Thursday, April 28, 2011

He May Be Grandpa But He's Still Old

Words uttered by granddaughter 2.1.

Intention - slowing down the assaults of 2.2 and 2.3

Mrs. de-I and I are back in Pass-a-Grille FL visiting the 2 and 2B clan. Ever ambitious and ever moving, Daughter 2 has passed all the requirements to become a Foreign Service Officer (Diplomatic Corps). She starts training for her new job the end of May. That means the whole family will be moving to Washington, D.C. for anywhere from three months to 9 months before she gets her first overseas assignment.

So this is our last trip to the little oasis in Florida and we are fully immersing ourselves in the experience. So within hours of arriving, I was in in the pool with the grand kids playing our usual games of mayhem and physical abuse - that's mostly physical abuse of grandpa.

Hence the comment from 2.1. I think that it means the role of "grandpa" is this child like wild man when he plays with us but that they (the kids) should take into account that he is in fact not a kid.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Battle of the Bulge -Return of the Prodigal Son - Recipe Three - Indian Inspired Veg Soup

So you five faithful thought that just because I threw myself into a weekend of Italian besotted debauchery of food and wine that I had abandoned the Battle of the Bulge. But no, no I haven't. And as of this morning, I can tell you I was back down to the low point...the frustrating plateau of 175 and change where I have been stuck for months. And unfortunately we have lots of socializing this weekend followed by trips to Tampa and the Venerable Pu clan then Chicago. Not boding well.

So without further whining, another super lo cal recipe. I call this Indian Inspired Soup.

Sweetened dry coconut - 1/2 oz - 77 calories

Handy dandy pre-weighed 3 oz package of cooked chicken - 160 calories

1/2 cup canned tomato sauce - 40 calories

Turnip greens - 4 oz raw - parboiled, chopped - 27 calories

Zucchini - 10 oz chopped - 58 calories
Also chopped garlic and ginger - calories negligible
Not shown
3 1/2 cups chicken broth - 45 calories

Coriander seed, cumin seed, fennel seed, 1 dried red chile aboriol, small piece of cinnamon stick, fenugreek seed, whole clove
Toast over high heat until the smell starts to waft from the pan
Put into a coffee grinder (I have a separate one just for making spice blends) and grind to a powder.

Put coconut, tomato sauce and chicken broth into blender and blend until smooth

Saute garlic and ginger in 1 oz of oil (I used peanut oil) - 100 calories for the oil

Quickly run back to kitchen when you realize that you forgot to turn down the heat under the garlic and ginger and got distracted watching a soccer game on TV and add the zucchini and turnip greens.

Let them cook on medium low for around 10 minutes or until the zucchini is the firmness or softness you want. This lets the flavors permeate the vegetables too.

Accidentally hit the picture taking button of your phone.

Add the broth, tomato, coconut mixture and let simmer for around 10 minutes

This entire pot of soup was 510 calories and we were able to get a bowl each for dinner with a third left over.

Approximate calories per bowl - 170!

And it was muy yummy and very filling

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why I Hike - A Meditation

I haven't been in the best of moods. Usual stuff relating to work and money. I should be beyond getting attached to this stuff by now. I'm going hiking.

I walk from my house.

I start to repeat my mantra. It's not a deep feeling. I'm just doing it. But I'm not thinking about stuff either.

I enter into the city open space and on to the wilderness area.

It's not too difficult. I enter into the valley going along the slopes to the north.

I'm still repeating my mantra. I'm concentrating on where I'm going and maintaining a reasonable but not too hard a pace.

The path makes a 90 degree turn and I start climbing in earnest.

Now I have to really focus on what I'm doing.

It's hard work.

I am breathing hard.

I need to totally focus.


The legs hurt.

It's really steep.

I get to my destination.

I turn around and look.

My mantra swells up within me - a voice all its own.

It's energy fills me with gratitude and joy - appreciation for all I have and how lucky I am.

I descend.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Train to Santa Fe

The #1 daughter family were here last week for a little vacation. I missed some of it because of my trip across the pond but still enjoyed their company for a number of days. On their last day here they wanted to take the train to Santa Fe.

Our last governor, Bill Richardson, had promoted and had built a commuter train line that linked communities south of Albuquerque all the way up to Santa Fe. It has become a popular way for people here to go visit Santa Fe.

Wife and Granddaughter 1.1 waiting for the train to arrive
#1 with 1.2 in the stroller as we wait for the doors to open.
Gotta charge in and get those seats!

We caught a mid-morning train and there weren't too many passengers so it wasn't a problem getting space for all of us.

Grandma de-I with youngest of 5 grandchildren 1.2
He is VERY cute...and I am TOTALLY unprejudiced.

Son-in-law 1A and granddaughter 1.1
Daughter is very proud that under my classification system that no matter how many more grandchildren arrive, her's is still 1.1

So right after you get off the train, there is a very well known New Mexican restaurant. We were quite hungry and #1 wanted her New Mexican food fix. While were eating, I put down my sopapilla (yummy fried dough that you put honey on to offset the heat from the chile). I only looked away for a moment when... called cute 1.2 had grabbed my sopapilla and was scarfing it down!
Most of the time when I go to Santa Fe it is for business. I go at least a couple a times a month as it is only 60 miles from Albuquerque. So I rarely look at it in the eyes of a tourist. So it was kind of nice when we went to the Santa Fe Cathedral and took it in in that light.

No pictures of the trip back because the train was totally packed with commuters and the kids were going nuts. Poor #1 and 1A, they were wiped out by the time we got back.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


It's been a number of days since the passing so I can finally write this ode of praise without breaking down into grief. Our faithful, loyal, dependable, 750 sq foot roll of Kirkland Stretch-tite plastic wrap gave up the ghost after a year and 10 months of service. It was in early June of 2009 that the roll was first opened. After a full life of covering food products, it wrapped it's last package on April 5, 2011.

Its twin (they come in two roll sets) was opened immediately. We really aren't that much into sentiment here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Not A Diet Post 2 - Still More Italy

Saturday morning we headed off to Alba where our hosts told us of the market in town. What they didn't tell us was how huge it was. If filled streets and squares of the town selling all kinds of hard goods, clothing, other soft goods, not to mention food.

Put then it was off for more eating. After Friday's binge we all agreed that we should tone it down so we only did antipasti and pasta. We went to this small restaurant outside of Alba. Once again it was only us. And again it was very, very good.

They started off with an amuse that was a small Asian dumpling.

It's difficult to enjoy yourself too much with #3 because she is always soooo serious.

We were quite amused by the snail shaped bread. Actually they make all their own bread at this place and it was great.

3A had a bagna cauda with some gnocchi in them

#3 had a roasted veggie salad

I had this wild combination with scallops on a yogurt sauce with fresh basil and a ricotta filled crisp pasta tube. Yogurt and fish is not a normal Italian combination but with basil I really liked it.
Our main courses were the pastas and each was better than the next

#3 went for the traditional noodle with a broccoli/tomato sauce

My veal filled ravioli with porcini mushroom sauce - a great sauce!

But I thought that #A's fettuccine in veal stock sauce was the best.
We had coffee after our meal and the chef owner came out and gave us some house made chocolates. A very nice touch.

We then went to a town in the Barolo region where we did another wine tasting and picked up some very interesting wines. We decided to just have a picnic for dinner so we had bought cheese, veggies, fruit, and cured meat at the market. But first we did another walk. Both #3 and 3A seemed to really enjoy the country feel to this place and just chilling.

We enjoyed eating as the sun went down. I must note now ever that one of the cheeses (see below) was just about the strongest thing I've ever eaten...and that's saying a lot for a guy who enjoys strong flavors like me.

Weird ass ancient blue cheese
Sunday was kind of a lost day. We drove to Turin and walked around a bit. We were going to have lunch there at a restaurant that a friend of #3 and 3A recommended but evidently Sunday lunch out is a big deal and you needed reservations. We ended up going back to the airport where we ate just before the airport restaurant closed. Again we ate all by ourselves. And the meal actually wasn't all that bad.

Tired co-travelers ready to head back to Amsterdam
On Monday it was goodbye to everyone and back to the US for me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

NOT A Diet Post - Weekend In Italia

In Piedmonte to be exact - same place we went to last September. After a busy 3 days with Daughter #3 working on stuff related to her potentially entering my business, took the weekend off. I told them about our visit and since she and son-in-law 3A had not been to that region we decided to give it a try.

We got off to a shaky start with just about everything going wrong getting out to the airport for our flight to Turin. The tram was late causing us to miss our train. Next we had a long wait to check our baggage even though we had already checked in to the flight. When we got to the end of the baggage check-in line. They closed it down because the printer wasn't working. That led to another wait. Finally we go to security where the line is enormous. We are within 20 minutes of our plane departing. Clearly we are not going to make it. A friend of 3 and 3A text's them because he's in the airport and they are paging us to get there or they are leaving without us. #3 - AinA goes into full expediting mode. I've never seen this from her before. It was pretty cool. Decorum goes out the door. She pushes us to the front of the line. Jams our way through security. She's done first and she runs ahead to the gate where she tells them the rest of the party is hustling behind her. We just make it as they are closing the plane down.

Our flight from that point was uneventful. The plane was not very full so I had a full row to myself. It was clear and as we were coming down I was able to get some neat pictures of the Alps opening into the valley where the city of Turin is located.

I got us rooms at a bed and breakfast that is in a winery we visited in the town of Barbaresco. This is a hilltop town that is really out in the country. Our goal on this trip was like most other family trips eat-drink-relax. We ate a quick bite at the airport to tide ourselves over and headed to the town for our first meal. The weather was warm and we ate outside.

3A and I getting right into the spirit of being in a major wine growing area like Piedmonte
First Courses

#3 had a lovely fresh herb frittata

I went for a plate of cooked and cured salamis and cured salted lardo - Yum!

3A had vitello tonato - cold roast veal with a mayonnaise made with tuna. This was one of the best renditions of this that I've tasted.

Second Course

I went for a local handmade pasta with a meat and tomato sauce of the kind I fell in love with the last time i was there.
And it seems I forgot to take pictures of what #3 and 3A had - sorry :(

But I did remember the desserts! :(

3A went for a great panna cotta with this really rich caramel sauce

This is #3's - a specialty chocolate cake of the area which is almost more like a chocolate mousse.

I had a Barbaresco sorbetto or wine sorbet. The wine flavor, not the alcohol dominated.
After our lunch 3A wanted to take a nap but #3 wanted to take a walk. Going to the little tourism office we found there were three good hikes. They're about 2 to 2.5 miles each and all require you to descend from the hill and climb up again. Here are some pictures from the walk.

We did some wine tasting after we got back and were treated to a wonderful sunset.

For dinner we went to the more upscale place (of the three) in town and went all out. We were the only people in the place. They are a couple of weeks from their season really starting. It was sort of freaky because at first we thought we were early but then no one came in. A lot of times in that situation I'm wary but this turned out to be great.

Started with a fluffy mousse of broccolini

3A's antipasta of salmon four ways (broiled, poached, raw, and eggs)

My antipasta of veal tongue and testine - which are a small fish...not testicles like I thought.
One must always be careful of words that sound like one thing but aren't

On to the pasta course
A fabulous risotto shared by 3A and I

Little soft gnocchi to die for with and intense tomato sauce
Pasta is so good in Italy because it is made piping hot and they have great plates that keep it hot.

#3's Secundi or Main Course
Calamari and Shrimp

3A's meat from the rack of lamb in sweet sour sauce

I had roasted quail which had a minced quail stuffing (kind of sausage like) in both the breast and legs. It was yummy.

I had their selection of cheese. To my astonishment the waitress gave me one of everything!
That in the center is like a quince/plum compote that offsets the sharpness of the cheese.

#3 had this selection of chocolate desserts with accompanying rum (I got the rum because she's preggers)

And I forgot what 3A had other than he liked it :(
And that bottle of wine was a 1998 Barolo - smooth, good, and a bargin
Europe with the dollar so low is way, way expensive for everything it seems but alcohol.