WHAT ARE YOU EATING? NOT BORING HEALTHY RECIPES

leaf stars

Courtesy; Fancypants

As the sands of time pass through the hourglass of life, I find myself trying harder to eat better.

I don’t diet because I have the rebellious tendency to defy them when they get hard or start to annoy me or when I just want a damned cookie. Plus, I don’t have food allergies, really and food and diet shame is a real pet peeve of mine. So I try to eat a sensible mix of things I want and things that I should eat prepared in ways that make me want to eat them.

It doesn’t seem so hard, but I get bored after a while. Bored, bored and so I have tools for when I start to get angry at the soup I’ve been eating all week and demoralized by salad.

It happens to the best of us. Food should not do this to us. Let’s not let food get us down!

Cooking Life Lesson the First: I shop Pinterest for not-boring healthy recipes when I am not bored. That way, when I am bored, I can find inspiration.

Second, I keep it lazy. Generally, when I have gotten bored, it’s because I have been preparing fancy meals at the end of long days and weeks and I am too tired to go on in this breakneck, fast-paced, dangerous way.

Third, leftovers. I want all the possible bang for my buck. This means at least a couple of lunches and perhaps something that can be incorporated into a new meal. Roasted veggies, simple proteins. CHIMICHURRI.

Here are some of my absolute favorite Not-Boring Healthy Recipes:


1. Super-duper Easy Broiled Pork Chops with Roasted Veggies and Chimichurri. (I tend to not take pictures of broiled pork chops, because I can’t make them look delectable, not even on Instagram)

I don’t remember where I got this technique and I know for sure it’s not something I thought of all by myself, but I am unable to find reference to it after some intense Googling and muttering to myself about pork chops in my cubicle.

Anyhoo, charming back story: My mother could not cook pork to save her life. It always, ALWAYS turned out tough and after years of trying, she gave it up. After my run-in with the most insanely easy technique ever (and alas, no one to credit), she still doesn’t make them. But I single handedly reversed years of terrible pork chop ju-ju and never got them wrong again:

  • Put pork chops (this recipe is for a medium-sized cut) in one layer on a baking sheet. I like to make a bunch at once.
  • Salt both sides heavily
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let sit while you prepare the rest of your meal (30 minutes to an hour).
  • Rinse salt off, pat dry, DO NOT season with salt. Pepper, maybe but no salt. Are you crazy or somethin’ ?
  • Depending on the thickness, broil for 8 minutes on one side and 12 on the other.
  • Let sit, covered with foil for 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy leftovers whole or chopped in salads, scrambles, sandwich wraps, stir-frys…I mean, really.

I know.

A recipe with built-in prep time is a beautiful thing. So meanwhile, we chop up some broccoli and cauliflower, beets, zucchini, whatever, but definitely roasted garlic. Roasted garlic is widely known and accepted to be the very best thing known to man.

  • Chop uniformily
  • Cover in salt/ pepper/ olive oil
  • Roast for 40 or so minutes at 350
  • Enjoy leftovers in salads, scrambles, sandwich wraps, stir-frys…And with that roasted garlic, you are only limited by your imagination. I can’t think of a time when it would be a bad thing to have around.

This last part only involves a blender. It’s chimichurri. Say it a couple of times, it’s really fun and it sounds remarkably like “chupacabra.”  Here is a precise recipe for you, but basically you:

  • Dump parsley, garlic, oregano, red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and olive oil in a blender and you blend.
  • Enjoy leftovers in soups and salads, over meats and veggies
  • If you’re not into chimichurri, try this fabulous Sweet Pea Spread as an alternative. I put it on the famous Crack Toast, but on pork chops, it is dee-voine! Similarly amazing is Karam’s Garlic Sauce if you are that lazy. Which I am. We don’t have a dishwasher.
Courtesy; Amazon.

It looks like this. Recognize. Courtesy; Amazon.

2. Smoothies. I basically eat the same thing for breakfast every day and you know how that can weigh on a person, so these are perfect for those times when you wake up and you are hungry but willing to go without breakfast because you can’t bring yourself to turn on the stove. DON’T GO WITHOUT BREAKFAST, DUMMY!

For dinner, I try to keep the sugar down because I have a hard enough time sleeping, but I get home too late and am absolutely not cooking, enter smoothies.

Courtesy; Thug Kitchen

Courtesy; Thug Kitchen

  • THUG KITCHEN is my spirit animal of recipe writing. Spinach Cooler.
  • 3 3-ingredient smoothies including one of my favorite breaky smoothies, the Banana/ Peanut butter/ cacao powder. I like to add spinach because I’m weird.

3. Brazilian Shrimp Stew. It’s wintertime and while this girl loves her some soup, I get bored and this stuff makes for awesome leftovers and soups are easy, so everybody wins. I like to add some plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Courtesy; I Breath...I'm HUngry

Courtesy; I Breathe…I’m Hungry

4. Hash. It’s hearty, it’s easy and it’s as healthy as you want it to be. I love I Breathe…I’m Hungry’s recipe for Chorizo, Kale and Sweet Potato. She has also re-ignited my love for chorizo, so for that I am forever in debt.

Courtesy; I Breathe...I'm Hungry

Courtesy; I Breathe…I’m Hungry

NIGHTSTAND BOOKS; WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?

Apparently, I am just a mouse hitting the “treat” button over and over; when I can’t figure out what kind of book I’m craving, I hit up my own bookshelf for an old favorite. I think that when I have just finished reading a string of really great and satisfying books, the prospect of an average book is unbearable to me and so I come crawling back for comfort until I’m ready to venture out again.

I am always happy to take suggestions, but right now I’m having this thing where I am not happy in my job and my money is tied up in my house and so I can’t go back to school so I have devised my own coursework; first, read about different jobs, then read everything that there is to know about what interests you and then diversify so that you are a well-rounded person.

Alright kids, sit up and pay attention!


Up All Night by Martha Gies.

up all nightI read this several years ago, probably just after it’s release in 2004. I love social stories, I love people watching and non-creepy voyeurism. It’s about night jobs in different professions around Portland told straight from the individual in more of a report form rather than an objective essay. Very Studs Terkel Working.* Portland institutions like the Montage and Trimet are tertiary characters making it a very Portland-centric read. I feel like in keeping Portland the weird place that it is, it should have it’s own Weird Travel section at Powell’s and that Up All Night should sit just next to Chuck Palahniuk.

Historic Preservation in Small Towns: A Manual of Practice. By Aurthur Ziegler and Walter Kidney

historic presWeird. I get it. But I like (and have always liked and formed bizarre attachments to) buildings. I was not fortunate enough to be one of those kids who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, or knew that I could actually do the things that I was interested in; I had a strange, detached idea of the world that I am still sparring with. Anyhoo, I checked and this book is actually in the coursework for the Historic Preservation program that I am pretend-attending. This book makes sense, even to me. I have visions of preserving my hometown one day and taking the 200 year old buildings, restoring them and making them useful again and this is where I’m starting. Look at me go! I even have a pet project to get me started. More on that at a later date.

Just look at this beaut!  Courtesy; Fancy Pants

Just look at this beaut from Old Town in Portland, OR! Apparently mustache culture runs very deep indeed.
Courtesy; Fancy Pants

A Short History of Nearly Everything. By Bill Bryson.

short history of nearly everythingIt may be difficult for me to convey to you how much I adore Bill Bryson. Everyone does. If my life had a narrator, I would want it to be him**. I love A Walk in the Woods, that and The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America***are two of my top 10 of all time. So just imagine Fancy Pants’ nerd glee when he wrote a book encompassing EVERYTHING…in his wonderful voice; awed, humble, like you are having a pint and a conversation with a pal-and not the know-it-all, annoying one either. This is history, geology, dinosaurs, universe, the elements, all made approachable. You actually get a very interesting, abbreviated understanding of “nearly everything.” I am usually re-reading at least one of his books, but you don’t have to take my word for it…

He gets me...Sigh... Courtesy Fancy Pants.

He gets me…Sigh… A Walk in the Woods
Courtesy Fancy Pants.


* Working is a great book, too. A precursor to Up All Night on a National level. It is amazing how much people talking about their jobs in the 70’s sounds exactly the same as people talking about their work in 2014.

** Or David Sedaris. Oh, my beloved David…

*** PRO-TIP; GO READ THEM RIGHT NOW.

DECISION-ING; IT’S NOT SO HARD.

WTF stamp

Courtesy; Fancy Pants

Don’t be afraid. It’s empowering to make definitive choices for yourself and everyone knows that power is sexy. Ergo, these are tips on brangin’ the sexy. Let’s DO THIS, hot stuff!

They say that the unknown scares us; I believe this is absolutely true and this is why I am an avid planner and strategist; because when we have decided what we’re doing next, we have direction and it’s not so scary. If you have something in the back of your mind that gives you anxiety, deciding to address it right out and make a plan will likewise, makes it less scary.

We have to be picky about what clutters up our minds if we want to be present. We can, out of pure practicality, only think about a few things at a time without getting overwhelmed, so make sure your thoughts are worth it.

For the bigger stuff: but also helpful…


1. CATEGORIZE: How monstrous is the decision? Is it life-altering or is it a flat tire? If it’s life-altering, know that some of the best experiences come as a result of a sudden change of plans and the sooner you can start seeing the positives, the sooner you can be on the other side and moving onward and upward.

Always onward and upward, baby.

If it’s a great thing; will you study abroad in Paris or Madrid? Will you take the job that you want or the one that pays? Don’t spend too much time on decisions of the heart. Just go. You’re head will only get in your way.

2. ACTION. Getting something accomplished automatically makes us feel better, so how long can you allow this to occupy you? How long do you have to mull it over? If I think that I am going to loose sleep over it, I will do whatever it takes to fix it quickly and get it gone. Write an email at midnight, call and leave an apology message, find the right paperwork, figure out what you need and get it handled, sucka!

Sometimes simply making the decision, right or wrong, is the best decision to get it out of your life when you have more pressing issues; will you go or won’t you, where? These are things that you can re-evaluate later, but simply committing to an event or declining will clear the low level anxiety around making a decision so you can move what? Onward and upward, that’s right.

Personally, I favor the path of least resistance. You do what you want, though.

3. BOTTOM LINE. What is the reality of the situation? What is the bottom line? What do you NEED to do? If it doesn’t need attention rightthisverysecond, forget it until you have the time to really dedicate to thinking about it.

For everything else:


5. PLANNING and research. Make decision-making time by setting it aside on your weekly/ daily to-do lists. Again, CHOOSE WISELY. Consider outside factors like the weather (are you visiting Boston in the Winter? Hope you don’t plan on leaving…) and write down your ideas as far ahead as possible; think about Halloween ON Halloween. Think about Christmas on Christmas. You’re already sitting there thinking “this is perfect. What can I do to make it perfect next year, too?” Or “how could I make this even more perfect next year?” Have trouble figuring out what to wear to events? Think about it and decide when you get the invitation.

6. DETERMINE your commitment level. How far you are willing to go for this? Is dinner worth it for you if you have to pick up your friend who doesn’t drive across town and then drop her off, too? It might be, just decide. Maybe you get take out and bring it over, maybe she takes the bus and meets you half way.

I would buy the windshield wipers for more, rather than drive to 17 different locations looking for a good deal on them and waste gas money. Worth it.

7. RE-ADJUST your priorities as needed. Daily. Hourly sometimes. Whenever circumstances dictate. Re-adjust. Adapt, adapt.

8. What RESOURCES are you going to need to get er done? Time off? Money? You may have to ask for help. It’s easier than you think and it will save your sanity and your life.

9. STOP thinking once you have made your decision. You are only dedicating so much time to it, let it go.

I think that the only downfall to getting your shit handled so effectively is that you realize that you are ready to level-up and make…more decisions. Bigger ones. Maybe it’s not a downfall, though. Maybe it just means that you’re owning the game of life.

You player, you.

POTLUCK FINEST; EASY PEASY CLEMENTINE SQUEAZY

WHO ENJOYS LAZINESS, SAY AYE!

Lazy Holiday preparedness?

Good. Welcome.

Event season is upon us, dearest darlings. I have many invitations on my desk, most all requesting that I “bring something to share!”

I get it; We don’t want to do all of the work, we want to hang out with our friends and squish babies and we will have our hands full with that and in the other hand, a cocktail so…bring snackies!

The trade off, of course, is that we are fussing around, trying to keep things warm, keeping them looking appetizing, wondering if people are liking it, making picky kids eat it…Aaaaand not really making Merry at all.

So this year, I decided to find the easiest, laziest dead-ringer that I could. The sign up sheet went out, it was time to declare our intentions. With brazen confidence, I typed “Kalua Pork Sliders.”

Gauntlet thrown.

It was the best possible scenario; pick up rolls, pick up cole slaw (and doctor it up a bit with cilantro, salt and pepper) and a croc pot. It was bliss AND it disappeared. I left there with nothing but pride. ALL THE PRIDE.

I will mention that the other part of this particular invite was to enter a drink into the Drink Competition (which I won, ya’ll) and I made the pork and the drink side-by-side and they cross-pollinated in the best way:


Courtesy Perpetually Hungry Blog who suggests fried onions on top...What is there to disagree with?

Courtesy Perpetually Hungry Blog who suggests fried onions on top…Genius. Also check out the cole slaw recipe, which looks excellent.

Kalua Pork a la Fancy Pants:

  • A good, large amount of Pork Shoulder. Like maybe 4 pounds.
  • Hoisin Sauce. Hoisin make everything tasty. Use lots of globs on top-like half of the bottle. Using this, I cut the amount of Hawaiian salt that is added in half.
  • Clementines-3 minimum sliced into rounds and plopped on top.
  • 1 Tbsp Hawaiian salt
  • Garlic. I would start at 6 cloves or so because I am no wussie.

-Dump ingredients into croc pot, leave on low for 6-8 hours until meat is unable to be picked up because it is so tender, it falls defiantly out of your hands and shreds itself.

-Remove meat from croc pot, remove liquid and chill for a bit until the fat separates, remove fat. mix shredded pork and liquid. Keep on low until served. Watch friend and loved ones become ensnared by it’s hearty-yet-light goodness.

Can you believe how easy that is? Any event the weekend after Thanksgiving and I am making this automatically. The hoisin/ citrus combo is one that I fell in love with after trying the best chicken wing recipe in the world: Her domestic majesty (you needn’t bother correcting me,) Martha Stewart’s Spicy Sweet Chicken Wings. If you are looking for a backup recipe that people will adore, I would recommend this one, even though you need to be less lazy to prepare them.

spicy sweet chicken wings

That caramelized color is where it’s at. Courtesy; Martha Stewart Living

Now, I will be honest; I knew I had the cocktail contest in my pocket because this is my signature wintertime drink and no one in their right mind can deny it’s magic. Not even my mother-who doesn’t drink liquor. The same Aunt mentioned above was kind enough to share her recipe for Honey Preserved Clementines a few years back because they are stunning and I had to have them all to myself. You can put them in everything (other alcoholic drinks, non-alchy drinks,  an upside down cake or an icing…) and they will win hearts.

No. They will STEAL hearts.

They don’t stand a chance.

I call it the Tummy Warmer and it goes a lil something like this:

  • Ice in a lowball glass-crushed
  • A shot of bourbon. I used Burnside.
  • A tablespoon of Honey Preserved Clementines-Include a slice of clementine in the glass (even the rinds are edible. My favorite part!)
  • Ginger Ale to the top.
  • If you want to get fancy, add a smooshed Amarena Cherry.

The Clementines are the absolute easiest thing in the world; you cook them for 10 minutes on the stove, leave them overnight then transfer them to a jar.

Courtesy; Fancy Pants

Courtesy; Fancy Pants

*Pro Tip; If you really want to be the darling of the crowd, you could even bring a few of the smallest mason jars and let people take a few slices with syrup home.

*Pro Tip the Second; fiddle with the spices. Don’t be afraid. It’s the holidays, so you’ll have plenty extra. I love cardamom, so I go nuts with that.

NEED. WANT. CRAVE.

I don’t know what it is about this time of year. It must be my nesting instincts or some such thing, the Solstice-y need to put more light into these dark days? But I am all about cozifying (what? It’s a real thing. Only legit stuff here) and this list, well, just you try to not feel all warm and fuzzy.

1. Hot Chocolate. ALL OF IT. The switch has been flipped and it’s all I want in the world. Moonstruck is close and is the good shit.

courtesy; Moonstruck

courtesy; Moonstruck

2. The Curly Girl Book. This is a revelation for me. I asked my friend about her amazing curly hair, she demurred, and then she came clean and loaned me this book. Honestly, I never thought of myself as the kind of person who would sit down to read a book of this nature (I did not watch the DVD, though so I still have that), it seemed like a lot of steps, maintenance. It’s really not, though. It’s what my hair has always wanted…

curly girl

3. A Very She & Him Christmas. Yep, here I am, that person. I don’t care, this album is catchy and it’s our new, Contemporary favorite. Just try to get these song out of your head. Hubbs and I love M. Ward on his own and now he is with us all year long.

A_Very_She_and_Him_Christmas

4. The Wonder Years! This is firmly planted in the “WANT” category. So, you know all of that music that totally made this show? Acquiring all of those licenses is what has kept the series from being released for purchase for all of these years. Now that it is out there in the world, I can’t afford it. Story of my life. But it will be mine, OH YES. It will be mine.

WY_Complete_Series_Shot_290x390

5. Bed linens. I don’t do Black Friday. I value my face too much and also my sleep. But, coward that I am, I am all about Cyber Monday and if I am shopping for any of the myriad of things in my life that I should really be buying on sale, bed linens is it. Our bed is awesome however, it is very thick. I cannot just go to Ross or TJ Maxx and find some cheap sheets. This beast of a thing requires deep pocket sheets and those are neither easy to find, nor are they cheap. But on Cyber Monday, I can buy two sets. Also pillows at Macy’s because fo’ reals, ya’ll, we need to be cycling out our pillows way more often than we (the Royal “we”) originally thought. I got this little diddy for $30.

P.S. For the record, if you own the Tempur Pedic Cloud Luxe in the queen size, It’s 13″. This information is not easy to come by, so I thought I would put it out there if by chance it helps one of you.

P.P.S. If you don’t own one, maybe you should? Soft enough for Hubbs, firm enough for me, it’s perfect for both of us.

6. Fraiser Fur candles.But also, these soy Roland Pine candles. I have had mine for two years and they are impressively fragrant, even when not lit. They are a luxury expense, but when you want the pine smell inside and the tree is no longer putting out, these candles are the way to go. Though next time, I think I may try one with a wood wick, have you heard of these? The wood wick simulates a fire, how cool is that?frasier fur candle

TAKING CARE OF YOU

heart

Courtesy; Fancypants

This sounds like common sense, I know but we can all use the reminder. My Need. Want. Crave. posts are my own attempt to slow down and ask myself on a regular basis what I am really needing on a very regular basis and hopefully it inspires you to do the same, even if you aren’t needing or wanting ice cream in your coffee (who DOES that?) or crazy (awesome) house slippers.

Not that we judge those who do, thankyouverymuch.

So I noticed in the crazy busy flurry of last week; family, holiday and holiday-related events, that I was not pushing as hard as I normally do and that as a result, the things I chose to do were mindful, thought out and well enjoyed.

A while ago, we talked about How Many “Tabs” we are keeping open at any given time in our minds and how a little planning helps us focus on what we need to and keeps away all of those distracting, downer feelings of being overwhelmed.

Having a plan, even a loose one, for the big things in life and the small, does wonders for empowering yourself and combating stress.

I thought ahead about how much time I have, my level of commitment and level of fussiness (check out my Potluck Finest post for tips!) that I was willing to put into cooking and event planning and I came up with a plan. Friends, darlings, I am so happy to report that it helped me SO MUCH not to cry or lash out at those I love. In fact, for one family event, I won the cocktail contest AND I went in with 5 pounds of pulled pork and left with none. It was a “Tapas Party” (because it’s now a cocktail potluck.) At lunchtime. Every year. Tapas are fabulous, but I promise you; a cheese and charcuterie plate at lunchtime, mixed with vast amounts of wine, only makes my family hangry and after last year, Hubbs refused to come again unless there was “real food.” I cannot tell you how happy it made everyone for there to be real food there. There was dancing. You know the kind.

I planned effortless dishes and drinks that required next to no supervision. As a result, I was able to relax.

I did karaoke.

And that is all I have to say about that.

There is NO WAY on Earth that we can stop the barrage of life from coming at us all at once, but loves, comrades, brothers and sisters, we can plan. Let’s all try! We can have our ducks in a row, we can estimate what is coming at us and we can be that asshole brown-noser from school.

We can brown nose life.

It will not stop all stress or prevent us from being blind sided from time to time, but it will help us to enjoy the present. It will help us to free up time and since Winter is the time to be really gentle with ourselves, we will need that time to focus on ourselves.

Here are my usual “be gentle to myself” suspects:

Dog walks. Every day that I can, no matter the weather. The outdoors and the social interaction are the best ever for clearing the mind. Honestly, if you ever want to practice your networking skills, the dog park is THE place to start.

Acupuncture. Sure, I still tense up when she goes to poke that thin skinned place behind the knee, but I leave feeling great. Those 20 minutes when I am laying there like a pincushion are so refreshing. Not even kidding.

Writing. For you beautiful people and for myself.

Running. Currently trying to fit more of that in my life.

-Finding ways to spend time on my appearance. I would file this under “pride of ownership” and not selfishness. It makes a person feel a bit more confident when you are actively doing things for yourself. I thought it was ridiculous when a friend loaned me a book about maintaining my curls (whole books have been written about this! With chapters!) but you know something? It works. One less thing I have to worry about and it makes me feel pretty.

-A sleep ritual: About an hour before I go to bed, I make myself some tea. I wash my face and brush my teeth, I get comfortable. No electronics in bed, I call up the doggie and I may find something soothing on tv. If there’s nothing on, I may listen to the radio, reading is the magic bullet, though. I read until my eyes close on their own.

Most importantly, if you need this quality time for yourself, don’t make other plans. Tell everyone that you are busy, it’s not always easy but your life will improve as a result.

How do you get life under control?

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU EATING? THE THANKSGIVING EDITION

I feel like when the question is asked “does your family have a weird recipe that always shows up on the Thanksgiving Day spread?” that there are two camps; the “No! What a weird question. How weird can these recipes be? What kinds of bizarre things are showing up at other celebrations?”

And then there is the “Ooooooh, the weirdness” camp.

I would be apart of the second camp because of the Aspic. The tomato aspic.

Like this, only more ugly.

Like this, only more uglier.

As you can see, it’s like a Jell-o but with more “Ooooooooh” and then followed by shudders.

You know in that movie Julie and Julia where Amy Adams is making gelatin out of a calf’s foot and you are sitting there wondering why anyone would ever do such a thing? I wonder that, too. This is what aspics were originally made of. My mom thankfully uses lemon flavored Jell-o.

Sigh. I can’t believe that’s the trade-off here.

-Aaaah, Doughmesstic. You say it so well; Aspic. There’s a Reason No One Makes it Anymore.

No one ever believes that a) it exists until they Google it or b) that such an antiquated recipe would ever make it’s way to the King of Feasts. Surely something so ridiculous is filtered out in the (very) early planning phase?

If only there was a planning phase; Our day is a free-for-all; Folks show up all willie-nillie and plop down their Costco offerings buffet-style, sit…Somewhere and make awkward conversation, usually inspired by the aspic. It’s tradition.

So, no. No planning phase to speak of.

Anyhoo, my mother is a lovely and well-intended woman and yet she horrifies us all with this Aspic and it’s accompanying garlic cream sauce every year because “it’s tradition.” Her mother made it for the sisters and now she makes it for us while we tease her relentlessly and poke at it’s wiggly bits.

She adds tons of olives and doesn’t use a mold so it ends up looking like this:

moms aspic

Courtesy; Fancy Pants

And I end up looking like this very confused and skeptical man:

aspicman

COURTESY MID CENTURY MENU

So I’m dying to know what freaky stuff is on your Turkey Day plate!