Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lazy Pasta Lunch

I can define myself as a lazy cook who likes to put some effort into my food from time to time.

Sort of.

Alright, I am hard to define when it comes to my cooking and meal practices. People who know me think that it's amazing how I very rarely ever eat out and am always cooking fresh pots of something every week or couple of days. Yes I do put out the effort to cook for myself, but the stuff that I make is really lazy. 99% of what I make is just a one-pot meal (meaning everything goes into the pot, cooks and is done in 30ish minutes) which is so ridiculously easy for any person to do on a regular basis.

You say you're too busy to made home-cooked meals? Nope, not an excuse.

You say you can't afford the fresh ingredients and take-out is cheaper? Nope, not even going to believe it for a teeny tiny second.

Convenience foods (frozen dinners and pre-packaged meals) are cheaper and more time saving? Definitely not cheaper, but maybe a little bit easier if you only have 5 minutes to cook. But when you add up the time and money it takes to buy and make 7 frozen dinners, you can EASILY make one of Adrienne's lazy, but yummy, simple suppers.

I'm only cooking for myself, so I can be experimental from time to time and not worry about impressing anyone. If the meal flops, then at least it's only me eating it. What I do is just make a huge pot of something, portion it out into individual Tupperware containers, pop them into the freezer and VOILA! My lunch is ready for the next 5 shifts. So simple. So convenient. And delicious too (sometimes)!

Here is my creation today:

Adrienne's One-Pot Italian Pasta
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 5 large mushrooms, chopped
- 2 tsp dried oregano and basil
- lots of black pepper and red chili flakes (omit if you can't handle the spice)
- 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 can (19 oz) white navy beans
- 2-3 large handfuls of bow-tie pasta (or whatever small pasta you have in the cupboard)

In a large pot, cook the chicken until no longer pink. Add all of the veggies plus all of the spices. Cook about 10 minutes, or until the veggies soften a bit. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring the pot to a boil, cover and reduce the heat so that it gently boils. Cook about 20 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. Top with some grated parmesan or cheddar cheese. ENJOY!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Heart Health

For the shifts that I work on the weekends, myself and one of the Diet Clerks have to walk around to every ward in the hospital (she takes the north end while I take the south) to collect the diet reports of all of the patients. The thing with this system is that I get to walk through all of the "heart health" wings, meaning people who have conditions relating to their heart are in those areas. I never thought much of it at first, probably because I was training and just trying to remember everything rather than really take to heart where I was. It's pretty easy to get turned around in that hospital some days so my main concentration was going to hallways and points of interest to point me in the right direction.

A year and a half ago, on August 18th, my dad had heart surgery in the hospital I now work in, and even though the surgery went great and all is well and good, it was a hard time for me. My dad dad! He's basically the most important person in my life and while he was having open heart surgery, I was in PEI trying to not think about what was happening in that operating room in Victoria, BC. But nonetheless, I was watching every minute tick by on the clock, just waiting to get a phone call from my mom to tell me the outcome of his surgery. It was torturous being so far away from my family during such a time in our lives.

But now, whenever I am walking through CCU/CVU/CSS of the hospital, I see the people in the hospital beds and think about my dad being in one of those beds, all hooked up to tubes and hoses with nurses poking and proding him. And then I see the families sitting in the waiting rooms, all waiting to hear about their loved ones or visiting a loved one who has been at the hospital for a lengthy stay, and I think about my family doing the same thing once upon a time. And then I get emotional. As soon as I arrive on the 3rd floor and start to wander through the halls to grab my papers, my throat gets all tight and I feel this huge sense of empathy for everyone connected to the wards. I can't imagine what kind of state I would have been had I been there for the actual surgery (probably laying in the corner of the waiting room in the fetal position) considering how I have been reacting just walking through the halls a year and a half later.

I feel a little crazy admitting this whole situation, but I guess I just find this emotional and physical reaction really interesting considering the circumstance. It's just a constant reminder that just when we think we have our emotions in check, they can come bubbling out at any time without a moment's notice. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Working Casual and Quinoa Muffins

When I was hired for this Diet Tech job, I knew going into it that it was a casual position. For those who are not familiar with what being a casual worker in a hospital setting, it basically means that you are given anywhere from 0-37.5 hours a week. Yep, read it again. ZERO - 37.5 hours a week. Being a casual means that you are the person they call when someone is sick or if someone needs a vacation. So I work a lot for the first few weeks because, a) they need to train me, and b) they can have me cover other Tech's upcoming vacation (which is what I am doing right now), and c) have it so that I can be "on call" and be capable of handling myself at the spur of the moment.

 So yes, being a causal kind of sucks because I can go a long time without working, which is what is going to happen in a few days. I have been working lots because I needed to get trained ASAP so that I could cover the vacation of my co-worker, but now that she is coming back in a few days, that means that I am not going to have any shifts for a while. I will be going 6 weeks without a shift which freaks me out since it's a scary idea to have zero income for that length of time. And it's hard to get a second job because I am basically on-call at all times. BUT! I talked to my boss about my concerns and that I was thinking about getting a second job serving. Then she said that it might screw things up since I will be starting full-time in a few months :) I guess they decided to give me a temporary full-time position to cover someone's maternity leave! I was stoked and relieved that they have enough confidence in me to cover a full-time position. I am still feeling shaky about my job since it is so much to take in, but knowing that they have that kind of confidence in me gives me a little more confidence in myself.

I have been tossing around ideas of what I could do to stay busy and make some money during that 6-week time, and the best I can come up with is dog-walking. I love dogs and I miss walking them, and I know that there must be people close by who need their dog walked while they are at work. I am in the process of making some posters and seeing what I can come up with. I wonder if anyone will respond? All I know is that I need to find something to keep me busy so that I am not crawling up the walls.

I will conclude this post with a recipe for Quinoa Muffins that I have been juggling with. I found it online a few weeks back and after making it once with poor success (the quinoa was undercooked due to poor instructions) I changed it around a bit to make it more my style. I have cooked quinoa dozens and dozens of times and when I was following the recipe I knew that it just wasn't right, but I followed it anyway because I'd never made this particular recipe before and wanted to give the recipe the benefit of a doubt. Unfortunately I was correct and the muffins were grainy and chewy. But after trying again with some tweaking of my own, here it is for your creating pleasure.


  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (follow the recipe on the package. It's easier then having me explain the process and have you measure out exactly 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 12-cup muffin pan (or use liners).
  2. Combine all of the dry ingredients and cooked quinoa in a bowl.
  3. Combine all of the wet ingredients and the raisins in a bowl.
  4. Pour the wet into the dry and mix together until just combined.
  5. Pour into muffin pan and bake 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Take the muffins out of the pan and cool on a wire rack

Warning - your muffin pan will be really full and basically overflowing with batter. Do not feel the urge to make extras because these do not rise all that much.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Eavesdropping About Nutrition

Yesterday I was standing in line in the "Express Line" at Walmart (I say "Express Line" because it really didn't seem all that express-like) and the older lady in front of me and the older lady behind me were having a vibrant conversation about food and nutrition. And of course, I could not help but eavesdrop since I was literally in the middle of the conversation. In the 10 minutes or so that we waited in line, they brought up many many topics, but 2 of them really stuck in my memory.

The first was one of the woman's story about her grand-daughter who tried to become a vegetarian but had failed because she felt too tired all of the time so she went back to eating meat to get her energy levels back to normal. Then the woman went on and on about how a person needs meat to have energy and that vegetarians can't fuel themselves properly. Anyone who saw my face probably saw my lips purse together and my eyes roll up to the ceiling, just trying to keep my mouth shut. Of course vegetarians can fuel themselves adequately! The problem with people who suddenly become vegetarian is that they do not do the research necessary to learn how to eat the right foods and how to combine foods to make complete proteins. I know many vegetarians who live on cheese and bread and wonder why they feel like crap all of the time. Arrrg! If you want to be a healthy vegetarian with lots of energy, then do your homework and be willing to experiment with new foods and put out some effort to do it right. Here's a link to a great source of information if you want some facts about a healthy vegetarian diet.

The next quick conversation was about one the women's daughter-in-law. The woman said that she tried "that gluten free diet" and had no luck with it and actually gained weight. "So much for being healthy," she said. It took so much for me to keep quiet. SO MUCH! She didn't say anything else because it was her turn at the cash register, but how I interpreted these few sentences is that this daughter-in-law had the notion that a gluten-free diet is a diet to help people become healthy and lose weight. The thing that makes me angry about the gluten-free diet is that it has exploded onto the scene and you can find gluten-free products everywhere. While this is awesome for people with actual Celiac's Disease (an autoimmune response to a protein in products that contain wheat, barley and rye), people are interpreting this rush of gluten-free products as a health craze. Maybe it's because they are mostly kept in the Health Food section of the grocery store?

Anyway, the problem with gluten-free products is that most of them contain tons of added sugar and teeny tiny amounts of fibre. Going gluten-free is not a diet-craze. It's a lifestyle and way of eating for people with a serious disease which alters their ability to absorb nutrients - not a diet to help the rest of the population lose weight. It doesn't work that way and is not intended to work that way. People who have Celiac's Disease can obviously live very healthily and make good choices to keep their body weight "normal", just like the rest of us. We should be appreciative that we don't have to put out the extra money to purchase these products and enjoy the foods we can eat every day. Here's a link to the Canadian Celiac Association for more information.

I saw this posted on a friend's Facebook page and enjoyed it. It's got lots of great information about food and nutrition plus helps to clear up some huge misconceptions about the food that we eat, or don't eat.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


It's hard to believe that it's already been 10 days since I wrote last! Life around here has been busy and even though busy is good, busy has left me feeling quite exhausted. I started my new job as a Diet Tech on the 4th  and the whole training experience was such a whirlwind of information, research, timelines, schedules and millions of other factors to learn the job and do it right. The first day was easy because it was just basic orientation in which I followed around my boss while she introduced me to people, showed me around the hospital and made me do a whole bunch of paperwork. No problem! Then the next day happened, and my brain nearly exploded. The job isn't particularly hard or anything: it's just that there is so much to learn about the processes and procedures in the hospital, plus all of meal plans to memorize and having to know all of the ingredients in every morsel of food that goes through the building so that I don't kill anyone, is intense.

I had 4 days of training and Monday was the first that I had to do the job solo. And yes, I was terrified. I was lucky because it was a holiday so the hospital was very quiet so I didn't feel too much pressure to be awesome since there weren't many special requests from nurses or the kitchen staff. Tomorrow I am working again (by myself) for the first time in which the hospital will be busy, so I am extra terrified. Eeek!

The crappy thing about this job are the hours that I work, which are 5:30am-5:30pm on weekdays and 5am-5pm on weekends. Well, it's not that the hours suck because I do not mind getting up early or working long hours since working 2 shifts is the equivalent in hours to working 3 shifts, so that's super cool. The problem with the hours is that I am not sleeping because I am petrified at the thought of sleeping in and getting there late. Getting there late is just not an option because the timeline of what I have to get done to get the breakfast meal out is so strict, that yeah...getting there late is not an option.

So every night I set an alarm on my alarm clock PLUS on my cell phone and place them both on my nightstand. But this is still futile because I always wake up hours before they are set to go off, then I wake up every 20 minutes because I am scared they won't go off. I also really hate the abrupt sensation of being woken up by an alarm, so I think my body and brain are trying to wake up before that startling sound of an alarm goes off. Either way, I just wish that I could sleep. I would be much more functional on the job.

So another update I need to talk about is my "Couch to 5K Running Program" that I have been doing for the past 12 days. Because of the long shifts I have been working, I wasn't able to keep on schedule like I should have been, plus Jaime had a party here on Saturday night so that didn't help me to get out after work. But I still have been doing it the best that I can and because I missed a couple days, I decided to stay on the Week 1 for a little longer. Hopefully tomorrow I will go for a run after work and attempt the beginning of Week 2! My job involves a lot of sitting so getting out for a run afterwards is really not that big of a deal at all and I look forward to it. I have actually been enjoying the running a lot more than I expected to. Maybe I'm as totally genetically cursed as I thought!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Couch to 5K

So I have been in Victoria for a week now and I am starting to get into the swing of things. Sort of. I don't have a routine really yet since my work schedule hasn't been established yet (I start work tomorrow!) but I am learning where things are a bit and getting to explore a little. Jaime and Grayson came home from Mexico on Friday night and it has been great to spend some time with them. Jaime has been telling me more about the area, good trails to walk and ride a bike on, plus all of the amazing perks about living in this area. For example, just down the hill is a rec center and if you bring a document proving that you live in the area, you can rent a bike for free! Plus the skating is free and there is a bowling alley down there too for super cheap if you're a resident. This is a lovely area. I wish that I was a bit closer to downtown but in the scheme of things, I'm glad that I am not close because it means a whole lot less shopping in the amazing stores down there. Shopping + no income = disaster.

Jaime is a runner and she lives in a great area for the hobby. There are trails and roads everywhere for runner, joggers, walkers, bikers...anyone who is mobile! She's been my inspiration to get up off my butt and try to become a runner. Well, probably more like a really slow jogger, but you get the gist. I've been wanting to start running for a while now, actually ever since a girl I know told me about a program called the Couch To 5K Running Program. I looked it over about a year ago and thought, "Yeah, I could do that," but then dismissed the notion of it all. I don't think the Kotyks are "made for running" people since we tend to have heavy bones, and that is a good enough excuse for me! But then maybe, just maybe, I could fight against my genetics and heavy bones and give it a try. What do I have to lose? (besides my knees...)

One of the small bridges I cross on the trail
Day 1 - You start with a brisk warm-up walk. Then you alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking, for a total of 20 minutes. Finish off with another 5 minute walk. 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Yeah I could do this. So today was Day 1 of the program and I think it went well. I started off by walking/jogging the trail that Jaime and I walked yesterday with her doggie Tank, then I hopped over to a trail which is right by the lake and continued along there. I know that a lot of people need inspiration to exercise, such as a health scare, weight gain, friends/family who cheer along with you, an active dog, bathing suit season or really just the desire to be more healthy. I found it easy to find inspiration while jogging along a well worn trail that circles a tranquil lake. As long as I have a good view, this shouldn't be all that terrible.

I'll keep you updated on my progress.