Friday, February 26, 2010

Barley Bowls

Hey kids! Thanks for welcoming me back on my last post. It's always nice to feel at least a little missed while I'm away :) As I mentioned, things have been pretty much a whirlwind since I've been back, and sometimes a crazy schedule necessitates a bit of laziness--or shall we say "efficiency" in the cooking department.

Between church, laundry and paying attention to my poor neglected husband, I only had a few hours last Sunday to catch up with everything and prepare for the week. I did some prep work for our dinner on Monday and wound up with a TON of leftovers.

I have been dying to try the recipe for Creamy Barley featured in last month's Real Simple, but I knew I wouldn't have time Monday night to put it all together. Not to mention, we didn't have the instant barley called for, so I decided to cook up our regular pearled barley (thank you food storage) in advance and modify the recipe on Monday. The recipe calls for two cups of instant barely, so I used 1 1/2 c. regular. Holy moly barely explosion!! I always forget that Real Simple like to make their servings Real Large (which is fine by me!), so even though I used a sufficient amount of the grain in my version, we still had SO much left.

For my Creamy Barley, I sauteed some onions in a large saucepan until golden, then added 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms and one package of thawed and drained frozen spinach. As the mixture cooked, I stirred in 1 c. cooked barley and a 14 oz can diced Italian style tomatoes (with about 1/4 of the liquid removed). Then, to make it creamy and extra delish, I added two laughing cow wedges and a healthy sprinkle of Parmesan cheese with extra feta for garnish.

For added protein and a European flair, I also "fried" an egg to top off my masterpiece. Yep, another whole egg as part of the Fatty February challenge!

Really, the yolk does add an excellent element of flavor and texture, and was the perfect compliment to this meal. Yum yum. This made 3 servings. My sis and D both liked it too, although Sarah opted out of the egg on hers. She doesn't know what she's missing ;)

And additionally, since I am now overrun with barley, I decided to do some of my standard experimentation and incorporate it into my breakfasts. While not exactly a Freaky Food, it definitely turns the tables on breakfast norms for me!

Above is a delightful mix of Greek yogurt, Crofter's Asian Superfruit spread, berries, Naturally More peanut butter and 1/2 c. barley, plus cinnamon, of course!

Round two was equally scrumptious and included 1 chopped pear steamed with cinnamon, yog, sugar free maple syrup, almond butter and barley. So good and both barley breakfast bowls held me over for hours. Excellent, as I expect nothing less from my first meal of the day :)

Luckily for me, I still have a few more serving of this great grain in my fridge to eat up throughout the next few days. It's kept remarkably well and has been very versatile. According to a little online investigating, barley also contains loads of amino acids and can help fight high cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. So I'd highly encourage all of you to be a little daring in the grains department and give it a try. What's your favorite grain? Any interesting ways to eat it?

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend full of lots of good things, including healthy fats, good grains and lots of R&R--I know I'm opting for all of the above! xoxo

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Haul and the Wall

Heya strangers! I'm back from glorious Arizona and things have been CRAZY! Crazy and cold! It seems like only Friday I was sitting by the pool and soaking up the sun. Wait, I was. And now here I am back in the SLC and working away. Drat. BUT...I do have some fantastic reminders of my trip to cheer me up: my Trader Joe's haul!

OMGgggggg. I literally could have spent all day in that store poring over new products and searching for stuff that I have seen on all of your bloggies. My friends, however, were not so enthralled, so I had to choose my products and use my time wisely!

This is what I ended up with: Dark Chocolate Crisps (um, PERFECT after lunch treat--they are just the right amount of chocolate to get me through!), vanilla meringues, pita puffs, baked jalapeno cheese puffs, dark chocolate pomegranate seeds, crunchy salted almond butter with flax seeds, peanut butter jam frakas bar (I am not so impressed with these) spicy black bean dip, chili covered pineapple, pb&j chocolate bar (guess what?? It has potato chips in it too! How awesome!), ginger mango chutney and fig bars. yeesh. Oh, plus a way cool tote bag that I just want to use as my purse because it's so cute and large.

...and the one perishable thing I allowed myself to get so I could eat it while I was there

I tell ya, I am a sucker for Greek yogurt! I just HAD to try this one. I did make a delectable breakfast bowl using this and some cereal I brought from home, plus pb snagged form the breakfast bar at the hotel. Unfortunately, no pic as it was eaten by the single kitchen light bulb in our suite. Didn't wanna wake the roomies!

Not only did I score some wonderful treats in AZ, but I also had a completely fabulous package waiting for me upon my return home.

I was SO excited to learn that Chrysta from Living Fit!

Tea, fabulous tea! Chrysta was sweet enough to send me two amazing teas from Teavana that I have been dying to try, along with a very fancy storage set.

Both of these are wonderful, and I particularly love the spicy notes in the Azteca. Thank you so much Chrysta!!

In other news, I walked into the exposed brick wall in my bedroom this morning. Just goes to show that I can't be trusted to do anything complicated like walking before I eat breakfast. ;) Hope your day is going well and a little less discombobulated than mine. I have missed you all so much and still have a ton of catching up to do in the reader, but I will "see" you soon :) xoxo

P.S. I did not check to see how many times I used the word "fabulous" in this post, but I'm pretty sure it was a lot. Please excuse the abundant overuse. Apparently walking into a wall reduces your ability to think of synonyms as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bowl of Sunshine :)

Hi all! Thanks so much for all your Trader Joe's suggestions and obsessions--I can't WAIT to go! I've got to keep this quick as I'm about to head out for warm and sunny AZ, so I'll just let this bowl of breakfast bliss do all the talking ;)

A version of Susan's custard oats, using rice bran instead of oat bran. In my quest for more healthy fats as a part of fatbulous February, I had yet to conquer a WHOLE egg (as opposed to just the whites) and this was the perfect icebreaker.

I just added about 1/4 c. rice bran to 1/2 c. boiling water and whisked in a beaten egg--watch out cuz it cooks very quickly! I poured the hot mixture over 1/4 c. Fage 0% and 1/4 c. pumpkin. Topped with molasses, cinnamon swirl, banana and peanut butter.

Delicious, but not as custardy as I'd hoped--definitely would benefit from the added crunch of a little granola or Fiber One on top, too.

Well have a great week everyone--hopefully I will bring some warm weather and sunshine home with me--and some Trader Joe's goodies! xoxo

Friday, February 12, 2010

Finally (Freaky) Friday!

Whoo hoo! It's finally Friday! And, better yet, it finally Freaky Food Friday! I haven't done one these for quite a while, so I think it's long over due for some weird and wonderful bites, don't you agree?

I have been saving these for quite some time--you know it's freaky food when Dustin practically gags at the sight. But that's also how you know it's delicious :)

I love brussels sprouts, and I love pickles, so it's only natural that I would want to try this fantastically freaky combination.

You know what else I love? GARLIC. So I had to get them for sure when I saw these little lovelies bobbing around in the jar!

I halfway expected these to be lightly soggy and mushy, but they were actually quite fresh and even crisp! They had the perfect gently sweet dill infusion with a light tang from the brine. So good! I haven't really thought of any way to use them in a main dish, but they do make the perfect accompaniment to any snack plate or sammie!
Speaking of freaky foods, don't forget to check out Kendal's super sweet guest post last Friday. She's had some awesome food adventures that are totally worth checking out.

Also, do doo da doo (trumpet)! I am headed to Arizona next week for work, which is not so exciting BUT I will have the chance to go to Trader Joe's to stock up on some awesome eats!! Yay! I am so excited! On my list to get already: pita puffs, chocolate chips and salsa!

Tell me what else I should keep an eye out for while I'm there! I would LOVE to hear your favorite TJ's stuff--I know you all will have the perfect recommendations! Don't worry, I'm leaving plenty of room in my suitcase!

Have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Valentine's Day!! xoxo

Wednesday, February 10, 2010, catching up

Hi friends! No, unfortunately, there is no ketchup to be found in this post, but there IS some yummy cranberry mustard, and a whole lotta catching up to do , so let's dive in, shall we?

It's been almost a week since I've posted, but of course the big highlight was my birthday last Thursday. Thanks so much for all the wonderful birthday wishes. You guys are the best, and I was very flattered by all the comments! Anyone tried the SMOATS yet? Gosh, I know they look weird, but they are so good! I'm having them again tomorrow to perk up my day--I have to work all. dang. day. Over 12 hours. Waaah. What a cry baby.

Anyway, I got tons of super sweet and thoughtful presents for my special day, but I'll just show you the fabby foodie ones.

My sister is the bomb and got me the ultra-stylin' polar bear plate and matching sparkly cup that I've had my eye on. Yeah, I'm 26 now and I still like melamine cartoon plates--also to perk up my day at work. What? Cute little beehive tea infuser (I do live in the Beehive State!) and sinfully indulgent walnut green tea from my bro. It tastes like butter. No joke.
And...check it out! Probably like the very first ever home exercise audio! How freakin cool is that? I don't have a record player, so I'll probably never know what it says, but luckily I have the handy-dandy pictures on the cover to assist me if I ever decide to bust out the moves. Thanks Joel! Hubs also got me a gift card to Whole Foods, which is burning a major hole in my pocket! He's so great.

Oh food, glorious food! So many good things on my birthday including a ginormous frosted cupcake from the gals at work, crispy sweet potato fries,
turkey burger with cranberry mustard (told you) on a sweet potato bun and the most decadent and marshmallow-y bread pudding I have ever tasted, courtesy of Acme Burger. Ho-leeeey cow. Everyone's order was very tasty and the service was impeccable. If you are in the SLC, GO!

Of course I was even more spoiled rotten at home where my mama whipped up her signature from-scratch super chocolate cake with extra frosting and tons of SPRINKLES!!!
My mom was so funny--she hunted high and low for just PINK sprinkles, but couldn't find any so she and my dad sat down and hand sorted out a bunch of pink for me. Jeez. I am spoiled!

Daddy Experimentarian obliged my two birthday requests also, by fixing up his perfect pancakes with a side of thick cut bacon for breakfast.
I swear those pancakes are one of my favorite things on this earth. I would probably make them my last meal. Well, pancakes and smoked salmon--which my dad also put together for me.
Seen here as lunch leftovers the other day atop mixed greens, red peppers, onion, mushrooms and dried cranberries. I mixed that with a little BBQ vinaigrette and I never wanted to stop eating it.

Well, that's all for now, and quite enough, I'm sure! A big huge thanks to Kendal for guesting for me on Friday. I don't know about you, but all her food adventures make me long to travel! Luckily, I've had my dose of exotic locales for now (Sweetwater County homies!) and am all settled in at home, at least until next week!

Do you love going home for a little TLC like me? What's the one thing your parents make for you that no one does better? You saw my list above--I'd love to know yours! xoxo

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Weird. The Unusual. The Unknown.

Howdy y'all! As I mentioned, I am up in the wild, wild west this weekend to get some birthday love and spoiling from my mama and daddy. While I'm gone, I've asked the lovely Kendal from Eating Abroad to guest for me by taking over this week's Freaky Food Friday. She's got a great blog that I very highly recommend you check out pronto. Read on, and I promise you won't be disappointed! This is a great post, filled with wonderful pictures--Thanks so much Kendal!
See you soon for a recap! xoxo, E

In the last 6 years, I have been blessed enough to travel to Italy, Thailand, Cambodia, Tanzania, Egypt, Luxembourg, Tunisia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and England. I have lived in Kenya, the USA, and Germany. In each of these places, I've seen some pretty weird things, especially when it comes to food.

Weird food makes traveling what it is- a chance to experience another culture.

What would we be without our food culture?

Would we still have a day to sit down with family and talk about our blessings if there was no Thanksgiving?

What would birthdays be without the cake and ice cream or summers without a barbecue?

What's Belgium without the waffle? What's a waffle without Belgium?

People form an identity based on the food they eat.

Vegetarian. Vegan. Pescatarian. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. The list goes on.

To understand a culture, you've got to understand their food.

Some of my best traveling experiences around the world took place around tables of food and drinks with new friends. I've eaten traditional home-cooked meals and food cooked over a fire in the middle of a dusty street. Food helps make the experience.

Although food makes traveling much more fun, there are a few freaky foods I'm still unwilling to try- even in the name of cultural understanding.

This is my second year living in Germany as a traveling teacher. When asked to write about freaky food, plenty came to mind.

Luckily, I can avoid many freaky German foods by hiding behind the vegetarian identity. Such as...

Blutwurst (translation: blood sausage. Yes, it is really sausage made of blood.)

Presskopf (English speakers call it head cheese, but it's actually bits of gross meat chunks held together by a gelatin.)

Not wanting to think about this stuff or it's origins... let's move on.

It's freaky. It's German. It's Vegetarian. It's Knödel!

This freaky food consists of Stove Top Stuffing like bread bits tightly packed into a little pouch.

Notice the dimples in the plastic for the water to get through?

To cook: soak in water. Boil. Drain. Remove from plastic. Sauce. Eat.

What sort of sauce? You may ask. Most Germans would suggest using some sort of beef sauce, but I use mushrooms.

Lots and lots of delicious cooked mushrooms!

We are all familiar with German sauerkraut. Another strange variation on this traditional food is rotkohl.

Cooked red cabbage.

My favorite variety is rotkohl with apples!


Germans are known for their seriousness and bad sense of humor. I disagree. Someone who created a phallic shaped food item and named it Super Dickmann's must have a sense of humor.

The box reads: Super Dickmann's- Super Big with Crisp Chocolate- Plump and Chocolaty

Now for the Super Dickmann's Photo Shoot

The Super Dickmann's are filled with marshmallow fluff atop a wafer.

The weird. The unusual. The unknown.

That's what traveling and eating are all about.

You never know what you might find as your teeth tear through a new food.

It might just become your new favorite!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's my birthday and I'll eat what I want to...

Starting with a giant bowl of my newest creation!

SMOATS (Spinach smoothie overnight oats)!! It may look disgusting as my husband so kindly pointed out, but it tastes delicious!

I simply blended together my favorite green goodness ingredients, in this case: blueberry pom yogurt, Greek yogurt, fresh blueberries, 3 handfuls of spinach and just a few drops of almond milk; making sure to add a little less liquid than normal so the overnight oats wouldn't turn out too sloppy. Then I dumped my extra thick smoothie into a bowl and stirred in 1/3 c. oats and cinnamon. In the morning, I added the requisite Fiber One, beautiful banana slices and a big fat blob of sunbutter. Magnifique!

Hey, it's my birthday and I'll use French adjectives if I want to, too! ;) I'm sure there shall be lots of other food adventures in store for today and the upcoming celebratory birthday weekend at home in Wyo with my parents--I can't wait!

Have a wonderful day today everyone! I know I will--birthdays are the best!!! xoxo

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just the FATS Ma'am

Yep, you read that title right--I said the F word. Fats! As I mentioned in last week's post (very important info here peeps!), my bones and my body have finally begun to show the consequences of battling an eating disorder for the majority of my adult life. This included many factors, but most of all, it has negatively effected my bone density and hormone balance. Without measurable hormones, I am unable to absorb several valuable nutrients, but most importantly, calcium, which is what is negatively impacting my skeleton. While several hormone replacement options have been discussed, D and I are doing a ton of research and not rushing into anything.

That being said, I have decided to try a little experiment on my own! You see, ones' body cannot produce estrogen without fat. Without estrogen, the rest of your hormonal system is thrown way out of whack, hence the lack of ovulation and fertility issues. But also, without estrogen, no calcium is absorbed into the body no matter how much Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or laughing cow plus calcium supplement are consumed. So basically, it all goes back to FAT.

Of course I'm not talking about gaining an extraordinary amount of weight or eating spoonfuls of butter here. But I have made it my goal to increase the good, healthy fats in my diet in order to improve my overall health. I'm taking on this challenge with the help of my dear friend Susan over at The Great Balancing Act.

A few ways I'm planning on incorporating more healthy fats:
Nut butters, avocados, salmon, and my version of Abby's Spicy Mixed Nuts. Remember these? I have been savoring them since Christmas and my supply finally ran out. I decided to duplicate the flavors minus the sugary syrup. I simply roasted some raw nut varieties with chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, stevia and cloves. They're so addicting!!

I will also continue to take an omega-3 supplement, which I have been doing for years. I think these are helpful, but apparently not on their own unless they are in addition to other fats. i mean, get real, they only have 1 g of fat per pill, so taking two a day as my only source of fat probably wasn't doing me a whole lot of good.

In my research, I came across a fascinating report, manifesting as The Fertility Diet. This "diet" details several theories to improve fertility based on a study of about 18,000 women and what they ate while trying to conceive. Not only does the study recommend more fats to improve chances of conception and reduce ovulatory infertily, it has these additonal tidbits to offer:
  • Adding more carbohydrates at the expense of naturally occurring fats predicted a decrease in fertility. This could very well mean that natural fats, especially unsaturated fats, improve ovulation when they replace easily digested carbohydrates.This could very well mean that natural fats, especially unsaturated fats, improve ovulation when they replace easily digested carbohydrates.
  • more fat in the diet, and in some cases more saturated fat, improves the menstrual cycle
  • Unsaturated fats do things to improve fertility—increase insulin sensitivity and cool inflammation
  • Replacing 25 grams of animal protein with 25 grams of plant protein was related to a 50 percent lower risk of ovulatory infertility.
Another article backs up the findings of this study, reinforcing that "women who ate full-fat dairy foods, including ice cream, more than once per day had a 25 per cent reduced risk of infertility due to ovulatory disorders compared to those who ate full-fat dairy foods only once a week." (source)

So, I will also try to tackle full fat dairy products. While I don't think I could ever really bring myself to drink whole milk, and I could NEVER give up my 0% Fage and lowfat cottage cheese, I think I could try some regular ice cream and cheese. Especially this stuff:

Baby blue obsession. It's been such a long time since I've had real cheese. Good grief!

I think the whole article was really interesting, and I'd encourage all of you to read it here.

Overall, it is just really clicking for me that fats help our bodies in so many ways, from helping out brains function, to regulating hormones and improving hair and skin. Help, in the skin department BTW, is also majorly needed. My hair is in good shape, still as pouffy and large and in charge as ever, but my skin belongs in an African wasteland! I know Susan is posting pics of her skin before and after, so I thought I'd do the same--warning--this IS not attractive! Yikes! Anyway, so I am really hoping that our Fatty February will be a great exercise in health improvement. I know it will be a big, and very difficult challenge for me, but I am super excited to see how it all pans out!

Anyone want to join us? I would love to hear your suggestions on incorporating healthy fats, and if you have done so and seen increased health benefits! Happy humpday tomorrow, and happy BEST DAY OF THE YEAR on Thursday--it's my birthday! :) Whoo hoo! xoxo