Monthly Archives: January 2011

Diet vs. Nutrition

It was about one year ago, right around the time of my birthday that I decided I had had enough. I was tired of being overweight. I was tired of being out of shape. I was tired of being less than my best. My birthday is right around the corner and as I look back on what I have accomplished I am pleased but I know there is still so much more to do. What was once a chore has become a lifestyle and I hope to share my enthusiasm with you.

Where to begin?

The choice for health is a simple one that can be summed up in a simple maxim:

“Eat Better. Move around More.”

That is it folks.

No tricks, gimmicks, fancy lingo or anything like that.

Eat better. Move around More.

You know what it is to eat better. If you can get it at a gas station or while you are sitting in a drive through, chances are pretty good it is not to be found under the banner of “Eat Better”.

Yes, plenty of multi-national companies have spent a ton of money to try and convince you that if you eat off of this special menu at their restaurant or if you simply buy this product you can be the statistical anomaly (think Jared of Subway Fame or the Taco Bell Lady) and become “healthy”.

Aint gonna happen.

If you think about the food you put into your mouth as being part of a “diet” you will fail. Being on a diet is basically saying you are slave to food and have no power over your choices. This is no place to draw strength from.

Instead, you have to think about the food you consume as being part of a nutritional plan and you will begin a Copernican Revolution with your relationship with food.

It may seem like a trifling bit of semantics but hear me out.

Being on a “diet” implies you are temporarily deviating from the norm (the food choices you previously made that ultimately provided the impetus for wanting to go on a diet) and once you reach a new point of stasis, chances are you will simply return to the old ways.

Hello Slave!

If you look at the food you eat as being part of a nutritional plan you start to see things from a much different perspective. You aren’t looking to go back to the old ways ever again. Of course there will be a stray bite of chocolate cake, or whatever it may be, but you are in control of your nutritional plan.

I have found a tremendous amount of success following the Paleo/Primal mode of nutrition but this isn’t for everyone, just as veganism, raw, or any of the other countless modes of nutrition aren’t for everyone.

The trick is to find out what works for you.

Be skeptical of anyone who seems more interested in selling you a “health product” than in showing you a better way.

To put it another way, if there is an advertising budget behind it, chances are the goal is Profit and not Health.

Your body is the greatest tool you will ever own and it deserves to be treated as such. You show nothing of virtue by abstaining from alcohol or tobacco or vice when you are slugging down monstrously oversized soft drinks or imbibing in any of the near criminally toxic “Food Products” that try and pass as Food.

Are you fed up with business as usual?

The choice is yours.

Kale Chips

I had some kale ready to turn bad in the fridge and I hate throwing away food. So I decided to try making kale chips. I’ve never made them before but they sounded interesting. This recipe is so easy and tasty that I wish I had tried it sooner.

All you need is Kale, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

The steps to make it are also just as simple.
Rinse the kale, cut out the middle stem and tear into bite sized pieces.Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper.Toss a few times to coat the leaves
Bake in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutesThey were so simple that T didn’t even know I had made anything until he came in the kitchen. He and I quickly ate the entire batch.

T liked them so much I went out today and got two huge heads of kale to make it again.

They are delicious, crunchy and healthy!

Chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese

There was a time, not too long ago, that all I ate was chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. I’m exaggerating a bit of course, but not by much.

I wasn’t always someone who thought constantly about food, scoured the internet for food blogs, or watched the food network every chance I got. I got here slowly through many trials and mistakes. I have misread teaspoon of salt for tablespoon. This makes a huge difference in cookies. I thought an olive was a vegetable so olive oil must be the same thing as vegetable oil. this made very gross brownies. I have even served raw turkey legs because I didn’t check the internal temperature I just went by time per pound. To my very kind guests that night, again, thank you for not being totally grossed out.

The point I want to make it that this has been a journey for me and T. College was about ease and cost. Chicken nuggets or student unions met both of those criteria. Then we moved to Seattle. In Seattle we had every kind of restaurant at our disposal and with in walking distance of our apartment. We tried an Indian buffet or a taco cart for lunch (still the best tacos I’ve ever had). We could eat at a fancy tapas lounge or little Thai joint for dinner. There were all vegan coffee shops with amazing tea. A burger stand that always had a long line after 1am. We never cooked. We didn’t have to.
Then T got a job offer in little Beaumont Texas. Where? Huh? We are going to move from one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to to some small unheard of town in Texas? Yes. We drove the very long way to our new home. Our home that had no Thai food, no amazing tacos, no Indian food. I was sad. I was craving curry. I was missing Seattle.

Then T and I went to the book store and decided to get a recipe book. Not just any book. THE book. The cooking bible if you will. The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. Now we didn’t decide on this hulking book by chance. Some friends of ours from college who had also moved to Seattle had made us a delicious meal while we were all there and couldn’t stop raving about how easy and delicious the food was from this book. We were sold.

This book makes cooking for the inexperienced much easier. It tells the whys and the hows, not just the whats. We would flip through and find curry, burgers, and muskrat. Yes, even muskrat. Don’t fear we have yet to eat rodent. (Although I’d give it a try if someone else prepared it) This book has been used and loved so much that it is now splattered in food, drenched in wine, and marked all over. For us, this book was that stepping stone from chicken nuggets and take out to delicious home cooked meals.

I will always credit Beaumont for driving me to cook. I couldn’t find the foods I had grown to love so I had to make them myself. I found out that I liked being in our itty bitty kitchen. I liked learning new things about food.

Tiny kitchen big meat.

Now, food is so much a part of my life. I love to grocery shop. I look for produce that’s in season to make up new ideas or try to come up with twists on old ones. I’ve spent a summer baking and now can throw together a loaf of bread with no problem. (Although the primal/paleo life doesn’t allow much for that anymore.) T and I both love cooking. It has become the thing we do together. He is more of the smoking meat, salad dressing, gravy man. While I love the veggies, baking, and all day long meals. We even bought our house on the size of the kitchen. (It’s enormous and green.)

I love cooking in here.

The reason I’m sharing all this with you lovely people is that I didn’t just grow up knowing how to cook. I stumbled here through a lot of trial and error. I have a dear friend, Lucy, that was sharing some frustrations over cooking lately. She wanted to know how we became so good at this thing called cooking. Lucy, I have lit my oven on fire, served raw turkey, burned plenty of cookies and myself, and cut myself more times that I can count.

I’m in no way an expert on food. But, I like to think I’ve learned a lot of lessons and come a long way. If I can inspire even one person I think I will have done something good.

The Joy and beyond.

Here is to moving beyond chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.

Zucchini Spaghetti

The hardest thing for me about eating a mostly grain free diet is missing my pasta and bread. However, I love vegetables so finding substitutes is not too hard. Tonight I wanted to have my pasta and had some zucchini in the fridge with which to make it.

I use a julienne peeler for this recipe. I’ve tried to use a wide cheese grater but did not have as much success. A julienne peeler is not expensive and it’s a lot of fun to use. It looks just like a vegetable peeler but when you use it it cuts long strips of vegetables or fruit. It is great for coleslaw or imitating spaghetti like I wanted to do tonight.

Zucchini Spaghetti
3 zucchini julienned
2 tbsp of butter
2 garlic cloves
3 diced scallions
5 cooked and diced slices of bacon. (if you made a bunch with Bacon Tips it will come in handy)
2 diced Roma tomatoes (any kind of tomato is fine)

Melt the butter in a frying pan with a high brim.
Add garlic into melted butter cook on medium until you can start to smell the garlic.Add bacon and onions cook while stirring for 2 minutes.Add zucchini tossing it a few times to coat with butter .
Cover pan and let cook stirring occasionally for approximately 7 minutes.
Add tomatoes and toss again cook for another 3 minutes.

I served this with a delicious rib eye simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and a basic side salad. When the weather is unpleasant, like today, we like to cook our steaks in a cast iron pan on the stove. Pioneer Woman has the best instructions for cooking a steak in a pan so there is no reason to repeat them here.
Hello beautiful dinner.

Gratuitous cross sear marks.
What a colorful dinner!

Egg Muffins

I hate mornings. I especially hate to get up early for work. I’m a very grumpy gal when it comes to the A.M. Even my dog knows not to wake me up in the mornings. She’ll go to my husband’s side of the bed and get him to wake me. I just barely function enough to make it out the door in matching socks. That said, breakfast is a very important meal, and you are supposed to make it a good one. I however, would be content to sleep that extra 20 minutes and not deal with food. So I’ve come to a solution that allows me the extra sleep and a tasty breakfast. Egg “muffins”.

These particular eggs had all the makings of a good salsa, hence the name. However I’ve made these with spinach, tomatoes, curry powder, even cheese. I make a bunch of them on a Sunday and re-heat them for breakfast. I wanted to be a little fancier on these so I made a bacon cup first then poured in the egg mixture but a well greased muffin tin will work just fine too.

Salsa Egg Cups
8 beaten eggs (this made 5 egg cups)
1 diced tomato
1 handful of chopped cilantro
5 chopped scallions
1/2 -1 cup of frozen chopped peppers and onion (I love this pre-cut veggie mix during the winter months when you can’t find any good fresh veggies)
8 pieces of bacon

Line the bottom of the muffin pan with bacon and weigh down with a small oven safe bowl.
Bake for about 20 minutes at 300.
While that is baking mix together the first five ingredients in a large bowl.
Pull out the muffin tray, carefully pour out excess grease.
Pour in egg mixture directly on top of bacon.
Bake in oven at 300 until cooked through, approx 30 min.

When done let cool completely on a cooling rack and then store in fridge for breakfast.

Tomorrow when you are grumbling through your morning you can grab an egg “muffin” and walk out the door with very little fuss.

Creamy Garlic Dressing

T made this dressing the other night for our salads. He is the Dressing guy in our house because he makes the very best salad dressings completely from scratch. My dressing are usually very boring consisting of only vinegar and oil.

This is dressing is made with tahini. Tahini is sesame butter, like peanut butter but using sesame seeds instead. Typically it is used in Mediterranean foods like hummus. We can find it in the ethnic food aisle here in Beaumont. Larger cities should be able to find it with no problem.

Creamy Garlic Dressing
2-5 cloves of garlic (adjust to your tolerance or love of garlic)
3 tbsp of tahini
2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp of onion powder
1 tsp of soy sauce

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Mix with your favorite salad or use as a vegetable dip. If you go with all 5 cloves it has a bit of a kick to it so you might want to encourage your dining partner to share in the dressing or talk to you from a distance.

Chicken and Squash

I wanted something quick and easy for dinner tonight. Chicken quarters, a dash of Spike Original seasoning, and a drizzle of olive oil. Easy for me means little hands on time. This is something you can throw together and then forget about while you unwind from your day or finish up homework.

If you have never tried Spike seasoning I highly recommend their spice mixes. They are very tasty and make a 5 minute prep taste like an all day prep.

Quick and Easy Chicken
4 leg quarters
olive oil
Spike Original seasoning
1/2 Butternut squash
guar gum as a thickener for gravy

Heat an oven safe pan like a cast iron skillet, drizzle with olive oil
Brown the chicken in the pan, about 2 minutes a side
Place in baking dish uncovered and bake at 350 until internal temperature is 180. About 1.5 hours. Chicken breasts without bones will cook faster.
In same pan toss the squash in the drippings and then place in oven with chicken for the last 20 minutes. Cook until soft.

Pour out drippings from chicken and whisk in about 1-2 tbs of guar gum to make a gravy. We have just started using guar gum in place of flour. The consistency and taste are right but it separates quickly. I’ll have to research this one a little more.

This is a super easy dinner that is pretty typical of our normal meals. T and I try to keep to a primal/paleo diet so we eat a l ot of meat and veggies, a little fruit, some nuts, no grains. If you’ve never heard of it check out or Paleo Diet for more information.