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.

Day 6 – Roots in a Spin

… or “how I learned not to over-stuff the food processor” and other interesting tidbits.
Used a little over half of the vegetables that I cooked last night.  The first round of puree activity in the food processor took for ever … because I over-filled it.  Oh … and I didn’t include enough liquid.  Next batch, fewer pieces of the roots, more of the stock. Better. 
Thought I had thyme in the spice rack and found it was tarragon … so, a change of pseudo plan — I picked the spices to use based on how each smelled after having a bite of parsnip.  I grabbed jalapeno peppers, apple cider vinegar, toasted sesame oil, olive oil, plain yogurt, cumin, sage, white pepper, lemon juice, and molasses. (not all in the mix – just on the counter to see what made sense as I went along)
Process, process, process while adding the broth a ladle at a time.  I added a jalapeño chopped very fine to the roots in the processor.  Sometimes during the processing, I also added a little dash of one or both of the oils and a squeeze of lemon. WOW I had no idea how sweet parsnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes would be – the turnips were not enough to cut that down.  I’ll need to work on this. So, armed with a very sweet base – I was looking for savory.  Didn’t want to use too much salt so I started with the apple cider vinegar and a little salt.  I then added a little cumin, nutmeg and sage.  A large dollop of molasses and a fewdollops of yogurt.  Into a large pot and onto the stove top to bring up to temperature.  Not looking for a boil here – just hot.
Plated the soup with fresh cut parsley and chopped walnuts in the center and sprinkle of cayenne pepper lightly across the top.  While waiting for the soup to heat, I toasted a pita lightly. Once the soup was in the bowl, I spread the pita with goat cheese and then sliced it into small strips and ate those with the soup.
Results are mixed.  My initial impression beyond the fact that the soup was a bit too sweet – it lacked fat.  Channeling the great chefs and their use of butter. So maybe next time just carrots and parsnips or just sweet potatoes.  I’ll search for savory – maybe if I could have garlic that would round out the flavor but that is out.  Maybe if the soup is served as a side with a grilled meat … ??? Stay tuned.
Dharamsala will not long remain on John’s itinerary — he is considering his first venture off plan. Yeah for the adventure!  I am 1/7th of the way though this blog experiment.  Hope it gets easier. 

Day 5 – Root Veggies

Received a bit of feedback from a friend and reader, asking about the root vegetables mentioned in the earlier post.  After all, it is fall, its been raining in a lot of places – isn’t it time for a good root vegetable soup.  BUSTED 🙂 and I totally agree. I’ve just been stymied about how exactly to cook those roots.  Should I roast them first? That would certainly give them a wonderful sweet taste and a bit of different texture.  But that means cutting raw and sometimes ornery hard veggies. On the other hand, am I just procrastinating with the pressure cooker because I don’t really know how it works or how long it takes with differing foods?  Hot roasting oven or the pressure cooker plunge?  My choice …

Pressure Cooker – experiment #3! 
Root Vegetables prepped for soup … going for a puree soup in the long run so if I over cook them its ok.

2 sweet potatoes, 2 parsnips, 4 carrots, 2 turnips and an onion; the chicken stock that wasn’t spilled; and the rack in the cooker.  Left the skins on after scrubbing well – we’ll see tomorrow if that was a mistake.  Cut the larger ones into smaller portions so all are about the same size, and then cooked them for 12 minutes once the pressure cooker reached internal pressure.  I plan to mush them up tomorrow.  I will certainly need spices, there is not a lick of salt in any of it yet.  A little research and I promise a soup story!

BTW: the carrots taste really good – for those in the know, almost as good as when they are cooked in a clay pot with a chicken.  That recipe will be posted later.  Pretty done with chicken for this week. Thinking I will make the soup tomorrow and then move on to pork.  Day 5 better than Day 4 – at least nothing spilled this time.

John is in Dharamsala.  Over 12 hours time difference.  Love the internet and facebook for keeping in written touch.  Wish I was on this trek with him. Miss his voice in the house.

Day 5 – Curried Chicken Lunch

Lunch Time!  Probably my favorite meal time …
Tool of Choice:  Kitchen Aid Food Processor
Ingredients:  Left over chicken pieces, celery, apple, raisins, slivered almonds, parsley, plain yogurt and mayo. Spiced with a little salt and curry powder.
So it is early lunch and I am hungry. Thinking about curry on the way home. I love my chicken salad chunky with lots of crunch and interesting bites.  I wanted some brightness to the mayo mixture so I added the yogurt for a little tang and hoped the apples would add the sweet crunch.
Easy enough – filled the food processor 1/4 full (after all it is just me) with the following:
o    chicken hunks from the left-over Rotisserie Chicken;
o    chopped celery — small pieces
o    Half a large apple in hunks
o    Palm sized amount of raisins and almond slivers
o    Tablespoon of both yogurt and mayo
o    Salt and curry powder with a dash of extra cumin
Pulse until the desired consistency.
I put the Curried Chicken Salad on top of some left-over slaw (debated about spinach leaves but wanted that bite of cabbage to go with the curry) into 1/2 pita bread. Sliced the remaining apple on the side.  YUM.  Realized that as a Southern girl – not enough mayo by itself.  But I am holding back and trying to save a calorie.
Eating at the dining room table – looking out the south facing window at the leaves of the vine under the portal – swear they are glowing gold. Lunch is over – have to clean up and get back to work.

Day 4 – Melt Down?

Alright, I saw “Julie and Julia” and believe the time between initiating the cooking project and the first Julie melt down had to have been more than 4 days.  Guess I am missing the competitive drive that drove Julia to mince all those onions.

Today started well – boiled eggs: one for breakfast and 3 for use later.  Downhill from there.  Waited too long for lunch and decided a sandwich from a restaurant was the best use of time. Energy frazzled by 4:30 pm.  Home with a highly anticipated new kitchen trash can to find that the liner will not come out. Tell me I do not have to return this! Nibbled on some chicken hoping the protein boost would change my attitude as well as ability to cope with the obstinate liner. Reached for the vegetables pre-cut for snacks and managed to knock over the chicken broth that I had placed in the ‘fridge to separate the fat.  All over the inside of the refrigerator – fat and all.  I resorted to a bowl of cereal with raisins and rice milk.  I give up.

It should not be this difficult to be able to have the energy and motivation to fix a good meal after a taxing day at work.