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Posts Tagged ‘quinoa’

I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

For the record, today is January 20, meaning I tried on a bikini in the dead of winter and didn’t hate myself. That’s next-level crazy.

pants

Clearly not a bikini shot, but I’m loving my strong legs these days. Also my lion’s head garbage can.

 

By no means was there an Instagram faux-perfect body staring back at me. First of all, I’m paler than any swimsuit model would dare to be. Six-pack abs still elude me, mostly because I’m not giving up ALL of the good things in life, like the occasional glass of wine and chocolate croissant. The thighs could be spindlier, but they just don’t seem to want to (even when I was seriously tracking meals and workouts and weight and body fat percentage, they didn’t want to be tiny).

What I saw in the mirror was … OK. My abs are in good shape (I have a little oblique action going on). I’m loving my arms and shoulders — although my lifting game is not impressive weight-wise, my tiny muscles are a joy.

Finally, my legs are STRONG. They have a few muscle cuts. They can climb and lift, which in the end is more important than being skinny.

At 43 years old, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, and I feel fabulous.

Over the past few years, I started rethinking my nutrition and fitness goals. I stopped having a “goal weight” (I have no idea what I weigh right now, but my clothes fit the same week after week, so SCORE). I began to pursue weightlifting not as a weight-loss activity, but as a bone-building, let-see-what-these-muscles-can-do activity. I’m not lifting super heavy – my condo gym is small and frequently not populated with spotters, so I have to lift only what I can safely carry (a good travel rule for suitcases, too).

The husband helped me make a standing desk for work – it’s hard to get sleepy after lunch if you’re on your feet.

The biggest changes I’ve made have involved food. I cook. A LOT. We eat more whole foods than processed foods. Note I didn’t say NO processed foods – we still eat meatballs from the Trader Joe’s freezer. I still make a weekly trip to Moe’s Southwest Grill with the office crew (Moe’s Monday waits for no one). We eat the occasional frozen chicken burrito at home (a Trader Joe’s original, yet again).

But for breakfast? Oatmeal. Not instant. Sometimes steel-cut. Topped with cinnamon, walnuts and raisins.

Lunch? Leftover quinoa. Always a salad (sometimes only a salad) with good greens, grape tomatoes, feta and sometimes banana peppers. I like the Caesar dressing from Trader Joe’s, but after reading  about “natural flavors” in The Dorito Effect, I’m considering just topping my greens with a little vinegar.

Dinner? I have a great recipe for chicken tacos from The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook by my favorite cookbook authors at America’s Test Kitchen. Also included in that book is a stuffed manicotti recipe – that one is a two-day affair, since it’s easier to make the sauce one day and complete the dish the second day.

We eat a lot (A LOT) of cheese and salad. I make a mean meatloaf. The aforementioned meatballs come into play at least once a week with my homemade marinara sauce – sometimes with stuffed ravioli (yo, Trader Joe’s again), sometimes on a bun from Publix for sandwiches (although I’m notorious for leaving at least half of the bun on my plate – simple carbs aren’t taboo, but they aren’t a requirement, either).

I drink a lot of water. And a bit of coffee. The occasional glass or three of wine.

Perfect dietary guidelines? No. Better than some, worse than others, but it’s working for me. My meal-planning is a combination of deciding what I would really enjoy and what’s good for my body. Not good as in, oh, this will keep/make me skinny, but good as in, oh, this will help with today’s deadlifts, or help me stay upright and focused while I finish making this presentation.

Good as in, I tried on a new bikini last night and didn’t hate myself.

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Late update, since tomorrow will bring us the Week 2’s CSA  box.

My first 2013 Dennison’s Family Farm CSA box yielded the following:

  • Three onions: red, white and yellow. These have gone in everything from quinoa to chicken fajitas.
  • One leek. Still in the crisper, it’ll probably end up in quinoa.
  • Broccoli rabe. I washed and chopped the greens and buds, and the husband mixed them into ricotta along with spicy Italian sausage to add a little zest to his fabulous homemade calzones. In truth, the sausage overwhelmed the flavor of the rabe, but we tried.
  • Pac Choi: This sits abandoned in my crisper, because I am shamefully bad at using leaf vegetables that have to be cooked.
  • One green squash. I immediately chopped this up and stir-fried it in olive oil with a bit of garlic. Easiest side dish ever.
  • Two quarts of strawberries. Alas, the last two quarts of strawberries I’ll get out of Tennessee this year. I made ice cream with them using my favorite recipe from Ben & Jerry’s (this is the only ice cream recipe book you need to own, BTW). I tossed in a cup of white chocolate chips toward the end for Something Completely Different, but I can’t really taste them. Turns out super sweet strawberries are enough all by themselves.
  • Pistou basil. This is a dwarf basil plant that I need to transplant outside. Last year’s wasn’t very prolific, I have to admit, but I’ll be swimming in fresh basil for the rest of the summer when Dennison’s herbs, along with my emergency back-up plant, start producing.

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The problem with quinoa

The New York Times recently ran a story that confirmed something I had worried about: Bolivia’s farmers are increasingly growing quinoa for export, and surging prices have placed it out of reach for many Bolivians.

So, while I’m enjoying a cheap source of protein (around $6 a pound at the most locally), Bolivians are replacing it in their own diets with cheaper processed foods.

It’s a problem that no one seems to plan ahead for: How do you set up a crop for export without depriving locals of the same crop?

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Last night, I finally got around to combining two dishes that I knew would taste great together, a la Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: Citrus Quinoa and Mojo Shrimp.

The Citrus Quinoa recipe, from Coastal Living, was designed to go with a snapper entrée. The Mojo Shrimp recipe is actually a Mojo Chicken recipe that seemed like it would work for shrimp, too. The quinoa has an intense lime flavor, and the shrimp adds a light burst of spicy orange flavor to the mix.

I made a few changes to the original Citrus Quinoa recipe, so I’ve outlined my version below. The original calls for parsley, which I never have around and never seem to miss. I also made a couple of changes to the cooking process, since the original version resulted in mushy quinoa.

Citrus Quinoa

Adapted from Coastal Living’s Citrus Quinoa Recipe

1 1/4 cups uncooked quinoa
2 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime zest
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Rinse quinoa thoroughly. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa and 3/4 teaspoon salt; reduce heat and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Mojo Shrimp

1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1/2 pound medium shrimp

Combine juices, oil, garlic, paprika. oregano, salt and chili flakes in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add the shrimp; seal and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to three hours.

Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil into a medium skillet and add the shrimp; stir fry for two to three minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Serve over Citrus Quinoa.

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About 10 years ago, my husband brought home a small bag of quinoa from the local health food store. I don’t remember if he called it a superfood, but he did note that it was packed with fiber AND protein, making it a rare grain indeed.

The problem was that we had no idea how to make it edible. We learned the mechanics of making quinoa pretty quickly: Rinse it thoroughly before cooking, and then simmer it like you would rice.

Our cooked quinoa was bland, however. We added broth. We salted. We oversalted. We added herbs. We added spices.

We gave up.

Fast forward to 2008. Quinoa is officially a superfood, and recipes abound. It’s also more readily available, so no more trekking to the health food store for expensive 8-ounce bags of grain.

I finally got my act together with quinoa last year, after I found a couple of basic recipes and started experimenting.

My first discovery: You REALLY need a well-made strainer with tiny holes to properly rinse the grains. Covering the quinoa with water and then pouring it off just makes a huge mess, no matter how careful you are. Just pour the dry quinoa into the strainer and turn on the tap for a minute or so, making sure the water runs over all the grains.

I adapted a Rachael Ray recipe as my go-to quinoa dish, cutting it in half and making a few tweaks. The original calls for a blend of cilantro, basil and parsley. I NEVER have parsley in the house, and I rarely have cilantro AND basil. Her recipe also called for a mixture of black olives and green olives; the husband determined that he preferred the dish with green olives only.

Splurge for the pine nuts: They MAKE this dish. I toast mine in a skillet over low heat until they’re slightly fragrant and starting to tan and I’m a little freaked out that I might burn them. So they’re probably under-toasted, but delicious nonetheless.

I get most of my quinoa at Costco, which sells it in 4-pound bags, and augment it with a pricier red quinoa from the bulk bins at Earth Fare. I don’t think the red quinoa changes the taste much, but it does make the dish more colorful.

The husband prefers quinoa as the base for chicken, but I eat the leftovers meat-free.

Quinoa with Herbs and Olives

(Adapted from Rachael Ray’s Quinoa with Herbs and Mixed Olives)

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, well-rinsed
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup pitted and thinly sliced green olives
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup cilantro or fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

    Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

    Stir in 1 1/8 cups water, season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let the quinoa stand for 5 minutes. Add the olives, pine nuts and herbs and toss with a fork to combine. Season with salt to taste.

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    In the end, it was nobody’s fault but my own that I brought home a monstrously large plastic box filled with salad greens. I already had my requisite $5 worth of Earth Fare hipster food (quinoa and steel-cut oats) in the cart, and the free salad coupon was burning a hole in my pocket. I sighed when I saw the packaging, but I put it in the cart anyway.

    I didn’t truly realize how large the box was until I got it home and had to rearrange my entire refrigerator to make it fit.

    I try not to buy produce in big plastic boxes like this, but other people obviously do. On the New York Times Freakonomics blog, James McWilliams maintains that this kind of packaging extends the life of produce, meaning that people are more likely to get a chance to eat it before it goes bad. Granted, this box of lettuce stayed reasonably fresh for the better part of two weeks. Had I been able to choose the amount of salad greens I was going to purchase, however, I never would have bought that much at one time. (And note that Earth Fare does offer a fresh mix of greens that you can purchase by the pound. Or ounce, in my case.)

    Clamshell packaging just seems like so much overkill.

    McWilliams points out that consumers could alleviate the need for food-extending packaging by learning how to shop strategically (don’t buy too much food at once), a skill that, admittedly, may be easier for a two-person household with a reasonably predictable routine.

    Luckily, the box was No. 1 plastic, meaning I could put it in my recycling bin. I note, however, that a lot of houses in my neighborhood don’t put out a big blue recycling bin every week, so I fear that a lot of this packaging is not being recycled. Even if it is recycled — and even if the company uses 100 percent recycled plastic in the packaging — more plastic clamshells must be manufactured.

    I guess what I’m saying is no more huge clamshell produce containers in the Haggerty household, free coupon or not. And I’m thinking that some sort of washable produce bags, like these, are in my future.

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    From Jean Georges in Manhattan: Warm sweet potato cake with a cranberry compote and cranberry foam.

     

    When the husband and I go on vacation, we tend to plan our itinerary around food. We’re not the only people who do this, but I get mixed reactions from a few folks, some of whom apparently expect to hear more about the shows we’ve seen in New York City (most recent count: 0) than our sake-tasting and evaluation of the freshly made tofu at EN Japanese Brasserie (evaluation: awesome).

    Some people get it: After a recent photo documenting our pilgrimage to the Doughnut Plant, one Facebook friend noted, “You take the best doughnut vacations ever!” Indeed, we do.

    So what’s with our vacation food obsession? Honestly, we eat like monks at home. We have old-fashioned oatmeal (or steel-cut oats, if there’s time) with walnuts and raisins for breakfast every day. I almost always have a fresh salad and quinoa or hummus for lunch, while the husband consistently has a ham-and-cheese sandwich. Dinner might be homemade lasagna or something easy, like a cheese sandwich pressed into submission on the Foreman Grill with a bowl of leftover Cowboy Stew. We rarely go out to eat. We’ve found that one of the consequences of cooking your own healthy, delicious food at home is that your average restaurant food doesn’t measure up anymore.

    What does measure up, however, is your above-average restaurant food. And this is what turns our vacations into the pursuit of destination dining. So while I can’t be bothered with a 10-minute drive to Krispy Kreme for Hot Doughnuts Now (trust me when I tell you that growing up with a Krispy Kreme within easy driving distance makes their doughnuts way less of an attraction later), I am perfectly willing to make a 15-minute hike to the subway station, stand on a crowded car for five minutes, make a 10-minute hike to the Doughnut Plant and stand in a long line for a Valrhona chocolate doughnut. I deem the calories worthwhile.

    And that’s how my photo albums end up filled with pictures of doughnuts, ice cream, cheeseburgers and steamed shrimp, while we forget to take pictures of ourselves. Sorry, Mom.

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