Follow-up log

After talking with Rebecca about my Food Log, we speculated that although my calorie count is healthy, I might not be getting enough protein. So I am going to keep another log will calculate at the end how much protein I was getting each day. I suspect I’m not getting enough, but… no adjustments will be made until the log results are in.

Why am I doing this? Because I want to be healthy. I have a lot to do and a lot more that I *want* to do and I want to have the energy and the strength to do it. I have been told by a few different sources that the next 9 months will be the most difficult in my life (to date) as I work to FINISH my PhD thesis, submit, and prepare to defend it. I have to eat, so I might as well eat well and make sure I’m getting the nutrition I need to perform my best.

Tune back in on Saturday for the results of the Protein Log.

Butternut squash with couscous

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Last Friday, my friend Joanna came over with the bottle of Croatian wine she bought last year on our holiday. I was in charge of dinner, and F. and Elena were joining us. It had been one of those days where everything I touched went wrong, and that didn’t end in the kitchen.

I was going to make a butternut squash recipe from BBC Good Food, using paquito and butternut squash. It involved cutting the squash in half lengthwise and roasting it. Only, the paquito squash broke in half the other way while I was cutting it, thus throwing out the idea of using the squash as bowls for the rest of the recipe. Time for a new plan.

So, after roasting the squash, I scooped all of it out and cut it into chunks (at which point F. came and saved the day by taking over cutting the squash), replaced the lentils in the recipe with couscous, and subsequently forgot to add half the spices. Meanwhile, I decided that for dessert I would make Divine Rhubarb Crumble, using the rhubarb I canned a year and a half ago, and replacing the strawberries with apples and leaving out the rosemary and the lemon — Okay, it wasn’t the same crumble at all, except for the crumble topping.

It was pretty crazy in the kitchen and I’m so glad F. was there as sous chef. Dinner was delicious, the wine and company were good, and it was a success all around. Huzzah!

Butternut squash with couscous
Serves 5
(Adapted from BBC Good Food)

  • 2 small butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • 150g couscous
  • 2 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • a pinch cayenne pepper
  • 175g goats cheese, crumbled
  • 40g pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp chopped mint
  • 3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon, juiced

1. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Wash the butternut squash and carefully cut it in half lengthways. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and fibrous centre and discard. Put the squash halves on a baking tray cut- side up, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, season and roast in a hot oven for approx 35 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

2. When the squash is cool enough to handle scoop out the flesh, then roughly chop the flesh and put it in a bowl.

3. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and garlic and cook until beginning to caramelise, about 10 minutes. Add the spices and cook for two minutes more. Add the couscous, reserved squash and 200ml of hot water and simmer for 8 minutes (until most of the water has been absorbed). Remove from the heat and stir through the goats cheese, pine nuts, herbs and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve with plain yoghurt and a mint leaf for garnish. Enjoy!

Tip: What to do when your dinner is essentially “mush”? Put couscous and squash mixture into a mould, such as a small bowl, and upend on a plate. Magic. Works for rice or any kind of “mushy” meal.

Food Log

Last week I said I would keep track of what I eat each day and calculate the calories. I also wanted to put the full nutritional details — protein, sugars, vitamins, etc. — but that would have taken far too much time! Because most of my food is prepared by myself, I had to use this Recipe Analyzer in order to determine the nutritional value of my home-cooked food.

See the full food log by clicking “Continue reading…” below.

As you can see from the food log, I eat a mostly vegetarian diet. My average calorie intake is 2126 calories per day, though I think the numbers are somewhat skewed because I ate much more than usual on Wednesday because F. and I were hiking in the snow.

At any rate, it was an interesting experiment. No wonder I’m always hungry by 11.30 AM — I need to find something to supplement my hearty porridge at breakfast!

Continue reading

New: Recipe Tuesdays

A friend of mine posted a link to “13 banned foods still allowed in the U.S.” and I was intrigued by a link on that same page was to “50 Seemingly Healthy Foods that are Bad for You”. Fortunately I know to take such lists with a grain of salt, yet as I clicked through all 50 items in the slide show, I was both puzzled and bemused. So many of these foods are packaged or pre-prepared! Since when did fruity gummy snacks start counting as “healthy”? Once again, repeating the observation I made about the lack of vegetarian options in American restaurants, I saw the obsession with calorie counting. I just want to say it here loud and clear: fewer/no calories does NOT equal “healthy”!

Maybe I’m not sympathetic enough to what seems to be the target audience of people trying to lose weight by eating “healthily”. Yes, I am one of those people who always buys full-fat yoghurt and drinks semi-skimmed or whole milk. I just don’t eat junk food; my sweet tooth is picky and limited; I shy away from prepackaged sandwiches and meals; I eat until I’m satisfied and only when I’m hungry. I don’t think about calories at all when I eat or cook —  or, if I do, it’s to make sure I’m getting enough. I choose to eat what I eat because I like it and because, well, it’s healthy.

So, for an experiment, I am going to keep a log of what I eat from today until next Tuesday. And to ensure to my readers that I’m not rigging it by consciously choosing low-calorie foods I will wait to do all the calculating at the very end. I already know that the calculations are going to be tricky because I prepare most of my food.

Until then, I leave with you a recipe I recently made for dinner. This new series also will make up for my lack of book reviews: I may not read as much these days, but I still have to eat! Chosen because it is vegetarian, full of yummy veg, and colourful, F. and I enjoyed this roasted butternut squash with goat’s cheese.

Roasted butternut squash with goat’s cheese
(adapted from BBC Good Food)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or a glob)
  • a pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • half a courgette, cut into chunks
  • half a sweet red pepper, cut into chunks
  • half a carrot, cut into chunks
  • a handful of chestnut mushrooms, cut into chunks
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • 25g pine nuts
  • 50g goat’s cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 tbsp breadcrumbs (made from plain crackers)
  • a dash of dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp grana padano (or parmesan)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds then cut criss-cross patterns over the cut-side of each one. Mix together the garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, chilli and thyme and brush this mixture over the flesh. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the flesh is tender.
  2. Meanwhile, make the filling: put the courgette, pepper and onion in a roasting tin and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Season and roast for about 20-25 minutes until tender and starting to brown at the edges. Add the cherry tomatoes and pine nuts and cook for another 10 minutes.
  3. Mix the breadcrumbs, parsley and grana padano. Arrange the roasted vegetables and goat’s cheese in the squash halves, scatter with the breadcrumb mix and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

It was delicious — and there was enough filling left over to mix with couscous the next day for a yummy lunch. The next time I make this, though, I will also peel the squash to make sure that it cooks all the way through, leaving no hard bits.

Eat your vegetables

Since being in the States for the past three weeks, I’ve eaten out a lot — Saltgrass Steakhouse, Alamo Cafe, Cracker Barrel (2x), Ruby Tuesday, Rising High Cafe, Olive Garden, El Fenix, La Madeline, Panera Bread (2x), Cattleman’s — and I have noticed something about their menus. Only two of these fine establishments featured little “V’s” to indicate vegetarian options: Rising High Cafe and Panera Bread. What a difference from restaurants in the UK where you can usually find at least one option that is vegetarian if not vegan (even if it is always risotto).

Instead, those other restaurants (the steakhouses excluded) had other symbols in their menus to indicate low-calorie or low-fat or even “healthy heart” options. But I am somewhat confused why none of these restaurants, save the two soup, salad, and sandwich lunch cafes would offer meals for vegetarians. Most of these are chain restaurants — and I mean, really? Olive Garden, an Italian restaurant, doesn’t offer any meat-free pasta dish?

I’m not vegetarian, but I do eat a mostly vegetarian diet at home. Partly because meat is expensive, I just prefer vegetables, think that it’s a healthier lifestyle, and because my boyfriend is vegetarian. I’m used to eating meat maybe once a week and this meat-heavy diet the past three and a half weeks is feeling very heavy indeed. I’ve found myself ordering only sides, asking for chicken or prosciutto to be left off the salad, ordering broccoli and cheddar soup only to be annoyed that it had bacon in that wasn’t in the description.

I am still baffled that these restaurants would go through the trouble to mark “healthy” or “low calorie” entrees and forget that purely vegetarian meals might be the healthiest and lowest calorie options of all! And those people who are trying to lose weight or feel healthy by choosing the “healthy” but still meat-heavy options might need to revisit the adage to “Eat your vegetables”.

Granted, I know I have one of those frames and metabolisms that sheds pounds more quickly than it can gain them, but I will be glad to get back into being once more mostly-vegetarian and live in a country that accommodates such eating choices.

When in doubt…

Make soup.

I haven’t really kept up with grocery shopping the past week or two. I’ve been working long hours in the office so dinners were more likely to be from the chippy or panini place down the street. Tonight I pulled my meagre provisions out of the fridge and tried to decide what to do with them.

So what do you do with two large carrots and half a jar of roasted peppers? You make soup.

Two carrots, one and a half red bell peppers, 750ml of water, one vegetable bouillon cube, some lentils (I just finished a bag), and ground coriander, cumin, chili pepper, and lots of paprika. I like that red pepper countered the lentils so that the soup still came out orange.

It made enough for two. I know what lunch will be tomorrow…

Thanksgiving

This year was the first year I got to host Thanksgiving. Ros and I invited a bunch of mutual friends — well, we were limited to ten, as that is the maximum amount of people we can squeeze around the table. In attendance were representatives from Americaland, England, Germany, and Poland. It was an interesting meal to cater for four vegetarians and dairy free and various allergies, but we still had quite a feast!

In pictures:

(Autumnal decorations.)


(Lots of choices for beverages.)


(That would be me… carving the turkey.)


(L-R: Kalim, me, Sara, Anna, and Kristin.
Not pictured are Joanna, Allie, Peter, and Ros.)


(Pumpkin pie, apple tart, and chocolate pecan pie.)