Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So THAT's why I use the CrockPot

Don't tell The H, but I burned the chili tonight. I've been meaning to make CrockPot chili since Monday, so when the turkey was still in the fridge today I knew it had to get cooked or tossed. But I still didn't have 6 hours to devote to dinner, so I had to do it on the stove... you know, the old-fashioned way. :D Chili without a slow cooker is really just about a 20-minute meal, so I don't know why I put it of so long, but that's beside the point.

For those of you who just can't stand the suspense, it turned out fine. Delicious, even. Perhaps one of my favorite batches (since we all know I don't really measure, it's hard to duplicate things we like). The point is that when you are used to putting all your ingredients in a slow cooker and literally walking away from it for 6-8 hours, you may need to watch your pot a little more carefully if you choose to make dinner on the stovetop for a change.

But like I said, it was delicious: Ground turkey breast, two small red onions (co-op), one small Yukon Gold potato (co-op), kidney beans rinsed and drained, 1/2 diced red bell pepper, tomato puree, and canned tomatoes with garlic and onions, seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, cumin, and ancho chili powder. And once I realized that after 40 minutes it has ZERO liquid left and had begun burning to the bottom of the pan, I quickly added some water and a reduced-sodium beef broth packet (Trader Joe's) to bring it back to life. Crisis (and takeout pizza) averted! We served it with some rice elbow noodles, freshly grated mild white cheddar (co-op), grapes, and gluten-free bread. Thanks to some creative thinking, my son ate nearly his entire bowl of "bean soup!" The kid goes ape over canned beans but wouldn't touch the spoon when we called it chili. Whatever works, you know?

Monday, December 28, 2009

OK, I *owned* that squash.

Acorn squash. Small, pointy-ended green skinned veg. I asked about it in my previous post. I have (had) 5lbs of it in the basement, thanks to the co-op. And up until dinner, I'd only ever eaten it buried under mounds of butter and brown sugar. Growing up, it was the one squash I could tolerate the most, but I had to eat it as described above and it had to be eaten first. Why is it that squash gets cold so fast? Anyway, childhood memories aside, this squash was awesome. I took a few (pathetic) pictures of it, but won't gross you out with them right now. Perhaps I will edit to include them later... you know, when the camera isn't several rooms away and I'm not feeling so lazy.

Here's how it went down:

I wanted to make quinoa and acorn squash and had the brilliant idea of stuffing the latter with the former. Got that? But what else should go into it? A little rummaging in the freezer and pantry brought forth 4oz of cooked ground spicy turkey sausage, a tiny delicata squash, apples, and onion. And thus, my dinner began. The quinoa (in veggie broth) simmered itself in the rice cooker while I baked the halved squashes at 350 for 40 minutes or so. I chopped the apple (Fuji) and onion (red) and sauteed them in olive oil, then added the mostly-thawed cooked sausage. When the squash was soft, I scooped out each half and added the flesh to the skillet, stirring well to combine. I threw out the delicata skins and put the acorn shells back into the baking dish.

A quick taste determined that it was good, but not really flavorful. I hadn't added any salt, pepper, or seasonings yet. What to add? Italian herbs = bad combo. Red pepper = overkill with the sausage. Nothing sounded good...until I found the curry powder. It was PERFECT. And my Curry-Stuffed Acorn Squash was born. I added 1/2 teaspoon to my skillet, scooped some quinoa into the squash, then stuffed the seasoned filling into the four cavities. I topped each one with a tiny shower of locally-made mild white cheddar and tossed them back in the oven for a few minutes to warm through and melt. The sweet, gently spicy, smoky nature of the spice complemented the flavors in the squash just right. At dinner, I was that annoying cook who kept exclaiming over her own brilliance and tasty end result. Ha! I wasn't the only one, though; The H even said I could submit it to CE Mag. It was seriously good. I was so proud of us! At The H's suggestion, next time I make this, I will attempt a red (or other colorful) reduction or sauce.

After dinner I pounded out a fast and awesome 3.25 miles on the treadmill. Endorphins may or may not be contributing to the glowing review of this meal, though even before I cranked up my iPod and broke a good sweat, we were saying how good it was. :) Yay squash!

Post-Christmas cleansing

No, I do not subscribe to a "cleanse" in the sense of chugging pepper-spiked lemonade. Gross. And no, I am not consuming only fruits and vegetables for the next 10 days. What I mean by "cleansing" is getting back onto the clean-eating and menu-planning track and refocusing on whole, clean foods again after a good solid week of holiday treats and party food.

I started this morning with a hearty bowl of steel-cut oats mixed with chopped walnuts, a few dried cherries (until my son ate them all--"Cheddies! Eat, eat!"--and some real maple syrup from the co-op. I would have loved to whip up a Green Monster smoothie, but I forgot to buy peanut butter when I went to Trader Joe's. Grr. Lunch was a salad with mixed greens, apple, and stinky cheese dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Planned snacks are raw almonds, dried apricots, blue-corn-flax chips and salsa, and 72% dark chocolate to ease myself off the steady sugar intake of the previous week.

This morning I was thrilled to get my first 2010 issue of Clean Eating Magazine! I am so excited to flip through it and get some fresh ideas. One of my tasks tonight is to peruse the grocery store circular for some green veggies; we have plenty of squash, onion, and potato from the co-op, but eating green things in the middle of a Michigan winter requires a little more non-local shopping (or preserving, oops), I've discovered. And besides, I've become rather fond of roasted broccoli, and I used my last two heads for dinner on Saturday.

This week I will be soaking some black beans, making a big batch of brown rice, and cooking a million-and-a-half chicken breasts to I'm ready for a quick snack or lunch without too much additional prep. I've said before how important planning ahead is, but I too often forget it myself. And now I need to choose something for dinner tonight... What's on your menu this week? Got any great recipes for acorn squash?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

DDC #2: Holiday dinner #3

One of my self-chosen Dark Days Challenge rules was to make local-food items for family gatherings or potlucks as much as possible, so when our third family dinner in as many days rolled around I knew I wanted to contribute local ingredients to the table. With co-op pickup handily scheduled for last Tuesday, I was prepared to make parsnip mashed potatoes (using this recipe) and an apple crisp (using this recipe) today. Both got rave reviews, I'm happy to say. And though they are not the greatest, I took two pictures I have of the dishes--parsnips keeping warm on the stovetop, and apple crisp waiting to be baked 'til bubbly.

The parsnips were sweeter than potatoes, but very similar in texture. Even without cream or butter, they turned out so creamy and pleasant. My only change from the recipe linked above is that I doubled it and added one extra potato, so my ratio was 8 parsnips to 3 (large) Pontiac Red potatoes. Both the parsnips and taters were locally grown. I also made roasted broccoli, for the second time ever, using this recipe again. It was also very well-received, though not made with local ingredients. Does broccoli grow in west Michigan? I don't even know!

Due to The H's wheat allergy, I made the crisp with gluten-free flour. I love how the apples caramelize in the filling, and a crisp, sweet crumb topping is one of my favorite dessert components. I accidentally told my sister to add to much sugar to the apples (gotta love help in the kitchen, though!) so it was a bit sticker and sweeter than it's been other times I've made it... glad I was able to get my long run in this morning!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It's been a day of indulgence for sure, but I am looking forward to a good long run in the morning if the rain we're getting doesn't ice over too badly. Merry Christmas to all of you; I hope you have been enjoying the holiday with friends, family, and whatever makes you happy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dark Days Challenge: Beef Stew

This was my first meal for the DDC. It's been a month since our last co-op pickup and I am not (yet) a canner/freezer/preserver so our local-food stock was running a bit low. I had one package of grass-fed stew beef in the freezer and some carrot, potatoes, and onions left, so really my first meal for the challenge kind of put itself together.

The only non-local ingredients I added were some red wine (which could've been a Michigan-made thing, but I didn't want to open a fresh bottle for one cup), beef stock, and seasonings. Yesterday I made Jell-O (with juice) for the baby with fresh-picked-and-frozen Michigan strawberries, so we had that, too.

Aaand wouldn't you know the camera battery was dead. So just picture a steaming bowl of cubed Pontiac Red and Yukon Gold potatoes, diced red and yellow onions, the cutest carrots you've ever seen, and browned stew meat (and my son stabbing cubes of red gelatin) and there you have our dinner. We did have my sister join us, which was nice.

Tonight was co-op pickup, so hopefully I'll have more creative fare for next week's DDC meal!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why have I never roasted broccoli before?

A few days ago I was in search of a vegetable side-dish recipe that I could make for Christmas with the in laws. Several people suggested roasted broccoli to me, and I ended up using this recipe from Ina Garten. And now I don't think I will ever prepare broccoli another way (aside from the occasional broccoli-cheese soup).

I don't know why I have never attempted to roast broccoli before; roasting is my favorite preparation for so many things. It added such a different depth of flavor to it, and like kale chips, I loved the slightly-crispy browned pieces along the edges. Even my brother-in-law, who claims to despise all things green, admitted to liking it. My sister said it was like "restaurant broccoli" and has since requested it again for our family Boxing Day dinner at my mom's this week (incidentally, my sister is married to The H's brother, which is why she will be at both dinners).

Here's how I made it:

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

2 heads organic broccoli, washed and trimmed

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Zest from one lemon

The juice of the zested lemon

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Toss with garlic and olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until the tips of some florets are beginning to brown. Remove from baking sheet and toss with a bit more olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Grate Parmesan over the top and let melt; serve hot.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Soup's on!

The other night I finally got to make the kale and sausage soup I've had my eye on for days. I used this recipe as my inspiration, which is a copycat recipe from the Olive Garden restaurant. It was a perfect soup for a snowy winter day. Leftovers turned out well; I liked that it thickened a bit when it was reheated. The original recipe is as follows, with my version below.

Toscana Soup

  • 12 links spicy pork sausage, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chicken soup base
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 potatoes, halved and sliced
  • 2 cups sliced kale
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

  • Directions for original version:
  • 1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
  • 2. Place sausage links on a baking sheet and bake 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Slice into 1/2 inch slices.
  • 3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent; add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  • 4. Stir in broth, water and potatoes; simmer 15 minutes.
  • 5. Reduce heat to low and add sausage, kale and cream; simmer until heated through and serve.

My cleaned-up version:

  • One package Jennie-O spicy Italian turkey sausage, removed from casings and browned/drained (minus 4oz once it was cooked, for another recipe)
  • About 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One diced yellow onion (co-op)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 packets low-sodium chicken broth packets from Trader Joe's
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 potatoes, halved and sliced (co-op)
  • 2 cups sliced kale, cram-packed full!
  • 3 small carrots, washed and sliced (co-op)
  • Half package sliced baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Splash of half-and-half (if I had more time or energy, I would've pureed some of the soup after adding the beans and before adding the kale and sausage with the hope that I could cut out the cream altogether. Maybe next time!)

1. Remove sausage from casings and brown in large skillet. Drain well and set aside.
2. In large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, saute onion in oil until translucent. Stir in garlic, cook about 1 minute.
3. Stir in broth, water, mushrooms, carrots, and potatoes; cover and cook until potatoes are nearly fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to low and add sausage, kale, beans, and half-and-half. Simmer until heated through. Serve hot.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another blah day

This cold is kicking my butt. Started the day with sprouted grain toast, natural peanut butter, and my beloved coffee. Lunch was sushi with coworkers. Snack was almonds and dried cherries. Had some caramel popcorn after a Christmas shopping marathon; The H bought it from the boss's kids' boyscout troop (pack? den?). Dinner was rather last-minute, as I still haven't gotten in gear enough to make that kale soup I mentioned yesterday, but I managed to pull together some decent gluten-free blueberry pancakes (Bob's Red Mill mixed with applesauce, pumpkin, cinnamon, and low-fat milk) and scrambled farm-eggs/eggwhites with lean ham and chives. Had juice to drink for a change; yesterday I bought some organic blueberry-pomegranate juice to mix with sparkling water. When my throat hurts, I like the feeling of fizzy drinks but can live without the HFCS and caffeine in soda. I couldn't even muster up enough oomph to go for a run on the treadmill tonight (it's super-slick and beyond cold outside), but whined to The H that I just wanted ice cream instead. So Ben, Jerry, and I spent the evening watching Scrubs and toodling around on the computer. Here's to a better tomorrow!

Monday, December 14, 2009

You know you're sick when...

you drink hot tea (which you normally claim to hate) all day long, blend up a green monster smoothie with extra ice for lunch, and think salty fast food fries sound good for dinner.

Sore throats and sniffly noses have hit these eating machines.

I hope to post a recipe for kale- and turkey-sausage soup later this week, if I ever find the motivation to stand in front of the stove and actually cook it.

Alas, tonight is not that night. Early bedtime beckons! Nighty night.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Dark Days Challenge

A fellow food blogger (Hi, Wendy!) suggested I participate in the Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge, and after reading about it online, I've decided I have no excuse *not* to try this. What's one meal a week, when we belong to the co-op? Granted, I am no canner-preserver-freezer extraordinaire. But I do have resources. It will give me pre-determined blog fare at least once a week, too. In light of this decision, I've altered my current co-op order a bit.

Rather than just regular (fair trade, organic) coffee, I'm also ordering 2lbs of decaffeinated (also FTO) beans. Since one of my goals prior to this challenge was to eat more locally anyway, it doesn't make much sense to keep sending Gevalia money every other month when Craig at Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters is roasting it fresh practically in my own backyard every day. I'm also ordering maple syrup for the first time, since there is no way I can justify Trader Joe's organic grade B maple syrup as "local" especially since I drive two hours to get it in the first place. LOL!

Since we have plenty of non-co-op meat in the freezer for now I won't order any more this cycle, but will plan on some in future months. Eating locally may help me get out of the stock-up-for-an-army-stranded-in-a-blizzard mentality, as good local meat is much pricier than the bulk bags from the grocery store, as Wendy wrote about here.

I know the point of this blog isn't locavorism, but please bear with me during this short experiment. I will still do my best to eat clean, of course; I'm simply adding the challenge of eating clean close to home on a more official platform than before.

So here are my personalized rules:

1. Make at least one locally-sourced meal weekly, using more local ingredients than non-local
2. Blog about the meal
3. Participate in the challenge for 5 weeks before re-evaluating
4. Prepare locally-sourced food(s) for any upcoming holiday potlucks or family meals

And in the words of my son's favorite TV show, "Let...the mission...BEGIN!"

Beef stew and apple crisp

Yesterday was a snowy, blowy day here on the west side of the mitten state, a perfect day for beef stew in the slow cooker. As I was putting this together, I realized that the majority of the ingredients came from our co-op. Perfect! I'm trying to transition our household to eating more local food vs. grocery store stuff, so this meal was ideal. And it was tasty, too. I think The H had three bowls at dinner, and took leftovers for lunch today.

Co-Op Beef Stew

1lb beef stew meat, cubed (co-op!)
Red wine, for deglazing pan
6 small carrots, scrubbed and sliced (co-op!)
2 onions, peeled and diced (co-op!)
4 potatoes, washed and cubed (co-op!)
Canned tomatoes
Zucchini, diced
4oz fresh sliced mushrooms
Worcestershire sauce, about 1 Tbsp
Black pepper and sea salt, to taste
Beef stock or broth, about 2 cups

Prepare potatoes, carrots, and and place into olive-oiled slow cooker crock. Add tomatoes. Brown cubes of beef with a few cloves of minced garlic, and add to crock. Deglaze pan with about 1/2 cup red wine; bring to a boil, get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, and add the wine to the slow cooker. Pour in beef stock. Season with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire (hot sauce, like Frank's, would probably be good in here, too). Cover the crock and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until potatoes are tender. Add the sliced mushrooms and zucchini for the last hour of cooking. Thicken with a cornstarch-water mixture if desired. We left it brothy per The H's request.

Dessert was an oatmeal apple crisp made with co-op Ida Red apples. It was delicious! I used this recipe from with very few modifications. For example, I used turbinado sugar instead of white, added nutmeg to the apples, and walnuts to the crumble topping/crust. Instead of straight butter, I used Smart Balance 50/50 blend. It was a perfectly sweet, homemade end to our chilly winter day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I give it 8 out of 10

Tonight's dinner was a combination of quick leftovers + something The H doesn't like. He's traveling for work, just for the night, so baby duty was all on me. Whew! I can't imagine how moms of multiples ever manage to eat; getting my son and the dog fed and played with left little time for me to prep my own meal, which is why I was sitting down to it at 8:30 tonight. Yikes!

The leftover portion was frozen turkey sloppy joe filling from Clean Eating Magazine (for which I don't think I've yet posted a recipe, though this is the second time in recent weeks that I've mentioned it...). I love that I made a huge batch and am still finding them in the freezer! I had it on an Arnold sandwich thin.

My "H won't eat this, let's do it" treat was a small delicata squash from the co-op, sliced and roasted and drizzled with maple syrup and toasted almonds during the last 10 minutes of cooking. The idea came from Clean Eating Magazine, the Nov/Dec 2009 issue.

Overall, it was filling and colorful, and certainly easy to prepare. I'm detracting a point from each component because the sloppy joe got too mushy and suddenly said "Don't eat another bite of me!" (ever have food do that to you?) and the squash could have had more flavor. Perhaps the way I prepared it (sliced, rather than scooped and mashed) had something to do with that. However, I would make both parts again. Thus, 8/10.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Sausage Ragu

Tonight marks the second time I've made this recipe from the Nov/Dec 2009 issue of Clean Eating Magazine, and when I looked back at the page for the recipe, I noticed that I first made it exactly one month ago, on 10-30-09. Tasty tradition! My substitutions are in parentheses.

Turkey Sausage Ragu
Serves 4 (generously!)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
8oz spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings discarded (I used 3 links, Jennie-O brand)
1/4 tsp chile flakes (I omitted this)
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine (Pinot Noir leftover from the weekend)
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, torn (1 tsp dried)
1 large bunch kale, cleaned and trimmed, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
8oz whole wheat pappardelle, fettucine, or tagliatelle pasta (9oz Trader Joe's brown rice fusilli)
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (omitted)
Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish (Parmesan)


1. (Set a pot of salted water over medium heat to begin boiling for the pasta while you prep the rest) Add 1Tbsp oil, onion, and thyme to a separate large pot over medium heat. Stir well, cover, and cook until onion is softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Uncover pot, add sausage, chile flakes, and garlic. Continue cooking 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Off the heat, deglaze the pan by adding the wine. Return to heat and allow to reduce for 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes, oregano, and kale. Stir well (this was difficult for me at this point, so I didn't really bother), cover, and cook 5 minutes. Remove cover and continue cooking 10 minutes, or until sauce is slightly reduced and thickened. Stir in additional 2Tbsp oil and the balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. When the sauce is almost finished (when 10min remain), add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain well and toss with sausage mixture. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil (I omitted), a sprinkling of parslely, and freshly grated cheese.

I love this meal. It's very hearty and has an awesome, well-rounded flavor, even without adding salt, pepper, parsley, or the additional oil at the end. Using kale gives it a nice crunch, though you could substitute spinach if kale is not your thing. When I made this last month, my son couldn't get enough--he actually licked the plate--but tonight he didn't want anything to do with it. I think he liked the sauce better last time; I added 1/2 cup leftover tomato puree so it coated the pasta with more of a thick sauce than the recipe made tonight. Either way, The H and I were very happy with how it turned out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Meal Plan Sunday

Sunday (lunch): Chicken apple sausage salad with goat cheese and toasted walnuts

Sunday (dinner): Shepherd's pie made with ground turkey and topped with tri-colored potatoes

Monday: Turkey sausage ragu with kale from Clean Eating Magazine

Tuesday: Running group's Christmas party; I'm making some gluten-free appetizers and the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I make every year

Wednesday: Black bean chicken inspired by Branny's Creamchiladas over brown rice or quinoa

Thursday: Leftovers after running (chicken barley stew, lentil soup, pumpkin black bean soup, turkey sausage pasta from Monday... lots of options!)

Friday: Marinated chicken with roasted potatoes and vanilla bean buttercup squash

And that's all I have so far. I'm having fun working this month's co-op goodies (kale, sweet potatoes, apples, squash) into our meals!

Yummy breakfast shake

Today I felt like shaking it up a little and having a protein shake for breakfast. Haven't done that in a while. Rather than just protein powder + milk, I wanted a little more substance. I ended up blending 1/2 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon ground flax seed, 1 cup low-fat milk, and a scoop of chocolate protein powder with 2 ice cubes. It turned out perfectly! Sweet, but not overpowering, cold and creamy with a little bit of oomph from the flax.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Here's a confession: some days I crave vegetables. The really hearty, filling, warm and steamy, make-your-house-smell-divine roasted kind. Today was one of those days, so that's what I made for dinner tonight to go along with our leftover CrockPot lentil soup. Since co-op pickup was earlier in the week, I had plenty of fresh, local root veggies at my disposal. There was no recipe to follow (by now, you should be used to that from me) but here's the gist of it:

1 large red potato
1 Yukon Gold potato
1 large carrot
1 sweet potato
1/2 red onion
1 small yellow onion
4 cloves garlic (yes, the kitchen was rather pungent...)
Olive oil
White balsamic vinegar
Sea salt, black pepper, dried rosemary, dried thyme

Preheat oven to 450* and spray a roasting pan/jelly-roll pan with olive oil cooking spray. Wash all the veggies and peel the onions. Slice potatoes and onions in half lengthwise, then in fairly even slices so they cook evenly. Cut the carrot on an angle without cutting it in half first. Mince the garlic. Toss all veggies and garlic in a large bowl with a few swirls of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and small amounts of the herbs, to taste. Pour out onto pan. Roast for 20 minutes, stir, and roast another 20 minutes. Add a sprinkling of cheddar (or other cheese) during the last 5-10 minutes if you feel like it. Serve hot.

This was a colorful, tasty addition to our leftover soup (see here for the original recipe; I made it as stated, including adding potatoes and tomatoes).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Will I *ever* learn?

I think I'm in the midst of another carb hangover. Ugh.

Dinner last night, while simply delicious (at a local place that uses local food and turns out heavenly local dishes), I shared a plate of "raw fries" with The H and baby--white potatoes, fried until *just* shy of crispy, then doused with white balsamic vinegar and salt. Lick-the-plate yummy. Then I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, something I haven't had in ages, because my sister who hates grilled cheese couldn't stop raving about it. Bread + cheese + caramelized onions + other goodies I can't remember. It was good. And THEN (cover your eyes if you know where this is headed, or send me a virtual head-smack) I ORDERED DESSERT. And not fruit-with-granola kind of dessert. The thickest, densest, ooey-gooiest chocolate Mississippi Mud Pie kind of dessert. No, I did not finish it. I hardly at three bites before I gave up and waddled back to the car.

Breakfast today was quick; I didn't feel like making toast or reheating oats (can we say lazy?), so I had some of The H's Trader Joe's Honey Nut Os with half a sliced banana, and coffee with half and half. Morning snack was nonexistent, since we were at church, and then lunch was pumpkin black bean soup. Yummy, and my one saving grace for the day... because my afternoon snack was a piece of sprouted grain toast with more coffee, and my sis (the grilled cheese recommender) had me and baby over for dinner, where we ate pizza (Jiffy crust; she's not gluten-free) and buttery parmesan breadsticks... WITH COFFEE CAKE FOR DESSERT.

Seriously. I need to print this out and tape it over the refrigerator. I feel foggy, tired, droopy, and semi-sick. I just keep drinking water hoping to flush some of this through before I crash into bed. My son is down for the night, and I'm about to follow--yes, at 9:15. Thus ends my weekend carb-loaded eat-a-palooza.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One year ago...

I started taking measurements and doing weekly weigh-ins on November 25, 2008. My son was 5 months old and I was "fluffy" to say the least. My weight was up due to bad eating habits, steroid medication for Crohn's disease, and lackluster running routine. My sister's wedding nearly one month prior left me struggling to fit into a Size L (roughly equivalent to a 12) bridesmaids' dress. But things can change. And I'm so grateful for that!

Thanksgiving 2008

My latest weigh-in showed me at my all-time lowest healthy adult weight: 28 pounds lighter than I was one year ago (thanks to Sparkpeople for keeping track). From November 2008 to June 2009 I lost 6 pounds, and I attribute that to getting off the steroids. Know what helped make up the remaining 22 pound deficit? CLEAN EATING! My eating habits changed for the better this past summer.

My best-fitting pants now are Size 4, and I recently had to buy new underwear (the things you don't think about...) because mine would literally fall off when I'd run. Underneath my Size S pants, no less. Hilarious! I've lost 6 inches off my hips, an inch-and-a-half off my neck, and 6 inches from around my waist. My core has gotten stronger, which helps my running, thanks to some core moves I found online and in Runner's World magazine.

November 2009

My running speed has increased... my 5K time dropped from 40:09 to 27:25 and my energy level is greater than ever. At my last gastroenterologist appointment, my doctor couldn't believe how healthy I was; at that time, all of his Crohn's patients in the past month had been in various states of disease flare-up. I've was able to stop taking one of the medications that I'd been on since elementary school, when I was first diagnosed. What a welcome change!

I'm so thankful that I have been given this body that can do (and overcome) so many things, and I intend to keep it as healthy as I can for as long as possible. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

Tonight's dinner was inspired by posts like this from Cara's Cravings and this from Proceed With Caution. I made a few substitutions based on what I had in the fridge; my version follows below. While it could have been lower in fat (check the links for how!), I doubt it could have been tastier. The H said it smelled like pumpkin pie, which you may know by now I don't care for. This dish was well-received by nearly* the entire household, however. It was creamy, warm, and very filling, not to mention festively colored. The kale lends a good bite to an otherwise-soft meal. Adding a good dose of fresh ground black pepper at the end helped keep it from being too pie-like.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
Makes 4 servings

8 oz short pasta shape (Trader Joe's brown rice fusilli)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried rubbed sage
3 links chicken sausage (Trader Joe's sweet apple chicken sausage)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (Stoneyfield Farm organic whole-milk)
1 cup pumpkin puree (Trader Joe's organic)
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp low-fat Neufchatel cheese (like I said--what I had in the fridge!)
Sea salt
Black pepper
Dash of nutmeg
1 medium bunch kale, tough stalks removed

1. Salt a large pot of water for the pasta and turn it on med-high heat.

2. Lightly steam the kale (I did this in a covered skillet) for several minutes until wilted but not discolored. Meanwhile...

3. Heat olive oil in large skillet over med-low heat. Add the sliced onions and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the minced garlic, rubbed sage, and sliced chicken sausage.

4. Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions (be careful not to overcook or the whole thing will turn out too mushy).

5. In a blender, combine pumpkin, yogurt, cream cheese, and milk. Blend until smooth. Pour into pan with sausage-onion mixture and continue cooking over low heat. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg.

6. Drain the pasta and return it to the cooking pot. Gently stir in the sausage-onion-sauce mixture and the steamed kale; mix well.

We paired this with a semi-dry local(ish) white wine. A drier choice would have been better. As always, I do not claim to be a food photographer. Consider yourself lucky that I chose to post this picture rather than the ones that showed up Crayola-orange.

* My son actually refused to swallow a bite until we let him dip each piece of pasta into his blueberry applesauce first. After dinner he looked like this (and then promptly got a bath):

Oatmeal overhaul

I just couldn't do it. I could not start another day with reheated steel-cut oats. Around 8am I had sprouted grain toast with peanut butter and honey and a glass of milk, instead. Then I grabbed my coffee and got to work (love those daycare Fridays).

With a few hours separating me from breakfast, I was ready for a snack and decided to face those oats after all. But mixing them up with cherries, nuts, and agave was just not doing it for me... thus, the overhaul.

Hiding in the back of the fridge was a dish of leftover canned pumpkin from last week, thankfully not yet fuzzy. To my oats I added about 1/4 cup of the pumpkin, 1/2 tablespoon ground flax seed, 2 tablespoons chopped almonds (walnuts would have been better, but I'd already chopped the almonds, and the walnuts were allllll the way downstairs in the basement pantry), a shake of cinnamon, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and a healthy drizzle of real maple syrup. For someone who doesn't like pumpkin pie (yes, really) the combination was delicious, hearty, and a very welcome change.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A disappointing day

Today was a day of leftover-round-up in my house. Everyone's favorite, right? Blah. I can think of fewer food-related things more disappointing than a day of reheated food. I hate leftovers. At least, I hate the IDEA of leftovers. There are so many other things in the world (heck, in my pantry) to eat, why would I want to eat something I've recently had? Well, here's why:

Yesterday I made a massive batch of steel-cut oats, so it would only make sense that I chip away at them for breakfast. That was the intent, after all. So I had that with dried cherries, flax seed, chopped almonds, and agave nectar. Yum. Then I rinsed the black beans I'd soaked overnight, and got them into the CrockPot to simmer all day.

Shortly afterwards, my son tripped on something (pajama foot? toy? I couldn't say) and face-planted onto the hardwood floor. When I noticed the blood on my shirt after snuggling him, we made a trip to the pediatrician's office, where he was diagnosed with an (untreatable) lacerated frenulum--he bit through that hangy-down ridge inside the upper lip, between the teeth. Ouch. His morning snack was ice cream, and mine was ... nonexistent.

After his quiet time while I did some work, we shared (or tried to) a bowl of chicken barley stew. It must have been too hot or peppery for his split lip, because he cried at every bite until I just gave him plain whole-milk yogurt and blueberry applesauce. Because of his picky temper, I ate half of my not-so-hot bowl of soup very quickly before admitting it was not very satisfying. The dog lucked out this afternoon.

Once baby was down for a nap, I toasted a piece of 7-grain sprouted bread and topped it with the rest of my tuna from yesterday. I forgot to smear the bread with Dijon, so it was too dry to really be enjoyable. Argh. At this point I realized I had also not been drinking enough due to the day's events, so I had a few glasses of water and a vanilla protein shake while I ran the dishwasher and mopped the kitchen floor and living room.

Tonight The H was going to have pizza with the little guy while I went for my girls' run, and then the girls and I would order or make something for our dinner, but a change in plans (read: nobody showed up) left me dinner-less and running with my boys instead of girls. Enter a frozen portion of Clean Eating Magazine's sloppy joes (stay tuned for a recipe post) and a whole wheat Trader Joe's hamburger bun. I guess there is something to be said for a well-stocked freezer. I could have had chili from yesterday, or more chicken stew, but the small portion of the sloppy joe in a plastic baggie lent itself to quick thawing.

The H fed baby a slice of reheated pizza (also from my amazing freezer) and some green peas while I topped H's leftover gluten-free pizza crust with a few things and thawed my sloppy joe filling. Once baby was in bed, we sat down to eat. And then just because I was sick of seeing them in my house, I ate the last fun-size bag of peanut M&Ms. So there.

Here's to a fresh start (even though it will begin with more leftover steel-cut oats) tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A typical Wednesday

Just a peek into what I'm up to mid-week...

8am - Glass of water, sprouted grain toast with honey and natural peanut butter, cup of coffee with half and half while baby played in the kitchen. Started soaking the black beans I meant to do yesterday.

9:30am - Short run through the neighborhood with my son in the jogging stroller, followed by core work and more coffee while baby played in the living room. He loved doing "stretches" on the yoga mat with me. I showered while he had his quiet time with Little Einsteins and his lovey.

11am - Steel-cut oats with flax seed, dried cherries, chopped raw almonds, agave nectar, MORE coffee (mental note: need more water) while Einsteins was wrapping up. By now it's close to noon and lunchtime for the little guy. Oh, I also had to get him dressed. Keeping him in the sleeper for our (cold and windy) run kept him warm without having to pile on too many blankets, which he hates. It wasn't pure laziness, I promise.

1:30pm - Baby was down for a nap by 1:20, time for my lunch: Whole-grain tortilla with 1/2 can albacore tuna mixed with 1 wedge French Onion Laughing Cow, Dijon mustard, and two small chopped dill pickles; 2 or 3 glasses of water. Three small squared Trader Joe's 72% dark chocolate. Started some laundry and the dishwasher and did a little paid work before my son woke up.

3:45pm - 1/2 D'Anjou pear with mild cheddar cheese, water. Baby and I had a floor picnic, which he thought was a hoot.

5:45pm - Turkey chili (turkey, white and red kidney beans, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, onion, red bell pepper, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper) two squares of gluten-free cornbread (corn meal, rice flour, egg, milk, oil, baking soda, baking powder, salt, maple syrup). This was one of the best cornbreads I've made from scratch, GF or otherwise; also one of the best pots of chili I can recall. 1 Reese's peanut butter cup (darn that leftover Halloween candy!), more water. Trip to Target at 6:30.

8:30 pm - Baby is finally in bed after procrastinating with the best of 'em. Time for coffee (decaf!) and one little fun-size bag of peanut M&Ms. I need to watch myself and stop eating sugary junk after every meal, which always makes me break out and feel gross. The coffee was supposed to stand in its place, but I caved. Time to do a little paid work and maybe some reading for a bit before bed. I'll finish my coffee and have some water.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brussels Sprouts with Chicken Apple Sausage

Brussels sprouts make me happy. I taught myself to like them, probably over the course of a year and various preparation attempts, and they gradually turned into something I crave. So sad that The H doesn't feel the same, but oh well. More for me. The ones I used for this recipe were from the farmers' market last week, so they were fresh and local. Perfect! I will actually eat this twice today. I made it for lunch, figuring I'd have more time to play with a new recipe in the afternoon (gotta love working from home) and I'll have the leftovers for dinner, after baby is in bed.

The recipe comes from Cara's Cravings, a blog I get a lot of ideas from.

Makes 2 servings

3/4 lb butternut squash, diced
4 tsp olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 links smoked apple and Chardonnay chicken sausage (Trader Joe's brand is great), sliced
3/4 lb Brussels sprouts
Dash of nutmeg and smoked paprika, to taste
1/2 oz toasted pinenuts

1. Wash, peel, and cube the squash, and microwave in a covered glass dish for 5 minutes on high. (Mine took 4 minutes on 70% power, but I have a NASA-quality nuker, I think.)

2. Meanwhile, wash, trim, and slice the Brussels sprouts into ribbons.

3. Heat half of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the squash cubes with a dash of salt. Cook a few minutes until nicely browned. Add the chicken sausage and cook another 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds (this part smells sooo good!). Remove from pan and keep warm.

4. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet, turn the heat to medium-high, and add the shredded Brussels sprouts. Season to taste with more salt, nutmeg, and paprika. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned (I added a bit of water to keep the pan from charring; I may have had the heat a bit high). Add squash mixture and toasted nuts, heat through, and serve.

Cara's blog shows the nutritional info for this recipe, so if that interests you click the recipe name above and take a peek.

OK, so remember how I don't like squash? This recipe did its best to change that. It was delicious! I did make a few substitutions based on what I had: a small golden acorn squash instead of butternut, sweet apple sausage instead of smoked apple Chardonnay, and walnuts instead of pinenuts.

The creaminess of the squash surprised me; it really tied the other flavors into a cohesive, comforting fall dish. Nutmeg (not usually a flavor I care for) was a perfect complement to the sweet sausage and other ingredients. I truly cleaned my plate. Next time I might increase the garlic a bit, or add a chopped green onion. It smelled fantastic when it hit the hot pan, but I didn't taste much of that aromatic bite in the finished dish. I'm interested to know if the flavor develops more as it sits in the fridge. Stay tuned for an update (I know, you're on the edge of your seat). I ended my meal with a few squares of extra-dark chocolate.

UPDATE: It was not as drool-worthy as leftovers. The nutmeg was still comforting and the smoky paprika came through better, but the squash was overly squashy and the sprouts were a tad on the wilty side. Plus, I ran out of chicken sausage about halfway through, so that was a bummer. Definitely try to eat this one fresh.

Weekly Meal Plan

Here's what I have on the menu this week:

Sunday - Gluten-free pizza with Trader Joe's sauce (no time to make my own), TJ's nitrate-free pepperoni, black olives, red bell pepper (this was lunch). For dinner, we went out with the the in-laws to On The Border; I got grilled mahi mahi tacos in soft corn tortillas with black beans and roasted vegetables and drank water with lemon.

Monday - Brussels sprouts with squash and chicken sausage (The H won't be home for dinner, or I'd never get away with this). This is from a starred post from Cara's Cravings in my Google Reader. Baby will likely eat leftover pizza so he can have a bath and get to bed soon after he gets home from daycare. Mondays are exhausting for the little guy! I'll saute my sprouts and squash when he's down for the night so I'll make sure to have a good, filling afternoon snack. After dinner I will start soaking some black beans for use later in the week.

Tuesday - CrockPot day! Turkey chili (using 10oz Jennie-O turkey) with two kinds of beans, gluten-free corn muffins with apple butter.

Wednesday - Clean Eating Magazine's Ultimate Turkey Burgers, using the remaining 10oz of turkey from yesterday and the last gigantic red pepper from the grocery store last week. I'll probably roast the last few co-op fingerling potatoes to go along with them.

Thursday - Girls' run night; The H will be on his own. He'll probably make a GF pizza with the extra crust from Sunday.

Friday - Pumpkin penne with the rest of the chicken sausage links from Monday. This is from Proceed With Caution, another star in my Google Reader. I'll use the kale I bought at the farmer's market last week.

Saturday - Pumpkin black bean soup, using some of the beans I cooked earlier this week, and the rest of the pumpkin from Friday. If I get really ambitious, I'll make a fresh loaf of gluten-free cheese bread to go with it.

Sunday - I'm out of ideas... if I come up with something great, I'll let you know.

What will you be making?

Friday, November 13, 2009

A tale of two loaves

Once upon a time, as you may have read, I received a bread maker as a gift. Immediately, I set to work crafting my first mechanically-assisted gluten-free loaf. The recipe I chose was from the bread machine's instruction booklet: a simple white bread that I made GF by substituting Bob's Red Mill GF flour in place of the white flour called for. That this machine was not designed to handle gluten-less baked goods did not bother me. I figured I would simply add some xanthan gum to the mix and call it good. Alas, it was not good. It was really, truly, not good.

The bread never rose. It looked exactly the same after 3 hours as it did after the kneading cycles. It was dense and had kind of a salty flavor. When right-side up, it resembled a skull.

Unbeknownst to me, a standard bread machine kneads the bread three times... a process that is detrimental to finicky GF products. So I packed it up and set out for Bed Bath & Beyond, where I exchanged it for a machine with a specific gluten-free setting.

After stopping by the health food store for a few GF-specific baking products (something I could have done with the first machine, though I doubt it would have made a difference) I was ready to embark upon my second adventure.

Just as I did with the first loaf, I selected the most simple recipe in the booklet (a cheese bread, specifically written for the GF baker) and went to town. What a difference!

This one turned out moist, airy, and delightful in every way. The crust was crunchy but not burnt, and there were no funky aftertastes or odd textures to contend with. It wasn't overly cheesy (in fact, I couldn't taste it at all) and it did not fall after cooling.

The H said this was probably the best gluten-free bread he's tasted. What a compliment! It really was delicious bread, gluten-free or not. I have another loaf (different recipe) in the bread machine right now, this time a simple sandwich bread. I can't wait to try making French toast and clean(ish) BLTs. The specialty ingredients were a bit of an investment, but I can get all of it online for a lot less once we decide what our favorite recipes/ingredients are. Regardless of the price, it will taste WAY better than store-bought stuff! Totally worth it.

And we'll all eat happily ever after.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CrockPot Stuffed Peppers

Today is Tuesday. In this house, Tuesday = CrockPot Day because our running group meets at 6pm and it's easiest to have dinner immediately ready for us when we are done. My original plan was Chicken Barley Stew from Clean Eating Magazine, which we've had once before, but then I saw red peppers on sale at the grocery store. Not local, but huge, sweet, and delicious! And a great price. So I bought 8. And tonight they became "Quinoa-Stuffed CrockPot Peppers." This was my first attempt at stuffed peppers in a slow cooker. The H commented that no matter how many times we have the same recipe, it's never really the *same* recipe. That's just how I roll! By now you should know that I don't really measure anything so here is how I made them; feel free to substitute your favorite fillings and flavors.

Quinoa-Stuffed CrockPot Peppers

4 large bell peppers
3 green onions, chopped
Cooked quinoa
1 can kidney beans (black would've been delightful, too), drained and rinsed
1 cup canned or frozen corn
1 cup diced, chopped, or crushed canned tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Taco seasoning (I used two teaspoons, plus the 1 that I cooked the quinoa in)
Cheddar cheese, divided, optional
1 cup water

1. Wash peppers and cut the tops off. Clean out the seeds and ribs, toss the stem, set the peppers aside, and chop the remaining lid pieces. Place diced tops in a large bowl.
2. Add onions, quinoa, beans, corn, and tomatoes. Stir well to combine.
3. Season mixture to taste with salt, pepper, and taco seasoning. Mix in half of the cheese.
4. Fill hollowed peppers with quinoa mixture and set into large (6 quart) slow cooker that has been sprayed or lightly oiled. Pour up to 1 cup water around bottoms of peppers (to prevent scorching of any filling that falls out; I might have omitted this if I had been home to keep an eye on them). Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.
5. Just before serving, top peppers with remaining cheese. Turn off slow cooker. Cover until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

The peppers turned pretty soft, which The H and I don't *really* love, but they were good. Next time I might cook on high for 2 hours and low for 2 to have kind of a little crunch left. If I hadn't been making this with my son in mind as well, I might have bumped up the taco seasoning a little. The kind we have is a special blend from my spice guy (his "medium" blend) and it's got some kick to it. Having the quinoa cooked ahead of time made me a little nervous because I didn't want it to become completely mushy. It was soft, but not overdone.

One of the most appealing parts of using this method for stuffed peppers is that it only took 4 hours, when most slow cooker recipes are all-day affairs. Using my rice cooker for the quinoa was another winner. I didn't have to worry about it burning or boiling over while I got everything else put together. Overall, this was a great choice for a busy day. I didn't get it into the CrockPot until after 3:30, and we were sitting down to it almost exactly 4 hours later.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Well, here goes nothin' ...

My first attempt at homemade bread-machine bread is kneading as I type. It's more of an experiment than anything else; I fully expect to laugh at the result and toss it out after a taste test. Gluten-free breads are tricky when you're *not* trying a new machine at the same time!

The manual was very specific about the temperature of the water and how to add ingredients, and I felt like a sweaty-palmed 7th grader in the chemistry lab for the first time. (What will happen if I DO let water come in contact with the yeast? What if said water is 116 degrees instead of 115*? Are there charred eyebrows and fried textbooks in my future?) Following the instructions on the bag of my GF flour blend, I added some xanthan gum to the mix. The bag also said that yeast breads can be finicky (not a direct quote) and that eggs, vinegar, and even more liquid than the recipe calls for may be required. Well, shoot. How am I supposed to know?! Trial and error, my friends. No doubt many, many errors, in various states of edibility. I am not what one might call "a baker." Cooking has always been more sensory than scientific for me. I love to stir, smell, taste, add and poke when I cook, and last I knew, breads did not take kindly to such involvement.

As I left the kitchen, the little kneading arm was spinning its heart out, and my lumpy lump of dough was being dutifully tossed about. Given the appearance of some flour clods stuck to the sides of the bread pan, I likely will not be photographing the end result... or maybe I will. Laughter is good for the soul.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Don't forget to drink.

One of the clean-eating principles, informally stated, is to drink a LOT of water. That's easier to do in the summer, when it's hot, or when I'm working and just continuously refill the water bottle that sits on my desk. But it's not always a priority when the weather turns cool, and that can lead to some not-so-pleasant side effects.

This morning I woke up at 7 and had a glass of water, as usual, then cut myself off. We were running a 5K and I didn't want to be water-logged and have to use the bathroom halfway through. After running (now several hours after waking, around 10:30am) I had 8oz of water and proceeded to fill the rest of my tank with coffee and post-run goodies. At 1pm as I went to shower, I realized I had a splitting headache. I thought my brain was going to simply beat down the walls of my head and come marching out my ears, it hurt so bad. What the heck? I'd eaten plenty of protein, had my daily caffeine, and... oh, wait. I HADN'T been hydrating. At all. I quickly chugged a few Dixie cups' worth of H2O in the bathroom and came to the kitchen to fill a glass (sitting next to me now). After downing the first glass and getting a refill, it's beginning to back off.

Spare yourself similar agony and keep your glass or bottle filled. You might have snow on the ground already (and please keep it there if you do) or it might be sunny and balmy in your backyard. Either way, drink drink drink! It's too easy to forget.

It's co-op shopping day!

Today is the first day of shopping on my second-ever co-op cycle. Supposedly November is a big month for the co-op, as I imagine people are planning holiday meals, so I wanted to jump online and start ordering ASAP. Some things have already sold out! Good thing I didn't plan to make leek soup this month, and I snagged a bag of baby carrots before they were (virtually) gone.

I'm gradually working towards making one big co-op shopping order, one trip to Trader Joe's (Friday!), and a few small grocery-store stops for milk and non-local necessities every month. My grocery spending tends to get out of control and I am hoping that shopping with a purpose in mind helps reign that in.

Other things on our list this month include kale (ah, kale...), a couple kinds of squash, red and yellow onions, a few varieties of potatoes, a bag of hydroponic greens, apples, beef stew meat, frozen blueberries (for baking and chilly-day oatmeal breakfasts!), and eggs. I hope The H is available to assist with the heavy lifting.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A bread machine!

My parents just gave me and The H our belated anniversary present - a bread maker! I'm so looking forward to trying it out. Buying gluten-free bread in the store is expensive. Our options lately have been the frozen bricks from the grocery store at $6 per loaf, or the delicious, light, airy, never-guess-it-was-GF varieties from the local specialty (organic! gluten-free!) bakery at $8 a pop. Rather limiting! I'll be sure to update on the successes and (inevitable) failures with my new toy, as I figure out just how to make it work for us.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The grass is not always cleaner

We're on the road... again. I know! Seems like we're always going someplace. This time it's a short trip with The H to the east side of the state. (Go Blue!) I tried something new this time and did not go grocery shopping when we first arrived. The hotel fridge is as empty as I've ever seen it. Just a sad little yogurt, cream cheese container, baby's juice cup, and a box of leftovers adorn its shiny shelves. We've been eating hotel breakfast and going out for lunch and dinner. Yes, I feel bloated and my face is extremely broken out. Now, about those leftovers...

Dinner last night was at a steak-and-ribs joint, the west-side locations of which have long been closed. We were looking forward to enjoying their food again, and I was determined to live it up. (Please note the title of this post...) I ordered a pork BBQ sandwich, which turned out to be as big as my face, and crispy onions. Yikes, right? Big yikes. I couldn't even pick up the sandwich at all until I'd eaten a Piglet-sized serving off the top, and when I finally did start mowing through with BBQ sauce up to my ears, The H made the observation that "it seems like you've been eating forever and haven't really gotten anywhere." So very, very true. I put down the sandwich, shuffled through the onions, and decided a to-go box was in order... not for myself, though. My often-vegetarian son decided he actually liked the taste of overly-sauced oinker, so I brought the rest of the meat home for him. And then I went for a run.

This morning I knew I had to start getting back on track or people will think I'm a 15-year-old boy (pizza face, anyone?), so I hauled out the container of steel-cut oats I brought with me and stirred up a batch with dried cherries (also brought) and pecans (thanks, Marriott). Double batch = some for tomorrow! I've also got another run planned for tomorrow, and then a 5K to look forward to on Saturday. Hopefully that gives me something to focus on when the siren song of a glossy menu is calling to me the rest of the week. I think I've decided that no matter how short our hotel stays will be, from now on I want to at least stock the fridge with eggs, wheat bread, my own natural pb, and some good fresh fruit. Live and learn.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My first fingerlings

Remember how excited I was about my first co-op order? So far nothing has disappointed! I've been munching Honey Crisp apples for two weeks, our farm-fresh eggs are creamily divine, you've read about my love of kale, we tried a buttercup squash on Sunday, and we really loved the fingerling potatoes I ordered for a Clean Eating Magazine recipe. They turned out great, though the cooking time was misleading as written. The H called these "juicy." I called them the cutest potatoes I'd ever seen. Seriously, some were the size of a large gum ball.

Lemon Thyme Fingerling Potatoes from Clean Eating Magazine, Sept/Oct 2009

1 1/2 lb fingerling potatoes, about 1-2 inches in length
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (I used 1/4 tsp dried)
2 tsp olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400*.
2. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and place into a mixing bowl. Add lemon zest and juice, thyme, oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet (I skipped the paper) and place in oven.
3. Bake for 20 minutes* turning once, or until potatoes are golden brown and tender when pierced with a fork.

* 20 minutes was not long enough, even though I had such diminutive spuds. They were in there at least 30 minutes, though I lost track while trying to cook steaks, mushrooms, and grody rabe at the same time. So start with 20 but expect them to take longer.

These didn't crisp up quite like other roasted potatoes I've had, but they were delicious. The thyme was subtle, so I could increase the amount I used next time, and I might even add a bit more lemon zest. Very pleasing flavor combination. Here is the one and only picture I have of these potatoes, taken at the end of the meal when I remembered the camera was sitting next to me. No, I am not a food photographer. At least they don't have bites out of them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I don't like broccoli rabe.

At least, I don't care for it the way I first attempted it. Even though I boiled it before sautéing, as directed in the recipe, we still tasted quite a bit of bitterness and it wasn't very good. The recipe I followed was from the Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno. My only change was to use a yellow onion instead of red, since that is what I had. Any suggestions for other ways to prepare this leafy green veg are welcome, as I still have half of the gigantic bunch I bought for this dish. I served this with sirloin steaks in a mushroom-wine sauce with lemon-thyme fingerling potatoes from Clean Eating Magazine. Those were fantastic! The H even called them "juicy."

Broccoli Rabe Sauté
1 lb broccoli rabe or asparation, trimmed
1 medium purple onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive or avocado oil
3 cloves garlic, passed through a garlic press
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper

1. Fill a bowl with cold water and a few handfuls of ice cubes.
2. In a large saucepan bring 2 quarts water to a rolling boil. Add vegetables and a pinch of sea salt and cook until vegetables turn color. Once the broccoli or asparation has just turned color, remove from boiling water and place in ice water. Drain well and place on paper towels.
3. In a medium skillet heat oil until just hot. Add garlic and onion and cook until onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Add broccoli or asparation and cook over medium-high heat until al dente - tender but still crisp. Season with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. Serve hot.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dear Kale Chips...

Where have you BEEN all my life? Why has nobody taken the time to introduce me to your crispy, salty, green and wholesome goodness? You are truly one of the most delightful dark leafy greens I've ever had the privilege of consuming, and that is something coming from a person who puts spinach in a breakfast shake and craves roasted Brussels sprouts. My only regret in lunching with you today is that I didn't have the foresight to use a larger cookie sheet when experimenting with your wonderful self. I've learned my lesson. Never again will I think of you, kale, as an awkward cold restaurant-plate garnish.
With adoration,

Baked Kale Chips - inspired by Allrecipes

Curly kale leaves, washed and de-stemmed
Olive oil (in a misting spritzer works best)
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350*. Lay washed leaves on a sprayed (or foil-lined) cookie sheet. Spritz with oil. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste (don't over do it--they are very thin and the salt isn't going anywhere during cooking, so take it easy). Bake 9-12 minutes or until just beginning to brown at the edges. What worked best for me was baking 9 minutes, then turning the oven off for the next two. EAT and ENJOY.

These chips are everything I love about roasted Brussels sprouts--the crispy, browned, salty outer leaves--without the jaw-popping chewy middles. I made these to go with my lunch today (at home, as these are fragile and not suitable for transporting to work) and ate every single piece before I even took a single bite of anything else. They almost made me not want my Honeycrisp apple... I will try these again when my son is around. Given his love of pretzels and corn chips (the latter of which always seem to get stuck in his throat) I can see these being a big hit with the under-3-foot-tall crowd as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sweet Potato Oven Fries

This is the recipe mentioned in the previous entry. I halved this recipe; my notes are in italics.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 min

Eat-Clean Cooking spray (olive oil in a spritzer)
Enough sprigs fresh rosemary to cover a baking sheet (dried worked just fine)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1lb), scrubbed and blotted dry

1. Preheat oven to 400*.

2. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread rosemary sprigs on sheet in a single layer, making sure entire surface is covered. Mix together all other ingredients, except sweet potatoes, in small bowl.

3. Square off potatoes (I had no idea what this meant) and slice into "steak fries." Lay strips of potato on rosemary in a single layer. Sprinkle generously with seasoning mixture. Spray generously with cooking spray. Bake 20 minutes.

4. Spray again. Return to oven for about 25 minutes more or until fries are golden and puffed. (I reserved some of the spices, flipped the fries at this point, and sprinkled the other sides before baking again.)

Poached eggs = fail

Tonight's dinner was going to be toast topped with roasted kale and a poached egg, with a side of sweet potato fries, thanks to inspiration from fellow bloggers CrumblyCookie and SimplyMe (this is my first attempt at linking on my Mac!) Alas, I apparently did not pay close enough attention all those nights during my childhood when my mom would make us poached eggs on toast. I got the boiling water part down, and knew to cook the eggs for as long as it cook the bread to toast, but beyond that, I was winging it. Nobody told me there had to be a certain amount of water in the pan, nor did anyone explain how to get the whites from shredding like cheap toilet paper mid-flush. My two beautiful farm-fresh eggs stuck to the bottom of my pan, and their golden moon yolks were left high and dry (or actually, rather slimy) due to my inexperience. One was salvageable, but the other served as a reminder to the dog that, although he gets reprimanded an awful lot, I do still like him. He was quite the attentive dinner companion after that.

As for the rest of the meal, it was divine. My sauteed kale was cooked in olive oil with garlic, orange bell pepper, and corn. This was my first experience with kale. The texture is "meatier" than spinach or chard, taking longer to chew, and the flavor was an excellent complement to the surviving egg. I liked that it kept its ruffle and did not wilt down to a pile of mush as spinach is wont to do. I used Tosca Reno's sweet potato oven fry recipe from The Eat-Clean Diet book, which is a spicier version of the Sweet Potato Oven Fries in The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids book. The H and baby had a dinner date with H's parents, so I was free to cook for my own tastebuds. And my 'buds like spice.

So even though the eggs didn't go as planned, don't think I forgot about my toast! Ohhh no. I could never forget my toast... it was just a plain ol' piece of sprouted grain bread, until I smeared it with a hearty helping of artisanal cream cheese--one of my co-op selections from last night--that probably supplied my daily value of fat in one fell swoop. The texture was closer to goat cheese than the brick of Philadelphia you may be used to, but once it came to room temperature it was delightfully spreadable. Best.cream.cheese.ever. Thanks, Dancing Goat Creamery!

In case you've fallen asleep reading the previous three paragraphs, here's a recap: Dinner was garlic-sauteed kale with bell pepper and corn, topped with a messily-poached egg and served with spicy sweet potato oven fries and sprouted grain toast with locally-made fresh cream cheese. And it was very good.