Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day One: Flat Belly Diet

I’ve been under a rock, apparently, as I hadn’t heard of Prevention Magazine’s Flat Belly Diet until last week.

I’ve ordered the book, which has recipes and tips and probably lots of gung-ho rah-rah type affirmations, which I’m thinking I’ll need.

The 32-day diet plan begins with a 4-day jumpstart. From what I understand you have a 1,200-calorie per day plan and you drink lots of Sassy Water during those four days.

Sassy Water is named after Cynthia Sass, one of the developers of the diet. Every time I say Sassy Water I say it with jazz hands: *sassy water*. I can’t help it. Every time I write it with the astericks on either side those are jazz hands.

The 4-day jumpstart includes lots of *sassy water*. Lots. As in, 2 liters a day. Two liters a day is also known as 8 glasses of water a day, which is what doctors recommend we have every day. I’ve always heard that but seeing that much water in one pitcher looks like an awful lot.

2 liters (3 1/2 pints) water
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
12 mint leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large jug, chill in the refrigerator and let the flavors blend overnight.

Sunday afternoon I mixed up a double batch of the *Sassy Water*. I put the cucumber, lemon slices, mint, and ginger in cheesecloth, tied it up, and placed it in the pitcher. That seems to make more sense than having all those pieces parts floating around.

View into the gallon pitcher with cheesecloth bag of cucumber, lemon slices, mint, and ginger.

The next morning I filled my 2.2 liter pitcher of *sassy water*. I looked at it doubtfully. That’s a lot of water to ingest in one day.

The container on the left is 2.2 liters of *sassy water*. See what I mean?

By ten a.m. I had drunk almost half of the 2.2 liter pitcher and wasn’t feeling very *sassy*. I went easy on the sassy water for the next several hours but still finished drinking it all by dinnertime.

The premise of the diet is you drink a lot of water and eat four four-hundred calorie meals a day. The meals must include MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids), which are known to be the “good” fats: oils, nuts and seeds, avocado, olives, and chocolate.

I don’t like olives or avocado, so this should be fun.

Generally I don’t pay attention to diet plans that promise quick results with no effort. The only “diets” that work are those that are lifestyle changes. This? I will not be doing forever. I may do it for 32 days, particularly those 32 days preceding the wedding on May 30th.

At the same time, I may well adopt some of the book’s recommendations into every day life. The power of positive thinking, right?

Sesame Seared Tuna

We had a pretty good sized tuna steak that Jeffrey cut in half and marinated for about 10 to 15 minutes in sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce. Next time we’ll let it soak a little longer, closer to 30 minutes or more.

He heated olive oil and a bit of butter in a skillet and in the meantime, patted down both sides of the tuna with sesame seeds.

He seared the tuna, cooking mine a bit longer than his. I like rare tuna but I don’t like it when it’s cold in the center. Letting it come to room temperature helps.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Tasty and healthy. The sesame oil complimented the tuna nicely.

We had brussel sprouts with the tuna. I love brussel sprouts. Following the package directions, we microwaved them – perfect since tuna takes, literally, less than two minutes to cook – and made a “sauce” of melted butter and dark brown sugar. I sprinkled some lightly toasted pecans on top.

Next time, we may try some sauteed bok choy as a side dish.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stir Fry Non Recipe

I promise we've cooked and eaten in the last several weeks. I am not altogether sure where the last several weeks have gone, but I'm quite sure we cooked and ate during them.

There were crab cakes and pork tenderloin and grilled chicken and all kinds of stuff that I did not even photograph. Sorry.

We've made stir fry a couple of times. It is the ideal Monday night dish; spend a little time in the kitchen and eat healthy, meaning you get to feel virtuous and smug the rest of the night. NOT BAD for a Monday.

If I think about it in the morning before I leave for work, I marinate some chicken. I really like Taste of Gourmet's Great Grilling Marinade. Most of the time, it's after work before I do that and sometimes I use a combination of soy sauce and sesame oil.

I heat sesame oil over medium heat in a large skillet (I don't own a wok - the skillet works fine) and cook the chicken.

(Why is that picture sideways?)

When the chicken is cooked through, I wrap it in aluminum foil and slide it into a slightly warm (200 degrees) oven to stay warm.

I add more sesame oil and some soy sauce, maybe a bit of chicken stock or white wine, and add chopped red, yellow, and/or green peppers and onion and saute.

I really really like sugar snap peas and snow peas. Jeffrey is more partial to green beans. Whichever we use - we've tried different combinations and they're all good - add them toward the end.

When the veggies are almost done I toss some peanuts in there with them. I don't know why peanuts; that seems more Thai. When I do the tossing I guess it should be cashews. Whatever. I like both.

Add the nice warm chicken back to the mix and stir together.

Oh and in the meantime, the rice is cooking.

We always have leftovers and they're pretty good re-heated. Just cook some fresh rice.

Now I'm kind of craving it all over again.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chocolate Mocha Cookies

This is my go-to cookie recipe. The dough is easy to mix up and keep stashed in the fridge or the freezer. The dark cookies look gorgeous decorated with different color royal icings - pastels for Easter egg-shaped cookies, bold colors for Christmas cookies. They're also tasty plain.

2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cocoa
4 tablespoons instant coffee
heaping 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together sugar, butter, vanilla, and eggs in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

If you’d like to make your very own slice and bake cookies, after dough is well chilled, shape into a log shape, about two inches or so in diameter. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in aluminum foil and place in a freezer zip-top bag.

When ready to bake, slice off rounds about 1/4-inch thick and place on ungreased baking sheet. No need to thaw first.

(Dough can also be rolled out on a lightly floured surface and cut out with cookie cutters.)

I sprinkled these with raw sugar, thick and chunky. After the cookies bake the sugar on top has a nice crunch to it, which is perfect contrast to the chewey chocolatey cookie.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bake for about 8 minutes or until set. Cool slightly on baking sheet; remove and cool completely on wire rack.