Monthly Archives: October 2008

Halloween Candy

On October 5th, the same fateful day I bought all that candy corn, I also decided that I should buy a big bag of Halloween candy at Costco.  We recently moved into a house and I rationalized it because we needed to have candy to hand out to the kiddies that came by to trick-or-treat.  Besides, following my mother’s long tested rule, you wanted to buy Halloween candy when it was fresh.  You didn’t want it to be stale and picked over by the time you bought it. * Then for some strange reason, my husband insisted that we actually not open the bag of candy until Halloween.  What is up with that???  So while I was destroying the candy corn the rest of the candy has mocked me for the last three weeks.  Every time I run across it, it almost jumps up and in a very sing songy voice says, “nanny, nanny boo-boo, you can’t have me”  to me.

Yesterday, I was back at Costco again to pick up a few things for our Halloween party.  I grabbed my cart, walked in and flashed the door person my membership card and then I was assaulted.  Right before me was a long wall of nothing but the same large bags of Halloween candy that I bought three weeks before.  This was Costco, so believe me when I say the display was mammoth and out of control.  I didn’t know what to do, after my weeks of avoiding the candy in my own kitchen I was confronted with more candy than I knew what to do with.  I took a deep breath and marched onward gripping my shopping list in one hand.

*Of course when I was growing up, the Halloween candy always disappeared long before the trick-or-treaters ever came, and we had to buy more, but that was not the point!

Ode to Candy Corn

Oh candy corn how I love thee, let me count the ways.  Candy corn is just freaking amazing.  I have always enjoyed it, but this Halloween season I have developed a bit of an obsession.  It is just so irresistibly good.  I love eating it in three parts to savor the flavor.  I start with the white tip, followed by the orange center, and topped off with the yellow top.  It just makes my tummy so happy!

At the beginning of the month, I went to Target and bought a bag of mellocreme pumpkins (these are super yummy too!) and a bag of little packages of candy corn for trick-or-treaters.  The candy corn made it a couple of days before I opened it just to have a bit of sweet after lunch one day.  But see the problem was, it was so good, I just couldn’t eat just one little package, I wanted more.  So over the next week I had more, and more and more until it is possible I might have made myself slightly sick.  So my husband took the remaining candy corn and stapled the bag shut on the theory that I couldn’t get into it that way.

About two nights ago, I smiled extra sweetly and got him to open the bad to get just one little package.  This worked until last night.  I was sitting on the couch watching the Daily Show and kept thinking, “mmmmm…..candy corn, you know it would be really yummy to have some now.  I have been pretty good today, it would be ok if I just had a package or two…..”  I wondered over to the candy corn very nochanlantly and picked up the bag.  I realized that he had cut a whole in the bottom of the bag in order to get it out the other night so I fished two bags out and made my way back to the couch.  My husband was typing away at his laptop and it took him a moment to realize what I had done.  Then he put his hand out and I gave him a piece too.  I finished those two bags and went for two more.  Then those were gone too.  I knew I should stop, but it was just so yummy! 🙂  So then I went back to the kitchen and decided that I was just going to finish it.  I grabbed it and took it back to the living room.  My husband looked at me and then down at my candy corn and went to grab it.  I wasn’t quite fast enough and he got it.  He was off – running into the backyard.  I chased him around to the side and finally he relented telling me “you are going to be sad tomorrow when you realize that you don’t have any left.”  He was right, I am sad, and I probably should feel guilty about it, but I don’t.  I just remember the yumminess of it all!

Creamy Pesto Sauce

Thursday afternoon: I have some really good spinach and ricotta ravioli from Costco that I need a sauce for.  I have paired it with just your regular tomato pasta sauce in the past, but it just never seems to do it justice.  I need something more.  So after much thinking, I realize that what I really need is a creamy pesto sauce.  The pesto will balance out the cheese and spinach nicely and cream sauces are always nice on ravioli.  I get online and start going through my favorite recipe sites (epicurious.com, allrecipes.com, weightwatchers.com).  However, none of them yield what I am looking for and I start trying to google it.  Again nothing comes up.  Then the phone rings, it is my lovely husband suggesting that perhaps we should eat out tonight and try one of the restaurants in our cute little downtown that we haven’t been to before. Saved by the phone!

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon, I still have the ravioli sitting in the fridge and we need some dinner!  So I start madly thinking about how I could come up with my own creamy pesto sauce.  I have a basic cream sauce that I use, I wonder if……maybe if I combined the cream sauce with part of the pesto recipe I could have my very own creamy pesto sauce?  Maybe if I didn’t put in much oil at all, but instead just put basil, parmesan, garlic and pine nuts into the cuisinart with just a splash of olive oil.  Would that make enough of a paste to stir into the cream sauce?

There was only one way to find out – I needed to try it.  So I set to work.  I sent my husband out to get some basil from our basil plants and to peel some garlic.  Then I set to work on the cream sauce. I put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and then started collecting ingredients for the pesto part of the sauce.  I got out the cuisinart and put in the washed basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil.  Then I ground it up into a paste.  By this time the sauce was nicely thickened and I added the pesto to the cream sauce and stirred everything together well.  I tasted it and it was almost exactly what I was looking for, except it needed a wee bit of salt.  So in went the salt and then I poured it over the ravioli and it was delicious!

So to add to the lack of creamy pesto recipes out there, here is what I did exactly.  I will warn you, I didn’t measure out most of these ingredients, I mainly cooked it by feel and taste, but I am converting it into basically what I think I used since no one out there is capable of knowing how much my “handful” is.

Combine in a small sauce pan on medium heat:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk

Put the olive oil in first and let it warm up a bit.  Then add in the flour and mix it thoroughly into the olive oil.  Have the milk nearby and add it in as soon as the olive oil and flour are mixed together well.   Then stir the whole mixture together and let it sit on medium heat to thicken.  You can start the pesto during this time, but be sure to keep an eye on the sauce so it doesn’t burn.

Combine together in food processor:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 large cloves of garlic

By this time, the cream sauce should have thickened.  You can add more flour to it make it thicker or more milk to make it not so thick.  Add in the paste of the pesto to the cream sauce and stir.  Then add in

1 tsp. salt*

Stir it all together well and then serve. 🙂

*I prefer kosher salt or the larger crystals of sea salt as it just brings out the salty flavor better.

Vata: a cold and dry fall energy

I am trying out a new yoga studio.  Tentatively, I like it.  I originally went to this studio when I first got here, but the class I went to was not so much a class as a self guided yoga time in a studio.  There was a sequence of poses that you were supposed to follow, but unfortunately I didn’t know them when I went in.  I got through it, but it was a bit intense for me.  However, since the studio I have been going to provided wonderful physical exercise, but very little of the meditative side of yoga, I decided it was time to branch out and try it again.  This time instead of the super intense class I picked a beginner’s class.  It was lovely.  It wasn’t physically challenging, but the teacher was wonderful at bringing the spiritual side of yoga into our practice.

She talked about vata which is the energy of the fall.  It is an excited nervous energy that causes us to run around and work on feathering our nest for the winter.  I am particularly prone to nesting and with the recent move have felt even more so inclined to nest and make my house comfortable and welcoming.  The negative side to vata is that it causes irritability and anxiety.  I am also very prone to worrying about things so this also struck me as very interesting.  As a way to balance out vata, we did a practice that slowed down our movements and made sure we were very supported in each pose.  Then at the end of class, I got a proper shivasna! 🙂  I came out feeling much better.  My whole being felt balanced and relaxed again.

Pickles! :)

I love pickles! Yes, I know that I said I love sweets this afternoon and I do love sweets, but I also love me some pickles.  I have been very lucky lately to have some free time to do whatever I please and my to do list includes painting and lots of baking and yoga.  One of the things on my to do list was to make pickles.  A friend of mine sent me a wonderful Washington Post article about making pickles.  On my weekly grocery shopping trip this week, I bought all the ingredients and today I made pickles!  They were fairly easy to make.  First you make a pickling brine and let it sit for about two hours.  Then you layer dill and garlic at the bottom of a sterilized mason jar, stuff it with cut up cucumbers and top it off with more dill and jalepenos.  Now the hard part begins – waiting for the week while the pickles get pickled.  I am really looking forward to opening them up and trying them.  Mmmmmmm…….

How sweet do you want that?

I love anything with sugar in it.  This has been my Achilles heel in weight loss.  If the sugar is in front of me, I eat it.  I have almost no power to control myself.  I have even been known to eat myself sick. 😉  So needless to say I go to great lengths not to have anything sweet around, or make sure that I have enough weight watchers points in order to eat whatever is around.  My dilemma is that I need some sugar on a regular basis or I crave it desperately.  Now I could try to break myself of the sugar cravings, however, I have basically decided that I don’t have the willpower to do it and life is not nearly and rich and wonderful without sweets.  So this leads me to exercise a lot in hopes of balancing what I ate out (which is somewhat successful and more often not).  I am also trying to constantly to balance satisfying my sweet tooth with keeping within the prescribed number of Weight Watchers points.

I need something that is sweet enough to make my sweet tooth happy and yet it isn’t so sweet that I must eat every piece in sight (which is exactly what happens when I make chocolate chip cookies or something similar).  Weight Watchers makes some pretty tasty ice cream treats, they seem to do a decent job and there are skinny cow ice cream sandwiches that are pretty good too.  The problem is that they use a fair amount of chemicals and I am also trying to stay organic as much as possible.  So the holy grail would be a baked good that I could make and eat one at a time.  I have discovered that the Weight Watchers cookbook has a decent section of baked goods.  They take the butter and sugar down to rather small amounts and each recipe is generally pretty small.  I have made the peanut butter cookies and the apple oatmeal cookies which are both decent.  I can think of many ways to make them each better (mainly adding more butter and sugar! 😉  but for what they are, they are pretty good.  So I am experimenting with other ways to make these recipes yummier, but also to find recipes that have a completely different take on baking – somehow use just healthy ingredients and manage to make things my sweet tooth is perfectly happy for me to eat in nice reasonable portions.  Do you know of any such wonderful recipes?

Yoga Rut

I am underwhelmed with yoga in California.  When I moved out here, I had this lovely vision that yoga would be just wonderful here.  Afterall California is home to hippies and just generally nice liberal people.  But for some reason something is missing.  To me, yoga is not just about pushing yourself to get into a particular pose, but the breath and meditation that accompanies it.  The physical practice is definitely necessary to keep the body strong, but I have always liked to combine the spiritual with the physical and there is just something missing that I can’t put my finger on.

When I walk into a yoga studio, I can tell pretty quickly whether or not the energy and the emotion is good there.  I have found this very positive inviting energy even in places I never suspected like Galveston, Texas.  I have been going to my current studio for about a month now.  The people are nice and the instructors are very knowledgeable in the poses and the yoga, but still the meditative part of the practice is missing.  I am convinced that this partially due to the fact that there is very little shivasna at the end of the class.  The teacher usually leaves about a minute or two for shivasna, and says that we can stay longer and I usually do determinately trying. However, as soon as class is over people get up and roll up their mats, leave the room, and the have conversations outside the classroom.  Sometimes they even talk while still in the classroom while I am obviously laying there doggedly determined to shivasna.  I admit to giving the talkers dirty looks when I was out.

Needless to say this is putting a damper on my yoga enthusiasm.  I am just not feeling it like I use to, something is missing and no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get it back.  I was discussing this with a friend who also lives in the Bay Area and she, too, has had similar problems finding a studio.  So if you live in the Bay Area and have found a good yoga studio, give me a shout out.  I am despertly missing my yoga.

Belated Sourdough Bread Quest post

Oh sourdough bread, how I try to make thee and how thy perfect taste just thwarts me.  To make a long story short, the first time I made sourdough it turned out badly and the second time it turned out ok, just ok, not particularly good and not particularly bad.  I was a wee bit sad about this, but the wheat bread is easy to make and better for us, so perhaps I will just concentrate on that.

Now the long story.  After many days of waiting for my sourdough starter and patiently stirring it each day so the yeast would have plenty of fresh oxygen it was ready to go.  The night before I mixed up some of the starter with some more flour and water to form a sponge from which I could replenish my starter.  The next morning, I got up and mixed everything up.  I even got fancy and rolled the dough with a rolling pin and then rolled it up again into fancy french rolls and put them both on a baking sheet.  I set it out to rise on the dining room table with a towel over the top.  Then I took off to Whole Foods to do some grocery shopping and run some errands.  I should note here that the recipe called for the bread to rise for two hours.  I was definitely gone for more than that.  However, in my experience bread can rise for more than what the recipe calls for without much problem.

Evidently that was not true with this recipe, I came home and the bread had risen alright, but not up, but out.  The bread was fairly flat and now covered the entire baking sheet.  I tried to cook it, but it didn’t turn out well at all.  Fail.

I was determined to try again though and that night I re-mixed up the sponge and set it out.  The next day, I mixed everything up (and this time put the bread in normal bread pans) and set it out to rise on the table again.  I kept religious watch of the clock, I was only going to let it rise for two hours.  After about an hour and a half had passed, I even heated up the oven so that it would be ready to go.  I looked at the clock – 20 minutes to go – plenty of time for a quick e-mail check.  I sit down at my computer and 40 minutes later, I realize that time is up – doh!  I rush into the living room and the bread had exploded over the sides of the bread pans.  Wonderful.  I take the sides off and put the bread in the oven and cook for the prescribed hour.  I pull it out of the oven and wait for it to cool down.  Then I cut into it to taste it.  It doesn’t really taste much like sourdough bread, but it is ok as bread goes.  Semi-fail.  So now the question is, maybe my starter is somehow messed up?  Do I re-do the starter?  Or I continue to let it sit in my fridge hopefully becoming more sour. Or do I just stick more to my wheat bread which is definitely the healthier option anyway?