Meandering down a path of Creativity

As I mentioned in my post earlier today, I need to increase my protein intake. Normally, my preference on from-scratch red sauce for pasta is a chunky garden-style sauce, with lots of fresh veggies and tomatoes I put up from the previous year’s garden… and absolutely NO added sugar (a high quality sweet balsamic vinegar does the job quite nicely).  The ingredients and amounts always vary and I never really measure anything. Well, tonight I’m adding some meat to the mix *and* I carefully measured everything, except the herbs. Hopefully this beautiful gravy will have my muscles nice and happy and ready to take on the chicken kicks tomorrow at MMA!

 

meat sauce cooking

Yummy gravy in the making…

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Hello there! I have not done very well with maintaining a regular posting schedule since starting this blog however many years ago. I admit it. I’m thinking that’s changing now, though… You see, not only is garden season just around the corner, but I’ve made some changes in my life over the past few months & they’ve led me back to recording my recipes here.

On November 16, 2015 I joined a dojo. They offered a free trial as part of their grand opening, and I jumped on the chance to go. It was the best thing I could’ve done- I seriously love it! I’ve been working my way up with how much I do each class & how many classes I’m taking each week- they offer Modern Martial Arts (MMA), Boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Krav Maga, Cardio Kickboxing, and their own special fitness classes (which are seriously tense and absolutely amazing!). The only class I have yet to at least try is Jiu Jitsu, and that’s because it’s a lot of wrestling-type stuff which I am just not ready for.

Anyway, my fitness level began improving and I used the MMA as a catalyst to snowball myself into other healthy changes. I quit smoking, switching over to a vape & slowly reducing the nicotine level. I have not had so much as a drag off a cigarette since Christmas, and just knocked the nicotine down to the lowest available dosage (3mg) last week. I’ll probably start transitioning down to 0mg toward the end of this month. I’ve also been transitioning over to healthier food choices- reducing the fat intake, being mindful of carbohydrate quality, and generally reaching for the more nutrient dense stuff over the empty calories.

The problem is that the dietary changes and the fitness changes just did not match up. While my fitness level steadily improved from November through the end of January, sometime around the first or second week of February, I started noticing some new changes, and they were definitely not for the better!

My energy levels were lower than they’d been since I started at the dojo. I was finding it difficult to do things that I’d been able to do just a few weeks before, reaching the point of muscle fatigue much more quickly. My recovery time was taking longer. The first few days of this, it was easy to brush off- “Oh, I must be fighting off some bug that’s going around,” or “I just didn’t get enough sleep last night.” After a week or so of steady decline, though, I knew I needed to take a closer look at what I was doing. I tweaked my diet & started taking some supplements, but it didn’t help. My performance continued to decline.

Okay, so obviously whatever is going on is beyond my own ability to figure out. I hooked up with a nutrition & fitness coach earlier this week, and have signed up for a 4-week online nutrition & fitness counseling program with him- we start on Monday! Hopefully he will be able to help me find my way out of this slump! (I spoke with him on Weds. for our initial consultation, and he recommended that I bring my fitness efforts down to about 50% for the rest of this week, to give my body a recovery period, and said that my protein intake probably needed to be increased).

He has me tracking my food intake using one of those freebie online programs. The specific program he wants me to use only allows users to enter recipes if the user is willing to hand over all rights to the recipe, though, and I’m just not willing to do that. So, instead, recipes will be entered here and I’ll use the freebie program’s ability to link to recipes on the web… hopefully it will work!

Tonight will be a hearty, garden-style meat sauce over the blank canvas of nutritionally empty rice noodles… recipe to be posted soon!

Easy Soup in the slow cooker…

garbanzo sausage lentil soup

This is going to be tonight’s dinner. Hopefully it will be tasty…

As always, all measurements are approximate.

Get out the slow cooker and put the following in it:

  • 2 quarts diced tomatoes (or 2 28-oz cans)
  • 1 16 oz can chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, mashed up a bit
  • 1/2 c brown lentils
  • 3 links Italian sausage, cooked and chopped
  • 2-3 c frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 c carrot pieces
  • 1/2 c roughly chopped celery
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried herbes de provence
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 c water

Give it a stir to mix everything up and cook on high for 6 hours.

I’m guessing it will yield about 8 hearty servings. If all of my guessing, between ingredient quantities & final yield, is accurate, then the nutritional info is as follows (based on calculator at recipes.SparkPeople.com):
Cal 218
Fat 9.2g (Sat 4.8g)
Cholesterol 32.2mg
Sodium 998mg
Potassium 699mg
Carbohydrate 18.9g (Fiber 5.3g; Sugar 7.0g)
Protein 11.6g

Notes:
-I used leftover cooked sausage that was in the freezer. I recommend chopping it before you freeze it.
-I don’t like putting frozen stuff straight into the crockpot, so I stuck the spinach and water in a container and microwaved it for a few minutes, then added the chopped sausage to the container and microwaved it for a few more minutes.
-I chopped up the remainder of a package of baby carrots and did not measure them at all. There were probably 12-15 of them.
-The ingredients should be fairly flexible here. No tomatoes? Try salsa. No chickpeas? Try navy or cannellini beans. No spinach? Try collards, kale, mustard, or beet greens. No carrots? Either skip ’em or maybe try some sweet potato chopped small. No celery? Add a bit of celery salt and don’t stress over it. Use fresh or frozen onion instead of dried. No thyme or herbes de provence? Replace them with Italian seasoning blend, or, if you used salsa instead of tomatoes, maybe try cilantro and oregano instead. No garlic or onion at all? Replace the tomatoes with salsa and/or replace the water with a well-seasoned broth that you like. Yep, like I said, it’s pretty flexible!

Update:
The soup turned out quite nicely and received rave reviews from the family. Next time I make it, though, I’ll be a lot more heavy-handed with the seasonings… a whole sweet onion and 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped, and probably closer to a tablespoon of thyme… plus maybe a drizzle of a sweet & fruity balsamic vinegar to round it all out. All in all, though, it was a very tasty dinner and took all of 5 minutes to prepare. So yeah, it’s a win!

A few years ago I attempted NaNoWriMo. For those unfamiliar with what that is, it’s a writing challenge, “National Novel Writing Month“, where would-be authors attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It is a wonderful concept, and I had fun, in spite of falling very short of the 50,000 word mark. I realized, about a week in, that the timing of this challenge… well, to put it bluntly, the timing really sucked for me.

I am a crafter & artist, selling my wares online and at a few shows/fairs. Most of my business happens during the winter holidays. The period between Halloween and the US Thanksgiving is when my focus needs to be on making sure I have enough stock to sell, making sure it’s all photographed, listed, and marketed properly, getting my table displays in order, and all that jazz. November is not the time for me to be spending hours at the computer, typing away on a novel.

So anyway, I failed to complete the challenge, and each year since, I’ve resisted the desire to jump back in. (I found out last year that they now have a NaNoWriMo summer camp, which I may attempt one of these years- same challenge, but during the summer months!)

Recently, I heard about another challenge for November that is quite a bit more in line with the stuff I need to be focusing on at this time of the year. It’s called ‘Art Every Day Month‘, or AEDM for short, and asks the participants to spend some time every day creating some art. The rules are simple and low-pressure, which is really nice, and there is a really supportive and encouraging community vibe to it. I am signed up, and will be giving it my best to complete the challenge.

I’ll be posting the daily images to the Facebook group, and posting completed pieces to my Facebook, G+, and Instagram pages as I complete them. I’m also going to be posting weekly updates here, with the day-by-day photos of what I worked on it the previous week.

To kick things off, here’s what I did yesterday, for day 1. It is not a great photo, and the piece still needs some work done before it’s complete, but I did do my daily art yesterday, and that’s the important part, right?

Copic markers on Strathmore mixed media paper. Needs to be cleaned up and have detail work done.

#AEDM2014 day 1: Mandala in progress

It’s been a while…

I have not been keeping up with my plans to post over here regularly. I’ve had plenty of ideas for posts, but just have not done too well with the follow through. Shortly after my last post, I began an internship at a local farm, where I was supposed to be learning about goat care and cheese making. I really learned a lot, mainly about cheese… not so much about the goats, which was my primary purpose for going there, but I’m continuing to volunteer there and am hoping the goat care stuff is still coming. Cheese making winds down when the goats dry up (they have a 10 month lactation cycle), and it’s currently breeding season. The babies that come from the breeding that is happening now should be born in early spring. My internship started when the 2014 kids were about a month old, and I am super excited at the prospect of being involved in bringing the next kids into the world! Have you ever seen a baby goat? Up close and personal? They are too cute for words!

So anyway, I am going to be trying to, once again, make a habit of blogging here. If I disappear for a while, feel free to come look me up on G+. I’m also going to be getting more active over there, as I look to cut back on my Facebook time. I am listed as Melanie White, email address mrabe924@gmail.com.

And, just because everyone needs some silly goat from time to time, here is a picture of Dolly. She is the oldest goat over at the farm, and has been taken out of breeding rotation this year. She is my favorite out of the 40-some odd milking does. She’s sweet natured and generally well behaved, but she tends to get very wriggly when she sees a camera. She also seems to always be sticking her tongue out at me. She doesn’t do this to anyone else, and I’m not really sure what it means, but it cracks me up, every time.

 

believe it or not, I've snapped dozens of photos of her, and this is the least blurry one!

Dolly, sticking her tongue out at me and being wriggly for the camera

 

I love to can. I’m not sure why it’s called canning when you put the stuff in glass jars, but I do know that food safety is nothing to mess around with. I’ve been contemplating a post about why safe food handling and processing procedures are so important, wanting to pull out my old textbooks and share all of the nitty gritty details with you, and find share-able charts and stuff, but well, it just hasn’t happened. So instead, I’ll share a little bit of the stuff that’s just knocking around in my noggin, after many years of canning and a few years of food and nutrition courses in college (I was a nutrition major).

It’s not just about botulism!  Read the rest of this entry »

Asparagus… it’s the first thing I get to harvest from the veggie garden, and it’s the first culinary sign of spring for me. When I see those gorgeous little spears first poking up from the ground it makes me downright giddy!

ugly, messy, and unkempt, but the asparagus doesn't care!

not the best pic, but it does show a few spears…

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