Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eating real on the road

We are leaving Friday for a camping trip, a few days in the metropolises of Springfield, IL and St. Louis, MO, then on to Lake of the Ozarks. We’ll be car camping: a tent, no electricity. We plan to hike, bike, kayak, raft, and tour caves and dams. Packing has been a bit challenging, due to all the variation. Eating will be as well. There are definitely some cool places to eat in Springfield and St. Louis. But I worry that the area around Lake of the Ozarks will be all fast food, cafeterias and diners. My goal is to eat out as little as possible. We should be able to have a good split by eating out in the cities (Springfield, St. Louis) and camping in Lake of the Ozarks.

Breakfast: Yogurt, oatmeal, bananas, green tea. I never eat hotel breakfasts. The oatmeal is fiberless, the eggs are hard as rocks, and the yogurt has chemicals in it. The worst is those waffles, what’s in that stuff? No, even worse, the breakfast sandwiches with 25 unpronounceable ingredients! If we get the opportunity we’ll buy other fruit on the road.

Lunch: I’ll bring along bread, pb&j, carrots and hummus in a small cooler to keep in the car for our day trips. I’ll also bring granola bars, trail mix, and some snacks: whatever’s lingering in the fridge & pantry. This should give us some flexibility to look for food, but have an option if we can’t find any.

Dinners: in the city, we’ll try some restaurants. Once we get to the campsite we’ll cook out. I’ve kept it as simple as possible, raiding our pantry for dry goods and canned goodies. Trader Joe’s makes meals that you boil in the bag, so we’re making jambalaya and Indian food that way. I’m leaving “veg” open, since the CSA box hasn’t arrived yet. And I made a batch of biscuit mix and tried bannock on the stove last night, it makes some nice heavy flat bread. I’ll mix in some garlic for the Indian food, it will be like bannock+naan=bannaan?

Menu (dinners):

Friday: road food. Have good options in Bloomington & Springfield…all three acceptable fast food joints have locations in each town.

Saturday: Plan to eat at Café Brio in Springfield. Look for my review on Yelp shortly after I get back!

Sunday: Out in St. Louis. My friend used to live there and recommends the Hill

Monday: Spaghetti: ground turkey, can sp sauce, finely chopped baby carrots, veg, pasta

Tuesday: Braised chix saug, jambalaya, greens

Wednesday: Smoked salmon, baked beans, pineapple, sautéed zukes or other veg

Thursday: Indian food and rice, veg, bannock (bannaan?). sorry, I’m an Indian food newbie…it’s the spinach and cheese, Palak Paneer, and then Kadhi Pakodi, dumplings in a yogurt sauce. I thought the box for Kadhi Pakodi was a curried chicken based on the picture. I know, that sounds really dumb, but when I bought it I thought I would be sending it to work with hubby! Meatless Thursday:)

Friday: On the road again…it’s a long drive back, about 8 hours. Panera, Chipotle, Noodles & Company…pb&j? I’m sure I’ll be happy to see my stove!

Packing for camping

Packing for a trip is always a challenge. The more activities we do, the more challenging it is to pack for the trip! At the end of this week I am leaving for a trip that begins with a conference (suit), a few days in some mid-size city (shorts/t-shirt), followed by various outdoor activities (what Hubby and I call "technical gear").

Technical gear varies according to the sport. When we hike, we wear zip-off pants that become shorts. Biking is padded chamois shorts and a biking top with those fancy pockets on the back. Kayaking and rafting requires a swim suit and something lightweight to cover it up. Cave tours tend to be cold, but the zip-off pants and a long-sleeve tee usually works fine.

Really, the only thing this classification of clothing has in common with each other is that it's mostly synthetic (some of it's wool) and it all has to be washed in cold water with powdered detergent and hung to dry.

Given all the varied activities, this trip is a bit of a packing nightmare. Normally, I would pack clothes that multitask, i.e. wear a hiking shirt for biking. However, this week has been stinking hot, 102-106 heat index, which is a scorcher in the Midwest. So, I need enough clothes for each day; I don't plan on doing any laundry.

In order to make my list, I first make a note of the different types of activities. Sometimes, I know what activities I'm doing on what days. This trip is a bit looser, so it's harder to pack. It's also not separate; we might tour a city, take a bike ride, then go to another attraction. I'm not a fan of showing up at a museum in my bike clothes, so maybe I'll bring a skirt to pop on...

City touring
Cave/Dam tours
We're gone 8 days, 3 of those will be open for activities. The others will be mostly in the car or touring cities. So I'll pack 3 days of technical gear plus 1 extra outfit. I anticipate a half-day hikes, a half-day ride, and several shorter mini-hikes or short rides. One outfit for the full day and another for the partial days, 2 hiking, 2 biking. The rest will be shorts and tees.

Then, I list all the essentials:
Grooming kit: I keep this packed, so I just refill my shampoo, etc. and don't think too much about what's in there.
Make-up bag: I am a make-up minimalist. Mascara, eyeliner, shadow, suncreen, lip gloss.
Jewelry: not much for camping, though I'll wear some at the confrerence and then pop in a pair of earrings for the rest of the week.

Lastly, I make a specific list of the clothing I intend to bring.
2 bike shorts
2 hiking zip-off pants/shorts
3 technical tees, 1 bike top
1 long sleeve technical tee
Mid weight fleece
2 sport bras
4 wool socks (extra for cool evenings)
4 bike socks (only the thin bike socks fit in my bike shoes, and we might do some short rides)
Skirt for over bike shorts
Capri's for over swimwear
Swim suit
2 towels
8 days of undies
2 regular bras
4 sport socks
Light hikers
Flip flops
Keens (their famous "shandel", half shoe, half sandal, is a great multipurpose travel shoe!)
2 pair shorts (wear one)
4 "presentable" tees
4 tank tops
Work shoes (pumps)
Work pants
Work shirt
PJ's (shorts & yoga pants; wear the first-day t-shirt)
2 long sleeve tee
Button down long-sleeve camp shirt

I have a master camping list that I check this against, to make sure I don't forget anything. And this is just my clothes…I still have to pack food and camping gear!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Road Menu Part 1

Menu Plan Monday:

Last week I wrote my first menu plan, working Wednesday to the following Friday (10 days). I thought that would fit my routine, because I plan on Wednesdays for the next 10 days, allowing myself to change Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the second week. I decided that's too complicated, and possibly redundant, to write about, so I will just post Saturday through Friday and see how that goes for a while.

This week's menu was based on my haul at the Daley Plaza Farmer's market:

strawberries: variety = "Lucy". I swear it was like sucking on a sugar cube, wow! I've never had a sweeter strawberry! I remarked to the farmer, "So this is what strawberries are supposed to taste like!" He grinned. $5 for a pint (so worth it!).

Arugula: For veggie wraps at lunch this weekend. I decimated my garden last Thursday for that night's dinner and Friday's lunch. A lot of arugula goes a little wayL 2 bunches @ $2 each

Rhubarb: for the freezer. 3 bunches for $5.

asparagus: I think it's getting a bit late for asparagus, but I wanted to make Heidi's salad to bring to my friend's lake house this weekend. And I love asparagus. 3 bunches for $5.

cherries: for my tummy. $4/pint.

2 zucchini: for ratatouille. $1.75/pound

1 English cuke: mmm, cucumber and onion sandwiches! $1.50

The zucchini, cuke, rhubarb, asparagus, and cherries come from "sustainable agriculture". They only spray as needed. Not organic, but not sprayed as much as grocery store produce. The strawberries and arugula were not sprayed.

This weekend we are going to a friend's lake house. They are making salmon with vegetables and rice. I'm bringing cookies and bulgur wheat salad from one of my favorite websites, 101 Cookbooks.

At the end of this week, I'm traveling for work. Traveling always presents a challenge for menu planning. My options are to A) eat out; B) pack food; C) visit grocery stores in the destination town; or D) some combination of the above. I usually end up doing some combination of A & B, and give myself bonus points if I make it to the grocery store.

I love visiting grocery stores in different towns when I travel, especially if the town has unique family-owned stores or interesting health food stores. However, when I'm traveling--especially if it's for work and I'm taking Amtrak—it's hard to find time to visit grocery stores. This week my job is sending me to Springfield, Illinois. It has each of my favorite chain restaurants: Chipotle, Noodles & Company, (both fairly new to Springfield) and Panera. It also has Café Brio, which is a lovely Mexican-ish restaurant and a destination in and of itself! I'll pack oatmeal for breakfasts, end up eating at the work-meeting for lunches, and have some choices for dinner. If I can get someone (or a cab) to take me, I might check out Italian Food Mart, Humphrey's Market and/or Food Fantasies Naturally. Look for these locations on my Google Map and for my reviews on Yelp in a few weeks when I return!

In order to have an easy lunch on Wednesday night while I'm packing, I'm making a sandwich board. I bought buffalo bacon for the freezer a few weeks ago at the Palatine Farmer's Market. The farmer said it's more like lunch meat than bacon, I should just thaw it and eat it on a sandwich. I'll put that out with some cheese and a simple arugula salad.

Saturday: Salmon with vegetables and rice.

Sunday: Ratatouille over brown rice

Monday: Cucumber and onion sandwiches

Tuesday: grilled shrimp and cilantro pesto on rice

Wednesday: Sandwich board, salad

Thursday: I'm heading out of town for work at the end of the week. Hubby will probably have a banana pizza: pizza crust, use catsup instead of pizza sauce, mash up ripe bananas on top, cover in shredded mozzarella. Sounds gross, but it's actually pretty good.

Friday: Hubby will head down to meet me and begin our vacation. Vacation/road food is a special challenge. I'll post the menu next week, but Friday night he'll probably get a fast food dinner. I'll get Panera, because I know there's one near the hotel where I'm staying.

Next week should be interesting, because we're leaving from Springfield to go camping for a week in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Usually planning for camping is fun, but it's harder since 1) I will be on the road for four days before camping, and 2) if I pack anything to bring camping I have to do it now since I'm leaving Thursday and the cooler is coming with Hubby on Friday and 3) I'm not sure what the CSA box will look like. It also arrives Wednesday, just before I leave!

Cucumber and Onion Sandwiches

As a child, practically the only way you could get me to eat a cucumber was on a cucumber and onion sandwich. I'm still not the biggest fan of the cuke, but I love-crave-need for this sandwich! What makes It a cucumber and onion sandwich is the cucumbers and the onions. Beyond that, anything goes. Use any kind of cucumber. Try red, white, yellow or Vidalia onions. Substitute cream cheese for the mayo. Try sharp cheddar, mozzarella, asiago or provolone. A dill havarti would be wonderful…mmm! Or, I guess some people don't like cheese? Whatever you do, don't skip the pepper!

I like to write my recipes in the order that I do things. However, for the ease of shopping, I'll start with an ingredient list…

2 pieces of whole grain sandwich bread

1 cucumber (I prefer English)

1 onion



Cheese – 1 oz

Cut the cucumber and onion as thinly as possible. I use a mandolin.

Spread mayonnaise on each slice of bread. Add a few grinds of pepper to taste.

Pile with as many onions and cucumbers as can fit on one slice of bread. Top with cheese, then the second piece of bread. Dig in!

If you pack your lunch, don't assemble this sandwich ahead of time. Instead, to pack for lunch:

Mix a tablespoon of mayo with a few sprinkles of pepper and pack in a small condiment-sized container as you would for salad dressing. Pack the cucumber and onion in a small 1-cup container with a square (2-inch) folded piece of paper towel above and below. Tuck the cheese on top. This should keep everything dry. Pack the bread in a baggie. This should allow about 2 days of storage before it all gets mushy. Assemble when you're ready to eat!

Feeding the Freezer

Something I do whenever I get a chance is to feed my freezer. I "process" food so that I have it on hand for weeknights. This makes menu planning much easier! I'll keep adding to this post as I include things on my menu.

Rhubarb: slice up (1/4") in 1 cup portions. I usually use rhubarb to make a compote for ice cream: Put 1 cup rhubarb in a small saucepan with 1/6 cup of sugar for 10 minutes, mix or shake to coat. Cook it on medium high for 5-10 minutes until it becomes a chunky sauce. It's great hot, cold or room temperature over ice cream or yogurt. Doubling works well.

Strawberries: slice up in 1 cup portions. Use in smoothies, add sugar to macerate and use as a fruit sauce on yogurt or ice cream, over angel food cake, on pound cake. My favorite smoothie: ½ cup of strawberries, ½ a frozen banana, 2 Tbsp ground flax seed. Put it in the Magic Bullet or your favorite blender and add vanilla soy milk to the top (about a cup). Blend until smooth.

Fajitas: Real Simple magazine developed this amazing steak fajita recipe. It's great in the summer over arugula or other greens. I add guacamole from Trader Joe's if I can't find ripe avocados to slice up….also tomatoes and frozen corn.

Pizza crust: I make pizza crust, adapted for my bread maker (and my refusal to use all-purpose flour). Sometimes I freeze the dough as described in the linked article and thaw it to make calzones, but I find it so convenient to freeze the crusts like this.

1 1/2 cups warm (115 degrees) water

4 ½ tsp active dry yeast (2 packets)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 cups white wheat flour

2 cups whole-wheat flour

4 tsp gluten

Place all ingredients in the bread-maker in the order listed. Put it on the "pizza dough" setting. Turn dough out onto a floured surface (use some extra white wheat flour). Depending on the pizza size you want, you can use part or all of the dough. I usually do one large pizza that night, and then form the rest into individual-size pizzas for the freezer. If you use a rolling pin, your crust will be thin and crispy. If you stretch it the style will be more "hand-tossed". Here's what I do: Score the dough in half. With one half, stretch to fit on a 9 x 13" cookie sheet. Place it in a warm place to rise. With the remaining dough, score into 6 equal pieces. Place a piece of parchment (don't use wax paper, it will not come apart as easily once frozen) onto a cookie sheet small enough to fit flat in your freezer with about 2 inches of clearance on the top. Stretch dough to fit, no larger in diameter than what will fit into a 1 gallon freezer zip lock bag. Lay down another piece of parchment. Continue with each circle, laying it on top of parchment. Cover the last piece with parchment. Leave it in a warm place to rise, then place in the freezer. When frozen (wait 4 hours or overnight), transfer to a large, 1 gallon ziplock.

To use, thaw the number of pizza crusts needed (1 per person), cover as desired, and bake at 450-degrees for 18-20 minutes. It doesn't need to thaw first. These work well for grilling pizza, too!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beans from Scratch

I made beans from scratch today! I've never done this before…but it was really easy. I soaked them overnight. Then, I cooked them for about 45 minutes with an onion. They were really tasty! I used them to make Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Chard from Heidi Swanson's gorgeous cookbook.

Here is a good example of multitasking. Now, many say that multitasking is a bad idea because you can't focus on two tasks equally well; you end up doing multiple tasks badly. However, I think that cooking beans is a good multitasking opportunity! I was able to do some work on the laptop while waiting for the beans to cook. It only took about 45 minutes, and this was productive time for me to spend on my Tuesday night tasks!

And the greens from the first CSA delivery are finally gone! I will have to pick the arugula from my garden for the fajitas tomorrow!

CSA Box #1!

Menu Plan Monday: This is my first time posting to MPM! I'm a new blogger, so I'm a bit behind…my routine is to create my meal plan, Wednesday through the following Friday (10 days). This means that it overlaps, so I often change my Wednesday through Sunday plans. I do this to allow for flexibility on the weekends, but still have dinner on the table if I run late on planning. Last weekend I went camping, so here I've included a camp menu-which covers breakfast, lunch and dinner-and my regular meal plan, which is just dinner. Lunch is either leftovers from the night before or something from the freezer. Breakfast is usually a bowl of cereal, sometimes a smoothie.

My big challenge this week was the arrival of my first ever CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box! What am I going to do with all of this stuff?!?


1)Cilantro: into guacamole on Friday. Make a pesto with the rest and freeze in ice cube trays.

2)Bok choy: Grill it for Saturday dinner.

3)Mystery green - I think it's a kind of chard: Sunday dinner

4)Lettuce: salads! Friday night, Saturday night.

5)Broccoli rabe: Thursday dinner.

6)Rainbow Chard: Monday dinner

7)Kale-2 kinds: Sunday dinner

8)Radishes: Tuesday dinner

9)Arugula: Salads, Friday and Saturday night.

Today is Wednesday, so the CSA delivery fits in well with my usual routine. Here is my plan…next time I hope to link all the recipes. For now, if you're interested in a recipe let me know in the comments!

Wednesday-Veggie lasagna (freezer)

Thursday-Hubby: out; Me: braised broccoli rabe and rice

Fri Dinner-On the road-Chopped salad: avocado, corn, hard boiled eggs, chicken for hubby, bacon, buttermilk dressing, blue cheese, tomatoes, leaf lettuce, arugula; At camp-Cheese/crackers; Guoc & chips (add tomatoes); Banana boats

Sat Brekkie-Oatmeal; HB eggs; Coffee/tea; Berries and Yogurt

Sat Lunch-PBJ on raisin bread; Carrots; Avocado; Fruit leather; Trail mix/granola bars

Sat Dinner-Burgers on ciabatta; Beans; Grilled bok choy; Corn on cob; Apple cobbler

Sun Brekkie-Oatmeal; HB eggs; Coffee/tea; oranges

Sun Lunch-PBJ on raisin bread; Carrots; Fruit leather; Trail mix/granola bars

Sunday-Braised greens, 2 kinds (Kale and chard) and chicken sausages with lemon pasta

Monday-Beans and red chard with rice

Tuesday-Boiled radishes and radish pasta


Thursday-Fajita bowls-freezer


Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Routine

I have found that the best way for me to stay sane is to stick to a few routines, and others agree. I can get obsessive about this, so I've tried to keep it as simple as possible. This routine is meant neither to be all-encompassing nor to fit every minute of my day. Rather, it is a guideline or checklist…just to make sure I fit in all the important things!

Important Things: 1) Keep down the clutter; 2) Plan meals; 3) Work out; 4) Blog.

My routine:

Monday - Declutter; Blog; workout

Tuesday - Banking/Personal Business, Synch

Wednesday - Meal planning; Blog; workout

Thursday - Shop; food prep; workout

Friday - Synch; Blog

Saturday - Longer workout; major cooking 1/month

Sunday - Unpack; Bake; Synch


Blog: Because it's new, I'm starting with three days a week. I'm putting some structure around it: participating in Menu Plan Mondays and Fight Back Fridays. This gives me only one free-form day. I have tons of great ideas…so I'd better get started!

Workout: I hate working out. I love to play (hike, climb, bike, run), but the gym has never appealed. My workouts go in fits and starts. I usually do well for a week or so and then I twist an ankle or pinch a nerve. This tells me I need to be more consistent in my workouts and be much better about stretching. So, the goal here is stretching, cardio and calisthenics at least three days a week. This is much easier in the summer, so I'm making a big push to establish this routine now. Stretching is runner's stretches and some yoga. I'm working on my right hamstring. Cardio is a 45-minute walk, aiming for a "fat burning" pulse in the 130 range. Calisthenics is 100 pushups. Pushups are good for you. It's probably not perfect, but this is where I'm starting. I find that the walk fits in in the morning as an extended walk to the commuter train, at lunch, or after dinner, so I have a lot of choices. I try to stretch and do the calisthenics in the evening, which gives me more energy to do other evening activities.

Synch: I have an iPhone, and I love listening to podcasts (favorites include Nutrition Diva and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (sadly, my thumb on current events)) and audio books. So, I keep them synched. I also synch my calendar between google, outlook and the phone. This is not as cumbersome as it sounds. It's in my routine because if I don't do it I find that I'm missing information for appointments or bored on a walk without an updated podcast list. I also synch Evernote to my desktop.


TV: I don't watch a great deal of television. When I do, I have a few tasks I try to get through, including folding laundry, opening mail, and mending holes in Hubby's clothes (I don't know where they come from).

Mondays: after the end of the weekend, if we are home there are usually tools, projects and layers of clothing in random places around the house. This drives me crazy! So on Monday I clean it up.

Tuesday: On Tuesdays I have a well established routine for dealing with all my personal business, including banking, going through the mail, and other paperwork. I don't really think about it anymore, but it took a while to get it set up.

Wednesday: Wednesday works well for meal planning for a few reasons. First, I usually have a pretty good idea of what the following week is going to look like by then. I plan Thursday through the following Friday (8 days), and it helps to know which evenings I might be eating out or on the road. Second, it helps me plan the shopping. There is a farmer's market near my office on Thursdays. I can shop there and then fill in at the grocery store on Thursday evening. The third reason is that it's a couple days before the weekend, so I can be finished with the meal plan and shopping in preparation for the weekend activities. I don't have to run to the store on the weekend when it's busiest.

Thursday: I shop on Thursdays, then take the food home and do some food prep. If the veggies are washed dinners go together so much easier.

Friday: I tend to travel on the weekends to camp and visit friends and family, so I usually work a short day on Fridays in my home office. This makes it easy to synch, because I'm not running out the door in the morning. It also tends to buy me an hour for blogging, the time I would normally spend getting to and from the train.

Saturday: On weekends that I go away, it's easy to fit in a long workout because the weekend usually revolves around a bike ride or other active pursuit. If I stay home, I ride or walk locally for at least an hour. On weekends that I stay home I cook large batches of food for the freezer, bake, and make more elaborate dinners.

Sunday: We made a rule a few months ago to unpack on the day we return from large trips, and we apply this to weekend trips, too. We used to leave stuff in the living room and trip over it for upwards of a week. Now we put it away, laundry goes downstairs, house gets a decluttering. I always get ready for work on Sunday night, so it makes Monday morning more tolerable.


First Post!

This is a new blog. The idea behind building it has been to find a niche - a unique space - for my wildly expanding interests in natural, local, sustainable food, and combine that with my interest in productivity.

I think the biggest barrier toward eating how I want to is finding time to do it. But I have learned some tricks, and have begun to pull together a style of early preparation that works for me, and I think might work for others as well.

Because it's new, I'm starting with three days a week. I'm putting some structure around it: participating in Menu Plan Mondays and Fight Back Fridays. This gives me only one free-form day. I have tons of great ideas…so I'd better get started!