Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I was in the hospital on Friday because apparently I need to eat more bananas

So, Friday morning I dropped Odin off at daycare and went straight to the emergency room. I was there for 3 hours, but for the first 2 I was having heart palpitations and sever chest pains. After a bunch of tests the doctor concluded that the only thing weird in any of my tests was that my potassium was too low. Seriously?! Not eating enough bananas and green leafy veggies will make me feel like my chest is exploding? 

Apparently so.

I looked this up on WebMD not because I don't trust my doctor but because I wanted something to quote for you. Their article on Potassium and Your Health states the following: 

"A critical electrolyte, potassium allows our muscles to move, our nerves to fire and our kidneys to filter blood. The right balance of potassium literally allows the heart to beat...
For people with abnormal heart rhythms, potassium may be even more important. Potassium is hiding inside every heartbeat. Each heart muscle needs just the right potassium balance in order to contract in a coordinated fashion. People who’ve had abnormal heart rhythms -- arrhythmias or dysrhythmias -- are at risk for an uncoordinated heart rhythm." 

As far as I know I have never had an abnormal heart rhythm until Friday. Actually, in the past 2 years I was pregnant, and therefore hooked up to a heart monitor quite a bit.So whatever it was that caused my abnormal heart rhythm for 2 hours on Friday morning was hopefully just a freak occurrence. The symptoms went away by themselves after almost exactly 2 hours and the doctor sent me home with a home heart monitor (which prevented me from sleeping pretty much at all on Friday night) and potassium pills. But, the pills are only for a week so I need to find ways to integrate more potassium into my diet.

So, WebMD recommends that I get 4,700mg of potassium a day, that's 8.7 bananas. Okay, that sounds a little excessive.

Estimates of potassium in certain foods 
Food Serving size Potassium amount (milligrams)
Cooked spinach 1 cup 840 mg
Sweet potato 1 medium 695 mg
Plain nonfat yogurt 8 ounces 579 mg
Banana 1 cup 540 mg
Cooked broccoli 1 cup 460 mg
Cantaloupe 1 cup 430 mg
Tomato 1 cup 430 mg
Fat-free milk 8 ounces 380 mg
Strawberries 1 cup 255 mg
 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (2010). Nutrient data laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23. Available online: http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl. 

Thankfully, all of these foods are also vegetarian so they will make a nice addition to my February Area of Opportunity goal to eat a vegetarian diet one day a week

Monday, January 30, 2012

Blogging form A to Z April Challenge

Today I officially signed up for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. The goal is that in the month of April 200+ bloggers will attempt to write every day centering their posts around a letter of the alphabet, obviously going from A to Z.

I'm really excited about this, partially because it sounds fun and partially because my blog will be added to the list for others to visit. Can we say automatic traffic generator? 

And, since I already to a monthly area of opportunity topic anyway I thought this would be perfect to help me structure my April topic: Figuring out how to start a vegetable garden for this summer.

So check back in April and watch as I undertake what promises to be a mess when I try to learn everything I will need to actually have some vegetables come fall.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Famous Freezer Breakfast Burritos

As part of getting ready for my original February month goal  I tried a recipe for freezer breakfast burritos. I started with a recipe from The Simple Dollar and have linked to that recipe a few times, but, I changed the recipe so much to make it my own that I thought it it's about time to share my own recipe. 

These have literally changed the entire way I have been eating. I now warm up a burrito as I'm getting ready in the morning and then eat it in the car on my way to work. It is a huge part of the entire way I am changing the way that I am eating. More to come on that later. 

This is the recipe for my Famous Freezer Breakfast Burritos. 

*Note: I subscribe to the school of cooking where measureless are pretty much arbitrary. In this recipe the measurements particularly aren't important so just add proportions as you see fit. 

Ingredients to make 20 burritos
2 cups shredded cheese (sharp cheddar is my favorite)
18 eggs
16 oz Medium Salsa (Medium doesn't make it hot but it adds some flavor. Mild is too mild)
20 tortillas, burrito size or 10 inch size
Fresh breakfast sausage, uncooked, not preformed.  (I used Jimmy Dean Maple Sausage. It's probably the most expensive thing in this but it's worth it)
Salt and Pepper

Step 1:

Brown sausage. Make sure to break into little pieces, no more than 1/2 inch, or you will have huge chunks in your burritos. Cook thoroughly and set aside. 

Step 2:
Break eggs into a bowl. They will not cook correctly if you try and cook this many eggs by breaking them into a pan. 

Wisk to break yokes. Heat pan, spray with non-stick spray and pour in eggs. 

Stir continuously until eggs are thoroughly cooked. 

Step 3: 
Mix the eggs, sausage, cheese, and salsa together then salt and pepper to taste. I have tried to do this by layering in the ingredients individually and it caused every bite to be different. I didn't like that nearly as much as having all the ingredients mixed together. 
I added the entire jar of salsa when I made these this time and it originally made this a little too sauce-y, so I made another egg and added more cheese.  The important thing is to balance the ingredients so that they aren't dry but also aren't too wet to eat in the car without getting them all over your work clothes. Use your judgment. There really is no way to go wrong.

Step 4: 

I like to set up a whole assembly line so I can do a few burritos at a time. This probably comes from the fact that I worked at Taco Bell from the time that I was 16-19, but you can do this one burrito at a time if you would like. 

It is helpful to warm up the tortillas before starting. It makes them easier to roll. 

Spoon filling into the center of the burrito. Be careful not to overfill or they will be a mess. For the 8 inch tortillas I had I used a little less than half a cup for each burrito. 

Fold in both sides about 1/2 an inch. 

Fold the part of the tortilla closest to you up over the filling and slide it back. You should squeeze the filling into a tight tube between this part of the tortilla and the sides you already folded in. 

Foll the burrito forward and tuck in any corners that are still sticking out. 

There you have it. A beautifully rolled and only minimally messy breakfast burrito. 

Step 5:

Wrap the burritos in aluminum foil and put into freezer bags. Label with the date and reheating instructions. Freeze until you want to eat them. 

Reheating Instructions
May vary depending on your microwave and how big your burritos are. 

Take burrito out of foil and wrap in paper towel, this keeps it moist as you reheat. Defrost in microwave for 1:30-2 minutes then heat on high 1-2 minutes. 

Enjoy =)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Digital Hoarding 1/27/2012: Budgeting

This week I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to get my finances in order. I am stereotypically underemployed and broke. I stumbled across a lot of great personal finance sites this week that I wanted to share.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Vegetarian Starter Kit: Part 1

I talked yesterday about how I am interested in exploring being a vegetarian, and that I am going to be spending one day every week in February not eating meat. I have been doing a little research and this is what I have come up with. 

Naturally, the thing I am most concerned about in relation to all this is how it will affect my health. So, like a good internet-loving American I consulted the most trusted name in medicine:  WebMD.
The article I found on Vegetarian Diets talks about some of the most important foods that vegetarians must intentionally incorporate into their diets that many meat-eaters have an easier time with.

Here are some ways for vegetarians to incorporate these nutrients into their diets:
  • Protein: Is found in tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers, beans, nuts and nut butters, eggs.
  • Iron: Eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, soy-based foods, dried prunes and apricots, nuts beans, legumes, whole-wheat bread, and baked potatoes are rich in iron.
  • Calcium, which builds bone, is plentiful in cheese, yogurt and milk. Ovo-vegetarians and vegans can get it in soy products, legumes, almonds, sesame tahini, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dark, leafy vegetables like collard greens and bok choy.
  • Zinc, which boosts the immune system, is ample in soybeans and soymilk, veggie "meats," eggs, cheese and yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, breads, mushrooms, and peas. Wheat germ and pumpkin seeds also have high zinc content
  • Vitamin B12: Soy-based beverages, some breakfast cereals, and fortified veggie "meats" are all good sources of vitamin B12
  • Riboflavin: Almonds, fortified cereals, cow's milk, yogurt, mushrooms, and soy milk are riboflavin-rich foods.
  • Linolenic acid (omega-6): Canola oil and flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain linolenic acid, along with soybeans, tofu, walnuts, and walnut oil.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Cold-water fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are high in omega-3 fatty acids For vegetarians who do not eat fish, good sources of omega-3s are flaxseed, walnut, soy and canola oils. Supplements are fine, too.
That all sounds fairly painless. My soy milk, eggs, cheese and hummus intake will take care of some of this so I need to look for ways to incorporate Omega-6 and Omega-3. 

Next, I stumbled across the Vegetarian Times magazine and found their 8 Foods vegetarians should eat. They are pretty straightforward and on top of giving the foods they list ways to help you encorporate them into your diet.These all sound pretty awesome, especially seaweed. I mean, I guess there are other ways to eat seaweed besides sushi, but why would I eat anything besides sushi when I am being ENCOURAGED to eat SUSHI?

Tofu Tip: “Tofu can be substituted for the same amount of meat, poultry or fish in almost any recipe,” says Sass. Firm tofu works best because it holds its shape when you sauté it or grill it.
Lentils Tip: Lentil soup is just the beginning. Add lentils to vegetable stews, chilis or casseroles. Toss them with red onions and vinaigrette. Stir them into curries; cook them with carrots. Experiment with different varieties—red lentils (right) cook up very fast and can be turned into bright purées.
Beans Tip: It was once thought that to get a complete protein, you needed to combine beans with grains (rice, pasta, bread) at the same meal. “Now we know you just have to eat them during the same day,” Sass says. Toss beans and vegetables with whole wheat pasta; make soups and chilis with several varieties; add a sprinkling to grain salads. And for a different taste treat, look for canned heirloom varieties.
Nuts Tip:  Different nuts give you different nutrients. For example, a half cup of almonds provides about four times as much fiber as the same amount of cashews. Cashews, however, contain about twice as much iron and zinc as almost any other nut. Pecans and walnuts tend to land right in the middle for most nut nutrients—potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium. Sprinkle them in salads, or keep a bag of mixed nuts in your desk or backpack. Garnish smooth soups with crunchy whole nuts, stir chopped nuts into muffins and add crushed nuts to pie crust.
Grains Tip: Because different grains provide different nutrients, vary the types you eat. “It’s easy to get into a rut of, say, just making brown rice all the time. It’s better to mix up the grains you eat,
including oatmeal, bulgur, wild rice, whole rye and pumpernickel breads,” says Sass. Also try some of the ancient grains—spelt, farro, kamut—which are now sold at most whole foods markets.

Leafy Greens Tip: Always try to eat iron-rich foods with foods that are high in vitamin C because the C helps your body absorb the iron. With dark leafy greens, this comes naturally—just toss them into salads with yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, mandarin oranges or any citrus. Or if you prefer your veggies cooked, sauté a couple of cups of greens in some seasoned olive oil
with sweet peppers, garlic and onion.

Seaweeds Tip:  Add chopped dulse to salads or sandwiches, sauté it with other vegetables or use it in soups. Use nori sheets as the wrappers for vegetarian sushi. Toast kelp, and crumble it on pasta or rice, or add it to noodle soups. Browse through Japanese or Korean markets to find seaweeds to sample.

Dried Fruits Tip: Sprinkle them on salads, use in chutneys, stir into puréed squash and sweet potatoes, or blend with nuts and seeds to make your own favorite snack mix. Chopped up, dried fruits make healthful additions to puddings, fruit-based pie fillings, oat bars, cookies, hot and cold
cereals—you name it.

Last but not least in my initial Vegetarian Google adventure comes the Vegetarian Times' Vegetarian Starter Kit. However, I just started reading this. Expect more to come soon.