Comfort Food Junkie

25 02 2010

My name is Ryan Black and I’m a comfort food junkie.

Is it even possible to NOT like comfort food? I have no idea. I have no real grasp on that. Anything that has butter or cheese or  sugar or flour is usually on my daily menu. My friend Aimee is allergic to Dairy AND the only meat she eats is fish. I don’t know how she does it?!! I  just can’t imagine my life without dairy and lots of it. No cheese? No butter? That’s one of my worst nightmares!!! I need my dairy fix and I need it now!! How do I do it and keep my girlish figure? I don’t.  1 year ago I was 40 pounds heavier. Gaining weight is definitely not a problem for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve also always been afraid of gaining weight for as long as I can remember. I come from a family of weight gain. Both of my parents have yo yo’ed. My Dad’s done the most yo yoing of both, but both have maintained being overweight my whole life. My younger sister is probably the most overweight, while my older sister & I have  maintained our weight fairly well. Fat runs in the family I guess. My Grandparents were fat, but oddly my great grandparents weren’t. Is it the crap in our food now? Is it the go go grab & go of our daily life? I’m sure there are many contributing factors. I can pretty much only speak for my own eating habits. I can say this though about my younger sister and that is she is almost completely unaware of what she eats. She lived with me for a short while a couple years ago and she always talked about how she didn’t eat any more than any other person. Then she would have 3 doughnuts and a coke.  I love my sister, don’t get me wrong, but I think one of the biggest problems is that people aren’t aware of what they eat. This is why they tell you to log the food down that you eat in a journal. I think most people would be shocked. You hear it all the time “Everything in moderation” &  “Balance”.

I’m not exactly worthy of calling my daily meals balanced, but I can say I am acutely aware of everything I eat and take full responsibility for it! I started becoming aware of weight and eating at a very young age. I can remember all the way back to summer camp when I was 8 and I didn’t want to take my shirt off  at the pool because I thought I was fat. This stigma went  on for many years. I remember my Mom saying time and time again “You don’t want to grow up to be fat like Mom and Dad do you?”. Yes Mom, it’s my dream to be fat just like you and dad. Of course not! Hello!?! Who wants to be fat?

Growing up I was teased for the junk in my trunk. Even my parents called me bubble butt. Although when I grew to be an adult I fully embraced my bubble  butt and realized it was an asset (pun intended). I remember when I was in little league, yes I played baseball and was pretty damned good thank you! Back to back home runs & a triple in one game to lead my team to division champs! Anyhow, when  I was in little league I can remember this kid looking at my legs in my tight white baseball pants and I said “what are you looking at?”. He said “you have fat legs”. I think my response was “yeah well you’re gay”. I think he was actually and wasn’t that the pot calling the kettle Ryan Black. I can remember back to 1st or 2nd grade when little Mark  Emmons saw my Mom after she dropped me off and said “your Mom is fat!”. I never saw her that way and I went home that day and cried to my mom about what he said. It really disturbed me.  Besides my Mom wasn’t obese, she just had a lot of junk in the trunk.

In High School it got worse. I was always dieting one day and eating a Hostess Cherry Pie the next day. My Grandmother always shopped on HSN and was a sucker for gadgets and deals. One time she bought Richard Simmons Deal A Meal. It was this little pocket-book folder with cards on one side and slots on the other.

Each card had a food group on it and every time you ate something on that card you moved it over to the slots. When your cards were gone you couldn’t eat anymore. She used it for a week and then I took it. It actually taught me a lot about eating. My cards were usually folded  by lunch. EEK! Well…schools have horrible menu items and snack bars. It’s too easy to eat like shit in High School. Endless amounts of sugar and fat.

The straw that drank its last milk shake was when I was in college in a dance class and my ballet teacher Casey Colgan said I needed to lose ten pounds.  We wore tights in class which was completely mortifying to me to begin with. They showed everything! I even had cellulite! That was humiliating. A boy with cellulite? I’d ask God “Why God? Why me? Why cellulite?”. Yeah  I was pretty dramatic. A couple months later I left school and came home. When I got home I got my first gym membership at 18. That was it! No one anymore is going to comment on my fat, my ass, my legs or anything else negatively related to my body. I’m taking control!! Kind of. At least control of me.

Well, I was never really that consistent at it, but it was a start. I started learning about running and weight lifting and cardio and heart rates and body fat ratios. I wouldn’t say I became obsessed, but I definitely started to notice a difference and I liked that. I’ve continued over the years going back and forth to gyms. In the last year I’ve been my most successful. 2 years ago I was at the fattest I’ve ever been. I know exactly how it happened. I was depressed. I was unmotivated. I felt empty. Food ah my lovely friend. It’s always there for you isn’t it? I know it’s always there for you because there’s a 300 pound homeless man that stands outside of 7 11 all the time asking for food or money.  I usually opt to give him money.  Back to my weight gain.  I am a control freak and a perfectionist and I’m cast as type A. So this can go one way (or weigh) or the other. When my career is down, my weight is up. When my career is up, my weight is down. When my love life is down, my weight is up. When my love life is up, my weight is  down. Some of these things you’d think would be the opposite. As a control freak why can’t I control it all. I think because I give up control to try to control the other. Why can’t they coexist? They can. We just try to fill voids in our life. Things get boring, monotonous, redundant, repetitive or any other adjective you’d like to choose as an excuse. I had to choose to control it all. I’m not happy being over weight. I’m not even that happy eating that horrible food, well that might be a lie. I  love a big mac, a hostess cherry pie, pizza blah blah blah, but I realized I could have my cupcake and eat it too.  I had to get control of my life and my weight again. For the clothes buying experience alone! There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to fit into anything because your eyes still see your old waist size. I’d eyeball jeans and try them on only to be shocked that they didn’t fit! I didn’t understand. I didn’t look that much fatter to me. I have the fortune or misfortune of gaining weight fairly equally on my whole body with a special nod to my legs and ass. It takes me a while to notice my weight gain. This is why it became imperative for me to measure my own body. Sounds like a pain, but especially when you’re working out it’s important. Muscle does weigh more than fat and the scale does nothing to show you that. So each week I would log my measurements head to toe. Contrary to popular belief my head never increased in size.  This was excited to me. Seeing the progress or lack thereof was both motivating and  fun.  I don’t always like to workout but I started to find things that I love. I love to hike our local canyon called Runyon. I love to see the difference in measurements. I love the pina colada protein smoothie at the end of my workout  (wish it had rum in it though). I love the music on my ipod. I shudder to say I love my orgasm more tee hee.  I love getting out of my home office and seeing the world. I love a good stretch at the end of working out…so peaceful and tranquil.

You have to find the joy. It’s work like everything else, but it’s all in how you set your mind. I’m not saying I don’t fall off  or have a day where I don’t want to, but you have to find the joy in it. And everything for that matter. It’s too easy to bring the negative into everything and I’m as guilty as anybody if not more so of that. There are very few things we have total control of in our life. We can’t control that annoying person on their phone in the car in front of us. We can’t control our friends who make the wrong choices.  We can’t control the person who has 20 items in the 15 items or less line. We can’t control the people who don’t pick up their dog shit. We can’t control the idiot at my gym who clearly doesn’t believe in bathing.  I could go on for hours BUT we can control our own bodies. Isn’t that empowering to think? We spend so much time trying to control so many things around us while paying little attention to the one thing you can control the most and that’s you! You are the most important person in your life. Without you, you can’t make a difference in the world. Without you, you can’t make the company you work for better. Without you, your kids or your dog for that matter wouldn’t have a better life. It all starts with you.  It’s  like when they tell you on an airplane if we’re going down put your mask on first then put a mask on your child. That always sounded odd to me because your child should always be first, but your child is history if you pass out from lack of oxygen. So you have to take control of your own air first so that your child has someone to rely on. That bachelor wall street guy sitting next to you’s not gonna be thinkin’ of your kid while he’s cryin’ for mama.

So enough of the Oprah hour and back to comfort food. I guiltlessly present to you last nights comfort food. I had a couple t-bones in the freezer and really wanted a meat & potatoes meal. I made Au Gratin Potatoes  and OH MAH GAW. All in moderation right? That’s why both Dana & I paused American Idol to get seconds. I’ll give you the recipe here for both that & my candied carrots I call Kettle Carrots. Then I will go work out for 2 hours.

OHHH Gratin Potatoes

serves 8 (or 4 in my family)

5  med. white potatoes

1 white onion

6 pieces bacon

1 1/2 c. milk

1/4 cup cream

1 1/2 c. extra sharp cheddar cheese grated

1/4 c. sour cream

3 tbl. flour

2 tbl. butter

1/2 tsp. Paprika




Preheat oven to 400F

First I slice the onions & potatoes with a mandolin. I bought my first mandolin a couple months ago and I LOVE it. I don’t know how I lived so long with out one. It’s OXO brand and it looks like this

They have them at William Sonoma,  Sur La Table & Bed Bath & Beyond I believe for $39. I’m sure they’re online as well. Well worth it!!

So either slice both potatoes and onion thin or on the mandolin I do 1/16th cut. You may like them thicker depends on your taste. You’re in control! See?!

Put a pot of boiling salted & oiled water on the stove for potatoes. In the meantime fry the bacon to a chrisp. Remove to paper towel. Reserve 2 tbl. of bacon grease and put into a medium sauce pan.  Over medium heat put the butter into the saucepan and melt with bacon grease. Slowly whisk flour in to make a roux/thickener. Immediately whisk in milk and cream bring to a simmer and turn off heat. Mix your cheese into this and then your sour cream.  Add paprika, salt & pepper to taste. If you think it’s too thick add a little milk and heat on low for a minute or two. Chop two tbl. parsley and crumble bacon. In your boiling water add the potatoes & onions carefully. Boil only for 2 minutes and completely drain being careful not to break the potatoes.

In a gratin or casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray layer potatoes, bacon, & sauce in that order twice. Then top with parsley & more paprika and pepper if you like.  Bake at 400 for about 35 minutes until golden and bubbly on top. I like it a little more done so I bake for about 40-45  mins.

Kettle  carrots

serves 2

1/2 pound carrots  (i get the already peeled & prepared kind)

1 tbl butter or margarine

1 tbl. brown sugar

pinch of salt

Boil the carrots in a medium sauce pan for about 10 minutes & drain. In the same pan melt butter, then add salt & sugar. Blend until combined completely about 1 minute or less. Add carrots,  toss & swirl around in pan. Serve.

OHH Gratin

The dish


Take That Jive Turkey Pot Pie!

24 02 2010

So I told you last night I’d post about my Turkey Pot Pies I made last night, but first I  must gripe.

I get on facebook this morning & check my messages to find this.


Jack February 24 at 8:51am Report

Can you do me a favor and stop sending me invites for Bananas in my freezer? Thanks.


Fair enough. My reply


Ryan Black February 24 at 10:36am

Sure, but why dont you just unfriend me if it’s that annoying to you?
I’m just promoting myself & my future book. Just like you do when you post things about your band. Peace


Now I’m not innocent of being annoyed by posts on Facebook, but I simply delete them or press ignore. I mean is it really that hard? This guy posts really annoying things all the time about his horrible band & things he thinks are funny and I don’t, but do I ask him to stop? No. There’s a guy who’s a real estate agent in Chicago that constantly asks me to join his page for real estate in Chicago. Does it annoy me? Yes! It’s every fucking day for two weeks! What do I do? I delete him. I’m not in Chicago ya idiot nor do I want real estate there. It’s very simple. Mind you I’ve only had Bananas In My Freezer for about 4 days and I’ve sent out requests maybe 2 or 3 times. Too aggressive for my first week? I don’t know. I don’t care. If you don’t like it delete me. I don’t give a care and I certainly won’t miss you. It’s that simple ya Jive Turkey (as George Jefferson would say to Tom Willis).

If you want something, you go after it. If it annoys people along the way. Fuck’em. If you can’t understand that I’m simply fulfilling a dream, you are no friend of mine. Land sakes alive!

Turkey Pot Pies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m not kidding you when I say these’ll  make you wanna slap your Grandma. The pastry is out of this world and Marie Callender is currently trying to dig out of her grave to steal the two left over in my freezer.

Yeah that’s her. Look at her tryin’ to be all cute n stuff. Well Marie you better mind your peas and carrots cuz this pot pie’s taking no prisoners!

I’m a huge pot pie fan. When my Mom was working nights when I was a kid, it was up to my Dad to cook us dinner. I can remember quite a few Hungry Man Jack’s & especially pot pies. I’m sure they were Stouffers or something. Every once in a while my Dad would cook Shark & I can remember eating sardines with Ritz crackers with him too. I’m not a huge fan of seafood now & the thought of sardines especially makes me yak. Back to the pies. My dad would give me the pot pie so frickin’ hot it would burn the roof of my mouth. He’d always say turkey pot pies made you eat chicken for days (meaning the dangling burnt skin on the roof of your mouth). The fact is pot pies are so good you want to eat them right away. When you puncture the crust that creamy loveliness inside is irresistible. Well hold on to your hat’s and glasses folks because this pot pie is gonna take you for a ride!

One precautionary tale: It took me a half an hour to find my dough blade for my cuisinart because Dana never puts anything back in the same place twice.  I felt like my Mother nagging him. “Where did you put it? Well it doesn’t have legs. It couldn’t just walk away! Can’t you put anything back where it goes??!!” . Finally I showed him the metal blade and told him it looked just like it but was plastic. He says “Oh it’s sitting right there on the counter. I didn’t know what it was”. ARGHHHH. Moral of the story. Do your own dishes. And if you don’t want to do your own dishes & you say “If you can’t do anything right, don’t do it at all”. Be prepared to hear “Do your own dishes”. Fine.

Turkey Pot Pie!!

Serves 4

The Dough

You’ll want to make this first as it really should chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling. This dough is out of this world and should be followed to the T.

2 cups all purpose flour

1 & 3/4 sticks butter (I use salted)  or 7 ounces chilled & cubed

1 tbs vegetable shortening

1/2 tsp sugar

pinch of salt

1/3 c. ice cold water

This should be mixed in a cuisinart or food processor. If you don’t have one you can cut in all the ingredients or use a kitchen aid with dough attachment.

For processor put all ingredients in the bowl with dough blade except water. Pulse it about 10-12 times until crumbly. Add the water and pulse a few times until just barely comes together. It may still be crumbly at this point but don’t worry. Don’t knead the dough together. Place the dough on plastic wrap and bring it together & flatten it. Place in fridge while making the filling. The key here is not mixing the dough too much. When  we’re ready to roll out you can add a few drops of water if dough pieces aren’t coming together.

For filling


2  large turkey breasts (or two cups when chopped) or 4 chicken breasts

2 – 3 large carrots quarted  & cubed

2 large celery stalks cut in 1/4 inch pieces

1 Fennel bulb  sliced

1 leek sliced

1 bunch of shallots/green onion chopped

1 basket of sliced mushrooms

1 cup peas

1 herb bouquet (sprigs of thyme , tarragon, oregano,parsley) or 2 tbl of French or Italian season blend

1 tbl chopped garlic

1 tbl kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh pepper

About 8 cups water

reserve 2 tbl. of parsley set aside

You’re going to first boil or poach all of these ingredients together except peas. I put a strainer at the bottom to easily remove the contents & we’ll also use the poaching liquid. Leave the turkey or chicken breasts whole. I also throw in a lot of extras like the fennel stalks, celery leaves, leek leaves, parsley & basically whatever is in the chrisper. You could also add 2 cups of white wine. 1 cup for you & 1 cup for the poach. You could even add bacon crumbs if you really want to send your cholesterol on end.

Bring to a rapid boil then reduce to an even slow boil for 20 minutes. Turn off heat & cover. Let sit. You can remove immediately but for better flavor let it sit for a half hour or so.

Take the strainer out and pour contents out into a large bowl leaving liquid in the pot. Remove herb bouquet & any large stalks you may have added. Dice the turkey or chicken and return to the vegetable mixture & add  the peas and 2 tbl of chopped parsley.

For the Cream sauce or Veloute

3 tbl butter

4 tbl flour

4 c. poaching liquid

1 c heavy cream (i know but omg)

salt & fresh pepper

Making the sauce.

Ladel 4 cups  of the poaching liquid into a saucepan & reduce it by half to 2 cups. After reduction in another sauce pan melt the butter and whisk the flour into it making a thick paste. Mix for a minute over the heat and remove. Add this to the reduced liquid and whisk rapidly over heat. Add the cream and whisk  over heat for a couple minutes until the sauce coats a spoon. Salt & pepper to taste.

Fold this sauce into the vegetable mixture. Cover & set aside.

Prepare the dough

Preheat oven to 400 F

I use 4 – round 14 oz. souffle dishes but you can also use 1 big round gratin. I prefer individual servings.

Roll out the dough with plenty of flour on both sides into one large sheet. I roll it fairly thin. Then I cut it into 4 equal pieces. Now, I like dough on the inside of the cup as well as on top. Some people just put on top. It’s up to you. If you only put on top then you can cut the recipe in half. I strongly suggest you do it inside as well!  Place each of the 4 pastry pieces into your cups lightly tucking into corners. Don’t worry if it rips or tears. You can repair it, fill it in or leave it. There should be plenty of dough left hanging off the side to trim off to make your lids.  Take the scraps and roll into a ball then roll out and cut into 4 equal pieces. If it looks like they’re not big enough to cover lids then cut into two pieces and after you fill the pies you can continue cutting scraps and re rolling them.  You’ll get the hang of it. This dough recipe will make exactly enough dough inside & out for the 4 – 14oz. souffle dishes. I mean exactly!

Whisk one egg in a bowl & set aside with an egg wash brush

Fill your pies. There should be enough filling to reach the top of your 14 oz. dishes almost perfectly. Now start to cover your pies. After your pies are all covered and  trimmed to the edge, brush the lids with plenty of egg wash. Even brush the sides where the dough meets the dish (you can even brush the rim before placing lids on but I don’t find it necessary if you brush plenty of egg on and pinch the lid to the cup edge).

Place your pies on a cookie sheet on the center rack for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 F and cook for another 20 minutes or so until golden. I don’t find it necessary to vent the pies, but you can.

Usually I only cook 2 and the other 2 I plastic wrap and ziplock in the freezer.

Once you get the hang of this recipe you’ll find it easy and you’ll never want to go back to frozen pot pies. Believe me, the effort is well worth it!

Now eat the living hell out of  them!