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August 7, 2012 / E. M. Wynter

Why are we fat? Or…

Why am I on a diet… again?”

Hmm… Ok, for the past year or so, I’ve been working a lot, exercising very little and eating pretty much what I want… also known as the Middle-American Diet. We’re all on it here in Michigan and it’s really effective: you gain about 10-15 lbs. a year, feel like crap and worry the whole time that you’re not getting enough exercise – which you aren’t.

Like you, I see the endless news reports, editorials, documentaries and books that scream the same things at us: we are fat, we don’t exercise enough, our food is toxic and we are letting it kill us.

Thanks for the info.  Do you happen to have any real solutions?  Oh, another diet book that tells me not to eat carbs, except in the lowest quantities?  Or maybe an extreme exercise program like PX90 that puts me through near Olympic training rigors?  Hey, how about Jillian Michaels screaming at me for 60 minutes?  Awesome..

These aren’t real solutions, folks, and we know it.  That’s why there’s growing research that diets don’t work anyway. 

It’s a real, liveable lifestyle that is supported by realistic goals, eating patterns, decent exercise and the people around us, that’s needed. Or, at least, that’s what I think.

And who am I?  Just a regular consumer who’s tried it all and has some observations to share. 

And are we going to cover The Evil Food Industry?  Oh, they’re evil, alright, but since they’re making billions on the status quo (and they do make a few tasty items that I adore like Reese’s Pieces), my guess is they have no plans on changing anytime soon.  So we’ll leave them alone for now.  Besides, our media friends have them well covered. 

So let’s look at ourselves, shall we?  No, this is not the moment where we grab a cat o’ nine tails and go all Fifty Shades… I’m saying, let’s look at our lives and ask exactly how we want to live, what we would be happy with and what or who is standing in our way.

 

Do you really want to look like Jillian Michaels?

Do you know what that woman has to go through to look like that?  No carbs of any kind, baby. And torturous exercise routines that easily last up to two hours daily. 

Maybe she likes it that way.  Maybe being obsessed with abs, eating nothing but protein and the wonderful effects that kind of diet has on one’s gastrointestinal tract is fun. 

Not. For. Me. I realized recently that as much as I’m envious of that much muscle tone, there is no way in hell I’m giving up carbs. 

I live to bake fresh bread and eat it with real butter that melts immediately because it’s still warm from the oven.  These fabulous things are not departing my life under any circumstances.  They are important to me.

However, something does have to give.  So, I can watch my calories and budget for the treats I want as well as the exercise I need.  I want to fit in my jeans, be able to climb twelve flights of stairs (without risk of dropping dead of a heart attack) and still have potato chips, peanut butter, cheese, mayonnaise and hot chocolate semi-regularly (but not necessarily all at once – Eww!). 

 

Is there an Elephant in the room, or are there just a ton of peanut shells everywhere?

This is the part of the story where we get to blame others.  I know, everyone clap, right? I love blaming others. 

But this time, you actually can. 

This health guru crap “there’s always time for exercise” is not entirely accurate.  Yes, time does exist and I can do things with it but other people want me to do stuff that is important to them before doing what is important to me.  Circle of Life.  Also, there are little things like sleep, childcare and hygiene that get in the way as well.

Hopefully, after you’ve stood in front of the mirror and taken a long hard look at yourself and figured out what size you want to be, what foods you’re not giving up period (and the meaning of life and our place in the cosmos), I would recommend examining the human-sized hurdles you’re going to face.

Our lives, the people around us and our food are absolutely entwined.  Friends, colleagues and family want you to enjoy food when they enjoy it and most will take the news that you are watching your weight (at worst) as a personal insult or (at best) as an inconvenience to them.  Yes, there will be a cherished few who will cheer you on, but the majority will be happy to hand you a slice of birthday cake and another beer while blithely dismissing your Friday yoga plans and saying you should meet up with everyone for dinner and drinks anyway.  

That’s very tough stuff for people who are used to putting everyone first or hate just saying no but in order to get healthier it’s actually that that you have to get good at: putting yourself first and saying no.  

 

Sucks.  But you can do it. 

Ask yourself: Does everyone really need to know you are on a diet?  Next time the treats roll around, just explain that you already ate (technically you did).  Demanding boss?  No need to mention that you need that 30 minute lunch hour for a walk or a trek up the fire stairs. Just say you have something personal to attend to (because you do). 

Your friend hands you that second drink?  Don’t drink it.  He was the one who opened it and its value is already spent regardless of whether it’s down a drain or in your system.  It doesn’t need to be in your system.  So take a polite sip, carry it around for a while and set it down later. 

Got chores?  Ask which ones are absolutely essential and do only those for a little while.  Assign any others you can to the kids, significant others or just consider postponing them.  Yes, I said that.  The sky will stay up there, I promise.  Then you can worry about the cat litter later… Oh wait, did I say cat litter?  Man, that stinks already.  Go get to that now!  Ok, I meant vacuuming.  Let that hair pile up and then whisk it all away in one fell swoop every three weeks thus clogging the filter and requiring you to clean it manually.  Yeah, yuck-O, but this is your health dammit – we are trying to get you on a better path!   

Oh and, before I forget, when your significant other gives you grief about going for your run instead of doing the dishes, just ask he or she whether or not they want to cuddle up to Jillian in a month’s time.  Well, maybe it won’t be Jillian ever, but a little salesmanship here will not hurt your cause.  Or take the direct route and tell them to pound sand and deal with the fallout later, hoping that you burn a few extra calories in the impending screaming match. 

Yes, just as those ridiculous health experts said, the time is there but you actually have to dig it out of the grid – and that grid is made of people who feel pretty entitled to your time. When you start infringing on them, don’t expect them to make it easy for you.  In the end, it’s going to be up to you to defend your health and harmony.  The good news, is they will enjoy their time with you even more once you start feeling better about yourself.  You will enjoy your time with yourself.

And nice of me to say all this, but what exactly do we get to eat?  Well, to start, I think it’s about budgeting calories, not starving yourself.  My view: food = good; too much food = bad.  What exactly you eat, well, that’s your business, not mine and since I don’t like to make my blog posts the size of War and Peace, I promise I’ll do another post in a week with my own progress on my diet, what’s been working and what hasn’t.  See you then.

July 10, 2012 / E. M. Wynter

Beautiful Girls & Food

So, yesterday I dropped $8.95 on this canning magazine below.

I figured it was essential reading because, of course, I’m going to be a professional canner someday… or live entirely off my own canned goods… or be a one-legged ballerina…

Anywho, its pages contain everything from pickled lemon kumquats to rum rhubarb jam with lavender.

But I’m not making any of those.. Or probably anything in the magazine (even though I also bought Ball’s Deluxe Canning Set for $14.95!). Yet, flipping through those glossy pages, or those of Culture (the cheese-making magazine, if you dare ask), I hear that ridiculous supermodel-obsessed guy from Beautiful Girls say:

“A beautiful girl can make you dizzy, like you’ve been drinking Jack and Coke all morning. She can make you feel high with the single greatest commodity known to man – promise. Promise of a better day. Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a new tomorrow.”

Pretty much sums up how I feel about food.

Why IS that? Well, I don’t know.. I admit, I feel silly sometimes looking through my endless recipe books, clippings and notes – especially when they are ancient and have that yellowed you-did-NOTHING-with-me look. Or when I start spouting off some inane facts to a disinterested relative about salt production from this awesome salt book I read.

And, sure, out of the hundreds of recipes I’ve tried, I probably have about 20 that are true blue winners. But I keep looking for #21. It’s just around the corner… In that new food blog.. in Cook’s Illustrated.. ;)

And I have no idea if I’m really any good (WARNING!) especially since I’ve started taking classes with real professionals and I can really see now how much I don’t know :)

But that’s not the point of this blog. Here I get to be a food geek and you can geek out with me and we can be geeks together just like the Bee Girl and all those creepy Adult Bees in that Blind Melon Video.

Go get your costume on :)

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April 18, 2012 / E. M. Wynter

Rachel Ray Screwed Me Over but Made it Up with this Brownie Recipe

Damn her. I’m not a Rachel Ray person*, but I have to admit, this is an awesome brownie recipe. It’s fudgy, fast, ultra-easy (only one pot needed) and idiot-proof. My only add is the chopped semisweet chocolate for an extra punch. She may have fucked me over with her ultra-bland “Pasta with Broccoli Sauce” (Every Day with Rachel Ray, Jan/Feb 2012), but we can call it even with this little wonder.

Fast and Fudgy Brownies – Every Day with Rachel Ray (April 2012)

4 tablespoons of butter
2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate (Ghiradelli is my fav)
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of flour
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips chopped fine

First, melt the unsweetened chocolate and the butter in a medium saucepan over low to medium heat (you don’t want to scorch either of them). Whisk to mix and then whisk in the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt until well combined. Remove from heat and then stir in the flour and chopped chocolate chips (using no more than 30 strokes) and pour in a square 8 x 8-inch baking dish. I line mine with parchment so I can get the brownies out easily.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool and then slice. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

*I’m sure Rachel is a fine person and I don’t want to hate but her need to shorten everything from extra virgin olive oil to “EVOO” and sandwiches to “sammies” is really trying.. I’m perfectly comfortable making the extra effort to pronounce all the syllables in both words, thank you very much :)20120418-185308.jpg

April 12, 2012 / E. M. Wynter

The Best Guilt-Free Popcorn You’ll Ever Have

Ok, so I guess it’s possible to find an even healthier way to make popcorn, but I haven’t located it yet and this is one I choose even when I have the alternative of hot melted butter available. No joke. For those of you who haven’t heard of Brewer’s Yeast, it’s a high-protein seasoning common in vegetarian and vegan cooking and known for its cheddar cheese-like flavor. It truly is tasty, not weird at all, and when accompanied by its partner in crime, Flax Oil, there’s all kinds of good-for-you going on in this recipe. Be sure to add a dash of salt to really bring out all the flavors.

These days I’m eating probably two bowls of this stuff a week and when you pair it with Guinness like I have in this pic, I can’t think of a more guilt-free homemade Happy Hour :)

Oh, and just because I couldn’t resist, here is an article on the health benefits of the actual popcorn itself.

1/3 cup air-popped popcorn
Flax oil (can be found at health food stores in refrigerated section)
Brewer’s Yeast (also found at health food stores)
Popcorn salt (found in spice section; makes salting popcorn much easier)

Pop your popcorn in the air-popper until it’s popped to the desired level of poppery. Remember, air poppers work sans oil; just the circulating hot air does the trick beautifully. I think I bought my air popper at Target for about $18.

Once popped, drizzle on the flax oil straight from the cold bottle you’ve been storing in your fridge. No need to heat this oil, in fact, I think if you do, it will kill the nutrients. Then sprinkle on some Brewer’s Yeast liberally and follow with salt. Pop the top on your favorite beer, mineral water, soda or juice and enjoy it all in front of the tube; preferably with a movie that brings out either the child or the sap in you. One of my all-time favorites is Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.

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March 1, 2012 / E. M. Wynter

Super Easy Fresh Guacamole

There's nothing like a bowl of fresh guacamole with a mass of salty chips, and a batch of Killer Margaritas. This recipe simplifies guacamole dramatically, reducing it to just minutes to prepare - and fewer ingredients to buy. Serves 4

4 semi-ripe avocados (see note* on testing ripeness)
Fresh ready-made salsa (from the grocer's cooler)
Hot sauce to taste (my favorite: Cholula)

Halve the avocados, remove the seeds and scrape the flesh into a medium-sized bowl. Add four heaping tablespoons of salsa and about four healthy shakes of hot sauce. Mash together until blended - but you don't have to combine until it's smooth - keeping it chunky adds a rustic flair.

*Choosing ripe avocados isn't hard. Grasp one and give it a slight squeeze. The flesh should giveslightly, but should not immediately collapse under your finger - if that happens they are overripe. If the avocado feels like a rock in your hand, it isn't ripe at all. Drop it and find another. If none of them are ripe, postpone guacamole for another day.

February 29, 2012 / E. M. Wynter

Killer Margaritas

I love these Margaritas. They are tart, crisp and strong! Add a little more sugar to your taste if you prefer them sweeter. Enjoy them with lots of chips and guacamole and if you drove, be sure to hand the keys to your friend or drink plenty of water before heading home. Serves 4

5 limes
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (from 3-4 of your limes)
3/4 cup Cointreau
1/2 cup tequila
3 tsp granulated sugar

Mix all ingredients and serve over ice with salted rims (to your taste) and fresh lime wedges from your remaining lime.

February 29, 2012 / E. M. Wynter

Coconut Cream Almond Coffee Cake

This was a fun, tasty and easy cake everyone who loves coconut will enjoy.

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup slivered almonds (1/4 cup reserved for interior of Bundt pan)

Grease one Bundt pan, sprinkle bottom with 1/4 cup of slivered almonds and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs and extracts.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.

Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with the buttermilk stirring just until moistened. Fold in coconut and remaining slivered almonds. Do not over blend ingredients. It’s ok if some bumps remain in the batter.

Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a fork inserted comes out almost clean.
Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Remove after 2-3 hours.

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