Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pickled Cabbage Salad

One of my favorite restaurants, Cafe 15 in Oakland, serves a lovely fresh cabbage slaw with its oyster po'boys and pulled pork sandwiches. When my dinner menu went belly-up last night (I thought I had bought red lentils but it was yellow split peas), I scrambled for a replacement side dish.

What follows is a cross between Cafe 15 slaw and "Lahano Salata Kypriaki"--cabbage and pickled cucumber salad from The Foods of the Greek Islands.

Pickled Cabbage Salad
Four cups shredded cabbage (about 1/2 small cabbage)
Juice of two lemons
1/4 cup chopped dill pickle
One cup blanched, chopped carrot (clean the carrots and steam or boil for about two minutes, until just fork-tender, then coarsely chop)
Two cups chopped celery with leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Two teaspoons olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together, adding more lemon juice if necessary. You can make this ahead--add the lemon juice & olive oil before serving.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kikkoman: Great Customer Service

Earlier this week I bought some Kikkoman Roasted Garlic Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce. I poured a table spoon on my brown rice and brocolli without trying it first--big mistake. It tasted awful. After throwing away the bottle, I made a comment on the Kikkoman website, asking for a check for the $3.49 I'd wasted.

Two days later, I received a thick envelope in the mail from the company. Inside was a newsletter/brochure and a letter with four, crisp dollars attached to it.

The letter said:

"Dear Consumer [Fleagir]:

We received your email regarding the bottle of Kikkoman Roasted Garlic Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce you purchased at Safeway. You wrote that "it has an off-taste to it, like burnt plastic." Since you would be throwing it away, you asked for a refund. We are sorry to hear you were disappointed.

The Sauce should have a savory, robust garlic flavor so we are curious to know why it tasted like "burnt plastic" to you. We will forward your complaint to our quality assurance department for investigation.

We appreciate your taking the time to share your concerns with us. Enclosed please find $4.00 for your next purchase of another Kikkoman sauce. We hope your next experience with Kikkoman will be a good one.


[Assistant Manager Consumer Services]

How's that for terrific customer service?!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Burning calories

It's been raining and stormy in Northern California this week, grounding my husband and I from our daily walks. It's been a convenient excuse to not exercise, and though I've done Jillian Michaels' 30-day Shred a number of the days, it just hasn't been the same.

Today I found a moment when the baby was asleep *and* the rain abated, so I threw on my heart-rate monitor watch and grabbed my hand weights and ran out the door. As I started up, my hip was sore and tight and my knee grumbled and I was tired. What was I doing? The baby was napping for another hour and I could use that time for something better--like reading my new books. Or figuring out what was for dinner. Or napping.

I pushed on. I thought about all the nice compliments I've received lately. I pictured my next goal--to hit 60 pounds lost. At the time when I normally turn up my street to head home, I kept going. I walked past the farm that's lush and green right now, and the hills past it were verdant and dappled in sunlight. Thinking about completing the Bay to Breakers, I kept going. Every time my heart rate dipped I reminded myself of the cocktail party I went to last night, where I ate and drank with abandon. By the end I logged 625 burned calories, and I was invigorated.

For the party I brought Cauliflower "Poppers" which are bite-sized pieces of cauliflower tossed with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and a touch of olive oil, then baked in the oven for 10 minutes. I *also* brought a fancy little appetizer that are super-easy to make. Amounts are flexible, depending on how many you want to make:

Caesar Salad Frico Bites

About 3 cups 4-cheese shredded Italian cheese mix--note: SHREDDED, not grated
1 to 1.5 shredded Parmesan or asiago cheese
Approx. 2 heads romaine lettuce
Garlic-herb croutons (you can make your own, but in the interest of time, you can certainly get store-bought)
Caesar dressing--again, make your own if you prefer, but I use Newman's Own Creamy Caesar dressing
Other materials: cookie sheet, non-stick aluminum foil, measuring cups, thin spatula

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cheeses together in a medium bowl. Line a cookie sheet with non-stick aluminum foil. Using a 1/8 measuring cup, put six rounded cupfuls of cheese on the foil. Gently tap down cheese. Cook for 7-8 minutes, watching for browning at the edges. When browned, use a thin spatula (like a fish spatula) to remove the cheese and insert it into 1/3 to 1/4 cup measuring cups. Be sure to get the cheese flat against the bottom so that your cups will sit properly. MOVE QUICKLY! If your cheese cools so that it isn't easily pliable, pop the tray into the oven for 30 seconds.

When the cheese has cooled in the measuring cups, remove to cool further on a rack. Use two cookie sheets to keep the process going.

Salad--crush the crutons by hand into a bowl (don't grind them in a food processor, it will pulverize them which you do not want). Chop the lettuce very fine and add to the crutons. Add enough dressing to season the salad, but you don't want it drippy. Season with crushed black pepper. There is probably enough salt in the cheese and crutons that you won't need to add more.

Spoon the salad into the cups and enjoy!

The cups can be made a day or two ahead of time.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bean & Cabbage Soup

I don't know any phrase that strikes more fear in my husband than "Bean and Cabbage Soup." Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but this recipe is definitely for a house stocked with Beano. Or at the very least, don't have this as a workday lunch! Nice on a lazy, rainy day.

This recipe was inspired by Mollie Katzen's White Bean & Collard Green Soup.

Bean & Cabbage Soup

One tablespoon olive oil
One large onion, diced
Three large carrots, washed and thickly sliced
Three celery stalks, chopped
Two large cloves garlic, chopped
Six cups Chicken broth (or vegetable)
One to two teaspoons fennel seeds
One can cannelini beans, drained
One small head cabbage, cored and sliced

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot, adding the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Salt to taste, saute until fragrant. Add broth and fennel, simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans and cabbage. The cabbage will likely fill your soup pot--put the lid on and allow the cabbage to cook down, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Nice with some "cheese toasts" (french or sourdough bread topped with sharp grated cheese and toasted under broiler) and a shot of srihacha sauce.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Brown Rice Pasta

After Dr. Kooky told me to lay off the wheat (which I haven't, and the pains are subsiding...but that's another post), I bought some brown rice pasta at Trader Joe's.

It sat on the counter and looked at me dolefully daily. I didn't cook it. And I didn't cook it. And after everyone one else in my life convinced me that wheat was not my source of pain, I started to think that there would be something really off with pasta made of brown rice. It would taste bad, I thought. It would smell funky, I thought. It would have a weird texture, I thought.

I thought these things so much that I stopped at the store on the way home to get my regular whole grain spaghetti (200 cal, 0.5g fat, 6g fiber) for our quick spag & meatball dinner. And when I poured the whole grain spaghetti into the pot of boiling water, the brown rice spag silently sat there. Judging me.

So I cooked some of each, and we had a taste test. The brown rice pasta was definitely stickier as soon as I took it out of the water; I did not rinse it, which may have minimized stickiness. We all tasted the brown rice pasta first. It didn't have a strong taste, nor did it have a "bite"--I only cooked it for 7:30 minutes--and people who like an overtly nutty, flavorful pasta would dislike it.

But if you like your pasta a little more well-done, you would love brown rice pasta. Now, I'm not saying this is mushy pasta. It just isn't as toothsome. Moving onto the whole grain pasta--which has 4g of fiber more per serving than brown rice--I found it to be almost hard in comparison.

My soon-to-be teen said, "I like all pasta, so they're both good." But when I pointed out it was rice-noodle pasta like his beloved "bun", he perked up and gobbled it down.

I think my husband prefered the brown rice pasta because he said, "I don't hate the normal stuff. Is the first stuff [brown rice] expensive or something?"

We've got brown rice pasta converts here, I think!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Not quite

Well, I'm still 1.6 pounds from 55 but yey, I lost!

Dinner tonight was slow cooker beef stew, beet & Chevre salad, and sourdough bread. Lovely feast!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Will I Do It?

There is a good chance that I might officially have lost 55 pounds tomorrow upon weigh-in. If so, that would mean that I made it through feasting season officially unscathed. (We didn't meet last week!)

Monday, January 04, 2010

43 Things

Wendolonia posted a long list of things that she'd like to do this year, reminding me that I have an account, long forgotten, on 43 Things. So I thought I'd look at what I've said I wanted to accomplish. And after I look at it, I'm going to figure out what I want to do THIS year. Guarantee it won't be any where as crafty as Wendy's.

January 04, 2010
1. do something new every day

2. Exercise daily

3. smile at strangers

4. spin a cartwheel

5. Become a neat freak

6. write a novel

7. Watch Cary Grant's Movies in Chronological Order

8. not freak out on airplanes anymore

9. Improve my credit rating--I've done this but want to improve it more.

10. go to a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes concert

11. improve my character

12. Get some style

13. Wear a cowboy hat

14. Fit into an airplane seat without touching the arm rests

15. make more friends

16. Speak French fluently

17. Own a home

18. Visit the dentist--I've done this but have to keep going.

19. Rent a cottage on a Greek Island

20. learn to fix cars

21. Learn to play the guitar

22. learn how to drive stick-shift

23. Walk the Pacific Coast Trail

24. work with glass

25. Go skiing

26. Walk a 5k--Hey! I've done this!

27. do yoga regularly

28. Finish my screenplay

29. Become a gourmet cook

30. Drive a racecar

31. Learn to dance

32. Live in another country

33. collect more postcards

34. eat more organic foods

35. become the nicest person in the world

Sunday, January 03, 2010


A year ago if you told me that my top priority each day would be to exercise I'd laugh and laugh and knock you off your seat. I remember my co-worker (a young girl of 23 who grew up in an athletic household) saying to me, "I feel like crap. I only ran three miles this morning." At 5 am. In the dark. In January.

While I'm not yet getting up at 5am in January to walk, I definitely feel great after a good 60-minute brisk walk with weights. And it's a great way to burn 500 calories.

My tools:

Enell Sports Bra
Good walking shoes & socks from Fleet Feet
Ipod with a jaunty playlist
Reebok 2 & 3-lb handweights
Polar F6 Heart Rate Monitor Watch

I love the heart rate monitor watch, which I received for Christmas. I can set the range where I want to keep my heart rate (usually between 125-144 for maximum fat burn), and I can keep track of how I'm doing. When I start to flag and slowdown, the alarm lets me know that I need to step it up.

The weights are great for upper body cardio. There are days when my knee bothers me so I can't walk as fast as I'd like, so I "pump" my weights, which really boosts my heart rate. In fact, I don't think I'd get nearly as good a workout without them.

Of course, I look cRAzY...but I'd rather look like a screwball when I exercise than die when I'm 45 from a heart attack.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Absolute Denial

Faithful readers, I know you read yesterday's posts with repeated mental headslaps. Yes, I'm in denial. Yes, I'm stubbornly refusing to admit that good advice is good advice.

Would I be healthier if I had less caffeine? Yes.

Would I be healthier if I had less alcohol? Yes.

Would I be healthier if I had less sugar? Yes.

Would I be healthier if I had less wheat? Well, that I don't know. I don't seem to show any signs of wheat intolerance or wheat allergies...and looking over the paperwork she gave me I can't find any reference of staying away from wheat. So I'm not really sure about that one.

My husband doesn't think Dr. Kooky knows what she's talking about. "You buying her crystal ball mumbo-jumbo?" This from a guy who meditates and doesn't like to take medication.

"Listen," he rationalized,"You've been doing really well on your 'journey' [what I call my weight-loss effort]. If you cut out all these things now, will that derail you? Will you focus on getting healthy or on not eating wheat? Is it realistic? Will you gain it all back?"

Friday, January 01, 2010

Asian is out

Soy sauce has wheat in it.

Wonton wrappers have wheat in them.

I just had both in a fantastic soup for lunch. It did not have sugar, alcohol or caffeine however. Really good soup.

Asian Wonton Soup

Half a large onion, chopped
One clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
2 C baby spinach leaves
One large can Swanson's chicken broth
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1 T soy sauce
2 T chili garlic sauce
16 Chicken cilantro mini wontons (frozen, found at Trader Joe's)

Saute the onion, garlic and oil for about two minutes. Add remaining ingredients except wontons. Bring to a boil. Add wontons, boil for two minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste.

I serve with a small drizzle of sesame oil.

Doctor's Orders

This morning I thought about what I'd have for breakfast that would comply with my doctor's orders of no caffeine, alcohol, sugar or wheat. Not a problem--an organic corn tortilla topped with thinly-sliced ham, a perfect sunny-side-up egg, and some papaya/mango salsa. Delicious. And I'll have an orange a little later.

As I puttered around the kitchen I looked at other things I have in the morning. Corn bran--yes, it works. Kashi? Nope, made with wheat ingredients. Certainly not Shredded Wheat. Oh, not my whole wheat tortillas, which means no more egg white spinach wraps from Starbucks. Oh. No whole wheat spaghetti, which I have a big bowl of in the fridge to be topped with all sorts of yummy things.

My husband came into the kitchen and commented on my long face. "So many things have wheat in them!" I lamented.

"Oh, you're not really going to listen to her are you? No alcohol, no caffeine, no sugar, no wheat? Where am I going to live while you're doing this? I've been through you not having alcohol and caffeine, and you're a bear. You're horrible on the weekends when you don't get your Starbucks fix!"

I didn't point out that most of the times when I wasn't having alcohol and caffeine I also happened to be PREGNANT, during which time I was a rolling ball of freakout hormones.

But a little glimmer of hope flickered. My husband was telling me I have to have caffeine and alcohol! He loves me, he really loves me!

Okay, before you smack me up side my head, I promise I'm not going to disregard Dr. Kooky's orders (though my sisters-in-law told me last night to ignore her, that she's nuts and I should see a different doctor). Here's what I'm going to do:

This week: Cut my alcohol & caffeine consumption in half, increase my water intake by 100%; cut out all sweets and deserts, except for my Fiber One bars (I have about two or three a week) and Tic Tacs; become aware of wheat in foods and choose something without wheat whenever possible.

You didn't really think I'd be able to go cold turkey, did you?