Friday, February 22, 2008

In defense of carbs

(cross-posted on The Mysterious Traveler)

Ten years ago, fat was the bane of dieters. Today, it's carbs.

But there are carbs, and there are carbs.

One one hand, you have Minute Rice, Ritz crackers, instant oatmeal, and white bread. And on the other hand, you have brown rice, Rye Krisps, steel-cut oats, and breads like Ezekiel Bread and Dave's Killer Bread.

The difference is whole grains and fiber. The high-fiber carbs are very filling and nutritious. Eaten with a little cheese or peanut butter, they're a whole meal.

Somewhat to my amazement, I've come to love brown rice. I cook a big pot of it every Monday morning, and live off it for the rest of the week. (See the brown rice recipe, below.)

Brown rice heated up with a little cinnamon and brown sugar and chopped apples makes a quick breakfast. Leftover baked chicken or leftover vegetables (or curry) can be mixed with brown rice for lunch. And brown rice pudding with currents makes a very good dessert or evening snack.

My favorite brown rice dish is brown rice pancakes. I mix cooked brown rice with lots of browned onions, eggs, a little potato flour (or regular flour) and a pinch of baking soda. Then I drop the batter by 1/4 measures into a frying pan with oil to make something very similar to potato pancakes.

It turns out there are many types of brown rice. I've been using the plain, large-grain brown rice. Here's the basic recipe:

• 2-1/3 cups of rice to 4 cups of water
• or 3 -1/2 cups of rice to 6 cups of water

Rinse the uncooked rice three times and drain well. Put the water on to boil in a separate saucepan. While waiting for the water to come to a boil, put two tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a heavy, tight-lidded sauce pan, then sauté the well-drained rice in the oil while you wait for the water to boil. Do this over fairly high heat. It has to be stirred constantly, otherwise it will scorch. This process coats the rice with the oil and evaporates the water from rinsing. The rice will begin to smell very nutty after a minute or two.

When the water in the other pan has come to a vigorous boil, pour it over the rice in the sauce pan. It is very important at this point not to stir the rice anymore, not even once. Let it come back up to a vigorous boil, put the lid on, turn it down as low as you can and cook for 45 minutes. During this time,
do not lift the lid or do anything else to it. When 45 minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the rice sit undisturbed for at least 15-20 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Am I too sick to work out?

I've had a cold in my chest for more than a week, but no fever. I get tired in the late afternoon, and start coughing when I'm tired. The first day this happened, I took a nap, but now I'm chugging along at pretty much my regular rate.

I've been doing yoga, but skipping the African dance aerobic cardio workouts.

Mulling over whether to get back on the track with the cardio class tonight, I did some online research. The best article I found quoted Mayo Clinic physicians advising against doing a major workout after a cold has settled in your chest.

So it's yoga at home again tonight.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Comfort food (and drink)

There's something about being sick that strips your life down to basics: Bathrobe, shearling slippers, bed, and food that doesn't have to be cooked much, if at all.

I drink black tea (Yorkshire Gold) all the time, but when I have a cold it's just Lipton, since I'm going to squeeze half a lemon into every cup anyway!

Clear soup works for me. We have some natural chicken soup base (paste in a jar that you refrigerate, not the powdered stuff) and spicy Thai Kitchen soup (canned). Zorg cooked me scrambled eggs for dinner — perfect.

My comfort-food favorites are extremely dry ginger ale and raspberry sorbet, neither of which we generally keep in stock. And, since I'm only slightly under the weather, I can't justify wheedling for a special trip the grocery store to get those.

What are your favorite comfort foods?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Who moved my workout?

Suddenly none of my fitness classes seems to adhere to a schedule. The every-other-week extreme yoga class is now happening two weeks in a row, but not the next week, and then who knows?

The dance/yoga class is canceled for three weeks, then starting up again in March.

Power belly dancing was on hiatus while the instructor went to Hawaii; now it's back for a while — until she goes to Egypt. The new start time is earlier than it used to be, so I spaced out and didn't get to the class on Tuesday. Argh.

As you can probably tell, this is driving me nuts. I was so proud of myself for getting to three workouts a week, no excuses, but now I'm finding the schedule changes are making me crazy and cranky.

I considered trying out a yoga class at a new studio, and penciled two classes in on the calendar this week, but then I wimped out. I find breaking into a new class pretty stressful. I worry about things like will the teacher teach the whole hour using terms I've never heard before? Will the class be made up of model-thin 25-year-olds wearing strappy pastel yoga tops?

So I ended up in the dining room this afternoon, doing "trailer park yoga" on my own. I guess that's the new schedule: If class is canceled, take that time slot and do 50 minutes of yoga in the dining room. While I have trouble pushing myself to do the fast aerobic vinyasa transitions, I can push myself to do the really long poses and long balancing moves, plus the weight lifting, so I'm definitely getting a good workout.