Something happens to me in December. I think of it as the month of celebrations and I really push back against doing anything non-fun related. Of course all the fun things are not non-work related. In fact I bring way to much work upon myself trying to have more fun.
I usually tr get a bunch of things like decorating the house or buying the Christmas gifts done in advance of December to free up the actual month for merriment and reverie. This year the house was done in advance, but I have done a terrible job on actual gift purchases. Perhaps it is because I have not been inspired by any new gift ideas.
My favorite thing to do in December is to entertain, which of course involves a lot of cooking. I know that this need to spend the month is the kitchen started when I was a kid. My family used to have a giant, like a 150 people giant, dinner party on Christmas Eve. My parents invited their close friends with all their kids and any grandparents, aunts or cousins who were visiting. We had a southern menu to show all our Connecticut friends the best hospitality around. Country ham from Virginia and Oyster Stew were staples every year.
Our house in Connecticut was built for big parties. It had three kitchens and multiple big rooms so that the kids and the grown-ups could have their own domains. Prepping for that party is how I learned to be a caterer since my Dad, the only other cook in the family, depended upon me to make a major amount of food. The days before Christmas were filled with party prep, which really kept the kid’s minds off the impending arrival of Santa. So now this need for Christmas parties is part of my DNA.
The other big December event is that it is also Carter’s birthday month. It is easier now that she is almost 14 and not in the need of a party for her whole class. When Carter was four we had a snow princess party that precipitated the purchase of a giant twelve-foot tall inflatable snowman, which we put in the front yard. It became an instant neighborhood landmark. Young children would beg their parents to drive them by the big Frosty. It is so tacky and horrible that we really only thought of using it for that one birthday party, but every year people ask us when the snowman is going to arrive so we have succumbed to being that house with the huge white nylon light up man acting as a beacon for potential babysitting customers for Carter. Every year Russ and Carter have to do some major surgery to the mechanics of Frosty and miraculously it has survived a decade.
So here we are on the cusp of my favorite month. Don’t ask me to come to a meeting or do any real work. I have put in double time on doing good the other eleven months. I reserve December to give parties, go to luncheons, make crafts, shop and wrap presents, cook goodies to give to my friends, decorate gingerbread houses, enjoy libations at friends’ homes, catch up with people I have not seen since last Christmas, listen to the same music I have every December for the last 50 years and hear the same bible stories I have my whole life. So here’s to the craziness of December. I’m not going to fight it, but embrace it and pack in as much fun as possible. Grown up responsibilities can start up again in January.
A friend called me this morning lamenting her surprise loss in the Powerball lottery. She obviously did not read my post from a few days ago “Winning the lottery won’t make you any thinner” since she is already thin she must have thought it did not apply to her.
She went on to say, “Well, good things come to those who wait.” After consoling her, in my “you will think twice about asking for sympathy from me again way,” we hung up and I got to thinking about that advice about “waiting” for good things to come. I know that it is just a consolation for those who have been disappointed, but it certainly is bad advice.
I am here today to suggest we change the expression to “Good things come to those who work.” I don’t think that encouraging the passive life of waiting is going to get most people to a goal they are hoping to reach. The only way to increase your odds of winning is to work at something.
I have a number of close relatives who have been working incredibly hard and it is paying off for them. No luck or waiting around was involved, just kept their noses to their respective grindstones, to coin another cliché.
The same is true for losing weight. I have had a couple of people who don’t know me well or see me often recently run into me and ask me how in the world I lost weight. I tell them I just work at it everyday and they look at me like I am keeping some secret of national importance from them. Surely I have had an operation or am taking some experimental drug or whisper worthy, worse, I am actually sick an am not trying to lose weight.
Nothing as tragic or exciting as any of those things, just work. But work is satisfying for itself not just for reaching a goal you might have set. So my advice for today, the day you did not win the lottery, is don’t just wait for good things to happen make them happen by working at it. Not only are you a lot more likely to succeed, you will appreciate it so much more when you do. You need to stop reading my platitudes; we’ve got work to get done.
One of the drawbacks about losing weight is that I am much colder these days. I some how have avoided middle-aged hot flash season so far, but now that I have written that I am sure they will begin soon. I would welcome a little self-created heat because I really don’t want to wear gloves indoors. One thing I find that does help is drinking hot drinks. Not only do they warm the inside of me, but I get to warm my freezing hands on the mug.
I am not a black coffee drinker, wish I were. I really try to limit coffee because it is not calorie free after I add milk and sweetener, which I also try and limit so the my brain does not get into the “I wants sweets” mode that even sweet ‘n low can bring on.
Caffeine after 2:00 in the afternoon can also back fire on me. So that leaves me with herbal teas. Yes, I will drink them, but they always seem a little wimpy in the flavor department so I am not running to the tea cabinet in the afternoon.
What I really want is something hot, no caffeine, no calories and big flavor so it is satisfying, almost like actually eating something. My favorite hot drink that fills all these requirements is hot ginger/lemon water. I drop a knob of peeled ginger root in a teapot with half a squeezed lemon and pour boiling water over it. I let it sit for at least 10 minutes so that the ginger can let lose its essence in the water. I pour the mixture in a mug and then zap it in the microwave to bring it back up to really hot. I add a tiny amount of Splenda, to just cut the sourness of the lemon a little, but not enough to spike my brain with some sweet craving. The best part is that the knob of ginger is good for a couple of pots of hot water before it is spent of its entire spicy flavor.
Sometimes if I think I am hungry I drink a mug or two of hot ginger water and it seems to fill me up and provide enough actual taste that my mouth feels like it had chewed something. Tricking my brain into thinking it had food is my constant goal. I certainly have enough reserves to live on, which I want my body to go ahead and use up without going into some starvation panic and start becoming more efficient. Ginger has been used since the dawning of time to settle stomachs so maybe it makes my stomach happy and therefore makes me happy. Who knows? It is just another tool in the bag of diet tricks — anything to go another day without a cookie.
This is more of a guide than a recipe because you can make a broth based vegetable soup with almost any vegetables. Like Lima beans, add ‘em, hate carrots, leave ‘em out, like oregano, and go for it. You will get the picture. The point is to know how to whip a pot of the best appetite cure there is. I like to have something like this around to eat before I go to parties. It is so much easier to pass by the baked brie if I have eaten a cup of soup.
As I have written in the past onions are the key to the flavor a along with carrots, celery, garlic and tomatoes. Everything else is just what you have on hand or like.
1 large yellow onion – chopped
4 carrots – peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery – chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 can of diced tomatoes- (I just one with chilies in it)
3 cans of chicken stock – or vegetable stock if you want
1 T. white vinegar
Salt and pepper
Corn cut off 2 ears of corn
1 can white beans drained
Hand full of fresh thyme- tied with a string
1 bay leaf
Other suggested veggies
Peppers, peas, other types of beans, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, zucchini, yellow squash, spinach …
As usual I spray a soup pot with Pam. If you are opposed to Pam just put a little olive oil in the pan and swirl it all around. Don’t write me to complain about using Pam, just don’t use it and keep that information to yourself.
Put the pot on a medium heat and add the onions and cook for 3 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Add the carrots and the garlic cook another minute. Add the celery, tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, thyme salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer, add the corn and the beans, which are already cooked. Simmer for five minutes add the vinegar and serve if you are hungry right then.
The vegetables should still be a little crunchy. You don’t need to simmer soup forever. That just makes mush. I like to turn the heat off in the pan and put a lid on it and just let it sit there for a few hours with no heat the herbs will give up more flavor. You can add some chopped chicken to make it a meal, or some rice or a few cooked noodles. The rule to follow is if you add raw vegetables try and cut them roughly the same size. Add them to the pot like this; if they are hard ones that take a long time to cook like parsnips add them with the onions, if they are short cooking like peppers or green beans add them with the stock, if they are frozen peas, or canned beans or anything that is already cooked add them at the last minute. The basic soup is a blank canvas awaiting your additions.
Now that the house is decorated for Christmas the next thing on my normal schedule of holiday preparedness events is to make or cook my hostess gift of the year. In my please-don’t-confuse-me-with-Martha-Stewart because I don’t think she has much of a sense of humor, yet I still am very crafty/handy/culinary talented way I like to make a different item from year to year. Last year I made homemade vanilla, which I put into really cute apothecary bottles I ordered from a bottle manufacturer. It was not a hard gift to make, but I had to start making it in September so it had the requisite amount of time to age.
Since I have been busy writing this blog and trying to create new healthy recipes I have done no advance planning for the Holiday season. I usually would have my Christmas shopping done by now and I have barely made a dent in that so far. I clearly have been spending too much time on me this year.
So here is my dilemma. Is it kosher for me to make a hostess gift that is something fattening, decedent and really yummy in a year that I have been promoting weight loss? I think that I am disciplined enough right now to make something that I am not tempted to eat, so I am not in fear for the number on my scale. But is it hypocritical to give others something I clearly would not eat myself? Not that most of the people I might give these gifts too need to lose weight, but I hate to pile on to the holiday calorie mountain.
I am thinking about making some fleur de sel caramels, which are absolutely worth every calorie because they are a moment in heaven. They are a little tricky, but not that time consuming. I have all the right cute containers, labels, wrapping and bows. If I give just a few sinful morsels would it be so bad?
If only I had started some vinegars a few months ago I could have kept my diet themed year. But alas I am too late and I don’t have enough free time to sew, needlepoint or cross-stitch enough non-food items. If only I had not set the bar so high over the last thirty years. I can’t turn into a total Scrooge and not give gifts. Or almost worse, give soaps or lotions, which no one ever uses.
I also would like to give something from a local producer. That gives me a really grinchy-Grinch idea. I could get local bacon and make my famous candy bacon. It is doubly hedonistic being both a sweet and a fat, but then again I could support a local farmer and pork is one of North Carolinas top products.
So weigh in on my ideas and please feel free to suggest others. At this point I am not beyond trolling the Internet, if only I had the time.
While everyone was busy eating turkey and camping our overnight in front of big box stores no one noticed that the Powerball Lottery had gotten up to $325 million. That is because most of the people who are willing to fight for a cheep flat screen TV at Wal-Mart at one in the morning are the same people who regularly buy lottery tickets. That means that Wednesday’s lottery payout is already up to $450 MILLION and now that the media has drawn attention to it being the biggest lottery in history it will probably get even bigger because even people with advanced degrees and all their important teeth go out and buy lottery tickets when the jackpot gets to be ridiculously huge.
I am not one of those people, although I have all my teeth. First of all, I only play games where using your brain helps you win, granted I play a lot of those. But for a one in 175 million odds to win I don’t see any reason to give my money away. The real reason I won’t play the lottery is that I might win and I can think of no better way to ruin your life than to come into an obscene amount of money for which you basically did nothing to earn it.
The downside is so much greater than the upside. First everyone you ever met would want you to give them some money and no matter how much you gave them they would say it was not enough since you got to keep like $275 million after taxes. You would never know if anyone liked you for yourself or just wanted you to like them enough to give them some money. Even though I love the friends I have now I also like to make some new friends and that would just have to stop.
Second managing all that money is a full time job and not really the job I want. Granted I could make some big difference in the world like helping end hunger, but that is another full time job. All that money comes with too many jobs.
Third, it would ruin my child’s life. I know or knew too many rich kids who never had a reason to work and ended up miserable or dead at a young age.
Lastly, winning the lottery would not help me get any thinner. Yes, I could go live at a spa until I reached my goal weight, but not really since all that money came with all that work of managing it. I could not continue to grow my own healthy food for fear of being kidnapped while out in the garden.
So I think the old saying “You can’t be too rich or too thin” just is not true, especially for me. I think winning the lottery is just a recipe for unhappiness and obesity.
For so many people the day after Thanksgiving is about shopping, or decorating the house or going to the movies so they have a few hours of being with family without having to talk to each other. Our family tradition is for friends to come up to the farm and after some outdoor wilderness time we go into the thriving metropolis of Danville, Virginia to have lunch and support the local economy.
For so many people the day after Thanksgiving lunch is about a really good turkey sandwich made with all the leftovers, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mayo and as much turkey as they can keep on two slices for bread. For us our day after Thanksgiving means one thing, Mexican food, more precisely El Vallarta.
See my Dad is a preferred customer at El Vallarta so going there with him is like getting into the VIP section of studio 54 back in the day. He has a regular table and all the waiters like him because for Danville, he is a really big tipper. So whenever we go there we get exemplary service and the Mexican food is not bad too boot.
But today things were a little off. First, our friends the Toms were in Florida for Turkey day and they were missing their annual trek to the farm. This caused quite a bit of dissension in their family since Logan would rather be at the farm than almost anyplace and it was sad for my Dad who is particularly fond of all the Toms. Second, when all 13 of us arrived at El Vallarta we discovered at party of 25 at my Dad’s regular table, who had made a reservation. We were shocked that it was taken but, even more so that anyone had ever needed a reservation at El Vallarta.
The worst thing about our Mexican food tradition is that I had to sit through the large chips/salsa/queso consumption prior to the arrival of lunch. But the good news is that El Vallarta has many healthy options if you just tell them to substitute salad for all the rice and beans. I was thrilled to have a yummy cammerones Cancun, which was grilled shrimp and pineapple — nothing resembling a turkey or potato on any of our plates.
After our lunch and a touch of shopping it was back to the farm for games and children driving any number of recreational vehicles all around the farm while my Dad tells stories about the farm, both historic and current day. It’s a tradition that’s hard to beat.
I hope that you and yours had a happy turkey day. That everyone around your table got along, that no politics were discussed, that your Aunt brought her traditional sweet potato casserole with the pecan crunch on top and that no children spilled anything on your mother’s heirloom tablecloth that she insists on using, but then holds her breath through the whole meal as gravy and cranberry are dipped upon it.
Our Thanksgiving was small with my sisters staying in Washington, too busy with work to make the drive. My father invited his cousin Rose and her brother and a friend. Although all my cousins, their many children and my Aunt and Uncle were right next door, so we had a great time visiting with them, walking dogs back and forth between the houses, as children who just learned to ride their bikes rode on the farm road free of any cars or tractors to run them onto the verge.
I had made my Thanksgiving meal contributions at home before we got here. I want to report that my crust less pumpkin pie was a huge failure. Since I have made it many times before I am not sure what was off about it. I will attempt it again and update the recipe if I figure out what went wrong.
My father made all the fattening things that make Thanksgiving so happy, like stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans. If you asked most Americans who the sponsor of Thanksgiving is, I would venture they would say Butterball or the Turkey Producers of America. Watching my father cook I would say that the secret sponsor of Thanksgiving was Land O’Lakes or the butter producers of America.
My father’s only butter measurement is sticks. “How many sticks of butter should go in the mashed potatoes?” “Should I put just a stick of butter in the green beans?”
Between the butter in pie crusts and pie filling, the butter unnecessarily rubbed on turkey skin (hint, the skin is all fat already, no extra fat needed for it to brown, just high enough heat), the butter in casseroles, vegetables and potatoes and lastly the butter on the table to be slathered on rolls, biscuits and bread I think that butter is the star of the meal.
Really the turkey is just bigger and flashier, but the butter is stealthier in its omnipresence. I am sure that I consumed more butter today than I have in the last three months combined and I only had one small serving of everything, except bread or pies with crusts, just my really poor crust-less pumpkin.
If you ever wonder about conspiracy theories consider this, Thanksgiving is really promoted behind the scenes by big butter business. I would not be surprised if Dick Cheney was the majority stake holder in Butter Inc. Christmas cookies are right around the corner and make my words, Hot Buttered Rum promotions are coming.
Here we are on the eve of the biggest eating day of the year. My childhood memories of Thanksgiving is about watching the Macy day parade on TV, not having any breakfast because we are told we are about to eat a giant meal and waiting and waiting and waiting until about 3:00 to eat what has been promised to be the best meal of the year.
By the time 3:00 rolled around we were so hungry and actually so bored from the waiting that it would not have mattered if we were being severed cardboard as long as it had gravy on it. And everything had gravy on it.
In truth I think my sisters and I liked the pillsbury crescent rolls almost the best since it was a treat reserved exclusively for thanksgiving and our parent’s dinner parties. We never got to eat at the dinner parties, but we got to have the crescent rolls for breakfast as we scavenged for food while my parents slept late after late night partying.
The big mistake about those childhood Thanksgivings was the not eating breakfast part. It was a long time from waking up until bird time and that made us throw down the stuffing like we had never had a meal before. I think that there was so much concentration by the adults on all the holiday food that they actually forgot to calculate how much more milk or eggs we needed and did not want us to consume them and thus be short for the sweet potato casserole.
This year we are having Thanksgiving at 2:00. That is a long time from the dinner I will eat tonight. My plan is to try and sleep in a little so I can eat my daily high protein Special K and raspberries at about 10:00. That will give me a four hour window before the main event. If I limit myself to one serving of the good stuff, hold back o. The potatoes and bread and eat a slice of crestless pumpkin pie I should be OK.
The potential pitfall time will be the 8:00 PM leftover-a-rama. It will be too soon for me to have made some healthy turkey soup so I’ve come up with a plan to have an arugula salad with sliced turkey and cranberry on it. Still in the theme of Thanksgiving leftovers but not button popping. The key is for me to have a plan so that I am not tempted by a new food idea. I keep reminding myself that Thanksgiving is not the eating olympics. Friday I will report if I am able not to medal in Thanksgiving.
I’m not much of a piecrust lover, especially in pumpkin pie I think that for the most part it is soggy and bland and does nothing to enhance the pumpkin filling. So the answer is to leave out the crust. I also lighten this recipe up by substituting Splenda for sugar. If you don’t want anything artificial or you don’t need to watch all those sugar calories go ahead and use the sugar. What you do in your kitchen is your own decision.
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
1 12 oz. can of evaporated skim milk
2/3 c. Splenda – for baking, measures the same as sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 t. grated fresh ginger
1 t. cinnamon
Dash of all spice, nutmeg & cloves
½ t. salt.
Preheat oven to 400º
I do this all in my stand mixer, but you can do it in a bowl with a hand mixer or whisk.
Beat the eggs first, add the pumpkin and the milk and mix well. Add everything else and beat for 30 seconds.
Spray Pam in a Pie pan. (If you are opposed to Pam, lightly grease the pan with anything you want, just keep it to your self.)
Pour the pie mixture in the pie plate and place in the middle of your preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 325º and continue baking for another 40 minutes.
Chill. Serve and be happy you had a lighter dessert.
I went to make our Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and had a memory of a raw cranberry/whole orange chopped salad I made last year, but never wrote down how I made it. What a mistake, since my mouth started watering for it even though my brain did not know exactly what was in it.
I looked at what I had in the fridge and made this recipe and although it is different I really like it. It has the added bonus of being high fiber.
1-cup fresh pineapple
1 granny smith apple
1 whole orange
1-cup fresh cranberries
3 packets of Splenda (or 2 t. sugar if you want)
2 T. chopped Pecans
Cut the apple into quarters and the pineapple into like sized chunks and put in Cuisineart with regular chopping blade in it.
Cut the peel off the orange leaving some of the white pith on the flesh. Put the peel in the Cuisine art. Cut the pith off the orange and cut it into quarters. Remove the center membrane from the quarters and put the flesh in the Cuisneart.
Add the Cranberries and the Splenda. Pulse the Cuisnieart about 8 times until the fruit is chopped, but not pulverized.
Add the pecans just before eating because you don’t want them to get soggy.
I really have to give it to my husband Russ who has been a fantastic sport through this whole “Less Dana” thing. He has endured not having his favorite or even much food around the house, and never complains when I suggest he eats some leftover for the fourth time during a week. He runs out early in the morning to the Harris Teeter to buy milk when I discover that my morning staple has gone to the dark side.
Russ has not once complained about something potentially embarrassing that I might have written in the blog. Nor has he suggested I skip a day of writing when I remember that I have not posted anything right before we are to go out for the evening.
Today he posted on Facebook the link to my television appearance on the Heart of Carolina Perspectives show and gave another plug for Less Dana. I was on TV in support of the Food Bank’s Heart of Carolina Food Drive. The only way I am able to devote as much time as I do to trying to feed hungry people is because Russ works his A** off at CMG Partners to provide for me and Carter.
He never complains about my lack of earning and often steps in to drive Carter to some appointment when I have a charity commitment. Not once has he said that anything I am doing is less of a priority than what he is doing, when in fact it is. Without him I could do nothing and I am eternally grateful for him and his always-generous ways.
So today I would like to publicly thank the best husband on earth. I would not be where I am today without you. Your constant encouragement, support and love make life much more fun. I know you are the best human on earth because our dog Shay-shay loves you the best and we all know that dogs are much more intuitive than people. I just want you to know that I love you more than Shay-shay does, I just don’t show it by jumping into your arms when you get home like she does.
Not that I wouldn’t want to, but I am thinking about protecting your back.
The biggest eating holiday of the year is coming this week. I know that it is a day about giving thanks, but for most of us it is about eating and trying to get along with those you are eating with. No one likes Thanksgiving more than my Dad. He loves to cook and he loves to feed people so this is one of the days he really looks forward to.
The yesterday he called me up furious over an article in his local, no-prize-winning paper entitled the “Healthy Thanksgiving Plate.” It was written by the “community dietitian” whose mere existence I fear for if my father ever meets her. She espoused filling half your plate with low carbohydrate vegetables such as green beans, carrots, greens, broccoli, cabbage, you get the picture. Then she allows you 3 ounces of white turkey meat, no gravy, no skin, no flavor. Lastly you get half a cup of either potatoes or stuffing. She wanted you to have some apples or pears for dessert. And forget the wine.
The idea of this being a celebration made my father crazy. He got the wicked idea that I should read this menu to Carter and tell her this is what we were having for Thanksgiving, but include the good news we were not having oyster dressing at her request. With a maniacal laugh he said, “The idea of this being our meal will make Carter almost as furious as I am.”
For me I certainly don’t want to gain an ounce after working so hard to get it off, but even I think this menu is an invitation to the depression zone. Turkey, even the better tasting dark meat is not that bad for you. If you can stay away from the skin go on and eat double what this prisoner of war camp guard dietitian is suggesting.
Yes, eating healthy veggies is your best route, and frankly my stewed tomatoes are almost my favorite part of the meal, but apples or pears for dessert is no celebration. Later this week I will make my crustless pumpkin pie and put the recipe on the blog. You can still have things with the flavors of thanksgiving while not over indulging.
So don’t worry Dad, no one is expecting us to have a spa Thanksgiving, but I am going to have to bypass the Thanksgiving-meal-on-bread late night repast. One leftover-turkey sandwich for the rest of you is fine. That Gestapo dietitian didn’t mention anything about leftovers.
Many women find shopping to be their sport of choice. One of my sisters even had as her high school yearbook quote, “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” For most women the idea of having to buy a new smaller sized wardrobe excites them. I am not most woman.
I have never found strolling through stores looking at stuff very much fun. The older I get the worse it is. I am getting to be more and more anti-stuff. Early on in life I identified one the reasons I hate to shop is that many of the people who work in big giant corporately owned chains are not really interested in my business. I like it when someone is glad I might buy something from her and does not look at helping me as a burden.
I am glad to lose weight, but the finding clothes to wear part is completely draining.
Yes, I like being able to shop in “regular” sized people clothing stores rather than “giant” sized but for the most part I really don’t give a hoot about new clothes. Almost more than my dislike for shopping is my dislike of spending money on something I see as temporary. I need clothes to fit me now, but I am hoping that the clothes I buy now won’t fit me next winter.
This week has been a killer on the clothing front. I had to be in a TV show, go to two luncheons; a press conference, a board meeting and now I have two cocktail parties this weekend and church. I should have had a wardrobe department to help me out.
I realized when I got an instructional email about the “Festive” attire for one of the parties that I needed to step up my game and broke down and went to a store. I picked the store strategically so that I could not get arrested because a clerk infuriated me, keep my sense of humor and still find something to wear in less than two hours.
I went to a local boutique called Smitten owned by Nancy McKaig and hit the jackpot. First, Nancy is great at making sure you get the help you need and the people who work there make it fun while still being helpful. Second, she has different things than you see in every store in the mall so you won’t see yourself coming and going. The bonus was that she had two artists, Amanda Davis and Baba Berthe setting up their jewelry and accessories for a weekend show and if you bought something from them you got 20% one thing from Smitten.
Well I found a great scarf from Amanda, which was practically free because I got 20% off a dress for the “festive attire” party, cha-ching! I also feel great about supporting a local business that means the money I spend here stays here and keeps local people employed. Why didn’t I think to go to Smitten at the beginning of the week? I’m not changing my attitude about shopping, but I am a lot happier to have another dress in my closet that fits.
American Idioms are what has got to make learning English really tough. One of my favorite people whose native tongue is Chinese thinks the phrase is “When push goes to shovel.” It makes more sense to her especially since she did not know what a shove was to begin with.
I was having lunch with someone whose English skills are still developing when another person at the table said, “Bless her heart, she was trying to lose weight and then covered her salad in blue cheese dressing,” about someone who was not there. My non-American friend asked me if blue cheese dressing was bad for your heart. I tried to explain that yes it was, but that was not why the other woman was saying, “Bless her heart.”
That conversation led us to the idiom, “Her heart was in the right place, but…” This phrase also confused my foreign friend. “How do you know where someone’s heart is?” she asked.
After explaining that we were not really talking about peoples’ actual hearts, but their intentions we just made things worse. It really got me thinking about how Southern women feel perfectly comfortable saying something nasty about someone by including “their heart” in the conversation.
There are so many wonderful idioms using “heart” such as “to win someone’s heart,” “take heart,” or “to warm the cockles of someone’s heart.” But saying ones “Heart was in the right place,” usually means something did not go well even though that was not ones original intent.
Since I am not fluent in any other language I am wondering if other cultures bring people’s hearts into the conversation or are other body parts mentioned? Really our liver is almost as important as our hearts, why does it not get any play in the catch phrase lineup?
Somehow our hearts were associated with love and therefore won out in the organ Olympics, but our kidneys are pretty darn important and most of us have two of them. You would think that because of sheer number they would garner some respect, but I have never heard anyone say, “Cross my kidney and hope to die.”
One thing is for sure if a Southerner is Talking About Your Heart It Might Be An Insult. Really, if I wanted to talk badly about someone I am more likely to discuss their colon or prostrate, at least it might sound more polite than calling them an outright ass.
For me, I would be happy to accept your blessings if I sneezed or something, but please leave my heart out of it, especially if you are southern.
More appropriately I should say, “As will be seen on TV.” This morning I recorded a TV show at WTVD, ABC -11 with Angela Hampton called the Heart of Carolina Perspectives that will air on this Sunday at 11:00 and again the following week at the same time.
The show is about the Heart of Carolina Food Drive that ABC-11 sponsors for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC and the Fayetteville Food Bank. It is our largest food drive of the year and is running now until December 5th, which is drive through day to drop food off at Kroger’s in our local area.
I want to take this time to thank all of you dear friends and family who have donated to the Food Bank of CENC through Less Dana. Your generousity has been overwhelming. 230 families made pledges. 28 pledges came from people who do not even live in North Carolina. Thanks to my friends from Ethel Walker’s and Dickinson College who have supported me in this effort from afar. Thanks to my old friends spread out across the country and to all you saints in North Carolina. A number of children also made and paid off pledges with money they earned, what an inspiration you are. Thank you.
Sharing your gifts and treasures with others who have less is a noble thing to do. I want you to please take credit for your contribution to your fellow man, woman and child who appreciates the food you are providing them. You worked hard to earn that money and yet you still shared it.
As I gather around my Thanksgiving table this year I will be giving thanks for you, especially as I try and eat only what I actually need and not all that I have available. As anyone who reads this blog knows I am always one who is going to try the funny in any situation, yet my passion is making sure that no one goes hungry which is just not a laughing matter. Forgive me this serious blog posting today. I want you to not miss my sincere gratitude for you and your help in providing food for those who in need.
The other day I visited the shoe show room, otherwise known as her new closet, of a friend who is shoe obsessed. It was like visiting a great museum, perhaps one owned by a Medici in Florence Italy. Each pair was a beautiful sculpture, all heels, terribly high, some with platforms making them even higher, in a rainbow of colors, textures and adornments.
I was overwhelmed with their elegance and at the same time thrilled that I did not have to wear them. There I was, standing in the holy grail of shoes wearing perhaps the ugliest pair of shoes I have ever owned feeling like I was on cloud nine.
I had recently visited a store dedicated to comfortable shoes that my friend of high heel heaven would not be caught dead in. I was looking for the winter equivalent to my Dansko sneakers I had been wearing all summer. The sales person showed me Dansko’s newest black leather slip-on that without a doubt looked like something that Valerie the wife of Miracle Max would wear. What, you don’t know who Valerie is? She was the character played by Carol Kane in The Princess Bride movie that was married to Billy Crystal’s character. She is clearly at the bottom of any style scale. That is how ugly these shoes are.
The best part about being middle age is that I finally learned not to judge a book by its cover, or a shoe by how it looks, but by how it feels. So without a moment’s hesitation I tried these clodhoppers on. AHHHHHHHH. Such nirvana and chocolate was not even involved.
Without asking the price I told the sales person I would be wearing these shoes out, and off I went. These shoes have practically cured me of the plantar fasciitis that has plagued me for the last year and they add a spring to my step that encourages me to walk faster and farther. My feet actually feel better in these shoes than out of them. I am trying to figure out how I can sleep in them without soiling my bed linens.
So I may not be in fashion, but boy do my feet feel good. I am happy to admire the gorgeous foot wear my friend sports, but I can’t imagine going the distance in it. To me ugly never felt so good.
If you are of a certain age you know exactly who George Jetson and Fred Flintstone are so you can skip down three paragraphs. For the rest of you here is what you missed in your childhood.
George Jetson was the cartoon dad of the space age future. He was relatively thin, he did not have to lift a finger because his whole world was automated to the point that his dog, Astro, could walk himself on a treadmill and he ate overly processed space age food. George worked a desk job at a computer in an office and commuted via flying car.
Fred Flintstone was the cartoon dad of the caveman past. He was big and fat and did a lot of manual labor. Fred ate brontosaurus ribs and other giant chunks of mammoth meat; he commuted to work via foot-powered car and had a long climb into his dinosaur rock mover at the quarry he worked in.
If George Jetson and Fred Flintstone were actual people George would be fat and Fred would be thin. Here are the reasons:
- Overly processed foods will make you fatter than food that comes closer to its natural state. Water is much better for you than artificially flavored, over sugared Tang. A piece of actual unadulterated meat, even if it was T-Rex is healthier than the space food sticks of the sixties ever were.
- A foot-powered vehicle provides exercise that a flying car could never match.
- A desk job encourages backside spread where manual labor burns more calories.
As far as I am concerned Hanna-Barbera, the creators of both George and Fred, have done a great disservice to my entire generation. They portrayed Fred’s lifestyle as one that would make you fat and George’s as one that would make you thin when all evidence is to the contrary. Of course all their wives were thin, but then again all women on TV must be thin, even in cartoons.
If I ever have to choose between a space-aged life and a cave man life I think I’ll take the later, I just think it is healthier to be a Fred than it is to be a George.
I love pineapple. I usually buy one or two a week at Costco and for $2.99 I am one happy camper. Usually the pineapples there are big and ripe, but last weeks was not quite as good as most. It was a little too green and after cutting the whole thing up I found it too bitter and hard to eat. Rather than throw it our I decided to slow roast the chunks in the oven and that was like putting it back on the plant in the sun to come to full ripeness. Now I have a great treat that also is more portable.
Since I have not tired this with a perfectly ripe pineapple I have no idea how it would turn out. If you try it let me know.
Set oven to 225º. No need to preheat because you are going to leave the pineapple in a very long time.
Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with Pam. I am also not sure you need to do this step, but this is how I did it. I did not want to take any chances for sticking.
Lay the fruit out in one layer and put in the oven. How long you cook depends on how big your chunks were to start. Mine were about 1 inch square so I kept them in the oven for 2 ½ hours, then I turned the oven off and left it in another hour with the door closed.
The pineapple was not totally dried through, but was at least twice as sweet as they were before cooking them.
I think it will taste great on cereal and with Greek yoghurt.
Last night I had the thrill of watching my wonderful friend Megan Ketch in a guest staring role on CBS TV’s Blue Bloods. Megan was Carter’s baby sitter for five years and became a very important member of our family. As Megan was graduating from high school she started as Carter’s Nanny and continued all her years through UNC. Megan had a singular dream of becoming an actress. She was a drama major at Chapel Hill and we had the pleasure of going to all her college performances.
Carter was a fixture at the Paul Green and the Kenan theaters when she was two to four often accompanying Megan to rehearsals. I can remember walking down Franklin Street with Carter when she was about three and having some college boy scream, “Hello Carter,” from across the street. When I asked her who he was Carter said, “Oh, he’s Hamlet with Megan.”
After UNC Megan moved to New York City to pursue her dream. She went to NYU’s prestigious graduate program in acting and graduated last year. Today she is a working actress. Her role as Detective Kate opposite Donnie Wahlberg on Blue Bloods will run for a few more weeks, but I will predict is just the beginning for Megan.
Megan had a dream that started in fourth grade when she wrote a play about Harriet Tubman casting herself as the lead role with little care that she was white. Becoming an actor is not an easy job, but that never deterred Megan.
After leaving North Carolina Megan found other families whose children she would care for and love as she was learning her craft. It has been many years of hard work but that is what someone who is passionate does. Hard work is what it takes to achieve success, especially in something as hard and competitive as acting.
Megan has the advantage of having a wonderful family who believes in her, is emotionally supportive and a large number of friends and ardent admirers, but she still has to do the work. Megan is an inspiration to me all the time.
I tell you this story because I want you to think about what your dream is and consider how close you might be to attaining it. We all have dreams, but most people don’t really think they can reach theirs. Megan is proof that you can. So dust off that dream if you have left it on a shelf for a while. Make a plan about how you might make it come true and take a baby step or two towards it.
And watch out for Megan Ketch, no matter what she does in her life she is an inspiration.
The real secret to making good soup is to have some opposite flavors. Almost every soup starts with onions, which provide an undertone of sweetness and ends with a bit of tartness, which is provided by either lemon or vinegar. What goes in between is what makes the soup the kind it will end of being whether it is tomato, chicken noodle or corn chowder.
This Red Lentil soup was inspired by a recipe in the New York Times that my friend Judy gave me, but it needed a little something. At the time I made it I was on a smoked Paprika kick and when I added to this soup it added a new complexity to it that raised this recipe up to craving status. You know what craving status is, the kind of food you dream about having again and can almost taste it in you brain when you are making it.
The other great thing about this recipe is red lentils are very quick looking and lighter than other lentils. I buy mine at the Indian grocery store because they are much cheaper there.
2 big yellow onions chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 T. tomato paste
1 ½ t. Smoked Paprika
1 ½ t. ground cumin
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 quarts of Chicken Broth (or veggie if you want vegan)
2 carrots chopped
1 ½ cups of dried red lentils
Zest and juice of a lemon
Cilantro leaves – small handful
In a big soup pot spray the Pam and add the onions and garlic and cook over medium high heat for about five minutes until they start to brown. The browning develops the flavors, so make sure they get some color before moving on.
Add the tomato paste and all the spices and cook another couple of minutes. You always want to cook tomato paste to take the tinny taste out of it and toasting spices brings out the best in them.
Add the liquid, lentils, and carrot and bring the whole pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cover the pot. After about 20 minutes remove the lid and cook another 10 minutes. The lentils should be soft by now.
You want to partially puree this soup and the easiest way to do that is with a sick blender you just put in the pot and whirl up for a bit. If you don’t have a stick blender you can put half the soup in a blender and puree it and add it back to the other half that has more solids.
Add the lemon juice, zest and taste to see if you need more salt or black pepper.
Serve with chopped cilantro added at the last moment. Don’t put the cilantro in the whole pot because it changes in taste after a while, so if you have leftover it won’t be as good.
Let me know if you dream about this soup. Invest in smoked paprika you won’t be disappointed.
When anyone asks me what the secret is to losing any amount of weight I tell him or her it is a four-letter word. For those of you who know me, you know I know a lot of four letter words which I use often and with gusto, but none more than the “S” word. Before you think laxatives are involved the word is “S-O-U-P.”
That fact has not been evident during the last few months in the blog because soup is not most people’s go to food in the warm weather, but as the days are growing shorter, (Can you grow shorter?) and our part of the world has less light you need to add more soup to your meals.
Not all soups are equal so don’t get excited about jumping into a big bowl of broccoli cheese or New England clam chowder, that is unless that is all you are planning on having. I am talking about broth based, mostly vegetable soups or creamy ones made with fat free condensed milk. My strategy is that as long as I have one or two homemade soups in the fridge I have the best defense against hunger.
Starting a meal with a small cup of hot soup or having one as a four-in-the-afternoon-I-think-I-need-a-cookie deterrent some how sends a message to your brain that you have had real food and tends to turn off or at least down the hunger pangs that seem to attack you like “Twilight” wolves.
Making homemade soup is so easy, but if you really don’t want to cook you can use canned, just get the ones that are lower in calories and make sure you know what the serving size of the can is. It is easy to read the calorie amount and only after you ate the whole thing find out you just ate three servings.
In the spirit of teaching you not just my recipes, but how to think like a chef and try and make things up I am going to post three or four different kinds of soups over the next couple of weeks with notes on making variations to them.
As the eating holidays are approaching having soup around is your best weapon to party food. No matter what kind of event I am going to I have a cup of soup at home before I go and then I am much less tempted by the “This holiday only comes around once a year” food being pushed my way.
So save yourself from those four letter words that come out of your mouth when you stand on the scale and stock up on SOUP.
I really did not time this whole weight loss thing right. Just as my challenge ends the weather has turned suddenly cold, like forget about fall and jump right into winter cold. The problem is that as I have lost weight I have also lost the ability to produce a normal body temperature.
As I was freezing at Mah Jongg this morning a friend told me she thought that the body burned more calories when it was cold to try and keep warm, but so far I have not proven that theory. I am just down right cold and not appearing to lose any faster. My poor thin dog is cold too. She sits snuggled up beside me with her head on the keyboard trying to steel the warmth my computer is creating.
Not even hot tea is helping; in fact it is hurting because it makes me have to use the restroom more often. If I were a man it might not be so cold to have to use the facilities, but alas I have to pull down my pants, which is not helping me keep what little body heat I have.
Of course I am wearing many layers of clothing, which is hiding my somewhat thinner body. I had one friend stop by the house to bring me a check to pay off her pledge. I heard her at the front door asking my daughter if I was home so she could actually see what I looked like 53 pounds thinner. I know it was a disappointment to her when I came downstairs in two shirts and a sweatshirt and big fluffy socks.
All I can say is I hope she didn’t feel cheated.
Maybe this can be my spring surprise. If this lack of body heat keeps up I will have to keep adding layers of clothing as I continue to lose weight. Perhaps by the time warm weather returns I can emerge from my cocoon a thinner butterfly. What am I thinking? Never in my loud life would I be considered a butterfly. Right now I just want to be a firefly and have my butt be able to warm me up.
I am not advocating anyone being fat in order to be warm, but I am wondering how you really skinny people make it through the winter. I still have a good layer on me and I am this cold I can’t imagine what it is going to be like in another 30 pounds. Let’s hope I can find out before I turn blue.
Mushrooms are like the meat of the forest, as long as that forest does not have any deer, wild boars or squirrels and possum if you are one of the Clampets. You know what I mean, mushrooms can be down right meaty. There is nothing better than Bourbon and meat and mushrooms go perfectly with that truly American elixir.
To top it off what is better than a two-ingredient recipe? OK, a one-ingredient recipe. (Just remember that Pam, salt and pepper don’t count in my mind because they are like the air of cooking, you can’t live without them.)
1 lb of Mushrooms
2 T. Bourbon
Spray a non-stick fry pan with Pam. Put on medium high heat and place whole mushrooms in pan in one layer cook for five minute uncovered then cover and cook another five minutes. Flip the mushrooms over and cover, continue cooking for five minutes. Uncover and add bourbon and cook uncovered until all the liquid is out of the pan and the mushrooms are a golden brown color. Sprinkle with course salt and pepper.
I am having them in an arugula salad with a little blue cheese and grilled salmon.
We recently got a hybrid car. You know the kind, sometimes it drives on a gas engine and sometimes it drives on a battery engine. The crazy thing is that the car charges the battery itself when I drive it or when I break. How do it do it? Don’t ask me. But I really love to watch the gauges that tell me when I am driving for free on battery and hate when I use gas. I probably should turn that feature off in the name of keeping my eyes on the road.
As I was driving to Raleigh today watching the dial move from gas to battery power I realized that for the last six months I have become somewhat of a Hybrid. I put food in, which is akin to gasoline and sometimes I am running on the food I have eaten and sometimes I am running on my battery of fat storage.
If I take in more food than I burn then it goes into battery storage as fat, but if I am smart I take in a little less fuel than I need to run thus moving into battery back-up and burn up fat. The dial I have to use is the scale so I am only finding out after the fact that I was efficient or not.
What I really want is the real time indicator that registers when I have depleted all the food energy and have started in on the long life fat stores. Before I started this diet I could have been considered a strategic energy reserve site, like the government keeps for emergencies. Now, I am about half a reserve, not enough to be considered strategic, maybe just a tactical reserve.
I know children who are such excellent hybrids that you can actually see them completely run down when their food energy runs out and they have no fat reserves to switch over too. I don’t know many adults who live that close to the edge and I am not anticipating ever running that low on fat back-up, but it sure will be fun to see if I can get to be that efficient.
I have learned some lessons from my car, which I need to reverse for my hybrid body. First, driving up a hill at a normal speed almost always requires gas to be used. Going really fast or speeding up suddenly also requires gas. Driving at a steady pace is battery friendly. When I take these insights and apply them to my body it teaches me that in order to burn more fat I need to go up more hills, faster and more erratically. So if you see me out running up the hill by my house and I look like I might have been drinking know that I am just pretending to be my car.
In the spring I made a full fat kale Caesar salad for a charity dinner I was one of the chefs for. It was a huge hit with the guest, most proclaimed kale haters. Unfortunately it was at the end of the spring kale season so I did not get a chance to recreate it in a healthier format.
This week the kale in my fall garden is something the garden steelers (and I am not talking a football team) have not discovered they liked so I decided to make the Caesar Salad in a lighter way.
I planted the curly version of kale, but I think the flatter type would work fine too. The key is to strip the leaves from the stalks and cut it up into very fine bits. This will make four servings as a starter or two giant meal sized salads.
12 big kale leaves – stripped from stalks and minced
2 hard boiled eggs – finely chopped
½ cup shredded Parmesan Cheese – a little less if you are using grated cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
2 T. sherry vinegar
1 t. anchovy paste
1 t. Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 T. olive oil
Make the dressing by putting all the ingredients except the olive oil in small bowl and mixing it together well. Using a whisk, start stirring the dressing and dribbling in a little oil drop by drop. It is not going to be a very creamy dressing because it uses a smaller amount of oil, but it will be perfectly thick and delicious. You will not have a salad drowning in dressing, but the strong flavors all work well together.
Put the kale in a large bowl and pour the dressing over it and toss to coat. Add the egg and cheese and toss and serve.
I wonder how much weight I have to lose for Facebook to stop making all the ads they post on my page about weight loss? Granted I write a diet blog but I am not interested in what Dr. Oz says about dieting or how green coffee works to speed up your metabolism.
My trainer Tom told me a story about a diet pill manufacture that came to his University and hired a bunch of cute, in shape college athletes. They took their pictures and then asked them to gain 25 pounds each and then took their pictures again. Afterwards they gave them the weight loss pills and said good luck losing weight. They never came back and took their pictures again and never inquired if they lost the weight. When the ads came out the girls before pictures became their after shots.
One ad on Facebook appears to not have even gone to that much trouble. They just stretched the picture sideways. In the time it has taken me to write this the weight loss ads have changed three times on my page and none are believable. I know that everyone wants a simple answer or to be able to just buy a thinner body. I wish I had something to sell. Think how many hungry people I could feed with the ill-gotten gains of promising a thinner body the quick and easy way.
Well I have nothing to sell, but I do have advice. If you need to lose weight, you have to really want to do it because, and I have said this before, it starts in your brain. Your brain has to make the commitment, first and foremost. Trust me, losing weight is exciting and sexy. Maintaining weight loss is the real job.
Any diet will help you get pounds off, but you need to find something you can live on to keep it off. If you do something like Jenny Craig where someone else is making your food and portioning it out and that is all you eat you will lose weight. Unless you plan on buying that food the rest of your life you eventually will need to learn what you can eat and not gain.
It is the same with going the surgery route. You may make your stomach smaller, but you still need to change what you are eating. You need to eat a healthy balanced diet so you might as well go ahead and try and do that before you have surgery. You may find you can do it without going under the knife. I do know people who changed their eating because of the surgery, but I am just not fond of unnecessary hospitalization, there are just too many things that kill people at the hospital.
I guess as long as I write about dieting I am destined to ads for “Three veggies for belly fat” and “the live healthy woman.” What is the alternative, “The dead healthy woman?” The only good news is that at least I am not inundated with political advertisements and that is great for the next four days.
Yesterday was e-mail hell and heaven all in one. The hell part was that I had to send out almost 250 personalized e-mails to all you generous supporters who pledged to the campaign. I hope most of you did not feel like I was sending you a bill. I am truly appreciative of how generous you are.
Yesterday was taken up by meeting with a friend to ask them for money for something else, writing my blog which took extra long because I had to figure out how to put all my pictures in side-by-side so you could see a change, going to workout and then spending over seven hours sending out the “end of campaign” e-mails. In between I read so many kind messages from so many of you. Please forgive me if it takes me a while to respond to you all.
Today I went to visit my Uncle who has been undergoing cancer treatment. I had a wonderful visit with him and had a bowl of soup with he and my Aunt. On my way home I was hungry. I pulled into the McDonalds and although a cheeseburger sounded really good I ordered a cup of coffee at the drive through and went on down the road. I felt a little triumphant at that moment. I was alone in the car, with a good 45-minute drive ahead of me and my weigh in tomorrow would not count for anyone except me. I made the right choice and I did it just for me.
I was rewarded when I pulled into the parking lot at Carter’s school. When she got in the car she told me how a substitute teacher at school today, who is not someone who was one of my supporters or a registered follower of my blog, called her name in the role stopped when Carter said, “here.” Carter said that the sub then said, “Class, did you know that Carter’s mom just lost 53 pounds.”
I looked at Carter and said, “Sorry, was that embarrassing?” She looked right at me and said, “No, Mom. I am proud of you.” It was a little slice of heaven for the mother of a thirteen year old.
Today is November 1, the end of my weight loss challenge to raise money for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Before I give you the number of pounds I lost I first want to thank all of you who supported me by pledging money, reading the blog, writing comments, posting encouragement on facebook, cheering me on, asking me what I was eating for lunch, working out with me and just generally being the best kind of support I could ever imagine.
I have never had so much fun not eating in my whole life. Even though I am about to tell you good news I am a little sad it is over. I am thrilled with the 226 individuals, families and couples who pledged to the campaign, especially the teenagers who surprised me with their generous pledges. Such self-sacrificing inspired me everyday. That is what I am going to miss.
See, the campaign may be over as far as how much weight I can lose that people will pay for, but my personal weight loss must go on. Today I will eat nothing different than I ate yesterday or last week. I still want to lose at least 35 more pounds. So the blog will go on and I will continue to chronicle this journey and write recipes.
The only thing that will change is that now I begin the money-collecting phase. As of today I have pledges totaling about $679 per pound give or take a little depending on how some individuals did on their personal weight loss wagers. I set a crazy goal to try and raise $50,000. So far I have not met that goal, but I am very hopeful to get close.
The great news is that I surpassed the weight loss goal I predicted and I lost a total of 53 pounds. Good for you people who pledged I did not pass it by much so your payment is not wildly more than I had forewarned. A couple of people worried I would game the system by cutting off a limb, having liposuction or just plain starving myself. I can honestly report I did none of those things. I did not even weigh-in completely naked just to make the number lower.
Thank you for being there. Thank you for helping feed hungry people. Thank you for keeping me laughing. If you pledged you will be receiving a personalized e-mail giving you your pledge amount and campaign total. If you did not pledge it is not too late to give. I have a personalized web page at the Food Bank at http://www.foodbankcenc.org/goto/lessdana, or go to the pledge tab on the blog.
So I toast to you, my benevolent supporters. I do it with my unsweetened Ice Tea as I go out to the garden to harvest my arugula to have for lunch before I go to the gym…just another day.