Eat Right, Judge Less, Love More


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oatmeal raisin cookies

I made these last night after eyeing this recipe for a while at smittenkitchen.com.  I prefer them with chocolate chips, but my boyfriend ate six in a row, rapid fire, with just raisins.  Needless to say, they’re a nice treat either way.

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. (90g) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 c. raisins
chocolate chips, 3 per cookie (optional)

cream butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. in a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  stir dry ingredients into brown sugar mixture.  stir in oats, raisins and any other mix-ins.

chill dough for a while before forming into tablespoon-sized balls, and bake at 350 until golden brown just around the edges, about 8-10  minutes.

(from smittenkitchen.com)


last night’s dinner

I keep getting lazy about blogging recipes I make, but it’s spring break and I’m running low on excuses.  My boyfriend could eat italian food for breakfast lunch and dinner, I think, so lasagna and meatballs and the like are pretty frequent requests.  Here’s the recipe I’ve been using for lasagna, with well-received results.

1 medium onion (about 1 cup)
3-4 cloves garlic
2T olive oil
8 oz. ground turkey (93% lean)
3 sweet sausage links (premio brand)
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/4 c. basil
1T brown sugar
1T oregano
1 bay leaf
barilla lasagna noodles
15 oz. part skim ricotta
Parmesan cheese, to taste (2-3 oz.)
1 box frozen spinach
2 eggs
salt & pepper, to taste
good mozzarella cheese, about a pound

saute onion and garlic in oil until softened. add meats until cooked through.  add tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, brown sugar, oregano and bay leaf, simmering until flavors blend.  discard bay leaf and remove from heat.

preheat oven to 350.  cook noodles until almost tender, drain, and cover with water to prevent sticking.

combine ricotta, parmesan, spinach, salt and pepper and taste, adjusting if necessary.  add eggs.

in a 13×9 dish, spread sauce so that it just covers the bottom of the pan, about 1/2 cup. layer noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and sauce.  repeat.  upon final sauce layer, add noodles, more sauce, and then a generous layer of mozzarella and parmesan.

bake, covered,40 minutes. bake uncovered an additional 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown and edges are bubbling – in a good stove, this may take considerably less time (25 or so minutes).

let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.


How to feed emotional hunger

Romantic homeostasis seems to be at work on us as our relationship, tipped so long towards complete contentment, finds it’s own more realistic level.  I know the initial feelings of total bliss in any relationship will naturally become interspersed with some frustration or other less-desirable emotions, and the two will take turns defining the relationship as it settles into a more mature version of itself.  But that doesn’t mean I will feel comfortable accepting these feelings, now or ever.

Apologies for sounding a bit like a negative Nancy – my general feeling is still one of love, acceptance, contentment.  But small nagging points emerge that tend to take hold in the front of my conscience, bothering me more than they should.  A forgotten “thank you” here and there for the little things, or skipping over the “how was your day” in favor of a rumination on the events of his own day, for better or worse.  I see my own immaturity emerging as I project my unmet desire for personal perfection – normally applied to grades, body weight, or being liked at work – onto my relationship, as well as my desire for constant positive feedback and reinforcement.  He’s not feeling well, so I stop by with soup and love and the groceries I know he can’t drag himself out of bed to buy today.  He thanks me often, and passionately, for spending the day with him.  He loves me, and just being there makes him feel better.  Oddly, my first – FIRST! – thought is, “but what about that soup I bought you?”

I get it, I do… a lot of this is in my own head, my own problem, my own responsibility to find a solution… So until I do, I’m trying to keep my irrational mind quiet and enjoy the bliss as much as I can.


S’mores brownies

If there is one recipe that has increased my popularity, this would have to be it.  I usually reserve these for get-togethers when people are already feeling a little indulgent, or as a gift to someone special.  This time, the occasion is Valentine’s Day and the recipient is my sweeter-than-sweet boyfriend.

I use good quality “chocolove” chocolate and/or 365 organic chocolate, both purchased at Whole Foods.  Always milk chocolate, always more than one type.  The quality difference (over, say, Hershey chips or something) is worth the extra few bucks; usually I have everything else on hand so the cost of the recipe is limited to whatever the chocolate costs.

Ironically, these are probably the LAST thing I should be preparing today… I have been really focusing on trying to eat more sensibly, after a few bad weekends that have sent the scale in the wrong direction.  However, me feeling shitty about myself is no reason to deprive my slim sweetie of some goodies.  Just gotta make sure fistfuls of batter don’t magically make their way into my mouth…

S’mores Brownies

Crust
6 whole graham crackers, broken into small pieces (or about 90 grams of crumbs)
3T sugar
3T unsalted butter cut into pieces, room temperature

Brownies
8 oz. good quality milk chocolate, chopped
6T unsalted butter,cut into pieces
1/4 c. sifted all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp sugar
4 oz. good quality milk chocolate, cut into chocolate chip-sized pieces
25 large marshmallows, cut crosswise in half

For Crust: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter sides of 9-inch square cake pan with 2-inch high sides. Line pan with foil, allowing foil to extend over two sides. Butter foil. Blend graham crackers, sugar and butter until moist crumbs form. Press crumbs evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until light brown, about 7 minutes. Cool crust on rack.

For Brownies: Melt 8 oz. milk chocolate and 6 T. butter in heavy medium saucepan, stirring until smooth. Cool mixture to room temperature. Sift flour and salt into a small bowl. Whisk eggs and sugar in medium bowl until well blended. whisk in chocolate-butter mixture. Gently fold in dry ingredients. Mix in 4 oz. chopped chocolate. Spread batter over crust. Bake
until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 23 minutes. (surface may crack). Place marshmallows over hot brownies, spacing evenly. Cover tightly with foil and let stand for 15 minutes.
Remove foil cover from pan. Using wet fingers, press marshmallows together to fill in any uncovered spaces. Cool completely on rack. Lift brownies from pan using foil sides as aid. Fold down foil sides. Cut into squares. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)


this might make you wanna vom

Laying on the grass in the evening shadows of a towering palm, he spoke the words I had been aching to hear directly into my ear with a whisper that seemed to say, ‘these words are just for you… don’t let them go.’ We have since returned to the cold reality of home, work, school, and the like, but I’m learning love has a way of warming you from the inside out. 🙂

Although we only exchanged I love you’s recently, I have  been slowly falling in love with him for the entire time we’ve been dating, with a few specific traits of his that I particularly love.  For one thing, he has found two subjects for which he is incredibly passionate – photography and animals.  Watching his face light up when he recounts, via photographs,  his travels to everywhere from the San Diego Zoo to India and New Zealand, I can’t help but share in his excitement.  Stacks of photo albums are brimming with photos of all sorts of mammals, and he never tires of sharing them with me.  I suppose this is common, but I have always found passion for life to be far sexier than the traditional six pack/square jaw definition of sexy.
Also, he is habitually considerate.  At more cynical moments in my life, I have scoffed at men opening car doors and such, but in reality, it is a pleasure.  Aside from the fact a date feels more special when a man goes out of his way to extend a chivalrous hand, his behavior speaks volumes about the way he was raised, to act with class and respect.  I can never imagine fighting with him – honestly – because he has always been more concerned with me than with asserting his righteousness.
I feel fortunate to be able to say that I could go on and on; he’s boyishly handsome, he appreciates travel, he’s incredibly bright, etc etc.  But I think one trait in particular – one that we happen to share – has recently contributed a great deal to the growth and development of our relationship: We both have a well developed love for good food. As such, we have already spent many hours in the kitchen, talking over a smorgasbord of leftovers or he hugging me from behind while I put the finishing touches on dinner.  It is so much fun to cook for someone who loves to eat, and so meal planning and cooking have been a blast.  As such, I’ve decided to start keeping track of the new things I make, as long as they get good reviews from me and my sweetie 🙂
Parmesan Garlic Bread

Ciabatta Bread, in 6 1″ slices
3T Butter
2T minced garlic
very generous pinch of parmesan shreds

Melt butter with garlic and parmesan over medium heat until uniform and starting to bubble.
spoon/pour over ciabatta slices (on a cookie sheet) and bake at 350 degrees until edges begin to brown.  This would probably be great in the broiler too.

Swiss Omelet with Thyme

3 Eggs
2T fresh thyme (stems discarded)
1/3C Jarlsberg Swiss, finely grated
salt and pepper to taste

Spray a small frying pan with Pam/olive oil.  In a small bowl, whisk 1 whole egg and two egg whites with thyme, swiss, and salt and pepper.  Mixture may be slightly lumpy.  Cook until nearly firm, and turning once, cooking for another 30 seconds or so.  Serve on toasted english muffin.


January 2. The beginning of the year is our first chance to take a breath and survey life after the beautiful mess of thanksgiving and finals and christmas and the coming of the new year has passed. Traditionally, this is also the time when our plans for the upcoming year are excitedly set in motion, perhaps based on shortcomings of the previous year: starting a diet, improving relationships, and many other self-improvement goals all seem easier to follow with the momentum of an unmarked calendar upon us.

This past year was full of wonderful changes: I ended a dysfunctional relationship, started to blog, continued to dedicate myself to my studies, took up running, solidified my most meaningful friendships, and met someone wonderful who bears a striking resemblance to the man of my dreams (could it be him? we’ll see!) Nonetheless, I can also see much room for improvement.  First and foremost, I want to make better use of my time.  I’m annoyed by the amount of time I spend idly perusing the internet, while simultaneously complaining I don’t have enough time to exercise or write.  I hope 2009 is a fitter, more prolific year (even if it is at the expense of not knowing what blogger A & B ate for dinner last night… pity).

I also want to be more organized.  I can see the way my mess impacts my state of mind, especially during stressful times at school.  I look around at my bedroom with clothes all over and notebooks strewn here and there, and I have a hard time focusing my mind on whatever task is at hand.

Finally, I want to eat better.  Considering my nutrition education, my job, and my health-conscious friends, this should be a NO-BRAINER.  But somehow, I have many days where not a single vegetable makes its way onto my plate, and I subsist largely on carbs and fat. If I want to be stronger and more active, though, I need to get my eating in line.

I think all these resolutions can be categorized under a general goal:  I want to live a life I can be proud of.


A thought I’ve had for a while

The times I find myself pushing writing to the back burner are also the times when I seem to need writing the most.  Of late, I have been consumed by the most wonderful of distractions -a new love – and have since been contemplating what exactly that means.  At the point in our relationship where the L word threatens to spring from my mouth at any given moment and I find myself holding back, scared, perhaps, of what might happen next, I concurrently question why the word – the idea of the word, even – brings so much unnecessary contemplation.

With A, my feelings of attraction, trust, comfort and admiration are far stronger than they have been for anyone in a long time… maybe ever. Is THAT love? I also find myself wanting to take care of him, cook for him, and show him how well I might provide love and stability in his life.  Is THAT love?

With all my questions, I realized that, for a word that is so often used and thought about, I had (and continue to have) little clue about what it means.  To say you love someone is to express a higher-than-normal esteem for them, so that they may recognize that you value their presence in your life above others.  Sure.  But there must be more to it than that, otherwise the idea of telling someone you love them wouldn’t be quite so intimidating.  There is an additional element of self in telling someone you love them for the first time;  you are essentially laying your cards on the table, inviting the infinite possibilities the word has come to imply.  It is like saying, “I surrender to the unknown with you.”

All that considered, I feel like I’m ready to tell this wonderful person that I love him, beyond even the shadow of a doubt, and see – finally – what it means to surrender myself to love.


school lunch – setting the stage?

My local paper has been focusing a lot on nutrition in schools this week, with a three day feature about food in our local schools, followed up by a feature this morning on a specific local school district with a notable foodservice system.  The school district (along with two others in New York State) received a $5,000 “best practices” award for the food they provide; they have been recognized for getting creative with commodity surplus foods in an attempt to provide more interesting and nutritionally sound meals to the students they serve.

This series is just one example of the larger trend we’ve all seen a lot of:  attacking obesity in the US by placing a stronger focus on obesity prevention and education than ever before, which includes reaching out to children.   Providing palatable, healthy meals and nutrition education to school-aged children is still pretty new, and I’m curious to see the positive effects in ten or twenty years;  when these children are autonomous adults and able to make their own decisions about what to eat, will we see a difference in obesity rates?

A lot rests on our ability to educate children as to the importance of healthy diet habits.  Working in the weight loss industry (and putting a good deal of effort into maintaining my own weight) I have seen firsthand the struggles people go through when it comes to developing new habits as adults and trying to reverse the effects of their old habits.   Although the perils of poor weight management – cardiovascular health, blood sugar, knee/joint problems, lack of energy, etc etc – strike a chord with my clients, it’s not enough to keep them from turning to food as a universal band-aid for their problems.  I’m optimistic that we can turn this around, but it will definitely be an uphill battle. My clients were loved, welcomed, punished, rewarded, and taught right and wrong through food, and I think it will take starting with a clean slate and actively trying not to use food as a stand in for love and attention to turn this whole mess around.


FACT: you can’t eat vegetables you don’t have.

ANNE-SPECIFIC FACT: even if you have vegetables, you probably won’t eat them unless you make it as easy as humanly possible.

based on these two very excellent points, I decided to take advantage of my evening off and pop into Whole Foods for a big veggie shop so I could roast some vegetables for the next few days.  I realized I’m just not motivated enough in the morning to prepare vegetables for the day, especially when I’m in any kind of rush.   For some reason, I really like sweet/carby things in the morning – fruit, cereal, oatmeal, and the like – so when I’m putting my lunch together, I tend to pack things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oatmeal, clif bars, and fruit rather than more savory meals…  So, in an attempt to rectify the situation, I’m focusing on being prepared these next few days with VEGGIES.

No pic of my rainbow of goodies, because my mind was 110% focused on eating when I got home! But I did snap a pic of one sheet (out of three!) of veggies roasting away in the oven… mmmmm.

Dinner was about a cup of veggies (a mix of sweet onion, tomato, red/green/yellow/orange pepper, eggplant and yellow squash) topped with “pasta” (spaghetti squash), two homemade turkey meatballs, tomato sauce and parmesan (you know, the Kraft kind that can live in your fridge for, what, a year?).  It was completely inspired by some recent blog entries I’ve seen, and quite delicious!

So, on a completely different note, I was out with some friends recently and somehow the conversation turned to working out and what music we listen to when we run/walk/spin, etc.  My friend threw me for a complete loop and said he LOVES listening to Phil Collins!! WTF?! No offense to Phil, but I assumed most people would go for something upbeat!  My iPod has a playlist called “Run” with stuff like Green Day, Katy Perry, Ok Go, DJ Tiesto, All American Rejects… random stuff I don’t really listen to day-to-day, but that really energizes me when I’m running.  What kind of music do you listen to when you workout?