Saturday, July 17, 2010


Generally, I find salad recipes to be non-recipes. Rather they are instructions to throw a bunch of obvious vegetables together with some garlic, olive oil and something acidic. These recipes annoy me. I often find Martha Rose Shulman's recipes to fall into that category. However, even boring recipes can make a person think, and she has some good points as well in the following article on summer salads. She certainly had some ideas I wouldn't have thought of myself.

Anyone can cook these things. They are not cooking so much as assembly. And of course I love the fact that she promotes my long-touted idea of cooking a big batch of starter ingredients (quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries, beans, sauteed veggies, roasted peppers if you're feeling adventuresome) on Sunday and either refrigerating or freezing them (don't freeze the veggies). Then defrosting and assembly is a snap.

I think some key points to keep in mind.

  1. In the summer, for the refreshing aspect, add a lot of crunchy veggies. She dictates the ones to use but any crunchy veggies that hold up well in a vinaigrette. Any root vegetable is crunchy. I don't have radishes in my repertoire but maybe I should. 
  2. Fresh herbs help brighten any salad.
  3. Never underestimate the power of lime juice!
  4. A little juicy sweet corn goes a long way. I know it's starchy but it's not like eating a Big Mac!
  5. Experiment with low-fat creamy dressing ingredients such as Greek yogurt and buttermilk.
  6. A salad dressing is basically 2 parts oil and 1 part acid, with a little water thrown in.
  7. Rice vinegar is NOT just for Asian foods. It  has a mild tangy flavor that goes really well with a light oil like grapeseed.
  8. Have fun buying lots of oils and vinegars.
  9. I often skip the called for goat cheese or feta. I only add it if I think it's really necessary to the taste. 
  10. It's ok to estimate on the calories on these big amalgamations. This used to make me crazy. You can either let it go, or try and make the salad 50% grain, 50% veggies and then take 1 cup of salad or so. Or you can measure the ingredients for the whole dish and divide by number of servings. I'm too lazy for that.
  11. I usually up the veggie content and reduce the grain content to change the ratio.
  12. Sometimes making a big batch of the salad with the dressing can get a little soggy, or just too repetitive. So mix a smaller batch but keep the dressing and other components separate but ready to go.
  13. Almost any ingredient can be substituted for a like ingredient.
  14. Always have frozen bags of edamame, peas, chopped spinach and corn in the house. Of course at this time of year there are great fresh veggies, but having a stocked freezer helps enormously with dinner emergencies.
  15. These kinds of salads are always a hit at potlucks - and inexpensive to make.
  16. Have fun experimenting!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Huevo Rancheros: Two minute, 5 point breakfast

I've been eating this simplified version of huevos rancheros a lot lately. Totally delish. No photo sorry to say.

Fry two eggs (and extra egg white if you like). Use Pam and don't turn up the heat too high.
Warm some whole wheat naan in the microwave, or toast an absorbent piece of bread if you remember.
Learn how to flip eggs. When kind of cooked on one side, lift pan off heat and quickly jerk towards you. Don't worry, the worst that happens is you clean a little egg off the floor. It's a great skill to have under your belt.
Serve eggs on plate, put two or more tablespoons of salsa on top, maybe some black beans if you have them.
Mop up egg yolk/salsa combo with bread. I think the key here is a pretty good salsa. I tried a new green tomatillo one from Trader Joe's which is pretty good.

Butter and cheese are not necessary on this breakfast as the flavors are already rich and satisfying. I save the calories for something else like a mid-morning snack or an afternoon snack.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Boot Camp!

I'm loving Jay Johnson's Boot Camp. I guess he's all the rage in Dallas and on CMT. He's a former Army drill sergeant and now runs this boot camp fitness program with his wife Lin. They have two reality shows, neither of which I've ever seen. At any rate, their workouts are hard, the demonstrators are in crazy good shape, and he talks a lot about fine-tuning your body because in the end it's the only thing that really matters. He's talking about improving fitness, not hotness. I like his message. A little over the top but I like that he's not talking about looking hot in a tank top. He does a lot of pyramids, where you do 20 reps then 19 reps then rest 10 seconds then 18 reps etc. What he calls cardio I almost skipped, as I have been running a lot lately but due to the 100 degree weather, I'm now inside so I decided to try it. It's really hard-core plyometrics, jump squats, etc, not some sissy jogging in place. He has the demonstrators each do a variation, and work at their own pace sometimes, which can look quite chaotic. In the advanced mode he tells you to just do as many reps as you can in 30 seconds. This would be hard for Dave I'm sure - it's very self-challenged. He expects you to have a guide-book which explains all the exercises so he explains nothing - just launches into - do your tricycles!

I sort of made a mistake and bought one DVD, instead of the whole set - one is $15 and the set of 9 is only $50. It was $45 but I missed that price. I eventually ordered my set and now I'm going to sell a bunch of DVDs on Craig's List I think - kid DVDs as well as a few exercise DVDs I just don't like. Time to clean out the beginner stuff!

pizza tarts

Here is some decidedly non-dietetic food I made last night. I made some of the pizzas without all the buffalo mozzarella, but it wasn't as good! I just tried to control my portion size, but only did ok at that. The mini tomatoes were grown by Dave! The big ones from the farmer's market. Alex refused to eat it for a while but then gave in. I think that this is a good example of something that is fine to eat once you've gotten your portion sizes under control or as a bit of a treat. I eat this about once a week. I know that 1/8 of the pizza is 120 cals or so, and I'm not sure about the cheese. From what I read one ounce is about 60-80 calories, and the balls were half a pound, perhaps cut into 8 slices, so each slice of pizza was probably 200 calories or so. I probably ate 2 slices worth. Not horrible for sure. I should have eaten a nice salad with this too...but I wasn't in them mood.

For those of you who say you "don't cook". this was barely cooking! I stretched out some dough I bought, sliced up some beautiful tomatoes and mozzarella and sprinkled some other Italian-sounding items on top. A drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and voila!! Anyone can do that. I did pre-bake the crust for 5 minutes - for watery toppings like tomatoes it works well.

Pizza 1:  whole wheat crust, sliced buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan, pine nuts, prosciutto (right half has no mozzarella)
 Very Italian Pizza

Close up of Pizza 1: Very Italian

Pizza 2:  Margarita: whole wheat crust, sliced buffalo mozzarella, tomato, basil

Pizza 2: just tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella

Check out the nice close up by my new iphone G4.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What would Alex eat?

Kids are funny. We all have our, "my kid loves xxxx" story.
Alex is an ok eater. For years he seemed to on subsist on bottles alone. Even now he would happily limit his diet to Cheerios (Trader O's to be precise) with milk and strawberries. On the side. I let him eat that pretty often as while I prefer he eat "grown up" meals, oats, milk and berries are a pretty healthy meal. He does eat lots of other stuff but he still loves most things dairy. And he reflexively doesn't like to try new things if I suggest them, which makes me insane. Lately though, he has gotten really into pea shoots. I buy them for myself, and didn't even imagine offering them to him but he was intrigued by their shape and asked to try them. So now, I make his favorite sandwich of cream cheese and American cheese (my idea for some dumb reason - I was trying to use something up) with some pea shoots on it too. He says they don't taste like anything they just make the sandwich crunchy. Fair enough. Really he prefers them plain and messy: trying to stuff the long unwieldy shoots into his little mouth. He loves making a mess with them as they bounce along the sides of his mouth and fall back onto the plate, table, his lap and sometimes the floor. Kind of like Cookie Monster. It kind of annoys me and then I think, "he's eating pea shoots!!!"

The other day he decided this weird experimental sauce I made with lentils, pepitas and olive oil was the best thing he ever tasted. I found it kind of flavorless actually. I tried to serve it a second time and he was bored by it. But I take his glimmer of open-mindedness, and, dare I say, curiosity about new foods as a good sign. He still can put up quite a fight, especially when he is out playing soccer until basically bed time and he comes in exhausted, cranky and too hungry to function. Um, that is pretty often since World Cup started...

If you are still struggling with a picky toddler...don't take it too seriously. You have so many meals ahead of you. It will get better - probably starting around age 4 and improving over time from there. It takes an enormous amount of work and often struggle. It's frustrating and infuriating. It takes a ridiculous number of years. But over the course of many years, kids can become healthy eaters. My kids are still junk food junkies, and they still argue for the sake of arguing sometimes. I wonder if I never pushed the veggies at all - would Alex have been curious about pea shoots anyway? Perhaps! I often think parenting techniques for young kids are just stalling tactics until the kid grows out of whatever egregious habit is making the parent crazy. But in this case, I kind of doubt it. I think all those carrots, and broccoli did make veggies seem normal. Either way, I'm glad he likes the little crunchy sticks!