Saturday, January 15, 2011

Beef. Lots of it.

When you imagine buying a beef, a whole beef, it's hard to grasp how much meat you might be getting. Even when we got the call that our meat was ready, and that it was 750 pounds, we knew on a high level that was a lot...but how much freezer space would it take up? How many little packages make up 750 pounds?

First, a little about the cow in question. My brother raises a small (hobby herd) of cattle, selling one or two each year to friends and family. So this summer I committed us to a cow, knowing that we could take a quarter of it, another quarter to some friends and the remaining half would go to another brother and sister-in-law, who have 7 little angels at home.

Even though a quarter cow still sounded like a lot, we had no idea of what to expect. Did we buy too much? Too little? The price was right...$2.75 a pound for everything from top-round to sirloin to ground beef, which is a FAR cry from the prices at the farmer's markets here in Seattle. And while it's not certified "Organic", I've seen first hand the cows grazing grounds, and let me tell you, it's pretty idyllic. They graze on pesticide free grass on rolling hills that look like something out of an Ansel Adams photo.

So on Friday night, we borrowed a pick-up truck from my parents, and drove east, crossing two mountain passes through rain, sleet and just a little snow. We made it in over 6 hours. The next morning, we headed to the butcher to pick up said beef, and after loading it into the back of the pick-up, we realized that it wasn't too much, or too little...a quarter cow seemed about perfect. In total, we had about 2 and a half boxes of fantastic meat...low fat content, good color, and great taste. And the best part? We managed to squeeze it all in our stand up freezer.

All in all, buying local meat is so worth the investment. Beyond being less expensive and tastier, it is really nice knowing that where your food comes from. And it's so easy to find local, fantastic meat here in Washington, that I hope more people reach out and make the effort. It's so worth it.

(a few pics from our drive)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Seasonally Seattle...on a diet.

As I have mentioned in posts past, I've gained a little weight.

What really feels like 30 pounds is probably akin to 10 pounds, but nonetheless, I feel roly and poly and everything in between. So I've been focusing on cooking in balance, rather than doing a diet (despite how tempting those "Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days" diet claims are). Oh, and of course, exercising. Lots and lots of exercising.

Back to the food though.

I've been grappling with why it's been so darn hard to lose this extra weight even when I continually exercise. I have blamed it on my aging metabolism. I have blamed it on not lifting enough weight or not pushing hard enough on the elliptical. But the equation is a simple one, according to a slough of  health magazines and the folks on The Biggest Loser.

The equation is this: eat less than you burn and you'll lose weight. It's that simple. 

Hmmm. Eat less. What a concept. And so, with a trip to Mexico on the horizon, I've been obsessively counting my calories. I've done this in the past, with only so-so results. I would count the first few meals of the day, and when it came to dinner, I would eyeball calorie counts. You see, it's tough to calculate each and every ingredient when you make everything from scratch. Or maybe it's not just takes a certain level of dedication.

So this time around, I've been better, probably to a fault. Each and every morsel that enters my mouth is calculated and accounted for. And this dedication has been disturbingly eye-opening for me.

You see, I have a certain mentality when it comes to food. In essence, if they are "good" for you, they don't count.

For instance Olive Oil.

The recipe calls for two tablespoons? I'll just eyeball it, and glug-glug-glug it into the pan until it "looks right". Realistically, what I've dumped in is probably something closer to a half cup. It doesn't count, it's good for you! Meanwhile I've added an extra 600 calories or so into a dish. Hmmm. Or Red Wine. Not including the amount I *drink* on a nightly basis, I also just glug-glug-glug it into my sauces. Red Wine is good for you!  Same goes for the tons of veggies I dump into sauces, without a second thought. I mean, each veggie is low cal...probably around 34 calories each. But when you add 5 veggies to a sauce for added health benefits, before you know it you've added a ton more calories than needed.

And all of those little calories just keep tinning away into the muffin-top bank, spreading the wealth into my abs, triceps and thighs. Fun.

And so in my recent attempt to really count calories, I've been counting everything, including the veggies I put into a sauce, the onions I chop, even the garlic I pound mercilessly. And when I discovered what 2 teaspoons of Olive Oil REALLY looks like, I was shocked.

This is good though. Rather than simply not cooking my favorite foods, I'm actually finding ways to make all our moderation. Huh.

So tonight I'm making pasta again (320 calories) with tomato sauce (200 calories), and since I ate fairly light the rest of the day, I'll be under my calorie goal for the day. Not bad.