Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A New Wind

Maybe the third time really is a charm!  Or in my case nine hundred and twenty-third time?  I don't know how many times I've decided I'm going to "get in shape", but one of these days I'm actually going to do it!  Good news is I have lost 5 pounds already.  Bad news is that it has nothing to do with what I've been eating.  If I were eating healthier right now, which I most definitely should be since what I eat does affect what Alia eats, I can only imagine how much more I'd be losing.  I know she'll only be nursing exclusively for another few months before she'll start eating more solid foods, which means less milk production for mommy and therefore less calories my body is burning without my help!  I've got to get on the ball now!  Literally...I think I have one of those inflatable workout balls around here somewhere.

Yesterday, I broke out the p90x DVDs we've had unopened for over a year now.  Without reading any of the information or watching the "Watch this First" DVD, I randomly picked one of the workout DVDs and put it in.  Just so happened I picked plyometrics which apparently is the hardest one to do.  The instructor kindly announced this fact about 8 minutes into the warmup.  I turned it off after 10 minutes.  It became crystal clear that I am definitely not in shape and my legs are officially made out of Jello.  Today I'm going to try the Cardio-x DVD instead.  With just over 8 weeks until Christmas I have my work cut out for me.  I'm not sure I can meet my original goal by then, but I am determined to get as close as I can.  And when I say "determined", that excludes the pizza I'm going to eat tonight for girl's night out!  Baby steps people! Plus it was a pre-planned event!

So pass your motivational tips and tricks my way.  I'm back on a mission!  Little gray cashmere sweater here I come!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Blueberry Muffins: Good and Good for you!

This one is for you Ashley!  After the VitaMix adventure, or should I saw disaster, the other day I was craving a really good blueberry muffin.  Healthy food should still taste good or there's no way people will keep eating it!  At $6.25 a box, the Blue Bran VitaMix muffins are a definite waste of money.  Good old fashioned whole wheat blueberry muffins from scratch are so much better and a whole lot cheaper.

To find a recipe, I just did what I always do.  I opened up Google.  After reading several recipes I was shocked to see why many of them were called "healthy".  Recipes containing more than a 1/4 cup of oil, some containing 1 cup of butter, and large quantities of white or brown sugar were all classified this way.  I'm not sure who they were trying to fool, but it wasn't me!  The recipe I finally stopped on and the one that Gray and I made for breakfast this morning is here.  I was happy to see the nutrition information given with the recipe which made it easy to compare to the VitaMix muffins.

The VitaMix muffins are healthier but that difference to me is not significant enough to justify the difference in taste.  I want a recipe I can keep coming back to that lets me still enjoy breakfast.  While the VitaMix muffins have 100 calories a piece and are labeled as fat free, the whole wheat blueberry muffins I made are only 112 calories each and have a total of 3 grams of fat (less than 1 gram of that is saturated fat).  Both muffins contain 3 grams of protein, although the VitaMix muffins contain more fiber.

Don't be scared off by the long list of ingredients for the whole wheat blueberry muffins.  Although it has 3 times the number of ingredients as the VitaMix muffins, I had everything on hand already.  And the list sounds much more appetizing than the VitaMix that calls for egg whites and water.  Our little man thoroughly enjoyed the large list as well, because he had more opportunities to "help mommy" and dump each ingredient into the bowl.  Once everything was combined it already looked (and tasted) better than the VitaMix.

After about 20 minutes of Gray asking to eat a muffin already, I was finally able to pull them out of the oven, and then after another 5 minutes of him now begging for a muffin I broke down and gave him a still very warm muffin.  I was much happier with the final appearance and delicious smell filling the kitchen, something that was lacking with the VitaMix ones.  Gray asked for seconds and also snuck a bite of a third while I wan't looking.

I made this recipe exactly as listed, however I may try change a few things next time to make it even healthier.  I wonder how it would turn out using 2 eggs whites instead of 1 whole egg and also using 4 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce instead of 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the applesauce.  I may also try using all whole wheat flour as well.  I don't think it could get as bad as the VitaMix muffins were but I also want to maintain that deliciousness of a nice warm blueberry muffin.

Move over Thai Spice

I am stoked right now and frankly can't wait to heat up tonight's leftovers for lunch (or even breakfast!) tomorrow.  I've done a little experimenting with making my own Thai food at home, but I started off relatively easy.  I'd been ordering a mixed vegetable stir fry when we'd get thai takeout and I've made that at home now a few times.  Although it turned out decent, it was nowhere near as good as the takeout.  Recently I started ordering a more classic Thai takeout dish - pad thai.  And just like everything else, I decided to make my own version at home.

When I discovered that my regular grocery store carried rice noodles I thought I'd be set.  I had the chicken, peanuts to crush up for garnish, and I already knew how to make a thai stir fry sauce.  Oh but wait...stir fry sauce is not pad thai sauce!  So after searching through a dozen recipes, I realized I needed one more secret ingredient that I definitely didn't have lurking in my pantry:  tamarind paste.  I had never even heard of this stuff let alone knew what it looked like.  After stopping at two big name groceries stores, I called my sister to have her find the nearest Asian market.  Turns out, it was pretty close by.  I walked in, asked for this mysterious ingredient, and walked out with a block of weird brown stuff.

Now I was all set for my first adventure into making pad thai.  Well almost anyway, when I got home and started sifting through all the pad thai recipes again I realized I needed green onions too.  Luckily I just called my sister again and voila...she showed up just before dinner with a fresh bunch of green onions.  Her reward for all of the helpfulness today:

I'd say that was worth the effort!  Once I had all the ingredients I needed and after writing down the final version of the recipe I planned to use, preparation began.  The most important part of making any kind of stir fry is to have everything prepared before you begin.  I felt like one of the TV chefs having everything out in little bowls ready to dump into the wok.  I had the rice noodles, marinated chicken, minced garlic, green onion, fresh coriander, and eggs all setup in various size bowls on the counter.  The crushed peanuts and bean sprouts remained in their bags but still ready to go.  

Pad thai sauce turned out to be much easier to make than I expected.   I give credit for this to the many step by step recipes that can easily be found with a Google search for pad thai.  Thai cuisine focuses on flavors that are sweet, sour, spicy, and salty.  The pad thai sauce not surprisingly is 4 ingredients, one from each category.  Brown sugar (or palm sugar) for the sweet, Tamarind paste for the sour, chili paste for the spicy, and fish sauce for the salty.  This wonderful combination is no doubt what creates the cravings I have for some yummy Thai food!

Once the sauce was ready, and my rice noodles were soaked and ready to go, it was time to stir fry.  I heated up my wok, added some oil and.....OH $%&#.  It caught fire!  Hmm well I think that pan was on it's last leg anyway.  I think I had been reading about how important a hot wok is to stir fry and forgot just how hot my burners really do get when they're on High.  So after switching to a different pan, a smaller newer wok, I lowered the temperature a bit and began my stir fry.

First went the garlic, then the marinated chicken.  The marinade was just a combination of soy sauce and corn starch.  It didn't look very appetizing, but once it started cooking it smelled divine!  Once the chicken was nearly done it was time to add the eggs (I guess that answers that question about which came first).  I scrambled them around for a minute and then added the noodles and the sauce.  Finally it's started to look like real pad thai!  There was another minute or so of stir frying and then the addition of fresh bean sprouts.  Another minute or so more and it was ready for a garnish of green onions, fresh coriander, and chopped peanuts.  I'm not sure how they say "Bam" in Thailand, but that would be the moment!

I made it in two batches because I had to switch to a smaller wok.  The first batch was plenty split between three people.  It was a touch on the spicy side for our little guy so he enjoyed some of last night's tostada fixings with tortilla chips instead.  I couldn't wait to dig in, so I made the second batch after we finished eating.  I spent just about an hour on preparation and cook time which is pretty close to the time it takes me to order takeout and drive round trip to get it.  The cost savings from making it at home though is enormous!  This will definitely become a regular recipe in my kitchen.  I know it's not a healthy meal, but I may be able to experiment with ways to make it better.  I could easily omit the peanuts and use less egg or even omit egg altogether as well, add a few more complimentary veggies like bok choy or shredded carrots, and cut back on the oil.  I may even get adventurous and try it with tofu sometime instead of chicken.  Now that I know I can make the dish, the possibilities are endless!  Now I just have to figure out how to make the Thom Yum soup that Link always orders to go with this!