A Survey

I’ve been given the go-ahead to replace some of our more battered cookware…and now I don’t know what to buy!  We have the following, in descending order of use:

Lodge Cast Iron 12″ skillet with lid, a gift from Kevin and Jill, our cast iron gurus

Calphalon Contemporary 8 quart stockpot with steamer and pasta inserts

An absolutely indestructible Magnalite 10″ skillet, handed down from my parents

All-Clad 2 qt sauce pan

Martha Stewart 3.5 quart enameled cast iron casserole which, oh hey! has been recalled!

Lodge Cast Iron grill pan

IKEA 5 quart cast iron casserole

We also have – and very rarely use – a square non-stick griddle and an All-Clad 2 burner non-stick griddle.

The items I want to toss and/or replace include:

– 4.5 quart, scratched to hell sauce pan with wooden handles held on by screws so stripped that they can’t be tightened down any longer. When I pour anything out of this pot, I have to rotate my hands in opposite directions to keep it from wobbling. Imagine that with 4 quarts of boiling water or bubbly peach butter!

– 3 quart saucepan that has been similarly abused

– 12″ non-stick skillet that I bought for about $10 at Target at least 5 years ago and is more like ‘stick’ than ‘non-stick’ at this point

So I ask you: what the essentials in your cookware stable? I want to hear your case for specific sizes, brands, and coatings. If you read this site, you probably have a decent idea of what we cook – lots of meat, soups, and the occasional pasta, most of which can be accommodated by what we already have – but also jams, jellies, and tomato sauces that require non-reactive cookware. Canning necessitates at least two saucepans plus the giant pressure cooker. I’m ready to spend the money. I just need you to tell me what to get. So help!


Chickpea “Tuna” Salad

Would you believe me if I told you that there’s no tuna in that there tuna salad? No? Honestly, you might not have believed me if you had tasted it either.

Chickpea "Tuna" Salad

For years, I’ve avoided beans because they’re calorically dense. This has been a big dietary change for me, as the slow carb diet recommends including a hearty helping of beans with each meal. Beans are a good source of protein, and they also contribute to satiety in a very substantial way. This is important when you’re trying to avoid sweets and snacks – you know, the sorts of things that easily sneak in between meals when you weren’t really full and just want a bite of something. It is hard to not be full if you’re eating lots of beans.

I originally came across the idea of chickpea “tuna” salad in the context of sandwiches – oh, how I miss you – but it made a perfectly filling and delicious lunch when scooped out with celery or a spoon. Below I’ve shared my preferred “tuna” additions, but you can take this in any way you’d like. Shane likes finely chopped onion in his real tuna, so I would add that here for him. If you like Miracle Whip, I suppose you could add it in place of the mayonnaise, though I think that’s kind of an abomination. If you’re vegan, you can use Vegenaise or your favorite non-mayo equivalent. It’s your lunch. Hvae at it.


1. And because I know you’re thinking it, no, we haven’t had much of a problem with “the musical fruit”. You might, though, so avail yourself of Beano or another enzymatic supplement for digestive health.

2. When I made this the first time, Shane asked why I was swapping out the tuna, since it would be a better source of protein. While that’s true, the idea here was to make a delicious bean-centric meal, not replace another staple of our diet. Tuna and chickpeas can coexist happily! I swear it!

3. Perhaps you’re scratching your head and saying to yourself, “Don’t beans have a lot of carbohydrates?” The answer is yes, and it’s one of the sort of head-scratching components of the slow carb diet (as differentiated from low carb, where you would definitely not eat beans ever. This blog post is a good read and thoughtfully and exhaustively runs down the pros and cons of bean eating. As with all things, YMMV.


If you’ll pardon my language, let me just tell you that fauxtatoes are the shit.


If you recall, potatoes and all white foods are off-limits on this (s)low carb plan. We don’t eat potatoes all that often, but their absence is all the more pronounced when we’re ALSO not eating bread, rice, or pasta.

And this, this is why fauxtatoes are the shit. They’re made from cauliflower, steamed and pureed, then convincingly disguised with enough butter and cream cheese to almost convince you that they’re the real deal. Because they’re made from cauliflower, they aren’t absorbent – so you wouldn’t want to top them with gravy – but they do make a damned good side. We’ve been switching up the amount of cream cheese and butter, but you might as well start with the deluxe version and scale back – or scale up! – to your taste.

Trust me: if you’re trying to reduce carbs at all, fauxtatoes are your friend.


Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter – September 21, 2011

I like the sound of this, though not of the hornet saliva.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): In Japan you can buy Vaam, a sports energy drink that contains hornet saliva. It acquired a legendary reputation after Japanese marathon runner Naoko Takahashi said she used it to propel herself to a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. Vaam’s creator, biochemist Takashi Abe, claims there is scientific evidence that it works as well for humans as it does for wasps, which fly as much as 70 miles a day. According to my reading of the astrological omens, the cosmos will be infusing you with a metaphorical version of hornet saliva in the coming weeks, Capricorn. You’ll have the power to go further and be stronger for longer periods of time.
– Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter – September 27, 2011

Attempts at a Slow Carb Life

A few meals from the last two months:

Shrimp and zucchini "noodles"

Shrimp and zucchini “noodles” – an only somewhat successful first attempt at replacing pasta with pasta-like substances. Fortunately, we like both zucchini and shrimp. Unfortunately, this was a pretty lame dinner. Next time I’ll try NomNomPaleo’s version.

Adventures in Low(er) Carb Eating

Orin asked, “Is this breakfast food?”. I said, “Today it is.” Mustard tofu with sauteed kale, mushrooms, and onions. I had this breakfast pocket on the brain.

Dinner, SELMA-style

Post vacation dinner, SELMA-style: fried eggs over pulled pork, shredded cheese, and a coarse salsa made from garden excess. I discovered exactly how many successive pulled pork meals I can stomach. The answer? Five.

Ten on Tuesday: Headlines From the Year You Were Born

All news shamelessly sourced from Wikipedia.

  1. January 1: Changes to the Swedish Act of Succession make Princess Victoria of Sweden Crown Princess and therefore next in line to the throne, ahead of her younger brother.
  2. January 11: Nigel Short, 14, becomes the youngest chess player to be awarded the degree of International Master.
  3. March 22: The Georgia Guidestones are erected in Elbert County, Georgia.
  4. April 24-25: Operation Eagle Claw, a commando mission in Iran to rescue American embassy hostages, is aborted after mechanical problems ground the rescue helicopters. Eight United States troops are killed in a mid-air collision during the failed operation.
  5. May 18: Ian Curtis, singer/songwriter of acclaimed post punk band Joy Division, is found hanged.
  6. May 18: Mount St. Helens erupts in Washington, killing 57 and causing US$3 billion in damage.
  7. July 16: Former California Governor and actor Ronald Reagan is nominated for U.S. President, at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Michigan. Influenced by the Religious Right, the convention also drops its long standing support for the Equal Rights Amendment, dismaying moderate Republicans.
  8. August 17: In Australia, baby Azaria Chamberlain disappears from a campsite at Ayers Rock (Uluru), reportedly taken by a dingo.
  9. November 21: A then-record number of viewers (for an entertainment program) tune into the U.S. TV soap opera Dallas to learn who shot lead character J.R. Ewing. The “Who shot J.R.?” event is an international obsession.
  10. December 8: John Lennon, an English musician and peace activist, is murdered in New York City.

Please note that there were no Wikipedia-worthy news items from my actual date of birth, which I share with Albert Pujols.

Where Have We Been?

I suppose a better question would be: what have we been doing?

The short answer is: making some changes.

In July, we both read The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, Timothy Ferriss’s guide to hacking the human condition.  In the book, he presents a series of self-experiments whose results have been successfully replicated by a team of testers.  None of these testers are professional scientists, though Ferriss consulted with a whole slew of professionals in a variety of related fields in order to form theories and verify subsequent results.  Having spent the first half of the summer trying to hack our own bodies through lower carb eating (Shane) and P90X (both of us), we decided to give some of the experiments a try.

Let me tell you, it’s difficult to know how to approach a food blog when you’re actively trying to change your diet and restrict the sorts of foods you used to write about in lavish detail.  The diet recommended by 4HB is as follows:

  1. Avoid white or starchy carbohydrates – so no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, pastries, baked goods, crackers, cereals, corn, chips, tortillas, fried things with breading, etc.
  2. Don’t drink your calories (with the exception of protein shakes).
  3. No fruit and minimal dairy.
  4. Eat the same few meals repeatedly.  These meals should include lots of protein, non-starchy vegetables, and a hearty helping of legumes.
  5. Once a week, eat whatever the hell you want.

So we tried that for a few weeks, and it was mostly really good.  We both felt great and were satiated by our meals.  On the weekends, we Ate All The Food: toast, ice cream, sushi, baked goods, etc.  The only problem for me? My running was very negatively affected – as in: I couldn’t do more than a mile or two without bonking.  And Shane was starting to feel crazy about all the counting, tracking, etc.

So we switched it up again.  I’m now ignoring rule #3 and trying to focus on post-workout nutrition, eating more carbohydrates after a run or the night before a long run.  Shane has been trying the LeanGains approach to eating, and has been adjusting his meals based on whether/not he’ll be lifting that night.

Since our vacation, I’ve lost 3% body fat and he’s lost at least 10 pounds.  We’re both pulling down or putting up more weight, and last night I did my very first push-up ever.  My runs have gotten faster, and my endurance better.  We’re drinking less during the week, and trying to curb cravings with healthy alternatives.  And on the weekends, we eat whatever the hell we want.

A couple of years ago, we made a fairly dramatic shift in our eating to favor local and sustainably grown food.  This is nearly as dramatic a shift, especially as we try to strike a balance between our nutritional requirements, our values, and our checking account.  In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you some of the ways we’re managing these things – while also talking about the delicious foods we’re eating on (and off) this new plan.  Stay tuned for more!

Charles Richard Fesenmeyer, 1920-2011

My grandpa passed away tonight. He was 91.

Baby Jenn

This is how I’ll always remember him: comfortable in his chair, whether it was with a book and a grandchild (that’s my sister in the photo) or falling asleep watching The Frugal Gourmet while home for lunch. That chair is the hottest commodity in their house, followed closely by his chair at the kitchen table.


At some point he stopped being the one behind the camera at all the family occasions. At some point he stopped driving – they stopped driving. They didn’t come to Jenn’s wedding, or to my second. Travel was too difficult. I can’t imagine the feeling of losing yourself by inches over a tremendous amount of time. Hands no longer steady enough for surgery or woodwork. Retirement, finally, at 79. Walking with a cane. No longer having a garden. Pride compromised by infirmity.

Gram and Gramp

My grandparents had more than a lifetime together. If we’re lucky, most of us get 75-80 years on this planet. My grandparents were married close to 70. Seventy years with another person. Can you even imagine? The home nurse is staying with Grandma tonight, and Tom will be there soon, if he’s not there already.

With Grandpa!

Mom called while we were bowling, then texted me to ask me to call. I tried to go outside, then stopped in the foyer in my rented shoes. It was like a physical blow, then a literal lump in my throat, then kicking off the bowling shoes and standing outside, doubled over, sobbing. I had just been talking with my friend about plans for the weekend – whether I should go to Vegas for a friend’s wedding, whether I should cancel my plans just in case – so they knew what had happened and surrounded me with hugs. We came home and sat on the step and smoked pink and blue cigarettes and I drank a bourbon and told stories.

The time that Grandpa tried to convince me to eat disgusting cabbage rolls by making them talk to me in funny voices.

His old man pajamas, bow ties, and slippers.

His poached eggs and tea in the morning. How many eggs must Grandma have made for him in a lifetime? 10,000? More?

His shampoo – Herbal Essence something in a green bottle – which I would always use when I visited.

That photo of him on his pony.

The way he would always make sure that we had money and gas before we hit the road.

His wood shop in the basement.

His “office girls” that would still take him to lunch more than a decade after retirement.

The y-shaped scar from his heart surgery in 1999.

And, in my drawer, a delicate bracelet brought home from the Philippines, where he was stationed as an Army (?) doctor during World War II.


I love you, Grandpa. I hope that wherever you are tonight, you’re at peace.

Weekend in Brief

Friday: skipping the upper body workout due to residual Wednesday soreness, impromptu stir-fry, stocking up on MEAT, ice cream treat, did we watch TV?, going to bed early.

Saturday: sleeping in, 9 miles, too busy farmers’ market, $12 for 1/2 bushel 2nds tomatoes + 1/2 peck 2nds apples (and 2 bonus pears) + 3 ears corn, Afternoon Delight, nap, cleaning (by Shane), canning, dinner of 3 new recipes and 1 old one with 2 new friends and 2 not-so-new friends, records, beers, games, SLEEP.

Sunday: coffee, garden, canning, cleaning, canning, baking, cleaning, test-writing, nap. Exercise intentions perhaps done in by the previous activities.  Bowling is in the plan.

A Coffee Interlude

We don’t even really try to find good coffee in my hometown.  Rockford – at least the side of town where I grew up – is made for Starbucks.  There’s no hipster scene in NE Rockford – just suburbanites with Kate Gosselin highlights and families in their SUVs flocking to the latest chain restaurant.

Which is to say that we found ourselves at Starbucks Saturday morning, in desperate need of caffeine and bearing a list of orders for the similarly addicted.  We were greeted by the overly enthusiastic barista (OEB) in tight pants.

E: Good morning.  I need three tall coffees with room, a tall iced green tea, light ice, unsweetened, and whatever he’s having (gestures to Shane).

Shane: Can you make a cappuccino that is, you know, less than 12 ounces?  Like 7 ounces?

OEB: You have no idea how long we’ve waited for someone to ask precisely that.  Didja hear that? He wants a real cappuccino!

Impressively-Bearded Barista (IBB): (excitement)

Shane: No, you know, I’ll just have a tall coffee as well.

OEB: No, no, we can do it!  We don’t have a whole lot of control over the espresso, but we can definitely make you a smaller drink.

IBB: I can make you any size you want!

Shane: Are you sure?

OEB: Yes! And you know what, we’ll give it to you for free.

E: Thanks!

OEB: (Repeats the order back, forgetting the iced tea)

Girl Barista: Did you want medium or bold?

E: Medium

OEB: Wait, was his coffee a medium?

E: No, no, we just wanted the medium roast.

OEB: Oh, right, sorry!  (Finishes transaction)

We step to the side to wait.  I add half and half to my coffee, then ask for skim milk for Mark and Jenn’s.  Shane is presented with a medium cappuccino (16 ounces).  They forget the iced tea, which I ask for again.  We leave with five drinks, wondering what exactly just happened.

So maybe there is hope for good coffee in Rockford.  There are baristas out there that want people to drink real cappuccinos.  They just aren’t sure how to make it happen.