It's New Year's Eve!

Sorry to have been so absent. The last week has been nuts, but you knew that.

I'm off to San Francisco for a business trip. We already have reservations at two vegetarian restaurants, Greens and Millenium, so I am encouraged about my ability to Make Good Choices while I'm there.

I'll be back on the 8th, hopefully with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for cooking (it's been sadly lacking lately) and without any extra poundage. I picked up 4 pounds or so since I had to stop running 6 weeks ago, but the cookies are all gone now so maybe that will cease. Please, let it cease!

Have a great New Year's and I'll see you next week.



Discovery of the day: Birthday weekend from hell!

Actually it wasn't that bad, it's just that our quick little trip out of town got sabotaged by a snowstorm the likes of which haven't been seen in these parts for oh, at least a decade or so. We got trapped out of town for an extra day, which meant more (expensive) eating out than I'd planned.

I tried to be good, I really did, but expensive little hotel restaurant salads just don't take the place of a BAS.

Oh yeah, then there were these.

I won't be getting on the scale for a few days.



Discovery of the day: Reduced rations

The scale is betraying me. I thought I was doing OK, but this morning I realized that the 1-2 lbs I thought I'd gained back since I had to stop running has now grown to 4-4.5 lbs.

A couple of snacks from the holiday goodie table each day at work (damn you, Ghiradelli chocolate squares!) plus some cookies at home each night is really starting to add up. Doesn't sound like much, but say each cookie/candy is 50-100 calories apiece, and I'm scarfing up 3 or 4 at work and another 4 or 5 at home... it adds up really quick.

So I need a plan. Avoid all snacking at work unless it's really worth it (90% of it isn't) and even then, no more than one item per day. Only two cookies per day at home.

To help me cope, I have the good Callebaut bittersweet chocolate I can bring to work. A little of that does work wonders, and it tastes a lot better than the Ghiradelli stuff.

Also, I apologize for not doing much in the way of testing new recipes lately. My energy level is really low this time of year and I'm relying on old standards, so there probably won't be any new Project Weeknight posts until next year. Heck, I'll be lucky to post three times a week. I'd thought of posting about the cookie recipe

Only four more days till Winter Solstice when we start the slow climb up out of darkness. Hooray!



Discovery of the day: So far, so good

We stuck to our plans and only made four kinds of cookies. Oh yeah, and a pan of gingerbread, but it was gingerbread cake, not gingerbread cookies, so it didn't count. And the fact that the three of us ate over 3/4 of it in two days? Well, we'll just not speak of that ever again, OK?

I'm watching the scale pretty closely these days. Between my faltering mood (I have, um, seasonal issues), the recent change in my physical activity level, and now the cookies, I'm worried that I might not be able to stay the course through the winter.

So far I've only gained a pound or two. I ended up eating a lot of cookie dough and cookies this weekend and tried to compensate by skipping lunch. Imagine my surprise this morning when I saw this post on the Casual Kitchen blog! It's chock full of very helpful hints.

One thing that might save me this year is that we're not very social so we have no parties we must attend. Believe it or not, I'm very thankful for that.



Discovery of the day: Priorities

Well, I have no idea what I'm cooking for dinner tonight, but I bought everything I need to make cookies this weekend.

Good think I have my priorities straight, huh?



Discovery of the day: Holiday baking manifesto

We're only going to make four kinds of cookies this year. We've settled on the top four 'must-haves'. And I'm going to make them as written, no 'healthier' substitutions.

Did I mention that I used to be a cake decorator and a professional baker wanna-be? My rehabilitation has gone pretty well so far. I'm only hoping that the cookies don't prove to be the gateway drug to a full-on attack of holiday baking. The last thing I need is another Bûche de Noël frenzy like I had a while back. I must have made four of the damned things that year.




Discovery of the day: The Onslaught

It has begun. The company I work for has been in business for some years, owned by the same couple, and has many long-term business relationships. And apparently, long-term relationships = holiday treats.

I'd somehow managed to forget that, for the first three weeks of December, we are bombarded with boxes full of delicious holiday goodies.

Last week we got lucky, receiving only one Harry & David box containing some plain old red delicious apples and Bartlett pears and blocks of cheese wrapped in plastic that look suspiciously like the rectangular blocks I buy at the store. The pears were ripe, a nice change from previous years. I wonder how much the poor saps paid for that.

Today brought a Cheryl & Co gift basket of cookies and a pan of what looks like mint-frosted brownies. I limited myself to one Mexican Wedding/Russian Tea cookie/cake whatever they're called, but the rest of the bounty is still sitting in there on the conference table. I can hear it calling.

Did I mention that there are only six of us in the office?

I am doomed.



Discovery of the day: Apple-choco-p-b-icious

As you have already heard, I have a lot of apples at my house right now. I've been trying to find ways to get my son to eat more of them, and I recently discovered a dessert option he doesn't turn up his nose at.

Cut the apple in half, scoop out the core with a melon baller. Fill the hole in each half with peanut butter, as much as you'd like. I try to limit it to a tablespoon per apple half, just for calorie's sake.

(BTW, this is my normal breakfast, with a banana on the side.)

Melt an ounce, ounce and a half, of chocolate. I use the good stuff, the Callebaut chocolate I buy in bulk at the fancy pants grocery store.

Spoon the chocolate onto the cut halves of the apple. You can drizzle it on artfully or just smear it around. Let it sit for a minute, then NOM NOM NOM!

Acceptability factor: Pretty danged high, although he did eat the chocolate and peanut butter off his second half and tried to palm the fruit off on me. Not that I always eat his leftover food or anything. (blush)

I do keep chocolate on hand all the time. It's a habit left over from when I was really into baking and candymaking. I've learned that an ounce or so of good, bittersweet chocolate seems to stop just about any craving I have. It's powerful stuff!



Discovery of the day: Dark days

So here's the problem. Since I started running back in May, I've been able to be a little more relaxed with my food choices. And I've gotten to a point where I'm pretty happy with the balance I've reached. I'm eating grains regularly, and usually only eat salad for lunch on weekdays. I can even get away with a treat of some sort most days.

(Speaking of treat, did I mention that Sbux has their dark chocolate grahams back? I'm so happy....)

Except now it's all changed. I had to stop running a few weeks ago thanks to an extremely inconvenient injury. Hell, I'm not even supposed go for long walks! What's worse, I won't be able to start up again for another 6 weeks or so. Even worse still, the last time I had to quit running, it took me six years to start up again. It does not get easier as you get older, trust me.

Another complicating factor is that it's November, the dark days up here in the top left corner of the country. I'm pretty sensitive to the short days and this is not a great time of year for me. It takes all my willpower to fight the urge to hibernate, and my success rate is not good. I was counting on the running to help me through it this year. Harumph.

So now I have to scale back my eating to match my new (non-)activity level. And that, my friend, is going to suck.

I'm attempting to reduce portions and cut back my treat frequency, but it's very difficult when all I want to do is curl up with a bag of Kettle Chips and sleep until March.

All I can do is try, I guess.



Discovery of the day: Crockpot to the rescue

I ended up with a whole bunch of apples, then I went and got some more. Digging through the box the other day, I noticed some of them had gotten away from me. I had to throw a couple out, but most of the ones I culled had just one spot going bad.

So now what? I could make apple crisp, but I'm on a dessert moratorium (more on that another day.) I could make applesauce, but we don't really eat applesauce, like, ever. But I did see a crockpot recipe for apple butter a while back.... Mmmm, apple butter!

Per the instructions, I quartered and cored the apples. I was surprised that I only had to grab a few more to make enough to fill by 4 qt cooker. Threw the apples in, turned it on low, and went to bed.

In the morning I mashed it and added sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Looked and smelled like applesauce! I'd read where the original amount of sugar was w-a-a-y too much (plus I was making a smaller batch) so I cut back to about 1/4 cup, I think. Went off to work.

That evening, it looked like apple butter. I hit it with the stick blender. It was still pretty watery so I turned it up to high and took the lid off. It plopped and splorped like that for 2 or 3 hours. I turned it off before I went to bed.

This morning I jarred it up and stuck it in the fridge. I think I got about 2 pints plus some. And it tastes like apple butter, although I probably should have added a little more sugar. I might leave out the cloves next time. Maybe.

All in all, I'd call it a good use of borderline apples!



Discovery of the day: Just enough

Whew! NaNoWriMo is over and I survived! Back to real life.

Thanksgiving was fun. It's the first one we've cooked together. We were cooking for three adults and my son. I told my SO that no matter how hard we tried, we would end up with too much food. I only know this because I've been doing this for, oh, a couple of decades.

With that in mind, we sat down to make our list of 'must haves'. The goal was to make as few dishes as possible but still get just enough of what we wanted. We eventually settled on turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, waldorf salad (his), succotash (mine), cranberries, pumpkin pie.

The smallest turkey we could find at the store was 14 lbs, but that was no surprise as it was the Sunday before T-day. Then SO decided he wanted to make two kinds of stuffing, regular and cornbread. How could I say no to that? We did have a moment of conflict; he's a 'cook the stuffing in the bird' guy but I have a pretty strong aversion to that. Fortuitously enough, I had seen a recipe for cooking it in a squash half, and he agreed to that. It was difficult to talk him out of making a whole batch of each dressing for 3.5 people, but we eventually compromised.

I really wanted to make another dessert even though I knew better. I really really wanted to make two pumpkin pies but that would be inviting disaster. Instead, I made some caramel apples and dipped them in chocolate (the good stuff). I cut those into wedges and we ate them while playing board games later.

All in all, it worked out pretty well. Next year I have to get in the mood earlier so I can get a hold of a smaller bird. One thing that surprised me is that I wasn't very interested in the turkey. I had one small slice and that was enough.

Turkey aside, we had just enough of the other leftovers to last us through the weekend, although I could have made a whole batch of succotash, my favorite thing, next to cranberries. (I want to post the recipe but I left it at home. I'll try tomorrow.)

I think paring it down to the 'must haves' and limiting the amount we made saved me from myself this year. Now I just have to avoid the dreaded Cookie Baking Urges....

BTW, if you want to try an amazingly speedy way to cook a turkey, try this. And here's a video!