Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Om nom nom nom nom nom nom, banana chip

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a sweeping generalization. I think everyone has one or two foods that, once they cross the oral threshhold and enter their mouths, become very difficult to stop eating. For me, banana chips are one of these foods. Their texture is perfect, smooth yet crunchy, deliciously melting between your teeth as you bite down, going from jagged to soft in but a moment.

There's a Mexican grocery store near me called Cermak Produce. It is not on Cermak Avenue, at least this location, but it is full of produce. I went there in search of apples for a friend, then happened upon a veritable wall of dried fruits. There, a half a pound of banana chips is less than $1.50, and a mix of fruits you've never heard of is less than $4 a pound. The variety is fantastic and somewhat odd -- I'm glad I knew that dried kiwis aren't that great, since I would've tried them there -- and each is handily packaged in a reusable box-like container. It is a heaven for a fruit lover, especially in the middle of winter. I picked out a box of banana chips and a carton of craisins.

The problem with banana chips is that they're not particularly good for you. Livestrong seems to have a billion different calorie counts for various amounts, but generally speaking it looks like ~20 banana chips is ~150 calories, with a boatload of fat in there. From... somewhere. Of course I didn't know this before I ate at least a serving's worth, but so it goes. I decided to try the dried fruits in the oatmeal, putting them in while it was still quite hot to let the sugar melt off and sweeten the rest of the 'meal.

The result was fantastically delicious. The banana chips melted a little and almost rehydrated into normal bananas, but they kept just enough of their jaggedness to remind you that they're chips. The craisins melted into the oatmeal and moved with it, adding chewy bits to an otherwise reasonably consistent consistency. I also added a drop of vanilla, but all that served to do was make it taste kind of odd for the first bite or two.

Yes, I understand "oatmeal with dried fruit" is hardly a recipe, and is about as groundbreaking as sliced bread, but it's new to me, and the cranberry banana hybrid worked particularly well.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Getting Nutty

Tonight, in furtherance of the "try to make savory oatmeal good" goal, I infused my steel-cut oats with 2 tbsp of semi-chunky peanut butter. It was... not good. Not terrible, mind you, but not "holy crap, I need to eat that again!" good. The effect was not unlike the CoW "fondue," wherein the melted substance is augmented with healthier filler. Only this time, it was like eating a bowl of peanut butter. Delicious? Not so. The flavor got really same-ey really quickly. Thing is, I think it has potential. Next time, I'm going to try some combination of the following:

-less PB: 2 tbsp was actually a little much, considering one serving of steel-cut oats is only 1/4 cup dry.
-more seasonings: curry powder or cumin may have made it less bland. Perhaps even some Vulcan's Fire Salt would be in order. Spicy peanut butter rules.
-not using steel-cut oats: the steel-cut oats were extremely similar in texture to the chunks of peanut in the peanut butter. Since the textures were so same-ey, the two didn't really complement each other very well. With normal oats, this problem may be avoided.
-veggies: peanut butter goes well with certain veggies, like onions and k-rots. Maybe slicing up some of those and adding it to this would provide the needed kick in the pants.

So, yes. More on this as it develops (and as soon as I go to a grocery store where onions and k-rots are less than $2 each).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A backslide for the ages

'All you can eat sushi' is not part of a healthy diet, no matter how many vegetables you put in a roll. This fact has always depressed me, especially today. Goma ae doesn't count as "slop", either.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Recipe basics

Thus far, I've used a lot of basic recipes. Oatmeal with maple syrup and brown sugar, grits with milk and honey, etc. The package directions can get you pretty far, but after a short period of time they get really same-ey. The biggest challenge is creating something that's both delicious and doesn't add a whole heck of a lot of calories.

One night, I decided that since cream of wheat is great with 1/2 tbsp of butter and salt, it'd be even better with swiss cheese. Guess what: it is! This recipe, my first to post, is much like a lower-calorie version of fondue. It's delicious, flavorful, and works well if you slice up an apple and dip it in. Here's the scoop (always assume the pun is intended):

Cream of Wheat Fondue

3 tablespoons cream of wheat
1.5 oz shredded cheese -- Swiss or Emmentaler work best, but anything that melts works great
1 tsp garlic powder
fresh-ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 apple of your favorite type

Prepare cream of wheat (CoW) according to package directions. After it has stopped bubbling, put it in a bowl that's got a bit of room. Mix in cheese and garlic powder; the cheese should melt quickly, considering the temperature of the CoW. Add black pepper to taste, starting with just a pinch. Slice up apple -- personally, I prefer Granny Smiths for this, since their sourness is offset by the richness of the cheese -- and use to dip in the "fondue."

Other fruits, especially grapes, also work well. It's easy to adjust this recipe for richness by adding more cheese. Problem is, the more cheese you add, the more fat and calories come in, too. For a stronger fondue-ey flavor, replace half the water you use to prepare the CoW with inexpensive white wine. Again, it adds calories, but hot dang is it tasty.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

But... why oatmeal? And why dinner?

There have been plenty of diets in the past that've claimed that flipping breakfast and dinner will make you lose lots of weight. Indeed, many have had success doing so. The problem I and many others have with this practice is that it can be mighty hard to motivate oneself to actually make something dinner-esque in the morning. When most people want to just roll out of bed, into the shower, and onto the bus or car to get to work, adding in an extra hour to half an hour can feel highly onerous. As someone who can function decently around 5.30AM, I like to get up and exercise in the mornings. Adding in "making dinner-breakfast" to the time schedule would make me have to get up at 4, and go to bed at 8PM to get a decent night's sleep. Ew, no thanks.
Adding to that the societal norm that most of us are used to of eating something that isn't a plate of pasta with marinara at 7AM, the whole concept of flipping dinner and breakfast ends up fatally flawed for many.

But Katja, you ask, isn't having oatmeal for dinner and breakfast for breakfast like having two breakfasts in one day? To a certain extent yes, but that's where the "slop" idea comes in. Oatmeal isn't the only slopular option -- which I am hereinafter referring to as a "sloption." Cream of Wheat, polenta, grits, and even brown rice or quinoa if made properly all fit the definition of "slop" but can be gussied up to be sweet or savory or sour or any other food word that starts with an s.

The big bonus about all of these "slop" foods is that they're incredibly inexpensive, available in bulk, and, unless you fill them with cheese and butter, really quite healthy. One can get a big can of Quaker oats for $2, or a huge bag of corn grits for $3. In this craptacular economy, a bag of food that provides the basis nearly a dozen meals for $2 is a pretty sweet deal. Add on to that the fact that oatmeal is proven to reduce cholesterol levels and may help one become less susceptible to adult-onset diabetes, all these sloptions are beginning to look better and better. Check here for a fun look (without any citations, but who am I to doubt Mister Breakfast?) at why oatmeal, in particular, is rad.

That said, after my oatmeal+honey dinner last night, I was down a pound this morning. It's oatmealy magic!

In the future, this blog will include recipes for ways to make slop not entirely boring, focuses on different slop-types, and further weight loss progress from yours truly.

Slop it up!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Slop Diet: An Exercise in Eating

It's a story frequently told both on and off the intertron: girl feels she's overweight, girl loses weight, girl gains weight back slowly over a few years. Your heroine finds herself, today, at the "gained back" point. I'm not -as- heavy as I once was, but at about ten pounds off my all time max, things are a little rough. I found myself, recently, going back through what helped take the weight off in the first place; being a few years younger certainly helped, but the major factors as I saw it were that I exercised a lot more, and I counted calories pretty religiously.

One of my biggest successes back then, I think, was that I focused my calories in the first half of the day, and had smallish dinners. According to a nutritionist friend, one burns most of one's calories in the first 12 hours during which one is awake. Thus the idea: why not have a tiny, nutritious dinner and big, filling breakfasts and lunches?

The problem then became: what to eat for dinner that was small, filling, and healthy enough to keep me from feeling like I'd eaten a hunk of cheese and called it a meal? I experimented a bit and oatmeal wound up the winner.

Now, I know I'm not the only person who's ever eaten oatmeal for dinner and called it a diet. Regardless, it worked, and now I'm trying it again. This time, I've branched out to add in cream of wheat, polenta, and grits to the mix, since oatmeal on its own can be more repetitive than the music at a mid-90s rave. The goal is to have something slop-based, i.e. that it needs to be in a bowl or it'll go all over the place. Various types of gruel kept peasants going for centuries, it'll certainly keep me going when used for a single meal.

I'm starting this blog a little late in the game. See, I should've written this three weeks ago, when I started on the slop diet. I didn't think of it then, though, so now it is.

Tonight's slop is going to be steel-cut oats with a dash of honey and cinnamon for flavor. Yesterday was a non-slop day (gardein santa fe "chicken" breasts and quinoa), and the day before was cream of wheat with 1/2 tbsp of butter and salt. Tomorrow'll probably be polenta with habanero salsa.

And so it begins, the documentation of the slop diet.

To get really voyeuristic about my eating habits, check out my livestrong profile.