Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Difficult but not Insurmountable (a.k.a. Heathly Eating on a Budget)

If you follow my Twitter feed (MichaelPeeples1), then you might have seen a recent article I posted from Bodybuilding.com about "The 5 Cheapest Health Foods Money Can Buy." The article hit upon a theme I had already begun this post about so the timing of its publication worked out well.
I've talked about the love of cooking before and how, like any hobby of love, the initial costs can be high. What I didn't discuss was the average costs of the average family just trying to eat a healthier diet and how it can seem impossible to both eat better quality food while not breaking the bank.

People of all level of fitness, either the super fit or the overweight, face the delimma of costs versus health. A lot of today's food in the grocery stores and supermarkets will fill us up,  but can also leave us nutritionally incomplete. Efforts to break free of nutritional starvation can seem more difficult than a normal person with a normal busy schedule can handle.

For instance, sodium - a recent study showed that nearly everyone in the United States exceeds the federally recommended sodium level on a daily basis and that 90% of our sodium intake comes already packaged in our foods. So even if people stop salting their food, they still will be getting way more sodium than they should.  To reduce their sodium, people have to actively seek out alternatives or make it themselves. Soups serve as a good example, even the "low sodium" among them has high sodium levels. A person can take the time to prepare and make sodium free soup, but if pressed for time, it's much simpler to just open a can and pop it in the microwave.

But the first few steps are rather easy and inexpensive. You don't have to go out and buy a whole lot of exotic foods to do so. You can start with your next trip to the grocery store.  

1. Read the Labels - this is your most powerful weapon. It doesn't get any easier than this.

2. Educate Yourself - the more you read, the smarter you'll become.
There are a ton of articles in magazines and on the web plus more than a few published books on the matter to help us navigate a way to a healthier diet while keeping the costs down. Also check your local library. (Stay away from the sensational publications, though, they're just fad diet crap - you can usually spot them by their titles.) And while you may not put into practice everything you've read, at least you start making smarter choices from time to time. It's like the old axiom, "Baby steps."

3. Stay away from food you know is junk food - I used to think everyone knew the difference between real food and junk food. I was wrong. I've had friends say they don't want to give up "real" food for healthy food. When I asked what "real" food was, they listed off a bunch of junk food items, including potato chips and mayonnaise. So learn what is "real" and what is "junk" and try to avoid the junk as much as you can.

4. If you must buy can vegetables, at least wash them off prior to cooking - it helps reduce the amount of sodium.

4. Avoid processed sugar and sugar additives as much as you can. This includes artificial sweeteners.

Those few steps alone can increase your overall level of health while not increasing the overall impact to your pocketbook.

Until Next Time...
Watch this fitness couple stock up their kitchen by looking for sale items and reading tags and labels. I don't agree with all the choices they make, but it's good general advice.

Budgetly Yours,

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Simple Gluten Free One Skillet Dinner

The goal was to make a tasty gluten free dinner, and despite what many would have us to believe, it wasn't that difficult.

I tend to use garlic in a lot of my recipes, which is good for the heart, but can become rather boring on the palate if used too often. I wanted more of a mushroom sauce for this particular dish, but without adding mushroom sauce or soup (since I haven't done much research into the gluten levels of either), I decided to try to extract as much flavor as I could from simply sauteing fresh mushrooms in butter. Needless to say, it didn't quite work out as flavorful as I wanted. Desperate to rescue what I'd done, I threw in the garlic at the last minute afterall.

But no matter at this point. I have the basis for a one-skillet dinner which is going to change over time as I experiment. Right now I'm calling this "One Skillet Gluten Free Spiral Pasta with Shrimp."

one bag (one pound) Tinkyada Pasta Joy Gluten Free Spirals
one pound deveined and pre-cooked shrimp
one can diced tomatoes
one package (12 ounces in this instance) of sliced mushrooms
four tablespoons of butter
fresh garlic or garlic powder to taste

Prepare pasta per instructions, drain, and set aside.
Saute mushrooms in butter
Add shrimp and garlic to skillet until shrimp is cooked
Add pasta to skillet; stir in can of diced tomatoes.
Once all is well mixed, cover for ten minutes, stirring occasionally to even out thoroughness.

I didn't do a calorie count this time since this is still in the experimental stage, but other than the butter, this should be a relatively low-cal meal. 

Like I mentioned above, this truly is a recipe in the experimental stage. I have a vague idea what I want, but still not sure of the path to get there. My next steps include a search for gluten free mushroom sauce or soup, and I want to also keep the sodium level down to a medium roar.

Until Next Time...
Since the protein base of this recipe is shrimp, I thought I'd link in this video of the Five Largest Shrimp caught in recent times. 

Experimentally Yours,

p.s. Later I did find a single can of Campbell's Golden Mushroom in the pantry, it contains wheat flour.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Love, Passion, and Money

This should have been obvious to me, but like with most things I tend to learn the hard way. Food blogging and upping my cooking skills turned out to be no exception.

It's well documented by people smarter than I that preparing and eating meals at home is economically wiser as well as better for your health and weight management. The Boss and I were as guilty as many Americans these days when it comes to dining out - we did it too frequently and we ate and drank too when we did. We had fun, but long term, it's not the best habit to get into.

In a recent effort to save a little cash I decided to make us a seafood dinner from a  recipe in Mr. Sunday's Soups by Lorraine Wallace and made "Hearty Seafood Soup" (page 90, paperback) Of course I had none of the ingredients required, including the mussels, shrimp, and halibut, and some of the spices weren't ones I regularly keep. But after hitting the grocery store, I nearly fell backwards when I saw the total, and smiled sheepishly smile at The Boss like a little boy who innocently screws up.

Once in the kitchen, though, I then spent a few hours crafting one of the best soups I've ever made. There was enough for eight servings and we ate leftovers for days, which financial probably made the costs worth it, but I really have no idea if it did or didn't.

The lesson here though is a simple one: When you do something you love, sometimes the initial costs are high.

Just like someone who enjoys woodworking has no qualms about spending money on specialty or high quality tools that the average person wouldn't spend. Or just like the visual artists who buys high quality expensive paints instead of cheap mid-quality that a casual weekend artists may buy, the culinary lover will spend extra money for higher quality ingredients and cooking tools.

Those costs must be offset somehow. So while you may love what you do, the real test of your love lies in what you're willing to sacrifice. And taking that beyond the immediate financial aspect, sometimes the sacrifices involve other things as well. Maybe you get behind on your favorite television show, never find time to clean out your car, etc. But when it comes to your passion, you find that you don't mind giving up some other things. That's how you know when you're committed.

I hear athletes say it all the time, "It's not how bad you want it, it's what you're willing to sacrifice to get it." That is true of all ventures. So embrace your passion whatever it is, and be happy.

Until Next Time...
No matter how skilled in the kitchen you think you are, this video from Gordon Ramsay servers as a great reminder/tutorial about some basic techniques.  

Lovingly, Yours,