No, not what you think. 🙂 I’m smoking a beef brisket and a few racks of pork babyback ribs today in anticipation of General Conference this weekend. It’s been quite a few years (at least six, while still living back in DC) since I smoked just one brisket cut; at our most recent very large scale BBQ (VLSB), back on Pioneer Day weekend, I smoked nine (9) briskets totaling about 70 lbs. On the other hand, we had roughly 200 people show up for that BBQ, whereas for now I’ve only invited our three home teaching families to come over, watch Conference, and eat some good smoked meats. A feast for body and soul, if you will. ..bruce..
Sandra and I are throwing one of our periodic very-large-scale BBQs this Saturday, January 30th, 2 to 7 pm. If you’re in Colorado (or can get here) and you’d like to come, drop me a line. If you’re wondering what these BBQs are like (and what’s on the menu), here’s a blog post from a few years ago chronicling one. Should be fun. ..bruce..
Our youngest daughter, Salem (almost 24), moved back in with us a few months ago, due to problems with her roommates in the house she shared with others. She’s a delight — low maintenance and fun to have around — so we’ve been happy to have her back. She’s the manager of a nearby Hot Topic store, has a boyfriend and an active social life, so it’s not like we even see her all that often.
Something over a week ago, however, a box of peach-flavored green tea showed up in our pantry. Some of our kids (including Salem) are inactive, and we’ve made it clear that while their choices are their choices, we’d appreciate it if they didn’t bring some of those choices into our home. They’ve been very good about that, so I was surprised to see the box of tea appear.
A few days passed as I debated whether to bring the issue up and, if so, how. I left on a short business trip to New York without having made a decision. I got back very late Friday night and crashed when I got home, dealing with a worsening cough that I picked up on the trip.
Saturday, there were a few critical things I need to pick up at the store, so my wife Sandra and I ran out together. As we were driving along, Sandra was filling me in on the past few days, then said, “You know, I bought what I thought was a box peach tea for myself several days ago, but when I went to make some on Friday, I realized that I had bought peach-flavored green tea. D’oh! So I threw it out.” I chuckled and told her about having spotted it and trying to figure out how to bring it up with Salem.
Then I realized: the tea sat in our pantry for a week. Salem, if she saw it, knows she didn’t buy it and therefore is likely wondering if Sandra and I are drifting a bit ourselves. Great.
So a day or two later, I did talk with Salem — to tell her the funny story of what Mom did. A nicer talk, all the way around. ..bruce..
Sandra and I attended a brunch today, hosted by Dan Blatt of GayPatriot.net here in downtown Denver. There were eleven of us in all there, and the discussions were all quite interesting. Dan’s a screenwriter in west LA; at one point, he said that the tricky part of living there is not indicating that he’s gay but rather that he’s a conservative, though he says now he does it just to enjoy the reaction (and to get a sense of what kind of person he’s talking with).
If you’re not reading GayPatriot, you should be; it’s in my Blogs Level One bookmarks folder (read at least once/day and often twice/day).
So, what are you doing still here? ..bruce w..
[Cross-posted from And Still I Persist]
One of the reasons my blogging here (and elsewhere) has been so light for some time is that I spent almost all of May and June out in California, living out of a hotel, working on a case where I spent most of the day (and often a good part of the evening) in a closed room in a secure facility, reviewing source code and files. I came back at the start of this month dismayed at the weight I had gained, especially since I was far (oh, so far!) from svelte when I went out there.
Part of my long-standing problem in keeping my weight down is that I really like to cook and I really like to eat. Since I’ve been self-employed for the past eight years, work at home, and frequently have nothing pressing to do, this means that the most pleasurable times in a given day are often the times I fix and eat food. Also, I tend to be up from about 6 or 7 am in the morning until 11 pm or midnight. As a result, I have some bad eating habits:
- snacking at all hours, since I’m usually home all day;
- substantial late-night snacks (fried egg sandwich, toasted cheese sandwich, peanut-butter-and-butter on [several pieces of] toast);
- eating too fast (comes from growing up in a family of six kids, most of whom were older than me);
- a propensity of fixing larger meals for myself than I really should, telling myself that it will lead me to eat less at the subsequent meal (which it rarely does, because the meals themselves tend to be spread out from early morning to late at night).
Finally, there are some real emotional components to my eating. It’s a source of comfort, particularly if I’ve feeling stressed — and anyone who has been self-employed can tell you that stress is a way of life.
Anyway, I came back to Colorado at the start of July, determined to start exercising again and to get rid of not only the weight I had gained, but the weight I was carrying around before I ever went out to California. I started doing an early-morning routine of stretching and walking, but knew that would not be enough.
And then Fast Sunday (July 5th) came along. (See, there is an LDS connection in here.)
Our ward is currently on a late schedule (2-5 pm), so fasting largely means skipping breakfast and lunch on Sunday. And while fasting is never easy for me, it is something I can do. So it was during this past Fast Sunday that I came up with an approach to break up my eating habits. I’ve been trying it for a week, and it’s been very interesting and actually quite easy to follow.
Here it is in a nutshell: I only eat between 11 am and 6 pm, with the exception of allowing myself one piece of fresh fruit in the morning, if I want it. I place no restrictions on drinking and in fact have a 72-oz drinking bottle that I fill with water (with some fruit juice for flavoring) and try to get through each day. But I stop eating around 6 pm and (with the piece-of-fruit exception) I don’t start eating again until 11 am the next morning.
In short, it’s like a really bad attempt at fasting. I’ve trained myself for 40+ years to tell myself, “OK, no more food or drink until such-and-such a time tomorrow.” And since I can do an honest LDS fast, fasting poorly is a cinch, in part since I can drink all I want and even cheat in the morning with a piece of fruit, but largely because I have lots of experience and success at fasting poorly.
I’ve only been trying this for a week now, but I find the results to be very interesting. My consumption of bread, butter, cheese and eggs — my early-morning and late-night foods of choice — has dropped dramatically. For that matter, my overall consumption of food has dropped. Since I can’t eat after 6 pm (or whenever I finish my dinner, which has to be started before 6 pm), my evening snacking has gone away. The morning-piece-of-fruit exception makes the wait until 11 am very tolerable. And the fact that the rest of my eating is compressed into a 7-hour period — instead of being spread out over 16 to 18 hours — means that the large lunch I usually fix at 11 am really does have an impact on how much I eat up through 6 pm.
So far, I haven’t made a great effort to put any limits or directions on what I do eat during those 7 hours, either quality or quantity. My new pattern seems to be: a large lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, a regular dinner. Note that I haven’t been gorging myself, and I do try to eat healthily regardless. But it’s clear to me that I’m eating less on a daily basis than I was before. More importantly, I seem to be breaking up some of my self-defeating eating habits, particularly cutting out all snacking during 17 hours of the day. And I’m doing it by leveraging training I’ve put myself through for 40 years.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I have lost weight since getting back and particularly since changing my eating pattern. However, I’ve also been faithful about the stretch-then-walk routine in the mornings (I walked 18 miles this week), and the weight lost so far represents weight I gained out in California. The real trick will be my weight back down to where it was two years ago, four years ago, and finally back down to my goal weight (where I was about 11 years ago). That will require upping my personal exercise as well as continuing to improve my eating patterns and habits. Hey, eat less and exercise more — what an insight!
Sandra and I, being empty-nesters, eat pretty simply: fresh fruit and veggies, Progresso soup, sandwiches, Lean Cuisine entrees, and the like. The only time either of us really cooks something is when we have company over for dinner.
Well, our daughter Heather, her husband Mike and their three young children are — as I type this — driving here to Colorado from Madison, Wisconsin, due to arrive sometime this evening and stay with us until Friday. Which means we need substantial quantities of substantial food. So I’m making a very large batch of stew in our very large (~20 quart) stew pot. Here’s the recipe for those of you interested; adjust the portions for your own stew pot or family.
— 2 sticks of butter (yes, you can get by with just one, but where’s the fun in that?)
— 1 lb of fresh mushrooms (I usually just use white mushrooms)
— two large sweet onions
— spices (I use sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram, pepper)
— 5+ pounds of stew meat. I usually buy it at Costco; their stew meat is pretty lean and doesn’t need much trimming.
— flour, salt, pepper
— two 6 oz cans of tomato paste
— 4 or 5 bay leaves
— your choice of stew veggies. I use fresh potatoes, fresh baby carrots, fresh green beans, canned niblet corn, frozen peas, but feel free to substitute your personal favorites.
— salt and pepper to taste
Put the stew pot on the stove, turn the heat to medium low. Put the sticks of butter in to melt. Chop the two onions (I usually chop them pretty fine); cut the stems off the mushrooms and slice them. Put the onions and the mushrooms in the melted butter and let them start to saute, stirring from time to time. Once the onions and mushrooms start to look cooked, turn the heat down a bit and add the spices (maybe a teaspoon each to start with); stir well and continue to stir occasionally.
While this is going on, trim any fat off the stew meat and cut most of the larger chunks in half (or even in thirds). In a sauce pan with at least a 2″ side, put 1/2″ to 3/4″ of vegetable oil; turn the heat to medium-high. In a mixing bowl, mix a few cups of flour with lots of pepper and salt. Get out a large mixing bowl; if you have a colander, put it over the bowl. Put a few handfuls of the stew meat into the seasoned flour and coat well. When the oil is hot, carefully place pieces of stew meat into the hot oil so that the pieces don’t touch. After 20-30 seconds or so, turn the chunks over (or at least on their sides) so that the tops get braised as well. Give them another 10-20 seconds, then take them out and put them in the colander to drain. Give the oil a minute or so to get hot again, then do the next batch of meat. In the meantime, put the braised meat in with the onions and mushrooms and stir. Continue this process until you have braised all the meat and it’s in the stew pot. Stir to coat the meat well with the butter and spices.
WARNING: the braised chunks of stew meat are very delicious, especially once they’ve been stirred into the onions and mushrooms. Do not fix this recipe on an empty stomach or you’ll end up eating a significant portion of the meat. There’s a reason why I bought 5 and a half lbs of stew meat for the batch that’s simmering as I write this (and I think only 4 and a half lbs made it into the stew).
Anyway, once all the meat is in with the onions and mushrooms, add enough water to cover everything by a few inches and so that the meat stirs freely. Turn the heat up to medium to bring to a boil. While the water is heating up, stir in the two cans of tomato paste, then add the bay leaves. Once you bring the mixture to a boil, turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer for an hour or two while you clean up the mess and wash all the dishes, utensils, and cutting boards that you’ve used so far.
Once the meat starts to get tender, wash and chop the potatoes; I use thin-skinned potatoes so that I don’t have to peel them, and I prefer smaller chunks, so that those eating the stew don’t have to deal with large pieces. Stir them in. Likewise, chop the carrots (again, smaller pieces) and stir them in. Finally, chop the ends off the green beans and throw them away, chop the green beans themselves, and add them in. Add more water if needed, but not too much; you want to strike a fine balance between having enough water for everything to cook well and having watery stew. Let it continue to simmer (at a low boil or almost-boil) for another few hours. Stir frequently; adjust seasonings (salt, pepper) as desired, and add water if necessary.
An hour or so before you plan to serve the stew (or at least stop cooking it), add the corn and peas. Stir well. If the stew seems a bit too watery for you, take a cup and put a few spoonfuls of cornstarch in it. Slowly add cold water to it, while stirring it rapidly with a fork; keep adding water until you have something roughly the consistency of cream/milk. Now drizzle this slowly into the stew while stirring well. Adjust final seasonings (salt, pepper). Serve with warm crusty bread or rolls and enjoy!
Refrigerate what’s leftover and continue to serve through the week; it just gets better as it’s reheated. Note that the stew freezes decently — not great, but ok. ..bruce..