Week 4 – Day 29

No cooking and little eating … the cable installers took too much out of me I guess.  I suspect I will be raring to go tomorrow – list in hand ??? to the market(s) and an empty pot or two just waiting for something to do.

A week to go … haven’t conquered that gym thing yet, but … well, there is still a chance that tomorrow I will suddenly feel the urge to walk on a moving track without going anywhere for about 20 minutes among a room full of strangers similarly doing impressions of hamsters in a habi-trail.  🙂

Day 27 & 28 – A Friday without Popcorn

Managed to eat like an adult on Thursday and Friday. No popcorn …

Thursday PRESSURED CHICKEN REVISITED – thawed chicken breast, then added to a covered glass dish with some mustard mixed with grated ginger spread on top of the pieces and a little water in the dish.  With the lid a bit skewed, microwaved (yes, I used the microwave) this on reheat until the sensor said it was done.  OK actually I was directed to “let stand covered.” While waiting for the Sensor-djini to do its magic, I filled a flat bowl with baby greens, dried cranberries, and a touch of blue cheese.  On top of this, the chicken and over the greens the jus.  Really good eats (sorry Alton … I keep stealing your hook line).

Friday: Grilled steak, cabbage with mushrooms, bacon, sour cream, Tabasco, plus snacks for the prep work — Home-made HUMMUS and sliced English cucumber.  Looks like it has been 2 days of revisiting past recipes.  The hummus was not so different from the first attempt; this time I used un-salted, organic garbanzo beans (much better) and less tahini (sesame paste), more lime juice, a bit of minced ginger, a little apple cider vinegar and a little EVOO (a nod here to Rachel Ray) and some Indian spices.  Oh yeah … and a small skinny green chili. (I have no idea what kind of chili – I picked up a bunch at the Farmer’s Market two weekends ago).  Mixed all of the ingredients in the Cuisinart and then ate with the cucumber chips while making dinner.

Pre-heated the oven to 500.  Nothing on the steak, which I put under the broiler.  While steak was smoking up the kitchen … I sautéed the bacon (in small pieces) with the mushrooms and a little EVOO again.  While that was cooking, I flipped the steak over and sliced some Chinese cabbage into a large flat bowl-plate, added a heaping table spoon of sour cream, some tabasco, and some blue cheese crumbles.  Mixed the bacon/mushroom mixture to the bowl and stirred all to coat the cabbage.  On top of this the steak. (Over cooked the steak just a bit because I closed the door when it was done instead of pulling it out of the heat – What was I thinking????).  Tasty meal … but … well … Something in this (or the sulfites in the cheapish red wine) triggered a bit of an allergic reaction.  “Only new item?” you ask.  That would be the sour cream and blue cheese.  Go figure DAIRY.  Should have stuck with the Hummus and steak slices on a side salad.

Day 26 – Intermediate Pressure Cooking

I’ve advanced to a new stage of pressure cooking — PIP (pot in pot) or something fairly close. So what did I do? I decided to use a set of steamer baskets in the pressure cooker. I used the small set and made a single serving (for a change – no left overs).  Oh is this easy!  Note: Aunt Liz – I promise I am being careful!

Ingredients:  Salmon, mushrooms, collard green leaves, orange bell pepper, lemon juice.

Process: I had wilted the whole collard green leaves first in the pressure cooker with a standard lid and some water.  I took a leaf, split it into large pieces, and lined each of the steamer baskets with the greens (so the FISH wouldn’t stick). One steamer for the mushrooms and peppers; one steamer with the fish. Put the lid on.

Place the rack in the bottom of the pot and add water to reach 1/2 cup — I still had the water from wilting the greens.  Place the steamer on the rack. Close the pressure cooker and start the process.  Highest heat until the pressure button POPS, then turn it down as low as you can and still keep the pressure up.  5 minutes.  Take it off the heat and then cold water release.

Layer each basket on to the plate with some lemon juice.  Pretty sure this was done in less than 15 minutes.

So, again with the very, very clean vegetable based lunch … yours truly is craving red meat and some sort of sweet/gooey something.  I know I need to have more protein during the day and I am trying hard not to be bored by hard-boiled eggs.  So tonight, instead of the sweet gooey – I am having an apple and one more glass of water.  At some point, I certainly hope my body begins to appreciate all that I have stopped eating in the name of its systems health.  It can show me by melting away some inches.  


Just heard from SO!  He is in a small hotel for the first time in 5 days – on his way back to Kathmandu tomorrow.  This adventure is almost over for both of us.  Equal parts “sigh” and “yea” …

Day 25 – Spinach & Bean Soup

This experiment is still working!  Came home to Fresh Spinach, English Cucumber and Orange Bell Pepper slices, and left-over Bean Soup.  Healthy choices – good proteins – lots of vegetables.  Not perfect eating today, but not horrible either (well, except for that drive-thru hamburger for the late lunch on the fly). Freezer is full these days … tomorrow’s menu will be derived from the weekend’s shopping: salmon and greens, along with a salad and apple.  At least that is tonight’s plan!

Wondered this morning on the way to work (a bit before 7 am) whether or not SO was looking at the same full moon I was seeing.  In the midst of his Nepal trek — just a little more than a week left of this experiment and time for re-invention.

Day 24 – A No Cook Monday

I had a salad with goat cheese and a “green drink” for lunch today.  Just feel like it was all too healthy … too green for my gullet.  Going to give my innards a break and provide only a protein drink for dinner; no more items from the BRASSICA family.  That and I guess I just am not hungry.  Chalk it up to the change of time.  Making a list for the week of things I’d like to get settled and things I’d like to get to … exercise will probably be on the later as that habit has not yet formed.  Another day on the road will lead to a lot of coffee (bad) and a lot of time to think (good).  Maybe I’ll be able to stop at the gym on the way home.  Guess I need to change my route so that I at least drive by the place.

Looks like it is a NO-Cook Monday.

Week 3 – Days 22 & 23 – Oxtails!

OK!  I can feel the disappointment each day I don’t timely post.  Mea culpa!

Yesterday I started the experiment with OXTAIL … and the beginning of an oxtail soup or soup base. Mixed results, but lots of learning experiences.  Oh goodie! how I love such “experiences” JK

1st lesson: check the total weight of your Sam’s Club oxtail package before putting them ALL into the pot to brown.  Pressure cooker book suggested 2 lbs, after finding a very tight fit, checked the plastic wrap to find I had almost 4 lbs ….
2nd lesson: when you realize you have too much meat in the pot to brown – take out 1/2 NOW.  Don’t wait and see how it goes …
3rd lesson: one needs cheese cloth or one of those mesh things to keep some of the spices together and make them easy to remove – the decision to toss them in, may have lead to a bitter stock
4th lesson: watch the pressure to ensure you did not turn the heat down too far … the meat should come off the bone without need for very sharp knives and lots of elbow grease and a properly set mouth.

Ingredients:  oxtail, olive oil, sage – herbes de provence, black pepper corns and 2 bay leaves in a bouquet garni, one onion, two stalks of celery, two cans of Guiness or another dark beer, 3 cups of water.

Process:

  • Brown oxtail in the oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Ensure the pieces are browned on all sides and that you haven’t over-crowed the pot (see lessons 1 & 2 above)
  • Remove the meat and set aside
  • Cut the onions in half then quarters, slice the celery – add both to the pot and cook until the onions are softened.  (3 to 6 minutes)
  • Add the spices (see lesson 3 above about the bouquet — oh well), the meat, the beer and the water and cover and latch the pot
  • Bring up to pressure and turn down to the lowest heat that will maintain pressure (see lesson 4) and cook for 35 minutes – Use the natural release method to de-pressurize.
  • Remove the meat and allow to cool
  • Strain the remaining broth to remove the vegetables and spices (colander with cheese cloth); discard the vegetables
  • Remove the meat from the bones and add back into the broth.
Now you are ready to make a soup – adding root vegetables or what ever you have in the pantry/freezer.  I will be adding collard greens and left-over frozen root veggies.  That is today’s project.  The oxtail did not come off the bone well – probably because I did not cook them long enough.  Tasty bits that I did remove.  I have the other half of the browned oxtail in the freezer – next time a hotter simmer.
Still working on the pomegranates — beginning to eye the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and to think about baking (egads) with the pips, cranberries and chocolate … just thinking, but I did notice a packet of yeast in the pantry … and there is a plethora of flour in the freezer … and the mixer is just sitting there staring at me!

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.