The Eating World -Divided Up

I hate the term Foodies.  It implies that one considers themselves superior to normal calorie-in-taking humans.  As far as I am concerned there are three basic types of people when it comes to food.

 

The first is the person who eats anything that is put in front of them with little concern for exactly what it is, where it came from and what it might do to their body, but they do like to eat.  This makes up are large portion of the American population including most teenage boys and people who vacation in the Ozarks.

 

The second group is a very minority population of people who never think about food at all.  Sometimes they are over heard saying things like, “Oh, it’s 4:00, I forgot to have lunch.”  The skinniest upper east side ladies who lunch, despite having the word lunch in their moniker can be in this group as is Carter’s Godfather, David, who uses his oven as storage space for his tax records.

 

The third group is the rest of the world.  People who love food, think about food, talk about food, read about food, watch it on TV, sometimes cook, sometimes can’t cook but eat in a lot of different restaurants, blah, blah, blah.  Those who have the greatest affectation call themselves “Foodies” trying to raise the standings of their taste buds above the fray, but really who cares.  This group lives to eat.  It does not mean they live to eat too much, but that what they are eating is important to them.

 

My husband Russ and I are in the last group.  I have always been a cook.  My first memory of cooking something by myself was making scrambled eggs at age four.  It was the 1960’s and my young parents still stayed out late on Fridays and Saturdays nights so I was often up alone for hours in the morning.  Learning to fend for myself was key.

 

Russ had a mother who always provided a meal for him, but flavor was not often a key ingredient.  Marrying me opened up a new world of culinary exploration that made Russ question whether he might have been adopted.

 

Today, Russ and I are in Seattle on vacation.  Seattle has a world of good food at every turn, smoked salmon, cupcakes, unusual cheeses, bread galore.  Normally we would take full advantage of such an opportunity and eat whatever tempted us from morning ‘til bedtime, savoring each new taste, Russ begging me to dissect new dishes in order to recreate them at home…but not today.   I’m on my weight loss challenge.

 

So for this trip poor Russ has been pulled from his happy group of people who love food into the minority group of people who don’t think about food at all, very much against type.  But he does not complain and he helps me pretend I am in the non-food-lover-society.   That is just one of the many reason I love him and am so lucky that he asked me to marry him exactly 21 years ago today.


Smelly Food is Your Friend

 

Happy 20th Anniversary to my wonderful husband Russ.  Ok, our actual anniversary was May 2nd, but today is the day we are off on our two-week trip to the cool Northwest to celebrate what seems like a blink of an eye.

 

We chose to go now because Carter is off in Taiwan going to Chinese language school and living with a family who I hope are not practicing their English on her.  One of the tips for kids going on this program was to just smile and nod their head yes when anyone speaks to them, whether they understand or not.  I practiced this with Carter before she left, saying things to her like, “Would you like to eat these smoked ox eyeballs for dinner?” and “I think a dragon tattoo would look nice on your face.”  I don’t know how much nodding she will do.

 

Since Carter was five foot nine inches tall before she left I hope her Taiwanese family takes advantage of having her live with them and gets her to change any burned out light bulbs or sweep away cobwebs from the ceiling they can not reach.

 

Today’s dieting tip is less about an exact food, but more an airplane strategy since I am on a plane for six hours today.  I know that I have already blogged about airline travel, but it seems that this summer I have spent more time flying than usual.

 

The tip I am about to reveal is one I learned from my father when we used to work together in Canada.  For over a year we had an office in Ottawa, which was a two-leg flight for me and a three-leg one for my Dad.  Every Friday we would come home to the US flying together to Baltimore where we usually would part and I would catch a flight to RDU and he would go on to Charlotte and change planes again to get to Pawley’s Island.  It was a long trip so to keep the peace for the whole plane it was necessary to feed my father at some point.

 

The answer to the no food problem was the Bojangles.  As we deplaned in Baltimore my Dad would make for the fried chicken counter, buy a box of chicken and high-tail it to his next flight.  As soon as he got on the plane and sat in his regular seat in the front row aisle he would open his chicken, which would smell up the entire cabin.  Our co-workers who flew with him described the looks on the faces of the other starving passengers as they boarded, wishing they had gotten chicken for themselves.

 

One week I flew with my Dad to Pawley’s Island and I partook in the chicken ritual.  Here comes the airline strategy tip… when the other passengers got on the flight as we were eating our chicken, none of them wanted to sit near us.  Perhaps they were afraid we might get some grease on their clothes, or that they did not have the will power to be so close to that delicious chicken without having any of it, whatever the reason we got to fly with empty seats beside us.

 

I have since tried this experiment with other foods and it works perfectly.  Passengers will chose to make a scene and ask to be reseated just to not have to sit next to someone eating something smelly.

 

So today Russ and I have the exit row on Southwest, the only one with enough legroom for Russ to fit in, with no one sitting in the middle seat between us.  Our flight stops in Nashville and then goes on to Seattle.  As soon as we land and the new passengers begin to board I am opening up my salad with blue cheese and lots of vinegar just to see if we can keep this middle seat empty.  I am doing everything possible to make sure Russ waits to eat his sandwich at the same time I eat to discourage anyone from thinking about sitting with us.


Bread and Butter Pickles- The Splenda Way

 

Today my friend Gerty came over to make Bread and Butter pickles with me.  She had made hers last week the real southern way – lots of sugar.  After making them she called and said she thought they could be done with Splenda and asked if I wanted to try them with her.  Gerty, being a scientist, brought a jar of her sugar pickles as a control to compare to my Splenda version.  Russ, as the official pickle taster, claimed the Splenda version to be equally delicious.

 

Since these are refrigerator pickles- meaning no canning is needed.   Anybody can make them without fear of killing a loved one with botulism.

 

1 ½ c. White vinegar

2/3 c. apple cider vinegar

2 T. pickling spice (just buy a jar at the grocery store, rather than measuring out the mustard seeds, juniper berries, bay leaves, etc. yourself.

2 c. pourable Splenda  (It measures the same as sugar)

 

2 ½ lbs of cucumbers

2 Vidalia onions

¼ c. kosher salt

 

In a sauce pan heat up the vinegars and when it reaches a boil add the Splenda, stir and remove from heat.  Add the pickling spices and let sit for at least four hours.  This can be done the day ahead.

 

Scrub the cucumbers clean and cut off one end.  Using a mandoline, cut then using the wavy cutter.  This gives you more surface to absorb the pickling vinegar.  If you don’t have a mandoline, you can cut them with a regular ‘ole knife and just be sad.

 

Slice the onions into slivers with the mandoline too.  Mix cucumbers and onions together in a large stainless steel bowl with the kosher salt.  Cover the whole pile with a tea towel- that’s a clean non-terry cloth kitchen towel inside the bowl.  On top of the tea towel fill the rest of the bowl with ice and put the whole contraption in the refrigerator to chill and let the cucumbers release a bunch of water.

 

After four hours, strain the pickling spices from the sweetened vinegar and heat it back up to a boil.

 

Using a slotted spoon so as not to get the cucumber water, fill clean glass jars with the cucumber-onion-salt mixture.  Put a spoon in the jar to help divert the heat from the glass jar and pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers in the jar.  Cap the jars with the top and place them in the refrigerator.  Let chill for at least 6 hours before enjoying.


Roast Nectarine Frozen Yogurt

I was frugal long before the recession made it hip.  It has to be genetic. My mother probably still has every dress she ever bought and my daughter Carter is thrilled to get used textbooks because they are so much cheaper.

 

Today’s recipe is an attempt to use up an unripe nectarine and some Greek yogurt before I go on vacation.  The roasting is to pull as much flavor as I can get out of the fruit, which is not quite ready for consumption.  If you have a beautifully ripe peach or nectarine you can make this without roasting, but I do like the flavor heating the fruit imparts.

 

1 nectarine – chopped up with the skin on.  If you use a peach, peel it first.

1 ½ c. Greek Yogurt

1/3 c. skim milk

5 Splenda packets

½ t. almond extract

Pinch of cloves

2 pinches cinnamon

Pam

 

Heat a small nonstick fry pan up and spray with Pam.  Put the fruit in the pan and cook on medium high, stirring often until the fruit begins to get to be a little brown.  It will take about 5 minutes.  Add cloves and cinnamon at the end and let the spices heat up on the fruit for one minute.  Remove from heat and place in the freezer.

 

Mix the yogurt, milk, Splenda and almond extract together and pour into an ice cream maker.  Run it in the ice cream maker as long as it takes to get it to start getting creamy.  Add the fruit and continue running the ice cream machine for another 2 minutes.

 

Remove from the machine and place in the freezer to finish the freezing process.


Red Wine Vinegar Chicken

 

This is the worst picture of the best dish you will ever eat.  To top it off it is easy to make.  Don’t be shocked by the amount of vinegar, just go with it.  The acid breaks down the chicken and gives it a tang that is addicting.  You can make it with the skin on if you are a person who does not have to watch your figure, but honestly this version is so good you won’t even miss the skin.

 

 

10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

10 minced garlic cloves

1 cup of red wine vinegar

1/2 cup of chicken stock

1 can of chopped tomatoes

Handful of fresh thyme- tied with a kitchen string

4 bay leaves

Salt & pepper

Pam

 

 

Heat a Dutch oven on the stove on medium high heat. (That’s a heavy cast iron pan with a tall straight sides and a lid.  I use a Le Cruset.) Spray the inside of the pot with Pam and add half the chicken thighs in one layer.

 

Cook for about 4 minutes; you just want them to get a little color.  Flip them over and repeat on the other side.  Remove those thighs from the pan and keep on a plate on the side.  The chicken is not cooked through yet.  Spray the pot with more Pam and cook the other half of the chicken the same way.

 

After you have cooked all the chicken and it is out of the pot, add the garlic to the pan and cook for one minute, stirring often.  Add your vinegar, keeping your face away from the pot when you do it so you don’t choke on the acidic cloud you will create.  Add the tomatoes, stock, herbs and chicken back in the pot.

 

Cover and bring the contents to a boil and then reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pot the best you can, leaving everything else in there.  Bring the liquid back up to a boil and reduce the sauce with the lid off.  I like to mash it all down with a potato masher to break up the tomatoes.  It will take about 15 minutes to reduce it to a sauce like consistency.

 

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.


It’s Hot…Let’s Run?

Let’s face it, global warming is here today and it’s been here for the last couple of months.  This morning while walking my dog it was already 91 degrees with a “feels like” temp of 101 according to the “weather bug” on my phone.  I wish that I could input my weight and activity level to come up with a real “feels like” temp.

Shay Shay, our chocolate labradoodle is not much on hot weather.  She stares at me as I drag her down the street with a look that says, “For god’s sake, why did we leave the air conditioning?”  She certainly does not subscribe to the phrase the “dog days of summer.”

While walking the dog, trying to get in a little exercise before the weather wins claim on the outdoors I was passed by at least 4 different women, two on bikes and two on foot who have not heard that the Olympic trails are over.  There might have been more who passed me, but I did blink once or twice.

One woman ran by me so fast that the hair on her ponytail slapped me in the face and almost cut my old dry skin.  Of course she said a big ‘ole hello as she sprinted by.  Another, well-past-the-middle aged woman rode her bike up the long hill of my street standing up while peddling, passing a car that was going in the same direction at the 25 mile per hour speed limit.

God Bless these Amazonian athletes who are unfazed by heat or hormones.  I am not one of these women.  Sport for me is taking a good friend’s quarters at Mah Jongg.  Perhaps throw in a little badminton or my new found game of Pe’tanque, the French version of Boulles.  I like a game that you can play with an iced tea in your hand.

Before any of you write me about the benefits of exercise let me tell you that I know.  I spend my time working out with my friend Amy under the eagle eye of our trainer Tom at Empower.

I have been through three different gyms with Tom and he is just who I need to keep me laughing even as my face is turning white, which he told me on Monday was just the precursor to throwing up from working out too hard.  I told him that I already knew I was about to throw up unless I stopped trying to lift my body off the ground with one arm.

The great thing is Tom knows I don’t run and never will, so he finds other ways to keep me moving.  My new favorite is boxing.  Getting to hit someone with out my mother screaming at me from the other room to stop is a childhood dream come true.

As the Olympics are just about to over take the world’s attention I know many people may be inspired to go out and try a new sport.  I think I will pay extra attention to archery.  Being good at standing still is a bonus in that sport.


Too Many Tomatoes Summer Soup

My first disclaimer is that I don’t have too many tomatoes despite the beautiful plants I have.  There are a bunch of stupid squirrels who come and eat a bite out of each tomato and after deciding they don’t like that one they move on to the next one to see if it is better. UGH!!  My next recipe might be low fat squirrel stew if I could just catch one.

Anyway, this is an easy soup that is good hot or cold.  It really is easy if you have a stick blender.  You can use a regular blender or food processor, but go to Target and get a stick blender and you will have so much less washing up to do because of it.

I am going to give you the recipe in a ratio so you can make any amount you want.  The base recipe is enough for about two servings so at least double it.

1 big yellow onion – peeled and quartered

2 Tomatoes – stemmed and quartered

2 Carrots – peeled

1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock

1 T. Pesto

Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400º.  Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray with pam.  Put the onions and the carrots on the foil and place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes.  Add the tomatoes to the pan and continue cooking in the oven for 45 more minutes.

Dump all the vegetables from the pan into a stockpot and add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.  Using a stick blender, whirl everything up until pureed or pour everything in a blend and let it do its thing.  Add the pesto and salt and pepper to taste.  Summer in a cup and hardly a calorie in sight.