On Eating Vegetables

This post contains affiliate/referral links. If you click them and make a purchase I may receive a small commission or discount.

How do you feel about vegetables? I admit, I used to hate them. I still tend to say I don’t like them very much, but I need to stop saying that because it’s really not true. I actually love most vegetables, and I’ll tell you why.

Last year at about this time, I decided to change my diet. At the time I ate a pretty typical American diet. Over the last few years I’ve greatly reduced my consumption of sugar and processed foods, but I don’t do fad diets or pay much attention to food trends like clean eating, paleo, keto, stuff like that. I like Asian, New Mexican, and Mediterranean flavors, and I hated vegetables.

As I became more passionate about health and fitness, I realized that I was not fueling my body with adequate nutrition. I was working out more, and harder, and running out of energy. I did add supplements like protein powder and BCAAs, but I knew that if I really wanted to be healthier, I’d have to change the way I ate. So I purchased the 2B Mindset, a nutrition program from Beachbody. Because it’s a paid program, I won’t let you in on all the secrets, but I will give you a hint: two big parts of it are drinking more water and eating more vegetables.

Vegetables! Ugh!

I figured I wouldn’t like it. I figured my family wouldn’t like it either. But I also figured it was worth trying. I found more ways to prepare the few kinds of vegetables I did like. Thankfully, I’ve always loved zucchini. It’s such a versatile vegetable, and there are so many delicious possibilities. I really should have planted some this year! Maybe next year. I also found ways to add vegetables into foods I prepared regularly. I discovered cauliflower rice and zoodles. I added red peppers to chili and tomato sauce. I tried brussels sprouts. I don’t like typical salads, but I do like chopped salads, especially with kale. I started taking those to work. I found some really delicious recipes. I blended vegetables into smoothies.

After a few months of begrudgingly adding more vegetables to my diet, I discovered some interesting changes. I felt better. I had more energy. And probably the craziest part, I started really liking vegetables! I’ve gone from liking about five (green beans, asparagus, zucchini, potatoes, and broccoli) to liking nearly every vegetable I try, except for iceberg lettuce and beets.

It’s a weird fact that the more you eat a particular kind food, the more you tend to want it. If you eat a lot of sugar, you want a lot of sugar. If you eat a lot of fast food, you want fast food. If you eat a lot of vegetables, you want vegetables. Adding more vegetables didn’t just change my diet, it changed my life. I eat very differently now than I did a year or two ago, and I enjoy food just as much now as I did then. I just enjoy more kinds of food. And… chips. Somehow when I started eating more vegetables, chips and french fries became my favorite guilty foods, even more than sweets.

I hope you don’t think that just because I like vegetables now, I’ve abandoned my love for all the other foods. Believe me, I love all the foods. Pizza and cupcakes are still my favorite. But I learned that making a shift is possible, and that making healthier food choices can be enjoyable. And that roasted broccoli with butter, garlic, and a squeeze of lemon is just one of the best things in life.

This month in my 30 Day Challenge group, we’re eating more vegetables. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite recipes and tips for adding more veggie goodness into your life, whether you like vegetables or not. I hope you’ll join me!

What’s your favorite vegetable? If you have a good recipe, let me know!

On Prepping Freezer Meals

This article includes affiliate links. I think. If they work, and you click them and buy something, I might make a little money. I’ve never done this before so I don’t know for sure.

A few weeks ago, Marie McGinnis posted in a FB group I’m in, asking for bloggers to make some meals and review her book, A Busy Mom’s Simple Guide to Freezer Meals: How to Get 20 Healthy Dinners Ready in Just a Few Hours. I love the concept of freezer meals, but I hate the planning part, so I accepted the challenge and called my friend Carrie to prep with me. We got our supplies together and met up on a Sunday evening. While Aaron Rodgers came back from an injured leg to win a ridiculous game (Al Michaels was stunned), Carrie and I laughed and rushed and improvised our way through the instructions and ended the evening with seven freezer meals prepped and ready to go. Here’s how it went…

First, on the book. Marie’s instructions are clear and concise. There are two ten-meal “bundles” that are each intended to be prepped all at once. She includes a shopping list for ingredients, a handy butcher page if you are able to have your meat cut to order, detailed assembly instructions for each meal, plus a recipe page with a picture to keep with the meal. There are additional resources following the recipes, such as side item ideas, suggestions for having meal prep parties, and a chart with cooking times and additional ingredients needed for each meal. I highly recommend reading the entire book (about 60 pages total) before starting. If I had, Carrie and I might have had fewer mishaps during our prep time and ended up with ten meals prepared instead of seven.

So, here’s what we did and what we could have done better. Carrie very kindly offered to buy all the groceries and I paid her for my half. I think that’s a really easy, convenient way to get that done. We also could have split things up and it would have been fine too. We had some issues with the meat. If you can use the butcher page and get everything cut to order, that would really be ideal. Or else buy fresh meat and hope your helper doesn’t put it in the freezer when they put groceries away. Our meat was frozen, and we were worried about letting it thaw enough to work with and then freezing it again, which is why we ended up skipping two of the meals. I looked frozen meat up later and discovered that according to the USDA, it is not harmful to thaw raw meat and then freeze it again. It may lose some quality due to moisture loss, but if you have to do it, it’s okay. You can also thaw meat, cook it, and then freeze it again. Just in case you’re wondering.

Because of some unforeseen scheduling delays, we started prepping at about 7:30 on Sunday evening. I thought it would take maybe two hours at the most. I was wrong. It took about four hours, and we probably could have taken five pretty easily. I’d suggest planning about half an hour per meal. Some won’t take that long, but by the time you get set up, prep all the meals, and clean up, it will probably take about five hours total. Next time, we’ll plan for a whole afternoon.

Even with all the issues and errors we had (Carrie joked later that we could write a whole book on how NOT to make freezer meals), we had a lot of fun, and we’ll probably do it again. Even though it’s a lot of work up front, it’s really nice to know that I have a whole bunch of meals ready to just put in the crock pot and cook all day. I’ll post a full review of the book when I’ve eaten more of the meals, but so far the ones I’ve had are pretty good.

As an extra bonus, I got to meet Marie in person last week and have coffee. She’s a busy mom of two young kids, like I am, and it was nice to enjoy some coffee and adult conversation. We talked food, kids, and the challenges and blessings of making money from home. I was really impressed with her and her book. If you’d like to see if a freezer meal prep day is a good plan for you, I recommend checking it out.

On Spinach Dip

I love spinach artichoke dip. It’s yummy, creamy, and it’s good for you because it’s got spinach, right? Well, no. Greg read an article in some bicycle magazine or something that said spinach artichoke dip is the worst thing to ever happen to spinach and artichokes and no one should ever eat it because it might actually kill you. That said, I’m going to go ahead and post my favorite recipe for the deadly stuff. I adapted it from a couple recipes. Next time I make it I’ll add a picture to this post. Oh, and just for fun, I’m including the recipe for really delicious pita chips that are definitely not as bad for you as the dip. Who knows, maybe they’ll counter the effects and save your life. If not, and you die from eating it, I promise you’ll die happy.

Yummy Baked Spinach Artichoke Dip
1 pkg (8 oz) Neufchatel cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese), softened
1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained
1 jar (7.5 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup plain lowfat or nonfat yogurt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Dash of cayenne pepper or a few drops of hot sauce such as Tabasco
1/4 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients except parmesan until blended. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with crackers or pita chips.

Easy Baked Pita Chips
1 pkg whole-wheat pita rounds
2-4 TBSP Italian dressing (I like KRAFT Tuscan House Italian)

Heat oven to 350. With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut each pita round into eight pieces (like a pizza). Separate the halves and arrange the pieces on a cookie sheet. Each round will make 16 chips, so make as many as you need. You may need to do several batches or use more than one cookie sheet. Brush lightly with dressing. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned. Serve warm with dip or hummus.

If you make this and love it, or hate it, or have questions about the recipe, or take a nice photo of it that you’d like to share, please comment. Enjoy!

Eating in Pueblo

A conversation earlier today got me thinking about all the places I love to eat in Pueblo. There are some really tasty places to eat here, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites. In alphabetical order:

Angelo’s – My favorite things about Angelo’s: The pizza, the atmosphere, the setting, and the lemon cucumber dressing. Oh my gosh, that stuff is so good. Everything there is good in my opinion. And because I don’t like to eat outside, I love it that you can sit inside on the bottom floor but still feel almost like you’re eating on the Riverwalk.

Bingo Burger – Hands down, the best burger I’ve had in Pueblo, and well worth the price. They use fresh, local beef and buns from the Hopscotch Bakery. The Bingo Burger has Pueblo chilies mixed in with the meat. You just can’t go wrong with that! Plus, it’s a cute little place and the people are always really friendly. Warning: If you eat the sweet potato fries at Bingo Burger, you will be ruined for any other sweet potato fries anywhere. Yeah, they’re that good. Try them with Thai Curry Ketchup. Your tastebuds will thank you.

The Daily Grind – One of my first Pueblo favorites, The Daily Grind makes an excellent latte, in several intriguing flavors. They also have great sandwiches and really good soup. The BLT is the best sandwich by that name that I have ever had. I also like the Californian. And their potato soup is loaded with all the good stuff, particularly butter and cream. Gotta love that. It’s a little pricey and the atmosphere, especially later in the evening, can get a little…um…thick.

Do Drop Inn – I like their pizza, although Greg isn’t crazy about it. I’ve heard several opinions on it but basically if you don’t like thick, sweet crust, you won’t like it. What sold me on Do Drop Inn was when a friend and I had the lunch buffet at the Pueblo West location recently. Everything was good and fresh, and the eggplant parmegiana was To. Die. For. Wow. So good.

Enclades – If you like cajun food and you haven’t tried this little spot on 4th Street downtown, you are missing out. Everything there is good. The pecan pie will absolutely melt in your mouth. And if you like it hot, you must try the green chile gumbo. The combination of cajun spices and green chile is out of this world.

GG’s BBQ – I ate there once when it was in a gas station on the Mesa, but now it’s in a new location on the Hwy 50 frontage road just off Morris. Good barbeque is not easy to find in Pueblo but this place is good. Even their sides are really good. And they have really tasty homemade sauces. I hear the carrot cake is incredible.

Mi Ranchito – I’m ambivalent about most Mexican restaurants in Pueblo, but I do like the food at the Mi Ranchito on the Mesa. Their tamales are good, their salsa is edible, and they have these fried taco things, I can’t remember what they’re called exactly (Tacos Dorados, maybe?) but they are pretty tasty. The one in town is fine too, but I like the one on the Mesa better.

Paul’s Great American Heroes – Pueblo has quite a few really good sandwich shops, but I’m rather fond of Paul’s. It’s got fun atmosphere, fun names for the sandwiches, and really good bread. I love good bread. The I Like Ike and Ben Franklin are among my favorites, but pretty much everything at Paul’s is good. I’ve even had halfway decent posole there, and that’s not an easy thing to find anywhere, especially in Pueblo. Also, if you order the daily special, Paul’s can be pretty cheap.

Wireworks – Worth a mention because it’s vegetarian if you’re into that. They do have decent lattes, really good soup, scrumptious bagels, and hummus. I enjoy hummus.

That’s all I can think of for now. Please feel free to comment with suggestions for places I didn’t mention or haven’t tried yet. I didn’t include chain restaurants in this list because everyone knows about them, but I will say I’m quite fond of Chili’s, Ruby Tuesday has a wonderful salad bar, and I think Texas Roadhouse is the best place in Pueblo for reasonably priced steak, although Applebee’s steak is certainly acceptable and I’ve always loved their French Onion Soup. Okay, I’m done.

What’s not to love about green chile?

I have been loving my NM green chile this year. I know Puebloans love their Pueblo chile, but I’m a New Mexico girl. Give me some hot long greens straight from Hatch, and I’m in chile heaven. So far this year I’ve enjoyed my green chile fried in rellenos, diced on a baked potato, cooked into breakfast burritos, and sauced up and smothered on those breakfast burritos, then topped with cheese. If you’re blessed to have access to some green chile, here are some “recipes” for you. “Recipes” is in quotes because I have a terrible tendency to never measure anything. Perfectly fine in cooking, not so much with baking, which is why I am a good cook but a mediocre baker.
(Only New Mexicans know how to do these right. I never trust a relleno outside of New Mexico)
2 whole green chiles, slit up one side, most of the seeds removed
About ½ cup flour
Seasoned salt
Baking powder
Sliced cheese (preferably Jack, but Cheddar works too)
Vegetable oil
Whisk egg with a little milk. Mix flour, seasoned salt to taste, and a dash of baking powder. Stuff chile with cheese. Dip in egg mixture coat and coat with flour mixture, then repeat. Fry in hot oil until lightly browned and crispy. Serves one.
Breakfast Burritos
1 lb. breakfast sausage
8 eggs
1-2 diced green chiles
Shredded cheese
About 6 flour tortillas
Brown sausage. Whisk eggs with green chile and a little milk. Add to skillet with sausage and cook, mixing with sausage. Heat tortillas one at a time in a clean frying pan. Fill with sausage and egg mixture, sprinkle with cheese, and fold burrito. Serves about 6.
Notes: You can add potatoes (cook them with the sausage) and reduce the number of eggs if you’d like. I have nothing against potatoes, I just usually don’t have them. Also, you can use corn tortillas instead of flour. I call these “breakfast tacos” and I think they’re quite tasty, too.
Green Chile Sauce
(This is NM-style green chile sauce with no meat)
About 1/4 cup olive oil
About ½ cup chopped onion
About 1 tsp minced garlic
About 1 Tbsp flour
About 1 cup chopped green chile
About 1 cup water
Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet. Add onions, then garlic, and cook until transparent. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon and cook for a minute or two. Add chile and water and cook until the sauce has a nice sheen. Add water in small amounts if sauce is too thick. Sauce can be used to smother burritos (be sure to top with shredded cheese), or in enchiladas, or really however you want to use it.
Note: All the amounts are approximate because I sort of just toss stuff in the pan until it looks good. Feel free to adjust as necessary. You can also add salt if you’d like.
Feel free to comment with questions, or to let me know if you tried one of these. Enjoy!

Best of Pueblo: The Daily Grind

Now that I live in a new town, I get to try new restaurants! I’m so excited! One of the ladies at our new church gave us a section from the paper called The Best of Pueblo 2009, and I’m going to make it my goal to try several of them over the next few months. Oh boy!

The Daily Grind is a coffeeshop and deli on Union Street. We went there last year when we were visiting Pueblo, but I don’t remember much other than we liked it. It’s kind of eclectic and chic, with old board games and paperbacks available for entertainment, and local art on the walls. It was voted the best coffeeshop in Pueblo, and when we returned today, we saw why.

One of the first things I noticed when I walked in was the wall of tea. It is a floor-to-ceiling shelf filled with containers of about forty varieties of loose tea. As tempted as I was to try them (Ginger Black Tea sounded especially tasty), I had to go with the Hazelnut Latte. I chose decaf because I’d already had tea that morning and I’m trying to be careful with my caffeine intake. Now, I have never found a coffeeshop that could rival Starbucks’ hazelnut latte, but this was actually better. It tasted richer, with a little better hazelnut latte. I was impressed. Then I ate the food.

I ordered a half BLT on multi-grain bread and the soup of the day, which was baked potato. I opted for the cheese and bacon on the soup (I get 300 extra calories a day, so why not use them on bacon and cheese, right?) It was the thickest, creamiest, cheesiest potato soup I have ever had, and it was so rich I had to take some home. Yum! And the BLT was great, too. I had to trim some of the lettuce off the edges (I think they used a whole green leaf), and there was some kind of reddish-orange sauce on it that I was a little concerned about, but not for long! The bacon was excellent (Greg said it tasted expensive), the lettuce was crisp, the tomato was nicely ripe, and the bread was toasted to perfection. I don’t know what kind of sauce the reddish-orange stuff was, but it was tasty. Oh, and they served it with a pickle spear that was over six inches long. Pickles are my favorite food lately, so I was perfectly happy.

I am now a fan of The Daily Grind. They have a large variety of sandwiches, pastries, soups, and salads, some really excellent coffeeshop drinks, and a pleasant, edgy ambiance. I imagine I will have more good things to say about them in the future!