Goodbye, Daylight Savings

So this weekend, the US, as well as a large chunk of the world, reset their clocks.  Of course, in the southern hemisphere, the clocks were turned forward instead of back, and some countries turn earlier or later, and a few states don’t turn at all.  But for those of us who do, we got an extra hour on Sunday.

Well, I was thinking of that extra hour, which is a bit of a misnomer, we don’t really get an extra hour, we just get back what we give up in spring, and vice versa.  And losing that hour in spring gets harder and harder every year.

But for one day, anyway, we have one extra hour.  For me, this has historically meant I sleep in for an hour in the mornings, relatively, and feel more rested for… y’know, a week or two before I’ve adjusted and then go right back to normal.  Cats, however, don’t recognize daylight savings time, neither coming nor going, and so they don’t care what *time* it is, it’s time for treats and they will let me know.  Loudly.  So I never really get that extra hour, anyway, and it takes maybe a month for the cats to figure out that I get up later.

Well, this year I decided to do something with that hour that wasn’t just sleeping in, but not really sleeping in because cats won’t let me.  I am going to use that hour for good!  For health.  For mental wellness (ha).

Since I’m already used to getting up at what had been 5:30, which now becomes 4:30, I’m going to just continue to get up at 4:30, which had been 5:30, and spend that hour in the morning doing morning exercises, having hot tea, taking it easy getting ready, just basically starting the day out well and slow instead of rushed.

This morning was day 1.  15 minutes of exercise, hot shower, a nice breakfast, hot cup of tea, a bit of time just sitting and relaxing, fussing with kitties, and making lunch.  Got to work right on time, but a lot more relaxed.

If you observe daylight savings, what are you doing with your extra hour?  (if you just say ‘sleep in’ that’s fine, too 😀 )

Frozen

…burritos.

So I bought a toaster oven for work so I could bring some things in and have a hot meal at lunch. I don’t use microwaves, I don’t feel like getting into a debate as to why, I just don’t.

Anyway, so the easiest thing to pop in is frozen burritos. Which will fall into one of two categories: arguably healthy and tasty but expensive as hell, or cheap and kinda gross and lacking even the redemption of a golden, flaky, deep-fried tortilla crust.

After a couple weeks I thought to myself: surely I can do better than this.

My favorite had been the Organic Southwest Chicken Burrito (brand withheld for fear of being sued)
Here’s a general breakdown of the nutrition:
Calories: 340, Fat: 9g, Sodium: 700mg, Fiber: 3g, Protein 17g

Not bad, makes for a filling lunch when paired with salad, and a good source of protein. But costs like 4-5 bucks.

Okay, so I bought a pack of organic tortillas ($3), can of organic black beans ($1.29), organic diced tomatoes ($1.29), organic onions (from my CSA), and organic cremini mushrooms (3-something a pound, I used maybe two ounces?). Add some Tabasco sauce for flavor/heat, or substitute salsa for the tomatoes.  Let’s say about 7-8 bucks worth of food.

Chopped the onions and mushrooms, mixed with one can black beans and half can of diced tomatoes, wrapped in a skillet softened tortilla, then wrapped in aluminum foil and put in the freezer. The above made 7 burritos, so that comes out to right around $1 each.

Here’s how mine stacks up against the store brand:

Bought: Calories: 340, Fat: 9g, Sodium: 700mg, Fiber: 3g, Protein 17g
Homemade: Calories: 230, Fat: 3g, Sodium: 350g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 10g.

So the store beats me on protein, but I come out on top in every other category: price, nutrition, and flavor! And vegetarian, even, so if that’s a consideration, you’re good!  Even visually, they look pretty much identical (so, mildly unappealing until you taste it).  The store-bought has a bit tighter folds, but that’s just because I over stuffed mine a tad.  Really, the hardest part of the whole process is stuffing the insides into the burrito without it escaping out the ends while folding it all up.

And I can certainly add chicken for more protein. In fact, when I run the numbers again assuming I’m adding a pound of chicken total to the recipe, which obviously a pound is then going to make more burritos, so assuming a final count of 10 instead of 7, that gives the following:

Calories: 258, Fat: 4.5g, Sodium: 375g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 18g.

So if I add half a serving of chicken to each burrito that’s only about 50 cents each.  And now I beat the store-bought on protein!  About 80 calories less, half the fat and sodium, same fiber, and still less than half the cost.  Pretty much the only thing this isn’t is gluten-free.  It’s so quick to make, so easy to take to work and pop in the toaster oven.  And I can make a whole week’s worth in about 15 minutes on the weekend.

What’s not to love about making frozen burritos at home!?   You know exactly every single ingredient that’s going into it, no mystery “flavors” or “preservatives”.  And if you have kids, you can totally trick them into thinking they’re getting not super healthy food. 😉  Or if you have sudden guests show up, you can whip out a batch of burritos from the freezer and pair with some rice and salad, some salsa and guacamole, and have a great meal on the table in the 45 minutes it takes to reheat the burrito.

And for the super recycling conscious people, the plastic wrapper from the store-bought burrito isn’t recyclable, but the aluminum foil from home made is 😀

Garden Vegetable Muffins

I went hunting for a zucchini bread recipe once, only to find that they were mostly sweet breads, dessert kind of things with lots of sugar and autumn spices. I didn’t want that, I wanted a nice savory bread filled with vegetables and flavor.  Zucchini bread seemed to be such a perfect way to absolutely stuff vegetables into my bread, and I was quite disappointed that it was so offset by sugar.

After a fruitless search, I decided that if I wanted this bread, I was just gonna have to make it myself, so starting from what seemed to be a very basic recipe I found, I concocted the following.  (I am still tweaking this recipe here and there.  I’ve cut the sugar 3 times and could probably cut more.)

The veggies are almost entirely up for juggling.  I didn’t have red pepper or leeks this time so I made do with onion and tomato instead.  Basically, if you like it, toss it in and see if it works!  Also, I say ‘finely chopped’.  What I mean is, I stuck them in the food processor until it was mostly not lumpy.   I also used the grating tool on my food processor to grate the zucchini.  I really like taking shortcuts when I can get out of chopping and grating, but only if it offsets the effort to clean the machine afterward.  I’m a very conscientious lazy.

Also… I suppose you can add nuts if you really wanted.  If you’re *that* kind of person.  /long-suffering sigh/

Garden Vegetable Muffins

* 3 cups whole wheat flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/4 cup flax seeds
* 2-3 teaspoons various herbs to taste. (I used fresh ground black pepper, basil and thyme)
* 3 eggs
* 3/4 cup olive oil
* 1 1/2 cups sugar (though I think the recipe could still easily use less)
* 2 cups grated zucchini, do not squeeze out the juice!
* 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
* 1 green onion, finely chopped
* 1″ chunk of leek, finely chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon finely grated jalapeno (more if you really like jalapeno)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. Stir flour, salt, baking powder, soda, herbs and flax seeds together in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs, oil, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and vegetables until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. (I did one bread pan and one muffin pan.)
4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. (Muffins bake for 20 to 25 minutes.) Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Makes between 18 and 24 muffins, depending on how deep you fill the pan.  Could also do 12 muffins and one bread pan.  Absolutely fabulous warm with a little butter.

Be careful if you’re making these for ‘later’.  You might find they disappear rather… rapidly.  (I polished off 4 muffins barely out of the oven.)

 

CSA: Weeks 10-12

So far behind!  And sadly so few pictures for three week’s worth.   Last week I picked up my box on Thursday and just handed it to my parents as I was gone Thursday evening through Monday and wouldn’t have been able to enjoy any of it anyway.  That’s the nice thing about the boxes is it lets you be quite generous!  (Especially with the beans.  I love giving those to my parents…)
Okay, picture time

Week 10 box: Potatoes, tomatoes, squash, beans, cucumbers, blueberries

Pickling cucumbers never did see the inside of a pickle jar, I ended up using them in my salmon salad and on top of pita and hummus and such.  Very tasty!  The tomatoes were also very tempting, and I had those with onions, refried beans and wrapped in corn tortillas for a delicious impromptu Mexican dinner.

Three piece Mexican meal

Week 11 went to my parents, so it’s sort of fitting that the picture turned out barely visible.  Darn the photographer, anyway.  (yeah, I took the picture.)

Week 11 Box: Corn, basil, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, blueberries

But week 12 was mine all mine!  (well… except for the beans, which again went to my parents.)

Corn, lettuce, potatoes, blueberries, beans, squash (hiding under the corn. oops.)

I’ve missed the lettuce in my boxes, very glad to see it return!  But most excited that this week I get the corn for myself!

Baked corn and squash!  I know I’m missing half of the food groups in this picture, but I don’t care, it was still fabulous!  Bake the corn right in the husk, thirty minutes on 350.  Let it cool slightly, then peel back the husk and the corn silk will just fall right off.  Use the husk as the handle and dig in!  The only thing I added was pepper!

Baked sweet corn and delicata squash

Delicata has become my favorite squash, for several reasons.  It tastes absolutely “squashy”!  Which may sound weird but I’m telling you, this is real squash flavor.  Also, the skin is so thin you eat it, so you don’t even have to throw the outsides away.  It also means it’s great for throwing in soup, just chop into bite-sized chunks and toss it in, skin and all.  But it tastes best when baked.  It had to cook about an hour to be done, but the combination was a real ode to fall and makes me look forward to the season changing.

Even now the clouds are piling up outside and the air is much cooler; I really, really hope it rains tonight as it’s been dry for a month or more.  My grass is very brown and crunchy.

However, that is not to say all is lost on my little farm.  Far from it, this weekend I went out and picked a basket of apples and a bowl of blackberries!

Apples and blackberries

The apples are being eaten both fresh and sliced into pies.  The blackberries, however, were put into the most fabulous muffins!

I burnt my fingers picking one out of the muffin pan immediately after taking them out of the oven, the smell was just too much to resist!

Blackberry muffins

The recipe makes one dozen but my pans were quite shallow so instead I got two dozen out of it.  I think if I had used white flour they likely would have risen a bit more, but as it was they were the perfect size for snacking.

And really, small or not, who can resist when you hold up a basket of fresh baked muffins and say “want some?”

Blackberry muffins

Blackberry Muffin Recipe from Cooks.com

3 c. flour, sifted if it is heavy (I always use whole wheat flour so they come out a bit heavier, but I also always weigh out my flour because it tends to ‘settle’.  3 cups of whole wheat flour is 13.5 oz)
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt, optional
2 whole large eggs, beaten
1 c. milk
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen blackberry (though I imagine blueberries, raspberries or even strawberries would be just as delicious.  Ooh, I should combine all four!)
(I also added two tablespoons flaxseed.  Because I can.)

Combine first four ingredients, set aside. In a medium bowl, combine next four ingredients until smooth. Pour liquid ingredients into flour mixture; add blackberries, stirring, just until mixed. Divide batter evenly into 12 greased 2 1/2 inch muffin cups. Preheat 400 degrees. Bake 20 minutes or until golden in color. Yield: 1 dozen muffins. 12 servings.

Thank you, as always, to Viva Farms for the amazing veggies.  And if you liked this post, stop by inherchucks’ CSA link party!

Bon Appetite!

Recycling’s Forgotten Elder Siblings

Recycling is awesome.  It reduces waste going into our landfills, it reduces demand for the raw materials, it reduces – to some degree – manufacturing pollution (though bear in mind, recycling produces a small amount of its own pollution) and it makes you feel all holy to help the environment, right?

I’m here to tell you: stop recycling.

Okay, that’s a lie, I’m not actually going to tell you that.  But I want to get your attention so I can tell you that recycling is only one step in reducing waste and pollution, and that it should be the last step, not the first, and certainly not the only.

Recycling has two older siblings called Reduce and Reuse.  These are far, far more mature than Recycling, and should always be courted first.

Recycling is sort of the easy-way-out of caring about the environment, and is a cop-out in many ways.  It still takes 100% of the energy to produce the first time, and then it takes additional energy to recycle it.  Oh sure, the energy to recycle is significantly reduced from the initial process, but why not save the whole mess?

Plastic, especially, can be tricky to recycle if you don’t know what the number codes mean, and some plastics aren’t recyclable at all.

Reduce: this should be the first step in saving the environment.  Stop the cycle at the very beginning – use less.  Don’t buy disposable items when non-disposables are available.  Don’t buy small sizes when bulk is available.   Don’t buy individual packaged items if you can repackage these yourself into smaller portions.  You’ll save the package from its very first use, reducing the initial impact on the environment to gather and process these materials the first time.

This means you have to get over some of your convenience, just a little bit.  And we are a nation that loves its convenience, aren’t we?  (Well, if you’re in the US.)  Individual sized things are this latest craze that makes us feel somehow special, I guess?  This little packet of crackers is *just for me*… it didn’t come out of the same bag as everyone else’s crackers…  Oy, we are a spoiled, childish culture sometimes.

Okay, so reduce prevents the initial package from even entering the cycle.  It reduces the pollution and energy at the source, which is awesome!  Instead of spending 100%+1/3 energy to recycle, we spend 0% when we don’t even use it in the first place.

But we can’t reduce 100%.  We still need some products and some packaging, because it would be awful difficult to carry 10lbs. of flour home in our bare hands.  And this is where the middle-child comes in, Reuse.

Reuse: When you’ve reduced what you can, there is still some left over.  Rather than dumping this in the recycle bin and using a bit more energy to turn it back into more packaging, reuse the package you have and save that extra bit of energy.

Especially plastics that often can not be recycled anyway, based on their number, your local recycling capabilities, and the type of plastic it was made from to begin with.

It’s a snap to clean ziplock or sandwich bags, – and takes no extra time or energy if you have a dishwasher – and you’ll save both the bag itself and the box they came in by doing so.

Take the glass jar your pasta sauce came in, clean it well, and use it to store flour bought from the bulk section of your grocery store.  Not only have you removed the jar from needing any energy added to recycle it, you’ve reduced the secondary packaging required when you buy the bulk flour.

This really is much more beneficial than buying two packages which both get recycled at additional energy expense.  Reuse one package, remove the need for the second!

I keep grocery bags in my trunk, lots of them, to reuse when I go to the store.  I keep lots of them because if I forget to put one batch back in the trunk, there’s more to reuse instead of needing new.  Of course, using cloth bags is a great way to incorporate reusable items into daily life without the initial consumption of paper or plastic bags.

You can even reuse at work, taking old paper destined for the recycle bin (if it was only printed on one side), turning it into scratch paper note pads.  An easy way is to cut or tear the paper into quarters and staple one corner, and voila!  You have a quick way to reuse office paper again before it ever needs recycling.

One of my favorite reuse items is an old teapot whose lid broke, that I now use as a watering can for indoor plants.  It has a lovely Chinese dragon motif on it, and I couldn’t bear to get rid of it being so pretty, so now it sits nestled among my plants and is both beautiful and functional!

Bulk: Bulk is the love-child of Reduce and Reuse, helping you to do both!  Find a grocery store that has an amazing bulk section if you can (and I mean a bulk section of product you dispense into a reusable container, not just bigger packaging, but that is at least better than individual packaging.)

Yes, this may mean you need to find a new or supplemental grocery store.  Again, we need to move beyond our childish convenience need and expend a touch of energy of our own to help make a difference for everyone.

While it isn’t the case that everyone has access to a good grocery store and bulk, if you do, I implore you to use it as much as you can.  I’m very fortunate to have a local cooperative where I can buy rice, flour, sugar, salt, spices, tea, coffee, peanut butter, honey, seeds, beans, olive oil, and so much more all in bulk bins which allow for greatly reduced and overwhelming reuse of packaging.

Things to consider next time you’re at the store:

Skip the bottled water.  It isn’t even as clean as your tap water, so why spend 1000% more for it?  Buy a water filter if you don’t like the taste of your tap water and buy a refillable, non-plastic water bottle to take with you (glass, or stainless steel.)

Instead of buying individually wrapped snacks, buy a larger bag and portion your own servings out of it.  Why spend more money for more packaging and create more waste when you can spend a few moments of your time and do it yourself?

Reuse containers from other products you need, such as glass jars, plastic sacks, or shopping bags, and take these back to the store with you for bagging fresh produce, bulk items and your groceries.  It may take some time to make it a habit but you’ll be saving packaging and the environment!

If there is a non-disposable option available, go for that.  You may spend a little more upfront, but you’ll save over the life of the product and you’ll reduce the impact on both ends of the manufacturing cycle.

Because seriously: this is the only planet we get.  It isn’t recyclable.  Our demand for convenience is killing us!  So it’s up to each of us to decide which we want:

This?

Or this?

Continue reading

CSA: Week 9

Oh.  My.  Goodness it’s been one helluva week!  Working overtime, painting the house, getting ready for the appraiser.  Who has time to go to the grocery store like this!?

 

Good thing I get my veggies delivered to within two miles of my work and I don’t even have to wait in line at the checkout! (shameless promotion FTW!)

Squash, tomato, cauliflower, beans, blueberries, and basil!

Purple cauliflower.  Purple.  Cauliflower.   Isn’t that just the most amazingly beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?  PURPLE CAULIFLOWER!   I feel like tying a sheet around my neck and running around outside screaming Purple Cauliflower Power!

Is it weird to get this excited over the color of my vegetables?

So I get home and the first thing I do is make food:

Taste the Rainbow

Red tomatoes
Orange carrots
Yellow beans
Green squash/basil
Purple Cauliflower

But Eliza, you cry, what about Blue?!

Matching Dinner.

BLUEBERRIES!  And plates, and cups, and little bowl and chopsticks… (check it, my chopsticks and my plates match!)

So yep, I had the rainbow for dinner last Thursday.  It tasted awesome.

I really like my blue dishes.  Blue is my favorite color, after all.  This meal consisted of my curried vegetable soup from the crockpot.  I don’t remember what all went in it now, but I know it at least had onions, potatoes, broccoli and squash, a can of coconut milk, and lots of hot curry powder.  Nummy.

I should do a post about my dishes.  Some people obsess over food.  I tend to get more excited about the plate!  (or bowl, or whatever.)  Yep, I think I’ll do a dish post at some point.

Oh yes, since I didn’t have pictures of this one last week, here is my cucumber/melon freezer pop.  Very delicious!  Needed perhaps just a hint of lemon… next time I’ll blend in some lemon balm from the garden. 🙂

I love tacos.  I love corn tortillas.  I love eggs.  I love egg tacos on corn tortillas for breakfast!  So I did.  With some lovely tomato slices, jalapeno, and lettuce leaves, and a bit of taco sauce.    And while I love blue, well, red just goes better with faux-Mexican food.

That basil is so lovely!  I need to make stuffed mushrooms so I can smother it with chopped basil, but until I do, I sprinkled it on top of tomato soup instead!  (Yeah, I was lazy, that’s from a can, but hey I’ve been working 11+ hour days and repainting my house, cut me some slack!)

Thank you, Viva Farms, for saving me this week from certain starvation (or at least poor nutrition and inadequate vegetable servings)  What *would* I do without my lovely CSA boxes every week?

And don’t forget to hop over to inherchucks What’s in the Box #39 CSA link party!

 

Getting Out Of The Pool

This last Spring, the company I work for hosted a “Biggest Loser” competition.  For those unfamiliar with the television show (as I previously had been), this is a contest to see who can lose the most weight (by individual percentage) within a set time frame.

This type of thing doesn’t really set well with me for several reasons, however, seeing as I was sitting just shy of my heaviest weight ever and needed a good kick-in-the-pants incentive, I decided to throw my hat in and motivate myself to really honestly lose the weight I’ve wanted to lose for over 10 years now.

For a $20 buy-in, you had a chance at first, second and third place monetary prizes, none of which were too shabby after the owner of the company threw some extra in the pot.

It’s interesting how money *can* be a pretty good motivator.

I ended up coming in second place, with a total percentage lost of 8.3% of body weight, coming out to around 14 pounds I believe (I don’t remember exactly, now.)  Not bad.  But that was just the beginning.  My lofty goal was (and is!) to lose a total of  60 pounds.  And you know what?  I’m going to succeed.

Let’s go back for a moment.  Last August I hit my all-time high of 210 lbs, and while I wasn’t miserable because of my weight, I was certainly miserable *with* my weight, but I always felt powerless to do anything about it.  I ate pretty well, all things considered.  Made most of my own food from scratch, tried to always take my lunch to work, etc.  What I didn’t realize was I was eating good food but in quite the wrong ratios, and I was eating a *little* too much bad food (justified by how good I always ate, of course) and the weight just kept creeping on.

(Not surprisingly, it’s hard to find pictures of me from the last 10 years as I detest having them taken.  I managed to track down one which amply shows off my double chin, chubby arms, but… I just couldn’t bring myself to post it.)

Now I had managed to take 10 pounds off by myself just by cutting out snacks at work, but then was stuck stubbornly at 200 for the next five months until the Biggest Loser competition started.  I had considered re-joining Weight Watchers, as it had worked for me when I had been on it before, but I just couldn’t (then or now) afford the cost.  Even without going to meetings or buying any of their products, just access to the site was more than I could afford.

Enter one of the coordinators of the competition at work who told me about SparkPeople.

This website has given me every tool and resource I need to meet my goal.  You sign up and enter all your information such as height, current weight, goal weight, level of normal activity, style of work, etc. and SparkPeople gives you a calorie range.  Sounds pretty standard, right?  Well, it is, and it isn’t.

Instead of focusing purely on calories, it focuses on several key nutritional requirements (calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates) , and you can choose to track even more (salt, calcium, vitamins and minerals) all to help you know what your body needs and where you may be right on track, or  under- or over-doing it.

The tracking system is very much like WeightWatchers, but it also has a very good activity tracking system as well, including strength exercise routines you can have it create for you.

There are tons and tons of helpful articles, an entire recipe section, dietician blogs, forums to chat, and special interest groups to connect with others just like you.

But the very most amazingly awesome part of this website… is it is absolutely, 100%, no strings, FREE.  You don’t pay one cent for anything.  Oh, you *can* buy products, but nothing on the website requires you to spend a penny to access or use.

Now, my only gripe with the website is it can be a little difficult to navigate, but worry not, there’s a youtube video for that!   It’s a little out of date, the website has been updated since, but it’s accurate enough that you can take what it says and find your way around without any trouble.

But I don’t call SparkPeople a diet.  It isn’t.  A diet, in today’s world, carries the connotation of “restricted eating to lose weight.”  The way most diets work is you go onto one for a time, lose X amount of weight, and then you stop the diet.  At which point, statistically speaking, you will gain everything back that you lost plus some bonus pounds on top for good measure.

More traditionally, ‘diet’ is merely the foods you eat, period.

Your diet consists of whatever you put into your body on a regular basis.  SparkPeople isn’t *a* diet to start and stop, it’s a tool which helps you create your diet for life, to not just get to where you want to be but gives you the resources to maintain that forever.

I signed up immediately and am so glad I did!  I followed my calorie tracker, logging all my meals, snacks, and even cheats to get a clear picture of what it was I was eating and how it was affecting me.  I saw right away I barely ever get enough protein in a day, but have no trouble hitting my carbs.  I also wasn’t getting enough calcium, which I supplement half of my daily requirements with a calcium pill, the other half I drink my almond milk.  Let me wax on about that for just a moment.

Even if I wasn’t lactose intolerant, I  always hated milk.  I mean passionately hated.  There is nothing about it I find appealing.  Oh sure, I enjoyed ice cream, but I didn’t even like cheese.  So giving up dairy (at least, mostly) was not hard for me to do at all.  The only question was… if I want cereal, what do I put on it?  If my recipe calls for milk, what do I use?  Can hot chocolate *really* taste rich and creamy in just water?   No, it can’t, let me answer that right now.

There’s soy milk, of course, but I don’t like the idea of having so much soy in my diet, and rice milk, but both of those also have quite a bit of sugar and that seems to defeat the purpose of eating better.

Enter almond milk.  Specifically: Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla almond milk.  Unsweetened means not just no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, either!  The variety I currently drink gives me 45% calcium in a single glass (calcium varies between shelf-stable and refrigerated varieties), contains only 40 calories in 8 oz, and uses GMO-free almonds.  What’s not to absolutely love about this?  (well, unless you’re allergic to almonds…)

Okay, so I’m getting enough protein and calcium, I’m eating within my calorie range (1,200-1,550 per day) and I’ve even manged to work in that dreaded “daily exercise”.  I do that by making use of my breaks at work.  Two 10-minute breaks means I get 20 minutes of walking in per day, at least, without taking one second out of my otherwise busy schedule for it!  Rain or shine, I get up from my desk and walk for 10 minutes during my breaks.  Because hey, what was I going to do during those ten minutes anyway except browse the internet?

So that gets me part of the way there.  Sometimes I walk on my lunch breaks, but I’ve had to stop that for Summer, it’s just far too warm for me.  I also bought myself an XBox with the kinect and I play active video games like Kinect Adventures, Your Shape 2012 and Dance Central.  But again, I’ve had to reduce that due to heat being just too much, and I have no air conditioning.  I’ll resume all my extra exercises when the weather cools, and I’ll just resign myself to being an 9-month-per-year exerciser.

Despite the lag in activity, the calorie counter is still keeping me on track, though with my hectic schedule right now I’m happy to be maintaining.

I’ve reached the lowest I’ve been in 6 years: 180 lbs!  That’s 30 lbs down from where I started.  30 lbs!  HALF WAY TO MY GOAL!  In 7 months I’ve made it half way to where I want to be.  I’m hoping to lose the other 30 in the upcoming 7 months.  And I’m perfectly fine with a 14 month journey.  I didn’t put it on overnight, it won’t come off overnight either, but it *is* coming off!  Better slow than not at all, and really, better slow than fast for keeping it off.

So back to the Biggest Loser: as I mentioned, I won second, which came with a decent little cash prize, which I claimed would go into savings for buying new clothes (which I didn’t need quite then at only 14 pounds down, but I knew I would need eventually) but of course it instead got spent on bills and the like.

Skip ahead, I had to start belting my pants.  Skip a bit further ahead and that belt just isn’t cutting it anymore, I officially graduate down one size pants, from 16 to 14, and am feeling really glad I hung onto that last pair I had.

But then my old boss (same company, different department) makes a very good-natured comment, and all in the spirit of how far I’ve come and how wonderful that is, about how I’m *swimming* in my shirt.  So I decided it was time to get out of the pool.  (ah ha!  See, I finally get back to the title of the post!)

I realize that not only are my pants hanging off me, my shirts are really starting to as well.  Which is great, right?  I mean YAY I’m losing weight, and *noticeably* losing weight, but suddenly that problem of having to buy clothes crops up again, and when it comes to spending money on clothes you know you’re going to shrink out of, it feels less exciting.  Maybe that’s just me?  I’ve never been a big shopper.

But still, I can’t keep bagging it at work.  Even a few trips to the thrift stores don’t net me quite enough of the clothes I need.  So I hang my head and head to the mall.  I hate malls.  But they do have clothes, so off I go.

And I found a 50%-70% off sale going on in a store that had some absolutely *adorable* tops!  And at 50%-70% off, they’re just about worth the prices, too!

So I wrote all this…

just so I could say…

I got some new clothes!

CSA: week 8

Salad mix, cucumber, swiss chard, zucchini, blueberries

What a gorgeous box, yet again.  That Swiss chard is so huge I barely know what to do with it!  I ended up chopping two leaves up to put in veggie soup, another might go into stir fry later this week… man that’s big stuff, though!

So when I sat down to do this week’s CSA box, I realized I really sucked at taking picture this week.  In fact, I only took one picture (well, technically two) of CSA-made food this week… so let’s do that first, then I’ll kind of throw convention to the wind and just show you other food I made, too.

So with last week’s fabulous zucchini, I made a batch of baked veggies, one of my favorites.  Added a twist this time, make-shift stuffing and egg noodles.  In retrospect I probably should have added one *or* the other to be more balanced, but it was so fabulous I just don’t care…

Potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, garlic, bread and noddles

I sliced up the heels of my beer bread into crouton-sized chunks and lined the bottom of the dish.  Then I added a thin layer of egg noddles.  Over that I chopped up garlic, onion, mushroom, potato and zucchini, lots of herbs and a bit of beer, and covered the whole thing with foil before baking for about an hour.

The other thing I made from last week’s cucumber and a melon I picked up at the Viva Farms produce stand:

Freezer pops!  Now technically this isn’t strictly accurate since *this* batch isn’t cucumber/melon, it’s apple/mint/lime.  But same idea, and I did make them at the same time so it works, right?

Peel and seed the melon and cucumber, put in a food processor and puree until very, very liquidy, then pour into molds for the freezer.  That’s it!  In this case it was add some fresh picked apples, a few mint leaves and just a hint of lime juice and then same process.  Very refreshing (and not just frozen sugar water!)

Now, that ends the CSA portion of the post so instead I’ll show you some other stuff I made today!

I’ve got an apple tree or three on my property and the yellow ones are well ripe, so last week I picked a whole box-full.  This weekend I had to do something with them before they started going bad so I sliced the bejeesus out of them and borrowed my parent’s crock pot so I could have two going together.  Then I pulled out some getting old peaches we had canned two years ago and made one batch of apple/peach butter and one batch of apple/peach sauce!  The only real difference is how thick it is, so let it cook long enough the sauce will turn into the butter, but I did make them a little different just for variety.

Apple/Peach Butter:

Lots and lots of apples, sliced and cored (but left the skin on)
Two quarts of canned peaches, sliced
1/4 cup of sugar for just a touch of added sweetness
a bit of lemon juice (maybe 1-2 tablespoons worth)
a bunch of cinnamon
a little less of nutmeg

Cook for about 14 hours on low.  If too wet, uncover and cook another hour or so on high.  Store in jars and refrigerate.  (unless you’re comfortable doing the canning thing.)

Apple/Peach Sauce

Lots of apples, sliced, cored and skinned
One quart of canned peaches, sliced
(second crock-pot was about half the size so the ingredients got halved as well)
Half cup of water with 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
Half cup of honey
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
The last half hour (ish) add a drizzle of vanilla extract.

Cook on high for 8 hours.  Store in jars and refrigerate.  (unless you’re comfortable doing the canning thing.)

The other thing I made was granola bars!  So fabulously good, easy to make, and tasty to eat!

I made a double batch for snacks at work.  I also embellish the heck out of the recipe so I’ll give the original and then my re-work of it:

Original Granola Bar Recipe:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
3 cups oats

Combine peanut butter, honey and butter in a thick sauce pan on the stove.  Bring to a boil, then cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning the bottom.  Pour the liquid over the oats in a bowl and stir to thoroughly coat.  Then press into a wax-paper lined pan.  Cover with another sheet of wax paper and press firmly to compact as much as possible (I use a can and roll it down).  Chill for a few hours, then remove and cut into bars.

My modified recipe follows the same directions with the following ingredients

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup honey
1/2 cup butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups oats
1 cup puffed kamut wheat cereal
1 cup puffed millet cereal
1 cup whole grain flakes cereal
1/4 cup flax seed
1/4 cup sesame seed
3 tbsp cocoa powder
optional: exchange 1/2 cup of any of the above for dried fruit

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix peanut butter, honey and butter as above.  Add vanilla extract immediately after removing from heat and mix well, then pour over dry mixture and prepare as above.

Amazingly good, home made, and no weird unpronounceable ingredients!

Thanks for reading this week!  I promise, I’ll do better next week on getting more pictures.  🙂

For more great links to CSA boxes, recpies and ideas, see In Her Chuck’s link party: What’s in the Box? #38

CSA: Weeks 6 & 7

So I completely missed last week’s CSA update due to home improvements, so I’ll catch up with both in this.

Week 6: fennel, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, radishes, cherries

Week 7: kale, carrots, zucchini, cucumber, blueberries, not pictured: cauliflower

I am very happy to have an end to the peas, at least for the moment.  I got cauliflower in the last box, but I gave it to my mother, who absolutely *loves* cauliflower, as part of my thank-you for helping get my house in shape for the appraiser.   I didn’t think to snap a picture of it before I handed it over, but that’s alright, I’m sure you all know what cauliflower looks like, and it was a fine looking head of it.

Overjoyed at all the berries I’m getting, though.  I *love* berries but because they’re so pricy in the store I rarely let myself indulge in them, so this has been a real treat!

Now I believe I promised last week two weeks ago that I’d make crepes (recipe below), and make crepes I did!  This is a fabulous recipe for them, very light, no sugar, only 315 calories for the *whole batch* (so I always make a pig of myself and eat them all).  Shown here, the stack of 6 with blueberries and cherries and a dollop of fresh whipped cream.  And, of course, who says you can’t drink a glass of sparkly wine with cherries to go along with your crepes?   Even with the extras, still a very health-conscious meal.

crepes with blueberries and cherries; wine with cherries

Now on the other end of the spectrum, I also absolutely adore fried spuds, especially with onions, so spring onions and spuds got fried up in a pan, then add two eggs, some carrot sticks, and a mini ice cream (yes, even being lactose intolerant sometimes I just have to indulge just a bit) and I’ve got a very unbalanced but so tasty dinner!   Hey, we have to do it once in a while…

fried potatoes and onions; eggs with taco sauce; carrots; coffee ice cream

Then we swing back to uber-healthy with the “it’s too hot outside to cook” dinner of a salad with slices of spring onion and sprinkled with flax seeds and a light garlic dressing, with carrot sticks, and radishes:

lettuce with spring onions, carrots, radishes

The last of the veggie soup from the fridge with a salad of fennel and lettuce, toast, cherries and blueberries, and a glass of wine.

vegetable soup; lettuce with fennel; blueberries and cherries; toast; wine

Another great use for the fennel: salmon salad!  I use 1 can of salmon, 2 oz. veganaise, a spoonful of mustard, and a bunch of chopped fennel, with a bit of fresh pepper.  Half went with me to lunch, the other half stayed home and became a light lunch, paired with beer bread toast, some almond cheese, and a glass of almond milk (at least I’m sure to get enough calcium!)

salmon salad with fennel on toast, topped with almond cheese; almond milk

Yesterday was another ‘too hot to cook’ but also ‘too hot to eat hot food’ day, so I made a kale, cucumber and fennel salad with a touch of lemon juice and fresh ground pepper for dressing, with some blueberries and almond milk.

Fennel, cucumber and kale salad; blueberries; almond milk

And of course, who can resist putting berries in cereal!  I hardly ever eat cereal but it was the quickest thing to make and very light and cool for the heat.

Cereal with blueberries

 

I know this entry is rather dry but for the pictures.  Too hot and too tired to think of much witty banter.  So instead I shall wax poetic on the greatness of my scale.  No, not my bathroom scale, my kitchen food scale!

Most useful scale I own

This is the best little device I know for helping me with my weight loss.   It lives on my counter where it is used for almost every meal and ingredient, from weighing pasta to veganaise, flour to broccoli, and most things in between.  It’s fabulous for knowing exactly how much you’re eating, but also for ensuring that you don’t over-do the flour in your recipe.  Since I started weighing it out, my baking has improved quite a bit. 🙂

Some people say it’s such a trouble to get it out, clean it off and weigh stuff, which is why I never put it away.  I keep a bowl sitting on it for quick weighing of veggies as I go, and it’s simple to put the can of salmon on the scale and then weigh out in negative oz. how much I’ve removed.  There’s plenty of little tricks to make it easier, but mostly if you just make a point to use it it’ll be second nature in no time and takes hardly any time at all!

 

Thank you Viva Farms, Growing Washington and Skagit Valley Food Co-op!

Don’t forget to check out inherchucks’ What’s In The Box CSA link party!

 

Crepes:

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk

Gently spoon flour into measuring cup and level with the back of a knife. Put flour and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a hand whisk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add egg. Whisk egg and flour while pouring milk into bowl, stirring well to combine.
The batter should be free of lumps. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Spray an 8-inch nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Heat skillet on medium high. Add a 1/4 cup of batter to hot skillet and swirl around the pan to cover as much of the bottom of the skillet as possible. As the edges cook, use a spatula to lift the edges of the crepe. After about 1 minute, flip the crepe over and cook for a further 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and start over until the batter is done. This should yield about 6 crepes, so probably serves 2 or 3.

  • Servings Per Recipe: 6
  • Calories per serving: 52.4
  • Total Fat: 1.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 40.9 mg
  • Sodium: 128.8 mg
  • Total Carbs: 7.2 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
  • Protein: 2.8 g

CSA: Week 5

Technical difficulties resolved!  Now, on to the food:
This week was brought to me by Viva Farms, the color paisley, and the number Pi.

Lettuce, kale, broccoli, spring onions, peas and blueberries!

So let me break it down, lettuce, blueberries: YAY!  Kale, broccoli, spring onions: DOUBLE YAY! OMG.  Peas… /sigh/

But again, they’re good… for peas.  They’re just… peas.

Okay enough about that.

What did I make?  It’s starting to become a blur.  I’m pretty sure food happened at some point during the last 7 (now 8) days, but if it weren’t for photographic evidence I’m sure I would be skeptical.

Breakfasts consisted of, among other things, 3-berry oatmeal, made with blueberries, cherries and sliced strawberries, hard boiled eggs,

and a decadent 3-egg omelet with sauteed mushrooms, spring onions, garlic and rosemary.  (Don’t ask me why I took the picture in the pan and not on my plate, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t braining that day too well.)

But at least it *tasted* good so I’m not complaining!

Much snacking was had with guacamole, made from avocado, spring onion, garlic, tomato, jalapeno, and lime juice:


And dinners contained one of my favorite home-cooked substitutions: pita pizza!  Crispy crust, creamy fillings, cheesy toppings… so good I burn my mouth every time because I just can’t wait for it to cool!

This one was my garden pita pizza, which is a pita with 1/4 cup of pasta sauce (in this case a low fat vodka sauce), then piled with nummy veggies like onions, baby spinach,  crimini mushrooms, pretty sure I put fennel in this one, … y’know, I’ve actually forgotten what I put in this, I should write it down at the time.  Oh, tomato chunks!  Then covered with shredded cheese and baked until everything is melty!

Made a salmon-melt pita pizza also, which… you can’t really tell the difference from this picture, but trust me, it’s different from the one above:

This one had a base layer of diced tomatoes, then sprinkled with salmon, onion and mushrooms, then a bit of shredded spinach, and topped off with cheese, and again bake until melty.  With a side of broccoli, peas, onions, garlic and mushrooms stir-fried.  I’m out of sake so I used beer instead.  Can’t say I’ll necessarily repeat that, but it wasn’t awful.  It still improved the peas 😉

And then another pasta and stir-fried veggies, with broccoli, peas, onion, garlic and kale this time.  Very good all around.   I cheated a bit on dinner here, though.  You see that glass of milk?  Yeah, that’s dessert, it’s actually white hot chocolate mocha …something.  Very delicious.

This was a hectic week.  I didn’t get a lot of what I wanted accomplished, but I got some other stuff that I hadn’t expected to accomplish done, so it kind of balanced out.  I didn’t make crepes which I dearly wanted to do for the blueberries, I will probably do that by Wednesday for next week’s update.  I also didn’t make blueberry/cherry cake.   That will likely be next weekend.

So look forward next week for some delicious breakfast and dessert recipes!
As always, thank you so much to Viva Farms, Growing Washington and the Skagit Valley Food Co-op for making such fine refrigerator stuffers!

Also: I feel so bad, I keep forgetting to add this to my posts but I’m editing it in now: inherchucks has a CSA link party, so if you CSA, stop by and check her out, leave a link to your blog and see what other CSAers are doing with their stuff!

Non-recipes:

Pita Pizza:
1 slice of whole wheat arabic pita bread
1/4 cup of your favorite pasta sauce
whatever veggies you love, added liberally
pre-cooked meat if you like of any variety
lots of shreddy cheese on top

bake in an oven or toaster oven for about 10 minutes on about 400 until the cheese is melty and the edges of the pita haven’t burned yet.  Try to let it cool before you burn your mouth biting into it, remembering that it’s going to be very, very hot inside.

Enjoy!