Personal Produce Challenge (PPC)

22 05 2011

I was super frustrated to not participate in the C25K challenge because I’d signed up for a partner through another blog and we were suppose to be emailing each other supportive things all week. Although I could encourage her, it felt lame to not be participating. I stopped feeling sorry for myself, and realized that even though I couldn’t participate just yet, I still have complete control over what goes into my body. This realization came as I was walking into Costco so… that was dangerous.

I’d gotten into the habit of buying bags of snap peas and cherry tomatoes at Costco each week or so and keeping containers of them with me all the time to snack on. It was pretty easy to do, and I was all excited by the produce explosion that happens in the spring. I bought grapes, tomatoes, strawberries, snap peas, and spinach (all in Costco-sized containers) with the intent to eat it all before it went bad. I didn’t completely succeed (should have eaten the strawberries all at the beginning, I forgot how quickly they go bad) but I ate everything else! It was fun to plan every meal and include fruit salad or veggies. I haven’t re-bought the same amount of produce, but I’m still making an effort to get in several servings each day. It doesn’t always happen, but I can feel a difference when I do and I like it.

This probably doesn’t sound like that big of a deal so some, but as a person who would regularly buy produce just to have it go bad and then not buy much for a long time, fearing it would go bad before I ate it, this is a big change.


I did it!

22 05 2011

Here is post #2 of posts that have been sitting in draft form and I never finished for various reasons, but still feel they are important to share.

I went to happy hour/dinner with some friends and made good food choices!

I had a grilled chicken sandwich, substituted side salad for fries, got the vinaigrette dressing AND took home half of the sandwich for later! I did have two glasses of wine, but we where there for 2.5 hours and I also had at least a quart of water. (oh, and 4 tots from my friends’ plate. More than nothing, yes, but way less than ordering them myself. Or eating all of hers, feigning ignorance for my poor etiquette.)

I realize these aren’t the most perfect choices in all the world, but they were just right for me. I continue to struggle with making good choices and not going overboard one way or the other. In the past, I would have gotten a dressing-free salad and had water, been pissed all night as I watched my friends enjoy much more delicious things, gotten myself into a downward spiral of hate-thoughts, and stopped at McD’s or something equally gross on the way home as a way to “execute my control over what I put in my body” when really, it’s waaay worse than anything I might have wanted at the restaurant. Or swap the binge, and had a cheeseburger, fries and 2 or more high calorie beers then been pissed at myself and thrown up or just said hateful things to myself all night/the next day/several days after. I’ve never been very good at being in the middle.  Update: not sure why I was waiting on this one. I think I started to talk about some of the deeper issues and I wasn’t ready to write about them fully. Too bad, I’m going to do it now. No sense putting it off longer.

Over Seasoned

7 08 2010

I’m eating some variant of chicken and rice every day, sometimes twice a day.  It gets a little boring.  I watched a few minutes of some farmer-man cooking show the other day, he made everything on a grill.  He made chicken and zucchini, seasoned with s&p, garlic, rosemary and red chili flakes.  It seemed easy enough, and a slightly different flavor than I was use to.  Because I eat sooooo much chicken, I really wanted this to be different and went WAY overboard with the seasonings. too much seasoning!Can you tell how much is on there? oops.  Went back to my old favorite, lemon pepper for the meals I made today, and made some more risotto (risotto feels like an indulgence, but it’s really not.  I can even add parmesan and it still fits in my meal plan!)

Any suggestions for food? or seasoning of chicken or turkey?  I want to try pork, but have absolutely no experience.  Same with fish.  Right now is the time to try it, but I can’t afford the possibility of wasting food! Damn unemployment.  Hours of free time, but no money to do anything! (I also want to craft, make a stockpile of gifts for friends and family, and take a few roadtrips).

Kitchen experiments

20 07 2010

I’ve been cooking quite a bit lately (amazing how cutting out processed food makes you do that) and in an effort to keep things interesting, I’m experimenting.  Some experiments are pretty tame (see a couple entries below about making a recipe sans my favorite ingredient) and some were just plain dumb. Witness:

Not sure where the idea started, but I decided it would be easy to make some egg fried rice.  Just rice and scrambled egg, right? I thought the “fried” part had more to do with preparation (in a frying pan) than using copious amounts of oil.  (I still don’t know if that’s true).  I didn’t look up a recipe because it seemed to simple!  Made some brown rice with more chicken stock than usual (for flavor) and added some diced carrot…. this may be where I went wrong.  Mixing Mexican with Chinese.  It seemed like a good idea! and added color! (Possibly too much carrot, either way. It was pretty sweet.) Also, I over cooked the rice; haven’t made non-“instant” rice in a while and thought I should just let it sit until all the water was absorbed (gift idea, family! a rice cooker!).  I knew the ratio would be different, trying to get 25 g of protein (egg) and 25 g of rice together (resulting in WAY more egg than Panda Express variety egg fried rice), but still figured it would work. (I think the major downfall of this cooking attempt was my ridiculous optimism throughout the process).  So I scrambled some eggs, mixed in the rice right at the end… and it was terrible.  I couldn’t even finish it. Too sweet, mushy, and just weird.  Damn.

Experiment #2: New seasoning for chicken! yay! I eat so much chicken, and as much as I love lemon pepper, it gets old.  I mixed equal (as equal as a paste and liquid can be when eyeballing) soy sauce and cock sauce and one clove garlic.  Using the crushed, frozen kind from TJ’s, I had to mash it up a bit before adding the other ingredients, but I was just waiting for the chicken to cook, anyway. It worked! Yay! I’ll continue to mess with the ratios, but in general it was pretty darn good.  I used up my mushy, sweet rice to make a few ready-to-heat meals with this chicken.  They don’t necessarily go together, but what DOES go with overcooked carrot rice?

Another experiment (kinda) from a few weeks ago: Lemon Zucchini Chicken and Pasta.  Dayum, this is good! I made it first true to the recipe, and then made it again the following week, eliminating wine (stupid diet) and skipping the arduous task of julienning the zucchini, because it seemed to end up in a pile and not mix well with the pasta (this could entirely be chef error).  I think I’ve mentioned that I often cook anywhere from 4 to 8 servings at time (because recipes come this way and it’s easier than cooking every day), I often find myself altering the amount of things to make a final 25/25 ratio to fit into my diet.  For whatever reason, I decided it was easier to cook a whole box of pasta (8 servings) which resulted in LOTS of zucchini and chicken, really too much to fit into my large skillet (There was some very careful stirring). (Wish I had this one.)  The result, however, was delicious!

(Notice how all these servings just barely fit into one shot on my tiny counter top.)

I love, love, LOVE this recipe.  I’ll make it again, possibly adding more lemon. Because you just can’t have too much lemon.

OH YEAH – I splurged (can you call $6 a splurge? you can when you’re broke!) on the sea salt and pepper grinders from Costco this weekend.  I can’t even believe how much flavor is added with the fresh ground varieties. SO good.  And using less (salt, at least. I’m sure I eat more pepper than average).  Since I’m cooking so much, I felt this was a small but significant addition to my kitchen.

Lemon Parmesan Risotto

14 07 2010

Risotto is one of my favorites, but I was nervous making it this time.  I’ve always used wine which give it a delicious, deep flavor; but alcohol is a no-no right now (doesn’t even matter how little – the sugar alcohols wreck your metabolism) so I decided to try adding the citrus for a little punch. It worked! yay!!! and had I not been lazy and just googled “lemon parmesan risotto” before starting cooking, I would have found plenty of recipes (although all those recipes included white wine.)

(Mine definitely didn’t look this good, I’m too lazy to bother with garnishes when I’m cooking in large quantities for myself).

The package of arborio rice says to use a 1:2 ratio of rice and liquid, but I was taught (and always have) used closer to 1:3 ratio.  (My next experiment is to cook it as described on the package.)  First, I diced up a large shallot scallion (I constantly mix those words up, even though I know the difference!) and sautéed  it in a stock pot with some olive oil. Then pour in the rice and let it brown a bit before starting the liquid part.  I recently learned to keep the liquid (water or chicken stock, but who would want to use boring ole water?!) the same temperature as the rice to ensure even absorbtion, so it was simmering in a mini stock pot next to the big one and I ladled it in, 2-5 ladles at a time.  This part could probably be more scientific, but I watch the amount of liquid that sits on top of the rice, and then add one more ladle.  The trick (or burden) is that you’ve absolutely got to keep stirring.  Not quite like making candy or something, where you can’t ever stop the movement in the pot, but you can’t put it on the stove and walk away for 20 minutes.  (It’ll burn and not absorb evenly)  It takes several repetitions of this step to get all the liquid absorbed, but eventually the rice will start to leach out a milky substance (it’s trademark).  Season with salt and pepper (to taste),  then I mixed in the parmesan and lemon, (tasted again and added more s & p) and let it sit for a couple minutes (while I finished cooking my chicken.) Split into several individual servings (luckily, risotto is delicious reheated. A lightly different texture, but another good one) and done!


2 c Arborio rice

2 T olive oil

6 c chicken stock

1 large shallot

zest and juice of one lemon

4 oz parmesan cheese

Nutrition breakdown:

(split into 10 servings, approx. 3/4 cup cooked) 202 cals, 7 g fat, 35 g carbs, 9 g protein

(split into 12 servings, little over 1/2 cup cooked) 169 cals, 6 g fat, 29 g carbs, 7.5 g protein

In retrospect, I HAVE NO IDEA WHY I DIDN’T ADD GARLIC.  What was I thinking? (Especially with this awesomeness burning a hole in my freezer)  I also might like to try using 2 lemons, but I really like lemon flavor, probably more than the average jane. (get it? not joe?) Also, I used reduced sodium chicken stock, but I’m pretty sure I just added back all the sodium with the amount of salt I added at the end.  Oh well. In the end, pretty much all risotto is better than no risotto, so I’m happy! and so is my mouth!


24 06 2010

In my current quest, the idea of a super low calorie or restrictive diet hasn’t entered my mind. I’ve tried diets of (almost) eliminating fat, (almost) eliminating carbs, high protein, meal-replacement shakes, none really worked. At least not long term.  They aren’t meant to! And anytime I’ve tried drastically cutting back on anything, I just end up craving it more and ultimately self sabotaging.  I’ve done it so many times, in fact, that I’m pretty sure my metabolism is effed.  (some recent studies say this doesn’t actually happen, but there are lots that say it does.)

A good friend of mine wrote a meal plan for me several months ago, which I actually followed (well, like 70% of the time) for the first couple weeks.  Even more challenging, he gave to me on December 21st (now 70% seems pretty good, right?).  That’s right, I made it through the holidays and LOST a couple pounds. But…. then I stopped following it.  Eating 5-6 times a day is not easy when working.  It was apparently too much effort to plan all the meals for the day and have them be something that may not require refrigeration. So I kept the plan in mind, but hardly (20-50%)  followed it ever since then.

Evidenced by my 5 pound loss (I’m still proud, despite the size), I AM eating better.  I’ve been reading a lot, met with the nautropath a couple times, and been talking to friends about food in the past few months. My current diet starts with all natural yogurt (have I got a good story about that! maybe some other time…) and a sliced banana, a handful of kashi mixed in for breakfast.  (Use to have soy milk with the cereal until I did some (research, research, research and  research among others) and…. no more soy for me.  Or a lot less, anyway). Then I have 2-3 more meals that vary, but tend to be a pre-cooked dish like ground turkey and brown rice or quinoa.  Or chicken and wheat pasta.  When I pre-make the meals, I try to follow the 25 grams protein/25 grams carbs suggested by my friend above in the diet from December. Or I’ll have a turkey sandwich made with this coolness.  Or eggs/egg whites and black beans.  Often for the last meal/snack of the day is a salad*.  In my research, I couldn’t ignore all the evidence supporting lots of green vegetables.  And eating it as the last meal, it’s not full of calories, so it doesn’t sit in my stomach late at night when I don’t need the energy. Win win!

All this said, I clearly don’t eat just this, or I’d be losing more.  I’m not immune to dinners out with friends, a glass of wine (or 3), food served to a group (chips and salsa, brownies, pizza, etc.). Also, as my energy level is low (with the whole unemployed business) I’m not hungry all that much.  So when I am, I feel like I can gorge a bit since I’ve eaten so little the rest of the day.  It doesn’t really work that way, but tell that to my hand holding the fork full of tamale on the way to my mouth.

*(salad for me = 2+ cups of raw lettuce, possibly a sprinkle of feta (< 1T) a little dressing (spices, vinegar and 1-2 T olive oil) maybe some leftover cut up veggies from a recipe like peppers or tomatoes and my favorite part (because it adds the desired crunch w/o calories and carbs of croutons) (and I got a big ol’ jar at costco for like, 3 bucks)

Spinach Souffle

7 06 2010

yummy, yummy spinach souffle! (boy, the pic is blurry. sorry.)

This is one of my favorite treats. It’s fairly easy to make (does take about 20 mins prep, but I’ve got is mastered) and offers some great nutrition. I’ve never eaten this in less than 4 servings, but one “serving” for me has 236 calories, 16 grams of fat, 12.5 grams of carbs, and 11 grams of protein. (the recipe is by Miss Betty Crocker).

Today I used soy milk which was a first. Cow’s milk makes my tummy unhappy, so I don’t keep it in the fridge. (Although a quart was only $1.39, I knew I would be wasting most of it and didn’t want to buy it.) I also used real butter, because experimenting with alternative ingredients should probably only be one one at a time. (Next up is margarine or some kind of reduced butter type product. That will cut WAY down on the fat content!)  The souffle turned out a bit… not together? When I tried to take a piece, it fell apart. It’s been a while since I’ve made this, but I seem to remember it ‘sticking together’ better, more like a piece of pie.  There are many factors, however that could cause this.  Soy milk the most likely, but also using a different oven and my kitchen was kinda warm while preparing.  Probably could’ve let it cool another minute before serving.  (Still tastes good, though!)

This pic is included because a) I thought there should be more pictures in the post besides the final product and most of the steps to making the souffle are not interesting, but b) I love how the spinach and flour/butter/milk mixture look in my mixing bowls! They were rescued from the goodwill pile when my grandma moved from her home into a small assisted living apartment. (so… no idea how old they are, prob circa 1970, but I just love the idea that my grandma used them for years to prepare food as well.)

Something I learned today was… one of the reasons I love this dish so much – the fat content! Of course, eggs and spinach I like plenty on their own, but it’s no secret that fat makes everything better. (well, fat and salt.)  And it’s ok in moderation.  Luckily, my food intake earlier in the day was picture perfect, so a little extra fat here is ok.  I certainly don’t eat this everyday! It’s more satisfying than fast food (because yours truly made it and the eggs and spinach are GREAT for me) and I’m sure that the 16 grams of fat here are less than a small order of fries. So there!