Queen of the casseroles

“They taste like slop.”

“Only people who can’t cook make them.”

“BLECH.”

People hate casseroles. I get it. I, on the other hand, really like them. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a bad casserole in my life. When I was growing up, my mom’s casserole dishes were always hearty and full of yummy (and usually fatty) goodness.

Last night, I had about 170000 tomatoes sitting around, collecting fruit flies. So I worked the magic of the Google and found a super easy tomato-onion casserole recipe, courtesy of Martha Stewart. And hey, Martha wouldn’t lie. (Recipe can be found here.)

Basically, you slice four tomatoes and two onions (I used three) and layer them in a baking dish while the oven pre-heats to 450. Drizzle some olive oil on top, add a dash of sea salt and pep, pop it in the oven for about 40 minutes, and voila — instant (clean!) casserole.

Only downside?

Our apartment REEKED like onions all night. But it’s a price I’m willing to pay, because that casserole was effing awesome. So screw you, casserole haters. You don’t know what you’re missing.

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Buttery goodness

Every time I go camping, I let loose. I don’t watch what I eat at all, which usually leads to a sore tummy and lots of regret when I get home. This camping trip was no different. I got back last night and feel like ass today. Let’s just say I’m chugging tons of water and subsiding on lettuce in an effort to flush out the crap I ate for the past four days.

Usually, my camping suppers consist of hot dogs erry night (unless I’m with the boyfriend, because he likes having steak and the like). This year, my friends and I wanted to make some healthy-ish foods, so we tried a new recipe. Aside from the half-stick of butter (I know, I cringed when I read that too), this recipe was just veggies and tasted like a little pan of heaven. Seriously, it was amazing, so much so that we all agreed we’d make it at home because we couldn’t wait until the next camping trip to make it again.

The original recipe can be found here, but I adapted it slightly based on what was available at the local grocery store.

Veggies in a big ol’ pan full o’ butter

  • 1 bag of mini potatoes, halved
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut in pieces
  • 1 spaghetti squash, cut into chunks
  • 1 package of fresh mushrooms, cut in half
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 3/4 cup water
  • sea salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

The how-to:

Pour water into a disposable aluminum pan, then add veggies. Top with sliced butter, salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and cook for 30 minutes over an open fire or until potatoes are tender.

The veggies’ flavours all melded together along with the butter. (This bad boy makes about eight to 10 servings, so that’s how we justified using that much butter.) We pretty much inhaled it for dinner, then re-heated the leftovers over the fire the following night.

I am afraid to weigh myself after the camping trip, but I’m going to force myself tomorrow morning so I can assess the damage…

 

I suck.

I totally forgot to post my weigh-in numbers last week — come to think of it, I think I forgot to weigh myself (there’s a first). I promise I’ll post it soon! (P.S. Only four more days until I can exercise! Hallelujah!)

In the meantime, I’ve discovered my new favourite dish, courtesy of Clean Eating magazine’s summer issue. Super tasty and ridiculously easy to make — and it received the boyfriend’s stamp of approval. I’ve adapted the recipe slightly, so it’s not exactly the same as it appears in the mag, but it is still awesome.

Spicy shrimp and bell pepper toss (courtesy of Clean Eating)

Ingredients:
1 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 red onion
2 1/2 cups bell peppers, chopped (I used red, yellow and orange so it looked pretty)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Olive oil cooking spray
(The recipe didn’t call for it, but I added 1 cup of zucchini because I’ve been on a huge zucchini kick lately.)

Steps:
1. Pre-heat oven to 425. (You can use a grill, too, but I was lazy and didn’t want to set up the BBQ.)
2. In a large bowl, combine shrimp, veggies and garlic.
3. Add lime juice and spices, then toss to coat. Set cilantro aside.
4. Here’s where the fun part comes in. Cut four 12″X16″ pieces of aluminum foil. Mist each piece with cooking spray, then divide mixture evenly into the centre of each one, forming a mound. Bring the short edges of the foil together. Fold inward a few times along each long edge to seal.
5. Place packets on a large baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes.
6. Allow packets to rest five minutes before serving. Transfer contents of packets to serving plates and top with cilantro.
7. Nom nom nom!

We made basmati rice as a base for the dish, and it was delish. True story.

Gluten-free is the new black

There’s a reason I’m a germaphobe — I always have random medical stuff happen to me. Last year, it was mono (the 80s called and want their disease back) and a huge abscess in my leg (hello, crater on my thigh). This year? I underwent the most un-cool surgery ever — a partial toenail avulsion (it’s about as pleasant as it sounds). Not only that, but I have a billion allergies (not an exact count) and various skin sensitivities, including eczema.

I’ve long heard the benefits of a gluten-free diet. So, for three weeks, I’m going to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle, just to see if it makes a difference in my health. I’m not doing it because it’s the celebrity diet du jour — my grandmother had celiac disease, and I’ve often wondered if some of my medical issues are connected to gluten intolerance.

The idea of cutting out wheat and the like from my diet seemed daunting at first, but then I realized that I eat primarily vegetables, fruit, lean meats, eggs and nuts. Other than the occasional sandwich (see previous post) or pasta dish, I don’t eat a lot of gluten products. I know there is hidden gluten in many foods, so I’ll just have to do my due diligence to ensure that everything I eat is actually gluten-free.

An added bonus? The Eat-Clean Diet has a ton of gluten-free recipes available, so I’ll be able to stick to my normal meal planning routine. Another perk? I still get to eat these bad boys a.k.a. a mainstay in my diet these days.

Anyone have any tips for easing the transition to a g-free lifestyle?

Abs are made in the kitchen

I’ve been bitching a lot about not being able to hit the gym, because, despite my thunder thighs saying otherwise, I actually love to exercise. To me, nothing’s more satisfying than feeling the sweat drip during a particularly grueling work-out.

I’m still out of commission because of my toe, but that doesn’t mean that my weight loss efforts have gone down the toilet. I’ve just taken a different approach and focused entirely on my food intake (for the moment, anyway). To that end, I’ve summarized two important factors that have helped me lose some extra blubber.

Eat clean, yo!

As you’ve probably gathered from my bazillion mentions of the Eat-Clean Diet, it works. I’ve done the whole fad diet thing in the past, gaining everything back and then some when I resumed my normal eating habits. I have some  friends who even pulled a Beyonce and tried the Master Cleanse (drinking nothing but lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper). I cannot stress enough: These. Diets. Do. Not. Work.

I love the principles behind clean eating (excuse me while I wax poetic about it): You’re not counting carbs, you’re not ingesting weird diet pills and you’re not depriving yourself of any one food group (unless you count processed junk as a food group). I read about one diet that completely eliminates vegetables from your diet. Fuck that noise! You really think that will help you lose weight? If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

By eating clean, you nourish your body with whole, natural foods that keep everything in tip-top shape. Everything  tastes so fresh and vibrant once you wean yourself off sugar and excess salt (as much as the withdrawal sucks in the beginning). For more information, refer to my previous post Eating clean and getting lean (hopefully) or hit up the Eat-Clean Diet website.

Pound back that H2O

I generally drank a lot of water before I started eating clean, but I know it’s a challenge for some people to chug two or three litres a day. Trust me when I say that drinking enough water is uber-important. Don’t like the “taste” of water? (I never did understand that one.) Try adding lemon slices, mint leaves or whatever tickles your fancy.

I notice a huge difference when I don’t drink enough H2o — I get headaches, I get constipated and I get cranky. (Seriously, run in the other direction if you happen to catch me when I’m dehydrated.) It’s been proven over and over again how essential it is to drink lots of water when you’re trying to lose weight. An added bonus? Your skin glows from the inside out. When I first upped my water intake a few years ago, I noticed a visible difference in my, um, glowiness within a week (and others commented on it, too).

So what does this mean for me?

I’ve heard over and over again that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I now believe it. Though I’m still counting the days until I can re-join my boot camp (29 to go!), I am confident that I can keep losing, barring any major plateaus.

Oh, and the temptation of the massive buffet/unlimited alcohol in Jamaica (21 days to go!). 😉

 

Just call me Betty Crocker

I’m not a cook. Seriously, I can’t even count the number of times my apartment has filled with smoke during one of my many failed attempts. If I make something that’s even remotely edible, it’s a major accomplishment.

I know, I know, I shame Ukrainians everywhere. I wish I took after my mom in the cooking department. Both she and my grandma were ridiculously talented in the kitchen — they rarely followed recipes and would never measure anything, just a pinch of this, a bit of that, yet everything they made was a little taste of heaven. Maybe cooking ability skips a generation?

As I said in an earlier post, not only do I absolutely suck at cooking, but I hate it, too. I’m not sure if it’s because I bite the big one, or if I just hate the actual art of cooking. Whatever the reason, it makes it difficult to follow the Eat Clean Diet, since so many of the meals require some degree of cooking ability and food prep.

Because of my lack of kitchen skills, you won’t find many recipes on this blog. But when I find something that I can actually make and tastes delicious, I’ll post it. If I can make it, anyone can.

I adapted the following recipe from a recent magazine (I believe it was Oxygen), and boy, was it good. Like, lick-the-plate good. You’re welcome.

Clean eating tortilla pizza

1 small whole-grain tortilla
1 clove o’ garlic
3 or 4 egg whites
Half a tomato
About 2 tsp basil
Fresh parmesan cheese
Grated reduced-fat mozza

1) Press garlic, then spread on tortilla. (Yes, this dish is really garlicky, so make sure not to breathe on anyone for a few hours afterwards.)
2) Scramble egg whites. (I know what you’re probably thinking: Egg whites? On pizza? Just trust me.)
3) Spread egg whites evenly over tortilla.
4) Slice tomato, then layer tomato slices on top.
5) Sprinkle basil and cheese on top — I use about 1/4 cup of parm, 1/2 cup of mozza, but you can modify as needed.
7) Bake in the oven for six or seven minutes.
8) Wolf that sucker down.

I once made this three days in a row — it was that good. Somehow the egg whites added a pizza-like texture without an “eggy” (I’m sure that’s the technical term) taste. Either way, I devoured these bad boys like there was no tomorrow.