Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for the ‘Comfort Foods’ Category


As most of you know, there are three measures by which I know I’ve taken back my life from the health issues of last year: walking, cooking, and blogging. Slowly – far too damned slowly – I am doing all three.

Yesterday, I went to a most excellent housefilk at the home of some friends. Not only was I able to sit up for the whole thing, but I was able to get the rollator up the front steps to their building by myself (normally, Sue or Marc drags it up the steps, while I use the banister to haul myself up)! I was also able to walk to the car after the housefilk, and survive the car rides to and from Josh and Lisa’s place. I was even able to walk around their apartment a little without using any support at all.

But that’s not today’s accomplishment. The roots for that actually go back to a job I had from 1977 to 1987. Back then, I worked for Rialto Management Company, a small real estate firm in midtown owned by Ruben Shulsky. One of the best parts of that job was the little kosher meat restaurant across 30th Street and halfway between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. It had no name, but had some of the best food I had ever eaten. One of my favorite dishes there was cholent – a beef/bean/barley stew. Cholent is one of those things observant Jews eat for Shabbos lunch, because it can be started on Friday before sundown and kept on the top of the stove over a very low heat until they can turn the light off after sundown on Saturday. Well, I loved that cholent, but not being an observant Jew, I didn’t know how to make it. Over the years, I asked observant friends and looked on the Internet for recipes – and there were some interesting ones – but they never quite tasted like the cholent from that restaurant. Cholent is one of those things where everyone has a slightly different recipe, usually learned from their mom.

lucys-cholent-picA few months ago, an acquaintance of mine posted about cholent in an APA we both belong to (AWA, or A Women’s APA). I asked for her recipe, and she posted it in the following collation. I started it yesterday after we got home from the housefilk, and when I tried it for lunch today it was exactly the taste I remembered! I even put it into the Weight Watchers recipe calculator and discovered it’s 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving, which is not bad for a meal! Without further ado, here is the recipe for Lucy Schmeidler’s cholent, as written in AWA:
Lucy Schmeidler’s Cholent

1 – 1 1/2 lbs lean beef, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium large Idaho (russet) potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 – 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
6 – 10 baby carrots
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 4-oz can mushrooms
1/2 cup pearl barley, soaked
1/2 cup navy or small white beans, soaked
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp minced garlic
Cooking oil
Water to cover
3-qt heavy pot

Friday morning: Brown onions in oil. Add meat, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and water to cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. (Deb’s note: We did this for about an hour. Also, since the roomie is allergic to mushrooms, we made it without, and when she had taken what she wanted, I added the mushrooms and reheated it thoroughly.) Add barley, beans, seasonings and more water to cover. Cook covered overnight over low heat without stirring. Serve for Shabbos lunch.

So, I want to thank Lucy for helping me solve a  – to me – 35-year search!

In other “taking back my life” news, my surgeon says that I am doing amazingly well – far better than she had expected. I went to lunch with the roomie to a place we often order from over on Emmons Avenue, the Opera Cafe. The food was excellent, as always, and it was good to get out. I’ve also started up the fannish dinner group again, although we have been sticking to places in Brooklyn so far. Future plans include maybe doing a Monday night dinner so the Kosher Krew can join us, and possibly some weekend brunches. There are just too many great places to eat around New York City. (And if anyone reading this is in the area and wants onto the list for the dinners, please leave a comment, email, or otherwise message or call me. I’d be happy to add you to the list. Attendance is not mandatory at all; all I ask is if you are joining us on a given week, let me know in case the group for that week is big enough to need reservations.)

 


Well, the adventure started on Wednesday. Naomi and I took Sue (the roomie) out for her birthday. We had a lovely dinner at Teresa’s in Brooklyn Heights. We shared an order of potato pancakes (lovely and crisp – almost crepe-like). Naomi had cherry and cheese blintzes, Sue had a chicken cutlet with kasha and beets, and I had goulash with kasha and beets and a small mushroom barley soup. All were delicious, as food at Teresa’s always is. We even got parking right in front of the restaurant, which was an amazing feat!

After dinner, we tried to get to Max Brenner, then Veniero’s, then Cha Cha’s In Bocca al Lupo, but we were too late to get to any of them. So we headed back to the Mirage Diner in Brooklyn for cheesecake. We agreed to pick up the slack on Friday, when things tend to be open later.

So today, Naomi and her friend Paula picked us up and we headed to a place called Brooklyn Ice House that had been recommended by a friend who shall remain nameless. It was horrible. The dive bar was so dark that standing under one of the lights it was still impossible for the menu to be read. It was, in fact, so dark that Sue could not see the legs of my chair and tripped over one of them. None of us felt comfortable there, so we walked back to the car. On the way, we found a place, Red Hook Lobster Pound, that seems to have a great lobster special on Wednesdays. We do plan to try it, but at that point we were all starting to get hungry.

Our alternate plan took us to Manhattan – Harlem to be exact – to a place called Harlem Shake. My friend Limore Kurtz Dooley is running for Miss Harlem Shake 2015, and I wanted to vote for her. Well, we should have gone there in the first place! Outside (they have outdoor seating) the place was packed because it was such a nice night. Inside, however, there was plenty of seating when we got there. The menu is burgers, salads, fries, shakes, mac ‘n cheese — pub food with a twist. Naomi and Paula had classic burgers with cheese fries (Paula), sweet potato fries and mac ‘n cheese (Naomi). Sue had a chicken sandwich and the mac ‘n cheese. I had a chili cheese dog, a Sonoran (bacon-wrapped dog with Deep fried bacon-wrapped dog, with pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish, chipotle mayo and onions)and the chili cheese fries. Paula’s meal came with a mini chocolate shake, Sue had water, Naomi had a clear birch beer, and I had the Gertrude (a lemonade/watermelon non-alcoholic cooler that was delicious and refreshing). The food was excellent; the prices were right (mine was $20.09, Sue’s was about $14, and Naomi and Paula’s was under $40). Inside is open seating, so tables could be arranged if we want to do a group dinner up there. Further, they have vegan options and various other choices that are actually healthy, so it looks like it will be able to meet the diverse food issues my Friday dinner group has! The only downside we saw is that the lighting is shielded fluorescents. We all decided we want to head back there and try other menu items.

We tried getting to Max Brenner’s once again, but between construction and traffic that bombed out. Instead, we hit van Leeuwen Artisanal Ice Cream in the East Village, finding a parking spot just one store past the ice cream store. Three of us were pretty stuffed, so we just had two scoops each (Sue had mint chip and chocolate, Paula had strawberry, and I had mint chip and salted caramel). Naomi had a delicious looking sundae.

I grabbed a watermelon juice for the road, and we headed off to Naomi’s place so she could pick up some stuff she needed. Sadly, between construction, traffic, and various rude drivers, it took us forever to get uptown as far as the Midtown Tunnel. I suggested we take that, we did, and once we exited we had pretty much clear sailing the rest of the night.

So, the main takeaway was the discovery of a wonderful, inexpensive eatery (even if it is halfway to the ends of upstate Manhattan) that all four of us want to visit again.


I am a sucker, especially in winter, for a good, hearty, homemade soup or stew. A stoup, as defined by Rachael Ray, combines the best of both worlds. It’s real comfort food. I adapted this from Simple Nourished Living‘s recipe for “Mom’s Simple Hearty Lentil Sausage Stew”. I used a cooking method my friend Mamadeb had mentioned in her blog, Steadily On. It is a Weight Watchers friendly recipe; most of the ingredients are power foods. Beef and Lentil Stoup works for the Simply Filling plan and is 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving for those doing tracking.

Beef and Lentil Stoup
Adapted by Deb Wunder (otherdeb)

12 1-cup servings
5 5 Points Plus per serving

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: About two hours

    Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, choped rough
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped rough
  • 1 lb beef chunks (round, trimmed)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 1-1/2 boxes broth
  • 2 10-oz cans Ro*Tel, undrained
  • 5 ribs celery, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Directions:
1. Chop the ingredients that need chopping, cutting, or dicing
2. Put the olive oil into a Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally
3. Add the beef chunks and cook for about 8 minutes.
4. Stir in the lentils, broth, tomatoes, celery, carrot, parsnips, Ro*Tel, and spices.
5. Partially cover pot and bring to a boil.
6. Preheat oven to 300∘ F.
7. Cover pot, and put in the oven on a rack for approximately two hours, or until stoup is the thickness you desire. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water or broth.
8. Divide into one-cup portions and serve.
____________________________________________

I bit the bullet and rejoined Weight Watchers this morning. Chose a three-month, online-only plan that gives me access to a coach at all times. I had a discussion with one of the coaches today – a lady named Janet, and we spoke about how I was feeling. I’m not sure how it will work out, but the pain of being out of shape and obese is, perhaps, finally stronger than the pain of doing the program again.

I finished an interesting book today: Fuschia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fin And Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. She covers how she ended up becoming a certified Sichuan chef and a food writer specializing in the cuisines of China. IF you are interested in a look at the foods of China – in a context of life in China – I recommend it.

Anyway, that’s it for now.


Friday was the ex’s birthday dinner, and we had a very nice one with friends at the local Indian place. Saturday, I was feeling like crap. The roommate ordered in some Chinese soup for me, with rice noodles, and that helped a bit. Sunday, I did n’t do a heck of a lot – got caught up on some non-food stuff, but was craving doughnuts. The roomie went and got them for me, but only half of the usual order, for which I was grateful. Today, I was working like a dog to get some articles in on time, despite the tool for writing them being down. Didn’t eat much – breakfast was an omelette, lunch a roast beef sandwich, and dinner was some pasta with eggplant and a Jamaican beef patty (it was even a Tower Isles patty – the original beef patties I became familiar with back in college in the 1970s).

Only in NYC would a Jewish girl fron Queens have Jamaican beef patties be one of the comfort foods she learned about in very early adulthood…..


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