Clare's Chaotic Cacophony

This is my little piece of cyberspace where I chronicle events in my life. Where I can vent, or dream, or wax poetic… Grab a heavily alcoholic beverage and join me, if you will.

Archive for January, 2014

Fresh is Best!

I already posted about my week of fresh, healthy foods and what a time saver the “twice as much meat” method was. I’m actually kind of bummed that it’s over. I really need to locate more of these recipe chains that span a week. Regardless, it was fun cooking so very…fresh. I love cooking with fresh wholesome ingredients. It always tastes better and you feel better after eating fresh ingredients. Another thing I’ve noticed is that it actually looks better as well! Don’t we always eat with our eyes first? If your stew looks like puke-in-a-bowl, you probably aren’t going to dig in heartily. For example, everytime I open the My Fitness Pal app, the loading screen just incites hunger. It looks so rustic, like foods you’d take to a picnic at a Mediterranean hillside. Observe:

MFPscreen

Doesn’t that look amazing? Well, everything except the purple things, which I’m 99.9% sure are beets (aka Satan’s turds). But that’s just me.

Cooking fresh often comes with a caveat, however. It does take more time. You can bang out a pot of Kraft mac and cheese in under 30 minutes whereas making it from scratch will take at least twice as long. When you’re a mom with an adorable yet noisy 18 month old frantically pushing your legs away from the counter and shrieking, that box of Kraft just says “Screw it and cook me now!”. So I’m on a mission to find ways to make fresher more organic meals take less time. Any little tip or trick that would reduce the time I spend getting shrieked at is golden to me. This brings me to my first small victory…fresh herbs.

I love fresh herbs. Yes, I of course have a pantry and spice rack full of the dried ones as well, and that’s fine, but some recipes just require fresh ones. Cilantro, for example, really isn’t the same dried. Besides, it’s almost a mood booster to inhale it’s fragrance while chopping it. (The one downfall to dealing with fresh cilantro for me is that it gives me a powerful craving for Pho, but I digress..) Still, chopping herbs is messy and frustrating to me. Then one glorious day a tip from the online heavens passed before my eyes and revolutionized my herb chopping. “Use a pizza wheel.” This intrigued me. Not everyone has a mezzaluna. I don’t and as much as I love collecting interesting kitchen gadgets with specific uses, there’s only so much drawer and cabinet space in one home. But a pizza wheel…who doesn’t have that? So one of my aforementioned recipes required fresh oregano. That’s even smaller than cilantro and I didn’t want it all over my kitchen. So I killed two birds with one stone. I used the pizza wheel, and I cut it on a paper plate.

oregano

The paper plate kept the herbs contained in the cutting area. It also created a disposable cutting board with no scrubbing involved. The pizza wheel sliced through the herbs in no time at all and rather evenly too. In seconds, I had this beautiful, fragrant pile of fresh ingredient.

chopped

 

I used the same method on cilantro and actually reused the paper plate to also cut avocados for a salad. Once again, since the plate had raised edges, I could toss the avocado in lemon juice and seasonings and it picked up the remnants of the cilantro as well. Even my kids who claimed they didn’t like avocado ate it in their salad that day. I had fewer things to wash. Everyone came out happy. Score one for busy home cooks everywhere! 😉

 


False Starts…

I can’t say how many times I’ve opened this blog, wanting to type out my thoughts and send them out into the netherwebs. There are several half-completed drafts sitting in my dashboard to prove it too. But something always comes up: a kiddo screams, someone punches someone else, my little lap monkey can’t keep his hands off the keyboard, or I just can’t get fully behind what I’m writing. Brain farts are quite typical in motherhood, apparently. So typical in fact, that I often get the bug to do something to expand my brain. I’ve blogged about this before, in fact I think it was when I first dabbled in HTML and CSS. Hard to believe (feeeeel the sarcasm) but that fell by the wayside after awhile. Not that I didn’t enjoy it…life just got in the way. It became just another false start.

So here I sit, as usual with a squirming monkey in my lap and thoughts rambling in my brain, trying once again to get a blog post out. (I can’t promise anything stellar here. I’ve already had to pause once or twice to attend to something or another.)

My quest for fitness is going well enough. The holidays brought a lot of goodies and four extra pounds, so that was somewhat of a road bump. But with the help of my trainer, I’m already back to my pre-holiday weight and working on going further. I’ve had amazing success with cooking extremely healthy dinners that the kids love. They’ve eaten quinoa, brown rice, roasted broccoli, baked fish, and more. Even though they’ve balked more than once at the new food, they’ve loved every bit of it. Some of the dinners employ this genius ideology of cooking twice as much meat as you’ll need for one dinner, thus giving you pre-cooked meat for a future meal. For example, half of the large Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin was served as a roast with sides one night, and the other half was sliced and warmed with peppers and onions to make pork fajitas another night. It’s a wonderful time saver! This week in particular, I’ve challenged myself to eat uber clean. No cheats. I started strong Friday morning and am already drooling over cinnamon rolls. Damn cinnamon rolls with their thick cream cheese icing and their gooey cinnamon oozing from between the soft folds of dough. Yes, damn them. I refuse to give in. I must be steel. Cinnamon roll hating steel.

Anyhoo, In addition to my quest to improve my physical side, I’ve also embarked on a journey to improve my mental side. I already referenced the brain farts, so you’ll know where I’m coming from here. Jason introduced me to the world of free online classes offered by major universities (otherwise known as MOOCS). That love of coding that started with my HTML endeavors now has a structure to grow in. I’m taking a computer science course from Harvard. It’s amazing. There are video lectures, walkthroughs, problem sets and online groups and forums as well. There are nine projects and one big final. I’ve already submitted one ahead of schedule that I was rather proud of. Still waiting with bated breath for the grades on that one, though. There was a surprise section of Math with that project which really gave my brain a workout. I’ve had my fingers crossed since clicking submit that I aced it…I guess we’ll see.

A side note definitely worth mentioning is that we’ve been able to start the tradition of date nights. My (wonderful and darling) youngest sister has volunteered her Thursday evenings off to play with my kiddos so Jason and I can have time to go out and just be adults. We’ve had three such nights so far and it’s been amazing. We can eat and have conversations and even watch a movie without any interruptions. It’s allowed our brains to unwind and for us to reconnect. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the kiddos, that we forget to carve out a bit of “us time”. Time flies when you have kids and before you know it, it’s been months since you’ve had an evening together. Last year we had a grand total of two dates. I kid you not. So having three nights out in the same month has literally been mind blowing. It’s also reminded me how very important it is. I think I’m especially guilty of taking the “putting your children first” to the extreme. While it’s true that we currently exist to raise and take care of our kids, I’m slowly realizing that I must take time to take care of myself as well.

I’m determined that unlike the drafts in my dashboard, these things will not be false starts. I want to see progress in my measurements, weight, and body composition. I want to pass this course with flying colors and earn that certificate from Harvard. I want Jason and I to have time to be adults and be able to still date each other. For being less than a month into the new year, 2014 is really teaching me a lot…