Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It's been awhile... Always on a journey!

Hello everyone,

Well, it's been awhile!  Hope you're all enjoying your spring and the beginnings of summer.  I know Wisconsin has had its fair share of rain and fall-like, spring weather. :)  We've been able to enjoy many things Madison has to offer, like Union Terrace, Olbrich Botanical Gardens, a nature walk or two, finding the Buckys on Parade, small local farmers' markets close to our home, and so many other things.  And...the Z garden is planted and some harvesting has commenced:  rhubarb, radishes, herbs, and soon-to-be lettuces.  Can't wait!

I've received several messages on Facebook and have had many conversations from people who are interested in knowing about the current journey I'm with food modification. I'm always on a journey, food or otherwise.  My posts aren't meant to be a brag in any sense, but they are meant to keep me accountable and for me to see my progress in writing.  The process of typing or "writing things down" helps me visualize.  I thought I'd share with those interested about this never-ending journey.  This time, I am hoping it's a lifestyle change.  The struggle is real for this food lover. 

After suffering many physical injuries in the last 10 months or so (last summer I believe I broke my pinky toe, last fall I injured my Achilles and it took months to heal, and in February my back spasmed and seized up on me and that took a month to recover from, as well), I'm finally able to get back to moving, as I can, within my limits.  This means getting back to my walking routine with Wiggerston, the Big Black Beast, aka Oliver and walking during a few breaks at work, and perhaps getting back on the bike.  Now, I can't "go crazy", but I'll sure do what I can.

Ali and I have also really modified our "diet", aka our food portions and what we intake.  The fact that we have each other to hold accountable has really helped.  We are 10 weeks in and seeing the progress (20+ lbs for him, 18.5 lbs. for me).  We are also experiencing plateaus, which is normal.  It's taken this long to put the weight on, it will take some time to work it off as well.

We are doing what works for us, which sounds a lot like Whole 30 with portion control, but are continuing it past the 30 days.   So, what exactly are we doing?  Here it is in a nutshell:  A lot of veggies, fruits; lean proteins when wanted (chicken breast, fish esp. salmon for me - I really try to eat 75%+ vegetarian); nuts; very low carbs; very low sugars; very low dairy; low alcohol (shocker, right?); very low processed foods; lots of salads; enjoying quinoa, couscous, or other grains as a carb substitute; trying to be creative; making sure we eat fiber-rich and lots of plant proteins. I am also allowing myself one day a week to eat what I like, my "splurge" so to speak, but not going crazy either.  We've been able to keep on track even when we go out to eat.  Again, it's tough when you really enjoy food. :)  We don't feel like we're starving, and we don't feel like we're missing out.  I will tell you, though, we might be getting a bit sick of salads?! 

Here are a few visual food aids:
Summertime Salad: mixed greens, mango, avo, asparagus, scallions, bleu cheese crumbles, pistachios, white balsamic vinegar (my favorite is the German white balsamic vinegar from Vom Fass!), olive oil, s&p.

Shrimp/fish/mussel/sausage (I only ate one piece) boil with small new potatoes, corn on the cob, & Penzey's Galena Street for seasoning on top.  All boiled in homemade seafood stock with lemons & Old Bay.  I did splurge and eat a piece of bread, too. :)

Sauteed Veg (mushrooms, onions, multi-colored peppers) and Bean Taco Salad on organic corn chips with all the fixin's

Blackened fish (tilapia - Cajun Street blackening seasoning) and mango taco night (cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, avo, mango, mango salsa from Texas, pickled jalepenos, & flour tortillas) - so good!

Leftover fish and mango taco fixings (not the blackened fish) + leftover salmon + boiled egg = yummy salad lunch!  Yes, I know, I do like a bit o' pepper on my food. :) 

As you know, I don't use a lot of recipes, but, that being said, I hope to be able to pass along meal ideas to those of you who are curious or need help getting out of a food rut.  I will keep posting photos and ideas, and, if it inspires you, you have my support behind you all the way.  Let's keep each other motivated, shall we? :)  You've got this.  I hope I do, too!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Soup time! Chipotle Albondigas Meatball Soup

Well, hello everyone!  Once again, time has gotten away from me...and it's now almost winter.  We've somehow skipped through fall, my favorite season...and are now almost in winter mode, seeing as how we've had a few snowfalls here in WI now.  So, that means it's...soup season!

My hubby tried a new recipe a few nights ago, and it was amazing!  So I'm going to share the link with you all :)  It was deliciously yummy...warm, soothing, the right hint of spice.

Chipotle Albondigas Meatball Soup:


For our "tweaks" we didn't add rice to the meatballs, nor did we add sweet potato, zucchini, or chayote, or kale, as we didn't have these in our refrigerator.  We did add diced carrots and sliced baby portabellas.  This would pair well with potatoes and chopped, fresh spinach, too.

We served this with warm tortillas.  I also think it would be yummy with crusty French bread/baguette or cornbread.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Chopped! Kale...the powerful green!

Chopped!  Kale, the powerful green...

Kale is considered a leaf cabbage.  Kale varieties are considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms of Brassica oleracea.  Kale: from decorative plant  to a lovely addition to the food table!  I'm so glad that I have kale on my food table from time to time.

My favorite way to eat kale is chopped/shredded in salad form.  I can make a large kale salad and it can keep for several days in the refridgerator, keeping it's texture and flavor.  I have also discovered I like it chopped and sautéed (with onions and cabbage and spices like s&p, cumin seeds, and red pepper flakes for a  touch of heat) or steamed, like a Southern green (you can use the same spices as previously listed).  YUM!

This past weekend's kale salad consisted of 3 small bunches of chopped/shredded kale (washed 3 times, spun dry using salad spinner) fresh from the Z Garden with 1/4 medium head shredded napa cabbage (thank you CSA!), 1 small sliced onion, 2 sliced small pickling cucumbers (fresh from the Z Garden), 4 small sliced carrots, (1) box of organic garbanzo beans, drained.  This was dressed with a simple, homemade dressing (no need to mix ahead of time, I just added all dressing ingredients on top of salad ingredients) of 4 "glugs"/"swirls" of organic olive oil (slowly pour olive oil in a circular motion over ingredients), approximately 1/4 c. Maletti German white balsamic vinegar (from Vom Fass), approximately 3 T. apple cider vinegar, and s&p to taste (approximately 3/4 t. salt and 1/4-1/2 t. pepper).  All ingredients were mixed and tossed well in a large salad bowl.

For my individual lunch portion I added a small handful of Z garden cherry/grape tomatoes, chopped 1/2 small avocado, and one halved boiled egg.  It was delish!!!  So tasty.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Well, as you all might already know, my family loves Tex Mex food!  I learned how to make my own taco seasoning, and it's a welcome addition to the Z spice cabinet.

Here's how you can make your own, too.

Yield: Fills (1) 8-9 oz jar

1 3/4 t. garlic powder
1 3/4 t. onion powder or dehydrated onions
1 3/4 t. dried oregano
3 1/2 t. paprika
3 1/2 t. ground cumin
3 1/2 t. sea salt
3 1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 c. + 3 T. chili powder
optional: 1 t. crushed red pepper flakes (shaker peppers - recipe two blog posts ago!)

Add spices to jar one at a time.  Close jar tightly and shake slightly to ensure spices are well mixed, evenly distributed.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016


A lot of rain and still sunny weather makes the Z Garden explode!!

Enjoy these last days of summer sun and warmth!  Fall is around the corner...my favorite season! :)


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pepper Power...Activate!

Pepper Power...Activate! :)

The Z Garden has exploded with veggie goodness...we are thankful.  In the explosion of goodness comes a nice variety of peppers: Thai red chili, Serrano, jalapeno, Hungarian red, green bell, and new this year: habenero.  What on earth do we do with all these peppers?  I typically freeze the green bell peppers that we aren't able to eat (in the next week it appears we will have an overabundance so this will be occurring soon!); I pickle a nice medley of the Hungarians, Serranos, and jalapenos with onions, garlic, carrots (see my previous blog post); I occasionally freeze the Thai red chilis for use in stews and curries; I use the habernos for a yummy homemade shui mai or dumpling sauce in combination with soy sauce, sesame oil, and other goodies (minced garlic and fresh ginger root) that I keep in the freezer; and now, just yesterday, I completed dehydrating a full variety of all of the peppers, as we had many bags in the refrigerator, for Crushed Peppers, aka what I call "Shaker Peppers" (good on pizza, in stews, etc).  We made these a few years ago and decided to make another batch this year.

Jen's Shaker Peppers:
1. Preheat oven at 170F.

2. Slice variety of peppers (I sliced the peppers by hand as some of the peppers are too pliable or soft for the mandolin) and place on wax paper/parchment paper lined baking sheets.  WASH HANDS thoroughly with soap afterwards, as the pepper oils can be very irritating to the skin.  If you have a face mask, feel free to wear one if you are highly sensitive.  Feel free to also wear gloves for handling and slicing if you wish.

3. Place in oven at 170F for approx 14 hours for full drying.  These pepper dehydrated overnight, during slumber! I began at 3:45 p.m. and removed the peppers from the oven at 5:45 a.m.

4. In a well-ventilated kichen - please use a face mask if you have one - or, in my case, I did this process outside, as the pepper "dust" and oils can be quite irritating to the eyes and skin, place dehydrated peppers in a food processor with chopping blade in place.

5.  Mix/whir peppers on highest speed for several minutes, pulsing to desired texture if needed.  The longer you whir the peppers, the finer the texture will be - if you desire a powder format vs. a more crushed pepper seed format you will need to mix/whir/pulse for a longer period of time.  Again, please be aware the the pepper "dust" can be irritating, even in a well-ventilated area.

6.  Take care in handling the crushed pepper mixture.  Pour into glass jar for spice cabinet storage and use.  This mixture will last up to a year or longer. (Yes, all of those peppers pictured yielded ONE Ball jar of shaker peppers!)

These "Shaker Peppers" liven up the flavor for sauces, stews, pizza, and many other dishes.  Remember:  A little goes a lllooonnnngggg way! :)


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The "Ugly Truth" About Imperfect Fruits and Vegetables - a Thumbs' Up From the Z Family!

Happy Tuesday!

I'll be posting links and other helpful food, garden, and other tips on my blog for information purposes for those so inclined.

So...today... there's this:


The "ugly truth" about imperfect fruits and vegetables...a thumbs' up from the Z family!

Happy eating!