The Answer is Always Now – Day 4

20150113_185655 (2)Welcome to Day 4 of my self-imposed quest to make better food choices!  So far, I’m doing pretty well – as I should be. I know how to find and cook good, minimally processed food, I just need to do it!

Today’s breakfast looks strikingly similar to yesterday’sQuinoa Oatmeal, a banana, and hot tea.  It’s fricking cold in Northeast Ohio right now, and when the temperature drops like that, I want a hot breakfast.  Making up a big batch of this oatmeal means that I have a great alternative to a cafeteria breakfast sandwich with very little effort.

All the swag might be a little misleading, but I don't work at UPS.  I do have a great source for cool UPS stuff, however.

All the swag might be a little misleading, but I don’t work at UPS. I do have a great source for cool UPS stuff, however.

Remember the apple from yesterday that didn’t get eaten?  It made a lovely snack around 11 o’clock.  I was in a meeting at my usual lunchtime, so a before-lunch snack was a must.  Otherwise I get hangry – and that’s not good for anyone!

I didn’t pack a lunch today, but our cafeteria has a pretty good salad bar, so I headed there as soon as my meeting was done.  Mixed greens, spinach, tomatoes, cumcumbers, celery, chickpeas, cheese and chicken – plus a couple hard boiled eggs – kept me going for the rest of the workday.

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My sister came over after work tonight, so I got to cook for someone besides myself, which I don’t often get to do during the week.  It’s a good excuse to make something a little bit fancy.

Now, too much takeout pizza has been part of my food issues lately, but homemade pizza is a totally different story.  Water, Flour, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish has the best pizza dough recipe I’ve ever made, but it does involve some planning since it has to rise overnight.  I started the dough yesterday, separated it into balls this morning, and had it ready to go when I got home from work.

I had put some frozen caramelized onions in the fridge to thaw when I started the dough last night.  Today, I chopped up some leftover chicken, broke out the burrata cheese I found at the grocery store, and viola!  Beautiful, tasty pizza.

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A little fresh basil and some red pepper flakes sprinkled on top – yum!  Warm, satisfying and delicious.

For a little dessert, I broke out my chocolate bar collection. I like to keep a number of different dark chocolate bars, and here’s why:  If I only have one chocolate bar, I will likely eat the whole thing.  Because I can.  If I have  8 – 10 chocolate bars, there is absolutely no way I can eat them all, so I can just have a few squares and put it back in the cupboard. Crazy?  Maybe.  But for me, it works.  (Also, keep in mind that I’m not talking about stuff like Snicker’s bars.  If I have a Snicker’s bar, not only will I eat the whole thing, but I’ll want three more. I’m talking good quality dark chocolate only – otherwise this system doesn’t work.)

Here are some of the chocolate bar varieties I got out for my sister and I to sample for dessert.

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A few squares of chocolate-y goodness later, we were set.  Happy tummies, warm couch, funny YouTube videos (once you watch one, it’s really easy to go down that rabbit hole).

And that’s it!  Four days down, and I’m feeling good about my food choices.  I’m still eating the things that I love, but I’m opting for real, non-processed versions.  Most importantly, I’m planning my meals, which keep me from getting caught in the “must have food now” trap that leads to bad choices.  Here’s to another day of good eating!

 

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 Answer is Always Now

“Who. What. Where. Why.”
I blinked. “Not ‘when’?”
She shook her head. “The answer to that is always ‘now’.”
– From Variable Star, by Robert A Heinlein and Spider Robinson

I’ll admit it.  For the past few months, I haven’t been eating the way that I want to.  Oh, I haven’t started eating Twinkies for breakfast or anything like that, but I have been guilty of too much pizza, too much ice cream, too much convenience “food”.  And I know it.

It’s been too easy to tell myself, “I’ll do better next month, next week, tomorrow, after Thanksgiving, after Christmas…” I just haven’t made it happen.  And I know that when I cook, when I eat real, not-processed food that I feel better.  My skin looks better.  I have more energy and frankly, I’m happier.

What I don’t know is why knowing all that hasn’t been enough to get me back in the good eating groove, but it doesn’t matter.

That changes now.  You saw the quote at the beginning, right?   For whatever reason, I woke up today with that snippet of dialogue from one of my favorite novels stuck in my head – the answer is always now.

No more next week, no more tomorrow.  Now.  And no, this isn’t a New Year’s Resolution or anything like that.  But I am going to resolve something – for the next week, seven days in a row, I’m going to document every food choice that I make and share it on this blog.

Every evening for the next seven days, I’ll post what I ate that day.  If I make good choices, fantastic.  I’ll post it.  If I screw up, I’ll post that too.  And if (I will not say when) I screw up, I won’t let that start an unhealthy pattern.  I’ll get back on track – now.

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Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

20140825_173106Basket of Life Farm does a really cool thing with their CSA.  When you go to the farm to pick up your veggies, they have your prepacked box of goodies, plus you get to make some selections from the assortment of “members choice” veggies.  These are items that are may be at the beginning or end of their growing cycle, or perhaps this week there weren’t enough for every box.

One of my members choice options last week were tomatillos.  I had never cooked with tomatillos, but they looked amazing – such a bright green!

Hot peppers no longer go in the boxes, since not everyone is crazy about them like I am, but there’s usually a big box of jalapenos to take from as well.  With those choices, a tomatillo salsa seemed like the obvious next step.

Since I’d never made a salsa with tomatillos before, I decided just to wing it.  I’ve seen tv chefs roast tomatillos, so I thought – why not grill them?  Easy, quick, won’t heat up the house…yep.

Five tomatillos, two onions and a bunch of jalapenos.  I always have garlic and limes, so no worry there.  I did have to pick up some cilantro, since that’s about the only herb I didn’t grow this year.

I took the papery outer skin off the tomatillos and cut them in half. Same thing with the onions. For the jalapenos, I removed the stems and cut them in half, but I like the heat, so I left the seeds and stems.  I really could have added another jalapeno – when it was all done, it had a good flavor, but not much heat.  I added the garlic cloves and tossed it all with olive oil, salt and pepper.

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Next, onto a hot grill.  I used a grill basket and put it on the grill first to preheat.

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 I grilled the veggies (along with some chicken breasts) for about 25 minutes, until they got all brown and toasty.  These smelled amazing when they started getting all roasty!  I mean, grilled onions always smell good, but this was another level.

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This was crazy easy for how tasty it was – next, off the grill, into a food processor with a big handful of cilantro and the juice of two limes.  Pulse until it’s as smooth or as chunky as you like.  I thought it smelled good when it was grilling, but as soon as I started the food processor, the roasted jalapeno and cilantro scents came out – so good!

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Remove from food processor.  Eat and enjoy!  I highly recommend it with chicken, avocado and cheddar on soft tortillas – like this:

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This salsa was good warm right out of the food processor, and equally as good cold the next day out of the fridge.  It made probably about 3 cups of salsa which seemed like quite a bit, but it didn’t last long!

Grilled Tomatillo Salsa

  • 5 tomatillos, hulled and halved
  • 2 medium/small onions halved, or one large onion quartered
  • 2 jalapenos, halved and stems removed (if you don’t want as much heat, you can remove the seeds and stems as well)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1/2 bunch (a large handful) of cilantro
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Toss the tomatillos, onions, jalapenos and garlic in a coating of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Grill this veggie mix over a high heat for 20-25 minutes (I recommend using a grill basket, or at least covering the grates with foil). When they’re done, remove from the heat.

In a food processor, blend the grilled veggies with the lime juice and cilantro until it’s the desired texture.  If you want a thinner salsa, add more olive oil as you blend.  Taste it.  If it needs more salt or pepper, add them and blend again.  Remove from food processor and eat!

This post is shared at Fresh Foods Wednesday.

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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