Eat Your Peas

I can’t remember exactly when, but soon-ish (before last spring?) after we moved here Tom became obsessed with finding us a full-sized freezer.

He found one for free on Craigslist and it works almost great.  Between being older and the wonderful slant of our floor (fingers crossed our Power Ball ticket is a winner and we can afford a basement this year!  Otherwise Tom will jack parts of the house up.  How is it that living in a historic cabin feels more redneck than when I lived in a double-wide?), the door doesn’t shut with just a push.  You have to physically merge the door to the frame, then hold it there while the gasket considers the merits of creating a seal versus creating Frozen Part II, an Ice Cube’s Revenge.

Several times in the past year we have not been as attentive to the door as the gasket would like and found the freezer looking like Hoth.  We de-iced it a few times but the final straw was when we lost power while in Albuquerque.  It was cold enough in the house to not worry about food spoilage but at some point you cut your losses.

And thus I requested that Tom refrain from hording for a while and that we eat up items we knew had been there before December 25th.

Here’s where his stocking tendencies start to annoy me.

Tom loves to buy frozen vegetables.  And that’s fine.

Tom loves to buy frozen peas and frozen corn.  Which are vegetables I don’t typically eat as they fall in that too-starchy-while-also-not-protein-y category that lots of good tasting food falls into it.

And that’s fine too.  If he wants his apocalypse bunker to be only Tom-friendly, that’s his prerogative.  I should buy my own rations or suck it up and eat peas.

EXCEPT THAT HE DOESN’T EAT THE PEAS EITHER.

We’ve been on this clean-out-the-freezer meal plan for three weeks now.  I have eaten two and 1/2 bags of frozen green beans, used a bag of onion with parsley in a stew, used two bags of “vegetable medley” (THAT INCLUDES PEAS.  AND CORN.) in stews and casseroles, AND EATEN A BAG OF PEAS.

How many bags has Tom eaten?  Zero.

(I cook or bring a vegetable as part of my lunch every day.  I’ve been bringing a bag for the work freezer and nuking appropriate portions each day.  I try not to have too many other carbs with the peas.)

The problem is that Tom only wants to cook one thing for a meal.  He likes to bring big portions of leftovers and call it good.  If it doesn’t bring anything?  He makes himself peanut butter sandwiches.

This only dawned on me this week when I asked if he’d eaten the peas I’d sent with him earlier.

“No.  I don’t have a bowl!”

“What about the blue bowls?”

“They aren’t big enough!”

“You can just cook one bowl’s worth of peas at a time!”

“Blasphemy!”

Evidently if I want Tom to eat his peas, I’m going to have to stop cooking and offer no other choice.

Detox for Dummies (Hi, my name is Dummy)

It might surprise you, with my green smoothies and juicing and kale, but I’m not a big believer in detoxing.

There are, of course, many flavors out there. And some (lemon and ginger tea, salads) seem more legit to me than others (anything bottled with the word “cleanse” in it. Especially if the name is at a slant or in italic font). But overall I think the idea is overrated.

Perhaps this stems from my senior year in college when M and I did one of those body wraps where you are mummified in herbal-soaked ace bandages and then encouraged to jump on a trampoline under heat lamps for a few hours. You are supposed to lose inches all around as toxins are sweated out and good toning products are osmosised in.

M and I had battled the “Freshman 15” by moving off-campus together and cooking most of our meals. I certainly was ingesting more preservatives than I do these days. But even then there was no fast-food habit. And I had already claimed the “most likely to need to pee” title with a several-liter-a-day water habit (that started 2nd semester freshman year as that “15” brought a few friends and I looked for healthy habits to slim down).

At the end of our body wrap session, we both overall gained an inch or two. There were murmurs from the attendants of how this proved we needed more body wraps and detoxing. But I called bullshit. I assumed we were eating too healthy (just unhealthy portions of healthy) for their water-weight scam to work.

I also believe this is why I never see that magic 4-7 pound scale shift the first week I get back into serious health mode – it isn’t that dramatic of a change my “non health mode”.

But still. For all my doubts there is something appealing about thinking you can hit the reset button on your body. And I have habits that keep me from becoming too smug about my healthy lifestyle – most notably alcohol, caffeine, and prescription drugs.

When Tom hiked Isle Royale last fall, I took the opportunity to do my version of a detox. I ate a vegan diet and also avoided gluten, alcohol, and refined sugar. I swapped my 2 cup a day coffee habit for green tea.

The one thing I did not try to go without was my muscle relaxers and prescription anti-inflammatories. Originally prescribed to me in 2001 for a bad back, they have been trusty sidekicks throughout several injuries – currently my left shoulder. I don’t take them daily, and I do recall cutting down on them during that period, but I have never made a specific attempt to the cut them out of my lifestyle entirely for an extended period of time.

(I will point out these are “take as needed for pain” prescriptions – NOT something my Doctor expects me to take religiously like my thyroid medicine. I would never think of attempting to forego a daily prescription that helps regulate an out-of-whack body function.)

January 1st I made the decision to cut out alcohol until my 40th birthday at the end of March. I still haven’t seen amazing health benefits (Weight loss? Nope. Extra energy? Nope. Better sleep habits? Hell nope) BUT I do believe I am reaping SOME benefit. I feel a bit less emotional, more productive, and if sleep itself is still evasive at least general relaxation seems to come a bit easier.

So this whole nose bleed thing that occurred over the weekend is quite depressing. It may just be a bloody manifestation of the current weather and dry indoor environment, but it FEELS like an unhealthy body thing. My nose has staged a revolt and the rest of me is captive in a chair, head tipped.

Stymied with what else I can do except stuff tissue up there (and see a doctor – which is scheduled), I feel prompted to have more control over other health aspects I can do something about. So this morning, I had a 1/2 cup less coffee. And I have gone sans pain medication since Friday.

I feel awful, so it must be working.

(Anti-inflammatory use has been slightly linked to nose bleeds. And caffeine has a dehydrating effect when hydration is stressed in keeping nose bleeds from reoccurring. So it’s not like I’m just shooting in the dark here. Except that I totally am.)

A mere month into 2015, and I have upped my toxin-reducing scheme by two. At the rate I’m going, before winter is over I’ll be IMing Gwyneth Paltrow and raving over enemas. You’ve been warned.

Catch Me If You Can (You Can)

A few weeks ago, I added running back into my exercise program.  Running is something I don’t enjoy all that much while I’m doing it, but I love the aftereffects.  I love how many calories it burns, I love how cardio exercise helps my blood pressure*, and I LOVE that I produce a huge endorphin release.

Tom knows if he wants to have a conversation after a run, he should expect lots of exclamation points until the high wears off.

Of course, after a winter of mostly inactivity, I am back at square one.  I started Week 1 of a Couch to 5 K program.  (I use a BlueFin app, which is technically called “Ease Into 5K” I’m sure for trademark reasons.)

I have been at Week 1 of this program more times than I can count.  And sometimes that has been disappointing.  But not this time.  I’m just so happy to be MOVING again**.  It’s also easier because my circuit training with Betty Rocker has firmed up some places that in the past have jiggled to the point of pain.

This is not to say running is easy and painless.  I’m back to constantly adjusting my shoes – too loose and my ankles complain, too tight and I get tendonitis on the top of my foot.***

And I am S-O slow.  Unlike at the condo where I had an almost perfect 3 mile loop, here I have to do out-n-backs.  In one direction, I catch a daily walker often and I’m sure she wonders why I even bother to “run” when my walk is almost faster.

Because I will get less slow.  I will get stronger.  I will go farther.  I will use more exclamation points in post-run conversations.****

*I can physically feel this about 1-2 hours afterwards.  And yes, I have used this technique in the past two evade blood pressure meds by precisely timed runs/doctor appointments.

**I have been taking my thyroid medicine for a month now.  The changes that I can already notice are getting better sleep and not being dead tired every single day after 4pm.  I’ll take it.

***Most running programs suggest 3 days/week running.  For now I am doing 2 days/week, giving myself a four day window to manage foot aches and pains.  Just a friendly reminder to anyone struggling with a program or a routine – make it work for you.

****Evidently asterisks are my new parentheses.  (!!!!)

An Ode to My Blender

I typed “blunder” at first.  Oh Freud, you get me like a hot dog riding into a train tunnel.

In my new 90-day challenge, I am trying to follow some of the eating plan provided.  Besides wheat flour alternatives (almond flour, coconut flour) and sprouted grain bread, it’s pretty much foods that I eat anyway.

(Oh wait, there is also a lot of fish, which I don’t like the taste of, and mammal, which I tend to not consume for ethical/environmental reasons.  For now I am trying all the fish recipes and trying one mammal recipe a week using local organic sources.)

(Why yes, you CAN marry a southern boy and still be a pretentious hippie!  Thanks for asking!)

One thing that drew me to The Betty Rocker recipes was the green smoothies.  I’ve lived on spinach-blueberry smoothies as breakfast for years.  Through the Wisconsin winter, exactly when I needed them the most probably, a cold smoothie just did not hit the spot.  I resorted to canned vegetable juice for my AM veggie fix.

But now!  Now the program has me eat a breakfast, usually with salad, and then a different kind of green smoothie every day as an AM snack.  I’m eating more servings of vegetables than ever before. And with her recipes, I adventure from my tried and true with parsley and peach and ginger.

The change in eating has two downsides.  First, the dishes.  OH MAI GAH THE DISHES.  Ever time it is Tom’s turn to wash he laments, “How do we dirty so many??”  Such is the lifestyle sans takeout.  I’ve had a bag of fruit and veggie stems/tops/leftovers to juice for a week now, but the juicer is a whole sink full itself and there has never been a day when I could stomach one more scrub.

The other downside is having a green smoothie not first thing in the morning means trying to transport it to work to drink later.  I drive curvy roads with deer and inconsiderate same-side-of-the-road-as-traffic walkers.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I await the day when I have to decide to just dye my car interior kale green.

This morning I walked into my boss’s office to discuss a piece of mail and forgot I was holding my clear, plastic, glass of green goodness.  The look on his face indicated he thought I was slurping on a mug full of blended babies.

Almost worth the transport hassle and dishes.

Hooray for Labels

As someone who believes our society does way too much labeling, I should not have been as ecstatic as I was when Doctor X (PAC, whatever) informed me I officially had hypothyroidism and could go back on the wonderful drug I felt kinda saved my life in 2010.

Despite being in the boonies, the office has an online portal which allows me to see my test results.  So I knew my TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) was too high and my T4 (part of what the thyroid is supposed to produce when TSH is present) was borderline low.  But I wasn’t sure she would feel the high was high enough and borderline was borderline-y enough to warrant medical intervention.  I was prepared to ask, “So where do we go from here? Because I gain weight at the drop of a Cheetos*, can barely stay awake throughout the day, and have a monthly cycle from hell.”

Turns out, she takes into account a person’s symptoms as well as test results.  AND she put me on the lowest dose and already scheduled me for another thyroid panel in two months.  Something that wasn’t done my last go round that now I understand is pretty much protocol.

AND for a bonus TELL-ME-WHAT-I’VE-WON-DOC, my blood pressure was remarkably better after two weeks.  She even mentioned the possibility of lowering my dosage of the hypertension medicine.

I am sharing all of this on the Interwebs not just because I am a closet over-sharer.  I share to encourage people to use their doctor, health insurance, and medical history to help themselves.  Do not just sit on the couch thinking, “I feel horrible because of X.” GO TO A MEDICAL FACILITY.  Are you afraid to step on the scale?  Afraid of the blood pressure cuff?  Afraid to admit how much you smoke/drink?  Get over it.  The doctor will help you.  The doctor won’t help you?  Get another doctor.

I might have saved myself gaining 30+ pounds and a whole lot of uncomfortableness if I had found a new primary care physician the minute I was taken off my thyroid drug.  But hindsight.  20/20.  All that.

Do I now possess a magic pill?  A cure for all my ails?  Fuck no.  But I do have more knowledge.  And medical assistance that knows I am trying.  That is worth all the labels in the world.

*I could not tell you the last time I ate a Cheetos.  I gain weight at the nibble of an all natural, farmer’s market, come-meet-our-goats chèvre.  But you get my gist.

50 is the new 100

Years and years ago (OK, a month) I mentioned I joined some challenges to get healthy in May.  And then I promptly told you nothing about them.

Don’t worry.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I am ignoring many other commitments in my life right now.  Including one of those challenges!

So before I forget the whole point here, let me mention why even agree to multiple challenges if I cannot complete them?  Because if I had only signed up for the challenge I ended up not doing, I would have zero success for May.  Instead, I have completed 50 percent.  And an entire 100 percent of one challenge that turned out to be something really fun!

The challenge I enjoyed, excelled at, and am continuing with, was Bree Argetsinger’s 30-Day Body Weight Challenge.  Every week she put out a video of seven body weight exercises (think squats, push-ups, bridges…) and the challenge is to complete three rounds of those exercises three times during the week.

I love this so much I can’t even.  For one, no equipment needed and can be done anywhere.  For two, each week has built on the previous week so if you struggle with a certain exercise you have an automatic fallback alternate exercise.  Building on previous weeks also allows you feel and see the changes in your strength and stamina.

Third, she also included .pdfs which break down the exercises in great detail and include even more alternatives if a move is too difficult or aggravate certain joints.  You can tell that she really wants anyone looking at her workouts to succeed at moving their body towards healthy no matter what that looks like for them at that moment.

This was just the perfect fit for my exercise routine.  I found out about Bree months ago and tried some of the free stuff on her site, but I also signed up for her emails and that’s how I found out about this 30-day challenge.

I liked it so much I paid for her new 90-day “Make Fat Cry” challenge.  12 weeks of workouts, same approach and level of instruction as before.  Also an eating plan which I will probably not follow to the letter but has some GREAT recipes.

I’m not going to post the link here, but for the next two days you can join the challenge with me at the reduced rate I received for completing the 30-day challenge.  Email me (jessicainprogress at gmail dot com) for the link.  (Veggie lovers – the meal plan is already gluten and lactose free, and she includes non-meat alternatives for meals.  If you have an quick alternate for eggs and egg whites in your pantry, it would be very easy to make it vegan.)

The second challenge, the one I failed at, was Cass’s “Subtraction Project – Less Loathing, More Love Body Edition“.  The idea was to receive emails prompting me to think, act and learn about having a healthy body and healthy body image.  I’m afraid the email format and style did not inspire me.  I don’t want to/can’t be much more specific than that as I think my negatives reflect more my personality than the project.  Although I will mention the emails were not as frequent as the initial discussion led me to believe, which made it easy for me to not pay attention to them.

BUT.  I did do one prompt in that project – I wrote a letter to myself about what I wanted to accomplish in May.  And looking at it now, I accomplished those goals.  It also gave me the idea to write about my own struggles with emotional eating and the self loathing associated with that (coming up soon to a blog near you).  Finally, I think part of my failing in this project is a lack of time and I can save the emails to try again some other less opening-my-own-store time.

So, I guess I’m trying to encourage everyone to always try new things and to not look at incompletes as failures but as one more step in discovering what works in your life at a particular time.

Next time…June challenges!  Or August recap.  Whichever I get to first.

 

Updateyness

Can you believe I spent a whole minute debating about an “i” versus an “ey” and then considered the merits of a hyphen in that title?  That IMAGINARY WORD title?

Hi, Welcome to my brain.

Yesterday I had the day off.  Day.  Off.  No part-time gig, no coming into the shop.

I cleaned the house for seventy hours.  Maybe not so much Day. Off. after all.

It was very needed.  I do not think I mopped the floors once during winter, which if you have been paying attention lasted for nine million years.  We are pretty good about vacuuming and sweeping because of the animal hair.  But mopping and dusting were over do.

I started this project last week with taking down some of the winter insulating plastic over the windows and washing all the throw rugs.  Then I did not want to put the rugs down until I knew they wouldn’t get dirty right away again.

Oh, and last week I also nearly killed myself with toxic fumes and hours of scrubbing to get our shower “not so rusty looking”.  Tom said he couldn’t tell much of a difference.  That’s why he’s now dead.

Actually, HE got the day off today to chop wood.  We got a permit to clear X amount of dead fall from the National Forest and the cost of the permit is 1/100 of what having that amount of wood cut, dried, and delivered.  Thank goodness he is handy with a chainsaw and frugal.

Speaking of dead…I’m at the shop!  Blogging at work about work; don’t tell my boss.  Next weekend is almost universally known as “open the cabin” weekend and there is a big sidewalk sale on Saturday so hopefully we will get busy.  We knew we would be cooling our heels for a good portion of the year, but it is nerve wracking as the bills pile up.  I especially do not like just sitting around the shop and have had the door propped open to the back working area as I’ve folded laundry, moved furniture, and vacuumed.

(No mopping.  All carpet.)

Our foster Winnie has moved on to another rescue organization but that same day we got Maggie, a 11-week-old Plott Hound mix that had a front leg break and heal with no medical attention.  Her hind legs are also atrophied from being sedentary while her front leg was too painful to walk on.

She is loving and happy and so much fun.  I’ve never worked with a puppy before.  The biggest hurdle is house breaking, which the shelter wondered if it was even possible or if other injuries meant she was incontinent.

It’s been touch and go, but yesterday she stayed home with me and got a very regimented cycle of crate time, potty time, play time.  By the end of the evening she had no indoor accidents and was peeing on command.  (I have worked with several animal trainers better than me, but I do know a thing or two.)

She will probably end up going to another rescue facility that can provide specialty care and surgery to correct that front leg as she will grow to be a large dog and needs all the weight bearing she can get.  It will be harder to give her up than some of other fosters, but another one will be in need soon enough.

Since I am randomly cramming everything in here, I’ll also mention I’ve had some success in my May challenges of healthy.  Not only have I stuck to my exercise challenge and lost a few pounds, but I found and saw a new primary care doctor.

(Side Note:  we are able to have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.  It cut our monthly bill by $600.  And while I think the real problem is insurance that costs over $600 a month, the ACA has provided us an opportunity that would not have been available otherwise.)

One of the reasons I felt strongly about seeing a doctor and establishing myself as a patient of Dr. X (actually, PAC X) is because it seems ridiculous to have insurance and not use it.  Having regular visits, labs, and other tests can mean preventing worse medical conditions (and bills) down the road.

For me, this means I’m now on blood pressure medicine.  I wasn’t too surprised as I’ve been put on it before when I was heavy and inactive.  It runs in my family and two people who controlled their type II diabetes with changes to diet and exercise still needed prescription help with hypertension.

I have fought this medication in the past, feeling like I was too young and that I should be able to control my blood pressure via my environment.  I don’t know if it’s that I’m older, but the weight of the possible outcomes of high blood pressure is heavier to me now.  I do not want to have a heart attack or stroke while working on this “healthy” me.

PAC X agrees we can reassess my need for the medication as time goes by.  I will see her again in two weeks for a re-check and to go over the thyroid panel she ordered.  I have no gut feeling for how the blood work will pan out.  But whatever the outcome, I hope to keep seeing the PAC as part of my on-track to healthy plan.

(And yes, she agreed to culture me if I get another skin infection.)

So…that’s about it around here.  How are you?

Tried and True

In my last Healthy Post, I mentioned I was returning to some old methods that have helped in the past on my quest for a healthy me.  I thought I’d go through that list here in a bit of detail.

1)      Weighing myself.  I really, really want to be that person that can use other methods than pounds to measure success in a health plan.  And at my fittest points in life, I have been.  But I wear loose, stretchy clothes that are too forgiving.  I also tend to gain weight evenly on my body.  By the time I do notice a pinch at the waist, damage has already occurred.   The scale is not my friend, nor my enemy.  It is simply a tool.  And for me, it has been an effective one in the past.

2)      Tracking my calories.  My last big push to lose weight I found the LoseIt! App and tracked my calories religiously.  You can set a weight loss goal, help it calibrate how active a lifestyle you lead, and tell it how many pounds you wish to lose in a week (up to 2 pounds and you can also choose to maintain your current weight).  It then gives you a calorie limit for each day.  In theory, if you stay at or below the calorie limit each day you will lose the weight.  As you weigh in it automatically adjusts your calorie limit for continued success.

In the free version, you can also see your macronutrient (Protein/Carbs/Fat) grams and percentages.  The paid version allows for setting more goals including daily macronutrient intake.  (So I hear.  I don’t have it, nor was I compensated to mention LoseIt! in this post.  I like it enough to mention it by name for free.)

Being accountable, even when I go over my calorie limit with a Friday night dinner date, is very helpful.  It is nice to use an App that has a lot of nutritional information already at your fingertips.  It is also pretty easy to add your own recipes or create new food items if something isn’t in their database.

3)      Walking.  Pretty much everyone can benefit from a daily walk.  Whether for your sanity, your fitness, or your vitamin D intake.  I missed it greatly this winter.  I love to get out first thing in the morning, but the bonus with walking as part of my exercise arsenal is that it’s something I am willing to do any time of the day, no matter how run down I feel.  That is not the case with a more intense workout.  (Unless it is a class – see #5.)

4)      Yoga.  I have continued with my yoga practice through the winter.  Practicing yoga 40 lbs heavier than I was when I first started is at times frustrating and humbling.  There are poses I excelled at in the past that are off limits right now.  But there are also poses that I can flow into as easily as before.  Yoga is one of my anti-scale measurements of how healthy I am all over.  Am I enjoying class?  Can I modify a pose to progress in my practice?  Is my breathing steady and calm?  I take yoga classes here with two different instructors at two different studios.  One of the classes is on Wednesday evenings which incorporates another old trick of mine for healthy living …

5)      Sign up and pay for evening exercises classes.  I am a frugal person who hates working out after 10AM.  While I will always be kind to my body if I am truly sick or too tired, knowing hard earned money is wasted if I don’t show up is a major incentive.  (I don’t need extra motivation in the AM to workout.  If you’re the opposite, consider signing up for morning exercise class.)

And there you have it.  Five tricks I pull out and count on to get me on the road to healthy.  Three of them address exercise and moving my body, while two of them are more about tracking and holding myself accountable.  Tracking helps me make decisions about my food and lifestyle versus going on autopilot and hoping things will magically change on their own.

You’ll notice nothing regarding what I stuff my face with is in these “Something Old” tricks.  I have never had one specific way of eating that has worked to achieve my health goals.  I generally prescribe to counting calories, getting 7 servings of vegetables a day, and limiting flour/sugar products.  But I will address foods that I love and foods that love me in another post.

Here’s To A Healthy May

I’ve signed up for a few daily health challenges for the Month of May. And while I’m not going to commit to blogging every day as well, I want to start posting at least twice a week again.

Those two sentences go together because I hope/plan to blog more about the challenges and getting “healthy” in general. In the past, I have found I am most committed to “healthy” lifestyle changes when I incorporate them into my writing. Previously, I’ve kept personal journals of my “healthy” transformations.  I think writing publicly will keep me more objective rather than just whining at the hard parts.

And this will be the last time I put “healthy” in quotes. You know why I’m doing that, right? Healthy looks very different to different people. Healthy has changed to me at least four times in my life and is probably not done. We learn new facts about foods and our bodies.  We learn new sports. We get older and require different nutrients.  We acquire new injuries.

Like 99.67% of the world, I want to go back to the 22-year-old me who could maintain a reasonable body-type living on pancakes and spaghetti and shake her pretty hard. BE HAPPY NOW AND APPRECIATE YOUR THYROID.

(Not that 99.67% of the world wants to shake 22-year-old Jessica; they want to shake their 22-year-old selves.  We all know Jessica-shakers are in much higher numbers).

I’m not looking for debate regarding what is healthy, although I do welcome ideas and discussion, sympathy and encouragement.

Currently, plain old weight loss is very necessary for me to reach a healthy lifestyle. I’m going back to some tried and true methods, trying some new ones (see 2 May daily challenges), and hopefully find a primary care physician who will listen and help with issues I can’t manage by myself. (I AM ONCE AGAIN LOOKING AT YOU THYROID.)

All that said, I have been meaning to share a recipe here for forever. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but I have never had a recipe be so much “mine” as this one. It is a casserole-type deal that you cut into squares to serve. It combines quinoa, cottage cheese, eggs, and a heap of vegetables with spices that take me straight back to my father’s Thanksgiving stuffing.

I sought out the original recipe and made all my changes in order to get more vegetables in our breakfasts, but this could easily be a side dish or casserole-and-salad lunch meal.

Quinoa Veggie Casserole

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
7 stalks of celery (1/2 a…head? Of celery?  Is that a thing?), chopped
8 oz package of mushrooms, chopped
1 ½ cups thinly sliced carrots (for me, this was about 18 baby carrots)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4-8 cups fresh spinach leaves (This is because I usually use whatever spinach we have on hand)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 cups cottage cheese (I use full-fat cottage cheese because they do not add fillers/thickeners)
2-4 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried parsley (up to ¼ cup fresh chopped leaves if available)
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika

Optional: Breadcrumbs for the bottom of the casserole pan.

Please note: this can be done in many different stages.  It’s not that much work but it does require lots of chopping plus multiple pots and I’m a lazy dishwasher.  I’ve taken as many as three days to complete this dish.  (Cooked quinoa day 1, cooked veggies day 2, finished day 3)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 1:  Cook one cup quinoa according to package directions.  Set aside.

Step 2: Put a LARGE skillet on low/medium low heat and add two tablespoons olive oil.  You are going to sauté all the vegetables very slowly.  The onions and celery should sweat instead of caramelize.

Step 3:  Chop all the vegetables.  This is the most tedious part of the recipe but I find once I get the onions and celery cooking, I am highly motivated by the smell.  The smaller you can slice/chop, usually the better.  Except I like to just halve the cherry tomatoes and have them be bursts of flavor in the casserole.

Step 4: Sauté all the vegetables.  You want to put the vegetables in the skillet in a sensible order for how long they need to cook.  I usually add them as such:

-Onion, then celery.
-Let those start to smell yummy (5-10 minutes?) then add mushrooms and carrots.
-Let that cook until the mushrooms are done.  Add the garlic and cherry tomatoes.
-Let those sauté for just a minute or two, then put the spinach (and parsley if using fresh) on top and put a large lid over the whole thing so the spinach wilts.  I usually have to stir up the vegetables after a minute or so and then put the lid back on and reassess.  As long as the other vegetables have cooked long enough, the spinach does not need to be perfect.  It will almost disappear in the finished casserole.

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Step 5: Combine the quinoa, vegetables, and all the spices in a big bowl.

Step 6:  Add cottage cheese and eggs.

Here’s where you are going to have to use your own judgment a little.  Both of these ingredients add protein and bind the casserole together.  Depending on how fresh and watery your vegetables are, you may need less or more.

My suggestion, based on taste, would be to use a full 2 cups of cottage cheese and then add one egg at a time until the contents of the bowl are a little wetter than a good meatloaf and sticks together very well.  I would never use less than 1 cup cottage cheese with 2 eggs and I would err on the side of too wet than too dry.

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Isn’t this the most helpful and easy recipe you’ve ever read?

Step 7: Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 10 x 14 glass pan.  Optional – sprinkle bread crumbs on the bottom.  This is the best way to ensure you can cut “slices” of the casserole and maintain their shape.  But as bread crumbs do not add any nutritional or taste value, I have started to omit them.

Step 8: Spread the contents of your bowl evenly in the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  If the top is not golden brown by then, keeping checking in 5 minute increments.

I make this at night and we microwave slices for breakfast over the next week.  I cut the pan into 8 slices and I estimate a serving is around 300-350 calories, with 1-1/2 servings of vegetables per slice.  All while tasting like you are having Thanksgiving stuffing for breakfast.

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