Monday, August 1, 2016

Yes But You Love to Cook

That's what people say to me in reference to my "health kick."  My 5 year long health kick is my life style.  I eat healthy and I exercise.  It's not a kick, a fad, a gimmick it's the way I live.  As for loving to cook I don't mind it.  If I had the choice of having someone cook for me I'd love it.  I cook, because I love to eat what I want to eat.  No package and few restaurants provide me with the fresh healthy food I want to put into my body.  So I cook.

This weekend I made Ratatouille with veggies from my garden.  Not only does it taste fabulous, but its full of all the things I want my body to have.  I like to cook a lot of food, so it can be eaten for lunches and maybe even another dinner.  Sometimes if I'm not feeling like eating it again right away I'll freeze it for future eating.  I love those evenings when all I have to do is warm up some healthy food.

Am I considered a food snob?  Maybe, but don't I get to choose what I want to eat?  I use to tell the hubs I can't eat that.  Now I say I won't eat that.  He loves to eat out and he does.  Am I preparing nuts and twigs at home.  Absolutely not.  I make things that even a restaurant loving hubby thinks it's good.  Only thing he does sometimes is warm up a piece or two of his frozen naan.  I also keep tortillas stocked so if he wants to make a burrito he can. I'll also start the rice cooker or boil him some pasta.  I would love for him to eat healthier and he does for the most part.  Like me though he gets to choose what he likes to eat.  I think we do a great job of combining our eating styles and each of us being happy with what we're eating.

So do I love to cook? Not really.  It's a means to getting what I want.  Do I love getting what I want?  Absolutely!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I Am Whole30!

That's what the t-shirt says and that's what I have been doing.  My trainer brought Whole30 back to the front of my thinking last fall.  I had seen it in the past and thought "No way am I ready for that."  She had bought the Whole30 book and started experimenting with the recipes.  I decided to get the book myself and saw there were two books.  I bought them both.  I read "It Starts With Food" first and thought I might be ready to give this a try now.

Exercise doesn't stop not even for the Whole30.
Why?  I had 4 years of eating healthy and exercising under my belt.  I had lost and kept off 86 pounds.  I had been slowly making changes to my way of thinking about food and how it effects my body for 4 solid years.  I never could have done this program at the beginning of my "health kick."  My psyche was too damaged from years of not eating properly.  From years of giving into my every food whim.  I refer to that way of thinking as my inner toddler.  She still raises her head every now and then.  As a good parent I put her in timeout.  What are we up to now... a 55 minute time out?!  That's according to the rules of timeouts.

Whole30 recipes
I had been slowly over the course of those 4 years working with Tosca Reno's plan of Clean Eating.  That plan was perfect for me when I started.  It really brought me back to my roots so to speak.  Made me eat real food again.  Not just part of the time, but all of the time.

I like to make my own ghee.
I finally felt like I could do a restrictive plan, because I was almost there. I especially wanted to do it since the Whole30 said it could provide me with so many incredible health benefits.  Here's where the  practical side of me came in.  I really didn't think anything incredible was going to happen to me as a lot of what was offered by the Whole30 had already happened to me.  I did want to see what else could be accomplished.  If it was just a few more pounds lost that was fine, but what if?  What if something I was eating was causing me problems and I didn't know.  So, in October I began my first Whole30.
Grocery list looking just right for the Whole30.
The one problem I have that controls me day in and day out is my digestion issues.  I'm never sure what it is exactly.  Doctor hasn't really said much more than "take this."  I often refer to it as "old lady stomach."  I don't seem to digest certain foods well.  Lots of acid splashing around.  Acid reflux occasionally at night.  It really is something that I didn't know was such a problem and really controlling my life until I did the Whole30.  It was so controlling that I wasn't sure I could do the Whole30 properly.  I lived on Tums and papaya enzymes daily.  Both of which have sugar, so not Whole30 approved.  I was a bit panicky when I thought I'd need to go a whole month without them.  I quite frankly didn't think I could, but I was going to try.

About 3 days into my Whole30 my stomach was doing better than it had in years.  I had gotten some Kombucha to drink every day in hopes that it could also help replace my Tums.  On went the Whole30 and then I was in the reintroduction phase.  I did well with the first few add ins and then I hit dairy.  I was doing the 3 day reintroduction and when I hit dairy I never really recovered when I began gluten.  Plus a lot of my gluten items have dairy in them.  My stomach was back to exactly the way it was before the Whole30.  It was now Thanksgiving and Christmas and the food started flying at me faster than Santa on Christmas Eve.  I was miserable with stomach issues again.   I knew as soon as January hit I was going right back on Whole30.  I wanted to calm my stomach down and redo the introduction of dairy and gluten.

What I got out of my first Whole30 was better digestion.  Going a month without a stomach ache of some kind was huge in my world.  I also had dramatically lower craving for sweets.  I kicked artifical sweeteners out of my life 4 years ago and it lower my sugar craving.  Who knew kicking actual sugar out of my life would also lower those cravings.  Again a huge life change not pacing around the kitchen, because I need something sweet.  I also lost 6 pounds, which is also nice.
nomnompaleos Braised Mexican beef
My goal at the end of this Whole30 is to reintroduce gluten with a careful eye to anything that ALSO contains dairy.  I need to avoid dairy to get a true reading on whether gluten is a problem for me.  Then I may back my way into dairy.  My first thought is do I really need to reintroduce it a 2nd time and test myself?  Then I think about a life without cheese and ice cream and the answer is yes.  If dairy is truly a problem I'll commit to a life with no cheese and almond milk ice cream on occasion.  My stomach will thank me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Biscotti, A Christmas Tradition

My dad loved my Hazelnut Biscotti.  I've hit on a recipe with a couple tweaks that makes a delightful biscotti.  Why hazelnut?  My dad loves hazelnuts.  As a young girl I decided I would crack open a bag of hazelnuts for my dad to eat every Christmas.  You couldn't buy them shelled back then.  I thought a fresh bag of shelled hazelnuts would be a nice treat for him.  45 years later I still do it, well, I can buy them shelled now.  We also encountered a problem about 15 years ago.  My dad ate the whole bag of shelled hazelnuts and got a stomachache from the beyond world.  A 3 day stomachache.  I had that same stomachache when I ate too many homemade macaroons.  3 to be exact.  So coconutty that they sand papered my stomach lining for 3 days and I've never been so miserable.  I didn't want my dad to ever have another stomachache at my expense.

I had nearly a year to decide what to do.  Keep the tradition the same.  He's a big boy and hopefully learned his lesson.  Or try something different, but keep it along the same lines.  I decided I'd make Hazelnut biscotti.  I spread his hazelnuts out over a gallon sized bag of biscotti.  If he ate all the biscotti in one sitting then there's just no help for that gluttony.

I've tried several recipes over the years.  All good, but all not quite right till I found this one.  It takes me about 2 hours to make a double batch.  Fills 2 gallon sized ziploc bags.  I put one bag in his freezer and wrap the other for Christmas day.  Its never put under the tree as we all have dogs and you can guess what would happen.  So, it sits up high on the mantel teasing my dad.  He's a patient man.

When Christmas comes everyone wants a cup of coffee and a biscotti.  My dad is pretty generous, but he keeps control of the bag and doles out one piece per person.  My daughter joked today that he'd use the ole "toddler trick" if any one asked for 2.  You are offered one biscotti and when you ask for two he'll turn his back snap it in two and turn around and give you "2."

This year we decided no gifts as my parents are pushing 80 and I really don't want them out shopping during cold and flu season.  They really don't want to be out doing that either.  I did however still make biscotti.  My dad did say, "Hey, I thought no gifts?"  I replied it's not a gift it's a Christmas tradition.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tosca Reno's Sugar Strike

I tried to do Tosca Reno's StrikeSugar program last year and the timing just wasn't right with my surgery.  I didn't want to ask my family to help me cook all this new food.  Although I have a wonderful family and they would have done it.  It's an ebook for sale on Tosca Reno's website.

Ironically, I had to have a scar revision from last years surgery and it hit right around when this years StrikeSugar challenge began.  I was in the regaining my energy to exercise phase when it began.  I was afraid I couldn't get my cardio up where it needed to be, but thought there is never a perfect time in my life to StrikeSugar.  I love it too much.  Don't get me wrong I've gotten a lot of sugar out of my life, but as you can see from my previous 3 posts it's not out completely not even close.

So, I joined the StrikeSugar challenge on FB.  Still have my lesson plan all printed out and ready to go from last year.  The first week was not too difficult since I already really watch my sugar and simple carb intake.  Cutting it even lower didn't cause me headaches, or mood swings, but for a few in the group they were having such a hard time.  They were cutting cold turkey.  Brave brave women!  I had to gradually get my diet worked around to Eating Clean then try the Strike Sugar program.  It's been a 3 year learning lesson for me.  The other gals a 4 week learning lesson.  Now the Strike Sugar program didn't come up until last year.  I could have done it at the 2 year mark if I'd have been healthy enough to do it.  I am now.

Buckwheat porridge with mixed berries.  I froze a couple servings of this.  It was very good cooked with spices that really added a lot of flavor to the porridge.  It is a bit gummy, so I eat it with a dollop of Greek yogurt.  Perfection.

Protein pancakes with a quick blueberry reduction syrup.  Again very good and again I froze some for future breakfasts.  The protein comes from Almond meal.  That I like.

I've eaten more eggs during the Strike Sugar Challenge than I probably all of last year.  Not my favorite until I turn it into a frittata.  That I love.

The recipe for the Roasted Tomato and Chickpea Soup is something I'll probably make forever.  My hubs even loved it.  The seed crackers were very good and for that reason I may never make them again.  High in calories and good fats and something I want to pick at and eat all day long.  When you know you can't control yourself why set yourself up for failure.

This is the Vegetable Chili con Carne (not!) and the flavors in this chili make one not miss meat.  It called for a lot of fresh basil and I thought it would overwhelm the flavors, but it didn't.  Again I froze some of this for feature lunches and dinners.  I almost didn't have enough to freeze as my family was scarfing it down.

This was a strange one.  Cauliflower pizza crust.  My husband already love cauliflower mashed potatoes, so we were willing to try this.  Do to several people saying their crust was very soggy I precooked my cauliflower and rolled it in a towel.  No sogginess for me.  No sure I'd go to this much trouble again I don't have a huge craving for pizza.  It was good.  I had enough for dinner that night and lunch the next day.  Everyone ate it and liked it.

I think what's been fun about this Strike Sugar Program is seeing all of the creative ways to get simple sugars out of ones life.  I've lost 8 pounds to boot.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Caramel Sauce... I'm cheating on my caramels!

Found a new love and fun new experiment.  I saw something on pinterest that aligned with an idea my daughter had proposed to me.  Can we make a caramel sauce out of the caramel recipe?  My daughter said the caramels tasted just like the caramel sauce at our favorite ice cream parlor Leatherby's.  My first thought was why couldn't we cook the caramel recipe less.  Then I saw the Slow Cooker Caramel Sauce pin.  The recipe was very similar to the caramel recipe.  Only a couple things differed.  1/2 as much butter, white sugar and brown sugar and lemon juice.

I decided I wouldn't add the lemon juice.  The reason given on the blog entry said it was so the caramel sauce sugar wouldn't crystallize after it was done.  WELL I saw an Alton Brown show about 5 years ago on this very subject.  He was talking about the crystallization of sugar in fudge (BTW the peanut butter fudge recipe from this episode is outstanding.)  He acted out the whole science experiment explaining when fudge crystallizes and how to stop it.  His solution was to add 1 T of corn syrup to confuse the sugar molecules and stop the crystallization.  The caramel recipe calls for 1 full cup of corn syrup.  So, I think we're covered for any crystallization problems.

I decided to use all brown sugar like my caramel recipe, but I decided to use the amount of butter called for in the caramel sauce recipe.
Finding a bowl to fit in my crockpot was the most difficult part of this whole process.  I ended up using my daughter's newer model crockpot since it was bigger and could hold the right sized bowl.
I followed the directions up to mixing the ingredients and putting them into the crockpot and there is where I diverged a little.  I didn't want to mess with it.  I wanted it to cook all night while I was asleep.  8 hours.  The recipe said it HAD to be on high to properly cook.  Since I was using my daughter's newer crockpot I knew the heat was already higher on low than mine is on low (the reason I love my old crockpot.)  I figured it might do just fine on low for 8 hours.
Before cooking.
After 7 1/2 hours

I was correct.  When I took the lid off in the morning it had been 7 1/2 hours and the texture of the caramel sauce looked a little custard like.  That did scare me at first.  I plunged my wire whisk in and began stirring.  Once it was stirred well it had the proper texture of caramel sauce.  It smelled and tasted fantastic.  I teased my daughter it was all I could do not to pinch my nose and do a cannonball right into it.  It was that good.

Now that we've actually used it on ice cream our thoughts are it does need that 1/2 cup of butter.  Though delicious and we'll eat every drop (reason why I've already given 1/2 of it away) it does need a more buttery taste to meet our idea of the perfect caramel sauce.
Makes 4 cups.  I had already filled a small mason jar to give as a gift.

Apples or ice cream it really hits the spot.
I will definitely make this again with 1 cup of butter, all brown sugar, and no lemon juice.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Caramels, My New Love

Went to my December machine knitting meeting and Ellen gave us a cute container with caramels in it.  I had one the minute I got to my car.  It was so good and I knew my daughter would love one.  I called her to tell her I had them, so I wouldn't eat them all before I got home.  She too loved the buttery homemade taste of these caramels.  I asked Ellen if I could have the recipe and she said, "Of course."  I named the recipe after her.  I do that when someone gives me a recipe that's going to be around for a while.  That way I can think about the person who gave it to me when I make it.

 Ellen’s Caramels
1 cup butter
1 pound (2 ¼ cups) brown sugar
Dash of salt
1 cup light corn syrup
1 15-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter in heavy 3-quart saucepan.  Add sugar, and salt; stir thoroughly.  Stir in corn syrup; mix well. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly.  Cook and stir over medium heat to firm ball stage (245 degrees), takes 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Pour into buttered 9x9x2 inch pan.  Cool and cut into squares.  Makes about 2 ½ pounds.

Very easy recipe.  One special piece of cooking equipment needed.  A candy thermometer.  My can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk was 14 oz.  Typo or did they use to be 15 oz?  14 worked fine.
In 30 minutes anyone could have 2 1/2 pounds of caramels cooling in their kitchen.  My aunt said they were commercial quality.
They were very easy to cut if I used the tip of my sharp knife and drew it straight toward side of pan.  I cut mine into 64 pieces.  I scored it evenly 8 across and cut each strip into 8 pieces.  They were delightfully too big.  It took me 3-4 bites to eat one.  I think next time I'll try 9 or 10 across.

I wrapped each piece in wax paper that I cut to fit.  Ellen wrapped hers in plastic wrap.  Both worked out well.  The caramels held their shape well in their wrappers.  I made the mistake of cutting my caramels while in the middle of a 49ers games.  I tried a bite resumed my game and when I came back an hour or so later they were spreading slowly.  Not enough to make a mess other than with my portioning.
I've gotten equally rave reviews.  Passed the recipe along.  I seldom hear of anyone using a recipe I passed along.  In this case 2 people have already made caramels.  Lucky them!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

There Are Still Cookies In My Life

Got the cookie bug this weekend.  I have a party or two to go to and thought I should get to baking.  I had spotted these snicker bites at the store.  Thought they'd be great on my Peanut Butter Blossom recipe instead of the Hershey's Kiss.  Time to experiment.
 Above cookies were straight out of the cookie scoop.  Wasn't sure I liked the au naturel look.
 So, for the next batch I rolled the cookies into ball.  Gave a smoother look to the cookie.
In the end I think I liked the craggy look of the cookie.  Bonus it's less work.  Don't need to roll every cookie ball.  I put a pinch of holiday sprinkles on each when they were melted.  I don't think I liked the strange crunch they gave the cookie.  Next time I'll leave them off.  The cookie was very good.  I liked the extra peanut taste of these cookies.  For me the PB Blossoms with the Hershey's Kiss was too much.  Too much chocolate.  Plus once the kiss firms up on top of the cookie its a pretty firm bite.  Do I put the whole cookie in my mouth?  It's kind of big.  If I bite it in two the kiss falls off the cookie.  These cookies with the Snicker bite are soft and stay intact when bitten.  Win Win for me!