Improvisational Cooking: Creative in the Kitchen

As a writer and daydreamer, I like to think that I am observational. I do have supreme organizational skills and can focus on smaller details, but last night, from the lack of sleep the night before, I was kind of a mess. I couldn’t stop yawning and was tucked into my bed by 9:00 PM on the dot. And I don’t remember much after that. After dinner, I enjoy a cup of peppermint tea to ease digestion and settle my stomach for rest, but I made it halfway through my cup last night before I realized it tasted funny. I never put the tea bag into the cup, so I was just drinking hot water and didn’t even notice. I think this says more about me and how tired I was yesterday than the tea, which is just awkward.

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Notice the tea bag in this photo! Evidence that I haven’t completely gone bonkers- yet.

Looking at this picture, I can see that it is not one of my “dark” days for my eyebrows. Yes, I have eyebrows. When I was teaching, I had a student ask me why I didn’t have any, which was discouraging. I happen to have alarmingly light eyebrows, lasting remnants of what was once shockingly white blonde hair from the ages of 3-5. I had no hair before that, prompting my mother to pierce my ears from the moment I left the womb and forcing her to tape little pink bows on top of my head. My hypothesis is that my light eyebrows and thin hair are the product of the same thing, but what that thing is, I don’t know. All I know is that very light, almost non-existent, eyebrows cause my already large head to appear larger. Some might even say that I have a five-head. It’s good that I can talk about it now.

The cold does not make waking up early and trekking it to the gym any easier. Since I’ve survived so far, my hope is that once it’s warmer-if it ever is- and the day’s longer, it will be even easier to wake up in the morning. My one complaint, other than the usual dreadfulness of hearing the alarm clock blast, is stepping outside into the frigid air and waiting eons for the car to warm up. I don’t even wait, I just drive, and by the time I’m comfortable, I’m pulling into the gym. Wah. It’s been good so far though and there’s no denying how much better I feel throughout my day once I’ve gotten that workout in!

My day started with a scoop of peanut butter, chopped banana and strawberries, rolled into a whole wheat tortilla. I would have snapped a picture, but the banana wasn’t looking too fresh- even though it tasted great- and I didn’t think it needed to be documented forever.

At the gym, it fueled me through a kettlebell and a dumbbell circuit. For each, I did 4 sets of 12 reps. Kettlebells included swings, deadlifts, shoulder raises, high lifts, and mermaid raises. For dumbbells, I made it through kickback rows, alternating shoulder presses, alternating bicep curls, alternating front lifts, and used the stability ball for overhead extensions and bench presses. Alternating weight, grips, and equipment- even for the same moves- help to keep your body guessing and makes a workout more effective. I haven’t done box jumps in a few days, so I went through 4 sets of 12 reps of those and did a short plank sequence before jumping on the treadmill for a two-miler.

I was feeling nice and energized after a shower and sat down to enjoy this bowl of oats. The night before, I mixed oats, cinnamon, raisins, dates, mashed banana, walnuts, and milk to make overnight oatmeal. I threw some blueberries in there for an extra health kick. The cold oats with my hot coffee made a nice dynamic duo and I was satiated until lunchtime.

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I was such a big fan of my lunch! I had more of these chicken meatballs- four is one serving and they are so SO good! I threw them into stir-fried veggies of peppers, carrots, baby spinach, mushrooms, and snap peas on top of some rice and mixed it all with a thai peanut sauce. It made my stomach happy because it was yummy and healthy! I rounded out my meal with a juicy orange. This time of year, it’s better to have an excess of vitamin C than not enough to stave off colds!

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Look at these bad boys. Aren’t they beautiful? I had high hopes for these fish tacos. I seasoned tilapia with a little Cajun seasoning, chopped it up and tossed them onto two corn tortillas with a medley of fresh veggies- baby kale, butternut squash, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms. I also drizzled some cheese and more of that Thai peanut sauce on top. Once I bit into it, it became apparent that the shells were not sturdy. Improvising, I decided the tortillas didn’t taste well enough to waste on my calories, so instead I took out the filling and ate it like a stir fry. For my grains, I had two pieces of whole wheat sour dough toast. The end result was a divine meal, even if it didn’t look as pretty as what you see now.

photo 3Reminder that food can still be fun and tasty when it’s healthy. It just means you- or the person who cooks for you- has to tap into their more creative side. I forget this sometimes, especially when it comes to the weekend, but I’m making more of an effort to try new recipes and home cooking rather than spending money on food out at restaurants. Half the time now, I find myself disappointed or thinking I could have made a dish fresher, healthier, and tastier, not to mention cheaper, if I made it myself at home. Maybe this means I need to have a dinner party!

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