Category Archives: fitness

Biggest Loser 2013

Random post out of the blue, here. But there’s really no way to start from the beginning at this point, so it’s probably better to drop into the middle and start writing, than to not write a post at all. Random post it shall be.

So I’ve been running now for over a year and a half. I struggle with calling it “running” because I began this whole journey by walking, and I still walk quite a lot. But about a year ago I started morphing into trotting, jogging, “wogging,” whatever you call it, whenever I felt I could do it. Running was a struggle, but walking was slow and boring, so I decided to try to conquer the struggle.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Running has still, always, felt like a struggle, despite having trained to the point of running 6 miles, running several 5k’s a month, and even jog/walking a 10k. I am slow. I feel like I leak energy somehow, because even though I’m “running” I’m not moving forward very fast. My feet pound the pavement, my hips bounce, and my chest feels heavy and fatigued. Some days so much so that I don’t run at all. I just walk. Just drag myself through the course.

I talked to my doctor about it last week, when I went in for my first knee injection (arthritis in my right knee from an old injury), that I wanted to get my heart checked because I wasn’t sure if it was my heart or my lungs that burned whenever I began to exert myself. Doc suggested that I didn’t have many risk factors for heart trouble, but it was possibly exercise-induced asthma that I was experiencing. My mind flashed back to March, when I’d had to run after a train at my fastest speed for about 200 yards (to catch my husband’s wallet that he’d left on board, as the conductor tossed it to me), and how I’d coughed like I had pneumonia for an hour afterward. I agreed to an inhaler just to rule out any asthma.

This past Sunday I ran the Biggest Loser 5k in Racine. After I had parked my car, and had gotten about a block away, I started to feel that burning in my chest again. I remembered that I hadn’t used my inhaler yet, so I went back to the car and took a couple puffs. I’m not even sure if I inhaled deeply enough … I don’t smoke so I’m really skeeved about inhaling things … but in any case, the feeling was gone after that.

When I got to the start line, I felt good. I felt so good that I started jogging in place to warm up. Now, I know you’re supposed to do that before a race, but I’ve never in my life actually felt like doing it. But on Sunday, I was jogging in place, chatting with people around me, stretching lightly, feeling bubbly. The race started, and I took off running.

In the first moments, I was kind of hit with the enormity of running the entire 5k, and the thought was sort of exhausting. But I didn’t want to walk the course. Last year I had gotten my first finisher’s medal on this race, and had set my first PR (to make the medal worth something to me), and I wanted to beat that. So I decided to just keep running until I tired, and then walk/run the rest of the course. I ran for about a third of a mile, until my breathing got heavy, then I dropped to a walk. But my legs didn’t particularly like that. They wanted to keep running. So I let my lungs recover for about a minute, then took off running again.

The course was a bit hilly, I knew that from doing the race last year, and so I tried to visualize the hills coming up so I could mentally prepare. But to my surprise, I wasn’t nervous about them at all. And when I got to them, as I walked up them, my body seemed to ask me if I could maybe run them instead. I did a kind of “upper-body-is-pretending-to-run-while-legs-walk” posture, and even broke into a trot partway up. Coming down the hills actually felt more dangerous, so that’s where I slowed down and walked.

The course was an out-and-back, and since I’d done the course once already, it didn’t seem as long as last year. In fact, despite the hills, as I was probably a quarter mile from the finish, I felt better than I’ve ever felt at that point in a race before. I looked at my Garmin and realized that I might even break a PR if I just kept up the effort to the end. And I did. That finish line came into sight, and while I was tired, it seemed like the easiest “running” finish line I’d ever faced. Yes my lungs were burning as I crossed it, but I didn’t feel like I was going to die, like I usually do. I crossed the finish line, recovered for a couple hundred feet, and then felt normal again. This race felt different. This felt great.

I’ve been thinking about this for several days now. I can’t shake the feeling that something changed for me last weekend. Was it the inhaler? The knee injection? The cooler weather? I want to think it was the inhaler. I have to test it a few more times, but I think we may have actually uncovered a previously unknown condition. Whereas every race I’ve “run” before felt hard and long and pounding and punishing, this one felt easier. I felt so much lighter on my feet than ever before. It’s not because I’ve lost any weight (sadface). It was just … I don’t know how to describe it. When I ran, I covered more ground. I wasn’t aware of my feet pounding. I didn’t feel my hips jiggling. I felt fast and light and buoyant and free. (Well, relatively, at least. I’m still slow, and still have a lot of weight to lose.) But I felt good.

For the first time, I felt like a runner.

(Postscript: just past mile two or so, I ran past an observer on the sidelines who was wearing an Ironman jacket. We caught eyes, and then he called out to me, “I like your pace!” That made me feel soooooooo good!)

A list of races last year

I figured I would at least list the events I did last year. Half of these have blog posts written but not published. 😦

WFB, Melanoma Run (written, see previous post)
Healing Center, Laura’s Smile Mile, Purple Stride (written, see previous post)
June 3 – UPAF Ride for the Arts
June 9 – Hope Springs Eternal: WBCS Racing for Research at MCW
June 16 – Retro Rock n Run
June 23 – Berry Big Run
June 24 – Brainstorm 3K
June 30 – Run to the Rhythm
July 4th – National Dash
July 14 – Run the Green; Tour de Fat
July 12 – Storm the Bastille
July 19 – Rush on Festa
July 21 – Walk Run Wag for MADACC
July 24 – Run for the Parks
July 26 – Run/Walk for Hunger
July 28 – Sausage Run/Walk
August 4 – Doctor’s Dash
August 9 – Franklin Country 2 Mile Run/Walk
August 21 – The Color Run
August 11 – Hank Aaron State Trail 5k Run/Walk
August 26 – Fiesta Walk
September 8 – Fox Trot
September 8 – TosaFest 5k
September 9 – Dylan’s Run to Indian Summer
September 15 – Nancy’s Run, Rock & Stroll
September 16 – Biggest Loser Run
September 22 – Glo Run
September 23 – Susan B. Komen
Sept 25 – Wheel for Teal Ride
September 29 – Slut Walk
October 6 – Changed For Life – Run, Walk, Push or Pull for Shriners Hospitals Chicago
October 7 – SPECTATOR: Lakefront Marathon
October 13 – Get Your Rear in Gear
October 14 – Panther Prowl
October 20 – Great Pumpkin Race
October 21 – Chicago Monster Dash
October 27 – Skeleton Skamper
November 4 – Jingle Bell Run
November 10 – Shorewood Fowl 5k
November 18 – Around the World in 5k
November 22 – Pewaukee Turkey Trot
December 1 – Santa’s 5k
December 22 – Santa Hustle
December 31 – Run Into the New Year (GLM #3)
January 12 – Polar Dash
January 17 – 5K Poker Fun Run
January 27 – RACC Expo Run (GLM #4)

A year!

Exactly one year ago yesterday I wrote my last blog post. There were a lot of reasons I quit writing, some having to do with time, but mostly I think I just started to dislike my style of writing “here’s what I did and here’s how I felt about it.”

But in that time I ran/walked over 40 5Ks, and I do regret not having a record of how I felt while doing them. Now the year begins again, and the races cycle around again, and I’ve done some of the same races again this year and skipped others. I don’t like writing after a race, because I’ve got energy and would rather use it doing something else, but hopefully this year I may write more. And maybe I’ll reference last year too.

For now, I just wanted to get this one posted before it turns midnight, so that I’d be in the groove again. Here’s hoping.

June 9, 2012 – Hope Springs Eternal: WBCS Racing for Research at MCW

(Note: This was written a year ago, but I figure since I never published it then, I may as well publish it now.)

—June 9, 2012—
This was a little 5k that I wasn’t sure I was going to go to. At this point I was still having trouble getting out of my warm bed to go exercise early in the morning, so I nearly skipped it. It sounded small and I didn’t know much about it.

But, in the end I got myself out the door and down to the park. I walked up to the registration table just a minute or so before the race was to start, so I filled out the form as quickly as I could, grabbed the tech shirt they offered (woo-hoo!), and took off.

It was a nice walk through pretty woods, though, and the racing group was very small. By the time I was done, I was glad I had gone. I realized halfway through the walk that I had neglected to pick up my goodie bag, so along the way I asked different people what had been in it. A water bottle, a couple of granola bars, coupons, and a ticket to a charity open house for breast cancer research, a $25 value. “That’s right!” I thought. “That’s the reason I even wanted to do this walk!” I kicked myself for forgetting the bag and hoped it would be waiting for me when I was done.

When I got back to the starting point, there was no one sitting at the registration table, and everything had been cleaned up for the most part, except for one goodie bag sitting on the table, sans t-shirt, and a few more in boxes. I looked around to see if any of the registration people were around, but didn’t see them. But, I figured, since I was the last one at the table, I forgot my goodie bag, and here sat a goodie bag in the same spot I had stood, I assumed it was mine, so I took it.

Eventually I found the man who had registered me, and he affirmed that the goodie bag was mine to take, so that made me feel good. Also, after the race, which seemed to consist mostly of people who knew each other, there was a little party with music, and a LOT of donated drinks from Starbucks. I grabbed a Double Shot and a can of their new Refresher drink, and a hot coffee.

So in the end I was happy I had gotten myself out the door. And I think that marked the end of any difficulty I had getting up for a race. They seemed to ALL be worth it for something.

More Adventures in 5K Land – Healing Center, Laura’s Smile Mile, Purple Stride

This morning I had two 5Ks on my radar: one for the Healing Center in Bay View, and another one called Laura’s Smile Mile. I debated between the two, but the Bay View one seemed a bit smaller and friendlier, and the other one’s website seemed slightly unwieldy and didn’t have online registration and didn’t say anything about a t-shirt. So I decided to do the smaller, friendlier one.

I drove down to Bay View, but was driving in a bit of a thoughtful reverie and missed my turn and ended up too far south. By the time I made it back to the event, I had missed the start time by 6 minutes. I asked the gal if I could “buy” a t-shirt anyway, and she said of course, and that if I was going to pay the registration fee ($24), that I should join the 5K anyway and catch up to the group. She was very sweet. So she registered me, I put the t-shirt on, and went off to find the pack of walkers.

But the day was so beautiful I had to stop and take pictures.

And I couldn’t find the walkers, and the path was uphill, and I knew that the other 5K started in an hour, and more importantly I had seen that there was a plant sale in the park … so I decided to check out the plant sale and then do the other 5K instead. So I circled back around to the park, bought some mint and lavender and a savory crepe :), and then got in my car and headed to the other 5K. Along the way, I looked down from an overpass into a park and saw a large group of people dressed in purple t-shirts walking paths together. Another 5K! Which one was it, and why hadn’t I heard about it?

I headed on to my original destination, which I discovered from signs was only a two mile walk, not a 5K. But I had to park so far away, and I didn’t even know where the registration tent was, and it turns out that the (loooong) route I took to the registration tent was actually the walk route, and so I felt I had already done half the walk before I even started. I wish I had done this sooner, but it occurred to me after I was quite a ways away from my car that I should pull out my phone and activate the GPS on my “Map My Walk” application, and see just how far I did walk to get to the starting point.

And when I finally found the registration tent, I had about a minute to register before the walk started. But they had no adult size t-shirts left, and … well, something inside me just didn’t want to participate in that walk, so I didn’t register, since I was pretty late anyway. I did wander around and look at their tents, and bought a string backpack for $5, which made me happy. I use those all the time.

So then I fell into line at the end of the pack, strolled with them along the water until we nearly reached the road, and then split off from them and headed toward the purple shirt group I had seen from the overpass. I really wanted to find out who they were and what their cause was.

One more note about that particular Smile Mile 5K: They had the runners returning along the same path that the walkers were heading out on. That must have been annoying to the runners, as they had to find a place to cut in between the walkers (some with wagons and strollers), and try to find a bit of asphalt to pass them as the walkers were mobbing most of the walkway. I myself veered off onto the gravel right next to the water rather than have to walk behind the mob, which had to slow down and even stop (think “rush hour traffic”) as each runner found a place to cut through. If I could sit down with those organizers and have a little chat with them, I would have quite a few suggestions to make that might make their event run a bit more smoothly. I am confident they will receive the same feedback from other participants.

Anyway, I walked along the water on this most beautiful of days, past the Milwaukee Art Museum and Discovery World, until I came to the purple group, who had already finished their walk. Their event was called Purple Stride, it was for Pancratic Cancer Research, and they were some incredibly friendly folk. I bought a t-shirt from them ($5!!) and a keychain, chatted a bit with some super cool people, and then headed back off to my car.

I think I walked a 5K (3.2 miles), don’t you? Keep in mind that the blue dot is where my car was parked, where I started (and ended). The green pin is where I was when I started my GPS app.

I find it interesting that this app even kind of shows that I moved off to the left when the runners came by. See the little tiny “jog” by the water at the bottom of the green patch. I get a total kick out of seeing the circles and jaggies that show where I wandered about.

I had put on my Melanoma long sleeve tech shirt this morning because it was a little bit chilly. At the Bay View Healing Center walk I put on their t-shirt, then at the Pancratic Cancer Walk I threw their shirt over the other two.

I’m wearing a lot of shirts here. πŸ™‚

When I got back to my car, I found this tucked under my windshield. Should I do one of them?

And then I went to Alterra for a coffee afterward. It was busy.

And now I’m off to do a bit of gardening…

… and fill up my bike’s tires, as tomorrow is the UPAF Miller Light Ride for the Arts! (ps. My friend Nancy took all the photos featured in their trailer!)

Adventures in 5K Land – WFB, Melanoma Run

I like walking 5Ks. I feel like I’m doing good for others while doing good for myself as well. And I get a t-shirt, Bonus! So ever since I walked my first 5k in 2006, I’ve put at least one on my schedule every year, usually in autumn. Some years I’ve done more and started in the middle of summer. Last year I think I maybe walked one.

This year, since spring came early, I started thinking about 5Ks much sooner. I went through a rough emotional period between January and March and kind of quit exercise of any kind, so by April I was feeling sluggish and lousy and decided I needed to get moving again. There was a 5K in my village that I saw lots of advertising for, so I decided a few days ahead of time to sign up for the Saturday walk. A friend of mine also invited me to do a Melanoma Run/Walk the following Sunday, and then join her for margaritas afterward.

Anyway. I walked the first one two weeks ago on a Saturday. I assumed it would be a piece of cake, as I’ve had no problem finishing any 5K in the past (except for that one year when I did two in one day, the second with a group of fun-loving, unmotivated friends, who decided about 1/5 of the way into the disorganized event that it would be much more fun to go to the art museum instead, which I was kind of grateful for because honestly, two in one day is a bit much. And I didn’t really know those people before the walk, but by the time the day was done I considered them pretty special friends. What a memorable day).

Anyway, I digress. So I woke up that Saturday morning full of cocky confidence and went to the village high school to start the 5K … and to my surprise it was incredibly difficult. It was hot, they provided no water β€” I hadn’t thought I’d need water because I’ve never brought any in the past, but that’s probably because it’s always been provided. When I walked my very first 5K six years ago, I had gotten there just a bit late and started at the very back of the pack, and by the end of the walk I had worked my way to the front. This walk I started near the front, and by the end I was pretty much at the very end of the pack, with maybe six people finishing after me. It was extremely disconcerting to my self-confidence to have done so badly, until I saw my final time (fortunately all participants were timed, which was awesome for me), and I had finished in 18:00, which is exactly what my pace always is. So I guess the people in my village are just fast walkers. Even the ones pushing strollers. Even the very overweight woman who puffed past me. I really felt off my game.

I went home discouraged, but the next morning I tried again. The Melanoma walk was only 3K and it was at the zoo AND my friends were there. I almost didn’t go when I found out that my friends, who are runners, started an hour before my walk did. They’d have been finished 40 minutes before I even started, and I didn’t want to make them wait around for me. But I wanted the t-shirt, so I got myself out the door. πŸ™‚ It was rather disorganized and very, very crowded at the zoo β€” (it was a ZOO at the zoo! ha ha!) β€” and there was at least one other unrelated 5K going on at the same time … but I went. I got my shirt, I did my walk, I met my friends, and I had a good time. And surprisingly, that whole weekend, despite being a little bit tired physically, I was incredibly productive.

I figured with getting such a good start to the year doing two walking events in a row, maybe I would see if I could do at least one every weekend through the summer. So I picked up a Badgerland Striders Event Catalog, which is in my opinion about the most comprehensive listing of running events I know. I sat down with the paper and mapped out a bunch of 5Ks that took me through July 12. (I still need to sit down and map out the rest of the summer. It’s just kind of a lot to do all at once, there are so many to investigate!)

Last weekend I could only find one 5K, and it was in Madison. I debated whether to drive that far for a 3-mile walk, but it was held in conjunction with Brat Fest and it sounded like a fun day, so I decided to go. Unfortunately, the morning of the event, half the state was under a big green blob of thunderstorms and rain, and I figured I might drive all the way to Madison only to find it had been cancelled. So at 6am I put the kabosh on my plans and rolled over and went back to sleep. πŸ™‚

I felt lousy that whole weekend. I said so on facebook, and a friend who works at the Racine Art Museum told me that if I walked 5K in my neighborhood, she would bring me a t-shirt and a bag of goodies. So I did. I made my own 3.2 mile route through the neighborhood and walked it on Sunday evening, accompanied by the muted sounds of neighborhood activity and distant thunder.

And it felt good.

Made from Scratch

I go through these phases every so often where I just want to stay home and putter around the kitchen, making everything from scratch. Then after a couple of weeks I get tired of it all and I want to just go to a restaurant and get served, buy the convenience foods and otherwise get out of the kitchen.

But this year, part of my Resolution #2 is to simplify my life, which means staying home more and getting rid of excess. This includes excessive spending at restaurants. And when it comes to “excess,” I’m also lumping man-made chemicals and convenience foods into that category. I want to get back to the earth more, and know that I could be completely self-sufficient if I needed to be.

I know that convenience foods are “simple,” and making your own stuff from scratch is “not simple,” but it still makes me feel so much better about myself and my health, AND keeps me grounded. It may even cost a bit less, overall.

SO. Here are a few things I’ve made from scratch this week so far:

1) Homemade Dog Treats

My dog is extremely picky. He won’t eat any dog treats unless they’re made from real, 100% meat. This means a bunch of bags of Beggin’ Strips and Duck Rolls and assorted other store-bought treats have gone to waste. The only treat I found that he liked was Chicken Jerky, so for awhile I was buying large bags of Kingdom Pets brand at Costco.

And then I heard that pets were dying of liver failure possibly linked to these made-in-China treats.

So I figured why buy the stuff and possibly kill my dog when I’ve got a perfectly good dehydrator that sits underutilized. So I started making my own jerky, and it’s super easy. I’ve dehydrated chicken breasts and I’ve dehydrated beef. I used the meat that was stuck to soup bones twice, and an inexpensive skirt steak once. The skirt steak was definitely better, the other was too fatty.

It’s also fairly inexpensive if you get the meat on sale. I bought a package of 5 chicken breasts on sale for $4.xx something and sliced it all up into small pieces and it filled all 5 trays of the dehydrator. I don’t marinate it or anything. I don’t see the purpose … my dog is going to eat them anyway, why go to the extra work and expense and mess … marinade would drip worse than plain meat does.

I would say it lasted long enough to make it worthwhile, except I’ve now turned my dog into a Doggone Spoiled Jerky Fiend. This dog now LIVES to get treats. Where I used to give him two to three store-bought strips a day, now (because I made the first batch so small) he expects to get one whenever the idea pops into his mind. That’s my fault, because I made three strips stretch across the whole day by cutting them smaller, so now he just expects to get a treat on demand. Well, at least he is very, very good at sitting on command.

I also read that a lot of dogs like dried sweet potato, so I made those last night.

What a waste. The dog touched his tongue to one and turned his nose up and refused to touch it again. I actually don’t blame him. They’re not that tasty. I guess the critters outside won’t be so picky, though. They’ll get a nice little winter treat this week.

And then there’s always the old standard, the BONE.

2) Beef Broth

Speaking of bones, they’re pretty cheap so I decided to make some beef broth, for the second time in my life. The first time I made it, it smelled absolutely heavenly while cooking, but didn’t taste all that great. So this time I put garlic and spices and celery tops into the broth while it cooked, and that improved the flavor muchly.


I roast the bones covered with tomato paste, so the broth turns out to be tomato-beef broth, which I like better anyway.

3) Almond Milk

Almond milk is actually pretty easy to make. You just soak a cup of almonds overnight and then blend them with 4 cups of water the next morning. It takes a bit of time to press the mixture through a strainer (twice) to get an ungritty milk, but I feel the results are worth it. I use the almond milk primarily as a base for a protein shake mix I have. The resulting drink fills me up for hours and is truly an effective meal replacement.

4) Hash Browns

Hash browns are SUPER EASY to make, and I love whipping them up for breakfast. I just take one peeled potato and grate it, then fry it in the olive oil left in the pan after I’ve made my eggs, sprinkled with garlic salt. YUM!

And while the hash browns in the store are probably pretty natural and without preservatives (although, I haven’t looked at a package lately, so I don’t know), I’ve never liked how the frozen ice crystals make them watery in the pan. These are so easy that there’s virtually no excuse to buy them anymore.

5) Hooch!

Okay, so I saw this recipe for Tepache in a book and the recipe itself said, “you may not like this, but why not give it a try anyway because it’s a fun little thing to do with leftover pineapple that you’d only throw away anyway.”

So, I did. Except I bought the pineapple expressly for the purpose of making this drink, so it wasn’t exactly “using leftovers.” But it looked easy and, more importantly, quick. And the pineapple was delicious. πŸ™‚

I started with a pile of pineapple rind and skins, coarsely chopped. I covered with a cup of brown sugar and buried two cinnamon sticks in the mix, then covered with water. Let sit under a towel on the counter for 1-3 days, then strained into bottles and capped for another 1-3 days.


Right now I’m on Day Two of carbonation, and I’m thinking I’ll probably put it into the fridge tonight.

I hope I like it. The first taste (from the small “tester” bottle that you make in order to test the carbonation) was Okay.

SO. Stay tuned this winter to see if I make more things from scratch. My resolution is to be “glued to the house” as my husband says, so even when that day comes when I get sick of the kitchen, I’ll think about the money I’m saving and how nice it is to be at home more (so I can WRITE), and hopefully I’ll stick to my resolution.

—–EDIT—–
It tastes like pineapple beer.Β  πŸ™‚

Planning for the new year, Resolution #1

One more week until the new year begins.

I don’t always make New Year’s resolutions. I take it year by year, deciding each year how I feel about it. I don’t put a whole lot of stock into the “tomorrow I’ll somehow be able to do something I haven’t managed to do yet” thing.

But I do believe in periodically taking stock, setting goals, focusing energy toward a few specific things that are really important. I believe bucket lists and New Years Resolutions serve the same purpose: to put something on your own radar in a very clear way, so that if (and when) you do reach your goal someday, you’ll be able to look back and say, “yes, I had actually intended to do that.” That way life doesn’t just “happen to you” all the time. You feel you have a little guidance and control over at least some of it.

A few years ago, the same year that Michael Jackson turned 50, a bunch of my friends also did. Each and every one of them (including Michael Jackson) struck me as being a little more energetic at 50 than I expected. 50 seemed to be a new peak in their lives. So I set my sights on making my 50th birthday see me in better physical condition than I was at 40.

The progress has been extremely slow-going. I started regular whole-body exercise, I started paying attention to what supplements my body needed, and I started trying to eat closer to the earth (and farther from man-made chemicals) than before.

I don’t think I look any healthier right now. And I’ve certainly continued to make poor choices in food and habit more than I would like to admit. But I do feel physically stronger and more flexible now than I did a few years ago. And I’ve been eating more naturally, overall. Each birthday that brings me closer to 50 makes me panic just a bit more, but that just means the resolution is only getting stronger.

I’ve got a long way to go, but with every New Year I can stop and gauge my progress and redefine my plans on how to get there. So this year, my goal is to eat even more naturally. Exercise even more regularly. And figure out which foods my body is reacting negatively to. I’ve already identified gluten as a problem, but I suspect there may be more. Maybe yeast, dairy or sucrose. And it’s hard to just give those foods up cold turkey (and with them, a lifestyle), which is why I need a plan.

And this is the week I intend to make one.

How about you? Are you planning to make any changes/resolutions for the coming year?

Adventures in the kitchen!

So after that last blog post, I realize i really am in a little cooking groove here. Been eating at home pretty much all week, and having fun with it. Yesterday I threw together a little “kitchen sink” lasagne using a technique I’d been wanting to do for awhile: mix in pureed veggies in an attempt to eat more vegetables.

I want to eat more veggies, I really do. But the problem is that I look at most of the veggies at the store and I just remember how much I didn’t like them as a kid, and I really haven’t tried new recipes that have changed my opinions very much. Most everything I’ve tried has pretty much reinforced my existing opinions. There are some veggies I like: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, lima beans, string beans, peas, beets, raw carrots, raw peppers … and the starchy ones like corn, potatoes, winter squash. And lettuce, but I really prefer the interesting kinds, like baby spring greens and such.

And then there are veggies that I’m ambivalent about: zucchini, summer squash, kohlrabi, radish, turnip, parsnip, eggplant, to name a few.

But I very much dislike a few of the most common veggies, too, especially onions and celery. And cooked carrots and cooked peppers. And spinach. Although there is one place on earth where I will eagerly order and scarf down the exquisitely delicious spinach, and that place is Stir Crazy. I first had the spinach there in Chicago about a decade ago, and was delighted to find that the recipe hadn’t changed over the years or across their locations. I should figure out how they prepare it, because it’s buttery silky delicious! But I digress…

So most of the time I come home with a package of broccoli or cauliflower, sometimes brussels sprouts, or string beans. Those are easiest and tastiest to steam, with a little seasoning over top like lemon pepper. I adore beets, but won’t steam them, so I really only buy them if I’m planning to cook on the stove or throw them into the juicer. (Tip: if you have a juicer, my absolute favorite fresh juice is this – one beet, one carrot, one apple. My cells do the happy dance before the juice even leaves my mouth!)

Anyway, seems I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent there. All that to say that I think if I cook up and puree veggies I don’t particularly like, and add them to foods that will hide their taste, I will be able to get their nutrition into me much easier than if I try to force down veggies I really truly dislike. So, to that end, to test my theory, I took the cauliflower that I’d steamed the other day, the one in the picture in my last blog post, and I ate half and pureed the other half in a bit of its own steaming juice. It pureed quickly and beautifully. Then I put it in the fridge for future use.

I had imagined mixing it in with tomato sauce for maybe spaghetti, but at the last minute decided to make lasagna instead. So I mixed the pureed cauliflower in with a can of pureed tomatoes, defrosted some ground beef I’d cooked up and frozen awhile ago, and made a package of gluten free rice lasagna noodles. Layered it all with some cottage cheese and a can of green beans (idea stolen from a recipe one of my brother’s long-ago girlfriends gave me), and sprinkled italian seasoning and garlic salt on the layers as well. Topped all with grated mozzarella cheese from the freezer, and into the oven at 350Β° until done. I left it in too long and the cheese on top browned too much, so I can’t say exactly when I should have taken it out, but definitely less than the close to an hour I left it in there.

It was good, but I gotta say it was even better the next day.

I also steamed my first artichoke yesterday! Didn’t make an aioli to go with it, which would have been better, but at least now I know how to do it. I like a good artichoke, so hopefully my skills will only improve.

And then today I made an experimental “treat” … I call it a treat because it’s sweet and fattening, but it probably fits under the “energy bar” category better. Here’s the story on that.

The other day I decided to make my own peanut butter, but in keeping with my recent trend of assuming I know what I’m doing without a recipe, I bought the wrong peanuts. I bought raw, unsalted, unroasted peanuts and brought them home. And ground them.

The result was “peanut butter,” but nothing like the taste most of us know and love. It was bland and very nutty, but with none of that delicious roasted flavor. I didn’t think I could enjoy the stuff spread on bread, no matter what I topped it with, so I put it in the fridge while I thought about what to do with it.

And then while I was looking through a sugar-free cookbook I have, I spotted a recipe for peanut butter balls. It called for peanut butter, apple juice, sesame seeds, vanilla almonds, oats, nuts and coconut. I didn’t have everything it called for, but I had a lot of similar things, so I improvised.

So long story short, I took about a cup of the “peanut butter” that I’d made, and put it in the KitchenAid mixer (along with a good sprinkling of sea salt), a couple of splashes of organic white grape juice, two big spoons of black sesame powder (from the asian market, I LOVE that stuff!), a splash of vanilla, and about a cup of Gluten Free Sensations French Vanilla Almond Granola. Mixed it all around for a minute or two and … YUM!!

I haven’t made balls out of it though. I just put it in a glass container in the fridge, and I’ll just scoop “balls” of it out when I feel like having some. The rest of the ingredients really complemented the bland taste of the raw peanuts.

I love experimenting like that. The only trouble is, I won’t launch my creations on anyone else, because I’m certain other people don’t have the same taste as me. So I end up eating all of what I make.

My goal, though, is to know that I could make things from absolute scratch if I had to.

Oh yeah. And to sneak veggies into my own food. πŸ™‚

Where’s the beef?

If I said I didn’t like cooking, that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. I enjoy cooking. I’m good at it. It’s fairly interesting. You get to start with a bunch of ingredients and end with an accomplishment. It can be cheaper. You know what’s going into your food. You sometimes garner praise for your creation.

What I don’t like about cooking is the amount of time it takes. Not just the time spent cooking, but the time spent planning, shopping, preparing, cleaning up. I admit I have an antagonistic relationship with time β€” a subject for a future post, I’m sure β€” but nevertheless, the biggest joy I get out of eating at restaurants is the fact that I can spend my time doing something else up until the moment I feel the need to eat, and then I can take a break, get served, and then proceed to go about occupying myself with the next task of the day. (Don’t judge me for how I choose to spend my time. It’s mine to spend.)

Cooking just does not capture my interest deeply enough to drive me to want to do it every day.

Now, I happen to have the luxury of choice in the matter. I’m no longer raising a child. I pretty much only have to worry about feeding myself, and sometimes one other person. That in itself may quite possibly be a demotivation to cook each day; when one is pleasing only oneself it’s a lot easier to set the standards much lower. A meal of popcorn, cereal or crackers and cheese? Sometimes. Rarely. I had “dinners” of that type more often when I was younger, but I have since learned what havoc it wreaks on the body. Now, I’ve accumulated so much more knowledge about nutrition, and internalized how truly bad for you so much commercial foods are, that I rarely make those kinds of choices anymore.

But I still love being served.

Restaurants are kind of the only places you can go to be served on demand. You give them a bit of money and they give you a delicious meal and a good chunk of your day back. It’s a deal I love to make.

But.

Nutrition always sticks its nosey little head into everything, most lately with the niggling idea that restaurant food, in order to be cost effective, is usually low-quality food prepared for the mass-market taste. And that’s just not healthy enough for me, anymore.

I just read an article about wood fillers (cellulose) being a common food additive. Sure it’s supposedly not bad for you, but really, wood pulp in my beef? In my ice cream? I sort of feel that’s perhaps the tipping point for me, where enough is enough.

I already love (love!) kitchen small electric gadgets, like my rice maker, my KitchenAid mixer with all its attachments, my food steamer, crock pot, griddle, even my electric skillet. I love those things that let me know exactly what’s going into my food while still giving me some of my time back. Throw some rice into the rice maker, go away for an hour, come back and the rice is perfectly cooked with no attention from me. A filet of salmon in the food steamer is perfectly tender and moist in ten minutes, all by itself. It’s almost like getting served, sort of.

I still need a better way to simplify the front end of the process. Peapod Delivers is a start: give them a bit of money and they spend the time at the store for you and drop it off on your front porch. I just can’t depend on their having high-quality foods, though, so I still generally do my own shopping at places like Outpost, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Sendiks.

The biggest time killer for me is still storage and preparation, and cleanup. The dishwasher used to help with cleanup, but now it’s not doing its job well anymore so I need to spend more time hand washing everything. And honestly, I’ve always hated that cleanup came at the end of the meal. You’re tired, satisfied and lethargic, but the job still isn’t done. It’s like that annoying encore sing-along that comes after curtain call at today’s musicals. You just want to go home already.

Still. To control what goes into my body, I have to spend more time actually controlling it. I can’t trust corporations to do that for me. I suppose that’s the trade-off for getting to live in this modern age.

Which, the older I get, doesn’t seem as desirable a thing anymore.

Which will probably be the topic of another blog post soon.