September 21, 2013
First let me open with this: when you are told by FEMA that you are in a 100-year floodplain, and your mortgage company requires you to buy flood insurance, the appropriate response is, ‘Oh, ok. Let me read up on that so that I 1) have some knowledge about what one should do if caught in a flood and 2) know exactly what is and what is not covered by flood insurance. The correct response is not ‘Yeah, yeah, 100-year floodplain, whatever.’ Last week was certainly an interesting one in Boulder and many surrounding communities. Boulder’s average annual precipitation is just over 20 inches. In six days we got over 17 inches of rain — over half of it in one day.
Last Wednesday night we had our first hint of what was to come from a badly leaking window and a running sump pump. An hour later, our basement was flooded with two inches of water. We brought several things up to the garage, and lifted other things up to higher perches in our crowded basement that admittedly looks like it might feature in an episode of Hoarders. We knew that boxes being saved for future shipping needs, as well as just about anything paper was probably a goner already, so we didn’t bother with those, and left them on the floor in the water.
We went to bed hoping the sump pump would empty out the water overnight. Which it did. But it kept raining on Thursday. Just before dinner time, the basement once again flooded with another two inches of water. My husband pulled the pump from our fountain in the backyard for extra pump power, and MacGuyvered that up to go out a basement window. But rain kept coming, and the water kept getting higher. We went down to try to lift things up even higher, but on several of the heaviest items (the 100+ lb ones), we said ‘well, it’s insured – what happens happens’. (This was mistake number…whatever number we’re up to — personal items are NOT covered by either the flood insurance with FEMA or homeowners insurance). And so it kept on raining. And the level in the basement kept on rising. At one point, the toilet started overflowing, filling the basement with even more water (and no doubt all the other things that come out with sewer water). So we abandoned the basement, and turned its power off, aside from the outlet near the ceiling where the sump pump was plugged in.
Shortly after that my husband let fly an expletive and said ‘Look at the street!’ Look at the street, indeed! But it could no longer technically be called a street. It was rather hard for any of us to get great pictures since it was dark and creepy out, but these do a fairly good job of illustrating why I was rather freaked out that night. Our former street was now a rapidly flowing river.
And a picture that shows a little perspective on the depth of the river:
What was even more disturbing was what was going on two houses further upstream.
We stood on the lawn in the rain and watched the river for a while with our next door neighbors, then came in and caught a little tv to try to take our mind off things. Around midnight we decided to go to bed, hopeful that the river would be gone in the morning. Luckily, we had our street back by the time we woke up on Friday morning.
There were a few things we didn’t have, however – since our basement flooded to over the doorknob on the door at the foot of the stairs, we had no furnace, no hot water heater, and no hope for successful flushing in the restrooms. So we headed out for breakfast and supplies (we discovered that during the night our makeshift plumbing for the 2nd pump had broken and was merely putting water back in the basement via a different window well). Once we returned with extra pipe, we were able to MacGuyver an improved drainage route with an assist from our neighbor and a couple of his tarps.
Our basement had flooded to about four feet. At this point we started calling around to see if we could find some professional help from people who actually had a clue how to clean up from a flood. It took five calls, but we got a slot at #4 on the list of a company coming out from Overland Park, Kansas. Fortunately with our increased pump power it started to drain quicker, and actually emptied out the basement by the next day. But with a basement full of soggy stuff, we were still totally up for help.
Then came the time where we found out what our flood insurance actually covered. It covers cleanup, and as the foreman of the crew helping us said, ‘basically what would be left if you picked up your house and shook everything out.’ Minus any finished basement features including carpet, tile, and quite a bit more. Alrighty then. Now we know. So, long story short (and still not over yet), the cleanup crew hauled out carpet, drywall, a multitude of trashbags, a parade of college-era furniture, electronics and stereo equipment. Antimicrobials were sprayed, dehumidifiers deployed, windows opened. Furnace and hot water heating companies, trash haulers, and insurance companies were called.
We’re still working on cleanup, and will be for a while, but honestly – we still have our house, we can still get to our house, and we still have the vast majority of our possessions. We are so much better off than so many people in the surrounding areas. There were several deaths, many people still missing, and so many people have either had their homes destroyed, can’t get to them, or can’t get out of their mountain town. We are very fortunate.
So now a little food, since this is a food blog. I was not in a great mood for cooking over the weekend. So I was really looking for something easy to throw together that was still healthier than the snack food I’d been eating off and on between phone calls and cleaning. I cooked some heirloom beans one day, since that was pretty easy. We had nearly a whole carton of rice left over from our delivery from Tra Ling’s the previous night, and I had a pepper and some onions in the fridge. I picked up a can of fire roasted tomatoes, and decided I’d make something like dirty rice. But, unbeknownst to me, I had no clue what dirty rice was – dirty rice is dirty because of chicken liver or giblets. I prefer my rice to be dirty from curry or tomatoes. So I went with tomatoes.
Post-Flood Whatever Bean Tomato Rice
2 cups pretty much any kind of cooked beans
2 cups cooked rice – white, brown, wild, whatever
1 can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper – red, orange, or yellow
1 cup chopped onion – white, yellow, or red
2 cloves minced garlic (or be lazy and use garlic powder)
1 tsp olive oil
hot smoked paprika or just paprika
Aleppo pepper or other dried red pepper
Heat the olive oil over medium in a large skillet. Saute the bell pepper and onion until tender. (If using real garlic, add it a few minutes after the bell pepper and onion.) Add the tomatoes, and about 1/3 cup of chicken stock. Then add some chili powder and paprika, and a bit of the Aleppo or dried red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Taste and adjust as desired. Then turn the heat up and let it cook until the liquid reduces down.
* I can’t take credit for ‘Boulder Floodie’ – that was my friend C’s suggestion – thank you, C!
June 28, 2013
At few weeks ago, I finally stopped and bought some whole wheat flour from Farmer John at the Farmers’ Market. Farmer John, of Butte Mill Flour Company, grows hard red winter what outside of Niwot, and stone grinds it himself. I’d been eyeing his flour for some time, but just haven’t done much yeast baking in the past few years, opting instead for the much more forgiving quick breads. But with my summer of ‘training’ for the body fat loss contest I’m doing, I’m avoiding refined flours in anything I eat at home. So the time was perfect to give his flour a try.
I decided to be really brave and just go with all whole wheat flour, something I normally wouldn’t even consider doing — there were too many whole wheat and rye flour bread attempts when I was younger that resulted in much unpleasantness. But I thought the mashed potato trick I discovered a while ago might help out, so I had a small bit of confidence in the experiment. I referenced a recipe on the King Arthur Flour site, and went from there. In addition to a mashed sweet potato, I decided to add a small bit of oat bran, flax seeds and wheat germ.
I made the first batch after a particularly tiring weight lifting workout, and had no intention of spending 15 minutes kneading bread. So I decided to see how the bread machine would do with it on the dough setting. (I planned to bake it in the oven.) The answer was, ‘interestingly’. At first the mixture was way, way too dry, so I added water during the first part of the mixing until the dough could actually move around. Then I decided that maybe it was too much water. But I decided I’d just let it run through the dough cycle and see what happened.
Well, it was a sticky, sticky mess. So I tried to knead some flour into it. (So much for giving my arms a rest). But I discovered that whole wheat isn’t really the best kneading flour. I couldn’t get past sticky even after adding another 3/4 cup of flour. Being stubborn and wanting to stick to my no unrefined flours rule, I decided to put it back into the bread machine for another dough cycle. I don’t know why, it just seemed like something to do. (I was totally winging it at this point, obviously). I let it go through most of the cycle, but took it out just a little early, and dumped the entirely wrong-textured dough into a couple of bread pans and put it in to bake.
Amazingly, when it was done, it had a pretty nice texture, and tasted quite good. It was robust – definitely not your soft ciabatta or French bread taste or texture, but my husband and I finished both loaves off in about six days, so clearly it was good enough to warrant a repeat.
I tried making a second batch the next weekend. I used slightly less flour and water, left the wheat germ out (I thought it tasted just a tiny bit too wheat germy the first time), and used butter instead of olive oil to give it a richer taste. Things went pretty much the same as the first time, except I just added the extra flour to the bread machine before the second dough cycle instead of even trying a kneading phase. I used my large loaf pan instead of making two loaves, so that I would hopefully have taller bread, but that turned out to be a mistake. It took a very long time for the bread to get anywhere close to completely baked because of its denseness. In fact, I actually ended up slicing the bread, laying the pieces on a baking sheet, and finishing it off at a lower temperature as if I were making biscotti. (Note to self – excellent Plan B for any future too-moist bread products.) I think making two shorter loaves was an unintentional wise move the first time around. But this one did taste really good.
I can’t really recommend this recipe to anyone, but should you wish to have a bit of a whole wheat adventure, here’s the amounts I used for both rounds:
3 c + 3/4 c stone ground whole wheat flour
11 oz sweet potato – cooked and mashed until smooth
1/4 c oat bran
2 Tbsp wheat germ
2 Tbsp flax seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1+1/2 c water
1 pkg yeast (mine was specially recommended for whole grains and had 25% more in the package
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
2 c + 1/2 c stone ground whole wheat flour
11 oz sweet potato – cooked and mashed until smooth
1/3 cup oat bran
2 Tbsp flax seeds
2 Tbsp melted butter
1+1/2 c water
1 pkg yeast (mine was specially recommended for whole grains and had 25% more in the package
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
Put all ingredients in the bread pan and run through the bread cycle. Keep an eye on it, and add additional water and assist mixing with a spatula as needed. Add the additional flour, mix it in a bit with a spatula, then run through another bread cycle. Towards the end of the second bread cycle, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Put dough in two bread pans brushed with olive oil, and bake about 35-40 minutes. The bread is done when it is firm and crusty on top (you can check the temperature with a thermometer as well – it should be 190 degrees).
June 8, 2013
Handling breakfast and lunch for the Body Fat Loss Contest I’m taking part in this summer has been relatively simple. I make large batches of healthy items like bulgur or boiled chicken breast ahead of time, then pack that along with fruit, vegetables, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other items to take to work. But dinners take a little more planning, since it’s not just myself eating. I’ve done scrambled eggs with sautéed pea tendrils, whole wheat flax pasta and tomato sauce with clams, meatloaf made with antelope or bison, and a few other healthy standbys. This past week I planned one meal short, so needed something to make Friday night that wouldn’t take too much effort, because after a tiring week the last thing I wanted to do was spend a long time cooking.
Enter the frozen barramundi we get from Costco. (I’ve been reading recently about imported seafood, and the lack of inspection done as part of importing. My husband has done some reading on Costco, however, and how they do some of their own inspection, and maintain relationships with their suppliers. So at least for right now, I’m going to go with that. Plus there has never been any fishiness to the barramundi we’ve gotten, nor has it ever been freezer burned.) I had bought a large bunch of green beans which we had yet to eat, so that was easy to figure out. But I needed some kind of grain dish. I happened to have some campari tomatoes (my go-to out-of-season tomato – hydroponically grown, and quite delicious, actually), and since I’ve got cooked bulgur on hand at all times now, it dawned on me that I could throw together some tabbouleh rather quickly.
The barramundi is ridiculously easy to make. Once thawed, I just rub both sides with a small bit of olive oil, then salt and pepper both sides, and bake it at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. For two servings of tabbouleh, I used 1+1/3 cup cooked bulgur, six campari tomatoes, seeded then chopped, a large handful of chopped fresh parsley, 3 chopped garlic cloves (I like it garlicky!), 2 tsp of olive oil, 4 tsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp ground sumac, a little urfa pepper, and salt and pepper. I just steamed the green beans.
When I looked down at the finished plates, I realized that it actually looked like a picture that you’d see in an article on healthy eating! But more importantly, it tasted wonderful, and really was healthy.
June 3, 2013
I’m two weeks into my three-month body fat loss contest at this point, and it’s gone pretty well so far in terms of diet and exercise. (I’ve only lost one pound, but I kind of expected that things would start slowly for me.) The food modifications haven’t really been that big a deal, aside from having to quash the occasional flash of ‘Hey, I should stop for gelato!’ as I drive past the Glacier Ice Cream near my house. I think my week of eating real food was a good warm-up. With a few exceptions I’ve had pretty much no refined sugars, no refined flour, and no nutritionally devoid foods. My worst offenses have been five Diet Cokes in the past two weeks, the awesome tasting protein bars I discovered, and half a slice of vegan carrot cake the night we went out to dinner at Leaf.
And yet I really don’t feel I’m missing much. I have rediscovered how pleasurable a whole food ites can be when it is fresh and there isn’t much else to detract from it. A cup of organic blueberries, a third of a cup of All Bran Buds and a cup of fat-free Greek yogurt makes a really tasty breakfast. I remember now why I love bulgur wheat so much – it’s got such a great nutty flavor and is actually pretty satisfying. Mixed with some shredded chicken breast, or an ounce and a half of avocado, it’s really quite awesome for lunch. My dinners really didn’t change much, as I’ve always tended to make dishes with a large amount of vegetables, and nothing refined or processed. But gone are the low-fat ice cream sandwiches, low-fat high fiber bagels made with a ton of additives, cinnamon toast cereal (even though its organic, I’m not sure it’s really a positive nutritional item), and even bits of chocolate bars (I still get some chocolate from my protein bars). And what I’ve found really interesting is, now that I’m not eating as much sweet stuff, that Yoskos honey and blueberry yogurt that I always thought was too sour tastes SWEET!
A couple of differences I have introduced to my diet is more fat (I was probably hovering between 10% and 15% of calories from fat – now I’m aiming for closer to 20%), as well as a lot more protein. I’m finding a lot of references to over 100 grams of protein per day for a woman my size trying to build muscle, but that tends to be about 40% of my calories (which seem to average between 1500 and 1700), which is just a bit higher than I’d like it to be. So I’m still working on balancing that. CORRECTION: I had somehow gotten it into my head that a gram of protein was 7 calories, when it is in fact 4 calories. So 100 grams of protein actually turns out to be about 23% of my calories. Which I am just fine with. My fruit and vegetable count is way up (about 8 servings a day, which is fine by me!), but my grains are down to around 4, which I’d really like to increase a bit by taking the protein down a tad. So I’m still trying to balance things nutritionally. I’ve included lists of the foods I’ve been eating for the past two weeks, organized by type, at the end of this post.
Workout-wise, I went back to the rec center and got a 40-punch pass so I could start lifting more serious weights. While I was there I sampled some of the new cardio machines, and remembered why I used to work out at the gym before I had a bad bout of tendonitis in my knee. I can burn a lot more calories in a much larger variety of ways at the gym than I can at home or just through walking. So I’ve been doing interval training (40-60 seconds all-out then 80-120 seconds at an easy pace, repeated 5-7 times), plus some extra more steadily-paced cardio. I had a bit of a setback on my upper body weight lifting when I neglected to notice that the assisted pull-up machine was set on zero pounds instead of 76 pounds, as it was the first time I used it. I ended up pretty much taking my full weight with some torque on my right shoulder in a failed attempt at a triceps dip. It hurt worse every day for four days, but I resolved the issue a bit by making an appointment with an orthopedist. (Not actually going to the appointment, just making it, and then riding the ‘things always get better as soon as you make an appointment to see a doctor after agonizing over whether to make one or not’ phenomenon.) So it’s still a tad bit wonky, but I took 10 days off, and it seems fairly usable again as long as I avoid some specific exercises. My goal with lifting is to do full-body workouts that will focus on the largest muscle groups, since that’s where a person can make the most gains. This weekend I finally felt brave enough to try weighted squats without the Smith Machine (using an 18 lb body bar), and discovered, much to my surprise, that I’m not as bad as I thought I would be. And I finally gave in and decided I would add lunges to my workouts. (I really hate lunges.)
Fruits & Vegetables
Eggs (Duck, Chicken)
Fat Free Greek Yogurt
Low fat Cheddar Cheese
Protein Bars (Pure Protein and Detour Lean Muscle)
All Bran Buds
Flax and Whole Wheat Pasta
Sprouted Grain Bread
Butter (just 1/2 Tbsp for cooking eggs)
Diet Coke (yeah, couldn’t help it)
Honey (for salad dressing)
Low Sodium Chicken Stock
Black, Urfa, Aleppo peppers
May 27, 2013
A few months ago I was browsing the freezer section at Sprouts, when I came upon ground antelope. Although I rarely eat red meat, let alone cook with it, a couple of years ago I discovered that I like game such as elk or venison. So I looked at the nutritional information for the antelope, and, delighted with how low-calorie and low-fat it was compared to most red meat, decided to get some. It took quite a while before I used it, but I had kind of been thinking meatloaf all along. The progression from ‘antelope loaf’ to ‘anteloaf’ just seemed natural.
Since I’m doing a body fat loss challenge this summer, I wanted to make sure that I used nutritionally dense, unrefined ingredients for this recipe. Most meatloaf is made using bread crumbs and ketchup. I found one recipe online that used both bulgur and bread crumbs, so decided I would just go with bulgur. Bulgur is one of my favorite grains – high in fiber, considered a whole grain, and with a slightly nutty taste, it’s very quick to cook as well, which is a plus. In order to avoid using ketchup (which is about 1/3 refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup), I decided to use tomato paste and just a bit of honey. The Dijon was an idea from The Joy of Cooking.
I happened to have some green garlic from the Farmers’ Market, so I used that instead of minced garlic. In the future I would go ahead and use regular garlic – I just think it would work better flavor-wise and texture-wise.
Speaking of texture. My anteloaf wasn’t really the most structurally sound food item. It crumbled a bit when I removed it from the pan. But I’ve never really been one to place a high level of importance on this type of thing as long as my food tastes good, and the texture isn’t atcually weird or displeasing. (Unless I’m photographing it, in which case that type of thing becomes quite annoying. But you know – meatloaf isn’t attractive. It’s just not. It’s a hearty comfort food, and not something that you’re going to find in a fine dining establishment or on the cover of Food & Wine (don’t quote me – there could very well be a meatloaf-featuring issue somewhere in the magazine’s history, I just doubt it.) So anyway, where was I going with that? Oh yeah – so this meatloaf was never going to be photogenic no matter what. The fact that it crumbled a bit didn’t really bother me.)
So the result? It definitely had a slightly gamey smell, but the taste was outstanding. I really liked the addition of bulgur, which gave it a more hearty texture. The taste worked really well with the antelope and the Dijon was a great addition. Here’s an extreme close-up, to show the texture. Trust me, it’s more attractive than the before and after going in the oven pictures, or anything I got of individual servings.
makes 4-5 servings
1 lb ground antelope (or elk, turkey, or ostrich)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup finely chopped green garlic (or 3-5 garlic cloves, minced)
3/4 cup cooked bulgur (I use low-sodium chicken stock instead of water)
1 whole egg + 2 egg whites lightly beaten
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the egg, tomato paste, Dijon, honey, and salt until well combined. Put all ingredients into a large bowl, and mix with your hands until ingredients are well-combined, but try not to over-mix. Put the meatloaf in the (ungreased) bread pan and even the top out. Bake uncovered for 1 hour to 1 hour + 15 minutes. The inside of the meatloaf should be 160 degrees for antelope, elk, or ostrich, or 165 degrees for turkey. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving. (Remove any extra fat if it’s there – these meats are fairly lean though, so you might not have to.)
Nutrition Info for 1/5 loaf: 192 cals, 3.9 g fat, 1.6 g fiber, 23 g protein, 4 WW points