Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Results

The weight loss challenge has come to an end, and I am victorious. As of Thursday morning, I was down 6.2 pounds, and as of this morning another 1.2 less than that. I'm trying not to be too show-offy about this, as that would be unclassy. But I am pretty stoked (yikes--1980 called. They want their slang back) that I made it through Thanksgiving without gaining anything.

We had a great Thanksgiving in Wytheville. The great big kitchen was abuzz with activity and way too many cooks. I think I counted 5 people at once trying to prepare various dishes. It was pandemonium, but when we sat down, everything was finished at the same time and delicious. I especially enjoyed Andy's stuffing, made the way his mum makes it. It's an onion and sage stuffing that's flattened out and fried crispy in a pan. Yum!

You'd think that I'd have taken a ton of pictures with all the fall splendor around me, but I was kind of busy driving through the mountains. I did notice this billboard and it struck me as funny:

I guess "aiming high" means different things to different people. Not that there's anything shameful about getting your GED, but isn't that kind of a Plan B ?

Yep, I'm a snob. There, I've said it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. I love the notion of a day dedicated to gratitude--at least that's how I choose to interpret it. I don't pause nearly often enough to focus on how incredibly fortunate I am. I'm so well endowed over and above the basics (food, shelter, clothing). I have family and friends whom I love and who love me back. I have meaningful work with people whom I don't just tolerate, but whose company I would actively seek out if I weren't lucky enough to have it on a daily basis. I have satellite radio.

This year, Andy and I are doing the same thing for Thanksgiving that we did last year, which is to spend the day and night in Wytheville with Andy's 3 kids and his ex-wife and her husband. I know it sounds a bit unconventional, but we're all grownups and it just makes the most sense, considering how challenging it is for Andy and his ex-wife to see all 3 of their fabulous kids at the same time. We did this same thing last year and it worked out great.

Wytheville is truly beautiful in the fall, and I expect the leaves to be even more vivid this year. Their home is situated in the mountains and you can literally watch deer roaming their property. I will take my camera with me and see if I can get some good pics.

So I wish all (what, 3 or 5) of my readers a wonderful Thanksgiving! Please feel free to let me know what you did, what you cooked (no Robyn, I don't mean you) and what you ate!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Panko, I am Putty in Your Hands.

Today was a bright and chilly and colorful fall day. Andy and I went for a big and exhausting walk at Pony Pasture, huffing and puffing and burning many calories in the process. After all that exercise and fresh air, we felt we deserved a somewhat decadent dinner. Andy suggested some vegetarian sausages like the fabulous ones you can get in England. There were no objections coming from me! He turned to one of our favorite books, Nigel Slater's "Real Food," for inspiration.

We minced garlic, hot red chillies and half an onion. Then we food-processed a 15 oz. can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans and some fresh parsley to a coarse paste and dumped all of the above in a bowl with just a couple of ounces of grated cheese (the recipe called for Lancashire, but we used Cheshire. Any hard sharp cheese would probably do), half a beaten egg, a generous sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and a not-so-generous sprinkle of salt. The lovely blob was then incorporated and well chilled to firm it up.

A little while later, we floured a board, dumped the lovely blob onto it, divided it into four bits and formed each bit into a flour coated sausage shape. We then brushed each roll with beaten egg and rolled it in panko, my new best friend.

I don't know what panko is made of, but I don't care--it's divine! And if you roll something in it and deep fry it, I promise I WILL eat it. It is crispy, light and crunchy. I believe it is a close relative to good old bread crumbs, but who knows? It might be made of shiny-eyed baby animals. I'm blinded by its charms.

So once we formed our nice fat sausages, we chilled them in the freezer while about 3" worth of peanut oil was getting really hot. Then in they went, one or two at a time until they were brown and gorgeous, which took 2 to 3 minutes.

We ate them with roasted brussels sprouts and fennel, and they just melted in our mouths. I think this is a great basic recipe in which the elements could be changed to suit your tastes. You could use a different type of bean, or change up the herbs and spices, or try different cheeses in it. But don't substitute the panko or I'll give you a spanko.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Work Spouse

I have shared a small office with the same excellent guy for something like 8 years now. We call eachother "work spouse" because we likely spend more time together than we do with our respective significant others. Forty hours a week is a lot of time to spend with one person. After all these years, you think you know everything there is to know about a person, but today we discovered something peculiar that we have in common.

We already knew that we both had extensive experience in apparel retail in our earlier years, but what we thought was amusing are the little anal retail habits that we have not been able to shake. Neither of us can wander around in a department store without colorizing and straightening. But it's even queerer than that.

We both fold our t-shirts in vertical thirds, then in half, then in half again, and store them stacked in the drawer with the neckline centered and facing up. Dress shirts are placed on hangers and all together, facing the same direction in the closet. Dress pants are hung with side seams matched up, resulting in a vertical fold that is perfectly centered. Jeans are flattened out so side seams are on the outside, folded in half lengthwise, fronts together and pockets visible. He then folds his twice horizontally; I do one horizontal fold. Clothing is grouped in the closet according to category--I guess that goes without saying. Socks are lined up together and the top of one is folded over both, leaving the toes free. Bath towels are folded in thirds vertically, then twice horizontally. And folding a fitted sheet produces considerable anxiety because there's no way to get them all neat and pretty.

As we blushingly described in minute detail how we fold, hang and store our clothes, we were finishing eachother's sentences. I'm comforted to know that there's another anal freak out there--and he's sitting right next to me! I think to most outsiders, we appear to be quite normal.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Contest Continues...

We are still neck and neck in our weight loss competition, lest you thought I had lost my gumption. I have now lost 6.4 pounds and our Andy has lost 5. I'm not too classy to gloat. Clearly, I'm winning! But I won't rest on my laurels, as resting on my laurels is what got me into this unfamiliar, corpulent state.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Junk Food Makeover Attempt

I grew up in the middle of Michigan in a little place called Bay City. My mom, who taught school and worked like a woman posessed, always had something on the table every weeknight by 6:00. God, I don't know how she did it without snapping. I love cooking, but I think part of the reason I love it is because I have never really had to do it. It's always been a choice, not a duty. I would go from zero to bitch in 4 seconds flat if I had to feed two whiny kids and a picky eater husband every bloody night by 6:00.

But I digress with this bitch tangent.

So one of my favorite things my mom used to slap together was Sloppy Joes. My brother and I loved those things. She made 'em real nasty, too, with the hamburger and the mystery package of pre-selected unidentified seasonings. They would leave a bright orange greaseprint on the requisite all white bread hamburger buns. There was no whole wheat anything in the 60's in the middle of Michigan. That stuff was for hippies. If we really wanted to go wild, we could add a slice of Velveeta.

My mission tonight was to concoct a healthy vegan version of the Sloppy Joe. I found a recipe on one of my favorite websites that features super healthy vegan stuff.
Here's the link:
It's called Sloppy Lentils (could she have come up with a more lackluster name? I don't think so). I made some vegan coleslaw and had it as a condiment. Then instead of Wonder Buns, (wow, we really are what we eat) I used toasted whole wheat pitas.

I would give it a solid 85. Flavors and spices and texture were good, but I would tweak it next time. I would saute a couple tablespoons of tomato paste in with the onions and bell peppers and I would find a way to add about a tablespoon of some kind of fat to the recipe, which is completely fat-free as is. The coleslaw was just a regular coleslaw recipe, but with tofu sour cream and Vegenaise instead of mayo and dairy. That was delish, and only about 95 calories for a generous serving.

By the way, I'm not a perfect vegan. I eat a bit of cheese and an occasional egg. I don't dislike the taste of meat--I just feel 100% better when I'm not eating it. Just doing the best I can. I will not get on a soapbox about it, because that would mean I'm annoying and I wouldn't want my friends to disappear one by one.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My Name is Janine and I'm a Starchaholic.

The weather's about to turn cruel. It's supposed to get down into the 30's and maybe the 20's this week at night!

Cold weather always makes me think of comfort food. Pasta, potatoes, bread, popcorn with melted butter--all the starchy all-stars. The trouble with my starchy friends is that, when I get started with them, they send me careening on a reckless trajectory of over-consumption. Starch is the devil. Wow, that may be a bit over dramatic. But eating starchy food does make me crave more of the same.

Tonight I need to aim for something a little healthier and lighter. I've settled on roasted vegetables. Fennel bulb, purple onion and brussels sprouts. I know it doesn't sound like much of a dinner, but it's just me, and who do I need to impress? Besides the 5 of you who read my blog.

I could not resist the perfect little brussels sprouts in the store today. They were the most darling little spheres. Little Barbie-Cabbages looking all friendly. And I bought the fennel bulb because I felt sorry for it. It was the last one, and its fern-like foliage was pitifully ragged. I'm pretty sure I saved it from dumpster death. Not that being roasted alive will be a picnic.

If this turns out looking remotely appetizing, I will take a pic. I'm not much of a photographer, so the food needs to be really pretty to start with.

UPDATE. I wish I could have posted the smell. My house smelled like a roasted garlic emporium, and I mean that in a good way. These pix aren't that great, but I'm posting them anyway. FYI, I briefly steamed the veggies, then tossed them in a mixture of canola oil, balsamic vinegar, and pureed garlic. Dumped them in a shallow dish, sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and roasted them for about 40 minutes or so at 400. They were dead excellent. I think the steaming brings out the sugars in the veggies to the surface, which results in lovely caramelization when they roast.



Monday, November 5, 2007

Communion with Nature

Yesterday was such a spectacular fall day. The air was so nice and crisp! I took a rather long walk, beginning at Forest Hill Park, continuing along the river, across the footbridge to Belle Isle and back. Whew! I was knackered but renewed at the same time. Got a great big dose of sunshine, had a good deep think about lots of things, and burned 700 calories.

And by the way, as of last Friday I had lost 5.2 pounds since Andy and I began our contest. I think I'm in the lead for now, but I can't underestimate The Power of Andy. He was temporarily derailed last week but he's scheming to make a big comeback this week. We'll just see about that!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Meet Andy.

My boyfriend is a luthier. Please don't call him a lutheran by mistake. Being a luthier has nothing to do with Martin Luther or Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (that's a run-on name, isn't it?)

Luthiers made lutes originally, but now it's a term to describe a person who makes musical instruments, usually of the violin family. Andy's made lots of violins over the years. This one he's working on is a hybrid design of two violins he admires--a Stradivarius and a Jacob Stainer. He's calling it the Strainer.

It is fascinating to watch a violin materialize out of a few blocks of wood. Andy uses next to no power tools in his process. He just uses a band saw to cut the basic shape at first. Everything from that point is meticulously gouged, carved, planed and scraped by hand. Every bit of the front, sides and back is shaped to a series of specific thicknesses that are measured within tenths of millimeters. Violin diagrams remind me of topographical maps.

Andy has just instructed me to add this: "He's pretty good with his tools, if you know what I mean."

And that reminds Andy of a very funny Andy story. (Damn, good segue, Andy.).
He was taking photographs of a violin he was making. Oh, I should probably include the fact that he was naked. So he stepped up on a chair to get a good angle for the photo, hurriedly snapped a few pics and proceeded to get dressed and off to work. Later, in his office, as he was viewing the photos on his computer, he was alarmed that, in the corner of one of the photos, he had inadvertently included his own fleshy "tool." That's when he started telling people that the picture was a cello, not a violin.

Yep, that's my boyfriend.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

My "New" Tomato Bisque Kitchen

Finished painting the little kitchen. I'm very pleased with the tomato bisque color. It reads a bit more salmon on my computer, but in the real world it's really warm and inviting. I also tried to de-clutter as I put the kitchen back together, but it still looks packed with stuff! So round one is complete. Loads more painting to come in the next few weeks!

Eeeewwww! No Pictures, Too Gross.

There's nothing like painting my kitchen to discover all the absolutely disgusting filthy little places I was heretofore so blissfully unaware of. I've discovered all these secret surfaces with thick and sticky layers of dust mixed with grease. I had to break out the fierce stuff--ammonia. And we're talking several rounds of the fierce stuff. I mean, how does grease get all over my whole kitchen? I don't get it. I am so sorry I ever saw the top of my refrigerator. Next time, I'm not going to clean it. I'm just going to buy a new one.

And--note to self--must not invite anybody over to my house who is taller than my refrigerator.