Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Chicken Pasta

Yes, we made organic free range chicken and tri-tip for Thanksgiving, not turkey. Get over it. My spouse has labored over turkey for almost two decades. He deserved a break.

As much as we like sandwiches, and reheated stuffing and potatoes (which I just had as a post-dinner snack - um, I did run 10 miles today), you gotta do something else sometimes.

So I threw together a pasta dish. It was *very* good, if I do say so myself. Kind of a French-Mediterranean fusion?

Chicken Pasta Skillet
1/2 lb tri-color bowtie pasta, cooked according to package directions: 0.60
8 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered: 1.59
One bunch onions (or one medium onion), diced: 0.50 - these are bigger than green onions
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
2 cloves garlic
a few sprigs dried thyme
a few cherry tomatoes from my still-producing plant, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 little bit of white wine (1/3 cup)
2/3 - 1 cup diced cooked chicken
7-8 kalamata olives, sliced
4 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
a little bit of leftover goat cheese
a few Tbsp of parmesan cheese
red chili flake

Heat the oil and butter in a nonstick skillet. Add onions and mushrooms and saute several minutes, until they are well-cooked and browned. Add salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, cherry tomatoes. Cook several minutes, until tomatoes have given up their liquid. Add the wine and cook another minute.

Add chicken, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and cook until chicken is warmed through. Add peas and cook until defrosted. Add cheese and red chili flake and toss.
Served with a green salad with oranges from our very own tree.

A Variety of Topics: on Health, Size, Weight, and Running

Boy, I've been thinking a lot lately about health, food, size, weight, and other topics. So, in no particular order...

1. Weight vs. Health: I've got a few favorite blogs (listed on the right). Two that I read nearly daily are Kath Eats and Eat Live Run. They have both covered the topic of weight recently. Both are younger women with very healthy diets and very healthy, active lifestyles. At some point, both got on the scale, and discovered a weight gain of 7-10 lbs.

In Kath's case, she decided awhile back to just not get on the scale and go by "how she feels". She was shocked to see the 7 lb weight gain, but decided that she feels great, so the number doesn't really matter.

For Jenna, she recently moved from Florida to California. Working in the wine industry, she discovered our fair state put about 10 lbs on her (I gained 25 when I moved here...and it wasn't the wine or fine food. It was pizza and burritos.) She also decided that she is going to enjoy the "fuller" look that she has.

So, is that okay? It's a trick question. The honest truth is that these women are beautiful, and even with the weight gain, both are still at very healthy weights, well within the BMI guidelines. It can be difficult, however, to accept a weight gain - to go from "thin" or "ideal" (from a media standpoint) body to what I consider a "normal" body. I know I have struggled with the same thoughts in the past.

7+ years ago, I lost 57 lbs. (Weight Watchers). I leveled out at a nice 125 lbs. Then there was trying to get pregnant and gaining, losing some, actually getting pregnant, taking longer to lose the baby weight... I eventually found myself back at 125 lbs. Then a vacation put me back at 130. Since, I've been 130-132, for the most part. I have maintained this weight almost effortlessly. When I occasionally hit 135, I do take care to watch the intake of wine, chocolate, and bread. There's still this tiny voice in my head telling me that 125 would be better. And I'm almost 40. I should know to ignore this voice. My husband and friends *really* don't like 125. Sometimes they are nice about it (sometimes not). But the fact is, my face gets really gaunt at 125 - so if I want "trim" hips and thighs (and they just aren't naturally thin), then it comes at the price of my face. I start looking old. So, okay.

I really like seeing young women with great habits also having good body acceptance (the earlier the better). Those two women are gorgeous, healthy, and fit and a TOTAL inspiration to this pushing-40 mama. There is so much disordered eating out there, from obesity to anorexia, bulimia, extreme food control, that finding a person with balance is refreshing.

This brings me to ...

2. Size. I've been thinking quite a bit lately about "vanity sizing". I discovered how ridiculous it has become when shopping for clothing at a CAbi party. I found a great pair of jeans, and the consultant suggested I buy a size 6. Um, I'm not a size 6. I was a six for awhile my freshman year in college when I was 20 lbs lighter and so skinny that I was amenhorreic. I ordered the 8. I got them home, tried them on, hemmed them. Then the first day that I wore them, they "stretched" and they are too darned big.

So why do I think this is awful? Well, I'm fit. I'm 5'2.5", and 130 lbs or so. I have a very curvaceous, muscular, lower half. I'm not offended at being in the double digits, really. But at this CAbi party, I have several friends who cannot even fit into a size ZERO anymore. So, I started thinking back.

In 1988, I was 110 lbs and a size 6.
In 1992, I was 130 lbs and a size 10-12.
In 1996, I got married at 135 lbs and my wedding dress was a 10 or a 12.
In 2002, I was 182 lbs and a size 18. When I lost weight, at around 130 lbs I was a 10. At about <127 lbs, I could comfortably fit into an 8.
In 2009, I am 130 lbs and a size 6 to 10.

To me, that looks like vanity sizes have dropped by at least two sizes (from a 12 to 8) in the last 17 years. I was the same size in 1992 as I am now. I mean, I bought running shorts in a small. A SMALL. Anyone who has seen my hips KNOWS I am not a small. I have to have my family order me shirts in a small because mediums (which I wore all the time 20 years ago) will swim on me.

So this made me wonder how long this has been going on. A simple google search did not turn up much useful information. Instead, I decided to google "1940's women's dress patterns". I used to sew clothing a bit in college, and from what I remember, you had to buy a pattern about two sizes up from what you bought in the store. If you were a 10 (as I was), you'd have to buy a size 14 pattern. Maybe that means vanity sizing started long ago, but the pattern makers did not catch up.

So I found this pattern.

I picked it because I measured my waist and hips, and they about match what this pattern said. When you look at the large image of the pattern, what does it say:

Size 16!! Yep. 16. (So don't listen when people tell you that Marilyn Monroe was a 12, when they talk about "size 12 isn't fat". Marilyn's size 12 wasn't what it is today.)

3. Running

I ran a 4-mile race on Thanksgiving. I felt GREAT. I finished in 36:46, beat my old best 4-miler time by 3 minutes. I passed people. A LOT of people. One of the guys that I caught up to was an old guy. He was hunched over. I stuck with him for about a mile, and was just thinking about passing him when we hit, oh, about 3.2 miles. Then he kicked it in. He just took off! I couldn't even keep up with him. Wow!

I went home and looked him up. 75 years old. He finished 5 people ahead of me. I hope that I'm running like that when I'm 75 (well, heck, I'd like to run that pace now). Older folks who are out there running are absolutely inspiring. Heck, all runners inspire me.

Today I ran 10 miles and I think I'm going to lose a toenail. Dang half marathon.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Some pictures

Photo download only works on the laptop these days, so I'm never writing the blog at the same time as uploading the photos. And blogger does this weird thing on windows where if I upload a photo into the blog, it inserts a line at every the ingredients list has a space between every line. It's annoying. Anybody know how to fix that? Because if I upload 3 pics, it does it 3 times.

So here are some pics of our food...the chickpea cutlets, the ravioli, and tonight's risotto and salmon wraps.

Salmon wraps and more risotto

Today, I made butternut squash risotto. For the recipe, please see acorn squash risotto. Sub butternut squash for the acorn, use only 3.5 cups of water/broth, and add in about 2 oz of goat cheese. It was really good, a bit sweeter than the acorn squash version. Made a ton.

With the macaroni, sesame cashew noodles, risotto, and salmon sandwich filling, I don't think I need to cook the rest of the week, until Thanksgiving. The big T-day is traditionally my spouse's day to cook. We decided to bag the bird this year. Instead, we went with a free-range chicken and a free-range beef tri-tip. We did that combo for Xmas last year, and it was MUCH easier than trying to get a bird that's not too dry or undercooked.

For the salmon wraps, I searched for "canned salmon recipes". Why canned salmon? It's frugal, it's healthy (omega-3's), and it's sustainable. But how many salmon patties can a family eat? Well really, we eat about one can of salmon a month. I'm not sure that's really enough to get the benefit of the omega 3's, but when I remember, I also throw chia seeds in oatmeal or grind up flax seeds in bread or smoothies. I didn't remember to do that this morning. We had smoothies with apple, frozen banana, strawberries, spinach, and OJ. They were...kind of a greenish brown, but they tasted pretty good.

Back to the canned salmon recipes...go to the source, in this case the Alaska Seafood organization. Quite a few recipes, and at least more than one that I would try. The one I used is here.

Alaskan Salmon Sandwich spread
14 oz can salmon, drained and flaked: $2.50
8 oz softened light cream cheese: 1.69 (I haven't been shopping the sales lately).
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives: 0.50 (I wish I could get chives to grow in my garden).
1.5 tsp italian seasoning: 0.10
1/2 tsp onion powder: 0.05
1/2 tsp red chili flake: 0.05
salt and pepper to taste
juice of one lemon: 0.25

Total: $5.14 for about 6-7 wraps worth, or $0.73 per serving. We served with chopped lettuce, shredded carrot, and some olives. I used whole wheat tortillas, at about $0.40 each.

Friday, November 20, 2009

30 minute ravioli

So, It's Tuesday (just...pretend). And you're at a mom/toddler "Thanksgiving" party thrown by your lovely friend Linda. Who took over for you because you were sick. But means she totally went way beyond whatever you were going to do. (Man, it was good.)

But you don't really want to eat, because you still have to go home and cook for the hubby. You do, however, grab some green beans and let yourself get talked into a piece of pumpkin pie. Your toddler chows on grapes, a corn muffin, and pumpkin pie.

So you get home at 6:25 pm and the hubby is starving. You let him make himself a sandwich (his choice). But there's nothing for lunch tomorrow. What to do?

Enter the less-than-30 min ravioli.

Step 1: Start boiling water for ravioli.
Step 2: Heat a little canola oil in a nonstick pan
Step 3: Chop and onions, red bell pepper, 3 stalks celery. Cook until soft, then add 2 garlic cloves, the rest of a can of chickpeas. Cook until the chickpeas are browning in place. Add a can of diced tomatoes, some dried basil, oregano, and pepper. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes.
Step 4: When boiling, add 1/2 lb mini ravioli. Boil according to package directions.
Step 5: Add some olives to the sauce.
Step 6: Drain pasta, toss with sauce, serve.

27 minutes, start to finish. We've had some for lunches this week, and it was quite tasty.

30 minute ravioli:
1 T. canola oil: 0.03
1/2 lb dried mini ravioli: 1.00
3 celery stalks: 0.45
4 green onions, sliced: 0.25
1 red bell pepper: 0.85
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
1 can diced tomatoes: 0.62
1/2 can chickpeas: 0.45
a few olives: 0.40
basil, oregano, pepper: 0.20
Total: $4.35 for about 6 servings, or $0.73 per serving.

Of course, after all that, at about 7 pm, toddler says "where's dinner", but is perfectly happy topping off the "dinner" with a banana.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon

I didn't take a picture, we just ate them. These were:
1. very easy
2. very tasty

Next time, I might try them with a mushroom gravy or even a mustard sauce.

You can find the recipe on-line here (or even google it and you'll find it elsewhere too, along with pictures).

1 c. chickpeas (I was lazy and used canned): 0.40
2 T. olive oil: 0.20
1/2 c. vital wheat gluten: 0.87 (I'm going off memory here)
1/2 c. plain breadcrumbs: free
1/4 c. water
2 T. soy sauce: 0.12
2 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.10
1/2 tsp lemon zest: 0.15
1/2 tsp dried thyme: 0.05
1/2 tsp paprika: 0.03
1/4 tsp sage: 0.05
2T. canola oil for pan-frying: 0.08

Total: $2.05 for 4 cutlets, or $0.51 each (wow! that's cheap!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What's in my fridge?

I was inspired by Green and Crunchy's recent blog post to take a picture of my fridge. Now, my fridge is not nearly as neat as hers (I took the pic on Friday, home sick, no energy to organize it).

And of course, we're not vegan and we don't have 5 children, so you'll see different items and in different amounts.

And the pic was taken two days ago, so we've eaten some stuff (kale, soup, strawberries) and have added others (eggplant, peppers, celery).

Top shelf: salsa (2 jars), strawberry jam, sunflower seed butter, organic natural peanut butter, almond butter from the farmer's market, blue cheese, parmesan cheese, yeast, organic yogurt, chocolate milk (daddy had the day off this week), sour cream.

Cheese drawer: havarti, cheddar, american, cream cheese, and BOLOGNA (did I mention daddy had the day off? We haven't had bologna in the house in at least 5 years...)

Shelf #2: 1 pt. strawberries from the CSA, TJ's hummus, tahini, more American cheese (gotta love Costco).

Shelf #3: Oikos yogurt, 3 pints of farmer's market strawberries.

Bottom shelf: Water, 3# bag of pink lady apples, apple cider from the farmer's market (same place as the apples), large head romaine lettuce, leftover butternut squash soup, wheat germ.

Left drawer: 1 bunch kale, 1 1/2 bunches radishes, 2 granny smith apples from the boss's tree, 1.5 lb of pink lady apples (yes, I love them), 1 bunch green onions, 1 bunch arugula, 3/4 lb of anaheim and jalapeno peppers.

Right drawer: 1/2 head red leaf lettuce, 4 limes, 1 bunch cilantro.
Yes, there are a lot of plastic bags in there to keep the food fresh, but I do wash and reuse them.

Meal Plan for the Week

I decided to start posting my meal plans so that I can look back and see what I made each year in case I get bored with the same old...

11/13 Friday: veggie burgers, salad
11/14 Saturday: sesame cashew noodles, kale chips, butternut squash soup (leftover)
11/15 Sunday: caponata, chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, salad
11/16 Monday: sweet potato fries, salad, leftover caponata
11/17 Tuesday: fried rice with egg, peas, green onion, celery, bell pepper
11/18 Wednesday: Shithi's lentils from freezer, naan
11/19 Thursday: leftover lentils and naan

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pasta Salad

So, this was a big, busy weekend. First, I don't know if you heard, but I ran a half marathon. :) My dear friends invited us over for dinner (albondigas soup, chicken, bread, salad) so that I didn't have to cook.

Then my spouse tore a muscle in his leg, which necessitated a trip to the ER. So that meant my day was spent doing laundry, cooking, and doing dishes. I didn't need to cook dinner (dear neighbors had us over for dinner), but I definitely needed to prep something for lunches this week.

I decided on a pasta-style salad, in true Marcia style, which means "throw in whatever I've got". I have two bunches of arugula, which is a total pain to clean and use, so I made a big batch of arugula pesto ("big batch", meaning "6 ice cubes" in the tray). I kept a lot of the ingredients raw, because I think it tastes better that way. And it's easier.

Arugula pesto:
2 bunches arugula, washed, trimmed, and spun dry
1/3 to 1/2 cup almonds (I toasted mine)
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In food processor, chop garlic. Use spatula to scrape sides, add almonds, and chop until almonds are mostly chopped.

Add 1/2 the arugula and process until smooth. Add the remaining arugula and the cheese and salt. Process until arugula is fully pureed. Add olive oil in a thin stream while processor is still running until you get desired consistency.

Pesto pasta
1/2 lb mini ravioli, cooked according to package directions
1/3 cup arugula pesto
4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
6 green olives, sliced
3 radishes, sliced
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 lb green beans, steamed and sliced
1 small summer squash, cut into short matchsticks
salt, pepper, and red-wine vinegar to taste

Mix all ingredients and chill.

Photo to come later...upgraded software means we can't upload pics from the camera right now.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


10:28 per mile, 82/152 in my age group. Not as good as I was hoping for, but still decent. I had to work through a couple of side stitches, a sore hip, and the desire to throw up for the last mile. I managed to hold a 10:00 mile for about 8 miles or so. (The first mile and 7 in the middle, in between the side stitches.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Acorn Squash Risotto

Have I mentioned that I am in love with risotto? Especially in the pressure cooker? I think I have.

Today, it was even worth the blister on my thumb (from cutting and peeling and dicing a couple of acorn squash).

I am always looking for a good squash recipe. But the first gazillion acorn squash recipes you find are sliced and stuffed. Not really in the mood for that. But then I thought "risotto", and hit pay dirt.

My ending recipe was a combination of two found here and here. Now, you probably can't go wrong with Mario Batali (but really, he goes a little heavy on the butter). And the other one I just like because it's stored at So what are recipes doing in the computer science department at CMU? I dunno, but it's my alma mater, so I had to use it.

Acorn squash risotto
2 T olive oil, divided: $0.22
1 small acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1/4 inch pieces: $2.00 (just a guess, we got this from the CSA)
1 onion, diced: 0.25
2 cups arborio rice: 2.50
1/2 cup white wine: 0.40
3.5 to 4 cups vegetable broth: 0.50 (I used water and a veggie broth cube)
1 T. butter: 0.06
1/2 cup grated parmesan: 0.63
salt and pepper to taste
Total: $6.56 for about 8 cups, or $0.82 per cup

Saute onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil in pressure cooker for about 5 min, until softening. Add squash and continue to cook, stirring, for 10 min.

Add rice and other Tbsp olive oil, and toast rice a bit. Add wine and broth. Put cover on pressure cooker and lock into place.

Bring to high pressure over high heat. Once at pressure, reduce heat to maintain high pressure. Cook for 5 min at high pressure.

Remove from heat, run under cold water (quick-release method). Stir. It might be pretty soupy. Add butter and parmesan and stir some more.

This was SOOOO delicious. Yum yum yum. I served it with baked chicken, baked marinated tofu, and salad.