Tuesday, May 15, 2007

from 4/4/2007

I just made a huge decision. Probably not a big decision for most people, but a biggie for me. I just turned off my cable. And, I'm a serious cable-watcher. I had digital, On Demand, DVR, HBO, Showtime, etc. But, I need to save money (for a potential, upcoming, undercover maneuver), and also I spend a lot of time on the couch in front of it--too much time. So, it's a good decision for the health of my wallet and my body. No more Lost, ANTM, Food Network, Ellen, Golden Girls, LOGO, etc. Good-bye, my friends. I'll miss your endless hours of mindless (and sometimes not mindless) entertainment. But, I will NOT miss the ass-y Comcast phone operators, service changes, increasing charges and reduced service. Anyway, yeah. Cable is no more. R.I.P. I know that soon I won't even miss it, and since Spring is here, there won't be time to watch it soon anyway. Plus, my time is way better spent taking walks, talking with friends, reading and cooking!

My vices are dropping like flies, I tell ya!

Speaking of...I'm quitting smoking. Soon. It's my birthday gift to myself this year. I'm tentatively planning on stopping on my actual birthday (next Tuesday!), but I want to use Chantix (the new smoking cessation medicine (again, tried to put a link, but it's ridiculously long. can't we add html links in here? anyone know how? Anyway, google it). You take the first phase for a week while you smoke, then the second phase for three weeks, then you're done. So, I've just been fighting with the doctors office/insurance company/pharmacy for a week trying to get it all sorted out. Wouldn't it seem like something the insurance company would be jumping up and down about? I mean, quitting smoking is seriously the best possible thing you can do for your health, so it would follow that you'd reduce your need for medical care and such. But, simply put, they are bastards. Hopefully I'll be able to get it by tomorrow, and then can quit on April 12th!

And, since I'm trying to save money, then I'm trying not to go back to the co-op or Whole Foods (or anywhere else to spend money) until I actually really *need* stuff. I have tons of ingredients, but I'm reading cookbooks all the time now, and just think that I have to try out all the recipes right now, and then justify buying these unusual (i.e. expensive) ingredients, and end up buying a ton of other stuff, too. Plus, I have no excuse for buying ingredients when my kitchen is a mess, right? I can't cook when it's all effed up anyway. So, clean first. (Why, oh why do I not have a dishwasher???). Save money.

I have a dyke book club meeting tonight, and they're seriously the funnest night all month. I can't wait. And, I need to make a snack to take with me, so I think I'm going to make Heidi's recipe for Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies. They're not "healthy", per se, but they do contain all natural, healthy ingredients, and I don't think any food made from natural ingredients is actually "bad", as long as you control the portion. So, it's actually really good for me when make stuff like that to take it somewhere else. If they were at my house I'd eat them (all of them), but since I'll be taking them for the group, I can eat one, enjoy it, and move on.

So, that's another tip that works for me--if you're going to indulge in your favorite thing (my weakness is totally baked goods and ice cream), then you gotta get it on the outside, or make-it-and-take-it. I cannot have it in my house because I cannot be trusted not to justify reasons why I deserve it. If it's not an option, I'm not going to eat it. Simple as that.

When I started on the healthquest, I went through my kitchen, and got rid of everything that I didn't want to eat anymore. I did two phases of this. The first one was all the sweets and junk foods, and then after I started elimating all the meat, processed foods, refined sugars, and all other non-foods, I did a sweep of that stuff, too. You don't have to throw it away; I gave mine to a friend, but you could also donate it to a food pantry for extra added karma points. The important thing is to get it the hell away from you.

I wish there were lots of good vegetarian/vegan cooking magazines, books, sites, etc. for low-cal, low-fat recipes, all-natural recipes. Just because it's veg or vegan doesn't mean it's healthy. Lots of veg recipes use fake meats and other ingredients that are full of preservatives, sodium and non-fermented soy products, and most of what you can find that's ready to eat, or ready to microwave is all made up of that stuff. A lot of evenings I get home from work, want to hit the couch and grab something easy to prepare quickly, and since I'm trying to avoid all the processed stuff, it makes it harder. But, the best way to be prepared is to do some batch cooking on the weekends. I like to make a few meals, and then divide them up into lidded containers so I can just grab them when I'm hungry. (I like to call these "snack packs" just 'cause it's cute). I love cooking, but sometimes I just don't have the time and/or energy to make a from-scratch healthy meal.

Also, I like to keep some marinated tofu in the fridge so then I can either bake it or saute it quickly to add to some rice and veggies, or whatever I'm having. My favorite way to make marinated tofu is to slice it into strips, boil it in water for about ten minutes (it helps to firm it up and hold the marinade well), then put it in a sealed container (that has enough room for you to put the tofu slices as flat--not stacked--as possible) with some marinade that I throw together with equal parts Bragg's Liquid Aminos and teriyaki sauce, a little pure maple syrup (or you can use raw honey or raw agave nectar), some crushed red pepper, fresh minced garlic and ginger. Mix and taste, and then adjust to what is yummy to you. I tend to flip the tofu pieces once or twice a day so they get equally seasoned on all sides.

My favorite way to eat those little marinated tofu goodies is to heat a little leftover brown rice (I also like to keep some prepared brown rice on hand all the time for quick meals). In a small, dry saute pan, toast some pine nuts until they're just golden and fragrant (5-8 minutes). While you're doing that, in another saute pan cook the tofu, and pour a little of the marinade over them, on medium-high heat. It makes kind of a glaze, and is sweet, salty goodness. When the tofu is done, I add a few handfuls of some baby spinach or arugula and let it wilt for just a few seconds (it'll get wiltier when you add it to the rice). Add the tofu/greens mixture to the rice, and mix. Then top with the pine nuts. It's delicious and nutritious, and really quick. Lots of protein, good fats, enzymes, fiber, vitamins! I'm actually getting hungry thinking about it. [I used to make this with salmon in place of the tofu (no need to marinate), and it's really good, too]. So simple!

Another tasty way to use the marinated tofu is to coat it in a mixture of bread crumbs, herbs and spices, and bake them in the oven for 10 minutes per side. These are the tastiest tofu tenders you'll ever have. For the coating mixture, I use bread crumbs (the better the bread, the better the crumbs!) ground fine, some dried oregano and thyme, freshly ground black pepper (you don't need salt since the tofu is really salty from the Bragg's) and a healthy dose of cayenne. But, you can totally experiment with the flavors of the herbs and spices. Just coat the tofu, and bake on a cookie sheet that you've sprayed with some organic cooking spray (Whole Foods has a bunch of different ones; I like the olive oil ones). I also give the tenders a spray, too, because that helps to make them crisp up on the outside. I give them another quick spray when I flip them. Yum! (350 degrees for about 10 minutes on both sides).

A little bit of planning, and you've always got good things to eat that you can feel good about eating.

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