Monday, July 28, 2008

Variations on a Theme

Quinoa, spinach, garlic scape, carrot, grilled squash, apricot, chicken salad, dressed with oil and lemon.

I don't think I've had the same salad twice in the last month! To think, I used to need a recipe to make a salad, at this point I could write my own salad cookbook, lol! Forcing myself to not overshop food, in combination with having some of my veggies chosen for me (CSA), has made me get creative when it comes to making my salads.

The most important thing to learn, at least it has been for me, is that oil and lemon (or lime) is really all you need, especially in the spring and summer when fresh veggies are so full of natural flavor and goodness. I find that oil and red wine vinegar is what I use more of in the fall and winter, but red wine vinegar, (and, God forbid, lol) balsamic vinegar, pairs with tomatoes prefectly.

Once you start making your own dressings you won't use store bought again (another blog post!) Dressing are simply 2 things....oil (fat), and acid like vinegar or citrus, etc.. (I promise this will be a seperate blog post soon!)
Quinoa, arugula, grilled squash, mango, roasted jalpeno and red bell peppers, chicken, dressed with oil and lime.

I've been using brown rice and quinoa in alot of my salads to make them a little more substantial, adding in chicken as my protein.....chicken is not my first choice, but because I've been making so much stinkin' chicken stock lately, I have so much of it pre-cooked, anyway.....if you start with:

a grain, or carb, brown rice, quinoa, barley, pasta, bean, legume, etc.

a protein, chicken, shrimp, pork, beef (leftovers are great for 'next day salads), hard boiled egg, etc.

lettuce greens, spinach, arugula, baby greens, romaine, butter, chard, etc..

Any leftover veggies, especially grilled or roasted (again, you should always, always cook more for this reason), summer squash, asparagus, eggplant, corn (not really a veggie but..), red bell, cauliflower, brussels, onions etc.

raw veggies, tomato, (of course), green/red onion, shredded carrot, jalapeno, red bell, red cabbage, mushrooms, broccoli, sprouts, celery, anything super fresh and special from the farmers markets, etc.

a fruit!, either dried or excuse for not using fresh especially in the summer! Grapes (raisins), peach, plum (prune), apricot, orange, mango, strawberry, apple, fig, etc.

other stuff like, olives, capers, anchovy, nuts and cheese (in moderation), etc.

Dress salad with oil and lemon and life is good!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Could It Be True?

Well, Tuesday I picked up some just picked summer squash from my friend Wayne, about 9 lbs, and guess what else? Tomatoes! Yes, tomatoes, the first of the season.

We seemed to have skipped spring this year, and then summer showed up here and there, in the form a heatwaves every few weeks, so the "homegrown" tomato season was sure to be late, even though tomatoes have been showing up at farmers markets for weeks now. Mark couldn't understand why I wouldn't buy tomatoes yet at the farmers market until I explained to him, in my opinion, if home gardeners were't getting tomatoes yet, they weren't in season! And, with the exception of one moment of weakness a couple of weeks ago I cannot buy, or eat a tomato that's not in season.

Oh man! A nice big salad with only lettuce, sweet tomatoes, sweet roasted, summer corn, good red wine vinegar and good quality olive oil...yum! So stinkin' good! Add in some pasta and a protein, like chicken, shrimp or beef (any kind of grilled steak, thinly sliced) and that's it!

Life is good, summer is great and tomatoes rock!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Update: Orange Cauliflower Soup with Chipotle

I'm so hooked on these veggie soup purees I just can't stop making them or eating them, lol! Here's the slight adjustment I made to my Chipotle Cauliflower soup:

I used orange cauliflower, because the added color can be more nutritious. Supposedly colored veggies have more phyto-nutients. Some scientists believe the more diverse the colors in your foods, the healthier the diet. It's not that any one color has more nutrients, it's that the more variety in color that's important. There is no taste difference between white, orange or purple cauliflower.....guess what color your soup will be if you use purple cauliflower. Purple....unless you also add in the green leaves and then you will get a lovely shade of gray....."battlelship gray" lol. I had to close my eyes to eat it!

I did not roast the cauliflower first. One reason, to save time, another reason, to save calories (roasting uses additional oil), and I wanted to taste any differences. I could taste a difference because I know what I was looking for. I find roasting veggies give them a slight sweetness when the natural sugars carmelize (that's what creates the brown color).

So I listened to my first instinct (last time I made this) and added some brown sugar. I added only a teaspoon at first....tasted it, and then decided another teaspoon was fine (2 tsp. to 1 qt. soup). I chose brown sugar because it's a common sweetener used in mexican cooking. The addition of molasses makes the sugar brown, also adding a bit more flavor. Sugar is a common seasoning that brings out the sweetness in tomatoes....the adobo sauce chipotles are canned with is a tomato based sauce....I wanted to bring out that tomato-ey flavor....perfect!

Next time I might even add one more chipotle pepper, lol!

Life is good. Veggie soups are good.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cauliflower Soup with Chipotle

As much as I love, love, love my Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Curry and Raisins, I only had one large head of cauliflower and I've been dying to try it with chipotle, so here's what I came up with....

Cauliflower soup with Chipotle

cauliflower (I roasted mine while prepping the other ingredients)
onion, chopped
cauliflower leaves, chopped (optional)
red bell, chopped (again, optional. I just happen to have 1 I had to 'use or lose', lol)
chipotle peppers, 2 chopped (these come in cans w/adobo sauce)
garlic, chopped 2 cloves
stock, low sodium broth, or water (enough to barely cover veggies)

You can roast the cauliflower or not, if you do cut into small florets, toss with olive oil (1-2tbl.), and salt, and roast in the oven for 15-25 min (350-375 degrees), just until the bottom and edges start to get nice and 'roasty brown'.

Saute onion, optional califlower leaves and optional red bell in 1 tbl. oil until soft about 10 min. Add chopped chipotle and garlic for 1 min. more. Add cauliflower and stock or broth to barely cover. Bring to a boil, turn to low and cook partially covered for about 10 min, until soft. Puree.

I like my pureed soups thick, but I actually needed to add more stock...make the soup as thin or as thick as you like. But before I thinned mine out it was so spicey it gave me a couple of hiccups, lol...that's what happens to me with super spicey foods! But thinning it by adding more stock lessened the spiciness considerably.

I used only 2 chipotles because practically any recipe that calls for this ingredient only uses two, so I started there. It was plenty. One of the reasons, I'm guessing, is because these canned, smoked, jalapenos still have the seeds in them....the spiciest part of the pepper.

I will make this again, it was similar to the curry recipe, both spicy (the curry recipe spiced with a pinch of cayenne), and I was tempetd to add a touch of brown sugar at the end....or maybe my raisins, lol!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thank God Feelings Come and Go

That's all.

Waiting Out the Day

Another day goes by, did I eat less? Did I eat less than I did the day before?. Did I eat less of the right foods, and the right combination of foods, to see that stinkin' number on the scale go down from the day before? No.

I have to wait out another day. Try not to think about it. Do better than the day before. Why am I not living the life I think I want, the life I say I want. Even when I'm not 'trying' I'm still trying too hard, or not enough, which is it?

I want to throw out all the food in my house. I want to starve.

I know my life is supposed to be more than just waiting out the day.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Secret Eating part ll

I wrote this post November 19th, 2006, titled "Secret Eating"

Why do we think if no one sees us eat it doesn't count? Or it's not as much as it was? I used to eat in the car on the way home from work, then eat more when I got home, so Mark wouldn't think I ate as much as I did. But I was fat, so I must of been eating alot of food I didn't need. I wasn't "hiding " anything. I was carrying the evidence on my body.

When I see an overweight person I know they are eating too much, and probably the wrong foods, and not exercising enough. One of my favorite responses to the question " How did you lose all that weight?" is, " I stopped doing what was making me fat!". I stopped eating 4000 calories a day and I started exercising.

Now that I've been blogging for a week, I realized how much "secret eating" I had been doing. Yes, I kept a food journal, but not as religously as once had. Somehow really writing everything down keeps you out of denial, and becoming accountable is very motivating. My "secret eating" wasn't so much the amount of calories I was eating, but what kind of calories I was eating. That's what I realized yesterday. And keeping a daily log put it right in front of me.

Since writing this post I've had more insight on this subject, more insight on 'disordered' eating, more insight on the craziness of compulsive overeating, binge eating, more insight on the differences between 'eating' and 'food'. I found myself eating in secret again. What do I mean eating in secret and why do I eat in secret? I can't speak for anyone else but myself, so this is my experience.

First of all, I don't need to eat in secret. This is a free country, I'm a grown adult, I can afford as much food as I want, and it's nobody's business what or how much I eat, including my husbands. So why do I do it? Shame, why else? I mean, it's nothing to be proud of, is it? Hmmnn...nothing to be proud of....what? What I'm overeating, why I'm overeating, or both? When I chose to overeat, I know what I'm doing. I know I'm eating emotionally, and I'm chosing to do it because in some way I think it makes me feel a certain way...better....for a moment. Mark said to me recently, "No one eats ten "6 inch" cookies because they're hungry". I know the difference between eating for fuel and eating, compulsively, foods my body doesn't need.

Secret eating is....quietly going into the kitchen and starting to eat before Mark comes in to see what I'm up to and acting as if I had just taken my first bite...when in actuality I had already eaten much more. Sercret eating is.....buying a bag full of pastries at the bakery and acting as if I'm taking them to share with other people...instead of all for me. Secret eating is.....sneaking food from the 'bulk bins', and looking around to see if anyone notices. That's it! Secret eating is "sneaky"! I DON'T WANT TO BE SNEAKY!

My conclusion is that I've decided to not be ashamed. I can eat whatever I want to, but I don't want to eat behind the backs of my family and friends, because I don't need to. I allow myself to consciously chose to eat whatever I want and how much I want, but when I tell someone or eat in front of someone it makes it visible, instead of invisible, and I find myself eating less food and wanting less food because of it.

There's nothing wrong with me, I don't need to hide.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yellow Squash Soup with Jalapeno, Roasted Corn and Roasted Red Peppers

I've got squash soup coming out of my ears, lol Well, out of my freezer that is, and I'm lovin' it. I actually passed up the calories of ice cream yesterday to have a big ass bowl of this soup....I was looking forward to it all day. There is nothing more simple than pureed vegetable soups, seriuosly! Pureed vegetable soups are:

#1 the vegetable, summer squash, carrot, broccoli, celery, leeks, asparagus, cauliflower, corn, fresh peas, spinach (greens), turnip, beet, winter squash, etc.

#2 oil, onion, garlic, and even the garlic is optional,

#3 stock or water

I find no need for any type of cream, milk, yogurt to make these soups richer, blending them (pureeing) makes them "creamy" enough for me, but it's always an option. I tend to use less stock, more vegetables, to make a thicker puree.

Adding anything else is a bonus! For instance, as I was cleaning out my fridge, using the remainder of this last weeks veggies, before picking up this weeks CSA box, and for some reason I forgot about the jalapenos that I picked up from the Mexican market about 5 days could I forget about jalapenos? Wow 5 days old...they had to be used! Ah....squash soup with jalapenos, perfect. So I sauteed 4-5 sliced jalapenos with the onion before adding the stock and squash, and then pureed it all together...yum! (I thought about using chipolte w/adobo for another variation, but the dark red color would clash with the color of the summer squash...maybe cauliflower, or winter squash w/chipolte?)

I used corn stock and added leftover roasted corn, shredded beet greens, (I always add greens to my soup, if I have them, and these were from last weeks CSA box), chicken and I roasted a red bell pepper, and topped it off with a squeeze if lime! OMG, killer!

Now, one of the reasons I think my soups are killer is because I use my own stock, you can make these soups with store bought low sodium chicken broth, or water, I don't know what they would taste like but if you don't have anything to compare the taste to then I'm sure both are, on the other hand, I know what good soup tastes like, LOL! (sorry, that's my "inner bitch-snob" talking)

Flavor additions ar endless....

fresh herbs, basil, mint, parsley, dill, etc.
bacon or smokey meats
shredded greens
melty cheeses, feta, jack, parmesan, , goat, etc.
pine nuts
flavored oils (truffle)

My next food post will be homemade stock, both traditionally made and my pressure cooker method, chicken and vegetable/corn.
Life is good, homemade soup is good......and yummy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hanging Out with Fawn in the Kitchen

Speaking of hanging out with friends..... Fawn hosted a barbeque at her house and I was hoping to spend the afternoon cooking with her, but other obligations took up my afternoon and by the time I got back to her place she had done most of the prep work. But....I don't need 'exact recipes' to be inspired, alot of times it's simply a new ingredient or technique.

Since I missed most of the prep,(it would have been the time to ask questions and see an actual demonstration!), I took pictures as, kind of, my "picture recipes". Fawn was a little irritated I think, lol, at all of the pictures I was taking, but I explained to her that these pictures were going to serve as reminders of the way she puts food together, and I always learn so much. things like....

Seaweed. I've got to seriously start working with this ingredient.

One of Fawn's house guests was Takei Matsushita, attending level ll Cert from Japan, (pictured with Aaron and Jim Ryan), and he brought Fawn a few packages of seaweed. (he later told me that it was the best kind in Japan....what kind? I don't remember, but I'm going to learn more about it) Seaweed is such a nutritious food and now that summer salad season is here, it's the perfect time to learn how to work with it. Lucky for me I live in 'Japantown', and have a number of Japanese markets within walking distance of my home. I don't remember what all Fawn put in this salad, but from the picture I know there was cucumber and carrot...the dressing? I'm guessing....well, I don't remember, lol, I'll have to ask her!

Grilled salad greens and Chipotle peppers.

I never knew you could grill greens until I stayed with Fawn last Oct. and she grill chard! Grilled chard? I had never imagined. But now 'grilled salads' are all the rage in resturants and after getting so much romaine lettuce these last few weeks I considered quatering some heads of romaine and grilling them, for a 'grilled Ceaser salad'...but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. But on the plane ride to MN I thought about doing the same with cabbage and shared this thought with Fawn, so she incorporated the idea into another one of her salads, grilling the cabbage with a brushing of olive oil, and adding black beans along with some other veggies and dressed it with a chipotle dressing!

Speaking of Chipolte peppers.....these are an ingredients that Fawn has taken a liking to! She used them in the black bean dip and I think she even included them in the barbeque sauce for the ribs. Chipotle peppers are 'smoked jalapeno peppers', and are sold in cans with a spicy sauce called adobo. They are very spicy! You don't need much, rarely more than 2 peppers. (My friend Jill once mistaked a recipe that called for 2 chipotle peppers for 2 cans of chipotle peppers!!) When I got home I quickly made my own chipotle dresssing by simply adding one chopped chipotle pepper (with a little sauce) with a yogurt/mayo (2 to 1) combination, apple cider vinegar, lemon and honey. But you can add chipotle to any of your own favorite dressings for a 'kick'.

Quinoa and rice salads.

Quinoa was another ingredient I started using after staying with Fawn last year, and by coincidence the last salad I made at home before my trip was a quinoa/brown rice based salad. Quinoa is a grain that is a complete protein...that's the appeal these days, and it seems to be going through a rediscovery and it flys off the supermarket shelves! It is also a grain that is popular for anyone that needs to avoid wheat for dietary or allergy reasons (I could be wrong about this, but I seem to recall hearing it somewhere).

I use a variety of veggies with a simple oil and lemon dressing, in fact I'll be posting numerous salad ideas soon, but Fawn used a scallion and goat cheese dressing, with baby greens.

Fawn's Green onion and Goat Cheese Dressing

1 bunch chopped green onion tops (see pic)
goat cheese, 4-6 oz.
lemon juice

olive oil

Place first four ingredients in a blender, adding oil as needed to get the proper consistency. Season with salt.

Melon Balls!

Remember melon balls? Well I think it's time for a comeback! Fawn loves melon balls and what a simple way to have a little 'retro' fun at a barbeque, lol. Fawn made a lovely fruit platter with red grapes, honeydew melon and sliced mango. Who needs anything fancy?

Mark and I will be traveling to St. Paul two more times this year and lucky us, we get to stay with the Friday's next time in August (hey, on my birthday weekend, lol!). I'll also be working on bringing Fawn back to California for cooking classes this next year...woo hoo! Life is good.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bare Minimum

I am diggin' this challenge to not overshop! It's forced me to become a much better cook, in addition to saving alot of grocery money and let's not forget time! I've been able to experience how interchangeable alot of veggies are...for instance, a 'green' is a green, is a green. One 'green' might take a little longer to cook, but most can be eaten uncooked. In fact I made a salad with some baby bok choy because I didn't have any other type of lettuces, and not only was it fine, but I'll choose bok choy in th future! Really, the goal of choosing a veggie, is to choose the ones that look the freshest at the market, not just the ones that "the recipe calls for"!

I'm pretty proud that this is what the veggie section of my fridge looked like the day before I left for a 4 day trip. This was after a couple of days of making and freezing soup and quiche like crazy, and using up all other veggies for salads. I also made corn and vegetable stock in my pressure cooker! (The last picture in my last blog post gives you an idea of the stock of veggies I had on hand the Sunday prior!) I had to pick up my CSA box the night before we left, so I just washed and prepped everthing for when we got back.

The first thing I did, however, the morning after our return was to give Wayne a call to see if he had any fresh summer squash....he had just picked 11 lbs.! Fresh, just picked summer squash, yum! I made two batches of zucchini and collard green (CSA) soup with bacon. I wanted to use smoked turkey, but guess what? I didn't have any! But I did have some bacon, so I sauteed the onion and garlic in bacon fat, (after browning the bacon), adding the stock, squash and greens, cooking or 15 min.,and finished the soup with a squeeze of lemon and basil (CSA) in the blender. I grilled another 4-5lbs of summer squash, tossed w/oil, salt and red pepper flakes, and made a wilted salad with some 'scape', I brought back from the farmers market, St. Paul, summer squash w/flowers, and baby lettuce greens.

So today I'll cook the rest of the scape, and toss it with reheated grilled veggies, chicken, brown rice and some sort of lettuce green...I've got baby kale and baby bok choy from my CSA box. I've got enough fresh and frozen soup for a long time...of course that won't stop me from making more, lol! Mark and I made a Trader Joes shopping trip for dairy eggs, nuts, and cereals (and Mark's ice cream, lol). And I'm resisting a trip to Whole Foods for a chicken, or ribs...probably ribs...some smoked bleu cheese and goat cheese, because I don't really need anything....I just want to buy something, LOL!