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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why hasn't Judi's weight loss ticker been updated?

Because it's Christmas.......
And, I am giving myself a present. 
Merry Christmas Eve!
DEFINITELY!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

'Twas the night before the night before.......

Welcome to the December 23rd rendition of Tasty Tuesday Recipe Exchange!
I am going to let you in on a little secret.....I am not ready for Christmas but I am pretending like I am......
So, just sit back and let me pretend that I have my menu completely planned and all of the ingredients purchased and that I'm relaxed and calm.
 And, just go with me when I tell you that I am not planning on adding another menu item to menus that are already bursting at the seams.  Carmen is already threatening to cut back on the buffet tables that I have planned to hold what I already have.  I blame his behavior on a lazy wine-infused Saturday night when I read an article that said holiday meals should have no more than 5 menu items.  After glass #3, my inhibitions were gone and I told him all about this theory.  I should have known better.  But, I thought he had drank enough wine that he would forget all about it.  No. No. No.  All of a sudden, that article is coming back to haunt me.  "REMEMBER, ONLY 5 MENU ITEMS ON A HOLIDAY TABLE..."  has been his mantra these past few weeks.
"WHAT ABOUT THOSE SEVEN FISHES FOR THE FEAST OF SEVEN FISHES? THAT'S SEVEN RIGHT THERE!"  I have screeched to my full-blooded Italian man about 89 times.   
"ONLY FIVE!!!"  is always his bellowing answer.
There's no messing with this guy.
So, I am trying  hard to figure out how to sneak in just a few extra dishes.....
Tell me NO and I figure out a way around NO.  It's just who I am.....
Clearly this 50% Irish girl is more Italian that my husband when it comes to feeding people!!!

Enough about that.....let's talk about what recipes I am sharing today!!!
At a lovely holiday party at a noted wine restaurant a few weeks back, I became enchanted with a RISOTTO BAR.
Yes, you heard me right--a RISOTTO BAR.
A few years back, a MASHED POTATO BAR stole my heart.
Before that, I was smitten with a  PASTA BAR.
Maybe I just like BARS......and carbs
Ever since my risotto bar encounter, I've been scouring sites looking for the most amazing risotto at the party---A BUTTERNUT SQUASH & GOAT CHEESE RISOTTO.  This stuff was heaven.
Finally, I came upon a simple recipe that looked like it might fit the bill.  So, one night last week when I was supposed to be either wrapping presents or cleaning the bathroom, I decided to take to the kitchen and try it out....just in case I need a risotto dish during the holidays....
Well, I am here to tell you that this recipe tastes just like the amazing risotto I had at the party.  It's rich, creamy and absolutely delicious.  And, it's so perfectly simple that I just had to share it with all of you....just in case you need to add risotto to your holiday meal....
Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Risotto


Ingredients:
1 cup arborio rice (sometimes it's actually called RISOTTO)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 cups chicken  or veggie stock (I used chicken because that's what I had on hand)
1 cup dry white wine  (I used Pinto Grigio)
1 shallot, finely minced (I used a white onion since I did not have a shallot)
1 cup cubed butternut squash (cube it very small)
3/4  cup crumbled goat cheese

Directions:
Note: Instead of using the stove top for this (for reasons I don't even want to tell you!), I used this newly acquired appliance and I was super happy with it....
Heat olive oil in a medium sized pot over medium high heat. Once hot, add the minced shallot and the butternut squash. Saute for about 6-8 minutes, until shallot is translucent and squash is tender. Add the rice and stir well. Cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the white wine and cook until all is absorbed, stirring constantly (probably about 10-12 minutes).
Then, add the stock, a quarter cup at a time, stirring continuously over medium heat. As stock becomes absorbed, add more. Continue until  all of the stock is used, and the rice has cooked through.
Remove pot from the stove and stir in the goat cheese crumbles. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and serve.   Feeds about 4-6 people. 
Note:  Risotto takes a lot of stirring....do not leave it on it's own.  It's probably about 20-25 minutes of stirring time.  But, oh, it's so worth it!!!


No respectable night before Christmas Eve recipe sharing blogger would go without sharing a good seafood recipe.  Right?  RIGHT!
And, I'm nothing if I am not respectable....
Plus, no good party girl would not share a good appetizer recipe....Right?  RIGHT.
Hey, I'm nothing if not a good party girl.
And, considering that it is the night before Christmas Eve, a kind-hearted blogger would never share a complex recipe!  Right?  RIGHT!
And, I'm nothing if  not kind-hearted....
So, sit back and relax and know that all you have to do is get a few ingredients and do a little bit of prep work and you are on your way to these yummmmy EASY CRAB PUFFS.....!

Easy Crab Puffs
This recipe comes to you by way of my girlfriend--the caterer to the stars of Pittsburgh.  She serves this for cocktail receptions and it's always one of her most requested items from her clients.  In fact, one of her VIP clients just ordered 80 dozen of them for a New Year's Eve buffet that she is hosting.  When my friend told me this the other day, I laughed at the absurdity of 80 dozen---"that's a hell of a lot of crab puffs!" I said.   But, my girlfriend was thrilled to have someone order a super easy recipe as opposed to a more complex one if she had to make that many! "These crab puffs are my little secret weapon to a happy cocktail hour!" she exclaimed.   You know, she is right....they are easy to make, they are not costly, they taste great and they make a grand entrance!  Between you and me---she told me that she lifted it from a Pepperidge Farm cookbook a few years back so I am not really not giving away her little secret weapon.  I have made these many, many times and always receive rave reviews.  I think I might add these to my Christmas Eve menu....shhh...don't tell my husband....

Ingredients for 24 Crab Puffs
  • 8 oz. canned crab meat  (she uses this one....)
  • 6 oz. Cream Cheese, softened (she uses a store brand)
  • 1 tablespoon Mayo  (she uses a store brand)
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced or 2 Tlbs. of garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire
  • ½ teaspoon Soy Sauce
  • 3 Green Onions, chopped plus one more for garnish
  • 1 sheet Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, thawed
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
Preheat over to 400 degrees
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together crab, cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic worcestershire, soy sauce and green onions.
  2. Flour counter top and roll out sheet to a 10" x 15" rectangle.
  3. Using a pizza cutter or knife slice 24 2½" squares.
  4. Place one square in each mini muffin well.
  5. Add one tablespoon crab mixture into each cup.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden.
  7. Top with green onions and serve immediately.

 Finally.....this respectable, kind-hearted party girl cannot let Christmas arrive on our doorsteps in less than 2 days without sharing a new-to-me cocktail that's been all the rage at all the bars in Judiland....the Moscow Mule.  As a gin-lover, I asked one of my favorite bartenders if he could mix me up one using my favorite libation--Hendrick's Gin.   And, I had one more request--being a Lapbanded girl, I should not really drink anything carbonated so I asked him to come up with one that isn't too fizzy.   It took him a week or so but he came up with a fabulous rendition just for me....and I just love it....and, I know you will too! 

JUDI'S MOSCOW MULE



Ingredients
2ouncesHendrick's gin
12ouncesLime juice
4ounces non alcoholic Ginger beer---leave the bottle open for a few hours to cut down on fizziness
2slicesCucumber
Instructions
Muddle 1 cucumber slice with the gin and lime, and strain into an ice filled copper mule mug. Top with ginger beer, and garnish with a new cucumber slice


YOU BETTER WATCH OUT.....YOU BETTER NOT SHOUT.....!
(oh, go ahead and shout!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TASTY TUESDAY RECIPE EXCHANGE......#2.....


Hello again Tasty Tuesday fans!
These weeks whip by faster in December, don't they? 
If you are anything like me, you are up to your eye balls in ideas and things you want to do but you're also knee deep in things that just have to get done!   Although there's no law that says we have to have the picture-perfect holiday season that not only looks beautiful but also feels beautiful and smells beautiful....we all try to create it.  Or, maybe that's just me.....

As I was thinking about what recipes I would share this week, I realized that it's come to that point in the month that we are pressed for time!  These last days leading up the Christmas can be stressful.  The last thing you might want to hear about is some recipe that you have to add to your holiday plans.  So, I figured that maybe you would appreciate some quickie dishes that I am using to get me through this frantic countdown to the big day.  Here in Judiland, every weeknight and weekend beginning today is accounted for so actually putting dinner (or any meal!) on the table feels like an impossible fete.  Thankfully, I'm all about taking on the impossible and depending on ready-made products when it comes to menu planning. My big thing is that anything that's ready-made has to be good enough for me to lie that I made it myself!  It's just another crazy quirk of mine.  One of my criteria in deciding on what to have on hand was that I didn't want it to be anything similar to what we might be eating over the holidays.
 So, this past weekend--in between my regular Judi duties and  decking the halls and keeping the mall in business, I set aside a bit of time to figure out a few easy, good, ready-made products to have on hand so that no one starves in Judiland.....
Having a glass of wine while figuring this out helps tremendously.


RECIPE FOR
THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Ingredients
-Glass of wine
-Pen
-Paper

Directions:
-Sip wine
-Write down the following items to purchase
-Sip more wine
-Decide when you will shop for these things
-Sip more wine
-Pour more wine
-Drink up, you deserve it!
-After you have sobered up, go shopping for a few or all of these vital staples!

At TRADER JOE'S....
-Wine Country Chicken and Walnut Salad (great to have on hand for quick lunches)
-1 bag of Party-Size Meatballs and 1 jar of Basil Marinara--put both in the crockpot  on low before you leave the house.  Even if you aren't having a party!  A quick note: Rachel Ray raved over these meatballs in her magazine this month.  I could have told her they were rave-worthy....
-Frozen sweet potato gnocchi with sage and butter (buy 2 bags!!!). Quick, hearty and tastes so good!
-Frozen mac and cheese--this stuff is pretty darn good and great to have on hand for those times when you tell people to feed themselves!
-Frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken....it's good on it's own or over rice or pasta but it's a house favorite over greens for a Chinese Chicken Salad

At WILLIAMS SONOMA.....
-Balsamic and Carmelized Onion Braising Sauce (this is stunning to throw over bone-in chicken breasts and into the crock pot....it's as simple as that).  You can serve it with quick rice on the side....the sauce makes even the lowly Minute Rice taste like something super special
-Chunky Artichoke-Parmesean Spread...this stuff is the BOMB over cooked pasta or baked on flatbread.  Add a little extra cheese to either and it takes it up another notch.  It's also wonderful slathered on a cooked chicken breast! It's quick, it's delicious and it will win over your dining partners every time.  


At any GROCERY STORE...
-2 lbs of thinly sliced roast beef and 1 lb of sliced provolone from deli, Italian-style buns from bakery, 1 jar of beef gravy, 1 bottle of Italian Dressing.  Put beef, gravy and dressing in crockpot before you leave the house.  Everyone on their own with Italian beef sandwiches.
-Rotisserie chicken, taco shells, grated sharp cheddar cheese and desired taco fixings.  Everyone on their own chicken tacos!



What are your favorite stay-out-of-the-kitchen meals? 


I bet  you didn't see this coming....did you?
BONUS RECIPE (to put you back in the kitchen....so don't go too far!!):
So sorry blog friends but I just could NOT help myself.  I tried to hold back but my conscious would not let me me.  You need this recipe and you need it like now.  So, I will apologize upfront for sharing a recipe that might interupt your perfectly planned holiday meals.  But, honestly....and I say this with lots and lots of love and understanding....you need to make this recipe...even if you have to nix Aunt Dorothy's famous potato recipe, you must, must make this.   Aunt Dorothy will understand once she put this wonderfulness to her lips.   It's that menu item that will take you to mashed potato stardom and I am not kidding you.  No, I am NOT kidding you. Seriously.  What's not to love?  There's potatoes.  There's garlic.  There's sour cream.  There's GOAT CHEESE.  Did someone say GOAT CHEESE?  Oh, did I mention that it's easy and can be made the day before?  What's not to love?
Now...here's a link to some good notes on this----in fact it was this particular post from 2 of my favorite foodie bloggers that encouraged me to try out this recipe a few weeks back---on a Sunday when I was serving my famous Sunday roast (essentially, it's a rump roast slow cooked all day with crushed Italian tomatoes, garlic, basil, onions, carrots and celery, a deep red wine like zinfandel) for just Carmen and I and our daughter and her beau---I needed something to serve along side it when I hit upon this tantalizing post...the rest is history.  Yes, I took a risk serving it without taste testing it but I trusted these 2 foodie bloggers and I always trust the Barefoot Contessa....don't you?    Then, the other day, in a fit of what am I going to make with my prime rib (or sirloin rib roast or something like that) on Christmas day, I was transported back to this fabulous recipe and I just knew I couldn't keep it a secret from you......
So, anyway, when you are out there shopping for those "easy" meals that I suggested above, be sure to pick up what you need to make these Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes!  Seriously.  Make them.
Eat them.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

MERRY ME.......

I definitely need this coat......

TGIF!!!
Now, please excuse me while I attempt to get my merry on.....

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What my Christmas Tree and my Lap band have in common......

 Stay with me here folks. 
I promise this will make sense. 
Really. 

Christmas trees in my world were always.....the bigger the better.  
One of my favorite Christmas Trees....the BIG ONE at the skating rink at PPG Place

Until last year. 
That's when my humungus prelit tree de-lit completely right after all the ornaments were painstakingly placed on it.  
Yes, within moments of it's completion.  
As I stood there exhausted--with every bone in my body aching--checking out  my workmanship,.  each section of the tree went dark...as if it was on a magic timer.  I messed with cords, I shook the tree, I ran over to my sisters to get her doo-hicky that's supposed to fix these problems and then when I was still left with a prelit tree that would not light, I flung myself on the couch and pondered opening the front door and just tossing it out into the street. 
It was just another in a series of things that particular week that was making my holiday season pretty miserable.  Even my own Christmas tree was against me!
So, why not just throw out the tree and thus throw out Christmas all together? 
Not wanting to be an unmerry person and as someone who is impatient with misery and glumness (it's a bad look for me, ya know?), I decided I was going to take off all the lights and DIY a prelit tree all my myself.  I was feeling prickly and pissed off enough that I was going to show the world who was in charge...
Um. Yeah.  Wrestling lights off a pre-lit Christmas tree and then re-prelighting it would definitely show the world who was in charge.....
Let's just say that was the real misery.  Talk about a bad look for me.....
Many hours, many trips to the local hardware store and many tears later, my tree was stripped of it's prelit lights and restrung with thousands of newly purchased lights and then redecorated.
As I placed the final ornament on the tree for the second time in one week, I  gave the finished product a stern warning..."listen you little bastards, you better never go out again or I swear, you are outta here!" 
By December 26, about a fourth of the tree was unlit, by New Year's Eve, another fourth went out and then by January 1, only the top section was lit.
My husband informed me that I should have bought LED lights.  But, since he was already on my shit list last holiday season, his comment only made me hate the tree...and Christmas....even more. 
So, I held true to my warning--I tossed that Christmas tree out into the trash and vowed that I would never, ever, ever have a big, fat tree again. 
It was time for a SKINNY TREE.  
Aren't skinny things better?
I guess "slender" is a nicer word than "skinny"....even for Christmas trees....

Flash forward to a big, big after-Christmas sale on trees and my sister on one of her notorious bargain hunting excursions and before you know it....I was the proud recipient of a 9 1/2 foot SLENDER Christmas tree for my January birthday. 
So, last night, I decided to get my merry on and decorate my new tree. 
After it was all set up and I had my decoration boxes unpacked, I looked around and  realized-- I might not be a SLENDER TREE GIRL.
I might be a BIG TREE GIRL.
After all, I had a gazillion ornaments.   And, lots of garland.  Lots and lots and lots of everything.
I didn't want to give up any ornaments. 
They all meant so much to me.
I couldn't imagine living a Christmas without my ferris wheel ornament or my surf board ornament or even my bowling ornament or my......they were such a part of me....ya know....

I remembered feeling this way before.....almost 8 years ago.....after my first Lap Band information session.....I thought I couldn't live without Diet Coke or Big Macs or Lasagna or Tonic Water or straws.....
Amazingly, I was able to do it.
Maybe I could be a SLENDER TREE girl.....
I'm going to try it again tonight. 
Wish me luck. 








Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All I want for Christmas......

is peace, love and 10 less pounds.....
Okay, it's true, I added a few other things to my list too......


It's been awhile since I mentioned weight.  So, I figured I'd talk a little about what's happening here on my belly.   As I shared a few weeks back, I've been struggling with close to a 20 pound weight gain.  And, I'm pretty sure most of those pounds planted themselves firmly on my belly.  Thankfully, I've been able to erase about 8 of those pounds by refocusing myself on these Lap Band basics as much as I can  and by recommitting to a good but reasonable exercise program (mostly walking and some running).   And, I must give some credit to the craziness of the past few weeks with my husband's bout with illness, my uncle's passing and all of the comings and goings of visitors and house guests....in addition to the regular business of life here in my world.  
This bout with weight gain shouldn't have caught me by surprise but for some reason, it did.  I have to admit that I slacked off a little bit more than I should have for awhile and the results made themselves known in my pants, on the scale and how I felt about myself.   Even though I know better than to assume that my Lap band will save me from ever gaining weight, I still behaved like I didn't have to hold up my end of the bargain.  Maybe I just needed a break from the hard work of maintenance, maybe I just got tired or maybe I just didn't feel like thinking about it all so much. 
Looking back, I can see what happened....I'm not exactly sure why it happened and I may never really know.  But, it's a hard reminder that my Lap band is a tool.  It is not the magic bullet.  I have to do the work.  It is not the easy way out.  It is not a promise of thinness or a guarantee of never gaining weight.   Yet, I let myself fall into that trap for a little while. 
Fortunately, I caught myself before that 20 pounds turned into 50 and then into 100.  Therein lies the magic.  You see, I knew what it felt like to live for close to 7 years as someone who felt good about herself and her weight loss progress. I knew what it was like to fit into pants without struggle, to look in the mirror and not want to cry and to want to go out and enjoy life.  And, I knew that's how I wanted to live forever.   You see, feeling that way wasn't so far out of my reach---it wasn't  just a distant memory.....it was recent and it wasn't that many pounds ago. That's how and why I caught myself.  That's what helped me to refocus and recommit.  That's what helped me to get back on track and to turn the scale around.
This time of the year is notorious for destroying good eating habits and for packing on the pounds.  It doesn't have to be.  I proved that for 6 holiday seasons and I plan to prove it for 6 more and then 6 more after that and then 6 more.....
So, Santa, my dear.....now that I think about it.....just give me peace, love and all those other things.  
I got these 10 pounds....