Friday, March 29, 2013

om nom nom: granola

It's Spring Break, and that means I'm Pinteresting.  Some things have turned out fantastic (DIY body scrub, granola, granola bars) and other things, not so much (trying to alter ill-fitting Old Navy t-shirts).  Let's focus on the things that didn't end with me in a shambles of tears and broken thread (damn you, sewing machine).

Costco decided to stop carrying the cereal I like, the rat bastard.  In retaliation, I bought a huge box of quick oats and decided to make my own granola.  It's pretty hard to mess up, even if you think you've messed it up.  It's supposed to look like a mess.  Here's the gist:

You need a base of oats.  I just used quick oats, other recipes say to use only old-fashioned ones or whatever.  I don't think it really matters.  Mine turned out just fine with quick oats.  

You need some wet stuff to coat it and bind it (if you like it a bit chunkier).  You can use:
  • applesauce
  • maple syrup
  • agave nectar
  • honey
  • pumpkin puree
  • mashed banana
  • whatever else you want that is wet-ish and you like the taste of
Other stuff you can add:
  • nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, blah blah blah)
  • dried fruit (raisins, craisins, apricots, blueberries, coconut, etc.)
  • spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, anise seed, cardamom...
 Rummage through the cupboards, see if you can find your old bag of Craisins hiding in the back, spooning with a jar of applesauce.  I started with measuring, but that gets boring and I like things a little more interesting, so I ended up eyeballing it all.  I had mason jars I wanted to fill, so I just filled them to roughly full with oats, dumped in some wet stuff until it seemed coated and binding a bit (the pumpkin tends to make chunkier granola, if you are into that sort of thing), then add other delicious things, like nuts and fruit and spices.  Because I don't really enjoy dishes, I did it the lazy-wife way (aka put parchment paper on your cookie sheet) and spread it out into an even layer.  Bake it at 300*F until it's browned to your fancy - just keep an eye on it and stir it once in a while.  
The fancier it looks, the harder it looks like you worked. 

Things to keep in mind:  
  • If it seems too dry, like you just dumped a bag of oats on a cookie sheet and you're expecting a mouth full of sawdust when you eat it, you can drizzle more of your wet stuff on (like agave, honey or maple).  
  • If you like your granola super-browned, you may end up over-baking your dried fruit and they might be a bit tough
  • Store it in an air-tight container once it's cooled.  If you line it up on your breakfast bar, your husband and in-laws get really impressed.
  • Keep track of what you put in, just in case it's the best granola you've ever had and you want to replicate it later.
  • It will be about ~250 calories for 1/2 cup, depending on the wet stuff you put in (applesauce and pumpkin puree are less calories than syrup and honey), the dry stuff you put in (nuts are higher in calories, some dried fruit can be higher than you think).  If you need to know, make sure you measure your first few batches until you get the hang of how much of each thing you're putting in and tally it all up.   
 Enjoy! I've had rave reviews for pumpkin-craisin-apricot and maple-nut.  Next week I'm taking a stab at chai-flavored!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

you won't miss it

I recently started a 6-week body transformation challenge through boot camp. It's given me a lot of perspective on how far I've come, both in terms of weight loss and general health/fitness habits. 

I decided that I needed to cut the weekday coffee.  It was getting bad.  Like "I'm jealous of that homeless man walking down the street because he has a Roll Up cup."  I also like to include approximately 89 tablespoons of creamer in my coffee, and I knew I was drinking a lot of calories before noon.  So I said I would give up the weekday coffee - I would still enjoy a cup of fresh-made (by husband) coffee on weekend days if I wanted it, but nothing during the weekdays.  And you know what? I don't really miss it.

That's the thing about making these good habits, and truly seeing how you can survive without the shitty food.  I promise you: You will not miss it.
And some people just about ran that kid down because he had a Tim Horton's in his hand.  It's a sign.

I went to a party recently, and inquired about the non-alcoholic beverage choices.  The hostess said "Oh that's right, you don't really drink much, do you?" Nope. I sure don't.  My body has gotten to the point where I attempt one drink and I get the spins and feel like tossing my cookies.  Guess what - I don't miss drinking.  I still go and be with our friends and enjoy myself - and then I don't feel like ass the next day when everyone else is nursing their hangovers.

Honestly, there isn't a lot of junk food I do miss.  I still enjoy the occasional chocolate, but it has to be really good chocolate.  Most of the crap out there is full of wax and tastes nasty - why would I bother?  I don't crave pizza, or wings, or fries.  I can drive past a ton of fast food places and feel nothing but happy about the choices I make.  If I wanted pizza, would I have some? Of course.  But to tell you the truth, I never really want it.  Give me a taco salad or tofu stirfry and I'll be much happier.

So have faith - if you truly want it, and you commit to making good habits, you will not miss the shit.  It does get easier. 

Do you have a vice that is eating away at you (har har har)?  Try dropping it.  Seriously.  You might surprise yourself at how good you feel.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

freebie : Eat Clean rules

Tosca Reno published a pdf of her basic Eat Clean rules.   These are the rough guidelines I follow and they are laid out in a easy-to-follow fashion.  Pick one rule to try and follow this week!

om nom nom : butternut squash side dish (and bonus dessert)

I made a delicious side dish last night.  It was adapted from this recipe.  I found it really tasty, and even my picky husband ate it.  Here's what I needed and what I did.

  • brown rice (1 cup dry)
  • butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • s&p
  • spinach leaves
  • walnuts

do this:
  • Cook the brown rice.  I dump mine in the rice cooker in a 1:3 rice to water ratio (Husband like mushy rice.  Decrease to 1:2.25 if you like it crunchier). 
  • Prepare the squash
    • Use a peeler to peel the outside skin off - peel til you see orange
    • Spoon out the side and pulpy stuff - this isn't easy on these things, but stick with it.   
    • Dice the squash into little cubes - I did about 1cm.  They will shrink when cooked.
    • Put in a bowl and coat with olive oil and some s&p.  (Til it looks right, use your judgement)
    • Throw in a 400*F oven for about 30 minutes, tossing them around once in a while. (I put some parchment on my cookie sheet because I don't like doing dishes.  Should be fine on a plain cookie sheet though, just keep an eye on them and spray on some extra olive oil if the squash sticks)
  • When the rice is done, put a few handfuls of spinach on top and put the lid back on, letting the spinach wilt down a little.  
  • Chop up 1/4 cup of walnuts and add to the pot. 
  • When your squash is soft and browned a little, add it to the pot (I didn't end up adding the whole squash to mine.  How squashy do you want it?)
  • Stir.
  • Serve.
  • Watch husband's face to see if he actually likes it or is pretending so he won't hurt your feelings but ultimately won't take any more on leftover night and make you eat it all.
 Sounds delish? It is.  The recipe site says it works out to 345 calories for 1/4 of the recipe, but that's using quinoa which is higher in calories than brown rice.  I'm going to take a stab and say it's about 250 calories for 3/4 cup.  Enjoy!

Bonus: I made this and it's amazing.  Be patient with the blending/food processing - it takes a minute but it goes! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

impressionable youth

Oh hi. I know, it's been a while.
So I did something absolutely terrifying but strangely empowering last week - I told my story to my students.  I had mentioned that I'd lost some weight and started becoming really interested in fitness a couple years ago, and they were intrigued.  So I did what any teacher worth their salt would do - I made a cheesy PowerPoint.

My brother bear and I after a workout last summer.
I think the little bugger is taller than me now, at 13.
many friends and using cookie-and-peanut-butter sandwiches to comfort myself when I was sad about it, but I'd rather that than having these kids learn to eat their feelings too.  

Kids are dying to learn this information.  It takes a little prodding in the right direction, but they really are interested in why so many people are overweight, if they actually get a sugar high from eating sugar, and if they're going to end up with Type II diabetes from all the crap they're eating.  They want to know how to build muscles, how yoga can help them from having a freak out, and whether or not I will lose my mind on them for whining that they can't do a push-up (answer: yes). 

Some time down the road I could see myself careening into a new career path involving kids and fitness.  There's a lot to teach there, and a lot to learn.  It's really depressing to think we're raising a generation that can't do a push-up and give up on trying.  This isn't good.  I wouldn't give my experiences and childhood up for anything, but I also wouldn't wish them on another person either.  So stayed tuned - big things will be coming at some point!

On a lighter note, how are you doing on your mini-goals?  Have you given up coffee? (I haven't. I made it a day, once.)
Challenge this week: Write something down every day that you are grateful for, even if it's the fact you made it through the day.  I've had a few of those myself lately.