Octopuscarwash's Gourmet Adventures

I live to eat. Yes, I am an Asian Jew. My favorite meal is breakfast (oatmeal in particular). I'm only in high school, so I am a complete amateur. Some of my favorite cuisines are Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Japanese and Korean. I eat so much Chinese food that it's hard to say whether I like it or not... all I know is that I don't like what most of America seems to think of as Chinese food, Panda Express. I'm a pescetarian and love coming up with my own healthy fusion food.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lights out

I want to be in bed EARLY today... say, 9:15 or so? This was the most relaxing Thanksgiving break ever. Normally I would have found it pretty boring, since I mainly just lounged around the house, leaving it only to do exercise and homework, but with the world's worst weather outside, I really enjoyed it.
Today I woke up too hungry to do exercise right away. I actually woke up at 7 and FINISHED MOBY-DICK! That is an accomplishment... only I don't know what I think of the ending. In fact, I'm annoyed at Melville. He made us read all 450 pages of that tiny print of a plot where no progress is made and everything ends in disaster? Now, I know the whale represents nature and you can't conquer nature, blahblahblah, and I am totally anti-whaling, but for once, could they have killed him just to make the ending feel definite?
Enough ranting-- I hadn't had oats in a long time, and made them this morning. I had a third cup portion, and it seemed TINY! Of course, it ended up filling me up, but I just wasn't used to there not being so much volume.
I had: 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup this WEIRD oat milk stuff that is brown sugar maple flavored... I tried it plain and nearly threw up, but it seems okay cooked in oats, 1/3 cup water, 1/2 banana, cinnamon, 1/8 cup cottage cheese, cranberry sauce, a drizzle of peanut butter, some walnuts, and a little Greek yogurt.
I did stuff in the morning and around 9:30 or something I went down to the workout room. I was afraid somebody would be in there but nobody was! I did 40 minutes on the elliptical reading Interview with the Vampire. It was my first time reading and working out at the same time, and I managed to get a good workout in without feeling bored, which is my big problem with machines. Basically, as I read, I kept increasing the level until I was at level 23 or something! I do want to try interval training, but I think I need to be in the right mood.
Afterwards I used the limited number of strength machines to do 3 sets each of the one that works your pecs and triceps and the one that works your quads and calves (sorry, don't know the names).
I also did 3 sets of bicycles, which were killing me at the end. I think it's because I did a lot... at least for me-- my friend Aoife does 60 on each side! and that's ONE SET! I did 40 and that was plenty for me.
It felt nice to sweat, actually! With swimming and running in the freezing cold, you don't sweat. Actually, I take that back. I was sweating in that damn 85 degree pool the other day!
I didn't eat anything after my workout because it was pretty close to lunch. For lunch my dad had leftover pizza and I made a leftovers plate too with zucchini, the last cauliflower ball, and the rapini, which I added some feta and lemon too. I also had a piece of pumpernickel with avocado, smoked salmon, and lemon. This was very filling and delicious.

Check out that perfect avocado!

Later I was starving and had an apple.

Afterwards I braved the weather to go back to Istria (I wonder if they'll start to recognize me...) and write my second art history paper. This was SO MUCH FUN TO WRITE! Basically, you go to a museum (the Art Institute) and pick a piece that predates 100 CE, then do a fake analysis of it where you make up its symbolism, where it was from, etc. I chose this Chinese pig pen model, but my paper became almost like a mystery story where it turns out that the society worshipped pigs (Piganism, like Paganism, get it?), but also had this weird idea that life couldn't exist without death, so they would kill the pigs and eventually they all died out.
While I was there, I had a decaf mocha with skim, which I had been looking forward to all morning. I was hungry, and all that delicious milk and chocolate filled me up!

By the way, this listening to my body thing is definitely working. It might just be psychological, but I already feel thinner and that my jeans are looser, as well as just feeling BETTER and less bloated all the time. Win-win situation.
My dad and I went to Whole Foods afterwards and bought a bunch of stuff-- we spent less money than last time, thank god.

I bought stevia, finally! So excited to try it!
For dinner I made another dish from the Flexitarian Table, which is slowly becoming my kitchen Bible. This dish is probably a hate it or love it kind of thing, because its flavors are STRONG. It's German or Eastern-European influenced... I made the "non-vegetarian" option (I could have made it with tempeh): smoked white fish over saurkraut with apples and onions.
It was so easy! All I had to do was saute the onions with apple, carrot, celery and caraway seeds, simmer it down with white wine, add the saurkraut, simmer, then add the fish and simmer. It was really fast because really, everything was cooked. this would be great to make if you had nothing fresh and needed to resort to what was in your pantry.
On the side we had boiled potatoes, which were perfect because they were so bland.
My dad also stir-fried some broccoli, which I had seconds of.
And now I feel the urge for something sweet, so that will probably happen soon. I'm going to get everything together for school and get in bed with Interview with the Vampire! Life is sweet!
Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving weekend!

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Wow, yesterday feels like so long ago. I can hardly remember what I did earlier in the day!
I woke up not completely starving and feeling like I just needed to get out of the house, or just out of the apartment, and do some exercise. I woke up with "the urge," as Kath calls it. I felt like swimming, so I went down to the pool... but unfortunately, there were people in it. In my building this is a problem because everybody is old and there wouldn't be room to swim, or else I might knock them out of the way. I figured I would go back later, but still needed to get out, so I went for a walk by the lake. I've actually never done this before, but I read part of the way... this Interview with the Vampire is so good! I'm a bit addicted to vampire novels now-- I might do a mini personal project where I read all the vampire literature I can find... Of the "old" stuff, I've only read Dracula.
Anyways, it was FREEZING! Apparently it was 28 degrees... below freezing, and I didn't have glove or boots or anything. When I sat down on a bench, there was frost on it and when I stood up there were imprints where my butt had melted it.
After a while I got really hungry and cold, so I walked home. I challenged myself again by giving myself half the breakfast I usually would to see if it would fill me up.
I started with a piece of toast with 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter and half a banana, plus 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt with a few spoonfuls of cranberry sauce and wheat germ. I ate really slowly, waited after I was done, and realized I was still hungry. I went back for more yogurt and cranberry sauce, plus a little flax. Then I felt perfectly full and satisfied.
After I had digested, my dad and I went down to the pool, but surprise, there were still old people in it! This was kind of frustrating because I don't always have the urge and I want to get out and do exercise the second I feel like it. I really should get a membership to the University Pool.
Finally, we got down to the pool and did the same workout I did last time-- 10 warmup and cool down, plus 4 sets of the kick-swim drill-swim alternating 4 strokes and one IM (again, took about 45 minutes, or a little less than half a swim practice). However, not to sound like a total whiner, but aside from the fact that the pool is 3 feet in the shallow end so it's virtually impossible to do flip turns, the pool was 85 DEGREES! It was so hot, I felt like I was in a sauna. I'm not sure if that helped or hindered my workout... does working out at high temperatures really burn more calories?
Anyways, it felt great to get moving and for lunch, we just had more leftovers. I had 1/2 cup of brown rice, the last sliver of cornbread, leftover zucchini, and the last pieces of tofu, except I ate them with chopsticks. It was fun. I went back for some more zucchini.

Then I had a pear.

I did some other stuff after lunch, and later in the afternoon I went back to Istria to finish Moby-Dick. I was really tempted to get a coffee or something milky, but I stopped myself and got chamomile tea (I added a little milk and honey). It was really fun to people watch, because I was there a while. I got so wrapped up in the Chase chapter that I was a little late to Paola's for my pizza date!
I was hungry before I left, so I grabbed some dates and dried apricots on my way out.

There is a lot to say about this, but I want to be fast. Once again, Paola is from Naples, and she's a pescetarian, like me. She thinks it's weird that I call her a "foodie", but she is. Her husband Jacob (pronounced Yah-cohb) is German and bakes bread every couple of days. He mainly makes sourdough. This is their starter.

Now, just like a Food Network chef, Jacob showed me how to make the dough, but he already had one rising so we could eat on time. To make the dough, you need 3 cups of flour. Then you dissolve some yeast in 2 cups of water (they used this live yeast, which I've never seen before-- It looks like Sculpy!)
and wait for about 5 minutes until it starts bubbling.

You mix it together to form the dough, adding more water if necessary. Then you knead it-- Jacob did it in the bowl with a wooden spoon, but I found this too hard and just used my hands, which I find much more fun. The kneading motion was similar to the one you use when making pasta.
We kneaded the dough until it was elastic and it snapped back when poked. Then you have to wait for it to rise for about an hour.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen (we were doing this on the dining room table), Paola was roasting and chopping vegetables for toppings. She was also making an eggplant antipasto.
These other Chinese grad students came over, and they helped us with the toppings. For toppings there were:
-thinly sliced potato
-cherry tomatoes
-roasted peppers
-sliced mushrooms
and for cheeses, mozzarella, blue cheese, goat cheese, and parmesan.
Sounds like a feast, doesn't it?

I rolled out the dough with a rolling pin-- Jacob hasn't learned how to do the fancy Italian trick where you toss it in the air. We rolled the dough out REALLY thinly-- it was almost like a cracker when we finally baked it!

We called my dad to get him to come over and eat, and he came bearing some Italian wine and my leftover apple quince crisp.
Meanwhile, the pizza stones were being heated. They had two, but they said the fewer you cook at a time the better because the temperature goes down.
The first pizza we baked was the potato pizza, which had very little cheese and a bit of rosemary, plus a lot of olive oil.

Because we were eating these as they came out, I REALLY wanted to just treat it like a tasting menu, so I don't think I finished a single slice of pizza. In fact, they were more like flat breads, given the amount of cheese.
The potato-rosemary-blue cheese combination was great, and the crust was perfectly thin and crispy.
We also sampled the eggplant, which she had sauteed WITHOUT oil in a nonstick pan, then marinated in vinegar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, then garnished with mint.

The next pizza to come out of the oven was half roasted red pepper and olive, half cherry tomato and arugula.
Although the red peppers were wonderful, my absolute FAVORITE was the cherry tomatoes... the tomatoes had burst, letting the pizza soak up their slightly sour juices. It was also interesting to try arugula wilted in topping form, and its bitter bite was the perfect way to counterbalance the sweet tomatoes and salty cheese (which once again, there wasn't a lot of).
Then there was the bitter rapini pizza with lots of garlic and parmesan.

Next pizza, the eclectic one: half mushroom-radicchio-blue cheese, half mushroom arugula.
The radicchio was supremely bitter, but the sharp blue cheese literally sent shivers down my spine. At some point during these tastings, my eyes were shut, since I was just picturing all the flavors going on in my mouth at that moment.

I thought we were done for sure by then, but Paola wanted to make us the most classic pizza with canned tomatoes, more like a marinara sauce. When it came out of the oven, I was so tempted, but I could tell that by this point I really didn't want anymore. I had mainly just nibbled and not eaten that much, but I felt satisfied. Instead, I had a bite of my dad's, and that was probably the best bite I had. The bite I had was the classic Neopolitan pizza, with no mozzarella, but only tomatoes and basil and garlic.

On to dessert, which I didn't have. Paola made CHESTNUT MOUSSE, which she had actually made from these vacuum-packed chestnuts we get in Chinatown that we gave her. She said it had no eggs-- just chestnuts and cream and rum. At the bottom of the rammekin she had put some rum-soaked biscuits.
I had a tiny bite of my dad's just to try it-- if there had been an Iron Chef battle Chestnut, this would have been ideal, because the taste was purely chestnut, with the rum merely accentuating it.

My crisp was also eaten, and honestly, it was delicious while it lasted, but I was happy to get it out of the house. Paola and Jacob were really excited about the quinces because they say that they're hard to find around here.

We also drank this weird imitation coffee stuff made from roasted barley. It wouldn't fool a coffee addict, but with a little honey, it really did taste like a cup of coffee!

With the leftover dough (the dough that I helped make at the beginning), Jacob made a little pillow of bread that he gave us to take home. They also gave us a huge amount of leftovers, plus some Panettone (did I spell that right) and marmalade that Paola's father made in Italy.
All in all, an explosion of flavors... and the thing is, it wasn't even that difficult! This is definitely something I'll be trying to make at home.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Listening to my Body

Today I ate light. I didn't work out, but I still ate less than what I would have if I hadn't eaten out. Basically, I was careful. I ate slowly. I thought about whether I was really hungry or not. And surprise surprise, I ate probably half of what I would have otherwise.
Breakfast-- I wasn't that starving, so I had 1/4 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup yogurt, half a banana, some raspberries, 1/4 cup grapenuts, and a tsp of flax. As you can see, this isn't deprivation or anything, but is definitely lighter than what I would have gotten. If I had been truly still hungry, I would have gotten more, but since I wasn't, I stuck with it. It was a great feeling not to feel stuffed after breakfast.
The thing is, I was so focused on thinking about eating slowly that I FORGOT TO PHOTOGRAPH MY FOOD! Ha... I find that really funny.
After breakfast I went to Istria, the yummy cafe/ gelato place by my house, to write my first art history paper. I made big mistake # 1 of the day: I ordered a cappuccino. I remember that my mom loves their cappucinos, but the "small" was honestly the size of a soup bowl. I know most of it was foam, and I had no problem finishing it, but I honestly felt nauseous and had a stomache ache for the rest of the day. This is why I really shouldn't drink coffee. Anyways, it was still a good idea to go there because I just sat down and wrote my paper. You have to pay for wireless there, so there was nothing to distract me.
I came back and we ate lunch a little while later. My lunch was also maybe a 1/3 of the size of my usual one... I had one piece of pumpernickel with hummus, spinach, and 2 triangles of lemon thyme tofu, plus a carrot, some cucumber and celery with the rest of the hummus. I also had a bowl of Trader Joe's roasted pepper and tomato soup. I ate very slowly and even noticed that all the different flavors were more pronounced... the tofu is definitely DELICIOUS in sandwiches. The chewy texture made it so satisfying!
I didn't finish all the vegetables.
A big later, I decided I just HAD TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. I decided to go downtown for no apparent reason and run some errands. The problem is, I am probably the only moron in this country who has never heard of Black Friday (my mom explained it when she called later), so I didn't understand why 1) I had to stand squished on the bus the whole way there 2) I could hardly move walking down the street and 3) there were tons of sales.
I WAS ON MICHIGAN AVENUE, for crying out loud. How stupid could I be?
Talk about unobservant... I mean, I knew people were here for Thanksgiving break... It was weird, because listening to all the different languages, I mainly just heard Chinese and French, the 2 foreign languages that I speak, being spoken... EVERYWHERE. It was like I was in China and not America, that's how many Chinese people there were.
I stopped in Nordstrom and got some shirts (didn't even want to think about buying pants), eye makeup, and body butter. Then I walked to the Borders by Watertower and bought Interview with the Vampire, which I am already really into. Then I walked really far north, realized there were no bus stops, then walked all the way back and over the bridge. I would say I got a good 3 mile walk in today, so at least I wasn't totally sedentary. I'm going to swim tomorrow, I think.
When I got home, I had to acknowledge the fact that I was pretty hungry. I didn't want to completely spoil my appetite, but I needed something more than just a piece of fruit. I had an apple (sliced, to make it last longer), a spoonful of peanut butter, and a few crackers with some milky tea. When I finished, I saw there were some crackers that I'd missed. I was about to eat them when I stopped myself-- I was full for the time being. I think I'm going about this the right way.
Dinner was very fast-- we just had leftovers and my dad stir-fried some zucchini really quickly.
For protein, I had some black beans with a bit of yogurt. My plate also has the zucchini, cranberry sauce, corn bread, and some of the squash-millet bake.
I ate slowly and DIDN'T HAVE SECONDS. I was tempted, but honestly my stomach has been feeling weird since the coffee and I didn't.
However, I do feel some hunger pangs, so I'm going to have a small snack. I don't feel deprived-- I just feel pure. Of course, I'll eat more when I exercise and eating is still my life... I just don't feel overstuffed anymore.

UGH, for the second time since my mom left, I tasted spoiled milk. I guess the problem is that my dad doesn't drink milk and I don't drink it that much... Maybe we should just stop buying it? I used the other milk, which is even older but somehow hasn't spoiled yet... I wonder what they put in it-- I'm slight suspicious (it was the 2%)-- anyways, even though it's caffeinated, I had some hot chocolate. When my stomach feels strange some warm milk usually makes it feel better. I had some grapes and a tiny piece of Green and Black's dark chocolate to feed my sweet tooth. And off to bed I go!

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