"The researches of so many eminent scientific men have thrown so much darkness upon the subject that if they continue their researches we shall soon know nothing."

- Artemus Ward

“If you aren’t confused about health and nutrition, then you haven’t studied it long enough or deeply enough.”

- Matt Stone

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Plum Pudding

Okay, I confess I'm not good at creating recipes. Not that I can't create tasty things in the kitchen, but because I'm the sort who hates to measure stuff, and rarely measure anything when cooking. I'm definitely a "pinch of this and a blob of that" sort of cook and almost never make something the same way twice.

But I've been thinking a lot about Christmas dishes lately, and remembered how I used to love to make a steamed Christmas plum pudding every year. But it's been many years since I made one, and I no longer touch wheat or sucrose. Both of them do bad things to me and I can't see any reason to include them in my daily diet.

I do enjoy some "sweet" on occasion, and lately have used erythritrol or sometimes stevia as sweeteners, each as equally "natural" (or unnatural, LOL) as table sugar, but neither affect my blood sugar or cause dreadful cravings.

Erythritol is a naturally-derived sugar substitute that looks and tastes very much like sugar, yet has almost no calories. It comes in granulated and powdered forms…Erythritol is classified as a sugar alcohol….Sugar alcohols also occur naturally in plants. Erythritol is found naturally in small amounts in grapes, melons, mushrooms, and fermented foods such as wine, beer, cheese, and soy sauce…Erythritol is usually made from plant sugars. Sugar is mixed with water and then fermented with a natural culture into erythritol. It is then filtered, allowed to crystallize, and then dried.

A plant native to South America and Central America, stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) produces sweet leaves that have long been harvested to flavor foods and beverages. In recent years, a stevia extract called rebaudioside A has become increasingly popular as a natural sugar substitute.
though adds:

If you're seeking a new natural sweetener, you should also consider erythritol (a nearly calorie-free sugar alcohol extracted from plants).

So lately I have been using Truvia, a combo of both of the above, as it's commonly available in supermarkets. And lately I've been using a lot of coconut flour too, so wondered if I could use the two to make a plum pudding. Of course it would have to be a slightly different plum pudding, one without the typical raisins (which I hate) and currents (which I like) because the sugar hit would have been too much for me.

So I gave it a try the other day, and it actually came out pretty well! It seemed like a plum pudding. Alas it DID stick and fall apart a bit as I removed it from the bowl it was cooked in, you can see the top looking pretty lumpy in the photo above. But I made an attempt to measure things as I cooked - though much of it is weighed in the more classic European fashion, which tends to be much more accurate. Some of the amounts (such as the tallow, butter, etc) were just because that was the amount I had on hand, but it worked, so here we go:

Plum Pudding

170g beef tallow*
110g butter
140g chopped fresh cranberries (about 1 1/3 cups)
60g chopped pecans (1/2 cup)
60g chopped hazelnuts (1/2 cup)
60g sliced almonds (1/2 cup)
1 tsp grated lemon rind
100g Nevada Manna SF chocolate chips (1/2 cup) OPTIONAL
1/4 cup heavy cream
6 eggs
1/2 cup Truvia
1 tsp ground clove
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup Irish whiskey

* Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation...Wikipedia says "Christmas pudding is a steamed pudding, heavy with dried fruit and nuts, and usually made with suet." I've never been able to find suet, but I can get tallow from my Amish farmer.

Melt tallow and butter in a large oven proof bowl, until softened but not liquid. Remove from oven and stir, adding in the cranberries, lemon rind, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds. Then add Truvia and the spices, then the heavy cream. It should be cool enough by now to add in the chocolate chips, if desired, without them all melting. Then add in the eggs and beat until everything is well blended.

At this point turn the whole concoction into a small well-greased metal bowl which will fit into your crockpot with some room to spare around the sides. Put about a cup of water into the crockpot and lower the bowl into it. Water should come up roughly 1/2-2/3 up the side of the bowl. If it's not high enough gently add more water, trying not to get any into the plum pudding mixture!

Turn crockpot to high and cook about 4 hours. Pudding is done when it is springy to the touch in the center. You can probably cook it on low also, for longer. I just happened to start it late in the day and wanted it to be done before I went to bed. :-)

When done remove bowl carefully from crockpot (I needed to use two sets of tongs). Allow to cool for a bit, then turn out onto a platter or bowl. Mine fell apart when I did this, but I just pulled out the rest and stuck it on top!

Gently spoon the Irish whiskey over the top, letting it absorb into the pudding. If the whiskey gets all the way down to the plate just spoon it up from there and keep adding to the top. It soaks up pretty well. Then place in fridge to cool.

This is sort of dense and rich, so makes about 12 servings. Nutritional info per serving:
Calories: 413, carbs: 14,2g, fiber: 10.4g (so net carbs = 3.8g), fat: 36g, sat fat: 15.4g, alcohol: 3.8g, protein: 4g.

I had to try it out once it had cooled, and did add a squirt of homemade whipped cream on top, and a small sprinkling of nuts "for pretty". It tasted quite good.

Of course if I made it again I would probably not do it exactly the same. I'd love to see how it came out using coconut oil instead of the beef tallow, for example. And I would probably add more clove and nutmeg, and maybe cinnamon. It was less spicy than I prefer. If I had some unsweetened dried blueberries (which I can get at Trader Joe's) I would probably add some of those too. I might add a tablespoonful of molasses. And I wonder how it would be with peanut flour? And if you don't want the whiskey you could probably use something like DaVinci sugar-free Irish Cream syrup. Decisions, decisions. And it's not as if I make Christmas plum pudding every day of the year!

I'm still feeling excellent, and looking forward to Christmas with my family. It's been cold here lately, but yesterday afternoon I did go out to the gym to do my Slow Burn workout, and had a swim, and since I was out I went up to Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain to do some birding. Brrr, it was cold! 30-40 minutes was about all I could take.

But I did see a whole flock of these Ring-necked ducks, about 20 of them.

And in addition I saw this Mute Swan. They are plentiful enough in New Jersey, but I have never seen one at Garrett Mountain before, so that was an interesting find for me. It will add to my site Life List as kept by eBird.org.

But by then the sun was starting to sink low over the horizon. It was barely past 4 PM, but we are only days away from the Winter solstice after all. I can't wait for the light to begin returning though. But Garrett Mountain was lovely in the golden afternoon glow, so I had to take a picture of that as well.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bird-Friendly coffee

This is a Cooper's Hawk I saw this morning in a 2-hour birdwalk through NJ's Hatfield Swamp, in 20-degree weather! There were 5 of us hardy souls and while I saw no new Life Birds it was fun to get dramatic close-ups of the Cooper's above and a Red-tailed Hawk, and also saw a brown creeper, great blue heron - 19 species in all. We did some checking for owls. Walk leader Dave Hall's son had put up a bunch of wood duck nest boxes in the Swamp for his Boy Scout Eagle project in 1999, and apparently some owls use the boxes in the winter. An owl would have been a life bird for me! But we didn't find any, alas. Oh well, I got *eight* new life birds on my 6-hour marathon birding session at Manasquan Inlet last Saturday, so I guess my average for the week is still pretty good. :-)

And while I love birding, and love reading about nutrition, I have not given much thought to places where they might coincide. But on Monday night I went to DeKorte Park to hear a talk on bird migration by Pulitzer Prize finalist Scott Weidensaul. They also had copies of his books for sale there, so of course I had to buy one - Of a Feather - and got him to autograph it for me. (it's a lot cheaper at amazon, but not autographed!).

But in his talk Scott gave a list of things that people could do - simple things - that could help with bird migration. I was happy to see I already did quite a few of them - planted bird-friendly native plants in my yard, use no pesticides or chemical fertilizers in my yard, buy organic as much as possible, keep my cats indoors. But I admit it never occurred to me to look for toilet paper made from recycled paper. Nor did I think to look for bird-friendly coffee.

Coffee of course is a controversial subject. You can find statements like this:
A German experiment from November 2008 discovered that caffeine appears to play a role in endothelial repair. Other investigations have reported that, if anything, regular coffee use tends to reduce risk markers relating to endothelial health (E-selectin) and systemic inflammation (C-reactive protein) which have both been associated with cardiovascular disease. The research that demonstrates positive effects for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee could possibly be explained by other health promoting phytochemicals such as kahweol which is found in all forms of coffee.

A recent examination by the Center for American Indian Health Research at the University of Oklahoma looked for a correlation between coffee use and type-2 diabetes in a group of 1,141 men and women. The study volunteers were followed for an average of 7.6 years. Their ages ranged from 45-74 years old. The participants who drank the largest amount of coffee (a whopping 12 cups or more) demonstrated a 67% reduced risk of developing diabetes during the follow-up period. The authors of the investigation concluded that “a high level of coffee consumption was associated with a reduced risk of deterioration of glucose metabolism”.

And you can find contradictory evidence like:
Daily consumption of caffeine in coffee, tea or soft drinks increases blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes and may undermine efforts to control their disease, say scientists at Duke University Medical Center...The findings, appearing in the February issue of Diabetes Care, add more weight to a growing body of research suggesting that eliminating caffeine from the diet might be a good way to manage blood sugar levels.

Or you can find statements like this:
Daily use of coffee results in the secretion of more cortisol which increases the production of lactate. Studies so far suggest that high level of cortisol shrivel the division of the brain that is responsible for memory. High volume of this hormone affects your immune system and decreases your body’s power to resist infections. If you take more than 3 cups of coffee daily then it will result in the depletion of your adrenals. If the adrenal gland is over stimulated, it may result in fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, depression and a weakened immune system. Usually, caffeine stays in people’s system for about eight to thirty hours. The presence of caffeine in the system leads to the release of more glucose in to the blood stream followed by a stern fall in blood sugar. Coffee also provides more stress on your kidneys.

From everything I've read about adrenal fatigue and the adrenals, the two biggest drainers are excess sugar consumption and excess stress. Now, yes coffee is a stress, and the body does recognize all the stress the same (doesn't matter whether you're being chased by a lion, or you just got a divorce).

The fastest way to burn out the adrenals through stress is the emotional/mental stress. Because that can go on forever, or at-least long periods of time and in unlimited amounts.

With coffee, a certain amount of cortisol is released with the normal half-life. But with emotional/mental stress, you can consistently release large amounts of stress.

So if you really want to avoid adrenal fatigue, head in the direction of a positive mind-set, and get the sugar under control.
Wherever you go you can find pros and cons. Many of them. I've had stages of my life where I drank 3-4 cups of coffee a day. I've also gone for months where I eliminated coffee entirely. I certainly didn't feel any different in any of the cases. I never got "caffeine jitters" from drinking coffee. I never felt tired and unable to get going when I didn't have coffee. I enjoy the *taste* of coffee. I usually have one cup every morning. And I do it because I like the taste and I agree with some of the pros of coffee drinking. But I don't *need* it. I went on my 2-hour birdwalk in the freezing cold this morning without having had any coffee, or experiencing any need for coffee.

But I also listen to the cons, so do limit myself to that one cup daily. But now I have to think about making it be "bird friendly" coffee! To understand what this means go here. I have to look for shade-grown coffee.

Not only better for birds, but better for people, and for the biosphere in general:

In its natural environment, coffee most often grows in the shade. However, most cultivated coffee is produced on full-sun,monocropping plantations, as are most commercial crops, to maximize production per unit of land. This practice is, however, detrimental to the natural environment, since the natural habitats which existed prior to the establishment of the plantations are destroyed, and all non-Coffea flora and fauna are suppressed - often with chemical pesticides and herbicides.... In addition, shade-grown coffee is considered by some to be of higher quality than sun-grown varieties, as the cherries produced by the Coffea plants in the shade are not as large as commercial varieties; some believe this smaller cherry concentrates the flavors of the cherry into the seed (bean) itself.

Keep that in mind if you are a coffee drinker.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Green Friday

Instead of doing something crazy like shopping the day after Thanksgiving I went on this marvelous sponsored birdwalk at DeKorte Park in the NJ Meadowlands. I was *not* one of the people who kicked themselves for missing it. It was great! And I saw two new Life Birds - the Ruddy Duck, and the Northern Pintail (who is in the photo above). I also saw my fave - the Peregrine Falcon, pictured below - who is the bird I've often said I would want to be if I was a bird. :-)
It's especially nice to have the health and energy to be able to go on these birdwalks - which bring me such pleasure. The scale popped up a few pounds after Thanksgiving day, but I'm sure it will pop back down shortly too. I ate to enjoyment, but not enough to feel full and stuffed and bloated. And the food was all delicious *whole* food - no fake frankenfoods. I felt GOOD after my Thanksgiving meal.

And was full of pep and able to enjoy my birdwalk on Friday. I'm looking forward to more.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I had my sister and her family over to my house for Thanksgiving today. I had fun setting the table, using plate and glassware I inherited from my parents. The menu consisted of:

- roast turkey breast
- my "easy" version of a green bean/roasted red pepper/pearl onion dish from "Southern Living" magazine
- roasted acorn squash
- homemade cranberry relish using Truvia and pure orange extract
- carrot/coconut muffins

And for dessert:
- Coffee/decaf with fresh "Abner" cream

Many thanks to Maria Emmerich, as I used several of her recipes today. I have much to be thankful for - especially a lovely family. I'm looking forward to Christmas which I plan to spend with my son, daughter-in-law and darling grandson. My son tells me they hope to cook a Christmas goose!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

gluten-free pie crust

It's Thanksgiving time, and my thoughts turn to pumpkin pie. I love pie but the traditional wheat crust just does not agree with me. Since I hit my mid-40s I began having severe intestinal distress whenever I ingest gluten grains. And I'd much rather live without severe nausea, diarrhea, daily vomiting, depression, and stiff and aching joints, thank you very much! I get all those symptoms where I eat gluten grains, and they all vanish when I banish them.

So I have experimented with alternative pie crusts, and most have been nasty. I can't *stand* the "so-called" gluten-free mixes you can pie in the stores - usually full of nasty cr*p I don't want to eat anyway. I've tried almond meal crusts were are okay, but just don't have the texture of pie crust!

But this week I finally came up with a recipe that is gluten free, but also rolls out like real pie crust, has a similar texture to real pie crust, and tastes good too! This is how the crust looked after I rolled it out with the rolling pin between two sheets of waxed paper:

So this is the recipe I came up with:

Gluten-free pie crust

3/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup peanut flour
1/4 cup macadamia nut oil (can use light olive oil, or melted coconut oil too, have tried both)
1 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend until the ingredients all come together in a ball. If it seems too loose and floury slowly add a little more oil, a teaspoon at a time - rarely you might need another tablespoon or so of oil.

Place the ball on a sheet of wax paper, squash it down a bit, then place a second sheet on top, and begin rolling with a rolling pin as you would any crust, rolling out on all side until you have a round crust big enough for the pie pan, as in the picture above.

Then remove top paper, place pie pan over the crust, and then flip so that the pan is on the bottom and the paper on top, and slowly peel the wax paper off the back of the crust. This part does not work quite as well as with a wheat crust, but if it comes apart a bit you can just press it back together with your fingers when it's in the pan, and then use fingers or a fork to crimp the crust at the top edge of the pan just for "pretty". :-) That's the stage my crust is in in the following picture:

It looks a bit messy as I didn't add *quite* enough oil. But at this point I'm ready to add the pumpkin filling, which I made using this recipe:

Pumpkin Pie

1 small (15 oz) can of plain packed pumpkin
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
1 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup Truvia
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground mace or nutmeg
pinch of salt

Blend all together in a large bowl using either a whisk or a hand-mixer. When all is blended pour into the prepared crust as below. Here is the pie ready to go into the oven:

Then bake at 350 until the pie is lightly browned on top and firmish to the touch in the middle (not jiggly). In my oven this takes about 45-50 minutes or so, and comes out looking like this:

So that's my pie all ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and will be served with nice fresh whipped cream too. Yum.

Note: pie crust recipe can be easily doubled for a double-crusted pie. I've also tried it with all coconut flour, but was not overwhelmed with the taste or texture.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's the protein, dummy

I've been pretty religious about checking my blood sugars for at least the past 18 months or so - and sometimes they are up and sometimes down - but never as low as I would like them to do. At least not since spring of 2009. Back then was when I was trying to eat following the Kwasniewski diet, and I was getting totally normal blood sugar readings down in the 80s. But I slowly drifted off as it was a hard eating plan to follow if you want to have a normal social life and go out and eat. That's because it limits the amount of protein you are allowed to have, ro an amount considered enough to preserve your muscle mass - but not more. It basically means things like no more hamburgers when you go out to eat - you can only eat half the hamburger. No more steaks, you can only eat one third of the steak, or maybe one quarter.

So I slowly began eating more protein again. So did I put two and two together and realize there was a tie-in to my slowly rising blood sugar also? Well maybe at the back of my mind I did, but I enjoyed my protein, so kept thinking there had to be some other way to control my blood sugar, but nothing else worked that well, so I began to think my metabolism was just totally and fatally busted.

But this past week I went back on the Kwasniewski plan. Kwasniewski believes that if you are going to eat carbs you are better off eating the starches, rather than fructose-containing carbs, and I wanted to enjoy some of the starchier fall veggies I was getting from my CSA haul, so I decided to add in some starches and cut back my protein to the Kwasniewski levels.

And within only 2-3 days I suddenly found I was getting blood glucose readings back down in the 80s again! The reading above is what I saw this afternoon two hours after eating lunch. Below is the fasting blood glucose number I saw this morning when I woke up. Last night for dinner I had a 2-egg leek and potato frittata for dinner, with plenty of sour cream added to it to bump up the fat, and topped with some shredded cheddar cheese. My one-hour PP reading after that meal was 114, my 2-hour reading was 101. By bedtime I was back down to 87. Okay, smack me upside the head, dummy. This time I'm sticking with Kwasniewski's protein goals. :-)

And as an added bonus, since going back on Kwasniewski, my weight hit a new low this morning since I began seriously monitoring with daily weighings - which was January 2009.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bird Walking

It's funny how our childhood conditioning sticks with us. Eagle Rock Reservation is a county park not far from where I live. When I worked in West Orange for 17 years I used to drive through Eagle Rock every day (except in bad weather when the park roads were closed) to get to and from my office. The view of Manhattan is wonderful from there. But I have never actually been in the park much itself. In my childhood we used to drive through there too, but my mom would always warn us that we should *never* actually go into the park itself. She constantly told us that sex maniacs in the form of rapists and rapist/murderers lurked along the trails of Eagle Rock waiting to prey on the unwary who ventured off the road.

So I have enjoyed birding in many other country parks in the area, but have *never* ventured into Eagle Rock, even though it's been more than 40 years since mom made her dire warnings. Yet, as I've driven through the park I've noticed one parking area often filled with cars, and the people getting out of the cars heading into the park have been people with dogs, families with toddlers - quite normal, unmaniacal looking folks. So on Friday I was coming home from 1) my acupuncturist, and 2) my picture framer, where I had one of my paintings framed - and I was passing through Eagle Rock. And it was a glorious day and leaves were all ablaze. I had my binoculars and camera with me, and decided to stop and go for a walk! The vista above is what greated me as I headed down the trail and into the woods.

As I went further I came up along a ridge where there were breaks in the trees showing the Manhattan skyline. I had meant to walk just a short way in to check it out, but it was so marvelously lovely that each turn of the trail brought me to something else I needed to check out, and so I kept going and going - until suddenly my trail ended, giving out onto a suburban street. Where was I? I found a sign saying I was at Afterglow Ave. in Verona. Wow, I had no idea the park even went there. At that point I had to turn around and go back again, but the way back was just as lovely. I walked for 90 minutes, and saw maybe a half dozen other people on the trail, all quite normal folks. Except for one asian man with a huge camera with a foot-long lens all the other walkers had dogs with them. Everyone nodded politely and said hello, not a maniac among them. And I saw two new life birds! A hermit thrush and a ruby-crowned kinglet, bringing my Life List up to 135 birds.

That walk was so lovely that today I decided to take a walk at Rifle Camp Park(in the photo above), another park I've often driven through, but have never gotten off the beaten path of the road before. And it was lovely also. No new life birds but I saw birds galore, including multiple yellow-rumped warblers, and white-breasted nuthatches, and another ruby-crowned kinglet, and a northern mockingbird, a downy woodpecker, a goldfinch, tufted titmice, an eastern phoebe, 9 wild turkeys, several crows and blue jays - 18 species in all.

As I walked along the crest of the hill I also got a wonderful view of the Manhattan skyline. It was a bit hazy today, and the skyline does not show as clearly here as it did from Eagle Rock the other day.
So I used the zoom lens on my camera to show you what I was seeing! Anyway, not really FOOD related, but it is HEALTH related. Eating real food is what helps give me the energy to go on walks like this. When I used to eat JUNK, like sugars and refined grains and processed foods, I never had any energy. I dragged myself to work in the morning and then home again at night, and would occasionally drag myself to things in the evening or on weekends. But that's what it was, a drag! Now I WANT to do these things. I love doing them. The weather is glorious now and I'm already envisioning trips to the Great Swamp and to the Meadowlands.

And I think I'll even go back and explore more of Eagle Rock!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Water Weight

Okay, this photo may not seem to have much to do with the title of this post, LOL, but there is a connection. So I have to backtrack to begin my story.

My dad died on December 31, 2009. My mom had died almost exactly 5 years early on December 18, 2004. When she died my dad just kept all her stuff, but when he died we had to go through all the stuff, and that included my mom's jewelry.

Now my mom was never one for expensive jewelry, most of her stuff was costume stuff, but my two sisters and I divided her stuff up based on our likes. She had one ring that I sort of liked, although it was filthy dirty, and missing a stone right in the center - though it had two pretty red stones on the left and right, and it also fit me, so I decided to take it. But of course it was sort of unwearable with the center stone missing, and filthy as it was. I didn't think it was worth much but it had sentimental value, so I took it to a jeweler to see if he would be willing to clean it, and repair it and find me a third stone - which I assumed was actually just glass.

So imagine my surprise when he told me the two stones actually still on the ring were quite nice quality *rubies*. And he said it might take him a while to actually find a third ruby that was of similar quality, clarity and color as the other two, and I would be talking $$$. But I decided to go ahead with it since the ring was an inheritance, and I picked it up from the jeweler yesterday. And a lovely job he did on it too - cleaned and brightened, and repaired the prongs, which were rather loose (undoubtedly how the middle stone had gotten lost). And he did a wonderful job of finding a stone that exactly matches the two end stones still on the ring!

So many thanks to Craig at Valley Jewelers in Upper Montclair, NJ.

It was rather loose on the ring finger of my left hand, so I moved it to my right hand (which has a slightly larger knuckle) and it fit fine there.

So to come back to the blog focus a bit - I was away in Canada last week, and got home Friday afternoon, so weighed myself at home Saturday morning for the first time in almost 10 days, and I was down at my lowest weight of the last 4 years, which was quite nice to see on the scale.

And then yesterday I was out and about and busy most of the day, with barely time to eat! A small protein shake and 4 brazil nuts for breakfast, and then for lunch I barely had time to eat a can of sardines, and that was it all day until 7:30 PM.

But I was out for the afternoon with friends, and we decided that we would stop at the local Whole Foods and buy food from the salad bar, and come back to friend's house and watch a DVD and eat our dinners. So that was what we did. I selected some pulled pork and bacon, and some various veggie dishes, and the ingredients all *sounded* quite acceptable.

But then this morning my scale was up *three and a half pounds* from what it had been the previous morning. One can hardly gain 3 1/2 pounds of fat overnight. It had to be water weight. And the proof seemed to be in the ring. This morning I went to wear it for church, and I could barely squeeze it onto my right ring finger, so I ended up transferring it to the left where it was comfortable.

But as the day went on it began to feel looser and looser on the left ring finger. Finally I ended up transferring back to the right finger. I'm still wearing the ring, but now even on the right it's feeling loose enough that the stones keep slipping to the underside of my finger as I type.

So the moral of the story seems to be "be careful what you eat" as if we didn't know that moral anyway! Clearly something from Whole Foods must have caused me to retain fluid. One more argument for doing your own cooking from fresh whole foods, as opposed to Whole Foods, LOL.

I made a really yummy Langostino Florentine for dinner tonight with nice CSA spinach, and langostinos from Trader Joe's. I'm hoping the loose ring fingers mean the scale will be back down again tomorrow!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trying new veggies

One of the interesting things about getting veggies from a CSA is that you never know what you will get! Which of course often means I get pounds and pounds of things that I don't eat. But it also means that I sometimes get things I've never had before.

Like just this week - where I got a big bunch of swiss chard. I've never had it in my life before now, and didn't even have a clue about how to cook it. I'm sure there are many ways but I did a quick google and the first recipe I hit seemed simple enough, so I made my own modifications and prepared it. I cut the ribs from the leaves and chopped up the leaves, as in the photo above, and then sauteed the leaves in butter with some garlic.

And I have to say it was awesome. Sadly, the recipe page I used quoted the following:

I never liked Swiss chard, until several years ago I had some that had been freshly picked from a friend's garden. It was so sweet and buttery I couldn't believe it was actually Swiss chard. It was then I learned that freshness was the key determinant to whether chard was delectable or detestable.

Hmm, so unless I get more swiss chard next week my odds of getting it very fresh are slim indeed. But I sure enjoyed it while I had it, and today I intend to cook up the ribs using the other recipe referenced on that first page but minus the pasta!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Back to the Gym

Well, I finally went and renewed my membership at Jersey Fitness. My membership had long since lapsed, and when I was working I basically had to go there at either 5 AM, or in the evening after dinner. And I just found it harder and harder to think about getting up to go there at 5 AM. And in the evening after dinner I didn't want to go out and do anything strenuous!

But now that I have joined the ranks of the unemployed I have more time on my hands. And I find I can go to the gym at 9 AM, a civilized hour, and find it nearly empty. It's just perfect. I love Jersey Fitness because they have a *pool* and I love to swim. True the YMCA has a pool too, but it's much more expensive, a real pain to park at the Y, the pool hours are so often limited and constrained, when the pool IS available it's always full of other swimmers.

Here the pool is basically available all the hours the gym is open, and I almost always have the pool completely to myself. I went for a nice swim on Tuesday when I rejoined, and again this morning, and I plan to go tomorrow morning too.

I know exercise does not help with weight loss. In fact there are many who actively discourage exercise if you are trying to lose weight. I know plenty of dieters who GAINED weight when they added exercise to their regimen.

But it just feels so good to swim. I adore it. It's almost like a moving meditation. And now that I have my prescription swim goggles I don't have to stumble around blindly either.

My new membership also gives me a free 30 minutes with a personal trainer, so I'm going to ask for a refresher on using the weight machines, and try to start up with Fred Hahn's Slow Burn program as I found it hard to do at home.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wearing Jeans

Well I'm finally back after being away for two weeks - a few days with my sister and her husband in North Carolina, then on to Florida to spend a week with my son and daughter-in-law and grandson to celebrate my grandson's first birthday, then back up to spend a day with a cousin in North Carolina, and back home again.

So that was two weeks of being without a scale, and not eating exactly as I would normally like to be eating, though I did my best to stick with my eating plan for the more part - although I caved to the Awesome Coconut Cake for my grandson's birthday (which I made myself, and it is indeed Awesome - but of course filled with evil ingredients, LOL). And also two weeks *without a scale* which is scary for someone like me who really relies on daily weighing to keep myself on-track and focused.

So it was with some trepidation that I got on the scale when I returned home, even though all the clothes I had worn on the trip were still fitting fine. So I didn't *lose* any weight. But I'm at the exact same weight I was when I left for me trip, so that's a victory in and of itself.

I had packed a pair of jeans in my suitcase, but it was far too hot in NC and FL to wear them, so they never left the suitcase. But it's been cool and fall-like here in NJ the last couple days, so I have put on the jeans up here.

And interestingly, they feel even a bit looser on me right now than they did when I left for my trip. No explanations for that. I guess I could have lost a bit in inches. But I won't take any meaurements as that generally leads to major disappointments when I do. But it's nice the jeans are so comfy. And my sister up here in NJ, who saw me two weeks ago, said "wow, you're looking thinner" when she saw me today. So maybe it is the inches since the weight is the same.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lazy Moussaka

I call this "lazy" because I used pre-made tomato sauce from Trader Joe's in the recipe. I don't normally do this sort of thing as I prefer being a "from scratch" cook, as I hate most prepared foods and their long lists of icky ingredients I don't want in my body. But I was at Trader Joe's the other day, and I know they are often better than most about things like that, so I picked up a bottle of sauce and looked at the ingredient list. All real foods, and nothing I wouldn't eat or use myself anyway (as long as I was having tomato), so I popped it into my grocery cart, and today I found a use for it in my nightshade moussaka dish.

But if you are a *really* lazy cook you might still think this recipe is too much work. :-)

Lazy Moussaka

- 1 lb. ground beef (mine was grass-fed)
- 1 largish leek (onion is fine but I had a leek)
- 1 green pepper
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 eggplant
- 3 medium-sized potatoes
- 1/2 a jar of Trader Joe's Three Cheese Pomodoro Pasta Sauce*
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- plenty of cheese of your choice, shredded or thinly sliced

Pre-heat oven to 350 F (180 C)
Peel and then thinly slice the eggplant, and lay slices on a paper-towel lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt, and set aside. This will drain some of the watery juices from the eggplant, and some feel it helps get rid of the bitter taste some people experience. (note if you have more eggplants you are welcome to use 2-3 of them and slice a little thicker. I just happened to have only one, so this recipe is how I made it).

Then peel the potatoes, and slice them thinly as if for potato chips. Place in a pot of water, and bring to a boil, cooking until you can pierce them with a fork pretty easily. Then drain.

While they are boiling slice the tomatoes thinkly into slices. Set aside. Then chop and dice the green peppers and the leek, including as much of the leek's green top as you wish. Ditto if you are using scallions. Obviously not an issue if using a plain onion.

Then saute the leek and pepper in a large skillet with your choice of cooking fat. I used bacon grease. When they have softened and slightly browned transfer them to a large bowl.

By now the eggplant should have drained, so take the layers and layer them on a greased baking sheet. I used coconut oil for the grease. Place in oven to bake.

Put the chopped beef into the skillet and saute until the beef is browned. Then add the cooked beef to the pepper and leek in the large bowl. Pour in a half jar of the Trader Joe's Three Cheese Sauce, add the tsp of cinnamon, and blend well.

Check the eggplant. If sliced thinly enough they should be easily pierced with a fork at this point, and slightly browned. You can flip them if you want and let them lightly brown on the other side too.

Then get out a 9x13 casserole dish, and grease it. I use coconut oil for the grease, but olive oil or butter would be fine too.

Remove eggplant from oven. Then line the bottom of the casserole dish with half the eggplant. On top of that place a layer of half the potato. Then top with a layer of half the tomatoes. Spoon half the meat mixture on top of that and try to spread evenly. Sprinkle or layer half your cheese over the meat. Then repeat the eggplant/potato/tomato/meat sauce/cheese layers with your remaining ingredients.

Place in over and bake for about 20-30 minutes, until heated through, and the top layer of cheese is a bit browned and bubbly. Enjoy and eat!

* Trader Joe's Three Cheese Sauce Ingredient list:
- imported Italian plum tomatoes, Romano, Parmesan and Asiago cheese (milk, salt, cheese cultures, enzymes), olive oil, onion, salt,, crushed garlic, oregano.

NOTE: I have been having one serving of this every day for three days now, but my knee has not been bothering me. I guess the jury is still mixed on nightshades.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nightshades Redux

A few months ago I posted about nightshades. I had decided to give them up to see if they alleviated the terrible arthritic pain I had in my knees. Well as often happens you start out with good intentions, and you start having a slice of tomato here, a few home fries there ....

The good thing about the experiment is that I had *no* knee pain the entire time. And over the years my knees have given me so much trouble to the point where sometimes I feel I can hardly walk. So was it the nightshade ban? Or were my knees just going through a period of calm? After all, my ban was not total. It was more a low nightshade period rather than a no nightshade period.

I still don't know. But my son and daughter-in-law joined a CSA earlier this year before my son was offered the job that took them down to Jacksonville, Florida. But they had already paid for and committed to the season. So they told me and my daughter-in-law's parents that we could use the remainder of the season, and pick up the weekly vegetables.

My daughter-in-law's parents had picked them up the last four weeks while I was up in Canada. But this past Tuesday I made my first pickup. What did my order include?

- 4 beets
- 1 bunch of leeks
- 4 green peppers
- 1 melon of choice (there were multiple types)
- 1 watermelon
- 2 lbs. of potatoes
- 5 lbs. of tomatoes
- 2 heirloom tomatoes
- 1 carton of cherry tomatoes
- 1 lb. rattlesnake beans
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 1 eggplant

So what do I see on that list? Tomatoes, peppers, more tomatoes, eggplant, potato, more tomatoes - all *nightshades*. My entire order seemed to be the foods I had been trying to eliminate or at least limit, and now I had a week to use these up before my next order arrived.

So I was having leek and green pepper omelets with sides of home fries, sliced tomatoes with all my meat and cheese, and omelets as well. I admit it all tasted good.

But also .... this week BOTH MY KNEES have been killing me. I have not had this sort of knee pain in months. The pain was enough to keep me awake for some hours one night this week. And even when awake I've been hobbling around and popping aspirin.

Is it the weather? The season? Or is it the nightshade overload of the past week? I don't know. But I'm trying one thing. I've taken all the veggies shown in the photo I took above, and I am cooking them up to make a big casserole of moussaka. The moussaka is in the oven even as I type. This will be a real nightshade overload. If I wind up with more knee pain then maybe I will go back into avoidance mode.

But I still have a bunch of tomatoes left (as well as all four beets, 1 remaining leek, and lots of rattlesnake beans), and tomorrow a new CSA delivery arrives. If it is also heavy on the nightshades I may have to find new homes for them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Farm meals

Yes I ate well when I was up at the farm. I ate hearty, that's for sure, and yet I didn't gain any weight while I was up there. And yet I routinely had things like lobster, lobster stew, cheese omelets, and all sorts of other good things to eat - including farm-fresh blueberries and raspberries. So here is a sampling of some of my meals up at the farm!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lobster Stew

We love to have lobster when we are up in Canada on vacation. But we especially LOVE to get an extra lobster and make lobster stew the next day. In fact my son won't even eat a plain boiled or steamed lobster anymore. But he loves the lobster stew!

So I made it a few times up in Canada, twice for myself, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. And once to invite a neighbor to lunch. This is NOT a recipe for someone who is a fat-phobe, LOL.

Lobster Stew

meat from one lobster, cut into small bite-sized chunks (don't forget the meat from inside the body, lots of good stuff there too)
1 pound bacon
1 medium to large onion, diced
1/2 pound mushrooms, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. sea salt
Optional: 2-4 potatoes (depending on size), peeled and cubed
1 quart or 1 liter heavy cream

If potatoes are desired peel them and cut into small bite-sized cubes. Boil until soft enough for a fork to pierce them (about potato salad consistency) and then drain and set aside.

In a large high-sided skillet cook bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from the skillet to drain and cool, and when it is cool crumble into bite-sized pieces.

Add the onions, mushrooms and garlic to the bacon grease in the skillet, and saute until all have browned. If potatoes are being used add the potatoes at this point and the sea salt, and saute for a few more minutes.

Once potatoes have lightly browned pour in the cream. Stir all ingredients well, and continue to cook over low heat, stirring to prevent burning, until the cream has slightly reduced and thickened.

Just before serving stir in the bacon and the lobster meat - and remove from heat, stirring or another minute or two. You want the meat to be heated through, but not overly cooked and toughened. Makes about 4-6 servings and is very hearty.

To lessen carb impact for those you need it you could substitute cooked cauliflower or turnip chunks for the potatoes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chocolate Coconut Raspberry flax muffins

I'm finally back after nearly a month up in Atlantic Canada, enjoying a wonderful respite from the hot weather here at home - and getting my fill of lobster and fresh wild blueberries, and Cole's cheddar cheese. All definite annual treats.

We also got lots of fresh raspberries from our neighbors' garden, and I tried to think of various ways to use them. It's hard to put down recipes though as I so rarely measure things when I cook, LOL. But I did make these muffins and they were pretty darn tasty, so I'm doing my best to recreate:

Chocolate Coconut Raspberry Flax Muffins

1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup melted shortening (I used a mixture of butter and coconut oil)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
water or cream as needed
1/2 to 1 cup fresh raspberries

Blend all ingredients through the eggs together. If mixture is very thick (and it probably will be) slowly add some water or cream and blend until you get a thinner consistency. Not as thin as a pancake batter or a commercial cake-mix batter, but definitely thinner than a cookie dough batter.

When consistency seems right gently fold in the raspberries. Add a little of some sweetener of choice if desired. Then spoon into paper-lined muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake at 350F (180C) until the tops spring back to the touch, maybe 20 minutes. I think this made about a dozen for me.

They are really a yummy treat, and especially good when served warm with some fresh farm butter. And getting a rich burst of fresh raspberry in your bite is a real treat. :-)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I tucked in my shirt!

Tonight I had an opening reception to go to for the annual Member Show of the Pastel Society of New Jersey. I was fussing around over what to wear, as I especially wanted to wear some new handmade jewelry I bought yesterday. The earrings and necklace were a pretty turquoise color, and nothing in my wardrobe seemed to go with it. Finally I pulled out a cheap $3 T-shirt from AC Moore that I had bought to paint in. But had not used it yet so it was still clean.

It was the only thing I could find in the right color! So I pulled it on over my slacks. But it still looked like a cheap $3 T-shirt, so I tried to see how I could "dress it up", and pulled a vest of the closet. That started to look better. But the T-shirt still looked cheap, and looked a little weird hanging so long below the vest.

So I ended up TUCKING THE SHIRT IN. Maybe only someone who has been as large as I was can understand what a milestone this was for me. It's been YEARS since I last tucked in my shirt. I can't even remember the last time I did it. I like my shirts long and loose so they come way down over my hips, and hide my tummy. The idea of wearing a shirt tucked in is just totally alien to me.

But tonight I did it! And I was not even all that displeased with how I looked. Of course I did have the vest on too. But it's not a long vest. I was actually *okay* with how I looked.

So might as well celebrate the little things in life, . Tucking in a shirt is sure a little thing, but it's a big milestone for me!

The reception was great too. I got to hand out the prizes (didn't win any, boo hoo). Lots of awesome cheeses to try, and some veggies and hummus, and water and unsweetened iced tea. I just avoided the chips and crackers and the dessert and sweet table, and had a great time.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cauliflower salad

It's July 4th - the US Independence Day. Typically a day of parades and fireworks, but also a day for picnics and barbecues. I was invited to two today. First a picnic lunch at my sister's house, and second a barbecue at a friend's house. For the first I was asked to only bring myself. For the second I was asked to bring a side dish.

Barbecues classically feature grilled meats of some sort, so from that standpoint provide no problems for eating, but the side dishes are often problematical - things like pasta salads and potato chips (likely fried in trans fats and/or high PUFA oils), or baked beans with lots of sugar.

At my sister's it was so easy to eat. She had fresh cold cuts, including my favorite KerryGold cheese, made from the milk of grass-fed Irish cows. There were pasta salad and chips there too, but also plenty of nice fresh veggies and dill pickles. We sat in her backyard in the shade, with a light breeze blowing, and watched birds and chipmunks and a woodchuck playing in the stream and the woods behind her house - very pleasant indeed. And after eating we took a ride through Rifle Camp Park and Garrett Mountain and saw plenty of deer and wild turkeys. The coyotes were all in deep hiding though, despite the "beware of coyotes" signs posted at both parks!

But for this evening's barbecue I figured I had better bring a side dish I knew I could eat, as I couldn't count on any of the others being acceptable to me, so I made my cauliflower salad, which is very tasty indeed.

Cauliflower Salad

1 head cauliflower, steamed, and broken up into bite-sized pieces
6 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped up
3-4 scallions, cut into pieces, including as much of the green part as you can manage
1/2 shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup spicy mayo

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Turn into a serving dish and sprinkle paprika or cayenne over the top. Chill until ready to serve, at least a few hours, to give the flavors a chance to meld.

As for spicy mayo? I made my own mayo more-or-less following the spicy mayo recipe in Nourishing Traditions. But you can take a cup of any mayo and add to it:
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1/2 oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne

I made it last night and the flavors have been blending since then. The party is in 30 minutes so we will see how it goes over. But I also made it on Memorial Day, and my friend who is having the party today had it then, and requested it for today. So I know at least one person will like it. :-)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Macadamia Nuts

Oooh, macadamia nuts. When you need a satisfying snack what could be better? Well, I love most all nuts, but macadamias are special. They have that satisfying nutty crunch, but also a smooth, buttery texture which no other nut matches. But best of all they have an excellent Omega6 profile. Since ODing on Omega6 in relationship to Omega3 is essentially rampant in the Standard American Diet I especially like to find foods I can enjoy that are low in Omega6.

Not that macadamias don't have a few drawbacks, of course. One scary thing about them is that they are quite toxic for dogs, and it doesn't take too many of them to bring about toxicosis. This was more of a worry when my dogs Willow and Maggie (especially Maggie), the chowhounds, were still alive. Maggie in particular had a knack for getting into impossible places to nose out food. I used to call her the Rasputin of Dogs as over her lifetime she got into things that were deadly for dogs many a time - ingesting a bunch of dark chocolate, a baseball-sized onion, a half a cannister of raisins - and didn't even cause her so much as a burp, and she lived to be 15 1/2. But I still worry about macadamias even though Bran, my current dog, is much more of a wimp about stealing food. His worst offense is a bite from the cat food bowl as I am taking him out to the back yard.

Macadamias tend to be expensive too. That keeps them from being an every-day treat. But the *worst* thing about macadamias is their addictive nature! They are so awesomely yummy that the old potato chip slogan of "betcha can't eat just one" is especially apt. I've tried to limit my intake by buying the smallish jars in the supermarket - typically 4 or 6 ounces. Yet a jar goes in a single sitting, or a single morning or afternoon at least. I get the jar home, pour a handful into my palm, or a bowl if I'm being fancy. I'll eat those, and decide a couple more can't hurt, so have a few more, then I'll notice there are aren't that many left in the jar, and I'll end up polishing them off! No wonder I don't buy them often.

But the other day I found a solution to it, :-). I was at Costco looking for the wonderful big blocks of KerryGold cheese that they sell there. I found the cheese, but took a quick spin around some of the other aisles too, and spied a large cannister of macadamia nuts. 24-ounces large to be precise. Having that many nuts in the house was a bit scary to contemplate, but the cannister jumped into my cart anyway and I allowed it to stay there. They are dry-roasted (no rancid high-PUFA oils) and salted with sea salt.

And I found that a LARGE cannister of macadamias is better for portion control than a small jar. Who'd a thunk it. But much as I adore macadamias I could still never eat 24 ounces worth at a single sitting. And I could take a good handful to eat but the cannister still looked sufficiently full that I had no urge to go back for more to finish it off. So for the last few days I've had a handful of macadamias as a treat at some point during the day. And I was content with just that handful. I didn't need to go back for more.

So so-far-so-good. Interesting that more means less, as far as eating goes. My weight was down to a new low this morning also, so it is not hurting me there either.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The tyranny of the scale

To weigh or not to weigh is always a big debate among the community of people who hope to lose weight by whatever method they choose - and there are often heated arguments on both sides. At one end you have people who weigh themselves several times daily, and on the other you have people who never weigh themselves!

Of course there is no right answer to this debate, as the only correct answer is the one that works for the person in question. For ME the correct answer is daily weighing - first thing in the morning.

This helps keep me honest, and keeps me from rude surprises. How many times in the past have I given up daily weighing, only to find that somehow I have gained 20 or 30 pounds in the meantime without realizing it? Alas when you are not a skinny Minnie, as I am not, 20 or 30 pounds is hardly noticeable. That is until you step on the scale and then it creates depression.

Only last summer I spent two weeks up in Canada without a scale, and I would have SWORN I kept to my eating habits, and ate only Real Food, and didn't eat any differently than usual. But when I got home I found I was 12 pounds heavier than I had been on the day I left for Canada, and I HATE rude surprises like that. Even eating as healthily as I can does not save me from those sorts of surprises.

So daily weighing keeps me on top of things before that 12-pound gain happens. But this past week I spent in North Carolina without a scale. I tried to be careful about what I ate, but I was still worried. I was especially worried as the day before I left for North Carolina I had inexplicably gained 4 pounds overnight. In the past such overnight gains were very common, but since I have modified my diet to avoid most all processed foods, and sticking to healthy real foods, I have rarely seen overnight gains like that. The scale varies up and down, but in much smaller increments.

So being scaleless in North Carolina had me nervous. Another 4-pound gain there would have put me at a number that would have been depressing for sure. The only good thing was that I tried on my jeans the day before I left to head home, and they still fit comfortably. The jeans are the only good barometer for me without a scale, as most of my other clothes can easily accommodate a 10-20 pound gain without perceptible change in comfort.

But getting on the scale on the day after my return home I found I was down the 4 pounds I had quickly gained, and was at the current lower end of my weight journey. So that was a relief for me. But getting on the scale after a gap of 8 days is just too nerve-wracking for me. That's why daily weighing is what I need to live with.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

First of all - Happy Mother's Day to everyone out there. Even if you are not a mother yourself you surely have, or have had, a mother, and therefore it's a fine day to celebrate for everyone. Where would we all be without mothers? :-)

It's a special Mother's Day for me, as it's the first year that includes my fine grandson, and my daughter-in-law's very first Mother's Day as a mother herself.

My son and daughter-in-law took me out to lunch at The Ship Inn in Milford, NJ, a British-style brew pub which has long been a family favorite. Their standard menu is one we have always enjoyed, although they often have weekend and holiday specials as well.

When you are on an eating plan that is not the "standard", and you follow various blogs and message boards, you will find those who exhort you not to deviate one iota from your plan, and others who tell you "it's a holiday. Eat whatever you like."

Hmm, well my own feeling is that option two is often a slippery slope that can lead to more and more reasons to find "special". But that option one is sometimes too stringent.

My own method tends to be more middle-of-the-road, as I tend to be about things in general. Does this make me wishy-washy? A mugwump? Hey, it works works for me. Try not to go wildly careening off center - no falling face-down into plates of pasta made with white flour. But don't freak out about every bite.

As for my own meal- I drank only water with a lemon slice in it. I split two appetizers with my son and daughter-in-law, so had one potato skin with crumbled bacon and Stilton cheese, and some chicken sausage sauteed with apple slices, both very tasty.

For my main meal I got the "catch of the day" fish, which came with some sauteed veggies, a small seaweed salad, and sweet potato fries. I did eat a few of the fries though most remained on my plate, but the few I had were tasty. And I gave in to a dessert as well, sharing a serving of cheesecake with my son.

But at the risk of TMI, on our ride home I was overcome with a case of intestinal distress and had to make an emergency stop at a Walmart, to run in and use the restroom. "Hmmm", I thought to myself, "something at the restaurant must have disagreed with me."

And as I was writing this post I decided to google on escolar, which was the type of fish I had eaten. I was not surprised to read that it is sometimes referred to as "super white tuna" as I have never seen a fish so white! It was so blindingly white it almost looked fake. The white-meat codfish my daughter-in-law had in her fish and chips looked outright dingy in comparison. The flesh was as true a white as glossy white paint, and had a rich buttery taste and texture. The fact that Wikipedia says it is often sold as "butterfish" or "oilfish" does not surprise me in the least.

But the fact that *did* surprise me was reading that its sale is banned in several countries because of the severe intestinal distress it has caused consumers, and that at one time the FDA had issued a bulletin recommending against its importation for sale because of this.

At least it solves a mystery for me, and I now have a good idea why I needed to make a stop at Walmart on the way home! But it certainly tasted good while I was eating it. However I think escolar will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.