The Weight Thing

Here it is. I started out a regular apple, brownie, spinach, cheetos, carrot, ice cream in particular butterscotch sundae loving girl. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner and a snack of popcorn or a really hard to peel orange during
“To Tell the Truth” most of the year, and on holidays a whole lot more. I say I love cheetos and I do, but growing up I probably had them 10 times.
I never thought about the relationship between food and weight. You ate because you were hungry and whatever weight you were, that’s what you were.

When I started college my diet changed to a bagel that I could make last all day, iceberg lettuce, and 7 cans of Tab. The look I was after was a sort of denim and bones. Food was an enemy, always lurking and in my face. I hated it.

When I was pregnant everything changed. In one of those militant-wake-up-you’re-growing-a-baby books, I read that statistically the healthiest babies were born to women who were eating really well. Seriously well. Vegetables and fruits of every color, protein, carbohydrates and even high quality fat. Tab and bagels were going to get me nowhere.
I tucked in and fell in love.

I ate spinach, salad greens, yellow squash, green squash, tomatoes, onions, basil, thyme, rosemary, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, braised meats, fish still flapping thrown on a grill, chickens stuffed with lemons, rice simmered with bay leaves and a little butter, potatoes roasted with whole cloves of garlic, lentils with curry and coconut milk and a tiny heap of flour rubbed into eggs and olive oil, cut into tender noodles and tossed with briny mussels braised in white wine with shallots and parsley. I never dieted again. And I lost weight. I have been the same weight now for about 20 years.
I think what happened was, after I started truly eating I no longer felt deprived. I shifted into thinking that it was a good thing to eat, a healthy thing to eat. I gave up all things “diet”; no more skim milk, no more diet soda or diet jello or non fat ice cream. I walk because I have to get somewhere or I run up the stairs from 3 flights down at 53rd and Lex on the 6 train because I love to feel my heart beat. I bicycle because I like going fast and I am cheap and it costs a whole heck of a lot less than driving.

When September rolls in after a life time of school starting it’s always a beginning. If you happen to be in a place of wanting to make peace with you and food and all that that is, here is a list of one way to start:

1. Forget thinking about losing weight or eating less. Just think about eating differently.

2. Move everyday. You don’t have to time yourself, but get outside two times a day. Bike to the grocery, walk with your kids around the neighborhood which gives you a chance to talk to them (when they are in the house they are almost always doing their own thing) walk the dog-heck get a dog.

3. Don’t worry about changing what you cook for your family, just start from scratch whenever possible and add more to the table. For instance, if you make frozen lasagna, make your own lasagna instead. If you have no time to make lasagna, make ziti w/sauce and meat and cheese and spinach. If you buy cookies, don’t. Make them. Anything in your cupboard that somebody else packaged and convinced you to buy, don’t buy anymore. Make it yourself. If time is an issue, eat way more simply and then you won’t have to cook such complicated stuff. Throw a whole fish in the oven with slices of lemon, rosemary olive oil and salt. Or get a pan super hot, put a little sea salt on a chicken fillet and and throw it in there with a few slivers of shallot and a chopped red pepper. Have plain pasta and olive oil w/some red pepper flakes, chopped tomato and garlic and a salad on the side. All of that is just about getting in the habit.
Eating processed foods, even in between meals can really slow you down; the idea is, if you have to make something, you will be more conscious and respectful of what you are eating. And ADD vegetables. Always have plenty of salad on the table or raw vegetables or raw cut up fruits.

4. (cont./it’s just too much to put all of this in #3.) Here’s why. It’s almost guaranteed that as much as you love fresh fruit and vegetables you aren’t eating as many as you need.
The trick: whatever is for dinner, give yourself as much as you think you would like once. That’s it. If you find you are still hungry, fill up on all those fruit and vegetables on the table. If you are still hungry, eat more of the fruits and vegetables or give yourself a bigger initial portion of what’s for dinner. You might not be giving yourself enough when it’s serving time. (If you know that you are starting out with 3 sandwiches when other people are having 1, don’t worry about it; it’s just nerves. When your mind gets that you are going to have enough food and you feel comfortable, serve yourself what you would serve a pre teen. (Pre teens get a solid portion. As a measure, ittle kids don’t eat enough and big kids eat enough for 4.) After that portion, as many fruits and vegetables as you need.

5. Freeze your fruits. Freeze your peeled ripe bananas, seedless grapes, watermelon and blueberries. They taste really good like that when you are craving ice cream between meals or whirred up in the food processor with plain yogurt.

6. Have dessert (cake, pie, ice cream) the way my mother would have served it. On a Friday or a Sunday. Have a regular sized piece and if you are still hungry, have fresh fruit. Unless you need it. If it’s somebody’s birthday or it’s a holiday, be served a slice on a plate along with everybody else, sit down (this is the important part) and enjoy it!

7. Almost everybody craves sugar/chocolate. Keep a bittersweet really expensive, really delicious bar in the fridge JUST FOR YOU. Take a bit if you need it. If you are seriously hungry and it’s a long time until the next meal and you will slap the next piece of fruit or vegetable that gets in your way, keep UNsalted peanuts or almonds in the cupboard. Take a handful and you’ll feel better.

8. (I know already said this but it is worth saying again.) Eat foods that are unprocessed and as close to their original form as possible.

9. If you can, breathe deeply a few times a day.

10. Get enough sleep.

PS I am in no way an authority on this except for my own experience.

Recipe: Chocolate Mousse

Want to see how it’s done? Click here: Recipe: Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse Cake with 2 ingredients

Sometimes you want to be all of that without putting the time in.

The secret? Invest in the building materials. For a s’more you want Hershey’s. For camp you want a cheap and cheerful t-shirt. For a class reunion you want a little black dress that flows over you like the magic of a waterfall
in the middle of a quiet jungle.

Start w/the best bittersweet chocolate you can get your hands on. Spend what you need to spend. Do what you have to. Look for 72% cocoa.
If you can find organic cream that’s what you want. Trust me.

The ratio is about 2 parts bittersweet chocolate to two parts heavy cream. You can do it terms of weight (100 g chocolate to 200 ml cream) or 1 cup chocolate to 2 cups of cream. Either way will work.
Melt the chocolate in a heat resistant bowl over pan of simmering water. Allow it to cool a bit, but it should be just a bit warm, about wrist temperature. To cool it a little faster transfer it to a cool bowl and stir in a little piece of cold chocolate in.
Whip the cream just until it begins to have body. No stiff peaks. I know this doesn’t make sense, but let the cream come to room temperature. When you fold the chocolate into the barely whipped cream you want them to be at extremes. If you want to add a few drops of Gran Marnier to the cream before you whip it, even better. Have more whipped cream ready for garnish.

You can eat right away if you like it super creamy or pour it into a spring form pan and stick it in the fridge. When you are ready to serve, sift a little Dutch Process cocoa over the top and spoon barely whipped cream around the edges.

What I cooked last week

Here are my menus and order list for working for an office in the city of 45; a few are on vacation. I love this job. I can cook whatever I want, I can order whatever I want to cook it with and the people I cook for are some of the nicest on the planet. My skin starts to jump when I think about how lucky I am that I love to cook with my whole heart and all my blood and bones and that’s what I get to do.
Menu:

Day 1

Small soft flour tortillas w/marinated chicken, flank steak
Romesco Sauce
Avocado and tomatillo sauce
Salad of greens, radish, cucumber and red onion
Black beans and rice

Day 2

Pasta w/roasted zucchini spears, fresh basil and garlic
Lamb chops w/lemon and olive oil
Braised shrimp with fresh thyme, red chili pepper and shallot
Salad of fresh peaches, feta, mint and chive

Day 3

Seared Scallop w/lemon, cherry tomato, coriander, thyme and flat leaf parsley
Ratatouille
Roast Pork loin w/rosemary sage and garlic
Roast potatoes
Salad

Day 4

Marinated chix breast w/dijon, thyme, lemon zest
Beet and fresh moz salad w/capers
Salad of cannellini, arugula leaves, parmesan shavings and red onion
pasta w/salsa verde

Day 5

Seared cod w/fresh tomatoes, basil and croutons
Tri tip w/arugula salad
string beans w/sauteed radicchio
corn chowder
green salad

Order List:

Veg:

15 ears corn
2 pounds carrot
1 head celery
15 pounds yukon gold potatoes
20 heads garlic
shallots
8 pounds string beans
4 heads radicchio
10 pounds roma tomatoes
5 pounds beefsteak tomatoes
4 heads romaine
4 heads red leaf lettuce
2 pounds tomatillos
10 avocados
4 pounds fresh beet
15 bunches arugula
12 red onion
12 yellow onion
10 limes
10 lemons
4 cucumbers
2 bunches radish
5 pounds peaches
4 heads fennel
22 romesco zucchini (pale ridged variety)
10 male eggplant
8 redd pepper
4 packs cherry tomato

Herbs:

3 bunch basil
1 chive
1 rosemary
1 sage
4 thyme
1 tarragon
2 mint
8 parsley

Dairy:

1 half gallon whole milk
1 container heavy cream
moz. di bufala
1 pound parmigiano reggiano
2 pounds feta

Meat:

8 pounds tri tip
10 pounds chix breast on the bone
5 pounds chix breast off the bone
4 pounds flank steak
30 pieces lamb chop (lollipop)
5 pounds pork loin (cut off the bone and retied onto the rib bones)

Fish:

5 pounds sea scallop
2 (5) pound bag shrimp
1 side of a whole cod (or other firm fleshed white fish) to equal about 7 pounds

Sundries:

4 boxes DeCecco (2 penne, 2 orchiette)
3 packs or more small flour tortilla
2 pounds butter
2 pounds choc chip
2 boxes flat rolled oats
white flour
white sugar
brown sugar
dijon mustard
10 dried ancho chile
2 bags dried cannellini
4 cans black beans
2 cans san marzano tomatoes
2 pounds basmati
capers
delicious black olives, green olives

Don’t Forget Your Old Tricks

I talk too much or not enough, I am terrible at cleaning my house, I forget to write back, I forget to call back, my back gets up, I don’t work out, I don’t do my hair or wear rings, I tape things to the wall, I get up too early, I get all welled up at school meetings, I’m not easy and I’m not getting easier.
Which is why I’m telling you, don’t forget your old tricks. I have been making butterscotch brownies since I could stir.
They are a big help with community living.
Sift the flour three times and then measure 3/4 of a cup by spooning the flour into the cup slightly above the edge. Scrape the excess off with a knife. No tapping, no banging. You don’t have to do it this way, but if you don’t, they won’t come out right.
Whisk in 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a good pinch of salt. Melt 1/4 cup of butter and let it cool. Mix in 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 egg. Bake in a buttered 8 inch square pan at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes. They should be at that point where you’re not sure if they’re done yet. You don’t want them gooey in the middle but you don’t want them to be completely set either. Take them out.
Cool, eat, appreciate the repair of good sugar.

Keep talking.

The minute after I got in the subway this morning at 6:15, I remembered that I forgot to buy bread for work. Before I get on the subway in Queens I can buy some of the best bread that NYC has to offer at a teeny tiny deli that sells Mozart chocolates by the cash register and blue dyed carnations out front. Once I get out at 50th and Park in Manhattan, it’s a bread desert.
I walked into the Eezy Squeezy.
“Do you have bread?”
“Bagels?”
“Not bagels. Bread. A loaf of bread.”
“You want a hero?” He holds up a squooshy mooshy torpedo.
“I don’t want that.”
“Toast?”
“I don’t want toast. I need toast but no toast.”
“Bread.”
“Yea, bread.”
He wraps up two slices of toast no toast, bread.
“I’ll take eight of those.”
He is so over me.
For eight slices of Better than Wonder I pay my four dollars and walk on out.

Upstairs I elevate Ferdinand’s birthday menu into business lunch. Marinate the chicken breasts with slices of red onion, bay leaves, slices of all the lemons and limes and olive oil. Make a chive butter for the flank steaks. Saute onion, bits of tomato, dried oregano, parsley, cayenne, fennel seed and garlic until it’s delicious. No fresh herbs because I have no fruit and veg delivery until 10. Add the black beans, and the dried rice. Add the water and let it wait until 11 to put it on to simmer so it’s hot for noon.
Puree tomatillos w/lime juice, salt and ripe avocados. Take the crusts off my “no toast ” and fry them in olive oil. Toast almonds. Roast a few roma tomatoes, soak some chili peppers, then saute them in olive oil. Pulse the almonds, add the bread, the chilis, the tomatoes, squeeze of lemon, spill of sherry vinegar, taste for salt, add the drained tomato juice that I saved from halving/seeding the tomatoes for roasting and now that the veg order is in, a chop of flat leaf parsley. Spicy enough, but not too spicy. Beautiful romaine the color of ginko leaves washed and dried and dressed w/olive oil and sherry vinegar. On the side, bowls of slivered radish, seeded and chopped cucumber and wedged tomatoes. Cook off the moros and cristianos, sear off the steaks, roast off the chicken, slice it all up, platter it all up and lunch is on.

Empty

Before the wind had to time to blow this morning a swarm of men with chain saws and screaming yellow shirts came through the yard next door like carpenter ants. All the green that was towering trees and hedges is piled up on the sidewalk out front. They left nothing left but grass and embarrassed pots of naked impatience.
The squirrels and I are at a loss.
What about the birds, we think; who’s going to tell them?
If I could cook for them I would.

Any old how I’ll pave my walks with seed.

For the family: shredded chicken salad w/fresh thyme, lemon zest, garlic, bit of balsamic, olive oil, tiny bit of mayo w/baguette, tomato salad, salad of mustard greens and arugula, fresh corn and fig tart w/cream for dessert.

Make a shortbread crust: 1 cup of flour, 1 stick cut up cold butter, 1/4 sugar, pinch of salt. Rub together and press into pan. Bake
at 400 degrees until it begins to go golden. Quarter 6-8 ripe figs and toss with sugar. Heat up a few tablespoons of butter in a heavy saute pan. Add the figs with a bit of candied ginger, a piece of star anise and lemon zest and move around a bit until the figs have collapsed a little. Remove the zest and star anise. Spoon onto the cooked crust and return to the oven for another five or ten minutes. Serve at room temperature with mascarpone that has a little sugar and lemon zest added to it.

I am going to boil the water

The beauty of leaving it and living with Jonathan is that he always steps up to the plate. For the past week I have dragged my sorry self from the bed when the sun insists on rising and though I try to hide my eyes, avert my gaze, hide under the table, I can’t help but notice the whole wide world outside the kitchen windows. Weeds as tall as an army of men, tomatoes aging on the vine, and basil curling up around the edges.
I push open the screen door.
“NO CAN DO” I say to the general area and anybody out there. (There is nobody out there.)
I make coffee and hot milk and blueberry pancakes and push open the front door for the paper and come back to the table. Looking at the garden I see work. Grumpy comes knocking and steps in without an invite. Grumpy happens to me like breathing.
I try to focus on the election.
I work on the computer with my head phones on.
Jonathan is not overwhelmed by growth. He just gets out there and takes it on. Weeds are pulled, basil is flying in the blender with olive oil and garlic, the grapes are cut back and order is returned to a backyard in Queens.
I have promised to blanch the tomatoes. It’s the least I can do.

my garden is looking good!

mid August is talking

Garden: It’s time to pick!

Faye: (no movement)

Garden: Look at this all red ripe and luscious, deep cool green and crispy, flowers full of sun and seven feet tall.

Faye: (admires from afar)

Garden: (now on a megaphone) GET UP, GET OVER HERE, GET MOVING.

Faye: (thinking)

This is the part of gardening that feels like thinking about having another baby at 49. It’s just so hot out.

tomato and basil and garlic

and again. and once more. and the next day. and the day after that.
The garden is fit to bursting. Even the squirrels can’t make a dent in the tomatoes. They’ve invited their cousins and their uncles and their girlfriends and still, plenty for everyone.
I halve them, pull out the seeds, chop them up, give them a good spill of beautiful olive oil, a small shower of sea salt, ripped basil leaves and for every cup of tomato, half a clove of smashed then minced, garlic. I toss it with al dente pasta as soon as it comes out of the pan, taste for salt and pepper and olive oil and then give it a half a handful of Parmigiano Reggiano.
And every time I love it even more. That’s how I have it over on the squirrels. I can cook.

Into a sea

of grilled processed cheese food sandwiches, water pressed turkey and stove top, pre poached chicken breast w/canned pineapple and green peppers, and pork alla camp we boated in the fresh fruits and vegetables from down the road at Moulton Farm. We sliced up yellow peppers, cut the tails and greens from gold and amber carrots, shivered over the flat parsley leaves, and ate it all before we stirred up stone ground yellow corn into polenta and topped it with a salad of snappy arugula leaves tossed w/ New Hampshire cheddar, Montevarchi extra virgin olive, lemon and salt. We had a platter of blue, blue blueberries and red, red raspberries and then dove into roasting red peppers, slender eggplants, pale green tiny zucchini, cloves of garlic, and heavy red tomatoes separately and finishing them by braising them together w/ a spill of the tomato juice that ran over our fingers as we pulled the seeds from the tomatoes. We made a warm potato salad w/caramelized shallots and fried basil and string beans still wearing their tails. We spread sweet butter on baguette and covered every inch w/paper thin radishes. We boiled eggs for exactly nine minutes and dropped them into and ice bath, we made omelettes w/ leftover ratatouille, frittatas with sauteed shitake, and rolled out gnocchi dressed w/a browned butter, fresh sage and smashed, fresh to bursting with everything you hoped a garlic clove would be, sauteed to barely golden. We were meant to have no more than ten but finished with the chowder and desserts to a crowd of 32. How are you going to say no? People in their seventies wanted to cook. People under double digits were asking if I couldn’t make an excuse and let them be a witness. We threw our hands up in happiness, we only cried a little bit, we lost a minimal number of potatoes browning in a pan on a 360 turn and we ate. May all of that only grow.