Eating Dinner for Lunch

Some of my readers know that I’m struggling with an unusual situation…er… sort of.  Although many people struggle with their weight in today’s society, I’m one of the very unlucky few whose weight gain is by no fault of my own.  Okay, so a lot of people claim otherwise but as readers of my blog, you see how well I eat and know that I’m generally a very healthy person.  I eat between 800 and 1500 calories a day, which is enough to allow natural weight loss without needing much exercise.  As a matter of fact, I should be burning about 2300 calories if I do little more than sit at my computer all day.  So why isn’t the weight falling of?

Originally, we thought my reducing of soy products in my diet would be the answer.  After all, we had discovered that it was causing major inflammation and as it acts like estrogen in the body, my already high hormone levels were difficult enough.  So we just assumed that dropping the soy would be the “cure-all”.  Okay, we knew that wasn’t exactly a perfect solution and that exercise would also be required.  So I started riding a bicycle on a trainer and struggling to stay active on it.  Struggling because I still have a lot of weight I’m carrying around with me that makes physical activity really difficult at times.

But nothing was happening.  As a matter of fact, I was gaining pounds at a very slow rate!  I thought, okay, it’s muscle mass but very few inches were coming off and I was again, greatly discouraged.

Yet, I’m not one to give up.  So instead, I’ve been doing tons of research trying to find a viable solution.  And that’s how I discovered something I knew all along but didn’t realize was such a big deal.  I have an extremely efficient metabolism.  My body burns precisely what it needs to preform any physical activity and that’s it.  Bare minimum.  But I knew that.  It’s why I couldn’t gain weight as a young adult because my body burned what it needed and thus never had need to store much fat.  So when the medication I took ages ago to aid a supposed heart condition, it changed my metabolism rate drastically which allowed me to not only gain weight but gain it despite being vegan at the time!

Fast forward to a few days ago to where I’m sitting at my computer researching reasons why someone as healthy, strong and energetic as I am could be overweight.  Once again, I came across resting metabolism rate (RMR) as I have previously but this time, something in the article I was reading really clicked for me, “if your body is metabolically efficient, it burns fewer calories while in motion”.  BINK!  Light bulb goes on!  Time to start smacking myself in the forehead and asking why I hadn’t realized it sooner.  Or why, despite all the doctors/nutritionists I’ve seen, I wasn’t told about this being a possible issue.  Several articles of research later and I discover that while on the medication, my RMR and my BMR (Basal Metabolism Rate) were compromised, thus causing the weight gain.  Off the medication and it returned to it’s normal efficient self.  Thus no weight gain… or loss.  Now it makes complete sense!

So what do I need to do to lose weight?  Obviously, I’m not keen on taking any further medication and in all honesty, I don’t want to change my RMR because it IS efficient and it IS what my body does naturally.

I’ve decided to switch meal times.  Well… more like meal amounts… or… okay, I’m switching places between lunch and dinner.  Although I’m sure you’ve heard nutritionists suggesting you make breakfast or lunch your heaviest meal, but they don’t tell you a key factor in that… don’t eat the same types of food for dinner!  Yes, your largest meal of the day should be around when you are most active, mornings to early afternoons.  But when we switch the size of the meal, most people don’t switch the components.  Instead, they continue to eat starchy, high protein, high carb but smaller dinners.  Where does all that food go if you’re not as active after dinner?  Yup, you guessed it.  Right to your favorite expanding body parts.

So now, I cook meals that I would normally have for dinner and instead eat them for lunch.  “But I have kids/partner that can’t/won’t do that!”  Don’t think you’re alone in the world of wanting to diet but find it grossly inconvenient because of your family/relationship situation.  One of the reasons I like cooking dinner for lunch is, once dinner time comes around, I just heat up the plate and serve.  As for myself, I’m never as hungry so I make myself something light to eat like a sandwich, a very small portion of the dinner itself, soup or rice dish.  This way, I can still enjoy a meal with my family without feeling like I’m starving or depriving myself of something.

I’ve only been doing this for a few days and already lost 4 pounds!  And I didn’t even get to exercise in the past few days!  Keep your fingers crossed for me that this is a possible solution!

Time for a new look!

Greetings fellow foodies!  As you can see, assuming you’re not reading this via a reader, the blog has got a new look and I’ve done some minor tweaking here and there.  The categories are now located at the bottom of every page in a dropdown menu to make it that much easier (and cleaner looking).  I’ve updated the “about the cook & the book” page and even include a picture of me.  Yeah, I know but it’s the only one I have involving food that isn’t me being a total goof (an instantaneous reaction whenever a camera is facing me, I heard Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett had the same affliction).  I’ve updated and added some links to my artwork and profiles.

Does this mean I’ll be updating more often?  Er… umm… well… yeah… about that…

Okay, as much as I’d like to say that I’ll be here with any regularity, it’s me… and there’s nothing regular or consistent with me other than I’m either cooking, gaming, creating or goofing off.  That’s the whole kit and caboodle.  So I’m leaving it with… I hope to offer more entries but I make no promises.

And on that note… I’ve got some potatoes in the slow cooker that need my attention before I get back to pinning interesting recipes on Pinterest.

Hopefully, I’ll write at you soon!

Honey Wheat Bread from the Slow Cooker (with vegan options)

I’ve been asked about baking bread in the slow cooker from start to finish and after seeing how wonderfully it rises in it, I knew a bit of research would give me the information I needed.  Now here’s the AWESOME part: it works with my favorite bread recipe!  *Does the kitchen happy dance!*

So here’s the recipe now made entirely in the slow cooker with vegan options of course:

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 tsp granulated yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp vital wheat gluten (rising agent)
  • 1/4 honey (or sweetener of your choice)
  • 2.5 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm almond milk
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm warn
  • 3 & 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • Parchment paper
  • Bowl with water to dip your hands in
  • loaf pan smaller than your slow cooker; OR something to shape your loaf with; OR nothing of the sort if you don’t mid a dome of bread

Directions:

  1. Set the slow cooker on high with enough water to barely cover the bottom.  Cover and set aside.
  2. Fold your parchment paper into a rectangle that will fit snugly in your cooker. Set aside.
  3. Fill a bowl with some water (for dipping your hands) and set aside.
  4. If your milk and water are cold, combine them (equals 1.5 cups total) and microwave for 30 seconds.
  5. Mix all ingredients EXCEPT flour in a large bowl.
  6. Whisk briskly to incorporate the ingredients as much as possible.  This takes a bit as the vital wheat gluten likes to clump.  Doing this makes for a more evenly rising loaf so don’t skim on the whisking.
  7. With a large wooden spoon, slowly mix in the flour.
  8. Once you have a mixture too difficult to stir (roughly the second cup of flour), dip your hands in the bowl of water and begin kneading.  Continue to knead until all the flour is added and thoroughly mixed.  Keep dipping your hands as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the bowl too much.
  9. Then transfer the dough to the parchment paper and shape into a loaf.
  10. Remove the lid from the slow cooker, place the dough in the parchment within (you can use ceramic plates, shallow bowls or anything similar to help shape the dough if you don’t want it round and your loaf pan doesn’t fit in the cooker; just make sure it’s not metal or plastic.  See image below).
  11. Cover the cooker and set it for high for three hours.
  12. Go watch two movies, take a stroll around the neighborhood, pick the kids up from school, knit a sock, play online, whatever.
  13. Come back in three hours and confirm bread is done (should be fully risen and pulling away from the sides of the parchment).  If you want a loaf with a crisper exterior, you can pop it into the broiler or on the top shelf in the oven at 350 degrees till sufficiently browned/crisped.

I wedge two ceramic plates on either side of the dough to create a more oblong shaped loaf.

Easy California Rolls

Okay, I’m going to give you TWO huge cheats here on how to make rolls at home.  Yes, I’m a cheater.  I’ll gladly admit it because honestly, it’s tasty and it doesn’t look like my rolls exploded once completed.  And besides… is it REALLY cheating when it tastes better?  Don’t answer that.  So without further ado, here’s your two cheats on making rolls:

  • Cheat One: Purchase a the gadget to make perfect rolls.  There are several out there on the market and are usually under $10.  Kids can use it too!  Very easy and very handy to have.
  • Cheat Two: When you don’t have sticky rice, you can use regular rice mixed with cream cheese!  Yup.  That’s right.  I never seem to have sticky rice when I need it, never remember to pick it up from the store, and honestly, I love Jasmine rice far more.  So in order to make rice sticky, I just add some cream cheese to the rice while it’s still hot, stir thoroughly and let cool.  I use about 1 cup prepared rice with 1 8z. container of cream cheese but you can vary it according to your tastes.  Also, this is a great time to add some spice to your rice such as ginger (if you don’t have the fresh stuff)!

So that’s technically two and a half cheats!  Everything else is simple.  Pack the mold with rice then seaweed (or seaweed then rice depending on the type of rolls you are making), layer your favorite innards (fish, veggies, avocado, whatever), pack more rice/seaweed on top and pack with the roll mold.  Pop out the roll and cut it to desired lengths.  Now won’t that impress your friends?

This is Bre cracking up over the mess we were making with this!

And this is her threatening a food fight with the sticky rice. =)

Slow Cooker: Roasted Potatoes

Now that I’ve introduced you to baked potatoes in the slow cooker, here’s a recipe for slow roasted potatoes.  This is a great recipe to create in bulk and freeze in meal size proportions (freezing information is below the recipe).

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes (I create huge batches of 10 lbs. in my 6 quart slow cooker)
  • Neutral flavored oil (I use Safflower or grapeseed oil – olive oil is often too heavy)
  • Garlic powder
  • Seasoning Salt
  • Onion Powder
  • Options:
    • Minced garlic instead of garlic powder
    • Minced onion instead of onion powder
    • Rosemary
    • Dill

Directions:

  1. Peel and rinse your potatoes as normal, making sure to remove any new growth (eyes), soft spots or areas that look on the verge of spoiling.
  2. Quarter potatoes into large 1 inch chunks.
  3. Drop them in the slow cooker.
  4. Drizzle oil over potatoes while stirring to LIGHTLY coat them (keeps them from looking gray while cooking) and add any spices at this time.
  5. Set cooker on high and cover.
  6. Cooking time depends on how many potatoes you have in your cooker.  Generally, set your timer for two hours and stir the potatoes.  (If you are freezing any portions: You are looking for them to be just slightly undercooked to allow them to remain firm after thawing.  Freeze portions using a food saver or an air-tight container.)  If they aren’t ready, continue cooking on high and checking hourly (stirring each time so not to over cook the bottom ones while the top of the pile stays raw) until done.  10 lbs in my 6 quart cooker took about five hours in total.
  7. Potatoes are done when they are soft but not falling apart.
  8. Option:  You can add a bit of butter here if desired OR quickly fry them in a pan til the edges are crisp!
Freezing Information:
A great way to make meals easier during the week is to create portions of your meals ahead of time and store them in the freezer until you’re ready for them.   There are a few rules regarding freezing potatoes in general:
  • Don’t freeze whole potatoes.  They become solid bricks.
  • Always partially cook your potatoes before freezing.  Raw potatoes do not freeze well and become tasteless once thawed.
  • Using a food saver that removes any air and seals the packaging not only prolongs the amount of time you can freeze food but also helps them retain their flavor (not to mention keeps freezer burn away).
  • Package them in MEAL SIZE portions or individual portions.  Large batches thawed then refrozen leaves too much room for contamination and spoiling.
  • Potatoes that have been stored at room temperature for two weeks to a month are best for freezing (as they are thoroughly ripened and the most flavorful).
  • Thaw potatoes by microwaving or baking.  Boiling will turn them to mush.
  • If you plan on using your potatoes for fries and not mashed or chunks then simply make them into fries, allow to cool and seal.  The above method would make the potatoes too soft for creating fries.
  • If you wish to have potatoes ready for mashing in the freezer: Prepare the potatoes as normal by peelings, rinsing and cubing them.  Boil the potatoes till they are about two-thirds cooked (should still be quite firm when speared with a fork).  Drain and allow to cool.  Package potatoes in meal size portions and use a food saver to remove any air from the package and freeze.  You can also fully create the mashed potatoes as you would normally and freeze meal portions though remember, any frost on the potatoes may result it more watery potatoes.

Spinach & Ricotta Quiche with Seitan

I didn’t take pictures this time around (yes, I know, I’ve been so bad with that lately) but I have an excuse!  We had company last night and I get distracted whenever there is someone in our home.  Anyhow… I wasn’t entirely sure this would work as nicely because I was using Seitan instead of the traditional bacon or ham.  And… I kind of, sort of, didn’t measure everything because I was purposefully making a very large batch and sort of winging it.  So the below is guesstimates  Hey!  I said from the beginning that this blog was more so I could keep track of what I cooked than it was to help others cook.  You still love me, right?  RIGHT?!

Ingredients:

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 & 1/2 cups Bisquick mix
  • 16 oz. package of frozen spinach
  • 32 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb. mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 almond milk
  • sour cream
  • garlic powder
  • Beef Flavored Seitan – roughly the amount 2 cups of VWG can make

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, chop your spinach and cooked seitan into fine pieces then transfer it into a large bowl.
  2. Fully incorporate mozzarella, ricotta and Bisquick to the spinach/seitan.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and milk thoroughly.
  4. Add the egg & milk mixture to your large bowl and again, fully incorporate.
  5. Pour mixture into glass/ceramic casserole dish (this makes a large batch so you might need two) about an inch deep.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Cook casserole for 30-45 minutes or until mixture starts to pull away from sides and becomes quite firm.  Careful not to overcook this as it becomes dry quite easily!
  8. Allow to cool, cut into squares and serve with a dollop of sour cream sprinkled with garlic powder.

Vegan Ice Cream (aka: Single Ingredient Ice Cream)

Riding on the tailcoats of my mango sorbet, I stumbled across a recipe for single ingredient ice cream.  Yup, you read that right.  One ingredient can make ice cream.  I didn’t believe it either.  And when I read the recipe I thought there must be some sort of flaw to it because it seems too forehead-smacking simple.  But it is.  And it tastes amazing!  I have no pictures for this batch but rest assured, there are more experiments to come and I’ll take pictures as I go (mind you, my darling wife was so nice to suggest that I do an entire new batch just to take pictures… more like she’s hankering for some more and is using that as an excuse but she’s cute so I’m more than willing to accommodate her).  So let’s get to the basics and then delve into the possibilities!

Ingredients:

  • Bananas
  • Options: (see below)

Directions:

  1. Slice bananas into 1/2 pieces into a freezable bowl.
  2. Freeze bananas (takes about an hour or so depending on how many bananas you cut up).
  3. Once frozen, drop in a food processor and chop until creamy (takes a while and looks like gravel for a while before creaming).  Make sure to push down sides and cream it thoroughly.
  4. Add options if desired (though plain, it’s pretty good too!)

That’s it!  When you’re done, you have a very thick, very banana-y, very creamy substance that resembles ice cream and tastes… well… like bananas.  But don’t stop there!  Here’s some great options you might want to try WHILE THE FOOD PROCESSOR IS STILL ON:

  • Drizzle almond milk into the mix to make it a bit less dense and add a bit more ice cream-like taste (vanilla almond milk would be perfect here).
  • Add other fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries, etc.  The possibilities are endless!
  • Chocolate syrup, cocoa powder (sweetened), or even your favorite chocolate bars (Snickers, anyone?) would be an amazing addition.
  • Think banana split!
  • Non-vegan option: honey and almond milk in this would make for a pretty amazing and creamy taste.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot more options that you can choose from but the above is a good start.  If you use just the bananas, it becomes the consistency of pudding, if that’s too thick, add almond, soy or coconut milk slowly.  For the next batch, I’m going to try it without freezing the bananas first.  I’m sure creaming them will be the same so I’m curious if freezing before is a must or if you can cream then freeze.  Results (and pictures) will be posted.

And as always, please add your comments below if you try this and let me know what you added!