Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nuts to you

I used to hate nuts. Vehemently. Emphatically. So passionate was I about my nut hatred that it's actually kind of hard to talk about it in the past tense. It somehow became part of me... the guy who hates nuts.

Then one day I was out to dinner with Mrs. Food Guy. It was a fancy New Year's Eve dinner, in fact, which turns out to be fitting because of the new start it afforded me. It all began with a dish of green beans in a deliciously salty and sweet gooey sauce. Pan toasted whole almonds in the same sauce were tossed amongst the beans. The sauce was so good that when the beans were gone I resorted to something I never thought I'd do. I purposefully ate a nut.

And it was good.

It wasn't just the sauce. It was the nut. It didn't make me gag. It didn't give me the yucky shivers or make me want to spit. It was actually tasty.

Before I knew it I was trying almonds prepared other ways. How are they salted? How are they honey roasted? How do they taste slivered and blanched and tossed in a salad? To all these questions, I learned there I was one answer: They are GOOD.

Now, I'd always liked peanuts. So I thought, okay, so I like peanuts and almonds. What other nuts might not be repugnant? Cashews aren't too bad, I soon found out. Hazelnuts are actually pretty good too. Macadamias... eh. Pecans won't make me puke, but then again, I'm not exactly excited about them.

Turns out, the nut that is the grossest of the gross, the one that turned me off to all nuts, is the Walnut. Now THEY are gross! I still have that same visceral reaction if there's a walnut in my food. I can't even chew them -- if I can't spit it out without seeming juvenile or impolite, I have to swallow them whole. To nasty to chew.

I feel bad for all these other perfectly edible nuts, being tainted by the mere association with walnuts.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Belly -- in Anticipation

Maple ice cream with bacon sprinkles -- need I say more? 

I'm dining at Belly tonight. Yes, I said dining -from what I know of this place, one doesn't just eat there.

I don't know,  it might be a bit pretentious. But the logo is a pig. 
(not this pig)

And they serve ice cream with bacon sprinkles (or jimmies, if you're from New England).  I don't care how pretentious it is if this dessert is as good as it sounds.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Bird is the Word

What would you do if you sat down to your family's Thanksgiving dinner, only to find the most important dish was missing? 

Maybe you look forward to the sweet potatoes with tiny melted marshmallows on top -- you start thinking about them, salivating at the thought of them, in September. Or maybe your mother made green beans in a specific way that nobody else can duplicate and if they're not on the table on Thanksgiving life will have no meaning. 

One Thanksgiving when I was around 19, my parents, brother, and I joined a family friend's family for Thanksgiving. I didn't think it could possibly be that different, or that I'd care if it was. But then they served ham. HAM! On Thanksgiving!!!!

It's silly, but I remember being just horrified when that ham was brought to the table. And I remember being mad, actually MAD at my mother for bringing us to this turkey-less place. What the hell was wrong with these people?

Now, I was a kid then, and as an adult I like to think I've grown somewhat more adaptable. It might have to do with spending Thanksgiving with assorted other people's families over the last 10 or 15 years. And with the fact that I've yet to come across another family who dared serve me anything but bird.

But this year, some family friends are joining my new family (in-laws galore!) for Thanksgiving. And there was a discussion about these friends bringing something to the feast. One offered stuffing, and I found my alarms ringing. Mrs. Food Guy's mother makes the best stuffing I've ever eaten, and it was like I was 19 again:

"NO, Don't let them change the stuffing... Anything but the stuffing!"

And that's when I realized it doesn't matter how old you are. When there's a meal you love and you only get it once a year, you just don't want anyone messing with it. 

So good luck, and may your friends and relatives chose another day to experiment with the menu.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Creature (of Habit)

Same Old Same Old

I'm a creature of habit. As much as I love food, I'll eat the same old thing day after day after day without getting tired of it. I can do this for weeks. Months, even. 

When I was first out of college, I'd eat nothing but Lipton Rice with Sauce packets, with the occasional Pasta and Sauce thrown in just to keep things exciting. They came in all different flavors. I'd brown up some ground beef, dump it in the rice, throw in some frozen corn (gotta have a veggie) and consider it a feast. Sometimes I'd even broil up a loaf of supermarket garlic bread to go along with it. This was dinner, 5 nights a week. 

A few years later, I came up with another perfect routine -- the same three meals for dinner on a rotating basis. All purchased from Costco. All frozen. All delicious.

Meal #1: Frozen Cheese Ravioli and a half of a jar of whatever pasta sauce was available. Sometimes, if I was feeling REALLY crazy, I'd brown up some hamburger to go in the sauce.

Meal #2: Frozen Potstickers. They came with their own sauce. No muss, no fuss.

Meal #3: Frozen chicken Cordon Bleu. Breaded chicken stuffed with ham and cheese that oozed out if you over cooked it. 

I wouldn't dream of eating this way anymore, for a lot of reasons. 
I eat much healthier now -- my diet even includes many green vegetables. 
I like some variety.
My wife would kill me if I cooked frozen ravioli every third night...

But because I'm still such a routine bound person, I have the same thing for lunch just about every day. Almond butter and jelly on whole wheat. When the almond butter is gone, I switch to peanut butter for a jar. Then back again. 

I find odd comfort in knowing what's for lunch.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Instant Soup

For the first time in years, I had a cup of instant soup for lunch. You know the kind -- it comes in a cardboard cup. You peel back the foil lid and fill with boiling water. Cover and wait 5-8 minutes... That was hours ago, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

On the one hand, the soup was quite a step up from the old Cup o' Soups I used to buy. Today I had Dr. McDougall's Black Bean and Lime soup.

It was vegan and gluten free (thank goodness! Everyone knows gluten is the enemy... ahhh, I think I'll save my rant about the gluten-phobics for a later date). The ingredients were all actually pronounceable. If you're going to eat food that lives on a shelf and cooks in a cup, it's about the best you could do.

On the other hand, it was REALLY salty. And sorta sludgey. Obviously out of practice with such things, I thought I had stirred the heck out of it when I added the water. But apparently I didn't because I ate several clumps of wet seasoning that were a little disturbing. They didn't taste that bad, to be honest, but they were weird. And I might not have been patient enough to let it cook for the recommended time, so it was a little crunchy (which is not a quality I particularly enjoy in my black beans).

But I sorta liked it. 

I'm so ashamed...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Three Words

Breakfast For Dinner.

What else is there to say? Who doesn't love eggs and bacon (yes, bacon again) and homefries and toast for dinner? Or a scramble with onions and peppers and chunks of sausage, maybe even some zucchini or spinach? 

When I was a kid, my mom did all the cooking in our house. And she was a really good cook, adventurous for somebody who learned to cook in the late 60's. Sure, she cooked some things we were all a little afraid of -- like lentil loaf (which I'd probably love now, but when I was 12 I couldn't go near it!). And yeah, sometimes she cooked delicious dinners that were so far over our heads that we'd beg for simple spaghetti and meatballs. But overall, I've never had any complaints about my mother's cooking.

On those rare occassions when Mom wasn't home to cook us dinner, Dad took over the stove. And there was nothing, NOTHING we liked better than when my father cooked. Because the only thing he EVER cooked was Breakfast for Dinner.

And there wasn't just one breakfast dish at which he excelled. He made omelets filled with, of all things, grape jelly, which were just amazing. He made better matzoh brei than either of my grandmothers could make He made the fluffiest scrambled eggs and perfect bacon. He made toasted bagels coated in what we called "jellyosis" -- the messy mixture created when you butter a hot bagel and then quickly slather it with jelly (from the sound of it, we ate a lot of jelly when Dad cooked). When you got some on you, you had to yell "Oh no, I've got jellyosis!!!!!!!!!" 

I'm not one of those people with millions of happy memories from childhood. So I'll take what I can get and chalk up my lifelong love of Breakfast For Dinner to those nights when Dad cooked. 

But that's just me. Why do YOU love BforD?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tiny Food

My new work routine includes eating a tiny little wheel of cheese and drinking a miniature V8 every day at 3. I like having something to look forward to after lunch and it's good for me to get a little nutrition mid-day. And, man, do I mean LITTLE.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm not the best judge of reasonable portion sizes. But a 5.5 oz can of V8 is barely enough to get my mouth wet. Is that really a full serving of vegetables? The answer, I just learned, is yes. According to their website, a half cup (or 4 oz) of V8 is a full serving of veggies. So my tiny little can is 1.25 servings. Goody for me!

Despite what I just learned, I kind of have a hard time believing it... yet I drink it each day, along with my wheel of Laughing Cow Mini Baby Bel Light (there are more words in the name of the cheese than there are bites of cheese!). I actually enjoy them both, but I am starting to hate their diminutive proportions.

They sit in my hand, looking all petite and smug. Like they're taunting me -- "What's the matter Jumbo? We don't look like enough food for you??" All I can do is polish them off as quickly as I can and try to convince myself that I won't be hungry again until dinner.

Fat chance.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween

I could have named this blog The Candy Guy, because I love the stuff (as if my ode to candy corn didn't clue you in to that already!). I used to eat pounds of it, literally pounds of it, on a pretty regular basis. My idea of a perfect evening was to get in bed with a good book and a large bag of candy, preferably Richardson's Gourmet Mints. Creamy mint center, surrounded by semi-sweet chocolate, lovingly contained by a candy shell... ahhh yes, my old yellow, pink, orange, and blue friends.

But it didn't matter what candy I had, or how much -- I'd eat until it was gone.

About the time I hit 230 pounds (on an average sized 5'10" frame), I realized this was not good for me. This happened to coincide with my mints disappearing from the shelves (I still don't know what happened to them, but you can buy them online, which I take great comfort in knowing!). So now I only periodically eat candy, and when I do I try to determine how much a 'normal person' would eat in one sitting. Then I double -- sometimes triple-- that, and only buy that specific amount. Of course, I still eat it all, but at least I've managed my consumption a little.

This is the first Halloween that Food Guy Jr. is aware of what's going on around him. At almost 14 months, he still hasn't had his first bite of candy, but I think tonight that's going to change. We'll see what happens.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Candy Crack Corn, and I Don't Care...

With Halloween only a few days away, I have to write about candy. It won't be the last time, I assure you. The Food Guy LOVES candy and can talk about it endlessly.

But today, I'm thinking about just one kind of candy. It's triangular. It's orange, yellow, and white (sometimes brown too!). And it is more addictive than just about any other sweet. The question I have is this: WHY is it so impossible to have just a few candy corns?

As the trees start showing the first hints of oranges and yellows, matching bags of candy corn start appearing on the supermarket shelves. They're usually pretty cheap, so you buy two, maybe three. You open the bag, thinking "Oh, I'll just have a few corns, maybe put the rest out in a nice bowl on the coffee table..." You grab a few, go back about your business.

Flash forward 15 minutes, and all three bags of corn are gone. Your teeth ache. Your head feels foggy. Your stomach is in turmoil. You are disgusted with yourself. And you're looking for your keys because you need to get back to the store for more candy corn!

By the time Halloween passes, you're thankful they've been replaced by chocolate Santas and candy canes, because you can't keep yourself from buying a bag every time you see one, no matter how grossed out you are with them, and yourself.

When I say "you" throughout this blog, I admit that I mean "me." I used to think it was only me. Then I met Mrs. Food Guy. The two of us can mow through five pounds of candy corn faster than an ordinary person can get the bag opened. It's not pretty, believe me -- two adults sitting on a couch, complaining of wanting to puke while at the same time keeping close tabs on the other persons corn-pile (can't have one of us getting more than their fair share of corn!), trying so hard to eat just a few but finding themselves unable to quit shoving them down their gullets.

What do they put in that stuff? It brings to mind the traditional song:

Candy crack corn, and I don't care,
Candy crack corn, and I don't care,
Candy crack corn, and I don't care
My teeth's have gone away!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Hate Recipes

Whenever I follow a recipe, I get this idea in my head of what the dish is going to look and taste like. Usually the picture in my head is somewhat influenced by the picture that invariably accompanies the recipe (imagine that!). The finished product always looks so perfect... I can practically taste it.

Then I start to cook. It isn't long before I find something out of whack. Once I was making a curry, and the recipe called for just a half teaspoon of curry powder. I may be guilty of ocassionally over-spicing a dish here and there, but a HALF a teaspoon of curry powder in a giant pot of curry??? I wouldn't even taste that. I might as well just wave the curry powder over the pot and say CURRY CURRY CURRY for the amount of flavoring that would give the dish!

I probably cook 10 meals of my own creation for every one I use a recipe for. And just about every time I follow a recipe, I think it was a waste of time. Is this just me?

Now if only I could make something that looked THIS good:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Everybody Loves Bacon

I was going to wait a little while to write my first post about bacon. But I've recently learned something that I just have to share.

People LOVE bacon. It's not just me. Even vegetarians seem to have a thing for bacon.
The story goes like this: A few weeks ago I posted a simple comment on my Facebook page about bacon. A one-liner. It generated a surprising number of responses from my friends. A week later, I came across an article about a suspected bomb that was removed from an office building. It turned out to be a package of bacon. I thought this was pretty funny, and posted a link to the news story. Again, a ton of responses. Now, not only do I have bacon on the brain, but I keep finding these bacon items to share. And every time I do, I get tons of comments from other people who seem to love bacon as much as I do.

So what's the deal? The reasons to love bacon are many and obvious: it's salty and greasy and crispy and smoky. It's an indulgence. I'm sure much of the allure is that we know it's bad for us. Us bacon lovers take a little pride in our risk taking, knowing that enough bacon could clog our arteries and expand our waists. Yeah, I eat bacon. I live on the edge, man!

It's also one of those foods that fits so nicely in its niche. If bacon was something you had for dinner once a week -- a slab of bacon with a few sides -- it would lose some of it's charm. But when you think of it, nestled warmly next to a pile of eggs and homefries, it brings a smile to your face. The perfect tableau.

But bacon is no one-trick cured meat! Oh no -- bacon goes with so many things. What else can you serve with breakfast, on a salad, on a hamburger, and put on the top of an apple pie? The only other food that I can think of is cheddar cheese, which I'd be happy to write about in another post.

Finally, let's talk about the smell. The Smell! My idea of a perfect day would begin with waking up in a warm bed on a cold morning, the smell of cooking bacon in the air. Nobody ever smells bacon and wonders "What is that delightful aroma?" It's an unmistakable smell. And now, sitting here just writing about it, I can practically smell it.

I'm about to eat an almond butter sandwich and I'm thinking how nice it would be if there were a few slices of bacon in the there. Because as I always say, Everything is better with bacon!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mmm... Smoothies. Smooth!

Smoothies may be considered a beverage, but the Food Guy doesn't see the need to discriminate between liquids and solids. I drink a smoothie for breakfast several mornings a week, and it sticks to my ribs better than any bowl of Grape Nuts.

I'm not proud of this, but I don't eat a lot of fruit. I like fruit, but somehow it just isn't a real go-to food for me (maybe because there's no bacon-flavored fruit. If there was a bacon fruit tree, I'd have an orchard!). But my smoothies are loaded with fruit (are you dying for my smoothie recipe yet? You'll have to keep reading...) so I feel really good about drinking them.

Have I mentioned how delicious they are? I love my smoothies so much that sometimes, when the alarm goes off at 5:30 am and my sleepy brain says "Ahhh, missing one workout won't kill me. I'll go to the gym tomorrow...", my sleepy stomach responds "But what about my smoothie??" And I get out of bed. Because yes, my smoothies are good enough to warrant getting up early, moving big slabs of iron around and running for miles and miles.

And they're portable. I make my smoothie and head off to the shower. I drink it while I shave, while I get dressed. I can chase the little guy around the house and still get my breakfast in.

There's one more thing about smoothies that I love. This is a new one. And it has to do with my son. He's just over a year old, and when he was tiny, I used to come home from the gym, put him down for a nap, and hope my smoothie-making wouldn't wake him up. As he got a little older, he was scared of the blender sound, so I'd yell out a warning before I started it up. My wife would bring him into the kitchen so he could see what was making the noise. Then one day we realized that he had grown to like the sound of the blender -- he wanted to watch the blending. So I offered him a sip of my smoothie.

At first, he looked in that big cup, at that weird, thick, purple stuff, and he laughed and laughed. Then he took a sip, and got a big smile. And a big purple smoothie mustache. Now when he hears the blender he comes running. He actually smacks his lips in anticipation of his sip of my smoothie. It's something he and I share on a regular basis, and it's pretty cool.

So now, finally, my smoothie recipe!!!

8 oz. low fat soy milk
1 frozen banana (peel it before you freeze it!)
1 cup frozen berries (blueberry is best, but that's just my opinion)
1 scoop protein powder (I like chocolate!)
1 tablespoon flax seed
1/4 cup rolled oats
about 1/2 cup water

I like to start with just a little water, blend for a moment, and add water as needed. I like a thick smoothie but if you like yours thinner, more water is your friend.

Nutrition Info
(this varies depending on the type of protein powder you use)
400 cal
7.5g fat
68g carbs
26g protein
Iincidentally -- this is an ideal ratio for a post-workout meal. And a terrific breakfast even if you haven't just been to the gym)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Food Guy Writes

I'm now officially The Food Guy. I love food -- talking about it, cooking it, eating it. I love all kinds of food, so this blog isn't going to be some elitist (we hate elitists!) foody blather about fancy restaurants and fine wines... though I suppose I shouldn't rule that out if the mood strikes me. What I want to write about is what I love about food -- it doesn't really matter what it costs or where it came from. What matters about food is how it tastes and how it makes you feel.

So on that note, I'm going to say a few words about my favorite food: Hamburgers. I think I've eaten at least one hambuger a week for 10 or 15 years now, and in the weeks that I haven't, I've felt their absence. A hamburger is basic. It's not complicated, though you can make it complicated if you really want to. A good hamburger is juicy, flavorful, has the right toppings for the moment... When the juices drip down the side of your hand and fall from your wrist bone to the table, you know you're eating something special.

That's all I'll say about hamburgers for now. It's not much, but it's a start.