Archive for October 27th, 2008

to the big dog: Don’t eat the little dog.

to the little dog: Don’t eat my socks. Don’t eat my shoes. Don’t eat my dirty underwear (that I just threw into the hamper). The little dog agreeably stopped munching my undies and gave my smelly feet (from which I just removed said socks and shoes, and which I was in the process of washing) a few licks before trotting off.

All together now: eeeuuuu!

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Now This is Eating!

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re going to start your diet Monday. So between now and Monday, you make sure to eat the things you’re craving or that you really like but you know are bad for you. This might mean fried chicken or Red Robin’s famous fries, or milkshakes, or whatever. And you eat and you eat and you eat and you eat and you eat, and Monday comes, and you try depriving yourself for a day, a week maybe, if you’re fairly self-disciplined. But then someone comes into the office with french fries, and they smell fantastic, so you decide to get some, and since you’re getting fries anyway, you may as well go ahead and get a cheeseburger, and before you know it, bammo–you’re back to your old habits, 5 pounds heavier.

I am notoriously bad about this. And you know what’s funny? If you were to give me the choice of junk food or good food, almost any day I’d pick the good food. But Joe’s gone so much, and cooking for one isn’t always fun, and if I’m going to eat out, fast food’s cheaper than the good stuff. And there you go. Five pounds heavier.

But I’m really taking the principles in Frankel’s book to heart. And I decided that tonight I wanted chicken with sauteed onions, mushrooms and celery. So I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and bought some celery and baby portobello mushrooms. And I remembered that I have a whole lot of apples Joe brought home from Wisconsin, and I need to use them before they go bad. I cannot eat mealy apples, but they make great applesauce. So I also bought some stick cinnamon.  And I was going to bake a potato, but I saw the sweet potatoes, and thought that sounded really good, so I bought one of those as well.

When I got home, I scrubbed the sweet potato, poked holes in it, and put it into the oven. Then I got the apples peeled and chopped and in the pot with a stick of cinnamon. Then I opened the refrigerator to get out some garlic and onion, and saw some strawberries I should have eaten a week ago. Mmmm. Strawberry-cinnamon applesauce. They were sliced and into the pot as quick as a wink.

I chopped a small onion and one good-sized clove of garlic, one stalk of celery, and the sliced mushrooms, and sauteed them in a little olive oil & butter. Then I put a little more olive oil and a little more butter into the baking dish and popped it into the oven to heat up while I washed the chicken. I seasoned the chicken with some herbes de provence, poured the mushroom mixture over it, topped it with foil and put it into the oven.  It’s in there baking and smelling delicious.

Dinner tonight, then, is a chicken breast with msuhrooms, onions, and celery; a baked sweet potato with a little cinnamon and butter; and some homemade strawberry-cinnamon applesauce. I would be having a slice of bread, too, but Joe’s bringing me a loaf of sourdough from San Francisco, and buying a loaf today would have been a waste.

Of course, I could have just heated up a Lean Cuisine or stopped at Sonic.  . . .

Edited to add: The chicken was fantastic. The sweet potato I accidentally baked too long, and it got super soft and oozed out onto the floor of my oven, which is NOT covered in foil. But it tasted really good. And the applesauce–oh, my. It was so good that I figured I’d tell you how to make it, because you want to. You may not know it yet, but you definitely want to make it.

  • Apples–pared and chopped. Don’t get fancy here and think you have to chop them in a 1/8″ dice. Just pare them, and chop them right into the pot. It’s good if you mix varieties–I used half Rome apples and half MacIntosh apples.
  • Strawberries–tops removed and sliced in half. I think I had 8 strawberries to 8-9 large apples.
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • Sugar to taste

Put just a little water into a saucepan or large pot, depending on how many apples you’re using. Don’t use too much water, just a little. Slice the apples and strawberries right into the pot, add one stick of cinnamon, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for a while. The whole house will smell really yummy. Stir occasionally. When the apples and strawberries have turned to mush, add sugar to taste. Stir well and simmer, uncovered, a while longer. If you like, you can press it through a medium- to large-mesh sieve, but it’s not strictly necessary.  Remove and discard the stick of cinnamon. Pour applesauce into a bowl, cover with foil, and refrigerate. When it’s cool, eat it, exclaiming at every bite how wonderful it is, and marvel at how easy it was to make.  Or serve it to guests, and tell them it’s homemade applesauce. Don’t give them the recipe–pretend it’s a family secret, and they’ll be impressed with your mad applesauce-making skills.

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Macaroni and cheese was never meant to be distilled to a little box of dessicated noodles and bright orange powder. That orange stuff should never be called macaroni and cheese. If you want to know the true definition of macaroni and cheese, I strongly suggest the recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese from America’s Test Kitchen. Who would have thought that ground mustard and a pinch of cayenne could make so much difference? And wow–adding chicken broth to the milk when you’re making the roux adds an incredible flavour. And another tip I didn’t know–the sauce should still be rather thin before you pop the mixture into the oven to bake, as it thickens in the oven. If your sauce is already reasonably thick, your macaroni and cheese won’t be nice and creamy.

So while we were eating the fruits of our labours, Izzy and I joked about how the recipe could be lightened up. Substitute light transfat-free margarine for the stick of butter. Use low-fat or even non-fat cheese for the 6 cups of cheese. Use skim milk instead of whole milk. Echoes of my former self remind me that if I made those changes, I could eat so much more for the same number of calories. And okay, yeah, I could have eaten more. But it wouldn’t have tasted very good. And why should I want to eat a larger portion of something that doesn’t taste good, when a smaller portion of something exquisite is infinitely more satisfying?

I read a book this weekend. No, I know there’s nothing unusual about that. Just hold your horses. (And I actually read several books this weekend.)  But I’m talking about a specific book: Thin is the New Happy by Valerie Frankel.  It was a gift from the incomparable Izzybella, and I’m very grateful to her.

There were so many times I caught myself nodding in agreement. In some ways, it seemed like Frankel was describing my life just as much as hers. So okay, no, I haven’t been a size 14 since I was 14, and I didn’t work for Mademoiselle and I don’t have a packet of published books under my belt. But I’ve had issues about my weight since I was a skinny kid. Face it: being fat sucks, whether you’re an unhappy size 14 or a miserable size 24. Our feelings about ourselves affect our behaviour. How often do we look in the mirror hastily just to see if our makeup is on straight or to make sure our hair isn’t frizzing out in 30 different directions and then look away before we have a chance to see the fat? Have you ever examined yourself from every angle to see which angle is the least unflattering (because when you’re fat and hate yourself, you feel that there is no such thing as a flattering angle)? Do you define yourself as good or bad depending upon what you eat, how much exercise you did that day, why or how you ate? Have you allowed yourself to be defined by your fat?

This is one of those books that I had to read with a pen in hand, and was making notes to myself in the margin. I’m going to try to persuade my unfat husband to read it, to see if he can get a little better idea of where I’m coming from. Reading this book made me feel good. It made me think that my declaring a moratorium on dieting was a good idea. I cannot tell you how many times while I was in WW, I caught myself trying to figure out the most food I could have and still stay within my points. I thought about food constantly. If I had Frankel’s little clicker, it would have been going off constantly. And yeah, I lost weight. It was a hard-fought battle, and as soon as I let up for whatever reason, the pounds instantly began to come back on until now I weigh more than I ever have.

But think about this: one definition of a fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  I don’t want to be foolish. I’ve dieted over and over, with the same results: I lose weight, then gain back more than I lost. Screw that. It’s time to try something different. So move over, Frankel, I’m going to join you. Thanks for showing the world something different. Thank you for being so open with your life, for giving so many women someone to identify with, for showing that there are better ways to live than in the narrow boxes to which we’ve confined ourselves out of shame and disgust and fear.

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Someone, apparently, left me a wad of money. I don’t know quite how much; the partial 2008 payment is 500,000 Pounds Sterling. I know that I have this inheritance because I got an e-mail from the office of the Prime Minister. The first steps are for me to send in my name, address, and a little personal information about myself to this secretary in the Prime Minister’s office. And then I’ll get my partial 2008 payment in the amount of 500,000 Pounds Sterling!

Squee! Not.

Yeah. Don’t you think that if someone had left me a pile of cash, they’d know my name? And somehow I’m oh so skeptical that it would be handled through the Prime Minister’s office. I’m pretty sure he’s got more important things to do. And I’d be expecting a notarized letter to my home address, not a poorly-written e-mail to my Gmail account.

So pardon me if I don’t respond to the Prime Minister’s assistant and provide him the urgently requested information. If someone wants to give me some money that badly, I think they’d be able to find me.

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