Monthly Archives: July 2011

An Okay Day, A Cheat Day, A Rocky Day

I’ve been under some stress lately, and it’s not even related to my job (where my stress normally creeps from). I’ve decided that I am officially moving at the end of next month. That will be about two weeks into my sixth year teaching, and I’m stressed over the stress that will arise from this decision. I envision, however, October being a beautifully calm month. Moved into my new place, going to Columbia for Mizzou’s 100th homecoming celebration, and, um… I don’t know. Something calmer than my current situation.

As I posted, I “cheated” yesterday and it caused me to feel really ill. Today I had Taco Bell for lunch- another terrible decision, I know, but I also exercised this morning whereas I didn’t yesterday. I have to remind myself that this is a process, and change doesn’t happen instantly. I’m just in the process of trying to make better, smarter decisions.

With the move next month, I’m trying to think of some really cheap lunch and dinner options because money will be tiiiiiight. What are your favorite cheap, healthy, and quick lunch and dinner options?

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Ugh.

I semi-successfully navigated a family cookout yesterday with lots of veggies, a hamburger, and a green bean/roasted grape tomato salad I made, but I decided to do a “cheat day” today and I feel HORRIBLE. Funny how your body tells you what’s working and what isn’t.

Off to not throw up I hope! Ugh!


An (almost) Photoless Chain Restaurant Review

One of the things I envisioned on this blog was reviewing restaurant dishes for their flavor and healthfulness, and I had an excellent opportunity to do that last night. Unfortunately, I completely forgot I wanted to do that here while eating my meal last night and only thought of it after the fact this morning. So because of that, I have no photos. A secret goal of this blog is to include some sort of media in each post- photo, video, audio, whatever. I still plan on making that happen here, somehow. So I’m using internet photos- none of the photos in this entry are mine, and if they belong to you and you’re super pissed I used your photos of the food at Cheddar’s, sorry. I’ll take them down upon request.

Backstory:

While listening to The Happiness Project, I got an idea (stole an idea from Gretchen Rubin) to take my parents out to dinner for their 30th wedding anniversary. She had organized a big fancy party for her mother in law, and considering my time restraints (their anniversary, Sunday, is the day they leave for a week long vacation), I couldn’t quite do that. So I told them to pick a restaurant in town and I’d buy them dinner. They landed on Cheddar’s.

I had eaten at Cheddar’s before, and I usually like it quite a bit. I’ve never tried to eat healthy there, though, which can dramatically altar one’s experience with a restaurant. I had oscillated between ordering the Monte Cristo sandwich:

A deep fried sandwich seved with a side of jam. Delicious and deadly- much like me.

and the buffalo chicken tenders:

Deep fried buttery spiciness. Also just like me.

I knew I couldn’t have those two items- I’m trying to be good.

So, what are Cheddar’s options for those of us who would like to survive the meal? Well, some, but not a lot. They offer several fish and chicken options, but you have to make sure you order them not fried or doused in buttery sauce. The sides offered are also dangerous- I made the mistake of ordering the corn picture in the above photo. It came absolutely drowning in butter! So, of course, I ate each and every one of them. They were freaking delicious. I figured I was being good otherwise.

Here’s the complete menu available online!

I ended up getting the grilled salmon with broccoli and the aforementioned delicious corn. It was fairly inexpensive as far as salmon goes, and that’s a real advantage to Cheddar’s. They are really reasonably priced with large portions! As a fat dude, I still really like eating, I’m just trying to eat better things! The broccoli was steamed, I believe, and it was great. I happen to love broccoli, so I don’t take much convincing, but it was bright green and still crunchy without being undercooked. Perfect.

The salmon itself had some butter on it, I could tell, but nothing excessive. And it was grilled nicely, but… I don’t know… it was a little flat. I don’t know what could have been done to it that wouldn’t have added calories, and maybe this is the life I will lead now as someone who eats well, but, I was a tad disappointed.

And my parents got this incredible delicious fried food. And I didn’t eat any because I’m doing so damn good. If you’re interested in seeing what the salmon looked like, it’s pictured on their “our nutrition information is coming soon” page.

So, overall, I’d pretty highly recommend Cheddar’s. Order smart and pay attention to what kind of protein you’re ordering and how it’s prepared. The best thing is its price- excellent for a “chain” restaurant. And, actually, the best part was hanging out with my parents for their anniversary. They’re the best. 🙂


Even at 25(7) You Gotta Start Sometiiiiiiime!

I may have mentioned this, but while de-clutting my life this week I found an old iPod and through the magic of technology was able to extract a ton of music I thought was gone onto my computer. Included in this was a lot of music I listened to in high school and college, and specifically, the entire catalog from the band Jimmy Eat World. I’m really reconnecting with this song:

Lyrically, I love how this song approaches life- the mere idea that one could approach a night with the desire of falling in love gives a certain openness I often lack.

I’m on my feet, I’m on the floor, I’m good to go

So come on baby, sing me something that I know

I want to always feel like part of this was mine

I want to fall in love tonight

I feel connected with the song for the same reasons I started this blog:

Are you going to live your life wondering
Standing in the back, looking around?
Are you going to waste your time thinking
How you’ve grown up, how you missed out?
Things are never going be the way you want
Where’s it going to get you acting serious?
Things are never going to be quite what you want
Even at twenty five you got to start sometime

I can’t just continue thinking “I’ll take the time to get healthier when I’m older.” The time is now- I am older. I’m apparently two years older than Jim Adkins when he wrote the song. By the way, that’s horrifying- I know I was 17 or 18 when I was listening to this album, but still. Anyway, just thought I’d share some inspiration today. 🙂

I did exercise again today! That’s four straight days, so… yay! I stayed on the treadmill the whole time today because someone was on the “good” elliptical machine (there are three, but the other two are crappy). I did some serious power walking to get my heart rate up, and I was sweating pretty good (bad?) by the time I cooled down.

Coming soon- another Poor Girl Eats Well recipe review- garlic parmesan rice noodles. Quick review- good, but a little too complicated to make for what you get.

 


What I’m Absorbing While I Exercise

I’m on day three of exercise “fun,” and, indeed, it still blows. I’m wondering if there’s a study somewhere that has examined the frontal lobe of those people who are exhilarated while exercising. I bet those people are better than I am at sports. Well, that’s not hard to do anyway.

I was forced to do 15 minutes on the elliptical machine today because about five minutes into my elliptical time some dude got on my treadmill. Okay, so it’s not my treadmill, but whatever. And he stretched first which is smart, and I should probably start doing. My friend Amanda once told me you lose some ridiculous percentage, like 40%, of the effectiveness of your workout if you don’t stretch before and after. I remembered that about 25 minutes into my 30 minutes today. I decided I’ll try that tomorrow.

As previously reported, I’ve been listening to a book on tape (er… on iPhone) while exercising. I decided to start with a non-fiction text that I felt would inspire my changes: The Happiness Project.

The Happiness Project

While taking a group of students on a trip to a thankfully cool northern Minnesota earlier this month, I came across this book and it inspired a lot of what this blog is simply in its concept. I’ve listened to the beginning portion of it and really enjoy it. She has done research about what happiness is, and I appreciate her viewpoint on how approaching a happiness project is not something that solves sadness or depression. Her desire isn’t to be gleeful all the time, but rather to be less short with her loved ones, enjoy life more, and live a richer experience. I’m down with that.

So far, she has specifically addressed exercise, de-cluttering, and love. The exercise bit was helpful while actually exercising! Shocking! I especially was connected to her bit about de-cluttering. I have a file cabinet, but it was simply full of crap. I also have two boxes in my closet brimming with papers- one says “shred” and the other says “file.” As it turns out, they were both full of a lot of nothing. Credit cards I lost in the bankruptcy and documents about them, student loans I consolidated earlier this year, all kinds of random things with my personal information on them. After cleaning them all out, I took two trash bags full of documents to our local recycling center where they were shredded before my eyes. Aside from feeling accomplished and happy, I had a cathartic release. Those documents represented a lot of bad decisions in my past- financially mostly- and now they’re released into the wild of recycled goodness. Yeah, that’s good.

I end today with two random thoughts:

1. Okay, has anyone else seen this TRANSVAGINAL MESH commercial?! It’s on all the time and I know I shouldn’t giggle at it because it’s very serious, but… come on. Transvaginal Mesh sounds like the name of a metal band. I digress.

2. I pay $600 for a studio apartment. I don’t pay any utilities (awesome). But the phone service that was free when I moved in is gone, the convenience store in the building doesn’t accept debit cards (the opposite of convenience), the internet hasn’t worked in nearly a month (I’ve been spending ridiculous amounts of time at my parents’ house to make these posts), and, oh yeah, a giant cabinet nearly fell on me last week. I’m going to move in two months when my lease ends.


I Love Alliteration and Recipes That Use Them

I tried to figure out a clever way to make my title an alliteration, but I couldn’t pull it off. Sorry, lovers of figurative language.

I am a fan of summer vegetables, and squash and zucchini are certainly among my favorites. When I think of squash, though, I have to stop myself from thinking of those horrifying autumn gourds that look like they’re diseased and will give you and disease if you touch them or think about them too long. I had some leftover farmer’s market swag from last week and had enough to make Poor Girl Eats Well’s Simple Summer Squash Pasta.

A few things before we get started:

1) As an English teacher I am required to appreciate any recipe that uses alliteration.

2) Poor Girl Eat Well is definitely my favorite recipe blog of the moment. I am one year out of a bankruptcy, and while I’m financially comfortable for the first time in… ever, really, thanks to the bankruptcy, I’m still cautious about money. And, as a teacher, I don’t have much of it anyway. So I really appreciate that there is a recipe blog that doesn’t use really expensive ingredients all the time.

3) I love carbohydrates.

Damn! These vegetables are so... fresh! Snap!

So I’m off to a good start with this recipe. The ingredient list is very short, thankfully, and that’s most of the reason it’s so inexpensive to make. The original recipe calls for grape or cherry tomatoes, but I had these huge beautiful tomatoes to use instead, so I just chopped the tomatoes up into smaller pieces.

I also use pre-chopped garlic. Listen, I know this blog is not scoring points for being gourmet, and I don’t intend for it to be. I’m an amateur cook who is also a bachelor living in a studio apartment with a thimble sized kitchen. I cut corners sometimes. And I still get the flavor of garlic but, admittedly, not as much as fresh garlic would have provided. I recommend, if possible, you use actual garlic.

The recipe also doesn’t specifically call for wheat pasta (actually it calls for cavatappi if possible), but I couldn’t find it in wheat. I’m a big proponent of using wheat substitutes if possible, but a lot of that is due to my own health. Several years ago I had a super gross health problem I won’t go into that had my doctor recommending more fiber in my diet. And wheat provides “good” carbs I guess, so using wheat when possible is something I like to do. Feel free to use good ol’ regular pasta. As far as this recipe goes, I actually think some angel hair would be really delicious as well!

I started by boiling the water and getting things ready to go.

My pasta pot setup.

As the water boiled I chopped my vegetables. I decided to just chop the tomatoes up into big chunks, leaving in a lot of the seeds and whatever that slimy thick stuff that’s in tomatoes is. I did that knowing this pasta dish didn’t have a traditional sauce on it, and I hoped the liquid would help. Here’s my veggie action:

Choppin' broccoli... wait, no...

The pasta was cooking while I did this. As previously mentioned, I used wheat pasta. When one thinks of wheat products, perhaps they are turned off by gross wheat things that were in the past. Cardboard textured breads or overwhelmingly blah tasting pasta, or whatever. Anyway, my first official product review on New (f)Attitude is Ronzoni’s Healthy Harvest pasta:

A healthy harvest without a Shirley Jackson inspired murder lottery!

I suppose, looking at this photo now, it’s “whole grain” rather than wheat, but whatever. You know what I mean.

The Healthy Harvest pasta is relatively inexpensive, although more expensive than the old-fashioned stuff. The health benefits are worth it though. The taste of the pasta was slightly nutty and the texture was hearty and not grainy like wheat products sometimes are. I really liked it in this recipe and would use it again. Reccommended!

While the pasta cooked I sauteed the veggies, starting with the squash and zucchini. My skillet is too small, so I actually didn’t add the tomatoes until the very end in the pasta pot where I combined all of the ingredients. I drizzled in maybe 2 teaspoons of olive oil and the pasta came together beautifully. The tomato guts I left in there really helped bind the whole meal together. The original recipe calls for basil, which I didn’t have, but would have certainly been a delicious addition. The biggest note I can highlight from the original recipe is to really season this well with salt and pepper. The salt brings out the liquid in the veggies and continues to help bind the meal together. Here it is!

Looks good, tastes good!

So, the official review:

Taste: As mentioned, I just love squash and zucchini, so I liked those things in here very much. I would actually cook them for a smidge longer than the recipe calls for (and I did) because I love when they get nice and brown! The richness of the pasta was not overpowering in the least. The salt and pepper was necessary- otherwise it would have been a pretty blah dish. Grade: A-.

Ease of cooking: Incredibly simple. Just chopping and sauteeing the veggies and cooking the pasta. Nothing complicated or crazy. Grade: A.

Amount of clean-up: Not too much, but a little more than such a simple dish should supply. The knife, cutting board, skillet, and pasta pot were really it, but the tomato is sloppy. Listen, this sounds super lazy, I know. This is still a really easy recipe to deal with. Grade: A-.

Value: The PGEW page says this recipe is $1.15/serving, and it makes 4-6 servings. If you were using this as a side dish, that would be true, but because I used it as my meal, I’ll probably get three servings out of it, making that cost go up a little. It’s still ridiculously cheap. And healthy! Grade: A.

Overall grade: A. This recipe is easy, healthy, and delicious. It’s also super versatile and could have any number of vegetables added into, or even some protein to make it more of a full meal. This is definitely one I’ll make again!

 

Are there any recipes you’ve been thinking of trying but would like this fat dude in the midwest to try first? Leave me a link in the comments! Thanks for reading!


Why I Hate Exercising Around People

I tried and failed to exercise yesterday.

I live in a large apartment building that offers among its amenities a workout facility. I’ve also discovered it offers gigantic cabinets loosely secured to a wall! Anyway, the way the building is set up, there is a track around the workout room. Yesterday, when I tried to access the room, it was locked. I, of course, took that as a sign from the Lord that I shouldn’t work out that day. I went back upstairs and instead started this blog.

Today it was locked again, but I was SMART today and brought down my building-issued ID card which buzzed me in. Logic is awesome.

I decided, as previously mentioned, to holla at the elliptical machine for my first venture. Several summers ago when, for the bajillionth time I tried to work out more, I used an elliptical machine and ended up not hating it. I imagined it sort of being like the Gazelle machine my parents used at the time, and it isn’t. The elliptical machine makes me hurt like crazy from my butt to my feet. I wish Tony Little were around to help me:

RESULTS! RESULTS! RESULTS! RESULTS!

Actually, I take that back. I couldn’t handle Tony Little in any capacity.

I wanted to work out for 30 total minutes today, and I accomplished that. I did 15 minutes first on the treadmill, 10 minutes on the elliptical, and 5 more minutes on the treadmill. I hope to change those proportions eventually. I felt pretty good about it ultimately, but near the end of my workout, three people joined me in the workout room.

Am I the only one who hates working out in front of people? Listen, I understand my body’s unique floppiness, but I feel like others are staring at my waistline. Watching the undulation of my skin. Trying to figure out if they played a pair of claves to the beat of my manboobs movement if it would make a hit song (answer: obviously yes).

The worst part was it was (what I assume at least) a young child and his parents. Children are always particularly fascinated by fat people and stare at me while I shop or eat at restaurants. It was a boy who was maybe around eight and his mid-30s or so parents, but the most fascinating aspect of their arrival while I was ellipticizing (a word now, yes?) was that the man, who had crutches, brought a folding lawn chair, unfurled it, and sat in it with a book while his wife and son ran around the track which was not even in the same room. At first I thought, “Maybe he’s going to work out his arms,” or “Maybe that book is really heavy.” But no, he simply sat in a folding lawn chair reading a book. He, thankfully, faced his chair in the opposite direction of my workout. Staring him down would have been nightmarish.

I came back upstairs when I was done and felt good, but wondered how effective the whole process had been. When I was doing Couch to 5k I was basically exhausted every day when I finished working out. Is exercise supposed to feel that way? I don’t know, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to die when I was done today. Victory.