recipe sharing time

I don’t think I’ve ever posted a recipe here – I don’t love to cook that much, it’s kind of just not my thing. But since we started this no-sugar, no-white-flour diet, I’ve been looking around for creative meal ideas. I dug out my old South Beach Diet cookbook, and found something that we’ve never tried before. I modified it a bit (added chicken, since the original version was vegetarian), and the end result was awesome. Seriously, Dave and I both couldn’t stop talking about it, and we loved it just as much when we had the leftovers tonight. It was fantastic. So, just in case any of y’all are also trying to eat healthy, here you go:

Whole Wheat Pasta with Eggplant and Ricotta

* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes [note: this is where I messed up; I sliced the eggplant way too thin and it basically shriveled up to nothing. So make sure you cut them into nice big chunks.]
* 8 ounces whole-wheat penne pasta – you can use regular if you want, whole-wheat is just how we roll at our house
* 1 small onion, thinly sliced
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 (14.5 ounce) can of chopped tomatoes
* 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
* 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
* salt & pepper
* fresh basil (optional)
* My addition: 1 pound of chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-size pieces. I think pork would also work (maybe pork tenderloin?), but probably not beef or fish.

1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Lightly coat a baking pan with oil (or spray with Pam). Place eggplant in the pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt & pepper, toss to coat, and spread in an even layer. Bake, stirring once, until eggplant is lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
3. While eggplant is roasting, cook pasta according to the package directions.
4. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In my version: add the chicken (or your meat of choice) and brown it. Of course, it’s not mandatory, this was just something I added, since for Dave and me, it doesn’t really feel like dinner if there isn’t meat involved.
5. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened – about 5 minutes.
6. Add garlic, cook one minute more.
7. Add tomatoes (with juice) and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes.
8. Stir in vinegar and season to taste with salt & pepper. You can also add basil if you like. I tore up a few fresh basil leaves and added them, and I think it really improved the flavor. (Plus the touch of green made the dish a little prettier.)
9. Drain pasta and place in large bowl. Add tomato mixture, eggplant, and ricotta cheese. Toss to combine, season with salt & pepper (maybe – I thought it seemed unnecessary after salting both the tomato mixture and the eggplant), and serve.

It really was fantastic. My only gripe is that it isn’t exactly a toddler-friendly meal. Catie didn’t like the whole-wheat pasta, and the sauce was a little too “herb-y” for her (the combination of onion, basil, and balsamic vinegar – it’s a very strong taste for a little one). She ate a little bit of the chicken, and then I had to find something else for her to eat for dinner. But if you aren’t cooking for a two year-old, go forth and godspeed. Let me know if you try it, and what you think of it!

Diet Time

Announcement: Dave and I are starting a new diet. Well, technically Dave’s already been on one for a while – he lost 30 pounds before the holidays. He’s been doing great, I’m really proud of him. But he got off track during the holidays, and now that he’s trying to start back on his diet, I’ve decided to join him. It’s always easier to tackle a challenge with a partner, right?

And this doesn’t count as a New Year’s resolution, because I don’t believe in them. Besides, I’m starting this on January 3rd, so it has nothing to do with New Year’s, and everything to do with not liking the way my clothes feel on me. Yes, my size 12 jeans still fit, and I only weigh maybe five pounds more than I did when I got married, but I’m feeling decidedly flabbier. I figure it’s better to tackle these things when I have a small, manageable goal in front of me, rather than waiting until my size 12 jeans don’t fit me anymore, or waiting until I hit 200 pounds or something. So, I would like to try to lose ten pounds. Maybe 15, but that would put me at the peak of my weight loss after my gastric bypass, and I think I only stayed at that weight for a few months, so I’m not terribly optimistic that I can maintain that again.

It’s awkward for me to write about this because I don’t like talking about my body image issues. I feel like I’m probably going to get one of two reactions: (a) people who don’t have a problem with their weight can’t believe that I’m happy being a size 12, and they wonder how I can stand to look at my fat ass in the mirror every day; or (b) people with real weight problems can’t believe that I’m whining about wanting to lose a measly ten or fifteen pounds. What do I have to complain about? The latter reaction is probably how I would’ve felt myself before my gastric bypass, so maybe I’m projecting a little bit of my past there.

The thing is, I have accepted that I will never, ever be super-skinny. Even after surgery, a size 6 is just not in my future. It’s not in my genetic make-up. And that’s fine, I’m totally at ease with being the size of the average American woman. I don’t have to be perfect. I can walk into pretty much any clothing store and find something that’ll fit me, and that alone is more than I ever dared to hope for, before my surgery. So I’m really not complaining, I’m just scared to death of regaining the weight that I worked so hard to lose (seriously, if you think surgery is the easy way out? You are dead wrong), so I’m trying to be proactive about nipping this flabby feeling in its proverbial bud before it becomes an issue.

I think part of the problem is that having a two year-old in the house makes it impossible for me to eat healthy all the time, so I’ve just given up on even trying. If I make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for Catie, and she only eats a quarter of it, I figure that heck, I went to the trouble to make the sandwich, and I don’t want to just throw it out, right? It seems so wasteful. So I eat it. Or when she gets a free cookie at the grocery store and decides that she doesn’t want the last two bites of it, she hands it to me, and what am I supposed to do with a piece of a cookie while I’m trying to push a grocery cart? I wolf it down and move on. And what I should do is find a trash can and toss it.

I hesitated to even mention anything about this diet on the blog, because like I said, I’m not really comfortable talking about my weight issues. But I was worried that some of my posts over the next few weeks might have sort of a cranky, “grrr I will kill the first person who crosses my path in exchange for a cookie” vibe, and I thought that might warrant some explanation. So that’s what’s going on. I don’t suddenly need Prozac, I’m just suffering from junk food deprivation. Poor widdle ol’ me.

Catie's 2nd Christmas… and oh yeah, the food

I don’t know that I have ever in my life cooked as much as I did yesterday. In my family, we do our big meal on Christmas Eve, and we do leftovers on Christmas Day. But man alive, it was a meal.

I made:
* Baked brie (appetizer)
* Dressing
* Creamed spinach
* Mashed potatoes
* English (green) peas
* Yorkshire pudding (my mother-in-law’s recipe)
* Ooey gooey cake (my friend Kris’s recipe; let me know if y’all want me to post it because everyone in my family made little happy noises when they ate it)

It doesn’t seem like that much when I list it like that, but when you’re trying to cook it all at the same time? Yeah, that’s a lot.

Here’s what we ate that I didn’t make:
* Sweet potatoes (my mom made those)
* Ham and turkey (those both came from Honey Baked Ham)

Christmas dinner was pretty awesome, even if I am tooting my own horn by saying so. And my brother is great about washing dishes as soon as I finish with them, so I didn’t have a huge pile of mess by the time the food was ready. That was really, really nice.

We did most of our gift exchange last night. Or rather, the adults exchanged gifts last night, and Catie got to open her “boring” stuff (read: clothes), plus a few little things. The Santa Claus stuff was this morning, and it was quite a hit.

surveying the Santa scene on Christmas morning

Catie and me with her Christmas loot

Later, since the weather was nice, we went to the park near our house and walked for a while. Well, the idea was to walk, but we played more than walked. There’s a big lake there with lots of ducks and geese – and seagulls, which sort of spooked Catie a little since they sort of swarmed all around us as soon as we started to throw bread to the ducks.

Mimi and Catie

Catie and Pop-Pop

playing peekaboo around a tree

The rest of our Christmas pics are here. I’ll be adding more as we take them. Merry Christmas, everybody!

my love of British food

One of my favorite parts of having my in-laws here is the food. My mother-in-law is an amazing cook. I always feel guilty since she’s here on vacation and then we sort of expect her to cook, but she loves it, and I try to steal as many of her recipes as I can, even though I can never repeat them quite as well.

Last night my father-in-law made burgers on the grill, which were excellent, and boy, is it nice to have a night off from cooking. This morning, Mags made a huge breakfast for all of us – eggs, bacon, sausage, pork & beans (for those who wanted it – not me), and fried bread, which is basically white bread fried in bacon grease. In other words: heaven. Of course, it’s totally unhealthy and will kill you if you eat it on a regular basis, but it sure is nice to have once a year.

Tonight we’re having shepherd’s pie, and believe me, whatever impressions you might have of shepherd’s pie, you don’t know it like this. I’ve been daydreaming about her shepherd’s pie ever since they booked their flight over here. I can’t wait.

I need to take more pictures, but Roger’s been taking a lot with his camera, so I’ve been sort of lazy about it. Unfortunately, his camera is not digital, he’s using 35mm rolls of film. I know! It’s like the stone age! So strange. Anyway, here’s a few good ones that I’ve gotten so far.

Catie pointing out her favorite ornaments to Grandpa Roger
Catie’s pointing out her favorite ornaments to Grandpa Roger, which I’m pretty sure are the Sesame Street ones. (There’s an Elmo, a Cookie Monster, and a Big Bird.)

on our way out to buy a Christmas tree
I snapped this one on our way out to go buy a Christmas tree. I just love her big blue eyes.

Catie and Grandma
This is my favorite of Catie snuggling up on Mags. So sweet.

Tomorrow we’re planning to drop Catie at my next-door neighbor’s house (since Catie is comfortable with her and loves her kids) so we can go see the new James Bond movie. We haven’t done something like that since our anniversary back in May (when we went to see Indiana Jones), so I’m very excited.

Hope y’all have a great weekend.