Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tomatillos...lessons from Tracy's kitchen

Like most good home cooks I routinely create my own recipes, but before I post my Chicken Corn and Carrot Chowder recipe, that I made this morning, I thought I should preface it with some lessons from "Tracy's Kitchen".

If you have never made green salsa, green chili, or chili verde, chances are you have never used tomatillos before. Tomatillos look like green tomatoes, but they have a thin papery cover and when that's removed the skin is sticky, so you should wash them before using. The most important thing to know about tomatillos is that they are tart and tangy, with more of an acidic nature.....this is kind of important to remember when thinking about what other kinds of vegetables to cook them with.

For instance, corn. Corn is sweet, right? Or should I say you want corn to taste sweet, right? What happens when you add acid to sweetness, like vinegar with sugar? They kind of cancel each other out if you use even amounts. The more acid you add the less sweet, and the more sweet you add the less acidic something will taste.

My idea for my chicken corn and carrot chowder was that of course I would include jalapeno, along my usual onion, celery and carrots in addition to the corn. I did not want to use cream or potato to thicken the stew so I decided to use extra carrots. Extra carrots would make it thicker when I blended some of it but it should also make it even sweeter tasting (in a good way!) Sounds reasonable doesn't it?

Because I was using jalapeno it was going to naturally lend itself to a more Mexican flavored stew, so I threw in the last red bell and some cumin.....that's when I remembered the tomatillos I picked up at Mi Pueblo the other day. I'm all about adding more veggeies, therefore more nutrition, and fiber whenever, and wherever, I can, so in they went.

Now it's done...the corn chowder that is, and time for a taste..... What happened to the sweet taste of corn and carrots? Good Lord! The freakin' tomatillos! I might as well have added a cup of vinegar!

Well, all was "fixed" and the Chicken Corn Chowder is super delicious, but I will share more do's and don'ts when I post the picture and recipe next time! I'd make another batch to get it right the next time, but this one made 3 qts and we are leaving for Hungary in less than a week. I already know the changes that need to be made....the biggest one is NO tomatillos!

Oh, but it takes only 15 minutes in the PC after the pressure comes to high...a total time of way less than 1 hour for prep and finished deliciousness!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Grocery Shopping

I got into a conversation today about grocery shopping. I think most people assume I shop only organic, and at stores like Whole Foods because of course I believe in eating a healthy plant based diet...and where would a person get healthy plants? (lol, kidding)

Anyway the chronology of my grocery shopping has come full circle back to my neighborhood ethnic markets and to Safeway.

When I first started to make all of my own foods I most often shopped at a Vietnemese market 2 blks from my house. The produce was fresh and abundant and it had a meat counter with fresh seafood (I didn't cook much seafood, but it was there if I wanted it!) The prices were easily 1/3-1/2 of a mainstream grocery like Safeway or Lucky and since I ate pounds of salads I needed a large supply. The Veitnemese market also has a unique selection of dried fruits, including my favorite dried cherry tomatoes (sweet), and the store carries alot of pickled items, super inexpensive quail and quail eggs. Great place to get spices too, especially curry, red pepper flakes, balck pepper and sea salt.

I also used to shop at Costco. Goodness, that was so long ago.... I'm not above a ready made roasted chicken, for sure, and Costco does come up with some decent fruits and veg. Huge bags of baby spinach, seasonal fruits and asparagus all year long (where do they get that asparagus?) Big cuts of meat, good quality USDA Choice is good stuff. But it was difficult to dodge the ambush of freebie sample foods, and most of the rest of the store is basically crap. I haven't shopped at Costco in at least 3 years and I don't miss it.

Mi Pueblo is a large Hispanic grocery store chain about 5 blks from my house and they just opened a store in Palo Alto! A Mexican market in Palo Alto...geez....Mi Pueblo must be doing something right! I's the humongous burritos they sell in the in store resturant all day long. Mi Pueblo has almost as much junk food as Safeway, just a different kind. They have a bakery with traditional mexican pastries....and cheap too! They have an in house meat counter with inexpensive prices (that's where I get my smoked turkey thighs for $1.49 lb), and authentic chorizo (what's not to like about chorizo?). Mi Pueblo does not have huge selection outside of the most popular types of produce, but recently started carrying chard (no collards), and Italian parsley...but the avocados, jalapenos and limes are cheap, cheap, cheap! And no where else could I get cherimoya or mammey fruit.

I haven't been to the flea market going on 3 years now but when I did I used to get alot of my salad staples, jalapenos and grapes. I used to buy fresh grapes by the pounds. You could also find fresh figs for $2 a basket in June and Sept., and they tasted great, unlike any fig I've ever bought in any grocery store....seriously I've never purchased one good fig at a store.

Whole Foods, or as Mark used to call it, Whole Wallet! After I lost all of my extra bodyweight I learned more about organic vegetables and that's when I switched to buying all of my produce and meats at Whole foods. Not that I don't believe that organic (and local) is better for you, it's just that now I don't think un-organic is bad for you! Lucky me that most of my groceries were ingredients to make my own foods and not the ready made foods they make and sell in the store, as it was not uncommon for me to get out of there spending less than $50. The bulk section has the best deals, and if it weren't so convenient, two blks walk from Girya, I'm not sure I would go out of my way to shop there. The prices can get ridiculous and that's the biggest reason why I don't feel the need to shop is the only place I can get lamb however, and I probably eat more of lamb than the average person. (you can also get buffalo)

Trader Joes. I really dislike Trader Joes....not that I don't shop there, I do!. When Trader Joes first opened they had quite a bit "gourmet" type foods but within a very short time every product became a "Trader Joes" brand....suspicious to me. Call me crazy, but I started to feel as if I was buying generic products....I'm not hating on generic, but..... The final straw one time was when I read the label of the red bell peppers I was going to buy....they were a product of Holland! Holland! Goodness how much did it cost to get those to San Jose? I quit buying TJ's produce for a long time after that. Trader Joes has so much crap, and on top of that it's crappy crap! Most of the sweets have fake fats and the calorie count of many of TJ's foods are off the charts. I do however make a weekly "stock up" shopping trip with the same items every time. Cream, yogurt, baby spinach, mushrooms, cheese, ak-mak crackers, raw almonds, brown rice, coconut water, wine. TJ's has the only ready made salad dressing I use, it's a low calorie spicy peanut dressing you find in the refrigerated section. Pretty much that's it....unless it's this time of the year...has anyone tried the Angelcots? Dee-lish!

Farmers' Markets. I think for about a couple of years I would hit a Farmers' Market everyday from Wednesday-Sunday. Good-ness! I was a Farmers' Market snob. I never bought any produce anywhere else from my onions to my celery and cabbage. All that produce would weigh a ton! I miss some of it, but not enough. I've only been to the FM once a week for that last couple months after my Saturday classes in Palo Alto because it's about 4 blks away. Funny thing though....I buy chicken livers, and cheese/yogurt. Rarely any veggies or fruit. I cook through the week so I don't need to stock up anything on Saturdays.

Super Kyo-po Korean market was one of my weekly stops at one time, about 2 miles from my yoga studio. Like most Asian markets the produce is fresh, plentiful and inexpensive. Yellow onions for $.29lb (I use a ton of onions), and that's where I discovered dried persimmons. Dried mushrooms are a bargain and so is sesame oil. I was hooked on a Korean salad called Jap-chae and found an excellent youtube video with very clear instructions (check it out, I love this woman's videos and recipes, I hope she is making a ton of money!). If I ate noodles more often I would still make it....hmmnn... This market also sells, and is the only source I know of for fresh kimchi. Huge heads of pickled and salted cabbage for about $2-$ know what kind of work goes into making that? They have lots of stuff I have no idea what it is...maybe it's time to go back.

Dobashi Japanese Market. This is a small Japanese market 2 blks from my house (I live in San Jose's Japantown). It has seaweed, rice, soy sauce, moshi, horribly tiny and dry cookies sort of things.....but it does have a beautiful produce and meat section with all organic products...if I'm in the mood. Dobashi also has ready made sushi and seaweed salad, pot stickers and the such and is the only place I can find "golden yolk" eggs, Marks favorite since he cooks an egg stir fry everyday. Everything is super expensive but it's convenient when I only need a few of those specialty items I mentioned.

Safeway. Theres' something to be said about being able to buy chicken and laundry detergent in one stop! That was part of drawing me back into Safeway. The other part was Mark Bittman, one of my favorite cookbook authors. In his book "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (a must have btw) he explains how one of the reasons whey he most often shops at places like Safeway is because he wants his readers, no matter where they live or what kind of budget they are on to be able to get the ingredients in his recipes easily. Hey, if Mark Bittman shops at Safeway the I can too! Safeway has some decent beef,(Ranchers Reserve), in fact I feel that the skirt steak is best quality, hands down. Other than that it's not anything special but the prices are fair and it's convenient.

I go to some kind of grocery store almost everyday because I have the time. I like to buy fresh and affordable foods and I try not to be so picky. Am I the only person that shops at half a dozen different stores every week? I have yet to make it to an Indian, Greek, or Persian market.....but I know where some are and it's only a matter of time....

Picture above: What I picked up yesterday at Mi Pueblo....sorry for the fuzzy pic but I hadn't planned on taking it and I had to do it quick as my tomatillos and Honeydew melon where already swiped through! I spent $40 ($14 of it was the chicken and cottage cheese).

honeydew melon
6 lbs whole chicken legs
2 pints cottage cheese (full fat)
5 limes, 2 lemons
5 ears of corn
2lbs of red grapes
2 fuji apples
yellow onions (no shopping trip would be complete without onions!)


Sunday is usually my first yoga practice of the's the day after my longest and hardest kettlebell workouts on Saturdays. In addition to having my own 8-9:00 training I teach/lead 2 hours of swings and snatches, maybe one private session, and then I end my Saturday morning with one last 45 minutes "Learn to Swing" yoga (ya think?) So, I look forward to my first practice of the week when I get to start all over again.

Yesterday was different....not that I haven't ever taken a Sunday off, I have, but I never felt good about it. My obsessive, probably fear based, habit of training too much won't let me take a day off from doing some kind of physical activity.

I get asked this question all the time, "Can I train kettlebells everyday?" To which I always answer "no", and then I add "if you could then I would!". Recovery always has to proceed adaptation.....adaptation is the effect you are trying to achieve. The effect is a change in ability, more sets/reps/weight, or a change in quality, more muscle/body composition change. Everything you do in the gym has an effect, you want it to be a positive effect, not a negative effect. The basis of overtraining is doing "junk miles" that do not make you stronger and fitter it makes you weaker and less fit.

.....back to yesterday. I hadn't planned on taking the day off but I got busy doing stuff around the house that took priority and I was "on a roll"..... I can't tell you how many times I talked myself out of, then into, then out of, then in to, whether to go yoga practice. I finally came to this conclusion. Recovery.

What is recovery? I'm looking for the deeper meaning of recovery because at first glance recovery seems like kind of a negetive state of being. I usually think of it as having to overcome something unwanted. Recovering from illness or alcoholism/overeating, etc. I don't relate it to a positive.....maybe that was part of the problem.

Training, the physical act of training, is the beginning, the start of change, and recovery is the finishing touch. I started to think about what it would feel like to let my body finish doing the work I so consistently ask it to do. What did I think I was in a hurry to get done? This is where my feelings of fear had to be looked at head on.

I feel like I'm in a hurry to be all the things I think training does for me. Stronger, leaner, more fit, more capable of the skills I practice. Being, or training for, all of those things is fun and rewarding unless it makes you feel bad. Bad because you think you should be doing more. Bad because you feel like it's not enough. Bad because maybe you don't believe you are already where you are supposed to the process. Enjoying the process....

Recovery is part of the experience, recovery is part of the process. Recovery is part of the reward. Recovery means trust and relaxation. I'm already where I'm supposed to be, there's no rush....there's no rush, enjoy the's magic.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Have the Vision

I often get asked the question of motivation....what motivates me? It's a crazy good life and when you think you are not looking for the answers, that's when the answers find you. I love what I do. I love that I do, what I do, with the love of my life, my husband Mark.

I remember watching an interview with Cher....she called her fame an "accident"..... I could only interpret that as her way of describing the fact that she would have done everything she did regardless of getting any attention, money or fame as a result....she was only being true to herself.

I don't know why I do what I do, only that it feels good, it feels right and I couldn't do it any other way. I have the vision.
The vision is that of rising above and rising to the occasion. Not rising above anyone or anything else, but that of rising above my own feelings of insecruity, inabilitiy and maybe invalidity. Those kind of feelings suck, and I refuse to buy into them anymore. Rising to the occasion to do the things I know my body needs to live life to it's fullest, to be my true self.

Destiny. "F" destiny. Nothing is carved in stone. Life can change in a moment. Many times life does change in a moment. There are alot of things we cannot control, but we can control how we feel.

Feelings can you feel that? Seriously, smile! Can you feel that?

I have the vision. The vision is that of weightlessness. The "feeling" is light. Being "light" with myself, feeling "light" in my body. Being in control of a 26lb weight, flinging it through the body just along for the ride.....and what a ride!

I'm reminded of a wealthy client/student....someone that hires me to teach them how to's just someone looking to feel better, money or no money, fame or no fame....inside we are all the same. Money, fame, doesn't guarantee ease. Money, and/or fame doesn't guarantee feeling good about yourself, it doesn't guarantee feeling "light". Many times it's who we perceive as more fortunate that complain the most.

I'll keep showing up for the next workout, whether it's at 6:00 am , or 6:00pm (yikes I may be leading a class through high volume swings at 6:00pm in Hungary!). It's what I do, it's who I am. Who are you? What's your vision? What's your dream? What's stopping you?

See it, do it, be it.

"Can Have's"

I think most people that do indeed eat "healthy", including myself for sure, look forward to the food choices they make everyday. Eating good quality foods is a craving, not a chore. Processed foods and foods prepared with too much salt, sugar and fats become unappealing, unappetizing and sometimes even inedible. In fact, unless I was stuck with absolutely no choice, and I was about to pass out from hunger, could I eat something that doesn't taste good....unhealthy or "healthy". For instance, I will often will throw away fruit that isn't sweet, (I'll throw out an entire watermelon)or meat that's become dry. Personally I need to eat some kind of freshness in the form of a vegetable (s) with almost every meal. Fruit would be second, but my body craves foods that comes from nature.

Often when someone starts a diet the first thing they do is make a list of "restricted" foods. Carbs probably top the list, fat and sugar coming next. I think when you take into consideration the list of "can't have's" first it doesn't help to set a dieter up for long term success.

When I started my diet no foods were off limits, and it's still that way. Sure I restricted my calorie intake, but I made a game out of it. Instead of thinking I could only have so many calories I thought about how much food could I fit into the calories I could have (foods I liked of course). My focus was on foods that I loved and looked forward to eating, which were whole foods, and meals made with real ingredients that are naturally lower in calories anyway.

The habit of calorie counting has become second nature to me, I probably couldn't stop if I wanted to! But to be honest, if you eat foods that you don't prepare yourself, and with all of the abundant food choices out in the world today, I feel that you must educate yourself about all aspects of nutrition including calorie content if you tend to overeat. Even if you aren't in the habit of overeating being aware of the nutritional content of the foods you eat is important for good health.

But when the focus is on restriction it is still restriction. How does that phrase go? "What you resist persists."

When it comes to counting calories instead of focusing on how few you can have, or how few you should have, think about how many you "can have". With so many diet theories about which types of foods are "good" and which foods are "bad" when wanting to create a desired physical effect, whether it's weightloss, fatloss, muscle gain, or performance, instead of making a list of "can't have's", make a list of "can have's". Make sure the "can have's" are foods you love and fit into your vision of how you want your body to look and feel like, as well as your vision of how you want to live your life. Soon the "can have's" will become "must have's". The choices will find you.

I'm convinced this is one of the reasons why my compulsive overeating binge mentality has all but disappeared. I don't restrict any kinds of foods, and I eat foods I love that fit into the vision I have for my health, weight, and life.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Hardest Thing I Do All Day

I've recently decided to back off practicing 2 back to back Bikrams classes because I wasn't getting the desired affect for the time invested. Was I improving my practice enough to justify spending over 4 hours at a time, 3 days a week? Hmmnn....or was I driven for another reason...ego maybe, or trying to sweat off an extra pound or two?

I'm not going to lie, the Bikrams practice comes relatively easy for me. Bikrams yoga suites my strengths, I love the heat and I love to sweat. But that all changes around 12 noon! I've switched from a double morning class to only one noontime class and let me tell the hardest thing I do all day! I get up at 4:00am, since I'm not training early, I get busy writing, cooking, cleaning, 10:00-11:00am I've been up 6-7 hours already and I start to get hungry and tired. Argh, now I'm in yoga from 12-1:30pm I don't get to eat my first real meal until 2:00pm!

But I know if I miss this last class the opportunity is gone for the day. Silly to flake out just because I don't "feel" like it...but it does cross my mind.

A couple of months ago I wrote a blogpost about recommitting to daily walks again. I challenged myself to walk everyday for 30 days...did I succeed? Well, I didn't do it everyday because, frankly, I was too tired from all of the other training I do! But I can honestly say that although I only completed about 75% of the commitment, what I did do was reestablish the habit of walking more regularly. And for that I am grateful. I still walk at least 3 days a week for 30-40 minutes.

Once a week I take one of those walks at a nearby highschool track that's a very popular spot in a neighborhood close to my yoga studio (I walk before yoga). There I see all kinds of people, young, old, thin, heavy, in shape, out of shape, etc., and in fact if I get there early I'll see at least 3 "bootcamp" type fitness programs going on with at least one dozen participants each! (no kettlebells though).

Mostly I see regular people though. The ones I'm mostly impressed with are the ones that have obvious challenges. I'm including three pictures of some of the ones I see almost eveytime I go. All three are elderly and it seems clear to me that this is probably the hardest thing they do everyday....but good for them! Heck if one woman can commit to walking even with a cane then how could I complain?

Being able to have a yoga practice, to be able to pay for it, have a car to drive to it, have friends to practice with, and have a nice big home cooked lunch afterwards with a big strong handsome husband waiting at home for me....even if it's past noontime, if that's hardest thing I do all day then how lucky am I?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Classic 100", Three Beginner Level Swing Workout

"Classic 100" will be the name of all the workouts I have designed using my "classic" swing progession combinations (*and one new one) to total 100 swing reps in some way, shape or form! In these first "Classic 100" every rotation totals 100 swing reps and there are 5 rotations equally 500 swing total swing reps. It should take 25-30 minutes, or longer, depending on how long your individual rest periods are. These workouts easily become more advanced by using a heavier bell (this sugesstion is only for KB athletes that have established higher work/rest ability)

I apologize for not doing a video to accompany this but I didn't anticipate posting these workouts. If you have my DVD "Programming the Kettlebell Swing" all of this should make perfect sense. Please don't think I post workouts contingent on purchasing my DVD, because I don't of course. I will work on posting video this next week demonstrtaing all of my KB Swing Progressions in these workouts, as well as one new one I have never posted before!

Here is a "Classic 100" beginning level "TracyStyle" high volume swing routine. A beginning level means that you have, or are close to, being able to swing continuous reps/sets at an "equal work to rest" ratio, OR you can swing up to one minute long (40 reps). Each of these routines, (and the next to follow) have the same number of swing reps, the same swing combinations, and are "equal work to equal rest". All sets are paced at 10 swings per 15 seconds. The numbers in (parenthesis) are the seconds of work to rest. For instance 15/15 means that it should take you 15 seconds to do the prescribed number of reps, with the same 15 sec time taken for rest before the next work set begins.

A longer rest period is always, always an option for any level. Listen to your body and breath, and if either starts to get out of control then stop. One of the requirements for anyone new coming to my Beginners Level Swing class is they must be able to self scale. If I see someone's not a good thing. The goal, the purpose is not to die. The goal, the purpose, is to be in control of the bell, not to let the bell control you. Acceleration and power is always the goal, so that means never use a bell that is too heavy...serioulsy. There's no rush, afterall Mark always says "you still have to show up in the gym for the next workout!"


In this first routine the longest set in each rotation is 45 seconds (30 reps), with most of the sets being only 15 sec (10 reps) long. There are no 1 minute long sets until the next workout. This first workout also gives the beginner the option of taking a longer rest period after the last set in each rotation. The first goal is for each rotation to last 5-6 minutes....and the next goal is to complete all 5 rotations, no matter how long the rest periods you take are! No worries if you don't complete all 5 the first time, it gives you something to work towards! It can take 4-12 practice workouts to complete this entire routine.

"Classic 100" #1

10 2 hd sw (15/15)
20 2 hd sw (30/30)
10 2 hd sw (15/15)
20 2 hd sw (30/30)
30 2 hd sw (45/45)
10 2 hd sw (15/up to 1 min rest)

10 tr (15/15)
20 tr (30/30)
10 tr (15/15)
20 tr (30/30
30 tr (45/45)
10 tr (15/up to 1 min rest)

10 tr (15/15)
1 sw, 1 tr x 10 (30/30)
10 tr (15/15)
1 sw, 1 tr x 10 (30/30)
2 sw/1 tr x 10 (45/45)
10 tr (15/up to 1 min rest)

5/5 x 1 (15/15)
5/5 x 2 (30/30)
5/5 x 1 (15/15)
5/5 x 2 (30/30)
5/5 x 3 (45/45)
5/5 x 1 (15/15)

10 2 hd sw (15/15)
1 sw, 1 tr x 10 (30/30
10 tr (15/15)
1 sw, 1 tr x 10 (30/30)
2 sw, 1 tr x 10 (45/45)
10 2 hd sw (15/15)


In this next workout the worksets increase in reps to 40, which means the last and longest sets in each rotation will be 1 minute long. As in all beginners level workouts rest periods are up to you. But try and not take extra rest until the end of a rotation. At that point take as long as you need to go the distance in the next full rotation.....just a suggestion though!

"Classic 100" #2

10 2 hd sw (15/15)
20 2 hd sw (30/30)
30 2 hd sw (45/45)
40 2 hd sw (1 min/1 min) *this is the most challenging set btw!

10 tr (15/15)
20 tr (30/30)
30 tr (45/45)
40 tr (1 min/1 min)

10 tr (15/15)
1 sw, 1 tr x 10 (30/30)
2 sw, 1 tr x 10 (45/45)
3 sw, 1 tr x 10 (1 min./1 min)

5/5 x 1 (15/15)
5/5 x 2 (30/30)
5/5 x 3 (45/45)
5/5 x 4 (1 min/1min)

10 2 hd sw (15/15)
20 tr (30/30)
2 sw, 1 tr x 10 (45/45)
5/5 x 4 (1 min/1 min)

"Classic 100" #3

10 2 hd sw (15/15)
20 2 hd sw (30/30)
30 2 hd sw (45/45)
40 tr (1 min/1 min)

10 tr (15/15)
20 tr (30/30)
30 tr (45/45)
4 sw, 1 tr x 10 (1 min/1 min)

10 tr (15/15)
1 sw, 1 tr x 10 (30/30)
2 sw, 1 tr x 10 (45/45)
5/5 x 4 (1 min./1 min)

5/5 x 1 (15/15)
5/5 x 2 (30/30)
5/5 x 3 (45/45)
40 2 hd sw (1 min/1min)

10 2 hd sw (15/15)
20 tr (30/30)
2 sw, 1 tr x 10 (45/45)
5/5 x 4 (1 min/1 min)


The next training blogpost will be at least two Intermediate level "Classic 100" KB Swing workouts.....with the appropriate video....promise! In the mean time start here, do a bit of work so you can cruise into the next level. Again, no matter what level you consider yourself to be you should be able to make these straightforward (but not simple!) workouts challenging. In fact the more advanced you consider yourself the easier it should be for you to "scale up"! With no problem I could make all of these workouts the very least do 2 back to back!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Corn Yogurt "Pudding"...and my newest favorite kitchen utensil

Well, here it is! My absolute favorite dessert these days, corn and yogurt! I love it so much I swear I look forward to it everyday and I've made it at least 1/2 dozen different ways from tangy to super sweet.

It all started with a can of creamed corn..... I never buy canned veggies, but a couple of years ago (yep 2 years ago) I bought a can of creamed corn to try a "corn ice cream" recipe, and there it sat, way back on the top shelf of my pantry. This was back in the day when I was making alot of my own frozen yogurt...I may have posted about that. First of all, I love canned creamed corn! Anyway, I was jones'n for something sweet a few weeks ago and I thought, "hey", I think I'll put that can of creamed corn in some yogurt! Viola'....OMG....loved it!

You would think I would have gone out and bought more canned creamed corn.....and I thought about it....(seriously I freakin' loved it). But I know the reason why I loved it so much, it was because there's so much sugar in it and it's thick and "creamy". I also know that there is no cream in canned creamed's thickened with cornstarch. I'm not discriminating against cornstarch, but I knew I could get something just as yummy without the cornstarch (I'll save the artificial thickeners for when I really need them, lol) Below I share some of my favorite ways to make corn and yogurt "pudding".

This story brings me to share my newsest kitchen 1/2 c. "food disher". Looks like an ice cream scoop, but it's called a "food disher". It's a professional utensil used in the food service to portion out exact serving sizes. Why would I need to measure out an exact 1/2 c. serving? Because as I mentioned I love my yogurt and corn so much I could easily get carried away! I use it to measure out 1 c. yogurt, and I even use it to measure oats, cooked rice, cooked beans & lentils, all kinds of stuff.

It's too easy to "fudge" on serving sizes. I can pretty much "eyeball" a half cup serving, but then I'll take an extra spoonful thinking that "it's just a little more"! Well, "a little more" and "a little more" add up to "a lot more"! If I chose to take more than my scoop (s), well then I can't be in denial about it. "Food dishers" are available in all kinds of sizes and are really inexpensive, I think this cost me about $12 at Smart n Final. (you can find them less expensive on the internet but you'll pay S & H).

Corn and Yogurt Puddings

Here's the first version, which is a bit "white trashy" since it uses canned creamed corn.....oh, a whole can of creamed corn is only about 250 calories, and 1 c. plain yogurt is around 130-150. So for under 400 calories you get a huge serving.....OK, I admit, I fall victim to huge servings sometimes! If you don't have a tummy as big as your eyes only make 1/2 of this recipe...or
maybe share it with someone so you don't go back and eat the other half! I'm not going to lie, it probably is the equivilent of eating a candybar!

1st version

1 can creamed corn
1 c plain yogurt

(if you like it super duper sweet, but trust me this is sweet enough, use 6 oz vanilla yogurt)

2nd version

1 ear white corn, roasted, with a good pinch of kosher salt (white corn is sweeter)
1 c. plain yogurt
1- 1 1/2 tbl brown sugar

3rd version add the juice of one lime

4th version

1 ear corn (roasted, and with a good pinch of kosher salt)
6 oz vanilla yogurt

5th version

1 ear corn (roasted and w/good pinch salt)
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1/2 c cottage cheese
1-1/2 tbl brown sugar

6th version

1 ear corn (raosted and w/good pinch salt)
1/2 vanilla yogurt
1/2 c cottage cheese
juice of 1 lime

7th version

1 ear corn (roasted and w/good pinch of salt)
1 c cottage cheese
1-2 tbl brown sugar
juice of 1 lime

8th version

1 ear corn (roasted and w/good pinch of salt)
juice of 1 lime
1 c plain yogurt (really good quality yogurt is a must)

In this last version I don't add any sweetness so it's super tangy! Without the sugar I can eat more! I'm lucky that I found this "killer" sheep's milk yogurt at the PA Farmers' Market and it's so creamy and tangy that I hate to "ruin" it with the addition of sugar! I have to assume it's full fat, but still it's only 130 calories per c. for plain. The woman that makes the yogurt is the same one that I get the feta for my savory oats. Unfortunately she will only be making yogurt for another couple of weeks....but if you have access to homemade yogurt then I think you will find there's no need to add sugar.

This has motivated me to start making my own won't be made with sheeps milk, but I think it will still be better than store bought.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Grim Reaper

There seems to be this weird cloud of depression that looms over discussions of diet, weightloss and how to get in shape, as if the Grim Reaper himself was delivering the bad news. Depression over what seems to be, sometimes, an insurmountable task. No one, or very few people, are happy being fat, or unhealthy, or not fit, yet they're not happy with the answer about how to fix it.....because it can be fixed.

What's so bad or depressing about feeling good? What's so difficult about the thought of eating foods our bodies crave for good health, and moving our bodies in ways that make is stronger and feel more alive?

Well, I can only answer that based on how I used to feel.

It didn't feel good to me to be fat, but at the time it felt good to eat unlimited and unrestricted amounts of foods more. It was a trade off I consciously made everyday. I wasn't happy about being fat, but I was happy. I knew exactly how to change it, and when the time came I proved it! I was finally fed up with looking and feeling the way I did I made some major changes. The major change was the kinds of foods I was eating, but I didn't change the amount of food I ate. I found a way to eat unlimited and unrestricted amounts of vegetables, and in a way that was satisfying. The only foods that were off limits were anything I didn't make myself, and topping the list was fast food.

If I felt I had to eat small amounts of foods, especially foods I didn't enjoy much, was not work for the long haul....that would have been depressing....or should I say, felt depressing, because it shouldn't be the end of the world to not be able to stuff my face. Ultimately I think it would be super to feel happy and satisfied eating less and feeling lighter (I've got to meditate on that one).

The thought of exercising was depressing because I had never done anything that made me feel better about myself fast enough to motivate me to keep going, or to keep showing up! This is why it's so important to chose something that allows you to be successful in seeing and feeling progress. Chosing something really hard for an unfit body, like running , or Crossfit can be equally unmotivating if it breaks you down. Breaking down is not progress, being or feeling successful at something is.

Even if you are not ready to make changes, big or small, towards a healthier life know's never too late to kick the Grim Reaper in the ass! The Grim Reaper may seem to be in the form of diet and exercise, but really He's in the unhealthy amounts of food we eat, an inactive lifestyle, and the feelings of not being in control of the things we say we really want for ourselves.

Some people may think that it's easy for me to say these things, and you know what? It is easy for! But it can be easy for you too. I don't think I'm more special, more lucky, or smarter, but I do think I'm special, lucky and smart! And you should feel the same way about yourself. I don't write blogposts to tell you what to do, I just journal what I do and how I feel. The last thing I want to write, say, or do, is anything that would make someone feel defeated, unmotivated, or without hope.

Follow up any hopeless thoughts with hopeful thoughts. The Grim Reaper hates hope!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why eat out when you don't have to?

Mark was getting home late from work yesterday and called me from his last stop to ask me if I could cut up some veggies for his usual stir-fry lunch so it would be almost ready by the time he got home. Of course I said I would, and I did. He arrived 10 minutes later, starving, and all that needed to be done was to add the final ingredient, eggs....he does that part because he likes his eggs a certain way!

After he ate I said to him, "you could have stopped somewhere and bought something to eat!" In my judgement Mark can eat whatever he wants to so why not just stop for a burger or something? I already knew the answer he was going to give me because it's the way I feel too.....why stop and buy inferior food when there's plenty of good food at home waiting? And that's exactly what he said! I thought about how far we've come...not just me, but now that I know how to feed myself and my family good foods we all expect nothing less.

I remember the day that I used to eat out at every meal.....well, at least, more like 99% For the life of me I can't remember anything that I cooked....what did I cook? Oh sure, maybe every once in a while I pulled out the recipe for lasagna and made super big pan of it....oh, I know, I used to make enchilada casseroles....alot! Lots and lots of cheese, plenty of meat, drowning in sauce and not a green vegetable in sight, lol! (I even put diced potatoes mixed with the ground beef, as if the tortillas weren't enough! At least I knew how to dice a potato, lol).

When I think back to those days, calling on my way home from work....not to ask for some veggies to be cut up, but to ask what kind of fast food should I drive through and pick up. I remember very clearly at one point when nothing sounded appetizing and no one could make a decision...had we run out of good tasing options, or had our "good taste" run out? lol

Although Mark didn't verbally express his tiredness of all the crappy food, I could tell he wasn't eating food he enjoyed and was kinda sad about the whole thing. Here I was fatter than ever, and getting fatter, bringing home greasy bag after greasy bag of shit....

It's a miracle really.

Heading home from Palo Alto this morning I knew I had a salad in the fridge waiting, in fact I had a number of other choices too, and I thought about if I had to stop for a meal what would it be? It would be the same kind of foods. A salad, some soup, some kind of protein, a yogurt, an apple, etc. There will be lots of times when I will have to eat out, but for now I don't!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chicken Hearts....appetizer, or main course?

I'm stil making chicken liver pate regularly so I sent Mark down to the Farmers' Market to pick up the livers....he came back with 2 lbs of livers and 1 lb of chicken hearts too! I've eaten....oh goodness for lack of a nicer name, pig heart, but I didn't cook it, and at the end of the day it just didn't "sit" well in my mind or tummy (same for sushi btw!) I'm all for giving things another chance so I went online to see if I could find a recipe to guide me on how to use these hearts.

This is what I like about the one I decided to try.

It suggested brining the hearts for 3 hours in a salt/sugar solution.....well, I knew that was going to be a winner. Since chicken hearts are very small, brining them for 3 hours was no problem. Everything I read about the actual cooking of chicken hearts was to use a fast cooking method like grilling, pan fry, stir fry, etc. A total cooking time of 3-4 that's quick!

A salad made the most sense. All I had was baby greens, a baby zucchini, and shitake mushrooms. After I dried off the brined hearts I quickly pan fried them in a tbl of olive oil. I also gave the mushrooms a quick stir fry in another tbl of oil. The zucchini I sliced paper thin with a mandoline and left it raw to wilt with the greens in the dressing. I cut the hearts in half, tossed the salad with a little more oil and red wine vinegar. After I took this quick photo I ended up crumbling a bit of blue cheese on top. (this made two salads with a few hearts leftover)

I love this idea of brining, and it seasoned the meat perfectly. It was super easy and I think it'll work great with chicken breast also. Personally, although the salad was super tasty and packed with flavor and nutrition, it wasn't quite satisfying. Lesson? I think these little nuggets would make a great appetizer, but not a main course.

For chicken hearts

1 qt cold water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar

1-1 1/2 lb chicken hearts, visible arteries trimmed

Brine refrigerated for up to 3 hours. Remove from brine, pat dry before cooking. (do not save brining liquid)

Have you had, would you eat, do you like hearts? If so in what way do you use them?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Advanced "Snatch Transfer" workout

OK.....ready? Here is an example of an "advanced" level workout....but before I get to the routine I should clarify what I mean by "advanced".

Advanced means that you have built a high level of cardio endurance and strength conditioning that only comes from consistent training. No worries if you are not there yet, it can come quickly and increase noticeably from one workout to the next. Consistency is key and if you are not at this level then you have something to work towards. It has taken me years to get to this point and more important than comparing yourself to my level is steadily moving towards the best you can be, the best you can perform, the best you. Age, bodyweight, athletic/non-athletic history all come into account. Training is not competition.

Being able to swing, or snatch for 30 seconds at a time will take you a long way. In fact you don't ever need to swing or snatch more than 30 sec intervals to get what most people want from their training which is to stay or get lean and fit, build muscletone and strength, not get injured, afterall just get a heavier bell and 30 seconds will seem much longer! But if you want a little more variety, or maybe a little more challenge of course you can build your ability to swing and snatch for as long as you want to. (I've swung for a continuous hour, over 2100 reps, and snatched for 40 or 50 continuous min 1000 reps).

Intensity changes based on three things. Time/length of workset, weight of KB, and if you have my Programming the KB Swing you should know the next one....speed! Here we go....

Advanced Snatch Transfer Workout #1

8 sn/tr, 30/30 sec (work to rest)
16 sn/tr, 1 min/30 sec
18 sn/tr, 1 min/30 sec
10 sn/tr, 30/30 sec
20 sn/tr, 1 min/30 sec

repeat in this order x 5

6.5 minutes to complete one rotation x 5 rotations = 32.5 minutes

Advanced Snatch Transfer workout #2

8 sn/tr, 30/30 sec x 5 = 5.0 min.
16 sn/tr, 1 min/30 sec x 5 = 7.5 min
18 sn/tr, 1 min/30 sec x 5 = 7.5 min
10 sn/tr, 30/30 sec x 5 = 5 min
20 sn/tr, 1 min/30 sec x 5 = 7.5 min

32.5 min

Same snatch/transfer combination sets, same work to rest ratio....different workout completely!

Have fun with it!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Where's the Party?

I've been keeping a consistent food journal for the past 9 weeks. It's has been interesting in many good ways, one of which ended up relieving me of the stress of my upcoming vacation.. After I wrote the blogpost about not feeling like I had an "off switch" and worrying about leaving the comforts of my routine for so long I realized that my food journal held the answer to my worry.

I know the exact range of calories I need to eat to maintain my current bodyweight. It's true. It's not a mystery to me why I weigh what I weigh. If I want to lose weight I need to cut my daily calories and if I increase them I will gain mystery. This will not change because my physical location changes. Food journaling seems like work and no one wants to work while on vacation, isn't that the point? Last time I checked my scale doesn't take vacation! Some of you might think that food journaling on vacation seems like a big fat drag (no pun intended). Well, coming home 5-7-10 pounds heavier is a bigger drag. I'm not saying that I feel like I HAVE to food journal as a way of policing my eating, as I mentioned it's interesting and at the very least it is simply a gathering of data. (there's a reason why hotel rooms don't have bathroom scales!)

My plan is not to sweat the details, like the exact foods, but staying aware of simple portion sizes and calorie content of whatever kinds of foods I chose. As in my everyday life no foods are off limits. If I chose to have a pastry, or two, then it has to be accounted for. If I chose a big dinner then I have to plan on a light lunch....same approach as when I'm not away.....duh! As Mark always says "It's a meal, not a party!" My mindset is that our destination and the people that I get to spend time with are "the party"!

Here is video of our two friends who I hope to spend more time with this year, Judit (aka juci) and Aniko, swinging the beast.

Here I am with Andrea DuCAne and Haran (from Korea) in the picture above, taken at the RKC Hungary M & G last year.

What's not to love about corn?

The first corn of the season (around here) showed up at the Farmers' Maket last week and I could not have been happier. I love corn, I can put it in everything including desserts. Last year I gave into limiting my corn consumption based on feelings of guilt that corn is too startchy therefore treating it more like a carb....which is true, but...

I would not say that I am a "low carb" dieter but I do try and watch the nutritional ratios of how I balance my everyday meals. I rarely have a meal that leads with a carb, except oats/oatmeal. But I really felt I missed out last year and I won't make the same mistake this year. Bottom line is overeating is orvereating no matter what kind of foods you chose. Food, corn is not the enemy, overeating it regularly is....overeating anything regularly for that matter.

My next batch of chicken stock will include all the corn cobs I have in the freezer for some kind of corn deliciousness! And I'll be sharing with you my two newest favorite things....a corn dessert and a new kitchen tool....yup after cleaning out my kitchen I went and added something new!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cleaning Out the Pantry

I always say, "If I buy it, I'll eat it!". I'm referring to some of my favorite foods, not my family's favs. After I wrote the last blogpost I turned to my attention to my pantry. Needless to say, I've been busy! I didn't have much to get rid of really, most of the stuff I had to remove or throw out was old. I guess that doesn't really surprise me because I keep my pantry stocked with mostly essential real ingredients, not ready made foods, and I have the luxury of going to the market daily (I like going to the market!) If I had to physically help someone start a diet or eating plan the first thing I would do is clean out the pantry! As I wrote about in the last blogpost, it's not what's in your kitchen , it's more about what's NOT in your kitchen. That includes the pantry.

A few things that are never in my pantry that I used to be are, bread/breakfast cereals/pancake mix, chips of any kind, cookies (those I hide in my trunk if I have them, lol), canned soups/chilis/beans, canned stock or broth, any kind of canned fruit or veg (except tomatoes, and salsas/jalapenos!), spaghetti sauce or boxed mac and cheese, granola bars, popcorn, parmesan cheese, dried powdered drinks (remember Cool-Aid), boullion cubes, and most baking supplies that include chocolate chips!

Things I keep in moderation are peanut butter, crackers, and dried fruits (especially raisins) and sugar (s). These are the most common items I will overeat if I have to much. In fact I will eat them until they are gone so I buy them one or two sevings at a time....seriously!

I have most other usual pantry items, but again I don't keep huge stockpiles. I'll write about those another time. I'd probably be in big trouble if some sort of disaster took place and I didn't have electricity or gas to use for cooking, but I'm willing to take that chance.

Cleaning out your pantry is like cleaning out your closet. You know what it feels like to look in a full, sometimes packed closet of clothes and still have nothing to wear? Looking in your pantry and not finding anything to eat is a pantry that relies on readymade foods. Having basic ingredients and knowing how to use them is key of course.

Now I'm busy with the organizational aspect of cleaning my pantry and kitchen cabinets. What is the first thing you can throw out of your cabinets or pantry? I've got a pile going and it's getting bigger by the day.....just making room for the next pressure cooker, lol!

Monday, July 4, 2011

What's in Your Kitchen?

I can tell you what's in mine...better yet I can tell you what's NOT in my kitchen! What's not in my kitchen is anything that has to do with baking or making desserts, except for maybe 2 round cake pans, 1 springform pan...I think that's it. Sure I have a double boiler (melting chocolate), and I have a hand mixer (but I can't tell you the last time I used it!), and other stuff that can be used in other kinds of food prep. Not only did I get rid of 99% of my baking equipment I don't even keep flour in the house. If I need flour I buy the amount I need, that way I'm never tempted to make a batch of cookies or a cake of any kind.

A few years ago I gave a ton of kitchen equipment, kitchen utensils, and gadgets, etc to my niece Dana, including a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, a brand new (still in the box) waffle maker, cake pans, madeline molds, pie plates, cake stands and decorating turn table, mini muffin tins, cookie cutters, piping bags, oh goodness, I can't even remember all the stuff I gave her.

I had way too much stuff in my kitchen that I didn't need and it was time to clean house. I used to work in a gourmet kitchen store so you can imagine the merchandise I accumulated. I've since gone through my cabinets and cupboards at least 2 more times and I thought I had edited much of my hoard, but here I am again ready to reduce my inventory by at least half.

Although I have every size pot and pan All Clad sells I only use 2 regularly, and maybe another 2-3 enough to keep them around. ( 6 qt and 3 qt saute pan, 3 qt and 4 qt sauce pan, and a 5qt. dutch oven). Do you know how heavy those pots are? When I want to make a pot of oatmeal I pull out an old 3 qt Reverware that's as light as a feather. I also use it to soak beans (which are soaking right now!) I own 3 pressure cookers that have prime real estate within arms reach and those are what I use at least 90% of my cooking time. A couple of roasting pans and I'm good to go.

As far as utensils and gadgets most often used are my tongs, those I have three sets. I have a favorite strainer, a small strainer for lemon juice, and ton of measuring spoons I use everyday....measuring cups of course....I measure alot! In fact this post is a prelude to what I bought today that will quickly join my list of most used utensils....(more to come) Oh, a whisk! Gotta have a good whisk! My favorite is made by Rosle. I use cheap $5.95 knives for chopping. slicing, dicing even boning meat and I just replace then every 2-3 months as they get too dull to sharpen. Metal mixing bowls that I even eat my salads out of! And speaking of salads, I do own quite a few vegetable shredders.

I have utensils that help when I roast a turkey, because I roast alot of turkeys....a lifter, a baster, a rack, etc. I have a shrimp deveiner. I rarely use my microplane for grating cheese, but as a zester it's awesome. Recently I pulled out my lemon/lime press....lovin' it!

A blender, a food processor, a food mill, an immersion blender, a ricer (the only time I use it is at Thanksgiving for mashed potates, but worth keeping), and yes I do have and use everyday my toaster though. The ice cream maker will stay. And the coffee maker is a no brainer.

I can easily get rid of half of the things in my already small kitchen and still make amazingly delicious foods. I think I'll clean out the pantry too! All three shelves!

What's in your pantry? I can tell you what's NOT in mine! (next time)

PS We also own a nonstick omelet pan and spatula for Marks daily meal of a veg/egg stir fry. But he's the one that cooks it everyday, I never use it. And every year I swear I'm going to buy an outside grill....this year? I'm so close.....

500 continuous 16kg swings...I mean 480....darn!

I came up with a combination of swings that has four (regressive) rotations that end up at a 500 rep count. That's one continuous 12 1/2 minute set at 40 reps per minute. It never really occured to me to do it with anything but the 12kg, expecially for the first trial run.....until Saturday got closer and closer....

I knew I would have to do it with the 14kg because the 12kg would be fun, and it does indeed present somewhat of a challenge...but not really. The 14kg it was....

Then I thought what the hell! I've done 1000 continuous swings with the 16kg just this past year and so what's 500? I knew Meg could do it so that's what we set out to do....Use the 16.

Like I mentioned, this was really a trial run because I had never lead that particular combination before....lots of counting to get to 500. There is one little sticking point that I thought I worked out, but when we finished and Meg told me that the set only lasted 12 minutes....uh oh....1/2 of one minute was missing...somewhere 20 reps disappeared....darn! I knew exactly at that point where the screw up happened, and it won't happen again.

Lucky for my new 9:00am Advanced class because Meg and I will run through it a couple more times before she puts them through the same 500 rep combination when I'm gone in Hungary for a couple of weeks in Aug!

I'll post this workout in three parts before I leave, or while I'm gone (who knows, maybe I'll put the Hungarians through it!). Beginning, Inter and Adv. Tomorrow though I will tape and post an advanced version of "Snatch Transfers".

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sophi Swings

Here is my granddaughter Sophi practicing her "air swings" with Grandma and Grandpa on the TV! Her mother Cristina took this morning.

A couple of months ago I taught both my daughter-in-law and her mother Tina how to swing and they both have been practicing regularly.

Also my son Gabe recently picked up training again....all in the family, right?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Slow Carb Friendly lamb w/lentils and spinach....and reminding you again why you should pressure cook!

I'm lovin' my PC many advantages of using one. Top 3 reasons why? Stock, dried beans, legumes and grains, & inexpensive cuts of meat that cook so tender that the meat falls off the bones.....and all in record time!

I haven't bought chicken stock, or any kind of stock, in forever. Not only have I not bought any, I get it for free, and it's more nutritious and taste better! The very first cooking lesson I took was about stocks and broths. I couldn't imagine why anyone would need stock, or how to use it. I probably never made a pot of soup either....and I was 32 years old! Little did I know how stocks can be the foundation of so many recipes. Now? Good Lord, I make all kinds of stocks from chicken to corn to mushroom to shrimp....etc. Using bones, veg parts, corn cobs, mushroom stems, shrimp shells....little goes to waste.

I save tons of money by using dried beans, legumes and grains....and I make them more nutritious by cooking most of them in....ta-da, my own stocks! Getting in the habit of soaking beans is easy and if all else fails a bag of beans cost $.99-$1.99 so throwing them away is not so painful. Usually I just put pre soaked beans in the fridge up 2-3 days until I can get to them. I can always cook them for another time, or make a bean spread.

My PC allows me to use inexpensive cuts of meat that ususally come "bone-in". I save money, I save time, and again, add nutrition and flavor. Shoulder/butt, rib, and shank cuts that would take up to 2 1/2 hours to braise in the oven, or on top of the stove, take 1/3 of the time, and come out "falling off the bone" tender. Who could ask for anything more?

The only thing you need to be aware of is that inexpensive cuts of meat for braising (now pressure cooking) tend to have alot of fat. Shoulder cuts, country style ribs and short ribs, etc. Once cooked and refrigerated it's easy to seperate the fat that solidifys and floats to the top. But if you are eating right away then just appreciate all of the greasy goodness and call it a day!

Lamb shoulder chops were the least expensive cut of lamb at Whole Foods the other day. $5.99 compared to $8.99 or $9.99 a lb....and they had a bone! Lucky for me I now how to cook them. Here is an Indian spiced dish that I made yesterday morning.

Lamb w/lentils and spinach

2-3 tbl olive oil (seperated)

2-3 lbs lamb shoulder chops (about 4 lg chops, bone-in)

2 onions diced

3 celery stalks diced

2-3 tbl garam masala (indian spice blend)

1 6 oz. can of tomato paste

8-12 c. water or stock (I used water because I had bones in my lamb)

2-3 cups lentils (I used 1 1/2 c. each of brown and green lentils)

1 6-8 oz bag of baby spinach, or one bunch of fresh spinach washed

S & P

Heat 1-2 tbl of oil in PC, brown lamb chops in two batches, set aside. Heat remaining olive oil and saute onion and celery until translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle garam masala over sauteed vegetables, stir and heat until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes), add tomato paste, stirring to mix with the rest until starting to dry a bit from the heat of the pot (about 1 min.).

Add about 1 c of water to scrap up the bits on the bottom of the pot (deglaze) and then add the reamining water or stock. Rinse lentils (optional) and add to the pot along with 1-2 tsp of salt. Put the browned shoulder chops back in, cover and lock lid in place.

Bring pressure to high, lower and cook for 25 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Open lid, take out the lamb chops. Stir in spinach handful by handful to wilt in the heat of the lentils.

You can serve the chops whole with the lentils and spinach, or you can shred the meat and add back into pot with the rest of the cooked ingredients.

This recipe makes about 3-4 qts of stew.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Carrot Soup w/ Apple and Ginger

This post will be quick because I've already posted my carrot soup recipe but I've got some additional thoughts about it.

First thing is that the flavor of your carrot soup is directly affected by the taste of your carrots. Carrot soup in the winter and carrot soup in the spring are two different soups, even if you buy grocery store carrots versus Farmers Maket carrots it will turn out slightly different. Carrot soup is very similar to butternut squash soup, so when that delicious winter squash is gone simply use carrots.

To be honest I really wasn't looking forward to making OR eating carrot soup, but it turned out fabulously. The first batch I made was simple, onion, celery, carrot, good chicken stock. It was fine.... But to me it was missing something....something a bit apple maybe? I slpit the batch in half and diced up a Granny Smith, back in he PC for 3 min., puree again with some fresh ginger and wow! I have to say that I liked this soup both hot and cold. In fact I think the more apple you add the more conducive the soup is to eating cold. Perfect for summer. I also bought a Pippin apple thinking I may want a bit of tart....oh well, maybe next time. A couple of years ago I posted my recipe for red beet applesauce and I can tell right now that apple carrot sauce, (when apples are in season) is going to be a definite.

Of course you could use a fruit that is in season right now, maybe peach? Or maybe after it's cooked, puree it with I getting weird here?

Basic Carrot Soup

1-2 tbl olive oil
1 large onion diced
3 celery stalks diced
2 1/2 lbs carrots, med chinks
6-8 cups chicken stock
1/2 - 1 tsp. salt

(optional 1-2 Granny Smith apples, freshly grated ginger)

Heat olive oil in a 4 qt soup pot (or PC), saute onion and celery until translucent (4-5 min), add carrots and stock. (if adding an apple or two it would be at the point). Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover pot and cook until carrots are soft, about 20 min. If using a PC, lock lid inplace, bring to high pressure, lower heat and cook under pressure for 5 min.. Let the pressure come down naturally.

Puree in batches in blender when cool enough to handle, OR, use and immersion blender! (you would add fresh ginger just before pureeing.) Season with salt and pepper if needed.

I added some diced, perfectly poached, chicken breast meat to my soup. I swear I'm going to post how to poach chicken breast in the PC soon! I took some video at 5:00am on Monday, but I didn't like how it turned out....I'm trying though!

PS I did, in fact, add some almond butter to my soup recipe but I did not feel that it made that much of a differnce to suggest it. But if you want to try it you would add 2 tbl almond butter (or PNB) to the sauteed onion and celery about 1-2 minutes before you add your carrots and stock.

300 calories of fake foods

I wrote the last blogpost about boring food as a prelude for this one....

I rarely buy cookbooks anymore because I just don't need them....or should I say I just don't need new ones. I've edited my cookbook collection down to, probably, a couple of dozen and only 5 of which have permanent residence in my kitchen within reach. The my top three are "Joy of Cooking" (Irma S Rombauer and family), The Complete Meat Cookbook" (Bruce Aidells and Dennis Kelly), and "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" (Mark Bittman). I currently added another soon to be favorite " The Food Matters Cookbook" (also by Mark Bittman).

At the time I bought my last one (Food Matters) I also bought one other. I was intrigued by the theme of the was called "300 recipes under 300 calories". I had read a little blurb about it in some magazine and because I base alot of my own meals between 300-400 calories I thought I might get some ideas....I mean, three hundred recipes under three hundred calories? That's alot of recipes completely within a calorie range for weightloss.

I was quicky and completely disappointed. Here is a list of some ingredients that over 90% of the recipes used one or more of.....

fat free liquid egg substitute

fat free american cheese

fat free chedder cheese

fat free cream cheese fat free sour cream

The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss cheese (1/2 of the recipes had this in them)

sugar free syrup


light whiped butter or butter spread

meatless sausage

pillsbury crescent dough

cool whip free

zero calorie butter spray f

frozen lowfat waffles (do you need a recipe to throw these in the toaster?)

fat free mayonaise

reduced fat "parmesan style" grated topping (?)

fat fee vegetable broth (isn't this already fat free?)

mashed potato flakes


frozen "ground beef style" soy crumbles

fat free tortilla chips

sweetener packets (lots of them)

unsweetened Almond Breeze (to which you add sweetener packets!)

low fat marinara sauce

frozen petite mixed vegetables

House Foods Tofu Shirataki Fetticine Shaped Noodle Substitute (what the heck is this?)

dry ranch seasoning mix,

taco seasoning mix

fajita seasoning mix, etc...(it's not that hard to mix your own spices, minus the MSG!)

Fiber One Original Bran Cereal

low fat baked tortilla chips

Where's the "real" food? This cookbook is not for anyone that is interested in changing their life for real. I just can't see living like this, eating these foods for the rest of my life. Yuck. I don't think I've ever in my life bought most of these ingredients and I'm sure the hell not going to start now!

There are no shortcuts to good health and nutrition. Real foods are not calorie dense anyway. I don't believe in fake sugars or trying the cut fat down to practically nothing. I don't need to eat 300 different meals anyway!

I took the book back and bought Rick Steves' book on "Budapest" that's a good investment for my $20!