Sunday, May 8, 2011
It’s almost inevitable that the interest in getting in shape and losing weight tends to go hand in hand with a dissatisfaction with one’s body. If I were fine with how I look, why would I strive to change it, unless I had health motivations driving me (as well I should)? For me, that means a whole extra heaping of self-loathing as I realize just how bad things have gotten – in other words, how fat I let myself get. (I’m not being overly dramatic here. We’re not talking five or ten pounds here.) There are plenty of movements out there for body acceptance, and the more publicity they get, the more drama explodes surrounding them.
I’m fat. I know it. I’m not ignoring the fact that my weight is incredibly unhealthy and probably will cause a myriad of problems with my organs and glands if I don’t rectify it sooner rather than later. I haven’t been living under a rock, so I’ve read all the studies showing how much obesity costs in the long run in healthcare costs and how life expectancy suffers for those who are unhealthy. I’m lucky so far that I haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes or any number of other disorders that afflict the obese.
Body acceptance is a way of telling myself that I am not a worthless piece of shit. It’s a way of accepting that this is how I am at this moment, and that I am a worthwhile human being, even though I haven’t made the best choices for myself in the last seven years or so. This wasn’t an overnight journey, and I know that. So, I am endeavoring to accept my body for what it is. It is a reflection of the last seven years of my life, and the choices that I made during those seven years. I can’t deny that it happened, but I can choose to try not to hate myself for it. Hate and self-loathing in the past have only led m into a deeper spiral of poor decisions. It’s hard to decide to do anything positive for yourself when you hate how you look and think you’re worthless because you can’t manage to make good and healthy choices.
So, I have chosen to embrace body acceptance. I am embracing myself for what I am and also for what I can and will be. I’m making better choices for myself and for my future. I am a worthwhile human being despite my fat. I am beautiful and feminine. I am also obese. That last bit? That’s the one that has to go. The rest can stay. But I’m accepting the obesity along with the rest of it. They say the first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem. I’ve already done that. Now I’m remembering that beneath the problem is a person. That person is a human being just like any other. She’s one who has problems with portion control, a penchant for junk foods and a massive sweet tooth. Yep. Those are there, too. I’m me, and I’m learning to accept my bad along with my good.
What this message of personal body acceptance should not be misconstrued as is fat apology. I am not making excuses for why I got fat. I got fat because I made bad decisions. I am not saying that obesity is good in any way, shape or form. I have experienced many hardships as a result of being obese. I can’t shop in regular stores and half the time have to shop online. This leads to headaches for returns if things don’t fit or if the wrong item is sent. It’s not fun, let me assure you. I have to have a seatbelt extender on an airplane and in most theaters, I spend at least 30% of my attention trying not to encroach on anyone else’s space. It’s not fun, and I’ve ruined a number of situations for myself by sheer merit of being fat. I am not unapologetically fat. I understand that my fat has ramifications for myself as well as for others.
Fat apology has a tendency to be somewhat abrasive. It’s fat people fighting back against the public shaming that many of us have endured for (often) years and years. I’m not saying it’s okay to react in such a way, but it’s similar to other groups reacting negatively, defensively and abrasively to similar situations. These people have become so sick of being shamed for their fat that they have decided to buck the trend and instead of fighting against it, they accept it. They say, “It’s okay to be fat. It’s my choice after all, isn’t it?” I can’t get behind this mentality, even though I can understand some of the reasoning behind it. It is a form of body acceptance, but not, in my opinion, a very healthy one.
It’s not easy to be fat. Obesity rates are rising exponentially in western civilizations. We are getting fatter faster and younger. There is a huge backlash against those who are fat, as if we are somehow mentally deficient. Most of us have an unhealthy relationship with food; that much is obvious. The fat shaming that tends to go on from people who are thin either by their own volition (hard work in the form of exercise and calorie restriction) or by the blessing of biology does not help most of us abolish this unhealthy relationship with food. Teasing me or ridiculing me because I’m fat really only makes me feel worse about myself. As I feel worse about myself, I feel less like I’m worth the effort it would take to change the cycle of obesity. And then I get fatter. This tactic is not helping people. Walking around degrading fatties and teasing people who are fat is ignorant. Who are you to know what these people are doing?
I am obese. Yep. But in the last month, I’ve changed my diet and begun to exercise. I’ve started drinking more water and keeping an eye on the nutrients that I take in. If I were to pass someone on the street, he or she might choose to ridicule me for being fat without knowing the changes that I’ve made. The fat didn’t go on quickly, so I know it won’t come off quickly. It’s a slow process, particularly since I’m actively trying not to over-fatigue myself or injure myself. Many of the fat people who are shamed could be making poor decisions. They may have already started making the change. Perhaps they’ve changed from a diet of fast food and junk to one involving lots of fresh vegetables and lean meats. Maybe they’ve already lost 20 pounds. There’s no way for a stranger to know that.
The looks that come with being fat are not easy to take. It’s embarrassing to have someone see me and cringe, as if I am a behemoth made of fat and ugliness, as if there are no redeeming qualities about me. I know there are, and the stranger does not, of course. But what if I were to look at them with the same disgust? That’s not okay. Of course it’s not okay. I don’t know them, or their story, just like they don’t know mine. The only part of my story that they know is that I’ve made some unhealthy choices about food and that I’m not, perhaps, as active as I should be. The very idea that a person deserves the right to judge me for that without knowing me is offensive. The fact that these people can judge me and think that I’m not doing anything for myself or that I think the fat is okay or even great is offensive. The very idea that body acceptance is the same as fat acceptance is offensive to me.
I am accepting my body in its current form. I accept it for all of its flaws and for all of its fat. I acknowledge that I am unhealthy. I acknowledge that my unhealthiness has ramifications for others. I am beautiful despite these things. My body is okay the way it is, but it can be much, much better. From here forward, I am making the decision to do better for myself and my body for the sake of longevity and a more active lifestyle. It’s hard to be active after not being active for so long, so I’m taking baby steps toward being able to walk around Walt Disney World all day without feeling like I’m ready to keel over at the end of the day.
My body is okay the way it is. It could be much better, and it will get much better. I’m awesome the way I am. And now it’s time to become even more awesome.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Les Misérables is one of those shows that pretty much everyone knows at least some of the music from. It’s standard Broadway fare. It’s also one of those epic musicals. And it’s one of the ones that, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get into. That’s hard when your best friend has a particular fondness for it. (Not that it’s her favorite musical and I hate it or something, but I want to be excited about things which excite her, you know?) It was part of the Broadway series at Playhouse Square this year, so we decided to get Smart Seats ($10/seat) and finally see it live. I’d heard that it had more impact live than on the album anyway.
From the get-go, this show is EPIC. The music is loud and sweeping, and I’ll be honest, from our seats in the rafters, it was hard to understand what people were saying. I’m sure they have decent diction, but the Palace is a large theater, and with such a sweeping score, wordy lyrics don’t travel as well. Not to mention, the ushers were letting people in through the full first scene. It meant that I missed a lot of went on. It’s kind of a big deal when you have no idea why the eff Jean Valjean is being persecuted or what he even did because people were standing in front of you and making noise as they clamored into their seats, five full minutes after the show started. Dudes. Not cool.
I know a lot of the music from this show. More than I realized, actually. That made some of the scenes easier, as I was able to process all of the lyrics that had flown in one ear (and ostensibly right out the other, in some of the scenes). It was nice to have context for the music that I did know. The show did give me that, since of course only the show-stoppers are played. Nobody needs the set-up when the rest of the world presumably knows where the song came from and why it is being sung.
We had some problems with talkers, and then there was a long period in which I was mesmerized by the enormous shadow of the conductor that was on the wall. It was at that point that I realized that the show was simply not holding my interest. I think part of the problem was that it started out with such high drama that it was hard to keep my interest. The high drama became the norm, and then it had to top itself to make things that much better. And it didn’t. So perhaps Les Mis is just not the show for me. The songs that everyone knows are, of course, sweet and nice and sweeping.
I got through the show with a minimum of heavy sighing and foot-tapping, which makes it better than some of the movies I saw at the film festival this year, so there’s that. Les Mis is a little too overall epic for my taste. I like variety in my shows – give me slower, lower moments to temper the more dramatic moments. Not a fan.
Friday, May 6, 2011
A friend of my step-mom’s is pretty consistent with gifts. Tell her you like something and she will make sure that you get something relating to it (that you don’t already have – this lady is an expert) for approximately forever unless you tell her otherwise. When I cleaned up a bunch of stuff from my mom’s attic, I donated a whole box of ladybug-themed stuff that she had given me. I don’t think I can ever look at a ladybug again without cringing a little bit.
This post is not about ladybugs.
This particular family friend used to give my dad the same gift every Christmas – a shoebox wrapped in lovely holiday paper (she even individually wrapped the lid and bottom so that it could stay pretty all year) filled with almond roca. I freaking loved that stuff, but of course it was for my dad so I couldn’t have it very often. Usually just on Christmas and other holiday-type occasions that she felt like making it for. It wasn’t often.
After I moved out on my own, I realized I wouldn’t be seeing her as often and therefore would not get to partake in chocolate-toffee-almondy goodness. What followed was natural: I would find out how to make my own.
I found a recipe… somewhere. I don’t even know where I found it. I’ve been making it for about six years, though, and certainly am not straying from this recipe now.
1lb real butter
2 cups granulated white sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
6 Tbsp water
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 (11.5oz) bag milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Melt butter in a medium soup pot. While butter is melting, chop up almonds and toast them in a pan. (Alternatively, buy pre-sliced almonds and crush them in the bag before putting them in the bag; really saves time.)
Note: Once the almonds are toasted, I like to put them through a sifter or strainer to remove most of the larger pieces but keep the small bits aside to sprinkle on top at the end. This is totally optional as it is mostly decorative.
Once butter is melted in the pot, add sugar, corn syrup and water. Keep cooking the mixture, stirring constantly until it reaches hard crack temperature and turns the color of a brown paper bag. Remove from heat and stir in the almonds. Transfer to a cookie sheet (with edges) and spread it across the sheet until it is evenly distributed.
Let the candy cool for a few minutes (to harden) and then begin sprinkling chocolate chips across the top. (I like the mini chips; they are easier to distribute and the chips melt faster.) Use a spatula to spread the chocolate over the surface as the chips melt. Once it is spread out, sprinkle the reserved almond bits across the top. Let cool at room temperature until candy is hardened and chocolate has solidified. It may take up to 12 hours for this to happen. (The candy can be put into the fridge or freezer to help it cool faster, but this will change the texture and may prevent the chocolate from staying solidified at room temperature.)
- I prefer unsalted butter just in general. I doubt this has much impact if any on the candy, but it’s what I use.
- I like the mini chocolate chips because it’s easier to get them spread out over the candy, and as such get a much more even coating of chocolate.
- Humidity is a bitch for this recipe. I’ve ruined more than one batch of candy because I didn’t take the humidity of the day into consideration. This wasn’t as much of a problem in Portland but has been a problem more than once in Cleveland.
I love this recipe. I usually only make it when I know I can share it with others, otherwise I end up eating a lot of candy in a short period of time. Not so good on the waistline. It has gone over very well at more than one potluck at work, and it makes a nice gift during the holidays.
Calorie content? Hell if I know. I’m not sure I want to know right now. If I did the work to figure it out, I might never make this candy again. Where’s the fun in that?
Thursday, May 5, 2011
My dad used to make chili about once a year. Maybe twice if we were having a big gathering. Big is the key here. My dad can’t make chili for less than an army. He blames it on being in the army. I’m not sure this is a totally unreasonable claim. However, as a singleton and later as a couple, consuming that much chili was unrealistic. The next logical step was to recreate what I remember of my dad’s chili and pare it down to a more reasonable portion. My version still makes a good amount (we’re fans of leftovers) and it’s considerably more spicy than my dad’s version (he doesn’t so much like spicy), but it captures the same essence of what I remember my dad’s chili being.
1 lb ground turkey (alternatively: ground beef or stewing beef cut into bite-size pieces)
2 cans kidney beans (light and dark together give it a nice color texture)
2 bell peppers, large dice
1 large onion, large dice
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
- Cook ground turkey. Set aside.
- Sautee chopped onion and pepper in the pan with the beef drippings. Drain pan.
- Combine kidney beans, diced tomatoes, corn, cooked veggies, meat and spices in a large pot. Bring mixture to a gentle boil, then turn the temperature down to low/medium-low to simmer. The longer it simmers, the more flavor the chili will have.
Note: If the chili looks too thick after it is initially combined, water or stock can be added to thin it. It will continue to thicken as it simmers.
My dad always serves cornbread with his. I’ve made mine and served pieces of french bread with it, that’s good as well. Most of the time I eat it with a bit of cheese mixed in and a dollop of sour cream, no bread necessary. A serving of the chili is about 250 calories, which is not so unreasonable, considering the serving size is approximately 1.5 cups. It’s a very decent amount of food for a meal!
In reality, this is probably nothing like my dad’s chili. It certainly didn’t taste the same as the chili I had last time I visited my dad. The thing with this chili is that it changes. I’ve yet to make the exact same chili twice, and I’m sure he hasn’t either. Any modifications that you fancy making to the recipe would be perfectly fitting with the spirit and history of this chili. Go to town, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Last weekend, I went to my first Roller Derby bout ever. I’ve been reading about it and I’ve watched a few online, because the concept is intriguing to me. I like the community that the women who participate have forged, and frankly, the idea of having a sport that’s interesting and challenging is also appealing. I haven’t played sports since high school when I played water polo (and was only mediocre at it) and was on swim team (and was pretty okay). I spent approximately two hours of active time watching groups of ten women haul ass around a track on roller skates, checking and blocking each other all the way and really just showing incredible athleticism. It was an incredible adrenaline rush. We’re talking about going down to Akron this weekend to watch them play the NEO Rock & Roller Girls. It’s safe to say that I am now a fan.
The first bout was full of really slow jams. They started further back and did a lot of jostling for the best strategic positioning. Strategy was top dog, so things seemed to move a little slower and definitely required a lot more attention and understanding to figure out what was going on. Johnathan’s mom was with us, and while we gave her a basic idea of how roller derby is played, it’s hard to explain all of the aspects when you’re relatively new to the sport yourself. I decided to root for the Hellbombers because they had sparkly red shorts and because I like red better than pink. Yes, it was that arbitrary, but considering they’re all excellent athletes, it was hard to make a legitimate choice as to which team with whom to align my loyalties. The women on the Hellbombers did not disappoint! Sparkles was the stand-out for me. She was able to bust out of the pack with incredible ease. She was light on her feet – er, skates – and ended up, at one point, amassing 25 points in a single jam. I was super impressed. Honorable Mention: The Eduskater (who, according to Johnathan’s mom is A+ – she could only see the number, not the skater’s name; I thought it was amusing). It was quite inspiring watching them weave through a group of other skaters whose job is to try to keep them from passing through. Some of the girls took really hard falls, and some were hurt enough not to be able to skate for the rest of the bout. That’s a bit scary, but I also know it’s part of the sport. I took a bit of a battering when I played water polo, too (although nothing quite as bad as falling wrong at such a high speed). It’s part of the sport.
The second bout was the Rolling Pin-Ups versus the Cleveland Steamers. I rooted for the Pin-Ups because I liked their uniforms better. The match was more exciting than the first as the teams got much faster starts. There were more falls but fewer injuries, and the score was a lot closer and lower than in the first bout. I felt like the teams were pretty closely matched, though for the first period, the Steamers were consistently out-skating the Pin-Ups, which gave them a considerable edge and a modest lead. The second period was wicked exciting, though. The Pin-Ups brought their A-game and tied up the score, even pulling ahead at one point. Eva Lucien was a skater of note in that bout – she was so versatile and skilled it was hard not to watch just her while she was on the track. The second period of that bout was the most exciting. It all ended up coming down to the final bout, as the Pin-Ups were ahead by 1 point. The Steamers pulled out a two point jam to win by one point, but it was super exciting up to the last second. (I still like the uniform for the Pin-Ups better. Yellow is just not a good color for most people.)
Ultimately, what happened after my first experience with live roller derby is that I definitely want to play. It looks challenging, of course. It also looks like a wicked amount of fun, and I know there’s a huge community surrounding roller derby. I’ve been thinking about it for about a month so far, and started even getting into shape for it. I may even learn to like lunges some day. (Don’t hold your breath.) We’re looking into getting inexpensive skates that would work outdoors – starter skates, really. It’ll probably be at least a year before I can start boot camps with the local league, and probably even longer before I can do it well enough to actually make it. That’s okay. It’s something to work toward long-term. In the meantime, I’m going to hone my skating skills and get into much, much better shape. Step 1 is already in progress as we’ve cleaned up our diet and started exercising lately. I can already feel the difference. It should only get better from here!
Roller derby, man. I’m gonna play it someday.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
When I was using SparkPeople (SP) as my website of choice for calorie tracking, I found that there was a lot of good information from certified nutritionists and people who were actually knowledgeable about the topic. If nothing else, the information was consistent and focused on people losing weight in a healthy way. Since I joined MyFitnessPal (MFP), I’ve been disgusted on more than one occasion by the blatant disregard for health and science. I have seen people claim that science is a myth and is unprovable. I wish I were kidding.
The most heated topic on the MFP board is regarding “starvation mode.” There are people who believe that all women, regardless of height, weight or body type, should be eating a minimum of 1200 calories, and men should eat no fewer than 1500. This is, of course, one of those general rules for which there are always exceptions. Obviously someone who is 4’11″ would not need the same amount of fuel as someone who is 5’11″. A person with a small frame would need less fuel than someone with a bulky frame. But this is a good rule of thumb for beginners to pursue. It can be difficult to ascertain without the assistance of a licensed nutritionist and doctor how much food one should eat per day to accomplish weight loss. And, let’s face it, bodies are not mathematically perfect. What might work for me one day is not necessarily going to work the next day or long term. It’s just how it goes.
This 1200/1500 baseline is in place so that people can avoid going into so-called “starvation” mode. This is when your body stops consuming fat and instead stores it, because it is not getting enough nutrients and believes it is heading into a time of less available food. As such, it will put up stores just in case things get worse. This does happen to some. It can stall weight loss or even create weight gain, even though people are eating relatively little food. What can also occur when eating too few calories is that the body will consume fat and muscle, thereby giving weight loss, but the metabolism has slowed to a point of being able to accommodate the smaller amount of calories. Then, when these folks who have been eating so little start to eat an amount that should help them maintain the weight loss, it piles back on. The body has been sabotaged into believing that this new amount of food is excess, and therefore stores it as fat for the next time that food is scarce. It’s a biological response to aid in ultimate survival. Our brains might know that we’re well-off enough to be able to get a meal next time we’re hungry, but the bits of the body that control the weight loss are not that “smart.” They do what they’re biologically programmed to do.
We can’t know at what point our body is going to start storing instead of burning. Height and weight are a good way of estimating how much a person should eat for weight loss, but all the same it’s difficult to know where that line is. Even an expert nutritionist with the assistance of a doctor and a myriad of tests may not be able to ascertain that. Bodies are fickle things. The drama comes because what is right for one person is not necessarily right for everyone. But, when people seek to give advice, they most often draw on their own experience. It was that way for them, so it must work this way for everyone, right? I would wager that a majority of the people giving advice on MFP are not experts in any way. And if they are, they’re not posting their qualifications. This leads me to believe that they are not. (Just like me!) So, advice in these cases should be taken with a grain of salt, as each person’s experience is different and can’t possibly apply to everyone.
What really bothers me about these posts (and please don’t ask me why I read them – I’m apparently a glutton for punishment) is not that these people are sharing their personal experience. Those experiences are absolutely relevant, particularly for someone who has a body type similar to theirs. However, these posts often claim that their way is the Right Way. They claim that science can’t be proven and that starvation mode is a myth. These claims can ultimately be harmful to a person who is new to the weight loss process and hasn’t done excesses of research on the subject the way I tend to do. (Often it’s more confusing the more I read, yet I do it anyway.) People often believe the first thing they’re told, especially if it sounds convincing, and many of these people are. I worry about the damage that could be done to people who eat a minimum of calories per day (for instance, 1200) then exercise every single one of them away. There are people who have ended up in the negative digits for their calories in vs calories out goals. It’s not healthy to burn so many calories without putting in a sufficient amount of fuel, and it’s definitely not healthy to lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time. That’s a fact that these folks seem to pointedly ignore.
I’m not claiming to be an expert in any sense of the word – I am categorically not an expert at this (or anything else, for that matter). I’ve done a little bit of research and found some truths which I will stick to. I’m not going to give advice where I am unqualified to do so, and I’m certainly not going to feed the trolls by suggesting that starvation mode is actually real, thereby getting into a war of words over what happens to one person’s body versus another’s.
I don’t know why I keep reading the threads on MFP. It’s not beneficial to me, and only ends up frustrating me more often than not.
Science can’t be proven? Seriously, people?
Monday, May 2, 2011
This recipe is one that I found on a site called Half-Hour Meals. I like the site because, well, who wouldn’t want to be able to make a whole dinner within half an hour? This recipe sounds good on paper. Cheese, chicken and broccoli bulked up with rice sounds like an excellent and filling dinner!
There was a main problem with this meal, however: it calls for Velveeta. I have nothing against velveeta in theory. It’s great for making queso, and who wants to slave over a roux and bechamel sauce when trying to whip up dinner in half an hour? Making the meal faster shouldn’t mean I have to do an hour’s worth of work in half an hour just to be able to call it a half hour meal. So, I understand the appeal of the Velveeta. It’s pretty impossible to ruin unless you grossly overcook it, and it melts easier than most cheeses do. My main issue is that it’s high in calories for what it brings to the party. Let’s not even get started on the sodium content. (I have a hard enough time excising excess sodium from my diet – I don’t need any help from the over-processed “easy” foods.)
Given this fact, I sought a relatively easy way of re-doing the recipe to bring the caloric and sodium content down. I did searches, most of which came up with either literal Velveeta replacements (the types that hardened into blocks of meltable cheese which seemed a little bit… icky to me) or bechamel sauces. I’m not interested in concocting a cheese sauce that I could potentially screw up, particularly when this was supposed to be a quick meal. I learned in the course of my search travels that muenster is a good cheese for melting. I wanted something other than muenster cheese in the dish, though, since we don’t usually buy it and frankly I’ve never seen it on the shelf where we usually buy our (admittedly cheap, fairly low-quality) cheese. That means it’s probably expensive, right? Well, we lucked out there. Helluvagood makes muenster cheese. We combined muenster, monterey jack and fat free cheddar to substitute the Velveeta. What we came up with ended up being pretty tasty!
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 lb frozen broccoli OR 2 heads broccoli, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup (adequate substitute here)
4 cups brown rice, cooked
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup fat free cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup muenster cheese, shredded
1/4 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
- Heat a large pan. Drizzle with olive oil and begin cooking chicken.
- When chicken is cooked through, add broccoli and reconstituted cream of chicken soup mixture. (If using condensed cream of chicken soup, dilute according to the instructions.)
- When mixture begins to thicken, add garlic.
- After the mixture is hot, add rice and cheese. Mix well and remove from heat.
- Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
The original recipe calls for instant white rice. I substituted brown rice because I prefer the complex carbohydrates. We undercooked ours, so that was a bummer, but that’s obviously not a feature of the recipe. One other thing that I’m considering changing for next time is to replace the monterey jack cheese with a more pungent cheese. The fat free cheddar is mild, and the muenster also did not bring a lot of flavor to the party, so other than adding creaminess, it felt like the cheese was lost in the dish. Perhaps a swiss or gruyere would make an excellent substitute. Either way, it was a good dinner and it was excellently filling for the serving size.
One serving of this comes out to about 370 calories and while not sodium-free at 468mg of sodium, it’s much better than it would have been with the Velveeta in it. We’re definitely keeping this one in our arsenal, particularly with the re-design.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I’ll admit, the only way this recipe qualifies as a Szechuan stir-fry is that it has Szechuan sauce in it. It’s not much, but I had to call it something, right? I came up with this recipe on the fly when I realized that I didn’t want to order dinner or go out, and we had some thawed meat that I needed to cook. I’m really happy with the recipe because it’s quite easy to put together – low intensity as far as chopping and it doesn’t take long to cook.
1lb stewing beef, cut into bite-sized pieces (would also work with diced chicken or pork)
1 pkg Frozen Stir Fry Vegetables
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp Hokan Szechuan Sauce
1/2 C Light Sour Cream
- Heat a large pan to medium-high. Begin sauteing the beef and garlic.
- Meanwhile, chop pepper and onion.
- When meat is done, remove from pan and set aside. Saute pepper and onion in same pan.
- Once pepper and onion are slightly softened, add frozen vegetables and reduce heat to medium-low.
- Mix Szechuan sauce and sour cream together and combine with beef.
- When frozen vegetables are heated through, combine vegetables and meat mixture.
Serve with pasta, rice or couscous, if desired. Makes four servings.
This comes out to about 300 calories for a serving of the szechuan stuff, so adding in a starch does make it a higher calorie meal, but it’s not exactly going to cause epic weight gain. It fits easily into my daily calorie “ration.”
Note: If you’re sensitive to spice, you will probably want to cut back on the Szechuan sauce. It is quite spicy, and while the sour cream helps to cut that, it doesn’t take away the spiciness completely.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
So, once upon a time I had wild and fanciful dreams of being a food blogger. I lack the sophisticated taste of a true food blogger as well as the photographic sense. Who wants to read a blog about food with crappy pictures? Or worse – no pictures. As a result, I gave it up. (I’ve had a lot of false starts with blogging, and even this one isn’t as regular as it probably should be. I’m just not good at finishing the posts.)
Recently the bug to cook has started again. Well, I think it has. I’m thinking about food again and creative ways of using what we already have in the kitchen. I have a regular staple of things that I like to have in the kitchen, but they’re not very adventurous. Pastas, onions, certain vegetables (depending on what isn’t $5/lb at the moment), and certain meats. Sometimes jarred pasta sauces (GASP, I know). Canned tomatoes and canned tuna. We don’t do canned vegetables but I am amenable to frozen ones. (Actually, they’re kind of great. They’re easy and I like that.)
So, with health consciousness in mind, I am cooking again. There will be a lot of brown rice and a lot of searching high and low for recipe substitutions that won’t make me gain ten pounds overnight. I have about three recipes that I’d consider worth sharing, and hopefully there will be more to add to the arsenal as time goes on. Not everything will be healthy, but since I’m actually trying to lose weight (again…), there will certainly be health consciousness in mind.
- Szechuan Stir-Fry (Sort Of)
- Almost Dad’s Chili
- Almond Roca
- Recipe Makeover: Chicken and Broccoli Cheese Rice
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Ah, Film Festival time again. The 35th annual Cleveland International Film Festival has come and gone, and as in previous years, I’m both relieved and slightly sad about that.
Johnathan and I made the decision that we couldn’t afford our all-access passes this year, and we truly thought we wouldn’t even miss them. We weren’t able to take the whole week off, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. Oh, I was so wrong. We bought tickets for 25 films this year, which locked us in for those films. There were a few that, if we had the ability, we would have skipped on the day. So, we came away having learned a lot this year. Instead of reviewing the movies (especially because I only remember the really good ones and the really bad ones, and that’s not very fair), I’m going to give a rundown of what I learned this year:
- We need passes. Next year, we’re going back to our director level passes. (Or the executive ones if we manage to win one of the drawings! Not holding my breath on that one, but it’s nice to dream.)
- Staggering the evening blocks made it difficult to plan our schedule but it made an incredible difference in traffic. I hope they do it for weekends and Fridays next year, because it was a madhouse the first Friday and on the weekends until the blocks started to stagger.
- I don’t think I will ever really understand Second Life.
- Even when people are prompted to agree that there is no talking during festival films, they will talk anyway. I’m contemplating a shirt for next year that gives a warning that I throw hard candy at talkers. I’ll bring a bag of peanut M&Ms and throw them with abandon if I must. I don’t like peanuts anyway.
- Good films can be made based on books. I thoroughly enjoyed The Hedgehog at the festival, only to learn that it’s based on a book. I purchased it for my nook and I’m in the process of reading it now. It’s a necessarily different experience, but so far just as enjoyable. If it weren’t for the film festival, I might never have heard of this book.
- Holocaust subject matter is always devastating for me, yet I continue to be drawn to it. I came away from The Roundup quite literally sobbing. I would see it over again, because I think sometimes I need to be reminded that there are people who extraordinarily bad and also those who are extraordinarily good.
- Our method for picking films worked well for us this year. We were able to minimize the number of films that ultimately disappointed (although I expect there will always be some). It needs improvement, though – next year subject matter needs to be taken into consideration. No more starting or ending the day on a heavy film. Too rough.
- I need to avoid anything that’s labeled “thriller.” Even if I think it’s different than horror, others may not. (I’m looking at you, True Nature blurb writer.)
- The CIFF staff is incredible, from the core staffers down to the volunteers. If my biggest complaint about the festival is the talkers, that means they did their job in spades.
- It’s okay to cheer and clap after realizing you never have to see the year’s trailer again.
- Side-note: It was then that I discovered that I wasn’t the only one not so enamored with the whole theme. Clearly others agreed!
- The relief that the festival is over only lasts a little while, and then I’m back to wanting to watch tons of movies. Thank goodness for Netflix!
My top films:
- The Hedgehog
- With Love, from the Age of Reason
Runners up (in order that we saw them): 2030 – Revolt of the Young, Here Comes Lola!, These Amazing Shadows, The Rowan Waltz and The Roundup. Okay, so I liked a lot of the films we saw.
I love the film festival, and I’m glad to be a part of it, even if some of the others who also attend the festival can be trying at times. Just like in past years, there were some hallmark films that I’ll continue to remember and think about for years to come. That’s a successful festival for me.