Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pick of the Week: Fennel

I love licorice, which is probably why I adore anise-flavored fennel. It has the crunch of celery, but so much more flavor. I buy a bulb a week, and throw bits of diced fennel into my daily lunch salad.

It was one of my mom's favorite vegetables because she swore it improved eyesight. I'm not about to argue, since the strongest glasses I've ever worn are 1.25 readers. My eye doctor says if not for computers, I wouldn't even need these. The same for my mom, although my dad, who couldn't stand the taste of fennel, could not make this claim. Mom also said it helps digestion, which is why a plate of sliced fennel always graced our Thanksgiving table.

And don't throw away the delicate feathery green fern-like fronds. The flavor is more delicate than the bulb, and they make a wonderful addition to soups and salads.

Select: Look for firm bulbs, without cracks, bruises or brown spots. Be sure the bulb is firm and the fronds bright green and fresh looking.

Store: In the refrigerator in a plastic bag. As I said, I buy a bulb a week, divide it into seven portions, and throw the diced green into my daily salad. Day 7 fennel might not be as crunchy as Day 1, but it's still fine.

Preparing: Trim off the tough outer leaves and the core end.

Roasting fennel mellows the flavor, and is my favorite way to cook this vegetable. Unfortunately, roasted fennel will never win a beauty pageant, but it will steal your culinary heart. I promise it elevates any meal you pair it with, even a simple grilled fish or chicken breast. Serve it and let guests guess what it is.

1 fennel bulb
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Remove tough outer leaves of the fennel, cut a slice from the core end, and remove the stalks and feathery leaves, but please save them to dice and throw into a salad.
  • Cut the bulb in half. Rub the outside with olive oil.
  • Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay fennel on the foil and sprinkle with balsamic.
  • Roast 15 to 20 minutes, until fennel begins to caramelize. Makes 2 servings.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The sweet season

I just got an e-mail from the South Beach Diet folks, talking about four ways to handle sweet gifts. I've expanded on their ideas a bit, because I swear these four tips were not written by anyone with a sweet tooth.

  1. Regift the treat. Instead of eating the sweets yourself, place them on a decorative platter and bring them to a party. What South Beach fails to mention is that if you do this even 10 minutes before you leave your house, chances are some of the regift might be eaten. My advice is to place the treats on the platter as you are leaving for the party, all dressed and ready to go. Then put it in the trunk. Another suggestion is to bring the goodies into the office. Caution: Do this only if you can put them far, far away from your desk, in some corner you will never visit.
  2. Consider a gift swap. Here's the deal: If someone receives a carton of citrus, they just might be willing to swap it for your box of petits fours. Come on: Bring them to a nursing home.
  3. Tell your family and friends that sweet treat gifts are not acceptable this year. Instead, drop hints about things you really want. Sorry, but in this economy, that is rude. So many people are making gifts from their kitchen, and they are doing it with love. Accept graciously and then decide what to do.
  4. The next one will never work for me: It's OK to allow yourself a few bites of a holiday pie or a little dark chocolate. My brain does not compute the adjectives "few bites" and "little." I know everyone says that for a diet to work, you need to incorporate treats into your eating plan. For me, that's almost impossible. One bite leads to another — and another — and another — until that whole box of chocolates is gone. The folks at South Beach say these treats are acceptable if you continue to follow their eating plan and exercise.

For me, there are two solutions to sweet gifts:

  1. Immediately throw them out. Even if they stay wrapped, if I am hungry enough, there is nothing that will separate me from sugar.
  2. If my husband, Jack, wants the treat, I'll give it to him on the condition that he hides it from me.
I really am still a child.

Monday, December 14, 2009

True confessions

This post is for my daughter, Kara, who told me Saturday night -- between bites of pot roast -- that I lie. And she's right, sort of.

Last week was my vegetarian week, and I really did make it through most of the week, until Kara decided to come for dinner Saturday night. I had just gone grocery shopping and had planned mahi mahi for Saturday's dinner. There wasn't enough for three, so the rump roast that would have gotten the slow cooker treatment Monday became dinner Saturday. So Kara, it's your fault.

No it's not. I have been a horrid eater recently, plagued by lack of sleep and stress. Add to that my absolute lack of exercise, and I've regressed to my old ways. And yes, many of the pounds I managed to shed have come back. So I'm back where I started.

What trips that switch between eating well and eating everything in sight? How can I be so good for weeks, and then puff, throw it all away? I know I am not alone.

Because of scheduling conflicts, I have not seen my health and lifestyles coach, Heather Pierce, professionally in weeks. I did bump into her Friday night, and promised we would get together after the holidays, when what I should have done is made an appointment to meet with her this week. By saying "after the holidays," I was mentally giving myself permission to keep eating. But I didn't realize this until I just wrote it down.

Now I know why people blog.

Gotta go. I'm off to "Walk Away the Pounds" with Leslie Sansone and her posse. And maybe today, I'll remember to chew each bite of food 20 times. Small steps this week.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On to Day 2 of my no-meat fast – and now it’s confession time. One of the reasons I decided to go vegetarian is because I have so many different kinds of pasta and beans in my pantry, I thought it was time to start using them up.

I found this recipe on, and because I had dried adzuki beans, I substituted them for the canned. They needed a simple overnight soak, and then 30 minutes of simmering, which I did early in the morning.

The next three nights will be really simple meals. Tomorrow night, baked potatoes with toppings; Thursday, a frittata; and Friday, spaghetti, hold the meatballs and sausage. Still haven't decided about the weekend, but I suspect by Saturday I'm going to have to throw some meat into Jack's meal. Or not!


1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 cups cooked brown rice
2 16-oz. cans adzuki beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz. can light coconut milk
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Sautè the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the rice, drained beans, coconut milk and thyme if using.
  • Bring to a simmer then cover and cook over low heat until most of the coconut milk has evaporated, about 15 minutes. (The mixture should be moist but not watery.).
  • Garnish with cilantro leaves. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Vegetarian week

For one week, I am going vegetarian. I'm not making a statement -- I just need to get a handle on my eating and eat a tad lighter this week.

It's an experiment I've thought about doing before, but never quite accomplished. Tonight's meal -- our Monday night family dinner with two of our kids, our daughter-in-law, and soon-to-be son-in-law -- will be a hearty lentil soup recipe I found in "Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen," the author of one of my favorite non-meat cookbooks, "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone." I could make my mom's version of lentil soup, a family favorite for years, but thought I would give this one a try because it adds spinach to the base. I'll double the batch to have leftovers for lunch. I know my husband will ask, "Where's the kielbasa?" -- the must in mom's soup. Not this week, Jack.

Madison suggests adding a California Pinot Noir to your meal. Great suggestion. Giving up meat, chicken and fish is one thing. Giving up alcohol is something entirely different!

1 1/2 cups brown or mixed lentils, soaked if possible
2 to 4 Tblsp. olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, grated or finely diced
1 red bell pepper, toasted, peeled and chopped, or 1 bottle roasted red peppers, chopped
2 Tblsp. chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tblsp. tomato paste
1 Tblsp. prepared mustard
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
6 to 8 cups water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hefty bunch of spinach, stems removed, leaves washed and chopped
Chopped mint or parsley for garnish
Red wine vinegar to taste
  • If you haven't soak the lentils, cover them with hot water and set them aside while you start the rest of the soup.
  • Warm the oil in a wide soup pot, Add the onion, carrot, red pepper and parsley. Cook over medium heat, stirring now and then, until the onion is softened and starting to color, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, then stir in the tomato paste and mustard, working both into the vegetables and cooking until there's a film on the bottom of the pot.
  • Pour in the wine, scrape up the pan juices, then simmer until partially reduced after a few minutes.
  • Drain the lentils and add them to the pot with the bay leaf and water, using the larger amount if the lentils were soaked only briefly.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook for 30 minutes. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and continue cooking until the lentils are soft, another 10 to 20 minutes. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
  • Add the spinach to the soup and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Taste the soup and add the mint and a little vinegar to sharpen the flavors.
  • Four serving ideas:
  • Shave thin slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese over the soup before serving.
  • Peel, seed and dice one or two tomatoes -- and stir them into the hot soup at the end.
  • Add a cup or so of cooked pasta to the soup just before serving.The pasta may be tiny shapes like orzo or stars or bigger pieces such as little shells or snails.
  • Puree the lentils until very smooth, then add the spinach and any of the garnishes suggested. Makes 2 quarts.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Brown Rice

Heather Pierce to my rescue -- yet again. Heather is my nutrition and lifestyles coach, and one of the sweetest and smartest women I know. She also reads my blog, and after reading my "mental slap" post, quickly sent me a reminder about using brown rice as the basis of quick meals.

I needed Heather's gentle reminder, that when you are most stressed and tired, you really have to plan better. If I had made a big batch of brown rice earlier this week, last night, when I got home at midnight, I could have heated it up with some beans, added some mild salsa, and had a nourishing dinner, with enough leftover for lunch today. Instead, a had a handful of trail mix -- OK two handfuls -- and crashed. This nonsense has got to end.

Heather sent me some recipes form Andrea Beaman, a contestant on Top Chef who healed her incurable thyroid disease with health-promoting foods, exercise and other natural therapies. Andrea suggests preparing a Seasonal Stir Fry with Garlic Sauce Sunday night, and incorporating the leftover brown rice into breakfasts, lunches and dinners the next two days. For example, rice can be mixed with rolled oats, dried cranberries, cinnamon and honey for a breakfast porridge, or made into vegetarian fried rice. Leftover stir-fry can be wrapped into a whole grain burrito for lunch, or brown rice can be pared with steamed veggies for lunch.

What follows is Andrea's stir-fry and porridge recipes. This all sounds so healthy, and exactly the fuel I need to keep me going, since the next two weeks show no signs of slowing down.

2 cups brown rice, soaked overnight
3¾ cups water
2 pinches sea salt
1 onion, cut into thick crescents
2-3 carrots, cut on thin diagonals
8 oz. shrimp (or diced chicken, beef, tofu, tempeh)
2 stalks broccoli, florets plus stems cut in thin diagonals
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 Tblsp. shoyu or tamari
¼ -1/3 cup water
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1½ Tblsp. toasted sesame oil
1-2 scallions, minced
  • Bring rice and water to a boil. Add two pinches sea salt and reduce flame to simmer. Cover and cook for 40 minutes.
  • Add a small amount of water to a frying pan and water sauté onion for 2 minutes. Add carrots and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp and broccoli cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Combine garlic, shoyu, water, maple syrup and toasted sesame oil. Pour over stir-fry, cover and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Dish out stir-fry on top of cooked brown rice and garnish with scallions. Serves four.
1 cup leftover brown rice
1 cup water
2 Tblsp. rolled oats
2 Tblsp. raisins or other dried fruit
Dash of cinnamon
1 Tblsp. maple syrup or other sweetner
Splash of almond milk

  • Bring rice, water, rolled oats, dried fruit and cinnamon to a boil. Cover and reduce flame to medium for 5-7 minutes. Add sweetener and a splash of your favorite milk.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pick of the Week: Pomegranate

Before pomegranate juice became the it drink. most of us never gave this wondrous fruit a second thought -- except to decorate a holiday wreathe of dress-up a bowl of fruit.

But what about eating the real thing, a gorgeously colored ruby red fruit with a lumpy round leathery skin? In most cases, it never happens.

I often write about my mom, who taught me just about everything I know about fruits and vegetables. She loved them all, treated them with reverence-like care, but thought pomegranates were just too much work for so little reward. In this case, my mom was so wrong.

I urge you to pick one up and give it a try. Inside each fruit are hundreds of seeds called arils, the prize of the pomegranate. Of course, these juicy small sacs are squeezed and made into juice,. But they are also perfect tossed into both savory or sweet recipes, or added to a salad to punch it up a notch.

Selecting: The skin should be shiny and bright red, and although the leathery texture looks as if it needs a good moisturizer, there should be no signs of shriveling. When it comes to this fruit, size really does matter: Buy the biggest one you can find, because they have the most seeds. When you pick it up, it should feel heavy for its size.

Storing: When you see pomegranates at the market, they are ready to eat. They keep in the refrigerator a few weeks, or remove the seeds and freeze them up to a year.

Removing the seeds: A few years ago,I stumbled across the Pomegranate Council's Web site -- -- and learned a very easy, no-mess three-step process for removing the seeds.
  • Cut off the crown, then cut the pomegranate into sections.
  • Place the sections in a bowl of water, then using your fingers, roll out the seeds into the water. You only want the seeds; discard the skin and the membrane.
  • Strain out the water. Voila! Hundreds of ready-to-eat juice sacs.
And now for a recipe from the Council's Web site, that I promise is worth the effort. It makes a glorious presentation, but beware that it is a pretty pricey meal. This just might be our Christmas dinner this year.


1 large of 2 lbs. firm-fleshed, 1/2-inch thick halibut
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup olive oil or butter
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup pomegranate juice or 3 Tblsp. pomegranate paste
Tblsp. slivered candied orange peel, purchased or use the recipe that follows
Tblsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. ground saffron, dissolved in 2
Tblsp. hot water


2 Tblsp. chopped walnuts
Tblsp. pomegranate seeds

  • Rinse fish in cold water. Pat dry with paper towel and rub both sides with 1 teaspoon salt. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large frying pan and brown onion and garlic. Add all ingredients except the saffron water, lime juice and garnish ingredients, and cook for 3 minutes. Mix well and remove stuffing from heat.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay fish out on the baking dish. Place a layer of stuffing on one end of the fish about 1 inch long and gently roll from the stuffing end and pin closed if necessary. If you are using halibut pieces, roll each separately. Pour the saffron water, the rest of the oil, and the lime juice over the fish. Place in the oven and bake 10-15 minutes (until the fish flakes easily with a fork), basting from time to time.
  • Arrange the fish on a serving platter. Pour the sauce from the baking dish over the fish and garnish with walnuts and pomegranate seeds. Makes 8 servings.

Candied Orange Peel

2 large oranges, 1/4 inch of top and bottom cut off
4 cups sugar, divided
3 cups water
  • Cut peel on each orange into 4 vertical segments. Remove each segment (including white pith) in 1 piece. Cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Cook in large pot of boiling water 15 minutes; drain, rinse, and drain again.
  • Bring 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peel. Return to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until peel is very soft, about 45 minutes. Drain.
  • Toss peel and 1 cup sugar on rimmed baking sheet, separating strips. Lift peel from sugar; transfer to sheet of foil. Let stand until coating is dry, 1 to 2 days. Wrap and freeze up to 2 months.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The mental slap

Holiday stress has officially taken hold. Between my job in public relations, my side job selling the most gorgeous jewelry from Bali, and my life, there is little time to cook.

Which means I am not eating correctly. I am constantly exhausted, and for me, that translates into little exercise and making poor food choices. What a diffference a few days can make. Last week I was determined to eat correctly this holiday season. This week I am desparately trying to find time to fit in a healthy meal.

This is not good news for my body. But I am not giving up. Instead, I need to plan. I cannot leave the house like I did yesterday without eating breakfast. In fact, what I really need to do is eat three healthy meals a day, and include easy snacks to keep my blood sugar level. And drink water. This is so not rocket science.

And when I reach for something I really should not eat, I will give my hand a mental slap. I learned this trick years ago, and if you remember to do it, it works. As you see your hand reaching for something loaded with sugar and calories, imagine your other hand giving it a good slap. And make it a hard one. There are times when it can actually hurt. Or is that my mind screaming that it really wants that chocolate chip cookie? Whatever, the mental slap can be effective.

I obviously need some help!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Could I have eaten anymore yesterday? Probably. But not too much. That's the bad news.

The good news:
  • I took a 3.5 mile walk, so that must have burned off something.
  • I had oatmeal for breakfast, which I said I would do. I forgot to bring the salad for lunch, so I feasted on the hors d'oeuvres, which were amazing. But I did show some restraint.
  • I remembered to chew each bite of food 25 times -- except I remembered after I scarfed down my full plate of Thanksgiving food. Next year.
  • I had slivers for dessert -- a sliver of pumpkin, a sliver of coconut custard, and a sliver of key lime cake from Florida, which has the Oprah stamp of approval. Mary Ann had it shipped from, so since she went to all that trouble, how could I resist?

But the best news: I woke up today and really ate lightly this morning. I am determined to make this a good day. A new day, a new day of eating. Isn't that what it is all about?


Only one: I've not been terrific about chewing food and eating slowly. I've got to learn this. I looked around the table at Thanksgiving, and the slim people still had more than half of their plates filled with food and I was done. And Jack, if you are reading this, you need to slow down as well. From now on, we are going to eat dinner at the table, talk, and eat slower. (This is my way to see if my husband is really reading my blog.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pick of the Week: Butternut Squash

I owe my love of vegetables to my mom. I grew up in the Bronx, in the days when there was a green grocer on just about every block. You had your favorite, he was your friend, and he never steered you wrong. It was from our green grocer and my mom that I learned how to choose fruit and vegetables -- with your nose, eyes and hands -- and how to embrace the seasons. Even today, when some produce such as asparagus are year-round staples, I gravitate toward them when they are supposed to make the scene.

Now is the season for winter squash, and I eat my fill. And butternut is among my favorites.

Choosing: Butternut Squash is long, with a bulbous end and a tan-color. The flesh is deep orange. Look for well-shaped squash, heavy for its size and dry. Leave cracked or bruised butternuts as the market.

Storing: They keep at room temperature for about two months

Cooking: Wash outside, halve lengthwise, and remove seeds. Place squash, cut side down, in a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn cut side up, cover, and bake 20 to 25 minutes more, until tender. You can also cook in a microwave dish with about 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook, cut-side down on high about 9 minutes. If not tender, cook in increments of 1 minute each until tender. Let stand 5 minutes before serving,

When I was looking for a recipe for this week's Pick, I found this old favorite between my mom's version of lentil soup and a glorious Tuscan bean soup that I'll share later this winter. This soup is so creamy, you forget there is nothing fattening in it. But face facts: You're eating a bowl of veggies! But that's our secret. What really makes it extra special are the toasted squash seeds you sprinkle on top of the soup. Crunchy. Decadent, Different. Yummy.


1 medium butternut squash

Olive oil spray

1 large white onion, chopped

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped carrot

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 to 5 cups chicken broth

Juice of one lemon

1 canned chipotle in adobo, minced (if this is too spicy, use half a chiptole)

½ cup nonfat sour cream

Salt, fresh ground pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds, discarding the stringy pulp. Put the seeds in a sieve and rinse. Set aside.
  • Spray a baking dish with the olive oil spray. Place squash, cut side down, in the dish. Pierce all over with a fork. Bake 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool.
  • While the squash is in the oven, toast the reserved squash seeds in a small pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until crunchy, about 30 minutes. Season heavily with salt and set aside.
  • Spray deep pot with olive oil spray and heat over medium heat. Saute onion until soft. Add celery and carros tand saute 10 minutes more. Add garlic and saute about 2 minutes more.
  • Scoop the flesh of the squash into the pot and stir. Add 4 cups broth and lemon juice. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender. Add the chiptole.
  • Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Return to the saucepan, Add more broth, stirring it into the soup, until you get the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon soup into bowls, Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of seeds.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Remember my blog's name

In past years, Thanksgiving always begins the holiday eating frenzy, the day I decide to ignore my inner voice and begin eating in earnest.

Why? Simply because I always viewed a diet as something I go on, and then off, and then on again, and off again. What a recipe for disaster. My new mantra — Diet? Not again! — represents my philosophy: I am now eating for life. Sometimes I make great choices. Other days I make bad ones. But most weeks, the good choices are so outweighing the bad ones.

Now that's something to be really thankful for this Thursday. And here is my plan, which I am printing out to remind myself what I should be doing throughout Thanksgiving day:

  • I will start the day with a bowl of oatmeal, followed by a long walk, which should keep me sated until lunch.
  • I will make myself a salad for lunch, because I don't want to arrive at the feast starving.
  • At dinner, I will eat everything I want, but will remember portion control and load up on the foods that are the least fattening. I will chew eat bite 25 times, and enjoy the wonderful conversations that I know will be happening throughout dinner.
  • And yes, I will take a slice of pumpkin pie, and chew each bite 25 times, to make it last as long as possible.
And when I go to bed Thursday night, it will be with a smile on my face for a job well done.

I'll let you know Friday how this worked out!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Monday, Monday....

Or should I say Sunday, Sunday, because I never sleep well Sunday nights. No matter how many cups of Sleepy Time tea I drink, or warm baths I take, the anticipation of the start of another week keeps me up most of the night.

Since I am trying -- desperately at times -- not to beat myself up about bad food choices, I thought I would try it with my Sunday-night insomnia. So last night, as soon as I turned out my light, I began repeating over and over: "You will sleep through the night."

And I did. I turned the light out at 9:30, and next thing I knew, it was 5:20. That's almost 8 hours of sleep, an unheard of amount for me even on a good night. I'm not analyzing why this worked, and I pray it will work again -- over and over.

Thanksgiving dinner

We are guests-with-a-list-0f-foods to prepare this Thanksgiving, and although I am trying to lighten things up a bit, there is nothing light about the hors d'oeuvre I am bringing -- a Cranberry cheese ball. The recipe is a take on one my mom used to make every Thanksgiving, so it's obviously been around for years. She called hers Raisin Walnut Cheese Ball, because dried cranberries had yet to make the culinary scene. I made the dried cranberry substitution years ago, simply because I like them so much better than raisins. The cranberry chutney was added a few years ago: I had a jar, and thought, why not? I promise it adds terrific punch to this cheese ball.

I make the cheese ball with light cream cheese and reduced-fat Cheddar, so there is a bit of calorie savings there. In addition to crackers, I put out celery slices. There -- I've done my part, but honestly....! Oh, the mind games we play.

By the way, I am making the cheese ball tonight, but will roll the ball in the walnuts and cranberries Thanksgiving morning. This is one big cheese ball, but don't worry. Leftovers make great sandwiches, especially on date nut or pumpernickel bread.

Cranberry Walnut Cheese Ball
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3 pkgs. (8-oz. each) light cream cheese, softened
8 oz. finely shredded reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese
2 Tblsp. cranberry chutney
2 Tblsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. finely diced lemon zest
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
  • Place butter and cream cheese in a bowl and beat on medium speed until well blended.
  • Beat in Cheddar.
  • Beat in chutney, lemon juice, lemon zest, Worcestershire and pepper.
  • Form into a ball.
  • Mix together cranberries and walnuts. Roll cheese ball in cranberries and walnuts. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate three or four days or freeze. Serve with a plain cracker, such as a water biscuit, and don't forget the celery!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving countdown

My goal this holiday season is to maintain. I'm not trying to lose weight, and of course, if I drop a pound or two, I won't complain. But I don't want to see the 14 pounds I've lost creep back on my body.

This year, my wonderful son, Tim, and his perfect wife, Kim, are hosting Thanksgiving, and they've given me the list of sides to bring. There is nothing I can do to change my recipe for herbed nibbles, little bites of bread oozing with butter. I would rather not make the recipe than try to make it healthy. But the vegetables -- here's where I can make some changes.

I love my recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, but when I analyzed the ingredients, I decided it does not fit into my new way of eating. The recipe I have chosen to make is from "Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook," by the Editors of Vegetarian Times, and each serving has merely 36 calories. It serves 15, which makes it a perfect addition to a large Thanksgiving gathering.

I found the lemon an interesting addition to Brussels Sprouts a la Grecque, providing the perfect balance with the sweetness of the sprouts. For traveling, I will cook the Brussels sprouts, combine the vinaigrette, and transport them separately. Just before serving, the sprouts will go into the microwave for a quick warming, and then be tossed with the lemon sauce. The pimiento is optional, but I think it adds a nice taste touch, plus it looks festive.

4 cups water
3 lbs. Brussels sprouts
3 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup pimiento, optional
  • In a large pot, bring the water to a boil and add the Brussels sprouts. Cover and cook until just barely tender, about 7 minutes.
  • Whisk together the vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsley and pimiento in a small bowl.
  • Drain the Brussels sprouts and transfer them to a serving fish. Toss with the lemon mixture.
  • Makes 15 servings. Per serving: 36 calories; .3g fat; 7g carbohydrates; no cholesterol; 91mg sodium; 3g fiber.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pick of the Week: Cranberries

This column is for Jeannie, my newly transplanted Memphis friend who asked for a recipe for cranberry sauce. I have three favorites, and I love them all. Picking one would be like calling one of my three children my favorite.

And no, there is nothing dietetic about cranberry sauce. But for me there is no substitute. Cranberry sauce and portion control go hand in hand. Plus, I really have no idea how many calories are in each tablespoon of my recipes, and in this case, ignorance really is bliss.

Any of these sauces can be made a week or two ahead, and my advice is to do it one night when you have 20 minutes to spare. How good does that feel to check one item off your Thanksgiving to-do list? One of the sauces is served warm, so a simple pass in the microwave for a minute or two, just before the turkey is served, works well. The other two sauces are best served at room temperature.

Selecting: You really have no choice, since for most of us, cranberries come bagged. But do look at the berries to be sure they are plump and unblemished. In all my years of buying cranberries, I can count on one hand the number of berries I had to toss out. Color does not matter, since cranberries range from a light red to a deep cranberry color!

Storing: In the refrigerator, secure in the bags they are packaged in, cranberries keep about four weeks. If I am not using the cranberries within a week, I store them in the freezer, where they will keep about 9 months. I just double wrap them for extra protection. They can also go from freezer to recipes, since they thaw almost immediately.

1 3/4 cups red zinfandel
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed golden brown sugar
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 3-by-1-inch strip orange peel
1 12-oz. bag cranberries
  • Combine all ingredients except cranberries in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until the mixture is reduced to about 1 3/4 cups.
  • Strain syrup into a large saucepan. Add cranberries and cook over medium heat until the cranberries burst, about 5 or 6 minutes.
  • Transfer sauce to a bowl. Cool, cover, and refrigerate until cold.
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups cranberry juice
Grated zest and juice from 2 lemons and 2 oranges
3 cups packed brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Mix well.
  • Turn heat to medium-low, bring to a simmer, and cook until berries burst, about 10 to 15 minutes. It's good to stir the pot from time to time.
  • You can serve as is, warm, with the turkey, or refrigerate, covered, and heat in the microwave a minute or two before serving.
1/2 cup brandy, preferably apple
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
1/3 cup walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Combine all ingredients, except the nuts, in a saucepan. Stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Reduce heat, stir in the nuts, and cook gently until cranberries burst.
  • Poor into a bowl and cool. Can be refrigerated a few weeks.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What a week

I know there are worst things than the flu, but when it hit me last week, I couldn't think of one. After 8 days, I've yet to reach the feeling terrific stage. All I really want to do is sleep.
And eat.
But that's understandable because I know I eat when I'm tired, a subject I blogged about recently. I also seem to lack motivation. Preparing my daily salad for lunch is too much trouble. I have no energy. It's much easier to open a can of soup, but for me, that's like Chinese food: two hours later I'm starving. I need something else with that soup, but anything that's appealing is too fattening.
This afternoon I screamed "enough," soaked a pound of black beans, cooked them up, and know that tomorrow night's dinner will be a mix of the beans, some brown rice, jarred salsa, diced scallions, with a sprinkling of diced black olives. Healthy? You bet. Easy? Absolutely. Filling? The complex carbs and protein will keep me sated for hours.
The way I'm feeling, this might just be my dinner all week.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Second down

It's official: I have dropped 14 pounds since starting this blog September 30. That's 14 pounds in 43 days. That's as much as I have ever lost on any diet, but this time, I am not dieting.

Friday I wrote about feeling free -- how being on my non-diet has actually kept me from popping anything in my mouth that I desire. I'm not obsessing about food. I am simply planning my meals and eating what I plan. Slowly eating what I have planned. Chewing each bite 25 times, for the first time, really tasting my food.

I have set a 49-pound weight loss goal, and divided it into seven mini goal of 7 pounds each. 14 pounds = my second mini goal. Wow!

Today's recipe is one of those perfect meals when you have no time. 30 minutes after starting preparations, you are eating dinner. While the turkey is baking, we eat our nightly salad, filling up on greens and veggies so we don't overeat at dinner -- not that this recipe is at all fattening. My calculations put each serving a little under 200 calories. Needless to say, you can also use chicken. I added brown rice and sauteed kale to our plate.

Turkey Dijon
1 lb. boneless, skinless turkey breasts
1 Tblsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. Mrs. Dash Italian medley seasoning
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Rinse turkey well, pat dry, and place in a baking dish in a single layer.
  • Stir together the mustard, oil oil garlic, lime juice and Mrs. Dash seasoning. Spread evenly over turkey.
  • Bake, uncovered, 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the turkey.
Told you it is easy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Goals for next week

I had one goal this week — to stay away from diet soda — and I slipped once. But one can in a week is so much better than the two cans of diet soda I used to drink daily, so I give myself an A. And next week, I'll try for an A+.

I wish I could say I didn't like the taste of the diet root beer I had with dinner two nights ago. I actually LOVED the taste. But I know the chemicals in the soda are just so wrong, so this week I'm aiming for perfection.

My second goal for next week is to increase my 20 minutes of daily exercise to 30 minutes one day. Three weeks ago, when I decided to start exercising daily to Leslie Sansone's "Walk Away the Pounds," I said I was not going to increase the 20 minutes until exercise became part of my daily routine. I'm there. There is no arguing with myself that I should stay in bed and skip the exercise. I am even waking up 10 minutes before my alarm goes off, so I am downstairs, walking with Leslie and her posse, when I could still be sleeping.

I've grown to love those 20 minutes. And I know that 30 minutes once this week will be OK. In fact, it will be better than OK.

When my kids were young, we had breakfast for dinner at least once a week, a tradition I still do, but now the star is always eggs. One of the easiest recipes I make is Mexican Eggs, which I serve with a salad for a quick weekday dinner.

Mexican Eggs
Half a sweet onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tblsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of half a lime
1 plum tomato, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs
1/4 cup low-fat or skim milk
1/4 cup reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • Place the onion in a saute pan, place over very low heat, and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 15 minutes, until onions begin to soften.
  • While onions sweat, chop garlic and cilantro and juice lime.
  • Turn heat to medium, add garlic, and cook about 2 minutes. Add lime juice and tomato and cook a few minutes, until hot. Add cilantro and cook a minute more. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
  • Set salsa aside.
  • Beat eggs with milk. Add cheese. Add to pan and scramble.
  • Serve eggs with salsa on top. Makes 2 servings.

I'm so tired: Ergo I eat!

There are many times when I overeat, but when I’m tired, there is no stopping me: Anything is fair game. For example, I’m not a fan of Saltines, but if I’m tired, a whole sleeve can disappear in seconds flat.

Perhaps I eat because I need the energy. But a sleeve of Saltines — or a box of cookies, a package of Twizzlers, a carton of ice cream — might cause a momentary burst of energy, but it’s just that: a Band-aid. Plus, all these goodies cause my blood sugar to peak and crash, and my inner voice to start the assault on how little willpower I have. And what does that cause? I just keep eating.

I started to think about the tired/overeating connection this past weekend, when we were visiting our daughter, Caitlin, our son-in-law, Jim, our darling granddaughter, Sammy, and our brand new darling, Bailey Kate. It was a perfect few days, except for my lack of sleep, which led to some overeating. I thought I was going to escape Halloween candy this year, but of course we were in trick-or-treat heaven down South, which meant lots of leftover Kit Kat bars, definitely not my favorite, but they sure tasted good around mid-afternoon. And Sammy’s stash of white chocolate covered pretzels — let’s just say I owe her a package the next time we visit. What grandmother steals treats from her granddaughter? Guess I do.

Flying home Tuesday night, I thought long and hard about what I ate, when I ate it, and why. My conclusion: I was exhausted, ergo I ate. I attacked the goodies late afternoon and after dinner, the two times I have always been prone to overeating. And why? Because the stuff tasted so good.

But here’s how my life has changed. I woke up yesterday and got on the scale to face the music. Never would have done that in the past. I would have waited at least a week to get my weight back to normal. But the biggest surprise of all: I guess I wasn’t as horrid as I thought, because I only gained a pound.

The other surprise: I packed my food for the day and ate really well. Oatmeal, lots of fruits and veggies, and a quinoa/red bean salad for dinner. And remember that pound I gained? Gone! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pick of the Week: Pears

I can't explain why, but I only eat pears when there is a bite in the air. And then I crave them, just like I crave apples in the fall. And I love writing about pears, because its variety has its own distinct flavor and use.

Common varities:
Anjou: A winter pear, colored green, yellow green or red, it is very sweet and very juicy. I toss it into my noon salad or eat it as a 3 p.m. pick-me-up.
Bartlett: The yellow variety turns from bright green to golden yellow as it ripens; the Red Bartlett turns a gorgeous scarlet. Eat it as is, prolong the season by canning, or poach it for a a meal's grand finale.
Bosc: These are definitely one of winter's best fruits. The skin is golden brown, it's flesh creamy and richly flavored. This is the pear I bake or poach throughout winter.
Comice: Not as easy to locate, but when you see them at market, pick them up. I use this variety to perk up a cheese board.
Forelle: This is a small, golden pear, with speckled skin and a sweet red blush. Great snack, and again,the perfect pear to pair with cheese.
Seckel: The tiniest pear,it is always past of the cornucopia I use to decorate out Thanksgiving table. It is one of the sweetest pears, and this holiday, while others are eating their fill of pie, I think I'll first grab a Seckel. I'll let you know how that works!

Selecting: Pears should be free of cuts and bruises. For baking, pears should be firm. Pears are ready to eat when they yield to a gentle pressure at the stem.

Storing: To ripen pears, leave them at room temperature. Once ripe, in the refrigerator they go.

The following recipe is from It really is a keeper.

Mache, Pear, Parmesan and Wild Mushroom Salad

Mâche is an heirloom green that has a mild, sweet, nutty flavor and succulent texture, making it ideal for salads. The winning combination of pears, mâche and sauteed mushrooms makes this impressive salad a perfect choice for entertaining.


  • 2 tsp. prepared Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tblsp. sherry vinegar
  • 3 oz. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms,wild or domestic (lobster, portobello, chanterelles, etc)
  • 1 Tblsp. olive oill
  • 8 cups (2 containers) Epic Roots Mâche
  • 2 ripe red pears, halved, cored, cut lengthwise in thin slices
  • 1 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • * For vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk mustard and vinegar until blended. Gradually add olive oil until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • * For salad, sauté mushrooms in olive oil over medium-low heat until lightly browned.
  • * In a large bowl, combine Mâche, Red Pears, mushrooms, cheese and shallots. Toss in vinaigrette, coat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6 to 8