Archive for October, 2010

Meatless Meals (I Wish) My Mother Made

Today’s recipe is very simple to make and combines many flavors I wouldn’t have thought to combine myself. We made a few modifications to this recipe when we tried it this week; I’ll talk about them at the end.

I have had this saved on my computer for quite some time, but all I have is the recipe — no citation. If you know who should be given credit, let me know!

Couscous Surprise Salad

ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous [also called pearl couscous]
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-1/2 cups (1/2 lb) frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 a large red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the couscous and stir to coat. Toast for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer about 12 minutes, until the couscous is soft and most of the water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, steam the frozen edamame by microwaving in a bowl wrapped with plastic wrap for 2-4 minutes. Be careful, the plastic wrap and steam will be hot.

In a large salad bowl, stir together the couscous, steamed edamame, red pepper, cilantro, onion, apricots, cranberries, curry powder, salt, and lemon juice. Let chill for an hour to let the flavors combine.

I don’t like bell peppers, so we left that out. We also left out the apricot, but in hindsight, adding some dried pineapple in its place would have been quite tasty. To my taste, and with the ingredients as we used them, it had too much curry powder. The next time we try this, it will definitely have less curry powder. But if we used all of the ingredients, the amount might have been good — peppers have a fairly strong taste.

Also, we stuck it in the fridge and ate it later, cold. Comparing the hot sample to the cold, it was much better cold.

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maintenance

If you knew you could never replace your car, you would take really good care of it.

You can never replace your body.

achilles heel

Everyone has one (though they’re not always food-related).

A friend is embarking on a healthy-living journey and posed a question: What foods are your kryptonite and how do you resist them (assuming you don’t literally encase them in lead)?

This is what I do:

I don’t keep them in the house. That’s by far the biggest.

But what about at a catered event?

I don’t eat things unless I already know I like them, I am not likely to have the opportunity to try them again, or they come highly recommended.

I’ll take a bite, and if it’s anything less than fabulous, I won’t eat the rest.

That last point frequently serves me well at school. My mornings are spent in an elementary school, and there are frequently treats in the lunch room. If nothing else, once a month, the social committee provides a birthday cake to celebrate all of the staff birthdays from that month.

Most of the time, the cake isn’t worth it. I am not going to eat a piece of cake just because it’s there. Unless it’s really good cake with really good icing, I’ll pass.

When there are potlucks, frequently I will not contribute anything which means I shouldn’t (and won’t) eat anything.

What is your edible downfall? What do you do to deal with it?

update on foregoing sweets

I decided to go cold turkey on sweets a week ago and thought I’d give you a quick update.

The first few days especially, I had some serious cravings. Since we don’t keep treats in the house, it’s pretty easy not to eat them at home. Most of the time at work, the only junk food available is in the machine, and most of the time, I don’t carry cash on me, so non-issue. There weren’t any treats in the teacher lunch room last week.

Since then, it’s not been so bad. Still wanting dessert sometimes (especially after any meal with a lot of onions in it — don’t know why), but the desire is not nearly as strong.

I did have a bowl of generic Frosted Mini-Wheats at the end of last week. I was running too late in the morning to cook breakfast (usually I make oatmeal) but I couldn’t go to work on no food, and that cereal was the only available option in the house. (This was a failure to get up on time and a failure to stock the house well. In my defense, we do food shopping on the weekends and I started this project mid-week, and I had gotten very little sleep the night before.)

As it turns out, just those few days was enough time to make Frosted Mini-Wheats too sweet. It is always amazing to me how quickly the body adapts.

Knowing that the cereal was too sweet does help take the edge off. Since I have a pretty good idea how sweet other things are relative to cereal, I now know that a whole list of other treats would not really taste good.

At roughly the same time, I’ve gotten back into cooking oatmeal for breakfast and have finally started bringing snacks to work again. For oatmeal, it had been too hot until recently, but I don’t really know why I slacked off with the snacks. A banana and a little cup with almonds and craisins are both quick and easy to eat, both tasty, both healthy, and are the perfect bridge between my early breakfast and late lunch.

Overall, success so far.

When I reintroduce sweets, it will be with the caveat that I notice that I’m eating them — be mindful. Often, when I’m craving, I don’t pay attention when I’m actually eating them. (Also, I often am sated after just a couple of bites if I am paying attention. There was a point in my life that a candy bar lasted for more than one sitting.)

What would you like to have success in a week from now? Start today!

Pinktober

As you certainly know by now, October is breast cancer awareness month. Everything is awash in pink. Thankfully, there is only a week of it left.

Unfortunately, most of the pink is hype, marketing, and capitalism. Depending on what you’re buying to “support the cause,” there might not be any proceeds donated to anywhere. (Many places donate, for example, 10% of the proceeds up to $5,000. So if they’ve already hit their limit when you make your pink purchase, nothing is being donated. But they’re not going to tell you that…)

Beyond that, I am a big fan of prevention. Early detection is great, but in order for something to be detected, you have to have it already. I’d rather skip having it thankyouverymuch. While a certain percentage of cases are genetic, the number of cases is steadily rising. Are the genetic carriers having a disproportionate number of children? I don’t think so. Environmental causes abound. You can do more for yourself and your children than the invisible folks you’re donating money to.

This is not to say that I think research is useless. But there’s been a ton of research done already, and most of us aren’t using the information that they’ve learned. Why do we want more inconvenient information?

I’ve learned recently that our biggest exposure to BPA (which is high on the list of environmental risk factors for breast cancer) is not in plastic bottled but is in canned foods, with tomato-based and other acidic foods having the highest content. As far as I know, Eden’s beans are in cans that are BPA-free. Everything else that comes in a can has BPA in it.

I have read several excellent pieces regarding breast cancer, awareness, Pinktober. They are much more eloquently written than I could hope to be. Check them out:

Less ‘sexy’ cancers: A rather sickly pink

Prediction: breast cancer rates will skyrocket in the next 20 years

Why Do I Research Pink Ribbon Culture?

Breast Cancer Awareness: What Are We Buying Into?

Facebook Wants to Know Where I Like My Purse. Here’s Where They Can Put It.

Christina on Breast Cancer (video)

And here are a few on BPA, not specific to breast cancer:

BPA declared toxic by Canada

Recipe for high BPA exposure: Canned vegetables, cigarettes and a cashier job

The Dangers of a Food Chemical: New Evidence Against BPA

What’s your opinion on pink-washing October?

other people’s handiwork

This week, I learned that it is ridiculously easy to build a rack to hold stability balls out of PVC pipe, though I had to order the joints online because my local hardware stores didn’t carry 1-inch-all-around pieces. So it goes. Even with exorbitant shipping fees, building it myself was much cheaper than buying a pre-fab rack, and I was able to make it the size I wanted. Since I have a general track record of not successfully building things, I was very pleased that it worked! That and getting an award for this blog made my week.

In the realms of eating, exercising, and changing habits, there were a few interesting posts this week:

Six Steps to MizFit Eating from MizFit: This is part of a multi-part series where MizFit talks about her experiences with becoming a healthy eater and über-exerciser.

Skinny People Burn Fewer Calories from dotFIT: An explanation of metabolism, calories in vs. calories out, and why heavier people can eat more.

How to Use the “Swear Jar” Mentality to Save for the Future from Money Crashers: Save money and/or break a habit, form a habit, get things done. A great idea!

Meatless Meals (I Wish) My Mother Made

Today’s recipe, from the July 2005 edition of Cooking Light, in its original form (as printed below) is not vegetarian. We made some modifications to it to make it veggie; it ended up being fairly different from the original recipe but oh so tasty! I’ll explain what we changed after the recipe.

Steak, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Mozzarella Couscous Salad

Gently heating the garlic in olive oil infuses the oil with flavor and cooks the garlic enough to keep the dressing mellow.

ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil (about 1 ounce)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped Basic Grilled Flank Steak (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) cubed part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped, drained bottle-roasted red bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

directions

  1. Combine olive oil and garlic in a small, non-stick skillet; cook over medium-low heat 2 minutes or just until fragrant. Remove from heat; set aside.
  2. Bring 2-1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous and sun-dried tomatoes; reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Spoon couscous into a large bowl. Add Basic Grilled Flank Steak, cubed mozzarella cheese, roasted red bell peppers, and chopped fresh basil; toss well to combine.
  3. Combine garlic mixture, vinegar, salt, and black pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle dressing over couscous mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup).

Basic Grilled Flank Steak is another recipe in the magazine which is why it’s capitalized; I’ve never had this recipe with steak.

Modifications we make:

  • vegetarian chicken strips instead of steak
  • no red bell peppers (I don’t like them)
  • shredded mozzarella instead of cubed (so that it melts)
  • and we eat it warm
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