Yes, I know it's New Year's Day. But I've been listening to David Bowie quite a bit lately, and this song has been playing in my head.
Anyway, what I really came to tell you ("...and I alone escaped to tell you") is this: I signed up for the Quantified Diet project, where you follow one of ten diets for four weeks. The aim is to collect data to see what works best. I saw a tweet about it from Buster Benson a week or two ago, and it sounded intriguing. Plus, I trust his judgment (he developed Health Month, which I used for a long time).
So I signed up, read up a little more about the diets offered, and thought about what I wanted to do. You can go with the randomized approach and just follow what is chosen for you, but I wanted more control. I know I hate counting calories, and I wanted to pick something I could stick with after the four weeks of the project are done. I considered no sweets, paleo, and whole foods, vegetarian, and slow carb - but whaaaat, no cheese with the slow carbs? And cold showers? Brrrrrrr.
And then of course I worried. OMG it starts on January 1st, and they haven't published any additional detailed information a few days before the start date! How am I gonna get off to a good start? Then it occurred to me that the lift people are good at easing you into new things, one baby step at a time*, and I trusted them to give me what I need when I need it, starting on January 1st.
I also did some more thinking, and some prep work, and got some support features set up. I settled on the "whole, no processed foods" diet because that is how I would like to eat anyway. I checked out the blog of the advising foodie, summer tomato, and like it well enough. And I decided that keeping a food journal would be a smart idea, so I poked around the App Store for a suitable app, and settled on MealLogger because it looks like a lot of fun and very little effort.
Also, here is what I'm NOT doing: I am not primarily interested in weight loss. While I am hoping that getting rid of my gut padding will be a side effect of eating healthier, it's not my primary motivation. I know I eat more sweets and starches when I am stressed and overworked, and I've tried to look at the extra weight as insulation. With the holiday craziness behind us, I assume that now is a good time to get into good habits and stick with them.
You know what? I am lucky. Last Saturday I went for a long run with my friend and trainer Carol, to prep for an upcoming race. Came back home afterward, dawdled around the house for a while. Finally took a shower before heading out shopping, and as I splashed water my face and tasted salt from being all sweaty before, I thought again of how lucky I am.
I *like* that salty taste. I *like* working out hard and getting all sweaty. I *enjoy* eating all those vegetables I eat. The things I am doing for staying healthy are work, but they are not hardship and drudgery.
... but the mini-Bundts turned out really nice too. The recipe is from Busy Cooks at about.com, although I've altered it slightly (adding zest, and using butter instead of oil):
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest from one lemon and one orange (if the fruit is untreated)
3/4 cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar (for the glaze)
1/2 cup lemon juice (for the glaze)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease/butter 12 cup bundt pan. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, orange juice, 1/4 cup lemon juice, zest, butter, vanilla, and eggs. Beat well until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees F for 40-50 minutes until dark golden brown. While cake is in oven, combine powdered sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice and whisk to blend.
Remove cake from oven, beat powdered sugar mixture again, and carefully spoon 1/2 of the lemon and powdered sugar mixture over cake. Loosen edges of cake and turn out onto serving plate. Slowly drizzle remaining lemon mixture over cake. Let cool.
(Yes, those are bacon cookies next to the Bundts. The recipe for those is here.)
It's Rouladenfest at my house today! "Roulade" is really just the French word for "roll", and that's exactly what they are: beef rolls. In today's parlance, you might call them wraps. Beef wraps.
This is a traditional German dish, and I am lucky enough to live near a German butcher store. (If you live in the South Bay or Peninsula, I recommend them highly: Dittmer's in Mountain View.)
So I don't have to worry about the cut or quality of the meat - I just waltz into Dittmer's and tell them how many rouladen I want. (I usually go for 2 per person, because my friends all tend to be good little eaters, like myself. And if you have leftovers - score! These taste even better the next day.)
Go home, set up like in the picture, and start prepping:
- unroll the slices of beef - salt and pepper them - spread mustard on them (I used Dijon; pick whatever you like that will go well with beef - add a slice of bacon on top - then sliced onion - then sliced pickles
As you add stuff on top, keep in mind how you will roll them back up. I rolled them from the bottom to the top, so I placed the filling lower, and left room at the top. I also made sure not to overstuff them - they'll fall apart or jettison bits out the sides if you do that.
Anyway, now you roll the beef back up, and secure each roulade with a toothpick, so it'll look like this.
Heat your favorite oil or butter in a heavy saucepan (I like my Dutch oven for this task), and brown the rouladen from all sides. Put the lid on and cook on medium heat for about two hours.
We had a Secret Santa gift exchange at work, which was a lot of fun. Several of my coworkers said, "Well, you know what YOU're gonna get, right?" not even bothering to point out explicitly how my constant talk of bacon would pay off.
Do you see that big huge green bag? That was for me! I exclaimed all morning that OHMIGAWD, Santa was getting me a whole big bag of BACON!!! Then someone asked me if I'd checked on it, or picked it up, which I hadn't. So I picked up the bag, which was wayyy too light to contain bacon. :-(
But then it was time for the actual gift-picking and unpacking, and OHMIGAWD, do you know what was in the bag?
My best friend Holly and I took Friday off and drove up to Yountville in Napa Valley, for a lunch at the famed French Laundry, considered by many to be the finest restaurant in the country. I tried very hard not to expect the best meal of my life - just a good meal well worth the experience. And I figured that if anything would turn out less than wonderful, at least I would be able to say I'd been there, and now I knew what it was like.
But you know what? It really WAS the best meal I have ever had, and I have a hard time trying to tell you what the best thing was, or which course I liked best.
It was the most expensive meal I have ever had (it's a ten-course prix fixe meal, and costs $240 per person), but it was honestly worth every penny. The service was impeccable. Classy and not snooty at all. Everybody made us feel welcome, and the staff took such excellent care of us that I wanted to marry at least three of the gentlemen on the spot. We showed up at 11am, were led gently and professionally without a rush through all the courses, and left full (but not overstuffed) and happy around 2:30.
The dish in this picture is well worth mentioning: Santa Barbara sea urchin with black truffle "pain perdu", tokyo turnips, granny smith apple (those pale green pearls), mizuna, and sauce périgourdine. I keep thinking of how this tasted. I've never had fresh sea urchin before, which was one of the reasons I picked this course over the other fish option, the bass. The orange bits are the urchin, and oh wow, it was like a mouthful of ocean become flesh. It was wondrously delicious, and this alone was worth the drive.