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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Most Foodies Aren't Snobs

I feel I need to point that out, because I've become a foodie over the last couple of years, and although I may sound "elite" when I speak to others about food, I'm really not a snob, and I don't think most other people are, either. And by snob, I mean be so picky about certain foods that we turn our nose up at things.

In fact, I'm the exact opposite. Whether it's my ever expanding, "advanced" palate, or the fact that I'm just older now, I love a lot more foods than I used to. I used to turn up my nose at avocado if it wasn't guacamole. I used to hate coconut and pineapple. Tea used to be untouchable (that one I just discovered a couple days ago. My new favorite beverage is green tea with splenda and non-fat milk flakes.) And I believe that because I've been giving all these "weird" new food combinations that are usually found in "foodie food" (think Iron Chef America) a try, I've been liking a lot more stuff in general. I just ate an Asian Citrus salad for the first time today, and you know what, it was pretty good. I would have never thought that I could eat pineapple and red onions in a salad but I enjoyed it. Being a foodie opens your mind to the possibilities - it doesn't make you close-minded like a lot of people think.

I'm not an elitist. I will still eat at McDonalds. I love McDonalds. In fact, I've learned that I can have homemade burgers as long as the only things on them are ketchup, mustard, chopped onions, pickles, and cheese (best thing is american "cheese" or something else suitably non-greasy.) But I also avoid processed foods when at all possible. And I don't necessarily mean cheez-its and potato chips, but things like frozen meals. Being a foodie has made me turn up my nose at those things, but only because I've also become aware of how bad they are for you.

Yeah, I'll be a little snobbish about "well, if you would make it instead of buy it, it would taste better", but that's the Good Eats child in me. Being a foodie is about exploring combinations of flavors that one may have never thought of before. Regular food may end up tasting bland in comparison, but you should never let it go to your head. I wouldn't turn down a Shari's if I was hungry and I won't say it tastes disgusting because I'm used to "high-end cuisine". Shari's is what it is. I will say that my palate has become fine-tuned to flavors now that I never would have imagined. I can finally understand ICA judges when they say things like "the spice overwhelms the subtle flavor of the fish".

Being a foodie has opened up a whole new world for me. You should try it some time. :)

See, doesn't that look delicious?!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I'm Tired of Being Cold!

I'm cold a lot. I'd say maybe 80% of my day. Of course if I'm sitting in 85 degree weather, or in the shower, I'm good to go (btw, I take my showers very hot, and usually stand there until all the hot water is gone). I've noticed that my basal temperature (that's right before you go to bed) is about 96 degrees on average. Maybe 96.5. I have my personal heater on me, even when it says it 70+ in the room. 

What I've begun to realize is that my temperature drops when I drink cold water (not ice cold, but fridge cold). Enough to where I am shivering and I feel as though I've stepped out into cold weather. I've been wearing an undershirt to work in my climate controlled building in order to stay warm, because my jacket isn't enough.

Right now, I have my leather jacket on and my heater pointing at my legs, because 10 minutes ago, I drank some water. I've been taking my temp via under my tongue, which probably isn't the best place because I'd just been drinking water... but it was 95.9.

I really think there might be something wrong with me. My temperature shouldn't drop so drastically that I need a coat and a heater to warm up. Sometimes in winter, my socks, shoes, sweater and blanket aren't enough, because I need to raise my CORE temperature, and that's much harder to do. I'm cold on the INSIDE. (haha). I can sit in front of that blasted heater all day and not ever get too hot. In fact the only reason I move away is because my butt falls asleep (and I realize I must be racking up the heat bill). The only thing that truly helps me is a hot bath. And I mean hot to the point where I'm lightheaded. 10 minutes in there and FINALLY I'm warm again. 

The only references I find online is "a fluctuation in temperature is normal" and usually when people are complaining of a low temp, they're sick. I'm not sick. I've been like this for years. I had my TSH tested at my routine physical and it was fine, which is kind of too bad, because it seems as though I might have a couple symptoms of hypothyroidism. 

When I kick my blanket off at 2am after my body gets too hot, I'll try to remember to take my temperature and see if it's "normal". Too often when I feel too hot, it's because my body temp is around 98.6 :P

When I had my random attack of hives, I developed a fever. The funny part was that when I finally went to the PCP and told her I needed steroids for my hives and I had a fever, she checked it and said "99. That's not a fever." I was GOING to tell her "Heck yes, that's a fever to ME!" I felt flushed and hot, and considering my temp is usually around 96, that's quite a spike :P

I'm not quite sure what to do about it... there's not really any supporting evidence online that a low temperature is a bad thing, or that being cold means something bad. I have a feeling I'd be brushed off by doctors just trying to figure this out; which really sucks, because I'm tired of being cold!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

We are Becoming a Cohesive Unit

Yeah it's a strange title, but it's true!! Our marriage is coming back from the brink, as it were. Justin's change is helping me to change from the nagging, overbearing wife, to the caring person that I truly am. Yesterday was a great day for us. Justin spent the day cleaning the apartment for our guests tomorrow. I am cooking a late birthday dinner for Justin's dad and his girlfriend (fiancee?). While Justin does the parts that I hate - mopping floors, vacuuming etc, I do the clean up. Justin doesn't touch the junk because he doesn't know where to put it. In truth, I just look around, find a spot, and stick it there lol.

When I got home from work, Justin was already ready for our walk. I'm trying to get him to exercise more, and it's a way we can spend time together without having to spend any money - not even on gas, because there's a nice walk right out of our apartment. I usually go the full length - 2.3 miles, in about 40-45 minutes. Today we walked only half that, and Justin is much slower than I am. That's okay. For his effort and my thanks, I took him out to dinner. (That sounds funny, like we're dating lol. What I mean is, I said let's go somewhere and chose a place.) He thought Skippers for their clam chowder, but honestly, I don't enjoy fast food fried fish and shrimp.  And the closest one was probably over 30 minutes away. I said he should try Duke's Chowder House, so we went there. And I told Justin: No phones. Let's TALK. (oooooooh.)

Duke's is very cool for its fresh, local, organic and sustainable faire. I know, those are all buzzwords, but really, it's quite nice to see. (And we got a view of the water! The restaurant is literally on the water.) 

They're pretty expensive of course, but I could almost taste the difference. Their chowder (with which they serve 4-5 varieties) is really good. Could've used more clams!! I got mine in a bread bowl, which was the best part. It was a meal in itself. Justin got the Crab "un"-cake, which is more crab than cake, and I got the salmon sandwich. I could only take a couple bites of the sandwich because I was already full, but from what I had, it was super delicious. I'd never really thought of salmon being on a sandwich, but it totally works. I did however, eat all the sweet potato fries, which I didn't even know the sandwich came with (otherwise I might have subbed them for regular fries. That's one gripe I have about the menu... they don't tell you much.)

[Quick note: I've only had sweet potato fries once in my life. A co-worker ordered them from the hospital's cafeteria, which is not really known for its outstanding food. I asked to try one, made a face, and then said "Are sweet potato fries always supposed to taste like this?" She said yes, and I was like "ewww".]

But these... wow. Call me a foodie and I'll be proud, and this is why. I could tell that they used sea salt to flavor the fries, and believe it or not, that made them awesome. I was just as shocked as you are lol. Using sea salt, which has huge flakes, gave a sense of a salt "pop" of flavor occasionally. It didn't overwhelm the flavor of the fries themselves at all. They were cut fairly thin and fried well, where they weren't too crunchy. I was amazed at their flavor. They tasted nothing like those "other" fries! I had to eat them all, and then regret it [my full stomach] for the rest of the night lol.

Justin and I talked, we had a good time, and he really liked the food. We never went on "dates" because I was always worried about money. And I still am, but I can't let it screw up our relationship. I just need to back up a little bit, let loose; not nag about everything, and Justin will relax a bit more, and the arguments will flow less naturally. It seems to be working! Wish us luck! :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Scardy Cat

Sammy was a rescue, sort of. More like, I stole him and no one ever claimed him so I kept him lol. I was working up in Auburn at the time (2008), at the edge of town. Our warehouse was located down at the end of a dead end street and a few houses. One day, a hungry cat made his way up to our open shipping door, as it was probably 75-80 degrees and we needed the airflow. I was prepping the shipments when I heard the cat's loud meowing. He was able to jump up into the bay, which was quite a feat in itself. The poor guy/girl (None of us being vets, we thought most likely male, probably fixed later in life as he was so big) was looking malnourished. Our office already had a cat - Captain, who I believe had also been a stray that had happened upon us one day. So, we had cat food to feed this one. However, our bosses decreed that we weren't allowed to keep this one at the office, so he would need to find a home. A couple days passed, and no one wanted to claim him as their own. (Also, no one seemed to put up signs looking for a missing cat). Instead of making him go to the pound, I decided to take him in. I knew the apartment I was at allowed small pets, and I've always been a cat person. This one seemed very friendly and sweet, if not entirely huge for a cat.

 There's not many pics that show how big he is. I tried using
one of the biggest books that I have as a guide.

Rick, our Warehouse Manager, was planning on putting up signs for a found cat to see if he belonged to one of the people down the street. We didn't think that was the case though, as he was malnourished almost to the point of starving. We thought maybe that he was abandoned. Rick held off on putting up the signs until he saw that I was a "fit parent" for this kitty, who I named Sammy because it was uni-sexual name (I wasn't 100% if it was male yet). So then he became mine. So, I don't know his age, or the type of cat he is. I assume he's around seven years old now, but I have really no idea.

According to wiki, though, I think he's part or half Maine Coon. Look at this:

Maine Coons are known as the "gentle giants"[4] and possess above-average intelligence, making them relatively easy to train.[3] They are known for being loyal to their family and cautious—but not mean—around strangers, but are independent and not clingy.[26] The Maine Coon is generally not known for being a "lap cat" but their gentle disposition makes the breed relaxed around dogs, other cats, and children. They are playful throughout their lives, with males tending to be more clownish and females generally possessing more dignity, yet both are equally affectionate.[25] Many Maine Coons have a fascination with water[26] and some theorize that this personality trait comes from their ancestors, who were aboard ships for much of their lives.[5] Maine Coons are also well known for yowling, chattering, chirping, "talking" (especially "talking back" to their owners), and making other loud vocalizations.

Along with his size, this description is spot on. He doesn't have a massive aversion to water like most cats, probably because he is very tolerant. He'll let you do most anything to him, as long as it doesn't hurt - baths included up to a point. He is very loyal to us but scared of strangers, and man he's got a set of lungs on him. He's also quite independent - until he's hungry, that is. Then he loves on you in every way.

Yeah, he's begging for food. Who can say no to that?!

Oh, and the point of this post? Despite Sammy's size, he's quite overweight (sometimes it's really hard to know, since he's such a large cat anyway. He's like the size of Cocker Spaniel or something similar.) And he's also lazy. Of course we try to play with him, but he only lasts about 5 minutes before he looses interest completely. He's on diet food already, and we only feed him twice a day. He's pretty much constantly hungry (or says he is. Mrrrow!!) and is still overweight. So, I decided to teach him to take walks. He's been an indoor kitty all of his life with us (which is going on past 4 years now!) So he's afraid of the outdoors. Justin and I have wanted him to be, because the last thing we need is him bolting for the open door. And that's the same reason I didn't want to walk him... up until now. I think Sammy and I both need to go for walks, so I'm hoping to ease him into it.

It might take him a while. Scardy cat. =^.^=

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Gold Star Award

I have mentioned on occasion, about the doctor I work with. I have a job in medical records (the most important position, I think! *wink*) and work with one of the best doctors in the state. Or probably, in the country! I have worked with some very pompous, arrogant, smart-alicky doctors before, and when I first started my job working with Dr. Saffari, I was afraid of more of the same. I came from a place where I was worried that if I accidentally opened his mail, I would get a tongue-lashing. Dawn, one of the receptionists, told me that Dr. Saffari was not like that. It took me a long time to get over my fear of just talking with him, because I had learned that Doctors are above every one else, and can not be bothered with anything trivial, or be interrupted from their tasks. Doctors should be respected and treated with high regard, of course. They help save lives. But that doesn't mean that they should put off an air of "I can't be bothered with you, you're not important", either.

A lot of patients may see one side of a doctor, while the staff sees something else completely. That's not true with Dr. Saffari. What you see with his compassionate, caring nature towards his patients, you still see towards his staff. Everyone loves working with him, because he is such a joy. Rarely does he get angry, and never does he raise his voice. He's a work-a-holic, and while we probably see more of him than his family does, they know his job is important and that he cares deeply for the patients that he treats.

This is why he was presented with the Gold Star Award. Dr. Saffari has won recognition in the past (most recently was in South Sound Magazine for being voted The Best doctor in the South Sound) but this award was a bit different. CHI (Catholic Health Initiatives) dignitaries flew in from across the country to be there when this award was presented. The president of our company gave this award to him. It had to be a surprise, and it was difficult for our manager to get him to come to this "meeting", partially because he had a surgery to do on a patient who needed it so badly that he'd scheduled it on one of his two clinic days, because his surgery schedule was booked up for weeks.

This is the kind of man he is.  - Link to the video of his award

From left to right: Stacy (MA), Michelle (PSR), Dawn (PSR), 
Me (Med Recs), Dr. Saffari, Stephenie (RN) and Julie (ARNP)
That's our whole office.

You will never meet a man more caring about the job that he does, or a staff more willing to go out of their way to make a patient feel comfortable and secure. This is the best doctor and clinic to work for, bar none. I love it here, and I hopefully will never have to leave.

A little info:

Dr. Bahman Saffari is the only Gynecologic Oncologist (Woman Cancer) south of Seattle. He treats everything from Ovarian, Uterine, and Endometrial Cancer, to Vaginal or Cervical Cancer and beyond. He is one of the few licensed doctors to use the da Vinci robot for his surgeries, which reduces recovery time and scarring. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Retweeted Again... this time it's good!

Short post today. Not used to those. But had to share this for anyone that likes Alton Brown. (And c'mon, who doesn't?)
[Also, don't answer that if you don't. I've dealt with enough hecklers lol]

If you'd like to watch the video, here's the link:

If you like that video, I would HIGHLY recommend the one with Bob Ross. I listen to it almost daily:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Banana Nut Oatmeal Cookies

I'm not a chef by any means. In fact, I'd barely call myself a cook. I've only been doing said cooking for about 3 years, and I've barely branched out beyond Alton Brown recipes. 

However, I've come into possession of a lot of instant banana oatmeal, with walnuts on the side. I love me some oatmeal, but instant really isn't the best thing out there. I wanted to do something with it, and my husband suggested cookies. But, being the science-y type thanks to Good Eats and AB, could you really make oatmeal cookies from instant oatmeal? I knew subbing instant oatmeal for rolled oats would be a mistake. Instant oats get really gummy when hydrated, and the texture would be way off. Also, the oatmeal comes with brown sugar etc mixed in, which would throw off any recipe.

But then, it came to me. Alton's Oatiest Oatmeal Cookies. I've made his recipe a couple times, and it calls for oat flour instead of wheat flour. A-ha. But his recipe, while good, is not perfect. I know someone at work that's been cooking for many many years, and knows her way around the kitchen by experience. She once told me that if you want chewier cookies, you can sub out half the butter for shortening. Or possibly even all the butter for butter-flavored shortening. So that is one of the modifications I made here. His oatmeal cookies are very crispy/stiff/fall apart; because there is no wheat flour in it. I've modified a lot more than that though, which is why I included his original recipe above if you'd like to try it. It is gluten free! (This recipe, however, probably isn't. The ingredient list on the instant oats says it contains wheat.)

· 8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats
· 8 ounces of packaged, instant banana oatmeal
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
· Pinch kosher salt
· 5 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
· 5 ounces shortening
· 6 ounces dark brown sugar
· 3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
· 1 large egg
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 4 ounces chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Grind the 8 ounces of instant oats in a food processor until the consistency of whole wheat flour, about 2 minutes. Add the baking powder, cinnamon and salt to the food processor and pulse 2 to 3 times to combine. Set aside.
Combine the butter, shortening and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed using the paddle attachment until light in color, about 3 minutes. Stop once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to the lowest speed and add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture until just combined. Stop once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining oats and the walnuts. Stir to combine.
Scoop the dough with a tabelspoon disher onto parchment-lined half sheet pans, leaving 2 inches between each mound. Bake until the cookies begin to brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through cooking. Cool on the pans for 2 minutes, and then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Compared to the original recipe, I made a few more modifications. I did not toast any of the oats. Well, I wouldn't toast the instant oats anyway, but I don't toast the rolled ones either. I don't much like the taste, and I think it makes the cookies drier and less chewy. Your choice, though. I'm also only using a tablespoon disher because that's all I have. It makes perfect-sized cookies. I couldn't tell you what # size that is, as mine says nowhere on it. I only put 9 on a sheet, and cook them for 10 minutes because they are smaller. 

Now watch me un-sell my own recipe. 

Are they perfect? Probably not. But then again, I'm not a chef, or a baker. I'm not much into "wasting" ingredients in order to make them perfect. I followed this, tried one, and they came out pretty darn good. The banana flavor is very minimal, but it does taste like your eating banana oatmeal, which is pretty cool. Feel free to tinker around with it, and let me know in the comments how they turned out for you!

I could have layered them on a plate all nice and pretty but I'm lazy, okay?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Helluva lot of cooking

I don't think I've ever cooked this much in my life. It's kind of nice to see. Expensive, but nice.

[Expensive compared to what, you ask? Well, Justin's diet consisted of ramen noodles, and I was a carb whore. I could just eat slices of bread until I got full. Or cereal, or pasta. All that stuff is pretty cheap.]

I've been trying to keep up an atkins-type diet. I say "type" because the 3 weeks of after hCG isn't exactly the same as Atkins. In post-hCG, you're supposed to keep your fat amount low (ha!) and I think your carbs are bit more lax, as in you can eat things like carrots, or fruits. Although he says dairy is allowed, dairy is just full of carbs so I avoid it for the time being. Dr. Simeons, in essence, created Atkins before Atkins was a twinkle in his dad's eye! lol Although technically, you're not supposed to lose weight on this, but just maintain, which I haven't been doing a good job at this last week, having gained almost 5 lbs in 6 days even though I've burnt 1400 exercising all week. My body is "violently" fluctuating after losing the weight, and it takes a while (3 weeks) to completely stabilize.

Anyway, enough of that! Onto the cooking part of the program!

I've stuck with Alton Brown recipes (surprise surprise) for my Atkins program, because it's just easier to find applications with the way his shows are laid out. For example, just looking through my list of episodes, A Grind is a Terrible Thing to Waste has meatloaf, Urban Preservation II: The Jerky has beef jerky, The Wing and I has chicken wings etc etc. So, pulling from several episodes, I was able to find some good choices for both a meat entree and a vegetable side dish.

I first must rave about Alton's orange-glazed chicken wings. My hubby made these because there is a lot of inactive time so it's not really a "make it when you get home from work" type of dish. That orange-glaze is the bomb. It tastes sooo similar to what you would find at a Chinese restaurant, and the flavor is just amazing. I was almost drooling as I was eating these. And what's great (and we will try this soon) is if you like the glaze, you can put it on, say, drumsticks and at least skip the prep step for the wings.

Now I will rave over Alton's meatloaf. I grew up eating my parent's meatloaf and to be honest, I hated it. Mom says she just bought hamburger meat and mixed it with an egg and some oats. I don't even know if there was anything else in it. I've hated hamburger meat since I was a child and still kind of do, but my palette is ever expanding and exploring new flavors. I decided to give Alton's recipe a try because it's hand-crafted to what meatloaf is. (For example, picking a meat that has flavor but dries out too quickly and mixing it with a meat that has more fat so that it doesn't; and cooking it outside of the loaf pan to let the fat drain away). And I have to tell you, I was pretty blown away by the outcome. The addition of the carrot and the pepper and onion really made the meatloaf explode with flavor. Also, that glaze: epic.

As always, Alton's beef jerky is delicious and so simple to make (ignore that difficulty level on the website, it's not even hard, people lol). But, per asking Simon Majumdar himself on twitter (because Alton's been inactive a lot lately) I asked if I could sub top round for the flank, since flank is so darned expensive. He said I could, so I tried it out. It's not as good as flank, but it's pretty darn close and definitely worth the cost savings. Also, it's much easier to prepare when you don't have a slicing knife (like me).

Alton's skirt steak fajita recipe is incredible. I just used a rocket-hot cast iron skillet on the stove. I still only cooked it 1 minute per side (and watch out, the amount of smoke that will come off is like, insane) which if you don't like basically rare meat I'd probably increase that to 1:15-1:30 per side. Justin and I didn't mind - it was rare, but tasty rare. I also changed up his application a little bit by adding the leftover juices from the steak to the onions and bell peppers for added flavor. We couldn't actually eat fajitas of course, but the veggies were nice on their own with that added juice (and a little soy too for some added oomph.)

A couple of side dishes I wasn't that impressed with were the lemon-sesame glazed greens, and the Caesar salad (Justin loved it - me, not so much). The recipe for the greens probably had nothing wrong with it, but being from the north, we don't ever eat greens so it's probably an acquired taste. Still glad I tried them, though. (now I need to figure out what to do with all my sesame seeds!) The Caesar seemed incredibly bland. I was shocked to not really taste the tartness that I'm used to in a traditional caesar with creamy dressing. I might try it again, but maybe add anchovy paste to the olive oil or something to up that flavor ante.

Anyway, I've rambled on enough! Hopefully some of you will try these recipes out and let me know what you think. They may take some work and some specialized equipment (I know everyone has a box fan in their house - cmon) but the end result is well worth the effort!

Alton says to go make his applications right now.
Before he cuts you.