Thursday, January 26, 2012

Haggis: ach, aye laddie!

I am not Scottish, nor do I have any but extremely distant ancestors who were remotely Scottish.  However, I somehow felt obligated to buy a haggis for Robbie Burns day.  I've had haggis before - in Scotland, no less - as part of a "full Scottish breakfast" at a B&B.  I recalled liking it, but I couldn't exactly remember what it was like.

So, I picked up a haggis from the Oak Bay Butcher (and no, you don't get a discount for ordering with a Scottish accent and I don't think Mike really appreciated being called "laddie") and prepared it as wee Mike advised, by steaming it for about 45 minutes.  The sheep stomach part of it bailed out of the whole deal and I was left with a vaguely stomach-shaped ball of meaty goo that smelled like someone's moldy old sofa.

Despite the unappetizing appearance, I'd already prepared the neeps & tatties so onto the plate it all went.  And you know what? It was delicious.  The texture was reminiscent of cotechino - that faintly gluey texture that's oddly satisfying.  I could totally see how if you were out on the moors all day, chasing sheep around in the rain, and you came home to a steaming plate of haggis, you would think it was the best stuff in the world (and not just for the revenge-on-the-sheep facet of it, either.) 

My tummy wasn't too happy with me afterwards - the significant oatmeal component of the haggis not being very Sarah-friendly - but haggis is a once-a-year food and dammit, I'm going to enjoy it.  I'm gonna slice me some leftover bits on Saturday and have a full Scottish breakfast, aye.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Goals, plus fun fridge finds

This week has been really busy, so this post won't be as in-depth as maybe it should be.

I'm leaning more towards basic Paleo eating rather than consciously low-rewarding it at the moment, because as the new year approached and I started thinking "what do I want to improve in my life" I realized I wanted to feel more competent and confident in my physical capabilities.  And while I've lifted weights for years and have more strength than many women, even some larger than me, I'm still not that physically capable, objectively speaking.  Let's face it - I'm barely five feet tall. While *I* might think a 140 lb deadlift is pretty freakin' awesome, realistically, that's not going to help much in, say, an emergency situation where human bodies need to be moved or something.  Or if I finally get my shit together and get my FAC and my hunting license and go get some large deer or (preferably) elk or bear.  Also, while my ability to run is nowhere near as absent as I was led to believe as a child (I now think that my sucky running skills when I was 10 were more due to crappy footwear than ability), I still have a hard time running a 5K in less than about 35-40 minutes.  My completely arbitrary feeling on this is that most people between the ages of 12 and 50 ought to be able to run 10 kilometers more or less comfortably (ie, not be dying at the end) and in about an hour. 

So my goals, therefore, are to be able to lift something useful (I'm picking Stirling here, because it's not a stretch to envision a "worst-case" scenario in which during an earthquake, he gets clobbered by flying debris in the kitchen and loses consciousness) and carry it up to the third floor of our house.  Stirling currently weighs somewhere in the neighbourhood of 180 lbs, I think.  I also want to be able to run 10K in less than an hour, without incurring any of the usual runner's ailments while training, such as shin splints, wonky knees, foot problems, etc. - which means lots of long, slow slow jogs, and sprints, rather than just bashing 10K over the head until it submits. Because I'm pretty sure I'd submit first.

Given all that - and I've already ramped up the strength training to a heavier-load, lower-reps, more sets kinda deal - dropping my food intake a lot seems a bit stupid.  Realistically, my weight is not currently problematic, health-wise.  Weight is now a cosmetic issue, and while I don't think that's unimportant, I'm making a conscious choice to focus on ability rather than appearance.

(For the record, for people interested in that sort of thing, I weigh about 135 lbs.  Actually, probably a bit more right now, but I haven't been able to locate the scale since I rearranged stuff in the room in which it was located so that'll have to do for now.  My BMI is in that range that people quote as being "overweight" but which actual statistics show results in longer lifespan and fewer health problems - for women. I look a bit chunky, but healthy.  I'm ok with that, although the fashion-conscious side of me would like me to be able to wear a wider range of clothing styles.)

I've still been eating my stew-o-blandness, although now that the batch I made is finished, I think I'll go back to eating with the family for dinners for a bit because I have more (paid) work than usual at the moment and it's just easier.  The fish-and-greens salads are actually really nice for lunch, but as I generally need to eat early and have not been so diligent about actually eating breakfast, I have needed afternoon snacks, and these have been mostly liverwurst on veggies.  There is a great charcuterie in town that makes lovely liverwurst and I want him to keep on making lovely liverwurst so I feel obligated to buy it.  You should too, it's delightful.  And it's liver!

I also found - as the title of this post indicates - treats in the back of my fridge.  Fermented green beans!  No, fermented in a GOOD way.  You know, lactofermented, like kosher pickles.  I have been cutting them up and putting them in my salads, and they're just like capers only they taste good and go really well with sardines.  I will be sad when they are gone.  Experience has shown me that fermented vegetables only work really, really well when the veggies are super-fresh - and the green beans available "fresh" now are just not.  I could do some carrots, I suppose - I just picked up a few bunches from Madrona and they are very crisp, sweet and yummy.   Anyway the date on these pickled beans (aren't I smart, labeling things? I wish I did that more) is from mid-July.  Gotta love lactofermentation!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The New Challenge

Ok, holidays are over, houseguests are gone, and there are no disruptions in the foreseeable future.  It's time to get back to normal.  Ah, normal, I missed you so much...

I'm sure everyone is curious how my vacation from my food vacation went.  Well, it was pretty crap-tastic, in all senses of the word.  I was fine for two or three weeks, enjoying grilled meat and a wee bit of sweet stuff, and lifting better at the gym again, and then I got sick.  One of the nastiest colds ever.  And of course since it was Christmas and I had piles of stuff to do, I couldn't afford my usual cold "cure" which consists of pho, hot baths, lying around the house doing nothing for 2 days, and sleep.  Oh no, I was making presents, running errands, getting stuff together, working (for the client who gave me the virus in the first place, so I didn't even have an excuse to get out of that) decorating the house, baking, etc.  So of course my cold lasted longer than it should have, and somehow involved so much snot that I felt nauseous all the time because of it running down into my stomach.  The only way I could feel halfway decent was to eat rather a lot of starch.  Which somehow turned into bread.  And then I felt gross in a different, more bloaty way.  Anyway, I'm better now, and eating better, and this week I've been back at the gym and have a new workout routine that I am thoroughly amused by.  Of course I have some bloat, and some actual flab, to lose.  But what fun is the new year without a bit of extra challenge?

I'm definitely going back to a low-food-reward diet, but with a few modifications.  The first is more vegetables - after watching this video I'm very inspired and could definitely have more veg in my life.  I'm not as big as that woman so I'm thinking 9 cups a day is excessive for me.  I think any more than 6 cups a day would jeopardize my overall caloric intake, so I figure that's a good amount to shoot for.  Say one cup in the morning, either in vegetable omelette form or in a smoothie, 2-3 cups in a salad at lunch (simple olive oil & lemon juice or apple cider vinegar dressing), a cup raw for snacks in the afternoon and 2 cups with dinner, either gently sauteed, steamed, or in stew.  I like the amount of offal I was eating before so I'm going to keep up with that, but I think I need some extra omega-3's so I'm going to up the seafood by shifting my basic lunch from stew to salad topped with canned fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines).  The trick is finding those without soy oil!  So that's going to be my basic diet - omelette, smoothie, salad, raw veggie sticks, stew.

Not so hard, right? But wait! Because extra-extra challenge is even MORE fun, we have the husband (let's call him Stirling) wanting to get HIS diet better too, but he doesn't want to make his food less tasty.  For the record, he wants to be basically lower-carb Primal.  So that's fine, but we also have a child (let's call her Rowan) who has an entirely different set of dietary needs - she's six, and while I have no concerns about her health or her food intake at the moment, if she started eating less, we could start to see some growth problems.  She has approximately 0% body fat, muscle tone that most people would kill for, and burns a lot of energy doing things like this.  So she needs food that's nourishing, healthy, AND super-tasty, so she'll actually eat it.  I'm also trying to cut back her wheat intake, just on the grounds that I don't think it's the best way to grow little bodies, given the gut-health issues associated with it.  I don't, however, want to reduce her overall carbohydrate or starch intake, since those are excellent delivery vehicles for the fat and protein she needs and provide her with a lot of readily accessible energy for her bouncings.

My challenge, therefore, is to devise weekly meal plans that deliver what each person wants and needs, without me spending hours in the kitchen each day. (To be clear, if we won the lottery, I would spend hours in the kitchen by choice and hire someone else to do laundry, cleaning, driving, errands and so on - but the reality is, I have other things I need to do besides cook.)  I'm not exactly sure how possible this is.

For this week, my plan is to prep (today, after I get finished procrastinating by blogging) a bunch of veggies.  I'm going to pre-cook what I think I'll need for 3-4 breakfasts for me and Stirling (he can have veggie omelettes too, they're nice and Primal) so I can just scoop them out of a container in the fridge onto a partially cooked omelette and stuff it under the broiler.  I'll have one container of seasoned veg and one of plain.  I'll cut up all the raw-snacky vegetables for snacks for all of us, and have dips for Rowan and Stirling.  I'll probably also cut up a mixture of veg for preparing in a variety of ways (steaming, roasting, in soup or stew) to use throughout the week, since veggie-chopping is what takes most of the time in meal prep.

I also need to make some jerky for Stirling and Rowan.  I'm going to make myself a nice big tub of Stew-o-Blandness and figure out ways to make dinners in which I can partake so the Stew-o-Blandness goes further.  This week is all about the experiments, so I'll post back with what works and what doesn't.  Even if you don't have divergent dietary needs going on in your house, I might find stuff that makes healthy meals a bit more streamlined generally.

Gotta go chop now, but coming up is a post on my actual goals for the new year.  Unsurprisingly, they involve some physical activity.