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Food Cleanse Highlights: Days 5-11

If you only know me through this blog, you probably assumed that the Food Lover’s Cleanse drove me crazy from lack of sugar and baked goods and I stopped eating entirely.

Not so.

I stuck with the food cleanse (with a number of modifications and a few cheats) until day 11 when I gave up and bought a big falafel platter. Why did I stop blogging? Why did I fail? Truth: Things got crazy at work and then I got sick. I lost the will to blog. My body felt great from the cleanse until unrelated illness struck, but when it did, I reverted to quick meals and salad bars.

I still think the cleanse was a success and full of tasty recipes anyone could enjoy, so I’ve compiled a few of my favorite photos from days 5-11, like this photo of a grape, walnut, and arugula salad and pan-roasted vegetable curry:

Pumpkin tofu curry and a grapefruit, arugula, and avocado salad: Continue Reading →

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Food Lover’s Cleanse: Day Four

I felt good on day four of the Food Lover’s Cleanse. I’d gone four days without bread, processed foods, or refined sugar and was more alert and energized than I’d been in months. It may have been psychosomatic or the fact I was getting over a sinus infection, but let a girl dream. I also mastered the art of packing meals and made sure all of the necessary Tupperware was waiting on the counter in the morning. All of my food was accounted for and it saved me from digging through towering cupboards on the step stool.

When I arrived at work, breakfast was tea and ten-grain hot cereal with blueberries and nuts. I’m terrible at eyeballing liquid amounts and we don’t have measuring cups in the office kitchen, so I didn’t use enough water. The cereal was a little undercooked, but I ate it anyway during a morning meeting. Continue Reading →

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Food Lover’s Cleanse: Day Three

Every day of Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse brings new culinary revelations. Day one taught me that not all cod are the same. Day two proved that oats will soften in yogurt and orange juice overnight. And day three? Cheeseless omelets travel well. The two-egg omelet pictured above was my breakfast on Tuesday. I made it at home in five minutes with my hair in a towel as I packed all of my food for the day, then reheated it at work in the microwave. I substituted roast pumpkin seed and cilantro pesto for the recipe’s caramelized onions because so much pesto was left over from Monday’s dinner.

I also modified the suggested lunch. Monday night’s salmon barely made it out of the pan so I didn’t have any leftovers. In its place, I packed lentils and Greek yogurt to go with the grapefruit salad. Grapefruit salad, where have you been all my life? Continue Reading →

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Food Lover’s Cleanse: Day Two

Day one fish disasters aside, my cleanse was off to a pretty good start. The recipes were delicious, and I didn’t cave in and eat the homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that were taunting me from the cupboard. Every ingredient I needed for the week was waiting in my kitchen, so it was easy to pull my meals together in between housework and British TV shows. As I posted on my other blog earlier this week, things broke bad on Monday morning when I had to pack up breakfast, lunch, and my afternoon snack to bring to work. So many things to contain. Pictured above:

  • One (1) tiny container of Greek yogurt
  • One (1) medium container of muesli (nonfat yogurt, fresh orange juice, oats, frozen raspberries, shredded apple, etc.)
  • One (1) large container of mixed greens that also contains one (1) teeny tiny container of miso and lime dressing
  • Two (2) ziploc bags, one containing rye crackers, the other containing chevre
  • One (1) small container of French lentils
  • Three (3) freewheeling produce items (avocado, apple, navel orange)

Between my meals and the make-ahead items I had stored in the fridge, like lentils and caramelized onions, I was out of storage containers. The other challenge of workplace cleansing is documentation. Behold! Cell phone photos. Muesli and iced tea for breakfast:The muesli tastes better than it looks, although I wish there were more oats.

As I mentioned yesterday, I swapped the day one and two lunches, so I had salad with oranges, avocado, and miso lime dressing with a side of lentils and Greek yogurt. Continue Reading →

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Food Lover’s Cleanse: Preparation and Day One

I haven’t been kind to my body since July. First, I used pre-wedding weight loss as an excuse. (“I ate nothing but salad for months! I deserve this BLT.”) Then came the holidays. (“Another massive tin of caramel corn in the office kitchen? On my way.”) Sandwiches replaced lunch salads. Subpar blueberry muffins replaced breakfast fruit. I told moderation to go to hell and put on ten pounds.

The time has come to get back to healthier eating, and when I spotted Bon Appetit’s 2012 Food Lover’s Cleanse last week, it seemed like the perfect way to start. It’s focused on real, whole foods and doesn’t involve any of that juice and protein shake nonsense. The only drawback is that is requires a lot of ingredients: over 140 items for the first week alone.

To try to save money and cut down on waste, I printed out the shopping list and all of the recipes on Saturday morning to cut what I already had, what I knew I wouldn’t make, what I thought was absurd (two kinds of rice vinegar?), and to account for portion sizes. I trimmed almost half of the list, but as I stood in the middle of Fairway Market in Red Hook that afternoon, my arms laden with produce and my path blocked by half the geriatric population of south Brooklyn, I almost lost it. Perhaps the cleanse gods were punishing me for the lobster roll I ate before shopping as a last hurrah.

I got up early the next morning to make my first cleanse breakfast before a photography class in Bushwick. I made the suggested ten grain hot cereal with blueberries, but substituted pecans I already had for walnuts. It was my first ever bowl of hot cereal and it was surprisingly delicious. A new addition to my regular breakfast rotation.

I got home from my photography class around two and threw together a lunch salad. I swapped the Sunday and Monday lunches because Monday called for an entire can of tuna and I hate stinking up the office. Five ounces really is a lot of tuna: Continue Reading →

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New Year’s Resolutions 2012

My New Year’s Eve plans were dashed by sickness, so I spent the night on the couch in my pajamas with a pint of mango sorbet.  It gave me some time to reflect on the resolutions I made for 2011 and make some new ones for 2012.

2011 Resolution Review
1. Finish planning the wedding and maintain my sanity. Done. Sanity mostly intact.
2. Stick to a strict budget to save for aforementioned wedding. No credit card debt. Ha! Oh, this did not work out. I’m not deep in debt, but there is some. I should be able to dig myself out by mid-2012.
3. Related to three: Cook four nights a week. Bring lunch at least four days a week. I cooked dinner often, but I rarely brought my lunch to work. I kept it up for a few weeks in January of last year, but eventually fell back into my sandwich or fancy salad bar routine. Just laziness.
4. Post on Apartment Dining at least twice a week. Nope. Not even close.
5. Read fifty books. Also not accomplished. I read more in 2011 than I did in 2010, but not enough to meet my goal.
6. Learn how to draw. I took a drawing class and learned the fundamentals, so I think I can mark this as accomplished. Still need a lot more practice.
7. As finances allow, attend more cultural events in New York. Saving for the wedding didn’t allow for too many outings, but the places I did go were great. A few museum trips, some readings, a few shows, etc.
8. Document more. The next year is going to be fun, stressful, crazed, and momentous. I did not document as much as I should have. Let’s mark this as not accomplished.
9. Maintain a work/life balance. Work in the evenings when it’s needed, but devote more time to creative pursuits. Nope. Definitely not. The first six months of the year were focused on wedding planning and the last six months of the year were most intense months of my working life.

Lesson learned: Don’t make too many resolutions for the year that you’re getting married, other than successfully planning said wedding.

Resolutions for 2012
1. Take at least two trips that require plane travel.
2. Take one photo per day, every day. (Yes, I know I tried and failed at this in 2010, but I just got a fancy new camera. It will hopefully serve as a motivator.)
3. Read three books a month. (I know this isn’t ambitious, but between various blogs and my New Yorker subscription, there’s way too much reading material out there.)
4. Bring lunch to work at least three days a week.
5. Take three cooking classes, preferably a knife skills class, chocolate class (need to hone those tempering skills), and a general cooking techniques class.
6. Stick to a regular posting schedule on Apartment Dining. (Let’s shoot for three times a week to start.)
7. Work out three times a week.
8. Rebuild my savings account.
9. Regain work/life balance. For real this time.
10. Take time to paint or draw something at least once a week.

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Pre-Thanksgiving Round Up

Ramsey and I are sharing the holidays for the first time this year. We’re braving Penn Station on Thanksgiving morning and taking a train to his brother’s place in the Baltimore suburbs. The cooking will be well underway by the time we arrive, so we’re in charge of bringing wine.

If you’re cooking this week and looking for inspiration, I’ve pulled a few Thanksgiving-friendly recipes from my archives. The Kitchn has also been posting great collections of links to recipes around the web.

Side Dishes
Giblet Gravy (the infamous Mangan family recipe)
Cranberry Apple Relish
Smashed Vanilla Sweet Potatoes

Dessert
Fresh Pumpkin Pie
Apple Cranberry Pie

Friday Breakfast
Cranberry Apricot Muffins
Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Golden Raisins

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Registering for the Apartment Kitchen

brooklynkitchentattoo

Putting together a wedding registry is a daunting task for any engaged couple, but for those with microsized apartment kitchens and no available storage space to speak of, it’s especially tough. There are just so many things to want, but few items that will actually fit. So, as Ramsey and I wandered through kitchen and home goods stores with pens, paper, and bar code scanners in hand this past Saturday, I had to keep my kitchen cookware/appliance/gadget/tool lust in check. Will we really use a juicer? Maybe for a week, but never again. Ice cream maker? Definitely not. Is a berry strainer any better than a regular strainer? Probably not. After five hours and three stores, we ended up with a list of essentials that are upgraded versions of the items currently in our kitchen (along with a few new items), including:

  • 10″ and 12″ frying pans
  • 2 and 4 qt. sauce pans
  • 3.5 quart and 7.5 qt. dutch ovens
  • A real, sharp, and functional chef’s knife (along with a utility and bread knife)
  • Baking sheets
  • Fancy pie plate
  • Quality silverware
  • Serving plates and platters
  • Matching dinner plates, salad plates, and bowls
  • Exhaustion

ramseyregistry

Of all three stores we visited, I have to say that The Brooklyn Kitchen was the best registering experience. They provided a folder with suggested registry items, gave us a personal tour of their cookware and knife selections, and were not pushy at all. Added bonus: temporary tattoos in the registry folder!

Update in February 2013: For more tips, read my five-step guide on how to create an apartment-friendly wedding registry.

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Frugal Dining

BentoBox

Between now and July 9th, I need to save a whole lot of cash for my wedding. It’s not easy since I live in the most expensive city in the United States, I want to maintain some semblance of a social life, and—let’s face it—I like nice things. I enjoy going out to dinner, ordering cocktails with expansive lists of ingredients at bars, buying overpriced sandwiches for lunch during the work week, and downloading books to my Kindle with reckless abandon. In my mind, happiness is often equal to comfort and convenience.

But this life of middle-class late-twentysomething luxury is no more. As I stated in my New Year’s Resolutions for 2011, I’m cooking four nights a week and bringing my lunch to work at least four days a week. The occasional meal out is reserved for meeting up with friends or an inexpensive item to-go ($4 falafel!). I also set a strict weekly budget for socializing and personal expenses, but in order to stick to this budget and cooking plan, I needed to come up with some strategies for eating well on the cheap. Continue Reading →

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Meatless Mondays in NYC Schools?

The City Room reported today that Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, is pushing for meatless Mondays in New York City schools to promote healthy eating and cut down on costs. Baltimore’s public schools have taken up the program and offering options like eggplant parmesean and black bean nachos. Each meal costs 20 cents less than an average meal with meat.

A program like this makes perfect sense in a city where one in five kindergartners is obese, and when you consider the environmental impact of not producing those weekly orders of thousands of pounds of meat, it’s a no-brainer.