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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yin salad, Yang sandwich and a Chinese duck

This week has been an adventurous one, filled with new adventures and dishes. I began a new side job, helping Italian college students converse in the language. I also took a one-day reflexology course, where I didn't only learn how to perform some reflexology methods...

...I got to be practiced on as well.

But, in my well-being state-of-mind, I was allowed to take advantage of a salad bar and hot bar at the community college where I took the course. What started as a simple Yang-esque healthy salad of spinach, broccoli, cottage cheese, Italian meat/cheese salad, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries (so maybe not THAT simple), was topped off with a Yin-ish scoop of beef enchilada, some other veggie concoction and a vegetable stack topped with goat cheese.

Really not that healthy in the end....

...but really freaking good!

By Friday, I sort of calmed down in over-the-top dishes. Over my gf's, I made something light and tasty: a sandwich with the following ingredients:

- tomato
- arugula
- mozzarella
- sauteed shrimp
- sweet marinated pepper from the olive bar
- marinated garlic
- roasted red pepper
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar

Although the bun itself was 170 calories, the remaining ingredients were fairly tame and filled with various vitamins and nutrients. Definitely more Yang than Yin...especially with the side salad made with leftovers.

But the big event of the weekend was my friends' fancy party. The hosts were making a Chinese duck with a delicious glaze. Another couple was bringing another dish and I was to make ceviche...something I've never made before.

Let me say now that I was stressed about this dish. Even as I write this, the repercussions of all that tension and running around is felt in my shoulder blades (something you take notice of while driving on the highway and checking the other lanes before moving over).

I didn't know which direction to take with it, since so much was based on what was fresh, whether seafood or fruit because it's Ohio, it's winter and there wasn't much time to make it.

Fortunately, after settling for some scallops, I stopped by a local farm market and found some ripe produce that I thought would go well.

Rather than explain the various possibilities of ceviche I considered, let me tell you what I did through this recipe I more-or-less created...

2 pounds scallops (small)
2 ripe mangoes
1 avocado
1 red onion
1 cucumber
1 orange
1 grapefruit
fresh cilantro
fresh mint
1/2 red bell pepper
10 limes
Rice vinegar

- Thinly slice the red onion and cucumber (discard seeds) and put in a container with some sugar and rice vinegar. Cover and put in the refrigerator. This should be ready in 2-3 hours
- rinse the scallops under cold water while in a colander. Put them in a container. Squeeze the juice of 8 limes and pour that juice in the container with the scallops. It should cover them. Cover the container and put in the refrigerator.

- While waiting for the scallops to "cook", you can prepare the other ingredients. Cut up the mangoes, orange, avocado, grapefruit and put them in another container. Chop up the mint and cilantro. Finely chop the 1/2 red pepper. Squeeze the juice of the remaining 2 limes and mix well. Cover and put in the refrigerator.

After the scallops have been cooking for an hour or two, they will turn milky white.

- At this point, you can dump the scallops in the colander to rid the excess lime juice. You can also pour the onion/cucumber mixture over it to drain away the rice vinegar
- Add this mixture to the fruit mixture and mix well again.
- Put back in the refrigerator and let sit 2 hours before serving.

When we arrived at the party, we were fairly fancy dressed.

Fancy me.

Fancy her.

The duck roasted away in the rotisserie...

...the table looked nice...

...and the beans and bacon needed only be heated.

Soon the duck would come out as the majestic bird it was born (or killed?) to be.

But, as we finished out ceviche and salad and the host returned with the meat carved from his savory-looking duck, all six of us were surprised at the actual harvest.

Duck wasn't exactly like turkey.

But, being as I love an interactive meal, I broke myself off a piece of the carcass and picked at the bones, thoroughly enjoying this rather flavorful bird... matter how vulgar it may have looked on my plate.

It was OUTSTANDING - especially with the delicious beans, bacon and bok choy (alliteration in food is fun!).

And then there was a super Yin cookie cake and some ice cream.

But I think the stress from the ceviche helped merit this simply pleasure.

Don't you?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Me gustan los pancakes!

One evening at my mom's house, we decided to make pancakes. Actually, we originally agreed on breakfast, but that turned into a discussion of pancakes. Then I remembered I had this recipe for Olive Oil Pancakes, something that sounded rather interesting to me (not as interesting to my mom).

But, while she got involved with a phone call, I took advantage of the situation and stealthily made them anyways (I'm bad like that).

Here is the recipe...
  • 1 3/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon(s) sugar
  • 2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup(s) Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if necessary
Mix well and use some olive oil in the pan. You can also use dark chocolate chips in the batter and honey on the pancake itself. There are variations.

Here's the basic batter...

...then some granola and banana added to it (cooked in olive oil as well)...

...and then some fine-looking pancakes.

The pancakes themselves were still a little sweet, but with a richer flavor than traditional pancakes. The olive oil was really a nice touch. At this point, even my mother agreed and seemed interested in this varied recipe of a classic dish.

We plated them and opened the fridge to see what we should top them with. I, myself, am not a big fan of syrup, only because pancakes dry out easily and I keep having to put on more. (I will usually use real maple syrup though to sweeten things like oatmeal) Therefore, I usually use jelly on my pancakes.

But olive oil pancakes seemed like they needed something more than just simple sugary jelly. We searched the fridge and pantry for a solution.

Then it hit us...why not mix some locally made blueberry butter with some nice ricotta cheese? With a one-to-one ratio, we had something that was colorful, flavorful, and complimentary to the banana granola olive oil pancakes.

And nice to look at, if I say so myself.

And delicious.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh Saint Valentine, the Tiger got me!

I don't know why I even bother to come up with some excuse as to why I succumbed to the sweet and salty pleasures of unhealthy food this weekend? It's practically a broken record at this point.

And, with the title alone, you can probably figure that I was bad diet-wise, falling for TWO holidays that came together on Sunday - St. Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year (Year of the Tiger - roar!).

But it honestly wasn't too horrible. Granted, there was a dessert during Friday night's dinner...and some wine...but the main entree of scallops balanced things out (fingers crossed).

Saturday's dim sum, on the other hand, was FAR from innocent.

The shrimp dumplings were, by far, the most innocent in a mess of fried shrimp, taro cakes, sticky rice in lotus leaf, pork dumplings and sticky buns filled with bbq pork.

We were sodiumated for sure!

And stuffed.

We did some ethnic grocery store shopping (Italian, Asian and German) afterward, but we were too full to want anything except something sweet from all the sodium. At the Italian store, she got a cookie and I got torrone. At the Asian store, I was thinking of loading up on some fun junk food. It was definitely filled with it during this festive day and tons of people.

But it was also sporting some long lines.

So I never did get this Durian Pudding I considered buying since their only fresh Durian cost 5 bucks a pound.

At the German store, we bought chocolate. Then we found more dessert for that evening in Tremont (scroll down).

We were honestly full for some time on Saturday after dim sum. When we finally did get hungry, we ended up eating burgers at a local bar/restaurant and mine came with a plump potato pirogi inside (a nice touch with the sour cream).

Then at home, the Tremont dessert awaited...

Salted caramel cupcake!!

But that's been the worst of it...really. This morning I had some grainy German bread topped with a chipotle pepper, egg white omelet, avocado and butter cheese.

Not so colorful top.

More colorful inside.

Other foods included steamed broccoli, chicken, and walnuts.

Diet food.

But, in my next entry, I'll tell you about the olive oil pancakes....

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Second attempts with second-hand results

When I was enrolled in Bowling Green State University's MFA program, I taught English composition classes as part of my assistantship. Sometimes, the students just didn't get the hang of it and wanted to drop the class before it tarnished their GPA, hoping to simply retake it the following semester. Or perhaps they didn't pass the course at all and had to retake it.

In either case, it was typically more difficult to pass the course on the second try and even moreso on the third or (God forbid) fourth try. This was due, in part, to much less drive than the first time. With a student going over the same material again for weeks, if not months, the student would more likely miss class ("I've already DONE this!"). They may even reuse papers that failed the first time instead of making a fresh attempt. I'm sure there are also feelings of failure that linger in the subconcious, lowering the student's confidence.

In short, some things may get less results the second time you do them.

Well, I sort of feel like that now with round 2 of the P90X program. I've SEEN the results it gave me the first time and I remember these same exercises from before. That first-time enthusiasm is no longer felt.

It's no longer new.

It's no longer fresh.

It's not as exciting.

I find myself substituting exercises more often - whether due to my dislike of that particular exercise or because I simply can't get good form (I don't want to get hurt!). I also find myself substituting exercise DVD's (namely Yoga and Kenpo) for cardio on the treadmill.

And my eating has been off. Far off from last year.

I was super strict...cutting off most sugars, almost alcohol entirely during the 90 days, avoiding many breads and white carbs (white potato, flour).

I mean, I looked good. And people told me I looked good. I guess I miss that.

So how bad have I been eating? you ask. Have I been chowing down at the Chinese buffet or gettings Extra Value Meals at fast food places? Perhaps I've been drinking gravy as a snack?

Naw...nothing of the sort. But I have allowed myself culinary and alcoholic pleasures at social gatherings. I have rewarded myself with desserts when out with my gf (as well as sushi, which I need to stop). And, you may say, that a reward here and there isn't bad...and it's not. But it's occuring more frequently that I would like and I really need to be stricter with myself until I get a lot closer to the desired weight (155...last weigh in was 163).

And, just to make things clear, I figure it's a good idea to let you see the types of rewards I've been taking. So allow me to present you with three examples of this past weekend alone...

1.) Friday's Pizza Taco
Exhibit 1 is a rather interesting concoction. It's almost Atkins friendly, if not for the sugar in the various sauces involved.

Basically, I took the cheese topping off a square piece of pizza (I pitched the bread) and filled it with sloppy joe meat and some sweet pickle. I then proceeded to fold the cheese and eat it (with two hands because it's messy) like a taco.

I can't tell you how incredibly good this is (and full of fat and calories). The picture doesn't do it justice, but hopefully you cheese and meat lovers can imagine.

2.) Saturday's Egg and Ham Pastry Wreath

To celebrate my father's birthday, my mom had a breakfast event. Using Pillsbury crescents, she created a wreath of crescent triangles, laying a cooked egg/ham mixture and bringing the crescent points over. A wreath was formed.
With the leftover dough, I created a pastry ball stuffed with egg/ham mixutre and mac and cheese that was in her fridge. The ball became one with the wreath while in the oven and formed the following shape...

Although the egg/ham isn't that bad, diet-wise, the dough and sausage served with the dish didn't help things.

3.) Saturday night's Post-sushi dessert

In relationships, traditions are established. For our second date, we went to a sushi place in North Olmsted and followed it with ice cream - there's something about getting a sweet dessert after a sodium filled sushi dinner.
But we don't always get ice cream. Sometimes we get pie (also near the restaurant) and we did that most recently at Baker's Square, where we both got the Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme pie...a decadent champion if there ever was one.
660 calories - almost an hour on the treadmill for me - brought on in a matter of minutes. Of course, I don't dare count the calories in the white rice accumulated through the various rolls at the sushi place.

So, needless to say, I haven't weighed myself in a bit. Maybe on Friday I will so that I'll know where I stand...and so you can know as well.

In the meantime, I have been trying to make some healthy decisions.

I had an egg-white omelet this morning with avocado and wild lox. In a half hour, I'll have a cooked cabbage snack. Then I have a grass-fed steak salad for lunch with red bell pepper and asparagus mixed in.

Hmm...before going, I should show you the steak!

I'm very new at cooking grass-fed beef and try to be extra careful so that it's not unnecessarily tough with so little fat.

I used a top sirloin steak. In a pan of some olive oil, I sauteed garlic before bringing it to a high heat and browning the steak for 20 minutes per side. From there, it went directly in the broiler for 2-3 minutes per side. It ended up looking like this...

I let the juices set for 10 minutes and then cut it in thin strips for the salad.

It is rather tasty and I'm eating in moderation (grass-fed or not). It's still beef, so I'm being careful.

In fact, I'm extra careful with Valentine's Day/Chinese New Year weekend coming. I can only imagine the diet nightmare post I'll be putting up next week. :-)