Friday, December 31, 2010

Ending the Year with....Meatloaf??

Last year the final post of 2009 was a gorgeous cake that we were bringing to a New Year's Party.  And let me tell you, it was just as good-tasting as it was gorgeous!

This year=no cake.  :(  We're having a quiet New Year's celebration at home, with some snacks, TV and a hockey game.  Plus, as I have learned in the past couple of months, if the sweets are in the house, I will pick at them until they are gone.  That's why you didn't see a lot of posts about Christmas Cookies this year.  Yes, there were some cookies (baked on Christmas Eve and then the leftovers sent home with my mom for another family party on Christmas day)  because it just is not Christmas without some cookies.  I weighed in last night at my weight loss group and I have lost (ta-da) EIGHT pounds since 11/12/10!  That's a miracle!!  Honestly, I haven't had a tough time thus far.  I think it's because I have been eating things that I really want, just less of them.  I still eat ice cream.  I still put sugar in my coffee.  And I still enjoy carbs.  I just eat ice cream one or two nights a week instead of every night.  I no longer take my coffee light and sweet.  And I'm (still) learning that portion sizes don't have to be an entire plate.  I'm starting to appreciate the simple flavors of things, like sliced cucumber with just a hint of salt instead of heaped with dressing.  It's a whole new world out there.

So, I had mentioned in my previous post about a new cookbook for busy families.  Brian perused it while making the menu for the week and came across a recipe for Mini Barbecue Meatloaves.  We're always looking for something different to do with a pound of ground beef besides spaghetti sauce or tacos.  The night it was scheduled to debut on our dinner table, he read the recipe as he was pulling out ingredients and discovered something displeasing:  the reason why it was a quick recipe is because you cook the meatloaves in the microwave!  (Ga-ross.)

I love the microwave.  It's great for leftovers, melting butter for a recipe, warming up some formula for the baby and the like.  But a main course started and finished there?  Hmmmm....that sounds like a disaster.  Meat tends to get rubbery in there.  But still.....we forged on to give it a fair chance.

You know what it came out tasting like?  Barbecue meatloaf.  It was just fine!  The meatloaf patties were moist and not at all rubbery.  So we've made an agreement to utilize this oft-overlooked appliance and try more recipes with it.  Because really, dinner ready in fifteen minutes is pretty cool.

Happy New Year, everyone!  (or to the four people that read this)  I hope it brings good food, good times and great memories.  :)

Post-Christmas Cooking

Santa was very good to us this year.  Brian got a full-size food processor!  This is going to make a big difference in our kitchen, as a mini-processor is great but can't do all jobs.  He also got many different spice blends and a bottle of real vanilla extract.  But the coolest gift of all?

A cast-iron enameled dutch oven!!

Dude, this thing weighs a ton!  When "Santa" bought it at Kohl's, (s)he had a four year old boy with him/her and the boy wanted to run off in the parking lot.  Imagine running after that kid with a cast-iron dutch oven in one hand, AND your car is parked at the far end of the lot.  Yep....good times.

The first meal in the Dutch oven:  Mark Bittman's "Chicken and Garlic Stew" from "How to Cook Everything."  One of our favorites, as there's a saying in this house, "there is no such thing as too much garlic!"

It was a very Mark Bittman year in our house.  I got a copy of his "Food Matters:  A Guide to Conscious Eating" for my birthday on December 19th and his "Kitchen Express" book for Christmas.  What can I say, I love the guy's work.  Not quite as much as Brian loves Alton Brown (whose Good Eats:  The Middle Years" was also under the Christmas tree)  but I do love his fresh ingredients and easy preparations.  Brian also got a cookbook from Taste of Home for busy families, that one should be interesting.  

Merry Christmas to All!  A little late, but always welcome.  :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to make a Philadelphian Happy!

It's not just takes some wins against New York.   Philly has humiliated New York on three fronts in the past week so there's been some jubilation in this transplanted Philadelphian's house this week.  But nothing beat what came in the mail today

A Flyers Limited Edition Tin....

......Filled with a variety of Tastycakes!

Brian said that he would share them with me if I could name two of the four players on the lid.  I totally bombed the challenge.  Luckily, I'm not a woman scorned, because he goes to bed earlier than I do and I seriously considered a third photo of me raiding the tin.

Love you, honey!  :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Husband, the Butcher

Our family hosts Christmas dinner, which is traditionally a roast beef.  I can still remember how the kitchen used to smell in my grandparent's house, with a roast beef in the oven!  Mmmmmmm....

This year, Brian thought about what we wanted to do, roast-wise.  (this really is more his area of expertise.)  He decided that we should buy a really big roast, figure out how many people we were having and then cut it up into the Christmas roast and some steaks.  Ten NY strip steaks later, we had our Christmas Roast!  And it is a beautiful sight:

We had some of the steak for dinner tonight and it was out-of-this-world!  Can't wait for Saturday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Snacks Should Taste Good

At last week's weight center meeting, we talked in depth about snacks. Why snacks are important in the weight loss calculation. (i.e. how they keep you from getting so hungry you'd gnaw off your own arm)  What consists as a snack, and what is just a meal masquerading as a snack.  How much protein/carb/fiber/calories should be in a snack.  Hmmmm....a lot to ponder.

They passed out free samples of these chips that I've seen in the grocery store, "Food Should Taste Good."  They come in several different flavors and have wholesome ingredients like quinoa and whole grains.  I took home two little bags.

The first one was cheddar.  It boasts itself as a chip AND a cracker.  It is certified gluten-free and consists of corn, quinoa, sunflower seeds and cheddar.  Nothing crazy.  I loved them!!!  Will enjoyed them.  And Brian thought they were pretty good too.  All right, something that makes all of us happy!  (and is still better for you than a greasy bag of potato chips.)

The second bag, I ate them while I was impatiently waiting for dinner.  And then immediately poured a glass of water.  No, two sips of milk.  Folks, they're Jalapeno and crushed pepper.  All the same wholesome ingredients, and a whole lotta spice!  I love spicy foods!  This one wasn't blaringly obvious as the chip makes contact with your taste buds.  Rather, the burn builds up so you go from being totally fine to "Holy Hell, what did I just eat!"

Can't wait to try some more different kinds.  This is a snack I could live with.

The Annual Gingerbread Donut

It's that time of year....Dunkin Donuts has their gingerbread line!

I allow myself ONE gingerbread donut a year.  I stop at one because seriously, it could easily become a habit.

I bought my donut last night and I've got big plans:  I am going to sit down with it, and eat it slowly.  Savor every morsel, 'cause there won't be another Gingerbread Donut Break until 2011!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Budding Chef

Not only does our little Buddy love to eat, he's showing an interest in fending for himself in our kitchen!  Nothing makes Baby happier than an open fridge door.   Here, observe him banging on a container of leftover mashed potatoes to test for freshness.  :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Making Changes: The Good and the Bad

As I probably have mentioned before (and am too busy to check) I started a weight loss program with the local hospital.  It's a fifteen week program, with five weeks each dedicated to the subjects of Nutrition, Exercise and Psychology.  (what you're eating, what you're doing fitness-wise and why you want a candy bar when you are so stressed out you could choke someone)

I was supposed to start this program back in September, but I got waitlisted.  'Cause really, does anyone "want" tostart a weight loss program three weeks before Christmas?  I don't think so!  I did meet with the hospital's nutritionist in November, so I got a three week start before everyone else in my group.  I'm proud to say that I've lost six pounds (through Thanksgiving, thankyouverymuch, though I had some unwelcome help from a stomach bug last week, too)  My jeans are looser and I'm already feeling pretty good.  I think one reason why I have been successful so far is because I'm not treating this like a diet.  This is a lifestyle change, people!  And I have the full support of my husband and family, and my friends too.  It turns out that if you're vocal about what you're doing, people want to help!  We've broken our nightly ice cream habit, relegating it to weekends-only.  And we've lightened up our cooking, which has made a big difference.  However, not all "light" cooking turns out to be good food.  This weekend was a prime example for this.

First, the good:  I have no idea where on the Food Network this recipe came from, but Brian made this roasted salmon recipe on Saturday night that was divine!  It was salmon roasted on top of a bed of green, red and yellow peppers, red onion and fennel.  The "fronds" of the fennel were chopped up and mixed with some pecans on top of the fish.  I never thought I'd like fennel, because I'd heard it was licorice-flavored.  Black licorice is one of those things that people either love or hate, and I'm firmly a licorice-hater.  But you know what?  Fennel is delicious!  The salmon, adorned with fennel fronds and pecans, was light and delectable.  I'm continually surprised when stuff doesn't have a buttery sauce or cheese comes out tasting so good, it turns out that unadorned foods save for maybe a little sprinkle of salt can be really, really good.

Now for the bad....which I have no pictures of.  Sloppy Joes.  Brian loves these, especially with that Manwich sauce.  I for one do not like Manwich, it's so salty!  So when he found a "healthy" version made with beef, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions, we agreed to give it a try.  It may be healthy, but it tastes like mush.  I like all of the ingredients, but the sandwich was just a big miss.  Needless to say, our garbage disposal ate very well Friday night!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First Family Dinner

Tonight marks a special event:  it is the first time that the four of us ate dinner together!  Yes, I know, we have all eaten together.  But not the same meal!  Grilled cheese sandwiches for everyone.

Sean loved his first grilled cheese sandwich.  In fact, he loved it so much he had to have a bath right after because he combed melted cheese through his hair from the excitement.  I'm still calling it a success.  :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ricotta Pancakes

I made a pan of lasagna a couple of weeks ago because we were having a busy week, and the leftovers helped with that.  However, as I always seem to do when making lasagna, I bought waaaay too much ricotta cheese.  So I had a small tub left over in the fridge and no plans for using it.

So I posted out to my Facebook friends:  any ideas?  I got a slew of responses, from ricotta pie to baked ziti to just eating it with a spoon.  :)  The winner was my friend Amy in Washington State, with Raspberry-Ricotta Pancakes.

Alas, Crafty Mama's kitchen didn't have any raspberries.  However, we always have fresh blueberries on-hand because the big kid loves to devour them for breakfast.  So, armed with the Food Network website, I found a recipe for blueberry-ricotta pancakes.

The biggest roadblock in the process was Hubby.  You see, Brian has an aversion to "mishy" foods.  On his list of things that he won't eat:  beans (kidney, black, white) hummus, sweet potato and (horrors!)  cheesecake.  Yes, ricotta is on that list.   I'm shocked that he'll eat lasagna, but he makes an exception for whatever reason.  As soon as he saw that I was gearing up to put ricotta in the pancakes this morning he was aghast.  I assured him that they would be delicious, and they wouldn't have a "mishy" texture.  After all, I have had pancakes made with cottage cheese before and the texture was fine.  (And man, do I abhor cottage cheese, it is the Devil!!!)  He warily agreed to try the finished product.

I gave him the first two pancakes, hot off the grill.  And you know what?  He liked them!  I did too, the ricotta is a nice addition, yielding in a moist pancake.  And lucky for us, there are some in the freezer.