Sunday, January 30, 2011

the zen art of getting rid of hiccups

From the dark recesses of the back of my mind, the Universe told me to post this at some point. Since I've been MIA with family all weekend, and this actually came up as a topic of conversation, now seems appropriate...

You'll want to remove all stimulation, so sit down - preferably in a quiet place, close your eyes, sit still, and try to clear your mind a bit.

Start focusing on the hiccups.  Feel the muscle contractions, their source, what your body feels like just before the contractions occur and after they pass.  You may notice that between contractions, and just before them, the muscle feels a bit uncomfortable.  Attune to the rhythm of the contractions; anticipate them, even welcome them by relaxing your body into the contractions.

After a few hiccups have passed, take a slow, deep full breath in.  Not overly deep, but enough to fill your body.  As you breathe in, continue to focus on the muscle and how it feels.

Hold the breath in as gently as possible for a moment, then relax your body and allow the breath to very slowly release as naturally as possible.  As the breath escapes, continue focusing on that muscle.  You may be able to anticipate when the contraction should be occurring, and notice the discomfort as the muscle breaks from it's rhythm of contractions.

After this breath has escaped, do the breathing exercise again for good measure.  You may have already noticed that the muscle has relaxed fully, or you may still experience some discomfort as the muscle returns to normal.

If you have another hiccup (which may happen with stronger occurrences, or with beginners), start from the beginning with the focus on the muscle, then gently move back into the breathing exercise.

I don't know how or why, but this seems to work, first breath, for 95% of my instances of hiccups.  It's also worked on kids as young as 5-years old and adults who have never meditated in their life.

Do you have any odd always-works remedies for hiccups?  What about for other odd body discomforts like pins & needles?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Thursday, January 27, 2011

warm & hearty buffalo bean soup

On cold days at work, when the heat just can't seem to warm up our area, I look forward to having my Buffalo Bean Soup for lunch. It's very hearty, and has a warm hint of hot sauce for depth (more if you like a kick in the butt!). I have no idea where in my brain this came from, but it is an experiment-turned-tradition to which I am completely addicted.


You'll need:
  • 1lb bag of dry 15 or 16 Bean Soup mix, rinsed and drained, toss the ham flavor packet
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes, or about 4 chopped fresh tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1lb chicken breast or tenderloins
  • 6 cups water
  • 1T salt
  • 1/4c or more hot sauce (I prefer Franks Buffalo Wing Sauce for the mild buttery flavor)
  • a slow-cooker
  • 10-minutes of prep time, 6 hours of cooking time, and 10-minutes of finishing time

Throw it all in a slow-cooker.  Cook on high for 6-8 hours, or until beans are soft and chicken is falling apart.  Using a set of tongs and a fork, shred the chicken.  Taste, and add more hot sauce and/or salt as desired.

Curl up with a bowl and have yourself a wonderful winters day.

3.5 quarts, or 7 2-cup servings
Each serving: 330 calories, 31g fiber, $1.15

Freezes well.

What's your favorite winter food?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


chorizo, chickpea & lentil soup

Able-Bodied Brother asked for this recipe to help take care of some extra chorizo he has laying around. I'm hoping he has it made before I leave his house this weekend :-D (Happy First Birthday, Able-Bodied Niece!!!!)

This recipe is based on the Spiced Lentil, Chickpea & Chorizo Soup in 500 Soups by Susannah Blake. When I first made it, I was skeptical about how it would turn out, as I am not a huge fan of chickpeas in whole form (but give me hummus and I'm perfectly happy!) and I was worried that the mexican chorizo in the freezer would create a dish that was too greasy. However, it turned out to be a lovely chili-like soup, with a warm heat and meaty feel. I made a few changes, and up-ed the yield (Soup Day would be lame with 2-quart batches...)

I have no clue how it would turn out with spanish chorizo, but I imagine it wouldn't have the ground meat feel that mexican chorizo does, once cooked, and possibly a different flavor. I'm assuming that's what Able-Bodied Brother has, so he'll have to let us know...


You'll need:
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (if using spanish chorizo, you may need to double the oil)
  • 8oz mexican chorizo; or 1lb spanish chorizo, chopped
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp crushed dried chili/red pepper
  • 1lb dry brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 4 14-oz cans drained chickpeas; or 1lb dry chickpeas, soaked, cooked, and drained
  • 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes (or 12 fresh happy summer tomatoes), with liquid
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2.5 quarts vegetable stock (water works just fine too)
  • salt/pepper to taste

In a 4-6 quart soup pot, heat the oil and fry the chorizo, onion and garlic for a few minutes. Stir in the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and pepper, and heat for a minute. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are cooked. Add more liquid and salt/pepper to taste.

3+ quarts, or 13 2-cup servings
Each serving: 315 calories, 23g fiber, $1.09

Freezes well.

What's been your experience with chorizo? Have you tried both types?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

what we've been making lately

Some fluke in the Universe provided us with three (<--- read 3!!!) whole weekends in a row without plans.  No trips to visit family. No socializing out and about. No travel for the Able-Bodied Boyfriend. No weekend work for me. No major hosting duties, save a couple of last-minute get-togethers.   Three.  Whole.  Weekends.

(Let me just say now that the post from Monday was most likely a result of cabin fever, as weekend number three felt like a big cold boring un-fun event. Nevertheless...)

So what did we do with our wintry home-bound time? We cooked, of course! So here be the list of stuff we made, and maybe ate. Some I may get around to writing about in-depth (aka, recipes) at a later time; feel free to post requests!

Homemade pasta.  Able-Bodied Parents gave us a pasta machine, and we've Able-Bodied Boyfriend has been whipping out batches.  Very handy for...

The Best Lasagna Ever.  BLE is based on a New Zealand recipe I brought back. Full of turkey and spinach and feta, it's healthy, not overwhelmingly rich like a lot of ricotta-based lasagnas, and freezes well.  So we made two pans in foil pans (meh, disposable, but recyclable!), froze them, then pulled them out, let them thaw for an hour, cut them into thirds and rewrapped them for later dinners. We have made BLE for my family in the past too, and they all love it! That homemade pasta turned out really well in the dish, and also in...

Cilantro Pesto. Umm. If you like a bit of heat, and a kick of flavor. *swooooooon* Not normally a Rachel Ray fan, but dear god where did she come up with this?!?! So, if you buy one of those huge bunches of cilantro at the grocery, it makes about two batches worth. We mostly ignore recipes that call for a bit of cilantro as garnish or just a couple tablespoons in the dish - why waste the whole bunch? - but now I've decided that for every single recipe that calls for a tiny leaf of cilantro, we'll buy a bunch just so Able-Bodied Boyfriend can make the pesto to freeze for later :)  Good plan, right? I think my cilantro excuse this time was...

Local lamb chops in this indian tomato/potato dish. Probably from one of my indian cookbooks. Not too bad, but a bit mild on the indian spices IMO. Now to find more uses for the other packages of lamb (we got a half).

Yogurt, from this post. Because I've been eating a ton of it. And we've made other dishes with it...

Curried Lentils. Best recipe I've ever found on Food Network. I use regular store-bought brown lentils, and on occasion will add (or replace the cauliflower with) chopped cabbage. Also played with making my own curry paste, so I don't need to buy the Patak's, which is hard to find. So freakin' yummy we can't get enough of it. And it uses yogurt (cooking liquid and a fabulous topper), as does...

Spinach Saag. I played around with a couple of recipes I had found, but mainly stuck with the A&M Blog's version, but replacing the cream and buttermilk with yogurt, and no paneer (but I might try making my own soon, since Able-Bodied Boyfriend loves it so).  Note to self: I have got to stop overheating my dairy products when cooking with them. Even a slight curdle does not look appetizing. But, it was yummy anyway.

Loose Breakfast Sausage. I love sausage. But really, it's not all that healthy so I deprive myself all the time until I find an opportunity to gorge myself. Not anymore! Penzey's, our favorite spice source, has Breakfast/Pork Sausage seasoning, which we bought with our last stock-up. I had hoped that it would be a good substitute for the flavor, without the greasiness. I was right! I mixed about a tablespoon and a half with a pound of ground turkey, browned it, and created an awesome substitute. I dumped it into a towel-lined bowl to absorb whatever fat was still hanging on, sauteed some red peppers and onions in the leftover fat in the pan, then put the peppers and onions in with the sausage while I scrambled some egg whites in the pan.  Toss it all back together and it was a rich hearty breakfast with probably much less than half the fat. Now, can I make tofu or veggies taste like sausage.....? :)

Orange-Chili Braised Spare Ribs. There might just have to be a whole post about this recipe, found on the A&M Blog. Oh heaven on earth. Of course, you want to have the Able-Bodied In-Laws send you a case of very sweet and decadent oranges from Florida...

African Peanut Stew. When kellywhitephillips of Living on the Vedge posted about her favorite vegan winter dishes, the first dish, an African Peanut Stew, just sounded completely YUM.  Her source was a local restaurant, so I had to go recipe hunting... Oh Google, how wonderful are thee... I found the recipe on the Fat Free Vegan Recipe blog and brought it home to Able-Bodied Boyfriend.  His philosophy is that all stews are better the second day, so he had it all made by the time I got home the next day, sitting temptingly on the stove for the next night's dinner. He cut the recipe in half, but mysteriously still added 2.5 serrano peppers from the summer harvest (frozen).  He also make his own peanut butter, and used the stove-top directions.  He was surprised that the veggies are "sauted" just by simmering in water, rather than using oil. And it was totally worth the wait!  Served over brown rice, the stew was very filling and flavorful... and quite a bit spicy.  Amusing, becuase kellywhitephillips loved it so for the soothing, non-spicy nature.

Whole Wheat Loaves. Using a whole wheat roll recipe we use regularly to make hamburger buns, I shaped a couple loaves out for some garlic bread. Didn't turn out too bad, but not really the sort of dough I'd ever do again for that sort of application.

Flax Seed Bread. My favorite bread of Able-Bodied Boyfriend's breach machine repertoire. Half goes in the freezer for later, and I get to spread my springtime strawberry-rhubarb goodness on the other half :)

Rotisserie Chicken & Roasted Veggies. We have a crap-ton of meat in the freezer, so weekends have been deemed Meat Days (weeknights being reserved for fish and vegetarian meals). We popped a whole roaster on the rotisserie in 15 degree weather, stuck a pan of veggies to the side, and let 'er go. Excellent company made it taste better :)

Tabbouleh. I had some bulghur wheat screaming to be used, and the local grocery had parsley on sale. I make mine a bit differently, by soaking the bulghur in a mixture of half lemon juice, half water, to get that awesome lemony flavor. I skimped on the olive oil for health, which makes it much less sticky, but still very yum. I ended up making about 3-4 quarts... so for lunches this week, tabbouleh it is!

Buffalo Bean Soup. Can't say enough about this. There will be a post tomorrow with the recipe.

Mulligatawny Soup. From the aforementioned : 500 Soups by Susannah Blake. Turned out pretty well overall, though very similar to several other recipes from this book and from my past soup experiments. Gotta consolidate all the good ideas into one excellent soup.

Pumpkin & Lentil Soup. My grand plan for {le}Internet Cooking Princess's Squash and Lentil, and my own Roasted Pumpkin and Apple fell by the wayside when we realized the ribs were going to need the 4th soup's vessel, and the local groceries did not have good-looking squashes. So, I replaced her squash with my frozen pumpkin from the fall harvest, and added a full pound of lentils (store brown, since fancy lentils are a hike away). Wow, kudos to the Princess. A wonderful soup!

Chili Verde. Another recipe from "Make it Fast, Cook it Slow" by Stephanie O'Dea , made and frozen in 2-serving batches. So scrumptious, I shouldn't even really tell you about it.

Veggie Chili. On the docket for this week, to be served at Able-Bodied Niece's first birthday party. Originally passed to me as a copy of a cookbook recipe from a coworker, this has quickly become a chili favorite of the Able-Bodied Boyfriend (my heart is forever with Cincinatti chili, over thick spaghetti noodles and smothered in sour cream, cheese, and oyster crackers). Hearty and tasting like, well, meat. Without meat. Only he sometimes adds meat anyway.

Whew. It's any wonder I'm losing any weight at all!

What's been going on in your kitchen?? Any recipe requests from the list?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl

Monday, January 24, 2011

how to have an un-green day

After writing yesterday's post (several days ago, mind you), I found myself feeling a bit defeated by life. Might have just been a mood, or some other personal things weighing me down, but sustainability suddenly felt more like a burden and a curse than a positive lifestyle to strive for.

My composting worms (aka, the wormies) got overwhelmed with Thanksgiving goodies, so I don't really give them anything these days, since they are thriving with what they have and we don't have the space to expand too much further. Before real composting occurred we used to just throw the food waste into the brush at the edge of the property...

So, I felt pretty defeated with every onion peel I casually tossed into the trash.

Rather than walking the extra 10 feet to grab a rag, I used paper towels to clean up every little mess in the kitchen. We don't compost these either, so into the trash they went...

Grocery purchases had HFCS or unpronounceable ingredients, things I normally check for and make consideration of before going to the check-out. We didn't even think to bring our reusable canvas bags. I wasn't bothered by it when I forgot to wash my non-organic vegetables. Lately, we've been turning up the heat because I've been cold.

Able-Bodied Boyfriend is talking about buying a new mattress set for us soon. I'm concerned about the materials used to make mattresses, and tried showing him some information.  He's willing to entertain "eco-friendly" mattresses, but only if they're of good, lasting quality; this definition did not make organic or sustainably-produced products seem like a viable option for him. I'd sacrifice the durability for peace-of-mind, but this is not my decision alone. I nearly cried when we walked into the local mattress store, choking on the smell of the chemicals, feeling defeated again. If I can't express my views in a way that inspires him, how will I in any way show you that there are options worth considering? (There will definitely be more on the mattress purchase later...)

Time after time this weekend, I found myself wasting something that was preventable, not making those simple every-day choices that I have been able to make in the past. For one day I totally failed, and felt every failure as a scar on my not-earth-friendly-enough soul. Yes, yes, I'm being dramatic. Even Able-Bodied Boyfriend noticed and took his lunch in another room. But this isn't the person I want to be, dammit!  I want to care and put forth the effort 24/7!

Maybe I need days like this to remind me how far I've come, and how far yet I have to go. Reminders of all the little choices that are becoming normal, that for one day were punted back in time to the days when I didn't care how much crap went to the landfill or what I put in/on my body. Reminders that I'm not perfect, and that not making these choices doesn't make me or anyone else imperfect or evil or a pawn of the establishment or some nonsense.

I'm also reminded of all the things I do now, that I don't even think about anymore.  That I couldn't possibly not do because they're completely normal to me now. These are the things that are comforting on days like this.

Choices. They are what make us. Choose based on your priorities, on your needs, and on your vision of you and the life you want to lead. And every once in a while, it's ok to have an opposite day to remind yourself why you liked those decisions in the first place :)

Do you have bad days that turn out to be reminders of all that is good?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl

Sunday, January 23, 2011

life amongst the pastures

We live rural, with all the curses and all the blessings. I have struggled with accepting our distance from "civilization", but have been adapting, and finding that the distance at times can encourage my self-sustaining vision of life.

Able-Bodied Mom & Dad live atop a rural country mountain now, in their retirement, with the self-reliance needed when 4-inches of snow and wind can create house-bound conditions (what a lovely holiday it was last month!). Dad mentioned that he suspects a bit of Amish in our blood, and I too feel the pull towards a simpler way of life. Growing raising sowing nurturing cycling through the seasons. Staying home to care for plants and animals and others and self.

But this just isn't feasible or practical at this point in our lives. I feel defeated saying that, but it is what it is, and we do try to add little bits of the earth back into our concrete lives.

These are the little things, the small choices, the habits we form when we can; the things that make us feel more connected to the earth, to our food, to our friends family and neighbors, and to each other.

Using our own two hands, we do what we can. Making foods from scratch, growing our favorite foods, keeping more out of the landfills, being conscious of the impact of our purchases - from the origin of source material to the disposal of the item.

I want to tell you all about these things: not about the choices we make, but the journey into those decisions.

What sparked me to stop using a clothes dryer, and how have we managed to keep up with that habit? Will we ever give up paper-towels for reusable cloth? Will we ever be able to make satisfying compost? How will our first CSA experience be this year? Will I ever convert our household to more natural cleaning products? Will we ever overcome the cold weather to trim back the old blackberry growth; will I ever overcome my "ugh" of the heat and truly commit to our vegetable garden? Can I be a No-Poo sort of girl? What new sorts of things can I put-up (canning)? When there is furniture to be bought, repairs to be made, vacations to be had, what sort of new information and consciousness can I bring to those activities to make them environmentally- and pocket-friendly? What about those chickens we keep talking about? Can I really make my own clothes? Will I ever find my green thumb (cuz even the houseplants cry when Able-Bodied Boyfriend leave town)?

These are the little things that make me feel like life is sustainable, that we use less, need less, and ask less of the world. They aren't for everyone and aren't intended to be. But maybe we can discuss the consideration, the process, and the information that leads to choice and change.

I want to ask: how does me, being me, affect the world?
How do you affect the world?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Saturday, January 22, 2011

soup weekend!

mmmmm soup

Every month or so, Able-Bodied Boyfriend and I have a soup weekend. We make soups. Gallons and gallons of soups. Bean soups and veggie soups and soup starters and thick soups and chunky soups and spicy soups and hearty soups. They cook all day, sit out on the porch to cool all night, get portioned into gallon bags (2-quarts = 4 servings = enough to eat before it goes bad or you get tired of it), and frozen.

My goal is to have each soup come out to 300 calories or less for a 2-cup lunch portion, with as much fiber as we can muster. So after each new soup experiment, I list the cost, calories, fiber, and fat for each ingredient, measure how much we yielded, and determine what we get for each serving. Do we remember that math is hard? Yes, but by doing this I have learned A LOT over the years about which foods are high in fat/calories, and which ones pack a mighty punch of nutrition and belly-filling fiberous goodness for the buck. It's probably one of the top two nutritional learning things I've done for myself.

Last year, we bought a new book, 500 Soups by Susannah Blake, and compiled a list of all the soups we wanted to make, in addition to our favorites from the past year. We've already tried a few of the recipes and they have all turned out very well. The Spicy Cauliflower turned out beautifully (though freezing makes the cauliflower mushy... must not cook it so long next time); the Mediterranean Veg was a wonderful balance of sweet and acidic; and the Spiced Lentil, Chickpea, and Chorizo is my new absolute favorite soup, though it's more like a rich lentil chili than anything else.
I do have one "meh" about this small book and the others in the series (casseroles, cupcakes, appetizers, salads, etc). What they really contain is about 100 recipes; at the end of each chapter, each of that chapter's recipes is adapted to create 4 other soups. They basically just replace/remove/add one or two ingredients. Dude, I never follow a recipe and could really have come up with this on my own. But, many others don't cook like that *coughAbleBodiedBoyfriendisanengineercough*, and the basic recipes are all of good quality and variety, and so I don't mind so much.

It seems that Able-Bodied Boyfriend and I had different takes on how to select a soup. I tried to immediately be conscious of calories, and tended to only pick soups that seemed to fit the bill, using my super-soup-savvy knowledge; he went for "mmmmm this sounds yummy!" Which, overall, is not a bad way to pick soups; just about anything can be adapted to be more nutritious.

Yes, I said just about anything can be adapted to be more healthy... One of our top YUM picks was a Spicy Crab and Coconut (coconut cream... deadly good); besides some flavorful garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili peppers, and scallion, there was little other veg/bean/nutritive value. 440 calories, $4, and 0g fiber per serving later, a half gallon sits in the freezer awaiting a fancy indulgent dinner party :) Lesson learned! Sadly, any attempt to healthify (yes, it's a word dammit!) this soup will only fall flat of the decadence of the original and end up tasting like some normal plain-ole Thai curry.

So this particular weekend, we'll make a Mulligatawny (from the soup book), a Buffalo Bean (a personal creation: the tastiest and best one of all, imho), Squash and Lentil (via {le}Internet Cooking Princess), and Roasted Pumpkin and Apple (another made-it-up awesomeness). Good thing we have two crock pots, and several 6qt + pots!

While Able-Bodied Boyfriend and I have vastly different styles in the kitchen, we have found routines that help and traditions that make us smile. He'll help sous chef for me, chopping bits, as I direct and assemble and organize the process. I'll talk through my adaptations with him, for feedback. He'll take care of lunches and dinners while I'm in the middle of things, and run to the store if I forgot something. He may even find small activities that we can do while things are holding steady at a simmer. And when the soup is just about done, I'll bring a small cup of it with a small spoon to his computer, remind him that it's very hot, and request his opinion (usually, "Oh, this is good! It just needs salt..."). It can get hot and stressful at times, but I'm learning to spread out the cooking rather than trying to get it all done at once. And as long as the weather is cool, the post-cooking soup cool-down outside can last a couple days if I need to leave them to live the rest of my life :)

Do you have any big project weekends on a regular basis? What's the most satisfying thing about it?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Thursday, January 20, 2011

the first hurdle

Able-Bodied Boyfriend was gone for part of the week. One day of which was a holiday. His first travel of the year.

Which means what I really wanted to do was lounge around in pajamas, catch up on TV shows, eat massive amounts of indulgent foods (ie, goat cheese!) and whatever leftovers I could find, go out to eat with friends, sleep in late, stay up late, neglect dishes and the mailbox and trash pickups and my health, and generally live like a bachelor for a few days. Weeee!

Oh wait. I'm trying to get in the habit of eating better and such. Crap. My main cheerleader (strike that... bad image) motivator and stabilizing factor is out of town. What to do? Especially with an entirely free day included?!!?

I went shopping, full day spree of secret gifts for family and friends teeheeeheeeheeeee. But I did two things before I left that were game-changers. One, I packed my ice skates. Two, I packed my snacks and cold lunch. Sooo, I managed to be gone from the house from 10a (yeah, I still slept in...) until 4:30p, didn't eat a single thing out, met up with friends for iceskating (aka, real exercise!), and only ate the leftovers in reasonable portions.

I did, however, have goat cheese. Once. That beautiful goat cheese. Just one ounce. With one serving of triscuits. It was sooooooooo good.

happy/wierd goat cheese face from ireland; courtesy Neil, and the undead.

That reminds me of something Michael Pollan said in Food Rules: that food is all about the first bite, that no bite after that is as good, and that this should encourage us to have smaller portions and more quality interactions with our food. That book has sorta been central for me lately, in terms of qualifying ideas I already had on relationships with our food. More on that later...

What's your favorite snow day/day off/suddenly-finding-yourself-alone thing to do?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

lunch haiku

stewed black beans, brown rice
avocado - color of spring
salsa, sour cream

mix in my belly
warm spice to winter's hard chill
oh how i love thee...

[food coma]

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

the shopping dilemma

Normally, as soon as I know my tax refund figures, I start planning a shopping spree.  The once-a-year, big-budget, get-everything-you've-been-complaining-about sort of shopping trip.  Normally, February or March.

So... what to do this year?
Do I spend my full budget on clothes that could very well not fit me by the end of the year?
Do I wait, save the money with the promise of a big 'ole spree after I've lost enough to go down a whole size?  I certainly don't have much that will fit me if I lose more than 15lbs.
Do I buy now, always a size smaller, as incentive?  This worked with a special outfit I bought in 2005. But for a dozens of articles?  Will they even look good on me at a smaller size?  And which size will I be?
Do I just spend all my money on things that won't be affected, like shoes, or fabric to make my own clothes later in the year?
Oh, I got it!  I'm sure to have some friend in my intended size out there; maybe they'll have a really bad year and gain a bunch of weight and then we could swap wardrobes.... Wait, that would be so wrong.

I suppose I could just plan to sell good, larger clothing on ebay, though I'm not too comfortable with that process, and I would still be out some money on the deal.  I already plan to donate the more worn items to goodwill.  Any other advice/suggestions?

Have you faced this issue before? How did you handle it?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Sunday, January 16, 2011

w/mo2h #2: go bacteria go!

Over the holiday vacation at my parents home, I decided to try my hand at yogurt.  Specifically, Greek yogurt.

Yogurt has traditionally been a diet food of choice.  Full of protein, low on calories, high in the good aspects of dairy, and full of bacteria that aid in digestion.  Plus, it's yummy tangy flavor is a nice replacement for mayo in a number of applications; a friend recently recommended using it in place of mayo in tuna salad, and I have used it in Waldorf salad too.

So, I had purchased "Make it Fast, Cook it Slow" by Stephanie O'Dea last year, after enjoying her blog.  She included a slow-cooker yogurt recipe which seemed easy enough... heat the milk, cool the milk, add a little yogurt, and let it go for a half-day.  She offered some options for flavor and thickness, and I roamed about the web looking for other suggestions and additional information on making greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt is a thicker, more protein-laden version of regular yogurt containing less carbs, sugars and sodium.  I also learned that greek yogurt is just regular yogurt that is drained of more of it's whey.  So technically, you could save money and time by just buying plain yogurt and straining at home.  Which, I may very well do on busy weeks.  However, I really wanted to do it myself, start to finish (ok, not really start to finish.  The milk is store-bought, as I don't have access to a cow, nor do I have a source of unpasteurized farm-fresh milk).

Ultimately, I followed a simple plan:


You need:
  • milk (fat free or whole or anything between)
  • plain live active culture yogurt
  • slow-cooker
  • colander
  • fine strainer (read notes below)
  • about a day of time

Proportions and Yields:
One gallon of milk plus one cup yogurt =
                      ~3 quarts regular yogurt or ~2 quarts greek-style yogurt plus one cup reserve
2 quarts of milk plus 1/2 cup yogurt =
                      ~1.5 quarts regular yogurt or ~1 quart greek-style yogurt plus one-half cup reserve


1.  Put the milk into a slow-cooker and turn on high.  Monitor until it reaches 180F (a digital thermometer helps!).  From what I've read, this is just to kill any bacteria in the milk.  This takes 2-3 hours, depending on how much milk you use

2.  After reaching 180F, turn off the slow-cooker, remove the crock, and let the milk cool to 110-115F.  Any hotter, and the heat will kill your yogurt bacteria.  Again, this took an hour or so; less time if you stick it out on a cold porch with a splash screen on top to keep out errant bugs.  If you get a film at the top, do please take it off.  Not good eats.

3.  After reaching 110-115F, scoop out some milk and whisk it with the live, active culture plain yogurt.  Dump it all back in and stir it up.

4.  For the next 6 hours, keep the crock warm.  I kept the crock warm in front of the fireplace at my parent's house, Stephanie O'Dea recommended wrapping your crock in a bath towel, and I used a soft-side cooler at home.  The amount of time will vary, but keeping it above 70deg will help the bacteria grow.

5.  You end up with what looks amazingly like... yogurt.  Soft but gel-like.  Some whey may have started to separate.  This is normal!

6.  The next step  involves straining to the desired thickness by draining out the whey.  There are a number of different ways to do this, all of which will involve a colander and something with a finer strain laying in it; this could be an old (clean) t-shirt, a layer of coffee filters, cheesecloth, or - my personal choice - a paint-strainer bag.  I like paint-strainer bags for a number of reasons (thanks, Able-Bodied Boyfriend, for the suggestion!).  First, it's cheap.  You can find them for just a couple of dollars in a paint store, and we have one just down the street from us, conveniently enough.  Second, they are vastly reusable.  Throw them in the wash if they get crusted with food chunks, or simply rinse with a bit of soapy water after straining yogurt.

7.  So, armed with your colander lined with some sort of fine strainer, scoop/pour the yogurt in and let it sit.  I noticed that I first got some of the yogurt itself draining out the bottom, but that soon led to a pure, yellow-ish whey.  For the first few hours, I let it sit out at room temperature.  Partly to cool down, partly to allow the bacteria to continue growing, partly as a visual reminder to perform step 8...
8.  After a few hours, scrape the inside of the paint strainer to release some of the thicker yogurt and allow the looser stuff to drain.  I also poured out the whey on occasion, from the catcher vessel.  At this point, it would have been fabulous normal yogurt.  But I covered it and put it in the fridge overnight, ~8 hours.  That was the perfect amount of time.  On one occasion, I left it to strain for more than about 15 hours... whoa boy, it was like spackle.  But you may like it that thick...
9.  You have greek-style yogurt!  Scrape out as much as you can.  This may get messy, but you can just lick your arms.  Or the counter.  Maybe not the floor.
10.  Remember to reserve 1/2 to 1 full cup as the starter for your next batch.  I put it in a jar that holds about twice as much as I needed.  Next batch, I put my warm milk in the jar with it and shook it like a polaroid for a couple minutes.  Worked like a charm, and less mess/dishes!

Yield: 2 quarts greek-style yogurt + 1 cup reserve yogurt + a minor mess

Which dish(es) do you like to make from scratch?  Did you learn how for yourself, or is this something passed down from older generations?

Much love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Saturday, January 15, 2011

unintended resolutions

Did you find yourself doing anything new as the year started?  Things you hadn't even set your mind to?

I did.

I am signing my name differently.  What used to be doctor-like chicken scratch barely resembling even my initials is now moving towards the old script version, more clearly looking like the letters of my name.

Don't ask me how or why.  I know I got a lot of comments in 2010 about my signature, which I use on a daily basis for member correspondence.  And more than once it was pointed out - though not directed at me, per se - that a neat signature was harder to forge than a scribbled one.

Monday, January 3rd, the first business day of the year, I typed out a letter to a member, printed it, and signed my name much slower and neater than I had in the last 5-10 years.  I stopped and stared, amused at my unintended change in behavior, and moved on.  I've been doing it ever since.  *shrug*

In other behavioral news, you may have noted that I scale-surfed the other day, even though an earlier post mentioned that I only intended to get on every other week or so.  Evil, evil scale.  I was in a bad mood that morning.  Grumpy, mostly.  It called to me.  You won't regret this, in that sappy you'll-really-regret-this sort of way.  Don't you want to see how amazing you are :), even though I had over-eaten Tuesday night and hadn't really followed the plan on Sunday.  I doubted that sooooooothing voice.  Hypnotised, I moved closer as the other half of my brain screamed at me.  No, no, no, bad idea!  At best, you've lost a pound.  At worst, you've gained weight.  Or maybe no change at all!  Stop!!!  I got on, and as it flashed 000 in thought, I promised myself I wouldn't do it again for at least two weeks, no matter what.

What resolutions have you been holding to, intended or unintended?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Thursday, January 13, 2011

math is hard

Jill, of the awesome and inspirational blog Lost and Not Found, commented that I didn't have any tangible, measurable goals.  So true!  And Beth, Girl Explorer, suggested a food diary (among other suggestions I need time to digest :)...

So yeah, umm.  About that...


For the first couple days, I tried using SparkPeople or, both of which have really highly rated Android applications, so I can be on my computer or on-the-go and keep track of everything.  Oh just UGH.  Tracking my every bite?  Typing in each ingredient I use on my salads?  90% of the complex foods I eat are homemade, not a store-bought, pre-packaged, or - most importantly - a pre-entered food in the database.  So I have to look up every ingredient of every tuna salad, hummus, smoothie, spinach lasagna, whole wheat loaf, etc, I make/eat?  Did I say UGH?  I lasted two days.  Then stopped.

Can't I just wing it?

Mornings: I eat a bowl of chai oatmeal (1/2c ff milk, 1/4c oats, 1/2T honey, my homemade chai spice blend) and a piece of fruit.  If I'm in a rush, a hard boiled egg or two and fruit, or just a piece of whole grain bread (yup, homemade!) with smart balance.  If I'm feeling particularly lazy, a bowl of raisin brain and a piece of fruit.
Mid-morning snack: 1oz almonds, or a piece of fruit and a protein (HB egg or cheese stick) (cuz fruit alone in my belly SCREAMS for company until I cave and eat a whole bag of chips)
Lunch: soup (homemade, yep!), normally a low calorie bean soup of some sort
Afternoon snack: yogurt and granola (only ever a 1/4 cup, not a full serving), or fruit and granola, or fruit and protein
Dinner: one of those tiny snack plates of whatever Able-Bodied Boyfriend is eating (AKA, big compromise on his dieting style/routines and mine), or tuna (made with homemade yogurt) and celery/carrots, or some other raw veggie with healthy dippy thing, or a small portion of leftovers from another meal that's screaming to be eaten before it goes bad.  This meal needs work, yes indeedy :(

I counted all that up a thousand times and I really think that puts me around 1500 calories, or less, each day. 

I'm up to about 1.5 liters of water each day (two 750ml fill-ups)(or 48oz-ish)... and working my way up to three fill-ups a day and on to four as a goal.  <-----------  OH LOOK!  A measurable goal!!!

I feel like a really really really awful, uninspiring, devious dieter.  I mean, I've gotta be the ONLY person on the planet right now not counting every calorie, right?  It's January, the Month of Counting Calories and Going to the Gym Every Day, right?

Jill and Beth are so friggin inspiring, in all of their weight loss and the progress and diligence with tracking it all.  But I don't know that I can do this in the same way.  I mean, granted, I could weigh myself in another month and go "SHIT, I guess I really need to keep track of everything I eat"...

But I want to do this in a way that doesn't feel like I'm trying too hard.  Cuz the "end" isn't really the end, is it?  It's only the beginning.  I'll be down to a healthier weight, with good eating and exercise habits, and I shouldn't really end there at all.  I'm actually just in the prep-work stage of a whole new healthier me.

Oh my god my brain is going ape-shit.  I have a brain that demands fairness and balance.  Right now, the right side is saying YOU MUST COUNT, it's the ONLY way to KNOW!  And the left side is dancing around singing BUT you should BE FREE and just EMBRACE your generic HEALTHY eating as a WAY of LIFE!  Right: THE DIETING GODS WILL JUDGE YOU HARSHLY!  Left:  IF YOU LOSE WEIGHT, IT'S WORKING, RIGHT??  Right:  BUT WHAT EXACTLY IS WORKING???

Ugh. Fine fine.

5-6 fruits or veggies/day (3-4 raw, minimum)
2-3 grainy beany things/day
2-3 proteins/day (yes, Beth, I should have said less meat proteins)
85oz of water/day
5 aerobic workouts/week
1-2 yoga/pilates workouts/week
strength training TBD

I'm good with fruit right now.  Raw veggies, not so much; but it's my plan to get those prepped for next week.  Grains/beans I'm ok with, and I'm probably a bit over every day on the proteins.  I'm good with the workouts.  But if I'm losing weight, ~3 pounds each month, I'm not going to sweat the counting.

Ugh.  The idea of counting and tracking really really bugs me.  My bohemian side is twitching.

Do you think my vague list of eating goals/limits is satisfactory?  Any suggestions for other not-too-county/tedious ways of tracking or goal-making?  Or do you think I'm setting myself up for failure?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl

ps.  Jan 13, 7a weigh in.  one pound lost.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the big post of weight loss plans

Well, I'm off to a good start, if being more conscious of my habits along with a few changes in habits can be considered so.


Ideally, my eating habits will be to:  drink more water, eat more fiber, gradually reduce eating throughout the day (more at breakfast, less at dinner), eat smaller snacks more frequently, eat less meat, eat *better* fats.  Able-Bodied Boyfriend and I find that eating more fiber results in fewer calories, more fresh fruits and vegetables, and more vegetarian meals, which has worked for both of us in the past.  I also would like these habits to become normal, and not a "special" thing that gets dropped for old "bad" habits once I've reached my goal; that just leads to the yo-yo effect.

Right now, I'm struggling to enjoy my morning oatmeal, and have avoided it without substituting with an acceptable level of fiber.  I gotta work on that.  My work snack/meals are also a bit stagnant and lacking in fiber, so I need to start mixing it up.  I think most of that has been the fact that this is only the second "normal" post-holiday week and I'm still getting up and running.

However, there are challenges.  Primarily, Able-Bodied Boyfriend.  His dieting habits trend a bit differently than mine, so we have to reach compromises and I'll make some adjustments.  Another twist to this is his frequent travel, which does leave me part of the time of my own will.  Mixed blessing, as I have a tough time transitioning routines when he's away.

Ideally, my exercise habits will trend up through the year, too.  I would like to attend at least one evening yoga class per week, and at least one session of pilates.  I would like to have a pre-work aerobic workout every morning.  I would also like to get some sort of targeted strength training eventually.  And as the seasons warm, getting out on the bike on the weekends will definitely be a regular thing, as well as getting back out on my bike in the mornings for my aerobics, or maybe trying my hand (feet?) at jogging again.

Right now, I'm heading to a yoga studio twice a week for yoga or pilates; I'm not overly impressed with their pilates, but I'm giving it another few weeks of chances.  Since it's too cold for my fragile self to do outdoor exercising, I have Dance Dance Revolution 3 on the Wii, and I get in about 170 calories worth of dancing before work.  Very fun :)

Challenges to working out.
  • The yoga studio is 25min away from home, 25min away from work, with 45min between work and home.  So for my usual Wednesday night yoga class, I have to find something to do for a couple hours between work and yoga because going home is just a waste of gas and time.  And the between time can't be a waste of money by shopping or eating out.  I think I have some good things in place to deal with that, just have to maintain the habits.
  • If I'm not going to attend the yoga studio's pilates classes, I do know enough to do a workout on my own; I just lack the self-motivation to actually do a full workout by myself.  Gotta work on that.
  • I have Wii Fit, but it just annoys me; a friend offered to let me try Wii Active, so I might find it to be a good purchase later on down the road.  It might provide the strength training I'm looking for, maybe even pilates?
  • As for the possibility of using a gym, I have two concerns: money and time/logistics.  I tend to prefer working out in the morning, at home, so I can get showered/changed/fed before heading to work.  Not a huge fan of using gym facilities to prepare for work, but work clothes tend to be casual and I will consider a gym membership later in the year if the need is warranted and everything else falls into place.  Again, there aren't too many that are local to home, but probably a few near work so I can consider those too.
  • We have an elliptical machine in the bedroom; if any of you have ever kept workout equipment in your bedroom before, you can probably envision the massive amounts of clothing and shoes that have collected on and around it that make it ("it" being a substitute piece of furniture) a big pain to use.  However, we have a TV/DVD player upstairs so I am quite at home hopping on the elliptical for some time while zoned out with some movie or show.  Able-Bodied Boyfriend's work schedule is such that I wake up to work out before him during three seasons of the year, but in the summer he's up before me.  So, the elliptical tends to be my summer rainy-day morning workout, but can really only be used evenings/weekends any other time of year.
  • And speaking of his schedule, that whole travel thing, again, gets me all out of whack.  I have trouble maintaining routines when he's away, so I might have to post more often so that my readership can act as surrogate encourager/challenger/accountability officer.
  • Last major challenge to various avenues of working out: I have pigment dispersion syndrome.  This means that I have cells in my eye that float around and get all worked up when I do anything high impact.  If I do too much high-impact exercise, they can float back into my eye and cause glaucoma (ie, blindness).  So.... as much as I would love to join all my friends/family who run and do 5ks and 10ks and triathlons... sorry.  I can handle a bit of jogging, but I'd rather not go blind.  For anyone who does run/jog/other high-impact sports, especially men between 20 and 40 years of age, I highly recommend making sure you go to your annual eye exams just to make sure you know you don't have it.  The onset for glaucoma is pretty quick, so you might not know until it's too late.  According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, 30% of those with the syndrome develop glaucoma.

Challenges are just things to get through.  What sorts of challenges have you encountered in weight-loss plans?  What creative ways have you solved them?


Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl



Sunday, January 9, 2011

w/mo2h #1: down and dirty on the driveway

So, a few weeks ago I decided to attempt something that I had never done completely 100% solo.  Able-Bodied Boyfriend was away and virtually incommunicado, but it had come time to do the deed and we had a break from the freezing temperatures.

I changed my car's oil, with no help (save the inter-webs).

Now, this is not entirely new to me.  Around the time I was acquiring a drivers license, Able-Bodied Father insisted on teaching me many things; among them, how to drive a stick shift, how to change a tire, and how to change my oil.  But oil changes are not always easy on every car, so I dutifully went to the local lube shop every... ummm... whenever I remembered...

My newest car, as we have discovered, is super easy to deal with.  The oil pan plug and the oil filter are very accessible, so it's just a matter of getting them off and back on again.  So for the last two years, all but one oil change have been done in the driveway of our house.

And for all but the latest oil change, I needed help; the oil plug was just too tight for me.  Normally, I would give up and ask Able-Bodied Boyfriend (who is most likely hovering nearby anyway) after just a few tugs.

But this time I figured that if I couldn't get past that first step, I wouldn't really be in a pinch.  I would just be sad that I couldn't do it myself.

So I dove under my car on a warm, rainy morning.  Discovered a new direction from which I could easily leverage the wrench to get the plug off, and I was just fine!  I used the inter-webs a couple of times when I hit minor insecure moments of "oh shit, do I really know what I'm doing?!?" but came through unscathed and with a happy car.

Why would I do this when I could have someone else do it?

First, it's cheaper!  I spent $4 for a filter and by shopping the sales, I can generally get 5qts of synthetic oil for $25 or less.  After having my used synthetic oil tested by Blackstone Labs, I was told I can use it for 13,000 miles between changes.  I can spend less than an hour getting happy-dirty-sweaty twice a year, rather than get overcharged for synthetic oil, or sit in the smelly waiting rooms four or more times a year.

Second reason I do it?  I CAN.  Do you know how many times I've purchased my oil and filter from the auto parts store down the street and have gotten odd looks and offhand comments?  Yeah, this Bud's for you.  I can also change a flat, replace my air filter, clean my battery, check and replace all my other fluids, and drive and/or roll-start a manual transmission.  Go me.

Ok, that sounds like I'm doing it for some feminist reason.  It's not that.  It's knowing that I have some basic understanding of this thing I bought, I'm still paying for, I'm using, that's pretty much worth more than everything else I own.  Both in terms of monetary value and intrinsic value (getting to/from work, my first new car, etc).  It's mine, so I really feel much better having some understanding of it's functions and maintenance.

A colleague mentioned a recent survey just prior to this oil change, and I managed to find some trace of it at this link.  No supporting/source information included, but just thinking of it made me smile as I lay on a piece of cardboard with grease on my hands...  "Women say having THIS makes them feel independent..."   Tools.  Rock on.

Have you ever changed your oil?  Changed a tire?  Any other car repairs?  If you haven't, what is keeping you from doing so?

Here's my challenge to you.  When I do this again in late spring or early summer, you should join me.  Bring your car over and we can take a look at it to see how feasible it would be for you to change your own oil.  Some cars are indeed a pain in the ass, some are better.  You can watch/help as I do mine.  And hell, maybe we'll run to the shop, grab some oil and a filter, and do yours too... who's in?!?!

Much love,
Able-Bodied Girl


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

trying to lose a 3-year old

30lbs pretty much amounts to a toddler, right?  Gotta lose me one of those...

I'm pretty hyped about this blog, especially for the accountability aspect.  But as I think about the end of 2011, when I hope to have lost that poor kid, I'm emotionally overwhelmed at the change that means.  Mostly, at the idea that I will have done it.  Like whoa, right?  I will have lost 30lbs?  Who is that person!?  How differently will I look at myself once I've done that?  How will I look at myself if I only lose 20lbs?

So right now my weight is 187; while in my 20s, it has been as high as ~210, and as low as ~175.  I weighed in this morning at a specific point in my routine, which I will do again... sometimes.  Weight isn't the point, really.  It's a mile marker along a road, but the journey is more than just numbers.  So don't bug me to get on that scale again, ugh!
I have a plan, and I have hurdles to overcome.  One of the biggest right now is my eagerness to do it all right now, and the ovewhelming GAH! of it all.  One step at a time.  Less than a pound a week means I don't have to start out at a sprint, right?  Please send a memo to my brain.

What thing have you done in your life that ended up being a big change for you?  Did you know it at the time?  Did you see yourself and your life differently after that?  How so?

Much love,
Able-Bodied Girl

ps.  will you follow me along my journey?  see your options below for following and adding this to your feeds


Sunday, January 2, 2011

welcome to the Able-Bodied world

~ part Motivational
~ part Reflection/Growing/Learning
~ part Foodie sharing
~ part Green/Sustainable living
~ part, Me, here in my 30th year* trying to lose 30lbs without upending my world with crazy diets or unsustainable exercise routines.  A girl's gotta life, ya know?  And my health has to become integrated into it, not just a chapter.

It's all about priorities, little choices, moments of clarity, being grateful for family/friends, and nurturing our souls and and the souls of those around us.  And knowing that we are ABLE to do anything we put our hearts and minds and hands to.

And I promise it won't always be this deep :)

*i am 30.  i remain 30 for most of 2011.  technically, that makes this my 31st year.  but everyone celebrated the millenium at NYE 1999/2000, so i'm figuring that you won't hold this against me :)