Skip to content

Posts from the ‘food’ Category

cholula, you ain’t no tabasco

Naomi Campbell once threw a phone at her assistant. But she can’t be all bad. After all, she once revealed in an interview that she carries Tabasco in her purse. Assuming she’s not carrying the Tabasco around to splash in her assistant’s eyes, that single fact makes Naomi Campbell bulletproof in my book. Because as far as I’m concerned, Tabasco is the stuff of life.

Unfortunately, around Portland, it’s getting harder and harder to find Tabasco in restaurants. I noticed it happening about a year ago. And now it happens all the time. My friend Patrick says it’s because Cholula reps are always hawking their wares to restaurateurs. Whatever the cause, it’s a real problem. Once, if you asked “Do you have Tabasco,” the response you’d get was “Green or Red?” Nowadays, if you ask “Do you have any Tabasco?” you’re likely to hear “No. [Insert sad hipster waiter face]. But I have Cholula!”

Original

chili lime cholula sounds absolutely disgusting

Who wants your stinking Cholula??  Cholula is fine if you’re putting it on an enchilada or Huevos Rancheros. That’s because if you sprinkle Cholula on something, your food automatically turns into Mexican food. So if you’re trying to go in that direction, it helps to start with Mexican food. Cholula gives off a dull, smoky vibe that falls somewhere between the “Hot” and “Fire” sauces at Taco Bell. I’m not knocking that. There’s definitely a place for Fire sauce, I mean, Cholula, and that place is on a 99 cent bean and cheese burrito.

But you for damn sure can’t put Cholula on a bed of tender, soft-cooked eggs, or sprinkle it in little dots all the way down a slice of crisp bacon. You can’t put Cholula on the crunchy top layer of homemade macaroni and cheese. You can’t put Cholula on pizza, unless it’s taco pizza. Admittedly, that last one is a guess, because I’d never order a taco pizza. That shit is gross.

No, sometimes, Cholula just won’t do. Sometimes, the only thing that will do is that blast of acidic, vinegary heat. That fiery hit of Tabasco.

I told my friend Ethan I was writing this post, and he immediately started in on an irrelevant diatribe against Chipotle guacamole, Hunt’s ketchup, and tomatillo salsas. Which just goes to show that we all have our least favorite condiments. I can’t take Ethan seriously because he hates Tabasco. When I complained that Cholula makes everything taste like Mexican food, Ethan opined that “Mexican food is better than Tabasco food,” which just makes me feel sorry for him.

Anyway, I’m not saying restaurants should ONLY offer Tabasco. I just want them to keep Tabasco in the mix. In case you’re wondering, Tabasco is not paying me to write this post. No, this love is for free.

Until the restaurants awake from their cloudy Cholula haze, I’ll just have to carry my own hot sauce. Which is why, this Christmas, I’m asking for this.

Advertisements

killer tofu

Everywhere you turn, someone is telling you that something you’re feeding your kids is bad for them. Which is fine if your kids are good eaters and you have a host of food options from which to choose. My kids? Left to their own devices, they each eat like twelve foods. Maybe more like six, if you take away the fruit.

One of the things they will both eat, however, is tofu. They will eat every variety of tofu, from silken to pressed. They will eat it in soup, baked, pan fried, steamed, whatever. And that’s good because tofu has nutritious stuff in it, like vegetable protein.

20131002-183614.jpg

Anyway, about the tofu. The latest word on tofu is that if you have boy children and they eat too much of it, they will grow breasts. Or something like that. Feel free to Google it—I haven’t, because, okay, I admit it, I’m scared of where “tofu man breasts” will lead me on Google Images. I’ve been afraid of Google Images ever since I Googled “genital warts.” Not that you believe me, but I don’t have genital warts and neither does Tom. I was just curious.

Besides, I have my own thoughts on the latest fear-mongering over tofu, and those thoughts are similar to my thoughts on MSG. Let me just point out that the Chinese have been around for a really long time. And I don’t know any Chinese people who complain about MSG headaches. I also don’t know any Chinese men with breasts.

Well, wait a minute. I know a few Chinese men with breasts, but they’re fat all the way around, and I’m sorry, if you’re a fat man you’re likely to have breasts regardless of your race or how much tofu you ingest. If you need further scientific evidence that it’s ok to eat tofu, I ate a shit ton of tofu growing up and I’m flat as a goddamned board.

20131002-183448.jpg

I guess what I’m really railing against is food hysteria in general. We all want to eat healthy. I try to make good choices, and make good choices for my children. But for me, food is not just about sustenance. Food is about taste, memory, pleasure, warmth, happiness. I enjoy nothing more than this loaf of bread with a crock of good butter. Eating bread reminds me of when I was a kid, tucked into my window seat on a rainy day, reading about Heidi and her grandpa and their goats and their tasty milk and cheese.

Nowadays, I feel guilty when I eat bread. And that guilt drives me to eat my croissants in the car like I’m some perv, or worse, to forgo the croissant entirely in favor of “healthy” pap like gummy, reconstituted granola. I dunno. I’m going to die of something, and I sort of doubt it’ll be the bread.**

So about that tofu. I like stir-fries because your kid can help with the washing and chopping. This delicious little stir-fry (you can sub shrimp if tofu is not your thing) makes my family happy. It’s a little spicy but even Tate will eat it, and shamefully, he thinks black pepper is spicy. Also, you might as well prepare your kids’ palates for the global Chinese domination that is coming.

Thanks to the sauce in this stir-fry, my kids will (accidentally) eat the mushrooms, water chestnuts, and green onions in the recipe. Shiitakes, not the benign kind of mushroom. Hot damn! I guess I’m ok risking two tiny sets of man boobs for that.

**I’m aware that certain people, like those with Celiac Disease, can actually die of bread consumption. I’m not making light of bread eating, except as it applies to me.

20131002-183545.jpg

MA PO TOFU

Adapted from “Martin Yan’s Chinatown Cooking”

Ingredients:

3 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms (if dried, soak in warm water for 20 minutes), de-stemmed and chopped

6 oz. ground pork

1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon hot bean paste, black bean sauce, bean chili sauce, or chili garlic sauce (one of these should be available in the “ethnic foods” aisle—we’re getting ethnic, people!—of your grocery store. If you have a choice, go for the bean chili sauce)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/3 cup chopped water chestnuts

1 14-oz. package soft (or silken, or Japanese style) tofu, drained and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch lengths

2 teaspoons cornstarch (dry)

2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

1. Marinate the pork: stir the ground pork, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon soy sauce together, let stand 10 minutes.

2. Make the sauce: stir 2 tablespoons soy sauce in a bowl with the sesame oil and one cup water. Set aside.

3. Chop the water chestnuts, mushrooms, green onions, throw them all in bowl and set aside. Get your chopped garlic ready. Make sure your tofu is cut and drained. You want everything chopped before you start a stir-fry, because the actual cooking takes like 4 minutes.

4. Heat a wok, skillet, or cast-iron pan over high heat until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and stir fry until fragrant, mybe 20 seconds. Add the pork, whatever bean/chili paste or sauce you are using, and stir fry until the pork is crumbly, 2-3 minutes.

5. Pour the sauce into the pan along with the cut vegetables (water chestnuts, mushrooms, green onions). Slide in your tofu, stir gently or swirl the pan to get the tofu coated with the sauce. Let simmer until heated through, 2-3 minutes. Don’t freak out if your soft tofu starts to break apart. Just be as gentle as you can.

6. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and cook gently, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. If you don’t care if your sauce is runny, you can omit this step.

7. Take off heat. Serve over hot brown rice!

the salad i can’t quit

When Cuz lived here, she endeared herself to me by eating our leftovers. I am really talented at creating leftovers. I am also good at packing leftovers, and storing them in the refrigerator. But I am bad at eating them.

That’s because I’m highly prone to food exhaustion. Tom, on the other hand, can eat the same thing every day. When I met him in NYC he was subsisting on sushi and the Route 66 burrito from Burritoville. One or the other. Every single day.

When Baja Fresh opened in Portland ten years ago, Tom made me eat there all the time. And then one day, I stepped into a Baja Fresh and smelled that unmistakable Baja Fresh cilantro smell, and felt like I was going to throw up. I knew then that I could never eat at Baja Fresh again, no matter how many free jalapenos they offered at the salsa bar. The same thing happened to me at Chipotle, but I still have to go there for my kids. Actually now that I think about it, maybe it’s not food exhaustion, maybe it’s cilantro exhaustion.

Whatever. All I know is that I hate to eat the same meal twice in a row. Unless it is this salad, which I have eaten at least ten times since Mother’s Day, when I received “Super Natural Every Day,” the cookbook the salad can be found in, from my kids. I cannot stop making this salad. I cannot stop eating this salad. TOM cannot stop eating this salad, and he thinks of salads as punishment, or an evil to be borne. I brought the salad to a party last night and three friends asked for the recipe.

20130608-141843.jpg

mother’s day. photo by finn

It works for me because it’s a whole grain salad, and I dig whole grain salads. They seem healthy, but are substantial enough to be satisfying. And they pack well for lunch.

By the way, if you live in Portland, there is a lunch place downtown called the Picnic House that has the most insanely delicious brown rice salad. Take my word for it. I went to get one last week and they had just run out, and I started crying. Not SOBBING, but there was definitely moisture on my face. I mean, I’d had a shitty day up to that point so it wasn’t just the salad, but still. Go get one.

Or just cook this salad at home, which is different, but similar, in that feeling of nuttiness, chewiness, wholesomeness, deliciousness. This salad is interesting in that the flavors are Asian. My kids would eat their own shoes if they had soy sauce and sesame oil on them. If yours would too, they might like this. If you have leftover whole grains in your fridge, this can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.

20130608-141907.jpg

Kale Salad with Coconut and Sesame Oil

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

Ingredients:

1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari

4 cups (lightly packed) kale, preferably lacinato/dinosaur/tuscan (about one large bunch) (large stems removed, torn or chopped)

1 cup large-flake unsweetened coconut

2 cups cooked whole grain (something firm–I like farro and brown rice for this, but bulgur, wheatberries, or barley would all work well)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Put two racks near top.

2. Put sesame oil, olive oil, and soy sauce into a jar or bowl. Whisk to blend, or just put the lid on the jar and shake the hell out of it.

3. Put kale and coconut in large bowl and toss with 2/3 of the dressing mixture to coat. This step works best if you use your hands to massage the dressing onto the kale leaves. Spread evenly over two baking sheets.

4. Bake for 12-18 minutes total, switching racks and flipping kale halfway through. You should end up with kale that is still green but toasted and brown at edges.

5. Combine kale/coconut with the whole grains. Toss to combine. Add as much of the leftover dressing as you like.

Serves 2-3 as meal, maybe 6 as appetizer.

Note: This is also really good with roasted butternut squash if you want more color and texture to the salad.

zucchini bread for liars

I suspect that vegetables are a relatively boring topic for anyone who 1) doesn’t have kids, or 2) has kids who eat vegetables (I hate you), and for that I apologize. For me, the only time I stop thinking about how to get my kids to eat more vegetables is every couple months when my brain shorts out and forgets to think about the topic out of sheer exhaustion.

We all know an adult who will only eat hamburger meat and chicken nuggets. My older kid, Finn, is like three Happy Meals away from becoming that societal freak. If he turns into that guy, I will kill myself. I really will.

Last week I asked Finn, as I do every few weeks, if he was enjoying the carrots in his lunch. Yes Mommy, he nodded, as usual. But that day, I don’t know—maybe he looked away a beat too long—something made me ask again. Finn squirmed in his seat and began staring at the far wall. Then things went all to hell.

“You have been eating your carrots, right?,” I said, thinking of the 500 or so baby carrots I’d packed in his lunch over the past six months.

(Long pause). “Wellll. Sometimes I don’t eat my carrots,” Finn said.

(Longer pause). “Sometimes?,” I asked, nibbling a nail. “Or all the time?”

Finn looked like he was going to cry. “All the time, mommy,” he said.

Man. Secretly I think I always knew he wasn’t eating those damn carrots. There were signs that I chose to ignore. Like the one morning I casually handed him a baby carrot at breakfast while I was packing more carrots in his lunch and he took ten minutes to choke the carrot down, which he then promptly regurgitated. “But you eat these all the time at lunch!,” I said. Like an idiot.

Looking back, I clearly chose to turn a blind eye. Lying is no good, but my grown-up behavior was arguably worse. Finn probably felt that he needed to lie about eating the carrots in order to protect my emotional well-being. When I asked Finn’s lovely teacher for advice, as I always do when the going gets tough, she suggested, gently, that I stop packing the carrots for the time being. So no more carrots.

Anyway. A part of me is glad that’s all worked out and the sham is over and now I can go back to hiding vegetables in Finn’s food.

Zucchini bread is a passion of mine. I like mine moist, zucchini-heavy, and not too sweet. After many dozen loaves, I’ve worked out my standby recipe. It’s low on sugar, part whole wheat, yadda yadda, but here’s the best part–you can mix all the contents by hand. My stand mixer is a beast that weighs approximately 75 pounds. Increasingly I find myself looking for ways to avoid using it.

20130421-140153.jpg

If you have a food processor with a shredder blade, you can get this whole thing in the oven in 15 minutes. As part of his ongoing campaign to do harm in the kitchen in order to avoid being asked to cook, Tom accidentally lit my food processor on fire about a year ago and it still manages to get the job done with the zucchini, even though I have to stick my hand in the feed tube to get the motor to work. Just think how easy it will be with your fully operational Cuisinart.

20130421-140132.jpg

Zucchini Bread

Adapted from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Ingredients:

1.5 cups all-purpose flour (spooned in to the measuring cup, not packed in)

1/2 cup + 3.5 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 large eggs

1/2 liquid cup vegetable, safflower, or canola oil

1/2 cup sugar (add more for sweeter bread–Beranbaum’s original recipe calls for 1 cup)

3 cups shredded or grated zucchini

1 cup chopped walnuts (or omit)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Move rack to rung below middle of oven.

2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

4. Whisk together eggs, oil, and sugar until incorporated in large bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Batter will be a little stiff.

5. Add zucchini, mix to incorporate with wooden spoon. The batter will begin to loosen as the moisture from the zucchini incorporates into the batter. Fold in walnuts, if using.

6. Pour into greased and floured 9 x 5 loaf pan. Or cheat and spray the pan with Baker’s Joy like I do.

7. Bake in oven for 55 minutes. Check with toothpick, if batter still moist, bake for another five minutes. Do not overbake.

8. Cool in pan for ten minutes. Run knife along outside edges to loosen, remove from pan and set on cooling rack.

20130421-140220.jpg

the lentil soup project

I really like lentil soup. I’ve liked it since I had my first bowl of it in Istanbul, which is a d-baggy thing to say, like when people come back from Italy and say they won’t eat pizza anymore because it wouldn’t be as good as the pie they had in Naples. Go back to Naples then! Who’s stopping you? But anyway, it’s true: they have spices in Turkey that people don’t use much here, like Aleppo pepper, and I’ve searched for years for a recipe to recreate the magic of my first lentil soup experience, and never gotten even close.

But that’s all in my past. I’m a mom now, and don’t have time to waste on perfecting my own culinary experiences. I just want to cook things that my kids will eat. After pick-up last week, Finn and I stopped in at a coffee shop across the street from his school, for a snack. He ordered a pumpernickel bagel and I ordered a cup of lentil soup. “What’s that?,” Finn asked, as I tucked into my bowl. “Lentil soup. Want a bite?,” I asked, hopefully. After three bites, Finn hooked his hand around the bowl and pulled it in front of his face. After a few more bites, he told me that the soup was “incredibly delicious,” a phrase he has used only once before, in relation to Twizzlers. I looked down at the bowl full of protein-rich lentils and vegetables, and tried hard not to wig out. Then I politely approached the owner of the coffee shop for her recipe.

20130205-112739.jpg

I either didn’t telegraph my desperation loudly enough, or the woman had never known the misery of having kids who were picky eaters. Either way, the owner didn’t give two shits about my malnourished kids and she wasn’t about to share her recipe. She told me, dismissively, that it was “just lentil soup with vegetables.” But I can be insistent when the situation calls for it, and I decided that my kids, and this soup, called for it. So I kept pushing her for details, and finally got one: roasted tomatoes. I bought another bowl for Finn’s lunch the next day and said “thanks” while adding the “for nothing” silently in my head.

A couple days later on a day off, I got to work. I researched lentil soups online, and broke out my cookbooks. The good news was that there were lots of recipes for lentil soup. The bad news was that none of them included roasted tomatoes. I rejected the recipes with cumin and other extraneous spices, and focused on the ones that included bacon. I settled on the recipe from “The Best Recipe: Soups and Stews,” and modified it to include some roasted tomatoes.

I gave the soup a taste. It wasn’t Istanbul, but it was pretty great. Rich, buttery, warming. Still, I was nervous when dinner time rolled around. Getting a kid to eat something once is one thing–getting a kid to eat something twice is a freaking miracle. I couldn’t be certain that Finn would eat my lentil soup, even though he’d loved the one he’d had before. I placed a bowl in front of both my kids. Tate ate his up along with four pieces of baguette with butter. Finn finished one big bowl and asked for another. Cuz and I gave each other silent high-fives across the table, while maintaining outward calm.

I’m not making any promises. But my kids ate it. And even if yours don’t, you’ll have a pot full of delicious soup that you can have all to yourself.

20130205-112711.jpg

Lentil Soup with Roasted Tomatoes

Adapted from The Best Recipe: Soups and Stews, serves 12 (you can halve the recipe)

4T vegetable or olive oil

8 oz. bacon, diced

8 cups chicken broth

1 cup white wine

2 large onions, diced or chopped fine (my kids are likelier not to pick vegetables out of their food if the pieces are tiny, but maybe yours don’t care)

4 large carrots, chopped fine

2 T minced garlic

2 cups dried green or brown (not red) lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones

2 cups roasted tomatoes, chopped into rough chunks (recipe follows), or 2 cups canned, diced tomatoes with juice (fire roasted work great)

2 t chopped fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1-2 T red wine vinegar, or to taste

Directions

1. Heat oil in a large stockpot or cast iron casserole over medium-high heat. Cook bacon until fat has rendered and pieces are browned and crisp.

2. Throw in the carrots, onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and a few grinds of black pepper. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until softened.

3. Throw in the lentils and tomatoes, and “sweat” the lentils by sauteing for 5-7 minutes.

4. Stir in the wine, stir until dissolved.

5. Pour in the broth along with two cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are softened.

6. If you like a creamier soup, you can blitz 3-4 cups of the soup in a blender and then pour it back into the pot. Or you can leave as is. Stir in the vinegar at end. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

7. Enjoy with a crusty baguette and a salad! Leftovers are great for lunch.

*Roasted tomatoes: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve five roma tomatoes and put them, cut sides up, on a cookie sheet. Melt some butter and brush the tops with butter. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a little pepper, if you like. Roast them on the top rack until they turn brown and bubbly–took 25 minutes in my oven.

20130205-112746.jpg

juiced

What I love about the idea of a cleanse is the promise of rebirth. What I hate about a cleanse is that I seem constitutionally incapable of completing one. After watching Tom go on a food-based cleanse in early January, I felt bitter. Did he think he was better than me? He isn’t better than me, I muttered to myself. But how to know for sure, unless I completed my own cleanse?

I’d done a cleanse twice before, and failed. How to guarantee success this time around?  I looked inward, hard. I don’t fail at things often, but that is only because I don’t do things that I think I might fail at. My yoga teachers might tell you that’s why I fail to progress. What was getting in the way of my cleansing success? I could think of two hurdles right off the bat. The first was the sheer duration of a cleanse. I felt that I could not help but succeed, if I could somehow cut down on the length of time to completion. The second hurdle was my utter lack of willpower when it comes to food. Forced to make my own liquid meals in a house full of food, there was no chance I’d make it. I’d need to avoid my kitchen altogether.

20130204-214219.jpg

So that’s how I chose a three-day juice cleanse. I remembered that long ago, my friend Kim had extolled the virtues of the juices at Portland Juice Press—in particular, a milkshake-like drink that came at the end of each day’s ration of juices. I researched the company online. Six juices a day, for three days? With daily delivery to my house? How hard could that be?

A three day juice cleanse, it turns out, can be very hard. In my baseless optimism and stupidity, I got so excited that I found eight friends to do it with me, including Tom, and scored a group discount. I’m pretty sure it was Gandhi that said, “Why fail alone when you can fail with a bunch of other people?”

The first day’s juices arrived on Tuesday morning at 7:30. I’m a sucker for good packaging and my six bottles of juices were adorable, colorful, and delicious. They felt like collectibles. The first drink of the day, the Shauca, was a grapefruit/ginger/mint combo that woke me up and kept me buzzing until juice number two, the Guru, a magenta beet-based concoction. So far, I wasn’t hungry. In fact, I was very full, from all the liquid. I’m not a good water drinker, and I could see straight off that the biggest issue with the juice cleanse would be the sheer volume of liquid. I peed probably 18 times that first day. I felt light. I felt energetic. I felt purified.

20130204-214229.jpg

Juice at work was a cinch. When I got home, though, I had to cook for my kids. I heated up a pan to cook their flank steak, and felt an alarming quantity of drool begin to pool in my mouth. I looked around the kitchen in a panic. I spotted a jar of raw almonds and ate eight. I felt like a cheater, but better the eight almonds than a raw flank steak eaten with my hands, I told myself. While my kids ate their dinner, I sipped on hot water, and thought about the Om sitting in my refrigerator.

The Om is Portland Juice Press’s raison d’etre. It’s hazelnut milk with a healthy dose of cinnamon and dates, and on a normal diet you’d probably reject it as hippie food, but what an Om tastes like after a day of fruit juice is a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. I sipped on it to make it last longer, and then went straight to bed after a hunger-induced argument with Tom that went like this:

Tom: “You ate almonds?  Ha, you lose.”

Yoona: “You think you’re better than me?  You drank COFFEE.”

The next day, I woke up feeling alert. I ran to the mirror and was bummed to find that I was not visibly thinner after 24 hours of liquid food. I shook off my disappointment and ran downstairs to rip open my next box of juices. I drank three more juices at work and even got through a kid’s birthday party in the afternoon without eating. It helped that two other parents at the party were cleansing. We stared at our kids’ pizzas and bonded over our shared hunger.

20130204-214241.jpg

On the second day, my friends and I were in various stages of falling apart. I was highly irritable. People kept asking me why I was doing a cleanse, and I couldn’t remember. Anytime anyone talked to me, I wanted to scream, “Get off my back, OK?!?” Whitney reported headaches and fatigue, and that she had to lay down between clients. Tom called me around 2:00 to yell “THIS IS BULLSHIT!!” and then hung up the phone. Ethan texted me angrily at 7:30 PM that Linds had the gall to make popcorn when he couldn’t have any. Too weak for his Insanity workout, Erskine went to bed at 9:00 PM bundled up in a down jacket. Kathryn also reported feeling cold. Now that they mentioned it, I realized that I was freezing too. I googled it while nursing my second Om. Lowered metabolism while cleansing can make you feel cold, and lead to flu-like symptoms. My teeth chattered in excitement. My cleanse was working!!

Day 3 dawned clear. I dutifully sucked down my day of juices until I got to 5:00 PM. On the calendar was a law firm party. As any lawyer knows, it is impossible to get through a law firm party without alcohol or snacks. I’d never done it before. I’d never even heard of it HAPPENING. Could I do it now? As I pulled on my fancy clothes in my office bathroom, I realized my pants fit looser. Hot diggity! I high-fived my reflection and told myself I could finish the cleanse. After all, I only had 12 more hours to go before I could have food.

Tom and I both got through the party without food or drink. We weren’t even hungry. But it was after the party that we realized that life without food just isn’t that much fun. We had a sitter but nowhere to go, since we weren’t eating. So we decided to own our failure and fall off the cleanse together. We went to a Japanese place and went nuts. When I took my first bite of seaweed salad, the right side of my jaw clicked and felt strange from disuse.

Afterward, of course, I felt remorseful. I couldn’t even complete a three-day juice cleanse! What a loser I was. But then I realized that even my partial juice cleanse had been beneficial. It had reminded me that in my everyday life, I am surrounded by bounty, by choice. And not having that for 2.75 days had reminded me how delicious food is, how fortunate I was to have it, and how lucky I was to be able to turn it down for the sake of a body experiment.

I think I’ll try the four-day cleanse next time.

dry, with a twist

I’m a very poor drinker. For years my friends have teased me about my low alcohol tolerance, just because I can’t hang with the Big Gulp size containers of wine and spirits that they are wont to consume. If my friends sound like huge lushes, it’s because most of them are.

If I drink too fast, I turn red, because I got the Asian Flush gene from my dad’s side of the family. It’s not great for photos when your face looks like a throbbing penis. Also, if I drink too fast, I fall asleep. Like, at the table. And I generally don’t like to drink liquids, including water. For this reason, drinking beer to me feels like being stretched on a rack, which I’ve tried to explain politely to my friend Patrick at his annual beer dinner, which involves seven courses of the stuff. The last time I tried to decline a beer at his dinner, Patrick pushed my glass of thick brown beer towards me and said something along the lines of, “Drink it, or you don’t get any food.” That’s what it felt like, anyway. Since I’m here, I’m just going to out myself: Patrick, your beer dinner challenges me, but I love you anyway. I’m glad that’s off my chest.

So drinking: not my thing. But if you read this blog with any regularity, you know I’m all about improving myself. If I could train myself to compost and wear Spanx, couldn’t I train myself to be a better drinker? I wanted to be able to have a full glass of wine at dinner, for a change. Maybe even after a pre-dinner cocktail. To kick off my training, I started drinking sake at every opportunity. Sake is a great drink because, at least for me, the buzz comes on slowly and levels off nicely. More importantly, sake doesn’t make me fall asleep and it doesn’t make me talk really loudly, which is another unfortunate side effect to my drinking. After three months of sake drinking, I felt ready to move onto cocktails.

SD

about halfway to margaritaville

Ah, cocktails. I knew so little about them that it was scary. What I did know was this: I wanted to know what it felt like to look forward to a Happy Hour for something other than the discount sliders. And I wanted a signature drink. Something I could rely on in the face of intimidating cocktail menus, a drink that said something about me and my choices. Tom likes to order a scotch, neat, except in summer, when he sucks down more mojitos than you might see during a season of Jersey Shore. I wanted Tom’s confidence and certainty in his beverage. But where to start?

Out at dinner with friends during a weekend away, I perused the drink menu and landed on a dirty martini. Right then and there, I decided that the martini would be my drink. I liked the shape of the glass and the martinis I’d had before had all tasted refreshing. I was also pretty certain that most bars served them. When I ordered my cocktail, Linds snickered. I tamped down my annoyance and doubled down on my will to finish this drink.

When the waitress brought the martini, it was so cloudy that I couldn’t see through the glass. It also had more olives in it than I thought appropriate for a food item that wasn’t pizza. And the taste!! It took all my muscle control to stop my mouth from forming a rictus of pain when I took my first sip. I didn’t want my friends to see that I found this drink revolting. How could this be my signature drink if I couldn’t actually drink it? Get your shit together, I told myself. It’s just pickle juice. You LIKE pickle juice, when it squirts out of a pickle. I finished most of the martini, and wished I could spike my glass onto the floor in victory. My martini training was solidly underway.

The next week, I decided to take my new self, my martini self, out for a spin. I wouldn’t bother with the drink menu, and instead, I’d order my martini as if I’d ordered one for years. “A martini, please,” I told the waiter. And then, it all went terribly wrong.

“Gin or Vodka?,” the waiter asked. Gin or vodka? I shot the waiter a silent, beseeching look, a look that said, “Please just decide for me–these people think I’ve done this before.” The waiter either didn’t understand my expression or decided that humiliating me was worth the sacrifice of a huge tip. “Vodka. I like vodka,” I said, stupidly. “And what KIND of vodka, Miss?” I started to panic in earnest. By this time, friends from the other end of the table were looking down at me, because I was slowing down their own drink orders. I couldn’t order Absolut, could I? Stoli-something. What was the something?!? I searched my brain for vodka ads I’d seen in Vogue and US Weekly. Sean Combs had a vodka, but mercifully, I couldn’t remember the name. Svedka–I had seen an ad for that. But the ad had featured a robot, hadn’t it??—that probably wasn’t a serious vodka. I felt that I was on the verge of tears.

Eventually, my friend Chris saw my distress and intervened, by ordering his own drink while I sat there sputtering. “A Ketel One, dry, with a twist.” I looked at him with gratitude, and told the waiter, “I want that too.” The waiter smirked and sidled away. When my drink came, it was perfect. Bright and clear, with no real taste to muddy the food that would follow. And most importantly, it looked to be only about four ounces in volume. By that point in my training, I felt reasonably sure that I could handle four ounces.

Last night at my mom’s birthday dinner, I ordered another martini. Before the waitress could even ask how I wanted it, I said it just like I’d watched Chris say it. “A Ketel One, dry, with a twist.” The waitress gave me a reassessing glance. That’s right, my eyes told her—this wasn’t my first time on the merry-go-round. It was, in fact, my third. So suck on that, my eyes said. Then she carded me.

Doesn’t get much better than that.

early bird special

The older I get, the more I appreciate having friends who can hang with me while I party like a geriatric. I’m tired. My feet hurt. Increasingly, late dinners and parties feel like work. At around 10:00 PM, no matter where I am, my internal clock starts screaming that I should be heading back towards my house.

Kate Moss once said, famously, that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Not to disagree with such a preeminent authority on food, but in my experience, lots of things taste better than skinny feels, like, for starters, buffalo wings and popcorn shrimp. Kate inspired me to come up with my own personal motto, and here it is: Nothing tastes as good as my bed feels at 9:00 PM. Not quite the same ring, but it works. I’m going to get it engraved on some jewelry.

Last year we went to the Crab Feed at my athletic club with our friends Chris and Lauren. We ate like pigs and swore we’d be back a year later. Tonight, the four of us feasted again, this time, with Kathryn and Erskine. I arrived at 5:30 PM to find Chris at our table, alone, in the middle of a dimly lit room full of older couples. Game on.

20130124-215559.jpg

“Crab Feed” is a bit of a misnomer, as they also have prime rib, which I enjoy primarily as a vehicle for horseradish. We took off our rings and piled our plates high. I hit the crab three times. Then I hit the dessert bar. During dinner, I looked around at my friends, and felt a sense of warmth. I understood these people, and they understood me. What could be better, than to be understood? Then I looked around and noticed a table of three couples in their sixties, enjoying the same dinner. Five of the six were wearing red sweaters. That would be us some day. The thought, disturbingly, filled me with comfort.

lauren

lauren and tom discuss mah jongg

I ate so much that by the end of dinner I had to lean backwards in order to breathe. When I got home and took my pants off, my body immediately expanded, like when Pillsbury crescent rolls expand after you break the seal on the canister. My jeans sighed in relief, and then crumpled to the floor, having given heroic service.

Crab Feed 2014. It’s on the calendar.

**On a wholly unrelated note, please be sure to visit next week as I document my three day juice cleanse.

20130124-215524.jpg

master of the cleanse

It’s January and Tom’s cleansing, which means the whole family is suffering. The last time we did a cleanse, I participated but only made it six days, while Tom lost a ton of weight after three weeks of eating like a hamster. This year, I tried to cleanse but either my heart’s not in it or my willpower has declined even further than last year, because here’s how my first three days went:

Day 1: green smoothie for breakfast, green smoothie for lunch, half of large pizza and twelve pieces of toffee for dinner

Day 2: green smoothie for breakfast, green smoothie for lunch, Korean BBQ for second lunch (I’m conditioned to eat when my mom cooks), penne with vodka sauce for dinner

Day 3: green smoothie for breakfast, green smoothie for lunch, Chipotle salad for dinner (Yes!! I had a salad for dinner!!), pot of rice and two fried eggs for second dinner

I don’t weigh myself anymore, but my pants aren’t fitting any looser, which tells me that my body prefers to have its calories spread more equitably over three meals, instead of in one huge gut bomb at dinner. The problem is that when I eat the one solid meal that I’m allowed at lunchtime, I become such a ravenous bitch in the evening that no one in my family wants to talk to me, or even look in my direction. That’s if I even make it home. Because when you’re that hungry and the only thing waiting for you at home is your kids and your manorexic husband and a cold, liquid dinner—honestly, why go home?

When you have a smoothie for dinner, you become keenly aware of how many hours there are between dinner and bedtime. Last time around, I’d have my dinner smoothie, watch a little TV and drool at all the Taco Bell commercials—for the record, I had the idea to make taco shells out of Doritos like 15 years ago—then go to bed at 7:50 to prevent myself from eating two packages of ramen noodles, raw.

Before you say that a cleanse isn’t about losing weight, here’s how I feel about that: anyone who says they aren’t doing a cleanse at least partly for weight loss is either an idiot or a liar. I mean, cleaning your digestive tract is nice and all, but you can’t see clean bowels from the outside. Why suffer that kind of deprivation if you aren’t going to see some discernable change? The reality is that no one wants to say they want to lose weight, because then people start thinking that you think you’re fat, which makes them start thinking that you might be fat. Anyway, I think it would be super refreshing if someone answered “because I want my belly spooge to stay tucked into my pants” when asked why they are cleansing.

Tom is a huge optimist, which means that it only takes about three days of cleanse before he starts feeling and acting like Deepak Chopra. Seven days of cleanse and he starts walking around the house without a shirt on. After a couple weeks, he ascends to a higher plane where he treats food as if it completely optional to his existence. He’ll sit at the table nursing a mug of hot lemon water and observe you eating your meal as if you are a giant pig rooting around in a trough of table scraps. If you’re cleansing, don’t do this to others, because it’s highly annoying and makes them feel like punching your smug, emaciated little face.

If you’re cleansing, good luck. I envy you your willpower and spotless intestines.

criss cross applesauce

People always act like it’s so great when one parent is at home with the kids. But listen, it depends on the parent. I have friends who stay home with their kids and are always posting pics of them doing fun crafty activities. If I stayed home with my kids, they’d end up watching TV like 12 hours a day and eating mountains of Hot Pockets.

But I still have to amuse them on weekends. And when it’s rainy outside, as it often is in Portland, it can get really ugly. That’s why I like to cook with them. They fight over who gets to stir and who gets to lick the spoon, but better that than them “playing ninja,” which as far as I can tell, involves Tate kicking Finn, and Finn putting Tate into a retaliatory headlock.

The thing about cooking, of course, is that it always seems to take so long when you need it to go quickly, and to go so quickly when you need it to go slow. When I bake with the boys, I’m so desperate to prevent flour from flying all over my kitchen that I end up speeding through it. And then I’ve burned no time off the clock at all.

That’s why I’m so glad that Finn is old enough to cut with a knife. Cutting stuff takes a long time. Even better, Finn loves nothing more than cutting things with a knife, and would do it for hours if I let him. A block of tofu can eat up fifteen minutes, if you plan it right and make a math game out of it. A bowl of strawberries—maybe 30 minutes (you have to cut off the tops, and then halve the berries).

20130109-153940.jpg

But tofu and strawberries is kids’ stuff compared to cutting apples for homemade applesauce. First of all, apples have a nice, satisfying consistency for cutting. They aren’t too hard, like carrots, or too wet, like citrus. Secondly, you need a shitload of apples for applesauce. I cored and sliced the apples and passed them to Finn, who cut each slice into thirds and then tossed them into the slow cooker. It took him 45 minutes to fill the slow cooker.

He did eat enough apples during the cutting process that he blew chunks at a Blazers game later that night, but I don’t like to think about that. Instead, I choose to think about this: 45 minutes is two episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. And at the end of it, we had jars of rich, sweet applesauce, made without an ounce of added sugar. Sometimes I have this parenting thing so dialed that I think that I should have had ten kids.

20130109-154001.jpg

Slow cooker applesauce

Apples (how many is going to depend on the size of your slow cooker). Mine’s a 7 quart and I used 8-10 large honeycrisps

Juice of one large lemon

1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches is good), optional

Ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger to taste

1. Core and divide each unpeeled apple into six or eight slices. An aside: is there any kitchen task worse than peeling apples?  No, there is not.  Have your kid lay each slice flat on his cutting board and cut it into thirds. Toss the apples into the slow cooker.

2. Add lemon juice and cinnamon stick. Cover and cook on low heat for 5-7 hours, or until soft enough to mash.

3. Remove cinnamon stick. Mash the apples, or blitz them for smoother texture. Stir in ground spices to taste. I used about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a half teaspoon each of nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

4. Store in fridge up to a week, or give it away in jars. Or pack for your kid’s lunch with a container of greek yogurt and another container of granola.

20130109-154028.jpg