Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Extreme Kitchen Makeover

Since goin' paleo, I have been spending a LOT of time in the kitchen.  Eating a lot of home-cooked meals from real ingredients is just part of the deal, so I had pretty much resigned myself to being in the kitchen for most of my evenings.  It's become a bit demoralizing as of late, feeling chained to my kitchen.  I've tried making larger portions of foods, but some things just aren't good as leftovers, and eating the same thing for a few days can get boring!

Enter the Weekly Cookup!  This is a fantastic idea from my new favorite cookbook Well Fed, and it just might set you free from Good Food Jail.  Just think- now you can pay attention to your children and spouse, you'll have time to catch up with friends, maybe even go out for happy hour!  You can spend your time like a normal person again!  Here's what you do:
  • Make a list and go grocery shopping
  • Cook up a few pounds of meat with minimal seasoning
  • Partially cook some sturdy veggies
  • Mix and match with different condiments and seasonings over the course of the week
I did my first cookup last weekend.  It was kinda rough- I have a hard time focusing, so I did get a bit frazzled by doing so many things at once (and unfortunately burned a pan of bacon), but having dinner on the table in five minutes (that didn't taste like leftovers) the next day made it all worth it.  Here's what I got out of it-
  • 2 small roasted spaghetti squash (about 6 servings)
  • 1 baggie of partially cooked broccoli florets (4 servings)
  • 1 baggie of partially cooked brussels sprouts (2 servings)
  • A little over a cup of cooked onions
  • 1.5 lbs of baked boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 lb ground beef, cooked with garlic salt & pepper
The next day, I came home from work super hungry.  I heated up the broiler, put four chicken thighs on a baking sheet, and brushed with a mixture of honey & dijon mustard, and sprinkled on some herbes de provence (it's my Frank's Hot Sauce- I put that shit on everything).  Then I heated up some clarified butter in my new T-Fal Caldero, and tossed in 2 cups of the brussels sprouts & about a handful of the onions (plus a little salt, pepper, and the herbs), and put the chicken in the oven.  Then I just cooked the veggies until they got a bit caramelized, and the chicken until it was heated through (just a few minutes, until the sauce sizzles).  That's it!  I had my dinner and lunch to bring to work.

Materials and my sis' donuts

The finished product, just a few minutes later!

After eating dinner, I threw my breakfast together.  I wiped out my pan and heated up 1/3 of the hamburger with a little water & taco seasoning, and added some onions.  Once that came together, I set the meat aside, wiped the pan, cooked an egg in it, plopped that on the beef, and packed it up the next morning with some avocado, tomatoes and cilantro.  That was a damn fine breakfast. 

By 5:30, I was done cooking and cleaning up for the day; I was freee!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Are You Well Fed?

This post can also be seen at Highbrow Paleo!

I was so excited to learn last year that Melissa Joulwan was coming out with a cookbook.  Melissa writes the very popular blog The Clothes Make The Girl, which is my go-to resource for fun Whole30 meals, delicious homemade sauces, and paleo-friendly ethnic recipes.  After checking out the handy-dandy free sample though, I saw that this book is so much more!

If you're a paleo-eater, you may find yourself spending a pretty ridiculous amount of time in the kitchen.  I don't have children or a spouse to cook for, yet I often find myself coming home from the gym, and spending upwards of two hours preparing my dinner for that evening, plus my lunch and breakfast for the next day.  I love to cook, and I know this is an investment in my health, but it's still a bit much!  Well, I am happy to say this is now a thing of the past, thanks to Melissa's tips.  Well Fed outlines how to run your kitchen like a restaurant, so you're never more than a few minutes away from a good meal.  Melissa recommends taking a couple of hours each week to cook up a few pounds of meat and partially cook a bunch of veggies (this is the "Weekly Cookup"); these items can be infinitely combined into "Hot Plates" with seasonings and sauces to keep your belly happy over the week.  It makes so much sense, I was kicking myself for not thinking of it before!  I did my first cookup this past Sunday; my self-diagnosed ADD was raging, but I got it done (and unfortunately burned up a batch of bacon) and it was SO worth the effort.  When I got home from work on Monday, I had my dinner on the table within five minutes, ate it, and then had my Tuesday lunch and breakfast packed away fifteen minutes later. Shazaam!

Cookup #1 (with the beggarcat)

Yes, the cookbook has fantastic recipes too!  Melissa's Paleo Pad Thai is a favorite of mine, and I am looking forward to cooking my way through the whole book.  My (non-paleo) sis looked through the book and declared that every single recipe looked like something she would like- not too shabby!  If you only buy one cookbook this year, Well Fed is well worth it.

Ask nicely and your copy can by signed by the Melicious herself!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

And so the years passed, as they do somewhat regularly...

2011 was a hell of a year.  Christmas Eve 2010, my mom was the victim of a head-on collision near my parents' neighborhood, and this resulted in a 4 week hospital stay in D.C., followed by a lot of rehab at home.  It was very hard seeing my mom have to go through all this, but my family and our friends really pulled together and got through it; when I feel angry about it, I think about all the support and well-wishes she received, and it helps. 

There were other not-so-happy things going on last year.  I am notorious for trying to fix things I can't fix, and otherwise manage things that are really out of my control, and the results are usually disastrous.  It's hard striking the balance between fighting for what you want and knowing your limits.  Slowly, I'm learning that I'm not as powerful as I think I am, and sometimes I need to let things happen the way they're supposed to.

There have been so many positive things happen in 2011, too.  I got into all this paleo-stuff a little over a year ago, and I sure didn't expect it to enrich my life in so many ways.  Of course, I'm the most grateful for feeling better; not being sidelined by pain and discomfort is a wonderful thing.  Additionally, my dietary overhaul led to an exercise overhaul.  Like so many, I used to dread going to the gym; when I would go, I'd do my 30 minutes of cardio, and dick around on the Nautilus-type machines, making no discernable fitness gains.  After learning about weightlifting and kettlebells, I LOVE going to the gym.  I'm still not in as great shape as I'd like to be, but it's pretty cool that last year I was too intimidated to go near the free weights, and now I get approached by people at my local big-box gym asking me about what I'm doing, and giving me kudos on my progress.  When I work out at Southern Maryland Crossfit, it's always a humbling experience, and it gets me thinking more about those delicate balances- I want to push myself and improve, but I need to be careful about comparing myself too much to others.  I can barely snatch 65lbs, and clean 95lbs on a good day, but I never even thought I would be trying snatches at all, and the first time I tried to clean an empty bar, it was a hot mess (there was some funky reverse-curling going on, and I thought I was going to break my wrist).  I haven't come as far as I could have, but I have come pretty far.

I'm also so, so I happy I had the privelege to attend the Ancestral Health Symposium.  It was hella exciting to be in the same space with all my favorite writers and thinkers, and it just feels great to be among like-minded people.  There were more warm-fuzzies to be had at the MovNat and Whole9 workshops I attended in the fall, and I've been having such a great time interacting with my friends from Highbrow Paleo!  Let's face it; many of us that eat this way are pretty hardcore about it.  We love talking about our meals, what we got at the farmer's market, how much bacon we ate yesterday, what kind of workouts we've been doing, etc.; most of our friends and family probably don't share our rabid enthusiasm, and that's totally fine.  Of course it matters most that that I feel good about what I'm doing, but there is something to be said for belonging to a community.  I'm grateful to have found a group of smart, fun, and opiniated folks to talk with about all this stuff so I don't have to annoy the crap out of my "real-life friends" and family as much.  That said, I'm definitely troubled by a lot of the in-fighting that's been going on in the larger paleo community as of late; our "thought leaders" have a lot of different opinions and of course healthy debate is a great thing.  Unfortunately, things have gone way outside the realm of "healthy debate," and prominent folks in our community have been acting really nasty towards one another and alienating those of us who look to them for guidance.  I don't get why they don't all just give the best advice they can, disagree respectfully, and remember that we really all have a lot in common.  It makes me a bit sad to see this behavior from people I respect(ed?), but I'm just taking what I can use and leaving the rest.

As for resolutions, I don't really have one, but I've definitely tightened up on my diet this month.  I'd been getting a little crazy with the candy again and after the holidays, it's definitely time for a reset.  I'm also trying to get a handle on my technology addiction by barring myself from using my phone, computer and iPad after 8:30 on worknights.  I have such a hard time focusing on tasks, and sometimes a hard time falling asleep, and I believe all the bright flashy lights and social networking are contributing!  Hopefully the January tech diet will prove helpful.

I'm very excited to see what the year will bring. :)