Sunday, November 22, 2009

#75 Never get TOO Anything

A few days ago, a number of events happened that made me sad and angry. While I was answering emails, I decided to share with a friend how I was feeling. I told her how by 9:30 a.m, my day, which had started out fine at 7:30, had quickly begun to go downhill. And, on top of being sad and angry, my body was asking for its "medicine" to try to make me feel better... which only made me more angry. Why? Because I believe I've changed and matured, but when push comes to shove, I still run back to my old way of dealing with my feelings; I push them down with food.

Well, her email response told me to HALT. Huh? Then I read on...."never get two of anything". Good advice for certain situations in the life of a foodie, but I didn't understand the context as it related to my email. However, when I re-read that sentence, what it actually said was, "never get too anything"!! Never get too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely or too Tired -- HALT.

Of course, this saying is just one of the myriad of sayings that dieters and maintainers learn. There are, not surprisingly, an infinite number of helpful "hints". Some are trite, but more often than not, most are beneficial. For example, "eat to live, not live to eat". This one is actually from Cicero, but truthfully, there are a plethora of expressions bestowed upon us from the unknown to the famous. One that I like a lot, and that works for me is - "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels". Being able to throw on a pair of jeans and walk out of the house feeling good in them is sooooo much better than any ice cream cone or chocolate bar. Honest! It's just that I have to keep reminding myself of this.

Another favorite one of mine is, "To fail to plan is to plan to fail". So true. It's a safe bet that if you go to the supermarket with a thought-out list, it won't be so easy for your shopping cart to drive off course. Also, knowing the menu ahead of time, and deciding on what to order before you get to the restaurant, is a good plan. For certain restaurants, it's sometimes smarter for me to decide beforehand so that it won't be necessary to open the menu and be tempted by all the goodies inside. This saying also works for vacations. I learned the hard way when one year I packed everyone's bathing suits and flip flops, but not mine, and I had to wear a pair of my husbands blue jeans, cinched at the waist and cuffed, until we found a store that sold clothing. Now, I start making a list a few days before packing so that I don't forget anything.

One last saying that I follow is, "If you always do what you always did you’ll always get what you always got". So true! If you want to be thinner, healthier, faster, stronger, smarter... then you need to change, add or delete. There is no other way. I once tried listening to a tape while I slept to help me learn Spanish. As you probably figured out, WASTE of TIME and MONEY!! Osmosis may work in the field of biology, but in other parts of life, nah.

I'll leave you with a few of my other favorites. I sometimes use these to pull me out of the food doldrums and help me climb back onto that damn wagon.

"It’s about progress, not perfection" ---

"A weight gain is not failure, it's feedback" ---

"What you eat in private, you wear in public" ---

Last, but one of my most favorite sayings... "If hunger ain't the problem, food ain't the answer"

Quote of the day: "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome" Booker T. Washington

Monday, November 16, 2009

#74 Thanksgiving Dinner

This year, we are going to be a relatively [no pun intended] small group for Thanksgiving. Besides my candy corn fix at Halloween, my next favorite food fix is stuffing and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.
This year, I am having my folks, my sister, her husband, my niece and nephew, an aunt and an uncle and my cousin [Annie, the famous author of OBSOLETE]. That makes for 13 of us, which is a nice number, and one that my round dining room table can hold comfortably.

In this babble, I'm going to share my Thanksgiving menu. After my last posting, Passionless in the Kitchen, I received a number of emails, phone calls, and comments about my cooking. Thank goodness, I continue to be my worst critic. So then, below you will find what I plan to serve [with my mom's help] for our holiday meal.

Pumpkin Soup [but of course!!!]
this recipe feeds 20

2 large onions halved
1/2 cup margarine
1 tsp curry powder [spicy and more if you prefer]
4 cups canned pumpkin [not pumpkin pie filling]
3 tsp salt [start with 1 tsp and work your way up as needed for taste]
4 cups of 2% milk (can use cream, half and half ) [My lactose-intolerant friend recommends soy milk. Since I've never used soy milk, I can't guarantee the outcome)
5 cups chicken broth

Saute onion in butter or margarine until limp
Sprinkle with curry powder
Process pumpkin, onions and salt [don't make it too fine]
Pour into pot
Cook very slowly for 1 hour
Serve hot

Parmesan-Butternut Squash Gratin
this recipe feeds 6

1 butternut squash [2 1/2 lbs]
1/4 cup of butter or margarine
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 375F. Spray 13x9 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Peel, halve lengthwise and seed squash; cut into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange with slices overlapping slightly in baking dish.

In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Add garlic; cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until garlic is soft and butter is infused with garlic flavor. Do not let butter brown.

In small bowl, mix bread crumbs, cheese and 1 tablespoon of the butter-garlic mixture. Brush squash slices with remaining butter-garlic mixture. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and bread crumb mixture.

Bake uncovered 30 to 40 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with fork. Increase oven temperature to 425F, bake 5-10 minutes longer or until lightly browned. Before serving, sprinkle parsley over top.

Garlic Sauteed String beans [I grew up with, and love, the string bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions, but it's not as healthy as this, and truthfully, my kids prefer this to that].

Fresh string beans
Boil until al dente
Throw into wok with olive oil and minced garlic Wok for about 10 minutes stirring quickly [do this close to serving time]
Let sit for a few before serving

Sweet Potato Marshmallow Casserole [not so healthy, but yummy]
this recipe feeds 6

5 med. sweet potatoes (peeled, cooked and mashed)
1/3 c. milk
3 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. miniature marshmallows

Combine all ingredients except marshmallows, mixing well. Spoon into a lightly greased 1 1/2 quart casserole.
Cover and bake at 375°F. for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with marshmallows and bake another 5 minutes.

Turkey with Stuffing

I am very traditional about my turkey and stuffing. I add mushrooms, celery, salt and pepper to Pepperidge Farm stuffing, and follow the directions on the bag. That's it. Once everything is mixed together, inside the bird it goes. Of course, all of it can't go into the bird, so after the turkey is cooked, the stuffing is removed and placed on top of the non-bird cooked stuffing and into the oven it goes to steal some of the juices and flavor from the stuffed stuffing. About gravy... I've never made it. My mom always does that part, but I know it involves taking the innards of the turkey [neck and other parts], cooking them on the stove top for awhile in water, cutting and mixing them with left over cooked turkey juices, adding some flour and maybe some water and heating and stirring so the gravy isn't lumpy. Not sure about the rest - she hasn't answered my email [she's probably playing mahjong] and I want to post this evening.

Cranberry sauce

From the can. My favorite part of the whole dinner. Just kidding, but I love this stuff and pretty much only eat it on this holiday.

My wonderful sister, who is a very good and talented baker, will be bringing desserts this year. She did tell me that one of the desserts she's making are sugar cookies in the shape of a triangle, with the cookie batter dyed to orange and the tip dipped in vanilla frosting. Can anyone guess what these look like? I'll give you a hint.... it's my Halloween candy nemesis!


Quote of the Day: As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

#73 I'm Passionless... in the Kitchen

I think I'll write a book; The Passionless Cook.

On October 31st, we had our quasi annual Halloween party, and I decided to serve pumpkin soup as one of the hors d'oeuvres. It's my father-in-law's recipe, and I'll be honest, I've made this soup a number of times, and it never tastes as good as his.

Most people don't know this about me, but I have little confidence in the kitchen. I'll admit, I make some pretty yummy challah french toast, and I'm amazing on the grill with salmon and steak, but besides those two endeavors, I'm a hit-or-miss kind of cook. Anyway, during the party, I did receive a number of compliments on the pumpkin soup, but the most special compliment came from a neighbor down the street. He emailed to say thanks, and mentioned that he enjoyed my pumpkin soup. I was very flattered since I consider him a very talented cook, and a compliment from him was, well, better than nice. A few days later we bumped into each other at a neighborhood store. We chatted, and I mentioned that I aspire to his prowess in the kitchen. He shrugged his shoulders and said something like, I'm not sure that I'm that great, I just really love to cook. I realized then [well, I probably verbalized an old realization]... that I really don't like to cook. If money were no object, I'd hire a personal chef before hiring someone to do the laundry and bathrooms... that's how much I don't enjoy it. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate to cook, I just don't like to cook.

Perfect example -- I have another neighbor whose dishes and desserts are delish, and needless to say, she also loves to cook. My husband has told me on a number of occasions that their house is "one of his favorite restaurants". One evening, my neighbor served a wonderful chicken dish with a side of Moroccan rice. I ate with an almost spiritual devotion, enjoying the flavors and textures, until I was so stuffed I thought my pants were going to lacerate my belly roll. It's not hard to guess on which side of a meal my passions lie.

A day or two later when I called to thank her for dinner, I also asked for the chicken and rice recipes. I had decided that I would make this meal for an extended family dinner later that month. Let's just say that when I cut into my piece of chicken and started to chew, I knew that my lack of loving to cook was right there in my mouth. I almost gave myself masseter-itis [masseter - def: thick muscle in the cheek that assists in chewing; itis - def: suffix denoting inflammation] trying to break down that little piece of chicken so that I could swallow it. I had to chew... and chew... and chew...

And, as I sat there exercising my masseter muscles, it dawned on me that if you do something without having or feeling a passion for it, then that lack of passion can definitely be "tasted", if not by others, then definitely by you.

Quote of the Day: "Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don't eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. Yet, I go marching on." George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

#72 The Rabbi Says....

While I was reading the Rabbi's monthly chat in the synagogue newsletter, I got inspired for this week's babble. I'm borrowing the Rabbi's pre-story used for his chat as my pre-story to my babble.

A rabbi once asked the members of his congregation, "What is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar?" "That's easy", one woman responded. "The holiest day is the Sabbath". "No," said another. "The holiest day is Yom Kippur when God grants us atonement for our sins." Other days were discussed and debated, but the rabbi finally put a stop to this exercise by sharing what he thought the holiest day should be. He chose the 11th of Tishrei as the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. "What holy day falls on the 11th of Tishrei?" the congregants all asked. "The 11th of Tishrei is the day after Yom Kippur. And this is the holiest day of the year because it is the day that we begin to see if we really intended to keep any of the promises we made."

For those of you who aren't Jewish and/or who don't know about Yom Kippur, it is a very holy day for the Jewish people. It comes 10 days after the Jewish New Year, and it is on this day that the Jews ask God for forgiveness for any and all sins committed. The 25-hour period that is spent worshipping, fasting, and reflecting on the past year is intended to encourage an inner change, a "return to living life as God expects of us". The disciplines of the day [fasting and worshipping] are intended to encourage us to restrain ourselves from our "drives," such as hunger, sex or anger - so that through the Rabbi's sermon and reading scripture, we can be guided toward a more meaningful way of life.

What caught my attention and inspired this babble is the idea of intention. Did I follow through on my promise?

What do I promise myself and fail at consistently? To eat healthy. How many times have I promised myself that "today's the day I'm going to start my diet", or in the past 10 years, to eat healthier, and cut out processed foods? I have said this sentence [or something like it] so many times in my life, and so many times, I have let myself down. When I started working on this babble, I thought about gluttony compared to other sins - like disrespect to one's elders, arrogance, envy, wantonness, greed, disregard for other's property, and so on. I don't mean to belittle the day of Yom Kippur by raising gluttony to the most sinful. I am just sharing how the Rabbi's pre story about "following through" made me think of my past [and sometimes present] failures with dieting.

During the service on the evening before Yom Kippur, we say something like this.... Look at us G-d, see what miserable sinners we are. We make promises to live better each year and yet we always seem to fall far short of keeping those promises. We ask you G-d to pardon us for our shortcomings.

Well, when it comes to dieting and eating healthy, we don't need to ask G-d for forgiveness. We don't need to ask for forgiveness from anyone but ourselves. We need to accept that we are weak in the arms of a canoli, and move on. We need to accept that the aroma of cookies baking in the oven make our hearts go pitter patter, and move on. It's all about our INTENTION. If our intentions are good and true, then we can start again to honor our bodies by feeding them in a healthy way.

So this is what I've learned, and this is how I try to treat myself. I don't harp on my weakness for sweets. I make mistakes. I eat unhealthy foods. Instead of insulting my inability to stay in control, I am instead, kind and understanding. This is how I would treat another person who has "slipped". The 11th of Tishrei can be every day in the life of a "dieter". Yom Kippur is a day to reflect on the values and responsibilities to yourself, as well as to the world. As my rabbi says in his chat, you aren't a hypocrite if you truly believe and intend to change. He says, "...that we need to realize the divine potential that we each possess, and to take the steps needed to make our good intentions come to fruition."

Quote of the Day: "Your life is not meant to get easier, it is meant to take on new and greater responsibilities. This is the pathway to self-fulfillment and self-worth." Dr. John Demartini - healer, trainer, writer