Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oh crap, I cheated.

How could a day that began with 1 scrambled egg and 1 slice of whole grain toast go so terribly wrong? Lunch was a delicious 420 calorie platter of roasted turkey slices, baby greens, walnut meats and fresh chopped tomatoes. So far so good for a day of meetings in New York City while my friend and travel companion, author Sherri Erwin (April 13 release date of Jane Slayre coming up fast) was off with agent, editor and publicist.

Then it happened. I offered to take my son and his lovely girlfriend to his favorite restaurant. One trip to Gramercy Tavern and it all fell apart. See the two guys sitting at the table in the center of the restaurant's interior shot? That was exactly our table. If you saw what we ate and drank you'd understand. Meg and I shared a Merguez sausage and chick pea appetizer washed down with an Orange Blossom (sparkling wine with Elderflower liqueur and orange bitters -- yummy). And yes, I took one little taste of Sherri's sweetbread.

How about main course choices you ask?

Not your ordinary chicken
. Drizzled bone-in breast with a balsamic reduction and served with carrots and charred parsnips. Sherri had the flounder with carmelized sunchokes and mussels. Luke went for the hanger steak special and Meg the seafood and parsnip chowder. Totally off the diet for the day, my companions made a valiant attempt to get me back on track. One chocolate pudding around the table -- one bite each.

Sherri says, "It happens." I'll be back on the wagon tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mark the Calendar: Debby's Diet Day 7

What were my slightly snug at the waist jeans fit right out of the dryer. In the beginning, small victories help foster success. It also helps that the first four days of the Flat Belly Diet! are very structured. The book supplies a grocery list and there’s no need to count calories. You simply eat what you read -- an instant weight loss program. Just add Sassy water (pages 6 and 80) and you’re good to shrink.

Just when I wondered if it was possible to stick to a low-cal diet without losing my mind along with the extra pounds, it was Day 5. Relief came in the form of “extra” calories. Three squares and one Snack Pack at 400 calories each, 1,600 calories -- up from the 1,200 calorie Jumpstart. There are lots of great recipes in the book, but well, you know me … I like to fiddle. With the help of some great calorie counter websites, it wasn’t too hard to come up with a tasty main dish. 2/3 cup of steamed sugar snap peas (40 calories) and two tablespoons of jellied cranberry sauce (50 calories) made this a 385 calorie meal.

Next goal: getting into the one size smaller jeans in my bottom drawer.

CHEERY CHERRY APPLE STUFFED TURKEY BREAST
1 boneless turkey breast half, skin on (1.5 to 2 pounds)
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup plain bread crumbs
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped (3/4 cup)
¼ cup chopped dried cherries
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground thyme
¼ cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch

In a medium bowl mix breadcrumbs, apple, cherries and spices until evenly mixed. Warm 1/4 cup of broth and oil, pour warm (not hot) broth mixture into fruit mixture and stir, making sure all parts are moistened with liquid.

Cover turkey breast with a piece of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until the turkey is of uniform thickness (about 1/2 inch). Spread stuffing evenly (about 3/4 inch thick) in the center of the turkey, leaving a 1-inch border. Starting with one short end, roll into a log, completely enclosing the stuffing. Tie twine around the roast in four evenly spaced intervals. Season with ground pepper.

Roast on a rimmed baking sheet until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the middle registers 155 degrees, 50 to 60 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes (the internal temperature should rise to 165 degrees).

While meat is resting, pour 1 cup of chicken broth in a small saucepan. Whisk the cornstarch into the broth then turn burner to medium. Whisk constantly until the broth thickens into a clear gravy-like sauce. Remove twine, place turkey on a cutting board or platter and slice crosswise about ¾ of an inch thick. Two-three slices equals 3.5 ounces. Use a food scale for accuracy. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of sauce over meat slices. Serves 6.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Unintended Consequences

I love romance. When I meet someone who is single my natural inclination is to butt in and introduce them to another single person. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. There are more couples together than apart among my victims over the years. So what does this have to do with why I haven't blogged lately?

Well, two of my friends are one month away from becoming husband and wife. I introduced them to each other and got teary happy when they asked me to make the toast at the wedding. Like I said, I love romance. But I don't love the size of my behind and being the center of attention for even a few minutes gives me agita. Someone is going to take my picture when I raise that glass and I'll be damned if I don't manage to lose a few pounds before the blessed event.

Lamenting my situation to another friend (and a fellow guest at said wedding) caused her to say she'd bought Flat Belly Diet! and would give it to me to read. Instead, she bought me my own copy and now we are both Flat Belly devotees and smoothie lovers. There are lots of strategies and recipes in this plan. Some are pretty interesting ... like Dijon Pork Chops and Mexican Chicken Soup. Now that I have made it through the starvation jump start and am starting the act of changing my eating habits, I'm ready to share my success or failures when it comes to cooking a new way. At least until the wedding.

FROZEN FRUIT SMOOTHIE
1 cup skim milk
1 cup frozen fruit, unsweetened

Place the ingredients in a blender and pulse until well mixed and slushy. Resembles soft serve ice cream or a thick milkshake -- not quite as sweet but really good. The pineapple is my favorite. Oh wait, blueberry is amazing. Ya gotta try the peach. About 170 calories of yummy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gourmet Meets Grandma: Lobster Mac n' Cheese

Recovering from the worst cold ever, the tide had turned and the former Family Sick became the Family Famished. Our throats are still a little sore and we're not 100% yet. But after a week of chicken soup and dry toast something more substantial, yet creamy and comforting seemed like a good idea. Three people ate four servings ... I guess they agreed!

LOBSTER MAC & CHEESE
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
Dash salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons brandy or dry sherry
1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 pound cooked lobster, shelled and cut into chunks
2 cups cooked corkscrew macaroni
½ cup cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon melted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On top of the stove melt butter in a medium pot; remove from heat. Stir in flour and add salt and peppers. Gradually whisk in the milk, stirring until well mixed. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Add two tablespoons brandy or dry sherry. Cook for 5 minutes longer; add cheese. Stir gently with the whisk until smooth and well blended.

Lightly grease a 2 quart casserole. Place cooked macaroni in a lightly greased 2 quart casserole. Add lobster chunks and cheese sauce. Mix thoroughly, until the pasta is well coated with sauce and lobster chunks are evenly distributed. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs and drizzle butter over the crumbs. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until sauce is hot and bubbling. Serves 4.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Basics

Someday they’ll find a cure for the common cold. Until then, here’s a few tips to help lessen the misery. It’s also a good idea to make yourself the all-time cure all for what ails you – simple homemade chicken soup with carrots. (Recipe follows.)

1: Blow Your Nose
Honest to God, it helps to blow your nose regularly when you have a cold rather than sniffling mucus back into your sinuses where it can cause bacteria to fester and cause even more misery. But if you blow hard, pressure can cause an earache. Go easy: Press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other. Wash your hands after blowing your nose.

2: Rest
Resting when you first come down with a cold or the flu helps your body direct its energy toward helping your immune system battle the invader. This battle taxes the body. Give it a little help by lying down under a blanket.

3: Gargle
Gargling moistens and brings temporary relief for your sore throat. Try a teaspoon of salt dissolved in warm water, four times daily. Or use a thick gargle made with honey, popular in folk medicine. Steep one tablespoon of lemon juice in two cups of hot water; mix with one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling. Never give honey to children less than 1 year old.

4: Hot Liquids
Hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, help prevent dehydration and can soothe the swollen sore membranes lining your nose and throat. Your grandma was right. Hot tea and chicken soup are good for you.

5: Orange Fruits Vegetables
Believe it or not, eating anything orange is good for you. Carrots, butternut squash and other orange veggies are great sources of betacarotene. And we all know about Vitiman C and oranges.

6: Take a Shower
Steamy showers moisturize your nasal passages and relax you. If you're dizzy from the flu, fill the tub and take a nice warm bath.

7: Menthol Salve
A small dab of mentholated salve under your nose helps open breathing passages and soothes irritated skin at the base of the nose. Menthol, eucalyptus and camphor all have mild numbing ingredients that can help relieve the pain of a nose rubbed raw.

8: Use an Extra Pillow
Propping up an extra pillow under your head can help drain nasal passages.

9: Stay off Airplanes
Flying with cold or flu congestion can hurt your eardrums as a result of pressure changes during takeoff and landing. If you MUST fly, use a decongestant and wear a face mask. You may think you look funny but your fellow passengers will be grateful that you are being considerate.

Word up. If you have severe symptoms or feeling sicker with each passing day, see a doctor.


SIMPLE CHICKEN SOUP
1 medium whole chicken, about 3 pounds
1/2 pound of carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 cup wide egg noodles, uncooked
plenty of water
Salt and pepper to taste


Put cleaned chicken in the bottom of a large soup pot. Cover the chicken with water and add salt. Your pot should be about two thirds full full. Bring to a full boil over high heat. Skim off any foam that rises as it boils. Lower heat to medium and let simmer for approximately three hours, continue to skim off foam so the broth will be clear. If you have a fat skimmer, repeatedly skim off the fat that comes to the top.

Remove cooked chicken from the pot and allow it to cool about 30 minutes before deboning meat. Meanwhile add the carrot coins and sliced celery to the broth. Once fully cooked the broth will be reduced to about half the pot -- add water if needed. Slowly boil the veggies until tender. Add deboned chicken back into the pot and toss in the uncooked noodles. Gently boil just until noodles are cooked and serve.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My house is dark and my pots are cold ...

The only cooking going on at my house lately is heating up low sodium chicken soup out of a can. I promise to make up for it later in the week, when the sniffles, sore throat and stuffiness have subsided.

Wondering if Carlos Santana mistook his baby's lack of interest in cooking him dinner for running around. Maybe she was just sick. As for Jeanne and Joan, I'm guessing they were not feeling too good themselves!