Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mashed Potato Soup

We are going away next week, and a friend is staying at our house to take care of Sadie, Pedro and Ozzie.  Friend is having dental surgery and will be recuperating here, away from her children (they are staying with Friend's Parents).  Friend was here the other day, and we asked her what kind of food she would like us to have for her.  She said oh anything, I'm not picky.  I know that "not picky" and "just had dental surgery" can clash, so I decided to make some creamy soup for her.  I went on Tastespotting and found this:

Natalie said she had a secret family ingredient in the soup, so I decided to make this recipe.  I won't be making the garlic ciabatta bites this time.  For convenience, here is the recipe; but check out Natalie's blog!  I am calling it mashed potato soup since there is nothing in it that is baked.  The secret family recipe turns out to be a thing of cream cheese with chives and onions.

Baked Potato Soup

yield: 6 large portions

1 large White Onion
3 Garlic Cloves
1 TBS Butter
6 cups Chicken Stock
10 medium Idaho Potatoes or 6 large Russet Potatoes, peeled and medium diced
1 (8oz) container Kraft Philadelphia Chive and Onion Cream Cheese (1/3 less fat or regular)
3 slices Bacon, cooked and diced
1/2 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/3 cup Green Onions, chopped
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 – 2 cups Milk, thin to desired consistency

1. In a deep pot add butter and turn to medium heat. Once butter has melted add garlic and onions and saute a few minutes until aromatic. Turn heat to medium low and caramelize, around 10 minutes.

2. Add the stock and potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil. Let boil for a few minutes before bringing the heat down to medium-low. Let simmer for 45 minutes until potatoes are soft and falling apart. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes into small pieces.

3. Let soup cool for a few minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out half of the potato mixture that should have settled on the bottom of the pot. Add to a blender and also add a few cups of liquid. Blend until completely pureed and smooth. Pour back into the soup and turn heat back to medium – low.

4. Add the cream cheese to the soup and slowly let it melt. This will take anywhere between 30 – 45 minutes. During this time add the bacon, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir occasionally to mix in the cream cheese.

5. After the cream cheese is completely melted, adjust the soup with milk to your desired consistency.

Drat, I forgot to buy scallions.  I think a whole onion and the chive & onion cream cheese might be plenty oniony enough.  We'll see.

"10 medium Idaho Potatoes or 6 large Russet Potatoes" can be anything, depending on your personal interpretation of medium/large.  I have seen russet potatoes the size of a football.  I am using 11 smallish-medium potatoes.  Smallish-medium to me is where a potato fits in the palm of my hand with my fingers slightly bent.

Small? Medium? Large? You be the judge.
I have scrubbed the potatoes and I am about to peel them now.  Peeling potatoes is a pain in my butt, but I am going to give this another chance and try to get zen with it.  I love chopping vegetables, so why can't I love peeling potatoes?  At least I can try.

haha - I have put this off for 10 minutes while I cruised the journal room at Nutrimirror.  OK NOW I'm going to peel potatoes. 

Done. That only took 15 minutes, but it felt like at least 30.  I tried getting zen, but my mind kept wandering.  Anyway, on with the show.

Chop the onion and garlic, and saute in 1 T butter.  I use unsalted butter for everything these days instead of regular butter.    Carmelize the onion and garlic, then add the potatoes and 6 cups of chicken stock.  I used turkey stock I made and froze the day after Thanksgiving.  I have had plenty of occasions to use the turkey stock since Thanksgiving, but I kept forgetting it was in the freezer.  We are trying to clear out the freezer to make room for Friend's food and I have spotted the turkey stock in there every day this week, which is apparently what it takes for me to remember to use it.  I melted 4 cups of frozen-in-ice-cube-trays turkey stock, and added 2 cups of water.  Even diluted, this will taste better than store-bought stock!

Turkey stock cubes, melting
 Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 45 minutes.  I put the lid on it, slightly off center so steam can escape.

Bring potatoes, onions and garlic to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes
 I am not going to put hot soup into a blender.  I'm going to use an immersion blender.  It's just more fun, and less dangerous.

After blending the soup, it has the consistency of really wet mashed potatoes.  I put in the cream cheese and the cheddar (I used about a cup).  Now it has to cook while the cream cheese melts.

After this cooked for a while and the cream cheese melted in, it was still a very mashed-potato consistency.  The recipe calls for two cups of milk.  I put in one cup of milk and stopped.  The consistency is now like very thick soup, not very thin mashed potatoes.  It is a fine, fine line.

The recipe also calls for putting 3 strips of bacon into the soup.  It does need something with some texture, and I'll crumble some bacon over it when I serve it, but I didn't mix any into the soup itself.  And like I said, I forgot to buy scallions.  I wonder if we have any dried chives to sprinkle on top.  I will also sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese over it. 

Now I wish I was making the ciabatta bites.......

These are the stats for the soup the way I made it, not following the recipe exactly.

nutrition facts

Sadie was very helpful while I cooked, snoozing away with her woobies.

Now that we've had a bowl of soup, I can honestly say that it was really pretty bland.  Adding bacon and cheese at the end helped with that, but I really wish I'd remembered to buy scallions, or that my chives were growing right now.  It was definitely creamy and tasted like potatoes!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Something's Coming

For the past few months, I have been watching my friends and acquaintances going through changes.  So many of them are what I like to think of as "standing at the Gate."  You know the feeling - where your life has reached a certain point and you just know that something new is coming.  Maybe you've been working towards a certain goal, and your growth in that direction has led to a new opportunity that you were not expecting when you started out. 

Have you ever noticed how your life can change in just a day?  Sometimes, you don't know that was the day until years later, looking back.  Look at Jim Ray, a man many of us admire.  I doubt he knew the day he saw his doctor and was told to limit his sodium to 1 teaspoon or die, that he and his family would one day produce a tool that is literally the new way forward in the world of health and nutrition.  I can look back over my life and see days that seem to be the start of a new direction, but looking further back, I see that those days were the result of previous days and directions.  We are just walking straight into our destinies, and whatever you do today will affect you in the future in ways you cannot imagine, and may never even realize.

So how awesome is it to wake up in the morning and know that today, something could happen to change your life.  It's happened to me enough times to know that it will happen again!  I welcome the new opportunities that are coming to me, and to my friends, and enjoy every minute of the process.  It's all important!

Having been in this happy mood for a while, the other day I went shopping.  Usually in the car I listen to talk radio; I tend to zone out if there's music.  But on Sunday I turned on my CD of the soundtrack from West Side Story.  I didn't skip around on the CD like I usually do, to listen to songs I know the words to, and therefore I heard a song that I have never listened to the words of.  (I know that sentence is a mess but hopefully you know what I mean).  The song is "Something's Coming" and Tony sings it.  I listened to the words and they all just fit with my mood.  I acknowledged the synchronicity, and listening to the words of that song gave me even more excitement about the future than I already have.  Embrace your futures, follow your bliss, and enjoy the life you are creating.  Something is definitely coming, my friends.

Something's Coming
Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Could be!

Who knows?

There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.

It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!
Who knows?

It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone'll jingle, door'll knock,
Open the latch!
Something's coming, don't know when, but it's soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!

Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It'll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don't be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?

It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Orange Sponge Cake

Recipes....they are everywhere.  How are we supposed to keep up with them all?  This is part of the fun of cooking.  The possibilities are endless.  The possibilities were already endless before the internet came along; now it's just overkill.  Yay!

Recently my husband and I decluttered the recipe box.  This is a plastic box, with some index card dividers in it, and it's grey and ugly to start with.  With 22 years worth of recipes that were printed off the internet, cut out of magazines, little cards picked up at the grocery store, and handwritten scraps of grease-stained paper spilling out of the box, it was difficult to find anything you were looking for.  So everything got dumped onto the dining room table, and we went through all of the recipes.  Approximately 95 percent of them went into the trash.  Ones we loved got put behind divider cards with category names written on them.   The rule for getting back into the box was that the recipe had to be one we actually use, or one we really want to try.  Only 4 recipes fit into the "really want to try" category, and today I am making two of them - a cauliflower casserole, and an orange sponge cake.  This particular blog is about the orange sponge cake.

Nearly empty, but organized, and lots of fresh dividers for future use

Not only is our recipe box plastic and grey, it also has a faded label on top that says "Denmark UnitedKingdom."  Neither of us have been to Denmark or the United Kingdom.  I have no idea where this box came from in the first place.  It's just always been here.  I've been online looking for a new recipe box and haven't found much to choose from.  What do you use for a recipe box?

The Orange Sponge Cake recipe that I saved has a date of April 8, 1998 on it.  I printed it off of a food newsgroup I used to frequent.  I don't know how to get to newsgroups anymore.  I really enjoyed that one, and got lots of recipes from it that were shoved into the plastic box, never actually cooked, and recently purged into the trash can.  I learned to make chicken fried steak from those newsgroup members! 

I don't really know what sponge cake is.  I've heard of it, of course, and maybe even eaten it before, but I just don't know why it's called sponge cake.  Sounds very moist, a definite plus!

Anyway here is the recipe, finally. It makes 12 servings (we'll see about that):

1.5 cups cake flour
1.25 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided (3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)
2 tsp hot water
1.25 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp grated orange peel
1/4 tsp grated lemon peel
3 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.

Heat orange juice in small saucepan over low heat just until warm to the touch.  Set aside.

Beat egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar and hot water in mixer bowl at medium speed until mixture is light.

At low speed, beat juice into yolks until blended.

Beat in vanilla, orange and lemon peel, until mixture is light and foamy, about 2 minutes.

With rubber spatula, gently fold in dry ingredients.

In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the 6 egg whites at medium speed until foamy

At high speed gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff.

Whisk 1/3 of the whites into yolk mixture.

Fold in remaining whites.

Spoon batter into ungreased 10 inch tube pan.

Bake 28 to 33 minutes, until cake springs back when touched lightly.  Coll completely on a wire rack.  To loosen, run thin knife around ege of pan.  Invert onto serving plate.

Look at the stats!  Not bad, for something that sounds like it is going to be very moist and orangey!

nutrition facts

Notice I decided this cake is 8 servings, not 12.

My recent shortbread feeding frenzy has told me that butter is going to make my food logs too high in fat (ya think?) so another draw to this sponge cake recipe is the complete lack of butter.  Right now, prior to baking the cake, this sounds too good to be true.  I sure hope whoever gave me this recipe in 1998 didn't leave something out.  Let me double check.....nope, no butter.  I did find this note at the end of the page from someone called "mimi a.": "I thought this recipe sounded interesting and just wanted to share it with you all" followed by a smiley face.  And she says it's from the Ahwatukee Foothills News of April 8, 1998.  I wonder what that is. 

Apparently she didn't actually bake this cake, she just thought it sounded "interesting."  Now I'm getting nervous.  When I say something is "interesting" I mean that I'm not really interested and I think it's unlikely or pointless or annoying.  Well, sometimes it's really interesting, I guess.  Anyway the fact that Mimi thinks this recipe is "interesting" makes me wonder if she is talking about how there's no butter in it.   We'll see.  This cake better taste good; baking it involves the hassle of having to wash my mixer bowl halfway through so I can beat the egg whites. 

I just  noticed that I tend to get really pissed off at the recipes in my blog, sometimes even before I start cooking them.  LOL  Self-knowledge is power!  Usually it's worth the hassle.  Thanks for hanging in there!  Read on.

I didn't take a bunch of pictures this time.  Everyone has seen orange peel and vanilla.  But here is a picture of the batter about to go into the oven.  It tastes really good raw, which is usually a good omen.  The batter has a foamy texture.  I wonder if I'm making a preservative-free, giant unfilled twinkie.   That would be cool.

fluffy batter
 waiting....waiting.....while I wait, can I just say what a mess I made separating 6 eggs?  First I put the white into the mixing bowl instead of the yolk, and had to switch everything out.  Then I got yolk in the whites.  No shells, though.  I really need to get one of those egg separater things.  

I just looked in the oven and the cake is really puffing up!  I tried to take a picture - too much glare. 


It's out of the oven now, looking interesting.

It has to cool completely, then be inverted onto a cake plate.  I'm giving it one hour to cool down, while I watch a couple of Golden Girls tivos.

OMG - Sofia got married!

The cake is cool.  I ran a knife around the edge and inverted it onto a cake plate.  I waited for the cake to flop down onto the plate, but it just stayed there upside down clinging to the bottom of the pan.  I wish I had taken a picture of that!  I ran the knife around and got the cake to land on the plate. 

This cake is very sweet.  I toned it down a little with some Greek yogurt and cranberry-apple butter.  The texture is dense and spongy and it tastes great!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My NutriMirror Story

With the new year, lots of people are looking online for "diet" websites and stumbling across NutriMirror.  This time of year, the regular users of NM who journal a lot like to post encouraging messages for the  new people.  NutriMirror really is the perfect tool for learning to balance your nutrition and get your body to a healthy weight, which is perfectly and enjoyably sustainable with the continued use of the NM tool.  It is SO EASY.  Seriously.  It is easier than anything I've ever done related to weight loss, and it has totally changed the way I look at food and nutrition and what is worth eating and what isn't.  And it is free.  There are no strings attached.  It is free.

This is what I posted on NM as my message to newbies.  If you aren't already a member of this incredible website, I urge you to check it out.  Once you get your nutrition balanced, learning to do that by eating foods you love, you will be in total control.  It is the new way forward. 

The other day, Cascadelady suggested that some of us who have reached our goals could post our stories. I love this idea. So here is my story.

On June 21, 2009, I attended my very first yoga class with a friend. I am 5'4" and I weighed 200 pounds. This was not my highest weight; my highest weight was 215. Over time 15 pounds dropped off somehow, certainly not through any focused effort on my part. But try doing yoga when you weigh 200 pounds. It was really hard. Some of the positions were impossible for me not only because I was so out of shape, but because I was so fat that parts of my body would only bend so far before it ran into other parts of my body and could go no further. At the end of the hour, as we lay supine in bliss, a voice in my head said "I don't have to be fat." This was where my journey to health really began.

Greg and me, on our 20th anniversary in Nov 08.  I weighed 200 pounds.
Over the next two weeks I watched what I ate. I restricted my calories, ate a bunch of salad, and lost 5 pounds. A friend had lost 100 pounds on Weight Watchers (she has since gained some of that back) and she told me that logging her food had really helped her. So on July 4, 2009, I went to google and searched on "food logging" (or something similar) and several sites popped up. First I joined the Biggest Loser's Bob's site. I tried logging, but the site was slow and hard to use.

Back to google, and this time I clicked on NutriMirror. When I got to the welcome page and saw that this website was going to help me balance my nutrition, I knew I'd found the right place. I had always wanted to eat healthy, but I did not know what that even meant. I was so excited to find some hope with the NM website. I joined, poked around the site, wrote a journal, and began logging my food. I noticed that someone had replied to my journal. Cool! By the end of three days 23 comments had been made to my journal. I was so inspired by all the kindness and good thoughts!

I had figured out that if you click on someone's picture, you get to look at their food logs and their "about me" and I had been reading them. Wow, all this happiness about eating good food!

The members' stories were very motivating to me. I knew that I was doing what they were doing (going for green, eating enough calories, getting some exercise) and that I would reach my goal, too. My mindset quickly switched from "losing weight" to "eating like these people eat and having the same results."

NM was very good to me during my weight loss phase. I started seeing results on the scale almost immediately, once my logs were green consistently. By August 4, I had lost 12 pounds! Here is my monthly weight log from that time:

July 4:  weight 195 (sadly, I did not take a photo of myself when I first joined. I was fat)

August 4: weight 183

183 pounds.  From a size 18W, to size 14 jeans!

September 4: weight 175

175 pounds

October 4: weight 165

Around 168 pounds, size 10 jeans!
November 4: weight 157   (Thanksgiving, followed by picture)

December 4: weight 151

151 pounds (crazy hairdo attributable to high winds!) (this time)
  December 31: 145 GOAL!!!

What is the deal with my boobs in this photo?  Stupid camera phone.

Weight had just melted off of me. But I had known that would happen, so it was no surprise.  I was doing everything right - eating enough calories, keeping my logs green, drinking plenty of water, getting some exercise.  Weight loss was inevitable.  What was really fun was all the non-scale victories (NSV) along the way. The first time I realized I was crossing my legs at the knee! The first time I walked a mile with my dog Sadie, without having to stop every 10 feet to catch my breath. The first time someone noticed my weight loss. The day I tried on my hippie jeans from high school (40 years ago) and I could actually button them! The day the Chico's saleslady called me a "tiny little thing"!

I went onto maintenance on 12/31/09, and continue to log daily. My percentages on my home page (the little stars at the top of the page) have been at 100% from day one. The bars on my home page are normally all green (currently I'm fixing the red that I indulged in over the holidays). I continued to lose weight after switching to maintenance and finally stabilized at 133 pounds.

NM Spokesmodel     133 pounds  Size 4 jeans these days
 The thing about NM is, it just makes so much sense. Eat to fuel your body (don't starve yourself); get your logs green (give your body the nutrition it needs); log everything you eat and look at how it affects your nutritional balance. Eat mindfully. Before a meal, see where you stand nutritionally. Need more calcium, more vitamin A, less fat? Then eat to address that. One of my favorite activities during my weight loss phase was playing with my food log. What could I eat for dinner that would result in all my bars being green? This made for some interesting meals sometimes, but since I was mindful throughout the day of my nutritional balance, it was usually easy to end with a green day.

To anyone who is new here, I encourage you to just keep logging. Over time you will find that your tastes really change. As you begin to experience the NSVs that tell you your body is really changing, things get really exciting. Between my tastes changing, and seeing my body thank me for all the nutrition by releasing the no-longer-needed fat it had stored, my excitement continued to grow.

If you are eating the right number of calories (which NM conveniently calculates for you) and getting your logs green, it is inevitable you will lose weight. So don't let weight loss be the focus of your journey. It's like if you are driving a car. If you know the tank is full, relax and enjoy the scenery. Once you are able to find pleasure in the food choices that bring you to balance, you have entered the NM mindset that brings confidence and sustainable weight loss.

Welcome newbies! Read journals, eat green, and talk to us!

Please join our rapidly-shrinking and growing family!