Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cup of Tea?


I'm a snacker.

I know, I know - this post is obviously supposed to be about tea, and I will get to that. My being a snacker is a major part of my tea fetish.

Like I was saying, I'm a snacker. My snacking tendencies are not mitigated in the least by the layout of our little house, which puts the open kitchen in full, glorious view from the living room, where Keith and I spend most of our waking hours at home. I get bored, I eat. I get antsy, I eat. I experience that annoying fake hunger where, if you just ignore it, it'll be totally gone in half an hour, but I don't, and I eat.

Often, though, I have tea instead. Because so many of my impulses to eat are based on a) the presence of food and b) boredom, instead of an actual physiological need, it's remarkable how often tea satisfies my craving. I just finished a cup of the Coconut Cocoa, topped off with about half a teaspoon of sugar and some whole milk. It's basically a dessert, without consuming the massive brownie I know I'd love to have instead.


I'm-embarrassed-to-say-how-many days later, as I actually finish writing this post, I've just finished another cup of tea. This is genmaicha, a loose leaf green tea with toasted brown rice and popped sorghum kernels. I love this tea. I love this tea. It needs nothing - no sugar, no milk (in green tea? yech) - but hot water, and it's perfect. When I'm done, I eat the tea leaves and rice, which may be weird, but I accept that. I figure the leaves have to be full of some sort of super power antioxidants.

I love tea on its own, of course, but I love using it as a tool for portion control. Plus it warms me up as these (usually) cold winter months chill me to the bone, and the light caffeine buzz of black tea is great for fighting the occasional headache. For me, the only drawback of my wintertime tea consumption is stains on my teeth, but my dental hygienist suggested last I was in that brushing with a baking soda paste can clear them right up. I'll have to give that a try!

In the mean time, drink tea, keep warm, and don't eat unless you're hungry.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Simple Sunday Dinner

It's been a few days since I took this photo, but I can tell it was from Sunday night, because in another photo (that turned out poorly), my place setting is sporting a glass of wine. I've decided that until further notice, starting at January 1st, I'm having only one drink per week. I'm not really expecting to see any weight loss from it, because I'm happy to say that I  did not previously consume, say, 3500 calories worth of booze per week. But it's a bit of an indulgent vice, and maybe I'll build a touch of character by cutting back on it.

There's been a perfectly drinkable bottle of wine in our fridge, open, for two weeks. I'm not sure this has happened before.

Black Beans and Squash

This is another staple in our household, fairly easy to throw together (once you're done fighting with the squash), hearty and satisfying. There's not a whole lot to the recipe here. This is about a pound worth of butternut squash cubed, a can of black beans drained, a chopped onion, all cooked together with some toasted cumin and some sort of stock base (I'm not sure which one Keith used). It pairs beautifully with some spicy, creamy polenta, and a sprinkling of cheddar and green onions. Oh! I forgot, since you can't see it here, but Keith topped each serving with one fried egg as well. What a wonderful meal - without having to stack the plate sky-high, we were both full and satisfied til the next morning. Perfect.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Food Traditions (Gnudi & Mushrooms)

Several years ago, Keith arrived at my doorstep, most recent issue of Bon Appetit in hand, with plans to make a most fabulous dish for dinner: Swiss Chard Ricotta Gnudi with Wild Mushrooms. After many more hours than we'd expected of preparation, we sat down to what may be the world's most perfect late fall/winter meal. We've made it at least once each fall since then, and we realized this weekend, as I was suggesting that we make a nice meal in, that we hadn't yet made it this year. Dinner plans acquired.


If you take a look at the recipe, you'll see that this isn't a meal you make at the last minute. We'd taken some shortcuts in the past and decided this time we'd let the dish shine by following the instructions to a tee (spoiler: we still didn't follow the instructions to a tee). We gave the gnudi dough a chance to rest fully overnight, so we didn't get to eat this until last night, not so much a "weekend dinner" anymore (though both of us are still on winter break from school). If you make this, I can't recommend strongly enough that you give the gnudi a good rest - it makes a huge difference in texture, and in the amount of dough that gets shed in the simmering water. It would also be helpful to cook the broth the night before. With those two steps taken care of, this can easily be on the table in an hour - no 30 minute meal, but still, not bad.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with this recipe, and nothing you need to change to improve it. However, there are a few things you could change, if you see fit, with no harm done:

  • Low-fat ricotta works just as well as whole milk in the gnudi
  • Slice the shallots very thinly, and just leave them in the broth - why throw away shallots?
  • Feel free to skip the butter at the end. Don't get me wrong, the butter-enriched broth is lovely, but it's still a wonderful dish without, and four tablespoons of butter is a lot of calories, especially for those of us on an ohshucks diet.
  • If you save some of this for later, only cook as many gnudi as you need to serve at one time. And don't just toss the chard stems in with the broth in the fridge. The red pigment will drain out of them leaving them pale and pink and the broth oddly sanguine. Everything still tastes fine, but a dish like this deserves to be served at its prettiest, even on leftover day.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year's Eating Habits

I'm eating a bowl of nori right now. Just sheets of nori, torn to pieces, delivered directly to my mouth. Truth be told, this is not a particularly unusual situation that calls for much explanation, but I'll offer you some anyway:

I love nori.


(It's also worth noting that if you look at this picture, you can see a primary explanation for why I don't blog as often as I should: my kitchen is a mess, and I'm too lazy to clean it up to blogworthy standards.)

Okay, the actual explanation for the nori. See, I woke up a few days ago and stepped on the scale (danger, danger!) to discover, to no one's surprise, that I had landed squarely at my ohshucks* weight. You know the weight - the number where you say, "Okay, this has really gotten out of control. We need to make some changes." My ohshucks weight is reasonable, definitely a weight that is greater than I should be, but also not so high as to be a "point of no return." I'm pretty good at obeying my ohshucks weight, so when I saw the number flash in front of my eyes, I knew what I had to do. That's right: I ate some candy.

* Not the actual terminology I use. Close, though.

See, I've managed to train most of the people in my life that, if they want to give me gifts - which is totally unnecessary - they should give me perishables. Like chocolate. It being the weeks following Christmas, there is a lot of fatty, sugary goodness in this house right now. Each day that I spend in the house, there's a little less. I spent a couple of days making no notable changes in my eating habits, and I went to bed last night telling myself, tomorrow you are going to do something different.

And I am, actually. I'm having myself a bit of a detox day - no carby foods and no sugar (besides a sprinkling in my tea). I started the day with some cheesy eggs scrambled with a bit of bacon, then a cup of tea. Lunch was carrots and broccoli stirfried with my faux-Thai sauce I'll have to write about sometime, served with quinoa (which falls outside of my arbitrary definition of "carby foods"). Now I'm bored and snacky, hence the snacking on plain nori sheets. Now, believe me, I enjoy packaged nori snacks and definitely have some aspirations of making my own (and even BLOGGING ABOUT IT [?!]), but my standards aren't really that high. Today is not the first day I've ripped up sheets of nori and eaten them, and it will not be the last. It really is a great snack - it's got that healthy sea vegetable thing going on, and it's a pretty slow calorie-delivery system. Mostly it just provides a nice distraction, which is useful for a boredom eater like me. I'm not sure what's on the docket for dinner, since we're down to just carrots and brussels sprouts (yup, same ones) in the fridge. A walk to the store for some more veggies certainly wouldn't do me any harm.

I hold no illusions that one day of healthy eating is going to magically change anything. But for me, at least, the initial stages of a lifestyle change require absolute adherence, not moderation. I am much more capable of having zero chocolate than one piece. I'm hoping today will be the beginning of some healthy changes in my habits.

And if not? Well, at least I got this awesome ridiculous stream of consciousness blog post out of it.