Thursday, April 28, 2011
When someone says vegan, what do you think? Honestly?
- Lots of Vegetables and Fruit
- Low Fat
- Soy frankenfoods
- Tastes bad
- Low protein
I, personally, am an omnivore. Lately I identify myself as a 'flexitarian', but there is no universal meaning of that. All it means is that I try to reduce my meat consumption. I try to eat meatless breakfast and lunch, and reserve meat for dinner.
I'll talk more about my omnivore beliefs in a later blog.
Veganism in Western culture I find to be a little strange. Asians eat a diet rich in vegetables, and low in animal protein (mostly in the form of fish, crustaceans, and shellfish). They eat soy primarily in the form of tofu, but small quantities of tofu. Vegetarianism and veganism in the US is often loaded up with strange soy frankenfoods in the form of soy hotdogs, soy cheese, soy 'chicken' nuggets. What the heck?
I love vegetables and tofu, but I dislike many vegan recipes. Stop with the soy 'chicken' salad.
(However, I like Boca burgers occasionally. I reserve it with the same type of moderation as meat hot dogs and pizza, though. I still don't like the Boca chik'n.)
I lived in Seattle for 6 years, and it was an incredible city for culinary delights. I think it is one of the secret spots in America. I don't know why it doesn't show up in more "Best Cities to Eat" lists. I think it's one of the best. It has a plethora of options for vegetarians and vegans. It was the first place where I sampled vegetarianism/veganism at its finest. If there is one place where I could comfortably live as a vegetarian and eat fabulous food, it was Seattle. One of my favorite vegetarian cafes is Chaco Canyon. All clean ingredients, and nothing weird.
My belief is vegetarian and vegan recipes should highlight and compliment the flavor of the vegetables, not be 'mock' meat. My Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff tries to do just that. If you want a meatless recipe that will trick you into thinking you're eating meat, this isn't it. This doesn't try to be a fake meat tasting recipe. It tries to be a mushroom tasting recipe.
My inspiration for making this was a discussion with a vegan friend of mine. We were looking at a mushroom stroganoff recipe. The pictures looked great, but the online reviews were terrible. My friend suggested that I could make a better one. I was up for the challenge! She and I discussed a few options. The original recipe used tofu, which I thought was wrong for this type of recipe. They obviously used the tofu to try and boost the protein, but at the sacrifice of taste. I like tofu, but this is not where it should be used.
(We'll talk tofu next week!)
I love portabellas. The firm texture and its ability to sponge flavors is perfect for this recipe.
I also try to break the 'low protein' barrier found in many vegan recipes. I used soy milk instead of regular milk. I used the highest protein soy milk I could find. This one had 11g per cup.
Let's talk briefly about soy milk. There is some misinformation being spread (I suspect by the dairy industry). Soy milk is not a highly processed food. It has been made for over 2000 years, invented by the Chinese. The Chinese didn't have weird preservatives. You can even make soy milk at home. Yes, there are some soy milks that are chemistry experiments - read the nutrition labels. If the ingredients aren't a food item, don't buy it.
The protein is also boosted by the eggless pasta noodles and slightly with the peas.
The result? About 19g of protein per serving. Not bad.
Most of the flavoring comes from the mushrooms soaking up a vegetable stock, and a simple paprika and thyme seasoning. Can't have a stroganoff without paprika.
All gets combined in a saute pan.
And voila! We have a vegan mushroom stroganoff!
Now remember how I complained about bad taste of vegan food? I think this tastes good, but I needed a taste tester.
Enter the meat eating fiance, who would make a face like a 2 year old if I mentioned vegetarian or vegan. Little does he know that I'm about to spring a vegan mushroom stroganoff on him.
Me: "Honey, I need an opinion on a new recipe I'm trying. Can you taste this?"
Him: "What is it?"
Me: "It's a mushroom stroganoff." (Notice I left off the word "vegan".)
Him: "MMM ok."
(Takes a fork full.)
Him: "Yum! The taste of the mushroom is the dominate flavor. Very good!" (He loves mushrooms.)
Me: "What about the sauce?"
Him: "It's very mild."
Me: "It doesn't taste weird?"
Him: "No, it's good."
Me: "It's vegetarian."
Him: "Oh yuck!!"
I obviously skirted the vegan part. What he doesn't know won't hurt him. If he knew I used soy milk, he'd be spitting like a camel!
But there's no bad taste with a soy milk stroganoff, when he didn't know it there. So I think I managed the "taste" part of the recipe I was after. He said the flavor of the mushroom was the strongest and best part, which was exactly what I was after.
If you are open to a vegetarian/vegan meal, give this a try. My disclaimer is if you try to spring it on a meat eater, I will not be held responsible. ;) However, I think a meat eater might enjoy it too. In half sized portions, it could be a tasty veggie/pasta starter course to a main meal.
Spark Recipe: recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
Detailed recipe Instructions at my blog: shortcutmenus.com/2011/04/vegan-mush
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Lots going on in the Cathy household!
I posted last week about "The Motivator". A new swimsuit I bought for our vacation to Mexico in August.
I took pictures of me wearing it. I'm not going to share them until I have some noticeable progress, though. It usually takes about 2 months before physical changes become apparent, so it will be about June or July.
I know a lot of us hate how we look in pictures (especially in a bikini!), but I encourage you to take some sort of "before" picture. Keep the outfit. You do not have to share them with anyone. Keep it for yourself, if for no other reason. After a couple of months, take pictures again in the same outfit. It is very motivating when you can visually see real changes!
Several weeks ago, I reported that my cat is fat. I put her on diet food, but she wasn't losing weight. I decided to take some of my "Spark" healthy habit skills and apply it to kitty. She is not losing weight through food alone, she needs more exercise.
We bought a tall cat tree. I've been encouraging her to jump and play on it by using cat treats and putting it on the different levels. She has to jump from one level or another to get her treat. It's working! Yesterday I noticed that I can actually see her where her hind quarters should be, rather than just a round blob.
I have caught her cheating on her diet, though.
Data and Spot have been put in their new home in the aquarium. I added a natural driftwood log in order to enhance the 'natural' feel of the aquarium. I'm hoping to get a moss plant to grow on it. I've seen some amazing photos of aquarium aquascapes. Mine isn't nearly as good, but I like it.
Hard to see with the photo shrink, but Data and Spot are both under the bridge.
Data the Betta swam all over the aquarium. It's probably the most water he's ever seen! He was jumping and playing in the current that the water filter makes.
Spot the snail is a hilarious creature. He makes me laugh with his antics. Yesterday he crawled on one of the plants and was hanging upside down on it. He then spent a considerable amount of time trying to right himself on it. Data came over to investigate what he was doing. I took video of it - I thought it was hilarious!
This is just a framegrab from the video.
Data is quite vigorous in the new aquarium, and the cats are entertained. (Cover is closed, and they aren't knocking over a 3 gallon tank, so Data and Spot are safe from curious inquiries!)
Last week I blogged about nutrition and diet arguments that the fiance and I were getting into. He almost always comes home ravenous and tears through the house for snacks while I'm trying to make dinner. I decided to stave him off with a bowl of carrot soup.
I handed him the bowl, and he looked very disappointed, like "Oh no. Diet food."
Well, after he ate the bowl of soup, he admitted that he wasn't ravenously hungry anymore. He then made a comment that soup before dinner was a good idea. I made more soups this week with the leftover Easter ham. He came home Monday, ravenous. As usual, he started raiding the cupboards. I told him I had soup. He said, "Ok, I'll have that." He gave me a recipe for red lentil soup last night that he would like me to make with the remaining ham stock.
Last night I went to the gym while he watched TV. This morning, I stepped on the scale while he was getting ready for work and said, "I've lost weight!". He then said, "Maybe we should start going to the gym together." He's been resisting going to the gym, thinking he can avoid it by just walking. He isn't doing a substantial amount of walking, though, and it isn't working. He is getting heavier, and heavier. He is also seeing his brother when we go to Mexico in August, and he doesn't want to be so overweight.
We're making progress!
I see posts often on the message boards about "How can I get my boyfriend/husband/etc on board with the diet?" The fact is, none of us can make anyone do what we want. We can only control our own actions, but we can't make anyone else do it.
However. You CAN try to influence them. I influenced the kitty to play on the cat tree with the cat treats. I gave the fiance a bowl of soup before dinner, in which he balked, but then thought it was a good idea. I've asked the fiance to come to the gym with me, but he resisted. However, I'm losing weight, and he's not, so now the gym is a good idea.
I was once told the art of persuasion is convincing the other person it was their idea. Persuasion is not an art for the impatient, however.
The cat and the fiance getting exercise were my ideas...but now it is theirs. It took time.
Recipe blog tomorrow. Good luck through hump day. Happy Sparking!
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Poor spaghetti. It went from America's favorite food to evil incarnate in a couple of decades.
Most people eat huge plates of spaghetti with heavy sauces. Bolognese; alfredo.
I'm not sure what traditional puttanesca is (I still need to take a trip to Italy!), but I think of it as being a very light, fresh sauce.
With bolognese, the pasta is usually buried in the sauce. The way I make puttenesca, it is fresh pureed tomatoes, aromatic veggies and herbs that lightly coat the pasta.
I make my spaghetti with a mix of white pasta and wheat pasta. The white pasta makes it taste better. The wheat pasta offsets some of the glycemic index, so you get a slower burn. Many don't like the taste of wheat pasta. A half and half mix works well for my household.
Last night, I tried a different way of making it than I have in the past. Well, it's a new way to me. I cook the pasta until it is just under al dente - still just a little bit firm. Then I make the sauce in the pan, add the pasta. The pasta then finishes cooking in the sauce, which makes it absorb some of the sauce. Like making a risotto. I've seen restaurant and TV chefs do it. Last night was the first time I tried it. It was easy, and I was very pleased with the results!
Most puttanesca recipes I found use anchovies. I used leftover ham from Easter. I was going to add a cup of peas at the end, but I forgot.
Round it out with a salad with a homemade balsamic vinegrette. Balsamic vinegar, a drip of olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Only 10 calories.
Pasta doesn't have to be an obesity sentence. If you love spaghetti, try making a puttenesca. Making it the pan sauce way gives the spaghetti noodles a creamy texture and a richer taste. Pouring plain marinara over pasta is a bit bland. I like this puttanesca. It made me feel like a pro home chef making it, and eating it was like a fine dining experience without the sticker shock at the end.
So how about the calories? Just 388 per serving.
Real food. Real simple. Clean ingredients.
This is a Lean Cuisine angel hair pomodoro.
This is my home restaurant spaghetti alla puttanesca, made with whole, fresh ingredients.
Spark recipe here: recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
Step by step instructions with pictures: shortcutmenus.com/2011/04/spaghetti-
Monday, April 25, 2011
Did you have ham for Easter? Great! I hope you remembered to save the hambone!
Do one of the following:
- Put the hambone in a large dutch oven or stockpot, about 8 quarts. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer 2-4 hours.
- Put the hambone in a crockpot and cover with water. Set on low before going to work.
Throw the bone away and strain out any ham bits. All the ham flavor is now in the water, so you can throw out the ham bits if you like.
Now you have a wonderful base for soups!
Split pea soup
Navy bean soup
Chicken escarole soup
Also try using it in place of water:
Southern collard greens
Savory wild rice pilaf
Red beans and rice
You get the idea. Almost any recipe where it calls for water, use the ham stock instead!
You might be wondering, "Wait. What about the calories? What about the fat on the bone?" Ok. There will be a trace amount of fat. You can strain the liquid in a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter to get most of it out. You can also refrigerate it, then skim any solidified fat off the top. I think of stocks like spice. They have some calories, but they are mainly flavorings, and I consider them negligible. It really is a cheap way to add gourmet flavor, both in terms of dollars and calories.
Here is my latest favorite way to use ham stock. It's a French soup called Soupe au Pistou or Pesto Soup. You basically make a hambone soup, then finish it off with a dollop of pesto. It is truly spectacular.
My recipe says to use chicken stock, which is normally what I'd use. But since I have an Easter hambone, I used the ham stock instead!
Here is my Spark recipe: recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
You can also get step by step instructions at my blog (iPad and Nook friendly!): shortcutmenus.com/2011/04/soupe-au-p
Who said French cooking is hard? Bon appetit!
Sunday, April 24, 2011
I'm pleased with my weekly weigh in results! And it's not because I lost weight. I "gained" weight. But I did better than losing weight - I lost 1" off my waist and 0.5" off my hips!!
If you're exercising and eating well, then a weight gain is no big deal. You have to be brutally honest with yourself, though. If you leave off the donut and cake from the food tracker, you're not fooling anyone but yourself.
I've been at this long enough to know that daily fluctuations are meaningless. I look at the averages for my week. Is my calorie count generally high, or generally low? Was my activity low or high? If my weekly averages say my calorie balance was a deficit, then I don't sweat what the scale says.
I also don't sweat 'bad days'. Yesterday I had half a Dairy Queen ice cream, half a beer, and a pineapple martini. If I did that every day, I would be alarmed. But a Saturday night after a pretty fun, active day? No problem!
The proof is in the measuring tape. I'll take a trimming off my waist and hips any week!
I also do goal targeting a bit differently. When I set a goal, I don't see 'failure' as not being able to hit them. I set them as an average. I should be able to get close, either up or down. If I'm in the ballpark, it's a win. If I massively under or overshoot, then I need to reassess.
Here's my summary for the week.
Goal: Exercise 4-5 days per week.
Actual: Exercised 4 days
Goal: Eat 1300-1500 calories per week.
Actual: Averaged 1501.25 calories
Goal: Eat Zone diet ratios of 40% carbs/30% fat/30% protein.
Actual: Averaged 51% carbs/21% fat/28% protein
Success! I'm not worried about missing the targets on this one. 30% protein is what I'm most after. Carbs/fat shift doesn't concern me too much. If it had been 21% carbs/51% fat, that would be a problem!
Start Weight: 136
End Weight: 136 (lost 1 pound during the week, and 'regained it', as explained above. Net gain/loss: 0)
Start Waist: 33
End Waist: 32 (Net loss: -1)
Start Hips: 40.5
End Hips: 40 (Net loss: -0.5)
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