Saturday, March 31, 2012

soup and bread; things stuffed in things; fish cooked well

… these are a few of my favorite things ^^

The good weather was not going to last forever, and rain moved in, so soup sounded like a good idea. Obviously. Along with homemade bread. Obviously.

Chill in the air? Simply stand over a hot stove and/or next to a hot oven.

Bread and soup for a cozy dinner table.


The soup was Mark Bittman’s minestrone, published in Parade magazine. My mom clipped it and made it.

Not as oh-so-easy as he makes it out to be (since we ate dinner at, oh, 9:30; though for us that’s kind of normal).

Quite delicious. Kale. Love it! Recipe here.


Good for dunkage was Cooking Light’s brown Irish soda bread, which I’ve made a gazillion times. This time the following substitutions:

for all purpose flour, used a mix of all-purpose and spelt
in lieu of egg, used 1 T flax, 3 T milk and added 1/2 tsp. extra baking powder and 1 tsp. oil
just for giggles, substituted homemade applesauce for 1/2 a cup of the buttermilk and thus omitted the brown sugar



Was still on a soup kick for Sunday brunch. Trader Joe’s roasted red pepper tomato bisque, which isn’t anything to write home about if you get the low sodium version, unfortunately.


Uncharacteristically small brunch cause we’d already FEASTED on Arabic goodies at church, a small sample of which (due to the massiveness of the food and being unable to finish it) my mom brought home:


Za’atar bread, baba ghanoush, veggies, grapes.

Also was hummus, pita, scads more fruit and veg. Mm mm mm. I really need someone’s Lebanese grandmother to sit me down and show me how they make baba ghanoush. It’s different… and awesome.

The soup and church goodies didn’t quite do it (I’d not eaten breakfast, after all), so I had my favorite combo on the land:

Greek yogurt and homemade applesauce. It’s just SO PERFECT. Which is good because I have a lot of both items in my fridge.


Afternoon snackage was more hummus, but my own (cilantro ‘n lemon again; vair good). With carrots for dippage, and the last of the grapes that my mother still had not eaten.


Question: has anyone ever made something, froze it, thawed it, loved it, and forgotten what they put in it?

Witness this stuffed cabbage.


Excavation reveals the presence of bulgur, olives, mushrooms, and what I’m pretty sure is parsley. But quantities and method are a mystery.

SO delicious. And that iffy tomato soup is good as stuffed cabbage sauce.


My Monday morning began as most of my mornings do, with Sheila standing by the back door demanding to be let out… then in… then out… then in. As a reward for being such a good doorman (doorwoman?) she brings nice half-dead voles to the back door for us to enjoy as a family.


My oats for the week, a batch of which was made Sunday night, involves oats (duh), milk, flax, apples (surprise surprise, still have a ton), cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Almonds on top in the morning for protein ‘n crunch.


Lunch was eaten at my desk (boo) but delicious (yay!)

Things you’ve seen before: salad with farmer’s market greens and strawberries, delightful homemade bread, applesauce and Greek yogurt (the flavor! The texture!)


A rather unorthodox afternoon snack? How about a nice roll of stuffed cabbage!

You’ll notice the plate was also leftover. Apparently it just had decided to linger around the kitchen, so I appropriated it.


Consider the following recipe atonement for all the leftovers you just had to scroll through (if you made it this far).

It’s great, and it’s really thanks to Eating Well, which came up with the idea of poaching fish… on top of asparagus.

Intriguing, no?

Love asparagus :D


I went in a different flavor direction than theirs (which involved beurre blanc and I’m sure was great) because I was going for more of an Asian palette. Had cod, a great assertive fish that stands up to a lot of flavors.

So I sprinkled my cod with ginger, garlic, and green onion…


Then drizzled on a simple sauce with some of my favorite Asian flavors (hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and soy)…


And a few minutes on the stove (though wayyyyyyy more than Eating Well put in their cooking times, for some reason) led to a rather impressive meal for a weekday. Plated up with some cabbage-apple-rice vinegar slaw that was just okay. The fish is great. Make the fish.


Asian Cod Poached on Asparagus

½ bunch asparagus, snapped
12-ounce portion cod fillet
1 tsp minced ginger
½ tsp. minced garlic
1 spring onion
1 tsp. soy sauce
¼ tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. hoisin sauce
¼ cup water

Sprinkle cod with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with ginger, garlic, and green onion. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce.

Place asparagus in an even layer in a large skillet. Add 1/4 cup water. Place the cod on top of the asparagus, and pour the soy sauce mixture over the cod. Bring the skillet to a boil over medium heat. Cover and cook until the asparagus is tender and the fish is cooked through, which is really anyone’s guess since for me it took totally different times than advocated by the Eating Well recipe. For me, the asparagus finished first (after about 6 minutes), but the cod wasn’t done, so I removed the asparagus and continued to cook the cod. It took about 10 minutes. Serves 2.


Friday, March 30, 2012


Sometimes, simply going by your “this feels good” gut is not a good way to achieve well being.

Let’s look, for example, at Sheila. She’s normally a highly energetic individual who gets good sleep, solid exercise, and maintains a healthy weight. She’s got a very positive attitude and purrs a lot.

So why is she lying with her face on the food dish, looking lethargic and unhappy?


Because my uncle gave her some homegrown kitty weed for Christmas.

Yep, stoned out of her mind on catnip.


She ate up the good stuff from her dish… then licked the dish… then rubbed her face in the dish.


And then sat in my lap making creepy faces.

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After the high wore off, she was listless and depressed for DAYS. This cat is usually high on life, bouncing around the house chewing on the heating vents (for some reason…), batting at insects, climbing into bags, rubbing herself against your legs, and generally being a picture of good health and happiness. Seeing her all catnip-hungover was just depressing.

The lesson here? All animals, the human ones included, have things that are positive to take into their body and things that are negative.

No more weed for Sheila!

I was not on drugs, nor have I ever been, but ever since my healthy eating brain reboot I have honestly felt like a different person than I was for many months. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of good experiences, and felt my fair share of happiness. But I feel a different kind of wellness, from the inside out, that is pretty amazing.

Thoughts on the mental snap that instituted my new well  being, in no particular order:

[feel free to skip over this as it’s highly self-reflective and thus probably highly irrelevant to people other than myself]

Prior to my big “Aha! I can eat mindfully!” moment on March 23, I must confess that on March 22 I went to the gym and weighed myself and then had to wrap up my workout and come home to cry. It was more than I had weighed in a very very very long time, and meant that I had gained 25 pounds since I moved home from college in January 2010. A few of which didn’t hurt at all (and I was sick of people telling me I was too skinny), and let the record state I am at a healthy BMI. But 25 pounds in such a short period of time (and a rather starting proportion since I started my job in September, and an extra startling proportion since adding classes to job in January) is indicative of unhealthy behavior, which is my larger concern.

Paradoxically, my scale-induced-horror seemed to calm me down. Back in the day, losing weight and keeping myself thin felt very very easy to me. I had parameters in which I operated (lotsa plants to keep me full, generally no sweets, no buying junk so it’s not around to tempt me, a set number of calories per day) and I didn’t spent a lot of time angsting over what I wasn’t eating.

For the past few months I’ve felt all this “if only” angst, that the circumstances that resulted in me losing so much weight in college was having my own apartment and being in control of my environment. The truth was, however, that I was in control of my head, and exercising my free will to eat what was good for me and not eat what wasn’t. And now I seem to’ve regained it, however that happened.

And it’s GREAT, because if your healthy eating is enabled by your head rather than your environment, I can appreciate my environment. Rather than my monklike college existence where I didn’t eat a lot of meals with other people, I continue to be social and enjoy going out to eat and just… stop at the appropriate moment, meaning when I experience relief of hunger, not when my stomach is stuffed and uncomfortable. And eat the food I know will make me feel good, not the food that is packed with sugar and fat.

Also, I must confess: perhaps the reason the healthy eating, and honestly just eating less began, was due to a bit of a stomach bug. I spent about… two years feeling seemingly RAVENOUS. In retrospect, I say with the cool of someone who’s had steady blood sugar for several days now (:D) it was due to my body being on a constant sugar spike and crash; eating food for stress relief and then, when that proved temporary, continuing; not knowing when it’d be fed next (due to guilt-induced meal skippage for previous offenses), etc. But at the time I just felt HUNGRY. And having my weirdo stomach bug (from which, knock on wood, I seem to’ve recovered) meant that I was less hungry. And I went, “Ooh, that breakfast satisfied me. And now I don’t have to eat or think about food anymore. That felt pretty great!”

Also, hormones may play a role: I’m starting an experiment next month to see if a change in prescriptions may have precipitated some of this weight gain/constant hunger. And I’ll (over?)share about that if it seems relevant.

[end personal rambling]

On that note, a few remaining pics from the old days. Yknow… more than a week ago :D

These were unsatisfying and gross looking and I don’t know why I made them except the idea of green baked goods for a Saint Patrick Day’s party was fun:


Meant to be chocolate cookies… but then there wasn’t enough batter and they weren’t sweet enough cause I tried this juice-sweetened thing… and then I put a sugar cookie layer on top to make it sweeter and dye it green but I didn’t follow a recipe and it was just okay… and then when they baked the green got pukey looking. Anyway. Not a win.

Steve made a gorgeous fruit salad, of which I ate a lot (though unsatisfyingly and kind of grossly a lot with my hands… oh, parties).


He mixed yogurt, honey, and green food coloring (gross) to make this amusing “Lepre-can topping”.

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  Party was predictably excessive. Crunk cakes:


(rum in the red velvet cupcakes and in the icing)

… continuing on the Crunk theme:


That white pitcher was butterbeer, made by the very talented Jillian. SO delicious.

Jillian also made homemade stuffed crust pizza (!). With pears and bacon (!). She is pretty epic in the kitchen.

Check out her blog!


The crust was stuffed with Trader Joe’s goat brie with basil. I mean.


The party was too fun to take many pictures but here’s the general chaos towards the end of the evening (that pasta salad was also very good).


Annnnd a final lesson in portion control: even if that frozen yogurt is SO GOOD, SO SATISFYING, so INTRIGUINGLY TANGY AND YOGURT-Y (it’s worth getting it at a Korean bakery, fyi: totally different flavor!)

… if you get a giant cookie, you will eat a giant cookie.


These kind of portion control fails are what result in ridiculous things like this breakfast:


Tea (normal), a green smoothie (slightly weird but made acceptable for breakfast by banana within it and Cheerios atop)…


… and roasted cauliflower.

“Sorry, body! Here are some micronutrients!”


Thursday, March 29, 2012

so you’d like to host a tea party

Someday, I’d like to host a Mad tea party. But this was just a regular (and very nice) tea party, and in my opinion, tea parties are one of the most underrated of social gatherings.

Much like brunch is an excuse to drink alcohol in the morning, tea is an excuse to eat sweets in the afternoon.

Moreover, as anyone who has seen my bucket/mugs of tea (muckets? Doesn’t that sound like it should be a bad word in England? Maybe it is…) can attest, I love drinking tea.

And my mother and I love to entertain, and overfeed (such is the way of Greek women), the result of which was this quantity of food for what ended up being four people:


So it is: the ritual of slathering the mini bread with butter is so pleasurable one wants to repeat it as many times as possible.


And so, a series of tea sandwiches.

My mother’s brainchild: butter whirred up in the food processor with watercress as a base; cucumber atop (those little yummy Persian cucumbers). On white bread. GREAT tea sandwich.


A delicious farmer’s market shortcut: smoked bluefish spread (rich- more than a subtle hint of delicious fatty cream cheese!) but celebrating the smoky oily fishy goodness.


On wheat bread, with a toe in the frame. Feet could not stay out of the frame in this post.


Also from the farmer’s market, we have tomatoes looking way better than they have any right to in March. Greenhouses and global warming. Go figure.


Put together sandwiches by thinly slicing the tomatoes, buttering the bread… but I tried to amp them up the tiniest subtlest bit. Any guesses what’s on that bread?


Curry powder! I love curry and tomato :D


And finally, more white bread, more herby butter (for this round my mom threw in chives, too), and hardboiled eggs.

SO delicious!


Sandwiches stacked, semi-artistically. My sister is better at these things, but she’s off studying in England… probably having tea with the queen.


I sort of believe one cannot have tea without scones, or at least some kind of baked good. Traditional scones (the dry crumbly ones) are an amazing vehicle for amazing condiments (devonshire cream and jam, drool!) but I wanted scones with a flavor all their own.

And, uh, might have had crate upon crate of apples to use up. Again!

Thus, Whole Wheat Apple Scones. Made a few tweaks (cardamom!) but more or less stuck to the methodology. They were easy to make, baked all clumped together:


And very very very delicious!

Sweet, buttery, flavorful, nicely spiced. I would make these again!


And the table was laid!


(There is someone waving at you in that picture. Hi, friends!)

Indoor flowers and outdoor flowers, via window. Loving on spring!


Apparently sherry is traditional at teatime? I tried a single sip (after all the guests left, no one seemed real interested) and it didn’t do it for me. But adorable glasses!


The highlight for me of this tea party was discovering, just a day after Saint Patrick’s Day, that we have a clover-shaped spoon. This is fantastic.