My Food Heroes and Altered States

My Favorite Food Heroes!
My Favorite Food Heroes!

Firstly – welcome to the new look! I’ve made some changes to liven the blog up a bit. Secondly – I’ve also made some decisions about the way I’m going with cooking – trying to be less complicated and more conscious about the ingredients. The naughties were creeping in, like sugar, carbs and salt! I don’t want to pull back to the point of just eating rabbit food – but I need to stop worrying about my meals being boring and focus on simplicity – as well as variety. I kept up with my exercising and still feeling better for it.

Thirdly – I’m kicking off this week’s post with a little piece about my favorite food heroes. There are others who I enjoy watching, but these are my top seven. You might think they’re a motley bunch but I’ve found them the most interesting, informative and entertaining. I was interested to note that the majority were British – and male! I tried hard to find more women, but then I realized that it would be contrived – just to be more balanced and fair.

Starting with Ainsley Harriott. 

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Fun, exciting, passionate – and he loves spicy food! He’s traveled all over to bring wonderful flavors to our tables – doing it all with the enthusiasm of a child. Here’s a link to his website:

http://www.ainsley-harriott.com/home

Here’s a video of Ainsley making Veggie Burgers!

Next – are the Two Fat Ladies! 

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Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. They have both passed away but they were hilariously delightful with their cooking – which was a mixture of the old and the new. They were known for loving lard and other naughties – but they were thoroughly entertaining and endearing!

Here they are talking about vegetarians and nasty lentils!

The only non-British (although descended from the French) – Anthony Bourdain!

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I love his series “No Reservations” as well as the other shows – and his book, “Kitchen Confidential” – which I have as an audiobook, narrated by the snarky one himself. Brilliant insights into the “underbelly” of the culinary world.

kitchen-confidential

Although his shows featured other’s cooking – and only rarely himself cooking, he traveled the world and taught us about other cultures as well as their cuisines. Even though there were some things I wouldn’t dream of eating – like intestines and other awful offal – I learned a great deal about cooking and fascinating countries and the people who live there.

Here are two interesting links:

http://www.travelchannel.com/shows/anthony-bourdain

http://anthonybourdain.tumblr.com/

The wonderful Rick Stein!

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He has several DVD’s out – including my favorite – “Food Heroes of Britain” – where he travels around Britain, meeting the food heroes and their local produce. Then he cooks wonderful meals using the ingredients he comes across. I love his easy-going style and old-fashioned sensibilities. He has his own restaurants, books and tv shows – and a burgeoning cottage industry – selling his own concoctions and many other things related to cooking.

Here’s a link to his website:

http://www.rickstein.com/

Here is Rick Stein making Turkish Spicy Lamb Flat bread:

The Lovely Nigella Lawson:

NL

Scandals aside – I love her simple approach to cooking. She can switch from an easy snack to a complex dinner party without making it seem too difficult. I also love her descriptions of food and how it makes her feel. Delightful.

Here’s a link to her website:

http://www.nigella.com/

Here’s a video of Nigella making Crustless Pizza:

Last – but not least – Jamie Oliver!

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When I first heard about the “Naked Chef” – I thought he’d be cooking in the nude! After my initial disappointment, I found his simplicity refreshing – using whole foods with exuberant passion. He went on to create the Food Revolution, which was an attempt to reform school lunch programs and educate the young about eating healthily. He also started the Fifteen Apprentice Programme, to inspire and support new Chefs coming up through the ranks.

Here are some links:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/

http://www.jamieoliverfoodfoundation.org.uk/

http://www.foodrevolutionday.com/#Q8Rf5bxumYr7uwct.97

Here’s Part one of Jamie Cooks Summer – Brisket and Smoked Fish!

Now – on with some of the food I cooked for the week!

CEB

Chocolate Energy Bites! I was trying to make something to have on hand when my sweet tooth reared its ugly head – as I’m trying to get away from ice-cream and other desserts. This recipe used Flax seed meal – which took a bit of getting used to – but they were enjoyable. 2 – 3 was enough to shut me up. The whole plate lasted us a week! (I doubled the recipe.)

Chocolate Energy Bites

Ingredients:

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp honey (I used raw, unfiltered Wildflower – local)

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Up to 4 tsp warm water, as needed

1 cup old fashioned oats (raw)

3/4 cup unsweetened raw coconut

1/2 cup flaxseed meal

6 Tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:

In a large bowl, stir together peanut butter, honey, vanilla and cocoa powder. Add oats, coconut, flaxseed meal and chocolate chips and stir until evenly coated. At this point if mixture still doesn’t stick well, stir in up to 2 tsp water as needed. Transfer mixture to refrigerator and chill until nearly set and easier to handle.

Remove from refrigerator and shape into 1-inch balls. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup
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Chorizo Sausage with onions, garlic and peppers

SP

Spanikopita

Ingredients:

10oz. baby spinach – roughly chopped (6 cups)
8 oz. cottage cheese – drained
12 oz. feta
5 eggs, beaten

1 box filo dough, thawed (9×14 – 16oz – 40 sheets)

1 1/2 sticks butter – melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1. Place spinach in a large bowl.

2. Add cottage cheese, crumbled feta cheese and eggs. Mix together and season if desired.

3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

4. Cover unused filo with glad wrap.

5. Place one sheet of filo on your work surface. Brush roughly with melted butter (doesn’t need to be completely covered with butter.) Repeat with 2 more sheets.

6. Scoop out 1/2-cup of the filling and place on filo in the middle and wrap to make a parcel. Place this parcel seam side down on your baking sheet. Brush top with butter. Repeat with remaining filo and filling.

7. Bake strudels for 30 to 45 minutes or until nice and golden brown on top. Cool briefly and serve. 

*I sprinkled mine with some sesame seeds before baking.

SN
Singapore Noodles

Here’s my menu plan for next week:

Menu 100315

Until then, stay healthy and happy!

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Shapeshifting: Dispelling the Myths

A while ago, I wrote about creatine and how it helps to heal your muscles after workouts – among other things. I decided that I would stop taking it, after being told that it can actually make you gain weight and retain water. It has only been a week, but I can tell the difference already. Not that I was overly bloated before, but I have noticed that I feel “lighter” and for the first few days of withdrawing – I was peeing like a racehorse!

During the first eleven weeks, I knew that I was losing weight – but not at the rate I would’ve liked. We were sticking to our new healthy eating regimen – with only a few blips on the radar – and I was exercising religiously. Now that I’ve stopped taking the creatine, I’m feeling better and more people are noticing that I’m losing the weight. I’ll report back in a couple of weeks to see how it goes.

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The main myth I’d like to dispel is the one we’ve all hidden behind – from time to time – which is, “It’s too expensive to eat healthy.” Let’s break it down. When we’re not eating healthy foods and decide to start checking it out – we usually go to the health food section of the store and balk at the high prices of certain ingredients – in comparison to the ones we normally buy. We don’t take into consideration that healthy eating usually means unprocessed/whole foods – like fresh fruit and veggies (even organic), good quality meat and other products.

We also don’t stop to think about the amounts of processed/pre-packaged food we have to buy to catch up to the volume that whole food can provide. For example: I find that canned or frozen meals never fill me up. After zapping them in the microwave, I plop them onto my plate and feel deflated with the pitiful, sloppy mess – which includes scant amounts of meat and veggies. Usually, when I have a pre-packaged meal, I have to follow it up with something else to fill the void.

It’s those hidden extras we turn a blind eye to – that add the dollars to our weekly food bills. I spend approximately $150 per week on food – for two adults (and two naughty cats – although their total averages $54 per month, which is included in that weekly average of $150.) As we are not buying junk food or snacks – the total remains at $150 per week. Before I started this healthy regime, I also spent $150 per week on food – which was a lot of processed and pre-packaged items and smaller amounts of veggies, fruit and meat.

On top of that, we ate out at least three times per week, along with snacks such as candy, chips and ice-cream. Taking into consideration that each take-out meal (for two) averaged between $15 – $20 and snacks averaged between $5 – $10 at least two times per week – the extra food bill came to approx $65. That doesn’t include the times we might go out for dinner at a restaurant – which is not that often anyway. All up, that’s a total of at least $205 that we were spending. It was probably more like $220 – $250 some weeks.

Now, when I say I spend $150 per week on groceries – that also includes the occasional cleaning product, kitty litter, toiletries etc. We are actually saving money due to not eating junk food and our shopping bill is at least the same – with more benefits – such as being and feeling healthier, fewer trips to the doctors and no need for medications to deal with inflammation, gas, heartburn, bowel problems and so on. We’re saving anywhere from $65 – $150 or more per week – taking all those extras into consideration!

When I look at my shopping list now, the fruit and veggie section is nearly triple the length – while the “other” section has reduced by two thirds. The conclusion is: spend more on healthy food – spend less on crap. Pretty elementary, my dear Watson! A wonderful byproduct of the healthy lifestyle is – I can now spend more on those “luxury” items in the health food section if I so choose to – as in the old days, I would’ve spent those extra dollars on junk.

As I’ve said before, when I go around the supermarket and spy those overly processed and pre-packaged foods, all I can think about is how far removed those products are from actual food. Also – how many chemicals, fillers and additives, how much salt, sugar and fat those products have and how horrible they would make me feel. It’s now easy to stay away from them – which is a miracle for me!

Having said that – let me say this. I will not go without certain “naughty” foods. See my last post, where I discuss guilty pleasures. The thing is – they are a treat once in a while – not every week or whenever I feel like it. Yesterday – I decided to go to my favorite Indian food vendor and got my usual “evil” platter of chicken biryani, chilli chicken and butter chicken with dal. In the old days, I would’ve eaten the whole thing for lunch (oink, oink!) It’s so delicious – but I was able to eat only half and saved the rest for lunch today. Extra stomach crunches help alleviate the guilt – but I found that being healthy to begin with, made this small deviation only a mere blip.

This reminds me of another myth I’d like to dispel. It’s one I’ve noticed since I arrived here in 2008 – in Nashville, Tennessee. There seem to be certain misconceptions about Southerners – including Tennesseans, of course. Such as: Southerners eat a lot of unhealthy food and they’re all stupid, right-wing, racist, sexist slobs. One of the meme’s I’ve seen, is a photo-shopped picture of the cast of ‘Friends’ – all made to look obscenely obese – with the caption: “If Friends was made in Tennessee.”

I’m not even from here and it made me angry. Yes – they like biscuits and gravy and deep fried stuff as well as cakes and candy – but then, who doesn’t? I’ve seen fat people everywhere – including other states in this wonderful country. I’ve also seen stupid, racist, sexist people everywhere. I used to think that the Southern accent meant automatic moron – but that was due to the caricatures that film-makers, cartoonists and meme-makers enjoyed creating. Once I moved here, I was pleasantly surprised to meet intelligent, progressive people (including my husband!) and delighted in the fact that even the religious ones can be easy going and tolerant.

Of course, there are factions of the above-mentioned morons – but I’ve found that they are the exception – not the rule. Tennesseans pride themselves as supporters of locally grown and produced food, as well as healthy and/or alternative lifestyles. Fair enough – it’s a majority Red state – but politics don’t always go hand in hand with personal taste or opinion. The cultivation of industrial hemp is an option for Tennessee farmers and Farmer’s Markets are very popular. There are also many health food stores, artisan producers, Amish stores, Flea markets, progressive schools, arts communities, secular groups, festivals and more.

Tenn

Here’s a couple of great links for more info:

http://www.tnvacation.com/

http://www.picktnproducts.org/

The Nashville Farmer’s Market is a great place for food and produce.

http://www.nashvillefarmersmarket.org/

That’s where my favorite Indian restaurant is. (I’ve been told there’s better – but I’m hooked on Swagruha!)

SWR

http://www.swagruhaindianrestaurant.com/

Every second Thursday in Nashville, the street where I work is lined with local food trucks serving a variety of food. You can get healthy wraps and smoothies, Mexican, Italian, Thai, and other cuisines. I find Nashville very cosmopolitan, but you can also go to local bars and restaurants that serve good, homestyle, Southern food. Like everything else – the trick is moderation.

Well, I’ll get off my soapbox now!

I’ve been fine with my exercising and am amazed that it has become such a part of my life. I know for sure that I will never go back to how I was before. This regime has set in as a way of life for me and it feels great. I’m actually looking forward to my doctor’s visit on October 6th – rather than dreading it. Then I will find out how much weight I’ve lost and how my sugar’s doing.

BC

Above is a photo of one of the meals I made last week – Five Spice Blackberry Chicken and Summer Veggie bake. I must buy some dishes for food presentation – as you can see – the chicken almost disappears into the plate! I had to get Robert to shine his flashlight on it.

The Five Spice Blackberry Chicken is a recipe I found on Pinterest – but I modified it to make it quick and easy. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon five-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 chicken thighs (I used with bone-in)
  • 3/4 cup Seedless blackberry jam – local and organic if you can
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Fresh blackberries (optional)

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine first three ingredients in a bowl – then rub over the chicken. Place in a baking dish and cover with foil or lid. Put it in the oven and bake for approx 45 minutes or until juices run clear.

While chicken bakes, combine jam and next 2 ingredients in a nonstick skillet or small saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat 8 minutes or until glaze is reduced to 1/2 cup. Drizzle glaze evenly over chicken; garnish with blackberries, if desired.

Note: The original recipe calls for 8 pieces of chicken – but I like the stronger flavors when using 4 pieces, so it’s up to your own personal taste. Also, I omitted the ginger in the sauce (recipe called for 3/4 of a teaspoon.) I like ginger but it doesn’t agree with me! Lastly – I didn’t grill the chicken as I wanted the spices to have time to mingle.

SVB

I also modified the Summer Veggie Bake recipe. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

1 large yellow onion

1 tsp minced garlic

2 medium zucchinis

2 medium yellow squash

1 large sweet potato

3 Roma tomatoes

to taste salt & pepper

1 cup shredded Italian cheese

2 tbsp fresh or dried parsley

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Thinly slice the veggies (other than garlic.)

Spray the inside of an 8×8 square or round baking dish with non-stick spray. Place the thinly sliced vegetables in the baking dish vertically, in an alternating pattern. Sprinkle with the garlic, onions, salt, pepper and parsley.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, top with cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown and veggies are cooked.

*Note: You might want a little water in the bottom for the steam to help cook the veggies. I didn’t bother. The original recipe said to dice the onions and saute along with the garlic, then spread on the base of the dish before adding the veggies. I wanted to save time – so it’s up to you.

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This started as Stuffed Zucchini Boats – but ended up more like a Zucchini Sausage Lasagna. I found that I couldn’t get much of the filling to stay in the ‘boats’ – so I went ahead and treated it like a Lasagna. (Zucchinis were not pre-boiled – just thinly sliced.)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups quick marinara sauce

4 medium zucchini

1/2 small onion, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

14 oz lean Italian Sausage (I used Sweet – loose mince, not actual sausages)

1/2 cup part skim shredded mozzarella

8 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

(Re: Cheese – more or less is fine)

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large saute pan, sweat the onions, garlic and pepper, then add the sausage, breaking up as it cooks into smaller pieces until browned. Cook on a medium-low heat for about 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 2-3 minutes.

Cut zucchini in long, thin slices. Place 1/4 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 12″ baking dish, then cover with a layer of zucchini slices, approx one third of the meat mixture, then sprinkle some of the cheese and repeat until all used up – finishing with another sprinkle of cheese.

Cover with foil and bake 35 minutes until cheese is melted and zucchini is cooked through.

It might only be 2 – 3 layers – depending on the size of your baking dish etc. With the cheese and the sausage – it wasn’t the healthiest of dinners, but sometimes you have to splurge.

Here’s my menu plan for next week:

Menu 092615

I went back to having my yogurt and banana in the mornings. I found that I got a little heartburn with the yogurt at night and have cut back on frozen yogurt as a dessert. I’ve trained myself not to need something sweet every night – but I will be making Chocolate energy bites as a healthy treat – with just a touch of naughtiness – two nights in the week! I’m sure Robert will appreciate them.

Something else I discovered. To cut the late morning cravings – (pineapple is lovely but just doesn’t bridge the gap – even though I’m still having it), I’ve started having a few crackers with peanut butter after my bananas and yogurt. It did the trick!

Well that’s it for now. Have a great week!

Shapeshifting: Deviations and Guilty Pleasures

The subtitle of this post: Deviations and Guilty Pleasures, is to indicate diversions in my regime for the past week – even though I was mostly good! For the most part – if I wasn’t doing the elliptical (only three times) – I was doing stomach crunches, sometimes along with the elliptical. Every day I did something, at least. After having said that, I will admit that I succumbed to temptation. As from Friday, I’m back on course – but Sunday to Thursday saw me wandering off – chasing tastes and urges for naughty food.

How do I define naughty food? For me, it’s the cheeses (especially gooey and good quality cheeses), chocolate, salty things, sugar and spice and all things nice – but naughty too! It started on Sunday – the day after my birthday. I decided that I would have a glass of red wine as I cooked – which turned into a bottle. I made Dhal Curry with Coconut Milk, Apricot Chicken and Stanley Tucci’s Milanese Casserole. The soundtrack was provided by Faun – awesome German folk band. Listen here:

https://youtu.be/U10ftE4XQvo

The Dhal Curry with Coconut Milk was heavenly:

Dhal 3

I also took a photo of the ingredients – took a long time – but was worth it!

DCIng
Coconut milk, bay leaves, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, red chilli flakes, salt black mustard seeds, chopped tomatoes, sliced green chillies, diced shallots and chopped garlic. (I used yellow lentils.)

I didn’t take pictures of the Milanese Casserole or Apricot Chicken. I had omitted the bacon for the Milanese Casserole and was glad that I did, as it was quite fatty. Next time I will probably just use one meat – even chicken or lamb – and I might grill the sweet Italian sausage and cut it up before putting in the casserole towards the end. The ribs were lovely as well as the veggies.

Having been my eleventh week of a new health regime, I discovered that I am now totally aligned with the routine as I missed not exercising. It wasn’t exactly guilt – but a knowledge that I would get back into it – even going a little harder to make up for it. Completely abstaining from the guilty pleasures make healthy eating seem like a punishment – at least, for me. Although I’m enjoying the healthy meals I’m preparing – certain flavors and textures seem to lure me back for another taste. I find that as long as I remind myself that it’s a short detour and that I will get back on the proverbial horse once satiated (and not to the verge of being stuffed!) – I can “work it in” without it being a huge deficit.

Having things in smaller amounts helps, like this Antipasto plate I made – with all the things I love – in moderation. (Antipasto means “before the meal” – but I had this for lunch last Sunday.)

AP1

It has the lovely Castelle Saga – a fresh, creamy blue – like a Brie. I read somewhere that the harder the cheese – the better for you – which is why I only have a few small chunks. Along with the Milanese salami, one medium pickle, 3 slices of white Vermont cheddar and 6 black, marinated olives – it was a wonderfully decadent lunch – without going off the deep end and polishing off the remaining cheese and meat. On my father’s side, my cousin and I call this type of meal a “Nanna and Pa Snack” – only because these were the kinds of things they’d lay out for visitors or a late night nibble.

I also like to pick and choose from other delicacies which include carrot and celery sticks, good liverwurst or pate, dips, other varieties of cheese and meats, tinned sardines, cocktail onions, smoked oysters, pickled artichokes – whatever takes my fancy. Chopped tomatoes help clear the palate and it’s important to remember salt and fat contents. This would be something for every now and then – as a treat!

I had previously written about taking Creatine to help heal the muscles etc after exercise – but spoke with a man who said that his brother was told by his doctor to stop taking it – as it makes you retain water. I discovered the following info on this website:

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/6-side-effects-of-creatine-myths-debunked.html

“Fact: Creatine loading may lead to an initial weight gain of 0.8 to 2.9 percent of body weight in the first few days due to water being pulled into the muscle; however, this is less likely to occur following a low-dose protocol. There is a common claim that all the weight gained with creatine supplementation is due to water weight. Indeed, several researchers have found acute increases in total body water as a result of creatine supplementation.2,15

However, while an initial weight gain may be a result of an increase in water, research consistently shows that creatine supplementation, in addition to resistance training, results in an increase in lean body mass and a decrease in fat mass, leading to improvement in body composition.26,27 This is likely due to a higher concentration of PCr and ATP stores, allowing for higher training intensities and volume.1,28”

To be safe – I’m going to stop taking creatine – to see if I notice the difference. I felt like I was losing weight extra slow – but I’m not sure. We’ll see after a few weeks!

Another dish I made during the week was Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs (recipe posted last week.) We had it with steamed carrots and Zucchini, Garlic and Parmesan Frittata (which was supposed to be fritters but I didn’t want the oil). It was delicious – even without the wine. (I used half a cup of Apple Cider Vinegar to de-glaze the skillet.)

CilChi

Seeing as Monday was labor day, I went to visit some friends who put on some food – incl slow-cooked pork and a nice simple coleslaw with cabbage, red onions and a light dressing. Where I went bananas was with the lemon pie. I had two helpings. Felt bad – for a short while – but then remembered that I had exercised that morning. Not that it’s an excuse to go nuts – but I would have felt worse if I hadn’t exercised.

On Thursday night we broke down and had burgers and fries. The first few mouthfuls were delicious, but then I noticed that I felt bloated and could detect the chemicals and other non-food or over-processed elements. It might have been psychological – but I could sense the extra salt and fat as it went through my body. I have been quite sensitive to certain things and can tell the difference when I’m not eating good food, however I tend to swing straight back to the “good” side once I realize that I’ve deviated – happy that I spend the majority of my time there – rather than the wrong side of the tracks!

On Friday night – to correct the swing of the pendulum – we had Roasted Vegetables for dinner. Surprisingly wonderful and very satisfying.

RV2

Delicious beetroot, Acorn pumpkin, potatoes, carrots and asparagus. Tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with freshly cracked, black pepper and a teaspoon of Himalayan Pink Salt. Baked at 425 degrees for approx 30 minutes. (If you’re funny about beetroot – try it with a little honey mustard. My husband loves it.)

The funny thing about guilty pleasures, is the fact that we consider them unworthy of praise when on a diet or healthy eating regime. Yes – they might be loaded with bad things – but why would you go through your whole life not tasting those morsels every now and then? Treating them as treats and making them special, allows for wonderful experiences and memories, without going overboard and feeling guilty. As long as the processed versions have smaller portions and the regularity of the times you deviate are far and few between – then you should be okay. Well, that’s my philosophy – for now!

I changed my menu a little – due to the deviations! I made Teriyaki Salmon for tonight – with leftover roast veggies and sauteed zucchinis, green peppers and green onions.

TSRV

Yummy!

Here are some more of my guilty pleasures – in random order:

castellosaga

Liquore Strega - gorgeous liquer
Liquore Strega – gorgeous liqueur
Cashew Butter - from http://www.edibleperspective.com/home/2010/6/9/cleveland-bound.html
Cashew Butter – from http://www.edibleperspective.com/home/2010/6/9/cleveland-bound.html
Creamy Indian Curries
Creamy Indian Curries
Ham and Cheese Croissants
Ham and Cheese Croissants

I could go on – but my stomach is already lashing a whip! It is remarkable though – how just a little knowledge about ingredients and how things are made can make a difference when choosing food.

One of the meals I will be making next week is Cream of Mushroom Soup:

homemade mushroom soup

Here’s the link for the recipe:

http://blog.seasonwithspice.com/2011/12/cream-of-mushroom-soup-recipe.html

Here’s a useful list of Metabolism boosting foods:

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Take care until next week!

Here’s my menu:

Menu 091915

Shapeshifting: Twists, Turns and a Frumpy Birthday

I’m still on track with using the elliptical Mon-Fri – even stepping up with speed bursts. I can feel it in my joints so I’m still taking creatine to help with the healing (although I take a break on the weekends – no elliptical or creatine.) I’ve started doing stomach crunches with the ab-roller on Mon, Wed, Fri as well as Sat, Sun. That’s a total of 500 crunches and 2 hours, 5 minutes on the elliptical per week. I will also seriously incorporate the resistance training on the weekends – probably 15 minutes per day – focusing on my upper body.

What made me smile – and grimace at the same time – was the fact that a skirt I was wearing kept falling down at work. Thank goodness I didn’t flash anybody! Even though I’d decided that I wouldn’t buy new clothes until I get to my goal weight/size (which probably won’t be at least until June 2016) – I’ll either have to just make do with dresses – or buy skirts and pants that can be worn once I’ve achieved my goal.

Now – I know that I haven’t posted the photo of how I looked when I first started this regime – due to shyness and embarrassment over sharing my “fatness”, but I will share these photos now. Please keep in mind, that while I’m far off from where I want to be – just imagine what I looked like ten weeks ago! (Or not, if you’d prefer!) On the one hand, I despise larger people being made fun of, but on the other hand – there’s nothing wrong with trying to be healthy. It’s such a struggle – especially being female – as I know that I will never be what the media dictates as perfect, considering the fact that I don’t have a personal trainer or airbrush expert at my fingertips. So – here goes!

090515

Yes, it is my birthday today, and I’m hoping that by the time I turn 50 next year – my birthday card to myself will be Fantastic instead of Frumpy!

As you can see, I have a long way to go, however – it’s a lot better than ten weeks ago. I’ve decided to take photos of myself every two weeks – and I will post them once a month. *sigh*

Even though everyone posts pictures of themselves on the internet – I do not – so this was a big deal for me, seeing as we are all judged by our looks. I’ve decided that, once I reach my goal weight – I will not turn around and degrade my former fat self by making fun of who I was. It took a long time to get to this point and I have a lot more going on in my life that doesn’t involve primping, preening and worrying incessantly about how I look and what I eat. I think we should always keep in mind what we do and who we are – outside of how we look. Every step in our lives has many factors in the background – notwithstanding the way we are perceived by others and how we are judged.

Okay – I’ll step of my podium of sorrow and self-righteousness! I’d like to share what I discovered during the week.

Hefeflocken_Naturata
Nutritional Yeast

A colleague told me about nutritional yeast and how it can be a replacement for cheese – such as sprinkles on veggies etc. She came into the break room with a small, plastic deal-bag and I freaked for a second – thinking that she was giving me illicit drugs! When she explained that it was nutritional yeast – I was relieved, to say the least. I brought it home but haven’t tried it yet – as something about it made me think of candida and other yeast infections. I looked it up on wikipedia and it says that it’s a deactivated yeast that’s popular with vegans and vegetarians. Here’s the link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutritional_yeast

Seeing as I’m an Aussie and love Vegemite – it seems that I can get the same benefits with the spread I love – without having to sprinkle strange powder onto my food. Vegemite is high in salt – so I have to be careful and spread it thin. Also – with Vegemite – you have to have it with butter, so I eat it sparingly. I think I’d still rather stick with the spread rather than the powder. Having said that – I do plan to make Cheesymite Scrolls for a treat – taking the carbs, salt etc into consideration – in regards to my recommended daily amounts. Here’s the link to the recipe:

http://www.bestrecipes.com.au/recipe/Cheesymite-Scrolls-L4392.html

Vegemite

(Vegemite is made from leftover Brewer’s yeast extract and is one of the richest sources of B vitamins – not including B12 – and has no fat, added sugar, animal content. It does contain gluten.)

Last week I talked about Kimchi – being great for digestion, etc. I bought a jar of it and opened it in my kitchen – which began something akin to a horror movie. The contents started rising up out of the jar – like Cthulhu emerging from the deep! The red liquid ran down the sides of the jar – forming what looked like a pool of blood on the counter-top. Horrified – I stepped closer and waited until a third of the contents sat perched on the top of the jar – wondering how long it would be before it lunged for my throat.

After mopping up the mess and tipping the excess into a plastic bowl, I gingerly took a fork to the fermented veggies and tentatively took a small piece to my quivering lips. I made sure it was a section of the hard cabbage spine – rather than the limp, rotten looking leafy bits. I slowly chewed the spicy mouthful – deciding that I liked the flavor – but would not eat the festering compost that remained. It sits in my fridge like an abandoned science project. I might take it to work for my colleague who likes it so much. I think I’ll stick to sauerkraut and red wine!

Here are a few photos of what I cooked during the week:

SP
Turkey Sausage and Peppers

This is a quick meal which also includes onions, garlic and zucchinis. My husband likes to eat it with BBQ sauce but I prefer a little hot sauce called “Nando’s Hot Peri Peri Sauce”. It is so delicious but the salt content is a little high – so I use it sparingly (to a degree. I could drink this stuff. It’s far superior to other hot sauces that are flooded with vinegar – yuck!)

periperi

Lentil and Veggie Soup
Lentil and Veggie Soup

I know this looks depressing – but it was actually delicious and very satisfying. I’m going to have to step up my game when it comes to taking photos of my cooking. One meal I made – a chicken and veggie casserole – was scrumptious, with red peppers, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and sweet potatoes. When I took some photos of it – at many different angles – I realized that it looked just like vomit in a casserole dish! Horrible to look at – wonderful to eat! I guess it’s because I didn’t use any thickening agents or creamy sauces – just the natural juices from the chicken and veggies. Oh well!

WCS
Watermelon and Cherry Fruit Salad

We had this as a dessert, with half-fat, frozen yogurt. I don’t know why but I’m craving sugar a lot – and have found that I have to have a dessert after dinner. I’m being careful through the day – no chocolate, candy, cake or cookies – but I do have approx 1/2 a cup of pineapple as a snack every day, along with my banana, honey and yogurt for breakfast. I’ve decided that, since I’m noticing how hungry I get before lunch, I’m going to switch my breakfast to dessert – to satisfy my cravings for sweet things after dinner – and have my tomatoes or avocados on toast in the mornings. This (I believe) – will give me the carbs I need to carry me through to lunch time and cut the cravings. Then I can have a healthier dessert at night – with the non-fat Greek yogurt, banana and 2tbsp honey. We’ll see how that goes!

Here are two recipes I am going to try next week – including the links:

Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs
Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs

http://www.themediterraneandish.com/cilantro-lime-chicken-thighs-recipe/

Teriyaki Salmon with Zucchini
Teriyaki Salmon with Zucchini

http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,10000000523893,00.html

MJCB

My Uncle gave me this cookbook in 1987. I absolutely adore Indian food – it’s my favorite cuisine. I love the way Indian cooking has turned the combination of herbs and spices into an art form. As much as I love Italian, French, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican and Indonesian food – Indian reigns supreme for me. Yes, I do love subtlety and simplicity in food – but when I want to lash out and flood my taste buds with exotic, sensual flavors and aromas – nothing holds a candle to Indian food. (Well, maybe the other cuisines hold a tiny candle with a tiny wick!)

I’ll be making something spicy for myself, as my husband doesn’t like it too hot and I tend to go without for his sake. Lately I’ve been craving something tantalizing – so I’m going to prepare a slightly modified version of Madhur Jaffrey’s – “Dhal Curry with Coconut Milk”. Here’s the recipe:

Dhal Curry with Coconut milk

1 cup yellow dhal

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

4 shallots – finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

4 whole, fresh green chillies – slit down the middle

2 tbs oil (I used olive oil – better with ghee and/or coconut oil)

½ tsp whole, black mustard seeds

12 dried curry leaves

2 whole, dried, red chillies – broken into 4 pieces

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cups coconut milk

Wash and drain the dhal, put in the pot with 3 ¾ cups water and the turmeric. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover partially. Simmer for 45 minutes, then stir in half the shallots and all the cumin. Partially cover again and cook for 15 minutes. Add the green chillies and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until the dhal is tender. (If dhal is too thick at any point, add up to half a cup of boiling water.) The dhal should – at this stage – be a thick, paste-like soup. Leave on a low heat while you complete the next step.

Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. After a few seconds, the seeds will begin to pop. As they start popping, add the curry leaves and red chillies. When the chillies darken, add the remaining shallots and garlic. Stir and fry until the shallots turn a dark reddish brown color, then add the tomatoes. Stir and fry until they are soft.

Pour the entire contents into the dhal, add the salt and mix. Add the coconut milk and stir until combined.

Serve with or without rice. (If without – over steamed veggies – such as carrots, zucchini, broccoli, or whatever takes your fancy. Also nice as a thick soup on its own or served with flat bread for dipping!)

I’m going to be making a dish from Stanley Tucci’s cookbook:

cvr9781451661255_9781451661255_hr

Delicious. So is the recipe – although I’ve modified it slightly. (Please forgive me, Mr Gorgeous!)

Milanese Casserole (Modified from Stanley Tucci’s recipe)

2 tbsp Olive Oil

1 coarsely chopped onion

6 coarsely chopped shallots

Handful chopped parsley

2 tsp sweet paprika (I like Hungarian Sweet Paprika)

2 bay leaves

1 pound cabbage (1 small) – trimmed, cored and coarsely chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

Freshly ground black pepper and Pink Himalayan salt

6 lean pork ribs

6 links sweet sausage

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

2 Idaho potatoes – peeled, halved and each half cut into 6 pieces

Saute onions and shallots in the oil for approx. 8 mins, then stir in parsley, paprika, bay leaves, cabbage and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Season ribs with salt and pepper and add to onion mixture with the sausage links. Then tip into a slow cooker and press down to compact ingredients. Pour in broth and water and cook on high for 1 and a half hours. Then add the potatoes and cook for another hour or until potatoes are soft and meat is cooked through.

Note: Mr Gorgeous did this in a flameproof casserole dish on the stove top. As I don’t have one (must get one!) – I will do it in the slow cooker. Also – I will omit the slab bacon and swap out beef ribs for pork ribs – as I’m funny about mixing meats. Not because I’m trying to conform to religious laws – I just prefer meat to be uniform in my dishes. (I’m sure the original is heavenly – but I’m also trying to cut down on salt and fat.) He also used Kosher salt and flat leaf Italian parsley (I prefer curly leaf – just my preference!)

I will post my photos next week. Until then, here’s my menu plan.

Menu 091215

Stay happy and healthy!