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


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


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


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)


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


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


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


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


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.

08 April 2009

Lazy Daisy Cake

Vintage recipes fascinate me.  At times, they can be downright scary, i.e. jello with meat in it, but most of the time, they are fabulous recipes that have stood the test of time.  Lazy Daisy Cake has been around since the 30's.  In an era where hard working women were washing diapers by hand and hanging them on the line, and everything was made from scratch, the lazy daisy cake was a way to get a wonderful dessert on the table without too much effort or the fuss of a real frosting.  The topping on this cake is a broiled coconut topping which caramelizes milk, brown sugar, and butter.  I was able to put this cake together in about 10 minutes, and then watched as it broiled for about 4 minutes at the end.  Because the topping is so moist, the cake also lasted more than a week and tasted just as wonderful as the first day with a little zap in the microwave to re-warm the topping.  I'd totally recommend it.  I'm sending this one over to Joy at Joy of Desserts for her Vintage Recipe Thursday event.

Lazy Daisy Cake adapted from America's Best Lost Recipes


For cake:
2 c. high gluten unbleached flour (or all purpose)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbls. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 c. granulated sugar

For topping:
9 Tbls. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
6 Tbls. evaporated milk
1 1/2 c. sweetened, shredded coconut


1.  For the cake:  Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13, broiler safe baking pan (Do not use Pyrex)
2.  Heat the milk slightly in a small saucepan and melt the 4 Tbls. butter in it.  Do not boil.
3.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Set aside
4.  In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium high until pale and thick, about 6 minutes.
5.  Fold half of the flour mixture into the egg mixture, then stir in 1/2 of the milk mixture, stir the other half of the flour mixture into the egg mixture, then stir in the other 1/2 of the milk mixture.  
6.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
7.  Remove the cake from the oven when done, pre-heat the broiler with the oven rack still in the middle of the oven.
8.  For the topping:  In a medium bowl, melt the 9 Tbls. butter in the microwave.  Add the brown sugar, evaporated milk, and the coconut.  Spread the mixture on top of the cake.
9.  Place the cake back in the oven and broil until the topping is bubbling and starts to brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Cool slightly before serving.

07 April 2009

Mashed Potatoes with Mustard and Crunchy Shallots

When cooking for guests, I tend to try new recipes.  I know this is risky, but I guess I love the hunt of the new recipe and having guests over is a perfect excuse to go on a hunt.  This recipe was made for this Sunday's lunch with guests, and was adapted from the cookbook Simple to Spectacular by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman.  This is the same cookbook from which I adapted the Raspberry Sorbet with Thai Chili and Lemon.  These potatoes are another winning recipe from the book and my favorite part of Sunday's lunch.  The mustard in the dish gives the potatoes a lovely tang and the crunchy shallots make a nice contrast of textures against the smooth mashed potatoes.  I was also able to time this recipe to be finished with the other dishes by keeping the boiled mashed potatoes in their boiling water on the stove for 20 minutes while the other dishes were cooking.  When the other dishes were finished, it was quick work to drain the potatoes and mash them.  That way, everything was hot and finished at the same time.  The fried shallots may make this dish a bit heavy for warmer weather, but if you are looking for an upscale potato dish for Easter next week, this is your dish.

Mashed Potatoes with Mustard and Crunchy Shallots adapted extensively from Simple to Spectacular


4 oz. shallots, peeled
Canola oil
6 Russet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. milk
4 Tbls. unsalted butter
2 Tbls. Dijon mustard


1.  Heat the oil over medium high heat in a skillet.  
2.  While your oil is warming, slice your shallots using a thin setting on a mandoline or in a food processor using the smallest slicing disk
3.  When the oil is heated, add the shallots to the oil, stirring constantly until browned.  Do not leave them as they will burn quickly.  When browned well, remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel.  This step can be done several hours beforehand.
4.  In the meantime, place the potatoes in a big pot and cover with water.  Salt the water and potatoes generously.  Bring the water to a boil and boil the potatoes until soft, around 20 minutes.  If you are not ready to assemble the potatoes, you may leave the potatoes in the warm water (off of the heat) for up to 20 minutes.
5.  Drain the potatoes and place them back into the pot.  Add the milk and butter and mash.  Add the mustard and mix well.  Adjust the salt and pepper.
6.  Place the mashed potatoes in a serving bowl and top with the crunchy shallots.

06 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, tricks, strategies, as well as our successes and failures on our weight loss journeys.

Weight loss weekly has a new collaborator!  Bernie from Yo-yo No More has joined us in our weekly column and I am so excited.  Bernie is so insightful about herself and her weight loss journey.  She is a no holds barred type of writer and just lays all of her emotions on the line.  I really respect her honesty and can see so much of myself and what I struggle with in her.  Hop on over to her lovely blog and welcome her!

Today, Nurit from 1 Family. Friendly. Food asks:

You’re trying to lose weight and eat good food, but there is a type of food or drink that you love so much. It could be junk food, it could be loaded with calories but you just got to have it. You might be able to avoid it in the short-term for the sake of your diet, but not all your life. It’s your weak-spot-food. What is it and why do you love it or crave it so much?

Here is what the other three have to say:

Bernie says:
"In this, my attempt at weight loss #982 736 001, I am determined to succeed like never before. Gone are the days of fad diets, restrictive food lists, obsessive weighing and the torturous feelings of deprivation and despair...... Read more at Yo-yonomore

Nurit says:
“There are a few weak spots for me, but I can narrow it down to two, heavy cream and baked goods. Since I can remember myself, I was fascinated by heavy cream... Read more at 1 family. friendly. food.

Sunny says:
"I'm still not sure the right way to deal with all my favorite bad-for-you foods. Should I limit myself to eating some of my favorite things only 1 day a week? Like an "eat whatever you want day"?" keep reading at www.ThatExtra20Pounds.blogspot.com

I say:

Weaknesses? Yeah, I can name a few dozen. Weaknesses can be shored up, however the irrational frenzy I feel when around a pepperoni pizza is another thing entirely! Oh pizza, why do you torment me so?

This is a photo of one of my very first blog posts Pizza Margherita

There is just something about pizza...the saltiness (Pepperoni is my favorite), the dough, the tomato sauce, the cheese...I know this is not a typical Weight Loss Weekly post for me, but if we are talking about weaknesses, I need to show you the extent of my obsession.

Homemade thyme foccacia, I believe this does count as a pizza

In the past 11 months, I have blogged 5 different pizza posts. Pizza alone is not necessarily bad for one who is dieting, it is the overeating of pizza that is bad. For some reason beyond me, I have the best of intentions when I begin eating pizza. I'll drink a glass or two of water, I'll serve one piece of pizza on a small plate and put the rest of the pizza in the oven to stay warm, I'll fill up my plate with vegetables, I'll mentally rehearse eating just one slice...yeah, I've tried them all, but pizza is just something that once I start, all reason goes out the window and I become frenzied!

I have tried experimenting with crusts using whole wheat in an attempt to fill up my tummy, this does work a little, but I don't stick with the whole wheat.

After looking at all of these photos, I wonder if I am a little masochistic!  I obviously love pizza, but I always feel guilty after eating 4 or 5 slices (oh, yes I do eat 4-5 slices)  Perhaps the answer for me is to try to stay away from pepperoni pizza as much as possible and just realize that it is a weakness.  Perhaps my problem is thinking I can control my obsession and that is where the guilty feeling is stemming from, because I can't control it.  Perhaps my best bet is pepperoni pizza abstinence and when I do occasionally indulge, just realize that this food is my weakest spot, indulge and enjoy, and just realize that the amount I consume cannot warrant having it more than once every month or two.  Actually, just typing those words gave me some sort of freedom from the frenzy.  

Indulge my inner monologue for a moment, will you?  I went to Chuck E. Cheese with the kiddos a few days ago and had 5 pieces of pepperoni pizza.  Okay, I felt enormously guilty afterwards, but let me just change this inner dialogue.  So I had 5 pieces of pizza, and they were good.  Wow, that was a lot of pizza and it did derail my diet this week, but, it happens, I'm human.  I need to get right back on the healthy eating train and just forgive myself.  Should I eat pizza every week?  Not if I want to continue on my new lifestyle.  Can I forgive myself for overindulging in pizza every couple of months?  Yes, I think I can make peace with that.

05 April 2009

Raspberry Sorbet with Thai Chili and Lemon

We had guests over for lunch today and since the weather is getting warmer, I wanted to lighten up the dessert a bit.  Sorbet seemed to be the order of the day.  This recipe is adapted from Simple to Spectacular by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman.  I have had this cookbook for awhile and frankly had never looked at it because it belonged to my husband before we got married.  A recent comment from Sam at My Carolina Kitchen made me pull it off the shelf and I have to tell you, it is wonderful!  To go along with this meal, I also prepared Mashed Potatoes with mustard and crunchy shallots, and Rabbit with Mustard, all to rave reviews.  It is a really well laid out book and the directions are simple.

Let's get back to this wonderful dessert.  The sorbet was fresh and bright tasting with the slightest hint of heat from the chili.  It made the perfect ender for a lazy spring lunch.

Raspberry Sorbet with Thai Chili and Lemon adapted from Simple to Spectacular


24 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
4 Tbls. lemon juice
1 Thai chili, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. water


1.  Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
2.  If desired, strain mixture through a fine sieve to remove the raspberry seeds.  I left them in for a more rustic feel.
3.  Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until completely chilled, 4 hours or overnight.
4.  Process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to directions.  Mixture will be soft.  You can serve it as is, or place the mixture in a freezable container and freeze 1-2 hours for a firmer consistency.  

04 April 2009

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

For my husband's birthday last week, he requested a St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.  He had seen this recipe in the Oct/Nov 2008 edition of Cook's Country and has been drooling over it for months!  It turned out really well (what from Cook's Country doesn't really?).  The bottom layer is a yeasted cake that is not too sweet and really retains a yeasty flavor.  It is topped with a gooey, pudding layer and then finished with powdered sugar.  It only made an 8 x 8 inch pan so we weren't overwhelmed with cake for days and days.  If super sweet cakes are your cup of tea, this cake is not for you, but if you like quirky, regional specialty cakes, this one will be a hit!  I'm sending this over to Susan over at Wild Yeast for her weekly YeastSpotting event.

St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake adapted from Cook's Country Oct/Nov 2008 edition



1/4 c. whole milk, warmed to about body temperature
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. high gluten, unbleached flour (or all purpose flour)
6 Tbls. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened

Gooey Layer:

1/2 c. sugar
4 Tbls. unsalted butter, softened
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbls. light corn syrup
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. high gluten, unbleached flour (or all purpose flour)
3 Tbls. instant vanilla pudding mix
Confectioners sugar


1.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  When oven reaches 200 degrees F, shut the oven off.  Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with a few wide strips of foil that hang over the edge to help in removing the cake from the pan when it is done.  Grease the foil, the pan, and a medium bowl.
2.  For the dough:  Combine the milk and yeast and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the yeast dissolves.  Add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour and mix until combined.  Increase the speed and add the butter, one Tbls. at a time.  Continue mixing for 5 minutes to help develop the gluten.  Transfer the batter to the greased bowl, cover with Saran wrap, and put in the warmed oven to rise for about 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, spread the batter into the prepared pan.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
3.  For the gooey layer:  In a bowl, beat the sugar, butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Reduce the speed and add the corn syrup, egg, and vanilla.  Add the flour and pudding mix and mix until combined.  Dollop mixture evenly over the batter and spread gently into an even layer over the cake batter.
4.  Place the cake into the oven and bake until the outside is golden and the topping is still jiggly and just starting to color slightly, about 25 minutes.  Cool in the pan for at least 3 hours, remove the cake from the pan using the foil strips.  Place the cake on a plate, remove the foil strips, and dust the cake with confectioners sugar.  Serve and refrigerate any leftovers.

03 April 2009

April French Friday #1

Bonjour to you lovely French people!  Can you believe it is not only Friday, but April?  Spring is taking her time getting dressed this year, and the anticipation has me frenzied, but I think the final product will be worth it.  She is adorning her hair in lots of delicate pink and purple blossoms and the hem of her dress is decorated in daffodils, tulips, and narcissus.  She is merely waiting for the sun to make her grand entrance.

With the arrival of April however, comes not only spring, but also a new book for French Fridays, The French Don't Diet Plan by Dr. Will Clower.  This is a bit of a departure for French Friday since it is an actual plan, but there is so much we can learn from this book and tricks to help us slow down, slim down, and enjoy our food.  I would recommend picking up a copy for yourself or checking one out from the library to understand the nuances of the plan.  Obviously I can't discuss all of his points, but I will be touching on the ones that affect my weight loss journey.

Today, I will be discussing Part 1 of The French Don't Diet Plan which encompasses the introduction, as well as Steps (chapters) 1 through 3.  What was most profound to me about this plan, is that Dr. Clower endorses eating REAL food.  I know you're thinking, "Well, isn't food all we eat?"  But the author deduces that the majority of food in American supermarkets is "faux", filled with inventions and ingredients designed to keep them shelf stable, moist, smelling appetizing, sweetening them, etc.  There is nothing real about these ingredients and they are just designed to fool us into thinking the food is real.  French people eat REAL food which is what our bodies are designed to eat.  The French eat vegetables, cheeses, yogurts, eggs, meats, while Americans are eating packaged lettuce gassed with chemicals to make it last longer, cheese products, "yogurts" with thickeners, sweeteners and stabilizers, egg substitutes, and meat that has been cured with nitrites and flavorings.  Real food grows from the ground, or comes from an animal that had a mother and a father.  There are no inventions or added ingredients in a tomato or an egg, they are just a tomato or an egg, but when you look at egg substitutes, or canned tomato products, you are ingesting a lot more than just egg and tomato.

Dr. Clower recommends a pantry purge and eating only real food.  I completely understand Dr. Clower's recommendation of eating real food.  In fact, when I thought about all of the "inventions" in my diet, it kind of grossed me out a little and made me angry at the American system of food commerce.  However, I know that a pantry purge is going to be difficult for me to do.  Partly because I think of all the wasted money in "food" and I know that my pantry will be mainly empty when I'm finished with the exception of a container of grits, some old fashioned oats, and the baking ingredients like flour, sugar and my stash of high end chocolates.  But all of the rest would have to go.  Am I ready for that?  Do I really want to continue to consume "inventions"?  Do I really want my kids to continue to consume "inventions"?

This morning, I quickly grabbed four products out of my pantry to examine:  Rice Krispies, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Spirals, Carnation Instant Breakfast by Nestle, and Marie Callender's Whole Grain Caesar Gourmet Croutons.  I have always looked at the calories and the fiber in products as to how "good" or "bad" they were, but Dr. Clower is telling us to retrain ourselves to look for "inventions".  Deep breath....okay, here I go.

The Rice Krispies contain rice, sugar, salt (okay so far), malt flavoring (hmmm....) and high fructose corn syrup (doh!  invention!)  And that is in a cereal that I have never thought of as sweet.

Carnation Instant Breakfast by Nestle.  This touts itself on the outside of the package as being a "complete nutritional drink" with "2x protein of an egg and 2x the calcium of yogurt".  I sometimes give this to my children for breakfast with a piece of toast.  Gulp, looking on the back....nonfat milk, sugar (okay, real so far), maltodextrin, cocoa processed with alkali, lactose, dicalcium phosphate, natural and artificial flavors, carrageenan, sodium aluminosilicate, soy lecithin, magnesium hydroxide, sodium ascorbate, vitamin E acetate, vitamin A palmitate, .....ugh, I'm getting weary and disgusted....and I'm only halfway through!

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Spirals.  This is a twice monthly staple in our house because it is quick to prepare and the kids love it.  The "enriched macaroni product" contains:  Wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, Thiamin monotriate, riboflavin, and folic acid. (I read wheat flour that has been stripped of it's vitamins so the vitamins are added back in).  The Cheese Sauce Mix contains:  whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, salt, sodium tripolyphosphate, citric acid, lactic acid, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, milk, yellow 5, yellow 6, enzymes, cheese culture)  Bingo, inventions galore!

Marie Callender's Whole Grain Caesar Gourmet Croutons.  I bought these because they touted whole grains and were relatively low in calories.  Looking at the back, they contain:  Whole wheat flour, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup....and on and on.  I'll stop there since I've already come to two inventions in the first four ingredients!

I know my diet would be better if I stopped eating inventions.  The question is, do I have the guts to actually do it?  I know that making my own croutons from bread that I've baked would be healthier, but can I give up the convenience?  On the same note, can I make my own macaroni and cheese to rid my children's diet of yellow 5 and 6 and sodium tripolyphosphate?  When I think of it in terms of ridding my diet of these inventions, of course I can make my own food from real ingredients, it is just my penny pinching side that is going to have a hard time just throwing these fake foods away.  Perhaps this step will be gradual for me.  As I use them up, just not replace them.

Lose your Sweet Tooth

Dr. Clower goes on to say that when we eliminate these fake foods (like high fructose corn syrup) from our diet, we will eventually lose our sweet tooth.  Real dessert and real chocolate will be a luxurious end to our meals, instead of something we crave and overeat.  American ooey gooey desserts will just become cloyingly sweet and you will begin to love yogurts, and cheeses, and fruit tarts as desserts.

Homework for this week:

1.  Do a pantry purge (if you dare).  If you are like me, at least look at the ingredient lists of things in your pantry.  How do you feel about including these "non-food ingredients" in your diet?  How do you think your diet would change if you were only eating real food?  Think about how eating only real food might free you from calorie counting, carb counting, sugar counting, etc.

Next week, I will continue to discuss The French Don't Diet Plan with Part 2:  How the French Eat.  This section has really helped me with my biggest hurdle to weight loss, eating too fast.  I hope to see you all there!  In the meantime, tie your scarves jauntily around your necks and go out for a stroll to admire Spring's beautiful new dress.