Weight Watchers .. Millions tested, Me approved?

I have a confession.  After much debate, I have decided to join Weight Watchers Online.  Not that I have 100 pounds to lose or anything but I think it will be a good way to get back into prime shape and maybe drop a few pounds that I’d rather not see on the scale.  So, what does that mean food-wise?  Cue every Weight Watchers website, cookbook and recipe that I can get my hands on.

I’m not necessarily ashamed to say that I joined the program – I know lots of people who have tried it and its really worked for them.  I think that what it comes down to for me is that I just want to be the healthiest I can be and look the best I can.

Fortunately, Lisa Lillien, the creator of Hungry Girl, includes WW points in all of her online recipes and has endorsed it as being a great program even if you just want to maintain your weight.  Well, I definitely plan on losing some, but hey – any encouragement helps right?

Now I’m on a mission to find the best WW recipes and make them consistently for my family (and trick my Dad – I don’t want him to realize that he is actually eating better-for-him food too!)  I think that overall it will help my entire family lose weight and feel better about eating.  Our habits are terrible but there is definitely room for improvement.

Have any killer WW recipes that I can try?  Send them to me and I’ll let you know what I think!

Comfort vs. Healthy Food.. Can they ever be one in the same?

Today I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  Not falling asleep until 4 a.m. mixed with a horribly vivid dream and one of the dreariest days of the years makes this one of those days.

I’ll be honest – I struggle with my body and weight every day.  This doesn’t exactly make for a good mood or an imaginative cook.  What should I make? Will I regret it later? How many calories and fat grams am I taking in?  IS ANYONE ELSE SICK OF THESE QUESTIONS?  I am.

So tonight, I will make one of my favorite of all-time recipes and it just so happens to be one from Weight Watchers…and to me, it’s total comfort food – Vegetarian chili.

Okay, okay, I know what you are thinking.  Chili with no meat? Can’t be done.  But believe me, with this recipe, you won’t even miss the meat.

Onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery, jalapeno, crushed tomatoes, white cannolini beans… all simmered in a large pot with spices until soft and married into the ultimate comfort stew.  Perfection on a cold winter night or just a dreary fall day.. like today.  Eat it by itself (like me!) or pair it with some crusty bread (if carbs don’t scare you) and enjoy feeling full and satisfied for a fraction of cals and fat of normal meaty chili.

So it’s off to the grocery store for me.  Sadly, I have no jalapeno in my fridgey and while I could make my dish sans-jalapeno, it just wouldn’t have the same heat and kick.

Do you have any comfort foods that can be re-made?  Send me the original recipes and I’ll see what I can do!

Lactose-free… Maybe for me?

I very much love dairy.  It can be milk, ice cream, yogurt, what have you.  I eat it, cook with it, dream about it.  So what happens when someone very special to me is lactose intolerant and has to take a “lactaid” pill with everything he eats? Nothing really – I just feel bad sometimes.

Recently, this person and I got into the topic of wedding cakes and how he wants one that is lactose-free.  Instantly, my mind (and my mouth) said “GROSS, absolutely not!”  He insists, naturally, knowing all of the right buttons to push.  But I put my foot down on this one.  However, as a birthday surprise (he turned 23 yesterday), I decided to surprise him with a lactose-free birthday cake.  Well, wouldn’t you know.. I ended up surprising myself.

I found a neat little website called dairyfreecooking.com which, of course, has recipes dedicated to lactose-free and vegan cooking because a lot of the time, the two go hand-in-hand.  It didn’t take me long to find dozens of recipes for lactose-free cakes and icing.  I selected a simple white cake and buttercream frosting, convinced that I would be gagging every step of the way.

The cake recipe was pretty straightforward – flour, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract beaten together to form a thick batter.  Then, egg whites and cream of tartar are beaten into submission until those famous glossy stiff peaks form.  The mountains of foam are then gently folded into the other batter, divided among two 9-inch cake pans and baked until golden.  I let them cool on a baking rack overnight.

Yesterday morning, I made what I was dreading more – the buttercream.  I ventured to Whole Foods to find almost all of the ingredients since almost no regular grocery store sells soy margarine and yogurt.  I don’t blame them.  Alone, each product tasted like chalk, and don’t get me wrong – I enjoy a good glass of soy milk every now and then – but this stuff was just plain awful.  Nevertheless, I combined the margarine, yogurt with a touch of soy milk and a TON of powdered sugar and used an electric mixer to cream them until fluffy.  Once fluffed, I decided to be brave and try some.  Well, can I tell you that I don’t know what suddenly converted my taste buds, but I could have stood over that bowl and eaten every ounce of that frosting with a spoon and nothing else.  I refrained, as the amount of sugar alone in there could have killed me, but it was tempting.  And I was somehow proven wrong.

Overall, he loved the cake and the icing and beamed when I told him that he didn’t have to take a special pill to eat the creamiest frosting on the planet.  All-in-all, a complete success.  Except for one thing – now that he knows that I liked the lactose-free cake, I am never going to hear the end of this wedding cake debate.

Oh well.. my stubborn fault.

2 Apps Down.. Take 2

So after writing a great blog post the other night entitled “2 Apps Down,” I was horrified to find out that after clicking the Publish button to post the entry, I couldn’t find it – anywhere.  It had somehow disappeared into the WordPress oblivion to never been read by anyone else.  Needless to say, I abandoned my attempt to restore it that night.  I will now try to re-create my previous blog and make sure to save it about 10,000 times before posting.

Since embarking out on the Great Appetizer Project, I have successfully made two and even added another to the list.  Since I find it smarter (and easier) to spread out making the appetizers versus trying to make them all in one day, I made Giada de Laurentis’ mini frittatas (or quiches) and a cross between a Bobby Flay crostini and class Giada bruchetta.

The mini quiches could not have been simpler.  Eggs, cheese, a little bit of milk and finely chopped deli ham spooned into mini muffin tins and baked in the oven until fluffy and golden brown.  Pillows of egg-y perfection.  That is, until you popped the little thing into your mouth.  While the taste was definitely there (they were quite yummy), the texture was slightly off.  Because of the moisture that the deli ham gave off when warmed, the mini quiches were a little on the wet side as soon as it exploded in your mouth.

To rectify this, my dad suggested substituting pancetta for the ham, pan searing the Italian bacon and letting it cool before adding it to the egg mixture.  This should take away some of that extra moisture.  I love the idea and will be making a round two batch of the quiches soon.  I’ll update then but for now, the quiches are definitely on the potential list.

But the real rock star so far has been my Giada-Bobby love child of crostini and bruchetta.  I took a Bobby Flay recipe for a mascarpone crostini and married it a Giada bruchetta topping of tomato, basil and garlic.  After puree-ing the tomato mixture in my food processor, I toasted slices of French baguette, topped them with creamy mascarpone cheese, let it melt and set them on a platter.  My parents and I then indulged in dolloping the sauce on top of the bread.  It sky-rocketed to number one on the list of appetizers to be served.  If it’s up to me – it’ll stay in the top four.

Overall, although I’ve only attempted two of the now nine appetizers (I’ve also added mini spanakopita to the list), I am loving this little project.  I love the thrill of experimenting with new techniques and flavors and creating my own recipes from the combinations of others.  With time, I think this will really enhance my own original recipes.

Until the next appetizer…

The Great Appetizer Project

So every year, my parents and three other couples have this huge dinner party that they call “The Progressive Dinner.”  There are four courses: Appetizers, Soup & Salad, Entree and Dessert and each couple is responsible for a course of the meal.  They move from house to house all night, eating and drinking and celebrating during the best season of the year – Christmas.  This year, the date is set for Saturday, December 11th and my parents have the appetizer course.  The kicker? They want my help.

My mom came to me the other day and told me that her and my dad talked about it and they want my input about what they should serve.  They are hoping to put out four delicious appetizers to satisfy everyone’s tastes, which means only including one that contains seafood since it’s not as popular amongst their friends.  Immediately, I went to work trying to find a collection of perfect appetizers that my parents could blow the other couples away with.

I have selected eight appetizers for them to choose from:

1. Savory brie en croute with walnuts

2. Mini quiches with ham and spinach

3. Classic spinach-artichoke dip

4. Crab-stuffed mushrooms

5.  Herb-crusted mozzarella bites

6. Classic tomato-basil bruschetta

7. Mushroom tartlets

8. Mini stuff sweet peppers

I plan on making a small batch of each app at a date TBD and having my parents sample them and pick their top four.  I think it’ll be a fun project for myself, especially if the recipes need to be tweaked or modified after the original parental tasting.  I will update the progress and how the tasting goes as soon as I figure out when it will be.

For the love of cooking…

Hello all…

Welcome to my blog!  I’ll be honest – I decided to create this blog on a whim, with the simple desire to record all I can about something I genuinely love to do…cook.

I am a recent graduate of college where I majored in English, Mass Communications, Writing and Performing Arts.  I’ve had other blogs dedicated to journalism and dance and clearly, I love to write.  So why not merge another aspect of my life into an online social network?  And who could hate good, wholesome food after all?

I am a self-proclaimed home cook.  I have no academic or professional training or experience.  Just me, my cookbooks, a few time-old recipes and my family and friends’ pallets to test on.  I consider myself more than lucky – especially for my mom, dad and sister who have, on countless occasions, be subjected to my not-so-successful attempts to make dinner (or dessert.)  They tirelessly taste and honestly evaluate my food, encouraging me to try new things while giving (mostly) helpful suggestions on how to tinker my recipes.

I tend to cook on the healthy side, due to a past of being slighly on the heavy side.  Salads are the fiber of my being while anything sweet (especially chocolate) is my kryptonite.  Nevertheless, I have done my fair share of cooking with full-fat ingredients. (No one loves real butter as much as my Italian dad, except maybe Paula Deen.)   But with that said, I have a lifestyle dedicated to healthy food with amazing flavor.. just don’t martyr me if I throw in a cheesecake or something made with an absurd amount of nuts every once in a while. (Hey, I’m only human.)

In the past, I have more often experimented with other cooks’ recipes rather than my own.  With this blog and some more free time now that my Bachelor’s Degree is hanging in the hallway and is no longer a distant dream, I hope to break out of my cooking shell for good; forging ahead into the art of creating recipes rather than only making them.

I hope you will follow me as I attempt to make as many recipes from as many chefs and home cooks as possible and devise a few of my own.

Happy Tasting!