Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cabbage Soup

Since my second child was born I have lost about 20 lbs.  The key to my weight loss has been simple; take in less calories than I burn.  When I want to lose weight I record calories in and calories out, every day to make sure I stay within my calorie budget.  I highly recommend Lose It! but there are plenty of smartphone apps and websites that will track calories for you.  By seeing the caloric value of what you eat you really begin to understand which foods will give you the most "value" for the least calories. 

I have a few tried and true low calorie foods that I return to time and time again.  I hope to share all of them with you and will start with cabbage soup.  I call it cabbage soup but really it's an ever-changing vegetable soup that is very loosely based on a Weight Watchers recipe.  You know I don't always measure so below are estimations:

Saute 1/2 cup chopped onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until they start to become transparent. 

Add 1/2 cup chopped carrots.  When parsnips are in season I also add up to a cup of them peeled and chopped. 

Cook in olive oil (add more if needed) until parsnips/carrots begin to soften. 

Add 1-2 cup chopped green cabbage

***at this stage you can add any other veggies you like.  I sometimes add chopped celery, zucchini or green beans.  Today I happened to have kale, so I added about 1 cup chopped kale.

Add 4-5 cups reduced sodium broth (enough to cover vegetables.)  I prefer chicken but you can use vegetable to go vegan.  I love Trader Joes Savory Chicken Broth pouches - one pouch per cup of water. 

Add 1 tablespoon italian herbs and 1 or 2 whole bay leaves. 

Simmer covered until vegetables are soft - about an hour.  Remove bay leaves.

***for years I ate the soup as is - rustic with all the whole veggies but lately I've started pureeing.  Use an emersion blender or transfer small batches to blender until soup is as pureed as you like.  Today I avoided the kale when I blended in a blender because the color of the kale when blended was not so pretty.  A great benefit of blending is that my 6 year old will eat this healthy soup when blended but would NEVER otherwise eat cooked cabbage, parsnips or kale!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Illustration Friday - Messenger

The bird and fish are nature's messengers. 
The fish needs clean water. 
The bird needs clean air.

Watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper.

Make 2012 the year to go a little greener.

When you go to the beach take a bag and collect trash.  Leave the beach cleaner than when you arrived. 
Walk, bike, scooter, skate.  Leave the car at home.  You will also save money and do something good for your body.
Replace plastic bags with these.  Replace plastic water bottles with this and this.  You will save money when you stop buying plastic!

I find the concepts of "reduce, reuse, recycle" easy...the challenge for me is the precurser - REFUSE.  Do I need another handbag?  How many pairs of shoes do I really need?  Another toy for my kids?  This is the idea I am taking in to 2012.  Just say no.

Happy New Year from all the little birds and fish.

Hanalei River

Maybe because it's almost 2012 I have Kauai on the brain. 

Hanalei River, acrylic on canvas

Next time I want to SUP on this river.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Renaissance Woman

Years and years ago I wrote myself a list of goals.  I know I kept it somewhere and it would take me ages to find but I can see it fairly clearly in my mind's eye.  It was written on a shirt-shaped notepad that had a tropical print on it made to look like a Hawaiian shirt.  Here is how I remember the list:

Paint a piece of art nice enough to hang on my wall.
Write a cookbook.
Write a book of craft and art projects.
Lose weight.
Be happy.

Fast forward a few years and I am approaching my 40th birthday. As it turns out I did lose weight and I did paint a picture that was hanging on my wall (several, in fact) and I did feel happy. In fact, I began to think of that stage of my life as "the -est". As in I was the fittEST I had ever been, my body became the thinnEST it had ever been, I was the happiEST I had ever been. It was at this time I began to think about starting a blog and I always pictured my blog being called "the est". The name doesn't work for a lot of reasonss but mostly because it reminds me of a self-help group my friend belonged to in the 80's called EST and I always thought it sounded like a cult.

Anyway, back to the title of this post and the real point I want to make. So here I am a few years even further down the line. I am still in full "est" mode. I have embraced the artist in me. I started running at the age of 40 and ran my first half marathon at 41. I have not published a book on cooking or crafting but I have started this blog which is surely the next best thing.  Most importantly, I feel good.  I feel happy.

It took me a few weeks to tell people I was blogging because I was self-conscious but when I emailed a link to this blog to a friend her reply was "wow, you are having a real renaissance". I loved that because it's true...I really do feel like I have been reborn in a lot of ways. A few nights later at my book club meeting another friend, who has just recently seen my blog for the first time, told me how surprised she was to learn all of these new things about me...she had had no idea that I painted and gardened and did all these things. She thought for a moment and said "you're like a renaissance woman!"

Well! When the word "renaissance" is used twice in one month to describe you, you need to stand up and take notice!  The part of me that wants to be humble agonizes over tooting my own horn but really, and here is the denouement, I can't accept a compliment.  I don't quite believe when I am told I am talented.  I have a hard time with the idea that anyone cares what I write here or tuly likes my art.  And so here we are at my New Year's resolution, which came to me 20 minutes into post-Christmas spin class this morning.  I will stop being embarassed to brag about my accomlishments (what is this blog, anyway, if not a spot to brag about them??)  I will not deny compliments given to me and I will embrace my newly coined status. I am Renaissance Woman, hear me roar.

(oh geez...this post is stupid.  Should I really publish it?  What if someone reads it?  What if NO ONE reads it?  What if it gets hits and no one leaves a comment...then I have to wonder what people are thinking of me...)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Tree

Something new I did today (thanks Maggie!)  Colored pencil on paper.  A little rough around the edges but I like it a lot.

Hungarian Vintage Christmas Cards

My love affair with vintage Christmas cards continues.  These are all Hungarian.  The one on the bottom is my favorite.  I love what they are holding in their hands...reminds me of my own Hungarian dolls and that braided loaf is going to visit me in my glutinous bread dreams...(10 days and counting, by the way...)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Delights

Things I am really liking this year.

Natural Christmas Ornaments

Vintage Greeting Cards

My own Christmas painting.
From last year.  Acrylic on canvas.

The View

This is the view from my living room window.  This poor little painting has been in limbo for so long that the view is a little different now...this is a spring time view.  I'm happy to sign my name and call this guy done.

This morning started with a sunny pain!  A Gingerbread Latte.  A healthy salad for lunch.  Kids playing nicely with friends and I am going to start a new painting.  Pretty nearly a perfect way to spend the day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Silent Auction

Butterfly Beach Aloes

I've returned to landscapes for a silent auction to raise money for a good cause.  The best thing is that this painting now lives so close to me I can visit is every day!

  Acrylic on canvas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gluten Free Diary

Oh, please don't look at me like that.  I have not jumped on the gluten free bandwagon for the sake of weight loss or being trendy or lowering my carb intake.  With a child who is allergic to milk I have enough dietary restrictions in my life and was not looking for another...but...I have known for some time that I don't always feel quite "right."  

Since my children were born I have had the usual upswing in colds from germs the little monsters bring home but these days I can't get through one week without feeling cold symptoms of one sort or another.  For years I have had unexplained gastro-intestinal issues that can result in cramps bad enough to send me into a fetal position and require me to carry gas-relief pills with me everywhere I go. Unexplained nausea, skin rashes, chronic tendinitis and nagging headaches can all be symptoms of other issues but eventually I started to get suspicious.  I already eat (mostly) healthy, I get plenty of sleep (usually,) and work out (almost) daily.  I should be the picture of health.  I figured there was nothing to lose by going gluten free.

Going gluten free has never been easier.  There are many products out there that flaunt their gluten free status and there are just as many helpful articles, blogs and websites with advise on gluten free living.  I have not made a doctor's appointment to make this official, by the way.  For now I am just monitoring my diet and waiting to see how I feel and it's been almost 2 weeks now and I can say I have had no nausea, much less gas and stomach pain and much clearer sinuses.  I confess I've fallen off the gluten free wagon twice.  One night I literally forgot I was going going gluten free and ate pizza with whole wheat crust.  Another night I threw caution to the wind and ate Chinese food (how much gluten can you get from the soy sauce used to make Kung Pao Chicken, for crying out loud?)  On both occasions I paid dearly the next stomach issues were back with a vengeance but cleared up within a day or two of going back to avoiding gluten.  Definitely sticking to the gluten free diet for a while...which leads me to my first recipe which was adapted from a recipe on a box of Cream of Buckwheat which I picked up at a local specialty store as an alternative to Cream of Wheat.

Old World Cauliflower Soup

1/2 cups Cream of Buckwheat
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced cauliflower
1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup milk (I used non-fat)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used low-fat)
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine first 4 ingredients in medium saucepan and bring to boil.  Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently.  You'll need to scrape the bottom if the buckwheat is sticking and may need to add water if the mixture gets too thick.  Continue to simmer until cauliflower is soft, 15-20 minutes.  Then add remaining ingredients and heat until cheese and butter are melted but do not boil again. 

The original recipe calls for chopped parsley as garnish but the gophers ate my parsley plants long ago.  I garnished with a little dollop of sour cream, a bit more cheddar cheese and some fresh oregano.  (The oregano makes the picture look nice, but I don't recommend it for eating.)

This gluten free soup is quite low in calories if you use non/low-fat dairy ingredients and very filling.  I'll be freezing the leftovers in small batches to warm up for lunches.  It would be perfect with a nice slice of fresh bread.  Sigh.

PS.  I will not be freezing the leftovers of this fact, it doesn't keep well.  After a day or two in the fridge it had congealed into a unappetizing white mass.  I added water and warmed it up to eat for lunch today (I HATE to waste food,) but it wasn't very good and I threw the rest away.  So make this soup when you plan to eat it all while it's fresh and yummy.  Next time I make it I will make sure there is a large enough crowd to finish it all off.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Black & White vs. Color

A couple of weeks ago I drew the top picture of flower using pen and paper.  The majoriy of the feedback on it was to add color so here is the result.  The bottom picture is pen, colored pencil and watercolor on paper.

Which do you like best?