Monday, January 01, 2007

Day Uno

Starting facts. . . .

Height: 5’5-1/2” (that last half inch IS important)
Exercise habits: Weekly pilates class, punctuated by occasional trips to the gym. In summer, I run outside on an almost-daily basis, but can’t seem to stay motivated in the cold. Also have mild exercise-induced asthma.
Eating habits: Since I began working at Starbucks, I’ve dropped off with my meal planning, often skipping breakfast or lunch, depending on my erratic work schedule. I tend to drink meals when I work, which are high in calories and sugar. I’ve noticed my middle thickening a bit with my slackening exercise routine. It’s not just a holiday slump either.

So, lots to report. In fear of the upcoming year, I decided to make my last week as a carnivore a really, really good one and consume everything I truly love. But then I was attacked by a severe cold that made it difficult to eat and impossible to taste anything anyway. Luckily, the last two days of the year I've recovered enough to enjoy several of my favorite treats. I even created a chicken crock pot recipe that was uh-mazing and will be hard to give up itself (recipe below). On the upside, I visited Woody's pizza and ate a large slice each of the hot wing chicken and the BBQ chicken with bacon pizzas.

Crock Pot Molé-Rubbed Chicken with Hominy
3-4 pieces bacon, cut into 1/2” –wide pieces
2 split, bone-in chicken breasts
1 large can white hominy, drained
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, diced, seeds removed (or not, if you like)
1/2 c. green chili salsa
1/2 c. broth
6 T pre-packed mole powder (I used one from Savory, the spice shop)
salt & pepper

Fry the bacon in a tablespoon or so of oil until crisp. Transfer bacon to crock pot, keeping the fat in your pan. Sear chicken breasts in the rendered fat on both sides, not cooking thru but crisping the skin. Let chicken cool on a plate. Add onion and garlic to the hot pan and cook 3-4 minutes, until nicely browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the crock pot, draining the grease and oil. Add the hominy, jalapeno and salsa to the crock pot and mix together with the bacon and onions. Pour the broth over everything. Pour the mole powder onto a plate and mix with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge chicken through the sauce and pat on to coat completely. Wedge the breasts on top of the hominy mixture in the crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours. The meat will be falling off the bone. Serve with salsa and sour cream, and chips or a tortilla for scooping up the juices. Makes dinner for four with lots of sides, or a large dinner for two with leftovers.

Last night, however, was the biggest mistake. I am absolutely addicted to chinese take-out, so on my last meat-eating night I went all out with the order. Tons of mongolian beef and a double order of kung pao chicken later, I thought I was going to die. It was, of course, New Year's Eve, and we ate our food early because everything closed at 6 anyway. So I had the entire evening to digest, but I still went to bed with stomach pains. This morning I woke up early (because I sidebar as a barista at Starbucks) and thought I was going to puke, which would have made it easier to give up the kung pao if it had taken place. But it didn't. Instead, I just burped up garlicky spices for about two hours until I was able to choke down part of a grapefruit to cut the grease and fat in my belly. Ew. So today, as you might expect, it was not hard to be a vegetarian as I didn't eat much at all.

I've told many people about my changing lifestyle, with varying reactions. My sister, Allison, was excited because she's mostly vegetarian and probably finds it encouraging. But often the question I'm met with is "Why?" Why of course. It should be easy to answer, since I've been thinking of it for so long. It's not for the animals and it's not really for health, although I am curious to see whether -- and, if so, how -- my health is affected. I'm hoping I won't be one of those vigilant veggies who verbally attacks meat eaters or sends mortally wounding glares. People are entitled to their own opinion and their own life, whatever it is. But I’m not entirely sure what my own view will be. I have several notions about vegetarianism:

1. It’s easier now than it was when I grew up. With a plethora of foods marketed to organic vegetarians, vegans and everything in between, it’s got to be easier to find things I’ll love to eat.

2. It can be a healthier way to live, if you’re not whisking up vegan brownies frosted with emulsified, chocolate vegetable oil. Being healthy is still a matter of making good food choices, no matter your diet of choice.

3. Choosing not to eat meat is a grown-up decision that shouldn’t be confused by later pretending your vegetables ARE meat. I’ll not be shaping my veggie tower into a mock turkey.

4. It absolutely sucks to go out to eat when you’re vegetarian. With all the creativity in modern cuisine, I should think more chefs would put their brains to good use when molding the one and only vegetarian item on their menu. If I see one more fettuccine alfredo with vegetables, I’ll scream.

5. Being a healthful vegetarian is expensive. What’s in tofu that makes it so costly? A girl needs to eat the whole block to keep her stomach from growling.

6. Vegetarians often annoy their friends with their eating habits. I know people who won’t invite one of my vegetarian friends to dinner parties because they feel she’s such a picky eater. I don’t wish to be that girl. She’s rather vocal about it, and makes the carnivores feel badly gnawing their ribs. I’d rather fill up on corn, cole slaw and potato salad, as long as I’m invited.

You should know that I am a food lover. I experiment wildly in the kitchen, and my husband mostly suffers in silence. He’s not pleased about this year-long journey, but he’s supportive of my endeavors so long as I’m not limiting his meat intake outside of the home. The going rule is: I just won’t make it. If he makes it himself, it’s game. If he buys it, his choice. He will, however, be the testing ground for lots of new veggie recipes, and some are bound to be horrifying. Since he’s not really a vegetable guy (like most men), I’m not sure how this will turn out. We do have a rating system currently in place. Food is rated on a 1-to-10 scale, 1 being lowest. Anything rating below a 4 means “do not serve again,” with a 6 being “I might eat it occasionally” and 8 being “Add it to the regular menu rotation.” I’ve agreed to keep mostly within the scale, barring things that I absolutely love, which he will not be required to eat often. Anyway, this is the game plan and so far it sucks.

I came home today from my weekly pilates class to find him eating the reheated chicken mole from the recipe above. OMG, I was already weak with hunger from my class and it just smelled amazing. Bacon has the best aroma. It took some serious willpower to walk away from it. And even then, I literally pulled his plate under my nose and inhaled several times slowly before going upstairs to dress my salad. I did feel I needed salad after yesterday’s Chinese fiasco, nonetheless was hard to eat it with the remnant chicken odor wafting past. I got through. Day one.

Today I ate. . . .

Small chai latte with whip at work, a grapefruit, a slice of SBUX pumpkin loaf, a plate of chips with cheddar cheese melted over it and salsa and sour cream for dipping, a jelly-filled cookie, half a venti chai with pumpkin spice, three small scones with fresh lemon curd, and a giant bagged taco salad.

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