Monthly Archives: March 2012

Things I have learned about diet and exercise

For the first time ever here I’m not posting a recipe.  I’ve said many times I could write a book on weight loss/fitness/good eating strategies.  But really… most of us could right?  I mean, not at the age of 18.  Maybe not even at 29.  But, seeing as I just turned 30 last week I’m feeling very wisdom-y and thought I could do no better deed today than share all those tidbits I’ve gleaned over the years with you all.  That or I could clean up our front yard so our neighbors aren’t annoyed with us, the yardworkaphobes, anymore.  But I digress.

The thing about all the weight loss/fitness books on the market is that not one of them is going to work for everyone.  Because everyone is different.  Not just how our bodies metabolize food but how our brains work, how we think, what we are motivated by.

So…recognizing that this little bulleted list might apply to no one in particular besides myself, here goes nothin’.

On exercise…

  • Everyone has time to exercise.  Not everyone considers it a priority.  If you want your health to improve and lose excess weight it’s not about finding time, it’s about making time.  Ideally about an hour a day at least three to four days a week.  Five to six if you’re trying to get in shape.
  • Start slowly.  Work your way up to longer, more frequent workouts.  You’re not going to go from couch potato to fitness star in a week.
  • People who exercise in the morning are, on average,  the most regular exercisers.  Why?  I think this one’s obvious.  By the time you get out of work you’re more often than not either tired, cranky, or have a million other things to do.  It’s easy to blow off your workout if you put it at the end of your day.
  • When you love your workout, it makes being committed to a fitness plan so much easier to stick to.  I’m a big fan of group exercise classes for a lot of reasons.  Being around other people makes you more aware of how intensely you’re working and makes it less likely you’re going to slack off in the middle when you start to fatigue.  It can also be a lot of fun if the environment is right.  (Insert plug for jazzercise here)
  • Have an exercise buddy.  Because exercise is more fun when you have a friend to sweat it out with.
  • On the topic of finding something you love – if what you love about your fitness activity of choice is that it’s not that hard (I’m going to use the example of going for a walk, the classic “it’s better than nothing” exercise in my book), find another workout.  You get out what you put in.
  • Don’t be an “all or nothing” person.  This strategy generally doesn’t jive with real life.  This mindset also sets you up for failure and possible injury if you have unrealistically high expectations starting out.  Set realistic expectations and stick with it.

On eating…

  • Getting overeating/bad eating habits under control is not so much about doing something different as it is about being someone different.  If you change your habits you will probably see good results.  But unless you have also changed the way you think about food, habits can easily revert.
  • You have to emotionally distance yourself from food.  This is probably the hardest thing to do but the most important.  If your sanity rests on whether or not you get to have a brownie after dinner that should send up a red flag.
  • On that note – don’t use food as a reward.  Find something else you love to reward yourself/console yourself with.
  • Try not to get overwhelmed with advice.  (Irony, check.)  We’ve all heard those “easy little tips” to help you lose weight, right?  (Put your fork down in between bites.  Drink a glass of water before your meals.  Use a smaller plate to trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more.  Etc.)  They’re great, most of them.  But just pick, like, one to focus on, okay?  Once that’s second nature to you, maybe try another one.
  • DO track your calories.  It’s a real eye opener.  Even if you eat very healthy foods you can still be eating too much.  Possibly WAY too much as I found out after gaining 60 lbs during my last pregnancy.  Tracking forces you to be aware of all the little bites here and there and how they add up.  There are many free websites and apps that you can use to do this.
  • Tracking calories also helps you see trends in your consumption so that you can plan ahead for parties and going out.  Being healthy and trim does NOT mean you can’t enjoy life and the food that goes with it!  If you know one thing about me it’s that I love food and recognize it as one of the primary ways that we celebrate life.  I would never recommend someone forgo all that joy.  Just be cognizant of what you’re putting in your body and plan on how you’re going to balance it all out.
  • Plan what and how much you’re going to eat before the food is in front of your face.  And then stick to it.  That’s a lot better than getting to the end of the meal and going, “Whoa.  I ate five pieces of pizza?”
  • Say it out loud.  Or post it on your facebook.  Whatever.  Make your intentions real and you will be less likely to try and rationalize your way out of doing what you had planned for yourself later.  (Does five pieces of pizza sound like a reasonable amount to you?)
  • Variety is the spice of life – unless you’re trying to curb how much you eat.  The more choices you have, the more you are likely to consume.  I’ve read of studies that confirm this and I can tell you from personal experience this is true for me.  Every meal can’t be a buffet.  Have a main and a veggie or fruit, a small dessert, and call it quits.
  • Don’t eat foods you hate just because someone tells you they should be part of your diet plan.  That doesn’t work.  If your body and your life are going to change you have to be truly satisfied with your meals or you’ll set yourself up for mental/emotional torment.
  • Eat until you are 80% full.  So Confucius say.  Good one to live by.
  • Moms – don’t eat off your kids’ plates after you’re done with your meal.  Easy way to rack up several hundred extra calories mindlessly.  And for what?  So you don’t have to put it in the fridge?  Surely there are more satisfying ways to consume calories.
  • Also moms – when you go to a restaurant you’re not fooling anyone by ordering a salad.  You know you’re just waiting to pick fries and the ends of grilled cheese sandwiches off the kids’ plates.  Do yourself a favor and order something you actually want – something so yummy it makes the kids’ food look undesirable – and box up half immediately for tomorrow.
  • Have dessert.  Just keep it small.  My rule is 150 calories for an “everyday” dessert.  Feeling like you’re depriving yourself is a one-way ticket to emotional overeating.
  • And lastly – don’t weigh yourself.  At least not often.  I think once a week is overkill.  The number does not mean ANYTHING.  And it has the power to wreck your day if you let it.  What matters is how you look, how you feel, how your clothes fit.  Those are the things that matter and you don’t need a bathroom scale to tell you those things.  We all know how to manipulate the bathroom scale.  Why bother?  It’s nonsense.  Even BMI is a terrible way of determining your fitness level and overall health.  It only takes into account weight and height with no regard for muscle mass.  You can be the same height and weight (and therefore have the same BMI) as the gal next to you but look completely different because of muscle mass.  (I’m not making this up, this exact situation happened to me once.)

That’s it.  Thanks for indulging me!  See you in a few days with more food!

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Gluten Free Pizza Dough (for thicker crust)

Ready for the most monochromatic post ever?

Me neither.  That’s a naked gluten free pizza crust I made the other day.  And it’s awesome.  My husband can’t stop singing it’s praises.  But it looks pretty dull with nothing on it.  So let’s just look and see some of the mouth watering things you can do with this crust instead of being blinded by all it’s whiteness.  There’s this…

or this…

or this…

or this (nom)…

(insert Homer Simpson food noise here)…

getting hungry yet???…

I die now.

You get the point.  This is a blank canvas perfect for carrying any toppings you like.  For the last couple years we had been using the recipe for thin crust pizza dough in Gluten Free Girl‘s cookbook.  There’s a post on here dedicated to it.  It’s a pleasure to work with and produces a good really really thin, crunchy crust.  If that’s what you’re into.  But my husband wanted something more like those beautiful crusts  you see above you.  Something with a little chew to it.  Something poofier.

I experimented for weeks before I was happy with this recipe.  There are probably other similar recipes out there.  But for me, the learning experience is valuable in and of itself so experiment I did.  And I’m glad because it brought me to this.

Here’s what you need – potato starch, sweet rice flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, salt, sugar, yeast, olive oil, 1 egg and 1 egg white.

Go grab your scale.  You’ll need to measure out 170 grams of potato starch…

…100 grams sweet rice flour…

…and 230 grams Sorghum Flour.   That’s it for the flour mix.  Could we use the GF flour mix I use for like, everything else???  Probably.  But for “bready” things (as opposed to cakey things) Sorghum is a really great base flour.  It’s probably the closest of the GF flours when it comes to mimicking the texture of wheat breads.   The potato starch keeps it light while the sweet rice flour ties the two together nicely.

Oh, and what’s that weird bowl I have on my scale I hear you asking?  That’s actually the bowl that goes in my bread machine.  You don’t have to use a bread machine to make this dough.  I use this for purely logistical reasons I’ll explain in a minute.

Next, add in 1/2 Tbsp of salt…

…a Tbsp sugar…

… and a Tbsp of Xanthan Gum.

Now whisk up all your dry ingredients so they’re nice and homogenous.   Make a well in the center for our wet ingredients.  (From here on out my pictures are not going to accurately demonstrate how I normally do this.  I was attempting to show you how to make this the normal way, in a bowl with a mixer, not the way I do it, following the bread machine instructions.).

Add 1 1/3 cups warm water.  About the temp of a hot shower.

My “well” didn’t work so well in the bread mixer.  That’s okay.  Next, (and this is not shown because I was obviously not thinking at the time) in a small bowl lightly beat together one egg and one egg white.  Add that to the water in your well.

Lastly, sprinkle 2 1/4 tsp yeast all over the top.  Let it sit a couple minutes and get foamy and happy.

And finally, pour in 1/4 cup olive oil.

This is the point where you’d turn on your mixer and let it go until it’s smooth.  The dough won’t get to the point where it’s not sticky anymore the way a wheat dough would.  You also really can’t over mix it as there is no gluten to overwork.  So no worries!  Just mix it until it’s all together.  As for me, I’m just going to set my machine to “dough” and let it do it’s thing.

This is why I use the bread machine for my gluten free dough.  My Kitchenaid mixer (with the dough hook) is simultaneously being used to make wheat pizza dough.  We ❤ pizza night at our house.  It’s pretty much the only night of the week we don’t have to fight over who’s eating what.

This is my dough after letting it rise in a warm place for about an hour.  (If you are doing this in a regular bowl you’ll want to oil and cover the dough while it rises.)  It will still be soft and sticky.  This will make two large pizza crusts.  I usually just take half, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer to use on another day.

So to make your crust, grab a sheet of parchment paper and put a pizza stone in a 450 degree oven to preheat.  Grab half your dough a start spreading  into a large circle.

I work in a circular motion, working the dough thinner and thinner (remember it will rise in the oven!).

Gettin’ there.

There!  That looks good.  Now just slide the parchment paper onto the preheated pizza stone and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

And voila!  Pizza crust that’s ready for anything you want to put on it.  I’ve eaten it recently and it tastes like pizza.  Like the, “if you didn’t tell me it was gluten free I wouldn’t have known” kind of pizza.  YES.

Just about the best compliment a gluten free baker can get!

Enjoy!

Gluten Free Pizza Dough (for thicker crust)

230 grams Sorghum Flour

170 grams Potato Starch

100 grams Sweet Rice Flour

1/2 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp Xanthan Gum

1 1/3 cups warm water

1 egg and 1 egg white, lightly beaten

2 1/4 tsp yeast

1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In bowl of stand mixer whisk together first six ingredients and make a well in the middle.

Pour water and the beaten eggs into the well and sprinkle yeast on top.  Let the yeast ripen for 5-10 minutes (until it gets foamy).

Pour in the olive oil and mix your dough on low speed until it comes together, maybe 3-4 minutes.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the dough, cover with a dish cloth or paper towel and leave to rise in a warm place.  In the winter I turn my oven on for about 20 seconds, turn it off, and then put my dough in and shut the door.  The few seconds the oven is on is enough to raise the temperature from the normal 65 of my house to around 80.  Perfect for making happy yeast.

Let it rise for at least an hour.  Put a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  Remove half the dough from the bowl and spread into a large circle on a sheet of parchment paper until very thin and uniform.  Put parchment paper on the preheated stone and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

This recipe makes two large crusts.  If not using both immediately, excess dough can be wrapped and placed in refrigerator for a day or can be frozen and used later.  I have no idea how long it will keep.  We always seem to need the freezer dough within a week :p

Makes two one-pound balls of dough

 

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Filed under Breads

Fresh Lemon Curd

Easter bunny?

Yeah, I know.  Easter’s still like  a month away.  But Wegmans has beautiful pastel displays featuring the most glorious looking chocolates so it put me in the mood to start Easter planning.

I start early every year.  We host 20+ people so it’s kind of a must.

Oh, and those Easter decorations?  Been sitting in my kitchen since last Easter.  Once it got to be November and I still hadn’t figured out where to store them I figured at least they wouldn’t get lost in the basement, right?

Right.  So anyway, lemon curd.  Not the most appealing name, I know.  But it is so wonderful.  Bright and tart, not too sweet, not too sour.  It’s basically lemon meringue pie filling but better.  I made it for the first time a couple years ago. I folded meringue and whipped cream into it to make a lusciously light mousse.  Then I layered it with cubes of pound cake and fresh raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries to make the most amazing trifle ever.

And did I mention how much cheaper it is to make at home than buy it in the little jars they sell at the store?  MUCH.  And I think we can use all the help in that area that we can get.

Here’s what we need to get started – 3 XL eggs, 3 XL egg yolks, a stick of butter, sugar, a teeny bit of salt, and a couple/few lemons.  My lemons were large so you may need more than two (up to four).  There are a ton of lemon curd recipes out there.  Some only use egg yolks, some don’t use butter, some use less sugar, etc.  This recipe is a combination of a couple that I’ve come across.

You’re also gonna need to set up a double boiler.  If you have a double boiler already, good for you, use that.  Otherwise –  it’s worth monkeying around a few minutes with different sized bowls and pots until you find two that work together well.  It’s important – you want to be able to put about an inch of water in the pot, set the bowl on top, and have the bottom of the bowl NOT be touching the water.  You also want the pot to come up the sides of the bowl high enough so that when you put your ingredients in they aren’t any higher than the pot line.  I know, that was awkwardly explained.  You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

Now that we’ve got that figured out it’s time to zest our lemons.  Remove all the yellow zest without grating off the bitter white pith beneath.  And please, try try try not to zest your finger.  Owie.

NAKED LEMONS!!!  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

I don’t know about you guys but it drives me insane when I finish zesting a lemon and most of the coveted zest is hopelessly stuck in the zester.  I now keep a little toothbrush in my utensil drawer specifically for getting most of it out and into the bowl.

Next, we’re going to halve our lemons and squeeze out all the juice.  This is easier if your lemons are room temp.

There’s our lemon juice.  We should have 1/2 cup.  If you don’t have half a cup, squeeze another lemon until you get there.

Now, to our lemon juice and zest we’re going to add our egg yolks…

…our whole eggs, a pinch of salt…

…and a cup of sugar.

And we’re gonna whisk that all together.  Meanwhile, put an inch of water in your pot and set it over high heat.

Once the water is simmering, carefully set your bowl into the pot and turn the heat down to low.  We actually don’t want the water at a full boil (as the pic shows, I know, oops).  Double boiling is a gentle heating process.

Okay there.  See how my lemon mixture is right about at the line of the pot?  That’s good.  If it were higher, the mixture at the top wouldn’t be getting heated by the steam underneath.  Even with constant whisking that’s just inefficient.  This is good.  If I were making a larger quantity I’d need to grab a bigger pot and almost certainly a different bowl.  C’est la vie.

Now, we’re going to leave this on the stove, whisking (almost) constantly until it thickens.  The whisking keeps the curd from getting unevenly heated and lumpy.

And now, for your benefit, a quick bit of backstory (if anyone else just heard Doofenshmirtz’ voice in your head, cheers, you’re my kind of girl).

This is the point where I was sure I had done something wrong the first time I made it.  I watched a video where they said that this step would take about 10 minutes.  Ten minutes my butt.  It takes me just a bit over 20 to get the curd thickened.  I remember whisking and whisking, going waaaay, past the ten minute mark going, “I don’t know.  Is it thickened yet?  Is this the way it’s supposed to be?  It doesn’t look thick like when Tyler did it on the video.”  Trust me – when it thickens up – you’ll know.  It’s obvious.  This picture was taken at 20 minutes in.  Still thin and soupy as when we started.  But hot.  You’re almost there though you would never know it unless you’ve done this a few times.

Then suddenly, it changes.  And all is right in the world.  It becomes thick like hot pudding and paler in color.  You’ll be able to see distinct whisk marks in it when you stir.  Now, you can take it off the heat.  Hard part’s done!  Hooray!

Okay, last step.  Cut up the stick of butter into chunks…

…and whisk it into the curd, chunk by chunk until it’s all melted and incorporated.  Taste it now.  It’s totally divine.

As you can see, this recipe makes just a bit under 3 cups.  Now you can use the curd as a cake filling, a tart or pie filling.  You can mix it with meringue and whipped cream to make an awesome lemon mousse.  Or you can just eat it by the spoonful.  I made this yesterday in prep for a larger project which I shall share with you in a couple weeks in the Decorator’s Corner.  Until then –

Enjoy!

 

Fresh Lemon Curd

3 extra large eggs

3 extra large egg yolks

zest of 2 lemons (at least 2 teaspoons but more is okay)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup sugar

a pinch of salt

1 stick of butter

Instructions:

Set up double boiler.  Put an inch of water in a pot.  Set a mixing bowl in the pot.  The bowl should sit high enough that it does not touch the water but low enough so that the lemon curd will sit below the level of the top of the pot.

Zest and juice lemons until you have 1/2 cup of juice.

Add whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt to lemon juice and zest.  Whisk to combine.

Set pot of water over high heat until simmering.  This will only take a couple minutes with an inch of water inside.  Once simmering, carefully place bowl on top and turn heat down to low.

Whisk (almost) constantly until curd thickens.  Expect this to take around 20 minutes.  When the curd thickens it will have the consistency of hot pudding and it will turn a more pale yellow.  Remove from the heat.

Whisk in the butter, a tablespoonful at a time, until melted and fully incorporated.

Use as you would wherever “bottled lemon curd” is called for.  Stays good in the fridge for 3 weeks.  Makes just under 3 cups.

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Maple Dijon Pan Sauce

I’ve been in a dinner rut lately.

I know.  Crazy right?

It’s been busy at our house the past couple months.   Even more than usual, I guess.  It’s birthday season for us.  Following the holidays we have a slew of birthdays in our immediate and extended local family so I do a lot of prep for those.   Which really just means I get to think about decorating cakes all the time.

So anyway, after a few weeks of the same last minute dinners  I was determined to make something really great with just what I had in the house.

I’ll say it again – a well stocked pantry = happiness.

So last night we had this wonderful,  pan seared, then roasted, pork tenderloin with an intensely flavored sweet and savory pan sauce.  Best part is it’s all done in one pan so there’s less clean up.

Let’s grab our ingredients shall we?

Here’s what you need:  some olive oil, maple syrup, dijon mustard, whole grain dijon mustard, chicken broth, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, heavy cream, and two cloves of garlic.  Oh, and the pork tenderloin.  That’d be good.

First things first – pat down every square inch of the surface of the meat.  When you stick it in the pan you don’t want any excess moisture getting in the way of a beautiful brown sear.

Generously sprinkle the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper all over both sides of the pork.

Set your oven to 400 degrees.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a cast iron pan (or any oven safe pan) over Med-High to High heat until the oil faintly smokes.  Add the meat immediately and leave it there for a minute.  We want to get the bottom nice and brown.  Flip and keep searing in this way until the whole outside is golden brown and lovely.

Mmm.  Like that.  Once you’ve got the outside totally seared, pop the pan into the preheated 400 degree oven.  You want to cook it until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.  (If you don’t already have a digital probe thermometer I implore you – buy one for yourself.  They’re the coolest things ever!  You stick the probe into the meat before it goes in the oven and it’s connected by an oven safe cord to the digital readout device thingy that sits on your counter top.  You can see as your meat temp goes up degree by degree.  Essential to getting the timing right!  I will never go back!)

While the meat is cooking through, now would be a good time to prep your sides (if you’re having any, I assume you are).  We had some scratch mashed potatoes and green salads.  Simple stuff.

Here ’tis straight out of the oven.  I want to say that took about 15 minutes.  But do not go by the time – go by the temperature.  So important.

Now, the next step is the easiest and one of the most important ones but it’s the one we all forget (or choose not to follow) once in a while.  Let the meat REST.  10 minutes.  Go.  Get busy with your sauce.  You’ve got other stuff to do.

Mince your garlic…

And throw it in the pan with all the drippings from the meat.  Can you tell I let my pan get too cool?  Oops.  Your pan should be HOT.  Like, take it out of the oven and put it back on the burner over Med-High heat.  (Word of warning  – remember to use your oven mitts when you grab that pan out of the oven.  I know, it sounds like common sense.  But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at that pan handle in the oven and reached my bare hand out to grab it like usual.  ::Facepalm::  Don’t be like me.)  Cook it for just under a minute.

Next, pour in a cup of chicken broth…

…a tablespoon of each of the mustards…

…and a couple glugs of pure maple syrup (about 1/4 cup).  Let that simmer down until it’s reduced to about a half a cup.  Usually if we want a sauce thickened we turn to flour or cornstarch.  And those methods are fine and perfect for many applications.  But in this case, with a mild pork tenderloin, I wanted to amp up the flavor.  Reducing does that nicely.

Finally, we’re going to pour in just a little bit of cream to round out the flavor.  Not enough to make the sauce creamy, just a couple tablespoonfuls.  Taste your sauce now and add salt and pepper to taste.  Remember you salted the pork already so the drippings are salty to begin with.

Slice up your pork into 1/2 inch slices.

And pour that wonderful sauce all over the pork.  This pork is tender and juicy.  The sauce is savory and sweet.  Pair with some mashed potatoes and a green somethingorother and you’re good to go!  Restaurant quality dinner on the table in about half an hour (ehh…maybe 40 minutes)!

Enjoy!

Pork Tenderloin with Maple Dijon Pan Sauce

1 Pork Tenderloin

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

For the sauce:

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup chicken broth

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 Tbsp Whole Grain Mustard

1/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup

2 Tbsp Heavy Cream

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pat pork dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle all sides generously with salt and pepper.

Heat canola oil on Med-High heat in a cast iron (or other oven-safe) pan just until the oil faintly smokes.

Using tongs, place pork in pan and sear for at least one minute without moving it, or until bottom is golden brown.  Flip and repeat until all sides are seared.

If you have a probe thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the pork.   Move pan into preheated oven.  Remove when thermometer reaches 155 degrees.  (Watch it as it’s getting close – the temp goes up really fast towards the end so being a minute or two off makes a big difference in the juiciness of the meat.)  If you don’t have a probe thermometer, check with the old fashioned kind after about 15 minutes.

Move the pork to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes without cutting into it.  Put the pan with all the drippings back onto the burner over Med-High heat.

Mince the garlic.   Add to drippings in pan and saute for 1 minute.

Add chicken broth, mustards, and maple syrup.  Allow to cook down until reduced to about 1/2 a cup.  Add the cream and taste before seasoning with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the pork into 1/2″ slices and pour sauce over the pork.

Serves 4.

 

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Filed under Main Dishes