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

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?

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.

WHEN YOUR GIVE-A-DAMN’S BUSTED.

dolly, bitches.

As I enter the mid 30’s, I have learned stuff. I have been empowered by the ability to put names on feelings that up until now, have been cloudy half-thought-feelings in my head. I have been doing adult-ish things for some time now and while I may never fully feel like a card-carrying adult, one thing is for certain; the older I get, the more I feel like…Myself.

Even more to the point, I am growing into my communication style. It evolves, you know; as a kid, you have to ask for everything. You hear “No” a lot. You are made to tolerate situations and people that you don’t want to. Most people treat you like a kid and don’t take you seriously. That sticks with a person.

It takes a long time to really get over feeling like you need permission and to just plow forward without it. Asking is harder for some to learn than others. Telling them might as well be a quantum leap.

But something changed in my 30’s and perhaps the best explanation is this Jo De Messina quote:

my “Give A Damn’s Busted.”

I don’t really know anything about the woman or her music, or even where I heard the song, but she nailed it and that’s the real take away here.

My dearestest friend, who is 50 (and 32 according to Buzzfeed’s “How Old are You Actually?” quiz–I got 48…) confirmed this by telling me some years ago that I “tolerate too much. That will go away.”

She was right. If only I had known.

I got tired of ambiguity and indecision. I got tired of tolerating things that took up too much energy. We spend too much hard-earned mental energy speculating about possible outcomes. When you know where you are going, you have forward momentum, a little control. You are Captain of your sexy little ship. You can steer that bastard into port or float it on down the coast looking for dolphins and breaching whales. It’s up to you.

The problem is that people are assholes don’t always want to give you an answer. Often, you are given the wrong answer. Now, I am in no way advocating bad behavior. I am a staunch believer in diplomacy and the efficacy of good, direct communication. As an East Coaster living on the West Coast, I am a natural; Over the years, my wise-assery has been tempered with logic.

I may be seen as “direct” to some and “abrasive” to the electric company, but sometimes, that is what it takes.

In the immortal words of Dalton in the timeless classic movie Roadhouse,

Be nice until it’s time not to be nice.”

Even then, stay cool.

Here are some hard-learned, long-fought lessons on reigning in this new found freedom:


Be nice. Human interaction and dignity is lacking these days. Put yourself out there a little, be open and a little vulnerable. Charming and friendly. Keep your sense of humor intact. Chat up the cashier. My bus driver, Janet will tell you that they may even be able to give you a discount. But you never know unless you ask. Most people don’t even realize that you can or should ask. She’s right, too; Amanda Palmer has a whole spiel on it (ignore the eyebrows); The Art of Asking.

Unless it’s time to be mean. And by “mean,” I mean pointed. Go over heads, keep asking, send emails and letters. Be logical and don’t loose your cool. Your cool is the most effective tool in your kit. Think about it; would you listen to the raving lunatic or to the rational human being?

Don’t take any shit. Or at least, present that way when occasion calls for it. You may need to let someone know that you mean business. BUT know thyself; what you can you live with? If it means doing some dirty work, if it means having an awkward conversation or asking the tough questions to get the answers you need to sleep at night, it’s worth it. If it means backing down to avoid escalation, it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to call a situation or person “DONE” so that you can edit them from your life. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt. Just don’t embarrass yourself.

Know your priorities. Life will tempt you into straying from them. Give life the fanger (that’s Southern for “finger”) and stick to your guns. As you get older, time passes SO FAST. Knowing that time is the most valued commodity in the world and that your supply is limited will help you loose any remaining inhibitions around asking for things and getting right to the point.

Don’t expect anything from anyone, you are not entitled to anything. This teaches us to go forth and get things for ourselves. It’s called Tenacity and when used for good, it’s an excellent quality to have.

A little inspirational take-away:

Meryl

ALL IN: HALLOWEEN

It’s time we got serious about something, my lovelies. Something that is very near and dear to my heart; Halloween.

The cynical say that it’s for kids and well, that’s malarkey.

Is Vincent Price for kids? Night of the Living Dead? Dead Man’s Bones?

Sure, it’s fun to take the kids to the Pumpkin Spectacular and dress them up and watch them play a character for the night but you know something? All the kids I know play dress up and act like their favorite superheroes all year long. As adults, we get Halloween. That’s it. That’s why I do not understand why there are so few of us who really go all in.

Have you ever not seen a situation made a thousand times better where the people involved were in costume? Halloween elevates your normal spousal disagreement into a mermaid and a Ghostbuster yelling about where to go for dinner. Hilarious. So, uhm…YES.

In a controversial move that surprises many, I don’t discriminate against big kids-as long as they are in costume-and don’t just show up with some fake blood on their face and a pillow case full of candy. Anyone who takes the time to dress up for real and is in any way creative about it, gets my respect.

The sexy outfits are another matter all together. Believe it or not, I don’t care for them because they are a costume cop-out, not because they are showy or inappropriate for the cold weather. Cosplay is proof that sexy can be inventive.

I went through my “sexy phase” and you know why mine were different and better? Because I made every single one of them: Mary who had a little lamb, Mary Quite Contrary, Miss A-Mary-Ca, Mother Mary, Mary Lynn Monroe, every last one from scratch.

But then I graduated from my 20’s and along with my feelings on almost everything, Halloween changed for me, too. I wanted to be the very best character I could be. If I was going to dress up, I was going ALL IN.

bride of frankenstein1

Bride of Frankenstein, bitches. My real hair.

miss argentina

Miss Argentina from Beetlejuice. Painting yourself blue takes commitment.

beetlejuice

ALL. IN.

poison Ivy

Poison Ivy. Also see; Bane and Spiderman.

Worth it. Every single time. The glue in the eyebrows, the bottle of conditioner, tracking canned hair dye all over the house, safety pins, blue arm pits for a week.

In this day and age where we seek to explain everything with science and technology (even ghosts), the unknown barely even exists anymore. Thank goodness for Halloween or we might forget it all together.

Nowadays, I dress up to take the kid trick-or-treating. Nowadays, he is getting tired of it so we end up looking for an event to attend but even that is difficult; We aren’t really the club type, the bars wait until the very last minute to announce their Halloween plans and even then, where’s the spooky music? It’s clear that with very few exceptions, no one is taking Halloween seriously anymore.

Before we lived in such a tiny home in such a shitty neighborhood, I would light a fire and play old movies, dress up and decorate and make a fabulous dinner. We would drink pumpkin beer and pass out candy and giggle at the kiddos.

Now, we are looking for a Proper Halloween. Anyone else in this boat? I have been asking around and have found some interest in a party that you could plan ahead for, a mandatory costume event, possibly in an old building with some interest, with properly designed decorations and a theme. I know I would be willing to pay extra to ensure that it was done proper.

Who’s with me?!

NEED. WANT. CRAVE.

I don’t know about you, but what I need changes all the time. When I am dragging or having an “off” day, I will ask myself “what do you need to turn this day around?”

And then I make it happen.

Here’s what I am needing this week:

1. Affogato from Spella Caffe. Gelato (I adore the chocolate chip- or “stracciatella”) with espresso poured over. It’s stunning. The smoky bitterness of the coffee mixes with the creamy sweetness of the gelato and it is the best pick-me-up ever invented.

spella affogato

Courtesy Jeff G, Yelp

2. Martha Stewart’s Butternut Sage Lasagna. Do you love sage? Well? DO YOU? I love it. I especially love it in this recipe because it’s the main flavor point with the richness of the cheese…Forget it.

Plus, it’s butternut squash season!

butternut-sage-lasagna-5

Courtesy Sweet Peas and Saffron

3. Warm footwear. They are not for every day, they are not for work, they are a treat for when I get home and take those shoes off. They are my signal to the world that says “not now, I am in comfort mode. I am being glamorously lazy right now.” They are a very personal choice, I only wish they were more outlandish.

mukluk

Courtesy, Amazon

4. Timed taper candles in a blue-tinted mason jar. They work great for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Super cozy and on a timer so you don’t even have to remember/ forget to turn them on and off.

Courtesy, Apple Hill Homestead

Courtesy, Apple Hill Homestead

5. Eggwhite Soap. Gentle now that the weather has changed. Keeps my combo skin moisturized. Been using it for years and still can’t get enough of the clean scent.

eggwhite soap