Saturday, January 9, 2010

Traditional Roast Beef dinner, lightened

My favorite cold winter night meal reminds me of late dinners with my grandparents, candlelight, flowers, linens, saying grace.
Growing up, my requested birthday dinner usually was roast beef with mashed potatoes and peas. (Maybe a little bit of sherry after the meal.)
As I've grown older and my palette has matured, more sophisticated food has replaced this heavy meal on my birthday list, and, really, I don't need butter and gravy (although, my mother and grandmother are known for their flavorful, thin gravy - if gravy could be described as elegant, this would be the gravy) to make a meal flavorful.
Still, the rich, buttery smell of roast beef ignites memories of cold, clear, quiet nights around the table, listening to my grandmother's favorite family stories.

Last month, Cooking Light published a feature about slow roasting, something I've never tried. While crock pots have become commonplace in kitchens, other types of slow roasting perhaps have been pushed aside. That's a real shame, because leaner cuts of beef can benefit from the gentle heat of slow roasting.

I had a fairly lean roast on sale that week from the grocery store and decided to give slow roasting a try.

First, I rubbed it down with garlic. Because I have more rosemary than I could possibly use, I snipped two long stems from the garden. The leaves are sticky, and the stems are sappy this time of year.

When I smell rosemary and know I'm cooking beef, I immediately scramble for citrus fruit. All we had on hand that day were sweet clementines. The rub was whole rosemary leaves, haphazardly torn, the zest of two clementines, the juice of one clementine, two tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.

I think winter roasts are the most fun (except on holidays) when they are rustic - bushy rosemary, a few stray clementine seeds.

I would have roasted some root vegetables, but I wasn't quite there yet. Roasted roots are best in the dark center of winter, I think.

Hubby fluffed four large russets into a flavorful, light mashed potato. The key to fluffy mashed potatoes is to overboil them, until they basically fall apart when poked.

The verdict on slow roasting? Worth it. The meat was tender and juicy. If I'll be here to watch the oven, I'll make this my standard method of roasting meat.

Some peas and crusty baguette rounded out the meal - still heavy, but made lighter by adding flavors, thereby eliminating the need for gravy or lots of butter. I had tiny portions of potatoes and baguette, but I was still too satisfied to dip into the salad.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Radical Sabbatical

After writing more than 2 posts, I was exhausted and needed a break.

Rather, I have a lot of stuff on my plate and, sorry, cute little blog, you are not on the top of the list.

I have a couple of cute little offspring who take priority, followed by a cute little husband, followed by a cute little job, followed by cute little cats (sorry I forgot to feed you for three hours, my pets).

The list goes on, but let's just say this blog ranks somewhere below "cute little daily shower" and, by the look of my toenails, "cute little self pedi."

My list of blog ideas gets longer by the day.

Lately, I've been trying to achieve more balance in my life. Some new rules include:
  1. Scheduling annual physical, dental exam
  2. Socializing with friends, dates with husband, just kid time
  3. Writing outside of work, reading at least a book a week, Sudoku  once or twice a week
  4. Structuring my time makes me feel more in control of my life.
  5. Moving my muscles every day, even if it's just a 25-minute workout
  6. Taking vacation time
Working from home, I have a tendency to let work responsibilities pour over into time with my family and let work stress affect the rest of my life. Planning my work week in advance, setting the hours based on my meetings and assignments, really lets me enjoy the time I'm not working.

I've become more productive at work, I think because I'm also writing for pleasure and setting a fairly rigid weekly work schedule.

Surprise! I learned on a Thursday night that I had vacation time, and I had to use five days of it before the following Monday or lose it. I'm off two days this week because of that!

I also learned I now accrue three weeks of vacation time a year, and I have a week of vacation leftover from last year. After three years of working extra hours to take a few days off, just the thought that I can take a vacation relaxes me.

I know my brain needs it.

That's it, little blog. I'll be back to feed you soon.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brunch: The best meal of the day.

My mother and I last night decided to put together an impromptu Sunday brunch. "Just call all the girls," she tells me, my father in the background listing "the girls" who now are women.
(These are my childhood friends - my friends for life. Is he worried I might not remember who they are?)
Mom says to invite their mothers, and have them bring their tots, their bathing suits and a dish for everyone to share.
It's last-minute. Who cares if we have five fruit salads? We will eat lots of fruit.
My mother will provide beverages (Dear God, It's me, Sarah. Please let there be champagne and fresh orange juice. Sincerely yours, The Healthy Little Blogger Who Loves to Drink Before Noon.)
S'anyway, I was searching through one of my fave food blogs for brunch ideas (so I don't make more Martha Stewart cupcakes or oh-Dear-Lord-stop-me, Blueberry Boy Bait from the same blog).
I came across this recipe, which is out of season, but solves a problem I've tried to handle for several holiday seasons.
I'm bookmarking it. It almost makes me yearn for winter.

winter fruit salad | smitten kitchen

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Fudge and Furloughs

Dear Healthy Little Blog,

Sorry I've been out of touch.

First, the kids, the hubby and I got sick. Then, the kids and I got secondary infections (sinus; ear; ear, bronchitis).

Then, I got furloughed and was forced to take an impromptu vacation to the beach, where I lounged away long hours on the warm sand and was force-fed such food items as fudge, ice cream, and boardwalk fries.

Also, Martha F. Stewart's* Cupcake Cookbook has come into my life.

I have not lost an ounce.

I'm back in the game, and I promise I won't neglect you much longer. I have some yumminess to post. Promise.


The Healthy Little Blogger

* The F is silent.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Taco salad, two ways

This version is the Fish Taco salad. The base is torn romaine, topped with warm black beans, sliced Belgian endive, chopped carrots and cauliflower, sliced green onion, cilantro and sliced avocado.
To cook the white fish (I used tilapia), squeeze a lime over the fish, season to taste with chili powder and cumin, and then broil for 5 or 10 minutes until the fish is opaque and flaky.

This version is closer to the taco salad most people know.

A bed of romaine lettuce, topped with warm black beans w/ sliced green onions, chopped tomato, yellow bell pepper, chopped jalapeno, chopped carrots, sliced radish, sliced avocado and a grated cheddar-Monterey Jack mix. The meat is lean ground turkey prepared with one packet of McCormick low-sodium taco seasoning.

The chips are Hanover White Corn Tortilla Chips. The nutrition information was comparable (given their size and portion size) to Baked Tostidos, and the price was much better.

Ideally, I like to make the freshest, healthiest food I can. Still, I work, parent twin toddlers and try to maintain a social life and sanity. Some days, I'd like to open a can of Spaghettios or call for a pizza, but I try not to buckle.

Reinventing old fuddy-duddy family-style recipes is kind of fun - and I'm starting to understand why they wound up on the American dinner table (read: they're effing easy).

Friday, June 5, 2009

A cheat-treat

What is it about a great workout that leaves you hungry and cheerful?

Oh, right, a calorie deficit and endorphins.

After a particularly good workout the other day, I wanted a treat, but I didn't want to ruin the effects of the workout.

I considered a new cheat-treat - something to satisfy a craving but is healthier than the craving itself. (My go-to favorite is a homemade skim mocha (a little light on the chocolate) with 94% fat-free microwave popcorn.)

I wanted chocolate-covered strawberries. What I made was this:

OK, so it looks kind of gross, but it was delicious. The Hershey's syrup was an experiment. It seemed like it could be awesome or disgusting.

What's in the bowl: Steel-cut oatmeal, sweetened with half a banana (mushed in), a sprinkle of wheat germ, a sprinkle of ground flax seed, a half a handful of sliced almonds, two tablespoons of peanut butter, sliced strawberries, topped with two tablespoons of Hershey's syrup.

WOW. The Hershey's syrup thinned a little as it warmed on the hot oatmeal. It was enough to satisfy my craving and fill me up. (I couldn't finish the whole bowl.)

This is the cheat-treat for strawberries-and-chocolate lovers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fruits of marriage

A supportive partner is imperative to a healthy lifestyle.

An armchair cheerleader who constantly brings home your favorite treats or refuses to cut back on bad cocktail hour habits doesn't want to help you achieve your goals.

You will eat those treats in moments of weakness, and (s)he knows it.

Someone who berates you for being overweight, argues with you when you're too tired for a workout, or gives you the look when you have a bowl of ice cream should be strung by his/her fat ass on the laundry line and beaten with a wooden stick until candy and toys burst out and rain to the ground ...

Then there would be more candy for you, and that would be a great party.

Thankfully, Patrick is one supportive skinny dude. He never, not once, not even a little bit, ever said anything unkind about my pregnancy weight gain or the length of time it has taken me to lose it.

His kind words and compliments, coupled with his support for my weight loss efforts, have kept me motivated and feeling good about myself.

Last week, my husband brought home a fourth anniversary gift for me. Traditionally, the gift is fruit and flowers. Healthy and beautiful and incredibly thoughtful.

Thank you, Patrick. My successes also are yours. Thank you for being my partner.