The Answer is Always Now – Day 5

Wow, this week is going fast!  Welcome to day 5 of my food recap.  Let’s get started, shall we?

Breakfast:  This is looking familiar.  Quinoa oatmeal and fruit – grapes this time.

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Because the building I work in is freezing cold all day, I went for coffee with breakfast – for the warmth as much as the caffeine.

Thanks for the coffee, sis!  It's tasty.

Thanks for the coffee, sis! It’s tasty.

After coffee, I switched to water until lunch.  Lunch was also planned for temperature today – a sweet potato and leftover steamed broccoli.  It was surprisingly pretty… and warm.  Warm was good.

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Mid-afternoon, I started to get a bit peckish, so I went for the trusty banana.

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That kept me until I got home.  Since I still had pizza dough, I couldn’t resist another pizza tonight.  I sauteed some kale, then topped the pizza dough with olive oil, roasted garlic, kale, mozzarella cheese, crushed red pepper flakes and fresh basil.  The kale that poked up through the cheese got crispy, like kale chips, and made a nice contrast to the gooey cheese – yum!

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And that’s it for tonight, folks!  No nighttime snack needed – just a big glass of water and catching up on some TV for a bit.  See you tomorrow!

The Answer is Always Now – Day 2

20150111_094926 (2)Welcome to day 2 of what I’ve been eating!  Let’s get started.

I woke up late today, so I’m going to call this brunch:  whole wheat toast, grapes, two sunny-side up eggs. (Well, mostly.  Yes, I broke one of the yolks cracking it into the pan.  Yes, it was still delicious.)

I also had some hot tea, and started pre-planning meals for the work week.  I made a big batch of Quinoa Oatmeal from the Thug Kitchen cookbook my awesome sister got me for Christmas.  Not only are there fantastic recipes, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve laughed out loud reading it!  Highly recommended.

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It’s true. Cats DO like obedient people.

I’m calling my late breakfast brunch because next was dinner.  Dinner for me was a burrito bowl (with both chicken and steak – both from Brunty Farms).  I made extra so I could pack leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  Oops, spoilers!

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Brown rice, avocado, tomatoes, cheese and yes, sour cream. But not too much!

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I marinated the chicken in a tequila lime marinade, and the beef got a sprinkling of Penzey’s Southwest Seasoning. It was the hands down winner.

Now, this may look like a lot, but I’d like to point out that although I had one burrito bowl, my boyfriend ate three – yes, three – regular burritos with flour tortillas (two steak, one chicken – he doesn’t like to mix meats in his burritos).  There are reasons that I tend to cook in large quantities!

My burrito bowl!

My burrito bowl!

Along with a couple glasses of iced tea and water, and a handful of gummy bears while watching a movie (sorry, didn’t take a picture of them), that’s it!  Monday, here I come!

The Answer is Always Now – Day 1

Yesterday, I decided that I needed to change the way I was eating – to get back to eating healthy, real foods that made me feel good.  As part of that, I decided that I was going to photograph and post everything I ate for the next seven days.

Welcome to the end of Day 1, everyone!  Let’s see how it went:

Breakfast:  I woke up hungry, and made myself an omelet.  Last night, I had sauteed some Swiss Chard for dinner, so I used the leftover greens and some sharp cheddar in the omelet, with a side of whole wheat toast.  Oh, and hot tea.

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Disclaimer – remember that it’s Saturday!  Come Monday, don’t expect to see anything fancy like this, but you can look forward to pictures of a bowl of oatmeal at my desk at work.  Yum!

So far, so good.  Next, lunch:  My boyfriend and I had to go run some errands today (we stocked up on wine and I bought a new snow blower – January in Northeast Ohio is a bad time for that to crap out), so we went to Rockne’s for lunch.  I chose the Firestone salad – grilled chicken, dressing on the side and an iced tea.  The picture doesn’t really do it justice, though.  Their salads are huge!

20150110_171222 (2)Lastly, dinner: Cheese, bread, greens, fruit.  It took me all of 5 minutes to make, and was so good!  The rest of the leftover greens and some brie on whole wheat bread with apples from the last farmer’s market.  Delicious!

20150110_213110 (2)And I had to try a glass of the new wine.  I chose this because it was $4.99 and I wanted to see if it was any good.  It’s fantastic!  It’s just a red table wine, but I definitely should have bought more than one.

20150110_194450 (2)Not bad, right?  This is why I frustrate myself.  With the exception of lunch, I had all this good, real food in the house.  I had local, farm fresh eggs.  I had bread that I had made myself a few days ago and just hadn’t cut into yet. (And for the record, I can made a kickass loaf of bread.)

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So why in the world wasn’t I eating it?  And would I have made these same choices if I wasn’t posting it here for anyone to see?  Good questions.  And I’m not sure I know the answers, but at least I’m on the right track.

See y’all tomorrow!

The Big Sandwich

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I believe I can say with confidence that my Dad’s favorite song is Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.  As a matter of fact, a few years ago I made him a mix CD (That’s right, a mix CD.  Don’t judge me.) consisting of nothing but covers of that one song in as many genres as I could find.  I started with the first version I had ever heard (The Michael Stanley Band) to punk (Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies), country (Laurie Morgan), disco (The Bee Gees) – Neil Diamond, Dusty Springfield, June Carter Cash and more…ending, of course, with Carole King.

The many versions of that song remind me of the many versions of The Big Sandwich I’ve made throughout the years.

Just like the song lyrics don’t change, some aspects of The Big Sandwich are constant – it must be made from a round loaf of white bread, the top sliced off and hollowed out to accommodate the yumminess inside.  It must always have some varieties of lunch meat, cheese, relish or pickles, and tomatoes.  It must be eaten in large wedges, and is best served with a side of vinaigrette or sub sauce for dipping.

It’s a summertime food that reminds me of picnics and sunny afternoons, partially because it travels well (placed whole in the picnic basket and sliced just before eating).  This weekend, it only had to travel from my kitchen to my table, but it was still just as good.

To create The Big Sandwich, the right bread is the most important.  I always use a round, unsliced loaf of old fashioned white bread from Great Harvest Bread Company.  Whatever you choose, make sure that the crust isn’t too hard (for ease of eating) and the bread isn’t too flat (more room for sandwich filling).

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Slice the top off the loaf and set aside.  Hollow out the inside of the loaf, saving the inside bread for making croutons or breadcrumbs later (or for eating in the kitchen when no one is looking).  You want to remove as much of the inside bread as possible without damaging the integrity of the bread walls.

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Next, prepare your ingredients.  One essential part of The Big Sandwich (for me, anyway), is a Giardiniera relish.  I take a jar of Giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables), dump it in the food processor with a few splashes of the brine, and pulse until it’s finely chopped but still has some texture.  This time, I added some pickled garlic scapes that I made earlier this year.

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I also season the tomatoes that will go into The Big Sandwich.  I take tomato slices, add salt, pepper and olive oil and let sit until I’m ready for them.

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Lunch meat and cheese.  A proper Big Sandwich takes about a pound of lunch meat in various types.  In this example, I used ham, turkey and hard salami.  Roast beef is also good, or pepperoni if you want a bit more spice to your sandwich.  Any sliced cheese will do as well – about a quarter pound.  I used Provolone, but feel free to customize to your own preferences.

Once the ingredients are standing by, it’s time to assemble the sandwich.  For me, the first layer is always the Giardiniera relish.

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 Next, ham, followed by salami.

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 Now a layer of cheese.  On top of the cheese, the seasoned tomato slices.  I also added some pickled Hungarian peppers I made the week before – fortunately, I ate one before I put them on the sandwich.  Turns out they were pretty hot, so I just scattered a few of them over the tomatoes.

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After the tomatoes and peppers, I layered on the turkey slices, the remaining Giardiniera relish, and the last few slices of cheese.  The top of the loaf goes back on, and The Big Sandwich is complete and ready to be sliced and enjoyed!

If I were taking this to a picnic or an outdoor concert, I would simply put it back in the bag the loaf came in and transport it whole.

When you’re ready to eat, cut the sandwich into quarters. Yes, they’re big pieces – it’s a Big Sandwich!

Now, the most important part of The Big Sandwich.  It is not a dainty sandwich. It demands to be eaten with gusto, in big bites, with friends or loved ones.  It’s not a sandwich for a solitary meal – The Big Sandwich needs to be shared!  I ate this Big Sandwich with my boyfriend, at the living room coffee table watching a movie – together.  A perfect summer weekend.

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Dinners for One – Cherry Tomato Sauce

20140725_184107 (2)I learned how to cook from my mom.  Mom is a fantastic cook and always was – when my sister and I were growing up, no matter how busy we all were, she had a home cooked dinner on the table almost every day.  However, Mom cooks in great quantities, as though she’s expecting armies to descend on the table at mealtimes.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m slowly learning how to cook in smaller amounts, especially for the evenings when it’s just me and the cats for dinner.  While they will happily help me finish some leftover salmon, this meal wasn’t really up their alley.

This is NOT the face of a cat who is interested in veggies.

This is NOT the face of a cat who is interested in veggies.

I picked up my CSA from Basket of Life Farm today after work, and saw a tiny container of the first cherry tomatoes of the season!  It took all my willpower not to eat them in the car on the way home, but they made it safely to my kitchen, along with an adorable little onion and a beautiful, fragrant head of garlic – the perfect combination for a pasta sauce!

20140725_175840 (2)I minced the onion and two cloves of garlic and sauteed them in olive oil over medium low heat, adding salt, pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper for spice.

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When the onions were soft and translucent, I added the handful of cherry tomatoes (without eating even one, I might add).  I turned the heat up a bit and let it go until the tomatoes started to pop.

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Once the tomatoes started to split and pop, I crushed them with a wooden spoon.  It was fun (cue evil laugh here).

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I let the tomatoes cook for another five minutes or so, continuing to break up the large pieces and skins with the spoon.  I cooked it down until it was almost a tomato paste kind of consistency.

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At that point, I added about 1/2 cup of white wine to deglaze the pan (I had an open bottle of chardonnay in the fridge that worked just fine).  I turned the heat up again and let it reduce by half.

Just after I added the wine.

Just after I added the wine.

After the wine reduced.

After the wine reduced, I added some fresh basil. Yum!

I had some frozen spinach pasta from Ohio City Pasta, so I cooked that while the sauce was reducing. When the sauce looks right, put it on low heat until the pasta is done.  If the sauce gets too dry, you can add some of the cooking liquid from the pasta to thin it out.

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Certainly you could make more sauce and more pasta and made this a meal for two or four, or however many you needed, but this is a rare dish that tastes just as good when you make a small amount.  It was fresh, healthy and tasty.

20140725_185010 (2)And I very much enjoyed it.

Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce (serves 1)

  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • About 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine (your choice)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Crushed Red Pepper (optional – if you like heat, add a pinch or two)
  • 3-4 leaves fresh basil, chopped or torn
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 serving of your favorite pasta

Saute the garlic and onions over medium low heat. Add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (if you choose) and cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the cherry tomatoes and turn heat up. When the tomatoes soften and split, crush with a wooden spoon. Cook the crushed tomatoes for about 5 minutes until they reach a thick, tomato paste consistency.

Add 1/2 cup white wine and turn the heat up again. Let the wine reduce by half, turn the heat to low and add half the basil. As the sauce is cooking, cook the pasta according to the package directions. If the pasta is still cooking while the sauce simmers on low heat, the sauce may thicken up too much. If needed, add some of the cooking liquid from the pasta to thin it out.

Top the pasta with the tomato sauce, basil and some grated Parmesan cheese. Eat and enjoy!


Salmon with Orange-Garlic Salt

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Although this will be my third year getting a CSA from Basket of Life Farm, until recently I was still very much a dabbler in the world of healthy eating.

I can now say that I’ve made some major changes to the way I approach food in my life, and because of that, I’ve lost over 30 pounds since February.  32, to be exact.  I still have a way to go, but it’s a pretty awesome start.

I used to think that because I cooked dinner most nights, and went to the farmer’s market most weekends, I ate healthy foods.  And I did, more or less, but I was also “cheating” a lot – fast food sandwiches for breakfast a couple of times a week, bread made with white flour every day, ice cream at night (more than I’d like to admit).

I got to the point where I needed to make a real change.  I was tired of feeling tired, and I truly felt like what I was eating was the problem.  I won’t pretend that I did it entirely on my own.  It took something called “The 24 Day Challenge” from a company called Advocare to kickstart this change for me, but it helped me create a structure for how I ate and how I approached food, one that I’ve done a pretty good job at keeping up with.  Yes, I’ve had days or weeks where I fall off the wagon a bit, but now I know how to get back on track.

My typical day of food now looks something like this:

  • Breakfast:  Protein (usually eggs), sometimes complex carbs (multi-grain toast), sometimes fruit (like a banana or orange).
  • Lunch:  Protein (often a chicken breast, sometimes something like tuna), veggies,  complex carbs like brown rice or sometimes quinoa or a sweet potato.
  • Dinner:  Protein (again, often chicken, sometimes pork or fish), veggies, and occasionally some complex carbs like wheat pasta.
  • Add a square or two of good chocolate before bed most nights, just in case you think I gave up everything, and throw in a couple of snacks throughout the day (like pistachios or fruit), and I’m a happy camper – 30 plus pounds lighter!

I pay attention to how I feel after I eat, and I try to stay away from lots of dairy (except for good farmer’s market cheese!), white sugar and white flour because I’ve learned that they make me feel yucky after I eat them.  Same goes for lots of coffee.

But it certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy my food – I absolutely do!  Today’s dinner was a great example of that.  Just fish and veggies…but tasty and satisfying.

I started with some wild-caught Alaskan salmon (each piece was about 1/3 pound).

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I seared the salmon with a little olive oil and fresh cracked black pepper (skin side up) in a hot pan to get a good sear on top, then flipped it and popped the whole pan into a 400 degree oven for about 7 minutes.  It came out perfect.  (Oh, I roasted some asparagus from the farmer’s market at the same time.  The asparagus was thin, so it took about the same amount of time.)

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While the salmon and asparagus were cooking, I made the Orange-Garlic Salt to sprinkle on top.  I took the zest of one orange, one minced clove of garlic, a handful of parsley (chopped) and a couple pinches of kosher salt and mixed them together.  So easy!

Orange salt

As soon as I sprinkled the Orange Salt on the hot salmon, I could smell the orange zest and garlic, and it almost sizzled…beautiful.

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I rounded it out with a glass of 15 Feet of Wheat beer from Trailhead Brewery, made with blueberries and honey.  I bought a growler of this beer Friday night, and boy am I glad I did!  It went perfectly with dinner tonight.

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Well, off to have a bit of good chocolate, watch some Torchwood on Netflix and go to bed.  It’s a good day.