Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


Cooking Again! Okay, Just a Little Bit

I made mini crustless quiches yesterday, a recipe from my WLS blog friend Eggface.  She has about 50 variations of these little bites, as she calls them, but Sunday I made the Breakfast Bites. Each one has 45 calories and 3g of protein, and 3-4 make a serving, depending on what you’re having with them.  They’re full of eggs, swiss cheese, chopped ham, onions and ‘shrooms, baked in a mini muffin tin. It’s nice to have variety for meals and I’ve been getting sick of 2 oz of cottage cheese or yogurt for breakfast.

She also has dozens and dozens of recipes for all kinds of foods that are WLS-safe but equally appealing to non-ops.  (The bites, for example, would be wonderful appetizers for a party.)  Next on my list to try is protein ice cream.    Or maybe the pizza bites. We’ll see.

I also made pudding yogurt, this time with a protein boost. I mixed a tub of plain non-fat yogurt with a box of instant sugar free vanilla pudding, one scoop of vanilla protein, and 4 TB of SF Torani gingerbread syrup.  I’ve made this stuff for years with just yogurt and pudding, but adding the protein powder kicks up the nutrition value without changing the taste.  The Torani syrup takes care of that, in a good way.  I went a little crazy ordering SF Torani flavors that I couldn’t find locally and am eager to try out.

I went out and about late morning to shop for a few things before the cold rain started – toys for the Toys for Tots drive at work, warm gloves & scarf for the Cold Weather Clothing drive, also at work, and some whey protein to give my nephew for Christmas.  It’s not the biggest size tub but I’m pretty sure he’ll appreciate it and at least it does fill up the “under the tree” space.

Most of my shopping is done, though I plan to pick up some things at the Union Square Christmas Fair in New York City this week on a day off.  Holding my breath that the weather behaves coz I don’t really want to mill around NYC in snow, rain or sleet.  Yes, I’m a wieather wimp.


Where do You Get Recipes?

Chef with head in cookbookWhen I was a kid, my mom cooked from her Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, her collection of recipes  cut from women’s magazines such as Redbook, and her faithful wooden recipe box with recipes from friends and family.  But we mostly ate the same things, at least I don’t remember many complicated options.  Lots of plain meat, potatoes and veggies and the usual casseroles made with cream of chicken soup.

Now adays there are cookbooks out the whazoo for every narrow little sliver of cuisine.  My own collection includes almost all of the Weight Watchers cookbooks published in the last 4 years – although I confess I’ve only actually made a few of them, making them definitely not cost-effective purposes.  I have my own Better Homes & Gardens book and a variety of healthy food cooking options – not that I cook from most of them, either.  I like the pictures, though.

Mostly I get recipes from blogs and reading about things friends made, or by going to Epicurious, Recipezaar, and now Spark Recipes.  I like being able to plop in some ingredients I may have on hand and see what comes up – and I like being able to see the nutrition info at the same time.  Tho I try to look there last, because if I don’t like the ingredients or difficulty level enough, what difference would the nutrition make?

My favorite recipe of the last few months, the famous Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake,  came from the Food Network website.  I do look at recipes there when I watch my favorite FN stars show me how easily I can whip up a 4 course meal in just 3o minutes, show after show after show, but it’s not my usual go-to spot to find something to make.

Where do you go?


When Was the Last Time You Cooked with Butter?

Butter sizzlingOne thing that comes with what seems like a lifetime of dieting and calorie counting is that butter is something that only comes in little pats out in restaurants, not in your own kitchen.  Sometimes my mom would buy a box of butter to bake butter cookies at Christmas time – c’mon, “margarine cookies” just aren’t the same.  But that was it.  Everything else was low fat, lower calories, shaving off food values and often flavor in a quest to save fat grams and calories.

Julia Child did not cook that way.  Julia lived with gusto, enjoyed her food, and taught America about French cooking, not sparing the butter or the wine along the way.  Food was complicated but rich and flavorful.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a breakthrough for American cooks at a time when casseroles made with cans of mushroom soup were haute cuisine.

My introduction to Julia Child was Dan Akroyd’s impersonation of her in a Saturday Night Life sketch and I never watched food chefs until the last few years, when I’ve become addicted to the Food Network.  But there would have been no Food Network without Julia Child.

So I was delighted to finally get and devour Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell.  It’s about the Julie/Julia project, in which a NYC secretary takes on a self-imposed project of cooking the 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days, and blogs about it as she goes.  It’s not a cookbook but you do read about the success and failure (but mostly success) of her stretching herself to learn new things, eat new food, expand her horizons, and grow.  Julie & Julia is a story of accomplishment, relationships, life in NYC, coming of age – and yeah, that food.

I can no more imagine going through the pounds of butter that Julie used in recreating these recipes than I can imagine walking to Houston.  But I loved the richness and discovery that came with using that butter in faithful adherence to Julia, in honoring her food.  I can’t wait to see the movie based on the book that’s due out in August 2009 – with Meryl Streep as Julia Child.

Julie Powell says at the end of the book something that will stick with me:

Julia taught me what it takes to find your way in the world.  It’s not what I thought it was.  I thought it was all about — I don’t know, confidence or will or luck.  Those are all some good things to have, no question.  But there’s something else, something that these things grow out of.

It’s joy.

Read this book.  See the movie with me next summer.  Use some butter in a recipe now and then.  Stretch yourself to learn and grow and try new things.  And find your joy.


Overdoing Cooking

Vegetable PeopleI got a bee in my bonnet this weekend to cook.  I haven’t really done this in a while, not like this.  And I have to admit that while it’s good for stocking the fridge with healthy stuff, it wasn’t the smartest thing for my shoulder, even though I tried to pace myself.  My knees aren’t too happy with extensive kitchen standing, either,  so pacing worked all the way around.

We were supposed to get a huge snowstorm on Saturday into Sunday, so the house was stocked with groceries delivered by Peapod (thank heavens for them – lots of wear and tear saved on the shoulder there by having food delivered right to the kitchen).   I had no plans other than trying to figure out how to get my car shoveled out after the snow.

On Saturday I chopped and roasted a big pile of green peppers and sweet onions, lightly tossing in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and seasonings.  They’re great for adding to almost everything – in soup, mixed with couscous, added to salads, as a side to scrambled eggs.  I also made a batch of sweet and sour red cabbage, using shredded cabbage, red onion, apples, vinegar and sugar.  I totally adore this dish, which we actually eat at Thanksgiving and Christmas, though I like it better cold the next day when the flavors have melded more.

A friend stopped by just before the snow to bring me starter for Amish Friendship Bread, so I made that, too.  Don’t ask me why I thought this was a good idea, but it wasn’t hard and I put one loaf in the freezer and will slice the second to have with breakfast this week.   I have a few batches of starter doing their thing in baggies on the counter, just part of the general clutter.

Today’s big project (which isn’t that big, really) was roasting a chicken in the crockpot.  It’s incredibly easy, uses minimal ingredients, yields a ton of clean protein to eat in sandwiches or for dinner.  I especially like chopped chicken mixed with roasted veggies and couscous.  The drawback is that it makes a big mess, since the chicken basically falls off the bone.  It’s worth it, though. I also made a new recipe with sweet potatoes, crushed pineapple, and some brown sugar.  It’s yummy and I suspect I’ll make it again.

In the middle of all this, I went outside to check out the snow situation.  We didn’t get nearly as much as anticipated, which means we won’t believe the weather people the next time they predict a big storm.  It also meant I didn’t have to worry about much snow removal.  My car is in a carport so it doesn’t actually have to be shoveled out, but the plow does sometimes leave a pile behind it that can be a problem if left unattended.

So, um, I went out with a shovel and, using my LEFT ARM ONLY, pushed it out of the way.  Even that I could feel on the right side, and trust me, I’m not going to do it again soon.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we don’t have big storms on the horizon – not that I’ll believe the weather people anyway.

For now, I have clean clothes, a well stocked fridge, a content kitty, and a bag of frozen peas on my right shoulder.  I’m optimistic that it will be a good week, which will be improved considerably if our online system comes back online.  We lost almost 3 days last week, plus work done on Tuesday was lost completely when the system crashed before nightly backup.  Nothing we can do about it.  At least I have a tidy office!

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Feeling Happy and Productive

Me at Christmas 1962Yesterday I threw out years worth of WW weekly program booklets.  They’ve been collecting in a little basket since I joined in 2002 and I realized that I never went back to actually look at them.  While there is valuable info in the material, it’s not valuable if I don’t look at it.  Now it’s inside a dumpster and I have an empty little basket to use for other gizmos.

I haven’t been recording my food, eating many fruits or veggies, or carefully counting anything.  But I managed to lose a few pounds as of the day after Thanksgiving, which tells me that I’m doing something right.  I guess what I’m doing is a loose version of intuitive eating.  Having counted points diligently for years and being a reader of food labels, I have a pretty accurate idea of what options I am choosing. What I want is food that tastes good and is satisfying, even if it has more fat or whatevers in it.  I can eat some and be satisfied instead of feeling that I have to eat bunches of something with less taste.  Even if it’s “better for me” in the defined portion, I’d rather eat a portion of something that tastes better and then find I can stop.

It’s a change, I admit.  And I’m already anticipating with some dread the looks I’m going to get from people as I eat stuff that “fat people shouldn’t eat”.  But if this method keeps me from snacking all afternoon, or eating big ice cream servings in the evening, then so be it.  It’s obviously working.

This has been a very quiet low-key holiday, really more of a 4-day weekend.  Not spending the whole time at a family event that has a giant meal as the centerpiece of activity, and not having to worry about travel delays or whether the cat threw up on the carpet to pay me back for being gone, meant that I’ve had a restful time.

It’s been productive, too — I cleaned up (tidied, not deep cleaning) in advance of my friends’ visit on Friday.  Yesterday I roasted a chicken in the crockpot, made sweet potato/apple casserole, and a batch of chocolate chip cookies from one of those little plastic tubs in the grocery store.  I’ve had a few of them but mostly they’re in their plastic box to go along with lunches this week.  I also did a website conversion for a professional group.  The old one was done in FrontPage, which I don’t have, don’t like, and don’t plan to get, so everything had to be downloaded and converted to a different style.  Nothing exotic but it’s working.

Today I spent some time uploading and annotating Powerpoint slides to Flickr, to be viewed as a slideshow that can be an embedded link in a blog or web post.  Also because we’re doing a presentation on this exact thing, sometime this week I’m afraid (exactly day/time are a mystery), I needed to get it done.  I also played around with my iTunes and made a bunch of playlists.  When I uploaded my music to the new computer, the music stayed but the playlists did a disappearing act.  Oh well, a fresh start is a good idea.

The kitty is curled up in a little ball in the middle of the blanket on my bed.  Dishes are washed, clothes are clean and folded, and I’m warm inside while cold rain falls outside.  I’m glad to be home.


Almost Ready for Company

CountdownI’ve been counting down the days before my parents come, using my list of Things That Need to be Done. It’s broken down by room and I’ve been trying to get one done a night. But I hate working around the house when it’s dark outside and after I’ve been gone all day doing Work. I figured that having a way to break things down would make it at least manageable.

One thing, well okay, two things, I’m doing this week have nothing to do with the parents’ visit and everything to do with personal boundaries. Yesterday I went to my water aerobics class and added an extra 30 minutes before we started, so I must have walked miles in the pool. It really was a hard workout but I’m getting to know what the exercises are and how to do them without hurting the knee but still feeling it in the muscles. Of course afterward the whole class hopped into the whirlpool and chatted some more.

Although I know I’ll be ultra-anxious tomorrow, since they come on Friday, I’m still going to tomorrow’s WA class. I need to set that time apart for myself to do something physical FOR myself. I’ll have to miss at least one next week but I deserve the workout and I’m going to carve out the time to do it even if it means not cleaning something that no one would probably notice anyway.

The other thing I did for myself was go to Weight Watchers for a weigh in and stay for the meeting. We talked about butterflies, and how to be able to fly we first have to be willing to let go of being a caterpillar. There were 6 things on the list, most of which I’ve already forgotten because I have a memory like a steel sieve. But I noticed that when the leader asked us for ways we could work on “Believe in Yourself”, we all sort of drew blanks. We could come up with motivational things but I think we really didn’t believe all that much in ourselves and that we could do what we’ve set out to do.

I know this is true for me. I believe that I am a good person, a good friend, and have lots of positive qualities. I’m not saying I’m a schmuck or evil because I’m obese or because I’ve gained back some of the weight I’ve lost. But I’m going to have to think about this one, what it means to believe in myself and live that out. I think it could be an important piece.

For now, though, I’m waiting for the dryer to stop. There is wine waiting to chill, the study is dusted, the bedding for the Aerobed has been pulled out of the storage chest, and the freezer had lots of protein. I have a batch of browned ground turkey, onions, peppers, and garlic ready to thaw and use in meat sauce with pasta for Friday’s supper. A basket holds tour books, maps, and brochures of things to do.

I haven’t seen my parents since Thanksgiving and can’t wait to see them. The visit is really about the time together, not about whether I’ve fixed the perfect meal or dusted everything that doesn’t move.