Monday, September 28, 2009

Squashy success

My first attempt at cooking spaghetti squash can now be classified a success! It wasn't write-home-to-Mom amazing, but it was pleasant and surprised both me and The H. I love that it was a bit "al dente" and not a mushy, pasty mass like most autumn squashes I've had in the past. Its color was a rich golden that reminded me of a hay bale. There was no need to slather this squash with butter and brown sugar and slam it down before it got cold, as I did so often during my childhood. I did, however, use those very seasonings (well, SmartBalance "butter"), just less of them. The H even took more than one serving, which I have not seen him do with any cooked vegetable other than green beans.

The rest of dinner was a delicious accompaniment; I laid balsamic-marinated chicken breasts on top of the squash and served a completely from-scratch (as in, not even a recipe) spinach-barley risotto that I am most proud of. That is the recipe I'm going to share, since it's my very own and I am so pleased with how it turned out. Measurements are approximate, as that is how I cook, so adjust to your own tastes.

Spinach Barley Risotto - serves 4 - approx. 45min cooking time

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup quick-cooking barley
4 cups broth or stock (I might use some wine next time)
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 large chard leaf, chopped
Lemon zest
Lemon juice, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Add 1-2 Tbsp oil to a deep pot (I used my pressure cooker without the lid) and saute the garlic until fragrant. Add the barley and toast, stirring often, until slightly brown. Add a bit more oil if the barley starts sticking to the bottom of the pan. Slowly add about 1 cup of the broth and stir; season with salt and pepper. Stir almost continuously. Let the mixture bubble over med-high heat until most of the broth is absorbed. Add another cup of broth and repeat. Don't forget to keep stirring! Repeat until all broth is used, adding the chopped greens with the last addition of broth. Add zest and/or juice and more salt and pepper just before serving.

This came out creamy and flavorful; I could not have done better if I'd had a family recipe staring me in the face. The addition of the chard was a last-minute inspiration when I was in the fridge for the lemon; we are going out of town again soon and I want to use as much of our fresh produce as possible before then. The chard was so buttery when we had it with eggs last week, I thought it might contribute to the creaminess of this dish. I was not disappointed! This risotto was the only portion of our fantastic fall dinner that the baby would even consider swallowing. He was eating it by the fistful. I'd consider that a good review, wouldn't you?

Now *this* is fall!

The weather here today is nothing short of blustery. Tree-whipping, raindrop-slinging, shutter-shaking blustery. And I love it. This weather inspires a menu based around comfort foods. So long, cold salads. See you next year, outdoor grill. Bring on the CrockPots and roasting pans! To be fair, I do use my slow cookers year-round, but nothing says "fall" quite like a big simmering crock of chili and a pan of cornbread in the oven (too bad I made that last week, when the cooling temps suddenly jumped to 80 and humid...)

In keeping with my newest endeavor of local clean-eating whenever possible (it only seemed a natural progression) I picked up a few new things at the farmers' market last week. Selfishly, it's nice to see the crowds starting to thin (much easier to push a stroller and keep track of a sticky-fingered small boy while juggling my bags), though I know that means people aren't supporting the local farmers as much as they do the summer. I don't want to be just another fair-weather supporter, so I'm currently trying to get The H to let us join the local co-op.

Anyway, one of our latest pleasures has been enjoying palm-frond sized leaves of chard as a "nest" for farm-fresh eggs. I first tasted chard at our anniversary dinner a few weeks ago at a local-food restaurant, and I loved it. Amazingly, it was not hard to reproduce that great flavor and buttery texture at home. I love the guy who sold me the chard; he has consistently given me great advice regarding how to prepare his produce (he's the one who gave me sorrel for free a few months ago, simply because it would complement the dinner I told him I was planning) and the portions he sells are a remarkable value. The eggs, from another local farm, were a wonderfully creamy addition.

Tonight I will attempt to cook a market-bought spaghetti squash to go with our balsamic-marinated roasted chicken breast. This was supposed to be last night's dinner, but a too-long trip to the grocery store necessitated other plans. It's just as well; the howling weather outside much more perfectly matches the fall feel of this meal. I'm planning to stir up a spinach-barley risotto for another side. And tomorrow, it's off to the market again to get more eggs and whatever other treasures are there.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chicken Beet Salad

The other day I roasted up a bunch of gorgeous red beets, but that was as far as I got until tonight. Their purpose all along has been to become Chicken Beet Salad, inspired by Tosca Reno and perfected by my own self, but I didn't have time to make it until just now.

Following Tosca's directions for roasted beets* I cubed them and stuck them in the fridge until later. Cooked beets are so bright, smooth and shiny; they look like little gems. Tonight I combined them with leftover cooked chicken, celery, feta cheese, walnuts, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar. This salad is a great combination of colors and textures. I'd been looking for a way to enjoy beets other than on my typical Greek salad, and this chilled salad fit the bill. I wasn't so sure about it at first, as beets aren't exactly a mainstay of my diet, but after I tasted this when I made it a few months ago, I was hooked. The beets are deliciously sweet, feta and vinegar provide a nice tang, walnuts add a nutty dimension, celery is just the right kind of crunch, and leftover chicken punches up the protein factor. What a fantastic lunch or snack, straight out of the fridge! I might try some in a whole-grain wrap tomorrow.

* Oven-Roasted Beets, from The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno
6-8 medium-sized beets
Extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, passed through garlic press
Parchment paper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Wash and scrub beets. Remove any strings. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place beets on the lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle mixed garlic over beets. Cover tightly with tin foil and place in the oven.
3. Bake 1 hour.
4. Remove from heat. Let cool enough that you can handle the beets. The skins slip off easily at this point. Slice and place on a dinner plate next to your main course. Beets keep well in the fridge.

Looking forward to lunch....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hello, Fall!

This is my most very favorite time of year, ever. The hoodies and jeans, the crispy leaves, the apple orchards, the hearty casseroles (made cleaner, of course) and CrockPots of soups and stews... everything about the season delights me, except for the fact that winter follows so closely.

I celebrated the occasion with a steaming bowl of turkey chili--complete with two kinds of beans and double the tomatoes (one can was pureed to make it saucier). The seasonings I used today were just right; not too spicy and not bland at all. A delightful way to kick off the season! Tomorrow I'm packing up the baby and planning to peruse the farmers' market. I've never been this late in the year and am hoping to find some good early-fall produce to incorporate. I feel like we haven't had much really *fresh* stuff lately. Maybe THIS will be the year I learn to actually enjoy squash! Here's to hoping... and Happy Fall!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Greening my cleaning

Remember a few days ago when I posted about how eating clean inspired me to live a greener lifestyle in general? I'm excited to report that I've really been working on this. I used my new mesh produce bags at the grocery store, have been toting my stainless steel water bottle everywhere, unearthed the biggest stash of cloth napkins I never knew existed in my house (38 and counting!) and just today purchased some sample-sized Dr. Bronner's soaps for use around the house. I have a metal mesh can in the kitchen for tossing used non-paper towels, I bought a washable cloth mophead for using on my existing Swiffer, and we're expecting a delivery of Charlie's laundry powder any day. It makes me feel good knowing I am creating less paper/packaging waste and also treating our environment--both my little house and the world at large--just a little more kindly. The fact that it's going to smell good in here rather than singeing our nose hairs with the scent of bleach and Tilex doesn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Things haven't gone exactly according to plan this week. When *do* they? My failure to give The H clear instructions on just how many chicken breasts to slather in barbecue sauce resulted in 10+ saucy chicks being grilled on Sunday evening. This threw me. I'm a planner. A list maker. I had a MEAL plan, dang it, and four thousand pounds of barbecue-flavored chicken were not on it!

Relax, you're probably saying. It's.just.chicken. I know that. My mother-in-law (who was there for dinner, along with her husband and my sister) laughed it off and said, "Oh, well. Punt."

What? I don't do sports analogies (heck, I don't do *sports*). She further explained, "If things don't go the way you planned, change plans--punt." Good advice.

So, today we punted. The H got home from work late, and I didn't feel like busting my rear in the kitchen just to whip up the chilled chicken-and-rice salad I'd planned on. Especially because the chicken was now "sweet and smoky with just the right amount of kick" (thanks, Trader Joe's) and I didn't have time to chop any of the veggies today.

The remaining chicken became BBQ chicken salads: a (delightful) combination of organic spring mix, organic baby spinach, saucy breasts, cheddar shreds, gorgonzola crumbles (yep, two kinds of cheese!), shredded carrot, and Roma tomato. The H said he'd eat it again.

I hope that doesn't mean he's going to sauce the entire package of chicken again next time he's on grill duty.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A quick quinoa side dish

Last night we had a last-minute substitution and made quinoa with our BBQ chicken rather than brown rice, simply to save time. My usual go-to quinoa side contains black beans, corn, and cumin, but I didn't want those flavors next to my smoky grilled BBQ chicken. Then I remembered a barley dish I tried a few months ago and decided to use those ingredients to season the quinoa. Thankfully, it turned out just right. So here's what I did:

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Add 1 packet Trader Joe's chicken stock concentrate with the water.

When quinoa is done, add a few swirls of olive oil, the juice of one lemon, a few pinches of dried thyme, sea salt, and black pepper--all to taste. Stir to combine, and serve.

Very easy, very tasty. My 1-year-old was eating it by the fistful, and again for lunch today. Even my mother-in-law, who may have had quinoa for the first time last night, said it was great. Score one for the clean eating machines!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This week's meal plan

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

Chicken apple sausage salad - with smoked chicken apple Chardonnay sausage, spinach, spring mix, yellow bell pepper, Pink Lady apple, gorgonzola, toasted walnuts, hard boiled egg, tomato, and lemon-dijon vinaigrette

Chicken cacciatore - with chicken thighs, Trader Joe's sauce, curly rice pasta, and a side of sugar-snap peas

Wild rice salad - with leek, orange bell pepper, chicken breast, sweet onion, tomato, corn (if I have some in the freezer), basil, and a rice vinegar/oil dressing

Stir fry - with chicken tenders, broccoli, sweet onion, carrot, and white bell pepper over brown rice or spaghetti rice pasta

BBQ chicken - with brown rice and a spinach salad (spinach, hard boiled egg, walnuts, dried apricots, gorgonzola)

Frittata - with spinach, tomato, cheddar or gorgonzola, and maybe served with oatmeal-applesauce pancakes if The H doesn't think the eggs will be filling enough (those would also make great leftovers for a quick breakfast)

Turkey chili - with ground turkey, sweet onion, canned tomatoes, and kidney beans OR we can make nachos out of the turkey, using flax chips, taco seasoning, salsa, black beans, and shredded cheddar

That gets us Sunday through Saturday, hopefully with some leftovers for lunches. Before we went to TX I froze some tofu-veggie burrito filling, so if that thaws well I plan to have some in a whole-grain wrap for a lunch or two, leaving the fresher leftovers (and those not made of soybeans) for The H. I'm also planning to make a double batch of granola, hummus, dried black beans in the CrockPot (a first for me!), a big pot of brown rice, and a small batch of yogurt cheese for using as a veggie dip or sour cream substitute. This week's plan doesn't have any new recipes on it, just variations on old favorites, but that may change if I find something great in one of my books/magazines.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Retail therapy

Tonight I was pleased to grocery shop in one of my usual stores, in my own city. I like grocery shopping. Finding good deals on things to keep my family full and healthy is fun for me. Tonight was no exception, but it was also kind of therapeutic.

In trying to be more eco-conscious, I chose the store that is 3 miles away from home rather than the larger, brighter (and more chaotic) superstore that is 6-7 miles away. It was after 8pm when I went, so the deli, bakery, fish counter, and butcher were all closed and dark. The aisles were not crowded, few lanes were open, and the music was not overwhelming. In fact, I can't even remember what was playing.

With my new reusable mesh produce bags in tow, handily attached to one of my reusable grocery bags, I felt very "green" and aware of what I was buying. I shopped thoughtfully, I told The H when I got home, and tried to think of more than one use for each item that went into my cart. For example, the spinach I bought instead of arugula will get mixed with spring greens for a salad and used in my morning monster smoothies. I can wilt some down for a salad or side, and add a handful to the cacciatore sauce we'll have later this week. Arugula would have been mixed into a salad, maybe made into pesto, and then forgotten about until it went slimy and had to be thrown out.

Even though I ended up $2 over budget (a bunch of MI-grown beets for $1.99 found their way into my cart because I am no longer afraid of them, LOL) I don't feel guilty about it like I often do when the total is more than I had planned. For the most part, I stuck to my list and was even more selective than that. The nectarines on my list, also MI-grown, were too large for my taste and didn't have much "give" to them. From past experience, I know this means they'll end up mealy, not juicy, and may even rot from the inside out before they get thumb-soft. I carefully chose three, but normally would have bought 6 or 8. Cheese wasn't on sale, so I skipped it. The H will be traveling again next week, so I bought a pint of half-and-half instead of a quart.

My great triumph of the night was finding ground turkey on sale for $2.99 (for 16 or 20oz, I forget) and combining it with my $1-off coupon. We never get lean ground turkey that cheap! Even though my freezer is stocked with plenty of chicken (breasts, thighs, sausage, and tenders) and I was not planning on buying meat tonight, this was just too good to pass up.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of my trip was spent in the produce section, as many clean eaters strive for, since I had such a great pantry stock of grains, sauces, canned goods, and pastas waiting for us at home already. My real test of willpower will be *not* making a mile-long list based on the sales circular in tomorrow's paper. Maybe I'll spend time getting reacquainted with my cookbooks instead...

OTRA: Day 14

We're heading home! Today will likely be all over the map with meals, but I'll do the best I can. I have my beloved almonds and dried apricots in my carry-on, as well as an apple and some dark chocolate.

Breakfast: Two pieces of Ezekiel toast, one with an egg and one with peanut butter/honey, coffee with milk.

Snack: Coffee, raw almonds, dried apriocots.

Lunch: Turkey sandwich at the "Chili's Too" in the Houston airport. It was served on garlic bread, which was weird and way too bread-y for me. So I only ate the bottoms, and only about half at that. The sandwich had smoked turkey, tomato, lettuce, and Swiss on it. The baby and I shared fries; he also at half of a grilled chicken breast and an applesauce cup.

Snack: Ghirardelli square and a nap, ha! Oh, and more coffee. Our second flight was longer.

Aaaand we are HOME! Dinner was broiled salmon with fresh lemon, garlic-sauteed yellow and green beans with baby carrots, and one small piece of bread with bruschetta on top. We went out with the in-laws after they picked us up. I think The H's mom shot me an odd look when I asked for double the veggies and no potato. I ate the croutons off my side salad and brought home the free cupcakes that came with our meal (this was news to me, but yum).

Snack 3: Carrot cake cupcake and a glass of 1/2% milk after grocery shopping. It was so nice to be in a familiar store again!

No exercise today, other than hoofing around three airports with a 27-lb baby and some impossibly heavy suitcases.

Friday, September 11, 2009

OTRA: Day 13

Last full day here in TX!

Breakfast: Small green monster. Added too much peanut butter and not enough ice. And STILL had banana chunks.

Exercise: 60 minute run (yes, finally!) with the stroller. We did incorporate some walk breaks. Getting out the door earlier than previous days allowed us that extra time before my diapered running partner got tired. I did some core work when he was napping. It poured rain all day after this, so we didn't get to do any walking like we normally would.

Snack: Two pieces Ezekiel toast with cheddar, two scrambled eggs, and a smear of Greek olive hummus. Really delicious! Also had my coffee with skim.

Lunch: My post-run snack was so filling that I wasn't hungry for more than four hours afterwards. So unlike me! When I did eat, I had a mug of leftover spicy black bean soup. Yep, still spicy. The corn is my favorite part. I don't know why I don't stuff like this at home more often. It would be a great candidate for the CrockPot and easy lunch leftovers.

Snack 2: My three remaining Honey Stingers (yum) and 1 Ghirardelli dark chocolate square.

Dinner: Another pizza from our new favorite, the organic-and-all-natural place. Tonight mine had BBQ sauce, chicken, pineapple, mushrooms, and red onion on it. As the "personal" size is roughly equivalent to two regular slices, I also had the last piece of The H's gluten-free pie with pepperoni, mushroom, and sausage on it. Salad just wasn't doing it for me tonight, though I did have a few bites (spring mix, portobello, green pepper, tomato, Italian dressing).

Snack 3: A piece of The H's gluten-free brownie from the pizza place and a small mug of decaf with skim.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

OTRA: Our groceries

This was jaw-dropping to me. Here's a list of what we used living in a hotel for the past two weeks:

8 small (4oz) Greek yogurt cups
5 regular (6oz) organic yogurts
2 dozen eggs
3 lbs ground turkey
1 Betty Crocker gluten-free brownie mix
10-12 Pink Lady apples
4 cans black beans
2 small cans corn
1 can tomato paste
6 fresh tomatoes
1 can green chiles
4 sweet onions
4 cusa squash
1lb (slightly less) rice pasta
1 jar marinara sauce
3 bricks cheddar cheese
1 8-oz bag mozzarella cheese
2 loaves of bread, one gluten-free
3+ gallons of milk
10 individual cups natural applesauce
Lots of bananas
2 10-oz bags baby spinach
2 heads of Romaine
1 jar natural peanut butter
1lb raw almonds
1 bag dried apricots
1 large bag tortilla chips
2 jars salsa
2 packages natural deli turkey
2 boxes Honey Nut Chex
1/2 box wheat-free Os cereal
Barely 1/4 jar apple butter
1 10-oz container Sabra Greek olive hummus
2 boxes gluten-free rice mac and cheese
Almost 2 lbs coffee, one regular and one decaf
2 bags of Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares
Some servings of quick oats
Some chocolate and vanilla protein powders
24 Nature Valley granola bars (!)
Some baby oatmeal we brought along
48 bottles of purified water (holy cow, boo on us!)

That is a LOT of food. And that does not include the (few) things I am bringing home with us, such as the third jar of salsa and the last two applesauce cups (plane snack for baby). I can't believe we still ate out as much as we did!

I miss my kitchen!

I miss my gas stove. I miss my double sink with actual working garbage disposal. I miss my own grind-it-as-you-want-it coffee maker. I miss my reusable shopping bags! While I am ridiculously proud of myself for concocting the meals we've had in our hotel room and for using all our ingredients to the best of my creative ability, I am so ready to get back to my own house and real knives that a) didn't come from the dollar store and b) don't freaking *bend* when I try to cut things with them. You know, super-tough things like Roma tomatoes. Ugh.

Last night I was poring over the Sep/Oct issue of Clean Eating Magazine and started circling some recipes I want to try. Things like Chicken Barley Stew, Boneless BBQ Pork Strips, and Candy Apple Pork Tenderoloin with Lemon Thyme Fingerling Potatoes sound so delicious right now! That last one thrills me to bits, too, because it calls for unsweetened apple butter. Uh, guess what I bought a jar of when we first got here? It was meant to be. The Sweet Potato & Cinnamon Brownies are calling to me as well. And even though my sister told me just today she'd rather not eat "healthy" stuff for dessert, I totally plan to make these next time they come over and not say anything about it.

Something else I'm really excited about is the idea of starting a "supper club" with a friend who recently started eating clean. We're going to start small and make just one extra batch of something we're making for our own families and then swap them, but I am looking forward to it. I am keeping my eyes open for things that can be frozen (hello, Boneless BBQ Pork Strips!) and that would be pleasing to adults and small fry, as she has three young kids and I have my (admittedly non-picky) chunky monkey to keep in mind. If you have any dishes that meet this criteria, please send them to me! Use the email address at the right.

And now back to daydreaming of my own grocery store and farmers' market...

OTRA: Day 12

Almost there! Two more days...

Breakfast: Small green monster. I hate getting a mouthful of mushy banana chunk at the end. :( Must remember to blend longer.

Exercise: 30 minute run with the stroller. Lost my hat and my sunglasses; was thankful for cloud cover today! Sun came out as we were finishing. Used the resistance band for my arms while baby napped. We also walked to the drugstore (1.5mi round trip) to get my prescription after lunch.

Snack: Pink Lady apple, two hard boiled eggs (did not eat most of the yolks--too dry).

Lunch: Two pieces leftover organic veggie pizza.

Snack 2: Honey nut Chex and some skim milk while I made dinner.

Dinner: Spicy black bean soup (black beans, the leftover bean dip I made earlier this week, green chiles, corn, onion, fresh tomato, chicken broth), chips + salsa, slice of watermelon. My son had a blast gnawing on the watermelon rinds (yes, we gave him some actual melon, too) and enjoyed the soup more than I thought; we added milk to it to cut the spice.

Snack 3: Three teeny brownie bites from happy hour, 1/2 glass Merlot, and half of a Trader Joe's 72% dark chocolate bar we brought with us. The H had the other half.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OTRA: Day 11

Breakfast: Small green monster (banana, milk, peanut butter, spinach, ice).

Snack: Organic lowfat chocolate yogurt and a granola bar. Funny thing about this is that the almost-too-sweet yogurt started to taste like pickles after I took a few bites of granola bar. But I like pickles so it didn't deter me from finishing the cup.

Lunch: Gluten-free mac and cheese, two slices lean turkey, chips and black bean dip.

Snack 2: Chocolate protein shake, almonds, dried apricots (they're just so dang convenient!). My son had some cheese and a veggie burger from the hotel's happy hour so he wouldn't be cranky and I could get a decent workout in.

Exercise: 15 minute run, then 10 minutes interval running while waiting for dinner to be ready. Did one set of ab work and some good stretching after baby was in bed.

Dinner: Organic veggie pizza from the all-natural/gluten-free place we went to this past weekend. The H has a work dinner tonight, so baby and I shared this after our run. It was phenomenal! The crust was soft and just a bit salty, the sauce was a perfect texture and rich flavor, and the veggies (tomatoes, green peppers, red onion, black olives, mushrooms) were sliced large and were not mushy. Absolutely delicious.

Snack 3: I might have a piece of dark chocolate, but I'm not entirely sure I want it right now. The pizza was very filling. I will have more water and think about it while I shower.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Eating clean = going green?

Since I changed my eating habits back in May/June, I'm finding that other aspects of my life are becoming a little more green as well. Being more aware of what goes into my body and how it helps me function has me thinking about the things I purchase, wear, consume, and clean with and wanting to make smarter, greener/cleaner choices for those things as well.

We recycle, though it took me too long to pick up our free bins from the city. Being here in a hotel and using plastic water bottles and aluminum cans that go right into the trash is bugging me more than I would have thought a few months ago. Surely (some) hotels have to have recycling programs, right? I should have asked last week.

We've used reusable grocery bags for awhile, when I remember them, but only recently have I thought to buy reusable produce bags. Most of my shopping trip is spent in the produce department anyway, where I have been known to stand at a roll of plastic bags and rip off 10 or 12 at a time for the things I'll be buying that day. I recycle the ones I can (clean and dry) when I get home, but WOW that's a lot of plastic! My new set of 6 mesh bags, ordered from, should be at my doorstep within a few days. Reusable snack bags will be another eco-friendly purchase down the line. I've also added a set of insulated hot/cold grocery bags to my Amazon wish list, so I can save on gas and do more than one errand while I'm grocery shopping without fear of my milk spoiling or my yogurt getting warm.

I have spray bottles of vinegar-water solution and a homemade floor cleaner in the pantry, but too often I reach for my handy Swiffer Wet cloths for floor messes. If I had a reusable mop (or hey, an old t-shirt) to attack the floor with, using my bottles wouldn't take any more time than the Swiffer. One of my projects when we're home will be to set up a stash of reusable towels/washcloths in the kitchen to cut down the number of paper towels we use. Bounty select-a-size have been my best buds for years, but we use way too many. I got all excited when I remembered that I even have an old plastic trash can, too grungy for everyday use, that I will store used/wet towels in under the kitchen sink until laundry day.

Thanks to my clean eating and established running habits, some of my clothes are becoming baggy (and simply worn out; I don't shop all that often), but rather than dashing out to Old Navy or the mall to purchase brand-new off-the-line replacements, I'm really hoping to look around at a few consignment shops near home. There is a used-goods store that my son and I could walk to, so I will plan for that next week. The idea of rescuing pre-worn articles from the trash and finding some one-of-a-kind additions to my wardrobe is becoming more appealing to me.

Tonight at Barnes & Noble, I skimmed through a green-living book and scribbled down some of the websites listed in the back, for things like pet supplies, women's clothing, home decor, coffee, shoes, and reusable bags. Sure, I could have bought the book, but 1) it seemed silly to spend $15 on something that is designed to help people conserve resources, 2) I knew I had a coupon sitting in my email inbox so it would be wasteful to spend full price, and 3) I plan to walk to the library next week and look for the book (or something similar) there.

Clean eating fits nicely into this greener mindset, not only for what we eat, but how. Tonight I made a bean dip using leftover black beans, leftover corn, and some of the salsa I bought fresh this week, to help us use up the tortilla chips we bought last week and to provide a little snack variety while we're here. (I do like to snack on more than just rraw almonds and dried apricots, despite what my daily entries say.) Even at home, I challenge myself to use our pantry/fridge/freezer stashes in conjunction with fresh produce to creatively cook healthy and fun meals before anything goes bad. Just before we left for this trip, I was able to cook my way through the kitchen without making a grocery trip for nearly two weeks. I sent The H to a store for milk here and there, on his way home from work, but that's about it.

Knowing that our house-sitter doesn't drink coffee, we even made sure to use the last of our beans and ground coffee stash before leaving (even though it wasn't our favorite flavor), rather than buying a pound + of fresh beans that we wouldn't get to enjoy for two weeks. Going home to an empty coffee cupboard means we now get to visit our favorite local roaster/distributor and pick some fresh flavors. Even the baby enjoys this kind of trip, as he gets to ham-and-cheese for the nice ladies at the counter. Everybody wins!

And now off to etsy to bookmark some more favorites. Christmas isn't *that* far away...

Monday, September 7, 2009

OTRA: Day 10

Breakfast: Small green monster (1/2 banana, skim milk, peanut butter, spinach, ice).

Exercise: 30 minute run with the stroller.

Snack: Organic low-fat berry yogurt, small Pink Lady apple, coffee with milk. Raw almonds and dried apricots while walking/shopping with the baby, to avoid purchasing gummy sugar candy (it worked!).

Lunch: Ezekiel toast with Sabra Greek olive hummus and Oscar Mayer natural turkey, leftover coleslaw, 1 Ghirardelli 72% dark square.

Snack 2: A few tortilla chips with homemade bean dip (black beans, corn, salsa) and a few slices of cheddar while I cooked dinner.

Dinner: Homemade tomato soup (Roma tomatoes, onion, chicken broth, black pepper, sea salt, tomato paste--hooray for the bullet blender!) and grilled cheese sandwich (Ezekiel bread, low-fat cheddar, spinach, turkey).

Snack 3: Maggie Moo's ice cream! I planned a lighter supper tonight to allow for this treat.

OTRA: Day 9

Breakfast: Small green monster (half banana, spinach, milk, peanut butter, ice).

Exercise: Short run with The H and baby. Maybe 30 minutes? It was very hot again.

Snack: Ezekiel toast topped with low-fat sharp cheddar and a microwave-scrambled egg, coffee with skim.

Lunch: Marinated portobello burger on a wheat bun with bleu cheese and caramelized onion, tomato, and lettuce and a side of Cuban black beans (w/onion and red bell pepper) at a bar/grill we found downtown. One of the few open places today, since it's a holiday, but it turned out to be a great choice. My son was able to eat off the buffet, which was awesome and so much cheaper than a kid's meal at any other place we've been to. He packed away a ton of beans (kidney and garbanzo), corn, cubed ham, egg, olives, watermelon, and Jell-O, plus a glass of milk. I didn't know he had that much room in him.

Snack 2: Dried apricots and raw almonds before dinner.

Dinner: Smoked turkey, brisket and jalapeno sausage at a Texas BBQ place. It was an experience like none other. Sides were corn, beans, cole slaw, and red potatoes.

Snack 3: Decaf with milk and one Ghirardelli 72% square.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

OTRA: Day 8

Into the second week...hooray!

Breakfast: Ezekiel toast with peanut butter, 1/2 banana, and one of my Sue-Bee honey packets from Chick-fil-A.

Exercise: 30min run by myself, then abs and arms. It is HOT out today. Left for my run later than usual; maybe that had something to do with it.

Snack: Chocolate protein shake, half of a Pink Lady apple, coffee with skim (and a Mini Moo for my refill).

Lunch: All-natural, organic, pizza at Promise Pizza--red sauce, mushrooms, green pepper, red onion, tomatoes. Delicious.

Snack 2: Decaf pumpkin spice latte with a half-shot of syrup as we walked around the outlet mall, and some raw almonds, dried apricots, and 1 Ghirardelli square before grocery shopping. I got a new stainless steel water bottle and I'm excited to use it.

Dinner: Macaroni Grill again (it's right outside the hotel); this time I got an orzo-spinach salad with a bunch of other goodies: chicken, capers, black olives (which my son loved), diced tomatoes, and strips of aged parmesan. It was overly dressed and although it would have been enough for dinner + lunch tomorrow, I don't have anything here to add to it to cut the dressing. I do not care for soggy salads.

Snack 3: Decaf with milk and a gluten-free brownie.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Looking back at my posts, this was a pretty terrible week in terms of eating clean. One splurge lead to another, I caved under stress on a busy day, and treats became the norm rather than the exception. I started rewarding myself with goodies and some "just this one time" meals were becoming my all the time meals. This is way too waffly for me.

I don't want to be a fairweather clean eater. Either I am, or I'm not. And this week, I felt like I was not. A lot of this is in my control and I plan to do better next week. I know I am not at home, but honestly, given my surroundings, that is no excuse. Our hotel kitchen is fully equipped. There are stores aplenty nearby. We are not destitute or stranded or helpless. I brought my own blender, for Pete's sake.

Nothing is stopping me from ordering as clean as I can at any given restaurant. I'm the one doing the grocery shopping, and I am the one on my own all day long, making decisions about what to eat and when. Nobody made me put that pudding on my plate tonight. I did it almost out of defiance to myself, "because I can." What a brat! What am I trying to prove, and to whom? Yippee for me, I can eat junk...? Guess that kind of backfired. I don't *want* to eat the junk. Eating less than clean makes me feel sluggish, grumpy, poofy around the middle, and like all my clean efforts (and yes, some days it is an effort) have gone out the window. Why would I continue choosing making myself feel like this? Even if it isn't true (except for the poofy belly part...ugh), a few bites of stale cake and a heap of room-temperature whipped cream aren't worth the mental and physical repercussions.

I can still have treats. I will still enjoy my treats. The BBQ sandwich I had for lunch today was incredible and I am very glad I chose that instead of the bison burger that was on the menu just below it. But they will be treats again, not staples. Tomorrow we're going to get a Sunday paper and I will make my shopping list based on the store circular, like I do at home. I might even include some things from the issue of Clean Eating Magazine I brought with me. After all, nothing is stopping me.

OTRA: Day 7

Breakfast: Ezekiel toast with apple butter, smoothie made with milk, banana, ice, chocolate protein powder, and peanut butter. It was massively filling and I only ate half; I have no idea what possessed me to make such a gigantic high-calorie breakfast on a day I'm not even running.

Exercise: We explored some of San Antonio on foot, including the Alamo and the RiverWalk.

Snack: Just coffee and milk in the car on the way to San Antonio.

Lunch: The most fantastic BBQ beef sandwich I can recall, one less-than-stellar stuffed potato skin, and a few fries with ketchup. That sandwich was worth every messy bite. Shared some with my son and he ate most of my fries.

Snack 2: Cranberry-blueberry sorbet sipper at Haagen Dazs.

Dinner: I don't really want to tell you... it was at a soup + salad buffet place right next to our hotel. Lots of choices for the baby, and I really didn't do all that badly until the very end. Yes, there was pound cake and pudding on my plate. Yes, it started to taste gross before I finished it all.

Snack 3: Maybe some decaf... and a 12-mile run. I kid, I kid...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

OTRA: Day 6

Finally Friday! Looking forward to having both my boys around for the next three days; we are planning to do some touristy things (like remember the Alamo!) while we have the chance.

Breakfast: A few fresh raspberries, hard boiled egg white, Ezekiel toast with apple butter. 4 Honey Stinger chews on the way out to run. Need to hit the Whole Foods for more before we go home...those suckers are addictive.

Exercise: 45 minute run with the stroller. Intended to go for an hour, the little guy was getting too close to naptime. Did some arm exercises with the resistance band once he was down.

Snack: Organic low-fat fruit-on-the-bottom strawberry yogurt, coffee with milk.

Lunch: Oatmeal with apple butter and raw almonds, small chocolate protein shake. The oatmeal needed some cinnamon and/or agave, but I don't have either one with me.

Snack 2: Shared a fruit cup and chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A with my little travel companion. He had such a blast watching the kids in the play area; the extra calories were totally worth it. Plus, we walked there and back, with a trip to Wal-Mart in between (over a mile round-trip). Grabbed some honey packets for putting on peanut butter toast (with banana! yum!) and maybe for my oatmeal another day.

Dinner: Taco salad made with Romaine, ground turkey, black beans, corn, salsa, and mild cheddar with a drizzle of Ken's Steakhouse ranch dressing (from the hotel happy hour yesterday) and those lovely no-salt tortilla chips crumbled on top. I adore black beans, especially when they're mixed with salsa and simmered until slightly thickened. I could eat that with a spoon.

Snack 3: Gluten-free brownies (thanks, Betty Crocker! Use less sugar next time!) and decaf with milk--a comfort food kind of snack. It's been a long week and I am utterly relieved that it's Friday. One down, one to go.

OTRA: Day 5

It was a better day. No doctors, no crazy schedule. We took it easy and enjoyed laying low.

Breakfast: Ezekiel toast with peanut butter and 1/4 banana, small glass of milk.

Exercise: 30min run with the stroller. It was quite humid today but I brought water this time.

Snack: Organic low-fat fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, raw almonds.

Lunch: Leftover flatbread pizza, small protein shake.

Snack 2: Raw almonds, medium banana. Baby was finally napping and these items made zero noise and required no preparation. Tasted my new Honey Stinger energy chews from Whole Foods. Had to put the package away or they'd be gone before my long run. Good stuff.

Dinner: Broth-based vegetable soup during hotel happy hour again. Also could not resist a teeny tiny chocolate-donut-tasting bit of brownie truffle. Worth it. Back in our room, I made us a "baked ziti" style rice pasta with marinara sauce and ground turkey and sauteed some cusa squash seasoned with sea salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese (thanks to Macaroni Grill, who included the oil and cheese with our bread on Saturday night). Ended my meal with a wedge of watermelon and half a glass of Texas Hold 'Em red wine.

Snack 3: Decaf with milk, 2 Ghirardelli 72% dark chocolate squares. I may munch on the last two watermelon triangles if I'm feeling snacky after working for a while.

OTRA: Day 4

Today was a disaster, and not just in terms of food. My son decided (like he had a choice) to get sick this week. Remember we're out of town? Today (and some of yesterday) was spent on the phone with our pediatrician, insurance company, and various labs/doctors who may or may not accept our insurance. Super fun.

Breakfast: Green monster. I didn't add enough peanut butter and it was too banana-y for me. Also very green. Must have added more spinach than I thought in my sleep-deprived stupor.

Snack: Store-brand honey nut Chex in between dropping The H off at work 1/2 hour away and running to a doc's appt in the opposite direciton.

Lunch: It was eaten in the car, from a place that asks if you want fries with that, while my son snoozed in his car seat. My sandwich was chicken, I declined fries. Didn't realize the sandwich had bacon on it, but man was it tasty. Got fruit and shared it with my son when he woke up looking dazed. Drank some brown carbonation that gave me some wicked gas the rest of the day. Painful and wicked. TMI, right? Oh well. Live and learn.

Snack: I have no recollection of a snack. Quite possibly, the calories I had at lunch held me over until dinner. I did stop at McDonald's with my son to get ice cream for his hoarse sore throat, but I did not eat anything.

Dinner: Hamburger (white bun, tomato, cheese, mustard, and lettuce), potato chips, and watermelon. This was the meal for the hotel's "happy hour" social gathering in the lobby. The H ate one without a bun, and we gave my son leftover gluten-free mac + cheese, melon, and some veggie burger. The v.b. was actually very tasty and I kind of wish I'd eaten that instead of most of the beef patty that was as big as my face. Oh well again. It tasted good and I didn't have too cook it. Also had a small glass of red wine. After our heck of a day, it was just right.

Snack: Chips and salsa, decaf with milk.

On the road again: Day 3

Breakfast: Vanilla whey protein shake, small banana (pre-run).

Exercise: 30min run with my son in the stroller; 20min walk/run after that. Very muggy today! Had planned on an hour, but just couldn't do it.

Snack 1: Hard boiled egg (half the yolk), small vanilla Oikos Greek yogurt with a Nature Valley Oats 'n' Honey granola bar crumbled on top. Not the cleanest bar in terms of sugar content, but there are no weird ingredients and crap I can't pronounce.

Lunch: Half of a Pink Lady apple and an Ezekiel grilled cheese with cheddar, tomato, mozzarella, and spinach.

Snack 2: Quick oats with half a scoop of protein powder and a few raw almonds.

Dinner: Hawaiian pizza (peppered ham, pineapple, jalapeno, onion) at a cute little hole-in-the-wall pizza place that offers a full gluten-free menu. Not wanting to blow the budget by adding an extra $5 to make my pie GF, I indulged in a regular old (super crispy and just burnt enough) flatbread crust.

Snack 3: I think I had some dark chocolate, 1 Ghirardelli 72% square, but I can't remember. Oh, and ***BONUS*** I just re-read the bag of tortilla chips I bought, and they don't contain any salt like I'd said before. Corn, corn oil, and lime. They're awesome with the hot salsa we bought!