Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Take On Fighting the Bulge

Business partner, friend, and fellow blogger Joe has been writing on his explorations into the methodologies for controlling weight gain and achieving weight loss. It is inevitable that as you get older, your metabolism slows down and if you consume the same amount of calories, you're going to gain weight.

Mrs. de-I and I have been fighting this inevitability for a long time and the fact that I really like to cook, eat and drink is not a big help. While there are lots and lots of thoughts and methods that are out there, most fail ultimately because they are not sustainable in terms of a lifestyle that most will enjoy and stick with.

When I got back from Italy in September I was greeted in the mail with my lab results from my doctor and a handwritten note saying "LOSE 10 POUNDS! Gee think she was trying to get my attention. After trying so many pop diet/weight loss ideas without long-term success, we are bought into the "its about calories in and calories out" theory. We are aware of the "if you decrease calories too much your body goes into starvation hold on to the fat mode" so the system has to be finding the right amount of intake to gradually lose weight. This means a long slow decrease. That once again calls for a lot of thought about how to create sustainability.

So Wife and I have been working on that and have been tweaking our program. We are in our six month now and both of us have lost around 10-12 pounds. We still have quite a ways to go. However, I can say that for the most part the system we've developed has not lead to the sense of deprivation. In fact it is a pretty enjoyable meal plan for the most part. So over the next few posts, I am going to describe what we are doing and more importantly show the cooking techniques that I have been using to create the satisfaction/enjoyment component.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Beating the System

Here in far away Albuquerque we have a chain of fast casual restaurants whose name I will not make public but it is named after an astronomical object. Lots and lots and lots of people here love this place. Personally, I think it is OK, and a bit over priced. I especially dislike the fast casual concept which means that I have to stand in line to order.

But there are a lot of them and they are very popular with the business crowd and I end up having lots and lots of networking meetings there. One of the place's schticks is they cater to free internet crowd, so they have a lot of people who camp out there for hours. As a result of this they mave raised the price of a cup of coffee to almost $3! You can drink all the coffee you want. But My usual pattern is to run in, have my meeting, and be gone usually within an hour to an hour and half. I can do that at Starbucks for half the cost. So I have been on strike against this place.

But today, business friend Lisa showed me how to use the system. Evidently even when you have a mug, you can get a free to go cup. Then you refill your coffee and you can go to your next meeting at yet another of the chain's branches where you can refill again. Sweet. Thanks Lisa!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Do Not Want To Be When I Grow Up

A headhunter or personnel recruiter. I've had to take this role on for a client and it is taking way more time than I would have imagined.

Hopefully will have more time to write in the near future.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Near Perfect Day

It really doesn't take a whole lot to make me happy and this Saturday was just one of those wonderful simple days that make you happy and grateful. It started out like most of my weekends with a hike. But this time I had Wife with me. Wife and I were really into hiking together until around 7 years ago when she hurt her foot and was forced to stop. Over the last year or so, the foot has felt better and she gradually has been increasing what she did. Since I didn't have anyone going with me she asked if she could come but only if I agreed to go at her pace which was fine with me.

Well, there was not slowing down for her. In fact we ended up doing exactly what I would have without her. We went up where we were with Wild Bill last week and beyond into the fresh snow area.

Wife - Snow Hiking Warrior

Getting Ready to Tackle the Virgin Snow...not to be confused with virgin squirrels or weasels either.

And on She goes!

Wife saw this cool bit of ice formation in a shoe track. Since she didn't have her camera with her, I was delegated to take the 'art shot'.
After we got back from hiking, I needed to work. I had a ton of projects to get before Monday. So with the benefit of our now functional wireless, I was able to watch the Steelers - Ravens game and get a bunch of the projects done at the same time. Pretty cool.

That evening we had Gaius Derf and Agent over for a relaxed evening. We of course cooked, making another pizza which came out great if I must say so myself.

I wanted to do something a little extra so I made up an appetizer of four different salads, nothing too complicated. I made a cucumber salad (salt wilted cucumber with plain yogurt, garlic, rosemary and lavender - herbs that grow here through the winter), a fennel salad in an anchovy, garlic, white wine vinegar vinaigrette, wilted mustard greens sauteed in garlic, olive oil and lemon (very Italian in honor of Agent W), and tomatoes with ricotta salata (ricotta cheese that is aged) marinated in olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Wife whipped up another fabulous dessert. We had some berries and were going to put them on pound cake but when I went to the store they didn't have any. So she made one. Then soaked the cake in her homemade strawberry liquor and added the berries and whipped cream.

A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Could I Have Screwed Things Up Any More?

Thursday was a scheduling disaster. For the most part, I'm pretty good at keeping my schedule under control. But I don't what happened on Thursday but it just went nuts. Maybe I forgot the alternative month sacrifice of the virgin squirrel to the scheduling god.

It started with an email from the night before confirming an appointment where I was introducing two business owners. Except that I had forgotten to put it in my Outlook and had merrily scheduled three other conflicting meetings. The initiated a flurry of emails to the two begging forgiveness and rescheduling.

Then I noticed that I had scheduled my lunch meeting too close to the client meeting that I shoehorned in because I've been trying to get this client to act for a month. Another flurry of emails (while I'm actually trying to conduct various meetings) to get it a bit earlier.

Then I had this conference call with a Board of Directors that took two weeks to schedule and suddenly they decided that it had to be an hour later. Except that I got time zones mixed up. This caused me to take a dinner meeting where the guy suddenly said he couldn't meet for dinner and move it to an afternoon slot. Whereby I get these angry phone calls from the Board people because I added an hour instead of subtracted an hour.

In the end everything was taken care, but what a cluster (bleep)!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What The...

...#@!&%@# am I doing here?

Schlepping through the snow behind Lakeview Coffee Joe to get our coffee on Tuesday before our day of meetings in Chicago.
Oh. This is why.

Fantastic Roast Duck, BBQ Pork, Bok Choy in Garlic Sauce at Suh Wah BBQ in Chicago.
We had all this plus fantastic won ton soup (huge won ton with big pieces of shrimp and pork), egg plant and three beers for $50. A great find.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year and Back on the Road

I'm on my first trip of 2011 to Chicago. I travel only one other time in January to Seattle. It will get busier in February.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Wife Cooks

Wife is on a streak trying new things.

But first an image from the hike this weekend. There is still lots of snow on trails. I went with Wild Bill up where we've been the last couple of weeks. We got up to the 2.5 mile mark which is the intersection of a couple of major trails and from that point on there were NO footprints. No one had gone further and we haven't had any new snow in almost 2 weeks. We did plow ahead in the virgin snow for a bit but decided we were tired enough. Hiking in the snow even if it is packed down is more tiring. So on to Wife.

Wife decided that she wanted fresh bread more often so she bought a bunch of tiny bread pans, made dough and froze it in small sizes. You then take the dough out in the evening and put it in the refrigerator. Next morning you take it out and let it rise, then bake. Presto a small loaf of bread good for a couple of days.

Wife with that smile that says, "If you post this on your blog, you may be missing various body parts tomorrow morning"
We had Wild Bill and Jill over for dinner and Wife wanted to make a light dessert. She had some strawberries and decided to chocolate coat them. An Internet search gave her this cool ideal to put them on toothpicks stuck in Styrofoam so they wouldn't be flat on one side.

A little white chocolate designing

And the finished product served with Wife's homemade strawberry liqueur from the summer.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wi-Fi Happiness

Getting working wireless in my home and home office has been a nightmare. For years we had a router that would not work with my MAC. Then finally we bought a new Cisco router in October and low and would not work with my MAC...nor could many other people connect to it either. Very, very frustrating.

Mrs. de-I finally got on the phone last week with Cisco and after talking to about three people found someone who suggested that the unit needed a software update. The Cisco person went through Wife's computer and did the update.

Presto, reliable wireless internet. Now I can sit downstairs in my library and watch streaming video of rugby games and read old blog posts.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best Lasagna - EVAH!


We were supposed to be getting together with Gaius Derf and Agent W on New Year's Eve to make lasagna but Derf caught the flu when he was visiting his daughter and family in Phoenix. Wife and I decided we would do a scaled down version on our own but then Wife came down with some reaction to some bad lunch meat so that pretty much finished off New Year's Eve. This was the only thing we had planned this whole holiday so I was sort of bummed.

Wife was fine today so we decided to go forward with it.

I have been making lasagna for decades and have a pretty good reputation among my family and friends for making a very good dish. Today, we were really just trying to make the best out of a lot of leftovers. But what transpired was without doubt the best lasagna I have ever made!

There were two things that really set this apart; the sauce and the pasta. My sauce was really cobbled together but had a number of principles I will not forget. The pasta was an extension of experiments I've done the last few times using home made pasta.


This is leftover pepperoni from our Christmas pizza. I have found that some kind of cured meat is a go to ingredient to add depth of flavor in a lot of dishes. Here I'm dicing it fine.

Other sauce ingredients included some leftover sauce from a previous sauce making (in the back), two kinds of tomatoes from the summer (roasted and confited) and some of my turkey broth from a couple of days ago.

I sauteed the pepperoni in olive oil

This is meat leftover from a stock I made a few weeks ago that I shredded to put in the sauce.

I pureed the tomatoes with the turkey stock.

Some of the dried chiles from our garden this summer.

I added the shredded meat, chiles and a little red wine to the pepperoni/oil mixture and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Then I added the tomatoes and the tomato sauce. The three critical ingredients that made the difference in the end product were the deep flavor of the pepperoni, the sweetness of the tomato confit, and the heat from the chiles. I let this cook for about 40 minutes.

Gaius Derf says no pasta or pizza making can be successful without the consumption of wine. here is the nice 10 year old Spanish wine that was offered to the cause. Wife is holding the neat pasta drying rack she got me for Christmas.

I know there are probably a billion blog posts about making pasta but this is my first.

Make a well in a cup or so of flour.

Add two eggs.

Beat the eggs.

Start incorporating the flour.

When it starts to come together, use your hands to create a dough ball that is not too dry or too sticky.

Knead your pasta for at least 8 minutes - This is very important to get the right consistency.

Cut the pasta ball into pieces and run it through the machine. You gradually go down the numbers to the thinness you want. I went to #8.

I let the pasta dry for about 30-40 minutes. This made it much easier to handle.
I cooked it for 2 minutes only, then drained it and rinsed in cold water to stop the cooking process.

I developed years and years ago a technique to lighten up the ricotta cheese.
I take eggs and I whip them to a froth so they are expanded double. I put in fresh chopped garlic and parsley.

Then I gradually beat in the ricotta cheese. This adds a lot of air to the mixture which causes it to be less dense when it is cooked.
Slices of whole mile mozzarella - it has to be whole milk or you won't get the runny, stringiness you want. Also lots of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Put some olive oil in the baking dish and make sure all the sides are covered. Then put down a layer of pasta.

Next some of the meat sauce.

The ricotta mixture

Mozzarella and Pecarino

In this case I got two layers done.
My last layer not only covers the top bu is pushed down the sides to totally encase the innards.

Cover with some more sauce and Pecarino cheese.
In the oven for about 40 minutes at 350 or until it is bubbling all around the edges.

The finished product.
Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving to allow it to set a bit.

Served up with great wine.
What made this lasagna so much better was the pasta. It was so thin and light that it transformed what is usually a very delicious but heavy dish up to another plane. That plus the balance of the sauce with the intense meat flavor from the pepperoni, the sweetness of the tomato confit and clean heat from the chiles.