So, to keep me occupied when I was enjoying my summer break I cooked a lot. Not much more than I would normally cook but I did a bit more baking than normal.
One of the best things about cooking is eating natural ingredients. I couldn't imagine popping a "meal" in a microwave and then pealing off the plastic and eating it out of a plastic container. Also, I can't think of a time in the last 6 years that I choose fast-food for dinner. The only time Karel and I eat fast-food is when we travel and the typical stop for us is Subway or the Publix grocery store Deli. Ok, after races we usually go to IHOP or Denny's but that is rarely, but the pancakes are well worth the wait. Eating out does not happen often for Karel and I but when we do go out to eat we always check on-line menus ahead of time to check for vegetarian and healthy options.
I think there is something great about having wholesome products in our fridge. I love cutting up my veggies, cooking them and then adding spices and sauces to change the taste of the veggies. I love mixing foods together and taking a recipe I see on TV and making it my own with foods that Karel and I enjoy.
Last Friday I made a vegetarian meat-loaf and it was really, really good. Sometimes I impress myself when I have no idea what I am going to make and then as I am chopping and cooking, it all seems to come together. When I make a meal, like the meat-loaf, I always have an idea of what ingredients I want to use. I always have a protein and carb. I rely on olive oil for my fat, when cooking veggies or I add cheese for a little extra flavor. What is so important to preparing meals is using what you have and buying what you need. There is never a time when I tell Karel we have no food or nothing to make. There are always veggies, eggs and some type of meat and bread in our place and from that, there can easily be a healthy and satisfying meal. However, there are no unhealthy foods in our place which cause us to snack before cooking or to have something unhealthy for dinner. My rule when cooking is to always have a veggie, a protein (meat or vegetarian) and some food which you enjoy. For me, I like bread so I might have 1/2 pita or a piece of bread. Or, maybe I'll make hashbrowns for my carb to go alongside an omelet. And I never start cooking or looking through the fridge until I have an idea of what foods I am going to use for a meal. Once I know what I think I will make, I then like to go to the computer (if I have time) to see some recipes for new ideas. Most of all, I know that meals should be healthy and appealing. There are little tricks, such as adding sauces, toppings and spices to a meal, which can make it taste like something familiar. For example, by adding tomato sauce and a little cheese to any veggie stir-fry you can make it taste like pizza and adding salsa to a salad or veggies you can make the meal taste like something from a mexican restaurant. Or, if you like pasta, you can cook a 1 portion of pasta and use that IN a recipe rather than make the pasta THE main meal.
Here is my vegetarian meat-loaf. I cooked 1/4 cup brown rice and 1/4 egg noodles in boiling water and when soft, I added that to a stir-fry of corn, mushrooms, 1 pizza veggie burger, veggie crumbles, canned tomatoes w/ chilis and salsa. I put it in a baking dish and cooked it for about 20 min. at 375-degrees. I topped it with a little mozzerella and parmesean. I didn't add any bread to this meal since it went very well with a nice salad on the side.
Another suggestion I have for cooking is to switch around your idea of what you are eating. Have a bowl of fruit with a topping of ice cream or have a bowl of cooked veggies w/ a topping of pasta. Use smaller plates for the entree meal and serve a salad w/ all meals. Use a coffee cup to eat cereal in the evening and have a smoothie w/ cereal rather than cereal w/ milk. Have an open face PB&J and add a side of yogurt rather than adding extra calories with two pieces of bread.
Karel is the one who created this meal that we eat about once a month. We rarely order pizza (we haven't ordered pizza since we moved in May) but we love pizza. I love thin crust and I love toppings. When Karel and I were getting to know each other back in 2006, he use to make me home-made pizza with fresh bread. He would dress it up with great toppings and it was so yummy since it was fresh. Now Karel buys a frozen pizza and when we are in the mood for pizza (we only keep 1 in our freezer and we usually have it on the weekend if we are both really exhausted from training) we "dress up" the pizza.
We add corn, mushrooms, veggie meat, sauce, onions, scallions, nuts, etc. You name it, we add it! There is still the idea of cooking, when spicing up our pizza because I still have to cut and chop our own toppings. Sometimes we do 1/2 the pizza meat (for Karel) but we still by a cheese pizza.
We usually look for a pizza with the least amount of calories but since all frozen pizza's are high in calories according to serving size, we pile on the toppings so that we don't have to eat a lot of the pizza. If you just buy a regular frozen pizza, I'm sure any hungry male triathlete/cyclist could devour that pizza all alone. Well, with a large side salad and a tall glass of water, you only need about 1 or 2 pieces of pizza to feel satisfied.
I hope you enjoyed some of my ideas for "spicing" up some familiar recipes. If you have any concerns about foods you enjoy but don't know how to "spice" them up, let me know and I'll do my best to make a new creation for you!