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.

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.

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.

What Do I Mean By ‘Green’?

“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”
― Pete Seeger

Green is a hot term these days. Used interchangeably with ‘natural’ and often combined with ‘organic’, ‘sustainable’, and any word that can have the prefix ‘eco-‘ added in front of it, green can mean almost anything to anyone as long as you can picture a happy spot in nature while using the product being sold.

My problem with most of that is either the product seems more expensive or less effective (sometimes both). When I buy something, I often convert the amount of money it costs into how many hours I have to work to earn that much money. That helps me keep myself from mindlessly buying too much. It doesn’t work every time, but anytime I do remember to do that, I know I save money.

Don’t we all like saving money? But how to save money without being inconvenienced? If you don’t buy bathroom cleaner, how are you going to clean your bathroom? Who has time to handle dried beans? (Don’t they taste so boring when you cook them anyway?)

Never fear. My life is fun, exciting, green, and frugal. I don’t regret or resent any changes I’ve made because I keep the bigger picture in mind. I don’t mind any changes I’ve made because I’ve made them a priority. The health of the whole wide world is more important than me ordering in on a lazy evening. The best definition of ‘green’ I can come up with is this:

Green is (the act of) prioritizing the health of you, your community, and nature.

We all know eating whole, unprocessed food is better for us and the earth. We all know coating our bodies and homes in chemicals cannot be healthy for anyone. We all know that buying ‘green’ products doesn’t change how much resources are being used.

What can you do that doesn’t involve living in an off grid cabin, growing your own food, and eschewing any technological advance made since the Industrial Revolution? Small steps.

Being frugal dovetails quite well with being green. Ever notice how minimalism is often paired with green living? I don’t live like a monk, but I am mindful (though not nearly as much as a monk).

Being green means you can save green, keep the earth green, and make others green with envy at your new relaxed lifestyle.

Life isn’t a rat race because we are not rats. Life is art.

The First Step Happens Now

I get angry at all the ways I see us destroying the planet. And yet I use A/C like everyone else, order delivery, and live in a standard American house (apartment, whatever).

What can I do?

I love reading about ways to make my life more green. I enjoy Pinterest, LifeHacker, and buying ‘green’ products when I can afford them. More often than not, I know it’s expensive because of marketing. I dream of a tiny house and struggle with rent.

But is that it? Am I really helping?

I’m sure we’ve all had our doubts that we make a difference, especially after we do something we know is hard on the Earth, like enjoy a huge concert, attend a large BBQ cookout, throw a party and fill a garbage can on just one round of clean up. We feel defeated when we get excited about going through our garages and donating stuff, crafting with all the goods lying around. We never get to it, we get overwhelmed instead.

I’ve taken a new approach to being green and I’ve decided documenting my green tricks and the changes I’ve made is the best way to remember them and stay motivated. My approach is perhaps too simple for most, but over time I believe this is the most effective:

Take the smallest possible step. Then celebrate.

That’s what I do. I encourage myself to find new, easy, cheap ways to green up my life. I can’t buy fancy ‘green’ stuff. I can’t blow a paycheck at Whole Foods. I also freely admit I’m pretty darn lazy. I’d love to dedicate my life to the Sierra Club or other similar groups. And I’ll get there. But for now, in between work, sleep, friends, and more work (and now this blog!) I take my whole journey one step at a time.

It’s important to remember that while picking up one piece of litter seems useless and a waste of time, if one million people pick up one piece of litter, we have made a huge difference together. Living a community-minded life is the biggest difference you can make. It may also be the biggest step I can suggest taking. You don’t have to change your life, just change the direction you are going – one step at a time.

I hope to cover the lazy basics: petitions, Facebook likes/shares; as well as some cheap basics: cleaning solutions made with cheap stuff you have in the house already, simple and not cheap tasting meals. My greatest hope is that this inspires change in enough people that together we can start supporting each other as we take bigger and bigger steps.

Join me in making the Earth a better community for us all. Welcome.