Visions of Meals Past


When I read that the topic for this month’s Rocket City Bloggers blog carnival was “food,” I assumed it would be a walk in the park.

Surely, I thought to myself, I have some lovely definitive post about food that I can submit as my entry.

So I searched through my archives, and was surprised at how little I had, being a man who loves food and all. And, in reading the little I had, it made me realize that I really didn’t know what I would say if I were to try to write a definitive post.

But in looking at old posts that I might could submit, I came across one about things I ate on a business trip to Cleveland that had a lot of good photos, and that inspired me to look at some of my old food photography.

It’s been a while since I’ve written on here about my 365project, but I am still doing it, and this inspired me to go back through and collect all the food and drink pictures I’ve taken in over two years of doing the project. The results were actually rather interesting. Some of the pictures were much better than others, there were some interesting recurring things (Starbucks and pizza in particular), and then some others that, when viewed together, somewhat say some interesting things about food and how and what we eat.

Review: Red Hot Kitchen


Photo by Bob Gathany/The Huntsville Times

Hypothetically, Huntsville “Red Hot Kitchen” restaurant could have been named one of any number of things.

No doubt, someone could have come up with some sort of clever name to reflect its unusual Mexican-Asian-fusion menu.

“Nacho Panda”? “”Taco Dragon”? “SinoSalsa”?

Hey, I didn’t say I could have. I said they could have.

But they didn’t.

Those chose, instead of picking a clever Mexicasian name, to call it “Red Hot Kitchen.”

This was a good decision.

Heather and I recently visited the restaurant on a diet-breaking date night. What better way to temporarily go off a low-carb diet than with a combination of rice-bean-and-tortilla-heavy Mexican food and rice-noodle-and-sugar heavy Asian food?

We intentionally picked dishes to take advantage of the fusion nature of the restaurant. (With that exploration made easier by the fact that two combo dinners and two extra sides were only $24.) Mexican fried rice — chicken fried rice with jalapeno-based seasoning — and the Asian steak quesadillas provided a taste of both Mexican-flavored Asian food and Asian-flavored Mexican food. The baja fries weren’t Asian fusion, but were more of a Mexican-American fusion taste — fries with a mildly Mexican seasoning and queso dip. The queso nachos included in the combo and the egg rolls weren’t fusion at all, per se.

Except …

In reality, everything at the restaurant became Asian-Mexican fusion by virtue of the sauces. As I recall, there were a total of at least seven different sauces on the table, to mix and match with the food. I’ve always thought it unfortunate that Asian foods are the one major food group in the world not to include cheeses (due to an ambient genetic predisposal to lactose intolerance, as I understand), so it was a pleasure to dip egg rolls in queso. I had baja fries with duck sauce. Tortilla chips with a variety of combinations.

And, yeah, getting back to the name of the restaurant, some of those were hot. Quite hot.

Of the foods, the Mexican fried rice was the only one that was inherently particularly spicy. But if you fully take advantage of the seasonings, everything becomes spicy at some point. I told Heather by the end of the dinner that I felt like Mexico and China were fighting a war in my stomach.

It was good. And worth the money.

But, yeah, “Red Hot Kitchen” was a good choice for a name.

Heavyweight Contender

These aren't my scales. They look like them, except mine are blue. And show a much higher number.

OK, the good news. We did our first weigh-in last week for the contest we’re having at work. And I’m winning. I had lost over 5 percent of my weight since the contest began. The second-place person was a bit under 5 percent, and the next person was under 4 percent.

The bad news. I went off the diet for Valentine’s Day on Sunday and Monday, and gained back like five pounds. I still haven’t taken it all back off. No way I’m in first place today. Sigh. Lesson learned. Back to the grindstone.

Other random thoughts on the diet.

The second place person in the contest is Heather. Which will be nice when it comes to the prize money if we can keep it up. It makes me happy that I’m helping her do this successfully, and that she’s doing so well. It also makes me happy that she’s supporting me, and helping me to actually do this.

The really cool thing about all this is that we’re eating better. Not just healthier, but better food. We’re less likely to eat out because it’s easier to fix healthy stuff at home. And we’re more likely to actually prepare food instead of just microwaving something, since, again, the options would be limited. As a result, we’re being more intentional about what we’re eating and giving it more thought, and the food tastes better as a result. I think I’ve enjoyed my meals more this last month than I have in a long time.

I’m kind of proud of myself. I’m very much at the height of my limited culinary powers, and this is encouraging me to push even further. Take the low-carb secrets I learned the first time around, some basic skills I learned living on my own, a borrowed appreciation for seasoning food, the confidence gained making the cobbler for Heather last year and the added challenge of fixing food for four, and the stuff I’m doing in the kitchen, while still elementary, is a far cry from what I was doing when I started the diet last time. As a rule, I’d rather cook than eat out, and that’s REALLY saying something for me.

The boys are also being great sports about it. They’re somewhat finicky, and a bit reluctant to try new things, preferring to stick to some standards, but they’ve been willing to give some things a try, and, when they prove to be OK, to eat them, even though they’re not the usuals. I’m trying to meet them halfway, customizing a bit to their tastes, but, so far, so good.

Three more weeks until the next weigh-in. Gotta get back in first place.

Recipe: Low-Carb French Toast

I’m posting this partially to go along with my weight loss post, and partially because it amuses to have a recipe on my blog. Seems rather unlikely somehow.


2 pieces of low-carb sliced bread (Such as Healthy Life)
1 egg
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Splenda
Cinnamon to taste

Cover pan with non-stick spray; heat to medium-high heat. Whip together egg, cream, cinnamon and Splenda. Dip bread into wet mixture and place into a pan heated on meduim heat and cook until browned.

Optionally, the bread can be cut into strips before dipping. If increasing the recipe, note that the mixture makes more than is necessary for two pieces of bread; doubling the mixture should be adequate for six pieces of bread. I don’t know the exact carb count, but most of the carbs will be in the bread slices. The mixture adds a little over one carb for each slice of bread.

Short Review: Subway Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich


Image via Wikipedia

I like barbecue. A lot.

I like barbecue in all its myriad forms. I love ribs. Wet ribs. Dry ribs. Half-and-half ribs. Dreamland ribs that are wet ribs but aren’t like other wet ribs. Those beef ribs they serve in Texas. I like barbecued chickens, cows, turkeys, pigs. Ideally in the same meal. I like half-chickens, beef brisket, pulled pork.

So when I was in Nashville a few months ago and saw an ad at a Subway for a pulled pork sandwich, I knew I had to try it. I searched all over town when I got back, and couldn’t find a Subway here selling it. I searched online, and found only the barest of mention that it exists.

And then, this week, I saw it advertised at a Subway here. And so, I tried it.

The problem I have is this — It’s one of Subway’s premium subs. It’s not bad. It’s about as good as any sub I’ve had at Subway. It’s a perfectly serviceable pulled pork sub.

But at eight bucks for a footlong, it’s the most expensive barbecue sandwich I ever had. But I can’t really say that it’s the best barbecue sandwich I’ve ever had.

On the other hand, the barbecue sauce now joins Subway’s array of condiments (not sure if that’s a permanent addition, or only for the limited time they offer this sandwich), which means you can put it on anything else. I doubt I’ll pay another eight bucks for the pulled pork sub, but I very well may experiment with making some other sort of barbecue sub for cheaper.

What A Waist!

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Your Waistline.”

The latest decline began on May 29. 2009.

My weight has been an ongoing battle for me, a battle that’s seen some pretty decent victories and some unfortunate losses. (“Losses” in that case meaning gains, and vice versa.)

On that Friday last year, some friends came in from out of town, and I gained a bit of weight while they were here. There was some other stuff that was going on in my life at the same time, and as a result, I never recovered from that weekend. Instead, it marked the beginning of a gradual decline (and by “decline,” I mean increase) that has continued for over a year now.

Historically speaking, I can counteract it. I once lost 80 pounds in a year, and that’s given me a fair amount of confidence that at this point has probably crossed over into overconfidence. I’ve never matched that feat since, but I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight one other time since then.

At this point, I’m scared. Scared that age has caught up with me, and that I’m not going to be able to lose it again like I have in the past.

But the truth is, I’m not really trying. I’m telling myself I’m too busy to go to the gym. That it’s too hot to go for a hike. That it doesn’t matter if I eat another piece of candy from my coworker’s desk. And I’m paying the price for it. I’m very aware of the costs of being so out-of-shape, and I’m tired of it.

It’s time for me to get serious. I’m hoping I have the wherewithal for that to mean something other than just writing a blog post saying I need to.

Gift of Tongues

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Your Taste Buds.”

This week’s topic is “Your Taste Buds.” Next weeks’ is “Your Waistline.”

Really, that’s probably enough of a post right there.

The two are very much related. I’m a sensualist to a fault. I enjoy feeding the senses. In some cases, that’s not a problem; my love of aural pleasure in the form of good music, for example, has caused me no major difficulties in life that I recall. In other cases, it’s more of a problem. My love of good food has made me the man I am today, weight-wise.

Ideally, I need to do better to balance those things. I love the experience, for example, of a hike, for related reasons. I love the sights, the sounds, the tactile interaction with nature. If I loved hiking more and good food less, that might be a bit healthier. Sadly, to be honest, I’m reaching the point where the one is impinging on the other; I’ve put on enough weight lately that the hike experience is not what it was back in the winter, and that’s very unfortunate.

I wish I had greater insight for this post, beyond I should eat better and exercise more, but, really, that’s kind of where I am right now. When I heard the topic, those are the thoughts that came to mind. So, if anything, this is a public confession. I need to stop being a slothful glutton, and get myself back in shape. Hopefully I’ll remember that, and this post, the next time I’m tempted to make a pig of myself in front of my blog readers. Feel free to point it out to me.


It’s Cobblerin’ Time!

Among the things I’ve done in the past week:

— I went backstage at a Jewel concert, having been chosen as an official blogger for the concert by the tour’s sponsor
— When I blogged about the experience, I set a new traffic record for my blog and got a response from Jewel herself
— I met with the head of the National Space Society’s policy committee to discuss his thoughts on current events
— I reobtained the second copy I ever had of my first book
— I generated dozens of pages of text for my second book
— I acted in an improv comedy show, which was hilarious
— I ordered a new iPhone
— I made blackberry cobbler

It says something about my life that the item in that list that stands out the most to me is the last one. I’ve never made blackberry cobbler before. It was kind of exciting to actually do it.

It was sad how happy it made me. But, one, it was good. Two, I am so unhandy in the kitchen it’s unreal. This was incredibly easy to make; I mean, unbelievably easy to make, and yet I was disproportionately proud of it because I am so incompetent in this area. But, in its way, making the cobbler was also liberating and redemptive.

I told the story the other day of why I had to make it — my friend Heather wanted to make a bet as to whether Jewel would play Sweet Home Alabama at her concert Sunday. Seemed reasonable to me she would; she didn’t. The stake was that the loser would bring cobbler to work, and so on Friday I did. I actually made two; the first to make sure I could do it, the second to take to work.

I have a long history with blackberry cobbler. It’s kind of a favorite, and, for me, with my general disdain for favorites, that’s saying something. My ex-wife, Nicole, loved it, and that wore off on me. After the divorce, that was kind of a negative association, but my ex-fiancée brought it into our relationship very early and sort of redeemed it for me. And, unlike Nicole, she actually made it herself. Not bad, either. The end of that relationship cast shadows on blackberry cobbler again, but not to the same extent, since it was no longer something associated with one particular person or epoch.

So when Heather and I made the bet, part of me actually hoped to lose. I figured it would be a good opportunity for me, providing motivation to do something that would be good for me to do. And, really, it was. I can now have homemade blackberry cobbler whenever I want, without needing anyone to make it. (Over a year ago, when I became a hot redhead and went to prom with Marshall Space Flight Center’s resigning director I wrote a post talking about how I accidentally once declared that I wanted to become the woman of my dreams. Cobbler baking was a big step toward that.) And, to be honest, the two cobblers I made this week were more consistently good than hers was, though that’s partially because the recipe was so unambitious.

And, it’s redemptive. My latest association I have with blackberry cobbler is very positive, something I’m proud of, and something nobody can take from me later.

So hooray for the redemptive power of tasty blackberry cobbler!

If anyone’s interested, I’ll share the incredibly ridiculously easy recipe I used, largely because of how incredibly unlikely the idea of me blogging a recipe is:

1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups fruit

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in glass 8-by-10-inch pan or 2-quart casserole. Mix flour, sugar and milk until lumps are gone. Pour batter into butter. Place fruit on top. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Makes 9 servings.

Like I said, sad how proud I am of that, but there you go.

Tonight’s The Night

This post is one of a series I’m writing as part of my participation as an official blogger for COUNTRY Financial/Cotton States’ Road Trips and Guitar Picks tour program, covering Jewel’s June 13 concert in Huntsville, where I’ll have backstage access.

So tonight’s the night! After a couple of weeks of me blogging about it, a friend and I will be attending Jewel’s concert at the Von Braun Center here in Huntsville, and meeting Jewel backstage! (It occurs to me this may be a wasted post, since few people read my blog on Sunday, and the concert will be in the past tomorrow.)

This once-in-a-lifetime experience includes a backstage performance by Jewel, a question and answer session, and a group photo with Jewel. The Backstage Experience will also include a hospitality menu of hors d’oeuvres and beverages. You will be escorted back to the theater to enjoy the show.

So, yeah, I’m kinda excited about it. I’ve probably said most of what I have to say about it over the last couple of weeks, though I’m sure I’ll have more to say after. I didn’t realize how close Jewel and I are in age until very recently, and so I’m looking even more forward to the Q&A session because of that. There are a handful of artists that I really like that are about my age, and it’s been really neat to follow them as they’ve matured along with me. From the sound of Sweet & Wild, Jewel’s at a really great place in her life right now.

On a side note, my friend Heather is also going with a friend of hers to the concert, and challenged me to a bet as to whether or not Jewel will perform her version of Sweet Home Alabama tonight. I’m taking the stance that she will, based on other concerts I’ve been to where the artists have played their songs about the place they’re playing. At stake, homemade blackberry cobbler. Neither one of us has ever made blackberry cobbler before, and I really can’t cook at all, so it should be an interesting bet. (A year ago, I made a big bowl of “blackberry thing” that kinda resembled cobbler. In my defense, kinda, it wasn’t supposed to.) Could be a pyrrhic victory for my office-mates if I lose, so root for her to sing it.

Summer Is Here