Saturday, September 24, 2016

Return of the Tinkerer! Let's talk breakfast...

So it's been a while. There are reasons; some of my current readers know why. I'm not going to get into that, though.

I'm back, here at Land and River, Fire and Sky. There are a number of reasons; I have many things I want to address. This blog is part DIY blog, part personal journal, part sociopolitical philosophy blog... this blog is my blog. This is what's in my head. So I'm going to keep posting what is in my head.

DIET

As a start...! I'm still a member at Pumping Station: One. I'm still trying to do things. Much of what I wanted to do has been set back because of a lack of funding and interest; however, those projects are not gone, just on the back burner. However, I have recently realized that I have been learning more than I anticipated! I've been so focused on what I couldn't do that I missed those things I have been doing! Most of that is food and diet related, because I've been making huge adjustments to my diet both for my own health and for my budget; I'm not "following a diet", just learning and making changes according to what I want and need.

For instance: I'm almost entirely vegetarian, now. That's mostly for budgetary reasons... meat is expensive! However, it's also because a prominent option to replace meat is something I also enjoy greatly... rice and bean combinations. Rice and beans are cheap to buy in bulk, store well for long periods of time, are easy to prepare and store ahead of time and are delicious. No matter what you prefer, chances are there's a dish you can make using these that you'll love. If you can eat pizza or hamburgers for days at a time, you can do this. A few standard extras thrown in, like spinach, tomatoes (any number of ways... whole, crushed, stewed, diced, sauce, paste), and spices, and your options really open up!

BREAKFAST

But, for now, I'm going to talk about something else: breakfast. I bought a personal blender and I've been practically living out of it half my day for the last month. In this case, my needs are simple, so I stuck with the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid... a life philosophy tailor-made for people like me who overthink things) and got a cheap one from Kmart (a Hamilton Beach 14oz blender) for $15.

Now, I've been trying to walk a line between convenience and budget. I am forgetful. Easily distracted by stray thoughts and squirrels. Absentminded, even. So convenience is important. However... convenience is also expensive. So I've been doing some nominal prep and shopping and then enjoying days and days of convenience. But if I say "personal blender", I notice many people assume something like "protein powder shake"... and that's not the direction I've been going.

Preparation

The preparation is fairly simple, just shopping for a few key things and one important bit of pre-prep:


  • Ground coffee of choice (I'm no coffee snob, I use cheap off-brand dark roast)
  • Instant espresso (again, I use something cheap)
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Cinnamon
  • Almond milk
  • Bananas
  • Frozen fruit (Here, I go name-brand; flash-frozen fruit tends to keep more nutrients. I also find it's less likely to clump together in the bag. I've been using Welch's Antioxidant Blend (strawberries, cherries, blueberries and blackberries, a $10 bag lasts me about a week!)
  • Chia seeds
  • Fresh spinach and/or cooked beans
Getting the above will give you materials for one or more weeks of quick, no-brainer breakfast!

Now, don't be alarmed; that's not all for one Frankensteinian monstrosity. I'm sure that last bit made folks wonder... I'll get to that in a second. The chia seeds are new to me, so I'm still trying to get used to using them, but they're great for keeping you feeling full longer... I will say, though, that you don't need much, and they just kind of disappear into what you're using them on so it's no major intrusion. However, I will also say to use them sparingly in combination with other moisture-absorbing foods, because they absorb moisture like crazy. Speaking from personal experience, combining them and Grape Nuts cereal is a terrible idea... unless you like sitting in the restroom for a half-hour feeling like you're trying to give birth to a cinder block. 'Nuff said.

Smoothie

Yup, it's the smoothie part of the post. My breakfast every day has been a simple but good for you smoothie, walking that line between convenience and budget, with minimal processed food. You can toss it together in minutes but it's still pretty cheap, and then you can rinse out the blender cup and be ready for the next part almost immediately!

1 cup frozen fruit
1 sliced banana
1/2 cup fresh rinsed spinach or cooked beans, chilled
1 cup almond milk
1 tbsp chia seeds

Adjust amounts to taste. Blend. Drink. I find that putting in the fruit first tends to make the blending go easier... that way, it doesn't freeze together above the blade.

But wait... spinach? Beans? Huh?!? I tend to prepare about a week's worth of mixed beans for my needs in advance; at some point, I'm going to try to prep more, because they can be frozen. We'll see. But both spinach and beans are powerhouse foods with a lot of nutritive value, and, more importantly, combined with the aggressive fruit flavors I've been using (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, etc), these ingredients practically vanish into the smoothie. Almost no effect on flavor whatsoever.

I actually prefer the beans because they make for a smoother smoothie... go figure. Spinach takes less prep, though... grab a small handful, rinse under cold water, squeeze dry, toss in cup. Mind the use of fruit, though, because you don't want to overdo sugar consumption; it doesn't take a lot of either to really shift the flavor, so don't feel obliged. I generally tend to add more almond milk.

Coffee

On to breakfast part 2: my morning coffee. This tops off my morning... I brew the coffee while making my smoothie, then rinse the blender cup, blend my coffee and just enjoy it through the next hour or so. My personal blender's cup has a travel-cup top design, so it's great for taking this on the go!

2 cups or so of brewed coffee (I brew mine with cinnamon, that's why the shopping list includes cinnamon)
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tbsp(?) chocolate syrup (meh... I just squirt some into the cup)
2 tsp instant espresso

So... the coffee and the almond milk are how you adjust the temperature of the drink. Want to chug it? More almond milk. Want a nice, hot coffee to nurse? More coffee. The espresso is a personal choice... it's how I turn my coffee into my "energy drink". Syrup to taste... the syrup is also how you're adding sugar, along with the almond milk, if you get sweetened almond milk. I don't, but I do get vanilla almond milk. THIS WILL FOAM; not heavily, but enough. If your blender doesn't close firmly, maybe hold a napkin or something on the lid to catch any overflow. Blend carefully, in small pulses, until you have a feel for how messy it might get. End result: hot, delicious, smooth coffee/cinnamon/chocolate morning drink. Garnish as you see fit... I just drink it out of the blender cup.

Whenever you're done, it takes maybe a minute or two to rinse the cup and lid and clean-up is done!

Why almond milk? Normal milk tends to cause a lot of digestive distress. The only actual benefit to drinking it is calcium... and much of the calcium is usually added afterward. Calcium can also be added to other things, so... calcium-fortified almond milk will net you the benefits and applications of milk in cases like this while saving you the embarrassment of indigestion and gas normal milk tends to cause. I also tend to go with almond milk over soy because I, personally, have experienced some minor discomfort from excess consumption of soy milk.

And that's what I've hacked together recently... low-prep, low-mess, healthy, filling breakfast for the chronically absent-minded!

Be excellent to each other!
Jonny friggin' Panic