Watching our girlish figure

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A little while ago, Ray decided he was going on a diet.  He was not happy with his body and decided to change it.  I jumped at the chance for two reasons:

1.)  I’m a firm believer that all you have is your health.  Money, people, and things come and go, but your health sticks with your forever and decides your future more than anything else.

2.)  I like the challenge of making tasty meals that are both healthy and something he will still eat, because he’s a picky eater.

My first step in overhauling our diet was to cut out red meat.  Not entirely, because even I, little miss former vegetarian, enjoys a good medium-rare steak now and then.  But in our everyday diet, I say our red meat consumption has gone down around 80%.  I substituted ground turkey for ground beef and it does just fine.  We primarily eat chicken, pork, and fish.

The second step is to get rid of excess sugars and snacks.  No more cookies.  No more pop (even if I really miss Coca Cola).  This wasn’t so hard.

The next step is cutting corners.  You don’t have to solely eat skinny salads and drink ice water to lose weight.  Little changes and substitutions can make a world of good, though that’s not to say it should be your only plan of attack.  Using 98% fat-free canned soups (as I am prone to using in the Winter), using less or no butter, even cutting out a single egg yolk (while leaving the white) in an omelette can make a difference.

The last step is more vegetables. They are so much better for you and the amount most American’s eat is disappointing.  I find them immensely delicious and preferable to meat.  Ray does not quite agree.  This one was a touch tougher.  Ray likes veggies, but the list of veggies he likes is a shorter one.  Sending veggies in his lunch was not well received, so we went and picked up a case of V8 in individual cans up at Sam’s Club.  Two servings of veggies in each can.  Plus it’s tasty.  The only sad part is Ray insisted they be for lunches alone, and not to be enjoyed in the house.

I’ve been thinking of other ways to rebuild our diet, and my mind sprung to a more Asian-styled diet.  It’s no secret I love traditional Japanese (and Chinese) cuisine.  They are often complex meals with lean protein and lots of vegetables.  Ideal for many people watching their waistline.  The drawback is the sodium.  Ray is also watching his sodium intake for medical reasons so I have to keep that in mind too.

I gravitate towards the Japanese-styled diet because the health benefits are apparent.  The Japanese are some of the most long-lived people of the world, and their culture places emphasis on fresh ingredients and seasonal dishes.  The food is visually appealing with plenty of umami.   It is delicious and good for you, holistically speaking.  In the spirit of the theme, I want to cook more fish and use less boxed ingredients when making my meals.

My work has paid off, and Ray lost ten pounds, which he was pleased about.  It emboldens me and makes me think of how to shape up favorites so that they are healthier.  My next big project is gumbo.  I love gumbo, especially after having some at my friend Rochelle’s house in Virginia, courtesy of her step-dad.  Yet gumbo is laden with calories and salt.  I need to make it so that it is both delicious but waist-conscious.  It can be done.  I know it and I will find a way.  I will post pictures of the results, along with a rough nutritional estimate.

So expect tasty but trimmer recipes in the future!

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Back After My Break

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I ended up taking a couple month break at the beginning of March.  I have been cooking as normal, but I’ve not taken much in the way of pictures.  This post, however, is a catch-up of sorts.

First, I’d like to discuss the recipes I plan on making in the next month or two.

The first, is bokumbop.

Image courtesy of Trifood.com  

Many moons ago, Mat and I regularly made trips to Ogawa Sushi Restaurant on University Ave in Morgantown.  Alongside sushi, they also served some Korean food.  The bokumbop was particularly tasty.  I stumbled on a recipe for it, and decided that I would like to try my hand at it, so wee if I can make it for a fraction of what it would cost to buy it at Ogawa (who neither Mat nor I patronize anymore, due to a shift in management and an overhaul of the menu).

Another dish I’d like to make is Banana “Soft-serve” Ice Cream.

Image courtesy of Glamour.com

Now, this sounds tasty as a summer treat.  Even better for someone who has trouble with milk and lactose, such as myself.  Toss in some semi-sweet chocolate chips, and it’s dessert!  Even better, it’s good for you.  Bonuses all around.

Laster, but not least, I want to make…macarons.

Image courtesy of VintageMint.com 

Macarons are the be-all-end-all of food challenges.  if you don’t believe me, look at the food blogs across the internet.  Take five minutes and look at FoodGawker.  Macarons are fickle and challenging.  They can flop, depending on a variety of factors.  Bloggers excitedly tell of the moment they saw their macaron shells getting their “feet.”  Making them is an event that requires much skill and patience.  If you can successfully make macarons, you can make anything.

Hence why I want to make them.  I’m thinking more of a savory, sweet macaron.  Maybe chocolate coffee shell with vanilla filling.  That sounds tasty to me.   I’ve never made them, nor eaten them before, but damn do I want to try my hand at them.

However, recently I did take a few photos of some tasties I made.  I re-shot my Spanish Rice  and I must say it came out much better.  My skills with a camera are improving.

Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

Then one day I made myself a little oatmeal with some strawberries and bananas.  It was a very vibrant dish, to be sure, so I decided to snap a few shots of it, too!

Strawberry

Strawberry banana oatmeal

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal

Strawberry

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal

So lovely!

I also had a chance to toy with a dSLR, specifically a Nikon D5000.  I picked it up, toyed with the lens for a moment, turned around, and shot a few pictures.  I was more than impressed.  I nearly ruined the camera from drooling all over it.  I’ve decided I want this camera some day, or something like it.  Either the D5000, or a Canon Rebel.  We shall see!

Anyway, that’s my update.  Hopefully I’ll be back to shooting lots of tasties soon!

Thanksgiving: Mashed Potatoes

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Mashed potatoes is a staple of Thanksgiving.  In a nice heap, covered in tasty homemade gravy, right next to the turkey and stuffing, as God intended.  However, I’ve seen so many people get mashed potatoes so horribly wrong.  Mashed potatoes are not crunchy.  They are not gritty.  They are not dry.  They are smooth, warm, flavorful, and actually very simple to make.  You just gotta do it right.  My grandma showed me how to make mashed potatoes, and my grandma made everything the best, so I’m going to share this little miracle she called her mashed potatoes.

Recipe behind the jump.

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Pumpkin Week!

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It’s pumpkin week!

This week I plan on rolling out several posts, all of them desserts (though one may be breakfast), containing pumpkin.  I have three huge cans of hard-packed pumpkin that needs to be used, and starting tomorrow I will be posting recipes and pictures of pumpkin-flavored goodies for you all!

Tomorrow: Pumpkin Spice Fudge.

Cooking for Therapy

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After coming home from work, having made very little in comparison to what I’m used to making, the first thought through my head was “I want to cook something.”  Mind you I was not particularly hungry.  It seems that one my stress levels start to rise, I seek to busy my hands and plunge my mind into something other than what is plaguing me.  My de facto way of diverting myself is to start whipping up something delicious.

It just amused me that the first thing I thought of to soothe my scattered mind was to pull out a frying pan.  Some people take a bath.  Some read a book.  Some meditate.  I want to make dinner.  We live in a world where people constantly try to avoid having to make meals, with instant meals, take out, and restaurants, whereas I seek to make them.  Instant meals, with the exception of Lipton chicken noodle soup (which harkens from my childhood and will always hold a special place in my heart and blood pressure levels), have no place in my kitchen.

Of course, this lead to the question “What to make?”  I started fiending for some okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake/pizza that I throw green onions and shrimp into for a tasty, carbohydrate-laden delight.  But I am out of Kewpie mayonnaise (I need to get to Von-Son, and soon) and green onion.  (Rats.)  Udon?  My veggie drawer isn’t stocked for a proper udon pot.  Tempura?  Too tired.  Soup?  No onion.  Realistically, if I felt like it, I could have whipped up some nikujaga (a meat and veggie stew) but by the time I seriously thought out all of my options, I was too tired, and just made a packet of Lipton soup.

But the point still stands.  I find cooking soothing.  It distracts me from what is stressing me, and it is not only a joy, but a therapy.  I wonder if I am the only one who thinks this way.

Chicken with a Thyme-Mushroom Cream Sauce

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Fried chicken with a thyme-mushroom cream sauce, served with white and wild rice, and no-salt-added corn.

I saw this recipe on Youtube at one point, and it looked absolutely delicious.  If I remember correctly, it was this videofrom The Thuggin’ Chef.  It looked simple, but exceedingly tasty.  Of course, I had to make it.  Recipe to follow.

Like a lot of chefs, you make adjustments and changes according to what you think you or your guest/partner will like, or what you have on hand.

My chicken is breaded in a different manner than Mr. Thuggin’ Chef’s chicken.  I use more than just a dredging of flour.  I use a blend of eleven spices added to the flour, along with…matzo meal!  Matzo meal gives the breading a nice crunch after it’s fried.  I also use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rather than the skin-on chicken Mr. Thuggin’ Chef uses, in the interest of cutting the fat down in this dish.  Since the chicken breasts are going to be fried in oil, you gotta cut corners where you can, and I assure you, this does not impact the flavor at all.

I also used sliced button mushrooms.  Mat is choosy when it comes to his mushrooms, and I know if they are cooked properly, Mat will happily eat button mushrooms.  The thyme I used (this time) was also dried, as I had no fresh thyme on hand, and I only really have it during the winter, when I throw fresh thyme into everything.

A lot of people have an aversion to fried foods because of the higher fat content.  The thing is about fried food is it is not inherently fatty.  Higher in calories than just pan sautéed chicken, yes, but it does not have to be on par with McDonalds or KFC.  You have to make sure the oil is hot, though.  If it’s not hot enough, or you add too many pieces of chicken at once, the oil cools, does not fry at the proper temperature, and the oil soaks into the breading, making it soggy, oily, and calorie laden.  I will fry, at most, three pieces of chicken in a skillet at once, best if you keep it to two.  When you are done frying the chicken, put those babies on some paper towels.  I, myself, use newspaper paper, which hasn’t been printed on.  I had a ton of it, since it is used to pack some things I order all the time.  This will pull the excess oil off your chicken and drastically reduce the calorie load.

Normally, I’d use fat-free half-n-half for this recipe, but all I had was heavy whipping cream.  (I hang my head in shame, I assure you.)  It works just as well, but it is very calorie-loaded, so if you are looking to cut your corners, use fat-free half-n-half.

As for the oils, don’t just use extra virgin olive oil!!  EVOO has a very low burning temperature, and cannot be used to fry things because of this.  If you add an oil with a higher burning temperature, such as vegetable oil, this raises the overall burning temperature and makes olive oil suitable to fry.  Use a one to one (1:1) ratio of extra virgin olive oil and vegetable oil, for the best results.

One of the best things about this recipe is the sauce can be ladled over egg noodles (or yolk-free egg noodles) for a scrumptious side-dish!

Recipe, altered from the original recipe posted at the link above:

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Look what I got!

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While out with Mat and his mom, we stopped at Books-a-Million.  Now, Books-a-Million has a MUCH better cookbook selection than Barnes and Noble.  Much much better.  While they looked around, I plucked these three gems from the shelves of their Ethnic and Healthy cooking sections within about five minutes.  Now, to the introductions.

Now, this baby is the Pioneer Woman Cooks.  It is the cookbook based off the wildly successful blog of the same name (which is in my blog roll as well.)  When I heard Ree Drummond published a cookbook, I began to hunt for it.  The one time I saw it at Barnes and Noble, I was flat broke.  Now when I saw it this time, I grabbed it.  I plan on reviewing it once I cook a few things out of it.

When I saw this, I flipped through it and decided this was the Japanese cookbook I’ve been looking for!  It has much of the basic and popular recipes in it, such as Oyakodon, Tonkatsu, Yakitori, and even Green Tea Ice Cream!  I bought it and I feel I will definitely enjoy this book.  I will also review this one.

And last, but not least, the Chicken edition of the Cooking Light cookbooks.  Mat and I eat a lot of chicken, not just for budget reasons but for health reasons too.  Chicken is very low in fat and cholesterol, so when I saw this, I grabbed it, as I was very satisfied by the Italian Cooking light cookbook.  It’s not terribly elaborate or with long lists of expensive ingredients.  It doesn’t tout itself as gourmet or some such, but rather this is every day family food.  I will use this one up quickly!

All in all, I paid almost $80.  (Ouch!)  But let’s see if it was worth it.  🙂

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