Tag Archives: new year’s resolutions

Weekly Menus: Week of 1/6/2013

Gentle Readers, it’s that special time of year between the holiday cookie rush and physical fitness. Each year this is punctuated by my yearly cholesterol check. So chances are extremely high that I will clean up my Deep Fried habits. Tomorrow.

Blackberry Salad with Sweet Pecans and Mozzarella Cheese

Blackberry Salad with Sweet Pecans and Mozzarella Cheese

I jest, I know it is time to focus again, and so I will eat salads and grapefruit and run more than usual to beat the odds.

Which means on this week’s menus we have:

Weekly Menus: 1/62013

Weekly Menus: 1/62013

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 1/6/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 1/6/2013

Translating into a reasonably healthy:

Sunday: Salmon and Veggies
I will have a fall-back plan, probably eggs, for the TPCs Junior. But I’m craving salmon, and listening.

Monday: Leftover Surprise
We’ve been rocking out the leftovers in the last couple of weeks, recommitting to not wasting food. It’s always a good challenge to use what’s on hand.

Tuesday: ??? Dine Out ???
This is scheduled to be our night out eating some culture’s cuisine with our favorite crankypants, Waldorf. The challenge is answering history and culture questions about the “country” in which we land. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday: Burgers and Fries
While at first glance this may not look like healthy living, it will probably be a combo of actual burgers and veggie burgers. We are hosting the handiman with the mostest, TPCs Dad, and that means beef is what’s for dinner. Food on a bun is an easy compromise. Plus the fries will be sweet potato, and there will be serious green veg on the side.

Thursday: Fake Chicken and Broccoli
Look for a full review on this one soon. We tested a new line of soy chicken (again, I don’t love meat replacement products, I prefer unadulterated ones, but this is transitional), and it was a huge hit. Even I’ll admit it was tasty. With broccoli and brown rice or noodles, it’s a quick weeknight dinner, and we’ve got a busy week.

Friday: Salad Bar!
We bought three kinds of salad greens (each of us has a preference), and this will be the last call to use up whatever has not been consumed during the week.

Saturday: Dine Out!
More field research is to be done! I’ve heard rumblings that a place I tested and disliked has improved, and there are several others untried in the area. As always, ping me with suggestions, I’m happy to try new spots!

Are you committing to good health in 2013? Any changes on the horizon? I’m still trying to walk the line between raising vegetarians and my own personal drive for protein. I do not want to raise pastatarians or cheesetarians. Sigh, onward and upward. Comment away!

Send your lettuces, lucrative offers, and kitchen confessions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday, Review of Rise in Durham: Biscuits and Doughnuts, Oh My.

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Three Salad Ideas for the New Year

Gentle Readers, may those among us who did not strap on the cookie jar like a feedbag cast the first baked good. It’s New Year’s Resolution time again, and I’ve got a few. I’ve extended the deadline on my one pull-up resolution of 2012. Don’t be a hater, they are very very hard. 2013 will be my year.

2013 will be the year of the pullup. I swear.

2013 will be the year of the pullup. I swear.

Also, if you know someone precise, someone who likes exact measures, let’s say an engineer, and she places a scale in front of your cookie cabinet, that is so not holiday feng sui. Just saying. I will not name names here, but will simply call her 5FeetofFury.

Chicken Jolt Salad with Espresso Cheese, Apples, and Dijon-Sherry Vinaigrette

Chicken Jolt Salad with Espresso Cheese, Apples, and Dijon-Sherry Vinaigrette

Back on point, it’s salad time here at Team Practical Cook. We’re all tired of rich food at this point. Here are 3 salad ideas to get you started:

1. Caesar Salad with Fried Onions: While you think this is not a health food, read on. The trick here is to use a lot of lettuce, not so much dressing, and something different for the crunch. That’s the point. The fried onions from Trader Joe’s are extremely satisfying, and not a complete calorie bomb. I like their dressing too. The Practical Cooks Jr are both big fans of onions instead of croutons because the salad is easier to eat. And that is really the point, isn’t it?

Trader Joe's Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

Trader Joe’s Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

2. Just Add Fruit: Dried or fresh, nothing brightens up greenery like something sweet. I find the combination satisfies my hunger and keeps me from craving other forms of sweetness. I’ve been on a blackberry and toasted almonds kick lately, but always keep dried cranberries and Honeycrisp apples on hand. Also, orange sections or mango chunks: both pair well with leftover salmon or tuna.

Blackberries and Toasted Almonds on Herby Greens FTW!

Blackberries and Toasted Almonds on Herby Greens FTW!

3. Salad Bar: This is not a new concept, I think the 80s got the patent on this one (remember when Wendy’s and Pizza Hut relied on this to lure you in for lunch?). However, it works at home and is worth a reminder. Buy 2 types of lettuce (or spinach plus lettuce) and let the people choose A vs B. It works. It’s not “eat a salad or leave the table,” now it’s “which one do you prefer?” Stay with the basic formula, greens, something sweet, something crunchy, something salty/cheesy, and ranch for emergencies.

Take it from the pros like Whole Foods, Salad Bars work.

Take it from the pros like Whole Foods, Salad Bars work.

So my journey into 2013 begins. What’s your resolution? Or your favorite salad? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way!

Send your digital scales to someone else. For questions, comments, or strokes of brilliance, email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Friday, First Time Fast Foodies.

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The Practical Cook Confessional Booth Is Open

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is intensely aware of the irony of this blog post considering the fried pickle extravaganza she just experienced. Yes, today’s post is a confession, so lean in. Though my love of Fried as a category is well established, so is my love of salad. However, I will admit, holiday cookies won this year.

My Arch-Nemisis, The Ordinary Scale

My Arch-Nemisis, The Ordinary Scale

Yes, I’m currently at war with my scale. It is foolish, I know, because the raw number matters less than my overall health, which seems good. However, I will admit to recalibrating and standing on said scale at different angles. There, I’ve confessed. You see, the last few years have been about fitness, and this year is about maintenance. I believe I’ve hit a plateau, which means, egads, I have to do more to stay the same.

The Grapefruit

The Grapefruit: My Love That Keeps Me Honest About Cholesterol

There’s a cholesterol test looming in my future, and I’d like to pass. Since I have no desire to perform some ghastly home test on a regular basis, I use my arch-nemesis, the ordinary bathroom scale, to keep me honest. Though apparently only Mr. Rogers is capable of maintaining exactly the same weight all the time, and maybe that’s an urban legend.

Cheese Fries at The Standard in Chapel Hill

Cheese Fries at The Standard in Chapel Hill: Yeah, I ate those for dinner.

So I am making a few subtle changes, going back to my roots of eating more mindfully. The irony: I had the opportunity to eat really good food amongst friends this evening, and I took it. So while the confessional booth is open, and I’ll admit that I have to run further, crunch more, and not eat every peanut butter cup my heart desires, I’ll also say that this is my one life. I  more than like food, I love it. So if I have the chance to eat great food, I take it. And if the chef  brings out some fried pickles, I will try one without blinking, two if no one claims the final one.

One dark chocolate peanut butter cup from Trader Joe's.

One dark chocolate peanut butter cup from Trader Joe's.

But I shall also do the extra crunches, keep trying to do that stupid pull-up I’ve resolved to do, and make a point to not eat anything that’s not absolutely delicious or truly good for me in some fashion.

There’s my confession, what’s yours? Are you guilty of standing on tiptoe on the scale? Of feeling guilty when you really just like fried pickles? Post a comment, I’m listening!

Send challenges, queries, and restaurants for review to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Greens at Every Meal.

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On the Road to One Pull-Up: The First Challenge (with video, of course)

Gentle Readers, as you know, The Practical Cook adores a challenge. This is not 100% food-related, though I would argue that a strong bicep is most necessary in wielding a heavy pan or for rolling out dough. Throughout this year, I’ll be keeping you updated on my quest to do one pull-up. Yes, I’ve not forgotten my resolutions.

Perhaps this can count as two resolutions, because I have certainly never arm-wrestled someone on camera before. (Here’s the original list of my New Year’s Resolutions.)

How did it turn out? Let’s roll the tape:

Lessons learned here, my pull-up training routine needs some improvement. Feel free to submit suggestions. Also, don’t arm-wrestle your barista. They are probably stronger than you, and could cut you off from your supply. Special thanks to MasseuseontheLoose for the excellent video work, and to The Dealer for agreeing to this challenge. I’m coming for a rematch in the spring.

How are your resolutions coming along? Resolve to comment on this blog more, starting today! Post one below now, or Tweet!

Send your arm wrestling tips, blog ideas, and cooking questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, it’s time for Kitchen Tool Talk: An Ode to My Cast Iron Skillet.

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Surviving the Salad Bar: 5 Practical Tips

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook adores a salad bar, but does not adore the typically gloppy dressing choices at the end of it. My work salad bar is fantastic: beautiful greens, interesting options, rotating items. However, they have the thickest dressings known to mankind at the finish.

The Practical Salad

The Practical Salad

For real, do not bother eating a salad if you put the equivalent of a Big Mac on top. Just eat the Big Mac and be happy about it! So what’s a Gentle Reader to do? Read on.

The Practical Cook’s Top 5 Tips to Surviving the Salad Bar

1. Use oil and vinegar if you can at all tolerate them. Learn to love balsamic vinegar, it is the get out of jail free pass of the salad bar. I like to douse with a healthy dose of chopped egg (not so much cheese, which I’m finicky about on salads), a splash of olive oil, and a goodly amount of vinegar. You don’t want the salad to be fat-free, or you’ll starve, but do you really love ranch that much?

Better to top your salad with a little barbecue than a lot of ranch.

Better to top your salad with a little barbecue than a lot of ranch.

2. If you love ranch that much, thin it. Fine, I know many a ranch lover out there, including Complicated Veggie Medium and The Youngest Practical Cook Junior. Most ranch dressings are super thick on the bar, but you can thin with either lemon juice (often available) or one of the lighter vinegars. Consider putting your dressing on the side. Bonus, less dressing equals a cheaper salad.

Eat the rainbow (salad)!

Eat the rainbow (salad)!

3. Fill your bowl 2/3 full of greens at the start. This is key, go heavy on the greens at the beginning, and you’ll not have as much room for the less than ideal toppings. Again, I am not vetoing egg, cheese, nuts, avocado, etc., but keep your ratios in check.

Quinoa and tofu add substance to this Whole Foods salad. I thinned the Thai dressing with lemon juice.

Quinoa and tofu add substance to this Whole Foods salad. I thinned the Thai dressing with lemon juice.

4. Eat the rainbow. Even if you put just one of each color of thing you see on your salad, you’ll be surprised how quickly and colorfully it adds up. A simple rule of childhood works wonders here.

This salad is overdressed. I usually ask for 1/3 as much dressing as they want to add. High lettuce content is good, though!

This salad is overdressed. I usually ask for 1/3 as much dressing as they want to add. High lettuce content is good, though!

5. Pack a snack. I love salads, really I do. I eat them most days at the office paired with soup, but I almost always have a trail mix snack in the wings. Salads for lunch keep you from having a serious heavy meal crash, but they will not keep you going through drive-time traffic, in my experience. If you don’t want to gnaw off your arm on the way home, plan ahead.

Trail Mix

Trail Mix

Are you a lunch salad fan? What are your tricks for avoiding paying a mortgage at the salad bar?  Post your comment below! Inquiring minds want to know.

Blog challenges, ideas, and questions can be emailed to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, On the Road to One Pull-up: The First Challenge.

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, On the Table

New Year’s Resolutions: In the Kitchen and Beyond!

Gentle Readers, lean in close. The Practical Cook simply adores New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, many people make them to break them, and some people even run away as if allergic, but not me. Last year I resolved to do something different with my life, and here we are, together in the kitchen. So what’s on my list this year? Read on.

Baby New Year (aka, The Eldest Practical Cook Junior) in the Kitchen

Baby New Year (aka, The Eldest Practical Cook Junior) in the Kitchen: Never Too Young to Start

The Practical Cook’s New Year’s Resolutions (aka, a Public Shaming Event):

1. Cook for more people more often. This has been a busy year for me, full of change, so I forgive me for not entertaining every night of the week. However, inspired to do the At-Home thing, I want to open my home and kitchen more in 2012. Selfishly, it means more suckers, ahem, Gentle Tasters, in the process. Thanks to my friend RockStar for more ideas on how to do this. Details pending in coming days.

Summer Thanksgiving Feast

Summer Thanksgiving Feast

2. Travel more. I’m fortunate to have a job that requires travel, and a support network that enables me to do so and still Mom (yes, that’s an action verb). But I want to do more remote field research. What a great time to be a fan of food, there’s so much eating to be done. If you’ve got suggestions for places to eat near you, let me know. Near or far, I’m making a list.

Fried Chicken at The Pig in Chapel Hill, NC

Fried Chicken at The Pig in Chapel Hill, NC

3. Try one new thing a month. This could be a new food, a new ingredient, a new life experience. Last year I took an improv class, sang on camera, and wrote 300 to 600 words daily. Not bad. This year, I want to take some cooking classes, learn to shoot a gun (non-living targets only, and don’t ask, just trust me on this one), and eat things outside of my comfort zone. No Nutella though, not that.

Fresh Warm Madeleine, Sans Nutella

Fresh Warm Madeleine, Sans Nutella

4. Complete 1 legitimate pull-up. If you know me personally, you know my mini-obsession with the micro-workout. I strive for 80 crunches and 20 pushups daily (those would be standard, not girl pushups). But the pull-up, that’s an elusive target. I can get maybe a 3 degree bend in my arm right now. Ask me how I’m doing on this through the year, I’ll keep you posted.

This is meant to be a picture of my new fave T (love the Muppets), but will use as a baseline on the pull-up regime. Wish me luck.

This is meant to be a picture of my new fave T (love the Muppets), but will use as a baseline on the pull-up regime. Wish me luck.

5. Keep blogging. There have been times where I thought I’d break the chain, fall to the pressures of life, my schedule, and a need to sleep at some point. But it has been a blast. This year, I want to incorporate more reader feedback, perhaps some guest bloggers (you know who you are), and always more video.

Are you a resolutions fan? Share yours below, or give me your two cents on mine. Post a comment, Tweet, or blog about it and send me the link!

Email strokes of brilliance, queries, and restaurants to review to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, New Year’s Day Food! Some of what I plan to make, revealed!

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Reviving the At-Home Tradition

Well, Gently Readers, hopefully you’re recovering nicely at this point, from whatever this season of eating has dished out to you. The Practical Cook has taken the opportunity to use her time off to re-establish the quaint notion of an “At-Home.” Cheers to the Gentle Reader who reminded her to leave the silver tray out for calling cards. Plain English? Bake something, stay home, tell people.

Cookies are a party, especially when there are options.

Cookies are a party, especially when there are options.

Yes, sometimes entertaining is just that easy. My co-hostesses, The Practical Cooks Junior, helped clean the house in the morning, bake in the afternoon, and entertain later in the day. Benefits: the house is clean, you get to eat something delicious, and the kids entertain each other.

Gingerbread from Trader Joe's Mix. Spicy!

Gingerbread from Trader Joe's Mix. Spicy!

The smart phone is the new calling card, you can Punt! and send out the invite at the last possible minute, and still have things work out. Obviously, Christmas cookies were already on the docket here, but I would happily test a new recipe for such an occasion (I’ve got a couple of cookbooks calling my name right now), and in a pinch, artfully arranging whatever you have on hand will certainly suffice. We started with cookies, and marched right through cut-up fruit, cheese and crackers, and frozen pizza.

Fruit: The Cookie Antidote

Fruit: The Cookie Antidote

The point, don’t let logistics interfere with entertaining. Inviting people into your home breathes new life into it. I’ll be talking more about my resolutions in an upcoming post, but this will certainly be one of them.

Christmas Tapas Table: Another At-Home Occasion

Christmas Tapas Table: Another At-Home Occasion

Are you a fan of the impromptu gathering? Share your ideas and tips by posting a comment. I know you’re out there.

Email extra cookies, leftovers, and queries to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, make your brunch life easy: Tater Tot Casserole Recipe.

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