Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Baby Steps

I've eaten a lot of race fees this past year. I didn't want to, but sometimes your body says no. Emphatically. Not even taking account how hot it gets in Texas during the summer, there are days where even taking dogs for walks is too much. My hamstring issue is better. Not gone, but better. The lack of energy is still there, and going strong. One side effect of peri-menopause that I never expected was zero energy because you can become anemic. When I remember to, I take iron supplements, but I'm terrible at remembering to take any sorts of pills. So, anything I do has to be in baby steps.


Which leads me to my new "training plan." I was so totally psyched when my Fitbloggin Bella teammate finished her half-Ironman the other week. Way to go Stephanie!! I was swimming back and forth the other evening in the pool when I got an idea. I'll do my own half-Ironman. It will take weeks to complete, but with baby steps, I believe I can do this.  My pool is small, just 23 feet long, including the half round step areas. I calculated (based on how I swim in the pool) that I will have to swim 158.4 laps to equal 1.2 miles for the swim portion of my half-Ironman. (I'll round up). I swam 40 laps (down and back equals 1 lap) on Monday evening. I'm looking forward to finishing the swim portion!  For the bike and run/walk portions, I'll do laps around my neighborhood. The three block loop section that I live on in my development is roughly 1 mile (1.1 on the outside sidewalk). This will be easy to track. I see people out running in the afternoon. To me, that's nuts. It's 100 degrees out. Not my idea of fun, so I'll be getting my ass out of bed earlier and take the dogs for walks while I log my miles.


Not glamorous, no cheering crowds, but baby steps on my way back to moving. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Thank you, California Avocados

I had a rare treat at Fitbloggin last week; I had the opportunity to have lunch at Euclid Hall, one of the Denver restaurants run by Chef Jen Jasinski, a chef who appeared on Top Chef Masters. The lunch was sponsored by the California Avocado Commission, and it was a delightful afternoon.

I know, it's totally cliche, but I live in Texas, and avocados mean guacamole. Last year I made an avocado mango salad that I entered in to the recipe contest held by the CAC, but I don't do adventurous things with avocados. The food that Chef Jen presented to us at the lunch was so delicious, and I am inspired to experiment with avocados now.

The lunch was not only delicious, it was also very informative, and I learned a lot about avocados.  I learned that avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, and they also act as a nutrient booster. Some vitamins, such as beta-carotene and lutein, are fat soluble, and in order to absorb them in to your body, you need fat. Avocado contains heart healthy fat that can be used to replace less healthy fats in recipes. And for something so creamy, it contains a lot of fiber. Take a look at the daily values in just 1 ounce serving! What a powerhouse.

Vitamin K: 6.30 mcg / 8% DV
Folate: 27.00 mcg / 6% DV
Vitamin B6: 0.086 mg / 4% DV
Vitamin C: 2.60 mg / 4% DV
Vitamin E: 0.590 IU / 4% DV
Potassium: 152.00 mg / 4% DV
Fiber: 2.00 g / 8% DV

(credit to California Avocado Commission: http://www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition/dietary-guidelines)

Now I like dessert as much as the next person, but I think my favorite course was the salad. The grilled king trumpet mushrooms were so delicious, I think I could eat that salad every day.

Chef Jen was very gracious and took time to talk with people attending the lunch and take pictures.
First course - a salad of orange slices, avocado, radicchio, watercress, king trumpet mushrooms,
goat cheese with an orange dressing
Roast chicken with corn fritters, avocado mousse (under the fritters) and a bacon frisee salad
Dark chocolate mousse on a chocolate mille feuille with avocado coconut sorbet, cocoa  nibs and lime syrup

I also learned about the nick and peel method of preparing an avocado. As it turns out, nutrients like lutein, which helps maintain healthy eyesight, are concentrated in the dark green layer that is closest to the skin. When you cube the avocado by slicing in to the fruit still in the skin, you risk missing out on all of these good nutrients. I really like this way of preparing avocados. I need all of the eyesight help that I can get!
Bonnie Taub-Dix demonstrating the 'nick and peel' method to peeling an avocado

The results - my new favorite way to cut an avocado

Each Fitbloggin person attending the lunch received a gift bag containing everything from an avocado masher (I had fun using it this morning), nutritional information about avocados, to a bag of avocados.

Mashing my peeled avocados
Guacamole. Yes, for breakfast. 

Guacamole

2 ripe avocados, mashed
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/2 - 1 jalapeno, minced (depends on how hot you like your guacamole)
juice of two limes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tomato, diced
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, snipped in to little pieces

Mix the mashed avocado, onion, minced jalapeno, salt and lime juice until well mixed. Fold in the diced tomato and cilantro leaves.  Let chill for at least 1 hour. Serve with chips or veggies, as you prefer.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Paleo Shepherd's Pie - Yes, I'm doing Whole 30 again

Happy June. It's hard to believe that it's already June. We've had so much rain and so many stormy days this spring, I thought we'd never have sunshine and heat. Not that I'm looking forward to 100+ degree weather, but cold and rainy is strange for May in Texas.

So, I have gotten a bit off track with my eating recently. Yeah, right. I totally have derailed. My hip is better, thank goodness, so I'm not in pain all of the time anymore. The Airrosti doctor did a fantastic job on my hip and hamstrings. Not a painless treatment method, by any stretch of the imagination, and I was left with some interesting bruises after my sessions, but I'm not in chronic pain anymore. Yay!  The pain did a number on me mentally. I couldn't work out, I couldn't run, even sitting became painful after a while. Did I watch what I ate? No. Unless you counted watching it disappear in to my mouth. I have no excuses for what was available to eat. I do the grocery shopping and the cooking, after all. If there are Doritos in the house, I let them in. When The Sisterhood mentioned that they were starting a Whole 30 on June 1st, I took it as a sign to get back on track. This thought was reinforced by seeing how round I look in pictures. (We got our picture taken with two of the guys from Firefly at a recent fan con.) That's life. Time to move on.

Back to the Whole 30. When I tried this a couple of years ago, I went a bit crazy on the coconut oil wagon. Bad mistake. It does not agree with me in the slightest. I had so many strange reactions that I quit halfway through the 30. I am committed to following this at least through Fitbloggin. Hopefully I'll be back on track enough by then that I don't get too crazy.

Part of following this plan is thinking about what I'm eating. I can't rely on having some cheese when I get hungry or having a sandwich for lunch. I can't even rely on sauces or salad dressings to spruce things up because so many commercial foods have sugars and starches in them. That leaves me with a bunch of whole food ingredients, standing in my kitchen, trying to figure out what to make to eat that will make me happy. Today, it's shepherd's pie.  I was going to call this post "everything but the kitchen sink..." shepherd's pie, but then I thought, no, if the kitchen sink is paleo, it's going in there, too. It was more of a clean out the fridge shepherd's pie. I had half of a large box of mushrooms that needed to be used, a head of cauliflower, a partial bag of green beans, part of an onion... you get the picture. I think the only vegetables I didn't use were the beets, zucchini and the clam shell box of "power greens."

Paleo Shepherd's Pie (serves 6 generously)

1 T olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 celery ribs, sliced
¼ cup diced onion
1 cup fresh green beans, chopped
1 20 oz package lean ground turkey
1 T garlic powder
1 t ground thyme
3 T tomato paste
1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 T no-salt seasoning mix
1 T parsley
1 t marjoram
salt/pepper to taste

Thickener: 
1 T kudzu (you can use cornstarch if you aren't making this paleo)
1/4 c chicken stock

Topping:
1 head of cauliflower, chopped and steamed
1 sweet potato, chopped and steamed
1 T ghee
salt/pepper to taste
drizzle of olive oil
parsley flakes


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium high heat. When pan is hot, drizzle in the olive oil. Saute the mushrooms until soft. Add in the ground turkey, using a spoon to break it in to small pieces. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until meat is no longer translucent. Add in the carrots, celery, onion, green beans, tomato paste, spices and chicken stock, stirring well to combine. 


In a small bowl, combine the kudzu and chicken stock, stirring until there are no lumps. Add this to the mixture in the skillet and stir. 

Let mixture simmer for 15 minutes to let the vegetables soften. While this is happening, chop your cauliflower in to florets and peel and dice the sweet potato. I use Ziploc steamer bags to cook my veggies in the microwave. Follow cooking times on the bags. When these are cooked, place the cauliflower and sweet potato in bowl, add the ghee and salt and pepper. Mash with fork or use a stick blender until fairly smooth.


Spoon turkey mixture in to an 8x8 baking dish, making sure the vegetables are evenly distributed and that the ground turkey doesn't have any large chunks.


Spread the mashed cauliflower/sweet potato mixture on top, smoothing the surface with the back of a spoon. Top with parsley, black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. 


When it's piping hot and lightly browned on top, it's done! This really hit the spot today. I wanted something creamy, but I couldn't rely on dairy. It's meaty, but not too meaty, and it's full of really tasty vegetables.  This is so good, I'm kind of glad The Aussie isn't a turkey or veggie eater! More for me!




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Butter Chicken - The Easy Way

It would probably come as no surprise to you, if you've scrolled through my recipes over the last few years, that I like spicy food. The Aussie's mum was born and raised in India, so he was raised eating curry dishes. Usually, I make my version of his mum's recipe when I make chicken curry, but last night I wanted to try something different. I wanted to make Butter Chicken. I didn't want to run out and get ingredients I didn't have in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry, I heavily adapted the recipe from Pressure Cooking Today. Maybe I'm a bad Texan, but I rarely have jalapeno peppers on hand. Oh well. This was a winner in our book.



Pressure Cooker Indian Butter Chicken  (serves 4)

5 boneless skinless chicken thighs (one Costco pack)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 t ground chipotle pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/2 inch knob of ginger
2 T mild curry powder
1 T hot curry powder
1 t salt
1 t garam masala
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 sour cream (I use this in place of Greek yogurt when cooking because The Aussie hates yogurt)

1 - trim the excess fat off of the chicken thighs, and cut them in to large bite pieces
2 - Put the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chipotle, curry powders, salt and garam masala in a blender, and blend until fairly smooth. You don't want chunks of tomato in the sauce.
3 - Set your pressure cooker on brown. Add half of the butter. When it's melted, add the chicken pieces and brown them. This will take about 5 minutes per batch, and you may need to do a couple of batches of chicken. Note: The original recipe calls for all of the butter to be added, but the chicken wasn't browning, so I took everything out and added the chicken back in to brown. The remaining butter was added back in with the tomato sauce.
4 - When the chicken has browned, add the rest of the butter, and cook until it's melted.
5 - Add in the tomato puree and stir, making sure all of the chicken is coated.
6 - Cover the cooker and lock the lid. Select high pressure for 5 minutes. When the timer beeps that the 5 minutes is done, let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes, then do a quick release to drop it the rest of the way.
7 - Stir in the cream and sour cream (or yogurt if you're using it).  Taste the sauce, and add more salt if necessary.

Serve with hot rice and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Perfect Recipe For April

Since eating paleo is really big these days, I have been working on more meat recipes this spring. We usually do lamb on Easter, but I've decided to branch out this year. I'm not sure that this will fit in my pressure cooker. I may have to get out my Dutch oven. Or a really, really big rotisserie.  In the meantime, I am putting together a marinade with red wine, garlic, rosemary, thyme, pepper, and perhaps a bit of sage.  I'll let you know how it turns out.






Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Spin On Persian Noodle Soup

A while back, my friend Tracey posted a picture on FB of a soup that her mother-in-law made. Ever the curious one, I asked what it was. Ash Reshteh. Off to the interwebs I went, looking for recipes for this intriguing soup. Based on what I found, every Persian family must have its own version of the soup, because there were as many differences as there were similarities. I will admit, up front, that this recipe is a very loose adaptation of the classic Persian soup, Ash Reshteh. I don't have kashk, I don't have Persian noodles, and I don't like chickpeas. There. I admitted it. I don't like chickpeas. I like hummus, but not big, chunky, grainy peas. The first time I made this, I used chickpeas and red kidney beans. This time I used red kidney beans and lentils. Yup, I left out the chickpeas. This can be made on the stove top, just increase your cooking time so that the beans are tender. My experiment this time was to see if it could be made in the pressure cooker, which it could. I am sure that the noodles don't get as soft when you cook on the stove top, but they get softer when you store the leftovers in the fridge anyway.  So, here goes!


Persian Noodle Soup

2 T vegetable oil
2 onions, thinly sliced vertically (retain a few for garnish, or cook up more separately)
2 t turmeric
1 small pinch of saffron
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water (can  use a combination of water and stock)
1/4 to 1/2 lb red kidney beans (I soaked overnight, and used 1/2 and it was really, really thick)
1 cup lentils
1 small bag of Fideo noodles (Totally non-traditional, I know. A common substitution for authentic Persian noodles I found was linguine, broken in three. Feel free to use this instead.)
1 bag or clam shell box of baby spinach
chopped leaves from 1 bunch of cilantro
chopped leaves from 1 large or 2 small bunches of flat parsley
1 bunch of scallions, green part only, cut in to 2 inch pieces
1 cup of sour cream (a substitute for kashk, a fermented yogurt ingredient)
salt/pepper to taste

Set your pressure cooker on brown. Add the oil and let it heat up for a minute. Add the thinly sliced onions and stir to coat with oil. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they start to turn golden brown. Next, add the garlic, and cook for another minute or two. Add the turmeric and the pinch of saffron. Add the kidney beans, the water/stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover, lock lid in place, and set for 15 minutes, high pressure. (This step would take about 30-45 minutes on the stove, until beans were tender).  When timer goes off, quick release the pressure. Add in the lentils and noodles. Re-cover and set for 7 minutes high pressure. (This step would take about 15 minutes on the stove) When done, quick release pressure. Before adding the vegetables, give it a good stir to make sure nothing is sticking. Now is a good time to check your seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the baby spinach and the herbs. Close the lid, set for low pressure for 5 minutes.

To serve, I spooned in to bowls and added dollops of sour cream on top, and garnished with crispy onion.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pressure Cooker Beef with Red Wine

I love finding a bargain when I go grocery shopping. Usually, it means I will have to either use something right away or freeze it. The other day I found a reduced for quick sale package of cubed grass fed beef at Kroger. Hmm. Sell by date of this week means it's time to get cooking! The Aussie is not a "stew" type of person, so I had free reign as to what to make for my lunch. This really isn't a daube of beef because I didn't include the usual vegetables, so I will call this beef with red wine. (I completely forgot about the carrots and onion...) It's loosely based on the recipe by Lorna Sass from her book Cooking Under Pressure.


Beef with Red Wine

2 lbs beef chuck, cut in to bite sized pieces
1 cup red wine
2 cloves of garlic, minced, or a good tablespoon sized squeeze of garlic paste
2 T tomato paste
2 anchovy filets, mashed (optional)
1 t dried thyme
2 bay leaves

Additional:

1/4 cup pitted black olives, sliced. (I found kalamata olives in little single serving cups. Pricier than jarred, but no waste, no taking up fridge space.)
Cornstarch for thickening the sauce
Noodles to serve (I cooked these in the cooker, too!)


Marinate these ingredients for at least a couple of hours. Mine sat in the fridge for a day, so leaving it for longer won't hurt it. When you're ready to cook, add the marinated beef to the cooker. Add the olives. Cook at high pressure for 15 minutes.  When done, do natural release for 5 minutes, then quick release.  Transfer meat to a dish and cover to keep warm. Put sauce in a cup and keep aside. You'll thicken it separately.

Next, take your dried noodles and put them in to the pressure cooker. Add enough water to just cover the noodles. Put the lid back on and lock in place. Set the cooker to low pressure for 7 minutes. When cooker beeps that it's done, do a quick release. Drain your noodles.

Lastly, add the sauce back to the pot and set on brown. While the sauce is heating, mix the cornstarch with a few tablespoons of water to make a slurry. When the sauce is bubbling, stir in the slurry. Cook for a couple of minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Add the meat back in and stir to coat with the sauce.

Serve the beef with red wine over your noodles and enjoy!