8 8 2021

The thing I love about not having a thing for such a long time is that space that is new for its invention. My mom’s friend invited us to dinner on Friday after a swim and a kayak. We enjoyed an evening on her screened in porch in a peaceful setting, a pink dogwood tree whose petals have been cream colored for several years, along with a creamy sunset that dissolved our faces into impressionist Monets long after dusk. A feeling of being somewhere familiar, among friends, after for so long having been alone, that place is here for everyone to enjoy.

Here are some of my favorite things: skin-on, bone in chicken thighs seasoned with Penzey’s shallot pepper. This seasoning has everything: rosemary, salt, and something indescribable that I will refer to for the moment as the third heat, as proclaimed by Tracy Jordan, the fictional character based loosely on Tracy Morgan played by himself on TV show 30 Rock. In the context of the show, the third heat was a term the actor used to describe himself, the affable and often understood in its celebrity paradigm Tracy Jordan, played by Tracy Morgan, an actor portraying a parody of himself.

There is something about the idea of direct experience and its capacity for understanding through first hand vs. second hand knowledge that touches on the idea of tasting good food. The idea that parody is an allegory for second hand knowledge of something in itself is inauthentic as I was not there the first time it happened to participate actively in its rendering, or maybe I have been there many, many times in the past but it’s suddenly new for me again. How in a sunset when our appearance distorts into nothing as we look at each other after the sky falls, the perception is imperfect. The perception is still imperfect but I see something, and that is a new appreciation for familiar things.

8 1 2021

Welp, this month has a special place in my heart as it’s my birthday month. Though I’m entitled to celebrate the entire month, I don’t limit my gifts to this month. David Sedaris will be appearing at a local theater next month which I have gladly accepted as a late birthday present. Sedaris is one of my favorite authors. When cassette tape players were still in cars, I used to listen to Me Talk Pretty One Day for my 1 hour work commute. There is something lovely about authors who have sonorous voices. It’s not that he could read a phone book and I’d swoon, it is him, his lived experience as read aloud by the author that is a true delight.

Adjacent to my love of good books and birthday months are the occasions I get to eat food with the people in my life. In this picture is asparagus sautéed in two batches: one in rosemary and garlic, and the other in saffron and garlic. I’m not quite sure how to work with saffron, as it came nearly hermetically sealed and I was not sure I tasted its flavor once cooked in with food.

I’m not sure I would refer to it as a spice, and as an herb, I would assume it presents its own flavor without too much unboxing, but the instructions read: for soups, place in boiling water. What is the implication of that very specific guidance? Does its flavoring stay dormant until unlocked by a pre-determined chemical equation? Is saffron then free to be itself, or am I painting saffron in too tight a box, not unlike the tiny, glass tube from whence it came?

That is – a bottle inside a bottle inside which is saffron, that unknowable yet delectable thing. I have had saffron before as prepared in fancy restaurants, and usually it was prepared with scallops sautéed in butter. Although I deeply enjoy its flavor, I was musing the other day on how I would describe the flavor saffron, and I wouldn’t be able to compare it to anything but itself. Saffron is saffron, but isn’t that part of the problem when I couldn’t even taste it in the asparagus?

As pictured from right to left are salad with avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mozzarella balls; fruit salad with passion fruit, mango, blueberries, nectarine, dragon fruit, and kiwi; potato salad with paprika; smoked peppers and onions; smoked meats: kielbasa, cheeseburgers, and Italian sausage.

Not pictured in this photo were chocolate brownies made from protein rich muffin mix, a move I felt was risky as in turning any food instantly into the perfect other food, may not end up to perfect execution unless you tweak the recipe. To quote the one person who sampled the brownies, in a word, dry. I’ll probably work the leftover brownies into a trifle bowl with interspersed layers of chocolate and vanilla sugar-free instant pudding to moisten it up. I’ve found a way to use almond milk whereby you use 1/3 less almond milk or otherwise when whisking in the almond milk, add it spoonful by spoonful until it’s a good consistency.

The good and bad part of regionally and seasonally available foods are its availability when in season and its proximity to your direct experience. Corn on the cob and cherries and passion fruit are in season, but unfortunately when the season wanes or the stock is in short supply, these foods become more and more rare, until they simply do not exist. A day before the weekend, I went to my local grocery store, where a week before they had a passion fruit, I did not see any on the shelves. A kind produce person asked me what I was looking for and she checked stock in the back, but came up empty handed. I thanked her for checking and moved on, but did end up going to a different grocery store the next day to see if they had any passion fruit, and they didn’t either. I may need to wait until next season until it comes around again. Until then, there are always new and different foods to try.

7 18 2021

The start to my weekend I hosted a get together with a friend and my bf’s older brother at someone else’s place, a revamped mill building with high ceilings and exposed beams. It was a dream to be in a beautiful new place and enjoy dinner with people I love.

B and I ordered Thai food and I tried Tom ka soup for the first time: lemongrass, basil, chicken in a coconut broth. By the time Sunday evening came, the soup was gone; I’ll definitely make it part of future meals.

I’ve been working within the idea of eating foods low in caloric density: spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli. This is not too different than the vegetables I’d choose when eating keto, though for the past three weeks I’ve moved from 70% fat, 15% protein, 15% carb model and back to a more traditional way of eating: 45–65% of daily calories from carbs, 20–35% from fats, and 10–35% from protein.

I’m feeling hopeful that I’ll be able to continue losing weight. So far the ideas that the Noom program have taught me include calorie logging, which helps me to identify how much I eat and food patterns so I know the foods I can allocate my calories for and which foods to replace with healthier alternatives. For example, my favorite new breakfast is 2 scrambled eggs with grated summer squash salsa, and sliced grape tomatoes. For a while, I had been having scrambled eggs with cheese. Even though I’m eating carbs, I’m replacing a lot of the heavy dairy for plant-based alternatives. I went from heavy cream (100 calories/2Tbsp) to half and half (40 calories/2 Tbsp) or Califia farms Better Half (15 calories/2 Tbsp), made with coconut and almond milk. I picked up a non-dairy whipped cream made from coconut cream.

Aside from just replacing foods with others, I have learned the idea of losing the labels, which means nothing is good or bad, as a function of its nutrition or your relationship with it, but rather it is a delicious food that you love and can enjoy for future use in moderation. For me that food is Cool Ranch Doritos. I enjoy getting the biggest bag you can buy. There is something about that food that is pure magic, if magic were an insatiable hunger that requires I lick my fingers clean and save none for next time. I’d lean my head back to inhale the last of the crumbs. For that reason, I haven’t had any in the house for over ten years, but the plan is to incorporate that food back into rotation – not every day, but every now and then. It’s a bit daunting but I’m looking forward to a time when I can eat without emptying a bag in an afternoon. And maybe I’ll get a smaller size.

Today I had my first apple, not ever, but since being off keto, so first apple in over a year.

Fuji apple and Colby jack cheese

7 11 2021

Red velvet waffles do not taste so different from plain waffles, other than what I think of when I bite into one. That image, of red velvet cake, paired with the flavor and texture of a waffle, remain one of the loud remembrances of the carb-loving section of my brain that harkens back to a time and place where I could eat with seeming abandon any carb any time the farthest distance from impunity.

7 11 2021

For the Fourth of July, I visited some friends who charcoal grill all the meats, and this time was no exception. There is something better to the flavor of meats cooked this way, perhaps in the essence of its smoke, or at least in that its preparation by other people. I brought the watermelon, and with the leftover mustard from my burger combined with the melon it wasn’t too bad, but I’ll probably only sop fruit in condiments when there’s something left in the corner of my mouth to mop them up with.

7 1 2021

Over the past few months or so, I haven’t been feeling as hungry as I usually do. This may not be due to the long-term health goals I have set, but rather simple things. At my new job I work 7am-3pm now, which means I no longer have time to prepare a large breakfast on a leisurely weekday morning. Over the summer, the warm weather transforms my cravings from meals like cheese eggs and bacon to something that will keep me cool, such as watermelon, cold cereal, and seltzer on ice. Aside from those tangible things, the psychology of goals has taught me it is important to maintain a vision of what the outcome looks like, and how putting words to it in a sort of Socratic method, where asking why gets me closer to the center of something new that I haven’t quite found the words for yet. 

The digging down deeper when answering the question why do you want to run a 5K is a process where you uncover layers until you come upon a reply that fills you with passion and purpose and makes the you feel complete. This may not necessarily be similar to getting an answer right on a quiz, but perhaps the buy-in you express is a result of the meaning you assign to those goals. Yes it’s heavy, and it feels a bit like hypnotizing chickens, but I’m able to enjoy these exercises because I’ve been bored with the way I’ve been doing things for so long. I feel ready for new things.

There’s this article in eatthinkwellness.com that talks about how to rewire your brain. It’s something I keep returning to as it has a bunch of helpful tips for improvement, one of which is where you’re a steward of your motivation and it is your job to vet your belief systems in order to get things done.

Determine which beliefs support action and intent

To create strong neural connections, you need to believe in something enough to want to act. If you have a goal for your life, a visual representation is not always necessary, but believing in it is. These thoughts and beliefs must be strengthened to help you achieve your intention (eatthinkwellness.com, 2021).

A recently interesting idea is your belief in a positive outcome is what determines the results. If you believe it will be effective, then it will work. This reminds me of a TED talk by Kelly McGonigal titled How to make stress your friend. It outlines a study that measured people’s individual beliefs in whether stress was good or bad against death records, and found that people who believed that stress was good for them actually kept them alive, and people who believed stress was bad for them died at a much higher rate. 

Faith is strange and making things your friend means you see or know the benefit of something despite its perceived overwhelming negative effects, like meeting new people or public speaking or the snow. Sure in New England it’s kind of a given to think this way. I know that I’ll be miserable shoveling the white stuff off my car and driveway after the first storm, though my body will love the workout it gives me. Or using up fuel for a wonderful day of snow shoeing and staving off seasonal affective disorder. There are benefits to mother nature’s beasts, and parlaying something you might hate in exchange for some personal gain is how to master making events like blizzards your benefactor.

Here is what I ate the past few days:

8:30am

2 poached eggs, steamed spinach w 1 clove garlic, avocado oil, white onion, and grape tomatoes, 1 slice rye toast w 3 pats butter

11:30am

iceberg lettuce, black beans, white onion, shredded cheddar

1:00pm

popcorn w olive oil and Swerve, 5 macadamia nuts, 5 pecans

4:00pm

tomato soup, popcorn w olive oil and Swerve

8:30am

2 poached eggs, sautéed Brussels sprouts w white onion, garlic, and avocado oil, coffee w heavy cream and Swerve

12:00pm

Brussels sprouts w melted cheese

3:00pm

popcorn w olive oil and Swerve

7:00pm

keto mini chocolate brownie muffin w whipped cream

10:00am

2 poached eggs, 1/2 cup steamed spinach w white onion, garlic, and grape tomatoes, rye toast w peanut butter, coffee w heavy cream and Swerve

3:00pm

salad w grilled chicken, slice of brie cooked w toasted pastry, purple grapes, bubbly ginger peach

6:30pm

garden salad w ranch, three fried chicken wings w ranch

10:00am

2 poached eggs, 1/2 cup steamed spinach, green onions, onions, garlic

1:00pm

cheeseburger w half bun, Italian sausage on bun w peppers and onions, asparagus, tomato, and mozzarella

7:00pm

chocolate peanut butter cake

10:00am

3 scrambled eggs, 1/2 pancake, 1 slice bacon, 2 cups coffee w creamer and Splenda

2:00pm

1/2 cup rocky road ice cream w peanut butter sauce

3:00pm

watermelon

5:30pm

asparagus, tomato, and mozzarella salad, broccoli slaw, popcorn w olive oil and Swerve

5:30am

2 poached eggs, steamed broccoli w grated parmesan

9:00am

1/4 cup chili w white onion and 1 cup steamed broccoli

11:00am

Kind Energy peanut butter bar

5:00pm

medium Vermonster sub from D’Angelo without bacon, with homemade ginger rosemary pickles

7 5 2021

For the Fourth of July, I made a chocolate peanut butter layer cake. I used the sheet cake instructions from this recipe and the peanut butter frosting instructions from this recipe because it called for the single stick of butter, and I didn’t have the two sticks that the other frosting needed.

Modifications: In addition to the sheet cake, I whisked a large box of sugar free chocolate pudding with 2 cups heavy cream, let it set for 5 minutes, and spread it between each layer of cake. What made this cake successful was the brewed coffee it called for, which keeps it moist. It’s surprisingly not super sweet and the frosting has some saltiness to it as I used salted peanut butter. This has more of an adult cake flavor to it, and its richness is due to the heavy cream used in the pudding.

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

  • 1 ½ cups (285g) Swerve sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (118 ml) light sour cream
  • 2 cups (280g) keto whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup (55 g) cocoa powder
  • 2 ½ teaspoons (9 g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 ¼ cup (355 ml) brewed coffee

INSTRUCTIONS

FOR THE CAKE: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8-inch round baking pans, line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the sides. Prepare your bake even stripes if desired.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed until the eggs and oil are well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color. Next mix in the sour cream and beat until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Alternate addning half the dry ingredients followed by half of the coffee and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  4. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, about 1 2/3 cups of batter per pan. Bake at 350°F for 20-24 minutes. Rotate your pans in the oven halfway through baking.
  6. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Source: https://beyondfrosting.com/chocolate-peanut-butter-cake/

Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup powdered erythritol 
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter 
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened 
  • 1-2 tbsp heavy cream, as needed 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • pinch of salt (if your peanut butter is unsalted)

For the Frosting

  1. Beat the butter, powdered sweetener, peanut butter, cream, vanilla, and salt together in a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, until light and fluffy. Adjust the consistency with more heavy cream if needed.

Source: https://greenandketo.com/keto-chocolate-cupcakes-with-peanut-butter-frosting

7 3 2021

Source: https://ketogasm.com/keto-brownie-bites/

I baked these chocolate brownies last night in mini muffin tins. What I learned: you can over stir them, which means they stiffen up. I’m still not sure if these are not sweet enough for my liking, but they taste delectable with whipped cream.

Ingredient substitutions: I switched out two ingredients in the original recipe. They use almond flour instead of whole wheat keto flour and monk fruit sweetener instead of Swerve, which is a type of erythrotol sweetener. I prefer keto flour as its consistency is closer to that of traditional whole wheat flour and less crumbly. Swerve is just what I had around the house.

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter melted
  • ¾ cup Swerve white granular
  • ½ cup cocoa powder unsweetened
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup wheat keto flour

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large bowl, stir together butter, sweetener, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir in flour until just combined; do not overmix.
  • Using a mini muffin pan, pour the brownie mixture. Then place it in the oven on the center rack.
  • Bake for 14 to 18 minutes, depending on how you prefer the texture and doneness of your brownies. Use the toothpick test to determine doneness and adjust the baking time accordingly. Stick a toothpick in the center of the brownie and if it is covered in wet better when removed, bake longer. For fudge-like brownies, the toothpick will have crumbs attached once removed. For cake-like brownies, the toothpick will be completely clean once removed.

Source: https://ketogasm.com/keto-brownie-bites/

07 03 2021

The day before a food event where I’m traveling the next day, I’ll start preparing dishes to bring, that way my last minute to do’s and forgotten things won’t require the host’s oven or detract from their kitchen space. This morning I picked up some groceries, as I hadn’t gotten to shop for a couple weeks and have been working off existing food. As I assess what I had on my grocery list, I’m not keto anymore, not in the method of prescribing to the high fat to lower carb / protein ratio.

I feel like I’d been doing lazy keto as a sort of way to impart carbs and plant fiber back into my diet, and also I am experiencing weight loss by calorie/meal tracking through Noom. I’ll still continue to eat no/low sugar and use keto flour when baking and eat fewer processed carbs as a general guideline, as those principles were key in preventing spikes in my blood sugar that led to an unending habit of mindless snacking to keep up with the hunger pang caused by that sugar crash. I feel more in control of eating at this moment in time, and I’m excited to get to eat a wider variety of foods.

The idea of fiber acting as a rolled up ball of bubble gum and the pieces of lint and dust bunnies on a floor as cholesterol, that fiber bubble gum is able to stick itself to the cholesterol as it rolls across the floor and remove LDL / HDL from my system, which I’m excited to get to work on. As a result of the high fats in my diet over the past year, my most recent blood work revealed higher than normal cholesterol, which is another bigger reason why I’m moving away from a higher fat diet.

For this weekend’s feast, I made pickles. My best friend gave me the recipe and I find that adding different herbs is a fun experiment. This time I used rosemary sprigs with:

2 Tbsp Swerve granulated white sugar

grated ginger

rice vinegar w sesame seeds

pickling cucumbers

water

I let them set a day in advance and eat them within 3 days.