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No Polenta in the ‘Verse Can Stop Me December 30, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in MIgraine, Recipes and Food.
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Like most people, I like to think about recipes I want to try while watching Firefly marathons on the Science channel. Indeed, I experienced a flash of brilliance during the last one. In one particularly violent episode, there’s this line Kaylee says which River later repeats: “No power in the ‘verse can stop me.” Now, I love Firefly as much as the next nerd, but I don’t usually take it as guidance or inspiration for life.*

But this one time, I heard that line and thought of polenta. My brain works best in alliteration mode, apparently.

I have been wanting to try making polenta for a couple of years, actually, but the good stuff is always full of way too much dairy. Oh, all that lovely cow product makes the polenta taste good, but with that much dairy and fat, there’s no portion in the ‘verse small enough to stop me from getting a migraine, a stomachache, and a muffin top. Yeah, I’ve been a little intimidated by polenta. I admit it.

But with Kaylee and River backing me up, I figured it was worth a shot.

So I spent hours searching for polenta recipes online, and found absolutely nothing that I wanted to try. Then the invoice from my next CSA order came with a very simple recipe for baked polenta, which doesn’t actually call for very much dairy. I figured I could tolerate the small amounts of butter and cheese in the recipe so I gave it a whirl and it turned out very well:

Very Well Baked Polenta

Servings: 6

1 cup medium grind corn meal
3 cups water
2 tbsp butter (I use organic hippie butter that doesn’t have carageenan in it – read your labels!)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus a little extra to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare 8×8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Mix all ingredients together, and pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and stir, sprinkle cheese on top, replace in oven for 10 more minutes. Allow to sit for at least 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

Calories 139.6
Total Fat 5.4 g
Cholesterol 13.7 mg
Sodium 173.8 mg
Total Carbohydrate 18.2 g
Dietary Fiber 1.3 g
Protein 3.8 g

Weight Watcher’s Points Plus Value**: 4

Now, that’s not bad in terms of nutritional value. And as for taste, I served it at a dinner party and the consensus was…yummy!

If you are a normal person, stop reading here. But if you’re watching your cholesterol, or you’re just a crazy-health-nut-bitch like me, we can do better.

Skinny Baked Polenta

Servings: 6

1 cup medium grind corn meal
3 cups water
2 tbsp chicken broth (I use home made, you can use whatever. It’s ok, I won’t judge you.)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 Laughing Cow Light cheese wedges
2 1/2 tbsp parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare 8×8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Put Laughing Cow cheese and broth in a teeny tiny bowl*** and nuke just long enough that you can mix them together into a slurry that resembles a corn starch slurry. Mix together water, corn meal, cheese slurry, salt, and 1 tbsp of the parmesan cheese. Bake for 5o minutes. Stir, and sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top. Bake for an additional 10 minutes. Let it rest for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

Calories 117.7
Total Fat 1.4 g
Cholesterol 3.2 mg
Sodium 168.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 21.1 g
Dietary Fiber 0.4 g
Protein 3.8 g

Weight Watcher’s Points Plus Value: 2

So far I’m the only one who’s tasted it, but it’s damn good, if I do say so myself.

Happy New Year, Bitches!

* According to my dear husband, I am a “nerd with a U,” which I think means I’m an old school nerd. I can’t work the stereo, and frankly have no interest in video games, but I read science fiction voraciously and as a young child ran interesting experiments involving the hardwood floor, carpet, silly putty, crayons, baby powder and heat (not necessarily in that order)…just to see what would happen. I preferred to think of myself as an alchemist rather than sociopath. Whatever, I digress.

** All WW PPV are according to the recipe builder app, and assume my sometimes admittedly wonky attempts at measuring are accurate. I didn’t plug the nutritional info into the points calculator to see if it matches the recipe builder, I’m just much too lazy for that.

*** My dear husband, who is a foot taller than me, likes to remind me in his best Gilda Radner voice that I am a little, teeny, tiny, itty, bitty, little, tiny wife. I suppose it’s appropriate that I use teeny tiny bowls. It’s always something.

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Those Damn Kids December 28, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in Dragon Boat, Running.
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A couple of posts ago, I bragged about my frequent ascents up Queen Anne hill, smug in the belief that I was bringing enough cardio into my life.

What a bunch of bull-pucky.

Last Saturday, I had dragon boat practice with six members of the Juniors team. The two older paddlers (including moi) were in bench one, and we had the six kids distributed around the mids and back of the boat.

Let me tell you something about these kids. They’re between the ages of 13 and 17. At 8 AM on a rainy December Saturday, they have dead eyes. They need to be bribed with the promise of dim sum to come to practice. They are never dressed for the weather; one was in shorts and a t-shirt, nothing else, not even shoes! They constantly talk a bunch of inane doo-doo and giggle like hyenas that just ate a baby.

Then the minute we hear “GO,” it’s like a totally different boat. I have never felt a boat surge forward so hard with only 8 paddlers, and the surge in the finish is even more impressive.

On the good news side, I realized on Saturday just how strong I’ve gotten. I could feel and activate my obliques at will, crushing the water between my blade and foot. (In dragon boating, you have to create water resistance by pushing the boat forward with your foot at the same time you pull your body toward the blade, which is buried in the water.)

But despite my big, huge, muscley-muscles, I was completely sucking wind. I’m all poopy-pants about it, too, because now I have to face the unhappy truth that my cardio is for merde. I must have said at least four times that morning, “I have GOT to start running again.”

Duck beans.

The Lazy Glutard December 16, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in Recipes and Food, Uncategorized.
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Last weekend, I realized that I’ve been eating my failures. Literally and figuratively.

You see, I’m usually too lazy to seek out gluten-free baked goods that meet my stringent dietary requirements and taste good (it’s a rare combination, indeed), and I’m FAR too lazy to bake anything myself. Also, it’s hard to find GF flours and other products that don’t have xanthan gum.

In case you don’t know, xanthan gum is some sort of primordial goo that is used to replace the gluten as a binding agent. It’s nasty, and it gives me the collywobbles. And it’s in EVERYTHING, people, not just GF products. Read. Your. Labels.

The one time of year that I bake is at the holidays. I started many years ago by making chocolate-pumpkin bundt cakes to give away. For the past several years, I have been baking donuts to give as gifts.

Which brings me to last weekend. I planned to bring some donuts to a holiday party, and decided to experiment:

  1. New recipe – chocolate-cherry donuts with a port wine and cherry glaze…doesn’t that sound AWESOME?
  2. New xanthan-less GF flour
  3. New mini-donut pans instead of mini-bundt pans

Sadly, all I could taste was the awful flavor of the GF flour. I tested multiple iterations with multiple tweaks. More cherries. More chocolate. A teaspoon of espresso powder. Port in the batter. Reducing down the port with some cherry juice. I tried umpteen variations for the batter and the glaze. The flavor of the flour overshadowed everything else. They didn’t suck, but they sure didn’t sing, either. They were a failure.

Here’s the twisted part: instead of just throwing them out, I kept eating them. Hello! I was literally eating my failures. It’s like a god-damn metaphor for life, my dear bitches! Don’t we often internalize our mistakes so we can hold them close and feel bad about them for a while? Wow, man. Deep.

Anyway, I finally gave up and resorted to my tried-and-true recipe for cinnamon donuts with a honey glaze, adapted from the recipe on Eating Well, and showed up at the party with a plate of minis and feeling like a complete sap.

It turns out, our hostess has end-of-year tradition that makes a pretty good party game. Write down something (or things) on a piece of paper that you want to let go of from the previous year, and throw it in the fire pit.

So that night, “eating my failures” went into the fire. Buh-bye.

Oh Blarg, my blog! December 7, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in General Exercise.
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Oh, hi. It’s sure been a while. Life has changed in the last few months and I’ve been busy coping. Not always well, mind you, but coping nonetheless.

Sadly, I haven’t run very much lately. I really really want to, but ouch, mykneesmybackmyhip. I’m all old and crickety.

To make matters worse, I ate a lot of pies in August. Yes, PIES. Plural. That’s right, and I ate the crust, too.

So in September, I decided to find a healthier mechanism for coping with stress. I tried one of those introductory deals at a hot yoga studio near my house. Thirty days unlimited for $20. It’s a good deal, if you want to pay for the privilege of being subjected to Death Valley environmental conditions while a super-skinny, tramp-stamped drill sergeant in skimpy clothes barks orders at you.

Seriously, I almost went back to the pies. But I decided to give one more studio a try. Happily, this new studio is much more humane. Compared to my first experience, this place seems more like warm yoga, and the instructors are real practitioners who actually teach yoga. Coincidentally, you are in a hot room. But it’s real yoga. But hot. Super hot. And I’m a naturally sweaty person under any circumstances. Yikes.

So. Not that you asked, but here’s my advice for anyone considering hot yoga:

1) Find a buddy. I’m going with a co-worker, and it’s so nice having a buddy to keep me motivated. Since we also work together, we made a deal after our first class: what happens in hot yoga stays in hot yoga. After all, the only man who has seen me sweatier and more scantily clad than my hot yoga buddy is my husband. 😉

2) Drink a lot, all the time, but not just before class. If you’re not adequately hydrated when you wake up in the morning on the day you’re going to hot yoga, it’s too late. If you try and pound back 32 oz of water before class, you will spend the second half of class doing child’s pose in a pool of barf.

3) Do not eat for two hours before class. DO NOT. Just don’t.

4) Wear as little clothing as possible. No one is checking out your bod. I assure you, your fellow yogis are completely focused on what they are doing, and couldn’t care less if there’s a little extra jiggle in your wiggle.

5) Always know where your towel is.

That’s all well and good, but (you might be wondering) what about cardio? Oh, my sweet bitches, I have that covered.

I recently began a new job on Lower Queen Anne. As often as I can, I walk up Queen Anne Hill to Kerry Park during lunch time. You may not think much of this. If you don’t live in Seattle or San Francisco, you probably don’t know what a real hill is. You may think you know, but you don’t know. YOU DON’T KNOW MY PAIN.

I could explain to you that much of Queen Anne is on at least an 18% grade. But what does that really mean to the glutes?

Ah. I feel the burn.

An old photo of Queen Anne Hill.

Old timey Queen Anne Hill

I challenge any normal person to walk up that hill at their fastest pace without getting all out of breath. It’s worth it, though. Nice view from the top.

Image found at http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Piece-of-history-concealed-within-Queen-Anne-Hill-1198180.php#photo-666825.

All You Bitches are Gonna Eat Squash December 6, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in Recipes and Food.
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Consider yourself warned. Squash must be  in season, because my CSA box is full of it. So am I.

Uh. Maze. Ing Sausage and Squash Soup

Servings: 5

1 mild Italian chicken sausage, removed from casing
1 lb baby bok choy, raw and cut into bite-size pieces
.5 butternut squash, roasted and cut into bite-size pieces
.5 delicata squash, roasted and cut into bite-size pieces
3 medium carrots, roasted and mashed
1 cup home-made chicken stock, skimmed of every speck of fat
5 – 6 cups water

Roast your vegetables on baking sheets in a 375 – 425 oven (depending on how much of a hurry you’re in). When the squash is soft to the touch, but not yet mush, pull it out and let cool. In a dutch oven or soup pot, brown crumbled up chicken sausage. Add chopped bok choy and cook down a bit.  Add roasted veggies. Add stock and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook at a low simmer long enough for the squash to start breaking down and for the flavors to come together. This isn’t rocket science, you figure it out. I did.

If you want a spicier soup, use hot Italian sausage and/or add some red pepper flake.

Sneaky Squash and Potato Muffin Thingeys

Servings: 12

2 small-medium russet potatoes
.5 acorn squash
2 egg whites
granulated garlic, paprika, salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin with generous amounts of non-stick cooking spray. I’m serious here, go to town.

Using your super-handy-dandy food preparation device on shred mode, shred up the potato and acorn squash. You should wind up with about 3 – 4 cups total. Mix in egg whites and seasonings. Divide the mixture into the muffin tin, and spray the tops. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

The squash flavor in this is very subtle. The only tell-tale sign is that they’re a bit sweeter than if they were made with all potato. They should be soft on the inside, with a brown crust on the outside.

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