One-pot Sausage, Veg, & Rice Skillet [Yes, I eat meat.]

Happy Monday everyone :) 

Even though my life is a kinda sorta spiraling vortex of class/work/class/lab, I wanted to stop by today to say HI, take a little bitty break from my Diet Discourse series, and let you in on a quick recipe for great dinners and lunches and it involves, wait for it, meat. Yup, meat. 

Now, if I had a nickel for how many times people have expressed surprise over me eating meat I'd have a good chunk of my student loans paid off :) While I think it is awesomely amazing that our culture is beginning to emphasize the importance of non-animal foods (lame phrase I just came up with), I am a firm believer that meat can have a place in a healthy diet. Now, before I turn an army of vegetarian-vegans against me (love you all!), I just want to set a few things straight:

1. I do not eat a meat-based diet. Some weeks I don't eat hardly any meat, other weeks I'll have something with meat in it. I go with the flow people. This Wisconsin girl has cravings that cannot be denied! [I like to think of it as my own loose interpretation of Mark Bittman's VB6 diet]

2. I believe in getting the best-quality (organic, pasture-raised) meat you can and using it to flavor dishes, not so much to be the superstar in them. Want to know how this works? Let me explain via my great recipe below :)

3. I dabbled in vegetarianism, even veganism, but honestly, my body feels best when I do not put restrictions on it. If I'm craving a brat, I eat one. If I want cheesecake, I'll have a slice. This does not mean that I will eat these things all-day every day, but goodness people stop denying yourself of some of life's pleasures!

Alright, now for the recipe!

One-pot Sausage, Veg, & Rice Skillet (serves 1)

Ingredients

  • 1 sausage (eater's choice! I love brats, italian sausage, chicken sausage, anything really!)
  • 1 cup chopped kale 
  • 1/2-1 cup chopped red bell pepper*
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tsp-1 tbsp tomato paste (optional
  • Shredded parmesan cheese (optional but not really)

Method

  • Squeeze the sausage out of the casing and into a medium-sized saucepan. Turn up the heat to medium-high and start cooking, chopping the sausage into chunks with a spatula and stirring often to ensure even browning. 
  • Once the meat is cooked, toss in all the veg and turn down the heat to medium, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking for 5-10 minutes, or however long it takes until the kale wilts and the bell peppers soften. 
  • Toss in the cup of brown rice and tomato paste, if using, and stir. Cook for a minute or two to heat the rice up.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until melty.
  • Serve!

*Feel free to use whatever veg you want! I happened to add a little summer squash to mine and it was fantastic! Mushrooms, spinach, onions, zucchini would all be great substitutions/additions!

Step-by-Step Photos

Assemble the team! (Note that you will not use a whole zucchini or bell pepper for this recipe. )

Assemble the team! (Note that you will not use a whole zucchini or bell pepper for this recipe. )

Squeeze out the meat from the casing and start cookin' over medium-high heat!

Squeeze out the meat from the casing and start cookin' over medium-high heat!

Once the sausage is cooked, toss in the veg and turn the heat down to medium. Stir occasionally and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the kale is wilted and peppers soften. 

Once the sausage is cooked, toss in the veg and turn the heat down to medium. Stir occasionally and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the kale is wilted and peppers soften. 

Throw in your brown rice and tomato paste and continue cooking for another couple minutes, until the rice is heated through.

Throw in your brown rice and tomato paste and continue cooking for another couple minutes, until the rice is heated through.

Toss in the cheese, stir, and serve!

Toss in the cheese, stir, and serve!

Have a great day everyone! 

 

Diet Discourse: The Low-Carb Diet [Part 2]

Wow, I cannot believe how fast this week went by and now another Monday is upon us! Which can only mean that it's time for another edition of Diet Discourse! Are you excited? No? Okay, well maybe you should read this first and then come back here, reassess your level of excitement and anticipation, and then proceed...

Alright, (now that everyone's up to speed) so I made myself a guinea pig and put myself on a low-carb diet for experimental purposes to see what the big fuss was all about. Big whoop. And what do I conclude? Well let's slow it down for just two seconds and chat about what I did, how I did it, and the pros and cons of my experience. 

[Note: Everyone's experience regarding diets will be different so please do not take my word as fact. This, and really this whole blog-thingy, is a representation of my opinion. Go your own way people- like Forrest!

What I Did

Simple version: I ate a generally low-carb diet.

But what does that even mean and how does it translate to the plate and eventually to our bellies? Well, after much internal hemming and hawwing, day one I decided to count exactly how many carbs I would be eating that day and I clocked out at around 150 grams. (I googled some numbers for what can be considered "low-carb" and that was within the range I saw most often) While originally I did not feel like this was a necessary or compelling first step, I realized quickly that most of these diets are hinged on numbers. So I crunched them. Bam.

Things that were higher in carbs that I cut down on in my diet were ingredients such as bread and fruit whereas lower carb items such as eggs, nut butters/oils, and veggies I amped up. Note that, because I do not really consume any refined/processed carbohydrates to begin with, these were the ingredients I cut down on. Obviously it would be a different process for another individual but you gotta start somewhere!

How I Did It

25 house points to whoever gets this reference!!! (Source: http://www.hauntiholik.com/Laboratory/Lab0.jpg)

25 house points to whoever gets this reference!!! (Source: http://www.hauntiholik.com/Laboratory/Lab0.jpg)

To me, this was (in theory) the easy part. I simply replaced every slab of bread with some carrots and peanut butter or a dollop of greek yogurt or a hard boiled egg. Why did I sacrifice my (more than daily) daily bread? Well, while baking your own bread and all is a fine hobby, it leaves one with a, how to put it, constant craving. Try having the yeasty scent of rising dough greet you when you get home from a long day of chemical equations and carbon reactions and not give in to just a slice. (or five) Not happening.

Prior to this week, bread was what I grabbed for a snack or paired with any meal. And, the sad thing is, bread (even the whole wheat kind we make) is really easy to overdo. I mean, just thinking about a slice slathered with drippy peanut butter is making my mouth water as I write. So I just said no for a week. And that was that. Well...sorta. Let's just talk about some pros before we address that though, kay?

Pros

  1. My bread cravings that I thought for sure would haunt me vanished. -After I stopped relying on bread to get me through the day, my cravings for more of the doughy stuff just dropped off like that. This is probably due to #2.
  2. I depended on a more diverse diet to get me through the day -Prior to this week, my consumption of good quality proteins was lackluster at best so boosting my intake via eggs, yogurt, peanut butter really helped me stay full for longer than normal. In addition to this, I also added more vegetable-based snacks and dishes to my diet that paired them with healthy fats. Again, this kept the tummy happy and my infamous hangry-ness at bay.
  3. Did I mention I wasn't really ever hangry? This was a BIG DEAL that I did not realize until late in the game. I guess the concentrated amount of carbohydrates I was eating before this week was really doing a number on my blood sugar. Good to know!

Cons

  1. Counting carbohydrates is not a sustainable (or fun) practice - In fact, it pretty much sucks the fun out of everything so, once I got a roundabout idea of how many carbs I would be eating in a day, I did not count anymore. And frankly, it was too much to think about and it took me back to those dark calorie-counting days of my past. I'll pass on that thankyouverymuch!
  2. Saying certain veggies and fruits are off-limits? For real? How about not. Now, this is just my opinion here, but I am a staunch believer in eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. So calling some off limits is a tad ridiculous to me. I aim to eat a wide variety of foods every day and I think that if you focus on eating in balance you will be just fine. So go ahead and roast up that acorn squash for lunch even if it has 45 grams of carbohydrates in it. Do it! 
  3. The social ramifications are a bit of a drag. Like srsly. And that's why, when Dane's parents came down for the day yesterday and we went to this incredibly cutsie cafe, I got baked eggs with pumpernickel toast. Yup. It happened. And you know why? Life is short.
Cutsie right???

Cutsie right???

What am I taking away from this experience? Well, here's my thinking:

I'm thinking that I'm probably going to stop eating so much bread because there's so many more delicious foods in the world! (Although I'm still thinking about that drippy peanut butter and toast...)

I'm thinking that I'm not really going to count carbs/fat/sugars or anything because it's not fun and I don't really want to be that person. You know?

I'm thinking that if there is good bread to be had, I'm gonna have a slice. (I'm looking at you pumpkin bread!)

I'm thinking I'm going to focus on eating more protein because it stops me from transforming into the hangry-monster.

Oh! And you know what I'm really thinking???

That I am so incredibly stoked to have Gilmore Girls on Netflix!!!! October 1st cannot come soon enough :D

Have an amazing Monday!!!!

 

 

 

WIAW: The Guinea Pig Edition

It's Wednesday friends! Which can only mean it's time for another edition of WIAW!!!

If you tuned into my post on Monday, you'll know that this week I embarked on an experimental feat into the world of low-carb dieting. (Check out the original post for more information!) Three days in, I can tell you all straight out that it has not been as difficult as I thought. Yes, this is probably due to the fact that I really do not eat many processed foods, BUT STILL, dealing with a life of little grains, fruit, and legumes is a HUGE adjustment for me. And, believe me, I'll have plenty to say on the matter come next Monday!

But, in the true spirit of WIAW, let us not discuss the (depressing) list of things I cannot eat. Instead, let's talk about what has been in my bellay ! 

[Just one thing. Let's get this straight right here. This is a low-carb diet, not a no-carb diet and I absolutely refuse to sacrifice my morning routine of oatmeal. I'll cede my daily bread but you just cannot touch my oats, kay? Great. Glad we got that out there. :) ]

Breakfasts have been in two parts: First part oats, second part green smoothie. Usually, I'll have the oats (with sunbutter and a little pear of course) as soon as I wake up and then save my smoothie for a post-walk/jog treat. As far as the diet is concerned, this meal is the most concentrated source of carbs throughout my day. And, if you think about it, that makes sense. You go all night without food/glucose and then you definitely need some carbs to kickstart you brain/day/muscles. Goodness knows I get the shakes just thinking about a morning without carbohydrates (I'm sort of attached to my oats, if you haven't noticed...).  I mean, why else would I wake up??? (JK!!!)

It's kind of ridiculous how hungry I am in the mornings. Seriously. I mean I just finish eating a not-so-small-breakfast full of all the things you need (fat, protein, carbs, love) and then two hours later my tummy is rumbly! I guess I can just chalk that up to having a well-functioning metabolism but somedays it can get kind of annoying. Like a whiny kid nagging you to go to the park and it's raining outside. [I will say that eating more protein + fat recently has made me more full for longer...BUT I'm not going to spoil next Monday's post!!] And frankly it blows my mind that other people can just have a little yogurt and be set until lunch?!? How does that even work?

Anyway, AM snack on this low-carb diet thing has been some greek yogurt, a half a banana, and a tablespoon of Trader Joe's PB + flax/chia - solid combo.

For lunches this week I decided to pair a big bowl of spaghetti squash and homemade tomato sauce with, you guessed it, another smoothie! You could say I'm an addict.  

Dinner is of course where things get tricky! As the rest of the nation heads home to a relaxing evening and home-cooked meal, a regular Norman Rockwell picture, I trudge (okay, truthfully I actually look forward to these things, so trudge doesn't exactly work) downtown into class or work. So my "dinner" usually breaks down into small snacks and then something a little substantial after I put in my time. And to what do I owe my sanity and satiety in this portion of my daily life on this low-carb experiment? Why, this little dude:

Gotta love my eggs! Hard boiled eggs are an under-appreciated great portable snack and all that "perfect protein" business really helps fuel me during these long, mind-numbing days in class. And, paired with a packet of Trader Joe's Omega Trek Mix? I'm an unstoppable learning machine. 

So what do I do when I finally get home, mushy brain and all? Well, I have a small bowl of oats and some ground flaxseed and a spoonful of sunbutter. Can you think of a more soothing way to end a day? I think not. 

Now, for those who are curious, I have been (begrudgingly) counting and calculating out my carbohydrates throughout the day. And, while that was not part of my original plan because I do not feel it is a sustainable (or fun!) practice, I think it's the only fair way I can conduct this experiment of mine. But more talk on that next Monday! 

Have a great Wednesday! & What are some of your favorite, filling portable snacks?

Diet Discourse - The Low-Carb Diet [Part 1]

Happy Monday all! As promised in last week's premiere edition of my series "Diet Discourse," this week I will once again delve into the nooks and crannies of another popular diet and weigh the validity of its claims...with a twist. So, grab your mug of coffee, bunny slippers, and snuggie as we discuss the Low-Carb Diet. 

Today, let's talk about carbs, or, as everyone who truly appreciates their scientific background calls them, carbohydrates. Now before I get to the heroes and villains of this diet trend, let's take a step back: WTF are carbohydrates???

[I'm going to put on my pseudo-scientist cap right now so bear with me, I'll try to keep this ever so short, sweet, and to the point. ]

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient (i.e. something that's pretty much essential to maintaining life) found in practically everything we eat (most concentrated in fruits, grains, refined foods, and some veg) and used to fuel all of our muscles as well as our brain. That's well and good, you say, but what does that have to do with the diet itself? Sit tight, I say, because it's essential that we humanize these carbohydrates a bit before we get to the diet. 

Alright, so let's say you just hypothetically ate a straight-up plain piece of bread (or gluten-free bread if you must). Here's what would be going down in your body:

As soon as you swallow the last crumb, your body has already began the process of breaking down the bread into it's simple sugar components; namely galactose, fructose, and glucose. Once absorbed into the small intestine, these molecules are transported to the liver and, through some body chemistry magic I haven't learned yet, the liver waves his magic wand and turns all of them into glucose and lets them loose into the bloodstream.

Now for some role play! Alright, so glucose, the stuff swirling through your bloodstream, is basically your body's currency for energy. Your muscles are those shady (at least here in Chicago!) looking currency exchange places. And your brain is a high-end retail shop on Michigan Avenue. (Just roll with my Chicago references here!) While your muscles love glucose, they can also utilize other forms of currency such as protein and fat in a pinch. However, your brain, the high-end retail shop, absolutely demands glucose. It will not take anything else. Period. 

Which brings me to my first major point about carbohydrates: they are absolutely essential for life. We are discussing a low-carb diet, not a no-carb diet.

But wait a minute, you say, what's all this talk I hear about "good carbs" and "bad carbs?" 

Glad you asked! Approach the board please:

Alright, without getting too technical here, the big difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is how quickly they are absorbed into our muscles and brain. Think of carbohydrates as mini puzzles. In order for your muscles/brain to absorb the carbohydrate, it has to solve the puzzle. So, naturally, simple carbohydrates are more rapidly absorbed than their complex counterparts. And what happens when glucose is rapidly absorbed? 

Need I say more?

And not only do complex carbohydrates take longer to be absorbed, they also often have this nifty thing called fiber attached to them, which makes your energy levels increase and fall at a steady rate (unlike my friend above).  That's why complex carbohydrates are a key part of a well-balanced diet. 

But what happens when we crafty humans develop convenience foods that surround us with a plethora of simple carbohydrates, which very quickly overload our system, and get stored as fat? (Didn't cover this above, but any excess glucose that the body doesn't need becomes glycogen in our liver and after that is stored as fat- more on that here)

Here's where the Low-Carb Diet comes in. While there are many branches of this diet to consider individually, each with it's own personal flair, I just wanted to review the general premise of adopting a low-carbohydrate diet. 

And how should I do that, when the research is all over the place and there's this article and this doctor and this TV personality suggesting A, B, and C?

Well, I take a deep breath, don my scientific cap (getting a lot of use these days) and decide to make myself an experiment on...me! 

In the name of science, this blog, and my own frank curiosity, over the next week I will be eating less carbohydrates (because this is a low-carb diet not a no-carb diet) than normal.  For me, this translates into: significantly less bread. Truthfully, I do rarely consume simple carbohydrates, but I'm nonetheless interested in how replacing some of my grain intake with other foods affects me!

I'll be keeping a detailed journal about what I'm eating to fill the void as well as my perceived energy levels and performance during exercise AND I will report back next Monday along with some real research-based conclusions on the Low-Carb Diet. Phew! While this will be challenging, I'm kind of excited to be a guinea pig :)

See you on all on WIAW!

What is the one food you could never give up?