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No FOOD on the Road

Foto de una carretera en la cual se destacan a...
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Ah, Spring Break. The time of year when school is closed for a glorious 10 days and I have the delightful privilege of entertaining my two young boys without driving me and my family crazy.

We decided that in lieu of spending thousands of dollars on the usual kid-centric vacation (i.e. Disneyland, Atlantis or Universal Studios) we would put that money toward fixing up our country house. The windows needed to be replaced, our deck had seen better days, our fence was rotting away and the interior of the house was in dire need of new paint job.

Being the complete control freak that I am, I was determined to source all the materials myself and buy the best quality materials at the lowest possible prices. This decision ended up saving me almost $2K, however nearly drove me bonkers and took me WAY off the I Love FOOD diet.

It’s a well know fact that FRESH food is hard to find along the myriad fast food eateries that line the highway. Most of what you will find at the local fast food joint is over-processed franken-foods that clearly do not qualify as F-O-O-D on the I Love FOOD Diet (please see my post What is FOOD? for further explanation.)

Running between the hardware store, the lumbar yard, the stone center, Lowes and 2 different Home Depots left me tired, cranky and hungry. I had no time to go home and prepare a healthy meal and no time to sit down at a proper restaurant.

I did what I would strongly recommend you all NOT to do. I did not plan in advance and ended up indulging on gas station junk food.

I knew that I would be schlepping from one home improvement store to another, my husband volunteered to stay home with kids. As I was sans enfants, I was free to start my expedition first thing in the morning. The first mistake of the day was that I skipped breakfast. My usual breakfast of 2 organic eggs and some protein was replaced with a bottle of Diet Coke.

I had a meeting with our contractor at noon and wanted to get all my ducks in a row, before then. I did not have the time nor inclination to cook breakfast for myself and just ran out the door with my bottle of soda in hand.

My 11:00 am, I was famished. I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things on my way home and was accosted by the most delicious smelling fried chicken. I reasoned that I would buy a few pieces to offer the contractor. On the way to our country house, the aroma wafting from my bucket of poultry was too irresistable to resist. I pulled over to the side of the road and devoured 3 chicken wings and 1 thigh….Sigh.

As I immediately regretted my carnivorous consumption of the carb and fat laden poultry, I vowed to eat properly the rest of the day. I skipped lunch as I already inhaled it in the car and proceeded to meet with the contractor, take measurements, visit a few more home improvement centers and scheduled several deliveries. By evening, I was spent.

I scanned the roadside restaurants searching for something to eat. I decided that I would try and tough it out and wait till I got back into the city to eat. I needed to refill my tank so I stopped by a roadside gas station. Upon entering the greasy smelling gas/convenience store, I was welcomed by a large grey cat. Red flag! The unusually hairy and questionably clean attendant did not strike me as a pet enthusiast. The only other reason to have a cat in such an establishment would be to ward off rodents!

I scanned the shelves looking for some sort of healthy snack and finally found a dusty old bag of mixed nuts. Nuts are a great source of protein and are naturally low carb. As I double checked that the bag was still hermetically sealed, I bought them plus another Diet Coke and quickly hightailed it out of there.

Now although nuts are indeed a great low carb snack, when they are honey roasted, and salted, the situation changes. As I was voraciously munching on my bag of nuts, I neglected to notice that this bag has 5 servings. So the 12 grams of carbs and the 160 calories that I thought I was eating was actually 60 grams of carbs and 800 calories, not to mention that copious amount of sodium that this bag contained.

By the time I got home, I was bloated, tired and slightly nauseous. I had not eaten anything remotely healthy all day and was definitely suffering. I ate some leftovers and crawled into bed.

The next morning… well lets just say, the scale was NOT kind to me. Even though I did not eat that much the previous day, the quality of the food was less than stellar.

The next time you are going to be on the road, don’t do what I did. Do yourself a favor and plan your meals ahead.

Chow for now.

What is FOOD?

Making Peace with my Crocker.

slow cooker barbecue ribs
Image by Maggie Hoffman via Flickr

As we are coming to the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I have decided to do what many of us pledge to do every New Year… I decided to make amends.  Life is too short to dwell on the past. And in the spirit of the I LOVE FOOD DIET and the coming New Year, I have decided to make peace with my Crock Pot.

My main bone of contention with my Crocker (a.k.a. Slow Cooker), was that not only did it take up valuable real estate in my tiny NYC kitchen but that it cooked so damn sloooooooowwwwly.

I have been known to posses little patience and have been guilty of being (at times) somewhat hyper and energetic. Watching a Slow Cooker cook is like watching a pot of water boil… only it never boils! It just sloooooowly simmers.

However, I have learned that this is actually not such a bad thing. There are many cuts of meat that benefit greatly from the slow cooking process. Cuts of meat, especially less expensive cuts like chuck roast, brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, etc. often contain large amounts of connective tissue and tough muscle. The slow cooking process breaks down all those tough and chewy fibers, rendering the meat juicy and tender.

Earlier last week, I was having a craving for Ribs. As I do not have access to a BBQ in my apartment, I mistakenly selected the “quick and speedy” method of cooking ribs. Instead of the suggested 6 -7 hours of slow cooking, I diligently followed the instructions for the speedy method.

The “rapid cook” method involves boiling the porcine rack in a huge pot of water for 1 hour. After that, drain and pop the boiled ribs in the oven with your favorite seasoning. I had purchased a low carb dry rub from Whole foods and carefully sprinkled the seasoning onto the ribs. I then followed the directions and baked them in the oven for another hour.

Well, I should have followed the expression, “Good things come to those who wait“. In my earnest to cook and eat these ribs, I chose not to wait. And because of my “not waiting” , good ribs did not come my way.  The rapid cook method made this meat turn out burnt, dry, stringy  and chewy. 😦

Never one to give up, the next day I decided to give my Crocker ANOTHER chance to redeem itself. As some of you may have read in my past post (That Crocker is a Killer!) , I have had some rather unsuccessful experiences with that behemoth on my countertop. My first foray with the crock pot resulted in a 3rd degree burn on my husband’s hand. The second time our meal came out a little better, but still I was not sold on my Slow Cooker.

Well, looks like three-time’s  a charm as I was FINALLY able to make a decent low carb meal in my Crock pot.

KISS – Keep it simple stupid seems to be way to go. This acronym first coined by Kelly Johnson, lead engineer of the spy plane Lockheed U2 during WWII, still rings true today. Instead of trying to “out-wit” my Crocker, I was going to KISS it. 

I simply rinsed the 4lbs of ribs in cold water, plopped them in the Crocker, added one diced onion and 1/2 jar of sugar-free BBQ sauce and pushed the button.

Restraining myself from lifting the cover every 5 minutes and peeking into the Crocker was harder than the real prep work. I forced myself to get our of the house and do some holiday shopping. Three hours later, I came home and immediately ran over to look at my bounty in the Crocker.

WTF??? These ribs were as pink and raw as they were before I left the house! “Is this thing even on ???” I asked myself, as I furiously started feeling around the back of the Crocker for the plug. Yep, it’s plugged in. I then remembered from my last experience that the Slow Cooker does not really kick in until the next 3 -4 hours of cooking. I pried myself away and calmed myself down with a glass of wine grumbling to myself that this thing is so damn slow.

Finally 4 hours later (7 hours in total), I lifted the lid.

It was sooooooooo worth the wait. These slow cooked ribs were so tender and delicious. They were practically falling off the bone. Even my youngest son, who barely eats anything , helped himself to seconds. 🙂

I guess this Crocker is not so bad after all.

Happy Holidays and Chow for Now!