Monday, August 31, 2015

Back to Basics

No, we're not going to boot camp, but it seems like that because of what we're doing (again) for the next few weeks (or longer). 

Instead of saying this is (shhh) a diet, we're calling it our re-newed lifestyle change. And, that's exactly how Dr. Agaston, the SB diet guru, describes it. We found out, once again, that we need to alter our food prep and eating ways.

To explain a bit, we're not processed food junkies (no chips or cookies in the pantry) and we don't frequent fast-food places, although we have been known to eat at iHOP, a few burger places and especially ice cream (no calories in homemade, right?). We eat out, by necessity, when traveling. Back home, we prepare meals, mostly with items bought from outer food aisles: dairy, fish, poultry, meat. We do venture into the center grocery aisles for goods like spices, beans and tomatoes. And, we've known to go to the frozen food area for ice cream (also some frozen veggies). 

So, what's the problem?

Just this, we've been enjoying too much of GOOD things that are (apparently) not-so-good in terms of losing weight, like fresh fruit, toasted English muffin with cream cheese, fried eggs and bacon, weekend pancakes. We keep active and walk everywhere (yes, even in winter) as our apt is so close to downtown Nashua  and we use the in-house gym. But weight was remaining nearly constant with only slight changes — not good enough.

We needed to make changes . . .

That meant finding (and agreeing) on a plan we could both follow. So we're returning to South Beach for a couple of reasons: (1) we really liked it and didn't find it restrictive and more importantly (2) we have ALL the books, which include recipes and tips.

The SB plan is divided into 3 Phases. The first is the most restrictive, but only for 2 weeks. Then, you move into Phase 2 and are supposed to follow it until reaching your goal. Phase 3 is your new way of dealing with food, indefinitely.

Phase 1 seems tough to some —no alcohol (beer, wine, etc), no fruit at all, no juices, low-fat or non-fat dairy products (including cheeses), no starches of any type (bread, potatoes, cereal, pasta, rice, etc.) limited servings of some things, like nuts (enjoy cashews, almond, peanuts, pecans, walnuts) just not the whole package. All types of green veggies are good. Best news is you DO NOT count calories or servings, just remain within the set guidelines.

Lest anyone think we're eating boring and/or tasteless meals, here's a sampling of what we've cooked recently: Scrambled Eggs & Salmon, Red Bean Hash,Vegetable Quiche, Vegetable Moussaka,  Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Summer Squash and Green Olives, Mediterranean Skillet Salmon, and Shepherd's Pie.  And, we'll be sharing some of these meals in future posts.

Anyone else working on weight-loss issues — If so, what's worked (or not) for you?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Anniversary Getaway

Thanks to everyone for the anniversary wishes last weekend. We had a great getaway joining lots of tourists in Cape Cod, MA, a first-time visit for us. We enjoyed ourselves despite late summer crowds, but our next visit will be off season.

Chatham, MA is located on the elbow of Cape Cod, half-way between Falmouth and Provincetown. This seaside community has less than 7,000 year-round residents, in-season, this number swells to an estimated 30,000 people.

Chatham was first settled in 1664 by the English and was originally called Monomoit. The area quickly developed into a shipping, fishing, and whaling center. Chatham’s early prosperity endowed it with a number of 18th century buildings and helped it develop into a summer resort. The town has a walkable Main Street with many family-owned and operated shops, restaurants, and businesses. The shopping area has pedestrian crosswalks, on-street parking, and limited parking off Main St. Facilities are overcrowded with limited parking even at the popular Lighthouse Beach where off-street parking can mean a long walk to the beach.
Here's a pictorial tour of where we went in and around Chatham.

The Chatham Fish Pier draws much interest from humans, gulls, ducks and grey seals.The fishing fleet makes a daily run to fishing grounds 3 10 100 miles off shore, weather-permitting. The catch includes haddock, cod, flounder, pollock, halibut and lobster. One-day fresh fish is iced and transported in refrigerated trucks to NY, Boston, New Bedford, and local markets less than 24 hours from when it was caught.

The Chatham Lighthouse was established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1808 to protect ships circling the Cape. The 1808 towers were replaced in 1841 by twin brick towers that were eventually lost to erosion. The pair was rebuilt in 1877 out of cast iron across the street from its original location, where the light resides now. The light keeper’s house is home to a Coast Guard station which patrols the waters of the Atlantic and Nantucket Sound from Wellfleet to West Yarmouth. 

The Chatham Windmill, called the Godfrey Mill, after Col. Benjamin Godfrey a local citizen who attained his rank during the Revolutionary War. It was one of the last grist mills to be built in Chatham. Windmills were once an integral part of town life and a dozen were in the town from the early 1700s - 1800s, with about half that number operating at any one time. Today, only two of these historic mills exist in Chatham and only the Godfrey Mill is open to the public.

The Chatham Labyrinth is located in Chase Park near the windmill and is a replica of the 12th century labyrinth inlaid on the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France and was dedicated in June 2012. It's made of cut and sealed earth-toned pavers. The labyrinth is an ancient circular pattern with a single winding path that provides a meditative walk to the center and back out. Grenville and others walked it during our visit

The Eldredge Public Library is the town's public library and is located on Main Street. The building is a Renaissance/Romanesque revival style and is on the National Registry of historic buildings. It's named after its benefactor, Marcellus Eldredge, a successful NH businessman and legislator, who was a Chatham native. In 1894 he purchased land on Main Street for $1,000. Construction of the new library took a year and cost about $30,000 at the time.

The Chatham Railroad Museum is located in a restored 1887 railroad depot that served Chatham residents and visitors for nearly 50 years. The museum building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It features an architectural style known as Railroad Gothic and contains numerous exhibits and even the New York Central model locomotives used at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He's an avid RR fan, so this museum was one of Grenville's favorite stops.

The museum was founded in 1960, when the vacant depot building and land was donated to the Town of Chatham. The museum has collected hundreds of railroad artifacts including original and operating Western Union telegraph equipment, lanterns, badges, signs, tools, timetables, menus and passes, promotional literature, original paintings and prints, calendars, a 600 volume library, and a restored 1910 wood sided caboose.

Our visit wasn't all just about sightseeing. We dined in some fun places and visited a well-known illustrator's cottage. More on those places in another post.

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spicy Eggplant Sauce

We enjoy eggplant in these summer months when it is more plentiful. We've tried it roasted and in other recipes, so we needed a change

Slow Cooker Spicy Eggplant Sauce
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves (smashed)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1-2 tsp chili flakes
  • 28 ounce can, whole peeled plum tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs oregano or 1 TBSP dried
  • 1/2 C basil Leaves (loosely packed)
  • 1/4 C balsamic vinegar
  • Salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add
    eggplant in batches, to avoid overcrowding pan, and season with salt. Sauté until slightly softened and pale golden, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer cooked batch to the slow-cooker.
  2. When eggplant is cooked, add few more tablespoons of olive oil to pan and sauté onion for 3-4 minutes, until caramelized, seasoning with salt. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  3. Stir in tomato paste and chili flakes. Cook until rust colored, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to slow-cooker along with cooking oil in the pan. Cook on low 4-5 hours.
Serve over your favorite pasta and enjoy with a side salad.

You can store any leftover sauce refrigerated in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sweet 16 & Counting

Yes, folks that's what number anniversary we're celebrating TODAY. And, in place of the usual Friday Funnies, here's our smiling faces instead . . .

We 're celebrating with a long weekend getaway (started on Thursday) to Cape Code, MA.
Dorothy & Pat 

Enjoy your weekend, Everyone — we ARE doing the same!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Show of British Dreams

The Show of Dreams was an all British antique and classic car show which we attended in mid-July in Hudson, NH. Funds raised benefited several area charities. The day was rain-free — perfect weather for an outdoor show of this type, as most car enthusiasts agree.

One of the most distinctive small British sports cars is the two-seat open MG which began production in the mid-1920s. The line also included saloons (British equivalent of sedans) and coupés. The story goes that these well known initials were selected by Cecil Kimber an employee of William Morris who owned Morris Garages. 
Two of the most popular MG colors were British racing green (BRG) and red. BRG is the green international motor racing color of the UK. 

The British Austin-Healey Sprite, introduced in 1958, was known in the UK as the Frogeye and in the U.S. as the Bugeye. Its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the hood. The designers had planned for the headlights to retract with the lenses facing up when not in use. However, due to cost cutting, the flip-up mechanism wasn't added and the headlights were fixed in a permanent upright position giving the car its distinctive feature and nicknames.

Jaguar is a recognized name for a high end luxury car, but the original business was founded in 1922 with a less elegant name, the Swallow Sidecar Company (S.S. Cars). The company made motorcycle side cars before developing bodies for passenger cars. The name was changed to "Jaguar" in 1945.

Aston Martin Lagonda Limited is a British manufacturer of luxury sports cars and grand tourers (GT)  founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford. The firm became associated with luxury grand touring cars in the 1950s and 1960s, and with fictional spy James Bond who used a DB5 model in the 1964 film, GoldfingerThe GT is a performance/luxury automobile used for high-speed or long-distance driving. The term derives from the Italian gran turismo or grand tour, which described autos cars that could make long-distance journeys in comfort and style. 

It's easy to recognize a Rolls Royce. The British car company and later aero-engine manufacturing company was founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Frederick Henry Royce in 1906. In 2015, Rolls Royce announced the production of its first-ever SUV. According to RR management, "the new SUV will set new luxury standards among cars of this segment." Indeed, it will do that.

There's no mistaking the styling of a Lotus. The company was formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd. in 1952 by engineers Colin Chapman and Colin Dare, both graduates of University College, London. The four letters in the middle of the logo are the initials of company founder, Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman. In its starting days, Lotus sold cars geared to privateer racers. Early road cars could be bought as kits to save on purchase taxes, but the kit car era ended in the late 1960s/early 1970s, 

These emblems show the variety of cars featured cars at this show. In addition to those mentioned above, there were many that we were unfamiliar with as well.

One thing so many of these sports cars had in common — tight cramped interiors.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bread & Tomatoes

What lengths would you go to for the perfect loaf of bread?

How about an entire year?

That's what William Alexander did on a self-imposed crusade to bake the perfect loaf of peasant bread. 

It all started after he dined out at a Paris restaurant on a European vacation and had what he called the perfect peasant bread. Thus, starting a quest to re-create it. The book is  divided into 52 chapters (no coincidence) because he baked bread every Sunday for an entire year. Each chapter address a specific concern in this process.

But, unlike those who just experiment in home kitchens, Alexander went much (much) farther: he traveled to Paris to attend a cooking class at The Ritz; went to Morocco in search of a village oven; and revived the art of bread baking in a 1000+ year old French monastery; grew and ground his own wheat, and built an earth oven in his back yard. He created a levian (sourdough starter) that went with him everywhere — on vacation to Maine and to France. The retelling of the airport scene when he tries to explain why he is boarding with a mass of what resembles plastic explosives is very funny. 

The historical changes in flour, the milling processes and the differences between U.S. flour and flour in France are explained. Alexander researched pellagra, an early 20th century dietary deficiency disease and its relationship to the diet in the U.S. South, how a tobacco product was included in bread making, and why niacin is present in every bag of enriched flour.

Near the book's end, Alexander tells (some of) what he's learned over the 52 weeks: 

  • Bread in a healthy diet doesn't make you fat.
  • Too much bread eaten with wine, does.
  • Do not undertake any project that starts out with the statement that it can be completed in a weekend.
  • Don't drink the water in Morocco, or the tea or the coffee. And, you might consider skipping Morocco totally and go to Barbados instead.
  • Bread is life.
The book is a fun and easy read even if you don't decide to bake any bread. 

Alexander also wrote the $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden.

As as you can tell by these titles, he's a writer and humorist and tends to get over obsessed. (His day job as director of technology at a psychiatric research facility perhaps funds these obsessions.)

I'm reading that one now. However, we're not planning a(nother) garden. This time of year, tomatoes are much easier to buy at the local farm markets and can be less costly as well.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Funnies

Here is it — an Apple watch
This watch belongs to our friend, Thomas, who is having a problem pairing it with his iPhone.
Enjoy your weekend, Everyone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bisquick Who Knew?

Bisquick® is a pre-mixed baking mix sold by General Mills under its Betty Crocker brand and basically consists of flour, shortening, salt, baking powder — all in a box.

With a few added ingredients, as well: enriched flour bleached (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), dextrose, salt.

If those ingredients sound overwhelming, bypass them and make your own pre-mix with flour, baking powder, salt and vegetable shortening. An online search will provide many homemade recipes. When stored in an airtight container, the mix keeps for several months in the pantry.

How Did Bisquick® Come About?

The recipe was stolen from a train dining car chef in 1930.

Sounds incredible, b
ut it's true. The story is posted on the General Mills website. According to the story , one of their salesmen, Carl Smith, was on a train to San Francisco on a late evening. The dining car was closed, and Smith was hungry. A cook quickly produced hot biscuits for him. Smith was amazed that the cook could deliver fresh biscuits on such short notice.  He complimented the chef, who showed him how he had blended lard, flour, baking powder and salt, then stored the mixture in an ice chest to prepare fresh biscuits daily on the train.

In the Depression-era 1930s, there were no pre-mixed baking shortcuts, no cake, muffin or biscuit products. Recognizing the potential for such a product, Smith took the idea to a General Mills food scientist. Not only was creating the proper mix of ingredients needed, but the recipe had to make the end products taste as good, or better, than homemade.

Adapting the chef’s original, hydrogenated oil was used to eliminate the need for refrigeration. Bisquick® was officially introduced on grocers' shelves in 1931 and was first promoted for making biscuits, 90 seconds from package to oven. It was quickly used to prepare other baked goods — pizza dough, pancakes, dumplings, and cookies.

In 1981, the World’s Largest Peach Shortcake was created at the South Carolina Peach Festival. It was five layers, measured 25½ feet in diameter, and had more than four tons of Bisquick and nine tons of peaches.

Although the original recipe has changed over the years, the familiar yellow and blue package has been used to create an expanding variety of meals including pretzels, tortillas, pie crusts, gnocchi, churros as shown in this slideshow.

In the 1970's, the Bisquick® box had a recipe printed on it, the Bisquick® Impossible Quiche“Impossible” since it made its own crust. While it baked in a hot oven, the mixture transformed into a thick quiche-like pie with a golden surface. There was no need to create a separate bottom crust before adding main ingredients, usually bacon, onion, eggs, milk, cheese, and Bisquick® mix. Once out of the oven and cooled, it sliced cleanly and released from the pan easily. This pseudo-quiche was a hit for many family meals and served as a main dinner course or for breakfast and lunch. Leftovers were enjoyed hot or cold.

The Impossible Quiche Recipe (makes 4-6 servings)
  • 12 bacon strips, cooked to crisp, drained, and crumbled
  • 1 C Swiss cheese, shredded (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/3 C onion, diced
  • 2 C milk
  • 1 C Bisquick®
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a 10-inch pie plate.
  3. Sprinkle crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, and diced onion (in that order) evenly over bottom of pie plate.
  4. Beat eggs with salt and pepper;stir in milk.
  5. Add Bisquick® and beat until smooth; pour over ingredients in pie plate.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in center of quiche comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Quiche Variations

After the quiche is assembled in the plate, scatter a cup of any coarsely chopped vegetables, alone or combined, onto the surface: frozen or fresh broccoli, sautéed fresh spinach, fresh green, red, or yellow sweet bell peppers, asparagus. In place of bacon, I've used pepperoni. The type of cheese can be varied such as cheddar and mozzarella.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Funnies

Jump for joy — it's finally Friday !

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

101+ Reasons

It's no secret that we really enjoy shopping at a thrift store, no matter where we happen to find one — at home or on a road trip. Recently, we found some great deals.

What did we get?

On a recent trip to the VA eastern shore, we found these books at the Lighthouse Ministries Thrift Store. I formerly volunteered at this little store. It always has terrific finds and even greater people staffing it.

Grenville scored a find with the first two books of the NYPD Red series and one from the Private series by prolific author James Patterson. Sure, these are not great literature, but they are fast and compulsive reads. My finds included books by 2 authors I've never read (really): Patricia Cornwall and Dean Koontz. The Nordstrom Family and Friends Cookbook was just too colorful to pass up, even if we don't need more recipes. Harry Potter is for grandson Bobby's reading library. He and his mom recently bought a couple in this series at a book sale. (We read the entire series and have all the films as well.)

The post title refers to the fact that if these titles were bought at the listed full retail (does anyone still do that?) the total cost would be over $101. 

Our total cost (including VA sales tax) was $3.95.  Not only did we get some incredible savings, but once read we'll recycle (except for HP and the cookbook) to another thrift store for others to enjoy.

This Belkin computer sling bag was bought at a Goodwill Thrift Store in NH. It was a good deal at $4, then at checkout, I found out it was a blue-tagged sale item day and reduced 50% that day. Although used it was still in great condition and well padded. Its $2 final cost (no sales tax in NH) made this a terrific bargain! 

Yes, we shop retail and online for some items. But, we've found that there's no challenge in shopping retailand more fun in ferreting out great deals.

How about you — have you shopped in or found great deals in thrift stores?

If so, what were YOUR great finds?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Muffins

What to do with the few overly ripe bananas sitting on the kitchen counter earlier this morning — make muffins, of course.

Adding dark chocolate makes them healthy (right?). And, if that's not so, please don't tell us as we did enjoy these "treats".

This was the first time I used Bisquick™ in a muffin mix (really). While we enjoyed the results, next time it's back to the basic flour and baking powder method for me. 

WHY? The muffins were lighter and "flakier" Grenville's analysis and that made spreading butter a bit harder, unless it was (very) pre-softened. I used an oversize muffin tin (labeled Texas size) and this recipe made 6 muffins.

Chocolate Chip-Banana Muffins
Prep time: 12 min; Total time 30 min
  • 1 egg
  • 2 C original Bisquick mix
  • 2-3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Place paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups or grease bottoms only of muffin cups.
  3. Beat egg slightly in medium bowl; stir in remaining ingredients just until moistened. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  4. Bake about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. 
Enjoy on a lazy weekday (or weekend) morning with a second cup of coffee — and to make it a healthy start, add some fresh fruit topped with Greek-style vanilla yogurt.