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 :-)