Saturday, April 13, 2013

Still running, definitely eating!

I've very gradually made some profound changes to my diet this past year. This was prompted by a few things including the realization over a year ago that i needed to make some better choices with food and keep closer attention to weight. 

We cook almost all of our meals. Take out or ordering pizza or going out to dinner is a treat which happens maybe once a month. We've done this since we first started living together for many reasons.  it is a lot less expensive to cook and eat at home.  time is valuable and i don't want to spend it cruising a grocery store all the time AND (most importantly) if there is no plan for food immediately after work, i will melt down. I get very hungry!  This is even more an issue now that we are both runners.

Brown Rice Pilaf with dried cherries and almonds
We plan a menu for the week and plan to cook 2-3 times per week for dinner with planned leftovers. I also do a batch of something for lunch. So we cook all meals but still rely on a lot of convenience foods for certain aspects of our meals.  It's strange because I've lost my taste for a lot of things over the past few years.  What do I like? Freshly prepared meals with quality ingredients. And yet, we'd still get a box of rice pilaf. Or I'll use a can of beans. Great right? Well if you've tried freshly prepared pilaf or made your own beans, there is a difference. 

Seriously. It takes a bit more planning but the benefits are that it is usually much less expensive to get a cup of dried beans and make 2-3 cans worth of beans for just cents.  Organic too!  Pilaf?  Same thing.

So we've gotten rid of the box and some convenience foods like that. I've had a pressure cooker for years and have used it to make perfectly cooked beans in minutes.  Pilaf also works in the pressure cooker especially if you like brown rice pilaf. This recent holiday season, I finally got a slow cooker and i've been having fun trying out simple various recipes with that.  Sometimes I'll cook a portion of a meal the day before when i have a bit more time. Leftovers are always ok with me!

Hummous? It's a favorite afternoon snack at work with an apple. i would always buy the smallest container of it from the grocery store and could never finish it because that smallest container was still too big.  And I'd often be rather disappointed by store bought hummous. I like mine pretty high spiced.  Well hummous is one of those super easy things to make so I've been doing that. I pressure cooked a batch of garbanzo beans and divided up those into half cup packets and froze them.  When i need more hummous, i get out a little frozen garbanzo bean packet, thaw it and get to play with tastes and fresh spices again!

The next step was being introduced to The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flynn.  A little book set locally in Seattle, this french trained chef realized that so many people don't really understand the simplicity and fun of cooking. They think (like I did) that cooking is grabbing a box of something instead of just planning and grabbing ingredients in the house and cooking.  She took a bunch of volunteers through lots of simple straightforward lessons of cooking.

Curry Sauce for fish or for chicken. Extra veggies optional.
This book has even gotten me to try cooking fish. I'll eat salmon that K grills for me. i'll eat canned tuna in a very specific way and i'll eat fishsticks with lots of ketchup.  Pitiful. Why don't i like fish? My mom never really knew how to cook it in a way i could actually eat.  So we've tried a very successful curry sauce and will try some other things and you know, cook and experiment! 

What a concept.  I went to a cooking demonstration for a particular cookware. it was nice cookware but we didn't need it.  Another favorite snack? Microwave popcorn.  Yes i know. it's nasty stuff. She demonstrated popcorn in the microwave in a bowl.  Ok, yeah. I can do that.  One of the gals who was also at the class had never realized you could actually pop popcorn NOT in a microwave store bought bag. I think we've been brainwashed sometimes.

It's been fun casting a critical eye about the kitchen of late and trying new things. 

So some favorite new meals lately...

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup
A spicy warming soup which is very simple to make. The recipe is endlessly variable. Carrots or parsnip or not. Less spices or more? I really like the coconut milk. This soup freezes well and I will make a batch for lunches at work.

Roast the butternut squash in halves like the recipe says or if you prefer to peel it and chop it up into pieces and then roast, you could.  It's a little hard to get the skin off of the freshly roasted and hot squash. I served with some frozen snap peas stirred in or have it with a cabbage salad.


1 medium butternut squash, split seeds removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 (14 oz) light coconut milk
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock


Heat oven to 350°. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on butternut squash and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Place cut side down on cookie sheet. Roast for 30 - 45 minutes (depending on size) or until tender.

Drizzle soup pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add carrots and onion to pot with 1 teaspoon salt. Saute until tender. Add coconut milk and vegetable stock. Add curry powder, garam masala and cumin. Add roasted butternut squash.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, while breaking up roasted butternut squash for 15 - 20 minutes, or fragrant. Use a submersible blender to smooth soup or add to a blender to smooth. adjust salt.

From Scott Jurek's Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

Indonesian Cabbage Salad with Red Curry Almond Sauce
Butternut Squash Soup & Cabbage Salad
A really simple cabbage salad which is a perfect use of cabbage. Cabbage will keep in the fridge for a couple weeks, add in whatever fresh vegetables or nuts you feel like.  The sauce is simple to whip up and keeps in the fridge too. I keep mine in a mason jar. 

1/2 head green cabbage, coarsely shredded
4 stalks bok choy or 1 head baby bok choy, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin rounds
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 2-inch-long thin strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 to 3/4 cup Red Curry Almond Sauce, recipe at right
Toss all ingredients to combine and let sit for 10 to 20 minutes or more before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 side-dish servings.

Red Curry Almond Sauce

1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons miso
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste, or to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl or blender. Mix well until smooth.

Keeps refrigerated for 2 weeks or frozen for several months.

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