Saturday, September 19, 2009

At The Richey's House For Dinner

I met with the Richey's on Friday night to have their food pantry and fridge photographed, answer some questions and evaluate some of their current eating habits and challenges. I arrived at 5:30 and left at 7 pm and in the interim I watched Mike make a beautiful frittata out of potatoes, garlic, purple and red peppers, onions, tomatoes, cheese, eggs and a touch of basil for flavor and garnish. The local ingredients he included were the potatoes, eggs, peppers, tomatoes, and basil (from their backyard herb garden).

Mike cubed and boiled a nice big starchy potato. While the potatoes simmered he chopped the veggies, shredded a couple of ounces of cheddar cheese and scrambled about 5 eggs. After draining the potatoes he pan fried them with the onions, garlic and peppers. The Richey's have a very functional collection of Calphalon cookware.

We discussed the benefits of good pots and pans. My personal favorite is All Clad because, like their Calphalon, it can go from stove top to oven. I am not a fan of non-stick surfaces as I haven't found one that really lasts. I love my cast iron skillets and I have several from my grandmother's kitchen that are well used. The only real piece of cookware that I don't have and still want is a 7 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven. I generally use my large crock pot for anything I would use the Dutch oven for, but still, a kitchen girl can dream! I have found that although there are several pieces of essential cooking equipment for any kitchen there are many ways to improvise and still get the job done. Cook's Illustrated (the web site, magazine and cooking show, America's Test Kitchen on PBS) provides some of the best unbiased reviews and lists of essential equipment and reliable brands. Cook's Illustrated is the "Consumer Reports" for food and kitchens. I read it cover to cover every month.

So, back to the recipe: Mike then poured the eggs over the potatoes and veggies and transferred the pan to a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes. He then added the cheese on top and broiled it until the cheese was bubbly. Then after taking it from the oven and sliding it out on to a plate he topped it with the chopped tomatoes and sprinkled the basil over it. What a great start! I was impressed with Mike's skills in the kitchen - he was holding out on me as to how well he can cook. It looked and smelled delcious! I resisted a bite as I would be headed home to eat my own dinner which was cooking while I was out.

When I arrived at 5:30, Mike had just gotten home and Kim was in the kitchen deciding "what's for dinner?" Typically, they stated, it would have been a Friday night to go out to eat. I think Kim said they had gone to Chick Fil-A twice that week and Mellow Mushroom the night before and had eaten a couple of other lunches out and she had grabbed a pastry on the run. The Richey's track their spending and told me that they are spending about 40% of their food dollars on eating out.

As is typical, when we were determining "what's for dinner", we ran across several items that needed to be thrown away including a week old stale French baguette and a bowl of cherry tomatoes. I hate losing food and I have many ways of preserving them just before they go bad. But what I don't catch goes to the compost, so I commented on the compostability of the items we were tossing, and Kim asked "why compost?" My first answer was to "build healthy soils." Especially since they want to develop some raised beds next spring and create an organic garden. Almost all food wastes can become soil with proper composting.

I will have Steve write the blog on this as my compost efforts have generally become maggot or fly larvae factories. Kim also asked about our compost bin and I admitted that after we gave up the indoor worm bin (vermiculture) idea, I bought us a compost system from New Garden Nurseries (made by Miracle Gro) and it has been super efficient and easy to use. I bring home as much as 10 - 20 pounds of compostables a week from work so the worm bin was too small for my needs. The bigger system cost about $130 - the price I would pay for about 4 or 5 meals out, which to me is a small sacrifice for a great gift back to my future produce and the planet.

When Steve starts working with the families on composting he will introduce them to our very own Greensboro Worm Lady, Betsy Lou. She is often at the Greensboro Curb Market selling her worms, worm castings, and castings "tea", a wonderful natural fertilizer. She's great to talk with and she has copies of the book we started with, Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.

So back to the Richey's: Mike and Kim are both tired and hungry by the time 5:30 rolls around and we started by talking about how to decide between eating out and cooking in. I gave them a suggestion that was passed on to me that seems to work well. Immediately when you come home put on a pot/kettle of water to boil. Then go change clothes, read the mail, let the dog out or whatever it is you do. While doing those other things think about what you might like for dinner or even as an appetizer. Many, if not most, things require some hot water: pasta, rice, steamed veggies, boiled eggs, potatoes, etc. Just getting water on to boil starts a commitment process -  a commitment to dinner in. The water we started went to simmering the potatoes for the frittata. If you find you don't need the water for some other part of dinner you can always make tea or just leave it there to crank back up in the morning to make a hot cereal, such as oatmeal!

One other problem that many people have is that they are so hungry or tired when they get home that they can't think to cook and the impulse to go out overtakes them. I hereby give you permission to have an appetizer! Eat a half a banana, a few grapes, some crackers and cheese, a piece of toast - it's ok.

One of the most important lessons I work on with a client who wants to lose weight is to have them really tune in to their hunger and satiety signals. I use a tool called the hunger scale. Zero is when you are so hungry that cardboard would be appetizing and ten is how you feel after a Thanksgiving feast and you are unbuttoning your pants. When we learn to eat starting at a one or two and then stop eating when we feel around a five or six, we have a tendency to maintain our weight. But when you eat from a one or two and stop at a four or five at each eating opportunity, we have a tendency to lose weight. But when we are eating to six or beyond, even once a day, then we will tend to gain weight over time.

So having an appetizer and being aware of how hungry you are before and after that is a sure way to avoid eating too much at dinner. Once you are not ravenous you can make good choices. Starting right from zero almost always leads to overeating. Awareness is key! We live life so rushed and we eat so mindlessly that we ignore these natural satiety signals and doing so contributes to our higher body weights and subsequent need to lose weight over and over again. Learn to eat like a baby: eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full and only eat what you really like. This natural way of eating is the best way to live and maintain a healthy weight (provided you have a healthy endocrine system). The other aspect to eating this way is that you learn to appreciate great food. This is the process of "taste re-education", and it is what naturally happens as you convert to being a locavore.

But more about "taste re-eduaction" later on...

1 comment:

  1. My plastic compost bin (bought from the city of Carrboro for $40 this spring!) has pretty much become a worm farm. I know that this means that it is not getting hot enough. I'm still pretty pleased about it.