Category Archives: Sam

Whole30 – Day One

I was originally going to start my Whole30 diet on Monday, but when my decadent pre-diet feast turned out to be a horrifying abomination*, I figured maybe I’d be happer if I just got started on the diet right away. The Whole30 diet is based on eliminating the most common complication-causing foods from one’s diet for thirty days, then reintroducing them in a controlled fashion to identify the main candidates for permanent exclusion.

In my opinion, being now a one-day veteran of the Whole30 diet, the secret is planning. This may not be the case for my mother, who is an epic-level chef with the hardcore grit to cook a completely different meal every day and who lives a five minute walk from an organic-friendly grocery store, but us ordinary mortals, we should not just dive into Whole30 head-first. I took a half-Whole30 diet (No, not Whole15, that isn’t anything) last week to get a sense of how far I could go with my meal plan.

I had just bought a box of assorted meats at the farmer’s market, so my plan was to slow-cook a pasture-raised whole chicken on a bed of vegetables. These included carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and onions as well as some diced garlic and ginger. I didn’t get started eating it until Wednesday because I was still finishing off West African peanut stew leftovers (peanuts are not Whole30 compliant). Nevertheless, to my surprise, I don’t burn through the chicken nearly as fast as I thought I would.

What was the secret to my sudden intuitive portion control? Twofold, I believe. One, I think that health concerns are less of a motivation for me than the sheer inconvenience of finding and making food in Whole30. A constant specter haunting me as I ate that chicken was the day it would run out and I would have to cook it all over again, so I portioned it carefully. Second, I did not think of food portions as discrete, but continuous. Rather than eat n meals per day and either finish each or not, I treated everything as a snack to eat until I was satisfied and then put back in the fridge for when I was hungry again.

Besides the chicken and vegetables, I had beet, carrot, kale, lemon juice, banana, water smoothies for breakfast. Yeah, water. No milk, soymilk, or yogurt on Whole30. It works better than you’d think. My other snack is hard-boiled eggs. This week I have several snacks. I’m so excited about the prosciutto and the smoked salmon that I have to remind myself they’re really there to rescue me when I run out of or realize I suddenly can’t stand my usual items. I mustn’t eat them all up on the first day. I still haven’t opened any of them. Just a little earlier tonight I was worried when I ate two hard-boiled eggs that seemed to do nothing for my hunger, but the effect was just delayed and soon I felt great. Fist pump for me!

This coming week I’m going to see if I can get through on two pork chops. I’ll have lots of veggies and hard-boiled eggs plus my smoothies so I think I’ll be in good shape. These thirty days are going to fly by!

*Think macaroni and cheese with two pounds of chorizo sausage. Or don’t. Yeah, probably you shouldn’t think about it too hard.

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When you’re feelin’ dull

Rather than post an actual blog entry, let me put this up. This is for my “utopia knife” that my father got me for my birthday. It think this manual may have been written by an actual knife.

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There are a lot of good lines here, but in particular let me point out

Due to knife steel need hardness, then the steel must be including carbon element which decide it rust resistant. It is very professional filed. More information, please check in google about knife material.

I think what this is saying is that Utopia knife is a knife, and has a knife’s needs. I understand. Knives are people, too. Also, some carbon element somewhere just up and decided it was rust resistant. Or something. We here at Utopia knives don’t actually understand knives very well, and suggest you look on the Internet for someone who knows what they’re talking about. If you can figure out what the deal is with this knife stuff, please let us know.

Due to different customer with different use habit. When you feel dull, please use the knife sharpening tool to make it sharp again in a right sharp way.

I never feel dull. My life is a mile-a-minute thrill ride of which my Utopia knife should be honored to be a part. I just can’t figure out why my knife won’t cut things.

Customer Service:
If you have any question for the knife. Please contact our customer service Utopia will keep improve.

I have so many questions for my knife. What do you think about during a long day of chopping? Do you get lonely when I leave you in your drawer for a long time? Would you say you’re more into chopping meat, or are you a vegetable kind of knife? How do you feel about my blender? Utopia knife, do you love me?

If I can be honest, I asked these questions of my old knife every night and it never answered. I’m not sure I’m ready to trust again, but maybe someday soon I’ll contact customer service.

 

Getting the shakes

After another kitchen accident, this time involving the immersion blender instead of the mandolin, I decided to get something better for the heavy-duty blending and food processing I wanted to do. Basically, I hate to chop vegetables, so I wanted something that could chop them for me. The Ninja Master Prep set is a blender motor that sits on top of any of three blender pitchers of different sizes. The smallest is known as the “chopper” and is good for chopping vegetables.

If, that is, you don’t mind having to already chop the vegetables into small enough pieces to fit in the chopper. It’s good for dicing, and that’s something. When chopping onions, I just cut them into quarters and throw them into the biggest pitcher where they become onion puree. I’m pretty happy with the onion puree. The flavor is great, and it’s easier to cook evenly, although it does bubble in big splashes of onion if you’re not careful.

My onion puree went into an African peanut stew with similarly made tomato puree (use roma tomatoes and you don’t have to chop anything!) and sweet potatoes (chopped into cubes in the normal fashion). After cooking I add tofu, also cubed via conventional methods (please comment if you know of an auto-cuber). I find it surprising how much I like unflavored tofu just tossed into soup.

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What I’m making even more of now, though, is smoothies. Bananas, nuts, chia seeds, soymilk, yogurt, spinach, it’s all good.  As you might have noticed in the featured image, I like them thick. Two shakes a day if I can’t get more. When I don’t have peanut butter I just use my delicious red-skin peanuts. They blend right up and the skins add even more nutrition.

Cooking for myself is so much easier with my soups and shakes, I don’t use my company’s cafeteria hardly any more. My additional control over what I eat lets me maximize my vegetable intake and cut out sugars and saturated fats, so I’m looking forward to the benefits of that if I can keep up with it. Moving as much chopping as possible to chambered blades means fewer frustrating kitchen accidents, so I heartily recommend blender-based (and mostly blender-based) cuisine!

Zombie Bloodflies of the Chesapeake Bay

I was on a boat the other day on the Chesapeake Bay.  Water in all directions as far as the eye could see. So where were all the flies coming from? Big black flies flitted from leg to leg, and they bit. These were biting flies.

Fortunately, there was a swatter aboard. I went to work on the flies. Since they were full of our blood, the flies splattered in red goop. If they did not splatter, that was even worse they might return. These bloodflies rise from the dead no problem. We got to the point where we would smack the flies and then stomp on them. If they didn’t end up in stomping range , three or four more smacks to make sure they were in several pieces seemed sufficient to preclude any fly resurrections.

A dead fly, unfortunately, attracted more flies. They continued to arrive from nowhere to feast on the corpses of their comrades, which the smack of the swatter drove into the air to land elsewhere on the boat. The flies’ tricks didn’t end there. The skipper had evidently become enamored with the flies, and suggested that we should respect them instead of killing them. I was tempted to smack this turncoat to see if he himself dissolved into a swarm of carnivorous flies.

Still, the flies kept coming. Soon, we were sure we were under attack by yellow-jackets, but the flies had just gotten bigger and gained yellow and black stripes. We began to worry that in a few hours they would be as big as rats and detonate in showers of smaller flies when swatted, but soon we had made it back to land. We fled into the bathroom and hid until the flies lost interest.

9/10, would recommend.

Purple Tofu Time

I realize it seems like I talk about tofu sticks a lot, but you see, statistically, one could argue that the apparent proportion of tofu stick mentions is artificially increased by a perception of a proliferation of tofu stick-based posts. So, now that you’re all convinced that it’s fine for me to write another tofu stick post, here goes.

Hot off my big success making root beer tofu, I ran out to Harris Teeter to get ingredients for cheerwine tofu. Once I made it there, I got ahold of myself. Was I really going to deliberately enter the situation I had decried just weeks earlier? Surely cheerwine is better than root beer. Is it, though? I distinctly remember thinking I was going to enjoy that root beer when I bought it. Once I’ve bought cheap soda specifically to make a recipe, I can no longer claim to be the clever DIY’er making the most of the unfortunate circumstance of having such stuff in the fridge. So I classed it up. I bought cheap wine.

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I specifically picked red wine in order to give the tofu some color, and color it it did.IMG_20170909_111439616.jpg

I also added sesame seeds, sesame oil, and soy sauce. I should have added more spices, because the sticks turned out a little bland this time. The most tragic part, though, was that the purple cooked away.

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Glossy black is a fine color for tofu sticks, especially dotted with the light sesame seeds, but it’s no vivid purple. Like always, though, in the end the sticks proved to be the convenient, filling snack that I can constantly change the marinade recipe for and safely keep outside a refrigerator for hours. Expect many more posts on this delightful class of dish.

The End of a Campaign

Yesterday, the D&D campaign I began on December 3rd, 2016 ended. Generally, it was a success. The players seemed to think so, and that’s really the most important gauge. I enjoyed myself, although I would be hard pressed to tell you I succeeded in creating the story arc that I originally set out to. Communicating a complex story in four-hour-per-month increments while simultaneously keeping action up for players who themselves can and will change that story is challenging if not impossible task. As a writer, I cringe at the mess I made of my own story at times to keep things moving. Abrupt plot shifts, characters dropping all of their internal motives just to say “ok” to whatever needs to happen for a session to end on time, and of course, monsters and villains inexplicably arriving at exactly the right time to make for an exciting battle. It’s ok, though because this isn’t a fantasy novel. Most if not all of the best moments came from my party’s own sense of their characters and personal creativity.

In Asymmetric Information in D&D, I described some of the entirely organic scenes that arose in my D&D campaign. Let me add a couple more. One of my players insisted on looking through a bad guy’s desk I had just put there for decoration. He kept asking me what he found until I told him he found a list of people they were looking for. Then he kept pushing. “What else do I find?” I told him he found some tawdry love letters to an “Esmerelda.” Then when the bad guy showed up, he read the love letters aloud to infuriate him.

Another player tried to seduce the bartender Ilyna with song. The tavern got excited at such a beautiful voice singing for them and started making requests, which he was happy to fulfill. They had such a good time that Ilyna invited him to stay at the inn as long as he liked and enjoy the food and lodgings free of charge, and he said “no.” He was a wandering man. Ilyna said she understood. The world needed saving. She just had to ask on behalf of her customers.

Another time, I was putting a bunch of vultures on a clocktower just to make it creepy and draw attention, and a player said “someone’s been hanged.” I liked the idea and I decided a NPC priest of the D&D god Pelor they’d met before who had been trying to stoke the peasants into a fury against the queen had overplayed his hand and gotten lynched. The rest of his little gang got run out of town at the same time. It turned out to be an exciting way to tie up loose ends and raise the stakes at the same time. The players, some of whom had a personal connection to this NPC, cut him down and had a burial service. I even got to resolve a little subplot another player had created around himself where he wasn’t sure what version of Pelor he was supposed to be following, the kind, loving Pelor, or the angry, intolerant Pelor these NPCs represented. He’d fought with Pelor so much that for a few campaigns I told him he felt his connection to his god weakened. After laying his former comrade to rest and praying for the rest of the day, Tom the Monk finally understood in his heart he’d been on the right path all along and could feel the light of Pelor shining through him once more.

So, what to learn from this? I should spend less time planning D&D modules ahead of time, and just run with the ad-lib, I think. People really don’t mind when it’s simple or there are plot holes. They love getting the opportunity to do something nobody else has thought of, and uncovering something surprising. What’s especially important, and I think I’ve done well with this, is that I must never lose track of the point of a D&D game. It’s not about telling a heart-wrenching story,  making a perfectly coherent world, or perfectly balancing the monsters and the players in combat. It’s about the all the players having a good time. As a DM, that’s what makes me have a good time.