nicole lee

Perpetually in beta

Projects!

I’m working on a few personal projects right now, and I thought I’d let you know what they were. Some are in their infancy, and I need to figure out how to work on them.

1) I’m planning on seriously launching a freelance writing career, but I realize this means accumulating clips and some sort of credibility. This presents a curious case of Catch 22 — I need to be well-known in order to be well-known. I’m a little stumped with this, but hoping I can reach out to enough people for help.

2) I’m planning on starting two separate blogs. One is tentatively titled KeyPress Media, and the other is Nerd By Day. Nerd By Day is simply a sort of tech-related linkblog, with some commentary mixed in. It’s more of a daily mental exercise that forces me to stay informed. I’m not sure if I should go with Tumblr or WordPress with this one.

KeyPress Media is a more ambitious project. I’ve been fascinated with media issues for a long time, especially in the age of “citizen journalism” and “content curation.” My initial idea with the site was to host a podcast, where I invite various members of the media to talk about their career path, their thoughts on the state of the industry, etc. Inspirations for the podcast include NPR’s On The Media, Bullseye (formerly The Sound of Young America), and WTF with Marc Maron. Now I’m thinking I could try to build the site into more of a destination for online journalists. Not sure how I’m going to do this, as my HTML and CSS-fu is weak.

3) I’m hoping to put all my foodie and crafty type posts into a separate blog. I started a site called Noodles and Needles a long time ago that I should probably go back to. Maybe I can use this blog as a place to put drafts and simple ideas, and I can post a more polished version on the other site. I’m not sure how to do this yet either.

4) Also, I actually want to make at least a little bit of money from some of these endeavors. That’s why I was thinking of doing a self-hosted WordPress blog for a couple of them, since WordPress.com doesn’t allow ads. I think Tumblr does. Self-hosting three WordPress blogs is going to drive me insane though. As you can see, I’m still figuring this out.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll iron the details out sooner or later. If someone can offer any advice, that would be much appreciated.

Nom Diary 7/13 etc.

I lied when I said I would post about the beef soup last week. I was just emotionally and mentally tired from the week’s events. I will say that I ate mostly the same ol’ stir-fries and scrambles, with a few exceptions that I will note below:

Welsh beef soup

Here’s that “Welsh beef soup” I mentioned. I don’t really know how Welsh it is. It’s essentially beef with cabbage, I guess. It’s a really good hearty soup though, and lasted me a few days. I should probably make an extra batch and freeze it just in case I get the flu and need a quick pick-me-up.

Lunch triptych

Sardines, cucumbers, and tomatoes is probably the easiest lunch combo ever. And super tasty if you like sardines.

Paleo burger

Headed on down to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market again on Saturday, where I enjoyed yet another Paleo-style burger from 4505 Meats. I had it without the egg so that it would be easier to eat (and it was). I came home with a couple dozen of Eatwell eggs (I think they’re better than Marin Sun Farms eggs), some Moroccan-style lamb sausage from Prather Ranch (I looked really carefully to see there’s no sugar in the ingredients), and a few other produce items.

Lots of make-ahead meals: Stir-fried kelp noodles, roasted broccoli, and braised kale.

I decided to clear out the fridge on Saturday, and made a whole batch of food. First I braised some kale and carrots using leftover chicken stock, then I roasted some broccoli with bacon, and then I stir-fried a bunch of ground beef, tatsoi, and kelp noodles. I also made a huge batch of beef stock with some meaty beef bones from Marin Sun Farms with the pressure cooker (Not seen in photo). It was a lot of cooking for one day, and I was pretty beat up by the time Sunday rolled around.

Shrimp & tomatoes

I took it easy for Sunday dinner. I just defrosted a bag of shrimp, seasoned it up, and threw it on a cast iron skillet for a few minutes. This was after I had already sautéed some onions and a handful of tomatoes.

Lamb sausage and kale

Monday dinner was even easier. I just cooked up the lamb sausage and served it along with leftover kale. Leftovers are pretty awesome that way.

Whole30: Halfway point

Day 16 of Whole30 has just passed, so I’m officially well past the halfway point. Here’s where I report on how I feel and if I think the diet is working.

One of the points of this exercise is to eliminate the sort of food that is commonly known to cause gut irritation with people, like legumes, dairy, etc. Living a whole month without any of these irritants is supposed to act as a “cleanse” of sorts, like a sort of nutritional reset. Quote: “Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food.”

Here’s the thing: I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced negative experiences with most food. Gluten, dairy, legumes, etc. I mean, I certainly know that if I eat a lot of pasta, my stomach feels like a brick. But I feel that’s the same with eating a huge amount of any starch. I don’t discount the possibility of a mild lactose intolerance (I’m Asian after all), but I’ve never experienced the sort of indigestion that really lactose intolerant people get. I’m not saying I never get indigestion ever — of course I have (the occasional cheese over-indulgence, etc). But not so often that it bothers me. And to be honest, gluten doesn’t bother me at all. Not one tiny bit. I’m not saying that the gluten-haters don’t have a point — I’m sure they do — but I’m just saying that I haven’t really been affected by it.

So during this past two weeks or so, I haven’t really noticed a difference in how my stomach feels, irritation-wise. In fact, I’ve had a few stomach twinges, which I attribute to bad meal timing and snacking on an empty stomach more than anything else. I find that a diet is more than what you eat — it’s how much and how often you eat.

However, I do think the low-carb aspect of it is working out well. I’ve had experience with low-carb in previous diets (4 hour body, South Beach, etc.), so I already know this is a good thing. Cutting out sugar is absolutely key. I do allow the occasional fruit, but it’s very minimal (like twice a week). Even with allowed starches like sweet potatoes, I’m only having once in awhile. The reason I believe it’s key is because sugar often acts as an appetite stimulant — after you have some, you want some more. Cutting out sugar essentially cuts out the craving. A lot of the banned foods — like dairy — have sugar in it, so that helps in curbing the craving even further.

(Aside: Read Mark Bittman’s anti-dairy opinion piece. I think he’s a bit off-base that you can’t EVER have good dairy — the Bay Area has plenty of small family dairy farms that produce excellent milk from pasture-raised cows — both raw and pasteurized. But I do agree that dairy isn’t for everyone. Quote: “Sugar — in the form of lactose — contributes about 55 percent of skim milk’s calories, giving it ounce for ounce the same calorie load as soda.” So really, if you’re going to have milk, go ahead and have the full fat whole milk and enjoy it. Forget about that skim milk stuff — it’s just sugar water.)

As a result of cutting out the sugar, I really don’t get as hungry as I used to. I eat breakfast, a very light lunch, and then a decent dinner. I don’t really get cravings that often. However, today I did get a tiny twinge of jealousy when a co-worker opened up a can of Coke Zero and that familiar crackle, fizz, and pop had me trying my hardest not to grab my own. Talk about Pavlovian. (The dangers of free soda at work. Man.) The other upside of cutting out the sugar and a lot of the starches is that you don’t get that “brick” feeling that I mentioned earlier.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t also interested in Whole30 for weight loss purposes, even though that’s not the point of the exercise. You’re not supposed to weigh yourself or anything, but I did it anyway this morning, and it looks like I went down another few pounds since I last checked. I don’t know how much of it is water weight of course, and it might all come back tomorrow, but I feel encouraged. My clothes feel looser, for what it’s worth.

Nom notes: Not much to report meal-wise. Same stuff (eggs, zucchini etc.) I did make a big batch of beef soup, which I’ll post about tomorrow. I’ll mention my new Glasslock containers as well. I’m very pleased with them.

Cooking it up

Since today’s food journal isn’t that interesting (Eggs with salsa and leftover marrow + zucchini spaghetti and meat sauce), I’ll give a brief insight into how I’m dealing with this diet, cooking-wise.

I’m a big fan of cooking. There are a number of things that give this away: The thick cookbooks that adorn two to three full racks on my shelves, my subscription to Cook’s Illustrated magazine, my willingness to sift through Martha Stewart magazines for an interesting recipe, my undeniably dorky admiration of Alton Brown (I have a poster of him somewhere…), my ever-growing kitchen gadget collection, my prized All-Clad pans and cast-iron skillets, and much much more. I also take the science of cooking quite seriously, and often break out the scale (a digital scale that does ounces and grams) and the instant-read thermometer. You can say it’s bordering on obsession.

However, prior to this diet, we would order delivery or eat out almost all the time. It turns out there’s a competing factor to my love of cooking: Laziness. It’s just so much easier to pick up the phone than putter around the kitchen (especially since we don’t have a dishwasher). I do enjoy cooking, but I sometimes dislike the tediousness of it (julienning six zucchini! mincing five cloves of garlic! chopping up five different vegetables for a salad!), especially when I’m just SOHUNGRY and I CANTWAIT.

As this diet reveals, however, I CAN wait. The secret seems to be having enough emergency food in the fridge so that there’s literally no excuse for not having anything to eat. The other secret is to know about quick cooking techniques that can get dinner in your belly in the shortest amount of time possible. The zucchini spaghetti meal, for example, took maybe 15 minutes. A delivery person would take longer than that. While I’m not the sort of person to plan a week’s menu ahead of time, I’ve taken to having a rough idea of what I’ll cook in any given week. That’s why I made the chicken stock last week, and that beef stock this week. It’s a “just in case” measure. And besides, it excites that part of my brain that gets aroused by empirical research. SCIENCE, I declare, as I witness the Maillard reaction in my pan, and as I fiddle with the high pressure setting on my pressure cooker.

The only downside seems to be that all this cooking is taking up serious real estate in my fridge:

Fridge contents

Frozen meat taking up a big chunk of the freezer

(Yes, I bought pre-peeled garlic. Sorry. I told you I was lazy.)

I guess that just means I’ll have to cook and eat more. Oh well.

Nom Diary 7/7 + 7/8

It’s currently Day 13 of my Whole 30 diet, and I’m feeling quite confident that I’ll be able to complete it. Considering the range and richness of the items I’m eating, it’s really not that hard. I do miss indulging in the occasional cookie or cracker, but then I have a big bite of pulled pork, and that craving goes away pretty quickly.

Even though the idea behind the diet is not to lose weight, I did weigh myself this morning just to see if it has any effect. According to my admittedly rather inaccurate scale, it looks like I lost about 2 lbs. Which isn’t that much, really, but considering I haven’t been working out at all (except for my 3-hour long farmer’s market trips on Saturdays), it’s not that bad. I think if I eliminated the fruit and nuts from the diet, I would probably do much better.

Saturday
I got up bright and early on Saturday, and after a brief breakfast of scrambled eggs in leftover meat sauce (try it!), I headed out to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market yet again. I spent close to three hours walking around the place because after an hour, my bags were so heavy that I had to go back to the car and unload them. And then I went back to buy more items! Next time, I’m definitely bringing a cart.

What did I get? Well, all manner of vegetables (leeks, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, etc.), a small basket of the sweetest strawberries ever, a couple of beef cross shanks, a whole chicken, two dozen eggs, and a quarter-pound of coffee from Blue Bottle. I also bought some glass jars from Sur La Table as food storage. So yeah, it was quite a haul.

When I got home, it was still only 11:30 a.m., so I whipped up a quick brunch for Brandon and myself with some of the fresh market items. It was scrambled eggs with salsa and spinach, Prather Ranch bacon, and some fresh strawberries.

Saturday brunch

We then visited our friends Chris and Vanessa who gave birth to a baby boy on July 4th (Independence baby!). We cooed over the cute little baby, and chatted with the tired new parents. They offered us dinner, so we stuck around for a few hours. I was going to decline since I didn’t know if the food would be Whole30-compliant, but they assured me that it was simply chicken soup with seaweed, with some salt as seasoning. Apparently it’s a Korean soup called Miyeok Guk that’s often fed to new mothers.

Chicken and seaweed soup (Miyeok Guk)

It was pretty good. I had two helpings.

After heading home, I was still a little hungry, so I combined the pork, cabbage, and a bit of leftover pork jus and made it into a soup.

Kalua pork and cabbage soup

It really hit the spot on a cold Saturday evening.

Sunday meals

I slept in on Sunday after the long day yesterday. I had more of the Kalua pork soup for brunch, and didn’t do much the whole day except watch sports and trashy TV.

For dinner, I combined a can of tuna with a bit of mayo, and rolled it up along with avocado and some lettuce leaves in a curry-flavored Pure Wrap.

Tuna and avocado wrap

I’m running out of wraps. Maybe I should order the 12-pack next time.

After that, I whipped up a batch of beef stock with the pressure cooker. I seared a couple of beef shanks, added carrots, onions, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves, added enough water to cover everything, and let it sit on high pressure for 50 minutes. Here’s what it looked like afterward:

Beef stock

Nice and beefy. I think the pressure cooker probably saved me around 4-5 hours, which is great since I made this at 8pm. I’ll use the beef stock in a few recipes this week.