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Today is a good day.

It’s good despite a certain physical discomfort I’m really trying hard to restrain myself from writing about again. But how not to when my high school classmate contacts me via skype earlier today, and when I say I won’t be able to chat long due to the above mentioned experiencing of pain, she bluntly asks:

“Is that perhaps the famous PMS?”

We haven’t spoken in a decade, mind you, minus an email here and there. Dumbfounded I utter:

“But how do you know???”

“From your blog!”

Ah. That. Though I haven’t written about this one yet. YET.

The day is good nonetheless. It’s great. It’s FESTIVE & CELEBRATORY. Here’s why. Something happened today, something unprecedented, at least as of the year two thousand and six…

It was one of those exotically warm days in October, back in 2006. It was exotic to me, as I had just moved to Los Angeles from quite positively four-seasoned New York City. Don’t forget also that I grew up in Poland. Four ever changing seasons was all I knew till then. It must have been one of those summery days of Californian fall in 2006 when my ass was wrapped in a pair of my favorite jeans for the very last time. As never after it was able to fit again. Until this day…

Today I pulled the old buddies out of the closet where they sat in the dark corner forgotten and in disgrace since TWO-THOUSAND-AND-SIX. I dug them out from underneath a pile of all those new guys I collected in the meantime. And just like that, suddenly inspired, four years later I tried to reunite the best of me with the best of the blue jean kind. And it worked!

Truth be told, it did require me to HIP-HOP some, and then to CHA-CHA-CHA a little bit more in order to tuck every last bit of me inside of those pants. Nevertheless it WORKED! Not only was I able to zip and button up, but also I am able to sit in those jeans as I type these words. Initially I tried the desk chair first for it’s adjustable, then the couch as it’s lower thus more challenging. In the end I was rolling on the floor exchanging hugs, tears, kisses and stories with my best buds who have returned home at last.

About this photo… May I inform you that my legs go for inches and inches beyond the frame of this photograph, so don’t be fooled by skewed proportions. Also, Cosmo is a very SMALL dog. A miniature really. What you’re looking at are legs… thin and all-the-way-to-my-tuchas long. Note that at the time of taking this photo my tuchas was sitting at the neighbors’ kitchen table.

Well, then. Now you know WHAT. Time to reveal HOW. Let’s omit the part where I skyrocketed three sizes up in the first place, about four years ago. The first two sizes left me shortly after I met Jason and fell in love. They just packed their stuff and went on their own, leaving no letter good-bye. Not that I ever missed them. But that last little size got stuck. Let me assure you that I didn’t even mind it in the end. I was comfortable in my skin at last, for the very first time in my life really, and it didn’t matter that much what the scale underneath me said. I wouldn’t even step on one, because who cares!

Lately, however, Jason and myself found motivation to get back to the gym, as we do every few months or so. Jason was complaining about a few extra pounds he no longer wished on him. I needed to get my core muscles stronger for those long hours of dancing around the kitchen when at work. Every child knows, however, that no exercise will bear results if the diet ain’t right. Hence, following the wisdom of many trainers that crossed my path (whose secret equation for losing weight is: 70% diet, 30% physical torture), we decided to switch dinners and lunches around.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been sending Jason to work with his lunchbox full of hearty and filling goods so he has enough energy for a jog when off duty. And then, after the gym, instead of stuffing ourselves with a bowl of pasta or rice, we simply enjoy a nutritious salad, full of natural vitamins and metabolism-boosting enzymes along with a touch of protein (nuts, chicken, fish, cheese, beans, etc.) and healthy fats (olive oil or walnut oil, nuts, avocados, and such).

This salad-eating also forces me to keep inventing new dishes and re-inventing what’s known and out worn. Above you see a version of a coleslaw. It’s crunchy like the traditional one with slivers of radishes, ribbons of red cabbage, and thin slices of Green Apple. It’s full of toasted walnuts that take the edge off the apple’s tartness. The dressing is somewhat familiar, though made with a non-fat Greek yogurt (like in my slaw recipe I posted here). However, there’s butter lettuce in the place of white cabbage, sprinkled with poppy seeds and thus turning the mix into a brand new experience. And trust me, a plate full of this salad, where you must work out your jaws on each bite, will keep you satiated till you’re ready for bed.

What do you do with the left over cabbage, you ask. It’s a good question. Let me also applaud you for purchasing the whole head in its natural form versus already shredded one and packed in plastic. Use those crunchy ribbons as a color-booster on all the different types of salads. Not only does it add esthetic value, but also texture and anti-oxidants, calcium, potassium, and loads of vitamin C, K and A.

Here’s another variation on a salad that served as post-work out dinner for Jason and moi. As seen above, its an abundance of sautéed kale with shallots, garlic, and tomato over roasted young potatoes, with added crunch of red cabbage, persian cucumber slices and paper-thin slivers of radishes. Needless to say, it is a warm, comforting, and filling plate of … vegetables. Yet it won’t weigh you down just hours before saying sayonara to your day.

The bottom line is this: exercising is undoubtedly good for keeping my butt cheeks closer together, tighter I mean, less jiggly and more bouncy. It also allows my back to stay firm and strong during those 8-10 hour shifts in the kitchen when on my feet at all times. However, it’s those hearty SALADS FOR DINNER that let my bottom jewel shrink enough to fit in my old blue jeans and wiggle woogie-boogie.

I think I won’t be parting with these for a while… My ass can’t be trusted.

Some years ago, one sunny Sunday Jason was strolling down Melrose Avenue heading to a record store. Since he lived in the vicinity, he left his car at home that morning and walked up a few blocks to the destination. A 7-foot tall Indian man with crystal blue eyes, wearing a perfectly fitted grey suit and a white turban, approached him on the street, gently asked whether he could speak with Jason for a moment, and began to tell him things. Things about Jason, his life, his family, and challenges he was facing, all in great detail.

The accuracy of the stranger’s words was mind-boggling. The man warned Jason not to drive his red truck to get the haircut the following Saturday. How did he know??? Later that day, astonished Jason obeyed and cancelled the appointment he had scheduled at his friend’s hair salon in Malibu for that coming weekend.

Then the man said:

I KNOW IT IS NOT EASY FOR YOU TO GET UP IN THE MORNING. HOWEVER, YOU WILL BE VERY SUCCESSFUL IF YOU BEGIN TO RISE WITH THE SUN.

I realize it sounds very general for all of you. Unless you know my Jason. He’s one of the most responsible, organized, hardworking and disciplined people I know. And yet, getting him out of bed in the morning is one tricky process. It takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and always involves me waking up beforehand in order to help Jason open his eyes and shake hands with each new day. As a child Jason was also diagnosed with a sleeping disorder that prevents him from getting a full night’s rest no matter how long he stays in his dreamland.

Bottom line is, getting up in the morning is difficult for Jason not because he’s lazy, but because it is acutely painful.

I’ve heard the story of the encounter on Melrose Avenue a few times over the last couple of years. I even tried to push Jason here and there to take the challenge and see what happens. Every time, however, my enthusiasm was met by my mate’s strong resistance. I brought it up again when we were in Europe last month, realizing that the upcoming jet-lag was going to play in our favor. We were going to wake up early in the morning quite naturally for the first few days anyways. Why not to stretch it into a 6-week period?

Jason took the bate. Hook, line, and sinker!

We’re three weeks deep into the life-changing exercise. My alarm clock is set for 6 AM Monday through Sunday and back. The first few days were AWE-AWE-AWE-SOME!!! I woke up chirping like a bird, loving the surrounding silence, the quiet, the stillness. As the jet-lag started to wear off, so did my joie de vivre at dawn. I walk around like a zombie, yawning till I get dizzy, with madness tinkering in the corners of my eyes.

My HONEY, on the other hand, the guy who used to speak in TONGUES when woken up before 9 o’clock, is now up and running by 7 AM and on his way to the gym. I look at him envious and bewildered…

WHO ARE YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY BOYFRIEND??

Now throw our meatless diet on top of it and stand in my shoes! Though I think I’m over the edge and the worst is behind me. The experiment turned out to be a great creative challenge, and I can’t say that I failed. Over the last three weeks we’ve had a different meal every night, each one nutritionally dense, flavorful, and full of protein, like my PAPPARDELLE WITH WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE OVER SAUTEED KALE AND GREEN BEANS.

I have tons of wild mushrooms stored away, handpicked by my mother, cleaned and dried by her husband. I used some last week to make mushroom broth, of which a few ladlefuls went into the sauce you see above.

As usual, I improvised. I let the broth reduce in the saucepan, allowing for the mushroom flavor to intensify. Next, I added about a tablespoon of butter and a handful of previously soaked wild mushrooms. I dropped in a whole shallot and one bay leaf.

In the meantime, I brought a pot of water to a boil, seasoned generously with salt and cooked some pappardelle pasta (my favorite kind of pasta in the world!).

Back to my sauce, I lowered the heat to minimum, added a drizzle or two of heavy cream, a bunch of fresh dill, salt, pepper, and a touch of nutmeg. Stirred, once, twice, turn the heat off, discarded the shallot and the bay leaf, and voila. The sauce was ready.

So was the pasta. I drained it and tossed it back into its pot. I crumbled some goat cheese all over the steaming noodles, shoveled it around till the cheese melted, and poured my mushroom sauce all over that gorgeous meal. It rested with dignity over the bed of greens that I sauteed with garlic just minutes before.

Even though I still think of meat with a tear welling up in my eye, dinners like the one above sooth my torn nerves just fine. I wrap myself in that comfort and calmly count the days down…

Till Sunday!

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