31 January 2009

French Women for All Seasons

Please join me this Friday as I start discussing French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano. This will be an ongoing discussion each Friday in February.  For our first discussion, I will be discussing the Overture, and Chapters 1 and 2. Here is a little teaser of the book by the author herself to whet your appetites.

A Lazy Saturday Breakfast

I am not a morning person.  It takes me a good hour to get my brain working in the morning, a good hour.  Most children, however, are morning people.  My youngest wakes up every morning chipper, chatty and ecstatic at the start of a new day.  Most mornings of the week, he asks me to make him waffles, and most mornings of the week, I reply, "I'll make them for you on Saturday."  Then we have to count how many days are left until Saturday.  Saturday is the best morning of his week.  He ate three of these.  I make them with cornmeal in an attempt to slow him down and fill him up.  I'm already dreading the grocery bills when my boys are teenagers.  If my youngest eats three waffles now as a three year old, is his appetite going to grow exponentially or linearly?  Fifteen waffles as a fifteen year old?  Forty-five waffles?  It sends shivers up my spine just thinking about it.  Fortunately, the cornmeal in them causes me to slow down at least.  They are filling and have a slight crunch to them.  

Cornmeal Waffles adapted from the Cuisinart Classic Waffle Maker Instruction Booklet

Makes eight 6 1/2 inch round waffles


1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. course ground cornmeal
2 Tbls. sugar
1 Tbls. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. non-fat milk
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbls. vegetable oil
2 eggs


1.  Place all the ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl and mix until blended and mostly smooth.
2.  Heat your waffle iron and let your batter rest while it is heating.
3.  When heated, spray your waffle iron plates with non-stick cooking spray and add 1/2 cup batter.
4.  Cook until done.

30 January 2009

French Friday #5

This being our last Friday in January means that we are now finished reading French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.  However, don't despair!  I've had such positive feedback from this weekly series that I am extending it.  In February we will be reading French Women For All Seasons also by Mireille Guiliano followed in March with Mindless Eating:  Why We Eat More than we Think by Brian Wansink (thanks Tangled Noodle for that recommendation:  I loved it).  After March I'm not sure of the reading schedule yet, but I'll announce it ahead of time so you have a chance to get the books and read along with me.

What did you think about French Women Don't Get Fat?  What I love about the book is that it teaches us how to pamper ourselves and that it is sensual and feminine to do so.  I have started slowing down and enjoying my food and surroundings so much more.  I don't feel deprived, quite opposite actually, I feel pampered and luxurious when I pay attention to how I present my food, how it smells and tastes and just enjoy being in the moment.

Our reading assignment for this week was Chapters 11, 12, and 12 bis.  Let's get started.

Chapter 11:  States of Desire

In this chapter, Mireille discusses a French woman's sensuality and sexuality as being linked to their ability to enjoy food, life, sex, love, laughter with all of their senses.  They enjoy little moments in everyday life and fully experience them.  In terms of food, it is their ability to not only make food that tastes good, but their ability to extend that food experience to all of their senses that makes them special.  They set feasts for the stomach, yes, but it is their ability to set the mood, plate the food, set the table, set the mood lighting, and find moments to laugh with their loved one that enables them to be completely satisfied and feel more pampered with less food.

It is this joie de vivre, that inspired me to start this blog in the first place and I think what helps me to continue to lose weight.  When my senses are stimulated, I realize that my "hunger" is not related to my stomach at all.  I was eating huge helpings of food because I was bored, I wasn't taking care to think of my other senses.  Live fully in your every day life and enjoy all those little moments to the fullest.

Chapter 12:  Life Stages

Mireille breaks down life into different stages here and speaks specifically about special nutrition requirements or activity requirements each stage needs.  I will let you read your own specific stage.  What I really gleaned from this chapter, especially last year when I discovered this book for the first time, is that yes, I am no longer a teenager any more (I haven't been for a long time!), yet my eating habits were still the same as when I was a teenager.   I needed to look at my eating habits and ask myself which specific "childish" things was I holding onto?  How can I "grow up" my eating habits?  For me, I was holding onto many childish eating habits, eating too late, eating whatever, eating too much fat, not looking at nutrition of the foods I was eating, etc...as I said, the list was long.  If I accept that I am a thirty something woman, I could accept that if I want to be healthy, my eating habits must change.

Chapter 12 bis:  The Plan for Life

So, now that you know the secrets of the "French Paradox" what are you going to do about it?  Mireille looks at specific habits that French women have in this chapter that help them to stay slender.  She says it is her "American" way poking through with her desire to put things in bullet points.

We'll finish this book with one of Mireille's "gems":  "French women don't get fat because they have not allowed new attitudes and modern theories of how the body uses food to overrule centuries of experience.  They see no contradiction in eating bread and chocolate, having a bit of wine, and so on and remaining not only slender, but healthy.  They do, however, understand that each of us is the keeper of her own balance, and when that balance slips, each must devise her own plan of correction, based on personal preferences."  When I realized that I am in charge of my own balance, it made all the difference in the world to me.  I cultivate my own pleasures.  I am in charge of my own health.  I am in charge of my own weight and how I am choosing to live.

Next week, we will continue French Fridays by beginning French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano.  Your assignment is to read the Overture, and Chapters 1 and 2.  Please join me at my virtual sidewalk cafe next Friday and we'll discuss!

29 January 2009

Healthy Family Lunch

In my quest to be more French, I have been making a big Sunday lunch so, as a family, we can eat leisurely, spend time together, have fuller bellies, and then enjoy a small dinner later on.  However, Sundays are the earliest day of the week for me as I need to prep my Sunday school classroom and have choir practice all before our 8:30 am church service.  That means if I want to have a nice lunch prepared, I need to pull out my trusty crock pot.  This past Sunday I made Apple-Cranberry Pork Roast that I adapted from my new favorite cookbook, Fix it and Forget it:  Big Cookbook.  I threw everything in the crock pot at 6:30 am, right before I ate breakfast, and it was ready to go for lunch at 12:30 pm!  Right before serving, I quickly sauteed some spinach and garlic for a healthy side dish.  I am sending this recipe over to Michelle at What's Cooking for her Healthy Family Dinners which is the January theme for Monthly Mingle.  Isn't the picture pretty too?  Another one of my hubby's.  Enjoy!

Apple-Cranberry Pork Roast with Homemade Apple-Cranberry Sauce by Joie de vivre.  Adapted from Fix it and Forget it:  Big Cookbook

2 lbs. pork tenderloin
2 Tbls. olive oil
3 c. low sugar apple juice
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped, or just chopped if you like a more rustic applesauce with the peels
1 c. frozen cranberries
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

1.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and brown the pork tenderloin on all sides.
2.  Add the pork tenderloin to the insert of a 4-5 quart crock pot.  Add all the other ingredients.
3.  Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.
4.  Remove pork tenderloin and let rest 5 minutes on a cutting board before cutting.
5.  Remove apples and cranberries to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
6.  Mash apples and cranberries adding liquid from the crock pot as necessary to achieve desired consistency.
7.  Serve apple-cranberry sauce alongside sliced pork.

Sauteed Spinach with Garlic by Joie de vivre

10 oz. spinach, washed and dried
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-2 Tbls. olive oil
balsamic vinegar.

1.  Heat a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil and saute garlic for about 30 seconds. 
2.  Add the spinach and stir with tongs until completely covered with oil.  Cover the pot for 2-3 minutes to let the spinach wilt.
3.  Remove the spinach and sprinkle lightly with balsamic vinegar.

28 January 2009

Sweethearts dinner

Last year, my hubby forgot Valentines day.  Forgot that is until about 7 p.m. that night when I incredulously looked at him and said, "You didn't even get me a card?"  In his defense, hubby is a great hubby and when I said that to him was busy playing with the kids and getting them ready for bed, but forethought on Valentines day is not one of his strong suits.  Therefore, if I want to celebrate Valentines day, I really need to plan it myself.  This year, we celebrated a little early.  I am sending this to the Alchemist Chef for her Valentine's Day Recipe Competition.  Although it is slightly cheating as it isn't really a "recipe" per se, it still was quite romantic.  There is something about eating slowly and with your hands that is quite, um, stimulating.

I call this slightly cheating because I didn't even have to cook these.  My local fishmonger had already steamed them, I merely had to bring them home, put them in a steamer for 10 minutes to warm them, and melt some butter to dip the meat in.

Oh, another thing to save hubby embarrassment over his lack of Valentine Day planning skills, he is a great photographer.  I introduced him to the term "food pornography" a few weeks ago and, after he laughed and laughed, has been working on his food photos!  He took these two.  The top one is my favorite.

Do you have any special plans this Valentines day?  Do share!

27 January 2009

Quick Cioppino

Oooh Nellie, I am one spoiled girl.  Whilst flipping through the December issue of Martha Stewart living at my mother in law's house, I came across a recipe for quick cioppino.  Cioppino was traditionally an Italian fisherman stew made with the catch of the day.  While I adapted Martha's recipe, I still made one rockin' bowl of soup.  My five year old LOVED this stew and asked for seconds of clam and mussels.  I take that as the ultimate compliment.  I'm sending this soup to be part of the Souper Sunday event over at Kahakai kitchen.  Enjoy!

Joie de vivre's Rockin' Cioppino

Serves 6


2 Tbls. olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. course salt
1/8 tsp. chili pepper
1 1/4 c. dry white wine, like Chardonnay
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 1/2 c. chicken stock
14 mussels, debearded and scrubbed well
1 1/2 lbs. clams, scrubbed well
1 lb. firm white fish fillets, like rock cod, cut into 2 inch pieces.


1.  Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Saute the onions and garlic until translucent.
2.  Add thyme, salt, chili pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
3.  Add the wine, scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pot with your wooden spoon, simmer for 1 minute.
4.  Stir in the tomatoes with juice and chicken stock.
5.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
6.  Add the seafood, re-cover the pot, and cook until the shells open, about 6 minutes.  Discard any unopened shells.
7.  Dish into bowls, serve with nice rolls and put an empty bowl in the middle of the table to serve as the communal shell discard bowl.

26 January 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

My motivation to be healthy

Weight loss weekly is a collaboration between me and three other bloggers where we ask ourselves questions relating to weight loss, and discuss our successes and failures.  Join me every Monday to tune into this ongoing collaboration.  This week's question is:  "Why do I want to lose weight and what I'm going to do about it".  Have you ever thought about it?

Have you ever asked yourself, "Why do I want to lose weight?".  In our culture, it's just assumed that most people could stand to lose a few pounds but have you ever asked yourself that question?  For me, I have tons of responses, most of which have to do with vanity (which aren't motivating in the long run believe it or not) and a few which really get to the core of why.  It is for this reason that this week, I've decided to separate my answers to "Why do I want to lose weight" into two parts, vanity reasons and real reasons.

Vanity reasons:
1.  I want to be the most smokin' hot wife at all of my husband's work parties.
2.  When my sons become teenagers, I would like one of their friends to gross them out by saying, "Dude, your mom is HOT!"
3.  I love to shop.  Ever since losing the initial 34 lbs, I am now able to shop at so many stores I couldn't shop at before.
4.  I like being able to fit into a standard airplane seat.
5.  I just bought THE CUTEST spring dress on super clearance (4 sizes too small) and I want to fit into it before mother's day.
6.  I'd love for my husband's clothes to be a little big on me.

Real reasons:
1. The risk of developing all cancers increases dramatically the more overweight one is.
2.  The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increases dramatically the more overweight one is.
3.  I want to be healthy enough and have enough energy to play with my sons.  
4.  I have one life to lead, when I go to heaven, I want God to tell me, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  Not to look aghast at me and say, "What have you done to yourself?"

I want to live a healthy, active life and to be around to watch my children and grandchildren grow up.  Yes, the vain reasons are perks of losing weight, but surprisingly have little motivation over me in the long run.  In the short run, the vain perks can help me get through a meal or a day, but when I think of the real reasons, they are enough to take me through the long haul.  

Have you ever thought about it?  What are your reasons?

Now that you've decided WHY you want to lose weight, what exactly are you going to do about it?  I was at my low point (or perhaps high point) last January when I came across the book French Women Don't Get Fat.  The simple approach to looking at eating and life has helped me to lose 34 lbs. so far.  For information about the book, check out my French Friday posts, but I will summarize the points from the book that I have incorporated into my life that have helped me to lose weight and to live healthier.  These changes are not profound, but for me, they were the biggest changes I had to make on the road to weight loss and what I still struggle with.

My secrets to weight loss and my plan for continuing weight loss:

1.  I drink at least 8 pints of water a day.  I drink a pint of water before every meal and another one with it.  I drink in between meals and I drink a pint of water before bed.  Staying hydrated helps me to feel full and keeps me from confusing hunger with thirst.

2.  I eat smaller portions of many things rather than one big portion of one thing.  I consciously think about variety, therefore I plan my meals better and am eating more fruits and veggies.

3.  I eat one to two 8 oz. servings of plain yogurt a day.  This is helping to keep my digestive system happy, gives me extra calcium, and helps my stomach feel full.

4.  I incorporate some activity into most every day.  My choice of activity is a daily walk, but I also try to park farthest away at the grocery store, am aware of bending over to pick up kids toys, and do housework daily.  Basically, I try to move and limit the time I spend on my duff doing nothing.  I may not have time to go to the gym daily, but I do have time to vacuum, do the laundry, dust and go for a walk.

5.  I chew my food thoroughly.  This is new for me but is really helping me to slow down while I'm eating.  Slowing down gives my stomach a chance to catch up with my consumption.  How thorough is thorough?  I chew until it's liquified.  Gross, but effective.

6.  I eat my main meal at lunch.  Eating my main meal at lunch enables me to eat a small dinner without having screaming hunger.  Since dinner is when I often make the most high fat/high calorie foods of the day, not being too hungry for dinner saves me tons of calories.  Also, I know I have finished digesting by the time I go to bed.

7.  I wind down in the evenings with a glass of water, a cup of herbal tea, or hot water with a tablespoon of lemon juice squeezed in it.  I used to be a nightly dessert eater.  Not only am I saving calories now, I sleep better since I'm not hopped up on sugar.

8.  I journal my food intake.  You can follow my food journal on Twitter.  This has really helped me avoid the snacking temptations knowing that I have to write it down.  Also, if I have a bad day where I have eaten way too much and have eaten mindlessly, having to write down what I've eaten helps me to be aware of foods that I habitually overeat and the act of writing down a bad day forces me to recommit to a healthier lifestyle.

These are not hard habits to adopt.  I am not depriving myself of anything, yet making these simple changes allowed me to lose 34 lbs. and is helping me to lose the rest of what I need to.  If you are interested in following my French Friday posts where I review French Women Don't Get Fat, or reading last week's "Weight Loss Weekly" the links are below.  Also, don't forget to check out the other "Weight Loss Weekly" posts from my fellow "weight losers"!

My Fellow "Weight Loss Weekly" bloggers are Sunny, Nurit and Giyen.  Check out their posts below!

Sunny's post:

"One of the biggest reasons I want to lose weight is because I just turned 30 in November. And that makes me mad..."  Keep reading at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

Nurit's post:

"I'll tell you the truth.  If I lived in a time and place where being roundish was an object of beauty waiting to be captured by the most talented painters and then admired by millions of people, I might have re-evaluated the situation.  But you know..."  To read more, click 1 family. friendly. food.

Giyen's post:

"I think I've talked about why I wanted to lose weight ad nauseum, let's get to the "how"...read more at Bacon is my enemy

23 January 2009

French Friday #4

Happy Friday everyone!  How did your week go being French?  For me, my week went very well (except for last night and this morning, I'll get to that in a moment).  I was very mindful of eating well planned, balanced meals, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lots of water.  I ate my main meals at lunch time which made me consciously eat a small dinner.  This saved me lots of fat and calories as I usually prepare the heaviest meals of the day at dinner.  I enjoyed small portions of the dinner entrees, but was mindful that my stomach was not screaming with hunger after I had had a larger lunch.  I walked every day for about 25 minutes despite the below freezing temperatures outside.  I also consistently journaled my food intake on my new Twitter account.  I think this act alone helped a lot of the mindless snacking I fall prey to during the day as I would have had to write it down if I did.

Last night however was horrid!  I had had a headache all day long and by dinner time was just worn down from it.  I made bacon, egg and cheese burritos and ate mindlessly without enjoyment and ate FAR too much bacon (yes, 10 slices).  This morning I again woke with the headache, (it has dissipated now thank goodness) and ended up eating two bowls of cereal.  The act of typing those two meals into Twitter however was very therapeutic and forced me to recommit to eating healthier and more mindfully.

Despite last nights, um, indiscretion, I realize what I accomplished this week just eating mindfully, slowing down, chewing my food thoroughly, planning my meals, and walking a little ever day,  was a weight loss of 4 lbs.  Four pounds merely changing how I think about eating and being more mindful of it.  Plus, eating mindfully the rest of the week still compensated for a loss of control for two meals.  Amazing.

This week we will be discussing Chapters 9 and 10 from Mireille Guiliano's book French Women Don't Get Fat.  Are we all sitting in our imaginary bistros, immaculately dressed and ready to discuss?  Fabulous.

Chapter 9:  Bread and Chocolate

Mireille talks about the French's love of chocolate.  Yes, French women love their chocolate and consume it on a regular basis without getting fat.  American women see chocolate as a sinful thing some even going so far as to "give it up" for Lent (or when dieting) whereas French women see it as an essential pleasure.  Why?

Americans were brought up on the idea that chocolate is that light brownish stuff that comes from Hershey.  The amount of cacao in a Hershey product is small however compared to the amount of sugar and cocoa butter in it.  It all is uniform and tastes the same.  When Mireille speaks of the French women's reliance on chocolate as an essential pleasure, she touts the complex flavor profiles and high cacao content of high end, dark chocolate.  Again, it comes back to quality.  If you have really great chocolate, you will be satisfied, and feel so much more pampered, with less.

In this chapter, Mireille also talks about the French love of bread.  Bread is not evil, but eating it mindlessly is what can lead to weight gain.  Enjoying a slice, or two, of bread WITH meals (rather than gorging on the bread basket before meals) is what bread is for.

Chapter 10:  Moving Like a French Woman

I really relate to this chapter.  A few years ago we belonged to a gym.  It was a really nice place, but after driving there, dressing down, working out on a little machine in front of a T.V. next to sweaty, huffing people, showering, dressing and driving back home again, it took a good two to two and a half hours!  Once I had children, I just couldn't afford that luxury in time.  Plus, I just hated the smell of that room with the sweaty people in it huffing on machines.  Mireille reassures us that French women hate to sweat and don't like to dress down.  This is something I hate as well.  It is so much easier for me to leave my house in the same clothes I wore during the day, with the addition of some walking shoes, walk for 20-40 minutes around my neighborhood, rather than going to a gym.  I can easily fit 20-40 minutes into my day rather than waiting until I have a huge time block available to go to the gym.  I can even walk with make-up on which makes me feel very French indeed.  Having two rambunctious boys at home also, I love the quiet that a walk affords me.  I get so few moments of quiet during the day and really relish that time.

Besides formal walks, French women also find ways to fit little movements into their days.  They walk up stairs instead of taking an elevator, they walk down the hall to deliver a memo instead of putting it in interoffice mail, etc.  I love cleaning house as a way to up my activity level.  It is very gratifying to have wake up to a clean house and I know I burn extra calories making the beds, bending over to pick up toys, scrubbing out the sinks, etc.  How can you fit tiny extra movements into your day so they seem second nature and not like "formal exercise"?

My goals for this week:
1.  Continue to eat mindfully and eat two servings of yogurt a day.
2.  Continue to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
3.  Continue to go for a daily walk.
4.  Continue to use my Twitter food journal.
5.  Fit a "little pleasure" into my day.  Perhaps a square of chocolate, or fresh flowers.  Hopefully this will quell my "need" for a day of gorging next week!

What are your goals this week?  Next week we will finish the book with Chapters 11, 12 and 12 bis.  However, I have been enjoying French Fridays so much that I am going to extend it into the month of February (and beyond with a monthly book feature).  In February we will be reading French Women for All Seasons also by Mireille Guiliano.  You can read a description here.  In this book, Mireille not only shares more tricks French women use to stay slim, she also goes into more detail on how to dress and live "French".  We will start with the first couple chapters on Friday, February 6.

In the meantime, bonne chance living French this week mes amis!  

22 January 2009

Tuscan Style Chickpea Soup

As a result of trying to eat more "French" I have been eating my main meal at lunch with a smaller dinner in the evening.  Sunday afternoon, I made a very gooey macaroni and cheese for lunch and the whole wheat pane di como from yesterday's post with this simple soup for dinner.  I have to say, this was one of the best soups I have had in a while (If I do say so myself).  I'm submitting this one to Deb over at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday event.  Enjoy!

Tuscan Style Chickpea Soup by Joie de vivre

3 1/2 c. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
8 c. chicken stock, plus 1 c. water (or 9 c. chicken stock, I just had 2 quarts on hand)
1/4 c. olive oil
1 lb. small potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
10 oz. bag pre-washed spinach leaves
1 lb. cooked polish sausage cut into soup sized chunks
salt and pepper.

1.  Drain the chickpeas, place in a large pot, cover with fresh water, place over high heat and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to low, cover the pot partially, and simmer the beans for 1 hour until cooked.
2.  Place the chicken stock and water into a large soup pot.  Add the cooked chickpeas, potatoes and the olive oil.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked.  
3.  Add the spinach and the polish sausage and cook for 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread.

21 January 2009

Whole Wheat Pane di Como

I had so much fun making challah for last week's YeastSpotting event, that I decided to try my hand at a whole wheat version of Pane di Como.  This was a very hearty bread with a crispy exterior.  It wasn't as tangy as I would have hoped it would be having milk in the starter, but it was still a tasty accompaniment to the Tuscan Style Bean Soup I served Sunday night.  It did take about 24 hours start to finish, but only about 20 minutes or less of hands on time.

Whole Wheat Pane di Como by Joie de vivre

1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp molasses
1/3 c. warm water
2/3 c. milk, room temperature
1 c. all-purpose flour

Directions:  Stir the yeast, molasses and warm water together in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes or so until the yeast is bubbly.  Add the milk and stir.  Add the flour and mix until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter overnight.

2 c. water, slightly warm to touch
5 - 5 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 Tbls. salt

Add water to the starter and use hands to squeeze the water and the starter together until no clumps remain.  Mix the flour and salt together and add 2 c. at a time into the starter mixture.  When it is too stiff to stir with a spoon, use your hands to knead the mixture together.  It should be ever so slightly sticky (stickier than if you use white flour).  Knead the dough very well, crashing it down on the counter while doing this to develop the gluten, for about 8-10 minutes.  Put the dough in a well greased bowl and turn over so that the top of the dough is also greased.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double, 2-3 hours.

Once dough has doubled, cut it in half and shape it into 2 round loaves.  Place each loaf in a bowl lined with generously floured kitchen towels.  Cover each loaf with a towel and leave to rise once again.  1-2 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F with a baking stone in the oven.  When ready to bake the loaves, sprinkle the stone with cornmeal and invert the loaves onto the stone.  Bake until the dough sounds hollow when thunked on the bottom, about 1 hour.  Cool the loaves on racks before cutting.

20 January 2009

Football food

I am laughing at how ironic it is to follow yesterday's "Weight Loss Weekly" with today's "Football food".  All things in moderation though, right?  These Chili dogs are a take off another recipe from Fix it and Forget it Big Cookbook.  Fixing these chili dogs in the crock pot made them a perfect food for grabbing during a commercial break.  (Not that I am endorsing eating in front of the T.V., but I know it happens)  These were very rich and cheesy.  Enjoy!

Crock Pot Chili Dogs adapted from Fix it and Forget it Big Cookbook

Serves 8

1 lb. hot dogs
2 15 oz. cans chili
1 4 oz. can chopped green chilies, in your preferred hotness level
1 15 oz. can Nacho cheese condensed soup
8 hot dog buns
1 chopped onion
Shredded cheddar cheese
corn chips

1.  Place hot dogs into the slow cooker insert.
2.  Mix together chili, green chilies, Nacho cheese soup and pour over hot dogs. 
3.  Cover and cook in crock pot on LOW for 3-4 hours.
4.  When ready to serve, place a hot dog in a bun, ladle some chili over the top, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and onions and serve with corn chips.

19 January 2009

Weight Loss Weekly

This is a current shot of me

This was me December 2007, 34lbs. heavier than today

This post is part of a weekly series of posts titled "Weight Loss Weekly".  Weight loss weekly is part of a collaboration with 3 other bloggers who, like me, are trying to lose weight.  Join us as we share our struggles and victories in our personal battles to lose weight.  You will find introductions to the other three bloggers as well as snippets from their blog posts below.

With the start of each new year, comes a slew of new year's resolutions.  I would bet that the majority of resolutions in America have something to do with losing weight.  I started gaining weight when I went away to college (as a lot of people do).  I have a weakness for buffets, and eating at a buffet three meals a day for a year can do anyone in!  I probably gained 25 lbs. my freshman year and kept that weight on through college.  After college, I started working as a teacher.  I was living on my own for the first time in my life, was exhausted from teaching all day, and got in the habit of picking up Chinese food 3-4 nights of the week at a supermarket on the way home.  I gained a few more pounds.  After teaching for a year, I got married.  I was (still am) blissfully happy, had a husband who was cooking for me, and started putting on weight again.  It was after a year of marriage that I realized, something had to change.  I was unhappy and unhealthy.

The question this week is "How did I get overweight in the first place?"  I think for me, it is more helpful to look at the habits I possess that contributed to my weight gain and talk about what I am doing to change them.

1.  I eat way too fast.

I am often the first one finished at the table.  Eating quickly does not give my stomach a chance to tell my brain that it is full which means that I'm often the first one getting seconds!  I need to start putting my utensils down between every bite, sipping water between every bite and try to be the last to finish.

2.  I eat "just whatever" way too often

This was my problem in college and when I first started teaching.  I took no ownership of what I was eating and just ate whatever was fast and easy.  When you take ownership of what you eat, plan it, shop for it, cook it, you take more pride in what is going into your body hence eating better things.

3.  I eat "wherever" way too often

How many times a week do you eat in your car?  How many times a week do you eat while you are typing at your computer, watching T.V., standing at the counter?  Meal times are sacred times.  Of course there are days when I have to go through the drive through at McD's, but I don't want to have this be a habit or to happen more than once a week.  

4.  I eat like I don't know where my next meal is coming from

Because I eat too fast, I eat until I am overly full rather than content.  I need to slow down so that my stomach can tell my brain "I am content" rather than, "Stop!"

Last January, I found the book French Women Don't Get Fat.  With this book, I realized what my bad eating habits were and why I had gained weight.  Slowly, I have worked to change these habits and have so far lost 34 lbs.  The changes I made were not radical.  They were simple changes of slowing down, enjoying my food, and eating consistently, yet because my bad habits are so ingrained in me, they are so hard to change and stay with consistently.  I want to pass good eating habits onto my children however, so I must continue to fight to change my bad habits.  To keep myself accountable, I have started an online food journal which you can follow on Twitter.

This post is part of a series of posts that will be coming out every Monday titled "Weight Loss Weekly".  The posts will be designed not only inspire you on your own weight loss journey, but to help me and the authors of these posts stay motivated and inspired as well.  There are three other bloggers that are participating in this series with me.  Below are their names and introductions to their "Weight Loss Weekly" posts.  

They are:

Nurit says:
"Once upon a time there was a little girl.  She didn't like to eat, her mom didn't like to cook, and her dad lived in the land of far far away so he wasn't around to do any cooking.  (Oh, well, it wasn't "IN" for men to cook those days anyway).  The little girl never ate breakfast and she rarely ate the food in her school lunchbox.  Her mom was annoyed when she returned her lunchbox back with all the food, so she got rid of the evidence in the trash before she got home."  To read more, click 1 family. friendly. food

Sunny's post:
"I don't think it would be fair to blame the whole 20 pound weight gain on Chicken Biscuits.  (More like just the last 5 lbs, hehe!)  I actually think I could blame the majority of the weight I gained on dieting.  Here's why"...www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

Giyen's post:
"I can give you a million excuses about why I am overweight, but the real reason is"...find out why here.

16 January 2009

French Friday #3

How did your second week go being French?  My third week is starting well with a nice breakfast of a small bowl of shredded wheat with milk, a hard boiled egg, coffee and a clementine (and of course I started my day with a big glass of water).  My natural inclination is to fall back into the habit of having only a huge bowl of cereal with milk and some coffee, but when I remember that French women eat small amounts of many things to please their palates, I am happier, I eat a more varied diet, and I truly do feel satisfied with less.

Our reading assignment for this past week was Chapters 7-8 of French Women Don't Get Fat.  Here, we are really getting to the crux of Mireille Guiliano's argument or why French women don't get fat, and really learn some concrete tips to help us in our own French journeys.

These chapters are just packed with little gems to help you enjoy your food more and feel satisfied with less.  I cannot do justice to these chapters in this discussion because they are so jam packed, but here is my feeble attempt to summarize.

Chapter 7:  More Recipes That Will Fool You

Mireille starts by talking about eating seasonally.  When you eat seasonally, naturally the produce is more flavorful and satisfying.  Compare a juicy, ripe peach at the height of summer, to one flown in from halfway around the world out of season.  It's just not the same.  

Mireille also talks about the French habit of eating courses.  Yes, the French may have 5 courses, but they are small portions of each thing.  Contrast this to the American version of a "main course" being what we eat the most of.  However, eating a large amount of one thing leads to boredom for your taste buds hence making you less satisfied mentally and thus making you eat more of that thing to achieve satisfaction.  Eat small amounts of many things, rather than large amounts of one big thing is what it boils down to for me.

Mireille gives us quite a few recipes in this chapter to get us started in our French journey.  From appetizers to main courses to desserts.  I can't wait to try the floating island.  I've never tried anything like that before and it sounds interesting.

The secret power of plain yogurt in giving your stomach satisfaction is also discussed in this chapter.  Especially when you are starting to pare down portions, yogurt helps fill your tummy and gives you extra calcium.  If you are thinking of making your own, here are some directions.

Chapter 8:  Liquid Assets

How much water are you drinking?  Mireille speaks in this chapter about the miracles increasing your intake of water can have on decreasing your appetite, cleaning out your body, and clearing your complexion.  Aside from drinking more water, soup is also a way to increase your water consumption.  She gives some lovely recipes for soup that I am excited to try out.  (I may try her carrot soup for lunch!)

Mireille also discusses in this chapter the French love of wine and Champagne and how they can heighten one's pleasure of a meal.

My personal homework for this week is going to remember to eat small amounts of many things rather than having a huge amount of one main dish and then trying to stuff in some vegetables after that.  I am going to pay attention to my menu and try to plan more varied meals.  I am also going to be keeping a food journal this week.  I think it will help me plan better and to think more consciously about portion sizes and variety.

*Side note* 
On Monday, I will be joining three other bloggers in a continuing weekly series titled "Weight Loss Weekly".  Don't worry, my focus for this blog is and will continue to be recipes, food and my appreciation of food, that will not change.  However, "Weight Loss Weekly" will be an added post series that I hope will keep me accountable to not only keeping off the weight I've already lost, but to inspire me to continue on my path to a healthy weight.

15 January 2009


I was inspired by the folks at King Arthur Flour again with their beautifully explained post titled Challah-lujah.  I varied their recipe, but mine still turned out beautifully.  I am submitting this post to the weekly Yeastspotting event which now has my mouth watering for some fresh bread!

Challah by Joie de vivre inspired by King Arthur Flour blog

3/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. instant yeast

1 large egg, beaten
1 Tbls. cold water

1.  Combine all the bread ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well then turn out onto the counter and knead well until smooth.
2.  Place the dough ball in a greased bowl, turn it over so that the dough is lightly greased on all sides, then cover and leave to rise about 3 hours, until it is doubled.
3.  Gently deflate the dough and separate it into 4 equal parts.
4.  Take each part and roll into a 15 inch long rope.  Let each rest a few minutes then continue to roll until the ropes measure about 21 inches each.
5.  Lay the strands parallel to each other, pinch them together on one side, then follow these directions from King Arthur Flour on how to braid a 4 strand braid.
6.  Gently place the loaf on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
7.  Cover and let rise at least 45 minutes (or as long as it takes) to get nice and puffed.
8.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
9.  Whisk together the glaze ingredients and gently brush on top of the loaf.
10.  Optional:  Sprinkle heavily with sesame seeds.
11.  Place your baking sheet on top of another baking sheet to insulate the bottom of the loaf.
12.  Bake the challah for 20 minutes.  Tent the challah loosely with aluminum foil to prevent it from browning too much and bake for another 25 minutes.
13.  Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a rack.

Vegetable Beef Soup

When I was in college, I used to attend a weekly soup supper put on by the Lutheran/Episcopal campus group.  It was a chance to get away from campus for a little while, commune with other like minded students, and enjoy a warm bowl of something wonderful.  When I read about Souper Sundays, a weekly soup round up hosted by Deb over at Kahakai Kitchen, I got the same feeling that those weekly soup suppers used to bring me.  This soup, although admittedly not one of my best, is my attempt to share a bowl of soup with those other lovely cooks.  I say it's not my best soup because although it tastes lovely and homey, the alphabet pasta keeps sucking up all of the liquid.  I added more stock to the leftovers and the next day it had been absorbed into the pasta again.  This makes it more of a pasta dish rather than a soup, but you'll still enjoy it.

Vegetable Beef Soup by Joie de vivre

2-3 lbs. stew meat
2 lbs. potatoes, chopped
1 tsp. salt
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 15oz. cans "chili ready" chopped tomatoes
1 (1 lb.) can whole-kernel corn, drained
7 oz. package alphabet pasta
1 qt. chicken or beef stock

1.  Place beef, potatoes, salt, carrots, celery, tomatoes and stock into the insert of a slow cooker. 
2.  Cover and cook on LOW for 7 1/2  hours or on high for 3 1/2 hours.
3.  Stir in pasta and corn and re-cover.  Cook on high for 30 minutes.
4.  Adjust the seasonings to taste. 

13 January 2009

Green-Tomato Mincemeat, The Recipe!

After my previous post, a few of you asked what mincemeat was, and a couple of you asked for the recipe.  I was answering these questions one by one, but it may be easier to just post the recipe.  Thank you all for reading my blog and for asking those questions!  

Mincemeat originally was a combination of meat, fruit, and spices (hence the name) but has morphed into a sweeter creation minus the meat.  Some recipes still contain meat or suet, but most don't anymore.  It often has apples, raisins, currents and sometimes nuts, combined with spices.  The resulting mixture is sweet and gooey with lots of spice and texture.  My recipe is modified from my favorite canning cookbook Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt.  This cookbook is on my counter continuously from June through September as it is just jam packed with great (and safe) recipes for canning produce.

Green-Tomato Mincemeat adapted from Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda J. Amendt

Makes about 5 quart jars

8 cups chopped green tomatoes
1 Tbls. salt
4 cups boiling water
10 cups tart green apples, chopped
4 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups raisins
2 cups currants
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
3 Tbls. orange zest, finely chopped
1 Tbls. lemon zest, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
2 Tbls. unsalted butter

1.  Place tomatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Let stand for 1 hour to draw excess moisture out of them.  Rinse and drain well.  Pour boiling water over tomatoes and let stand for 5 minutes.  Drain well.
2.  In an 8-10 quart pan, combine the drained tomatoes and all of the remaining ingredients in the order listed except for the butter, stirring gently after each addition.
3.  Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the apples are tender when pierced.  Stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Stir in the butter.  Remove the pan from the heat.
4.  Ladle the mincemeat into hot and sterilized jars.  Remove as many air bubbles as possible.  Leave 1/2 inch head space.  Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth.  Cover with hot and sterilized lids and apply screw rings.  Process quart jars in a 200F water bath for 30 minutes.

12 January 2009

Mincemeat Pie

Last night, we had dinner over at my in-laws so I got a night off from cooking!  My mother in law went all out with a lamb roast, mashed potatoes and lamb gravy, and homemade muffins.  I supplied the dessert.  Last summer, when apples were in season and the last of the tomatoes were hanging green on the vine, I canned some green tomato mincemeat for use in future pies.  It came in handy last night.  After church, I bought a refrigerated pie crust (I know, the shame right?), laid out the bottom crust in the pie pan, scalloped the edges and pricked it all over.  Then, I added the jar of green tomato mincemeat.  For the top crust, I found a smallish cookie cutter (I could only find my little man cookie cutter), cut the top crust into the shapes and laid them over the filling.  To get the shapes to stick together, I gently wet the bottom of the pieces before laying them on top of the other pieces.  This was super easy to do, only took a little extra time, and really upped the wow factor of the pie.

09 January 2009

French Friday #2

How did you all do on your first week being French?  Did any of you try the leek soup weekend?  For me, I admit I was not perfect.  I ate mindlessly and too much more than once.  However if I focus on the positives, I realize that it wasn't a total failure.

Positive changes I made this week:
1.  I drank at least 8 glasses of water a day
2.  Less than 8 oz. soda the whole week
3.  I ate at regular times
4.  I ate breakfast every day

Now that the snow and ice have melted (hooray!) my goals this week are:
1.  Going for a 20 minute walk each day.
2.  Eating slowly, savor every bite
3.  Don't stock my offenders at home
4.  Eat two daily servings of plain yogurt a day.  (For a recipe and directions, look here)

I am going to keep my goals small this week in order to be successful.  I realize that I didn't have specific goals last week so when I first started writing this post I felt I had failed miserably all week.  It was when I started thinking of the positive changes I made that I realized it wasn't all bad.  One step at a time right?

So how did you like Chapters 4-6?  Isn't Mireille Guiliano a great food writer?  The way she speaks about fresh melons, tomatoes and strawberries makes your mouth water doesn't it?  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Chapter 4:  The Tales of the Three C's

In this chapter, Mireille highlights three women whom she has known in her life that have struggled with their weight.  She highlights their specific offenders.  For one, it was too much convenience food, for another, too much sugar, and for the third, mindless and emotional eating.  Did you see yourself in any of these women?  Maybe a little bit in each one?  

The first woman, Camille, had a habit of drinking a bottle of beer every night before she went to sleep.  It was a habit she had picked up in college, but when questioned, didn't truly enjoy the ritual.  What old eating habits are you holding onto?  Are you truly enjoying them?  When I first found French Women Don't Get Fat, I was eating dessert every night.  Was I truly enjoying it?  No, I would often just eat anything sweet.  I weaned myself off this habit by drinking a hot citron presse when I would usually have dessert.  The ritual of having something was satisfied and I slept better for not having that sugar before bed.  After a week or so, I didn't crave the dessert anymore.

Caroline, the second woman, was a sugar fiend.  Can you see yourself in her?  What did you think of Mireille's trick of savoring two bites of dessert and passing it to someone else?  I could never see myself doing this, but it all boils down to the quality of the dessert.  If it is a richly flavored chocolate dessert made with cocoa of high percentage, I feel satisfied with just two bites.  If it is an inferior dessert, I do not feel satisfied with just two bites.  Quality in everything!

I identify with Connie the most, but I have a feeling, most stay at home moms do.  She learned to shop from her mother who did her grocery shopping at the supermarket and made it a twice monthly affair.  Mireille wants us to shop every couple of days but seriously, I think I'm going to have to work around this one.  When you're toting antsy children with you to the supermarket, you do what needs to be done.  I do think though that if you plan your meals and stay away from the convenience foods, you can still live somewhat French.  Connie, was single however, and really took to being able to shop for her food at the market in the morning and plan her meals on a daily basis.

1.  Can you see yourself modifying any of your bad habits using the French tricks Mireille taught these women?  Which specific ones?

Chapter 5:  Il Faut des Rites

In this chapter, Mireille writes about the rituals of the table.  French women take their meal times seriously.  There is no eating in front of the T.V., no reading the paper while you're eating, no eating at the counter.  French women know how to serve their meals in courses, plated in the middle of exquisite plates.  They put their food on real plates, use real napkins, and real silverware.  When I first discovered this book, this is the chapter I loved the most and which has sadly fallen by the wayside for me.  I loved plating my food on nice plates.  I served myself courses and ate them in their individual dishes.  I didn't mind the extra plates as I have a dishwasher and it was easy to pop them in.  French women do not serve their whole dinner on one big plate.  I need to get back to this again.  It just made the whole meal seem so special.

Chapter 6:  The Season and the Seasonings

Mireille talks about the importance of eating seasonally in order to enjoy food at the height of its flavor.  She makes my mouth water as she describes the perfect summer tomato.  It's true.  When we eat fruits and vegetables at their best, they alone seem like feasts.  French women eat many more fruits and vegetables than American women and their waistlines are the better for it.  The question is though, in the dead of winter, how can we incorporate this idea into our menus?  For me, I have been eating clementines, bananas and prunes for fruit.  For vegetables, I have been eating frozen veggies.  I justify that frozen veggies taste better this time of year than the "fresh" ones because they were picked during the summer when they were ripe and then frozen rather than being picked unripe and shipped halfway around the world.  I do find winter very hard though.  By March, I find myself drooling over the photos of fresh peaches in Rick Stein's French Odyssey and the tomato tarts in My French Kitchen and dreaming of the first fresh vegetable to arrive once the growing season starts.

Homework for this week:
1.  Set small goals for yourself.  Imagine tailoring your diet as Mireille talks about tailoring a fine Chanel suit.  (Don't you feel more French already?)
2.  Eat at least one meal a day at home and treat yourself like you are at the finest French restaurant.  Plate your meal on a nice plate, eat sitting down, chew slowly.

Not too much to ask huh?  Whenever we are re-training ourselves we must go slowly.  Remember, this is not about deprivation, but about finding pleasure in eating and in rituals and in this way we will feel completely satisfied and pampered with less.  We will be discussing chapters 7 and 8 next Friday.  Until then, bonne chance!

08 January 2009

5 minute chocolate mug cake

After lofty goals last French Friday, hormones hit this week and I craved chocolate.  Tuesday night was my low point and I was desperate for something chocolatey.  I remembered a blog post by NuKiwi from From a Kiwi Kitchen, With Love for a 5 minute microwave chocolate cake that had me racing to the computer.  It hit the spot.

The cake itself was slightly dry, but very chocolate-y.  I enjoyed it immensely and for the ease in preparation it got high marks in my book.  This is a perfect dessert when you only want to make one portion.  NuKiwi had a trick to combat the dryness of the cake, you can read her recipe and modifications here.  She also has a simple chocolate frosting recipe in her post.  The following though, is her original chocolate cake recipe that I made.

5 minute chocolate mug cake by NuKiwi of From a Kiwi Kitchen, With Love

4 Tbls. flour
4 Tbls. sugar
2 Tbls. cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
3 1/2 Tbls. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbls. vegetable oil

1.  In a medium measuring bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well.
2.  Crack in the egg and mix well, then add the milk, vanilla, and oil, mixing until there are no visible lumps.
3.  Now pour it into your coffee mug or favorite microwaveable teacup (make sure it is a large one) and microwave it for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.
4.  Allow it to cool a few minutes before frosting.

06 January 2009

Sunday dinner with the folks

Sunday is the busiest day of the week for me.  I wake earlier than any other day to set up my classroom for Sunday school before choir practice starts at 8am.  It's these days (oh, who am I kidding, it's everyday!) that I relish using my crock pot to get dinner prepared and not have to think about it.  This past Sunday, we had my in-laws and my husband's uncle over for dinner so having the ability to make a lot of food in the morning, without having to check on it all day was a plus as I scurried around making the house presentable.  I happened upon this recipe in the Fix in and Forget it Big Cookbook, as I do periodically in order to try fresh ideas, I randomly opened to a page in the book and made what was on that page.  I opened to Reuben Chicken Casserole and it was a winner.  Leftovers were equally delicious last night.  

In a second crock pot I made something called Just Peachy, from the same cookbook, which was an easy cobbler type recipe.  I had my mother-in-law bring vanilla ice cream to top this with and we stored it outside during dinner since I was running out of freezer space and it was colder outside than it was in my freezer!  Both recipes follow.  Enjoy!

Reuben Chicken Casserole adapted from Fix it and Forget it Big Cookbook

Makes 8 servings
Prep time:  20 minutes
Cooking time:  4-6 hours on LOW

2- 15 oz. cans sauerkraut, rinsed, drained and slightly squeezed to remove excess moisture, divided
1 cup Russian salad dressing, divided
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, divided
3 Tbls. dijon mustard, divided

1.  Spray slow cooker insert with non-stick cooking spray.
2.  Place half the sauerkraut in the slow cooker.  Drizzle with 1/3 cup Russian dressing.
3.  Top with 4 chicken breast halves.  Spread half the mustard on top of the chicken.
4.  Top in order with remaining sauerkraut, another 1/3 Russian dressing, the remaining chicken and the remaining mustard.  (save the remaining dressing for serving)
5.  Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours.
6.  To serve, place a breast half on each plate.  Divide the sauerkraut over the chicken.  Top each with a drizzle of the remaining dressing.

Just Peachy adapted from Fix it and Forget it Big Cookbook

Makes 8 servings
Prep time:  2-3 minutes
Cook time:  4-6 hours on LOW

4 cups sliced canned peaches, drained, reserve juice
2/3 cup rolled dry oats
1/3 cup all-purpose baking mix
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup reserved peach juice

1.  Spray inside of slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
2.  Place drained peaches in slow cooker.
3.  In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients.  When blended, stir in 1/2 cup reserved peach juice until well mixed.
4.  Pour batter into slow cooker and stir into peaches.
5.  Cover and cook on LOW 4-6 hours.
6.  Serve warm topped with vanilla ice cream.

04 January 2009

Cowgirl Chocolates

A few months ago, Foodbuzz, my blog ad sponsors, started an opt-in program for foodies wishing to preview certain food related products in return for reviews.  Free food related products?  Of course, I signed up immediately.  Foodbuzz continues to amaze me with their innovations and ideas and how well they treat their featured publishers.  While I was away in Hawaii, I received a 1/4 lb. package of Cowgirl Chocolate assorted truffles.  Foodbuzz, you have found the right girl for this mission.

Let me start out by saying I am a huge fan of the Dagoba xocolatl chocolate bar.  They combine chilies and dark chocolate into a spicy, yummy interpretation of how the Aztec royalty liked their chocolate.  When I read Foodbuzz's description of Cowgirl Chocolates as being, "sweet and spicy gourmet chocolates for adventurous chocolate lovers" I was already primed and ready to love them.

Opening the package, I was impressed all the more.  The box of chocolates was exquisitely wrapped in a double thickness of tissue paper with Cowgirl Chocolates logo of a cowgirl looking down the barrel of a gun at you on top.  Removing the tissue paper, I found a sturdy little red box very nicely tied with black ribbon and a silver colored cowgirl hat button threaded through it.  It was a very nice touch, very luxurious looking, and already I was thinking this would make a perfect little hostess gift for someone.

On the inside, more beauty, as opening the top revealed 10 candies, each rolled in a different color of shiny cellophane.  Ahhh.  Having two boys, I love pretty things like this since we have so few of them in our house!  Also inside was a flavor guide separated into "spicy" and "mild" flavors.  Oh boy, was I ever ready.  My first selection was a beauty in a brown cellophane wrapper, the habanero dark chocolate.  Are you ready? (P.S.  No, I didn't eat them all in one day...It took me a week!)

Brown cellophane:  Habanero dark chocolate (spicy)
This chocolate was very smooth.  The spice builds as you swallow.  The exterior is shiny with a pretty design on top.  It doesn't melt extremely easily on the tongue but it is extremely satisfying.

Aqua cellophane:  Double dark chocolate (mild)
Light fudgy inside.  Very smooth chocolate, melts on tongue easily.

Clear cellophane:  Habanero caramel (spicy)
There was an immediate tingle on the tongue.  This one was hot, Hot, HOT!  I tried to chew it to finish it faster and the burning only intensified.  It was not altogether an unenjoyable sensation, but I did not really enjoy it as a candy.  This was the only one out of the bunch I did not appreciate.

Orange cellophane:  Ivory orange (mild)
This was a very pretty truffle with a layered look of white and milk chocolate.  It smelled "orange-y".  The chocolate was extremely smooth and the orange and chocolate worked very well together.

Fuschia red cellophane:  Raspberry Lemon (mild)
This had a creamy raspberry filling.   My notes on it were merely, "Mmmmm" underlined three times.  Enough said.

Silver cellophane:  Milk chocolate (mild)
This one was very smooth but doesn't melt on the tongue as readily as some of their other chocolates.

Red cellophane:  Raspberry dark chocolate (spicy)
Oh wow.  The spiciness really works well with the raspberry.

Copper cellophane:  Cappuccino (spicy)
My husband's observation on this one was that it "tasted like a really creamy and smooth version of chocolate coated coffee beans" and "that's actually REALLY GOOD".  It is spicy, but not too spicy.  The spicy and the coffee flavors really work well together.

Dark blue cellophane:  Hazelnut Milk Chocolate (spicy)
Tingly on the tongue.  Spicy and smooth.

Gold cellophane:  Double Dark Chocolate (spicy)
Compared to some of their chocolates, this one was a "tad" gritty, but we're comparing really good chocolate against really, really good chocolate.  I'm just finding things to pick on really.

I was sad to get to the end of these chocolates as all of them (minus the habanero caramels which were just way too spicy to be enjoyable to me) were exceptional.  They were beautiful, had good snap, melted well of the tongue and were very smooth.  I will definitely be buying more of these as they would make fabulous gifts for the foodies and chocoholics in your life.  They also have a line of spicy hot chocolates which I am very excited to try.  

You can order Cowgirl Chocolates at www.cowgirlchocolates.com.  Cowgirl chocolate's has a fabulous product here well worth checking out.  If you are interested in becoming a fan of Cowgirl Chocolates on Foodbuzz, their Foodbuzz profile is linked here.  Thanks again Foodbuzz for giving me the opportunity to not only try something new, but to try something so wonderful!

02 January 2009

French Friday #1

I'm not sure where to start.  I have maintained my 34 lb. weight loss for 6 months, but after a December of WAY too much food, my jeans are tight.  I already know the verdict must be at least a 5 lb. gain, and I'm scared of getting on the scale.  Perhaps since I already know the verdict, I may skip the scale for a week or so.  At least I'm catching it now instead of 30 more pounds from now.

January is the perfect time to reassess and tweak one's eating habits.  Out with the old year, and finally, the month of eating is over.  At least in the U.S., no more holidays until President's day or Martin Luther King and those are not big eating holidays.  If you are a football fan, you do have the Superbowl coming up, but fortunately, I see the Superbowl as an opportunity to get out and do things while the crowds are home watching football, so I skip that eating holiday.  No, 2009 is an opportunity to look forward.  In this spirit, I am reassessing some of my eating habits that have slipped back to my old ways during December and start the scale moving downward again instead of insidiously creeping upward.  I am starting a read through of French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano and I hope you'll join me for it.  We will take the next 4 Fridays to read through the book, assess what we're eating and change some bad habits.

Overture and Chapter 1:  Vive L'Amerique:  The Beginning...I am Overweight

I just love Mireille Guiliano's voice and writing style.  I immediately identify with her.  To me, she writes how my French exchange mother (also a Mireille) speaks, really down to earth, no nonsense, and with an air of "I know a big secret and here's how I do it".  In these chapters, Mireille talks about her love affair with America and her journey here as a foreign exchange student.  She fell in love with the country, the people, and also the food.  She adapted some of our eating habits like eating on the run and eating just anything.

1.  What are your bad habits?  Do you eat on the run?  Do you eat "just anything"?  I had choir practice a few weeks ago and one of the members was eating a protein bar for dinner that she had found in the bottom of her purse.  It was smashed and looked completely disgusting to me and I asked her, "That is REALLY your dinner?  Seriously, I think McDonalds would be better!"

Chapter 2:  La Fille Prodigue:  Return of the Prodigal Daughter

In this chapter, Mireille returns from America 15-20lbs. heavier to the shock of her family.  She is loathing the way she looks but becomes very busy at university in Paris.  She continues her adopted American eating habits or eating anything on the run, and ends up gaining another 10 lbs. before returning home for Christmas break.  Her mother enlists the help of the family physician "Dr. Miracle" to help her relearn her French "tricks" for staying slim and healthy.  He asked her to keep a food journal for three weeks.  Mireille was not only eating just anything on the run, she was eating solely pastries on the run!

1.  Did you keep your food journal for December?  If not, start keeping one now so you can see your petite offenders.  Looking at my journal, I do eat a balanced diet consisting of whole grains, fruits and veggies, meat and fish, dairy.  However, my portions have gotten out of control.  In particular, I have a weakness for bread and butter.  Last night for dinner, in addition to a 4oz. portion of prime rib, salad, and peas, I had 3 Hawaiian rolls with butter and a large piece of limpa bread with butter.  Obviously that is WAY out of proportion and a wake up call on why my jeans are tight!

2.  Dr. Miracle also "prescribed" having a leek soup weekend as a way to kick off Mireille's new way of life.  When I first read French Women Don't Get Fat, I skipped Leek Soup weekend as I was too scared to go a whole weekend with nothing but leek soup.  Sometime around last April, after another trip to Hawaii, I tried the Leek Soup weekend but only made it a day and I was supplementing it with crackers!  Mireille says the biggest benefit of Leek Soup weekend is that it gives you an immediate mental jump on healthier living.  Leeks are a slight diuretic, and after eating Leek Soup for the weekend, you should see a weight loss of 2-3 lbs.  This is enough to give anyone encouragement!  I also think it serves to help shrink your stomach so you can start paring down your portions without discomfort.  If you are brave enough to try Leek Soup weekend, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!  As for me, I am going to try a Leek Soup Day tomorrow (for lunch and dinner, I just don't think I can stomach leek soup for breakfast) using my leek soup recipe.  If you are interested in Mireille's, I'll show it below.

Magical Leek Soup by Mireille Guiliano from French Women Don't Get Fat

2 lbs. leeks

1.  Clean the leeks and rinse well to get rid of sand and soil.  Cut off the ends of the dark green parts, leaving all the white parts plus a suggestion of pale green.
2.  Put the leeks in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes.  Pour off the liquid and reserve.  Place the leeks in a bowl. 
3.  The juice is to be drunk every 2 to 3 hours, 1 cup at a time.
4.  For meals or whenever hungry, have some of the leeks themselves, 1/2 cup at a time.  Drizzle with a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice.  Season sparingly with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley if you wish.
5.  This will be your nourishment for both days, until Sunday dinner, when you can have a small piece of meat or fish (4-6 oz.) with 2 vegetables, steamed with a bit of butter or olive oil, and a piece of fruit.

Chapter 3:  Short-Term Recasting:  The First Three Months

Here is where you ask yourself the necessary questions essential if you are going to conquer your weight long term.  What is going on here?  Why have I gained weight in the first place?  My answer is boredom eating.  When I'm busy, I often forget about my stomach, when I'm not, it's all I think about!  I also tend to overeat in social situations when there is an abundance of food.  I just want to try everything and have a hard time stopping when there is so much food on the table (hence December was a hard month for me.)

Rounding up the usual suspects
1.  What are your petite offenders?  For me:
bread, bread and more bread
Mexican food, particularly refried beans
any buffet

Slow and Steady
1. Try to stay away from your offenders, those foods of which you have no will power.  Add lots of other foods to add excitement to your culinary repertoire so that it feels as if you are going on a culinary adventure rather than depriving yourself of your favorites.

Your homework this week (and really for the next three months--start slowly!):
1.  Don't stock your offenders
2.  Add more water to your life.  Start with adding one glass upon waking and another upon going to bed.  This will add two (that was easy!) and add from there until you are drinking at least 8 glasses a day.
3.  Eat slowly, savor every bite.  Only eat off plates and sitting down at the table.  Do not eat while watching T.V. or reading the paper.  (Getting rid of the morning paper at breakfast is a habit I have yet to break)
4.  Weigh your foods and slowly start cutting back on your portions little by little.
5.  Find substitutes for your offenders so that you do not feel as if you are depriving yourself.  When I first found French Women Don't Get Fat, my offenders were all things salty (of which I see that creeping back into my current offenders!).  My substitution was a tea called Genmaicha Green Tea.  This tea was a bit salty, and when I was really craving it I would add a little more salt to the pot.  This was a no calorie substitute and I satisfied my craving for salt.  Win-win!
6.  Eat scheduled meals so you are not hungry.
7.  Carry a healthy snack with you so you are not tempted to eat just anything if you are out and get hungry.

Bonne chance!  Tune in next Friday for Chapter 4-6!