Ham Salad Remix

I’ve got a lot to say about breakfast, but I’m going to start with my ham salad craving.

I’m trying to break myself of my McDonalds-for-breakfast habit, so I’ve been substituting with deli salads for my morning protein. Yes, they contain fat from mayo and other uncertain ingredients, but they have to be better for me than a sausage biscuit with cheese and a couple of hashbrowns (see breakfast items on page five).

I love ham salad. The salty meat plays off of the sweet pickles, confounded by the subtle heat from the Dijon mustard. It’s a breakfast made in heaven, so I decided to buy a piece of fresh ham from my butcher.  I made homemade ham salad using Paula Deen’s Ham Salad recipe — I left out the eggs and used sweet pickles instead of spicy dills. I also used mostly olive oil mayonnaise, and I was feeling pretty darn virtuous since the ham I bought was labeled nitrite-free.

Then I discovered the NO NITRITES HOAX. Among other supporters of nitrite-cured meats such as bacon, ham, and salami, Michael Ruhlmann has become a leading voice of the nitrite-free dissenters. A less bombastic version of the nitrites story can be found here, but the message is essentially the same, and I’ve quoted Mary Saucier Choate (food co-op dietician for the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society in New Hampshire) rather than Ruhlmann.

Sodium nitrite is an anti-oxidant used to cure meats like ham, bacon, and hot dogs. It gives cured meats their characteristic color and flavor. Nitrite prevents spoilage, stops the growth of botulism-causing bacteria, and can help thwart harmful Listeria monocytogenes. The amount of nitrite allowed by USDA to be added to cured meats is limited to 156 parts per million. After processing, the amount of nitrite remaining in the final product is typically 10 parts per million or less.

Mention nitrates and nitrites, and the average consumer thinks of processed and cured meats. Yet, less than five percent of our daily nitrite intake actually comes from cured meats.

Approximately 80 percent of dietary nitrate comes from the naturally occurring nitrates in the vegetables and fruit we eat.

Mary Saucier Choate, M.S., R.D., L.D.
Dietitian & Food and Nutrition Educator

In other words, the salt in the nitrite-free ham slice and the fresh celery I put in the ham salad will make beautiful music together in my tummy and offer beneficial health actions. Whodathunk?

But I need to think again.

Processed meats are usually high in sodium and saturated fat. The science behind the effect on heart health of these two food components has only grown stronger. Sodium raises blood pressure, especially as we age, and saturated fat leads to elevated cholesterol levels and clogged arteries. Processed meats should be enjoyed as an occasional treat, not an everyday staple.

I’m not going to eat the ham salad every day, and I will balance it with other proteins, such as my Greek yogurt fruit smoothie. I am going to enjoy the two servings of ham salad I just made and not think too much about the nitrites, nitrates, and saturated fat in it.

Image Credit and a link to Michael Ruhlmann’s web site

And I’m going to read some of Michael Ruhlmann’s books, starting with The Making of a Chef. I’m pretty sure I’m going to find it an interesting antidote to Michael Pollan’s rightousness.




Cooked: A Manifesto for Summer Reading

As tech week for Godspell continues to have its way with me, I’ve actually started to think about life beyond Sunday. And that life includes being careful about what I eat.

It’s not that I haven’t been eating and cooking more carefully. We don’t eat takeout food for supper nearly as much as we did when I was teaching. We know which organic fruits and veggies are musts, and which don’t have to be organic. I’m learning how to make my own salad dressing to control salt, fat, additives and sugar. I’m limiting my morning trips to McDonalds for breakfast. I’m MUCH better than I was a year ago.

But I’m still eager to do more. Yesterday I sent out the call on Facebook for midweek farmers’ markets and found options for Tuesday and Wednesday. With my hometown Saturday market and the Sunday market that is on the way home from church, I can buy most of what we eat this summer from our nearby Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois farmers.

But it’s not just eating close to the soil. It’s actually being proactive about reading labels and knowing what’s in my food.

I’ve been watching Food Network Star on Sundays, and one of the chefs is staking his big chance to have a network food show on what he calls the “culinary sins” including sugar, fat, bacon and liquor.  I’m interested in watching how this plays out, because in his real life back in San Francisco, Russell Jackson “takes local, fresh ingredients and gives them a whimsical twist.” His website for his underground restaurant company is as shrouded in campy mystery as his point-of-view is on Food Network Star, but I think I’m going to like what he cooks. There’s nothing wrong with adding a little wine to one’s skillet.

You’re probably asking how my avowed plan to “eat healthy” connects with the seven culinary sins.

I also saw on Facebook — and don’t lecture me about how Facebook has become my major source of news — that Michael Pollan has written a new book. The Kitchn.com reviewed Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, and I am eager to hear what else Pollan has to say. I’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, but I think I’ll start again with a revisit to Pollan’s writings before I read Cooked. After a year of purposeful eating, I think I’m in a better mindset to read and internalize Pollan’s manifesto, but I can’t actually remember how far he wants me to go in avoiding those “culinary sins.”

So watch for reviews of Michael Pollan’s books this summer, and maybe some recipes. I’ve got my reservations with some reading!

Weight Loss, a Toilet, and a Swiffer: A Marriage Made in Heaven

I have lost eight pounds in the last month. That in itself is a monumental (pun intended) miracle and blessing, but I didn’t really understand how weight loss could affect my house cleaning rituals.

As a visual, I’d like you to imagine eight pounds of butter. On some of you, that might be a huge percentage of your weight, but not on me. Still, it gives you some idea of how much improved my mobility is with just a small weight loss.

Both weight loss and house cleaning are banes of my existence. I have spent most of my life trying to figure out how to keep weight off and/or lose it without giving up my favorite foods and drinks. The same applies to house cleaning. Giving up and simplifying my decorating would make life easier, but I just can’t make the jump to clear tabletop surfaces.

My dining room table rarely looks like this. Does yours?

While cleaning my bathroom for my house guests, I discovered that the loss of eight pounds of bulk on my frame allowed me to bend down more easily and clean behind the toilet. I also discovered a new use for my beloved Swiffer mop. I turned it upside down and used the handle to push the cleaning rag around, thus enabling me to mop behind the toilet and jump-started my floor mopping. Oh, Swiffer, how I love thee.

Unfortunately, since I can’t bear to buy the replacement mopping cloths — they can’t possibly be environmentally friendly and they cost a fortune — I have been using a rag attached to the Swiffer mechanism. This leaves a lot to be desired and kind of dilutes the fun of using a Swiffer. Thankfully, I have found a solution via the crafty people who hang out at my niece’s website.

Heavenly Homemakers sells crocheted Swiffer mop covers that Vanderbilt Wife swears by. You can pop them off and wash them in the laundry, they are 100% cotton, and you can use eco-friendly detergents that don’t kill the fish. What’s not to like?

This has very little to do with this post, but surely the irony of a house designed to look like a toilet has not escaped you. Really??

I hope you have enjoyed my foray into homekeeping over the last couple of days. Since I hate to clean and only can tolerate it in order to keep my sanity, you’re unlikely to hear about housewifey things in the foreseeable future. Wish me luck, though, as I tackle that garage. I will need it.

Losing It: Week 10

I did it. Clocked a few miles and lost three pounds. Please don’t desert me. I’m going to keep posting on Fridays and I hope that you will join me. I’ve added a new linky list — please leave a post, or I’ll feel really sad and lonely.

Someday I’ll look like this and you all will wonder how you didn’t notice the siren in your midst. I was actually really disappointed that no one on Dancing with the Stars seemed to realize that Pam was channeling Sophia Loren. Sadly, I think I have to be vegan to look like Pamela Anderson and that’s not going to happen.

Here’s to another ten weeks in which I may actually lose some weight! Thanks to Mary from Giving Up On Perfect, Jessie from Vanderbilt Wife, and Ashleigh from Heart & Home for hosting the first time around. If you’re a newbie, join in and share your journey.

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view the entire list of entered links…

Losing It: Week 9

Every time Friday rolls around, I just hang my head in shame. How could another week have gone by without losing any weight?

I always have an excuse; this week’s excuse was the death and funeral of my husband’s stepmother. We lost his mother eleven years ago, my father in June 2009, his father in September 2009, and now his stepmother. My mother remains, but she isn’t in very good health and could also go at any time. It’s been a really hard year for our family.

The thing is, we human beings use food to bring us together. Families in crisis gather around tables groaning under the weight of our comfort food. Normally, our lives are so busy that we pick up junk to fill our stomachs, but that junk food doesn’t fill our spirits. When something like a death in the family occurs, we stop cold. And out comes the food and drink along with the family memories and traditions.

This week I celebrated the life of a smart, witty, and generous woman who will be missed by her family and friends. With that celebration came a lot of food and abnormal patterns in my life.

I’m hoping that next week is “normal,” whatever that is. I need to create a new normal in my life that includes smaller portion sizes, fewer carbohydrates, and more meal planning. Keep sending good thoughts my way; I need them.

Losing It: Week 8

I didn’t. End of story for this week.

But I did have another wonderful week, full of food and friends and fun and even a new baby in our “Family” of friends.

I’m going to post this so that I’m still accountable to the group. Then, I’m going straight to my Lazy-Boy and blankie. I have American Idol (2 nights), Project Runway and Models of the Runway and eventually another What Not to Wear all stacked up in my DVR to keep me company tonight.

As another flawed but spirited woman said, “Tomorrow is another day.”
How did you do this week? Link up your post at Giving Up on Perfect, and don’t forget to visit Ashleigh at Heart and Home, too!

Losing It: Week 7

I’m going out on a limb here and say that I don’t think most of us lost much weight this week. I’m not ashamed of my week, however. It was one of the best food weeks of my life. And, to prove my point about how difficult it is for me to lose weight, I didn’t lose or gain any weight. I’m exactly the same today as I was last Friday, even after a week of celebrating. Perhaps I celebrated more carefully because I’m more aware of what I put in my mouth because I know I’m going to be held publicly accountable.

Let’s get real. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I didn’t think much about the consequences.

First of all, we went to a friend’s 60th birthday party on Saturday night. She is from England originally,  so her daughter ordered her favorite Indian food from a local restaurant, Himalayan. It’s hard to find a pretty photo of lamb curry because it just kind of looks like red stew, but here’s a recipe for it if you want to try it at home. For those not quite as adventurous in your cooking, go to Trader Joe’s, buy a bottle of curry sauce and put it in with the lamb.

We had a lot of fun at the party, what with the sixties costumes and the love beads and the dancing — it was really hard to imagine that we would be getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning to go to church. But we did; we had inspirational music,  my husband’s brass ensemble played well, and then it was time for another restaurant.

You would never know from the outside that the food at Retro Bistro is so amazing. It’s in a strip mall in a Chicago suburb.

We had the special prix fixe Easter menu which included lamb chops. I have had other items on their regular menu; the crab and shrimp cakes are to die for. This time, instead of dessert, I topped my Easter meal off with escargot in a puff pastry hat. This photo isn’t exactly what I had at the restaurant; Retro Bistro had dishes with little depressions in them for the escargot to lay in the lovely butter and garlic. I got this picture from a blogger that I ran across and will follow from now on. Great recipes! Thanks, Thibeault’s Table.

After two days of eating and having too much fun, I came back to the house, camped out in my chair, and watched three movies on cable! It was a luxury knowing that I did not have to go to work on Easter Monday.

On Monday night, we had Book Club where were served Italian beef and a chopped salad from Buono (the restaurant formerly known as Buono Beef). It was also very good and hit the spot after all the rich food of the last two days. I found this photo of a classic Chicago Italian beef sandwich at Amazing Ribs.com, another blogger who reviewed various Chicago purveyors of Italian beef. Buono didn’t win his taste testing, but it sure was good when we ate it Monday night!

We discussed Winterdance, by Gary Paulsen, which I will review on another post. Good food, good conversation, good friends. What else do you need in life?

And then, unbelievably, we went out AGAIN (and on a school night) on Wednesday night. I drove into Chicago at rush hour in the rain (90 minutes) and met up with my sister-in-law who is in for a convention. We had a family dinner with our daughter and other friends from Washington state and Washington, D.C. at Carnavale.

I have been wanting to go to this restaurant, which specializes in Nuevo Latino cuisine, for quite a while, but was afraid we would be clearly suburbanites coming into the big, bad city for a thrill and treated poorly.  That was not the case at all; we had fabulous service and the atmosphere was very welcoming for a mixed group of ages.

We had a cheese flight, with five good size cheese servings, and a ceviche flight of five seafood offerings. They were both outstanding and unique.

Then we shared a lamb chop on polenta special, Mama Mendez’ Arroz Con Mariscos with Sofrito rice, shrimp, mussels, clams, squid, chorizo, peas, chicken, lobster broth, and the daily fish special. All were fabulous! Yelp’s reviews of this restaurant are not all positive, but our experience was excellent.

I didn’t title this  “Things I Love” originally, but after reading this hymn to restaurants, the post probably doesn’t belong in the “Losing It” category either. If you’re in Chicago, try these places out. You won’t be disappointed.

It’s Revolutionary

Having just watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution for the first time, I am reminded of my upbringing in the “wilds” of central Ohio. We ate food from the garden all year — we planted it, watered it, picked it, and then preserved it in a variety of ways. We raised and butchered chickens and goats. We did it to stretch my father’s meager teacher’s salary and we hated almost every minute of it. We were jealous of the kids who got to eat processed food at school in the lunchline. As it turns out, we were healthier than we knew.

Here’s an interesting article from the New York Times that spoke to my heart. It combines a book review, food, and humor all in one gulp. Thanks to Martha for sharing it. Cooking with Dexter

I’m going online to find me a foodie book club.

Losing It: Is it week 6 already?

I didn’t lose it. I’m going up and down around the same number. I should have lost 12 pounds by now and I haven’t.

Yet, I’m encouraged. I haven’t been really this aware of what I’m eating (and drinking) for a long, long time. And I know I have been moderating my choices. I’ve started exercising more. I’ve also gone through my wardrobe and have started shortening all of my too-long granny fat dresses and skirts. Stacy and Clinton are right about showing some leg, even at my “advanced” age.

I watched What Not to Wear on Friday and kind of sympathized with that girl. I don’t wear crazy goth clothes, but I do wear sparkly ones. I sometimes marvel at how Stacy and Clinton can throw out a whole lifetime of clothing connections for people and not expect them to get emotional over their loss. And then, they sometimes replace the discards with new clothes that are amazingly similar. For example, I thought that the girl’s black dresses could have been altered to fit her new body, since they then let her buy new black dresses. That being said, I do think that What Not to Wear is a must watch for anyone with body image issues. Really, there are clothes out there for all of us and Stacey and Clinton show that to us every week.

Back to losing it. I have renewed energy and a new Easter spirit. See you next week.

Losing It: Week 5

I’ve decided to keep a diary this week to motivate me. I’m going to take photos of the little things I see along the way to celebrate my own small victories over unhealthy behaviors.

Monday: Today I walked 1.2 miles to the library and back. It’s the first real exercise walk I’ve taken since last summer. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t very aerobic, but it takes some heart action to move this body. I also got some new orthotic inserts in my shoes and it really seems to help.

These crocuses (croci?) were peeking out of the ground in a warm spot. It’s amazing that just 48 hours ago, this space was covered in snow.

Tuesday: Tonight I walked 1 mile in my neighborhood just as the lights were coming on and the stars and the moon were becoming visible in the sky. As I walked around two blocks in my neighborhood, I was thinking that spring flowers aren’t the only sign of rebirth. There were three houses with signs in the front yard (and one with a ginormous dumpster in the driveway) for remodeling projects. Among the for sale signs, it was encouraging to see that people are still fixing up their homes and building a new vision for their lifestyles. Even the Amish — who am I to question the authenticity of this builder? — are getting into the cycle of renewal that spring brings.

My knees and hips were hurting a little bit and my back had some soreness from sleeping in the hospital last night, but I persevered in my walk. It’s a magical time of night to take a walk. It must have been the magic fairies that left this shiny bow for me as a reward for two days of exercise.  Better than food, right?

Sorry about the quality of the photo; it’s hard to take a good photo at night of a shiny thing with a cell phone. 🙂

Wednesday: I invited NRB (husband) to walk with me to the library. After some small skirmishes about how my short stride (5’2″) makes him walk in an uncomfortable way (6′), we made it to the library and back. It’s good to talk and walk, but it was too dark to take photos. Clocked another 1.2 miles.

Thursday: I’m sorry. I got the CPAP machine this afternoon and I’m actually kind of eager to take it to bed.

Friday: I didn’t lose any weight this week, but I’m hoping that is because my doctor changed my medicine and my muscles are getting heavier from all that walking. I can hear you all laughing — I know that 3 miles and change will not bring about much muscular strength, but really, who’s counting? I’m proud that I finally took the exercise “step” toward better health.

Have you had any little successes this week? Share them with  me and with Vanderbilt Wife. Link up to Giving Up On Perfect to share your weight loss story with sympathetic friends.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...