Sunday, April 06, 2008

If you weren't hungry before you started reading this, you will be by the time you're done. I'm sorry.

First off, how about a hearty round of applause for NPW on last week's Choose Your Own Blogventure game? Wasn't that fun? I know it was no small feat organizing all of us wily bloggers into formation for such an undertaking, but NPDubs did it presumably with all fingernails still intact. Well done, my friend. I won't dare ask you when the next CYOB will be, but I do believe you have started something that must happen again. Good luck with that. And by the way, as a brief side note, is it just me, or do the rest of you see "CYOB" and want to turn those letters into "Carry Your Own Booze" or "Cover Your Own Butt" or some other similar distortion of another semi-well-known acronym? No? That's just me? I thought so. Moving on.

Friday after work I spent an absurd amount of money on groceries. ("Absurd" = $161, which, eerily, is the same amount that Poppy spent on groceries this weekend as well. As we both live alone, we were equally dismayed we managed to rack up that total.) In my defense, I had not gone shopping for weeks, and I was essentially down to spaghetti sauce, Kraft singles, pudding cups, and Triscuits. Sometimes I think it would be fun to host an Iron Chef-esque reality show in my home. In my version, though, there would be no secret ingredient. Instead, the catch would be that the chefs have to make a delicious meal using only ingredients I have on hand. I would love to see what inventive and remarkable things could be accomplished with no staples such as bread, eggs, or vegetables. Don't worry, chefs... I have flour! And condiments! Surely you can do something with those! (Incidentally, have I already written about this idea before? It's entirely possible I have. Carry on.)

So anyway, I went grocery shopping so that I wouldn't resort to having Kellogg's All Bran crackers dipped in cream cheese for dinner (or, to be more honest, resort to having Kellogg's All Bran crackers dipped in cream cheese for dinner a second night in a row). Rather than filling my cart with my usual boxes of carb-heavy, preservative-laden frozen and packaged foods, however, I did what the experts have been telling me to do for years: I focused nearly all my shopping in the outer areas of the store--the produce, dairy, and fresh foods area--and made only a few forays into the inner aisles. I bought fruit! And not just bananas! I bought a papaya and a mango and a bag of oranges! I bought lettuce! And jicama! And cherry tomatoes! I am entirely more proud of myself for this than I should be. I felt like the cashier should have given me a gold star when I piled my selections on the conveyor belt.

I've tried this "I'm going to eat real food" thing before... several times, in fact. It never sticks, largely because I am lazy and I do not like going to the grocery store as regularly as is required when the food you're buying is food that can't be stockpiled for weeks. Also, real food requires assembly and preparation. Theoretically, I'd love to bring a healthy snack such as baby carrots and hummus to work, but that requires divvying the carrots up into a little bag and finding a handy travel-sized container to hold a serving or so of dip, and making time for these bothersome tasks in my morning routine would require that I hit the snooze button a time or two less, and that, friends, is a battle I just can't seem to win. So we'll see how long this healthy eating kick lasts this time. I did rather well all weekend, if you don't count the many pumpkin oatmeal cookies I have eaten (Did anyone else make these after Noelle posted the recipe? If not, why not?? They are damn tasty.) or the three spoonfuls of peanut butter that I for some reason ate straight out of the jar, drizzled with honey, about a half hour ago. Oh, and also, the ridiculously over-the-top dinner I had last night. So really, I suppose I didn't actually do so well at all. Baby steps, as they say. Baby steps indeed.

Last night's dinner was, however, delicious. I don't know why I haven't been here before, it being rather conveniently located for me and having gained rave reviews in several publications around town. I am glad I finally went, though, if for no other reason than I now have a perfect "date place" in mind, should I ever actually go on a date again. Or, more specifically, should I go on a date with a rugged man's-man sort of guy who thinks dinner isn't dinner without a big slab of meat involved. (A note to my vegetarian friends: You might want to avert your eyes through this paragraph. Think fond thoughts of tofu and move along.) This restaurant is like a classier, urban, foodie-friendly version of our famous local barbecue chain. Their chicken is so juicy, their pork so perfectly seasoned that it makes me think those redneck bumper stickers have a point: if God didn't want me to eat animals, he wouldn't have made them so damn tasty. This place is so serious about their meat that they even put it in their vegetables. Yams topped with chorizo... collard greens with turkey. You can have your meat with a side of meat. I am telling you, boys would love this place. Or, many of the boys I've known would, anyway. I'll test this theory out eventually and report back.

But back to my grocery adventure. I mentioned listening to the "experts" and shopping primarily in the produce section. I haven't admitted that the "expert," in this case, is Montel Williams. Yes, that Montel Williams. Did you know he wrote a book? He wrote a few of them, actually. The one I have from the library at the moment, however, is this one. I don't even remember how I came across it, but I read the summary and somehow got sucked in. I do want to transform my life and feel spectacular! I do want to look better, feel better, have more energy and fewer aches and pains. But can Montel really make that happen? Maybe he can and maybe he can't. I'm only about a third of the way through the book, and so far I can sum it up thusly: "Vegetables are good for you! Eat more of them! Fish is good, too! I'm 51 years old and I look and feel great! I can wear a Speedo if I want to! Vegetables! Yay, vegetables! Superfoods!"

I may have taken a few liberties with the exclamation points, but I think you get the point. In any case, he does offer some fairly useful advice for incorporating those pesky vegetables into my life by encouraging me to blend them up into tasty drinks. I haven't yet tossed a head of Romaine in the blender with an orange and some ice cubes, as he recommended, but I did make a tropical fruit smoothie yesterday that was so good I almost forgot it was good for me.

So anyway. Healthy eating. Routine consumption of fruits and vegetables. It's my new (old) goal right now. I give it until Wednesday before I'm baking a frozen pizza again, but at the moment, I have high hopes, anyway. Wish me luck, because I will need it. Luck, and tips, actually. Have you figured out a way for complicated salads to miraculously make themselves? How about a way to make broccoli or cauliflower taste good without being slathered with cheese or salt? Anyone? Anything? I'm all ears.


Poppy Cede said...

The next time our cupboards are equally bare let's agree on the core ingredient(s) ahead of time and do an Iron Chef thing, where presentation is 100% of the points, then we're out own guest judges on taste. :D

Poppy Cede said...


3carnations said...

Montel Williams was diagnosed with MS almost 10 years ago, so the fact that he's looking and feeling great is awesome.

Broccoli...Well, we just heat it in some water and don't add a darn thing to it. We all like it that way. Probably not the solution you were looking for...

...and the All Bran crackers - Why dip them in anything? They are delicious just as they are! :-)

nancypearlwannabe said...

So I once did this program called the Scwarzbein Program, where you are not allowed to eat any of the following:

red meat
anything with chemical ingredients
anything processed (this includes pretty much everything at the grocery store besides vegetables)
anything with nitrates
over the counter medicines

Which basically left me with raw vegetables, plain chicken, and unprocessed nuts and grains like quinoa. I did it for six months. And then I stabbed out my own heart with a fork and ate it because I was HUNGRY.

No, actually, I went to Cheesecake Factory and couldn't find one thing to eat that didn't cause me to freak out, so I gave it all up and retired to a life of pasta and television. Although I did feel pretty incredible for about six months.

3carnations said...

I just saw an article about the Typo Eradication Advancement League.

Are those guys single? If so, I may have just found you your soulmate. ;)

Anonymous said...

Blend my vegetables in some drinks? Stefanie, there is NO risk of me being hungry after reading that! Please tell me you won't resort to that.

Hey, I'm just looking out for my friends. Instead of vegetables, blend liquor into your drinks. It's sooo much better.

You know what's yummy? Steamed broccoli seasoned with Morton's Seasonings. It's in a yellow bottle in the spice section of the grocery store. It will change your life!

Also, it pisses me off that when you try to eat healthy, you wind up paying three times as much. Is it any wonder this country is so fat? If Chipotle were cost-prohibitive, I don't think I'd find my butt in there so much!


lizgwiz said...

Well, I like steamed vegetables with just a bit of sea salt and lemon juice. But I'm weird. (Or soy sauce, but that's ridiculously high in sodium, if you're trying to avoid that.)

Courtney said...

You could put vegetables on a frozen pizza! That's what I do, and rationalize it as a healthy dinner. It's all about perspective, Stefanie.

Noelle said...

If I'm going to bring my lunch to work, I have to do most of the prepping before I go to bed the night before. It's one of my little tricks to get it done. Also, I'm emailing you with a salad recipe I've been using that is scrumtastic.

-R- said...

Is it bad that this post made be think we should go out on a cake date some time soon? Mmm... cake.

Also, I am kind of disappointed that Montel's book is not about sending wild teens to boot camp or determining who is the father of one's baby. Maybe I am confusing Montel and Maury.

L Sass said...

How I love that Montel is your healthy eating guru. Excellent.

One of the upsides to grocery shopping in NYC is that you can only take what you can carry... and I sure as heck can't carry $161 worth of groceries!

Lara said...

Umm, what are these "vegetable" things of which you speak?

Also, I think we should have a Blogger Meetup Iron Chef Competition at your house - very soon. Is it weird that I started imagining myself making some sort of tart with a ground-up-cracker crust?

Jess said...

We have been doign this for awhile now, since I started Weight Watchers, and while our grocery bills have gone up, our overall bills have gone down, in part because we don't eat out as much but also because I bring my lunch to work most days and that saves quite a bit of cash.

Anyway, I think it's great that you're all healthy too. Keep us posted on how it goes.

Aaron said...

I just buy all my groceries like, a day at a time. I have a hard time planning ahead. I'm surprised they don't know me by name at the grocery store.

Mousie said...

Roast the broccoli and cauliflower in the oven for great taste -- just toss the pieces in a little bit of olive oil first, add salt & pepper, toos onto a cookie sheet and cook at 400-450 until they get a little brown on the bottom. Flip and let the other side brown, too, if you want more roasty goodness. You will never look at steamed veggies the same way again.

Stefanie said...

Poppy--That's a fabulous idea. :-)

3Cs--Oh, I know. That's part of why I was interested in the book. I figure if whatever he's doing has helped get rid of his aches and pain and made him feel better and more full of energy even fighting MS symptoms, it has to help at least as much for someone without MS. That's the idea, anyway. And you're right: the broccoli answer wasn't the solution I was looking for. ;-) Thanks, though.

NPW--Oh my word. SIX MONTHS of that?? I am duly impressed. And a little frightened.

3Cs--I have seen that! NPW mentioned it a while back. No idea what the guys' story is. ;-)

Heather--It wasn't the vegetables part I was warning you about; it was mostly the paragraph about my Saturday dinner, I guess. Man, that meal was good. And WORD on eating healthy costing too much. It's so backwards but it's the truth.

Liz--OK, so that's two votes for steamed and seasoned. I am a little ashamed to admit that I don't even know how to steam veggie. (I don't have a steamer, but I'm sure there's a way around that.) I'm sure my friend Google can help me figure it out, though.

Courtney--That's actually a good idea, particularly since I can no longer find the vegetable primavera Freschetta pizza (with carrots and broccoli) that I used to like so much. I suppose I could go one better and make my OWN pizza, hiding some broccoli puree in the sauce, just like Jessica Seinfeld's book says. But all of that would negate the whole reason I make frozen pizza, which is largely convenience.

Noelle--Yeah, that's what I should do. But before bed I'm too busy reading blogs! :-) And that salad recipe does sound scrumtastic. I'll try it soon. Thanks.

R--OK, first, I did not mention cake at all. (Did I?) Second, the last time we went out, I WANTED to order cake, and you were all, "Yeah, I don't need cake." We'll have to go back for that legendary tres leches another time.

L Sass--I know, right? Like -R- said, I keep expecting him to start talking about dysfunctional families or something.

Lara--Hee. But what are you going to put IN the ground-up cracker crust?

Jess--I know; I'm impressed you've been so successful at sticking with the healthy eating plan. If you have any tips, I'd love to hear.

Aaron--You buy your groceries every day? Who has that kind of time?? Oh. Right. It helps when you don't have a block of eight hours dedicated to The Man, right? ;-)

Mousie--Thanks! See, you knew I even needed the oven temperature info. Some people assume that sort of knowledge. NEVER assume with me. I know very little.

metalia said...

I thought I was the only person who bought All Bran Crackers! :)

-R- said...

Healthy eating makes me think of cake. I turned down cake last time only because I had already eaten two pieces of cake that day.

lizgwiz said...

Stef, Pampered Chef makes a great microwave-steamer in two sizes. Couldn't be easier. (I do also have a bamboo steamer, but that requires a little more effort.)

Stefanie said...

Metalia--Nope! Where do you think I heard about them? Everyone on the Internet is talking about them! :-)

R--OK, that's logical enough (although I did have cake three times on my birthday... is there something wrong with that??). Next time, right?

Liz--But then I'd have to go to a Pampered Chef party! Surely Target has an adequate substitute, no?

Whiskeymarie said...

Unfortunately, a good salad takes a little bit of time to make, usually 10-15 minutes, but it's worth it.

Roast your broccoli & cauliflower- trust me, it's easy & delicious.
Make sure the florets aren't TOO small, then preheat the oven to 425.

Toss them with some olive oil & sprinkle with kosher salt & pepper.

Spread them on a baking sheet, then roast until they get a fair amount of brown (i.e. caramelization/deliciousness) then take them out and eat them as is.
Easy, easy.
Also good tossed in a salad if you do them ahead of time, and good on homemade pizzas. Seriously.