Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good Eats: Monday & Tuesday

Breakfast: oatmeal with bananas, coconut & walnuts
Lunch: red beans with a tablespoon of goat cheese
Snack: clementine
Dinner: spinach salad with poached eggs
no gym, no alcohol
Breakfast: oatmeal with bananas, coconut & walnuts
Lunch: broccoli salad (mostly made up by me - so it was a fairly experimental salad)
Snack: half a cup Friendship brand California style cottage cheese
Dinner: Bo ssam lettuce wraps (inspired by this New York Times magazine article*)
500 calories burned on the elliptical, no alcohol

*Oliver is not usually one to follow recipes (especially not recipes from celebrity chefs) but something about this bo ssam from David Chang prompted him to make an exception. Everything was made from scratch except the kimchi. The other two sauces are scallion ginger and spicy bean. The spicy bean was improvised from pureed beans (from lunch), Worchestire and siracha; the recipe called for spicy bean paste - something we did not have on hand. We'll definitely be enjoying this meal for several more nights of dinner! BO SSAM = DELICIOUS!


Monday, January 30, 2012

This week's YDFM haul

This week's groceries from YDFM (from left to right):
- 1.5lbs of tomatillos
- 3lb bag of onions
- 3 lemons
- 8 bananas
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 3 avocados
- 2 heads of broccoli
- whole bean coffee from Costa Rica
- half and half
- Silk soy milk
- goat cheese
- cottage cheese
- 1 shallot
- bone-in pork shoulder
- Greek yogurt
- golden raisins
- one bag of raw, shelled almonds
- bag of limes
- 5 jalapenos
- 6 clementines
Total: $65.00

Will pick up a bag of baby spinach from Trader Joes. Already have plenty of oats on hand. Check back to see what we make with all this food!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Good advice from my favorite Food Network star: Alton Brown

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner with Alton Brown at his own home. The man I was dating at the time was an actor on the show and Alton was generous enough to invite all of his employees (and their significant others) over for the holiday. In case you're wondering, he did in fact fry his turkey with the ladder and pulley method he featured in a Thanksgiving episode. But that's not why I'm bringing Alton up. I mention him because I just stumbled upon a video in which he clearly outlines his current healthy, real food, eating habits. Having met him in person half a dozen times I was struck by how very thin he appears in the video. When I met him he was barrel chested yet robust - now (as seen in the video) he is quite lean. His new eating habits are clearly serving him well.

I am so impressed with his eating advice that I wanted to share the video with the hopes it will influence more people. (My only objection is the red meat and alcohol once a week - but we all pick our vices.) Thanks for the video Alton and best of luck on your newest endeavors!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Learning to cook: Oatmeal

This morning Oliver got up early to go help our next door neighbors with the computers at their restaurant. They offered to cook him breakfast while he was there which meant I was own my own for food at home.You'd think that after Sabrina's fantastic guest blog post that I'd have tried cooking oatmeal on my own. And who knows, if Oliver wasn't around all the time maybe I would have tried sooner. Regardless - today was the day. I did it! It REALLY is easy. I can't believe I thought it was going to be hard. (The hardest part was finding where Oliver keeps the oatmeal).

Later today we're heading to Oliver's cousin's daughter's birthday party. These family celebrations always have a lot of delicious foods. I consider them "special occasions" (they truly occur only a few times a year)  so I usually allow myself to eat whatever I want while we're there. But because I'm currently watching my weight I'm prepared to exercise an extra dose of moderation (especially if faced with the buffalo chicken dip). For now, it's gym time. Hoping everyone enjoys their weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What's for lunch? Mixed greens with cucumber & roasted red pepper

For lunch today I ran over to Alon's in Morningside to pick up a salad from their "create your own" bar.  While I've always enjoyed their prepared foods,  fresh baked breads, cheeses, desserts and salads - I was just recently turned on to having their salads "chopped". I LOVE IT! The truth is, long stems on spinach and other mixed greens often make me gag while chewing. Having everything "chopped" completely solves the problem! I wish I'd discovered this sooner.

My go-to salad at Alon's is currently mixed greens, cucumber, roasted red pepper, goat cheese and a side of balsamic vinaigrette. I ate half at lunch time and the rest before I left the office at 6:15pm (as fuel for the gym).



Weight Loss Check-In
Day 3: 144.6lbs (.4lbs lost)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Meals: an update

I'm a bit behind on posting meals. The following four are taken from the last week. Tonight we had spicy shrimp sauce piquant (left). Last night we had chili over half a baked potato (second photo down). Last week we had roast chicken with toasted kale, left over acorn squash and mashed yucca (yucca yummmm). For lunch on Saturday I pulled together a plate of left overs: grit cake with Siracha and a side of mashed yucca. Yum!

Lunches have been beans or spinach salads. No cooking lesson on the books for this week but I am working on some new items for the etsy store (the sorely ignored etsy store...).

Cheers! - Cullen

Monday, January 23, 2012

Physical health: an update

In early November I went to a general practitioner for my first physical exam in ten years.  I was relieved to discover my cholesterol levels are fine (LDL:106, Good: 51, Bad: 98, Total: 177) but I was surprised to discover my blood pressure is stubbornly high (130/90). The doctor immediately put me on Lisinoril, a blood pressure medicine, with the hopes of lowering my diastolic reading. 

A month later I returned for a check up. We were both disappointed to discover that the medicine had not yet made a difference. At that point my doctor changed my birth control pill to a lower estrogen option (it was the first time I'd altered it in 15 years). Since then my diastolic reading has lowered between 5 and 8 points (depending on the reading). Honestly, I've been thrilled. I thought I had something to be excited about. But that ended this morning when I went in for my yearly gyno exam. This doctor was not pleased with my diastolic reading of 83. And to my disappointment she didn't even seem to acknowledge the progress I felt I'd made. Rather she reminded me that if I planned to conceive sometime this year that I needed to lower my blood pressure unless I wanted a high risk pregnancy. 


I go to the gym and work out HARD, three times a week. I've given up all processed and fake foods. I consciously eat a high fiber diet... and here I was being scolded by a doctor at 7:45 in the morning. 

So, what to do now?

Sigh, weight loss. It's taken me almost two decades to appreciate and accept my body the way it is. I accept that I'm 10 to 15 pounds overweight and I don't let it get me down. I'm naturally curvy. My Mom would call me voluptuous, "an hourglass", but in reality I'm a pear. I've accepted that I will never have the lean, sinewy body of a runner and I'm okay with being the heaviest girl in the design studio [at work]. I've been okay with it because I know I am healthy, I truly enjoy good food and drink and I have more to offer then my looks. I'm a talented professional and contributing member of society - I don't need to be an overt sexpot to have value. 

But now... Now I have a reason to finally lose the last 10 or 15 pounds. I want to live until 2075 when I'll be 97 years old. It's too soon to be worrying about a stroke or high-risk pregnancy. So here goes: my goal is to weigh 134lbs by my 34th birthday. That's 11lbs in 10 weeks.  I'll be sure to keep everyone updated along the way... And thanks in advance for your support. 

To learn more about blood pressure please visit the American Heart Association's website. They have an easy to understand page explaining everything. If you haven't had yours checked recently then I recommend taking a few minutes to do so the next time you're at a pharmacy (it's that fun cuff that expands up on your arm). Even though high blood pressure usually has no symptoms - it can have deadly consequences. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Healthy, real food, snack ideas

One of Michael Pollan's food rules that I did not mention in my last post is about snacks. The rule is "limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods".  He explains that "the bulk of of the 500 calories Americans have added to their daily diet since 1980 (the start of the obesity epidemic) have come in the form of [processed] snacks foods laden with salt, fat and sugar".

While limiting my snacks to unprocessed plant foods does sound ideallic I had to open the options up a little wider in order to stick with it. The following is a list of my favorite healthy, real food snacks. Some are good for bringing to the office, others are better as quick post-workday/pre-workout energy boost and a few I only have time for on the weekends or when hosting a party.
  • Raw, shelled almonds (Oliver almost always has a pocket-full)
  • Fruit: apple slices, avocado slices, clementines, grapes, in-season tomato slices with salt and pepper, blueberries
  • Toasted kale with a touch of olive oil and kosher salt (this is my FAVORITE because it offers the same salt and texture satisfaction as original Lays potato chips)
  • Friendship brand California style cottage cheese
  • Celery stalks with tzatziki dip
  • Radish slices with hummus
  • Broccoli with yogurt/cucumber/dill dip 
  • Edamame (this is one of my Mom's favorites)
  • Home-popped popcorn (Avoid pre-packaged microwave popcorn as the bags are lined with a chemical that breaks down into the popcorn when heated. Many recipes for homemade stovetop or microwaved popcorn can be found online.)
  • Greek yogurt with walnuts and golden raisins
How about the rest of you? What are your favorite, real food snacks that other people might enjoy trying?

Friday, January 20, 2012

What to eat

I'm struggling with posts this week. I've wanted to write something that would convince everyone to give up "food like" substances as well as recipes based on "cream of this or that" - but I've found I'm not that good of a writer. So instead, I'm turning to my old faithful, Micheal Pollan, for his help. 

The following food tips come from his book Food Rules - an eater's manual. These are my ten favorites (in no particular order):
1. Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.
2. Eat animals that have themselves eaten well. (I like to add "lived well" too).
3. Eat well grown food from healthy soil.
4. Favor oils and grains that have tradtionally been stone ground.
5. Avoid food products that contain more then five ingredients.
6. Treat treats as treats ("...special occasion foods offer some of the great pleasures of life, so we shouldn't deprive ourselves of them, but the sense of occasion needs to be restored...")
7. Pay more, eat less. ("...you get what you pay for. There is also a trade-off between quality and quantity...")
8. If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don't.
9. It's not food if it's called by the same name in every language. Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles.
10. Plant a vegetable garden if you have the space, a window box if you don't.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Learning to cook: white beans

I've realized that if I'm ever to survive a week on my own without Oliver then I need to master a few of his many bean recipes. After we posted the black/pinto bean recipe I said I wanted to follow it and try for myself. But Oliver insisted that we do not eat the same beans two weeks in a row and I was going to have to try another. So white beans it is!

Unlike the black beans, the white beans are not vegetarian. Ham hocks are used for flavor. Like the black beans, I soaked them all day before cooking them. Oliver also had me toss in a bit of tasso he'd picked up in Louisiana. I think two meats are redundant and make the meal less healthy - but he is the chef so I didn't argue.  

After the beans soaked for 8 hours I drained the water and placed them in our big pot along with some ham hocks from YDFM. I then covered the beans with several inches of boiling water and set the burner on high. After a few minutes of boil I reduced the heat and left the pot to simmer while I prepared the "holy trinity" of celery, green pepper and onion. They were diced*, browned in our cast iron and added to the pot. Another hour of simmering (to reduce the liquid and break up the beans) and I was done! 

I had planned to eat the beans solo - but according to Oliver white beans are always eaten with rice. (Apparently I have even more to learn then I suspected). So for lunch the beans were served over rice, with a sprinkle of parsley and a bit of homemade hot pepper vinegar. 

Successful completion of my 3rd cooking lesson! Hooray! Anyone have requests or suggestions for the next one? I'm not sure where to go from here.

*So far, using the giant knife for chopping is my only cooking complaint (read: paralyzing fear). I'm terrified of chopping off a knuckle. But I'm keeping at it with faith because of the old "practice makes perfect" adage. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Family time down on the dude ranch

Oliver and I had a wonderful, yet exhausting weekend. Friday I left work early so we could attend a friend's wedding. It was a late, but very fun night. Saturday we got up fairly early and headed an hour south of Atlanta to meet my Dad, his wife, my brother and his fiance at the Southern Cross dude ranch in Madison. It was our first visit to the ranch and no one knew what to expect. We were all relieved when we discovered that the place really is a great little getaway. I highly recommend a visit. 

All this time away from home means I haven't eaten a home cooked (read: Oliver cooked) meal since my chicken salad lunch on Friday. Even so, I made a conscious decision to choose healthy foods almost every time we ordered from a menu. My exception was sausage gravy on biscuits for breakfast at the ranch - and it was worth it. Now, Sunday night, all my smart ordering feels good because I know I don't need to do any EXTRA hard work at the gym this week to redeem my overeating.  Instead I can stick to my usual hard routine... Anyhow, photos from our time at the dude ranch are below.



Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bean Recipe

Beans are a staple of our food habits. Oliver usually makes one big pot, once a week, and we'll eat it as lunch or a dinner side everyday. It's cheap, it's very healthy, it's delicious and it's filling. A big bowl of beans never leaves me hungry. The following is Oliver's "recipe" for black or pinto beans. The measurements are more "guesstimates". You can top them with Greek yogurt, siracha, cheese or whatever fits your mood.

What you'll need:
2 onions, chopped fine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp cumin, toasted and ground
1 Tbsp coriander, toasted and ground
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 large can or 2 small cans of stewed tomatoes, undrained
4 cups stock
1 lime or some vinegar (cider or pepper)
salt/pepper/cayenne/Worcestershire/ hot sauce
1 pound of beans (give or take)
Some fat, generally olive oil

Soak the beans for 8 to 12 hours to cut some time off of the cooking.  After soaking, some people say to drain the water for the sake of flatulence. Some say not to drain for the sake of vitamins. I drain for the sake of flavor.  Why cook in water when you can cook in stock?

What to do: In a large pot, saute the onions until translucent. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander and chili powder and heat until aromatic.  Add the stewed tomatoes and cook down to a mush.  Add the beans and stock and enough water to cover everything by an inch or so. Add some salt*, pepper, and cayenne to taste and bring to a boil for ten minutes. Cut the heat to a simmer**, cover and cook for an hour or two stirring regularly and adding more water and adjusting seasonings as needed.  Beans are done when they tell you, not when a timer beeps. Add lime juice or vinegar, Worcestershire and hot sauce in the last few minutes.  Coll them and eat them three days later, that’s when they are best.

*Salting makes beans tough is a myth.  Acid however does slow things down.  That’s why they go in at the end.
**The more vigorous the cooking the more the beans will break up.  If you prefer your beans to be less like beans and more of a mush you can crank up the boil.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What's for dinner? Chicken salad

The roast chicken from Tuesday and Wednesday's dinner was shredded for a chicken salad tonight. Oliver's chicken salad has ruined me for all other's; it is by far my favorite. The chicken salad is lightly dressed with olive oil, no mayo, and tossed with walnuts, celery, yellow raisins, parsley and cilantro. It was served over the left over arugula from the warm salad and the very last of our garden greens. 

Dessert was Greek yogurt mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, walnuts, raisins and coconut. I've also been eating the Greek yogurt as a side with my lunchtime black beans all week. 

Tomorrow I'll post the black bean recipe. Just in time for you to try it over the weekend!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roast chicken and winter vegetables on a rainy Tuesday


Pan seared fennel. Roast chicken that was soaked in a brine overnight. Quartered, roasted red potatoes and roast acorn squash.  Delicious! Thank you Oliver!

Monday, January 9, 2012

GEAUX TIGERS! (And a warm dinner salad too)


Tonight's the night! The championship game for all of American college football. Undefeated, #1 ranked, LSU is up for a rematch against #2 SEC (Southeastern Conference) rival Alabama. We already beat them once in over time so this game is sure to be a nail biter! As you can see, team spirit is running high in the Boudreaux house. GEAUX TIGERS!

On a heart healthy, blog relevant note, I cooked dinner last night. It was warm salad of thinly cut rib eye steak on a bed of arugula. The recipe came from my friend Phu

I picked this recipe because it was uncomplicated (read: seemed hard to mess up), fairly healthy and from  a trusted friend. The directions amounted to: put everything into a bowl except the arugula (or watercress) and shallots. Let marinate for 10 to 30 minutes. Then quickly stir fry the beef in a wok or thin saute' pan. Mix warm medium rare meat into the greens and shallots and serve immediately. The hardest part was thinly slicing the meat. But fortunately we have a great boning knife and Oliver gave me some pointers on what to do. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guest blogger: Amanda in Philadelphia

When I started this blog I asked a few like-minded, long-distance friends to join me as regularly featured guest bloggers. One of the people I asked is my super talented and very smart friend from grad school, Amanda. We met in Philly in 2007 while attending the University of the Arts, Book Arts, MFA program. Amanda, myself and two other girls (shout out to Phu & Steph) quickly bonded as friends; even though we've now spread to four different cities these girls are still very close to my heart.

I asked Amanda to blog with me for several reasons. Foremost: she is a fellow artist who has been known to make a lot of interesting art about food*. Second: she was raised by a James Beard Award winning, 2nd generation chef. Third: like myself, she recently found the need to make her lifestyle a little more heart healthy. 

Amanda's first post follows. It's about growing up in a family that included salad as a normal, happily anticipated part of every dinner. A habit that indisputably helps instill healthy eating habits in children and helps maintain them in busy adults. Thank you Amanda!

A Salad Every Day
I grew up the daughter of an Italian chef in the Midwest. While a legitimate gourmet, my father exposed us to every type of food, from Velveeta mac and cheese and frozen fish sticks to veal osso buco and balsamic glazed short ribs. Whatever the meal on the table there was always one constant: My father’s dinner salad. A base of greens, topped with tomato, cucumber, and red onion, dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, I ate this salad at the end of every meal as my father did, thinking I was more worldly than kids who ate their salads first. I firmly believed that salad at the end of my meal helped digest my dinner, and while I’m yet to find hard evidence that this is true, there is no denying that raw vegetables should be consumed everyday, providing the body with lots of vitamins and nutrients and a little bit of roughage.

In my own kitchen I love cooking with Asian, Indian, and Mexican flavors that were absent from our Italian-American kitchen, but I continue to make a salad every night. Based on his basics, I adjust ingredients to better pair with what I’m cooking.

What you need:

  • Foundation greens. Typically lettuce or baby greens, I also love arugula, spinach, or shredded cabbage. No greens? Make a base of shredded root vegetables: cauliflower, radish, carrot, even apple.
  • Base Toppings. Our salads always had cucumber slices, tomato wedges, and thinly shaved red onions. Radishes have become a staple in recent years. I’ve been known to add carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, peppers, anything not too strongly flavored and easy to eat.
  • Featured Toppings (optional). Olives are my favorite, especially when I’m eating Italian food, but they have a strong taste and can clash with other foods on your table. Having pork? Add apples. Having fish? Add orange segments. Avocados and various cheeses (particularly feta or gorgonzola) will break down in the acid of vinegar or citrus, adding another dimension to your dressing. Chickpeas, hummus, hard-boiled eggs, almonds, or tuna fish add protein making your salad a heartier part of your meal.
  • Dressing. Made of three parts: oil, acid, and salt and pepper. I rely most heavily on the standard olive oil and red wine vinegar, but have used variations. Sesame oil, rice vinegar, spicy mustard diluted with apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, tahini, mashed anchovies- so many possibilities. Dressings can be whisked together in a bowl and adjusted to taste before going on the salad, but most nights I pour the ingredients right over the greens and toss to coat.

The most important step in all of this is to toss the salad. I hate getting plates of greens with dressing on the side. Tossing your salad with a light coat of dressing insures every bite to have a bit of flavor without having to balance a forkful of thick bottled dressing on the side. Whether simple, like Cullen’s favorite salad of arugula and lemon juice, or fancy, like my radish and apple slaw with mustard and lemon over baby greens, salad deserves a place on your table, and in your belly, every evening.

*Amanda and Phu recently had collaborative works at the Woman Made Gallery in Chicago. The works involved laser cutting words and phrases onto foods. I find them fabulously tongue in cheek. Click here for more: HERE!

Photo of Larry D'Amico's salad ©Travis Anderson

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Homemade vegetable soup

The second half of the head of cabbage from my sweet and spicy slaw was reserved for Oliver's homemade vegetable soup. With it he combined carrots and celery (also seen in our weekend juice), turkey stock (from Thanksgiving), stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, a sweet potato and wild rice. He made a giant pot that lasted for several lunches and dinners. And I swear, it kept getting better every time we ate it. 

Lunch today was black beans eaten at my desk. Tonight we splurge! Rib Eye steak from Whole PayCheck, kale, sweet potato and a bottle of red wine. Gotta go!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Honey I shrunk the garden...

The frigid temperatures snuck up on us. After weeks in the 50's I wasn't even following the weather. The second night with unexpected (to me) temperatures in the teens shriveled the garden greens. In particular the bibb lettuce, bok choy and pepper plants. The romaine lettuce and kale look like they might pull through. It's disappointing that we didn't get to eat them but at least we learned. To be honest, part of me believed these little plants would pull through until spring! 

As I said to Oliver after I realized what had happened "It's a good thing we can go to the grocery store. We'd make terrible pioneers." Live and learn! I don't think I'll make this mistake twice.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sweet and spicy slaw

I did it! I made a sweet and spicy cabbage slaw! Woo hoo! The sweet came from the juice of one orange and one teaspoon of honey. The spicy came from homegrown hot  italian peppers and some pickled jalapenos. I chopped half a head of cabbage and shredded one large carrot. Everything went into went a bowl with a tablespoon of mayo and the juice from one lemon. I served it for lunch alongside the shredded chicken mole I made on Friday. Yay! One entire meal by me! - Cullen