Thursday, September 20, 2012

Making milk and lowering cholesterol

For the last few years, my husband has been under a doctor's care and taking twice-daily medication for alarmingly high cholesterol. Last year he heard a story on NPR that scared the heck out of him, and one day - with no warning, without his doctors knowledge (or mine for that matter) - he decided to stop taking his meds.

When I found out, I was - to put it mildly - very, very concerned. He reassured me that a friend he played cards with had informed him during a game one night that having a bowl of plain oatmeal every morning would bring his cholesterol down below 200 without medication. And also, that if he had a pair of nines he should double down. He took both pieces of advice, and lost the card game......but he was determined to try this oatmeal thing. He also agreed to stop eating ice cream at bedtime. I only stopped arguing about it because I wasn't about to start grinding up pills and sneaking it into his applesauce. He wasn't going to take those pills anymore, and the oatmeal couldn't hurt, so I decided to let him go for it and just beg him to get his number checked after a month to make sure everything was okay

Darned if he didn't lower his cholesterol.

One night, as I sat next to him with my pint of Haagen Dazs (because my cholesterol is just fine, thanks) he said he was going to start making smoothies every morning with the Vitamix. "Great!" I said. Last year, I got romanced into buying a Vitamix at Costco and I am always trying to get more use out of that thing. It cost a small fortune and I still wasn't wholly convinced that it was worth the investment.The kids, however, love it, and delight in watching the instructional DVD (I wish I was kidding) and reading the recipe book trying to come up with something even funkier than what is already being described.

Which is hard to do.

We have made smoothies, ice cream, soup, pesto, hummus - all the usual blender stuff. But it still wasn't getting much use. I mean, how many times a week can you make hummus?

We also made almond milk, which was the one thing that really made me feel like I was getting my money's worth. You can probably make almond milk in your blender at home if it's got enough power - just add 1/4 cup almonds to one cup water (adjust to desired consistency). I started out using whole almonds which I bought in bulk. Eventually I switched to almond slices because the skin of the almonds made the milk kind of gritty and I didn't like that.

Making almond milk this way was cheaper and allowed me to make just what I needed. I didn't have extra almond milk going bad, and I was keeping those cartons out of our landfill. I used it for making cream sauces - especially for meat and other savory dishes. It had a great nutty taste, and was much better for us than using dairy. It was a winning idea all around.

My husband used the almond milk a lot to make his daily smoothie.

And then one day, probably inspired by that instructional DVD, he decided to make Oat milk. I sat back and watched worlds collide. He threw a scoop of dry, uncooked oatmeal in the blender, added water, and put the Vitamix on high until had the right consistency. Then he went ahead and added the rest of his ingredients.

He abandoned the bowl of oats every morning, opting instead to throw them in his smoothie, and his cholesterol remains under 200 - as long as he skips ice cream at bed time.

As for doubling down when you have a pair of nines, we've agreed not to do that anymore.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The simple things

I love a lot of things. My kids, my husband, my family, my friends, my dog......

And I have lately been struck by the urge to buy stuff I love. Stuff I cannot afford. Stuff from places like Anthropologie and Sundance and Garnet Hill and the car dealership in town (photo to come - I'm working on affording a second car now that the Mini Cooper has been sold).

In my efforts to have a life that reflects the pretty pictures I pore over online and in catalogs, I have been tearing out page after page, saving links and jotting down notes. Here is the first installment of things that have made me smile this week. And some of them were free........

Guys. Have you ever been to the North End of Boston? No? Can you just take a moment and jot this down? NORTH END BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS. Aaaaaaand go.

The North End is one of my favorite places on earth, and not just because it is the place Sam kissed me for the first time. (In swirling snow, on a cobblestone street lit by a gas lamp at midnight on our way to get a cappuccino  Yeah.) This summer we were there several times, and on one trip I went into this tiny store to buy tea and spices. I asked if they would ship, and if so could I have a business card, and the man behind the original wood counter, ringing me up on the original cash register that was all brass and round buttons and clanging numbers, rustled around on the register and gave me one of these:

GUYS LOOK AT THE PHONE NUMBER. I totally want to call the operator and ask for Capitol 7-0786

Okay, speaking of Anthropologie, my mom has finally caught on to my blind devotion to all things Anthro. The esthetique of this company just does it for me, man. So she dutifully went to Anthro to choose an anniversary gift for us me to commemorate 14 years of wedded bliss. It was a copy of "Happier at Home" which is - by all accounts - a wonderful book and I just can't wait to dig in. But first I have to take photos of the packaging it came in. Most notably, the envelope that contained the packing slip.

The blue-lined envelope with sewn edges and string closure. Ermahgahd.

I want to frame it.
Is that wrong?

In other catalog news, an item I bought from Sundance is still making me happy after all these.....months.

I love my bathroom - it is all white, and we ordered a cast iron claw foot tub for it.  Next to the tub is a beat up wooden table (can we just call it shabby chic?) and I put this epergne on top, filled with soaps and scrubs and lotions and towels. It makes me feel so fancy, to sit in my fancy tub and choose a bath salt from my fancy baskets. I should be wearing a tiara.

Okay, enough with the material stuff. I have one last thing to share that made me feel like a domestic goddess today (Minus the domestic. And the goddess, actually.)

I made tortilla chips.

Are you totally underwhelmed? Sorry. For me, this is just a step below hunting and foraging for my dinner. So you go back to canning the homemade preserves you made with fruit from your orchard and have a nice day. You may be yawning, but I am feeling empowered. I don't bake my own bread, or make my own tortillas, and if I want chips for my salsa, I buy a bag. UNTIL TODAY.

It was embarrassingly easy, and way cheaper and more delicious than store-bought corn chips. Probably because I made them with flour tortillas.

First, I poured some oil in a pan and heated it up. While it was heating, I made guacamole. Guacamole is avocado, smooshed with lemon juice, a dash of hot sauce and a sprinkle of salt. Like so:

Okay, is the oil getting hot yet? Good.

Take a flour tortilla

Cut it up

Toss it in the oil (You can cook more than this I just put in a few for the photo)

They should puff up right away. If they don't the oil isn't hot enough.


Cool on some paper towels. You can salt them if you want but I don't think it's necessary. They will be hot for quite a while, so don't get too excited. They need to drain and cool a bit!

A very fulfilling Sunday around these parts. Delicious and aesthetically pleasing FTW. I'm not going to find my house on the pages of any design or homemaking blog, but hey. It works for me.

Here's to taking baby steps!