Monday, September 30, 2013

September Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

Another month and another adventure of free food in the mail! Yes, it's time once again for:

The Lean Green Bean


After my empty mailbox last month, I was hoping for a better result. Lindsay, the tireless RD behind FPP, mixed it up a bit this month. Instead of the "progressive round robin" sending of packages, she changed it to a pair exchange. That way, you sent a package to a person who was sending one to you. Would it work? Would more disappointment fall upon the Streamlined abode?

I was matched with Stephanie from Fort Collins, CO. She asked a lot of good questions, including what my favorite beverage was. I think she might have heard me scream "COFFEE" from across the Rockies. And even though she herself does not drink coffee (sweet, wonderful coffee), she took it upon herself to get me a nice themed package of caffeine and local foods. 

So what did she send me?

This more than makes up for getting squat last month!
It was an explosion of caffeinated Colorado wonder! A "Rocky Mountain Blend" of coffee beans, which will be soon be made into some cold brew deliciousness. And...

Black Bing Cherry Cider from the Colorado Cherry Company. I've never seen this before. Not only did I have a glass, I also mixed it with chili paste for a dipping sauce! Yum! Not too sweet but definitely cider-y!

Rocky Mountain Animal Crackers from the Wildlife Cookie Company and Bear Bar from Rocky Mountain Granola. Both nicely chocolaty without being too sweet (and great with a cup of coffee!)

Guacamole Bites from Nature Box. These really grew on me. Not the healthiest of things to scarf down, but the initial almost earthy avocado taste made them quick snacking!

And the piece de resistance...

Chocolate covered espresso beans and homemade cranberry mustard! This mustard was amazing!! It was immediately used on a sandwich and then was used as a dip for the avocado chips. And on eggs for breakfast. And put on toast to have with soup. And with sausages. You get the idea.

Thank you, Stephanie!!!!

So what did I send her? I forgot to take photos and she doesn't blog, so here's the lengthy text version. When I asked her if there was one NYC item she really craved, her response was bagels. I totally support this answer because, lets face it, there are no real bagels outside of NYC. I'm sorry, but it's true. However true fresh bagels don't travel exceptionally well. But I had a cunning plan...

I am so lucky to live near the best, and one of the last, truly great "appetizer" food stores in NYC: Russ & Daughters. Their pastrami lox, their buttery sable, that home-made scallion cream cheese, the baked salmon/whitefish salad....pardon me while I drool on the computer. Even in Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle, there's still room for some of the best smoked and cured fish and accoutrements.(Go ahead, click on the link and order something. I'll wait....)

Russ & Daughters also has what I refer to as the "bubbe section"; a counter that originally housed all the sweet treats only a jewish grandmother would serve you. They didn't have their great bagel bread pudding, but I was able to find salted caramel macaroons. I also sent a huge chunk of homemade almond nougat from the San Gennaro Festival (another great NYC event that takes place both in my home borough of Staten Island as well as in my current neighborhood in Manhattan), assorted Japanese cookies, sugared chili mangoes from my Indian deli and some other wee treats.

All in all, I think this month was a good trade all around. I'm already psyched for the next  month.

If you're interested in joining Foodie Pen Pals, you can find the rules and sign up here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Manly Man Binging Revisited

I've posted previously about my binge eating and that post references one of the few bits of research stating that there needs to be more men as subjects in BED studies. 

A recent study actually looked at the differences between men and women with binge eating disorder. There were some not so surprising differences, such as women tend to have more past dieting attempts than men, but men claim to engage in more strenuous exercise to counteract weight gain. I don't even think that's truly specific to people who binge eat. But overall there wasn't a huge amount of difference.

However, there was one result which I found disturbing: The men in the study had a much higher rate than women (almost twice as much) of displaying symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Their blood pressure, triglycerides and fasting glucose were all extremely elevated. Now, this was a self-selected group of individuals and not an incredibly diverse population in regards to race, age, etc. But it was men, something we don't normally see in a lot of these studies. Even with increased exercise regimens, this behavior can lead to trouble, health-wise.

This is still an issue close to my heart. Close to my well being is probably a more apt way to phrase it. I can't say I've had specific "trigger" events recently, but it's been some hectic few months and there's definitely been an increase in the "donut." Is that from binging? Possibly. I have caught myself doing it more than usual. (Which might also be looked at as not having caught myself before). I still continue to increase muscle mass. My biceps now exceed 15", which means they've grown over 3 inches in the past year, while my chest and shoulders are so much bigger I can't fit into most of my button down shirts up top anymore. And my waist is still much smaller, but it's still not as small as it was. Has increased exercise made me binge more? I certainly can't use the "protein" argument if I'm not binging on protein, can I? Is there part of me seeing exercise as an excuse to binge? Is it an excuse if you don't necessarily realize you're binging until you are?

I know I haven't been trying to remain "aware" when I eat as much as I was when I was losing weight. Not necessarily "dieting" but just realizing how fast I was eating, pausing to see if I was full, asking myself if I really wanted to eat something. You know, all the "proper" stuff to do. Amazing how a "change of lifestyle" can be ephemeral.

So no, I haven't been doing that. And it's sad and a little scary how binging can come back and how fast it can change your body. I needed some sort of "clickable" moment again, where I could relate to something more universal. And here comes this study: men like me who do this. 

Because even if this study was only one small subject group, it did include men and it includes one result I didn't want to see. Enough that I hope it might give me a decent goal: don't screw up my health. It's not about worrying if I'm fat or attractive or can fit into my newer pants. It's about not getting ill from binging. 

Once in awhile we all need a kick in the head. Thank you, researchers at Yale University School of Medicine for landing one square on my noggin.

Yes, I know we can often cherry-pick the results we want fomr research. But I want and need this one, so let me follow that motivation.


Udo, Tomoko, Sherry A. McKee, Marney A. White, Robin M. Masheb, Rachel D. Barnes, and Carlos M. Grilo. “Sex Differences in Biopsychosocial Correlates of Binge Eating Disorder: a Study of Treatment-seeking Obese Adults in Primary Care Setting.” General Hospital Psychiatry. Accessed September 23, 2013. doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2013.07.010.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hormones and Amends

And now as another season of the Jewish High Holy Days have come to a close, let's get back to the blog. Actually Sukkot is here and that probably deserves an blog post about holiday eating (or the childhood memory of somebody always bringing Cheez Doodles to hang in the sukkah alongside the fruit). But that will hold for a bit.

This year was more introspective than usual. I attended some quieter groups as opposed to the major synagogue events. Not that I don't love my "shul family," but the transition from clergy spouse to just a "regular" guy has been a little odd when it comes to holidays. Even these few years later, I needed to be a little more quiet about my need to make amends and reflect on what I can do make this year better. And reflect on the changes that have already happened.

Let's jump back to macro level for a bit and talk about other changes, body-wise (which is, after all, the posts many come here to read).
After about a year of major weight training, I began to notice various body changes and not only in my waist and muscle size. It was almost as if I was having some bizarre reaction to drugs or supplements (which I was not taking! This is clean living body, baby!) A check with my doctor showed that my testosterone level had spiked dramatically. Evidently all that intense resistance training can indeed cause that "manly" upgrade. And yes, studies show that to be true. YOU doin'?

But aside from being able to walk around work with that additional "strut factor", I guess it was good timing for a blog post because another recent study has shown that the lowered levels of both testosterone and estrogen in middle-aged men contribute to the fat levels around our bellies (and our waning sex drives). It turns out my "donut" was bound to happen, even if I managed to up the amount of deadlifts and reverse flys. 

So I seemed to have helped myself in ways without even knowing! Good for me! Keeping my donut to pop'em size and keeping my testosterone in the XXL aisle! 

And that's all well and good.  But let's go back to reflection for a moment.

I started this blog after having hit my weight and doing tons of research on weight maintenance. Part of me wanted to share what worked for me and what research I found. Part of me just wanted to be part of a larger group. And part of me wanted to demark this the current chapter of my life.

So, as I continue to reflect on this upcoming year and we near the 2nd anniversary of maintenance, I want to thank all of those who have supported me. Not just in my weight, but in my attempts to be a better person. 

One of my friends said to me during a rather dark Retro Ska Librarian period, "Dan, the thing is that, no matter what, you are an optimist." And it's true. Cynical, snarky, smart-aleck...but an optimist.

You can change your body and your life. You can even change the amount of hormones you produce solely from exercise. But it's hard to change something fundamentally inside of you. 

May this year bring out the better qualities in all of us. And anyone needing some extra testosterone....well, I seem to have plenty!


Finkelstein, Joel S., Hang Lee, Sherri-Ann M. Burnett-Bowie, J. Carl Pallais, Elaine W. Yu, Lawrence F. Borges, Brent F. Jones, et al. “Gonadal Steroids and Body Composition, Strength, and Sexual Function in Men.” New England Journal of Medicine 369, no. 11 (2013): 1011–1022. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1206168.

Tremblay, Mark S., Jennifer L. Copeland, and Walter Van Helder. “Effect of Training Status and Exercise Mode on Endogenous Steroid Hormones in Men.” Journal of Applied Physiology 96, no. 2 (February 1, 2004): 531–539. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00656.2003.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Sweet Streamlined New Year

Tomorrow night begins Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Now, as many kinds and versions and opinions of Judaism exist, you're going to find as many different takes on the High Holy Days. But if I may add my own opinion (as the ex-husband of a rabbi, if that actually counts for anything), Rosh Hashana is the time to begin reflection on your past year's actions and think of how you want to be a better person for the coming year. It's less about the classic New Year resolutions ("I want this to happen") and more about personal accountability ("I won't do things this way, but rather that way.")

But even though it's about our own actions, it doesn't mean there's not some festivities among the hours of reflection. One of the main traditions is to dip apples in honey, thereby ensuring a sweet new year. That simple bit of nibble (which is actually pretty healthy) has been co-opted and transformed into honey based baked goods.

Traditional Jewish honey cake can vary from something equivalent to a rum fruitcake to the overly sweet but dry cake we try very hard to avoid.

I've made some mega ingredient cakes, but I thought it might be nice to find something I could share with friends and coworkers and keep my own portion control easy to manage. So I went for honey cookies. 

I was figuring that applesauce would be a nice addition, both for cutting the shortening and adding that nice apple flavor.

I did a lot of research and found a lot of oatmeal based cookies, which I wasn't too keen on cooking (I eat enough oatmeal.) But then I found a recipe from the Canadian Honey Council via Beemaid Honey's recipe section. I was a little taken aback but intrigued: It uses a lot of honey but no sugar and very little shortening. The batter ends up cakelike and the cookies very soft.

They were honey-intense but not sweet. However, they really needed some kick and maybe a little crunch. I amped up the spices (adding several more) and sprinkled brown sugar on top before baking to add a sort of caramelized crunch. I also used unsweetened applesauce, so the brown sugar helped even that out.

The original recipe also called for raisins and nuts. I put neither in, but I do think chocolate chips would be awesome in these.

So here are my sweet concoctions:

L'Shana Tovah!

And here is my recipe:

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Adapted Rosh Hashana Spice Cookies (inspired by The Canadian Honey Council's Applesauce Cookies)

1 cup honey
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp vanilla
brown sugar (for topping)
1 cup raisins or chocolate chips (optional)
Cream honey and butter together. Add applesauce and eggs.
Sift dry ingredients together and add to honey mixture. Blend well.
Add vanilla and fold in chips and/or raisins (if using)
Drop spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Flatten cookies and sprinkle with brown sugar.
Bake at 350F for about 10-12 minutes...until done.

Enjoy and may this coming season and year be sweet, fulfilling and worthwhile. And don't forget to dance!