Category Archives: Food

One in, One out.

So far, my attempts to eat through my freezer and pantry have been met with mixed success.

I mean, I’ve eaten quite a bit of food out of my freezer.  But then I make something with it and have leftovers and more food goes back IN to my freezer.

That was not really the idea.

In an attempt to stop this pattern, I have NOT frozen the leftovers from a batch of Beef Bourguignon that I made earlier this week.

I made the Beef Bourguignon with a large piece of beef (locally raised, grass-fed, hormone-free of course) that I had in my freezer.  GOOD.

One recipe of Beef Bourguignon makes enough to serve a single girl for about eight days.  BAD.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Beef Bourguignon.  It is one of my favorite foods ever and I make it really well (if I do say so myself).  That being said, I think there is a limit to how many times I can eat Beef Bourguignon in a row.  I’ve now had it four times AND shared it with friends.  I still have some left.  I want to eat it.  Just not today.  And probably not tomorrow.

But if I don’t eat it today or tomorrow, I should probably freeze it.  Because throwing out perfectly good Beef Bourguignon is wrong.

So it will go back in to my freezer.

Harumph.

 

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January 2012: It’s RESOLUTION time.

I have decided that my JANUARY RESOLUTION will be to cook foods from my pantry – especially my freezer.

I want to empty the pantry – to rid myself of things I haven’t used for a long time, and to focus on stocking a pantry with the items I really do use all the time.

You see, my basement freezer died at the end of the summer. It was a SAD, SAD day. It happened at the best possible time of year, since the freezing season hadn’t really begun and I had used most of the stash I had built up for the winter before. Still, I lost some spring vegetables, a lot of home-made broth, and (sniff, sniff), my share of a Tamworth pig from Owens Farm. Ever since this terrible, horrible, no-good day, I have been trying to decide if I should buy a new freezer.

I have a normal fridge/freezer in my kitchen, and the freezer side seems to be filled with food I never use. Shouldn’t I empty this freezer out before I determine if I need more space? Shouldn’t I purge myself of three year old Gogurt that I bought to have on hand for a dinner party which included small children? Shouldn’t I either eat, or pitch, the leftover taco meat from Thanksgiving weekend 2010? Yes, yes I should.

So this is my plan – I’m going to EMPTY the freezer and my pantry so that I can then clean out my cupboards and basement food storage. There really is no reason for me to have a case of tomato paste in my house. Truly, there isn’t.

I come by this problem honestly. My grandmother, Phyllis, lived through the depression and was a big fan of bargains and saving. When she moved out of her home in Ambler, PA we had to clean out her basement, which included her pantry. I am not kidding when I say that we found caned food that had dried out.

Canned beans, which rattled. RATTLED.

There was a station wagon (a gigantic Chevy Caprice Station Wagon) full of paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper which had probably been purchased (on sale, of course) in the 1970s. I think I finished using those napkins about three years ago. There was WWII ration sugar that was over forty years old (hard as a rock). Seriously. (Do I need to mention that my mother has used this sugar? She pounded it out with a hammer.)

I can still picture my brother’s face when he started to clean out my grandmother’s freezer as it defrosted. This freezer was full of meat that had spoiled WHILE IT WAS FROZEN. My brother was brave and strong and a VERY GOOD GRANDSON for cleaning out that freezer.

So I worry, a bit, that I might have some hoarding genes in me.

In my early adulthood, when I was newly married and interested in being PERFECT, I always wanted to have a full pantry of anything we might possibly need. A smart, college-educated, liberated and LIBERAL woman I still thought that my husband should never find himself without toothpaste, or toilet paper, or, well, capers. You know, just in case there was a caper emergency.

Now that I am a real grown-up, divorced, single, happy, and, um – SANE, I am content to have a small pantry of basics that I use regularly and know that I can easily run to the store for anything I really need. I live in America, after all. So I can buy raspberries from Chile in February if I want to.

Since it’s time to shed the past and become a person who doesn’t have five shelves of canned goods and dried food waiting FOR YEARS to be used, I’m going to do this. I’m going to use up what I have (and try very hard not to waste anything) and then start fresh, with a SMALL and PRACTICAL pantry of foods I use every week. And that’s it. No more hoarding. No more taking care of a husband I don’t have any more (who, incidentally, never asked me to take care of him in this way). And no more three-year old Gogurts.

No one should eat those things anyway.

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Cheese vs. Alcohol

This morning, a friend asked me if I miss cheese more than I miss beer.  It was not difficult for me to answer – YES!  I miss cheese more!

(In case you forgot, I gave up all alcohol this February.)

First of all, the act of abstaining from alcohol was just a lot simpler.  You just don’t order a drink.

But cheese, my friends, is EVERYWHERE.  It’s hard to avoid it even when you want to (and I use the term ‘want’ loosely here).  Foods that don’t even need cheese have cheese in them.  The less time you have, the more likely it is that cheese will be included in your meal.  And when you’re not cooking for yourself, the non-cheese options are often even less healthy.  I have actually found myself ordering fried food instead of the salad that comes with cheese.  Seriously.

After February, I realized that being more intentional about alcohol was important to me.  Just because I’m out with friends doesn’t mean I need to have a drink too.  Just because I’m on my porch and it’s hot out, doesn’t mean I need to have a gin and tonic (ok.  It kind of does.  But let’s pretend it doesn’t).

Similarly, I am finding that I need to be more intentional about my cheese intake.  I don’t miss cheese in my deli sandwich.  I don’t miss cheese cubes at a reception.  I do, however, miss the opportunity to order cantaloupe gazpacho with goat cheese when I am out to dinner in a new city.  I miss tomatoes at their peak with fresh mozzarella and goat cheese.  I miss fennel cranberry bread with locally made Camembert from our grower’s market.  I know that I can’t go back to eating cheese in September without some guidelines for myself.  “Eat less cheese” is just too broad and in a few short months (weeks?) I’ll be back to my old habits.

Instead, I think I’ll focus on high quality cheese moments – the opportunity to try a really good cheese, or a favorite dish – should not be missed.  But it also shouldn’t be something I do without thinking.  Late night cheese snacking, no-no.  Tipsy cheese appetizers, no-no.  Cooking and eating six ounces of feta while I do it, no-no.  But a cheese course?  Cheese fondue?  Macaroni and Cheese on a cold winter night?  Hell, yea.  I can’t wait.

 

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Cheese, cheese, everywhere…and not a cube to eat.

First, I gave the last of my feta (my favorite, Mandros feta) to my roommate.

Then, I had to eat Buffalo Wings with RANCH dressing.

Next, I could not put cheddar cheese on my friend’s Birthday Chili.

Finally, in a desperate attempt to carve breakfast out of an almost empty pantry, I only realized after the fact that my  mother’s pesto (delicious, thank’s mom) has Parmesan cheese in it.  Damn it!

Still, I am eight days in, and so far I have mostly been winning my stand-off with cheese.   OH THE POWER.

I have noticed several things:

* It is VERY hard to eat out without eating cheese.  Most restaurants put cheese on EVERYTHING.  Seriously.  Even the vegetables seem to have cheese.

* Sometimes, even when you ask for a sandwich without cheese, you get it WITH cheese and don’t realize it until you’ve eaten 2/3 of the sandwich.  If you don’t even NOTICE the cheese, then why is it there?  Adding calories and fat to my otherwise lovely sandwich?  WTF people?

* When you cook for yourself it is EASY to not use cheese.  But you may still WANT to use cheese.   A LOT.

Friends and coworkers honestly CAN NOT believe this resolution.  They just don’t understand it.  I’m not sure I do either.

 

 

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The Cheese Stands Alone

First, I’d like to thank Z-Tejas in Austin, TX for giving me the gift of Five Cheese Macaroni and Achiote Chicken (with toasted bacon gratin) for my “Goodbye to Cheese” meal.

Second, I’d like to remind my readers that even though I am walking away from cheese for a month, I can still (and will still) eat ice cream, yogurt, milk, cream, whipped cream, clotted cream, and Gelato.  I am unlikely to develop a severe allergy to dairy this month, and I am most certainly going to eat cheese again.  For example, I will be eating cheese on September 1st.  I appreciate your concern for my sanity, health, and happiness, but I am not changing my mind.

Third, I’d like to thank corn and tomatoes (specifically from Ards and the Jesus-Tomato guy) for your assistance in the next thirty-one days.

I can do it.  I know I can.

 

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Filed under Food, Resolutions, The Meaning of Life

Cheese Dreams

My my!  So many of you are deeply and profoundly opposed to my intended August resolution – Cheese Abstinence.

I think my subconscious is a bit resistant too.  Here’s what my dreams have looked like for the past few days:

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Filed under Food, Resistance, The Meaning of Life

The cheese is trapped.

Ok, so I’m a little behind.  It’s July, um, 11th, and not only have I not told you what my July resolution is, I haven’t even made one.  In fact, I think I’m going to skip July all together.   After all, I’ll be home all of 10 days out of the whole month.  I think my resolution for July can be as simple as making sure I have clean underwear at all times.  On my body, not just in my dryer.

The good news is that I’ve already figured out what my August resolution should be.

Yes, Grommit, it’s true.  I’m going to give up cheese.

I’ve experimented with this before by limiting my cheese intake to once a day, or once a week.  But this time, I’m going to go A WHOLE MONTH without cheese.

My hand is shaking as I type this.

My internal Shelbies are SCREAMING – !NO! !DON’T DO IT!

But indeed, I must.

Hello, my  name is Shelby, and I have a problem with Cheese.

I am a Cheese-a-holic.

I let Cheese make too many important decisions for me.

I have lost friendships to Cheese.

Ok, that last one isn’t true (that I know of), but it is true that my relationship to Cheese is, well…

Put it this way – I HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH CHEESE.  Doesn’t that say it all, right there?

So, on August 1st, no CHEESE for me.

I will need the full support of my friends and family on this one.  Please, be kind.

 

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But What About the Fruits & Vegetables?

Common wisdom says that it takes 30 days to create a new habit.

Self-help books and websites consistently state that this is the time frame humans need for a new behavior to take hold but they never cite a source.  Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find any research to support the 30-day-to-habit hypothesis (ok, I didn’t look too hard, but I did look).

Recent research by folks at the College of London, in fact, found that the average time to for a new behavior to feel automatic was 66 days.  In addition, there was significant variation in how long it took for a habit to take hold, from 18 days up to 254 days.

Before you get any grand ideas, let me make it clear right now that I’m talking about eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day – my January resolution. I have no plans of becoming a teetotaler, I promise.

So how did I do in January? And what side of this curve am I on?

As it turns out, I ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day in January and I did not find it difficult to do.  It was almost as if I turned a switch and it just happened.  Now that it’s February though, am I still doing it?

Mostly, YES.  It’s February 10th and I’ve eaten at least five servings of fruits and vegetables for eight out of nine days. My one day ‘off’ was  yesterday, and I still ate four servings of fruits and vegetables.  (I also had a hot dog and a pretzel at market and some pizza for dinner.  Hey, I’m not perfect!)

I would not say my fruit and veggie behavior is yet automatic.  I’m still relying on some of the tools I implemented in January to make it happen.  If I were to rate how automatic my chosen behavior feels right now on a scale of 1 to ten (where 1 is not at all, and ten is I do it without thinking), I would say I’m at about 6 or 7.  This is definite progress, and I plan to continue this resolution indefinitely – it just doesn’t seem like a behavior worth giving up.

For the curious…

How did I create this new habit?

  • Early in the month I did research into what constitutes a ‘serving’ and identified the fruits and vegetables I was most likely to enjoy at this time of year.  Knowing that a variety of colors is also important, I also identified a few dark greens to add to my otherwise colorful vegetable diet (kale, spinach, and broccoli, in particular).  There are tons of resources on the web about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet.  In particular, I liked the tools on the Cooking Light site, part of their 12-month Health Habits program.
  • Since I am a recovering J, I couldn’t help myself from using the Cooking Light chart to track my daily fruit and vegetable intake.   The visual reminder on my refrigerator helped me to make good choices every time I made a meal or went for a snack.
  • I told everyone I knew about my goal – especially the people I share meals with on a regular basis.  It wasn’t that I expected them to correct my behavior or scold me for making bad choices.  But the pressure of knowing that I had made my goal public helped me to make better choices when out with friends, my most vulnerable situation when it comes to eating healthy.
  • I did not try to start any other food (or drink) related habits or implement any other restrictions on myself during January.  As it turned out, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables (or more) is eating a lot of food.  I did eat other things, and some of them were colossally unhealthy, but the portions were always very small because I ate the healthy stuff first and I got full.  Who knew?
  • Again, I didn’t try to change too much.  I stuck with fruits and vegetables I like and those that are either (a) in season locally or (b) easy to get in high quality form (i.e. no January tomatoes for me).  I am lucky that I actually LIKE fruits and vegetables.
  • I did not give myself a hard time about buying produce that had been trucked from Florida or California.  While I try VERY HARD to eat locally/regionally, part of my problem was that the fruits and vegetables available in PA are so limited this time of year.  I have no trouble eating five servings in July and August.  I had to allow one part of my conscience (the part that wants me to avoid diabetes and heart disease, etc.) to win the argument with the other part of my conscience (the fossil fuels, Shelby!  the earth is crying Shelby!) or I would be frozen in the grocery store debating with myself every time I tried to by an orange.

 

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And Not a Drop to Drink

This weekend was the first real test of my Abstinence Month.  Full of social evenings from Thursday through Sunday, I had four days in a row where having a cocktail or a beer would be typical behavior for me.  From ‘drinks’ out with a grad school friend, to live music in a bar, to a wine-tasting art school fund raiser, to Super Bowl Sunday, I had many opportunities to explain my 2011 approach to resolutions in general and my February plan in particular.

I’m happy to report that I did not have a drink all weekend, nor did I have any difficulty abstaining.  I admit that there were a few moments when I thought “gee, it’d be nice to have a drink right now” but they passed quickly.  Of course I think I was as charming and entertaining as usual, but you’ll have to ask around to hear if others agree.

Here are some observations I made this weekend:

* People react much differently to “I’m not drinking this month” than they do to “I’m driving.”
When I decline a drink because I am a designated driver, everyone I know consistently says “good for you” and that is that.  As I declined drinks this weekend, however, people initially wanted more explanation, and then consistently tried to convince me to abandon my resolution or pick a different month. It was all in good fun, of course, but it was fascinating to experience ‘peer pressure’ since (a) I’m over 40 and (b) so were they.

* I made much more responsible food choices, sort of.
There were no late-night nachos this weekend.  Also, no late-night hot-dogs with cheese, no latenight Twix bars, and no late-night chocolate cake.  In fact, there was no late-night food.  That being said, the lack of beer during the Super Bowl party did not keep me from being responsible for the demolition of at least 1/4 of a party-serving of awesome chili/nacho/cheese dip.  Thanks  a lot Leslie.

* There needs to be better alcohol-free choices at bars and restaurants.
I have had more water and seltzer with lime over the past three days than I care to discuss.  For fun, sometimes I asked for a splash of cranberry juice!  CRAZY!  I would definitely like to think of some better non-alcohol options, for variety if nothing else.

Did my abstinence change much about my weekend?  Not really.

I still went out and about – quite a lot actually.  I still got up at about the same time, did about the same amount of chores and school-work that I would normally do, and went to the gym once (sadly, typical) over the two days.  I did notice that I woke up with headaches on the mornings when I’d been up past midnight the night before.  

Apparently, part of the reason I might wind up with a headache on a Saturday morning is because I haven’t gotten enough sleep. Oh right, and I’m 41.   (It certainly wasn’t because I was dehydrated.)

If I’m honest about it, I admit that I also went home a bit earlier than I might have otherwise, but leaving a college-bar at 11:45 is a good idea anyway.  Between 11 and midnight the average age in a college  bar goes from 30 to 21 and the average length of a skirt goes from 24 inches to, oh, seven.   Drinks or not, it was time to leave.

The highlight of my weekend might have been meeting up again with George, the friend who inspired my February resolution to begin with.   Alas, he was rooting for the Packers, but we toasted each other throughout the evening with our Pelligrinos anyway.

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Filed under Alcohol, Food, Football, Resolutions

Pound for Pound

When I decided to take the month of February off from alcohol, I knew there would be some days or events where I’d miss it more than others.  Super Bowl Sunday.  My favorite local band, Reverend Blue Jeans, playing on a Saturday night.  Seriously.  Football and Beer.  Rock  Music and Beer.  These things were made for each other.

I don’t think I was prepared for how much I might miss a nice glass of wine on a Tuesday night.

It’s true that I enjoy a glass of wine while cooking, or perhaps while I am relaxing after the meal as I linger at the table with a good friend in deep (or not so deep) conversation.  And so it was, two nights ago, I was sitting at the table after a lovely dinner.  I missed my glass of red wine.

What did I do instead of lingering over that glass of wine?

I made a pound cake.

(Note, the reason that pound cakes are called pound cakes is because the original recipe calls for a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, and a pound of flour.   This is not a low-calorie dessert).

While I didn’t embark on this resolution with losing weight in mind, I admit I have been curious about what the elimination of empty alcohol calories would do to my body.  Would I lose weight?

According to the USDA Calorie Counter, five ounces of red table wine has 125 calories in it and one slice of pound cake has 163 calories.   In the interest of full disclosure I should say that this recipe was from my favorite dessert book: Rosie’s Bakery: All Butter, Fresh Cream, Suger Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book.  One slice of Rosie’s pound cake probably has more calories than your average pound cake recipe.

Even if I assume that the USDA estimation of pound cake calories is correct, I am already better off drinking the wine calorie-wise.  Then we add in the fact that red wine, in moderation, is supposed to be good for my heart while butter and cream cheese (yes, gilding the lily a bit, but hey, I do what Rosie tells me to do) are most certainly not good for my heart.  It’s possible we should also consider the fact that even though I give most servings of my late-night baking treats away after I make them, it is possible I ate pound cake for breakfast the next morning.

So, either I should abandon all thoughts about losing weight during my period of self-inflicted abstinence or I should amend my resolution to no-alcohol and no-late-night-baking.

This is a tough decision.  I think I’ll take some time to ponder this over a cup of tea.

And perhaps a slice of pound cake.

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