Green beans with a college education

Saturday night was miserable. Not just because of the Thursday gum surgery and my new allergy to hydrocodone but because I wanted to eat, eat, eat and my calories were mostly accounted for (that is, devoured) and at least our taste buds feel better while we’re cramming junk down our throats.

Besides eating, I also wanted to see the scales tick downward this morning so this was a quandry which I intended to fix with a jar of dry-roasted (unsalted) peanuts. I know it makes no sense except to another chubbola who’s spent a lifetime “solving” problems with food. We don’t fix or solve anything, but we numb our anxieties, at least for a while.

He Who Is a Recovering Baptist did just the right thing. When I asked him to hand me the unopened jar of peanuts (as in, I was too weak/fretful/sad to burn 3 calories and walk to the pantry for them my own self), he said in his mildest voice, “Is that part of your diet? Do you want me to measure some out for you?”

So, yes, in order not to look like a total tub of lard, I asked for 1/4 cup (170 calories), please. And we had a real meal shortly thereafter — leftover corn quiche and a lovely salad of Romaine, one of Mr. Green Thumb’s gorgeous tomatoes, sprinklings of almonds and blue cheese and a light balsamic vinaigrette.

While he was fixing that, I entered my calories in which has the same effect on me as tensing a muscle (clenching a fist is recommended) when faced with food temptation. For the rest of the evening (watching “Blue Valentine” and “The French Connection,” which I shouldn’t have) I had only water and a diet soda.

I didn’t weigh any less this morning, but, at least, I didn’t feel guilty about that, just frustrated. And realizing that this scenario will have to be repeated many, many times over the next 15 pounds and that I will be more uncomfortable in my skin but better off physically without the binge eating. Why do I itch to do things that are so bad for me? How many junkies have asked that question?

I am getting a teensy glimmer maybe of how successful people balance temptations with taking care of themselves, and I’m here to say I don’t like it a bit. I LIKE being anesthetized, LIKE not squirming in the recliner and listening to the peanuts do the “Indian Love Call” (“I am calling you-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo.”)

So today after church we had the choice between going out to the movies (to see “Buck”) and supper or cooking a nice meal. I’m happy — so far — that we chose the meal: Perfectly grilled monster pork chops (we ate 4 ounces each) glamorized with a rub and Patti’s Sauce for Steaks, Chicken & Pork Chops that our friends Dan and Cindy brought back from Kentucky, more dessert-plate-sized tomato slices, slaw with raisins, toasted walnuts and grated carrots and these green beans with almonds and caramelized shallots.  This recipe, which is new to me, is a reason to grow and go to the trouble of picking green beans.

Green beans with almonds and caramelized shallots

1/4 cup slivered roasted almonds (unsalted)

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 small shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper

2 tablespoons sugar (less would probably be fine)

Salt and pepper to taste

1-1/2 pounds just-picked green beans

Toast nuts in toaster oven at 375 degrees for 3 or 4 minutes. Do not leave your nuts! Stay and remove them as soon as you smell their toasty goodness.

Heat oil in skillet and saute shallots and pepper until softened and translucent. Sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. To caramelize the shallots, cover and cook, stirring occasionally,  5 to 8 minutes (or longer if you love charred bits, as I do).

Meanwhile, steam or simmer beans over or in a pot of boiling water until they reach the degree of doneness you prefer. Ours are sturdy Tenderettes so I cooked them for about 8 minutes, drained and dumped them into the skillet with the shallot mixture. Add almonds, toss gently and serve 6 happy eaters (or a couple of real chowhounds).


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