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Sushi!

I started eating sushi somewhat regularly about five years ago. Golden China, a local Chinese buffet/hibachi restaurant, serves sushi alongside their other fare. I’d typically get a plate of veggies and chicken to be grilled and while that was cooking, I’d grab a sampling of the sushi. It was acceptable. Not that I’m any kind of expert where the prepping of raw fish is concerned, but A) the sushi never appeared dried out and B) I never felt ill afterward, so I guess it was prepared correctly. Of course, I made sure to get sushi right around noon, when it was first prepared.

Unfortunately, Golden China lost the use of their hibachi awhile back (and their buffet was never a high-point for me) so I haven’t returned in some time. However, I’d started looking for other places in the Moore area to satisfy my cravings for raw fish, and I ran across a couple of places: Sushi Hayashi at 104th and South Penn (in OKC) and Go-Go Sushi just north of South 19th Street (in Moore) on the I-35 Service Road. The former has been around for a few years and is worth visiting every once in awhile (the prices are rather steep). The food I’ve tried has been good and the place is a relaxing, usually quiet place to enjoy my meal.

The latter seems yearly to be awarded OKC Gazette’s Best in Asian Dining (or at least receives nominations every year) and while I find the prices more affordable—with the inclusion of a lunch-item-only bento box with your choice of a couple of different sushi rolls (from a very short list), house salad, miso soup, rice, and tempura vegetables (which I haven’t developed a taste for anywhere)—the atmosphere is more akin to McDonald’s, a noisy, chaotic, get-in-eat-your-food-and-then-get-out kind of experience. Go-Go Sushi does offer hibachi items as well, but I don’t recall if they are on the lunch menu.

Then about a year or so ago, Volcano Sushi opened. It, too, is located on the I-35 Service Road in Moore, just south of South 19th Street (about a mile or so south of Go-Go Sushi). It’s a small, quiet place. The menu is fairly dense and while the majority of items are of the sushi variety, it has hibachi items also, and I noticed some of those are included on the lunch menu.

I usually visit sushi restaurants alone. None of my friends like eating raw fish,1 and though my wife and son have at least broken down and tried sushi at least once, neither of them cared for the experience. I seem to recall both grabbing (and draining) glasses of Dr Pepper shortly thereafter. But back over the summer, I had a craving for sushi and, since the kids were with me, I had to figure out what to do for their lunch. I remembered the hibachi items on Volcano Sushi’s menu and suggested we go there. After a bit of grumbling from the kids, they agreed and, after ordering the hibachi chicken lunch special, my son decided the place was worth a second visit.

Alas, the second time around wasn’t a good experience for them: the chicken was overcooked and the lo mein was over-saturated with soy sauce. They haven’t asked for a repeat visit.

But last week my wife and I were trying to figure out where to eat lunch, and I had a craving for sushi. So, of course, I suggested Volcano Sushi and after she wrinkled her nose at the thought, relented. Naturally, she avoided the sushi but did order a bento chicken dish along with the shrimp tempura, which she enjoyed.

And today, when we went out for lunch, she was the one suggesting Volcano Sushi.

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1. Except you, Nathan, but you don’t live here, so in this case, you don’t count.

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It Looks Like Spaghetti . . . But It Doesn’t

So I cooked spaghetti last night, one of the kids’ favorites, even when I use a pre-made sauce and just toss in extras (which typically happens on days when I don’t decide to fix sauce early enough to slow cook it for several hours). I used a bottle of Prego Bacon & Provolone—specifically chosen for my son who loves both—added a handful of crumbled pork sausage, a double handful of crumbled turkey sausage, some diced onion, diced celery, diced carrots, and a small can of black olives.* For the kids and the wife, I boiled a pot of water and dumped in a double handful of pre-made noodles. I don’t know how to make my own. Never learned.

Anyway, for myself, I prepped a spaghetti squash.

Read any modern weight loss book, those that say anything wheat or gluten-based is bad (i.e., the food of the devil), and the spaghetti squash is held up as the vegetable to pour all that sauce on.** Microwave it. Open it up. Scoop out the seeds. Shred the flesh out with a fork, and it looks and tastes just like spaghetti.

Or maybe it doesn’t.

My daughter walks in as I am wrestling the jumbo-sized, peanut-shaped pumpkin out of the microwave and says, “What’s that?”

“Spaghetti squash.”

She wanders back out to eat her dinner as a reply.

I drop the squash onto the cutting board and notice the skin has split in a couple of places. Grabbing paper towel and knife, I set to work cutting it open.

Ouch. Hot. Fingers burning.

Mind you, I’ve allowed the thing to sit for at least twenty to thirty minutes while I finished cooking the remainder of the dinner, fixed plates for the kids, had them set out napkins and helped them get their drinks and so on. The squash is still hot enough to cook an egg inside.

I slice the thing open and look inside.

It looks like . . . squash. Granted, the stringy flesh holding the seeds in place looks somewhat like spaghetti. In dim light. With my eyes closed.

My daughter walks back in about then and says, “It looks like pumpkin. Ewwww.”***

Now, to scrape the flesh, I take hold of the fork with one hand and the open half squash with the other—and burn my hand doing so.

Gritting my teeth and muttering something about eating healthy being for the birds, I take out the oven mitts, but they’re too awkward, and the squash spins across the counter top. Back to paper towels. More of them.

Scrape. Scrape. Ouch. Hot. Blow on finger tips.

Scoop out flesh into a bowl. Scrape some more.

Twenty minutes later (or an hour, I don’t know, when being tortured time stretches) I’ve managed to remove as much of the insides of the squash as I care to dig for and, truth told, I most likely missed at least a quarter of it. But after I set aside the skin and look at the bowl I’ve scooped the flesh into, I realize that it doesn’t look like spaghetti. It doesn’t look like pumpkin, really, which resembles a glob of orange-colored glue. Shredded spaghetti squash looks a bit like yellow-colored rice.

It tastes rather bland, alone, with a slight buttery quality to the texture. Mixed with the sauce, however, it was worth the effort.

If I can figure out how to get the flesh from the thing without burning my fingers off, I might pick up spaghetti squash again. Otherwise, I’ll stick with evil semolina wheat.

Oh, and we decided that the Prego Bacon & Provolone sauce is a pretty good base (but it smells terrible when it starts cooking).

*******

*I love black olives. Every time the family and I visit Olive Garden, they give me whatever olives they find in the salad. But my son has decided he some times likes black olives with the pepperoni on pizza.

**Well, OK, so only half a cup of the sauce. Don’t want to get too carried away.

***My daughter is always wanting to carve pumpkins at Halloween. But this is the reaction I know she’ll have, so I’ve never done it because I know I’d be doing all the work.

Back in the Saddle (writing, that is)

Well, maybe not totally back–school hasn’t started yet for the kids so I’ll still post only on Thursdays for the next couple of weeks–but back from vacation at least. I committed a major blogging goof last week and failed to post anything. Oops. To make up, I’ll hit my two posts this week (as I should be doing anyway just to keep the gears oiled).

Family summer vacation took us to Georgia where we visited my brother and his family. The flight out was relatively uneventful, aside from the scurry from one gate to another in Houston with a short thirty-minute window and the circling over Atlanta and subsequent redirect to another field to refuel because of bad weather. The latter caused us to arrive an hour or two later than anticipated, which meant we had zero time to do anything that evening aside from a fast food pick up on the way to the hotel.

The next day was spent in the vicinity of the Atlanta Aquarium and The World of Coca-Cola. The former, if you’ve visited very many large aquariums, wasn’t really anything new. The place has several rooms devoted to various marine life. Interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing. My wife and kids love aquariums and have to hit one every time we’re in a new city. I look at the fish and think, “Wonder how it tastes grilled?” But my wife indulges my similar quest for game stores, so it balances. But the Atlanta Aquarium just didn’t have anything that really screamed for my attention.

Ditto, frankly, The World of Coca-Cola. The kids were interested in looking through the place, but after about fifteen minutes, they were asking, “Where’s the tasting room?” A couple of displays in the place give the history of the Coca Cola company, which I found intriguing but nothing I couldn’t likely find with a bit of research in the local college library. The history lesson ends by squeezing the tourists into a circular room. The lights dim, and the sound of a cola being opened and poured fills the air as the walls show the image of said cola rising around the audience. Music crescendos and one wall slides back to reveal . . . The Vault, which supposedly holds the secret formula for Coke. A line across the floor marks where “You shall not pass” and sirens go off if you step over said line (as one kid found out). When the Big Reveal was made, my wife looked at me and said, “That’s it? Where’s the door?” Now, the Tasting Room is fun, for a short while. You get to sample the Coca Cola brands from around the world. There’s a fountain dispenser for Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. I found a few of the flavors pleasant but unfortunately didn’t note those I’d try to track down if I visit those countries. I do, however, recall the Italian soda (Beverly was the name, I believe) which tasted like cough medicine. And not any one of the grape or root beer flavored varieties.

That evening we ate at Ted’s Montana Grill in downtown Atlanta. The place was busy but we were seated fairly quickly (once the staff figured out how to work our table in around a large party due a quarter hour or so after we’d arrived). The young lady who waited our table was jovial, the food of good quality. We ordered the onion rings, thick cut and coated in a fine cornmeal batter. My son and I both had the Big Sky Ranch Salad (his with chicken, mine with bison–he said he couldn’t eat bison because it made him think he was eating Rumble, the OKC Thunder mascot). My wife had the chicken platter (half a chicken) and my daughter, the chicken finger basket. We agreed the onion rings were good, but my wife still prefers those from Cheddar’s.

The next day we visited the Center for Puppetry Arts where we saw a puppet show, naturally, called The Age of Dinosaurs. The show was fun and both my kids repeated lines for several hours that day. Afterward, we were able to go into one of the puppetry class rooms where we constructed shadow puppets (dinosaurs) which everyone could decorate to their heart’s content. The kids (and my wife) enjoyed that. Then we wandered the museums: one showing puppets from around the world, the other chronicling the life of Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. I enjoyed the museums.

Lunch was a short walk down the street at Nan Thai Fine Dining on Spring Street in Atlanta. This was one fancy place. Signs at the door read, “Proper attire required” and “All hats must be removed upon entering.” Not that those are indicative of an upper scale restaurant, but the fine china, copper sheen flatware, and crystal at the tables were (the first and last of which were removed once the staff realized we were there to eat). The service was slow. I half suspect it was because they were hoping we would give up and leave but may have been because it was close to 2:00 p.m. when we arrived at the kitchen was likely shutting down until the dinner crowd. Anyway, the food was excellent. We had Kia Siam and the Kung Pad Thai. My wife grabbed a business card from the place to remind herself of it the next time we visit Atlanta.

Later that day, we visited my brother’s school, the Goddard facility in Dacula. He’s done a good job pulling the place together and keeping it running. It’s a daycare through kindergarten school with a rigorous curriculum that keeps the kids active as well as developmentally challenged. We went to dinner with his family that evening at Frontera, a Mex-Mex restaurant that really was quite unimpressive to my wife or myself. The kids were too busy socializing with their cousins to pay the food much attention. And, frankly, I was too busy socializing with my brother and his wife to care much, either.

I told my wife that evening as we drove back to the hotel that that evening was really the first time I’d felt on vacation.

We got up the next day and drove out to Helen, Georgia, a tourist town where most buildings in town have an “Alpine village” facade. The glassblowers was pretty neat. The kids bought a couple of glass figurines that somehow made the trip back home. We bought fudge at a shop there which we nibbled on the drive back toward Atlanta. Good fudge. But the thing I found most fun was Charlemagne’s Kingdom, a large HO-scaled mock-up of Germany with trains, balloons, a circus, and several small towns and castles scattered across it. Being a fan of trains in general and miniatures in particular, I found this to be the highlight of Helen.

That evening, the wife and dropped our kids off with my brother’s family. We went to dinner at Bahama Breeze, which we’ve loved since being introduced to it years ago when my brother married. There was a location in Oklahoma, but it closed a few years back much to our disappointment.

After lunch at Atlanta Bread Company, pretty much the entirety of the next day was spent with my brother and his wife and kids. He cooked dinner. We visited. Everyone had a good time. We came home. The kids already want to visit their cousins again.

The main problem with the trip: all the weight I’d lost over the last few months has found its way back.

I sure didn’t need to be saddled with it again.

Die at South Beach (Do No Resuscitate)

I blew it the other day. Big time.

Four slices of pizza followed by a Marble Slab coffee and caramel ice cream milk shake. Even though they tasted great when they went down and even though I only drank half the shake, several hours later, I felt thoroughly miserable. I think it was my body’s way of telling me it was time to throw in the towel on the South Beach Diet (experiment) that I’d begun several months ago.

I’ve been on the fencepost about the thing anyway since entering Phase 2 of the plan. During the first week of Phase 2, you are supposed to add 1 good starch and 1 piece of fruit each day to your diet. If you continue to lose weight and no longer have cravings for sugar, then you can slowly add more starch and fruit to your system.

I didn’t have cravings for sweets. I would drink an occasional shake (maybe twice over a four month period prior to my binge the other day) or sweet tea, but I never had this overwhelming desire to drown myself in some sort of sugary heaven (frankly, I don’t care for sweets that much anyway) or bad carb hell (aside from a handful of Doritos that evening when—oh, never mind).

The problem for me was I never continued losing weight after that first week of Phase 1 when I lost five pounds. And even now, I think the weight loss then was due more to walking five or six miles a day nearly every day that week than it was to anything having to do with the SBD.

I’d pretty much held at Phase 2 week 1 since my last post on the subject until Memorial Day weekend with zero additional weight loss. We visited relatives out of town and, even though I’d limited my food intake as much as possible to veggies, lean proteins, one starch and one fruit per day, I discovered once we got back that I’d regained the five pounds I’d lost and then some.

Talk about a revolting situation.

Since then, my attempts to track my daily food intake have been met with ever-increasing resistance (by me) and the sense of why bother? Yes, I know that such a record lets me know exactly what I’ve eaten and how much, but . . . bleh.

So I was at the bookstore a couple of weeks ago, poking around the health section, and came across The 400 Calorie Fix by Liz Vaccariello. I flipped through it, discovered that it gives much the same kind of approach as the SBD but with a caloric limitation built in as well and thought I’d pick it up (for about $5 or so, if I recall).* Now, the book is pretty. Pretty pictures of food. Pretty layout. Typical high end publisher work. One good thing it has is a table giving “real world” equivalents to measurements/portions, such as a small marble is approximately 1 teaspoon, a large marble is a tablespoon, and tennis ball is half a cup, and so on. Where this falls apart is her “hand” comparisons: supposedly a small marble is the same size as the tip of the thumb, which is 1 teaspoon, while that large marble is comparable to the thumb to the first knuckle (and 1 tablespoon). If I take out my measuring spoons and lay them aside my own hand, I find my thumb to the first knuckle to be equal to 1 teaspoon and my whole thumb is equivalent to a tablespoon (which hand part she indicates would be two tablespoons).

No wonder I’ve had so many problems with food portioning—I’m using someone else’s hand! Err, wait, that doesn’t sound right.

Oh, bother.

I’m now just not certain the SBD approach of “eat these foods (but not these), as much needed until you feel full” works. For some, it does, and I’m happy for them. For me, not so much.

Guess it’s time to hit the walking trails again. Five miles. Uphill. Both ways. In the snow. Or, today, the heat.**

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*  I can really tell I’m flailing about when I support the mass consumer craze of buying health food books that regurgitate the same information over and over again. (heavy sigh)

 ** Of course, avoiding four slices of pizza followed by a milkshake might help, too.

Hard-Boiled Eggs Hate Me

I consider myself a decent cook. I’m no Ranting Amateur Chef or Nade in the Kitchen*, but I know my way around the kitchen and am at least familiar with most of the terminology used even if it might take me a few moments to figure out what I’m supposed to do.

Chopping, dicing, slicing. Yep, understood.

Mincing. I know why it should be used and when but seldom mess with it because it takes too long. I watch cooking shows where the chef blazes through chopping, dicing, mincing, grating, and so on and when it comes to mincing . . . I wince. I picture Monty-Pythonesque scenes of hacking my fingers off and blood squirting across the kitchen.

Then there are those things considered most basic that just seem to elude me. Not boiling water. Not hard boiling the eggs in the first place.

But how do you peel a hard-boiled egg?

Without having to pick tiny slivers of shell from the egg? While peeling away half of the outer layer of white? Or removing splintered egg shell from beneath your fingernails?

My kids—my son, especially—love hard-boiled eggs. My wife does, too. But she has this tendency to start the eggs boiling right before she heads off to work, leaving me to the honors. She can rap the cooked egg a couple of times on the counter and the shell comes off in two or maybe three large sections. Easy-peasy.

I do that, and I’m left with a mess.

The shell fractures, splintering into hundred of tiny little slivers that have nothing better to do than insert themselves beneath my fingernails and run as deeply as they can. My fingers burn from just handling the eggs.

Who needs to play “Hot Potato” when you can pass the just-cooked hard-boiled egg?

I’ve tried running the eggs under cold water while removing the shell . . . and promptly dropped the egg in the sink. I tried working over a clean plate in the sink while peeling the egg, and it slipped from my grasp, hit the plate, and bounced into the other sink and down the garbage chute.

I love potato salad and have my mom’s recipe, which try to make at least once a year. But I always have to time it on a weekend when my wife is off work and I know she’ll be around to help with the eggs. Hard-boiling and peeling a half dozen or so eggs just makes me cringe.

My wife tells me to have our daughter peel the eggs. She knows what to do as she’s watched and helped her mom several times. But those eggs are “beeping hot” as my son would say, and my daughter doesn’t like heat. So what’s a dad to do?

Stick with fried or scrambled eggs is what I say.

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* Both of these bloggers deal up some eye-catching cuisine, but my computer hates both sites. It chokes and dies on all the images, gorgeous though they are (as explained in Dino-Computer Smash).  If you like food, check them out.

Sorry, Sir, But We Can’t Heat Your Meat*

I’ve mentioned previously that I love sandwiches. Maybe I wouldn’t eat a sandwich every day, but I do love a stack of meat, some cheese, crisp veggies, drizzled with a bit of oil and a shake (or two) of pepper on a wheat bun (or roll or tortilla or flatbread)  at least once a week. Mmmm, mmmm, good.**

And my kids love sandwiches as well although they tend toward meat, bun, no frills, which is fine by me. However, they do prefer the sandwich to be grilled, toasted, heated up in some manner, and we’ve never had problems with that particular request.

Quiznos? They toast their sandwiches as matter of course.

Subway will pop the sandwich in the toaster oven as well if you ask.

Ditto Schlotsky’s and McAlister’s Deli.

Panera Bread will also as well as City Bites.***

But will Jersey Mike’s Subs?

Nope.

The reason given is because corporate says that it makes the meat less flavorful.

Huh?

So you have a grill, a huge one by the way, and its sole purpose is to fry up the steak, pepper, and onions for your  Philly Steak sandwiches? And the other meat that you use, the very same stuff used by Quiznos, Subway, Schlotsky’s, McAlister Deli, Panera Bread, and City Bites (among others)—a thin-sliced deli meat—will somehow be ruined because you’ve tossed it on the grill for a couple of minutes?

Right.

Maybe the steak should be served raw and cold as well. A buddy of mine told me years ago that flame just makes steak taste bad, at least if the steak wasn’t swimming in its own red juices.

I shudder at the image.

I always thought what made Jersey Mike’s sandwiches flavorful was the bread, not the ingredients, which are pretty much standard fare for nearly every sandwich shop I’ve ever been to. But I suppose I’m wrong to think that.

My choices, I guess, are to A) stop going to Jersey Mike’s and tell my kids to live with the disappointment or B) charge Jersey Mike’s every time I have to heat a sandwich at home for them.

The latter sounds good to me, but good luck collecting.

* Get your mind out the gutter. 🙂

** No, I’m not part of the Sandwich Generation. And I’ve never really understood the naming conventions for the generations:Sandwich, X, Y, Zippity Do Da.

***Well, some City Bites will while others won’t. I’m not sure but I think that the City Bites stores are owned independently and it’s up the individual owners as to what they’ll do. But don’t quote me on that because I haven’t done the research into it and don’t feel it need be done.

Die at South Beach, Again

So, here I am at the end of week two, phase two of the South Beach Diet (supercharged) and looking at a whopping total of 5 pounds lost during the last four weeks.

Whoop.

Dee.

Do.

A day or two after I’d posted Die at South Beach, I weighed myself and discovered I’d dropped four pounds that week. Now, I’m seriously inclined to believe it was the 5 mile walks I’d taken three days that week (20 minutes of interval in the morning and a 20-30 minute leisurely stroll those evenings) and not the SBD that lost the weight for me.*

Seriously inclined to believe since all last week I managed to walk only 1 day (because I’d twinged my ankle on the previous Thursday and decided it better to lay off walking for a few days rather than push it and do more serious damage). I still put in 15 – 20 minutes of core exercise every other day. Err, well, tried to, anyway. Most of my time the past week was spent spring cleaning around the house.

But I’ll continue with it. I have the support of my family behind me.

My kids say at least once a day: “Dad, we hate this diet you’re on!”

Because they want to go out to eat and I tell them whatever place they’ve picked doesn’t have food I can fit into the SBD. My wife, on the other hand, has been trying to eat what I have . . . to some extent. She’ll load up on salad or veggies. She refuses to give up her jasmine rice, though. Not that I can blame her. The stuff smells fantastic when it’s steaming in the rice cooker and tastes divine. Of course, it converts straight to sugar inside the body and shoots straight to the waistline.

At least that’s what the current line of nutritional guidelines tout.

Odd that a few years ago, rice (even white rice) was fine. After all, X to the nth power billion Chinese can’t be wrong! Right? The current line of thinking is, they are, I guess.

But I digress.

Now, the first week of Phase Two of the SBD allows one piece of fruit each day along with one good starchy carb (whole wheat toast, brown rice, that sort of thing). You stick with this until you no longer have cravings for starchy carbs. Then, you can add additional carbs and fruit back into the diet: day 8 add an extra starch, day 9 add an extra piece of fruit, and so on. Now, if by the end of day 7 you still want to chow down a bag of Cheetos, you  obviously still crave starchy foods, so you’re supposed to stick with the 1:1 starchy carb/fruit ratio for a few more days until those unhealthy desires flee like the bad old things they are from your mind and body.

Yeah, right.

I had hoped that by the time I hit the second phase, my willpower would hold up, but I love sandwiches and fruit equally. The first week of this phase I did fine and had no cravings while on the 1:1 ratio. No cheating.

None.

Nope.

Not me.

Well, there was the brownie I had last weekend.

And the Java Chiller from Sonic the other day.

Or the frozen mocha I had at Panera Bread yesterday . . . .

OK, so I’ve cheated and gone for the guilty pleasures this past week. That might attribute to the lack of poundage lost during that time. You know the old military axiom: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying”? Well, I guess that means I’m trying. Granted, I was never military but my father was (short stint) and grandfather was (two long stints), so some of that philosophy must have rubbed off somewhere.

OK, so I need to walk another mile today.

Now where’d my wife hide that fresh bag of Doritos?

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* This week I’ve managed to walk at least three miles on three days (interval walking) and a couple of miles on off days, not so much as I did a couple of weeks ago but still keeping with my standard distance.

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