Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spilling my Pumpkin Guts

You may be saying to yourself, “Enough already with the pumpkins! Halloween was over a month ago. Get over the pumpkins!!”

Oh, you’re not? Well, I am.

I have had pumpkin on the brain since mid October and I am in need of a brain (and picture) dump. Consider this my...

Great Pumpkin Purge!!

I’ve hunted them

I’ve schlepped them

I’ve carved them

I’ve gutted them

I’ve toasted & roasted them

I’ve baked them in a cake
(bread, really, but you get where I’m going. Oh, you don’t? Well…)

About the hunting: 

I told you the story here. It was a very fun, albeit wet, adventure with grandma.

About the schlepping:

Even though I had three or four pumpkins at home, I was happy to accept the gift of some beautiful Cinderella pumpkins from the gardener who tends to my restaurant’s planters and outside decorations. He literally had the bed of his truck full of pumpkins: large ones, small ones, orange, gray, green and blue ones. I picked out three of the prettiest pumpkins and I thought to myself,

“Self. I can totally carry these to the car three city blocks away before I pick up Lorelei from daycare.”

Yeah. No.

I hoisted those suckers up in my borrowed bucket and huffed for almost a block before I enlisted a strapping young man (with blue eyes and brown hair, wearing a nice sweater… wait, pumpkins) to carry the other side of that bucket so that I could get those damned things to the car. He helped me get mostly there. I made it the rest of the way, huffing and puffing, on my own.

About the carving:

Pumpkin carving party!!!!!

We had five kids, ten pumpkins, and shortbread cookies to keep us busy. I set up card tables in my garage and let the kiddos have at it! We made scary faces, cute faces, and there were a lot of happy faces all around.

About the guts:

Lorelei helped me collect as many pumpkin seeds as we could from the many, many pumpkins that were carved that day. We squished and swished the guts in water and did our best to collect the tasty seeds for roasting.

About toasting and roasting the seeds:

Part 1: I brined the pumpkin seeds in salt and sugar for two hours or so then toasted them in a 425º oven until they a deep golden color.

Part 2: In a 400º oven, I roasted the sugar pie pumpkins for a good long time, maybe an hour and a half. I knew they were done when the house smelled warm and gourdy, and when a knife slid easily into the flesh. I let them cool overnight and scooped the flesh away from the skin.

Voilà! Pumpkin puree.

About the bread:
(No picture, sorry. I know! What a let down, huh? You'll be OK. Just breathe.)
That pumpkin puree was staring me in the face for almost two weeks before I did anything with it. “What did you do with it?” you ask? You didn’t ask. DAMN! I thought I had it that time. Ah well.
Pumpkin bread!!!! I followed the Betty Crocker recipe, which is really their zucchini bread recipe that substitutes the pumpkin for the zucchini. It was good, but I’m going to make some changed that will make it awesome!

If you wanted to play a drinking game with the blog post, knocking one back every time I used the word pumpkin, you probably wouldn’t be able to see your computer screen by now.

Hickup! You’re welcome.
I feel better. I hope you do too.

Happy holidays everyone. I send my best and hope to not use the 'P' word for a very, very long time.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pineapple Plops - My Thanksgiving Recipe Contribution

I can't remember a Thanksgiving dinner without Pineapple Plops. I know, I know. The word plop doesn't really sound appealing, but this is an easy to make, tasty, and all in all healthy recipe for the holiday table; and they are AWESOME!!!

When I asked my mom how this dish became a part of our traditional meal, she said, "I don't know. I saw a recipe for it once." I can only think that the recipe was on a can of pineapple rings forty years ago and that it has morphed and changed throughout the years. Here's my interpretation of one of my family's holiday favorites.

They're not the prettiest little things, but they sure are tasty.

(makes 8 servings)
1 20oz can Pineapple rings in juice (reserve the juice)
1 lb yams
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Brown sugar
Mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350º. Peal and chop the yams into 1/2' cubes then boil them in salted water until tender. While they are boiling, lay out the pineapple rings in a baking dish. When the yams are done, drain them well and transfer to a large bowl. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and enough of the pineapple juice to make a creamy mixture when beaten. Drink the rest of the juice or give it to the kiddo that's waiting not-so-patiently at your ankles.

Now comes the Plop in your Pineapple Plops! Spoon the yam mixture evenly onto the rings (plop, plop... you get the picture). Then, with the back of a spoon, make a crater in the top of your plops... er yams. Sprinkle in some brown sugar (about 1/2 tsp) and three to five mini marshmallows. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the marshmallows are dark brown. Serve hot.

*Note: This is a dish that can be prepared up to the point of baking and be put in the oven as the bird is cooling and the table is being set.

Mom's Tip
This is a recipe that your kids can help with. They can plop, they can sprinkle, they can place the rings, and they'll love the end result.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Fit Friday - Week 2

I am not a star pupil.

I have not worked out once this week. I could tell you that I have and that I'm feeling great, but that would be a lie. I have had every intention to get up and take the time to exercise, but I haven't. The truth is, I am realizing that there is a lot more in my life that I need to change than just some dietary issues and fitting in thirty minutes of workout a few times a week.

One of the main things that is impeding my progress is this lack of sleep that I'm experiencing. It is really hard to drag my ass out of bed, make breakfast for Lorelei, make her lunch, get her dressed and do all of the same for myself when all I want to do is sit down at the kitchen table and cry into my lukewarm coffee.There are other things I could tell you, but they would all be excuses... mainly I AM TIRED.

So! What to do now? Well, there are a couple of things that I see doing right away.

1) Make Lorelei's lunch the night before.
B) Tell the child that she is grown enough to dress herself, lay out her clothes, and hope for the best.
And then) Stop my whining.

Oh yeah. And I'm that dork that doesn't read all of the materials before I start a project (sorry dad). So, I am fairly certain that I will be more motivated to dress my overweight derriere in workout clothes and get moving if I actually read the booklet that came with my workout videos and start cooking from the suggested recipes. I'm actually really looking forward to that!!

I expect, or at least I hope, that I am not the only person that has ever been excited to start a workout program and fell flat in the first weeks. But I am determined to pick myself up and make the best of the next nineteen weeks.

19 weeks to lose 35 pounds!!  
That's 1.842 pounds a week. 
(that's a lot)

Will someone please pass the celery.

Mom's Tip
I'm having to learn a very difficult lesson; How to give myself a break. I need to remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race.


Thank you again to Sara Dean at Fit Healthy Moms for your support!! I'll do better... I promise.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When it rains the snot pours

We plopped ourselves firmly in front of the TV today. Lorelei was sick with a fever and a yucky tummy. Poor kiddo. So, Kung Fu Panda, Dora the Expolrer, and SpongeBob have been Lorelei's entertainment for the morning and background noise for me while I'm focusing on my other work... this blog.
 No kidding, when it rains, it pours. I've got a lot going on these days. I'm happy for it, but it is keeping me busy. Luckily I've gotten some things done today. Here's what's going on:

1) You'll see that I now have a sponsor .
-----> -----> -----> 
See? Cool huh?

Thank you Fonté Café and Wine Bar for sponsoring my blog.  It's so cool!!

2) The date for the "Twitter Party" that I will be hosting for the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution has been announced: Tuesday, November 22, 2011, at 4 pm PDT. The topic is "From the Holiday Table to the Everyday Table": the conversation will focus on translating the traditions and meaning of the holidays to our everyday meals. The party is open to the public by searching #foodrevparty or following @foodmindedmama on Twitter. Join me and say hi!!

3) I'm attempting to keep up with my self imposed workout plan. A star pupil I am not but at least I'm working out a little bit more, right? Guh.

All that said, I love my slow cooker!! 

I got some cooking done today, which was nice. I had some roasted chicken bones in the fridge that needed to be cooked off so I set them up in the slow cooker early this morning with some water and let them roll for a few hours. Can you say amazing chicken stock and chicken soup for dinner? It was really good, and good for my little sickie here.

Lorelei helped me make some pumpkin bread today, too. We made use of some of the pumpkin puree that I got out of the Halloween pumpkins I roasted off a couple of weeks ago. We used the Betty Crocker pumpkin bread recipe which turned out fine, but I'll definitely be tweaking the recipe a bit. I'll share my version soon. (Mine would be so much better. Sorry Betty.)

Well, my girl is down for the count and I think I'm on the way out too. Here's hoping that she'll feel better in the morning. If not, we've got lots of chicken soup. 

Mom's Tip
Don't throw away your chicken bones!! If you don't expect to make chicken stock within a week or so, throw the suckers in the freezer, they'll last for another day.
Also!! Slow cooking the bones really got the flavor out of them. Ingredients: chicken bones (or any other kind of bones for that matter) and water to cover. Turn on cooker. Walk away. Skim the schmaltz (fat) and use as you would stock that you buy in a can or a box.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Fit Friday - Week 1

I bet you're expecting that after my announcement last week that I would have started like a shot out of the gate for my Fit by Forty Fitness Challenge. Well, that's not what happened. I did work out and I feel great! And because of my work outs I feel inspired to make better choices in my eating and I have achieved my goal of getting Lorelei involved; she loved doing my work out with me, so much so that I had a 40lb weight hanging from me and sitting on me during much of the 17 sweaty minutes.

Here's the deflating part of my story. Remember when I talked about having two valid reasons why I haven't been working out (at a gym at least)?

Money and Time

Well, I realized that there is a third:


I am afflicted with an overactive sense of worry that seems to rear it's head only when all is quiet in my house, say from 1:00am to 4:00am, sometimes 5:00. If I'm up all night, there is no way that I can stomach getting out of bed to exercise. Hell, I can barely get us out the door let alone work out, shower, and do the rest. As for working out in the afternoon... I'll get back to you. I have yet to see a time that I can do it.

Not to worry though!! I will not let lack of sleep get me down or keep me from accomplishing my goal. I started this challenge weighing in at (turn your head of you have any sense of decency) 185lbs. My goal is to be at 150lbs by April 3, 2012. It's an attainable goal and I know I can do it. But I also am willing to, and know that I will need to from time to time, give myself a break. I am one of those ding dongs that will push and push and push until I get sick, and I can't afford to do that.

So! Thank you Sara Dean of Fit Healthy Moms for your support and a great work out for my first week back in the moving world.

Mom's Tip
Whatever workout regimen you are taking on, think about how you can encourage your kids to get involved. They'll remember doing this with you when they are older and carry on a good tradition of being fit!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I love this recipe for Greens

I don't know any kids that don't eat well. I think that's why it's strange for me to hear about children who will only eat white food, or that will pick out this or that from their dinners. As my daughter is getting older, she is developing some preferences and aversions, but she still tries new foods with enthusiasm.

One of the recent dishes she lapped up was an Italian Kale dish that our friend Klaire's daddy cooked for us last week. It was a gorgeous side to a simple meal that I am excited to recreate time and time again in my kitchen.

1 bunch of Italian Kale (you can also use chard, collard greens, or even shredded Brussels sprouts)
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp cream
Fresh cracked pepper
(You don't need salt, the soy sauce provides that)

In a deep sautée pan or a stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sautée them for a couple of minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, then add the stemmed and corsely shredded kale (you and your kiddos can shred the greens with your hands). With some tongs, stir and rotate the greens in the oil so that they are evenly coated. Turn down the heat a bit and let the greens cook for three to five minutes, stirring frequently so that they don't burn. Add the chicken stock and let simmer for ten minutes or so. After the liquid has reduced a bit, add the soy sauce and cream and continue to cook for another few minutes. Crack some pepper over it at the end then serve it up with some steamed brown rice, a piece of fish or chicken, and crusty bread for dipping in the sauce and you have a very tasty dinner.

Mom's Tip
Even if your kids are old enough to feed themselves, it's totally OK to help them eat foods that may be difficult for little hands to maneuver. Kale is one of those foods. I look at helping Lorelei eat her dinner as a great way to spend time with her. We are able to talk, visit, even cuddle while we share a tasty meal.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, I welcome you to leave a comment below or contact me directly at foodmindedmama@gmail.com


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Holy Crap! I'm doing this.

I'm a single mom. There’s no co-parent. It’s just me and my girl. There are a lot of decisions that I've made for myself and my daughter that I feel are sound and that I'm proud of. There is one place, however, that I feel like I have been lacking; that would be in the arena of exercise. 

After my daughter was born, I nursed and did my best to eat well. I ate rich foods and drank wine in moderation and took good care of myself for the sake of my daughter. I got back down to my pre-pregnancy weight quite easily. As time went on though, the stresses of raising my babes alone began to take their toll. One glass of wine became two, I was "just too tired" to go for a walk, and I said to myself, "If I strap Lorelei in a stroller for my walk, when is she going to get her exercise? She’ll just be on her back and not sitting up or crawling.” I realize that that was a silly way to think, but those were the thoughts I leaned on to allow myself to accept lethargy as an acceptable state of being.

You know what?


As I’m writing this post, trying to explain away why I’m so overweight and inactive, “Blah, blah, this reason. Blah, blah, this excuse.” I realize that none of my rationales make any damned bit of difference.

There are two valid reasons why it may be more difficult for me to work out and stay fit: the matters of time and money: I have no money to pay for a gym membership. This is a valid reason. I also don’t want to spend any more time away from my daughter than I already do, which is nearly forty hours a week (the majority of her waking hours). This is a valid reason too. But all of the “Wells” and “Buts” don’t matter.

I’m making excuses.


All this being said: I don't exercise. Since Lorelei was born I have gained fifteen pounds. This weight is on top of the twenty pounds that I had gained from June of 2006 until May of 2008, when I found out I was pregnant.

Something’s got to change. But… why change now? Well, I’m five months away from my 40th birthday; that’s a good reason to bust my ass and lose thirty-five pounds. The other reason, however, is much more profound than vanity and health: it’s Lorelei.

Last week, when we were over at our friend Heidi’s house, her youngest daughter said something that has played over and over in my mind since,

“Oh no! I haven’t done my daily exercises yet! I’ll be right back.”

A four-year-old said that.

I realized then that I needed to start setting a good example for Lorelei and that I need to start a daily regimen of exercises so that she can learn that taking care of yourself is just as important as eating well.

And so, I am here to announce that I have taken on the challenge of losing thirty-five pounds in five months. Exactly five months from today, on April 3, 2012, I will be forty years old.


I will be following the 6 Week Pregnancy Weight Loss program developed by Sara Dean of FitHealthyMom.com. I have been told that, even though my weight can no longer be blamed on my baby, who is almost three years old (my words, not hers), this six week program will give me a good kick in the butt and be an efficient platform from which I can successfully launch my self-imposed weight loss challenge.

Of course I will be documenting this. Starting next week I will be reporting back to you, my readers, about my progress; most likely kvetching, wining, and complaining. I’ll share my successes and my failures, and, (gulp) I’ll be sharing my before, during, and after pictures. Oy vey. I’m told that this step is good motivation, but this part just sounds horrible to me. BUT! I’m doing it. Lucky you, right?

You may be wondering why on earth I would think that people who read this food/parenting blog would want to see this Mama on a weight loss challenge. Well, here’s what I’m thinking: it’s about setting a good example for my daughter. This blog is about teaching my kiddo how to be a good, healthy, informed, and well-rounded person. Learning about food is critical, but exercise is just as important and I’m the one who has to lead the way for her. I can no longer sit on the couch licking my salt-covered fingers telling her to do jumping jacks. I have to do them too. (That doesn’t really happen, but you catch my drift.)

All in all, my daughter needs me; not just to set a good example, but she needs for me to be there for her for a long time and I intend to be there, fit as a fiddle.

Please feel free to comment during this process. Tell me that I’m doing great, tell me that I’m screwing up, share your stories, whatever. Your support will really mean a lot to me and I’m sure your words will echo in my head while I’m faining pleasure in front of Lorelei while I’m doing sit ups.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Home Made Tomato Sauce

If my chef friends saw how I ran my kitchen (hell, if my Step Mom saw) they would swallow their tongues. Typically there are dirty dishes in the sink, maybe a dirty egg pan from that morning’s breakfast on the stove while I’m cooking dinner, coffee grounds in the ‘coffee nook’, you name it. I always think I have ingredients that I don’t, and I often buy things that I already have, and (confession time) I throw out food (Sorry Grannie). 

 Anyhoo, I told Lorelei that we would watch a movie and have spaghetti dinner last night. We had had a long and very busy weekend with pumpkin carving, Halloween parties and Halloween, of course, so we needed a relaxing evening just the two of us. One major hiccough; I realized when we got home that I didn't have any pasta sauce. (Shit!)

Well, SHIT!!!

After rooting around in the cupboard looking for the damned jar of sauce that I just knew I had (which of course I didn’t) I realized that I did have some just-cooked tomatoes in the fridge.

Long story short about the tomatoes: a friend gave me these gorgeous tomatoes almost a month ago. They sat on my kitchen table lookin’ perty for a while, but then I realized that I had better do something with them or they would go to waste (See Annie, I do think about it…). I decided to blanch them and take the skins off with the intention of cooking them within a day or two. That was last week. Oy! So AGAIN, trying not to waste them, I put the skinless tomatoes in the slow cooker Monday morning and let them stew all day. When I got home, I put them in a jar and thought nothing of them… until now.

“HA!” I thought, “Well, here goes nothin’.”

So I set off to making homemade tomato sauce.

I'm sure that there are a million recipes out there for homemade tomato sauce, none of which I have ever looked at,  but I'm pretty stinkin' happy with how tonight's dinner turned out.

So here's what I did: (an ingredients list and simple instructions are below)

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, I heated some olive oil and threw in some leftover chopped shallot that I found in the fridge from Saturday’s pumpkin carving party. I scrounged up a garlic clove, smashed it, and threw it in the pot. Next, a squirt each of tomato paste and anchovy paste. I stirred all of that for about five minutes then added in my tomatoes. I tossed in five fingers full of salt and added some ground pepper, some basil and oregano from my herb pots, gave it a stir and then set the burner to medium-low.

Stir, stir, stir.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. 2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the caldron boil and bake… (I often quote Shakespeare when I cook.)

After about 20 minutes of simmering, I buzzed the sauce up with my immersion blender (my Braun Hand Blender that I bought from an infomercial years ago, Ha!) and it was ready! I tossed in some spaghetti and topped it with grated Parmesan. Easy!!

The review came in from Lorelei as this, “Mmm! Yum mom. Thank you.”

It was absolutely my pleasure.

2 tbsp Olive oil in a saucepan
1 shallot chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1 tbsp anchovy paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups stewed tomatoes
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
Grated Parmesan for garnish.

Sautee the shallots, garlic, tomato paste and anchovy paste for a minute or so over med-high heat. Add stewed tomatoes, either those that you’ve made yourself or from a can, add salt and pepper, simmer for 20 minutes or so, blend (either with an immersion blender or a standard blender) and serve with spaghetti and lots of grated Parmesan.

Of course, if you have any questions or need some pointers, leave me a comment or contact me at foodmindedmama@gmail.com