Monday, December 7, 2015

Too Much Processed Everything Is Bad For My Health

You would think that I would think twice about some of the things I've been buying and eating lately, but I haven't been. Between not being able to work out like I would like to because of my plantar fasciitis and the recurring hamstring problems, I've not been giving too many *&%@ lately. I've been wanting comfort food and seasonal treats, and boy have I been eating them. The problem is, I didn't realize just how not comforting they have been. I have always had eczema, but these last couple of months it has been unbearable. I will do anything and everything to stop the itching, and it isn't pretty: anti-itch spray, cortisone creams, spraying with Biofreeze, you name it. I even found out the hard way that BenGay cream contains lanolin, which I am allergic to. I don't know if it always did and I didn't know, but boy, I was surprised.

The problem with eczema is that they really don't know what causes it. Long term cortisone use isn't the best thing, and truthfully, it doesn't really work all that well. Something made me think today that there might be a connection between all of the sugar and white foods I've been eating lately and how bad my itching has gotten lately. I stumbled upon an article in Natural News that indicated that there is a link between eczema and Candida overgrowth.

Eczema affects people on a wide spectrum of frequency and intensity. Some people have a mild itch and rash for a few hours, which doesn't return for weeks or months. Other people experience intense itching for long periods of time that causes them to tear their skin open resulting in blisters and oozing lesions that then crust over and create scarring.
There have been a couple of recent studies showing the link of Candida overgrowth with eczema. Some of the causes of Candida overgrowth include diets high in processed and refined diets (white sugar, white rice, white flour) along with frequent use of antibiotics. These issues create a perfect environment for Candida to flourish within our bodies. This can develop into dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome explaining the overachieving immune responses resulting in skin inflammation, allergies and asthma.


White sugar - check (damn, and those mint chocolate cookies I got at TJs yesterday were so good)
White rice - check - had some with the curry I made this weekend
White flour - check, check, and check - dressing and rolls at Thanksgiving, bread pudding, noodles, fettuccine several times this week, Ritz crackers (don't judge), toasted bagel thin, etc.
Fermented foods - check - wine, kombucha, vinegar, pickles

I have been eating way too much of this lately, and this is part of the result:


All of those circles are areas where it is really awful. Trust me, it actually looks worse in person. So basically, my whole hand itches, my forearms underside itch, my face itches. I know I need to get my eating back on track. What is really frustrating is that I have been trying to not eat as much meat as I used to, which is one of the reason so many carb-y things have snuck back in to my diet.

I can't wait until the New Year to resolve to eat better, I need to do it now just to save my sanity and my skin. Whole foods, lots of greens and cruciferous veggies, lots of water, eating what is healthy for my whole body. I'm off to menu plan.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Chicken and Israeli Couscous Soup


The other evening I was browsing through Pinterest. This may come as a shocker, but I rarely go on Pinterest anymore. Their promoted pins and picked for you pins are so annoying. I rarely see anything my friends have pinned because of them. To my surprise, I saw a picture of a delicious looking soup made with pearl, or Israeli, couscous, chicken, and all sorts of good aromatics and spices. (I can't even write the word couscous without pronouncing it like Kahmunrah in Night At The Museum 2) The recipe was posted in full, but I tracked back to the original post at this blog. It's called "cold-fighting couscous chicken soup." I don't have a cold (knock on wood), but it sounded so good that I had to make some on this chilly (for Texas) rainy fall day, with a few tweaks. I used my pressure cooker, but this would be super easy on the stove top. (note: the aromatic pastes I use are the brand Gourmet Garden)

Chicken and Israeli Couscous Soup

1 small onion (or half a large) finely chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped (I quarter it to rinse, then chop)
2 carrots, sliced
1 rib celery, chopped
1 T garlic paste 
1 T ginger paste
1 T lemongrass paste
1 t chili paste or crushed red pepper flakes
1 t parsley paste
1 t turmeric
1 8.8 oz bag of Israeli couscous
1 boneless chicken breast, diced in small bite sized pieces
4 + cups chicken stock (I used one carton and it made a very thick soup)
1 t TrueLemon (or juice from half a lemon)
1 t TrueLime
1 t chicken base (it's like chicken stock concentrate - I used it instead of salt) or salt to taste

Set your pressure cooker to saute, drizzle some olive or canola oil in, and add your onion, carrots, celery and leeks. I let them soften for a couple of minutes while I was cutting up my chicken breast. Stir in the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili and parsley pastes, followed by the turmeric. Add the couscous, stir to coat with the herbs and spices. At this point, cancel from saute mode so that everything doesn't get too hot and scorch. Next, add in the chicken, chicken stock, lemon/lime juice or the True Lemon/Lime crystals (I love the convenience of these crystals) and the spoonful of chicken base or salt if you're using. Place the lid on your cooker, close up, and move the vent knob to seal. Set on high pressure for 5 minutes. Vent with quick release method when timer goes off.

Enjoy!








Thursday, October 8, 2015

Chicken And Dumplings - Comfort Food At Its Finest

We have another addition to the Instant Pot family. My Mom mentioned to my sister that she might like one as a group present for Christmas. Not being able to wait, my sister and I got her one for her birthday, and it arrived this week. She was surprised! She asked if I'd ever made chicken and dumplings. I hadn't, but I was willing to try.Truth be told, I've only ever had them once, many years ago. Man, I am glad I did, it was so delicious. This recipe is a bit of a mashup, because I am not capable of following recipes, and I refuse to use canned soup in my chicken and dumplings.

Instant Pot Chicken And Dumplings 

1 T olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt/pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t poultry seasoning
4 cups chicken stock
---------------
2-3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans)
2 T flour
1/2 cup half and half
---------------
1 1/2 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup milk

With your Instant Pot set on saute, drizzle in your olive oil. Season your chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pot and brown for about 5 minutes per side. Your chicken may break up a bit when turning over. That's fine. I used two forks to shred it a bit.  Next, add in your onion, celery, seasoning and chicken stock. Set your pot to high pressure for 12 minutes. (I like my chicken really, really done).

While the chicken is cooking mix together the Bisquick mix and milk, making sure you get all of the lumps out. The dumpling dough needs to be a little less stiff than if you were making biscuits, but not runny like pancake batter. You need a consistency where you can spoon it out and shape it in to an oval.

When your timer goes off, do a quick release of the pressure. It will take a minute or so, so take this time to mix the half and half and the flour together, making sure there are no flour lumps. This will thicken the chicken mixture, which will be really soupy when you take the lid off. Remove the lid, and stir in the half and half, and then the frozen vegetables. Next, carefully spoon the dumplings on top of the hot chicken mixture. I used one soup spoon to spoon mixture out of the bowl, and a second soup spoon to push the dough on to the chicken mixture. Space the dumplings out evenly. Put the lid back on your Instant Pot, leaving the vent open. Let the dumplings steam for about 10 minutes, then remove the lid.

Spoon out your delicious chicken and dumplings in to a bowl and enjoy!





Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Soba with Green Onions And Edamame

I am a cookbook hoarder. I admit it. *shuffles feet* Recently I posted a picture on FB of a whole stack of cookbooks that needed homes. A number of them are already with their new people. So what do I do? Go out and buy two more. In all fairness, I am trying to eat more vegetables (me, mind you, The Aussie wouldn't touch this stuff), and they are vegetarian cookbooks. They're also gorgeous!



Costco is a dangerous place for me when they have lovely cookbooks on display. I should blame them for my cookbook habit since I get so many of them there.

I've spent several evenings, before it gets too dark and before the bugs come out, browsing through these books. The pictures alone make me want to make these recipes. I joked that they make me want to cook eggplant, and I really don't like eggplant.  One picture that I thought looked so gorgeous was this one. I know the lighting wasn't great, but trust me, it is a beautiful picture.


The picture goes with the recipe for rice noodles with green onions and edamame. Strangely enough, considering I didn't care for edamame the first time I ever had them (mushy, like lima beans), I had a bag of edamame in the freezer. In fact, I had a lot of the ingredients from this recipe, so I made it during lunch today. Since I am absolutely INCAPABLE of actually following a recipe, mine looks nothing like this. In fact, I made a whole bunch of substitutions because I used what I had. It was delicious.

Soba Noodles With Green Onions, Edamame and Green Beans (inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe from Plenty More)

1 bundle of soba noodles
2 tsp oil
1 bunch green onions cut in to bite sized pieces
1/2 half Hatch chili pepper, diced (I had it, never had them before, didn't know if it was hot...)
2 "peppadew-style" peppers, diced (addictive little things, aren't they?)
1 cup edamame
1/2 cup cut green beans
1 tsp garlic paste *
1 tsp ginger paste *
2+ Tbsp cilantro paste *
1 tsp sesame oil
1 small drizzle of chili oil
2 Tbsp ponzu sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp True Lime powder

* I adore the squeeze tubes from Gourmet Garden. I don't care what food snobs say, these are great.

Bring water to a boil in a medium sized sauce pan and cook the soba noodles for 5 minutes, or as directed on the package.

In a saute pan, over medium high heat, drizzle the oil in to the pan.  When it is hot, toss in the onions, edamame and green beans cook for a minute. (I used this time to dice the peppers) Stir in the chilies, garlic paste, ginger paste and the big squeeze of cilantro paste. (The original recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped cilantro. My little AeroGarden doesn't grow that much so I used my trusty squeeze tubes.) Stir to combine. You can either mix the "sauce" ingredients in a small bowl or just add them directly to the pan, like I did.

Drain the soba noodles and rinse quickly with cold water. Add them to the pan of vegetables to coat them in the sauce. Serve and enjoy!





Friday, August 21, 2015

BBQ Jackfruit Burrito

I recently my friend Galga Runner posted a link to an article about 21 food things only a San Franciscan would understand. The cover picture to the article was a humongous, gorgeous burrito, overflowing with fillings. The picture made me drool. It also made me want a burrito. Now. While I do live in Texas, I rarely go out for Tex-Mex food. The closest taco place is, in my opinion, no bueno. In a similar manner that I feel perverse pride in never having eaten a Krispy Kreme doughnut, I feel that same strange pride that I have never been to Chipotle. What's a girl to do? Raid the pantry.

Beans of some sort? Check. Rice? Leftover in the freezer, check. Avocado? Half of one in the fridge, check. Something meaty and BBQ-like? *stops short while sifting through my mind palace* Nope. Much to The Aussie's dismay, I've started eating a LOT less meat. What to use? Then I remembered. I have a can of jackfruit in the pantry. I bought it a while ago after hearing about jackfruit being used as a meat alternative because it cooks down and shreds like pulled pork. Why the heck not. I grabbed the can, my bottle of BBQ sauce, a few other goodies and got cooking.

Irony of all ironies, I didn't have any flour tortillas in the freezer so I had to run out and get some. Oh, and I forgot to use the avocado too.



BBQ Jackfruit Burrito

1 can of jackfruit (packed in water not syrup) drained, and roughly chopped
~ 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
2 T ketchup
dash of liquid smoke
1 t chili powder
1 t garlic powder

In a pan over medium heat, lightly saute the jackfruit. Pour in the BBQ sauce and ketchup, stirring to coat the jackfruit. Add a little water if it's too thick. Add the spices, stir, cover and reduce heat. Simmer until soft, stirring occasionally. This took about 30 minutes. When it was soft, I mashed it with my potato masher. It really does look like pulled pork!



While the jackfruit was cooking, I sliced up half of a bell pepper and half of an onion and sauteed until soft. Since my pressure cooker was busy, I opened a can of pinto beans (I used the kind with jalapeno) and heated them up along with the brown rice and some corn I had in the freezer. The slaw topping I used is the veggies from an Asian chopped salad kit I got at Costco and some coleslaw dressing. The cilantro and crunch of the cabbage really added to the burrito.

I have never made anything like this, but I will again. It was filling and delicious. I was so excited to eat it that I forgot the avocado and cheese. It didn't need it. Yum.



Monday, August 17, 2015

Easy Coconut Seafood Curry Soup

One of the real pluses to working from home, aside from having the critters with me all day and wearing pajamas yoga pants every day whenever I want, is being able to cook whatever I feel like for lunch if I have the ingredients on hand. Today I started thinking about seafood. After a bit of rummaging around in the freezer, I found the last bag of mixed seafood. I buy the huge bag from Costco and then divide it in to smaller portions that are easier to store in my freezer. Also in the freezer were some individually wrapped portions of cod, some frozen homemade chicken stock and a bag of stir fry vegetables. From the pantry came a can of lite coconut milk, cloves of garlic and an onion, from the refrigerator came half a can of mushrooms that were leftover from last night, a quarter of a tomato, half an orange bell pepper, and red curry paste. (Note: When I was done cooking, I added a splash of rice vinegar, soy sauce, a squeeze of lime and snipped in some Thai basil that is growing in my aero garden)

Since I am all about the gadgets, I pulled out my Instant Pot (don't tell the Cuisinart PC that I brought this back from the ranch) and set it to saute and drizzled in a little oil. While it was heating up, I thawed the chicken stock in the microwave and sliced up  half of an onion in to half moons (lengthwise strips). In to the cooker they went to soften. Next, I sliced the pepper in to thin strips, sliced the garlic, and tossed them in to cook. I had a good rounded spoonful of curry paste left in my jar, so I spooned it in, stirring it in to the veggies. I cancelled the saute mode, and literally dumped in my frozen stir fry veggies, the mushrooms and tomato, the frozen seafood mix (there was about two cups worth in my bag), two frozen cod fillets, 1 cup and a half of chicken stock and the can of coconut milk. I closed the lid to the IP, set it to high pressure for 5 minutes and walked away. In hindsight, I could have done a little less time, but the fish fillets were thick and I wanted to make sure they were cooked through.


Here it is just before closing the pot. It could have been an epic failure. Since I don't often use recipe, I just never know if something will turn out as well as I think it will. For the most part they do, but cooking with a pressure cooker adds a level of unknown if I've never made something before.


When I was releasing the steam I could smell the aroma of seafood, and it smelled good. Fingers were crossed. There was some splatter on the inside of the pot, but the soup looked great. The fish was cooked beautifully, and so was the calamari. Shrimp are easy to over cook, but I didn't mind so much since they were small. The frozen veggies were soft, but that was to be expected, and helped make the soup soft and soothing. Since shrimp can be salty, I didn't add any salt in the beginning. I tasted the soup, added a splash of soy sauce, a splash of rice vinegar, a squeeze of lime juice (I couldn't find my TrueLime because it was sitting on my desk next to my water glass), and snipped in some Thai basil leaves. I am so please with how this turned out. If you were cooking on the stove, you could add the shrimp last so they aren't over cooked, but I just wanted to see how it would turn out if I basically dumped everything in and set it to cook. It didn't disappoint.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bounce bounce bounce - fun with JumpSport

So, I stepped really far outside my comfort zone at Fitbloggin, and signed up for the lip sync competition that was sponsored by JumpSport. My group, The Fitbloggin Bellas, was lucky enough to have been chosen the winners, and we each got a fitness trampoline. (Full disclosure: The value of the grand prize was divided between the five of us. We were able to chose a fitness trampoline that equaled that value or apply that amount towards the model of our choice.) My trampoline is the JumpSport 250 . Here's a picture from the JumpSport site.
  



I was so excited when it was delivered. Here's Sparkie inspecting the package.


Here are all of the parts laid out, and I'm ready to attach the legs.


Here's a close up of how the leg fits in to the frame. You use the allen key, which is provided, to bolt the leg to the frame. It is very solidly made. It took less than 10 minutes to attach all of the legs.


The elastic bands on some of the other models can be adjusted to give you different tension settings. The 250 is non-adjustable, but since it's just me that will be using it, I'm fine with that. I'm not sure I'd want to be messing with these huge knots, especially since there are so many of them!


Here she is, fully assembled and ready to play.


I just did my first full workout during lunch today. You really work up a sweat using a fitness trampoline! It's fun, but it's also work! The basic workout DVD that came with the trampoline was good. It has people demonstrating three levels of the workout, which I appreciated. I can work up to the advanced level at my own pace, and not worry about falling off! (You are "talking" to someone who's fallen off the side of a treadmill, so that could happen.) They make it look easier than it is. There are also a lot of good rebounder workouts on YouTube. What I really love, in addition to how well this is made, is how quiet it is. No springs squeaking, no creaking. The dogs were in the room with me the whole time and none of them were bothered by it in the least. My Bear is a spook who jumps at loud or unexpected noises, and he just laid there on the floor napping. This is a serious bonus in my book.

Who said by baby steps can't be bouncy ones. ;)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Easy Vegetable and Seafood Paella

It's no secret that my husband is a picky eater. I cook a lot of dishes that he has no interest in eating. Luckily, I have the opportunity to cook dishes that I'm interested in eating during my lunch hour.  I have also been trying to cook from my pantry and freezer so that I use things up before shopping for more. Yesterday I spied a bag of mixed seafood in the freezer. Usually I make bouillabaisse, but I didn't want to make that for lunch. I rummaged through the pantry and decided that I would try to make paella. Since I'm trying to cut back on eating meat, I wanted to make it a vegetable and seafood paella. I also wanted to use up a bunch of veggies I had in the not-so-crisper drawer. I know that I totally did things out of order, but hey, it worked. :) Some will say it isn't a true paella if it isn't made with chicken, or with sausage. Oh well. I will go with my version of paella today and enjoy it.

Vegetable and Mixed Seafood "Paella"

2 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms (4 really large baby bellas)
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 c white wine
1 orange bell pepper cut in thin strips (use what ever color you have on hand)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can artichoke heart quarters, drained
2 cups frozen mixed seafood (shrimp, calamari, mussels, scallops)
2 cups broth
1 small pinch saffron
1 t smoked paprika
1 T garlic powder
1/2 t salt

Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. When pan is hot, drizzle in the olive oil. After a minute the oil should shimmer. Add your diced onion and stir around. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes, then add in the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to make sure the garlic doesn't burn. At this point, I should probably have added the rice, but I didn't, I added the mushrooms. Feel free to do it in reverse order. I added the mushrooms and then the rice. Stir the rice to make sure it gets a light coating of the olive oil, and cook for about 5 minutes. Next, I de-glazed the pan with the white wine, stirring to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the bell pepper, diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts and the seafood. Pour in the broth and the spices, mixing everything together so that the broth is distributed evenly.


Turn down the heat to low and cover. I set the timer for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes, I stirred the mixture to make sure the seafood was cooking evenly, covered it up and set for another 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, I removed the lid, stirred again, raised the heat to medium to cook off excess liquid for a few minutes.  Before serving, check your seasoning and remove any mussels that didn't open.

I have a confession to make. For lunch, hot, it was delicious. For leftovers cold, it was even more delicious. When I was packaging the leftovers later I was eating more. Then I spied the muffaletta olive salad in my fridge. This is a mixture of marinated olive pieces, carrot, small bits of cauliflower that I get at the antipasto bar at Kroger. I've made "Spanish" dishes that had olives in it, why not this. So I spooned some in to my bowl with the cold paella. It was absolutely delicious. It added just the right briny kick to the dish.  Perfect. My second confession. I just had cold paella for breakfast. I'm a happy girl.






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!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Pot Peanut Butter Noodles

I am fascinated by the concept of one pot cooking, whether it's stove top, slow cooker, pressure cooker. Doesn't matter. Being able to throw a bunch of ingredients together and have it come out tasting great is a magical thing. A friend posted a link on FB the other evening for Thai style one-pot noodles. One pot = win, Thai style noodles = huge win. As it turns out, there are a lot of variations out there, so what I'm posting is nothing new and earth shaking. It is, however, very tasty. Because I wanted to experiment, I did use the pressure cooker. If I'd made this on the stove, I would have added the vegetables later so they still had crunch to them.

(I can't wait for the food photography session at Fitbloggin)
One Pot Asian Peanut Butter Noodles 

1 package of spaghetti or linguine (break in half if needed to fit them in the pot)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic or one big squeeze of garlic paste (I love garlic in a tube)
1 large knob of ginger, peeled (don't cut up because you'll fish it out before serving)
2 large carrots, peeled and cut in to 2 inch sections and cut in to thick strips
1 large red bell pepper cut in to strips
2 scallions cut in to 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup of dry roasted peanuts
2 T peanut butter (I used chunky because that's what we have on hand)
1 T brown sugar
1 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce (can be omitted for vegan version)
1 T tamarind paste
1 t red pepper flakes

Garnish:

chopped peanuts
cilantro
squeeze of lime juice (I used a few dashes of my trusty TrueLime shaker)

Conventional: In a large pot over medium high heat, lay your dry noodles on the bottom, covering them with the vegetables and other ingredients. Add the vegetable broth, making sure that the noodles are covered. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 8-9 minutes, until the noodles are tender. Stir frequently to made sure the noodles are not sticking together. The sauce will thicken upon standing.  Spoon in to bowls, garnish with chopped peanuts, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Pressure cooker: Layer all of the ingredients as above, making sure the noodles are covered by the vegetable broth. Lock lid in place and set for low pressure for 7 minutes.  When timer goes off, quick release the pressure.

Note: The vegetables are not crispy when cooked in the pressure cooker. The whole dish is very soft, so that wasn't a bad thing. If you want crisp vegetables, make your strips very thin and put them in to briefly cook after the pressure is released. They will warm up while the sauce thickes.

Update: I added a splash of rice vinegar to the cold noodles this morning. Awesome! This would be a great addition for the hot noodles, too, but add before serving, not before cooking.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rich and Hearty French Onion Soup

I recently visited my "happy place" aka Costco and a HUGE bag of onions followed me home. It must have weighed as much as the bags of dog food. Not only was the bag huge, but the onions themselves were gigantic. What better thing to make with monster onions than a monster batch of French onion soup. While the pressure cooker (yeah, there I go again, going on about how wonderful my pressure cooker is) makes it quicker than cooking on the stove, it's just as flavorful as slow cooked French onion soup that you have to keep an eye on. 

French Onion Soup

1 T Butter
1 T olive Oil
2-3 large Yellow Onions, thinly sliced (4-5 cups) a mandolin makes this easier
1 big pinch sugar (helps the onions caramelize)
1/2 t salt
¼  cup of dry red wine
6 cups Stock (beef and/or chicken)
Salt/pepper to taste

Roux: 
2 T butter
1 T Flour

To Garnish: 
French bread slices – about 1” thick, toasted for each bowl
thinly sliced swiss, gruyere or provolone cheese for each bowl. I used Sargento thin sliced provolone.

DIRECTIONS:

In the pre-heated pressure cooker, on medium-low heat, add the butter and oil. Soften the onions, stirring occasionally in the pressure until the onions become translucent (about 15 minutes). Then, turn down the heat to low, without a lid, add the salt and sugar and stir frequently until the onions have turned a uniform brown (about 10 to 15 minutes).


When the onions are a deep brown and are soft, deglaze the pan with the red wine and let it cook down until the wine evaporates. This burns off the alcohol so that you taste the wine, not the alcohol. 

Next, add the stock. Isn't this a thing of beauty. If you aren't a chicken, that is. I have gotten in to the habit of making stock every week and store it in jars in my refrigerator.


Close and lock the pressure cooker, set to high pressure for 10 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, in a small sauce pan, melt 2T of butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour so that there are no lumps. Stir frequently until it turns a light golden brown color. Be careful it does not burn. Take the roux off of the heat and set aside until the pressure cooker has finished.


When time is up, turn off the heat and use the quick release method to release the pressure in the cooker. When the pressure valve has dropped, open the cooker and remove the lid. To thicken the soup, take a cup of the stock from the pot and stir it into the roux until it is smooth, then pour this mixture back in to the cooker and stir. Ladle the soup in to individual serving bowls, top with your thick toasted bread slices. Cover each bowl with a slice of cheese and broil in the oven for 2 minutes or until the cheese has golden brown.


Words can't describe how delicious this was.



Monday, March 2, 2015

Eat Your Greens Hearty Winter Soup

Greens, greens, they're good for your heart... well, that's not how the rhythm goes, but greens are very good for you. In fact, 1 cup of chopped kale contains nearly 3 grams of protein, and over 100% of your vitamins A and C. Not too shabby, right?  It isn't a budget buster, either. In fact, none of the ingredients in my kale and lentil soup are budget busters, especially if you make your own chicken stock. The bay leaf might be priciest thing, and it's pretty much optional. I have a bunch because my mom has a huge bay plant. Which reminds me, I need to beg for more bay leaves...

Kale and Lentil Soup

1 T olive oil
3 leeks, well rinsed, cut lengthwise and then thinly sliced
4 ribs of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
1 lb of lentils
8 ounces of chopped kale, rinsed (that's 1/2 of one of these huge bags)
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2-3 cups water
1/4 cup red wine (I had it on hand, it's optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 T Worcestershire sauce

Before serving:

2 T red wine vinegar - add at the end, before serving - it brightens up the flavors
dash of hot sauce

Set your pressure cooker to saute. Drizzle in your olive oil and let the pot heat up for a minute or two while you are chopping the vegetables. Add in your leeks and celery first, stirring them around to coat with the olive oil. Cook for a minute or two and then add the sliced carrots and cook for a minute. Next, add your lentils. Stir to combine with the vegetables, then add in the kale and diced tomatoes. The half bag seriously filled up my cooker


Lastly, add in the liquids: chicken stock, water, red wine, Worcestershire sauce. If you're using a bay leaf, throw it in now. Set your cooker to high pressure for 20 minutes.  When it's done, do a quick release of the pressure. Before serving, I like to add a bit of red wine vinegar and hot sauce.  Black pepper and red pepper flakes rock, too. Season as you wish. By switching out the stock and seasoning, you can make this vegetarian or vegan. It is a seriously flexible and flavorful soup. 


For stovetop cooking, simply follow the directions using a dutch oven and let the soup simmer for about 35 minutes, or until the kale is tender.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Exciting!

I can't tell you how giddy being able to post this badge on my blog makes me!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Forget The Takeout - Hot And Sour Soup


I am a sucker for Chinese takeout, and when the temperatures dip, there is nothing like a hearty bowl of hot and sour soup to warm you up. The problem is, the local takeout place uses more cornstarch than I like. My friend TJ recently posted a picture of hot and sour soup that she made in her pressure cooker. What a perfect time to try to make my own batch. Now before you say that this isn't authentic hot and sour soup because it doesn't have the funky mushrooms, or the exotic flower buds, I will that you are correct, it isn't authentic. But it is accessible to most people with an Asian section in their grocery store.



Hot And Sour Soup

1 T sesame oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces white mushrooms, quartered
2 dried shitake mushrooms, broken into little pieces
1 can sliced bamboo shoots
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
1/4 c rice wine vinegar (not flavored)
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t fried chili crisp (optional, I have it in my pantry and it adds a spicy smoky taste)
6 cups chicken stock
--------
2 eggs, beaten
1 T cornstarch mixed with water
1 package extra firm tofu, cut in to thin strips
1 green scallion, thinly sliced (optional garnish)

Heat the sesame oil and onion on the Brown setting of your cooker and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.  Add the white mushrooms, the shitake mushroom pieces, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, soy sauce, vinegar and the hot pepper. Cover and lock the cooker. Set for high pressure for 5 minutes.

After the 5 minutes has ended, release the pressure using the quick release method. Quickly pour in the beaten eggs, whisking them in with a fork, making wisps of egg while they cook. Next, add the tofu strips, folding them in to the soup. Finally, add the cornstarch slurry and mix for a minute or so, letting the soup thicken. Ladle soup in to bowls and garnish with scallion slices.








Tuesday, February 3, 2015

If Money Were No Object

The Aussie and I like to dream about what we would do if we won a big*ss lottery. All of our basic needs and quite a number of luxuries have already been met, so we are quite blessed. There are a few things, however, that I would love to do, if we had millions and millions to spend. Most of them are practical, with a side of frivolity.


1- Fence the immediate yard at the ranch so that the doggies could roam around safely. There are all manner of dangerous wild critters in the area, as well as local dogs that roam. I'd prefer it if they didn't have access to our property.




2 - Get the pond fixed. If you are going to build a pond in an area with really sandy soil, LINE IT WITH CLAY BEFORE YOU FILL IT!




3 - Renovate the house at the ranch. It boggles my mind that the previous owners built a house in the middle of the woods with a gas only fireplace. There isn't even a chimney. The amount of firewood we potentially have from trees that fell in storms is ridiculous. The fact that I can't have a proper wood fire in my fireplace makes me sad. I want to build an addition with large windows, a fireplace, another bathroom, install solar panels, convert the kitchen to gas, and install a tankless hot water system. Oh, and re-do the landscaping around the house with some sort of metal mesh under the lawn to prevent the gophers from digging up the yard.


4 - Because every dog deserves a furever sofa, I would really, really love to give a lot of money to charities that I support. My favorite charity, Galgos Del Sol, is raising funds to build a center. They rescue abandoned and injured Spanish Galgos, a dog similar to a Greyhound, rehabilitate them and find them homes. The new center will have an on-site vet, kennels and enclosures for the rescued dogs, an educational center. They will be able to help so many more of these beautiful dogs.  I would also love to make significant donations to Ibizan Hound Rescue to support their rescue work and to help cover the costs for medical attention and fostering the dogs.


5 - The Aussie is a pack rat. I would dearly love a clean, organized house. I'm not sure even millions could accomplish that, though.




Friday, January 30, 2015

Transform

I have to be honest with you. I don't like moving out of my comfort zone. Heck, some days I don't like getting out of my pajamas and doing grown up things, but at my age, I have to admit that am actually a grown up. I am prone to getting panic attacks in social situations. Going to large parties and clubs where I don't know many people freaks me out. In some ways, social media has helped me get over the initial discomfort and awkwardness, simply because I've often had the chance to get to know people, and they me, before actually meeting in person. Sometimes that is all the push needed to get me out of my comfort zone to do something that scares me.


In a very uncharacteristic move, I actually applied to be one of the Ignite speakers at Fitbloggin in Denver this year. This week they announced the first seven people chosen, and I am lucky enough to be one of them. This both thrills and terrifies me. Will this event be something that transforms me from an introvert to an extrovert? Not likely. But it will help me grow. And hey. What's the worst thing that could happen? Last year I barked like my boy Bear to win a bag of dog goodies in from of a room full of Fitbloggin people. Speaking should be a piece of cake.