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The beauty of 10 pounds


If you know me, you know that I am a bit obsessed about food and nutrition. I count calories, but I don’t always pay attention to the total. Nothing stops me from indulging in senseless food pleasures (especially if have the justification of a run earlier that day.) My will is very strong, my willpower is not. I am a little overweight, actually a little more overweight than I normally am. This winter has gotten the best of me.
I have always been a big girl. And so, I come by my food obsessions honestly.
In light of that, I read an article today that takes a little pressure off those of us who obsess, fight and lose the battle of the bulge. I almost find it irresponsible to make a note of this article, but I find the science intriguing.
According to the article,
” there’s little risk to carrying a few extra pounds. And there may even be some benefit. Indeed, people who are 10-to-15 pounds overweight appear to have no greater risk of dying than those of so-called “normal” weight. Other studies have shown that those who are overweight are no more likely to die from cancer or cardiovascular disease. Also, being a little overweight may help stave off osteoporosis. And it can make you look younger, too.”
Link to ARTICLE in the Wall Street Journal April, 29, 2010.

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Dinner for six in two hours. It can be done.

I had a wonderful girls weekend this past Friday and Saturday. It was a nice time to get away from the normal pace of raising two small boys, dealing with the laundry or the cat litter (two of my least favorite things), and generally preparing and organizing all that goes on around here.
My husband, meanwhile, invited two couple for dinner on Saturday night. I got home at 5:30 and our guests started coming at 7:15.
Less than two hours after coming home, dinner was not served, but we had fun. We ate lots of hors d’oeuvres and drank a few glasses of red wine. Dinner was served at 8.
Menu

Julia Child’s Potage Aux Epignards (Spinach Soup)
It was pretty good, anything with that much butter and cream can’t taste that bad. It took no time to prepare. French cooking doesn’t have to be hard. It can be, but it isn’t always.
—•—
Brick Fried Chicken
from Lynne Rossetta Kasper’s How to Eat Supper. It was wonderful and juicy. You actually cook a butterflied chicken in a skillet with a brick on top of it. Don’t let the title fool you; this is sauteed, not deep-fried. I heard once that sauteing was a snobs way of frying. However, you get some of the crispy skin, but it is not coated like that brand formally known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Arugula Salad
with strawberries and polenta crisps (I used this recipes, but cut them a lot smaller for crisps) I dress most any salad with balsamic vinaigrette and this was no exception. I keep a bottle on the counter all the time. It’s easy to make and a little goes a long way. (1 part balsamic vinegar, 2 parts extra-virgin olive oil, a tsp or two of Dijon mustard- depending on how much you’re making. Blend together with a whisk or right in the cruet.)
(we skipped this, because there was already enough food on the table and I had really forgotten about it until the last minute.) I have made this recipe before, though and it is a great, easy side dish. My husband would prefer that I add roasted pine nuts or walnuts next time; he likes the crunchy nutty taste with the chewier taste of this oversized couscous.
Steamed Asparagus
—•—
Vanilla Ice Cream with homemade chocolate sauce and orange zest
This I adapted from Julia’s chocolate sauce. I added a little orange zest, because, why not? Her recipe is great plain, but it comes in a much longer recipe for profiteroles. Those are a thing of beauty, but not for a dinner in two hours.
I didn’t have time to take photos of the event, but here are some taken of the aftermath. Well, this is what was on my counter the next morning. I was so exhausted, that I didn’t clean up until Sunday morning.

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Golfing is a fun family activity

My husband bought the most adorable little golf club sets for the boys a few years ago. Robert has had a few lessons, but Carter just likes to whack at the ball.

All three of them are hackers.

This weekend, we enjoyed the links as a family.

Brian played, Robert and Carter teed off and also practiced several putts on the green. They enjoy that elusive moment of actually putting the ball in the hole. They like to dig their ball out of the hole again and again in order to sink another putt from 10 inches away. Each moment is glorious for them, they raise their hands in the air like Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods after winning the Masters. I got to snap a few photos.

Robert did have a great moment.

He shot his ball over water to land on the green. It was beautiful. Much fist pumping and little boy and proud daddy bravado ensued.

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Top Food Movies

My family has been obsessed with food since forever. We’re Italian and that’s just the way it is. We have clung to several delectable traditions of our Italian forebears, but have also branched out into all types of food preparation. The things that I value most from my Italian heritage is our appreciation of food, innate hospitality and dedication to family.

We also love movies. That I have no real genetic reason for, but it’s there. We all seem to love a good flick.

So to feed our predilections, we have started a family collection of food movies. Here are the top 10 in no real order.

  1. The Big Night (Ok, so this is probably my favorite one, but the others aren’t in order.)
  2. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
  3. Tortilla Soup (Same plot as Eat Drink, but a different culture)
  4. Julie and Julia (our most recent entrant)
  5. Babette’s Feast
  6. Ratatouille (great for the next generation)
  7. Mostly Martha (No Reservations is the American version that I have not seen yet.)
  8. Chocolat
  9. Woman on Top
  10. Like Water for Chocolate

Fried Green Tomatoes can also be a good honorable mention.
The French film, Delicatessen, might turn your stomach, but has great sardonic humor. Maybe with a side of Sweeney Todd.
I have not seen it, but I have heard that Tampopo is good.

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Rolling with the fondant

So here is my first attempt at a fondant cake. Fondant is actually easy to make; it’s not as easy to make it look like something.

I was worried that it would taste awful. It’s made with marshmallows and confectioners sugar. Yes, sugar and more sugar. But, it was really edible and not so thick that you couldn’t put a fork through it. But, buttercream is still my preference for tastiness.

The cake was good too. Under all of that icing, it stayed nice and moist. I was shocked, because a lot of fondant cakes I’ve had in the past have been very dense with a hint of dry-as-a-bone texture.

I was completely covered in cornstarch, powder sugar and food dye by the end.

More photos:




www.whatscookingamerica.net/PegW/Fondant.htm This is a link to the website that guided me.

I also like this cake website for ideas. www.easy-cake-ideas.com Let me know if you have any favorites.

Here’s the recipe for homemade marshmallow fondant:
Marshmallow Fondant
16 ounces white mini-marshmallows (a bag may only be 10.5 oz.)

2 to 5 tablespoons water

2 pounds confectioner sugar

Vegetable shortening (you’ll need about 1/4 cup to coat your hands and work surface)

  1. Melt marshmallows and 2 tablespoons of water in a double boiler or microwave: Put the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds, open the microwave and stir, put it back in the microwave for 30 seconds more, open the microwave and stir again, and continue doing this until its melted. It usually takes about 2 minutes total. Place 3/4 of the powdered sugar on the top of the melted marshmallow mix.
  2. Now grease your hands GENEROUSLY (palms, backs, and in between fingers), then heavily grease the counter you will be using and dump the bowl of marshmallow/sugar mixture in the middle.
  3. Start kneading like you would bread dough. Keep kneading; it’s sticky at this stage! Add the rest of the powdered sugar and knead some more. Re-grease your hands and counter when the fondant starts sticking. If the mix is tearing easily, it is to dry, so add water (about 1/2 tablespoon at a time and then knead it in). It usually takes about 8 minutes to get a firm smooth elastic ball so that it will stretch without tearing when you apply it to the cake.
  4. It is best if you can let it sit, double wrapped, overnight (but you can use it right away if there are no tiny bits of dry powdered sugar). If you do see them, you will need to knead and maybe add a few more drops of water.
  5. Prepare the fondant icing for storing by coating it with a good layer of Crisco shortening, wrap in plastic wrap and put it in a re-sealable bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible.
  6. Marshmallow Fondant icing will hold very well in the refrigerator for weeks.

The recipe for good buttercream icing can be found in another post. Click for BUTTERCREAM LINK.

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Homemade Laundry Detergent and Vinegar Fabric Softener


You might think I’m crazy, but I do make my own laundry detergent.
It takes about 5-1o minutes prep time and costs about $5 for 10 gallons.
This soap is all-natural and easy to make. And it works.

HOMEMADE LIQUID LAUNDRY SOAP
For front or top load machines


1 bar pure-castile soap
{I like Dr. Bronner’s Lavender}
Hot water

1 cup sodium carbonate washing soda, soda ash {not to be confused with sodium bicarbonate or baking soda}
½ cup Borax Laundry Booster
20-30 drops of essential oil {optional}

  • Grate the soap and add to saucepan with at least 1 cup of water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves completely.
  • Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot water. Add soap from saucepan, sodium carbonate and Borax. Stir well until all the powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
  • Stir and fill a laundry soap dispenser {I keep a used container for this} half full with detergent. Fill the container with water. Shake before each use.
  • Add 20-30 drops of essential oil if you would like to give your detergent a slight fragrance.

Yield: 10 gallons

Top Load Machine: 5/8 Cup per load {~180 loads}

Front Load Machines: ¼ Cup per load {~640 loads}

VINEGAR AS FABRIC SOFTENER

1 cup White Vinegar

  • Add vinegar to rinse cycle. Removes residue and odors.
  • Also helps to keep washing machine and hoses fresh and clean.
  • Check out the other uses of vinegar here. Link to VINEGAR USES

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Who stepped on the duck?

Why are farts so funny?
We all break an occasional wind, just like we all walk, talk, sneeze, or sleep. So why is the fart such a hilarious moment that needs to be celebrated with snickers and high fives.
Belly-busting for busting tail.

I live with three men (two under the age of eight and one who should be old enough to know better), but for some reason if anyone cuts the cheese all decorum is lost. Even the stink-eye from mommy can’t bring them back from the brink.

Taco and chili nights are the best gas-producing dinners (unfortunately meals that I don’t have to threaten or bribe them to eat.) And now that we’ve entered into spring, the produce section is teeming with the green leafy veggies, those toot-fueling monsters. I admonish, “eat your greens,” but with my trepidation knowing what vapors lurk in their little bowels yearning to break free.

The only thing funnier than a fooster from my boys would be one from me.
High fives all around.

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I am tooting my own horn

I won second place in a juried student exhibition at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, VA. It’s up until May 10, 2009 if anyone would like to see it.
Here here the two photos that are in the show. The first image is of my friend, Rachel’s daughter, Charlotte. This is the one that won second place.


The second image is of  my son playing the violin.  He doesn’t play the violin, but picked up one at a musical petting zoo.