Amateur Malcontent

This is the place where my Crazy can come out to play.
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INGREDIENTS/DIRECTIONS

For the crust:
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/4-1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (original recipe used cheddar, but I think parmesan works better)
1 egg
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, then transfer to a greased pie pan and pat into and up the sides. Place in oven and cook 7-10 minutes until golden and egg has set. Set aside to wait for filling and cool down. Turn oven down to 375.

For the filling:
2 Tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced
3 large handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
1 large broccoli floret, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup grated smoked cheddar
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Italian seasoning to taste
4 large eggs (I used 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites)
3/4 cup milk

In a large skillet, put in butter and sliced onions, a pinch of salt and cook until they are starting to caramelize and turn golden, about 20-30 minutes. Add the broccoli florets, a little more salt, and continue cooking until broccoli is tender. Add the fresh spinach, a little more salt, pepper to taste and continue cooking until spinach has completely wilted. Remove from heat and let veggies cool down a bit. Mix in grated smoked cheddar.

In a bowl, beat eggs and milk together until well mixed, adding salt and pepper and Italian seasoning.

Take the cooled crust, put the veggie cheese mixture into it, then pour the egg and milk mixture over it. Place in the 375 oven and cook for about 40-45 minutes, or until egg has set and top is light golden.  Remove and let cool down a bit before slicing into it and eating.

I know this isn’t the best picture of pie, but I was busy making the rest of Thanksgiving dinner and didn’t have time to make it look beautiful. However, it came out so well that I figured I’d better write down the recipe for it the next day so I could make it a regular thing each year.

Faythe’s Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

2 medium sugar pumpkins, which should yield 2 cups of puree when finished.

Pie crust of choice

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut pumpkins in half, lay cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet that’s been lightly oiled. Cover halves with foil and bake until they’re tender, around 60-90 minutes.

After pumpkins have cooled down enough, scoop out roasted flesh and place in food processor (or mash thoroughly by hand if you don’t have a food processor) to turn into puree. Measure out two cups for the pie.

Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out and/or place pie crust in a pie pan. Then, in a mixing bowl put in the pumpkin puree, whipping cream, eggs, sugar and spices, then beat until well mixed. Pour into pie crust and bake for 55-65 minutes until middle is set.

I haven’t really written a whole lot on here lately. It’s partly because so much time has passed and then I got a new job that is insane and makes me feel like I need to have a defibrillator with me at all times. Let me just say that I used to think I looked forward to the weekends a little too much, but now I NEED my weekends.

Anyway. Despite me needing my weekends, I went ahead and agreed to get up early on a Saturday for a good cause—food. I was invited to go to Carver Farms with two of my friends and spend the day canning. I’ve made jam before, but that just requires a boiling water bath, not the use of a pressure cooker, and I hadn’t ever done mass quantities of anything before. That all changed when I wound up picking 11.5 pounds of green beans, then decided on top of that that I wanted to make some peach preserves when I got home and picked up 5 pounds of peaches. I also got some corn and some absolutely amazing honey (the honey is made from all the bees that pollinate their crops and the flavor is unreal).

My friends are serious canners, so when it came time to set everything up, I was impressed with all their gear. They had not one, but two pressure cookers, a large two burner propane camping stove, a big fold out table to place the finished product, and well—take a look at these photos.

Getting everything ready. Note the two gallons of vinegar that we would be using for dilly beans. I also discovered that there’s pickling salt and it’s different than regular salt in that it has no iodine in it (iodine makes the water cloudy).

The propane stove with the large pots of boiling water for pouring into the regular beans and also for sterilizing.

11.5 pounds of green beans being rinsed and then having to have both ends snapped off and then snapped in half. That was just my beans. We then powered through about 18 more pounds of beans. My hands were pruned up by the time I was done.

All my finished beans sitting in my pantry. So awesome!

I took a nap when I got home, and then after that I got up and worked my way through 5 pounds of peaches. I made preserves instead of jam, which only requires that the jars be boiled for 10 minutes after you pour in the cooked preserves. I’m really hoping it comes out okay, I’ve never made preserves before and I’m worried that I didn’t cook the peaches long enough because I still wanted the peaches to be chunky.

It was a long day, but I had such a great time that I’m seriously considering getting my own pressure cooker. After watching my friends use theirs, I’m not intimidated anymore. I still have memories of my mother canning stuff when I was a kid and the rattling that hers did combined with all the steam shooting out always scared me.

The decision to make 2012 the year I took my eating habits seriously* began at a snail’s pace. The first thing I did was take a month off from drinking alcohol.  I also tried to cut down on bad carbs (I switched to whole wheat bread, pasta and brown rice) and ate breakfast at least 5 days a week, but that was about it. In February I discovered that I actually enjoyed Green Monster smoothies and now I have one for breakfast every week day. In March instead of just pinning super delicious fatty sugary carb heavy recipes on Pinterest, I told myself I needed to start usng it to find healthier recipes. Afterwards, I would actually follow through on making a lot of them. I was gettting a better handle on how to cook with more veggies and less fat and still be left with something delicious.  In April my friend Andrea introduced me to CalorieCount.about.com, a free online site that helps people track their food and exercise. 

Now, because of all these things combined, my grocery shopping has changed a lot. My bags are filled with mostly veggies instead of breads, cheeses, chips and sweet snacks. Sadly, my great love of cheese has had to be tamped down a bit, and while I still eat it, I just make sure I don’t douse everything I cook with it like I used to. I try to use it as an accent flavor instead of the main attraction.

The result of these efforts has become more obvious recently, too, much to my surprise. I have started losing weight. I feel great and have more energy. I crave vegetables and it’s become fun for me to see just how many I can cram into any given recipe I’m making before it becomes too ridiculous (Oh, it says to only use one cup of broccoli? Let’s see what happens with two! Why not some spinach, too?). My feeling better and losing weight has even been in spite of me not having an exercise routine (and stuffing my face on some weekends), which is the last part of the puzzle I need to put in place. There’s just so many things I don’t like about exercising that it’s hindering me and stifling my motivation. I want it to be free (because I am the 99%). I don’t want to wear a helmet or ride a bike anywhere near traffic. I don’t want to jog around town on sidewalks, I want to jog on a trail in the woods. I don’t want to have to drive to a place just to exercise. I don’t want to get up early. I want my exercise experience to be perfect**, etc. etc. All I know is, when the perfect set of circumstances all come together in the right way, in the past I have been very good about sticking with a routine. Honestly, what will probably wind up happening is that I won’t get around to doing something about exercise until 2013 so I can have at least a year of heatlhier eating under my belt. I want it to be second nature so I don’t have to think about it anymore, and then I’ll be able to move on and concentrate on the exercise part with my full attention.

But hey, so far this whole nutrition thing has been pretty awesome, and I never thought I’d be enthusiastic about healthy eating. People don’t want to hear it (hey, I didn’t want to hear it, etiher), but when you finally decide to make eating better a lifestyle change instead of a temporary diet, it actually works! The only thing I’m sad about is that I’m bitter that I have to do this because I’m old. I can no longer cram two Cinnabons into my face for lunch then eat two Big Macs for dinner and still be skinny, like I could when I was 18.  I have become the boring old person who eats healthier because they don’t want to die earlier than they were supposed to die. But never fear, no matter how badly I want to hold onto my youth, I’m not going to get as crazy as Suzanne Summers—what with her 60 pills a day and daily vagina injections!  

Just thought this infographic on how portions have changed was really interesting.

Just thought this infographic on how portions sizes have changed was really interesting.

*Because now I’m a year and a month away from turning 40 and I damn well don’t want to succumb to the trend of turning into a typical middle-aged dumpy woman. I ought to write a post about what my younger self thought about this, but that’s a different post (a very embarrassing one), and one where I need to give myself a serious punch in the face for being such a bitch about it in my head.

**Yes, I can be quite particular about things. Yes, it’s a total pain in the ass for people that have to deal with (or live with) me in real life. I KNOW.  

Thanks to the influence of my friend Andrea, I have started using this free online diet website called Calorie Count. I was using a different one, but made the switch because Calorie Count also includes all the nutritional information for all the food you eat every day, and my old one only did calories. They also have this amazing feature which lets you enter any recipe of any kind and it will spit out the calorie count and tell you all the nutrients, good or bad that it contains per serving. Which is great, but led to some very disappointing discoveries about some of my standard recipes that I make, mainly that they were super high in fat and calories…even some dishes that I was under the assumption were decently healthy, well, I was WRONG. Dead wrong.  The saddest blow was finding out that the new recipe for salad dressing I was so in love with turned out to be over 150 calories per serving! I can’t have that, because I am one of those people who drowns their salad in dressing (although I am not nearly as bad as Ryan), so my actual serving size is usually double. When I think about how many extra fat calories I had been consuming without knowing it, I felt sick! Knowledge might be power, but it’s also depressing!

I also discovered that I am chronically low in calcium, iron and potassium. The first two are easy fixes, but potassium has turned out to be quite the bitch. Turns out the foods highest in potassium (Things like raisins, baked potatoes, lima beans, canned tomato sauce, prunes, spinach and bananas as well as avocados.) I either hate (lima beans, prunes and bananas) or the amount of the food I’d have to consume to get enough potassium is more than I’m willing to eat. I like spinach, but I don’t want to eat 3 cups of cooked spinach every day! Ditto for 2 cups of raisins. Avocados are too high in calories and fat to eat a whole avocado. If I had canned tomatoes, it would be as a sauce on pasta, which has too many carbs. I can’t have a baked potato because I only like them with tons of cheese and sour cream and butter and I don’t like to eat the skin, which is where all the nutrients are located.  Basically I am screwed! So today I’m going to go out and buy some potassium supplements and just call it good, because I really can’t take the daily reprimand from the nutritional calculator anymore!

Back in February, I surprised myself by becoming obsessed with Green Monster smoothies. They’ve become part of my daily routine, and I have them 5 days a week. I’d have them on weekends too, but I don’t want to become too crazy. There’s still pancakes and bacon and omelettes, stuff of that nature to enjoy!

Anyway, my friend Andrea has also become obsessed with them and we tend to wind up tweeting giddy tweets about some new ingredient that we’ve tried and want to share. This enthusiasm boiled over and became an actual event when she arrived at my house for the first (ever?) Green Monster Smoothie Tasting this morning.

My main kitchen counter soon became filled with all sorts of intriguing potential ingredients. There was silky tofu, coconut water, chia seeds, flaxseeds, various juices, spinach, various frozen fruits, frozen pureed banana, cocoa powder, cinnamon, yogurt, almonds and probably a bunch of other stuff I’ve forgotten about. She also happens to own the same personal blender that I do, so it made doing all the blending work super easy because we could just switch out the various sport container tops.

After all the mixing and weighing, plotting and a few failures (Whatever you do, do NOT use arugula because even chocolate can’t hide the bitter. Arugula, great in salads and maybe sandwiches, but NOT for smoothies!), there were a few surprising things I learned. Surprising in a good way, too!

The first was that I thought I would not like banana in smoothies because I don’t like to eat bananas in real life at all. In fact, I tend to avoid bananas like the plague. But after Andrea added some of the frozen banana puree to a few of the smoothies, I discovered that I actually enjoyed the taste! Which is exciting to me because it’s a new ingredient I can now add to my rotating list of Stuff I Like In Smoothies (it’s a short list, so anything I can do to make it longer is great). The other surprise was that apparently my taste buds like cinnamon way too much, and the amount of cinnamon I use is a lot more than what regular people use (I tend to double the amount in any recipe I come across and I also only use the Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon because it’s a lot stronger). I like my cinnamon to punch me in the face! I was the only one who enjoyed the smoothie I made that included a teaspoon of cinnamon in it. When Pete said it reminded him of the holidays, I immediately got really excited because I realized I could start making holiday-themed smoothies in December and have it become a new holiday tradition! Which—Oh my God, I just had another great idea—In November I could make smoothies with cranberries! Each holiday could have its own special smoothie recipe! I swear to God, I am going to start working on this!

Some of the smoothies we made today. A tropical, typical green smoothie. A strawberry/banana pink (red?) smoothie, and a chocolate smoothie (Photo taken by Andrea).

Today is my one year anniversary of saying goodbye to fast food. When I first made my decision, I was worried that it would be really hard for me, especially because I loved Taco Bell so much. But it turned out to be a lot easier than I thought, and I have to say, I haven’t really missed it. The other fast food places weren’t hard to give up at all, especially because Carl’s Jr. was already on my list, and Burger King, Wendy’s and McDonald’s can’t hold a candle to the burgers that Ryan grills up at home. It was Taco Bell that really had a hold on me, and there were plenty of times when I would drive by one and be sad that I couldn’t try out their newest promotional menu item.  I was also bummed out when I found out that Taco Bell was going to start serving breakfast items, but the worst part was the announcement that they were going to make taco shells out of Doritos (Cool Ranch is coming out next). I actually got a little sad that I wouldn’t be able to try that!

However, for the most part I’m really happy with my decision and I plan to continue my fast food boycott for the foreseeable future. However, I’m VERY curious to see if my taste buds have changed at all from not having fast food for this long. To find out, I am going to break my one year boycott and go to Taco Bell for lunch today. We’ll see if I will love it as much as I always did, or if it tastes like crap. I kind of hope it tastes like crap to me, because then I’ll feel even better and a little more smug about continuing my ban.

Whichever way it turns out, I promise to update this entry with the results!

UPDATE: TACO BELL PURCHASED AND EATEN

As soon as it was my lunch, I drove to the nearest Taco Bell and ordered what I used to order all the time. In addition to the new Dorito loco taco, I got a steak and a potato soft taco (I know, I said I didn’t like breakfast burritos, but for some reason I like the potato soft tacos), then drove back to my work to eat at my desk.

I opened up the Dorito taco first, and went to work. I couldn’t even really taste the cheesy part of the Dorito taco shell due to all the taco fillings kind of obscuring the flavor, but my fingers were orange right away. As I chomped away, I noticed that it tasted rather bland and the texture just didn’t feel right to me anymore. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really all that good either. In fact, it felt pretty meh.

Next was the potato taco. I squeezed on some of the verde salsa, since that used to be my favorite of the sauces they make. It was the same sensation. Just meh. Last I tried the steak soft taco, and it was just more of the same. I wondered to myself if their flour tortillas had always been so gummy and I just hadn’t noticed it before. I wasn’t enjoying it like I used to, and the steak was actually pretty bland. 

It wasn’t terrible, but really, it wasn’t all that great either. It was mediocre, and somehow that made it kind of worse. There’s so much mediocre crap available and everyone just settles and is okay with settling when great stuff is out there and just takes a little more work to find and make. My taste buds and my body deserve better than just average (I would say everyone deserves better, but what’s that Maya Angelou quote that people like to throw around? “When you know better you do better” A lot of people must not realize they can do better. Either that, or they just don’t care if they ever do better), and I have a choice! No more settling for me.

The steak soft taco. My stomach isn’t super happy with me right now, but I’ve got an iron stomach so I’ll be fine.

Friday afternoon as I was browsing Pinterest, I found a recipe that used cauliflower as a way to substitute for carbs. It took the old cauliflower rice idea (which I have used, but not as ingeniously as this) and spun it into a great fried rice dish. I was super excited about it, but wasn’t able to actually make it until last night.

Holy crap was it good!  Basically you just make fried rice as usual, except that the first thing you fry up is the cauliflower rice. Normally you would grate up the cauliflower and steam it, but this time you just throw it straight into a hot wok with some sesame oil and a little soy sauce and fry it until it turns golden brown. Once you add in the rest of the ingredients, including a little rice, you can’t even tell that there’s more cauliflower than rice in the dish! I suppose if you wanted to go completely hardcore you could do all cauliflower and put in a bunch of other veggies to make it a 100% vegetable fry.

Seriously. If you love fried rice, you MUST go check out Full Belly Sisters' Cauliflower Fried Rice recipe. The great thing about making fried rice is that it can be completely customizable. I made my version with brown rice, onions, garlic, ginger, lots of broccoli and little bit of chicken and egg in addition to the cauliflower.

Oh, and I don’t have a picture to show because I use double black soy sauce and it makes everything super dark and rather unappealing looking, yet tasty. I like my soy sauce strong!

Last Saturday I made my first Green Monster smoothie (see the post below this one) and discovered that I liked it. Now it’s seven days later, and I’ve had one every single day. No, I’m not even joking! In fact, the very next day after I made the first one I went out and bought myself this, an Oster My Blend personal blender so I wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of washing our regular blender every time. Now while I make coffee in the morning, I blend up my smoothie and take it with me to work so I can sip on it at my desk for the next hour.

(I love this blender because all I have to wash is the detachable blade system and the container that doubles as a travel mug. It’s fantastic and super easy to wash AND use!)

I never thought I would become instantly obsessed with these smoothies, but I have. At first I was planning on making these maybe 3 or 4 times a week tops, but now I’m panicking inside thinking about how I don’t need to make them every day. I WANT to make them every day!

The funniest part about this is that I don’t even like to eat healthy. I like my meat and carbs and fatty, delicious foods. Fat is flavor! So who would have guessed that I would have something in common with those superfit, irritating healthy people who only eat nutritious foods and work out all the time?

Although I guess the bright side is that if I’m going to be obsessed about some kind of food it’s better that I’m obsessed with eating food that’s actually really good for me, than say, feeling compelled to eat a huge piece of cake or a giant plate of fries daily.