Archive for May, 2008

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Celebrating Ourselves

May 30, 2008

Ashley recently wrote a post about the swimsuit models used at Women’s Health, and how they are “supposed” to reflect a real woman’s body, but they only do that if you happen to be a size zero with a very delicate shape and little to no flaws. To me, this accurately demonstrates the way that magazines today present women. We are told to feel confident about our bodies, and love ourselves, and then offered these models to show off clothing that we’re supposed to be able to wear, even though they have bodies that many of us can only dream of having (or not dream of having. I don’t think that many of those girls would be very useful in the event of a zombie attack or similar. Where’s the muscle, girls? Let’s celebrate some real strength!).

This is why I was excited to see that Fitness magazine has a Body Confidence page, in which you can proudly tell the world what you love about your body. They’ve also got a brief slide show of women proclaiming their love for their flaws– I think that that’s fantastic.

It’s a Friday, and that means that we should all be getting ready for a lovely weekend of relaxation and happy times. So let’s start it off with some positive thinking! I want to hear what you love about yourself, and/or something that you usually view negatively about yourself and how you’ve managed to shift it into a more positive light.

For example: I have one leg shorter than the other. This means that shoe shopping can be very frustrating for me, as I have to search for a very specific type of shoe to fit in a lift on the bottom of the shoe. But! It also means that I get to spend a lot of time shopping for shoes, and all of my shoes need to be expensive (hehehe) and of the very best quality. And I do love a good shoe shopping trip!

I’m also a very little person, but I like that because when I used to play field hockey, the other team wouldn’t even see me coming so I was very good at stealing the ball away from them without them noticing (they were all tall enough to be looking right over the top of my head). Also, (because I’m all about the shoe love today, apparently), it means that I can wear high heels all the time if I want to be of an almost-average height!

Let’s get some positive thoughts and optimistic thinking going here. It’s all about your mindset!

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Hi, my name’s Sagan, and I’m addicted to peanut butter!

May 28, 2008

It’s true. I’ve got a clear-cut addiction and there’s no help for it. I don’t even want to kick the habit.

I eat peanut butter almost every day. On bread, tortillas, bananas, apples, celery, pancakes, mixed in cookies, with jam or honey or chocolate, or straight from the jar; you name it. I’m a total spoon-in-the-PB-jar girl. It’s very specific peanut butter that I eat: it’s got to be smooth PB, and it’s got to be the all-natural kind. Crunchy peanut butter is a big no-no. And as for cooking with peanut butter? No thanks. For some reason I’m not big on the peanut sauces.

My newest love? PB2! I won 4 jars from MizFit‘s blog and they came just the other day. This is special peanut butter because its in powdered form (my sisters reaction to the powdered part was “that’s sketchy!“), with a lot of the fat removed. The ingredient list: peanuts, salt, sugar. Now, when I buy my peanut butter, I always choose the all-natural kind with the only ingredient being peanuts (I’m just that picky!), but there is a very tiny amount of sugar and salt added to this peanut butter so it really doesn’t bother me.

I’m not exactly what you’d call “fat-phobic”, but I’m not big on a lot of fats. I eat non-fat yogurt and milk, I almost always will use a non-stick pan or else just cooking spray instead of oil for cooking, I blot meat with a paper towel to get rid of some of the grease, I have sauces and dressings on the side, and I replace butter with applesauce in baking to cut down on the fat. Part of it is because of the flavour and the texture… when I eat even 1% yogurt, it tastes too heavy for me, and the same goes for milk. However, if I’m eating quality cheese, I’ll usually choose the regular full-fat stuff (I still do like and definitely support the healthy fats- I just don’t like a great big portion of them all at once, for myself). And I don’t like my food to be oily and greasy in terms of taste, either. (I blame my slight aversion to fat from living as a nanny in Spain last summer… my house mother liked to literally drown everything she cooked in enormous amounts of olive oil. And I mean that the meat would be completely covered in oil. Yuck!).

Therefore, as you can imagine, all-natural peanut butter with some of the fat removed is incredibly appealing to me. Two tablespoons of PB2, mixed with 1 tbsp of water, is only about 50 calories and less than 2 grams of fat. For someone like me who has an infatuation with peanut butter, this means that I can have FOUR TABLESPOONS of peanut butter- that’s 1/4 cup!- instead of 1 tbsp of my regular peanut butter, for roughly the same amount of calories, and half the fat!

There probably isn’t much point in telling you right now that a good 1/3 of the first jar has already been polished off:) And that it is only serving to feed my addiction rather than cure it. Hurrah!

Tell me, does anyone else love peanut butter as much as I do (well, I know that you do, Peanut Butter Boy!)? Do you have any healthy (or non-healthy!) addictions to certain foods? Own up! And while you’re at it, pick up some PB2 for yourself. It tastes just like regular peanut butter (ie. delicious) and it’s such a novelty!

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Experiments in Cooking: Hummus and Applesauce

May 26, 2008

Last weeks cooking adventure was with hummus. I’m a big fan of hummus but it took a while to search for the healthiest variation that I could find; much as I love olive oil, I wanted to find a recipe that wasn’t too oily. I believe that I found this one on Recipezaar. It wasn’t too difficult to make, has tons of flavour, and is also very healthy! I added an extra 3 tbsp of yogurt to make it more smooth and creamy, which I prefer. There’s a lot of garlic in this hummus so you might not want to go out on a date or something right after eating this. I like my hummus with lots of garlic but you could probably get away with 2 cloves if you prefer a less intense taste.

Hummus
3 cloves of minced garlic
1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt, plus 3 more tbsp (gives it a really creamy consistency)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp pepper
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1. Rinse off the chickpeas really well, as usually they’ve got tons of sodium in the can along with them. Rinsing them off can get rid of a lot of that sodium.
2. Blend everything together in a food processor (I tried using a blender the first time and it was a very frustrating process that simply did not work).
3. Refrigerate and eat with veggies, pitas, or whatever else you like dipped in hummus! I am looking forward to having some of this hummus spread on one of my whole wheat tortillas with some canned tuna:)

And this weeks experiment? Applesauce! I use applesauce when I make my banana bread and pumpkin bread recipes, and pretty much any time that I can substitute applesauce for part of (or all) the butter and sugar in baking. I used the recipe taken from The Apple Cookbook (yes, I really do love apples enough to have a cookbook entirely devoted to them!), but there are plenty of applesauce recipes in lots of different cookbooks as well as all over the Internet.

To make my applesauce, I used 10 Braeburn apples (The Apple Cookbook suggests these as a good type of apple to use in making sauces- and you’ll definitely want to do your research before choosing any old apple. For instance, if you’ve ever tried baking McIntosh apples, you’ll realize that these apples just collapse on themselves and are very bad for trying to bake in the microwave with a bit of cinnamon and sugar. As I have learned many a time:)). Peel and core them, then cut them up into smaller chunks (ie. quarters), add 1 tbsp of water and some nutmeg, and let them simmer on the stove for about half an hour. Then put the softened apples in the food processor and blend until smooth! It makes about 5 cups of applesauce. I have yet to use my applesauce in baking but I will be sure to report back on my results.

Pictures!

Note the use of organic chickpeas:

I usually use a knife to chop up my garlic, but this time I decided to try my hand at using the garlic press. Every time I’ve used it in the past, I’ve been too weak to squeeze it and get the garlic out (not even kidding). Just look at what my super muscles can do now, thanks to boot camp!

A very crunchy sort of hummus, as per the result from the blender:

…and the smooth finished production after using the food processor:

Last but not least, the partially frozen applesauce (it’s been jammed into my freezer, hence the lopsided appearance… the tub was tilted as it started to freeze!):

Happy Monday, everyone!

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Organic Produce

May 25, 2008

We’ve discussed the high prices of food vs. the quality of nutrition before, so here’s a quick list borrowed from Dr. Weil’s site on the top 12 fruits and veggies that you should buy organic, and the top 11 fruits and veggies that are the least harmful (and therefore you don’t really need to bother buying organic). I’ve found it to be useful and I hope you do too- it makes for a good cheat sheet when you’re trapped in indecision at the produce section.

12 Most-contaminated Fruits and Vegetables:
1. Apples
2. Bell peppers
3. Celery
4. Cherries
5. Imported grapes
6. Nectarines
7. Peaches
8. Pears
9. Potatoes
10. Raspberries
11. Spinach
12. Strawberries

11 Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables:
1. Asparagus
2. Avocados
3. Bananas
4. Brocolli
5. Cabbage
6. Corn
7. Kiwi
8. Mangos
9. Onions
10. Pineapples
11. Peas

There you are! If you can’t buy all of your foods organic, then following these lists might make your shopping trips a whole lot easier. Even if you make the choice to not buy any of the above organic, make sure you wash them really really well to get rid of any pesticides that might be lurking there.

I’ve recently also discovered a rather amusing site that you might all enjoy; The Onion (because we all love the satirical take on current events!). I particularly liked the brief article that makes fun of diet books and the very tongue-in-cheek video A Friend’s Cancer: Good For Your Health?. (If you’re easily offended I’d advise against taking a look at these links). I find that these types of “news stories” make a good point in recognizing that so often the news we hear is incredibly contradictory and really rather ridiculous. The resulting confusion and exhaustion from trying to wrestle with all of the information given to us and failing, in the end, to really understand it, affects just about everyone. If we can’t extract truth from all of the scientific research, we might as well laugh at it once in a while!

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Easy, Healthy Pumpkin Bread

May 23, 2008

Today was my last day of boot camp, for this first four-week session. The instructor Sara brought us homemade healthy bran and cranberry muffins for a post-workout breakfast, yum! At the end of our session, she took our measurements, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I lost 1/2 inch from my arm, 1/4 inch from my chest, 1 1/4 inches off my waist (down to 26 inches now!), and 1 inch off my hips (to 33 inches!). I went up an inch on my thigh, but Sara said it’s probably muscle (I’ll take what I can get:)). I’ve already signed up for the next boot camp which starts in June, and I am most excited about it. Apparently it will involve more military-style workouts. Am so very much looking forward to improving my strength further.

To keep you all updated on my super amazing pull up progress, since the failed attempt last Friday, I succeeded in doing 1 complete pull up on Tuesday! I tried again this morning but could only do 1/2 of a pull up. But I am still quite pleased with having now successfully performed 2 pull ups.

All of this excellent exercising means I require a lot of fuel, so the recipe searching continues. I discovered a recipe for pumpkin bread on the Internet and, as usual, felt the need to heavily adapt it to make it really healthy. Sorry about the lack of photos- I was in a hurry when I made it, and then it didn’t cook all the way through so the bottom was a bit raw, and then I was really hungry so I finished the loaf. Seriously, when I bake bread, you have to take a slice now or it’ll literally be gone by tomorrow. (I likes me my carbs).

Here is my recipe; it needs a bit of work- I’m thinking maybe doubling up on all of the spices?- but it tasted great. This bread doesn’t have an extraordinary amount of flavour so the extra spices would be good; perhaps adding a little more pumpkin would also help. It’s deliciously moist and would also be good with some butter smeared on it (although I like mine plain). This is very similar to my banana bread recipe which I will post sometime soon, and really, using it as a very basic recipe I’m sure you could substitute the pumpkin with many different items if you change up the types of spices and the amounts of ingredients just with a little tweaking. Get creative! If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them. I am, after all, a bread fanatic and am always eager to experiment with new recipes.

Yummy Baked Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
slightly less than 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each nutmeg, ginger, and cloves
1 1/3 cups pumpkin
1/2 cup buttermilk (I made mine with using 1/2 tbsp lemon juice and then filling up the rest of the 1/2 cup with skim milk- just let it sit for a few minutes and then its ready to use!)
1/4 cup Simply Egg Whites (the equivalent of 2 egg whites, or 1 egg, if you’d prefer to use a whole egg)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
2. Mix together the dry ingredients (the first five ingredients listed) in a big bowl. Then mix together the wet ingredients (the last five ingredients listed) in a smaller bowl and add them to the dry ingredients; stir them together until they’re just combined. Pour the mixture into the pan.
3. Bake until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean; about 1 hr 15 minutes. I only baked mine for about 65 minutes and it turned out a touch raw on the bottom. I’m thinking an extra 10 minutes would be just about perfect.

Makes 12 slices.

The nutrition information per slice, courtesy of the wonderful Recipe Analyzer:

Calories (kcal) 85.5 Folate (μg) 18.4
Fat (g) 0.5 Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.1
Protein (g) 3.8 Vitamin B12 (μg) 0.1
Carbohydrate (g) 17.8 Calcium (mg) 45
Sugar (g) 4.4 Iron (mg) 1.2
Fibre (g) 3.2 Sodium (mg) 298.9
Vitamin A (μg) 236.6 Potassium (mg) 185.1
Vitamin C (mg) 3.7
Vitamin D (μg) 0.2
Vitamin E (mg) 0.5
Thiamin (mg) 0.1
Riboflavin (mg) 0.1
Niacin (ne) 2.1

I’m trying to understand the science of baking to improve my cooking skills and allow me to really experiment a lot with making my own recipes. However I’m very much a novice and about the only thing I understand is that yeast makes bread rise. And that if you don’t combine room temperature water with that yeast then the chemical reaction will not follow through (it took me many a ruined loaf of bread to learn that one!). My question for you is, what’s the point of salt in baking? The original recipe calls for 1 tsp of salt, and I used between 1/2 tsp and 3/4 tsp of salt- I don’t know what the difference would have been had I used the full 1 tsp. The Bag Lady explained to me that salt is needed in butter to help keep it preserved for longer. Does it have the same effect in baking or is it needed for the taste factor or an entirely different reason? Please enlighten me!

I have been lucky with applesauce because a friend made us a big batch of it and I have since then been using it in all of my baking in the place of sugar and butter. However, I used up the very last of it in this pumpkin bread recipe! You know what that means. My next cooking experiment will have to be large quantities of applesauce.

Speaking of which, this weeks cooking experiment was making my very own hummus. Attention to all: trying to mix chickpeas in a blender is futile. More to come (including pictures!) when I *hopefully* succeed in mixing up said hummus properly in a food processor.

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Eggs

May 21, 2008

Eggs have a very special place in my heart. They are packed with nutrition, are incredibly easy to cook and very versatile, and are delicious. I always get Omega-3 eggs, but was very excited when a friend of ours gave my mum a gift of fresh eggs from her farm! After baking a fresh loaf of bread the other day, I was really craving a poached egg with it, so I decided to try one of these local farm eggs. What happened next was something like this:

1. Take out the carton of eggs from the fridge.
2. Examine them and choose a nice big oval brown one (because, you know, eggs are just so very different from one another).
3. Crack said egg into my measuring cup for easy pouring access into my saucepan of boiling water.
4. Look into measuring cup again to double check that what I think saw falling from the egg shell is in fact what slipped out.
5. Comment, “oh, look, there’s a fetus in my egg”.

(My deepest apologies for not photographing this highly unusual and unexpected turn of events).

Have you ever discovered a fetus when you went to poach an egg? My initial reaction was puzzlement and uncertainty- can I rescue the fetus and raise it as my own little baby chicken? It then occurred to me that that would not, in fact, be at all possible (my cat would never approve), so out it got tossed, very unceremoniously (sorry, little fetus), and I gathered up a new egg to poach. This one didn’t have a fetus, so I figured it’d be pretty safe to eat.

I couldn’t really tell the difference between my usual store-bought omega-3 eggs and these farm eggs in terms of taste (perhaps my palette isn’t sharp enough?), but it was still very delicious, as eggs generally are. Spread the love and eat an egg today (watch out for any fetuses that may or may not be lurking in there though)!

Or, if you are like me and find that you probably consume too many eggs, try the boxed version of egg whites. Make sure you read the labels, though! There’s a lot of boxed egg substitutes which have a whole bunch of junk crammed in there. However, I’ve recently discovered Simply Egg Whites, which is just that- egg whites! (Imagine, just that one ingredient in the list! Now that wasn’t so difficult, was it?).

Normally I’m not one to suggest not eating the egg yolk. The egg yolk, after all, is what has all of the nutrients. And if you’re buying omega-3 eggs and only eating the whites, forget about it. The omega-3’s are only really prominent in the yolks. Egg whites are really just good for their protein and for use in cooking, and that is specifically what I have bought the Simply Egg Whites for. I like to bake quite a lot, but adding a couple of eggs here and there in addition to having a poached egg every day or every second day adds up to a large amount of eggs in my diet. And as we all know, moderation is key- even too many egg yolks can start to be a problem! So I have started to use Simply Egg Whites in all of my baking and that way I don’t have to worry too much about eating a poached egg every couple days. Besides that, there’s the added benefit that the calories and fat gets cut down considerably in whatever it is I’m baking. Win-win indeed.

Extra tip: if you are fond of making poached eggs but find it irritating when the whites start floating around the saucepan, try pouring just a drop or two of vinegar into the water. For some reason it helps to hold the white together better. At least, I read somewhere that it does that. It seems to work for me (I don’t think I’m just imagining the result:)).

How do you like your eggs? Do you eat them very often? And do you support the health claims for eggs or are you old school and think that they create too many problems with cholesterol levels and the like? (kidding. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the egg debate and if you’re against them- can’t promise I won’t do my best to change your mind by extolling the virtues of eggs though!)

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The Damage of Thirty Seconds

May 19, 2008

I went and saw Iron Man the other day (which was fantastic, by the way), and one of the commercials that came up before the movie started was for Coca Cola Zero. What do you think of this video? The one that I saw was considerably longer but I couldn’t find it (if anyone does manage to find the longer version, please let me know!). I found this ad to be disgusting. Ridiculing the eyeball because its “fat”? I understand that this is *only* a silly animated commercial promoting a soda that has zero calories, but these kinds of messages are awful. Not only do they promote the wrong idea that drinking this is good for you and will make you thin, but it also promotes distorted body image and discrimination as well as bullying.

What do you all think of this? Am I reading too much into this ad? Or are ads like these the reason why our society is so unhealthy, so misinformed, and so full of eating disorders and body image issues?

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Adapting

May 16, 2008

In my incredible excitement on Wednesday after performing my first-ever pull up, I dragged my sister to the playground after work to show off my newfound abilities. I climbed up on the structure, hung from the fireman pole, and then lifted myself up effortlessly to roaring applause from all of the parents with their children that surrounded us.

Well. Not quite. Instead, I hung from the pole, and then proceeded to do an awkward little struggling dance in midair as I attempted to lift myself up with my little arms. It didn’t work out so well. I failed spectacularly at this attempt to perform a pull up! Perhaps I need to be super incredibly energized to be able to do it? I will have to start going to that playground on a regular basis and see if time of day has something to do with it.

At any rate, my sister politely encouraged me and congratulated me on my efforts. Then we decided to see if she could do a pull up (because she has never tried it before), so she hops right on up there, and doesn’t she manage to do about 3 or 4 in a row, as if its the most natural thing in the world! Note to self: if I want to get supersweet arms like my sister Devin, then I evidently need to get a job as a waitress.

Yesterday I started reading Marion Nestle’s What To Eat (why yes, yes I do spend virtually all my time happily engrossed in books. Can you tell that all things health is my passion?), and this paragraph just relates so much to our discussion on Wednesday that I wanted to share it with the rest of you. She writes:

“Supermarkets have one purpose and one purpose only: to sell food and make profit, and as large a profit as possible. Your goals are more complicated: you want foods that are good for your health, but you also want them to taste good, to be affordable, to be convenient to eat, and to reflect social values that you might care about. In theory, your goals could overlap with the normal business interests of supermarkets. After all, they do sell plenty of inexpensive, convenient, tasty foods that are good for you. But in practice, you and the supermarket are likely to be at cross-purposes. The foods that sell best and bring in the most profits are not necessarily the ones that are best for your health, and the conflict between health and business goals is at the root of public confusion about food choices.”

Isn’t that the truth. This leads me to ask the question, why do you eat what you eat? In varying social situations, the way we eat can change dramatically. One of my friends is very keen on health, so when we go out to eat we choose local places with more natural foods. Another group of friends- primarily consisting of guys- frequent Salisbury House and would appear to live off of deep fried goodness (one of them claims to have eaten a salad only once in his life). Someone else I know lives very sparsely, so our choices are usually limited to cheaper places. And another friend is incredibly picky so we only eat at very generic restaurants.

I must admit that I can be a handful to dine with. I request sauces and dips and dressings on the side, I ask how the meal is cooked and if such-and-such an ingredient is added, I like to exchange one part of the meal for something else or to omit something entirely, and I often want to know if I can have it on whole-wheat bread rather than white. Luckily very few people complain about my insistence on knowing as much as possible about the food I’m about to eat, and most restaurants are very accommodating (although I’m sure that when I go to my favorite restaurants there’s a collective “oh no, the crazy girls back again!” from the staff).

All of this requires a great deal of versatility and the need to adapt to all of these different circumstances. It can be a challenge to find somewhere healthier within a budget, and it can be especially tricky to go somewhere that offers the deep-fried food for my friends who want that as well as a somewhat healthier option for me to enjoy. I have one friend who always wants us to go out and indulge, so it is also quite a task to manage those get-togethers. Stopping traditions is a big step, and sometimes a very uncomfortable one to make. But it’s important to occasionally step outside the comfort zone, and take on new challenges to help us be our best and to help us be who we really want to be. It’s no fun to be held back by anything!

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Time Management

May 14, 2008

Drumroll, please…

Today I did my first ever pull-up! This was an incredibly exciting moment for me. After boot camp this morning, I stopped by the park near my house and climbed onto the play structure. I took hold of the top part of the firemans pole and then let myself drop so I was just hanging there, and then- I pulled myself up to a proper pull-up!

(And then I lowered myself down and I was done. Good Lord you need strong arm muscles to do those things!).

My arms are now sore but happy. Such a beautiful morning! Any milestones you’ve recently accomplished? Shareshareshare!

Food vs. Money

I love to buy as much natural food as possible. The majority of my grocery trips have me buying pretty much only fruits, veggies, milk, and sometimes eggs, yoghurt, and cheese. However, these kinds of shopping trips really add up in terms of cost. When you’re paying $5 for a bag of apples and that bag is gone within a few days, thats a lot of money feeding my addiction for apples (thank you darling parents for feeding me!). For things like frozen mixed berries, you can get the no-name brand for a lot cheaper and there’s no difference in taste- but there isn’t really a “no-name brand” when it comes to fresh produce. Sure, galas are cheaper than macs, but in the long run they’re still all pretty expensive (and besides… I HEART the macs). And what about asparagus? My love affair with asparagus is frequently forced to be discontinued until it goes on sale again.

The problem with all of these costs is that it also relates to lesser nutrition. Button mushrooms don’t have a great abundance of nutrients in them, but they are considerably cheaper than shitake mushrooms. And if you aren’t a total health nut, then you’re likely to not want to bother spending a great deal of time searching for the best deals on nutritious food in the grocery store. It’s easier to pick up some cheap boxed and heavily processed food than to go on the hunt for something that will do more good to your body. So society continues to load up on artificial foods and mounds of sugar and salt, all in the name of saving money. Disgusted with the high price of organic produce and meats, the majority of the population is going to ignore them entirely. The reverse of this one is that people will buy processed foods labelled “organic”, such as cookies and cereals, thinking that they are choosing a somewhat healthier version. (Not true). And our status of nutrition takes another huge dip.

It takes effort. And it takes some time and careful planning. But in the long term- and that’s what we should all be looking at- it’s really worth it. I was talking to my grandma the other day on the phone and telling her about my butter-making experiences, and she started telling me all about how she used to churn butter. That was simply the way things worked. So why is it so difficult for us to re-learn how to do things like cook for ourselves and navigate our way through the grocery store? I’m not suggesting that we all go out and buy butter churns and start churning our own butter. I’m suggesting that we start looking at real food and considering how we can incorporate it into a meal rather than just grabbing a Lean Cuisine frozen meal from the grocery store.

All it requires is a little time management; some organization to get our priorities straightened out. Because I’m pretty sure that most people would agree that a major priority is to enhance the quality of life for people everywhere. And what is improving our health (and saving money on large-scale factories and health costs and similar) if not enhancing our quality of life?

Is anyone else thoroughly distressed with the rising costs of food, the harmful effect on our nutrition, and the ridiculous amount of food that we waste in throwing out?

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Tortilla Success!

May 12, 2008

Happy yesterday Mothers Day to all of you beautiful mothers out there!

This weeks food experiment was with making tortillas. I found the recipe in an old magazine featuring Mexican food, and altered it slightly (I exchanged whole wheat flour for the regular all-purpose flour it called for, and used my own homemade butter in place of the shortening). The recipe stated that the prep time would be 45 minutes (cooking time is only 1 minute per tortilla!), but because of my ineptness in the kitchen it took me about 1 1/2 hours in total. But that’s all right, because making tortillas is so much fun! It’s a little bit tricky to get the knack for it at first, but then you get the hang of it after a bit of very careful rolling of the dough. These tortillas are quite small at only 6 inches in diameter, but they’re also very healthy (and each one is only 90 calories) and make for nice little snacks (or breakfast, or lunch- I had two today for lunch). The recipe makes 12 tortillas, but considering that already 8 of them are gone, I think I will be making another (double) batch of these tomorrow and then I’ll freeze them. Yesterday I froze most of them and today I discovered that it only takes a couple minutes for them to defrost once you take them out of the freezer and just set them on a plate, so its really useful to freeze these.
I made sure to use a BIG bowl this time (I’m learning how to not use absolutely every dish in my kitchen when I cook something!), and the dough was at first really crumbly- I had to add 3 tbsp of extra water before the dough could be rolled into a ball. After letting the dough sit for 15 minutes, I divided it into 12 equal portions and rolled these into little balls and worked on the skill of rolling it out thin enough without tearing it.
My (Adapted) Flour Tortilla Recipe
Time needed: roughly 1 1/2 hours (if you have as many issues in the kitchen as I do).
Ingredients:
– 2 cups whole wheat flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1/2 cup warm water (plus 3 tbsp)
Method:
1. In a BIG bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and then cut in the butter until combined. Gradually add warm water very slowly, tossing together and mixing it up until the dough can be gathered into a ball. 1/2 cup of water wasn’t enough so I added 1 tbsp at a time and found that 3 extra tbsp was the perfect amount to make the dough the right consistancy. Knead the dough 15-20 times; cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
2. For 6-inch tortillas, divide the dough into 12 equal portions and shape into balls (if you want bigger tortillas, just don’t divide the dough into as many portions- maybe try 8 instead of 12). On a lightly floured surface (ie. the kitchen counter, although if you have a pastry board then that would likely be a lot less messy), use a rolling pin to flatten each ball of dough into a 6-inch circle. Stack the tortilla circles, separating them with 2 layers of waxed paper.
3. Place tortillas, one at a time, on a medium-hot non-stick pan (or ungreased griddle). Cook the tortilla for 20-30 seconds or until it starts to get puffy. Turn and cook 20-30 seconds more or until edges curl slightly. Wrap the tortillas in foil. Place any extra tortillas in a large freezer bag (they can be frozen for up to 1 month, but they probably won’t last that long!).
The photographical journey begins!

Half of the dough in my biggest bowl:

I was having issues with creating a nice round-shaped tortilla.

In action (note the use of a non-stick pan: my new best friend)!

I have clearly inherited my fathers ability to spread out EVERYWHERE when I cook (now just picture this same scene, but with cream instead of flour, and you will undertand what the kitchen looked like during my ice cream and butter making process):
However, we also seem to follow the same philosophy that the more mess = better taste, because wow were these ever excellent!
I like my all-natural PB with banana slices (I had this one almost immediately after I’d made the tortillas- I always like to test my cooking as soon as its done). Yum! Today for lunch I had another (2) tortillas, this time wrapped up with chicken and lettuce (it would have been perfect with some tomato, but alas, I seem to have eaten all of the tomatoes in our house. Along with most of the rest of the vegetables):

So what else do I plan on doing with these tortillas, besides making yummy wraps? Quesadillas come to mind. As do tacos. And baked tortilla chips (I’m really looking forwards to trying those out… I have found so many recipes for baked tortilla chips!). Any other suggestions?
In light of yesterday’s success at making tortillas, I opted to try my hand at making healthy banana pancakes- because when you’ve got the morning off work on a rainy Monday, what better way can you spend it? (I have not been able to get Jack Johnson’s excellent song “Banana Pancakes” out of my head for days!). I found this recipe over at Kath Eats Real Food (at least, that’s where I first found this recipe… although the particular variation that I used might have been from someone elses blog). Anyway, I cut it down by 1/3 and blended together 1/3 cup fat-free cottage cheese, 1/3 cup oats, 1/2 banana, and 1 egg. Pour them onto the beloved non-stick pan and place 2-3 slices of banana on each pancake (I ran out of banana so then I used frozen blueberries on the others). My pancakes burned pretty badly but still tasted yummy and I didn’t need any butter or syrup because of all the sweetness from the fruit. If you’d like to check out some really nice photos of what the banana pancakes are SUPPOSED to look like, go check out Kath’s post (somehow all of her creations look fantastic. My successes are so far limited to burned lumps, white-ish blobs and scraggly-edged tortillas!).
It’s the start of another week (and apparently National Women’s Health Week, which I was unaware of until yesterday), so everyone have a super day and make sure you enjoy it to the max!