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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

After The Indulgences

Well, how did you do over Thanksgiving?  Did you keep your eating down to a reasonable amount?  Did you exercise any?  I was pretty successful on both counts and I must say I felt really good about not being bloated on Thanksgiving night.  I'm learning to eat enough to make me happy, not sick.  Believe it or not, I sometimes have found that to be a problem.  We had a great time with friends and family and that is what matters most.

I made a really good pot of bean soup last week before Thanksgiving and I'm going to share the recipe.  It's hearty and filling, just right for the snowy weather we experiencing.  Plus, you need all that wonderful fiber to counter the sugary calories you consumed recently.

Lisa's Bean Soup
2 1/2 cups Navy or Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked over
1/2 lb. ham, Petite Jean if you can get it, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 to 2 cups diced carrots
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. thyme
Place beans in a slow cooker and add water until the beans are well covered.  Add bay leaf, cover and cook on low for 1 1/2 hours.  Give beans a stir and add ham, carrots, celery and onion.  Cover and cook another hour.  By this time, the beans and vegetables should be getting soft.  Add remaining seasonings and adjust to taste.  If you want a thicker soup, you may need to spoon off some broth, mine was a bit too soupy.

 My Daddy would have been proud!

Make a nice pan of cornbread to go with the soup, or at least serve a nice crusty bread like sourdough.  This soup should please everyone; it's tasty, warm, filling and inexpensive.  You can cut back on the ingredients easily to make less, or add more to make enough for a crowd.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

Heritage Free Range Turkey

Well, if you were curious to know how the Heritage free range turkey turned out, here is the official report and pictures.  Since the turkey was very expensive compared to the frozen Butterballs you can get everywhere, I was somewhat nervous about cooking it.  However, I have Alton Brown to thank for my last two turkeys now which have turned out beautifully.  I don't think I have ever had a fowl brown up so perfectly and evenly.  It was simply lovely to look at.  Follow step by step as the turkey is brined and roasted so you can do the same, even with a Butterball.

This is the way the turkey looked upon arrival.

Next I washed the turkey and trimmed the fat.  There was quite a bit of fat around the breast and neck area.  I was surprised because I had read that free range turkeys had much less fat than their captive, overbred brethren.

I placed the turkey in a large bucket (used only for brining turkeys) and poured the brine over it.  Next it was placed in a large ice chest and filled with ice to keep it cool overnight.  I simply do not have enough room in my refrigerator to put it in there, plus the whole turkey should be submerged.  I have heard that there are brining bags but I have not looked for one.  The turkey should not brine more than 24 hours.

The next day, I rinsed the turkey and discarded the brine.  I placed it on a rack in a large roasting pan, filled the cavity with an apple, rosemary sprigs and an onion.  The outside was rubbed with canola oil.

Alton Brown recommends roasting the bird for 30 minutes at 500 to brown it.  I then turned the turkey breast side down to finish roasting for 2 more hours at 350.  I read that roasting it breast side down results in more tender, juicy meat and it seems to work.  It was done in 2 1/2 hours and I tented it with foil while we finished the rest of dinner.  Gorgeous, isn't it?

The taste test, which is most important?  Everyone agreed that it was very tender, juicy and delicious.  Was it better than the average turkey?  Hard to say.  I wish I had a commercially raised turkey side by side to compare.  The consensus was that the white meat was better but maybe not that much better considering the price.  However, if your conscience bothers you about commercial farming in light of recent revelations of McDonald's eggs, perhaps you'd rather buy more humanely raised meat.  I know I would.  Anyway, for the rest of Alton Brown's recipe, go to  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Warning! Excess Calories Ahead!

I'm just in time, I hope, to head off excess calorie consumption and weight gain over the holiday ahead.  I read a short article this morning that should help prevent disaster. (  I am starting my Thanksgiving cooking today and yes, sampling the food or licking the bowl can be a huge problem for a cook.  Personally, I'm thinking of wearing a Hannibal Lecter style mask to keep unwanted food from straying into my mouth.

I always preach mindful eating though I don't always achieve it.  Cooking for a big party or event is always a recipe for disaster.  Yes, cooks do need to taste food to make sure the seasoning is right but try to keep it under control.  Perhaps a baby spoon would be useful to taste broth, soup, etc.  Really there is no reason to lick the entire cake or icing bowl, is there?

I hope you all have been busy exercising and eating right to get ready for the big day.  I know I have been, even though I had to be out of town over the weekend at a swim meet.  I still exercised in the hotel and took a long walk during warm ups when ordinarily there is nothing to do but watch my daughter and hundreds of other kids in the pool at one time.  I ate oatmeal for breakfast, drank lots of water, limited myself to only one martini.  The biggest downfall was being drug along to a pizza place that is a favorite of the team.

Anyway, check out the link, and think, think, think before you sample the cooking!  I am anxiously waiting  for my free range Heritage turkey to arrive today.  On Wednesday, I will slip it lovingly into a nice brine bath to soak and relax before roasting.  I have a beautiful new white platter for it's big debut.  I will write about it in my next post on Friday.

Have a wonderful, slim, Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Enjoy Fall, Be Thankful, De-stress

Yesterday I took my dog Molly for a walk.  The wind was pretty fierce and the temperature cooler than it had been but we both enjoyed the walk so much.  I had such a good positive feeling from being outside in the fresh air and looking at Mother Nature's handiwork.  Sometimes I don't think mental health is emphasized enough and that we don't do enough to encourage good mental health.  With all the stress in our lives and the problems we all face, it would seem that we would take better care of ourselves and our loved ones but we don't.  That is why I'm challenging each of you to get out this holiday, not to shop in the mass of frenzied humanity, but outdoors with friends and family or even alone and take time to be thankful.

Be thankful for the beauty of autumn all around you.  I love walking along and looking at the different shapes and colors of the leaves that have fallen.  The road I live on is a kaleidoscope of infinite possibilities, green mixed with brown, orange, yellow, red and purple, straight lines, sharp points, and curves.  Look up at the sky and observe the color whether it's a clear blue or smoky gray.  If I'm lucky I'll see a deer while I drink in the quiet.  That is what you need too, an escape to someplace quiet with fresh clean air to breathe.

Be thankful for all you have; the friends and family who are always there when you need them, your home and job.  Take along your family dog and show him some unconditional love.  (Two of my cats like to go on walks but that may not be the case at your house.)  Drag everyone out of the house and play dodgeball, shoot some hoops or toss a frisbee.  You'll be surprised at the bonding that occurs when everyone is breathless and laughing.  Take the family to the park to ride bicycles.  You won't even notice you are burning off Thanksgiving calories.  Take a big deep breathe of cold air and notice how it makes you feel and the different smells.  Much better than the stale air indoors.  When it is time to go back inside, take the peace and good feeling with you.        

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I advised getting ready for the holidays on my other blog by exercising and eating better so you won't fall into the plus side and you know what I mean.  The plus side is the dark side of health and there is nothing good on the dark side.  This time of year is full of danger for my family.  There are four birthdays, five holidays (Halloween thru Valentines) and numerous parties to get through without packing on the pounds and consuming calories like we are Olympic athletes.

Get busy and exercise now; don't wait for New Year's to get started.  If you just add 15 minutes a day, you will be better off than if you do nothing.  Of course, I expect those 15 minutes to increase to 30 at least 3 or 4 times a week and for you to actually sweat on those days!

Think about what you are shoving in your mouth right now too.  Make good choices at most meals (and snacks) so you can feel better about indulging at parties and holiday meals.  But that doesn't mean you should go whole hog and eat as much of whatever you want at parties and events either!  It doesn't have to be difficult; forego seconds and eat the grilled chicken breast, not the burger and fries.  Stuff yourself with vegetables, at least the kind that haven't been fried or covered in fat.  To help, I've got a recipe that was served at supper club recently.  You can make this for dinner and take leftovers for lunch the next day.  Once again, it is packed with nutrition and good taste.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
2 cups water
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 minced clove of garlic
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 large red onion diced
1 large bell pepper diced
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Bring water, bouillon cubes and garlic to boil in a saucepan.  Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Pour  quinoa into a large bowl.  Gently stir in onion, bell pepper, olives, feta, parsley, chives and salt.  Drizzle with the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Stir till mixed well.  Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.  Add some chopped cooked chicken to make it a heartier main dish.

So join me in warding off the evils of the holiday season, not waiting to repair the damage next year.  Damage control is always more difficult and doesn't always work as we've seen time and again in the news.    

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Examples From The Tube

I love to watch Good Morning America while getting the kids ready for school and then while I exercise every morning.  I'm addicted to the news.  This morning while huffing and puffing away, I saw a piece on a man who has lost 200 lbs. since January.  He weighed in around 370 and his wife was worried about him.  She decided a challenge would be the best way to motivate him so their joint New Year's resolution was to see who could lose the most weight the fastest.  He realized he had a problem and since he had just turned 30, he thought it was now or never.

So how did he do it?  The hard way: no pills, no surgery, just eating right and exercise.  He described what he might eat at night before; the largest steak on the menu, THREE baked potatoes loaded with all the goodies.  Then when everyone was in bed, he'd sneak off to the local burger joint and order two triple hamburgers with cheese and two chicken sandwiches and eat ALL four of them.  He'd consume upwards of 10,000 calories a DAY.  Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps trains for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week and consumes around 12,000 calories a day but this man was only in training for early death.  His before and after pictures are amazing.  I would not have recognized that the man who appeared on GMA was the same man in the photos.  His children were asked what they thought of their Dad.  The oldest replied that now their Dad comes out to play with them whereas before he made excuses not to because he was too tired.

How sad is it that through our own fault we miss out on so much in life?  It was not due to a gland problem or his "genes" that this man was obese.  It was because he ate enough for 4 average men and was physically inactive.  I'll bet he never gets that way again.

So no, I wasn't exactly enjoying myself this morning while doing crunches or squats.  And I'd really like to eat bag of chips quite frequently.  But I do the right things so that I don't stand in my own way of doing the things I really like to do, like horseback riding and wearing a hot dress when I go dancing.  For further inspiration I have a few pictures to share with you.

These pictures are of some fat I trimmed from a pot roast (top) and a whole chicken.  Gross and disgusting isn't it?  Beef fat is often really hard but chicken fat is greasier.  When you think about fat like this packed around your waist, arms, thighs and butt, it's even worse.  Now do you want that extra piece of pizza?  How about another soda?  Did you have any vegetables today?  When was the last time you sweated?  Gives you something to think about doesn't it?  So don't look like the turkey this Thanksgiving - get busy and get healthy.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thanksgiving Desserts - What Do You Serve?

Now I don't know about you but when it comes to Thanksgiving meals, there are certain foods I feel are necessary or it's just another day.  I have slowly come to realize that what is on the table at Thanksgiving is a matter of region and individual family traditions. (Heavens, I've heard that some people of Italian descent even serve pasta on the big day!)  I believe we can almost all agree on turkey except for vegetarians.  I guess y'all can have tofurkey.  I think we can all agree on dressing although there are endless varieties of stuffing or dressing.  After that, it gets murky.  But I really thought that Thanksgiving desserts were set in stone.  Then I got married.  That was my first clue that not everyone ate pumpkin or pecan pie on Turkey day.

I have written about suffering through Thanksgiving meals in Mississippi where I thought I'd be safe.  We're in the deep south aren't we?  But there has yet to be a pumpkin pie served to me nor a pecan pie, that other traditional pie, in that state.  Or even a sweet potato pie, that other Southern substitute for pumpkin.  In my family there were only two options for dessert on Thanksgiving, both lovingly prepared and proudly served: pecan and pumpkin pie.  Imagine my dismay when I was served lemon meringue pie one Thanksgiving in Mississippi!  In my family, that's what we serve at fish fries in July!

Recently, several people got together to plan Thanksgiving dinner for a mutual friend who is ill.  I scanned the dessert list and saw things like blueberry pie.  ??  I still didn't see any mention of pumpkin or pecan.  Really, is there something wrong with me?  I did a bit of research this morning and found that pumpkin pie is considered the most common dessert at Thanksgiving but after that it is a free for all with fruit pies like cherry and apple perhaps the next most common.

So good readers, please share with me what desserts you will be serving this Thanksgiving.  I'm really curious.  We will have pumpkin; even my kids demand it and I may have pecan pie but I'm also thinking about pecan pie cake.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll throw tradition to the wind and have some cookies!  No, wait.....we have cookie party coming up.

I'll leave you with one more thought: in my research I came across a small study which showed that men are more turned on by the smell of pumpkin pie than by women's perfume.  Vanilla comes in a close second.  If you are looking for some action this Thanksgiving, give dessert some careful thought.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Already Excited About Thanksgiving-Heritage Turkeys

Being the foodie that I am, I am already thinking about Thanksgiving and what we will be eating.  Last night at 10:30 I was online ordering a turkey.  Not just any turkey, but a heritage, free range turkey.  Heritage means it is one of the old breeds we had before those poor white turkeys came along that are prized for their large breasts, fed all kinds of antibiotics and growth hormones and are kept caged up.  They reach maturity in about 18 weeks while heritage turkeys need 24 to 28 weeks.  Free range means the turkeys are allowed to roam in fields eating grasses and insects like nature intended.

Heritage turkeys are supposed to taste better and have less fat than commercially raised turkeys.  Since I have never been a huge turkey fan, I decided I had to try one.  The bird will be delivered to me on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, fresh, not frozen.  I will brine it lovingly and roast it Thursday morning, watching it closely and basting frequently.

I am a big fan of poultry and meat raised the old fashioned way.  I think it is better for us and certainly tastes better.  There is organically grown beef in our area but I haven't heard of anyone raising free range poultry.  I have to admit that the price stops me sometimes.  I think if there was more competition locally, the price would drop.  I think quality and taste always suffers when food comes from large commercial growers but I also realize it would be hard to grow enough food otherwise.

I will be reporting on the Heritage turkey and letting you know if it is worth the trouble.  Like I said, turkey meat is not my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal but I will also report every one's opinion on the bird.  As time draws closer I will share the rest of the holiday lineup and recipes.  In the meantime, I have an update on my birthday.  I did not get to go out to dinner as I planned.  Oh no, my family had other plans.  I had a surprise birthday party at my friend's house.  The whole family knew about it and did a great job of keeping it from me.  Since my husband can't lie about the smallest thing, I totally missed any clues and my children are unfortunately awesome at keeping secrets.  Thanks to everyone who came out and helped celebrate my big day.  And yes, there was dancing!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The cardiologist wife is taking a holiday.  Please check back soon.