Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Week - The Day

In two hours, the guests will arrive. The turkey is in the oven, having waited its turn after the pies (2 pecan, 2 pumpkin) and the rolls. I managed to resist tempation and did not eat a roll when they came out of the oven. They are now safely wrapped in foil, ready for reheating later, and thus invisible to me.

We hope. I do know they're there.

This bread recipe is screwy. The first time I made the rolls, I used the temp called for and set the timer for a few minutes less time, to check them.

They burned.

This time, I lowered the heat 50 degrees and set the timer ten minutes less. I had to rescue them a few minutes early, but they're perfect. Sheez!

The potatoes are peeled and cut, ready for boiling and mashing. The giblets are beginning to simmer. The table is set, with side tables set up for appetizers in the living room, and an extra card table in the dining room, for the overflow. I have discovered I no longer have enough wine glasses (I'm a danger to all around me), enough napkin rings, or napkins that go with our nice dishes. I will try to remedy these things before Christmas.

For now, we'll make do. All the people coming over here love each other - no one will be upset by such faux pas.

Here's how things look so far. And yes. I'm having fun!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 2's Dinner

Last night's dinner got lots of raves. I had lots of leftover antipasto veggies: marinated radishes, red potatoes, baby carrots, artichoke hearts, radicchio... but it wasn't enough for three people. But I had cooked a huge batch of wild rice for the Thanksgiving stuffed squashes, and I didn't use it all. So I threw in about a cup of cold wild rice, added the chopped up leftover roast beef, some mizithra cheese I found in the frig, and put it all over a bed of lettuce.

I served it with warm bread and butter.

Not bad. Not bad, at all.

Tonight's dinner? We're getting pizza. And it won't be Zachary's or Cheeseboard, since we don't live in Berkeley.


The Week - Day 3

Well, the last minute Family Thing addition to my schedule fell OFF the schedule about 8 p.m., SO....

Today I think I just need to make the pies. Which I could conceivably do tomorrow morning. But let's see - tomorrow, I will have to peel, cook, and mash the potatoes, roast the turkey for a few hours, make gravy (but that can't be done until the turkey is finished).

The stuffed squashes will have to be baked, but they will go in the oven when the turkey comes out. They only need about half an hour, during which the turkey will be "resting," and then getting carved.

Is that it? Thanksgiving is a potluck, so guests are bringing appetizers and sides. Oh, I have to make the salad, which will mean cutting up a couple of apples, washing and tearing the lettuce, then combining everything. The dressing is already made, just need to toss it with the salad.
There shouldn't be a lot to do tomorrow. Will the pies be better if they're cooked the same day? One advantage to that is that I don't need to find room in the frig for the baked pies. That's a BIG push toward waiting to bake them.

Which means I don't have a darn thing I need to do today, except pick up the CSA box and buy the salad greens. Maybe I'll go shopping...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Week - Day 2, con't

I added the stuffed squash to today's prep list. There are Family Things going on, and I'll be lucky to have even a few hours to cook, tomorrow. I think what I've left are the pies (4 of them) and prepping the turkey. I have a couple of last minute items to pick up at the store, and I'll get our CSA box at 4:00.

There's something else... but my list is downstairs. Anyway, I think I'll make it, now that the squashes are done.

They look properly pretty, too!

The Week - Day 2

I overslept. This is a minor miracle. Weird dream, too, but it was kind of cool.

Today: turkey delivery from Wind Dancer Ranch. I'm babysitting two of the turkeys until their owners can get here to pick them up. I wonder if I need ice to keep them cold?

Do I want to brine my turkey? I haven't decided, but I'm leaning toward doing that.

Food Prep:
Freeze the second batch of pumpkin ice cream
Make cornbread, break it up and toast it until dry and crunchy. Set aside for Friday.
Make the cranberry-zinfandel salad dressing. That's for Thursday.
Make cranberry sauce, for Thursday AND Friday.

Hmm. What's for dinner tonight?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Week - Day 1, con't

A successful meal, lots of conversation, and good wine, was had by all. Behold the pasta:

and the lovely veggies:

I forgot to take a picture of the pumpkin ice cream, but that will put in more appearances during the week. Trust me - it was good!

The Week - Day 1

Today is lunch with out-of-town friends. The menu is

Sun-Dried Tomato Tapanade with Crackers
Antipasto Vegetable Platter
Roasted Pepper, Kalamata Olives Pasta
Pumpkin Ice Cream with Graham Cracker Bits and Whipped Cream

Wine? Dunno yet.

So far, I've steamed the veggies and they are splashing in the marinade.
The peppers have been roasted and are resting in a plastic bag.

I did the breakfast dishes, too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Holidays are Here...

I'm trying to be good, although I know I must face the reality of the holidays. This week alone, I've got three big meals to prepare. I will not deny myself a taste of everything - the real work will be to restrict myself to small amounts. And watch the drinking.

I consider it a good holiday if I don't GAIN anything, but these days, that's how I feel about every day. I love the holiday food, too. Pumpkin and other squashes are just about my best favorite - in any form. I'm serving stuffed acorn squash as a side to the turkey on Thursday, and my kid's favorite sweet potato casserole on Friday. There will be pumpkin pie of course, with whipped cream. And pumpkin ice cream will put in appearance at each of the big meals. I'll be making that today, because the first meal is tomorrow (lunch with some out-of-town friends).

This year, an exciting plan is to give my six-month old grandson his first bite of grown-up food during the festivities: baked sweet potato. The camera will be ready for that!

Last year was the first time in YEARS that I cooked a turkey. It didn't get done in the allotted time - we ended up having to toss some of the carved pieces into the microwave. This year, I'll allow more time, but honestly - I used the time/temperature charts from many sources, and it didn't work! I think it was a 16 pound bird, and I roasted it for 5 hours at 350. By all the charts, it should have been done.

I notice this with nearly all the meat I cook in my oven. Chicken, beef roasts, turkeys, whatever... they take a lot longer to cook. Yet the thermometer in the oven shows the right temperature. And other things, such as the rolls I baked the other day, get done far too soon!

Why can't it just be simple?

Anyway, this year our turkey is a fresh one from Wind Dancer Ranch. I can't wait to taste it - I'm really excited about it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Using leftovers

I overcame my food lethargy enough to cook up most of the veggies from last week's CSA box. I baked the Delicata squash and served it with butter and brown sugar - true comfort food. The meal was rounded out with the last of our CSA hog: thick braised pork chops.

This is an example of never throwing away food, because I had some stuffing in my freezer from a meal I'd prepared months ago. I've never learned the art of truly stuffing something - I always have lots of the stuffing mixture left over. It was basically onion, pecans, breadcrumbs, butter, and a bit of bourbon. I had about a cup of it left.

So I sprinkled the chops with salt, pepper, and garam masala, browned them in oil, then removed them from the pan and added the stuffing to the pan. I used more bourbon to scrape the pan, put the chops back in, covered it with a lid and stuck it in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Those were really good pork chops.

I sauteed all the greens from the box: there was kale, the tops of the turnips, and leaves from the cauliflower. They were a little bitter - that's something else I need to work on. Anyone have pointers from removing the bitterness from greens?

Anyway, it was a lovely meal. I also steamed the cauliflower and the turnips to put away for another meal. We had the cauliflower last night, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and olive oil. It was quite good.

We added some of the leftover squash to our pancakes yesterday. I'll use the rest in my morning oatmeal.

I love winter vegetables.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lament, continued

I just remembered another of my diet blockers: crackers and hot sauce.

See, instead of  chips, with their high calorie/fat content, I eat crackers with hot sauce. And sometimes, that craving for hot sauce overwhelms me. I like it HOT, and I like a lot of it.

The hot sauce itself is great - low calorie, full of veggies. It's the crackers that are the problem.

I remembered it because I just scarfed about five crackers - large crackers. At least that many. In this case, five crackers are 115 calories. If I had more than that...

I know. I should have counted. Well - I certainly didn't have more than seven crackers.

That may sound like a great snack to you. But see, my allowed calories are so tiny, that 150 extra calories in the day puts fat on my stomach. It really does.

If I exercise - strenuously - I might come out even. But I've got a metabolism that's on ambien or something - it's so slow, it sleeps. And it makes me want to cry.

And give up.

These are the kinds of things that wipe me out, diet-wise. It's not soft drinks or lattes or donuts. It's the usually-healthy-good-for-you food I've got in the house.

Sometimes, I wish I had a soda habit. I wish I drank an 800 calorie coffee drink every day, or bought a Jamba Juice smoothie for every breakfast. It would be easy to lose weight then. But if I'm already not doing any of that stuff - where do I go?


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Yes. It's been ages since I posted.

Excuse #1: I just got back from vacation. That takes care of the last two weeks.

Before that?

Excuse #2 (and this is the kicker): I'm sort of depressed about food, these days.

I know - that's not good for a personal chef to confess. But still, it's true.

The problem is weight. As in, too much. And it's really getting to me. I've been "trying" for a year to lose weight. I literally wake up every day, determined to keep the calories DOWN today. And practically every day, I fail. I did manage to drop six pounds, with LOTS of discipline and practically no calories. But it's all come back. Maybe a pound or two more.

I cannot be satisfied with my weight. I can't be one of those "happy with my body" people. Besides, with arthritis, iffy knees, and slightly elevated cholesterol (and a family history rampant with heart disease), I NEED to weigh less.

I'm punishing my body to do otherwise.

I've signed up with websites - the community sites with daily food tracking, and exercise trackers, and forums where I can get support from other people. I've kept food dairies until I can tell you without looking how many calories I've consumed.  I've tried to exercise - lunges and stretches and dancing to old rock 'n roll. But I always drift away from all of it.

Through it all, I've stayed true to my Real Food desires. No processed food. I won't eat sugar-free anything, but then I don't eat or drink a lot of sweetened things, anyway.

Well, except... I have a super sweet tooth. So, while I don't drink sodas (or even juice), and I don't use jams, and I don't buy smoothies or lattes or boxed cereal or energy bars, or any of that STUFF - I do love sweets.

You know, real sweets. Like homemade cookies or brownies or cake. Chocolate-just-about-anything. And while I don't keep those things around the house, I still crave them, and when I lose it, I really lose it. I make cookies and eat half the dough. Or I'll buy a bag of chocolate chips and eat half a cup, everyday until they're gone. I don't do it often. But I do it often enough. Or I'll mix up a a couple tablespoons of cocoa and sugar, with hot water to make a paste, and I'll eat that. With nuts.

I love nuts. Nuts are really good for you and they're good for your heart. But they have a LOT of calories and fat. So the key is just a little. Say a tablespoon or so every day. Or less. But if I don't have anything else in the house and I'm craving SOMETHING - I'll eat a half a cup of nuts without even thinking about it. And I do keep nuts in the house. All kinds.

And bread. Oh yeah, I LOVE bread. It's something I've been fairly successful at limiting, but it's one of the things that depresses me. I'd love to make a loaf of delicious whole-grain bread and have a slice or two. But I don't dare.

Cheese. Sorry. I've given up butter for the most part (no, I'm not using margarine)- but I'm not giving up the cheese.

And I hate it. Food should not be enemy. But there it is. There is too much food available to me and I don't have the discipline to not indulge.

So this is why I don't post. I don't want to think about food. I whine when I think about food. Yet today for lunch, I made a tomato soup that is practically zero calories (maybe 75 in the 1 1/2 cups I had), and I let myself have a slice of bread with provolone cheese melted on it. Which was probably 250 to 300 calories.

But the meal was pretty and fresh, and it tasted great.

So there.