A New Food Challenge in March!

It's been awhile since I've committed myself to a month of something on the food blog, so I think it's about time for another gauntlet that tests my will power and cooking expertise. This month:
That's right healthy eating. I'm not going to lie--I came up with the idea in October, but couldn't bring myself to test it out during the holiday season. Plus winter is no time to lean-up...you need a layer of protection against the snow!

I'd like to state that this month is not about losing weight--and you won't be reading a daily diary of what I'm eating and how many calories are in a Dr. Pepper (150). I'm interested in eating healthier, working out more, and seeing if I can do both without going insane. In my view, I'm more interested in my cravings and mood than my weight, because who cares if I've lost 20 pounds only to become a starving bitch? I think it's important to make healthy eating decisions, and I want to find those healthy recipes that DON'T make me crave Outback's Cheese Fries (dipped in Ranch!) or Chips and Queso.

The Goal: To hold myself up to progressively harder dieting rules each week, and measure how it's affecting me (physically, emotionally) and how easy I think it would be to keep up.

Week 1: Adjusting My Diet
Starting off easy, I will lay out some ground rules on Monday for me to follow that adjust what I'm already eating to be healthier. No soda---No chipotle---Plus at least four work outs. It's the first thing everyone does when they want to lose weight because it doesn't mean an overhaul---but the question is, does it work?

Week 2: Healthy Recipes
Armed with a new issue of Cooking Light and America's Test Kitchen's Light and Healthy Recipes, I will commit myself to healthy meals as dictated by others. For the dieter who doesn't want to plan, the idea is trusting the healthy recipes to do the work for you. But will it be any good?

Week 3: The Calorie Count
Here's where I'm anticipating actually starting to see some sort of movement in my weight. After taking a few polls online, I calculated that I need to take in between 1500-1600 calories a day in order to lose around 5 pounds in a month---so I will stick with those numbers for the week and see how hungry I get.

Week 4: The Diet!
Leaving the final week with the hardest challenge (maybe?) I will select a specific diet plan and following it to a tee. Not sure what yet, I've had suggestions for the Flat Belly and Cave Man diets, but I'll need to research more. Let me know if you have suggestions!

So that's about it. Check in here to see how I'm doing---and hopefully inspire yourself. A few of my friends are going to guest blog about their own experiences because they are my inspiration, so if you are interested in that feel free to contact me about posting something yourself!

Here's to a healthier way of life that still involves cheese!


Arab Cooking: Shrimp with Garlic & Cilatro

The first thing I did upon my return from Jordan was seek out a really decent Middle Eastern cookbook that didn't just give you Greek or Lebanese food. The Arab Table by May Bsisu seems to be a real find—but the true test will come in the next few weeks as I see how her recipes turn out.

I do appreciate that at the beginning of the book, she goes into specific details about the differences between each country's cuisine, and then goes through the 'Arab Pantry' and explains in detail the different spices used, and what they work well with.

Tonight I made Shrimp with garlic and cilantro, or Mahmous Rubyan. The recipe was picked out by Chris because of the yummy photo I tried to emulate above, and chosen as the first test because it seemed relatively easy. Other than the fact it makes a LOT of food (I am writing down a half-recipe...double it for a feast or a ton of people).

I served the shrimp wrapped in flatbread with some homemade hummus (also from the book, but not perfected--so it's not getting written down yet). While the shrimp in the book was high in salt content, mixed in with the creamy hummus and flatbread, it was actually a great dish--with the cardamom acting as a nice highlight to the shellfish.

Shrimp with garlic and cilantro
Mahmous Rubyan

1 lb. onions, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic
1/4 t. cardamom
1/2 t. Kuwaiti Spice Mix (see below)
1/2 c. packed cilantro, finely chopped
1/8 c. fresh dill
1/2 T. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

lemon juice and cilatro to garnish
serve with flatbread

Saute the onions in a liberal coating of olive oil until they are tender. Add remaining ingredients (except shrimp) and coat onions. Raise heat to high and add shrimp. Cook 5-8 minutes until shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat and cover until serving. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Kuwaiti Spice Mix
Feel free to cut this recipe down if you won't use as much--although it's a nice pepper blend that I might try to use again on pizza or with steak. It keeps for a year.
1/2 c. black pepper
1/4 c. cayenne pepper
1.5 t. ground coriander
1.5 t. ground cumin
1.5 t. ground ginger
1.5 t. ground cinnamon
1.5 t. ground cloves
1.5 t. grated nutmeg