Quick & Easy: Ploughman’s Dinner

New Year's Eve Ploughman's Dinner
New Year’s Eve Ploughman’s Dinner

A Ploughman’s Lunch is, historically, a cold meal consisting of bread, cheese and pickles, with the occasional addition of ham, hard boiled egg, or pickled onions. When I want a meal that’s easy, delicious, and affordable, I throw one of these together on a wooden cutting board. The Hubs, never one to pass up a meal that includes bread and cheese, suggested the possibility of such a meal when we were discussing our New Years Eve dinner. We had stopped at our favorite high-quality butcher shop to pick up a ribeye for Christmas dinner, and we couldn’t help but grab some artisan hot Italian sausage. That sausage inspired our New Years Eve Ploughman’s Dinner, but you don’t need fancy meat for this rustic meal. Here are the basics you’ll need to enjoy your own Ploughman’s:

Bread

Papo secos loaf.
Papo secos loaf.

The Hubs made a Papo Secos loaf, the recipe for which he refuses to share. (Feel free to Google one if you wish!) Anything rustic and crusty will work great for this, or even a rich brown bread. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try this Black Bread recipe from SmittenKitchen.com. I’ve made it many times, and it’s a LOT of work, but it’s worth the trouble. And no, I don’t always make bread from scratch for this, that defeats the purpose of a quick and easy meal. If The Hubs hadn’t volunteered to make the bread, I would have picked up one of my favorite crusty Italian loaves from my local Produce Junction (a discount produce market) for $2.50. The bread doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, it just has to be delicious!

Cheese

Mmmm, cheese.

Like the bread, you should choose what you like here. My only real suggestion is that it be something firm, like cheddar, as opposed to something spreadable like goat cheese or crumbly like feta. This meal is meant to be portable, so you want cheese that you can just slice up easily. We used cheap grocery store sharp cheddar. In the past I’ve used aged cheddar, smoked gouda, havarti, etc. If you like it, it’s good enough.

Meat

So many options! I baked up our artisan Italian sausage in our (*gasp*) toaster oven. You can pre-slice it, for ease, but we each sliced up our own to our liking. I’ve previously used ham, various aged charcuterie such as salami, capicola, or summer sausage, Portuguese chourico or linguica, marinated and broiled minute steaks, grilled shrimp, etc. The sky’s the limit. Heck, even pepperoni will do.

Pickles

Any kind, type, style will do! We used tiny gherkins, because it’s what we had. I also like bread and butter pickles. The Hubs prefers dills. You can use cornichons, too. In the summer I sometimes make a quick homemade refrigerator pickle. Seriously, you cannot screw this up.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickling

Additionals

I threw a few extras on the cutting board as condiments: roasted red pepper strips (I made my own by charring a red pepper right on the burner of my gas stove, but you can use your broiler if you prefer), dry-roasted almonds and dried apricots. Dried fruit of any kind goes great with a nice sharp cheese, as do salted nuts. In the summer, we often use fresh cherries or grapes or even grape tomatoes. Real butter is also a wonderful addition, particularly if your bread is homemade and still a little warm. Chutney would be amazing, as well as veggie crudite.

The lesson here is, this is a quick meal that can be thrown together in less than ten minutes. It’s usually made with stuff you have lying around the house, and can be used to feed a crowd if necessary. It’s even a great option for a last minute dinner party, just add cocktails! If you’ve made this before or plan to make it soon, drop me a note in the comments and let me know your favorite things to include in your Ploughman’s lunch. Enjoy!

How to Lose 100 Lbs Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking the Bank: Part I – Drinking Your Calories

*sings* Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to staaaaart…

 Heeeeeeey, it’s the New Year!

new-years-eve-2015-583216_1280

The holidays are over and you’ve decided to lose weight. You’ve made a resolution to do so, but you realize: you don’t know how!

Well, unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to lose weight. You may be confused by this statement. “Andrea,” you say, “You’ve lost more than a hundred pounds, surely you can tell me how to lose weight?” Nope, sorry, I can’t. What I *can* do is tell you how *I* lost weight. And no, it’s not the same thing. I am not you, and you are not me. This blog is called A Measured Life, and everything I do is measured. If you’re looking for a Get Thin Quick scheme, then my method of weight loss will not be for you. It took me almost three years to get to my goal weight. I did it my way: without a gym membership, without spending money on a weight loss club, without buying special “diet” food. When people ask me how I did it, I often tell them I lost weight in the most mind-numbingly boring way possible.

This will be a series of entries where I outline my weight loss story and what worked (or didn’t work) for me. I repeat: this is MY story, and just one way to lose those extra pounds. It is by no means the be all end all of weight loss, and it was not EASY. It is, however, pretty simple. These are guidelines, baby steps. Adjust it to your needs: if a step doesn’t apply to you, skip it, or add something that does apply to you. Adaptation, determination and consistency are your tools, use them.

HOW TO LOSE 100 LBS WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND (OR BREAKING THE BANK): PART I – DRINKING YOUR CALORIES

Picture this: October 2011. I was 275 lbs. I was 30 years old with pre-hypertension and nearly pre-diabetic. I was addicted to Coca-Cola and Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Coolattas. I drank my coffee in the morning with half and half, and I often drank an entire 12-cup pot by myself. My doctor was seriously worried about my health, and in truth, so was I. In the past, I had made half-hearted attempts to lose weight: SlimFast shakes, the South Beach Diet, a liquid cleanse that looked AND tasted like bile. I even tried one of those belts that you wear that are supposed to give you a six-pack while sitting on your ass. Many of my friends and family were obese, and it was often mentioned that I “carried it well”. Hell, even the medical assistants at the doctors office were often surprised by my weight. But that didn’t change the fact that I was, indeed, morbidly obese. *insert music from the shower scene of Psycho here*

Black Friday, 2011.
Black Friday, 2011.

Ugh.

Well, I knew three things:

  1. I had a tight budget.
  2. I was lazy. (I stand by this fact, despite numerous protests from friends.)
  3. I didn’t want to deprive myself.

So I decided to start small by cutting out calorie-laden drinks. An attempt to cold turkey Coca-Cola yielded nothing but agonizing headaches. (Note: do NOT cold turkey caffeinated soda, it will cause you to shake your fist at the sky and then groan in pain and go lie down because it huuuurts, it huuuurts!) So once again, I decided to start small, and I replaced one 12 oz. can of Coke a day with an equivalent amount of plain tap water. (For the record, a 12 oz. can of Coca-Cola Classic has 140 calories.) Each week, I cut back yet another Coke until I no longer drank any soda on a regular basis. (I drank a LOT of Coke.) Phasing out Coolattas was easier, as drinking a frozen beverage in the middle of winter is not my idea of a good time, plus, at $4+ apiece, they were expensive. I still drank my morning coffee, but over time I replaced sugar and half and half with agave and almond milk.

December 2014 - A happier, healthier me!
December 2014 – A happier, healthier me!

This is the ONLY STEP I took towards a healthier me for 6 months. That’s it. So what happened in that 6 month period of making one tiny change?

I lost 23 pounds. TWENTY-THREE POUNDS. Think about it: a pound is the equivalent of 3,500 calories. That’s 80,500 calories I didn’t consume in that 6 month period. If those calories were just from my Coca-Cola consumption alone, that’s 575 cans of Coke I didn’t drink. If you assume each of those months has an average of 30 days, which makes a 6 month period approximately 180 days, that’s 3.19 Cokes a day. A DAY. That’s 447 calories I was consuming in liquid form alone. Considering the average woman should be consuming 2,000 calories a day according to the FDA, that’s nearly a quarter of my daily requirement of calories that is nutritionally void.

Note: Coke was my caloric liquid of choice. There are millions of caloric beverages out there that are drunk on a daily basis without the drinker even considering how many calories are involved. You go right ahead and check Google for the calories in a Starbucks Frappuccino, I’ll wait. Yup. A Grande Mocha Frappuccino will set you back 410 calories. That’s almost what you should be consuming for an entire meal. In the years since, I’ve cut my liquid calories down to fewer than 50 a day on average, and most of that is in the form of the unsweetened coconut milk I use in my coffee.

So think about it: how many calories do you drink on a regular basis, and how many can you avoid in the new year?

ice-water-with-lemon

The Obligatory Welcome Post

IMG COURTESY OF https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/6-months-at-zweibach-and-peace/

Welcome to AMeasuredLife.com!

My name is Andrea, and I live in a vast world where many things are quantifiable. (*ahem* For the record, so do you.) The word measured has a special meaning for me: it describes the way in which I live my life every day. What’s funny is that I didn’t even realize it: it took a friend’s observation of my behavior for me to see this side of my life. Dictionary.reference.com defines measured in the following ways:

adjective

  1. ascertained or apportioned by measure :

The race was over the course of a measured mile.

2.accurately regulated or proportioned.

3.regular or uniform, as in movement; rhythmical:

to walk with measured strides.

4.deliberate and restrained; careful; carefully weighed or considered:

measured language; measured terms.

5.in the form of meter or verse; metrical.

In my life, measure is everywhere. I’ve spent the last 3+ years regaining control of my health. In October 2011 I was a 275 lb pre-hypertensive, pre-diabetic woman barely making more than minimum wage. In the process of losing more than 100 lbs, there have been many things that required measurement: my weight, inches lost, the weight and volume of the foods I ate, the volume of water I drank, the calories I consumed and the ones I burned, the miles I walked, the stairs I climbed, the reps I lifted, the seconds I planked, the days I’d worked, the new recipes I learned, the money I spent on healthier food, workout equipment and (*gasp*) new clothes, the new friends I made, loved ones I lost, times I cried, times I raged, times I laughed and smiled. (Holy moly that’s a buttload of measuring!) And while I measured all these things, I, myself, was measured, controlled. I walked the line between lazy bum and overachiever. I found a middle ground that worked for me in all aspects of my life: emotional, financial, physical and dietary. I found that being measured worked for me.

I still don’t have a large income. Money will always be something that needs to be carefully budgeted in my household. But instead of using this as an excuse to buy cheap junk food, I thought of it as a challenge: how can I get the best results out of the least expenditure while still feeling like I wasn’t depriving myself? How can I still enjoy the things I love while bettering my health? I didn’t spend any money joining a gym, or using a diet club like Weight Watchers, or buying food from Jenny Craig. All of these things can, and have worked for people. But each of them represented a financial cost that I wasn’t willing to spend. What did I have that I was willing to spend? Time. I learned to budget and plan for meals. I learned I loved to walk outside when it was nice, or jog in place at my computer when it wasn’t. I learned, with the help of a few friends, to love kettlebells, a workout that I could do consistently from my living room. I learned that I could still enjoy all of the exotic foods I loved to eat by making them at home in a healthier way. I learned that eating healthier and saving money could go hand in hand. I learned I could enjoy my life and lose weight without feeling I was giving up everything I loved. I learned so many wonderful things about living and about myself. I have grown as a person on the inside as I shrunk on the outside.

This blog is not about telling you how to lose 100 lbs, or how to be measured. Sure, you could get those things from here if you wanted, and I hope you do. But what this blog is about is me, exploring the world as only I can: with measure, through budgeting, food, physical activity, culture and, perhaps most importantly, observation and thought. I hope, in the process of reading my recipes and stories, that you can garner some insight into yourself and your life, and expand your views of the world at large through your own exploration. There’s a lot to learn out there, a lot we can measure on our own terms. You just have to seek it.

Dare to know. Dare to learn. Dare to measure.

ryanlerch_ruler(without_URL)

%d bloggers like this: