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.

It’s Just A Calendar

As 2014 winds down, the stress to end the year with a bang builds. Which party to go to? What will I wear? Will my crush be there? What am I going to drink?

As I’ve mentioned throughout this year, one of the easiest and most elegant solutions for our problems is to simply opt out. I decided this morning that I am staying in, alone, for tonight. And I’m surprisingly happy about this decision.

What better way to save money, trumpet my laziness, and refuse to buy into the wastefulness of this annual celebration?

I am letting go of the idea that I need to celebrate things just because a calendar or tradition says so. Traditionally speaking, I ought to be married by now and tending to my husband, 2.5 children, and our picket fenced house. Depending on what and whose tradition that is.

We buck so many traditions with each new generation, yet some slip through the cracks. I’m not going to blow $100 to get trashed in 6 inch heels and spend tomorrow miserable and making unrealistic promises to myself. That would be setting myself up for failure.

Now, before you dismiss this option because you are young, hot, lonely, or just want to party, know that I am not simply watching TV until I fall asleep.

I refuse to treat today like an extraordinary day. But how am I celebrating? I am hopping into my pjs and reflecting, organizing, planning. I have many things to work on and I will no longer be limited by the calendar for when I can do that. The fact that I view today as just a Wednesday is important. I’m not starting a new year/life/me with fanfare. I’m just gonna do. And when I feel like I’m not going in the right direction, I’ll sit down on another ordinary day and reflect, organize, plan again.

This is how I’m changing. My choice to improve myself will not start with a gun shot. Life is not a race, it should not be timed.

So after I spend an evening eating my favorite food (pizza) in my favorite sweatpants drinking my favorite tea I’m going to wake up prepared for each new day ahead of me. I’m going to have goals, steps for those goals, motivation points. I’m going to tell some friends and ask for encouragement. And I’m not doing it just today. If I find I’ve failed at what I set up for myself I’ll just sit down some other Wednesday and get back on track.

By removing the external push and making it a personal, internal effort I know I’m showing myself that it’s not tradition that is pushing me to do this, but my personal choice and reflections.

This year I’m starting the year exactly how I want the whole year to be: focused on my well being. And I can do it by living up to my broke, lazy, and green standard I hold myself to.

Thank you for living this year with me, I look forward to life with you next year! Happy New Year!

The Holidays, Unplugged

I’m sure you are torn between all the sweet deals going on in stores and online to make all that Christmas/Hanukkah loot seem a bit cheaper and the whole buy-nothing-make-something movement.

I get it. Really, I do.

I’m tempted to simply jump on the give experiences not material goods wagon, but I also really want the nice backpack I asked my mom and brother to get me. So I have a solution that will be perfect for whoever reads this:

Do what makes you Happy.

If shopping for everyone on your list makes you and your wallet sob in fear, don’t. Buy cheaper things, buy group gifts for families, or hop on the buy-nothing train. If you feel stupid giving the dry ingredients for brownies in a cute mason jar or candle holders made of tuna cans and clothes pins or coupons for you babysit or wash their car for free, don’t.

As your broke and green lady, I don’t want to buy stuff. As your lazy pal, I don’t wanna make stuff.

So when I found a pricey dress my mom loved, my brother and I split it. For my extended family? They know it is expensive to fly home and are glad to see me once a year. I emphasize that I am the gift. [Insert winning smile]

My friends and I don’t do Christmas gifts unless something really catches an eye and screams your name. Then it’s cheap and it’s clear there is no expected gift in return. We treat each other by taking each other out when it’s out birthday, when we celebrate life events, when we’re a little flush with cash and buy an extra round.  That is what makes us all happy without any pressure.

If it makes you happy to one up your uncle in giving your grandma a cool gift, fine. If that January credit card bill stings through April and you’ve forgotten why by Valentine’s Day…are you really happy?

Joy to the world. Peace on Earth. You are part of this world, you are a citizen of this earth. You deserve joy and peace as well. The first year you let your consumer facade crumble a little may be scary and you may be tempted to feel disappointed in yourself. Don’t. Once you’ve lowered that artificial bar (that no one but you set up in the first place) next year will be easier. Maybe even happier.

You deserve a gift too. Why not just make yourself happy?

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.

Bottles and Jugs and Ideas, Oh My!

I started this site to not only be an outlet for my creative green juices, but to also practice becoming familiar with WordPress. I handle all the website work for my company.

We have a wonderful SEO guru, though, to guide me through the process of tapping directly into the minds and veins of potential customers. Her work makes my efforts to hook total strangers easier. Business to business sales are not easy.

My guru knows what’s up, this is her job – her bread-and-butter – and she is good at what she does. But I must admit that my favorite part of our meetings are when we get off track and talk about our green and natural tendencies. We usually enjoy a solid ten minutes of green geeking out at the end of our meetings. Just like me, green living is a great side interest for her.

She is not paying me to tell anyone about this, she just gives me free samples and lets her goods speak for themselves. Her line, Nola Essentials, will be launching in October. I have liked everything so far and will have to review them for y’all sometime.

But back to our conversation! She emptied a bottle of Perrier and informed me that the mouth is a standard size. Thanks to her, I now know (and can share!), that it is the easiest thing in the world to make an adorable soap dispenser out of ‘garbage’.

upcycling, upcycled soap pump, homemade soap dispenser, recycling, kitchen hack, broke lazy but green, BLBG

My guru is web savvy, a clever upcycler, and a good photographer. What can’t she do?

I just finished a moisturizer that used a pump, so I don’t even have to go out and buy a pump!

I also mentioned that my attempt at no ‘poo failed, I started using Dr. Bronner’s. My real issue is that I want to stop using plastic, that was why I was so excited to make my own. Now I’m back to buying shampoos in plastic bottles. I chose Dr. Bronner’s because I can travel with the smaller size I bought, and buy the large jugs to minimize impact. But still, what to do with those jugs as they add up?

Our brainstorming session resulted in some ideas: cutting off the top and turning them into plant pots; poking holes in the lids, filling them with water and placing them upside down to water your plants long term; cutting the handles off to create scoops….there are so many ideas out there! Rethink how to reuse your bottles and jugs!

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.

A BLBG Workout

I’ll admit it: I pay money to exercise.

Not all of my exercise requires money. I don’t own a car so I walk and bike everywhere, saving so much money in the meantime. If it is less than a mile (12 standard city blocks is pretty close to a mile), why drive? I make it a point to pick up a manageable amount of groceries once a week – saving more money by planning ahead – and walk there and back. If you hate carrying heavy stuff in those reusable canvas bags I’m sure you are using, try bringing a backpack along.

Since I’m obviously so fit from all my walking and biking and eating well, why would I pay to workout? Motivation helps me establish a routine.

It’s one thing to be active, it’s another thing to work out. I am active, but for the longest time I hated working out. Paying for miserable, smelly gyms that I ended up ignoring was never an option. I don’t throw money away. And I was lazy and never got that far anyway.

Then, a friend introduced me to her new workout routine, boot camp. It was relatively cheap, outdoors, involved almost no equipment, and actually gave my friend results she was proud of. She never worked out before. Now? I’m trying to keep up with her.

While it may not be for everyone, I think more people ought to give high intensity interval training (HIIT) a try. Don’t be put off by the name.

We do warm ups (each move for 30 seconds, do two rounds for a total of 6 minutes): jog in place, high knees, butt kicks, side to side heisman, 1-2-3 shuffle knee up, and high mountain climbers – which are high knees and clawing at the sky.

We do 10 moves total – 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off. 1 minute 20 second break after move #5,  2 minute 20 second break after #10. Then we repeat twice more. Here are some suggestions. Follow these up with some stretches and you will feel quite good about getting fit without buying exercise equipment or inhaling the lingering desperation and self-loathing often found clogging a gym’s atmosphere.

Feel free to add any more moves you want, change it up. What moves really work for you?

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.