29 October 2009

Simple green salad with poached pears


I couldn't say I had ever poached a pear before this past Sunday. Boy, was I missing out! Poaching the pears was easy and delicious. They really classed up this simple salad of lettuce sprinkled with a little bit of blue cheese, but they would also be fabulous as a light dessert. This was definitely a guest impressing dish for very little work. Enjoy!

Simple green salad with poached pears by Joie de vivre

Ingredients:

2 cups of red wine
2 Tbls. lime juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick of cinnamon
3 firm fleshed pears
Romaine lettuce
Blue cheese crumbles

Directions:

1. Place the wine, lime juice, sugar and cinnamon stick in a large saucepan and bring it to boil.
2. Halve your pears and remove the skin. Use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds and then run it along the inside middle to remove the core.
3. Once your liquid is boiling, place the pears into it. Turn down the heat until the liquid is just gently simmering. Simmer the pears for 4 minutes, then turn them over in the liquid and simmer for an additional 4 minutes.
4. Turn off the heat and leave the pears in the cooking liquid for 20 minutes.
5. Place a leaf or two of Romaine lettuce on each plate. Top with a poached pear and crumble some blue cheese on top. Voila!
6. To make it extra fancy, bring your poaching liquid back to a boil and boil for just a minute or two until it is a little syrupy. Drizzle a little of the syrup over the salad.

21 September 2009

Camping Food Continued-Roasted Chicken


Our last camping trip of the season found me using my brand new "baby" 10 inch Dutch oven 4 out of six nights!

Dutch-oven Roasted Chicken Legs with Spinach Fettucini and Sauteed Zucchini

Why is it everything tastes better when eaten outdoors? This meal or chicken legs roasted in the Dutch oven, with sides of spinach fettucini and sauteed zucchini was extremely simple, yet felt very decadent while camping. Our Costco has begun selling packs of chicken legs packaged in sealed bags of 5 chicken legs each. These little packs were extremely easy to pack in the cooler. The fettucini was a quick cooking kind which took only three minutes once the water started boiling. The zucchini was also easy. I pre-sliced it at home, packaged it in a ziplock baggie and packed it in the cooler.

Once I was ready to cook, I pre-heated my Dutch oven, melted some butter in it and added the chicken legs along with a generous sprinkling of a new seasoning blend I recently bought at a Tastefully simple party. I kept my Dutch oven around 350 degrees by placing about 7-8 coals underneath and 10-12 coals on the lid and left it alone, aside from turning it every once in awhile to ensure even heat, for about 50 minutes. While you're waiting for your chicken to cook, make your side dishes, start a campfire, and enjoy a glass of wine in the great outdoors!



Raw, seasoned chicken just added to the Dutch oven




Chicken cooking in the oven (yes, it is just sitting on the ground!)

17 September 2009

Greek Beef Casserole while camping!

Towards the end of summer, I was fortunate enough to attend a demonstration on Dutch oven cooking at a campground where we were staying. I was already familiar with Dutch oven cooking having inherited one from my father-in-law last summer. I bravely made my son's birthday cake in it last summer while camping!

However, attending the demonstration was an eye-opener for me at how easy Dutch oven cooking could be! I had always thought of my Dutch oven as sort of a fun thing to occasionally wow people with while camping and to show off a little. I had seen it as this bulky pot that I could barely lift and that had to sit under my feet in the car for lack of space. When I told the demonstrator that I had inherited a 14 inch deep Dutch oven, his response was, "Whoa, that's 10 quarts of food!" It was his disbelief that I was actually using a pot that big that inspired me to go buy a "baby" 10 inch Dutch oven. This pot completely changed the way I feel about Dutch oven cooking. The techniques I learned made the Dutch oven a joy to use, and with the smaller pot it is completely manageable! For our last camping trip of the season, a six-day trip to Fort Stevens, OR, I used the pot 4 times!

Here is one of the dishes I made, a greek beef dish called Stifado inspired by Beatrice Ojakangas' book, The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever, that I adapted to work in my Dutch oven. Hands down, it was the best dish I've ever made while camping.


Greek Beef Casserole in the Dutch oven by Joie de vivre

Ingredients:

1/4 c. canola oil
2 1/2 lbs. top round beefsteak, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
3 Tbls. red wine vinegar
1 c. water
1 tsp. rosemary
2 Tbls. tomato puree
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole allspice berries
2 small onions, chopped roughly
4 potatoes (I used white ones) cut into large bite sized pieces


Directions:

1. To make cooking while camping easier, chop your meat at home before placing it in a doubled Ziplock baggie in your ice chest. Also, pre-measure and place the rosemary, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice in a little ziplock baggie prior to your trip.

2. Preheat your Dutch oven by placing it over your chimney starter while your coals are lighting. Make sure to leave space for oxygen to get to your coals and be careful of your arms! Make sure Dutch oven is steady. When the Dutch oven is pre-heated, add the canola oil and the beef. Stir the beef until it is browned.

3. Drain the beef and add all of the remaining ingredients. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and cook at 350 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes. (*A Note about Dutch Ovens* You can get 350 degrees in a 10 or 12 inch Dutch oven, by placing about 7 coals underneath, and about 10-12 coals on top. Use long handled tongs to move the coals from your chimney starter to the bottom and the top of your Dutch oven. Every 15 minutes or so, turn the pot a quarter of a turn clockwise, and turn your lid a quarter of a turn counterclockwise to ensure even heat distribution. After 45 minutes, you will need to add fresh, hot charcoal briquettes to the bottom and top of the oven to ensure even heat as well.)

4. When dinner is getting close, saute some sliced green, yellow and red peppers.
5. Expect some hungry and nosy neighbors to come calling when you pull the lid off this masterpiece! Enjoy, and if you try this, let me know how it goes for you!

16 September 2009

Ode to the summer peach


I feel a little rusty being back in the blogging saddle after taking a needed break over the summer. I am finally back in a routine though and will be updating much more frequently. Thank you all of you who stuck with me and continue to read my little ramblings.

This time of year always comes with some trepidation for me. When my husband and I first moved to Washington six years ago from Sacramento, CA, people assured us that winter would be "mild". But in the six years since, I have realized that no winter is mild in comparison to a California winter (unless you're from the south I suppose) and that first crisp morning, when everyone else is rejoicing over a break in the heat, my mind immediately flashes with horror to short, cold winter days and long, long, frozen nights. Because of this, I must take a minute to mourn the passing of summer before I can begin to live life to the fullest and embrace fall. Hence, my ode to the summer peach...

With school back in session, and a slight chill in the air, we must bid goodbye to our sweet summer friend, the peach. Goodbye sweet friend, you will be missed.



Stay tuned for upcoming posts on Dutch oven cooking while camping!

09 August 2009

Experiment: Freezing Rice Krispie Treats


Two weeks ago, we were all ready to set off on our longest family camping trip to date. We had our bags packed, I had packed all of the food up, and we were ready to go. That was when our oldest son started vomiting! Fortunately we were able to reschedule our trip, and it turns out the vomiting was just a by product of an ear infection, but I was left with a weeks worth of camping food to try and preserve until our rescheduled trip. Everything was easily freezable except a pan of Rice Krispie treats. I had never tried to freeze Rice Krispie treats before. Were they even freezable? A quick internet search revealed that there wasn't much information available on the subject. Those who did try it stressed keeping out the moisture from the freezer as that would make the Rice Krispie treats soggy.

In order to keep out the moisture, I cut the pan of Rice Krispie treats in half and wrapped each half in three layers. First, I wrapped the halves in Saran wrap. Next, I wrapped them in foil. Finally, I took each half and placed them in a freezer bag taking care to get as much air out of the bag as possible. This past weekend we tested the first of the two packages. I let the Rice Krispie treats thoroughly thaw at room temperature while still in the freezer bag before cutting. While my husband detected a possible freezer taste to them, the kids and I thought they tasted the same. They had the same crunch as freshly made Rice Krispie treats as well.

The verdict?
While this wasn't an ideal way to consume Rice Krispie treats because of the possible freezer taste and the waste in packaging in order to keep the moisture out, I would say that it was a success!


Personal note: Thank you to all of you who have written to me concerned about my personal welfare because of the lack of new posts. I am well. Summer has just taken the wind out of my sails! I've had both boys home from school and have really concentrated on spending time with them and enjoying the weather. I must confess also that I have not cooked very much this summer. Summer in eastern WA is hot, hot, hot, and our dinners for the past six or seven weeks have consisted of salads with pre-cooked meat from Costco, fresh fruit, and ice cream cones! With summer winding down, I will be throwing myself back into cooking and my blog. Thank you all for sticking with me during my little mental vacation.

21 June 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

This week, I did fabulously on my diet, but the exercise fell by the wayside. Why is it always one thing or another, but not all of the pieces put together at once!?

My goal for last week had been to go on four 20 minute walks, do week 2 of the 200 sit-ups challenge and to do two sets of 10 push-ups on three days. I went on 2 20 minute walks last week and did not do sit-ups or push-ups at all! I had been struggling, struggling, struggling with the sit-ups and need to find something different to do. Coincidentally, my husband sent me this article from the NY times about how sit-ups can strain your back.


http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/core-myths/

I think my back (and my chiropractor) will thank me for switching to this method. I'll try it this week and let you know how it goes! Since I didn't reach my goal last week, I'm going to give it another go this week!

Bernie had a tough week as well and needs some encouragement. Pop on over to her blog and show her some blog love at Yo-yo No More.

20 June 2009

Camping food - Grilled steaks and asparagus


I get asked questions all of the time about how to cook well while one is camping. It seems like most folks out there go the hot dog, potato chip and marshmallow route while camping. Don't get me wrong, we love those traditional camping foods too, but I just wanted to show how easy it is to go a little bit more upscale. With asparagus being in season now, it is easy to wash them, snap off the ends and place them in a plastic baggie with some olive oil and salt before you leave home. Seal up the baggie and place it in your cooler. Do the same for your meat by placing it in a plastic baggie with your favorite marinade. I double bag any meat products to ensure against leakage in my cooler, but it is super simple to do this marinating step at home for wonderful camping food. When you are ready to cook your food at your campsite, get your charcoal going ahead of time, then just take your food out of the baggies and put it right on the grill. Now doesn't this look better than hot dogs and potato chips?

15 June 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Weight Loss Weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and two other bloggers who are trying to lose weight. Join us weekly as we discuss tips and strategies as well as highs and lows on our weight loss journeys.

A few weeks ago, the girls and I decided to take weight loss weekly in a slightly different direction by setting long term goals for ourselves and then writing about how we are meeting them. For our first goal, we decided to focus on exercise. It's been about a month now, an although I do still struggle with the motivation factor, I am beginning to see results!

For instance, summer is here, and for me that means wearing cute dresses and tank tops. And do you know what tank tops show? My arms, which are getting more and more toned through push ups! My goals for the past month have mostly focused on walking at least four times a week and doing sit-ups with some modified push-ups thrown in. It's funny that the area that isn't really my primary goal is seeing the results the first, but it is motivation to keep up what I am doing!

I did struggle with motivation this week, and as I write this, have only walked three times this week and am feeling completely unmotivated to do the fourth. I have a few hours left though, so I am going to try to work up some motivation and get it done before week end.

This week, I am again going to walk four mornings, do Week 2 of the 200 sit-up challenge, and again focus on doing 2 sets of 10 push-ups on three mornings this week. This past week, I also moved from doing my modified push-ups against the bathroom counter, to doing modified push-ups on the floor (on my knees instead of on my toes). I am really proud of how far I have come! (Pat myself on the back!)

Let's see how Bernie and Sunny fared this week! Pop over to their sites and wish them well!

Bernie says:

"I look in the mirror and I don't see rock hard abs nor thighs of steel, but what I do see is someone who is trying and that makes me smile" Read more at yo-yonomore

Sunny says:

"I've been feeling a little bit lazy this week. I started out good, I actually stepped foot into a gym on Wednesday..." more at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

08 June 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

A breakthrough, Hooray!

Weight loss weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and two other bloggers who are also trying to lose weight.  Join us every Monday as we discuss tips and strategies and well as our highs and lows on our weight loss journeys.

A few weeks ago, the girls and I decided to take Weight Loss Weekly in a slightly different direction by setting weekly goals for ourselves as a way to hold ourselves more accountable.  We decided to focus for the first month or so on exercise.  For the first two weeks, I was STRUGGLING to meet my exercise goals (I did it, but it was solely because I knew I had to post my results.  There was lots and lots of grumbling each exercise day)  However, this week, I finally had a breakthrough.  Hooray!

My goal was to walk for 20 minutes, 4 times this week, do 10 modified push-ups on walking days and also to start the first week of the 200 sit-ups program.  Let me tell you, I was a little intimidated setting my goal last week.  Mainly I was afraid of the sit-ups and muscle soreness.  However, I persevered and not only met my goals, but exceeded them!

I walked 6 mornings this week!  Three 20 minute walks, and three 30 minute walks.  I exceeded my push-up goal as well doing 2 sets of 10 modified push-ups on two of the walking days.  I also completed week 1 of the 200 sit-ups program.  I did indeed have muscle soreness in my abs, but by the end of the week, it didn't seem so bad!  I did it, and without too much morning grumbling.  A breakthrough!  Hooray!

This week, I plan on increasing my workout goals by walking for 30 minutes 4 days this week.  I also plan on doing 2 sets of 10 push-ups  three days this week.  As for my sit-ups, I plan on repeating Week 1 of the 200 sit-ups program as I don't feel comfortable moving on and I think I started on a level that was too high for me.  I can feel myself getting stronger, but I am not ready to increase the repetitions yet.  Are you up for joining me?  Just e-mail me at joiecancook(at)gmail(dot)com and we can walk virtually together!



Sunny is out of town this week (hopefully keeping up with her exercise goals!) so it is just Bernie and me.  Check out what Bernie has to say, then pop over to her site to give her some encouragement!

"This week was definitely harder, and it's got me wondering if every day exercise is too much?" read more at Yo-yo No More

03 June 2009

Ham, Cheese and Salami Roll-ups


One of the parenting goals I have for my children is to mold them into at least proficient cooks by the time they leave the house.  We all knew those guys in college that had absolutely no housekeeping skills and could barely boil water to make pasta.  (Believe me guys, housekeeping skills and culinary skills are attractive to women, slovenliness, not so much.)  My five year old is getting to the point where he can handle actual cooking now, as opposed to just stirring, and so my quest this summer is to find some recipes that he can make himself.  I scored big for the mom team in finding this recipe.  It was easy enough that he could do all of the steps by himself while I stood close by to just give directions and put the pan into the oven.  He was so proud of himself and ate a double helping of his meal.  He even wanted to make dinner the next night!  Now I must find some more kid friendly recipes to harness this energy!

Ham, Cheese and Salami Roll-ups adapted from Taste of Home Simple and Delicious March/April 2009

Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

2 Tbls. olive oil
5-6 eight inch flour tortillas
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
5-6 slices deli ham
5-6 slices provolone cheese
24 slices thinly sliced deli salami
1/2 c. roasted red sweet peppers, drained
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.
1.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  Lay out tortillas on baking sheet, brush lightly with olive oil.
3.  Sprinkle each tortilla with parmesan cheese
4.  Layer a ham slice on each tortilla, then in order, the provolone, the salami, the red peppers and the mozzarella.
5.  Roll up each tortilla and place a toothpick through them to secure.  Place them seam side down on the baking sheet.
6.  Brush with olive oil.
7.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until browned and cheese is melted through.


01 June 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Oh yes, we have been busy!

Weight Loss Weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and two other bloggers who are trying to lose weight.  Join us as we discuss tips and strategies, as well as our successes and failures on our weight loss journeys.

How is it a whole week has gone by without posting?  School is now out for my oldest which means full time mom duties are in full swing.  We also had a great time camping this weekend (of which I'll share the food adventures of later this week) so my summer has already begun and it has been busy!

Last week, I set a goal to walk for 20 minutes 4 times during the week and to do 10 sit ups, 10 reverse sit ups and 10 fakey push-ups on the days I walked.  I am happy to report that I did accomplish my walking goal and ALMOST accomplished my sit-up/push-up goal.  However, the last 20 minutes of walking I did yesterday at the campsite and I just plain forgot about the push-ups and sit ups.  I remember my father doing a couple chin-ups every time he would take us to the park.  I think that I need to get into that habit as well.  Especially with summer here, entertaining the boys is going to be my big excuse for not working out, so if I can eke out a few fakey push-ups at the park each time we go, my arms are going to be in great shape!

My goal for this week is primarily the same, four 20 minute walks with 10 fakey push-ups on the days I walk.  However, thanks to Bernie from Yo-yo No More, I found a site where you can work on increasing your core strength to do 200 push-ups in six weeks.  Since having kids my core is extremely weak so this week I am going to start on this program.  I'm not looking for a six-pack or anything, just increased strength to my core and protection for my back.  I am a little worried about muscle soreness, but I'll let you know next week how it goes.  

Let's see how the other ladies did on their goals!

Sunny says:  

The second week of my exercise plan! Ugh, and it was so much harder for me to stay motivated this week..." keep reading at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

Bernie says:

Another week of daily exercise, can you believe it? I'm amazed. I even did push ups! Despite the crazy week, I managed to exercise every day yet again...." read more at Yoyonomore.

25 May 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Weight Loss Weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and two other bloggers who are trying to lose weight.  Join us as we discuss tips and strategies, as well as our successes and failures on our weight loss journeys.

Last week, the girls and I decided to take Weight Loss Weekly in a slightly different direction by setting specific exercise goals for ourselves to achieve during the week.  

One of Sunny's goals amazed me, one minute of push-ups!  Let's see how she did!  "I guess I don't hate exercising as much as I thought I did. I did pretty darn well this week, for me..." more at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

Bernie was trying a varied approach to exercise with both walking and elliptical training planned but got sidelined by inclement autumn weather in Australia.  Did she make her goal?  Find out at Yo-yo No More.


My goal for last week was to take four 20 minute walks during the week.  I had planned to walk in the mornings as my evenings often get busy and had planned to walk Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a one day cushion of Sunday if plans got sidelined during the week.  Monday morning came bright and early last week.  Let me share with you my inner monologue.  "Six o'clock already?  No, no, no, no, NO!  Whhhhhhyyyyy????  Okay, you just made this goal YESTERDAY, you cannot bail already!  Oh, all right...."  After dragging myself our of bed, I actually had quite a pleasant walk.  The weather is getting warmer, the sun was shining brightly, birds were tweeting and there was hardly anyone out in the morning.  I thought to myself, "Hey, this isn't bad!  It's actually quite nice!"

Tuesday morning came and although I hadn't planned on walking, I decided to get out of bed and go anyway.  It's a good thing that Monday had been so nice because Tuesday was windy and cold!  If it had been this way on Monday, I definitely wouldn't have gotten out of bed on Tuesday to walk, but again, the walk was nice and now I was two down for the week.

Wednesday morning came too soon.  I didn't get out of bed this day but because choir practice was short on Wednesday evening, I decided to use the extra time to my advantage and went on a 20 minute walk.  3 down!  I can do it!

On Saturday, I did not walk, but used one of Sunny's ideas in vigorously cleaning the house to exercise.  I cleaned the bathrooms, cleaned under the bathroom sinks, swept and vacuumed the floors and ran about 5 loads of laundry.  Not walking, but I felt an accomplishment at the exercise and the clean house.

Sunday afternoon I did finish my goal although it wasn't formal exercise.  I need a new area rug for under my kitchen table and spent about 4-5 hours walking through furniture stores.  Although I didn't get my heart rate up, I was walking and count this as an achievement of my goal!

My goal this week is to again take four 20 minute walks throughout the week.  I will again try to walk in the mornings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  This week however, I was inspired to add on a little bit of exercise by Sunny's push-up goal from last week.  Having two small boys, I actually have pretty strong arms from lifting them up.  However, when contemplating the push-up goal, I realized I can't do push-ups not because I lack the arm strength, but because after having kids, I lack the core strength to hold the plank position during a push-up.  This week, in addition to my four 20 minute walks, I am adding 10 crunches, 10 reverse crunches and 10 push-ups (against the bathroom counter.  Easier when you lack the core strength) on the days when I walk.  Oh boy, that does mean tomorrow doesn't it?  I'm a little panicked, but I can do it!

Would you like to join me in my goal?  Just e-mail me at joiecancook(at)gmail(dot)com and we can cheer each other on!  Also, if you have been inspired by Weight Loss weekly and would like to set your own exercise goal and post it on your blog, just link to this week's weight loss weekly post (all of ours) leave a comment with your post URL, and we will link back to you.  We can cheer each other on towards our goals!  Good luck this week!

22 May 2009

Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix Review


A few weeks ago, I conducted a pantry purge ridding my pantry of products containing "faux" ingredients such as hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.  The products I had the most trouble eliminating were convenience mixes such as chocolate pudding mix and my favorite, Bisquick.  After a trip to my local health food store, I was able to find an all purpose baking mix that did not contain hydrogenated oils, Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix.  At $7.25 a box, it was quite an investment for me (I have since found it in the $4 range in the health food section of my local Fred Meyer grocery store).  On the good side, the batter and the waffles were fluffy and browned very nicely.  The mix came together extremely easily and quickly.  The waffles also had a faint anise flavor that was quite pleasant and they smelled wonderful.  On the bad side, the waffles had a slightly gritty texture.  They seemed dry but I think that was the lack of gluten that made them feel slightly powdery in the mouth because physically they weren't dry, they just seemed that way.  The bottom line is that if you are gluten intolerant, this product was perfectly acceptable as a replacement to Bisquick, it was quick and had nice flavor.  If you are not gluten intolerant however, the gritty and "dry" texture of the waffles was off-putting enough to keep looking for a more acceptable alternative.  The search continues...

20 May 2009

The good and the bad of the Pasco Farmer's Market


The Bad

Two weeks ago our local farmer's market opened.  As it has been an unseasonably cool spring, the pickings were pretty slim.  However there was a new vendor there selling Old Iron Wine, a label specifically bottled for the Pasco Farmer's Market.  The vendor called it a "young, farmer's table wine" and at $6 a bottle, I was willing to give it a shot.  Buyer beware!  For $6, all you are getting is a cute label on a bottle.  The wine was completely undrinkable.  For starters, when I opened it, it fizzed out like a champagne which has been uncorked improperly.  A carbonated red?  Still, I was willing to give it a taste test (stupid me!).  Upon first sip, I immediately spit it out.  Unfortunately, despite the offending wine being ejected from my mouth, the sickly sweet aftertaste kept building.  The whole bottle was dumped down the drain.  What a waste of the farmer's time and of a good $6.  If you frequent the Pasco Farmer's Market and come across Old Iron Wine, skip it!


The Good

On the upside, the farm I buy my eggs from slaughtered some of their chickens on Saturday and I bought a few.  I had never had fresh chicken before and I was curious to taste how they would differ from grocery store chicken.  Boy, the taste was incredible!  They were so much meatier than store chickens and cleaner too.  The juices of store chickens often get slimy feeling, but the fresh chickens were clean and soft feeling.  I put them on the grill and they were just wonderful.  After picking the carcasses clean, I put them in a stock pot and now have a good 10 cups of wonderful stock on hand as well.  Nothing goes to waste!  If you are living in Southeast, WA and are interested in fresh chickens or eggs, Greene Hills Farm has it going on!

18 May 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Weight loss weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and two other bloggers who are trying to lose weight.  Join us as we discuss tips and strategies as well as our successes and struggles on our weight loss journeys.

This week, we are taking weight loss weekly in a slightly different direction.  In the past, we have been asking each other questions in order to gain tips and insights into how the others approach weight loss.  This week, we are each setting a goal for this week pertaining to exercise and next week we will be discussing the strategies we used to achieve those goals (hopefully not excuses why we couldn't!)

First, let's find out what the goals of the other girls are this week:

Bernie says:

"For me exercise comes and goes, I go through stages where I feel like I've got it all worked out, and then for no obvious reason I hit a wall and just can't seem to get into it. I've smashed up against said wall these last few weeks and I'm determined to get out of my rut and back on the wagon" read more at Yo-yo No More

Find Sunny's goals at That Extra 20 Pounds


My goals this week are to walk for 20 minutes for four days this week.  This may seem like a small goal, but I haven't accomplished this feat in over a month!  I need a kick in the rear to jump start my walking routine again, but I also want to set myself up for success.  I know that accomplishing this goal will not be without difficulty, but I feel this is a realistic goal for myself.

My plan is to walk Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  I know this is lame, but Tuesday evening is the finale of American Idol so I KNOW I will not want to walk then (go Adam!) and Wednesday evenings are devoted to church choir, so that really only leaves me those four days with a cushion of Sunday if I miss one.  Also, I am trying something a little different this week, I usually walk after dinner, but after dishes, etc. often I am too tired for a walk.  This week, I am going to get up 20 minutes early and walk in the morning.  I think getting up 20 minutes early is doable, I'll let you know next Monday!

Is anyone up for taking this challenge with me?  We can cheer each other on!  E-mail me at joiecancook(at)gmail(dot)com if you are up for it!

11 May 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Weight Loss weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and two other bloggers who are trying to lose weight. Join us every Monday as we discuss tips and strategies as well as our highs and lows on this crazy weight loss journey.

This week we are down one blogger as Nurit has decided not to continue with Weight Loss Weekly. We'll miss you Nurit! However, Bernie, Sunny and I decided to continue as the process of thinking through my weight loss and this column every week helps keep me accountable. I hope you all are enjoying it as well.

This week, Bernie from Yo-yo No More asks:

Exercise is something everyone should be doing for general health and fitness. Do you have any tips for keeping your exercise routine fun and most importantly sustainable?

Let's hear what the other girls have to say first:

Sunny says:

"Exercise... that is a subject I've been trying to avoid and not think since I began my weight loss journey a few months ago..." keep reading at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

Bernie says:

"Friends, flexibility and reality are the three things I try to keep in mind when exercising. I don't really have a routine to speak of, and this, I am learning, is actually my exercise style." Read more at yo-yonomore.


I say:

It seems that no matter how fun I make exercise, I have trouble with the sustainability part. Is it a momentum thing?  For my birthday, my husband and sons got me some walking poles.  I love these as they up my heart rate during my walks and add muscle tone in my arms as I'm walking as well.  They boost the benefits of my walks without increasing the impact level of my walks.  I love these poles and I do love walking.  It is easy for me to get into the walking habit and just going for a short jaunt in the evenings after dinner.  

However, even though it is easy for me to get in the habit, it is equally easy for me to fall OUT of the habit.  I'll usually walk consistently for a few months, then something will happen, I'll get sick, we go on vacation, whatever, then BOOM!  I'm out of the habit for a few months.  I just wish that someday it wouldn't be a daily struggle to get myself to go for a walk and that it is something I just do despite life getting in the way.

Currently, I am out of the habit.  I got sick about a month ago and haven't gone for my evening walk.  Wow!  Has it been a month!  How is it so easy not to exercise?  I need to get back into the habit.  Here's the goal, three 10 minute walks during the week.  That is not a lot but since it has been so long, I need to start slow.  Will you all keep me accountable?

How do you keep momentum going in your exercise routine?  Please share, I need ideas!

08 May 2009

French Friday on Holiday


Happy Friday to you gorgeous French people!  If the weather is not yet warming up where you are take heart, spring is here!  French Friday will be taking a little summer holiday from the book reviews.  Don't be sad, everyone needs a little holiday and the French are famous for taking theirs.  I will still be posting recipes on Fridays in the French spirit, but I just need a little break from the book reviews.  If you have any ideas for books that would make a good read during French Fridays during the fall, e-mail me at joiecancook(at)gmail(dot)com.  I will take the summer to read them and start again fresh at the end of summer.

In other French news, Mirielle Guiliano's new French Women Don't Get Fat website has now launched!  This used to be a site for members who bought a paid subscription but is now free to all.  Check it out at frenchwomendontgetfat.com!  When I used to subscribe to this site, one of my favorite events was something called "Bombshell weekend".  For those who want to play, you must channel the spirit of a famous "Bombshell".  For some it was Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Catharine Deneuve, Lauren Bacall, Princess Grace...etc.  Then, in the spirit of being a "Bombshell" spend the weekend channeling that person's beauty and ease.  Then turn everyday events into the stuff of romantic movies.  For example, this weekend, I shall channel the spirit of Audrey Hepburn in the movie Roman Holiday.  Tonight, Gregory Peck (my hubby) is taking me out to see the new Star Trek movie.  Star Trek is not the stuff of romantic movies, but when you're sitting next to Gregory Peck, who cares!?  And what would Audrey wear to a movie where Gregory Peck would hold her hand?  Certainly not a pair of ragged jeans!  She would probably wear a nice skirt, a blouse, perhaps some pearls?  Also, red lipstick is a must!

Are you up for playing along?  Let me know how your weekend goes being a "Bombshell".  Oh, it is such hard work, but someone has to do it!  Hee hee!

Double cheeked kiss to all of you,
Joie

05 May 2009

Snickerdoodles


Isn't it wonderful that a cookie with one of the best names out there, is also one of the most simple and delicious?  Who can resist these wonderfully crisp, cinnamony cookies with the whimsical name?  Mix up a batch and your family will be sure to smile!

Snickerdoodles by Joie de vivre

Yields:  About 6 dozen
Ingredients:

1  1/2 c. sugar
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Beat the butter and 1 1/2 c. sugar together until pale yellow and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs until combined.  On low speed, or by hand, beat in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  
3.  In a small bowl, combine the 2 Tbls. sugar with the cinnamon.
4.  To shape:  scoop out a teaspoon full of dough using a teaspoon cookie scoop.  Roll the dough into balls between your two hands.  Then roll the balls into the sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Place the balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets
5.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  When finished, remove cookies from cookie sheet and place on cookie racks to cool.

04 May 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Christmas buffet at the in-laws

Weight loss weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and three other bloggers who are also trying to lose weight.  Join us as we discuss our weight loss tips and strategies, as well as our successes and failures along the way.

Today's weight loss question comes from Nurit from 1 family. friendly. food.  Nurit asks: 

You’re about to go to an event - party, wedding, potluck, etc - where there’s going to be lots of (free) food. What are you doing about it? What is your strategy?

Let's hear what the other three have to say:

Bernie from Yo-yo No More says:
"Lots of free food did you say? I'm there. That about sums up my love of the event/party/wedding/potluck food related scenario. Lots of free food is like, well, lots of free food, does it get any better? But is it really free? (see where I'm going with that.... ohhh the witty intelligence is too much)" read more at yo-yonomore

Nurit from 1 family. friendly. food says:
An imaginary scenario: you go to a party, you see all the wonderful food, you either decide “I’ll only try just one bite of some dishes that look good”, or you don’t even think about it and just go with the flow. The result – you feel over-stuffed, you think “I ate too much. Why did I do that?” Does this sound familiar? Read more on 1 family. friendly. food.

Sunny from That Extra 20 Pounds says:
"When it comes to free food, forget it! My strategy? Unfortunately it's Eat, Eat, Eat..." keep reading at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

I say:

I wish I could tell you that I always behave well at potlucks or buffets, but sadly, I can't. There is a reason why I am overweight! But I do have some tricks to help my best intentions along.

Strategy #1:  The Snack.  When facing an endless eating situation, have an apple and a glass of water before you go.  I once talked to someone who tried this same strategy with a tablespoon full of flax seeds mixed into a glass of water.  Just have a little something so that you are not raving hungry when you face the endless dishes.

Strategy #2:  The Mental Rehearse.  Before you go to the party, imagine the buffet.  Then imagine yourself with your small plate in hand, reviewing all of the options before carefully making the wisest choices.  When you get to the party, your mind is already prepared for what you are going to do.  

Strategy #3:  The Anchor.  Do you have a little red dress in your closet that helps remind you of your goals?  The anchor works in the same way, just away from home.  You wear a bracelet or ring or necklace that reminds you of your goals when you face temptation.  Theoretically, I smile because this one doesn't work so well for me, when facing the endless buffet, you touch your anchor item and it reminds you of your goals so you do not overindulge.

Strategy #4:  Do your best, and forgive yourself.  This strategy accepts your weakness and acknowledges that you do not face these situations everyday (THANKFULLY!).  In this strategy, you make the best choices you can make for yourself, and then forgive yourself if you do overindulge.

As crazy as it sounds, I do heavily rely on Strategy #2, the Mental Rehearse.  For me, overindulging is a matter of habit, so to change those habits, I need to mentally rehearse them over and over.  When they are practiced over and over, even in my mind, they become part of what I do.

Do you have any ideas to help us through the crazy wedding/summer/back to school/fall festivals/Christmas buffet season?  Do share!

01 May 2009

French Friday

Bonjour to you beautiful French people!  I apologize for the lapse in French Friday last week.  My excuse?  I've been embracing my inner French girl.  French women revel in the changing of the seasons and alas, the weather has been too nice to sit inside.  After weeks and weeks of cold, dreary weather, the sun has finally peeked through the gray, the weather has warmed, and blossoms have erupted all over, signaling the beginning of spring.  I just could not let this passage go unnoticed.  The boys and I have been going to the park daily, we have planted our tomatoes, cleaned up our strawberry plants, and planted our herbs.  Ah, spring!

Today, I will be reviewing Steps 6 and 7 from The French Don't Diet Plan by Dr. Will Clower.  At the rate I am going with this book it will take me through mid-May, but sometimes, it is nice to slow the pace down every once in a while.  A few of you have also e-mailed me with suggestions for future French Fridays, merci beaucoup!  If you have a book you think would lend itself well to French Fridays, please let me know.

Now, back to the French Don't Diet Plan.  

Step 6:  Don't Eat and Drink at the Same Time

When you think of the beverage that French people eat with their meal, the majority of us will think of a nice glass of wine.  Do we think of the French as a country of sloppy drunk people?  Of course not, the French think of wine as food, appreciate it as an accompaniment to their meals, and sip and savor their wine.  A serving of wine would be about 4-6 oz.  When we think of the accompaniment to an American meal, what do we think of?  A 20 oz. bottle of soda?  A 16 oz. glass of water?  Dr. Clower uses these drink portions as another way to point out American over-consumption.  Even in something as calorically innocuous as water, Dr. Clower says that we train our bodies to over-consume when we drink this much.  He suggests eating meals for a few weeks without anything to drink.  Then re-introducing beverages back into the meal in small portions to sip with meals, not gulp, as a way to enjoy your meal more.  (and I'm sure he would tell you to throw the soda in the garbage as it is chock full of faux ingredients)

I would agree with Dr. Clower up to a point, but water consumption is one way to trick your stomach into feeling it is full.  When you are cutting back on portion sizes, this is an important part in the arsenal of not being hungry.  Again, everything in moderation and everything gradual.  Cut back on your drink portions gradually.  Start by sipping your drink, not gulping.  Naturally, your portions may cut themselves down on their own!

Step 7:  Eat All You Want (You'll Just Want Less)

In this step, Dr. Clower discusses what he calles the "ender", a small, calorically dense nibble of food that signals to your brain that the meal is finished.  French enders consist of cheese, a square of dark chocolate, coffee or tea.  The ender is what helps the French avoid snacking between meals by creating a mental bookend to the meal.  Dr. Clower also discusses strategies for getting over the hurdle of between meal hunger.  Have you noticed how hunger is a progressive feeling.  Between meals, it starts out small, may get raving for a moment, but then after a few minutes disappears?  Your body is telling you that it is starting to get hungry, but it is not starving.  In order to make it to your next meal, be sure to eat three meals a day and on time.  Then, to survive your hunger blips, Dr. Clower suggests either waiting out your hunger blip, drinking a small glass of water (slowly!), or perhaps having a small snack if you can't take it anymore, but it is merely a small snack, something to help you make it to your next meal, it is not a meal unto itself.

Homework for this week:

1.  Sip and savor your beverages with your meals.  Do not gulp.  Drink in small portions.
2.  Eat regularly and healthily to control between meal hunger.
3.  If you are struggling with between meal hunger, try some of Dr. Clower's strategies for making it through between meal hunger blips.

Next Friday, I will be discussing Steps 8-10 from the French Don't Diet Plan.  Until then lovely French people, enjoy the beautiful spring weather!


27 April 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Weight loss weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and three other bloggers who are also trying to lose weight.  Join us every Monday as we discuss tips and strategies as well as our successes and failures along our weight loss journeys.  

Today Sunny, from That Extra 20 Pounds, asks:

Right now, I'm focusing on losing some weight before our summer beach vacation (which means bathing suits and shorts EEK!!) which is 8 weeks away. When you're working hard towards a certain weight loss goal, what is your one unique secret weapon or trick that helps speed up your weight loss?

First, let's here what the other three have to say!

Sunny from That Extra 20 Pounds says:

"Hmm, I think my most helpful secret weapon has to do with a delicious dessert that is actually not forbidden, not even when I'm trying to speed up my weight loss..." keep reading at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

Bernie from Yo-yo No More says:

"When I first read Sunny's question I thought "well this will be an easy post, short, a few words even" because I really don't have one. My attempts at speeding up weight loss have been sad sad affairs that usually last a whole 15min after my burst of motivation and planning." Read more over at Yo-yonomore

Nurit from 1 Family. Friendly. Food. says:

"The last time I wore a bikini was 6 years ago when I was 4 months pregnant. We were in Hawaii. But I do have a secret to share with you about wearing bathing suit again. It all began 4 years ago"… read more at 1 family. friendly. food.

I say:

Secret weapons in the weight loss arsenal?  Okay, I'll dish...I really feel for me that short term quick weight loss is a recipe for disaster!  I've tried the extreme calorie deprivation for a few days, only to get so hungry I end up eating, eating, eating and gaining back every ounce I lost plus more!

If I have an immediate goal, a wedding, a vacation, etc., I will generally try to cut out a few little extras from my diet and walk more.  Gone are the days of the quick fixes though.  I realize that I didn't gain the weight in 6-8 weeks so why should I expect it to come off that fast!  Slow and steady, slow and steady...


22 April 2009

Coconut Custard Pie from the Blender


Do you have any community cookbooks?  You know, the cute cookbooks where grannies, or moms or firefighters get together, share their favorite recipes and then make a cookbook to raise money?  I recently inherited one such cookbook from my mother titled Polish Foods as we Remember created by the Golden Age Club from Assumption Church in Oil City, Pennsylvania in 1977.  I used this cookbook to create my whole Easter feast, as well as making this Coconut Custard Pie for a new mom at my church.  It was super easy, was in the oven with about 5 minutes prep time, and was ready to go to the new mom in an hour.  You'll love the ease of it, plus the subtle sweetness and the crunch of the coconut.

Coconut Custard Pie from the Blender adapted by Joie de vivre from Polish Foods as we Remember

Ingredients:

4 eggs
1/2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. melted butter
2 c. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
3.  Pour ingredients into a greased and floured 10 inch pie pan.  
4.  Bake for 45 minutes until set on the sides and slightly jiggly in the very center, it should also be lightly browned.
5.  Rest on the counter for 20 minutes.  Serve immediately while warm or refrigerate and serve cold.  Leftovers should be refrigerated.

20 April 2009

Weight Loss Weekly


Weight Loss Weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and three other bloggers trying to lose weight.  Join us every Monday as we discuss tips and strategies as well as our successes and pitfalls on our crazy weight loss journeys.

This week's question is asked by yours truly!  I ask:

"How do your family and friends support you or hinder you in your weight loss efforts? Do they adapt easily to your changing habits and help you along, or do they confront your new habits with skepticism?"

This question obviously stemmed from a specific event.  Let me paint a picture for you.  The place? Applebees. The dessert? Cheesecake shooter...eew. After a bite, I put my fork down not wanting to waste the calories. My friends (well, not so much anymore) look over at me and sneer, "Oh, is this the new thing you're doing now?" Fortunately, the comment makes me think about our friendship rather than my weight loss goals and efforts, but there is always that nagging doubt...."is this my next new thing or am I truly committed to making a lifestyle change?"  This incident happened to me about eight weeks into my weight loss journey.  At the time, I was down about 13lbs. and was comfortably wearing a pair of jeans that had previously been so tight, I could only wear them for 30 minutes on laundry day while my others were in the wash.  

There I was so proud of myself and my accomplishment, not wanting to ruin it by retreating to an old habit and eating a disgusting dessert, and they were trying to negate my great feelings in one snide comment.  Well, like I said, they are not really my friends any more.  There are no hard feelings, we still say hi and chat if we run into each other, but I realized how toxic "friends" like that can be to a lifestyle change.

My husband, on the other hand, is extremely supportive of my weight loss efforts.  He cheers me on by loving every healthy meal I make and is excited by new clothes I have to buy (minus the money part) because my old clothes are getting frumpy and baggy.  This makes all the difference in the world to a lifestyle change.  You definitely need your life partner to support you in a life style change, and mine does that for me.  As for my old friends, they are still stuck in their old way of life.  I do not judge them, but as I said, there is no love lost on my part.  I prefer to hang out with people now who are like my husband, supportive and enthusiastic for me.  That is much healthier for the new healthier me.

Let's here what the other three have to say on this topic:

Bernie from Yo-yo No More says:

"I think the most amazing way in which my friends and family support me is by loving me no matter what. I can be in "crazed diet" mode or in "don't give a stuff" mode and they just accept me for me, and carry on being the best family and friends a girl could ask for." Read more at Yo-yonomore.

Sunny from That Extra 20 Pounds says:

"My husband has been really good. Like when I was first trying to change my eating habits and was cranky and starving, ready to give up and chow down on a whole bag of potato chips..." keep reading at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

Nurit from 1 Family. Friendly. Food is taking a week off from Weight Loss Weekly to participate in the United Way's Hunger Action Week.  She and other bloggers have committed to feeding their families, or just themselves, for the week, on the budget allotted to a family of equivalent size on food stamps.  For Nurit's family of four, she is allotted only $22 a day to feed them.  Please pop over to her blog to cheer her on as she brings awareness to the struggles families on food stamps face feeding their families nutritious meals.

17 April 2009

April French Friday #3


Bonjour to all of you gorgeous French people!  How did your pantry purge go last week?  After visiting the health food section in my local grocery store, I was able to find fun kid cereals without HFCS in them, as well as an all purpose baking mix without hydrogenated oils in it to replace the Bisquick in my pantry.  Also, I was pleasantly surprised to find one brand of ketchup at my local WalMart without HFCS in it.  (It was tough to spot though)  There are options out there if you want to give up faux ingredients in your food!

This week, I will be reviewing Steps 4 and 5 in The French Don't Diet Plan by Will Clower.  For me, these chapters come down to one basic idea, the French love their food, most Americans love gluttony.  A love of food and a love of gluttony are not the same thing and if you can slow down the pace of your meal, you can retrain yourself away from loving gluttony, and towards someone who loves food.  Simple yet profound, isn't it?

In order to retrain ourselves away from over-consumption, Dr. Clower has several ideas.

#1:  Most Americans have a distorted idea not only of portion sizes, but also of bite sizes.  Take smaller bites and thoroughly chew your food.

#2:  Most Americans speed through their meals.  This week, I was sitting in a McDonald's with my kids.  We were just starting our meal when in comes a man.  He orders two sandwiches, sits down, and completely eats both of them in five minutes.  I watch him get back into his car while I am not only halfway through (and I consider myself a fast eater)  Gross huh?  It takes about 20 minutes for our brains to get the signal that our stomachs are full, by that time, most of us have already over-consumed.  Take AT LEAST 20 minutes to finish your food.  Portion out your plate into quarters if you must and eat one quarter every 5 minutes, put your utensils down while you chew, only pick them up again when you are completely finished chewing and have swallowed.  Take your time with your food, and your brain will get the message your stomach is full with much less food consumption.

#3:  Plan on seconds by serving yourself less than you think you want.  Take 20 minutes to eat this smaller portion.  Chances are, in 20 minutes, you will be completely satisfied with the lesser amount, but if not, it is okay to have seconds, just again serve yourself less than what you think you want, then again take your time.

These lessons are going to take lots of practice for me this week.  If you decide to practice with me, let me know how you're doing, I will need the encouragement!  Next week, I will discuss my progress from this week, as well as review Steps 6 and 7 from The French Don't Diet Plan.  Please join me!  Until then lovely French people, a little homework....

To do this week:

1.  Make dinnertime a special time.  Eat with your family, set the table and atmosphere nicely.
2.  Use smaller plates and smaller utensils.  Take smaller bites.
3.  Serve yourself less than what you think you will want...plan on seconds.
4.  Take AT LEAST 20 minutes to eat.  Put your fork down while you are chewing (what do I do with my hands then?  This is something I'm going to struggle with)

Good luck and don't forget to keep me informed on your progress!

14 April 2009

Barbecued oysters


I've had raw oysters and broiled oysters, but until last week I had never enjoyed them barbecued.  I'm not sure I will ever fix them another way again!  They were not only delicious, but downright easy!  In a previous post on broiled oysters with lemon zest,  I discussed how to shuck a raw oyster.  Usually, this takes a lot of force and for me, time.  But when you barbecue oysters, you put them on the barbecue whole and the steam from the inside of the oyster opens them up.  Do you see how some of them are opened?  You still need to shuck them to remove the top shell, but they were almost a joy to shuck they were so easy.  I also was able to retain the juice that collected in the oyster cup which is obviously the perfect accompaniment to oysters with a couple of drops of hot sauce.

You will need a barbecue that is old and rusty, or one that is devoted entirely to cooking oysters (as it will become rusty from the salt water).  Fortunately, a friend of mine had an oyster barbecue and let me borrow it!  You will also need charcoal briquettes and of course, oysters.

Barbecued Oysters by Joie de vivre with thanks to Melissa and Patrick

Ingredients:

Oysters (count on 6-7 a person if served with a salad and crusty bread)
Hot sauce (we have a nice Thai chili sauce that tasted the best)

Directions:

1.  Light the charcoal briquettes and wait 20 minutes or so until they are fully ignited and all white.  In the meantime, scrub your oysters under cold water with a scrub brush.  Discard any opened oysters or any oysters that don't close when you press on them.  These are already dead and cannot be eaten.
2.  When the charcoal is ready, lay your oysters on the grate of the barbecue, cup side down.
3.  Cover the barbecue and grill the oysters for 9 minutes.  Some of your oysters should be open.  Remove all of them at this time using tongs.  (even the ones that aren't opened yet)
4.  Using a towel or an oven mitt to protect your hand, place the oyster in the oven mitt and then using your other hand, place an oyster knife in the hinge of the oyster.  Wiggle the knife up and down to break the hinge on the oyster.  
5.  Place the shucked oyster on a plate filled with salt to keep the oyster from tipping over.
6.  Eat your oysters with a drop or two of hot sauce.
7.  Comment back on this post to let me know how awesome the oysters were.

13 April 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

Weight loss weekly is a weekly collaboration between me and three other bloggers who are trying to lose weight.  Join us as we discuss tips and strategies, our successes as well as our failures on our weight loss journeys.

This week Bernie from Yo-yo No More asks:

You've got a big event coming up, and your still not at a "happy weight", how do you combat those feelings of self doubt and have a good time without getting caught up in the "I'm so fat, I look so bad" crazy talk running around in your head?

Fortunately, I have always had a pretty healthy self-esteem.  I've never really struggled with the negative self-talk in terms of my weight with the exception of after I had both of my boys, and was struggling with all of the hormones and bovine feelings of just having had a baby.  Unfortunately, this is probably why I allowed myself to gain so much weight in the first place.  It never really bothered me until I reached a certain point which was way beyond where it should have bothered me.

My healthy self-esteem actually worries me at times in terms of my weight.  I wonder if I will ever allow myself to gain the weight back and not be bothered by it.  I know negative self talk is not helpful in any way, but on the other hand, too healthy of self esteem can be a drawback as well.

Be sure and check out what the other three have to say on this topic.  They are:

Sunny from That Extra 20 Pounds says:


"The problem for me isn't so much that I can't have a good time because I'm so worried about how I look. The hardest part is actually before... when I'm trying to pick out what to wear!" keep reading at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

Nurit from 1 Family. Friendly. Food says:

Every time I need to dress up before date night, get out of my usual T-shirt and jeans and put on something nicer looking, I find that I have nothing to wear. Sound familiar? Read more on 1 family. friendly. food.

Bernie from Yo-yo No More says:

"This is a tricky one for me, something I have yet to conquer. It's a battle, from the moment I find out about an upcoming event or occasion. I instantly calculate how much weight I could lose between now and then...."  Read more at Yo-yo No More

11 April 2009

Artichoke Bread


The inspiration for this artichoke bread came from Katherine at Smoky Mountain Cafe and I have to say, it is one fabulous recipe.  I modified it from Katherine's recipe because of lack of all the ingredients in the right amount, but this bread came out fantastic.  It is decadent and gooey, and would suffice as a main course in its own right.  Because this recipe makes two halves of a good sized loaf of bread, and it is so filling, we had 1/2 of the loaf of bread left-over.  I wrapped up the leftover half in foil, put it in the refrigerator, and the next day threw it in a 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes.  It was still as crunchy and gooey as it was the day prior.  Mmmm,  mmm.

Artichoke bread by Joie de vivre adapted from Katherine at Smoky Mountain Cafe

Ingredients:

One large loaf of crusty Italian or Tuscan type bread
1/4 c. unsalted butter
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed through garlic press
1 14 oz. can chopped artichoke hearts, drained
6 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese
4 oz. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

1.  Cut the loaf of bread in half, lengthwise.  Scoop some bread out to form a well in each of the bread halves.  You may save the scooped out bread for bread crumbs or discard.  Set aside loaf halves.
2.  Place your oven racks no higher than the middle position in the oven.  Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3.  In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
4.  Remove from the heat and stir in the artichoke hearts, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and sour cream.  Stir to blend together.  Scoop 1/2 of the mixture into each of the bread loaf halves.
5.  Place bread halves on a baking sheet, sprinkle each half with half of the cheddar cheese, cover lightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove foil and turn on the broiler.  Broil from the distance of the middle rack until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown and the edges of the bread are browning, about 5 minutes.  Watch the bread carefully as it is easy to burn it under the broiler.
6.  Let the bread cool for 5 minutes and cut into slices.

10 April 2009

April French Friday - The Pantry Purge

Bonjour to all of you lovely French people on this lovely Friday.  This week, I have decided to slow the pace of French Friday down a little and instead of plowing through another section of Dr. Clower's book, The French Don't Diet Plan, I will reflect on my week of food using his guidelines from Step 1.  Last week, you may remember that Dr. Clower recommended doing a pantry purge to get rid of all products containing fake ingredients.  If you would like to catch up, here is a link to last week's post.  As of last Friday, I was unsure that I could actually DO a pantry purge.  I was afraid that there would be too much "food" (Dr. Clower insists that if there are fake and engineered ingredients in it then it is not food)  that I would have to throw out and that I would feel guilty for wasting it all.  I'll show you what I mean.

Here was the state of my pantry as of Monday.  I agree, it IS quite frightening!  I started with the top shelf, a huge black, plastic bag and just the intention of finding out what exactly I was consuming.  First of all, I was amazed at the amount of stale and expired products up there.  (Even with the extended shelf life engineered ingredients gives them, there were still expired products!  Ew!)  Once I started looking at what was in the "food" and chucking things out, it surprisingly got easier to throw things out as I went along.  Could I have been eating all of these chemicals?  Does everything contain corn syrup?
Here is the state of my pantry after the purge.  It is still not yet organized, but as you can see, I didn't have to throw everything out.  On the top shelf, I still have some whole grain cereals, dried fruit, powdered milk.  On the second from the top are my baking supplies, flours, sugars, etc.  On the second from the bottom, there is a bin of grains, the oils, and some more dried fruit, and on the bottom shelf, a bin of teas, coconut milk, tuna, a can of pumpkin and a bottle of lemon juice.

I was not able to part with ALL of the "fake foods" as I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to.  There were eight offenders I just couldn't part with...yet.   They are:

Top shelf:  Sprinkles, Bread crumbs and Bisquick

Sprinkles?  You know, those things you shake on top of cookies to make them pretty?  They contain corn syrup solids as well as a host of other engineered ingredients.  I know that French pastries never have sprinkles on top, but I just couldn't get myself to throw these costly, and pretty, things.

Bread crumbs:  I often make my own bread crumbs, but for those days when I just need to grab something quick, dried bread crumbs come in so handy.  The container I have lists high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient.  I could easily rid myself of this product, but I think the fact that it was just purchased last week had me feeling a little guilty for wasting it.  My plan for this product is just to finish it and then use the container to house my homemade bread crumbs.

Bisquick:  First of all, I had no idea that Bisquick contained engineered ingredients.  But a check of the ingredient label reveals partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil.  I was unable to rid myself of the Bisquick yet because it used to be my go to helper in the kitchen for those pancakes and waffles my son loves so much.  Although, I have to admit, ever since I started making sourdough pancakes and waffles with my sourdough starter, I haven't touched the Bisquick.  I could easily rid my life of this product, but I think for sentimental purposes I couldn't throw it out yet, plus it is a brand new, Costco sized box.

Second shelf:  Chocolate pudding mix

Chocolate pudding mix...I just couldn't do it.

Third shelf:  Vegetable bouillon

The vegetable bouillon I have contains MSG, hydrogenated palm oil, as well as various other engineered ingredients further down the label.  Again, I think I'm holding onto this for the convenience.  I really don't use it that often, but when I want to throw together a quick soup and I'm out of stock, it comes in handy.

Bottom Shelf:  Shoyu, Barbecue Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce

Shoyu:  This is a flavorful soy sauce used a lot in the Hawaiian islands.  It contains Caramel coloring and Sodium Benzoate.  I couldn't get rid of this one because I wasn't quite sure what real food I could substitute it with.

Barbecue Sauce:  Sadly, high fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient.  It's a brand new bottle so I think that is why I couldn't rid myself of it.

Worcestershire Sauce:  Again, this was a new bottle which is why I couldn't get rid of it, but it contains high fructose corn syrup as the third ingredient.  Aside from being a new bottle though, this, like shoyu, is another product for which I'm not quite sure what real food it can be substituted for.

My homework this week:

1.  See how easily I can cook using real food.  (I'm actually not too worried about this)
2.  Try to find alternative recipes or products for the fake foods I just couldn't get rid of
3.  Read Step 2 and start practicing taking smaller bites and slowing down the pace of my eating.

Thank you so much for indulging this little departure for French Fridays.  The French love to slow down and enjoy little things in life, which is why I felt it was important to slow down and really examine this week in food.  Next week I will be discussing Step 2 from Dr. Clower's book The French Don't Diet Plan, please join me!  Until next week lovely French people, a bientot!

09 April 2009

Rabbit with Mustard


I feel slightly guilty posting this recipe a few days before Easter.  As you probably know, Easter is not only associated with Jesus' resurrection, but also with the Easter bunny.  The Easter bunny brings and hides colored eggs for children to find and here I am, serving it up for them!  To appease my guilt over serving this fantastic dish just a few days before Easter, I did a little digging over the origins of the Easter bunny.

It seems that in early Christian days, when missionaries were trying to spread the Christian message covertly for fear of persecution for themselves and their new converts, there was already a pagan festival in place around the time that the Christians celebrated the resurrection.  This pagan festival honored Eostre, the goddess of spring and the renewal of Earth's fertility.  Her symbol was the rabbit, which was one of the most fertile animals known.  In order to protect the new Christians, missionaries encouraged them to celebrate the pagan festivals in Christian ways, thus, the rise of the Easter bunny.

Even after knowing that the symbol of the Easter bunny had its origins in pagan times, my guilt still weighed heavily upon me until I read that rabbit has lower fat and higher protein than chicken.  Also, the fact that my children were excited to eat rabbit assuaged my guilt almost completely, and the kicker, that it was so wonderful, finally had me guilt free.

This recipe again was modified from Simple to Spectacular by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman.  I served it with a simple dish of roasted asparagus, mashed potatoes with mustard and crunchy shallots, and a raspberry sorbet with thai chilis and lemon.  A perfect, Sunday lunch, aside from the slight guilt of eating a rabbit so close to Easter.

Rabbit with mustard adapted from Simple to Spectacular

Ingredients:

2 Tbls. olive oil
3 Tbls. unsalted butter
One 2-3 pound rabbit cut into 6 pieces
Head of garlic (about 10 cloves) peeled and slightly crushed
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
20 pearl onions, peeled
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 c. dijon mustard
2 c. bread crumbs
1 Tbls. sherry vinegar
Parsley for garnish

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large, oven-safe skillet, add the olive oil and butter and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Add the rabbit pieces and turn the heat to high.  When rabbit starts to brown, flip it over and add to the skillet the garlic cloves, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  When the rabbit is nicely browned on both sides, add the pearl onions and place the skillet in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.
2.  Remove all pieces of meat from the skillet, except for the legs, and place them on a baking sheet.  Add the wine to the skillet, place it over medium-high heat, and scrape up all of the browned bits on the bottom with a wooden spoon.  When the bits are all scraped up, place the skillet back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
3.  In the meantime, coat the pieces of rabbit on the baking tray in mustard, then dip them in the bread crumbs to coat both sides.  Place the pieces back on the baking tray.  When the legs have cooked the additional 10 minutes, remove them from the skillet as well, coat in mustard and then in bread crumbs.  Turn on the broiler, place the rabbit pieces on the baking sheet a good 6 inches away from the broiler, and broil until lightly browned on both sides, flipping once.
4.  Strain the cooking liquid from the skillet into a small saucepan.  Add the sherry vinegar and bring to a boil.  Spoon some of the sauce onto each of the plates and top with a piece of rabbit.  Garnish with a bit of parsley and serve.

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