Fit Fridays: A Practice in Mindful Eating

It’s been a while since I did a Fit Fridays post and I feel badly about that.  I enjoy writing these posts but after I let competition prep take over my thoughts and actions I spent the last 3 weeks “un-dieting”.  Aka, overeating, binging and doing everything I write about not doing.

Second dinner?  Sure!

Snacking mindlessly despite not being hungry?  I’m down.

Water?  What water?

Yes, that’s been me the past 3 weeks.

I thought this time would be different and that I wouldn’t feel the need to binge.  Despite it all however, I’m actually doing much better than last year.  This year I at least have some notion of when to stop whereas last year I continued eating myself sick.  For weeks.

At least I can exemplify why I am against dieting.  When you diet, you bounce back.  I’ve done it before and I did it again and in 3 weeks I’ve gained back most of the weight I lost during my 12 weeks of prep.

When I explain my dessert overindulgence and recent passionate consumption of carbs I’ve had people say, “After all the work you did, you deserve it!”  Maybe I deserve to let myself indulge a little but my body doesn’t deserve to be treated like a trashcan just because I can eat it now.  

I want to be able to eat dessert and I want to be able to enjoy carbs and fatty foods but I also want to treat my body with respect.  That’s what brings us to today’s topic: Mindful Eating

As I’ve said in this post and in previous posts, “dieting” doesn’t work in the long run, but maintaining a healthy diet can.

I love food, we all know that by now, and while I want to be able to eat everything, I also want to enjoy it.  I find myself snacking on things just because I want something to do- it doesn’t mean it tastes good or I particularly enjoy it.  I want to stop these habits.  I intend to improve my health and nutrition by eating more mindfully.  What exactly do I mean by “mindful eating” mean, though?

  • Sit Down:  When I’m in the kitchen I often find myself snacking on random things because they are in reach and I just happen to be there.  Meals- even snacks- should be eaten while sitting down and ideally on a plate or in a bowl.
  • Wait: No more diving into meals before they are ready.  Wait for them to cool down properly so you can enjoy the full taste and flavor of each item.
  • Take it Slow: Take time to chew your food- savor each bite and flavor before moving onto the next.  This should also prevent overeating by allowing the body to digest while you eat so that you stop when you’re full.
  • Be Present: Less texting and watching T.V. while eating.  Eating should be a special moment and good food should be celebrated and enjoyed.

Most of my intentions lie with paying more attention to what I’m eating and enjoying the food- eating mindfully.  I suspect this is actually easier said than done, as paying attention to what I’m eating and being patient is not always a strong point but I intend to work on it and see if I can make changes and adjustments each day to live a healthier life filled with delicious food.

Do you eat mindfully or with intention?  What tips do you have for taking time and being present with your food?

Holy Moly Guac-a-mole!

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking “Wow- did she really just do that?  Seriously??”

And the answer is yes.  Yes, I went there.

Holy moly guac-a-mole.

HELLZ TO THE YA!

I want to say that guacamole is an under-appreciated food and in some ways it is.  Sure, everyone loves it (If you don’t love it get out- get out now.  Ok no, no, I’m just kidding…kinda.) but so often do I see recipes for guacamole that just aren’t right.  I mean, if you don’t have a jalapeño or cilantro in it, it isn’t guac.  Similarly, some chopped tomato is also a requirement.

From there you can make some changes, but you just can’t skip those ingredients.  

Sorry, you just can’t.

I’ve been told I’m a bit, uh, set in my ways with regards to my opinions here, but I’m ok with that.  Everyone has to be passionate about something, right?  

I’m passionate about the proper way to make guacamole.

In an effort to prove that I have some ability to be a reasonable and flexible person I’ve added a few twists to this recipe- roasted sweet corn and shallots rather than a red onion.

Woah boy- I know I’m really pushing some boundaries here but a good basic recipe doesn’t need much done to it.  No frills, just good guacamole.

Roasted Corn Guacamole

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¼ Cup Sweet Corn

2 Shallots (or 1/4 Red Onion)

½ tsp Salt

1 Jalapeño (or more for a spicier guacamole)

¼ Cup Packed Cilantro

Juice of ½ Lime

1 Small Tomato (Approx 1/3 Cup)

2 Avocados

In a pan, stirring constantly, dry roast the sweet corn for several minutes until it has browned slightly.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Chop the shallots and add to a bowl with the salt.  Using a wooden spoon, muddle the shallots and salt slightly, then add the chopped and seeded jalapeño, chopped cilantro and lime juice.  Slice the tomato and remove excess juice.  Add to mixture along with diced avocados and roasted corn.  Mix until desired consistency is reached and season with additional salt and lime juice as desired.

 

Chopped Ramps, Bacon & Egg Over Creamy Quinoa

I swear, the more I pay attention to my food photography, the more frustrated I get.  The more I see issues and problems with it.  Rather than relying on catching the natural light at “just the right moment” (which can be hard to schedule one’s day around), I’ve been trying to use lights and setups to control my own light.

I like to think I’m learning and improving with each shoot, but I honestly feel like I’m staying the same, or -worse yet- going backwards.  I keep thinking that I have it setup right and once we get over to photoshop it’ll be “perfect” and then find that no, that’s not the case.

Maybe it isn’t that I’m getting worse, but that I’m just becoming more discerning and more critical.  Maybe it takes less time to see what’s “wrong” with an image and more time to figure out how to get it “right”.

Anyway, I’m still here and still learning so hopefully I’ll also continue to improve slowly as well…Moving on!

I don’t know if you heard, but ramp season has started!  I’ve never had an opportunity to buy ramps before but this year knew that things had to change!  It was time to get ahold of that small wild onion that foodies go nuts for every year.

And get hold of them I did!  Now to be honest, when I tried them it was like “Ok, these are cool,”  but nothing mind blowing about them.  Oh god, I feel like I’ve just political blogger/foodie suicide saying that…please don’t ostracize me!  Maybe I just haven’t found the correct way to truly show off their ramp-y magic but the season isn’t done yet so there’s still time!

This savory dish works great for breakfast but also as dinner as well!

Chopped Ramps, Bacon & Egg Over Creamy Quinoa

Serves 4

Quinoa:

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1 Cup Quinoa

1 ½ Cup Whole Milk

½ Cup Water

2 oz Grated Sharp Cheddar (Approx 1/2 Cup)

1/2 tsp Salt

Pepper

 

4 Slices of Bacon

4 Eggs

1 Bunch Ramps

Zest of 1 Lemon

1 Cup Crushed Tomatoes

Add the quinoa, milk and water to a medium-sized pot.  Bring to a simmer, stirring often and reduce to low.  Add salt and pepper.  Cook for 15-20 minutes until cooked through and liquid has mostly been absorbed.  Remove from heat and add in grated cheese.  Stir until melted and incorporated.

Thinly chop white and green parts of ramps, separated.  Reserve the greens for later.  Chop bacon into chunks and add to a pan over medium heat.  Add in chopped ramp whites.  Sauté for several minutes before adding in crushed tomatoes and lemon zest.  Season with salt and pepper.  When everything is soft, make wells in the mixture and crack in eggs.  Cover pan with a lid and cook until whites are solid.

Divide quinoa into bowls and top with egg and ramp mixture.  Sprinkle chopped ramp greens on top!

Sangria + A Birthday!

Yesterday was my 25th birthday- does this mean I should be hitting my quarter-life crisis- you know, if ideally I live to be the nice ripe age of 100?  I mean, in the past few years I graduated from art school, realized I wanted nothing to do with it, took a year off, started going back to school to be a registered dietician and now I’m trying to be a full time food blogger.  Maybe I have been going through a quarter-life crisis.  At least I feel like I’m finally getting to the other side of that hump.

When I was younger and going though my angst-y, awkward teenage years in middle school and high school I remember consistently feeling sad and disappointed on my birthday because my friends or classmates didn’t remember and decorate my locker with balloons and confetti and cards etc (no idea if they still do that now but that’s what girls did in my high school).  Mind you, this was before Facebook so you weren’t automatically notified of your friends’ upcoming birthdays and it was an actual skill that took effort to remember special dates such as birthdays.  I wouldn’t tell anyone my birthday was coming up and I also didn’t tell people it was my birthday the day of and then- surprise- found myself lonely and unhappy when people didn’t somehow remember.  I’m pretty sure this is a byproduct of being an only child- you somehow think everyone’s life revolves around you and if they don’t remember then it just ruins everything.  

My god, I was so young, selfish and egocentric.

I’m pretty sure I’m still all three of those but maybe a little less selfish and a little less ignorant about people and life.  These days I don’t selfishly expect people to just remember.  I’m still incredibly egocentric though so instead, I make sure to excitedly remind my friends that my birthday is coming up.  I plan and organize my own parties to hopefully make it a fun and relaxing day for everyone.  I no longer rely on other people to do things for me so that I can have a fun day.  I make sure it’s going to be a fun day no matter what and this year was just that kind of day!

I wanted to invited lots of people so rather than going to a bar or restaurant which might require reservations and a specific time to be there etc (not to mention spending money) I decided to organize a birthday- style picnic at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

It was a relaxed event with everyone sitting on blankets and food and covered alcoholic beverages spread around and the weather was gorgeous!  It got a little chilly later in the evening but we just wrapped ourselves up in blankets.  I was so happy that so many people were able to come!

While I made a lot of different foods for the party, one thing I particularly wanted to make, which I haven’t done in a long time, was sangria.  My family has our own recipe and while I often find sangria from restaurants to be too sweet, too carbonated or some combination of the two, I love our recipe.  It’s easily adaptable based on personal preferences too.

Sangria

2 Bottles (1500ml) of Red Table Wine (I used inexpensive bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon I got from Trader Joe’s)

3/4 Cup Brandy

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Apple

1 Lemon

1 Orange

Club Soda

Chop apple and slice the orange and lemon into 1/4 thickness and add to a large pitcher.  Add sugar and use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and muddle slightly.  Pour in brandy and wine.  Cover pitcher and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.*  Top with club soda when you are ready to serve.

*It can be used immediately but I find the flavors combine better when they’ve been mixed a day ahead

Red White and Green Farfalle Pasta

After weeks of measuring and weighing everything out exactly, I’m really not into it much these days.  I now revel in literally throwing things together.  I used to read and follow directions more and now I look at a recipe a few times to get the gist of it and then just go for it and I love it!  I feel like it’s steps like these that are slowly making me a better cook.  I pay more attention to what I’m making and being in the moment with what’s happening to the food in front of me rather than to the written recipe.

I’ve always struggled with pasta recipes- particularly getting the sauce right.  Tomato sauces never end up thick enough or flavorful enough and cheese or cream sauces always end up separating because I cook them too high.  

I was always in a rush and for me, rush= high heat.  For everything.  As I’ve discovered, I can toss together a pasta dish in a flash but I really don’t need much heat at all!  Just let the ingredients do their thing.

This recipe was inspired by The Chiappas’ Speedy Tomato Lemon and Rocket Pasta Sauce.  I used some of my home-canned tomatoes that I chopped up, added some creamy feta and made some changes to the lemon usage.  I loved adding lots of “rocket” (or arugula, as I’m used to calling it)- adds some healthy greens to the meal!

In the spirit of going with the flow, I’m going to write this recipe a little differently- no need for exact measurements, just eyeball it and adjust as you go!  Listen to your ingredients!

Red, White and Green Farfalle Pasta

Adapted from The Chiappas.

Makes 2-3 Servings

Fill a large pot with water and add a small handful of salt.  Bring to a boil and pour in half a bag of farfalle (about 8oz).  Cook until al dente.

In a medium skillet, add a glug of olive oil and heat on medium.  Toss in 2-3 whole smashed garlic cloves and 1/2-3/4 cup of chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for several minutes before adding a squeeze of lemon.  Turn of stove and remove from heat.  Toss in pasta, several ounces of crumbled feta cheese, arugula and grate in some fresh parmiggiano.

Toss to coat and adjust accordingly- I’m always in favor of more cheese! 

Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs

So!  Back on track with recipes- I promise!

Last week and this week I’ve been having so much fun cooking and baking (maybe a little too much fun, says my ever expanding belly).  During prep I had compiled a huge list of things I had wanted to make once I was done and well…I’ve been working on it.  I currently find myself with more food in the fridge than I or Mr. C can eat (god, I feel/sound so entitled saying that).  I’ve only made a few recipes so far but I’ve been working on pawning food onto people with- sadly- only marginal success.

I spent a lot of time looking at recipes but in the last few weeks I also started studying different cooking and baking techniques.  Julia Child became a favorite to watch (of course) but I also enjoyed a lot of Jamie Oliver, Alton Brown and America’s Test Kitchen, amongst others.  One of the techniques I studied was how to poach an egg.

I have a small farmer in Maryland who has some chickens in his backyard and lets me buy eggs from him and I must say- they are the best eggs.  I only buy eggs from local farms and while I’ve tried a lot of different farms in Maryland and New York, I have never found eggs as dark in color or as rich as his.  Must be from all those cantaloupes I used to bring for his chickens!  Whenever I’m in Maryland or my mom is coming up to visit, I give him a call and stock up on eggs.

With so many beautiful eggs I wanted to do something special with them, such as poaching one.  

As I discovered it was not that far out of reach.  In fact, it wasn’t that complicated at all.  No more hard boiled eggs with lunch here- we are gonna be getting fancy in the future!  Eggs Benedict for breakfast?  No longer a meal only available when going out for brunch- I relish the challenge of making it at home!  

I spent a lot of time reviewing the advice and tips from various aforementioned chefs and in the end, decided to go with Alton Brown’s technique for poaching eggs which you can see here.  The technique involves filling a pan with an inch and a half of water and bringing it to a light simmer.  Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar before carefully placing the eggs in the water and cooking for four and a half minutes.  Carefully remove the egg with a slotted spoon.

See?  Not that tricky!

Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs

Serves 2

2 Poached Eggs* (see notes and video link above)

1/2 Cup Cream of Rice

2 Cups Water

1 TBSP White Miso

2 Scallions

1 TBSP Sesame Oil + extra to drizzle

1 tsp Soy Sauce

1/2 tsp Sugar

Freshly Grated Pepper

Add water to a pot and whisk in miso as you bring it to a boil.  Stir in cream of rice and continue stirring until thickened.  Remove from heat.

Cut off green tops , slice thinly and set aside to reserve for later.  Slice white parts of scallion in half lengthwise before cutting into 1 inch strips.  In a small pan, heat sesame oil on medium.  Add chopped scallion whites and sauté for a minute before adding soy sauce and sugar.  Cook for a few more minutes until scallions soften and begin to brown.  Remove from heat.

Divide porridge into bowls and top with poached eggs, sautéed scallions and scallion tops.  Drizzle on sesame oil and season with some freshly grated pepper.

Weekend Stuff

Saturday we went to visit a friend of mine who lives up around Westchester.  Whenever we go to visit her and her family, it’s like a mini vacation- a reminder of what Mr. C and I want in our lives: a house, space, a (eventual) family.  Room to BBQ and garden in the backyard and privacy.

My friend requested to not be photographed herself but I was able to take pictures of her beautiful family.  Her son Leo is a real handful- so much energy and so strong!  He never stops moving and bouncing around.  I guess I don’t have good maternal vibes because every time I tried to hold him he starts to cry but Mr. C has more experience in that area; Leo loves him!  I joke that the only reason I bring him along is to keep the kids happy.

My friend always prepares a whole feast when we visit.  I try to help out as much as possible but it usually becomes a matter of keeping the kids busy and out of the kitchen.  This is the first time we brought the dogs up and while Ada was thrilled to play with them, Leo wasn’t so sure…

Sorry- I just can’ help it- this photo sequence just kills me everytime I look at it.  His face!

Being one of the first beautiful weekends of the season, David took out the grill and went into serious grill-mode with a large cut of lamb.

We spent most of the afternoon cooking and playing both inside and out and enjoyed a large delicious meal on the back porch in the evening.  We stayed pretty late but left around 11:30 to return to Brooklyn before it got too too late.

It’s moments like this that I’m so glad I brought my car back to the city with me.  Sure, it’s annoying to deal with street parking, but being able to escape the city without much hassle and have a relaxing day or weekend away is so wonderful and refreshing.  Looking forward to many more weekends like it!