Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kindle and low carb reading

That my friends, is what my kindle presently looks like. Some of these books were between $2-$5 while others were a tad bit costlier.   There are a few more you can't see in the photo that were 99 cent books but I have yet to really give them more than a cursory glance.  I've gone a little overboard here but its like a little addiction.

If I had to choose right now my top choice (at the moment) it would be Quick Fix Vegan.  Only because its the only one whos recipes have yet to disappoint.  Granted we've only made 3 of them but considering there are other books that have yet to make an impression on us (I'm looking at you Chloes Kitchen), Quick Fix Vegan has thus far been on top.

I'll leave the indepth reviews for the future when we've had more time to trial run recipes.  I will say though, I'm surprised at just how much a lot of these recipes are simple plug ins for the SASS Yourself Slim plan.   It helps make me feel like we're definitely on the right track with good nutritional standards.

Not to say that I think vegans are the epitome of nutritional standards.  I'm far too uneducated and inexperienced on that lifestyle to make such a statement, rather just that all of these books center on eating healthy -- and the fact that they are easily adapted to the 5-piece puzzle reinforces my belief that I'm doing well for my body's needs.

The only downside?... Well, since incorporating some of these vegetarian and vegan meals I believe its thrown my body for a bit of a loop and has caused a minor constipation issue.

Apparently its just me though... I'm pretty convinced that nothing can ever stop Abels digestive system from running smoothly as none of the changes have caused even a hiccup on his system.  The man is a machine.. a well lubed machine.  (hah)

At any rate, it lasted for the entirety of about a week and now things seem to have gone back to normal which Im thankful for.  Perhaps I chose one too many bean centered dishes last week or something, who knows (?)

Also included in the list of books, you may notice the one entitled: The Low Carb Revolution.  I decided to read this book as last month, Cynthia Sass, the author of SASS Yourself Slim (the book we are following) was slammed by the low carb community for writing an article about why low carb diets should get the boot.

Though I feel a lot of the slamming was incredibly rude and childish, I stopped to wonder just how so many people stood behind the low carb diet lifestyle.   There had to be something there if it has worked wonders for so many people, right?

So let the research commence.  Thus far I've only read a few blogs, online articles and am halfway through reading The Low Carb Revolution and though I am quite fascinated by some of the information, the book itself has proven a bit of a tough read for me.  At least the first half anyway.   Could be the way the author has written it, or it could just be that my love for carbs is simply not even wanting to read it.  It has a lot of great reviews for those who may be interested.

As I mentioned in my other blog, it has on more than one occasion literally put me to sleep.  Its a shame really because the author seems very animated and fun.  I blame my carb loving body for knocking me to sleep in fear perhaps, that I may abandon them.

Regardless, I would like to continue on my research just to see what all the commotion is about.  The chances of me living low carb?  About 1 in 50.

Never say never... but trying to pry bread out of my hands will more than likely get me accused of being a cannibal after I bite at your hand for even touching my love.

But hey thats just me.

For now I'll continue on my quest for information as long as everyone else will keep their hands off my carbs.  Judgements are fine, hands -- not so much.  Its just for the best ;0)

What I feel its all going to boil down to is the same as always:  To each their own.   No shame in our games as long as the quest for proper nutrition stays active within us.

In case anyone is wondering, tonights dinner menu will be featuring: Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza.  I have high hopes for this one... high hopes indeed!   I should point out that blog there belongs to the author of Quick Fix Vegan so Im confident this will be pretty damn good!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Menu board revisited and prepping our grocery list

We are over three months in with this menu board of ours and its still in pretty good shape.  There are a few small wrinkles from the tossing around we do with it but all in all, its doing a great job for us. 

A fellow blog reader named Juliet inquired on the last post about the menu board with a few grocery list questions and I'm going to try to do my best to explain our process of "organization" thus far. 

Heres a closer look at the menu board.  The board itself didn't take very long to complete (minus my desire to include little doodles)... but in terms of the recipe cards... well, we'll get into the cards further down below:
As for the little decorative drawings, well that was just for the sake of adding a bit of color and fun.  If you dont have the time, patience nor desire, then skip it altogether.   I've looked at a lot of ideas out in the blogosphere for menu boards and as much as I love the idea of dry erase boards, chalkboards, magnetic boards and even post-it notes, I needed the index cards to write the recipes on the back of.  

Because these were all new-to-us recipes featuring the dishes in the SASS Yourself Slim book, I needed the advantage of the double sides to jot down the ingredients and directions.  Post-its and erasable boards would be great if all you need to write is the name of the dish and slap it on the board.  We needed something I could physically take off the board and reuse constantly...

Heres a sample of what our cards look like:
All of the cards are housed in a little cheapie recipe box I picked up from Michaels.  Since the lunch and dinner recipes are one in the same and interchangeable, we only needed three dividers:  Breakfast - Lunch/Dinner - Snacks.  

You'll note in the book that breakfasts and snacks are also interchangeable but since they are separately written in the book, we separated them too.  If you notice the circled numbers on our cards, our original idea was to number the cards and the book recipes accordingly so we could refer back to them but after thinking about it, the smarter and easier thing to do was to simply write the page number of the book on the card.

As we've been expanding our recipe searches via cookbooks and internet searches, we now also write down which website or cookbook the newer recipes are from.  Just in case we want to refer back to them for any missed details.

And yes, each recipe card was and will continue being handwritten.   I know there are programs out there with templates for recipes but I thought writing each and every one of them would help remind me which foods fall under which categories in terms of the "5-piece puzzle" the book refers to.

It also helped imbed in my brain what a serving size of each food is.  It's not rocket science but my head has a tendency to retain only the things it wants to.  Its a very lazy little head.   That said, it took weeks for us to get the recipes written out because I was only willing to do them little by litte.

Each card had a recipe title on it but not all of them had the recipes written on the back.  Every weekend I would sit and write out a few more cards at a time until finally they were all complete. An overwhelming task indeed but one that Im grateful for doing.

Lastly, you might also note that we have "star" ratings on the cards.  That was more for our the benefit of future references. We wanted to mark each recipe that we tried somehow so we could keep each week fresh and new.  We also knew it was going to be hard to keep mental track of which recipes we liked and which we didnt.   Each dish we tried was given a rating from 1-4 stars and if I may say, there are only a select few that have less than 3 star ratings from us. Yay for delicious food!

As much as I thought this menu board was going to be a temporary solution for just the 30 days, we are now over 3 months in and its still as valuable to us today as it was on Day 1.   I like it so much that I'm planning on giving it a facelift soon to make it look a little "neater" and a little more artsy fartsy.

The routine is still the same. Weekends we choose our meals and then Sunday, we generally make out our list and shop for whatever we may need.  Seeing as how I've never in my life been an "organized" type of person this weekend task was daunting and dreadful at first, but these days its becoming a little more second nature.  Not taking as much time as it used to.

After our menu plan for each and every day has been set, we simply flip over the cards and check what items we need.  Generally speaking the majority is always fruits and vegetables that need replenishing as well as some of our basic items like eggs and milk.

As we go down the list I input the key ingredients I know we will definitely need into the ColorNote app on my phone:
If I have any doubts on any of the items, I will generally leave a question mark behind it to double check the pantry in case we already have it in stock.    I will admit that I haven't done much research in terms of how other people do their grocery lists and planning so there may be better apps available  out there but this one seems to be just fine and dandy for us at the moment.

Simply, input your items and as you shop, cross them out with the touch of a finger.

One thing I should also mention is that if you already know you won't be doing all of your shopping in one place, it helps to break the list down into separate markets/stores.

We have a couple of Aldi stores closeby which helps our costs immensely with their low prices but as many people know, they are limited in certain departments so we always find ourselves going to Meijer afterwards to pick up any of the remaining items on our list.  We get a lot of "basics" from Aldi, but for the items that are a little more specialty, we usually find ourselves at Meijer or Kroger to complete our list.  
Depending on how well you know your supermarket, it is also recommended that you rearrange the list according to the aisles and departments you may find each item in.  Its a step that seems tedious but one that you will be thankful for taking once your in the store making smooth aisle transitions rather than running back and forth because of a scattered list.

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't mind perusing the grocery store but since we do our shopping on weekends, I would rather drive myself a little crazy with this organization than deal with the masses of people shopping for very long!

Also worth mentioning (that I had almost forgotten) is the chalkboard we keep alongside the wall where our refrigerator stands:

As we run out of items in the fridge, we make note of it on the board to save time from second guessing and double checking our pantry and fridge.  If anything, this is definitely a great place to have a board of some sort to write these things down on.

Had you told me at this time last year that I was going to be this "organized" in the near future, I probably would have had quite a great laugh at your silly prediction.  "Who the heck do I look like? Martha Frickin Stewart?! PSSshhhshhh"

Well no, I don't look anything like martha frickin stewart but I'll be damned.. I am sitting here typing up an entry on how I organize my food plans and grocery list.

Next thing you know, I'll be telling you how I save time by cooking in large batches and making the freezer my new bestie.

It's going to happen my friends... mark my words.  It's going to happen.  Thats still a work in progress but I can't tell you just how great it is to save so much more time.  

I hope I haven't sent any readers to snoozeville with this post but I figured if it can help even one person give this whole organized thing a shot, then I will be doing a happy dance.  Without the menu board I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have followed the SASS book much longer than the initial 30 days!

If you guys have any ideas and shortcuts of your own that you use, by all means, share and share alike.  I ,and other readers I'm sure,  would greatly appreciate them!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Piri - piri makes me sing

I've been absolutely terrible at sharing recipes with this blog.

Not that there aren't a bizzillion other places where you can find awesome eats but the point of this blog was to kinda show you where we are in terms of our eating habits and what changes we're making.  

Currently with my laptop out of commission I don't want to take over Abels laptop 24/7 drafting recipes and cluttering it up with food photos.   Truth be told, as the weeks are going by,  its already starting to happen so the only thing to do is to start sharing more of our eats with you guys, regardless of my culinary amateur abilities.

There are a few recipes from the Vegetarian Times  that I have been meaning to try but their Spanish White Bean Tortilla with Piri-Piri sauce was on top of the list. As we made out our menu for the week on Sunday, we had deemed Thursday night to be the night we introduce our tastebuds to this interesting "piri-piri" sauce.

Funny thing, when I jotted down the recipe title I had assumed it actually involved tortillas. I figured, a casserole of some sort perhaps, right?

Even looking at the exquisitely beautiful photo in their magazine wasn't enough for me to realize I was mistaken.   In my mind I had already decided I was going to ditch the casserole and make this dish into tacos instead... I even wrote the word "tacos" on a recipe card for our menu board.

Silly, silly me.... I was completely oblivious to the fact that Spanish tortillas aren't tortillas as we know them at all -- they are more along the lines of a frittata.

Feeling slightly disappointed (because I really wanted tacos) I was about ready to ditch the idea altogether and return the recipe to the "another day" pile.

Luckily curiosity got the better of me and I kept to the original menu.

My decision was only further reinforced when low and behold I went to check out one of my favorite recipe blogs that very day and there it was.  The same dish we were destined to eat for dinner over at Caras Cravings.

Being such a newbie to the cooking world I geeked out a little because this had to have been a sign from the culinary Gods.  A sign that said this dish was going to be amazeballs.

Not that Cara is the end all be all in tastes (or anyone for that matter) but you know, I'm a geek and I geek out.  Its just a fact.

I was also a little more at ease because she laid it all out there in a better way than I currently have the abilities to.   The recipe I am providing below is what I did for two servings.  It doesn't differ very much from Caras except that she used red pepper flakes while we stuck to the original cayenne.  We both also had the same idea along the lines of adding greens to the mix though we used spinach and she used swiss chard.

The recipe below is, as I mentioned, the way I made it for a mere two servings.  To see the full version (serves 6) recipe and a much more appetizing photo of this very dish check out Caras Cravings.  You'll note there is a dry spice mix to make before making the piri-piri sauce but for the love of all things delicious, don't let that deter you because it really doesn't take much time nor effort.

Spanish White Bean Tortilla w/Piri-Piri Sauce

(serves 2)
Spanish White Bean Tortilla with Piri-Piri Sauce
Serves 2: 
Piri-Piri dry mix:

1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp pepper
-(the original recipe does call for salt but we made the omission and didnt miss a thing)

Piri-Piri Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp piri-piri dry mix-Whisk ingredients together in a small saucepan set over high heat until it comes to a boil (this should happen rather quickly less than 2 mins).  Set aside and let cool.  This is obviously a tiny amount of sauce so feel free to up the quantities to make more.  I set mine on the stovetop in a tiny frying pan to boil and it was just enough for the two of us.
2 eggs
1 tbsp parsley
1/4 cup onion
1/4 cup white beans (we used great northern beans)
1tsp piri-piri dry spice mixture
1/2 red roasted bell pepper

In small bowl, whisk eggs with parsley.  Set aside.
  • Saute onion and spinach together in a skillet until spinach begins to wilt.  We used a non stick cooking spray though feel free to use olive oil or veggie broth.  Considering the sauce already has  our alotted olive oil, I decided against using any more.  
  • Add beans and a teaspoon of piri-piri dry spice mix and stir as beans get coated with the spices.  Add in the egg mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes, lifting and stirring to allow for even cooking.
  • Cover and reduce the heat to low until egg is cooked through.  Divide into two portions, plate and garnish with strips of roasted red peppers. Serve the piri-piri sauce on the side or simply drizzle atop the finished dish as we did.   
According to the vegetarian times, the term piri-piri or peri-peri has become a generic term for hot sauces and chili powders used for barbecue.   It really does make this dish sing and though we did find it to be quite spicy, you can always use less cayenne pepper (or even use a milder pepper).

For anyone following the SASS 5-piece puzzle food strategy, you'll note this dish doesn't incorporate all the required vegetables which is why we served it with a side salad.  There are also no grains and slightly more from the "proteins" category than what Cynthia recommends but it was quite filling and we were just fine sans the grain.   I do admit though, the thought of this sauce spilling into some delicious quinoa makes my mouth water.

My apologies for the long read, I promise as time goes by I will learn to paraphrase and just get to the recipe from the start ;0)  

Everyone enjoy the weekend!! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Quick update - changing to Monthly weigh-ins

(Day 107)

Someone remind me I said we're ditching the scale for a month, not this blog.

I can't believe its been so long since I updated with anything but considering I'm still in amazement that we are no longer in June, well...  i'm definitely a little slow.

Things have gotten a little confusing for me in terms of monitoring our weight loss because I'm absolutely terrible at keeping things up to date. (As I'm sure you've noticed)

I have all of our weigh ins written down but somewhere along the lines we have extra weigh ins due to the fact that our weekly weigh ins didn't exactly coincide with our Month 1 and Month 2 end dates  so now I'm sitting here with a bunch of numbers, no dates, scratching my head...

Sure I could go grab a calendar and do all the math retracing my steps but that will just hinder my update further...

.. so to make a long story short:  We are now on monthly weigh ins starting with July 1st.   I will still keep tabs on our overall weightloss numbers but apparently dates are much too confusing for me to tally so we couldn't have picked a better time to switch to monthlies.

We've been trying new recipes out and as usual enjoying our favorites from Sass Yourself Slim.

I know its been a while since I've mentioned much about the plan or the book but believe me, we're still following the 5 piece puzzle strategy and thats not about to change anytime soon.

Recently, we've been taking cynthias lettuce wrap recipes and dicing up the lettuce to make these recipes travel friendly.   Not exactly a concept that makes us "geniuses" but we kinda kick ourselves for not doing it sooner.   Considering I was off work yesterday I enjoyed the wraps below as is:

Chicken and Quinoa Lettuce Wraps
I've never been a big fan of olives but in this recipe, they just work perfectly well with everything else.  I've shared the link for this recipe before but in case you missed it, check it out here.

If you're in need for a new salad I'd definitely give that recipe a go and just chop the romaine to bits as I stated above.   The burst of lemon makes it absolutely refreshing.

I'll do my best to get a little more frequent with the updates.   If I could just get time to slow down a little bit I might have more time to share our little kitchen adventures with you guys.  For now I hope you're all doing well and I'll be back in the evening to catch up on blog reads.