Bonnie’s Blog on Food and Grog

Cooking and life advice from a Nana.

Our Favorite Day of Guilt-Free Gluttony Approaches! November 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 10:48 pm
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HELLO AGAIN!

Nope, I was not abducted by aliens, although wouldn’t that make a terrific story and an even better excuse for rudely and abruptly just NOT BLOGGING for a couple of years?  No, I have many other, less exotic reasons for disappearing from Blogdom.  Maybe at some point I will even share those thrilling stories, but right now we have FAR more important issues to deal with!!  Thanksgiving, everyone’s favorite day, is but one short week away.  Actually, it’s a normal week, it will just feel incredibly short.  And that is why I have chosen to resurrect my once believed dead BLOG!

I have a couple of new tips to make your Thanksgiving a day of enjoyment and actual relaxation, even though you are in charge of the entire meal and your tiniest mistake will be remembered in perpetuity.  “Remember the year Mom forgot to take the Yams out of the oven?  HAHAHAHA”..  That was in the 80’s but lives on.  Why not “Remember the year mom made that unbelievably fantastic Chocolate Pie that was so good it brought tears to our eyes?”  AH, but that is not how the human brain works, particularly when it comes to something stupid that Mom did!   You male chefs– fathers, sons, husbands who are at  the helm of the Thanksgiving Feast–you too know the stunning memories that our families possess when it comes to dredging up minor culinary boo-boos of the past!  So let’s just not worry about that (you won’t, will you???) Let’s try to avoid all those little big-important-meal mishaps by doing as much as is possible ahead of time!

If you are new to my Blog, you can refer back to Thanksgiving Blogs and see that I, typically not a model of organization, become obsessed with planning when it comes to this meal.  I have been making Thanksgiving Dinner since the late 1960’s with maybe 3 exceptions in all those years.  In the early years, when the kids were little, my Mom and I did the whole meal every year.  We would stay up nearly all night doing the preparations, because of course, at that time, we were working women.   I didn’t have the luxury of planning every task out in excruciating detail, putting the tiniest item on an index card, assigning a time and date for its completion, and having my table set four days in advance!  As you will read, I also put serving dishes on the table with tiny slips of paper indicating what goes in that dish.  You are rolling your eyes, aren’t you?  You are about to log out and search for a sane person with Thanksgiving tips.   So it does hold true, I think we can see, that a task will expand to take up the time allotted to it.  Now that I have all the time in the world, that is exactly what I use!

My Thanksgiving planning has evolved to this because of one thing:  I want Thanksgiving Day to be very relaxing and enjoyable for everyone involved.  I don’t believe guests enjoy seeing their host become increasingly wild-eyed as the day progresses.  I don’t believe they can comfortably enjoy their little appetizers when the sounds from the kitchen are no longer happy, thankful, sounds, but rather are thinly disguised threats from the host to maim the next person who lifts a lid or licks a spoon.  When guests start considering dialing 911, you have officially failed as a Thanksgiving host!

So my answer is to plan ahead and do everything possible in advance to make Thursday relaxed and easy for the cook and guests.

I make my gravy stock 5 days ahead by baking turkey wings and boiling them for stock.  This takes a HUGE last minute task out of the picture.  Additionally, regardless of how huge and fat your turkey may appear, sometimes they are annoying stingy with their precious bodily fluids, and you barely get enough juice to make one urn of gravy, let alone the VAT I feel is necessary!  If there is but one urn of gravy, what are the guests going to have on their potatoes?  Cuz I’M HAVING GRAVY.   So having your turkey stock all ready is a great relief and you can then  prepare the gravy on Thursday morning before the turkey comes out of the oven.

We have a pretty standard menu for Thanksgiving, except for mixing up the side dishes and adding new pies.  Yes, my tradition has become to make any kind of pie that someone requests.   About a week before Thanksgiving, I request pie orders from all  guests, and provide some suggestions for new pies I may have discovered. . I always make the standard pumpkin and pecan, but if someone requests key lime, and they do, I make one.  Maybe only one person wants that, but THAT’S OKAY.  It’s Thanksgiving.  They can have their own darn pie.  This year we have pumpkin, pecan, chocolate (See my post about Emeril’s Chocolate Pie… it is awesome – the pie, not the post),  sour cream custard peach, deep dish apple, cherry, and banana cream.
So it is turkey, as giant as we can find, (refer back to the Story of Turkules)…  stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, GRAVY, a cranberry salad with grapes and whipped cream from MY grandmother’s recipe), and a couple of side dishes.  Sometimes we serve just plain green peas, sometimes sauteed asparagus with garlic, green beans with bacon (one of our guests, Mischelle Oslin,  usually brings this delicious side) or something entirely new.  This year I am going to do a corn pudding/souffle type dish.

TODAY’S TIP

So my tip today is about the mashed potatoes!!  Simple part of the meal, definitely!!   But for some reason we always end up doing it at the same time we are doing everything else.  Boiling potatoes, making the gravy, slathering the yams with caramel sauce, warming up a vegetable, sticking rolls in the oven, whipping cream for pies….  HEY, WHOA.  How big is your stove top?  Are you one of those people with 15 burners and two grills ON their stove top?  Lucky you!   But I don’t have one.  So burners are at a premium, as is TIME at the point in the preparation of the meal where VOILA, everything is ready to be tended to RIGHT NOW!  The turkey is done, quick get the gravy made!  Someone, mash the potatoes!  Put the yams back in the oven, get the cranberry salad dished up.   So let’s get the potatoes out of this scene altogether.

Obviously you know how to make mashed potatoes!  We use russetts, we like them because they don’t get pasty like red or yellow potatoes can when mashed.  And I say mashed in a generic way.  DO TRY RICING your potatoes if you don’t already.  There is no lump so sneaky that it can escape the dreaded ricer!  I takes a little longer, but the potatoes will be fluffier and will not be lumpy.  Now if you are among the lump-loving potato people, ignore this.  I have seen actual recipes for “Lumpy Mashed Potatoes”.  If you like ’em lumpy, WHY mash them at all?  I have nothing personal against the lump-loving-potato people, I am just not one of them!   So peel your russetts and slice into quarters or so, bring  water to a boil , and cook until tender.  Drain them and put them back into the pan with two (2) (deux) (dos) sticks of salted butter.  I know.  This depends on how big a batch of potatoes you have, obviously, and how little you care about your vascular system.  Put the potatoes through the ricer and when all are riced, add about 1 cup of cream.    Combine potatoes and butter and cream JUST until combined.  If you over- stir they can get a pasty consistency.  We don’t like lumpy or pasty.  We are picky potato people!   Put your finished potatoes into a casserole or baking dish (or two if needed), cover with tinfoil, and refrigerate.  About two hours before dinner is served, take the potatoes out of the fridge . One hour before the turkey is to come out of the oven, bake the potatoes, covered, in a 350 degree oven.  If the turkey takes longer, or you have a delay, turn down the oven and leave the potatoes in until right before serving.  They are already in their serving dish, they are ready to go! They will be fluffy and buttery and hot.  Perfect!   So why didn’t I  think of this before 2012?  Well,  let’s be honest here!  I didn’t think of it at all!   It was a tip I saw in Taste of Home!!

So you are quite possibly thinking that these are not very healthy recipes.  Well,  first, it is ONLY one day of the year.  You would have to be hanging on the brink to have this meal be your final undoing!  But more importantly, we want to emulate our forefathers to whom we owe this great holiday.  We want to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal, minus killing our own turkey.  We are honoring those hardworking men and women who carved out this country, and remember, many of them lived well into their 40’s!!

 

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS….. February 21, 2010

Filed under: 1 — bonhuse @ 10:54 pm

“Pancakes and cookies, frittatas, a waffle —

Everything covered in something quite awful–

Big juicy steaks that you barely need chew…

These are my favorites, to name just a few………..”

WHOOPS… Little relapse there!   Probably prompted by the very scary thing that I had to do yesterday!!  Go to the BAKERY!!  And NOT just any bakery… NO… This was “La Creme”  Bakery in Woodland Hills, the absolute best bakery I’ve found YET, and believe me when I say I have looked!   WHY would I submit myself to such torture?  Well, my granddaughter, Sydney,  and I were asked by her Step-mother-to-be to pick out the Wedding Cake.   Very sweet of her to turn over such an important task to us!!  And I love doing things like that, so was more than happy to be asked!!

Well, we entered La Creme to face a sample tray, with delectable little cubes of various cakes and fillings.  The white cake with raspberry mousse filling  is the flavor that Sydney and Pam had selected on a previous trip to the bakery for a tasting.  That and the chocolate with raspberry mousse filling.  Obviously I had to at least taste it to make sure they hadn’t made a horrible mistake.   One tiny cube of each.  Two cubic-inches of cake.  Probably 200 calories, half of which were fat… HEAVEN, I tell you.  I would give a kidney for the recipe for that white cake.  I have never been a big white cake fan.  Usually crumbly, kinda boring…  this one is unreal.  I think maybe the baker is some sort of WITCH or something.  It is too good to be white cake.    I wanted to grab the entire tray of samples and devour it like a starving dingo.  

I think I have made my point.  The cake was good.  Our job was to select the design of the cake which we did.  Very elegant, simple, beautiful.  We made our decisions and I made a run for it.  When I got home I dutifully posted my Weight Watcher’s point consumption, figuring high to be on the safe side.

If the bakery was a temptation to eat like a pig, the next stop was the antidote.  The bathing suit store on Ventura Boulevard called “California Swim”.  I was buying a bridal shower gift, and decided to get a couple of bikinis and cover-ups for the bride to take to  San Lucas  on their honeymoon.   I left there with a conviction to graze on leafy greens the rest of my life.   

So I am sitting here this morning, horrified at the measly FORTY-ONE days remaining , and cognizant of the fact that I cannot START shopping for a dress on April 2!   Clearly I should have started this project a little earlier.  It reminds me of my dear friend Noelleen, who told me about the time she tried to grow tomato plants in two days for a school assignment.   There are some things you just can’t RUSH.   So I must do the best I can, and hope to find the perfect dress…. slimming, elegant,  yet  BIG.  

 Just for a little reality check, Sydney and I did make one other stop yesterday.   There is a really good store in the so-called “Alley in the Valley” which is a small strip of discount stores in Reseda.  One of the stores — “Dressed Up” — has very nice designer dresses and formal wear at reasonable prices.  In we went. 

Wellll, there was one dress that I really liked that COULD conceivably look good due to the figure-concealing design.  Unfortunately, the size they had it in didn’t NEED figure concealment.  I tried on two others, both of which were out of the question.  Staring, horrified, into the unflattering mirror with the brutally honest lighting, I told myself not to panic, that 10 more pounds will make a significant difference.  And it will.  Every ounce of my weight goes directly to a section of my body from my waist to  my knees.  It is NOT attractive.  However, conversely, every pound I lose makes a real difference in what I can wear.   Corrective under garments have come a long way.  “Spanx” , God Bless those people, are unbelievable.  But even Spanx have their limitations.  There are laws of physics that even Spanx cannot overcome.   I therefore cannot depend on them to do anything but redistribute the excess slightly, and make me really, really, uncomfortable.   Forging on with renewed conviction is the only answer!! 

Back to food.  The Pork and Tomatillo Stew was definitely a success.  It actually tastes very much like another MUCH more fattening version which I invented, of course.  The only difference is that you choose a less fatty cut of pork.  In fact, it is the loin, which has very little fat at all.  The result is, of course, a slightly less juicy meat but a much less fatty stew over-all.  Delicious, nonetheless, and high in fiber and good things!

I have a sort of rule of thumb when trying new recipes.  I always do it the first time without changing any ingredients or processes.   If there is a spice we particularly dislike, I will leave that out, but on the whole, I follow it to the letter the FIRST time.  I mention this because  it seems that  95%  of  the entire bean-eating world  HATES Lima Beans.  If you  are among that majority,  just leave them out of this recipe.  I happen to like them and plus they add some fiber and make it more filling.  It’s another slow-cooker recipe too, so you can throw it together and leave. 

Pork  and Tomatillo Stew

1-1/2 pounds fresh tomatillos,  husked and rinsed  and cut in half   — may have to go to the Mexican market for these….

3 poblano peppers — these are big dark green peppers, often available in regular markets, and always at our local Mexican market, “Vallarta”. 

1 large onion, cut into wedges

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and halved

1- 1/4 pounds boneless pork loin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons olive oil

1  – 15-ounce can of hominy, drained

1 – 10 ounce box frozen lima beans, thawed

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat boiler.  Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.  Arrange tomatillos, poblanos, onion, and jalapenos on baking sheet.  Broil vegetables  4 inches from heat until lightly charred, 2 – 3 minutes per side.  Let cool slightly.  Put vegetables in food processor and puree. 

2.  Meanwhile, sprinkle pork with cumin and salt.  Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add pork and cook, turning frequently, until browned, about 5 – 6 minutes.  Transfer pork to slow cooker.  Stir in tomatillo puree, hominy, beans, broth and oregano.  Cover and cook until pork is fork-tender, 4-5 hours on high, or 8 – 10 hours on low. 

3.  Serve garnished with fresh chopped cilantro. 

This is 241 calories per servings (one cup) , 8 grams fat, and 6 grams fiber.  For Weight-Watchers, it is 5 points a serving.  Not bad!!  Very filling, satisfying, and fun to make.  You could spice it up even more by adding some hot sauce or fresh salsa when you serve it…  We really enjoyed it. 

Another way to do this would be to NOT puree the vegetables after charring them.  You could add them to the pot cut up as directed, and do everything else the same.  If you like a chunkier stew, that is the way to go. 

If you are not dieting, or decide to splurge, or are one of those fortunate individuals with the metabolism of a hummingbird, then try this recipe with a pork shoulder or pork butt.  Everything else the same, but a fatty, more tasty cut of pork.  THEN, to continue your eating enjoyment, you can spoon the stew into tortillas and roll them up for a really delicious soft taco, or burrito… call  it what you like — it’s delicious.   You skinny people can add cheese and sour cream and all those wonderful things as well.  I hate you.    But DO enjoy it. 

OK — I’m off to the swimming pool, with visions of me in that enormous dress that made me look like an explosion in a fabric factory.  THIS will make me swim faster!!   Hasta Manana!!

 

PRESTO! PESTO! February 19, 2010

Filed under: 1 — bonhuse @ 1:35 am

Of all the things I’ve discovered in my search for delectable diet dishes, this may be one of the handiest ones yet!  Very versatile and really delicious — I plan on having a pint or so on hand at all times.  According to Weight Watchers,  it is a mere 1 point (51 calories) for two tablespoons.   We love it just drizzled over sliced fresh tomatoes, but I have also added it to soup to spice it up.  It is REALLY delicious on hot cooked pasta, or so I am told by my non-dieting tasters!!   And unlike traditional Pesto, this has an extra little  hit of healthiness by adding some steamed fresh spinach.  

SPINACH-BASIL PESTO SAUCE

2 cups packed spinach leaves

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup vegetable stock.. reduced sodium preferably

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse spinach and place the top of a steamer.  Bring water to boil and steam until JUST wilted — it doesn’t take more than a minute or 2.  (If you don’t have a steamer, obviously you can boil it)  Drain and rinse under cold running water.   Squeeze out excess water and place in food processor.

Add basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper.  Pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add broth and oil and process until smooth.  Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze up to 3 months. 

Note:  This makes a fairly dense, thick Pesto.  I added a little extra olive oil and vegetable broth to make it slightly more “pourable”.  If you make it thinner, you could also use it as a dipping sauce for bread, which of course, is a big NO – NO for me right now, but BOY, that would really be good too! 

So yesterday was my 2nd weight watchers meeting and VOILA — I lost 3.6 pounds the first week.  That added to my pre-weight watcher’s efforts makes about a total of 7 pounds.  I’m a happy girl.  That is great for two weeks, but again… it is bound to slow down.   

On Monday (President’s Day) the weather was gorgeous so we played golf.  It’s been months, and I miss it so much, so I couldn’t wait to get out there.  WELLLLL,  I’m afraid I tweaked my knee a bit again, and so this week I’ve had to pass on the lap swimming.  Phooey!  A couple of days more and it will be fine, but that may slow down my progress a bit! 

FORTY-FOUR days until the wedding!    Short of becoming bulimic, I am doing everything I can to lose weight, BUT stay healthy.   So whatever the result by the time the big day is here, it will be an improvement!  There was nowhere to go but UP.  (Or, DOWN, I guess,  in this case. ) 

We have a very exciting dinner planned for tomorrow night!  Imagine my JOY at finding a weight-watcher recipe that includes PORK!  Turns out that “the other white meat” actually isn’t that fattening UNLESS you cook it the way I typically do.  That would be roasted and then swimming in brown gravy, right next to a pile of mashed potatoes and some potentially healthy vegetable that I have smothered in butter or some creamy sauce.  Either that or I use a really nice FATTY cut of pork, add pasilla peppers and onions and cook it in the crock pot in its very own ample FAT.  When it falls apart and is swimming in its own juices, we put it on tortillas (I like a little butter on the tortilla first, of course) and roll it up.  (Hopefully I will not drool on my keyboard and electrocute myself as I write this….) 

Needless to say, this recipe is a bit different that the above choices, but it sounds really good and has hot peppers and onions and good stuff in it.  IF it turns out to be a hit, it will be in my next BLOG. 

That is the recipe du jour and my update on “Being Good”.   It hasn’t been that difficult yet– at least I haven’t had the urge to bury my face in a big juicy hamburger or eat an entire bag of peanut butter M&M’s.   ONE day at a time.

 

I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN…… February 13, 2010

Filed under: 1 — bonhuse @ 9:56 pm

Well, I am chugging along and feel like I am on track to  feel terrific by the time the wedding comes!  (OH dear — is  this a side effect of eating healthy?  You make bad puns and corny analogies??? Will I soon be watching old re-runs of “Hee-Haw”?)   AT THE WEDDING:  “Gee, Kelly’s Mom LOOKS pretty good,  but didn’t she used to have a good sense of humor? What a shame.  Nice wedding, though.”

I still plan to reach my goal of 20 pounds by the wedding, BUT that is 15 more with 49 days to go!   I have not cheated, I have exercised with a vengeance, and am doing all I can to drop that poundage!  BUT one thing I have discovered in just a little over a week is that I FEEL so much better!  And since my plan is to see great-grandchildren,  a  permanent change in eating and exercise habits is definitely in order! Again, not to say that I will not continue to cook the cream-laden, butter-slathered, gravy- topped wonders that I so love!  JUST not every single day!     I may not treat my body like a TEMPLE, but I at least must STOP treating it like a BOWLING ALLEY. 

So I discovered TWO yummy new recipes to add to my fat-shedding recipe box! Both are from new Weight Watcher cookbooks and are definitely keepers!  “African Peanut Chicken”  is the first one– very healthy and has some new taste combinations that make it very interesting.  Cinnamon, hot sauce, cumin and peanut butter — not what you might typically throw together, is it?  Well, this works and is an interesting combination of slightly spicy,  from the Tabasco sauce,  and sweet, from the parsnips, carrots and cinnamon.  Only 172 calories per serving– of course, a serving is 1 piece of chicken and 1/2 cup of vegetables and sauce…  but I found it very filling.  Even at two servings, it’s a low cal dinner!

AFRICAN PEANUT CHICKEN

1 – 14-l/2 ounce can of diced tomatoes with garlic and onions

4 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced

2 parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced

3 tablespoons low-fat peanut butter

3 tablespoons cayenne pepper sauce (Tabasco, for instance…)

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 skinless chicken thighs (I used skinless and boneless ones)

4 skinless chicken drumsticks (good luck finding those.. I had to skin them myself)

2 tablespoons cold water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Combine tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, peanut butter, pepper sauce, cumin, and cinnamon in slow cooker. Top with chicken.  Cover and cook until chicken and vegetables are fork-tender, 3-4 hours on high, or 6 – 8 hours on low. 

About 20 minutes before cooking time is up, mix water and cornstarch in small bowl until  smooth.  Stir cornstarch mixture into slow cooked.  Cover and cook on high until mixture simmers and thickens, about 15 minutes.  Stir in cilantro. 

Confession:   I completely forgot to do the cornstarch step, and I don’t think it would be any better with it.  It was nice and thick as it was, so it’s up to you. 

The recipe suggested serving over whole wheat couscous, which I made for Greg, but passed on myself.  Adds calories and carbs, so not ready for that yet!

Before dinner, I sliced a Roma tomato and drizzled my other new discovery – “Spinach-Basil Pesto Sauce” over it.  Nice little appetizers with virtually no Weight-Watcher points, thus very low in calories and fats.    YUM.   I definitely intend to keep this stuff on hand.  You could use it on pasta (if I decided to “splurge”) or mixed in salads, or drizzled over fresh vegetables, or over poached salmon… YUM again.  You will have to check in tomorrow for the recipe as I have to go swim my laps now! 

Did 21 laps yesterday, 50 minutes, felt terrific.  I’m starting to really look forward to going, even tho I have to FORCE myself to leave home to do it.  I love it at home.  BUT when I get in the water, it feels so great, and when I am driving home afterwards, the overwhelming feeling of self-righteousness is worth it!!  

Hasta el Pesto!!

 

SPICY STIR-FRY TURKEY IN LETTUCE WRAPS February 11, 2010

Filed under: 1 — bonhuse @ 7:54 pm

FIFTY-TWO days to the WEDDING.  YIKES.  But I have now lost 5 pounds as of this morning, so that is after 6 days of swimming and eating very carefully!  NOT bad!  Can’t expect to keep losing at that rate, though, it just doesn’t work that way, so I will not be discouraged if things slow down a bit. 

Did TWENTY laps yesterday and then came home and tried a new recipe — Stir fried turkey in lettuce wraps….  REALLY good, and very satisfying!  246 calories per serving!   Greg and I both liked it, and although the recipe sounds like it would be fiery hot, we both thought that next time we would kick it up a notch on the heat scale…  But it was definitely tasty.   This is a Martha Stewart recipe from her Everyday Cooking magazine. and Martha rarely disappoints me.  Well, there was that pesky inside-trading affair, but as long as her recipes and decorating tips continue, I’m a fan.

Stir Fried Spicy Turkey in Lettuce Wraps

1/4 cup soy sauce (I use low sodium)

4 tsp fish sauce (you can find this in the asian food section at the market)

4 teaspoons sugar

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 large shallot, finely chopped

2 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger

2 garlic  cloves, minced — (I always double the garlic)

1 small jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped

1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)

Lettuce leaves of your choice — Bibb, Boston, Iceberg… whatever you prefer

1.  In a small bowl combine soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Set aside.

2.  Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat until hot.  Add oil and swirl to coat skillet.  Add shallot, ginger, garlic, and chile and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add ground turkey  and  a tiny bit of salt, and cook, breaking meat up into tiny bits, until almost cooked completely, about 5 – 7 minutes.  Add half the sauce to the skillet and stir until meat is cooked through, about 2 minutes. 

Serve in lettuce leaves and add top with remaining sauce.  We used iceberg lettuce, because it is nice and crisp. 

If you are a “designer lettuce” person, feel free.  Try as I might, I just can’t get with the crowd that  loves those spiky little bitter weeds that everyone loves to make salads of now.  Sorry, I realize it is totally so “last decade” to prefer the mundane lettuces such as romaine and iceberg, but I can’t help it.  I need some crunch, plus for me the froo-froo  (sp? ) lettuces overwhelm the entire salad and can’t taste the other goodies in it.  But that’s just my opinion.  “Lettuce” agree to disagree!  (Please feel free to groan loudly)

We also added a little Hoisin sauce to add some extra taste.  Next time I make it I’m going to put a little extra jalapeño and maybe a little seasoning (lemon-pepper?) on the meat while it’s browning.  BUT it was very good using the original recipe–these are just suggestions if you like your stuff a little more spicy!

FIFTY-ONE DAYS TO GO!!! 

I wasn’t able to finish this post as I was too busy swimming and buying more green things to eat!  I did go to Weight Watchers yesterday and re-joined.  I think WW is the best program around for long-term weight loss & KEEPING it off, although obviously, I didn’t keep MINE off.  IN 2004 I went for 9 months and lost 35 pounds!  I swore I wouldn’t let it sneak up on me again, but low and behold….  sneak it did.  I guess that’s what eating anything you want, any time you want it, will do, huh?  Add to that a limited  amount of exercise — (turns out whipping cream does not expend as many calories as you might think)– and you pack on the poundage!

So now I am armed with all the new Weight Watcher cookbooks, suggestions and inspirational tips.  AS IF FIFTY-ONE MEASLEY 24 HOUR DAYS LEFT  UNTIL THE WEDDING wasn’t motivating enough!   

Tune in tomorrow for another report and a new recipe!!

 

The Longest Journey …….. February 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 10:06 pm

….starts with a single step.  Someone said that once.  Not very profound, really, but I always think of it when I tackle some project like this.  Actually, what I find more motivating is the fact that TIME is going to pass anyway…  whether you do something with it is up to you… So when you think “OH, but that will TAKE so long”..   So WHAT?  So does most anything that is really worth accomplishing.   Well, that is about as heavy as MY philosophy gets.

So yesterday was Saturday and despite being tempted to take the week-end off from the pool, and the handy excuse that “it will probably be too crowded anyway”, I forged off to swim again.  The gym and the pool were practically EMPTY, it turns out, perhaps cuz it was pouring rain again.  But I did 17 laps this time, four of which I did using just my legs to propel me.  Propel is probably a bad choice of verbs as it implies some sort of velocity, which was not the case.  Yes, I moved forward, but it felt like 100 yards, not 50.  Turns out the arms are extremely important in the “propelling” part of swimming! 

First thing Saturday I went to good old Trader Joe’s.  It occurred to me that I could get lots of good, healthy food there,  and at very reasonable prices.  Anything I couldn’t find there, I could always get at the more pricey Whole Foods.  I loaded up on frozen fish — salmon, shrimp, halibut, and frozen berries, such as blueberries and raspberries.  I bought two big cans of Protein Whey Powder, highly recommended by Kelly, my son and born-again diet and exercise expert!  A couple of years ago Kelly decided it was time to get really healthy and shed some body fat, and he delved into it with total commitment.  He looks FANTASTIC now, and has  literally CURED himself of Type 2 Diabetes through diet and exercise.   He is 44 now and is looking fabulous… probably the best shape he has ever been in, even when he was younger. 

I bought everything they had that could go in a salad.  I like salads.  I don’t LOVE salads.  If I loved salads, I wouldn’t be in this spot.  But I do like salads that have some extra goodies in them like dried cranberries, nuts, water chestnuts… some different textures and tastes.   After swimming, I spent some serious chopping, dicing and slicing time and made a very extensive “salad bar” in our fridge.   I have tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, green onions, red onions, peppers (red, yellow and orange), kidney beans, garbanzo beans, canned beets,  and chopped olives.  I have several kinds of dressings, but am sticking with the balsamic vinaigrette that Cardini’s makes.  So now, when I am suddenly overwhelmed by hunger, I can quickly put together something, or snack on the sliced up bell peppers, red peppers, zucchini, or celery.  I got some Trader Joe’s peanut butter which has very little sugar added, and I find that a good snack for me is either celery or apple slices with peanut butter as a dip. 

So Saturday night I had a decent sized salad, leaving out the CROUTONS (sigh) but adding some walnuts for crunch.  It was completely filling and satisfying, and on top of that, I felt SO virtuous it was disgusting. 

It’s a good start and I have picked out several interesting recipes that I am going to start trying as well.  I am very much into immediate gratification, however, so I am jump-starting this diet by doing the salads and veggies and protein only. Once I see progress, I will be unstoppable!! 

I’m trying to avoid getting really hungry.  When REALLY hungry, all I can think about is something either very starchy, or, again, those pesky peanut butter M&M’s.  It satisfies me instantly, but then of course, I’m hungry very soon afterwards as my blood sugar plummets again.  So I am trying to eat small snacks in between, like string cheese, or a couple of apple slices, or a piece of thinly sliced turkey sandwich meat. 

So FIFTY-FIVE DAYS left, and I have now lost 3 pounds.  It isn’t MUCH, but it is a start!

 

56 Days and Counting….. February 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 5:01 pm

OK…. it is the morning of the third day of my quest for leanness…  What have I been doing the past two days?  SWIMMING, of course!  Never one for moderation, I have now become nearly fanatic about swimming.  I knew that IF I could get myself started on this new routine, I would become as excessive about IT as I tend to be about everything else.  I wonder, is it possible to become excessively moderate??

Don’t get me wrong — the unopened bag of peanut butter M&M’s (my latest vice) still calls my name, often loudly, from the pantry.  I am still craving the gravy-slathered life that I so loved.  BUT, just two days of swimming laps at the YMCA and carefully watching my diet, and I have dropped TWO pounds.  Admittedly a drop in the proverbial bucket, but success nonetheless. 

Added to that possible fluke in my weight, the swimming has made me feel really good, and my knee is already doing better.  The first day I did 11 laps (a lap being 50 yards) and had a few sore muscles, especially in my upper arms.   If I keep this up, that flabby wobbly stuff  that hangs alluringly from my biceps  may be on its way out!!  I have to admit I got a little tired during my 11 laps, and stopped briefly to rest between laps.

Now yesterday, excuses for not going were plentiful.  I was getting together with a couple of friends to watch movies that are up for Academy Awards.  This was from 1 to 4.  Movies=popcorn and raisinettes and/or junior mints.  But yesterday I ate a piece of yummy delicious string cheese before I went, and had only a small bowl of microwave popcorn as a snack.  Then, even though it was POURING rain (what Southern Californians so innocently call “a STORM”…) I left directly from my friend’s house,at 4 p.m.,  drove to the YMCA, and stuck to my plan.  I did 16 laps yesterday, and although it doesn’t seem possible, it really was easier than the first day!    Once again I marvel at the ability of the abused, misused and ignored human body to respond to even the smallest amount of respect & good treatment!! 

Now food, you ask?  Yes, I had some.  Because I have yet to fully stock up on the things I need to have around to really do this right, I have had to make do.  I had eggs and onions for breakfast yesterday — scrambled in PAM, in place of that usual stick of butter.  Note to self:  Be sure to add “Don’t You Wish I Were Butter” to my shopping list.  In a pinch, the tub of butter substitute can be palatable, and certainly is better than nothing.  (My apologies to the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” people, but I, for one, CAN believe it….)

As a snack I  had one piece of string cheese and a couple of apple slices with some peanut butter on them.  (I need to buy some organic peanut butter, I suppose….  something without sugar added….) 

After swimming, it was dinner time AND I was starving, as I always am after swimming,  so  I had a huge plate of steamed brocoli, with a little salt and a little more pepper on it. 

Today is Saturday, and the plan is to go through my low-cal, low-fat, low-carb cookbooks and find the most interesting dishes for next week.   I would probably not be successful if I continued to eat the boring fare I just described.  Plus, there was no real cooking involved.   I MUST have my fussing around in the kitchen.  I need to dice, slice and mince or I feel deprived. 

So I am optimistic that I can achieve my goals — maybe I won’t lose all I need to lose before the wedding — I certainly won’t lose all I need to LOSE to be really in good shape — but at least I am bound to feel better and look better than if I just continued with my near-gluttony.   Actually, to be accurate, I am not a BIG eater.  I just eat ALL the wrong things, like chocolate and starches… love my potatoes, almost anyway they can be cooked, and always with REAL BUTTER.    So it isn’t that I eat all that much, but what I have been eating are all the wrong things.  That coupled with not nearly enough exercise — we haven’t even been golfing because it has been raining so much — has led to a lack of energy and an extra 30 pounds.  Possibly 40.  I have to be realistic, however.  I am probably not going to be able to get into my “skinny jeans” from the 70’s, which, yes, I actually have stashed away!   Hope Springs Eternal, you know!  But this effort is not just ONLY for reasons of vanity, it is more importantly a plan to regain my former energy and to stay healthy.  

One morning I was watching my two younger grand-daughters, Katie and Gracie.  At that time Gracie was 2 and Katie was 5.  Gracie was jumping on me and being silly, and all of a sudden Katie said emphatically, “GRACIE!!  Be careful!! This isn’t Mommy.  This is Nana, she’s old, she could DIE!!”    Absolutely true, Katie!!  But my plan is to try to put that off for as long as possible!!

I am off to make my shopping list and menu plan for next week,  stock up the pantry and fridge, and THEN,  of COURSE,   go swimming!!

 

As I was saying…… February 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 6:23 pm

It has been 11 months since my last post?  How the heck did that happen?  WHAT have I been doing, you ask?  EATING, mainly.  Which brings me to my current blogging project.   My gluttony and wanton disregard for caloric intake, coupled with the fact that “briskly stirring” and “gently folding” are the most strenuous forms of exercise I have had in months,  have taken their toll.    My husband and I took a trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming (reasons to be explained later) and I found myself shopping for some warm clothes in the BIG GIRL part of the store.  I was either WAY down at the far end of the rack with the really BIG numbers, OR in stores euphemistically named things like “MACY’s WOMAN”,  or “THE BIG IDEA.”  Thanks to Coldwater Creek , where they have larger sizes in tasteful,  mainly current styles, I was able to find jeans, sweaters and jackets that I liked. 

But wait til you hear the REAL impetus for this horror at my weight gain.  OUR SON IS GETTING MARRIED on April 3, 2010!!!  This is not a surprise!  I have known this for many many months!!   This is an event at LEAST as diet-worthy as a High School Reunion!!  I do not want our new daughter-in-law’s family to remember me as “the jolly fat one” for the rest of their lives.   I actually looked pretty good at his first wedding (14 years ago) and for those people I have not SEEN since then, I would prefer that their jaws don’t drop to the floor upon seeing me in my huge, matronly, mother-of-the-groom frock. 

Before you conclude that it is only shallow vanity that has gotten me to this point, I have to add that my right knee has finally rebelled at the additional  load I have placed on it.  After our trip to Cheyenne, which involved quite a lot of walking, not the least of which was in the Denver Airport, I returned home in excrutiating pain.  I was certain that knee replacement was in my near future, but luckily it isn’t quite that bad yet.  So now is the time to lose some weight and get more exercise.  NOPE, you don’t have to hit ME over the head!!  Crippling Osteo-arthritis and an extremely important event in 58 days (gulp) — that’s all it takes to get me motivated!! 

So I am going to change the focus of my blog for a minimum of 58 days.  I am going to find new, yummy, satisfying, yet healthy recipes to cook and share with you.   And maybe I’ll come across the Holy Grail during my search, eh?  NO, there are such things, there really are.  I already have some. 

My goal is to lose 20 pounds in 58 days.  An ambitious goal, I admit.  But anything I lose will certainly be an improvement and make shopping for a dress to wear to the wedding a less depressing venture!!  

So here is my Day ONE plan:  I am having a light breakfast.  2 scrambled eggs and black coffee.  Then I am going to re-join the YMCA  and go swim laps in their nice big indoor pool!  I love swimming, always have– actually was a lifeguard during college– and lucky for me, swimming just happens to be the very best exercise for my knee.   

When I get home I will have a light lunch, to be determined and reported later.  I will then start the search for the best, tastiest, healthiest recipes so that I will be able to continue cooking, which I love, and still, hopefully, lose the weight I so desperately need to lose!!  I could buy Lean Cuisine  or join Nutrisystems or something… but that would never work for me because I would then have all that extra time on my hands to THINK about eating.  I have to be able to continue to look at recipes, try new things, and COOK… it’s one of my favorite hobbies and I can’t give up that AND eating too!

One final note.  I have no intention of giving up the joy of eating all those evil things I have already written about.  I just have to do it AFTER the wedding AND in moderation.  So I will continue to collect the delectable, the decadent, and the delicious, but add to it the previously tossed-aside healthy, nutritious, low-fat dishes. If anyone wants to join in on this fun little journey, send me a comment and we can do this together.  Join forces, share ideas!! 

The countdown begins…………..

 

Finger Foods, Appetizers & Hors’ d’oeurves March 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 1:07 am

Do you know what the difference is among the above?  Me neither.   One is much harder to spell, but other than THAT, I’m thinking they are very similar.  Of course, not all appetizers can be picked up with the fingers, so that is a reasonable distinction.  For MY purposes, however, I mean a  large variety of tasty treats that you serve in large quantities, buffet style, that will give you guests many choices and many different tastes. 

My favorite way to entertain is with “these” categories.   It is  much more informal  and people tend to be more relaxed than at a dinner party.  Plus– and I think this is big–they get to talk to more than the three people seated immediately around them.  I think I can get along with almost anyone, certainly long enough to eat dinner, BUT…. haven’t we all been seated next to someone at a dinner that was a) so boring that you had all you could do to not run screaming from the room, or b) so obnoxious that you began to rethink your views on capital punishment?  Now I TRY my best not to include The Obnoxious in my guest list, but face it, sometimes it is inevitable.  And as for boring, one man’s floor is another man’s ceiling, so that is just a matter of opinion. 

So making a large variety of  platters of interesting tidbits is a way of getting everyone to mingle and get to try different things.  Also, it takes care of people with special dietary preferences…  vegetarians and carnivores alike can find something they can fill up on! (and they can avoid each other if they feel strongly about  it!!) So let’s start with:

CRISPY CRAB WON TONS WITH DIPPING SAUCES

This is one of the MOST popular appetizers (or whatever) that I make.  I have found it impossible to make too many of these.  No matter HOW many I make, there is always a crowd of people hovering over the last few, apparently hounded by old warnings of   “it isn’t polite to take the LAST one” ringing in their ears.   They usually chose to ignore the well-meaning teachings of past mentors, however,  and polish off the last one.   I take this as a sign that our guests agree that these are YUMMY little tidbits.

NOTE:  This is a single recipe which I NEVER make.  I typically double (or sometimes triple)  the filling recipe and find that it takes 3 or 4 packages of won ton skinns to use up the filling.  I suggest trying a single batch first to see if you LIKE them, obviously, and take it from there. 

1 package of won ton wrappers (Dynasty are the best!)

1 package of imitation crab meat

1 8 0z. package of cream cheese, room temperature

1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced

Low sodium soy sauce

Garlic powder

Peanut oil for frying

Chop the crab meat into very small pieces.  Put cream cheese in medium bowl, add chopped crab, chopped green onions, a dash of soy sauce, a dash of garlic powder.  Mix these together — I find that using your very clean hands is the easiest way to do this!  Place a small amount  (1/2  to 3/4 tsp.) of crab mixture in center of a won ton skin.  Dip your finger in cold water and wet the edges of the skin.  Fold won ton DIAGONALLY and seal the edges together well.  (You don’t want them to leak filling into the oil).

You can fry these in a skillet with a generous amount of peanut oil in it, OR use a deep fryer.  It is a little easier to do in the deep fryer as you don’t have to turn them over so carefully, but either way, they will taste wonderful.  Fry them until golden brown and crispy, about five minutes.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towel lined baking sheet. 

We serve these with a variety of dipping sauces, sometimes homemade, sometimes just purchased in the Asian section of the market.  Whatever sounds good to you will work, although Plum sauce, Duck sauce, Sweet and Sour, Chinese Hot Mustard, and Peanut sauces are favorites.  I do have a spicy peanut dipping sauce that I make,  but it seems that the Plum and Sweet and Sour are the most popular. 

You can make these earlier in the day and reheat them briefly on a cookie sheet for a few minutes at about 375 degrees.  Watch them carefully, as they are quick to burn, which generally leads to uncontrolled weeping on the part of the cook AND the guests.  If you are really lucky, you will one of your regular guests who loves to help … My friend Marcella’s son, Grant, LOVES to make these and offers to be the designated fryer at our gatherings.  If you are not so fortunate, don’t worry about it.  Reheating them doesn’t seem to change the feeding frenzy that they create! 

Arrange them in some attractive manner on a tray with little bowls of dipping sauces and then stand back!  I have yet to meet anyone who was ambivalent about these little buggers!! 

Coming Soon:  BLT Cherry Tomatoes – an easy and very popular item!

 

Cream Cheese Yogurt Fruit Dip and Giant Baby Shower, Part II February 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bonhuse @ 9:19 pm

There are few things I enjoy more than planning a party like this!  Basking in the sun on the white beaches of Cancun — sure.  I’m afraid that my “basking in public” days may have passed however, due in no small part to the fact that “cooking ” is ranked neck and neck with “basking.” 

So it is with enthusiasm that I start the planning of this Giant Baby Shower.  Never one to do things halfway, this should be the PERFECT size group for me.  FINALLY a crowd capable of eating my vat of potato salad!!  We get together with Maria, her oldest daughter Betty, and Jose.  It is decided that they will provide all the food (YUM) and I will provide the decorations, the cake, and a large fruit platter with a fruit dip (recipe coming up!)..  They also love potato salad and I quickly offer to make my typical recipe which just happens to serve about 100.  They will get the table and chairs and linens, and I will get flowers and all the decorations.  We know it is a boy by now, so we decide on pale blue and a  pale  sage green for our color theme. 

Now I have a fairly extensive supply of party goodies…. and I am no stranger to baby showers.  I have four miniature baby buggies that I have decorated with ribbons and flowers for other showers.  I have vast supplies of ribbons and silk flowers and vases and all manner of party goodies in what my husband fondly calls the “Crap Room”.  I do not throw things away except at gunpoint.  NOT only that, I am now the proud owner of my new “CRICUT” scrapping tool, which the kids pitched in and got me for Christmas.

Now, you scrappers out there KNOW what a cool machine this is.  You either have one or you WANT one.  Let  me tell you, THEY are great additions to your scrapbooking repertoire!  The things you can make with this litttle machine are endless!!  And it is very easy to learn to use.  For an entire week I sat in my den with my little Cricut on the coffee table and pumped out banners of all sorts to hang around the house…  Big blue letters on backgrounds of various patterns that I strung together with small satin ribbons…..  Cut outs of storks and babies and little ducks and teddy bears were strewn from one end of the house to the other.   I was unstoppable.  And the more I played with this machine, the more crafty I got.  So I kept going until I had miles of banners and piles of baby-shower-ish decorations.  I was the Mad Scrapper.   “What’s for dinner, honey”, asks the work-weary husband.  “Can’t you see I am busy here?”, the wild-eyed woman replies. ” I am crafting a 40 foot banner of adorable little baby silhouettes on all different kinds of backgrounds made from very expensive card stock paper that I bought with your hard earned money.  Food?  I’m sure you can find something to eat.” 

In addition to the miles and piles of  clever little cut outs, I also have to decorate the additional  miniature baby buggies, as we have 8 tables and only four buggies.  You have to love Google, when you can type in “miniature wire or metal baby carriages” and UP comes exactly what you are looking for — PLUS I can have them  in three days.  How did we SURVIVE without this?   If memory serves, we drove miles in search of such unusual things and now they are but a click away.  Either that or we actually lived WITHOUT miniature wire baby buggies.  Could that possibly be it? 

So then I start thinking about the centerpieces for the tables.  Flowers are great but they are also very expensive and famous for dying immediately.   So I consult with a very nice woman that I recently met who does events — BIG TIME events — as a business.  I email her for a suggestion for centerpieces.  She suggests that I do trays with little baby necessities and perhaps a small vase of flowers or flowers sprinkled around the tray.  A great idea!! 

Off I go to Michael’s  Crafts (one of our best crafts stores) and JoAnn’s  Fabrics, another great source for scrapping supplies.   Lucky for me, Easter approaches and so they have little felt easter pails that are blue with yellow duckies on them.  Also they have stuffed animals on sale.  Walmart is perfect for all the baby paraphenalia, so I buy baby bottles, tons of bibs, pacifiers, sippy cups, rattles, baby socks, and rubber duckies. 

Off to Smart and Final,  as they have really nice quality plastic serving pieces.  “Smart and Final”, if you are not familiar with this store, is a warehouse-type store with discount prices on food and a variety of restaurant supplies.  They are smaller stores than Costco, and you don’t have to buy everything by the gross.  Not that I have anything against buying by the gross– but sometimes I don’t want a 5 gallon jar of capers, and there are times when a 10 gallon drum of olive oil just seems excessive.   So I find the perfect  platters – white plastic, about 18 inches square.

Now it is time to bring out the trusty hot glue gun.  You are not REALLY a crafter unless you own one of these and an ample supply of hot glue cartridges.  You can literally attach almost anything to anything else with this little invention.  I have attached my own fingers to any variety of things, as a case in point.  “Elmer’s” stock must have plummetted when these little babies hit the craft stores!  Horses are no longer coveted for their  glue-making parts now that we have advanced to the far more dangerous, but effective,  HOT glue process.   I think I have made my point.

So now I am planted again on the couch, hot glue gun in hand, surrounded by silk flowers, boxes of ribbon of all widths and colors, and my new wire baby buggies.  These buggies are about 8 inches tall, and now must be decorated with pale blues and greens with some yellow.  I cover the hood part with parts of hydrangeas, put daisy heads on each wheel, and weave small satin ribbon around the top edge of the buggy.  A large bow made of wired one-inch ribbon goes on the back of each one.  I have to say, they are ADORABLE.  As a finishing touch I put a little fluff of pale blue tulle in each buggy, where the baby (were it not so giant) would go.  These buggies are now proudly displayed in the kitchen on the island, making cooking dinner for “he who paid for all this”  out of the question.   He is looking gaunt and weak, but swears that he is thrilled at my little creations and marvels at their beauty. 

All that is left is to assemble the trays.  I line each tray with four baby bibs, overlapping.  Then I place one blue & yellow ducky pail on the tray.  I put little baby onesies in the bottom of each pail, and top with little stuffed animal.  Next I add my baby buggie.  I put  blue marlbes in the bottoms of eight plastic baby bottles (for weight) and put a small bunch of blue and white daisies in each bottle.  The finishing touches are little baby socks,  pacifiers, sippy cups, rattles, and one rubber ducky per tray, scattered around on the bibs.  Besides being really cute, and each one is a little different, ALL the items on the trays are for the Mom-to-be to take home.  Socks, bibs, baby bottles, onesies, pacifiers, sippy cups, and even a bottle brush on one tray. 

So the decorations are all made, and the party is four days away!  If only I managed the remainder of my life with the gritty discipline that I apply to party planning!!   All that remains is to buy my groceries for the fruit dip, potato salad, and fruit platter. 

SO as promised, here is a recipe as a reward for wading through a Tolstoy-esque version of shower planning.  

MARSHMALLOW YOGURT FRUIT DIP

This recipe is so easy it is embarassing.  It came from my dear friend Patti Christy, of stuffing sage fame (see Thanksgiving posts).  Patti made this for her daughter’s graduation party.  I attended that event and stood greedily by this dip, snarling at other guests who dared approach.  I ate nearly all of it myself.   I have been making it ever since and I still could sit down and eat it with a spoon.  The fruit is but a vehicle for the dip. 

1 – 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3 – Yoplait yogurts… I use  low fat red raspberry, but any berry flavor would work

1 jar of Kraft Marshmallow Creme

With an electric mixer, blend a small amount of yogurt with the 8 ounce block of cream cheese.  Gradually add the remainder of the yogurt to the cream cheese, mixing until no lumps remain.  Add entire jar of marshmallow cream to mixture and combine until smooth.  Serve with fresh strawberries, apples, pineapple, grapes, melon, — any fruit that is in season. 

Stay tuned for the  final installment of the Shower Saga , with the delicious “Birria” recipe that Maria made for the main dish and actual pictures of the party!