June 3, 2013
I’m two weeks into my three-month body fat loss contest at this point, and it’s gone pretty well so far in terms of diet and exercise. (I’ve only lost one pound, but I kind of expected that things would start slowly for me.) The food modifications haven’t really been that big a deal, aside from having to quash the occasional flash of ‘Hey, I should stop for gelato!’ as I drive past the Glacier Ice Cream near my house. I think my week of eating real food was a good warm-up. With a few exceptions I’ve had pretty much no refined sugars, no refined flour, and no nutritionally devoid foods. My worst offenses have been five Diet Cokes in the past two weeks, the awesome tasting protein bars I discovered, and half a slice of vegan carrot cake the night we went out to dinner at Leaf.
And yet I really don’t feel I’m missing much. I have rediscovered how pleasurable a whole food ites can be when it is fresh and there isn’t much else to detract from it. A cup of organic blueberries, a third of a cup of All Bran Buds and a cup of fat-free Greek yogurt makes a really tasty breakfast. I remember now why I love bulgur wheat so much – it’s got such a great nutty flavor and is actually pretty satisfying. Mixed with some shredded chicken breast, or an ounce and a half of avocado, it’s really quite awesome for lunch. My dinners really didn’t change much, as I’ve always tended to make dishes with a large amount of vegetables, and nothing refined or processed. But gone are the low-fat ice cream sandwiches, low-fat high fiber bagels made with a ton of additives, cinnamon toast cereal (even though its organic, I’m not sure it’s really a positive nutritional item), and even bits of chocolate bars (I still get some chocolate from my protein bars). And what I’ve found really interesting is, now that I’m not eating as much sweet stuff, that Yoskos honey and blueberry yogurt that I always thought was too sour tastes SWEET!
A couple of differences I have introduced to my diet is more fat (I was probably hovering between 10% and 15% of calories from fat – now I’m aiming for closer to 20%), as well as a lot more protein. I’m finding a lot of references to over 100 grams of protein per day for a woman my size trying to build muscle, but that tends to be about 40% of my calories (which seem to average between 1500 and 1700), which is just a bit higher than I’d like it to be. So I’m still working on balancing that. CORRECTION: I had somehow gotten it into my head that a gram of protein was 7 calories, when it is in fact 4 calories. So 100 grams of protein actually turns out to be about 23% of my calories. Which I am just fine with. My fruit and vegetable count is way up (about 8 servings a day, which is fine by me!), but my grains are down to around 4, which I’d really like to increase a bit by taking the protein down a tad. So I’m still trying to balance things nutritionally. I’ve included lists of the foods I’ve been eating for the past two weeks, organized by type, at the end of this post.
Workout-wise, I went back to the rec center and got a 40-punch pass so I could start lifting more serious weights. While I was there I sampled some of the new cardio machines, and remembered why I used to work out at the gym before I had a bad bout of tendonitis in my knee. I can burn a lot more calories in a much larger variety of ways at the gym than I can at home or just through walking. So I’ve been doing interval training (40-60 seconds all-out then 80-120 seconds at an easy pace, repeated 5-7 times), plus some extra more steadily-paced cardio. I had a bit of a setback on my upper body weight lifting when I neglected to notice that the assisted pull-up machine was set on zero pounds instead of 76 pounds, as it was the first time I used it. I ended up pretty much taking my full weight with some torque on my right shoulder in a failed attempt at a triceps dip. It hurt worse every day for four days, but I resolved the issue a bit by making an appointment with an orthopedist. (Not actually going to the appointment, just making it, and then riding the ‘things always get better as soon as you make an appointment to see a doctor after agonizing over whether to make one or not’ phenomenon.) So it’s still a tad bit wonky, but I took 10 days off, and it seems fairly usable again as long as I avoid some specific exercises. My goal with lifting is to do full-body workouts that will focus on the largest muscle groups, since that’s where a person can make the most gains. This weekend I finally felt brave enough to try weighted squats without the Smith Machine (using an 18 lb body bar), and discovered, much to my surprise, that I’m not as bad as I thought I would be. And I finally gave in and decided I would add lunges to my workouts. (I really hate lunges.)
Fruits & Vegetables
Eggs (Duck, Chicken)
Fat Free Greek Yogurt
Low fat Cheddar Cheese
Protein Bars (Pure Protein and Detour Lean Muscle)
All Bran Buds
Flax and Whole Wheat Pasta
Sprouted Grain Bread
Butter (just 1/2 Tbsp for cooking eggs)
Diet Coke (yeah, couldn’t help it)
Honey (for salad dressing)
Low Sodium Chicken Stock
Black, Urfa, Aleppo peppers
April 21, 2013
Since my first taste of a duck egg at a Farm Dinner several years ago, I’ve been searching for some to buy myself. But I had no luck up until this year’s Boulder Farmers’ Market opened. I didn’t get there early enough the first week, but I made sure to get there early enough to get some from Jodar Farms the second week!
Duck eggs are quite a bit larger than chicken eggs, as you can see from the picture below:
As a result, they are also higher in calories and fat, but are also quite a bit higher in cholesterol (nearly three times, in fact). So they are definitely something that I would limit in my diet (although I don’t really eat a lot of eggs anyhow, and rarely use more than one yolk per person in a serving). Nonetheless, I find duck eggs to be richer and more satisfying than chicken eggs, so definitely worth an occasional splurge!
Once it came time to cook my first dish with duck eggs however, I found myself unusually nervous and hesitant. I realized that I hadn’t cooked eggs in any way other than scrambled or a badly formed omelet since…ever. My mom poached the eggs we had when I was younger in the handy poaching contraption, and we just didn’t do fried eggs. I did a bunch of reading on poaching, and was rather skeptical about the whole non-contraption poaching process. Dumping the egg into boiling water free-form? That sounded like a recipe for disaster. I ended up putting the egg in a ramekin and lowering it (in a rather ungainly manner) into a pot of boiling water. I had no clue how long to let it cook, so I just guess, and then pulled my slightly overdone, whites-sloppily-arrayed egg out of the water, and put it atop some caramelized leeks, green garlic, and potatoes.
Not bad tasting at all, but there was too much ‘stuff’ underneath the egg, so the taste of the egg really didn’t come through at all.
The next week I had planned to try poaching again, but reconsidered at the last moment and thought I’d try frying in a very small bit of butter in a non-stick pan. I did a small bit of reading, still didn’t really understand exactly what I was doing, but just went for it. I melted 1/2 Tbsp of butter in the pan over low heat, and then gently poured the egg from a small bowl into the pan. The white seemed to separate into two different levels (whatever that was about), one that cooked quickly, and one that cooked after I turned the heat up closer to medium.
At that point (and we’re talking only a few minutes overall), the white seemed nice and done, but when I touched the yolk it was still cold. Okay, then – I’ll go for the hard-to-do-without-breaking-the-yolk over-easy egg! Oddly enough, I was able to flip it without breaking the yolk, let it cook another 30 seconds to a minute, and then took it out of the pan.
I decided to go with the simplest thing in order to really feature the egg, and just put it on top of toast. I was thrilled when I broke it open that the yolk was exactly as I like it – nice and runny (but warm). Now THAT’s the way to enjoy a duck egg!
February 8, 2012
Up until recently, I’d always been rather lazy when it came to making my own salad dressing. My husband and I had found a couple of types of bottled dressing we liked fairly well, so I almost always opted to save time and use those. But after my Sophisticated Sauces class at Escoffier, the comment the instructor made about how it really is quick to make your own dressing, and so very worth it, I decided to put in a little more effort and make my own. I started making dressing using a recipe for Champagne Vinaigrette on Epicurious.com (but cutting the olive oil down by a little more than half, and using agave instead of honey (our honey is always rock hard and in need of melting)). I don’t even bother with a whisk. Since I make just a small amount of dressing at one time (about 7 tablespoons), I just use a large coffee mug and a small fork. I mix all the ingredients except the oil together, and then pour the oil in a thin stream from a measuring spoon while I beat the dressing with the fork. And the result of using that method is a very nicely emulsified dressing. (Mustard and honey both act as emulsifiers in vinaigrette, allowing the otherwise unfriendly vinegar and oil to mix together.)
After a few rounds of champagne vinaigrette, I started using different types of vinegar in the recipe – balsamic, white balsamic, and white wine vinegar. Then I started getting a little more adventurous with fruit flavor. I reduced some pomegranate juice and used that with white balsamic vinegar. Pretty good, but not all that pomegranatey. Then one day, as I was browsing in Whole Foods, I saw something called Pomegranate Molasses. The only ingredient in it was pomegranate juice, so I surmised that it was just extremely reduced pomegranate. That sounded like just the thing for my dressing. I used white wine vinegar to reduce the competition of flavors even further. It resulted in some great tasting dressing, but I’m not convinced that you could pick out pomegranate as the fruity taste. The pomegranate molasses, however, is wonderful. It’s also referred to as pomegranate syrup, but I can see why it’s called pomegranate molasses, due to the dark, rich color, and a tiny hint of molasses flavor. I think it would be outstanding on top of ice cream.
My most successful dressing to date was made with ingredients I’m still a bit surprised I actually thought to put together (but am oh, so glad I did!). The core ingredient was a discovery I made when I walked into Oliverde in downtown Boulder to check out the vinegars. My husband and I had visited the store weeks earlier, and bought some wonderful, seriously authentic tasting olive oil (the really, really good stuff is so much greener, grassier tasting than anything I had sampled before). But Oliverde also has a wide array of vinegars, so I went in and tasted samples of several of them. And then I happened upon the espresso balsamic. Not one to pass up anything with coffee or chocolate flavors, I sampled it. Oh, my! Wow. I really can’t even begin to describe how good this balsamic is. It’s got a gorgeous, dark molasses color, and a full, rich, bracing, slightly sweetish flavor. I knew immediately that I was going home with a bottle of it. I began planning the evening’s salad as soon as I left the store. I bought some arugula, thinking the bitter flavor would contrast well with the more sweetish/acidic taste of the vinegar. I also had some gorgonzola cheese left over, which would go well with both, and picked up a few Medjool dates to add on top.
I planned to make a vinaigrette, and thought a bit about what I should use with the espresso balsamic. I decided to use sesame oil for 1/3 of the oil (olive oil for the rest), as well as maple syrup instead of agave. And the results were stellar. The sesame oil gave it a rich, nutty taste, the maple syrup gave it some great sweetness, and the espresso balsamic…just made it awesome. Used on the arugula with the Medjool dates and gorgonzola, it was outstanding. It is a fairly rich, sweet dressing, so I think it’s best paired with some type of greens that are a bit more bitter-tasting, like arugula. It’s possible you could play around with a small shot of espresso and regular balsamic and perhaps come close to approximating the taste – but I would suggest trying just a bit of espresso and balsamic first to see if it’s palatable before using all the ingredients. And, if you’re near Boulder, CO, I strongly suggest stopping in at Oliverde and getting the real thing!
Espresso Sesame Maple Vinaigrette
makes about 8-11 Tbsp – double or triple for more
2 Tbsp espresso balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 to 4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard (or Dijon)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp pepper
1 dash Tabasco
1 clove garlic, minced
Mix the garlic, mustard, and maple syrup. (I use a large mug). Add the lemon juice, espresso vinegar, salt, pepper, and Tabasco, and mix well. Using a fork (or whisk if you’re making a larger amount), and briskly whisking the dressing continuously, you will add the oil in a very thin stream. Continuous whisking is important in order to emulsify the dressing well. I only used 1 Tbsp of sesame oil, and 2 Tbsp of olive oil, but I have a freakishly strong affinity for vinegar. You might want to use up to 3 times that amount of oil (the classic ratio is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil). Start with 1 Tbsp of sesame and 2 Tbsp of olive oil, taste the dressing, and add more oil to your liking.
I’ve seen varying opinions on how long the dressing safely keeps in the fridge, largely due to the added garlic. I’ve seen a few sites with people saying not to store anything with raw garlic in the fridge, but I also found a reference from Oregon State University stating that raw garlic in oil can be refrigerated safely for three weeks, and Joy of Cooking says vinaigrette may be refrigerated for two weeks. To completely avoid any food safety issues, use it all that day. Personally, I make dressing weekly, and throw out any left over from the previous week.
Adventures in Phyllo Dough: Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions, Sundried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese in Phyllo
January 19, 2012
Last week I decided I really wanted to make something with caramelized onions. So I thought a bit, searched online for some foods to go with it, and found a couple things that interested me — paring caramelized onions with butternut squash, and using caramelized onions in a tart. So I decided – hey, I’ve never used phyllo dough, that sounds fun! (Later I would reconsider my choice of adjective.) I also decided to add sun-dried tomatoes for tartness, and goat cheese for a savory element.
I always get excited and envision myself easily conjuring up wonderful, gorgeous, complicated meals with with ease. Well, this was another kind of humorous-looking result, but it did taste good. Since taste is always one of my top goals, I considered it a success, albeit one that I won’t be making for dinner guests without a few changes.
For all the lowfattedness (well, it’s a word now!) of phyllo dough, if you prepare it as advised by nearly all recipes, you’ll more than make up for that with the butter and oil you’ll be brushing on each layer. So future phyllo forays will likely include skipping the step of coating each layer with a half-teaspoon of fat.
I roasted the butternut squash (and some garlic – more about that later). Then I threw it in the food processor, along with several cloves of roasted garlic and a bit of salt, and puréed it. (I got the idea for puréeing it from a lasagna recipe I have with butternut squash, which I adore). So the garlic. Yeah. Apparently throwing garlic cloves in a pan isn’t quite the same as wrapping a whole head of garlic with the skin still on in aluminum foil and roasting it. They get done really quickly when peeled and just sitting individually in the pan. So I ended up roasting two batches – the first time resulted in hard nuggets of brown garlic, and the second resulted in some mostly lovely roasted garlic.
Making caramelized onions is fun. That pretty much sums it up for me. You start with overly powerful, brash, white onions, and you cook and cook and cook, and you end up with these lovely, browned, sweet tasting onions. I used a bit of salt and pepper, a bit of sugar, and deglazed with both balsamic vinegar and water.
The sun-dried tomatoes I just threw in a mug of stock which I heated up, let them soak, then drained and chopped them up fairly finely.
Then came assembling the whole thing. I followed the advice on the phyllo dough box, thawing it overnight, only taking out the number of sheets I was going to use, covering it with plastic wrap topped with a damp towel. Hearkening back to my earlier cockiness in thinking I could easily whip up a low-fat pie crust, I cringed (and swore) as I picked up the first sheet, then the second sheet, then the third sheet, only to see them break in half and then crumble in front of me. But then I took a deep breath, pretended I was working with Fabergé eggs, and ended up with just an inch and a half crack in the bottom of most of the next eight sheets. I brushed some olive oil on each sheet as I piled them on, then layered the butternut squash, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and tomatoes on top of that.
Then, going for broke, I rolled the thing up. That actually didn’t go too badly, but I probably should have been closer to the pan for the transfer. I brushed the top with olive oil, then baked it at 325 degrees for 35 minutes or so. Cutting it into four pieces was pretty amusing (pictures at the bottom). But as I said – it tasted quite good!
Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese in Phyllo Dough
1 butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs – the picture above is a 3 lb butternut squash – I had leftover squash for 3 days)
1 large white onion
4 oz goat cheese, softened
3 oz package sun-dried tomatoes
phyllo dough (about 8 sheets – you’ll want some spares!)
1 head of garlic
1 Tbsp avocado oil
4 tsp olive oil
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 tsp water
1 tsp sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable stock or broth (or water)
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half crosswise, and then cut each half again lengthwise (see picture above). Remove seeds and pulp. Place cut side down on a pan coated with cooking spray. Cut about 1/2 inch off of the top of the had of garlic, wrap it in foil, and add it to the pan with the squash. Bake 35-50 minutes. Check both the squash and the garlic at 35 minutes. The squash is done when a fork easily pierces the skin and flesh).
While the squash and garlic is roasting, cover the sun-dried tomatoes with some vegetable stock, heat in the microwave for a minute, and then let them soak.
Cut the onion into strips about 1/3 inch wide and about 2-3 inches long. Heat the avocado oil in a skillet on medium-high heat, then add the onions, and cook for 5 or so minutes, stirring constantly. Add a couple shakes of salt and grinds of pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. At this point, I turned the heat down to medium, because things started seeming a bit too brown. Continue to cook for 15-20 minutes more, deglazing with balsamic vinegar and/or water as needed (I added a teaspoon of vinegar and a teaspoon of water four times during cooking). Once the onions are a nice brown color (see picture above), tender and sweet, they’re done. Set aside until the rest of the items are ready.
Drain the tomatoes, and then finely chop them. Set aside.
Once the butternut squash is done, remove the shell, then cut the squash into small pieces. Put them in a food processor with 4-6 of the garlic cloves, and puree. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Layer 8 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with olive oil before placing the next one on top (I used 4 teaspoons of oil on the 8 sheets plus the top of the roll). Then add the remaining ingredients in the following order: butternut squash, caramelized onions, goat cheese (just rip this into pieces (globs) and spread them out evenly), and tomatoes. Carefully roll it up starting at one of the short ends. Brush the top with oil and bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
Slice into equal sizes, laugh at how sloppy it looks, and serve.