It’s 7 pm on day two and I am really tired. My muscles are sore. I had a lot to do today with my writing and then running my kids around. However, I still stuck to my schedule. Even though I wanted to plop on the couch after walking in the door, I didn’t. I finished my third workout instead. I am really proud of myself but know it’s only day two. 157 more days to go. I can do it. I know I can. Tomorrow, I will post the workout dvds I am using with links to buy them, in case anybody out there wants to join me in my quest. I am also going to write the recipe for my homemade salad dressing I have been using because it is really good. I will have the best night of sleep tonight…that I know for certain.
Archive for January, 2010
Okay, I have been talking about changing my lifestyle. Maybe I’d take a daily walk (which hasn’t happened), maybe I would eat lighter meals (a little less cheese and butter), and maybe I would drink less wine. Well, I haven’t changed much since January 1st. Now, I have some really good incentive. Yesterday, I learned that my relatives in England (my in-laws) are coming out here this summer to visit. So, I thought to myself, it would be great to have this new lifestyle I so desperately wish to adopt in full force by the time they arrive. Maybe I can knock off those extra pounds by then?
Well, I am pretty sure they won’t be here until after the fourth of July because school in England doesn’t end until late in July. The 4th sounds like a good goal to be completely emerged into my new lifestyle and looking great. Who knows? Maybe I will be comfortable in a bikini? At this point, I’d settle for feeling great in shorts. The other day, I realized I have gained 25 pounds since I met my husband. I think I can get back close to the shape I was in thirteen years ago with a little effort.
It seems like a long time until the 4th. It is exactly 159 days away. Starting today, I will eat a healthy breakfast and practice one hour of yoga in the morning. Then, I have a 20 minute core workout routine on DVD which I will do in the afternoon (before or after my salad for lunch). Finally, in the evening, I will walk or follow my cardio DVD I have.
The walk has been out of the question with blizzard-like weather. Although, I have seen my neighbor walking. Man, she has stamina. I also saw her cross country skiing the other day. But, she did not look like she was having any fun at all. I don’t understand cross country skiing.
I am going to have whatever I want for dinner because I don’t want to skimp on dinner or my food articles. I am going to try to limit myself to one glass of wine per night (on week nights) and two or three (weekends). I have noticed that any more than one glass on the week nights makes that 6:00 am alarm seem way too early.
This is day one of one hundred fifty nine days to a complete healthy overhaul. I ate scrambled eggs on toast (CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE), practiced yoga, ate a salad for lunch, did the core DVD, and now I am making a quiche (mushroom and onion) for dinner with a salad on the side. I still have to do the walk or cardio DVD before bed. I will do it! Here is a picture of how I look today. I am very embarrassed to do this; but, I want to see the results. I figured if anyone out there is going to follow along with my progress, you’d be interested in the results too. I will update it as we go. Wish me luck and join me if you want to.
“The Sweet Truth About My Sweet Tooth”
I am not a big fan of sweets. At least that is what I have been telling myself for several years. I don’t drink pop or eat Snickers bars or ice cream. I never order dessert. I usually eat a thin piece of birthday cake because I feel like it is bad luck for the birthday if I don’t. I am not sure where that superstition comes from. It’s like toasting with an empty glass. You should not toast with an empty glass…but, I am not exactly sure why. So, I steer clear of sweets and prefer to get my high calorie cravings from savory cheesy or buttery foods. Every Sunday my family makes crepes filled with Nutella. I cook them and serve them; but then, when everyone is finished, I usually heat up leftovers from the night before for my breakfast. I love eating dinner leftovers for breakfast. Maybe that is too much information. Sorry.
Now, I say I don’t like sweets and then every once in a while something catches me off guard like hot fudge melting out of a warm moist chocolate cake. Put one of those in front of me and I am knocking forks with my kids trying to get as many bites in as possible. I say, “I know I said you two can split it; but, mom just wants one more bite.” I do enjoy a really tasty chocolate bar on occasion. I also love hot fudge on ice cream. I don’t like ice cream but put some hot fudge on it and I am in spoon or no spoon. Another dessert I cannot resist is Crème Brule. There is a French restaurant in California where Claud and I would go on special occasions called Café Provencal. They serve lavender Crème Brule. That is a little bite of heaven, if heaven were a meal. I love cracking through the sugar layer with the back of my spoon. I am giddy over the combination of the creamy and crunchy textures colliding on my tongue.
So, maybe I do love sweets. Yes, I do. I love sweets. There, I said it. One day this past week the trees were covered in powdered sugar. It was snow but it looked like powdered sugar to me and it was so incredibly beautiful. I was in awe and took several pictures. I thought to myself, what can I make with powdered sugar? I have a problem with relating most things in life to food. I don’t bake much (thinking I wasn’t a big fan of sweets). So, I didn’t have many ideas of what would taste good with powdered sugar. Then, I remembered a recipe which I made a couple of weeks ago for the kids (alright, I made it for me too) when we were snowed in. It was a recipe for cinnamon rolls and the icing is made with powdered sugar. Did I mention, I love cinnamon rolls too? How do they make them so perfectly at Cinnabon? I love the inner layer the best where it’s hot and moist and most of the icing has settled. At Cinnabon, the whole bun tastes like it’s the center. I’ll have to look into their secret. For now, I am using a recipe I found by Angela Pritchett at Examiner.com. She is the Overland Park Baking Examiner. Have a look at her page because she has many great baking ideas. I was amazed at how simple making cinnamon rolls can be.
I suggest giving these cinnamon rolls a try. Eat them while they are hot and look out the window visualizing how the world is coated in powdered sugar. How lucky are we? I couldn’t just stop there. I decided to look into some unique hot cocoa ideas as well. You know, now that I love sweets. I am including a hot cocoa recipe here that you might think is strange but I know it is so very delicious. It’s spicy and chocolaty like the Aztecs used to make; however, the Aztecs probably didn’t use hot cocoa mix. I would caution against eating the cinnamon rolls and hot cocoa together. I’d hate to throw you into a sugar shock. Enjoy!
Angela Pritchett’s cinnamon rolls:
Time: less than an hour
Makes: 6 large cinnamon rolls
2 pkgs. Yeast
1 tsp sugar
½ C. warm water
1 ¼ C. buttermilk
½ C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
5 ½ – 6 C. flour
½ C. butter, softened
¾ C. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 ½ C. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9” round pans. Stir yeast and 1 tsp. sugar into warm water and let stand for five minutes until foam forms. Combine buttermilk, eggs, ½ C. sugar, baking powder and salt in large mixing bowl. Add yeast mixture and blend for two minutes at medium speed. Stir in enough flour until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Keep ½ C. flour to use for kneading. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Roll out dough into a rectangle approximately 12”x20” and ½ inch thick. Mix together the filling ingredients and spread evenly over the dough. Starting along the long edge, roll into a long roll. Cut the log into slices (use dental floss). Place into greased pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle on top.
Time: ten minutes
Serves: one delicious cup of hot chocolate
Wendy’s spicy hot cocoa
3 Tbsp hot chocolate mix
1 Tbsp chocolate syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ C. milk
¾ C. boiling water
In a coffee mug, combine all of the ingredients. Stir in the boiling water and mix.
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This week marks my final year of being in my 30s. We celebrate birthday week because the one day doesn’t always give the desired effect. 2010 is really a beginning and an ending: the end of my 30s and the beginning of a new decade. I am actually very excited about the hope and the possibilities. In light of what is happening in Haiti, all I can focus on is how grateful I am for so many things. I realize how amazing it is to have a loving family, wonderful and caring friends, plenty of food to eat and clean water to drink.
This year, I decided to have a quiet birthday. I began the day by driving my car to Wal Mart and then having the car break down. Obviously, this was not the plan. I went to Wal Mart to pick up my new glasses from the Vision Center. Now that I am approaching 40, my prescription is getting stronger. The Vision Center was not open. Who goes to Wal Mart at 7:30 a.m. anyway? So, the trip was for nothing. Then, I went back to the car and it wouldn’t start. Also, my phone barely received a signal. So, I had a quick choppy conversation with Claud which only made him worry. I knew we couldn’t afford a car repair bill. Thoughts began streaming through my head like, why don’t I have a better car, why would this happen on my birthday, why are we so broke. I felt a little like crying but pulled myself together.
I went back inside to warm up, collect my thoughts and devise a plan. I sat on the little black wire bench next to customer service. I tried not to think about the cashiers wondering if I was a weirdo or not. I took a deep breath and thought of how lucky I am to be healthy, to have an amazing public school to send my children to, to have healthy children, to be in love with my husband, to have safe paved roads to travel on, and to feel safe and secure living in southern Minnesota. Soon, a smile crossed my face and I didn’t feel sorry for myself anymore. In fact, I felt a bit stupid for feeling so pitiful in the first place. I decided to give the car another try. I trudged out there through the slushy snow with the wind pounding against my face smiling the whole way. I pulled the car door shut and turned the key. It started and I drove home happier than when I left in the morning.
That night, I asked my family if we could make dinner together and make a movie of it for my blog. I was in the mood for fish tacos. Claud said we could do anything I wanted to do and he didn’t make a single comment about the chick flick I picked out for after dinner. Actually, he ended up loving it. This is how we spent my birthday. It was simple and perfect. We all had fun making the fish taco movie and everyone enjoyed eating the tacos (even if Jack made his with only sour cream, cheese and olives).
Soon after the movie, one of our friends called and asked if he could speak to Claud. I asked, “What did Dan want?” Claud looked at me like a deer in headlights. He didn’t say a word. I started laughing and then he laughed. It was supposed to be a surprise. However (and yet another thing I am grateful for), Claud cannot lie to me. So, he told me the truth. Our friends wanted to come over and cook dinner for me the next day. How amazing is that? I felt like crying. Only, the tears at the end of the day were because I realize just how lucky I am and how life is so full of wonder and joy. This birthday week is beginning better than I ever could have planned.
Pan fried tilapia fish tacos:
Time: 30 minutes
4 tilapia filets
½ C. milk
½ C. flour
1 1/2 Tbsp chipotle paprika, divided
1 Tbsp Creole seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp brown sugar
3 leaves of romaine lettuce, torn
3 small sweet peppers, sliced
½ onion, sliced
1 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
1 tomato, cubed
½ can black or Spanish olives
¼ C. basil, chopped
½ C. cilantro, chopped
1 C. sour cream
1 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. garlic salt
1 lemon, divided
10 corn tortillas
2 C. canola oil, divided
1 C. pepper jack cheese, shredded
Dry the tilapia filets and slice them into one inch pieces. Make an egg wash with egg and milk. Coat the fish pieces in the egg wash. Combine the flour, 1 Tbsp. chipotle paprika, Creole seasoning, salt, turmeric and brown sugar in another bowl. Place the fish into the flour mixture. Toss them around the bowl to coat completely in batter. Pour 1 ½ C. oil into a skillet on high heat. Pour the remaining oil in another skillet on high heat. Slice the peppers, onions and tomatoes. Tear the lettuce. Place the onions in a small bowl and drizzle them in vinegar. Cook the tilapia fillets in the hot oil for about five minutes each side. Cook the tortillas in the other skillet in the oil for about five seconds per side. Place the tortillas and fish on paper towels to soak up any oil. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, thyme, lemon juice, remaining chipotle paprika, and garlic salt. Mix together. This is the sauce for your taco. Pile everything onto the tortillas. Enjoy!
Snow days are the best excuse for not leaving the house. I love being a home body: sleeping in late, living in jim jams (that’s what we call pajamas), and getting around to brushing my hair at noon. A friend asked if I missed my life in sunny California. My response was, “not a chance, I love the seasons.” We never had snow days in California. I especially take delight in watching the excitement on the faces of my children when they discover that there is no school. Jack bursts into dance and sings a “no school today” song. We tend to cook amazing meals when we are stuck inside as well.
Lately, my recipes have included rich and hearty stews, cheese sauces, and red meats. I love these types of dishes for cold winter days. Now, I know it seems crazy with all of this snow on the ground, but swimsuit season is right around the corner. So, I plan to lighten up my dishes a bit in order to have any hope of wearing something reasonable this summer on the lake.
I don’t like the idea of dieting. To me, diet is a four letter word because I love food so much. I know I have to move a lot more if I am going to eat rich cheesy buttery meals. I also have to eat healthier low fat meals as well (everything in moderation). Once the temperature reaches a level above zero, I plan on walking for at least a half an hour each day. I tried this the other day and only made it to the mail box, hence my rule for warmer temperatures. I felt like I could lose a limb or my nose in that weather.
This salad recipe is lighter and healthier than my recent dishes. It is healthy in spite of being delectable. You eat it because it tastes so good, not because it’s low in calories. This salad has been a big hit in my family. It is the perfect starter or main course for any season. Years ago, Claud and I were having my parents over for dinner and he made these peppers for everyone. They are called Piedmontese Peppers and they were a huge hit. I fell in love with how delicious they taste and how simple they were to make. I have been making them ever since. I changed the original recipe a bit (taking out the anchovies and adding cilantro) and turned it into a salad.
Before I wrote this article, I thought I should look for more information about Piedmontese Peppers. So, I Googled it. I wanted to see where Piedmont was located and what history I could discover about this type of pepper cooking. I learned two amazing facts.
First, I’m glad I Googled it, because I thought Piedmont was in France. No, it is in Italy. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I discovered that Piedmont cuisine is French-influenced and always freshly prepared. A typical Piedmontese meal consists of at least six courses. That’s my kind of meal. Also, quality is the big issue in Piedmontese cooking. So, time and effort spent on preparation don’t count as long as the result is satisfying. I love that food there is really a passion.
The Piedmontese take their time over meals, and love to spend hours with family and friends around the dining table. This is what I am trying to promote. Also, in Piedmont, wine is always part of the meal and is enjoyed reverently. That’s what I’m talking about. I have to go there.
Second, my research led me to another amazing fact. Simon Hopkinson was pretty much the guy who made Piedmontese Peppers famous in England at a restaurant in London called Bibendum. I think I believed Piedmont was in France because Bibendum is a French restaurant. Claud was an apprentice for Hopkinson at Bibendum and this is where Simon taught Claud how to make these peppers. So, I have learned from the man who learned from the man…amazing.
You will not believe how delicious they are. It only takes about ten minutes to prepare them. Then, they go into the oven for a couple of hours. The result is a sweet, tangy and juicy delight. The olive oil and the juices from the tomatoes combine with balsamic vinegar make a savory dressing. I top all of this onto a warm open faced baguette and a bed of lettuce to create a salad. You can add some grilled chicken and feta cheese to make it into a main course. Don’t forget to pour the remaining olive oil into a jar to use for cooking later. The peppery flavored olive oil is great for sautéing, dressings, and sauces.
Piedmontese Pepper Salad
2 red bell peppers
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 roma tomatoes
3 C. olive oil
1 bunch of cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf French bread
Baby Arugula (or lettuce of your choice)
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the peppers lengthwise through the stem. Cut out seeds. Place into an oven safe dish. Divide the garlic into each pepper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour in half of the olive oil. Place a tomato inside each pepper. Sprinkle more salt and pepper. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the peppers and into the dish. Place in oven and cook for two hours. Baste every thirty minutes. Take out of oven and cool. Place a bed of lettuce on the plate. Toast the bread. Slice the bread and place on the lettuce. Place one pepper and tomato onto the bread. Cut it open so the juices pour onto the bread and lettuce. Drizzle with vinegar and oil from the dish. Keep the rest of the oil to use later. Enjoy.
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My kids love macaroni and cheese. My kids will even make it themselves if it is in the box. They know how to add the milk and butter to the powdery cheese. I don’t even think they measure any more. I have grown out of liking this kind of macaroni and cheese, from the box. I did discover a delicious frozen version which is so creamy and rich. You can find it at Trader Joe’s. However, my favorite, and luckily the kids love it too, is macaroni and cheese casserole. I make it creamy and delicious like the Trader Joe’s version but also add vegetables and bread crumbs to make it more grown up and nutritious. Okay, so it’s not that low in calories, with the butter and cheese. But, it’s tasty. And, on a day when we are snowed in and the temperature outside is below zero, it is the perfect treat. Diet starts tomorrow. Oh, I made cinnamon rolls today too. Oops. I only ate one. CLICK HERE FOR SLIDE SHOW
Macaroni and cheese casserole
3 cups dry macaroni pasta
3 cups dry macaroni pasta (cook according to package directions)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. flour
1 C. milk
2 C. shredded cheese (your choice)
2 slices bread, toasted
2 Tbsp. parmesean cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Set aside. Saute the vegetables in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Set aside. Melt butter and add flour over medium heat. Add milk until creamy. Add the cheese and melt the cheese. Pour the vegetables into the cheese mixture. Pour the cooked macaroni into an oven safe casserole dish. Pour the cheese mixture on top. Spread the bread crumbs on top of this. Place in an oven at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour. Enjoy.
I completed half of my yoga dvd today and walked. Okay, so I walked to the mailbox. But, I have a long driveway. It’s a start. I decided there are two requirements to my beginning a half an hour walking regimen. First, I need to get out of these glasses and into contacts because the blinding sunlight is killing me when it bounces off of the snow covered earth. I will need to wear sunglasses. Second, it should be above zero degrees. It looks nice out the window, but once I emerged into the arctic chill, I realize it could be dangerous to my life. So, I am buying contacts this week and hoping the temperature rises. In the meantime, I will keep up with the yoga. Tomorrow…the whole dvd.
Here is my article for the New Ulm Journal:
“Pot roast and resolutions”
The end of the holiday season can be a bit anticlimactic. We spend months buying gifts, writing cards, attending and planning parties. Relatives visit, you visit friends, the house is decorated, and the streets are illuminated with snowflakes and red and green lights. You may have spent time compiling a list of resolutions which you may or may not keep. It all leads up to that fateful stroke of the clock and the dropping of the ball and…bam: a few kisses and hugs, a few, “happy new year!” shouted out to your loved ones and it’s over. The year has ended. A new year has begun. But, then, the next day or the day after that, it all just feels the same. We shuffle back into work or school. We comfortably relax into our routines.
I like the idea of coming up with resolutions but feel it may be a mistake to do it on January 1st. I think resolutions should be made whenever you feel something lacking in your life. This can be any day of the year. When I plan to make a resolution on the 1st, I announce my resolution, maybe tell friends and write it down. It’s not a terrible idea. It’s just that if I don’t do it on the 1st of the year, day one, I feel like a failure. I’m usually tired on the first: I might be hung over. So, that new yoga or aerobic routine isn’t going to happen that very day. It doesn’t seem to be as exciting beginning on the fourth or the fifth. Before I know it, it’s February. Usually, the whole idea just fades away.
Instead, I try to treat every day as an opportunity to begin anew: start working on that novel, earn more money, cook more homemade meals, exercise more, spend more quality time with my spouse and children, or have more fun with my friends. Your list may be different. However, I have found that most lists are pretty similar because people generally want to be healthy, to be in love and to be loved, to be surrounded by friends and family and to be financially wealthy.
When the holidays end, things may get a little quiet. Many people might miss the hustle and bustle, the visitors and the visits, the holiday performances and church services, and the camaraderie which comes with the season. I am here to say that this spirit of togetherness does not have to end with the passing of the holidays. Why not keep it going?
You can continue the spirit of togetherness in your own home. You can create a club: writing, reading, cooking, painting, music, singing, walking, taking pictures…the possibilities are endless. You can take a class in something you are interested in. Here’s a shameless plug for myself, but you can sign up for my weekly cooking class through community education which begins on January 14th. If people sign up, we will be cooking a meal and then eating it together. I’d like to create a sort of weekly dinner party. It’s a great way to meet new people who have similar interests; mine, in this case, is eating good food with good people.
Another idea is to begin a tradition of having a Sunday lunch at your place. You can invite friends and family to come over on Sunday. Making a pot roast for a Sunday lunch is easy, affordable, and delicious. You prepare it a bit in the morning and go about your daily business. Just before you are ready to serve the food, you do a few more magic tricks and it’s finished. If lots of people arrive, there will be plenty of food. If few people attend, you will love having the leftovers. Whatever resolution or goal you decide you would like to keep, begin it today, or tomorrow, or the next day. Treat each day as an opportunity to make things happen: give more, smile more, and love more. You can watch a video of me and Claud making this pot roast at the end of this post.
Beef Pot Roast:
4 lb. sirloin tip
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. pepper
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 C. red wine
3 C. beef stock
1 Tbsp. rosemary
8 medium potatoes, chopped thickly
2 carrots, chopped thickly
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 C. mushrooms, sliced
1/3 C. butter
½ C. flour
Dry the sirloin tip with paper towels. Cover it on all sides with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Heat the remaining olive oil in a stock pot. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the beef. Brown the beef on all sides. This will take about five minutes per side. Remove the meat.
Add the onions and garlic. Cook them until the onions become transparent. Deglaze the pot with the red wine. Scrape all of the browning remnants from the bottom of the pot into the wine, garlic and onions. Add the meat back to the pot. Pour in the stock. You want the liquid to rise half way up the beef. If you need more liquid, add stock, red wine or water. Sprinkle in some rosemary. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for an hour and a half.
Add the potatoes and carrots. Cook for thirty minutes. Add the celery and mushrooms and cook ten minutes more. Remove the meat and vegetables from the pot.
In another pan, melt the butter and mix in the flour to create a roux. Slowly whisk in the remaining liquid from coking the beef and vegetables. Add the remaining salt and pepper. Pour the vegetables into the gravy. Slice the beef and layer it on top of the gravy with veggies. Enjoy!