The One Where Magpie Hates Healthy Eating

caprese pesto chicken

So one of my biggest goals for this month is a total ban on take-out and fast food. Over the last couple years as I’ve added job after job, my eating habits have basically found themselves going right down the toilet. Whatever was quick, easy, and convenient was what was on the menu. I drive past Dunkin’ on this day, the Thai place is right around the corner from where I work this day, etc… etc… My location determined my meal.

Which sucks for a variety of reasons. The biggest being, of course, that my wallet AND my waistline both take issue with the habit. My waistline has continued to expand as my wallet deflates. And the waistline thing wouldn’t even be that big of a deal (I’m still on the “skinnyish” side of national averages) if it wasn’t so interconnected with my wallet.

See, new clothes in a new size cost money.

Money that I don’t have because I’ve been mostly spending it on take-out and fast food because I work too much to cook because I don’t have enough money.

So you see the problem here.

So for May I’ve decided to cut take-out and fast food all together.

No more. And no more super duper processed food either – at least when I can manage it. Lots of fresh, lots of fruits and veggies, and lots of water.

And guys? Can I be honest here?

This seriously sucks.

soup starter

Like, I know that it’s better for me? I know it’s saving me mega money? I know that eating salads, and chicken, and fresh food is way healthier than the way I’ve been operating lately? I know that the internet gives me access to all sorts of fun, exciting, healthy recipes so that it doesn’t have to be boring? But like, all I want is a damned bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese. Topped with more cheese. And salty nutrition-free ramen. Maybe a big plate of take-out Pad Thai. And a dessert of a whole sleeve of shortbread cookies.

Ugh.

And the kicker is? Eating better isn’t even as hard as I’ve been telling myself all these years. Some careful planning and a couple of good fridge storage containers and I can have enough meals for the week in under two hours. So I can’t even use “It’s too hard and takes too much time” as an excuse anymore. And that almost makes me MORE miserable about this whole thing.

And I know this is a SUPER privileged first world problem kind of thing to be bitching about. I know it is. I also know that these kind of habit changes are a process. Results aren’t immediate and a habit – particularly one that can have addictive aspects to it like this – doesn’t change overnight.

But I also feel like it’s important to be honest. Because I have to admit, when I first started this quest to eat better, I felt like a massive failure for not liking it. For not feeling better. For not loving my meals. For not being able to enjoy eating a salad in the same way that I loooovvvveeee eating mac and cheese. I still feel like that 80% of the time, actually.

Because there’s so much noise coming in from the social media world telling me that this shouldn’t be the case. That I shouldn’t hate this. That I’m wrong if I don’t feel better and happier when I clean up my eating habits. That a healthy diet and exercise are the key to a contented life. And it may not be directly or intentionally, but social media – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook – they’re filled with health and fitness gurus and inspo that tout how much happier being healthy will make you. You’ll feel so much better! And it’s sooooo easy too! Look, these healthy meals taste so good, you won’t even miss your old diet anymore!

But I do. Oh my goodness, I do.

And I guess that’s the crux of it. I guess I just want to throw that out there into the universe. That this isn’t easy for everyone. And it’s okay for it not to be easy. Everyone keeps telling me that it’ll get easier as the habit change becomes permanent. That my palate will change along with my diet. That I’ll stop craving super processed and fatty foods, and grow to prefer these healthier options. Social media puts this glossy sheen over everything, promising ease and health and pep. That the struggle – when it’s actually acknowledged in a direct way – is super totally worth it, and that in retrospect this’ll seem super easy.

But it’s not.

So far it’s just been hard.

And that’s okay.

And I think admitting that this is hard, and enduring anyway? I think that’s the first step to making real change.

So let’s see how this goes.

salad

One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta

zucchini

So, idk about you but for the last few months I’ve been seeing these one-pot pasta recipes popping up everywhere. First they were on Pinterest, and then they migrated into facebook, and now I literally cannot seem to escape them.

So, I guess here I am. Trying my first one-pot pasta recipe.

I decided to give it a first shot using this One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta from Damn Delicious. Honestly there’s no real reason why I chose this first. I found it on Pinterest and the pictures looked tasty.

I’m kind of an easy sell.

Prep was as easy as promised by the “one pot” moniker – You just chop everything up and throw it all in.

before stirring

I would recommend putting in the pasta close to the beginning instead of waiting for the end. I was hoping to get one of those artsy “Everything piled separately in the pot” photos, and while it looks okay – it was kind of hard to ensure the pasta was completely covered in the liquid once I poured that in because I guess uncooked pasta is hard to stir.

Who would have thought.

All in the pot

Anyway… I did make a few alterations as I went… because it wouldn’t be me if I actually followed the recipe to the letter.

I am good at many things. Making a recipe as written is not one of them.

So for starters, I threw in some vegetable stock instead of water (I used Better Than Bouillon to make the stock) hoping that this meant I could avoid salting it and also bypass the heavy cream so that it would be better for reheating. Idk about you, but I feel like cream sauces never quite taste right after they’ve been reheated.

I also left out the peas. Not for any particular reason. I just forgot them.

The result was nice and tasty, and of course, most importantly – quick and easy. The alterations worked just as I had hoped they would – although I will say that maybe I’d add less bouillon to the stock next time… I eyeballed it, and it turned out to almost be a little too salty for my tastes.

The only other thing is that this recipe makes a LOT of food. I’ll be eating this for days. So it’s probably best made if you’re cooking for at least two people instead of one.

one pot pasta

But overall, I’d call this recipe a success.

Have you cooked anything good lately?

So I Made Some Soup

Title image

So a few weeks ago, I made some soup. I sort of based it on this Italian Orzo Spinach Soup Recipe, but, if you’ve been following along with my occasional cooking posts here, you may have figured out by now that I am generally shit at following directions when it comes to cooking. I don’t measure, I change things as I go, and just generally do what I want.

I’m a cooking rebel.

But whatever.

So anyway, as I said, I started off intending to follow this recipe from Gimme Some Oven.

I wanted actual chicken chunks in mine, so I started with some cubed chicken. I then went ahead and added all the seasonings starting with the salt and pepper. I then actually measured out the garlic powder that I use in place of fresh garlic (I HATE chopping garlic. I also don’t like the texture of it). Crazy, right?

I had to ask the apartmentmate where we kept the measuring spoons. Whoops. Guess I don’t use those as often as I probably should.

chicken

I then started to get a little lax as I moved through the other spices… Less accurate with the measuring… more willing to take chances… you know the drill. By the time I got to the rosemary I basically was just throwing in what looked good.

And then I realized I forgot the onion, so I threw in a bunch of onion powder to try to compensate…

It was all downhill from there.

Thats a lot of mushrooms

Before I realized what was happening I had thrown in all the mushrooms I had bought for an entirely different dish after realizing that I also forgot the tomatoes, poured in a thing of beef stock instead of chicken stock by accident, and generally just started to make it up as I went.

pasta

Basically the only thing I did right after that was use the right pasta.

But in the end, it all came out just fine. Definitely not the recipe I set out to cook, but delicious none the less. It got the Jim seal of approval, and we both went back for second helpings.

Looking good even if its wrong

It also reheated and froze very well – albeit more as a pasta risotto than a soup, as the noodles kept soaking up liquid. Not sure I’m a fan of cooking noodles in the soup, just because I tend to cook soup in large quantities specifically for freezing and leftovers and I’m not sure I like how soggy they get.

So I’d probably do that different next time. And maybe I’d actually follow the recipe. But overall, again, it came out delicious.

Done

Now if only I had any idea what the hell I did and could replicate it.

Whoops.

Three(ish) Ingredient Crock Pot Chicken

We’re switching it up this Monday with a recipe instead of a mani – my nails are in TERRIBLE condition, and I just wasn’t feeling any of the already photographed polishes I’ve got. So instead, today we have another of those lazy day recipes that I’m so fond of. It’s super fast to prep, super flexible depending on what kind of mood you’re in that day, and it seriously couldn’t be easier.

Three(ish) Ingredient Crock Pot Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar tomato-based pasta sauce of your choice (I used Vodka Sauce this time)
  • Chicken (Breasts or Tenders both work great, just make sure whatever you get is boneless)
  • Mushrooms
  • Salt, Pepper, other spices as desired

Chicken-in-crockpot

First, clean the chicken (honestly this is the most time and labor intensive part of this whole recipe). Then throw it all in the bottom of a greased crock pot.

mushrooms

Then dump in your mushrooms. Just dump ’em right in.

Sauce

Last, dump your jar of pasta sauce on top of everything. I like to put about about 1/3 of a cup of water in the jar, shake it around to get all the sauce left stuck to the sides, and add that too – it helps the sauce drip down to really get at the chicken while it cooks.

all-together-in-the-crockpot

And that’s it.

Seriously, that’s it.

You can add some spices and seasonings if you don’t think the sauce is enough, but if you’re using a sauce you really like, a little salt and pepper is really all you need. I added crushed red pepper this time, because I like my vodka sauce to have a little bit of a kick.

crockpot-controls

Then throw that crock pot on high for 6 hours (and yes, I know, the outside of our crockpot needs a good wipe-down), and you’re golden. I like to stir once or twice at the 2 hour and 4 hour mark, just to get the sauce nice and distributed as it cooks, and then towards the end I’ll go in with two forks and shred what little of the chicken hasn’t already fallen apart of its own volition.

Shredded-Chicken-all-done

End result: yum.

It works equally well over pasta or rice, or even just on its own (although I prefer it with a starch to mop up all the extra saucy goodness.

Enjoy!

Magpie’s Super Easy (& Super Quick) Fall Chili

Fall Chili title

So I LOVE Chili in the fall. Like, a lot. It’s seriously the perfect fall comfort food. Pair it with rice for a filling meal, use it as dip for those lovely Tostito’s Scoops, or just eat it alone… you really can’t go wrong.

As long as it’s not too spicy. I don’t like spicy. But I’m a weenie with spiciness, so there’s that.

Because chili is absolutely perfect for the way the weather has been lately, I figured I’d finally get around to keeping track of and sharing the recipe for my hearty fall chili.

Magpie’s Super Easy (& Super Quick) Fall Chili

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: approx. 30 minutes

Chef beware: this is a 30 minute recipe, but it is NOT a recipe for the super health conscious. What makes this recipe SO quick is the use of canned items. Using canned items is not something that bothers me – but if you’re someone who prefers to avoid using processed food like that, it would be easy to substitute fresh ingredients for most items, but would add to the prep and cook times significantly.

Ingredients:
– 1.5 lbs Ground Beef or ground meat of your choice
– 2 packets McCormick’s Chili Seasoning Mix (they come in different levels of spiciness to suit your tastes – your own personal chili seasoning blend would work well here too, but I’m generally too lazy)
– Portabello mushrooms
– 1 can diced tomatoes
– 1 can diced carrots
– 1 can black beans
– 1 can kidney beans
– 1 can pumpkin puree
– salt and pepper
Optional:
– 1 can black olives
– 1 can diced (or sliced) water chestnuts
(Jim thinks it’s weird that I use these two things in chili, but my mom always did, and I really like it. The water chestnuts soak up all the chili seasoning goodness, and both things add a little variety to the texture. I particularly like the crunch the water chestnuts add).

ground meat in pot

First, throw your ground meat into a big pot with a little bit of oil over medium/medium-high heat to brown. Salt and pepper that baby.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of ground meat you use – I usually use plain old ground beef (it’s cheaper), but a mix of pork, beef, and veal (usually packaged as a “meatloaf mix” in these parts) makes a killer chili as well. I imagine this’d even be great with ground turkey.

chili spice mix

As the meat is browning, add in the packets of chili seasoning. I know, the two packets seems like wayyyy too much for that amount of meat. Do not panic. I promise that once you add in the other two pounds of stuff we’re going add, it’ll be juuuuussstttt right on the seasoning front.

Chili spice mixing in

Mix it up well and continue browning the meat.

mushrooms

When the meat is pretty much cooked through, take your Portobello mushrooms, chop ’em up (I paid a little extra for the pre-sliced because I was feeling PARTICULARLY lazy that day) and throw them in.

add the mushrooms

Give it all a stir, and let the mushrooms soften up as the meat finishes browning.

canned stuff

Once the meat is finished browning, take all of your canned stuff and dump it in. Seriously, just open the cans and dump it in. Well, you do need to drain the carrots, olives, and water chestnuts. I also added a can of button mushrooms because I really like mushrooms and didn’t feel like the Portobellos I bought were enough. Those needed to be drained too. And I guess you can drain and rinse the beans if you feel like it – I don’t bother though. I think the liquid adds to the flavor.

I’m also lazy. This is a lazy recipe.

I’ve made peace with it.

Throw it all in

Once you’ve dumped everything in, give it a good stir.

give it a stir

Then slap a lid on and turn the heat down to low/simmer.

slap a lid on

Let it sit and all cook together into fall chili goodness while you go hand-transpose wedding music from treble clef to bass clef because you don’t trust yourself to read from the treble clef parts on cello the next morning.

in the meantime

Wait, that’s not something normal people do in their down time?

Oh.

Well, do something else for at least half an hour, checking in and stirring it every once in a while. If you want to let it cook longer, you can.

After at least 30 minutes has passed, serve as you please – I love it over rice – and enjoy the flavorful, hearty goodness.

Chili finished with rice

Chocolate Chip Scones

ingredients

I honestly haven’t been doing much baking since I landed in this new apartment last year. The oven has baffled me. Because I’m a pretty good baker. Since I learned to drive, I’ve spent every christmas helping my grandmother – who is the best baker I know who doesn’t own a bakery, her older sister being the only person to come in at a tie with her – make our family kolachi and cookies and generally learning the “tricks of the trade.” After ten years of this – and I don’t mean to sound cocky or full of myself even though I’m about to – I know what I’m doing. Or at least I did.

Except now, in this new oven, everything I bake burns. And I don’t mean “gets a little too brown,” I mean charred to a solid black on the bottom. Even the bottom of my pumpkin pies managed to burn when I made them this past thanksgiving. And that seriously NEVER happens.

dry ingredients

I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried reducing the suggested cooking temp, thinking maybe my oven isn’t calibrated properly. I’ve tried recalibrating it. I’ve tried all the tricks my grandmother gave me for figuring out where the “hot spots” are (turns out its the WHOLE OVEN). I’ve tried using different pans, greasing them, not greasing them, using tin foil, not using tin foil… I haven’t used parchment paper mainly because if it can scorch scones the way it has (at a LOWER temp than they’re supposed to go in, and for less time!) I’m afraid it’ll start a fire!

cut in the butter

So I haven’t been baking nearly as much as I used to – which is a shame, because for the first time in my life I have a KitchenAid Mixer, so it would be faster than ever. But every once in a while I miss it so much that I give it another shot. This time I whipped up some Chocolate Chip Scones using this recipe.

Overall, the recipe is a fine one – they turned out delicious. Except for the charred to a crisp bottoms. Again. But we just ate around that and they were lovely. Not quite as flakey as I’d have liked – they’re a little more cookie like in texture once baked for whatever reason, but still delicious. If it wasn’t for my oven being bizarre, I’d have ended up with A+ baked goods.

Out to cool

If anyone has any suggestions as to other ways I can attempt to solve this oven problem, please please please let me know!

Quick Dinner: Egg Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps

egg stuffed mushroom caps

Just a quick meal for you today. This one is really easy to throw together. All you need are portobello mushrooms, eggs, oil (or whatever you use to grease a pan), some salt and pepper, and if you like it, some shredded cheese.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease your pan. Cut the stems out of the mushrooms and then put them aside, and then put your mushrooms in the oven for a few minutes until they let out most of their moisture. After they’re pre-baked, crack an egg into each of the mushroom caps. Then dice up the mushroom stems and sprinkle them on top with some salt and pepper and the shredded cheese. Throw them back in the oven, bake for about 10-15 minutes (until the eggs are cooked) and there you have it!

Using a separate pan with tin foil on it for the pre-baking step might be a good idea – the mushrooms let out a lot of moisture, and it’s helpful to just be able to transfer them to a new, clean pan and wad up the dirty tin foil at the end.

I served mine with roasted asparagus – the temp and cook time for that is basically the same as the for the mushrooms. Just coat the asparagus with some oil of your choice, salt, pepper, and maybe some garlic or onion powder (depending on your preference). Lay it out evenly in a pan, and throw it in the oven at the same time as the mushroom caps with eggs. 15 minutes later, you’ve got a whole meal!