Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sourdough Bread

I thought I would show a picture of my sourdough starter. I have it in a white crock and it sits on the counter covered with cheesecloth. We were getting ready to make bread the other night so I snapped a picture. Samantha is here on Thursday evenings and it is our cooking night. We were making a simple chicken and bean soup for dinner so we had some extra time to make some pretzels and a loaf of bread for her to take home with her. Our pretzels were tasty, but we really need to work on our technique before I post any pictures of them!

Since Samantha is really showing an interest in cooking and not just helping to cook I have been trying to show her how to properly measure ingredients. When she was younger I would usually measure out the ingredients and have them in prep bowls for her. Here she is measuring out the flour:

This was a fun evening for us. She has used yeast before when she and her mom make pizza crust, but she hasn't made bread before. The pizza crust recipe we both use only has to rise once before kneading and forming into a pizza so this was her first experience with kneading and rising twice. I do have a bread machine that I use some of the time, but if I am making bread for sandwiches or toast I prefer the shape that I get when I bake in a traditional loaf pan. Plus since she is wanting to learn how to cook, I wanted her to learn how to knead the dough on her own. 

I so wish I had a bigger kitchen! That small amount of counter space that you see is the only counter space that I have. Just to the right of her working space is the sink. Teeny, tiny kitchen!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Day of Cooking

I have spent part of today cooking. I made bread. This is a loaf of sourdough bread as soon as it come out of the oven. The recipe says to cool it completely before slicing, but here is how it went here at my house: pull bread out of the oven, out of the pan and onto a cooling rack, take a picture with the camera that was sitting right there on the counter, immediately grab the bread knife and slice off a piece and eat with butter. The rest I will wait to slice, but this is the first loaf of sourdough bread that I have made in a very long time and I couldn't wait that long!

My SIL wanted to come over last week to learn how to make chicken and dumplings. While she was here she mentioned that she would like to learn how to make bread next. Specifically, she wanted to learn how to make sourdough bread. A have thought of almost nothing except sourdough bread since that conversation! A couple of days after that, I was in Books A Million killing some time and saw a copy of a special release from Mother Earth News, a magazine all about bread. I glanced through it and saw several recipes that I wanted to try, and it included a section on sourdough breads. I bought the magazine and came home and got a batch of sour dough starter working. This is the first time that I have attempted making my own starter, but I don't know anyone to get a starter from, so making my own or finding one at the store were my options. I decided to try it on my own and it was ready to bake with today. I am very happy with the results!

While my SIL was here, she was teasing me a little because I was making sweet potato chips in my dehydrator, I has some alfalfa sprouts going in my seed sprouter and I had my meal planning sheets out.  It was good natured teasing just because I was doing all of this myself instead of just going to the store and buying them. She knows that I have been eliminating processed food from our diets and am trying to learn how to make as much from scratch as I can. One thing that she asked was how I find the time to do all the cooking. Here is one of the tips I shared with her. 

When I make spaghetti sauce, I make a bunch of it. Really it doesn't take that much longer to make a giant pot rather than just enough for one meal. Only the extra time to cut up extra onions, mince some extra garlic and open the jars of tomatoes. I am fortunate enough to be using tomatoes that my dad grew (organically) and canned himself. For instance, I had planned to make lasagna for dinner tonight. I knew there was no more sauce in the freezer so I made a big pot of sauce this morning. I will have enough for tonight's lasagna plus two small bags that will be enough to make two pizzas and then three to four larger bags that will be for spaghetti, goulash or other meals. Those bags will go in the freezer so during the weeks ahead when we have a busy night planned, I have a healthier, quick dinner solution that does not involve me opening a can or jar of sauce. 

I was trying to let her know that she can make these changes herself if she wants to and it can be done in a way that she will have options other than a drive through on the nights that life just gets crazy. Here is a picture of my sauce:

One of the great blogs I have found while transitioning to all real foods has been Kelly the Kitchen Kop. She does a fabulous round up on Wednesdays for other people to feature the real food that they are making in their homes. The has been a wonderful resource for me, not only for recipes, but tips on making this change and doing it a little more affordably. She has a great giveway posted here on her blog for a Le Creuset Cast Iron skillet. The one she has pictured is a beautiful yellow that would look great in my yellow and red kitchen! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No Bento Today

Normally I post a picture of Samantha's Friday Bento but this week school was canceled on Friday because of snow. Well not really snow, it was really more the threat of snow! So Samantha spent the day here. Her mom  gave her breakfast before she dropped her off, but around lunch time she asked for breakfast foods. I recently found an egg cuber and she had been dying to get some square eggs in a bento. I decided to make those for her brunch on Friday. 

On Friday evening, my sister in law came over to learn how to make chicken and dumplings. I know not the healthiest meal, but it is something that I do make on occasion. So she commented on how long it took to make the dumplings, cook the chicken etc. vs. simply opening a can. She asked how I find time to do that every night. To be fair, I only work part time now while she works full time. But most of my adult life, with the exception of the last three years, I have always worked two jobs-a full time one and a part time one. I do have more time now. But I did explain that no matter how much or how little time I have, I have always prepared most of my own food. I told her it boiled down to a couple of things for me. Number one is that I have made the decision to try and reclaim a healthier life and body and for me that means not eating so much food that is so overly processed that they contain more chemicals than food. The other thing is planning my meals. We usually eat chicken twice a week so if I know I am going to be preparing that twice, I will try and only cook it once. Then later in the week if I want to make chicken and dumplings or chicken soup, or fajitas, then that step has already been take care of so that the main time that it takes, is only assembling the soup or other ingredients needed to make that second meal.

I know she also struggles with packing herself a lunch instead of relying on drive-thrus. I pulled some of my lunches out that were already ready to drop in my lunch box. I showed her my Easy Lunchboxes and told her that as I am putting away dinner, I put them into these containers and pop them in the fridge. Presto, dinner leftovers are put away and lunches are packed in the same step. Not only does this allow me to eat healthier lunches, it saves me money and time, especially in the mornings.

Monday, January 9, 2012


I had slacked off on my exercise and knew I need to get back on track. Not an excuse, but the holidays throw my schedule into a tailspin. I know I could have, and should have, still made time for the exercise, but I didn't. I have been moving a little more over the past week, but this was my first day back at the Y since before Christmas. The elliptical machines I like to use were all being used so I decided to jump on the Arc Trainer. I may not be able to walk tomorrow! 

I am also back to logging my food on a regular basis. I like doing it on my phone for several reasons. I always have my phone with me so there is no excuse to not log. Another reason is that the math is done for me. I can simply log that I ate 1/2 of blueberries and it adds it in, I don't have to go look somewhere else to find the calories. Since the math is done as soon as I log food or exercise, I can see where I stand at any given time in the day. 

Any tips you use that help keep you accountable?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday's Bento

Samantha requested sushi for today's bento lunch. So I made her some sushi with crab and salmon. She also have a finger salad with some mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes along with some ranch dipping sauce. To finish all the meal she has a fruit cup with oranges, grapes and blueberries ( they are under the grapes ). I usually eat with my niece Abby too, but don't usually take her a lunch. Samantha is the first one to eat lunch so I can catch her before she buys her lunch. I usually forget to call my sister-in-law to tell her to let Abby know not to buy her lunch. I was on the ball this week and managed to get everything at the store on my main grocery shopping trip and call my SIL.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Planning Meals

I have gotten back on track planning my meals. I could tell a big difference at the grocery store too! Everything I needed was on my list and that is all I put in my cart. I takes me a little while to actually get everything planned and down on paper, but it really makes up for it during the week. I try and pack my lunches the night before so that I am not tempted to drive through a fast food place. I purchased some Easy Lunchboxes and those are working out for me, as I put away the leftovers from dinner I go ahead and pack the next day's lunches.

 As far as the planning goes, I just typed up a sheet and then labeled it with each of the days. The photo above is our "info central" board. The organizer is from Thirtyone and I like that it has so many pockets on it. I try and keep everything in that central location. The paper beside the pens is my meal planning sheet inside a clear pocket. My extra sheets are in there too. When I sit down to plan the following week, I will check to see if there is anything that didn't get made that week and I put it at the beginning of the next week because I have already purchased the ingredients. Sometimes meals get skipped because we will do a leftover night if there are more leftovers than we can eat for lunch or if Kip is working late (and my dinner is popcorn or leftovers). I will also keep the older ones for a while for those times I am in a rut and can't think of anything new. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New year, New Goals, Update on 2011 Goals

Another new year another batch of broken resolutions? I don't really do resolutions, but I do have goals for every year. I have found that if I take the time to put those goals into writing I am much more likely to achieve them. When I was in jr. high, I read a couple of things that have really stuck with me about having goals, setting goals and then achieving them. The first one;
The problem with not having goals is never knowing whether or not you have achieved them"
I think that is a great thing to remember. I have found in my own life that having goals that can be achieved really does help me feel more settled. When that goal is achieved, I have a greater sense of accomplishment. Feeling accomplishment helps me to be happier too and I have a better send of being grounded and present in my life not just floating through trying to get by. 

Here were my goals for 2011. After each one, I will give an update.

***I am going to continue the changes that I have made. I also want to implement these changes throughout the rest of the year too. 
I did pretty good with this one. I have become more aware of the foods I eat and have eliminated some foods altogether that I know are just not good for me. And after learning how bad they were for me, I could not even justify eating them to satisfy a craving. 
***I want to continue my quest to be at a healthier weight. 
I kind of had a number of 50 pounds as a goal for the year. I did not quite meet that goal. I lost 44 lbs but through the holidays I have gained about 7 lbs back. That still puts me 37 lbs lighter than I was last year. I am not going to feel like I failed because I was short of my goal. I am going to celebrate those 37 lbs, enjoy my new clothes and continue to work on reducing that number. 
***I would like to lose enough weight that my doctor will take me off my blood pressure medication.
I am not there yet. I do have a family history of hight blood pressure, even among relatives that do not have weight issues, so I know that there is a possibility that this will not happen.I am not going to feel like a failure on this one either. I know I am getting to a healthier weight and if I still have to take blood pressure medications I will know that I have been doing what I need to be healthier and if that included medication, so be it.
***I would like to become more aware of where my food comes from and try to incorporate as much local food into my diet as possible.
I am pretty proud of this one. I joined a CSA with a local biodynamic farm this year and we really enjoyed all of the fresh produce that we received. I learned how to cook some new things like diacon radishes and swiss chard. We were amazed at how much better some things tasted. I don't thing either of us has every gotten that excited over fresh corn before!  
***I want to cook from scratch as much as possible so that I know exactly what is going into my food. I am pretty good with this one, but I know I could do better.
I am really doing a lot better in this area. I have learned to make BBQ sauce, salad dressings, different versions of hummus and a lot of other things that I used to buy without even thinking. I would like to get even better with this because I really do enjoy making things that way.

Another goal that I made after these was to participate in a 5K. I thought that was on the original list, but I think it was one of those that I thought would be too hard to achieve. BUT I DID IT!!! My goals for participating was to finish, preferably in under an hour and to not be the very last person to cross the finish line. But I would have just just as happy if I had finished. I met those goals and I can't tell you what a sense of accomplishment that was for me. If you have read my blog before you might remember my struggle with my body image and how I felt about my body due to my back problems. If not and you are interested, some of those blog posts can be found here. Basically my body's limitations prevent me from doing a lot and I was so focused on the "I can't". Finishing this 5K was a huge I CAN and I DID!!!!

So my goals for 2012 are:
***Continue learning more ways of a healthier lifestyle
***Learn more vegetarian dishes that feel like meals instead of just side dishes. I don't plan on becoming a complete vegetarian, but I do want to consume a lot less meat. I will still be eating cheese though. 
***Participate in another 5K, beating my last time. Even if only by a second or two, I want to get a little faster.
***Make sure to take the time to plan my meals. I do so much better, both with my weight and how much money I spend at the store if I take the time to plan. I have gotten away from that a little, and can tell a difference. I have gotten to the point that I can do it pretty quickly, but it more than makes up for the time because I only have to think about meals once. this is especially helpful with lunches.
***Continue moving to a healthier weight. I have that goal of 50 pounds again this year, but I will celebrate every pound that is gone. 
***Find more ways of being active in addition to "exercise time". If I can do that, I think I can influence Kip a little more since he really does not like to exercise. But for me, it also gives me extra calorie burning.

Anyone else want to share?