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eG Foodblog: mizducky - The tightwad gourmand shapes up


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Szechuan dumplings

After the deal has been done

I'm the one--

It's a glamour profession

--Steely Dan, "Glamour Profession", from Gaucho (1980)

I was joined at Ba Ren by three of my fellow San Diego food fanatic friends: Kirk and Gayla, known here on eGullet as mmm-yoso and kalypso respectively, and Howie, of A Foodie's Eye View of San Diego Restaurants.

Kirk is the one who first turned me on to this stellar Szechuan restaurant through his food blog. He and his wife were familiar with the work of this place's chef from when they lived up in the San Gabriel Valley and this chef held forth at Chung King in Monterey Park. Alas, Kirk's wife was not able to join us tonight due to work commitments, but she helpfully phoned ahead on our behalf to put in a request for a dish that requires some advance prep.

Going to Ba Ren has been a revelation to me--prior to this, I didn't know enough to realize that kung pao chicken and similar dishes served in American Chinese restaurants were really dumbed-down Szechuan for American tastes. Ba Ren does have kung pao chicken and the like hidden away on the back page of the menu, under the heading "America's Favorites," for those who insist. But why would you, when there are over 500 other, more wonderful and authentic delights to choose from?

We started with a trio of cold appetizers from the cooler-table in the front of the restaurant:

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I have developed a fanatical devotion to these cold dishes, so the others let me do the choosing--I went with "Husband and Wife" (thin slices of beef and tripe bathed in lots of chile oil); a salad of julienned bamboo shoots; and dried beef (a fiery Szechuan answer to beef jerky):

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The special ordered-ahead dish was more than worth it: called "steamed whole squash with meat" on the menu, this was a cute little Japanese kabocha pumpkin stuffed with meat and other yummies--including more hot spices--and then steamed until done:

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The contrast of the naturally-sweet, soft pumpkin flesh with the meat's fat and juices and the hot spices was absolutely out of this world. I hope to find out how to make this dish, because I expect it would totally rock the next Thanksgiving dinner I need to bring a dish to.

Our next dish was one Kirk had been turned on to on his most recent visit to Ba Ren, a dish not on the main menu but only listed in Chinese on the latest version of the restaurant's table card:

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Thanks for this photo, Kirk! The item in question is the second from the bottom, and is a dish of beef tendon and konnyaku, stewed with chiles and spices until both are meltingly tender:

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For me, this and the pumpkin dish were tied neck-and-neck for best dish of the evening. I just couldn't get enough of the wonderful mouth-feel of the perfectly-done tendon. And the konnyaku was a perfect match in texture.

Also starring in this night's repast was this lovely fish stew, called "Woo Jiang fish fillet" on the menu:

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Lovely medium-spicy broth with great body, and the fish was nicely-done and not falling apart at all.

Last but not least was a yummy "Crispy Rice Crust with Three Treasures":

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I think crispy rice crust must be what rice cakes dream of turning into when they die and go to heaven. The server presents the dish by first putting a platter full of these crispy rice squares down on the table, and then pouring over it a bowlful of yummy goodies in a light (but of course spicy) sauce. All sorts of sizzlings ensue, sort of the Szechuan equivalent of pouring milk on Rice Crispies--only much nicer. In this case, the goodies included tender slivers of chicken, sea cucumber, and squid, plus lovely big slices of bamboo shoot and other goodies.

We ate like crazy, still had tons left over, and walked out of there paying a mere $15 each. That kind of price for such terrific food definitely makes a tightwad gourmand want to jump up and down with delight. Erm, except that she's a little too full to jump up and down safely... :laugh:

Many thanks to my dinner companions for a great evening, with great food and great conversation.

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Oh yeah--I wanted to show you what-all else I wound up buying at Trader Joe's today. Dig my handy-dandy folding shopping-bag on wheels! :biggrin:

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Within its capacious tiger-print walls are the following items:

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Glucosamine capsules (good for osteoarthritis); balsamic vinegar (I dunno how authetic it is, but the label sez it was aged 10 years); omega-3 fatty acid gelcaps (for heart, brain, and joint health); pure cherry juice (to ward off any gout twinges from all the animal protein I'll have eaten at Ba Ren); organic free-range chicken broth (useful in so many ways); canola oil non-stick spray (ditto--and TJ's version has no icky off-taste like other brands); peppermint tea (in case my tummy freaks out at the spicy Ba Ren food); whole wheat pitas (my "staff of life" :biggrin: ); and dried European mushrooms (because, like, you can never have too many dried mushrooms around the kitchen).

Even with the nutritional supplements, which are usually pricey items, this entire haul (including the previously-consumed carrot juice) came to something like $32. Squeezin' that dollah till the eagle grins ... :laugh:

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Yes, I'm doing my night-owl thing ... I know there's been several requests for me to explain my whole food regimen thing, and so when I finally had a free moment I went for it. I think you'll see that what I'm actually doing day-to-day doesn't look all that different, from any "diet;" it's more in how I think about what I'm doing. So here's the deal:

1. My primary goal is to eat and live healthily, so as to heal my body and be well. I view whatever weight loss results as a helpful byproduct, but not the main goal. My main strategy in achieving this goal is to develop a workable food and health plan that I can live with comfortably for, ideally, the rest of my life.

2. Foodwise, so far, I've been following the plan my HMO handed me, which happens to be the American Diabetes Association's booklet--not because our group is for diabetics but because it's a reasonable basic food plan for health and gradual weight loss. It comes out at around 1400 calories a day, comprising 8 oz. protein, preferably relatively lean; a small amount of fat, preferably unsaturated; a modest amount of "starches" (basically, dense carbs); and copious amounts of fruits and vegetables.

3. I consume this daily allotment of food in several small meals scattered throughout the day, a practice which works with the body's metabolism better than the common practice of just two or three big meals.

4. My culinary goal is to take these guidelines and make food that is satisfying enough that I am genuinely contented with it as-is, and not overly missing my old meat-a-holic way of eating. One of my strategies is to avoid most ersatz and "diet" food substances, and to prefer fresh and undoctored real foods.

5. I have built into my food plan the safety valve of the occasional pre-planned splurge. Right now I do them about once a week, postponing them if my weight loss appears to be stalling. So far I've seldom had to do that. When I do a splurge, I'm not totally off the hook, but I do allow myself to enjoy moderate amounts of foods too rich to be consumed other than as these occasional treats.

6. Exercise, while technically outside the purview of eGullet, is an essential part of this health plan. So I'll just note that I have my struggles with it, and thus my goal is to gently but firmly get myself to do what I can, when I can, as regularly as I can manage. And even that little bit seems to be making a difference.

7. I apply to what I'm doing now a lot of food philosophy I learned from my brief foray into macrobiotics back in my 20s. The concept of balancing around yin and yang is really proving helpful in weaning myself off of my past dedication to animal protein and fat, and gradually acclimating myself to a significantly more yin set of foods. Briefly, my solution is to yang-ify my food in a variety of ways as needed to ease my transition. I dunno what any expert in macrobiotics might say, but so far it seems to be working for me.

8. I also apply a lot of experience from past failures in weight loss--and past successes too, for that matter. Again, going into this personal history stuff at any length would, I feel, wander outside the bounds of what eGullet is for. Suffice it to say that, yep, as someone for whom weight has been a big deal since childhood, I do have some major long-term issues about food, weight, and weight loss--pretty much all the usual suspects, you know the drill. At this point, I think I've got a pretty good handle on what things I find helpful for me psychologically, and which are guaranteed to make me absolutely batshit you-won't-like-me-like-that crazee. For instance: I have banished numerical weight goals from my way of thinking. All my goals are functional, as in: can I walk a mile without blinking an eye again? Can I dance through an entire set non-stop again?

9. And I vow not to give myself a bunch of shit if I should screw up any of this in any way, and instead to just gently pick myself up and get on with it.

I'm sure there's a bunch of stuff I'm forgetting, but that's the gist of it.

Good night, all--looking forward to chatting with y'all in the morning. :smile:

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Thanks for that rundown on your diet plan. I particularly applaud the goals: forget the count, go for the function! Can you elaborate on foods that you have found *just* *don't* *work* for you? I noted that too much protein may have an immediate effect on your joints, for instance?

If you find out how to make the pumpkin dish, do let us know. It looks good. I'm forever messing with Thanksgiving traditions (and for that reason, am usually restricted to bringing "safe" things like apple pie :raz: ). Since I'm usually not much of a pumpkin fan, I'd like to find something good to do with it.

I don't envy you your location, but oh, how I wish we'd get a Trader Joe's up here! That's a wonderful store!

You continue to break new ground: yours may be the first blog with a restroom shot. :laugh:

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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You continue to break new ground: yours may be the first blog with a restroom shot.  :laugh:

I was thinking that we may have to add a WC shot (somehow food-related) to the other more or less de rigueur eG blog shots: fridge, pets, and wall o' pocky.

Very glad to see that your joints are happy at the moment, mizducky. And also agree with the "functional" approach to your health goals.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Mizducky:

I seem to remember from your first blog that you were a gal that liked her cocktails :biggrin: ... Can you comment on the role (or lack thereof) alcohol/wine/beer are playing in your current lifestyle?

Great blog!

"Anybody can make you enjoy the first bite of a dish, but only a real chef can make you enjoy the last.”

Francois Minot

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Dinner looked wonderful!

And, good for you for roasting and slicing your own lunch meat. That deli stuff is loaded with nasty stuff like sodium and water and other stuff. Surprisingly high in sodium. One of the things that blew me away was looking at the Subway web site. They advertise those low fat subs. Their nutrition info indicates that each one has over 1,000 mg of sodium!

Diana and I are working on re-vamping the diets of our family -- not because of weight -- but because of general health. She's been eating a bowl of Uncle Sam Cereal for breakfast and is amazed at how well it sets her up for the day. Less munching, and much less groggy in school than when she was eating a sugary cereal.

Are you going to do any more cooking for us? How is the new kitchen?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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MizDucky, I love your couch and your new shopping cart - though I don't know that they compliment each other too well. :laugh:

And that meal looks amazing...$15 each? Ridiculous.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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7. I apply to what I'm doing now a lot of food philosophy I learned from my brief foray into macrobiotics back in my 20s. The concept of balancing around yin and yang is really proving helpful in weaning myself off of my past dedication to animal protein and fat, and gradually acclimating myself to a significantly more yin set of foods. Briefly, my solution is to yang-ify my food in a variety of ways as needed to ease my transition. I dunno what any expert in macrobiotics might say, but so far it seems to be working for me.

As someone who knows nothing about macrobiotics, just wondering if you can go into a bit more detail about what yin and yang are within that framework? I'm curious!

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Yes, I'm doing my night-owl thing ... I know there's been several requests for me to explain my whole food regimen thing, and so when I finally had a free moment I went for it. I think you'll see that what I'm actually doing day-to-day doesn't look all that different, from any "diet;" it's more in how I think about what I'm doing. So here's the deal:

1. My primary goal is to eat and live healthily, so as to heal my body and be well. I view whatever weight loss results as a helpful byproduct, but not the main goal. My main strategy in achieving this goal is to develop a workable food and health plan that I can live with comfortably for, ideally, the rest of my life.

2. Foodwise, so far, I've been following the plan my HMO handed me, which happens to be the American Diabetes Association's booklet--not because our group is for diabetics but because it's a reasonable basic food plan for health and gradual weight loss. It comes out at around 1400 calories a day, comprising 8 oz. protein, preferably relatively lean; a small amount of fat, preferably unsaturated; a modest amount of "starches" (basically, dense carbs); and copious amounts of fruits and vegetables.

3. I consume this daily allotment of food in several small meals scattered throughout the day, a practice which works with the body's metabolism better than the common practice of just two or three big meals.

4. My culinary goal is to take these guidelines and make food that is satisfying enough that I am genuinely contented with it as-is, and not overly missing my old meat-a-holic way of eating. One of my strategies is to avoid most ersatz and "diet" food substances, and to prefer fresh and undoctored real foods.

5. I have built into my food plan the safety valve of the occasional pre-planned splurge. Right now I do them about once a week, postponing them if my weight loss appears to be stalling. So far I've seldom had to do that. When I do a splurge, I'm not totally off the hook, but I do allow myself to enjoy moderate amounts of foods too rich to be consumed other than as these occasional treats.

6. Exercise, while technically outside the purview of eGullet, is an essential part of this health plan. So I'll just note that I have my struggles with it, and thus my goal is to gently but firmly get myself to do what I can, when I can, as regularly as I can manage. And even that little bit seems to be making a difference.

7. I apply to what I'm doing now a lot of food philosophy I learned from my brief foray into macrobiotics back in my 20s. The concept of balancing around yin and yang is really proving helpful in weaning myself off of my past dedication to animal protein and fat, and gradually acclimating myself to a significantly more yin set of foods. Briefly, my solution is to yang-ify my food in a variety of ways as needed to ease my transition. I dunno what any expert in macrobiotics might say, but so far it seems to be working for me.

8. I also apply a lot of experience from past failures in weight loss--and past successes too, for that matter. Again, going into this personal history stuff at any length would, I feel, wander outside the bounds of what eGullet is for. Suffice it to say that, yep, as someone for whom weight has been a big deal since childhood, I do have some major long-term issues about food, weight, and weight loss--pretty much all the usual suspects, you know the drill. At this point, I think I've got a pretty good handle on what things I find helpful for me psychologically, and which are guaranteed to make me absolutely batshit you-won't-like-me-like-that crazee. For instance: I have banished numerical weight goals from my way of thinking. All my goals are functional, as in: can I walk a mile without blinking an eye again? Can I dance through an entire set non-stop again?

9. And I vow not to give myself a bunch of shit if I should screw up any of this in any way, and instead to just gently pick myself up and get on with it.

I'm sure there's a bunch of stuff I'm forgetting, but that's the gist of it.

Good night, all--looking forward to chatting with y'all in the morning. :smile:

I'm filing all of this for reference. Since (as I believe I've mentioned) Widener faculty and staff get to use our spiffy new Wellness Center (="fitness center") free of charge, I decided there's no excuse for me not to work off some of the 60-odd pounds I've added to my frame since you knew me as a beanpole in college. (Somewhat relevant aside: My high school classmate Karl Bricker--there's a photo of him and me together over in my post describing lunch at La Bodega while back in Kansas City for my 30th high school reunion--told me after he picked me up at MCI (Kansas City International Airport) that had I not waved to him, he would have driven right past me--he was looking for a tall, skinny fellow with a huge Afro!)

The one challenge for me will be to figure out how to adjust my diet so I can continue to have as much cheese as I care to eat in it. I do not know whether this will be possible. I do note that I'm snacking on salty stuff dipped in flavored sour cream a good bit less than I used to, and when I replace cranberry juice with Gatorade, I feel a little more energized.

Maybe you and I should compare notes on another thread after this blog closes.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Mizducky,

Here where I live the Arthritis Association has an aquatics center with a heated pool so those with joint pain can still get exercise without stressing their joints.

Does San Diego have something similar? I know there's a Y west of Fashion Valley on Friars Road that has a pool but I doubt that it's heated. Besides, that may be too far from your new location.

I'm looking forward to more pictures of my hometown!

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I love your description of the Golden Triangle. Its spot-on but I never thought of it that clearly, in the 20 or so years I've watched it grow and change.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Mizducky,

Here where I live the Arthritis Association has an aquatics center with a heated pool so those with joint pain can still get exercise without stressing their joints.

Does San Diego have something similar? I know there's a Y west of Fashion Valley on Friars Road that has a pool but I doubt that it's heated.  Besides, that may be too far from your new location.

I'm looking forward to more pictures of my hometown!

Actually, yes, the pool at the Friar's Y is heated (thank god) :smile: They also offer an amazing array of water related classes. They've been so popular in fact, that the Friar's Y is putting in a new pool just for people that want to swim laps! 10 minute drive for MizDucky down Friars from her current digs if she's interested.

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Good morning, all!

Breakfast (brunch?) this morning consisted of:

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About 2 oz of the fish I cooked the other night, with some romaine lettuce, in half a whole-wheat pita, accompanied by an orange and a cup of the peppermint tea I bought at TJ's yesterday.

Thanks to all of those who commented. Let me address some of the questions that have come up:

Can you elaborate on foods that you have found *just* *don't* *work* for you?  I noted that too much protein may have an immediate effect on your joints, for instance? 

Yeah, I still have to watch out for excessive intake of purine-rich foods (animal protein, especially organ meats, plus a few purine rich vegetables like mushrooms and asparagus), because even with my anti-gout meds a purine excess starts generating the little tingling sensations in my toes that, unaddressed, would eventually turn into a full-fledged gout attack.

But there really isn't any type or category of food that I have absolutely banned from my life for any reason. There are some, admittedly, that I love but now have on a much less frequent basis and/or in much smaller quantities (high-fat foods; booze; sugars whether refined or "whole", excessive concentrations of salt). There are also "diet-y" foods that I either avoid, or don't force on myself (I am beginning to feel a whole lot more positive about leafy greens, raw celery, and other traditional "diet" vegetation, but that's after giving myself permission to avoid them if I'm not feeling into them). And like I said earlier, I'm avoiding most diet-industry type products and other foods filled with artificial ingredients, but I do make allowances for certain "diet" products with other redeeming features, such as the cooking spray and a few others which you might see in action as the blog progresses. This is kind of inspired by macrobiotics, too, which holds forth that there are no bad or good foods, just foods that are easier or harder to balance into the whole than others.

Mizducky:

I seem to remember from your first blog that you were a gal that liked her cocktails  :biggrin: ... Can you comment on the role (or lack thereof) alcohol/wine/beer are playing in your current lifestyle?

As mentioned above, I have considerably restricted my booze intake. Nowadays alcohol falls into the "occasional preplanned splurge" category, pretty much only when I go to a club to hear some live music; and the occasional glass of wine when I'm eating out with friends. I pretty much stick to wine, spirits neat or on the rocks, or non-sugary cocktails, as opposed to beer and the sugary stuff.

Are you going to do any more cooking for us?  How is the new kitchen?

Oh yeah, definitely--in fact, I'm intending to cook at home tonight, and will give a fuller accounting of my new kitchen at that time.

As someone who knows nothing about macrobiotics, just wondering if you can go into a bit more detail about what yin and yang are within that framework?  I'm curious!

Yeah, I figured I'd need to come back and expand upon that topic. It will require some more extensive writing, so I will tackle the topic a little later on when I can devote another hunk of time to covering it properly.

I love your description of the Golden Triangle. Its spot-on but I never thought of it that clearly, in the 20 or so years I've watched it grow and change.

Thanks! Yeah, it's different when a newcomer brings fresh eyes to a neighborhood, innit? I'm currently living on the edge of another neighborhood that has gone nuts that way, namely the Mission Valley/Friar's Road corridor. I can definitely see how new the construction is, so I can only just imagine how different these areas must have looked not too long in the past. I have mixed feeling about this. The New Yorker in me totally believes that high-density development is superior to the kind of suburban sprawl that eats up all remaining open green space--although a bunch of the development around here, alas, looks like it's both high-density and sprawling. :rolleyes: And I confess to a certain, well, aesthetic objection to the miles and miles of similar-looking McMansion-style architecture (stick some terracotta-colored stucco on it and plant some palm trees-voila! instant SoCal luxury living! :rolleyes: ). Somehow, even though the working-class multi-ethnic neighborhoods south of me are grittier, more down-at-heels, and more crime-ridden, I feel a little more in tune with their aesthetic. And I sure as hell don't want that sprawl crossing south over the I-8 and wiping out those neighborhoods--not only are there lots of folks down there who will be hard-pressed to find other housing they can afford, but all the incredible food and other cultural riches they provide would be wiped out as well. And the city would be the poorer for it, in ways no currency can measure.

Mizducky,

Here where I live the Arthritis Association has an aquatics center with a heated pool so those with joint pain can still get exercise without stressing their joints.

Does San Diego have something similar? I know there's a Y west of Fashion Valley on Friars Road that has a pool but I doubt that it's heated.  Besides, that may be too far from your new location.

Actually, yes, the pool at the Friar's Y is heated (thank god) :smile: They also offer an amazing array of water related classes. They've been so popular in fact, that the Friar's Y is putting in a new pool just for people that want to swim laps! 10 minute drive for MizDucky down Friars from her current digs if she's interested.

Oh yeah, I do know all about the Arthritis Association's water-exercise classes, and had been tracking the classes at the Friar's Road Y for some time now. There have been two problems: 1) The classes, let alone the Y membership, is a little pricey for my budget; and 2) Swimming runs headlong into some very old issues I have about exposing my bod to the public in a bathing suit and/or in a locker room (thank you, public school phys ed classes and grade-school bullies :sad: ). Even the idea of camoflaging myself with a teeshirt and shorts over the suit doesn't help all that much--as anyone who has ever seen a wet t-shirt contest knows, such a garment when damp is almost as bad as going without one.

How I have addressed the cost issue: the apartment complex I have moved into has its own heated swimming pool--when I am ready to do so, I can just walk out my door and dive in. And regarding the bathing-suit vulnerability issue: one of the tenets of my current program is to not force myself to do anything that just make me crazy in an unproductive way. Obviously, I could just tough it out bootcamp style and just make myself do it anyway, despite my discomfort. But, from long past experience, I know that forcing myself to do something this way backfires bigtime in terms of stress, resentment against the whole project, etc. So I am giving myself permission to sneak up gently on the whole swimming thing, doing other exercises while I get back on a little friendlier basis with my body image in the first place. I'll probably still be a little freaked when I eventually get over myself and do it, but it'll be a lot less so than if I went and dragged myself into the pool right now.

Edited by mizducky (log)
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Oh, here's a little Audience Participation--especially designed for folks in the San Diego area! As hinted at earlier, this coming Sunday afternoon/evening I intend to take a picnic repast and a lawn chair to a park in a north-of-San Diego community, to hear these dudes perform a free all-ages concert. If you happen to be in the area and have that time free, you are welcome to join me! Only DON"T respond here in this topic--instead, PM me, and we'll handle the details off-board. (Not sure if I'll have any takers on such short notice, but hey, it's worth a try! :smile: )

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Good morning, all!

Oh yeah, I do know all about the Arthritis Association's water-exercise classes, and had been tracking the classes at the Friar's Road Y for some time now. There have been two problems: 1) The classes, let alone the Y membership, is a little pricey for my budget; and 2) Swimming runs headlong into some very old issues I have about exposing my bod to the public in a bathing suit and/or in a locker room (thank you, public school phys ed classes and grade-school bullies :sad: ). Even the idea of camoflaging myself with a teeshirt and shorts over the suit doesn't help all that much--as anyone who has ever seen a wet t-shirt contest knows, such a garment when damp is almost as bad as going without one.

The Friar's Y runs membership specials a few times a year where the initial fee is either waived entirely, or seriously reduced. As a member I get announcements about such things. When you're ready to think about their pool, let me know and I'll keep my eye on my mail for the membership flyers. Monthly dues are $36 I think, plus it gives you access to the Mind/Body classes (i.e. yoga, pilates, Feldenkris, Nia, and such) at their Hazard Center satellite.

The one thing I really like about this particular Y is the diversity of their clientele, especially, the diversity of body styles, sizes and shapes you see there. There are women of far greater proportion than you in bathing suits roaming the halls of the Y and few people, if anyone give them much mind. The body intimidation factor here is the lowest of any gym I've ever been in. But I'm on the same page with you as far as exposing one's body in a locker room. Kids can be so nasty to each other making gym class all that much more brutal.

Some day when you're out and about with time on your hands and fee like it, stop by and they'll give you a tour of the facility with no pressure to join. I don't mean to sound like an ad for the Y, but I've been going to Friar's pretty regularly for a little over 4 years now and that's a record for me. I've never stuck with a gym or a workout program this long. They don't care what you look like, they just want you to move your body and be okay with it, and that's okay in my book :raz:

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Thanks, kalypso, that sounds extremely encouraging about the Y. I will definitely keep all that in mind.

I'm now ready to get out and about with this day's errands--including visiting some of those multi-ethnic neighborhoods south of the I-8 I was waxing enthusiastic about above. Must-gets on my shopping list include ginger and scallions; I have a bunch of stuff in the crisper that could stand to be used, including the remaining baby bok choy I bought the other day at 99 Ranch; and I'll also be keeping my eye peeled for anything interesting and/or on special that catches my eye. And then I'll bring home my haul and cook more stuff for your entertainment (and my nourishment).

While I'm gone, here's a question I could really use some help with: I can't seem to keep my fresh gingerroot from going bad on me before I use it up. I eat more ginger than the average Caucasian, I think, but it's still not nearly enough to keep up with the biology experiment syndrome. So far my solution is simply to buy small amounts of ginger so that there's less left to go to waste; and to try storing it in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with as much air evacuated as possible. Any and all suggestions for better storage methods are massively welcome.

See y'all later!

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Re ginger:

I just store mine in a large knob next to

the garlic next to the stove, in a small bowl.

I buy about a 3 to 4 inch long piece at a time,

and take about 3 to 4 weeks to use it up

and it's never ever gone bad on me....

Not sure why you're refrigerating yours

or why it's going bad.

(Love all the info in your blog)

Milagai

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Ginger freezes well. Can cut it into single use size lumps and freeze in zipbag until needed. Or slice, or grate, and store frozen.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Last but not least was a yummy "Crispy Rice Crust with Three Treasures":

gallery_28660_3028_232540.jpg

I think crispy rice crust must be what rice cakes dream of turning into when they die and go to heaven. The server presents the dish by first putting a platter full of these crispy rice squares down on the table, and then pouring over it a bowlful of yummy goodies in a light (but of course spicy) sauce. All sorts of sizzlings ensue, sort of the Szechuan equivalent of pouring milk on Rice Crispies--only much nicer. In this case, the goodies included tender slivers of chicken, sea cucumber, and squid, plus lovely big slices of bamboo shoot and other goodies.

When I lived in Nanjing, China our friends would refer to this dish as "Bombing Tokyo." :hmmm: Highly un-PC, yet highly amusing.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Ellen, I've always loved your wordy, colorful posts. I sit back and relax into your views and dry-wry humors. They're especially welcome in the wee hours after midnight.

Thank you for admitting that you don't feel comfortable in a "bathing suit." While society considers me to be a rather small lady there is no way that I'll wear what is, essentially, my underwear in public. After spending long and precious years suffering from hardcore eating disorders, after seeing my best friend of 20+ years who weighs over 200 lbs. wear a bathing suit without shame...I'll *still* keep my underwear under wraps, my confidence prominently displayed and every one else be damned. 'Ef em.

Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

Twin Peaks

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The Friar's Y runs membership specials a few times a year where the initial fee is either waived entirely, or seriously reduced.  As a member I get announcements about such things.  When you're ready to think about their pool, let me know and I'll keep my eye on my mail for the membership flyers.  Monthly dues are $36 I think, plus it gives you access to the Mind/Body classes (i.e. yoga, pilates, Feldenkris, Nia, and such) at their Hazard Center satellite. 

Most Ys (if not all) in the world also offer reduced-cost membership based on income. In my hometown, the cheapest membership was $5/month for very low-income people, but generally it was about $15/month for most reduced-cost memberships. You have to make an appointment, and let them go over your expenses (rent, utility and phone bills) and income, but it's often worth the hassle. It's not something that is advertised, you'd have to ask about it.

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Just a couple notes. One thing that I have learned to love as an alternative to beer/sodas/gatorade/etc is selzer. Nowadays, they have flavored selzers available in most groceries. The fizzy bubbles make me feel like it is something special, but there are no calories, no caffeine, no alcohol (OK, so it's not a perfect beverage :laugh: ).

Also, someone asked about cooking wine. I think what the questioner was referring to are those abominations of heavily salted wine that are labeled "cooking wine." I suspect the stuff was first made during prohibition, so that chefs and foodies could still cook with wine, but wine so salty and nasty nobody would want to drink it. Chinese cooking wine does not have all that salt etc added. It's just that it is wine used primarily for cooking and not for drinking.

Anyway, I'm enjoying the blog. Except that the dinner at Ba Ren sounds so scrumptious, and I wasn't there to help you folks eat :sad:

One point . . . was his ability to recollect the good dinners which it had made no small portion of the happiness of his life to eat.

--Nathaniel Hawthorne "The Custom House"

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At last, the mystery of the cooking wine is explained: the Chinese don't wreck theirs! :cool:

I don't use ginger as much as you, so it still occasionally dries out on me - or gets lost in the freezer until it's been freezer burned - but here are my methods for storage:

1. Store tightly wrapped in the freezer. Cut off chunks, peel and grate (or chop) as needed. It keeps a long, long time this way, although as noted above I've lost it and found it couple of years too late. :laugh:

2. Store in brandy. I have to admit, this was something I heard on The Splendid Table, and it sounded like a great idea, but it does turn the ginger brown and I've never been inclined to use it. By now that jar is well-aged. The brandy is a dark ginger brown. Should I try some and report?

3. Store the ginger in a small pot of soil or sand. Pull it up, cut off chunks as needed, replant the remainder, clean off the part you kept and use it. I once planted my ginger know in my orange-tree pot for this purpose, and the method seemed to work...until the ginger sprouted. It shot up until there was a yard-long ginger shoot happily coexisting with the 2' high citrus tree. It eventually died, but in the meantime it was too dear to pull up and use.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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While I'm gone, here's a question I could really use some help with: I can't seem to keep my fresh gingerroot from going bad on me before I use it up. I eat more ginger than the average Caucasian, I think, but it's still not nearly enough to keep up with the biology experiment syndrome. So far my solution is simply to buy small amounts of ginger so that there's less left to go to waste; and to try storing it in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with as much air evacuated as possible. Any and all suggestions for better storage methods are massively welcome.

We've been discussing throwing spoiled herbs out in this thread about Toppits frozen herbs. For ginger I almost always buy their frozen stuff. As I need it, I pop out the little cubes which equal 1 tsp. I realize they are a little pricey - but if I added up how much I've thrown away in spoiled ginger, parsley, basil, etc. it's worth it. Plus - I hate grating ginger.

The only problem is that it's finely grated/minced. So if you want pieces this doesn't help at all!

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