Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bulk Cooking

Next week, classes begin and we all have to hit the ground running for a new semester. For me, in times of stress, my good eating habits can often fly out the window in favor of convenience. I really don't want that to happen, for several reasons:

1) My health - While I may love Taco Bell and french fries, they are not the healthiest choices. My normal diet consists mostly of lean meats, whole natural foods like beans and grains, and lots of fruits and veggies. I think this contributes significantly to my overall good health.
2) My weight - I've been a Weight Watcher for a while now. I hit my goal weight about 6 months after goal, and maintained my weight for several years, though I did gain a bit while marathon training. When I moved to Texas 2 years ago, to start a new job, I gained again, and have just finally gotten back on track and am down to about 5 pounds above my goal weight. I refuse to let stress de-rail me this time!
3) My budget - Convenience food is expensive! While a $2 meal at Taco Bell may sound cheap, I can actually prepare a nice home-cooked meal for less than that per person!

So this evening, once Pooh and P-Daddy hit the sack, I'm going to work on some food prep. I'm setting a goal for one hour, and I'm going to try to do the following:
1) cut and boil potatoes for french fries
2) cook a couple cups of brown rice
3) cook a pound of angel hair pasta
4) chop and cook peppers and onions
5) clean out the fridge

Hopefully, this will put me in a good spot in terms of getting the week going with nutritious home-cooked foods that are easy to grab and go!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Los viernes de español

Otro blog que me gusta leer es Latinaish, que se trata de una mujer estado-unidense, casada con un Salvadoreño. Los viernes, ella siempre escribe sus posts en español - Que buen idea! Comenzamos...

Mi esposo y yo, con nuestro hijo de 2 años, planeamos mudarnos a El Salvador en algunos años. Estamos ahora preparandonos. Aprendimos nuevas recetas para preparar comidas simples, tratamos de sembrar frutas y verduras, investigamos modos de ganar dinero aqui y alla, y claro, practicamos el español. Esta mañana, Pooh (mi hijo), pidió ver "Diego" por la tele. Fue bien chulo escucharle repetir las palabras en español! Estoy segura que Pooh puede aprender el español sin problema si enfoquarnos en proveer oportunidades para que él se pueda escuchar el idioma. El problema mas grande es encontrar un modo de ayudar a P-Daddy también!

English Translation:
Another blog that I like is Latinaish, written by a woman from the US whose husband is from El Salvador. On Fridays, she always writes her posts in Spanish, which I think is a great idea! Let's begin...

My husband and I, along with our 2-year-old, plan to move to El Salvador in a few years. Right now we are preparing ourselves in various ways. We are learning new recipes for simple foods, we are trying to grow some fruits and veggies, we are looking into different ways to make money, and of course, we are practicing Spanish. This morning, Pooh (my son) asked to watch Diego on TV. It was so cute listening to him repeat the Spanish words! I have full confidence that he'll pick up Spanish with few problems if we really focus on providing him with Spanish input. Now if only we could find a way to help P-Daddy along as well!

A Fleeting Moment

Rhonda over at Down to Earth hosts a Friday feature she calls "On my mind". I love the idea, so I'll probably be linking up there a lot on Fridays.

Today, my boys are on my mind:

P-Daddy is a wonderful father, and Pooh just adores him. I love to see them together, and this moment in the hammock was fleeting. Because the next day, the squirrels had chewed through the rope, making the hammock impossible to hang. I may fix it one day, but for now, I'll bask in the joy of motherhood, wifehood, and just being part of a family that I adore.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I mentioned in an earlier post that P-Daddy and I have been experimenting with making healthy alternatives to typical convenience foods. We try to use up the foods we have, and often have to come up with creative ways to use up fresh produce. This is especially true with potatoes. I'm a carboholic, as is Pooh, but P-Daddy really doesn't eat a lot of potatoes. Since we get at least one kind, and sometimes several kinds, in our produce co-op every 2 weeks, we virtually never run out of them. These homemade french fries are just one way we've found to make them last, and to use them when it's most convenient for us. Today, we'll talk about another way: Sweet Potato Pancakes!

We've been making pancakes in bulk and freezing them for a while now. Here's our basic recipe, but any that you typically use will work (we've even used boxed mixes with good results):

Basic Pancakes:
2 cups flour (we often do 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP sugar
2 cups milk (or water)
2 eggs
2 TBSP butter/oil

Mix wet ingredients first, then add dry. Pour by 1/8 cup measure onto a hot griddle, turning when bubbly.

Last time we made pancakes, though, we decided to use up some of the potatoes we had. We started by slicing up several sweet potatoes and putting them on to boil:

Once they were soft, P-Daddy used an immersion blender to mush them up a bit, then assembled the ingredients for basic pancakes.

He just added the mashed up sweet potatoes to the wet ingredients and made pancakes as normal. Typically, as the pancakes come off the griddle, we layer them on a cookie sheet, as you can see in the pic at the top of this post. Then we freeze them for a couple hours, remove, and stack the pancakes into a bread bag. That way, we have frozen pancakes ready to grab from the freezer and pop into the toaster on rushed (or lazy!) mornings:

This works really well for us, because Pooh's favorite breakfast is "pancake faces" - basically, it's toasted pancakes, spread with peanut butter and a tiny bit of honey, with cut up fruit strategically arranged into a face. He'll often eat all the fruit first and ask for another face before he eats the pancake, and we tend to oblige, since we love that he loves fruit so much!

And a final note: Life as Mom hosts the Ultimate Recipe Swap on Thursdays, and there are tons of recipes over there for using up fresh produce - it's gonna take me a really long time to try them all out! But rest assured, when I do, you'll hear about it right here!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Life on the water

That was part of dinner for P-Daddy and me recently when we headed out for sushi. We both love sushi, but it's not the norm for us anymore. When we were in San Diego, we ate it a LOT, probably way more than we should've. Actually, we ate seafood a lot in general. There's something about living so close to a huge body of water that makes me feel like seafood will be good to eat. Fresh. Tasty. Not having sat in someone's freezer for months. I am fully aware that there are such things as planes, and they fly fast, and that the fish that we can get at some places here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex is as fresh as what we got in San Diego, but I have a mental block about it. Here in Dallas, I'd have to drive a heck of a long way to see a coastline. The thought of my "fresh" fish traveling that far just isn't too appealing.

Growing up here in DFW, we didn't eat a whole lot of fish, and I first learned to love it when I lived in Guatemala. We'd head to the beach regularly, all year round. Our favorite place was about 4 hours from where I lived, so we'd go early and spend the day lazing in the sand, people-watching, strolling on the beach, maybe swimming, and plying ourselves with cold beer (Gallo, how I miss you!) and fresh seafood. And when I say fresh, I do mean fresh - as in, caught fresh that morning by the comedor owner's husband or one of his friends. It was incredibly good!

Living in San Diego fed my seafood addiction further, especially with the addition of sushi to my list of well-loved foods. But we've now been back in DFW for about 2 years, and I miss having a steady diet of fresh seafood. I know it's possible, it's just my own personal opinion that things that live in the ocean taste better when you are close to an ocean.

Yesterday I was lazily looking through my pics when I happened to see this one of our go-to map:

Now, take a look again - do you see that coastline? I cannot wait to explore its entire length, and when I do, I'll make sure to let you know the best possible places to get fresh fish. And cold beer. Yum!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

a little about us

So, while I've been blogging here for a few weeks, I realized that I haven't really taken the time to talk about who we are. So I thought I'd tell you today a little about us. I'm Cindy and my husband is Patrick, though I generally refer to him as P-Daddy.

When we met, P-Daddy and I were both living in San Diego, CA. I was finishing my grad work, P-daddy had moved from New York to escape the rat race, and we lived just a few blocks from one another. Despite our physical proximity, we met in cyberspace. And not long thereafter, at Starbucks.

This is us, a month or so after we met:

We moved to Texas for my job within a year, and shortly thereafter, began training to become licensed foster parents. That was due to meeting and falling in love with this little guy:

The day we got our foster license in the mail, Alex came to live with us, and May 13, 2011, was our official Adoption Day. This is that day, a few hours after all the paperwork was signed:

So there you have it, if nothing else, at least some faces to put with our names.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Workin' on Workin' Out

This morning a question hit me as I wiped the dripping sweat from my eyes as I tackled the elliptical...okay, I admit it, it was tears since I had almost finished reading The Help and brought it to the gym with me to finish while I worked out - what a great book! Regardless of the state of my workout, I questioned what the state of gyms in El Salvador is like. In Guatemala, I found this tiny place called El Shaddai that was around the corner from my house - lots of muscly sweaty men lifting weights (when they weren't ogling the gringas), with not a single cardio machine, and an aerobics instructor who wore Jane Fonda-esque leotards and led us in lots of jumping and bouncing routines despite the fact that exercise science had already progressed well beyond attributing significant benefit to those particular moves. I loved it! And I recommended it to others at the school that I taught at, and soon there was a significant contingent of Americans descending on the gym several afternoons a week. These days, the gym monopoly for Americans there in town appears to be held by a gentleman who has multiple business interests who really likes dealing with Americans. Plus he installed cardio machines. And there was convenient parking. And the aerobics instructor is better (though every machine and weight stack in the place face the aerobics floor, so that the class feels a little like a floor show). 24-Hour Fitness it is not, but definitely a step up from what we were used to!

A quick google search nets only a few results for gyms in El Salvador (notably this one, which has prices well beyond what we pay for our completely equipped and open 24 hour gyms here at home, and a World Gym, which lists an address but gives no further details of what's available. There also appear to be several Curves locations, but that will do P-Daddy no good at all! And there's a dog gym, but again, that's limiting the usefulness of the gym to less than our entire household. Of course the big hotels all list gyms as amenities, but it seems unlikely they'd let me work out there if I'm not a guest.

However, I am not deterred, since it's becoming clear that businesses in El Salvador are not as cyber-savvy as those in the US. There must be more! It's going at the top of my list of things to look for when we visit next: where are the gyms, what do they offer, and how much do they cost? If you have any of these answers, feel free to comment. If not, I'll report back once I know!

Or maybe we'll just open our own...