Wednesday, October 17, 2018

my new workout: OMG i'm so sore!

I regret asking my trainer if it's time to change my workout. I'm so sore this week!

I've been doing the same basic workout at the gym four days a week for quite awhile now. I'm a bit bored, but it's at the point where I know what to expect, how I'll feel when I'm done, and I'm kind of on auto pilot.

My current workout looks something like this:
  • Warm-up on the treadmill for 15 minutes, typically walking at 2.8 MPH while reading a book on my phone. I usually do this since I've been sitting at my desk all day (the gym is at work) and I need to loosen up; it helps relieve the back pain.  (I do a different warm-up when I go to see the trainer since time is limited and he's there to make me do it:  three sets of jumping jacks, mountain climbers and jogging in place.)
  • Three sets:  15 kettle bell swings (20 lbs.); 15 reverse lunges with kettle bell (15 lbs.); 15 sumo uprights with kettle bell (25 lbs.); and 15 lateral pulldowns (60 lbs.)
  • Three sets:  20 walking lunges (sometimes with two 10 lb. weights or a 10 lb. medicine ball); 20 body squats (sometimes with a 10 or 15 lb. weight or 10 lb. medicine ball); and either 15 pushups (floor or incline) or 10-15 squat jumps
  • Three sets of exercises on the weight machine. This varies from day to day and depends mostly on how my back is feeling. I typically do two of the following exercises:  10-15 chest presses with 40-50 lbs. of weight; 10-15 biceps curls with 30-40 lbs. of weight; 15 triceps pushdowns with 50 lbs of weight; or 15 cable squat rows with 70 lbs. of weight.
  • At the end I may add in a plank or wall sit for one minute, also depending on how my back feels.
  • I end with three different stretches.

To someone who doesn't really workout or does a different workout, this may look like a lot (or not), and it is. But having done it for a long time now, I'm much more efficient at it, which means I'm not working as hard as I could since I'm not really changing it up or challenging myself. Yes, I sweat and feel like I worked hard, but it's not difficult anymore. So, I asked my trainer last week if it's time for a change and, of course, he said yes. (Not sure why I thought he'd say no...) When I went to my appointment last week he showed me a preview of the new workout and...I'm really sore!

My new workouts look like this (he gave me two different ones that I will rotate throughout the week):

Workout 1, which I will do on Mondays and Wednesdays:
  • Warm-up (same as above)
  • Three sets:  20 walking lunges; 20 body squats; and 15 squat jumps
  • Three sets:  20 flies using two 10 lb. dumbbells; and 15 push-ups
  • Three sets:  20 chest presses  (30 lbs.; I may need to drop this to 25 lbs. since it was almost impossible to get through all three sets at 30 lbs.)
  • Three sets:  Left and right leg crunches, 15 on each side; and 15 flutter kicks
  • End with a one-minute plank or wall sit several times per week
  • End with three different stretches

Workout 2, which I will do on Tuesdays and Fridays:
  • Warm-up (same as above)
  • Three sets:  20 lateral lunges; 20 wide body squats; and 15 scissor jumps
  • Three sets:  20 lateral pulldowns (40 lbs.); and 20 biceps curls with either two 10 lb. dumbbells or on the weight machine with 20 lbs. of weight
  • Three sets:  20 kettle bell swings (20 lbs.) and 20 wall ball using a 10 lb. wall ball
  • Three sets:  20 ins and outs; and 20 bicycles
  • End with a one-minute plank or wall sit several times per week
  • End with three different stretches

Today is Wednesday and I've done both of the new workouts this week. How did it go? Well, I made it through the whole thing both days; however, I couldn't do all the ins and outs, and bicycles. I was able to do 10-15 each time, but not 20; it was really, really hard and my abs felt like they'd rip apart. Partly because they were sore from the previous day, and partly because it was just hard--I'm not used to doing ab work. And also it was rough on my back, even though the trainer showed me how to minimize pressure on it. Also, 30 lbs. on the chest press was almost impossible. Basically, the way it should go is that it should be really difficult to push out the last few reps during the third set. Instead, it was super difficult midway through the second set, so I'll need to bump it down to 25 lbs. until I get used to it. I found the scissor jumps to be difficult, mainly because I'm not used to the movement--it's basically a squat jump but you land in the lunge position) and my balance isn't what it used to be. For the next week or so I'll concentrate more on getting the movement right and improving my balance, and then I'll move on to speeding it up a bit. And finally, I found the wall ball/kettle bell swing portion to be difficult. It wasn't that it was hard on my back or too much weight, but, rather, it winded me for some reason. I'm guessing that's because I'm engaging the core during both exercises, which can cause me to become a bit winded usually.

So, to sum it up: I got through it, but I'm really sore and I want to die when I cough (well, maybe it's not THAT bad...). But I'm hoping this helps me get eating habits going back in the right direction again.

Monday, October 8, 2018

what's your workout soundtrack?

I've finally developed a workout soundtrack for myself and I'm so glad I did.  I now find that it's easier to keep myself on track, motivated (mostly) and entertained while doing my workout. It also makes it go by so much faster!

When I first started seriously working out way back in March 2016, I worked out in silence. Since I was in the company gym all by myself, I really didn't need any music and just did my thing; however, I couldn't figure out why it was so hard to get through it and seemed to take much longer than it really did.  When I went to the trainer each week, it seemed to go by really fast. I assumed it was because I had a person to interact with. One day I decided to play some music I'd downloaded onto my phone and it was a light bulb moment:  my workout went by much faster and I wasn't bored. I came to realize that I enjoyed having music while working out. I also came to realize that, in addition to the lack of music making my workout feel longer, I spent a lot of time bitching and moaning to myself in between sets, which made my workout actually be longer. Once I got the music going and adopted the attitude of, "Just suck it up and get it over with," things got much easier and more efficient in the gym.

About six months ago I decided to try the Pandora music app on my phone since I was bored of the music on my phone, and it was a pain to have to keep adding music while connected to my computer at home. My trainer uses it for his clients and he always plays the Hard Rock Strength Training station for me. I found that I liked a lot of the music, so I decided to give it a try myself. It's about $10.00 a month, which is the Pandora Premium subscription (I can play it in my car, too), although you can get the free version if you don't want to pay for it. It just means some of the functionality is limited and there are ads.

For awhile I played the Hard Rock Strength Training station and found that I kept playing the same songs when I worked out (they show up in the Recent list for easy access). I then eventually figured out that I could make my own custom playlists--I was a little slow on the uptake there--and that's been great for me. I promptly made a workout playlist, which I use everyday when I work out on my own.

This is my main playlist:

  • 'Till I Collapse by Eminem
  • Feel Invincible by Skillet
  • Not Afraid by Eminem
  • State of My Head by Shinedown
  • Jekyll and Hyde by Five Finger Death Punch
  • Closer by Nine Inch Nails
  • Dead but Rising by Volbeat
  • Remember the Name by Fort Minor
  • Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit 
  • Wild Side by Motley Crue

    The list probably looks a bit short, but that's because I typically walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes and read a book when I workout in the gym at work. And the reason for the walking, rather than what the trainer has me do (jogging in place, jumping jacks and mountain climbers), is that I sit at a desk all day and really need the walking to loosen my back and leg muscles. 

    Other music on the playlist, which I sometimes play if I want to switch it up:

    • Still Counting by Volbeat
    • Back in Black by AC/DC
    • Whole Lotta Rosie by AC/DC
    • Bleed it Out by Linkin Park (this is great for warming up)
    • Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. (never heard this one until someone on a forum I read suggested it)
    • Black Rose by Volbeat
    • And many more, most of which is Volbeat, Five Finger Death Punch, Disturbed and AC/DC
    I've also made a few playlists that I can use when I see the trainer since the studio has a wireless speaker. My custom playlist was a lifesaver in the studio this past week when I was getting over a cold and needed something especially fast-paced for my warm-up (he makes me jog in place, and do jumping jacks and mountain climbers).  

    So what's on your workout playlist? What song do you absolutely have to play every time, either because it gets the blood flowing or it means something to you? For me it's 'Till I Collapse by Eminem. Not only do I like the beat, which works well for the type of workout I do, but I like the lyrics.  I think the first part says it all and can apply to so many things in life. 

    'Cause sometimes you just feel tired, feel weak 
    And when you feel weak 
    You feel like you wanna just give up 
    But you gotta search within you 
    Tryna find that inner strength 
    And just pull that shit out of you 
    And get that motivation to not give up 
    And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall 
    Flat on your face and collapse 

    Friday, September 28, 2018

    Califia Cold Brew Coffee: Mocha Noir

    While I was grocery cat food shopping the other night I noticed something new in the milk aisle:  mocha flavored cold brew coffee made with almond milk. I'm always up for trying something new when it comes to a mocha coffee drink, but I tend to not try many since they're absolutely packed with sugar. I almost passed right by, but then I noticed that it said "25% less sugar" so I took a peek at the nutritional information. Surprisingly there's only 12 grams of sugar for the whole bottle. That's fairly low since so many of them pack 20 grams of sugar or more in a bottle. I will admit, though, that this bottle isn't as large as the Starbucks coffee drinks, so it's maybe not that much less sugar. That said, it was nice to see a bottle that is ONE serving size and not 1.5, 2 or 2.5.

    If you like a strong coffee flavor, need something dairy-free and want less sugar, this is for you. Personally I found the coffee flavor a bit too strong for me. I prefer more of a hint of coffee rather than full-on, in-your-face coffee flavor, but I'm also not a coffee drinker so that's probably why. I ended up adding some of my Fairlife milk to it in order to tame it a bit. I also didn't care much for the almond flavor from the almond milk. I mean, I like almonds and I know what almond milk tastes like (almonds!), but it was weird to taste almonds when I'm drinking something that's mocha.

    My verdict is that I would not buy this again. It was on sale for $1.89 and it's less sugar, which is what attracted me, but I wouldn't buy it again.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2018

    homemade blackberry jalapeno jelly

    Alright, I've depleted my supply of homegrown jalapenos, so here's my last batch of jalapeno jelly for the season (unless I decide to go buy some jalapenos, which I may do!).

    This time we have blackberry jalapeno. I LOVE blackberry jam and figured this would be a good combo, and it is! Lucky for me I found blackberries at three 6 ounce containers for $10.00, which is a good price. Usually they're about $5.00 per container and I refuse to spend that much on something that may or may not turn out good. I've learned the hard way that I should wait for a sale when making certain recipes for the first time. There's nothing worse than spending a bunch of money only to have the dish turn out bad.

    I used this recipe:  Blackberry Jalapeno Jelly. What I like about this recipe, even though it is slightly more work, is that it produces a seedless jelly. I love blackberry jam/jelly, but I hate the seeds. They're just annoying, and I don't like being annoyed while I'm trying to enjoy my food. I was able to put the berries in the food processor, which saves a ton of time and effort, and then mash them through my fine-mesh sieve. It wasn't difficult or time-consuming like I thought it might be. Note:  Make sure your food processor is big enough to handle all the berries at once. If not, break them into batches. When you puree the berries they tend to go up the sides of the food processor bowl and can ooze out between the lid and the bowl...onto your white counter top. Deep purple oozing out on to a white surface that stains very easily is not good. Thank the universe for the Magic Eraser! (Come to think of it, a blender would have been easier and less mess I think.)  I increased the jalapenos on this since the ones I had left were small and not as mature as the ones in my previous batches of jelly. It worked out just fine. As with the other jellies, the heat mellowed out overnight and the result was a pleasant, but present, heat. Also, this jelled firmer than my other jellies. It was likely a combo of this recipe calling for two packages of pectin instead of one, and boiling the jelly after the pectin is added for three to four minutes, rather than just one minute.

    Marty was back to work, after an extended visit at the vet, and supervised this batch. (I can't tell if he approves or not?) Whenever I'm cooking, this is his spot.

    Here's the finished product. I brightened up the picture a bit so the peppers are easier to see; blacberry jelly is pretty dark.  Although the recipe says it makes eight jars, I only got six full jars and one half-full jar, even though I used more blackberries than what the recipe says to use. Not sure what happened there. Maybe I didn't mash the pulp enough to get more juice out? No matter, it's still a lot of jelly that will take me awhile to use.

    Since I have a very old house that has limited storage, and I have a lot of crap stuff as it is, I've been storing my jellies on one of the shelves of the hutch. It works for now. 

    I'm thinking I'm done with jelly for the moment, although if the mood strikes I still have some pectin left. I have a lot of herbs in my garden, so I'm thinking I may try my hand at making herb jelly. I'm guessing I would use for glazing chicken on the grill or mixing it with goat cheese to make a spread, since rosemary (or sage or thyme) jelly on toast doesn't sound all that appetizing. Although I'm sure someone out there would enjoy that.

    Saturday, September 22, 2018

    homemade jalapeno jelly

    Yup, more jelly! I told you I had a lot of jalapenos to use up. And I'm finding I like this whole canning thing.  Once I figured out the timing of when I should start the empty jars to heating, when to start the jelly on the stove, etc., it got easier and not such a big project. I also decided to chop all the peppers ahead of time using my food processor, which made it flow a lot better. Plus, I'm quite happy that I've had only one jar fail to seal out of four batches of jelly. That's way better than when I first tried making jelly many years ago. That...didn't go very well.

    For this recipe I used the Jalapeno Jelly recipe I found on Kraft's website.  Kraft makes CERTO, which is the liquid pectin I use to make the jelly gel, so it seemed like this would be the easiest and most fool-proof. There are SO many recipes out there for jalapeno or hot pepper jelly, and even when you Google "jalapeno jelly with liquid pectin," you get a ton of recipes that call for powdered pectin, which I didn't have on hand. Powdered pectin can be used, but there's a different order in which you assemble and cook the jelly. Since I'm new at this, I wasn't comfortable trying to adapt a recipe for liquid pectin.

    As you can see, it looks pretty good even though Marty wasn't there to supervise this batch. (He loves to sit in the pass-through from the dining room to the kitchen and watch me cook.) I'm happy to say it jelled up firmly and isn't runny. It has a pleasant heat and isn't very spicy at all. I'm finding that the jelly has a lot of heat at first, but as it sits overnight it tends to mellow out. Because of this, my plan next time is to leave more of the jalapeno seeds intact--that's what holds most of the heat.

    So, what will I use this for? I already gave away several to friends and family. The remaining jars will likely be used for making a goat cheese panini with jalapeno jelly. Messy, but delicious! I could also mix it with cream cheese to make a dip or spread. 

    Next on this list is blackberry jalapeno, as I have several more jalapenos on my plant to use up before the end of the season. I LOVE blackberry jam, so I'm thinking this will be a good combination. Although blackberries are expensive, so I will wait until I see them on sale. 

    Saturday, September 8, 2018

    homemade strawberry jalapeno jelly

    OK, I'm officially on a jelly-making kick!  I just made strawberry jalapeno jelly and it's so yummy!  Marty supervised again, but I didn't get a picture of him this time.

    The recipe I made was actually for strawberry habanero jelly, but I had jalapenos on-hand and needed to use them, so I just used more jalapenos. I couldn't figure out how many jalapenos would be required to replace three habaneros, and Google failed me this time on that front, so I just guessed. I used five and left most of the seeds in, which is where a lot of the heat comes from. It worked out just fine:  after leaving one jar of jelly in the fridge for 24 hours (jar didn't seal properly), the heat had mellowed out and the result was a sweet, very mild heat. When I first tried the jelly it was quite hot from the peppers, so letting it sit for a bit helped tone it down quite a bit.  Actually, I'd consider adding more jalapenos next time, or just leaving in all the seeds.

    I'm not sure if it's because the jar didn't seal properly, or if I didn't boil the jelly long enough after adding the pectin, but it didn't set firmly like jelly normally does. It came out more like jam, which is fine because I actually prefer jam.  It just makes it more difficult to eat on a hot bagel or piece of toast.

    As you can see, all the strawberries and peppers floated to the top. That happens with homemade jelly. Since you're not supposed to disturb the jelly once you take it out of the canning pot, you really can't shake it up while it's hot; you run the risk that the jar won't seal properly. That's OK. All I need to do is stir it up once it's opened at some point in the future.

    This is the recipe I used:  Strawberry Habanero Jelly.  I used two 16 oz. containers of fresh strawberries to make this, along with five jalapenos. This made eight, 8 oz. jars.

    Next I'm making hot pepper jelly. Then it's crab apple jelly using the crab apples from my own trees--I have six of them!

    Monday, September 3, 2018

    homemade pineapple jalapeno jelly

    So, what to do with all the jalapenos that are growing in my garden? And how about all those canning jars I have? Make pineapple jalapeno jelly, of course!

    The first and last time I canned anything was probably about 20 years ago. I had a cookbook for jams and jellies that I'd bought thinking, "I'm going to make delicious jams and jellies! I'm going to can them all! I'm going to sell them at farmer's markets!"  That's usually how my thought process goes with anything new and crafty I try...just like my mom. And, as usual, I lose interest quickly, either because I'm not as good at whatever "it" is, or it doesn't produce results quick enough, or any other excuse I can think of. I differ from my mother in that way; she'd follow through.  It might not always be a success, but she stuck with it to the end and then moved onto something new.

    Armed with my new jam and jelly cookbook, I made the strawberry jam recipe a couple times and decided I wanted to can it, since there's only so much strawberry jam you can use at one time. It...didn't go very well. I must not have stirred it enough, or maybe the burner was too hot,because every time I ended up with a browned mess on the bottom of the pot. The jam itself was good, though. (I made it at my parents' house one time years ago, and my mother kept telling me I "burned" her pot. I disagree...)  The jars never sealed even though I followed the canning directions. Although I'll admit that I'm not good at reading through directions or a recipe BEFORE I start, which sometimes leaves me very surprised that I was supposed to X before doing Y, or I need to do something with a certain ingredient before using it, and that's why the recipe or whatever I'm doing doesn't go quite according to plan. A long way to say, it was probably me and not the recipe or the directions for canning, or an equipment failure. Pilot error...

    On to the garden.

    I have two raised bed gardens since I can't be bothered, at least right now, with digging a garden. Also, I'm a reformed plant killer and two 4x8 raised beds makes gardening easy and there isn't too much space in which to kill things. I have one bed for tomatoes and green beans (OMG the beans are producing big time right now!) and one for all my herbs; some are perennial, like sage and thyme, and others are annual, like basil.  I also planted one lonely green pepper plant; I got a whole two peppers off of it so far!  Anyway, I normally plant jalapenos, but I ran out of room in the garden. I planted one plant in a large pot this year, and it's really taken off. I'm glad I planted only one, because I have a TON of jalapenos!

    I made jalapeno poppers last year, and those were pretty good, but I wanted to do something different this year. I decided to try my hand at jelly-making! I have plenty of jelly jars I've never used. although I do use them for homemade seasoning mixes sometimes. But what kind of jelly should I make? Something with jalapenos obviously. I thought about what combo I like most when eating something hot and spicy and the answer was easy:  pineapple and jalapeno. I'm always buying pineapple salsa (probably next on my list to make since, as you can see, the tomatoes are starting to ripen), so it made sense to make pineapple jalapeno jelly.

    As usual, there are tons of recipes for the same thing. This is the recipe I settled on:  Jalapeno Pineapple Jelly.  It's just pineapple, jalapenos, red pepper, white vinegar, a little salt, liquid pectin, and a TON of sugar, which explains the sugar content in just a small amount of jelly. (Large amounts of jam/jelly on a bagel is something I really miss after gastric bypass; I can eat it, but definitely not as much as I used to.) It made six 8 oz. jars.

    The process was easy enough, but, man, was the kitchen HOT! Not only because I had to stand in front of the pot and stir constantly for 10 minutes once it got boiling, but because of the pepper fumes.  I made the mistake of leaning over the pot to enjoy the scent of peppers--bad idea! Don't do that! I also had to prepare the jars for canning. That was a little tedious, but only because I have a small kitchen and haven't done it in many years.

    As you can see, Marty supervised the whole process and kept me on track. He was there from start to finish.

    No special canning equipment needed other than the jar lifter (special tongs). You also need a wide-mouth funnel to make the process of putting the screaming hot jelly into the jars, but it's not a requirement; it just makes it much less messy. I used my huge stock pot and the rack from my Instant Pot as the insert to do the canning part.

    Batch #1
    The finished product is delicious! It gelled up just the way it should. It has some heat, but it's a pleasant amount of heat. It looks pretty, too. It's a golden yellow color with red and green specks of pepper (I chopped them in my mini food processor) with some little bits of pineapple. I really want to dive into the jar, but the sugar content works out to 21g for one ounce (and 84 calories)! One ounce of jelly is a lot, though--a more realistic serving size is probably half that. I just used ounces since it was easier for entering the recipe into My Fitness Pal.

    Isn't it gorgeous?! Liquid gold!

    Overall, the first run through was a bit tiring, but I did it again last night and it went much easier this time. I prepared all the peppers first, then prepared the canning jars and pot for canning, then did the cooking. It was still a very hot process, and the whole house smelled like peppers and vinegar (sorry, dear!), but I found it easier this time. This time I used my big food processor for the chopping and it came out chunkier. I like chunky, so I'll probably stick with using the big one. I found that the mini food processor kind of pulverized the peppers and pineapple. That's fine, though, if you like a smoother product.

    Batch #2
    The jars are still hot and steamed up. Plus my phone camera sucks sometimes.
    Some of the jelly is going to a family member and the rest is staying with ME!! (It's shelf stable for about 18 months.) I'm thinking I'll need to mix some of this with cream cheese to make a dip, or spread for bagels or crackers. Crackers are probably a better bet since bagels are my kryptonite...

    Next on the list:  strawberry jalapeno jelly, hot pepper jam (or jelly), and crab apple jelly (I have crab apple trees in my yard).

    Tuesday, August 21, 2018

    bulgarian mish mash--my version

    Tis the season for fresh garden tomatoes! 

    I used to be a tomato-hater, but in recent years I've begun to like them. So much so that I now grow them in my garden every year. I've got bunch growing now and a whole bunch that are ready to be used. What to do with all these tomatoes?

    It used to be that I wouldn't eat tomatoes except in pasta sauce, salsa, and ketchup. I gradually started to enjoy them in their sundried form. Then eventually I would be OK with chopped tomatoes in a taco, although there better not be any seeds or tomato slime! I then moved up to tomatoes cooked on a pizza. One day I was brave enough to try caprese salad. I still hated sliced raw tomatoes; however, the addition of mozzarella cheese made it OK. I then decided I could deal with grape tomatoes, as long as they were with the mozzarella cheese. To this day, though, I still can't bring myself to eat a sliced raw tomato.

    I've settled on a few ways to use up the tomatoes. The easiest is to make fresh salsa. It's so much better than the stuff in the jar! I just throw all the ingredients in the food processor, pulse it until it's the consistency I want, and it's done. I use my own tomatoes and jalapenos to make it. I used my own cilantro this year; however, my cilantro isn't doing well so it was kind of a one shot deal. I don't think I'll grow it again.

    Another thing I make is caprese salad using the cherry and grape tomatoes I grow. I'm finding that I much prefer grape tomatoes, so I'm thinking of eliminated cherry next year and just growing grape.

    And then there's this delicious dish: Bulgarian mish mash. A coworker told me how to make this; however, I've discovered that there are many variations for this and everyone makes it a little different. The base doesn't change, though: tomatoes, peppers, eggs and cheese. I made this last year, but never posted about it, so I figured I would this time around because it's so delicious and easy. I like to eat it with some crusty bread or maybe some crackers. It can be eaten anytime.

    This is the base recipe I used, very loosely I might add: Bulgarian Vegetarian Mish Mash

    Here's how I actually made mine (this makes about 8 one-cup servings):

    2 TB olive oil
    2 onions, chopped
    1 green pepper, chopped
    2 red peppers, chopped
    1 jalapeno, chopped (optional; remove the seeds)
    2 cloves of garlic, minced
    4 oz. roasted red peppers (jar), chopped
    8 tomatoes, chopped (you can peel them if you want to, but don't have to)Fresh parsley
    Fresh basil
    Fresh oregano
    Dash of crushed red pepper flakes, optional
    4 eggs
    8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
    Salt, only if needed (be very careful how much salt you use since the feta cheese is very salty)

    In a pot on medium heat, sauté onions in the olive oil until they start to soften. Reduce heat to low and add green peppers, red peppers, jalapenos (if using) and garlic. Continue sautéing for about 15 minutes or until soft.

    Add the tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and herbs. Cover and cook until the tomatoes break down and it looks like a stew. 

    Add the eggs and stir until they dissolve into the tomato mixture. You will see pieces of egg white. This is normal. If you prefer, you can beat the eggs together before adding into the tomatoes. Feel free to add more or less to make it thinner or thicker.

    Remove from the heat and add the cheese, pepper, red pepper flakes (if using) and salt, if needed.

    1. I used fresh herbs, because I have them in my garden. I used very roughly about 2 TB of each, but add whatever you like, to taste. Used dried herbs if that's what you have; however, if using dried herbs, make sure you reduce the amount you use since the flavor is much stronger than fresh herbs.
    2. You can use any hard cheese you like, but I find that feta gives it a lot more flavor. Just make sure you use a cheese that doesn't melt, otherwise it all just disappears into the mix.  The standard cheese is a Bulgarian cheese called "sirene", but I don't know if that's something readily available.
    3. You can cook this to whatever consistency you like. I prefer it more like a stew, whereas my coworker likes it more chunky.


    Tuesday, August 7, 2018

    salmon with lemon and fresh dill

    I've been wanting to try my hand at cooking salmon for several years, but never quite gathered enough courage (or motivation, really) to do it. Until recently.

    I planted a raised-bed garden this year, which is entirely herbs. (The other bed is tomatoes and green beans.) I decided I would plant dill this year, since it's something I like, but wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to buy fresh at the store. Last year I was able to buy it from a little farm market my neighbor runs out of his garage, which was really convenient. I figured it would be even more convenient if I grew it myself. Great idea, but I neglected to look to see how tall this plant grows--it's about 5 1/2 feet tall right now! Not only that, but it grew VERY quickly.  So, that means I have A LOT of dill. And a little dill goes a very long way, which means I need to find a way to use this stuff.  I also have a parsley plant I wanted to start using.

    See my pretty tomatoes and beans!? Also a jalapeno, which I'm growing in a pot this year.

    One day I got brave and bought a package of individually frozen salmon fillets. (I didn't want to shell out a bunch of money on fresh and then ruin it.) They were the perfect size:  4 ounces cooked.  I also grabbed some lemons, since I know that lemon, dill and parsley go well together.

    All I needed now was a (easy) recipe.  I found many that called for making a cream sauce. I wouldn't mind that, as it looked pretty easy, but I didn't want to have to buy more ingredients, like heavy cream.  I found one that called for lemon slices, fresh dill and parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Basically, you just put it all on the fillet and then bake it, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until it's done. That's it!

    I made the recipe as-is, which called for putting the lemon slices on top of the salmon, then adding all the other ingredients. It seemed strange to me that the flavorings, other than the lemon, wouldn't touch the fish, but I made the recipe anyway. It was good, but I was right in thinking the order of ingredients strange. I didn't taste anything other than lemon and the olive oil. Next time I make this I will add all the flavorings and then add the lemon as the last item.

    I have to say, I really loved the fact that the fillet was exactly the right portion size. Not a bit of it went to waste or got packed as leftovers. (As a matter of fact, there was only a bite or two left, which was awarded to Leia, my ginger girl.) I feel like I never finish a meal due to the weight loss surgery, which means I always bring food home from the restaurant, have a bunch of leftovers at home, or it just goes to waste because it's something my husband won't eat. And if I do finish, it's because I've cooked myself about a half of a portion, or I got soup or an appetizer only when eating out. This is something that is still hard for me as a post-op, but that's life now.

    Monday, July 23, 2018

    taste test: Swell Ice Cream

    I've tried some of the other high protein, low sugar ice creams, like Halo Top and Enlightened, and wasn't all that impressed. I posted about it last year. 

    Recently I found out about Swell. It used to be ProYo, but it has been rebranded to Swell.

    I tried three flavors:  Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Mint Chip, and Dark Chocolate Toffee. No, I didn't need to buy three pints of ice cream, but someone had to.

    Each ice cream averages about 120 calories per half cup serving, 1-2 grams of fat, 9 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein, and about 19-20 grams of carbs. They also contain sugar alcohols. If anyone is sensitive to that, make sure you take a test bite or two before diving in. Xylitol and cane sugar look to be the sweeteners of choice. 

    Here are my thoughts about each flavor.

    Mint Chip:  This was my favorite, probably because mint chocolate chip was my favorite flavor for most of my life. Again, good texture and taste. Very minty and there were a good amount of mini chocolate chips that were REAL. 

    Dark Chocolate Toffee: I liked this one and would buy it again. It actually tastes like chocolate. There are small bits of toffee, but they're fairly few and far between. I'd like to see more, but I guess if more were added, the calories and sugar content wouldn't be quite as low. Update:  I was enjoying some of this right from the container while writing this and I found a BIG chunk of crunchy, gooey toffee towards the bottom. YUM! It was the only one that wasn't tiny.

    Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip:  I liked this one, too, and would buy it again. I liked the bits of peanut butter. They're very small, but I can actually see them rather than just taste a hint of peanut butter like some of the other brands. Texture is good, too.

    Just like the other ice creams I tasted previously, this melts quickly, but I don't care since I'm eating it from a dish and not a cone.  But if you're craving a cone, eat that thing fast. Be warned!

    I mentioned sugar alcohols earlier. For some reason, this ice cream doesn't bother me the way the other brands did. I found I was able to eat the serving size and I felt OK.

    Just like all the other high protein ice creams--actually most premium ice creams, now that I think about it--it's not cheap. Normal price in my store is $4.99 per pint; however, it happened to be on sale when I bought it so I got it for $3.50. And since this will last me quite awhile, I don't think that's a bad price. I'm no longer sitting down to eat a whole pint at once like I did pre-surgery. (Gotta admit, I really miss that sometimes. I don't miss the 130+ extra pounds on me, though.) One thing I want to mention in regards to keeping it in the freezer for awhile:  I feel like this type of ice cream forms freezer burn faster than regular ice cream, so you might want to lay a piece of plastic wrap over the ice cream (so it's touching the ice cream) after you scoop in order to block the air, and then put the lid on.

    Something I like about this ice cream, other than the truer flavor and better texture, is the fact that most if not all of the ingredients are recognizable. For example, the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip contains:  skim milk, whey protein concentrate, xylitol, cane sugar, inulin (not sure what this is), semi-sweet chocolate (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter), peanut butter (roasted peanuts, sugar, peanut oil, salt), natural flavors, and salt.

    As a whole, I enjoy this product more than Halo Top and Enlightened. It just more like real ice cream to me. I mean, sure, it's not Ben & Jerry's or Haagen-Dazs, but it's good for what it is. I mentioned this previously when I posted about Halo and Enlightened, but it bears repeating:  this is not Ben & Jerry's. The reason I'm mentioning it again is because there's always that one person who will say, "This doesn't taste like Ben & Jerry's. :( "  No shit, Sherlock! That's because it's not. It's high protein ice cream with a lower fat content, somewhat different ingredients, and a lot less calories.

    Anyway, I'll be sure to post if I try any other flavors.