My fat cells and I

It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore what the scales, the mirror, the doctor, and clothes are telling you–until you get a look as others see you–a video of you going about your normal activity. As you watch, it’s more like watching another person, and you have a sudden OMG-it’s-really-true moment. You suddenly know that the time has come–that repeated New Year’s resolution that you’ve “renewed” umpteen times and not kept must finally be faced. (Hotel bathroom mirrors are almost as revealing–big, usually with door mirrors too so you get an all-around look in really bright light, too.)

You review all the experience that you’ve had with “diets”–the Atkins (worked like a charm but not sustainable because of the ban on fruit, beans, milk, and dairy products except cheese. The New Atkins–for the same reasons. You read the books evaluating low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets, high-protein, Mediterranean diet, and the French Paradox and feel like a real wuss because you’ve not been able to keep to the latest thing you’ve tried. You even check sites that have BMI computations available–everyone gives you the same answer: you’ve moved over from the overweight into the “obese” range. Then there’s the video–wonderful hive inspection but the beekeeper.

9781455533862I bought the latest diet book on the market–the day it was released–Always Hungry?.  I read it, and think about it, and then I saw myself in a video, And the jig is up! You know you’ve deluded yourself when looking in the mirror, looking at photographs, and feeling how your clothes fit.

So reread the book–really read the book (including the recipes and the meal plans). To add motivation, (since the book discusses movement) I’ve dug in the “junk” basket on the bookcase shelf, and in the drawer where stuff accumulates and, finally, found the pedometer. Now I have numbers to show how truly sedentary I truly am! Scary.

Back to this food plan. Refined sugars are a no=no, but that’s not a real problem because your sweet tooth is chocolate dependent. Soft drinks are not in the in this house fridge anyway. But there are pasta and beans on the pantry shelf. From experience I know I  like (maybe even love) complex carbohydrates, aka starches. Those and milk have been the stumbling blocks every time before–but this food plan allows legumes and milk even in the initial phase. There’s one ounce of dark chocolate allowed daily even in Phase 1. This “diet” for weight loss is a plan for moderation. Phases 2 and 3  (essential since you really, truly like food) allows judicious reintroduction of some of the things you most like (baked white potatoes), at least on an occasional basis and still maintain weight loss.

Since some basic sauces are essential for the food plan, I decided to start with some that would need routine weekly preparation and those that I thought I would like particularly well, to give me an idea of how things the recipes are seasoned.

After reviewing the list of permitted foods (again), this book moves to the kitchen. Trying some of the recipes since in the past food plans have always seemed too contrived. Well, the recipe for Blue Cheese Dressing (All Phases) on page 263 seems like a good place to start since it is a favorite. Can’t you eat the lettuce so you can have the blue cheese dressing? Recommended to make a wide-mouth mason jar (have) and immersion blender (have). The prep time estimate was accurate–really fast and easy.. (Since blue cheese is a strong flavor, I prefer more tartness, so I replaced the tablespoon of water with an additional tablespoon of lemon juice.  Tastes splendid so score one for the food plan Bring on the crudities. This sauce is a keeper even if it is on a food plan for weight loss!

So one tasty recipe doesn’t make it acceptable. I like (and make at home often) vinaigrettes and use oil and vinegar dressings. The Lemon Olive Oil Dressing (All Phases), page 269, is straightforward and a good balance of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. If you make this in tandem with the blue cheese, you don’t have miscellaneous bits of leftover lemon.

[There’s a bonus to using mason jars–they have gradations on the sides so with just a bit of planning you won’t even have to wash a measuring cup. If you use a kitchen scale, you might not even need measuring spoons. (I’ve noted weights of things like 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with the recipes).]

Next  for testing,  I chose Creamy Dill Sauce (All Phases). This sauce is a bit more complicated than the first two but noted to keep for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Again, using a mason jar and scales it was easy to put together.Knowing that I tend to find many recipes under-seasoned, and over-salted, I did use 2 small garlic cloves, substituted 1/4 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika for the “dash of paprika” called for in the recipe. I found it a bit lacking in the lemon flavor with only the lemon juice, so I added 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest. After allowing it to stand for a few hours, I was pleased with the tart dill, lemon, and slightly smoky flavors. (This is easily modifiable without changing the balance of protein/fat–ancho chili or Aleppo pepper could be used.

The final sauce that I made to test was Lemon Tahini (All Phases), page 269. Taking my taste for garlic and tartness into account, I used a large clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons extra lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest.

My clean up after making these sauces (in very close to the prep time given in the book and with a little more experience and organization I’m sure I can decrease that):

  • one chef’s knife
  • one cutting board
  • one set of measuring spoons
  • one spatula for scraping down the side of jars
  • immersion blender
  • microplane grater (for lemon zest)
  • one citrus reamer

I can certainly deal with that. Leftover from this prep, one lemon minus zest (lack of organization on my part–next time I’ll just zest all the lemons before squeezing them)

I didn’t have to buy anything that wasn’t already in my pantry except dill and parsley, but since it’s winter, that’s not a negative thing. I’m certainly not going to have to rearrange my kitchen to accommodate, although the immersion blender will need to live somewhere slightly more accessible.

Sauces, as important as they are, don’t make a meal plan. The recipe for Broiled Fish with Garlic and Lemon (All Phases), page 232, looks like a good way to start testing the main dish recipes. It is simple, and besides, it’s very easy to cook fish, although I don’t use the broiler much–but this recipe works as well as those for the sauces. The serving of cod fillet that I cooked with this recipe was for one–so only about 6 ounces. In order not to overcook the fish, I seared on only one side and then finished under the broiler. . I broiled the fish for 8 minutes (the minimum time suggested in the recipe). Broiling it on the lemon slices with the olive oil and garlic worked: nicely garlicky and great lemon flavor. This is another keeper!

Three things that are called for frequently are mayonnaise and  Ranchero Sauce, page 272. I’m going to opt out of those since I can get a palatable mayonnaise made without sugar (that I usually buy anyway) and I have a favorite salsa that lacks sugar in the ingredient list.My local Harris Teeter grocery has a store brand hummus that is without sugar, so I’ll likely also opt to use that instead of making it at home.(There are resources on the  website  to facilitate the plan.)

Now that I have a feel for the seasoning used in these dishes I think I can use many of the recipes provided with the meal plan without having to alter my pantry much at all. After looking at other recipes, I find several that I am looking forward to trying: Ginger-Carrot Soup (All Phases), Red Lentil Soup (All Phases)Chocolate Sauce (All Phases), and Cabbage Casserole (All Phases). A lot of these recipes lend themselves easily to improvisation with herbs and spices, too–another plus for preventing boredom.

There’s only one “special” thing I have to buy–whey protein for the occasional Phase 1 Power Shake. Because of the stress on the balance of macronutrients emphasized in each phase, I will do that. (The thing sounds good when you consider what else is in it).

After rereading the permitted foods, I’ve decided I can do without pasta if I can have legumes and the prospect of adding some pasta and bread in later Phases 2 and 3. With my physician’s words bouncing around in my brain, and that horrible BMI, I CAN do this. It’s about moderation–and chocolate, whipped cream, and wine (after Phase 1) are allowed. It’s about moderation and balance of the amount and quality of protein, carbohydrate, and fats consumed. It’s also about not having to revamp my pantry or suffer deprivation.

This project has to involve getting off my butt and doing more walking and movement, too! That’s likely to take more effort than eating the right things, given how sedentary my work is. But, needs must!

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There is a lead-in phase where you get ready–for three of those days I’ll be on the road or at a convention, but once back home, this starts. No more procrastination!  After sampling the sauce recipes and the broiled fish, I certainly feel more positive about the meal plans that I ever have about any other weight-loss meal plan. (The blue cheese sauce added to egg salad is good–lots of room for improvisation with the recipes, still keeping the macronutrient balance.

I’ll admit to one slight frustration with this book: recipes are listed by name under an entry for “recipes”. Cabbage Casserole appears just where you’d expect it. Coleslaw you will find only if you look for “Tangy Coleslaw”. When trying to locate the recipe for the fish, I couldn’t remember the specific name–fortunately, broiled was in the title so it was close to the first of the list.

Though the main focus is not as a cookbook, but on nutrition and weight loss (index very useful for this), just a few simple entries throughout for main ingredients such as “cabbage”, “polenta”, or “shrimp” would be helpful. But, I shouldn’t complain–I know space considerations often dictate what can be included or what must be cut. I’d happily settle for smaller print in the index (even if it meant getting out my reading glasses) to have those extra entries.

 

 

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A strange coincidence this afternoon

I truly love technology, especially when it lets me find marvelous things. If you’ve been here before, you’ll note the change of format. Well, it’s entailed a LOT of editing, link checking, replacing photographs that somehow disappeared in the switch.  So, I’m likely a little squirrely side. (Frankie would probably flat-out bitchy since the last time he walked across the keyboard.) I was just editing a blog post on Roast Duck with Fresh Fig Sauce, thinking that since it’s summertime, there will be figs. . . .

My email popped up notification of a  “like”  from a blog that I just discovered and started following.   From Alfred’s with Love.  WordPress put this one up on my list of recommended blogs yesterday, and I went to check it out.  I liked, I followed.Thank you, WordPress!

I’m seriously addicted to good writing about food, eating, dining, or even just the occasional graze, or an excellent sandwich (See Bibliography page).  As usual, the WordPress email included some links–Sea Bass and eat it caught my eye, and I was just roaming around. Perhaps because I had just been looking at duck on my blog I pulled down the recipe index and clicked on duck.

What I found first was Duck à l’epoisses. Epoisses is one of my two favorite cheeses (the other being Brin d’Amour or Fleur de Maquis).  I’d never thought of combining it with duck until I saw this recipe, and it’s left me drooling on my keyboard, even if it is so hot right now that I’d not want duck for dinner. This is a keeper of a recipe–come some cooler days and I’ll be looking for Epoisses cheese to try this (unfortunately it’s not one that I can just walk into the cheese shop and get here in Durham).

You’ve got the links here; you really should go check out this blog because there delightful reading, and some great anticipation with the recipes.

Easy Foolproof Béarnaise Sauce

Béarnaise sauce is great. It can be made without a lot of fuss as you see here.

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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Béarnaise is one of the classic sauces from French cuisine and it is great with steak. The traditional way of preparing it au bain marie requires quite a bit of skill, as the sauces curdles easily. It also requires you to make clarified butter first. And even though you should make clarified butter to cook the steak anyway, using a slightly different technique you can make sauce béarnaise easily with minimal risk of curdling.

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Last night’s dinner: a nice juicy steak cooked sous-vide and then seared quickly in very hot clarified butter, hand cut fries, sauce béarnaise, a green salad, and a nice glass of Saint-Émilion Grand Cru.

There are some variation on the recipe, but the basic idea of béarnaise is a hollandaise with tarragon. Some recipes also add parsley and chervil. Some recipes use tarragon vinegar, but instead you can just as easily use the stems of the…

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Homemade Chipotles in Adobo Sauce

I just have to pass this along–chipotle peppers are something I use rather often. I think this will beat the tinned ones from the supermarket.

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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My favorite kind of chiles are chipotles because of their smokiness. Chipotles in adobo sauce, a sauce made from tomatoes and ancho chiles, are a great condiment. I love them for instance with chicken, mushrooms and cream. Chipotles in adobo sauce are available in cans, but since I like to make everything from scratch, I wanted to try making my own chipotles in adobo. I used a recipe by Pati’s Mexican table. It wasn’t hard at all, and the result was amazing. Chipotles in adobo from a can are great, but these homemade chipotles in adobo sauce have a more complex and well-rounded flavor. I will definitely make them again. I made a few adjustments, most importantly not using fresh tomatoes because they are out of season (and even if they were in season, tomatoes here are not that great). Here’s my version.

Ingredients

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For about 850 ml (3…

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15-Minutes Mushroom Sauce (for Steaks and Mashed Potatoes)

Quick and easy!

Food Is My Life

15-Minute Creamy Mushroom Sauce for Steaks

This very easy, very quick and very delicious mushroom sauce changed my life, completely.

Okay that’s a total exaggeration, but well, at least I no longer have to go and buy those pre-made sauces for steaks (God knows what’s in there). I can make this sauce myself, at the comfort of my own home, with pantry ingredients (okay you probably need to grab the mushrooms and milk/cream from the market, but yea you get the idea, right?) And the sauce tastes so good, so spoon-licking good that I can’t stop eating it right out from the pot (even before I started cooking my steaks).

So yea, in a way you can say that this sauce is revolutionary. 😉

15-Minute Creamy Mushroom Sauce for Steaks

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