This ‘n’ That

I got lots to talk about. First, I thought I’d share a few more pictures of the trees changing color in my yard. It was a very short season of color, but I enjoyed every moment of it.

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Red Emperor with Lemon Lime in front:

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That’s the dogwood to the left. Even if it doesn’t bloom in the spring, it is always beautiful in the fall.

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Recipes and foodie ideas. Lately I’ve been trying out some new recipes. I saw an old picture on my computer which looked like I was trying to make some cranberry-pecan scones. I looked through my blogs, and apparently I never posted anything about it. So I did a google search for cranberry pecan scones and came upon this recipe. When I saw it was from Prevention magazine, I thought it might be slightly healthier than other recipes. It wasn’t as low cal as I usually try for, mostly because it had more nuts and cranberries than I would usually add. I LOVED this recipe. I realized at the end that it had absolutely no sugar in it, so I made a small amount of sugar glaze to put on it at the end. Of course I made a few substitutions. I actually didn’t have enough pecans, so I used walnuts. And I didn’t have whole wheat flour, so I ground some oats in my mini food processor and used that instead. I really like the way oats taste in baked goods.

Then a couple of weeks later, I wanted some real banana nut muffins. And I found this recipe.I liked it too! The title said they were healthy. Once again I ground oats to use as the flour. I did use about 1/4 cup of regular wheat flour. Oh, and I didn’t have maple syrup so I substituted honey. But I did make a note to myself that they were too sweet. So I will try again without the honey after I finish all of these.

I’m eating more eggs. I like them scrambled for dinner with some onions, potatoes, spinach, and sometimes a few bacon crumbles.

One day I wanted some salsa. And even though I haven’t made it for ages, I suddenly remembered how easy it was to make. I put two roma tomatoes and one slice of onion in the mini food processor. I added salt and pepper and some cilantro, and then just a bit of balsamic vinegar. YUMM!!!

Sunday I had my sister and her husband over for a pre-Christmas dinner. I get occasional emails from a dietician, Vincci Tsui. She has changed from a “diet” dietician to a HAES dietician, which is interesting. Anyway, one day she mentioned this gingerbread cake. It caught my eye because the recipe was from a famous quilter who used to be a food blogger. So I made the cake. It was moist and delicious. I did not make any substitutes for this recipe. I found a buttercream recipe and iced it with that.

Well, its Christmastime and for me that means baking a few things. I forget how much I enjoy baking. To keep things under control, I limit myself to making one kind of cookie and one candy (which is always my grandma’s cinnamon walnuts.) This year I found a recipe for traditional scottish shortbread, which seemed exactly the same as the one our grandma used to make. You have to work all the butter into the dough with your fingers. Which takes a long time. Anyway, they came out perfect. It was a fun gift for my sister–two of our grandma’s favorite confections. I also made my mom’s favorite fruitcake. I know. Nobody likes fruitcake. But honestly, if you saw the recipe (lots of butter) and smelled the house (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and brandy) you would like it too! Its not so filled with that stupid fruit. I only put some of the cherries, and dates and pecans in it. And then you put a little brandy on it every day for two weeks (or until you have to take it to your mom’s.)

The takeover. I have a small log holder next to my wood stove. But several years ago, the girls claimed it as the best most warmest spot in the house. So I made a pillow to fit in it for them. Bess usually occupies the spot (because Sophie would rather be on my lap) but occasionally Sophie gets first dibs. I couldn’t believe it when Bess very gingerly stepped up onto the throne in an attempt to takeover the spot. There was no fighting or carrying on. Just a gentle takeover.

 

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Well, that’s quite long enough for now. If I don’t post again, I hope you all have a Wonderful Peaceful Merry Christmas.

The Lemon Tree and the Dog

**WARNING: dessert talk ahead**

My mom and I used to be best friends. And then we weren’t. And if you used to watch Oprah, and you believe what the experts on that show said, its not healthy for mother and daughter to be best friends. I remember hearing that, and understanding what the expert meant.

Over many years, my mom and I have worked on repairing (restoring?) our relationship. Its been trial and error. Help has come from unexpected places. One of the few things my mom and I have in common is our love of plants. So that is always a safe bet for birthday/mother’s day presents. A couple of years ago, I got her a little Meyer lemon tree. I wanted one myself, but it freezes in the winter up here, and since she lives in the bay area, I knew she would have good luck with it. Sure enough, her very first year, she had a nice little crop of Meyer lemons in January. She harvested them and then gave them to me. I told her I would make her some lemon goodies. This turned out to be such a fun thing for both of us. It gave me the rare opportunity to do some traditional baking, and try new recipes, and she got the benefit of some very delicious homemade lemon treats. This year she had an even bigger crop. There were enough to make three lemon desserts. I googled “Meyer lemon recipes,” and chose a Meyer lemon cake, a Meyer lemon pie, and these wonderful, Lemon Creme Crumb bars. 

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Cooking the lemons for the cake.

The cake is so interesting, because it has an almond meal base, and you actually cook the lemons and then process them whole (except the seeds) into a paste that you use in the cake batter. It was a delicious, dense and moist cake. Very sweet, but to me it did have a bit of a sour taste. I think it would depend on how sensitive you are to “sour.”

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The pie is one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever seen. Most of the time you have to cook the lemon custard or curd, and then put it in the pre-baked pie crust. This one you just combine the four ingredients (lemon juice, sugar, butter, and eggs) in a blender, and pour into the unbaked pie crust. I used my large muffin tin to make six small “pies.” Yumm.

The Crumb bars is a repeat–a recipe I made with last year’s harvest of lemons. So ridiculously decadent. I had so much fun baking. And especially that each recipe came out very successfully. I save one or two pieces of each for myself, and box the rest up to take down to my mom. The whole thing feels like a project for the two of us to work on together.

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About a year ago, I started worrying about what my mom would do when her old cat died. She doesn’t actually deal very well with death and grief. So one day, at our local shelter, I saw that they had a little Pug/Chihuahua cross. I had actually met a couple of little dogs of this cross, and they had delightful personalities. So I asked my mom if she would consider adopting her. I guaranteed her that if it didn’t work out, I would take the dog myself (all the while hoping against hope that it WOULD work out!)

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My favorite picture–a mutual admiration society!

Well, not only has that little dog changed her life for the better (they walk a couple of times a day, and my reclusive mom has made so many friends in the park that she lives in, its almost unbelievable!,) but it has also been another thing for us to connect about. I get to hear almost daily about how this is the best dog in the whole wide world, and about her antics, and about how much she loves my mom, and how much my mom loves her. I don’t mind. If she doesn’t write for a day or two, I write and ask for a “Boopsie report.” It has really given us common ground for communication.

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The picture my mom approves–a little more dignified.

 

A Foodie Report

A few weeks ago, I was enticed by Lori’s report of a crockpot enchilada recipe. I finally made those enchiladas, but I didn’t use the crockpot. Or the recipe. I just winged it. Quite yummy, but not exactly low calorie. About 200 calories per enchilada, but so far I’m eating them two at a time… I like them best with some fresh tomatoes and romaine lettuce.

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I was writing some recipe blogs for The Quilt Show, and got some good pictures for that. Here’s my take on strawberry pancakes. Perfectly legit “diet” breakfast. Only about 250 calories for these yummy protein pancakes topped with fresh strawberries, and a few mashed strawberries mixed with SF syrup.

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Here’s another take on the frozen yogurt granola bars. This time with granola, fresh peaches, frozen cherries, and a few walnuts and chocolate chips for good measure.

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The great pumpkin season has started! I made my first batch of Pumpkin Custard a couple of nights ago. At 100 calories per serving, its good for dessert, a snack, or even breakfast. And the house smells DELICIOUS  while its baking. Oh, and I also tried Diane’s recipe for baked apple slices. Totally indulgent. And you get the good house smell as well.

Tonight I made pizza. I always make it the same way. I use the Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough, measure out the toppings, and keep a running count of the calories, and then divide by the number of slices I cut. It usually comes out to about 200 calories per slice. And as I said on Helen’s blog, I had a mini-food tantrum (c. Helen) and ate two slices of pizza for dinner, skipped the salad. There were lots of veggies on that pizza 🙂 (this one had mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers, fresh tomato slices, and basil, with fresh mozzarella and a sprinkle of asiago cheese.)

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Sophie loves food too, and has to work at keeping that svelte figure. Recently she changed from eating pink flowers to snacking in the herb garden in an attempt to increase her daily greens.

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Its very fun to be creative with food! Have a great weekend–get in the kitchen and try something new!

About that Low-Fat, Sugar-Free Baking

Its not the same. You know that, right? When you see those 37 calorie brownies on Facebook, they are not the same as the 900 calorie brownies that you can also see on Facebook. Without sugar and fat, baked goods might look the same, but they do not taste the same. They do not have the same mouth feel. They also do not leave you with the never-ending wanting for MORE.

The "37 calorie brownies." (I ran them through calorie count and they are closer to 50 calories...that's another thing. Don't take anybody's word for the calorie count that seems too good to be true. Check it out for yourself.) I did follow this recipe. My brownies looked nothing like the picture on Facebook.

The “37 calorie brownies.” (I ran them through calorie count and they are closer to 50 calories…that’s another thing. Don’t take anybody’s word for the calorie count that seems too good to be true. Check it out for yourself.) I did follow this recipe. My brownies looked nothing like the picture on Facebook.

So that’s why I choose to do most of my baking low-fat and sugar free. I love the luxury of having a scone for breakfast every morning if that’s what I want. I enjoy having a brownie with some decaf coffee for my dessert in the evening. I can have both of those every day if I want to (I do not want to LOL.)

But as long as I have been doing this, I am still suckered in by the photos that look deceptively similar to their high-fat, sugar-loaded cousins. Its okay that they taste different. It would be better if you knew that before you tried them so that your first reaction is not disappointment.

Apple Custard –this was a really good recipe! It has a little fat (from whole eggs) and a little sugar (honey,) but it was not the same as “real custard” made with full fat milk and sugar. Still an excellent value at 150 calories for a large serving. It made the whole house smell delicious! I had it for dessert AND for breakfast. Not on the same day.

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Here’s the original recipe. I see that I “healthified” it quite a bit. Here’s my version.

Another Salad, and a Few Good Desserts

Oh my goodness people.  Evidently I retired just in time.  I worked out for just a few minutes before going to work (the weights were being used when I was there yesterday, so had to get these in.)  Then I went to work for Vicky.  Things were unusually busy today so my ‘work’ (I know, THREE WHOLE HOURS) involved me either standing in one place or walking around on a concrete floor.  I swear.  I was WORN OUT!!  So on the way home, I re-thought my dinner plans.  What would be quick and easy?  Ah.  Another salad.

This one was a goodie.  Chicken (again about two ounces) tossed in a bit of BBQ sauce,  half an apple, 1 ounce of fresh asiago cheese (BTW, this is good, but not nearly as flavorful as aged asiago,) and baby greens.  I made a salad dressing in the bowl of olive oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper. Yum yum yum.

Doncha love how long it takes to eat a salad?

So, I ate those refrigerator oatmeals three mornings in a row.  Quite good.  I loved the chia seeds.  I didn’t like the oats so much.  Which is weird, because I love muesli in my yogurt.  So I thought about making chia pudding.  Of course I googled it, and came up with several promising recipes.  This one looked the most promising, but I did change it up a bit.  The thing is, it is not as thick as I would think it should be.  I think I might have made a mistake and used half the amount of chia seeds.  Especially after looking at her pics again.  Anyway, it is quite tasty.  My recipe was simple:  1 cup almond milk, 1 cup plain yogurt, 4Tbsp chia seeds (this is where I think maybe I only added two,) 2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut, and 2Tbsp honey.  Put it all in one of those mason jars and stir.  I liked the idea of making a coconut pudding to use as a base for whatever I would like to add.  Here is what I added for tonight’s dessert.*

That’s only two squares of my favorite dark chocolate (50 cal.)

I never know how to take a picture of stuff like this.  It really helps to choose the right container for it.

I’ve been thinking about making some chocolate froyo for a while, so when I saw this recipe over on Katie’s blog I had to try my version.  VERY satisfying.  I used 3 frozen banana cubes, about 2 Tbsp of my homemade yogurt, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp vanilla, pinch of salt, and maybe 1/2 Tbsp of walnut butter.  The only thing I would say is that if I was more patient, I would put it back in the freezer for maybe 1/2-1 hour to let it firm up a bit.  Its always pretty melty after whirling around in my food processor.  But VERY tasty!*

I’m trying to find desserts that are very lightly sweetened, and also I am having fruit more often for dessert.  I especially am loving the big bowl of watermelon that I cut up and have handy in the fridge.*  I used Shelley’s ‘pineapple’ method to cut it up.  That worked really great!  Thanks for that idea Shelley!

*  Disclaimer:  I did not have all these desserts on the same night!