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Monday, January 25, 2010

Soup - a complex relationship

I have found myself many-a-time faced with inconsistent stances on food.

For example, I don't like tomato sauce. I don't like it on pasta, on pizza, on stuffed peppers, or rice. I don't like dipping fried mozzarella sticks in it or mixing it with seafood. I'd rather it not be included at all.

That's how I stand on that.

But...every so often, I will end up eating it (whether for lack of other options, or choice) and I may enjoy it.

This was the case this past weekend when my aunt made stuffed shells and homemade meatballs. She used tomato sauce. And I liked it. I even had seconds.

But, if I had pasta for dinner tonight, I probably wouldn't use tomato sauce as a sauce. I still prefer to stay away from it.

I have very similar feelings where soup is concerned.

I don't like soup.

But how can I say this really? REALLY?

There are so many types of soups, let alone flavors among those types.

You have...
1.) Broth Soups
2.) Cream Soups
3.) Chilled Soups
4.) Dessert Soups
5.) Chowders
6.) Stews

To nix out an entire world of culinary variety would be ludicrous - for me, at least.

And, honestly, I do like all of these types with exception to broth soups (which can also be good sometimes under the right circumstances), but I usually prefer not to eat it for one reason or another. Here are some reasons (probably) why...

1.) Sodium Content - if it came from a can, it's probably far too salty.
2.) Distribution of Ingredients -I like soup that is hearty with the advertised ingredients. If it's called Clam Chowder, there better be clams in there and plenty of them. Many times, this is not the case and, therefore, not worth ordering to find out. I mean, how odd is it that people are surprised when the soup is actually good? This is a telling sign.
3.) Quality of Ingredients - this is why I also never order soup out. You can taste the difference between processed and real, frozen or fresh.
4.) Psychological Trauma - I can't tell you the amount of times I've burnt my tongue on soup. I still harbor bad vibes for this chocolate as well.

Now that I've gotten all that out of the way, it's time to talk about what I made for lunch this week. Are you ready for the irony?

Maybe it's not too ironic, since I didn't make Chicken Soup with extra salt and bits of chicken from processed chicken nuggets at a scorching hot temperature.

I made Lamb Stew.

I sometimes wonder if stew is really part of the soup family or soup's opposite. I mean, stew is comprised of solid ingredients with small amounts of liquid to retain the ingredients' combined flavors. Soup, on the other hand, is a mass of liquid that holds ingredients within it.

I imagine stew as a mountain or a structure with cracks throughout it, which are filled with water. Soup I imagine as a body of water where the ingredients swim within it.

Two different things.

In any case, I made the lamb stew with the organic lamb I had in the freezer. Here's how I made it...

- one large sweet potato
- 2 parsnips
- 6 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 3 small onions
- 2 beets
- 1 lb turnip greens
- 3 cans chicken broth
- few cloves garlic
-2 lbs lamb

Directions: I cut up all the veggies, except for the garlic and turnip greens, and put them in a casserole dish. I put some olive oil over it and sat it in the oven at 400.
I cut off whatever excess fat I could from the lamb and chopped up the garlic. In a pan, I browned the lamb with garlic and olive oil at a high heat.
Once brown, I replaced the pan with a pot containing 2 cans' worth of chicken broth. As it heated up, I added chopped-up turnip greens (I didn't include the stems). I removed the veggies and added them to the pot as well, followed by the lamb.
At medium heat, I allowed it to cook for about 20 minutes. I ended up adding a 3rd can of chicken stock and let it all simmer for another 30 or so. Here's how it looked...

Notice the red color brought on by the beets (I suggest cutting the beets carefully so as not to stain yourself). It really is a vibrant dish and very tasty - especially after adding some cilantro.

I will say that, diet-wise, there are flaws in this stew. Some veggies used, such as carrots and beets, are high in sugar. And there's still some fat on that lamb I used. So it's not like I can splurge during other meals of the day simply because this dish is healthy.

I did, in fact, splurge over the weekend with homemade pizza, homemade desserts, alcohol, etc. That's what I get for going to 2 parties. :-) But I'm back on track again. I weighed myself on Friday morning at 162-163....3-4 pounds less than a few weeks ago.

So things aren't so bad.

I'll weigh myself in again in another 2 weeks (Feb 5 or 6) and keep you up-to-date on culinary experiences in the meantime.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bad Habits and Strict Dieting

I was a fat kid. Let me just let that off my chest.

So, deep in my grown-up fat kid's subconscious, there are learned eating habits that are bad bad BAD! And, once the grown up feels he is in the clear and in no danger of that fat kid coming around, the habits pick back up.

Lately, those bad habits have come into play.

And it's stupid stuff. A piece of candy here. Mindless chip eating. Perhaps a small "harmless" dessert. But they've been adding up and I feel it's been a tad out of control lately.

So today, I'm officially dieting and trying to be super-strict with things. Fingers crossed, I hope it works.

There was some dieting during the week this past week, which included a herring salad (which I don't recommend). It included German herring with the cream sauce (you can get it in cans) and roasted red peppers. Here's a pic...

This coming week will include some meat from the organic grass-fed cow recently collected and some ground lamb bought at the store. There's also lettuce, apples, egg whites, avocados, etc.

In fact, every work-day morning, I make an egg-white omelet, getting some hummus in there and avocado, if possible. It's an open perhaps you can call it an egg-white pancake. In any case, here is how it usually looks...

This morning, it didn't come out quite like this actually. I used a different pan and it stuck in spots when I tried to flip it over. So, in the end, it was more like scrambled egg whites and mashed avocado.

And now I try to keep in line with this healthy eating through the rest of it, careful to avoid all products with sugars and syrups and things of that genre. This week also includes some 30 minute fast walking to get about 2 miles in, not including the afternoon workout where I'll be starting the P90X today. I just need to stay focused and not eat out as much as I have been.

I need to stop making excuses.

And, speaking of excuses, I don't want to weigh myself until Saturday, especially after all the sushi I've eaten as of late. But I promise I'll do it then, in case there are people who really really really want to know.

Sadists. :-)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Food, Prison and Jesus - my weekend in Kentucky, y'all!

As I write this from my Ohio computer, I am a bigger man.

How much bigger? - I don't even want to know.

The scale will sit alone in the bathroom corner for another week so that I can focus on getting my eating schedule back on schedule with greens and fish and healthy things. Anything to reverse the culinary delights and their toll on me during this weekend with Ohio's southern neighbor.

And I suppose I'm totally being overdramatic with this introduction. There may be many of you currently chewing down a deep-fried Snickers bar who look at the upcoming pics as if I was on a strict diet all along. If you are one of those people, though, I would re-evaluate my eating practices. :-)

So as we (gf and I) headed down to Bardstown, KY, we made a little stop at Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen in Louisville (pronounce the city as you will). There, we were greeted by a great selection of cakes, pies and ice cream. Here is one of the two baked good cases.

My girlfriend decided to get the Milky Way ice cream (very good) and I got the chocolate covered cherry pie.

Although tasty, the cherries were just too mushy and there was a sugary syrupy consistency in there, so I really didn't eat much of it. I would be giving them a second change though with the take-out order of a piece of lemon chess pie.

Later, we arrived in Bardstown and stayed at the Jailer's Inn, a bed and breakfast that was converted from a prison and is said to hold some rather supernatural residents.

We stayed in the 1819 with some rather flighty and ominous looking roommates.

Images of their friends hung over a lit lamp...

...and seemed to watch us...

Still, the evening's chess pie seemed to curb any fear of ghosts for the time being. It also made the trip to Louisville worth it.

Sweet, tart and tangy is definitely the way to go. That said, my gf's yellow cupcake with chocolate icing wasn't too bad either.

There were no ghost stories to be told the first night, but we did get some nice stuffed French toast with strawberries for breakfast (and mini chocolate chip muffins, pound cake and fruit).

Here, my friends, all dietary caution was officially thrown to the wind.

We would burn some calories by walking the snow covered streets of Bardstown and take delight in the sites...

...the old courthouse in the middle of the roundabout...

...a pharmacy soda fountain...

...evil looking dolls in a bookstore blasting Christian music...

...and a hidden gnome.

But we put those burned calories back on again as we stopped and got a creme-filled donut (for my research purposes to see how far out the Ohio cremestick extended beyond its borders). We split the donut, but only because we were immediately heading off to eat lunch at Mammy's.

I got a fried bologna sandwich and she got a hot brown. After eating some potato chips that came with it, the saltiness brought back our sweet tooth.

And then we split a second donut. :-)

We continued on to walk off some more calories. Among the sites were...

...a disturbing pig-in-a-meat-grinder ad...

...and Maker's Mark Distillery.

My hunger returned again and we decided to stop at a small gas station in Loretto. There, you can get a sandwich for $1.50, including a sandwich with pork fat wrapped Liver Cheese.

As I stood by the case, the girl asked me if I wanted a sandwich. When I replied that I did, she poked around, lit cigarette in hand.

"You can finish you're cigarette," I told her. "There's no rush."

I honestly imagined her making my sandwich as she puffed away.

"That's alright," she smiled and she put the cigarette down, washed her hands and made this splendid creation.

Liver Cheese, tomato, pickle, onion, lettuce, mayo.


We continued on to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY.

After getting some bourbon fruit cake and some lemon marmalade, we went to hear the monks chant.

Here they would soon fill both sides...

...being careful not to pay any attention to each other at all.
No nods, waves, smiles, etc.
Just a little odd.

They sang and chanted with the organ and it was different than we expected. I imagined more Enigma from the MCMXC album. Instead, it sounded like I was in church. I grew bored.

So we left.

But before you think that we are heathens for leaving a monk mass in mid-stream, be aware that we went directly to the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, where we arrived right when mass ended and we got to look around and pay our respects.

Then we were off again. This time, for dinner.

We ate at Kurtz's, where I got a combo of the fried chicken and the chicken livers (which were wonderful! You could taste the bacon fat in those meaty morsels.). Little corn bread cakes came with it, as well as beets and green beans and mashed potatoes with a white cream sauce.

Even the religious visits and blessings and songs couldn't stop the weight from coming on.

And then...that evening...while back in our room at the Jailer's Inn, we heard a sound in the silence. With no one in the house, we heard the sound of a door opening swiftly - that sound of friction of the door dragging against the carpet. And it sounded like it came right from next door! Other small noises followed, but nothing as clear or distinct as that.

The next morning, we got a second helping of stuffed French toast - this time with peaches. And we talked with the owner, who got in after midnight the night before (we heard the sound at 11 pm). We were able to duplicate the sound with the door of the neighboring room. We were certain of our supernatural experience!

As we headed back, my wise and affectionate gf decided to stop for a culinary treat - Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville.

The outside decor gave a small indication of what to inspect inside...

And the inside decor only helped this initial indication.

And while the restaurant was full of lights and ugly lamps and entertaining table trivia and games, it was also filled with all types of people from different walks of life and wonderful grub.

I got the grass-fed Kentucky beef burger with pimiento bleu cheese (side of cheese grits.

My gf got the fried green tomato BLT and a side of sweet potato fries.

And we split a Derby Pie.

And it was all worth it.

So, dear readers, I don't know how much I gained from this weekend of food, ghosts and religious salvation, but I did leave the state a heavier man. That I can promise you.

But I won't be getting on the scale again until I have a decent chance of ridding myself of some of it. And until then, I'll probably feel like a skinnier guy trapped inside a fatter guy's body.

Probably like I felt during part of the tour at the Jailer's Inn. :-)

Monday, January 4, 2010

And the Diet begins...

As the final hours of 2009 dwindled away and the inevitable (almost inevitable...if I would have eaten better) diet approached, I mentally prepared for it by telling myself it wouldn't officially start until the evening of Jan 1 (post dinner). :-)

So my gf and I made pasta with shrimp and kielbasa and greens and such...

...trying to get some happy shapes (campanelle/small bell pasta, circular kielbasa, circular shrimp) and green color (greens) to bring in the new year.

We also made rather decadent cupcakes...

But the cupcakes weren't exactly what the recipe called for. Here's what it called for and here's what I used...

2 sticks butter - I only used one
1 cup superfine sugar - I used regular
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup self rising flour - I only had all purpose
4 tbsp dutch cocoa powder
2 tsp. chipotle chili powder - I used 1 tsp hot chili powder
1 tsp baking powder
chocolate chips - I didn't have any

Without the extra stick of butter and a different kind of flour (let alone thicker sugar), I ended up with superdense cupcakes. The recipe called for 18, but I had a pan for 12. And, with the extra spicy chili powder, there was a nice bite in the cupcakes.

The frosting was extra rich. It called for 1 stick butter, 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder, and some Tia Maria coffee liquor.

Even that I altered. I used half a stick of butter, no Tia Maria, and I added milk. I really liked it actually.

But now we had a problem. There was a LOT of cocoa in these cupcakes and I was scared to eat even one so close to midnight. So, instead, we had ice cream and had a cupcake for breakfast instead. What a pick-me-up!

Then came New Year's Day...filled with crab legs, ham, salad, corn souffle and a cheesy corn bread. Here's the recipe...

1 cup milk
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly boiled corn on the cob (2 cobs) or frozen
1 1/4 finely ground yellow corn meal
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions: mix together the corn meal, flour, sugar, salt, and mozzarella cheese. If the corn is frozen, heat it up before grinding up in a Cuisinart. If fresh, boil and cut off the cob into a blender and puree. Add the corn to the mix. In a sauce pan, bring the milk and butter to a boil and stir into the mix a little at a time, stirring the mix as you do this. The hot milk/butter melts the cheese.
Pour mixture into a greased skillet or oven pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350. Take out only to put more shredded mozzarella on top and bake a little more until melted.

It's really good and you can use this same recipe to make corn pancakes, slipping a slice of provolone between two pancakes. Here is a pic of what the pancakes look like.

But let's get back to things...

After the gorging of New Year's Day lunch, we had sushi and ice cream for New Year's Day dinner.

The official weigh-in on January 2 was 166 pounds.

I sort of, then, er...ate a bunch of crap January 2 and weighed in again on January 3....169 pounds (damn kielbasa!).

But, with consideration to the mass amount of sodium consumption, I'll be fair to start the diet at 166, hoping to make it to 155 by March. I honestly think it won't be bad to hit 160...but those last few pounds will be a pain.

Some main rules I have with this diet as follows...

1.) No alcohol: apart from the sugar involved and messing with the metabolism, I have a bad tendency to eat (bad things) before going to bed if I'm even slightly intoxicated. So the added calories (bad food) to the other added calories (alcohol) only equals too many added calories.

2.) Less carbs at night: carbs in general I try to make whole grains or better carbs (sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes). But I want to watch it more at night since I won't be burning them off so much in the evening.

3.) Elimination of condiments.

4.) More smaller meals. I shouldn't have to be hungry.

5.) More intense workouts.

In order to help this along, I'll start the P90X program next week.

But, coming up this weekend, there will be a slight snafu in dieting plans. I like to call this monkey wrench....Kentucky. As I go with my gf to visit her hometown, there are culinary delights we will be visiting. Here is one of the places we will stop by...

Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen

If you check out the site, you'll see that it is one hell of a monkey wrench! :-)

To be continued...