We eat!

For the next week I plan to write down and report to you at the end of each day everything that I have eaten that day. I do this for three reasons: (1) because I want to see it in writing for myself, (2) by publishing it here I hope to shame myself into eating less, and (3) because my millions of fans want to know!

I will report everything. I won’t break it down by times or meals, but it will be in chronological order. I am not, strictly speaking, on a diet, although I am trying to be more careful about what I take in. I am very loosely following the Montignac method, meaning I try to separate fats from carbohydrates (i.e., don’t eat both at the same meal), and I avoid processed sugar and white flour. (A note to those avoiding white flour: most “multigrain” breads you see on the market are full of white flour.) Most of what I eat is home-made. Also, my morning coffee has half 2% milk and half cream, but no sugar. (Shaddap, I like it that way.)

I’ll be blogging about other things too, but at the end of each day there will always be a food count. Starting today.

Wednesday’s Yummies
• Oatmeal with apples and cinnamon
• 1 large coffee
• 1 low-fat lemon-multigrain muffin
• 1 breaded & baked chicken breast with steamed broccoli
• 1 apple
• 1 banana
• Simple salad of greens and grated carrots with a whisper of white wine vinegrette
• Gluten-free corn flour penne pasta with roasted tomato sauce
• 1 glass of red wine

You know that two pounds I lost?

I found them. (D’oh.) Not to fret, however, as I’m on the right path, especially if I follow the Lisa Plan™ and simply do more aerobic exercise (I’ve been slacking off on that a bit), plus keep up with the low-fat, lower carb menu. I should also eat less, but not lesser. I refuse to stop eating well, and I know I don’t have to.

Tonight was a bit fatty though. Thai red curry (chicken) and Pad Thai. However, I made it myself, so I was able to control the ingredients. (Have you ever seen how much oil goes into take-away Pad Thai? Disgusting!) Plus I used “lite” coconut milk which is a miracle food. All the yummy of regular coconut milk but 75% less fat (3 grams per ¼ cup).

And that, to me, is the key. Generally speaking, I avoid “light” things because they basically just take the regular, water it down, thicken it with corn starch, and charge you more for it. I’m big on the purity of food, but sometimes (especially if you have a cholesterol problem) you have to modify. “Lite” coconut milk is a happy modification. Soy cheese, unfortunately is not.

Eating mayonaise is like eating lard. It’s that fatty. There are “light” mayos out there, even “ultra-light”, but they’re in the chalk dust/corn starch department. Fortunately, the other day I found a jar of organic egg-free “lemonaise” made buy a bunch of hippies somewhere. It has less than half the fat of regular mayonaise, and it tastes better! That one jar will last me forever given how little I use the stuff, but again, I don’t see it as a second rate mayo substitute, I see it as a better alternative.

Mmmmm. I bought a food magazine today that has a recipe for “roasted tomato sauce” that’s made of roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, and roasted red onions. You do it all in the oven, then smash it up and flip in some herbs and things. Voila!

I’d like to say a thing or two about cheese

First, however, I want to say that I love to watch cooking shows on TV, and to read cooking tips in newspapers or anywhere else. I see thoughtful cooking (as opposed to basic fuel preparation) as a creative art. As with most of the creative arts, you do better work when you really know your tools and materials. As well, there are some basic rules and techniques that make for a better understanding and execution of the process. And of course, those rules can be broken, but personally, I only have confidence in broken rules when I know that the rule-breaker knows the rules and has chosen to break them.

Television shows have taught me all about olive oil, how to dice an onion, and how to mince garlic. Books have taught me about knives, and freezing and thawing. The value of a good skillet would be unknown to me had it not been for those lazy Saturday afternoons in front of the old cathode ray tube watching people sauté and sizzle things to perfection.

Back to the cheese. Somewhere, recently, I read an authoritative voice tell me how to store firm cheeses, such as cheddar. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the source. Now I do love my old cheddars, and I usually wrap it up tight in a zip-lock bag, being careful not to touch the cheese with my hands so as not to spread things that will encourage mould. The authoritative voice, on the other hand, said to never store cheese in plastic. I’ve heard this before, but never so authoritatively.

So I tried it. I brought home a chunk of old cheddar and wrapped it in a large piece of wax paper. I then wrapped that bundle in aluminium foil. (While not air-tight, aluminium foil is structurally fairly rigid. In other words, it holds it’s shape. So the foil’s main job was to hold the wax paper in place.)

Let me tell you, for two weeks I had the best old cheddar I’ve ever had. No greasy texture, no “cheese sweat”. No stink. Just firm, glorious cheddar, with the kind of texture you dream about.

A caveat: while my cheddar did not get mouldy, it did start to dry out a bit around the edges after about eight days. I blame this on the fact that I would incise the wax paper and foil as I was cutting off hunks of it. I’m now on my second batch, and I expect it to be better as I am more careful with the knife. However, this might not be the best method to use if you expect to keep your chunka cheese going for months at a time in the fridge. I figure this method is good for 2-3 weeks, tops, and only if you carefully re-wrap every time.

Bon fromage!

Instant mashed potatoes

Every now and then I bump my head and shake loose a random memory. The one that floated up from the depths today was of instant mashed potatoes. We never ate them at home, as my mother was a traditional home-maker and thereby created The Land of Home Cooking for us. The food was basic and generally of the meat and potatoes variety, but it was always made from scratch without resorting to the culinary crimes of post WWII “instant-mania”.

However, I was an air cadet when I was a teenager, and one of the benefits of that was bush survival training, in which we learned how to survive in the wilderness. We would head out into the woods (usually in winter but sometimes in spring or fall) carrying well-stuffed backpacks for a weekend of “survival”. We built lean-tos out of small trees and spruce boughs (and usually a layer of plastic sheeting, but not always), and collected standing deadwood (the best fuel for campfires). We usually slept three or four to a lean-to, but sometimes we each made our own, which was less efficient, and in winter, colder.

Most of the time our food consisted of military “K-ration” packs scrounged from the local army reserves. I don’t know what the “K” stood for, but some people called them “K-9 rations” which I think was a reference too their dog food-like quality.

Actually they weren’t that bad. A K-ration pack consisted of two cardboard boxes, each about half the size of a regular shoe box. This was food for a day, but of course in emergencies it could be stretched out for a week. One box contained the heavy stuff, which was usually a small can of pre-cooked bacon (the most coveted item in the whole kit), a can of either Irish Stew or meatballs in gravy, a can of fruit in syrup, a can of chili con carne (or sometimes a Beefaroni-like pasta thing), and a small can (half the size of a typical can of tuna) of either peanut butter or cheese spread. It also contained a can openner, matches, a magical folding metal thing to use as a stove, and some solid fuel cubes.

The other box contained the dry stuff, which was usually a pouch of instant oatmeal, two pouches of Tang-like orange drink powder, some powdered milk, a bunch of condiment packets, a pouch of the mythical instant mashed potatoes, and a box of crackers.

As you could imagine, there was vigorous trading of items. That one small can of bacon (the size of a fruit cup) could go for as much as two cans of chili and an oatmeal. People rarely traded the crackers because everyone liked then (they were like the “Stoned Wheat” crackers you see in the stores now). The instant mashed potatoes were not popular at all and even three days-worth couldn’t be traded for anything.

I used to love making the potatoes, but I didn’t much like eating them. There was something magical about boiling some water in a billy can and pouring it into a bowl of this crazy silica-powder like potato stuff – as you stirred the gloop it transmogrified before your eyes, going from a silty mess to a consistent cream-of-wheat-like paste and finally into mashed potatoes! It was incredible!

Unfortunately, it was also inedible. When you leaned into it and took a sniff, bleh! It didn’t smell anything like potatoes. It had the odor of chemistry and spoiled milk. The only way I could stomach it was if I drowned it in canned meatballs and gravy, and even then you had to eat fast because the liquid from the gravy diluted the potatoes into a watery sour milk-like sludge.