Thursday, December 26, 2013

Race to the End (of the year)

I have been proud of myself that I have managed to maintain the exercise ethic and good eating habits during this tense holiday season. (The holidays don't make me tense, but let's just say it's bad timing). A great 10 mile run on XMas Eve Day, some frozen bike riding yesterday and today I was up at 5 AM to get my heavy chest/tricep regimen done before having to schlep to work.

Except the gym wasn't open. Mind you, it was supposed to be, but it wasn't. And I stood there for 25 minutes in my winter coat and shorts, hopping up and down, assuming they were just running a bit late and at least I could get in a partial workout. Or maybe quick cardio. Or something, which soon became less and less of something...

But it was not to be. Someone just didn't bother coming by to open the place up. Well, you get what you pay for. So, I took that pissed off attitude and channeled it into some sort of sweaty activity. In this case, 15 minutes of HIIT on my apartment floor (much to delight and amusement of my cat) and then a brisk icy bike ride up to work (with several more blocks of walking. The NYC bike rental program doesn't yet go that far uptown). So I arrived, cold, sweaty and late.

Do I feel better about this morning? Not really. Better than if I did nothing, but I wanted something much more intense and had given myself the time to do it. I tend to know that unless I get some sort of intensity going in my workout, I don't feel like a lot has been done. Back in my retro Ska Librarian days, a little bit of exercise made a huge difference. But in Streamlined form, I can't just slack off and think lowering my calorie count is going to make the entire difference to health. Even if one is not looking to lose weight, just getting your butt moving helps.

It's the reason I took up running in Japan. I was bored, I had no money for a gym and I got breathless walking up stairs. This from the once-young Ska Librarian who would be dancing non-stop at most ska shows in the tri-state area. Running was for health and stamina. The weight loss idea came later. 

But that being said, it is the intensity that matters. I should feel like I got a workout when I exercise. I'm not in the "must do it til you puke or are injured" school, but you should feel sweaty and used (as it were.)

And now, as if on cue, here's the latest from the NY Times telling us that studies show that intensity does matter, especially if don't have much time to exercise. And it can cause a profound difference in our physical and mental well being. 

And that's why I do it at an intense level. I can see how much better I handle stress, how much better I feel, how less likely I am to grab that infamous tub of frosting. And that's why it's frustrating when it's out of one's control like when your gym "accidentally forgets" to post the hours for this week.And knowing enough that substituting a 15 minute HIIT workout instead better mean that I'm going to (paraphrasing the Times article), "maintain a thumping heart rate and spray sweat droplets around the room."

So, if I have to think of resolutions for 2014, these would be mine:

  • Find a new gym that keeps their hours
  • Find a new trainer to increase that intensity
  • Make 10 miles the minimum for each run
  • Make sure that even my "make-up" exercise sessions induce sweaty floors and a thumping chest

It's not about weight loss, it's about returning to that good feeling. 

Happy almost 2014.


For Fitness, Intensity Matters. (n.d.). Well. Retrieved December 26, 2013, from

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sweetly coming clean at the end of the year

We're rounding the corner to the end of 2013, which means we are approaching the first anniversary of this version of my blog. Now most research shows that the majority of blogs only last a few months. It's hard to actually find current stats on this because even Technorati's "State of the Blogosphere" hasn't been updated for a few years, which I suppose says something right there.

Obviously social media changes (Friendster anyone?) and perhaps blogs will be gone soon and only Instagram/Vine will remain, but as for now, I am pleased I have managed to keep this format going to many visitors. This is the third iteration of my blog in the past 15 years(!) and probably the most viewed of all three. Maybe weight issues are that much more exciting to folks than ska music and librarianship.

And what have I learned? Well, even though this blog does have a lot of links to research, it is still my personal journey and it's both freeing and terrifying to talk about oneself online. I worry sometimes that it seems narcissistic, but it really isn't too surprising that I get a of e-mails and posts from folks saying they went through the same thing. I suppose one way we deal with uncertainty is to find answers we feel match our own beliefs and wishes, but the idea that others seek the same can be empowering.

So, it's time get a little more personal and be a little more terrified. It not only marks the 1st anniversary of the blog and the 2nd anniversary of weight maintenance, January 2014 also marks the 13th year since I stopped "partying". 

I won't go into huge details, but let's just say my earlier years were not spent in a very healthy way, which probably didn't help my weight either. Just as food was used to feed feelings, so were other items. And while calling food an addiction can be troublesome at best, one can certainly see some similar behaviors from food intake and illicit substances. Ritualized preparation, hiding behavior from others, the obsessive quality of searching for it, the binge events, even withdrawal.

Yes, withdrawal. Years ago I went on an Atkins-like diet, with only about 10g of carb intake a day. This was after eating lots of cakey-candy snacks a few times a day. Naturally, the water weight came off pretty fast and furious. I lost 14 lbs. in the first week. And that first week was AWFUL. When I told people it felt like withdrawal, most people poo-poo'd that, saying, "Oh, Dan, don't be dramatic." 

But it did. And I knew it did because I'd been through withdrawal. The aches and shakes. The unstable moods and emotions. The shamble of bodily functions. The signals from your body trying to suck one tiny milligram of that substance back into your system. And this time it was just from sugar. 

It made me much more aware of the power of food. So, is sugar addictive? I can't say it from a scientific point, but I certainly saw the connection to other addictions.

And now there's some new research that shows sugar affecting different parts of the brain's reward system, more so than fat. Which means of course that all those Low-Fat/Non-Fat treats which usually have more sugar in them are actually worse for you. But it also shows that the action of sugar can mimic addiction. It rewards us in our pleasure centers. But like any substance, it doesn't mean everyone is affected the same way. Some people can handle it and some have more trouble. However, anything that excites our pleasure zones tends to be more desirable in large amounts.

But I also think this speaks to a lot of the other "special diets" out there, because even though they all have their acolytes, a lot of them can be traced back to less sugar. Paleo? Well, you're probably eating a lot less processed sugar, unless you're one of those cookie baking paleos. Gluten-free? Well, most of those gluten treats are processed baked goods with sugar. So is it really gluten that was causing your self-described health issues or was it something else? (Note: I do understand and appreciate the difference between the actual immuno deficiency disease of celiac disease and those who just claim they "can't eat gluten" until it comes to cupcakes.)

Whatever the idea, how much has sugar played in it? 

And don't get me wrong. Sugar can be great. I'm not kicking it out of my kitchen. A pinch in sauce is usually as important as that pinch of salt. And baking with agave syrup is not the same. But I also know need to be vigilant to see when I'm jumping from occasional treat to bingey/addiction behavior.  

So now we start a new year and there will be new media pieces on food, new fads and new acolytes. And hopefully there will be continuing blog entries of the Streamlined Ska Librarian. I still have so many things to post about, such as the search for a new trainer, the continuing issues of men's clothes and perceived body image, and the rest of my continuing journey. 

So Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all my readers, lurkers, linkers, friends and family. Thank you all for being part of this. 

And Happy Multiple Anniversary to Me! See you next year!


“Food Addiction – Myth or Reality?” Accessed December 22, 2013.

Kamal, Ahmad M., and Jacquelyn Burkell. “Addressing Uncertainty: When Information Is Not Enough / Faire Face À L’incertitude : Quand L’information Ne Suffit Pas.” Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science 35, no. 4 (2011): 384–396. doi:10.1353/ils.2011.0030.

Stice, E., Burger, K. S., & Yokum, S. (2013). Relative ability of fat and sugar tastes to activate reward, gustatory, and somatosensory regions. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98(6), 1377–1384. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.069443

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Virile Holidays

More than just some...

And days later, I'm still digesting.

Now that the big (or double big) holiday is done, there's still little escape from the feasting opportunities. The prerequisite work related holiday parties (3 this week), the times to be social with pals (2 cocktail parties plus my annual "guys steak night without the spouses" I've done with 3 of friends every year for the past decade or more.) And let's not forget New Year's Eve. Cooking, socializing and nibbling that's more like grazing.Yup, even for someone like me who doesn't celebrate Christmas still gets overwhelmed by festivities and stress. It's festive eats, with stress related eating.    

Now granted, this is the time of year I see folks who I only see occasionally. many of them have never seen me in Streamlined form. Even those who have seen me still comment how great and different I look. The comments are now skewing away from "You're so skinny!!" to "Oh my god, you look like a football player!" *fumbling grope towards my chest and arms* 

But even with this ego stroke and my friends copping a feel, I still have bouts of doubt about my appearance. Bigger muscles means tighter clothes which means thoughts of weight gain, which leads to....yes...stress eating.

So, I am trying to continue my awareness when it comes to food intake now more than ever. After these years of Streamlined life, I tend to be more set in decent size meals and afternoon  snacks (usually a piece of fruit), but evenings can be dangerous. Add to that the holiday grazing and it can be very messy.

At this time of year you can find eight billion articles, blog posts and videos on trying to "eat right" during the holidays. But instead of looking for low-cal egg nog and only eating rice cakes, I have to just go with the more mindful eating ideas. I know I'm going to want to try certain holiday snacks and totally denying it will probably just make me have a binge attack at some point.

However, I also don't subscribe to "Oh, it's a special occasion" because, let's face it, you can justify that for just about anything. And with 5 events in one week, does that mean every meal is a special occasion? I don't think so. Yes, I'm the one who just brought in 5 lbs. of rugelach from my neighborhood oasis, Moishe's, for my staff party, but I didn't eat any. Why? because I can get them anytime! (They are good, though!).

So, unless there is amazing sweet or gooey homebaked something I must try (and even then only a few bites), I tend to stick to the cheese, nuts, fruit and olive plates at parties. A little salt, a little fat, a lotta fiber and protein. It keeps you going, it keeps you social and while it can still be a chore not to graze, it keeps you less on the sugar fueled binge attack mode. 

And these are my usual go to snacks. I was never a huge nut eater in my Retro Ska Librarian days, but now they perform a tasty duty in my diet. And there's certainly enough recent studies showing their health benefits.  

When I was in my more severe calorie counting stage, I kept pistachios on hand at all times. It was also easier to pour a bowl of unshelled pistachios and the extra bit of effort to eat them made it less likely I would just be mindlessly shoveling them in my mouth from the jar. In some ways it's like a little extra treat when you find one that you haven't unshelled and eaten. You can even fool yourself of the extra half a calorie you burned shelling them. 

And bonus! A recent study shows pistachios can improve erectile function parameters! Between increased testosterone from weight lifting and my pistachio intake, I'm should be leading a remarkably fulfilling social life!

And how YOU doin'?

Manly functionality aside, my goal is to get through this month and start 2014 at the same place I was 2013. Yet I know that's impossible, because my body is already so different. It took me a few years to get used to skinny Dan. Now I'm muscly Dan. Neither of those is what I was for 90% of my life. But I intend to ensure that I will not slip too far this holiday season, nor will I obsess needlessly over anything gained right now.

In fact, all those nuts should make me very popular this new year!

Streamlined Ska Librarianship is a lifetime commitment. Not a sloppy holiday slip. With or without nuts.


Aldemir, M., Okulu, E., Neşelioğlu, S., Erel, O., & Kay|[inodot]|gil, Ö. (2011). Pistachio diet improves erectile function parameters and serum lipid profiles in patients with erectile dysfunction. International Journal of Impotence Research, 23(1), 32–38. doi:10.1038/ijir.2010.33

Snacking Your Way to Better Health. (n.d.). Well. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Post-Countdown, Post-Holiday, Post-Caloric reflections

Here it is:

Only the dinner portion got captured for posterity. The dessert table was just a blur of hands and mouths!

Clockwise from the far left and spiraling in: Turkey (and more turkey) with gravy, pearl onions & bacon, cranberry-ginger compote,  sweet and sour cabbage, curried brussel sprouts in coconut milk, 2 Fat Ladies parsnips, kasha varnishkes with mushrooms, "Moroccan" tzimmes, kielbasa-apple stuffing, Ponzu-baked tofu with tomato-olive sauce, dill chimichurri and grated cheese, potato-onion kugel, sweet potato cornbread,  and zucchini pudding.

I'll be headed back to research-inspired posts as of tomorrow, but I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on these past few weeks. It was a blur of shopping, schlepping and cooking (Wednesday was 12 hours straight in the kitchen), but I always believe it's worth it, because I get to spend the days with loved ones. I realize I haven't hosted a regular dinner party in ages and instead I now sort of cram it all into this one day, but it's always a good time. Old friends, new acquaintances and chances to experiment in the kitchen: It's a win-win-win situation.

This year has been tough for my Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle, but if you can't enjoy moments in life...well, I don't know what the answer to that might be. You have to enjoy them, no matter how hard or tempting they are.

So, Happy Holiday season and don't hate food or yourself during this time. Celebrate the good times!

One good dessert shot made it!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Countdown to eating a lot, part 4: Sufganiyot Ice Cream

Well, I did say it was ice cream time.

My Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle usually means I'm not making a lot of ice cream as of late. An occasional sorbet, perhaps, but now I now save the ol' ice cream maker for the holiday season, or to make a tasty gift.

And I figure with maybe 15 people showing up, it's not like there will be double portions for me.

Some past holiday ice creams reflect the season (pumpkin, maple, cardamom), but this time I wanted to make something that reflected the Thankgivingukah season.

One of the few Chanukah type desserts are sufganiyot, or jelly donuts. Not a big fan and certainly not looking to fry up a bunch of doughy things.

But my faithful ice cream maker comes to rescue. I'm already making an assortment of pies, so why not a sufganiyot ice cream?

And here it is!

I made it very vanilla-like with orange hints, which gives it that cakey taste. As for the jam, I used blackberry preserves:

But any jam/jelly would do.

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Sufganiyot Ice Cream (or Jelly Doughnut Ice Cream):

1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
2 tbps orange peel
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbps vanilla
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 egg yolks, beaten
jam of choice

In a double boiler, combine sugar, juice, peels and cinnamon and heat until combined. 
Add cream and half-and-half and cook until slightly thickened. 
Add vanilla. Cook until heated.
Take small amount of cream mixture and blend into the egg yolks until thoroughly mixed. Stir into cream.
Cook until thickened enough to coat a spoon.
Cool and chill in refrigerator (preferably overnight).
Place mixture in ice cream maker. When it's almost set, add a few spoonfuls of jam and let mix in.
Remove ice cream from machine. Add another spoonful of jam for good measure.
Set in freezer until dessert time!

I realize this is probably the most unhealthy item you'll ever see on this blog, but mindfully eating something once a year is, for me, ok. I know this will NOT be a nightly snack.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Countdown to eating a lot, part 3: Cranberries!

And we're back to recipes! I just finished completing my Thanksgivingukah shopping list and here's the tentative menu:

Turkey a la Dan
Kielbosa-apple stuffing
Potato-onion kugel
Baked marinated tofu with 2 sauces (tomato-olive and chimichurri)
Kasha Varnishkes with onion-mushroom marmalade
Zucchini "pudding"
"2 Fat Ladies" Parsnip puree
Curried brussel sprouts
Sweet and sour cabbage
Creamed onions with bacon
Sweet potato corn bread
Cranberry-ginger compote
Buttermilk pies (one with fruit, one without)
Pear-cranberry pie
Pumpkin pie
Apple Pie Ice Cream
"Sufganiyot" Ice Cream (Basically a jelly donut ice cream)
Date-pistachio balls

Meat, vegetarian, kosher,'s got it all! You can see one of the experiments earlier this month is on the menu, while the other got cut out of the final list. So it goes...

But I do say this is "tentative" in that sometimes recipes get tweaked at the last minute. And sometimes there have been a few accidents. (The "spilled salt" incident totally killed one of these last year!)

Some of these are based on recipes found in cookbooks, but most have been tweaked by me. The exception is the 2 Fat Ladies dish. Such a decadent artery regular Thanksgiving guests insist I make it the "traditional way" every year.

And the first thing I always cook is the cranberry compote. I love cranberries. I stock up on them, toss them in my freezer and use them throughout the year. 

My freezer before I went shopping!

 I love that cranberries freeze easy. I also love that most cranberries are fine to buy. No real brand preference for me. Or the excuse to try to be artisinal:

Do you hipsters honestly think Whole Foods just didn't dump a couple of bags into this water? Sheesh!

Ah, that makes me laugh every time I see it. 

But here we go with my happy, non-artisinal dish:

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Cranberry-Ginger Compote

There are actually only three ingredients (plus one optional):

1 bag cranberries
maple syrup
fresh ginger (a large piece)
Optional booze of choice (this time we're using a Ginepro grappa, a gift from my hosts during my French vacation, although bourbon, rye and even tequila have been used in the past).

Rinse cranberries and pick out any bad ones.

Place in pot with enough maple syrup to cover

Cook over medium-low heat until simmering. 

Peel and cut ginger into small pieces and add to pot. Stir as needed.
(You can also squeeze the ginger juice directly in)  

As it thickens, you can, if you wish, add a few good splashes of the liquor.

Continue cooking down until it forms a thickened mixture:

Let cool and place in covered container. It can be refrigerated for several days (which is why I make it first!)

The tartness of the cranberry and the bite of the ginger work well with the earthy sweetness of maple syrup. And the grappa gives it a nice herbal finish. This also works well as an ice cream topping. 

Now we're on to ice cream making!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Break From the Countdown: Tight Pants and Bad Research

OK, a slight break planning the double whammy feast to concentrate once again on exercise and diet. I still delight in many of my body changes. Many but not all. There is some thrill along with the frustration when clothes do not fit properly, but only in certain body areas.

My shoulders and lats have exceeded my nice suit jacket? Makes me preen all the more.
My chest and biceps too big for some of my size medium button-downs? Dan-tastic!
My quads actually flexing through my trousers? Well, hello!
My pants not buttoning properly? OK, wait a minute...

Yes for all my continued intense exercise and training, and all the accompanying muscle bloat, two other things have happened:
1) My weight training has now far exceeded cardio time
2) My sense of portion control spun somewhat askew

In regards to the former, I admit I really enjoy weight training and the results I see. Sure it burns calories but more intense weight training means more time spent on weight training. At this time last year, I was probably spending 30-40 minutes on weights and then 20-30 minutes on cardio. A quick self-check shows me I now spend 75 minutes on weight training, which usually leaves not much time at all to get cardio in before I have to book it up to work. Non-weight days are spent running, but now that the weather is turning crappy, there's more of a need to go do it inside.

So, I decided this week would be all cardio. Give my muscles a week's respite and really concentrate on cardio and returning to portion awareness. After a week, I'll how I'll reset this. Even after only a few days some of the water weight has already come off, so I can see it was a good decision.

Except for the cardio itself. I thought I could spend the days with boxing, HIIT and then the cardio machines. But while I'm doing it I quickly remembered that cardio at the gym is SO FRIGGIN' BORING!!

This is why I never could keep exercise plans afloat all those years past! This is why I finally got a trainer and learned what else I could do at a gym. Treadmills and ellipticals are really not very motivating. I'm glad that I now have a lot of gym experience so I can manage to get through this. Maybe add even more HIIT, switching to some light weight workouts with mega reps and little rest, those sort of things. 

I think it's just driven home that I miss that push my trainer gave me. 90% of the work may have been me, but, man some of this stuff is dull! I'm sure other people find that true about weight training, but to me, you're switching it up every day and with different body parts.I really love it.

It's also driven home how easy it can be to just not be motivated.

Now, on to the latter part regarding portion control. No real biggie there, for me. The food scale and measuring devices came back out, so I could really set in my mind how big a portion is. And more self-awareness as I was eating meals. For now, there are no "special treats." Not having a cupcake or a second helping for a few weeks ain't gonna kill me. And there may be a few evenings where I am feeling peckish, but I let it go. 

But I'm also not seeing this as a way to become super-buff. It's merely to get myself back to comfy pants size. My Streamlined Ska Librarian body still looks hot (Yes, it does!). But 10 lbs off the frame will probably be all I need. 

I will not be trying to exceed any levels of diet craziness. I'm not going to end up like this fellow. (Talk about a special diet and routine gone wrong!)

But this doesn't mean I can't still peruse the food blogs out there to continue my search for Thanksgiving-Chanukah recipe inspiration. And there's always the Dietitians blogs. Except now comes this recently published study by Dietitians seeing if food blogs provide nutritionally balanced recipes.

OK, I hate to diss my new favorite profession, but as a Librarian, as a blogger and as someone who reads a lot of food blogs, I'm not sure this is great research.

Mind you, the food blogs they chose were pretty popular (Smitten Kitchen, The Pioneer Woman), but they weren't marketed as "healthy" blogs. What were the findings? 

"Recipes met energy recommendations but were excessive in saturated fat and sodium."

OK, that's not so unusual. And:

This study revealed an opportunity for dietitians and public health professionals to improve recipes accessed on social media...Dietitians may also partner with existing food blog authors to add more healthy options or to create alternative, healthy versions of each recipe using modified ingredients. Other possible interventions include designing a branded icon for labeling recipes that meet specific nutritional standards."

Um...isn't that why you have your own blogs, as linked above? If the blogs in this study were claiming to be healthy or specifically targeting weight loss, then that might be different. It's your job as nutrition professionals to ensure that there should be some vetting of fact. But they're not. These are just regular, albeit popular, food blogs. 

To try to push one's agenda on something fairly open to interpretation doesn't work, and it also doesn't do the profession any favors. I would most definitely go to a RD blog to learn more about healthy food trends (I already do that!), and if someone was claiming health from their "special food system," I would hope Dietitians would weight in. 

But this smacks of just grasping at research straws. I'd be more concerned of RDs played a larger role in the social media of community health initiatives, school lunch programs, even the Affordable Care Act.

Maybe it's the sugar deprivation and the cardio boredom but my take is: Be a professional. Don't be a nudge.

Next post will be back to recipes (probably not RD approved.)


“I Got Six-Pack Abs in Six Weeks. Here’s How I Feel One Year Later.” Greatist. Accessed November 13, 2013.

Schneider, E. P., McGovern, E. E., Lynch, C. L., & Brown, L. S. (2013). Do Food Blogs Serve as a Source of Nutritionally Balanced Recipes? An Analysis of 6 Popular Food Blogs. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 45(6), 696-700.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Countown to eating part a lot, part 2: Did you say radish? And Campari?

When I cam back from my time in Japan, I was more than happy to continue the Thanksgiving tradition at Chez Ska Librarian (still Retro in those days). But I had picked up a few tricks of the trade in Tokyo and wanted to fit those into the meal.

OK, so not really tricks. More like me doing my usual recipe tweaking much to the horror of my Japanese acquaintances. I always joked (joked, it's all in fun!) that the official motto of Japan should be "No substitutions on the menu." And that's basically a direct challenge for me!

One of the very ubiquitous (and one of the the few inexpensive) items one found at Japanese markets was the daikon radish:

You can buy one in Japan the size of an entire arm for about 2 bucks!
Daikons are usually used as a garnish or soup addition, just grated straight into the bowl. They taste...well, like radishes.

But I soon discovered another way to use this root. If you simmer or poach them in water or broth until soft, they become these sweet, soft, delicate pucks of tastiness. More mellow than a turnip. 

In Japan, it's a basic boil and then served with white miso. But after one or two tries like that, I began to wonder just how it would work with other flavors. I often poach chicken in vermouth, so why not these? They were deLISHous! So I added olives soaked in gin and made Martini Daikons. 

It was a fun idea, and I certainly have enough martini-loving pals, even if I don't drink them anymore. But I wanted to see if something else could be done with these big fellas. Something more festive that might work spice-wise for both Thanksgiving and Chanukah, yet also appeal to the non-meat eaters attending.

And I spied this in my kitchen:

Hmmm.....I know Campari is an acquired taste, but if your guests don't mind complex tartness, this is for you!

So I now present:

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Campari Daikons

Wash, peel and slice the daikon into 1 inch discs. Score one side of them. 

In Japan, you're also supposed to bevel the edges. But shape however you like. Make them into Magen Davids. Or Turkeys!
Place daikon slices into large saucepan with enough liquid to cover. This one is:
1 part Campari
2 parts water
1 cinnamon stick

Bring to a simmer and cook until fork tender (about 25-30 minutes). Remove from liquid and let stand until room temperature. (You can also refrigerate them for a few days and bring back to room temp before serving).

And here we are:

Do these not look lovely? They're actually a little pinker than this photo. 

The sweetness of the cooked daikon with the spiciness of the Campari and cinnamon. Mmm...
These were eaten with some salty-savory snacks and the play of flavors was great.

Will this recipe make it to the Holiday(s) table? We'll see!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Countdown to eating a lot

Oh, where to begin? So many weight loss and weight maintenance studies our there. And yet, a recent study shows that a large percentage of research on obesity and nutrition tend to overstate their results. Is this really a surprise? I also think the topic lends itself to that. We like to grab onto a definitive "solution" or "answer" when it comes to obesity and nutrition. I know I've certainly been guilty of cherry-picking data I need to make a point. But then again, I'm just blogging here, not claiming I've done grant-funded research. 

I do recommend you seek out the entire article. But that's not where we're going now....

I'm going to take a break from some of the usual format this month and go for a theme. We're coming up on one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. For almost every T-day for the past 22 years, I've hosted anywhere from 3 to 30 people for the feast. Over the years, I've gotten intoa "zone" where I cook EVERYTHING, down to making ice cream for the pies. All guests just bring drinks, themselves and an appetite. It's worked out very well. 

I have some standard favorite dishes (there are a few I've been told can never leave the menu), but it also gives me a chance to try some new things each year. Very rarely is there a true cock-up (more often the casualties are dropped dishes). And I actually find it very enjoyable to just prepare and cook up a storm for a week. 

This year, however, we have a slightly different agenda. Thanksgiving falls on the first night of Chanukah. Yes, the All-American holiday where we all gather together to give thanks and eat a lot of food we may avoid most of the year is now being mixed up with a Jewish holiday where ... we all gather together to give thanks for being alive and eating a lot of food we may avoid most of the year.

Hmmm...this shouldn't be too hard.

Except when you're a kid and you probably feel more left out when everyone around gets Xmas presents, Chanukah doesn't play a big role in many adult Jews lives (or Adult Jews with no kids, I should say). 

Yes, it commemorates, as do many Jewish Holidays, our survival at almost being wiped out, and, like most Jewish holidays, it involved a lot of fried food. And I don't want to be frying latkes just as we're all sitting down to turkey.

So how to combine these two holidays into one super food day?

The rest of this month, I'll be trying out a few recipes and sharing them online. As you know, it's hard for me to actually write down amounts, but I will do my best to ensure you can all share in this. Yes, yes, I am very magnanimous that way.

One of the things I often skip or avoid is a bread with Thanksgiving dinner. In the past there's been pumpkin biscuits, a basic wheat loaf, polentas "crackers" but most often I buy a baguette or two. But I've been toying with a cornbread idea. It's quick, easy and goes well with the all those fall foods. 

But how to make it Chanukah-like? I've seen a few pumpkin or sweet potato corn breads. And a traditional Jewish dish is tzimmes. My family made it with carrots, but I had some yams, which is also "traditional." So why not make a Tzimmes Cornbread? Hmmmm...

I used yams and prunes. I think carrots may be added next time, but yams were a nice thought because you can microwave them very fast. And I thought using coconut oil added another "fruit" flavor to it. I also tend to favor my cornbread more on the corn side with less flour. I actually dropped the flour on the floor (see? that's my thing!) and after that clean-up, I substituted chickpea flour. The end result was good but I think whole wheat flour would work a little better, giving it a little less density. 

I decided to spice it with middle eastern spices and spiked the prunes. The result:

It was fragrant, sweet yet not too much (which is sort on un-tzimmes like) but a nice amalgam of holidays!
This could be good with gravy or applesauce and sour cream! Or even with peanut butter as a snack.

Will it make it to the holiday table in a few weeks? We shall see...

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's "Tzimmes" Cornbread:

12 prunes, cut up
1/4 cup bourbon or rye
1 1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsps ras al hanout
1/4 tsp dried mint
salt to taste 
2 egg whites 
3 tbps coconut oil
1 to 1 1/2 cups yams, cooked 
1/4 cup yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk
1/2 cup honey
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar 

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Soak the prunes in the bourbon
3. Combine next 5 ingredients
4. Add next 5 and mix well
5. Stir in prunes and bourbon. Adjust seasoning
6. Bake for 30 minutes or until done. 


Menachemi, Nir, Gabriel Tajeu, Bisakha Sen, Alva O. Ferdinand, Chelsea Singleton, Janice Utley, Olivia Affuso, and David B. Allison. “Overstatement of Results in the Nutrition and Obesity Peer-Reviewed Literature.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 45, no. 5 (November 2013): 615–621. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2013.06.019.



Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Foodie Pen Pals Reveal - Manly Man Edition

It's that time again! Time to grab $15 worth of goodies and trade off in the mail. Yes, it's ...

The Lean Green Bean

This time, tireless RD and FPP diva Lindsay continued the one-on-one exchange system instead of the round robin version. And she set me up with Nick from Virginia. Yes... a man!! Out of thousands of FPP participants, it was a testosterone exchange. Bring it on!

Nick told me of his appreciation of grilling. I talked about my appreciation of hockey. (What? I eat everything!) We both said we'd send each other manly stuff.

Soon, my squishy FPP envelope arrived, and what did Nick send?

A Clif Bar, Jack Daniels Marinade in a Bag, A Chocolate-Chipotle bar, BLT dip mix, olives in a bag, Halloween peeps, and DeeDee Desserts No Bake Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake mix.

This is, without a doubt, the manliest Foodie Pen Pal Package I've ever received. I've used the olives in a sauce, but I'm still debating on what to marinade. And that no bake mix would probably make a decent custard.  Yeah, I never was a recipe follower.

And I did try the BLT Dip, which was like a sweet onion mix with bacon bits. I didn't have cream cheese or sour cream on hand, so I used ... silken tofu and yogurt. I know, I know, but it still tasted rugged.

This is definitely a departure for the usual FPP reveal. It is a lot of sugar in one place, but I've already had offers for sharing:

Black cats and pumpkin peeps...very October appropriate!

As Nick doesn't have a website, let me show what I sent him. He did say he liked grilling, so:

Assorted rubs and condiments/glazes, some jerky, some bacon mints and of course, candy for Halloween!
I hope you liked it, Nick! (Dude, you gotta acknowledge! There are some FPP rules we all must follow!)

So, it was a different package, but it adds to the diverse tapestry that is the receiving of free food n the mail.

Now it's off to watch the Rangers. And eat not so manly BLT dip.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It Never Gets Old...

The season of reality shows is coming back in full swing. In many ways these are a guilty pleasure for me. Partially they are a sense of escape and partially they reaffirm that, yes, at least my life is not like THAT, nor would I ever go through that exposure just for fleeting fame. Sadly, a lot of these shows involve many people from my homeland of Staten Island. All I can say to that is: You can't blame that much on editing.

Of course, a lot of makeover shows are on nowadays including weight loss programs. I know a popular one is The Biggest Loser. I admit I do tune into that one, now more than ever in Streamlined times.  I don't really need to reaffirm what many people think about this show. I won't even link to those posts, because they are everywhere. Suffice to say that I do feel it is presenting a very unfair view of weight loss and the idea that "failures" on the show are only losing 2-5 lbs. a week....well, it's just bad. It reminds me of one of my previous attempts at weight loss a few decades back. I managed to lose 25 lbs. and reached a tableau. And I felt like a complete failure.

Because I. Only. Lost. 25. Lbs.

Sigh. I'm glad that mindset is over. 

But this also brings to mind the endless attempts at dieting and the yo-yo effect that can have on someone.

But this is nothing new. I've already mentioned some of the old diet and cookbooks I own. Now how about a old time "reality show'?

This fascinating paper on President William H. Taft's correspondence with a doctor about weight loss had me hooked. Taft certainly cut a prosperous figure:


But he had concerns about his health. The prescription for weight loss reads remarkably modern (without the "fads"): reasonable amounts of food, exercise and daily logging of weight. There are some historically unique aspects to the plan (Taft's exercises including horseback riding, as opposed to something we might now consider more rigorous), but the gist is very much the same as today.

There's even the other aspects here which show how little things have changed. Taft was a celebrity that was publicly ridiculed for his weight. He tended to report a higher weight loss than he actually managed to achieve. He did lose a lot weight but gained a lot back when he stopped dealing with his physician. This was also not the first doctor and weight loss prgram to which he subscribed. And this particular doctor also used his work with Taft to promote his own diet business, cashing in on this celebrity diet.

When Taft passed away he was about 70 lbs. less than his highest weight, but still considered "morbidly obese" by today's standards.

Taft's legacy as President and as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court is quite varied (He is the only person to hold both positions). But sadly he's probably remembered more for being the fat president. 

Strange to think that dieting and celebrity is more embedded in our collective mind than governmental and judicial initiatives still in play. 

Maybe we should elect Snooki to the Supreme Court. But first I need to go track down some of Taft's doctor's books to add to my collection.


Deborah I. Levine; Corpulence and Correspondence: President William H. Taft and the Medical Management of Obesity. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2013 Oct;159(8): 565-570.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Obsessively healthy

Enough laziness....time to get my workout on!

I knew those Pilates classes were good for my core! :) 

Much as I am a sucker for the Scopitone era, one thing that does strike me is that a lot of the women (and the one guy) dancing around that pool would be considered "unfit" by today's standards. And not in the sense that they are "fat", but rather that they don't look "strong." (Which is really another way of saying "thin but with visible muscles.")

I'm all for understanding what a healthy body looks like and I still get a bit giggly when I catch my reflection in a mirror (Hello, studly!), but I know that it took some time to actually convince myself that I don't have to be a solid six-packed beefcake dude nor super-skinny fella to look good AND look healthy. 

And yet there's this trend happening with these "Fitspiration" or "fitspo" posts on websites, facebook, etc. I'm sure you've seen them, so I won't bother putting one on here, even snarkily. 

It's still a shaming and somewhat misguided way of saying "you're not good enough, but here's some bad, pat advice with a still unrealistic photo to make you feel passive-aggressively better." And I know I'm not the only person that has problems with this trend. This post covers it pretty well.  However, it also draws me towards a topic about which I'm not too happy; the excessive attitude of many of the health-minded people. 

At various points in my life, I've had to drop some friends and acquaintances who were just unhealthy to be around. Sometimes it was for reasons centering about substance abuse, sometimes it was someone who just promoted a toxic environment. It's never easy, even when you know you have to do it, but it does happen. And lately I've had to "unfriend" those people who I felt were not healthily contributing to Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle. 

I'm not talking about people who insisted on eating pans of lasagna in front of me or those who would get frustrated now that I've cut back on the beers. Different eating habits don't mess up friendships, at least in my thought process. No, the people who I had to "let go" were all "healthy living" folks. Because how they were treating themselves (and others) was very unhealthy.

I previously posted about Social Physique Anxiety and my own change in mindset towards gyms and working out. We've seen enough about eating disorders and how societal factors contribute to those. But what about exercise and "healthy living"? Can someone treat it like a disorder? Is there such a thing as going too far? 

A few bloggers have coined it as "healthorexia" but I see it's actually been addressed some years before as Orthorexia Nervosa. That does seem to be more oriented solely towards food intake, but the expression does seem to be used as well to denote those folks who take both healthy food and exercise to an extreme.  

There have been some studies questioning whether or not it is an actual disorder and one somewhat troubling study seeing if there was a prevalence of orthorexics among Dietitians! (Hmm...Dietitians with food issues...that's like Librarians as hoarders.)

Whatever it's official diagnosis, I can't help but think these Fitspo photos have not helped. It gives the impression that you're otherwise doing it wrong. 

And I'm not immune. Almost a decade ago, I tried the Low Carb diet. And one day, I ate 8 grapes. And I proceeded to freak out that I ruined my whole diet experience. Thankfully, I immediately checked myself and realized there was something fundamentally wrong with any eating plan that would do that to your head. 

And yet, that's what we're seeing in orthorexics and those people who are no longer my friends. Every few weeks was a new "eating plan" that usually included some point of abstinence, starvation or "special food", while exercising to the point of continued injury and ill health. And then deriding those who did not follow the same plan. Never mind that it often changed from week to week. As a friend, I tried to support them but it soon became apparent that they did not want support that didn't follow their own strictures. 

But I've now seen this behavior all over the web, too. And unfortunately it's now easily shared among the internet and with it, the bullying atmosphere that comes with this medium: 

"You didn't puke? You're not exercising enough!"  
"You made non-paleo cupcakes? Stuff your face with failure!" 

How does this help people feel better about themselves? I'm all for being pushed into working harder. That's why I go to a trainer. But it's not about doing something til I puke. Or as my trainer put it, "I'm not here to beat you up, Dan. You seem quite capable of doing that yourself. I'm here to take it in the right direction."

So, I'm not a fan of this orthorexic movement. But I also hope that in my own quest for Streamlined life, I have not been perpetuating this attitude among others. One of the saddest parts of my Streamlined Ska Librarian journey is losing friends who feel they no longer "know me" because I'm trying to live healthier. Is it because I'm no longer staying out late drinking pitchers and eating entire pizzas? Or have I become something less palatable? Have I become as toxic as those people that I have had to unfriend? It's a reality check, to be sure. 

I'd like to think I'm basically still me, but more aerodynamic. So I hope to work on still being that way. If I start posting photos of airbrushed athletes with "hang in there, baby!", you all have the right to delete me.


Kinzl, Johann F., Katharina Hauer, Christian Traweger, and Ingrid Kiefer. “Orthorexia Nervosa in Dieticians.” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 75, no. 6 (2006): 395–396. doi:10.1159/000095447.
McInerney-Ernst, Erin Michelle. “Orthorexia Nervosa: Real Construct or Newest Social Trend?” Thesis, University of Missouri--Kansas City, 2011.
Vandereycken, Walter. “Media Hype, Diagnostic Fad or Genuine Disorder? Professionals’ Opinions About Night Eating Syndrome, Orthorexia, Muscle Dysmorphia, and Emetophobia.” Eating Disorders 19, no. 2 (2011): 145–155. doi:10.1080/10640266.2011.551634.