Friday, May 15, 2009

The Luxury of No Choice

I have alot of luxuries in my life, or maybe I just see my life as a luxury? I don't define my life by the things I own, but by how often I experience beauty.

What is beauty? Love, of course, I've been married to the love of my life for over 20 years now, and we are expecting our first grandchild this summer (a girl!). Moving my body, sweating, breathing, training like an athlete is beautiful.....good Lord how lucky am I to be able to swing a kettlebell for a few minutes a few times a week, go to yoga as often as I feel, and walk for miles? Food & wine, the abundance, the variety, the taste....I could keep going.... Where I live is beautiful....the sea, the mountains, the weather. Friends....although I don't have many, the one I do have (lol), accept me the way that I am, and still like me, lol! Beauty is owning a washing machine, having garbage service, finding the exact change in your pocket and never being in a hurry. Beauty and luxury is having choices.

I have many choices in my life, but one of the choices I don't have is my training. I haven't missed a workout in forever, it's not a choice....I show up no matter what I feel like. And it doesn't get easier, necessarily. In fact I think I have too much choice, which makes training a little harder, because I can put it off and easily fall into skipping it all together. For instance I'm sitting here writing this blogpost, it's 7:00am, so I've chosen to not go to the 7:15am yoga class, which means I'll go to 9:15am yoga.....unless I get busy, or lazy, or tired, or that case I might decide to catch the 12 noon class, but knowing Mark and I are going to the 4:30pm class later today, I may decide to skip the idea of a "double" today, because afterall do I really need to go twice in one day?

And I can't tell you how many times....yes I can....every week....I want to skip or postpone our Wednesday, 1:00pm, Max v02 because Tuesday is my "all I can cook, (and drink, lol), day" I'm always nursing some sort of hangover on Wednesday, but I never miss an "am" yoga class, many times practicing once in the morning, training Max @ 1:00pm and then going back for a 4:30 that hardcore or what? I don't mess around when it comes to my workouts, that's what it takes. Besides, in your whole life, it's such a little amount of time, really.

I understand why people don't workout....been there, done that....many times and for many years. Let's see....I didn't work out for many years because why? It was uncomfortable....I didn't want to feel how "out of shape" I was. It was "time consuming", good Lord I already had so much to, job, watching my favorite TV show. It was inconvenient, it takes 10 minutes to drive to the gym....good Lord that's 20 minutes there and you know what I could do with 20 minutes? I was too tired......eating junk and not exercising regularly, how could I not be? It was boring.....God forbid it's boring!

What's the alternative? Especially as we get older, we get sicker, fatter, less physical, less mobile. Those are the alternatives. I know the dangers of disconnecting from my body, and no matter how hungover I am (drinking is a choice), no matter how much weight I gain (overeating is a choice), no matter how tired I am, or how little time I make, missing my workouts is not a choice.

Life is good, beautiful and luxurious. What are the beautiful, luxurious choices you have in your life?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stocking Up

My pressure cooker has turned me into a stock making crazy woman....seriously! Every scrap of onion, celery and carrot goes into the freezer for chicken or veg stock, and I have alot of scraps since I cook everyday. And now that Spring has sprung and the Market is loaded with freshness, I'm buying tons of veggies, forgetting that I can only eat so much, good Lord I can cook way more than I In fact I just told Mark the other day that I should go into the "stock making and selling" business, lol!

I still, sometimes, make chicken and meat stocks the "old fashioned" way, because I've tasted the difference long, slow, simmers make, but if I'm going to use the stock for soup purees, risottos, rices and grains, polentas, or any dish that doesn't rely on that depth of flavor, then without a doubt making stock, in minutes, in my pressure cooker, especially using veggies that would of ended up in the trash, adds not only flavor, but, how could it not add a boost of nutrition too?

The basic difference between the two is visible by the color and gelatinous texture of the long simmering stock, which means much more flavor. I use at least 4-6lbs of bones in a 12qt stockpot that will only yield less than 3 qts of dark rich stock, and I'll simmer it overnight on my gas stove for at least 8 hours. I use these extra rich stocks primarily for my base veg soup, and extra special pasta sauces (for fresh pasta), and dishes I may want that "something special" for. Whereas I can use the bones of one chicken with some scrap veggies and get 3 qts of "light" stock in the PC in less than 30 minutes!

Most recently I've been making asparagus stock using the bits of asparagus you snap off the ends....the parts that are too tough to eat, and pea stock from the discarded pods of fesh peas. With this asparagus stock I've made my risotto, and what else? Soup, of course.....Asparagus and Leek soup. Last year I made corn stock for my squash soups, and to make quinoa and other grains for salads that also had roasted corn in them, but how yummy to make corn chower using it! This year I'll add mushroom stock (you can use the stems which you might normally remove and throw out), shrimp stock....this occured to me as I was peeling them for my risotto last week (I now have a "scrap" shrimp shell collection in my frezzer, lol), and who knows what else! I do know, however, from cookbooks that I've read that cabbage, and anything in the cabbage family, are not good to be made into stocks....FYI.

Life is good, food is joy, and adding beautiful nutritious, homemade stock to your already beautiful, fresh, homemade foods is such a lovely thing.

PS If you're a vegetarian and you do not own, and use, a pressure cooker then you're crazy!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Risotto with Asparagus and Prawns

Risotto had been one of my "go to" meals for quite sometime because all you need are some basic ingredients and the variety is endless. But then I got caught up in the "low carb" craze and avoided any meals that focused on rice.....but I'm over that now, lol!

If you own and know how to use your pressure cooker and you don't make risotto on a regular basis then you're crazy, because using your pressure cooker, adds speed, convenience and ease, not to mention nutritious meals that taste could it get any better?

Basic risotto ingredients

2 T. butter and/or oil (olive of course)
1 onion diced
1 1/2 c. aborio rice
1/2 - 1 c. wine (optional)
4- 6 c. stock (or broth)
1/2- 1 c. parmesan cheese

Technique.....the old fashioned way

Heat butter (and/or oil), saute onion until translucent. Add rice and coat with fat. Add wine, if using, stirring constantly until it is absorbed into rice. Turn heat to a med. level and add stock (or broth) 1 cup at a time until absorbed....again stirring constantly until all liquid has been added, 20- 25 minutes, and rice is cooked through and creamy. Turn off heat, add cheese....voila!

Good Lord! All that time standing by the pot and constantly stirring......enter the pressure cooker!

Technique.....the new pressure cooker way

Heat pan, add 2 T. butter (and/or oil), saute onion until translucent.
Add 1 1/2 c. rice to coat with fat.
Add 1/2 c. wine, if using, stir until absorbed.
Add 4 c. stock, 1 t. salt, lock lid, bring pressure to high, cook for 6 min., let pressure come down naturally and open lid. It may look liquidy, but just stir and it will come together.
Stir in cheese....voila!

To make my Asparagus and Prawn Risotto I added the cut up asparagus once I opened my cooker, replaced the lid and brought the pressure back up to high, and then quick released the pressure (it only takes a couple of minutes). I then stirred in my peeled and deveined prawns to cook in the residual heat. (once shrimp turns from grey to pink you know they're done)

If your risotto is too liquidy once you've opened the lid, then simply turn the heat up to high and stir until the excess liquid is absorbed. Note the amout of rice to liquid you used and change it next time! I've had to tweak mine a little here and there.

Friday, May 1, 2009

And Then What? Delusions of Kirstie Alley

Mark and I were watching Oprah yesterday and Kirstie Alley was one of the guests talking about, what else but, her recent "fall off the wagon" and weight gain....or should I say weight re-gain? Sure she was light hearted about of it, poking fun at certain aspects of it, but still so delusional about what it really takes to not be fat, and/or to never be fat again. I missed the first part of the show, but I conclude that she had recently lost 20lbs (in the last month), was bragging about it, and was talking as if she's going to lose the weight again, but this time she wasn't going to lose her focus and not only get the weight off, but keep it we all think we'll do when we're feeling motivated, lol. But then what?

The part where she expresses delusions is when Oprah asked her what her goal was and her reply was......ready? "To be ripped by November!" Are you kidding? Do you know what it's like to be "ripped", much less what it takes to get "ripped"? Now I know she was half joking, but was she really? Good Lord! For two years I knew what it's like to have 17% bodyfat, after weighing over 250lbs, so I've lived the comparison.....and let me tell you, it's nothing short of a miracle! And although I've maintained my weightloss, I haven't maintained a 17% bodyfat level! Why? Because I'm not sure I want to live that way......what "way" is that? The way of restriction, the way of judgement, the way of "diet deathwatch", lol ("diet deathwatch" is a term Mark used to describe what it was like to live me last year.....not fun, lol!)

Kirstie Alley can get get ripped.....I believe that. I can get ripped.....I not only believe that, but I know it to be true. But then what? That's the part she screwed up last time! that's the part we all screw up when we think there's and end point. There's no end point.

All this talk about changing your "lifestyle".....good Lord I'm almost sick of hearing that phrase....but there's no better way of putting it. If you cannot change and adopt a healthy life, permanently, then there will be no permanent change.....period. I don't want to "maintain", I want to permanently be healthy and fit. I want to be permanently free of physical restrictions and food restrictions also! Life is supposed to be good.

I can't take credit for the title of this blogpost "And then what?" that credit belongs to Mark, because that's the he question he had after hearing Kirstie's answer about what her goal was. And I thought those words and the question were brilliant! Because the answer to that question is what will set us all free from this craziness of dieting, this craziness of thinking we can change our lives without truly changing our lives! I had a best friend once, Linda, and I remeber her saying to me one time, and I still think about these words....."How can you expect your life to change if YOU don't change?"

You can change some things for a while......and then what?


Pressure Cooking Pasta?

As I mentioned breifly, in a previous blogpost, I've been pressure cooking pasta, but only in my soups and far, lol! I love, love, love using shell shaped dry pastas in soups that have beans and small veggies bits that get cradled in the pasta! (I puposely cut veggies in a smaller dice just for this reason. One of my favorites is a Lamb stew w/orrechietti and garbanzo beans).

Since it only take 1-2 minutes to cook dry pasta in a pressure cooker (once it comes to full pressure) I usually "quick release" the pressure once my soup or stew is done, add 1/2 box (1/2lb.) of dry pasta, lock lid, bring pressure back up to high, cook for 1-2 min., and then let the pressure come down naturally. Make sure you soup or stew is highly seasoned with salt before adding pasta (the pasta will absorb much of it), and also that you have enough liquid for the pasta to cook in (see above photo compared to photo at left).