To all the foods I’ve loved before…

I’m on a diet.

No, scratch that, not a diet. I’ve changed my lifestyle.

Shit. That sounds worse. As if I’ve deserted my children and taken up residence in some hippy-dippy commune where we eat nothing but lentils and couscous and spend our hours doing Bikram yoga and chanting praise in honor of the Flying Spaghetti Monster…

…ooooh, spaghetti! I miss spaghetti. Large portions of it smothered in something cheesy. With mushrooms. And cheese.

But, I eat very little pasta anymore. Very little of anything, if you ask me. For Christmas dinner, I prepared a beautiful Lobster Bisque, with lots of cream, nearly-caramelized sweet Vidalia onions and huge chunks of lobster tail. A tiny bit of French sea salt cut some of the sweetness and it was topped with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a pinch of nutmeg.

I got about a teaspoon full.

And the turkey? It turned out beautifully this year, all juicy and tender, with a brilliant rub that made the skin crisp and fragrant. I ate a mouthful. No crispy skin. And the mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and cream cheese smashed into them were a masterpiece, I tell you. Not that I ate much of them. I think I have a cavity that is larger than the portion of them I took.

Oh, and don’t forget New Year’s Eve! Gin and tonic is a lovely drink and I really, really like to imbibe them. They are especially lovely when combined with a nice Valium on a flight to London, I’ve discovered. But, Gin and diet tonic? Well, it tastes so bad that I really didn’t need a second one. Or to finish the first, for that matter. I did discover that black-eyed peas, those most iconic of luck-bringing legumes, weren’t too bad for the weight-loss plan. However, the leftover ham and broth that I simmered them in shot that right in the foot. I got a tablespoon or so of them. Skipped the cheesecake and ate a handful of blackberries instead. Happy New Year!

And forget hours sitting on my big ol’ bum watching television. Except for the obsessive viewing of my Alma Mater’s basketball games (we’re in the Top 10!!), I haven’t seen much television since I embarked on this little endeavor. (Okay, I did take a time-out for the season three premiere of Sherlock, so sue me.) After dinner, I trek upstairs to the playroom/exercise room and either put an old scratched Britney Spears CD in, sneak Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz away from the teenager, or I drag in the computer and find an old movie to watch. I spend so much time on the exercise bike that the lady parts no longer get sore from the hard, unforgiving seat. In fact, I think I might be having some kind of illegal, immoral relationship with that bike at this point. At least it’s probably illegal in Kansas. That notwithstanding, I’ve discovered James Bond flicks starring Daniel Craig to be especially uplifting for my workouts. I don’t know if it’s his rugged good looks and ripped abs or the frenetic pace of the movies, to be honest. I have confessed before that I love movies where shit blows up, so, 007 does it for me. Star Trek films are the old standby – and I’m showing what a dinosaur I am by admitting that I still have most of them on VHS. So, it’s either First Contact or Into Darkness on DVD when I tire of Bond. Seriously, I must go buy Wrath of Khan on DVD soon.

As one of my friends recently said: “Khan > all other Star Trek movies.”

Yep. And I think Khan’s …um… fit physique would be inspirational. His pecs in that film are larger than my own breasts…

But I digress. Don’t let me talk about things like Star Trek and Doctor Who – you know better, dear friends! This post is about the journey I’m on. A new life I’m attempting to form. A new, healthier body and mind and soul.

Aw, fuck it. Truth is, I want to wear skinny jeans again. With stilettos. And a shirt that isn’t crafted to disguise a muffin top from the world. Or, maybe even a mini skirt for my next birthday. What can I say? I’m shallow. I know my blood pressure, cholesterol and all that other stuff will be better when I’m thinner. I damn well know that I’ll feel better when I have to climb more than a flight of stairs at a time, if I lose some weight. I’ll be able to keep up with the girls more. Maybe go two-steppin’ again with the Man of the House. Maybe even develop the stamina to learn yoga – a goal of mine for some time.

But it all pales in the shining light reflecting off those size four Hudson skinny jeans hanging on the closet door. They are beautiful. Oh, yes, I bought them. At 180 pounds, they seemed to taunt me and were very cruel. Going to bed was like being back in junior high, only it was a pair of jeans doing the bullying.

Today, after losing more than 30 pounds during the holiday season (yes, applaud all you like, thank you, thank you, despite all the chocolate and the cookies in my home, thank you, thank you!), they taunt a little less and seem to be saying “go ahead! Buy the shoes! You’re gonna make it!”

So, 30 pounds down, 20 to go.

As I said. I sure miss food. But I like what I see in the mirror even more than Lobster, steak, or a good Chicken Curry. So, I’ll carry on with the bird portions for now and continue my almost-intimate relationship with the exercise bike. Because for some reason, this time, it’s working. And working well. And crazily fast, too.

So, if you’ll excuse me. I need to do some online shopping. There’s a pair of jeans in my bedroom that must have some stilettos to go with them.

I wonder if Zappos has rush orders?

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I love my garden!

Lovely squash blossom!

Lovely squash blossom!


Last year, we dug up and tilled a small patch of earth at the back of our yard for a garden.
Miracle Gro

Miracle Gro works! So much for going all organic, eh?

The Great Sewer Line Replacement Hell of 2010 destroyed much of the work we had done and we only managed to rescue a couple tomato plants. And of course they were those teensy-tinsy tomatoes that seemed so cute when I bought them, but were very sad as the sole, destroyed garden survivors.

This spring, we decided to do two raised gardens instead. The thought was that a raised garden was a big “pot” and we could possibly move some plants if we ever needed to. Plain old Kansas soil went in the bottom of the reclaimed fence-board gardens, topped off with Miracle-Gro soil with moisture control. Then went in the veggies.

A view of the raised beds, from old fence boards, made by my lovely hub.

A view of the raised beds, from old fence boards, made by my lovely hub.

My lettuce was planted in three “rounds” a week or two apart and my first batch is still going strong – we have given away a bunch and still have plenty for ourselves. It’s a bit bitter and is wonderful with blue cheese dressing. Yum.

Crunchy lettuce, which is home to many ladybugs, much to Bethy's joy!

Crunchy lettuce, which is home to many ladybugs, much to Bethy's joy!

Then there are the onions, I planted a whole row of them, 3-4 across and have been thinning them as I use the sweet little green onions in salads and pastas and potatoes. I plan to leave a few through the summer to grow and get sweet – they might get steamed as a side dish for Thanksgiving. If I can wait that long. Behind these onions is a little foot-square batch of garlic. I’ve never grown garlic before. I’m winging it. I’m hoping the plants will let me know when they are ready. But, I have to tell you guys – a green garlic stem chopped up in sour cream mashed potatoes is NOT a bad thing. Can I say yum again?

Little forest of solid, tasty onions.

Little forest of solid, tasty onions.

My tomatoes are doing very well, also! And not just the dinky ones that can get lost in a cavity. Two “Early Boys” have nearly 20 little green dudes between them, my “Big Boys” have half a dozen and the dinky ones (grape tomatoes) are starting to bloom. We’ll see if any of them ever get to be red – as my favorite food, my last meal request, the best thing I ever ate — is fried green tomatoes. Oh, yum, I’m drooling as I type and resisting the urge to go grab one of those too-small green orbs of love and fry it up for breakfast. C’mon Miracle Gro, get those tomatoes goin’!

Some of the Early Boy 'maters!

Some of the Early Boy 'maters!

And then there is the squash. Every morning for the past week, I’ve gone outside to a riot of color in one bed. Sunny little blossoms smiling at me and promising lovely zucchini to be steamed, baked and fried. I have so many blossoms on my three plants that I have been tempted to cook some squash blossoms, I even looked up a recipe or five: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/tips-techniques/five-ways-to-eat-squash-blossoms-087564. I am especially intrigued by the quesadilla recipe at that link! But, since I’ve never grown squash before and I don’t know how well they will actually produce – I’m going to hedge my bets and stick with letting them fruit. But, any new blossoms that come on after the Fourth of July? They are fried. Literally.

Another sunny little squash blossom.

Another sunny little squash blossom.

So that’s a tour of my little gardens. They are a bright spot in a still-somewhat-destroyed backyard (thanks to sewer guys and one large dog), and there is something almost primal about being able to feed your children food that you’ve grown with your own hands and hard work.

Falling in love again…

I’ve fallen in love again, dear foodies. It’s with an old flame that used to keep me cool all summer and left many a stain on my mother’s living room rug — Kool Aid!

Lemonade

Lemonade!

After seeing the ads on television for the Kool Aid Fun Fizz, I thought it might be fun to pick up a package or two for the girls. They loved it and upon trying it, I did, too! The fruit punch, I can live without, but the lemonade is light, sweet and fresh.

And, since it’s Lent and we gave up soda for the season – I can bribe them with a bit of Kool-Aid “fizz” instead. So far, so good, as it seems to be working.

The best part? I don’t have to keep a giant pitcher of the stuff in my ‘fridge, we just make it a glass at a time and there’s plenty of room left instead. I wouldn’t call it cheap, especially compared to a pitcher-filling packet of regular Kool Aid. But, sometimes you just can’t put a price on things like space in the ‘fridge or freezer!

$1.99 for a pack. But, www.afullcup.com  frequently has links for coupons! And Amazon.com has mega packs, as well.

Our favorite fries

Baked sweet potato fries and "regular" ones, as the girls call them.

Baked sweet potato fries and "regular" ones, as the girls call them.

Confession time! We don’t always eat as healthily as we should. (We did give up soda for Lent – Belle is not very happy about it – but the rest of us are surviving.) One improvement we have made over the past few years is a tasty one, too.  When my elderly Aunt Bonnie decided to wash my Fry Daddy by soaking it in a sink of hot, soapy water – and it was the third one she had “soaked” (so to speak) – I decided it was time to stop frying my pommes frites.  Instead, I had the inspiration that I would bake them. That would save buying a new Fry Daddy, right?  And while I was at it, I would only use olive oil and sea salt. That is healthy for my girls.

Right?

So I did some Googling and found a good average time to bake my fries. And the next sloppy Joe night, I gave them a whirl. I assumed they would get frowns from Belle and the usual “where did you find this recipe?” from John. (Which is his code for “this stinks, lose that recipe stat!”)

And they loved it.

Then Bethy came along, and she loved it.

Problem solved.

And the open space left in my pantry where the Fry Daddy used to sit? Now is home to a snow cone machine for the kids.

I call that a win-win.

So, on to the recipe. I hope your family enjoys our recipe as much as we have over the years. (Oh, and it also is great with steaks!)

You’ll need:

-Potoatoes (I do one medium-sized per person, sweet or baking)
-Olive oil
-Sea salt
-Seasoning (we like Dean and DeLuca spice for dipping oil and McCormick Steak seasoning.)

Slice up your potatoes into wedges, not quartered, but smaller wedges (see photo, below). I leave the skins on for flavor and texture.

Cut them in to small, long, narrow wedges.

Cut them in to small, long, narrow wedges.

Then, I just toss them in a bowl. When finished, simply drizzle oil over the contents of the bowl, add some salt and seasoning and toss well with your hands. Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and then bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Arrange potatoes into a single layer on the baking sheet.

Arrange potatoes into a single layer on the baking sheet.

Flip over with spatula then bake for another 15 -25 minutes. We like ours very lightly browned, but if you like your baked fries crunchier leave them in longer. Serve hot!

My mother’s French Crepe Pancakes

French Crepe Pancakes

We love these light, French-crepe style pancakes for lazy, Sunday breakfasts.

My mother always made the best pancakes. Light. Fresh-tasting. Airy. You could eat a huge pile of them and still go  back for more. As a child, I didn’t know or care that the rest of the world thought big, fluffy pancakes were the norm. In our house, light crepes were absolutely perfect for breakfast. In fact, I still prefer them to the heavy, syrup-sucking, fluffier pancakes.

As my own little family grew, I stole the recipe from my mother and began to make it. The first time, as a newlywed, it was a total disaster. I didn’t have very good skills and I’m not even sure I measured the ingredients correctly. It was a sloppy mess. All I really remember is tears – as I was attempting to impress my new husband’s favorite sister and her husband. I think they went to get McDonald’s take-out while I pulled myself together.

It was humbling, to say the least.

Nowadays, I can whip up a batch on demand. Most of the time, they are served alone, with Griffin’s Butter Syrup and a knob of sweet cream butter. Sometimes, though, I sweeten the deal with Smucker’s Strawberry Syrup and whipped cream. That will rot even the strongest sweet tooth, but it is so good and the pancakes are so light that it just doesn’t matter.

pancake ingredients

Simple ingredients for a simple -and sinful -breakfast.

You’ll need:
One cup of all-purpose flour
Three eggs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Dash of vanilla
Melted sweet cream butter

yummy pancakes

Keep a close eye on the pancakes, they are delicate and can burn easily. (But they are worth it!)

Using a blender or hand mixer, blend together all ingredients except butter until completely smooth. Heat a skillet or griddle until butter brushed over the surface sizzles but doesn’t burn. Pour batter onto pan to create desired sizes (we like about the size of your fist). When batter begins to solidify (you’ll see some little bubbles form, too), flip cake over. Be careful not to burn – or even brown them – too  much. Lighter is better. Serve hot with syrup and butter.

Note: you can also use this recipe AS crepes. Stuff them with fruit filling and top with whipped cream, or an omlete with some melted cheese or bechamel sauce on top.

Don’t fear the cabbage! St. Pat’s edition

REPOST from February. I really should have saved this recipe to post today, originally, as it’s St. Patrick’s Day! So, if you haven’t seen it or if you need something a bit different to go along with tonight’s corned beef and green beer – give this cabbage recipe a try. It is so rich and good, it will convert almost all the cabbage-haters!
The fried cabbage is almost ready to serve.

The fried cabbage is almost ready to serve.

I’m the only cabbage fan in the house, aside from the guinea pig. Since she will eat the core and I get the rest, I needed to find just the right recipe. So, I pulled out the 100-year-old cast iron skillet that belonged to my Great-grandmother, Etta, and made some old-fashioned (and fattening) fried cabbage. This is my elderly Aunt Bonnie’s recipe – we call her the world’s oldest junk food junkie so that might give you a sense of how yummy and rich this dish really  is. If that doesn’t clue you in, maybe the bacon and heavy whipping cream will.

Fried cabbage
You will need:
-head of cabbage
-onion
-bacon
-butter
-heavy whipping cream
-salt and pepper to taste

Begin by heating some butter in your skillet, once it melts add some bacon that you’ve chopped into about 1-inch pieces. Once the bacon has begun to cook well, add in the chopped onion and cook until the bacon is done and the onion translucent.

At this point, you’ll want to add in handfuls of your shredded cabbage, turning it over and over in the skillet to coat with the pan drippings and bacon. As it wilts and cooks, continue to add more cabbage. When the cabbage has wilted and reduced a bit, add in at least a cup of heavy cream. I like a lot of sauce/cream in my cabbage and I soak it up with cornbread, so I use more, but at least a cup will get you started. Add salt and some pepper to taste.

Simmer for about 10-15 minutes and serve hot, preferably with some tasty Jiffy Cornbread.

Fudgey Church Crackers

Pouring the mix over the saltines.

Pouring the mix over the saltines.

Another item that I picked up from the Riverlawn cookbook and now make occasionally for potlucks and events. Our beloved minister, Charley Greer, who is retired now -and his wife would bring this treat to most potluck dinners. The kids would attack and it would be gone in short order!

2 sticks margarine (just about the only time you’ll hear me say “use margarine”)
1 cup of sugar
1 pkg peanut butter chips
1 pkg chocolate chips
Saltine crackers

Spread crackers in a single layer in a full sheet pan. I would line it with parchment paper to reduce mess later. Boil margarine and sugar together for two minutes. Add chips and mix, turning off the burner/heat. Pour mixture over the crackers and spread to cover evenly. Cut or break apart – or do as Judy did, just deliver it in a lovely chocolatey chunk, right in the pan, and let the kids cut their own pieces with a sturdy butter knife.