your last best meal

your last best meal

Here’s a simple question: what meal would you eat if you knew that you could never eat those particular foods ever again (for whatever reason)?

For example, Mike’s last best dinner would be eaten at Fandango, a local restaurant (yes, location of “your last best meal” matters). It would most likely be caprese salad, steak frites, and chocolate mousse for dessert.

So we’re talking about your last best meal here. That means there could be more than one, depending upon how many meals you eat in a day. Or, if you tend to graze throughout the day, it could be a collection of your favorite dishes—your perfect day of grazing.

The important thing to remember is that in this exercise, you would not get to eat these foods again. Kathy’s life experience is important here: before her bariatric surgery, she went to Carl’s Jr. and had one last best Six Dollar Burger. She hasn’t had another one since, although she talks about eating that last best burger to this day.

Now that you’ve got the idea of this exercise, here are the parameters of our question in more detail.

What meal would you eat if you knew you could never eat this meal again (for whatever reason)? This meal could be breakfast, lunch, or dinner (or you could have a “last best meal” of each—your choice). Dinner can include a dessert. If you don’t eat specific meals (you graze, for example, or eat specific amounts at specific times), choose a “last best day of foods”.

Setting of the meal should be important—is it at home, in a restaurant, outdoors? Are you with loved ones? Is there music? Are you at a table?

What is your “last best meal”? Let us know in the comments.

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just a couple of nighthawks

just a couple of nighthawks

It’s one of Mike and Kathy’s favorite paintings: “Nighthawks,” by the American artist Edward Hopper. It depicts four people randomly gathered at an all-night diner in the middle of a city. According to the artist’s notes, Hopper originally named the painting “Night Hawks”, after a common slang word describing the late-night crowd in New York City. The man in the hat holding the cigarette was supposed to have a “beak” for a nose; it’s actually Hopper himself. (The woman sitting next to him was modeled by his wife Jo.)

The diner itself existed only in Hopper’s imagination; he used as his inspiration “a restaurant in Greenwich Village where two streets meet”, and then expanded and simplified the scene.

Hopper sold the painting to the Art Institute of Chicago shortly after painting it, and it has been there ever since (Mike and Kathy have seen it in person). In their notes on the painting, the Art Institute says that “the image—with its carefully constructed composition and lack of narrative—has a timeless, universal quality that transcends its particular locale.”

Besides this refreshing lack of narrative, what else do Mike and Kathy see in this painting? They see themselves, perhaps in a younger time, when they were living in big cities, staying up late and eating at all-night diners. Perhaps in that younger time they might have met at one of these diners, two strangers randomly seated next to each other at the counter, waiting for the young man behind the counter to take their orders.

Just a couple of nighthawks, deep into a lonely night, sitting and waiting for that early breakfast or that late dinner, the coffee mixing with the beer on your breath, and no words are really needed, not on this lonely night.

now we are geriatric

now we are geriatric

Through circumstances not of our control, we have embarked on a new phase in our lives as individuals and as a couple. It all has to do with our health insurance and our doctors.

Mike’s doctor decided to retire and close his practice. At the same time, our health insurance announced it was discontinuing our current coverage plan and transferring us to another HMO. When we received our new insurance cards in the mail, we both had been assigned the same personal care physician (PCP).

(Note: In the U.S., health insurance companies offer HMOs, or Health Management Organizations, as a way to encourage people to take an active part in managing their heath. In an HMO, you must coordinate your medical care through your PCP. OK?)

Imagine our surprise when we discovered that our new personal care physician is a specialist in…geriatrics.

Now, we aren’t old enough to be considered “geriatric”, technically. But our new doctor was accepting patients who are approaching the geriatric years, and our research on him told us he was rated very highly.

So we went to see our new doctor for the first time. The good news is that he can provide a lot of care himself; he looks younger than both of us (so he’s practicing what he’s preaching); and he’s diabetic, which he can relate to Mike’s situation.

Which brings us to why we’re telling you all this—our new doctor reminded us of how important weight control is at our ages, especially with diabetes, and how important diet is to that.

Mike remembered that through his Bauman College training, he learned how to tailor diets for weight and blood sugar control…and wrote receipts for those diets. Hmmm…

So now we are geriatric: let the journey begin!

all the little things

all the little things

This past weekend we did something we had not done in a long time: go out on a dinner date. It was something we did more often in the early years of our marriage, before Kathy suffered from collagenous colitis. As time has passed, however, Kathy has been able to expand her diet to the point where we are able to go to Chinese restaurants.

Why? Rice is a staple of these cuisines and is served routinely with meals. Plus, these cuisines cook with healthy fats and feature a lot of steamed items, especially vegetables. For proteins, these cuisines feature the use of lean animal proteins, seafood, and tofu (one of Kathy’s favorites).

We went to our all-time favorite restaurant and we weren’t disappointed: wor won ton soup, sizzling rice seafood soup (with a tomato base!), and iron plate sizzling beef.

At the end of that wonderful meal, there are, of course, fortune cookies. The first fortune was a well-worn proverb. The second, however, was one of the best fortunes ever. It read:

“All the little things will add to a happy journey.”

This fortune is so true and so worth living up to. It’s true because of all the little things we’ve done to get to the point of being able to go out to dinner together without Kathy having a serious flare. It’s worth living up to because at this point of our lives, little things mean so much more to the two of us. We pay attention to them much more closely. We savor them.

To celebrate our first anniversary as a blog, we pledge to share with you in the coming year all the little things that will add to our happy journey to eat well always—so you may savor them as well.

Good fortune to you!

our vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt!

our vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt!

Yesterday we published our traditional holiday cookie receipt. Today we have another holiday gift for you: the vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that Mike developed this year and that was the major subject of “the cookie diaries” earlier this month.

This receipt was developed for a co-worker of Mike’s who had become a vegan earlier this year. The goal was to create a vegan, gluten-free receipt which emulated Mike’s traditional receipt. The procedure is the same: instead of chilling and rolling flat the cookie dough and then cutting it into shapes, he covers the dough and leaves it at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then the dough is shaped into balls, flattened, sprinkled with sweet red goodness, and baked.

The result: a crunchy, fluffy cookie with peppermint candy and bittersweet chocolate baked in. Non-vegans eat this cookie up, and they have been known to be hoarded by certain individuals (like Mike’s boss).

For those of you who followed the progress of this receipt, we’ve made a small but important change to the procedure: instead of using a #30 ice-cream scoop/disher (which is about 2 tablespoons), we’re using a #24 disher (which is the next size down, about 1-1/4 tablespoons). This will increase the receipt yield to about 15 cookies and make the cookie size identical to the traditional receipt.

Thanks again to everyone who followed along and liked what we did; this receipt is for you! And to everyone, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year!

Vegan, Gluten-Free Holiday Sugar Cookies with Bittersweet Chocolate and Peppermint ~ a newdeal kitchen receipt ~

  • Servings: Yields 15 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

This recipe was developed to be a vegan, gluten-free counterpart to our traditional Holiday Sugar Cookie receipt. The procedure is virtually the same; only the ingredients have been changed. No animal products of any kind are used in this receipt.

By Michael Reardon, based on a receipt by Florida Coastal Cooking & Wellness

Ingredients

1-3/4 cup gluten-free baking flour (for best results, use Bob’s Red Mill® Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour)

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup coconut oil

½ cup organic cane sugar

¼ cup unsweetened apple sauce

2 tablespoons nut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon peppermint extract

1 tablespoon crushed peppermint candies, plus more for topping

1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate pieces

Directions

  1. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl.
  2. In a separate medium bowl, cream coconut oil and sugar. Add apple sauce, nut milk, vanilla, peppermint extract, and crushed peppermint candies. Blend together.
  3. Add in dry ingredients slowly and blend until batter is thick.
  4. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces until the batter is well combined.
  5. Cover the batter with a towel and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 375º.
  7. While your oven is heating up, place a sheet of parchment paper or a silicon pad on a cookie sheet.
  8. With a #30 disher/ice cream scoop, create a rounded ball of dough (approximately 1¼ tablespoons) and place it on the cookie sheet. Flatten the ball slightly with your fingers so it resembles a hockey puck.
  9. Repeat until you have approximately a dozen or so balls of dough on the cookie sheet.
  10. Add pieces of crushed peppermint candies to the top of each cookie (try to have some red stripes!).
  11. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes (or until they smell ready). Then remove, let cool several minutes, and enjoy!

Note: Bob’s Red Mill® is a trademark of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, Inc., and is used here only for informational purposes. newdeal kitchen does not have an advertising relationship with Bob’s Red Mill®.

 

our traditional holiday cookie receipt!

our traditional holiday cookie receipt!

As one of our holiday gifts to you (and to thank you all for following along with “the cookie diaries”), we’re publishing our traditional holiday cookie receipt. This receipt was developed over the last few years by Mike and Kathy, who discovered the base of the receipt on a lining paper for a cookie sheet made by “The Bake King Company”, which at the time was a brand of The Chicago Metallic Bakeware Company.

The innovation of this receipt is twofold: First, instead of refrigerating the cookie dough and then flattening and cutting out shapes, we cover the dough and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, then scoop out balls of dough onto the cookie sheet and top them with red sugar sprinkles before baking.

Second, we add two ingredients to the dough mixture which scream “holidays”–slivered almonds and Guittard’s mint chocolate chips. Combined with the altered procedure, these additional ingredients help create a fluffy, crunchy cookie that we’ve been told is “absolutely addicting”. (One of our friends tell us, “Those cookies keep calling my name.” We tell him, “Keep listening!”)

So without further ado, here is our traditional holiday cookie receipt. Enjoy, and have a happy rest of your holiday season!

(Don’t forget, tomorrow we reveal our vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt!)

Holiday Sugar Cookies with Slivered Almonds and Mint Chocolate Chips ~ a newdeal kitchen receipt ~

  • Servings: Yields 20 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

This holiday cookie receipt has been developed over several holiday seasons, and it started with a recipe we found on a paper insert for a sheet pan made by the Bake King Company. Our take on the basic receipt is to let the dough at room temperature, then to spoon on balls of dough instead of rolling it flat and cutting shapes. Oh yes, the slivered almonds and mint chocolate chips are different, too.

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lemon extract

½ cup slivered almonds

½ cup mint chocolate chips (for best results, use Guittard® Mint Chocolate Chips)

red sugar sprinkles, to taste

Directions

  1. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl.
  2. In a separate medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Combine vanilla and lemon extracts, beaten egg, and milk. Add to butter and sugar and blend together.
  3. Add in dry ingredients slowly and blend until batter is thick.
  4. Fold in slivered almonds and mint chocolate chips until the batter is well combined.
  5. Cover the batter with a towel and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 375º.
  7. While your oven is heating up, place a sheet of parchment paper or a silicon pad on a cookie sheet.
  8. With a  #30 disher/ice cream scoop, create a rounded ball of dough (approximately 1¼ tablespoons) and place it on the cookie sheet. Flatten the ball slightly with your fingers until it resembles a hockey puck.
  9. Repeat until you have approximately a dozen or so balls of dough on the cookie sheet.
  10. Sprinkle cookies with red sugar sprinkles to your look and taste.
  11. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes (or until they smell ready). Then remove, let cool several minutes, and enjoy!

Note: Guittard® is a registered trademark of Guittard Chocolate Company and is used here for informational purposes only. newdeal kitchen does not have an advertising relationship with Guittard Chocolate Company.

the cookie diaries: lessons learned

the cookie diaries: lessons learned

The story so far: Once Mike perfected his vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt, he turned his attention to producing batches of his traditional holiday cookies to give to family and friends. It was smooth sailing up to Traditional Batch #06…and then things got interesting. Today in the cookie diaries: lessons learned.

Another season of holiday baking is almost over, and after developing a vegan, gluten-free version of our holiday cookie (and grinding out roughly a batch a day of traditional cookies), we feel like we learned some important lessons about baking cookies and writing food blogs:

  • For vegan, gluten-free baking, our new go-to flour is Bob’s Red Mill® Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour. Once we started using it, the quality of our dough improved greatly. The secret? This flour has xanthan gum already blended in, which helps the dough achieve the stickiness that gluten provides to traditional flours. (Note: This is a free plug for Bob’s Red Mill®; we don’t have any advertising relationship with them.)
  • Be ready to improvise and always have backups: this was the lesson of Traditional Blend #06. First, we constructed the batter only to realize we had forgotten to buy one of the ingredients; luckily, we found enough in the freezer to be able to continue. Second, the plastic ice-cream scoop we’ve been using for years SNAPPED IN TWO while making the balls of dough; however, we were able to find another ice-cream scoop to complete the process.
  • Finally, after almost a year of blogging, we realize we have a lot to learn—and a lot to be grateful for. Thanks to all who have followed our progress and have liked what we’ve done. We liked the “diaries” format so much, we’re going to continue to use it—there are more receipts to come!

(Don’t forget…tomorrow we reveal our traditional cookie receipt—a holiday gift to you!)