Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quantity versus Quality

This week Congress passed the 'Monsanto Protection Act' which "would require the USDA to approve the harvest and sale of crops from genetically modified seed even if a court has ruled the environmental studies on the crop were inadequate." It really made me think about America's relationship with food, especially after a talk in the car with my best friend. I understand what she said and why she believes what she does but in the end I just don't agree with her opinion. (which is why its an opinion of course) We really shouldn't be protecting companies that main goal is not providing nutritious and safe food for us, but rather companies and farms producing food that is good for us. There is a reason America is one of the most unhealthy and obese countries in the world, since the great depression its always been about quantity, unfortunately for us now because of this mentality we all over eat the cheapest things we can get.

I feel like anyone that hasn't lost a family member to obesity or isn't obese themselves doesn't truly realize how difficult is dealing with this epidemic. Obesity is the black plague of our generation. And how does this tie back to GMOs in our food? Quantity over quality. These big food producing companies mass produce food that is mediocre and sodium, artificial sweeteners, and other additives are added to make the food palatable. Shouldn't we be eating food that taste good to begin with? That's the whole point of our taste buds, to help us as humans detect food that is safe to eat. Anyone who is obese knows that we tend to eat more food when it doesn't  taste as good because we don't feel satisfied. The same goes for overly sweet and salty food, it makes us eat more. But when you eat a little of GREAT food you actually are satisfied and can stop yourself from eating more.

Most people think that when you are obese its just a matter of losing weight. Its not that simple. If you learn anything from watching Biggest Loser is that almost everyone who is obese probably should be in therapy. We are fat for a reason that can include genetics but genetics only go so far. I was/am overweight probably because my father was obese, so I ate like him. Despite me being an all year round athlete and working out hard everyday I was always overweight. When I got to college, my freshman 15 was probably closer to a freshman 50. Not only did I become extremely sedentary but I also lost my father to complications from obesity in the first month and a half of school. I didn't realize it at the time but I ate my feelings. Its taken me almost 13 years for me really realize this fact for me. And probably only because of how many episodes of Biggest Loser I've watched...  Over the years no matter what I tried I always failed to lose the weight and usually gained more.

I'm told to eat healthy, to workout, and to make smart decisions. But how am I supposed to eat healthy and make smart eating decisions when I don't even know what's in my food and how's its produced? And especially now that even if a food is ruled to be unsafe by the courts for consumption that the USDA can overrule the decision and allow us to eat this food anyway? Court rulings are supposed to be final and very difficult to overturn, yet the USDA has the power to do it now with this Act by Congress.

Why don't we put to congress an Organic Farmers Protection Act? At least with Organic food I know it should in theory be safe to eat because it guarantees there will be no pesticides or additives in the food. But as someone who makes just a little more than the poverty line and living in Boston means trying to purchase Organic is extremely difficult for me. Maybe we should be giving subsidies to the Organic Farmers so that they can expand and be able to meet the demand for Organic food and allowing the reduction in price.

In the end America has to change its basic culture of quantity versus quality. Its a mentality that all of us live by, just look at any wholesale club or Wal-mart that specialize in selling massive amounts of product. We super size meals, we have packaged meals that are meant for 3-4 people that we eat as individuals as one person, and we have one of the highest mortality rates in the world for heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity related diseases. To combat this black plague of America we need to start from the bottom up, change our relationship with food. We need to demand the labeling of foods in a way that doesn't deceive consumers (a 20oz bottle of soda isn't actually 2.5 servings and a can of soup isn't 2 servings) and that all GMO and Growth Hormone usage should also be indicated.

I think I'm done ranting now...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When Life Happens, And It Sucks

image from

I'm sure everyone of us have had something in their life that has made us sad or depressed. And its our response to these events and how it makes us feel that impact how we look and feel. For instance, I, like almost every overweight person that ever was, tend to eat my feelings. Food equals comfort in my head and heart. This past week I got dumped, yup, dumped. I feel like shit. And all I want to do is eat everything in sight, which would not be good for my diet or my health. I'm torn between trying to not kill all the work I've done so far and wanting to feel better. I'll go from being okay, then a sappy song comes on the radio and I'm not okay anymore.

I just want to cuddle with my dog and watch my TV to make me feel better. But at the same time I WANT to not sit on my ass feeling sorry for myself. I want to get myself motivated to channel my feelings into something productive to my body and health. So far I've managed to go on a long walk with my dog (2.5 miles) once. Every other day I've been trying to motivate myself to do something productive. Today more life happened, my best friend got attacked by a homeless man and is sick (not from the homeless man) - long story, and I went to visit her at work with Deviled Eggs.

My goal this weekend is to bring my dog for a long walk or try doing yoga or Pilates again. I know it made my back hurt but I need something to distract myself from eating bad food. In the end I'm thinking which pain is better to have - the kind from heartbreak or the kind from a good work out. What do you think?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Next Idea... Operation Workout

Yesterday I decided to try (a couple days earlier than I planned) a low impact workout in an attempt to find a workout that doesn't hurt my back. I tried my workout DVD Pick Your Level Weight Loss Pilates which I have done many times in the past, most of which I did on the Level 3 at the time. I did it the whole thing on Level 1 and skipped a few things that I thought would stress my back. At the time my back felt okay but today not so much. My arms and legs have the natural soreness you get after a workout, but my back has a good deal of pain. Today I've just focused on stretching in the hopes that I'll be able to try something else tomorrow. I really hate that I physically can't work out in any way. Of course if I could work out I would find excuses not to work out!

I'm not even sure I'll be able to try anything tomorrow either. Its very frustrating. My next workout most likely will be some sort of yoga workout. Unfortunately for me my yoga DVDs are either super difficult or super easy. The super easy ones are literally not a workout at all, you literally just stretch a bit with no actual workout, and the super difficult ones are definitely meant for someone much more advanced (which is why my sister does them not me). I do have a DVD for Qigong as well, though I've never actually done it. I think that my best hope after feeling so much pain after what I thought was an easy Pilates workout is something more like Qigong or Tai Chi.

Does anyone have suggestions on what I could do?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Raspberry Bran Muffins

I feel like sometimes you need to eat outside your comfort zone. Quite a few of my recipes I post here are things that only a few years ago I never would have eaten and that I feel like if you give them a chance as I have you will find new things to enjoy. Only at my last cooking job did I discover Bran Muffins. Who knew something that I've avoided like the plague could be so delicious! 

Not only are they tasty they are pretty damn good for you. I made these as mini muffins and each muffin comes out to only 87 calories each. I got the original recipe from but instead of raisins I put frozen raspberries that I had already. This was so easy you can easily put whatever fruit you want in it, just  always fold it in, either dried fruit or frozen fruit. 

Raspberry Bran Muffins
Adapted from Classic Bran Muffins on Allrecipes.

1 1/2 c Wheat Bran
1 c Buttermilk (or 4 Tbsp Dried Buttermilk & 1 c Water)
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 egg
2/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c AP Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c frozen raspberries

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the Wheat Bran and Buttermilk together and let sit 10 minutes. Add the oil, egg, sugar, and vanilla to the wheat bran mixture and mix until combined. Add all the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in the raspberries. Scoop into a sprayed muffin pan (I used my 1 3/4oz ice cream scoop to make 24 mini muffins) and bake for 15 minutes.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Split Pea Soup

I don't know about you, but up until maybe two years ago I always viewed Split Pea Soup as a disgusting and unappetizing soup that no one liked. It certainly looks unappealing with its puke green color with random chunks of ham so I just never tried it. It wasn't until I became Sous Chef at a corporate cafe and had it put on the menu that I even tried it, mostly because I had to make it. Let me tell you, making something that you are going to sell even though you've never actually tried it or in fact cooked it before is quite a daunting task, one of which happened to me multiple times. Luckily for me, I remembered my basics from Culinary School and also read the split pea package which had some basic instructions and from there i winged it. This is when I discovered my love for Split Pea Soup. However I have also discovered that I only like fresh and from scratch Split Pea Soup, I can't stomach the stuff from cans.

This soup recipe is super easy to prepare and could easily be made in a crock pot. I don't generally use my crock pot seeing as mine is literally older than I am. Seriously I'm pretty sure its from the 70s. And I use my giant stock pot (2 gallons is giant right?) and usually after I'm halfway done I realize that I probably could have used my crock pot. After working in commercial kitchens for a few years its hard for me to add to my repertoire things like microwaves and crock pots. Friends of mine who generally say they can't cook use crock pots better than I do! Anyway, as I said this recipe could easily be put into a crock pot and let it sit for a few hours, though it does take a good 2 hours of cooking time on the stove as well. I did try to calculate calories for this soup as well, though I'm not exactly sure how accurate my nutritional information is because there is reducing involved so the serving size of 12 ounces. I would say the calories aren't far off at least, I think within 50 calories or so. This is quite a healthy dish. For 12 ounces of Split Pea Soup my calorie calculator website says it would be about 185 calories which is pretty awesome because it is super filling. I feel like this soup fills me up more than any other soup I make.

Split Pea Soup

1 lb dry Split Peas 
1/2 lb ham, diced
1 lb carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
10 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
Salt & Pepper
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

With a small amount of oil saute the carrots, onion, and ham in a stock pot. You don't really need to get any color on them you almost want to sweat them more than saute them. Add the Split Peas, water, and Bouillon cubes. Stir and bring to a boil on high heat.

Once boiling add your salt, pepper, and garlic & onion powders, though you'll probably add more at the end as well to taste. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for about 2 hours, just check to see if everything is nice and mushy, if its not I just turn up the heat for a quick boil for a few minutes while frequently stirring just to finish cooking off the carrots (when I made this my carrots weren't done all the way until after this but I didn't cut them very small!). Turn off the heat, and remove if you're on an electric stovetop. Next take your immersion blender, if you don't have one you probably will have to use a normal blender just be careful to hold the top with a kitchen towel so it doesn't blow off with the heat, but an immersion blender is best! Once its nice and blended give it a taste, but don't be like me and burn your tongue because its wicked hot. This is when you add more of your seasonings to get it to where you like. I had to end up adding a whole lot of salt to mine. This makes at least 5 large servings or 10 small servings. I would suggest freezing half if you are cooking for just yourself because I'll usually eat it about 3 days in a row then want something else.

An alternate less healthy version of this and super delicious is instead of ham you use 4-5 slices of good bacon. If you use bacon make sure to render all the fat out before adding the veggies and you won't have to add any oil at all since there will be more than enough bacon grease. When I made it with bacon instead of ham I had all my animals fighting each other for the rights to lick my bowl every time I heated it up. One of our cats actually tried to stick her head in the pot to eat some, luckily I stopped her before she stole any of my soup!

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Back Pain

Huzzah, I have finally discovered what my back pain is from and hopefully have gotten the treatment after ten months of dealing with this pain. I have Myofascial Pain Syndrome which pretty much means somewhere in my neck and shoulder area I was strained really badly causing pain down the rest of my back. (Oh wait I got into a car accident and got whip lash!) And my lovely doctors at St. Elizabeth's Pain Management Center not only gave me my consultation today but also gave me my Trigger Point Injections today and saved me a week of addition pain.

Now Trigger Point Injections (TPI) I don't recommend for people who haven't tried all the various physical therapies (and Chiropractor and Acupuncture as well like I did) because man it hurts! I got six injections covering my neck, shoulders, and middle back, and at shot number 4 I started getting light headed and at shot number 5 I almost threw up from the pain. My doctor stopped to give me a breather and wasn't going to make me take the last shot if I wasn't up for it. But being a true Meagher girl I sucked it up and said "hit me with your last shot!" In the end it still wasn't nearly as bad as getting a cortisone shot in my foot, but I currently feel like I just played in the Cherry Blossom Rugby Tournament down in DC like I did during back in the day for American University's Women's Rugby Club. In other words I can't lift up my arms.

Within 48 hours however, I may, just may, feel better. And who knows maybe by this time next week I'll be able to try to do a work out! I don't want to push it however, no need to get more shots than necessary. Unfortunately for me this Syndrome could be a life long problem I have to face. But here's hoping my back starts to feel better!

Breakfast of Champions

A bit of what has been happening since my last post. I have officially started a new job, one that requires me to not be on my feet all day long and lift heavy objects, which were both requirements to try to get my back healthy again. However I'm no longer working in a kitchen as a chef, I'm an Office Manager for my sister's dog walking company Happy Pet Care. So in an effort to keep up my culinary skills my goal is to post one blog a week cooking something healthy or not so healthy (which will be posted on my OTHER blog Kat's Divine Comedy).

My OTHER goal with this new job is to actually start tracking my calories as much as possible again because now I have the time to actually do so. So I've been making this breakfast for a few days now but today I actually weighed things out using my handy dandy food scale and it only comes out to about 330 calories but is a lot of food and very filling. Calories may vary depending on the shredded cheese you get.

Egg White, Broccoli, & Cheese Wrap

1 c Egg Whites (which according to my egg white container is about 4 eggs)
1/4 c (28g) Shredded low fat cheese
1.5 oz Broccoli, fresh & chopped (I steamed them in the microwave for 35-40 seconds)
1 Whole Wheat Wrap (Cedar's Low Carb Wrap I use)

Cook the egg whites on Medium to Medium-high heat like you're making an omelette  Once the egg whites start going opaque sprinkle the broccoli and cheese onto the top. Continue cooking until the egg whites are cooked through and fold over like an omelette. Then one finished cooking slap it down into the wrap and fold it like a quesadilla and eat it up. This literally takes 5 minutes to make, its super fast, filling, and healthy. The longest part is measuring out on the food scale.