Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

I saw Dorie Greenspan make this with Martha Stewart last fall, I have no idea why it's taken me so very long to finally make it.  Pumpkin lovers get going on this one, it's a keeper,  even He Who Does Not Eat Pumpkin (Rob) scraped his half clean.

Start off with a sugar pumpkin, scrub it clean and cut out the top like you're making a Jack O'Lantern. 

Scrape the insides clean.

Don't forget to save the seeds for toasting!

Prep the base flavors of the stuffing.  The recipe is very flexible, I used nutmeg, shallots, parsley, rosemary and oregano, garlic and white pepper.

Stir in the bread cubes, I used cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread.

Crumble in the bacon.  I cooked up a whole package of pastured, uncured bacon.  I used about 6 slices and saved the rest in the fridge for snacks.

Add the cheese.  I had a mad hankering for goat cheese so I crumbled in a small 4 ounce log.

Stuff everything good into the cavity of the pumpkin, pack it down pretty well.  There may be some leftover.

A perfect excuse to use the golden real cream that I skim from the farm fresh milk, pour it on!

The leftover stuffing went into a greased ramekin, topped with cream and stashed in the fridge for a quick lunch later in the week.  Might be nice with a poached egg on top.

Pop the pumpkin in a 350 degree oven and let it cook for 2 hours.

Remove the cap and let the top brown for an additional 20 minutes then remove from oven.

We cut the pumpkin straight down the middle and set about devouring all the good stuff and the soft, creamy pumpkin flesh.  Absolutely perfect for fall! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Fitness Week

"I love it when a plan comes together!" ~Col. Hannibal Smith, The A-Team 

It has been a long time coming, but with the combination of Tally settling in and my amino acid protocol working wonders for me, I have nailed down a winning fitness routine.  Mind you, one week does not a routine make but it is a solid foundation on which to build.
Three days this week I was at the gym first priority for weight lifting, a streamlined full body routing, done with minimal rest periods so that I can be done in 30 minutes.  Then home for hot breakfast and then a long walk with Tally.  The other two week days, a long walk with Tally after breakfast.  Weekends will incorporate some walking, yard work, rest and family hike day.  I think we may venture out to Amicalola Falls on Sunday.

I feel really solid on this foundation of a routine and truly believe that I can stick with it.  Getting back to lifting has been AMAZING!  It's the one thing that truly kicks the metabolism into high gear and it is nuts at how quickly the changes to the body come.  Tally seems to be enjoying it as well.  

As far as food goes, I made a big batch of long simmered chicken stock the other day and today it will be transformed into my absolute favorite beef and barley soup.  I'm going to roast beef marrow bones, bone-in shank and bone-in short ribs (all grass fed) and then start building the soup.  The barley has been soaking in whey for over 24 hours.  It's going to be delicious.  Also, I'm going to make Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.  I have a plump sugar pumpkin and I can't wait to try this recipe!  I'll make sure to take some good photos of this one.  We're also having a date night to a new Indian restaurant that opened nearby.  It's been years and years since we've had a curry house in the neighborhood so we're looking forward to that.

What are your fitness and food plans for this fine fall weekend?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Walk for Cash

Today was walk day, the JDRF walk to cure diabetes in honor of my nephew Cash.  Mother Nature donated a picture perfect day for our cause, sunny, breezy and beautiful.  This was our first charity walk, I admit that I was a bit nervous about the logistics like traffic, arriving too late, parking and bathrooms (I have bathroom anxiety, surprise surprise.)  

But as usual, I worried for nothing.  We got to the specified parking garage at 8:15am, snagged one of the free spaces and strolled over to Centennial Olympic Park in plenty of time to sign in, grab a T-shirt and yes, use the bathroom.  We even had time to take a lovely walk around the park.  This is the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics.  Remember when the US Women's Gymnastics Team won the gold?  That was awesome!  It was such a perfect site to hold a charity walk.  

Here's the photo tour...

They have an area with these marble markers on which the names of each and every medal winning team members name is engraved. Any of those names look familiar?

The future of flying coach!

The last time Rob and I were at the park, it was in summer of 2000, we weren't even engaged yet, nor did we know that within a year, we'd be moving to metro Atlanta.  Rob had flown over from England to work in the US office of the company he had been working for.  We hadn't seen each other since Easter and he flew me down for the weekend.  It was a hot hot humid day and we sat by the fountains and ate slush.  I snapped a photo of Rob (ON FILM!) sitting on a a bench.  It's in a purple frame in our family room. 

Here is Rob on the exact same bench 11 years later.  Sort of a full circle day for us, wouldn't you say?

Now on to the walk.  We got a crappy start spot way at the back of the crowd because (and here is where the bathroom issues come in to play) I have the bladder of a 90 year old woman who has the bladder the size of a walnut, so I had to wait until the very last minute to go again because I did not want to uncomfortable during the walk.  

We got caught in a huge bunch of people who basically just stood there stuffing their faces with chicken biscuits instead of moving.  We started weaving our way through and within the first mile we had made up a huge amount of time and left about 3/4 of the walkers in our dust.  

Here we are at the last quarter mile.  I know it wasn't a "race" but there were way to many lollygaggers for my taste.  I wanted to challenge myself.  I wanted to finish the walk as far under an hour as I possibly could.

I was running toward the finish line when the traffic cop stopped the flow of the walk to let some cars pass.  ARRRGH!  I would have finished under 50 minutes if I had made that intersection.

The cop finally let us pass and I took off running again.  Talk about a last burst, the endorphins really kicked in and pushed me onward. 

I crossed the finish line in 51:25, but actual moving time was 47:47, but those intersections cut into my finish time.  Didn't you know that I'm insanely competitive?  It's one of my uglier traits that I work really hard to keep under wraps.

Here is the walk course map from my Garmin GPS watch...

 I DID IT!  And I would do it again, it was a great day.  We raised 160% of our goal thanks to the generous spirit of some of you beautiful blog readers and my family and friends.  My nephew Cash facebooked me a heartfelt thanks that brought me to tears!  But above and beyond, this event was a real shot in the arm (see what I did there?) for me to get excited about fitness again.  I hope I can keep the momentum rolling.

We didn't stay and partake of the food, beverages and post walk entertainment, I wanted to get home to Tally.  I did make us an amazing lunch when we got home, toasty chicken and cheese on cinnamon Ezekiel bread, half a honeycrisp apple and a cup of hot, steamy, creamy tomato soup!

There is still plenty of time in 2011 to sign up for a charity walk, if you can make the time, it really is a worthwhile way to spend a weekend morning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Upping the Activity

I wish (oh, how I wish every single day forever and ever) that I was a person to whom exercise came easy, that it was something I looked forward to.  But I'm just not wired that way, wasn't raised that way.  My motivation ebbs and flows, and if I ever feel like I "have" to do it, forget it.  My inner rebel takes over.  I think that this is part of the issue since adopting Tally.  I've felt like I've "had" to get out there and walk and when that inner rebel hears that, all bets are off.

But I've made a concerted effort to get out there daily, often twice daily, with Tally and walk and walk and walk.  And it's been good.  She is such a pleasure to have around the house when she's been walked and my weight has been slowly creeping back down, which always makes me a pleasure to be around.  I also hit the gym on Monday to lift weights for the first time since ??? and though the delayed onset muscle soreness is killing me, I know it's yet another step back in the right direction. 

Tally and I just got back from a brisk 4 miles and will likely get in another 30 minutes or so this evening.  I've found that I actually enjoy the twilight walk, we all sleep so nice afterward and 30 minutes away from the television on my nights off isn't going to kill me, right? 

I spent most of the walk listening to the cruise radio podcast  which is really revving me up because in just 79 days, Rob and I are going to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in a balcony cabin aboard the Norwegian Sun!!!!  The ship departs on New Year's Eve day, we'll celebrate our anniversary along with ringing in 2012 (I can't wait to kick 2011 to the curb) on board and then spend a week sailing around the Caribbean.  Isaac better be ready with those umbrella drinks.  

But before the cruise, we have to tackle the JDRF Diabetes Walk is this Saturday.  In case you haven't had a chance to donate, CLICK HERE, it's for a wonderful cause.  We've already almost doubled our goal, so a million thanks to all of you who have so generously contributed so far.  

That's all for now, I hope you are enjoying your Wednesday and have a wonderful rest of the week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Try Something New: Wild Sockeye Salmon

As you know, despite wanting to get more essential fatty acids from oily fish in our diets, we don't like salmon.   I've tried it all different ways and from different shops, paying a fortune from Whole Foods for the freshest I could find but we still can't abide that strong, fishy taste.

Enter wild sockeye salmon.  It's obscenely expensive, upwards of $20 a pound, but I picked some up at Whole Foods when it was on sale.  It was a revelation, our salmon-hating days are finally behind us.  It's got a lovely almost sweet taste.  I wouldn't call it mild but it is a million miles away from strong or fishy.  The texture is really succulent and delicious. 

Why buy wild fish vs. farm raised? The same reason why grass fed and pastured meat is healthier for our bodies than feedlot meat.  Farm raised salmon doesn't have the same amounts of usable omega-3 fatty acids as wild caught.  Like feedlot meat, farm raised salmon is given antibiotics and their feed is dyed salmon color so their flesh won't be gray!  Wild salmon has lower fat, but more good fat and higher protein than farm raised.  

Now on to the deliciousness... sockeye can have some pin bones, so just slide your clean hands up and down the surface of the fish to feel for any and pluck them out.

For this preparation, I mixed grainy mustard with some low sodium tamari and spread it over the fish.

Then I covered it with Thai basil from the garden and let it sit a few minutes.

Into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  I checked it and it wasn't quite cooked through so I cooked it an additional 5 minutes.  You want it juicy and just cooked through, but not overcooked.  Look for opaque and flaky.

It turned out delicious.  I served it with cucumber and cantaloupe salad with a dressing made from lime juice and zest and spicy red chiles.  But that was before the cantaloupe listeria outbreak.

We enjoyed the sockeye so much that when I found it at Costco in the freezer section, I snapped it up.  A 3 pound bag of individually vacuum sealed fillets for $27, a steal for wild Alaska sockeye!

This dish was from the other night.  I rubbed the salmon with a mixture of BBQ spices and cooked it for 30 minutes at 400 as the fillets were a bit thicker.  Absolutely marvelous with a crisp salad.  Very satisfying, too. 

Next summer, I'm going to invest in a cedar plank and try it on the grill.

Have you tried sockeye, did you love it?  What is your favorite salmon preparation?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I have overeating issues triggered by emotional stress and you also know that, as a rule, I do not do well with change.  When we adopted Tally the focus of my life totally changed.  I fell into depression, not so much because of the dog, rather mourning for my life as it had been.  I diagnosed myself with post-canine depression.

I relied on eating to get me through.  I'm not talking fast food binges or M&M's in the couch cushions (though I do cop to the occasional checkout counter Twix bar) but eating too much,   too often out of stress.  Not junk, real food, most often healthfully prepared by me, but too much of it. Also too much wine, too much dark chocolate and too much caffeine.  I was having trouble sleeping.  When I'm overly stressed I get that mind racing thing that can keep sleep away for hours.  Then came the back injury, that just exacerbated everything else that was going on.

If you're reading this blog, you know exactly how rotten it is to have to lose weight that you already lost.  How disheartening it is when all your pretty clothes start feeling too tight and you start relying on your loosest fitting things so you can hide.  Ugh, sick of living in my yoga pants!  So I stressed about that, too, and for awhile there I didn't know how I was going dig myself out.

Then came the blog post that changed everything.  Ann Marie at CHEESESLAVE posted about how she kicked her wine and chocolate habit through the use of amino acid supplementation.  As I was reading, I knew it was exactly what I needed to read at exactly the right time.  Have a read of her post, it may be of help to you, too.

I did some more reading on amino acids for depression, anxiety, food cravings and pain (I still have twinges in my back, hip and legs post injury.)  I ordered GABA, DLPA and tryptophan (I already take a B complex, vitamin D and cod liver oil every day.) The package from Swanson was waiting for me when we returned from our trip.  I started taking the supplements immediately, GABA 500mg 3x/day along with the DLPA 500mg 2x/day and the tryptophan one hour before bed.

GABA is a miracle supplement, they should put it in the water supply, I'm not kidding.  I'm on day 10 of no caffeine/sugar/chocolate/wine/processed wheat and I'm smiling.  No more stress eating, no more road rage, no more unconscious cuticle picking until my fingers bleed, no more snapping at Rob and Tally at the drop of a hat, no more racing night brain, I drop off easily and stay asleep.  I've become as serene and go with flow as this Type A Virgo control freak can be and it's awesome.  The best thing is,  no more (emotional or physical) cravings for chocolate, caffeine and wine. 

I won't stay off coffee, wine and chocolate forever, that would be unreasonable.  But like Ann Marie put it so perfectly, " I love wine and chocolate. I will continue to enjoy them. On occasion. Now I’m free to indulge when I want to — and not on a daily basis because I can’t help myself."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Destin Highlights

It's no wonder they call it the Emerald Coast!  Though I didn't take this picture, it certainly does do the beach some justice.  Destin is beautiful and we had a wonderful trip.  Hard to believe, but it really does look that good...

It was the perfect opportunity for Rob and I to reconnect.  He's been traveling so much lately and I've been working a lot and add Tally to the mix and we definitely needed a romantic getaway.  And it was romantic, so you'll understand when I tell you that my camera never made it out of my bag because we were too busy holding hands.  ;)

I'll give you the highlights, though.  As you can see from the above photos, the gulf coast of the Florida panhandle has some amazing beaches.  The sand is like sugar and the water has so many shades of blue and green it is mesmerizing.  We took lots of long walks on the beach, we had a breakfast beach picnic at sunrise one morning and had a full-on beach day where we swam in the surf and a wave knocked down my bathing suit top and I flashed the beach.  Good thing it was quiet, that's what I love most about going to the beach this time of year.

As soon as we arrived, we visited Sarah K's Gourmet  for our first night's dinner.  It's a six hour drive and after a long walk on the beach, we didn't want to go to a restaurant.  We picked up some food to heat up at the condo.  Sarah K is known for her award winning crab cakes and while they are delicious, I just don't get the appeal of crab or cakes made thereof.  The real star was the orange chicken.  Anyone can make a breaded cutlet but I am still dreaming of the magical orange cream sauce.  We also shared the brownie for dessert.  I jotted down a note on the back of the business card after my first bite.  It reads:  Holy shit, that brownie!  It tastes like something that Ina Garten would make just for you.  It had a mocha ganache topping that was outrageous.  We went on my birthday so get another to have for dessert that evening.

My birthday dinner was happy hour at Cuvee Bistro, which was more like happy hours.  Very happy hours!  $5 top shelf martinis and half price appetizers at the bar.  We bellied up, had a few drinks, chatted and shared a flatbread and beef sliders.  It was such a fun and lively atmosphere, we look forward to going back.  

And when we do, we want to stay at the Henderson Park Inn, which caught our eye while driving into town.  We stopped in and had a look around.  It's adult only, smoke free with tons of included amenities.  Doesn't it just look heavenly?

Another highlight was my birthday breakfast at the Donut Hole Bakery Cafe.  They don't have a website but they do have the most delicious corned beef hash with which I had two perfectly poached eggs.  So good, I didn't even want a donut, if you can believe it.  We did go back and get them for our sunrise beach picnic and the coconut donut was yummy.

Aside from being way too short, just 3 nights, it was a beautiful trip. The extra weight bothered me some which I will address in another post along with another of what I'm doing about it.  So stay tuned and have a wonderful weekend.