Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In My Craft Or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Not for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

(Dylan Thomas)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Diet Diaries: #2 (Having My Cake)

Since we're all friends here, I have a bit of a confession to make: I am a banana bread-aholic.  It has come to the point where I often buy bananas with the hope that no one in the house will eat them.  I place them carefully behind the knife block or next to more appealing brightly colored citrus fruits as a sort of consumption deterrent.  Then, I watch them patiently as they slowly turn from green to yellow to brown to a delicious shade of black.

It's easy to convince myself that banana bread is a healthy treat, because it's full of bananas.  Much like the vegetable argument behind carrot cake, filling any baked good with a large quantity of fruit is psychologically the baking equivalent of eating a side salad with your bacon cheeseburger.  The problem with this type of thinking is that it completely ignores all of the other ingredients, particularly the butter and white sugar.  With the "D" word hanging over my head, I feared that I would be in for a long banana breadless journey.

My friend and fellow bakeaholic Cristina suggested to me that I check out a website called The Skinny Chef, where it was rumored there existed a less guilty recipe for peanut butter banana bread.  I went on the site, and suddenly it was as if the clouds parted and my computer glowed with a magical light.  That is how much I love love love banana bread.  All that was left to do was wait for some bananas to ripen up, and I would be on my way to dessert heaven.

This banana bread is a dieter's dream come true.  It uses whole wheat flour, egg whites, brown sugar, and the peanut butter takes the place of butter or margarine.  Plus, the added bonus is that the protein in the peanut butter makes each slice wonderfully filling.  I followed the recipe fairly closely, except for two very delicious substitutions.  Since I didn't have quite enough peanut butter for the recipe's requirements, I added about 3 Tb of Nutella (always a favorite in my baking endeavors) and since the recipe didn't specify I used fat free banana yogurt.  The result was the most delicious banana bread I have ever made in my entire life.  Considering how much banana bread I've baked over the years, that's saying quite a lot.

 For the recipe, check out the Skinny Chef website here.

I would also suggest you stop by Cristina's blog, 100 Days of Happy, for a regular dose of amusement.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Go with the Flo

She's quirky, perhaps excessively enthusiastic, and has an unnatural love for insurance.  She's Flo, and I can't get enough of her.  Progressive Insurance has found a blissfully happy medium between strange and annoying with their peppy spokeswoman and her discount crusade.  While I pity this actress for what will be a lifetime association with this role (much like the Old Spice "I'm on a horse" fellow), she really is a perfect fit for this campaign.

Now, they're running a promotion called Help Flo where viewers have a chance to join her in a new Progressive commercial.  While the idea of users submitting their own commercial videos has been well overdone, this concept is actually quite fresh.  They don't ask viewers to film an ad, but rather to showcase their personality and enthusiasm and cap off the video entry with "Now That's Progressive."  It's more like a fan contest for people who love the Flo campaign, and I think that's genius.  While I will not be entering the contest personally (I'm a bit squeamish about being on camera), I think it's a great promotion and an excellent way to keep the Flo franchise new and exciting.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Diet Diaries: #1

While I've never been a fan of the word "diet," I think I've spent a good deal of my life attempting one or another.  Part of it is genetics, part food love, part sheer laziness.  In the past I've done a reasonable job of getting the process of getting fit going well, but somehow I always end up off track and right back where I started.  I've said it before, but it can't hurt to say again that I'm determined to see it through to the finish this time.  I'm not going to turn this blog into a whiny fitness journal where I lament my cravings for fried chicken, but along the way I want to share a few insights and experiences.  Today, it's Lean Cuisine.

In the past, I've found their food to be a bit bland, found their portions small, and found myself hungry again an hour later.  However, after being bombarded with all of their ads about new recipes and "spa menus" and satisfaction, I thought I would give it another try.  Today's attempt was the tortilla crusted fish, served with rice, poblano peppers, and corn in a sour cream sauce.  After plating my entree (I make it a point to never eat directly from the microwave tray, and apparently the people at Stouffer's agree), I was pleasantly surprised to find that my meal fairly closely resembled the photo on the box.

The fish was not as crunchy as I would have hoped, and had a slightly mealy texture from the composition of the breading.  However, it was crispy along the edges, so I suspect that my confusion over the heating instruction may be to blame for that.  There was only one film sheet on the top of the tray, so I'm not exactly sure how you're supposed to completely remove the film from the fish only.  In any case, aside from the texture it was actually quite a tasty lunch.  The fish was flavorful, the rice still had some bite to it (meaning it wasn't mushy), and the peppers and corn were crisp and surprisingly fresh.

I ate it with a spinach salad topped with cucumber, feta, chickpeas and a homemade dressing.  If you still buy your dressing from the store, you're really missing out.  It's so simple and delicious and fresh (yes, I use that word a lot) to make dressing at home and you should definitely give it a try.  Today, I had a lovely mustard dressing, made by whisking together the following:

1 Tb grainy mustard
2 Tb white wine vinegar
1 Tb honey
5 Tb extra virgin olive oil
salt/pepper to taste
(makes about 6 servings, depending on how much you like to dress your salad)

It's been about two hours since I ate lunch, and so far there are no hunger pangs.  All in all, I would call this a comeback for Lean Cuisine.
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