Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Rollercoaster Romance

The title of this post is not referring to my 11 years and counting with Keith. I've waxed rhapsodic enough about that relationship. No, this would refer to my lifelong love affair with food. That relationship, like most, has had its ups and downs and also, like most, sometimes requires re-evaluation and work.

My love for food is obvious, as anyone who has read so much of one post from this blog can attest. My relationship with food is not unlike long-term human relations. There are moments when I'm just not that into it and moments when I'm completely swooning. There are moments of outright lust and moments of utter boredom. For the most part, I'm madly passionate about food...its flavors, textures and tastes. However, that relationship must be analyzed sometimes. It is a new year and that of course, for so many of us, is prime time for personal palate cleansing.

I stroll the fixtures and shelves at the bookstore and I take in the myriad titles awash with promises to help us lose weight. I started out the year telling myself to start looking again at getting the body in better shape, particularly after the pants-tightening holiday season. Alas, I didn't do as so many of my compatriots did and set goals for 2011. I naively thought that my head would start to clear after New Year's and the meals would magically transform into healthier fare. Forget that so many of our loved ones chose the hot holiday items to bless us with this year: food gifts. There were still sugar cookies from our neighbors, fudge from our friend Betty, etc. Okay, get through that and we're home free, right? Oh, look, the Girl Scout cookies have arrived and my beloved Thin Mints are here. Wow, the manager from Jimmy John's wants to thank us for his business and is dropping free sub sandwiches by for us. What's this....a large man dressed in Statue of Liberty drag is dropping off bags of chocolate-chip cookies to entice us to use his employer's tax service? Yeah, the official holiday season is done, but temptation is always afoot.

So what to do? That's a personal choice, of course. How will I go about it....if I actually go about it? I could leap onto another fad diet. Of course, when I attempted the South Beach Diet, I was far more bitter than I ever was quitting smoking. Diets, by and large, don't play out for me. The only thing that has ever worked for me was the method I used when I turned 40 a few years back. I ate healthier, allowed a few splurges and worked out like a dog.....as in a couple of hours in the gym followed by running...every day. That, however, was several pounds and years ago and I question my ability to return to that.....so,we'll see. Keith's sister Kim has been a phenomenal example in healthier living this past year so I look to her for part of my inspiration.

As winter set in, I promised that I would cook more and try to focus on fitter foods. It has worked to a degree. My last post displayed a wonderfully healthy plate of Asian salmon and roasted potatoes. A few days ago, I made Chicken Piccata from the Cooking Light Superfast Suppers Cookbook and we chose this recipe specifically for its non-breaded, healthier creation. I also chose a selection with odd origins: an "eavesdropped" conversation a Facebook friend was having. Said friend was preparing to prepare cauliflower for her family and a friend of hers had a suggestion as to its preparation......just writing that has me preparing to pop ibuprofen. Anyhoo, the friend suggested roasting the cauliflower and then coating it in a mixture of tahini, garlic, lemon juice and fresh parsley. That sounded delightful to me, so we whipped that up as well. We added a bit of citrus-garlic rub that we had on hand and mixed the ingredients to taste.....it made for flatout amazing cauliflower and I don't believe I've ever used the word "amazing" with cauliflower before. No exact science here...just mix up the ingredients to taste while the cauliflower is roasting at 500 for 10-15 minutes and then coat the cauli but good when its done. Delicious.

So, good and good for you, right? Well, it would have been had we not done what we do so often....succumbed to cravings. So, this meal accompanied a recipe I'd featured on here before: Aaron McCargo's Funked Up, Tricked Out Potatoes or something like that. Whatever the title, the ingredients include a stick of butter and heavy cream....you can look up the recipe in my post Git Back In The Kitchen, Fool! This somewhat sabotaged the goal of a healthy dinner and while delicious, the meal also made for the unintentionally whitest fare around. Seriously, you might want to slap on the Ray Bans to look at that bright plate. Food stylists are plotzing and nutritionists are saying, uh, a little color would go a long way to increasing the attractiveness AND the nutritional value of that plate.

I've also sworn to uphold a healthier outlook when eating out as well. On a return trip to Santa Fe Drive in Overland Park, I introduced Keith to the delightful aromas of Penzey's Spices and strolled the retail shelves at the Culinary Center. I taught him the tasting ropes at The Tasteful Olive where we delighted in the Cinnamon Pear balsamic vinegar and were wowed by a Violet dipping oil. We had lunch at the Clock Tower Bakery and Cafe and chose a healthy thin-crust enchilada pizza with grilled chicken(pictured top of page). The crust actually consisted of cornmeal and it was yummy. I had to look at the bakery case at the end and found that they featured an iced lemon roll. Loving me some lemon, I ordered it and loved it. Once again, however, I upended the goal and left with a far higher caloric intake than intended.

My relationship with food, as it does year in and year out, requires work. I jest about much of it but it is serious business. My family history is rife with ruddy health issues....heart trouble, high blood pressure and obesity among them. My mother is and my father was diabetic. I just had the vitals done by my doctor last month and thankfully, all is well. That said, I ain't gettin' any younger. So, I need to get a grip sooner than later. We'll see how I do....I'm not making any promises.

You might ask....if you're concerned about your relationship with food, why did you choose to write a food blog, Fool? Writing about food may put a heavier emphasis on the eating than necessary but as those of you who have read the blog can also attest, you know that food is far more to me than empty calories. Food, to me is a connector....to my family, my friends, the world. Writing this blog has enriched my life and even saved it in darker moments. I believe food is a healer as well and I intend to explore that more.

So, my relationship with food will need some fine-tuning but its in fine form for the most part. The recipe for the Chicken Piccata courtesy of Cooking Light Superfast Suppers follows and is Cookbook Challenge #17.

Chicken Piccata

Ingredients

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 lb.), rinsed, patted dry
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Place chicken between 2 sheets of waxed paper and pound until thin. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper..

Heat 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until butter foams. Add 2 chicken breast halves and cook without moving until browned, 3 minutes. Turn and cook until firm and browned on both sides, 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Add 1 Tbsp. butter and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to skillet; cook remaining chicken breast halves. Transfer to plate and cover to keep warm.

Add lemon juice and broth to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Boil, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add remaining 1 Tbsp. butter and parsley and stir until butter melts. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

2 comments:

Lisa Mandina said...

When my mom and I first started Weight Watchers, years ago, and we both lost a lot of weight, what helped is she bought their cookbooks and started cooking. And we found, kind of what you said, that we were satisfied with food that had more spices and flavor instead of the foods that were so fattening it was the fat that added the taste. And what I still like about WW is that I can eat whatever I want, I just have to count it and maybe do better another day of the week. My sister and dad and stepmom are doing the south beach diet, and like you, I can't be told there are things I can't eat. I then rebel and eat them anyway. When the weather gets nice, you and Keith should go down to the park by the river and walk. Walking has been such the perfect exercise for me. And down there it is so pretty, and you can still people watch and talk while you walk.

Joseph said...

How in the world do you fit two pounded thin breast halves into a single skillet? My biggest will hold them but it's pressed steel and doesn't transfer heat well, especially on a gas range. Still, doing them one at a time in my favorite cast iron skillet, it came out quite good, even if I did forget to add the parsley and extra butter at the end. Oh, and I cut back a little on the chicken broth and made up the difference with some Chardonnay.

Thanks, Greg!

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