Monday, February 27, 2012

What's for lunch? Split pea soup!

Today we polished off the last of our week's supply of homemade split pea soup. It was a nice change from beans but now I'm looking forward to a week of chopped mixed greens.

We're also pretty much out of food so it looks like dinner tonight will be omelets with goat cheese, shallots and pickled tomatoes and peppers. Tomorrow night is a trip to YDFM.

Those of you who have been reading And Topher Too for several months already know we are not a weight loss blog (rather, we are a healthy living lifestyle blog) but weight loss has recently become a topic as I make a bigger effort to lower my blood pressure. The resolution started back in November when I was diagnosed with high blood pressure during a physical exam. My doctor's first response was to prescribe a blood pressure pill. When I returned a month later the medicine had not made a noticeable enough difference so my doctor changed my birth control pill to a low estrogen option. Even that did not bring my diastolic reading (bottom number) to the needed "below 80" number; I was stuck around 85. That is when I decided to lose weight. 11lbs in two months would put me at 134lbs by my 34th birthday.  Well, I'm 34 days in and I've got great news and news I'd hoped would be better.

The great news is: holy cow it worked!!! I've lost 5lbs pounds in five weeks and my diastolic reading has dropped 20 points. It's now averaging 66! I hadn't even dreamed 5lbs could change my blood pressure so dramatically. Hooray!

The news I'd hoped would be better: I'm holding steady at 140lbs. I just can't crack into the 130s. I've even added a 4th day of exercise by signing up for 8 weeks of kickboxing. I'd been warned the last 5lbs would be the hardest... so I'm not giving up just yet. My fingers are crossed that more exercise, less booze and another 4 weeks of determination gets me where I want to be. If it doesn't - then fine - I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. 

Weight Loss Check-In
Day 34, start of week six: 140.2lbs (4.8lbs lost)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dinner at Antico Pizza

Last night I realized how completely spoiled Oliver and I are when it comes to great, locally owned and operated restaurants. Atlanta is full of delicious and affordable places to eat that are not part of national chains. It's only when I see a television commercial for Olive Garden or Chili's that I even remember those types of places still exist. A few weeks ago I mentioned our first visit to Farm Burger; today I thought I'd highlight one the most fun places to eat Atlanta - Antico.


Antico is on the westside of the city, near Georgia Tech, but the feel of the place 100% Naples. The music, the crowds, the authentic Italian ingredients, the dough throwing*, the soccer on TV, the cannolis, the BYOB bottles of wine. We've probably eaten there ten times and every experience has been a good one. Even when we don't snag a table and end up eating while standing at a prep counter it is still a fun and delicious experience. Thumbs up to Antico - we're very glad to have you in our city.


*I tried to catch a video of the dough throwing. The posted video is the best I could do. You're just going to have to visit for yourself if you want to see it. It's great!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Breakfast

Breakfast: Fresh juice (carrots, apples, oranges, celery, ginger and spinach), soft boiled eggs and toast. All of Topher's favorites!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy Friday! You deserve a happy hour.

HAPPY FRIDAY! This post is for all our fellow Mad Men fans. One month from tomorrow the fabulous show returns with all new episodes! It's been a long year and half but I'm confident the wait will have been worth it. (The last season finale originally aired October 17, 2010). To celebrate we're toasting in classic Madison Avenue style. An Old Fashioned for Oliver (and Don Draper) and a Dirty Martini for me! Why yes, those ARE blue cheese stuffed olives. For more Mad Men cocktail inspiration check out this site. Now go enjoy your weekend!

Thanks to Finding Clairity for the fun Fantasy Friday post idea! We're looking forward to seeing what everyone else shares. - Cullen

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Help me Michael Pollan!

My Dad and I recently got into an increasingly heated coversation regarding my strong feelings towards CAFOs and what turned out to be his lack of knowledge about them. The phone call progressed into a series of emails in which we both tried to convince the other to see the industry our way. Eventually, I stopped writing back. Not because I began to agree with him - but because I found myself out of memorized argugment. Since then I've been pushing myself to write a comprehensive blog post about why I no longer eat CAFO meats and why sustainable agriculture needs to be priority for all Americans. Fortunately, in addition to Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver there are many resources on the web. If my posts slow down for a while it'll be because I'm working on the best way to share my point of view. Until then, enjoy this great little animation of a Michael Pollan lecture. - Cullen

"Food Rules" by Michael Pollan - RSA/Nominet Trust competition from Marija Jacimovic on Vimeo.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunday's Brunch

Sunday was a thankfully slow and relaxed day around the And Topher Too house. We slept late. Enjoyed an hour of exercise at a very empty gym. Then I read the New York Times while Oliver worked on our taxes. I'm sure I should've done something more productive - but it was cold and raining and I decided to indulge the desire to do nothing. 

Given the quantity and timing, breakfast became more of a brunch. Scrambled eggs, spinach with mushrooms, potatoes with onions and peppers, avocado,  a bit fried deli turkey and a giant slice of whole wheat sourdough toast. The fridge is now empty except for spinach and eggs - just enough for lunch. Looks like Monday night will a YDFM night!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pickled grape tomatoes

In my last post I mentioned the "grape tomatoes in the Blood Mary...the ones Oliver pickled from our very last summer 2011 harvest. Dill flavor, yum!" Then this morning I realized the pickling post is one that I never finished. So better late then never, here it is:

These tomatoes were part of the batch that Oliver ripened in a cardboard box in early November. Except these are the ones that didn't ripen. Some were a bit shriveled and others were still hard and green so we decided they were best suited for pickling. Two cans were packed with the hot Italian peppers we grew and two more were packed with okra from YDFM. Now, four months later, we are finally enjoying it all! Gotta love homegrown goodies and canning!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spring vegetable garden 2012


February 18, 2012: The start of our vegetable garden for 2012! This is the first time we've planted in front of the house; until now there has been a slowly dying, ancient dogwood in the same space. We chose the spot because it gets the most direct springtime sun (something all of these plants require). The side and backyards get hardly an hour or two but we will return to them for tomato and eggplant season. (Speaking of tomato season - notice the grape tomatoes in the Blood Mary. They're the ones Oliver pickled from our very last summer 2011 harvest. Dill flavor, yum!)

I'm excited about the possiblity of eventually eating all of our pretty little plants but I'm equally apprehesive about squirrels running off with them. It's a problem I'm not sure how to address. Also, we're not sure the leeks are actually leeks. How could they be? They're so densely packed and skinny? Time will tell. Oliver thinks they are mislabled chives. And finally, was this too early in the season to put plants in the ground (as opposed to seeds)? Guess I'll be watching the weather closely and be ready with a ground cover if needed! Wish us luck!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day - let's eat!

For dinner: strip steak, medium rare, with a mushroom wine pan sauce. Sides of asparagus, quartered roasted Yukon gold potatoes and a wilted spinach salad with goat cheese.
For lunch: deli sliced turkey, cucumber, mixed greens, red onion and cream cheese on YDFM whole wheat sourdough. (Along with a surprise delivery of two dozen, long stem, red roses and my favorite chocolate bar!)
Pregym: slice of bread with avocado, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.

Weight Loss Update
Day 22
(weigh in is Thursday)
It can be difficult to lose weight in an environment that often offers free sweets... but I am relieved to say I made it through Valentine's Day without giving into temptation. It was not easy (especially when I found myself hungry at 3pm) but it was doable. One co-worker brought in a dozen heart shaped Dunkin' Donuts. Another brought in homemade mini "Pop Tarts". And because said "Pop Tarts" were both mini and made with homemade cherry filling (from real cherries) I had just enough of an excuse to eat one... but I did not. Instead I enjoyed the small Valentine's snack I'd brought from home: three mejool dates and ten raw almonds. Even so, I'm doubtful that I'll have lost weight this week so my current goal is to not have gained any back.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Venison Bolognese

Made from scratch with roma tomatoes, homemade beef stock, onions, celery, bell pepper, carrot, garlic, mushrooms, more of our neighbor's venison, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Topher usually sits in his basket by the heating vent while Oliver cooks in the kitchen. This evening, while I did the dishes, I looked over and saw Topher limp with his nose resting on the vent. At first I was alarmed! But then I realized he'd dozed off while basking in the heat... oh Topher. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Saturday Eating

Breakfast: omelet with goat cheese, bacon, shallots and green onions
Lunch: chopped salad with mixed greens, spinach, shallots, roasted red peppers, cucumber, goat cheese, (the truly very last) jerk chicken and homemade dressing
Dinner: Ground venison (from a neighbor's hunt) Indian style over half a baked sweet potato and sauteed spinach

For me, the most notable meal of Saturday was Oliver's Indian style venision. It was deliciously memorable and completely out of the blue. We'd both spent a week wondering what to do with ground venison and then out of no where he whipped up this complex and satifying dish. After complimenting him he demured saying he just used "Indian spices" as if everyone reverts to such an obvious spice set. He then pulled the following stack from the cubbard leaving me speechless and impressed...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Making plans for our spring vegetable garden

One of the many things Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle inspired me to do was start a cool weather vegetable garden. At the time I read the book Oliver and I were already maintaining a successful summer garden but we had not yet considered trying our luck in the spring and fall. So last September we gave a fall garden a go; our success was mixed.  Half way through the experiment I realized I planted some things too late. Even so the kale and a few lettuces survived through the winter; they just never grew large enough to warrant picking and eating. Now, with spring around the corner, we have our 2nd shot at getting the cool weather vegetable garden right. To increase our odds I've spent the morning researching Atlanta's hardiness zone and what to plant. This is what I've learned:

  • Arugula - sow seeds directly into the ground 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost. Full sun.
  • Cabbage* - transplant seedlings into the garden 3-5 weeks after the last frost date. Needs fertile soil rich in organic matter.
  • Peas - sow seeds directly into the ground 4 to 6 weeks before last frost. Repeat in 14 day intervals to maximize harvestable crops.
  • Kale - sow seeds directly into the ground 3 to 5 weeks before the last frost.
  • Spinach* - transplant seedlings into the garden 4 weeks before the last frost.
  • Leeks - sow seeds directly into the ground 4 weeks before the last frost.
*I found contradicting sow times for both cabbage and spinach. One website said to plant seedlings 4 weeks before the last frost. Another website said to plant them after the threat of frost has passed. I don't what to do...

The key element for all of this is the mysterious last frost date. That date can be found by locating the "hardiness zone" for your area - which depending on where you live may not be as easy as it sounds. Atlanta, for instance seems, to be in a 50 year tug-of-war about it's designation. (It's an interesting history, read more about it here.) The basic conflict is whether Atlanta is zone 7 or 8 (meaning our last frost date is either mid March/early April or late April. Judging from my own experience as a born and raised Atlantan I've decided to go with zone 8, late March. That is based on the very memorable blizzard of 1993 which occurred March 13th (I remember because I was at my best friend's birthday slumber party and we got snowed in for days). 

Starting with mid to late March, and counting back 4 to 6 weeks, means we should start planting later this month. I'm debating ordering seeds online versus picking them up a nursery. In general I don't feel too confident when growing from seeds. I definitely prefer seedlings as we have the most success with them. But it doesn't hurt to try so we'll give it a go. Until then, we'll be preparing the soil and trying to find a space in the yard with better wintertime direct sunlight.

If any of the experienced Atlanta gardeners out there have advice to offer we would appreciate it! We saw some amazing gardens while on the urban chicken coop tour so we know it can done. Thanks and good luck to all the other newbies!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jerk chicken, jerk chicken, jerk chicken, Mitt Romney

It's been an unusually busy week around here for the And Topher Too family. During a normal week we sit down for dinner together every night; dinner usually being a variation of one large, previously cooked protein (pork shoulder, london broil, etc). This week (as I mentioned earlier) my job called for 12 and 13 hour days at the office - and we also had a surplus of jerk chicken legs and thighs (an unrelated yet odd combination). Therefore, every night we've either had jerk chicken over greens or jerk chicken with a side of black beans - we just haven't eaten them sitting together. Tuesday Oliver even delivered my dinner to me at the office! And now, now the work deadline has passed, I've come home on time and  Oliver is at the Georgia Tech basketball game! Left on my own to create dinner with greens and jerk chicken I decided to try and change things up.

For starters I created a dressing using the ginger scallion sauce Oliver made for the Bo ssam. I just added the juice of one lemon and splash of olive oil. Then, I mixed spinach with mixed greens and chopped them both (Alon's style). I topped it all with goat cheese and roast red peppers. Finally, rather then cutting my chicken from the bone I ate it over the sink like a normal home alone person . Fortunately for our readers, that was the last piece of jerk chicken! So by this weekend we will be back to more interesting healthy meals

The unexpected surprise of the intense work week was a visit from Mitt Romney. He didn't actually come to our design studio but he did have a campaign rally in the warehouse directly next door. We began to suspect something was up when a police car parked itself outside of our office during lunch. That was followed by an entourage of news vans and a bevy of men dressed like MIB agents. After a quick Google search we figured out what was going on so we were prepared when Mitt drove by with a police escort and a wave (crappy photo below). Regardless of who I plan to vote for it's always fun to see a possible future American president in person! Thanks to Mitt for the drive-by. It certainly spiced up a hard day of work.

Weight Loss Check-In
Day 17: 140.8lbs (4.2lbs lost)
I was prepared to have made no progress this week. I indulged Friday and Saturday at lunch. Then again on Sunday at a Super Bowl party with more beers then are weight loss appropriate. But I did my best to make up for it all while I sitting motionless at my desk for 12 hours at a time - which is to say I didn't eat much. Then on Wednesday and Thurday I ran my heart out at the gym. To my good fortune everything seems to have balanced out.
Monday: breakfast - Kashi Crunch cereal
lunch - roast beef sandwich (no mayo, no cheese)
dinner - jerk chicken with broccoli 
no gym, no alcohol
Tuesday: breakfast - oatmeal
lunch - black beans with rice
dinner - jerk chicken over mixed greens
no gym, no alcohol
Wednesday: breakfast - oatmeal
lunch - black beans with greek yogurt
dinner: jerk chicken with black beans
500 calories burned on the elliptical (level 10/hills setting/ 30 minutes)/ one glass of pinot grigio
Thursday: breakfast - oatmeal
lunch - black beans (solo, we're out of everything else)
dinner: jerk chicken near mixed greens and spinach
500 calories burned on the elliptical (level 9/hills setting/ 25 minutes followed by weights)/ two glasses of pinot grigio

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

And Topher Too is now on Facebook!

Click the big blue button in the right hand column and then "like" us on Facebook. We'd really appreciate it. More food, thoughts and weigh-ins coming tomorrow. Cheers! - Cullen

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine Treat ideas

Valentine's Day is one week from today! Are you ready? When I think of Valentine's Day several treats come to mind. The first are my cousin Amber's unbelievably perfect custom cookies. As a professionally trained pastry chef, with work experience at Wilton, SweetAmb's dessert decorating skills are sought after worldwide. Just last leek a batch of her cookies were featured in a Style Me Pretty Copenhagen wedding. Surprising your sweetheart with these gorgeous (and delicious) cookies will certainly make a lasting impression.

The second treat is my favorite chocolate bar. What makes it perfect for Valentine's is it's love letter styled wrapper. Chocolove chocolate bars come in an incredible array of flavors and everyone includes a love poem. I pick them up weekly at YDFM. Coffee Crunch for me and Chiles and Cherries  for Oliver. And because dark chocolate is actually good for you one brick a day fits nicely into a heart healthy diet!

The final Valentine treats are actual Valentine's. Years ago, when I was freelancing at Carter's, I was caught unprepared when all the designers brought sweet little Valetine's for one another on Valentine's Day. Ever since then I've kept a small collection of vintage and collaged Valentine's on hand. I thought this year it'd be nice to get those same little valentine's out into the world by sharing them as a free download with you!
Three of the four that I've shared since 2007 have been posted to my flickr account. (Unfortunately the fourth is one of my favorites! But you can still see it here.) Click the following for: little pilot, Oh Deer! and the crazy farm animals collage. Download the option labeled "original size". Then print, cut, glitter, sign and share!