30 November 2009

Pumpkin Banana Bread.

Gina is a genius. I don't know her, but man, I can honestly say I love her! I have followed her blog since embarking on my Weight Watchers journey, and her food has yet to lead me astray.

She recently had a recipe on her site for pumpkin banana bread. I love pumpkin bread, but it's my brother's "thing", and he makes the best I've ever tasted. But I am not going home for a month still and it was necessary for me to have pumpkin bread NOW. Gina's recipe seemed like a good place to start... See for yourself...

I made a few changes to her recipe... I used diet margarine, because it's what I had in the house and it's gross on it's own. I only had two banana's, so I used a bit extra pumpkin. In sheer laziness (and my inability to tear myself away from the Sookie Stackhouse books -- finished nine last night -- Eric is the best vampire character ever), I failed to properly mash the banana's, so they all settled in the bottom of my loaf. Hence you only get a picture of the loaf itself.

I am still working with the settings on my camera, so please try to hang in there with my photos. I will get there, I am confident. After two courses at Henry's, I do think I am finally getting the hang of it, but I keep needing to refresh my memory with the notes from the course. I like this one, it's just really dark. Still haven't gotten down the whole no flash thing...

Anyway, go to Gina's site. It's fantastic!

29 November 2009

Quick Weeknight Paella.

G and I decided to have paella one night, so we bought some turkey sausage at Whole Foods and some shrimp and cooked up a quickie. It was delicious, but the sausage was once again no good. This is probably the third time that we've had sausage from Whole Foods that was less than excellent. Such a nice dinner and pretty low point!

Cooking Class #2

I seem to have deleted the photos of the last of my cooking classes. I am devastated, but will soldier on. Here's class #2...

As I have said before, each class starts with a chef's taste plate. This one was FANTASTIC!

Polenta with tomato sauce on some greens. Bring it!

After our snack, we started class with making a super quick veggie stock.

We picked up our trays...

Doesn't look like much, but it all turned into something more...


We boiled this up for about half an hour or so, then strained it thoroughly and used the stock to make soup.... We dutifully picked up our fixings for the next round...

And went back to our stations to start souping it up...

Here's the stock simmering with the butternut squash. After a spell, we wazzed it up with the immersion blender and voila! Squash soup!

From there, we made a salmon wrapped in parchment with veg...

The salmon was pretty good...especially considering I really don't like salmon...

It was cooked with red pepper and onion and had a pretty decent flavour. I really prefer salmon to be really dry and grilled. I think it's like when you first start drinking wine. You really like regular old zinfandel, but after a spell, you move on the Riojas. I think once I ease into liking dry overcooked salmon, I will start to like the softer side of salmon. Some day.

For dessert, we made pears poached in a red wine sauce. These were really really strong!

They were incredibly boozey. I brought them home and G and I had them with whipped cream. Really nice.

It was a good class. We learned to stew and steam and all those related things, and I really learned a lot from our teacher Ian...

He really worked to make it fun and informative, and I enjoyed his teaching style very much. For information on Calphalon classes, look here (and no, I don't get paid for saying it, I just loved the cooking course I took!).

28 November 2009

Chili me this Batman...

Chili. It's good. I love a big pot of chili with meat and beans and tomatoey goodness.

But G can't eat beans anymore (booooo!) and so chili has not made much of an appearance this fall. Until I decided that we would give beanless chili a go. Dare we try chili without the lovely lovely beans? Would we be forced to have it with spaghetti like Cincinnati chili? NO!

Not only does the chili not need beans, it can be full of weird stuff and still taste good. (New camera coupled with it getting dark at 4:30 means pictures are suffering once again. Sigh.)

This chili was a breeze to make, seemed a little iffy, but was absolutely delicious. I promise. REALLY! Make some...

Take some onion, carrot, yellow/red pepper, garlic, and sweet potato, chop it up to all about the same size, and cook in a little bit of cooking spray in a very hot pan. Add drips of water if it feels like it's sticking. After it's cooked for a bit, put it chili powder, oregano, dried mustard, and a sprinkle of dried ginger. Take out of the pan. Start browning the leanest ground beef you can find, breaking it up the whole while. If the meat is greasy, strain and spray with water to remove as much fat as possible (I find this is really important to ensure that any leftovers aren't overly greasy). Add the veggies and stir through. Add a big can of diced tomatoes, and heat through until a lot of the liquid has evaporated and the veggies are soft. Serve on soft polenta with a little shredded old cheddar.

We were so not sure about this one while it was cooking, but not only was it positively delicious, it was even better the next day. The chili had a bit of heat from the chili powder with just a little bit of sweet from the carrot and sweet potato. They got very soft in the cooking, so it wasn't even a little cloying. The polenta was just a nice (and low point) alternative to rice! Enjoy!

27 November 2009

Baked pasta...

Sometimes, I just can't get enough of something new that I've found that I like to eat. When that something ends up being low on the Weight Watcher's points scale, everyone's a winner.

This is my recent favorite...

It's so easy...

Take a whole wheat cheese tortellini. (If you follow points, you have to find one that fits your allotment.) Boil it until almost done, but not quite. (I made one cup (5.5 points) for just me.) While it's boiling, preheat the oven to 425. Once the pasta is done, mix in your favorite sauce (homemade or jar, up to you...the one I used was .5 points for 1/2 cup serving) and stir in a little bit of parmesan cheese. Then pour into individual ramekin, top with a bit more parmesan cheese (I used .5 ounce for the whole thing... 1.5 points) and bake for twenty minutes.

It's FANTASTIC and only 7.5 points for quite a lot of pasta. I served it with a salad with one point dressing and it was really really a filling dinner and a good comfort food warm fuzzy hug.

(About the points, I don't snack during the day, so I tend to have my points break out like this: 5 or so points for breakfast, 5 or so points for lunch, and the remaining 10 or so for dinner. This is perfect for me, as it gets me an egg sandwich (see below) or some such thing for breakfast, a tv dinner or leftovers for lunch, and then a good filling dinner. It fits the way I like to eat. I know when I've said to other people that I like something that's 10 points, they wonder how I fit it in... that's how!!!!)

25 November 2009

Diet Breakfasts.

One of the biggest changes I have made in my diet is eating breakfast. And because of I am going to eat breakfast, I want something savory, I have been making lots of breakfast sandwiches to eat as I am getting ready in the morning, or while blog reading on the weekends.

Here's a sampling...

This would be scrambled eggs on top of turkey bacon covered with diet cheese (sticks to your teeth something FIERCE) on top of a toasted Weight Watchers bagel. I am drinking out of my new travel coffee mug from Indigo. I love the "J" cozy!

Here's a closer version...

The cheese just basically plasticizes over it all. I can't imagine that this cheese food is healthy, but it's low in points, so I bought a package to give it a go. I just bought a new kind to try, so we'll see if it's any better...

This was my attempt at making a "kitchen sink" scramble:

This had leftover potato, tomato, turkey pepperoni, and a little bit of diet cheese on top of Weight Watchers english muffins. This was weird but tasty all the same!

These morning eggs are meant to fill me up, but I eat smaller versions during the week to help me get through the morning. I eat a lot of eggs, and I worry about the cholesterol but at the same time, they are just so convenient!

OH! And I've been making eggs in the microwave for sandwiches, and the Ziploc twist tupperwares, the eggs come out the right size for Weight Watchers bagels or english muffins! You basically take a plastic container and if you want, spray with just a touch of cooking spray. Then break in an egg, put in a little bit of water (or milk if you are so inclined) and salt and pepper. Scramble it up. Put it in the microwave for 45 seconds or so. Our microwave is not very strong, so I usually put it in for about 56 seconds. Put on toasted bread with some fake cheese and ketchup and five points later you're laughing!

Jack's aching stomach...

wants shepherds pie.

24 November 2009


I was just saying that I don't have enough Weight Watchers points to eat at Craftburger as often as I'd like to (which is ever), but at the end of a kick my ass Monday, nothing says good dinner like Smoke's Poutinerie.

I tried the special roast beef poutine. It was pretty good. Not great, though. The gravy was too thick and the whole thing was reallllly salty. But the fries were nice and crispy and the roast beef tasted like the boil-n-the-bag meat that my Mom used to buy D and me for lunches when we were kids. That bag of beef on wonder bread... be still my clogged artery heart!

I was kind of disappointed to be honest. I write this somewhat hesitantly (there was recently an article in Wired about food bloggers writing reviews after one visit...it made me feel bad, but then I quoted Nick Cage in Moonstruck "I ain't no paragon of virtue" and just got the hell on with it)... I wanted to love it. I wanted to be so excited to be having a big mess of fries and gravy and cheese, Weight Watchers points be damned, but I wasn't. The fries were great. The cheese was chewy and perfect. The gravy was... way to thick and kind of chickeny. If I went there again (and that would have to be in the very distant future) I would like try the mexican fries instead. Chili cheese fries were a staple of mine in my twenties...

If you've been, let me know what you thought....

Smoke's Poutinerie on Urbanspoon

Flowering Rosemary!

The rosemary in our herb garden is flowering like crazy! Here's a close-up. (Just wait until I buy my new lens... yippie!)

23 November 2009


I took this picture from our seats while we were waiting for the U2 concert to start a bit ago. This was an amazing concert. I have been a U2 fan for as long as I can remember (Under the Blood Red Sky was the first tape I ever bought with my "own" money!). I had never seen them in concert, so when I heard about this tour, I snapped up my pre-sale opportunity and two sweet spot tickets were had for not a small amount of money.

But it was worth it. The band sang one of my all time top two favorite U2 songs, "Until the End of the World" (from the movie of the same name), and I just teared up like a little girl when Bono sang, "In my dreams, I was drowning in sorrow, but my sorrows, they learned to swim". It was an amazing night. If they had also played Running to Stand Still I probably would have had cardiac arrest right there and then, so it's good that they didn't.

Back to food...

Tostada's for girls who like it to crunch. (And a sad farewell)

Yesterday, G and I went to Planet Organic up in Thornhill to do a little shopping before going to G's brother's house for lunch. We walked around and stumbled upon some baked tostadas that looked amazing. They were on sale (and only 2 points for 3 shells), we had to buy some!

So I came home, took some of our grass fed ground beef from Whole Foods, browned it up with about a third of an Old El Paso burrito mix. (Nothing but fancy at this food blogger's home, yes siree bob!) We served it with some shredded lettuce (don't gasp, I ate some too despite my hatred of hot lettuce), chopped tomato, g's fresh salsa,old cheddar, and mushed up avocado with hot sauce. Really a delicious dinner!

The tostada shells really held their own. They didn't get mushy and they had a really satisfying crunch with each bite. And I did chop up some carrot to mix with the meat and onion. Veggies were I can, you know? (I am like one of those mom's who puts "phantom" veg in everything to get the kids to eat them...in my case, I just do it to get me to eat more vegetables! G just shook her head in disbelief.)

And a sad, tearful goodbye is in order... I drank the last of my Harrod's English Breakfast tea... sad morning for this household, as this is one of my most favorite teas...

Sigh. I'll miss you delicious tea.

On the plus side, it means a trip to England is in order. STAT! (Sadly, this tea buying trip will have to wait, as for our new year holiday we have booked a cruise! I have never been on a cruise and am a bit nervous about it, but am sure it will be excellent! We are spending a couple of days in New Orleans and are interested in some good places to eat. We are thinking Nola for our "dinner out" and the Napoleon House for muffaleta's and the Joint for bbq. Thoughts? Drop me an email.)

More Cute Cat Pictures (or at least they're cute to me)

Everyone says this, but in my house it's true, we have the best cats in the entire world.

Bello sat on the edge of the table for about ten solid minutes letting me take pictures of him from all angles, trying out the new camera, focusing and moving the camera to frame the shot. He's such a calm boy, he just looks at me like "yeah, i'm good lookin'... snap away".

Beanie on the other hand...

Oh yeah, can't be bothered to even try and be presentable. She is a 100% belly to the wind kind of girl, and this is her favorite pose.

But this is probably her cutest picture ever...

She was sleeping in the giant Jacob bag (which is terrible, I know). When I moved it, not realizing she was in there, she stuck her paw out like "hey! I'm sleeping in here!" She was not pleased when I removed her and since then we have been far more careful with leaving plastic bags around.

Ahhhh, cute cats. We don't eat cats so these photos may not be the most appropriate for a food blog, but they are too cute to not share with the world. If you disagree, scroll on!

That's between me and my cardiologist... a review.

Oh yeah.


That up there is a craftburger and fries, taken with my iPhone camera. What's a girl to do when she goes to the cardiologist and is told she has old man veins and needs to drop some weight? She goes out for the best burger in Toronto... Craftburger!!!

As you can read in the Toronto Star, there are a bunch of new gourmet hamburger places springing up around the city. And no, I haven't tried them all. This little lady only has so many points on her WW plan, so there aren't many hamburgers in my days and nights right now. But, the last hurrah of good food was this lovely craft burger dinner. (Actually, on second glance, this might have been the one before the last hurrah. Regardless, it's the point of the matter not the facts of the matter, so I am sure you understand.)

Craftburger is GREAT. The meat is the perfect thickness, the buns just the right amount of give, and the toppings are fresh and tasty. It's truly the best hamburger I have had in my more than five years of living in this city, and it's the one I dream about. (Not that I am a girl who dreams about hamburgers... oh no no no no... that would be weird.... okay, maybe one dream a year...)

We did recently have a lunch and dinner (at one time) at the Gourmet Burger Company. Not nearly so good and a really unpleasant Burger King-esque repeat all night. NOT GOOD. But Craftburger.... yum.

Craft Burger on Urbanspoon

21 November 2009

It's All Good To Me -- or is it?

Gnocchi. Oh how I love thee. Yummy.

Another quick dinner. This one with a revolting twist that will not be repeated in our house ever ever ever again. We had gnocchi, and it's oddly okay on the points front, so we boiled it up and made a quick tomato sauce. We had some leftover sausage from Whole Foods (which was a bit vile to begin with, so we thought in sauce would be okay). G chopped it up and mixed it in the sauce. Spooned over the gnocchi we thought, how bad can it be?! It wasn't good. It was not good in the slightest. It was finish almost all of it but have it on repeat all night long not good.

But yeah, there it is.

(Still experimenting with the new camera...)

Onion Cat.

Bello loves his onions.

Steak Dinner.

Sometimes, you just want simple dinner. Some protein, some starch, and some sweetness. A while ago (I am so behind, it's not even funny) we had just that sort of day... and there was born, the easy steak dinner...

I was making oven fries, and I overcooked them in my efforts to ensure a crispy chip. Oh, they were crispy... I cut up the fries into wedges, coated them in cooking spray, and baked them in a single layer in a 425 degree oven.

The corn was the last I believe of our CSA summer stock. Delicious to the last. Our meat was a simple steak from our meat CSA, which I topped with a little sauce made of mushrooms, onions and butter. Really a good dinner, and on the table in 45 minutes.

05 November 2009

Turkey Gets Leftover.

Thanksgiving was a day of relaxation and cookery madness. We had so much leftover turkey that really, even with all of my efforts on the left-over sandwich front, I couldn't eat it all! So turkey tetrazzini to the rescue!

Oh yeah. And yes, you will notice on this blog that I like lots of creamy and rich food. I do. I am eating it much much less these days (and lighter easier to make versions to boot... and don't get me started on the difference reduced portion sizes make...) but I still love it.

So leftover turkey got the tetrazzini treatment. And I have to confess, I still remember clearly my first turkey tetrazzini dining experience. I was at my ex's house (when the ex was not an ex) and it was the Christmas holiday. His mom was making turkey tetrazzini out of leftovers and I was in a panic that I wasn't going to like it... but oh how wrong I was. I could have eaten the entire pan myself!

I've taken up the mantle on this recipe, and have made a lighter version of it that goes something like this...

Take about 2 cups of milk and mix in 1/3 cup flour. Whisk together then pour into a saucepan. Salt and pepper and then heat until thickens (about 10 minutes or so). Mix in a bunch of frozen peas, sauteed mushrooms cooked with onion and celery (that you've cooked up separately using a bit of cooking spray and water instead of oil), and a bunch of shredded turkey breast. Mix into that a healthy portion of broken up cooked spaghetti and mix in some cheddar cheese to taste (and if you are counting points, mix in enough to taste it while watching the difference larger portions make on the WW Recipe Builder). Place in a casserole pan big enough to contain all the delicious goodness and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the top is brown (broil it up if you need to). Then sit back and try to wipe the self-satisfied smile off your face.

I don't lie, it's just that good. It made me really happy to have this meal. It always reminds me of my ex's mom, but hey, that was a great Christmas, so no bad feelings there!

04 November 2009

Where To Start...

I think about this blog every day. I really have been torn about this post, and that's made me hesitant to write at all, which is a shame because I've got some good stuff to post. So, this is going to be my indulgent all-about-the-personal-me post...

As I've discussed here and there, I had some health scares earlier this year, and had a round of meetings with a cardiologist and lots of discussions on what could happen based on what's happening now. Let me say straight away, I am beyond blessed. Nothing's terribly wrong now. I had pericarditis, which has healed and has left no lasting damage. But the tests were concerning, and with the long history of cardiac issues in my family, I was on the alert.

The cardiologist did some carotid artery testing, and it showed more blockage than is suitable for someone my age, and my doctor said that I was going to need medication. I asked if it might be possible to control this by diet and to lose weight. He said yes, if I was willing to make the changes necessary.

So I did. Big changes. I am really proud of myself, I weigh less now than I have throughout my 30's! I think I last saw this weight in my early 20's. I haven't made any changes that have drastically altered my life and I don't plan out every single meal. So what has worked? Three things, and I am telling you in the hopes that maybe it will help you too.

#1 -- The End of Overeating by David Kessler. BRILLIANT. You must must must read this book if you have problems with your weight and overeating. I have struggled with my fast food cravings my entire life. I have convinced myself over and over that I can eat fast food, that I just need to do it in moderation. Dr. Kessler says that if you respond to food in a certain way, then there is no moderation. Moderation doesn't exist. There is do or do not, and I have decided to do not. It's become the end of my relationship with fast food, ad while I am sad to part ways with some of the most reliable friends I've ever had in mu life, I have. This issue alone was worth reading this book, but I recommend that everyone with food issues read this book.

#2 -- Wii's EA Sports Active. DOUBLY BRILLIANT! If you work without weights and stuff, this is probably not helpful to you at all, but for a girl like me, having my "trainer" make me do lunges and squats and whatnot has been amazing. I have really noticed a HUGE change in my body, more so then anything else I have ever tried, and I have done cardio all my life. I can't wait for the expansion pack later in November. I am sure there are better workouts out there, but I can do this in my living room, it's motivating, it's fun, and it kicks my butt most mornings. I am now altering doing this with some treadmill time, but it's still getting me out there and doing it, and that's golden.

#3 -- Weight Watchers Online. AMAZING! I did this before a few years ago, but now, it's just worked. I don't know if it's seeing my own arteries clogged and yucky or what, but I have really made a point to keep track of what I eat and how much I work out, and it's been great watching the weight come off. The new Momentum plan is great, and I utilize all the little aspects of doing it. I am bummed no end that I haven't gotten a Hungry plush doll since I didn't join the traditional method and I don't go to meetings, but having lost 20 pounds is a pretty good payoff. Two more to go and then we'll see. I never thought I would get to this weight again. Ain't nothin gonna break my stride.... oh no...

So there it is. We've been eating at home a ton more as a result of the diet, and it's all been great. I'm happy to share this with you (despite not wanting to make this a diet blog) because I am just really proud of myself, and for dealing with something that has been a lifelong struggle for me... And sometimes when you have good news, you just have to share it. SO GO ME!

Taking a pic of myself in order to see if the skirt looked okay. New clothes in smaller sizes are still strange... It seems the more weight I lose the more curvy I look!!!

Risotto, I love you!

Phew. It's all good. The change in eating habits (I won't say 'd-i-e-t') has been going really well. I have lost TWENTY pounds as of today. *applause and bow thank you* I have two more to go to my goal!!! Yippiee!

I've totally benefited from the world wide web and it's bevy of recipes, but none more so than Gina's Recipes, a fantastic site with amazing recipes. And it was here that I first tested her delicious and super easy risotto. I figured the points out a little differently than she did, mostly I think because of the way we calculated the wine. (For anyone doing WW, how do you calculate cooked wine in a recipe???) But the flavour was spot on, and I had it with a little baked crunchy chicken to add a protein kick to the meal...

Yummmmmmmmmy. The risotto was rich and creamy, the chicken just added that little bit extra, and I was all manner of feeling high on comfort foody goodness. I am not going to repeat the recipe here because it's hers, but I highly highly highly recommend that you go over and try it out. It's just an amazingly delicious meal.


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