Tag Archives: vegetables

Alcohol out, veggies in: My transformation continues

Ever since I have started school I feel as if my whole life has been transformed. At least the seeds of transformation have been planted. The plants are just starting to sprout. I have been on a quest for a healthier lifestyle, which incorporates physical as well as nutritional health.

Sobriety was definitely the first step. It’s hard to believe my one-year anniversary is fast approaching. But this set the stage for all that came next. Now with school I feel as if my feet are firmly planted, and I’m on the right track in this goal of whole health.

To this end, I tracked my food intake for the past two days. The internet has given us so many tools at our disposal to assist in this process. Two of those tools I used to complete this project include www.myfitnesspal.com, the food journal that I chose to complete this project (and will continue to use to assist me with my goals of eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods and exercising for good health). I also used www.choosemyplate.gov to see where I stack up related to the national guidelines of calorie intake for my age and sex.

According to www.choosemyplate.gov the average calorie intake for a 47-year-old woman is 1,800 calories. However, this daily calorie suggestion does not count physical activity. Since I lead an active lifestyle my calorie intake increases. According to my age, sex and the fact that I exercise, moderately at least 5 days a week, my calorie intake can be increased to 2,000 calories each day. My daily calorie intake should include the following five food groups:

  • fruit (at least 1 ½ cups each day)
  • vegetables (at least 2 ½ cups each day)
  • grains (no more than 1 cup each day), protein foods (no more than 6 ounces)
  • dairy (3 cups per day).

After analyzing my diet for the past two days I feel that overall my diet is pretty healthy. I notice that there is always room for improvement. One area that I am going to concentrate on improving for overall better health is to increase my vegetable intake. One of my goals with this is to incorporate more raw vegetables into my diet.

I was inspired while watching the video by raw food experts Chef Matt Amsden and Nutritionalist David Wolfe. Increased energy, better skin health (inside and outside) … why would I not want to try this?

I am also going to work on decreasing my caffeine consumption (and my hubby can tell you all the reason why I wouldn’t want to try this…). I drink way too much coffee. I am really bad at sneaking an iced coffee that I frequently purchase at Starbucks or Dutch Bros. I have not been able to let go of my iced non-fat, sugar-free vanilla lattes despite knowing the fake sugar that lurks inside these drinks.

The point is I can still improve to get to my greater goal of whole, real foods (mostly vegetables), 100% organic and natural. I’ll get there.

Old school eggplant serves up fresh flavors

With Spring sprung, I’ve been trying to smash as many vegetables in our food plan every which way I can.

Part of this stems from a documentary binge I’ve wallowed in via Netflix. In the past couple of weeks I’ve watched:

  • Food Matters
  • Food Inc
  • Forks over Knives

I also watched a Vegan thing that frankly went the wrong way for me. Eating processed crap that’s called vegan doesn’t jibe with my own pursuit of hoof-to-head health. But the gluttony of documentaries kept pounding in a simple idea: Eat more vegetables, have fewer health problems.

Vegetarian apologist Joel Furham advocates a simple diet plan that he says cures your bodies ailment: For each 1 lb of raw vegetables, eat 1 lb. of cooked vegetables. He’s taken his fair share of attacks, but nobody gets sick eating more vegetables, and many do get well as Time magazine recently reported. He doesn’t mind much what you do to make the vegetables taste good, knowing that eating that much your tastes for health will align and you won’t be hungry for the crappy stuff that kills you.

This veggie brainwashing has taken hold. I’m still a dedicated omnivore who enjoys my bread and my desserts in moderation. But I now intentionally pack vegetables into my meals, every meal and especially snacks.

All of this is to promote an old school Italian way to get vegetables into your diet: the eggplant.

I use eggplants as much as I can because I love their versatility. For example, as a “pizza” appetizer:

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Or straight-up on the grill.

Or my favorite, old-school fried eggplant.

 

Here’s the recipe: It’s easy and it’s fantastic.

Slice them into rounds about 1/2″ thick.

Lay out three bowls, one with flour, one with eggs beaten, one with Italian breadcrumbs.

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Dunk each round in each bowl in order to fully coat.

Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. When warm fry no more than 3 rounds at a time. Don’t crowd them and keep the temp steady on your oil. Drain on a paper towel, lightly dust with sea salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese. Serve with your favorite Marinara sauce.

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Get those vegetables into your diet anyway you can. Your life depends on it.

Eating More Vegetables Can Almost Halve Your Risk of Dying | TIME.com

Separating the true benefits of a vegetarian diet as compared to a more inclusive omnivore diet can be emotionally divisive. The logical common ground gives way, far too often, to the weight of the extremes that pushes for an all-or-nothing zeal that borders on fanatical.

Ten years as a journalist and more than 30 years as a liberal Christian (two words not at all in vogue paired together until very recently) has taught me to beware of what I call “religious certitude.” So much hate and damage results. Well the passion folks on both sides of the vegetarian vs. protein diets can quickly slip into a religious certitude that serves few people well.

Should you eat meat? I think it’s the wrong question that too often drags us into tired ruts of hopeless mired wheat and chaff. Separating it in this topic can be easier if the question is changed.

What are the direct benefits of eating more vegetables?

Well, that’s easy. Read on:

We’ve all been told to eat our vegetables, and even if we don’t like it, we know they’re good for us. But a new study shows just how good for our longevity they may be.

Seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day can lower your risk of dying by an astonishing 42%, according to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. The more fruits and vegetables the participants ate, the less likely they were to die at any age, and the protective benefit increased with consumption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends anywhere between one to two cups of fruit daily and one to three cups of vegetables daily, depending on age and gender. Their slogan follows, “Fruit and veggies — more matters.” Australia advises eating two portions of fruit and five of vegetables, and in the U.K., the slogan is: “5 a day.”

When compared with consuming less than one portion of fruit and vegetables a day, the risk of death by any cause was reduced by 14% by eating one to three portions; 29% for three to five portions; 36% for five to seven portions; and 42% for seven or more. Eating seven or more portions also specifically reduced the risk of dying from cancer by 25%, and heart disease by 31%.

“The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age,” lead study author Oyinlola Oyebode, of University College London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said in a statement. “Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice, but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.”

via Eating More Vegetables Can Almost Halve Your Risk of Dying | TIME.com.

So if you are an omnivore like me, or a vegetarian like many people I respect, or a cattle-raising farmer with an ecological bent like the guy I got my steer from, we can all agree on a simple desire to live better and live longer.

And the evidence is so clear on this point: Eat MORE vegetables, no matter what you eat.

The garden plan kicks off my Spring

Spring officially began for my husband with the crack of the bat on the baseball diamonds across the country (I seriously had to butt in here and get this thing back on track). Mine started the moment we began to plan our garden this year.

Spring is here, and it’s the perfect time to plant a new garden. We decided to plant an herb and vegetable garden this year: the herbs for me and my holistic medicine classes, the vegetables for him (and some herbs) for the kitchen creations he makes every day. Since we are trying to live a healthy lifestyle, we are focusing on real, natural ingredients from the earth’s soil, using real, natural (non GMO) seeds.

My plan is to start harvesting the herbs so that the medicinal herbs can assist us in a more holistic lifestyle, therefore taking the place of those medicines that we have used in the past for minor therapeutic needs (e.g, minor scrapes and bruises as well as headache relief and colds). What sense of pride I will feel in knowing that I took part in the process of bringing these plants to life from seed to leaf!

Here I should note that I am a novice when it comes to gardening. My husband, who will assist me in creating and producing this garden, has the experience. So I will rely on his knowledge and the evolving understanding that I am gaining from my study in Herbs 101: Basics of herbalism to get us through.

Our garden consists of our backyard, side yard, and driveway (see our daughter’s sketch above).

We will also be planting some kitchen herbs inside our home so that it will be easy for us to grab as we cook. Follow our steps to get your garden in the ground. Come summer when food is canned, veggies are juiced and even bath products created, you’ll thank me (I hope? Fingers crossed… like I said, I’m new to this!)

To be successful we took into account several key factors:

SUNLIGHT

Sunlight is a huge factor in our mountain landscape. Our yard gets different degrees of sun, so it is critical that we decide which plants grow best in everything from full shade to full sun. Based on this, we have decided on the following herbs and vegetables:

Backyard (receives full sun exposure about 7-8 hours each day) –

Back Yard Pond

Yarrow, Comfrey, Coriander, Tarragon and the following vegetables: eggplants, peppers, green beans and zucchini.

Side Yard (partial shade and sun – receives sun exposure about 3-4 hours per day) –

Side Yard

Lavender, Lemon Balm and the following vegetables: kale, arugula, carrots, spinach, radishes, beets, lettuce

Wood Planter (outside door, partial shade and sun) –

Wooden Planter

Peppermint, Roman Chamomile

Front yard (full shade exposure due to a large pine tree that serves as a canopy for this area) –

Front Full Shade

Valerian, Oregano, Parsley

Kitchen Windowsill (good sun through window, with greenhouse effect) – Culinary herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Basil (he’s an Italian after all).

Culinary Herbs

Wine barrel planters (Best access to sun along back driveway): Basil,tomatoes and celery

Wine Barrels

SOIL

Our soil is sandy with a high degree of care over the years. It has been bolstered by natural composting on our property and augmented by my husband with natural fertilizers and locally produced mulches. It is excellent loam and sand that is easy to work with.

DRAINAGE
Because of the quality of the soil the drainage is excellent as well. The property has a gradual slope throughout that resists pooling. It is relatively free from rocks and other materials.

FENCING

Our herb and vegetable garden will primarily be kept secure because we live on a (mostly) fenced property. Our home, which includes the backyard and side yards are fenced all the way around, which will keep foragers out of the garden. We have a lively deer population in our community that roam the streets on a regular basis.

Deer 1

I love them, but friends with gardens that aren’t fenced aren’t so thrilled. This brings us to our driveway, which has my husband’s prime crop of tomatoes for his homemade Italian sauce. This is not fenced, and since this is where we will keep old wine barrels planted with tomatoes and basil this will require us to create some fencing to protect our herbs and vegetables.

As I mention this my husband says, “oh shit.”

So I guess this remains a point of planning we need to address, but as it doesn’t pertain to my herbs, we’ll forgo that planning for another day.

GARDEN CARE

We have purchased four, 50-pound bags of local mulch from compost that will serve as our primary fertilizer. We also are going to visit a unique, local organic gardening store to purchase natural additives like worms and pest repellents to protect our plants. We are building a rain barrel to catch rain water in the wet spring season that will be used to water during the hot summer months. If necessary we have a drip irrigation system on the city well for watering.

COMPANION PLANTING

This is the coolest part of our new garden. I never knew the buddy-system would be so helpful in planting a garden. But it is and it explains some of the decisions we made above.

Upon watching the video from my coursework, Coulter Garden II, Companion Planting, I decided that I wanted to ensure that I included some herbs that could mutually benefit each other. I decided to plant the following together:

Peppermint, Roman Chamomile together will help to increase the essential oil produced from the peppermint.

Basil and tomatoes are great companion plants because basil is said to make the tomatoes taste better.

Lavender and Lemon Balm are great additions. The Lavender attracts butterflies, while Lemon Balm attracts bees essentially keeping away some of your garden pests such as fleas and moths.

Tarragon is said to be an herb that not many pests like and is also said to enhance the flavors of most vegetables. For this reason I am planting it among eggplants, peppers, green beans and zucchini.

OTHER FACTORS

When considering which herbs I was going to grow in my garden I researched both medicinal and culinary herbs. I knew that whichever herbs I grew, I would be using them in the ways that nature intended that they be used. For example, according to my etexbook, Comfrey is a good skin ointment and has been known to be used on minor scrapes and sprains. Most important to remember is this warning about Comfrey it is toxic to the liver and should never be taken internally.

This weekend we finished prepping the soil. Today we are going to get the seeds. Later this week the first phase of “early planting” will be in the ground.

Spring is here!

News from The Test Kitchen: Juiced up

In today’s age of debating everything, I mean everything, I found a topic that while it can still stir the pot really doesn’t have fierce opposition.

The statement: I need to eat more vegetables.

Nobody in the right mind would really argue this as vegetables have no down side. The totally bankrupt idea of the government’s food pyramid agrees few people in our country eat enough vegetables. Vegetarians are with me, without a doubt, “Can I get an Amen, Sister?!” Fadish Paleo-ites still value whole vegetables with all their carnivorous chowing down. Moms love this as “Eat your vegetables!” (did you ever notice how Mom didn’t eat a lot of vegetables and she never told Dad to eat his even though he mostly ignored them?) remains standard dinner conversation.

We all agree we need to eat more vegetables.

So the simple deduction is we must not like vegetables very much if we have such a universal under-consumption of them.

Not so fast (stay with me my veggie friends). What we really don’t like is the godawful way a lot vegetables are prepared, relegated for decades to the corners (side dish) of our plates, served in routinely bland after-thought methods, and often terribly over-cooked into some type of disgusting mash.

Also, compared to addictive, processed food, loaded with sugars, additives and salt that send our brain centers zipping around like a tweaker looking for the next high, veggies are too tame to garner much attention.

Thankfully, I’m rethinking this. I go back to the simple philosophy of Michael Pollan, who urged people to move proteins to the side dish and plant-based foods to the main course.

Suddenly vegetables never looked (smelled, tasted, made you feel) so good.

Even so, with vegetables crowding out our plates on most meals, I knew I could benefit from more vegetables in my diet. I studied up on the benefits of massive-nutrition levels from large quantities of vegetable consumption (Do I hear a Wheat and Chaff coming soon Joel Furhman? Can I get an Amen Brother?!) and wanted more.

The next logical step was juicing, which brings us (“at long last you wordy SOB,” you think to yourself) this week’s test kitchen: Juicing.

Doesn’t quite have the drumroll-effect of “CRONUTS!” does it? I know… but it sure does have a far better health effect.

So let’s first dispense with the problems of juicing that in my reading and experimenting I discovered are all-too-often whitewashed while proponents (I’m looking at you my veggie friends… fess up…) rush to sing about the merits. If juicing was so easy… say it with me now… “Everybody would do it!” (thank you Jimmy Dugan).

The problems:

  • Juicing is messy to make
  • Veggie juices don’t always taste too great, certainly compared to fruit juices and smoothies
  • Clean up is a pain in the arse
  • It’s expensive

True or false?

Sadly, true. All true, as we discovered in the Test Kitchen.

BUT…

Each is manageable and I’m here to tell you how. Can I get an Amen?

Amen! (Sometimes a preacher has to help out his own cause especially when 800 words in to a 400-word blog no readers are left to shout with me… sigh). The pitfalls are real, but with some planning they are manageable and worth it. Consuming these glasses of nutrition-loaded health bombs are very, very worth it and virtually immediately noticeable from a health perspective.

In the Test Kitchen this week we started with a basic idea of juicing the shit out of a bunch of stuff and seeing how it would taste.  So I took some beets, some carrots, some celery, some kale and tossed in some grapefruits and apples and even a whole fresh pineapple for flavor (and for the fun of breaking that bad boy down) and made a concoction.

It was… earthy. The Bride smelled it and tasted it and said (with 60% approval and 40% nose curling distaste) “It smells like a garden.” Translation: Dirt.

I realized the beets were both very, very strong and not so very clean. So for all future recipes be careful with the beets — they make a lot of juice, whereas kale, while strong, makes next to nothing — and go ahead and peel them, because their skin adds a lot of dirt.

The good news is my concoction worked. We used it in smoothies with plain yogurt and protein powder to make the healthiest, lowest-sugar content smoothies I’ve ever made and they tasted good. Not great, but good. We used all the juice.

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So the next step, now that I discovered both how the juicer would work and what to expect was to look for some actual recipes.

Frankly, I was disappointed. I read through a book on juicing and the recipes mostly took a couple of vegetables, tossed them in and said, “drink this and like it.” I felt the same rising anger I once did as a kid stuck alone at the dinner table unable to get up until I ate my vegetables. Surely if you’re producing a book on the merit of juicing it’s not too much to ask to put some thought and care into the actual taste of the drinks?

Unfortunately online really wasn’t much better. After a couple of hours I thought to myself, “ATTENTION MUST BE PAID!”

I resolved to craft some specific, planned, tried and tested, tasty juice recipes.

Then I stumbled on a “copycat” version of V-8.

I love V-8. I’m constantly thinking (bop to the head) “I should have had a V-8!”

So another trip to the store for another (expensive, more on that soon) grocery purchase and I was back in the test kitchen making my copycat V-8 juice from what appeared to be a very specific, very thought-out recipe.

It looked a little pale to me as I served it to my taste-testing Bride. She winced as she drank it.

“My god that’s spicy,” she said.

I took a drink and suddenly felt triggered for a Bloody Mary with a Mimosa chaser. Can I hear a “Grey Goose!?” Uh… no. Those days are gone. Sigh.

Vegetable juices should not make me want to relapse.

I blame myself because I have never… not once… found a copycat recipe that actually taste’s like the original dating back to the days when copycats swore they could bake like Mrs. Fields.

I ended up going back to the store for more tomatoes and ended up with a HUGE pitcher of still very strong (it’s the onion… way too much onion) and now only marginally tasty.

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So, the test kitchen continued (and I’m still slamming those virgin Bloody Mary’s like a frat boy with Jaigermeister on Friday night, because I’ll be damned if all that produce is going to waste).

Let’s talk briefly about the mess.

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Juice flies everywhere! I even got some on a cabinet about two feet above my head. Don’t ask me how. I figured out that like Jimmy Dugan who perhaps chastised too vehemently, I perhaps, shoved the veggies through the grinder too aggressively, causing the juice to spray too powerfully into a mess on my counter.

Over time I got a feel for it and it’s not too bad. It’s messy, make no mistake, but it’s not mopping the ceiling messy.

The cleanup of the machine itself take a few minutes. It’s not bad on a Sunday when I make juice for the week, but this whole idea of getting up and bada bing fresh juice and off to work is poppycock. I can’t see anyone wanting to mess with this when in a hurry and before their morning coffee:

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But in the scheme of things, the parts come apart pretty easily, they clean up quick enough and it’s really not out of the ordinary of a typical kitchen mess. So don’t let the mess scare you off, just plan when you want to make your juice.

As for the expense… vegetables cost more than processed shit. It’s just the way it is in our industrialized food economy that is bent on making you fat and killing you. If you want to fight back, stay healthy and eat right, it’s going to cost more. So I’m tackling this two ways:

I’ll buy into a CSA that will bring me a box of local produce regularly that I can budget into my monthly expense. I love the farmers market and will still go, but knowing a box of stuff picked for me will expand both my cooking and my juicing experiments, pump those vegetables into my system and support local farmers.

Also, I’m adding even more to my garden this year. If I can offset the costs with my very inexpensively grown produce and even learn to can these juices for winter then my produce bill will decline dramatically over time. It’s not unlike my steer “Dinner” who cost a bundle up front but has been so wonderful to both eat and to see the impact on my food budget over time that I’ll never go without a wonderfully locally raised steer in my freezer, God Willing.

And FINALLY, (hey.. that Amen was uncalled for buster!) let’s deal with the most important part of this whole exercise: taste. This stuff should (and soon will) taste EFFin DELICIOUS. IT should not and will not be for long “Ok.” The ingredients are fresh and pure and the healthiest things on the planet you can eat. They are colorful and exotic. It’s everything a true culinary artist should enjoy playing with.

So… once my first shipment of CSA produce arrives I’m going to do another Test Kitchen dedicated to recipes. And I have a simple plan you can do yourself right now if you are motivated: Mix all the various juices separately and then slowly combine in various amounts and combinations to find the most flavorful balance. Then add in the spices and flavors — a dash of this, a splash of that — until Effin Artistry of Juice results.

Sounds fun huh?

At long last, EFFin ARTIST is… out!

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Powered up with produce

The Bride decided enough was enough and she wanted to lose ten pounds. So I went on a diet.

Well that’s not entirely true, but I simply won’t do diets. I don’t believe in them. I know them to be counter to healthy weight loss, something I know a little about having lost 100 pounds a few years back and kept (most) it off. But since I cook around here and since The Bride’s obsession with the scale grated my nerves more than the promos for “Two Broke Girls” I decided to go along with a more intensive eating plan focused on weight loss.

In effect I decided to ramp up our nutrition game, which is why you haven’t seen any decadent chocolate post from the Test Kitchen as of late (I know, I miss them too). Part of keeping my weight off is calibrating now and again when the scale starts to creep up. It hasn’t been creeping since Christmas, but hasn’t been sliding either. Thus, I’m game with The Bride on this one (not that I had a choice).

As I’ve said before there is only one thing you can do to lose weight: eat right and exercise. (Well, that’s two things, but you have to do both, so it’s like two things that are one thing like Iced tea because you can’t have one, uh…never mind). But the variable is how “right” do you want to eat. We are simply eating “righter” these days.

By that we’ve made two adjustments: We cut out virtually all deserts (which hurts me nearly as much as cutting out alcohol, because to be honest, I’m really done with denying myself after giving that one up) and we are absolutely loading up on veggies.

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We creeped toward these changes for the better part of the month but when The Bride made her pronouncement two weeks ago, we went in whole hog (minus the hog).  I basically started loading a wide spectrum of vegetables and some fruits into everything we ate. Lunch became a cut up apple with Effin Artist Peanut Butter, surrounding by raw vegetables and Effin Artist Humus. Breakfast became oatmeal with protein powder and apples or bananas or cranberries one day, and an omelet stuffed to the gills with slightly seared vegetables. Dinner became a massive vegetable main dish, with a small helping of whatever use to be the main.

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As I’ve sought to learn more about vegetables and their restorative powers through various articles and documentaries (expect a Wheat and Chaff article very soon) I caught on to a simple, brilliant thought. We need so many vegetables in our diet and they are so good for us, that most of what we do to make them tasty is comparatively better than when we don’t eat enough. So vegetable loaded burritos (on homemade wheat tortillas) can still have sour cream and a bit of meat, because it’s loaded with veggies and home cooked black beans.

Eating vegetables in large quantities make you healthier and give you more freedom.

Next, I borrowed my father-in-law’s juicer and made some zany vegetable drinks.

These are just power-packed with nutrients and can be easily swirled into smoothies with plain yogurt and a frozen banana. You’d think beet, kale and carrot juice would not go well with bananas and chocolate protein powder, but you’d be (mostly) wrong.

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The exercise part is already going well, but having agreed to a half-marathon trail run with my triathlete brother this fall, I have amped up the training ever so slightly.

So eating righter and exercising is just pulling the weight off our bodies right?

Nope. I haven’t lost anything. The Bride did lose three pounds.

SO….

So nothing. It’s perfect. Rapid weight loss means rapid weight gain later. We both feel  great and The Bride’s tone is already better. Her energy is much better, her attitude sparkly. I am losing the cravings for chocolate. Most importantly, the food is delicious. Your taste buds don’t even know what’s good if you spend too much time in the terrible whites (sugar, flour, rice and potatoes). Just like the Earth, which is an unending celebration of diversity, our diets need to be the same. When they are we simply feel better.

Those ten pounds? They’ll come off. In time. We’re not worried about it (mostly). The gains are already very, very apparent.

Still playing hide the leftovers

I’ve written previously of The Bride’s finicky eating habits. For the most part we’ve resolved these differences.

I eat anything. Anything. I see any food as good if you find a good way to prepare it or pair it. Even my least favorite food, raisins, I’ve learned to like in certain things. The Bride simply doesn’t like a lot of things no matter what you do with them, like onions and fish, which really cramps my style.

Cramped style or not, we manage… with one notable exception: leftovers.

I’m ridiculously neurotic about waste. Waste pains me. It pains me so much that if you go back through my blogs, the longest, ranting, neurotic-filled posts fall under the category of “Thou Shalt Not Waste.

The Bride could care less. Before we married she thought a doggie bag was a designer purse for poodles. And all these years together has done very little to help us cross the deep, deep divide.

To be fair, all the movement… all of it… has been hers. I’m more nutty about waste now than I used to be. Much worse. She’s become very conscientious and aware in many areas of waste. But the gap remains, particularly around food.

Try as she might, that girl just doesn’t like leftovers. I can’t imagine not eating them. You eat a great dinner and, thrill of thrills, you know you can have it again for lunch real soon! This is largely why I eat lunch alone most days.

So what do I do? I hide the leftovers. Just like when our kids were little. I sneak in the things she won’t eat.

For awhile the Bride was catching on… and starting dubiously cutting into many “fresh” dinners looking for stealth leftovers. Eventually I think she figured out that if she kept pushing this she ran a real risk of starvation. She’s less inquisitive these days. As I said, all the movement on this issue is hers. It is one area I’m oddly, weirdly, rarely, intractable. I don’t even know why, but it’s beyond me.

The one upside in this whole thing is I’ve gotten really really good at hiding leftovers. Whatever I cook one day, gets a new outfit of pasta or rice or tortillas the next day, all dressed up and looking brand new. Steak one day is fajitas the next. Chicken breast becomes chicken stir fry becomes chicken salad. Leftovers aren’t static, they evolve.

And you know what… some really good shit results.

An experimental coffee pizza soon became coffee-flavored chicken, which ended up in a pasta lunch. Three meals from one experimental sauce. I look back at that one fondly.

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Let me ask you, Does this look like leftovers to you?

Well, the pasta was extra from a big plate of Alfredo. I tossed it in the freezer. The vegetables were the ones not used the day before in a stir-fry. I needed a quickie meal. Poof… pasta primavera.

The Bride loved it and never suspected the pasta was leftover.

I call that progress.

News from the Test Kitchen: Hummus

I am trying to cut sugar out of my diet. After cutting alcohol out of my diet less than a year ago, this strikes me as cruel. But I also want to make significant health changes, so this is part of the bargain. I’m told there will be a payoff down the line. Hmmnph. Better be, is all I can say, like six-pack abs… that would be nice.

Anyway, I’m also trying to cut out any (all) processed foods. That part is hard for me because I’m addicted to potato chips. And not just the plain ones, but the ones with all of the chemically produced flavors. In fact the more flavored the better. Boy does this all suck. As I write about it, I get even more bummed out.

So, I have been trying to come up with a snack that is healthy and guilt-free. I thought about how much I love humus. Recently when we shopped in a well-known grocery store chain I reached for the hummus to study the ingredients. There’s that pesky soybean oil again! After much research we decided to try our hand at homemade hummus. Turns out that our version is incredibly tasty (I think I actually  like it better than the store-bought variety), and we think it is way more healthy. We didn’t have tahini, but we discovered that tahini is basically sesame seeds and sesame oil formed together to make a paste. My hubby said it’s like making peanut butter.

This is so good dipped in sliced vegetables and apples that I have finally found my substitute for my unhealthy, overly processed potato chips. Last night snacking vegetables dipped in humus I actually enjoyed it! Almost as much as sugar… almost, almost as much potato chips!

Of course, the hubby made this, not me. So here’s his recipe. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz of garbanzo beans (dried or canned… I prefer dried, which means soak them ahead of time).
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (reserve the second at the end for taste).
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sesame or sunflower oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (reserve last one at end for desired consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika, more at the end for dusting

Directions:

  1. If using dried beans soak them overnight and then cook them enough to warm through. Reserve their water. Rinse to cool.
  2. If using a can, reserve liquid, toss into a pan and warm through, about six to eight minutes. Rinse in cold water to cool.
  3. Peel the husks. There’s a lot of talk about this on the Internet chatter. Frankly, it’s not that hard to peel them. you just slide them off.

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I wonder about this extra step. I wonder if grandmother’s seventy years ago bothered with it. I also wonder if I’m depriving the eventual finished product of added fiber and nutrients. I’ll look into these but for now I peel them because we wanted the smooth texture.

4. Set the beans aside. Chop the seeds with a cleaver along with the garlic to give it all a good mashing. Add to the food processor (or blender).

5. Add the sunflower or sesame oil, spices and lemon to the mash and whirl it.

6. Add the beans and blend for a minute. Add in the olive oil and a tablespoon of the reserved liquid. Blend for 30 seconds, check taste and texture. Add more reserved liquid and blend another 30 seconds. Repeat as needed until it is very smooth and cohesive.

7. Transfer to a container and refrigerate.