food. That way I can gauge whether or not it’s safe to consume, and whether or not it’s something I’d even want. For instance, a local bagel shop throws away a metric ton of bagels every day. The bagels are contained in paper bags inside of a trash bag, meaning there is insulation between the bagels and the outside world. But for all I knew, this pie could have been just chucked into the dumpster on top of decaying, rotting trash with no protection of a trash bag.

I usually don’t make eye contact with too many people on the bus, since the lot of them are crazy and a little on the creepy side. But this guy was really persistent in that everyone on the bus eat some of this damned pie (until the driver noticed, of course, and asked him to put it away since eating on the bus is against the rules). When I politely said, “no thank you,” that wasn’t good enough. He had to keep persisting. Ugh, leave me alone creepy. I just let loose with the hacking up of my lungs and he finally backed off. The guy next to him who was equally crazy was really into it and ate like 5 pieces of the stuff, and kept going on about how he exercises regularly so he can eat as much as he wants. No, he wasn’t fat. Just crazy.

Is there a point to this post? Not really. I’ve been home for a couple of hours now and am enjoying a relaxed, pajamaed evening – it was nice to be sent home after only working one hour. I got someone to cover the first half of my shift tomorrow at work, as well (meaning yes, I still have to go in but for not as long as I would have, which makes a huge difference). I guess what I wanted to get into was the fact that people will eat stuff just because it’s there, and feel a need to push it on everyone around them. Now the guy on the bus today was one of those “middle of the day” drunks, and also particularly unintelligent and obviously, “the lights are on but nobody’s home” in regards to his psyche. But the basic idea remains valid. Why do people feel the need to eat a food just because it’s there? And why is it when others don’t want to share the food they have to keep pushing? Sometimes people just aren’t that hungry. I’ll tell you, when you’re hacking up things that look like they might grow legs and crawl away and your nasal passages are completely blocked, and you have a distinct sense of fatigue, and feel a bit delirious, your appetite is not usually the healthiest. That being said, I made myself some soup and a sandwich for dinner, but that was after having zero appetite most of the day.

My tomato soup is easy and yummy, and to me is way better than that crap in a can. Also, it’s dairy free and has none of the crazy additives that canned soups have. That being said, the ingredients do come from cans, ironically enough. But much purer.

1 large can of diced tomatoes
2 large cans of tomato sauce or puree
1/4 cup olive oil
spices and salt to taste

That’s it. Seriously. Some people like to put milk in it, but that stuff doesn’t usually agree with me, and since I’m sick I’m avoiding dairy (mucus producing). Some people don’t like the chunky tomatoes, but I do. If you don’t, just use more tomato sauce/puree. It’s damn tasty!

Heat it up in a sauce pan for an amount of time you deem appropriate (I let it go til it’s piping hot). I make fake-cheese sandwiches (the old comfort staple of grilled cheese and tomato soup). I recommend Lisanatti’s Almond cheese, the best fake cheese ever. No, I’m not a vegan, but dairy gives me a lot of problems, especially if I’m sick. My “grilled” cheese sandwiches I actually do in the toaster oven. I spread a tiny bit of softened butter (I use real butter cause margarine has soy and I’m allergic to soy) on the outside of the bread to give it that crisp, maybe a teaspoon or so on each side. Way healthier than the traditional, fried version. Melt the cheese on the bread in the over, and viola, healthy “grilled” cheese.

Another thing I thought of just now. If you’re sick, you shouldn’t eat junk food. You need to feed your body with the most nutritionally dense food you can so it can be extra strong to fight whatever microbe it’s trying to get rid of. Making it labor on empty calorie garbage only hinders the healing process.

So when my brain isn’t so foggy from sick, perhaps I can elaborate more on the subject of why people can’t take, “no thank you, I’m not hungry,” as an acceptable answer when they’re being offered food they don’t want.

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So I’m a single woman, and I live with a housemate who appreciates my cooking, but we work different schedules and cooking meals together doesn’t always sync up. We usually end up doing a nice meal together once a week or so, and the rest of the week we each fend for ourselves.

I am a strong advocate of Crock Pot meals, but I get tired of eating the same food 3 or 4 days in a row, so I tend to like to center my daily meal prep on things that are easy to make just a small portion of for one meal. Crock Pot meals, soups, and stews can be made into multiple, small servings and frozen in small containers if you have enough freezer space. I have gone through periods where I was really into doing this, and periods where I preferred to just kind of play it by ear, but keep lots of ingredients on hand.

I own a small rice cooker, which is very handy. Brown rice is definitely a staple in my diet. I will usually make a big batch of either rice or quinoa and just measure out a 1-cup portion for whatever meal I want to make. Making things like rice and dried beans ahead of time saves me time in my food prep and makes it easier to cook for myself. A lot of single people just figure they might as well eat out, but when you eat out you never know what you’re getting. At home, you get to make it exactly as you like, want, and need it, and it’s cheaper. I’ll make a giant pot of dried beans, let them cool, then put them on a cookie sheet spread out (so they don’t stick together as bad) with a little foil on top to keep them from getting freezer burn, let them freeze, them keep them in a plastic freezer bag. Then I just use as much as I need for a recipe. I usually alternate different types of beans so I don’t get too bored. It usually takes me a good month to go through a gallon freezer bag of beans, so each month I’ll try a different bean. I don’t do the same with lentils because they are way quicker to cook and take way less time, so why bother using the freezer space. I am lucky right now to have a sizable freezer with 2 shelves and side shelves. For awhile I lived in an apartment with a tiny fridge with an equally tiny freezer, which made all this prep work a lot more difficult.

I use frozen veggies, but I don’t overcook them. I usually steam them just enough to allow the water in them to make them hot, but I like them to still have some crunch. In the winter when the prices go up and I don’t have the farmer’s market, I usually stick to fresh veggies that are on the cheaper side (cucumbers, carrots, celery, cabbage, cawliflower – the 5 C’s) and for greens, peas, and corn (which I know is a grain and not a veggie) I use frozen.

For meat, I prefer to eat locally raised stuff that wasn’t fed hormones and such, which I have access to at the health store. But if I ate meat at every meal that would be cost-prohibitive. So I stretch out my meat supply with eggs, beans, natural peanut butter, and these awesome fake “chicken” tender things from Quorn (no soy, made from mycoprotein, and yummy). I do think humans should eat some meat in their diet, but it doesn’t have to be every meal, or even every day. I will buy a pack of chicken breasts, cut them into little tenders, and freeze what I’m not immediately using. I also get ground turkey, which even free-range and hormone/antibiotic free at the health food store, is not too expensive.

So a typical week consists of 5 workdays and 2 weekend days. Each day I eat 3 meals and 2 or 3 small snacks that can be no more than 100 calories (the snacks, not the meals). The snacks have to be quality and nutrient-dense, though. No 100-calorie junk food packs for me! Each meal allows for 2 servings of sensibly-cooked whole grains (1 serving cooked grain = 1/2 c., 1 serving dry cereal = 1 cup, 1 serving bread = 1 slice), 2 or 3 servings of either fruit or veggies, and one serving of protein. I don’t eat much dairy due to a minor allergy, but sometimes my snack will be some fat free yogurt. I’m pretty much also allowed to snack on as many carrots, celery, or cucumbers that I want/can (I can only buy so many afterall). On Sunday I eat a serving of cereal (usually oatmeal) and maybe a hardboiled egg for breakfast and just have a light snack in the early afternoon because I have a ritual with my parents that we go out to dinner on Sunday evening. That is my “cheat meal” of the week. I’m also allowed my one, small dessert of the week. I eat lighter earlier in the day to make up for it because usually at a restaurant you’re being served 2 or 3 meals in one. So basically in the morning and early afternoon I eat enough to keep me going til the big meal. For the cheat meal, I try to make it still fairly sensible, but I do get things I like. Luckily since I find a lot of healthy food really tasty, it isn’t hard for me to pick thing that are healthier and also enjoy it. I also don’t tend to like fried stuff anymore since it irritates my stomach. So even when I’m cheating, I’m doing way better than a lot of people who go out to eat. And whatever dessert I have is always a small, single-serving size, and always exactly what I want instead of just any old crap. It’s usually a small bit of ice cream or I’ll get 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate covered raisins from the bulk section at the store. This cheat designation helps me keep on track through the week. I thrive on ritual and routine when it comes to eating right and regulating indulgence. It’s those wacky times (like the holidays) where my schedule is all shot to hell that I have a hard time sticking with it.

For meals throughout the week, I try to keep supplies on hand that could make many different possibilities. I find when you’re planning specific recipes, it leads to overspending. So I just try to keep a lot of spices, canned tomatoes and sauce, curry pastes, etc. on hand so I can make a variety of different dishes with different flavors. I keep beans, rice, flour, salsa, and veggies and fruits. So I can make a lot of different things out of what I have on hand. This week I decided that some of my at-home meals could be based around some corn hard-taco shells and refried beans that were on sale at the store. I still have some salsa I bought last week, and I have some veggies I can use too. I paid about 3 bucks for the makings of 3 meals. Awesome! And I figure the rest of the week I’ll just play it by ear. I am a creative cook, so I like it that way. I don’t use recipes often, but I like to look at recipes and comb cookbooks just to get some ideas, then I tend to just play with it in the kitchen to achieve a certain flavor.

Usually for our weekly meal together, my housemate and I hit the market for meats and veggies that are on sale. It’s usually either boneless pork chops or steaks that are marked down. We’ll grill the meat and usually do some rice or baked potatoes, and stir-fried, roasted or raw veggies. We like to eat raw carrots and celery for snacks, so why not just eat them with your meal? Whatever flavors we feel like are usually in my kitchen with the exception of a few things. I make a lot of curry and stir-fry dishes. I also love spicy food, so I always have my standard bottle of “cock sauce”, Sri Racha on hand, as well as a few bottles of more intense hot sauces.

So that’s how I cook. The reason I posted this is that I’ve been asked lately what I eat and how I prepare it by people who admired my weight loss, wanting to know how I managed the whole eating thing. I will reiterate that my willpower is a constant evolution. I use a food journal every day, and recommend it to anyone who has had a problem with their weight and overeating. My rule is that every day I have to write down everything I eat, be honest about it, and look at it before I eat my next meal or snack to remind myself of what I’ve eaten. The reason I advocate so strongly for this is that it’s so easy to forget what you’ve eaten, or think that you only had a little bit of something when you had a lot.

The TLC network used to mostly have nature and science-related programming, but now it’s a bunch of, “hey look at the big, fat freak!” shows. I caught a few minutes of one late one evening where the people were hugely, morbidly obese and consumed unholy amounts of food at all times. They basically followed all these people in the documentary for a day and then at the end of the day they laid out everything the person ate that day on their kitchen table. It was alarming, and most of us don’t eat like that. But I’ll bet you five dollars that most of us eat more than we think we do while we’re not really paying attention.

The food journal keeps me aware and mindful. I strongly recommend it to anyone. It sounds like a pain in the ass, but it’s way worth it if it keeps you on track. And I’ve had a lot of people seeing me use it and comment on it, and usually they say it’s not a bad idea. At first I was like, “how embarrassing, they see me having to use a journal cause I’m a fatty-fat-fat,” but I’ve had multiple people comment that it was actually a pretty good idea and probably made it easier for me to watch my diet. This is true.

I tend to find that most people admire a very heavy person for taking control of their weight, anyway, and applaud their methods if they’re healthy ones. I’ve had a few idiots tell me not to lose any more weight because I look “fine” but I think that’s jealousy talking. The majority of people usually applaud the efforts of anyone trying to improve their health, whether it be to lose weight or quitting smoking, or something like that.

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