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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Adventures in Cooking

I’ve never been a good cook. I’ll go so far that I’m even working my way up to becoming a decent cook, but good? Not me. Realistically there are about a dozen or so non-crockpot meals that I can make reliably. I’ve come a long way from first grade where, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my reply was “chef.” 

Yup. I’m definitely shattering 6 year old me’s dreams.

That being said, I have been cooking more since I started P90X. The program has a nutrition guide and even a meal plan, but I opted to try to stick to the recommended ratios of protein, carbs, veggies, dairy, fruit, snacks, etc. The details would bore you, but suffice it to say, when it came to hitting my allotted proteins for the day, I was in trouble.

Enter breakfast.

Eggs and pork/turkey/meat have protein, as you might imagine. If I get up and cook myself an egg or two and have some bacon or ham or Scrapple then I head to work with 1/3 to 1/2 of my daily protein checked off my list. Lunch is often leftovers or a sammich, though my killer tuna salad (one of my 12 reliable meals) often comes with me too.

Dinner has become its own thing though. Maggie typically makes dinner, but I’ll usually make dinner about once a week. Maggie has been out of town in Colorado doing Figaro with Emerald City Opera and being awesome for the last 3 weeks, so I’m left to fend for myself. As you can imagine, I cycled through my usual meals pretty quickly.

And so I began to try new things. Sometimes I was successful. Sometimes I failed pretty spectacularly. What I feel is important is that I am trying. I made a fantastic chicken fried rice dinner once upon a time and I have yet to replicate that success (it always comes out soggy or slimy). Last week it was again slimy. I tried an omelette and turned it into a pile of scrambled eggs and grilled veggies with hot sauce on top. Recently, however, I have had two decent successes.

Yesterday I made this:

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Grilled Tilapia and Peas over rice

I grilled the tilapia with some dill, garlic salt, and lemon juice alongside sauteed onions, capers, and sundried tomatoes. It came out really good. Maggie and I have done fish a number of different ways, but I’m pretty proud of this one.

Today, however was a trial. I set out to make General Tso’s Chicken since it is one of my favorite Chinese dishes and I have gobs of chicken in the house at the moment. We had the orange sauce in the pantry already, so I needed to pick up a few things for the recipe. No sweat.

There are grilled versions of this dish, but I wanted to be more authentic to the dish, so I opted to fry it. I have almost no experience frying foods, so this was going to be fun. First thing’s first though, I needed to make a marinade for the chicken. Easy, right? One egg white, some soy sauce, a little cornstarch… What could go wrong?

I went through 5 eggs, made the mistake of trying to substitute cornmeal for cornstarch (eventually figured out you can sub flour for it), and stepped on the cat (I was preoccupied and he was underfoot. I apologized and pet his head after I washed off all the chicken-y bits. We’re cool again). Two other mistakes during this process: 1) broke the yolk on one egg when trying to get the white out, and 2) added my wet ingredients to my dry and got mush (yeah, I got a big “told you so” from Alton Brown on that one).

Then came the pans. I put my garlic and ridiculously hot dried red peppers from the Mexican aisle at ShopRite (note to self: hubris is often painful and hot peppers are advertised as hot because they are, in fact, hot) in a pan and promptly burned them up. Take 2, lowered the temp to aerate them and everything was fine. I heated the oil for the now sticky marinated chicken and put them in one by one. I expected the oil to pop. I’m not a complete novice and I have worked in fast food, so I know that heated cooking oil gets a little jumpy. Apparently I had either too much oil or too high heat, because this stuff went crazy. I put the little splash guard thingy on there (and used it as a shield for the rest of the frying) and turned the heat down and it calmed.

From there it was smooth sailing. Dry the chicken, add to the aerated veggies and sauce, mix, put on top of rice and broccoli, and enjoy.

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General Tso’s Chicken

And so, despite my setbacks and failures, I am eating actual food that doesn’t come from a box or a takeout menu. It’s healthier for me and it gets me my protein and veggies so I have enough energy to kick butt at P90X.

I’m looking for more ideas and recipes. Hit me up with links or recipes you enjoy that fall into the “novice to proficient” difficulty range. After all, the more I learn to cook, the less frequently I have to eat pasta and manwich and tuna salad (though, like I said, I make a killer tuna salad).

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When I thought about doing P90X a few months ago I wanted to write out the routines on a calendar so I could cross them off as I completed them. Basic behavior modification. I asked my wife to pick up a calendar for me and when she asked what I wanted on it I told her “whatever is fine.” And so I have an “Extraordinary Chickens” calendar upon which I track my progress.

It now has 7 X’s on it 🙂

I made it through the first week of P90X and did pretty well. I’m still getting used to eating differently. I generally eat lots of carbs and not enough protein in any given week. I’m good with veggies and fruit though (thanks to my wife). In order to really have enough energy to do this program I need more protein. I don’t do any of the supplements or drinks. For one, they’re expensive, and for two, I’m not trying to build myself up to be this awesome bodybuilder or anything. Yes, I know I’m missing out and my body is probably missing out, but I take my multivitamin and now a glucosamine supplement (recommended by a friend since I’m having knee trouble this week). My nutrition and vitamin intake are in the spirit of the program and for now that is good enough for me.

My biggest hurdles so far in the program are yoga and abs. Abs are just plain brutal. I’m doing 12-15 reps for each exercise (instead of the 25) and it’s all I can do for now. As for yoga, I’m just not all that flexible and I have a belly, which gets in the way and has more than once caused me to fall over. Plyo isn’t the monster I thought it was. I can mostly keep up and I try to push myself a bit more each time. I’m getting better at pull ups and, honestly, I’m doing mostly adjusted versions of many of the exercises at the moment to get some benefit and learn the routines. It does me no good to do 3/4 a pull up without a chair when I can do 5-10 with a chair (and I always try to do at least one without the chair each time). That’s my best right now and I’m not sad about it.

Kempo X is probably my new favorite thing. I enjoyed the punches and kicks when I did P90 back in the day and this is a high pace version of that. I’m still learning form, but I can keep up intensity, which is something I can’t do on any of the other programs.

In other news, Fantasy Football starts up soon. I’ve tinkered around a bit this weekend and plan to read up on the guys this year during the week. I’m hoping to find enough people (read: people I know) to start my own league this year. I’m sure I can cobble together 7-9 people to make it happen. Updates on that progress later.

I finish my internship in <1 month. After that I will be finishing my dissertation and hopefully finding a job. I’m applying to a lot of places this weekend and next week. I hate not having a plan and feeling like I have little control over what happens to Maggie and the cats and me for the next 3-4 months. All I know is that by the end of the year I will be graduated. There’s also a small chance that we’ll all be homeless. Now accepting donations.

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What music do you listen to when you run? What motivates you? I want to add to my Zombie Running Tunes playlist, so let me hear what you listen to (feel free to post a reply on FB since this gets published there and that’s prolly how a number of you got to reading this now).

A friend of mine led me to a runner’s site with several interesting articles (see my blogroll for a link to No Meat Athlete). Two of the articles are particularly pertinent to me and I thought I would take a moment to share.

10 Best Running Songs Ever

I know most of these and have a few on CD already. I tend to like rock music or something with a bit of a driving beat. Guitar is fun too and I’m giving serious thought to tracking down my Joe Satriani CDs to add them to iTunes. I’ve had good luck with my music so far. Certain songs have played at just the right time to motivate me. I’m sure there’s some research out there to support how motivating music is to exercise, but I’m too lazy (ha!) to track it down right now.

How to Avoid Shin Splints and Stress Fractures

As you likely know by now, I’m currently plagued with shin pain. I ran the elliptical today, rather than run in the gorgeous weather outside, because my shins started whining while I was at work. The elliptical is a good way for me to have a low impact (i.e., no footstrike) variable intensity workout and still get in my 30 minutes.

Anyway, this article gives some good tips on how to minimize shin pain from experience. Listed are 6 tips, of which I already do 3 regularly (the three that are the least effective, according to the author). I run on a paved track at the park when I’m not on the elliptical or treadmill. Perhaps I should consider running on the grass by the track for a little while and see how that goes. My only concern is that it is a less consistent surface, but hey, I’ve been running for a few months, so what do I know.

Minimizing hard workouts is something I started doing more regularly more recently. Being gung ho about exercising can make you ignore little things like safety and overworking your body. It is doubly important for me to pay attention to this since I’m committed to doing daily exercising, rather than taking a day off here and there.

As for pacing, that’s something I plan on starting as soon as I get back to running (prolly tomorrow or Saturday). It makes sense, but it might be a while before I can really run at that pace. I’m mostly going for run far, not too fast, rest occasionally.

Which is a great segue to food. I am trying to eat more healthily by cutting my portions down, eating snacks, and trying to eat stuff that’s food. Maggie turned me on to a simple phrase by Michael Pollan: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. He has talked about these “food rules” just about everywhere. If you didn’t already notice, I tried to adopt a similar idea to my running (more succinctly written above than in my last post). I don’t see the point in dieting by complicated rules and paying close attention to caloric intake. Too much hassle. Seven words is enough for me. He does go into more detail, like what constitutes food, but the gist is in those 7 words.

I am making steady progress on my goal. I’ve been getting encouragement and tips from friends on Facebook and from lots of people on Fitocracy. I’m feeling a lot better about stretching and have learned a few more exercises. I’ve also lengthened each exercise and/or added a rep to my stretch routine. It’s amazing what a difference a few more seconds makes.

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I am well on my way to collecting data for my dissertation. I have acquired IRB approval at Spalding and I’m awaiting approval at 4 other universities. Funny, the one in North Carolina is much more on their game than the local ones in Louisville. I have printed all of the documents I need and will be stuffing packets this week. I also need to purchase a couple of things, including a locking document box (which are harder to find than you might think) and an external hard drive (multipurpose since I need to back up my compy anyway). Other than that, I need to track down participants and get to it.

Friday is Match Day. I will know then where I will be for internship (or if I need to freak out a whole bunch). I’ll be glad to have an answer either way. I’m tired of waiting. I’m growing impatient for my future. I’d like to be able to say with some certainty where I will be in a year.

I have started to consider my health again. This time last year (give or take a month) I began exploring P90 and doing Sparkpeople. I’ve left the latter in the dust, but I have strong intentions to restart the former. I am 225 lbs–the heaviest I’ve ever been. Internship interviewing and all of the stress from these past few months have led to more stress eating and a tendency to want to sit and veg at the end of the day. I turn 29 in 10 days and I’d like to be healthier on for my 30th birthday than I will be on my 29th. Part of that means eating healthier and part of that means exercising regularly. I plan to jump start this process sometime in the next couple of weeks by kicking my own ass with P90X. I also intend to begin paying more attention to what I consume. Portion size is a problem as is eating when I’m not really hungry. I plan to reduce the number of times I eat fast food and how frequently I eat greasy/fried foods in general. I hardly ever drink soda anymore and I have been increasing my water intake, so I do have something to show for myself. I’d like to get back down to between 165 lbs and 175 lbs. Online BMI calculators are telling me 160-176 for a medium frame and 129-169 (BMI 19-25) for my ideal body weight. Honestly, once I’m down past 200 I’ll be happy.

Let’s see, what else? I get to visit Maggie in a couple weeks for a couple weeks. My spring break and hers bunch up against each other, so it’ll make for a nice mid semester vacation. It won’t be all play though. I will be gathering data for my dissertation at her school while I’m there. I should be visiting her from around the 7th to the 19th of March. Really looking forward to it, I must say.

That’s all for now.

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It has been quite some time since I last posted. I can blame it on whatever, but suffice it to say I have neglected this blog. I intend to remedy that, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. I’ve said I will be more consistent before and look where that got me. I’m off Spark People and off P90. Let’s just take this one post at a time, shall we?

Tomorrow I embark on a 5 day, 1,800 mile road trip. This is the first leg of my internship interviews with a phone interview on Monday and 4 consecutive days of on-site interviews through Friday. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Monday – Drive with Maggie to Atlanta, GA with a stop in Nashville to meet Lauren for lunch and conduct my 60 minute phone interview with XXXXX
  • Tuesday – Interview at XXXXX in Atlanta then drive to Boone, NC
  • Wednesday – Interview at XXXXX in Boone, then drive to Greensboro to drop off Maggie, have lunch with Carl in Burlington, and drive all the way out to Hampton, VA where I am told a friend of a friend of Maggie’s, who happens to be a Sinfonian, will put me up for the night
  • Thursday – Interview at XXXXX then drive ~10 hours to Lexington, KY to crash with my mother-in-law
  • Friday – Interview at XXXXX then drive home to Louisville

I have 2 interviews on the 11th (one phone and one Skype), an on-site interview in White River Junction, Vt on the 19th, an on-site interview in Salisbury, NC on the 21st, and another phone interview that has yet to be scheduled. In all, I have 10 interviews, and in case you’re wondering, I’ve redacted the site names for now because it is easy to do a Google search on my name and find this blog.

That being said, I plan to update throughout the month of January about my experiences during internship interviews. I’ll talk about the time spent in different cities (the ones I travel to anyway) and my general thoughts about the process. Once the match process is past in March, I’ll share more about my experiences at sites. During the process, however, I will be careful not to talk about specific sites and will only give my general impressions about my experiences. My goal is to keep friends and family informed about my travels and offer some general advice to people going through this process. I will not be talking about matching, ranking, or fit with sites in this blog. This is a big internship no-no. APPIC Match Policy states: “Participants in the APPIC Match, including applicants and internship programs, may not communicate, solicit, accept, or use any ranking-related information pertaining to either Phase of the Match prior to the release of the results for Phase II of the Match.” There is an outside chance the sites I’m interviewing with will/have Google(d) me and I don’t want to imply fit or ranking status here.

This is a big step and a busy month for me and I simply want to share it with my readers. Following match in March, I will post a list of all the sites to which I applied, but I will refrain from writing about my interviews and experiences with each site. I will provide contact information if you are interested in hearing about my experience at a particular site. You can also message me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/jason.schwenker).

That’s all for now. Expect more updates this week and the rest of January. Once the interviewing is over I’ll prolly start back up with P90X. I have too many things going on now whooping my butt mentally and emotionally to add something that will do so physically. Also, I don’t have a pull-up bar and I’m not ready to limit my intake of comfort foods.

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It has been a month since my last post and I have almost nothing to show for it. I have finished my GA but my motivation for just about everything else has gone south. I’ve put off schoolwork and dissertation work, and I have been following my workout only intermittently. I will do better this month.

I’m in the process of getting all of my feedback from Chapter I of my dissertation. So far I’ve heard good things. I have 3 assessments to complete (2 reports and 1 yet-to-be-referred referral). I have less than a month left at my practicum. I will take the rest of July to complete Chapter II of my dissertation and will hopefully start collecting data in August.

As for my workouts, I will begin P90M anew next week and continue to eat better (I’ve been introducing more fruits into my diet and trying to cut my portions down). I’ll post my 30 days pic after I’ve successfully completed my 30 days.

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I have lost seven pounds. And no, I don’t need any help finding them. I will just consider them gone and stop looking.

I passed my first 30 days of P90. It was a rocky start, but I’ve been pretty consistent and the scale tells me I’m doing just fine. As busy as I have been it has been hard to find time for the workouts and/or be motivated to do them after a full day of stuff. I will occasionally do them in the morning, but I’m not a morning person and would rather sleep in. I climbed 3 flights of stairs the other day and realized that I wasn’t winded like I usually am. Ok, maybe a little, but it was definitely an improvement.

I made omelettes tonight. Ham and cheese with some green veggies. I have only really watched people make omelettes before. I have on occasion participated in the making of omelettes, but this was my first solo omelette endeavor. It wasn’t half bad. Given the frequency with which we have most of the ingredients for these, I see more omelettes in my future. I’m looking forward to experimenting with them a bit as well. I’m open to suggestions!

Finally, I am sad about Butler (now onto the subject of basketball). I had hoped they would beat Duke and it looked good. I didn’t mind them going as far as they did after winning over Murray State. I figured, if they’re good enough to beat Murray, they better go all the way. They nearly did. Sadly, Duke ruined yet another March Madness experience for me. I don’t care for Duke, being a UK fan and still bitter about game ending long shots. For a brief moment I’d hoped the last shot had gone in if only to serve as poetic justice for Duke. Oh well. Better luck next year.

On to baseball. I need  some teams to cheer for. I’ve watched the sports seasons roll this year and participated in some degree in each thusfar. And so, I need a couple of teams to cheer for in each league. I may not watch the games, but I’ve enjoyed the spirit of sports this year and having a team to cheer for. Some of my teams have surprised me and some came very close to triumph. As for baseball, I’m not truly invested in any team. The Cubbies perhaps, but definitely definitely not the Yanks.

My horse this year for the Derby is going to be Dublin. I really want to see Make Music For Me go far as well. That’s my underdog. Sadly, Liz isn’t throwing her usual Millionaire party this year–she’s actually going to the Derby. Loser. I’ll go one year. This one prolly won’t be it though.

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