Friday, January 30, 2009

New Drawings



I've been stagnating since before Christmas: mired in a quicksand of cranky mood, an unhealthy amount of self-pity, and no motivation. NOT a nice place to be. So, I have a new resolve to do at least one drawing a week. It doesn't have to be of da Vinci-like quality, just a few minutes of laying graphite on a clean sheet of paper. I'm hoping this will get the creativity flowing again.



Sunday, January 25, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday/Creamy Tomato Basil Soup & Cornbread

We have a diner in town, and on it's menu is "Creamy Tomato With Basil Soup". They serve it with a nice chunk of cornbread and a small salad. A Perfect Cold-Weather Lunch... until you realize how buttery the cornbread is, and that they used REAL cream in the soup. Oh yes, it's delicious with a capital "D" (which rhymes with " T " which stands for "Tubby"). I might as well have slathered it onto my hips, 'cuz that's where it landed once I ate it!

Shortly after my taste buds fell head-over-heels-in-love with this soup, I joined Weight Watchers. I bought one of their cookbooks titled "Quick Meals, in 30 minutes or less". In it was my beloved Creamy Tomato With Basil Soup! The result was so close to the diner version, I couldn't tell the difference. Each spoonful is a little Flavor Bomb of goodness. ♩ ♩ ♫ ♬ (That's the sound of my taste buds humming)

The accompanying cornbread recipe I use is my mother's, and I'm passing it on to you.


Creamy Tomato With Basil Soup
Makes 4 servings

2 tsp olive oil
1 C chopped onions
1 garlic clove, minced
4 fl. oz. (1/2 C) dry white wine
2 C tomato puree
12 oz evaporated skimmed milk
1/2 C packed fresh basil leaves, slivered
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In medium saucepan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil. Cook over medium heat, about 3 min., until onion is softened. Add wine and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine is evaporated. Add tomato puree to the onion mixture and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Stir in milk, basil, salt, and pepper. Heat thoroughly, but do not boil.

Cornbread
serves 8

1 C cornmeal
1 C flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 C skimmed milk
4 T melted shortening (I use canola oil)

Sift together meal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add beaten egg and milk to make a stiff batter. Add shortening, until light and thoroughly mixed. Pour into a shallow, greased pan (an iron skillet is perfect for this). Bake 25 minutes.

The only nutritional info I have is for the soup:

188 calories
2 gr fat
4 mgs cholesterol
909 mgs sodium
29 gr carbohydrate
4 gr fiber
10 grams protein

Friday, January 23, 2009

Birthday Wishes for Marble Man



Today is Marble Man's birthday. We generally don't do birthday gifts, just make a spectacular meal that will render us comatose by the end of the evening. 26 years-worth of tradition here - we're not letting a little thing like a diet get in the way!

Tonight's menu:



Fillet Mignon
roasted sweet potatoes
celery root and apple puree
velvet cupcakes

The cupcake recipe is actually for RED velvet cupcakes, which I've made in the past. Marble Man would snarf them up as fast as I could frost them. Then he saw the recipe and goggled. He got a bit freaked out by the tablespoon-and-a-half of red food coloring. In his mind, we're only supposed to use a few drops at a time, so this recipe is gonna kill us.



To appease him, I'm leaving out the food coloring. Since the recipe calls for cocoa powder, I thought I'd replace the food coloring with espresso, and make them mocha velvet cupcakes. They should come out ok, since I'm keeping the liquid proportions the same as the original recipe.



The celery root puree recipe is one I tried at Thanksgiving, but I cut waaaaay back on the butter and cream. I think there's a direct correlation between the size of Ina Garten (of the Food Network's Barefoot Contessa) and the amount of these two ingredients found throughout her recipes! So, I used just enough to create moisture, and some flavor. The results were phenomenal. Who could imagine a vegetable this ugly could make something that delicious?

These days, it seems like the only real creative time I've gotten has been in the kitchen. I don't mind. I love to cook, and I am paying closer attention to portions and substituting healthier ingredients for the old favorites of butter, cream, and sugar. Today is no different - I'll be spending the better part of the afternoon mixing up this feast for my guy.

Make a wish and take a deep breath, Sweetheart. Time to blow out all those candles.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Expanding My Horizons

As I mentioned here, I've developed a deep and abiding love for Brazilian music. Thanks to our satellite dish and LINK tv's program titled, World Music, I have a new Brazilian group to add to my playlist of faves, called the Tribalistas. Unfortunately, they have disbanded, but in 2002 and 2003 they made beautiful music together. With an alluring blend of voices and a dreamy musical quality, I could listen to this all day. (And I did!)

My two favorites are Carnavalia:


and Passe Em Casa:



I think it's a hoot that one of the band members is playing the "dustbuster" - who knew that was a musical instrument? And, I do wish I could understand Portuguese! No matter, whatever they are saying, the beautiful rhythms make me want to get up and dance. So... here I go.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Flurry of Activity

Yesterday's activities with One World One Heart was wild and great fun. But now I need to step back and take a breath.

I went to bed last night thinking, "Oh, wait! I heard the computer signal that there's a new comment on my blog!". I was so tired (we're talking after midnight here), that I stayed put in bed and slept the sleep of the dead. The comments would still be there in the morning.

When I awoke, I looked out the window and saw this:





I just HAD to head out with the camera to capture it. Out there, with the snow falling steadily, I found a silent, magical place. What is it about snow that seems to absorb all sound? No cars were running,


no children's joyful noise, no dogs barking, birds chirping, squirrels fighting over territory, etc. Absolute silence. It was... A Moment.



The thing about snowfall in the South is that people look out the window, see it's snowing, and go back to bed 'cuz they know their boss is doing the same thing. Nobody goes out to drive in snow because they instinctively understand that they don't know how. So, Marble Man is home snuggling Pooch, and I have a whole day in front of me. What to do on such a Perfect Day?



The dreaded tax prep is done. All the spreadsheets are now computerized and printed out; beads and other minutiae have been counted. What a relief! Now I can do something fun. I have a salt dough wall sculpture I started before Christmas. I've been waiting to get some unpleasant task out of the way before working on it again. Yes... I'll do that. I'll be adding layers of color to this piece:


Monday, January 19, 2009

One World, One Heart

To all of you who have commented on this post:

I am overwhelmed by the reaction I have received with this giveaway. As of 11:30 AM on February 11th, comments are closed for these prizes. It's going to take me all day to pick the winners from the nearly 600 comments you have all left!

Thank you so much, and I hope you will come back again for a visit. I'll keep the cookie jar full.

Kate

~~~

Be still, my heart… One World One Heart is Here! We’ve been thinking about it for weeks and weeks, and now, here you are!

Photo

I’ve been writing my blog since early 2005. I had some false starts, but finally found my groove last year. Things I love about blogging: the spontaneity, the freedom, and the friendships I’ve formed with people I probably would never have met otherwise. This blog-wide celebration is a fabulous chance to increase my sphere of friends and I embrace it. If you want to know more about this event, please click on the logo above.

My participation includes two (count ‘em: TWO) giveaways - one for two lucky customers! They are:

1) a handmade, silk ribbon embroidered picture frame



The frame is 5” x 7”, is covered with a lovely pale blue rayon/acetate moirĂ© faille, and has an acetate insert to protect your photo.





~

2) My other giveaway is a pair of my handmade earrings



These earrings have sterling silver filigree ear wires, agate stones, sterling silver bead caps, and freshwater pearls. They are approximately 1.5 inches long.



They will arrive packaged on a small earring card featuring a copy one of my own sketches:



~
To qualify for these giveaways,
1) you do not need to be an active blogger
2) please leave a comment here on this post (and this post only please)
3) be sure to include contact information, preferably an email address or link to your own blog.
4) if you have a preference for either one of the two giveaway items, please specify in your comment which one you would like. I'll have two hats ready and toss your name into the appropriate one of your choosing. If not, then I'll surprise you when your name is picked.
5) you do not have be participate in One World, One Heart. Just the act of stopping by and commenting qualifies you for the drawing.

The drawing will be on February 12, when two lucky people’s names will be drawn out of the hat.

Meanwhile, grab a cookie, and stay awhile to say “hello” to the other visitors…


Friday, January 16, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday/Salmon Cakes

Because One World One Heart is scheduled for Monday, this week I decided to post What's Cooking Sunday early. I don't want the post to get lost in all the traffic we're going to have next week.

My recipe for salmon cakes, is an adaptation of an old Weight Watchers recipe for Maryland Crab Cakes. I love crab, but who can afford it? One day I had some leftover cooked salmon fillets in the fridge and decided to use it in this recipe. It was fantastic. Now, when Marble Man sees salmon in the meat drawer, he does a little happy dance 'cuz he knows these cakes are in his future.



Salmon Cakes
Makes 4 servings

1 pound salmon, cooked and flaked
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp canola oil
3 oz bread crumbs (I used Italian seasoned)
1/4 C low fat or skim milk
2 T + 2 tsp reduced calorie mayonnaise
2 T fresh parsley, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
3 T all-purpose flour
1 T+1 tsp reduced calorie tub margarine (I use Smart Balance)
2 1/2 C mixed green lettuce leaves

In skillet, combine onion, garlic, and oil. Sautee until translucent.

In large bowl, combine salmon, onion mixture, bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, parsley, salt, and white pepper. With moistened hands, form into 8 small patties. Refrigerate 1 hour.

On a shallow plate, spread flour. Lightly dust each cake on both sides - give them a little spanking to shake off the excess.

In large skillet, melt margarine over medium heat. Cook cakes 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp. Line serving plate with greens and arrange cakes on top.

The nutritional information I have is for the original crab recipe.

Each serving (2 cakes):
257 calories
27 grams protein
8 grams fat
19 grams carbohydrate
800 mgs sodium
118 mgs cholesterol
1 gram fiber

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back on my Own Two Feet

Since last week's Great Walk Debacle, I've been to the doctor, who then told me to see a physical therapist to help me recover from peroneal ankle tendinitis.



To my great embarrassment, after the doctor's visit, my pain disappeared over the weekend. What the Hell? My appointment for PT was on Monday -what to do now? Even though the pain seemed gone, I could still feel it lurking. I kept the appointment, figuring I'd get some exercises to prevent this from happening again.

The therapist was very nice and full of information. The first thing he did was examine the bottoms of my walking shoes. "Hmmm.... Interesting," he said. Apparently they are the wrong shoes for my gait and they're worn out. He told me to get fitted for some better ones. I felt so sad - I love my Adidas sneakers.



They have girly pink details, cool reflective stripes, and they don't feel clunky on my feet - more like I'm wearing clouds. AND they were on sale. If I had any poetic language skills, I'd be composing a farewell homage. It would go something like this:

An Ode to Dead Footwear

So soft, so pink
It makes me think...
You are slight and fleet
As you support my
Aging feet.
I bask in the reflection
Of your silver tape,
But found myself, my mouth agape
When I am told
I must replace these shoes so old
Because of this darned ankle,
Instead of looking swank I'll
Be walking in some big
Shoes built like a pig....etc., etc

(I told you I'm no poet, right?)

When I told the PT that I liked the shoes because they're pink, he cringed and said therapists HATE to hear stuff like that. My feeling is, why can't shoe companies make athletic-wear attractive as well as supportive?

The good news is, because of my proactive treatment of the offending ankle last week, I'm already on my way to a better me. I'm to continue what I've been doing, as well as add in some mild strengthening exercises. Oh, and I can't do any fitness walking for at least a month. If I want to get some cardio exercise in, I have to go fight for a recumbent bike at the gym.

All in all, I worried needlessly last week. This injury wasn't as bad as it could have been - no amputations are scheduled for my immediate future...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What’s Cooking Sunday/Cheesecake

One night last week we kicked back after dinner and, as we enjoyed our postprandial bliss, Marble Man looked me straight in the eye. He asked, “So Honey, how 'bout some cheesecake for dessert?” My pulse was racing, my brain was screaming, “we have CHEESECAKE?!?”. Then I caught a twinkling look in his eye which one only recognizes after spending 26 years together. And I knew I was about to fail The Test. Instead, I told him, calmly, “no thank you, Sweetheart, I’m on a diet”. And we laughed because we both knew how close I’d come to ransacking the kitchen to look for that damned mythical, diet-busting confection. After pondering this event, I remembered lessons I’d learned in Weight Watcher’s meetings many moons ago: if you really enjoy something, go ahead and have a couple of bites, put your fork down, and move on.

I’ve had this recipe for years - just forgot it was in my cookbook. I used to watch Giada De Laurentiis’ show on the Food Network, called Everyday Italian. I loved this show – she’s engaging, perky without being too annoying, and she was all business when it came to cooking. Then, inexplicably, the camera started to concentrate more on closeups of her impressive cleavage (cleaving heavage?) than on the food preparation. I lost interest. BUT, I did come away with the instructions to make these wonderful treats:



Individual Orange and Chocolate Cheesecakes
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1/3 C finely crushed chocolate wafers (I use chocolate graham crackers)
2 T butter, melted
¼ C ricotta cheese, part skim
2 oz cream cheese, low fat
¼ C sugar, plus 2 T
1 orange, zested
1 egg
butter for greasing
Special equipment: mini muffin tin, lightly greased.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the crushed chocolate wafers and the 2 T melted butter. Place a tightly packed teaspoon of the wafer mixture into each muffin cup and press down firmly.

In a food processor combine ricotta cheese, cream cheese, ¼ C of the sugar, half the orange zest, and the egg. Blend until smooth. Fill the cups with about 1½ T of the cheesecake mixture. Place the muffin tin in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the muffin tin. Bake 25 minutes. Transfer the muffin tin to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Use a small knife to gently pop the cheesecakes out of the cups.

Just before serving, combine the remaining orange zest with the remaining 2 T of sugar. Top each cheesecake with about ¼ teaspoon of the orange zest mixture and serve.

Nutritional info:
Serving size: 2 cakes

152 calories
7.6 grams fat (3.6 grams saturated fat)
53.8 mg cholesterol
95 mgs sodium
17.4 grams carbohydrate
3 grams protein

I guarantee, if you make these for company, or bring them to a potluck supper, people will beg you for the recipe! You might want to make extra.

So, I say, "Sure,Honey, let's have cheesecake for dessert tonight".

Thursday, January 08, 2009

"HELP! I've Fallen...

...into a Pity Pot, and I can't get out!"

Last week I resolved to restart a walking program and take some responsibility for my health. I got ONE walk in before developing incredible pain in my ankle. I mean, "OW!" I can't stand any real pressure on that foot, so I'm sofa-bound. After some internet research, it looks like I might have tendinitis in my Achilles tendon. Crap. I've had lots of experience with tendinitis and I know the pain a doctor's visit can mean: Pushing, prodding, or worse - steroid injections. I've been taking megadoses of Ibuprofen, icing the ankle throughout each day, and trying to stay off it as much as possible. After all that loving care, the ungrateful appendage shows no signs of improvement.

I spent the past week snuggling with The Beast, who seems to know something's not right.



Time to suck it up and go see my doctor. Whatever he decides to do to me can't be as bad as dealing with this pain for much longer. At least, if I need an injection, I'd get some Happy Pills for a couple of days to help with the additional pain THAT would cause. That's me - always looking for the silver lining!
~~~

Friday Update:

Saw the doctor today and he confirmed that it is tendinitis, but not of the Achilles. He thinks it's one of the lesser tendons behind the ankle bone. He assured me it's WAY too early to be talking about injections. Yay! I do need physical therapy for about a month or so, and then we'll re-evaluate. Meanwhile, I need to cut my activity level by 50%. Wait a minute! I'm already sitting on the sofa all day... Hmmmm. Do I need to start lying down during the day?!?



Well, lookey here, at what my thoughtful Marble Man just brought me! How sweet is that? He always seems to know what to do to lift my mood. (Pssst... it worked!)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday/Quinoa

Now that the cookie orgy is over, I've been going through old recipes I've collected over my (many) years of weight loss efforts. I thought it would be fun to post a different recipe each week: this'll make sure I keep things fresh in my mind, as well as on our plates. Marble Man always says "I love when you go on a diet! We get great stuff to eat." I'll be concentrating on foods rich in whole grains and nutrition. I hope you'll find it interesting, and maybe even helpful.

Today's recipe:



Quinoa pilaf

Prep time: 40 minutes

1 C quinoa
1 T vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T pine nuts
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 T golden raisins
2 C vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa with cold water and drain well.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, pine nuts and red pepper and cook over medium heat until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Add sweet potato, raisins and quinoa and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in broth and black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve at once.

Serves 6 (recipe makes about 5.5 cups)

Note: this recipe is remarkably versatile:
*If you don't like sweet potato, try substituting acorn squash.
*If red peppers are too expensive, or you just don't have any, try chopped portobello mushrooms instead.
*Dark raisins work just as well as golden.

If you are unfamiliar with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), you can find more about it here.

I hope you try this wonderful recipe. It's delicious!

Friday, January 02, 2009

I Like to Move it, Move It - New Music to Dance To

Last night I watched a movie that Marble Man recorded from the Documentary Channel called: The Sound of Rio:Brasilerinho. The subject is a native Brazilian style of music called Choro (pronounced "shor-oh" with the "r" rolled), which predates Samba and Bassa Nova. I LOVE IT! I downloaded a whole bunch of songs from the soundtrack this afternoon, as well as some others recorded by the featured artists. Now I've got music guaranteed to haul my lazy ass out of the sofa. Watch me dance my booty-licious self around the house!

Here's a sample (it even has subtitles so you can get how funny the subject is):



Wasn't that fun? Who could sit still while THAT'S playing?

While that was a very energetic song, there are also some beautifully lyrical examples like this one by Yamandu Costa:




This guy just about knocked my socks off!

~

So things aren't as bad as I thought they were yesterday. Sure I was royally P.O.'ed at myself for being lazy about my health, but today I got up at 7:30 AM and hustled out the door for a 30 minute walk. Bundled up with a warm hat, fleece jacket, gloves, and the all-important ipod, I had a very nice time: 10 minutes to warm up, 10 minutes of race walking, and 10 minutes to cool back down again. I felt wonderful afterward. I'll do that every other day this week, then add 5 minutes to the race walking section next week. I know from past experience that if I start out too fast and hard, I'll wind up in Physical Therapy for 2 months and then I'll have to start back up even slower.

Now it's a few hours later and it's still pretty cold outside. I've got the dog dressed in his "business suit" (named so because he wears it to go out and do his business).



Can I coax him into going on a short walk? It would be great to get another 10 minutes in today.

What are YOU doing to get up and moving?

~~

1/4/09 Update:

I've got to take a short break from walking - call it a false start, I guess. I was OK yesterday morning, but throughout the day I found it harder and harder to get around. My ankle is swollen! NOW what?!? I taped it up and took some motrin. Hopefully, it's just a temporary thing. My sister-in-law warned me: she said as you reach the age of 50, things go wrong and you have no idea why.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Cookies + New Year's Panic = Resolutions

OK, so I wasn't planning to buy into the usual, and cliched, resolution of "I want to lose weight this year". Then I climbed onto the scale for a little reality check. My first thought was, "Wait, that can't be right. This thing must need new batteries." I changed the batteries, climbed back on (after having removed everything but my glasses!), and said, "Shoot, the scale's busted!"

How much did it say I weigh, you ask? *gulp*, OK... I'll tell you....here goes... one-hundred-and-mufflety-mump. You couldn't understand that? Please! Don't make me say it again! According to my doctor, for my height, I should weigh in the neighborhood of 135 to prevent the terrible back and knee pain from which I used to suffer. A year ago, I was really close to my goal, my back pain was a thing of the past, and I had some seriously cute clothes to wear. But, this past Fall, I needed to nip up to the attic and rummage through the box with the sign that said: "If these clothes fit, go on a diet".

I knew it was happening, I just chose to ignore it. A year ago in October, Pooch got so sick he couldn't be left alone. So, I used him as an excuse to stop going to the gym. Since I was housebound and caring for He-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, I began "treating" myself. Soon, the pounds started creeping back on. Now, my back hurts all the time, my knee is clicking ominously, and I have to make the dreaded New Year Resolutions: 1) I will go on a diet, and 2) I will go to the gym every other day.

Anybody out there want a diet buddy? I've had good results with the South Beach Diet in the past, as well as keeping a food journal at Fitday.com. The food journaling is a bit of a hassle, but it helps keep me honest. My failing is that I get complacent when I see my goal within reach. I'll start over tomorrow. I can't believe I let this happen, AGAIN!