A 5 Minute Meal

I let the ‘green’ take over lately. It’s certainly gotten me to be far less lazy….and yet lazier.

I decided in December to start watching my diet more. I cut out a lot of processed foods (quite expensive when you think about it). To keep me going, I got a few healthy eating books from the library (broke = get free things).

I decided to start incorporating green juices into my diet. I’m not buying a juicer; they are expensive, they take up a bunch of counter space, and are a pain to clean. Pass. So what can a newly minted juicer wannabe to do? Smoothies.

Now I can have a filling meal and not cook. I don’t plan on taking this very far. I certainly won’t be documenting my green smoothie fasts or tell you that spirulina takes delicious. I will tell you that I already own a blender and having dinner ready in 5 minutes is super exciting.

Blending the veggies means that you get to have all the fiber, thus the full feeling. I warn you: If you decide you feel deprived by drinking a meal, you will be unsatisfied and find solid foods to eat. Just like it is vital to victory for any goal or task to push through and believe you can make it, any doubt you are satisfied will kill that fullness. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, you are totally right. You can’t. Not with that attitude.

Now that you have decided to give green smoothies a try, you accept that it is weird to drink a meal but it won’t kill you, and you have your blender in hand I can help you make this even easier.

(There’s the laziness kicking in!)

Your Perfect Smoothie recipe: 

1. Start with the liquid. Add 1 cup of water/nut milk/coffee/tea/fresh fruit juice <–don’t buy juice, like, ever again. That’s just sugar. Use this only if you do not have diabetes, pre-diabetes, or any other liquid option really.

2. Add veggies, at least 1 cup. A few sources I’ve read suggest 3 veggies to 1 fruit. It balances the flavor, keeps the sugar and calories down, and keeps flavors from getting too weird. Some of my faves include 1/2 an avocado to make it creamy, 1/2 a cucumber for a refreshing lightness, a big handful of leafy greens – you can’t taste ’em unless you focus really hard, a few stalks of celery…Really put what you have in. Don’t do broccoli because that would be a weird texture, but try the stems. Mix and match. Try organic if possible, wash them well if not.

3. Add fruit, at least a serving. Frozen berries are real winners, as are frozen bananas, green apples, and any in season fruit. If you use citrus, don’t toss it in rind and all. That will be too bitter. Just juice it.

4. Fancy stuff: 1-2 Tbsp. Want it thick and creamy, more like a milkshake? Add almond butter. Want it just a little thicker? Put 1tsp of chia seeds in 1/4c water and it will turn into a superfood gel. Need it sweeter? Hold back and use just a little cinnamon, local honey, cacao/carob, agave, vanilla, or even cut up seedless dates.

Blend, baby, blend. Play with what you use, find more recipes on the internet, get excited! Now you have a healthy 5 minute meal option when cooking seems impossible. While this is a great way to get tons more veggies in your diet, don’t try to live off these. You need a varied diet and enough calories.

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Credit Cards and My New Favorite Book

I went over my budget recently and realized that food is my weakness.

I’m not exactly buying fancy, Whole Foods groceries here. It’s the little, insidious things that really start to add up. I’ll tell my friends no when they ask about dinner or drinks…then I usually cave about half the time. And spend what my mind has already decided I won’t spend.

Why is it so easy? Plastics make it possible.

I keep my credit card purchases within a payable range, I pay mine off every month. I know I’m very lucky that I can do that, but I realize I’m also borrowing against the freedom of my future for instant gratification.

So I cut up my credit card.

Well, I stuck it through the shredder at work. And I’m not calling for a replacement until I need to buy a plane ticket home for Christmas.

I really thought it would be freeing. It is. It is also scary as hell. Credit cards are a great security blanket. “Just in case things are a bit more expensive.” “Just in case we go a little wild.” “Just in case I find something I like.” That ‘Just In Case’ security blanket is slowly draining my wallet….and perversely I’m often thankful for that!

I’m tired of making a budget and not sticking to it. I’m tired of living in fear of going out. When I go out, I have what is in my bank account or cash. This works for me because the day my paycheck arrives in my account I pay any bill that will be due before the next paycheck. I do this IMMEDIATELY.

So how am I enjoying my frightening financial freedom? I’m walking more, playing Ingress. I’m reading many free library books.

I wait to pronounce judgement on a book until after I’ve read it. Then I am offering a fully informed position. Not this book!

I’m currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I am inspired. I have actually laughed out loud several times. Each time I pick up this book I can’t decide if I want to homestead or just make one of her incredible recipes (if it’s in season).

I love gardening even though I’m not good at it yet. I love being outdoors more than the bugs who feast upon me. I may ask for this for Christmas so I can stay inspired year round.

The Weekend Foodening

Sometimes I am reminded – forcefully – why having roommates is frustrating. After an hour of cleaning, my kitchen was finally ready for ME to use it.

Getting into the groove in my newly cleaned kitchen, I made the base of dinner ahead of time. Tonight, instead of blowing money on restaurant mark ups, we’re making our own pizza! I made the dough and am bringing red onions and bell peppers as topping options(you do you, let me do me), two friends are providing the sauce and cheese. I used The Pioneer Woman’s pizza dough recipe. Simple, quick, and always good. I can make this in 5 minutes flat now.

Then I went on to make a cucumber and red onion salad that is out of the world. 5 minutes of chopping, 5 minutes of measuring (or eyeballing) and mixing, 20 minutes of sitting for the magical flavor meld….and scene. Today I added a dash of rice vinegar and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds for an exotic touch.

Finally, my coup d’cuisine of the day was a kitchen sink fritatta. I was reminded that roommates are worth it when I went through the fridge and found a few veggies that needed to be used or tossed today. We have a policy that if something is on its last legs and you find it, you get it. Today was a haul! I found some shriveled, sad tater tots. I thought a tater tot omelet sounded like the best idea I could have had today. Then a yellow bell pepper, a jalapeno, and a roma tomato came into my possession.

My kitchen sink fritatta came together as follows (don’t forget to compost scraps!):

finely chop: 1/4 red onion and 1 jalapeno into slivers

dice: 1 bell pepper, 1 tomato

thinly slice: 1 small potato

include: fistful leafy greens (like kale or mustard greens), leftover tater tots, 8 eggs, spices

Preheat the oven to 350*. Warm up a cast iron skillet, add a glug of olive oil, and cook the potato slices until soft. Toss on kale and cooked until it was bright green. Dump in all veggies and cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Mix your favorite spices into the eggs and whisk. I used cumin, garlic powder, cajun seasoning, paprika, pepper, cayenne. Dump the eggs on top and set in the oven for 20 minutes. Pull out and let cool a bit.

You can use any leftover veggie. The best part about fritattas are that they can be any flavor profile and are even ‘low carb’ compared to a quiche – which is just a fritatta with a crust.

Bike For Better Butts and Budgets

I do not own a car and have never owned a car. Now, when I was growing up in rural Minnesota I needed a car to drive across state lines to go to school. Waking up so early SUCKED.

Now I live in a city. This city does not have public transportation worth mentioning. Yeah we have buses….that run whenever they feel like. I’m not waiting an hour just for a mile long bus ride.

So how do I get around? Grocery shop? Live a full and fun life?

I bike and walk. I find that since I live near my friends, most don’t mind driving a few blocks out of the way to get me for a night out. I certainly don’t mind going home early with them. I do have to be careful to avoid rides with the party animals unless I know I can get a ride home with someone who properly appreciates going to bed by midnight, even on weekends.

*Don’t judge. I also love naps. Sleep, like water, is the absolute cheapest way to live a healthier lifestyle. Get plenty of both.*

I will admit, I have spent the last decade shaping my life around not having a car. I can walk to my job in 20 minutes. I can walk or bike to any friend’s house in 5-45 minutes. My neighborhood has two grocery stores across the street from each other a 15 minute walk away. That walk feels crazy long if I’m lugging liquids, but I cut soda/juice from my diet. I shop once a week to grab only what I can carry, I plan my meals ahead.

I own rain boots and many umbrellas. I will be investing in a waterproof canvas pack soon. Rain guards on your bike will save you from most splashes. Rain, shine, heat, humidity, dark…I can make it through anything as long as I prepare.

My real secret? Don’t give yourself an out. For me, that’s not owning a car. If I don’t go out on my own, I generally don’t go out. Maybe you can refuse to use your car on weekends? After work? For any reason but work? Examine your lifestyle, accept that you can change, and make the change worth it. You will save money on gas and maintenance, get fit by moving more, and may change your diet once you realize that produce isn’t heavy, but pounds of meat and boxes of TV dinners are.

A Blender, A Banana, and a Coffee Can Walk Into Your House

I rarely want ice cream and when I do, I never want to embark on an odyssey to the grocery store.

Lucky for me, The Internet knows a lot. One thing The Internet told me is that you can make (vegan) ice cream out of bananas. I can hear you already: “But I don’t want banana flavored ice cream!” “It won’t have the same texture!” “Healthy food tastes like crap!”

If that’s you, I want you to sit there quietly in your wrongness. You’ll never know until you try and I have tried for you. And now I have ‘ice cream’ way more often than before. Slice up a banana per person (2 if this is your dinner), set on a plate, put in the freezer for an hour, stick in food processor, and don’t lick the blades when it is all done. They are sharp.

Food processor or blender, it will take about 5 minutes and some scraping. But it will magically turn from frozen crumbles to creamy goodness right quick. The flavor is so mild. If you are worried about having the banana flavor ruin everything add a few drops of vanilla extract. Toss in some fresh fruit. Add some cocoa powder. The sky is the limit!

Now that you have ice cream, cleaning up sounds like a waste of time. Before it melts, you can have that blender of food processor cleaned up. Simply squirt a drop of soap in, fill half way with water, and run on the highest setting for 30 seconds. Take apart, rinse, and there should be nothing left to scrub!

What to do with those banana peels leftover? Stick ’em in your composter! I have no compost at home, I have to take it to a friend’s house and drop it over her fence. No biggie, but where to store the smelly stuff? I took a plastic coffee can – the kind with the ‘sealed’ top – drilled a few small holes in the top and hot glued a carbon filter to the inside of the lid. Make sure the filter covers the holes. I got my filter at a pet store, people use them for kitty litter boxes. Shake it every other day and empty it when it is full or weekly.

There you have it, an easy Saturday project with a sweet reward when you are done. 🙂

Cheap, easy, green.

My Slow Cooker Saved My Life (Figuratively)

So, as you have likely noticed, I have not been posting much. It’s that lazy part. It gets in the way sometimes. This is especially true around dinnertime.

I love food. I enjoy eating. If I don’t do that regularly, I become quite snappy and grumpy. Hangry is real and it is a fire you don’t want to play with. But as a lazy independent adult who can’t afford take out everyday, I have to fight to keep myself eating healthy and not being in a rut.

A versatile base is key to a somewhat varied diet. And in comes the slow cooker. For meat eaters out there, what could sound better than a few pounds of chicken breasts cooking without you having to even be there?! That chicken can turn into chicken tacos, chicken salad, a buffalo chicken dip…you get my drift.

For me, my personal chicken is beans. Don’t try to understand that last sentence, just go with it! Beans, beans, the wonderful legume that offers vegetarians a complete protein when paired with a carb. It is not true that the more you eat, the more you toot. Your body only gets gas as it initially adjusts to all that fiber you are suddenly consuming. But it is so worth it! Eat your first few bean-heavy meals alone while binging on Netflix and after a few days feel free to rejoin society. Or not, I won’t push.

I’m offering up beans as the cheapest, easiest way to make some yummy meals. You can even participate in Meatless Mondays without breaking a sweat. Tacos, salads, dips, burgers – you name it and you can probably make it with beans. Mexican is my go to, so I usually make a pound of black beans and have a base for quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and salads for a week at least!

Buy a pound of any bean you love, and in general you can follow this easy recipe:

Sort your beans, take out any broken beans and any debris like rocks. Toss into your slow cooker any aromatics you’d like. I use one diced onion and 3 bay leaves. Add your pound of beans. Add water until it is 2 inches above the beans. Put on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Beans freeze quite well, so if you made too much, portion out a cup apiece into freezer friendly containers and they will last 2 months or so.

 

Some tips: I don’t add salt until the end. If you are cooking kidney beans, boil them for 10 minutes before cooking. This neutralizes a toxin called phytohemagglutinin that can cause some noticeable gut distress. Finally, this won’t work for lentils. They take far, far less time to cook.

Meatless…It’s What’s For Dinner

Confession time: People think I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not exactly.

I did research into where my food comes from. That’s a pretty hip thing to do these days. We all know what happens to migrant workers picking our fruits and veggies. We’re aware of the horrific treatment of animals from birth to slaughter. Everything is coated in pesticides, pumped full of antibiotics, and uses insane amounts of fossil fuels to get shipped to our local mom-and-pop killing supermarkets. Did I cover everything?

So….what the hell do I eat?

Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want, so spending wisely is now a two-fold issue. I have decided to make the smallest changes, one at a time, so I can stick with them. After all, as Jon Stewart says:

‘If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.’

You know my mantra by now. My changes are small so I can be lazy, on the cheap because I’m broke, and in general greener.

I am now a flexitarian. I know, that sounds so modern and hipster I want to punch myself for saying that, but it’s the best description. I tell everyone I don’t eat meat. That way I am not pressured to eat meat, say at a grill out. And sometimes I absolutely must have a burger, no matter what anyone else says, so I can have that allowance.

Flexitarianism is perfect for our generation, the fomo generation. We don’t want to miss out on anything, but we want a cause. We don’t like rigid definitions. I know that if I declared myself a full vegetarian, I’d resent it at least for a while. Now, kudos to those who can do this. I would like to get there, one day. Instead of focusing on that one day, however, I focus on my choices one meal at a time.

On to saving money and helping the environment. Skip the expensive convenience food, chop your own damn veggies, and give the meat a pass meals a week. This can make an incredible impact on the food system.

Vegetarian cooking can be daunting if you approach it with your old recipes but no meat. View vegetarian cooking as its own cuisine, just like Mexican, Italian, and Chinese are all different. Find new recipes, don’t believe the marketing hype that you have to add textured soy protein to everything (what the meatless ‘meats’ are made of), and get creative!

I’ll be posting some of my favorite meatless-but-delicious recipes here. Look over your favorite recipes, you may have more vegetarian dishes in your arsenal than you know.