Recipe Test: Homemade Mushroom Soup

    Summer is here, and since I haven’t really posted since the Spring, we have some serious catching up to do. Cutting right to the chase: around March I came down with pneumonia, and my life hasn’t really been the same since. I won’t say that I was COMPLETELY derailed in my healthy lifestyle journey, as I never really stopped eating healthy; I just stopped doing it ALL the time and, of course, I stopped working out. If you’ve ever had pneumonia, you know that it takes a very long time to recover from. Three or four months worth of recovery? Not quite THAT much. That’s all my fault. But for at least the following month after my doctor deemed me “cleared” of all infection, my lungs were very sensitive. I had to be on heavy duty allergy medications so as to not irritate my lungs with the springtime pollen, and I had a hard time catching my breath any time I exerted myself. Having pneumonia didn’t scare me out of exercising, but it definitely made me more timid. I had never been that sick in all of my life and I was VERY reluctant to do anything that could make it come back, or make my condition worse for that matter. That was for the first month or so. The last two have just been sheer laziness. Which means it has been….3 or 4 months since I have seriously worked out. If I’m being honest, I can tell you that it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. In fact, I’ve been under so much stress and going through so many changes in my life as of late that all the days seem to be blending together into one big storm cloud. But enough of that. I’m not going to look to the past and pout about what I didn’t do and what I haven’t been doing. When I started this journey, I knew that there were going to be times like these: where life was going to knock me down, and I was going to have to pull myself back up again. The good news is that over these last months, I have tucked away QUITE an inventory of healthy recipes and products that need to be addressed. That means plenty of content for the blog, yes?

    Right around the time when the weather here finally declared itself officially spring (for some reason it took Louisiana a little while to preheat this year, which is terribly uncharacteristic) I bought a TON of plants. This is not unusual for me. It seems that every year, right as the world starts to thaw, I get this primal, instinctive need to cultivate plants. It became such an issue that I even downloaded a gardening game on my phone so I could grow virtual plants. My strange impulses aside, something very useful came out of my spring fever this year. Currently sitting on my porch are seven live herbs and five vegetable plants. Granted, they are a little worse for wear. I used to have six vegetables, but my green peas were promptly killed the moment Louisiana summer came into full effect. For all my out-of-state readers, this is completely normal. Here, summers have a way of decimating everything in their path, and I do believe my cucumbers are next. Apparently I unknowingly picked THE most fail cucumber plant in the Walmart garden section, because it has never really grown properly. The roots never grew strong, the stems were always fragile and if you were to see them now, they just look like three big goofy stems with shriveled leaves at the top. Don’t really know where I went wrong there. But besides that my peppers are finally starting to produce, and I think with a little plant food I can coax my cherry tomatoes and strawberries to make fruit again. We’ll see.  

    The main reason I planted this year was for herbs. I absolutely LOVE cooking with fresh herbs. I’m not the biggest Ina Garten fan in the entire world, (although I have been known to all-day marathon her show on weekends sometimes) but I do accept her philosophy on herbs. Fresh is always better. I can’t even begin to describe to you the difference cooking with fresh herbs makes. Before my garden, I would often times avoid cooking recipes that specifically called for fresh herbs because they do NOT come cheap at the grocery store. And, on top of that, I never really seemed to be able to use them all before they went bad. Now, I HAVE heard that there are ways you can preserve them in ice cube trays with oil or water and I HAVE tried the water method myself. If I would ever try that again I would definitely use oil next time. Somehow, the water ended up evaporating over time (it was frozen…go figure) and I was left with powdery frozen herbs, which were pretty much the exact same as dried. No freshness preserved. And also because I didn’t realize the water had evaporated, when I gently knocked the tray while cleaning out my freezer, dried herbs went EVERYWHERE and made a huge mess. I was not happy. But in all honesty, growing your own herbs is even easier than all that freezing and thawing and chopping mess. The individual plants themselves were dirt cheap (no pun intended) and trust me,  I am no horticulturist. Aside from a bit of plant food now and then, I haven’t done anything super special to my plants and they seem to be doing just fine. Probably because herb growing is like gardening for idiots. Which is perfect for me.

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  My thyme and lavender plants. As you can see my thyme is a little…bad off. Damn heat. But it’s getting there. Also, that’s my cat in the window looking demented. She says hello. 

At first I was worried because I live in an apartment with no land of my own. I knew from the get go that I wouldn’t be able to put any of my plants in the ground, or else suffer a fine from my landlord. Everything I would be growing would come from a pot, and I invested a lot of time acquiring potting soil, clay pots and determining how big each herb would get so I could put it in an appropriately sized container. I’m relieved that I chose a medium sized pot for my mint because it is definitely the biggest of all my herbs. Which is kind of a shame, because I planted it more for the aroma than to cook with. I’m not a HUGE mint person when it comes to flavors in food. However, I have been meaning to whip up some mint juleps. I’m only an alcoholic when mint juleps are involved. That’s a damn good drink. The other herb that has really flourished (much to my surprise) is my lavender. I was absolutely hell bent on growing lavender this year. I love the smell, I love the floral, earthy flavor in baking, and it’s just pretty to look at. My heart swells with a sense of pride and utter contentment when I see the cloudy grey/green color of the leaves and the airy, wispy tendrils of purple blooms adorning the top. The little woman who runs a locally owned plant store here in Lafayette warned me that lavender was finicky and thus difficult to grow. So naturally I felt a sense of obligation to take extra care of this delicate little plant. Sort of like you would care for a sick or frail child. Since lavender hates its soil to be wet, I made a ritual out of sticking my finger into the dirt to test for moisture before giving it any water in addition to allowing it prime real estate on my porch in a shady area with only a few hours of direct sunlight. I really am such a brute, picking favorites like that. But because of my patience and unfair favoritism, my lavender plant has yielded for me many fragrant blooms and plenty of leaves. Which brings me to my next culinary endeavor. The first idea was to harvest the blooms for tea. It has been my heart’s desire to create my own blend of tea for a long time. I have been imagining something of an orange-lavender flavor and I feel that if I could somehow get my hands on my father’s dehydrator, we could be in business. That will take some strategic heisting however, so I’m shelving that project for now.

    The second idea was some kind of lavender lemon pound cake and or cupcakes. One night at my sister’s house, we managed to concoct a lavender lemon bread which was not unpleasant. However the perfectionist baker in my sister declared it was unworthy for consumption because it didn’t come out like Starbucks’ lemon loaf. You can’t really blame her. Starbucks does have one hell of a lemon loaf. But I digress. For the rest of the weekend the bread WAS eaten by my mother and I but mostly by her boyfriend Robert. It definitely wetted my appetite for something else with that delicious aroma baked in. So I have set my sights on a particular recipe from (Sweetly) Serendipity for Honey Lavender Cupcakes. They are absolutely precious with their pale yellow icing and little bits of lavender blooms acting as sprinkles. Yes, I realize these are not particularly healthy and this IS a health food blog. However I like to think that sometimes it is good to break form and make something that you really like. I don’t cook strictly to be healthy. I cook also because I love it. And a little dessert never killed anyone as long as they don’t eat a dozen cupcakes in one sitting. Which I could easily do if I wasn’t in my right mind, but that’s not the point. I find also that if you make dessert a community endeavor, meaning that you SHARE your sweets, you aren’t as tempted to eat as much. I think that when I do bake these, they will be for a tea party amongst friends.

    In going back to cooking with fresh herbs, I would like to introduce you to one of the savories that my garden has helped me make. I have come to know thyme as one of my very favorite herbs. It immediately creates a depth and earthiness to any dish, and it pairs well with red meat and mushrooms. Now, currently, my thyme plant is a little on the fritz. With the passing of a few extremely over-the-top, hot days, my poor little plant has lost many of its tasty and fragrant leaves and now looks like a half-sheered sheep. I hope that with a little tender love and care it will be restored to its previous splendor. The recipe that I am enclosing here, is one that MUST be made with fresh thyme. If you use dried thyme it just won’t be the same. I came across this recipe while I was living with my sister at our old apartment by the university campus. My sister and I eat the same kind of foods and then at the same time we don’t. I definitely have a broader palate than she does, and that’s not really a criticism, it’s just a fact. When we lived together we had to cook things that we both loved, which was sometimes challenging. Since we are both avid Pinterest users, we would use the site to help us plan our meals. When we realized that not only had we both pinned this Mushroom Soup by Season with Spice but we had both been jonesing for it for quite some time, I didn’t waste any time making it. The recipe calls for you to sauté the mushrooms, then add the fresh thyme and the Worcestershire sauce . The moment that the thyme hit those mushrooms and the essence of the two together wafted up from the pot, I realized exactly why they insist you use the herb in its fresh state. The addition of the Worcestershire made the scent magical and each ingredient complemented the others. I fell in LOVE with this soup and I don’t kid around when I say I make this once a month. The only thing that really kept me from making it often before was that I had to buy fresh thyme, which, as I said, isn’t cheap. Having a thyme plant makes this recipe that much easier to prepare. This recipe is also vegetarian and is low in calories, even with the addition of heavy cream.

    If you don’t have a fresh herb garden, I highly recommend that you think about creating one. Most common herbs can be grown all year round with proper attention and care, although I find cilantro really should be planted in late summer and harvested throughout the colder months. I don’t know. Lavender isn’t supposed to be a summer herb either but it seems to be doing okay. For now, until you can get yourself set up, try that method of freezing fresh herbs from the store in oil. Take a clean ice cube tray, fill each about halfway with chopped fresh herbs, and fill to cover with olive oil. Next time you go to cook, defrost the cubes and you’ll already have a nice little portioned out cube of your oil and herbs. However, I’ve never tried this, so I wouldn’t just throw the frozen cube in a hot pan, as I don’t know how it’ll react as it defrosts. It could spatter everywhere and cause burns. Maybe microwave it on low until completely defrosted. There are tutorials for it online.  

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Homemade Mushroom Soup by Season with Spice
Serves 2

Ingredients:
300g or 2 cups fresh mushrooms – cleaned and chopped finely
1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic – chopped
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 – 2 bay leaves
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp flour dissolved in 1 tbsp water
Salt to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (skim milk is fine)
Dash of ground nutmeg
Black pepper to taste
Fresh parsley or thyme for garnish

Method:
1. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add butter and lightly sauté garlic on medium heat.
2. Add in mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the moisture from the mushrooms disappears.
3. Add in chicken broth. Stir occasionally until broth boils, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4 Add diluted flour in, and stir constantly (while simmering) until the mixture thickens. Season with salt and nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning.
5. Finally, add milk and heavy cream, and bring to a simmer. Turn heat off.
6. Serve hot in your soup bowl. Add freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley or thyme if you have them on hand.

I hope you try this on your next vegetarian dinner night! Until next time!

Eat, Pray, Love,

The Hungry Hungry Health Nut

Out on the Street: Praise for Chili’s!

Back in January I had a dialogue with my mother about the flu. I had just recovered fully from the influenza virus (which I had never had before. Now I know for absolutely certain that it is the closest I have ever felt to dying). It went something like this:

Me: Do I need to get the flu shot now?
Mom: No, once you have the flu, you can’t get it again.
Me: Are you sure? Because I do not want to go through this again.
Mom: I’m sure! That’s the whole point of getting the flu shot. It tricks your body into believing you’ve already had the flu once, so you can’t get it again. Trust me.
Me: All right. I trust you.

March 8th, 2013…I can’t breathe out of my own lungs, I can’t swallow, I can’t sit up, I’m running fever, body aches…and all the while I’m thinking…”Can’t get the flu again, she said. Trust her, she said.”

So I am playing host to the influenza virus for the SECOND time in three months now and yes, if you were wondering, I am miserable. My lungs feel like I have rocks in them. It’s only been 24 hours and I am already sick to death of tasting that gross “illness” flavor in the back of my mouth every time I cough. You really don’t know how good you have it until you can’t breathe normally on your own. Then you’re lying on your back like you’re going through an exorcism, sweaty and pleading with some deity to spare you and that you’ll “never ever again take for granted one healthy breath of life”. I’m pretty sure that last night as my fever climbed to 101 degrees F that I hallucinated pretty pink elephants on parade dancing across my ceiling. So as you can imagine I haven’t really been feeling up to cooking or working out lately. Not only have I not felt like cooking lately, but I have also been eating a lot of crap. Whenever I am out of commission there are no meals coming in the house. Therefore I look to my boyfriend to provide food. Let me just say now that my boyfriend is the typical 21st century man. Back in ancient times men went out hunting and brought home spoils that they killed with their own bare hands to feed their families. In this day and age “hunting and gathering” means going to the local Wendy’s and coming back with many little dollar menu hamburgers. Or at least that’s what “getting dinner” means to Denan. (Edit: To be fair, and because Denan put up massive amounts of protest when he read this part, Denan DOES offer to cook a lot of times. But I know that this comes at great risk to my kitchen and to his wellbeing and it is simply just easier and safer to find food elsewhere.) And I did indeed eat a hamburger last night, in my bed, fever-ridden and feeling sorry for myself. And you bet your bottom dollar that tonight I didn’t feel like doing crap either so we ordered pizza. These last few days have not been my best days, I will admit. But tomorrow is a new dawn. Tomorrow, come hell or high water, I will jack myself up on Mucinex and Advil and I will somehow, slowly but surely, make my way to Walmart for new groceries. This week, since money is tight, we are having many vegetarian dishes that I do hope to share with you. I’ve had so many recipe requests now that it is looking like I am going to have to start doing more recipe posts. Tomorrow I am making crock pot beef tips over cauliflower mash instead of rice. This is the first time that I am tasting the “faux potatoes” that every fitness guru, healthy eater, and dietician keeps raving about. I am skeptical. I will be completely honest with you. I have no idea what I am doing but I am quite eager to give my brand new food processor that my mom got for me a spin. As I am typing this I am trying to forgive myself for eating out so many times this week and meditating on that cauliflower mash.

Speaking of eating out, I’ve recently received something very nice in the mail. I’m actually a crazy person that is obsessed with “getting deals” where I can, if you did not know already. Being poor has driven me to chasing free stuff. It all started about two years ago when I fell in love with Quaker’s Banana Bread Oatmeal. They used to sell that stuff by the box you know? And then for some reason, some GENIUS in their packaging department decided to take the full boxes off the market and only sell the Banana Bread flavor in the “bakery variety pack”. LAME. This means that you pay the same amount of money for only 4 packages of your favorite oatmeal instead of 16 or something. This made me kinda mad. So I wrote to those bitches. I told them exactly how I felt about them taking away my favorite flavor and forcing me to purchase their disgusting raisin flavor. (Note: I have since made amends with the raisin flavored oatmeal and now I buy it all the time and enjoy it.) Well I wasn’t expecting anything to happen, but a few days later I got an email back from their public relations department asking for my address. My first reaction was “um are you kidding?” because I thought that they were going to come rough me up or something. However I was using a PO Box at the time so it wasn’t like they could really find me. So I complied. A week later I got a large fully stuffed manilla envelope addressed to me from the Quaker company. I thought for sure that this was some kind of anthrax and that Quaker was trying to eliminate me for being so sassy to them. Upon opening the package I realized that it was FULL of vouchers. For FREE oatmeal. And there was a recipe book AND some bumper stickers and a kind letter saying that they appreciated my business. That is when I realized that writing to companies…gets you free stuff. Which is delightful.

Recently I had a very good experience at Chili’s. I know. I know. CHILI’S. The epitome of over-priced mediocre food that can be made better at home. I know. I was surprised myself. But I actually had a pretty good meal there. Somewhere in the world Anthony Bourdain’s ears are burning and then he will randomly self-destruct. Believe me. Their “lighter” menu has been totally revamped for New Years Resolutions and Lenten enthusiasts. I spotted something a little different this time that I became instantly curious about. I’m ALL about sweet and spicy flavors paired with meat. I went out on a limb and ordered their new dish Sweet and Spicy Chicken which comes with onions and peppers, some steamed broccoli and some sort of brown rice side. I was totally skeptical but I was in that beginning phase of my diet where I didn’t want to screw anything up so I was willing to put aside my needs for French fries and hamburgers for something a little better for you. Honestly and truthfully, it was delicious. Of course the “onions and peppers” that it came with were meager and over cooked, and the portion of rice that I got was probably a little less than a 1/4 of a cup which was kind of disappointing, but hey…like I said…it’s Chili’s. This is not Ruth’s Chris. I was so blown away at the sauce and how all the flavors of the chicken, and the sauce and the broccoli and rice paired together so nicely. It wasn’t an overly large portion but I was still very satisfied and I felt….GOOD after eating it. It was a little more calories than I would have liked to eat for an entire meal, coming in at about 590, which is pretty high in my book, but I hadn’t eaten very much that day. The 590 calories includes a big piece of chicken and both sides so that isn’t bad if you think about it.

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Of course after I walked out feeling so good I had to write to Chili’s and tell them about how happy I was. Partially because I kind of thought maybe I would get some kind of voucher for a free appetizer or something. But honestly it was because I wanted to make sure Chili’s knew that their new menu item was delicious and that it needed to STAY on the menu instead of fading into obscurity so I can never eat it again. At first I received nothing. No e-mails, no letters. I was kind of disappointed because on their website Chili’s GUARANTEES that they’ll get back to you. So while I was brooding about how Chili’s is a bunch of liars, something was on its way to me in the post. A few days ago I got a letter in the mail enclosed with $15 in gift certificates to Chili’s. Which is just perfect. I was so over the moon I just could not contain myself. I really do recommend this dish to anyone who is trying to eat healthy but is forced to eat out. Eating out is one of the hardest things to do when you are on a diet. For some reason if you don’t make a meal with your own hands, it adds about 300 calories to the total no matter what you get or where you go. And to be truthful, if I made this dish at home I could probably shave off a good 200 calories. But sometimes we like to be SOCIAL and have dinner with our friends. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that probably every city in America has at least ONE Chili’s. And if your city doesn’t have a Chili’s…y’all gotta be some ol’ country people! This is a good “go-to” meal when you are forced to take your sustenance outside of your home. If one of you guys orders this or has ordered it before, let me know how you liked it in the comments!

Eat, Pray, Love,

Katie

Status Report: Hello, Skinny Jeans

I just want to say this: to all you people out there trying to live a healthy lifestyle, I salute you. This last month I have learned that being actively healthy is a full time job. There are days when you are out running the streets, hustling and bustling, trying to do what you have to do, and it would be so much easier to take a spin through the drive-thru than to come home and make a meal. There have been days when I would rather gouge my eyes out than stand at the stove and cook anything. Seriously, ask my boyfriend. The other day I attempted a tilapia dish that looked simple enough but required squeezing 3 different types of citrus fruits (I definitely got my arm work out for the day on that one). I was tired and cranky and I just wanted an ice cream sandwich. But I pushed and pushed myself until my counter was so slippery that the juicer slipped out of my grasp and went hurtling to the floor, spilling the contents of the container I had slaved over all over the floor (which later resulted in a sticky mess). At that very moment I completely lost my cool. I turned, furious, screeching something incomprehensible at my boyfriend and ran into the bedroom, sobbing. It took many moments of Denan leaning over the bed, petting my hair, and saying “it’s okay” over and over again for me to regain my composure, straighten up and finish that dish. Oh yes. There have been those days.

There have been days when my feet hurt and my bones ache.  The off and on Louisiana weather is running amuck in my lungs and I would much rather stuff my face with a deep fried chicken patty on a bun full of soothing starches and sugars and just collapse. Pushing yourself that extra mile to make sure you get your workout in or getting the proper nutrition while everything else is going on is terribly trying. I can see why so many people just give up; this is exactly why I have given up in the past. Life folds in on you and before you know it, you’re eating what you can to survive and, eventually, a ton of bad things just to comfort you from your busy lifestyle. Fighting off these kinds of impulses is hard. But I have to say, this time I am really trying. This time I keep bouncing back every time there is even the teensiest of a setback. This time I am just so tired of looking and feeling the way that I do that I refuse to let it be the end of the story.

Lately I have been doing a whole bunch of nothing because I am still unemployed. Starting in a week or so I am going to be volunteering at a center for families in my community to gain service hours towards getting into graduate school. While I’m really glad to get out and do my part, I know that I also won’t have the time to sit around and cook wholesome meals all day long. And it’s looking like March is going to be a pretty tight month for us financially so I am going to have to try EXTRA hard not to turn to the dollar menu to feed myself. As it is I am already dreading this month and the trials and tribulations that will come with it. That being said, I am also looking back on February and the successes that came with it. With new career options on the horizon for me, I decided it was about time to buy some proper clothes. It’s not that the ones I own are bad…it’s just that…well, when you are not exactly satisfied with your body, you tend to only own a few staple items of clothing and abuse the heck out of them. What I mean is, you wear the same thing over and over again; the things that you are “comfortable” in. The dresses that I have are nice, but I wear them a lot and they look a little worse for wear. My grandparents just gave me a hefty sum of money for graduation and so I figured, “what the heck?!” and went crazy at Target. I wouldn’t say Target’s clothes are particularly CHEAP, but they do have some pretty sweet deals. Plus, Target tends to support the whole “bigger people wearing fashionable clothes” thing, which is awesome. Apparently some stores just think that big people don’t wear clothes. They just seem to think that we are content with taking our pillowcases, cutting holes in them, and walking around like that. I don’t really know what’s up with that. Not to mention they have REALLY cute clothes. My typical strategy for taking down the clothing section of Target is: 1) Look for cute patterns. 2) Look for things that stretch. 3) Look for items that are big enough for my boobs to live in. 4) Look for things with interesting accents.

I did that. And I picked out some really cute leggings and a few nice dresses. Which is basically what I buy every time I buy clothes. However, there is one thing that I really have needed for the last…oh I dunno….3 years or so…it’s called PANTS. I hate wearing pants. Pants and me just don’t…we don’t do well together. Every single pair of pants I have ever owned has always been too tight in the waist and too loose in the butt. This body type is called “The Family Curse” where I come from. My mom tried to help by buying me “jeggings” which is basically what would happen if jeans and leggings had a child. That was nice. I liked them. But I got made fun of because they are not “proper pants”. So I got a whim. I’ve ALWAYS wanted a pair of brightly colored skinny jeans. I really wanted mint green, but the greedy little buttheads in my town already swiped them all before I could even get there. So my next favorite color is pink. And I just…wanted to try on a pair of pink skinny jeans. Spring is coming and bright colors are starting to be in style again and I just thought, “hey….let’s see if I can fit into pants now”. Let me just say now that buying pants in the past has been some kind of personal hell for me. Every time I ever had to buy pants would be a stark reminder that I was just a fat loser that couldn’t fit into “normal people jeans”. And it would usually end in me crying on the fitting room floor like some kind of bad reality TV show and my mom refusing to acknowledge that I was her child. It was just bad, people. So when I tried on those skinny jeans in Target I was pretty much preparing myself mentally to want to eat my feelings away at the Chinese buffet. But that didn’t happen….because they fit. Like perfectly. Like…I look like I ACTUALLY have a butt and I can BREATHE in my pants. And they are kind of….well sort of comfortable. As comfortable as non-lounge pants can be. They were so comfy that I decided to get two pairs. One in pink and one in blue.

Imagine that. I can fit into pants. At Target. A store where normal people shop. Huh.

*Borat voice* GREAT SUCCESS!

So without further ado…I have a new Easter outfit for this year. BAM. (Sorry that I look less than pleased. I was using Photo Booth on my computer and they only give you three seconds to get your butt ready for a good picture. I was concentrating hard.) The blazer is new too. I got that one from Lane Bryant.

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Weight Progression:

Starting Weight: 235 lbs

Current Weight: 223 lbs

So that’s my first status report guys. How you like dem apples? Tell me about your weight loss experiences down below in the comments!

Eat, Pray, Love,

Katie, the girl who wears pants now.

The Juice: Cucumber/Pear

Lately I’ve been really excited about juicing. Back in the day my ex-boyfriend, who will be referred to on this blog as “The Jackass”, got me a Jack LaLane juicer. Now…this is one of the ONLY good things he ever did in our relationship despite the fact that it was a Valentine’s Day gift. I know right? How romantic. Honestly, what I really think it was, was that he forgot to buy me a Valentine’s gift, spent all his money buying the juicer off the television for HIMSELF, and when it conveniently showed up on our doorstep a few days before the 14th, he just called it my present because he didn’t want to get in trouble. I know this because before then I had never expressed any interest in having a juicer and from the way he cleaned and polished that thing like it was his baby…I knew it was meant to be for him. So you can imagine that when he left me how adamant I was about keeping it. “No, no, Jackass, this was MY gift from YOU. This is MY juicer remember??” Sure, sure, I kept it out of spite. But now it is one of my favorite tools to use in the kitchen and my current wonderful, kind, generous, and non-jackass of a boyfriend who will be referred to as “Mr. Right” on this blog, loves to use it as well.
A month or so ago my sister and I watched a documentary called “Hungry for Change” all about clean eating and how to take care of your body. Personally, I cannot follow the regimens put out by the fitness gurus in that documentary. I just can’t. I’m low income, I like to eat out sometimes, and I have friends and other responsibilities that keep me from being in the gym and the kitchen 24/7. It’s just not realistic to me. BUT that being said, I really enjoyed the documentary and it really inspired me to check the labels of everything I buy as well it inspired me to juice. According to this documentary and many others, juicing is one of the best ways to get good nutrition in your system. I’m not one of those big time, juicing fitness gurus that are all over Instagram, and I’m not sure if I ever intend to be, but every other day I try to make myself some juice. Juicing with a juicer is not the same thing as drinking juice. Fruit juices in the store are often not really juice at all, rather sugar and chemical water. Even the juices that advertise being whole fruit juice have additives and sugar. The only brand that I trust in the stores is “Naked”. This brand makes juice that is the closest thing you are going to get to juicing it yourself at home. The bad part is, you’re going to pay a hefty price for a small bottle of juice whereas buying the produce yourself and running them through the machine costs way less.
Using a juicer is really easy once you learn how to put it together. It’s also really dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Ok…I’m not entirely sure if it’s the same for every juicer since I only have one, but the Jack LaLane juicer can really provide some serious threats to your person as it includes a very sharp spinning blade that you have to remove yourself. Your juicer should be cleaned after every use as it collects fruit and vegetable pulp, which if left unattended can ferment and smell bad. Some people may find this to be a pain. Personally I don’t. All of the parts of my juicer are dishwasher safe as I think is pretty standard with most juicers on the market. You just take it a part, put the pieces in your dish washer, and run it through for the next day’s use. My juicer in particular was pretty expensive. Because The Jackass ordered it off the television it was probably $100 more expensive than they sell them for in the stores. In stores today the one that I have will probably run you around $90-100. I didn’t buy mine so I didn’t really have to think much about this. However I know for some of you this might be a concern. Of course the more you pay for a juicer the better quality it will be, but I know for a fact they sell some at Walmart for around $20 that work just fine. Amazon.com also has some pretty sweet deals.
One of my favorite things about juicing is that you can make plenty of cool flavor combos. And I know that sometimes eating fruits and vegetables can be hard for some people as the texture isn’t always pleasant. But the truth of the matter is, fruits and vegetables carry very important nutrients for our bodies that we NEED. You really can’t avoid it. Juicing these foods provides one of the purest ways to get these nutrients. I wanted to share with you some of my juices that I create and maybe inspire you the way that documentary did for me. The first juice I wanted to show you guys was Cucumber/Pear. Now…let me just start out by saying: If you do not like the taste of vegetables then you probably will not want to start off with this juice. You really have to develop a taste for fresh juice before you start tossing in tons of green things. I personally like cucumber a lot. What I’ve learned is: a little goes a long way. I juiced an entire HALF of a cucumber in this juice. That was way too much. It overpowered the flavor of the pear which is supposed to make it sweet and it just…tasted like grass. So be mindful of overpowering flavors when you juice. There are TONS of other blogs specifically dedicated to juicing that give you recipes with exact measurements so you don’t goof this up like I did. I also used really under-ripe pears so they weren’t as sweet as they could have been. I was terribly impatient. But there are tons of health benefits that come with this juice. Cucumbers have been known for ages to reduce inflammation (that’s why they put cucumbers on your eyes when you go to the spa! Ah ha! Facts! 😉 ) and also to reduce the risk of some types of cancers. Pears also help reduce inflammation which is why they go so well with cucumbers in this juice. They also are a very good source of dietary fiber and so they can reduce the chance of getting Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. If you are ever wondering what kinds of benefits our fruits and vegetables give us, check out this website: http://www.whfoods.com/
When I first started juicing I often looked up the benefits of the ingredients I was using just because I was curious. It is a really great resource.

I know maybe from the picture you are thinking, “I am NOT drinking that.” I know…it looks like green algae. But I promise that it isn’t bad. Also, I bet you are wondering why there is a picture of my snow crab salad and a BBQ beef sandwich in the picture as well. There is a really simple explanation for that. Katie was dumb and deleted the picture of the juice by itself off her computer…and the only picture she had of the juice was the one that she edited together with the other meals she had made that same day…so. I guess you’re just going to have to enjoy this picture of the snow crab salad again……..and this BBQ beef sandwich…yep.

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I tried another combination with cucumber: Cucumber/Melon. Remember that super delicious smelling hand cream that you used to get from Bath and Body Works? Yep. It tastes just as good too……the juice…not the hand cream…..awkward.

Anyway! I hope you guys try out juicing and give me a holler if you do!

Eat, Pray, Love,

Katie

Lunch Hour: Snow Crab Salad

Four years ago I never thought that I would have a relationship with salad. When I first came to college I had a very heavy palate. I’m New Orleans French. My great great great grandfather came to New Orleans with Napoleon’s army from France, put down roots in the city when it was still just a baby city, and my family has been here ever since. We like our food rich and typically with tasty sauce; cream sauce…butter sauce…red wine reduction. We love our bread French and crusty. And with butter, please. Thank you very much. We like our fried dough beignet style with powdered sugar…lots and lots of powdered sugar. And dunked in coffee. We also like our alcohol from time to time. Some people more often than others. And typically served in the streets or the porch with lots of jazz music wafting around. And every spring we will all convene in the backyard and boil up helpless crustaceans in salty, spicy delicious water and serve them with sausage, potatoes and corn. This is the way of life in New Orleans and there isn’t much that any diet is going to do about it. But surprisingly, due to either being college kid broke or simply growing up, I am starting to acquire a taste for different types of foods as well. 

Salad is one of those foods that I had to grow to like. It really has to be done correctly or I’m just not a fan. Whatever the reason may be, whether it’s the texture or the dressing being too heavy, it has to be made just right and with the right ingredients. This is why often you will not see me order a salad in a restaurant. It’s not that I don’t trust restaurants, it’s just that sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting. I will give you an example. There is a Greek cafe in town that I really adore. I go there all the time despite their semi-expensive prices because it is one of the ONLY places in town you can get healthy food on the go. I want to like their salads so badly. They serve you a nice portion with lots of chicken and olives and a fabulous dressing and feta and it’s all great great great until you realize that the lettuce they buy is the cheap cafeteria, shredded up, weak iceberg lettuce mixed with matchstick carrots and that purple stuff that might be cabbage. And it’s disappointing. Because it tastes like crap and it’s wilted and once you drench it in dressing it becomes slop. And it SUCKS. I have been dying to tell these people, “please…oh dear God PLEASE invest in some baby spinach.” Because I think they do a REALLY good job but the truth of the matter is….I could make it better at home. Or like Subway. My boyfriend works at Subway. Everyone knows Subway. If you haven’t been to a Subway you need to crawl out from under your rock. Subway has started selling chopped salads. Which is great. And they will even put all your veggies and meat into a big bowl and cut it up into small bite-sized pieces for you which is so wonderful. The problem is, their dressing selection is nasty. You have to choose from heavy, gelatinous sauces or oil and vinegar. Which is plain and no fun. Again….I could make it better at home. 

My sister said it just right, “you have to choose the right kind of lettuce for you.” My sister Alaina was that child that would NOT eat her vegetables cooked much less raw in a salad. “Salad” was something of a curse word to her growing up. Which is why I am absolutely fascinated any time I see her eat anything that vaguely resembles a salad. But it’s true, you have to start with a good base that you like otherwise everything you put on it is going to taste unappealing. Personally, I like the organic spring mix that they sell at Walmart in the produce section. It’s not outlandishly expensive for an organic product, it’s tasty and keeps for a long time in the refrigerator. I also like the baby spinach of the same brand. I believe it is called “Marketside”. I have wasted head after head of iceberg, romaine, and green leaf lettuce, cut it up, washed it and made a big delicious salad with it all to take one bite and realize that I can’t finish it because it tasted too “grassy” to me. The good news is, now that I’ve found what I like I have been making successfully eaten salads for two years now. I usually find myself making salads for lunch because by the time dinner rolls around I’m done messing around and I want what I call “big food”. For some reason in my mind salad is considered “dainty food” no matter how much animal or non-animal protein I add to it. Since I have graduated college I have been getting quite creative with my salads. It’s a wonder what more free time could really do for your food life.  And the Pinterest “Food and Drink” feed is never at a shortage of delicious salad pictures which serve as delightful inspiration for my lunchtime escapades. (Seriously, Pinterest is the greatest resource for everything in the world….literally. I’m an addict.) 

This section of my blog is for people like me who are sick and tired of a boring old sandwich or the school/work cafeteria salad bar for lunch. In this section I will give you some tasty salad recipes and other kinds of simple recipes that you can make at midday. The first lunch recipe that I wanted to debut is something that I kind of figured out for myself. I love love love Japanese food. I could literally eat Japanese food every other day of the week and never get sick of it. There is something about Japanese flavors and textures that I’m a really big fan of. One of my favorite things to get when I eat Japanese is the snow crab salad. MOST Japanese restaurants have some kind of rendition of this. It’s basically just some kind of lettuce with a mound of snow crab on top and depending on which restaurant you’re at, they add different fixings and dressings. My favorite version of this salad is the one that belongs to Yujin Japanese Restaurant back home in Covington, Louisiana. It’s just perfection. This is probably one of the only times I am ever going to ask you to use iceberg lettuce because I am NOT a fan. But for some reason it is a must with this salad. (In the picture however, I used spinach because that is all I had. Use your imagination, folks) . Here’s how it goes: 

 

Ingredients: 

 

– 2 or 3 iceberg lettuce leaves, washed

– 2 or 3 imitation crab sticks 

-1 tablespoon cream chesse, softened 

– a few pinches shredded carrot 

– 4-6 asparagus sprigs, trimmed 

– 1 avocado, sliced 

– 3 tablespoons salt 

 

Method: 

 

1. Arrange the iceberg lettuce in the bottom of a salad bowl. 

2. Pour some water into a pot, toss in the salt, and bring to a boil. 

3. Trim off the bottoms of the asparagus and cut into 2 inch pieces. 

4. When the water is boiling, put in the asparagus and boil for 7 minutes. While the asparagus is boiling, pour some water into a separate bowl and set aside. When the timer reaches 30 seconds left, toss some ice cubes into the separate bowl to make that water very cold. When the 7 minutes is up, immediately take the asparagus out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and toss them into the ice water. This is called blanching. (No, I didn’t figure that out on my own. My friend that goes to culinary school, Elijah, taught me that haha!) 

5. In a small bowl, shred the crab sticks up into small strips and add in the softened cream cheese. Here you can season with some salt and pepper if you like. Mix well. 

6. Put the crab mix, the sliced avocado, the blanched asparagus, and the shredded carrots on top of the lettuce. You can drizzle some oil on top if you would like but typically this salad is not served with dressing. 

 

Just to make a note, this is not the actual Yujin recipe. This is my interpretation of it with their fixings and their style. They probably use real snow crab and they might mix theirs with mayonnaise instead of cream cheese. I find I like the cream cheese better because it is not as oily and if you use the reduced fat kind it is less fattening. I would not be afraid to use crab stick either. Crab stick is imitation crab meat that you find a lot of times in sushi rolls like the California roll. Crab stick is not made of anything strange either. No, it is not crab, but it IS made out of white fish meat and compressed into a stick to look like a crab leg. Some people might find this ingredient to be a tad bit too fishy for them. If you have eaten a California roll before, you have eaten crab stick and it does not TASTE fishy at all. It is very mild. It is also very low in calories and is a good protein source. (My friend who is allergic to shellfish said he likes this product because it tastes like crab meat and he can eat it without having an allergic reaction since it is not real shellfish) You can buy it at Walmart in packages. At my Walmart there is a frozen seafood section right by the bakery. I am not sure if it is located next to the bakery in ALL Walmarts but in the ones in my current town and in my hometown, it is. It’s not in the frozen seafood case, but in the case next to it. There you will find other seafood products like packaged salmon and crab cakes. This is where you find crab stick. It is not expensive. Otherwise I would not buy it. My favorite bite of this dish is a piece of avocado, a piece of asparagus and a little bit of crab. The combination is just great.  I could literally eat that blanched asparagus by itself, it is just so tasty. I don’t know what happens to asparagus when it is boiled in really salty water, but it’s pretty awesome. I find that this salad really does taste pretty darn close to the real deal in the restaurant and that’s why I keep on making it. 

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This is just one of my lunch time salads. I hope to be of service again in the future and show you some more of my salad creations. Until then! 

Eat, Pray, Love, 

Katie 

 

Your Two Cents: Stone Bruise or What?

I don’t know if you guys have noticed yet, but I am in no way a professional at this healthy lifestyle thing. I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a personal trainer. All I claim to be is a regular old person trying to figure this thing out for herself. This is why, even I, have questions and need to gain insight from other people sometimes. So in this entry I’d like to pose a question to my audience (however small it may be) and get some advice. So here goes…

I was born with flat feet. Which to normal people with an arch in their foot, this might not sound like a very big deal, but it actually is quite a difficult thing to live with. When I was little the doctor told my parents to get me some corrective shoes to kind of “nip this problem in the bud before it got out of control”. I would really like to thank that doctor wherever he is for trying. He really did try. But for some reason or another my parents didn’t think it was necessary. After all, my mother has flat feet and has never had any real problems. Well of course that just couldn’t pan out the same for me. I’ve had problems with my feet and legs for as long as I could remember. I’ve always had foot pain, almost to the point where it is debilitating. In my younger years we started to realize it was a problem when I kept spraining my ankle. We soon realized that it was because I was walking improperly because of the shape of my feet and finally I bit the big one and hurt myself really bad my senior year of high school. I had to go to physical therapy for six months or so and went to see a podiatrist. The podiatrist told me that my feet, legs, knees, and hips were slowly becoming deformed and had personal inserts made for my feet to put in my shoes. They were supposed to “create an arch” for me or something. This was when I was around 18 years of age. I don’t know if those inserts would have truly helped anything or not but I never wore them. I know I know shame on me. The main reason I didn’t wear them was simply because, well they hurt my legs really bad. Every time I would put those things in my shoes and walk with them I felt like I was wearing cinderblocks on my feet. They made walking painful and cumbersome. Plus I could only wear them in tennis shoes and as a teenage girl I wasn’t about to only wear clunky tennis shoes and give up my flip flops. So I never wore the inserts very much. I tried to wear supportive shoes whenever I walked long distances but this battle between me and my feet has been going on for a really long time. And I feel like soon enough this whole thing is about to culminate in surgery for me. So here’s my current problem:

I started walking and running in the neighborhood behind my apartment complex for the last few weeks. Everything was going great until like an idiot I wore the wrong socks one afternoon and rubbed cuts into the back of my heels. Not smart. So I patched myself up with some big bandages and kept going. However the bandages were a little awkward so I feel like I might have favored one foot over the other the next day when I was walking. Like I might have walked funny because I was still tender from the cuts. The next day I woke up with outstanding foot pain. Specifically in my left foot on my heel leading into my instep. Which made sense because my right foot was the one that had the bigger cut and was the most painful. I could see how maybe I would have favored my left foot.  Some mornings I wake up and my foot feels completely normal but the more I put weight on it and the more I walk around during the day the more sore my foot becomes until it becomes unbearable. Other mornings I wake up and my foot is so painful and stiff I can barely even touch it to the floor. I can stand on my feet for maybe 30 minutes and then after that I am completely incapacitated. If I’ve been on my feet for awhile, even when I am able to sit down my foot is throbbing. It’s gotten to the point where I am trying to work out and I am literally limping down the road like a wounded animal with tears in my eyes.

My dad is an experienced athlete so I called him up and asked him what he thought. At first I thought that I could have a stress fracture due to the severity of the pain but as I researched it a bit I realized that the only way I could really have a stress fracture in my heel is if I would have hit it and there would have been some kind of trauma. My dad said that it sounded like a stone bruise which…while I was looking it up…had a few conflicting sources on what a stone bruise actually is. So I’m just confused. And my pain has not subsided and it’s been a good week and a half since the pain started. I’m thinking of going to the doctor, but, you know how expensive it is to go see a specialist…if this is something that could be fixed with home remedies I would really appreciate any information you can give. Given my history with foot issues, I’m not at all surprised this is happening to me. But there is no discoloration, no swelling at all. It looks normal and there is just a lot of pain. There is no visible trauma or anything. I’m just getting sick of this pain. Sometimes there seems to be something of a burning sensation on my heel where the pain is. It’s just strange.

Meanwhile as I am recovering from this little foot injury, I would really like to start doing alternative exercises. The cool thing is that the other day while I was going through some old boxes of stuff, I found some packets of paper my aunt sent me of really good floor exercises that I could get really good at. These are low impact exercises that won’t put very much stress on my foot. (I will be trying out all of these routines and sharing them with my readers here on the blog!) I don’t know if this is the right thing to do or if I should still try to walk with my sore foot. The thing is that I wore my inserts the other day to work out and they seemed to be making my pains worse. I’m really excited because warm weather is coming and my apartment complex has a nice pool. Swimming is really good for you and very low impact on joints. I just pinned a pin on Pinterest talking about good pool exercises that don’t involve laps. And I actually like to swim laps but I really would like to check some of those out. Maybe you will see some of them featured here on the blog! 🙂

Anyway let me know what you think about my situation and if you have any comments or advice please leave them at the bottom of the page! Thanks in advance for your input!

Eat, Pray, Love,

Katie

UPDATE: So this is a quick update since I wrote the first draft of this entry. I’ve been keeping off my foot for about 4 days now and the pain seems to be significantly less and barely noticeable at times. However, like I said, if I overuse my foot it does start up again. I’ve been trying to massage it and keep it elevated when I’m not standing and it does seem a lot better. But just in case it comes back to full power I still want opinions. Thanks in advance again everyone!

Recipe Test: Thai Cashew Chicken

Mardi Gras is one of those holidays that is a blessing and a curse. While all the other states are going back to their boring lives after New Years, the party is just getting started in Louisiana. Along with this new holiday season comes delicious delights like King Cake and crawfish. The streets are lined with parades and there’s always something fun to do. There’s also a nice added bonus of state pride that comes with the Carnival season. The feeling of being special and unique. Those are the blessings. Then you realize that you’ve promised your New Years Resolution that you wouldn’t eat cake anymore, crawfish becomes too damn expensive, the streets are closed down due to being full of people so you can’t get anywhere in the city and you don’t feel so special and unique anymore as you freeze your butt off in the cold and rain waiting for drunk idiots to pelt you in the face with plastic beads all the while your jeans are too tight because you ate too much King Cake and by the time you get home home all you want to do is shut the bedroom door, curl up in a ball and scream “LOUD NOISES!!”….you see what I mean? Not all that it’s cracked up to be. However I don’t think that at any point in my life will I ever get tired of this painful pleasure we call Carnival season. What can I say? We’re all masochists in Louisiana. Little known fact.

But because it is what we call “Mardi Gras Weekend” (Lundi Gras, Mardi Gras and the weekend leading up to it) my boyfriend and I have spent every night roaming the streets. NO not because I want to….are you crazy? I would MUCH rather be lying on the floor of my living room watching Anthony Bourdain reruns and terrorizing my cat with a laser pointer. Yes…that actually is what I do on Saturday nights. Is that not normal? Don’t judge me. Denan works in the media and so it is his God-given instruction to broadcast every single thing that happens in our city. So he gets out there every night from 5:00 in the evening until 10:00 at night with his coworker and they sit out on top of the roof of their station car (which is by the way a ginormous military grade hummer) and interview drunk people. Why I put myself through that kind of commotion you ask? Because I love my boyfriend. A lot. And that’s what nice girlfriends do. They act as moral support. So as I’ve spent the last few nights on top of a hummer freezing cold into the late hours of the night, you can imagine I haven’t been cooking much. My plan of attack is to basically eat really healthy for breakfast and lunch, and kind of…eat what we can find for dinner. Which basically means that if I have to eat one more piece of mediocre BBQ out of the back of someone’s pickup truck (mostly from frat boys and random tailgaters) I am going to cry. I MISS home cooked food. It’s amazing that once you really start to prepare all your own food and know exactly what goes into it, how other food can be kind of…less than awesome.

However there is one meal that I made before all of this ruckus started that I would like to share with you. As Denan put it, “all of your meals are top notch but this one is one of the best”. And I have to say I really did enjoy this meal as well. I find that all my favorite foods originate in Asia somewhere. I guess it’s just the mix of the sweet, the salty, the nutty and the fresh produce that is so tempting to me. I believe the recipe that I worked from said that this meal is from Thailand. Which makes sense because I am absolutely in love with Thai food. And the more I can learn to make it at home the better because it gets pretty pricy to eat it in a restaurant. So without further ado, I present to you the recipe for Thai Cashew Chicken.

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup fish sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into thin strips

1 cup dry jasmine rice

2 cups water

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 small onion, quartered then sliced

3/4 cup water

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 cup unsalted cashew nuts

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a resealable plastic bag, mix the soy sauce, fish sauce, hot pepper sauce, garlic, and ginger. Place the chicken in the bag, seal, and marinate at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the jasmine rice and 2 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes.

3. Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Stir in the onion, and cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Reserving the marinade mixture, place the chicken into the skillet, and cook about 10 minutes, until browned.

4. Stir the reserved marinade and 3/4 cup water into the skillet, and bring to a boil. Continue to cook and stir 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Thoroughly blend in the peanut butter. Serve over the jasmine rice with a sprinkling of cashews.

Now I have a few comments about this recipe, just some things that concerned me. First of all using rice is not low carb at all and I am aware of that. It’s not something that I like to over-indulge on, but when I do eat rice I try to buy types of rice that are more nutritious than bleached white rice which is terrible for you. Also for someone like me with PCOS that needs to watch my sugar and carbohydrate levels, buying the right kinds of carbs can be a lifesaver. I once heard that jasmine rice is more healthful than other rices and this is true but this is what you have to look for:

” Whole grain, or brown, jasmine rice retains the bran, or outer husk. Brown jasmine rice is more nutritious and higher in fiber than the white, water-milled version. White jasmine rice is a starchy, refined food and, as such, temporarily raises insulin and blood sugar levels. Therefore, a diet high in refined foods, such as white rice, may increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes.” -Livestrong.com (http://www.livestrong.com/article/406304-is-jasmine-rice-healthy/)

So the moral is that when buying jasmine rice, look for the whole grain kind. This is the kind that looks…well to me it looked “browner” or “darker” than normal rice. Jasmine rice is actually very delicious. It’s very aromatic and smells like…well..jasmine flowers. It’s really an interesting sensation.

Another thing that I noticed when cooking this dish is that the cashews REALLY bump up the calories in this recipe. So what I did was, instead of buying a big jar of cashews (which is pretty expensive) I went to the check out counter at Walmart and got one of the little snack packs of cashews, crushed them up in the pack and sprinkled them on top of the meal. That way I was able to control the portion of cashews we ate and also the cost. Cashews are like avocados. They are very GOOD for you with very good types of fats but they also are a lot of calories. I always add avocados to my salads at lunch time and it always takes a salad that would normally be 100 something calories to 300 something calories easily. But do NOT fret over calories. Some foods that are actually very healthful have lots of calories. I would not freak out over the cashews too much if you make this recipe.

If you would like you could also use a lighter version or a less sugar version of peanut butter like I did. Although I am not too sure this makes much of a difference as it isn’t too big of a portion that you actually end up using for this meal. It just gives it a very nice nutty flavor.

Garnish: To top this meal off, which I was utterly surprised was not part of the original recipe, you must add a bit of fresh green cilantro to the top. This is a VERY Thai thing to do. Cilantro is eaten in many far Eastern countries. I really felt that this splash of green really tied things in together.

WARNING: While making this dish, something very extraordinary happened. As I was melting the brown sugar in the oil to make the base for the sauce…the brown sugar got lumpy…and then turned to rocks…and so I thought I burned it…but I kept stirring…and I kept applying slight pressure to the brown sugar rock formations all over my pan and the heat eventually melted all the rocks down into a nice toasty, nutty syrup…which was an interesting and harrowing experience. But if you find yourself thinking you’ve completely ruined the dish and your brown sugar starts seizing up on you…JUST….KEEP….STIRRING. It’s amazing the things you discover when you don’t know what you’re doing….at all.

All in all I felt this was a very wholesome, filling, and satisfying meal filled with complex carbs and protein like chicken and peanut butter. I understand those of you that have not tried Thai food you may be a little skeptical about the peanut butter/chicken combination. All I can say is…don’t knock it until you try it. It’s actually very tasty. I hope you enjoyed this recipe test! Let me know if you try it.

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Eat, Pray, Love,

Katie

Product Review: Charity Miles

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love doing nothing. My ideal day would be spent in bed, in my comfy clothes, drooling like an idiot into my pillow, looking through the endless mobile Pinterest feed and growing virtual plants on my “Flower Garden” app. Yes. Virtual plants.  I would probably call myself a pretty low activity kind of person. I walk slow, I like to be sedentary for long periods of time. Sometimes on days when I have nothing to do, I swear that I am going to grow moss and turn into a rock. I wouldn’t call myself lazy…..okay yeah I would definitely call myself lazy. I just have very little motivation to do anything. Especially when I don’t absolutely have to. What can I say? I have always been this way. I was that kid in the middle school that made up imaginary illnesses and basically tried every which way possible to get out of gym class. Physical activity has never been my forte and perhaps this has contributed greatly to the predicament I am in now with my weight. I’ve never been particularly coordinated although I did play volleyball on a team in 6th grade. Granted, I was benched ALL the time and was the worst player on the team but I got myself a few lucky jabs. But truthfully I feel that it isn’t really programmed into any of us to choose discomfort over luxury and go pay $40 a month to lift weights that make our muscles ache or run laps that make us want to puke. Exercise isn’t one of those things that we are just dying to do. So of course it takes a little extra something to get me to get out there. 

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The one good thing that came from those many lazy mornings in bed on Pinterest is that I found this app that I am really really enjoying. When I first saw one of my friends pin this thing, I read the description and thought, “there must be a catch”. Charity Miles is a FREE application for your iPhone or Android that is basically like a pedometer on steroids. Using the GPS on your phone, you select, “Walk”, “Run” or “Bike” and the app will track your progress. Now here’s the cool part. At the beginning of your work out you are able to select any charity that you would like from their list. They basically do all the major ones like Feeding America, Wounded Warrior Project, ASPCA, all the great charities that you always hear about. At the end of your workout you have the opportunity to “accept sponsorship”. Basically meaning that for every mile you walk or run, Charity Miles’ sponsor, will donate .25 cents to your selected charity. Bikers get .10 cents a mile since going a mile on foot is way harder than going a mile on a bike. This app requires no money from you, the only thing they ask is that you share your progress on Facebook and then additionally on Twitter if you like. By making a post on Facebook their idea is that it will get the word out about their program. 

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I’m really big on giving back. For ages and ages I have been wanting to donate money to these big charities but have not had the extra money of my own to give. When I found this app I realized that it was a win/win situation. Not only am I able to raise money for these causes that I care about, but it comes at no monetary loss to me, and I am making myself healthier through helping other people. From what I can tell the app doesn’t take up very much space on your device. The only concern that I would have is that if you DON’T have unlimited data, the app MAY eat into that. I did an experiment not too long ago on my boyfriend’s phone (he has a limited data plan) and turned off the wifi and the cellular network and tried to run the app. The app still worked, but it did say that GPS signal was low. Not sure what that means but I have a feeling that it wouldn’t work as well if you didn’t use your 3G network, hence your data plan. The app is really user friendly. I have had many pedometer apps on my phone that have failed me miserably. When I used to walk home from school a few semesters ago, I tried to get a pedometer on my phone just to track how long my walk was and how many calories I burned. Many of the pedometers, if you closed the app or you locked your phone, stopped counting. Either that or they would freeze at some point and shut down. A few of them wouldn’t allow you to listen to music while you worked out which was really stupid. I just was never impressed. This app provides a really GOOD quality pedometer. The only thing it doesn’t do is count calories as the main target of the app is not so much personal health but giving back to charities. Other than that, you can close the app, turn on your music, lock your phone, it will keep working in the background until you tell it to stop. It hasn’t crashed on me yet so it seems like a pretty decent app. Now the only thing I have to say I was a little disappointed about, because it works on GPS, it does not work in a gym. You can’t plug it up while you’re on the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike because technically…you’re not going anywhere. And there’s nothing for the GPS to track. I’m not exactly sure why it works that way but it only works for people who use the road to walk, run or bike. Which is fine for me because I can’t afford a gym membership anyway and the neighborhood behind my apartment complex works just as well. But for some people, I could see this being a problem. It really limits their audience which kind of sucks. But other than that, I would say this is a very legit app. 

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When you first download Charity Miles they ask you to connect via your Facebook. I guess that would be another restriction, if you didn’t use Facebook you wouldn’t be able to use this app. But I guess these guys are operating under the assumption that most people do in fact use Facebook. Facebook IS a requirement. Twitter is not, but you can use Twitter to publish your progress as an after thought. When you first open the app they will direct you to a video which I find very nice. The video is just basically explaining to you what Charity Miles is, how it works, what you need to do. It’s a really well put together video and it really inspired me. After the first time you open the app, all the other times, you will be directed to the home screen which will give you three options at the top of the screen. Walk, Run or Bike. After you pick your poison you will be asked to flick through a few charities and choose which one you would like to work out for. You don’t have to just stick with one, you can do a different one each day. Whatever strikes your fancy. Then you press start and just go. After your workout you press “stop” and “finish”. You can also press “resume” too if you want to keep going. That’s also another cool feature. You can stop and go as you please. The pedometer will only track what you want it to track. So if you wanted to use the app for walking between classes you could pause it during class and start it up again after. After you press “finish” you select “Accept sponsorship”. You have the option of not logging the workout, but if you don’t you will not earn the money for the charity. That is the only price you pay, a post on your Facebook. The app will give you a pre-written status update that describes how many miles you walked or ran or biked and for what charity. You post it and you’re done. The app also tracks your progress and creates a log of all the work outs you have ever done with Charity Miles so you can see how much you have impacted others. 

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Another cool thing about Charity Miles is that while you are in the midst of your work out you can view your workout in terms of time, miles and impact. The impact is my favorite feature because it tells you what kind of difference you are making in the charity. For instance, once I walked two miles for ASPCA. In the time column it said “40 minutes” in the miles column it said “2 miles” and in the impact column it said “4 vaccinations for shelter animals”. It showed me exactly what my work out was earning for myself and others. It truly is a fantastic little app. I can’t say that I use it everyday because I do not work out everyday. But when I do work out, I use it. For me, it is just the motivation that I need to get out of the house and start working out. It may sound silly, but it makes me feel needed. I love knowing that while I am making myself a better person, I am also helping others in need. I really recommend this app to anyone who is able to use it. I would really like to hear about your experiences if you so choose to use this app. My best friend, Nicole and I both use this app and we love it. So really, give it a try and see what you think and tell me which charities you are helping! 🙂 

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Eat, Pray, Love,

 

Katie 

 

Hello.

 

I have literally been staring at this blank page for two days now, mulling over what to say. I figure that if I just move my fingers, something brilliant will come forth, but I’m finding that this blogging thing is way harder when you’re months and months out of practice. Everything is different now. Different since the last time I wrote this blog and told my readers that I wasn’t coming back. I guess when I wrote that, I couldn’t see past a certain point in time. I didn’t know what graduating from college would feel like and I most certainly didn’t remember what free time was. The point is…I’m back. Why? I’m still figuring that out. I guess because it’s the only natural thing I can think to do since I am picking back up where I left off on my journey to health.

 

There was this defining moment over Christmas break that sort of steered the ship in the other direction. My sister and I were at my dad’s for the holidays. He lives off of a lake in the middle of nowhere and we have a pretty spacious backyard. My sister is a riflery and archery instructor at a summer camp up in Northern Alabama, and she brings her bow and arrows along for the holidays. My friend Nicole came over and we were out in the back, shooting and having a good laugh at ourselves since we were super inexperienced. Nicole is a photographer so of course she was taking a million pictures to document the first time we ever handled a lethal weapon. I remember flicking through those pictures on her phone and looking at myself in horror. Everyone around me, my friends, my family, my boyfriend, they all accepted me for what I was. That wasn’t the problem. Big, skinny, short, tall, it wasn’t an issue for any of them really. As long as I was just me. But it was me that hated me in those pictures. Just looking at myself made me sick to my stomach because I had let things get so drastically out of hand. There are 1.5 million excuses that I could use for why I’ve let my weight get so out of control. Some of them are legitimate reasons, but there is no reason good enough to allow yourself to die slowly. It was at that point that I decided that this was enough. 

 

I have hidden behind the college kid stigma for too long. Lurking between buildings in sweatpants and pajama shirts, my hair a mess, no makeup, eating Chick-fil-A. Those days are over now. Yes, I am poor. Poorer than most people. I live on my own with my boyfriend with little to no support from my parents. I can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods, I don’t have a gym membership. I am a real person. Not a health guru. The truth is, I don’t have a job yet; but I’m working on it. My boyfriend works two jobs to support us and we ride the poverty line. I am not ashamed to say it. I won’t hide it from anyone. We have one car because that’s all we can afford. We are looking into applying for food stamps. This is adult life. This is what it is like when you start out on your own. I don’t see this as some kind of crippling challenge, but a rite of passage. You have to learn to live like the poor to really value what you earn later on in life. Still, even with all the challenges that come to us, I am determined to keep my health in check. One point that I am really out to prove is that you CAN live healthfully with little to no money. It is completely and totally possible. I am so sick and tired of hearing people say, “I’m poor so I have to eat Cheetos and diet Coke for dinner”. That’s not true and I am a living example of that. You just have to know what to buy. You just have to know how to prepare it. You just have to know how to make it work.  One skill that I have developed over my 4 years of being a college kid is budgeting, meal planning, and grocery shopping. In my future entries I hope to teach you guys a little of what I know. I don’t really know how I know what I know…but it works every single month. Somehow….

 

This blog is a document not only to serve as maybe inspiration or entertainment for you, but as an aid for myself. Some people make YouTube channels to document their weight loss, some make diaries or take photographs. This blog serves as my proof that weight loss is a journey. It’s not a “one and done” kind of process. You don’t take a pill and wake up the next day looking the way you want to look. Some people take years to lose the weight they need to lose. I think the thing that has tripped me up in the past is time. Not getting the results I want in what I considered to be “a timely manner”. Having PCOS doesn’t help things either. Weight loss with PCOS is more difficult than it would be for a normal person since your hormones are constantly working against you. But it’s not impossible. Little known secret: Jillian Michaels has PCOS. And she is a fitness goddess. No excuses. 

 

The way I would like this blog to work this time around is much more organized. I’ve created 10 different topics, and each entry will be centered around one of these topics: 

1. Blurbs: Which is basically my thoughts and ramblings. 

2. Recipe Test: This is where I give you one of my dinner recipes and break it down for you step by step with my tips. 

3. Product Review: I will review a food item or a piece of equipment or something else that is helping me in my weight loss. This is where I will give you the skinny on some products I love. 

4. Work it Out: This is where I will blog about my work outs, what I do differently or maybe what I like to do the same; my work out experiences. 

5. Lunch Hour: This is where I will debut some of my salad and healthy lunch ideas to keep you from hitting the drive-thru on your break at lunch. 

6. The Juice: One of my biggest hobbies these days is juicing. If  you don’t know about all the benefits of juicing, I recommend that you watch the documentary “Hungry for Change”. It is on Netflix. It opened my eyes about the benefits of juicing and healthy lifestyle. I will go into this more.

7. Your Two Cents: This is where I ask you questions that I am not sure about. Since I post these entries on my Facebook, feel free to comment on those posts or here on Word Press. 

8. Snack Attack: This is a section where I will write about my favorite healthy snacks. I am ALL about healthy snacking. I am the kind of person that does NOT stay full between meals no matter how hard I try. 

9. Out on the Street: This section will be about choosing healthy options when you have eat out. I will talk about different restaurants I visit and how my boyfriend and I keep both the cost and the calories down. 

10. Status Report: This is where I will weigh in and see how my weight loss progresses. So far, I am down 10 lbs since the beginning of the year. This will be the section that will be hardest for me to write since sometimes it will highlight successes and sometimes maybe even failures. Part of the reason my blog didn’t go so well last time is because I wasn’t being honest with myself. I would like to take time in this section to talk about what struggles I am going through and what victories I have made. 

 

Finally, a little added bonus: On this journey with me is my loyal companion, my boyfriend, Denan. He and I started this project together at the beginning of the year and while there have been some deviations, he and I have been going about this really well. But he has a perspective that I cannot offer: a man’s perspective. Many have told me that my blog is targeted towards women and this is true since I am indeed a woman. But Denan is an excellent writer and is living this experience with me day by day. From time to time he may pop in to write in his own little blurbs about our healthy eating journey.  

 

I think this is all I am able to say for the first entry. I am very thankful for the responses I received when I asked if I should start this blog again. It seems that (for some reason) you guys really like it, and that makes me really happy. I really encourage you to write me comments or to tell me what you like and don’t like. Last time I did this blog I found myself really clueless because many people were reading but giving me no feedback. It’s okay. I can take criticisms! But I like praises too 😛 Just let me know if you are listening so I know how I’m doing. I like chatting with others about this topic. If you ever have any questions or comments, do not hesitate, even if we haven’t talked in years or if we haven’t talked ever. I’m quite approachable. 🙂 I hope you are all having a great day. 

 

Eat, Pray, Love, 

 

KatieImage

Changes.

I have been brought here on this journey for a reason. I keep telling myself that. There is a really good reason why I have been selected to go through all of this. This weight gain, this weight loss, this weight gain, this illness, this sickness, this repetitive cycle that I have tried so hard to break. I have put in years and years, valuable years, young years, years that I am never going to get back trying to beat my weight. Trying to fix something that was never really working all the way to begin with. Trying to figure out the mystery of what my body wants and what my body needs.  You need water? You need vegetables? You need fruit? You need meat? You need dairy? You need exercise? You need a lot of things and I am giving it to you, but you aren’t doing ANYTHING with it. So why? Why am I still sitting here vastly overweight? Why do I keep plummeting farther and farther over the edge? Why can’t I stop?……………Why can’t I just stop?

As I type this it is almost 3:00 in the morning. I can’t sleep. Partially because I took a nap this afternoon, partially because I am coming down with the same thing that everyone at school has right now, and partially because I twisted my ankle in the store today and it’s swollen up to the size of a golf ball. Amazing. I’m on Spring Break. This is the last Spring Break I will ever have as a college student. Not counting grad school. Does anyone count grad school as college? I don’t. It’s more like….”Work School”. No, I have never taken a vacation to the beach on Spring Break with my friends. Not once. Mostly because I don’t have that kind of money just hanging around my house and partially because fat people aren’t allowed at the beach. No one has explicitly said that but let’s be honest. It’s like the unspoken rule. Socially, in our culture, fat people aren’t actually allowed on Spring Break. Does this make me feel a bit like I’ve missed out on something? Not really. I’m expecting that load of regret to fall heavy on my chest around age…ehhh I don’t know…27? Probably.

Right now I feel like perhaps my body is falling to pieces. Like at any given time I’m just going to go down and they’re going to pronounce me dead. My body is 22 years old. But it feels like I am 78. I don’t know how much longer I can take this. In the passed few months I have been to the doctor for my blood pressure. I’m on medication now which I am sure is doing wonders for my liver. Medication. For my blood pressure. Like an old person. At 22 years old. Granted it’s not just because I am overweight that I have high blood pressure. I suffer with panic disorder. You know…those sudden panic attacks that just come out of NO WHERE in the middle of the night…while you’re sleeping….in class….while you’re trying to concentrate…on the couch…while you’re watching TV? I was getting those at least 5 times a day and my heart wasn’t able to handle it. So the doctor put me on Bystolic. Which is a beta blocker that does something to my heart rate, blocks my panic attacks, and lowers my blood pressure. I don’t know. I just know it’s a very tiny purple pill that I take everyday. I’ve been emphasizing this part a lot lately when I tell people about it: “Being overweight isn’t the ONLY reason I have to be on medication for my blood pressure…”. When in all reality it’s probably the majority of the reason. Denial is a pretty familiar place these days.

The thing is…I KNOW I have to lose weight. I’m not healthy. It’s not about my pride anymore. This stupid “big is beautiful too” act can only go on so long before I’m dead. This is not about heavy girls not being beautiful and I am most certainly not encouraging people to go around telling big girls that they aren’t worthy and gorgeous just like any other woman. This is not about how I look. This is about how I feel.  My poor family…they’ve been beating their heads up against the wall for ages trying to get me to lose weight. And it’s not like I haven’t tried. I don’t want people to think that I haven’t given this whole weight loss thing a few really big fighting chances. But if you’ve never been obese…you’ll never understand. You’ll never get it. You’ll never understand the way that your body has to move when it’s overweight. Or the way that it hurts to be overweight. Or the way that it just so….unintentional. You wake up one morning and this….this is it. This is what you have become. And sometimes…like in my case…it’s not even entirely your fault. It’s the way you were COMPOSED. The way your hormones interact with each other. It’s in your blood. It’s who you are. And nothing you do seems to put a dent in the challenge. And sometimes it seems like it actually would be better for you and everyone else around you for you to just…be dead. Because there’s nothing you can do. No matter what you do. You’re just….fat.

 

But I’m not dead.

Not yet.

 

One of the reasons I couldn’t sleep tonight was because of the numbness in my hands. A recent development that hasn’t happened but two times including tonight. But when it does happen…it scares the life out of me. I’m so heavy now…the fat…it’s PULLING on my muscles. On everything. It hurts. It’s painful. It’s cutting off my circulation. And a part of my mind is screaming out…CHANGE. And then the tired part of my mind says, “Again?” And then that other part says, “Yes. Because we just have to keep trying.” And I say, “Ok.” Because what else am I supposed to do? Commit suicide? Not an option. Slowly die? That’s what’s going to happen if I don’t try again. Or keep fighting? Yes. Try again. For the man that I love. For my family. For my friends. For the future patients that need me. For my dignity. For myself.

 

This summer will be the first summer vacation I will have off in four years. Basically because I am running out of credits to take for my last semester. I need SOMETHING to do in the fall. So I’m taking the summer to study for and take the GRE. And while I am not committed to going to school I am going to commit myself to my health. For real this time. No joking around. Because every time I try to get back on the horse college comes and knocks me off again. And for the first time since I have been a college student I will have 3 months to dedicate to MYSELF. I just keep thinking to myself, “this may be the summer that changes my life.” And I can’t help but get a little excited. It’s hard to be excited about this kind of thing though. When you’ve seen so many failures. You feel like maybe you’re being set up to be mad and disappointed at yourself again. Because you couldn’t make it to the gym everyday. Because you let sugar cravings get the best of you. Because eventually you just got so distracted by everything else in your life that you forgot to eat healthy. That you forgot to work out. But this is serious now. I can’t FORGET to do anything because now I can FEEL that I am dying. My body isn’t going to let me forget. That little purple pill every morning isn’t going to let me forget. The numbness in my hands, the pains in my stomach, the dizzy spells, the shortness of breath, the aching in my joints, the migraines, the anxiety isn’t going to let me forget what’s going on.

 

So here is the plan:

I’m buying myself a swim suit. I haven’t owned a swim suit since I was 13 years old but I will buy one.

Over the summer I waking my ass up everyday at 7:00 AM. Because that is when NO ONE will be in the pool. And if they are in the pool at 7 AM then I will wake up at 6 AM. And I will swim laps. For 45 to an hour. Because I love swimming laps actually.

And I swear I will eat 3 square meals a day and NOT skip breakfast. And I will not put refined carbohydrates into my mouth any longer. I will STOP eating out so much. Restaurants will always be here. I am not going to miss out on anything. I will feed myself FRESH things. And I am kicking my old friend sugar to the curb. And I will sleep. NORMAL hours. And I will keep my living space clean. And I will slowly come to like myself again. And I will do this routine until I get it right. Until my blood is no longer poisonous. Until my body works the way it should. Until I have my health.

Now what does this mean for this blog? Well. This blog is a joke. Because I started writing it when I actually cared about my health. Back when I lost 30 pounds. And writing is blog NOW makes me an imposter. I am not healthy. I am certainly not a health nut. And besides…my computer has killed itself. And I am only able to write this entry on the sheer charity of my mother and her laptop. And while there is prospect that I am going to be getting a new laptop in a few months…I cannot promise anything. If I continue to blog…it will be under a different name on a different blog. I am sorry to those people who loved my blog here, but I am no longer going to pretend like I am something I am not. This is not who I am right now. Who I am is a very lost person in need of a new direction. Thank you to everyone who has read these posts and liked them. And thank you to my mom and my aunts who were the only ones who ever commented. Gotta love that. I hope everyone is faring better than I am right now and I will be posting on my Facebook if a new blog emerges out of the soil or something.

Signing off.

Eat, Pray, Love,

 

Katie