Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cooking without Heather

If you read my wife's blog or follow her on Twitter, you've probably read that we're making some changes to our diet.  As she puts it we're eating Paleo-ish. Our house has no bread in it and our consumption of 2 gallons of milk every 3 days has been replaced with almond and/or coconut milk. Since we're not using grains as filler, we've been eating many more vegetables to take their place.

It was a big change in our diet and though I've not totally removed grains (I still eat my oatmeal for breakfast and have had a few slices of pizza and some beer), I do feel just as good if not better.  And my recent cholesterol test has shown significant improvement as well.

But a few weeks ago, my wife went on a trip to Harley-Davidson's corporate headquarters with other women bloggers.

As you know, I enjoy cooking, so I planned out our meals. That was important considering I still had to work and the kids had summer league swim meets each night.  But I tried to stay true to the paleo-ish diet we were taking on.

Day 1

Cumin Crusted Salmon Summer Salad (recipe on AllRecipes.com) with Apricot Brulee from Health-Bent

I found the recipe for the salmon years ago in a newspaper insert and have made it several times. Its a nice combination of salmon and salad. The citrus dressing gives the meal a light, bright summery taste.  To make this all the more vegetable-y, I added a diced red pepper to it.  It was fast to make, in fact, I prepared it in two batches. The first was for Kid3 and me, who ate earlier, followed by Kids 1 and 2 who were at swim practice and got home later.

Cumin Crusted Salmon Salad

The brulee was fun to make because I got to use my kitchen torch (in fact, that's a theme that carried through from the original poster's blog as well).  What also made it neat was that I was able to use some of Heather's organic, alternative sweeteners, in this case, coconut sugar.

Coconut sugar is much like brown sugar, though not as moist and not quite as sweet.  I'm not sure of any other nutritional differences from regular (likely beet) sugar...

Apricot Brulee

Day 2

Smoked Tri-Tip with a Coffee-Spice rub and Chipotle Coleslaw from Sunset Magazine

The weather was great and we were going to have a picnic dinner at the swim meet that night, so I decided to smoke tri-tip.  I had the time, because I was working from home while Heather was travelling, but I didn't pay enough attention to the tri-tip. I followed the recipe and smoked them for 2 hours, but that was too much for the tri-tip steaks. I think the recipe was intending larger tri-tips (or a more attentive cook).

When they came out, they were well done, but luckily not overly dry.  At the last minute, I made some Chipotle Guacamole to help them slide down.  Nice and smokey and the coffee flavor was great to get in the evening as opposed to just the morning with my espresso.

Smoked tri-tip and spicy coleslaw

Day 3

Day 3 was a busy day. Not only was there work, the ferrying to activities and the swim meet, but Heather was returning home this afternoon.  It was Kid3's turn for a swim meet, but we just weren't going to be able to be home to make a healthy lunch.

I asked Kid1 what Mom would do and he suggested some healthy options (subtracting the mayo and sauces) for lunch at Burger King.  Surprisingly, BK had added some yummy (and bordering on not bad for you) menu choices of salads and sweet potato fries.  It kept me in the paleo-ish arena and I wish I was indulgent enough for the bacon sundae.  They also had wifi which was great for getting some work done while I was out.

Salads, sweet potato fries and bacon sundaes

After picking Heather up, I packaged dinner so we could eat at the swim meet. We got to the swim meet for his last event but didn't eat there. Keeping to the paleo-ish diet, we had

  1. More smoked tri-tip
  2. Left over Chipotle Coleslaw
  3. A Syrian roasted red pepper vegetable dip
  4. Watermelon Salad with Vidalia-Onion Vinaigrette 

Not as much a hit, but I got credit for lots of vegetables, especially as veggies served as the dip transport mechanism.  In my house, I'm the only one who really likes savory watermelon salads. Kid2 will eat them, because she loves anything that has to do with watermelon, but that salad wasn't well accepted. Nor was the dip.

Oh, well, you win some, you lose some.

A Recent Business Trip

I tried to keep up the good diet on a recent business trip. Instead of going to the Waffle House or one of several fried chicken restaurants, I shopped at Publix market.  I think I was able to get healthier options than at a restaurant at about the same or less than I would have paid eating out.  I wonder how often expense reports have grocery store receipts submitted with them!
Hotel dinner

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lesson's learned Backpacking

Many people will wander the Earth to find themselves, go through some rite of passage. A little over a month ago, my son and I went backpacking on the Taylor River, and I learned a few things.
  • Some things are better at re-energizing a kid than others. Grabbing a quick snack, stopping for lunch, going to the bathroom and even changing his socks, were far more motivating than sitting down and taking a break. Maybe its the dread of putting the pack back on when you're resting, but some stops put a bigger spring in his step than others. 
  • Don't doubt your kids' cababilities. They can probably go further than you give them credit for. My 10 year old son carried a 28 pound backpack for 6 miles on Day 1 and 11 miles on Day 2 of our trip. And I didn't cut him much slack - he carried his stuff as well as some of our common gear. While we did eat the food he was carrying first, he still carried the tent poles and the rain fly (both pretty important in the state of Washington). And on top of all that he brought a full set of clean clothes for day 2 which is an oddity when we're at home with his full closet. 
  • We all know already that kids love sticks, often to parents' chagrin. Along the way, Kid3 picked up a "sharp stick" that became one of the most important pieces of "gear" my kid carried. He used it when scrambling up steep slopes, it was a pointer for the map. You can even see it in his hand in the picture below. We even turned around a short distance to go get it when it was left behind. Once. The final time it was lost, we realized it after about 15 minutes of walking. But it wasn't that traumatic of a loss. 
  • I did try to make this a learning exercise for Kid3 and teach him how to live in the outdoors. As we were hiking, I shared with him how to not attract animals to our campsite and how hanging a bear bag is a great activity. Usually, hanging a bear bag takes many attempts, so it serves as after dinner entertainment and to warm you up before you go to bed. Not so with my football playing son. On the third throw, he had it over the branch. And when we needed to lower it to get our toothbrushes, he just decided to re-hang it with similar ease. Take football players backpacking with you. 
  • You don't need as much stuff as you think. On this trip I carried as much weight as I do on a day hike (I pack heavy) and I had more food, parts of a tent and a sleeping bag. I didn't carry as many backup pieces of clothing and relied on my water filter quite a bit. On a typical day hike, I'll carry 3 - 4 liters of water, but this trip, we each carried 1 liter and an empty water bottle. We did refill several times during the trip, but that's easy as water is so plentiful in the Pacific Northwest. 
  • This was the first trip I went on with my new backpack, the REI Mars. My daypack is pretty simple and is about 13 years old. There have been quite a lot of improvements in backpacks, in particular the now common stretchy mesh pockets on the side of the packs. They're perfect for holding water bottles and easy to get the water bottle while walking. I stayed so much more hydrated on this trip than other trips. 
  • I really love being outdoors, rain or shine. We were lucky that Day 1 was a great day - not too hot, but still sunny. On Day 2, the clouds never quite cleared and by 10AM it was starting to sprinkle on us. We were generating enough body heat hiking that we didn't stop to put any wet weather gear on for several hours The rain didn't matter, it was just so great to be in the outdoors. 
It's good to just get out and walk around.