Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

A wake up call

We all talk about how we need to eat healthier and exercise more. Some of us even poke around the edges and do try to eat better. (Jene and my journey through low carb and juicing is a good example.) However, sometimes you need to DO it now and not some time in the future. My whole family got that message loud and clear today.

Early this morning my mother had a major heart attack. She’s known her blood pressure was high and that she needed to lose weight but there was always a reason for putting it off. Now, we’re lucky she’ll still alive and it shocked us all.

We were lucky. Mom woke up feeling “off” and Dad made her take an aspirin before he drove her straight to the ER. They were at the hospital when the “big one” hit and Mom coded. Yeah, my mom was dead for a short time today. This vibrant, amazing woman who is my best friend was almost gone forever.

The doctors say the prognosis is excellent. Her heart is undamaged and strong. She now has four stents around her heart keeping the arteries open and a family who doesn’t want to lose her. My response to this? Start working on a way to help her eat better and lose the weight that’s putting so much strain on her heart. They don’t need me home right now. Mom is safe in the hospital and me being underfoot would just be extra stress for my Dad. But you better believe that I’ll be going home in the next 4-6 weeks and taking a bag of tricks with me to help her eat better.

I love my mom and I’m not ready to go through life without having her at the end of the phone.MomJeneKrisCalAcademy

This picture is Jene, myself and Mom at the California Academy of the Sciences last spring. I hope that the next picture I get to post will show us all much slimmer and healthier.

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Pork Chili

It’s cold. Some parts of the country actually have snow this time of year (poor buggers). Here in the Bay area it’s mostly just kind of chilly. It’s still good weather for making a nice thick hearty chili.

Recipe

This makes about 6 quarts so use a big enough pot.

5-6 lbs boneless pork butt/shoulder cubed into 2″ pieces

1 head celery, chopped (yes, it’s a lot)

3 cans diced tomatoes

2 onions chopped

chili seasoning of choice

salt

I like to use my crock pot for this. I’ve got a nice big one, about 6 quarts I think. I spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray and just toss everything in. For the BEST flavor, brown the cubes of pork over medium high heat in a skillet on a the stove before putting them in the crock pot. I didn’t do that today because I wasn’t feeling good. Thus the chili was a little bland. Once you have all the pork in the crock pot (browned or not) add the canned tomatoes, salt and chili seasoning. I used about 4 TB of Penzeys Chili 9000 which is probably my favorite. I also kicked it up with a bit of extra cumin. I let the pork, tomatoes and seasoning cook on high for about three hours and then added the celery and onions. It cooked in the crock pot for another hour until we had to leave for the party. My crock pot was too full so I moved everything to a large stock pot. Then it simmered on the stove at Darren’s house for another hour or two. So probably, a cooking time of about six hours. I could have started it last night and kept it on low.

Garnish with sour cream, green onions and shredded cheese. Pretty tasty. 🙂

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Juice

As most of you know, Jene and I have been trying to eat low carb for the last couple of years. One of the ideas behind low carb is to eat lots of vitamin rich dark leafy greens. One of the problems we have is getting enough of those. It’s easy to cook protein but eventually I run out of ideas for the veggies or just don’t take the time to cook them. After watching a couple of documentaries on Netflix (Hungry for Change and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead) we decided to give juicing a try.

Now, this idea has been around for ages. There has been all kinds of hype and paid infomercials touting the benefits of juicing. I tend to be pretty cynical about this type of thing. However, after watching some documentaries that chronicle the lives of people who have done this, Jene and I thought it was worth giving it a try.

juicingsetupThis post shows our juicer and most of what Jene put in his juice this morning. There’s chard, red kale, parsley, carrots, a habanero pepper, orange, celery, cucumber and lemon. He might have snuck a few more things in there but that’s most of it.

My breakfast was orange, carrot, blueberry, parsley, kale and chard. I tend to go heavier on the fruits in the morning and increase the greens later in the day.

We’ve also tried avocado, mango, grapefruit, lime, grapes, cilantro, dill, spinach, beets, and broccolini. It’s not pretty but it tastes really good.

breakfastjuice

It acquires this kind of icky looking greenish brown color but for all that, it’s worth drinking. In one large cup of juice I’ve managed to get in a whole days worth of fruits and veggies (especially the veggies) and I’ll probably have another cup later in the day. Jene and I usually have from 2-3 cups of this juice a day and I have to say, I think it’s good for us.

Now, there are a couple of side effects… when you first start drinking this kind of juice it WILL clean your insides out. But a bit of a colon cleanse never hurt anyone lol. Secondly, if you add beet juice, expect to SEE beet juice when you go potty. Jene says his pee was bright red after having some beet in his morning juice. I cracked up laughing 😉  I figure I’ll try some golden beets next time.

We didn’t buy one of those super expensive juicers either. The ones they run infomercials on… They probably ARE better but it’s no good spending $300+ on a juicer unless you know you’re actually going to use it. If we’re still juicing in a year, maybe. Instead we got a Hamilton Beach Big Mouth juicer from Amazon for about $60. It does a good enough job for us a this point.

Anyway, that’s one of the reasons I haven’t been posting about food. I haven’t been cooking, just drinking juice lol. But don’t worry, I’ll be posting my low carb pork chili later today or tomorrow 😀

 

 

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Beer Cheddar

I finally got my wine fridge aka cheese cave! This means that I now have the proper environment for aging my cheeses. To celebrate, I made a recipe from Artisan Cheese Making at Home called Brew-Curd Cheddar. Basically this is a cheddar cheese and the curds are soaked in beer before being pressed. From the little nibbles I stole last night as I was milling and pressing the cheese, this should be an outstanding cheese. I must admit that I do tend to forget just how long it can take me to actually make cheese. If the recipe says five hours I need to remember that it will take me about 8 hours lol. I finally finished up about 230 this morning. It’s a very good thing I don’t have to be at work until 12:25pm!

So basically, this cheese is made with the standard cheddaring process where the curds are made, stirred and cooked for awhile and finally melted into a large mass which is then cut into strips. After the curds have been cut into roughly french fry size strips they soak in beer, giving them a lovely caramel color. The strips are then milled down to thumbnail size pieces then placed in molds and pressed. The picture below shows the strips of curds as I’m breaking them up. As I mentioned, the color is from the beer. I used an Oatmeal Stout for this and so far, the flavor is superb. (Yes, I nibbled on some curds while I was doing this lol)

beercheddarFeb182013

I think I may have overcooked the cheese at this point because the curds felt pretty dry and they have not come together into a solid mass in the press. This is one of those live and learn moments. One problem with making cheeses like this is that it takes so much time. I tend to get tired about halfway through and not watch the clock as closely as I should. I’m guessing that I lost count of how many times the curd mass was turned while I was steaming it over the whey. I probably overcooked it by about 15 minutes. This released too much whey and in turn the curds are too dry to meld properly. However, that does not mean the cheese is forever ruined. It just means I have an excuse to eat it sooner lol.

I learned another important lesson today. DO NOT drop a filled cheese mold on your foot! I lost my grip on one of the molds (I used three 12 oz molds instead of one large mold) and dropped it on the toes of my right foot. Those pretty blue spots across my middle toes hurt like holy heck and caused me to say many MANY bad words.

BruisedToesFeb182013

So all in all, I count this cheese an overall success but have a lot more to work on. So I’ll definitely be trying this recipe again!

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Sushi Sho, El Cerrito CA

Sushi Sho was open in Berkeley off Solano for a number of years. However, he closed shop there almost three years ago and said he’d be back. After watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” a documentary about a sushi chef in Japan, I remembered to check and see if Sushi Sho was back open. They are!!! I did a happy dance around the living room. I also told Jene the only thing I wanted was to go there today for my birthday. He happily obliged.

This is, in my opinion, the BEST sushi restaurant in the San Francisco area. Chef/owner Aki-san is a purest and it shows. If you want big rolls with lots of stuff, don’t go here. If you want staff who will wait on you hand and foot, don’t go here. And finally if you’re starving to death or in a rush, don’t go here! Aki-san only seats diners at the bar and there are only about 9 seats. However, it is worth the wait and it is worth the price.

As you walk in the door, you right away notice that it is a small restaurant. It is an L shaped bar with about 14 seats but Aki-san usually only seats 9 people because he’s the only person preparing the sushi. He has a couple of tables for people to sit at while they wait but food is not served at the tables. I believe that this is much more like a traditional sushi restaurant in Japan.

sushisho1

That being said, the ambiance is quiet and you can talk to the people seated around you. I wound up talking to all three other couples seated at the bar while we were there tonight. It is very much about the sushi and Aki-san will explain everything from how to hold the sushi and how to place it in your mouth to why wasabi is an important facet in eating sushi. This is pretty much nagiri and sashimi. The quality of the fish is out standing and the flavors are magnificent. Aki-san also makes something called Bateria. This is a pressed sushi made with either salmon or mackerel.

batiria1

In the picture, the one on the left is made with the mackerel and the one on the right is salmon. The fish is topped with a very thin sheet of vinegar soaked kelp. A description of how it is made can be found here.

Aki-san serves your sushi in the order that he feels best compliments the flavors, leaving the sweetest pieces for last, such as the sea eel and egg. Our meal tonight was Hamachi (yellow-fin tuna), Anago (sea eel), Sake (salmon), cold smoked Sake (omg this is amazing), Saba (mackerel), Uni (sea urchin roe), Saba Bateria, Salmon Bateria, a California roll, Tamago (egg) and blue fin Toro (tuna belly). Oh! How could I forget…. The fresh scallop! Aki-san serves the sweetest, bestest scallops EVER!

Anyway, it was lots of wonderful flavors and textures and I enjoyed every bite of it. As I sit here writing this I wish I had some more with me to nibble on lol. It’s a little pricey, we spent $120 not counting tip, but not really much higher than any other good sushi restaurant. It’s probably a good thing it’s almost an hour away because I would find reasons to eat there more often if it was closer lol. If you’re any where within an hour or two, it’s worth the drive!

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What does it mean to eat low carb?

I took BART into the city today and got to talking to a few people on the train about weight loss and eating low carb.  I thought it might be a good idea to write up a post about it and what it means to Jene and I. Before I get into this, I need to say, these are my own personal beliefs and thoughts after doing a lot of reading on the internet and having some personal experiences. I don’t have any sources to cite because I’m too lazy to go back and dig it all up. Any one of the Atkins Diet books can explain the science behind why carbs store as fat and protein doesn’t. Google what I think and you’ll find plenty of sites, on both sides of the issues lol.

There are several approaches to eating a low carb diet, Atkins, South Beach and the Paleo diet are a few. The idea behind it is that our bodies, through evolution, are not designed to eat the sheer quantities of grains and sugars found in the modern world. Our ancestors grew up eating primarily meat and the seasonal vegetables that could be gathered. Once agriculture started in the Fertile Cresent of Mesopotamia, grain became a larger part of the diet but still not the staple that it is today. Even 100 years ago, people did not consumer the vast quantities of processed carbohydrates that we eat today. It basically started with the huge growth of agriculture in the central U.S. Wheat became cheap and easy to grow, store and transport. Over time it was altered so that it would produce higher yields and be more disease and pest resistant. The farmers from 150 years ago probably wouldn’t recognize the wheat that’s grown today. The incidence of gluten intolerance in humans has gone through the roof in the last couple of decades. My personal belief is that the wheat grown today has even more less digestible gluten than the ancient grain grown by our ancestors. It irritates the lining of the intestines and creates all sorts of nasty problems.

Now, here’s what else carbohydrates do and why they help make people fat. It has to do with the way the body burns the carbs. When too many carbs are eaten you get a quick burst of energy as your body burns some of the carbohydrates but then the rest of the sugars in the carbs get stored as fat because your body can’t use them right away. If you think about the seasonal cycle, carbohydrate loaded foods were usually only available in the fall when wild grains ripened. Humans were just like animals in that they built up a store of fat to see them through the lean winter months. Protein from meat was the primary source of energy for daily life. It was available year round and could be easily preserved through smoking and/or salting. Protein burns much more cleanly in our systems. It doesn’t get stored as fat because our bodies use it up much more efficiently. If we only ate carbs a couple of times a year, we would be fine. But we live in a world where carbs are eaten at every meal and sometimes from multiple sources at the same meal.

By removing the high levels of carbs from our lives we eat more protein. This helps us feel full longer, we feel energized longer and, after awhile, actually eat less because our bodies are actually using what we eat more effectively.

When Jene and I started the low carb thing a couple of years ago, we got one of Dr. Atkin’s books and read through it. His philosophy is that you should go through an “induction” stage were you eat 20 grams or less of carbs a day. That is VERY low carb but it works. The carbs you do eat come from green vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, cucumbers, bell peppers, mustard greens, kale, etc. You do NOT eat foods with a high level of natural sugar such as corn, carrots, potatoes, any grains, any fruits, no fruit juice, no alcohol…. you get the idea. After a few weeks of this you can start to add back in some things such as berries, the occasional carrots, some nuts…. The point is to get your body burning the stored fat and then running off the protein you eat while you slow add some carbohydrates back into your diet.  Jene lost 60 lbs and I lost 40 lbs. I’ve put a few lbs back on but not much and I don’t gain weight like I used to even though I’ve been eating lots (LOTS) of carbs in the last few months. (I tend to eat sweets when I hurt a lot.)

So what do we eat? Steak! Chicken! Pork! Fish! Eggs! Lots of salad greens made with field greens. Lots of kale and cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus. Many of my recipes on this blog are fairly low carb. Not all of them because I do love to bake lol. As we move further into the year I’ll be posting more low carb recipes as well as discussing my cheese making adventures. 🙂

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today is a day to appreciate love. Usually people think about it in terms of romantic love but I prefer to think about it as love in general. The love we feels for our friends and family, the love we feel for the around us in general. It’s a day to remember compassion and acceptance to to kiss our sweethearts. Well, if you kiss your pets you’ll probably get fur all over your face and yes, I did lol. So here’s to all of you who take time out to read my blog. I love you!!

Now, in case you’re wondering what I fixed for dinner… Ribeye Steaks with Lemon Basil Fettuccine in cream sauce and tomato/asparagus salad. It was a simple meal but tasty and satisfying. For dessert we had a glass of Orange Moscato and Gingerbread Spice Chocolate.

The ribeyes were seasoned with plain salt and pepper and a bit of butter at the end. For the cream sauce I melted 3 TB of butter in a saute pan, added 1/3 cup of heavy cream, a tiny pinch of nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Once the cream had reduced by about half, I tossed in the fettuccine and about 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese. This creates a coating of cream and parmesan on the noodles without leaving it swimming in a thick, greasy sauce. Finally the tomato/asparagus salad is the one I’ve posted here.  It wasn’t anything new or particularly excited but there’s a great deal of satisfaction in a meal well cooked.

I hope everyone enjoyed their day and spent it with people you love. 🙂

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