Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup - and taking care of myself

Every once in awhile, I sit and think about my life.  I say every once in awhile, because with two kids (one a baby), a husband and a job, I don't have much time to sit and think.  (Hey, last night I came home early from a 7 year old's birthday party, put the baby to bed, and had time to READ.  First book I cracked since 2 days before the baby was born.  I'm a voracious reader, so it was a long dry spell.)

I was thinking about how my life's approach to health has changed with this second baby.  With my first, I worked out a lot more.  I was going to do it all.  Sure, I wanted to lose weight (but it took 2 years, so I wasn't going nuts at it), but most of the exercise I was doing was for my sanity.  I was working full time, nursing, pumping, exercising 5 days a week.  And I was exhausted.  From November through March, I was sick with one cold or flu after another.  I was healthy for about 30 days out of the 5 months, only a few days at a stretch.

This time around, I was smarter...or I'd like to think so.  I mean, I'm over 40 this time, so that's a factor.  For one thing, I made it clear to my workplace that I was going back part time (80%).  They were remarkably fine with it.  Although truth be told, they responded by increasing my workload when I got back from maternity leave.  This means...that I'm not getting everything done (80% of the time, 120% of the THAT math.)  I have also not been so into the exercise this time.  I still do it - it keeps me sane - but it's on the order of 2-4 days a week, for 30 minutes at a time.  Yes, at this rate, it will take a LOT longer to lose the weight.  I was going hardcore on the Fit Yummy Mummy program (that sucker WORKS), but as soon as I went back to work, I got sick (week one!).  So I've continued with the exercise part of the program (weights and intervals), but have not been counting calories since then.  So I haven't lost any more weight.

I am also VERY MUCH prioritizing sleep.  Americans, on the whole, do not get enough sleep.  I was incredibly sleep deprived during my pregnancy.  I had insomnia for a couple of hours every night, and got about 6 hours of broken sleep each night.  Only when I started going to acupuncture was I able to get better sleep at least a few days a week.  Sure, it was great practice for the newborn phase.  But I cannot tell you how nice it has been that baby #2 started sleeping 9-11 hours at a stretch at 12 weeks.  (Except for last night. He was up a lot.  I was hurting.)  I generally get 7 hours straight these days.

The baby caught a cold just before Christmas and has had a runny nose and cough.  His cough last night had me up three times between 9 and 1.  Added to that - he has a new skill - he is learning to "talk" (babble), and he was talking too.  In his SLEEP.  (It's so freaking adorable I can't STAND it!!)  I have been trying to avoid catching his cold - but babies, they sneeze in your face.  My "regimen" for preventing colds - lots of fluids, Emergen-C, Zicam tablets a few times a day, hot tea, soup, and lots of sleep.  Things that I avoid - any kind of hard exercise (heavy weights, any cardio harder than walking), and alcohol.  These, along with sleep deprivation, weaken my immune system and make it much more likely that I will get sick.  This is a big reason why I haven't gotten back into running yet, and probably won't until I stop nursing.  Or at least until after cold and flu season ends.

So today, I made soup for dinner.  With the sick baby, I've been home a lot and hadn't planned a dinner. I know it's weird - I'm home, so I tend to not plan as much and "wing it".  This stresses me out and makes it hard to fall asleep, my brain is constantly running.  When I got up this morning, I decided on crockpot chicken tortilla soup.  I found about three recipes on the internet and used them all as a jumping off point because I wasn't going to go shopping.  The best thing is that you can use a bunch of frozen stuff in the soup.  We also had kale chips - greens are probably really good for fighting off illness.

Crockpot chicken tortilla soup
1 lb 4 oz chicken (this happened to be the size of the 2 breasts I had): $2.49
1 onion, diced (Biz, you can leave that out): 0.20
1/4 of a 1-lb bag of frozen tri-color peppers, diced: 0.50
3 cloves garlic: 0.15
4 cups chicken stock: free (I make my own from carcasses)
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes: 0.60 (I am going to puree these next time so 6yo doesn't complain)
1/2 bag frozen corn: 0.60
1 pint home canned salsa: 0.60
1 tsp cumin: 0.10
1/2 tsp chili powder: 0.05
2 Tbsp diced hot pepper (from my freezer stash): 0.15
1 to 2 cups cooked beans: 0.50
1 cup water
a few Tbsp commercial salsa
1 tsp salt

Cheddar cheese and broken tortilla chips for serving.

Cook everything on high for several hours.  I think I had it in there for 7 hours.  I threw the chicken in frozen.  The chicken stock was frozen too - that didn't work too well, so I had to heat that on the stove eventually.  If I start with frozen meat, I prefer to start it on high so that the meat doesn't sit in any temperature "danger zone".  Shred the chicken with a fork before you serve it.

Total: $5.94 for...12 cups maybe? enough soup for probably four meals for the 3 of us.  Less than 50 cents a cup, not counting the cheese and tortilla chips (we used the crumbs).

I was going to leave out the beans, because I didn't have any cooked or canned beans.  But then I saw this bag of little green shelled beans from the CSA.  Man, it took 20 mins to clean them...they were DIRTY, not to mention the bug or two I had to get out of there.  But they cooked up in about 40 min.

We ate this with store bought taquitos and homemade guacamole...and the kale chips, of course.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas...enjoying the season

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas!  I sit here on Christmas morning enjoying my family.  Boy how times have changed.  Before we had kids (and even for a  year after), we would always be flying to the northeast to spend holidays with family.  This was a mixed blessing, because traveling over the holidays really sucks, someone is usually sick (or gets sick), and the weather is the big unknown.  But family is awesome.

Most of the time these days, we stick to our little corner of So. Cal. for Christmas.  We had many years of inviting friends over for the holiday dinner.  But now our kids are in school, and all of our vacations are on the school schedule, so our friends tend to be traveling.  And that's okay.  Now with the two kiddos, I have to say that it's nice to just chill out.  Especially today when the baby has a cold...sounds like a barking seal ... poor guy.  He's still sleeping and his big brother is working on the first of many Star Wars Legos.

The advantage to keeping it small is that I can decide which day to do the big dinner (or to do none at all).  This year, the big dinner (ham this year) is today on Christmas day.  We often do it on Christmas eve.  Last night, we kept it simple with leftover crockpot lasagna, roasted butternut squash, and crackers with spinach and artichoke dip.

Santa was good to me this year.  Aside from time with my wonderful family, I got great kitchen items... a salad dressing bottle (with recipes), a new nonstick skillet (mine seem to wear out every 6 months), a new cast iron skillet, and a new rice cooker.  I also got a magazine subscription and four new shirts/sweaters (the pre pregnancy shirts do not fit over the nursing-mother and post pregnancy body).

For my family, I sewed a bag for my husband's tablet computer (from the bottoms of my son's holey-jeans-turned-shorts), and I sewed a Star Wars blanket and pillowcase for my son.  For the baby we wrapped some hand me down toys. :)  I feel very blessed.  I have friends who are out of work and have to scrounge and sell items in order to buy gifts for their kids.

I'm sure the day is going to be full of building the pile of Star Wars legos that my older son got. I've already started on the Zicam and Vitamin C (babies...they cough and sneeze ALL OVER YOU).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Good Winter Foods and Frugal Foods

So, tonight I had a dinner that takes me back to the good old days.  We had black bean soup leftover from last night, roasted potatoes, and kale chips.

It almost didn't make it onto the table.  And I didn't get pictures.

The black bean soup is something I made yesterday.  It almost didn't get made.  I had an afternoon cookie swap with some friends, and didn't get home until late.  Luckily, I had done a lot of preparation.  I had soaked and cooked a pound of black beans in the pressure cooker in the morning.  I'd made a big batch of chicken stock on Saturday.  I chopped the carrots and onions before I left.  And I had blanched frozen broccoli in the freezer.  On the way home I was THIS CLOSE to stopping at The Habit burger grill for burgers.  What stopped me?  A few things:
1.  Dinner for 3 would have been close to 30 bucks
2.  Burgers and fries...not very healthy
3.  I had a FOOD PLAN

It did take awhile to make the soup.  We ended up bathing and feeding the baby first and eating at 7 pm (our normal is between 6 and 6:30).  I was very proud to get dinner on the table for a few bucks.

This was a "put whatever you  have in the pot" black bean soup.  Black beans, chicken stock, onion, celery, carrot, frozen peppers, cumin, garlic, oregano.  I pureed it with the immersion blender when done, and tossed in some homemade crockpot refried beans too.

I have been working on getting back into Frugality mode for my dinners.  I've been shopping the sales a bit more.  This weekend I bought a ham for Christmas for 49 cents a pound at Fresh and Easy.  I also got 10 lbs of potatoes for $2.  Now, that's a lot of potatoes for us.  They are hard to store (though this time of year, I could probably figure out how to store them in the laundry room, which is always cold, except when we are drying clothes).  Anyway, we will be eating a lot of potatoes. 

The potatoes almost didn't make it onto the table.  Or at least, the baby has been very fussy earlier.  Which means he wants to go to sleep earlier. It makes it difficult to get dinner on the table when dealing with a baby who wants to go to bed at 5:45 pm (husband doesn't come home until 6 or later).  In any event, our son and I ate first, then my husband ate while I fed the baby.

The biggest way to save money on food is to not waste food.  We have not been that great the last month.  I ended up tossing 1/2 lb of swiss cheese and 1/2 lb of havarti that just went bad.  My husband only eats the havarti on homemade bread, but we 've been eating cereal for breakfast instead. The swiss?  I've been eating it for lunch pretty often (we buy it at Costco in the 2 lb package), but it was moldy today, and I'm not sure why.  I think it's time to stop buying so much cheese.  Or at least when I do, immediately freeze half.  In my normal cooking mode it's not a problem to go through these things in a timely manner.  But in my "I have a stressful job, a first grader, and I'm nursing a baby" mode, things go bad.  Normal cooking mode: I cook what will go bad first, and if I don't think I'll get to it, then I will cook and freeze it.

For example, things I'll have to prep/cook/eat so they don't go bad: (this week)
fresh parsley
green onions
refried beans

I also have carrots and butternut squash, but those last forever.

Anyway, this is the last week of the CSA until February, so I get a good 6 or 7 week break.  During the winter, I tend to buy the same 6 things at the farmer's market, which is MUCH easier to prep and cook (broccoli, kale, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower)

I hope to have more time to post our eats and pictures in the next few weeks.  I admit that we eat about four things every week.  Two different dinners, one lunch (we eat it every day), and one night of chicken fingers and broccoli.  So, it's not terribly exciting.  I have been getting better at the crockpot, and crockpot lasagna is so laughably easy and tasty it will become a regular meal (if only I could make it with those potatoes...)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hello again

So the blog has been a bit inactive lately.  I apologize.  The family and I have been on an extended vacation in Tahiti.

Obviously, I jest.  Would be nice, no?  Sadly, the month of November has been work work work, with a short long-weekend of Legoland.  I should write a post about how we did Legoland San Diego on the cheap!  Oh, who am I kidding.  We bled money.  On top of that, I had to fork out big money for a crown on a tooth.  November = expensive, and not even related to Christmas.

By the way, if you want to know how to do Legoland on the cheap:
1.  Buy tickets ahead of time and find a discount.  We get discounts with our Axxess card, but there are other options.
2.  Get a cheap hotel, or extended stay room (with a kitchen), or camp.  We stayed at a fancy resort right across the road from a great looking beachfront campground.  Campground: $35 a night.  Resort?  $230 a night.  Ah, the price you pay for last minute bookings on Thanksgiving weekend.
3.  Cook.  Our room had a microwave and fridge.  We didn't use the microwave.  We did have breakfast included.  One big way to save?  Eat lunch before you head into the park, or take sandwiches with you.  Lunch for 3 in the park will set you back 40 or 50 bucks.
4.  Stay away from the Lego store, unless you are using it to buy gifts for holidays, etc.  That stuff is expensive.  But they do have sales.
5.  Stay away from the Carnival games.  They will bleed you dry.  However, if you insist on playing one, just fork out 10 bucks for 4 tries.  You are basically guaranteed a prize.  If you fork out 3 bucks a try at 3 different places, you may get nothing.
6.  A few rides are extra.  Avoid these.
7.  Enjoy the scenery while you are there.  Go for a hike.  Walk on the beach.  Free entertainment!
8.  Don't forget your reusable water bottles at home.  D'oh!
9.  Don't be lured in by the photo takers at the entrance. Bring your own camera.
10.  If you get wet on one of the rides, use your shivering child to get sympathy points.  One of the families will likely let you join them in the "family dryers" which, incidentally, are five bucks.

Even with 1-10, it's not going to be cheap.  Just a warning!  Personally, I'm generally not a fan of amusement parks. I'd rather go camping. But it's a nice trip for the kiddo.

And for your food photos:
I can't post them.  Apparently, I'm out of space.  I have to pay extra if I want more storage.  I have to think about if I want to do that first.  Hmmm...

Anyway, I roasted a chicken on vegetables (Ina Garten!) and made crockpot lasagna.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What have we been eating?

All sorts of stuff

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What nursing mothers really eat

If you are reading KERF (Kath Eats), and you are wondering how she survives on the miniscule portions of food she eats as a nursing mother...yeah, me too.

I've got a 3 month old and I'm trying (and succeeding) at losing weight.

Here's what I had for dinner one night last week.

 Big salad with pears, blue cheese, avocado.

Carrot ginger soup (Trader Joe's, not my homemade)

Homemade bread, expensive cheese, crackers, and kielbasa.

And I went back for extra cheese and kielbasa.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sickness and Recovery - Soup! Pie!

So last week was the week that it all hit the fan.  It was my first week back to work 80%.  Well, it should have been.  I ended up with a stomach bug and both kids were sick with a fever/cough.  So Tuesday, I left early due to lack of sleep and stomach issues.  Thursday I was home with a sick baby.  Friday I was home half day with a sick baby.  Husband was out of town Tuesday and Wednesday.  Fun times.  It can only get better from here, right?

So I didn’t eat all of the food that I’d planned for the week.  I laid off the vegetables.  I really only ate enough to keep going.  We did finish off the cream of celery soup by Friday:

I ended up eating a lot of homemade applesauce and toast.  I used some of my time home with the sick baby to make pomegranate juice.  We had 6 pomegranates.  We have four more again.  Ugh.  They are too much work.
Now it’s Sunday and the hubby and I feel like we are coming down with the same cold that the boys have.  It’s expected when babies sneeze and cough on you.  I’m loading up on Emergen-C and Zicam. 

Thursday night my hubby brought home a roasted chicken from Costco.  We ate it with the Mexican rice, guacamole, cheese, sour cream.  And carrot sticks.  Friday night I threw some carrot, onion, and celery bits in with the chicken carcass into the crockpot and made stock.  Saturday night I made chicken and rice soup (trying to head this cold off at the pass).  I started with the recipe from The PrudentHomemaker.  I had celery in the freezer (I can never finish off a bunch of celery, so I blanch and freeze the rest), carrots (3 bunches from the CSA, but I didn't use that many!), and green onions.  I bought a 5 pound bag of rice for $2.69 from Smart and Final so needed to use some of that up.  I basically made a double batch, which means I used 1 cup of raw rice.  I added dried thyme and parsley.  The stock was very yummy and gelatinous. I probably should have diluted it and saved some of the yumminess for later.  But I didn’t.

I also made olive and rosemary bread.  I like no-knead bread but never plan enough in advance.  So I used a rustic white bread recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Family cookbook, except I used the bread machine to make the dough.  And I added some olives and rosemary.  The bread machine just doesn’t beep loud enough when it’s time to add the mix-ins, so I guesstimated.

Then I realized it wouldn’t be done in time for dinner.  It’s 2.5 hours on the dough cycle.  Then you shape it and let it rise for an hour.  Then it needs to bake for 45 minutes.  Then it needs to cool for two hours.  Dinner at 8 pm anyone?  So I cut the dough in half and baked two loaves for faster baking and cooling.  I used the method in Healthy Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, which involves baking on the pizza stone.  That cut rising to 45 minutes, baking to 30 minutes, and cooling to about an hour.  It was ready for dinner at 6:30 pm.

Both the soup and the bread were fabulous, along with a romaine salad with pears, walnuts, blue cheese, and avocado, with balsamic vinaigrette.

Sunday morning I got started right away (after feeding the baby…he’s waking in the night again due to the illness) on mini-pumpkin pies.  This is a recipe from my grain-free and dairy-free neighbor.  They are delish!  She uses honey, I use maple syrup.  I made up the crust and put them in the muffin tin and put them into the freezer.  Then I took a nap.  Then I finished them off.  I’m not gluten, dairy, or grain free, but hey, if it’s good, it’s good.  She actually combined two different recipes to make them.

Mini Pumpkin pies:
The crust:
Scant 2 cups nut flour (I used almond flour)
1 Tbsp coconut flour
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
2 tsp coconut oil
Mix in a food processor until it forms a ball.  Mine never really did, but it did get sticky enough.  Coat the muffin tins with coconut oil and then put a heaping Tbsp of crust in each.  Flatten along the bottom and partway up the side. I had enough for 12 muffins.  Cool in the fridge 1 hour.  Bake at 350F for 8 minutes.

The filling:
2 cups/1 can pumpkin puree
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
1 cup coconut milk (I used the full fat version)
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg

Bake at 325F for about 45 minutes, or until brown on top. 
This made extra filling, so I threw 3 silicone baking cups in with just the filling, to finish it off.

I almost never say this, but...I used 1/3 cup of maple syrup in the filling.  Next time I'll use 1/2 cup.  I rarely think things need to be sweeter.  I'm almost always cutting back on the sugar.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Husband Travel Week

Here's a tip about me: I like having family dinner.  I also would prefer my family eat together and that the  meal be hot.  Yesterday was a fail on many levels.  We didn't eat together, the steak was overdone, and the food was cold.  On a Saturday, when it should be easier, it wasn't.  I was disappointed.  And my six year old was cranky from the trifecta, not enough sleep, a very active day, and a flu shot.

Spouse is traveling this week.  Of course, it's the week my schedule at work increases to its new normal (80%).  It's probably the fastest possible trip to the east coast (for a 3 hour meeting) possible.  Fly out one day, fly back the next.  Assuming he makes the plane.  Traffic in DC, you never know.

So here's the plan for the week:

Lunches: bean and vegetable burritos.  I made these this morning between 6 and 7 am while the hubby and baby were sleeping and the kiddo was playing a Star Wars video game (don't judge).

Saturday: steak, roasted potatoes, salad with pomegranates.  I got six this week from the CSA. They are a pain in the ass.  But tasty.

Sunday: leftover steak, cream of celery soup, Mexican red rice.  This is the second week in a row of celery from the CSA, and it's just not "snacking celery", it's small, hard, and chewy.  It's definitely cooking celery.  Most of last week's celery went into a freezer bag for future vegetable stock, with carrot peels and onion pieces. 

Monday: leftover rice, kidney beans, cheese, broccoli.

Tuesday: chicken fingers, tater tots, carrots

Wednesday: frozen pizza, and whatever vegetables I happen to still have in the fridge at that time.  It's hard to predict.

Thursday/ Friday: I have no idea.  Maybe grilled cheese with soup?  Scrambled eggs?  Falafel?  I'd have to have the energy to cook up the chickpeas, so maybe not falafel.

Other random cooking:
Applesauce.  I used some crappy apples and pears and some good apples from my boss's orchard, and made two ridiculously easy batches of pressure cooker applesauce.  One plain, one with cinnamon.

I also made gluten-free pumpkin bread.  My neighbor is gluten free (and starch free), and she gave me a bite of bread and a bite of some mini pumpkin pies that she'd made, and they were awesome.  I made the bread which was also crazy-easy: almond flour, eggs, maple syrup, pumpkin, spices, baking soda.  Very moist.  I want to try the mini pumpkin pies next weekend with the rest of the pumpkin, which I should probably freeze.

Well, off to finish my coffee.  My plan is to go for a walk today and then head to the Lemon festival with the family.  After that, stop off at the pumpkin patch for a photo-op with the baby's friends.  He's going to be Superman.  And he slept 12 hours last night.  12.  hours.  I'd heard about babies and kids who did that.  I thought they were a myth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tastes like...

I could say "chicken".  Because we grilled chicken this weekend (it was black on the outside and raw on the inside...not our best work).  And I made my standard Trader Joe's breaded frozen chicken on Tuesday.  And Wednesday we had leftover Crockpot Butter Chicken from last week (I froze it) over the mashed potatoes we had on Saturday. (The most successful dish of the "burned chicken" night.)

But what I really mean is to channel Biz and say "tastes like ass".  Because this weekend I bought some fruit at Ralph's. And it sucked.  I bought pears which were hard and tasteless, and apples that were mealy and gross.  I mean, it's October.  Apple season, right?  Ugh, how can the apples be mealy and tasteless?  They were galas.

The last two pears and the apples are getting turned into applesauce with some better fruits this weekend, from my boss's tree and the CSA.  I bought the apples before the boss brought in the fruit.

I am a fruit snob.  From now on, I will stick to Trader Joe's for apples (pink ladies, never mealy) and cantaloupe, the farmer's market, the CSA, or my boss's trees.  Actually, last week I bought pears at Tri County Produce, and as expected (based on the store name), they were quite good.

The rest of the week has gone along as planned:

Saturday: burned chicken, mashed potatoes, salad.  At 8 pm we were eating the still burned but no longer raw chicken, that was finished in the oven.
Sunday: More of the chicken made into quesadillas with guac, green beans, mashed potatoes
Monday:  The last of the chicken and some frozen meatballs, broccoli, mashed potatoes
Tuesday: Chicken fingers, tater tots, Indian spiced cauliflower

Wednesday: Crockpot Indian Butter chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed cauliflower with feta.  Now, why I didn't make the Indian spiced cauliflower the same night as the Indian butter chicken...I dunno, I'm weird that way.

Thursday: The last of the Indian chicken with some mashed potatoes and maybe more potatoes if we run out of mashed. looks like carrots.  I think that's the only veg left in the fridge.
Friday:  Wow, I thought the curry chicken would take me until then, but it probably won't.  So probably we'll have grilled cheese sandwiches with a vegetable.

Lunch for the adults is Spaghetti Amatriciana.  I cooked up a pound of pasta and it makes 10 lunches.  Plus we're eating leftover veggies, hard boiled eggs, and carrot sticks.

Breakfast for the kiddo has been pancakes that I made on Sunday morning and froze.  I've been eating yogurt with fruit or toast, depending on whether it's a workout day or not.  Toast if it's a workout day.

The mashed potatoes were quite good and not really pictured.  You can kinda see them under that curry chicken.  We got chives.  So, they have chives, butter, milk, cream cheese, and sour cream.

The Indian spiced cauliflower was great.  I used the aloo gobi spice mix.  I steamed 1/2 head of cauliflower (it was a big head) for 3 minutes in the microwave.  I then sauteed it in one Tbsp oil in a skillet until it started to brown.  Cauliflower absorbs a lot of oil.  Then I added the spices and stirred (I used 1/4 of the spice mixture, because the full recipe has a full head of cauliflower AND potatoes), and added 1/4 cup of water, covered, reduced heat, and simmered about 5 minutes until done.

On that note, I still have a kid's lunch to pack before bedtime.  On a new-mommy note, I'd like to add that my 3 month old baby has slept 8-10 hours for three nights in a row.  From about 7:30 to 4:30 or 5:30.  I may have to revise my statement that he's the hard baby.  His big brother didn't sleep that long until 8 months.

And he's so snuggly.  I'm lovin' the snuggles I get from my boys.  Pure heaven.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Saturday was grill night!  This week we experimented with pork tenderloin.  I used a dry rub from America's Test Kitchen Family favorites and followed their grilling instructions...success!

We got a boatload of parsley this week. As big as my  head.  So I looked up parsley recipes and settled on chimichurri.  I mixed a couple of recipes know, I winged it.  I started here, but added cilantro instead of oregano and used less olive oil.  I used garlic from our CSA.  LOOK at the size of this clove. 

This is one clove.  It's the size of 10 regular cloves.  I chopped it into 9 pieces to put through the press and saved the extra in a container in the fridge.  It went into today's Indian Butter Chicken (crockpot).

I also did a repeat of the Moroccan Carrot Salad.  This time with baby carrots because I hit Trader Joe's during stock up hour and they were out of the regular carrots.

And I followed it up with this crockpot bean dish.  I got this recipe from a cooking class and I love it.  But...I think I ate too much of it.  Gave me some tummy issues later.  From now on: 1/2 cup of beans is fine.  A full cup is pushing it!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

FYM Phase 1 results

I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but I've been working on losing some of the baby weight.  While I gained 35 lbs with my first pregnancy 6 years ago, this time I gained 50.  And my top weight was 188 lbs.  Yikes.  I'm 5'2.5".

Generally, the first couple of weeks, you can lose 15 to 20 lbs without effort. becomes more effort.  Especially if  you are nursing.  Sure you are burning more calories, but then again, you are starving.

Four weeks ago, I decided to get cracking.  Back in September 2011, I bought an E-book based on a recommendation of a blogger I read called "Fit Yummy Mummy".  She'd used it to get fit.  Now, she warned folks that the website looks kind of "spammy" (and she's right), but that it's a good program.

I bought the system for $30.  I have a thing for different workouts.  I have workout DVDs and books and cards.  I like variety.  I read through the system briefly, started working out using the "beginner" recommendations, and found out I was pregnant 6 weeks later.  Um...

So I dusted off my FYM E-book and printed a few more pages.  I really like the system because it is balanced and healthy.  Her recommendations include diet (eat cleanly, count calories, eat a variety of food types) and exercise.  Her exercise plan is 90 minutes per  15 minutes of high intensity interval training 3x per week and 15 minutes of body strengthening 3x per week. 

The system starts easy and gets harder.  It's a 16 week program in 4 different phases: introductory, beginner, intermediate, advanced.  From a dietary standpoint, each week in Phase 1 you work on a new habit or two.  When you have finished all four weeks and move on to the next phase, you repeat these weeks, in case you have slipped.

Each phase also includes it's own set of strengthening exercises and intervals.  And might I just say: I hate planks.  I have to do planks 3x per week.  Ugh.

I started with the introductory workouts because after having a baby, my abs were totally weak, and I had to do planks.  I just finished Phase I today.

Here are the results of phase I:  I lost 8.4 lbs in four weeks.  Yay me!  Except for the first few days, I haven't been overly hungry.  I am eating 2000 to 2400 calories per day, based on my age, weight, activity level, and the fact that I am nursing. 

The diet plan requires you to eat every 3 to 4 hours, so I eat 3 meals and 2 snacks, almost religiously.  The exercise plan has been great.  I haven't followed it exactly, but pretty close.  Thursday and Saturday I do intervals and the strengthening workouts.  The intervals actually take me 22 minutes with warmup and cooldown.  The strengthening workouts take about 15 minutes.

Here's where I deviate a bit.  On Tuesday, I do a 40 minute spin class instead of intervals.  We do intervals IN the spin class.  I squeeze my third strengthening workout in on Wednesday at home.  And Sunday, I try to walk or swim, so I get a little extra in.

I have been tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal for the Ipad.  My husband has also been tracking his calories, and he's lost 10 lbs.

So...onto phase 2!

The creator of the plan also has DVDs you can buy, and a monthly fee if you want to join her "club" where you get forums and a "workout of the month".  You get a free month membership when you buy her Ebook.  I never used my membership because of the whole "having a baby" thing last year.  I find her DVDs to be a little steep on the price, so I am going to pass on that.

However, I must say that my results are so good that I am FINALLY ready to just cancel my weight watchers on line membership.  I did really well on WW in 2002 and then a couple times later to lose the baby weight.  I've never actually successfully lost weight any other way.  Well, I guess I can't say that now.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The week's menu

You can see the week's menu here:

I plan breakfast, lunch (for the adults, for the kiddo, we wing it), and dinner a week at a time.  I am trying to get this done by Friday night so that I can get my grocery shopping done on Friday.  The goal is to do one shopping trip and be done with that for the weekend.

In order for that to be successful, I have to correctly estimate how much we will eat of everything.  I am not quite there yet.  This week, I forgot one item, then I bought a wrong item.  So that required another trip.  Then we ran out of a few things, which will probably require another mid-week trip.  Ugh.  I am also trying to ONLY buy what we are eating that given week.  My pantry is no longer stuffed to the brim, and the freezer isn't so bad either (it's mostly stuffed with breastmilk).

Saturday night is hereby designated as casserole and grill night.  We grill-baked chicken (apparently my husband half grilled it, then we ran out of gas, so he finished it in the oven).  We are trying to grill at least once a week.  You see, dirty secret...I know how to cook, and I took two grilling classes, but we don't know how to grill!  If it's not pre-cooked sausages, we're lost.  So the last couple of months we've been grilling more.  I've decided we should grill almost every weekend, try new recipes, and when we get proficient, we will actually start grilling and inviting people over!  Not that I don't have people over, I just don't grill when I do it.

I also made Averie's salsa and cheezy vegetable bake casserole.  I even used vegan cheeze!  Because I bought some accidentally a few months ago.  That stuff never expires.

I'd planned to have the chicken last 3 nights, but it's only going to last two with three of us eating it.  I could stretch it further in a casserole.  So Monday I'll have to sub in meatballs from the freezer.

Lunches are the leftover steak with stir-fry vegetables and brown rice.  Which changes to beans and rice when we run out of the steak.

You'll see I keep a list on the bottom of the calendar of each day and what I'm supposed to make on that day so that we don't go hungry.  On Tuesday night, I need to prep the ingredients for Crockpot Sausage Stew, which will go into the crockpot on Wednesday morning.

It's such a glamorous life I lead. :)  The honest truth is that parenting is hard work. And parenting with a job? Makes getting food on the table even more challenging.

I swear the only time I sit down on the weekend for more than 5 minutes is when I'm nursing the baby.  I eat about half my meals standing up, sitting on the bed while trying to get the baby to sleep, or in less than 5 minutes. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The great steak caper

We grilled steak again.  Made extra.  Sliced thin and froze it.  It's destined to be lunches next week or the week after. 

My lunch and dinner plans are evolving.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my job.  I love to cook.  I love my family.  All three together are challenging.  I need 1.5 hours to get out the door in the morning, what with waking, nursing the baby, pumping, showering, eating breakfast, feeding the kiddo....  And in the evenings, there's a fussy baby, a fussy kiddo, a tired mommy, and too many people/things needing my attention.

The reason why I chose to return to work half time and early was to get into the swing of things.  I am learning what works and what doesn't.  Making all our lunches on the weekend so far is working.  We made 7 bean, veggie, cheese burritos on Saturday and froze them.  We are eating them for lunch during the week with leftover sides. (and supplementing with Trader Joe's).  Next week we will either do steak and rice - half Mexican style and half Asian style, or sandwiches.  The week after will be the other.  Then it will be pasta week.

Dinners I am still figuring out.  I get home around 2 pm, nurse the baby, do household chores then pick up the older kid at school at around 4:30.  When my hours go up, I will lose those 2.5 hours, so I'm experimenting with how to get dinner on the table because I'll have a hungry baby and a cranky 6 year old on my hands.  Today, it's the crockpot.  I think that might be my savior for the next year.

So weekend: make a big casserole, roast, or pot of something.  Enough for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Tuesday: microwaved vegetables and baked chicken.

Wednesday: crockpot meal, enough for Weds, Thurs, Friday.

We'll see how this works out.  I have three weeks to perfect it.  Last night I spent so much time cleaning up after dinner and prepping for tonight's dinner and packing lunches and dealing with a cranky baby and a crankier 6 year old.  It was awful.  I need to change things up so that my time after work is spent on homework with the kiddo, baby feeding, and minimal chores.

Anyway, on to the steak!

We grilled steak:


Oh and I also made hummus:

...and baba ganoush, salsa, and potato salad.  But who's counting?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tonight's dinner inspired by...Sh*t on a Shingle

If you've never heard of it, google it.  It's creamed chipped beef on toast, something we ate as a kid.

We also ate creamed tuna on toast.  And that's kind of what I was going for here.

You see, I looked in the pantry, saw a can of salmon.  Decided to figure out what to do with it that didn't require much effort.  Salmon casserole was going to be too much work (like tuna casserole).  So I decided to make the "base" for it and throw it over brown rice.

Step 1: the night before while cleaning the kitchen, throw the rice in the cooker.  Don't forget to put it in the fridge when it's done.

Step 2: the night before, look up the "recipe" for homemade cream-of-whatever soup mix and set it on the counter next to the can of salmon.

Step 3: chop the onions and put in fridge

Step 4: while the baby is taking a 30 second nap (or it felt like it), open the can of salmon, flake it, put it in fridge.

Step 5: when husband gets home, hand over baby and start cooking!

Creamed salmon and peas over rice
For the soup mix: Probably about 25 cents:
1 Tbsp onion flakes
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 c. dry milk powder
parsley, salt, pepper, thyme

1 15-oz can salmon: $2.50
2 cups frozen peas: 1.00
1 T canola oil: 0.05
some chopped onion (optional): 0.25

Saute the the onion until soft in a medium saucepan. 

Mix the soup mix with a fork, and add to 2 cups water.  Mix with a fork again until well blended.  Add to the cooked onions.  Bring to a boil.  Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until it starts to thicken, then reduce heat and simmer.  Add salmon and peas and simmer until desired thickness.

Serve over rice.  About $4.05 for the salmon dish.
About 3 cups of rice was $0.42. 
So for $4.47, we had dinner for two nights and one lunch serving.  About five servings.  I was aiming for 4 servings, but it stretched further than I thought it would.

Oh, and we got organic corn from the farm.  But only two ears, so I didn't get any.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Planning and scheduling

So, I went back to work this week.  Part time.  The biggest issue this week is the planning and the scheduling of meals.

You see, spouse and I are trying to lose weight.  So we are also logging everything into MyFitnessPal.  That adds a whole new level to the planning.  You  have to make sure you eat enough but not too much.  You need to plan ahead and not be caught off guard.  It's challenging.  My diet plan recommends planning a week in advance, all meals.  I could only handle 4 days.

So for the next week, I'm going to try something new and different.  Or old and the same.  Meaning, I'm going to pick one thing to eat for lunch, and that's what we'll eat for lunch.  Example: a week of burritos (homemade and/or Trader Joe's).  Or a week of sandwiches (make sure we buy enough bread and fillings).  Or a week of rice and stir fry vegetables.  This week we had a lot of pasta.

It may get boring, but we'll see.  For example, the week of stir fry I can buy cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, and peppers, and mix up the veggies each day.  For burritos, I love them so much I can eat bean and cheese burritos no problem.

Then all I have to do is plan the dinners, and three different ones with leftover should do the trick.

Every other time I've lost weight, I've eaten leftovers for lunch. That works too, but some time mid-week you run out, then you have to choose what your next lunch will be.  And seriously, with two kids, I have so little time.  From when I pick up my kid from school until I pass out in bed, there is NO down time.  So planning each day, or even several times per week, doesn't work.

So next week is burrito week.  I'll make burritos on the weekend and freeze them, and plan out our fruits and vegetables.  I overbought on fruit this week.  Still have an entire melon and many apples left.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I've been busy

Taking care of this guy:

and this guy:

and keeping people fed:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012's what's for dinner.

So...I was feeling social this weekend.  It's been awhile since I've felt up to hosting folks at my house, what with a new baby and all.  I invited friends over, and ended up with TWO dinners at home, one on Sunday and one on Monday.  Lucky for me, the Monday dinner friend (our oldest friends in Santa Barbara), offered to bring dinner.  So she provided the ribs and green beans, I provided bruschetta with some pretty sucky French bread, because I was too lazy to walk the extra block to the fancy grocery store from Albertson's.  My bad.

Anyway, we have these big grass fed steaks.  My friend/coworker and her husband buy grassfed beef in bulk from a local place, but don't have enough room to store it.  So I benefit.  The great thing about buying in bulk in the price.  I got 10 lbs of steak for $6 a pound.  Now, we generally don't eat much steak, and in fact, don't really know how to cook it well.  But even the local beef at the farmer's market is $7/lb for GROUND beef, nevermind steak, which is way higher.

In any event, grassfed steak is tricky.  It's very lean and is very prone to overcooking, and overcooking = leather.  Johnny dropped it off and said "6 to 8 minutes a side, trust me on this".  So the first time we tried, it was very rare, and by the time we tried to recook, we got leather.

This time, my spouse mentioned that he thought it was still partially frozen the first time.  So I defrosted it a day earlier, and marinated it.  I googled "steak marinade" and got this recipe, which was great, but I subbed balsamic vinegar for Worcestershire sauce, because I didn't have any.  And I used bottled lemon juice because I was down to 1/2 lemon, and I was using it for my bubble water drinking.  I made 1/2 a recipe for a 1.25 lb steak.

This time...success!  A perfect pink in the middle and tender and delicious.  I wish I took a picture.  But the reality of trying to get dinner on the table with 4 adults and 3 boys (6, 2, and infant, who doesn't eat at the table), means I was just happy that the food was all hot at the same time.  Well, the steak had to rest longer, because the rice wasn't done in time, so I tossed it in the pressure cooker, and then overcooked it.  I used this recipe, but next time will cut the tomato sauce in half and replace with water - it was too tomato-ey.  I left out the onion because my friend hates onion (I KNOW!!)

We also made burgers.  Because we were worried we'd ruin the steak, we had a backup plan.  In the end, I ruined the rice.  Go figure.

So tonight, we still had 4 of the six burgers left.  They were good, even without the onion. ;)

I didn't know what to make as a side.  It's Tuesday, and we're getting low on veggies from the CSA.  We had cucumbers and carrots, and some broccoli from Trader Joe's.  I opted to use nap time #1 to make this Moroccan Carrot Salad recipe from Casual Kitchen that looked good to me. was delicious!  And so easy!  I microwaved the carrots instead of boiling.  And I topped mine with feta, because I found another recipe with feta, and avocado, because I have a ripe one, and I had to do something with it.  For a laughably cheap recipe, this was a real keeper.  Except my kid thought it was "too spicy" (the lemon juice? the vinegar?  I cut the garlic to one clove already.)  Being a good mom, I rinsed his portion in the colander and let him eat the plain steamed carrots.

On a side note, trying to lose weight and count calories when you are! I'm starving!  At 2300 calories a day!

Friday, August 31, 2012

The week in pictures

We had salad:

I made split pea soup and tabouli (I don't have a pictures for those).

I made zucchini risotto (in the pressure cooker!) and topped it with shrimp:

We had TJ's chicken tenders, with celery and PB, apples, and steamed broccoli:

And the day the baby got his shots (lots of crying): homemade bread (bread machine), spaghetti with marinara and meatballs, steamed yellow string beans with goat cheese, olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Simplicity in the kitchen

So, as my complicated life with a husband, 6 year old, and infant is about to get more complicated (returning back to work in two weeks), I started googling to find some suggestions on how to achieve simplicity in the kitchen.

That may seem silly coming from a woman who has got a simple cooking blog, and has had one for years.  But hear me out: as life becomes more complicated, you need new strategies, new tips.

I couldn't really find what I was looking for.  I found tips on simplifying your kitchen gadgets.  While that is helpful, I don't really need that.  In fact, there are some kitchen gadgets that aren't necessary, but make cooking MUCH simpler.  Think: bread machines, food processors, and rice cookers.

I also found tips on how to prepare your food more simply.  Clean as you go (a very good tip!) but also how to do prep work.  Meh...not what I'm looking for.

I also found tips on how to do meal planning.  Again, somewhat helpful, but just not it.

But nothing was really what I was looking for, so I decided to write my own so that I could refer back to it later.

I like to consider myself pretty efficient and a multi-tasker.  Parenthood has only strengthened those traits.  You really learn to get things done in 15 minute chunks.  I know it seems NICE to have a solid 3-4 hours to finish a project, or an hour to cook dinner, etc.  But reality with an infant is that you may get a 2 hour nap, you may get a 20 minute nap.  And that doesn't improve much when your kid gets older, unless you are REALLY willing to use the TV or video games.  Which I admit, I have been the last week.

So here are my tips for simplicity in the kitchen:
1.  Learn to break things up into 15 minute chunks.  Whatever you are making for dinner, how can you do this?  For me, it's always clean and chop the vegetables first, put them in the fridge.  Marinate meat.  Cook pasta if you are making a baked pasta dish.  Cook up the soup if it's one that needs to go into the blender (and reheat's better then anyway).  Toast nuts.  Cook rice.  Steam greens.  Wash lettuce.

2.  Simplify your preparation.  I like making complicated dishes just like the next person, but those have little to no place in my life right now.  As in: once a week, tops.  Examples:
- vegetables: eat raw (wash/peel), steam (wash/peel/chop/micro), roast (wash/peel/chop/toss with olive oil S&P/roast/stir/roast), stir fry (wash/peel/chop/stir fry), or make a soup (wash/peel/chop/cook into soup)

- fruits: prep ahead when possible: washing berries, cutting melons, etc.

- rice: rice cooker instead of a pilaf

- beans: cook in a pressure cooker

3. Limit your diet.  I know we all like to have a varied diet, but it makes it more complicated.  Consider this: vegans eat grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts.  No meat or dairy to consider.  Paleo/primal folks have kitchens devoid of grains, beans, bread.  Your diet will be simpler this way, and there will be fewer foods to choose from/ go bad in your fridge and pantry.

But for those of  us who are omnivores that don't eschew carbs, it can be more difficult.  Or can it?  My meals growing up were pretty simple.  They were always cooked at home, and tended to be meat and potatoes or meat and pasta.  But usually potatoes.  We almost never had rice.  It was standard old American food.  And it worked.

In contrast, my meals today are quite varied.  I love ethnic food and enjoy cooking Indian, Thai, Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Chinese foods.  These all come with their own spices and ingredients.  A far cry from my mom's pantry of garlic powder, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and pickling spices.  There are so many options.  It's cheaper to make these foods yourself instead of ordering in. But you may end up with a pantry full of bits and pieces.

grains: bread, bulgur, brown rice, white rice, oats, arborio rice, quinoa, pasta, etc.
beans: black, pinto, garbanzo, split peas, lentils...
meats: chicken, beef, pork, shellfish, fish...
cheese: goat, feta, blue, American, cheddar, parm, swiss, havarti...
yogurt: sweetened or not, large tub or individual...
nuts: almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, and don't even get me started on the nut butters.  And nuts go rancid if left at room temp for long.  You can keep them in the freezer.  But then you have a freezer full of frozen nuts.
vinegars: I make my own dressings.  Just saying.  My mom had apple cider and plain white.  I have at least 7 different vinegars.

So if you like ethnic foods, one way to keep a varied diet and a simple kitchen is to choose one ethnic food or type of food and stick to that until you are out.  You know, buy a bag of almonds.  When it's gone, switch to cashews.  Buy cheddar cheese, then switch to swiss.  Buy a bag of brown rice.  When it's gone, you can buy rice for risotto.  Buy the ingredients for Thai food.  Eat until it's gone.  But don't keep coconut milk in your pantry "just because".  If you have marinara, eat the marinara.  When it's gone, THEN go get more coconut milk.  Wait until you finish your tortillas to buy more pasta.  And choose only one kind of pasta.  Noodles or penne.  Not both.

4.  Consider frozen.  I have been eating a lot of frozen meals lately.  Truth be told, while it is more frugal, preparing your own from fresh is not as simple.  You have to clean and chop the vegetables, where as you can buy fresh or frozen already prepared.  The same goes for meats: if you buy in bulk, you either have to remember to defrost before you cook or buy fresh and shop more often.  Or buy in bulk, cook ahead and freeze, and try to remember what you have in your freezer.  Sometimes heat and serve is easier.  Having frozen vegetables is "simpler" than having to prepare fresh.  Having already cooked meatballs or chicken in the freezer is "simpler" than fresh.  It's generally not as frugal or as healthy, so you will have to choose which is more important.

5.  Set up  a regular meal plan: Chicken on Monday, soup on Tuesday, Pasta on Wednesday, etc.  This takes the thinking out of it.  Less planning when you go on autopilot.

6.  Keep a minimal pantry.  I have, at times, wanted to have 3 months food on hand for emergency.  I planned meals a month in advance, and didn't have children back then.  Keeping a stocked pantry makes it easy to "whip something together", but it's not so simple if it is so packed that the food expires or goes stale.  If it's effort to keep on top of it, it's not simple.  For some people, the pantry principle is THE way to save money.  Stock up when things are at their absolute rock bottom, and only then.  That does, however, take effort and planning.  For others, it's more money saving to only shop weekly for exactly what you need, and eat staples and foods on sale.

7.  Use up foods.  I have a problem with celery.  A few of my recipes call for a few stalks (soups and stews mostly).  But I have to buy the whole head.  And I have a lot of leftover.  I generally steam it and freeze if for later.  So.  I have a couple of bags of celery in the freezer.  That get buried because I forget about them the next time I make soup.  It's probably better for me to just cut it up and eat it with peanut butter or dip, rather than fill up the freezer.

8 . Use your gadgets: crockpot meals.  One pot meals.  Rice in the cooker with vegetables and a meat.

9.  Make a double (or triple) batch: if you are cooking anyway, leftovers are easier to reheat, if they even need to be reheated.  Something like a tabouli does not need reheating.  But soups, stews, chilis...double it.

10.  Cook ahead (and possibly freeze):  I know above I said to finish stuff off instead of cooking and freezing, as in the celery.  But that's ingredients.  I make an exception for meals/ completed dishes, assuming you will remember to eat them.  Sometimes it's nice to look into the freezer and realize that you have one meal's worth of soup or beans and rice just waiting for the microwave.  If it keeps you from ordering a pizza, then score!

Okay, what tips does everyone else have?  Because I implemented one tonight - I made risotto, and used up the rest of the arborio.  I won't be buying more until I finish off the brown rice and white rice.  I have two weeks to get back in the zone.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Triathlon! And exercise

Today was the Santa Barbara sprint triathlon.  If you've been reading long, you know that I've done the last 2 years.  I decided when I turned 40 it was a good time to learn to really swim and be comfortable in the ocean, being that I live here.  I went to college, joined the Navy, honeymooned and vacationed on beautiful islands with lots of snorkeling...and was terrified of the water.  I credit my mom-friend Whitney for finally getting me to do it.

Sadly, I missed this year.  While I swam, biked, and walked right up to delivery, there was no way I'd be able to do the tri just 7 weeks later.

However, I took the boys down to cheer on some of my buddies.  I didn't get to cheer on very many (see: I had the two boys).  We got there right about when the fast people were coming in off  the bike.

It was fun, but a bit depressing.  It was encouraging to see all these people complete the course. For some, it's just another tri.  For others, it's exciting and scary because it's their first.  For another set, it's an attempt to get a personal best.  But the depressing part is that I'm in no shape to be doing a triathlon.

There was one group together wearing orange at the finish line.  Women in teeny bikinis and men in orange shorts.  I saw a familiar pink hat on one of the bikinis.  Trim body, tight abs, and I realized she's the women who I did the tri with two years ago...when she 8 months pregnant.  At least I hope it was 2010 and not 2011.  And it's her fourth baby.  Wow.  2 years later and she looks like that?  Now, I have to be honest.  I do not have that kind of body.  Trim legs, long and lean.  I. Am. Not. Built. That. Way.  I have big hips and thighs and always will.  Pre-baby, never looked like that.  Certainly after having two babies (the second at 42), the only way my abs will look like that is after some serious skin tightening surgery.  And...I'm not really into that.

So, you go girl!  I can dream about looking like that, right?

I also saw one of the coaches that I had in 2010, and she's pretty pregnant.  She asked me if I'd join her next year and I said "of course".  But really, she'll finish the sprint probably 15 minutes ahead of me, at least.  I'm an hour and five minutes person.  She'll be out of the water before I go around the first buoy.

On a positive note...the only exercise I've been doing and have had the energy for lately is short walks.  But I've been doing them. Some with the baby in the sling, bjorn, or moby wrap (but I have to go's hot and sweaty for that.)  Sometimes with the baby in the stroller.  Today, I knew parking was totally going to suck at the beach, so I had to look at the map and figure out where to park.

My first option was the courts where my husband was playing tennis.  But that was 1.8 miles away, we got a late start, and I was walking with my 6 year old.  I continued to look and found a spot about 0.7 miles away where I figured there would be plenty of parking.  It's in a depressed area of town, and I'm pretty sure I saw someone buying marijuana on the walk back to the car, but we were fine.

And that's the good part.  We were easily able to park and walk 0.7 miles to the finish line.  And back.  Many many people aren't able to do that, and would never consider doing it.  If they can't park very close to where they are going, forget it, we're going home. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Alton Brown's Sardine Toast

I've got these sardines in the pantry, that I keep for emergency rations.  And I eat them occasionally too (don't want to toss them).  I did just toss a can of tuna that expired in 2011.  I mean, how long do you have to keep a can of tuna before it expires?  A really long time.  I have another can of sardines about to expire.

Why sardines?  Well, I grew up eating them.  When it comes to fish, there are certain fishes that are sustainable, healthy (low mercury/PCB's), and frugal.  Sardines and canned salmon fit that bill.  Which is probably why I grew up eating them, being from a poor landlocked family.

I remember seeing an episode of Good Eats Alton Brown discussed how he lost a bunch of weight, and this was one of his recipes.  So I made it today.  I've made it before.  Now, I don't have sherry vinegar, so I just used lemon juice.  I have a butt load of avocados from the farm and my boss/coworker.  I personally ate an entire avocado on this toast.  Now, every healthy eating and diet book I've read discusses how the proper serving of an avocado is 1/8 or 1/4 of an avocado.  Uh, no.  First of all, they don't keep. Second of all, I'd rather just eat less of something else and not waste the avocado.

I try to incorporate fish into my diet for its health benefits.  Just about everything you read discusses the health benefits of fish, and any studies of the healthiest people in the world has to include the Mediterraneans and the Japanese, both of which eat fish in abundance.  In fact, I was sitting the other day watching Forks Over Knives (I've seen it before), and hearing about the benefits of a "plant based diet".  Then I went to Denise Minger's website where she discusses many of the results in the movie (despite the fact that she has a lot of respect for most of the doctors). She reminded me that people like to skew the results their own way.  This movie is no different.  Sure, a lot of health improvements can be had by going vegan (let's call it what it is), but many of the health improvements that come with it also come with removing processed food.

Anyway, when she mentioned fish, that reminded me of the avocados and sardines.  So that was my lunch on Friday.

So, on a family note, yay husband is back.  So much easier.  Now we are in cleanup mode before cleaning lady comes tomorrow, and I have to figure out what to do with the kitchen produce.  I did so little cooking when he was gone.  I know there will be roast potatoes and some sort of zucchini dish in my future for dinner. I want to cook up a ton of food today when I have spouse at home to help with the boys.