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It’s not easy being green

8 Mar

Last night, Todd and I watched the documentary “No Impact Man.” Basically it made me feel like I’m not doing enough to be “green.”

I use 98% biodegradable shampoo (not only when I’m camping, but also for daily use).
I use the Method cleaning products from Target.
I reuse shopping bags.
We recycle most glass/plastic/paper items.

But I still use a lot of paper products for cleaning, like paper towels. And we produce a good amount of garbage. We leave electronics and chargers plugged in all the time. We drive cars. And I feel like there’s so much more we could change.

This past week, I had a state car for the use of commuting to some county offices, and I was lucky enough to snag a Nissan Leaf. (Note: I am in no way affiliated with or being paid by Nissan.) This car was … awesome. To say the least. I had to plug it in a couple of times to recharge it since it only gets about 100 miles (max) if you’re not using the A/C or stereo or things like that. It would be wonderful for shorter trips around town and things of that sort and would make so much less impact than a gasoline car. And because it doesn’t have a traditional motor, it’s got a lot of space inside, despite being compact. And of course it was tons of fun to drive. That little car has some ZIP! I would definitely consider getting an all-electric car, and it might be something that I think about more seriously in the future.

But what about right now? What do you do that is “green?” Do you make your own cleaning products? I want to do so much more but I think I need to start in smaller steps, implement things over time, like I have been with my shampoo and other cleaning products and toiletries.

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Banana Pancakes for Brinner

20 Feb

Hi all. This post is going to be a short one since I haven’t been feeling great lately. I’m not sure if I should attribute it to just having a sensitive stomach or to accidentally being glutened. In any case, eating has been difficult for the past 24 hours. So last night for dinner I thought I’d make something that was easy to handle. Cue two-ingredient banana pancakes.

I’m not a big fan of pancakes, but I do love breakfast food. I especially love brinner (Scrubs? Anyone?). I’ll eat pancakes once in a blue moon but these seemed a little less heavy than normal flapjacks so I thought I’d give them a try. You can find the original recipe here.

Ingredients:

– one old, mushy banana, mashed (I freeze bananas that have gone too ripe for my liking, so either set out your frozen banana to thaw about half an hour prior, or just nuke it for about a minute on medium)
– two eggs, beaten
– sprinkle of nutmeg (optional)
– 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Mash your banana then add the beaten eggs and spices. Whisk until everything looks really nasty and runny but smells delicious. I thought mine were a little too runny so I added about a teaspoon of cornstarch to thicken it up a bit. I fried them over medium heat with a little olive oil for about a minute on each side. Cook until they’re toasty brown on both sides. Enjoy with syrup and/or berries or whatever floats your goat 🙂

I tried to make the pancakes “sand dollar” size like it says in the recipe but they were way too liquidy so I ended up making them a tad bit bigger. It made about 5 pancakes, which was enough for 1 – 2 servings for myself, but I like to eat smaller portions. If I were making enough for two people, I would double the recipe.

These were really tasty. They tasted exactly like you would think mashed bananas and fried eggs would taste like. Just a hint of savory under the sweetness of maple syrup. You can also add vanilla if you want but I wasn’t feeling vanilla last night. And now that I think of it, a tad bit of powdered sugar on these bad boys, instead of syrup, would have been delightful. Next time, with berries and powdered sugar and bacon on the side!

What’s your favorite brinner food?

Slow Cooker: tips, tricks, and recipes!

13 Feb

Hi all! I’ve been inspired! I’m going to write an entire post about my slow cooker. Okay, not my slow cookier specifically, but about what you can do and make with one! (Note: slow cooker and Crock Pot are basically synonymous. Crock Pot is just a specific brand of slow cooker, kind of like Kleenex is a brand of facial tissues, but most people call them Kleenex, even if it’s the Target brand 🙂 OK? OK.)

First, the basics:

– a standard size for a slow cooker is about 8 quarts. I had a really old one before the one I have now and it was only about 6 quarts, so I had to generally size down whatever I was making. That meant smaller cuts of meat and less liquid.
– some slow cookers have more settings and fancy things than others (like Todd’s mom has a three-mini-tub Crock Pot! WHOA!). Mine just has off/low/high/warm. I tend to use it on the low setting for most things, because I turn it on while I’m at work for the day. The high setting would be used more for quicker meals or dishes like dips. If you’re cooking meat, generally low is your best bet.

Next, some tips!

– a slow cooker does not cook the same way a pot or a Dutch oven does. Too much liquid is a bad thing! I’ve dried out a pot roast before by adding too much liquid and that was the only time I’ve ever made that mistake.
– do not completely fill your slow cooker! Especially if you have it on high. This could cause leaking and explosions, which can be fun to watch, but not fun to clean.

And finally, some of my favorite recipes:

Pot Roast

This recipe comes from my mom, so you know it’s going to be good.

Ingredients:
– pot roast (I usually use a chuck roast, about 3 – 4 pounds)
– a couple pounds of potatoes (I use reds, not skinned, quartered)
– yellow onion, sliced thickly
– baby carrots (or chopped regular carrots)
– a can of beef consummé
– a cup of water
– a packet of onion dip mix (the stuff you use to make either onion dip or onion soup)

Steps:
1. put the pot roast into the slow cooker.
2. next, add your liquid. I usually pour in the beef consummé, and then fill the empty can with water.
3. Add the onion dip mix to the liquid around the roast.
4. chop your potatoes and put them all around the roast. Do the same with the onion. I like large pieces of onion so I tend to just do a few chops and I’m good. If you don’t like onion as much, chop them finer or leave them out.
5. add your carrots. Just fit them in the potatoes where you can.
6. cook on low for 8 – 9 hours.

The roast should fall apart when it’s done. It should be brown on the outside and can be red on the inside, but it’s still cooked! Don’t leave it on for too long though because it will dry out the meat. I serve mine with just the potatoes, onions and carrots, but you can serve it over noodles or rice too! This can make about 4 – 6 servings, or more, depending. I usually make it for dinner, then have it for lunch for up to two days following. This is a great meal anytime of year, but I like it better in the winter, since it’s comforting, like I’m back home with my parents.

Taco Chicken

This one is super easy. Update: looks like I already posted this one! See it here. (Also, I think I’m pretty hilarious!)

Ingredients:
– 2lbs of chicken breasts
– packet of taco seasoning
– jar of salsa (about 8 – 10oz)

Steps:
1. place the chicken in the slow cooker.
2. pour the salsa over the chicken.
3. sprinkle the packet of taco seasoning over everything.
4. cook on low for 8 hours.

That’s it. Seriously. It’s stupid easy and very hard to screw up. This chicken is tasty over rice or in a taco! I like mine in a soft corn shell, with sour cream and avocado.

Italian Chicken

I’ve only tried this one once, so I’m still figuring out how best to do it.

Ingredients:
– 2lbs chicken
– can of cream of chicken soup
– 8oz cream cheese, room temperature
– packet of Italian seasoning (the stuff you use to make dressing)

Steps:
1. place chicken in the slow cooker.
2. mix cream cheese with soup and seasoning.
3. spread over the chicken.
4. cook on low for 8 hours.

When I made this, I just placed all the ingredients in separately. I tried to place in chunks of the cream cheese (which I forgot to take out of the fridge to soften) around the pot but I ended up with odd chunks of cream cheese that were cooked on the outside, almost baked, and then molten lava cheese on the inside. Aside from that, it was super tasty. If I made this again, I’d definitely mix all the ingredients together first. I served mine with some veggies and it was tasty!

I love my slow cooker because I can throw it all in the pot and when I come home from work, dinner is ready! And the great thing about all of these recipes is that they’re gluten free! Do you have any tried and trusted slow cooker recipes?

Paesano’s: A Restaurant Review

17 Jan

Last night Todd and I went to a local place for dinner. He wanted pizza so I did some yelp research and found out that Paesano’s, in midtown Sacramento has a cornmeal GF crust for pizzas, upon request. We’ve eaten there a few times before and they’re always decent. They aren’t my favorite pizza place, but nothing can compete with Hot City, who use a whole wheat crust that I clearly can’t eat anymore.

For starters, we ordered GF polenta fries. Let. me. tell. you. These were delicious. They’re giant like steak fries and the outsides are golden and crispy while the insides miraculously stay creamy and fluffy all at once. Unfortunately, I’m way too impatient and burned the ever-loving-goodness out of my mouth on my first bite. Instead of being a total slob and spitting it out, I kept it in my mouth which was a huge mistake that I’m still paying for.

The fries came with two dips: one was a gorgonzola/ranch-type dip: super creamy and cheesy and had a little bit of that funky cheese stink that I love. The other was a balsamic ketchup. On yelp I saw some described it as, “a weird sweet marinara sauce,” which it obviously wasn’t. It was strange… definitely sweet, but nothing like marinara. I love balsamic but we barely touched that dip.

Then came time to order our meals… and I was sorely let down.

As an aside: when I get hungry I turn into a monster. I get irritable and cranky and if the slightest thing goes wrong it feels like my world is crumbling.

So, when I was looking forward to a delicious GF pizza, and I was told they were out of the crust, I almost started crying. They have a really great GF pizza menu. It’s whatever pizza you want, put on a GF crust (with slight modifications for certain sauces like BBQ). So they have quite the selection! Their non-pizza entrees were not as appetizing to me though, since they were mostly pasta and salads.

I ended up ordering the Modena di Balsamico, which I had as a fully-glutenized meal the last time we went and it was delicious. The GF version was not quite up to snuff. All of the GF pasta dishes use the same ziti-type pasta; it’s chewy and not that great. The chicken in my dish was very obviously pre-cooked and therefore dry. I ate a few bites and, despite ruining the roof of my mouth, was glad I had eaten as many polenta fries as I did.

I think next time I decide I want GF pizza, I’ll go to BJ’s Brewhouse, where I know they have delicious, thin-crust, just-like-real-pizza, gluten free pies.

Do you have a delicious gluten free pizza crust recipe or have a favorite restaurant that carries them? I’d love to get some tips so I can make my own pizzas at home!

Pho Sure: A Short Post About Lunch

15 Jan

I feel like a lot of my life revolves around food. It’s not a bad thing. I love food and I’m constantly thinking about and searching out new recipes and ideas. And now, having to adopt a gluten free lifestyle, it’s easy to see why I’ve always leaned towards Asian cuisine.

I just had some delicious pho for lunch and I’m sitting here in a state of warm, belly-full euphoria. I’m feeling much better than when I left for lunch, hungry and mind swimming.

Pho tends to be naturally GF, as long as you don’t add any regular soy sauce to it, so it is something that I enjoy immensely. I like to throw in a ton of bean sprouts, some lime or lemon juice and just a tad bit of sriracha. I let all the juices and oil soak into the soft, wriggly rice noodles and extra thin slices of beef. It’s really the perfect meal on a cold, bright day.

There are many different ways to prepare and enjoy it, and I enjoyed mine while sitting across from an attractive, bearded man, but that’s just a suggestion 🙂

The Gluten Battle

10 Jan

Is seems like it’s becoming a fad, isn’t it? Being Gluten Free, that is. For most, it’s a question of whether or not our bodies can handle the gluten. After a few years of pain, suffering, doctor’s appointments and skipped nights out, I’ve been told I’m one of the ones that can’t handle the gluten.

It’s been difficult since I was told I have a wheat sensitivity. Fortunately, I wasn’t diagnosed with Celiac, which I’ve learned a lot about over the years because of a close friend who was diagnosed in college. I’m very thankful for all of that knowledge that she so lovingly imparted to me. I actually knew what to look for when I went to the grocery store instead of being totally clueless and eating nothing but plain meat and veggies.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t still a ton to learn though. I received Gluten Free on a Shoestring by Nicole Hunn for Christmas. Of course, she started out as a blog, but I hadn’t heard of it until I had the book in my hands. Her introduction is great and gives a lot of tips on couponing, using internet resources, and plain ole just knowing what’s in your food.

Nicole also talks about her struggles with being new to the GF arena. She wanted to cook her family wholesome, delicious food, but anything that required flour seemed to have about 15 different kinds of substitute flours and it seemed just so overwhelming. And that’s exactly how I felt. It turns out that there are a few manufacturers that make an all-purpose flour! Bob’s Red Mill is a great one, and you can find it at most major grocery stores. I picked up a bag at Safeway.

Unfortunately, Bob’s doesn’t include xanthan gum, which is the powder that binds non-gluten flours together. But, there is one that does! Better Batter can be found online (at their site or Amazon, of course) and it’s a truly all-in-one for GF bakers and cooks. I haven’t ordered it yet, but it definitely seems worth the price and time to wait for shipping. I don’t bake often but I do love to bake, and all-purpose flour is something I always have in the house.

So far, I’ve tried two recipes from Nicole’s book. They’re very easy to follow and I started off with recipes that were along the lines of my normal cooking repertoire. The first recipe was for GF Mac and Cheese. It was delicious, but way too rich for my taste. I used cheddar and mozzarella with a brown rice rotini and it was enough to feed me and Todd for two days, but I just couldn’t stomach all the cheese and butter.

The second recipe I made was GF Lo Mein. Her recipe was only for sauce and noodles, so I added veggies to give it a little more sustenance. It was one of the best tasting Asian noodle dishes I’ve made, and I’ve made quite a few. It was very easy, although it took awhile because the sauce had to boil down. I’m also bad at keeping enough noodles in the house so I had extra sauce that I plan on utilizing in the very near future.

The whole point of this post is to say that I want to keep sharing my battles with going Gluten Free. It’s been a very difficult few months, but there have been some upsides: I’ve been eating more fruits and vegetables and I’ve lost 5lbs (all while skipping out on the gym or running more often than I should be). But eating in restaurants has been difficult, since I love giant burgers. There’s just something about a pillowy-soft bun smothered in mayonnaise, atop a juicy all-beef patty and a pickle. Take away the bun and it’s just meat and veggies wrapped in lettuce. A lot of restaurants have started accommodating the GF crowd, though, which I’m eternally thankful for.

My plan is to continue sharing my trials and tribulations with going GF. Do any of you have some great recipes or tips you’d love to share? Leave them in the comments! I’d be grateful for any help or information you’ve got 🙂

Guest Post at Sandpaper & Glue

25 Oct

Good morning everyone! Today I’m over at my friend Stephanie’s blog, Sandpaper & Glue, to do a guest post about meal planning! So head on over and check it out 🙂