Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tomato and Summer Squash Parmesan

Most of my summer has been spent in the vineyard, but I did manage to pick up a new hobby. I live in a back house, which is a rental behind a main house. My neighbors in the front house moved away in July, and left a garden behind. I watched it over a couple of weeks as it started to be swallowed up by weeds. Then I noticed a tomato ripening, and I realized I needed to rescue the garden! It has at least 10 tomato plants and about 2 yellow squash and 3 crookneck squash plants. There are several eggplants and a watermelon plant, but they haven't produced too much. There are 3 pepper plants, but they also are less productive. I have since planted sugar pumpkins, beets, mesclun mix, various herbs, marigolds (for prettiness), and radishes. The radishes are just starting to be ready to harvest, and the sugar pumpkins have buds! I hope to get some pumpkins before the season is over.

Thanks to my adopted garden, I've been enjoying tomatoes and squash all summer. I was starting to become overwhelmed by the amount of tomatoes and squash, so I cooked up a bunch of them in this casserole. If you don't have a garden, try to get ripe roma or "on the vine" tomatoes, which are meatier and sweeter than regular hothouse tomatoes.

Tomato and Summer Squash Parmesan
Printable Recipe

4 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 lbs summer squash or crookneck squash, thinly sliced (about 1/8", easily done with a mandolin slicer)
2 lbs roma or "on the vine" tomatoes, thinly sliced (about 1/4")
4 oz grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Add 1 tbsp oil to a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
3. Blend remaining oil with basil, oregano, and marjoram.
4. In a 11" x 13"non-reactive baking dish, place half of the squash on the bottom. Top with half the onions, then half the tomatoes. Drizzle over half the herb oil. Season with a little salt and pepper. Repeat another set of layers with remaining squash, onions, tomatoes, herb oil, salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes.
5. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle over Parmesan. Bake 10 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Rest 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Monday Musings: My Happiness Project

I've been evaluating what makes me "me" lately. Part of my motivation is the podcast "Happier" with Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft. I've listened to it for the past couple of months, going through the backlog of over a year's worth of podcasts. I started from the beginning, where advice for happiness included making your bed every day and following the one minute rule...if a task can be done in one minute, do it. Examples include hanging your jacket in the closet rather than tossing it in a chair or doing a minute of tidying before heading out the door. Overall, the approach of the podcast is to focus on good habits as a way to achieve happiness, rather than some sort of non-quantifiable metaphysical meditations. As I've listened, I've started to learn a lot about myself.

I am a huge fan of projects. I love crafting and working towards goals. My latest project is my own Happiness Project, which is helping me flesh out who my authentic self is based on the tendencies Gretchen describes in her podcast and blog. You can take her quiz here. My results indicate I'm a questioner, though I have some tendencies towards rebel. Which means I like to do things only after careful consideration (must have data!), and therefore my motivations are all internal. My other favorite comparison is alchemist vs. leopard, where alchemists tinker with their nature and leopards don't like to change their spots. I'm a total alchemist. I love trying new things, especially with regard to exercise and eating habits. True to alchemist nature, I've tried to exercise and eat certain ways that just seem like a struggle, especially when combined with my questioner nature because I need something more than bro science to back stuff up. But I've started to accept that arbitrary nutrition and exercise advice doesn't work for me (ie: eat chicken, rice, and broccoli without question, and you have to exercise for x minutes a day, y times a week), so now I do what makes sense to me. Gretchen describes many different tendencies in human nature. I have yet to figure out some of my other tendencies, but I'm enjoying the process.

I started my Happiness Project mid-July. I didn't feel like I needed to start on a Monday or at the beginning of a month. For me, when I'm ready to start something, I just start it while I feel the motivation or I end up overthinking it and get stuck in analysis paralysis and never begin at all. Therefore the first "month" of my happiness project was 2 weeks of July and all of August. My plan was to focus on improving my energy. One thing that drains me are tasks that never get done and only become more inconvenient over time. These include small things like making the bed or washing the dishes (my least favorite chore), or bigger tasks like cleaning out drawers and closets. My inspiration quote came from Gretchen, "outer order contributes to inner calm." This is a variant of a mantra I've followed since I was an undergrad "messy bed, messy head." Basically, clutter is distracting! 

Gretchen provides a checklist on her website, but I made my own Excel checklist with all the resolutions I wanted to accomplish for the month and taped it on the wall next to my bed so I can check off what I accomplished each day. Across the next year on my project, I was to make goals that are quantifiable. Making my bed every day is quantifiable. Smile more is not. How do I know if I've smiled more? It's not something easy to be conscious of.

Here are my goals for the month:

1) Make bed every day
2) No dirty dishes in the sink at the end of the day
3) Evening tidy up (15 minutes)
4) Clear closets and drawers
5) Tackle nagging tasks
6) Keep a food diary
7) Follow my "to do" list
8) Repair, reuse, re-purpose, or get rid

So far, I have 100% adherence in making my bed! I love having my bed made because it's a great surface for folding laundry or packing my suitcase with no risk of an item getting trapped in messy blankets. I stick to my "to do" list most days; on the weekend I'm more flexible. I've gotten rid of some clothes, cleaned out a bathroom drawer, and taken care of a couple tasks that were just sitting on a side table needing to be done. I do need to get better about not leaving a few dishes in the sink at night. I just forget about them and by the time I see my checklist I'm too tired to care. My favorite part of the project so far is all the data I'm generating from my checklist...I know I'm getting stuff done because I have a visual.

Next month I'll give a final report on the first month of the project and talk about my September goals!

Overall, why do I want to do this project? It's not to seek delirious happiness, but rather contentedness for myself and my environment.

Friday, April 8, 2016

What I Ate Wednesday: Thursday Edition, 21 Day Fix with Paleo Meals (4/7/16)

On Wednesday I was standing in the vineyard and realized I forgot to take a picture of my breakfast for my What I Ate Wednesday post. D'oh! So I figured it wasn't a big deal, I'll just track my meals on Thursday. It would be interesting to take pictures and post them on a non-normal day (ie: traveling) so you can see the things I choose and restaurants in order to attempt to stay on track, but that's not going to happen this week.

I didn't eat badly while on my work trip this week, but I definitely had too much salt. Ready to get back to normal until my work trip next week. But I hope the more work trips I go on, the more streamlined things get. 

I started the day off with my Shakeology shaker cup full of water to help flush out some of the excess salt/water hanging on to me. Normally I cook my breakfast and have Shakeology for a snack, but I felt I needed to start the day with plenty of vitamins. I mixed the strawberry flavor with water and a cup of frozen mango and peaches. I look exhausted in these pictures. My eyes were burning they were so tired. But you can see my new haircut in this pic! I cut off about 4 or 5 inches. And you can see my new scarf from a local vintage shop!

We were on the road a long time these past couple of days. I also had some black coffee, which was necessary.

1 red, 1 purple

Mid-morning I had an orange container of chopped pecans and a Cara Cara orange that I mangled while peeling. I was going through my notes from the last few days while I had my snack. I've been out of school a long time, but I still go back through my notes and highlight and make extra notes with a different ink color. Nerd and proud of it.

1 purple, 1 orange

I'm so thankful to me last Saturday for prepping food! I had some Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo made from the 21 Day Sugar Detox cookbook by Diane Sanfilippo, cauli rice from Trader Joe's, and roasted sweet potatoes that were in the freezer section on clearance at Target. I made up a bunch of plates and put them in the freezer to grab as I need. It may look blah and beige, but it tasted so delicious! I can definitely recommend this recipe and cookbook! A couple alterations to the recipe: I used 3 lbs of boneless meat, which is 12 servings. The 3 lbs of bone-in chicken thighs is supposed to yield 4 servings according to the recipe, but there weren't any at Trader Joe's. It worked out well because the recipe made a lot of sauce...half a blue container per serving, approximately. The recipe has you place sliced onion, ginger, and garlic on the bottom of the crock pot, so after I removed the chicken I blitzed everything with my immersion blender so the veggies would thicken the sauce.

1 red, 1/2 blue, 1 yellow, 2 tsp, 1 green

I don't normally have Shakeology twice in one day. If I have it for breakfast, I'll have a protein snack later in the day with Greek yogurt. But I just came back from a trip so I don't have any Greek yogurt. I also didn't drink my Shakeology for 2 days, so I have a bit extra. This is chocolate with unsweetened vanilla almond milk (8 oz) and a few oz of water. This is my normal mid-morning snack. Fuji apple on the side.

1 red, 1 yellow, 1 purple

Here's my Shakeology stash in my desk drawer so I can grab one and put it in my back pack before heading to the field:

I ran an errand after work, then stopped to get fresh produce. Since my workout was delayed, I made a little pre-workout snack of cottage cheese and grape tomatoes. I've loved the combination of tomatoes and cottage cheese since I was a kid. I don't eat cottage cheese a lot, but it's a pretty good source of protein and is a great option if you don't have time to cook.

1 red, 1 green

Dinner was from the freezer again, yay! This is a slow cooker chicken with tangerine that I've been working on. These asparagus spears were also on clearance at Target, and they were horrible. I don't think I've ever had frozen asparagus before, and I will never have them again. Look how sad they are! This was about 1.5 green containers, and I couldn't finish them. So yucky.

1 red, 1 tsp, ? green

I ended up having a few cashews to finish up my blue container for the day. Half a blue container is four cashews, and I wasn't going to take a photo of four cashews. That's just silly business.

1/2 blue

I didn't eat all my containers today. I got an extra red, but skipped some green, a teaspoon, and a yellow. I feel like intuitively my body is making up for the erratic eating during my travels. Of all the containers to skip, green is not the one that I would choose, primarily because I don't want to mixx out on phytonutrients. Friday (today) my appetite is more normal. Doing the Fix and eating Paleo at the same time may take a bit more practice as I travel, but I'm all in.

Friday, April 1, 2016

What I Ate Wednesday: 21 Day Fix with Paleo Meals (3/30/16)

Hey everyone! Happy April Fools! I can't believe it's been a whole month since I posted a WIAW. Since then, I started to get settled in my new job and town. I've actually taken pics every Wednesday of what I ate, but I never make the post promptly enough so I think it's too stale to post. But I'm back with Paleo meals using recipes from two of my favorite cookbooks, the 21 Day Sugar Detox cookbook by Diane Sanfilippo and Well Fed by Mel Joulwan. I love these books because the recipes are all sugar free, use whole ingredients, and are all delicious. I've noticed some sugar creeping back into my diet in the form of a little honey and maple syrup here and there. They may be better options than white sugar, but as one of my favorite podcast hosts, Vinnie Tortorich would say, you liver doesn't know the difference between sugar and honey or maple syrup. So I'm getting that stuff out of my diet and saving it for an occasional sweet treat. Honey and maple syrup may be more whole sweeteners, but they don't belong in my diet every day.

On Sunday I prepped a breakfast stir-fry of Trader Joe's garlic herb chicken sausages (no sugar in the ingredients), peppers, onions, and potatoes. I started adding an extra red container every day, and it's really helped with my energy levels and recovery. I eat 2 reds every morning at breakfast now. I had 2 over easy eggs cooked in a teaspoon of cultured butter. The picture is a little blurry because the food was steaming up my camera!

2 red, 1 yellow, 1 green, 1 tsp

Mid-morning I had chocolate shakeology in almond milk and a little water and two ugly tangerines that tasted divine. I'm not sure which variety these tangerines are. I got them from Whole Foods...not sure if you can get them nationally. The rind looks less than appealing but they are really flavorful and juicy.

1 red, 1 yellow, 1 purple

Lunch was Italian Sausage and Peppers from the 21 Day Sugar Detox cookbook plus roasted potatoes with lots of herbs, and a green apple. Teaspoons are from the coconut oil I cooked the potatoes and sausage in.

1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 purple, 2 tsp

I didn't need a mid-afternoon snack so I waited until dinner and had a salad with tuna on top that I mixed with Creamy Italian dressing made from the Well Fed bookbook. I chopped some rosemary marcona almonds from Trader Joe's and sprinkled them on top. I ate outside on the porch that I need to sweep, apparently...

2 green, 1 red, 1 orange, 1 blue

I finished the day with a cup of strawberries. It's so nice to have delicious strawberries so early in the season! I needed 1 teaspoon to complete my containers for the day but I felt pretty satisfied so I didn't see the point in eating it.

1 purple

Some days I have an extra blue if my energy is really dipping. I'm on week 3 of Hammer & Chisel, and I have been increasing the weights a lot so some days I feel like I need a little more food and follow their advice. An extra red (protein) or green (veg) is good for hunger, and blue (healthy fats) and purple (fruit) are good for fatigue. I tend to do well on higher fat and protein because they are good for stabilizing my blood sugar, so I choose protein first, and if that doesn't work, I also add fat. I've also been experimenting with workout time. As much as I can't stand working out in the morning for many reasons (an hour less sleep, less coordination, and my lifting is a little compromised), I feel super energized afterwards. Ugh, I guess I'll get up and get it over with. The good thing is, when I get home from work I can relax and do whatever because my workout is done.

Friday, March 4, 2016

What I Ate Wednesday: 21 Day Fix with Paleo Meals (3/2/16)

Though I've managed to take pictures of what I've been eating these last couple of Wednesdays, I didn't get a chance to post them because my routine has been totally thrown off. What have I been up to these past couple weeks? Well, I decided to go back to the hallowed halls of academia and started a new post-doc position! I'm not located on campus, though, I'm stationed in the Napa Valley! A wine lovers dream! So these last couple of weeks I've been packing up my apartment in the central valley and shipped it all up to Napa. I've been in my new place since Saturday, but I'm still unpacking (I'm currently using a cardboard box as a table as I write this now).

Anyway, I really want to get back into routine so this week I'm posting what I ate this Wednesday! I happened to be travelling to campus that day, but I still made room for good meals.

Breakfast was leftover roasted potatoes (regular and white sweet potatoes) scrambled with eggs and some grapefruit on the side. I also had a cup of black coffee in my muy fuerte dragon mug I got in Chinatown in San Francisco last fall on my whirlwind road trip.

1 red, 1 yellow, 1 purple

Mid-morning, I had a scoop of chocolate Shakeology in 8 oz of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and 2 oz of water. This is my favorite way to have my shake when I can't get to a blender.

1 red, 1 yellow

Lunch was at the student union. I got a big salad with all kinds of veggies, chicken, and balsamic vinaigrette. I dined al fresco with one of my sweet friends!

2 green, 1 red, 1 orange

Mid-afternoon I had an apple on my drive back.

1 purple

Dinner was leftover roasted sweet potatoes (a mix of regular and white sweet potatoes), steamed sugar snap peas with some cultured butter from Trader Joe's and pork chops. Somehow I managed to season the pork chops so they tasted like pizza, which was awesome. Even more awesome was that I managed to season the sweet potatoes so they tasted like Thanksgiving! I ended up having another serving of sugar snaps (not pictured), so I got all my veggies in!

1 red, 1 yellow, 4 tsp

I had an evening snack of pecans and tangerines

1 blue, 1 purple

It's really nice to be back in the vineyard, too. I forgot how awesome of a workout it was to bend and stoop to do outdoor work. My legs are still sore two days after!
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