Thursday, September 30, 2010


I figured out a few summers ago by going to our local farmers market that the cheapest package of locally raised meat was the sausage.  And soon I realized that the spicey sausage was so spicey that a little went a long way.  That makes it perfect for a one pot meal where you don't want to use too much meat but you want to satisfy the meat eaters.

For this dish I fried about a cup of chicken sausage, then added par-boiled potatoes cut into cubes and carrots also cubed (because I chopped up carrot sticks I'd cut a couple days before).  After the carrots started to soften I added zuchini cut into triangles (cut long ways in quarters then holding the quarters together, cut into slices), and sliced mushrooms -- Alice really likes mushrooms.  That was it, there was probably equal quantities of each ingredient.  The cup of sausage gave the whole dish enough spice.
Alice gave the meal the thumbs up, and suggested I could make it with pasta next time instead of potato.  Fine by me.

Note:  I always cut carrots into rounds, and Alice always picks the carrots out, but having them in little cubes made a big difference in how the dish looked and tasted.  For one thing, cut in cubes, the carrots stayed crunchier.  
When I was designing today's mandala, Alice picked the background.  She likes the mandalas.  OH, and to really make my day she asked for a tomato and cheese salad.   That's just sliced tomatoes with lime juice squeezed on them and some cheese.   Is it possible she's getting a taste for healthy food?
I don't want to get my hopes up... but maybe.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Ever have one of those days when you're totally optimistic and so full of both energy and ideas that you wish you could figure out why so you could feel that way every day?

On Monday I had some intestinal thing that lasted 24 hours and I barely ate a thing.  Then yesterday I made the tomatillo dish that nobody liked.  Oh, but did I mention that I didn't have it just once, I finished the leftovers too, just to remind myself what I didn't like about it.    Then I slept great for the first time in many nights and got up at 6:30 this morning without an alarm and wrote my blog and read the Obama interview in Rolling Stone.  Then at 9:30 I went for the best "run" I've had since August.

(I don't want to give the wrong impression -- when I say "run" I mean, run 2 minutes alternating with walk 2 minutes -- but today I went for an hour instead of the 40 minutes I've been doing the past month.)

Out of curiosity, when I got home, I googled tomatillo and found this little tidbit:

One medium raw tomatillo comes in at a measly 11 calories, yet it provides 91 mg of potassium. It is the best vegetable source of the B-vitamin niacin, and provides calcium, folic acid, vitamin A, and vitamin C. And if moodiness is an issue, you'll be happy to know that tomatillos are especially high in lithium. Imagine the benefits if you include several in your tomatillo recipe.

I probably ate 2 cups, so maybe I'm still high!


Bad day for veggies in our house yesterday.  I thought I was making a terrific dish.  My friend Alicia gave us directions for tomatillo sauce for sopes while we walked yesterday morning and I decided to make it and serve it with chicken on rice.  

In the pan it was beautiful!  About 3 cups quartered tomatillos, one poblano chili chopped, one medium onion chopped, a stalk of celery chopped, some cilantro chopped -- so many lovely shades of green, but I left my camera at the party Sunday, so no photo -- darn!

Meanwhile, I pan cooked a whole chicken leg (leg & thigh), not all the way, but most of the way, and then stripped off the chicken.  One of the things I like about cooking in these proportions is that because I'm using so little meat (ie. dividing one leg between 3 people) I don't worry about whether it's a fattier cut.  Fattier has more taste, so if you're trying to please the meat eaters with only a little meat I figure go with the most flavorful cuts.

When I thought the sauce had simmered long enough I put it in the blender and blended it some, but not until it was smooth.  I put it back in the pan and added the chicken and cooked it for another twenty minutes.

Alice came home from school, looked in the pan and announced it looked like puke and that all the food I'd been cooking lately also looked like puke.  I remembered how I once made a comment like that to my mother and ended up smacked and in my room without dinner.  HOWEVER, I'm trying to keep violence out of the kitchen, so alll I said was that that wasn't a nice way to talk and that I thought the sauce was beautiful and it was going to taste delicious.

I WAS SO WRONG!  I served it on rice and although the portions were correct and it did look rather nice, it tasted very raw.  Also, I think there were too many tomatillos relative to the other ingredients,  I should've chopped them more -- they were undercooked.  My friend Dorian had suggested boiling them first for about 8 minutes.  But then I had read about them in my Rick Bayless cookbook and that didn't seem necessary.  Dorian - 1, Rick B. - 0.

Geoff ate all his, Alice ate about 1/4 of her plate and then took a little pot of tamarindo paste that Geoff had been given for his birthday and went up to her room.  Tamarindo paste isn't bad for her, but still I felt like a failure.  Worse though is that Geoff bought her Cheerios soaked in honey when he went to the store later.  She ate it for breakfast this morning -- two helpings.  I said nothing.  Usually she doesn't eat anything for breakfast, so she was eating it partly to get my goat.

Well my goat will not be gotten.  Today is a new day.  I just read Obama's interview with the Rolling Stone on line.  If he's not daunted, I sure can't be!  
Obama in Command: The Rolling Stone Interview | Rolling Stone Politics

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cream of Celery Soup for Breakfast, Why Not?

Yesterday while cutting up carrot and celery sticks for a potluck supper, I threw the top parts of the celery stems (no leaves) into a pot with some leftover onion, a garlic clove, and some salt, covered it with water, stuck the pot in the fridge and left the house in a rush.  

This morning I remembered it with some relief.  I added half a potato, brought it to a boil and simmered it until it was all soft.   Then I scooped it into the blender with some fresh cilantro and ahhhh, it's the perfect antidote to a partied-out tummy.

That potluck yesterday had everything from sushi to West African chicken and peanut stew to peach pie and lemon cake.  I ate it all.  

While my ingredients were cooking, I  googled cream of celery soup and next time I might follow this recipe:  Purée of Celery Soup.  But mine tastes PDG.

Friday, September 24, 2010


The third book on dieting I read this summer was Women Food and God by Geneen Roth.  Fortunately it was in my car when I got stuck in traffic for two and a half hours in Boston.  It was 100 degrees.  My car didn't have airconditioning.  BUT I had some water, a loaf of really good bread, and this random book my step daughter had left at my house.  So instead of being miserable, I spent the time being grateful to Geneen Roth for entertaining me on a pretty grim subject -- people who think the right body shape will make them happy.  Some people have really frightening relationships with food!

Geneen Roth was one of those people.  She lost and gained over 1000 lbs. before she figured out the answer to her problem.  Once she had the answer she started helping others.  Way to go Geneen.  The book tells what it's like to go away to one of her retreats.  For one thing, before people accept the help, they get really pissed when she makes them confront their relationships to food.

Here's an insight I found fascinating:

They (compulsive dieters) are like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain but never actually arriving.
The great thing about being Sisyphus is that you have your work cut out for you.  You always have something to do.  As long as you are striving and pushing and trying hard to do something that can never be done, you know who you are:  someone with a weight problem who is working hard to be thin.  You don't have to feel lost or helpless because you always have a goal and that goal can never be reached.

You don't have to be Sisyphus to get a lot out of this book.  

And it's not really a diet book, it's an anti-diet book.

Here's Geneen Roth giving a reading.Geneen Roth, author - Women Food and God


Dieting doesn't work, I know that, yet I read a second diet book this summer because it was in a cottage we borrowed for a long weekend with my husband's cousins. Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin.  Catchy title and not much else to read, so the two women cousins and I each read it over the weekend.  It's a short book.  The language is muy drill sargeanty, and there's a REALLY DISGUSTING section on how animals are slaughtered in the US.  It's meant to put you off meat, eggs, and dairy. 

You also have to give up alcohol, coffee, and sugar -- three of the food staples for our long weekend.  So the book got the thumbs down from all three of us.   But the part of the book I liked a lot was the idea YOU ARE WHAT YOU  EAT.  They made the point that if you eat brutally murdered animals or the products of animals that are brought up in inhumane circumstances, you eat their pain and suffering. I accept that idea and have thought of it a lot since reading the book.

The last section of Skinny Bitch is devoted to the things skinny bitches can eat.  Turns out there are oodles of packaged vegan foods that taste like the foods you have to give up.  And that was my real gripe with the diet.  I don't like processed, packaged foods.  If we accept that you are what you eat, then if you eat machine made, packaged food, won't you end up all uniform and sterile looking? 

I concluded Skinny Bitch = Barbie Doll, and I always found her rather shallow, how about you?


Dieting doesn't work.  I know that.  So why did I read three diet books this summer?  The first one was because a well respected friend told me her best friend since childhood had always been excessively pear-shaped even though she was a persistant athlete.  Then at age 60 her shape finally changed due to reading The Instinct Diet, by Dr. Susan Roberts.  My respected friend happened to have a copy. So, being terminally pear shaped, I borrowed it.  Guess what?  I only read the first three chapters and three months later I'm much less pear shaped.  And I never followed the diet.  I didn't even get to the recipe part of the book.  

The genius of this book is that the author is an expert on all the reasons diets fail.  She's been a diet researcher at Tufts (the diet research capital of the universe) all her life and the first part of the book is devoted to the five most common ways people overeat.   Two of them I recognized immediately.  I stopped doing both those two things and that's cut loads of calories out of my diet.  End of story.  

What were the two things?  Oh come on, if you're pear shaped, get the book.   It probably works for apple shaped people too.  There's a new version out called "The I Diet."  That's easier to remember I guess.   I definitely recommend the book.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Two of the most  emailed articles in the NYTimes this week, "Eat Well to Be Well" and Thomas Friedman's "Too Many Hamburgers", involve the trouble Americans are in with their diets.  The first one explains how most US doctors are so clueless about nutrition that they don't know how to make recommendations to their patients concerning weight even when they know that would help a lot.  There's a Dr. Preston Maring in Oakland who's trying to change that by running around training doctors how to mince garlic and talk to their patients about eating plant-based foods.  Younger doctors are getting on board faster than older ones.  Dr. Maring seems like a smart, influential guy with a nice manner so I'm glad he's on this.  You can check out his recipe website in the links section to the right.

Thomas Friedman opens his article about visiting China with this:

China’s CCTV aired a skit showing four children — one wearing the Chinese flag, another the American, another the Indian, and another the Brazilian — getting ready to run a race. Before they take off, the American child, “Anthony,” boasts that he will win “because I always win,” and he jumps out to a big lead. But soon Anthony doubles over with cramps. “Now is our chance to overtake him for the first time!” shouts the Chinese child. “What’s wrong with Anthony?” asks another. “He is overweight and flabby,” says another child. “He ate too many hamburgers.”
That is how they see us.

Friedman goes on to explain how the US is falling behind China because  we've got a better political system than they do -- it just isn't working at the moment -- whereas their inferior system is working quite effectively.   With that great introduction about the hapless Anthony, I was hoping he'd  get around to the possible contribution of diet to the success of the Chinese and the slowing up of the Americans.   Nah.  It was just all politcal theory.

I think Mr. Friedman should have a talk with Dr. Maring.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Today Alice liked the dinner I made!  She's 13 and anti-Mom's new healthy cooking.  But today she said, "Did you make this?  It's really good."

What was Alice eating?  An all-vegetable stir-fry with some nuts thrown in.  The difference from all the other stir frys I've made was the ginger and the sauce which I learned about watching Mollie Katzen's stir-fry video.