Monday, September 30, 2013

you want yummy? you want black beans & rice.

i've had all these great plans for blogs.  blogging about food.  blogging about things i'm making.  sharing recipes for things.  i even took a fuckton of pictures for one of the blogs.  and of course, the thing i made didn't come out right *YET* so i can't do that blog until i get an acceptable finished photo.

so instead, i thought i'd share my recipe for black beans & rice.  i have a crock pot full simmering right now, and it's easy enough that it doesn't need a ton of photos.  and it's really hard to screw up.  but it's yummy as all hell.

i use a 3.5 quart programmable cuisinart slow cooker, which is perfect for most meals i make.  slow cookers work best when 1/2-3/4 full.  my black bean recipe fills my crock up about 5/6 of the way, but i cook so long and low that it's still fine.  every crock pot cooks a little differently, so it can take a while for you to get the hang of your particular model.  i also have a 6 quart that i keep stowed away for larger things.  i think the 3.5 quart (or a 4 quart) is perfect for families of 2-4.  i prefer a programmable slow cooker because i can set it and walk away.  when i worked outside of the home, i could set it for 6 hours and, after cooking at the selected setting for 6 hours, the unit automatically switches to 'warm'.  it will keep the food warm without continuing to cook!  perfect.  this slow cooker also has a simmer setting, which i haven't used yet.  i'm sure i'll tell you when i have.

this will make your mouth happy.  it's easy to make it spicier with a bit more red pepper or hot sauce.  i make a big batch of this and it lasts awesome husband @_antgas and i for the week.  

  • 3 huge ass cans of black beans (29oz) or 6 cans of black beans (15.5oz)
  • 1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes with jalepeno OR green chiles (i prefer petite diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • crushed red pepper
  • ground cumin
  • cayenne pepper
  • black pepper
  • hot sauce
get all your shit together and clear a spot on your countertop.  slow cookers get hot on the sides, so you want to ensure nothing is up against it.  plug in your crock and get ready to go!
  1. open up each can of black beans and rinse the hell out of them.  i dump each can in a mesh sieve and rinse well under cool water, until the bubbles disappear.  this not only cleans off the bean gunk that settles in the can, but according to an article i read in cooking light magazine, can cut up to 40% of the sodium.
  2. open up the can of diced tomatoes.  dump the whole thing in there, juice and all.
  3. add the two cloves of chopped garlic.
  4. put in about 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper.
  5. sprinkle on cayenne and black pepper to your liking (i probably add about 1/4tsp of each).
  6. add 1/2tsp of ground cumin.
  7. shake on that hot sauce to your liking.  i probably put in a little under a teaspoon.  if you're not sure how hot you'll like it, leave the hot sauce out - you can always add it later!
  8. stir those beans up like mad.
  9. set your timer - i cook on low for 5+ hours.  i think five hours is the minimum to get smushy beans - i don't like them too firm.  i've left them on low for 8 hours without problems.

um, yummmmmm.

so now, you can either eat the hell out of those black beans, or you can make some rice.  i have used brown minute rice before, but i fell in love with the yummy texture and slightly nutty taste of trader joe's quick cook organic brown basmati rice.  i usually make eight 1/4 cup servings of rice.  i store the rice in one container, the beans in another, and pop both in the fridge when they cool.  then, each day, @_antgas and i can dole out some rice and some beans into our own lunch container.  i shake on a bit more hot sauce at this point; @_antgas has been known to sprinkle on some extra garlic powder.  about 1 minute, 45 seconds in the microwave is enough for me to have a nice, hot, delicious, filling lunch.

perhaps the best part about black beans and rice - for us, at least - is that it offers a complete protein panel.  what's that, you say?  protein?  we (try to) eat a mainly plant-based diet.  we eat meat approximately twice a week (once is usually fish) and drink almond milk.  we still enjoy the occasional cow's milk yogurt and, of course, a fuckton of cheese.  when you stop eating meat, protein can be harder to come by.  a 4oz serving of white meat chicken has, like, 30 grams of protein.  veggies?  not quite so much.  but eating rice and beans together can get you all the essential proteins you need... check it out here.  by our calculations, a 1/4 cup serving of brown rice and a 4oz serving of my black beans has 11 grams of protein.  it's recommended that about 10-30% of your daily calories come from protein.  if you're trying to gain mass or muscle, like @_antgas is, he'd tell you to eat one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.  or something like that.  i think a general rule of thumb is 50 grams per day for moderately healthy adults.  if you eat a well balanced, colorful diet, that shouldn't be too hard to come by.  

if you're not sure about your protein intake, adding a protein supplement might be an idea.  all those 'weight loss' or 'weight maintenance' shakes out there (please do not bother with them, ask me why) tell you they're chock full of protein to help keep you full.  that's true, protein does help you feel fuller.  i no longer recommend or condone fitness apps that help you track your food, but if you use one FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME, like a couple of days, to track your food, you can get an idea of your protein intake.  then you can try to make adjustments, if necessary.

please notice my squirrel cookie jar peeking out behind the paper towels.  he holds mini kit kats on most days.

there you have it.  a staple of the gas household since meat went out the window.  except for one day when @_antgas was craving hot dogs (and, being a good wife and partner, i purchased kosher hot dogs and potato rolls), we have not purchased and brought raw meat into the house since january of 2013.  i have purchased, like, prepared meat (a sandwich from panera or something like that) but i don't cook it. ew.

having said that, i ate a beautiful filet mignon while out to dinner with family yesterday.  and had two baked clams.  which i will count as one meat-meal for the week.

i think the best thing about keeping black beans on hand is the versatility: add some to a quesadilla; make black bean enchiladas; dump some on nachos.  even if we don't finish the entire batch for lunch, these beans get used.

i'm considering purchasing my first stand mixer because i think i want to start baking A LOT more.  if that happens, expect way too many blog posts like this.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

RAWR - RAW... coincidence?

'rawr' is obviously the sound cats make.  and it contains the word 'raw' in it.

which is a really lame and not at all interesting way for me to tell you i'm feeding my cats a partially raw diet.

this is a controversial topic.  people are used to feeding cats what's in the grocery store.  they think it's okay to spend $10 on a 20 pound bag of food and call it a day.  they think, cats have eaten table scraps and whatever for years and they're okay.

not quite true.  dogs have been domesticated for at least 14,000 years, possibly a lot longer (i think a lot longer).  there was a dna diversion from wolves up to 100,000 years ago.  dogs were the first domesticated animal.  they've been eating whatever fell from the table or whatever scraps we threw at them for-EVER.

cats, on the other hand.... well, if you're a cat person, you can immediately see the differences between cats and dogs.  cats are not pack animals, and they do not 'recognize' a pack leader.  each cat is their own leader.  they'll fight with the other cats in the house whenever and wherever they feel like it.  oh, cats will get along.  because it's easier.

how stuff works' website has a good article about feline domestication.  the article also makes an excellent point about how feral cats survive so easily.  the american domestic shorthair - the cat equivalent of the mutt - makes a wonderful housepet, but can also survive very well in the wilds of long island.  i know because there are tons of feral cat colonies, some of which are trapped, fixed, and returned to their colony by loving volunteers all over long island.  some are fed.  but the point is, there is physically and biologically nothing different between my piglet, samantha, and jake and the colonies of feral cats out there - except my brood lives in my home and is cared for by me.

although, right now, jake is chattering at the door because he can see birds on the bird feeder.  which is the entire reason i bought a bird feeder.  i like them being able to see the birds and remembering that I WANT TO KILL THAT AND EAT IT OMFG I'M A WILD BEAST AND I NEED TO KILLLLLLLL.

because, deep down, that's what all cats want.  watch your cat hunt the little red dot; hunt its housemates; stalk the bird on the outside tree.

but don't keep your cats outside.  i strongly believe that pet cats belong inside unless on supervised yard visits.  i do not think that cats (or dogs) should be let out unsupervised to roam the neighborhood.  of course, that's another blog.

so raw food.  the BARF diet, aka bones and raw food or biologically appropriate raw food diet, is about giving the cats what they would eat in the wild, in its raw form.  it entails a lot of ordering organic rabbit and having it shipped to your home for outrageous amounts of money.  or finding a good local butcher who will butcher and sell you bits of chicken, quail, rabbit, duck, etc.  or buying these meats yourself and bringing them home.

but a cat has specific vitamin and mineral needs.  did it get all these from it's prey in the past?  maybe, maybe not.  of course, humans take multivitamins every day to supplement their diet and ensure they're getting the right nutrients - right?  so many pet parents buy raw meats and add special supplements to make sure their cats are getting enough essential nutrients - like taurine, which is imperative for cat's health.  these meats are offered in their raw form and ground up with the supplements added.  with the bones and all.  because bone is actually an important part of a cat's diet.  calcium.

then you have very concerned pet parents like me who are lazier than that.  at least, for now.  and we are concerned about our cats very specific nutrient needs.  so we turn to commercially prepared raw foods that have no or limited non-animal products.  these are in their natural state, uncooked and unprocessed.  or very minimally so.  we kept researching and changing: from friskies and crap to iams (which is also crap), to blue buffalo (crap), to wellness (not too crappy, but eh) and finally i found nature's variety instinct.  it's 86% animal bits and 14% veggies/fruits/minerals/vitamins.  i'd prefer the 'non-meat' to be 10% or less, but this is pretty damn close.  once we started feeding this kibble, which is completely grain free, we noticed a difference in the litter box.  less poop.  with each higher quality food we've fed the cats, we've noticed this positive change.

then we tackled the canned/wet food.  i searched and searched for my picky piglet, and happened upon weruva.  this food is minimally processed in a factory in thailand.  i know what you're thinking: THAILAND??? REALLY?  but yes.  it's actually processed in a factory that processed human food as well.  it's family owned - and that human food is sold in america.  so it meets USDA standards.  and i felt this was a good balance.  the cats were pretty happy, i was pretty happy.  poop was minimal.  vomiting was at an all-time low.

but i wanted more, better, whole-r foods for my cats.  awesome husband @_antgas and i had started eating so much healthier and cutting back on processed foods.  hell, i even stopped drinking diet coke (i know, hell may have frozen over.  i still enjoy a diet soda once or twice a week).  so it was important to feed my furbabies well too.  which is why i've started feeding them freeze dried and frozen raw.  the freeze dried is neat - i can rehydrate it with warm water so the temperature is perfect.  i am experimenting with other frozen raw foods and am having mixed results.

but overall, the results are good.

jake, piglet, and samantha enjoying a raw dinner

so there you have it.  the beginning of our raw journey.  hopefully we'll see more health benefits and find a vet that doesn't treat me like an idiot for feeding raw.  but that's definitely another blog post.

Friday, September 13, 2013

positivity attracts positivity

it does.  i try to be so positive all the time, but it's really hard sometimes.  like, really really hard.  it's hard to always be cheery and happy and positive-outlooky.  it's worth it, though.  it's really worth it.  because when you behave positively, you attract that positivity to you.

you may have read one of my old blog posts where i discuss why i'm not so thrilled with my job.  it's not that it's a bad job, but it's pretty much a bad job.  i've been throwing resumes at everyone who will take one, including multiple locations of the same facility.  and i happened to call one location while the office manager was calling applicants to set up interviews... and she asked me to come in for an interview the next day (today).

i think the interview went really well.  i did a typing test thing, answered a bunch of related questions, and peed in a cup.  thank goddess i actually had to pee a little.

it's just for a medicaid receptionist position.  it's not a counselor position.  i had also applied for an assessment/intake counselor position at a few locations of this facility, which would be a bit more in line with my future job - but i'll take what i can get.  i'm really excited and really hope i get it.  it's so much closer to my house, it's full time during the day (i won't have to work late like i do now), and it's in the type of facility that i would end up working in as an addiction counselor.

so fingers crossed.  hopefully i won't have to drive mentally ill people who pee a little home in my car much longer.

Friday, September 6, 2013

i'm going to remake "all you wanna do is dance" and replace "dance" with "sleep"

obscure blog title, i know.  it's a great billy joel song, check it out:

one of my favorite billy joel albums.  who am i kidding, i love all billy joel albums.

however, my point is all i wanna do is sleep.

i haven't talked a lot about this pain i've had.  since march, my left wrist has been bothering me.  so have my hips, but not too badly.  i told my doctor and he said my hips could be caused by my weight and gave me some basic exercises to do for my wrist.  which i did, and they didn't seem to help.  i figured it was a touch of carpal tunnel.  i decided to wait and see after i quit my desk job.

so i quit my desk job in june and spent a couple of weeks babying my wrist.  it didn't get any better, but my knuckles really, really started bothering me.  then one day in july i woke up and my right wrist and knuckles hurt.  i called an orthopedist and went for my appointment.

i wrote all my info down and whatever they wanted and waited two damn hours to be seen.  the doctor palpitated my left wrist, wrote off my right wrist, and ordered xrays for my left wrist.  he said it looked fine.  he was ready to send me off when i asked about my knuckles... which he had completely forgotten about.  after ordering another round of xrays for my knuckles, he told me there was nothing wrong with them either.  he said that there was nothing wrong with my bones and told me to wear a wrist brace for a month and see if it got any better.

i wore it, i babied my left wrist.  i ended up putting another brace on my right wrist because it hurt so much.  after a month went by, everything hurt more.  i cancelled the followup with the orthopedist (saving my $50 copay) and called a rheumatologist.  they fit me in a week later - which was this past tuesday.

i loved the rheumatologist.  she asked so many questions about my medical history.  she asked so many questions about my pain and where it hurt and how much it hurt - like none of which the ortho asked about.  we even talked a bit about how broken the healthcare system was.  she then popped me up on the table and poked at numerous spots on my body: my neck and throat, upper chest, hips, back, knees, wrists.  i had tender spots that i hadn't even noticed.  but i was very upfront about what hurts and how much it hurts: wrists, knuckles, hips, upper back, lower back, and how fucking exhausted i am all the time.  she told me it definitely wasn't rheumatoid arthritis because the fingertip knuckle is never involved in RA (i was thinking it was RA until that point).  she mentioned something as simple as a vitamin or hormone deficiency could cause joint pain like this, or something like psoriatic arthritis.  no one in my family has been diagnosed with psoriasis though, so not sure how likely that is.

she ordered a bucket of blood tests (and they were able to draw blood in the office, which i love) and scheduled a followup in two weeks.  i've looked at some of the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia, and both look like possibilities.  i just can't wait to find out what's wrong with me so that we can treat it and i can stop wanting to sleep all the damn time.

today, my shoulders and upper back, wrists, hips, and knuckles still hurt.  but in addition, the rest of my back, thighs, and knees are really bad today.  i have no idea what is going on, but i really need it to stop.  i called out of work this afternoon because i just can't do it.  i can't get comfortable.  i ate a bunch of advil earlier today and am considering breaking out my stockpile of painkillers because omfg this hurts.

anyway, sorry for the pity party.  i just am at the end my rope today.  and i have to sit in school all day tomorrow so, there's that.