Friday, September 10, 2010
My first attempt at making a pineapple cake failed in misery. The cake was completely inedible. I tried again tonight.
It came out better - at least it was edible! Still not quite right, though. The 'pineapple' cake didn't taste like pineapple. It was just like a sweet, fruity muffin. While yesterday's attempt was too wet, this was a little dry. It was still moist, but I would have liked a little more moist. I think I overcompensated - lol.
There was success, though. I made an icing with greek yogurt, and mixed in shredded coconut and pecans. Delish! The icing is definitely a keeper.
The SO thought it was delicious, even if it wasn't quite what I was after. He ate it all before dinner was even finished - lol.
Scaling down a recipe for two small servings is hard - arg.
Friday, September 10, 2010
10 years ago when I was at my heaviest, I didn't eat breakfast. I'm not much of a morning person, so I wasn't motivated to make something to eat. I'm lactose intolerant, so milk and cereal was out. I would roll out of bed, into the shower, and into the car for work. Just didn't 'have time' for breakfast.
I love variety in my diet. I cook a different dinner almost every night. The menu is wide and varied, from standard American, to Indian, to Asian, to Mexican - my house menu is almost anywhere in the world! I try to make enough to make 2-4 servings. Leftovers tend to get thrown out, and as I've discussed lately, I'm trying hard to eliminate food waste. I only make enough that will get eaten for dinner, then lunch the next day.
I eat breakfast every morning for the past six years. While I love variety, my breakfast is very consistent. I eat the same thing every morning, with the exception on the weekends. Saturdays we tend to go out for brunch. Sunday mornings I make scrambled eggs, bacon and french toast at home.
During the weekday, it's the same thing every day - greek yogurt, blueberries, and whole grain cereal. Greek yogurt doesn't upset my stomach like milk. I do not like the sweetened packaged yogurts - they have way too much sugar in them. I just buy the plain yogurt, and sweeten with blueberries and a little sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. This saves me an extraordinary amount of calories since I eat it every day. It really adds up.
I would get bored eating spaghetti for dinner every night, but for some reason, my daily breakfast never gets old. Sometimes I'll sub a different fruit for the blueberries, but it's pretty much the same every day.
Maybe it's because of just rolling out of bed, but the consistency is just easier. I can start the coffee pot, and put my cereal, yogurt and fruit in a bowl while half asleep. Whatever it is, these days if I don't have breakfast by 8 or 9am, then I definitely feel sluggish and unproductive. Even if I don't feel hungry, I can't concentrate. My mood suffers. I don't get work done because all I can think about is what I'm going to eat for lunch - lol.
I lost 30 lbs 6 years ago, and my weight has been pretty stable. While it's impossible for me to know whether eating breakfast everyday is the reason why, I definitely believe that it is part of the equation. I don't know that it is the most 'important' meal of the day, but it is important enough that I never skip it. I do not function well in the morning if I skip it.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
I'm a pretty good cook. I can whip up a number of meals in no time mixing and matching things in my kitchen and fridge. However, I'm not so hot as a baker.
I can make no bake cakes and puddings, no problem. But cakes? I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's because I'm chemistry impaired. I did great in math and engineering classes, but squeaked by in chemistry. Baking is a type of chemistry. You need exact ratios of flour to liquid to rising agent, and I totally suck at it.
At work, I'm known for being very thorough and accurate. I'm very precise, annoyingly so sometimes, say my coworkers. I nitpick the details until its done right. Perfectionist, they say. I am not satisfied with 'good enough'.
With cooking, I'm the opposite. I wing it most of the time. If I don't have an ingredient, I'll substitute something else. A little of this, a little of that, and it comes out great. Baking? Not so much. Can't substitute. It's got to be exact.
Tonight I tried making a pineapple cake. I bought these cute little ramekin baking pots, and I tried scaling down a recipe to fit into them. I guess I didn't scale it down right, because the batter was WAY too watery, and it didn't bake right. I ended up having to throw it out because even after 45 minutes of cooking, the batter was like pudding. It tasted like dough, and was terrible.
Well, at least my pot is cute. Oh, and the coconut pecan icing is delicious.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
When I was little, I was taught to clean my plate. It was wasteful not to eat all the food on your plate, I was told. So deeply is this ingrained in me, that I still cannot leave food on my plate without twangs of guilt.
I've learned to live with this. When I eat meals at home, or at buffets, I don't put on my plate more than I intend to eat. This way, I can satisfy that part of me that must finish all food on my plate.
It may seem strange that I do better with buffets than I do meals that are served to me. Restaurant meals that are 2-3 portion sizes larger than they should be are a problem. My family did a good job of ingraining 'finish everything on your plate' because I still battle with it every time.
I often think back to my depression era grandmother's stories about how they couldn't afford to be wasteful. Food was scarce, and nothing could go to waste. Even being resourceful, they still went hungry many days. Uneaten food was taboo. Moldy bread had the mold cut off. Dry bread was soaked in a broth for soup. Sunday roast was the only day of the week they had meat.
I used to rationalize that as my excuse to overeat. I couldn't leave food on my plate because it was wasteful, so I ate all of it. Take home box? What's that? It wouldn't taste as good the next day, I would tell myself.
I wonder if my grannie would find it a strange thing that today the biggest killer is overeating, and not starvation. Obesity is directly related to health and mortality issues. An obese friend of mine from high school had a heart attack at 32. She had the heart health of someone twice her age.
Back in grannie's day, being a little overweight was considered a sign of wealth. Today, ironically, obesity is common among the poor. With government subsidies for the dairy, corn, poultry and cattle industries, a fast food meal costs less than a bag of apples and a head of lettuce. A bag of potato chips costs less than a bag of potatoes. Those who work two or three part time jobs can't cook three healthy meals for themselves a day, as they grab food from a drive in and head to the next shift. Those on limited budgets tend to spend their money on the most calories for the dollar, and that means junk food.
I've come to realize that overeating IS being wasteful. Eating more than my body needs is waste. Excess gets converted into fat. It wastes money because I'm eating more than my share. It is wasteful use of resources for the environment in terms of packaging, disposal, and land use. It makes pharmaceutical companies rich developing drugs. High blood pressure and diabetes for more than 90% of American women is preventable with nutrition and exercise.
I still hold grannie's values of not being wasteful to heart, but they are applied just a little differently.
- I will not put more food on my plate than I need to feel satisfied.
- I will not eat just for the sake of eating.
- I will not continue eating even after I am already full.
- I will not buy more food than I will eat, then throw out moldy, rotten, uneaten food.
- I will make more frequent, smaller trips to the store, rather than one big trip. More food bought at once is more likely to turn into food in the trash.
- I will make use of what I have before buying more.
- I will use take out boxes when going out to restaurants.
- I will order half sized plates, when available.
Resourcefulness is now more about managing temptations of excess, rather than deprivation.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
I'm not really a picky eater. In general, I'm on a "See Food" diet. It's a big part of why I had weight trouble to begin with. I love food! All kinds of food! Even food that people typically turn their nose up at. Sauerkraut, kimchee, brussel sprouts, broccoli, liver and onions, stinky cheese - it's all fine with me. I have to stretch into the really obscure in order to find something that I absolutely will not touch. Norwegian lutefisk is an example. I love fish, but it's got to be really fresh fish. My taste buds are very sensitive to more than day old fish, nevermind lye soaked fish - bleh!
If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you know one of my biggest downfalls was restaurants. I would go to restaurants several times a week, and eat all the food on my plate. Restaurant portions are typically 2-3 times larger than a normal serving size.
This past weekend, my fiance and I spent in Atlanta. We hadn't been to Atlanta before, and we needed some things that we can't easily get in Savannah.
While there, we enjoyed some of the wonderful restaurants of Atlanta. We kept it pretty frugal, but splurged one night at a Brazilian steakhouse. I love a rodizio! This one in Atlanta was particularly good. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.
We took a short day hike in the mountains, which we haven't done since leaving Seattle! After the hike, we were completely wiped and didn't feel too adventurous to search for something to eat. There was a chain restaurant nearby that we haven't been to in many years. We decided to go there.
I'm not going to mention this restaurant by name, because the point of writing this is not a bad review. We did not have a bad experience there. The food was prepared to the best of the kitchen staff's ability. What I am trying to say could apply to other similar chain restaurants, so it isn't necessary for me to single this one out.
Since learning to cook at home, I realize that food is really only as good as your ingredients. There is a difference between farm fresh veggies pulled straight from the ground, and those that are shipped under ripe from a truck. This is a truism. If your base ingredients don't taste good, what you make from it will only be as good. This is why you never use something called 'cooking wine'. If you won't drink a glass, then you don't want to put it in your pot either.
I used to love this restaurant. I'm sure it was a major player in my weight gain. The portions are large. I didn't know how to balance my meals properly 10 years ago, so it was very carb heavy. I couldn't help but think while eating the meal that I could make a better sauce. The sauce tasted canned, like part of a mass produced formula. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. I would give it 2.5 stars out of 5.
I used to go to restaurants just for the sake of eating. I didn't know how to cook, and didn't know how to appreciate it. These days, I enjoy going to high quality restaurants because it gives me ideas on how to make my own meals better. My favorite tex-mex restaurant in Seattle has this incredible carne asada that I have been trying for years to figure out how to make at home. I love the challenge.
Note this doesn't necessarily mean fancy black tie restaurants. There's an incredible professional chef owned deli in South Charleston - 4 star restaurant food at deli prices. There's a backhole award-winning BBQ near Tybee Island that has knock your socks off ribs at $5 per plate. Fine food doesn't necessarily mean suit and tie.
I spend a lot of time these days looking at desserts or fatty breakfast sandwiches, and ask myself, "Is it worth the calories?" Sometimes, the answer is yes and I'll splurge. It's got to be a splurge that is really fantastic. Like award winning key-lime pie; best tex-mex in Seattle; 5 star restaurant chef turned deli owner.
My fiance and I both walked away from our dinner agreeing it wasn't worth the calories.
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