Sunday, October 28, 2007

3 down 1 to go

I've got one day left of my 3 day weekend.

We've been very restrained this weekend. Ordinarily, I think I'd be doing a lot more snacking while I'm home. Home is a dangerous place for me. When I am outside of the house, I can be as good as gold. I make good choices, I control my portions.

Absent minded eating, or eating because I'm bored, is something that is easy to do while I'm home. Fortunately, this weekend, I've found myself being somewhat restrained.

Activity has improved too this weekend. I've been getting projects done around the house that have been put off for far too long. We got out and did some errands and took a drive and a bit of a walk earlier today. This is really the first weekend that I've felt I've been able to enjoy the beauty of fall.

My hope is that I'm back on the right track again. It's a small amount of progress for me but it's progress nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Southern Hungary

Do you watch the simpsons?

Remember the episode where Homer had his jaw wired shut? he wrote a note to Mr Burns which read, "so hungry." Mr Burns replied (I'm paraphrasing), "why yes, this music is from Southern Hungary. Good ear!"

Well, I'm south Hungary today. I don't know whether it's because I went back to work today instead of staying in bed an extra day or because I'm really being careful about my food intake. Right now though, my stomach thinks my throat's been cut. Really.

Last night, I watched the first 2 Biggest Loser episodes (I'd DVR'd them but not watched them yet) and boy, nothing kills a craving for a snack like watching that!!

Well, I guess we need to figure out which combination of turkey & veg we're having for dinner tonight.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

darn dirty cold

I've been fighting a cold (I think - I wasn't sure if was a cold or allergies) for a couple of weeks now. Work's been nutty busy and I haven't been taking care of myself as well as I probably should have.

Having said that, I'm home today, sick with a cold. I didn't sleep at all last night but I managed to get a little this morning.

The upside of this cold is that I either don't feel like eating or I'm on the soup. Thank goodness for small favours huh?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

From the New York Times website

We actually do this all the time!

October 17, 2007
The Minimalist
Serving Pasta? Forget What You Learned

LET me propose that you start cooking pasta in a way that might make you the laughingstock of your foodie friends: make more sauce, and serve it on top of less pasta. Do exactly what you’ve learned not to do.

Instead of a pound of pasta for two to four people, make a half, or even a third of a pound. Instead of a cup or two of sauce, make it four cups, or more. Turn the proportions around.

What do you wind up with? Pasta more or less overwhelmed by sauce, which you can view as a cardinal sin or as a moist, flavorful one-dish meal of vegetables with the distinctive, lovable chewiness of pasta. (There is, of course, a tradition of this kind of pasta dish in Italy, but it falls more under the category of minestre, which is closer to soup.) It’s also an easy way to significantly increase your intake of vegetables without adding too many refined carbohydrates, and may, if you’ve abandoned it, get you back into pasta again.

Obviously this won’t work with every sauce — you don’t want to pull this trick with creamy or cheesy ones, or those based on meat — but it works with just about every vegetable you can think of, and with many fish preparations as well.

To understand why this may get you branded as a heretic, think back to the 1970s, when Americans needed even more help cooking than we do now.

Thanks to Marcella Hazan, Giuliano Bugialli and others, we discovered how to cook Italian food at home. And for the first time, many of us were venturing to Italy in search not only of Renaissance art and medieval villages but of the incredible cuisine.

What we found was exactly what Ms. Hazan had been telling us: Americans, even Italian-Americans, drowned their pasta. We poured on ladlefuls of thick tomato sauce and tossed two or three quarter-pound meatballs on top for good measure. We made the pasta itself irrelevant.

We also learned we overcooked it, undersalted the water and often used the wrong shape. But as much as I owe Ms. Hazan and her peers, for the first 20 years that I cooked pasta, I always felt as if I was about to be arrested for violating some canonical law.

In the old country, the sauce was used to barely moisten and flavor the pasta. There are a couple of possible explanations for this. One is that Italians were neat. “For centuries, most people ate pasta with their hands,” said Kevin Wells, who translated and annotated the 1570 cookbook “Opera dell’arte del cucinare” by Bartolomeo Scappi. Little or no sauce, he said, was “a matter of decorum.”

Another is that there were not always other options. “Poor people dressed pasta with little or nothing,” said Andrea Graziosi, a University of Naples professor. “The legend says they used to hang a herring, and each member of the family would rub his or her slices of bread on it to get flavor.”

When some of those Italians immigrated to the United States they found a continent that was producing food like no continent before. And, said Mr. Graziosi, “they overused what they found both because they felt richer and could not use what they had at home.”

“The consequences are the incredible distortions — to the Italian eye — of Italian-American cuisine,” he said. You want meat sauce, with meat on top? You’ve got it, in spades.

As the years went by, though, a kind of “if it’s Italian, it must be good” mentality developed here, and home cooks began enjoying pasta with a minimum of sauce. (We also began undercooking it, just to show that we could take al dente one ridiculous step further.)

But today, barely moistened pasta often doesn’t make sense. Even setting aside the extreme recommendations of the Atkins diet, it’s widely agreed that highly refined grains — a group that includes the semolina flour from which the best-tasting dry pasta is made — do us little nutritional good. From the point of view of the body, there’s little difference between pasta and white bread (and, for that matter, biscotti); neither has much in the way of protein, vitamins, micronutrients or fiber, and all are digested quickly and may ultimately be stored as fat.

I am not suggesting that we return to oversauced baked ziti with sausages, mozzarella-laden lasagna or spaghetti under three handball-size meatballs. Rather, I’m recommending that we exploit our astonishing supply of vegetables (still evident at this time of year), augmented if you like with a bit of meat for seasoning.

There are recipes here, but many people won’t need them. The other day, I arrived at a friend’s house in time to cook lunch. We had chickpeas, broccoli rabe and garden tomatoes. I parboiled the broccoli rabe, just until it became bright green; I then chopped and sautéed it in olive oil with garlic, dried chili flakes and a couple of cups of chickpeas. I added two or three chopped tomatoes. Meanwhile, I half-cooked about a third of a box of farfalle (undoubtedly a more legitimate cook would tell me I was using the “wrong” shape) in the water I had used for the greens.

When the tomatoes broke down and the broccoli rabe was tender, I dumped in the drained pasta, after saving some cooking water. I added a little of the liquid and simmered the mixture until the pasta was done. I garnished it with basil and a little more olive oil. Although it was not soupy, we used spoons because the broth was so good. Total working time was about half an hour, and a better one-dish lunch I could not imagine.

I’ve been playing with this style of pasta for months: a load of briefly sautéed spinach with garlic, raisins, pine nuts and a bit of stock; well-roasted mixed vegetables, mashed or puréed, with lots of olive oil; braised endive and onion; bok choy with black beans and soy sauce (with fresh Chinese egg noodles, naturally). The list is long.

Give it a shot. There is no downside — except maybe a bit of mockery from the pasta police (who I’m sure will arrive, in my case, later this morning).

Monday, October 15, 2007


I've had weeks and weeks and weeks of non-stop, crazy work schedules. I just survived a weekend of pizza and mini-chocolate bars. I don't feel great. This week I will attempt to get myself sorted out and back on track.