Discovery of the day: Be careful what you ask for

It might be because I have now gained back ALL THE WEIGHT I lost last year, but I've become fixated on how calorically expensive eating out can be. Lucky for me it's all over the news, with lots of blogs and books talking about our Great American Crisis. As most restaurant chains now post nutritional info on their websites, I have lots of ammo at my fingertips to fuel my self-loathing.

Just kidding. It's not outright loathing as much as severe disappointment and discouragement.

I get partial credit here, though. Over the decades I've learned not to eat to the point of pain. (Don't laugh. It happened fairly regularly in my twenties.) Sometimes I do let myself get to the point of feeling over-fed, but rarely anymore do I end up curled up in a ball fearing for my life. I thought I was doing pretty well, overall.

But on a recent visit to Red Robin (a chain like Applebee's, TGIF, etc.) I splurged on a crispy chicken strip salad. Hey, it's a salad, right? And I love me some mass-produces crispy chicken strips. Later, on a whim, I went to their website to look up nutritional information.

OMFG! 1400 calories. Without the dressing? Still a whopping 1014, and that doesn't count the fries I ate off my son's and SO's plates. Considering my caloric intake FOR THE DAY should be less than 1700 cals, it qualified as a disaster.

It's everywhere, too. Last time I traveled for work I made my usual morning trip to the shrine of Sbux. This one had the calorie counts conveniently posted by each of the little snacks in the pastry case. Now I have been known to get a slice of banana bread or lemon loaf on occasion, but JFC! At 480 cal and 390 cals respectively, that's a meal! Oatmeal cookie? 370 cals. Even a plain butter croissant is 310 cal. And you don't even want to know about the coffee drinks.

BTW, none of the Sbux in my area post the calorie counts.

This Washington Post article by Ezra Klein explains a lot. Yeah, we know all that food is a dietary disaster, but DAMN is tastes good, and that's what we react to. There's really no way around it, either, unless you can discipline yourself to leave half your food on your plate or piss off your SO by insisting you split an entree.

We are both trying to motivate ourselves for the slog back to the straight and narrow. But it's hard. We both struggle with comfort eating, reward eating, and depression, all of which combined can make it really tough sometimes to smack yourself on the hand with that wooden ruler.

What, you don't do that? Oh.

Problem is that as hard as one works, it never seems to get easier. As soon as the amount of available mental energy decreases, it gets too hard to do the right thing every single time. Even the healthy changes I made last year (some of which actually stuck) haven't been enough to keep me out of my fat pants.

At this point my goal is to minimize any further damage and not reach a new all-time high.



Discovery of the day: Italian Layered Vegetable Casserole

You might be surprised to learn I did cook during my hiatus. Not a lot, but I did add a few new recipes to my repertoire. Take, for example, this Italian Layered Vegetable Casserole from Susan V's Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen. With all the slicing and dicing it doesn't quite qualify for Project Weeknight, but it's definitely worth doing.

It's pretty much lasagna with sliced veggies (eggplant & zucchini) instead of noodles. The recipe as written uses a creamy bean filling, but Susan notes that it wasn't as well-received as the tofu filling from her lasagna recipe. I'm not terribly concerned with being either fat-free or vegan so I subbed ricotta for the tofu and we were pretty pleased.

The only other mod I made was to omit the sugar from the tomato sauce and throw in just a 1/4 teaspoon or so of baking soda. I can't remember where I learned this trick - maybe from my SO? - but it knocks the acidity of tomato sauce right down. It's a little scary to watch your sauce foam up, but it's kind of fun too.

The thing I most appreciated about this recipe was her tutorial on how to pre-cook the eggplant slices in the microwave. I don't cook with eggplant often because, frankly, it intimidates me. But even I can overcome my fears to throw the eggplant slices in the microwave for 8-10 minutes.

To summarize, I used a good-sized eggplant, about 3 cups of sliced zucchini, and the sauce (omitting sugar, adding 1/4 teaspoon baking soda), along with her tofu filling (subbing 1 pound ricotta for tofu). Any marinara sauce and ricotta lasagna filling recipe will do, really.

Oh, and by the way, when a recipe calls for putting hot stuff from a saucepan into a blender or food processor, just say no. Please. Simply hit it with your trusty stick blender and save yourself from another large piece of kitchen equipment to clean. Seriously, a stick blender can be used in most instances. Just watch for splatters.

Hey, it feels good to be back.



Discovery of the day: I miss this! I really do.

Life has calmed down and I have realized that I really do need to keep posting, mainly because this modest blog has turned out to be my virtual cookbook. This is where I turn when I have no idea what to cook, or when I can't remember what my final white bean chili recipe turned out to be.

So I'll be back, at least whenever I try something new that works. I've got a couple of recipes backlogged to post as soon as I find my notes.

Besides, this is so much tidier than the stack of stained and torn sheets of printed-out recipes in the corner of my bookcase! Only downside is that when the power goes out I'm stuck with PB&J.