I find myself increasingly unfocused lately when it comes to my cooking. One day I’m making casseroles and cupcakes for my sick friends who are home recovering and the next I’m cooking for a chili contest and making key lime pie for a silent auction. I did not enjoy making old fashioned chicken pot pie too much and probably won’t be making it again and although the cupcakes were wonderful–very gourmet with chocolate ganache filling, cream cheese frosting, fresh banana cake, or moist chocolate cake with Sharffen Berger cocoa powder (very intense)and fresh strawberry frosting–they are time consuming to prepare. My Southwest Chili and Short Rib Chili were both entered in a chili cookoff at work, for a fund raiser. Although I didn’t win a prize I noticed both my crock pots were empty whereas several others were still quite full. I received many compliments on both chilies but my personal favorite will always be the Southwest Chili. I buy and roast Hatch chilies every August and freeze both hot and mild ones. For the chili I use a combination of hot and mild Hatch chilies which gives it some really nice flavor. I was surprised to find my key lime pie being auctioned for $60.00! People really wanted this pie. I made it with real Key limes and a crust which included graham crackers and toasted pecans I had picked up in San Saba from the Millican Pecan Company. The pie was made in a 2″ tart pan, so imagine a tart twice as big as the normal one. I wish I had taken a photograph, so now I have to make another one just for the picture. I’ll be looking for a special occasion.
In the meantime I have been working on eating healthy, if you can believe that. I have been losing weight, just a few pounds so far, by eating less, a lot more vegetables, and fewer snacks. Walking on the treadmill a hour several days a week also helps. I found the best system for eating healthy, but tasty food is the following:
1. On the weekend buy a big assortment of fresh vegetables and fruits at Central Market, or the farmer’s market. I always get lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and scallions, but then vary the other vegetables and choose spinach, mushrooms, zuchinni, other squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocados, etc. depending on what looks good. Fruit includes apples, tangerines, strawberries, bananas, grapes, etc. I also buy whatever is on special for proteins (meats/fish/poultry) such as salmon, shrimp, pork, chicken breast, steak, etc. My pantry is stocked with canned beans, tuna, noodles, canned tomatoes, stock, sauces, etc.
2. Sunday night I spend a hour or so washing, cutting, dicing, and placing all the vegetables and herbs into zip loc bags. Also, I mince garlic, ginger, chop cilantro and parsley) Yes, this can be a lot of bags but the cost of purchasing take out food, restaurant food, and pizza is a lot more!
3. Briefly plan a menu based on the types of vegetables and herbs. Example of a week:
Sunday–Smoked chicken (made on the smoker outside), salad, hummus
Monday–Salad with goat cheese, cranberries, pecans, and smoked chicken pieces with soup leftover from last week and kept in the freezer.
Tuesday–Open faced quesadillas with mushrooms, spinach, onions, jalapenos, bell peppers, and
sauteed thinly sliced beef. (Slightly defrost frozen steak and slice paper thin, saute quickly.)
I had mine without meat, husband with meat. I had lots of leftover sauteed vegetables and used them to make an omelet one morning and a veggie breakfast taco another. It’s a lot easier to eat healthy when the food is right there already cooked.
Wednesday–Tortilla soup made with the already cut up onions, peppers, and garlic, and a rotisserie chicken, purchased earlier in the week and frozen. Also made vegetarian version with black beans for myself. (Husband always has to have meat : )
Thursday–Frittata with mushrooms, shallots, spinach, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, tarragon and thyme made with 3 egg whites and 1 yolk. Regular omelet with cheese and applewood smoked bacon for Steve.
Friday–Take out from Go Go Gumbo in Boyd. OK, I’m not perfect. I couldn’t resist a Cedar Plank Salmon, whole grain blend, spinach and salad dinner.
Additionally, I used the cut up vegetables and prepared lettuce to make salads to take for lunch.
My strategy for losing weight and eating good is to take a delicious salad or homemade soup for lunch. Frozen Amy’s dinners are good in a pinch, but they can be a little high in fat and sodium so they are only used once a week.
Although the weekend preparation is a bit of a pain, I felt so much happier during the week knowing I could quickly throw together a meal I would feel good about eating. I like to work out as soon as I get home from work and this can take anywhere from 1-2 hours. At 6:30 or 7:00 PM I pull out the bags of vegetables and herbs and have my own Mystery Basket event–meaning I look at what I have and make something that appeals to me.
There you go–Saturday and time to go shopping, except I am going away for a week to a field deployment training with my real job. This will be a food disaster for me.
Like I said earlier, my focus is shifting constantly. I will be staying in the Knoxville Convention Center, sleeping on a cot, and eating who knows what. They mentioned MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), same food the soldiers eat. I hate to be negative but these things have about 2,000 calories and smell horrible. I tend to gain weight when I’m away from home so this will be a challenge. My duffle bag is packed with a bunch of Clif bars and bags of almonds with dried fruit.
Wish me luck!