Tag Archives: food

Frootcamp: Week 8, Blackberry

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So, blackberry, we finally meet. You have fuzz, seeds, and little bulges–all the reasons why fruit is untrustworthy. I gave you a lick, but your sour, seedy skin greeted me with a grimace.  What’s a girl to do, then, but smother you in Greek yogurt? Eating my “berries and cream” concoction was grueling on day 1, but by the end of the week was a pseudo welcome distraction from my otherwise warm, dry lunch. In other words I bludgeoned myself into dealing with it for so long that my taste buds stopped fighting, in the same way that my mother actually thinks diet coke tastes great now (she conveniently forgets about the years she spent calling it “bug juice” while giving me her sales pitch for why I should switch). I get it. It had potential. I like yogurt, and in theory I do like berries and cream…. ice cream, that is. But this notion in healthy form? Eh, diets be hard, y’all.

I’m holding a brunch in two weeks, and I was actually inspired by week 8 to create this wonderment of foodie jello shot, the blackberry bramble jello shot. I may even go through with it! But this brings me back to my blackberry experience: shall I incorporate berries and cream into my normal regimen? It wasn’t awful, but it also wasn’t amazing. I might do it again…. But for now, I’ve decided to go with the time-honored tradition of “let’s not and say we did.”

On a related note, this week was littered with my mind singing this song unsolicited at 9am:


Frootcamp: Week 7, Elderberry (or in this case, realistically blueberry)

Ah, the letter E. I chose elderberry for this week, although wikipedia failed me. There was a strain listed as “American Elder”, which was supposedly available in the eastern reaches of the continent. …And perhaps it is during summer. I don’t know, friend. What I do know is that it’s freaking April; time to start pounding some berries in my oatmeal, and in my DC metropolis of Wholefood markets there was not an elderberry to be found. I settled for generic blueberries, likely from El Salvador, as I acknowledge it is far from berry season.

Honestly, it wasn’t awful. Blueberries are at least not cantaloupe-level awful. That’s my current scale right now, with apple being “all right, I can handle this 5 times a week” and cantaloupe being “why, oh gods, why this torturous goop?” My success lies in the fact that I ate the entire bowl of berrylicious oatmeal and will likely not give up on this fruit before week’s end. I might switch to blackberry just to balance my taste buds towards a more realistic area of where an elderberry might fall…. and who knows, maybe blackberries will be awesome. I’m not a genie. I can’t just guess. It occurs to me that while previously I had at least an inkling of how a fruit might taste, I haven’t the foggiest foreshadowing for blackberries. To be continued…

By the way, it’s all well and good to plan a healthy and pinterest-inspired snack at work. But don’t be disappointed when it doesn’t quite feel the same as snacking on your country home porch.

Having blueberry oatmeal at work: The Idea

courtesy of starbucks.com

Having blueberry oatmeal at work: The Reality


Frootcamp: Week 6, Grapefruit

Now my desk is sticky--big surprise there.

the view from my desk throne

I get it. It’s cirtusy, it’s called “ruby red”, it’s the picturesque healthy woman’s breakfast. I appreciate the semantics. But don’t think I’ll go easy on you because I didn’t need to add sugar, grapefruit. This species’ leniency in the “tart” arena is not enough to mollify my disapproval. We aren’t bffs…. but we did speak this morning and put each other’s numbers in our phones for a tentative brunch date. So, progress?

Firstly, the whoreson took 10 minutes to eat, and I feel like all I’ve done is slurp a few spoonfuls of pulpy juice. If I were on a desert island I’d need to slice into and anxiously scoop through 5 grapefruits to get the feelings of fullness I could otherwise receive from a serving of Ritz Bits. Secondly, now I am sticky. Thirdly, my right eye stings because every attempt to carefully excavate the next segment of the grapefruit shot a projectile tart stream into my cornea  Clearly, eating this is an acquired skill.  While the taste isn’t deplorable, the consumption experience is. Mayhaps I’ll just juice you at night and drink your entrails in the mornings from a safe and easy thermos. …Then we can end our tango.

In conclusion, grapefruit… You looked so delicious when I google-imaged you, but then you wiz’d in my eye.


Frootcamp: Week 4, Pomegranate

 

“Mary, the 4th letter of the alphabet is D”. I know, ass hat. But seriously, dates can go to hell. I am not eating dates. Now a dragonfruit? I’ll take my chances, because, dragons. A store that would actually sell a dragonfruit out of season, however, is on the other side of town, and for some reason pomegranates were on sale at my local mart. Opportunity presented itself.

So I tried the pom, and well, well, well…. we have a sly one. The good news is that once I peeled it up and drained the seeds, I found the fruit actually to be quite delicious albeit exhausting to eat. This might be the least satisfying fruit in existence. I spent 20 minutes carefully separating the arils from the peels under water and picking tiny peel floaters out. Finally, I spooned the arils into my mouth–but lo! What’s this that raps at my teeth? They are but seeds, denying my mouth the pleasure of eating my hard-earned arils with abandon. No, that would be too simple. I have to carefully lower my teeth and let the 1/8th of a spoonful of juice pop out of them, slush their remains around in my mouth, and then spit out the seeds like I’m at a Yankees game. I thought pomegranate would be a refined, dandy fruit to eat, but it turned into a messier sunflower seed experience. I have purple splatters all over my t-shirt, by the way. Thank you for squirting your violent resistance on my clothing as I peeled you, pomegranate. I didn’t need this shirt for work or anything.

Can we talk about how much my intestines regret everything about this week? This horrible week that fate pulled together and tied into one? Can we talk about what the hell pomegranates do to digestive systems? And how I drank a bottle of [diaretic] pomegranate juice to go with my pomegranate seeds the same week I started fiber pill regimens and happened to also buy “fiber plus” brand sandwich bread? Because Activia didn’t make me miserable enough? I’m going to bed. Wake me up when week 5 is here, because I will slay the shit out of a dragon[fruit].


Going Natural: The Sometimes Foul, Sometimes Delicious Journey

This post is documentation to my efforts to cook and eat healthier. In no way is it interesting or amusing—it’s simply a pat-on-the-back (a one-man circle jerk, if you will) and a motivational tool to keep me on track. The last several months have seen an overhaul of my cooking and eating structures. About a year ago I began on-again/off-again dieting. Whenever I picked a diet back up I tweaked my methods, sometimes taking more extreme measures and at other times being lax. Each time I became comfortable enough in a new healthier routine to take it to the next level. My current level entails preparing about half of my meals at home with fresh, natural (and often raw) groceries.

I eventually enlisted helpful tools: Pinterest and health food blogs to give me recipes and inspirational jumping-off points. I also adopted a strategy: Pick a few healthy foods I’ve come to enjoy and design meals around those groceries. These ‘foundational foods’ can help me begin a recipe or simply round one out. They are spinach, arugula, cauliflower, sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, gala apples, and nuts.

My goal is not only weight loss, but also improved energy & sleep, better skin complexion, and any other perks generally attributed to an improved diet. With nearly a year of this effort under my belt, I’ve fine-tuned my methods to include most of the foods I enjoyed before the change—just in a healthier way. Getting to that point took a lot of trial, error, and frustrating disappointment, but I’m here. In the same way that folks say “I didn’t like such and such before, but I’ve eaten it so much that I’m used to it,” I too have thankfully grown accustomed to my new way of cooking, eating, and altogether thinking about meals. When I cook now it’s typically from scratch (no microwaves or box mixes) with only fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits. Sometimes I’ll incorporate pita, naan, rice, or oatmeal for a touch of something hearty without taking a gateway to carb utopia (i.e. a focaccia roll w/ rosemary and olive oil. My mouth—it waters….).

A more recent stage of my never-ending trials was blending. A friend explained his blending habit to me and shared a recipe during a Megabus trip back from New York City: water (with a little coconut oil), 2 carrot sticks, 1 cup spinach, 1 cucumber, 1 apple, 1 naval orange peeled, blueberries or acai berries to taste, and 1 cup greek yogurt. The excitement was tangible, so much so that when I made my Wholefoods trip I became overly ambitious, drunk on the notion that I might regularly (and so easily) consume so many fruits and veggies I don’t enjoy by themselves. I grabbed things that didn’t even make sense together, such as blackberries, papaya, and lime, envisioning the blender as a sacred space where everything was possible, where things made sense and tasted delicious merely because they were healthy and made of fruit…. Needless to say, that is not how food works, and my effort was a puke-worthy bust. Blending Test #2 took place shortly thereafter, and its scale was prudently downsized. I restricted myself to only water, 1 apple, 1 orange, 1 chunk of pineapple, and 1 slice of cucumber. This trial went better, but the orange is still far too overpowering.

My blending stage also coincided with the advent of my new cayenne pepper supplement ritual. This wonderfood helps to ease and regulate digestion, prevent migraine headaches (with which I am afflicted), stimulates circulation in the body, and much more.

The next health adventure will be a cleanse beginning Saturday. Previous cleansing ended in constant, debilitating stomach cramps, and I’ve been avoiding another attempt. However, the product recommended to me this time is Colonix, which is supposedly light enough not to interfere painfully with my daily functionality. I realize a cleanse isn’t necessary, but I foresee it adding to my heightened sense of inner hygiene, my newfound “mother nature karma”, and lastly helping me cheat to kill a few more pounds. And with no concern for debilitating cramps this time compounded with the discount I received for the product, I can’t see a downside to this. You win, advertising. We still need to talk about other things, but this round is yours…..

I’ll conclude this self-flattering post with a look back: While the initial goal was only weight loss, as this journey progressed I gained additional goals, all piling on top of each other and becoming a doozy to consider completing. I now additionally want tone and definition to my body, much more energy, better sleep, and I want to disassociate myself from synthetic foods and drugs to a greater extent. The presence of a Wholefoods nearby makes that last goal actually a cakewalk, providing I continue to be willing to pay the higher margin. I should now take this opportunity to give a shout out to my unofficial diet umpire: my manfriend, who tells me “No” when I ask him to and who is always willing to explain the nutritional facts on packages, translating crunchy nonsense into carb-hungry womanzilla-speak for me.


Large Appetites at Etete

My intellectual interest in trying new cuisines comes from seeing how regions make the best of their materials. Ethiopian cuisine, I discovered recently, is a delightful example of regional culinary ingenuity. Beyond the curiosity, I also just enjoy shaking up my comfort zone, and I don’t want my taste buds to get too comfortable. Old friends will attest to this not always being the case…. I did, in fact, used to have a very bland palate and an innate determination that I disliked most foods. My parents raised me in a strictly “American” cuisine household, where the only exceptions to the generic meat-and-potatoes rule was spaghetti, or *gasp* a stir fry. Anything else constituted “foreign food” and was not to be meddled with. Thankfully, time away with worldly friends brought me out of the shell I was raised in and out into the light of day, where I realized: I live by Washington D.C., where every cuisine imaginable is readily available!

Friends and I decided to try an Ethiopian restaurant, Etete, before a pub lecture (which in fact was sold out). I believe I was the only one in attendance with no Ethiopian cuisine experience. Stephen recommended a sampler we would like, and the rest is history. For anyone who might not know (as I didn’t know before the visit), the cuisine’s flagships are vegetable and meat dishes, primarily thick stews eaten with a cold, spongey flatbread. The samples I decided upon were primarily lentil or potato based as well as mild of spice. My lack of hearty spice tolerance prevented me from daring the mysterious “red potatoes”, as our table called them. I have to say that while I usually love my new foods, the spongey pancakes did nothing for me. By the end of the meal I was avoiding them, which is difficult to do since the sponges are supposed to be both your utensils and your side dish. If I could replace it with pita, the meal would have been perfect. The dish-of-the night, taking home the prize, was a kind of green lentil mash. What I neglected to notice before it was too late was a regional honey wine, and I must make a note to try that next time.

If Medieval Times taught me anything beyond cheesy equine-related insults, it’s that eating with one’s hands is great, and Ethiopian cuisine agrees!


Nauwlins Sights and Cuisine

I recently returned from a sparklingly glorious trip to New Orleans, marking my first appearance in Louisiana. My tripmate and I began in Baton Rouge, couch surfing with friends and discovering that a city named after a red stick that may or may not have been used by early settlers to beat the natives is a great place to begin a trip, because it can only go up from there. While he was unimpressed, I was a complete and willing victim of Old Worldization. Outside of Williamsburg, VA, and a small archeological preserve in St. Mary’s City, MD, it is incredibly difficult to feel “old world” anywhere in my area of the USA, and certainly not “old world urban”.

The New Orleans French Quarter is extremely well preserved, and I tip my hat to the local historical society–although I do understand the locals’ frustration when required to complete n different inspections and forms before being “allowed” to change a leaky pipe. Perhaps I simply romanticized the architecture and atmospheric appeal from too many southern epics like Gone with the Wind and Interview with the Vampire, but I immediately fell for the mysticism (albeit capitalized mysticism) and southern homes. ….Homes half outdoors and open to the wind, intertwined with nature as flowers cascade down every wall and out the windows! I’m sure I was allowed to adore it only due to the small window of the year where it’s not 90 degrees F with 100% humidity. I’ll ignore that fact and continue fantasizing about New Orleans the way I experienced it (i.e., not sticky).

I got the impression that only well-to-dos who love the atmosphere afford the beautiful antique homes and live on the upscale streets (which seemed to be most streets) in the coveted French Quarter. Even the modest single floor homes were alluring while simultaneously being rustic and dirty. Comfortable residents peered out from their porches with drinks in their hands soaking up the cool, breezy 7 o’clock air. Bourbon Street, even on weekdays as early as 4pm (and weeks past the celebration-that-shall-not-be-named), was bustling with raucous crowds. Those crowds tended to be non-French Quarter residents who drive or trolley into the city, according to locals. The only explanation I can derive for this is when one is wealthy enough to live on a second story French Quarter flat, one can buy top shelf whiskey and drink from the comfort of the porch with no need to sally on down to Bourbon for $4 plastic cup cocktails. I don’t blame them. I’m a more relaxed drinker, myself, and Bourbon Street held little appeal to me beyond the people watching.

The Cajun and Creole cuisines were prime directives for my trip. My goal during my 5 days was to have a local dish for every meal. This wasn’t always possible with my company for multiple reasons, namely budget and dietary restrictions, but by the end I was very pleased with what I was able to achieve. As luck would have it, my very first Cajun foray remains my favorite: The Jumbalaya Shoppe. There I was bewildered with a hodge podge of brown jumbalaya, crawfish pies, the greatest potato salad on the planet, greasy grilled boudin, and gumbo. A franchise needs to open in Maryland, because my fits of withdrawal are fierce. Next on my Cajun & Creole adventure was a giant beignet covered in powdered sugar. I was impressed that the art of funnel cake made its way into a more enjoyable shape than the East Coast string-like “funnel” that looks less like pastry and more like it was cranked out of a sausage maker. Or perhaps beignets are the original source of funnel cake. I could Wikipedia the relationship and tell you who came first, but honestly I think I prefer the mystery. Along the way I had the pleasure of consuming crawfish ettouffeè, crawfish gumbo, crawfish cakes (are you picking up a trend?), grilled crocodile, and traditional red beans and rice. I didn’t have a single dish without thorough enjoyment, and I recommend everything there is to taste of both cuisines.

Personally, I find it a testament to how incredible both cajun and creole food are that even the cuisine at the airport was mouth-watering. Really, airport meals. You heard correctly.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go cry myself to sleep because Mapquest tells me the closest Jumbalaya Shoppe is 17 hrs 43 mins and 6 states away.


Here to Drink: My Foray into Corporate Kickball

In an ambitious attempt to both acquire new friends and “shmooz” with high ranking members, I joined the company kickball league in 2010. Unfortunately, the world of facebook decided to either untag other folks’ photos of me from that era, or I mistakenly unfriended whoever posted those photos. My blog will have to survive without a sweaty, buck-toothed photo of me in a team jersey. I apologize to all this hurts. Let me assuage this grief with a Failblog representation of what likely occurred.

While mildly athletic (I said mildly), I still found it challenging because my chicken legs can kick neither far nor strategically. My kicks were short bunts or high-rising easy catches. For that reason the challenge of the games wasn’t physical but emotional. My lack of point-earning kicks drug me down, especially when there were already too few point-earning players on the team. I felt like additional deadweight, and every out I caused was another bummer to shrug off. However, I discovered strengths, too. It turned out I was a quick sprinter as well as a more-than-decent slider! This allowed me to earn points for the team from other players’ kicks. And, of course, there was my favorite strength: being a fearless (shameless?) karaoke fanatic!

That brings me to the second, and perhaps more important part of the corporate kickball experience: the post-game cocktail & karaoke hour. What I lacked in kicks I made up for in classic hip hop parodies and $3 pints. Nothing beats singing “Ring of Fire” with a VP 4x above your pay grade, even if that VP has a bedtime of 9 o’clock. Bar food is also an Achilles heel of mine: crab dip, fish and chips, tiny burgers, calamari, cheese fries, chicken tenders, nachos…. all smothered with honey mustard. I’m making myself ravenous just typing. A day of work ends best when I’m filming my tipsy colleagues rap “When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip”, munching appropriately selected dip.


The Great Cherry Conflagration

There are the moms who sprawl dough fixin’s over their majestically sized marble island counters and create pie art. Then, there are 20-somethings with tiny apartment kitchens who make pie with Pillsbury ready crusts and cherry filling. Guess which stereotype I am?

To me, cooking is one of those rare exceptions where it’s actually not about the journey—only about the results. If circumventing difficult and costly (in terms of a grocery trip) steps can still give me a pie at the end of the day, then I’m going to do it, and Pinterest-ites and baking bloggers be damned. I must say, too, that for a five minute prep time, it truly was delicious. Rolling out crusts from a wax paper bag gives me a rush….. the kind of rush that says, “I will finish this pie before Game of Thrones comes on in thirty minutes.” Surely the crust would have been flakier and richer had I made it from scratch, but I had no intention of dropping $40 on pie ingredients when I had no one to impress but my manfriend–and he’s already my manfriend. The conquest is complete. Why whip out the big guns and make scratch crusts?

This was a double-edged effort. Not only had I never baked cherry pie, but also had I never eaten it. The results of the taste test are in: “It wasn’t awful.” Cherry is by no means a food I enjoy casually. After all, it’s a fruit, and I am not a fruit bat. I’m a marpoo, and so, naturally, eat carbs and seafood.

Now please enjoy while Warrant sings of my success.


Mini Pie Debacle

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m a crafty , homemaking type who not only can design and assemble picturesque arts for the home, but also who cooks and bakes like effing Martha Stewart. This, however, is a whimsical fantasy…. The unfortunate fact is that if it doesn’t go in the crock pot (or come from a cafe), I don’t eat. Luckily this is 2012, and I am perfectly able to get away with this behavior (and my man finds it ‘cute’ instead of ‘….why aren’t you by the stove in high heels making me a three-tiered club sandwich–and don’t you forget the pickle’). But when that domestic desire hits, it hits hard to the gut with sprinkles and designer bows. Enter, an increased grocery budget and three hours’ of time about to be lost to crafts.

Today’s goal was miniature apple pies inside hollowed-out apples. As you may suspect, Pinterest was involved…. An idea this cute could only come from the bowels of that kitten/cookie/wedding fabrics madhouse. This blogger right here developed (or at least, made popular) the idea, complete with adorable photos.

I’ll build up the suspense by laying the scene, as my 9th grade literature teacher would have wanted. I was in the kitchen with the cat, carving out apples with a plastic apple corer and cursing under my breath. I mixed the filling with brown sugar and oatmeal with one hand while the other hurriedly assembled the baking pan. The cat laughed maniacally at me as I failed. There is something about Pillsbury pre-made crusts that make me feel like a cheater. Yet, even while cheating, my crusts still look worse than the original.

How they were supposed to look

How they turned out….

CloseEnough

In my defense, they were in fact delicious……


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