Weeks Twelve CSA Challenge – Without A Net

Inspired by last week’s challenge, I decided to work without a net this week. Still time-crunched from canning and the new job, I opened the bag of vegetables and pondered, “What great dish could be made from these ingredients that would cover many meals?”

veggies

First, I thought pasta, but what about those potatoes? I could make gnocchi from them…oh, but that time crunch. Gnocchi takes time. And all those peppers…especially the hot ones…would likely overwhelm the sauce.

Heat has it…chili is the answer.

I thought about the food science that goes into chili. The balance of taste and texture. The thickness to the sauce. I thought about all the CSA ingredients and saw their place in the mix. The only additional items I would need to purchase to create the taste I imagined would be some ground meat and tomato paste.

I started with a mirepoix…also known as the holy trinity of Cajun cooking. Traditionally, the three key ingredients of a mirepoix are onions, bell peppers and celery. In this case, I substituted garlic for the celery. I decided to take another lesson from gumbo and decided to add texture to the chili by adding these vegetable ingredients in waves. The first would be the mirepoix vegetables…browning and caramelizing them before adding the browned and drained meat, tomato sauce and paste. The second wave would be added midway through the cooking. The third would be added with about 15 minutes of cooking time remaining. By adding vegetables in this way, each has a different consistency and flavor it adds to the finished dish.

I didn’t write a recipe, just mixed and tasted and thought about ratios between flavors and consistency while it cooked down to a yummy, yummy chili suitable for lunch, dinner and packed lunches.

Weeks Ten CSA Challenge – Working Girl

This week I started a part-time job instructing “Business Planning for Entrepreneurs.” Classes start September 17th, and I need to build a new 12-week curriculum before that date. Heading into an office other than the one at my home and adding extra hours of work to my schedule made this week’s challenge an easy choice. I needed to make meals that wouldn’t consume too much time in the preparation and would provide leftovers that could become lunches for the week.

Another great first this week…my niece took her first horse ride! No more ponies led by others. Amanda took the reins.

Reins

The ride was beautiful and on the way back to the barn, we saw a beautiful sunset! Life in the country rocks.

Sunset

Week ten CSA included: beets, collards, carrots, onions, yellow squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, jalapeño pepper, corn, garlic, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Week Six Challenge:

Think outside the casserole and make dishes that satisfy for a meal as well as serve up well reheated for a lunch.

RECIPES, LINKS, REVIEWS AND DISCOVERIES

Stuffed Green Pepper

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: My first stuffed peppers without meat and they were refreshingly good. I still like meat, but more and more lately I don’t get really hungry for it often. The yellow squash and the zucchini baked inside the peppers really were a great match to the pepper.

 

Vegie Burgers

Recipe: Spicy Black Bean and Corn Burgers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: These were so good that I made a quadruple batch and froze them as patties for future lunches and dinners. To the large batch I did add an extra can of whole black beans I didn’t mash and I went really light on the flour. They held together fine without it. Also VERY good with Sweet Chili Sauce.

Beets

Recipe: Roasted Beets

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-beets-recipe.html

Review: When roasting beets you really can’t go wrong. The thyme added a little something extra. My local grocery didn’t have goat cheese. Yes, I can’t believe it either. So I had to substitute for feta. Good, but not as good as goat cheese.

 

Chicken-Rice Soup

Recipe: Chicken and Rice Soup

Link: My brain

Review: I buy my chickens locally these days. They roam free at Barry’s Barnyard. They feed in a pasture…protected from predators in a huge wire and wood enclosure. Chickens raised this way taste better in my opinion. But until I used a slow-cooked chicken carcass I made for dinner to make soup, I didn’t know how much better they were. For years I thought I had gotten my grandma’s recipe wrong because my chicken noodle just didn’t have that special something hers had. But using the free-range chicken for the soup made the difference. It tastes exactly like grandma’s soup.

Recipe: Cut up a good-sized onion and scallion, about 5 whole carrots, celery if you like. Rinse the whole chicken inside and out. Season lightly inside and out with Borsari. Mix together some of the onion and carrot and celery and place inside cavity. Place mixed veggies in bottom of slow cooker and place chicken on top of them breast side down. Make about 2 cups of chicken bullion and pour into slow cooker, add about two cups more or water. Turn cooker to low and cook for about 4 hours. I start checking at four hours because cooking time will range with the size of the chicken being cooked.

When chicken is done, lift and serve.

 

Pour the veggie and bullion mixture left from slow cooking into a stockpot. (Remove some of the fat from the top of the mixture to reduce calories if you like before transferring it to the new pot.) Pick the carcass for meat and add the meat to the veggie and bullion mixture. To be really authentic to the recipe, remove the larger chicken bones, snap them in two and add them to the mixture. Now is the time to add any extra produce you may desire. Collards worked great, but anything you like with chicken will be good. Add a bay leaf to the mixture and cook on low temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Remove bones and add noodles or rice (cooked separately in advance) to the pot and cook for about ten more minutes. ENJOY and thank Mrs. Nevada Elizabeth Smead Gray.

Weeks Ten CSA Challenge – Working Girl

This week I started a part-time job instructing “Business Planning for Entrepreneurs.” Classes start September 17th, and I need to build a new 12-week curriculum before that date. Heading into an office other than the one at my home and adding extra hours of work to my schedule made this week’s challenge an easy choice. I needed to make meals that wouldn’t consume too much time in the preparation and would provide leftovers that could become lunches for the week.

Another great first this week…my niece took her first horse ride! No more ponies led by others. Amanda took the reins.

Reins

The ride was beautiful and on the way back to the barn, we saw a beautiful sunset! Life in the country rocks.

Sunset

Week ten CSA included: beets, collards, carrots, onions, yellow squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, jalapeño pepper, corn, garlic, zucchini, and tomatoes.

Week Six Challenge:

Think outside the casserole and make dishes that satisfy for a meal as well as serve up well reheated for a lunch.

RECIPES, LINKS, REVIEWS AND DISCOVERIES

Stuffed Green Pepper

Recipe: Stuffed Peppers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: My first stuffed peppers without meat and they were refreshingly good. I still like meat, but more and more lately I don’t get really hungry for it often. The yellow squash and the zucchini baked inside the peppers really were a great match to the pepper.

 

Vegie Burgers

Recipe: Spicy Black Bean and Corn Burgers

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/stuffed-peppers-recipe.html

Review: These were so good that I made a quadruple batch and froze them as patties for future lunches and dinners. To the large batch I did add an extra can of whole black beans I didn’t mash and I went really light on the flour. They held together fine without it. Also VERY good with Sweet Chili Sauce.

Beets

Recipe: Roasted Beets

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-beets-recipe.html

Review: When roasting beets you really can’t go wrong. The thyme added a little something extra. My local grocery didn’t have goat cheese. Yes, I can’t believe it either. So I had to substitute for feta. Good, but not as good as goat cheese.

 

Chicken-Rice Soup

Recipe: Chicken and Rice Soup

Link: My brain

Review: I buy my chickens locally these days. They roam free at Barry’s Barnyard. They feed in a pasture…protected from predators in a huge wire and wood enclosure. Chickens raised this way taste better in my opinion. But until I used a slow-cooked chicken carcass I made for dinner to make soup, I didn’t know how much better they were. For years I thought I had gotten my grandma’s recipe wrong because my chicken noodle just didn’t have that special something hers had. But using the free-range chicken for the soup made the difference. It tastes exactly like grandma’s soup.

Recipe: Cut up a good-sized onion and scallion, about 5 whole carrots, celery if you like. Rinse the whole chicken inside and out. Season lightly inside and out with Borsari. Mix together some of the onion and carrot and celery and place inside cavity. Place mixed veggies in bottom of slow cooker and place chicken on top of them breast side down. Make about 2 cups of chicken bullion and pour into slow cooker, add about two cups more or water. Turn cooker to low and cook for about 4 hours. I start checking at four hours because cooking time will range with the size of the chicken being cooked.

When chicken is done, lift and serve.

Pour the veggie and bullion mixture left from slow cooking into a stockpot. (Remove some of the fat from the top of the mixture to reduce calories if you like before transferring it to the new pot.) Pick the carcass for meat and add the meat to the veggie and bullion mixture. To be really authentic to the recipe, remove the larger chicken bones, snap them in two and add them to the mixture. Now is the time to add any extra produce you may desire. Collards worked great, but anything you like with chicken will be good. Add a bay leaf to the mixture and cook on low temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Remove bones and add noodles or rice (cooked separately in advance) to the pot and cook for about ten more minutes. ENJOY and thank Mrs. Nevada Elizabeth Smead Gray.

Weeks Seven, Eight & Nine CSA Challenge – “Quick” Meatless Meals

It has been busy at Villa Capriccio! Harvest season for my own garden, canning, freezing and making jam has usurped time.

I am not complaining, the haul has been awesome.

Check out my giant zucchini – 19” long – 6” radius at largest point and yielding 15 cups of zucchini for 5 batches of zucchini bread this winter!

 mongo cuke 

It was the first season for potatoes in my back yard and super excited about my 12 batches of raspberry-peach jam.

 

 Potatoes      Jam

Unfortunately, all this bounty has shortchanged my CSA experiment. I had to combine the last three weeks to make it all work. Still, it has continued to be a delight. With all the great vegetables and fruits coming my way, I decided to celebrate by going meatless. And since time was at a premium, I chose “quick” recipes. Not to say there isn’t some prep involved, but they are more streamlined than my usual choices.

Over the last three weeks, my CSA packages have included: Cabbage, fresh garlic, collards, corn, new potatoes, shallots, white onion, sweet basil, yellow squash and eggplant.

Week Seven-Eight-Nine Challenge:

Quick meatless meals

 

Food for thought

  • Making Eggplant Parmesan was my first chance ever to whisk, dip, flour, dredge, and fry anything. It is a skill I am long overdue in acquiring. Frying may not be the healthiest, but it is yummy.
  • I need to find a better knife sharpener.

 

RECIPES, LINKS, REVIEWS AND DISCOVERIES

 cabbage burgers

Recipe: Cabbage Carrot and Green Pea Patties

Link: http://recipes.malayali.me/menu/easy-recipes/cabbage-carrot-green-peas-patties

Review: These were tasty, but man, or man, were they tough to get to hang together. There seems to be no binder. Perhaps I got the grind too course or too fine, but it just wouldn’t stick it out through the process. I want to take another crack at it because it would be terrific to have a stockpile of these in the freezer for quick lunches. Maybe I’ll add some black beans whole and some ground to add some southwest and kick it up a bit.

 

 Eggplant

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan

Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/eggplant-parmesan-recipe.html

Review: As previously mentioned, I am not an eggplant fan. My CSA seems determined to change my mind with every variety of eggplant coming through the door. This eggplant parm was awesome! I loved it. The marinara sauce was incredible! I must confess, I did ratchet up the red sauce a bit with about five times the required basil, twice the thyme and double the garlic. YUM! The red sauce recipe is a keeper for a homemade sauce.

 

Summer Nights Eggplant

Recipe: Summer Nights Eggplant

Link: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/summer-nights-eggplants/

Review: This is kind of a twice-baked potato idea. You hollow the eggplant, blend and cook with other ingredients, stuff it back into the eggplant and bake. Think my breadcrumb ratio was off as they seemed to override the taste of the other ingredients, but it was a good meal and folks had seconds.

 

Corn and bean salad

Recipe: Southwestern Black Bean Salad

Link: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/06/southwestern-black-bean-salad.html

Review: Yum from every angle. Great as a side dish. Great as a chunky dip, great a day later and even a week later. Paired with blue corn chips, it was absolutely awesome.

 

Yellow squash

Recipe: Summer Squash Ribbons with Thai Basil and Peanuts

Link: http://food52.com/recipes/5505-summer-squash-ribbons-with-thai-basil-and-peanuts

Review: This was so good, that I have made it three times in the past three weeks. Though it has shown me that my mandolin doesn’t slice thin enough to really do this recipe justice. Even better about this recipe…no cooking involved and a great use of my fresh Thai basil. A real winner.

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 2.59.25 PM

Recipe: Kickin’ Collard Greens

Link: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/kickin-collard-greens/

Review: I liked this recipe, but I think I would do it differently. A little less liquid to cook down the collards with and I wouldn’t put the bacon in with the greens until the bulk of the liquid cooked off. I like the bacon to have a slight touch of crispness rather than getting all soggy.

 

 potatogalettes

Recipe: Potato Galettes with Sage

Link: http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/09/01/potato-galettes-sage-recipe

Review: Perfect with a little sour cream! Definitely comfort food rather than everyday fare, but very good.

 

 

 

 

Hog Honey

I woke excited to prepare huge quantities of bean soup with vegetables and ham. I lit a candle…fire is essential to any artistic endeavor. I chopped and caramelized sweet red onions in organic butter, then added garlic and carrots and parsley. I drained and refilled a bowl containing a medley of 13 rehydrating types of beans. My spirits were high and the house smelled incredible.

This was the second batch of inspiration bean soup I had made. In the first, I had used half a cut of “ham in natural juices” and the soup had turned out aggressively salty. This time, I had soaked the ham in water for about 8 hours…in effect performing a reverse-brining. I drained the ham and began to prepare it for its introduction to flame. I popped a cube of ham into my mouth. Three chomps in, I stopped chewing. The ham was no longer salty…but it was no longer anything. Even the texture seemed imitation…as if the layers of muscle had not been incubated in an actual sus.

I chewed a few more times hoping my taste buds had been wrong. Nope, there it was – or more accurately – there it wasn’t. The taste, the texture, the mitigating pleasure that allows me to swallow the killing and eating of sweet Wilbur had been stolen. This little piggy had died in vain. It had likely been raised in confinement and inundated with antibiotics used to fend off the diseases that arise from close-quarter living.

It is estimated that 10 million pounds of antibiotics are used each year to keep factory-raised pigs healthy. That is three times of the amount used to treat human illness per annum. Wonder if there is a connection to the evolution of antibiotic resistant super bugs?

But back to the point, I knew antibiotics were used and conditions were not good in mass farming, but that did not stop me buying this ham in natural juices in the first place. For that action, I am truly remorseful. I am very sorry, piggy.

Rather than racing to the bottom in cost, perhaps if I – and others like me – never again paid for factory farm pork, things would be different. But I was part of the tasteless, inhumane, and pollution-producing problem.

I had heard of an aquaculture farm called Veta La Palma located in Spain. Their production methods stress biodiversity and eco-relationships. Fish farms usually pollute massively and demand more protein sources to feed the fish than make their product economically wise. But the kind of “farming” done at Veta La Palma demands no feed and in fact cleans the water that flows into it from the Guadalquivir River. This fish farm masquerading as marshlands has actually saved the wetlands and created a de facto bird sanctuary that hosts some 250 species of birds, of which some 50 are in threat in other areas. Folks at Veta La Palma will tell you that they lose 20% of their fish to birds, but the interplay of all species right down to phytoplankton make it all work, and make their fish delicious. They say, they farm extensively, not intensively. A new motto for business?

Closer to the trough, I remember visiting my Great Aunt Ruth’s and Great Uncle Glenn’s farm in Transylvania, North Carolina when I was a child. While there, I was treated to a porcine taste that seems to have been a culinary mirage. Life-long blue dogs, Ruth and Glenn’s dogs were named after the Kennedy boys and their pigs were named Kissinger and Nixon. These pigs were raised traditionally, eating scraps from the house and crops from the farm. Each slaughter season, the ham would be cured and hung. When it was brought into the farmhouse for preparation, it was encrusted with mold. With farm-breed familiarity and nonchalance, Aunt Ruth cut off the mold and set about making Sunday dinner. I must tell you, I have never, ever tasted the duplicate of that ham’s taste and texture. One better, Aunt Ruth made a “hog honey” that – as near as my six-year-old brain could comprehend –  as the scant collected dripping from the fried ham. There was so little, but I wanted to eat it all…with my fingers…then rub it on my skin to have the goodness absorbed there too. No joke, even at six, I knew hog honey was food of the gods.

I could try to inject flavor into the store-bought piss-poor replica meat* before me this day, but I knew the soup would likely be better off without it. Still, a pig had died for my sins. We had better eat it.

I dropped the pan-fried porkesque nuggets into the soup as I made a vow. Never again would I buy anything other than “ham” grade pork and I would – from now on – purchase all my meat products from family farms.  Meat is used sparingly at my house. My health is worth the investment of better meats as is the treatment of the animals that feed us, our shared ecological system, and the message sent to big agra. Food should taste good, animals should be raised and slaughtered humanely, and producing food should not toxify our planet.**

*Not the pig’s fault.

**Apologies as well to all vegetarians and vegans. You are absolutely right. But I cannot yet join your ranks.

Unbeetable

nutrition.jpgWhen I was a kid, there weren’t many vegetables that I liked. Purple, bloody beets with their mineral-rich taste from a life underground did not stand a chance of making my “will eat” list.

But children grow, tastes change, and around college everyone has to experiment. It began innocently at the salad bar. There they were, the cut, canned beets of my youth lying sad and neglected in their stainless steel crock beneath the sneezeguard. Somehow, I couldn’t leave them there like that, filled to the rim, neglected by all. So I put three slices atop my salad and drown them under a deluge of ranch dressing. To my surprise, I was was not able to choke down a bite of beets dripping with buttermilk, mayo, vinegar and herbs. But I actually liked the beet’s earthy flavor – what I could taste of it. I knifed back some of the dressing to reveal more of the beet’s flavor and tried another bite. I was hooked.

At my first job, a friend took me to a Russian restaurant and ordered me a bowl of borscht. With the first spoonful, I was hopelessly lost in my love for the beet. This newest root vegetable experience moved beets from my salad menu to my main course.

Over the years, I have become a bit of a beet connoisseur. Red beets, golden beets, Chioggia (striped) beets, mixed beets, baby beets…I would roast them all in carefully hand-shaped aluminum foil pods with just enough olive oil that the oven’s heat would transform them to fresh-cooked beet-fection! Beet salad, beet pasta, beet glazes, beet pastries, beet tarte, beet chips, smoked beets, even beet brownies were all made and devoured. Okay, by now you likely think me a freak of beetkind, so I must assure you that I have enjoyed many other interests and foodstuffs over the years. Beets are not my life, but they do hold a culinary fascination.

Since delving into the world of actual nutrition contained in the goodies I consume, I have come to not only love, but to respect the beet for what it brings to the table.

Beyond the beet’s prescribed nutrition labeling:

–       Rev the juicers this St. Valentine’s Day because beets (and especially beet juice) contain boron, a trace mineral that increases sex hormone levels in both women and men.

–       Pee assured of your stomach acid level. If you eat beets and then notice a festive pink color to your urine, you are low in stomach acid. A girl-power tinged stream means that your digestive system is not working to its full power. It is an indication that your GI track may be letting you down in the metabolization and assimilation departments, not taking full advantage of the nurturing minerals and vitamins in the foods you feed it.

–       Beets can be a recovering sugar-addict’s best friend. The beet root is filled with the sweet stuff (about 20% sugar, 75% water and 5% pulp). Beets are a simple carb (digested quickly) and that is glycemic index bad news (64 out of a 100 rating). But since beets are nutrition- and phytochemical-dense they stand out from their snack-cake cousins for those who are not compromised in insulin production.

–       You are now entering beet-tox!  Red beets are rich in betaine, which is good news for your cardiovascular health and liver. Without getting into dizzying scientific nomenclature, the detoxification properties of betaine lessen your chances of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart disease, and even liver disease by lessening the fatty deposits that accumulate there. And if beets made you tink pink, keep eating, because the betaine in beets actually raises stomach acid levels.

–       Beet cold season. The high concentration of vitamin C in red beets helps you dodge the common cold. Beyond the sniffles, the red beet’s combo of vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants called betalains, has been studied to help in the areas of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic inflammation.

–       A beetroot juice a day keeps the high blood pressure away. The journal Hypertension published by the American Heart Association established that 500 ml of beetroot juice lowered blood pressure an hour after consumption and the effects lasted up to 24 hours – thanks to the beet’s high nitrate levels. Nitrates (nitric oxide) has also been shown to increase the efficiency of your mitochondria, boosting energy levels, endurance, and oxygen-levels in the blood vessels.

–       Skip the turkey but keep the sense of well-being. Yes, beets conjure the dreamy, mind-calming effects brought on by foods like Thanksgiving fowl and chocolate because they also contain tryptophan. The betalains found in red beets have been used in some treatments of depression. And though so far, only rats have been put to the test, but the uridine found in beets and molasses have been shown to improve mood disorders.

–       Those green-loving Brits have even begun using surplus sugar beet crops to produce biobutanol, an alternative bio fuel source.

–       The beet’s high levels of potassium, magnesium, niacin, folic acid, iron, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more could keep me here all day touting beets benefits. But all this typing has made me hungry for beets. How about oven roasted beets with crumbled Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor goat cheese…oh yeah, that’s the spot.

Electronic Nutritionist

Day Zero:

I signed onto my truestar.com account and hit the “Nutrition” tab. There it was, my suggested meal plan for the coming weeks. I clicked the first day. The meal and snack names were evocative, but I wanted to know what was in the “Miso Salmon with English Pea Sauce” before committing to eating a dinner plate of it. Clicked on “More” and a new screen showed me the ingredients, preparation instructions, calorie count and nutritional breakdown. Okay, Miso Salmon looked pretty tasty after all. Still, what else could I have? The “Substitute” button gave me 25 other options for dinner. Stuck with the salmon. Then curiosity led me to click the “Repeat” button. Another window appeared in which I could choose to repeat the Miso Salmon on any day or as many days as I pleased over the next two weeks. Wow, this seemed altogether cool.

As I proceeded to choose my meals, it did not escape me that no recipe contained dairy. I mean, is a day without butter any kind of day at all?

“Consider it a day with no adverse allergy reactions,” came the know-it-all reply from my super-ego.

Okay, okay, I would give it a try. After all, I had selected the dairy-free option to try to lessen my allergies.

I hit the print recipes button and two-weeks worth of food plan instructions slid out of my printer. Then I printed my shopping list. Yes, the Truestar software breaks out recipe items and compiles them into a shopping list organized by grocery store section.

Reviewing at the shopping list, I was disappointed that like items were not combined. For example, the four broccoli portions that appear in four recipes were all in the vegetables section of the list, but all were listed separately with disparate measurement schemes. So I had to find each listing, convert some to cups and then aggregate them myself to know how much I should purchase. I think a software upgrade would fix this inconvenience.

At the grocery store, I realized something else. Since I would be cooking only for myself, some of the ingredients seemed impractical. My list would have me buy four loaves of different breads for the eight slices of bread I would be eating. I am certain these bread choices would enrich the flavor – and possibly the nutritional content – of the meals I would be eating, but unless I was cooking for a family, the extra loaves would have gone to waste and I don’t really enjoy the taste of bread after it has been frozen. So I bought only one of the breads listed.

It did cross my mind that I could avoid dilemmas like this by either being more scrupulous in my menu selection or by inviting a party of friends to join me for every meal. But I doubt either of those options are going to happen.

Gearing up was pricey as my checkout receipt came to $220.00. But there were many expensive items that won’t need to be repurchased for months like oils and spices. Also, I thought with a hint of self-deprecation, had I been eating better all along, many of these foodstuffs would have already been in my pantry. So cheers to a high grocery bill! It is less expensive than constantly eating out and means that I am investing in my rise rather than my ruin.

Besides, seeing twice the amount of fruits and vegetables in my shopping cart made me feel immensely happy. And the best thing? When I finish my weeks’ meals, nothing should be left spoiling in the back of my refrigerator. It is a little ridiculous, but I am over-zealously looking forward to this zero-sum game of filling, then emptying my fridge without waste.

Day One:

Though the list of recipe ingredients gave me the impression that preparation might be more time-consuming than I desired, I was pleasantly surprised by how easily these meals were prepared. However, the instructions did point up my need for a blender and to prep a little better so I am not reading that brown rice should have been prepared before removing the Orange Chicken Sizzler from the wok. But hey, the Rice Krispie Peanut Butter Balls were a revelation. I actually like them better than regular Rice Krispies treats.

Day Two:

As I forced the next bite of vegan cheddar cheese to my lips, all I could think was how strong and repugnant the aftertaste would be. I managed to get down one ounce of the stuff, but decided the remaining two ounces would go to the dogs. They were very appreciative. Surely, a couple slices of avocado would supplement the fats and protein to be furnished by the cheese. I am not faulting the recipe, but the “cheese” itself. But I haven’t given up. I am currently searching for non-dairy cheese products that I can tolerate taste-wise.

I felt remarkably balanced today in both mood and energy. Since I don’t drink coffee, I usually crash after lunch, or I have to eat too little lunch to avoid this plunge. But today, I just felt good from start to finish.

I will admit to one sweets craving, but I think that was triggered by seeing a brownie mix tucked away in the cupboard. I felt full, so it was pretty easy to ignore the craving…after moving the brownie mix out of sight. But it did bring up the thought that I would have to plan in some indulgences to stay sane…as well as reorganize my food storage. Besides, if I know that sweets aren’t completely off my table, perhaps I won’t desire them so much.

Day Three:

During my three hours of workout today I didn’t flag…not one bit. I am starting to believe that the right balance of food eaten at the right times will increase my athletic performance! This is a revelation I would not have gotten to without my electronic nutritionist.

Let’s be honest. Very few of us have the necessary training or time to compile daily menus that are balanced, sustaining and calorically on point. We can hire people to supply our meals, but this seems to me a temporary fix.

I now feel connected to my eating in a way that pre-packed microwave-ready meals could never match. While preparing my food, I feel as if I am learning how I should eat. That if – after some time – this menu resource was taken from me, I would have learned enough that I would be better able to myself well.

Day Four

You knew it would happen…I had a brownie. The brownie was yummy and perfect and I did not regret eating it. However, I will admit that about 40 minutes after the brownie, I experienced an energy drain that I did not enjoy.

These meals have had very little refined sugar in them. Previously, I was on a constant stream of the stuff. Eat sugar….feel good…start to crash…eat more sugar. And I was living that way without questioning it. This is a real eye-opener.

Day Five:

Today I heard back from two friends whom I had told about the Truestar site. They had both entered their vital information and received daily calorie counts that were dubious. This is likely a weakness of the program that should be examined. I think that assessing optimal calorie burn ratios from a few questions is prone to inaccuracy. Perhaps it would be better to have participants track their actual calorie expenditures for a week, then enter those numbers into the program to guide their menu options.

Day Six:

Tonight I ate at a restaurant. On the menu plan, I could have selected eat out options, but I figured that I could handle one or two meals out on my own. I found this to be true as when I arrived at the restaurant, what sounded good to me was an item that most resembled real, unprocessed food.

Day Seven:

I am gaining confidence that I will be able to continue eating well. I am thrilled at the amount of fruits and veggies that go into each meal and I am developing a taste for new foods. I had just one meal this week that I would repeat only if starving and many meals I really liked. At the end of seven days, I have realized that I can do this…without a degree or hours of planning. Food was my biggest adversary, but through this exercise it seems to be becoming a friend.

Electronic Nutritionist

Rice Krispie Peanut Butter Balls

Approx. Calories: 300   42.9% Carbohydrates (31.42g)  26.6% Protein (19.57g)  30.5% Fat (9.96g)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp Creamy peanut butter (Truestar suggests President’s Choice Just Peanuts old-fashioned peanut butter)

2 ¼ tsp Honey

24 gm Protein Powder

1 ½ tbsp Water

1/3 cup Crispy Brown Rice Puffs (They suggest Erewhon cereal)

Instructions:

Melt honey and peanut butter in a microwave safe dish for 45 seconds. Remove and add in protein powder and water and mix evenly. Fold in rice puffs. Shape into balls. NOTE: You can use crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth.