Friday, April 29, 2005

Passover and the South Beach Diet

Every year Rich observes Passover, which means he spends ten days not eating bread, grains, products with corn by-products, and not drinking beer! (On a side note, he'll eat shrimp, which is not even kosher, but I've given up why he'll eat this but not the whole wheat matzoh that is marked "not for Passover use." Hmph.) I figured this would be a perfect time for me to start the South Beach diet. We'll spend an almost equal amount of time being restricted by what we can't eat, and since Rich can't go on the diet with me for moral support because if he lost any weight he'd disappear, this will be the closest to moral support I will get.

Most days, I don't let outside factors hinder my ability to enjoy food. My lack of money, for instance. True, I can't go out to restaurants every night, but I can try to cook something yummy at home. And I definitely make cooking a priority - when I was weighing new clothes over a food processor, the food processor won. Other days, however, I realize I can't just eat whatever I want with reckless abandon. And it is reckless - I'm not the girl who can just savor a small sliver of tart, I have several slivers. I can't just have a normal portion of manchego, I have three thick slices. Maybe I was always like this but my metabolism just kept up. But lately it's rebelling. After I ran a marathon last August, I noticed that I had suddenly gained 10 pounds. And several inches around my belly.

I can't just cut back my food and start exercising more - I need structure. So I enrolled in a 6:30am boot camp and borrowed my mom's SBD book and prepared myself for two weeks of no bread and fruit and sugar (wah!!!) My friend said "You love food! How could you just go on a diet that won't let you eat bread??" And I haven't figured that out yet. I think it's because as a starchmouse, I'm controlled by my need for bread and sugar. And I'd like to get to the point where I truly enjoy it, but don't need a "fix." And when I go to my cousin's wedding in May, I would like for the first words out of all my aunt and uncle's mouths to not be "you gained weight!" Koreans have a habit of pointing this out first before saying hello.

Anyways, it's been 6 days since I've started, and I'm pleasantly surprised that I haven't been climbing the walls for bread. I did have a huge sugar craving the other day - I caved in and had some sugar-free frozen yogurt. Ew. I'm definitely eating more veggies than before, but the amount of protein and low-fat cheese I'm consuming is mildly freaking me out.

My last meal before the diet was at Passover Seder. So much food! Rich and I spent 6 hours in the kitchen tending to the brisket...

What a ridiculously fatty cut of meat! I wish we had had more time - we made about 10 pounds, and I think only 6 of those pounds turned out truly tender.

Mike on the other hand, spent four hours brining his turkey and then eight hours drying it out before he roasted it, and it was spectacular...

More pictures here.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Below (in backwards order) are pictures of the birthday dinner Rich made me. I did not lift one finger in the kitchen! And it actually turned out very yummy :) Upon perusing his (I think only) cookbook, titled "Clueless in the Kitchen," he decided to make me a stuffed pepper kind of dish. It turned into peppers stuffed with cous cous, turkey, and tomato sauce. It was very very good...and look at the vegetables! All my harping about eating more veggies is beginning to stick, I think.

The finished product! Posted by Hello

Rich next to the empty peppers... Posted by Hello

What could this be? Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


...Rich is going to cook me dinner for my birthday tonight.

When I first met him, he didn't cook much. Mostly he ate out, and if he did make something at home, it was simple, like pasta. A big night of cooking for him was putting some chicken in BBQ sauce and sticking it in the oven, along with some frozen fries. I quickly tried to put a stop to that. As grad students, we can't afford to eat out almost every night. And although he has a high tolerance for eating the same thing meal after meal, I definitely don't. So we tried cooking together.

In the beginning, "cooking together" meant I would tell Rich to saute something, he would say "I don't know how," then I would say (all annoyed) "you just stir the damn stuff in the pan, how hard is that?" To his credit, he wanted to try hard, it was just easier and faster for both of us if I did the work. And when I did teach him to do something, like saute and chop/dice and roast, he wouldn't do it often enough that it would stick, so he'd have to learn all over again.

We realized this pattern of me buying groceries and cooking for him couldn't continue. I was getting cranky from having to buy 3x what I would normally buy because he eats so much more than I do, and he was annoyed because I wasn't letting him help me at all, but would still get mad at him for not helping.

We made a plan - each week we would make dinner twice together. We would plan together, go grocery shopping together, and cook together. We made this plan maybe a month and a half ago, yet we've really only carried it out in full (from planning->shopping->cooking) once. Things happen, people get busy - I guess we just underestimated how much effort this venture would take.

Today he is actually going to take a half day off work (this guy doesn't take off work for *anything*) so that he will have enough time to think of what to make, buy the ingredients, and put it all together. Awww, what a big sweetie. I've always believed that anybody can cook, especially engineers! I mean, all day we come up with ways to solve problems. Sometimes with guidance, sometimes by the seat of our pants. So we should be able to follow recipes, right? I'm sure he'll be pleasantly surprised at how simple cooking can be - and therefore more willing to cook more often with me :) Oooh, I hope he remembers to make cake....

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

sniffle sniffle hack hack

The yummy-sounding title alludes to the fact that I have been sick since Friday and *still* feel like death on a stick. I also went to Las Vegas this weekend (the trip was already paid for - I couldn't *not* go!) so that probably didn't help. More on that trip soon, when I remember to bring in my camera and upload pictures. Although the only food-related picture I have is of the 20 desserts we ate at the Bellagio Champagne Brunch. I still feel weird popping out my camera in the middle of a restaurant to take pictures of the plates, which is too bad because we had this amazing seafood starter at the Eiffel Tower restaurant. It's Tuesday and I'm still full from the Bellagio brunch. Oy.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


"I think you'll like it, once you get over the fact that it smells like gym socks."

Hmm. This is what my college buddy Jon said to me when he was in town last week. We were meeting one of his friends at Spices! II for dinner later that night, and he was hoping they'd have stinky tofu. Yup, stinky tofu.

Jon is the only jewish boy from Long Island I know who has a master's in Chinese and has eaten zebra. He has the same reaction to certain foods that I do (excited bouncing up and down) so I usually will eat anything he likes without hesitation. But gym socks??

Spices! II, unfortunately, did not have stinky tofu, but if they had, I probably wouldn't have been able to taste or smell it. The first dish to appear on the table was "numbing spicy cucumber" - marinated cucumber spears that were garlicky and hot - it looked just like this kimchi my mom makes, so I wolfed some down - and then my mouth was on fire. I can handle hot stuff, but this was....yowza! I panted my way through the rest of the dishes - braised pork with pickled peppers (the peppers were slightly sweet so a very yummy combo), eggplant with fresh garlic and basil, dry-braised eel strips, and tan-tan noodles. Everything was really good - or were my tastebuds just shot? At any rate, the chinese pop music videos in the background were amusing enough to distract me from the flames shooting out my mouth.

There is also a Spices! I a couple blocks away, and they serve stinky tofu. But the dishes are different. On Monday I went after a salsa class and we ordered the cucumber and tan-tan noodles. For something new, we tried braised beef shank with 5 spices. Disappointing. :( The cucumber tasted slightly medicinal and the tan-tan noodles were greasy from some weird ground beef sauce, a far cry from the peanutty goodness we had tried the first time. The beef shank just tasted salty - no 5 spice flavor anywhere. So from now on, we'll stick to Spices! II.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Oysters, Beer, Basque food

This weekend I found myself in North Beach, shivering in flip-flops, downing a plate of oysters. Huh? I never thought of myself as an oyster-lover, but I figure if I *enjoyed* a plate of the suckers that I bought at a festival I must like them. Hell, even love them. Maybe it was the beer. Anyways, at this oyster and beer festival, we sat front row at a cooking demonstration. Sounds fancy, but really it was just a bunch of hungry and drunk people hoping to get a taste of whatever was being demonstrated - there were potato pancakes topped with oyster, a "scotch egg" except made with oyster, and my favorite, the bloody mary oyster shooter. Yum. I even got to be the "judge" - there were two versions and I had to say which one I liked better. All after trying to down a humongous oyster in one shot, tomato juice dribbling everywhere. Attractive.

Because we were in the area, we decided to have an early dinner at Iluna Basque. I was sooo excited - having just come back from the Basque region and sampling the yummy tapas there, I wanted to see if I could get my fix at home. And I had read really good things about this place.

We got three dishes - fresh dungeness crab with avocado, a Basque cheese plate, and peppers stuffed with salt cod. I know, I can't judge a whole restaurant based on three measly dishes, but I was discouraged. The "fresh" dungeness crab dish was horrible - the texture seemed like it was actually thawed-out frozen crab, and it didn't have any dungeness flavor. Actually, it had no flavor, except for a really fishy smell. The cheeses were good, but for the price (almost $9) you'd think we'd get more than three tiny slivers. The peppers were good - nice sweet roasted flesh, filled with a salt cod and potato filling. It was also very reasonable ($4.25) considering it was a lot more food than the cheese plate, plus took more work to prepare.

I'm tired of going to "amazing" restaurants and getting disappointed. This is the fourth hyped-up place I've been to (the first three were paul k, Boulevard, and the Carnelian Room) that has left me wondering who the hell reviewed these places and how they got so many people to believe them. Sigh.