Sunday, December 30, 2007

It's the season..

I know, It is the height of food season, and I haven't posted anything. I've been baking my mom's butter tarts, and making homemade chocolates, and kettle corn, and basically using the holiday season as an excuse to try new recipes since I am giving most of it away as gifts. And by gifts I mean little tokens to neighbors and friend's to let them know that we care about them via large doses of rum flavored chocolates in thrift store tins decorated with ribbon.

I tried making kettle corn for the first time this month using Rachel Ray's recipe. It was fast, simple, and tasted great. I added cinnamon and nutmeg to the sugar as a little flavor twist and we think it tasted quite yummy. Oh, and did I mention inexpensive? I would say though that if you do try this recipe you need to be sure to remove it from the heat the instant the popping slows down. Sugar burns fast we found out.

My snacking on baked goods has been kept to a minimum by insisting that I have to have tea to go with it. This meant that on Christmas day at the grandparent's, I finally ate my dessert a good hour after everyone else since I sat down to eat and found that the tea was all gone and had to brew some more, and keep them from clearing my plate while I waited. But in the end, I really enjoyed that dessert, and didn't really have the opportunity to eat more after since it was all already put away.

And in other news, in spite of a months worth of eating and baking, I dug out the fabulous red dress the other day for the first time this year while looking for party clothes and discovered, to my delight, that it fits again. In fact, the only place it's even a bit snug is in the chest. This is a tailored fitted dress so it's very unforgiving and it looked great. I was so happy and planning what shoes to wear with it when I realized that I couldn't wear it to the party because it's impossible to breast feed in and the Baby would be in attendance, for several hours and I didn't relish the idea of stripping naked in the bathroom in order to feed her. (Sigh. Must get a life soon and go out with just my husband somewhere that a fabulous dress won't be terribly out of place.) I'm honestly not sure I remember where it is that grownups go to have fun without children.

In other good news, I think I am finally thinking like a thin person. I'm not counting calories or feeling guilty about certain foods, I'm just eating sensibly and spending most of my effort trying to get as much healthy food into my family and myself as possible. I try to move because it feels good and my body tells me when I've gone too long without it and my muscles get tight. And I stop when I'm no longer hungry, and have treats in frequently but habitually ritualized, as with the tea thing. I'm not focused on weight loss, or gain, but every so often I look in the mirror and think, "Wow, I look pretty good." (And now you all think I'm a narcissist, but I'm not.) I don't use a scale. I can tell by the way my pants fit if I'm losing or gaining and the measures that keep things steady are mostly instinct now, as are the healthy eating habits. (I can't serve a meal and call it done without a vegetable for instance.)

So, I guess there is a pay off at the end of all that hard work and relearning after all. Make healthy behaviours habits and add habits gradually and one day it will seem like magic, like the weight came off all by itself. If I can do it....I know you can do it too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Making the Most Of Pantry Basics-Recap

Since we're heading into the Holidays and I am shopping again instead of getting by on what's in my pantry, my meals these days don't fit the guidelines I set out for this little series. And so I've decided to end it for now.

Here is a cost analysis for the 5 days.

Day 1-$6.80 or $1.70/person

Day 2-$5.30 or $1.33/person

Day 3-$5.82 or $1.46/person

Day 4-$5.89 or $1.47/person

Day 5-$6.28 or $1.57/person

That's way less than $2 a day.

Cost per person for 5 whole days? $7.53

Spread that out over a month and it's just over $45/person.

It CAN be done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Happy Festival of Fried Foods

Yes, I know I haven't posted this past week, and I'm still not done with the week of pantry basics, but we've been celebrating Hanukkah over here. And while latkes are definitely frugal, one of my granny's favorite stories to tell before she died was all about how she didn't know what to make for dinner and only had one egg in the house and so she made latkes (potato pancakes) and every one had plenty to eat, they may not count as healthy for most people. My mother in law made some this past week though, we called them leftover latkes, and she put lentils and chicken and grated zucchini in them too and they were really good, and fairly healthy as well.

I roasted that $5 turkey I told you about last night, and I now have leftovers to last several days. Hello turkey soup, and pie, and sandwiches.

One night, while trying to think of a way to use my dry goods, and honor the fried food tradition I decided to make samosas. I used a package of spring roll wrappers that I had stashed in my freezer and combined the fillings in these two recipes.

samosa recipe how to make samosas

lentil samosas

I didn't use mango powder though, or carrots because I didn't have either of those. Next time I will roast some of the panch phoran mix seeds and add them to the filling too. I think it will taste even better.

These were a total hit. My husband asked me how long he's have to wait before I made more, my kids ate them, the Girl needed encouragement to finish the filling but she finished it, and even the neighbor kid had some with us for lunch the next day and liked them.

Right now I have two stocks going, one for turkey, one for chicken. We are having shepherd's pie from Turkey leftovers tonight, and so much soup in the weeks to come. I'll get back to you soon with an authentic, only from basics day soon.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pantry Basics-Day Five and a Bonus section on beans and gas

Well yesterday was another pantry day.

Breakfast was crock pot porridge again.

Lunch was quinoa and lentils again. I mad ethem the night before so the Gh could tak ethem for lunch as well.

I was excited to find some ground beef in the freezer that I had overlooked. If memory serves I stocked up on ground sirloin when it was $ This was about 1 pound of meat. The kids wanted noodles so I cooked up about 1 pound of noodles I got at Big Lot's for $2.50 for 3 pounds.

I added two cans of Hunt's tomato sauce, also Big Lot's $.69.can, and the GH actually seasoned it because I had to feed the very cranky baby.

I defrosted a frozen loaf of the free cheese bread. (I wrap it in foil shiny side out and put it in a warm oven, 250F or so for at least half an hour. Be sure to flip it over in the middle. It comes out all warm and moist and has that fresh baked feel.)

And we had salad made from half, or less, of the red leaf lettuce I bought at the Farmer's Market last week, some organic cauliflower($.87/lb), and some sprouts. I estimate the cost of the salad to be around $1.20 or less.

We had more than half of the sauce left over and I plan to add some beans and turn it into sloppy joe's later this week.

Sauce $3.40 halved $1.70
Noddles $.83
Salad $1.20

Total cost for dinner $3.73

I was excited about the ground beef but after a week of eating vegetarian, well, and a stomach bug this weekend that kept me from eating much of anything courtesy of my sick baby, I felt distinctly uncomfortable with all that meat in my belly last night. I was getting used to the lighter cleaner feeling that comes without it.

Now onto a very serious question. One of you, and I won't say who because I'm nice like that, has indicated that you are concerned about the amount of beans I am eating because of gas issues. I thought that might be a question for more than one person so here goes.

If you find beans make you gassy, there are a few possibilities. The most likely is that the beans you are eating were not soaked first before cooking. All seeds, and beans are seeds, have in them enzyme inhibitors. These keep them from sprouting when conditions are too dry and unfavorable, they also make beans hard to digest and make it hard to absorb nutrients. Soaking changes all of this. It convinces the seed to wake up, thus removing the enzyme inhibitors turning the carbohydrate into protein and making the whole thing more digestible. For more detail go to this article that I wrote here. If you've not been soaking your beans over night before cooking them and you find you feel uncomfortably gassy after eating them, try soaking them. This may eliminate the problem.

I don't find that beans cause any extra gassiness, I get more from too much meat. But perhaps I don't notice that much because I also eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and spinach and those can cause gas too.

The second thing to consider is whether or not you are eating those beans with red meat. I find this combination often leads to excessive gas, but I don't usually blame the beans, I blame the steak or BBQ or hamburger personally. Try eating them without meat though and see if that makes a difference.

Last, for now, I know people who swear by Beano and other digestive enzymes. Beano you put on you first bite and it helps your stomach to break down the enzymes, and others you take before your meal, like papaya enzymes. Also, other things to try are drinking juice only before you eat, not after the meal as it's easier to digest on an empty stomach than full and helps the rest of the food along. Stick to water after you start eating. Wine on the other hand makes digestion easier. This is why I try to eat salad first as well. The vegetables digest better on an empty stomach and keep things moving for the other foods. There is something to be said for the whole European idea of single foods served in individual courses in an order that is meant to aid digestion.

I hope that some of those help y'all. Anyone else know something I missed? Add it to the comments.
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