Day 21 – A Retrospective … on Friday habits

If its FRIDAY it must be popcorn and movies.  At least it has been the case for the last 2 Fridays.  Not just popcorn really.  I had sushi for lunch and only ate 1/2 the roll … so I had 1/2 left, along with the last of the bell pepper slices and the last of the English cucumber.  Along with the cup of air-popped popcorn tossed with butter and popcorn salt and cayenne pepper.

Just eat half … that was the PA’s suggestion to help with the perimenapausal spare tire conundrum.  A new MANTRA only works if saying it stops the path of food to the mouth … half of everything one sees is still a lot of halves!

SO called …apparently there will be a story in approximately 15 days concerning his “astute” sense of direction and the world’s tallest mountain.  Can’t wait and wonder how many were following the pied piper as he led away from the goal. ❤

Day 20 – Cold Winds Blow – Calling for Soup

Still looking into uses for my 2 beautiful pomegranates …

Tonight, after scraping the snow and ice off of the windshield, I flew into the house straight to the freezer. A RETURN to the Root Veggie Soup with an addition of leftover beets (ALL GONE finally) Indian spices and red pepper flakes.  Reheated the “old fashioned way” in a regular pot on the gas burner. 

The fact that I cooked 2 weeks ago and had “good” food to fall back on  when I ran home from work tonight is exactly that for which I hoped to result from this 36 day experiment.  Looks like this weekend needs to be a concerted effort to clean out the freezer and re-organize it so that there is room to freeze extra servings, then to later store them on their sides.  A huge vegetable soup or two … and possibly cook one of the frozen meats so I can portion that out as well.  Just over TWO weeks left to firm up these new habits.

Day 19 – Pomegranates

Now I am contemplating POMEGRANETS. This will take a lot of consideration.

To keep up my strength for this next exploit I figured I needed some traditional protein for dinner.  So … Dinner was stew meat (yes from the amazing pressure cooker) tossed over a salad-style bowl of spinach with julienned apples, beets, and a large spoon-full of beans.  Browned the stew meat and then cooked for 10 minutes with 1/2 water and a little wine I had used to release the brown bits from the pan bottom.

Day 17 – So Behind with Blogging!

Troubles with the internet and with my motivation but not with the goal. I am still eating better and on a more regular basis.  Only had pasta for one dinner and one lunch out – both times, small portions.  Limited the stops at the local hamburger joint.  Not yet bored with the food supply in the refridgerator – but recognize that I will have to shop again soon, but so far with a minor exception for the fish (below) the food I bought the first weekend is still lasting.  Groovy.

So let’s attempt to catch up … From Thursday evening through Sunday, I ate a good number of left overs courtesy of the previous week’s cooking.  OK – Friday night was all about popcorn and movies (Pretty Woman just never gets old).  Saturday? For the life of me, I don’t remember eating other than it was a late, late lunch – early dinner and I believe I turned left-over pork loin into a pork-salad loaded into a pita.  enough with the vague memory and on to the current cooking.

Salmon in the pressure cooker — (followed by 15-Beans under Pressure):

Ingredients: (you’re going to love this) one salmon steak, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 4 mushrooms, 1 tablespoon honey & 1 of molasses (substitute maple syrup for honey and molasses), dash of tamari.

Process: stupid easy! place the salmon on a rack in the pressure cooker and add the 1/2 cup of water and dash of tamari.  Close the lid and start the cooking! Once its up to pressure – lower the heat as low as you can go and set the timer for 6 minutes.  Use a cold water pressure release.  Remove the fish when the pressure is off – it tried to fall apart on me, so I just lifted out the rack, fish and all.  Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil to reduce the liquid. The mushrooms will be done by the time the sauce thickens up.

Plated the fish on a bed of spinach – poured the hot sauce over both and topped with some left over beets (FINALLY – the beets were ready to eat) … not too many beets or they will overwhelm the delicate fish.

Tonight — 15-BEANS UNDER PRESSURE – more complicated. OK, actually not yet done … but you see that below:

First – at least 4 hours of soaking – I opted for almost 24 hours soaking in the fridge. (Soaking is important for reduction of the side-effects many suffer from beans … ‘nuf said, just do it.)  Drain and rinse the beans under cold water, discarding any shells or floating objects.  Rummage through the freezer for any pre-made stock.  In the pressure cooker, saute some onions, celery, peppers & any other aromatics you want to add in oil or butter.  NO SALT or ACIDITY AT THIS POINT!  The onion cooking takes a little watching and stirring – if there are brown bits forming on the bottom, add a little water and deglaze the bottom. Once the onions are translucent (go darker if you want an earthier flavor) add the beans, 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter (keeps the foam down – use bacon fat or another fat if you choose), add the stock — have at least 2 inches of liquid above the level of the beans,  I added water to reach the desired level.  Fill no more than 1/2 full.  Put on the heat – once pressure is reached – turn the heat as low as you can while keeping pressure and set the timer to 12 to 16 minutes.  At our elevation – I picked 15.  Remove from heat at the “DING” and allow the pressure to release by the natural method.  Don’t know how these will taste yet – took forever for the pressure to dissipate – I ate a pimento cheese pita sandwich for dinner.  I’ll report on the beans tomorrow.
UPDATE:  Beans = Awesome. No salt in the cooking. Perfect as a starter for soup or as a stand alone.  Freezer bags already filled.

John’s in Kathmandu now – still quiet around here, but I am quickly getting used to that. A weekend and Monday without Football! Oh yeah! … oops.

Day 11 – Long Day & Rainy Night

Breakfast and lunch combined today due to my schedule:  made scrambled eggs (one whole egg plus one white) with the “usual” mushroom, spinach, and some of the grape tomatoes from my garden.  NO bread or starch.  Off to appointments and work.

Late Evening: Having pre-sliced the bell peppers and cucumber the other night made the “immediate upon arrival in the house after work” gnosh much easier and less caloric. Man, I am ravenous between 5:30 and 6 pm.  After a handful of each, I threw 2 chicken breasts into the pressure cooker after covering the top of each with a little mustard.  Added a bit of tamari and ginger to the 3/4 cup of water in the bottom.  Hit the pot on high until the pressure came up – then 8 minutes on the lowest heat that allows the pot to maintain the pressure.  PERFECTLY done!  While the chicken was “pressuring” – I reheated some cauliflower, cabbage and a couple of mushrooms in the microwave.  In 15 minutes, I had 1/2 chicken breast on a plate with mounds of vegetables.  That’s “fast food”!  The broth is in a container for use later.  The vegetables will be pureed tomorrow or Thursday for soup.  Left over chicken will be lunch tomorrow.  One pot, one bowl – Kitchen’s already clean.

TRUTH TIME:  After all of these no-added fat, no starch meals, I admit that an hour or so later I am SO looking for sweets. Hopefully this too will pass.  Can’t be soon enough for me.  Guess I should just be happy that I am eating cleaner food, more often and that I have not resorted to pasta in 11 days.

Day 10 – Pressure Cooker 101 Continues

Pressure Cooker 101 continues this week – tonight’s experiment is BEETS.

So, I have a huge beet – some where around the size of a baseball.  (Since buying it I have learned that smaller might have been a better choice – but we have what we have.)  I also have a cauliflower head that is starting to look a bit worse for time in the vegetable bin.  I scrubbed both and placed them side-by-side on the rack in the pressure cooker.  I added about 3/4 cup to a cup of water and locked that sukka’ up.
Once the pressure indicator popped up, I turned on the timer for 10 minutes and left the cooker on high.  Hum. Well. About 5 minutes in, the thing started really hissing (for those who actually use pressure cookers on a regular basis, you know the release of excess steam means it is too hot).  I turned it down a few notches and continued the cooking until the timer said “BING!”.  I used the quick-release method (placing the pot under cold running water, lid tilting away from one’s face. 
SURPRISE!  Here is a note for all the point and/or calorie counters out there – OMG the cauliflower is fantastic.  There is nothing on it.  It is over cooked just a bit – it fell apart off of the core into large flowerets. Yummy. 
BUMMER! The beet skin was supposed to just squeeze off – didn’t.  Cut it in half and it wasn’t done.  Guess I should have cut it before it went in, because it is so large.  Nuked it for 3 minutes – still not soft in the middle. I am guessing by the time this beet is soft – it will not be edible.
So – dinner?  Left-over CLAY POT PORK, cauliflower, homemade-humus, and hot-house cucumbers.  The beets can wait.

Day 9 – Clay Pot Pork Loin

Ingredients:  Pork tenderloin (2 in a pack); yellow, red, orange bell peppers; pineapple rings and juice; rosemary, tamari &/or salt, rosemary
Process: I have the best clay pot ever — my dad found it at a garage sale for $3; a never-been used Romertopf.  WOW.  Ok, so we begin as anything in the Romertopf begins — soaking in cold water for 20 minutes or more.  I’ve read cooking pages where people talk about not soaking their clay pots. Frankly, that is just plain crazy talk.  
a.       Chop the peppers into small chunks and place in the bottom of the pot
b.      Place the loin(s) on top of the peppers
c.       Season the loin(s) with rosemary and salt
d.      Place pineapple slices on the top of the loin and pour some of the pineapple juice into the bottom of the clay pot (you could also use broth or water) and add a little tamari
With the lid on – place in a cold oven – set the temperature for 450 and the timer for 70 to 80 minutes.  I usually check the meat with 5 minutes to go – use a thermometer or other technique to determine if the meat is the desired doneness.
Pull the meat out of the pot and add a thickener to the remaining juices – I use arrowroot. You could also pour the juices out of the pot into a sauce pan and thicken it over additional heat. Serve with rice.
So – now you are done and the clay pot is, well, dirty.  What do I do? I pour course salt into the bottom and use a vegetable scrub brush to clean off all the bits.  NO soap just very hot water and the salt.  Most of the black bits come off; nothing stuck to the sides – done.  Let it dry and store again until next time.
No word from John in a day or so.  I think he is travelling outside of Dharamsala.  Pretty quiet around here without him and the Sunday Night Football.  Maybe I’ll turn on the last quarter for company. 

Week 2 – Day 1 (or Day 8 … ) Saturday

Saturdays are wonderful! All that time – all that potential.  A wonderful re-hash of many of my favorites from last week lead me to believe that I already have some “stand-by” foods in the fridge that I can go to for quick meals.  Huzzah … wasn’t that really the point? I was able grab some shredded chicken and mix it into the remains of yesterday’s slaw, with a little added mustard – for a great, late lunch.  No drive through — no junk.  As ALTON BROWN says … just “Good Eats.”

So the countdown timer shows 28 days until SO’s return to the nest.  “They” say that it takes 21 days for a new habit to become ingrained.  I am behind the schedule to get all the habits I had hoped for to kick in while I have all this time alone.  I’m doing pretty well in the cooking-to-eat-better and the-keeping-up-with-the-blog “habits” – but have not made a step toward the walking habit (get it?).  I am taking my vitamins and supplements every day (for 2 whole days) … but that exercise thing really must be added. “I’ll start tomorrow.”  Can I continue to use the “I can’t find the key to the gym excuse” especially when the weather is this nice?

I made dinner for a girl friend tonight, with whom I have been looking forward to catching up. Figured we needed something easy to put together while talking and that wouldn’t be complicated to eat. The menu:  It’s not a pizza Pizza & the Root Vegetable Puree soup.  PS Kudos to Deborah for showing me the pizza when I visited her kitchen recently!  She was a real eagle eye for hidden garlic and has a very creative knack.

Ingredients: one large pita bread (or a good soft flat bread), goat’s milk cheese (the soft kind in the pyramid container), spinach, mushrooms. (Yep they are still good after a week home from Sam’s Club).

  • Oven doesn’t need to be really hot – you just want to heat the not-a-pizza through and maybe crisp the bottom a little bit.  I set the oven to pre-heat at 350 and then turned it down when I placed the pizza on the rack.  But I am ahead of my self – 
  • Spread goat cheese on the whole pita
  • Saute the mushrooms; add the spinach near the end and continue to attend to the mix until the leaves are wilted
  • Place the spinach and mushrooms on the pita
  • Place on the rack (without a pan) and lower the heat so the pita will heat without burning.
It didn’t take long for the kitchen to smell like it was dinner time.  While the not-a-pizza was heating, I re-heated the Root Veggie Soup – again plating that with freshly chopped flat leave parsley and a little bit of fresh nutmeg.  The combination of the cheese and mushrooms on the pizza rounded out the slightly sweet soup.  Course the company made the meal.

Day 7 – Finally Friday

OK – it is the end of the week and I am not, I repeat NOT, cooking …

Well … that’s not really true. I did saute some mushrooms and bacon and then I added it to a couple of handfuls of pre-sliced cabbage slaw mix.  Stirred in some goat cheese, just a little mayo (the bacon and mushrooms bring their own oil and moisture to the slaw), red pepper flakes and Tabasco.  Had the slaw along side the remaining 1/2 of my shrimp burrito from lunch.  Add to that a Guinness and call it dinner.