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Giving Blood

Posted: February 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Sometimes, life doesn’t happen the way you want it to. As I sit here writing this, I’m at 2900 steps for the day… and I haven’t eaten a single vegetable.

Today I woke up and it was one of those days which reminds me of why I live in California. There was blue sky, the sun was shining, and you didn’t need to be wearing a coat… in the middle of February. I had the day planned out – get to farmers’ market, eat some brunch, take a nice long walk, and head in to Omnivore Books to see Christie Matheson talk about her new book Salty Sweets which has been tantalizing me in the shop for weeks.

Oh, it all started out well enough. We were up and about early, so we decided to head over the bridge to Berkeley Farmers’ Market and pick up some Cheeseboard pizza and salad.

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At the market I got myself a cup of drip coffee from Blue Bottle , and then purchased a 1/2 pound of Bella Donovan blend to go. Being able to get your choice of freshly roasted coffee is certainly a treat here in The Bay Area. I’m not a coffee guzzler, but I certainly like to have my one morning cup as part of my waking rituals.

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We also tasted a bit of homemade chocolate peanut butter ice cream, but somehow that evaded my camera (ie: we ate it too quickly.) I’m not sure how we ended leaving there with only coffee, but somehow nothing was calling out to me today. The persimmons were beautiful (although I’m not a big persimmon fan…) so I took a glamour shot and didn’t buy any (it was kind of an embarrassing blogger moment).

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We were heading to our late brunch, having parked the car two blocks away from Cheeseboard, when I happened to notice a Red Cross Blood Clinic sign at the Latter-Day Saints church. Being the day before Valentines day, I decided that it was as good a time as any to donate – I try to give blood as much as possible – and I hadn’t in some time since moving to San Francisco. (I tried donating at St. Lukes on Cesar Chavez a few months ago, but they informed me that they don’t take blood donations. I thought that was standard practice at hospitals??)

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I was pretty excited to do my part. I even took a pre-blood giving picture of myself.

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Because I hadn’t eaten yet (BAD, I know.) I took some of their Unsalted Trail Mix to ensure that I didn’t pass out. This was the first time giving blood that the staff actually encouraged us to eat before hand, which seems like it should be a standard practice. At about 240 calories for two ounces of nuts, raisins, and seeds, the trail mix was the best nutritional choice I could find, and I really wished that they had just had some fruit on hand. That leads to my pet peeve of the day: Why is it that the standard blood giving snacks are cookies, muffins, Oreos, and Cheez-its??? Aren’t we trying to save lives?

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And this is when my day went downhill.

I’ll spare you the gory details (and photos of needles in my arm…) but somehow, my 10 minute good samaritan act turned into a three hour ordeal, including an hour and ten minutes with needles in my arm, 25 with a tech actually wiggling a needle in my arm (if this had bothered me more, I would have asked them to stop, but with 3/4 of the bag filled I wasn’t going to let it go to waste..) and then holes in both arms because of some “equipment failure”.

Now, please don’t let this scare you from giving – this was completely a flukey situation, and I definitely plan on donating again, but man, it was unfortunate. The only saving grace was the ridiculously nice lab tech who sat with me kindly trying to get my mind off things by discussing the possibilities of fusion food including a filipino Kaldereta (meat in tomato stew) that he was planning on making tonight with some pozole, and his love of masala spice mixes.

When everything was over, I was shaky, and not pictured were the Oreos I ended up giving in to. At this point I wasn’t too upset to cram in some junk, despite Michael Pollan’s recommendations of not eating anything that your third grader can’t pronounce.

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I got out of there with an ice pack to go and an extra one just in case.

Cheeseboard is closed from 3 to 4:30, and at this point after already missing work, we decided to stick around and wait for them to re-open. I had some jasmine tea at Peet’s with a splash of soy milk to calm me down.

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It was 4:15 and I was starving, so I gave in to a cheesy roll from the Cheeseboard cheese market. I ate about half of it before the pizza shop opened.

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Tonight’s pizza was topped with Roma tomatoes, onions, mozzarella and Fontina cheeses, garlic olive oil, fresh herbs. Yet another satisfying mostly healthy vegetarian pie. I had about half of what was pictured here (it amounts to 2.5 slices), and then ate Devon’s crust. Usually I also get a small salad, but for some reason I wasn’t feeling up to greens.

The good thing is that technically I’m not above my calorie allotment for the day (I had been eating 1200 to 1500 during initial weightloss, and now I’m up to about 1500-1900 calories a day as I get closer to my goal). But, the clear nutrition deficit is going to bother me until I can get in a good fix of kale and collards.

Despite my strong desire to get in some extra exercise tonight, I’m going to be sensible and rest, sit down and watch Julie and Julia, which finally arrived in my netflix queue, and get to bed early.


Easy Weeknight Fish Dinner

Posted: February 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Pantry staples | Tags: , | No Comments »

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I’m writing this after running up and down the stairs in my apartment about 10 times. Ah, the woes of a pedometer owner trying to get to my daily 10,000 steps. After hearing my doctors recommend it, and then having my daily dose of Dr. Oz’s fitness advice on TIVO, I’ve finally started adopting 10k-a-day. I won’t lie and say it’s easy – it amounts to about an hour and a half of walking – a little more challenging when your day job is a relatively sedentary one. But I know that it’s good for me so I’m going to try to stick with it!

* * *

Tonight I needed a light dinner, to balance my lunchtime food fail:

[ Mint tea, a green chile tamale, sauteed spinach, a large spoonful of Barney Butter, a quarter of a string cheese, a few pistachios and a quarter cup of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream – all of which are delicious on their own, but in combination gave me a tummy ache. ]

In honor of the Olympics I decided to dig from my Greek roots – a large Greek Salad and some Baked Sole in a Mediterranean Tomato Sauce.

Convenience Step One: I cook the majority of our meals from scratch, but sometimes convenience wins out. One of my favorite new products is this frozen Organic Brown from Whole Foods. While I usually make a big pot of my own brown rice at the beginning of the week, and keep 1/2 cup servings in the freezer ready to go, occasionally I run out, and this stuff is great in a pinch. It also costs less than $3 a bag, which is doable, even on a budget.

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Convenience Step Two: My second convenience food was the Reduced Fat Greek Salad from Trader Joe’s. I keep homemade salad dressing, fresh farm lettuce, and chopped and washed veg in my fridge, but sometimes TJ’s wins out. Frankly, it’s because this salad is so darn tasty – feta, tomatoes, cukes, onions and dressing on some crispy romaine. And the whole box is easily split for two good sized salads, clocking in at only 70 calories each, and costing under $3.

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This meal was easy peasy, and done from start to finish in less than half an hour. I adapted this recipe pretty loosely from a recipe in the Every Day Food: Great Fast Food cookbook. It happens to be a pretty cookbook to think up quick weeknight meals, but I usually end up using it just as a starting point. The one caveat – while I usually try to make dinners that I can easily reheat for lunch the next day, fish is one food that doesn’t do so well the next day. We ate all the fish tonight, but there are still leftovers – brown rice and tomato shallot goodness! I use a lot of shallots at home – they are an onion relative that cooks sweetly.

Easy Fish with Shallots and Tomatoes

(Prep time: 10 minutes – Total Time: 35 minutes)

serves 2 generously or 4 as part of a complete meal

Ingredients:

5 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped (or 2 small onions, or 2 leeks – whatever you have)

1/2 of a lemon, sliced thinly (or the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, for less pronounced lemony taste)*

1 tablespoon olive oil

A handful fresh herbs, such as basil, thyme, parsley, and dill, reserving some fresh dill for serving.

Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

1 can (14.5 or 15 oz) diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen Fire Roasted No Salt Added diced tomatoes)

1 pound sole fillets, (cod or other light white fish would work)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Farenheit. In a Le Creuset Pot, or a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss together the shallots, lemon slices, oil, fresh herbs, pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with foil, and bake until the shallots begin to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Add the tomatoes, and toss to combine. Season both sides of the cod fillets with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; place on top of the vegetables. If you don’t have space to lay the fish flat over the vegetables, roll each fillet up (like I do, in the picture.)

3. Cover the dish and bake until the fish is opaque throughout, 15 to 20 minutes. Top with fresh dill, and serve immediately.

Serve, if desired, over brown rice – 1/2 to 1 cup per person is more than enough, with a nice lemony or greek salad, and some fresh crusty bread if desired.

*Note: Now, I like my fish lemony, so I just go ahead and slice in the lemon. It imparts a slightly bitter taste if the slices are eaten whole, but for those finicky about bitter tastes, feel free to remove the lemon slices before serving, or cook with just the lemon zest and juice.


Operation Beautiful: The Power of the Smallest Actions

Posted: February 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

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(Photo: Alexandrea, operationbeautiful.com)

Just a few words can make a drastic positive impact on someone’s day.

“You’re Pretttttttty.”

“No YOU are pretty!!!”

Its an exchange that happens routinely between my group of friends. It’s silly, but those two words can be so powerful and immediately make my day take a turn for the better. And with this happiness, it’s easier to continue to make positive choices such as making the extra effort to exercise or choosing a more nutritious food option. Those two words can make all the difference. And the greatest part is, it doesn’t matter if you are the person giving positive words, or receiving them – everyone ends up sharing the happy fuzzy feelings.

Enter a great website with the mission of spreading happiness: Operationbeatiful.com

Operation Beautiful was started by a woman named Caitlin with the mission of reducing “Fat Talk” and other negative thoughts that can be so toxic to health. When you remind people that they are indeed beautiful, you help build positive self-esteem and brighten someone’s day so that they too might be inclined to make more healthy choices throughout the day. You also are brightening your own day. It’s amazing how writing someone else a simple note can be a joyful act in itself.

If you want to participate in Operation Beautiful – it’s simple: take a piece of paper and a pen, and post an anonymous note in a public place for someone else to find. (writing operationbeautiful.com on the bottom is optional, but will help people spread the love.) If you want to go public, take a picture of your note and send it to seebriderun@gmail.com so Caitlin can post it on the site.  

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(Photo: April, operationbeautiful.com)

More ideas to spread happiness:

:: At my high school there was a group called “Random Acts of Kindness” that would routinely get together and perform random acts of kindness on the campus body. Sometimes they would be in the halls handing out flowers, other times you would open your campus mailbox and find a collection of goodies that they had randomly sent you. This is a great thing to start at home, your office, or at your school.

:: Spend a few dollars on a sheet of ladybug or heart stickers, and walk through your neighborhood offering them to strangers. This can be particularly difficult for those who aren’t natural social butterflies, but the initial nervousness about approaching strangers will immediately go away when you see their surprise and they break into a huge smile.

:: Color Me Katie – Katie Sokoler of colormekatie.blogspot.com is an amazing freelance photographer and street artist who makes easily re-creatable projects to make people happy. Some of my favorite endeavors featured on her blog include these footprints drawn on her sidewalk in chalk, sticking mini hearts all over her neighborhood, and placing paper eyes on inanimate objects to “immediately give them personality”. You can’t help but smile!

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(Photos: Katie Sokoler, colormekatie.blogspot.com)

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