Saturday, September 10, 2011

Summer's ending and I STILL don't have a kitchen!

So construction on the new kitchen edition began at the end of April. We managed to keep a working range and oven until July, but we've now been without either for over two months. It's getting old. Who knew having so many kitchen gadgets would come in so handy. The electric frypan has saved my sanity (along with the microwave, roasting oven and hotplate.) However, cooking is still a beeyatch and I want to bake, dangnabit! I am hoping for a finished kitchen in a month - month and a half - tops. I hope.

I've created a couple of on-the-fly recipes that once I have a kitchen I can suss out the actual measurements and write down and share. I made a kick-ass sweet potato and brussel sprout hash that was AMAZING! And I figured out how to transform one of my favorite pre-health dishes, Win's Shrimp and Spaghetti (which I often made with langostinos instead of shrimp or without "meat" at all) into an equally delightful, whole-foods dish. Yummers! Both dishes can easily be made gluten free, vegetarian or vegan. I can't wait to share!

In the meantime, have you tried Raw Revolution bars yet? They are delish, vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free. I've had the Chocolate & Cashew, Raspberry & Chocolate and Coconut & Agave Nectar. All wonderful. Available in B'ham at the Food Co-op and in the Seattle area at Whole Foods and area PCC's among other places. Check out their website for stores.

Tonight I'm making mushroom quesadillas. YUM!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Recipes - Vanilla Crisps

Tried my first recipe from the cookbook "Baking with Agave Nectar" by Ania Catalano. This recipe is called "Vanilla Crisps" in the book, but mine did not come out crispy at all. It may have to do with the fact that I only had 1/4 cup of Arrowroot powder, so I subbed 1/4 cup of white whole wheat flour. I just made them today, so maybe they'll crisp up in time... I also added about 1/4 cup of chopped, toasted pecans. Very tasty. I'll have to follow the recipe next time and see if they come out crispier.

Vanilla Crisps (vegan; no sugar)

1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. arrowroot powder
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sea salt
6 T. canola oil
2 T. vanilla extract
1/2 c. light agave nectar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (I just used silpats).

In a bowl, mix together the flour, arrowroot powder, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the canola oil, vanilla and agave nectar and whisk together thoroughly. Combine the 2 mixtures until just blended. Drop the batter by the teaspoon onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 7 min. or until slightly golden. Do not over bake. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 min, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. Thees cookies crisp up after cooling.

A Momentous Occassion. With rhubarb.

This week I finally hit the 50# mark, which has been my first big loss goal. Woot! It's funny, because I've always thought, "well, when I lose (blank) lbs, I'll let myself have (blank)." But when I get there, I don't want to mess it up. Now that I'm firmly devoted to the whole foods lifestyle, I don't even want to mess with it. I can really imagine a life without white sugar now. Yay! And while I promised myself that if I lost 20 on top of the main goal of 50 (that's 70#s if you're counting) I'd send myself to Hawaii (solo!), I don't think I'll actually do that (kinda pricey). Instead, I think I'll go to Red Robin and have some fries. With ranch. We'll see.

In the mean time, my search for happy foods continues. I've recently checked out a few really cool new books, and I'll be posting recipes when appropriate. Here is my new favorite springtime drink, Rhubarb Spritzer, from the cookbook "Lucid Food" by Louisa Shafia.

Rhubarb Spritzer

10 stalks fresh rhubarb
2 cinnamon sticks
Honey to taste (I used agave)
Sparkling water, seltzer or champagne, for serving (I love it with lemon/lime Zevia)
4 strawberries, thinly sliced (for garnish)
1 sprig mint (for garnish)

Slice off the leaves and brown parts from the rhubarb and discard. Rinse the rhubarb stalks and slice into 2 in. pieces. Put the rhubarb slices and cinnamon sticks in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the rhubarb is soft, 3-4 min.
Strain out the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth, pressing as much liquid out of the rhubarb pulp as possible. Whisk in the honey (agave) tasting to adjust sweetness. Discard the cinnamon and cooked rhubarb and let the liquid cool.
To serve, pour into glasses over ice and top off with seltzer, sparkling water, champagne or lemon/lime soda. Garnish with strawberries and mint, if desired.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Survey of dietary restrictions

Here's a nice overview of different dietary restriction lifestyles from the Cheap, Healthy, Good blog:

Can you identify yours or do you take what works for you from a few of them like I do?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Recipes - Foolin'

Last weekend we harvested our first rhubarb of the season. I had mixed feelings about this because, while I love rhubarb, I love rhubarb with lots of sugar. Super-tart is just not my thing. What's a sugar-free girl to do? Agave to the rescue! I also added about a teaspoon of honey, but it would be fine without.

But once the better-without-sugar rhubarb sauce is made, what to do? You can just eat it. It's really very good. But I was craving rhubarb ice-cream (darn you, Mallard's!), so I needed sweet, tart and creamy without sugar or an abundance of fat. While I usually avoid processed foods whenever possible, this was a time when only one thing would do: Sugar-Free Cool Whip. I present to you:


2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/4 orange juice
agave nectar (or other sweetener) to taste
Sugar Free Cool Whip

Cook rhubarb and orange juice over medium heat, stirring frequently, until rhubarb breaks down and you have a sauce (apple-sauce consistency). Sweeten to taste. Let cool.

Fold desired amount of rhubarb sauce into desired amount of Cool Whip. Freeze for at least an hour. Enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recipes - Pasta w/ Smokey Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pancetta

Had this for dinner tonight and I am a very, very happy camper. This recipe is from Mark Bittman's Food Matters cookbook (see the Really Good Resources link above).

Pasta with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pancetta
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 bacon slices or 4 ounces of pancetta, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons pimenton (smoked paprika)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces any cut whole-wheat pasta (I used fusilli)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (didn't use)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (didn't use)
Heat the oven to 400.  Put the sweet potatoes, pancetta and oil in a large roasting pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss.  Roast, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.
Remove from oven, dust with the paprika, add the onion to the pan, stir and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.
Cook pasta in boiling, salted water.  Drain and reserve some of the cooking water.  Remove the roasting pan from the oven and stir in a bout 1/2 cup of the cooking water, scraping up any browned bits.  Add  pasta, chives and cheese to the pan and toss to combine.  Serve hot or at room temperature. 
Serves 4

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recipes - Space Invaders

I find it essential to have go-to foods in times of cravings. It's not possible to just give up sweets, and no matter what any diet book says, when you want candy, fruit won't cut it. The first recipe I found and embraced for a "healthy" sweet is a variation on Christina Pirello's Asteroids recipe from her awesome website I have found a lot of variations on this recipe and have adapted it to my tastes. If the general idea of the recipe appeals to you, I suggest you do the same.

Jen's Space Invaders

1/2 cup nut butter (I usually use almond with a little bit of natural peanut)
1 T agave nectar plus brown rice syrup to make 1/2 cup
pinch of salt
dash of vanilla
small handful of grain-sweetened chocolate chips

small handful of chopped nuts (optional)
scant 2 cups crispy brown rice cereal (I like Nature's Path)

Combine first 5 ingredients in saucepan over med-low heat. Stir until chocolate chips melt. Remove from heat and mix in nuts and brown rice cereal. Spoon onto Saran Wrap, roll into a log and refrigerate until firm. Slice and eat to satisfy sweet cravings and minor hunger pains.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Oh, to the French fry

I love French fries. Crispy and greasy on the outside, soft and moist in the middle, a good French fry is one of my all time favorite foods (second only to pasta). I'm a connoisseur of the fry - once I dreamed of having a French fry website, where I would list the best fries to be had (alas, I may have been too busy eating the fries to write about them.) I love fries dipped in ranch, tartar, thousand island, gravy. I love the soggy, fresh potato fries at Dick's Drive In and the garlic-y, overpriced fries at Safeco Field. Red Robin has excellent French fries, as did Wendy's (they've since changed their recipe and I've not tried them.) A good fry is a work of art.

I'm pretty much a fan of fried potatoes. Fries are my favorite, but I like potato chips, too. Kettle chips are the best - crunchy (but not too thick-cut) and greasy and just salty enough. Crispy hashbrowns and home fries are pretty amazing, too. Yeah, you get the point.

So, when I decided to cut simple carbs from my diet, I chose to eliminate the potato as well. I don't think potatoes are necessarily bad for you. They aren't refined sugar, by any means. But my fondness for them, especially in fried form, was not a good thing. There was more to my decision to stop eating potatoes, but essentially it boiled down to the fact that I couldn't see that they did me any good, so they had to go.

A funny thing happened within the first month of being white-carb-free. I was eating some roasted brussel sprouts, which were quickly becoming one of my favorite foods, and it occurred to me that what I really loved was greasy, salty and crunchy - not necessarily potato-y. Brussel sprouts (or carrots or asparagus) tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted in the oven until soft in the middle and crispy and caramelized on the outside fit the bill perfectly. Kale chips are pretty good when I want the crispness of a chip. And when I really want to dip a fry, I'll splurge and have sweet potato fries. In the last seven months, I've had a total of five French fries. I've had hundreds of brussel sprouts. And while I miss the fried potatoes from time to time, and occasionally even indulge (hence the five fries), it's not as much of a sacrifice when I find some filler in healthier snacks. Yummy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

In the beginning

As much as I rail against Diets, I do think that they are sometimes quite useful, like when you do an elimination diet to determine allergies or a cleanse to clear the toxins out of your system. When I started to change my dietary lifestyle, I began by following stage one of the South Beach Diet. This is the two-week radical, no-carb, low-fat diet that is usually followed by the next stage of SBD, which adds some healthier carbs (like beans, some fruits and starchier veggies) back into the fold. I didn't plan to continue on the SBD (being told what to do just makes me grumpy and resentful), but I liked the idea of giving my body a break from the junk I had been feeding it and the idea of starting relatively fresh after a two week "cleanse".

Two weeks without any carbs was a pain. I was grumpy. I was hungry. But I did start to learn some interesting things about myself. And I found that after two weeks with no carbs at all, the healthy ones I started adding back into my diet made me so happy. Brown rice noodles would have never had the same impact on me prior to the "Diet". Once again, the importance of perspective was driven home.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Let's get healthy? A little background.

In the late summer of last year (2010) I realized that I wasn't happy with how I felt. I was overweight, in near-constant pain and trying to adjust (and embrace) the changes that come with aging. I decided that I wanted to be healthier. I have always been pretty stubborn about eating what I want. I don't believe in diets, as they are destined to fail and make you miserable in the process. I didn't want that. What I wanted was to figure out what would work for me.

I did two weeks of dairy free. I half-heartedly tried to cut out some of the fat from my diet. I asked my doctor (who, surprisingly, never once suggested I make lifestyle changes to get healthier) what she suggested if I wanted to get healthy. She suggested the South Beach Diet. So I checked out the book. And I read.

And I read about blood sugar and gi levels. And I read about whole foods. Over the next few months, I read a lot. And I changed my thinking about food, health and what eating meant to me. I continue to adapt my sense of health and self every day. I do not follow South Beach. I don't follow any "diet" because my feelings towards diets haven't changed. "Diets" don't work. Changing self perception and definitions has worked (and continues to work) for me. In seven months I've discovered a lot about who I am, who I can be and in the process, I've lost 43 lbs.

With this blog, I hope to share some of the things I've learned about myself and food in general that I hope can be useful to others trying to live healthier lives.