Sunday, August 21, 2016


Before I get deep into recipes and other topics, I need to address portions. They are hard to comprehend on the internet. I had known that I was eating 2-3 times the normal serving size for most meals most of my adult life. It just seemed standard. It was what the restaurants served. If I asked for a to-go box, I got looks from the server (my perception), and besides, leftovers were just not as appealing. So might as well clean my plate! And you know those starving children in Africa. And no dessert unless plate was cleaned. All ridiculous phrases only encouraging my overeating.

Before I qualified for surgery through the insurance company, I had to meet with a dietician six times and learn about nutrition. Day one she pulled these nasty pieces of plastic out of a drawer and plopped them on the table in front of me. The smaller portions are what we're supposed to eat. Funny, with the mac and cheese...I used to eat the entire box, not just double portions. The plastic food totally grossed me out; reminded me of sticky germ-coated toys from Sunday School growing up. Icky.  I've barely touched mashed potatoes or mac and cheese since this moment. Ha.

But it's true. I believe that even more than WHAT we eat, HOW much we eat is killing us. Our stomach stretches, and accommodates how much we shove in, and actually gets used to that. Then our metabolism is SET to that, and even if we start eating much less, it feels like we're starving and we go back to overeating. So for me, even though I had radically changed WHAT I ate, how I prepared it, all the good expected things, I could NOT stop overeating. It was just all too good. This is why I chose bariatric surgery; gastric sleeve surgery. It cut out 2/3 of my stomach, forcing me to eat a 1/3 less than I was used to eating. And it's worked.

These four glass containers represent how much I eat per day now. Plus beverages. It's about 4 cups of food per day. I've found myself grazing a bit between these small meals, but a bit of weight comes back on when I do this (curses, goldfish crackers). If I revert back to these 4 small meals, the weight stabilizes again. 

I usually spend Sunday afternoon cooking one or two dishes, then I immediately split them up into these containers so they are ready for the week. Realize, one of these containers IS the meal. There isn't a pile of corn chips next to it, or a coke. Or a brownie for dessert. None of that. I can't eat and drink at the same time. I'll do another post soon on what I personally can or can't eat or drink. It's been a learning curve.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pan Roasted

The stove-top cast iron skilled is amazing. You don't need to heat up the whole oven, and you get an even cook. No worries about things sticking or ruining your non-stick version of a skillet. You simply scrape the bottom and mix the bits into the dish, or turn the bits into a sauce after the meal is taken out of the pan.

Quick Paella

Mussels are super easy. I just get a box of them from the freezer at Aldi. 2.99. Garlic and butter version. First I put the mussels in the skillet. Only takes a few minutes to defrost. Then added a box of quick cooking couscous, the required amount of water for the couscous mixed with the seasoning packet it came with, and chopped or whole small veggies. Let the whole thing simmer and you have a quick paella. I can't eat rice anymore, I just don't digest it well. Couscous is great for me.

Baked tilapia with red onion, lemon and north woods seasoning and a parm crisp

I place a piece of tilapia with chopped red onions, north woods seasoning, a dab of butter, and a slice of lemon on a piece of aluminum foil and fold closed like a pocket or a gift. I put that into the cast iron skilled on the stove top, medium heat, and let fish cook through for 5-7 minutes. Everything steams to deliciousness. Once that is out of the pan, I grate some parmesan directly into the pan. It melts into a gooey then cripsy mess you can scrape up in one piece. Adds great texture to the soft, steamed fish and veggies.

Pan cooked pork with spicy pineapple salsa and roasted asparagus and peppers

Thinly sliced, lean boneless pork coated with a homemade salsa. Peppers and asparagus tossed with salt, pepper, and olive oil. All cooked in the skillet at same time, low and slow.

Pork tenderloin rubbed with rosemary and garam masala

This meal was high maintenance, but worth it. First I rinsed a pork tenderloin, patted it dry, and rubbed it with garam masala and sprinked it with dried rosemary. Melted a pat of butter in a cast iron skillet and added the whole tenderloin to the skillet, cooking medium heat for 5-7 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, chopped sweet potatoes into cubes and boiled in a pan, skin on. Drained, mashed, added butter, cream, maple syrup, salt and pepper. In another pot I boiled water and cooked fresh green beans. When tenderloin was cooked, I took whole thing out to rest and made a port cranberry sauce out of the drippings left in the pan. Add a bit of port and fresh chopped cranberries, cook on low and scrape and stir. Whisk in a bit of flour to thicken. Tend carefully. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Master 5

I've been accumulating recipes for several years now, but recently discovered a way to categorize; not by food, but by preparation. This idea came from Clean Eats by Alejandro Junger. Pick your own 5, but these are my 5 currently:


Cooking things brings out the flavor. Chemistry happens. Post-surgery, I can't eat many raw foods. I figure I'm not a gorilla or a cow who must chew chew chew all day to become nourished. Humans can cook, which helps us digest much more easily. My body just can't digest raw food now. That's OK. Michael Pollan dives deep into cooking in his latest book and Netflix series Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. I will be revisiting his words of wisdom often in these posts...

"Our growing distance from any direct, physical engagement with the processes by which the raw stuff of nature gets transformed into a cooked meal is changing our understanding of what food is. Indeed, the idea that food has any connection to nature or human work or imagination is hard to credit when it arrives in a neat package, fully formed. Food becomes just another commodity, an abstraction. And as soon as that happens we become easy prey for corporations selling synthetic versions of the real thing--what I call edible foodlike substances. We end up trying to nourish ourselves on images...(Cooking) --defined broadly enough to take in the whole spectrum of techniques people have devised for transforming the raw stuff of nature into nutritious and appealing things for us to eat and drink--is one of the most interesting and worthwhile things we humans do."

So, this Master 5 idea. The gist is that if I can remember 5 basic ways to prepare my meals, I have 5 blank canvases. And these preparations make for 5-6 meals for me, so I cook one or two of them on Sundays, after grocery shopping that morning or the day before, and split them into containers to take the work the rest of the week. These are my Master 5:

Cast iron fry pan. Quick, even heating. Can take a beating. Veggies in first, then meat, then turn the pan stickings into a sauces to pour over everything. Stove top cooking, but can be put into the oven.

Oh my god I love my Le Creuset cookware. Super expensive, but last forever and cook evenly while taking a beating. You get what you pay for. Well, I didn't pay for this. My brother got this for me for my birthday, as well as other LC items. Gifts that have changed my life! 
I start again with veggies,  add the meat, pour in stock, put the lid on, and cook on stove top or move to oven for a few hours. Divine melding of flavors.

I also use this pot for soups and stews. Once things are cooked through, I just insert an immersion blender and blend as smooth as I desire in the moment. Much easier than pouring into a blender.

Super-fast, super-hot. You have to have everything chopped, laid out and ready for this preparation. Touch of sesame oil, veggies, small pieces of meat, then add cooked rice noodles. All in a few minutes. I will also have the sauce already prepared. My favorite is a peanut sauce I make from scratch.

OK, this photo's from Amazon. My stove-top grill is a mess right now, and I need to go buy a dang brush and clean it. Next year I want a small grill to keep outside.  The good thing about this is it's small, and will hold just enough meat and veg for a couple meals. So easy; just a tiny bit of olive or coconut oil, salt and pepper. I don't even use sauces on grilled bits.

Next post I'll show some recipes resulting from these Master 5.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Clean Eating

"Clean eating is a vehicle, an approach, that helps make foods work for us. But it is also much bigger than that. It is a way of thinking that helps us move away from the fear of aging and getting ill, and moves us toward the strength of knowing that we can take control of our health.

When food starts working for us, instead of against us, our entire life changes. Not only do we feel better meal to meal and day to day, but we also have the lasting energy and health we need to show up strong for the areas of life we care about most."

The last two years has been a vivid, experiential, experimental, and eye-opening wellness journey. If they say the journey is the destination, then I guess I made it! I hope this will be the first of several posts to describe if not define these deliberate steps I've taken. 

I started cooking for myself years ago, but I couldn't control portions. I never "dieted" because I was smart enough to know it wouldn't last. I tried swimming. I researched bariatric surgery.  I tracked calories consumed and expended for many months. I started cooking like mad in the months before the surgery, convinced if I could fall in love with healthy preparation, I might want to eat it, too. I carefully monitored my two autoimmune diseases and talked to all of the specialists I could stand. I had the surgery. I was very ill for 8 weeks. Then the weight started falling off, and I planned, learned and cooked exponentially more. 

Today I feel fantastic. 90 pounds off my body in one year. Energy off the charts. Swimming a few times a week; I love moving for the first time in my life. The learning curve was huge. As huge as I used to be before I could cross my legs.

Don't get me wrong, there have been lots of bumps, trials and errors. I want to share and record this moment. Take stock (low-sodium chicken) of what I've gleaned, realizing that this reflection on food, exercise, health, and wellness are MY particular combination. What has worked or not worked for MY BODY, not my mother's nor my brother's nor yours. Kind of like every woman having to figure out the best birth control for their particular chemistry, so food. 

I'll be sharing the books and websites that have informed me. I'll share lots of recipes and my own photography of those meals. I'll describe portions, what I can physically eat in a day. What kinds of foods and preparations are working for me, as well as particular foods and preparations that are just toxic for me.

This is why I like the term "clean eating". It's about whole foods: meats, vegetables, fruits, grains. Not processed, packaged, unpronounceable. Not even "natural" or "health" food. Much of that is as processed as Kraft macaroni and cheese and oreos. 

More than just the food, I want to talk about culinary art, presentation, the kitchen as a studio, the joy of feeding others the beautiful, scrumptious things I make, the emotions and excuses around food, the social culture around food, where moving might fit in (you know, exercise), where my time has shifted (the literal hours in a day) as a result of healthful routine, how my body was restricted at 284 pounds, and how my body works differently now 90 pounds lighter. I'm sure many other threads will surface. Let's begin.

At my heaviest. I could not fit on every ride.

A few months ago. My Dad said it was nice to see angles on my face.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Recent Work Summer 2016

Working feverishly in order to have 17 finished pieces by October for three shows! Here are several, and will add more as I document them. Most are 3'x3'. All collage with National Geographic magazines.

Joplin Regional Business Journal

Spiva Sketchbook Project

Trying a new thing at Spiva Center for the Arts. Crowd-funding. Year long project involving kids, adults, and their creative process. Workshops and exhibits. All will be fantastic if we can get the funds raised! I am learning a lot. Here are some scans of moleskin covers and insides from the past few years. These will be the sketchbooks that the community uses in their documentation.
Although the link will be defunct in a month, here is the link. Please donate and share, thanks.
Spiva Sketchbook Project