Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mashed White Beans

I never made it to the supermarket today, so I ate out of the pantry. Breakfast was oatmeal, lunch was brown rice with salsa, dinner was mashed white beans with garlic and rosemary. The beans were so good. Oh, I also finished up some ice cream.

Last Sunday, I spent $12.78 at the grocery store. Ground Turkey $3.29, 2 cans crushed tomatoes $1.74, box of rigatoni .99, cheddar cheese $2.39, omega spread $2.89, carrot .48, celery $1.11, mushrooms $1.99.

I made a Turkey Bolognese and ate that for four days, along with brown rice and cheese, for lunch and dinner. On Thursday I bought a slice of pizza for lunch $5.00, and ice cream and chips $9.00 at the corner store, Friday I bought an Italian from Amatos for $5.00, and a roast beef and boursin sandwich for dinner $7.00.

As usual, I have been reading articles on nutrition all over the internet. One article I read made a strong case for eating more omega 3's, especially by consuming fish. The author credits fish oil capsules with lifting his depression. Another article I read compared four different diets, and concluded any food combination will work for losing weight, as long as calories are controlled.

I continue to aspire to eating a "Mediterranean Diet." Basically, this diet consists of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and whole grains, with protein from beans, fish and poultry. Red meat is only consumed about once a month. I am convinced of the benefits of eating this way, however, I find it difficult to figure out exactly how to put it into practice.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Food Blogs Lead One Astray

I have become an avid reader of food blogs lately and its steering me way off course. Example: the Pan bagnat recipe I tried last week, inspired by several glowing descriptions of this fancy sandwich on various blogs (funny how the same recipe turns up around the internet at the same time.) I bought capers, canned Italian tuna, black olives, and artisan bread last week, thinking this would be my new brown bag lunch solution, and forgetting the fact I am not all that fond of capers, black olives and canned tuna. Did I think the internet would transform these ingredients into something I would love through some kind of digital alchemy? Didn't work. Oily tuna smashed between bread slices by a heavy weight. Yuck. Maybe if I had remembered to buy the arugula it called for. Maybe if had chopped the capers smaller.

Of course, its possible, in addition to being an inept cook, I am an incompetent eater. The best thing I ate last week, to my mind, were half cooked mushrooms straight out of the pan, which I was sauteing while very hungry. Truthfully, I enjoyed the half cooked mushrooms more than the dish they ended up in.

So, is it possible my palate was ruined being raised on Captain Crunch for breakfast, egg salad on white for lunch, and frozen french fries, overcooked broccoli and fish sticks for dinner? "No Pan bagnat for you, you uncouth swine!" the Nazi-like Chef might say. That can't be entirely true, as I have enjoyed fresh spring rolls, Szechuan shrimp, vegetable tempura, and other "ethnic" food in restaurants for years. Maybe I just don't like French food. The scary thing is, with the economic news as it is, I can well imagine losing my job and ending up on food stamps. Then, I would have to live on $21.00 for food a week and the question of learning to like capers would be moot.

So, I vacillate between wanting to emulate the food blog writers who whip up seafood bisque and rave about it, and combing the frugal people sites where they talk about cutting coupons for Hot Pockets. Meanwhile, I peruse nutrition sites that advocate for calorie restriction, or the Mediterranean Diet for good health and increased longevity, and that make me anxious to avoid cream of mushroom/ground beef type casseroles and other poor people staples. The Harvard Nutrition website says "no potatoes!"

You have to eat 1,800 a day, that's just a fact. The more vegetables and fruits and whole grains those calories come from, the better off you are. It's that simple. So what if your meals don't look like the food bloggers' masterpieces and you don't get the same pleasure they seem to from Tuna Nicoise?

It's not necessary to slide into eating Spam, white rice and Velveeta (its all coming back to me now. We really ate those foods growing up. We also drank Tang.) It's OK to eat simply, count pennies, and aim for those seven servings of nutrient dense vegetables a day. That's the point. Get a grip.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I spent $40.83 at the Supermarket Today

What I bought:
crusty wheat bread $3.66, free range eggs $2.99
Genova brand Tonno Tuna in olive oil, $ 3.66 Goya Capers $2.59,
linguine $1.19, Parmesan cheese, $2.39, sour cream .99,
olives $1.13, peas $1.47, thin cut steak $3.36, cilantro $2.29,
carrots .83, ginger .25, 2 green peppers $2.74, spinach $1.99,
mushrooms $1.99, lemon .50, deodorant $3.22, dental floss $2.29

Last weekend I made two recipes from Women's Health Magazine,
Jambalya and Cozy Quinoa Casserole. I ate those two dishes all week,
plus pasta with veggies. This week I have made a Pan Bagnat, which is a
tuna, vinaigrette and hard boiled egg sandwich you wrap up in plastic
and marinate overnight with a brick on it, to flatten the sandwich. I think
I'm going to like it, the Genova canned tuna was expensive but out of this world
tasting (for canned tuna.) I also made a Salmon Kedgeree from the
MediterrAsian website, (brown rice, curry, peas, hard boiled egg, salmon,
cilantro.) and a Korean style steak stir fry from a recipe on Food Network.
I don't usually eat red meat, but I felt like I needed it. I put these dishes in
individual containers in the freezer and I will eat off that all week.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

$62.04 at Supermarket

coffee $4.59
eggs $2.89
brown rice $2.69
quinoa $4.58
monteray jack cheese $2.69
cheddar cheese $2.39
Lactaid milk $4.15
spaghetti $1.49
Omega spread $2.89
Stoneyfield Banilla yogurt $3.69
frozen blueberries $3.49
chicken sausage $4.49
Shadyfarm ground turkey $2.79
asparagus (from Peru!) $2.29
celery $1.17
1 red pepper $1.36
sliced mushrooms $1.69
red potatoes $3.36
dish detergent $1.09
plastic containers $3.39
shampoo .99
kleenex $2.49
toliet paper .99

I plan to make two particular dishes: Cozy Quinoa Casserole and Jambalaya (hence the chicken sausage.) Eventually I want to have a collection of recipes I can plan around, and really get this
food shopping thing down to a science.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How do you stay on a food budget?

Last weekend I didn't manage to get to the supermarket, so I lived off what food I had in my pantry and freezer, plus I ate out.

I spent $30.00 on take out food during the week, plus I hit the corner store for wine and a box of fish sticks, $12.00. Yesterday I went on a vending machine rampage: Diet coke, Kit Kat bar, vanilla creme cookies, and pretzel sticks. I don't even want to add it up.

I think Diet Coke is the trigger for my sugar cravings. Trouble is, my workplace is overheated and the water cooler is malfunctioning, (boss refuses to have it fixed
due to the recession.) Diet Coke beckons, although it actually makes me thirstier, I've noticed. Solution: I need to bring a gallon of water to work everyday.

Obviously, I either stay on top of the grocery thing, or end up spending too much on take out food. There is no way around it, its just better for me to be organized so I don't have to resort to take out. What I have learned keeping this blog, however, is that its just as easy to go overboard and spent $111.00 at the store, buying all the ingredients for five recipes, as it is to spent $50.00 on take out, plus eating out of the pantry. There must be a way to keep oneself fed, eating healthy food, for $30.00 a week. That's what I'm trying to figure out how to do.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Calorie Restriction for Longevity and Health

Yesterday I did lots of reading on the 'net regarding the benefits of the Calorie Restriction Diet. Animal studies have shown routinely restricting calories leads to increases in longevity and to staving off illness of aging like Alzheimer's and diabetes.

I do believe a calorie restricted life is a healthier one. It is not the same as anorexia. Anorexics don't eat enough protein and glucose. Their bodies end up destroying their heart muscles, seeking the calories to convert enough energy to keep moving. CRD adherents meticulously track their nutrient intake to avoid that fate.

If there is one state people fear the most, its starvation, but CRD is promoted as the healthiest diet in the world, severally restricting calories, while focusing on optimal nutrition. CRD, however, is clearly not a "natural" lifestyle, in that, given free rein, most people will overeat. Most eating is unconscious, directed by external stimuli, and driven by primal forces. If its hard for the average person to stay on Weight Watchers, how do you stay on CRD?

I remember fasting as a teenager. Day One was agony, Day Two I felt euphoric and free. It was wonderful not to eat, made me wonder why I ever had, or would again. Day Three I woke up driven to devour a hard boiled egg. In the back of my mind I could hear mother nature scolding me, "You foolish girl! Eat or you will die!" I felt defeated. Mother Nature wants her girls to have enough fat to be fertile and able to carry a fetus to term. That's her priority, what does she care if you want to wear skinnier jeans?

So, the question for me is, how safe is it to go against nature and one's instinct to eat omnivorously? Is a longer, healthier life worth conquering the most unconscious drive in your body? I am not a teenage girl anymore, fasting on Diet Coke, compromising my fertility. I'm a middle aged (eek!) woman, seeking to preserve my brain and arteries and live a good life.