Category Archives: Food

Traveling with Dietary Restraint

As I am writing this, I’m in the 36-hour window between two business trips. Somehow, I’ve swung getting 4 business trips this year…all for a position that requires no travel. I still have 2 more to go!

Traveling was less stressful before I decided to get my diet under control. I’m trying to give myself grace while traveling, but it’s hard not to spend a lot of time working out what I should eat. In my everyday life I do all my meal planning for the week at once, so I’m not used to having to think about it during the week and do much better when everything is pre-planned. This just isn’t possible when you’re eating out and on another’s schedule.

For these trips, I’m doing as much research ahead of time that I can. For last week’s trip, I was told ahead of time who was catering each meal, so I used that information to pick out the healthiest options I could. I also pre-planned my airport meal for DIA (smaller airports are proving to be more difficult), so I knew exactly where to go.

chocolate decadence
The picture isn’t great quality, but this is the “chocolate decadence” dessert that I allowed myself. It was worth the wait!

I knew that on these trips that food would be available in abundance that I do not need right now, including desserts. I decided to allow myself one dessert for the week, and ate that on the last night. That made saying “no” to the other sweets much easier and less stressful.

For the upcoming week, my schedule is more loose. I’m going to research the local restaurants and find a handful of meals that will work, so that I have options. Something else I’ll be doing on this trip is bringing chia seeds with me…eating differently is causing dietary issues on the other end, so I want to add some additional fiber to my travel diet. I should be able to add the seeds to my breakfast to help myself out.

As much as possible, I’m trying not to stress about food while I travel, as I don’t want food to rule me in that way, either. So far, I’ve been able to enjoy the good food while also keeping it mostly within my usual limitations. I’m okay if I’m not losing my 2 pounds a week during this time, but I also don’t want to gain anything back.

Joint Book Review: Locally Laid by Lucie B. Amundsen

51QtHln5c0L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This month’s joint book review is Locally Laid:  How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm-from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen.  Detailing the process of how the Amundsen family created and developed their vision of a humane and healthy chicken farm, Locally Laid also provides information on the industry, and demonstrates the importance of local businesses with both humor and passion.

Amanda’s Take

I picked up this book because it came highly recommended for being both informative and humorous.  That’s a win for me!

This book did turn out to be both informative and very funny.  It also had the added effect of inspiring me to never raise chickens–at least not on the scale of the Amundsen farm, Locally Laid.  I would rather spend my time and energy on something I am a little more motivated to work on; the closest I have ever come to chicken-raising is watching a friend’s small flock for a weekend, and while educational, it is also laborious and, well, dirty.

A more subtle theme in the book is what it takes to start a business from the ground up–and not surprisingly, it entails a lot.  I really admire the courage it took for the Amundsen family to leave all they had known and take the leap of faith in starting a chicken farm.  They started out not knowing a great deal about the birds, but they followed their passion (or, in the case of the author, her husband’s passion) and learned a lot along the way.

Check out this book for more insight into what it takes to start a business–especially one involving animals–and for a lot of laughs along the way.

Ronnica’s Take

Reading Locally Laid gave me a much more realistic view of what it would be like to raise my own chickens. I don’t know that I ever will, but it’s something that I consider when I dream of growing most of my own food. I’ve always been more comfortable with plants than animals, but I think it would be a good thing to stretch myself in this area…if I get some first-hand experience first.

I enjoyed this book as it was one example of someone seeing a problem in our food system and taking action. I buy the cheap eggs (when I buy them, which isn’t that often), but I can see the merits of supporting businesses like Locally Laid. I’ll be honest, knowing more about where my food comes from is something about which I’ve willing stayed ignorant, sadly.

A Favorite Summer Recipe

51F9MMASVHL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_It’s hot here in Kansas.  Hot and humid.

That makes me far less inclined to spend time cooking over a hot stove with the oven on, so I rely pretty heavily on my slow cooker.

Here is one that has been on heavy rotation lately, courtesy of Crazy About Crockery, which has to be one of the best cookbooks EVER.  Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Chicken Tetrazzini

4 whole chicken breasts, split, skinless

2 cans cream of chicken soup (or use Ronnica’s recipe)

1 can cream of mushroom soup (Since we aren’t big mushroom fans, I usually omit this.)

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 pkg (8 oz) spaghetti pasta or other shaped pasta (we like egg noodles)

2 teaspoons parsley flakes

2 teaspoons basil

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker.  Cover with cream of chicken soup and 1 cup water.  Cover with lid and cook on high for six hours  Remove chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Return chicken to slow cooker.  Add all remaining ingredients except pasta and cheese.  Cover slow cooker and reduce heat to low.  Continue cooking for about 1-3 hours.  About 30 minutes prior to serving, stir in sour cream.  In separate saucepan, prepare pasta according to package directions.  Cook until tender, but firm.  Rinse and drain.  Serve slow cooker mixture over pasta.  Top with shredded cheese.

Eating for Weight Loss on a Budget

Quick update: I’m now down 28 pounds. A quarter of the way to my goal!

I mentioned when I talked about losing weight on a budget that I am not spending more on food than I was previously. It’s a little early to tell, but I actually think I might end up spending less.

I’m sharing this today not because I think that everyone can follow what I do, but hopefully to give you some ideas of what you might be able to do yourself.

I don’t buy diet foods. Almost everything I eat, I make from scratch. This is absolutely how I can control the ingredients and keep the calories within the range I need to eat.

I no longer am eating for pleasure (though I do enjoy what I eat). I’m eating for fuel, and I believe that these are the choices that are not only going to help me lose weight, but also stay healthy.

Might be eating healthier if all but one thing from today’s grocery shop needs fridge/freezer.

A photo posted by Ronnica Rothe (@ronnicaz) on

Breakfast

I work evenings, so my “breakfast” is at noon. As it is my only meal at home, I make a smoothie with my Nutribullet.

Ronnica’s smoothie recipe
1 cup no-fat Greek yogurt
3/4 cup frozen fruit
1 cup spinach
1 small piece of kale
1/3 medium carrot
1/4 cup oat bran
1 tablespoon chia seed
1 tablespoon flax seed
1/2 cup water

I’ve had these every day (travel excluded) for the past 6 weeks, and I’ve not gotten bored. I vary the fruit according to my fancy. I will probably also start varying the veggies some, too.

To keep costs down, I’ll be shopping around for good deals on fruit this summer and freeze them.

To keep the spinach and kale fresh for a few weeks, I wash it, dry it, then place it in paper towel lined plastic containers. (I really need to invest in tea towels!).

Lunch

My 4:00 “lunch” at work is always muffins. I make my own, usually with a fruit or veggie in it. I make a week’s worth of muffins on my cooking day (currently Saturday). This has my only added sugar for the day: 1 tablespoon of sugar per day.

Dinner

Dinner varies from week to week, but it is the same every day in any given week, as I make a batch of it on my cooking day. I’ve made carrot-infused turkey meatloaf, mini quiches and stews with various spices. My favorite has been Mexican-flavored stew with a little bit of chicken and a lot of veggies. At one large chicken breast per week, this is all the meat I usually eat.

Snacks

If I have not reached my calorie count for the day, I’ll end my day with a snack. So far, I’ve been eating up the snacks I already had, but I’ll probably lean towards snacks of nuts or cheeses.

I’ll also be adding in more fresh veggies as the growing season allows. The great thing about veggies is that they allow you to feel full without adding in a lot of calories.

Weekends

Weekends I start my day with a smoothie, but tend to vary my evening meal. Lately, I’ve  gotten on a cheese bread kick (made with homemade, whole-wheat dough which I freeze). Though this is more calories than I eat in one meal any other time in the week, I usually replace both lunch and dinner with it.

What healthy, from-scratch meals do you make?

Pantry Staples

unnamed (6)After a recent post about groceries, I was talking with a friend about how we manage to go grocery shopping so “rarely”–anywhere from one week to three weeks.

That got me to thinking about how we pull it off, and what it boils down to is this:  we keep certain things (foods, spices, etc.) in our kitchen that can be utilized by many different dishes.  Here are a few examples:

1.  A broad assortment of spices.  In addition to the standard spices, like cinnamon, salt and pepper, make sure to have a few other options available too.  Ones I find I use a lot include ginger, cumin, parsley, and (surprisingly) crushed red pepper flakes.

The benefit to having a variety of seemingly random spices is that if you don’t have a spice on hand that a recipe calls for, a quick internet search often yields an appropriate substitute, thus eliminating the need to go out to the store and spend money.  For example, I did not have poultry seasoning on hand for a recipe, but I did have rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, and thyme that Google told me would make a decent DIY poultry seasoning.  It worked!

2.  Protein source.  Be it lentils, peanut butter, chicken, beef, fish, or lamb, keeping a protein source at the ready can help you create the skeleton of a recipe.  Plus, if you stock up when meats are on sale, you can also save money!

3.  Veggies.   It is a well-known fact that I incorporate almost-rotten foods in my cooking because I hate the idea of wasting food (and thus wasting money), but don’t discount frozen and canned vegetables either.  Toss them in with your spices and protein source, and you are well on your way to a tasty casserole of your own making.

4.  Cream of something soup.  Ronnica makes her own cream of chicken soup; I prefer to buy mine.  No matter your soup origin preference, if you have cream of chicken/mushroom/celery soup on hand, then you have a critical component of hundreds of recipes.

What food staples do you keep handy?