Thursday Thoughts: New Year's Resolutions

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...

Thursday Thoughts

If you are new to my blog, or haven't been reading on Thursdays, this is a segment where I post my thoughts about various nutrition and health related topics, or maybe even something else if it is really an intriguing topic.  Most of my current views and opinions come from experience working as a dietitian and as college instructor in nutrition courses.  Most of that learning is science based or observational from the clinical setting.  In general, I hate over-generalizations, so for many of the things I post, I expect there is one or two exceptions because broad sweeping generalizations are always bound to miss out on something. 

I hope everyone had a great holiday and is still taking some time to rest, relax and recharge for 2011.

I know I made the title New Year's Resolutions, but I actually hate the term.  I used it, of course, because that is the most widely used phrase for this time of year.  Don't forget that my thoughts are formed from my own opinions and observations with my own clients and people I know.  This may not be how you feel or what works best for you.

Here are my thoughts on this topic:

1)  As I said, I don't like the term resolution.  It makes it seem like you were wrong to being with and you needed to fix something permanently in a fashion that is negative.  When I think resolutions I think of a business in serious trouble and they need to make resolutions in a brainstorming session to save the company before it goes under.  I don't like to think of it that way.  I would never let someone think that negatively about themselves.  When I look resolution up in the online dictionary, here is what I found:

1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
2. A resolving to do something.
3. A course of action determined or decided on.

It just sounds so final and so rigid, like signing a binding contract.  While that is great and I have done contract signing with clients, I don't think that there should be one day of the year where everyone feels pressure to "sign up" to give up the vice of the year or jump on the bandwagon of giving something up.  To me it seems so calculated and like people are forced in to this because everyone is doing it.  I hope that more people give a lot of thought to changes they wish to make in the coming year.  I know many of you reading this do because you are very conscious of your decisions year round and enjoying reading healthy living blogs, but that is not the norm in mainstream society.

2) Instead, I like the term New Year's goals.  What goals do you want to accomplish in the new year?  It doesn't seem as negative to me.  Goals can be many things and it does not just have to apply to health, diet or exercise. It makes it seem broader to me and can help people get on the right track.  When you have large goals you can then set small goals along the way.  I generally set goals and then at midway through the year I re-eval.  Also, with goals, you can implement changes, versus resolutions, which to mean seem like absolutes.  Goals and changes can be kept year to year, but with resolutions I find that people are making the same ones year after year, meaning they never actually achieved a goal or did what they set out to do a year before.  It seems to me like setting yourself up for failure, again because I feel that resolutions deal with absolutes.  Goals are more open ended and something that is continuously worked towards.

3) I mentioned in the previous thought about setting yourself up for failure.  I feel that making an absolute resolution on day one of the new year puts a lot of pressure on someone.  There is so much still going on and everyone is rushing to be on top of the New Year's resolution success.  Have you ever noticed the increase in gym members week one of the new year, but after 2-3 weeks this dies down and it is back to business as usual.  If all those people made a resolution to work out more, then bought a membership, but never thought through the small goals or planning of the resolution, they are not doing well as you can see when the gym thins out again.  In fact, it might not mean much to those people, they might even do it every year as a resolution, but in reality, that is a failed resolution.  I almost feel like this is a robot type behavior.  We are programmed to do this year in and year out.  But, with goals in place, people might be less likely to go overboard, and can work on small goals along the way.  Instead of the resolution of work out more, it could be an initial goal of go to the gym once a week for the first month, with another short term goal of 3 times a week by 3 months into the year.  It is much more clear and easy to follow than a big, sweeping resolution.

4)  Going along with the potential for failure there is also that big rush.  I am not so sure what the rush really is all about.  You have a whole year to improve and/or reach your goal.  I feel like people make this into a competition or race to get better as fast as possible.  People seem to feel great for the first week or so, but the enthusiasm dies down once they realize how much of a commitment it really is to exercise, or lose weight, or make less trash, or whatever it might be.  It takes thought and planning.  There is no real rush.  In fact, I don't even start on my New Year's goals until a week into the new year.  By then the pressure from everyone else has died down and I can quietly go about by business.  I can spend my first week of the new year relaxed, without the crazy pressure, without running around trying to force something new into my routine.  I can enjoy the new year and contemplate how I am going to implement my new goals.

5) Lastly, your goals should be your own.  Don't let comments from friends and family over the holidays dictate what you want to work on in the new year.  You, and only you, will know which direction you want to take.  Heck, you don't even have to change anything if you are happy with how things have been going.  However, if you aren't going to change anything, you should still have some goals in place to help you stay on the right track.  I think goal setting is always important.  Humans tend to be competitive by nature, so having personal goals is a healthy way to express that trait without putting pressure on others and we can work on these things within ourselves and not need to drag others into what should be a personal journey.  So, with that being said, be true to yourself and work on what you need to work on, not what others think is best for you.

Well, there you have my thoughts on that oh so important topic for this time of year.  Don't feel pressured, don't feel a rush, and set small goals that are a reach but still achievable.  There is no need to set yourself up for failure.  There is only room to improve.

QUESTIONS:  What are you thoughts on New Year's resolutions?  Any other tips to share?  What will you work on in the coming year?  I'll share mine in a future post.

PB and J…From Scratch!!!

When we started with From Scratch Weekends at the start of 2010, I knew right away that this classic had to be made entirely from scratch before the year was through.  You might ask, “What was I waiting for?” and that is a great question. 

Well, this is what I was waiting for:
I wasn’t going to try an make peanut butter without a food processor.  Since Ryan gave me this for Hanukkah, I was finally able to take on my mission and meet the goal of a homemade PB and J.
I made good use of many kitchen tools and gadgets for this adventure.  I started off by using the bread machine to make jam.  I figured it would be easy enough since the machine came with recipes and has a jam setting.
I thought this blueberry lime sounded good but I was not sure how this would taste with the peanut butter.

Remember when I had the flu?  Note to self, do not grocery shop when you are recovering from the flu.  I was fairly certain that I needed 6 pounds of blueberries for this recipe.  Now you might think 6 pounds sounds like a lot, and usually it does, unless you are recovering from the flu.  Well, seems I only needed 6 cups.  6 cups!  Oh well, I have plenty of frozen blueberries in the freezer now, LOL!
I made sure since I used frozen to drain them well.  There was no way I was finding fresh around here.
I was super glad to know the commissary had pectin.  I wonder who else around here is making homemade jellies and jams.
The directions never said mash the blueberries up, so they stayed whole as I mixed all the ingredients together.  Once I get better at this jam making process I will try things without added sugar, but I limited the experimentation the first time around and stuck with the recipe.
How easy is this?!?!?
After almost an hour and a half, hot jam was ready to cool and be placed in the fridge overnight.
The next day I selected a bread recipe.  I went with a simple honey whole wheat.
In go the dry ingredients…
and out comes a nice loaf of bread.
While the bread was cooling I set up my food processor.
I had planned on using peanuts still in the shell but my sister suggested the first time using something already roasted and salted.  Again, as I get better and more practice, I will experiment with recipes.
I dumped in the peanuts.
Then I pushed the on button and look at this powerful baby go!
After a while it balled up, so I stopped to check it out.  My sister told me this would happen, so I just scrapped the bowl and got it off the sides before turning it on again.
After a little while it all smoothed out.  I think I could have done this a little longer but I didn’t want to risk overdoing it.
Not sure why this looks red.  Once it cooled down some I was ready to slice it up and make my sandwich. 
See, it is really not red bread at all.
I did a little of the PB and a little of the J.
Put them together…
and I was on my way to enjoying a PB and J entirely from scratch.
Seriously, this was amazing, and really easy.  Time consuming, maybe, but mostly time I could use reading or doing work on the computer.  Oh, and the blueberry lime jam tasted great, even with PB.  I loved the sour bite the lime juice gave to the blueberries.

Well, that does it for From Scratch Weekends for 2010.  Stay tuned for more in 2011.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever made homemade jelly/jam?  Have you ever made homemade PB?

From Scratch Weekends: A Year in Review

When 2010 started, Ryan and I had created From Scratch Weekends.  This was an effort to make more food starting from the basics and making as much of a meal as we could from scratch.  The idea was that 3 things could be accomplished: 1) We knew what was going in our food 2) We could say that we knew how to make that from scratch and 3) It gave us time together in the kitchen, working together and spending time doing something fun and productive.  One major problem, I would say, is the size of our Portuguese kitchen.  On top of the small size, we have 1 functional 110V plug that gets overworked quickly.  Let's just say you can't use the microwave and the toaster at the same time or the fuse blows in the house and you are left in darkness.  All that aside, Ryan and I had a successful year in From Scratch Adventures. 

Here is a review of some of these great meals, starting with the quote of what I first set out with From Scratch Weekends almost a year ago.

FROM SCRATCH WEEKENDS: The idea came to use when we wanted to make some tortellini's at home. We googled for recipes and had a hard time since most called for prepared store bought tortellini. Then there was a post on Yahoo! Answers where the person asked for a recipe from scratch and got a response for a sauce from scratch and tortellini from the store, so the original author then had to clarify. I thought FROM SCRATCH would imply just that, but it means different things to different people.

So, our idea is to cook one FROM SCRATCH meal over the weekend. For us this will mean as from scratch as possible, so bread, pasta, whatever. As much as from scratch as possible. At some point we will have to draw the line since somethings we may not be able to make. I plan to make any bread we will use for the meal from scratch and anything else that is within reason.

I also thought we could get 40 From Scratch Meals in, but it seems I did not account for a very busy summer traveling and lots of school work on the weekend.  I will be the first to admit as the year went on, the meals became less frequent.  BUT, I do have one final from scratch meal from this last weekend on 2010.  More to come on that!  Let's see how we did otherwise when it came to making things from scratch (in no particular order):
We made Tapas:

We threw a pizza party:

We ventured into Mexican food:

We even made bagels:

We tried out a quiche:

We did some tasty black bottoms:

We tried our hands in home brewing beer:

We made many delicious spreads:


We made bean burgers with the cutest little buns:

We went over the top with super mac and cheese:

We rolled some sushi:

We got wacky with flavors:


We made tortellini:

We must like Italian since we made a lasagna too:

We did dinner and dessert fondue:

We enjoyed a Middle Eastern Feast:

We whipped up some tasty Indian cuisine:

There were a few others.  I just picked out some of my favorites.  This concept has allowed us to make many dishes that we might not otherwise have tried.  I know it helped that we have a lot of kitchen gadgets, but some of these recipes would have worked without the Kitchenaid mixer or the bread machine.  Overall, I think it was a pretty successful year for us in the kitchen cooking things up from scratch.
Don't forget to tune in to my next post where I will show off the last From Scratch Weekends adventure of 2010.

QUESTIONS:  Which of our From Scratch Weekends meals was your favorite?  Did you participate at all in From Scratch Weekends over the past year?  Any suggestions for From Scratch meals for 2011?

Steak, Lobster and Champagne

Well it sure is the season for indulging.  I suppose I indulge whenever I get the urge, but in this case, the indulgence is steak and lobster.  I know that it is the ultimate cliché of a fancy meal out and many people do choose those items in a celebratory meal.  In our case, yes, it is the holiday season, and I suppose there is always something to celebrate around here so we indulged a little last week in these meals.  In reality lobster is not so much a splurge since we live on an island, and the cost is not nearly what it is in the States.  I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, LOL!

The first meal was a just cause meal.  Yes, we probably made up an excuse to go out and celebrate.  As always we had some nice bread to start of the meal.
Ryan ordered the steak on a rock, which is a common way to serve steak around here.  the steak will continue to cook after it comes to the table.
I went with the cod.  As in traditional Portuguese style, it was covered in onions.  This was a nice variation because it came with green beans and whole potatoes with the skin still on.
Yes, we did come coffee to end the meal.
So I guess you are wondering about the lobster and champagne.  That was at the next meal out.  We went to O Cacholote, which means the whale…ok specifically the sperm whale.  This is the place that has a giant whale sticking out of the front of the restaurant.

When we walked in we noticed they were set up for a large party.  Luckily we called in advance so we knew there was room for us.  This time of year you really do need to call in advance.

Here are some of the beautiful food displays made by the restaurant owner, who is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.  These are trays of various salads.
This is the fruit for dessert.
Look how cute this little set up is!
Then I brought myself back to our table.  At least the owner knows me so he did not find it weird that I walked into the party room and started snapping photos.

Again, we started with bread and cheese.  If you are not familiar with my blog, these are things that are automatically brought to the table, but are not free, so if you do not want them, you need to say know when it comes to the table.  I will say the cost is inexpensive (like just over a dollar for bread and cheese at most places) and the only thing we ever really turn away is the sausage, for obvious reasons.
This place also serves olives.
My favorite part of this place is the little fried wonton shrimps they bring to the table.  These are so good that even Ryan eats them and he really does not like shrimp.
They also bring garlic bread, which is always a nice treat.
Now we get to the champagne part.  We ordered white wine, but the one we wanted they were out of, so they suggested some sweet wine, and I immediately recognized the Asti label.  We looked at each other and thought, why not!  So we ordered the bottle of champagne.
It was a nice choice as we laughed that we had ordered steak and lobster to accompany the fancy champagne.

Ryan’s steak was cooked tableside.
While it was cooking I was served my lobster.  I was glad the tail was easy to pick out and enjoy without making too much of a mess.
This was one nice sized lobster, and quite tasty.
Then Ryan’s steak was served.  I think that is bacon on top.
Ah yes, and French fries to end out “fancy” meal, LOL!
QUESTIONS:  When was the last time you had a steak, lobster and champagne occasion?  What is your favorite celebratory meal?  Fancy meal with no real occasion?