Low-Carb it is

About a week ago, I went to the library to return some books.  Since I didn't have any other books on hold to pick up, I head over to my usual aisle (the last one with books about learning different skills) to see if I could find anything to read.  Luckily for me, pretty close to the books on making stuff are books on gardening and cooking.  I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but totally based on their covers, I grabbed the book "Unbowed" about an environmentalist in Africa (which I haven't started yet) and "Why We Get Fat".  After I read the second one, I thought because you eat more calories than you burn.  How could there be an entire book about that.  I was going to put it back, but I didn't see a more interesting gardening or woodworking book, so I kept it.

I started reading when I got home and basically read it straight-thru for the rest of the day.  The idea is that it's carbs that make us fat.  I probably don't have the details exactly right, but it's insulin that's the problem here.  When you eat carbs, you generate more insulin that stores the fat in your cells.  If you don't eat carbs (even if you eat a lot of food), your body will pull the fat out of your cells to use for energy.  Honestly, I wasn't quite sure that I believed this.  But, I had a very slow weekend and was a little bored.  So I thought I'd do an experiment.

The author said that if you eat a high-carb meal (say like a bowl of cereal with milk and a banana) you're insulin it will store the excess in your fat cells or something like that.  The net result is, your weight will go up.  Since I've been weighing myself daily since 2011, I pretty much know my daily weight.  And I was in a stage where it was pretty consistent.  So that night, I had a small bowl of cereal with a banana for dinner.  The next morning, sure enough, I had gained a pound and a half.

That was interesting.  But then, the next day, I ate low-carb and I ate what I thought was more than usual.  Scrambled eggs with cheese and blueberries for breakfast (minus the tortilla I usually put it on), a salad for lunch and half a rack of bbq ribs for dinner.   I had some nuts at work for a snack as well.   The next day, my weight was down 2.4 pounds.  Hmmm.  Could that have been a fluke?  So I did it another day, down another 1.8 pounds.  The next day, weight stayed the same.  The next day, down 1.1 pounds.  This brings me to today, down 1.3 pounds.  Apparently, this is working.

The bad news is ... this past week I've eaten more red meat than I have in months.  I honestly had been considering becoming a vegetarian lately because I thought it would be good for me and the world.  But right now, I'm not good enough of a cook to become a low-carb vegetarian.  So I'm going to keep eating the meat and then as I learn how to cook better vegetarian meals I'll hopefully be able to shift away from it.  I don't think cholesterol is going to be a problem, but I'll see how it looks at my next doctor appointment.

The good new is ... I feel great.  I have a good amount of energy, my right knee isn't feeling achy and (aside from last night) I've even slept through the entire night.  I know it hasn't even been a full week, but everything the book described seems to be happening.  We'll see how long I can keep it up, but I think that as I learn how to cook different things, it will get even easier.

Yearly Oatmeal Update

As the weather gets cooler, I change to eating oatmeal for breakfast. I didn't grow up eating oatmeal, so I've been trying to teach myself how to cook it. I like a very creamy oatmeal, often how I get at a restaurant. However, when I made it at home, my oatmeal wasn't nearly as good. Now, after a few years of making it, I feel like I have the perfect recipe for me.

I finally figured out that my main issue in previous years was that I was trying to cook too little oatmeal. I only wanted to eat about 1 cup of cooked oatmeal. And you get that from cooking maybe 1/2 cup of oats. Oatmeal seems to cook best when you cook at least one cup of oats. I had thought that I was wasting a lot of oatmeal because I couldn't eat that much. My breakthrough this year was that I found I could keep the leftovers in the frig and reheat them the next day and they tasted just as good as when I made them. Now that I know I'm not wasting oatmeal, here's the recipe I follow:

1 cup water
2 cups milk
1 cup oatmeal
tablespoon of vanilla (I don't measure, but just pour some in)
pat of butter

Usually, if I wake up around 4am, I'll put all of these things on as low as I can go and cover the pot. It's usually done by 5am when I get up. The drawback is that the bottom will burn and stick to the pot. If I start things around 5am and can get myself to get out of bed to stir it every 15 minutes or so, it usually doesn't stick. Keeping the stove as low as possible is needed to prevent the oatmeal from spilling over. Sometimes, it still spills over, but I'm ok with that.

I take a bowl of it to eat and put the rest in the frig. The next day, I drop the leftovers in the pot. Add some milk and a little more vanilla and heat until creamy. Tastes just like the previous day.

I like to top it off with some blueberries and some chocolate chips.

Black Friday

Today is "Black Friday", which means that I'm spending it relaxing after hosting Thanksgiving yesterday. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I believe yesterday was quite enjoyable for everyone. The wild turkey got deplucked and turned out ok. My turkey breast roast, made out of a bunch of pieces, was good. The roasted sweet potatoes were good. And as always the desserts were finished off without a problem.

I had fun yesterday posting to twitter about all the things I was thankful for. And we ended the evening by introducing my sister's kids to the beauty of Star Wars. Since we normally have a Christmas viewing of Star Wars, I'm not sure what we'll do then. We may have to move on to "The Empire Strikes Back".

Today people will shop, which is a little weird after spending yesterday being thankful for what you have. While I have no desire to "go shopping" ever, I know that I ran out of laundry detergent yesterday. So if I want to wash all the dirty linens, a trip to a store might be needed today.

As I now have three full days over which I don't need to think about work, I have a couple of personal projects that I'd like to take a crack at. One is the letterpress-printed save the date cards for my brother's wedding. I'm hoping my plates get delivered today, though they may not. It would be nice to be able to play around with that today. Another is to build a little project with some of the wood I have in my basement and to try out the milk paint I bought as a finish. Lastly, though it's supposed to rain for most of the day, I'd like to go for a bike ride. It's supposed to be in the 50s today, which will make for a nice ride.

Chicken and Dumplings Soup

I just made this chicken and dumplings soup. It's ok, but it's not great. My main problem is with the dumplings. They're really heavy. And the soup is good, but I think there should have been an onion in the soup. So after thinking about things, this is what I'm going to try the next time I make it.

Soup

  • 4 cups chicken stock (this is on 32 oz container)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3 carrots (chopped)
  • 2 celery stalks (chopped)
  • 1 onion (minced)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 4 teaspoons button
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Dumplings

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk

In big pot, melt butter. Add carrots, celery and onion. Cook them until softened. Add the rest of the soup ingredients, and cook until the chicken is cooked through. Probably 20 minutes or so would be my guess. While that's cooking, mix everything except the milk and butter together. Heat the milk and add the butter so it melts. Then add it to the flour mixture and mix it all together. Should form a ball. Break chunks off, about 1 inch in diameter and drop into the soup. When the chicken is cooked, take it out and pull out the bay leaves. After the chicken cools a little, shred it and then add it back to the soup.

Oatmeal Update

I had posted my recipe for oatmeal a while back. As it's getting chilly, I've started having it for breakfast again. This time though, I had whole milk in the house because I had been using it for baking. I think this improves the taste a lot. So my new recipe for oatmeal is:

1 cup water
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup oatmeal
pat of butter
pinch of salt

Heat up the water, milk, salt and butter, not necessarily to a boil, but get it a little warm. Add the oats and put on low for about 1/2 hour. I always use a nonstick pan because I've been known to put this on and go back to bed for a bit. Sometimes things burn a little and it makes cleanup easier. Though, even with a little burning, the oatmeal tastes ok. I used to toast the oatmeal before adding it in. I haven't been doing that because I just don't feel like cleaning another pan.

Poppyseed Dressing

There are few salads that I like. However, the poppyseed fruit and chicken salad at Portillo's is one I love. I've tried poppyseed dressing at other places and have bought different brands. They just aren't as good. I found a couple of recipes online that I've tried. The first one I tried used a grated shallot. I grated a pretty small one, but the result tasted way too much like onions, so that one didn't work at all. This one though sounded better. Though since I had just had the failure with the shallot, I left the onion powder out of it. I also left out the lemon juice because I didn't have any. The result though was great! So, since this is my repository of all things I want to save, here is the recipe I followed:

1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp poppy seeds
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Mixed everything except the vegetable oil with my handheld blender, then added the oil. That's it!

Favorite Memory

Recently, I saw a website where people were asked to tell their favorite memory. I was a little bummed because I didn't have an immediate favorite come to mind. But after I thought about it, I had a few come to me. One that holds a very special place in my heart is from grade school. My Mom was very involved in our school and at times she would be the room mother for my class. Basically, she would come in during lunch to give the teacher a break from the students and vice versa. When she would watch my class, she would sometimes bring me a grilled cheese sandwich. I remember eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in school and I liked them a lot. I'll admit to still eating one every now and then. However, I remember being really happy when my Mom brought me a hot sandwich. It made me feel very special. So much so, that to this day, I tend to equate hot food with love.

Thanks Mom!

My Oatmeal Recipe

After many, many attempts, I have finally come up with a recipe for oatmeal that I like.

In pot, on medium, heat:

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup milk

While that's heating, melt one tablespoon butter in a frying pan and add 1/3 cup of oats to it. Make sure the oats are covered in butter and then toast them for about a minute.

Dump the oats into the water/milk pot and cook on medium for 20-25 minutes. If all the liquid is absorbed before 20 minutes, add more milk. (The oats should cook for a minimum of 20 minutes.) At around 15-18 minutes, add some salt and vanilla to the pot. Once all the liquid has been absorbed, take off heat and let sit for a couple of minutes. Put in a bowl and throw on some chocolate chips and milk. Mix until creamy and eat. Yum!

A Roast

I cannot recall having ever cooked a big piece of red meat. I've made burgers (from ground beef) and chicken (breasts only), but not a roast or other thick steak. Since I may have possibly set myself up to invite people over for dinner, I thought I should probably find something to cook. I found a recipe for Pot Roast for Two and figured I'd give that a try. It's currently in the oven and has about 3 more hours to go, so we'll see how it turns out. I can say that it smells good so far.

In making this roast, I needed "dry red wine". I googled what type of wine to get and found that a pinot noir would be suitable. I bought a bottle of 2010 Castle Rock Pinot Noir Sonoma County. I needed like 1/2 a cup of it. So what should I do with the rest? I'm not much of a wine drinker, so I did get the cork out...though I destroyed it in the process. I guess all I could do was drink it. I poured myself a glass and decided I don't care for pinot noir. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say I don't like an entire type of wine based on one glass from one bottle. But that's what I'm doing. Though I'll have another glass once the roast comes out. Perhaps it's something that you have to have food with to make it palatable.

Update
The roast was done an hour earlier than the instructions said. So I think I may have bought the wrong cut of meat, but I also don't think it mattered much. The meat was good. (Though since I always cut into it too soon after taking it out of the oven, I may have over-waited. The meat wasn't that hot.) The sauce wasn't as good as I thought it should have been. I did miss two ingredients that I thought I had, but then didn't, a bay leaf and garlic. I also don't have a blender, so I mixed everything in my food processor. I'm guessing the sauce wasn't as smooth as it should have been. Would I make this for guests? Probably not. But I do think that cooking the meat on a low temperature for a long time is a good move. I just need to find a better sauce for it.

Other good news is that John and Ted stopped by. The thought the pinot noir was good and drank most of it. Yay!