Category: yumminess

food, eating out, baking, cooking

Sugar Plum Dreams

Sugar. I once claimed it was my life blood. It was more of a mantra. I have in my artillery some of the best cookie and cake recipes, found after diligent searching and baking. Unfortunately, my body was starting to show it. Last year, I made a New Year’s resolution to reduce my sugar intake to the recommended daily intake of 25 grams (or 6 teaspoons) as announced by the World Health Organization. This would be less than one can of soda in an entire day.

The problem with simply trying to reduce the amount of sugar is it’s really easy to not take it too seriously. I made exceptions almost daily, which defeated the purpose. If I was tired, I would give myself a caffeine boost (and sugar buzz) with Dr. Pepper. I found and fell in love with chai tea lattes, which had even more sugar than a soda. I would make cookies for my colleagues and enjoy the dough and the final product in the process.

We were already reducing the amount of pre-processed food in our diets, and we chose higher quality versions of other foods. Despite the healthier foods, I was becoming larger than I had ever been in my life. I felt horrible, I did not like to wear half my clothes, and I was feeling pretty gross in general. But I needed sugar. It made me feel happy, and usually sugar does make people feel happy. Sadly, it had become more of an addiction, and one that would be hard to fight because of the serious lack of real nutritional information and the nation’s general obsession with sugar.

This last New Year I made a new resolution. Absolutely no added sugar. Cold turkey, no exceptions. So what would be considered added sugar? I determined the easiest answer is everything that acts purely as a sweetener: all types of sugar including raw and turbinado, stevia, and obviously any “false” sugars such as aspartame. Not only that, but I would only use ingredients that had very low amounts of sugar. So plain greek yoghurt with only 3 grams of naturally occurring sugar per serving (even this is hard to find, often I end up with 6 grams). Tomato sauce with only 2 grams of naturally occurring sugar. Fewer apples and grapes, and more kiwi, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Authentic French, sourdough, and Italian breads like Ciabatta (if these have sugar in them, they aren’t “real”).

Cutting out sugar was sad, but I was determined. I drank only water and tea. Occasionally I mix one part natural orange juice (not from concentrate) with four parts unsweetened almond milk with a little vanilla extract to ensure enough vitamin c and calcium. I started eating a lot more raw foods and made summer porridge for breakfast. The only, reluctant, exceptions I started to allow were occasional honey (which I am not fond of to begin with) to help with plain oatmeal and small amounts of pure maple syrup (high natural sugar content) for breakfasts on weekends. Even this I am not too happy about.

I started daydreaming about sugar. When colleagues brought in doughnuts, I would stand over them and sniff for a few minutes (breathing smells does take in particles of that odor, so it was a bit like cheating at a micro level). For my birthday, I decided that would be the one day in the entire year (including holidays) that I would allow any sugar. I was making plans months in advance. As it neared, my stomach started protesting even the thought of half that sugar. I wanted dark chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast, a root beer float with Chinese food for lunch, sushi (sushi rice requires sugar) and an ice cream cake for dinner, and to end the day I wanted an artisan s’more. I drooled a lot thinking about it but did not have most of that menu in the end. What I did have made me realize I didn’t care much for it (cake and frosting) and that I still really like my Dairy Queen ice cream cake. After seven months, I had mostly broken through the sugar addiction.

Over this time period, I took three different measurements to track whatever progress I would make. I have not exercised at all (in fact, I have used my improved diet as an excuse to be even less physical), although I know that will have to change. Over eight months, I have lost fifteen pounds and around four inches in my waist. I am already fairly petite in many people’s opinion, so this I feel is rather impressive for making one fairly significant change. During this time I have also been making other minor improvements such as flossing daily (how many people really do this?), and I plan to continue adding small improvements throughout the rest of the year. The no-sugar diet I plan to continue for the foreseeable future. It is an easy way to not get fat. But it isn’t a diet for most people, especially for those who enjoy alcohol.

And now for something entirely different… garden photos!

Food Memories

We have enjoyed some good eats around town, and I threw together a list of current memorable eats that expanded into a more general memories of good eats. I have a lot more, but these are my current top ten:

  1. Vetters (downtown Heidelberg, Germany): swabian ravioli and apfelstrudel, Herr recommends the fleischpfanne and a local beer (ought to try the Vetters 33 at least once if you drink alcohol)
  2. Dubliner (downtown Heidelberg): Irish; the Irish Stew (made with lamb) and shepherd’s pie, my brother would recommend the farmer’s burger (it has egg on it)
  3. Hackteufel (downtown Heidelberg, Germany): Hokkaido Pumpkin Soup
  4. Die Kartoffel (Ladenburg, Germany): any potato with sour cream (or the variations available) with the veal to cook on a hot slab of marble (it comes with cranberries, pear, and three sauces)
  5. Fouquets (Champs Elysees, Paris, France): shepherd’s pie (Irish dish, go figure ;-))
  6. Food stand in Ueno Park (cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo, Japan): yakisoba noodles (fried noodles)
  7. Havana (New Hope, New Jersey): Havana Club sandwich
  8. Totogin (sushi conveyor belt bar, Nara, Japan): corn nigiri with butter sauce (I have never found this anywhere else!)
  9. Babcock Hall Dairy Store (Madison, WI): chocolate chip cookie dough, pumpkin pie, and peppermint stick (standards and holiday specials are all fantastic) – life doesn’t get much better than this
  10. Elephant Bar (Overland Park, KS): MisoYaki Fire Grilled Salmon

I also came up with my current list of favorite foods. This actually doesn’t change much, except when new foods are introduced, like rice balls in Japan.

  1. frozen fruits (primarily blueberries and pineapple); fresh fruit when the mood strikes 😉
  2. sweet potato (oooh, candied yams!!)
  3. onigiri! (rice balls, mostly plum and herb; and also just plain steamed rice)
  4. peas and corn
  5. hot chocolate
  6. fresh strawberries covered in dark chocolate
  7. shepherd’s pie
  8. Irish (lamb) stew
  9. ice cream (spaghetti eis!)
  10. spiral pasta (usually with a tomato viniagrette and peas or even spiral Mac and Cheese!)

For those who know me well, the list of foods I do not like is much larger than what I like. Needless to say, although not on my top ten and not really a favorite of mine, I am obsessive compulsive when eating candy. Best to keep it away from me… sugar highs can be very scary. 😛

Soup Season

We have had beautiful weather here, really gets one into the autumn spirit. I have been so entrenched in the new library system that I haven’t had much of a mind to do anything or really think in general. 😛 Luckily, the new system will be going live this week (OMG!), and then I can resume life again. Woohoo! I haven’t written in a while (the library owns my sooooooooul… okay, that was dramatic), so I will sum up life since August.

Herr and I enjoyed ourselves over Memorial weekend by going to Europa Park (I loved the rollercoaster that spinned like tea cups while going down hills) and used the open Monday to take another spa day in Baden Baden. We still haven’t made it to the public baths at Caracalla yet, so we MUST go back again. It is imperative. If you have seen them, you would understand. 😉 Sometime in the past few weeks we took a day trip up to Frankfurt for the Museum Uferfest as well. Otherwise life has been pretty normal. Not so many trips possible on my work schedule.

Last year I made my first big batches of soup and froze them for eating throughout the cold season. This year we’re doing it again (I say “we” because Herr is making most of them this year, I just don’t have time *sigh*). I have made my awesome sweet chili, Herr made our vegetarian corn chowder, and we have two more on the way: turkey wild rice and split pea soup. Yum yum! We scoop them into quart size baggies and freeze them for a rainy/snowy day. lol With the five quart sauce pan, I feel like a witch bubblin’ some sinister brew (often I can be heard cackling and saying “bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…” yay for MacBeth!). Hopefully these four soups are good for storing. Last year’s were a bit iffy.

So, the project that has consumed my life… a few details! I have made some huge modifications to the Web interface, but not nearly as many as I have planned. People will actually be able to check their My Account (gasp!) and place their own requests, use the Web catalog AND our online databases from home (no way!!), make reading wishlists and offer purchase suggestions, and oh so much more! Those were the easiest things though. While I found the project to be quite manageable and engaging, there was a lot of political drama that made the whole thing a nightmare. I spent waaaaay more hours than I should have trying to make it all work, so I really hope everyone likes what we were able to whip up. 🙂 I’ll post links when it is up and running.

One brother is now in Korea and the other is scheduled for deployment to Iraq in spring. A lot of my colleagues at work have left as the library slowly closes. We just saw two more leave last week and one announced the acceptance of a new job back in the States. It has been emotionally hard, but that’s why we have Rock Band, Legos video games, and lots and lots of books. 😀

All in all, we are looking forward to the autumn season and Halloween. Bought a few new “spooky” Blu-Rays and I have part of my costume (although no actual plans yet…). Can’t wait!

4 in 1

A month ago we went to the Moselle valley area that could aptly be called the “valley of the castles”. According to our booklet, there are 18 castles including intact castles and ruins between the cities of Koblenz and Trier. As the photos reveal, the weather was drizzly and foggy, but it was still a great trip.

Our first stop was the Cochem Imperial Castle in Cochem. It sat above the town so the walk was difficult (especially in heels). We took a tour of this castle, and I would have to say is one of my favorites. It even has a haunting of a previous lady brutally murdered. Creepy!

Cochem Castle
Schloss from city street below.

View from Cochem Castle
View from Cochem schloss.

Our next stop was Pyrmont Castle. This was self-guided, and there was a wedding taking place while were looked around. It was comfy and smaller, nestled farther away from civilization. We walked up to the top of the tower for a great view of the foggy hillsides.

Pyrmont Castle
Pyrmont entrance.

Pyrmont Castle
Pyrmont kitchens.

Pyrmont Castle
View from Pyrmont terrace.

Eltz Castle was next. Eltz is unique in that it sits at the bottom of a valley and is still owned by the original family. The castle is formed of three different houses and is truly a must see castle. No indoor pictures allowed though. After the tour we checked out the treasury (it was okay, but the Residenz Palace in Munich was better).

Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle.

Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle.

We made one last stop at Thurant Castle on our way back. Thurant was half in ruins and consisted of two separate towers that merged. The view from this castle was the best; by that time of day the fog had lifted and the sun shone on the valley and river.

Thurant Castle
Thurant Castle.

Thurant Castle ruins
Thurant Castle ruins.

Thurant Castle view
Thurant Castle view.