My Second Favorite Holiday

Cinco-de-MayonsHappy Cinco de Mayo! a.k.a. Cammy’s Second Favorite Holiday. (Christmas is first, if you didn’t already guess.)(Also, my birthday is technically second; however, despite my repeated petitions, it has not been declared a holiday. Yet.)

Mexican-inspired meals make up 80% of my diet, primarily because of all the fresh veggies involved. Not to mention, it’s super easy when you prepare it my way. :)

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I thought I’d traipse back through my files and share my go-to Mexican-inspired foods. Keep in mind, I’m no food stylist. I’m a food enjoyer, and that doesn’t allow time for fussing with photos.

Southwest Quinoa Salad
southwest quinoa saladQuinoa and black beans are okay on their own, but they become something almost magical when fresh onions, peppers, lime juice, and a few seasonings are added to it. Southwest Quinoa Salad is one of my favorite summer salads. I let it “rest” in the fridge after mixing, which makes for a cool, refreshing, and filling summer supper. I also like that it’s one of those adaptable recipes–just toss in whatever strikes your fancy. If you like avocado, that would be a nice addition, but I go for fresh sliced tomatoes or fresh summer corn. I suppose you could add both. It’s your salad, after all.

Snobby Joes
snobby joes: assembling, complete, and on a wheat bunBecause I make them in the slow cooker, Snobby Joes are a year round meal for me. Perfect for a cold winter day, but also good for a hot summer meal that doesn’t involve standing anywhere close to a stove.

Mexican Chicken
I have been yammering about Mexican Chicken on this blog for about 5 years now, and I cannot find a single photo of it. Not one! I will fix this in the weeks ahead–whenever Aldi has a good sale. For now, I’ll repost Chicken Aid: The Movie in which I demonstrate the 10-second chicken shredding technique.

Needless to say, this recipe is super simple to make, it’s flavorful, and it freezes beautifully. I usually eat it in a fiber tortilla wrap with a sprinkle of cheese, some sliced black olives, and chopped tomatoes. I never get tired of it.

DIY Taco Seasoning
DIY Taco SeasoningI like stirring up my own taco seasoning for the cost and the flavor. While I like the taste of some store-bought seasoning blends well enough, I like playing around with my own mix more. What can I say, it’s cheap entertainment. :)

DIY “Pancho’s” Salad Dressing
tacosaladFor the most part, I use the taco seasoning on ground turkey or beef for taco salads, which I serve with a copycat version of a local restaurant’s taco salad dressing. This is a slightly sweet, mustard-y vinaigrette that works well with the spices in the taco seasoning.

Now, with those in mind, my dinner tonight will be the Mexican-inspired classic ensalada de atún con tomate.
tuna salad with tomato, celery and salsa

Yep. It’s tuna salad with tomato. Not exactly fitting for the holiday, but I’m traveling today and will have to wait until mañana to celebrate. Or maybe I’ll go to La Michoacana when I get home this afternoon for some Mexican cake ice cream. Hmm, that sound particularly possible.

Are you doing anything special for Cinco de Mayo?

Alphabet Soup: K

Alphabet Soup is a series of posts in which readers and I explore the words, concepts, and ideas that help on the path to weight loss/maintenance. Please join in with your insights!

letter kRolling into the weekend, let’s continue the alphabetic exploration of words and ideas that help with weight maintenance/loss by playing with the letter ‘K’!

I don’t have many entries for the letter ‘K’, but the ones I do have are important for me.

Kindness – I’ve always been the sort of person who pokes fun at herself. It’s a fun way to diffuse the pressure when something doesn’t go so well, and it helps others see that I can laugh at myself when I do something laugh-worthy. And I do that a LOT. :)

There’s a point, though, that gentle humor crosses a line and becomes unkind, even when we ourselves are the recipients of the remarks or thoughts. I used to cross that line quite frequently, both before and after my weight loss. I captured one such instance in a post entitled, When Kindness Matters Most, in which I recommit to using kinder, gentler words when dealing with my emotions.

KISS – Most everyone is familiar with the acronym for “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (which I have kindly rebranded as “Keep It Simple, Silly”), right? Well, in the past, I apparently didn’t think it applied to weighty matters. I followed (or tried to) ridiculously complicated weight loss plans. You know the type. Eat from list A before noon, eat no more than 3 items from list B between 2 and 4 p.m., and so on and so on. And the exercise plans were no better. For me, keeping it simple by having a goal of lean meats, whole grains, 5-7 fresh veggies, and at 30 minutes of exercise each day seems to work better.

Kitchen – I can count on one hand the number of meals I cooked when I was losing weight. It worked for my lifestyle then, and it worked for my weight loss. (The trick was learning which restaurants to eat in.) Over time, though, my lifestyle changed and I was at home more often, so I began to play around in my kitchen. Fast forward a few years and I’m still no kitchen diva, but I find that I enjoy creating wholesome meals that are satisfying and energizing. I’ve also enjoyed giving up some of the convenience foods I was buying in favor of making my own versions. BBQ sauce, taco seasoning, and sandwich thins are just a few that come to mind. None of those are nutritionally awful in the brands I chose, but I like having control over the ingredients and the flavor. I’m just selfish that way.

Keep on Keepin’ On – That’s an old song title, I think. Something from the 70s? Anyway, it’s also a fun little reminder to maintain focus on the positive progress and keep on going.

Those are the ‘K’ words that have proven to be useful to me. I hope you’ll chime in with your contributions to the list!

My Weekly Bread

While I’m not quite ready for The Great British Bake-Off yet, I am moving right along in my baking development.

First we had the oatcakes:

bread oatcakes

Simple, tasty, nutritious. I should make some more of these soon.

Next, I made a loaf of whole wheat bread and experimented with adding some of my Gamino’s olive salad to it.

bread with olives

It tasted good, but it came out looking like meatloaf. Not the look I was going for. A friend and I rebranded it as vegan meatloaf. (The photo shows that I clearly did not work the olives into the loaf well enough. They shouldn’t be in layers.)

My next experiment was with pita bread:

whole wheat pita bread

As easy and delicious as it was, I’m not sure I’ll be making that recipe again unless I do a Mediterranean dinner. A half pita is all that fits into my calorie budget, and those tiny pockets don’t have room for much in them. So they’ll be a once-in-a-while kind of bread.

I also made some homemade pizza crusts:

homemade pizza crust

This was a basic recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I liked it because it was easy to portion out and freeze the dough in Cammy-sized servings. I had one this past weekend, and it was every bit as good as if I’d made it fresh. But I didn’t make it fresh, because I had a new bread to make for this week.

I love Oroweat sandwich thins. I like the Nature’s Own thins, and I’ll tolerate the Aldi brand. But two things bug me: 1) the cost of Oroweat ($3.50/8 thins) seems too high for what you get, and 2) the ingredient label, while not horrible, has lots of…stuff on it.

So. Y’all know how my mind works. I had flour, I had yeast, surely there was some way I could DIY my own sandwich thins. And so I did:

homemade sandwich thins

And they’re delicious! (I’m always so surprised when that happens. LOL)

I didn’t invent the recipe, of course. I Googled and found a zillion nearly identical recipes, and finally chose the one on Retro Kitchen as a good place to start, just because I like retro kitchens in general. And isn’t that a good thing considering my kitchen remains stuck in the harvest gold 70s?!

The sugar and yeast do most of the work in this recipe, but there is a bit of effort in the rolling/shaping of the buns. As you can tell, my bun shaping skills can use some practice. :)

I made my thins a bit small and ended up with 18 thins! I didn’t do a detailed cost analysis but I’d guess my 18 thins cost about the same as one package of 8 Oroweat thins. More importantly, I love the extra-wheaty flavor of this homemade version, and they’re much more satisfying than the store-bought thins. Win-win!

I’ll definitely be making my own thins again when I run out of this batch (that should be a couple months). I might experiment with the Fleischmann’s recipe that uses honey to create the sponge. Honey-Wheat sandwich thins? Oh yes.

I’ve only got a couple more recipes on the near horizon. For one thing, my freezer is getting full, and for another, the summer heat will not inspire much in the way of baking. I do want to make some scones, which I now pronounce skahns in honor of TGBBO, and I’d also like to replicate the Schnuck’s dinner rolls my family loves so much. (Schnuck’s closed locally and took their rolls with them.)

Oh, and I almost forgot: for those keeping up with my kitchen inventory, I have acquired a few new gadgets:
digital kitchen thermometer, biscuit cutter, small sifter

I used a Target gift card to take advantage of a sale on digital kitchen thermometers. I never trusted my “instant read”, plus I found it difficult to read, instantly or otherwise. I found the biscuit/scone/donut cutter at the flea market my parents and I visited on the coast, and I snagged the tiny sifter at a yard sale this past weekend. (Yes, Jeannie, I am getting rid of an equal number of items.)

And that brings you up to date, I think. If you happen to have a good scone (skahhhhn) recipe to share, or if you happen to know the recipe for Schnuck’s dinner rolls, I’d really appreciate a share.