Step by Step, Pound by Pound

Big Shirt 20 Pounds Down
Three weeks ago this shirt was snug. Now it’s a tent!

Last Week’s Number: 215
This Week’s Number: 211

Well, friends, this is the beginning of week 5 of bootcamp. I can’t tell you how good it feels to see those numbers going down. I look thinner and more importantly, I feel thinner, lighter, and generally enthused about all this friggin work I’m doing. And how could I not? Down 14 pounds since the beginning of bootcamp, 21 pounds since December. Not too bad at all. But that doesn’t mean this week was all smooth sailing. Believe it or not, the 4 pounds I lost came off in the first two days. By Tuesday I was down to 211 and that’s where I’ve stayed since. This stagnation is not a mystery to me. Surely you remember my dazzling post about my splurging at the At Last Cafe. As relatively controlled as it was, a splurge is still a splurge. You can’t expect it to have no consequences. But you know what, it was totally worth. And I have to confess that I actually splurged again at P. F. Chang’s on Friday night. Nothing too over the top – an egg roll, a few dumplings, some fried tofu. Still, when you eat as clean and pure as I have been during the week, an item like a deep fried egg roll is going to make an impact. But again, totally worth it.

I think the lesson I’ve reminded myself of is that, even when gunning for a goal, one can still enjoy those guilty pleasures, provided one keeps them in check. I mean, hey, I still lost 4 pounds this week – that’s pretty damn good. And you know, sometimes you do just need a night where you need to binge and so you completely let go, much like when I had gnocchi and tiramisu several weekends ago. And you know what? That’s ok too. Just as long as you pick back up and keep going.

How about all of you? Anybody have any big hurdles to climb over this week? Any big breakthroughs? I want to hear them.

I’m feeling really good about this week – let’s try and make it killer!

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Quick Fresh Ginger Ale

Quick Fresh Ginger AleSo this has been a week focused on digestion… yeah. It’s never a fun thing to have to think too much about, but such is my life. This morning I took a mental survey of anything that I could eat or drink that could possibly aid me in my gastro turmoil. It’s pretty well known that ginger does wondrous things for ailments, particularly the tummy. For some reason when I thought of ginger, I was reminded of an absolutely sublime fresh made ginger ale I had a restaurant a few weeks ago (I’ll tell you which restaurant in another post). As I gushed over the amazingness of the ginger ale, the adorable waiter we had was very proud to report that he had made it himself. Being unable to resist my overwhelming charm, he even told me how he made it. I was astonished by the simplicity of the process and warned him that I would steal it. Today, I have. And what I love is that it has all the freshness of real ginger, all the satisfaction of drinking a soda, and yet is perfectly healthy.

Here’s what you do. Take a giant chunk of ginger, about the size of the one pictured here, and run it through a juicer. Now I know not everyone has a juicer and for those who don’t…. I got nothing, sorry. Pour 1 ounce of the juice into a 16-ounce glass. Add one tablespoon of raw organic agave syrup and mix thoroughly. Fill the rest of the glass with cold sparkling water or club soda (I used Pellegrino because I’m super classy). Voila. The freshest most refreshing ginger ale you’ve ever had, sure to help that upset tummy.

And please be warned, freshly juiced ginger is really really potent stuff. Like, it burns. No joke. So start with the ratio I’ve given you and feel free to make adjustments based on your own tastes.

Also, I highly recommend adding fresh mint or some fresh lemon juice. Yum!

Tender and Gooey Teriyaki Chicken Wings

Gooey Teriyaki Chicken WingsThis weekend I helped host a baby shower for my dear friend Clint and his wife Marisa, who is due at the end of February. The idea, thought up by our friend Heather, was to have a party focused on the father, sort of a bachelor party for a dad-to-be. Combining cutesy baby crap with men and beer… literally. Because we’re all starving artists, we couldn’t really swing a swanky bar or restaurant to host, so instead we used the game room in my building – free and cozy. Done. Heather took care of the invites and the decorations. She cleverly hung all sorts of male-oriented onesies (superheroes and such) and instructed all the guests to bring a six pack of beer and diapers. And because their baby is in fact a boy, he got to take home all of them to be used in the not-too-distant future. So resourceful.

As you might have guessed, my job was to provide food. To me, nothing says man party like chicken wings. I’m not gonna lie, I make some pretty damn good wings. Well, I should say my mom makes pretty damn good wings – I’ve just been making them for friends and parties for years. I use fresh chicken wings you find next to the breasts and thighs and such in the refrigerator section of your grocery story. Truth be told they are not cheap, particularly considering how many you have to make to feed a crowd. BUT this time of year with football season in full swing, they had huge family packs for 50% off. I was able to leave the grocery store with about 40 wings for less than $15. That is a steal. And remember these aren’t party wings or drummettes, these are full-on chicken wings, labeled “wings” on the package.

To make, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. One batch of sauce consists of: 1 cup of soy sauce, 1 cup of white sugar, and 1.5 cups of dark brown sugar. You need one batch of sauce per dozen wings. I had three dozen, so I tripled the recipe. I combined everything in a large sauce pan, mixed well, and put it over medium high heat, stirring frequently until it JUST comes to a boil. Be careful as the sauce boils over REALLY fast. While this was cooking I arranged my wings in three disposable aluminum pans. You definitely need disposable since this sauce is way sticky – you do not want to have to clean it off your pans. I put about a dozen wings in each pan – you want to make sure they fit in an even layer, so you may wind up with a few less or a few more depending on the size of your pan. Once the sauce came to a boil I killed the heat and poured it over all the wings, using tongs to make sure every wing was coated. There should be a good pool of sauce at the bottom of each pan. Place them in the bottom half of your oven and bake for 1 hour. After an hour they will be brown, bubbly, and fall apart tender. It doesn’t get any better. I usually plan for two wings per person, but use your best judgement for your own party.

In addition to the wings, I made Sherri’s potato wedges, which you might remember from an earlier post. They went SUPER fast. Both items were smash hits and made for perfect snacking at an early afternoon party. Yum.

I’ll have all of you know that because I’m doing bootcamp, I didn’t eat a SINGLE one. Bootcamp update tomorrow!

TIP: try making these hot by adding a squirt of Sriracha in the sauce – mmmmm!!!! Happy Sunday!!

A Weekend of Potluck

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending not one, but TWO potluck dinner. One on Friday with my fellow gay choristers, and a fall feast on Saturday at my friend Morgan’s house way up in the mountains – a lovely retreat about 90 minutes north of the city. For some this would be way too much, but for the starving artist it is thrilling. And let’s be honest, there is nothing more starving artist than a potluck. Everyone chipping in, gorging themselves, then taking food home for the next day. First, game plan. Being that the first potluck was at 7pm and the second one was the next day at 1pm, the logical move was to make a large batch of one thing that I could bring to both parties. I mean, let’s be easy on myself.  Being that we’re smack in the middle of fall, I thought pumpkin chili would make the most sense. It’s a one-pot dish that can easily be doubled. You remember my post on pumpkin chili, right?   So I made that, then I decided I would also make cornbread to go with it. I can whip that together in no time, so I made a fresh one for each party. Not a big deal. Finally I also decided I should bring my famous apple crisp. So I made one on Friday and brought it to both parties.

Now the trick to cooking for potlucks is to understand that you don’t need to make enough for every single person at the potluck. Think about it. If there are 15 people going and every person brings a dish big enough to feed 15 people, you’re feeding 15 people 15 times over – way too much. And let’s face it, people aren’t taking full portions at potlucks because they want to sample everything. My rule is I find out how many people are coming, divide it in half, and THAT’s how many people I cook for. When I leave a potluck without having to bring any food home, I know I did it just right. I’m happy to say that on Saturday I left Morgan’s only with empty containers. Nice.

Another good tip for being a courteous potluck attender: bring the necessary equipment to both heat and serve your food in/with. This weekend I brought sturdy paper bowls and plastic spoons. It turns out that neither party needed the spoons, but both gladly made use of the disposable bowls. Perfect. I, however, brought it in a Rubbermaid plastic container, which one could not just simply throw in the oven and heat up. Classy. An easy trick is to borrow a large pot, dump it in, heat it on the stove, then pour it back into the Rubbermaid. Or, if you have a friend like Morgan, she had that lovely pumpkin-shaped vessel perfect for serving.

Finally, whenever possible I try not to cook anything at the host’s house. If I do bring something to cook, I make sure it is oven-ready, that is, all I have to do is get there and throw it in the over. I did that with the apple crisp on Friday since smelling it baking and serving it warm is half the fun. But, I brought it completely assembled and literally just put it in the oven. God I love fall.

Monday Lunch

Mondays are my favorite day to have lunch. Why? Because Monday is the day after I visit the farmers’ market, which means I have a plethora of fresh produce to choose from. More often than not, my Monday lunch consists of slices tomatoes with kosher salt and (if I have it) some ribbons of fresh basil. I do this partially because tomatoes bought from vendors like this have a very short shelf life. And partially because I just friggin love fresh tomatoes. Sure, there’s lots to be done with them, from panzonella to tomato sauce… but I don’t know, when they’re this good and this fresh, I find it so satisfying just to eat them as they are. No cooking, no fuss, just pure natural goodness. I think next week I will devise something creative to do with them…. a pie, perhaps… but for now, simplicity wins.

Speaking of the farmers’ market, I came home with quite a bounty yesterday. What’s my item of the week? Fava beans. Mmm. Two-pound bag of dried favas for $6. More posts on this in the coming days. Hope everyone is enjoying fall so far!

Farmers’ Market Bounty