Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chilly Enough for Chili

Fall was snappin' at our toes this weekend for sure. I really can't say I'm happy to see the warm weather go, but I do admit to ringing my hands in glee at the thought of all the yummy comfort food the cold weather brings with it. It's really a weird seasonal thing that happens - like bears hibernating - I feel that chill in the air and I just want to cook! I can't contain myself, as the days get shorter my little chef's wanna be brain turns to cooking and baking and and...I can't control myself - somebody help me!!! Is there a pill I can take to stop this constant urge to - to - to - to COOK!!!!!

Heavy sigh, hangs head in shame. Ya right. I've resigned myself to the fact that this year ain't gonna be the year that I overcome my addiction to fall comfort food. Not gonna happen.

So, now on to the good stuff. I was thinking soup of some kind, but M had a much better idea - Chili - mmmm. Personally I hate beans, I have some rather nasty childhood memories of the "You'll sit there until it's gone" nature. Suffice it to say cold beans for breakfast - blesch. Now I can tolerate a black bean as long as its all hopped up in an Asian dish or a nice spicy black bean soup - I make a mighty fine one too, hmm maybe next week (furiously scribbling a note to self). But plain old regular beans I got no time for. Baked beans? Even less.

But, if you try to pass chili off on me WITHOUT kidney beans I will pitch a sizable fit. Odd right. Ya, I think so too but there it is. And let me tell ya those weirdos that put pasta in chili - well, what the heck are they thinkin? I mean I love me some pasta - but that's just wrong!

My mother made chili from scratch - stewed the beans herself and all. To be honest I would stew my own beans but my mom's recipe - neatly printed on the side of the molasses jar - has been lost. You would think the molasses folks would have kept that recipe there for like ever...So, having attempted it -once and only once - I opted for the canned method. Me, I dump a mean can let me tell ya. Like I always say - why mess with the pros right - there is no shame in using a well prepared commercial product. Besides who's got 12 hours to make stewed beans?

So this here chili is my rendition, not too spicy this time, but if you want more zing add one of those little cans of green jalepanos that you get in the ethnic section - zoom. It has a nice deep warm flavor, not too hot, not too beany - you know how I feel about that - and nice and meaty.

To cheddar or not to cheddar - that's up to you - sometimes we do sometimes we don't. This time I opted for a change, and I tried Ina's cheddar jalepano corn bread - granted it was a last minute thought and I skipped the jalepano and the green onions 'cause I was out of both. The bread was nice - cooked up beautifully like the recipe said, but overall I was disappointed - it just wasn't corny enough. The cheddar came through okay, but if I make this again I will double the salt - it seemed really lacking. I might also cut the flour in favor of more cornmeal. Still, it was hot and cheesy and went nicely with the chili, which of course was the star.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Update on the Diet

Well, September has almost gone and I have taken the trip to the lab for my blood tests to see if this whole NutriSystem thingy has really done the job I was hoping for.

Before I reveal the results, let me thank Quest Diagnostics of Leominster Massachusetts for introducing me to several shades of blue which I never thought the human body could produce. Ya know, it's a wonder how they can give some dracula wanna be a sharp object and turn them lose on an unsuspecting public! This lovely photo was take 3 days after my blood draw. My arm swelled like a baseball and hurt like heck! Many darker more interesting hues were revealed over the next week or so. We are now 12 days out and it is still black although the square footage has reduced by about half. BUT IT STILL HURTS like the wickedest bruise I ever had.

Once when I was a little kid my brother and his friends came up to me and asked "wanna hurts donut?" I, being a stupid 7 year old - who only heard DONUT - made the fatal mistake of saying yes. They commenced to smack me on the arm a bunch of times laughing like lunatics and saying "Hurts Don't It!!!" The result? The wickedest bruise I ever had! Anyway, I would gladly offer a dozen said donuts to the sadist at Quest - you know who you are.

So, results - drum roll please - my cholesterol is down 38 points - LDL down 39 points, HDL up 8 points. I am in the safe range again and and my risk factor is something less than half a percent.

Thank you NutriSystem!!!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Three Of A Kind

So M asked me to make a cheese cake for the last something-or-other at the sportsman's club. Doesn't really matter what it was for all I heard was BAKE - any excuse to bake!! Yippe! Yay, hurray I get to bake - and no guilt added 'cause I have to give it away! So-o-o-o cool!!

Well, of course it had to be my famous white chocolate cheese cake - no problemo...then I heard that I was supposed to feed 33 plus MEN. Panic stations - eek - 33 MEN with manly appetites - that's like 3 cheese cakes. That means lots of oven time!

I decided to cook one one night and 2 the next - well, I learned a few valuable lessons when I tried to cook the two. First - my new oven IS NOT big enough for 2 10 inch springform pans in a water bath. Second, convection doesn't work for cheese cakes!! Even if they are jammed into an ill fitting water bath!

Once I realized placing the racks in the proper positions (racks placed in thirds and cakes staggered) for convection baking was browning my oh so delicate edges I chucked the whole idea dragged those bad boys outa the oven, tossed the water bath and just cooked them in the middle of the oven on the same rack - perfect. Nice and creamy. No further heinous browning and no cracks.

Word to the wise ladies. If you have a tried and true method for making cheese cake - DON"T IMPROVISE!!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

B-Bye Summer

Yup, summer is drawing to a close and diet not withstanding I just had to have one last BBQ with all the fixin's! Now I'm not gonna post a ribs recipe 'cause EVERYONE has their own secret recipe that's the best in the world yada yada... I think mine truely is the best and since I stole the recipe I ain't-a-gonna give it up!! But here's a peek - mouth watering yet?

Now I know I just posted about being on a diet and I still am (22 pounds so far). One thing I have learned I can't live my life in total denial - well I can try, but when it comes to food, well - no. So, yes, I take a day off here or there and I try not to go nuts - sometimes I fail, but I get right back on. I'm at my goal so I am now maintaining. Okay enough of that crap - back to the Q!
Where was I? Oh ya, ribs, now what goes better with ribs than good old tater salad - not much, except maybe corn on the cob. Now, I am a potatoe salad purist, I don't like a bunch of fancy ingredients - I don't need eggs or bacon (it ain't breakfast guys) or celery or peppers...(yuk!). For me it's the K.I.S.S. method (for you youngsters that's keep-it-simple-stupid). Here's the recipe - potatoes (I use plain old white), sweet onions chopped (a fistful for every 3 fist sized taters), cider vinegar (a 1/2 teaspoon at a time) real mayo -NOT SALAD DRESSING (a good coating on all the veggies), salt and pepper. Got it? For the photo op I sprinkled with Paprika just 'cause my mother always did - but you can skip that, it is really just decoration.

Of cousre there was corn - how could there not be? We got the BEST corn out in Central Massachusettes near our sporting club. Look how pretty!!!

So since this was kind of a special Q - being the last for the year - I did try a new recipe. I got this recipe from the Food Network - okay now I'm gonna confess that I actually did watch " party line with the Hardy Boys" - go ahead laugh - get it out of your system. Done? In my own defense there ain't much on TV at 7AM on Sunday mornings when I'm slogging away on the stepper. Anyway, they did this really nice lemon, tomatoe pasta salad, which I have tried as is and loved it. But, today I added Australian Semi-Sun Dried Tomatoes from 34°. Normally the salad is light and very bright, but with the addition of these tomatoes and a little balsamic the flavor was much deeper, nice for a coolish day.

B-Bye Summer, it was great while it lasted!

Now bring on the stews, apples and fresh baked bread!!!!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Falling Off The Wagon

Okay, soI haven’t been so talkative lately. To tell you the truth I haven’t been cooking much at all. And I admit I've been a little slow getting this posted too...

Remember my post with all that blathering about dieting and what not? Well, I failed – I just COULD NOT get my head in the game. I tried – sort of – and just fell right off the wagon. Bruised my ever expanding butt too. So, after a visit to the doc for an un-fat-related problem I got a scare. My blood pressure and Cholesterol had sky rocketed. Drastic measures were required!!!!

M and I had been jokingly talking about NutriSystem – you know the diet that runs those stupid infomercials early every morning? All those “I lost a jillion pounds” blah blah…Well, I understand the glycemic index and how it works and honestly, I thought that, like anything else, this could work if I stuck to it. Not one to suffer alone, I stomped my chunky little foot and signed M on with me.

We got our packages of food and read the little booklets and jumped right in. Now let me warn you – if you think this is an easy diet you are wrong – I mean yes, they provide food, but YOU provide just as much food. And don’t think it’s cheap, you provide fruits, veggies, dairy, protein – get the picture? Not to mention all the prep work. That all being said…

I have lost 19 pounds since April 21, I look better than I have on any diet I have ever tried and I feel great; better still my pressure is down in the basement where it belongs. I get the cholesterol checked in September – no doubt that it will be back in the low range that it was before. M has done even better!

Now, keep in mind this IS A DIET. The food is not exactly up to my usual standards; yes they have chocolate – but Lindt it ain’t! The food is okay and some is very good, some is yucky but since I get to pick the menus I can avoid the weird smelling things.

I even got a cute little bear for losing 10 pounds! Nice touch.

Like I said this diet is not for the faint of heart – you must be committed, follow the diet, keep records. You will not be hungry so if that is your excuse for not trying a new diet try this one. Oh ya, umm – try getting’ your butt to the gym or maybe out for a WALK!!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Our Best Friend Died Today

Our best friend died today.

It has been a hard year watching our best girl struggle to stay alive for our sake.

She is no longer suffering, but we are.



Walkies in the woods.

Sometimes we called her Miss-Chievous.

More than friends.

Coming home was always a joy.

Beauty Girl


Goodbye my best friend.

Thank you for sharing your time with us.

I am sorry you must take this last walk alone.

We will miss you.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Baby It's Cold Outside


So what do you hanker for when it's cold? Yesterday was very sunny and looked beautiful - from inside the house! It was cold, and there ain't nothtin' better on a cold day than nice hot bread!

I made a few adjustments to this KitchenAid bread recipe, which is a little sweet and nutty at the same time. Owing to the good carb - bad carb battle we all wage, I used a really cool new ingredient (for me). Graham Flour - or for the not so educated - like me - whole wheat pastry flour. I cut the white flour by a bit more than half and added a little extra salt - this flour seems to need it. And I ended up with a little less sweetness - a welcome development for sandwiches - and a heartyness that is just superb.

You can visit our good friend King Arthur for this flour, I can't wait to try it in some other things!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Portly Ballerina

Okay, so I lied in my side bar about the gym and stuff. Lately I have been what can only be termed a SLUG. A lazy laying-on-my-keester-eatin’-the-bon-bons slug! I have gone from 60 minutes of grueling exercise every morning at 5AM to many more minutes of Olympic (quality) eating. What the heck happened you might ask, to send me into this downward spiral of self indulgence? Beats me.

I could blame troubles with my mom who is old and failing (Cop out – she and I don’t get a long any way), or maybe cause I got sick (Puh-leeze – last winter I was stepping it out with a tissue in each hand heavily sedated on cold pills) or maybe because M has had a bad health year (Ya right – M has - but I haven’t). Oh wait, my dog got sick (true and sad but come on why burden her with my troubles). I got nuthin’ guys no excuse and no good reason, it just happened. It wasn’t like I didn’t see it coming either – cause man – those jeans got so tight (pathetic confession coming) I actually broke my own rule. Are you ready? I bought bigger pants. Please note I am now hanging my (fat) head in shame.

M has been trying to lure me back into the gym – no dice, I didn’t even make excuses I just said “No”. Gad, I suck! Gotta give the guy credit, he has stayed in the gym, and kept to a fairly healthy diet in spite of my wallowing.

Well, sports fans I finally came to this morning. I realized that hey – this is just DISGUSTING and unnecessary! Admittedly I was watching – do not roll your eyes!- “The Fashion Police” on the style network . Not exactly my normal viewing pleasure, Robert Verdi kind of gives me the creeps – but the guy does know what looks good. Any who, at 6 in the AM choices are limited. SO I’m watching this show going “Hey, I Love that jacket she’s wearing and those jeans are so cool.” And then the little voice in my head starts laughing hysterically…”Go ahead, put that on I dare ya”. Can a little voice throw itself on the floor in wild peels of laughter? I think it can.

That’s when I realized that little me inside of the big me wasn’t too pleased with all this keester layin’ and bon-bon eatin’. I mean really, all my blathering about healthy eating aside – I am vain and I like to look good. Now, this is not to say that I don’t think health is important – I take pride in my low blood pressure and what not, but a hot bod is a hot bod – even at my age!

I grabbed myself by the ears this morning and gave myself a good talking to – “Knock it off tubby!” That about did it, I’m back. Will it be a struggle –ya sure, but guys it’s not really as hard as all that. Really it’s not. My “just try” tank has been low lately, but the little realization that I had almost thrown 10 years down the tubes filled it up pretty quick.

I’m back! Look out – cause this bitch is BACK!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Low Carb & Livin' with it...

In this day of beautiful bodies, there are a few of us who actually watch the carbs and fat because – hey it’s the HEALTHY thing to do. I don’t know about you but I would like to stick around for a while! And yeah, I wouldn’t mind lookin’ good doin’ it either. But like I said for some of us it’s just necessity, not vanity. Be it family history or poor diet in my youth, I now need to watch the stuff I throw down my throat. So, I dutifully belly up to the apothecary bar every morning for vitamin shooters with fish oil chasers. Then it is off to punish the treadmill or stepper for a while. I consider it punishment for the equipment because it has to endure being stomped on everyday, sweated on every day and what reward does it get? We affectionately call our home gym the torture chamber.

The real problem is I kinda don’t like to eat things that don’t taste good…silly me. I am always looking for something yummy that doesn’t trash my carb count for the day or pump me full of fat.

Zuccuccini! Okay so it’s not a word. In plain English it is zucchini cut with a mandolin to the depth and width of fettuccini. Now, with this dandy little low carb, low fat, high fiber “noodle” you can make some really neat dishes that don’t feel like low carb. Okay so it ain’t pasta, but remember we are being healthy today…Saut√© these ”noodles” up in a bit of olive oil, butter (remember I said bit not block) and a little garlic and you have a nice fresh side dish – add some fresh grated GOOD parmesan, increase the portion and you have your self a nice meal. If fat is an issue, well you can drop the butter, but parmesan is not really that bad calorie wise… a little goes a long way. Weigh it you’ll see.

I don’t steam because, well, then its just skinny zucchini and no added flavor.

This little cheater is also a pretty sauce holder too. We use it to replace noodles for some of our favorite dishes. It seems to be better suited for creamy sauces, tomato or clear sauces tend to over power and not stick very well.

This recipe is not quite fat free but if you moderate the sauce, it is a healthier alternative to heavy real pasta.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Chocolatier wanna be...

Okay, so in my header is says I am a chocolatier wanna be and you have yet to see any serious chocolate yet right? Well, that is because I only “go into production” once or twice a year now due to time constraints – and waistline constraints. But, that time has come around so strap yourself in ‘cause I am about to make Willie Wonka blush!!

You won’t see recipes, because I read somewhere that if you have a secret recipe that everyone raves over, don’t give it away. Otherwise you will never be able to show up at a function and have something unique. Ya, I know; how selfish of me, but, someday these yummies may be smiling back at ya from a shiny glass case with my name and a price tag next to them! Besides, there are jillions of candy recipes out there and since I feel candy making is a very personal thing I think you should find something you like and make it your own.

My gift baskets are my pride and joy, and I hope, people look forward to receiving one every year. I make a variety of things to go into every one of my gift baskets, everything has chocolate in or on it except one – periodically I make pecan pralines because they are the absolute favorite of my dearest friend Claire. I never put baked goods in my baskets – I save that for just plain giving, but I do sometimes add a nice champagne or sweet wine.

I really do love chocolate, and I’m picky. As you can see from the photos, I use a wide variety of chocolate. I use certain brands for certain things, sometimes coverture, sometimes eating chocolate, depends on what I am making. I really do prefer a very good eating chocolate for many of my truffle centers – they just seem smoother and creamier. And no I am not talking Hershey’s here; although I like a Hershey bar as much as the next guy. It’s all a science really, fruitier chocolates for fruit, nuttier chocolates for nuts and so on. There really are differences and if you want to really give yourself a sugar high, stop by a very good candy shop or go on line to one of my favorite places Chocolate Source and buy a few different kinds. Try some Callebaut, or Valrhona, or maybe Lindt coverture (yes folks it does exist!). Have yourself a little tasting session and see what I mean – you’ll be amazed.

I try to make something new every year, just to keep my regular recipients guessing. Everyone has their favorites, and I was surprised to find out that for some people truffles were not at the top of their list. Sheesh, how could that be! I will admit the year I introduced Turkish Delights (rosewater geleé in milk chocolate) it was not a huge hit among my American friends, although my European friends were quite thrilled for a taste of home. Wonder how people are gonna feel about Orange Blossom Water and Bitter Sweet Chocolate?

Cointreau Truffle
Swiss White Chocolate Truffle with Cointreau Enrobed in Belgian Bitter-Sweet Chocolate

Chambord Truffle
Swiss WHite Chocolate Truffle with Chambord Enrobed in Belgian White Chocolate

Baileys Truffle
Belgian Semi-Sweet Chocolate Truffle with Baileys Irish Cream Enrobed in French Milk Chocolate

Amaretto Truffle
French Milk Chocolate Truffle with Amaretto Enrobed in Belgian Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Ginger Coins
Belgian Bitter-Sweet Chocolate and Australian Crystalized Ginger

Mint Patties
Buttery Mint Patty Enrobed in Belgian Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Peanut Butter Dreams
Peanut Butter & Swiss White Chocolate Enrobed in French Milk Chocolate