Pumpkin Cookies No More...

In this, my third post about pumpkin recipes, I give you my new pumpkin cake recipe. It is oddly familiar, perhaps, to anyone who has read previous pumpkin-related posts. Familiar indeed - more like exactly the same as the pumpkin cookie recipe of my first pumpkin post.

I mentioned in that post that I'm not all that big a fan of cake cookies. And so, I thought, why not make that recipe into a cake? (I did.) Cool, but I needed a frosting of some sort. And there's no way I'd ever be able to eat any of the normal "cake frosting" recipes - way too much fat! [Sad but true - once upon a time I was such a huge fan of cake frosting from the grocery store...]

And I found myself an answer - in a vanilla glaze included in a pumpkin bread recipe I found that doesn't quite fit my diet at the moment.

In the spirit of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown - Happiness is pumpkin cake with icing! [True, these aren't actually lyrics from the song, but really, they should be. We could take out change out Snoopy's "pizza with sausage" in favor of Linus singing "pumpkin cake with icing" and put Snoopy on the third line instead with something like "every meal time" - it'd be fabulous! And yes, since you ask, I was in this musical, I played Linus - and hence the reason I know the lyrics and the order of them still...]

Anyway, back to:

Pumpkin Cake

1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh)
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Mix together pumpkin, sugar & applesauce.
2. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
3. Spread into cake pan (I used a 9x12 pan, so my cake's pretty thin - if you use a smaller pan and make thicker cake, adjust baking times accordingly).
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out of center clean.

While cooling the cake, make the icing!

Vanilla Icing
(For my cake, I needed this amount - but it's double the recipe I found online, so if your cake is smaller, I'd half my version.)

1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp vanilla

Thoroughly mix ingredients in a small mixing bowl. [Yay for whisks, and getting to lick the extra icing off that whisk after mixing, that's all I gotta say...]

Once the cake is completely cooled, spread icing over the cake. Cover and refrigerate until it's time to eat it!

The Savory Side of My Pumpkin

(continued from previous pumpkin post - alliteration totally intentional)

So, after making all sorts of baked goods with that pumpkin, I still had a bunch of pumpkin left! [Note to self: buy smaller pumpkin next time...]

Feeling that I'd done a pretty good job of venturing into the world of baked goods pumpkin-style, I thought I'd peruse the internet for pumpkin meal recipes (low fat, healthy, non-spicy recipes of course - making the internet recipe search quite an adventure as always). I found this lovely recipe for pumpkin-sage pasta sauce.

The little voice in my head instantly started screaming:
Pumpkin pasta sauce? Wow - you mean, I could actually eat pasta with sauce again? No way! I gotta try this!

Unfortunately, the recipe wasn't quite something I could eat, so I wrote down the main parts of the recipe and the amounts, and then made some notes about how to manipulate the ingredients so that I could eat it. And I thought I'd try adding some apple puree to it... because, hey, pumpkin and apple taste good together, right?

[You may get the sudden impression that there's a little sarcasm behind my words...and that perhaps this idea went a little awry? If that was your sense, you were right! Gold star.]

Here are the ingredients from my first attempt at "amazing pumpkin pasta sauce":

1 cup veggie broth
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 apples - pureed
1/2 cup soy milk (plain)
1 1/4 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp garlic granules
salt to taste

I tried making it on a Thursday evening. All I can really say about this endeavor: EPIC FAIL. I cooked it all together - the sauce was rather thick, so I added a bit of water, a few more drops of veggie broth, a little olive oil (something that was in the original recipe). The flavor was all off - so I tried adding a bit more onion flakes, some more of the garlic granules, some more pumpkin. But no, it really didn't work at all. It was horrible! It had turned this sickening green color... I realized that the real problem was that I'd put too much apple in it, which overpowered the subtler flavor of pumpkin, and for every one's future reference: apple + sage = ew. And once there was too much apple, trying to cover it with more of the other flavors was a recipe for only one thing: DISASTER.

Right. Dumped that out. Ate something else that night. Ew.

I waited 'til the weekend to try again - needed a few days to nurse the wound of creating something that hideous on my beautiful stove.

This time, I decided to follow the recipe a little closer - and under no circumstances would I be adding any apple to it this time.

The updated recipe ingredient list:

1/2 cup veggie broth
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup plain soy milk
1 1/4 tsp dried sage
1 tsp onion flakes
1 tsp garlic granules
salt to taste

This time, it worked. Tasted pretty nice on the stove. So I cooked up some pasta, and poured some sauce atop the pasta with some meatballs I'd also made that day (see future post for meatball recipe). And it tasted... bad. [What? This is supposed to be pasta sauce!!!]

The problem this time: the meatballs were herbed up with some oregano and basil - and totally powered out the sage and pumpkin. *sigh*

And now we come to the second part of this adventure: what this sauce actually tastes good with?

Obviously the meatballs were a no-go. So the next night I tried the sauce on just pasta - whole wheat rotini. Yeah, no. This time, it was missing something!

I also tried it over my grain mixture (Grandma's Grains). And that ended up working as a really nice chip dip. But chip dip is not a meal.

My next thought was to pair the sauce with a very simple baked white-meat fish. So, I bought some tilapia fillets, and broke out the Joy of Cooking - the real hero of this story. I found a very simple way of baking the fish, and then topped it with my warmed up pumpkin-sage sauce. SUCCESS!!! It was so delicious, I made it two nights in a row. And my stomach loved me for it!

And so, to wrap up, I offer the recipe for this pumpkin-sage sauce, and the uses I found worthwhile. The bottom-line: it's a subtle blend of flavor, so it must be paired with things that will enhance but not over-power it.

Pumpkin Sage Sauce

1/2 cup veggie broth
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup plain soy milk
1 1/4 tsp dried sage
1 tsp onion flakes
1 tsp garlic granules
salt to taste

1. In a medium-sized pan, simmer first 6 ingredients (all but the salt) over low heat until well-combined. (About 8-10 minutes, perhaps 12 - depends on your stove. Taste it, you'll know when it's "well-combined.")
2. Add salt to taste.

My favorite ways to use this:

Chip Dip
Mix about 3/4 cup grains with a little more than 3/4 cup sauce (I didn't measure these exactly). Basically, add sauce to the grains until the consistency is similar guacamole. Microwave until warm (1.5-2 minutes?). Dip baked tortilla chips in it for a nice low-fat snack or appetizer.

As Sauce over Baked Fish
To bake fish (single-serving):

1 fish fillet - white fish like tilapia, cod, halibut, about 1-inch thick or less
1/2 tsp of olive oil
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

1. Grease bottom of glass baking dish with butter (I use non-dairy butter).
2. Rinse fillet and pat dry. Place in baking dish.
3. Brush top of fillet with olive oil. Sprinkle salt to taste on top. (I realize that "salt to taste" on raw fish doesn't really make sense. I used a salt shaker and sprinkled lightly back and forth twice over the fillet.)
4. Bake 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness, until fish fillet is opaque in the center. (Check Joy of Cooking for doneness factor of different types of fish. This time span and check for doneness comes straight from my copy for white fish fillets.)

Place fish on plate, and spoon warmed up pumpkin-sage sauce over top of fillets. I paired this with a serving of grains sprinkled with raw sugar, and a serving of steamed green beans with a few drops of my "fake" butter.


[PS - For the actual pasta sauce recipe, go here. Maybe you'll have better luck with is as an actual pasta sauce?]


The Revolution: turning over a new leaf

So far, I've talked a lot about the pain and the struggle involved with this diet, and the ongoing stomach problems that brought on the diet in the first place. And, while that's certainly where I come from, that's not where I'm at today.

The revolution has come. I have reached the point at which I no longer feel forced to adhere to the rules of this diet. Instead, I have embraced the new way of food life that this diet has created in my world. And from this position, I've been able to start enjoying what food I have, instead of lamenting what food I've lost. [Not to say I don't crave the occasional piece of chocolate every now and then, but the cravings have left the building, as it were.]

Another way to say this: I no longer survive each day, but I do live each day and enjoy what I have. Food does still take up an enormous about of my thoughts each day, but I'm beginning to feel that this is more a choice now, and less an obligation.

This viewpoint is really helping me embrace the new lifestyle that this experience has created for me. My entire view of food and how to go about eating it has completely shifted. Junk food is gone, in favor of healthy treats that give me a more worthwhile sugar fix. Gone also is the 3-meals-a-day system, in favor of 6-7 smaller meals each day, spread out so I eat about every 2-3 hours. Whenever possible, I eat locally grown food and/or organically grown food - I shifted my whole budget, actually, to allow for the added expense of eating this way.

I like to think of it as an adventure now. An adventure into this new world of food that I've discovered. It's sometimes a bit of a puzzle to figure out how to pull out flavors from the foods that I am still allowed to consume - and paired with the puzzle of balancing meals so I don't eat a bunch of fat in one and none in another, so I get enough fruits and vegetables, so I vary my intake of types of fruits, veggies, meats - this can become a bit of a brain-twist. It's my daily game - named so because, hey, games are fun!


Pumpkin: Journey from Market to My Plate

When I think Autumn, a few basic things come to mind. Scarves, colored leaves, brisk cool windy days, Halloween, and (of course!) pumpkins. Big huge jack-o-lanterns, little bitty ones on window sills, pureed into pies and bread and muffins and donuts... [that would be thanks to Dunkin - which I can't eat anymore, but that doesn't mean I can't still smell them!]

And so, in the spirit of my continued interest in learning how to make things from scratch, I decided that this year, I'd find me some pumpkin recipes that call for pureed/canned pumpkin, and use my own pureed fresh pumpkin instead! A couple of weeks ago, I walked myself down to my biweekly visit to the Copley Square Farmers' Market, set on buying me a nice sized pumpkin for my journey to delicious pumpkin-y goodness in my kitchen.

Now, I'm a child of the suburbs. Sure, I know that corn has to be knee-high by the 4th of July in order for it to be a good crop, since I grew up in Minnesota (we all somehow know that, maybe we're born with the information...?). Whatever - the point is, I don't know the first thing about buying a pumpkin that I'm going to cut up, roast, puree, and bake/cook into food for consumption. Is there a certain size that's best? A way to pick the ones that will taste the best? No idea. So, I asked the farmer at one of my favorite booths. It turns out, there are so many different kinds of pumpkin than those orange ones that everyone draws with the orange Crayola when asked what a pumpkin looks like.

"The orange ones aren't the best for baking," said he. "You want the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin."

"...The...what now?" I said back, rather perplexed and quite sure I'd heard him wrong.

"The Long Island Cheese Pumpkin. It...doesn't actually have cheese in it," he said, laughing a little. [Well, good, thought I] "It's called that because it looks like a big cheese wheel."

[Right, of course. What was I thinking? - such are the thoughts of the suburban girl stepping into the unknown world of pumpkins...]

And with that, off we trotted to the bins full of what I thought were just butternut squash. But no, intermixed were these largish cheese-wheel shaped pumpkins with tan rinds - about the color of a butternut squash. "Choose one that's really tan - the tanner the rind, the riper the pumpkin" is what the farmer told me. Right. So I picked me out a nice tan pumpkin.

[See? Totally the color of a butternut squash!]

I'll admit, I was a little wary of this process. Afraid I'd completely flub it up or something. I'm more urban than suburban these days. What do I know about cutting up and pureeing a pumpkin? It took me about a week to kick myself into gear. On a Saturday, I opened up the link I'd found about readying a pumpkin for baking/cooking. [Wow, apparently you have to roast it before you scoop it out of the rind to puree it. Good to know.]

Things I discovered during the process:
- There are a lot of seeds inside of a pumpkin.
- A pumpkin roasting in the oven smells AMAZING. No really. A-maz-ing.
- Pureeing pumpkin in my food processor was quite possibly one of the best parts of the whole process. [Okay, that's probably just a function of my crazy kiddish excitement about pressing the on button on the food processor...]
- A medium-sized pumpkin makes way more pumpkin puree than I know what to do with.

With all of the pumpkin puree I was suddenly left with, I now had to find a lot more things to do with it than I'd originally planned! And so, I present some of the recipes I tried out. Some worked the way they were intended (the baked goodies), and one of them took me awhile to really get a handle on. You'll get the stories on all of them over the next few days - of course with pictures to go with!

My suggestion for this Autumn: get yourself a pumpkin and puree it. Do it with a friend - it's fun! And then make yummy pumpkin stuff!!!

The Baked Goods
I'm a fan of these 2 recipes because there's no dairy in them - score! Oh yeah, and they taste good, too!

Low Fat Pumpkin Bread

[I suggest clicking on this image to see it in a bigger size - you don't get the full view of how moist the crust is with this little picture...]

This is a recipe I modified slightly from this page.

2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (fresh)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
3 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg or allspice (I use nutmeg, but the recipe creator uses allspice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Combine sugar, pumpkin, applesauce & egg; mix well.
2. Mix together flour, cinnamon, soda, powder, salt & nutmeg (or allspice); add slowly to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
3. Pour into 2 cooking spray coated bread pans (8"x4"x2")
4. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 28 servings, according to the recipe online. The online version also included nutrition info. I guess I wasn't interested in most of it (go to the site linked above if you want the full list), but I'm always interested in the fat content: .55g of fat per slice. Nice!

Vegan Pumpkin Cake Cookies

[Again, click for a bigger size...]

I got this recipe here, but the next time I use this recipe, I'm going to see how it fares as a cake recipe - I'm not the biggest fan of cake cookies...

1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh)
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Mix together pumpkin, sugar & applesauce.
2. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
3. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheets - I suggest making them small. They bake more thoroughly instead of being overly gooey.
4. Bake 13-15 minutes (according to the recipe). I say more like 18-20, but start with 13-15 and go from there. I don't know your oven.

And, of course, these are vegan, so you noticed no eggs on the ingredient list. This means: you can lick the spoon/bowl with no worries about ingesting raw egg or salmonella or anything bad like that! That is one delicious mixture to eat unbaked!!!


One Sweet Little Squash

I had dinner with friends about a week ago, and among the food served was this fantastic little squash called a "Sweet Dumpling Squash." We all tackled our halves of squash first - and it didn't take us long to make every ounce of squash flesh completely disappear. We were scraping the peels for any left-over squash just to get that taste one last time. Mmm!

Sweet Dumpling Squash. You know, I've definitely never really thought about just how many different types of squash there are. I mean, I grew up knowing about pumpkin and acorn squash. I also had heard of hazelnut squash and butternut squash. But really, there are tons of varieties of squash! (Not to mention all of the varieties that fit into the pumpkin category!)

Curious, I did a little research online. Apparently, there are 4 main species of squash, a plant belonging to the Cucurbita genus in the Cucurbitaceae family (for all you bio-peeps out there): C.maxima (buttercup squash, hubbard squash), C.minima (cushaw squash), C.moschata (butternut squash), and C.pepo (most pumpkins, acorn squash, summer squash, zucchini). [This is all straight from Wikipedia's page on Squash, by the way, in case you're interested.]

Wikipedia lists 5 main varieties of summer squash and 22 main varieties of winter squash. But I also found one site online that lists 150 varieties of squash displayed at "The Great Pumpkin Patch" in Arthur, IL! Go here to see names and pictures. [...um 150 varieties of squash!?!]

Apparently, winter squash is simply a pet name for the thicker-rinded variety of squash that keeps for long periods of time (usually about a month, according to a couple of different food glossaries that I googled). Specifically, winter squash refers to those squashes that could last into December in the cellar, or wherever you choose to store them. Summer squash are vegetables harvested before maturity, and don't keep well for more than a few days. So, they don't actually refer to the time of year that these types of squashes grow.

One other nugget about squashes that I found: "the squash fruit is classified as a pepo by botanists, which is a special type of berry with a thick outer wall or rind..." (Wikipedia, Squash page) [Um, cool - squash is like a berry... I love this stuff!]

Alright, now that you've had your botany lesson for the day, I'll let you know that you can expect a few subsequent posts featuring different varieties of squash I've had a run-in with. I've already posted on Butternut Squash, of course, but there are so many more to try!!!

And so we get back to Sweet Dumpling Squash. And, may I remind you as you get your thoughts back to this little gem of nature, that it's delicious!!! Here's the other thing about this squash: preparation is a snap. Because it's so sweet all on its own, you don't really need to do much to it. Just cook and serve. And I'm all about easy stuff (for all that I say about all of the complex from-scratch recipes I've been dabbling in).

It makes a good side for just about any meal. I teamed it up with some meatballs I made yesterday over a bed of Grandma's Grains drizzled with pureed apples and a side of green beans. So tasty!

Sweet Dumpling Squash

Yum!!! Doesn't that look good enough to eat? (Hint: IT WAS!)

You need enough squash to serve half to each person at your table.

1. Cut each squash in half - I suggest pulling the stem off first, makes it easier to cut through.
2. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff from the middle.
3. Place flesh-side down on a plate with enough water to just cover the bottom of the plate.
4. Microwave 8-10 minutes (I did 8 minutes for 1 half, my friend did 10 for 4 halves).
5. Put a dab of butter and a small amount of brown sugar in the hollowed out center of each squash half, if desired. [But I'm really not kidding when I say you don't even need it...]



Dropping sizes...

I posted a little while ago about the experience of losing all of the weight, and the personal identity readjustment that has come with that. I guess you could call this an addendum to that post? You could also probably call it random musings from the mind of the ever-more-surprised-by-this-experience author. [You pick, though - as a general rule I don't choose sides unless I have to.]

A quick recap for focus:

Since March, I've dropped from a size 8 to a size 2, size M to size XL, size 6 shoe to size 5 1/2 shoe.

Okay, so, I went bowling with my coworkers this evening. And discovered that I also went down in bowling ball size! It's funny how so many things just don't occur to me as needing a change due to my smaller size. I've generally bowled with the "size 10" (10 lb) ball. Hah. Found out this evening that I've dropped down to a "size 8" (8 lb) ball.

It just seems like such an odd thing to drop sizes in, but I guess that makes sense. Probably also means I'll have to readjust my comfortable level in free weights should I ever get a hankering to go lift at the gym. Makes me wonder, also, what other wacky things I could have dropped sizes in...?

I guess I'll leave that to ponder on future days. For now, I guess I can just say that I have an ever-growing list of things I've dropped sizes in:

Pants, shirt, dress, shoe, and bowling ball. [chuckle]


Update to the No-List

I got something back!!!
...and I have to add something to the list, too...

The world is still in balance, I guess.

So, the whole idea behind all of my No-List posts is to give myself an updated list of foods I can eat and that I have to limit my intake of. I've said before that it's all in my head, but as things change, I'll forget what used to be on there and not. As I near the point where I'll get to start adding foods back in my diet, it'll be really nice to have those lists to look back on - in case I'm experiencing symptoms that I can't explain.

So, for the folks at home, here's how this will work:
[Okay, the only reason I just called you all "the folks at home" is because I've always wanted to say that... haha!]
There will always be a full and current list in every No-List post, but to highlight the changes, I'll always put the changed items in this little intro, and then bold them on the full No-List at the bottom of the post. For items coming off of the list, there will be a loud cheer from me and I'll put them in parentheses and grey them out. [Is that the British or American spelling of "grey?" I can never remember which is which. I just know I that I prefer the "grey" spelling to the "gray" spelling.]

So, without further ado [about nothing?]

Crossing off the list:
dried fruits
I saw the doc on Monday and she gave them back to me!!! Needless to say, I'm a little excited...

Adding to the list:
Remember the omelette of Tuesday's post? Yeah, I lied. It didn't end up making my stomach happy at all. And, thinking about it, this makes sense - and omelette is fried. Even with no-fat butter substitute for frying instead of real butter, fried food is still bad for me. And so, if I want eggs, I'll have to try baking them - perhaps there will be a quiche in a future post?

The Updated No-List

NO items

- tomatoes/tomato-based foods (includes pasta sauce, ketchup, bbq sauce, salsa, etc.)
- citrus fruits
- peppermint/spearmint
- chocolate
- alcohol
- caffeinated beverages
---regular tea
---energy drinks
---other caffeinated soft drinks
- decaffeinated coffee and decaffeinated regular tea (herbal tea w/o mint is okay)
- carbonated beverages
- pepper
- high-fat dairy products
---2% milk and whole milk
---high-fat cheeses
---high-fat yogurt
---chocolate milk
- other dairy (from previous lactose intolerance guidelines)
---cow's milk
---soft cheeses
- cocoa
- fried meats
- bacon
- sausage
- pepperoni
- salami
- bologna
- frankfurters/hot dogs
- other fried foods:
---french toast
---french fries
---deep-fried vegetables
---omelettes, scrambled eggs, and other fried eggs
- pastries and high-fat desserts (the directive on this item: say goodbye to bakeries)
- chips
- store bought cookies, candies, sugary snacks of any kind
- hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils
- high fructose corn syrup
- high-sodium foods
- peanut butter, and other nut butters
- cheese
(dried fruits) --Yay!
- vinegar
- bell peppers, and other members of the veggie pepper family
- broccoli
- cauliflower
- asparagus
- celery
- onions
- beans (green beans are currently allowed)
- apple peels (apple flesh is fine, cooked/baked apples are better)
- red grapes (green grapes okay in moderation)
- raspberries
- salad dressing (check the labels, every one of them has something on the No-List!)
- store-bought juices (check the labels, all of them add citric acid!)

**for the next 2 weeks: 0 foods containing any trace of lactose (this includes foods on which the label says "made/processed/packaged in same facility as milk products")

Limited Items
- maximum of 40-50g of fat per day
- oils (olive, vegetable, etc.) - 1 Tbsp has 14g of fat
- nuts - 1/4 cup or 2 Tbsp nut butter has 17g of fat **nut butters currently prohibited entirely
- cheese - 1 oz has 10g of fat **cheese currently prohibited entirely
- processed sugar
- dairy foods not listed on "no items" section at a minimum; must take Lactaid with any foods containing lactose **currently prohibited, as per note above on No items


I made an omelette! (subtitle: Fun with Salads!)

Okay, so maybe this isn't all that exciting for you. But I've never made one before - I've always been rather a large dunce when it comes to cooking eggs. My first try at scrambling them was an 11 on the 10-pt disaster scale. Yes, scrambling - that's quite possibly the simplest way to cook eggs ever, right? Yeah, now you see why I'm so excited...

Eggs have never been my specialty. I never liked them as a child. If there was egg in some dish that Mom or Grandma or whoever made, they'd better have made sure that I didn't know about it. So, I guess I never really had the need to learn how to cook them on my own until I reached my early twenties and apparently decided that eggs were cool. [...which brings us to the scrambled eggs disaster of 2006...]

Tonight I decided to go through the process of making butternut squash soup - something I usually do on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. And, it's quite a little undertaking, so that certainly was not going to be dinner tonight. As I looked through my fridge, wondering how exactly I was going to get my second serving of meat today (chicken was in the freezer, doh!), my eyes landed on the eggs I'd gotten at the farmer's market this past Friday. And hey - eggs are all kinds of protein, right? Sweet - fast dinner between steps of making soup!

Off to the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook with me!
...how to cook...eggs...
The powers that be opened the page very decidedly to making a basic omelette. [Don't ask silly questions like how I know that the 'powers that be' did that decidedly. You're totally missing the point of this story...]

Who am I to argue with the powers that be? It turns out I hadn't really had a lot of fat in my food today, and thus I was well under the 40-50 g daily limit, so those eggs would most certainly bring up my fat intake! [In case you wondered, this is a good thing. I'm small enough as it is - no need to eat less than I'm supposed to!)]

And so, dinner tonight was a plain omelette (mmm, eggs are really tasty!). I warmed up the rest of my roasted tri-color carrots and red potatoes as a side, and made a pear & blueberry salad with mixed greens and almonds on top. Oh, and toasted some apple-cinnamon bread and topped it with the last of my blueberry jam from my cousin. Yummy - my stomach is happy. And hey, that's all I need to rate a meal as a success!

Since the rest of you all know how to make omelettes, and roasting carrots and potatoes is also an easy thing to figure out, I'll skip the recipes for them and instead focus on my salad. Certainly, salad 'recipes' are pretty simple, but I thought I'd add a few tips I've picked up for making flavorful salads ever since the day I was ordered to stop using salad dressing.

Pear & Blueberry Salad with Almonds

2 handfuls mixed greens
2 handfuls diced pears and blueberries from a mixed fruit bowl
1/2 handful almonds

It's simple, it's pretty, it's delicious.

The hardest part of keeping salads in my diet was figuring out how to eat them without salad dressing. It'd be uber-dry, right? Naw, it's still possible to have a lot of moisture on your salad. You just have to get a little creative!

First thing: I always have fruit on my salads - they have a lot of natural moisture. I've found that mixing a really juicy fruit with a less juicy, more flavor-intensive one creates a nice mixture of flavor for my salads. Some of my favorite combos are:
- diced pears and blueberries
- strawberries and diced apples
- strawberries and halved green grapes
- diced apples, halved grapes and dried cranberries

Another thing that I worried about when concocting non-salad-dressing salads: lettuce tastes funny without another flavor to offset it. Think about it, or try just chewing on a bed of greens sometime. Less than pleasing to eat. You can do it, but it's a little, well, blah (for lack of a better term). Hence the use of fruit - they provide strong flavors. I also generally use a mixture of greens instead of just one kind. (You can find bags of mixed greens next to those bags o' baby spinach and romaine lettuce at the store.) It varies the flavor a little bit, and makes the salad look a little more fun with the different colors and shapes.

Something I've learned after trying a lot of different things with salads: go for different textures. Eating is about more than just the simple taste of the food. I feel like eating also needs to include savoring. Part of making meals is certainly the art of putting together flavors that mesh well, but the texture of the food is also a huge deal. On a salad, the lettuce certainly gives a crunch to the dish. Mixed greens, with the different shapes, with make each bite feel a little bit different in your mouth. Fruit gives a nice soft, slightly mushy texture (mushrooms will do this, too, but I'm not a fan, so you'll never see them on my salads). Adding meat, if you're a carnivore like me, also adds to the mix of textures - something for your teeth to work through. And putting a few nuts or crackers or croutons on top creates a nice dry crunch to offset the wetter leafy crunch of the bed of greens. Makes for a nice little party in your mouth with every bite of salad!

A last note:
When you're in a hurry, of course you don't really want to have to think about prepping all of this stuff to go on a salad, right? You just want to pull something out and put it in a bowl and go. And I'm all about that on weekdays - there are days when I need my leftovers and need a quick salad to go with them, before I'm off to a dance or practice or whatever. My solution: prep it all beforehand. On "cooking day," while whatever entree I'm cooking for the week is in the oven, or simmering on the stove, I chop stuff for salads for the week. [Yes, this generally means I have the same salad for 5 or 6 days, but hey, at least they're quick!]

Dice pears or apples, wash strawberries or blueberries or grapes, and then put them all in the same container. If you want dried fruit on your salad, put that in the same container as well. All of the juices will mix together and you can pour a little juice on your salad each day - instant "dressing" without all the fat and crazy junk they put in store-bought salad dressings! Cut up some chicken and George Foreman it, or sear it in a frying pan with a little oil and some rosemary. Or dice a thick slice of ham. It takes me perhaps 15 minutes to cut up my salad stuff for the week - and I can't express enough how nice it is to open the fridge on a Tuesday evening and see little containers of food waiting for me to open and dole out on some greens. 1-minute salad - done!


"So wait, what can you eat?"

So goes most people's reactions when they get the brief or unabridged version of my No-List. If you've been reading this blog, odds are very good that you've asked that question as well. I certainly have to remind myself of what I can eat whenever I start thinking about what I can't. Ha!

And though I've lost a lot of weight since I started this whole thing in March, I eat all the time. Not kidding. I eat every two hours at work. And then usually have two more meals at home in the evening. Sometimes another snack gets stuck in there, depending on what I'm doing with my evening.

What is it that I eat? Here's a list of common foods. Unlike the No-List, this is far from comprehensive, but hopefully it gives you an idea of what makes it into my system on a pretty regular basis.

- Meat: most meat is fine, but has to be really lean.
(2 servings every day) - since I can't get protein/iron from most other normal sources
---White meat chicken or turkey
---Ground beef or steak
---Low-sodium canned tuna fish
---Fresh fish (no seafood, though, because I don't really like it)
---Lunch meat, but in small quantities. I've found in the last two weeks that every day is not a good idea.

- Veggies: cooked are better than raw - my stomach just handles them better if cooked first.
(4 or more servings a day)
---carrots (especially tri-color from the farmers' market!)
---squashes (yellow, zucchini, acorn, butternut, pumpkin are the ones I'm familiar with and have cooked before, but I'm starting to expand my range)
---potatoes: red potatoes work the best (don't ask me why)
---yams/sweet potatoes
---green beans
---leafy greens, as long as they're not naturally spicy (I'm all about salads with mixed greens or spinach leaves)

- Fruits:
(3 servings a day
---apples (sans peels)
---applesauce (unsweetened, organic)
---strawberries (small quantities - I'm a big fan of slicing a few on a salad)
---cranberries (in very small amounts)
---green grapes (not red, no clue why my stomach's into one and not the other)
*I'm hoping to get dried fruits on this list again soon!

- Grains: whole grains, whole grains, whole grains.
(6+ servings a day)
---whole wheat bread or apple cinnamon bread (baked from scratch in my bread maker)
---whole wheat pasta (I'm a big fan of rotini lately)
---Grandma's Grains
---brown rice cakes - lightly salted or with wild rice mixed in
---brown rice cereal (like Rice Krispies, but without all the additives and crap)
---Kashi Crispy Granola Bars - my favorites are the Almond Crunch and Pumpkin Flax Seed flavors
---cornbread (mmm!)

- Spices: they all need to be used in extreme moderation - too high an amount sets my stomach into a temper tantrum that rivals any toddler
---garlic (very small quantities - I use garlic powder, not fresh)
---brown sugar (okay, this isn't a spice, but I use it to flavor a lot of dishes, so I list it as a spice in my head)
---most herbs are cool: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano (small amounts) are the ones I use (mint = bad though)

- Sauces:
---berry sauce with a little bit of sugar - like my cousin's blueberry sauce! - but nothing with raspberries in it [my stomach and raspberries are having a fight, middleschool drama style]
---basil and extra virgin olive oil, blended - light on the oil, but works well

- Sweet stuff: I've had to give a lot of this up, but there are a few things I can bake, and I'm finding more!
---low fat muffin recipes
---low fat fruit/veggie breads (banana, pumpkin, etc.)
---baked fruit/veggie mixtures (the latest was butternut squash, apples, cranberries with a bit of brown sugar and butter substitute on the top

- Other:
---small amounts of light mayo for sandwiches
---berry jams

- Beverages:
---more water
(Every thing else has something added, or is just too expensive when I can just as easily drink water.)
---soy milk (which I only use on cereal, I don't actually sit down with a glass of it)

One thing I've found is that when I find a food that causes little to no symptoms, I latch onto it fast. I have a fair amount of foods up there on those lists, but I often have meals that look rather similar over the course of my day, since I've learned what combinations work well for me and I have to pay attention to the amount of fruits, veggies, and meat that I take in each day. My food creativity window happens with dinner. I'm always on the lookout for new recipes that I can make for myself using the list of ingredients I know I can eat. [It's also a good way to discover new foods to add to the "Yes I can" list of foods.]

Something else I've found as my lifestyle regarding food has changed over the past 6 months: I often have food on the mind, but not necessarily because I'm hungry. Often, I'm thinking a few hours ahead to what's going down for dinner that night. Or else I'm thinking through the next few days to plan on when I can grab a chunk of time to commune with my kitchen, make a huge mess with lots of dishes, and come out on the other side with a delicious something to save for eating over the course of the week. It's become rather fun, actually!

The key to my eating success has been scheduling time into my regular weekly schedule to bake, prepare, cook at least twice a week, if not more. Sundays are generally cooking days for the leftovers I'll eat all week. Bread is baked on Saturday or Sunday usually. I often will bake some sort of sweet thing on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday evening, depending on what's going on in my week. I do the grocery thing on Sunday mornings, to keep myself getting up around the same time every day. I visit the farmers' market in Copley twice a week - Tuesdays and Fridays. It's all becoming a fun part of my personal culture. [And, turns out, it's a really good way to not over-eat, since none of the things I eat are easy to reach in a grab. Everything requires warming up or cutting or some sort of prep.]


I finally embrace the ocean state I live in...

I've never been the biggest fan of seafood. Growing up in MN, you can't get it fresh, because no matter what ocean it comes from, it'll have to be shipped to our landlocked state. And when it comes off the ice from the packaging, it gets that gross fishy smell. That's what I've always associated with seafood. "Gross fishy smell." It's as ingrained in my head as "knee high by the 4th of July" for a good corn crop. Just something that's always been true in my world. [And no, I never lived on a farm, I grew up in the suburbs... but that little rhyme is something every MN child grows up knowing. Go figure.]

So, when I moved to Boston 4+ years ago, that idea of seafood still resided in my brain. I couldn't do the seafood thing. Even when it's fresh, to me it still smells fishy because of that lifelong association. Funny, that I should denounce an entire world of regional food here just because of something I never liked as a child - food associations are strong and run deep.

Once I went on this diet, however, meat suddenly had to be really lean. And [newsflash Nina!], fish is a very lean meat. And full of nutritional value. And every site I hit upon on the internet that touts low fat recipes and lean meals always has a bunch of fish recipes.

About a week and a half ago, I finally decided to embrace the seafood side of Boston's cuisine. (Well, at least, the fish part. I'm still not all that keen on other seafood...) I found a recipe for baked white fish with a sauce I can actually eat, and bought myself a cod fillet at Whole Foods - fresh (the frozen stuff is too close to the stuff I'm not too keen on).

And I baked it. [Haha, using a frying pan in the oven - I think I giggled every time I opened the oven - it just looked so odd!]

And it was delicious!!! Satisfying, filling but not stuffing, tasted good. Yum! Apparently I've been missing quite a bit by not partaking in this whole fresh fish part of my wonderful Boston...

The fish recipe (with sauce) came from Dr. Gourmet's website, which is a great resource for recipes that work well for low fat diets and GERD (acid reflux) diets (as well as a bunch of other diets that I miraculously am not on). It calls for halibut, but Whole Foods didn't have any fresh, so I just used another white fish instead.

2 4 oz fillets of cod (or 1 7-8 oz fillet, cut in half - you can save the other one for a different night!)
1/4 tsp salt
spray olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 deg. Place a medium-sized skillet in the oven. [snicker]

While oven heats, rinse fillets in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Place on cutting board skin side up. Cut shallow slits in skin, approx 1/4 inch apart. Sprinkle salt over top.

When oven is hot, spray pan lightly with oil. Place fish in the pan skin side down. Return to oven and cook for about 10-12 minutes.

Serve skin side up with 1.5 teaspoons of basil oil sauce.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Place olive oil and basil leaves in a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth.

I also roasted up some tri-color carrots and butternut squash that I got at the Copley Farmer's Market in some olive oil and seasoned it all with a touch of salt and thyme, and also used some of my ever-present stash of "Grandma's Grains" with a bit of sugar to round out the meal. Delicious.