Powerless still

Four days post Hurricane Irene, and we are STILL without power.  Worse, the estimated date for us to get power back is LAST in our town, aka Wednesday 9/7.


Though we don’t have damage to our home, so really, I can’t complain.  Much.

On the plus side, my parents were visiting so we played cards every night using the lanterns I bought in that crazy pre-Irene binge shopping spree. I know you laughed at me, but check out how my insanity totally came in handy:

  • To write this post, I am accessing the web using my amazing Verizon iPhone Personal Hotspot (best $20/month spend ever).  And that hotspot is being powered by 1 of the 3-count’em-3 Apple iPhone battery chargers I nabbed on Amazon before the storm (my son’s currently using the 2nd, and the 3rd I already drained today).
  • We are using all 3 of the very fabulous Rayovac Sportsman LED camp lanterns – very bright and totally indispensable. We would be in the dark – seriously – without them. So loving this purchase. Not as much as iPhone battery chargers, but close.
  • My sister in next town over forgot to buy D batteries and called me after going store-to-store searching. I gave her some of mine without too much of an I-told-you-so. Well, OK, some ‘I-told-you-so.  Mostly in the form of, ‘Don’t-you-dare-ever-make-fun-of-my-planning-again.’  She already got her power back, so I guess she gets the last laugh.

Of course the shopping didn’t stop.  Two things still needed.  First, today I bought a ‘camp shower’ that you fill with warm water from the stove.  Assuming I can make it work, tomorrow am I will experience the joy of a tepid rather than freezing shower.

Second, I need some kind of old-lady wheelie shopping cart to drag my heavy computer bags and such across a neighbor’s lawn to where our car is parked (see pics below for why this is needed).  Have to purchase that tomorrow.

As for Lo-Co foods – well, I did make the pork tenderloin on the grill and it was very good.  And instead of Chinese Egglant we grilled the eggplant with some onions and ate that with a fantatic grilled char – will post that fish recipe after we get power back (it was my birthday dinner – huge kudos to my husband and son for getting the all-important birthday cake ordered and picked up pre-storm!)

All other meals, Lo-Co out the window. (Though I did go for one run since the storm!)

In all, there are not too many great points about being w/out electricity for 4+ days so far (and headed toward 10+ days total).  However, the power of the internet AMAZED me today – I posted a rant on our town website (scroll down this link to comment at 8/31 at 5:55 pm) about the fact that out entire street is BLOCKED by downed wires and the fire dep’t hung caution tape like streamers…and left us stuck here.  A mere 15 minutes after I posted it, the Deputy Fire Chief showed up at my house.  You can read the next comment (below my rant) for the result.

So, we won’t get power anytime soon, but I felt much better about the fact that the fire department confirmed they knew the issue and that a fire truck could make it up my street even though there are downed wires and cars can’t drive…

Here’s a delightful photo of what my road looked like the day after the storm.   This is between my neighbor’s home and mine.

The problem is, our road is a cul de sac with the only way out beyond this tree.  Where, amazingly, this tree is also across the road, lying atop a slew of wires.

Some guys w/ a chainsaw sawed the trees so we could eke a car by, but the wires are still all over the place.  So we got the cars out once, but can’t drive back until we get power again.

Which, as I said, won’t be for another, oh, WEEK.  Big sigh.

My iPhone is still going, but my Mac battery is toast. So signing off now, and probably won’t post again until after we get power. Wish me luck.


The Hurricane Irene Shopping Spree

With Hurricane Irene a’stormin up the east coast, I joined the thousands flocking to the stores this morning to stock up on food.

Actually, I must admit the embarrassing truth: my panic-buying began last night. What set me off was the scary idea of no phone for multiple days (we have cable-phone so if we lose power, we have no landline). So I went battery crazy. The first thing I nabbed was a set of 3 iPhone battery chargers. I had planned to buy one months ago but never got around to it. Of course now instead of just one, I bought 3 so we can charge for days. And paid a small fortune for 1-day delivery.

Then I really lost it, and placed a 2nd Amazon order for a LOT of batteries and 2 lanterns (the thought of WalMart today was overwhelming). I am usually a value shopper so the 1 day shipping fees just slayed me, but I pushed the amazon button anyway.

Go ahead and laugh at me – I realize I’m ridiculous.

Though I’ll have lanterns and flashlights galore. And a working iPhone. So there.

Gloating over, let’s get back to how to cook Lo-Co meals sans electricity.

To create a plan, the first step was to consider the heat source. I am fortunate as we have both an outdoor gas grill and a gas-fueled cooktop. Though if the forecasted 100 mile per hour winds whisk away our grill (my husband’s plan is to bungee it to the deck…we’ll see how that goes), then I’ll just have the gas cooktop.

I fear I’ll be right, but planned a menu assuming my husband’s bungee plan will work. With that in mind, here’s my Hurricane Irene / No Electricity Lo Co menu plan.

  • Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin served with No-Sugar-Added-Applesauce, leftover quinoa and broccoli/string beans (steamed on the cooktop rather than microwaved). The beauty part of pork tenderloin is it can either be cooked in the oven if we have power OR on the grill. I’ve not included a recipe as I just follow the prepared pork tenderloin cooking instructions on the wrapper.
  • Hot & Sour Chinese Eggplant – cooked stovetop on a wok, served over rice.  This recipe is easy and flexible – you can add/remove spice. (Though you have to soak the eggplant for 1/2 hour which I forgot the first time I made it.) View it online at allrecipes.com or for my suggestions along with useful reviews / idea from others, download: Hot and Sour Chinese Eggplant With Reviews.
  • Several boxes of pasta and jars of sauce – both traditional and pesto.
  • If we are power-less for more than 3-4 days, I am assuming we can drive somewhere for take-out so I have just these dinners planned!
  • For lunch, I bought soups, black beans (to put on tortillas) and bunches of fruit that can ripen on the counter.
  • Breakfast is either eggs or cereal (milk kept in an ice cooler).  Hmm…need ice.

As I stuffed 5 bags worth of groceries into my pantry/the fridge, I stared at the Silk soy coffee creamer I’d auto-tossed into my cart. Creamer in hand, I wigged at the realization that my Keurig coffee machine doesn’t have a battery.

With no electricity, how will I get my daily coffee fix?

Panic sent my imagination went into overdrive.  My solution?  I plan to tote my Keurig into the garage and plug it into my car.

As soon as I find that DC car charger.

I’m signing off now to go look for it while we still have lights.


Mmm Mmm Mustard Roasted Fish

OK, so I’ll admit that adding a cream sauce to fish is not the most lo-co of plans.  But there I was, under pressure.  It’s tradition that I make a fish dish at our annual family reunion at Cape Cod (look how lo-co I’ve been: the other big family dinners are steak and lobster/ribs!) It’s a diverse crowd, and I needed a new fish dish that all would enjoy.

Photo: Quentin Bacon

What inspired me was the not-great weather (clearly it wasn’t cooking lo-co as I went with a cream sauce).  As it was unusually cool, I decided to bake instead of grill the fish. So I turned to the ever-trustworthy Barefoot Contessa and chose a dinner I love but make only infrequently. I was thrilled that everyone at the table loved it too. In fact, Ina Garten’s Mustard-Roasted Fish recipe was so delicious they all asked for the recipe.

And that’s no small feat – these are my relatives.  Well, my husband’s, actually.  So, um, not an easy crowd.  Love them to pieces, but let’s just say there are a lot of opinions. Freely offered. Often. With no punches pulled. (Hence my need for an ample supply of Grey Goose, Corona and red wine at the Cape. And no bottles make it home. Ever.)

As it’s never once happened to me that every single person at a dinner party not only loves a dish, but actually asks for the recipe, I thought I should share it here. (Plus, posting it here means my husband’s family actually has to read my blog to get the recipe. LOL. Though I’m not all bad – I did mail a hard copy to my 85 year old mother-in-law so she doesn’t have to look it up online. As if that were possible. Sorry, Lynn, but I know you are not reading this so all is safe! Bros-in-law: if you rat me out, I will come after you.)

So then I got to thinking about whether this dish is even appropriate for Goin Lo-Co. What with the, um, you know, um, cream sauce?

So I scanned the recipe for nutritional info (yes, I realize, as someone trying to cook lo-co I should have looked before I made this dish. So shoot me).  It wasn’t there.

Digging around online, I was surprised to find that none of the online listings for this recipe list its nutritional info. Neither the Food Network version of this recipe nor the Barefoot Contessa site (photo link) listed nutritional info for this recipe.  Weird.

I finally found it on a Washington Post’s Recipe Finder.  Click here to view this version of the recipe, complete with nutritional info.

If you want all the nutritional details, see the end of this post (recipe PDF there, too). Overall, this dish is not so bad when you compare with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (more info here):

  • Total Fat:  Reco is 44-78 grams of total fat per day, this fish dish has 12.  Woot.
  • Saturated Fat:  Reco is 16-22 grams/day (and for lo-co, clearly it’s 16).  This dish has 7. Not bad at all.
  • Cholesterol:  Reco is max of 300 mg/day – but 200 to lower heart disease risk. With 105mg, this dish is at about half of daily reco’d cholesterol.  Not great, but not awful.

So, this dish is not so bad – even though it has a cream sauce.  (And especially if you serve it with quinoa and grilled asparagus, like I did.)   I mean, if you don’t have fast food or any other bad, high fat/high cholesterol food that day, you can serve this recipe and feel like you served something delicious and relatively heart-healthy.

If you eat a burger for lunch (upcoming post soon), well, then, what can I say?  Try it another day, ok?

I’ve made this dish several times, with the following modifications:

  • I use a little less salt & pepper than what’s called for in the recipe.
  • Often I make it with cod rather than snapper – less fishy taste will appeal to more folks (and hey, it’s cheaper too).
  • You need both kinds of mustard
  • If you’ve never heard of creme fraiche, it’s found near cheese/sour cream in my area at both Trader Joe’s and Stop & Shop – ask if you don’t see it.

If you would like to download a PDF with my recipe notes, click here: Mustard-Roasted Fish a la Karen.

Hope you enjoy… Post a comment if  you try the dish!

Nutritional Details: This recipe, according to the Washington Post, has: 311 calories, 12g fat, 7g saturated fat, 105mg cholesterol, 956mg sodium, 6g carbohydrates, 0g dietary fiber, n/a sugar, 38g protein.


Lipitor Scare Tactics

Have you seen this ad?  Lipitor – the world’s biggest-selling prescription drug (that’s right, not just world’s #1 cholesterol drug – the biggest Rx, period) – is running ads designed to scare people into believing they need Lipitor.  When they don’t.

Lipitor Ad July 2011

Or at least they might not.

What they are doing in this ad is brilliant from a marketing perspective (I’ve worked in consumer packaged goods marketing since 1990).  They have absolutely NAILED the common fear among those with high cholesterol: should I treat it with an Rx or not?

And it’s hard to get an answer to that.  Even from doctors.  A lot of whom are quick to treat with Lipitor – because it feels safer to lower cholesterol than not, even if there are no other heart disease risk factors. (And their patients are asking for it because of ads like these.)

Which is why this ad, though clever, made me livid.  Frankly, I believe this ad to be deliberately misleading.  It draws you in with just ONE issue – high cholesterol.  So there I am, reading along and nodding, yes, that’s me.

BUT in truth, this ad is not relevant to me because the ONLY thing I have is high cholesterol.  I don’t have other heart disease risk factors.

And that’s the crux of the issue.  Because while it’s been shown that for those with high cholesterol and heart disease risk factors* cholesterol-lowering medication does indeed lower heart disease risk. But this has NOT been shown to be true for those whose ONLY risk factor is high cholesterol.  (See Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good? on my Resources Page). *People who smoke, and/or are obese, and/or have high blood pressure or heart disease already.

The small print in the Lipitor ad supports this:

“Lipitor can lower the risk of heart attack…in patients who have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease such as age, smoking, high blood pressure, how HDL-C, family history of early heart disease.”

But the headline and body copy of this ad are talking JUST about high cholesterol. So Pfizer is trying to get those with just high cholesterol to think about Lipitor.

This is made more troubling by the news yesterday that Pfizer may be trying to take Lipitor OTC – so anyone would be able to buy it, without a prescription.

I have nothing against Lipitor and Pfizer – indeed, I worked for a Pfizer division way back in 2000.  And Lipitor is a fantastic medicine that a lot of people in my family take.

But I do not think it’s right to target those with JUST high cholesterol with Lipitor.  So if you, like me, are trying to lower your high cholesterol without meds – and your only heart disease risk factor is high cholesterol – don’t be fooled by this misleading ad.  Only try Lipitor if it’s truly indicated and you have other heart disease risks or your doctor recommends it.