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Monday, November 22, 2010

Dining with President Bush, the Elder

Some of you have followed my past travel escapades, chronicling my consumption of greasy convenience foods sold through terminal huts dotted across one airport and another. The middle of our country offers brats with beer, East coast—Philly steak sandwiches and at every gate—sugary sodas, specialty coffees, donuts, cheeseburgers and pizza. After four months of raw to near raw dieting, my taste buds hoped for something less slimy and more—dare I say—healthy. When I found that my planes transferred in Houston between Sacramento and Memphis, I figured my only option would be Tex-Mex or Texas BBQ. I was partially correct.

Immediately off the breezeway stood an elevator to a Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen with a menu that included fresh fish—tempting but a little too early for dinner. I took the hike from Terminal E, incoming flight, to Terminal B, outgoing flight which proved to be a work out when carrying a loaded computer backpack. The food options along the Houston airport ranged, as expected, from pizza to ribs to enchiladas. Losing some heart as to my options, I found myself considering hiking all the way back to the seafood place. After checking my gate, my time, and a souvenir shop, I retraced my steps finding myself in center of the terminal looking at the caramel apples beckoning me through the window of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. With resolve I turned on my heel and walked smack into The Real Food Company.

I must have walked by the strip of food outlets a couple of times. The Real Food Company offered the usual airport fare in individual shops with the last two serving up made to order salads and handmade-in-front-of-your-eyes sushi. For less than twelve bucks, I had a small customized salad made with two slices of raw tuna plopped on top. Adding a bottle of spring water, I had a yummy raw meal fit for a…well…shrinking dieter like myself. I hated to eat alone so I consumed my healthy meal at the foot of a bronze statue of our former President George H.W. Bush. I wanted to ask him if, theoretically, he lay on his death bed what would he say to his children if they flew to his side. What the heck. When in Houston…so I asked. President Bush remained stone-cold silent on the subject.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Death by Raw Chocolate Covered Dates

How innocent? I signed up for Raw Holiday Desserts Class with Chef Stacey—a local raw chef of some renown in Sacramento. My intentions were pure. Take the class, taste the delights, then determine which recipe to make for my cousin’s Thanksgiving feast. Having zero experience in making raw confections, I had no choice but to go this route. You are following the logic. Yes?

So what happened next truly was not my fault.

I arrived exactly on time to the lovely Rancho Cordova home. Greeted by several nice ladies, I signed in and paid my entrance fee. Cucumber-laced pitcher of water and a bowl of celery sticks adorned the foyer table. Picking up a couple sticks, I sat next to a “Cooking with Chef Stacey” veteran. We talked endlessly about raw foods, desserts, evils of tap water, the loss of favor for agave syrup, and the mortality of bees.

Chef Stacey worked the kitchen like Emeril Live with one important difference nothing cooked—a dehydrator replaced the microwave and the Vitamix 5200 Blender replaced about everything else. She made orange-persimmon cheesecake, chocolate-dipped dates with orange-spice almonds, a blueberry-chia tart, and dark chocolate caramel cups. All raw. Stacey hinted we would taste later and that we could take items home. As time ticked by and trays of delights passed my face, I remembered I had not had a dessert in four months, a long time for this former heavy weight. Finally, the chef’s assistant sliced the cheesecake.

A good size piece slapped down onto the china plate, a fork added then passed to the first person in the first row. Several minutes passed before I received my plate. I skipped dinner so that I would not go over my one thousand calorie diet even if I had a bite or two of dessert.

Persimmon is not my favorite fruit. I like the taste not the pucker affects the flesh offers. Still the fruit, nuts, spices, and honey excited long neglected taste buds. My well-intention one bite plan turned into sucking up the cheesecake and scraping the nut crust across the plate into my salivating mouth. Before I could set my fork down, the plate was snatched from my hand and returned with a gooey blueberry tart plopped in the center of the dish. Blueberry. Good. My favorite. In no time at all, I consumed all of the tart. Looking around I found that I was not alone in inhaling the samples. All ten women managed to keep up with the assistant’s refills that included the last two chocolate tastings.

My head started spinning as soon as the first chocolate bite hit my tongue. My temples screamed for a hot cup of coffee to cut the sugar sliding through my stomach. I knew better than to ask for the roasted bean for it is forbidden in the raw world. My suffering continued when one of the guests offered me coconut milk laced with probiotics to “cut the sugar action.” Politely, I accepted the drink and swallowed what tasted like liquid yogurt. Normally that would not have been a problem but having consumed, in less than ten minutes, four servings of honey based desserts, my stomach thought the sour liquid was a cruel joke.

The food orgy continued with offers of samples to be taken home. Ladies pulled Rubbermaid containers from their purses and lined up at the counter to claim the booty. Unprepared for this stage, I stated to no one in particular that I did not have a container and therefore would not be taking home the gifted desserts. A collective gasp came from the crowd. A search was on to find an unclaimed container. I prayed that none would be found as I was having problems feeling my jaw. The lady to my left proudly held a container just for me and the assistant chef filled it. The sugar hit everyone—the once quiet restrained group now giggled, chatted, hugged and gained volume. I begged pardon to leave, stepped out of the house and into the night. Walking seemed as difficult as keeping my stomach at ease. I climbed into the car and sat the plastic box of treats next to me. I actually considered eating one more chocolate. Oh yes, I did consider it. Thankfully, I had enough reason left in my sugar-shocked brain to stop myself.

I drove home. I lived. I gained two-tenths of a pound.

No more dessert classes.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fresh Pickle Recipe (No Salt)

Looking to reduce salt in your diet? Here's a great pickle recipe with crunchy freshness. This pickle recipe takes ten minutes to prepare and one day to cold cure are a delicious alternative to the current briny store offerings. Start with a clean kosher pickle jar. You can buy new or clean a used jar by washing it in the long-hot cycle of your dishwasher.

1 cup Light-colored Vinegar – your favorite rice, wine, or apple. I use raw apple cider vinegar.
16 oz Persian Cucumbers or English Cucumbers—cut length wise, enough to fill jar
2 Tbsp Pickling Spices
1 Tsp Peppercorn Whole (optional)
2-3 Tbsp Agave Syrup or Honey—pickles move from dill to sweet as you increase syrup
1 Sprig Fresh Dill

Optional Flavors use 1-3 Tsp to taste:
Red Pepper Flakes
Fresh Garlic sliced thin
Fresh JalapeƱo sliced thin
Fresh Bell Peppers
Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sliced Celery if you really miss the salt

Mix syrup, vinegar, and spices in a bowl and set aside. Cut up your vegetables. Pack your jar with the cut cucumbers, dill and optional flavorings. Stir the bowl of liquids and pour into the jar to fill. Scrape in any leftover spices. If the jar is not completely filled, add water. Close the jar with a lid. Rock the jar back and forth to insure the ingredients blend. IMPORTANT—Use a marker and put the date you made the pickles on the jar. Move immediately to the refrigerator. It takes twenty-four hours for the cucumbers to turn into pickles.

Don’t get discourage if the pickles are not perfect the first time. It takes a few tries to the flavor exactly the way you like them.

Pickles will last about three weeks in the refrigerator. In our house the pickles are usually eaten in a week. Make sure you throw away uneaten at the end of three weeks.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God Bless American Express

I lost two pounds this week. The previous week I lost nothing. The difference? Beca and I went spa-ing.

We've been talking about going with a group of women to Napa or Calistoga. The money didn’t seem to be available for such an extravagance. I'm one of those women. I have a bottle of make-up in the cupboard, touch up my own hair at the temples, and never really spend money on the luxury of massage. Matter of fact, it’s been about fifteen years since my last massage.

So I saved up my American Express points—enough to get Beca and me fifty minute body massages, forty-five minute facials and half hour exfoliating foot-softening treatments in a facility close to home. Oh Baby! The foot rub far exceeded anything that went before. By the end of our sessions, we did not have a stressed muscle between us. We had plenty when we had walked in the door.

In our happy bodies, we wandered around Old Town, had lunch, and of course shopped. A perfect day in my book. Life is so much more bearable when the neck doesn’t ache and the back isn’t hurting. I didn’t know how unhappy my feet were until they received all that attention to make them better.

We vowed to spa every three months. Well, maybe we can do it at least every fifteen years.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Who Are You?

I stopped by my best buddy Beca’s Hayward house on Saturday. We had not seen each other since the beginning of the summer. After a wonderful long hug, she turned to me and said “Who are you?”

Taken aback, I had not ready quip for her.

“No, who are you?” She grabbed my hand and pulled me to her computer. “Look.” She popped up a picture of me, her, and her sister Ruby. “That is you.” She then pointed at me. “This is a lot less of you.”

I smiled. "Forty-one pounds less."

Friday a similar reaction came from Paul’s CAT team, We have been going to the center for eight weeks. They have seen me every Friday but this day everyone congratulated me on the way I looked.

Frankly, I don’t see the difference. Yes, I am smaller. One roll of belly-fat has melted away, leaving two lesser heaps to shrink. My wrists and ankles are boney. Today, I moved my bra hook over one notch which means I’ve lost a half to one full inch around my rib cage. So I know I am shrinking but I don’t see the change.

My great-grandmother, Flossie Mapes, said that she got up in the morning and looked in the mirror and wondered, “Who is that old woman staring back at me?” She told my mother who later told me that she felt inside as a young woman and could not identify with that aging image. Flossie passed away at the age of ninety-four—still vibrant, God-loving, and beautiful.

I don’t think that I have seen myself as an obese woman for years. Probably that is why seeing my pictures shock me. The image in the mirror now closely aligns with who I think I am—sans the grey hair and crow’s feet. So here is the comparison from July 7th to Nov 2nd. What do you think?