Thursday, April 30, 2009

Feeling So Much Better Now

Thanks to sofa snuggles with Pooch (and a huge ice pack), large doses of ibuprofen, and physical therapy exercises, I am pleased to update my last post. I am feeling pretty good. My back has settled down and only hurts if I stand for a while. And, thanks to my vigilant food journaling, I've lost 2.5 pounds. That's a really good start.

I'm planning to start walking again on Saturday - just a 10 minute stroll. There's no hurry to get back in shape, and rushing it will just land me flat on my back again. So, 10 minutes a day will do just fine for now.

Thanks to all of you who left notes of encouragement - they helped a lot.

I'll be back on Sunday with a new What's Cooking post. Have a great weekend...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

“My Doctor Done Told Me”…

He said I’d have recurring back pain for the rest of my life if I didn’t lose some weight. I started a couple of years ago, and took off 25 pounds – half of what he suggested. Then I got derailed when Pooch got so sick a year and a half ago. Doing all the food prep a diet requires was just too much for me in addition to caring for our terminal friend. So, I found the pounds I lost.

For the past three days, I’ve been hobbling around like an old lady because my back has revolted. Too many cupcakes, not enough bunny food. Add to the mix the fact that North Carolina has just decided to reduce health insurance benefits for state employees who are “seriously obese” (determined by BFI), and it makes sense to take off those clingy extra pounds – all fifty of them. It seems an insurmountable task when I look at the bigger picture. Time to take baby steps… especially since can’t move very fast right now!

I had success the last time I made this vow by combining principles of The South Beach Diet and an older generation of Weight Watchers - no calculating points for me. I cut out a lot of the processed carbohydrates and concentrated on whole grains, lots of fresh veggies, lean meats, and weighing and measuring my portions.

I also resorted to counting calories, something both diet plans eschew. It’s simply a matter of physics: calories in-vs-calories burned determines weight loss. I know for a fact I can pack away a significant number of calories in a day, so I must count them to keep myself honest.

I use, which is a GREAT online journaling site. It takes a bit of time in the beginning. A lot of the foods we eat are not listed in their database, so I had to input all the nutritional info for those. But now, I have a long customized list to choose from each day and tracking my daily intake takes maybe 10 minutes a day. Each morning I plan my food for the day, input it all and the site calculates the caloric value for the day as well as the nutritional distribution for the day.

Here's a fabulous recipe for a high-protein breakfast. We love French toast for breakfast, but now it's off the menu for a while. Here's a substitute - I swear you'll never know the bread is missing!

Faux French Toast
serves 2

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp Splenda
2 tsp butter or margarine (I use Smart Balance)

In small bowl combine the eggs, cheese, vanilla and Splenda. Mix well. Melt butter or margarine in nonstick skillet and pour in cheese mixture. Allow to cook over medium heat until browned on the bottom and the top is no longer runny. Flip and cook the second side until browned. Serve with a tiny drizzle of maple syrup.

All the flavors and texture of French toast without the bread!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fado - The Sound of Portugal

Fado (translated as destiny or fate) is a music genre which can be traced from the 1820s in Portugal, but probably with much earlier origins. In popular belief, Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. However, in reality Fado is simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain structure. You can read more about it here. (Source: Wikipedia)

Mariza image borrowed from

In my continuing quest to expand my music appreciation, I recently saw some videos by Portugal's Mariza, who's passion is singing Fado. Let me stress the word "passion"! Her voice is gorgeous and powerful, and her sense of drama on stage is intense. I enjoy her very much, but kind of like chocolate: a little goes a long way. While learning more about this song style, I've also been reading Isabel's poetic and sweet memories of her childhood in Portugal at A Room of One's Own. It seemed like fate (or should I say... Fado?) that Mariza's videos appeared on the World Music program at LINKtv during this time. The first video I experienced was Meu Fado:

I did a search on You Tube for some more and found the beautifully arranged song about "saudade", Gente da minha terra:

"People of My Land"

It is my and yours - this fate
A destiny that binds us,
Even when we deny it,
To the strings of a guitar

Every time we hear the lament
Of a crying guitar
We are immediately lost
With a need to cry

People of my land
Now I understand
This sadness I carry
I received from you

It would seem like tenderness
If I let myself feel it
My sorrow would be bigger
But my singing less sad

People of my land
Now I understand
This sadness I carry
I received from you

And finally, if the soaring slow drama of those two is not to your taste, try Rosa Branca. I love this one - it'll definitely get your feet moving.

"White Rose"
(this song is based on a children's song about roses)

In the ring with the rose on my lapel
I danced with anyone
So many turns I have dances
That the rose petals fell

Who has, who has
The love that fits them
Pick the white rose
And put it on the lapel

Oh Rose bush, little rose bush
Rose bush in my garden
If you love roses so
Why don't you love me?

Who has, who has
The love that fits them
Pick the white rose
And put it on the lapel

This song is based on a children's game. Kids would make a ring and dance around it until they picked the girl or boy they liked.

Don'tcha just love all those rolled r's? And I'm particularly fond of the jangly sound of the Portuguese guitar - so different from the warm Spanish guitar sound.

Many thanks to Isabel for her translations of these two songs - you're a peach!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday: Shimp-Pesto Pizza

This week, Marble Man and I shook things up good and proper. Usually when we make a pizza, it's loaded with a variety of veggies, and topped with the requisite anchovy fillets. Before you all wrinkle up your faces and say ""EEwww", understand that anchovies are a Northeastern Thing. We love 'em - can't get enough of 'em.

This week, we went with something new. I found a recipe in Southern Living magazine for Shrimp-Pesto Pizza and it sounded amazing. We took it a step further and used a garlic and herb pizza dough from Trader Joe's. Wowiezowie! It was incredible. Each bite was loaded with zingie flavors, and the shrimps were tender and juicy. The original recipe called for grilling the pizza, but we popped ours into a hot oven and it came out great. So, here's the recipe for you:

Shrimp-Pesto Pizza (Southern Living Magazine, Oct 2007)
Serves 2-3

1/2 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 T olive oil, divided
all purpose flour
yellow cornmeal
1 lb fresh pizza dough
1/3 C refrigerated pesto
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese

Coat cold cooking grate of grill with nonstick cooking spray and place on grill. Preheat grill to 350 degrees (medium heat).

Sautee onion, bell pepper, salt, and pepper in 1 T oil in large skillet over med-high heat until tender. Transfer to a large bowl. Sautee sliced shrimp in remaining oil until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. Drain well and add shrimp to onion mixture and toss.

Lightly sprinkle flour and cornmeal onto a large baking sheet. Roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness on baking sheet. Slide dough from baking sheet to cooking grate. Spread pesto evenly over crust, top with shrimp mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Grill, covered with grill lid, 4 minutes. Rotate pizza one quarter turn and grill, covered, 5-6 more minutes until crust is cooked. Serve immediately.
This was our first time trying this recipe, and we made some small changes, which I think worked out well:

Because of the cheese in the pesto, I reduced the Parmesan topping to 1/4 cup, and it was more than adequate.

We heated our oven to 425 degrees and baked the pizza right on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. I think the next time we make it, we'll bake the crust topless for about 5 minutes to keep the pesto from making it too soggy.

I hope you'll try this!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Finding Inspiration Wherever I Look

Last week was a busy one for me. Stocking my new Etsy "destash" shop meant sorting through all the little baggies of beads in the studio, during which I found some beauties languishing in a drawer. It seemed a shame that I haven't used them before now, so I made a concerted effort to do just that.

Along with my resolve to use some stuff up, came an improvement in the weather: sunshine, temps in the high 70's, and balmy breezes. What do all those add up to? Flip flop weather - my favorite time of year!! Monday I took a page from Vanessa's book and grabbed the camera before going outside. Everywhere in the yard beautiful flowers craned their heads toward the warm sun.

It was so gorgeous out, I just had to dance like an idiot and sing this. I took off my shoes to wiggle my freshly painted piggies in the cool grass (gotta have painted toes for flip flop season, right?)... I set about sniffing flowers.

Now that I'd allowed my Inner Crazy Person to come out and play, it was time to buckle down to Production Mode. Many of my beads are acrylic flowers so it felt right to segue from my outdoor wanderings to make Spring and Summer earrings.

More gorgeous beads I've been hanging onto:

All of these new earrings should be listed in my Etsy shop by the end of this week. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What’s Cooking Sunday: Crepes Suzette

We had such a lovely meal for our anniversary last weekend, including crepes Suzette, that I wanted to share this SUPER-easy Weight Watchers recipe with you. I love when dessert can be considered good for the body. Don’t you?

The crepes can be made in advance and frozen for future use. To freeze them, stack the cooled crepes, using a layer of wax paper between each to separate. Finish the stack with a piece of wax paper, and you can roll the stack into a tube. Wrap the whole thing in a Ziploc freezer bag. Freeze until needed. When ready to use, thaw at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.

Crepes Suzette:
Makes 4 servings, 2 crepes each

1 C skim milk
¾ C all purpose flour
2 eggs

2 T unsalted margarine (I use Smart Balance)
1 T granulated sugar
1 C orange juice
¼ C thawed frozen concentrated orange juice
2 T orange liqueur

To prepare the crepes: In blender container, combine milk, flour and eggs. Process until smooth. Let stand about 15 minutes to allow bubbles to subside.

Lightly spray 6 skillet or crepe pan with nonstick spray and heat. Pour ¼ C batter into pan and quickly swirl to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Cook over med-high heat about 30 seconds until the top looks dry. Carefully turn the pancake over and cook a few more seconds. Slide crepe onto a plate and repeat until you’ve made 8 crepes.

To prepare the sauce: In 12” nonstick skillet melt margarine. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Stir in juice, thawed concentrate, and liqueur and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.

To finish the dish: Add one crepe to skillet, coating both sides with sauce. Fold crepe in half, then again to create a triangle shape. Slide to the side of the skillet and repeat with remaining crepes. Serve immediately.

Nutritional info:
Per serving (2 crepes)
286 calories
8 grams protein
9 grams fat
40 grams carbohydrate
106 grams calcium
68 mgs sodium
138 mgs cholesterol

Happy Easter and Good Pesach, Everyone!

Monday, April 06, 2009

HOW Many Years Has It Been?!?

Yesterday was a big celebration for Marble Man and me. We unplugged for the entire day... that's right, we turned off the tv AND the computer (Whaaaat?). We spent the day being together, and being quiet. It was lovely. Oh.... right, and it was our wedding anniversary: twenty-two years ago we made it official.

"How did you celebrate", you ask? With food of course! We're serious foodies - what better way to say "I love you" than with fabulous flavors?

Marble Man did the shopping this week, so he picked up his version of surf 'n' turf: baby lamb chops and humongous sea scallops served over sauteed pea shoots.

"Hurry up and take the picture already!"

For dessert: Crepes Suzette (Sorry no pictures, we snarfed 'em up too fast for the shutter to click!)

And for Afters: Rum Runners. If you've never been to Florida, you probably haven't heard of these frozen concoctions. They're lethal! We were in The Sunshine State for our honeymoon and after tasting one of these drinks, we rapidly realized we had to limit ourselves to ONE per night. We were totally blotto. We had so much fun that we made them at home:

Florida rum Runner
Makes one drink

1.5 oz rum
1 oz blackberry brandy
1 oz banana liqueur
1.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz grenadine syrup
crushed ice

Mix in blender until ice is slushy.

Serve while frozen in a collins glass. Insert straw and pour 151 rum down the straw. That first hit's a doozy!

Here's to another 20 years with you, Marble Man... my best friend, and the love of my life.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

What’s cooking Sunday: Orange Flax Seed Bran Muffins

Back in my South Beach Diet days, I collected many high fiber, flavor-filled recipes. This one is a hit in our house. All of the ingredients are available at Whole Foods. Just a note about ground flax seed: be sure to store it in the freezer. Once the seeds are ground, they go rancid VERY quickly!

Orange Flax Seed Bran Muffins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Makes 22-24 muffins

1 C oat bran
1 C flour (I use ½ C each of all purpose and whole wheat flours)
1 C ground flax seed
1 C wheat bran
1 T baking powder
½ tsp salt

Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl.

2 whole navel oranges, rinsed and cut into pieces (with peel!)
1 C brown sugar
1 C buttermilk (or 1 C milk + 1¾ tsp cream of tartar. Combine and let sit for 5 min before using)
½ C canola oil
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda

Place orange pieces in a blender and grind them up first, then add the rest of this group of ingredients to the blender and whiz together. Add orange mixture to the dry ingredients and blend well. Add 1½ C dried fruit (raisins or cranberries are fantastic in this).

Fill paper-lined muffin cups nearly to the top (the muffins don’t rise much at all). Bake 1-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (They will be very moist muffins when baked.) Cool in tins for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Yields about 22-24 muffins, depending on how full you make the tins before baking. Guaranteed they won’t last long!