Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 235 - The Glorious Vanilla Bean

But first, an update. So far this week I'm doing better about being mindful of my eating, and it feels really good, empowering type good, to be getting that small portion of my life back in control. It's amazing how one area of chaos spills over into another. Maybe eating in control will lead to my laundry being under control, too. A girl can wish...

So. The vanilla bean. The wondrous fruit of the Orchidaceae family of orchids (I didn't just make that up, click to learn about the vanilla orchid). Even though I could go on ad nauseum about the scientific and botanical importance of this fruit, I will refrain. I will instead tell you what I like to do with it!

A vanilla bean, split and scraped.
That mass of darkness is where it's at. Those are the tiny little 'seeds' inside the vanilla bean. They are the little black specs you see in vanilla bean ice cream, or in creme brulee or cheesecake. They are not the only useful part of this pod though. Never discard those wonderful bean pods! They can be steeped in milk for pudding or scratch made hot cocoa. Or you can make your coffee just a little bit more wonderful...

Awesome vanilla/coffee idea number one: Get a little mason jar (the kind you use to make homemade jam) and place your scraped vanilla bean pod(s) in and fill the jar with white granulated sugar. Give it a couple weeks and the sugar will be infused with the vanilla essence. Use the sugar in coffee, gentle black or white teas, on top of sugar cookies for baking... Or any other sugar application that would benefit from a hint of vanilla. No need to toss the vanilla pods out after they have mingled with the sugar for two weeks, I've left mine in for more than six months and they simply continue to impart their aroma and flavor into the sugar.

Idea number two: infused coffee!

My favorite at home brew in the background, Peet's Coffee (Major Dickason's Blend). Not widely available--yet--on the East coast (a staple on shelves on the corners of intersections in the Pacific Northwest), but if you can find it, give it a try. It won me over after the first sip.

I have a Keurig coffee machine that is like my left arm... I don't know what I'd do without it on the mornings that I'm not on campus at Apple Pie Bakery Cafe. It's my coffee buddy. It makes a freshly brewed individual cup every time, and it only takes 30 seconds! Now, you can buy prepackaged 'K-Cups' that are already measured out coffee/tea/cocoa, insert, press a button and enjoy--which I do. You can also get a nifty little attachment for under $10 and fill it any time you like with your favorite at home blend (like Peet's). And I figured why not add something else as it works it's magic?

Vanilla bean seeds! I scraped them and added them along with the coffee grounds to the cup for my coffee and brewed away...

There's my Keurig and my new favorite coffee mug from another Pacific Northwest institution, Seattle's Best Coffee (which is incidentally owned by Starbucks, and which I prefer to their powerful and popular big brother corporation).

Mmmmmmmmm!!! Add a little vanilla bean infused sugar, a touch of milk (or not) and you've made a pretty special cup of coffee.  A very simply way to indulge without having to explain it to your hips : )

What's your favorite at home brew? And how do you jazz it up?

Day 234 - And Life Gets In The Way

Then again, how could life really get in the way of life?

Either way, had a sick little guy yesterday so my post on vanilla bean goodness took the back seat...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 233 - Kara's Cheesecake Story

Once upon a time, a pastry chick named Kara (how coincidental!) decided to grace a birthday boy with cheesecake. Cheesecake was one of his favorite things, especially Kara's--no one made cheesecake quite like her (good thing they were married). So Kara set out upon a task, to create yumminess without fighting against her waistline. This is how she did it...

A typical view from inside my Kitchenaid bowl.
Kara's Killer Cheesecake (adapted)  

*To make individual servings like I have, you can use creme brulee cups like I have here, or small mason jars--the ones used for canning jams and preserves--to control portions and create a quicker bake and refrigeration time.*
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  •  14 Oreos, finely crushed (or 1.5 cups of graham cracker crumbs)
  • 16oz. reduced fat cream cheese (room temp.)
  • 2 large eggs (room temp.)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla bean seeds scraped from half of a Madagascar bourbon vanilla bean (or just add another squirt of vanilla extract if you can't find this in the spice section at your grocery store)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F degrees. Place individual serving cups staggered on a cookie sheet.

2. Melt butter till completely liquid and combine with the Oreo crumbs. Divide the crumb mixture evenly between all cups and gently pat down the mix inside the cups (don't pack it down or it become too hard to break into with a spoon).

3. Bake these for 6 minutes. Remove form oven and let sit at room temperature. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F degrees.

4. Set a pot of water to boil while you begin making the cheesecake mixture--you'll need it for the water bath while they bake.

5. Blend the cream cheese and sugar well in the bowl of a standing mixer on low speed till there are no lumps.

6. Add the eggs one at a time, blending well and scraping the bowl between additions. Scrape the bowl before adding the vanilla, vanilla bean seeds, salt and lemon juice. Blend well again.

7. Divide the cheesecake mixture evenly between the cups, careful not to drip the mix along the sides of the cups. Tap them each lightly on the counter to remove air bubbles.

Staggered and mostly filled.

8. Stagger the cups evenly inside a medium baking pan (the pan should be deep enough to allow for the water to be poured half way up the sides of the cups). Before adding the water to the pan: pull out the oven rack and place the pan with the cups onto it--then carefully pour the water. Be careful not to splash water inside the cups (removing one cup from near the edge and pouring water carefully there will allow enough room to avoid most splashing).

*if you can't do a water bath baking method because you haven't learned how to boil water, or whatever the case might be, turn your oven down to 225F degrees for baking*

9. Bake approximately 20 minutes. The cheesecake should NOT have any brown color to the top, and should still look mostly wet (not dried out) and should still jiggle in the center when the pan is lightly moved about (think Jell-O Jiggler commercials).

10. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours at this size (8 hours if you make this recipe for a single 6 or 8 inch round).

11. Try to share with others. You do have 10 individual servings after all...

Kara, the pastry chick, felt very strongly about proper cheesecake. There were just some rules that she wished everyone would follow so the world could be a better place when it comes to cheesecake, like: never over-bake it; no browning on top; jiggly is good; and share it.

Yes, I do eat these absolutely yummy things. They do fit within my lifestyle. I don't eat them everyday, but I'm consciously aware of what their impact is on my daily food intake and how my body burns them versus whole foods.

Losing weight doesn't mean losing the foods you love ; )

Happy birthday darling! They're all for you... But please share <3

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 232 - Weigh In Day

It wasn't horrible. I gained .4 pounds. It could have been a no gain/no loss week had I abided by my GHGs (Good Healthy Guidelines). I missed most of my veggies/fruits, didn't get my dairy in most days, and may as well have been in the Sahara for all the water I drank.

But, what did I expect? Nothing less than this actually. I'm owning this small, though significant, gain and am going to take care of it. Here's my action plan for the week, beginning today:

      • Clear the kitchen of trigger foods (chocolate, desserts)
      • Get more fruits and veggies to have on hand
      • Make a dinner plan for the entire week (for the whole fam)
      • Make a daily meal plan for me for the week
      • Get a master 'To-Do' list accomplished and stick to it
My meal plan will be posted later today--accountability.

These things are key to my success in changing my lifestyle. When I set myself up for success, I succeed. That's what I need to get back to.

Let's do it! 

Later that day... (my weekly meal plan I promised)

See? There it is : )

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 231 - I've Been In Denial--And Potato Pancakes : )

I haven't been in potato pancakes, like this post title suggests. No need to call in the troops for a recon mission. No worries. But...

Let's get the confession out of the way first.

I've been eating like crap since I returned from my trip. I begin each day with good motivation and intentions and on plan. Then by about 2pm I'm starting to spiral out of control, eating high-point, low nutrition, non-whole foods. And because they are not filling or satisfying at all, I then eat more, and it keeps going 'round and 'round and 'round. And for the first time while being on the Weight Watcher's program, my points are in the red for the week--which means I've eaten more than my allotted points. And I haven't tracked everything I ate yet... This stops today.

That's why I told all of you. My accountability has been key in my success, and denying to myself and you what I've been doing is only going to hurt my efforts. The scale will be honest with me tomorrow morning and I'm ready to accept responsibility for what I've done. Time to move forward!

And because of all of this, I woke up wanting left overs. But this doesn't mean I can't get creative and incorporate them in a healthful and reasonable way into my morning meal. So here's what I did. And it counts for 1 veggie serving and 2 heart healthy oils. Score!

Mashed 'Potato' Pancakes
  • 1/2 cup leftover Mashed 'Potatoes' with Chives (from my Turkey Day menu, or your own mashers)
  •  2 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 Tbsp.shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1.  In a small frying pan, heat 1 tsp. olive oil over medium heat.

2.Meanwhile, with a fork mix together the egg white and left over mashed potatoes until they are very well incorporated.

3. Add the Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Tilt the frying pan from side to side to evenly coat it with olive oil. Scoop all of your potato and egg mixture into the pan and spread evenly so you have a nice round shape, not quite the full size of the pan. Allow to cook for at least 4 minutes before you try to check the underside for doneness. (keep an eye on the heat and if it seems to be scorching the pancake, every stove top's 'medium' heat is different--adjust as necessary)

5. Once you're able to insert a spatula under the pancake without it breaking, gently lift one side a pour the remainder of the olive oil, then flip it.

6. Continue cooking until the bottom has set as well. Then enjoy!

This is good as is, or with a dab of ketchup.

4 PP for Weight Watcher's as written with 1 veggie serving and 2 heart healthy oils.

nom nom nom!

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Day 230 - Eating Right Again and A Turkey Day Recap

    Time to get back on track with eating. Yesterday was delicious and my friend Becca joined us for dinner (and the making of it because I got myself in over my head : ) ) which made the day that much better. But I ate lots of food. I kept my portions reasonable, and I didn't feel the need to go back for seconds. I did splurge a little with dessert, but I'm a baker and I have my breaking point.

    Here's what I ate, pics of the final dishes, and their recipes as I made them. They would be great any time, and a few will be making an encore on my Christmas menu. Enjoy!

    Broccoli Cheddar Soup
    • 4 cups uncooked broccoli (florets and stems)
    • 2.5 cups chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup fat free milk
    • 4 oz. Cheddar (or colby) cheese
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 4 Tbsp. corn starch

    1. place broccoli and broth into a large sauce pot, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until broccoli is tender.

    2. Laddle the broccoli and broth into a blender (food processors tend to leak and be messy... ask Becca who found this out when helping me make the soup) and puree to desired consistency. I like mine with a bit of texture and bite, not completely smooth.

    3. Return to pot and add cheese, stirring, over medium heat.

    4. The cheese may seem stringy at this point, so now we can use the cornstarch and milk. Combine the milk and starch together with a whisk and slowly add it, while stirring, to the soup. It will being to thicken.

    5. Serve and enjoy! Adding some fresh, crumbles of the broccoli florets and shredded cheese makes for a beautiful presentation.

    Asparagus Risotto
    • 1 lb. asparagus
    • 3 each shallots, diced
    • 1/2 tsp salt (for cooking water)
    • 1 Tbsp Butter
    • 1 cup Arborio rice
    • 1 Tbsp (fresh if you can) lemon juice
    • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 4 cups fat free chicken broth
    Before we begin, let me just say that making risotto means stirring, and stirring, and stirring. I can't emphasize enough how much stirring you will do, but the end product is wonderful. So when my instructions say 'stir,'  boy do I mean it : )

    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Fill a large bowl with ice and cover with cool water. Add asparagus to the pot and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from the water immediately and place in the ice bath (stops the cooking process and keeps 'em nice and green). Set aside.

    2. Bring broth to a simmer in a small sauce pot. Meanwhile, in a medium sized sauce pot, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted and hot, add shallots, stirring frequently, until they are translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Add the rice to the onions in the pot and stir: cook about 2 minutes.

    3. Add lemon juice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.

    4. Begin adding the simmering broth to the rice, while stirring, half of a cup at a time. Don't add the next bit of broth until the rice has absorbed all that it has. This is important!!! It'll take about 20 minutes for this stage. Once the risotto is creamy it's ready. Take a taste, some people like the rice slightly al dente, some like it soft (that's me). Cook a little more (with a tad bit more liquid) if you like it creamier and softer.

    5. Remove the pot from the heat, add the cheese and stir to combine. Stir in the asparagus and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Corn and Prosciutto Casserole
    *I've made a couple adjustments to the recipe I actually used, I didn't like the final consistency, so I adjusted it for you. My readers mean too much to be to bestow runny corn casserole on them : ) *
    • 1 thick slice prosciutto (available at most deli counters)
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 2/3 cup sweet, yellow onion, diced
    • 2/3 cup red bell pepper, diced
    • 1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
    • 1 large bag Birds Eye Steamfresh Corn (plain, not the kind with sauce), cooked
    • 1/4 cup egg substitute (Egg Beaters)
    • 3/4 cups low fat Swiss cheese,grated
    • Salt and Pepper to taste
    • 3/4 cup seasoned croutons, crushed slightly
    1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Coat a shallow 2 quart baking dish with non-stick spray.

    2. In a medium frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and cook on each side until it becomes mostly crisp. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

    3. In the same pan, add the onion and cook until softened (about 4 minutes). Add red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender (about 6 to 8 minutes). Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

    4. Transfer onions and peppers to a medium sized bowl. Chop prosciutto and add to the bowl along with corn, egg substitute, cheese, salt and pepper. Spread this mixture into the baking dish and top with the croutons. Cover with foil.

    5. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove foil and bake until the top is golden brown and set firm (about 15 minutes). Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

    Sage and Chive Stuffing

    *The bread should be sliced into cubes and allowed to sit for a day or baked slightly to dry them out)
    • 1 loaf of caramelized onion bread (I used a francese bread baked at my school, The Culinary Institute of America, but any artisan type onion bread will do)
    • 1.5 cups Pepperidge farms herb stuffing mix
    • 2 tsp olive oil
    • 2 tsp butter
    • 1 cup sweet yellow onion, diced
    • 3 ribs celery, diced
    • 2 tsp. dried thyme
    • 2 tsp. dried sage
    • 1/4 tsp each salt and black pepper
    • 2 cups fat free chicken broth
    • 2 Tbsp. chives, fresh, snipped
    1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 4 quart shallow baking dish with non-stick spray.

    2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter. Once hot add the celery and onion and cook till translucent (about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir into the onion and celery and cook till they become fragrant (about 1 minute).

    3. Transfer onion and celery mixture eto a large mixing bowl. Add bread and remaining ingredients and toos to combine. Spread into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.

    Mashed 'Potatoes' with Chive
    • 8 oz. cauliflower florets
    • 3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
    • 1/4 cup fat free evaporated milk
    • 2 tsp. butter
    • 1 Tbsp fresh chives, snipped
    • Salt and Pepper to taste

    1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add potatoes and cauliflower florets. Boil until fork tender.

    2. Drain and mash using your favorite method until smooth. Add evaporated milk and butter.

    3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in chives.

    4. Amaze everyone at the dinner table that these are not true mashed potatoes!

    Sweet Potato Casserole
    *This recipe is my traditional one with the milk and most of the butter replaced by Greek yogurt*
    • 6 Large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces
    • 4 oz. Oikos Greek yogurt, fat free vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp. genuine vanilla extract
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1 Tbsp. butter
    • 4 cups mini marshmallows
    1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

    2. Bring a large pot of water to  a boil and add sweet potatoes. Cook until fork tender. Drain and mash.

    3. Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

    4. Spread into a shallow tart or baking dish and top with mini marshmallows.

    5. Bake until marshmallows are toasty.

    6. Try to keep little hands (and hubby hands) away from the marshmallows before you serve. The little open spots on the dish pictured above... Yup, that was my hubby and Angelo.

    Becca's Roasted Clementines with Cranberry Glaze

    Becca brought these to dinner and they were wonderful! She roasted the clementines and then added a beautifully smooth cranberry sauce/reduction/glaze. Sprinkled with a bit of ginger and sliced almonds, these were fantastic!

    Thank you Becca!

     Pumpkin Pie - Dough
    • 9 oz. Pastry flour (all purpose if you can't find Pastry)
    • 6 oz. Cold, unsalted butter, cubed
    • 3 oz. Water, ice cold
    • pinch of salt
    1. Combine flour, salt and butter in a food processor (using the dough blade) just until chunks of butter are the size of walnut halves.Use the pulse option, don't leave the processor in the on position.

    2. Slowly add ice water until the dough just barely comes together.

    3. Turn the dough out onto the counter and press together into a flat round disc. Be careful not to over-handle it as the warmth from you hands will melt the butter and reduce the flakiness of the final crust.

    4. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

    5. Make your pie filling.

    6. Dust your counter space or work surface with flour and begin to roll out the cold pie dough, being careful to keep it as round as possible.

    7. Transfer the rolled dough to the pie dish, shape it the inside curve and crimp the outer edge.

    8. Most pie fillings bake between 375F and 350F degrees which is perfect for this dough. Egg wash the edges and cover them with foil for the first half of the baking time. When you remove the foil, egg wash the crust again for a beautifully colored, shiny crust.

    Kara's Apple Crisp

    I featured this in the early fall when I picked too many apples... I made it again because it was fan-tab-ulous. Click here to go to the recipe : )

     Cranberry Ice (Sorbet)

    I've been forbidden to share this family recipe. It is from my husbands side of the family and it is a Thanksgiving staple. I'll still show you my process which you can follow with your favorite sorbet recipe.

    Not sure of a recipe you found online or in a cook book? Send it to me and I'll check out your ratios and ingredients. No guarantees, but I know my frozen desserts : )

     These are the ingredients that I use; the pot on the right has my boiled and pureed cranberries.

    Oh look! My cell phone : ) It was in the picture of the Pie dough above... covered in flour. I clearly have attachment issues with my phone.

    Why am I showing you an egg? Well it's this thing called Degrees Brix rating.(click there to learn about ultra food-sciencey stuff that makes sorbets and ices work).

    As far back as ancient China, pastry chefs knew that having the right amount of sucrose/sugar in comparison to water/liquid was necessary for the mixture to freeze properly. How did they do it before the amazing invention of a refractometer?



    Yeah, I didn't get it either when a Chef/Instructor first told me this. But when you place a raw egg (washed well of course) into a sugar/water solution, it will float to varying degrees based on how much sugar is in the mixture.

    More sugar -----> the less it sinks.
    We're looking for a nickel sized spot of the egg to be showing above the mixture. This mixture isn't quite there. To remedy this excess of sugar, add water a
    a little bit at a time till it sinks a little more (and the opposite if the egg isn't floating enough, add more sugar and cook to dissolve, then retest with the egg).

    Cool the mixture then add it to you at-home ice cream maker.

    I use a Cuisinart ice cream machine. At home and for small quantities it's great... until I can afford a Pacojet!

    Process until it's as thick as you like it for immediate serving, or transfer to a freezer-safe, airtight container and freeze at least 8 hours. Yum.

    Well, that's my longest post EVER. And one of the most delicious : ) Any questions or suggestions on the above recipes? Leave it below!

    Time to go recover from yesterday and convince my waistline that I won't eat like that again anytime in the near future... Off to decorate the Christmas tree!

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Day 228 - TURKEY DAY!!!!

    Yes, the turkey needed that bow.
    Yes. I know it's tomorrow. But today begins the preparations and pre-cooking. And I begin every year with brining my turkey. (And yes, that is a current picture of my turkey brining with a lovely fuchsia grossgrain bow. My hubby has yet to find it like that in the fridge, so shhhhhhhhhhh! I'll get the look for my shenanigans.)

    Why brine a turkey?
    What is a brine?
    And how do you make one?

    Brining is a great way to infuse flavor into the turkey with a salty, herbed and spiced liquid that the turkey bathes gloriously in for at least 24 hours prior to cooking. It not only makes  more flavorful bird, but you cuts will be more tender and juicier. I always hated a dry slice of turkey, and this is an almost error proof way to get the best out of the gobbler (unless you're like some people I know *coughmomcough* that can dry out the best of birds).

    My turkey this morning, just before the booze
    Photo by WizardRecipes.com

    Now that we have come to a consensus as to why we should all practice brining, how do we do it? It really simple and for this I will defer to my go-to recipe and how-to from the Domestic Diva herself, Martha. Follow the link to learn how easily you could begin brining this morning and have an ah-MAZ-ing bird tomorrow.

    Martha Stewart's Turkey Brining Method and Recipe

    And now for my menu (so far) for Turkey Day:

    Sage and Chive Stuffing with a caramelized onion francese bread.

    Corn Casserole with prosciutto and panko crumb topping (ignore the croutons in the pic... I'll take a shot of mine and post it Friday).

    Sweet Potato Casserole...Yes, it will have marshmallows. I will be guilted to no end if I omit the marshmallows.

    Chive Studded Mashed 'Potatoes'. Why the quotes? They are cut with cauliflower to minimize the starch and caloric impact. I'm excited, these have gotten wild reviews online.

    Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Made with skim milk and a sharp cheddar.

    Asparagus Risotto featuring arborio rice and a touch of lemon.

    Pumpkin Pie. No explanation needed.

    Kara's Apple Crisp that I featured last month during my "I picked too many apples" craze. It was fantastic! But I like to make it a day ahead and let it rest so it isn't crispy anymore... Bizarre, I know. I like slightly soggy apple 'crisp.' Eh. What are gonna do?

    Cranberry Ice. It's more like a sorbet, but it has been a staple on the post-turkey menu for my hubby's family since forever. So now I make it too : )

    Bread. Biscuits. Rolls. Turkey. Gravy (can't do much about this one). Cranberry something for the table...

    I'll post these recipes as I am going to make them later this evening, just in case you need any last minute, easy ideas to jazz up the dinner table tomorrow. Or just in case you have to bring something to cousin Rita's and and are too preoccupied with how to handle drunken Uncle Bill and his dancing with the dog to think for yourself. Hey, we all have our Ritas and Bills. You're not alone.

    Happy eating!

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Day 227 - Great Inspiration, Food and Entertainment

    Man! It's like the perfect first date! (Read title of post if confused...)

    I've found a few interesting places lately and have generously decided not to keep it to myself. Check out these places for some great Turkey Day and everyday food ideas!

    Hungry Meets Healthy: Christina loves exercise. Christina loves food. Christina is a riot and has won awards for her blogging shenanigans. Lots of terrific recipes here. The one I've linked to is 6 PP per serving (at 4 servings) for Weight Watchers. I'll be making that next week...

    Peas and Crayons: Food, art, life, and inspiration rolled up in one here. I found lots of great resources. Jennifer focuses on veggies since they are a vastly under-represented group in the blog-o-sphere. And she makes them yummy.

      Jillian's Kitchen: Jillian is a fellow 100+ boardie on Weight Watchers. She is kinda famous around our parts and has received awards for her blog that is packed with recipes. They are delish and weight-loss friendly. On Weight Watchers? She has PP values already broken down for you.

    Stop by these sites, I promise it's worth the click!

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Day 226 - Pasta with Broccoli Sauce and Chicken

    I need to tools to get me back fully into the swing of things so I decided to while away an hour or so perusing a few food sites for yummy inspiration. I was really looking for ways to improve my options on Turkey day (which I did find, stay tuned) and I came across something that almost made me drool.

    I love pasta any way it comes, so this was just another great idea to add to my collection... Until I tried it. It's soooooo much more than just pasta! The sauce--cheesy, creamy and packed with fiber-y veggieness-- was a welcome respite from the traditional red sauce (though I could eat that alone till the day I croak and be completely content). The addition of chicken was my doing. I need protein with a meal, the carbs from the pasta would leave me hungry in a couple hours otherwise. Altogether, this meal got a HUGE thumbs up from my hubby and boys (mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and two nephews, too). So enjoy!

     Broccoli Sauce (for pasta)

    • 6 cups broccoli, chopped (florets and stems)
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 cup low sodium, fat free chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
    • 1/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese
    • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
    • garlic powder to taste
    • salt and pepper to taste

    1. Heat oil in a small/medium frying pan over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add the chopped onion and sautee until it becomes translucent and starts to caramelize. (unsure how to caramelize? click here and watch the video at the bottom of the my page!) Reserve the onions.

    2. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a 2 quart sauce pot. Add the broccoli and allow to boil covered for 10 minutes.

    3.Once the broccoli is finished, place it in a food processor or blender with the stock, onions, Parmesan cheese, and cream cheese. Blend until almost smooth. Add seasonings to taste and blend to desired consistency.

    Makes: 6 servings, 1 PP (yes, that's right... ONE!)

    In the picture, I served it over 1 cup of whole wheat spaghetti and topped it with 3 ounces of sauteed chicken breast. I also added 1 tsp of safflower oil to get in another heart healthy oil for the day. 8 PP finished, as pictured.

    Tomorrow: A few interesting food and blog finds. Stop by : )

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Day 225 - Weigh In

    : )

    Even though I am not completely back in pre-trip form, I can still see that the way I eat works.

    A loss of 1.8 pounds this week! That's right on track for my typical weight loss, and I have a few pounds to catch up on from the 3 weeks of gluttony. Now my next test... TURKEY DAY!!!

    I'm excited to plan a menu and adjust some of my typical dishes to be more healthful while still being delicious. I have the talent and the know-how (I'm a student at The Culinary Institute of America for heavens sake!) so it's time to put that knowledge to my own personal use.

    Some of my menu items (other than the bird) and how I used to prepare them:
    • Mashed Potatoes: usually Russets; typically loaded (and I mean loaded) with butter, whole milk, sour cream; also with small dice green and red bell peppers, garlic, salt and pepper.
    • Sweet Potato Cassarole: TONS of butter and brown sugar, and of course topped with toasty marshmallows (or smell-os as my boys would say)
    • Gravy: It is what it is. Any suggestions? This may end up being my big indulgence.
    • Biscuits and Rolls: I'm a baker. I love bread any way it comes. 
    • Pumpkin Pie: A thick and flaky crust with a perfect egg based custard filling; whipped cream, lots of whipped cream.
    I'm going to get creative. I'm also going to add other vegetable based dishes to my menu that are packed with flavor so I can fill up a bit, still have some of my indulgences, and get away from the table not feeling like I missed out on anything.

    Stay tuned this week for ideas to make your Thanksgiving menu full of flavor and waistline friendly : )

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Day 224 - Reality

    Getting back to reality for the last 7 days has been a nightmare. I spent 3 weeks in lala land and allowed myself to get out of all of the great habits I had created for myself. I didn't enjoy it particularly... It's not like I was partying hard with the junk food. But it has made certain things more difficult again.

    I'm having a hard time planning. I'm fighting tracking my food at the times I should (I've been waiting till the end of the day, when I get home from school, tired and hungry, only to realize I have a sliver of points left to eat). I'm disliking grazing all day, which is what I had been doing to keep ravenous hunger at bay--and now i just want to eat whatever I see, whenever I see it. (Don't ask about my Friday night fiasco in the pantry and secret cupboards...)

    I'm human. And thus I am not perfect and never will be. I do hold myself to difficult and stringent standards that I would never hold anyone else to which makes letting myself off the hook for a 'not really that bad' week feel awful. I did track what I ate, I did eat better this week than I had in the 3 weeks prior, and I do expect a lose tomorrow morning at weigh-in.

    Man. Reality bites (sometimes).

    Tomorrow: Weigh-in and a food plan for the week--only 1 day at school to plan for and then TURKEY DAY!!!

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Day 222 - Roasted Beet Salad For Turkey Day

    I had a delicious beet salad with a creamy goat cheese dressing while I was in Portland.

    See. There it is.

    A crisp bed of greens with slices of (madarine?) orange, golden raisins and and that delightfully creamy dressing. I'm thinking this too will grace my Thanksgiving table next week. I'm thinking I'll mix romaine with arugula, add some cranberries or pomegranate seeds, hope for blood oranges with candy stripe and golden beets.

    I'll be testing out a recipe for creamy goat cheese dressing I found at Food & Wine online. It's simple and straight to the point. No frills or fuss.

    How to roast a beet? Here you go : )

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Day 221 - Thanksgiving Inspiration

    So... I have been rebounding from the rich and indulgent food I ate over the last 3 weeks while trying to tame my creative juices (Thanksgiving menu planning). I am haunted by one particular dish that I enjoyed in a rather animated fashion while at Oregon Culinary Institute--prosciutto wrapped fig.

    (yes, i know this looks like a delightful little bacon roll-up, but i swear there is a black mission fig inside...)

    Prosciutto = amazing ham/bacon/pork/dry aged/smoked yumminess

    fig = fresh fruit that usually becomes a "Newton"

    Prosciutto + Fig = amazing sweet and salty love child. Nestled delicately upon a scant bed of arugula drizzled with balsamic vinegar, I could have eaten plate after plate. I'm thinking of recreating it for bite sized side dishes next Thursday. I think I'll broil them, but maybe I'll throw one or two into the sautee pan. Yum.

    And at if you use super thin prosciutto (which is the only way to use it really) you can have 2-3 of these beauties for only 1 PP (Weight Watcher's). Now try to argue... See, you can't. : )

    I think this will be the first of my week long set of posts musing about delicious, flavor packed Thanksgiving dishes that are figure friendly. Sounds good to me!

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Day 220 - Caramelized Onion, Sausage and Goat Cheese Pizza


    This could create an addiction like my Avocado Chicken Pizza... This recipe is a take on Mystery Bay Farm's goat cheese pizza recipe. I've broken it down for you and made it and waistline friendly. And if you've never had the need to caramelize an onion, see the YouTube video below the recipe... It's much easier to show than tell : )

    Caramelized Onion, Sausage and Goat Cheese Pizza

    • 1 Original Light Flatout wrap
    • 2 tsp olive oil
    • 2 oz. semi-soft or soft plain goat cheese (though and herbed one would be fantastic!)
    • 1 cup sliced raw onions (it's important that the onions are cut to the same width so they cook evenly and don't burn, 1/3 inch will do)
    • 1/2 link of cooked Italian sausage, sliced and cut into halves
    • 1/4 tsp. crushed rosemary
    • salt and pepper to taste

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On top of a baking sheet, place foil (or non-stick mat) and then the Flatout wrap.

    2. In a small 1 or 1.5 quart sauce pot, place 1 tsp of olive oil and all of the sliced onions. Cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, golden colored and sweet smelling. (see video below) Set aside.

    3. Cook sausage thoroughly, either by pan frying, grilling or microwaving. Slice thin, and cut half of the slices in half again; like half moons. Set aside.

    4. Drizzle remaining tsp of olive oil over the Flatout wrap and spread evenly with your finger. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the entire wrap. Lay the caramelized onions and sausage over the goat cheese and sprinkle the rosemary, salt and pepper over top.

    5. Bake approximately 9 minutes or until the edges of the wrap are beginning to turn brown.

    This pizza was 8 PP (Weight Watchers) for me, but you'll need to calculate your own sausage per it's packaged nutrition guidelines. It's one of the yummiest things I've eaten in the last 3 weeks... see yesterday's post to gauge how amazing this pizza really must have been : )


    Tomorrow- more of my trip and some inspiration for more meals.

    Caramelizing Onions:

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Day 219 - Weigh In After 3 Weeks Off

    I gained weight. 6.2 lbs. to be exact, though over a 4 week period and accounting for a rebound from some medical issues. I'm o.k. with this... Time to get back on the horse!

    My trip out west was wonderful! I ate a TON of amazing food and sampled some of the country's best wines. Here's a brief pictorial documentation of some of the yumminess... details to follow.

    Geoduck (pronounced gooey-duck) a shell fish very popular in Asia

    Wagyu Sirloin

    A doughnut from VooDoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon. One of the most unnecessary and delicious things I've ever put in my mouth.

    Cheese and charcuterie pairings for our wine tasting at Chateau St. Michelle.

    Dessert amuse at The Herbfarm just outside Seattle, Washington.

    Cheese selections at Mount Townsend Creamery.

    Salmon crostini amuse bouche at Spur.

    Oyster roast on the beach at Hama Hama. A salmon sacrificed itself from the waters to join our river-side party. We filleted him there and added him happily to the open fire.

    More to come tomorrow...

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Day 218 - I've Returned!

    And wow! That was an amazing 3 weeks... Full of food, wine, brews, sights and incredible people.

    Now time for getting back on track with eating and healthy living. I'm actually craving a return to what my normalcy had become. I WANT to measure my food and feel in control of portions and nutrition. I WANT to be physically active. I want to be in charge again.

    I'll never forget that once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    Tomorrow I weigh in for the first time since October 15th. Last I weighed in I had been battling some medical issues and had been resisting food for about 2 weeks, resulting in an unhealthy amount of weight lost. I'm ready for what whatever the scale gives me.

    I'll also add a page filled with pics of the the things I did and deliciousness I ate... Food pron : )

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Day 212- More Success!

    Granted, again it's sideways (just can't figure it out from my phone) but last night I went at it again,  and I inspired two of my tripmates to join : ) 

    6.08 miles
    659 calories
    60 minutes

    It felt good!

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