happiness is...

happiness is...
kenya 2010

Friday, January 27, 2012

what to do when your date asks out the waitress...

i can't make this stuff up. seriously.

i was going to blog about the nepali eating experiment- how i fared, insights i gained, foods i've gorged on since stopping the insanity (no, i actually haven't gone to la familia, yet), etc... however a situation has come to light that necessitates me changing course and talking about a completely different topic. that topic is: "my new year's eve date asked out the waitress."

let's start at the beginning. i met my new year's eve date online, on a dating site called okcupid.com. i know, i know- i've sworn off online dating before, but this site matches you based on your responses to questions and you're practically GUARAN-flippin-TEED to hit it off!! i took my time getting gussied up, since he was a guaranteed great match. i wanted to make a good impression.

the base outfit

finishing touches in place. pretty and flirty, but not over the top

so i arrive at the restaurant, and it is immediately evident that his pictures are about 10 years old (and blurry) so we're not off to a good start. i am mature enough to not judge a book by the cover, though, and am still prepared to have a lovely evening with interesting adult conversation at the very least. we sit down to dinner (i leave the sweater on) and he immediately looks at my chest and says, "i won't hear a thing you say all night because i'll be staring at those." classy. there was still a remote possibility that he was not a complete jerk and only very inappropriate and socially awkward, until he opened his mouth again. this time he asked if i had been cleaning the house all day so that i could bring home an overnight guest. (sigh). i am very diplomatic- often way TOO diplomatic- so must have come across as unsure of myself when i assured him that i was going home alone that night, because the next 5 comments over 10 minutes were filled with innuendo mixed with blantant requests, all regarding a sleep-over. i gave up most attempts at conversation and tried to enjoy a pretty yummy dinner at genovese. when i tuned in to what he was saying, he was generally slamming women and the entire dating process. he was a charmer, let me tell you! i gave it one last try and suggested we go somewhere different for coffee and dessert, in case there was carbon monoxide or something in the air at the restaurant causing him to lose his mind and his manners. we walked the 3 blocks to pachamama's, where he proceeded to ogle the waitress. not discreetly, but very obviously. he followed her every move with not only his eyes, but his whole head. he began showing her pictures of his son on his phone and calling her by name. she and i were both completely creeped out and about 20 minutes into coffee i said it was time to go and we headed for our cars. my NY eve date was over by 6:45p. during the walk back, he started grilling me about the location of the restaurant (he's from KC), what the name of it was, etc... when i got to my car, i sent a text asking "were you trying to pinpoint the location of the restaurant so you could go back and ask out the waitress?!" to which he replied, "LOL!! no! of course not!"

guess what?

last week i was again at pachamamas waiting on a date to arrive. this one was a second date, and with a man much cuter and sweeter than the last. as i sat there, i looked at the waitress and mused over my disastrous NY eve. finally i got up the nerve to say, "i was here a couple of weeks ago with a date. did he come back and ask you out?" oh yes, he did, and he creeped her out beyond measure. i apologized for bringing him to her restaurant in the first place, and she thanked me for asking because it bothered her a lot seeing me and not knowing if i knew. needless to say, my date that night was much better...and on the way out the door, i whispered to the waitress, with a wink, "sorry, but this one thinks i'm cuter."

i could have let it go, but that's just not my style. the next day, i texted el-creepo and simply said, "don't know which is worse- that you're classless enough to ask out the waitress on our date, or cowardly enough to lie about it. wow. please don't bother to reply. i am taking you out of my phone."

the response? (parentheses are my thoughts)..."that's a tough one because while i did go back, i chickened out of actually asking her out (lie). she is stunning, though, isn't she? (really???) but alas i think she was too young and i didn't want to embarrass myself...so i'd have to go with classless since the intent was there. but you made it clear that there was no future for us because of your hut dwelling aspirations (wow) so why do you even care...and finally, although you are an amazing person, and i told her that (gee thanks!!), i wasn't really physically attracted to you (even though you asked me to take you home 17 times?) because i tend to be attracted to, well, women built like the waitress. would you have preferred i said 'hey i'm not into you- do you mind if i stay and try to snag the waitress?' (um, no...i prefer that you not act like a jackass and ask the waitress out at ALL). anyway, take care and godspeed in your travels...hope you find all the happiness you deserve."

happy new year!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

true confessions of an eating experiment cheater

i ate a dog snack.

yes, imagine the faces of the 8 other women in the nursing committee meeting as i blurted that out randomly after describing my current resolution/eating experiment. it went something like this:

(them smiling at me and listening intently, SO admiring of my resolve and intentionality)...

ME: "i am trying to eat only foods made from ingredients you can find in rural nepal for 14 days as part of my new year's resolution. it will not only help me get back on a healthy track, but it helps me to be respectful of the fact that there are millions of people all over the world who don't have 700 choices a day regarding what they eat. they have to eat what is available, and many times that is insufficient and very limited. this helps me to step away from my dependence on food as entertainment, and helps me to not take it for granted. i am truly appreciating not only the abundance we have, but every bite of this food that i am eating- regardless of whether or not i WANT to eat it."

one of THEM: "oh that is so wonderful. you have such amazing resolve (me doing little mental pat on the back while she speaks). i couldn't do it. you are such a good person and have such strength! how is it going so far?"

ME: "it has been hard, but i am learning a lot and putting together some interesting combinations with the ingredients i have available (nodding from the others)....(pause)...last night i had a little meltdown and i ate a dog snack."


okay. i can explain. actually, no i can't. there isn't anything to explain. i was putting my dog to bed and i gave her a dog snack- really more of a "cookie" than a biscuit. then i had one myself. truth told, it was delicious. i never realized that those dog cookies in the bins at petco are actually cookies. i swear those were real chocolate chips in there! i am going to now attempt to regain what little dignity i can by saying that i only ate one.... i had a whole bag staring me in the face, and i ate one. after the behemoth cravings i've been having the past 10 days, putting them down was a feat of monumental proportions. i can take pride in that. i will also qualify it by saying that in my life and my travels, i have eaten mice, goat vertebrae, iguana, chicken backs, and oats with more weavils than oats, so dog snacks weren't really a stretch.

neither was the bag of cheese. sigh. yes, i also ate one already-opened-partial-bag of swiss cheese. i will blame my sister for sending it home with me. there you have it. in the last 11 days, i have had only foods available in rural nepal, one dog snack, and one bag of shredded swiss. i am now back on track (the snack and the cheese were on adjacent days) and eating a steamed potato with sauteed onions on it as i write this. i may be down, but i'm not out! 3 days to go!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

i think i'll survive! 5 days to go.

i just finished up day 9 of my 14 day nepal style eating (tweaked from the "dal-bhat-tarkari" resolution i started the year with) and so far, so good. i have regained my will to eat and am actually enjoying it again. that said, i will admit that it was brutal to attend our girl's night get together on monday night at a local mexican restaurant and NOT HAVE A SINGLE CHIP!! if i had been thinking straight, i would have at least aten some salsa with a spoon! 

i am still being true to nepali eating by only using ingredients readily available there. i spoke with a friend who lives in dadeldhura. he gave me an "easily found or easily grown" list and i have been using that. i did have to reluctantly give up using red bell peppers (whimper) since they only grown green in rural nepal. it has been all vegetarian so far, but once i started getting creative i haven't minded. i had 6 meals of mjeddrah (see my last post for the recipe) and i still wasn't gagging, so i highly recommend it! haha.

my niece had a good idea- i will list the ingredients, and if you have a recipe that would fit into those parameters, send it to me and i'll post. either comment here, or send me an email. i would love to add a little more variety, especially when i venture that direction. then i can think of you every time i eat it. :) it has been a great "diet" too- i feel great, and the pounds are starting to melt off.

"found or grown" ingredients available in rural nepal:
greens (spinach, chard, lettuce)
green peppers
carrots (limited)
hot chile peppers
mango (seasonal)
watermelon (seasonal)
mushrooms (limited at special market)
milk (can make yogurt)
spices- curry, turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, paprika, red pepper, ginger (not sure about others but my friend said spices are easy to find in kathmandu and i can stock up)

so- if you have a recipe or an idea to share or file away for future use, i'd love to hear it!

p.s. update on other resolutions thus far- i have faithfully done the "no lights night" once a week since the first of january, and my house continues to be a chilly 64 degrees or below. well, it is 64 by the thermostat. somehow, it seems to be MUCH colder in the rest of the house! so far, so good. i hope your 2012 is going well.  :0)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

variety is the spice of life (a.k.a. day 6 and my niece just saved my life)

it is day 6 of the nepali eating experiment, and i think my niece just saved my life. at the very least, she saved my palate. yesterday, i was musing about how i thought i would try something a little different with my eating resolution, and allow myself to be creative with the food combinations as long as the ingredients are all things that are available in rural nepal. if and when i go for an extended period, i will be doing most of my own cooking, so this could be a better taste (pardon the pun) of what the food experience will be like for me while i'm there. i am still wanting to keep it simple and use the basic ingredients (lentils, potatoes, rice, root vegetables, etc...) but i need to add some variety of taste or i run the real risk of stopping eating pretty much altogether. anyway....

...that is where my niece, kathy, comes into the picture. she commented on one of my posts and added a recipe for a dish called mjeddrah that uses the basic ingredients, but in a way that was unusual. i will admit, it sounded a bit disgusting to me. not because of the lentil and rice based stew, or because of the salad type fresh veggies, or because of the "dressing"- but because you TOP the hot stew with the cold salad and pour the dressing all over the top. um?!!?
 i searched the web and found oodles of other mjeddrah recipes, many of which included the salad and dressing in the one-dish stew. if others are doing it, how bad can it be? i decided to give it a whirl. i used elements from kathy's recipe that weren't in some of the others (celery and carrots), and i used an online recipe for the dressing instead of using commercially prepared vinaigrette as hers calls for. i also used a bed of spinach instead of lettuce since i can find evidence that spinach is more readily available in rural nepal than lettuce. can i tell you something?

the results were spectacular!!!! i know i'm hungry, and i know i am craving variety, but as i was eating this dish, i was thinking that it was perhaps one of my favorite meals to-date. that is saying something, because i love my food! below is the "karin version" of mjeddrah, nepali style.

  • in large pot or dutch oven, heat 3 Tbsp oil or ghee
  • sautee 2 cups chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlic for 2-3 minutes
  • add 1 cup chopped carrots and 1 cup chopped celery (optional) and sautee for another 2-3 minutes
  • add 3/4 cup brown rice (i actually used long grain and wild rice) and sautee together until onions are translucent and rice opaque, and veggies start to soften (5ish minutes)

  • add 1 1/2 cups green lentils (any color would work) and 4 1/2 cups water.
  • add 1/2 tsp salt, and sprinkle of spices, if you desire. i added about 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp curry
  • bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat and simmer for 45-50 minutes, until rice and lentils are tender and thick consistency is obtained.

while stew cooks, make dressing (2-4 servings):
whisk together the following-
  • 6 Tbsp oil (i used grapeseed but olive, canola, etc...would work too)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard or 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp honey or agave nectar
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp chili garlic paste (or shiracha chili sauce...this is optional but adds a nice zing)

place 1 cup fresh spinach on plate/bowl. top with stew. add "salad fixins" (ie: chopped red onion, chopped red pepper, cucumber, chopped tomatoes, chopped green onion) on top of stew, and drizzle dressing over the entire thing.

once you tire of eating the mjeddrah this way, add broth or water and turn into soup.

variety- the spice of life. thank you kathy!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

update- days 3, 4, and into 5

i thought i'd combine a few days, since you can only talk about-or read about- lentils, rice, and curried vegetable so often. let me recap days 3, 4, and now 1/2 of day 5...

it is tough!

i have almost completely lost the desire to eat. don't get me wrong- i am hungry. i just don't want to eat because i am bored with my food choices. interestingly, i am more bored when i eat all three of the dal-bhat-tarkari in a single sitting, and have found some relief by "mixing it up" a little. on day 3, i ate rice and lentils for lunch and lentils and veggies for dinner. day 4 was a little harder. i took rice and lentils for lunch, but couldn't make myself eat the rice so only had lentils. for dinner i didn't have anything. i opened the fridge, stared a while at the three bowls holding my dinner possibilities, and i closed it again without selecting any. i had an apple and called it good. if you know me and how much i enjoy eating, that is a shocking revelation. without endless choices, food has become uninteresting. for a good part of my life i have suspected that it is healthier and less indulgent to view food as uninteresting...to view it as fuel instead of entertainment. i am still convinced that this is probably true, but its confirmation has kicked off a little mourning in my soul. i will have to examine that another time. there is an upside. the pounds are coming off.

day 5- a tiny rejoice!! i have decided that it would be acceptable, and completely natural, for me to be a little more creative with the food on hand while still staying true to the resolution to eat like they do in nepal. more accurately, i have kind of morphed it into eating like i would in nepal. what i mean by that is this- i am using the ingredients that i would find there but tweaking them in ways that the nepalis probably wouldn't and i probably would, if i lived there. for instance, for breakfast i made spanish eggs. (i have added a small breakfast to the regimen, since i am on a medication that has to be taken early in the morning with food). i took eggs- which are available in nepal- and fried them over medium. i topped them with a chutney (i like to call it salsa) made of simmered tomatoes, garlic, onions, chiles, and cumin (which is a favorite nepali seasoning). by NOT adding curry and only using garlic and cumin, i produced something with more of a spanish or southwest flavor. in essence, i got a little reprieve from my mexican craving. yay!!!


now for lunch, i plan to take the rice and fry/simmer it with the rest of the diced tomatoes, onions, chiles, garlic, and cumin to make spanish-style rice. i can't wait! oh...what is that??!! excitement for the coming meal??

who is winning- me, or the food? stay tuned to find out. ;0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

day 2- still kicking!

i am in the middle of completing day 2 of my 14 day nepali eating resolution/experiment. i had the full dal-bhat-tarkari for lunch, but tonight i am only having the dal and the bhat (extra points if you remember what those are). i am already craving variety.

there a couple of things to note...some surprising, some not. the least surprising thing was that i could smell the mexican buffet in the cafeteria before i got within 50 yards and 2 floors of it. that nearly killed me. you know me and my love of mexican food. i mean really??! having it during my experiment was just mean. the most surprising thing is that, though hungry, i have no real desire to eat. i am evidently a slave to my cravings (duh) and have a hard time mustering excitement to eat if i can't have what i want. lunch and dinner have both been delicious, yet i didn't really want to eat them....even while i was eating them. i did discover that rice is pretty good with salt and black pepper on it. i need to research the availability of black pepper in nepal. i may be packing it in.

there is one disturbing development that i hope is my imagination. i am beginning to smell like curry. i am pretty sure it's me, since i can smell it when it's nowhere around (sigh). i had a boyfriend that lived in an old apartment in inner city cleveland, and from the time you stepped foot in the stairwell, all you could smell was indian spices. every fiber of every rug, every molecule of paint on every wall, smelled like curry. i desperately don't want to smell like an inner city cleveland apartment...

...but i'll push on.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

dal-bhat-tarkari: day 1

i have finished my second meal of dal-bhat-tarkari (lentils-rice-curried veggies) for the day, and i have lived to tell about it! i have to tell you a secret. i don't like rice. this is going to be tough. i don't hate rice, but i don't like it either. i grew up seeing rice as a means to get sauce to my mouth, and nothing more. it was a boring, plain, calorie-laden filler with little nutritional value and less taste. i am hoping that this experiment will help me develop an appreciation for, if not a love of, rice. it is a staple in nearly every country but ours... so here goes! the second batch is on the stove simmering and i made enough to last a couple of days this time so that i don't have to cook the SAME meal every day. that would probably get more monotonous to me than eating the same meal every day. we'll see.

i went to the store to collect the ingredients for the dish on new year's day. there are a surprising number, really, most of which are spices. i decided to go "all authentic" but found that was a bit optimistic. i tried my best to find asafetida and jimbu, but with no luck. when i did the research and found that asafetida's other name is "devil's dung" because it smells so awful, i lowered the intensity of my search. it is said to taste like garlic and onions, so i decided to use garlic and onions instead.

here is a list of ingredients for the dal-bhat-tarkari "diet":
ghee and/'or oil
rice (white)
veggies- seems like they use whatever's on hand, but the recipes i could find had things like potatoes, cauliflower, peas, tomatoes, and carrots
onions and garlic- lots of each (see above note on "asafetida") :)
fresh ginger
spices- curry powder, turmeric, cumin (powder and/or seed), salt

today's tarkari ingredients- onion, garlic, carrots, green pepper, and sweet potato

one thing that all the nepali dal-bhat-tarkari recipes have in common is that the list of ingredients in no way matches the instructions given on how to prepare. you'll see potatoes and carrots listed, but no mention of them in the actual recipe, or you'll see "add tomatoes" in the instructions but no tomatoes in the ingredient list. i will attempt to give a basic recipe below that matches ingredients with the recipe. maybe that's very american of me? oh well- old habits are hard to break. here goes...

in one pot, put rice and twice as much water (ie: one cup rice, two cups water...or two cups rice, four cups water). bring to boil. turn to low and cover, simmering for 15 minutes. "fluff". take off head and cover again for another 5 minutes. DONE!

in another pot,rinse your lentils and drain. then bring lentils and water to a boil. i use the double rule again, but it depends on how brothy you want them. as they come to a boil, saute chopped onions and garlic in a teaspoon or two of ghee and/or oil until translucent. add them to the lentils, along with a teaspoon each of curry powder, turmeric, cumin, and fresh minced ginger. turn to low and cook for 30ish minutes. at that point, see if lentils are soft enough. if needed, add more water and more spices and salt to taste. continue cooking for up to 45 minutes depending on desired consistency.

while lentils are cooking, melt ghee/oil in pan and add cut vegetables and spices (again use curry, cumin, turmeric, salt, etc...). fry in pan for a few minutes until beginning to soften and brown. add water and simmer, covered, until veggies soften. add less water for a thicker and drier dish- more for more of a stew.

put blob of rice on plate. add lentils and veggies. mix together and enjoy! i haven't tried eating with my fingers, yet, like they do in nepal. that seems more like a "day 3" activity.

the cravings have already begun. it is going to be a long 2 weeks.

Monday, January 2, 2012

oh ghee!

so the official "14 days of nepali eating" hasn't started, yet, but the prep has. in order to do this right, i need to have something called ghee on hand, which is a staple in indian and nepali cooking. ghee is clarified butter- basically, butter with all of the water and the milk solids boiled off. what is left is a nutty, amber brown, clear liquid/oil that doesn't burn at high temps, smells like heaven, tastes even better, and can be stored at room temp in an airtight container for over a month. it can be used to cook, or to drizzle over rice or veggies. why, oh why, haven't i discovered this before?

i could purchase ghee, since it is sold commercially, but i felt that would be cheating. i decided to do it the old-fashioned way. before i attempted to make the ghee, i did a little research. first, i found a really simple recipe online. i should have probably done a little more research before just jumping in, but it sounded SO simple that i didn't realize how much i didn't know. i shouldn't make it sound like a total disaster. the results were wonderful...but there are things they didn't fully explain, like when they say it "foams" what they really mean is that "it froths and swells to triple the volume of what was originally in the pan and will surge over the edge of your pan and cascade over your stovetop if you don't use a much bigger container than you think you'll need". good info to have. you can thank me for that later!

here is the recipe:
take one pound of butter
put in a BIG pan and heat on medium high heat until it melts and comes to a boil
turn heat to medium and keep boiling
a foam will form on top (see above explanation on what to expect) which will then go away- this takes about 3 minutes
it will foam a second time (actually more dramatically than the first)
when the foam/solids settle to the bottom and the liquid on top is deep golden brown and clear, take off heat (about 11 minutes total cooking time)
strain through sieve or cheesecloth into a heatproof container, leaving solids in bottom of pan

store in airtight container and keep away from moisture. does not need to be refrigerated.

after my first attempt, i did a little more research and watched a youtube video on ghee-making. i think i will add another resolution to my list and make a teaching video myself. that will save thousands of people from having to see what i saw. the video was 15 minutes and 39 seconds of a really obese, mostly naked older man who looked like santa with pierced nipples and wearing prayer beads melting a 15 pound block of frozen butter over a 2 hour (time-elapsed) period. what can i even add to that?

if you're following along, you've got a couple of days to make your ghee. no worries, it really only takes 11 minutes. bon appetit!