stuff i love: food i make edition

Hey guys!  We’re in a deep freeze that just won’t quit here in DSM.  That means when the sun goes down I’m at home, in my pajamas, looking for something to eat for dinner.  I recently realized that I’ve been eating out a lot.  When I’m not eating out, I’m eating something “made” for me by the frozen food gods.  The result is lethargy, weight gain and poor sleep that lead to me doing silly things like cleanses in an attempt to feel more balanced.

I come from a long line of cooks.  I used to cook all.the.time (I think I may have mentioned that before).  My mom cooks dinner every night, my sister cooks dinner most nights, my dad is always cooking… I know it’s in me to do it, I just can’t muster up the energy after a long day.  On days like today, after I’ve overdone it on the weekend and I want to feel better, I take to my tiny kitchen (and my even tinier stove) to make my favorite go-to meal.  I’m not sure what else to call it but the meat bowl.  I could fancy it up and call it a taco-less salad but let’s just call it what it is—we’re all grown ups here: it’s a meat bowl.

The easiest part of this meal for me is that I get veggies and protein and I get to exercise a bit of my creativity.  I’ve done this before with ground bison and ground pork and you just change the seasoning and the vegetables.

Step 1: Brown minced garlic and onion, add mushrooms and sauté till soft.

Step 1: Sauté minced garlic and onion, add mushrooms and sauté till soft.

Step 2: Move mushroom mixture to a bowl (unless you have a large skillet—I do not). Brown ground meat of choice. Prep lettuce base and fresh herb seasoning.

Step 2: Move mushroom mixture to a bowl (unless you have a large skillet—I do not). Brown ground meat of choice. Prep lettuce base and fresh herb seasoning.

Step 3: Everything back in the skillet to mix with the fresh herb (basil, in this case).

Step 3: Everything back in the skillet to mix with the fresh herb (basil, in this case).

Step 4: I like to top it with fresh tomatoes and half an avocado. There's also this delicious artichoke pesto from Trader Joe's which tastes good on pretty much everything.

Step 4: I like to top it with fresh tomatoes and half an avocado. There’s also this delicious artichoke pesto from Trader Joe’s which tastes good on pretty much everything.

Voila. Lettuce base, meat mix on top, veggies = dinner.

Voila. Lettuce base, meat mix on top, veggies = dinner.

I’m hoping this year I can cook a little more and continue my effort in being a healthier me.  I recently heard an interview with Michael Pollan where he advocates not-so-much a particular diet (I realize he’s not encouraging the Paleo lifestyle here) but that we cook for ourselves.  He says: “the food industry has done a great job of convincing eaters that corporations can cook better than we can. The problem is, it’s not true. And the food that others cook is nearly always less healthful than that which we cook ourselves.”  Be a healthier me by cooking?  Now that is an idea I can get behind.





i work out.

Hey, guys!  Remember that time I did a Whole30?  Yeah, me too.  It was so great, I’m doing another one for the month of October.  This time I have some company, though.

You guys know I’ve boo-hooed about my lack of motivation with exercise.  For so long I thought, ‘if I’m not a runner then I don’t know what I could do’.  I finally found what I can do if I’m not a runner.  I’ve been going to MaxLife for about three months (has it been that long?) and it’s perfect for me!  I’m learning how to be strong from the inside out.  If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s P90X meets Cross-Fit with less TRX and more kettle bells.  They’re short, effective, muscle confusion workouts and I feel a strong sense of community and accountability with the men and women I go to class with.  This Whole30 is a gym-wide thing so I have support with my friends, gym-mates and co-workers.

my very own chopped

photo 1

You know that cooking show on the Food Network, Chopped?

For those of you who aren’t familiar, let me introduce you.  There are four chefs to start and they have to cook through appetizer, entree and dessert in a timed cooking challenge.  After each round, one of the chefs is ‘chopped’ (perfect, right?!).  The curve ball to this cooking show is that the chefs all get a basket with a few ingredients (example: a whole fish, daikon radish, matcha powder and gummi bears) and all the ingredients must be present on the plate for the judging (and it has to taste good, obvi).

The connection between my life and the hit television show is that lately, it’s been like the basket on Chopped when it comes to cooking anything for myself.  Except it’s a race against time which isn’t a clock but rotting produce.  I haven’t quite learned to control myself in the produce section at the grocery.  I get really excited when I see rows and rows of fresh produce in every color of the rainbow.  Eggplant, zucchini, squash, kale, cauliflower, tomatoes—I can’t help myself.  As a consequence, I come home with much more than I need for myself and end up wasting and I can’t stand wasting produce.

Last week, as produce was rotting away in my fridge and I contemplated Orange Leaf for dinner—again—I decided to get up off the couch and cook something.  So with the aid of some classic Jeff Buckley (and some red wine) I got busy.  I cut up and boiled a head of cauliflower, I broke out my cast iron ovenware, I set to work chopping some sweet potatoes and apples and lovingly placed them in the dutch oven with some pork chops that I’d seasoned.  I drown it all in some vegetable stock and threw it in the oven.  It was, effectively, my own version of Chopped without the gummi bears.

photo 2

whole30 surprises

The following is a list of things I didn’t expect to feel/see/happen while on the Whole30 (or as I like to call it, Paleo on steroids).

1. My skin actually is clear and glowing – and it’s obvious to other people.

2. I have a new appreciation for leftovers.  In a prior life, leftovers were my arch-nemesis.  Not so much anymore.

3. I totally CRASH at 9:30pm and sleep like a baby till about 5 a.m.

4. They weren’t kidding when they said it cuts down on the bloat.  I am not wearing NEAR as many layers as I usually do to hide in my clothes.

5. I miss beer more than I thought I would… and I’m not even a super drinker.  I just realized that some circumstances call for a nice, cool, refreshing beer and I have to go the sparkling water route.

6. I’ve grown rather fond of red and yellow peppers (not raw though – gross).

7. A lot of people are doing it.  Mostly a niche of adorable bloggers that enjoy running; I aspire to be like them.

8. I realized that a lot of things I ate were merely out of convenience.  I haven’t cooked like this for myself in about four years.  Bread was a filler and I didn’t eat nearly enough veggies.

9. I have actually completely changed how I eat and how I look at food.  Testament to that statement was the food day we had here at work recently.  My sense of smell was in overdrive, and I was whiffing all the chocolate, mint, cookies and other delicious sugary goodies.  While I wanted them so bad, I really didn’t.  My memory told me I did but my body was plenty happy from the fruit and protein I’d already had.  I have eaten these past 19 days for fuel and it’s felt great!

10. I feel amazing.  Truly.  The scale hasn’t reflected that so much but I have felt more energized, more focused, less moody – I’ve even felt stronger physically.  I didn’t believe the testimonials (cause at the time it seemed kind of fad-ish) but after battling headaches for the first few days, it’s been energy central since.  My clothes, you guys – my clothes, fit so much better.

11. I love meat.

12. I am starting to like plain tea (“plain” as in no milk and no sugar).

13. This is looking like a real-life lifestyle change, guys.

Hey-o Paleo

Catchy title, eh?

Guess what I’m doing?

I decided, after some extensive blog reading and related work chatter, to eat Paleo-style/join the Paleo movement/be Paleo (how does one say that?).  I’m trying to avoid using the word “diet” cause it has such a negative connotation.  However, it is just that.  A lot of people call it the “caveman diet” and that’s really it in a nutshell.  It’s going to be including more meat than I usually eat but the trade off is I’ll be breaking my addiction to carbs and sugars.  Yes, I’ll miss wine and beer and most especially cheese but “moderation” will be  a new word in my vocabulary in 30 days.

I’ve given this a lot of thought.  After eating my way through Des Moines and some additional stress I’ve found that I haven’t been feeling very healthy.  I haven’t been sleeping well, my clothes feel the stretch of some extra lbs. and there’s simply the general feeling of being more run down than usual.  Even getting outside for a run has been a challenge cause I’d rather sleep.  I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so poorly.  Then I started to think about what I’ve been consuming.  My food philosophy has always been about feeling good from the inside out but I realized that’s taken a backseat to the gastronomical excitement of a new city.

After hearing about it at work, I read this blog which made me feel like Paleo was something I wanted to do.  In true Ryan fashion, I made a plan.  I purchased this book and this book  (okay, okay and this book – but that’s it, I swear).  I began reading about food, how the body reacts to food and the benefits of Paleo.  I won’t attempt to reiterate it here as my goal is merely to talk about this cool new thing I’m doing.  I realized that what’s been happening (maybe my whole life) is that I was regularly putting food between me and my goals and 90% of the time, it just wasn’t worth it.

I felt excited to come home tonight and cook dinner.  I cooked, you guys!  It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.  I even have a menu planned for the rest of the week.  If it wasn’t evident, my day one optimism is showing itself.  I know this is going to be very difficult and I’ll probably need you to remind me on day 9 that I don’t, in fact, neeeeeed a pastry.  I’m just really excited about this.  I’m pretty sure this is going to get me just a bit closer to being the woman I want to be.