Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Earlier I wrote that the SO declared this morning he was on a diet, and had a list of how he wanted his food prepared. Everything sounded right on target, until he said he didn't want any more fried food. This came as a surprise to me.
Fried food? Me? I'm the least fried food person in Georgia! I'm practically a vegetarian in the south for my lack of fried foods! I'm ridiculed by neighbors and the clerks at grocery stores! (Yes, literally.)
I figured he must mean the small amount of oil I use for cooking and flavoring. I use about 1-2 tablespoons for cooking. A splash for flavoring. I never do a shallow fry, or anything resembling a deep fry. I don't even know how.
I've spent many years, even before we met, working on my cooking so it was both healthy and flavorful.
I was taken aback. He's been eating my cooking for years. The only time we gain weight is when we go on vacation, or if we eat out too much. I lose weight or maintain when I cook. While I try to properly balance our dinners, I can't control what he eats when he's outside the house at work. He skips breakfast, has Wendy's for lunch, and comes home ravenous. He starts eating crackers and whatever else he can find while I'm cooking.
Alright. Fine. Here is the dinner I prepared for us. You be the judge.
Garden salad with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and red bell pepper. I made a lemon-pepper-garlic vinaigrette. No oil.
Marinated flank steak cut into four 4 oz pieces. There was 1 tablespoon of oil in the marinade. Flank steak is very lean. The oil helps prevent it from sticking to the pan. 1 tablespoon divided 4 ways is marginal. An additional 30 calories.
100 grams of southwest potatoes. 1 tablespoon oil - necessary to keep potatoes from sticking. I made 4 servings, additional 30 calories per serving.
1/4 of a grilled zucchini. A drop of oil to coat the top. About as much from an oil sprayer. Negligible.
Total calories: 350
42% carbs/18% fat/40% protein. This is a well balanced meal. I actually shoot for zone diet ratios of 40/30/30. Tonight's dinner is a little lighter on the total fat, and a little higher on the protein. 40% carb is spot on - there should be no excess insulin spike from the potatoes.
One of his requests was small portions of starch. To settle the dispute about how I portion his food, I let him serve as much potatoes as he wanted himself. He served himself about 150 g of potatoes, about 1.5 times my recommended serving size.
See? He gets smaller portions if I serve it. I suffer from serious portion distortion, and I measure everything. I've been doing it for years.
He enjoyed the meal. I asked him if this was healthy enough for him. He said yes. I asked if this was how he wanted his meals prepared. He said yes. I didn't change anything about my recipes. This is the way I normally cook!
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
This morning the fiance came into my computer room and declared he's on a diet. He gave me a list of how he wants his meals prepared.
1) Meats no larger than 3 oz. Sounds good. Check.
2) Small portions of starch. Check.
3) Lots of veggies. Check.
4) No fried foods. Wait, what??
Sounds reasonable, except I'm a bit annoyed about number 4. I don't cook fried foods! I objected. He said I make fried foods sometimes. I cook in a *small* amount of oil! Like 1-2 tablespoons. That's HARDLY fried food! I'm taking him to Paula Deen's restaurant to show him what fried food looks like!
I try to make my food taste *good* with less calories, so maybe it's a compliment he thinks it's high fat?
Also, this is the guy who came into the house with a 1 gallon tub of Haagen Daaz vanilla ice cream, and a Costco sized tub of pretzels a few weeks ago. I chewed him out for bringing ice cream and empty calories into the house. He told me if he wanted ice cream, then he'll have ice cream. I bought an ice cream maker to make low calorie healthy ice cream and sorbets as compromise (see my homemade strawberry gelato recipe). recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
Also a rant about the 3oz meat thing. I served him 3 oz meat, and he complained that it's 'not filling'. He also comes home and starts eating crackers and cheese while I'm making dinner because he skips lunch. It drives me up the wall that I'm cooking, then he says he's not hungry. GRRR.
I'm thrilled he's finally on board, but still annoyed about that 'fried food' thing. I was happy until he mentioned that, then I was offended. LOL
A tongue in cheek rant, with great affection.
Monday, April 04, 2011
Urban gardening isn't new, but it is relatively new to me. When I lived in Colorado, the weather was too extreme for planting. When I lived in Washington, I didn't have a sunny balcony.
Last year I experimented with patio gardening. I didn't have too much invested in it at the time because it was an experiment to see how successful it would be. I was thrilled with the tomatoes popping out every week, and the abundance of fresh herbs. I am doing it again this year.
This is my whole balcony. As you can see, it's not huge. A large part of the area is taken up with our bikes.
For container gardening, make sure to only use food grade containers. Don't buy a pot at the garden store just because it is pretty. Check to see if there is a label saying "not for food use". This will usually be on glazed pots. Terra cotta clay pots are safe for growing food. For plastic containers, use one marked as a "grower's pot". Plastic containers that once had food in them are safe. Reuse a plastic ice cream tub for growing something healthy! If you want to use a decorative pot, put your plant inside a grower's pot, then put it inside the pretty pot.
The next decision will be for clay pots or plastic pots. Clay pots are good if you tend to over water your plants as the clay will absorb some of the moisture. That means your soil may dry out more quickly, however. That said, water loss from clay pot isn't much of a problem in a humid climate like Georgia. It will dry out the soil very rapidly in a dry climate like, Arizona, however.
You can use the clay pot's color as a guide whether you need to water or not. When the clay pot is a medium tan, the soil is moist. If the clay pot starts to dry out, it becomes a light tan. That means the soil is dry, too.
If you tend to underwater or live in a dry climate, plastic will retain more water.
I have a mix of both. You will have to water more often with a container plant than a ground garden, no matter what. My tomatoes and peppers are in plastic containers. Tomatoes and peppers drink a tremendous amount of water as is, especially when bearing fruit. I water them to saturation in the morning. By the evening after work, they are usually ready for a second saturation. Especially in the summer months.
My herbs and lettuce are in clay containers. Herbs tend to like drier soil, so the clay pot helps with over saturation. It also keeps the soil cooler. This is better for herbs and lettuce.
You'll see a few changes I made compared to the pictures I took a couple of days ago. To conserve space, I added tier making garden shelves.
I have an east facing balcony, which means I get sunlight from 6am to about noon. There's an over the rail planter where my tomatoes sit in order to maximize sunlight. The bell peppers and jalapeno sit on the garden shelf. The herbs and flower pot rest on the balcony.
The cat has come to inspect my work.
Just for fun, I planted marigolds and a snapdragon in a tiered planter. I originally intended to plant the creeping plant around the snap dragon so it would cascade off the top, but I couldn't fit it in. I'll have to plant from seed if I wanted that effect, I think. I may try again next year, with seeds.
Now I have to figure out what I'm going to do with the creeper plant. I was thinking an urn or vase type planter it could cascade off, but I couldn't find the type I wanted at the garden store.
Marigolds will hopefully be functional as well as pretty. They serve as a natural insect deterrent in a regular garden. I'm not sure there are enough to make a difference on my balcony, but we'll see.
Speaking of insect control, since I am intending to eat my plants, chemical pesticides aren't an option. I use a very low tech method of pesticide. Dishwashing soap and water sprayed on the leaves with a spray bottle. It works. Last year I had these tiny bugs crawling on my tomato plant leaves. I don't know what they were. I sprayed dishwashing soap solution on the leaves twice a week, and they never came back.
I added a couple of tiered shelves for the lettuce and strawberries. It looks nice, and it saves some balcony space so I can get a chair on it.
Also visible are my gardening tools. Watering pail, scissors for snipping lettuce and herbs, and a digital moisture reader. It tests the moisture level of the soil. I use it to test the moisture level in the morning and evening to see if the plants are saturated or running dry.
The only other things needed not pictured here is a pair of gardening gloves and a small shovel.
The next thing I intend to experiment with are self watering options so we can go away for a long weekend, and I won't lose my "crop".
Living in Georgia, I've got a head start on the growing season. Hope this gives you a few ideas to plan your own urban garden for the summer! Have fun!
Have you ever made a container garden? Do you have any tips to share?
Saturday, April 02, 2011
When I lived in Washington state, I was spoiled by farm fresh food. Now that I know what a vine ripe tomato and lettuce straight from the ground tastes like, I miss it.
I live in an apartment. I can grow a few things on my east facing balcony, but I don't have a lot of variety. There's plenty of sun, and plenty of heat in Georgia, so tomatoes are plentiful and easy to grow. I grew tomatoes on my balcony last summer. They kept popping out as fast as I could make and eat the salsa. It was great until we went on vacation, then my plants all died.
I'm hoping to repeat the success this year. If we go on vacation, I have some buckets I can fill with water so they can feed themselves.
I'm not sure the balcony garden will save me money on produce, but that is not my primary motivation. I like fresh food, and there's no fresher food than plucked straight from my balcony.
I don't have much luck starting things from seeds, so I bought starter plants. Not the cheapest option, but it is the easiest.
There's no substitute for a fresh tomato. There's no way I can grow as much as we consume, but this tomato plant should supply all my salsa needs for the entire summer. A few will be munched whole with a little salt before they make it to the salsa.
For fresh tasting food, I need fresh herbs. I have cilantro, lemon thyme, chives, rosemary, sage and basil. Lots of basil. I also have some mint, not visible in the picture. It will be great for mint lemonade when the Georgia summer gets sweltering. Mint also serves as a natural insect deterrent for my organic garden.
The far back pot has bell peppers and jalapenos, my summer crop. Can you tell my balcony garden is a salsa garden?
There's nothing like fresh lettuce, straight from the ground. It tastes "green" and "alive" is the way I describe it. After eating farm fresh lettuce plucked straight from the ground in Washington, store bought lettuce tastes "dead". Unfortunately, the growing season for lettuce in Georgia is very short in spring and fall. Lettuce is very delicate, and cannot handle temperatures above 80 degrees well. So I'm growing lettuce while I can.
From left to right: strawberries, starter head lettuce and bib lettuce, and garden mix lettuce, fully grown.
I can start using the herbs and the fully grown lettuce immediately. I'll wait for the basil plant to get a little bigger before I start plucking leaves. My tomato plant already has a few tiny green tomatoes and yellow flowers promising more fruit, so I may have my first tomatoes in another week, depending on how much sun we get. It's been cloudy and rainy the past few weeks.
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