Friday, June 24, 2011

Lovin my knock-off Le Creuset!

When I was planning my wedding and registering, I honestly did not think that much about the importance of what I was registering for.  At the time I was not the cook that I am today, and hopefully today I am not the cook that I will someday become.  So I had little knowledge of how important and instrumental those appliances and cookware would ultimately be.  That is why I am so incredibly glad I had the foresight to register for a quality dutch oven.  Yes, it's a knock off.  It is not Le Creuset or Staub.  It's a Mario Batali knock off from CB!  Yes, that's right, Mario Batali!  At about $100, it's still $150 cheaper than Le Creuset, which coincidentally is opening at One Nineteen shortly!  That will be interesting to see how it meshes with Crate and Barrel.  It's surprising actually the CB's lease allowed for another cookware store to move into the center.  Very odd.  But high end cookware stores are popping up more and more around the metro- Sur La Table having just opened on the Plaza.

Back to my point!  I love the darn thing!  All nine-hundred fifty-two pounds of it!  It is fabulous, big, bright, I could probably feed a family of six from that one pot.  About four months or so ago, I ordered a cookbook from Amazon, Glorious One Pot Meals I believe it's called.  Totally dorkfied name but what a wonderful cookbook.  Great recipes, all with nutritional info listed to boot, which is rare, and tons of quick and easy recipes you can try.  Every single recipe takes 45 min. in the oven at 425, and really minimal prep time.  I barely even look at it much anymore, it was really more like a textbook for me, a primer if you will, in dutch oven cooking.  But I love it, and I'll have to really delve into once winter comes.  For the time being I use it a lot for chicken, who doesn't have tons of chicken around, and mine is usually frozen, so a long braise in the dutch oven is great for getting rid of that gross freezer taste.  I am going to use it tonight, even though yes it's 90 degrees out, for a mexican chicken with beans and rice dish for husband.  I won't actually be eating it, can't really handle the rice, (yes it's brown, nope still can't) but I just love how you can grab a few things from the freezer, (you don't even have to defrost the frozen veggies, just throw 'em in!) a few things from the pantry, and you're done!  If you have chicken stock and onions on hand, even better.

So annoying, but I've learned some great tips!
So dutch ovens rock!  The other thing I'm stoked about is that I'm trying a new trick, brining.  I know, I am wayyyyyyyyyyyyy behind here.  There is absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, new about brining.  (Um, spellcheck, really?  On brining?  What about brine?  Nope, I guess blogger knows brine.)  It's just that I have never done it before!  I read about it on Healthy Indulgences today.  I wish I had known about it sooner!  Supposedly it is great for boneless skinless chicken breast, which I also usually have.  Which, as we all know, tastes like nothing usually.  That familiar nothing chicken taste, it tastes like nothing in that it tastes like chicken, boring dry chickeny nothing.  So yeah, I'll give it a shot with chicken breast too.  I wonder if it would give poached chicken a little extra flavor.  I wouldn't really recommend poaching chicken- Ellie Krieger does it a lot for salads that call for chicken because it takes two seconds and adds zero fat/calories, but it's kinda gross.  Even Baby S was like- um no thanks to this nothing dry chicken. 

I am really getting into the low-carb, high protein lifestyle.  Not in an Atkins or South Beach way.  I am trying to eliminate process foods, slowly, and really start eating only clean, whole, unprocessed foods.  I have come to the realization that to maintain my current weight, I need to either eat like a rabbit, or really ramp up my exercise routine.  Since I am time starved as it is, and barely can find the time for 30 min on the treadmill and our daily walk around the neighb, I'm not sure more exercise is going to happen, unless I start getting up at 5am everyday...  So diet it is.  But I don't want to "diet."  I want my diet to be a byproduct of my healthy, whole, clean living.  I really do want to cut out ALL processed sugars, all refined carbs, alcohol (I know that is a biggie, but it makes me feel so gosh darn horrible) and basically all empty, nutritionally void foods.  I think I'm getting there.  I get closer all the time.  And all this research and all the blogs I'm starting to read are really helping me.  I have the sneaking suspicion too, that if I really do cut out all the junk and garbage, the small bites and tastes of this and that, that I really will feel a whole lot better, and I'll be able to eat more too.  I want to experiment with eating more protein and see if I really can get away with eating more calories, but protein calories, and stay at my current weight.  If what I'm reading is true, I think I'll be able to.

Did you know you are supposed to eat one gram of protein for every kilogram of your weight?  That means I should be eating 40-43 grams of protein per day.  Some days I probably get close, some days I may exceed it, like if I have a turkey burger or a big piece of chicken or steak, but honestly, I don't think I meet this goal most days.  My protein go-to's are string cheese, a boiled egg, Kashi Go-Lean Cereal (the rabbit turd looking kind) and low fat yogurt and cottage cheese.  I know I know, that's a lot of dairy.  But I will NOT be joining the ranks of the DF anytime soon.  Sorry.  So I have started looking into Whey Protein.  But like everything else, there are various kinds, levels, protein chains, etc, and they all have different structural make-up and therefore different physical and nutritional implications.  Percentage protein vs. fat vs. carbs.  So I'm not quite ready for that yet, although supposedly whey protein when combined with other foods actually lowers the Glycemic Index of what you're eating and minimizes blood sugar spikes.  Inneresting eh?

But in order to kick some of my not so healthy food habits (snacking on Cheerios because they're around, they're for the baby! Eating like a whole lb of carrots, or half a bag of nuts at a time because I am soooooooo desperate for a snack food that is crunchy/salty) I need a much better stocked pantry.  I need healthy, low-carb high protein snacks that I can depend on.  And I need tools for healthy meals that are readily available to me in a pinch.  Here are some things I'd love to have on hand:

-blanched almond flour
-coconut flour
-unsweetened shredded coconut
-coconut butter
-NSA peanut butter
-flaxseed meal
-Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds
-Kale and kale chips
-NoOodles (have you heard of these?)
-Pumpkin and Squash puree
-100% dark chocolate
-unsweetened chocolate chips
-unsweetened cherries and cranberries
-Whey protein
-Hemp bread

I'll have to try to incorporate these things into my stock little by little, no doubt it would cost a fortune all at once.  But I'll get there.  Can't wait!  And I really can't wait too too long because I want my daughter to grow up eating healthy and feeling good, and understanding the HUGE role that eating right plays in how we feel, look, grow, age, and live.  Food is not just fuel.  Food is medicine, food is energy, food is life, and if you eat shit, you are shit.  Growing up I never thought like that about food.  Even with my crazy father who obsessed about calories in calories out and measured his food maniacally.  We know now it is not calories in calories out.  There are good calories, ok calories, bad calories, and horrible calories.  Yes you can be fat eating health food, or skinny from junk food.  Although I read yesterday that even though you may look skinny, your organs are actually fat, obese even, and this is called metabolic obesity.  So skinny fat people, it's not all about what you look like.  I think I was probably skinny fat for quite awhile.  But the bottom line is that for me, eating crap makes me feel like crap, and look like crap, so I'm done.  I really am.  And I am not going to think along the lines of how much I'm denying myself, how it's so horrible I can't eat cupcakes and treats and drink booze.  There is no poor me in this scenario and I now, once and for all, banish that form of thinking from my brain as it pertains to food.  I have a metabolic syndrome that has necessitated my restricted diet but that doesn't mean my life is restricted, on the contrary.  I am smarter and healthier than ever and I vow to stay on this path and never, ever, poor me my diet again.  I am lucky to know what I know and I will not think about how sad it is that I can't have dessert or a handful of crackers or chips.  The issue is, why do we CRAVE and DESIRE those awful things so much to begin with?  What is wrong with us?  With society?  How did we get here?  Humans aren't supposed to eat all these grains and sugar!  We are supposed to eat things that grow in the dirt and animals that we kill to survive and natural fats that give us long-lasting energy.

Ok, now I'm getting all paleo and that is NOT the direction I wanted to go.  Now that is a bit creepy to be honest and I'm getting way ahead of myself.  The point is- this post has really helped me to see how much my poor me crap was limiting me and hurting me.  Poor me nothing.  I am done yearning for sweets that literally poison me and I am done complaining that I can't snack on shit.  Who wants that garbage anyways?  What I need to do is create a new healthy living plan that encompasses diet, excercise, regular creativity and above all, positive thinking.  A healthy and whole diet will organically materialize from this line of thinking.  I don't want to eat things to check them off a list, I don't want to think so consciously about getting a certain amount of protein or vitamins or minerals.  I just want to be surrounded by healthy food and healthy habits that enable healthy eating and a healthy diet.  I know I can do it.  This post has really been a breakthrough for me!

So my list of things I'm grateful for today has grown.  Yes, I'm grateful for my time-saving and freezer burn eradicating dutch oven, I'm grateful for learning about brining (get a clue spellcheck!) and I'm grateful for irritating Cooking Channel hosts like Ellie Krieger.  But what I'm really grateful for is how this blog is ALREADY helping me live and think healthier and happier.  Will post some pics of the food a little later!  Happy eating, happy weekend, and keep on giving thanks!

Edited: 8:41PM.  Yet another successful dutch oven meal!  yeah!  Something strange I've noticed though, when husband comes home and sees the dutch oven on the island, ready to be filled with ingredients, he always frowns and says, "why are you going to cook in that thing, it's so hot out!"  To which I calmly explained that in order for food to become edible, it has to be cooked, and cooking requires heat.  So what other cooking method should I employ?  I think he thinks that when the dutch oven comes out, there's going to be some big meaty hearty hot filling stew, which I can't blame him if he doesn't want to eat that on a hot summer night.  But no folks, the dutch oven is not just for winter and it's not just for stews!  Seriously!  Here is what I made: 

Mexican Spiced Chicken with Brown Rice and White Beans
-Two bone in skin on chicken thighs, or breasts, whatever you prefer (I brined them for two hours, totally optional but it was amazing!  You could definitely tell.  But for sure use reduced sodium broth!)
-1/2 cup white beans (I used dried, which I boiled for 2 min. first and then let sit in water for one hour)
-1/2 cup brown rice
-2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
-4 green onions, sliced
-4 or 5 tablespoons your favorite salsa
-1 teaspoon oregano
-1/2 teaspoon cumin
-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
-Optional: green veggie- green peppers would be great, corn, though not if you're low GI, broccoli, green beans, whatever.  I didn't have any of that so did not throw in, but made a veg on the side.

Preheat oven to 450.  Spray inside of DO with canola spray.  Layer in beans and rice, then pour in stock.  Can use reduced fat and reduced sodium stock, or half stock half water if preferable.  Stir, then sprinkle in green onions, or regular onions, whatever!  Then place chicken skin side up over rice/bean mixture.  The cooking liquid will steam the chicken and keep everything moist and yummy while it's in the oven.  And all the flavors from the chicken will create a really good sauce for the rice/beans.  Season chicken, then cover with salsa and sprinkle in more green onions.  Cover with lid and that's it!

And the results were.....
Um yeah, that is obviously NOT what I meant to do.  I had planned on taking a before picture of my Glorious One Pot Meal haha- not an after.  But I forgot, and husband ate pretty much all of it quite quickly.  And Mr. J quite enjoyed the sauce and chicken skin as well.  Here he is lounging in the grass after his meal.

So yes, another successful meal from my nine hundred fifty two pound beast love baby.  Yesterday I had another cooking experiment that did not go as well.  I was perusing one of the new blogs I'm reading, pretty sure it was Spoonful of Sugar Free and there was a recipe for chocolate cookies that I happened to have the ingredients for.  It was super simple- cocoa powder, sweet potato, egg, vanilla, baking powder, and it made such a small quantity I figured I'd try it.  Ech.  Not so good.  I definitely wasn't a fan of the bitter chocolate and mealy texture of the sweet potato.  I'm sure it's an acquired taste but I just did not enjoy it.  Which disappoints me because I always have those ingredients on hand and it is so easy and healthy!  But no, not good.  The texture was just gross.  I'm sure I did it wrong or something.  I hope that is the case and not that I don't like things that taste healthy.  It's a matter of expectations I'm sure.  You expect a chocolate cookie to taste like a chocolate cookie, and when it doesn't, you're bummed.  Probably it should be called, cocoa powder sweet potato cakes or something like that.  Cuz that's what they are.  Spoonfuls of baked sweet potato flavored with cocoa powder.  But I'll try a few more recipes before I permanently disown my tastebuds.

So try my recipe for Mexican Spiced Chicken, and definitely try brining next time around too.  Would be fabulous on turkey breast.  Just dissolve kosher salt in a bowl of cold water and soak for an hour or two in the fridge et voila!  Ok, going to go watch Treme with husband. 

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