Own Your Beauty!

Friday, December 16, 2011

My freezer secret...

I have a secret in my freezer...no, it's not a dead body!  It is my soup tub.  See, I hate wasting food but sometimes when I cook a lot for myself I end up with a bit that just isn't enough for a portion but is too much to throw away.  I have forced myself to overeat just to keep from tossing good food, but then I feel lousy and the food really went to waste anyway because I wasn't enjoying it.

A little of this, a little of that...

So now I am taking up a practice that I used to do and fell out of the habit.  I keep a big tupperware tub in my freezer (the biggest one I have right now is about 5 cups) and whenever I just have a bit of something leftover I add it to the tub.  It could be a small piece of chicken that I dice up first, a scoop of greens, the last spoon of beans, some pasta I didn't finish, 1/2 can of green beans...I don't discriminate!  If it tasted good, it goes in.  I also keep a gallon bag with all my veggie trimmings in the freezer, celery tops, onion peels and roots, carrot peels, herb stems.  No broccoli or cabbage or potatoes or anything that will taste bitter, but the rest goes in.

I use the veggie trimmings to supplement the water when I make chicken stock, although if I have a full bag and no chicken bones I have been known to make a small batch of veggie stock as well.

Almost full, will become delicious soup before too long!

For the tub of leftovers, when it gets full I take the whole thing out, dump it in a crockpot with a quart of chicken stock from the freezer, some extra water, maybe some white wine or a bottle of beer (depending on what the main flavors are in the tub that day), possibly an extra bag of frozen soup veggies, a hearty dollop of Herbs de Provence, a good crank of salt and pepper, perhaps a glug of balsamic or rice wine vinegar.  It is extremely free form and based on what made it into the tub!  I let it cook on low for 4-6 hours and when it is done, a delicious leftovers soup.

Serve with a hunk of fresh baked bread and some parmesan grated on top...DELICIOUS!  And made primarily from the odds and ends that otherwise would have ended up in the trash.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade junk food!

So I was watching Biggest Loser - but that show kind of has the opposite effect on me.  I don't watch it and immediately throw away my junk food and head out the door running and crying and expecting to lose 15 lbs a week.  Instead I kind of look at all their temptation and old, "bad" foods and just want them!  Fortunately I also know that stuff makes me really sick, and I am also really broke so I can't afford to be spending my yeast and gas money on fast food right now.  

So instead I did what any respectable college student/undercover housewife would do...I made junk food!!

I was thinking chili cheese fries, a milkshake, and chocolate chip cookies...but based on what I had in the house I had to compromise a bit and I ended up with chili cheese fries, tropical julius and peanut butter cookies :-)

Fries before baking
For the fries I took 3 potatoes and cut them up into little fry size strips, tossed them with olive oil, salt, chili powder, and Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning and baked for about 15 minutes at 450 deg.

Organic quinoa
For the chili I really had to wing it...the only ground beef I had was frozen and being saved for spaghetti sauce later this month.  So I cooked up some quinoa then added 1/2 bottle of Newcastle (yes, still using that bottle from the chicken!), a can of diced tomatoes, about a cup of black beans, chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and salt.  Cooked it all down for about 1/2 hr until it was getting a bit thick...

Chili, ready to be stirred and cooked
Strange thing I did - since I had an open can of diced tomatoes where I would have used crushed tomatoes to get a thicker consistency, after cooking for about 15 minutes I took out my potato masher and mashed the tomatoes up pretty good to try and break them down and make it thicker before cooking for another 15 minutes.  It works for spaghetti sauce, it worked here!

Glop it together, top with cheese, stick it back in the oven to melt and NOM!!!
They may not be pretty, but they sure are tasty!

Ok, Orange Julius I modified from several different recipes and again used what I had on hand (including a tip my old daycare lady gave me when she used to make these when I was a kid!)
Cool and delicious

1 cup Presby Punch (could also use water)
1 cup vanilla coconut milk
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1 raw egg (only use if you trust your eggs...this is the tip from daycare, it makes it really frothy and gives it a distinct "Julius" flavor!)
10-12 ice cubes
* blend and drink!

Super Easy but Crazy Delicious Peanut butter cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash of vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 Tb. flour
1 egg

*Mix everything together,
*Drop cookie size globs on a cookie sheet
*Lightly squish with a fork to get that pretty crosshatch look
*Bake at 350 deg for 10 minutes
*Let cool for a few minutes before removing them from the cookie sheet to allow them to set up
Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies!

So drawbacks to making your own junk food
- it takes a lot longer
- you have to do dishes when you are done
- it just isn't QUITE that same fat/sugar/salt hit that you would normally get

BUT benefits of making your own junk food
- it is freaking delicious!
- it is a LOT healthier
- it is a LOT cheaper

So I am happy that I decided to make it myself, as is my tummy, my tastebuds and my wallet :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finals - aka ignore everything but books!

This is how we do breakfast finals style!  

Yes, I did take the time to cook (primarily because I was watching my last couple dollars of the month disappear too rapidly into the tills of the ever delicious but oh so spendy Mad Batter.  But as you can see, it is all set up on my little side table so that I can be planted in my study corner to write my Sociological Theory final (better known as the paper from HELL!).  

 I made a bit of Ful with what I had on hand, the last of my tupperware of white beans that I had made in the crockpot seasoned up with some garlic and herb mix, lemon pepper, and salt.  Mixed in the end of one of my jars of homemade salsa, topped with 2 eggs, and just for the hell of it a dash of the bottle of Newcastle beer I had opened to cook the chicken and greens in last night and still had some left.  Hey, it may not be suitable for drinking after being open all night but the flavor for cooking is still just fine! 

That remarkable pink liquid you see there is what we lovingly call "Presby Punch"...let me explain - we have a Presbyterian church literally on our campus and every semester the Sunday before finals begin they host a free pancake breakfast/dinner from 9pm-Midnight.  People take study breaks, go in their pajamas, and basically carb load on ridiculous amounts of pancakes and syrup while someone inevitably plays random old pop songs on the piano (we were treated to renditions of Kissed By A Rose and Don't Stop Believing...excellent background pancake music ya know!)  But the key to all of this is the Presby Punch - this magical concoction of juices that tastes like pineapple/orange/rainbows/unicorns/fairies.

I think this is actually how they make Presby Punch!
We don't know what goes into Presby Punch, we only know that it only happens twice a year and we do little happy dances when it is time.  And here is the REAL trick...if you go to breakfast at 11:30pm or so and hang out eating until 11:50pm or later they will GIVE YOU THE LEFTOVER JUGS OF JUICE!!!  That's right...they make so much that they are inevitably left with 2 dozen+ gallons of the stuff and they just pass it out to everyone.  So like the ridiculous college students we are, all of us took 2 gallons and ran into the night cackling like morons clutching our jugs of punch and we drink it like crack for all of finals week.  And that is the wonder of Presby Punch :-)

Also on the counter is a loaf of whole wheat bread rising before it goes in the oven.  Should make the place smell amazing and distract me while writing!  1 paper and 2 tests left to go and this semester will be OVER and I can focus on holiday knitting and enjoying 3 weeks utterly to myself...I am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A little of this, a little of that, a little Nightmare Before Christmas!

So today has been a whirlwind of one thing to another!  Yes, it is the last week of classes so yes I am cramming work and studying into every spare moment.  This afternoon was my astronomy test, so this morning was studying for said astronomy test - along with a breakfast of corn tortillas, topped with chopped hardboiled egg, topped with white beans, topped with cheese, topped with hot sauce, topped with salt and pepper and nuked.  Random, but it was what I had in my fridge that sounded decent together...kind of a bastardized huevos rancheros.

Breakfast and Astronomy - a great combo!
It was actually pretty tasty, except the beans weren't very flavorful.  I am still getting used to cooking the beans from dry instead of using a can, and the texture is good but since I didn't put any salt in while cooking I DEFINITELY need to season them before using.  And that means season the beans themselves and not just the food around them.  But it worked, and it fueled me through the test and a 30 minutes run afterwards!

I actually wore my workout clothes TO the test because my plan was to head out the door and hit the road for my run...that was foiled when I walked out the door to POURING rain.  Oh well, to the gym I went.  Considering the gym membership is included in tuition I really should use it more often, I will miss having a free state of the art gym available to me when I graduate.  I am on Week 3 of the Couch to 5K program and it definitely kicked my butt, but felt good.  It's funny...when I run on a treadmill it feels like I am pushing harder and more consistent, but if I compare the distance I run on the treadmill to the distance I run on the road in the same time it is actually less on the treadmill.  Oh well, still felt good to get a workout in!

Then I hosted our monthly sing-a-long movie musical night at school - our holiday movie was The Nightmare Before Christmas and it was a fabulous little break in the study day.

I brought candy canes to pass out, and made myself a pumpkin spice latte :-) I cannot justify spending $4+ on Starbucks coffee drinks (that are generally waaaaaaaaaay too sweet anyway) when I can make this at home for pennies!

Pumpkin spice latte
- brewed coffee
- 2 T condensed milk
- 4-6 dashes pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

* combine, mix well, drink, feel very smug that you didn't spend a fortune on yummy holiday coffee!

Candy canes for the masses, pumpkin pie latte for me!
Came home, donned the housewifely apron, cleaned the kitchen, made some dinner, and then made some homemade-ish salsa to have on hand.

Dinner was another crazy combo using some of my roommates food and some of mine, and we will split the yummies - her chipotle sausage, her carrots, my leftover cooked lentils, my canned tomatoes, my white wine, my onions, all sauteed up together with some garlic powder, oregano and cumin, then simmered until the liquid was mostly absorbed.  Topped with some cheddar cheese and accompanied by a Magic Hat...delicious, hearty, peasant food.  Tomorrow will add some greens to the leftovers and continue to enjoy!

Salsa is one of those things that is so easy to make, it is tough to justify spending $3-$5 on a single jar when I can spend that much and make 3 jars that taste a lot better anyway.  This is another one I kind of play by ear depending on what I have on hand...I have added corn, black beans, mango, pineapple, garlic, roasted red peppers, jalepenos, or whatever else sounds tasty in salsa, to this before, or left out whatever I didn't have on hand if necessary, but tonight I kept it pretty basic.

- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cans diced green chilis
- 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
- 2-3 T lime juice
- 1/2 diced onion
- salt (to taste)
- crushed red peppers (to taste)

* Mix everything in a big bowl and spoon into jars to keep in the fridge

Ingredients (except for the chilis, they went in the salsa they were just being camera shy)

I got 3 big jars full of salsa from this (all jars saved from previously purchased salsa!) and it tastes so fresh and yummy, I just love it.  As it sits in the fridge the flavors really meld together too and it just gets better.

Now back to studying!  Countdown to break - 1 1/2 weeks to go :-)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This is how I do research papers

Worked today at the theatre, running lights for a Christmas concert.  It is nice sometimes just to sit back and press "go" when told and work on knitting my scarf in between :-)

Brief "Girls Night" with scrambled eggs, sweet potato hash and organic apple crisp to fuel the night of deep thinking..heehee...and the latest episode of Once Upon A Time while we all continued to procrastinate horribly.

Now I have to focus because I have 2 big papers due tomorrow.  Yes, it is the last week of classes which means the big push for projects, papers, exams, and finals are all crammed into the next 14 days.  Now I just have to keep on typing and trying not to fall asleep!

In the meantime, here is a picture of how I work on my research paper...

Academic Search Premier on the laptop, recycled Harry & David jar full of wine in my hand :-) Ok...back to work!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Invaded by hungry stage managers!

 We had stage manager night last night at my place (which is where hungry stage managers tend to appear randomly because I have a bad habit of feeding them and then they behave a lot like stray cats and keep coming back..teehee!)  So I did what any good but extremely poor host would do, I added some extra stock, quinoa, and greens to the soup to stretch it out, sauteed up 2 chicken breasts, and broke out the rest of the cornbread and ended up with a couple of happy friends.

Deanna hearts cornbread!
Jessica thinks chicken is nom!
The chicken actually turned out fantastic without a recipe, and I am definitely making it this way again!  I just sliced up 2 chicken breasts and thin sliced 1/2 an onion.  I sauteed the onion in olive oil until translucent, added in some garlic and sauteed that for about 1 min (until it browned but before it burned), added the chicken to the pan along with some salt, orange pepper, and Herbs de Provence, and seared until the outsides were slightly browned.  Then added a squirt of lemon juice and a glug of white wine and let the chicken cook until done.  Reduced the sauce with a bit more wine and poured it over the chicken and onions.  Simple but heavenly.

Nerys puts on her best pathetic face to try and weasel leftovers

After dinner we went to Dillsboro for the luminaries they do every December.  We all took our travel mugs in anticipation of free spiced cider!  It was beautiful...clear, crisp, lots of people walking around, enjoying all the cute little shops, trying free samples (Bourbon butterscotch sauce might be the greatest thing ever!) and watching the horse drawn wagon giving rides up and down the street.  I forgot to take pictures of us, but here are a couple of the town all lit up

It was very pretty, lots of WCU students out and about, and for someone who tends to spend too much time in the apartment it was good for me to get out and remind myself that we DO actually have some cute things to do around here!  I also bought fudge...mmmmmmm...Salted Caramel and Candy Cane flavors.  I am saving them to nibble on this weekend :-) 

Then Deanna and I headed home and sent Jessica on her merry way to go do homework (yes, homework at 9pm on  Friday night...it must be almost finals!) and we got some ice cream, whipping cream, and chocolate sauce and made dessert!  Sundaes with homemade vanilla whipped cream, homemade egg nog lattes spiked with whiskey, and watching The English Patient...Starbucks ain't got nothin' on us baby!  I love The English Patient, and not just because I have had a massive crush on Ralph Fiennes since about 1994, and Deanna had never seen it so that had to be remedied.  All in all it was a lovely way to spend an evening before spending the rest of the weekend writing giant papers and working at the theatre.

And just to be silly, a couple of the girls showing their appreciation for dinner :-)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Soup and cornbread = yummmmmmmmm

Food post!!  Yay - I did cooking tonight and it is yummers!  I made a very simple chicken, veggie and rice soup and a pan of jalapeno whole wheat cornbread...all from scratch :-)

First soup:
No recipe because it was one of those random soups that you just throw together based on what sounds good and is in the fridge, but here is the basics - 

- 1/2 homemade turkey stock 1/2 water (I simmered it so long that I got really nice, rich, jellied stock so I thinned it by half to get more of a soup base)
- onions and garlic sauteed in butter
- chicken breast sauteed in olive oil and chopped
- bag of frozen gumbo style veggies
- 1 cup leftover cooked brown rice
- 1 cup plain yogurt (I was going for creamy, but it didn't really work that well...oh well!)
- seasonings, salt, lemon pepper, garlic and herb grinder, just kept cranking it in until it tasted good!

Simmer and nom!
This made a metric crap ton of soup, like more than fits in that pot, so I am going to package, fridge and freeze and have soup for awhile.

Next cornbread:
This I followed a recipe on the back of the cornmeal bag and just tweaked it a bit.  And yes, I bought just plain cornmeal this time because it was the same price to buy a giant bag of cornmeal as a tiny bag of cornmeal mix and I think it turns out a lot better.

- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 4 T melted butter or shortening (recipe called for shortening, I used butter)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. salt

Optional addins
- chopped jalepenos
- can of whole corn or creamed corn
- 1 cup shredded cheese
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- whatever else your cornbread lovin' heart desires!

 Cornbread batter in a pie plate - because everything is better shaped like pie

  1. Combine and mix dry ingredients in a bowl
  2. Add melted butter/shortening
  3. In a separate bowl, beat egg and mix in milk
  4. Add enough of the milk mixture to dampen dry ingredients and mix well (as more as needed)
  5. Stir in your optional add-ins if desired (I used jalapenos and a can of whole corn kernels)
  6. Pour into greased baking pan or muffin tin
  7. Bake on 400 deg for 25 minutes, until top is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean
  8. Cut a piece directly from the pan while still too hot to handle, slather with butter and moan orgasmically while eating hovered over the kitchen counter
  9. Eat another slice with dinner, also slathered with butter and/or honey and comment repeatedly on how amazing you are while shoving every last crumb in your face.  
last 2 steps are optional, but I dare you to not do it!!  You can't!!

Magic Hat on the side...warming winter dinner complete!

Mr. Potato Head...or "my tummy has a mind of its own"

Yeah yeah yeah...I am a bad blogger that disappears for...ummmmm 9 months between posts :-) In my defense, I worked pretty much nonstop during that time (including a killer summer stock that involved 16-18 hour days, 7 days a week) and I wasn't doing a whole lot of cooking or healthy eating during that time.  And honestly, I don't know that my goal is really to be a regular blogger anyway.  But I have been working with a wellness coach, doing a lot of cooking, and I love to share that stuff when I can, so.........I'M BACK!!!

So as I said a moment ago, I have been working with a holistic wellness coach.  Although I have been studying nutrition for the majority of my adult life (thanks to my never ending and usually futile attempts at weight loss) I decided to go ahead and spend 6 months working with someone to see 1) if I could pick up some new ideas 2) to keep me focused on my health 3) to see if working with someone could help heal my long troubled digestive system 4) just to have someone to bounce ideas off of without boring my friends to tears.

So how is it going 2 months in?  My stomach definitely has been feeling better (off and on)...so while I haven't nailed down exactly what it is that is troubling my poor system, I am getting there.  What I have learned, since I turned 30 in September my body basically doesn't accept chemicals or artificial ingredients anymore - which means, no fast food, no diet foods, no sodas, none of that crap without even worse suffering than in years previous.  In other words, my body is having an early mid-life crisis and it didn't consult me first!!!  What a jerk!!!  But hey, no fast food, daily green veggies, more pastured and organic foods - these aren't bad things to get back to, and I feel a million times better for it.

What I am excited about tonight - making cream of chicken soup with homemade turkey stock from Thanksgiving (which simmered for 24 hours...seriously, I want to bathe in this stuff!) and greek yogurt and chicken and garlic and greens and............still not sure yet, but a bunch of tasty stuff.  Need to put together a batch of bread dough so I can bake some bread (because oh yeah...have you looked at the ingredients list on the store bought bread packages?  Evidently more stuff my 30 year old body has decided to launch a nuclear war on) and put some dried chickpeas in the crockpot so I can make hummus tomorrow.  Then I guess I should get back to studying and such since we are in the last 2 weeks of the semester and I really would like to graduate in May :-)

Question - If anyone is reading this blog anymore, I have 10 lbs of potatoes that I don't know what to do with them all...any ideas please comment with them!!  Besides the obvious mashed, scalloped, baked, stuffed...I do all that and still can't seem to go through them all...any new ideas would be great :-)

This kind of potato........

..............not this kind of Potato :-)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Note on Fat Shaming and Stigma

I read this article on New York Times today and after reading through all 14 pages of comments, many of which were incredibly cruel, hurtful and the epitome of what the article was trying to speak AGAINST I felt compelled to post a comment with my own experience and thoughts. And because I feel like the subject of size, weight, fat, and the shaming and hiding that so often comes with that isn't talked about enough, I felt compelled to share it here. Somehow weight has become the last acceptable prejudice, and even if it isn't always spoken about openly I think it is important for people to hear opinions and truths beyond just the "what diet I'm on now" talk. Take it or leave it.


I read through all the comments posted so far, as painful as it was. I would probably fit into what some of these cruel commenters would term a "fattie". I lost weight on occasion, but it never stayed off and I was being taunted as young as preschool for my weight (even though when I look back on pictures I was solid, but certainly not fat) I take after my father, strong build, linebacker shoulders, broad hips.

Do I eat to much? Yes...without a doubt. I have also dealt with intense enotional issues through my life since I was in preschool that I believe I have dealt with through food, through gaining weight to create a protective shield around me. When I did lose the most weight I was 19 and in an emotionally absuive relationship with a man who would taunt me for my weight and punish me if I didn't continue to exercise and lose weight at a rate he felt was appropriate. When we broke up I was 175 lbs, a size 12, the smallest I had ever been in my life, and miserable beyond belief. I started eating and stopped exercising again as my own ridiculous way to "pay him back" for the pain he caused me. I regained the 100 lbs. I lost in a matter of 2 years.

But guess what...I was also dating someone after this who would stop and get double quarter pounder meals from McD's on the way home from work as an afternoon SNACK before coming home to eat dinner, would eat 2-3 candy bars every afternoon, drink 2 liters of soda on a regular basis, eat a whole package of Oreo's at night, and never gained weight and stayed what you might term a "healthy" weight, while I would diet like crazy, trying to avoid the temptation of these foods in the house, and be LUCKY to lose 5 lbs. in a month. I trained for a year, running 15-20 miles a week, eating healthy, exercising twice a week with a personal trainer, ran a half marathon, and I still never got below 250 lbs. So yes, I truly do believe some people are genetically more disposed to lose or gain weight than others.

My big question - why is obesity SUCH a massive issue in the last 30 years? Have we as a society suddenly become lazy, gluttonous. depraved people who lack moral character and willpower as a whole? Or is there something bigger going on? It isn't safe or feasible to walk or ride bikes places anymore thanks to poor city and suburban planning. Food manufacturers continue to find new ways to cram more calories into the foods we eat and make us want/need to eat more. Our foods are more often becoming products of chemistry rather than products of natural farming leaving our bodies dissatisfied and craving more. We are working longer and longer hours, without breaks to go move, without needing to be as active to complete our jobs, without the support to go workout on our lunch breaks (if we get them). And yet the societal fat shaming increases at the same time that same society is making it less and less natural to be slim.

Sounds like we need a full shift in thinking, priorities and actions! That includes stopping with this false moral superiority over those who you deem to be less worthy than you, based on class, size, gender, or whatever you find the most offensive. And it also includes holding our food manufacturers responsible to end their manipulation of our food supply. And yes, it also includes making time to move and be active a priority, within our families, our jobs, and our society as a whole. It also means being accepting and loving of others instead of taking your own insecurities out on those around you.

BTW - I ran 3 miles this morning, ate organic oatmeal for breakfast, homemade chicken soup and roasted veggies for lunch, haven't had fast food in probably a month or more...doesn't make me any better or worse than anyone who didn't exercise or who ate McDonald's for lunch. And I still weigh 250 lbs. Maybe after 29 years my body is just comfortable there, maybe someday I will lose weight again, maybe I won't. That also doesn't make me any better or worse than anyone else.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making choices

I get $120 a month in SNAP food assistance – that is my grocery budget for the month.  I really don’t have enough extra money to do much extra shopping over that.  I sometimes mess my budget up by eating at the fast food places on campus when I didn’t have time (didn’t take the time) to pack myself a lunch or dinner but that is $5-$7 that I just don’t need to spend when if I take that time to plan ahead I can bring my food.  It helps when I have a day like today with no commitments that I can actually take the time to do food prep for the week (or two) so that is what I am doing. 

Right now I have a number of projects completed, going or planned for the day that hopefully will make my next week more successful than last week (my tummy and budget won’t allow me to eat convenience mart tater tots for breakfast anymore!)

  1. Instant Oatmeal – rather than spend way too much on the instant oatmeal packets loaded up with weird chemical crap, I bought a tub of quick oats and a bag of tropical dried fruit mix ($1.20 for the oats and $1.50 for the fruit) and mixed it all together in a big bowl with a dash of salt, some brown sugar and cinnamon and then portioned it out into ziplock baggies.  For about $0.25 a serving I got 12 individual oatmeal packets that taste better and are a lot better for you.  I just take it to work in the morning, dump it in a mug, fill it with boiling water from the tea pot, and instant breakfast!
  2. Bagel sandwiches – Bread just doesn’t hold up if you make sandwiches in advance, but toasted whole wheat bagels do!  Premade an entire bag of bagels into turkey/pepper jack cheese sanwiches, wrapped them in saran wrap, and tucked them right back in the bag for quick lunch grabbing.
  3. Chicken – I scored a MAJOR deal with a 10 lb. bag of chicken leg quarters for $4.50.  I put them all in the crockpot with an onion and some water and I am just letting it cook all afternoon.  Once it’s done I will strip the meat, put some in the fridge and freeze the rest and have precooked chicken for whatever quick recipe I want it for in the next 2 weeks.  Then the bones are going right back in the pot with some celery that is too limp for snacking, the last handful of baby carrots, and some herbs to cook on low overnight and turn into stock for chicken soup.
  4. Brown Rice – So simple, but I put a pot on to cook an entire bag of brown rice so it is already ready.  Again, some for the freezer, some for the fridge.  Handful of shredded chicken, scoop or brown rice, some roasted veggies, topped with salsa makes a quick and easy dinner bowl!
  5. Greens – Another score at the grocery store was 2 big bags of kale and mustard greens for $1.50 each.  But they need to be cooked today, so they will be stewed with some turkey sausage, onions, garlic, tomatoes and lemon juice to make a fabulously healthy meal with enough for 3-4 meals packed with the great green veggies I so often miss out on.
  6. Muffins – I made KILLER blueberry muffins yesterday for my awesome cast to snack on during rehearsal.  But since I gave all those away I am making myself another batch, but with some tweaks to make them a bit more hearty.  Namely using 1/2 peanut flour to add some protein heft and tummy staying power!  I am also tossing in some orange cranberries since I am low on frozen blueberries.  But I know they will still be yummy.
  7. Cookies – Because if I don’t have some sort of treat I end up caving to overpriced icecream on campus.  But homemade peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour will hit the spot for a post-rehearsal nosh!
  8. Bread – I haven’t had a batch of bread dough in my fridge in awhile but I am almost out of my massive stash of store bought bread I somehow ended up with so it is time to mix up another batch for the fridge.  Especially if I am making chicken soup, gotta have some homemade bread to go along with that!
  9. Cornbread – I have gotten addicted to making homemade jalepano cheddar cornbread.  It is so easy and so yummy!  I am thinking of cooking up a batch of ground turkey with some taco seasonings to add into the muffins to make them almost full meal or hearty snack items. 
  10. Pasta salad – $1.50 dried tortellini is my lifesaver…when I have nothing else in the house boiling up with with a quick homemade cream or tomato sauce.  A can of salmon an a can of chickpeas hiding in the back of my cabinet along with a bag of frozen veggies will make this a pasta salad dish I can pack up and rely on for another couple of easy lunches.

Whew!  I am tired just looking at that list!  But here is where the choices come in – I did my grocery shopping yesterday and spent the last of my food budget until I get reloaded in 2 weeks.  So the food I have in my fridge and cabinets HAS to last me for 2 full weeks.  Things like the muffins and cookies I can make and keep in the fridge or freezer and they will be good for 2 weeks.  Even brown rice and chicken I can freeze and pull out when I want to use it.  The turkey sandwiches won’t stay good forever, so I figure those will be lunch this week and I will make the pasta salad next weekend for week 2 lunches.  But I only have enough cornmeal left for 1 batch of cornbread – so do I make it this week because it would go great with the greens, or do I make it next week as more of a stand alone item?  Do I use all my fresh veggies this week and then be more lacking in veggies next week, or do I try to stretch them and risk them going bad?  Basically my choices are, do I cook everything today because I know I have time but risk it going bad, or make it all today and risk eating all the “good stuff” this week and then be eating nothing but eggs and chicken soup and ramen next week. 

And of course my biggest paranoia is that I will just run out of food and money before I can afford to go shopping again!  But realistically I know this won’t happen because even if I do run low on food (which considering how much I have to work with for 2 weeks is unlikely) I have proven to myself that I am capable of searching in the depths of my cabinets and freezer and making something from nothing when called upon.  So maybe this is one of those learning experiences where I just need to trust myself, go with my gut instinct (which is to cook as much as possible today while I have the time and then freeze what I won’t eat in the next 3-4 days) and believe that I am competent and confident enough to make it work.  And avoid Panda Express at all costs – because the Panda and me don’t get along.  It sounds like it will be a good idea, and then that part of my body that used to hold a gallbladder says WRONG!!  THAT WAS A TERRIBLE DECISION!!  Sorry Panda, we gotta break up, this is just a dysfunctional relationship I can’t continue.  Bring on the greens and cornbread instead!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Food as an act of love

I know this isn’t exactly a new concept – mothers around the world have known this for years (and every time I go home for a visit I am very thankful for that!) but it really struck me this morning how much I embrace this concept.  I love to cook.  I love being in my kitchen, puttering around, pulling out whatever random ingredients I may have squirreled away in my cabinets or refrigerator, playing with ideas, and then sitting down to enjoy the (usually) delicious creations that come from my imagination.  I am not much of one for recipes.  I do have several cookbooks but I can probably count on both hands the number of times in my adult life I have actually cooked from a recipe.  But my best cooking happens when my heart is full of love.

Just in the past 2 days this has been demonstrated to me very vividly in 2 different ways that got me on this train of thought.

Me and my stage manager ladies all dressed up in Atlanta last month

Last night my dear friends Jessica and Deanna called me.  We are all stage managers working on 2 different shows at school right now.  They were in the middle of their big, hellish, 12 hour tech rehearsal and I had just finished my 5 hour rehearsal with my cast.  They called me up to see if I wanted to join them for dinner, and Deanna kind of jokingly asked if I could cook for them.  Now, I had JUST walked in the door, hadn’t even taken my shoes off yet, had no clue what for sure I had in my house, and I could have viewed this as a pain or a chore or said “Hell no! But I will meet you and go to Taco Hell or Sonic the Gut Buster”.  But instead I got that happy feeling because I knew that no matter what, I could pull together a meal from what I had in my house that would be a whole lot healthier, tastier, and more soul fulfilling to send them back into another 6 hours of insanity at the theatre.  So I said “Come on over…I will have dinner for you in 15 minutes”. 

Here is what I pulled together without a glance at a recipe:

  • Very first, I pulled out 2 bags of dried cheese tortellini that I always keep on hand and dropped them in a pan of boiling water to start cooking.  Seriously, $1.50 a bag from Walmart and it beats the ones that cost twice the price for half the amount at the grocery store!  I never let my stash drop below 2 bags because it is the simplest meal when I am short on time and motivation.
  • Next I grabbed an onion, cut it in half, diced it and started sautéing it in olive oil, then when it started to get soft added a spoon of chopped garlic, because everything good starts with onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil!
  • I found 4 pieces of bacon and chopped it into pieces and tossed that in with the onion to cook up a bit, because everything is also improved by the addition of bacon.
  • Once all that looked pretty well cooked I pulled out 1/2 a bottle of wine from my fridge and gave a good glug of that in the pan and another good dash of lemon juice, 2-3 Tb. of butter and a big handful of fresh broccoli florets and let it simmer for a minute or two.
  • In the meantime I used a little tupperware and did a slurry of about 4 Tb flour and 1/4 cup of half & half I had hiding in the back of my fridge.  Once the broccoli looked a little tender I stirred the flour slurry into the mix and let it start to thicken a bit. 
  • The mix obviously needed more liquid so I grabbed some milk and poured in a bit until it looked a better consistency.  At that point the pasta was done so I also poured about 1/2 cup of the pasta water in the sauce and just let it keep simmering for a bit to thicken and blend the flavors.
  • When my friends arrived I added the 1/2 bag of cooked chicken strips Jessica brought and the remnants of a couple bags of mixed Italian cheeses and parmesan, turned off the heat, stirred in the drained tortellini, added a little pepper and…DINNER! 

All this took less than 20 minutes from start to finish, I never once looked at a recipe or cookbook, and I might not ever make that sauce exactly the same way again, but it was absolutely delicious.  Maybe not Cooking Light material, but a lot healthier (and more satisfying) than burger and double order of onion rings or Taco Bell’s signature 88% meat blend Smile  Real food, prepared with joy for my good friends.  Being able to create that for them wasn’t an imposition, it was an act of love  to be able to offer that and then share their company while we all enjoyed the fruits of my labor.

Then this morning was a completely different way for me to realize how food can be a way of showing love and care, but this time for myself.  I woke up in a good mood, took the dog out to breath some fresh spring air, and wanted to do something more than just toast a bagel for breakfast.  Since it is my one day off from rehearsals I decided to take the time to make myself real breakfast.  I rustled up a couple extra slices of that bacon from last night.  While that was cooking I mixed 3 eggs with a dash of the remaining half & half, a pinch of dried thyme, salt and pepper.  Once the bacon cooked I pulled it out and drained the excess grease.  I added the eggs to the pan and scrambled them up with just that hint of bacon flavor, a sprinkle of cheese and a piece of whole wheat toast on the side. 

This was my way of being able to show love for myself.  That I deserve the time and care to create delicious food for ME and not only when other people are around to appreciate it.  So now, with all the doors and windows open to welcome in the cool spring air, my Pandora radio station playing some Michael Franti and Carol King, my dog curled up on my blanket, and me ready to dig into some homework before the week starts up again, I am feeling pretty darn content, happy, and loving today!  However, I may start trading me cooking dinner for the happy recipients getting my resulting dishes done, because the sink full of plates and pans is less loving Winking smile


Nerys says hi and happy spring!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sicky sickerstein :-(

I am sick...I have fought it hard, but I think it is official. It went from a couple weeks of beautiful spring-like weather here in the mountains to rain rain rain and it brought this nasty head and throat bug with it. I have done SO GOOD at not being sick the past year! And I used to be teased by my mom for having the world's worst immune system because it seemed like I was sick constantly! But I am realizing that I was probably just a lot more eager to jump on the slightest symptoms to stay home from work when I was doing the corporate thing, and now that I am doing what I love and the stress level is so much less I am more willing to push through it and not succumb so easily to illness. In any case, I haven't been really sick much the past year so feeling this sick now is really getting me down :-(

I ate chicken soup for breakfast that I had made in December and dug out of my freezer (yes, I am still eating off the food I made over winter break!) and I brought a stash of green tea and Advil to get me through the day. Fortunately I don't have class today so I am just curled up at the front desk at work with my shawl wrapped around me, clutching my mug of tea, and trying to get some homework done.

We just launched into rehearsals for our last show of the season this week so I REALLY don't have time to be sick! Unless I am dying I can't miss rehearsal so miracle of modern medicine - do you work!! Although hopefully I should have some good news about this summer soon. I don't want to jinx it so I won't say much, but it looks like I will have some real professional theatre credits on my resume soon :-)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When I disappear it means I am involved in a play :-)

So I posted like a FIEND during winter break, and as soon as we came back to school I immediately jumped into 5-6 day a week rehearsals for our show that opens in 1 week (EXCITED!!) And between that and actual homework - of which I am avoiding right now and counting on the fact that my Dramatic Lit Crit teacher doesn't read my blog, my time to update has been limited. And honestly my cooking has gone to hell too since I have had no time so pictures of nifty cooking projects have been nonexistent. Fortunately this is why I spent all of winter break cooking! And everyone at school drools over my pasta with sausage, chicken enchilada casserole, chicken soup, and all the rest of it :-) Truly one of the best thing I did with all that time...it has saved me a ton of money, time and trips to fast food joints on campus.

So I don't have a ton to update right now except that I have been stage managing an amazing show that opens on Feb 9th. It is my first time stage managing and it has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It's like all my time in the corporate world, along with all my passion for the theatre, has combined to create the perfect place for me to use my super awesome skills! I still love acting of course, and that is still where I am getting my degree, but I am so thrilled to have found this other new outlet for my talents. And after all, that's why I went back to school -to explore ALL the possibilities out there and find the best path for me!

Joseph Campbell famously said "Follow Your Bliss" and that is what I am doing. Is it a perfect life? No. I am broke most of the time (that whole starving artist thing minus the starving part), I am a city girl at heart living in a tiny town in the mountains of North Carolina and having severe urban envy, I still struggle with loneliness (especially since all dating prospects at college are around 10 years younger than me and ummmm...well, just no) and I still am not 100% sure what I want to do when I grow up :-) But the fact is that I have amazing friends (Dirty Dancing and sangria night rocks my world!), I am involved in an amazing theatre program, I am fully supported by my family in my crazy dreams, and I am ultimately making my life full of the things I love. Honestly now, what could be better than that??

P.S. If you happen to be in NC you should come check out out a great play showing Feb 9th - 12th at Western Carolina University. Reasons To Be Pretty is about the anatomy of a break up, the consequences both comedic and tragic, and explores what it means to be "pretty" in our society. Come and see and say hi!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Movin’ My Booty

Alright, I have a confession to make.  I am a serial exercise program starter – I am CONSTANTLY coming up with the greatest exercise program EVER that will cover cardio and strength and if I can just follow it for 5-6 days a week I will be in shape!  This usually lasts approximately 1-2 weeks when I realize that I have developed this program for Tina from 10 years ago when I was in amazing shape and not Tina now who needs to start from scratch and has a lot busier schedule.  Then I get frustrated, bored, annoyed, short on time, and I inevitably quit and then sit around for another month until I develop a NEW greatest program ever and the cycle begins again. 

To some extent I beat this a bit last semester because riding my bike to school every day was an automatic exercise that was happening 4-5 days a week and there was no other way around it (since my car was broken down for most of the semester, it forced me to ride even when the weather was bad).  But my various attempts to start running and going to the gym ended up being overenthusiastic, or maybe I was undermotivated, and they slipped slowly to the wayside by the time December hit. 

I think part of my problem too is that I tend to focus on the future instead of the present.  I want to see results NOW…I want to lose 100 lbs. in 30 days and be able to do 100 pushups in a week and be ready to run a half marathon by next month and that just isn’t going to happen!  I also plan these big hour long workouts 5-6 days a weeks when I haven’t even successfully worked out at all for any length of time.  So basically, I set myself up for failure so it isn’t so much of a surprise when it happens.

But I DO want to exercise, I DO want to get back into shape, I DO want to be healthier and stronger and have more energy, and I DO want to get back to that place where working out for an hour a day isn’t crazy, it just is what I do.  But I have realized that I have to start slow and stay in the now to get to that point and be respectful of my current fitness level (slim to none).

So in that vein I decided to do the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred.  It is only 20 minutes a day which means I can get it done in the morning before school, it is high intensity which means I am getting good workout bang for my buck, and it is easy enough to modify that I can do it at my current fitness level.  Most important, it is getting me back in the habit of working out daily without having to find the time to get to the gym at school, without having the weather or ice outside as an excuse not to go out running, and without being responsible for creating my own workout which I might make too easy or too hard. 


I even bought this awesome set of Jillian Michaels weights to go with my at home program.  I know, I know…I wouldn’t have bought them just because they are Jillian Michaels (even though I do love her) but it was actually cheaper to buy this set and get the 3 lb, 5 lb, and 8 lb weights than buying them individually.  Plus they are pretty and have an awesome rack to hold them all Smile 


So far I have done 4 workouts in 5 days.  I skipped one day because I was cramping so bad I thought I might be ill if I even LOOKED at someone else jumping around.  I am going to do as she suggests, 10 days at Level 1, 10 days at Level 2, 10 days at Level 3, and then see how I feel when I am done.  I will be honest, after the first 2 days I was so sore I could barely move!  I kept having to manually straighten my arm because the muscles hurt too bad to straighten on its own!  But it is feeling better now and I can already feel an increase in my endurance and energy level.  And honestly, knowing that my workout will be over in 20 minutes is a good motivator to just doing it…feels a lot less intimidating than 45 minutes – 1 hr. 

I do have to watch myself though, because I am already finding myself looking up other programs like P90X and Insanity which are meant for people who are already in really good shape.  I do NOT need to get myself overwhelmed just yet!  I know that once I finish the 30 Day Shred I will want to increase my exercise in some way, but I am resisting my urge to start planning out what that will be when I am still 26 days away from that point.  Stay in the now and enjoy the changes that are happening now instead of worrying so much about the future.  And make sure I do day 5 today!  And maybe at least copy the Tae-Bo videos I have onto my laptop in preparation…maybe Smile

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Moment for Yogurt

Can we please just take a moment to talk about yogurt?  Some people are not yogurt fans.  My mom for example will choke down some now and then because she thinks it is healthy, but has never really liked something about it.  I on the other hand have always been a yogurt fan!  I downed those little cartons like candy!  And when I was on Weight Watchers (one of the many times) or just looking for a healthy breakfast option yogurt was my go-to.

HOWEVER – as I started to look into yogurt more and more I started to realize just how much of a nutritional gloss the industry has been putting on yogurt.  In fact, the big yogurt makers have gotten in trouble with the FTC for making all these grand claims about how their yogurt will keep your digestive system healthy and will boost your immunity because they don’t have the scientific evidence to back it up. 

Just take a look at the list of ingredients on a carton of Yoplait Light Strawberry Yogurt:

Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Strawberries, Modified Corn Starch, Whey Protein Concentrate, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Aspartame, Potassium Sorbate Added to Maintain Freshness, Natural Flavor, Red No. 40, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3

HFCS, artificial sweeteners, thickeners, food dye – this isn’t a health food!  This is just another example of chemistry creating a food-like substance and an advertising industry telling us it is the answer to all our problems.

Now let’s look at the ingredients in Dannon All Natural Plain Yogurt:

Cultured Grade A Milk

Yep…that’s it!  Milk.  Just like yogurt should be.  Now granted, it isn’t organic and the “All Natural” label isn’t anything that has a set of standards behind it, but when compared with the 14 different ingredients in a carton of light strawberry yogurt this is such a huge difference!

Something else to notice here – I did not get the “Fat Free” plain yogurt and I will tell you why.  #1 because fat is satiating, when you eat a little fat in your food it is more satisfying, it fills you up, and it makes those calories stick with you longer.  Not saying I am going to eat a stick of butter for breakfast to fill myself up, but for 1/2 cup of whole milk yogurt it is 75 calories, 4g fat and 5g protein.  Nonfat would take that down to 40 calories, 0g fat and 5g protein.  Let’s be honest, is 40 calories really enough to make much of a dent in breakfast hunger?  Not for me it isn’t! 

Reason #2 is because fat tastes good!  Seriously, the difference in flavor between nonfat and whole milk yogurt is INSANE.  It is the difference for me between having to add a bunch of honey to make it palatable, and being able to eat scoops straight from the carton.  Why suffer with the nasty, flavorless, bitter nonfat yogurt when you can enjoy the real stuff and maybe just eat a little less of it (I personally like this policy with a LOT of stuff, salad dressing, cheese, cookies, ice cream…get the real stuff – it will be real food with probably a lot less ingredients and chemicals and a smaller amount will totally satisfy you).

So, I am having some yogurt love this morning.  Topped with a handful of my homemade granola (this batch was made with peanut butter, honey, vanilla, dark chocolate almonds and orange cranberries…fabulous!) it was simply delicious and satisfying, the way food should be Smile

Now I am just watching the snow and wondering how bad it is going to get again.  They have already cancelled the first day of classes on Monday in anticipation of the forecast blizzard.  It is coming down steady, but not doing much sticking yet.  Looks like knitting, WoW and Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix for me this weekend!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Live Blogging The Biggest Loser Season Premier

8:05 Haven’t watched Biggest Loser in years, giving it a try tonight since I am starting the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred tomorrow.  Already have tears in my eyes…damn tv editors love to wring every drop of emotion out of you don’t they!

8:11 AND the predictable commercials of the same BL sponsors begin…water bottles, gum, turkey, jello, yogurt…any others I missed? 

8:13 Is it just me or does the new Extra Gum dessert flavors like key lime pie remind anyone of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? “Violet!  You’re turning Violet!”  If I eat this gum will I turn green and you can then use me to chase tequila shots?

8:18 I think my mom would rather die than ever consider doing Biggest Loser with me.  Then again, I would probably die before being in tv in a sports bra and bike shorts.

8:20 I forgot how much I hate the way they cut to commercials in this show “THE WORST SCARIEST MOST AWFUL THING EVER……….after these messages” *cue Jillian looking like she wants to puke and Bob looking like he wants to cry*

8:25 Don’t be nice Jillian!  Don’t be encouraging!  Kick his ass!  That’s why we love you, leave the happy time to Bob!

8:27 Why do some people get to do scale soliloquies and other get nothing but a number and a creepy fade into the next person?  Hardly seems fair. 

8:29 Seriously?  His son is disowning him because he is fat? There is either something else going on there or he raised his son to be a crazy selfish bastard.

8:36 Jillian has some crazy bling going on tonight…seriously, her giant shiny cross is going to blind me if the light hits it right

8:38 RAINBOW TREADMILLS!!!  WANT!!!  They are magically delicious Smile with tongue out

8:39 New trainers wha?????  I think they were dropped off in their spaceship…they really should have had Richard Dreyfus there to greet them.

8:42 “9 to 5 the stage musical”…are there any new ideas out there or are we doomed to nothing but musical remakes of 30 year old movies on Broadway from now on?

8:44 HA!  They have to bribe people to go with the new trainers by giving them a month of immunity.  Sucks to be the new trainers.  It’s like being the kid with taped glasses picked last for dodgeball (not that I know what that is like…nope…not at all)

8:48 If I work out in the morning before class with Jillian’s video and primal scream like that at 7am will my roommate hate me?  Probably…damn

8:51 Seriously, as one extremely well endowed lady to another, get those women a real sports bra!!  There is WAY too much swayage going on there…from experience, it hurts…help the girls out BL

8:54 “Hi, I’m Ben Affleck.  I’m here to talk to you about hunger, but I am so important and movie starish that I have to check my cell phone for the first 5 seconds of this commercial.  Don’t you wish you were famous like me?”

9:04 So pretty much all the commercials are for weight loss, drugs or food.  Way to throw as many mixed messages at your audience as possible advertisers!  “Work out!  If that doesn’t work go eat crappy food at Chili’s…then when your arteries are clogged, take these drugs with a list of side effects a mile long.  We’ve got it ALL covered!”

9:08 Every time they say “Aqua Team” I keep thinking they are saying “Aqua Teen” as in Aqua Teen Hunger Force and I want Master Shake to burst through the wall like the Kool Aid pitcher.  Yeah, my thoughts are getting weirder the further into this show we get.

9:10 “Every time you bitch and moan it just makes me hungry for your blood!” I heart you Jillian

9:13 Yeah, because fainting and puking and falling off treadmills makes me think getting healthy!! 

9:17 Why won’t they show us the new trainers faces??  Are they horribly disfigured like Phantom of the Opera or something?  I have a feeling the big reveal is going to be a big let down.

9:22 “This group behind me…is very unfit” Gee, thanks for those deep words of wisdom Bob!  I dub thee Admiral Obvious!

9:29 I would have enjoyed them pushing the pickup truck more if they had the inspirational band playing the song from the back of the truck.  Live truck pushing music…BL has the money!

9:34 I think it is really unfair that the Alison Sweeny gets to wear all these super cute clothes while the contestants have to hang out in their non supportive sports bras.  I would totally show up in the sports bra AND the awesome red leather jacket!

9:35 41 LBS IN ONE WEEK????  WTF???  These people HAD to water load like crazy before their first weigh in to make that possible.  Either that or overnight liposuction when the camera crews were asleep.

9:38 This is why I stopped watching BL…the drama and disappointment and overwhelming sense of failure for ONLY losing 7 lbs.  The lack of realism at these weigh ins is just what always frustrated me.

9:50 Yawn…this is the part where I just get bored and find myself surfing the net.  Yeah yeah yeah, someone is going home, drama drama boo hoo.  Just get on with it.

9:54 If I were at the BL ranch you would never get me out of that freaking amazing pool! 

9:59 Well that was alright.  I am really disappointed that they only provided disembodied voices and outer space lights for the new trainers.  Maybe they are robots.  We won’t know!!  Next week?  Maybe…we will see.