Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pumpkin Puree for Coconut-Pumpkin Soup

I may not be able to make a convincing case for this, but -- this is not exclusively a blog about winter squashes.

It maybe be about pumpkin today, but not forever. Eventually we will have to break down and start eating other kinds of foods (preferably squashes).

With the previously mentioned haul of garden goodness from my parents came along a "Winter Luxury" pumpkin, a fancy netted pie pumpkin with sweet, tender flesh and the coolest of all the pumpkin varietal names.

Liz found this recipe for coconut pumpkin soup, and I thought: yes. That is a good idea.

The recipe itself is pretty easy, so here's the scoop (LOL because of the seeds I am so clever) on making your own puree:

Start with your whole pumpkin. Give it a rinse and a dry, and cut it in half with a heavy knife.

Clean out the seeds and strings, maybe you will need a spoon, maybe you will need some scissors and a lot of patience. Anyway.

Roast this, face up, on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for like an hour. I just checked every 10-15 minutes, and when you could slide a knife in, I took it out to cool.

When it's all-the-way cool, scoop out the flesh and puree in a food processor. If you have a big "for realsies" food processor, one pie pumpkin is gonna be like one batch, but if you have only a MiniPrep, it will take like 2.3 batches.

That's it! It's creamy, and sweet, and delicate, and super-pumpkin-y. We took out most of this for delicious soup:

But we saved a little bit to swirl into our morning oatmeal with some cinnamon and maple syrup. This, too, was delicious.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Menu Monday

One of the things I've learned over the past year and a half on weight watchers is that planning is key. If I don't plan ahead, I don't lose weight. I'm finding the same is true with budgeting. If we have a plan, I stay on plan and on budget. But if it's 6:30 and we haven't figured out what we're eating yet, that usually means we're having noodles, take-out, or something from the frozen foods aisle at Trader Joe's. It's hard to make responsible decisions when you're hungry, so it's important to make those decisions before you get hungry.

So a new feature on this blog, to keep us both accountable, is going to be our weekly menu. So here it is!

  • Monday: Burritos Especiales - Matt's take on burritos - fat free refried beans and banana squash
  • Tuesday: Veganized Twice-baked Butternut Squash (a Pintrest recipe!)
  • Wednesday: Tofu Cutlets with Mushroom Gravy and Roasted Broccoli
  • Thursday: Tempeh Rice Bowls
  • Friday: Black Bean Burgers and Roasted Potatoes
  • Saturday: Airport food - Matt and I have a late afternoon flight, so I'll need to do some research on the Sacramento Airport options
  • Sunday: Christmas at my parents!
I'll end with a picture I found online, I think it sums up how important the mental part of weight loss is - and planning ahead is part of that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rampicante Squash Burritos

So we've been able to reap the bounty of my parents' nearby winter garden:

Behold, a king's ransom in hardy squashes!

The long skinny crazy-looking one is some techy heirloom nonsense my parents are into called a zucchetta rampicante, or perhaps a tromboncino.

It is a magical squash, that you harvest all the way from early summer to winter. It starts out as a summer squash, something like a supermarket zucchini, and just transforms into a legit winter squash with notes of butternut and delicata.

Like all squashes that enter my kitchen, it was destined to end up cubed and roasted. I cut off the necks and the bulb, peeled, seeded, diced, and then tossed it in a bowl with a splash of olive oil and some cracked pepper and coarse salt.

I like to roast vegetables at about 450 degrees, and these took about 35-45 minutes, with a couple of cursory shakes every 15 or so minutes.

To fill up my burritos, I also prepped some black beans in the pressure cooker and sliced up some green cabbage.

A little splash of tofu crema and some red pepper sauce, and these turned out perfectly.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pear Sauce

What did we do with all of our pears? Well, we dehydrated some of them. Now we have a big bag full of dehydrated pears, and we shall see what happens to those later...

But for the remainder of the pear bounty: pear sauce.

Making pear sauce is like making apple sauce. Only with pears, you see.

So you get a whole giant big bowl of pears. These pears need to be peeled, cored, stemmed, and roughly chopped. It looks like a lot of work, but that's because it involves a lot of standing and repetitive motions.

I got maybe twenty to twenty five pears, and I added the juice of one medium lemon, and a half of a cinnamon stick. They were so sweet that I didn't need to add any sugar.

Then, you cook...

...and cook...

...and cook down the pears into a delicious concentrate. I hit mine with the immersion blender at the end so it would be a smooth consistency. Nothing wrong with chunky, this is entirely a personal preference.

We ended up with about 4 cups of sauce. I froze half, and we had some of it on our oatmeal this morning. It was delicious!

Weekly Weigh-In

Weekly Loss: 0 pounds
Total Loss (since 8/10): -30 pounds

So do you remember last week when I said I was going to track everything? Yeah, didn't happen. I tracked all of Saturday, part of Sunday, and didn't open my tracker for the rest of week.

I guess I should be happy that even without tracking, I was able to maintain.

My leader says that if you go two days without tracking, it's time to mix up your tracking method. I realized after the last two weeks, tracking online just wasn't working for me.

So I bought the "Ultimate 3 Month Tracker" - it's a small notebook that I can keep in my purse, so I can keep it on me. So far I've tracked all of yesterday, and breakfast from this morning.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Garbanzo-Quinoa Burgers

I had some veggie burgers at the local co-op that listed quinoa as an ingredient, and it got me thinking that it seemed like a solid plan.

Since I started buying chickpeas by the case, because that's basically all we eat anymore, I thought: chickpea-quinoa burgers.

To start out, you rinse
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
and set it up in your rice cooker with a cup of water, a hefty pinch of salt, and a drop of oil.

Next, you get the savory portion of your burger going by sauteeing
  • 1/2 a medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced, and
  • 1-2 tablespoons of good olive oil
Until soft and delicious. Next, mash up
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas
with a potato masher until smooth, and, in a spice grinder, process
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flax seeds
into meal. You could also just use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of already-ground flax meal, but then your dinner wouldn't be as much work, which means it wouldn't be as rewarding.

Everything you cooked up goes in a bowl with
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • salt and pepper to taste
and, if you are looking for some next-level secrecy,
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Mix into a delicious glop with your hands, and let it rest while you heat up a flat surface. I griddled these bad boys in a little cooking spray, maybe 5-6 minutes a side. This makes six (6) pretty good-sized burgers.

For vegan burgers, they held together pretty well. I'm sold on the quinoa thing, I'mma try it again, maybe with red quinoa and black beans.

We plated this up with some farmstand-fresh ears of corn and some wilted chard. If you're a pro, you'll have buns, but I am totally bush league and - alas! - had only slices of bread on hand. We topped them with some bread-and-butter pickles, but, you don't need me telling you what to put on your dang burger.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Activity as a Lifestyle

It gets pretty cliche, but the thing about WW is that it's a lifestyle change, not just a diet.  That means that for me to be successful, I have to not just look at what happens when I sit down for a meal, but the rest of my life too.

Before I started WW, I lived a pretty sedentary lifestyle.  It wasn't always like that.  I was pretty active growing up - my family hiked, biked, canoed, camped, and skied all the time.  Growing up in Alaska, it just felt natural.  I was on the cross-country running and cross-country ski team in high school.  I was never skinny, but I was in good shape.

Then I went to college, and those habits just kind of died.  Going to the gym wasn't a priority.  I didn't find time to run or bike.  I didn't have a car, so going hiking became a big deal - I had to either find a group that was going (and thus get out of bed before noon on a Saturday) or find a friend with a car.  Because I wasn't making activity a priority, I wasn't going out of my way to make friends with people that made it a priority too.

So over the last 10 years, I went from someone who was outside for several hours at least 4 times a week to someone that could spend all day inside, in front of a TV, without really noticing.  Because I kept eating like a high school athlete, it's no wonder I got to where I am.

One of the things I've had to admit to myself since starting WW again is that I'll never be a gym rat.  I just don't enjoy it.  I can do an hour on the treadmill or the elliptical, but I get so BORED!  And when I get bored, I lose motivation.

What I've found, though, is that if I work activity into my lifestyle, I get it done.  That might mean an active date with Matt - instead of just spending the day hanging out, we'll ride our bikes to the park and have a picnic or go for a hike.  I've been riding my bike to work, which takes about an hour each way.  I could never make myself spend two hours at the gym, but taking the time to bike to work feels like a treat.

And that brings me to today.  I've wanted to start volunteering now that we've gotten settled.  So when I heard about the Great American River Clean Up, I decided it was the perfect way to spend the morning.  Matt and I could hike up and down the river, and the American River Parkway would get cleaned up in the process.

A year ago, I would have heard about the clean up on the radio, and thought "Good for those people, the type of people that can get up early and actually have the energy to do something."  Now I am one of those people, and it feels great!

Weekly Weigh-In

Weekly Loss: -1.6 pounds
Total Loss (since 8/10): -30 pounds

I thought I would feel more excited when I hit the 30 pounds lost mark, but this week seemed kind of anti-climactic.  I almost didn't go to my meeting.  Partly it was because I had other stuff to do, so I had to go to an early meeting and didn't want to get out of bed, but also because I didn't think I would lose.  I'm still not sure I deserved to lose.  I felt gross all week, and that translated into very little activity and very little tracking.

I feel like I got a pass this week.  If I let myself slip back down the path of "kinda sorta" following the plan, it's going to be pretty tough to get back on track.  So this week, my focus is going to be on tracking everything that goes into my mouth, no matter how tired or busy I am.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


So many pears!

Liz has a co-worker who lives up by Placerville, near an area called "Apple Hill," where the locals grow many many apples and pears and other tree fruits.

She's got too many pear trees, so she asked us if we wanted to pick some pears.

Now we have all these pears, and we have some big ideas for them. Stay tuned!

Cashew-Tofu "Ricotta"

As promised, here is a stand-alone post with my version of cashew-tofu "ricotta," which is as close to a classic vegan staple as you can get on these here danged modern internets.
  • 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked for a couple of hours
  • 12-14 oz firm tofu
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons (enough to keep the blades in the bowl moving)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
This whole mess gets processed up in the food processor, and, if you are making something Italian-y, you can also add
  • 1-2 tsp dried basil, or maybe
  • a splash of apple cider vinegar
To give it some zing.

Important notes:

You have to use firm (or at least firm-ish) tofu to get the texture right, if you use silken tofu you end up with a delicious sauce, but not a fluffy ricotta replacement.

Mince the garlic before you add it to the workbowl, otherwise there's too much "stuff" for the blades to get through and you can end up with big chunks of garlic.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekly Weigh-In

Weekly Loss: -2.2 pounds
Total Loss (since 8/10): -28.4 pounds

This week was a really good week, WW wise.  After a small gain last week, I got my head back in the game.  I tracked, I moved, I made an effort to get all my good health guidelines in, and when I got on the scale yesterday, it showed.

I didn't have any secret tricks this week, I just followed WW as it is written.  It shouldn't surprise me anymore - when I'm on plan, I lose.  When I'm not on plan, I don't lose.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ratatouille "Lasagna"


Getting back into the routine of cooking after a crazy cross-country move has been very easy given the robust natural bounty of the Sacramento valley.

We recently played host to Liz's sister and I wanted to make something hearty and festive. I thought, hey, maybe a lasagna, but maybe lighten it up a little.

Liz had read about swapping out the noodles for zucchini, and I had some boss Japanese eggplants, and I thought, hey, ratatouille is pretty standard summer business, what if I layered it up with some tomato sauce and cashew-tofu ricotta and served it up in delicious layers.

I got some quick tomato sauce started in a pan by sauteing down

  • 1/2 a small onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 stalks of celery, and
  • 3 cloves of garlic, with
  • a hearty dollop of olive oil.

I added
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme and
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary and mixed in the contents of
  • one 28-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes.

After this simmered for a while, I splashed in

  • 1 to 1/2 oz dry vermouth

and hit it with the immersion blender.

This didn't seem to be enough sauce, so I added

  • 1 8 oz can of tomato paste and
  • a half-cup of water.

Next time I'll just make a double batch, and just deal with any leftover delicious sauce, oh no...

In the meantime, I stemmed and halved

  • four Japanese eggplants

and set them in the steamer to soften. When they were ready, I sliced them into strips along with

  • about five smallish zucchinis.

I chopped up a handful of kalamata olives I found in the fridge and food-processed up

  • 1 batch of cashew-tofu ricotta, (recipe forthcoming).

Then, I set the oven to 400 and started layering in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan.

Sauce, then eggplant, then zucchini, then tofu, then some olives and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. Repeat these layers once and top with whatever tomato sauce you have left. Bake, covered with foil, at 400, until the zucchini is soft, and then uncovered for about 15 minutes.

It turned out great!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Food Find - Yellow Watermelon

One of the fun things about living in California is that you can grow almost anything here.  As a result, I'm discovering a lot of new food, and I've decided to feature some of it on this blog.

So here's the first food find - yellow watermelon!

Did you know that yellow watermelon existed?  I didn't, at least not until a farmer at the farmers' market told me about it.  We picked it out because I wanted to try something new, and because it was smaller than the red ones.

It still tasted like a watermelon - I couldn't tell a huge difference, but it's been a while since I've had a watermelon.  It was sweeter and more delicate of a taste than I remember, but there's a good chance some of that was because we bought it from the farmer that grew it.

I think this calls for more watermelons, so I can investigate!

Monday, September 5, 2011

We're Back!

It's been a hectic few months.

Since we last posted, we've had a few changes - the biggest one is that we're no longer in Northern Virginia, we've moved to California!

After a 5 1/2 day drive, we pulled into Sacramento, for a nice stay in a residential hotel.  Although we had a small kitchenette, we weren't able to do a lot of cooking that lended itself to blogging (unless you like pictures of salads and canned beans, then do I have some recipes for you)!

We've since found an apartment with a full kitchen, and have been slowly unpacking and getting everything in order.  We've also been finding the grocery stores and farmers' markets.

Our Farmers' Market Haul

We've also been getting other parts of our life in order - namely our finances and our diets.  I've come to realize that the two things are closely related.  Saving money and paying off debt is very similar to losing weight.  Both involve making a budget - if I eat more than my alloted points for the week (i.e. eat more calories than I burn), I gain weight. If I stick to my points "budget", I lose.  If I spend more than I make in a week, I go into debt, but if I spend less, I save money.  To stay within either  budget, I have to make choices.  If I want a latte, I can't buy a cookie later.

I don't really want to go into the details of our financial situation, but I will say that we're making an effort to save.  And since food is the biggest part of our budget that we can control right now, what we eat is going to play a role in that.  So we've decided that we're going to start including that in the blog.

But here's the thing.  I love food.  I really love eating good food.  And any plan, either for losing weight or saving money, that makes me give that up is bound to fail.  That needs to be another focus of the blog.

Hence, the new goal in the header - we want to lose weight, save money, and eat ethically, but we want to do that without sacrificing flavor.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Homemade Foccaccia

There's something really romantic about baking your own bread.  I love fresh bread, so now that I'm getting more comfortable in the kitchen, I decided to start baking my own.

No-knead Foccaccia from Budget Bytes seemed like a good place to start.

The process is pretty simple - combine all the ingredients, let it rise overnight, and bake it.  Really, it's that easy.  And you end up with some pretty fantastic sandwich bread.  A little pointier than my normal bread, but if you use low-points fillings, it's totally worth it.


1 tsp coleman's yellow mustard
three slices of tomato
two leaves of lettuce
two tablespoons of as-yet-unnamed tofu sandwich spread (still being perfected, but the recipe is coming - it's kind of like mayo or cream cheese, so either of those (or the vegan versions) would work well too)

I can't really take credit for any of the recipes in this post, but it did all come together quite nicely.