Archive for June, 2011

I sometimes get asked how I can cook the meals I do and still manage to have lost weight.  My answer other then exercise, which is a key ingredient to all weight loss, is it doesn’t matter what you cook, but how you cook and consume it.  I am a firm believer people should not be forced to skimp on taste or food enjoyment at the meal table.  Moderation of consumption, eating slower to allow one to realize when they are full and cutting food into small bites really does help.  True I get teased at times because everyone is already done eating, and I’m still only half way done with my plate but I don’t mind because I know for me, it’s the right way to eat.

Oh sure, I have my tricks also I played on myself.  By reducing the size of the plates it offers a illusion you consume more food then you actually are. Perhaps it’s the old “clean your plate” mindset, but there is something about those blank spots that just make people feel they need to fill them, or that they are being starved.  Restaurants and buffets know this, that’s why you get heaping platters overloaded with enough food to make two or more meals from. I also consume a full glass of fiber water half a hour before I sit down to any meal.  What is fiber water? It’s 8 oz of water with 1 tbsp of powdered fiber like Citracel.  You know those weight loss pills you hear so much about on television? Same concept without the cost.  They are filled with a substance that expands in your stomach making you feel fuller before you begin eating, thus designed to make you consume less by reducing the space in your stomach.  Natural powdered fiber does the same thing.  Oh, want another secret? Smaller utensils.  I know silly sounding right? Nope, I deliberately went searching for spoons and forks smaller then the ones I had gotten in a beautiful set.  Sure I looked odd holding the kitchen ones I had a example of in my purse up against every spoon in the store, but I still did it.  This makes those small bites that I cut even smaller, and small scoops seem, to my mind anyway, bigger and more appropriate.  These are tricks that worked for me, might not for you, play around until you find something that does…but remember take the time to chew and savor your bites, I can’t stress this enough.

Now…on to the foods.

This was the main dish, Grilled Lemon-Butter Tilapia.  Yes, I said butter and yes that is melted cheese you see adorning it.  I cook with REAL butter, none of that fake stuff for me.

Grilled Lemon-Butter Tilapia

6 Tilapia fillets  (you could use cod, whitefish or any “light” flavored fish for this meal)

1 tbsp butter (yes a tablespoon, time you melt it, pour it, serve it, each person will get roughly 1/4 tsp butter consumed.)

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, diced fine.

Place your butter in pan and melt, saute garlic and add lemon juice.  Insert your fish filets into your butter-lemon-garlic sauce and cover pan to allow them to cook through and get flaky.  Takes about five minutes.  To this add:

6 thin slices Lahbeh cheese atop fish.  (Recipe to make your own Lahbeh found HERE.)

Recover pan and let cheese melt over fish.

Place fish on serving dish and pour remaining lemon-butter over top.

Top with:

Fresh Pico-de-Gallo and parley.

The “major” side dish was Broccoli-Herbed Rice.  Yes, I plan my meals using a Major and Minor method of side dishes.  Traditionally vegetables are my major side dish telling myself and the children this is the element we should have the most of on our plates.  With today being so vegetable heavy as is, the rice dish got that honor.

Broccoli-Herbed Rice

1/2 cups water

1 cup chicken stock

1 1/2 cups minute rice  (I usually use long-grain rice making this, but with my stove on fritz minute rice pinch-hit today)

1/2 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp marjoram

1/2 tsp dried minced onions

1 cup broccoli flowers diced small

Put water and stock in pot along with broccoli and herbs, bring to boil, boil a few minutes (about 7-10) to cook broccoli.  Add rice and remove pot from heat, cover.  Let sit and steam roughly 10 minutes, then using fork fluff and serve.

Insalata Caprese was my minor side.  Sounds fancy doesn’t it? Just another way to say sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  I altered mine a bit, fresh basil is not yet ready in my herb bed so parsley got to be the star of the show.  This side is the easiest dish there is, tasty too.  Just cut up your tomato (I used fresh roma’s out of the garden), slice mozzarella cheese, grab some basil leaves (if you have any, put parsley on hold to side if you don’t.), arrange in layers around dish, sprinkle with olive oil and pepper, adorn with that reserved parsley.  How simple is that?

Now, remember that Pico-de-Gallo I mentioned earlier? Well it became the star of the show twice.  I love the name Pico-de-Gallo, it means “beak of the rooster” and is said to be called such because people use to eat it with thumb and index finger…thus making form of a rooster’s beak.  Making Pico-de-Gallo is not difficult, just involves some chopping.  It is a wonderful dish to have in refrigerator as it can be eaten as accompaniment to other dishes, with tortilla chips (homemade of course), on breads, or just plain like a salad.

Pico-de-Gallo (2 cups)

4 tomatoes, chopped and deseeded

2 tbsp chopped bell pepper (green, red, orange, yellow your preference)

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 jalapeno or chile peppers deseeded and finely diced

1 1/2 tsp fresh chopped cilantro

1 tsp fresh lime juice

Remember when making this, you want it salsaish (is that a word, well it is now) so dice small.  Combine all your ingredients in a bowl, stir to mingle.  Sit in refrigerator an hour at least to combine flavors before serving.  Honestly it’s better the second day.

And that is where she ended up.  Atop french bread baguettes.  No, I didn’t make the bread, well not this time anyways.  French bread is really rather simple to make, but…not so easy with no working oven.  So…store bought was second best.  Traditionally I would toast this bread under the broiler with a sprinkling of olive oil atop.  As I couldn’t do that today so the electric fry pan I made the fish in got washed and reused to warm the bread before I drizzled the oil and added the pico-de-gallo.  Top with a SMALL amount of shredded mozzarella cheese…delicious!










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A Box Of Many Colors.

This was not my intended post for the day but I just couldn’t resist showing of something of such beauty, well beauty to me anyway.

I stopped at the local Goodwill today in my current hunt for more Pyrex and vintage baking dishes for my kitchen. While there I also had planned to see if they had a flat sheet I could use to finish a quilt back, I didn’t find the sheet, but I did find something to me far better.  Tucked under the rack was a box, and in the box was thousands of squares of flannel material already cut and ready to be patched together into quilts. There is enough material in this box to make scores of baby quilts. I snatched it right then and there.  A little ways down I spotted another box, and peering inside I seen it was filled to brim with yards of uncut fabric of some of the same materials these squares were cut out of.  Yep, I snatched that one too.  Neither box had a price listed on them, and honestly I expected to pay far more then I budget for such trips.  I was honestly shocked and thrilled when the lady stated me the price of $6.00 for the whole lot.

I sorted out the various designs to give you an idea of how many beautifully amazing fabrics were in those boxes.  This is not near how many squares and yards I scored but it is sampling and my table can only hold so many. I was already standing on the counter to get this shot.  Pretty sure my children think their mother is more nuts then they thought I was before for that.

Part of me wonders why the hands that took the time to so diligently cut all the pieces never put them together into the final project, but now my hands will see they are pieced together and placed into other hands that will appreciate them.

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Fruit, my passion. I have not found a fruit I didn’t like, ever, and I’ve had some pretty interesting ones I’ve sampled.  With the hot days of summer approaching, and temperatures already in the high 90’s here, fruit salads are a cooling addition to any meal.

I serve them for breakfasts, lunches and dinner. They become snacks between meals when those “Need to snack on something.” moments hit.  Anyone that wants to try to tell me they can’t budget for fresh fruits in their house, I got a bridge to sell them.

The above is a picture of a typical fruit salad I serve.  The contents might change with the seasons, but the process remains the same as does the dressing.  To make it, you simply chose three or more fruits in season.  This can be apples, bananas, grapes, kiwi, oranges, melons, pineapple, mangoes, cherries, pears, peaches, berries of any type…truly it’s a “your choice” set up.  To this I add a mixture of the juices from the cut up fruits (melons make a LOT of juice), or if I don’t have much use orange juice.  Add honey and some black pepper and whisk well to incorporate.  Ratio of juice to honey is  2:1 (so if you use 1 cup orange juice, add 1/2 cup of honey). That’s it.  I know black pepper on fruits sound strange but it really does work.  Drizzle this over your salad and stir…or use a gravy bowl and let everyone add their own individual preference.  Cut up fresh mint from the herb garden and sprinkle it over the top of the individual bowls, delicious!

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I love this time of year, with the fresh fruits and vegetables starting to hit the farmer markets, road side stands and my own gardens. I often think I could live on just salads and chocolate and be completely content, well, that is until the smell of a good BBQ reminds me otherwise.

My children and I had a interesting discussion the other day.  One I know I’ve had before with my son every year, maybe he just likes hearing it. The discussion was about my growing up, and his great-grandparents.  How some of my fondest of memories involve Grandpa with his hoe out in his front garden nearest the house working among the rows, or Grandma taking wormy apples and turning them into the sweetest apple sauce or fritters. How we grew large gardens and I can’t even begin to think how many pails of water I carried to give row upon row refreshing drinks. I remember my aunt Ruth standing over the stove canning for hours, often waking in early morning hours and staying up late at night to finish batches of the most wonderful preserved foods.  I’m the one standing over the stove now in the early morning and late night, the one in the gardens and the one cutting up the wormy apples to make the apple sauce.  I sometimes feel like Grandpa, Grandma and Ruth stand over my shoulder to make sure I am doing it right.

He’s had a few friends over during the time I’ve been canning or cooking up something I grew, they seem shocked by the whole process. So many now grow up believing their foods magically arrive in the store on shelves and bins prepackaged and processed, coated in wax and filled with who knows what.  I’m thankful to be able to show my children different, show them the old ways of growing, eating, preserving of harvests.  Oh sure, I get my share of parents that turn up their noses. Growing your own to them means you are dirt poor and don’t have the funds for “better”, but if “better” means store bins and shelves, shipped from another country and who knows how fresh, I’d rather not have it.

So, this month take the time to visit the farmers markets, pick your own fields and plant a few seeds of your own.  You won’t regret it.

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It’s Barefoot Day!!

June 1st is officially or non officially, Barefoot day!  I love this day, I think going barefoot should be mandatory honestly.  In my world it is the preferred foot attire and as soon as I can kick off the shoes I do.  When schools out and summer begins, the shoes go in boxes and are only drug out when we need to run somewhere. Oh sure, it’s not without its risks, like stepping on sandburs or prickly gum balls.  Planting your foot on a fire ant bed is never pleasurable, but the connection with the earth below, grass blades, warm sun beams and gentle winds caressing toes make it so worth the rare discomforts.

So? what is one to do on barefoot day? Why, create a mount of mud in your yard with garden hose, gather the children and splash, stomp and wiggle your toes in the cool, squishy substance to your hearts content. Then of course you will need to get a pedicure, or in this case have your 4 year old daughter paint your nails with bright orange and sparkles.

Once the full heat of the sun kicks in (which is over 100 currently down here), it’s inside for some more fancy “foot” work.  We made foam sandals and “Barefoot Day” journals where the children could record all their adventures and thoughts, or in my daughters case draw lots of pictures for Mr. Sun to see.

The journal’s were a lot of fun for the kids, and something they can look back on during the colder days of winter and remember romping barefoot in the yard.  To make them I had my children trace the outline of each others feet.  Then using construction paper (for filling) and foam pieces (for cover and back), cut out the shapes they drew.  Then we put them together into a “sandwich”, punched a hole in the heel and tied it together.  They then got to choose some summery stick on foam shapes to decorate their project.

We then made some “flip flops”, this truly was the simplest project that requires only pre-cut foam circles, stickers, scissors and a little glue.  Once more using the foam foot cut out as the base (without the toes this time), you cut a circle in half, this will make the top of the sandal.  Snip a slit in both sides of the sandal about 1/4 way down from toes.  Side the edges of your semi circle into these slits and push down until they sit suitable to the top of the child’s foot. Glue in place and when dried, cut off any remaining foam from bottom of the sandal.  Now it’s time to let the children loose with stickers, bows, markers, beads or whatever you will to decorate them.

These are amazingly sturdy sandals and work well at the pool during summer.

I’m not sure how we will finish off Barefoot Day, but it sure has been off to a fun start.  Oh, and don’t you just love my daughters nail job? I think she got more on her feet then she did on her nails.  But it was all fun.


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