Saturday, November 28, 2015

update on leo

Leo is home from surgery and he's doing great.  He's nearly toothless, but it's for the better.  He has only six teeth left. They gave us a diagram showing the missing, extracted, and remaining teeth.  He also had a belly and butt shave:  Persians get very matted, even with regular brushing, and they need a "sanitary clip" on their rear ends to prevent messiness.

We picked him up at the vet last night and they commented on how handsome and friendly he is.  Actually, they said they didn't want to let him go home because he was such a good boy!  He's a pretty friendly cat, so people always like him.  He was very happy to see us and started rolling around and purring immediately upon seeing us.

As soon as we got home I fed him and he ate like a champ.  I think Bailey either didn't recognize him, or smelled foreign cats on him, because he was hissing quite a bit.  All is well now, though.  Leo took a full body bath and then went to bed. He seems happy and pain-free.


He's letting it all hang out.  Look at that shaved belly!





Friday, November 27, 2015

homemade chocolate pie

This year I did something a little different for my contribution to the family Thanksgiving meal: chocolate pie. It's a staple at our holiday meals.  Normally one of my sisters makes it, but I decided I would try it this year.  But I didn't want to make the standard pie, which is store-bought crust with boxed pudding. Not that that's bad, but I wanted to try my hand at making the pudding and crust from scratch.

It was time-consuming:   there are several steps, with rest periods in between, for both the crust and the pudding.

After mixing the crust, it had to go in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.  Then when I rolled it out and put it in the pie plates it had to go back in the fridge; that's supposed to improve the results and make the crust even flakier. I've made pie crust only once before--earlier this month when I made homemade apple pie--so I don't have a lot of practice yet.  It seemed to go well, though, despite the fact that I don't have a pastry blender; it broke the first time I used it, which was when I made the apple pie.  And I can't seem to do the two-knives thing for cutting the butter into the flour, so I just used my hands and rubbed the butter into the flour. 


Here's my baked crust.  It isn't super pretty, but it was flaky.   

Then came the pudding.  I had to mix some of the ingredients in a saucepan, then put it on the heat and add the rest of the ingredients, bring it to a boil, and then pour it over the chocolate, butter and vanilla, and then mix until smooth.  Then it goes through a sieve to remove any lumps.  Then it goes in the fridge for a couple hours to cool. Meanwhile, I baked the crusts, which then had to cool completely.  Then in goes the pudding and the pies go back in the fridge overnight to set up.


Here's the finished product, ready to hit the fridge.

Anyway, I managed it.  And the results were totally worth it:  it tasted like a dark chocolate fudge bar, and I was told that I'm now in charge of the chocolate pies.

By the way, if you're a chocolate pudding lover, skip making the crust.  This pudding is absolutely chocolate heaven!

Here's the recipe, which comes from King Arthur Flour (sorry, it's not my own recipe).  This is a well-written recipe and everything seemed to work just like it should with great results.  Note:  You really need to set aside one full weeknight to do this, unless you can work a lot faster than me.

Chocolate Pie

Crust

2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
7 to 10 tablespoons ice water
Filling

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao Baking Chips)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used dark cocoa powder)
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional; for richer chocolate flavor (I used 1/4 tsp)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream, divided
2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

Directions

Crust:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, and salt.
  2. Cut in the shortening until it's in lumps the size of small peas.
  3. Dice the butter into 1/2" pieces, and cut into the mixture until you have flakes of butter the size of your fingernail.
  4. Add the water, two tablespoons at a time, mixing with a fork as you sprinkle the water into the dough.
  5. When the dough is moist enough to hold together when you squeeze it, transfer it to a piece of wax or parchment paper. It's ok if there are dry spots in the pile. Use a spray bottle of water to lightly spritz these places; that way you'll add just enough water to bring the dough together without adding too much or creating a wet spot.
  6. Fold it over on itself three or four times to bring it together, then pat it into a disk 3/4" thick
  7. Roll the disk on its edge, like a wheel, to smooth out the edges. This step will ensure your dough will roll out evenly, without a lot of cracks and splits at the edges later. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.
  8. To blind bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9" pie pan that's at least 2" deep. This will make serving the pie easier after it's finished.
  9. Roll out the pastry for the pie to a 13" circle. Transfer it to the prepared pan, and trim the edges so they overlap the edge by an inch all the way around. Tuck the edges up and under, and flute them. Put the lined pie pan in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes.
  10. Line the crust with foil or parchment paper, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and gently remove foil or parchment with the weights or beans. Return the crust to the oven for 10 to 20 more minutes, until it's golden brown all over. If the edges of the crust start becoming too brown, cover them with a pie shield, or strips of aluminum foil. Remove the crust from the oven and cool completely.

Filling:

Place the chopped chocolate, butter, and vanilla extract in a 2-quart mixing bowl; set aside.

  1. In a medium saucepan away from heat, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt. Whisk in 1/4 cup of cold heavy cream until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of the cream. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  2. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and gradually whisk in the remaining cream and milk.
  3. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the mixture thickens; boil for 1 minute.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture over the reserved chocolate and butter.
  5. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
  6. Pass the filling through a strainer into a bowl to remove any lumps.
  7. Place plastic wrap or buttered parchment paper on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and chill thoroughly.
Assembly:
  1. Transfer the cooled filling to the cooled, baked pie crust. Level the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.
  2. Chill the pie until ready to serve. Note:  Chill for at least 6 hours, otherwise the filling will be loose and it will be messy to slice the pie.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

leo goes for surgery tomorrow

I mentioned awhile back that Leo, my Persian kitty, has to go in for surgery to remove most of his teeth due to severe gingivitis.  The required blood work showed that his protein count was low. Possible causes are liver issues, cancer, or even just a side effect of the mouth issues.  He had an ultra sound a couple weeks ago and they didn't find any signs of cancer, so I'm really happy about that.  It showed signs of arthritis, but that's to be expected in an 11 year old cat.  He also had a urinalysis and that was completely normal. 

So, the day has finally arrived for Leo to have his surgery.  I came home from work yesterday and found he had strings of bloody drool hanging from his mouth, and he was constantly making the gnawing motion with his mouth. I felt so bad for him.  I called the vet right away last night to get him scheduled.  

The vet said he hoped that he could save some of the teeth, but it's not looking very likely.  In my experience, they usually end up taking them all.  Although, Felix had the same surgery and they left him with two teeth, which I thought was odd. If they're only leaving him two, they might as well just take them all; there isn't much he can do with two teeth. 

Anyway, Leo will be in the hospital over Thanksgiving.  I'll miss him, but he will be well taken care of by the people at Catzablanca (they take only cats).  I'll post an update over the weekend.

Here's a picture of him--again.  He's the one on the right. We were packing for Florida in 2009 and Leo and Price thought they were going with us.






Friday, November 20, 2015

cranberry white cheddar cheese

Here's something new I found at Whole Foods a couple weekend ago:  white cheddar cheese with cranberries.  I'm always up for trying a new cheese, so I grabbed a small block of it.  I picked up a couple other cheeses, also. I really like that they sell tiny little blocks of cheese.  It makes it less expensive to try new cheeses.  Plus, it's just enough for a snack or two, so no waste.

It was every bit as good as I thought it would be!  A little salty with nice fruity sweetness from the cranberries. This is a cheese that I would eat by itself, without crackers or anything else to compete with the taste.  I just hope I'm able to eat it in moderation!



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

today's breakfast and lunch

Today I ate something I almost never eat anymore:  salad.  I very rarely eat it nowadays, for several reasons.  
  1. I ate tons of it when I followed the Medifast program.
  2. I ate tons of it in the two weeks leading up to the weight loss surgery.
  3. It's a waste to order it as a meal at a restaurant, because the leftovers tend to get soggy really fast.
  4. I prefer when someone else makes the salad.  It just tastes better for some reason.
So, yeah, I'm not big on salads anymore.  The only reason I took salad today was because I had Perdue Shortcuts chicken breast in the fridge, and I got a bag of salad free from the grocery store this past weekend.  My salad consisted of lettuce, onions, ham, chicken and feta cheese.  I topped it with Italian dressing.  

Breakfast was the usual Greek yogurt with dry roasted peanuts mixed in.

Snacks were celery and Sriracha hummus (fiery!), aged cheddar cheese, and green grapes.





Monday, November 16, 2015

coconut flour shortbread cookies

I was at the library this weekend.  I was browsing the cookbooks, as usual, and came across a Paleo diet cookbook.  I decided to leaf through it, since most of the recipes were high protein and that's what I'm looking for.  I came across a recipe for coconut pancakes made with coconut flour and coconut milk.  They looked pretty good and seemed easy to make, just like regular pancakes.  I didn't feel like checking the book out, so I went home and Googled for the recipe. But first I stopped at Ocean State Job Lot to get some Bob's Red Mill Coconut Flour; Ocean State Job Lot sells a big variety of Bob's Red Mill products.

I found a whole bunch of coconut pancake recipes online.  I clicked on one from a blog called Paleo Hacks.  That lead me to a post called 33 Indulgent Coconut Flour Recipes.  I clicked through and found a whole bunch of fairly simple recipes using coconut flour, one of which was these Coconut Flour Shortbread Cookies.  The recipe had only 4 ingredients, 5 if you count the optional chocolate. I decided to make these cookies.  I figured they're low in sugar and lower in carbs.  And the recipe makes only 8 small cookies, which is good; I don't want the temptation around for long.

These were very easy to mix together and it only took about 5 minutes, which includes the time it took to gather the ingredients, preheat the oven, and mix the dough.  It took a couple more minutes to roll the dough into balls and flatten with a fork. Note:  make sure you use cooking spray on the fork, otherwise the dough will stick.  Alternatively, you could just flatten them with your thumb.

The recipe called for maple syrup, but since I only needed one tablespoon I didn't want to spend a ton on real syrup.  I used pancake syrup instead.

These cookies were good, but not sweet at all.  I think they would benefit from a little sugar sprinkled on the top, or the optional chocolate drizzled over the top.  I don't know how to describe the taste.  I didn't necessarily taste the syrup or the coconut flour by themselves, although there was a hint of both.  And they also don't taste like regular shortbread cookies.  Also, while they were soft, they were a bit dry; I found myself needing a sip of water to wash each one down.

I would make them again, because they're just so easy, but I might use something else in place of the maple syrup. Maybe honey or sugar free Torani syrup.

Here's the recipe if you're interested in trying them:  Coconut Flour Shortbread Cookies.

Nutritional info, using regular pancake syrup and no chocolate:  73 calories, 6g fat, 1g sugar, 4g carbs and 1g protein per cookie.



Friday, November 13, 2015

tgif

I'm so happy it's Friday!  It's been a stressful week at work.  Not a bad week, just stressful.  I work at a bank and we're going through a regulatory exam at the moment.  It seems like I've been inundated with requests all of a sudden.  I know it's part of the whole process, but it's annoying to have to stop everything and spend the whole day pulling files, reports, etc.  At least it won't last forever.  Hopefully next week it will be done. The bright spot this week was getting a massive compliment from the examiner, and today I get to wear my jeans to work; it's Blue Jeans for Babies today.

I'm looking forward to a quick visit with my brother and sister-in-law tonight.  They're staying over and then catching the train to NY tomorrow.  We'll get to discuss The Walking Dead, which I started watching recently.  I'm definitely enjoying the show, although sometimes all the negativity and killing gets a little old.  The violence doesn't bother me.  I just get tired of seeing it sometimes. I just watched the episodes where they discovered, and then escaped, Terminus.  That was crazy!!  And disgusting.  But I guess if food is scarce you do what you have to do to survive. 

Leo will be going in for his dental surgery soon.  Just waiting for something to come together first. Luckily his x-rays showed nothing of concern, so he's clear for surgery.  The plan is to remove all of his teeth, although the vet will try to save the ones he can save. For the moment, we're keeping him going with antibiotic shots to control the infection.  Once he has the surgery, he should be good to go. 

And now back to work...



Monday, November 9, 2015

today's breakfast and lunch

I haven't posted this in a while, so figured I would do so today.  I'm trying to get back on track so maybe this will make me a little more accountable.
 
I've been eating a lot of junk lately and it shows on the scale.  I haven't gained much at all, but I sure feel like I have.  It's amazing how I now feel just a few pounds the same way I felt a 30 pound gain before the surgery.  I guess I've finally gotten used to my new body.
 
Today for breakfast was the usual Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt, my favorite, with an ounce of dry roasted peanuts. 
 
Lunch was 1/2 cup of Perdue Shortcuts Honey Roasted Chicken. 
 
Snack was 3 ounces of green seedless grapes, an ounce of Colby Jack cheese, and an ounce of Wheat Things Toasted Pita Chips (not shown here).  Some of it was eaten as a snack throughout the morning, and some of it was eaten with the chicken.
 
I'm definitely having a tough time with wanting to snack a lot today.  I've been snacking so often, I've gotten used to it.  I'll just have to ride out the cravings for a few days and then I'll be fine.
 

Friday, November 6, 2015

happy birthday to me!

Today is my birthday and I'm celebrating by taking the day off from work.  I almost never take my birthday off, but this year I decided to do so since I had more vacation days than I did last year.

I'm not doing anything special today.  I got up early and dropped Leo off at the vet.  He has to have another antibiotic injection for the infection in his gums.  He also has to have x-rays and a urinalysis, because the vet mentioned his blood work showed low protein.  They also want to do an ultra sound, but that has to wait until Wednesday; their ultra sound person is a traveling doctor and is only there on Wednesdays. All this work has to be done to make sure there aren't any other problems going on.  Then he will have the surgery to remove his teeth. Hopefully after that, all will be fine.


Leo is ready to go to the vet.  I think Leia is glad she's not in there!


I then took a trip to Dress Barn to spend my gift card. I entered an Instagram contest awhile back and won a $100.00 Dress Barn gift card.  So, I bought some clothes for work.  Even though I've lost weight, clothes shopping is still frustrating, though.  I'm finding that many shirts are very sheer, which is odd because these are work clothes. It's not like I'm in a store that sells club clothing.  I bought a really nice Houndstooth skirt, but I had a hard time finding a white shirt to go with it.  I ended up leaving, deciding that I'll wear with it the one white top I own.  I like a white button-down shirt, but I hate collared shirts.  The length of my hair is such that my hair is usually tucked under the collar and it does weird things to my hair. It looked great, though, so it was a hard decision not to buy it.

I listened to the new Def Leppard music the whole time I was driving.  I have to say, I'm really loving the new stuff.  I was afraid to listen, because it's been so many years since I've like more that a song or two on one album.  But I think they knocked it out of the park with this one.  I like all of the songs, escpecially Man Enough, which I think I'm going to wear out!

I then came home and wrote more of my book.  It's going well.  I'm hitting the word count target each day, but sometimes find it difficult to make myself sit down and write.  And once I do start writing, I'm often looking at the word count to see how much longer I have to write.  It's not that I don't enjoy writing.  It's just that I know there's a TV in the other room and I have 24 more episodes of The Walking Dead to watch.  And I find myself struggling with details sometimes.  I feel like I remember much less of my childhood than the average person. I'm currently writing about my former eating habits.  It's embarrassing, but it needs to be done. And it's not easy to put that down on paper, even though I'm the only one looking at it.  But overall, it really is going well.

Tonight will be dinner in and some more episodes of The Walking Dead.  Then tomorrow we head to my Dad's house.  His birthday is on the 10th, so we always celebrate our birthdays together.

The girls at work bought me a blanket, among other cat-themed items.  Louise seems to like it.



And Bob had flowers sent to work.  Aren't they pretty?  My favorite colors, too! I usually keep them at work, but I had to bring them home since I'm off for three days.  I'm finding it hard to keep the cats out of them, though.



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

wasabi goat cheese: ideas please!

I bought a log of wasbi flavored goat cheese awhile back, and it's been haunting my fridge ever since.  I haven't been able to figure out what I should use it for--I haven't Googled it like I normally would.  I was thinking I could make a batch of crustless quiche, but that's too predictable.  I'm thinking I want something different.  Maybe a dip or something.  Anyone have any ideas? 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

homemade apple pie: putting all those apples to use

I was feeling extra motivated today, so I decided to make a homemade apple pie.  I'm guessing it's because Daylight Saving Time ended (read:  It's Daylight Saving Time, people, NOT Daylight Savings Time) and I have an extra hour today.  I really think this is my favorite day of the year:  I get an extra hour of sleep, although I always wake up at the regular time anyway; I get an extra hour to get things done; and the day goes by very slowly.

So, I'm finally putting my apples to use.  I have many bags of apples in the freezer already; however, since I still have tons of them to peel, core and slice, I decided to use the fresh ones, which will help reduce the amount of apples in the fridge.

I felt so motivated by the longer day that I made pie crust from scratch for the first time!  Plus, I forgot to pie pre-made crust when I was at the store this morning, so I didn't have any choice if I wanted to make pie today. It wasn't difficult to do, but I've always been afraid to make it.  From what I've read and heard, it can be fussy and it has to be worked just right.  In addition, the butter and water must be very cold.  It wasn't difficult to mix, but I had to be very careful not to overwork the dough--that makes a tough pie crust.  I found it difficult to roll it into a circle, but I guess that will come with practice. The bottom crust wasn't very pretty, but the top one came out better.  I made two extra crusts to freeze, so I can throw a pie together much faster next time.

I used a combination of two recipes:  King Arthur Flour's Apple Pie and a recipe from Taste of Home.  I made King Arthur's crust and the filling from the Taste of Home recipe.  Why?  Because I didn't have two of the ingredients for the King Arthur recipe.  (Are you really that surprised?)

I was happy with the results.  The crust was flaky and light, the filling had good flavor, and the apples were still intact.

So, here's the pie before baking:



 And here's the pie after baking:


And here's a slice.  It's a bit of a mess, because I cut it before it was 100% cool.  I ate a small piece, but it's got a lot of sugar so I can't eat much of it.