Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Healthy Reset: Week Two

July 13, 2015

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This week has been pretty unremarkable. I am completely into the vibe of eating only whole foods, and don’t feel deprived or overly hungry at all.
I fully understand why they don’t want you to weigh yourself on this program. It distracts from the idea that this is a way of life and not a crash diet, and they don’t want you to obsess over a number on the scale. Of course I weighed myself anyways. I  was shocked at the almost five pound drop last week, (which is a huge amount for a relatively small person,) but on day nine, some of it seemed to be back. No big surprise, as daily fluctuations occur, but it can be a bit disconcerting.  Add this as just another reason to step away from the scale during Whole30.

The key to success has been preparation. I have been working from home lately, but this week I needed to head to the office. I roasted an assortment of vegetables, boiled some eggs and cleaned some salad greens so I could have healthy, compliant lunches, and a jumpstart on dinner when I get home. During the week, leftovers often added variety. In the past, I could broil a piece of fish and steam a little broccoli and call it night. If I wasn’t satisfied, I grazed. Now I focus on a delicious, healthy dinner, eaten mindfully at the table with my family, so I walk away satiated. It seems to be working. I sip a cup of mint tea after dinner, and it has become my post meal ritual to relax, and aid digestion before bed.

I am often making food for others that I am not eating. I can’t get the rest of the family to join my quest, so I am making pasta, bread and sweets to supplement my protein and plant heavy diet. I tend to entertain over the weekend, and run a small baking business on the side, so the temptation to eat broken cookies, taste icing or cake scraps is always there. I know this sets off a chain reaction, so “nope, not going there” is my mantra. It is easy to walk away from the crumbs, but not easy to stop once that door has been opened. Another lesson from Whole 30.

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The weekend is here. The sweets in the office and the pizza at home held no great appeal, but I wouldn’t mind a glass of wine about now. I am not a big drinker, but relaxing with a nice glass of wine at the end of a busy week is more of a spiritual indulgence than a dietectic one. It’s something I know I will want to add back into my diet at the end of the month, in moderation. Plus, a little wine does have its health benefits.

Freshly made pasta that I won't eat. One of the many things on that list!

Freshly made pasta that I won’t eat. One of the many things on that list!

Willpower! I just made s’mores, mini shortcakes (for strawberry shortcake), coconut icecream, and fresh pasta, none of which I will eat. Monday’s baking includes marbled cheesecake brownies, yum! Before you start to feel sorry for me, or tell me to just “eat the cookie,” let me tell you about the dinner I have planned tonight.

We are celebrating a friend’s birthday and I am making her favorite dishes. The guests will have a salad with roasted beets and heirloom carrots, chicken piccata on a bed of homemade fettuccini with butter and parmesan cheese. There will be roasted green beans, and grilled tomatoes. They will finish the meal with the above mentioned strawberry shortcakes with coconut icecream and fresh strawberries in Grand Marnier. ( The other stuff is for indigo jones eats customers.)

I will have the salad and vegetables, and my chicken will not be breaded. It will be simply prepared with fresh lemon and capers, rather than the buttery lemon- caper sauce the others will have. No pasta, and sparkling water instead of wine. For dessert, I will have fresh strawberries. That doesn’t really sound like a big sacrifice, does it? I certainly don’t think so. Once again, the event is at my home, and I am the one cooking, so it is easy to be compliant without inconveniencing anyone else, or making an unwanted fuss about my restrictions.

I have hit the half way point, and I can see eating this way indefinately, with a few splurges and a little wine along the way.

On to week three!

Top photo: Glasshouse Images

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Healthy Reset: How Its Going End of Week One

July 6, 2015

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Fourth of July presented its challenges. I invited a few friends over for dinner, and like a bad take on the old joke about three people walking into a room, we had the vegetarians, the carnivores and me. Miss Paleo Extremo. A menu where vegetarians and carnivores eat blissfully together is one of the easiest to plan. I usually prepare a variety of salads and vegetable side dishes that everyone will love, and make sure there are plant based protiens and some kind of grain or pasta to round out the meal, while making something meaty for the others. This time, everything I tried to make had something in it I couldn’t have. I finally gave up, and prepared the dinner I wanted to serve my guests, and dealt with my own meal separately.

I made a kale and mint salad, and put the non compliant ingredients (chickpeas, edamame and dried cranberries) on the side. A tomato and basil salad had the mozzarella in a separate bowl, and I pulled out a piece of precooked salmon for my protien. Everything else I just simply avoided. It was a casual dinner, and everyone was fine with my dietary restrictions. It was made easier by my being the hostess, and not the guest. I don’t want to be “that person” with all the food issues at someone else’s home or a in restaurant with a group. Its only a few weeks, so I will make it work without inconveniencing others if possible.

I made quinoa patties, which I have never done before. Since I couldn’t taste them, I couldn’t correct the seasonings or the texture. I am eager to make them again, and experiment with the flavors a bit. Recipe to come when I get it right! Note to guests: If I try out an untested recipe on you, consider yourself “family.”

Honestly, I didn’t feel deprived or tempted a bit. I committed to this for a short period of time, and since I was able to plan for it, I was fine. Five adults consumed five bottles of wine and champagne, at a five hour meal so there was a long period of sitting at the table, idle. There was a plate of bar cookies, s’mores and brownies that everyone nibbled at, but there was also a bowl of strawberries to keep me occupied. In the end, no biggie. BUT. I have been convinced that my burning stomach is food related. It always seems to come when I am eating decadently. Like chocolate and red wine type decadently. Last night, around 2 a.m. the burning started. Definately not food related. Hopefully, it was an isolated incident.

Here is what I didn't eat... Info on www.indigojoneseats.com

Here is what I didn’t eat…
Info on http://www.indigojoneseats.com

This weekend had brunch out twice,as usual. I had an egg white omelette with vegetables one day, with a salad on the side.  I did not ask what fat they cooked the omelette in, or for every ingredient in their viniagrette.  It was a decent restaurant, and not a greasy spoon diner, so I am assuming it was house made. Honestly, if they used a tiny bit of butter, or non compliant oil to cook my omelette, I am going to need to live with it. This is supposed to be about a reset, eliminating cravings for less healthy foods, finding out what might be causing inflammation, and developing a healthy relationship with food. Asking a restaurant to cook eggs in a specific type of oil, feels way too obsessive. No going to do it.

Although I am not supposed to get on the scale, I did, and I am down a few pounds. I am pleased with the number, but I still feel like my stomach is a little puffy and bloated. I am hoping that the next week or two resolves that, as I get used to the increased quantities of fruits and vegetables. I am also assuming that the weight loss will stabilize. A couple more pounds would be welcome; five more would be too much for a small person like me.

One week down, one more to go! So far, so good.

Whole 30ers report that they have more energy, and clarity in week two, combined with an overall lighter feeling in general. I look forward to that, as I am coming up on some big project deadlines the following week. Stay tuned…

Related links: Kale Salad recipe.

Photo: Flag: Glasshouse Images

Cookies: Spencer Jones for Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Avocado Salad Dressing

June 22, 2015

Today, I officially got tired of my regular repertoire of vinaigrettes. I have been making them for so long, that I was craving something with a little more texture to pour over my greens. We love avocado, so it was only fitting that I used it to create a creamy, flavorful dressing without any eggs or mayonaise. You can use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender to make this silky smooth avocado dressing in a matter of minutes.

Avocado Dressing:

Scoop the flesh out of a ripe avocado and discard the skin and pit. Add the juice of one lemon, and a small clove of garlic, and puree. Drizzle in olive oil until the dressing smoothes out and becomes thin enough to pour over a salad. Add salt and crushed red pepper to taste, and enjoy on top of the salad of your choice.

To customize this basic dressing, add fresh herbs, such as parsley or cilantro and puree them until they are mixed into the dressing.

Photo:  Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Storing Produce

June 9, 2015

 

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Summer time is produce time. Our cravings turn to green market fresh vegetables, and cool juicy fruits which grow at this time of year. What happens when the abundance of the season gets wilted and moldy before we have a chance to enjoy it?

Here are a few tips to keeping produce fresh:

Buy the freshest fruits and vegetables you can find. The farmer’s markets are a great source, since the produce is local and comes to us directly from the farm, rather than traveling for a week before it gets out on the floor of the grocery store. The fresher it is at the time of purchase, the longer it will last.

Keep produce dry. Many experts suggest washing and thouroughly drying fruits and vegetables, and storing them wrapped in paper towels to absorb any additional moisture. Strawberries can be either be washed and hulled before storing in an airtight container, or can be laid on paper towels in a single layer in the refrigerator, for those lucky enough to have the real estate.

Certain foods give off ethanol, which causes food to ripen. Keep those ripe bananas away from other fruits and vegetables, to keep them from over ripening and molding. Avocados are a prime candidate for going from rock hard to mush, missing that window when they are at their peak.

One bad apple, (or tomato, berry etc.) can spoil the whole bunch. Pick through and toss any soft or moldy items and rinse the rest well to keep it from spreading.

When the week is nearing an end, and there are lots of leftover vegetables sitting in the refrigerator ready to “kick the bucket” at any time, try making soup. Saute a diced onion in butter or olive oil. Add diced vegetables, and quickly brown them. Cover with broth ( vegetable or chicken) and simmer until they are soft. Season with salt and pepper, and herbs of your choice. Puree until smooth, and enjoy!

Photo:  Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Raw Artichoke Salad

May 11, 2015

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One of my favorite dishes to eat in Italy in the summertime is a raw artichoke salad. It is delicous in it’s simplicity; small ribbons of sliced artichoke drizzled with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, with a pile of paper thin shreds of parmesean cheese on top.
Something has always held me back from making it. Artichokes can be a bit prickly to deal with, pun intended.  Today, I set out to conquer my fear of preparing fresh artichokes so that we could finally enjoy this seasonal specialty at home. What did I have to lose, except perhaps a few artichokes?

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Artichoke 101:

Artichokes have tough outer leaves, which get progressively more tender as you get closer to the center. Once there, you will find the prickly purple core, called the choke. Some of the leaves also have sharp points on them, which need to be trimmed. All in all, not such a daunting task, except that the artichoke starts to turn a not-so-pleasant shade of brown, the minute it is cut and exposed to air. Yet, with a few tricks and some fast knife work, artichoke salad was enjoyed by all!

Raw Artichoke Salad With Lemon and Parmesean

Rinse artichokes thouroughly, getting in between the leaves to rid them of any dirty residue.

Prepare a large bowl of water, with the juice 1 or 2 lemons in it. Save the already squeezed lemon halves and toss them into the bowl.

Peel any of the tough leaves off of the artichoke and discard them. For this salad, you will want to get to the more tender leaves, which are yellow. Using a kitchen scissors, trim the tips of the remaining leaves to eliminate the sharp points. There is a tremenous amount of waste in preparing fresh artichokes, so brace yourself to throw out what appears to be more than you are keeping.

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Slice the artichoke in half, lengthwise,and immediately rub it with one of the discarded lemon halves. Using a spoon or melon baller, remove the purple “choke” and discard it. Trim off the stem, and toss the remaining artichoke heart into the bowl of lemon water to prevent it from discoloring. Continue with the rest of the artichokes, always putting them back into  the lemon water as quickly as possible.

Squeeze another lemon or two into a bowl big enough to hold the artichokes.

Take one piece of the cleaned artichoke hearts at a time, quickly slice it into thin strips, and toss it in the lemon juice. Once all the artichokes are sliced and coated with lemon juice, add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Spread it on a platter, and using a peeler, shave fresh parmesan cheese over the entire salad and enjoy!

NOTES: for 2 people, I used 4 very small artichokes and 2 tiny lemons. With larger artichokes, you may be able to get by with 2 or 3. The lemon quantity should be enough to coat the artichoke slices, without them swimming in lemon juice.

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Unrecipe of the Week: Greek Shrimp

April 16, 2015

We love shrimp at our house. It is low in calories, cooks up quickly, and adapts well to a variety of preparations. This unrecipe was adapted from Ina Garten, one of my all time favorite chefs, known for her fresh, simple and very tasty cuisine.

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Greek Shrimp With Fennel and Feta Cheese:

Core and dice the bulb end of fennel and saute in olive oil until it is starting to soften, about 6-8 minutes. Add 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely diced and stir another minute. Pour some dry white wine ( 1/2 cup or so) into the pan and cook until the liquid reduces by about half. Add a can or box of diced tomatoes in their liquid, a dollop of tomato paste, and spoonful of dried oregano. Continue to cook at medium/low heat for another 10-15 minutes to create a rich, chunky sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange a pound of peeled and deviened shrimp on top of the sauce, and sprinkle it with crumbled feta cheese. Mix together a cup of breadcrumbs, chopped parsley and the zest of one lemon with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle the mixture over the shrimp and feta. Place the pan in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the shrimp have turned pink and opaque, and the breadcrumb mixture is golden brown, but not burnt.

Squeeze a little lemon over the dish and enjoy!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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RSVP

April 15, 2015

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RSVP

[ahresveepee
Spell Syllables
verb (used without object)RSVPed orRSVP’d, RSVPing or RSVP’ing.
1.

to reply to an invitation:

Don’t forget to RSVP before Thursday.
nounplural RSVP’s.
2.

a reply to an invitation:

He sent a lovely bouquet of flowers with hisRSVP.
3.

(used on an invitation to indicate that the favor of a reply is requested).

 

This week, I hosted a dinner party for a group of parents from my daughter’s school. The school provided a guest list that had 31 guests on it, many of whom I did not know. I received 2o responses, and despite multiple resends of the invite and a group message, 11 people still did not respond.
In this case, the host had the option of providing the meal, or coordinating a pot luck. Since cooking is my passion, I opted to cater the event myself, with a beverage sign up sheet for wine and soft drinks. Five people signed up to contribute.
Many of the other hosts opted for potlucks, or ordered food. I am sure some of the parents thought that it was no big deal, hence their lack of response. Frankly, it isn’t a big deal to anyone other than the host of the party. Even serving hot dogs requires a head count.

I toyed with my options. Cook for the amount I knew were coming, or incur the time, leftovers and expense of covering for the extra 11 people, “just in case.” I tend to over do it when I entertain, so I knew that I would have plenty of food if a few extra dropped by, but 11 extra? I wasn’t so sure. I decided to do an antipasto table, with dips, cured meats, and roasted vegetables to start, and serve a casual buffet dinner when most of the guests arrived. That included salads, wild mushroom tarts and 7 pounds of shrimp cooked in a tomato and fennel sauce.

The doorbell started ringing promptly at 6:30. And then it stopped. Exactly 10 people came. Ten. If I had a proper headcount, I would have done things very differently. In fact, for 12 people (including ourselves,) I could have prepared a nice sit down dinner, instead of huge quantities of a vast variety of food, some of which looked like it was barely touched.

It was a pleasant evening, and I met some people who were new to the school community, and got to know a few who I only knew superficially. They were all warm, lovely guests, and I sent each one home with containers of food to enjoy at another time. I also threw away huge quantities of dishes that I felt had sat out too long to safely save, and packed up the rest. I am sure some of it will spoil before it will get eaten and end up in the garbage, due to the sheer quantity of it.

It was my pleasure to host these families, so I don’t want to appear bitter or regretful.  I am however, a little peeved that people cannot take 2 minutes to let their hosts know if they intend to come, and alert them if they have a change of plans. It’s the wastefulness that is nagging at me, not to mention the expense of preparing food for people who didn’t show up.

The solution? I don’t have one. I don’t believe in being an apathetic host and not going out of my way to provide a wonderful meal and a warm atmosphere to anyone that comes to our home. I don’t have any hints to get people to respond, as after 3 resends and a friendly reminder, I was coming perilously close to being a stalker.  I can however, use this forum to remind you dear readers, that being a good guest is as important as being a good host.

So, in case you were wondering, RSVP stands for “respondez vious sil vous plait”, which is French for “please respond.” Next time you get an invitation, please do.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Egg Cups

March 30, 2015

I have been obsessed with these healthy and delicous mini soufflés, which are baked in a muffin tin.

They are easy to make and reheat well, so you can whip them up in advance and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. You can put virtually anything you like in them, and each muffin cup is an opportunity to experiment with different fillings.

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Mini Egg Cups:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray each cup you are using in a muffin tin with cooking spray. You can fill the whole pan, or just a few cups at a time.

Add the filling ingredients. I have been using broccoli and cheese, but any combination of vegetables, cheeses and ham, bacon or smoked salmon would work. Think of it as a mini omelette.

Pour liquid egg whites into the pan until it barely reaches the top. It will puff up during baking. Place then muffin tin on a baking pan “just in case” they run over, and slide it into the oven. Bake until puffed and a sharp knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. This should take about 20- 25 minutes or so, depending on the fillings.

A few things to note:

If you are using raw vegetables, such as broccoli or mushrooms, chop and quick saute them before putting adding them to the pan. Finely diced onion or shallots can be placed in the pan and put in the oven to start the cooking process. Add the rest of the ingredients about 5 minutes later.

If you are using sausage or bacon, cook that before using.

It is best to layer onions first if you are using them, then other vegetables, cooked meats or fish, then sprinkle the shredded cheese on top, so that it doesn’t burn.

I have used frozen chopped broccoli florets or spinach without precooking.

You can use whole eggs if you prefer. Scramble them with a little milk and use in place of the egg whites.

To reheat, just pop them in the microwave for 2 or 3 minutes until heated through and enjoy!

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Cutting Edge

December 9, 2014

 

Steel Ruler

 

We’re all about winging it in the kitchen where appropriate ( hello, unrecipes!) but sometimes we need to be more precise.

When cutting baked goods, candies or other foods into squares, cover a ruler in plastic cling wrap and use it to mark off perfectly even portions. You can even cut right along the straight edge , or etch a straight line to follow.

The plastic wrap keeps the ruler and the food clean, and still allows you to see the markings.

Pretty smart, we think!

photo: glasshouse images

 

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Unrecipe of the Week: Perfect Chicken Breasts

December 3, 2014

This week, I am atoning for the not so healthy eating I did last week. My body tends to let me know when I have over-indulged, and when I need to clean up my act. I tend to do something drastic and unsustainable for a couple of days to shut off the cravings and debloat. This week, I am eating a very lean, high protein diet, and need to have the right foods on hand, ready to go when I am hungry.

I stumbled on this method of cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts, that filled the bill. They came out moist, tender and flavorful, without adding a lot of excess ingredients. It’s the perfect method to cook chicken breasts to add to salads, or use in sandwiches. Give it a try, and tell us what you think! Warning: patience is required!

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Perfect Pan Chicken Breasts:

Season the skinless, boneless chicken breasts however you wish. I marinated mine in some herbs, lemon and a little olive oil. If the breasts are large, pound them down a bit so that they are uniform in size, and about 1/2″ thick.
Heat a large sauté pan with a lid on the stove, and add a little oil or butter. Allow it heat and cover the entire pan lightly.

Add the chicken breasts and cook 1 minute without touching them, so they begin to brown. Flip them over, lower the heat to medium and cover the pan. Allow them to cook for 10 minutes while resisting the urge to peek. At the end of 10 minutes, turn the burner off, and allow it to sit covered for another 10 minutes, without lifting the lid. It is important that you let it cook unfettered to seal in the juices and allow the steam to build up inside the pan. At this point, double check to insure that the chicken breasts are fully cooked, and enjoy!

photo: glasshouse images

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