Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cleanse: Day 1 (sweeter is not the answer)

Let's talk about the weekend, first.

Friday night I made a pizza, using gluten-free crust, making my half vegan with vegan cheese and mushrooms, and my husband's half delicious, using meat and mozzarella. 

Lesson #1: Vegan cheese tastes like booger snot. If a person is going to eat vegan, I suggest just eating vegan and not participating in faux cheeses and meats.

Saturday night I made a Buddha bowl, which basically involved chopping up lots of veggies very finely and mixing them up with some hot brown rice to just barely cook them.


It had garlic, onion, olive oil, and plenty of flavor. My carnivorous husband even liked it (not loved, but that's to be expected). So...

Lesson #2: Not all vegan food tastes like shit. Yay!

The rest of the weekend was spent shoving in as much "forbidden" food as I could. I was in a bit of a panic about giving up meat, dairy, gluten and all processed foods for 21 days. So on Sunday I had an In-N-Out hamburger, and it was delicious. I savored every bite. And that experience confirmed for me that giving up meat forever is out of the question.

Sunday night I also ate chicken fried steak and eggs, plus biscuits and gravy. It doesn't get more forbidden than that.

Monday I had a meaty breakfast and then ribs later in the day, followed up by frozen yogurt later in the evening.

And now here I am on Day 1 of the cleanse. This morning started with a big glass of water with lemon and a dash of cayenne. It wasn't my favorite, dog. Spicy water in the morning? Meh. Then I had a mug of herbal tea.

I waited until I got hungry to make my first juice of the day, and I have to say today's juice is about five times better than last week's. Here are the ingredients:

One broccoli stalk, two celery stalks, two kale stalks, two romaine leaves, a tiny piece of ginger, a pear, and an apple. Mmmm. Breakfast of champions!



Lesson #3: More fruit doesn't necessarily make it taste better. It makes it sweeter, which is not entirely necessary because the juice from the vegetables is already sweet. I added a little lemon juice after I tasted it, and it helped balance out the flavor quite a bit. The dominant flavor in today's juice is celery, which is a helluva lot more palatable than cucumber.

I also had to give up coffee starting today, which was hard. I made coffee for my husband this morning, and felt a compulsion to drink my own mug of the stuff when I smelled it. I didn't, though.

Crazy Sexy Diet says to expect some withdrawals, so I'll post updates here...

Friday, May 27, 2011

The first green juice

In anticipation of next week's start of the 21-day cleanse I decided to test the waters, to see if I'd be able to handle drinking a shit-ton of juiced vegetables every day.

What I concluded after yesterday's experiment was that, no, I definitely cannot drink the juice that I made yesterday because it:

1) Tasted terrible.
2) Made me feel nauseated.
3) I mean it tasted really, really bad.

So here's what I juiced. Two romaine leaves, two kale stalks, two celery stalks, a whole cucumber, a handful of sunflower sprouts (these are one of the insane superfoods you are supposed to be eating), a broccoli stalk, a pear, and a small piece of ginger.

*gulp* 

Just looking at that is making my stomach turn a little. I think what made it taste really terrible was the cucumber. I cannot handle that much cucumber (that's what she said). In fact, I don't think I ever want to eat or drink or smell another cucumber as long as I live.

*gurgle*

That is an awful lot of green juice.




In conclusion, I think I need to take baby steps. Action plan for next juicing episode:

1) NO CUCUMBER for godssakes.
2) More fruit. Maybe a pear and an apple.
3) Less ginger. It makes it weirdly spicy.
4) Less juice in general. Like half of that would've been twice as easy to drink.

In other "cleanse" news, I have almost completely eliminated dairy -- I'm only drinking a little cream in my coffee in the mornings. I've also almost completely eliminated coffee -- down to one cup. I'm weaning myself off meat -- had a little shrimp at lunch yesterday, but no meat other than that. Today will be meat-free. Gluten has been eliminated entirely.

As far as how I am feeling ... particularly after yesterday's juicing episode, I felt really bloated and tired. Today I had a very successful elimination, if you get my meaning. Cleaning out the pipes and whatnot. Crazy Sexy Diet says I'll probably feel kind of crappy as the toxins leave my body. If that's what's happening, she's right.

No posts until Tuesday, when I start the cleanse, eek! Have a great long weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to Shell a Fava Bean (aka What in the Hell am I Doing, and Why?)

Before I signed up for biweekly organic produce deliveries, I had never seen or tasted a fava bean, nor had I wanted to.

See, I, perhaps like you, watched Silence of the Lambs when I was around 14 or 15 years old -- it was probably a year or two after the movie had come out and one of my friends had the movie on VHS (my own parents would never have allowed this to be shown in their home, but then again, I also wasn't permitted to watch Beverly Hills 90210. But I digress).

And during one scene everyone who is even the slightest bit plugged in knows -- Anthony Hopkins utters this infamous line:

I ate his liver with a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti.

And then he makes a disgusting slurping noise. 

It was then that I knew:

1) Fava beans were a disgusting bean that I had no desire to ever see or taste.

2) I definitely wanted to taste Chianti.

So it was with slight repulsion that I realized I'd received fava beans in my organic produce delivery. Actually, I didn't know what they were, but the informative bulletin in the box of produce told me that they were, indeed, fava beans.



Seeing as how I am on a mission to eat more green things, I decided to give fava beans the old college try. So I googled "how to shell a fava bean," whilst banging my head against my desk in self-loathing, and then I moved on to shelling fava beans. 


For starters, you take your bean, and you attempt to unzip it. This make or may not work. I advise just tearing into the bean in any old fashion that pleases you.


Once you have the repulsive thing open, you will notice it is filled with a hairy fuzz, much like a disgusting alien pod from an enemy planet might be. Also, beans. 


This is how many beans I got out of those pods. 

You might be thinking -- Awesome! Looks like lima beans. Let's eat!

WRONG.

Now you have to cook the beans in some fashion in order to loosen their disgusting outer skins, because -- you guessed it! -- they have to be peeled again.


One website suggested I steam them for a minute to help retain maximum nutritive value. 

I am all about maximum nutritive value these days.


Here is what the beans look like after they've been steamed. In other words, exactly the same as before. 


Houston? We have bean!! (I'm just going to start saying that today, in regards to whatever I feel like. Houston? We have cold toes! I do. My toes are cold.)


And this is the sorry number of beans I pulled from their weird skins. As you can see, each fava bean has a disgusting tooth. Or penis. Not sure which. (click the photo to enlarge!)


Gross.

So I immediately popped one of these in my mouth as soon as I finally got that sunnuvabitch unwrapped from its second pod, and I'm happy to report that fava beans are not disgusting. They're rather nutty, actually. Pretty good, if you can get past their disgusting bean penis.

I tossed the beans into a shrimp scampi, and it was quite delightful, if I do say so. No, I do not have pictures of the shrimp scampi, but if you're curious, it had butter and lemon and shrimp and quinoa noodles in it.

In conclusion, fava beans are not the devil and I endorse the eating of them whenever you have four hours or so to kill shelling a bunch of disgusting beans.



Just kidding. It took maybe half an hour. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Breaking back in

Yesterday I couldn't get into my blog. I could see my blog, but I couldn't log in and, well, blog. I could read most other people's blogs (except people who require log-ins) but I couldn't comment, and as someone who enjoys foisting her opinion on others incessantly, this was maddening.

It was a little like being locked out of my house. I could see it. I could look in the windows. There's the couch and the television. I could be sitting comfortably, watching Oprah in my underwear, but no, I'm stuck in the cold, standing on the porch, with a bag of groceries in my arms. There's a whole gallon of vanilla ice cream melting (this has happened to me before).

Anyway, crisis averted. I'm back in, and blogging.

But because of Blogger's issues yesterday, the fertility blog I contribute to (Tired & Stuck) had a delayed post yesterday, and I decided to delay my own post regarding my raw vegan cleanse as it relates to fertility until Friday.

So I'll write and schedule that post today, then I'm going to work on finishing the book. I might finish it this week. That's not the first time I've said that. I've been saying "I'm going to finish it this week" for the last two months. If I don't finish it this week, it'll definitely be next week.

Yup.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The next crazy (sexy) diet (OR Save Me From Myself)

So let's just call this next nutty adventure exactly what it is:

A raw, vegan, gluten-free, 21-day cleanse that promotes meditation, "dry-brushing," and enemas. 

I'll admit that when I got to the chapter in Kris Carr's "Crazy Sexy Diet" titled "The ABCs of Enemas," I wanted to:

1) barf
2) laugh
3) throw the book in the fireplace, followed by a lit match.

But what I realize about this book (which I discovered via The Token Fat Girl last week) is that you've got to take it with a grain of salt. The author is a cancer survivor who understandably went to great lengths to find out each and every good thing she could do to make her body as healthy as possible. You obviously don't need to have cancer to want to be as healthy as possible, but you might be a little less motivated to insert an enema hose in your ass otherwise.

CSD makes a lot of promises about what can happen if you go raw/vegan/gluten-free/etc. Here are just a few:

1) You will crap like a champ every day, probably multiple times a day.
2) Your skin will clear up.
3) You'll have buttloads of energy.
4) You'll have less cellulite.
5) You'll sprout wings and fly to your new home atop the nearest Whole Foods, where you and the rest of the smug vegans will live whilst shaking their heads judgmentally at the muffin-toppers waddling in and out of the store. (I have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to Whole Foods)

Also, your PH will balance out. (More on this on Wednesday when I post for Tired & Stuck.)

So, the 21-day cleanse involves a lot of juicing of vegetables and eating of vegetables and blending of vegetables. I've done something similar before, although it wasn't nearly as long -- it was only seven days. And it wasn't vegan. You can read about it here: I lost more than 10 pounds on that one.

Of course, the 10 pounds came roaring back, and then some. As I constantly harp, every diet has an equal and opposite (if not greater) binge and gain. Therefore is it wise for me to embark on a 21-day vegan cleanse?

I honestly am not sure. What I am fantasizing about is becoming a vegetarian who juices on a regular basis. Because what I discovered on the juice cleanse I tried in '09 was that when I drink freshly juiced veggies, I am not hungry for a loooong time. Maybe the body is receiving the nutrients it needs through juice, and then it's saying: Thanks, I've had enough. No more food needed for a while.

Is becoming a vegetarian -- or maybe even a vegan -- realistic? Possibly not. I'd only be vegan by default. Carr says if you give only one thing up, make it dairy. Allergies, eczema, asthma, arthritis, inflammation and zits can all be linked to dairy, Carr writes. Not to mention the plethora of other illnesses linked to over-consumption of protein in general.

I think I can do no meat. No dairy is harder. No gluten is a cinch -- I usually do that anyway due to my husband's gluten allergy. Enemas are a whole other ball of wax I can't even think about right now.

So what I've decided to do this week is to gear up to start the cleanse next week. I'm going to detox off coffee, dairy and meat this week, and then try going full tilt with the juicing, etc, starting next Tuesday (Tuesday because every seventh day of the cleanse involves a juice "fast" and I don't want to be fasting on Sundays).

I'm also going to need this week to help myself plan my husband's meals while I'm doing this crazy thing (I'm the Kitchen Manager and Chef 'round these parts -- it's the one thing I'm anal retentive about). He is not entertained by the notion of becoming a vegetarian, although he's rather open to the idea of doing away with dairy -- probably because he has a sensitivity to it that wreaks havoc on his insides. In any case, he'll be wanting some meat, while I chow down on giant salads.

Whatever ends up happening, I think 21 days is doable and will hopefully give me some insight into how I could be eating on a normal basis. I don't think it's going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. I regularly fantasize about cheeseburgers and hot fudge sundaes, so going raw/vegan doesn't come naturally, to put it lightly. But with my weight continuing to be out of control, my skin erupting in break-outs, and a feeling of general malaise and fatigue for a great portion of any given day, this is absolutely worth a shot.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mistake No. 1: Impulse buying

I don't make a habit of reading beauty magazines unless I'm preparing to embark on a five-hour flight and would like something mindless and mostly useless to read. So why I felt compelled to purchase the May issue of Allure is kind of beyond me.

Nothing on the cover jumped out at me, except maybe "Blast Your Belly Fat." But who hasn't seen the phrase "Blast Your Belly Fat" on the cover of at least twenty magazines before? It's ridiculous. For the record, the subtitle of that story is "Ab-Tastic Makeovers" (minus points for creating your own word, Allure) and the "story" is basically before-and-after photos of masochistic Allure editors in black bikinis. They each tried different workouts and reported back on whether or not it worked. Not exactly a prescription for blasting belly fat, but we weren't super-surprised about the false advertising aspect of this magazine, were we?

For the record, I do not endorse allowing anyone to publish headless before-and-after shots of you in a bikini, ever.

The top story on the cover of the magazine said in all caps: LOOK BETTER NAKED.



This was basically a bunch of photos of celebrities in the nude, along with recommendations to use lasers to blast away whatever problems you may have that are causing you to look hideous naked. Helpful!

Then there was an article that hadn't been advertised on the cover at all, about a 23-year-old woman who'd been diagnosed with melanoma. Which reminds me, I am pretty sure I have melanoma. Gracias, Allure!

And then? Just to make sure my self-loathing was complete, Allure made sure I stumbled across an article about how my pubic hair is definitely not trimmed to current standards -- everyone's doing the Brazilian wax, still, I guess. I've been shaving in a triangle since 1995.

And finally, in an article titled, "The 7 Biggest Skin Sins," a professor of dermatology is quoted as saying: "Dermatologists never look at your face to see how old you are. We look at your hands and your decollete. They rarely lie."

What a bitch. Now I have to lather my hands and decollete with sunblock every morning. I'd been protecting my face since around the time I started shaving my pubic hair into a triangle, but despite my efforts apparently I'm just a bushwoman with witch hands and wrinkled tits. 

It's a truly, madly fascinating phenomenon: the ability of women's beauty magazines to make women feel utterly sub par, ugly, incapable, and diseased. I do not feel more beautiful, at all. I feel paranoid, hairy, and wrinkled. Oh, and fat, but that's a given.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fortune

Come see me at Tired & Stuck today. If I get pregnant this cycle, fortune cookies are not just bull shit.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Balance

It's human to worry too much about what other people think, and being mostly human, I do this.

In spite of how happy my life makes me, I worry that others find my life disappointing or indulgent or lazy. I worry that my "To Do" list isn't long enough; I'm not suffering hard enough; I don't have three jobs and four kids; I don't do volunteer work; my house isn't even clean.

So, I search for justification every now and then, and stumbled across just that the other day when I watched a documentary about stress. It is called Stress: Portrait of a Killer.  (It's streaming on Netflix if you're interested)

Now for starters, I could have told you stress is no good for you. At least not the kind of stress lots of people are under in their jobs these days -- the kind of stress that sends you running to the bathroom before you break Cardinal Rule No. 1 of working in an office: Never (unless someone has died) cry. Or the kind of stress that gives you palpitations so bad that you see purple dots during meetings with the CEO.

And, of course, the documentary agrees with me. One expert explains: We (American society) value the person who's got five major things going on at the same time. The person who is accomplishing a hell of a lot, every day of the year. So much that it seems inhuman. We admire that. And it is admirable, yes? To be so productive. What's not to admire?

Well, for one thing, it could kill you. Which is not new news, really. Stress resulting from overworking yourself (burning the candle at both ends, my mother would say) causes high blood pressure, fat deposits, cardiovascular disease, etc.

The expert says We need to change our values to admire the person who leads a balanced and serene life. Serenity is a beautiful world, and a beautiful thing to have. I recognize it in my life, now.

It's easier said than done for many people, so what the experts suggest is that you find something in your life that you can control. You are the boss of that thing, and you manage it well. It could be as simple as a garden. It could be the office softball team. It could be quitting your job and writing a novel from home. Just a suggestion... 

Monday, May 16, 2011

The castle

Following our tour of Hearst Castle, I spent several hours daydreaming about being an old-timey movie star, spending time relaxing in the sun in my old-timey bathing suit, sipping martinis. Perhaps when I tired of sunning myself, I would watch a movie in the theater, or ride a horse under the mile-long pergola that was shaded with grape vines, or gaze at the animals in the private zoo, or maybe I'd just go to the vast indoor pool to cool off.

Hearst Castle is a tribute to excess. It has the feel of what Rome must have been at its peak, all ornateness and art and beauteous spectacle.  Now it's a giant museum, housing thousands of pieces of priceless art, while being a piece of art in and of itself. Our guide said it's been estimated building the estate now would cost around $900 million.

Photos don't do this place justice, but I tried. 

You can just barely see the castle on the hilltop in this photo, which is taken from the parking lot where they make all the visitors park so they can be shuttled up to the castle by bus.



As I feared, my photos, sized down, don't do it justice. This is one of many columns with a light atop it. One day I'd like to see the castle at night.



 The portico surrounding the outdoor pool.


The outdoor pool. It was about 90 degrees the day we visited and all I wanted was to dive into this thing.


 The castle through the trees.



 The innumerable guest rooms each had their own bath rooms.



 A fireplace in a guest room.



One of the few photos of me (do you see me?). And to top it off I am wearing a tank top -- it's that warm. I do not willingly expose my upper arm flesh.


Sexy time.



Detail above a vast exterior doorway.



One of dozens of invaluable, ancient tapestries. Most of the tapestries the guide spoke of were from the 16th century, so I assume this one was as well.



Oh, just the dining room. The ceiling was imported from somewhere ... all I remember is it's really, really old, too.



 A statue in the theater.



The indoor pool, which was so glassy and still it gave off a perfect reflection. Under the water you can just see star-like designs. The whole idea was diving into the pool would be like diving into the night sky.


We'll be back, someday, to take one of the other tours. The basic one-hour tour of this place just scrapes the surface. If you've never been, I wholeheartedly recommend you visit.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Why I am wearing my fat pants

Well, I've figured out where I want to retire. On the beach, in Cambria.

It's nice when you go into a trip not really expecting much, and then almost everything about it just blows your socks off. 

I'd found a really nice deal online, for an ocean-front room in Cambria for $79 a night. I had few expectations from an establishment that would offer such a rate, but what we got was cottage charm, with a fireplace, and the ocean rolling in a stones' throw from our windows.

We had little need for the fireplace, as our visit coincided with an unusual hot spell -- it was 90 degrees our first day there.

 The beach outside the window.


 Adirondack chairs set up outside our room.


The inn where we stayed -- The Sea Otter Inn.

A boardwalk parallels the beach and tiny rabbits and ground squirrels abound. The squirrels will run up to you, brazen, wanting a peanut.

The view looking away from the water, toward the inns. Wildflowers were going nuts.

Brave squirrels.

The funny thing about this sign (see bottom: "Do not pick up seals") is that at some point people picking up seals was getting to be a problem and someone had to make the call -- Well, I guess we gotta tell these dumbasses not to pick the seals up.


I'm sure we caught Cambria at some magical hour. It was warm and quiet. The people were surprisingly friendly. The food was surprisingly good.


If you're interested in going, I must suggest you stay in one of the inns on Moonstone Beach, and eat at the following restaurants: Robin's (order the salmon bisque); Creekside Cafe (best pancakes I've had in California); Redwood Cafe (my husband raved over his ham and cheese omelet. I thought their coffee was excellent and the French toast was delightful, too).

If you happen to pass through Paso Robles, stop downtown and visit the Arroyo Robles tasting room. The pourer is hilariously surly and the wine is delicious. Also try the Ortman tasting room -- great wine and the pourer was very friendly (she's the one who clued me in on the salmon bisque at Robin's). If you're looking for lunch, try Odyssey World Cafe. I had one of the best French dips I've ever eaten, accompanied by a tangy and tasty potato salad and a glass of J. Lohr chardonnay.

Of course, you can't visit Cambria without stopping at Hearst Castle. It was astounding. More on that later ...

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Tea

Lots of people were poo-pooing the royal wedding, declaring their complete disinterest and confusion over the excessive media coverage of William and Kate's engagement and wedding. And to those people I say, Hello, yes, we understand you hate everything and you also probably think we shouldn't have killed Bin Laden and this is probably why you and I are not friends.

And I can't completely explain my own interest in royal weddings, other than that they simply fascinate me. They're kings, queens, princes and princesses in name only, and their nation adores them and when they have a wedding it's a big damn deal. I like the fairytale-ness of it, the dress, the tiara, the horses, the hats.

So I had a tea. 

I recorded the wedding and avoided television and the Internet all day on Friday to make sure I didn't see any spoilers. Then on Saturday a couple of like-minded friends and my mom and sister came over to watch it with me and partake in tea-type foods.


The orange-poppy scone recipe is from the May 2011 edition of Everyday Food. It's not on the Internet yet so see below for the recipe. These are delicious hot out of the oven with a little jam. My guests didn't get them hot out of the oven since I made them the day before, but they were still pretty good.


Lemon curd is pretty tasty, and good with tea cookies (I bought digestives from World Market. They're yummy!)


Tea sandwiches, after the guests have had a few. I made cucumber sandwiches, with a little cream cheese, dill, and thinly sliced cucumber. I also made curried chicken sandwiches using a Tyler Florence recipe that was REALLY GOOD. Link here.... 



Double devon cream, otherwise known as clotted cream or devonshire cream. Meh. The stuff at the tea houses is better; this stuff was too liquidy. 

And that was that. We all maintained a healthy level of excitement until about halfway through the actual wedding, when we started yawning. So we opened some champagne.

Cheers to the newlyweds!




Orange-Poppy Scones

Makes 18. Active time 20 minutes. Total time 40 minutes.

2 1/2 cups flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for work surface.
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest plus 1/4 cup orange juice (from 1 orange)
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
coarse or sanding sugar, for sprinkling
butter and fruit jam (optional) for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. With a pastry blender or your fingertips, work butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. With a fork, stir in 1/2 cup buttermilk, orange zest and juice, egg yolk, and poppy seeds until just combined.

2. On a lightly floured surface, turn out dough and knead several times. Form dough into a 7-inch square; cut into 9 squares, then cut each in half diagonally. Transfer dough triangles to two parchment lined rimmed baking sheets. Brush tops with two tablespoons buttermilk; sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until scones are pale golden, 15 to 17 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool on wire racks. Serve with butter and jam if desired.

per serving: 129 cal; 6 g fat (3 g sat fat); 2 g protein; 17 g carb; 1 g fiber