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

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?

NEED. WANT. CRAVE. THE HAPPY/ S.A.D. EDITION

When the excitement of Fall begins to give way to the business of prepping for the Holidays and the dark, dank months of Winter ahead, anyone that has lived in the Pacific Northwest for more than one of the notorious cold seasons knows to begin preparing for combat.

The enemy is silent. Perhaps the most devious enemy of all; Our own brains!!

You may know that it rains a bit here, but what you may not know is that because of all the clouds and greyness, Vitamin D deficiency is a real thing here which means that Seasonal Affective Disorder (or S.A.D.) is real, too.

Most people I know feel it somewhere on the lower end of the sliding scale that goes from laziness all the way up to thoughts of suicide.

I know, right? You can blame your laziness on the rain! Everybody does it… I actually blame everything on the rain because it lasts until July 5th. You know, long enough to have us all wearing jackets on the 4th and then the next day, BAM! Sunny gorgeousness! We have a love/ hate relationship with weather. We’re kinda famous for it. We are willing to put up with so. Very. Much. In return for our legendary summers.

Sigh.

So anyhoo, I would like to first offer my combat strategy for the ninja attack that S.A.D. can be:

  • Exercise. Since I have lived in Oregon, I have had to get serious about exercise because it is numero uno in my line of defense.
  • Go Outside. Exercise is very helpful with this.
  • Take your vitamins. I do Vit. D and Iron (as prescribed by my Doc), but find Vit. B complex and fish oil helpful, too.
  • Happy light. You are hilariously naïve if you think that you are going to get all the light you need naturally in these months. In fact, I giggle at you…But really, try it for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • This is self-care season. If there is any better way to combat the forces of depression, it’s focusing on yourself. I love a mid-winter steam and massage. Literally feel your bones warm up. Take care of yourself.
  • Creature comforts. Eating well, tea, cozy winter slippers, warm and festive gatherings with friends and family, a fire, a steam (I can really not recommend that enough), a glorious, glorious pampering foot spa, whatever. Spoil yourself. Now is the time and like the Wu-Tang Clan, your mental health ain’t nothin’ to f*ck wit.

So now for those creature comforts. For happiness this week, I need:

1. THIS AMERICAN LIFE. I do data entry for a living and if I don’t have music or Ira Glass, I will loose it all over this cube.  This_american_life

2. SURFER SALVE. It’s amazing, it’s Hawaiian and you can put it on anything. I use it for everything from bug bites and burns to my dog’s dry skin. There are other salves out there, sure, but none are Surfer Salve.

Surfer-Salve-Tubes.4

*PROTIP; buy it in bulk and have it on hand like I do, or give it away as gifts like I do. Either way, buy enough to make the price of shipping from Hawaii worth it.

3. BRAISED SHORT RIB RAGU. Because DERR! That’s why. Holy Mole!

Braised Short Rib Ragu on Polenta with Gremolata 2 500

COURTESY; CLOSET COOKING

4. SUPERFEET INSOLES. Don’t you judge me. Old people are SO not lying to you when they tell you that you will ache as you get older. At 34, I have chronic back pain. 3 things help me to mitigate this; acupuncture, exercise and these insoles.

WHERE ON EARTH ARE YOU CONTENT?

pATTERNS

Courtesy; Fancypants

I had the most bizarre realization several years ago at 30,000 feet flying over upstate New York and heading toward Providence; “I am comfortable here. This is where I belong.” Adding to this thought was the fact that I had been doing some genealogical research and discovered that my brother and I are the first generation in many-like five-to not have been born in upstate New York. I felt like it was uniquely mine and that I was a part of it.  Something I was not used to feeling.

We had spent holidays with relatives who lived in remote areas in the hills, quaint little farm towns with “just a stop sign,” my dad would boast. Playing in the snow and being allowed to wander freely. Unbeknownst to me, it made an impression that I didn’t discover for years to come.

But that undeniable feeling at that moment and when I landed in Providence; relaxed, alive, content, had been there each time-I just never listened enough to recognize it.

Have you ever felt that way? It’s remarkable.

On the day-to-day, it doesn’t make a huge impact. It feels like low-lying anxiety and you know something? I didn’t even know it was there until that day on that plane ride when it dissolved.

I have gotten used to feeling “a bit off” and it’s not until that feeling went away that I discovered what a difference it makes for me to physically be somewhere that makes me feel this way. It’s not something I think about everyday (I’ve been in Oregon for 14 years), but you know that feeling when you feel connected to the world around you? That bad things may happen, but at least you have your town? You feel like it knows you and you know it? Unmistakable.

The thing is, I wasn’t born back East. I was born in SW Washington. I do not feel that way in Washington. I feel disoriented there. We were a military family growing up, so we were told that “home is where we are together.” No emphasis was put on where we were physically, so this feeling of peace is how I imagine what “home” feels like to people who were born and raised in their hometown.

My body, my heart, has apparently chosen Rhode Island as my home.

I feel this draw to certain places above others. For instance, I love the desert. LOVE it. I had never even been there until I was 18 and even then, I had no idea why it seemed to relax me. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I will be the first one to tell you how amazing the Eastern sides of Oregon and Washington are. Quiet and serene, dramatic.  A completely different universe than the Western side.

east oregon windmills

Eastern Oregon Hill country. Courtesy, Fancypants.

painted hills

Painted Hills Courtesy, Fancy pants.

I also felt something like this on Kauai, but who hasn’t? Kauai is amazing. It’s my home of a different kind; the kind where your body-your skin and your hair improve. It’s health home.

So what does this all mean? For me, it means I will be moving East one day. More importantly, it goes in my Instruction Manual as “a truth.” Life will change. Everything about life changes, every single thing, and the more truths I can learn about myself, the inalienable ones that are true on the most primitive level, need the most focus.

These are the very fabric of who we are. Knowing more about myself and my identity helps me to evolve and move forward, move closer to peace.

Where do you feel connected?

“NO’S” ARE AN’NO’YING

“No’s” limit everyone, especially yourself.  They are selfish, sometimes rude and I hate them.

Scrap ’em.

Have you ever stopped to think that maybe your “No’s” are a pain in the ass to those around you? The friends and family that end up having to cater to them? You don’t drive or you don’t eat at a certain place AND you have no other suggestions and are unwilling to compromise? You refuse the hard work of the hostess at her dinner party because you “have a texture thing?”

Thanks. You are a joy to the rest of us. Also, embarrassing.

Tough love, Gumdrop.

It is my belief that we have to write our own, personal instruction manual and that we need different things at different times in our lives. On the one hand, that means cultivating your “no’s” –and then questioning them often.

But that does not mean that we make someone else feel bad because our preferences come first. In being just a little more mindful, everyone can be happy.

Most often, saying “yes” to something is the answer, so you might as well be comfortable with changing your mind.

Change is the only constant in life. Be it.

Willfully limiting yourself is the most ridiculous thing ever. You end up painting yourself into a corner, the only way out is to consider a new direction. Start by taking stock of all those things that you have decided that you “don’t do.”


Embrace Spontaneity. Don’t just write things off because you don’t have time or you have other plans. Some of the best times to be had are the ones that come at you from nowhere in the seemingly boring guise of “Hey! I’m taking the kids for pizza, wanna come?” And end at 10 o’clock at night, totally exhausted and happy with an arm full of temporary tattoos and your face painted like a cheetah. Memories happen this way.  Don’t miss it because you’re “off carbs…”

Take one for the team. Just shut your face, SHUT IT! And commit to having a great time at whatever it is you are doing. Do the ever-loving HELL out of it. If my husband wants to go see Pearl Jam, not only will I buy him the tickets myself, but I will go with him and I will not complain once. I will have a great time and I will list for him my favorite parts. He will not owe me anything and I won’t brag about what an amazing wife I am. Be chivalrous.

Regularly try the foods/ activities that you have ruled out. You may not know this, but it is insulting to not take an offering from the Host. You take that thing, you try it, you under no circumstances make face and you say the nicest thing possible. “I don’t normally do fried oysters, but the sauce is incredible!” Be diplomatic or never be invited back. Also, did you know that tastebuds are constantly developing so if you tasted something as a kid and not since, your argument is invalid.

One time, I decided that I needed to listen to pop music so that I could talk to my ten year old step and my tweenager cousins. Instead of NPR, I listened to music stations on my commute. You know what I discovered? Macklemore. So keep at it. Be a well rounded person.

Get over the fear of looking silly. I don’t care how, but you will learn so much more about yourself this way. Nobody looks graceful at Yoga the first few times. I take it as a “personal challenge” and say “HELL YEAH!” to all Yoga positions, just to try. I’m not saying that you injure yourself, but I am saying that you might surprise yourself and learn something.

Make your own fun. The bottom line is that we are going to have to do things in life that are not fun. For me, the best compliment is “it doesn’t matter what we are doing, Fancypants is here!”

Make “No’s” your “NOPE.” Ask yourself why you are inclined to say “no.” Then ask yourself “what is the worst that could happen?” Don’t discount things. There is something to be learned from everything. If it means enough to your friend, it should mean something to you that she is inviting you to be apart of it. Try to understand their passion even if you don’t share it.

Unknown artist

YOLO is usually a “no” for me, but in neon, with a seagull over it….Unknown artist 2014

HOW MANY ‘TABS’ DO YOU HAVE OPEN?

Did you see this floating around out there in the web’o’sphere?

a woman's mindThis rings so very, very true for me-even on a literal level; right now, in fact, when I look to my browser, I have eight tabs open. Eight.

One time, I attempted to make a list of all the things that had gone through my mind in a single day. It topped 200.

I did this for a couple of reasons; Funsies (der, what’s not fun about this exercise?), to track where my energy was going, to make a point to my husband (not that he doesn’t have lots of tabs open too, but even he was surprised) and to identify where I might be able to improve the quality of my thoughts and start to integrate some of the forward motion that I feel I have been lacking lately and thus feeling sad and helpless about it (Do you get this too?)

In accordance with last week’s Lesson in Decompression, I am trying to “think less” and “mindfully cultivate” my thoughts. Balance, Write my own, personal instruction manual if you will. All those cheesy Self-Help Shelf things.

Whatever works, right?


So this is how I have been managing:

1. Look at my schedule. For the month, for the week. Look at the events coming up.

2. Are there any events that require planning ahead? Wrapping presents, meal planning, placing orders?

3. Embrace the list! I know that this sounds a little Type A, but I simply cannot hold all of that information in this gorgeous head of mine forever.

list

4. Make a weekly list. Whiddle that list down to a few daily goals. When I have done those few things, I’m done for the day. I may do more if I am inspired to, but the idea is to stay focused and not to feel overwhelmed by a barrage of thoughts.

I can and may write an entire blog about how important just making the decision is in de-cluttering your brain, but for now, make time on your daily list for making decisions. Planning for next Halloween ON Halloween might seem insane, but it’s when I get the best costume ideas. Decide. That way, you can move onto an action plan, then come October, you are winning costume contests.

ALL DAY, SON!

5. I like to maintain a healthy mixture of things that are lame; scheduling dentist appointments and ordering dog supplements, with things that I look forward to like a ten minute meditation (Calm.com is a-mah-zing!), writing a blog post (hello, you) or making something tasty. Every once in a while, I throw in something that scares me. Next week, it’s acupuncture. It doesn’t have to be crazy. Little victories.

6. If you stare at the computer all day, like I do, minimize the amount of browser tabs you have open. So often (like maybe right now), I keep tabs open as a reminder; “think about ordering flowers from this place!” “Holy shikes! A Bedazzler!” “Hello, dream home…”

A) I have a notebook with lists just for my random fabulous thoughts, or I make a little reminder in my schedule to order flowers from that one place. Pinterest is perfect for this. Make a Secret “gift” board and then when you think of the perfect gift, you can pin it. I plan baby showers, wedding decorations, all manner of events using Pinterest. Make a board for the random information that you don’t know what to do with; interesting articles and such. That way, you never loose it and you can go back again and again.

They say that “the human mind is like a computer” and just like a computer, when it tries to do too many things at once, it crashes.

Use these devices like you would a zip or an external storage so you are not always trying to remember things and you will always have your ideas at your finger tips.

B) If you are a curious and compulsive Googler, like I am, Google, get your answer, then get out. CLOSE THE TAB, get back to business. Social media, too. It really does takes a lot out of you…Close it.

I have found that when I am productive and focused, my mind is “lighter” and I skip right past the overwhelmed, downer, exhausted track. I feel more energized and ultimately get more done and maintain a better mood.

What are your suggestions for better balancing life’s demands?

WHAT ARE YOU EATING? TOMATOS

It’s Fall and I am finally ready to turn the oven back on. Like putting on close-toed shoes or pants for the first time in months, it’s taking some getting used to.

Earlier this year, around August 12th specifically, I decided that there will be no more cooking in the Summertime ever again.

One less thing. I have my reasons.

Since then, I have been hoarding cold-weather cravings and recipes (I can’t wait for chili!) but in the name of ease of execution and prep time, I have started out pretty basic. Getting myself back into chopping tons of onions and garlic (since they are the basis for everything worth eating in the Fall and Winter) and just getting back into the kitchen. The results have made me so happy.

I mean, roasted cauliflower and goat cheese. That’s really all you need to know about life. It’s the very, very end of tomato season, so you might as well pair it with goat cheese (isn’t it funny how many ingredients you can say that about?) Everyone can have their pumpkin what-have-yous, I am still holding onto tomato until it’s really gone.

And then I will switch to pumpkin.

This recipe indicates that this casserole is a lovely “side dish,” which I fully dismiss and double it, so there is plenty for work lunches. You won’t be sorry.

Shakshuka courtesy Deb Perelman-aka Smitten Kitchen.

Shakshuka courtesy Deb Perelman-aka Smitten Kitchen.

Shakshuka is not a new dish in my catalog, but it was a quick favorite and so easy. Also, fun to say. No one knows for sure how to pronounce it, everyone loves to eat it, spicy and healthy and warming. I double the garlic, sorta my thing. I come from a family of shameless vampires.*

This is the ultimate breakfast. The ultimate meal. Hubbs enjoys it over rice, I think it’s best served over a lightly toasted crusty bread.

We agree to disagree.

There are few people we can trust in this world with spot on recipe ideas and Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen is one of them. Cook’s Country is the other. Everyone else is highly suspect.

Happy Fall! Get this computer out of your face and go roast something! Put on a sweater, too!

*Pro-tip; Request extra garlic with your thai food. They will look at you like you are insane, your friends may keep their distance, but I promise, you will never be the same.

And by that, I mean because your taste buds’ minds will be blown.