Do you consider yourself a creative cook or someone who cooks “by the book;” that is, follows recipes to the letter? I think I’m probably more of the latter, although I do like to change things now and again to suit our tastes. I am always searching out new recipes, and love coming across ones that fit the way we like to eat, with lots of flavor, low or healthy fats, and not too difficult to prepare. I don’t mind spending time in the kitchen, but I don’t want to be in there for hours. I will try a new recipe once, and if we like the result we’ll stick with it. If not, it’s either set aside or I get creative and figure out a way to make a recipe fit our preferences.
A big issue for me these days is whether a recipe requires special, and often expensive, ingredients. This past week I came across a yummy recipe from Padma Lakshmi for a carrot, chili, and cilantro salad that I knew we would love, but the dressing contains two ingredients that would have to be special ordered: orange oil and za’atar, a middle-eastern spice. According to Padma, the orange oil could be eliminated (as there’s only 1/4 teaspoon in the recipe), but it “really made the dish” and a small bottle of the oil “would last us for five years.” The za’atar, however, was non-negotiable. This is my dilemma: should I buy the semi-expensive ingredients and hope we like the salad enough to use them more than once, or do I let the recipe go. In the past I wouldn’t have hesitated to buy the oil and the za’atar, but when we left Kaua’i in 2108 I remember being troubled by all the spices and ingredients in our cupboards that I had bought and used only once or twice. I’m really torn though as this salad sounds amazing.
Our dinners this past week don’t look all that imaginative to me, but they did use what we had on hand and what we bought on our shopping trip this past week, and all of them fit our brief for a healthy meal. Coming up with the ideas for the coming week was difficult though as we’re not shopping until Friday. I had a lot of ideas for meals, but then realized nothing I needed was on hand. Anyway, below is what we ate for dinner last week:
Sunday: Ham; roasted butternut squash; green beans
Monday: Grilled teriyaki chicken; zoru soba; coleslaw with wasabi dressing
Tuesday: Pepperjack cheeseburgers; three bean salad
Wednesday: Meatloaf; mashed potatoes; green beans
Thursday: Stir-fried vegetables with coconut curry sauce; grilled chicken; steamed rice
Friday: Thai chicken mini pizzas
Saturday: Meatloaf & mashed potatoes redux; roasted zucchini
Here’s what’s planned for dinner next week:
- Grilled ham & cheese sandwiches with roasted red pepper & tomato soup (bumped from last week)
- Chicken & apple sausages with green beans
- Pork & rice burritos
- Noodles with Thai peanut sauce
- Chicken tikka masala
- Mini pizzas
- Breakfast for dinner (sausage & eggs)
Last week we had two chances for taking our walks in other locations besides the park. Monday’s weather was glorious, so we packed a picnic and drove over to Barking Sands (PMRF) base to not only spend some time at the beach, but also walk the Waiokapua Trail. The trail is one mile each way out and back, and we planned to walk it twice (four miles total) before eating our lunch and then heading onto the beach.
The views were lovely out on the trail, but Brett and I were not as well prepared as we should have been for the intensity of the sun once we got out there (there’s very little shade on the trail). I became overheated on the way back, and even though I was drinking water the whole time I started to get dehydrated, and was dizzy and weak by the time we returned to the starting point. Both Brett and I were also sunburned although we had applied sunscreen before starting out, so we made a command decision to skip the second round, and instead sat in one of the shaded huts to eat our lunch and recover, and then headed down to the beach to sit under our umbrella and enjoy the cooler breezes there. We still got in a good two mile hike, and relearned some lessons about walking in direct sunshine on a hot day, and how much water that requires.
I had a hair appointment up in Kapaa on Wednesday afternoon, so following Brett’s birthday breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe in Lihue we drove up to Kapaa to get in a couple of miles on the beach path before heading to the salon. The weather as we headed out was lovely, with blue skies and a cool breeze. However, by the time we reached our turnaround point, clouds had rolled in bringing some oppressive humidity along with them (rain had been forecast). We were able to climb down to the water at the turnaround to check out the driftwood and look at some weird lava formations, one which looked like a giant animal’s footprint. The walk back to our car was miserable, hot and humid, and I arrived at my appointment a dripping, sweaty mess. Yuck.
Other than Tuesday, we spent the rest of the week walking up at the park, averaging over four miles each day. It rained all day Tuesday but we got in over two miles pushing carts through Costco and Walmart.
I may have shown up at the salon looking like a hot mess last Wednesday, but my stylist made my day when she told me, “I honestly did not recognize you when you walked in because you look so different now, even from when you were here seven weeks ago.” According to the scale I haven’t lost any weight for ages – I’ve stayed within the same half-pound range – but things are continuing to change as I build muscle and lose fat. I think the best side effect I’ve experienced from my weight lost and walking is that I sleep so soundly these days. Brett used to always wake up before me, but I’m now getting up before him a few days every week, feeling rested and ready to go. I can’t remember the last time I’ve woken up in the middle of the night, or had a round of insomnia. Sleeping well is so important, and this is a welcome side effect from our walks.
12 thoughts on “Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (4/18-4/24)”
Right with you on the expensive, one off ingredients. I bought za’atar in a Mediterranean store near us for a (really good but huge) salad that I made for a family gathering. It wasn’t too, too pricey, but the smallest container was huge. It sat in my pantry for a long time before I pitched it. And I have a bottle of walnut oil in my cupboard that was for one recipe and I don’t think I made it more than twice.
Sleeping well is so important. I have so many issues with heartburn if I eat wrong, that I am super conscious of my food after about 6pm. I’ve always been blessed with deep long sleep and most nights I’m still able to do that. Stress definitely disturbs my sleep, though, and if I have to make a bathroom visit at 3AM and I’m stressed, it’s a struggle to get back to sleep.
I was appalled at what I found in our spice cabinet when we moved last time – I had honestly gone crazy, especially with Penzey’s. But there were all sorts of other extracts and things that I used maybe once or twice and then they were pushed to the back. So, as much as I want to make this salad, it’s a no for now because I honestly don’t want to buy the extra stuff. If I saw it around here (pretty much 0% chance of that though) I might get it, but otherwise no.
Heartburn remains a constant issue with me, but I seem to be sleeping soundly enough now that it isn’t waking me up. I bought an inclined pillow but have had mixed results. It helps, but I also slide down it during the night and find myself in a puddle at the bottom in the morning. I’m with you on the middle-of-the-night bathroom visits too. They can wake me up and I find it impossible to get back to sleep.
Our local natural food store sells spices in the bulk area, which means I can (pre-Covid) or an employee can (currently) put one or two tablespoons into a little baggie so I’m only buying what I need of an unusual spice. I wonder if this exists on Kauai?
I got a severe case of sun poisoning after spending time at Barking Sands about 30 years ago. I had to wear long sleeves all day, every day for the rest of our vacation. Heat and too much sun can come on so fast. Glad you ended up okay.
Bulk spices were how I used to purchase, but I don’t think any are available on the island. If they are at one of the bigger health food store, selection will be limited. I’m putting the salad on hold for the time being.
It was surprising how quickly the effects of overheating came on. I was feeling great the whole way out, and as we started back, but then I began getting dizzy, nauseated, and my legs felt weak and I thought, “uh oh.” It was an effort to get back to the car and some shade. I felt bad enough that even after eating and hydrating I still was not ready to walk again that day, even on the beach. Lessons relearned!
I’m with you, some recipes call for some exotic ingredients that are a little off-putting. For your salad, I’d try some orange zest instead of oil and add a sprinkle of cumin, thyme, oregano, and sesame seeds if you have. It should be pretty close to Padma’s recipe.
When I was younger, I used to be more enthusiastic about trying new recipes. Not anymore. I stick with some 20 something dishes that we love, are simple to make, and generate leftovers. I don’t buy millions of spices that sit in my pantry for years until they lose any flavor. If we really want something different, we do takeout or go out. Or I may try it, but not too often😃
I still like to try new recipes, but don’t like buying special ingredients any more. Like you, I tend to stick with favorites these days that are fairly simple to make. Thanks for the seasoning tip to replace the za’atar. I may still give the salad recipe a try though as I love the idea of it and can imagine how good it would taste – it hits all the right notes for us.
If you make it and you like it, please include it in one of your food posts. I love salads and I’m always interested about new good recipes. Thank you so very much!
I probably will make it, although I’ll cut the amounts in half because it would take Brett and I a while to finish two pounds of carrots! Also, I need to make it on the day we go to the farm stand and find good carrots and cilantro – those sometimes don’t happen on the same day. I will publish the recipe if we like it!
Za’atar is great, and you can use on all kinds of things, including mashed potatoes. Don’t be hesitant to use oils and spices, such as that walnut oil, in other recipes. Just because it’s not called for doesn’t mean it won’t taste interesting, and give you a bit of a change to boot.
I really appreciated your input on this. I’m with you on using spices in other recipes so that it gets used. My first forays into looking for these ingredients showed me largish, expensive products which is not what I want, and I definitely didn’t want to spend that much. However, after some research, I found that Penzey’s sells za’atar in a small jar at an affordable price, and since I need to get a couple of other things from them, I will add the za’atar to my order! And, I realized I could probably make good use of the orange oil when I bake, in place of orange peel, so I will go ahead and order the smallest bottle I can find, and then work to make sure both get used before we leave in 2023.
I’ve started walking but not quite on a regular basis yet. My hard drive is crashing so I bought a new computer and have spent the past week babying the old one trying to retrieve my files. It was 92 degrees today so I don’t walk until after 7 pm. I had a guy come work cutting some trees for me and I got sunburned just from standing out there periodically to check on his work. I dread summer temperatures.
Vivian – I am dreading summer temperatures too! So far we’ve been enjoying cooler temperatures and nice breezes but it won’t be long before the humidity is back and walking will be a chore instead of a pleasure like it is now. We will have to walk later in the day as well before long.
As bad as I think it gets here though, Florida is worse. I applaud you getting out and walking and hope you can keep it up. When we lived in Key West I walked every day, but it was hard at times because of the heat and humidity.
I hope you were able to get everything moved off of your old computer!
Comments are closed.