Figs!

June 30, 2011

A few days ago, I posted a photo of my most recent produce haul from the store, and my haul included a little basket of fresh figs – the first fresh figs I’ve seen this summer.  That prompted a comment from my reader Mary, who asked:

David, what are figs like? How do you eat them?

Good question, Mary!

Before last summer, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a fresh fig before, let alone tried one.   I had spent my entire life eating figs in two ways: dried, and as the key ingredient in Newtons.  One of my favorite recipes to serve a large group stars dried figs, which are reconstituted in red wine as part of the Gorgonzola, Fig, and Pecan Cheese Terrine, which I saw on Food Network years ago, back when The Hearty Boys, winners of the first season of The Next Food Network Star, still had their show.  (Incidentally, I haven’t made that recipe since starting this weight loss endeavor, and I don’t want to, unless I can come up with a way of making it healthier – it starts with 1.5 sticks butter and 1 pound cream cheese!)

Here are some of the figs I bought the other day:

It turns out there’s a wonderful reason why I didn’t see any fresh figs growing up in Michigan:  Figs are a spectacularly fussy fruit.  Many fruits are plucked from the tree before they’re ripe, and then they ripen during the shipping process to your local store, or on your counter after you buy them – but you can’t do that with figs.  Figs that are picked before they’re ripe just don’t ripen.  They have to ripen on the tree, or they won’t ripen at all.

Then, you have to contend with the fact that figs are difficult to ship, for two reasons:  They bruise really easily, and they have a very short shelf life – a few days, tops.  So getting fresh figs into markets that are far from where they’re grown (in warm, dry climates like California, the middle east, and northern Africa) is pretty tough.  The figs I bought were local, and I’m sure any other fresh figs I buy this summer will be local, too.  What a great perk of living in California!

Figs have been around forever.  There’s evidence of figs existing as far back as 5,000 B.C., and fig leaves are the undergarments of choice in most versions of the story of Adam and Eve.  Here’s something else I didn’t know about figs:  A fig is actually an inverted flower, with the bloom on the inside, and when a fig is pollinated (sometimes they pollinate themselves, sometimes it involves fig wasps), the fig creates thousands of seeds, which basically become the flesh of the fruit.

Last summer, when I saw fresh figs for the first time at the farmers’ market, I immediately bought some.  I was hooked.  A good fresh fig is like nothing else on the planet – it’s sweet, delicate, and soft – like the texture of a perfectly ripe peach, with the taste that’s slightly like a berry.  When I get fresh figs, I usually just eat them raw.  Sometimes I like to cut them in half:

But most of the time I pick one up, and hold it upside down (so the stem is down):

And I take a bite:

Truth be told, this batch of figs wasn’t great.  They weren’t as sweet as they could be, and the insides could be a deeper shade of purpley-red.  That’s the other thing about figs – I’ve found, in my year of eating the occasional fresh fig (their season is short: mid-summer to early fall), that there’s a high chance of coming across bad figs, and there’s no signs to let you know ahead of time if a fig has gone bad.  I could eat a delicious fig, and then eat a second delicious fig from the same basket, and then the third fig, while looking nearly identical, will not be sweet at all, or, even worse, it’ll be a little bitter.  Oh, and fresh figs are expensive – 50 cents to a dollar per fig, even at farmers’ markets.  It makes me glad that fresh figs are so seasonal – it gives me something to look forward to, and something to enjoy without continually draining my wallet!

Before I wrap up this post, I wanna give a quick shout-out to a fellow blogger, Greta, who writes at Middle Aged Jock.  I’ve been reading Greta’s blog for a while now (she’s in the middle of a fun 10 Lists in 10 Days project), and she recently hosted a fantastic giveaway of swag from the recent FitBloggin’ conference in Baltimore.  Guess who has two thumbs and won?  This guy!  So a big thanks to Greta for shipping me all sorts of goodies (including fitness DVDs, a book, food samples and coupons, a food scale, and more) all the way across the country in a Girl Scout Cookies box (someone likes Tagalongs – just sayin’).

A lot of bloggers have contests – and I’m about to have another one, soon!  So keep reading – more details to come!  As for me, I’m gonna go eat my final two fresh figs.

Keep it up, David!


Mas Malo AND New Before/Current Photos!

June 29, 2011

Yesterday I headed downtown and met up with my friends Heather and John for lunch.  Heather came up in my blog two weeks ago, when we had a delicious (and noisy) dinner at Bottega Louie.  John was working and wasn’t available to join us then, but both Heather and John were free today (they work on a touring musical, so their work hours are mostly nights and weekends), so we headed to a place that I heard great things about (Heather and John had heard good things too): Mas Malo.

Malo is a popular Mexican restaurant and bar in Silver Lake (a neighborhood not too far from downtown Los Angeles) that’s really good, despite its name, which means ‘bad’ in Spanish.  Recently, the folks behind Malo opened a second restaurant downtown, which they cleverly called “Mas Malo” (More Bad).  It’s in a beautiful space that was originally a jewelry store that opened in the ’20s: high, ornate, carved ceilings, lots of rich wood panelling – I took a picture, but it didn’t turn out well, so you can check out the pics on their website.

Generally speaking, I’ve been staying away from Mexican food lately, because, compared to other cuisines, Mexican menus are difficult to order off of if you’re try to eat healthy, like I am.  Everything on them is so tempting, too!  What isn’t delicious when it’s wrapped in a tortilla and covered in cheese, sour cream, and guacamole?  But most good, trendy establishments in Los Angeles offer menu items geared towards the health-conscious, and Mas Malo was no exception.

I ordered their Grilled Local Fish Salad, and the fish today was Red Snapper.  The salad part was cabbage, spinach, tomato, and some avocado.  It was dressed in olive oil and lime juice, but I had them hold the oil off of mine.  How good does this look?

It tasted even better.  The fish was really flavorful.  Heather and John got chips and salsa, and the salsa they ordered (because Mas Malo has five different kinds) was Burnt Habanero and Creme, so I tried a few teaspoons of that with my fish, and it was amazing.  And spicy, which I don’t mind at all!  I could feel the residual heat in the back of my mouth a good half hour after finishing our meal.  I’d totally go back to Mas Malo – no doubt about it.

OH – And this is VERY exciting: I have a new  “Before” and “Current” photo comparison to share!  I meant to do this a few weeks ago, but forgot.  One of the “Before” pictures that I’ve been using throughout this whole weight loss shebang is this one:

It’s a classic “Before” picture:  I look huge (which I was), and it’s also wonderfully unflattering, even for a “Before” pic:  I’m shiny, I look tired (which I’m sure I was, as the photo was taken around 1am), there are sweat marks on my shirt, I hate my hair, and that background isn’t doing any favors whatsoever (it’s this weird glowing wall in the basement of a downtown skyscraper).

Literally millions of people have seen this picture.  It was featured on Richard Simmons’ website last summer, when I was his featured success story (read what I wrote here), and it was shown on national television when I was a guest on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” (which you can watch here).

But I’m not the only one in the picture… I cropped out Heather!  Wanna see the whole picture?  Here it is, I’m showing it publicly for the very first time:

Ugh – that background is so hideous.  SO.  HIDEOUS.

That photo was taken in August of 2009, and with Heather back in town now, I thought it’d be good fun to take another photo of the two of us together.  Because I’m not the only one who’s lost weight!  Heather has, over the past year or so, dropped 50 pounds and kept it off!  She did it using Weight Watchers, and it’s amazing and wonderful.  Everything about Heather, for that matter, is amazing and wonderful.

John took a picture of Heather and I today outside of Mas Malo, so here we are two years later – and what you don’t see is the 215 pounds we’ve collectively lost:

And here’s the side-by-side (for maximum comparison):

If you wanna see more “Before” and “Current” photos, check out the Photo Gallery – there’s some good pics there!

One more photo for I wrap this up…  My friend Amanda sent me this picture yesterday:

Amanda made my zucchini salad recipe that I blogged about the other day and sent a photo of the end result!  This really made my day.  Amanda made the recipe her own: she added chicken and black beans for protein, and a little feta on top, and served it on a bed of lettuce.

Does my blog or my recipes inspire you in the kitchen?  Send me your pics!  Find out how to contact me here.

Keep it up Amanda, and keep it up Heather, and…

…Keep it up, David!


Squid and Eighth Page

June 28, 2011

Two topics today – one about seafood, and one about my chart.  Let’s start with seafood!

1) Squid.  Remember my mystery food from the other day?

A bunch of you shared the post with your friends and wrote comments that overwhelmingly confirmed it to be dried squid.  A few of you said it was comparable to squid jerky.  I do love jerky, so I wasn’t nervous or frightened to try it, but I wanted to wait until a time when I could document my trying it with photos…

…and that time was this morning.

I think I know how to write “Tear Here” in Korean:

First order of business: I smelled it.  It smelled fishy and salty.  Neither smell was a surprise, and neither smell was that strong, either.

I cut off the top piece…

…and cut a smaller piece off of that…

…and ate it.

It was chewy.  That wasn’t a surprise, either.  All jerky is chewy, and squid is chewy, no matter the preparation (and I’ve had it raw, fried, sauteed, and a few other ways, too – I don’t shy away from squid on menus!) – herego, squid jerky is chewy.  Makes sense.

More importantly, it was pretty tasty!  It wasn’t nearly as fishy-tasting as I thought it’d be, based on its smell, and while it was a tad salty for my liking, it wasn’t unbearable.  It was probably less fishy-tasting than the salmon jerky I tried a few months ago – and definitely less salty.  I ate another piece nearly immediately.

Then I unwrapped and chopped the rest of it unto smaller pieces, and put them in a Tupperware:

And I preserved part of the packaging for the underside of the Tupperware:

And now my squid jerky lives in my cupboard, in a spot that’s conveniently next to my turkey jerky:

2) Chart Update.  I weighed myself this morning.  I had a good, but not stellar, week.  Last Tuesday was a rest day, exercise-wise, and then Thursday ended up being workout-free as well, because I was so exhausted from work stuff – my last week at my last job was a very busy one.  I worked out every other day, though – and 5 days out of 7 is not bad, not bad at all!  I had a busy weekend, too, that involved a couple BBQs and a surprise picnic, and I made mostly good choices at those events.  Mostly.  Anyway – long story short (or is it too late for that?), it would have been nice to see a loss this week, but I wasn’t expecting one…  and I didn’t get one:

But staying the same is wonderful, so I’ll take it, gladly.  For any newcomers, my weight of 237 pounds represents a weight loss of 165 pounds!

What’s that, you say?  Did you notice something new about my chart?  Apart from the misplaced dot from a few weeks ago that I never got around to fixing (and now probably won’t)?

Why, yes!  I did have to start an EIGHTH PAGE!

I wish I could have started an eighth page with a weight loss, but that just wasn’t in the cards for me this time around – coincidentally, I started both my seventh and sixth pages on plateau weeks, too.

What excites me about new pages is all the blank space.  The blank space is the future, and my future is wide open.  What happens in the future is up to me:

After hanging the eighth page, I looked back at the 7 pages that were already up on the way, and I focused on the line that traverses through all of them, tracing the 165 pounds that I’ve lost so far…  Wow.  This process has been long, and difficult, and even though lately I’ve been stuck, I have come a long way.

Which means there’s only one thing I can do.  And that is to (can we all say it together?):

Keep it up, David!


Zucchini Salad

June 27, 2011

I’ve been on a roll with salads, if I do say so myself.  I eat salads probably 4 or 5 times a week, at least, so I’m always throwing things together in a bowl or a tupperware.  Most of the time, they’re rather thoughtless:  I throw in whatever I have on hand in my veggie drawer – often, with an emphasis on eating what’s likely to go bad first.

Every once in a while, though, I assemble a salad with a little more thought, and maybe even a goal in mind – and the results are fantastic.  In recent months I’ve created two different salads with raw asparagus (see them here and here), and my most recent salad recipe post was for a tasty watermelon salad.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying salads that don’t use lettuce or greens as a base.  Different is good, and I’ve been bored with greens lately (kale being the notable exception).  I’ve also been buying a lot of zucchini lately – it holds up well in the fridge, it’s easy to chop up, it’s high in fiber, vitamin c, and potassium (for starters), it’s 20 calories a cup, and – oh yeah - It’s delicious.

So, this weekend I thought I’d make a salad with zucchini as a base.  Any guesses on what the first ingredient is that you’ll need?

ZUCCHINI!  Using the slicer side of my box grater, I sliced up 5 zucchinis, which took all of 2 minutes.  Then, I stacked up the rounds, and cut them in half, and ended up with a bowl of half-circle-shaped zucchini pieces:

Then I added to the bowl:

1 yellow squash.  I sliced and halved the pieces like I did the zucchini:

Roma Tomatoes.  I ended up using 5 small ones.  I cut off the stem end, sliced them in half lengthwise, and, using a spoon, scooped out the seeds (I didn’t want the extra liquid in the bowl), then chopped them into pieces:

One Half of a Small Red Onion, and 3 Scallions.  A little raw onion goes a long way, so I only chopped up half of one, and I thought scallions would add some color and a little more onion flavor that wouldn’t be as strong.  Both types of onions are in the bowl:

One Red Pepper.  Diced.  For crunch.

Mint.  About 9-10 leaves, minced as fine as I could get them.  Fresh herbs brighten up any salad!

Now for the dressing.  Most of the time, I’m fine with using whatever bottled dressing catches my eye in the door of my fridge, but today I wanted to make a dressing, so I whipped up a lemon-mustard number that I ended up really enjoying.  I got a small container, and squirted 2-3 tablespoons of dijon mustard:

Then the juice of 1 and a half lemons:

And about 2 teaspoons of olive oil.  Then the lid goes on the container, and I shook it, shook it, shook it…

…until it was all incorporated:

Tangy and delicious!  I dumped it all on the salad, gave it a stir, and…

Are you ready to see the end result?

TA-DA!

Man oh man is that salad delicious!  Lots of flavors, lots of textures.  I hope you try it – I’m sure you’ll love it!

Keep it up, David!


Sunday Food Notes

June 26, 2011

A few food-related quickies today:

1) Mystery Food.  I love my readers – you guys are awesome!  I posted this picture yesterday of a mystery food product…

…and you all respond with a flood of comments confirming that it’s dried squid.  Possibly dried cuttlefish.  I had to look up cuttlefish to remind me what they were – they’re another type of cephalopod, similar to squid (and not related to fish at all, despite their name), but with an internal shell.  That internal shell is called a cuttlebone, and it’s actually a very popular toy/accessory for parrots – it’s full of calcium and parrots love them.  And that’s a fact that I remember from my high school days, when I had a summer job working at a pet supply store, where we sold cuttlebones to parrot owners all the time.

That was a tangent.  Anyway – I will be trying my dried squid/cuttlefish, and I will be sharing what I think right here.  So look for that in the next few days.

In the meantime…

2) Produce, Produce, Produce!  I hit Whole Foods yesterday, as my produce supplies were precariously low, and I walked away with a fantastic bounty.  Wanna see?

Let’s see… clockwise from top left, we have: broccoli and cauliflower (already cut-up and on a tray), a berry tower of stacked strawberries, blueberries,  and blackberries, 2 red peppers, bananas, scallions, 2 mangoes, cherries, roma tomatoes, a bag of kale salad (which you can see close-up here), zucchini, yellow squash, fresh figs (Yay! It’s fresh fig season!), a cucumber, red plums, lemons, red delicious apples, peckham pears, celery, and baby carrots.  Phew!

Some of the veggies were purchased specifically for a recipe I created yesterday… and which I’ll share tomorrow… it’s good!

I managed to leave without buying any new types of produce to try for the first time.  I wasn’t looking too hard for new stuff, since the dried squid sorta hits the experimental note this week on the blog, although I did see dandelion greens at the store, which were tempting, so maybe I’ll buy those next time.  Seems strange to spend money on greens that are so hated when they pop up on people’s lawns!

3) Dino Kale.  Speaking of new produce items… remember these guys?

It’s the dino kale I bought last week.  Jennifer left a great comment on that post about all the stuff she does with dino kale, but I ended up doing what I’ve done before with curly kale: make kale chips!  I didn’t document the process, because I’ve done that before (see my kale chip recipe, and lots of pictures, here), but I did take a couple pictures of the final product:

It is much easier to make kale chips with dino kale than regular kale.  The leaves are flatter and heartier, which makes removing the stems a breeze, and they lie flat on the baking sheet, so they’re easier to line up.  This time around, I spread about a teaspoon of basil-infused olive oil on them, some cumin, and some Mrs. Dash.  When they came out of the oven, I sprinkled some vegetarian bacon bits on them, because (fake) bacon makes everything better, but it wasn’t a great idea, because the bacon bits didn’t really stick to them.  I had to manually re-apply some bacon bits to take this picture:

They were really good, though – I took them to a little get-together I went to, and they were gone within minutes.  Everyone that I’ve introduced kale chips to seems to become a fan!

Keep it up, David!


Mystery Food

June 25, 2011

I took a couple more pictures in my wonderfully-lit office on my last day there before heading home.  They are of a food item (I think), and I’m not exactly sure what it is.  It just showed up at the office (all sorts of fun, strange things show up at that office).

Maybe you can help.

If you’re good with Asian languages, then you can definitely help!

Here it is:

OK.  I think it’s squid.  Mainly, because it’s squid-shaped, and the cartoon mascot is most definitely a squid.  It feels rubbery through the packaging, which squid is, but maybe it’s some sort of gummi candy?  If it is squid, it is dehydrated?  Flavored?  Cooked somehow?  Would I just cut it up and eat it straight from the package?  Or do I need to cook or prepare it?

I’m an adventurous eater, and I will open it and try it (and share my findings with you) – but I’m just curious as to what it is that I’d be eating.

Can anyone help?

Here’s the label on the back:

The table on the left looks like nutritional information, and I don’t know about anything else.  Oh, and the website address that’s written in English is for a website that doesn’t exist.  Although, seeing as how the URL ends in .kr, my guess is that product is Korean.

SO – I ask you, my worldly, intelligent, food-loving friends and readers…

what the hell is it?  And would you eat it?

Keep it up, David!


Last Day

June 24, 2011

No, not the last day of the blog.

It’s my last day of work at my current job.

I don’t really write about my work stuff, and I’m not going to start today, so this is going to be fantastically vague and cryptic, but I’ve been working on a big project for the past few months, and this week, we finished it, and it’s done and over.  And it turned out wonderfully.  But that means that today is my last day.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll be unemployed.  Well, starting Monday I’ll be unemployed (I won’t count the weekend).

So.  Time to clean out the desk that’s been my home for the past few months.

And what I’ll really miss is the window.  I’ve never had an office with such an awesome window.  It made photographing things for the blog (like berries and oatmeal) so easy, and I’ll miss it, because the kitchen in my home is pretty far from any windows at all (which is why those pictures don’t compare).

Yep.  It’s an awesome window!

I’m not terribly stressed about unemployment.  I don’t have anything lined up, but I’ll find something.  And while I’m looking, I’ll have plenty of time to do things I haven’t been able to do a lot lately… like getting back in the pool for exercise, trying new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, hanging out with friends…  it’ll all be good.

And I’ll take care of myself while doing it.

Keep it up, David!


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