Sunday, January 02, 2011
Tai here. I just wanted to sneak some blog time before hitting the hay and wish everyone a happy, healthy, and wonderful new year. Hopefully all those resolutions to get and/or stay fit will fall on fertile ground over the next 12 months.
Me, I'm trying to stay away from resolutions. Not that I don't like them. There's something about fresh starts, the pomp and circumstance of writing a list of hopes and dreams on a fresh sheet of paper or a new word-processing file, that makes me all starry-eyed and dreamy. But resolutions tend to spoil pretty quickly, like fresh fruit from the Farmer's Market. So I figure I'll just do a theme for 2011. less a "to do" list and more a general, overarching idea that will perhaps help me make all the "lifestyle" changes that I know are good for me. A mantra if you will. A catchphrase.
And that word is: Moderation.
I wish there was a better word for the concept, but I dug through the thesaurus to try and find something that neatly tied up all the nuances and meanings I'm trying to convey and "moderation" is pretty much it. I suppose that's why it's so very overused.
But really "Moderation", as I'm coming to learn in my old age, is the only game in town. To me, it's not necessarily a demand to become all withered and abstemious. Rather, it's a call for consistency, for rationality and mindfulness, for making slow changes at a stately pace that will, over time, garner big, juicy results. All ideas that can also be summed up by the old, "slow and steady wins the race" attitude, and granted it's nothing new, but for an all-or-nothing girl like me, "Moderation" is new. It's exciting. I'm living on the bleeding-edge here people.
A perfect example is my approach to working out. I'm a go-ho-gal, especialy after I've taken stock of my holiday excesses and have begun to formulate a new year's fitness plan of attack. Old, boring, all-or-nothing me would have decided that the quickest way to loosening the pants would be and hour and a half of working out daily: 45 hour on the elliptical in the morning and another 45 minutes doing some sort of elliptical/workout tape/strength training combo after work. Sure it sounds good, but it would be a plan doomed from the start. I'd keep it up for a week, feel great, and then promptly stop and not work out again until March. Guaranteed.
So today, with moderation fresh in my mind, I went downstairs, turned on the Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred (a program I just started today which I'll talk more about tomorrow), and did a balls-out 20 minute workout. That's it. I was tempted to add some more elliptical time, but forced myself upstairs before I could get on the contraption.
How did I feel? Great. A few skeptics out there might say that a 20 minute workout would leave anybody feeling great., if you could even call it a workout. But it was a good, blood-pumping, sweat-inducing 20 minutes (again, more tomorrow) and, given the fact that I haven't really done much in the way of exercise for the past month, 20 minutes with Ms. Michaels & Co. really hit the spot. Better still, I'm finishing out the day knowing I did some exercise, and have had a nice, floaty, post-workout feeling all evening. Really if this is moderation, I'm all for it.
I'm also trying the same with cleaning my house. 20 minutes every day (seriously, timed) and it saves me the angst of killing a whole Saturday scrubbing everything down. I had the idea, and then promptly found a great article on the Apartment Therapy (http://bit.ly/bUYUo2) that gave method to my madness. Not that I couldn't have done it myself, but sometimes I'm just a lazy girl and I'll look to cut a corner here and there when I can. And why reinvent the wheel, right? Anyway, I've only just started, but so far, so good. I can see myself sticking with it.
We'll see what happens with this new approach. It feels right, and logic dictates that it's a better approach than living life going zero-to-sixty and then back to zero again. I don't imagine that it'll be an immediate change. That goes against the whole concept of moderation and gradual change, no? But I'm excited to be making a change all the same. Whats' a new year without something new and different to look forward to?
So Happy 2011! Here's to balance, control, deliberation, discernment, restraint, and tranquility. And may all your New Year's challenges meet with measured, constant success!
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Man I have been slackadaisical recently. As much as I love this blog, I've been playing the avoidance game big time. It's in no small part that I've set myself a bar that might have been a smidge too high. Namel, the 30 Days, 30 Salads thing. I love the concept, and dang it if it won't get done. Just not right now.
I think I'm on the right track though. For the past two weeks I've been consistently bringing in a lunch and veggies for lunch. The main trick has been to eat the same thing every day. Now I'll be honest, the first week, this tactic was born more of gasping bank account than out of any minimalist dogma. I was low on funds and needed 5 lunches that cost $7. Enter, Krakus Polish Ham (thinly sliced), lorraine reduced fat cheese, and some cheapie wheat bread. Combined with some still (mostly) fresh veggies in the crisper and I had the makings of a super-cheap lunch.
Towards the end of the week I had some serious cravings of the "but a delicious burger is just around the corner" variety, but miraculously, the idea of saving some extra money was so appealing that i just shoved the sandwich in my mouth and began chewing before the thoughts could get any louder. This approach has proven effect.
So I'll keep on trucking with this same-old-same-old routine until Saturday, when the hubbster and i head off on a road trip to Colorado. I'll attempt to make some short, phot-oriented posts while I'm out there exploring the mile-high state. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Salad: Watermelon Salad with Basil and Feta
Verdict: A Juicy Surprise
I did it! I stocked up on two weeks-worth of produce (in retrospect, I might buy it on a weekly basis to preserve freshness), I made sure all my plasticware was clean and organized, and on Sunday night I created the first salad in the "Home Edition" series. There really is some truth to the saying, "nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come." Or at least, I find it to be very true right now. After months of false-starts, hemming and hawing, and general tomfoolery, I finally started making salads for lunch the night before. And having started, I find it super-easy, especially if I trouble myself to make the salad while I'm pulling dinner together.
Hats off again to Mr. Bittman, whose recipes I'm using during this escapade (http://nyti.ms/aJIgY0). They're exceptionally easy to make, and the whole list seems to evolve in complexity, keeping things interesting. Starting from mainly vegan salads made of only a very few ingredients, the salads on the list slowly grow (only slightly) more complex. By the end you're finally in "entree" salad country, munching on some combination of produce, meats, and/or grains. But the earlier, simpler salads are still so delightful that there's really no comparison in quality, only in the ingredient count.
And how was my "first" salad? Well I'm fairly sure that I've seen offerings of watermelon and basil on (cocktail) menus before, but faced with the real thing I feel the overwhelming urge to kick myself for not trying this combo sooner. The term "off the chain" comes to mind, but only if the chain is exceptionally large and sturdy, and only if whatever has come off of it is equally as robust. In other words, it be great.
Watermelon Salad with Basil (and Feta)
2 cups of cubed watermelon
2 roma (italian or plum) tomatoes, diced
2-3 tbsp fresh basil, rough-chopped or torn
2 tbsp basic vinaigrette (olive oil, vinegar, dijon mustard, parsley, salt, pepper)
2 oz. crumbled feta
Toss the ingredients and enjoy. It keeps well overnight, and the vinaigrette makes the tomato and watermelon render some of their liquid, so it adds some extra juiciness to the whole deal. The watermelon's sweetness tames the acidity of the tomatoes and the basil sticks an elegant spike of flavor into the whole mess. I'm usually leery of vinaigrettes, falling more on the bitter side of the palette than the sour, but in this case it boosts the "suchness" of everything else rather than going on it's own tangy rant.
Bittman has a bunch of caveats (or asides, rather) to his recipe. You can substitute peaches for the watermelon or the tomato. I chose not to since:
A) I was curious to try the watermelon-tomato-basil combo and
B) the next day's salad recipe had peach in it, why rush it
He also suggests adding bacon or feta to the salad, rendering it even more delicious, albeit now un-vegan. I went with the feta approach, and again, the slight sourness of the feta was conquered by the other flavors in the salad. The net gain was small bursts of creaminess and saltiness that only improved the general texture of the salad. The idea of trying this again with some fresh bacon crumbles makes me shudder with longing.
All-in-all this is just gorgeous, fresh, summer deliciousness. What's more summer than watermelon, right? It doesn't even have to be super-ripe to fit this bill. Just make sure that the basil is nice and fresh. I imagine you could experiment with the dried variety and do fairly well, but there's something about that spunky, sweet, herbaceous flavor of fresh basil that really revs up this salad. Put another way, this salad highlights basil so nicely that it helped cement my growing "interest" in licorice-y flavors (I'm looking at you, fennel). So if you're a basil fan, get on this.
I myself, will be revisiting this one as a staple salad for the rest of this summer, and I imagine beyond.
Next up: Peach Salsa?
For Mark Bittman's original salad list, go here: http://nyti.ms/aJIgY0
Thursday, April 22, 2010
So enough with the gruesome-yet-cool vegetable alien, right!
Lunch: Garlicky Steamed Vegetable Medley
Verdict: Mild but filling and tasty
No pic today, since lunch was had sans-celly (thus, no camera to take said picture). But lunch was a tasty blend of veggies I steamed up a few nights ago and some brown rice to go along with it. I finally read up on the awesomeness of the multiple functions of my rice cooker. It slices, it dices, it even has a slow-cooker function. How cool is that! And it steams up veggies to a nice crispness, and they kept wonderfully. I dosed them up with a little sea salt and garlic powder and they left me happy as a clam. 3 hours later, I'm coasting on an apple and some H2O and should be good until dinner.
I'm not going to count this as an actual 30 Days, 30 Salads: Home Edition since the recipe wasn't one I found on my beloved "Minimalist" salad list. But I dutifully made this lunch at home, from vegetable products and ate it at work with relish (enjoyment that is, not the pickle kind), so I figure it counts for something. Let's call that something "the wind-up" shall we?
In the interest of staying true to the new 30D30S:HE format, I'll give you the skinny on what I ate.
1 cup diced sweet potato
1 cup sliced up onion
1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 cup spinach
1/4 tsp garlic powder
dash of sea salt
Instructions: Add the veggies to you steamer based on how long they have to cook. For example, the sweet potatoes would go in first, with a steaming time of 20-30 minutes, followed by the onion about 10 minutes after, etc. Add the spinach about 2-3 minutes before everything else is done, so that it's wilted, but not mushy. Shake of excess water, add spices as desired and serve warm.
This can be done for any bunch of veggies. If you're experimentin, try and combine one starchy veg, one sweet, one leafy green, and one savory. This gives you a variety of complimentary textures and flavors. If you're looking for some extra filler and can afford the calories, go ahead and have a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa on the side. You can do all this in fairly large batches (veggies and grains) and have a stockpile that you can dole out over the week. Lunch is solved.
This is light, easy, and a surefire way to up your veggies and carbs. It's also a good way to help you experiment with new vegetables, since you'll be trying them along with favorites. Go ahead and try steaming up some plantain or daikon for the starchy veg and see what happens. Also, go ahead and feel free to add some herbs and spices, to liven things up. I'm a fan of sriracha, that fiery pepper sauce treat from Vietnam. It goes well with just about everything, but it's heaven on warm veggies (or maybe it's just me). Whatever you do, remember to keep it simple and fun.
Happy vegging out!
Friday, March 12, 2010
About that picture. Disconcerting, I know. But I am a HUGE "Alien" fan (and by "fan" i mean, a simultaneously thrilled and terrified consumer), and I am also a fan of a renaissance artist named Giuseppe Arcimboldo. The brilliant digital artist Till Nowak took two of my favorite nerdy loves and combined them into a meta-nerd triumph. That it's basically a salad made me even more ridiculously happy. ˆ_ˆ
Vegetal-nerd-foolery aside, I'm here to say that 30 Day, 30 Salads is back, hopefully for the full course this time. Life got the better of me last round and, while I continued to vigorously document my salads with phone pics and hand-written diary entries, that documentation never made it to the computer screen. I kept putting it off, first because I didn't have time, then because it would take to long to update ALL the entries I'd written offline, etc., etc.
It wasn't long before my fledgling challenge's momentum began to flag. Add to that a tightening budget that couldn't always accommodate pricey downtown salads, and wimpy discipline with preparing salads at home and it all went kablooey. In a word: FAIL.
So, now I'm back by (my own) demand, with a little more energy, some new time-management techniques, and a new approach to 30 Days, 30 Salads.
Ladies and gents, say hello to 30 Days, 30 Salads: Home Edition.
This iteration of 30D30S is building on an idea that I've been tooling around with for almost as long as I've been playing with 30D30S concept. A while back I got hooked on Mark Bittman's column for the New York Times, "The Minimalist." He's a writer I encourage every foody and nutrition-conscious person to follow (his blog, "Bitten," is also a must-read), mainly because he truly nails the idea that cooking at home can be simple, fast, and truly delicious. If you're learning to experiment in the kitchen he's a godsend of no-fuss sensibility, and while not all of his recipes are super-healthy, a little quick thinking and innovation can often make them so.
Last summer I came a cross a terrific list of salads that he posted in an article called "101 Simple Salads for the Season" ( nyti.ms/1imwhq ). It did exactly as the title claimed: there were 101 salads recipes, many so short as to be practically twitter-worthy. From the totally vegan to meat-and-potatoes, Bittman gave you a how-to on making yummy salads using very simple techniques and a minimum of ingredients.
No fuss. No muss. No reason I shouldn't be doing it myself.
So, when I started 30D30S back in January, one of my long term goals was to incorporate many of Bittman's recipes into my daily salad explorations. Aside from the health element that obviously comes from freshly prepared salads (the not-dredged-in-dressing-variety, at least) there was also a budget-friendly component that made the idea irresistible to me. After all, it's easy to spend $50 - $70 a week on average lunches around where I work. What could be better than using $25 of that for produce and stashing the rest in savings?
30D30s: Home Edition will be much like the last cycle. I'll include photos, a calorie count (which I'll be culling from the SparkRecipes Recipe Calculator) and some thoughts on what I'm eating. This time around I'll also share the wealth by including a quick recipe, in the chance that one of you guys might want to try a little of what I'm having.
So for those of you who were following me before, I apologize for the unannounced and unintentionally long hiatus. I hope you'll come along for the ride again. I think this one will be even more fun!
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