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Welcome to Weight Watchers – It’s a New Day

It’s so hard for someone who loves food so much –from the grocery shopping to the preparation to the plate — to admit that you need to cut back. At some stage, the butter and the cream and the sugar all add up to… um…fat? And, that glamourous lifestyle of veal chops and risotto followed by exquisite dessert no longer seems so sexy.

First, I tried to just cut back to lean meats and vegetables for dinner and eating light throughout the day. That didn’t work, because I am a notorious snacker and I was still baking. Then, I jumped to this ludicrous conclusion that all I needed to do was to go to GNC and buy a meal replacement shake. Right. Plan B ran me into a binge eating frenzy. Moving on to Plan C (which, thinking back, should have been plan A all along), I started Weight Watchers last week.

This lead me to an even harder truth to admit — that I needed help. No, this was not the first time that I’ve struggled with such an admission. My inability to ask for help — or my bull-headed tendency to not want to ask for help — traces back to sixth grade pre-algebra. But WW does a lot of people a lot of good, including my mother who lost a whopping sixty pounds on the program (High five, momma). So, I took the plunge.

The website calculated my height, weight, weight loss goals and allotted me 29 points per day with an extra 49 points for  the week. It works kind of like a caloric spending account. Every morning, I wake up to 29 points that I can eat and I can do that in any way I’d like. I have an app on my iPhone that I can use to plug in fat, carbs, protein and fiber to tabulate my points. If I use all my daily points, the website automatically pulls from my 49 extras. The way I see it, it’s kind of like a credit card — the one you only use in case of emergency. In this case, the emergency is that you’ve had an awful day and you need a glass of red wine to take the edge off. It’ll set you back 4 WW points, but don’t sweat it — the Plan’s got you covered.

I’ve been a little bit hungry, and for some reason I am craving potato chips. I’m still in week one but I’ve already lost all my water weight (6 lbs) so it’s all downhill from here!

I plan on posting some WW friendly recipes soon.

Stay tuned.

MB

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Homemade Pickles

For the sake of not being redundant, check out my post on 303’s website for my recipe for homemade pickles.

http://303magazine.com/2011/06/summer-grubbin-homemade-pickles/

These are fresher, crispier and even a little more sour than a jar of pickles you’d buy at the store and they only take 2 days to make.

 

 

>Red Beans and Rice

>

Red beans and rice is a Southern Louisiana staple. It’s commonly eaten on Mondays, a tradition that originated in the early days of New Orleans’ history, because Monday was laundry day. The beans can simmer all day long, thus making it easy for housewives to do their washing all day, and still have dinner ready by nightfall. Also, the beans are flavored with pork fat, and since Sunday usually meant a big dinner that might involve a ham or some other cut of pork, the bones and leftover meat would be saved for red beans and rice the following day. What makes this din din even more attractive is that dried kidney beans and rice cost next to nothing, PLUS you’re using your leftovers from Sunday. Pretty handy, eh?

Nowadays, housewives – or housegirlfriends, I suppose – don’t exactly have Monday to hang around and wash their husband’s undies and have to go to work. Enter my bff, the Crock Pot.

I can remember my mom making red beans when I was little. I even remember her totally 80s Crock Pot, with its lovely orange color scheme, sitting on the kitchen counter when I came home from school. God, that smelled so good. And that smell brings back so many great memories. It’s so comforting to walk into the house after a long day of work/school and smell that…

Disclaimer: If you try to make this on the stove and use canned kidney beans, may God rest your soul. Please don’t do that. It’s sacrilegious to New Orleanian culture. Cook it low and slow… and you gotta soak the beans first! I usually soak my beans overnight at room temp – I just pour them in bowl, fill with water to the top (need extra water here in CO) and cover in plastic wrap until the morning. I also chopped my sausage and onion before I go to bed the night before so I can just toss it into the crock pot in the a.m. Also- the sausage: any smoked sausage will do. I like to use andouille when I can find it because it adds some spice.

Ham hocks are incredibly hard to find out of the South. I harass the guy at the meat counter all the time. Finally someone at Sunflower Market told me that they even ASK for ham hocks, and have a hard time getting them. If you can’t find any, you can chop up a ham steak and just use that. But I promise you, ham hocks make it taste so much better. When I do see them at the store, I buy all of them. Sorry to anyone else in Denver who needs them.

Red Beans & Rice
1 bag of small red kidney beans, soaked overnight    
1 package of smoked sausage, sliced into coins
1 onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 ham hock (or ham steak, chopped)
cayenne pepper to taste
4 servings of cooked rice
Tobasco, for serving

1. Soak red beans overnight.
2. Add chopped onions and sausage to crock pot. Pour beans on top.
3. Fill crock pot to the brim with water and add bay leaves.
4. Add cayenne pepper for some heat (or don’t if you don’t want it).
5. Cook 8-10 hours on low heat in crock pot.
6. At the end of the day, I take out the ham hock and slice it up and put it back into the beans before serving.
7. Serve over rice. Tobasco is optional.

>Butternut Squash Soup

>When I was home over Christmas, my mom had made butternut squash soup. In fact, it was what she fed me right when I got into town. Butternut squash soups I’ve had in the past have been flavorless. Maybe because they were store bought. But this soup was thick and creamy and perfectly spiced. To make it even more special, my mom chopped up a Granny Smith apple and added it to my bowl. 

I wanted to replicate her soup, so I asked her how she made it. I took her suggestions into account but I did my usual internet browsing and recipe combining before I decided exactly how to do this.
First things first, I added chicken stock. This took away some of the creaminess, but added flavor that I thought was essential. I also added milk and honey. Instead of chopping up a fresh apple, I sauteed it in butter and brown sugar, but not until it was soft, just enough to bring out the natural juices. The crunch of the apple is what made the soup special, and I didn’t want to ruin that.
Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium sized butternut squash
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup milk
1 qt chicken stock
2 tbs honey
1 Granny smith apple, chopped
4 tbs butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Using a fork, poke several holes in the squash. Heat in microwave for 5 minutes. This will take away the intimidating task of trying to cut through the squash.
2. Chop squash into cubes. Place on cookie sheet topped with a few pads of butter, and roast until squash is soft – about 20 minutes.
3. While squash is roasting, chop the onion and garlic and sauté in olive oil until tender. 
4. Remove squash from oven and combine with onions and garlic.
5. Place squash, onions, and garlic into food processor or blender and puree.
6. Pour mixture back into a sauce pot on the stove. While cooking over medium heat, add spices, half of the brown sugar, and all other ingredients (except apple). Let come to a boil. Reduce hit to simmer.
7. While simmering, chop the apple and saute in butter and brown sugar for about 5 minutes.
8. Ladel soup into bowls, top with apples, and serve immediately. 
I’m tellin’ ya…pumpkin pie in a bowl. 

>Breaking the Silence

>Hello followers!
I know I haven’t been writing much. Mainly because I haven’t been cooking much. I know, I know. Blasphemous! Travesty! Shame on me! But with Jon out of town for 10 days, Valentine’s Day, and Marc’s family in town…I haven’t found the time and I’ve been eating out A LOT.

But this past Wednesday, when Jon texted me telling me he bought veal shanks and that he wanted to make osso buco…I was a little scared. First of all, I knew that this dish involves veal shanks but I had no idea what else went into it. Secondly, he wanted me to serve it over risotto. Another thing that I had never, ever made because I’d heard it required patience and strong stirring arms. Neither of which I have.

But off to Sunflower Market we went to collect everything we needed for our Italian feast. Carrots, celery, onions. Tomato paste and beef broth. Kitchen twine to hold the shanks to their bony centers. For the risotto: arborio rice, chicken broth, shitake mushrooms, and parmesan cheese.

For those who don’t know, osso buco is a traditional Milanese dish. Literally, osso buco means “bone with a hole”, which makes sense because the shank comes from the…well…let’s call it the baby cow’s forearm…and has a big bone in the center of it. Sorry to those of you who don’t agree with eating baby animals…

The shanks are braised sloooowly in a veggie tomato sauce. The vegetables are strained out of the sauce after the braising period to give you a nice smooth sauce to serve over the meat.

Osso Buco
4 veak shanks
olive oil
salt and pepper
flour, for dredging
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, copped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups beef broth
kitchen twine

1. Tie kitchen twine around shanks to hold the meat to the bone. Salt and pepper both sides of the shanks and lightly dredge in flour.
2. Heat olive oil in a large roasting pan or Dutch oven until it smokes. Sear shanks about 5 minutes on each side until browned. Remove shanks and set aside.
3. Add to pan: chopped onions, celery, garlic, and carrots. Cook until veggies are tender.
4. Add tomato paste, simmer for about a minute.
5. Add white wine and simmer for 5 minutes to deglaze the pan.
6.  Return shanks to pan and add beef broth.
7. Cover and braise at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, turning veal every 30 minutes and adding beef broth as necessary.
8. Remove veal from roasting pan and set aside. Strain vegetables from sauce and return sauce and veal to roasting pan. Simmer until bubbly and serve immediately.

Sounds like a lot of work, huh? It’s not so bad. Especially since I spent that hour and half making this:

Shitake and Parmesan Risotto
4 cups chicken broth
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
8 tbs (1 stick) butter
1 cup chopped shitake mushrooms

1. Heat chicken broth to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce heat to low and cover to keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tbs of the butter in a large sauce pan. Add onions and garlic to butter.
3. When onions and garlic are tender, add rice and coat with butter.
4. Add 1/2 cup of the hot chicken broth to the rice mixture. Stir constantly until all broth is absorbed. Repeat this, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until the broth is gone.
(to make my risotto extra creamy and flavorful, I also added a tbsp or so of the butter when I added chicken broth) 🙂
5. When chicken broth is gone, add Parmesean cheese and chopped mushrooms. Stir until well blended and cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

*In hindsight, I should have cooked the mushrooms with the onions and garlic to bring out more flavor…but like I said, this was my first time!

I’m pretty proud of the end result. The risotto was incredibly creamy, and the meat fell right off the bone!