Monday, September 15, 2014

Potato Salad Recipe

Last weekend we went to a friend's house to watch the Washington Redskins play the Houston Texans. My husband grew up outside DC and has been a fan of the Redskins for many years. As luck would have it, a coworker's husband is also a Redskins fan, but for a more convoluted reason. They are from NM, where there isn't a pro football team anywhere nearby. Many people are either Broncos or Cowboys fans, owing to falling within the market where those games air, despite being hundreds of miles from either team. Some special people, though, choose to be Redskins fans since they are the Cowboy's biggest rival. 

Unfortunately, for both Dan and our friend, the games are hardly ever aired here due to some garbage with NFL licensing and markets. I refuse to shell out for NFL Sunday Ticket type cable nonsense, so he is forced to check box scores... except for the lucky few times they play teams where we do get the games. 

Anyways, they had us over at their house to watch the Redskins/Texans game and I brought some epic potato salad to share. I adapted from this recipe. Things that are awesome about this recipe:
I hate mayonnaise (mostly a texture problem... white gloopy stuff freaks me out) so I always look for mustard-based binder and this was a great one. Plus, mayo is fatty and mustard is good for you. It's kinda like a vegetable or something.
It uses 2 kinds of potatoes (pretty and flavorful) and it roasts instead of boils. I would never have thought of that, but it has a much better flavor and also the potatoes are less turned-to-mush.


Ingredients:
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1.5 lbs red potatoes
  • 2 Russet potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp mayo
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1/4 red onion (although it depends on the size of your onion and how much you like onion... my husband isn't a fan of raw onion so I went light on it)
  • 3 green onions
  • Parsley
  • Olive Oil, salt, pepper to taste. I'm not gonna give you measurements for this. Buy a lot, keep on hand and liberally add to everything. Because food should taste good.
1) Roast your garlic and let cool. 
I always play the long game with my meal planning, so I bought a head of garlic a week in advance and roasted it on the grill one night we were already grilling other things. You can also do it in the oven along with the potatoes. Cut the top (the non-root end) off so the cloves are slightly exposed. Put in foil, drizzle with olive oil, wrap tightly, and cook 30-45 mins. You want the cloves to be tender, but keep a nose out for burning.
2) Preheat oven to 400. 
3)Prep Potatoes: Wash and dry potatoes. Cube them, lay out on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Do not be afraid of the salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer. It's much better to salt things in the pre-cooked stage. 
4) Bake potatoes at 400 for about 25 mins. Let cool.
Do not overcook them, or they turn to mush-- you're making potato salad not mashed potatoes. Make sure they are nice and brown around the edges and a fork slides in cleanly. Seriously, please cool your potatoes before you mix with everything else. It keeps your sauce tasty and your veggies crispy.
5) Make the sauce: In a food processor (or by hand if you're one of those people) combine mayo, mustard, all of the roasted garlic (don't be shy!), and the cider vinegar. Mix until liquidy. Add more mustard or vinegar to get the consistency you'd like. 
6) Dice the onion, celery, and green onions. Mix potatoes, onions, celery, and sauce. 
7) Chop parsley, sprinkle over top for a pretty and tasty garnish.  Serve chilled. 

Time: An hour of active time, plus however long it takes your potatoes to cool. So probably 1.5 hours. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Getting on Track

I suppose I'll start this out with a trigger warning for eating disorders. If talk of dieting is a problem for you, don't keep reading. And might want to generally steer clear of this blog for awhile (not that I have been posting that often anyways, so you probably won't even miss me). 
During the 2 and a half weeks of August that I did actually go to work, I had to get my flight controller physical done, not my most favorite part of the job. I understand the point, of course-- they basically want to make sure that we aren't going to have a heart attack at the first sign of trouble while on shift (although I think that's mostly because if we die then who will save the space station).
My physical went ok, in that they have decided I'm far enough from a heart attack to be allowed to control the ISS for another 2 years before they check me again. So, that's good. However, both my cholesterol and blood pressure were a bit higher than they've been in previous years.  I have, among other interesting health data, my weight as it was in mid-August every other year since 2008. And you know what I noticed while looking at my records from previous physicals... I've gotten fat, y'all.
I mean I guess I already knew that. The size 8 pants I wore when I started working out here in 2008 are but a distant memory, probably long since purchased from the Goodwill I left them at when they no longer fit. My weight really took a big hike since 2010, the year I (probably not so) coincidentally got certified for console, met my husband, and moved half an hour from work (previous commute was about 3 mins- I could have walked if it wasn't so damn hot all the time). A potent combination of sedentary workdays, sleep shifting, less free time, and love. Seeing the numbers was a bit horrifying. Between 2010 and 2012, I gained 15 pounds. And between 2012 and 2014... another 15 pounds. So that's 30 pounds in the last 4 years. Ouch.

It's time to reverse that trend. I've decided to try out LoseIt (loseit.com and a phone app). I just started using it a week ago, but I like it so far. Basically you track all the foods you eat and exercise you do, and it tracks calories in and burned. It has a barcode scanner to scan and add foods, which is pretty convenient and I love the future. I had a lot of success in college with Weight Watchers (that's how I fit into those glorious size 8's in the first place) and I know that a little portion control, a lot more salad, and some awareness of how many calories are in things will work for me... as long as the dedication is also there. If you're curious about LoseIt, there's a free version that you can try out, but I opted to subscribe ($39 for the year, no monthly option) mostly for the future meal tracking option which is not available on the free version. It's a lot easier for me to enter my breakfast and lunch when I pack it the night before, so I know what I have to play with for dinner and snacks (and, lets be honest, beer).
If you're already on LoseIt... please add me as a friend! It's sad when I log in and it says I have no friends.

I also have committed to working out 3x a week (sorry, that probably means another semester without any blog posts). My goal is to do one swim, one bike, and one run workout per week. A lot of weight loss advice suggests that you consider exercise as another thing you have to do rather than something that can be skipped if necessary. On one hand I get that if you think of exercise as vital, like going to work or doing homework, you're more likely to do it. But are you less likely to enjoy it if you see it as an obligation rather than a bonus? I like to think of working out as time I get for me and try to enjoy it. But then sometimes it feels selfish or irresponsible to take it-- since it means that my husband has to do my share of the housework, or that my homework won't be given the time it needs to be great, or that my puppy is not getting all the snuggles he deserves. And that guilt can lead to skipped workouts. No good. So for now, I'll be considering these 3 workouts per week to be as mandatory as work and homework.

One interesting feature of Lose It is that I put in a goal weight and based on my weight trend, it calculates when I will reach my goal weight. It's currently showing that I'll reach my goal weight on Feb 24, 2015. That feels like a long time away from now. I am not sure if I am more or less happy knowing that.

Mostly Unrelated Side Story:
Remember the string of posts last year about the logistical horror of changing one's name? Turns out that saga wasn't over yet. When I went for my physical, I was informed that I was a new patient. I protested that I was not, before it dawned on me that I sort of was. Turns out, they didn't get the memo that my name changed last year. Oops. So they had started a whole new electronic chart for me. Then due to whatever stupidness with their system (how is it that women changed their names to their husband's long before computers existed and yet no computer system is designed to accommodate that?) they couldn't change it until after my physical was complete. This is a 2 week process, so after that every time I called or visited the clinic for something, I had to use my old name. And then the form they gave me that says I'm medically qualified for 2 more years had my maiden name on it, too. Luckily, the secretary who had to enter that in the computer accepted it, because I have a space station to fly and no time to be two people. I have been assured that when I go back in 2 years they will know who I am. We'll see about that.

Now soliciting... friends on LoseIt or salad dressing recipes that make a big pile of lettuce actually seem appealing in the comments. Go...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Labor Day Vacation

After NC, it's hard to believe we only had 3 weeks of work before our next vacation. Those weeks were pretty busy for me. I spent a week on console and 2 weeks preparing procedures for an ISS software upgrade that is being performed this week. At the same time, I had a few weeks left of my Literary Theory class which meant a 15+ page paper to write.

I finished and sumbitted my paper on Saturday (a day early, go me!). This was a goal for me because we had plans for Houston Restaurant Weeks brunch the next morning and I wanted to drink at brunch... no day drinking when there's still homework to do! It was worth it too, as I got my money's worth in unlimited mimosas that day and took an afternoon nap on the couch.

With one week off between the end of my last class and the beginning of my next class, plus the long Labor Day weekend, Dan and I decided it was the perfect opportunity for a little getaway. Even while we were in NC for the week, I still spent a fair amount of time doing homework (and work-work, as I had a Cygnus cargo vehicle undocking to plan for the Friday after we got back)-- my husband even went to see Guardians of the Galaxy with my siblings while I spent that afternoon working.

We booked 3 nights at a beach house on South Padre Island, a barrier island in the way south of Texas (only 20 mins from Mexico!) on the gulf coast. Again we drove the rocketmobile so we could take the dog. We decided to grocery shop before we left and bring enough to eat all our meals at the house, which had a full kitchen, plenty of cookware, and a grill. This turned out to be a good thing, since the closest real grocery store was 6 miles away on the mainland.

The house was a duplex that had been converted into 3 units-- 1 upstairs lived in full-time by the property manager, a 2-bed unit for rent upstairs, and a one-bedroom unit for rent downstairs. We stayed in the small downstairs unit which was the perfect size for us, and had the benefit of exclusive access to a fenced yard for the dog to run around in.

We drove the 6 hours on Thursday morning, arriving in time to spend a couple hours at the beach that afternoon. Unfortunately it rained on and off the next two days, but we still spent a lot of time hanging on the beach. I finished a book and started a new one... it's been awhile since I read for fun. (should I be embarrassed to admit it was Beautiful Creatures and the sequel Beautiful Darkness, YA lit about witches?)

Raider even got to spend a bit of time on the beach. We took him for a nice long beach walk every day, and let him swim in the surf a few times.

We came back Sunday night, so we could spend Labor Day Monday getting ready for the week. Monday night we had another Restaurant Weeks dinner planned, to celebrate my birthday (which was yesterday) and then it was back to the grind on Tuesday. I'm supporting console this week in the backroom for the software upgrade I mentioned. Hard to imagine a better way to spend a bday than commanding the ISS... except maybe sleeping in and snuggling all day with this guy:
Cute dog, or the cutest dog? 

Monday, September 1, 2014

NC Road Trip

Hello! Hard to believe I haven't written anything here since the fridge-pocalypse. We did finally get a new fridge on July 23rd, 20 days after it died, and following a series of unfortunate events and the freon-murder of many ozone molecules. I finally became convinced that I was in some cosmic comedy sketch when the truck carrying our brand new fridge broke down 45 mins from our house and we had to wait one more day for delivery. Since then, it's been a very eventful summer.

On August 1st we packed up the rocketmobile* and headed east to Sapphire, NC where my parents bought a vacation home last year. We decided to drive so we could take the pup, who was a champ in the car. On the way, we camped overnight at a state park in northern MS:
Campsite. We even bought a new tent for the occasion!
Can you even handle the cuteness of that face?
Once in NC, he received lots of belly rubs from lots of different people, but I think I'm still his favorite. It was a bit of a family reunion, since we hadn't gotten the whole family together since my wedding last Feb. My sister and her boyfriend drove from Ocala to Orlando, linked up with my brother and flew out together. My grandparents have been staying in the house most of the summer (even more than my parents), and my other grandfather flew up with his "very special friend Phyllis" (that's how he introduced her to my friend a few years ago, and we thought it hilarious) for a few days. And my aunt and uncle drove up from Atlanta for a few days as well.

The family at dinner (before my aunt and uncle arrived): Counterclockwise is my sister, her bf Steve, my mom's dad, his special friend Phyllis, my mom and dad, my dad's dad and mom, my brother... and you know that last guy.
Dan and the boys played a lot of golf and I spent a lot of time relaxing. We did go on a nice hike up Whiteside Mountain and spent a day on a pontoon boat with the whole family.
We spent a whole week there before heading back to Houston. We planned to camp overnight in Tuscaloosa, AL but there ended up being terrible rain storms so we checked into a hotel instead.

*The rocketmobile is my beloved 2002 Honda CRV, my first car that I got when I was 16 (actually that my mom got and drove around for a few months when I was 15.5, before passing it on to me). Though I daily drive my new (well newer, can't believe its 3 already) blue Juke, the rocketmobile has a special place in my heart. It's also the perfect size for our family of three (well, 2 people and 1 dog) to take a decent-length road trip and not be short on space. When I road trip, my snacks get a whole seat to themselves!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Turbulence

Turbulence, noun. Conflict or confusion. The state of agitation or tumult. (source)

I consider myself a very organized person. My husband would probably say "too organized." Every Friday or Saturday I plan meals for the week. Then every Saturday or Sunday I hit the grocery story to buy all the ingredients for those meals. I do not grocery shop during the week if I can at all help it. I put the meals in order of the things I think will go bad first... fish on Sunday or Monday night, fresh cilantro by Tuesday, etc.

Now this is stuck in my head. source

On Thursday, our refrigerator died. When it died, we had ingredients for 3 more dinners inside, plus a few random leftovers, and my console snacks for the weekend (never go to console without snacks is a hard and fast rule in my life). Because I was organized. I was ahead for the week. I like it that way.

But the fridge did not. We went through the five stages of grief...
  • "Maybe the door wasn't closed all the way last night. Let's put a thermometer in there and see if it recovers by the time we get home from work." (Denial)
  • "This refrigerator is only four years old. What a piece of crap." (Anger)
  • "What do you mean you can't come out until NEXT Friday? Don't you have emergency appointments saved for things that are actually, you know, emergencies." (Anger, again)
  • "Well maybe it's something easy. Let's crack it open and see what it looks like inside." (Bargaining)
  • "How am I gonna live without a refrigerator? #firstworldproblems" (Depression)
  • Then we put some of our perishables in a cooler full of ice, and made a shopping list for everything nonperishable. On the back has day by day shopping list for perishables for that night which one of us will pick up on the way home each day. (Acceptance)
We've since bought 6 bags of ice and 2 bags of dry ice to keep our perishables alive... and keep the beer cold. Why isn't "drink the pain away" one of the stages of grief? Because it's ALL stages of grief. It hasn't been so terrible yet, but I am rather upset over the quantity of food I've had to throw away. Less about the cost then about the total waste involved.
And because now I'm disorganized. Agitated. Turbulent.