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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Branching out...

I have decided that the only way that I am ever going to break my habit of hitting a drive thru on my way home from work is if I know that I have easy-to-prepare foods waiting for me at home that will not require an hour to cook.  I get out of work anywhere between 7 and 7:15 PM usually, and my commute home, if I don't make any stops, is about 40-45 minutes.  Therefore, I usually get home right around 8 PM, and this is too late for me to start and finish cooking dinner.  Add to that the fact that I usually try to be in bed by 9 PM if I am working the next day (because I get up at 4:30 AM to go to work), and this explains, sort of, the fast food route that I often take.  I do make sure, 90% of the time, that what I am getting fits into my calorie goals for the day (which means I eat a lot of Chick-fil-a), but it doesn't fit into my overall goals because fast food is not good for you and should not be more than an occasional meal choice.

I also really have to realize that my formerly transient life has settled into something now.  I have, in the last 11 years, spent time living with a roommate, living on my own, living with my parents and attending nursing school, living with my fiance and attending nursing school, living with my husband and attending nursing school, living with my husband and working night shift, and living with my husband and working the weekend day shift.  I have been on the weekend day shift for about a year and a half, and I don't foresee that changing for quite a while.  However, I have had such a history of things changing every few years that I have not ever really gotten into a routine.  I don't cook dinner all that often, and I often find myself reaching for convenience foods.  However, I don't want to spend the rest of my life eating this way, so it's time to realize that things don't seem like they are going to be changing much for a while, so now is the time to make a plan that I can stick to.

I don't really know that I will ever be one of those people who does all the cooking for the week on one day and fills her freezer with things that just have to be popped into the oven.  However, I can certainly cook up some grains (like maybe a pot of brown rice, couscous, quinoa, or barley) and keep them on hand for quick meals.  I can cook up some chicken or pork each week and use it in meals when I get home after work.  I can keep some beans on hand and cooked up for a quick protein option.  And I can commit to cooking dinner on the night that my husband and I are home together, instead of relying on my old stand-by of flour tortillas with cheese melted on them when I need a quick dinner.  I can keep more veggies around the house (even if they are of the frozen variety), and I can keep fewer boxed items in my pantry.  This week, I am off of work for four days, so I want to go to my local health food store and explore the bulk grain options (and restock my supply of steel cut oats).  I also want to spend some time scouring the internet for ideas for cooking up said grains.  A quick pilaf should not be that difficult, and simple stuff like that can be so yummy!

As I mentioned, I have quite a taste for flour tortillas.  I am going to try making my own this week!  I found a recipe for a whole wheat tortilla that has only four ingredients in it...whole wheat flour, water, vegetable oil (I will use canola), and salt (I will use sea salt).  In comparison, my tortillas I buy have about 20 ingredients in them, some of which I don't even know what they are for.  So this will be an interesting experiment!  I hope it works!

Other than that, this week will hopefully include four gym trips and my yoga and pilates class tonight.  And I am going to cut down on the amount of Splenda-sweetened diet flavored sparking waters I am drinking and rely more on my one liter Nalgene bottle (BPA-free!) with one packet of Wild Strawberry Crystal Lite in it.  It's double-diluted, so the taste isn't too strong, but it makes the water go down much more easily.  My goal is three bottles per day on most days.  I also recently put a Pur water filter on my kitchen faucet, and I am not hating drinking water that does not come in a bottle!  That will cut down both on the amount of money I spend on water and the amount of plastic that goes into our recycling bin.

Make it a great day, everyone!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Good food that's good for you...

Now that summer is quite obviously over, I will be having to make the transition to organic produce exclusively, since local produce is on its way out of here.  My favorite local farm Annie's Acres has things like potatoes and yams and even some greens from the greenhouse right now, and I am sure some of the other local farms have those items as well, but the bulk of what I am going to be buying going into the fall and winter will be from the grocery store.  I have increased my food budget accordingly to absorb this cost as well as the cost for organic and/or humanely raised meats.

I went out to Annie's Acres yesterday to pick up my first meat and cheese order from her.  She puts out an order form every couple of weeks for meats, yogurts, and cheeses that she then goes to pick up for her customers down in Lancaster County.  Yesterday, I picked up some ground beef and pork, some center cut pork chops, some raw milk cheese, and some whole milk yogurt made with milk from grass fed Jersey cows.  All of the farms that Annie gets these items from have been checked out by her and her husband to make sure that they feel good about the way the animals are being treated there.  I trust her 100% to have the same standards I would have if I were visiting such a farm.  The meat is more expensive than most meat you would find in a grocery store, but it fits right into my desire to buy only humanely raised meats.  I am pretty excited about continuing to get meat and cheese this way throughout the fall and winter!

I have to rave about one of the items that I picked up from Annie's, and that is the Pequea Valley Farm yogurt that she is selling.  It comes from a farm in Ronks, PA, which is in Lancaster County, and it is an Amish farm. This is a whole milk yogurt, made, as I mentioned, from the milk of grass-fed Jersey cows.  It is the most amazing yogurt I have ever tasted.  So far, I have had the maple (150 calories) and the black cherry (210 calories), and I can't stop thinking about the final container I have to my refrigerator (peach - 200 calories), but I am going to attempt to hold off on eating that until tomorrow.  I also have in my fridge my previously loved Chobani Greek yogurt in several flavors, but I am afraid that nothing will ever taste as good as this new-to-me yogurt.  It's a bit more expensive, of course, than yogurt in the grocery store ($1.85 for a 6 oz. container or $6.75 for a quart, which is actually in the neighborhood of the cost of the pricey Fage Greek yogurt or the Siggi's Icelandic skyr that I sometimes buy at Wegmans).  And it is not as high in protein as Greek yogurt, which is kind of a trade off.  However, it is a trade off I am willing to make because it is SO good, and it comes from a farm right here in my home state.  It's a win-win!

One of the next items on my list that I want to buy is a chest freezer to put down in our basement.  I just want a small one (5 cubic feet), as it's just me and the hubs here, but I want to be able to buy meat in bulk when it's available to me and to be able to stockpile it somewhere.  I used to buy club packs and chicken breast and pork chops and stock our freezer up.  I don't buy those factory farm-raised meats anymore, but I do need some space for freezing items.  I am looking forward to adding a freezer to the house sometime before the end of the year, hopefully!

Although I never go to the gym this early, I think I am going to go ahead and head over there now, as this has the possibility of being a busy day.  And tonight for dinner, I plan to cook up some Organic Prairie Italian sausage with some jarred spaghetti sauce to serve with some of Wegmans new Super Pasta.  It's pretty nice out here during the day right now, but it gets cold at night, so that will be a nice, comforting dinner.  Actually, before I head out to the gym, I have to clean out the freezer.  I have some frozen diet meals from the last century that I need to get rid of to make room for all this good stuff!

Make it a great day, everyone!