What is Steff-stainability?

Living sustainably, my way. It's thinking about what you are putting into your body and how it affects you. But it's also indulging in a brownie cheesecake every now and then. It's making your body look the way you want it to and being proud of it. But it's not spending half of the day working out. It's about making small changes in your life to benefit the great earth on which we live. But it's also running your A/C in the summer and driving your car. It's about setting goals and living up to them. It's trying to make the world a better place. And as I am ever-learning and ever-changing, so is this definition.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Drugs are Bad, Mmmkay?

Today my little brother turned 21 years old.

For over six months now, I've played today over and over in my mind. Around midnight, I give him a call and of course he is already drunk. I wish him a happy birthday but I know I'll have to call him in the morning/afternoon because he won't remember. My parents might drive out to visit him and take him to a nice dinner and buy him his first legal drink. He and his beautiful girlfriend, and all of his friends, share a great day together, probably ending in something so typically him, like watching the sun set over the beach or staring at the stars twinkling in the night sky. But we will never know.

My little brother passed away on January 28, 2010 from a heroin overdose.

This is not supposed to be my personal blog. This blog is supposed to be about sustainability, about keeping healthy. But this lifestyle is so intertwined with my life nowadays it is impossible to separate this blog from my life. So, as my life goes, so does my blog.

Illegal drugs are not sustainable. Most of our illegal drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, meth, and heroin come from Mexico. This means quite a few things. First, like many of our "fresh" produce, these drugs have traveled thousands of miles, placing carbon footprints in the air, just so people can "escape" for a while. But more devastatingly (depending on who you ask), these drugs fund the drug war going on in Mexico. The money that you pay for your illegal drugs indirectly goes into the hands of the drug gangs fighting against each other in Mexico, killing innocent (and sometimes not-so-innocent, but no more deserving) people. Buying illegal drugs is environmentally and socially bad.

Not only that, most of the drugs I have listed literally alter your state of being. It actually changes the chemical balance in your body, so you are no longer who you once were. Trust me, I have seen it firsthand. Doing these drugs are bad for you body and your mind. For someone who cares so much about what I put into my body (and what others I care about put into theirs), I truly don't understand the reasoning behind consuming these products.

It's just not worth it. These illegal drugs can, more than likely, literally destroy who you are and take your family down with you. Your body is not what it was, your mind is not what it was, and the risk of putting your family through the pain can pull it apart. Even before my brother overdosed, my family had been through so much pain and strife trying to help him break away from this lifestyle. And we truly thought he had done it. Until one day, he left home just to buy some schoolbooks and he never came back.

Trying to make sense out of all of this, I've concluded that the only thing that can come of this is if it convinces other people to stay away from these horrid substances. My brother was a loving, caring person and I know that if he had realized the pain he was putting us all through, he would have never touched the stuff again. Please, learn from him. Don't wait until it's too late. Because he really died of an accident; it was just "one more time" of something he had done numerous times. But he either took too much, or got a bad batch, or some combination of the two, and because of this screw up, I'm sitting here with my family trying to push on, trying to fill this hole in our lives.

It's trivial and low-brow, but South Park really says it best when they say "Drugs are bad, mmkay?" There is literally nothing good that can come from it, whether environmentally, socially, or emotionally. It's just not worth it.

Rest in Peace, Mike, and happy birthday.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sausageless Shrimp Gumbo

I love love LOVE Cajun food. The flavors are so rich and complex, but the dishes are generally very easy to make. One staple ingredient in many Cajun dishes is Andouille sausage, which can be very greasy, hard on the stomach, and not so great on the waistline. Which is why I love this next recipe. I got it from my dad, who absolutely loves to cook and from whom I probably got my dedication to cooking and flair for coming up with my own recipes. He loves spicy Cajun dishes, and he used to always make this one when I was growing up.

It's farmers market friendly and it's good for you, which makes a perfect recipe for Steffstainability! Enjoy!

Note: For more or less spiciness, play around with the amounts of red and white pepper. My dad had a half teaspoon of each in his recipes, but that's a little too spicy for me, so I decreased it to a quarter teaspoon.
Another note: This recipe requires a spice called "file", which is pronounced fee-lay (makes me think of my favorite TV show in my adolescent days, Boy Meets World... "Feenay! Fee-hee-hee-heenay!" Anyone??). It's sometimes hard to find, but it's almost absolutely necessary for gumbo. It compliments the taste of the seafood and acts as a thickener. If you can't find it, you can add okra to the gumbo instead; the juice from the okra will thicken the sauce. Hell, add okra anyway; it's not in this recipe but is often used in Cajun foods. It's super yummy and currently in season!

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 crumbled bay leaf
1 onion, diced
2 or 3 celery stalks, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 Tbl file
1 Tbl tabasco sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup tomato sauce
5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 lb imitation crab
1 lb shrimp
1 cup rice

You can use any flavor stock/broth you want, really. I like the extra kick of flavor that beef stock adds to it; I've tried vegetable and chicken as well, and they all taste great.
You have a couple options with the shrimp. Get fresh if you can, but frozen raw peeled shrimp also works.

1. Combine cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, white pepper, black pepper, thyme, oregano, and bay leaf in a small bowl or container.
2. If your shrimp has the shells on them, deshell them, but save the shells in a saucepan. Add the vegetable/chicken/beef stock to the shells and bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes. If your shrimp do not have shells, skip this step.
3. In a medium or large soup pot over med-high heat, heat some vegetable oil. Cook onions, celery, bell pepper, file (or okra), tabasco sauce, and minced garlic for 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly. If you did use the file, you will have to start scraping the mixture off the bottom of the pot, especially if your pot is not nonstick. Don't worry though, just keep scraping.
4. Reduce heat to med-low and add tomato sauce and spice mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
5. Strain the broth and shells over the soup pot, adding the broth to your mixture. If you skipped step 2, just add the broth to the soup pot.
6. Bring the gumbo to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.
7. Prepare white rice as per the instructions on the package.
8. After the 45 minutes, add the crab and shrimp to the gumbo and cook for about 10 minutes.

Spoon rice into soup bowls and cover with gumbo. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Because one bad choice leads to another

You know that Nutrigrain commercial? The one where the girl on one side of the screen has a Nutrigrain bar with breakfast and then during the day makes smart, healthy choices, and the girl on the other side of the screen has a donut (I think) and ends up making unhealthy choices all day long? That has basically been my life for the past 2 weeks.

I'm not perfect. I make mistakes, and I get lazy. I do things, like, say I don't update my blog for two weeks. Sorry. I also skip days at the gym, stop cleaning the house, don't go grocery shopping, and consequently eat out for dinner. Ugh. I'm upset with myself for letting it get this far. I don't mean to get too personal on here, but I'm just letting little things in my life get me down. I want to be settled, for goodness sake, and make a run to the grocery store without having to go to Walmart. This place is sucking the life out of me, and I'm letting the one thing I truly believe in, a healthy lifestyle, be taken away from me just because I'm frustrated.

It all started last Monday. It was August 2, and I just didn't want to go to the commissary (the grocery store on a military base, for you non-military folk). It's a madhouse at the beginning of the month, and although I do my grocery shopping on Mondays, I decided to skip and go on Tuesday instead, when it would be calmer. And that turned into Wednesday, and then Thursday, which then turned into this Wednesday and I STILL haven't been grocery shopping, except a few quick Walmart trips.

As a result, we started eating out more. I ate out more in the past week than I'd like to tell you. Because of that, my energy level is dropping and I haven't been to the gym in 3 days. I stopped caring enough to write on here, because I had nothing to say.

It's SO easy to slip out of a healthy lifestyle, especially when the town around you supplies you with unhealthy choices everywhere you turn. It's so easy to order a pizza instead of cook a good, healthy meal. Next thing you know, you're pounding down sodas and sitting on your butt all day.

You have to fight back! Losing your focus happens to the best of us, but it's up to you to realize it and pull yourself back into it. You owe it to yourself to take care of your body. Once you do that, your well-being improves; these past two weeks, I've literally felt it slipping away along with my dwindling energy level. You realize that the time you spent on your butt waiting on that pizza could have been spent making yourself a healthy meal that probably tastes better (especially if you live in Lawton, home of the crappiest pizza on the planet, I'm sure).

So remember, it's not just a sales pitch. One bad choice really DOES lead to another. So put that donut down and grab a banana instead. Now, I must head to sleep, because I'm going to the gym in the morning.