Christmas Goodies and Weight-watching – Are They Oxymorons?

At the Village Library where I tutor once a week, I watched the kids decorate Christmas cookies. They had a lot of fun designing Christmas sweater cookies.

 

 

Then I went home and baked some of my own to give to neighbors. I tasted one or two—to be sure they were good—but the last tray got burned. After packing up cookies for five different neighbor houses, there were none left to eat that were not burned on the bottom. Maybe that was a good thing—for my waistline.                                                                      My husband and I took a pumpkin pie to my daughter’s house on Christmas Eve. We planned to celebrate my oldest grandson’s birthday—he was born on Christmas Day, so we try to have a separate time for him—but he got the dates mixed up and didn’t show. My two daughters and a friend had baked six or seven different kinds of cookies, including Baklava, so rich it was cut in one-inch pieces. Of course, I had to try several, but I was careful not to bring any home.                                                                                                                    Except when my daughters and both grandsons this time, showed up for Christmas dinner, one daughter brought a small plastic container of cookies. It took my husband and I only two days to finish them off.                                                                                                              I got on the scale the day after Christmas and found I’d added three pounds. Returning to my regular routine, 30 minutes on an exercise bike and a six-block walk was definitely needed. My New Year’s resolution is to rejoin the gym and go once a week.                                   With all the leftovers in the refrigerator (Oriental Green Bean Dish, Corn Pudding, Sweet Potato Dish with Pecan Topping, and Macaroni and Cheese), I only add servings of two dishes and one roll to the turkey slices I warm in a Ziploc bag and serve with a little gravy. I alternate pumpkin or pecan pie for dessert with berries, so I don’t add so much rich foods, and so far, that’s worked to keep the weight from rising—but now one pound will get me back to normal and ten will get me to my desired weight. I’ll never weigh as little as Miss America, but that’s okay.                                                                                                       Now here’s a recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini from my cookbook, There IS Life After Lettuce, (now out of print, but I’m working on a new one.) Chicken Tetrazzini was originally developed for the opera star, Luisa Tetrazzini, around 1908-1910, probably by Ernest Arbogast, the chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where the popular soprano stayed a long time. I like to make it with fresh mushrooms that have been fried in Imperial Margarine. Sometimes I make it with ham and chicken instead of turkey.

Turkey or Chicken Tetrazzini

8-oz. raw spaghetti noodles, cooked in

Unsalted water

1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Mushroom Soup

(it’s a low salt version)

½ cup skim milk

3 cups cut up turkey, chicken, or ham

or a combination

1 4-oz. can mushroom pieces or 6 large fresh mushrooms

fresh are nice fried in margarine

1 Tbs. parsley flakes

4 slices processed cheese (better with 6)

1 tsp. No Salt (use regular if you don’t have to watch sodium)

¼ tsp. pepper

Mix and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through. For microwave oven, cook on high 6-8 minutes uncovered. This makes 6 servings.

Nutrients per serving (using turkey or chicken, 4 slices cheese and no margarine) 222 calories, 7 g. fat, 57 mg. Cholesterol, 15 g. carbohydrate, and 332 mg. sodium.

8-oz. raw spaghetti noodles, cooked in unsalted water

1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Mushroom Soup (it’s a low salt version)

½ cup skim milk

3 cups cut up turkey, chicken, or ham or a combination

1 4-oz. can mushroom pieces or 6 large fresh mushrooms (fresh ones are nice fried in margarine)

1 Tbs. parsley flakes

4 slices processed cheese (better with 6)

1 tsp. No Salt (use regular if you don’t have to watch sodium)

¼ tsp. pepper

Mix and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through. For microwave oven, cook on high 6-8 minutes uncovered. This makes 6 servings.

Nutrients per serving (using turkey or chicken, 4 slices cheese and no margarine) 222 calories, 7g. fat, 57mg. Cholesterol, 15 g. carbohydrate, and 332 mg. sodium.

 

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Thanksgiving, now and then, plus turkey soup directions

My husband and I finally finished off the turkey soup. Of course, the cranberry salad, sweet potato dish, corn pudding, and pumpkin and pecan pies are long gone. (See directions for turkey soup below.)

Curious about what the pilgrims ate on that first Thanksgiving, I read an interesting article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram by Julie Lesnik. Since waterfowl was plentiful…” they were probably “… eating goose and duck rather than turkey.” An Indian leader gave five deer to the governor, so venison may have also graced the table. “There’s no account of cranberries at the first Thanksgiving,” probably because boggy regions of Massachusetts were several miles away. Since the first record of potatoes grown in New England was in New Hampshire in 1722, no mashed potatoes were served at that Thanksgiving dinner.

A stew called sobaheg, generally consisting of beans, corn, poultry, squash, nuts, and clam juice may have been served along with Indian maizium, or corn bread.

I should have persuaded my daughters and grandson, who came late, to take more leftovers on Thanksgiving Day, but my husband and I sure enjoyed the rest of the turkey, side dishes, and pumpkin and pecan pie with whipped cream.

I finally lost the four pounds I gained from feasting on Thanksgiving dinner and eating the leftovers, but then I enjoyed a birthday lunch and steak dinner, plus attended two Christmas parties. Thankfully, there are only two more Christmas parties coming up, so maybe after New Year’s Day, I can lose more pounds than I gain.

TURKEY SOUP

After I cut most of the meat off to save for sandwiches, I broke up the carcass enough to get it into my big stew pot, added plenty of water, cooked that for an hour, and refrigerated it, pan and all. The next day, I took the pan out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for an hour before cutting the rest of the meat off the bones. {I didn’t want to freeze my fingers.} After rubbing off the gelatinous mixture, which held all the flavor, into the pan, I discarded the bones, added more water and heated the mixture. I sliced carrots, about two cups, and added those with 2 cups of frozen peas. After boiling that for twenty minutes, I added about six spoonfuls of congealed gravy, which I’d kept refrigerated. As soon as that melted and blended in, I tasted the soup and added enough water, gravy, salt, and pepper to make it taste good.

We ate two bowlfuls, and I refrigerated the rest.  The next time I served it, I added more water and more gravy and heated it until the gravy spoonfuls had melted.

Since I’m serving turkey again for Christmas dinner, I guess I’ll be making it again.

 

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November in North Texas

Fall is in the air, and so are pumpkins. Below are pictures of pumpkins painted by two students I tutor at the Village Library, part of Mission Central, which serves Hurst, Euless, and Bedford. The first was painted by Daniela, a teenager who celebrated her birthday the day I took the picture. The second was painted by another girl, who writes very well, but has to work at math. After lifting hers, I discovered how heavy it was and volunteered to carry it to her mother’s car.

A boy asked how to make pumpkin pie from the pumpkin he painted. I told him you had to cut off the outer skin, scrape out the seeds and stringy stuff, then cut the pumpkin into pieces and boil them. Then you have to mash it before you can make pie with it. I did it once and decided I prefer to use canned pumpkin.

 

 

 

Today I dressed warmly as there was a nip in the air. From nine to eleven I handed out food to people from Hurst, Euless, and Bedford. We didn’t have many volunteers, so I was handing out huge cabbages, cantaloupes or honeydew melons, spaghetti squash (a foot long and six inches thick), carrots, and bags of potatoes. I tried to bag the carrots, but couldn’t always keep up. Luckily, I had a helper part of the time. The carrots were big too. Some were over a foot long, and others had divided into two or more lower protrusions. I’m sure they would be tricky to peel, but taste good in soup. Below is a picture of me on a warmer day handing out potatoes.

 

A few days ago, I had business at the Hurst police station. Walking out, I saw a little something flopping around on the floor. Imagine my surprise when I looked closer and discovered a baby bat trying to fly.

 

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HALLOWEEN AT DFW WRITER’S WORKSHOP

DFW Writer’s Workshop celebrated Halloween with scary stories, costumes, and a  potluck dinner. We had Darth Vader, the Devil, an angel, and someone in a skeleton T-shirt. Fried chicken, meatballs, potato salad, fruit salad, cupcakes, chocolate brittle with M & Ms, and other goodies filled the table. As they do, every Wednesday at seven o’clock, the writers of scary stories and other stories read out loud for 15 minutes and received 5 minutes of constructive critique. This has helped our members get over 310 books published during the forty years the organization has been in existence.

 

 

 

I read from my work in progress, Romancing the Vet, about a vet who finds drugs sewn into a retired, racing greyhound and his girlfriend, the dog’s owner, who are being chased by the drug dealers.

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TRAVEL MEMORIES AND WRITER’S RETREAT

I took time out to visit my son and his family in Seattle. My granddaughter’s favorite thing is riding horses, so I took a picture of her taking a lesson on an appaloosa horse. She told me she had to learn how to brush a horse and muck out a stall as well.

I also watched her play soccer on a field that looked as big as a football field. That makes for a lot of running as she followed the coach’s instructions to stay with her player from the opposing team. She also got in a few good kicks. Promised a treat at a local frozen yogurt place if they won, the team persevered and trounced the opposition 3 to 1. I joined them in adding nuts and other tidbits from a buffet of things to sprinkle on top. After setting my cup on a scale to have the price figured, I joined the happy team members.

As my son and my grandson played catch, my grandson explained how he signals the pitcher to throw different types of pitches.

My son took me up to top of the Seattle Space Needle. We stood on the revolving glass floor and got a panoramic view of Seattle and Puget Sound with mountains on the opposite shore. Looking down on a building roof, sporting huge spiders, complete with shadows, we argued about whether they were painted or three-dimensional figures, but the shadows were not consistent with the time of day, so they had to be painted.

Down on the ground again, we ate Scottish meat pies. After taking a bottle of strawberry soda to the table, I was appalled to discover it had 74 grams of sugar. I knew I should have chosen water instead, but it was a refreshing accompaniment to my beef pie on a warm day.

Two weeks later, I took a different kind of trip, to a house in the Texas countryside for a writer’s retreat with a dozen other writers. I took part in several writing sprints of twenty minutes and my best total was 555 words, over two pages. During the rainy weekend I managed to crank out thirty pages on my next book, a sequel to Searching for Love. Now comes the hard part, the editing. I’ll let it cool while I finish editing Romancing the Vet.

Below, Sandy, Virginia, and Gina are hard at work writing.

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From the mouth and hands of an artist – beauty and wonder

I visited Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum in Seattle and viewed wonders made by Dale Chihuly, born in nearby Tacoma, Washington. I loved the foot-wide flowers hanging from the glass “greenhouse” that glowed in the sunlight with shades of orange and yellow.

   I marveled at the eight-foot tall sculptures with so many blown pieces in differing shapes. I thought about the artist, standing on a ladder carefully assembling them and marveled at his patience. 

One exhibit, featuring items assembled in boats was inspired by Chihuly’s experiments with glass balls in Nuutajarvi, Finland, where he worked at the famous Hackman Glass Works. He tossed glass balls into a river to see what would happen. After seeing teenagers in rowboats gathering the balls, he made an exhibit with balls of different sizes and colors in a boat. Inspired by fishing boat floats, he called this Niijama Floats.

The other “boat” held glass forms of different sizes, shapes, and colors resembling stems, reflected in the black mirrored surface below. He called that Ikebana after Japanese flower arrangement traditions.

An exhibit of various forms and colors, some resembling swans, longer than my thirty-foot living room filled one whole room. Another room held flowers three feet across in different colors placed six feet high.

Outside, I walked past tall, slim cylinders in blue or red, resembling candles, and a tall yellow green glass bush. Set among natural foliage, it looked like a real plant. I guessed it was from ten to fifteen feet tall.

Not long after my arrival back at DFW Airport, I had an appointment with my oncologist and again saw Chuhuly’s orange and yellow creation at UT Southwestern’s Seay Biomedical Building in Dallas. The sculpture consists of 1,100 hand-blown glass elements, flown from Seattle and assembled in the lobby of the building. And best of all, I have pictures on my camera and my phone and will add three to this article.

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Lunch Disaster

Tired of soup and sandwiches for lunch, I decided to try a new recipe for baked eggs. Since it’s still summer in Texas, I decided I’d use the microwave oven.

The recipe called for chives, parsley, and tarragon. Well, I had parsley, and I thought I had tarragon. I know I’d made a type of Hollandaise sauce with tarragon once, but I couldn’t find any tarragon. Maybe cilantro would do. For chives I substituted paprika to add color. Carefully, I measured out ½ tsp. of each and mixed that in a small bowl.

I put one pat of butter in each little ramekin, but didn’t want to add all the herbs and spice, so I divided half the amount among the four dishes and put them in the microwave for ten seconds to melt the butter.

I managed to crack each egg without breaking the yolk. I sprinkled each dish with pepper, added a tablespoon of milk and sprinkled a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese over each one. Somewhere I’d read you should break the yolk before microwaving, but with all that stuff on top, I didn’t think it necessary.

The recipe said to bake twelve minutes. I have a 1250-watt microwave, so I set them to cook for half the time and started setting the table. I kept hearing little pops. When I opened the microwave door, I saw bits of herb crusted egg all over the oven and groaned.

To make things worse, the herbs tended to concentrate in spots, making some bites too spicy. I’m glad I hadn’t used all the herbs. My husband, bless his heart, ate his and said, “Please don’t try that again.”

After lunch, I gave that microwave a good cleaning and resolved to try a different egg recipe next time.

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