As the world turns...

Funny how life sometimes take an abrupt left turn as you were leaning right, isn't it? Here we are, cruising along nicely after our wedding last November, and out of nowhere my husband finds out he has a fairly serious illness. So instead of beating ourselves up over those extra twenty ten pounds, we get to figure out how to deal with nastiness like tests and scans and treatments and specialists and clinics. I can say with authority that it's not much fun.

As for how this relates to what I put in my mouth, a few things stand out already. First, Hubby had been losing his appetite for a few weeks before The News, which means I have not been cooking as much. Add that to the stress of wrapping our heads around the whole mess and I've lost five pounds.

Secretly, I'm pleased, but I do NOT recommend this as a weight loss plan.

Second, I have fallen back into a few bad habits. I've probably had more Diet Coke in the last two weeks than I've had this year so far. And today I stopped at Sbux for the first time in months. Oh I know it could be worse, but these are not habits I want to pick up again long term. I can probably nip the Sbux thing in the bud but I'm afraid the DC thing is here to stay for awhile. One bright spot is that I seem fixated on fountain drinks only and am not lugging 24 packs home.

The storm has not yet hit the shore so I don't know how bad things are going to get, or how quickly, so if you don't hear from me for awhile, that's why. I will probably be writing on my other blog more frequently because I let myself use bad words over there.


(Sorry, just had to get that out of my system.)


Why I >heart< the interwebs

(Like the new banner? That's what happens when I'm stuck at my desk with a paint program on my computer and no real work to do.)

How did I ever manage to cook before the interwebs were invented? I constantly scour my favorite food blogs and websites for recipes. I keep track of them in a blog that I use as a virtual shoebox. I write them up here so I can find them when I lose the scribbled-up printout in the pile that is my hard-copy recipe collection.

BTW, do people even say 'printout' any more?

The interwebs came to my rescue again, when I was trying to figure out what to cook for my first dinner post-freakout, I went into an absolute search frenzy and ended staring at a wonderfully simple veggie chili recipe on Chow.com. Even though I already have many vegetarian recipes, I felt the need for something new, and it fit the bill perfectly.

Of course I had to fuss with it so it's not quite so basic any more. Here's what I got.

Post-Freakout Bean & Veggie Chili
Adapted from The Basics: Veggie Chili on Chow.com

1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled & diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
6-8 oz mushrooms, finely diced (opt.)
1 bell pepper, seeded & diced (I prefer non-green)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1-2 Tablespoons ground cumin (to taste)
1-3 teaspoons chili powder (commercial mix or otherwise, to taste)
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (opt.)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (opt.)
1 med. zucchini, diced
1 - 16 ounce jar salsa, you choice of heat
3/4 cup water (more if needed)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 - 15 ounce cans of any kind of beans, drained & rinsed
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pot over med. high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrot, season with a little salt & pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions start to brown.

Add garlic, mushrooms, corn, and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms start to brown. If the corn starts to brown, that's even better.

Add spices, stir until spices are warmed and fragrant.

Add the zucchini, salsa, water, tomato paste, and beans. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and simmer for 10-15 minutes (minimum) until veggies are all cooked and chili reaches desired consistency. Adjust seasonings.

Serve with avocado, grated cheese, sour cream/yogurt, whatever floats your boat. I often serve chili over rice.
  • The longer you simmer, it the better it will be.

  • I used a can of pintos and a can of black beans, but just about anything will work. Well, I'm not so sure I'd use chickpeas, but that's just me.

  • The original recipe calls for canned tomatoes but they are usually too tart for my guys. My new trick is to use salsa + water + tomato paste and seems to do the trick.

  • I added diced mushrooms for a fake ground beef feel. You can leave them out if your audience objects.

  • I like to add smoked paprika for that smoky flavor without the heat of chipotle, but YMMV.

  • I have been known to thicken chili with a little masa harina/water slurry right at the end. Didn't do it this time, but I might next time.
So there. It's a fair amount of chopping, but it did get done in time to qualify as Project Weeknight.

Everyone ate it. And that's why I >heart< the interwebs.


What to eat

I'm so predictable, aren't I? You knew that if you just waited a few days I'd calm down, and I have.

Even though I am no longer completely freaked out, the message from the book did stick with me and I'm making good strides at incorporating some changes.

(Could that sentence be any more non-committal?)

Seriously, in the last week or so I've struck most of the sugar, cheese, butter, and meat from my diet, and it wasn't as tough as I thought. Except for bacon, the meat was easy to eliminate since I don't it cook much of it anyway. However, I do have to figure out what to do with the two pounds of bacon and three pounds of chicken thighs in my freezer. The butter? Well, insert heavy sigh here. I still indulge occasionally but I'm trying not to make it an automatic part of my meals any more.

More importantly, I've made good strides in adding more vegs to meals. My go-to meals had become increasingly bean-n-grain-centric and that is a really hard habit to break 'cause more vegs => more prep work. It may be a little early to declare Mission Accomplished, but it's been going OK, at least for the past week. Hubby suggested we sign up for a CSA to kind of force us out of our rut and it's been a good move. The one we signed up with is fairly customizable so I won't end up with a box full of celeriac, fennel bulbs and Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts aside, I am making an effort to expand my repertoire. For example, this week we got mustard greens, which I've never even had. Now I just have to use them before they turn into green goo in the crisper drawer.

But enough about that -- I am way behind in sharing recipes! Back in March I made Penne w/Butternut Squash & Sweet Italian Sausage and it was really good. Now I would have to cut the sausage way back, but it would be worth trying.

Also, I have another couple of 'post-freak out' recipes that worked out pretty well. I'll post my final versions of them soon.