March 30, 2012

chewing the fat: i can't diet. period.

It’s a bad word. It’s a four letter word.  It’s the “D” word. It’s a word that contains ‘die’ in it.
Hate it. Always have, even when I didn’t have to. 
I was the grinning, voracious 10-year-old kid who could cram six tacos into my skinny body, while family members would shake their heads and say things like, “Wish I had a hollow leg like you do,” or “This will all catch up to you some day.” 
Not me, I thought.  And then I ate another taco.
And really, it truly didn’t catch up to me until what I like to call The Trifecta of Weight Gain: I got married, I turned 30, I had two babies. 
Even so, if you had asked me at any point between the ages of 14 and 28, I would have told you I could stand to lose 10 lbs.  I look back now and wish I could slap former me.  I looked just fine.
Even now, 30 lbs heavier than my heaviest during my twenties, I look just fine. But I don’t look my best.  I don’t feel my best.  In fact, I’m awake at 3:41 a.m. with insomnia and guilt over Doritos.  So naturally I’m telling the internet about it. 
But dieting?  Just doesn’t work.  Not for me.  I love food.  Love it.  Don’t want to not eat it.  Don't want to eat 'just a bite.' I want all the bites. Having two pregnancies with relative closeness meant I ate what-freaking-ever I wanted every day for pretty well three years.  And on the other side of 30, well, that hollow leg is full and it’s spilling over into my backside and midsection.
So what’s a girl to do?
I feel it’s necessary at this point, with the internet being full of opportunistic and otherwise sad, cruel people, to tell you that nothing about this post is a recommendation, endorsement or advice of any kind.  It’s just one girl ranting about loving brownies but not the weight gain that comes with it.  If you want diet advice, talk to an expert. 
For me, it started February 22, 2012, when I decided it would be a brilliant exercise in self-motivation to embark on a three-day juice cleanse.  I did not see this as a quick weight-loss tactic (I didn’t lose a pound).  It truly was, in fact, something I wanted to do to see if I could.  I couldn’t.  I ate food every single one of those three days.  However, it was still a success for me: I drank juice, I ate a few pieces of fruits and vegetables and a bit of protein (like a boiled egg or plain tuna) each day.  Which means I made it three days without The Loves of My Life: coffee, dairy (oh, cheese), carbs and fat. 
So even though I DIDN’T LOSE A POUND, I was darn proud of my self-control.  It’s all in my head (except the fat, which is everywhere), and I did it.  The next week or so was good, too.  I ate mostly fruits, veggies, protein & ‘healthy’ carbs.  Flax seed is a thing, you know. 
Oh – and exercise.  Hate it.  Really, truly hate it.  But still, I was walking and going to boot camp and tried a Zumba class.  Side note:  Zumba is FUN.  I actually don’t hate it.  At least, not until I go to a class with a mirror, at which time I’ll recoil in horror at the sight of myself.
And still, I lost nary a pound.  So I fell, no, LEAPED right off the wagon and began eating everything in sight.  There’s been brownies, fried chicken, every type of white bread & pasta imaginable, ice cream, pizza (three different times), and, oh, Doritos.  Like, a whole bag of them.  Dipped in sour cream. 
So here I sit, at what’s now 4:10 a.m., struggling to find the balance.  Because no matter how much I love fried chicken nachos, the truth of the matter is that I’m 30 lbs overweight.  And that’s not society’s decision or some chart created by a doctor; that’s me remembering what number just happened to be on the scale when I looked and felt my best. 
I know two weeks of me doing the right thing does not a miracle make, but you’d expect to see the scale nudge a bit lower.  I’m an instant gratification sort of gal.  So I responded by self-sabotaging. 
I’m not quite sure where to go from here.  Both with this post (how does one wrap up a post when it doesn’t end with a recipe?) and with my – ugh – diet.  But it’s time.  Really, it is.  Goodbye Doritos.
I ate Taco Bell yesterday.*  And a dark chocolate covered marshmallow. And a dark chocolate covered coconut macaroon.  And maybe one other dark chocolate covered thing.
This morning, I cried because my favorite white jeans - taken out of spring/summer clothes storage - didn't fit.  They fit last summer, when I was already heavier than I wanted to be.  So now I'm even bigger than that.  And - AND - this particular storage box was my 'fat Amanda' collection.  There's a different spring/summer box with 'skinny Amanda' clothes that I haven't seen in four years.
So WTF self? Why can't I just stop with the eating of the delicious things?  Why am I thinking about a grilled cheese while I type this? 
Someone recently told me (and I'm paraphrasing), "eating food tastes better than being thin feels."
BINGO.  That's it, right there. In the moment of temptation, I'd rather taste a freshly baked baguette slathered with whipped butter than ever look good in a bathing suit again.  Until it's time to wear a bathing suit.  Then the self loathing comes.  And it's going to be a battle my entire life.  And I'm pretty sure food is always going to win. 
If you've successfully lost weight while still eating what you want - at least sometimes - I want to know about it.  What works?  What doesn't?  Where can I get a fresh donut at this hour?
*I'm about to save you just shy of $2 - don't try the Doritos taco from Taco Bell.  It tasted as disappointed as I was in myself for eating it. 

March 9, 2012

Chicago, part two

Three months ago, the husband & I stole away to Chicago for a little more than two days.  We packed so much eating into those few hours that I felt two blog posts were necessary.  The first one focused entirely on my culinary crush: Rick Bayless.  I meant to let a little time pass before I posted Chicago: Part Two, but maybe not three months.  Better late than never.  Find a comfy chair & put on your stretchy pants – this is a fattening post. 
I’m a Top Chef junkie.  Even though she got the b*tch edit, I knew I wanted to visit Heather Terhune at Sable.  I can be a bit of one myself, and I found her endearing.  And for me, the show is about whose food I want to eat, not who I want to hang out with.  I’m the type of diner who wants a bite of everything, so the small plate concept at Sable was right up my alley.  The restaurant’s take on new American comfort food was perfect for the chilly (ok, frigid) Chicago evening.  We ordered erratically: tuna tartare tostadas, crispy pork belly BLTs, chicken & waffles, and sweet corn crème brûlée.  The pork belly BLTs were not crispy as promised, and overall were a disappointment. 

Everything else was delicious.  The tuna tartare was dotted with meyer lemon crema and had a fresh burst of flavor. 

The juicy fried chicken on top of fluffy yet crispy waffles was drizzled with bourbon maple syrup, and we ate every bite. 
see those big flakes of salt? see that crispy waffle edge?

The standout was probably the sweet corn crème brûlée.  The tender corn was studded in a creamy pudding, topped with a crunchy, crispy caramelized layer of sugar, then flaked with sea salt.  It was incredible.
this replaced dessert. seriously.

To drink, Sable offers a huge list of specialty drinks.  I think the cool kids are calling this mixology.  I’m mentioning the drinks after the food because that’s the way we received them.  That was the major disappointment of the evening.  We were probably halfway through our food before the cocktails arrived.  This is not a restaurant of leisure.  That said, I truly enjoyed the Hemingway Daquiri: Bacardi 8 Rum, fresh grapefruit, Luxardo maraschino & house made orange bitters.  The husband got an Irish Cream: Powers Irish Whiskey, demerara & cream. 
toasting my love.
The next day we completely spoiled our dinner by grabbing a ‘snack’ at the adorable Chicago French Market.  Our voyage there started as a journey to grab a pastry from the Vanille outpost, which I had been told was not to be missed.  So we grabbed a chocolate croissant, and wandered around the market.  It wasn’t long before we stumbled on Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer.  There was a condiment list that was drool worthy, and we ultimately settled on curry mayo to go with our frites. 
you either like mayo or you don't. me? what do you think?

The beer we tried – Blanche De Bruxelles – is one I’ll be seeking out in future.  It was crisp & citrusy, and went perfectly with the hot, greasy, salty fries.  It wasn’t until I was looking at the picture I snapped of the bottle that I noticed the label has a cherub making a wee.  Even so, it’s really good beer. 

wee wee. tee hee!

But wait! We ate more! The husband, a sucker for Nutella (smart man), found FliP Crepes & got a hot, folded crepe filled with the chocolate hazelnut goodness.  GOODNESS.  We left the market fat, happy and completely ready to cancel our dinner reservations.

this photo represents about 0.01% of how delicious this tasted.
Later that evening, still full & happy, we ventured over to a place called Hot Chocolate for dessert.  Excellent food blogger Erin made this recommendation to me, and I’m glad she did.  It was dark, cozy & had a dessert menu that made my decision very, very difficult.  My husband was rather fond of the artwork:
not the sort of rump that typically appears on food blogs. it is a nice one, though.

To eat, we finally decided on a white chocolate mint pots de crème with house made Oreo and a coffee cocoa nib milkshake.  I enjoyed these with a latte, and I was a happy, happy camper. 
imma give you a minute alone with this.

I revisited the restaurant’s menu recently and found this addition: Spanish peanut meringue, milk chocolate peanut butter mousse & peanut butter buttercream served with a “peanut buster” parfait fudgesicle pop.  YES.  So a return visit is definitely in order. 

Our final meal in Chicago is a staple of any trip I make there: The Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Company.  The restaurant, which is the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, is tiny, intimate & takes only cash for payment. 
The husband & I love their salad almost as much as the pizza itself.  It’s quite basic: iceberg lettuce, red onion, tomatoes, olives & peppers, but the dressings are something special.  You get a combination of sweet & sour poppy seed, sour cream & garlic, and Italian.  They’re all house made and all delicious, but when you mix all three together in your salad something magic happens. 
magic happens up in this iceberg lettuce.

Now.  The pizza.  For me, there’s just no other version of deep dish that will do.  They call it ‘pizza pot pie,’ and that’s exactly what it is.  They line a ceramic bowl with brick cheese, fill it with a chunky tomato meat sauce, onions, peppers and whole mushrooms, then wrap it with a fresh dough.  It’s baked, brought to your table & flipped over.  This is what it looks like:

pizza pot pie.  BRILLIANT.

This is what it looks like five minutes later:
A few friends have been talking about upcoming trips to my favorite city, and I’m already starting to get the pangs.  And I’m not talking about heartburn.  Don’t worry, Chicago.  I’ll be back & I’ll be ready to eat.