Thursday, October 14, 2010
Ever heard the saying? There's a step before this.
Give a cat a bath and it will put you in the hospital.
I'm not one of those people that gives cats baths regularly. Neither of us particularly enjoy the task very much. So I only do it on certain occasions that warrant it. For the most part, I let kitty manage her own grooming.
However, she's an overweight cat. I've put her on diets for years and she just doesn't lose weight. She's finicky and won't eat anything except dry food. You know. Kitty junk food. I almost had her switched over to higher protein wet food once, but I went on vacation, she reverted, and hasn't touched it since. Kitty equivalent of refusing to eat her vegetables I guess.
I also haven't been successful getting her to run on the treadmill.
Anyway, because she's overweight, she can't reach certain places to clean herself. I don't mean to be gross, so I hope you're not eating breakfast reading this. She was walking around yesterday and I noticed she had 'cling-ons'. You know...clinging...err...bits...from going to the litter box and...things...getting trapped around her butt fur.
I don't want her walking around the house, sitting on things, with that stuck in her fur. So kitty needed a bath.
I forgot to trim her claws first. I usually do before giving her a bath. She usually digs into my shirt trying to climb up me like a tree to get out of the bath. I forgot.
The bath went ok, actually. She wasn't squirming around, and for the most part, I was able to rub the shampoo in her and rinse her off. I thought we were all done, so I started pulling her out of the bath. I guess she had enough and she started flailing her paws around wildly, trying to grab hold of something.
Unfortunately, she snagged my ear. I felt the worst searing pain in my ear. Like an ear piercing without an unaesthetic. And her claw was stuck. I started screaming.
My fiance had to unhook her claw. Yeah, that was unpleasant. Fearing infection, I wiped it off with alcohol. Yeah, that burned like a thousand suns.
After wiping it with alcohol, I tried to look at it in the mirror. She clawed the back of my ear, so it's hard to see. But what I saw, freaked me out. I decided to go to the clinic, just to be sure I didn't need stitches.
The doc took a look and said she thought it would be ok. There was a small laceration, but she thought it was sitting right and I didn't need stitches. She told me to clean with peroxide daily and gave me an antibiotic to prevent infection.
I really, really hate antibiotics. But I know that when I got the cartilage in my ear pierced, the ear heals very slowly. Also cat claws are notoriously bacteria ridden, even if she did just get a bath. So I'm grudgingly taking it.
In the meantime, we're both pretty ticked off at each other. I was born year of the Tiger, and I have cat like tendencies myself. So right now, we're both hissing and growling.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
With all this talk about French food, I got inspired!
Coq au vin is one of those French classics. Julia Child taught America how to make it. The name inspires images of haute cuisine.
Just like Spanish paella, though, coq au vin has its origins some place much simpler. Even though coq au vin may be something that inspires elegance in cuisine these days, it is actually pauper food.
No one really knows where coq au vin came from. It is a very, very old recipe. It's probably as old as cooking with wine itself. 'Coq' means rooster, so the first dishes used a rooster instead of a chicken. The farmer's wife would put a rooster in a pot when he got too old. It was slow cooked and braised in wine to make the meat oh so tender and flavorful, which a rooster is not by default. It would have been unlikely to been made by nobility as they had access to much more tender, flavorful cuts of meat. Coq au vin as a French gourmet classic is a modern reinvention.
But since its origins are the working class, it is still inexpensive. Turns out, it is also easy to make!
There's only one ingredient you need to make it a coq au vin versus a chicken stew - wine.
Wine is also one of those things that has a connection with being 'fancy', 'expensive' and something you do on special occasions. I know this was the case for me, until I moved to Washington. When I lived in Seattle, I bought lots of "2 buck Chuck" from Trader Joe's. I drank a glass a wine with my dinner almost every night. 4 glasses out of a $2.99 bottle of wine comes out to $0.75 per glass. That's about what a bottle of beer costs. And it tasted good! I bought it regularly because I liked it.
With all the wineries in Washington state, I took lots of wine tasting courses and learned how to appreciate wine. I have tasted really fine wines. No, a "2 buck Chuck" doesn't taste as complex or go down smooth as water like a fine, aged wine. However, it's an excellent 'table wine'. A wine the French, Spanish and Italians drink with their meals everyday. Charles Shaw "2 buck Chuck" California red is an excellent choice for this purpose.
I'm sure you've heard it before, but I'll repeat it again, never use 'cooking wine'. Use only wine you'll drink a glass. If you buy 'cooking wine' from the grocery isle of the store, take a sip of it. That's what your food will taste like if you cook with it. Bad.
'Cooking wine' is a mistake from the vintner. It's a barrel of wine that went wrong somewhere. No vintner tries to make grocery store cooking wine. They make more money from selling palatable wine. That awful bottle of cooking wine could have come from one of the finest wineries - no vintner will admit to have been responsible. It turned partly to vinegar, they bottled it, and are trying to pass it off as 'cooking wine'. They get a company like Heinz to sell it for them. Pompeian, Inc is most known for their brand of olive oils. They also grow grapes. They have a winery. They also sell 'cooking wine'. Coincidence?
Don't do it!
Buy a bottle of wine you like to drink, use a little for your recipe, and enjoy a glass with your dinner. If you use the same wine as you used for your recipe, you'll find that it automatically compliments your dinner. Easy pairing!
So get all your ingredients you like for a chicken stew, plus a bottle of your favorite table wine.
The traditional method of cooking coq au vin is pretty easy. Just brown some chicken parts, add vegetables, chicken stock, wine, and let simmer. You might see recipes that call for setting the alcohol on fire. Unless you're a professional or have been trained to do it, I don't recommend it, and it's not necessary. I've seen lots of traditional French recipes that don't flambe.
I'm making it simple by just throwing everything in my trusty crockpot.
I've got diced onions, celery hearts, diced red potatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 2 chicken breasts, 1 large portabello mushroom, 1 cup chicken broth, and 1 cup red wine, 1 tsp of a herbes de provence blend. Everything goes in the pot. Set on high for 1 hour to bring up to heat faster, then set on low the rest of the day.
Oh gosh. The house smelled SO good while this was cooking! It was incredible!
Served with a glass of the wine used. My wine is a California blend of 3 grapes called "Menage a Trois". $8 bottle. It's one of my favorites.
Is it as good as the real thing? Well, I will admit the traditional way is done for a reason. Cooking is chemistry, and heat application does affect the final product. If you brown and cook chicken in its skin, bone and fat, you will get a development of flavor you won't get this way. The frond from the browned chicken fat is why French cooking has a reputation for being creme de la creme.
I used chicken breasts because that's what I had on hand, and I used the crockpot because it was convenient. If I was more prepared, I could have browned chicken thighs in a pan, made a roux with the frond, then put in the crockpot with everything else. I ran out of time and just sat right down to eat.
But was it still delicious this way?
Bon appetit, mes amis! Bonne chance!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Yesterday, I noted how much healthier a French/Spanish diet is compared to the US. Today I'm going to talk about the similarities with the country that is very similar to us with our obesity crisis: England.
Culture wise, I think Canadians are most similar to the US. (With the exception of Quebec). Our accent, mannerism, and style of dress are so similar, it's near impossible for foreigner to correctly identify the difference. Like Americans, Canadian cuisine is a fusion of other cultures. Canadians, though, retain a lot more of their British heritage than the US, who cast most of it out in the American Revolution. You can still find many places in British Columbia that serve afternoon tea and scones. The Queen is on their currency. For the most part, Canada (at least British Columbia) doesn't feel distinctly different than the Pacific Northwest of the US. It doesn't feel like a foreign, alien place.
Unless you think Seattle is a foreign planet with their crazy love for coffee and indy music, and some people do!
There are some subtle differences, but it is mostly indistinguishable.
When I visited the UK, it felt like a distinctly different place. I was definitely in a foreign country. Not only because of driving on the 'wrong side of the road'! When I met some of the locals in Birmingham, the language was so different, at times I could hardly believe we both spoke English!
At times, it was hard to see that as an American, my culture was actually rooted here. Like a child looking at their parent to get insights into who they are, so was I looking at British culture. Who are we? Why are we the way we are? Are we so different?
The similarities I saw was the food, oddly enough. I spent a little time in London. London is an international city, and so it's hard to find things that are distinctly British there. In Birmingham, it's more noticeable.
The British have things that some Americans would balk at cuisine wise (I did). Black pudding. Steak and kidney pie (kidneys from calves). Marmite - bleh! I am not a fan.
I thought it was weird some of the restaurants served baked beans with eggs, fried tomato, and bacon for breakfast. Baked beans? I asked my fiance if he wanted me to start serving his breakfast with pork 'n beans. He said no.
Now before I get much further, I should mention that the national food of England is not fish and chips. No, the national food of the UK is Indian food!
Maybe it's a regional thing, I'm not familiar enough with British culture to know for sure, but "Beer and a Curry" was THE favorite of the locals I met. After a night hanging out at the pub, everyone would roll into an Indian curry house.
Ordering Indian curry is a bit different than in the states. The 'heat' spiciness of the cuisine was determined by the dish you ordered. You didn't order madras "1 star". Jalfraze is the standard mild dish. Madras and vindaloo are considered one of those pain foods you order on a dare. You force your best friend to eat it on their birthday, or at their bachelor party. You have contests with your friend to see how many spoonfuls you can eat before you burst into flames.
Not knowing this, I ordered madras and everyone looked concerned, or impressed. I'm not sure. I ate the madras and I thought it was delicious! I didn't break out in a sweat, fall off the chair and gasp for air. Everyone was in disbelief. Suddenly, I was a local legend! I was asked, "Do all Americans eat spicy food?"
I explained that ethnically, I'm half-Korean. I was born eating kimchee and hot bean paste, but many Americans do not like heat the way I do. They never had either kimchee or hot bean paste, so they just looked puzzled. The reference was lost on them.
If you go into a "British Pub" in the 'States, what you usually see on the menu are things like Shepard's Pie, fish and chips, corned beef sandwiches and the like. What British cuisine and their American progeny share is a world-wide reputation for being nothing special. American food is burgers and fries, and British is fish and chips. Or so sasys the stereotype.
What I found is we also share very oddly distorted food size portions.
I told my fiance I wanted fish and chips. Might as well have the 'native' food, right? We went to this one place near Blackpool that was supposed to be one of the best. I was served this deep fried fish that probably weighed a pound. Their special was, if you eat it all, you get it free.
There was no way I could eat all of it. I felt guilty not eating it all. I wished I had got a smaller portion size.
After coming back from Spain with their healthy tapas, this was a shock. A reminder that maybe this is how it happens. You see excesses on a daily basis, and it becomes normal. A long time ago, if I had gone into a restaurant and been served the 'tapas' sized portions, I would have balked that the portions were too small. Now I balked at a portion of fried fish that was too large. The server girl kept encouraging me to 'eat more' so I could get it free. I said, no, no, it was impossible. She laughed.
England has a growing obesity problem, but it is not near the scale of the US - yet. The US is still the king when it comes to over consumption. I saw a few Brits with pot bellies, but I rarely saw anyone morbidly obese.
Visit the southern states in the US, and it's more common to see above normal BMI. I get comments from the waiters/waitresses at restaurants that I'm 'too skinny', and I should order the pie because 'I don't need to worry about the calories'. My BMI is on the upper range of normal.
The UK does have a growing problem where they are looking more like the US. If you've ever seen Jamie Olivier's "Food Revolution", he talks about it. The UK is heading down a dangerous path. Diabetes and high blood pressure are preventable diseases for the majority of us.
My future brother-in-law is 37 years old and already has insulin resistance. He is 40 lbs overweight.
Monday, October 11, 2010
About 7 years ago, I did a lot of research on weight loss and good health. I was with eDiets at the time, not Spark, but they both had a common theme. In order to lose weight and be healthy, you have to get the right nutrition, portion size and exercise.
Portion size and balancing my macronutrients was my biggest problem. I didn't know how to do either. I followed eDiets pregenerated meal plan with recipes. The first time I weighed a 4oz steak, I was horrified! I was used to eating a 12oz steak - and I finished the whole thing.
However, I was committed to giving it a try. In order to eat 4oz steaks, I had to learn how to cook it.
I watched a ton of Food TV. "30 Minute Meals", "Good Eats", "Iron Chef", "Emeril Live" and "Boy Meets Grill" were my favorites. I recorded them on my Tivo and watched them after work.
I also read a lot of books on dieting and nutrition. No, not those kind of dieting books. Books about food philosophy and eating for pleasure.
One of these books was "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano. I saw her promoting her book with Oprah and Martha Stewart, and she said something that really stuck with me through the years.
It was along the lines of, treat all meals as a fine dining experience, even home cooked meals. Even if eating for one, set a table, use nice dishes, and pour a glass of wine. Don't microwave something from a package and watch the TV. Take the time to make food look and taste good. Learn to make food like a gourmet.
And so I did. I changed my attitude about food and how I prepared it. I started trying to emulate the fabulous professional chef presentations on Iron Chef with my own home cooked meals. I lived alone at the time, and it felt a little silly the first few times. Then I found I really enjoyed it. Food was not mere subsistence. It was an experience.
And what an experience. It was a good thing I was learning to cook for myself, because I made a few very bad mistakes. I made a 'spicy' orange beef that was so hot, it was nuclear. I made a dumpling with black pepper soup that was pepper with a dash of soup! I made a 'scone' that was like a cookie, and a cookie that was like a 'scone'. Not to mention a few hockey pucks. It was all part of the learning process!
Some of my mistakes were still edible. Some had to be scrapped because they were just too awful.
If first you don't succeed...
I experimented with using parsley and sauces as decoration. I experimented paring wines and beer with my meals. I made three and four course meals for myself.
The weight started drifting off, I appeared younger and healthier, and I was becoming pretty comfortable in the kitchen. All my friends started describing me as a great cook! I started getting kitchen items as gifts for birthdays and Christmas.
When I started traveling, of course I wanted to see the sites, but the thing that really tickled me was researching the best local cuisine. I haven't been to France yet, but when I was in Spain, I noted how much healthier a Spanish diet is compared to Americans. I went through an open produce market much like Pike Place Market in Seattle. I was amazed with the variety and freshness. It was all real food! What a difference to an American market where everything is in a plastic bag or can. I bought a pound of lychees that was fresh and clean tasting.
The French get all the credit for their wine, but I tasted varieties of Spanish wine that were inexpensive and spectacular. There was this one rioja that was probably the best wine I'd ever had, and it was only $13EU. I keep hoping to see it in the stores in America, but no luck so far.
There were no overweight Spaniards in the market at all. It was easy to spot the Americans. They were out of proportion with everyone else.
Everyone seemed very fit and healthy. I got lost in Barcelona and went into a police station for directions. Oh gosh. This Spanish cop was built like an athlete. Gorgeous! I probably hung around and practiced my Spanish talking with him a little longer than I needed to.
Me: "No entiendo?"
Him: (pointing at me) "No entiendAS."
Him: "De nada"
Quite a bit different than the American stereotype of the overweight cop at the donut shop. What happens to those guys and gals? They have to pass a physical fitness test to pass police academy. I guess it's like most of us. After school, we tend to get more sedentary, less exercise, and eat food on the go in the car.
I learned to treat eating my meals as something to be enjoyed. I only eat good quality food. Food worth eating. You might say I've become a 'foodie' because I look at junk food now and think, "Not worth the calories". Pie at Denny's? Not worth the calories.
When I got back from Spain, I was certain that I had gained about 10 pounds. Everything I ate there was cooked in heavy butter or olive oil. Cooking food in butter has been demonized in the States, so when I saw them do it, I thought, "Oh gosh, it's so unhealthy." Everything tasted so good, it must be fattening!
Instead, I found I lost a pound or two! How could that be? I was eating a lot of seafood. Seafood paella. Seafood tapas. Cheeses and chorizo. Lots of veggies and fruit. FRESH, not marinated, olives. Has the replacement of butter with hydrogenated margarine been harmful? Olive oil is a known antioxidant and heart disease preventer. We walked all around Barcelona, which is no small city!
The French invented croissants, pastries, souffles, cheeses, sauces, creams, butter, wines - how are they so thin? They enjoy small portions, and savor it. No food is off limits - just not too much.
If you're looking for a good book on eating food for health AND enjoyment, I recommend "French Women Don't Get Fat". It was certainly a positive influence to the way I live now.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
On Sunday, I wrote a blog titled "The Sunday Sous Chef". I explained how I chopped up all my veggies for the week so it was easier to make meals.
Here's the start picture:
Here's how much is all gone this morning:
Strips and slices of bell pepper
1 head red leaf romaine lettuce
0.5 large sliced onion
1 small watermelon
2 green onions, chopped
1 small package baby carrots
1 head cabbage
Here's how much is left:
4 cups diced onion: 2 cups
2 bunches celery: 2 bunches celery (we didn't eat any this week - will be taken care of next week, no prob!)
1 lb brussel sprouts: 0.5 lb
1 pineapple, diced: 0.5
2lb oranges: 1lb
2lb limes: 1.5lb
6 bananas: 2 bananas
All of the remaining veggies should still be good to use in the following week. Since they were washed, cut and dried earlier in the week, they will last a little longer. I moved the limes and oranges into one of the fridge bins so they will keep longer too.
All this week I made mostly Asian and Mediteranean inspired meals. They were easy to make, healthy, and delicious! I served small meat and carb/starch portions, and had a veggie with every meal. I was satisfied, but not overly full. I felt energetic and alert.
Here's a recap of my dinners for the week:
Beef stir fry with bell pepper and onions, jasmine rice, wilted spinach, and romaine lettuce wraps.
Chinese pork spare ribs with spring roll (sort of) and rice.
Cubed stir fried beef and potatoes with rice and steamed cabbage leaves (I didn't make a blog about this one.)
Korean Kalbi with spicy potatoes and romaine lettuce wraps
Spanish Paella with chicken, chicken sausage and shrimp
Blended Pineapple-daiquiri with coconut rum. Garnished with a pineapple chunk, blueberry and parsley.
The result: I lost 2 pounds this week! I'm under 130 - woohoo!
Last night I had a busy day at work. I missed lunch (I was so busy, I forgot, if you can believe it!) I crashed hard. I needed to get my section of the project done, and suddenly I couldn't think straight anymore. The simplest problems started becoming frustrating. I ate a banana, it helped, but I was still sluggish. My SO was sooo nice to me to make me a dinner with salmon, veggies, and rice. After that, I perked right up to get back to work, and I was able to finish!
The moral of the story: In order to perform at peak function, you have to feed your brain! If you feed your body the right things, the weight will come off.
This was an extremely busy week for me because of my work commitments, but I still had a fast, delicious, healthy meal every day of the week. We bought a ton of fruit and veg, and they are almost all gone. I got minimal exercise because of my work schedule, but I still lost weight because I was feeding my body healthy things. I was never hungry, except when I accidentally skipped lunch.
I haven't always lived like this. I didn't have a kitchen knife and I didn't know how to cook 7 years ago! I didn't know how to balance proper meals for myself. I had to learn to do it. I didn't learn to do this all at once. This is a culmination of many years of little changes that have turned into the way I live on a regular basis.
Get An Email Alert Each Time VHALKYRIE Posts