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Friday, December 31, 2010

It's our last chance to get 2010 right......

so, spend your day wisely.

I'm going shopping.
That's wise....don't ya think?



Good bye 2010!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pardon me while I dig out of the rubble......

A full nest+ Christmas+Carmen's birthday,+3 meals a day+movie watching+ lots of visitors+lots of wine+lots of fun=a house that needs cleaned

It's time to get ready for the next leg of the holidays--our annual New Years' Day celebration.
So, I got myself out of bed at some ungodly hour this morning and started in on the clean up.
And, there's lots of clean up to do.
There. is. stuff. everywhere.
Every nook and cranny of Judiland is covered in remnants of everything that happened in this house since December 23.

I'm thinking throw away plates, plastic silverware and disposable cups for New Years' Day.
Carmen is thinking china, crystal and the good flatware.
Dream on buddy.

Check in soon to see who wins that battle.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy Birthday...a little bit dirty style!

Here we go again.....another celebration smack dab in the middle of all the other celebrations!
Yes, Carmen is a Christmas baby.
We've got a day full of family fun to celebrate his 50+ 3 years experience birthday.
First stop.....one of our favorite places for martinis.
It's one of the only places around with Hendricks gin. (click there for a superb review on this amazing gin)
We like 'em dry, straight up, shaken....
Carmen--a little bit dirty. Me--with a twist.
They are pricey so we can't have them too often.
Oh...and did I mention that one drink is just enough, two is way too many?
Celebration worthy gin!
Ooooh, they are smooooooooth......

So, yeah.....

We'll linger over our drinks.
Vince will enjoy an aritsan brew.
Toni will sit and look pretty, sipping her Shirley Temple.
Heavenly.

Then, it's on to lunch at the adjoining Grand Concourse--a beautifully restored train station on the banks of the river, with a gorgeous view of Pittsburgh.
We are so in love with their Charley's Chowder....a tasteful blend of whoknowshowmany seafoods in a tomatoey broth with a kick of heat. So fab!


What a perfect Pittsburgh place to spend a leisurely, delicious lunch, enjoy the sights and sounds on the banks of the river overlooking the city, reconnect with each other, get away from the hub bub of the holidays and enjoy some all-too-rare, family moments....




What could be better than a smooth martini, a luscious chowder, beautiful surroundings, a view of our beloved city and spending time with the 3 people in the world who matter the most to me?


Happy Birthday Carmen.....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tastey Tuesday Recipe Exchange---Adios to 2010!



So, what are those few things that you didn't cook up these past few weeks?
If you're like me, there's not a meat, a dairy product, a fruit, a grain or a vegetable that you didn't bread, broil, bake or fry. And then some.
Between the cookies and the dips and the fancy drinks and the huge platters of meats and seafoods and the ginormus bowls of pasta and goopy delicacies.....it's been one cookathon after another.
Followed by eatathon after eatathon.
Just how many pots and pans and dishes can you wash in a 24 hour period?
From where I'm sitting, I'm pretty sure I'm at the head of the pack on that one....

So.....
I guess this means that we are sick and tired of cooking and entertaining and eating and scrubbing pots and doing dishes and cooking and entertaining and eating and scrubbing pots and doing dishes and cooking and entertaining and eating and doing dishes and scrubbing pots?
Right?
Not so fast, my friends. Not so fast.
It ain't over till it's over.
The Holiday Season is still upon us.
Quit bitchin' and get back in the kitchen!!!
It's the final Tastey Tuesday of 2010!
Let's shake it up a little!!!

I'm thinking about going Mexican........how about you?



This first recipe is a keeper! And, it's great for the holidays when you are sick and tired of ham, turkey and sausage. It's easy, it feeds a crowd and it looks pretty (just like all of us!)!

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Ingredients

2 cups cooked chicken, meat only, shredded
10 (8- inch) flour tortillas, warmed
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 can (10.75 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup
2 cups sour cream
1 can (4 ounces) roasted green chilies, diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 can (2 ounces) sliced black olives
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 can (15 ounces) enchilada sauce, mild or hot - your choice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F. Wrap the flour tortillas in foil and get them warm.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cream of chicken soup with the 2 cups of sour cream. Add the finely chopped onion, diced roasted chilies and the sliced black olives. Fold in the cooked chicken and season this mixture with the kosher salt and black pepper.

In a separate bowl, mix the 2 cheeses together. Add half of the mixed cheeses to the chicken mixture.

Place a half cup of the chicken mixture off center on each flour tortilla. Roll each one up and place it seam side down in a baking dish large enough to hold all 10 enchiladas.

When all the enchiladas are in the baking dish, pour the enchilada sauce over the top, making sure to coat each enchilada. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the enchiladas are warmed through.


This next one is a seafood nacho platter recipe version that I find easier to make when I have a few other dishes to prepare. It's not as time intensive, it goes together very easy, has a nice wow-factor when it's put on the table and it's damn good!

Seafood Nacho Platter

Layer the following in order on a foil lined cookie sheet pan:
1-Whole wheat tortilla chips
2- One can lump crab meat (picked free of shells)
3-Half pound of cooked shrimp--cooked, tails off
4-One jar or can of mexican cheese dip
5-Half jar of mild and chunky salsa
6-1 can black olives, chopped
7---Sprinkle liberally with Old Bay Seasoning
8-Half bag of shredded mexican cheese (for tacos)

Directions
Once assembled--bake in oven for about 10 minutes at 375--until cheese melts, heated through
Serve with Sour Cream and Limes

Now, here's one, you may not have tried before! It's a nice and hearty soup for any time of the year but it's especially great when it's cold and blustery outside! The friend who shared this with me says it's a traditional Mexican Christmas food. Since I never spent Christmas in Mexico, I can't confirm that! It's a very easy and quick recipe but if you are short on time, you can make it even easier and quicker with a purchased roasted chicken--just shred and skip the chicken cooking directions. Also, you can certainly take the heat up or down a notch by increasing or decreasing the chili powder. The more chili powder you use, the more margaritas you may have to consume! Nothing bad about that.....

Chicken Posole

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 can ROTEL diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste (it can get very spicey)
  • 3 cups white hominy, rinsed and drained
  • 10 tostada shells

Directions

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts, and cook until no longer pink and juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Remove from skillet, drain, and cool. When completely cooled, shred chicken with a fork.
  2. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir onion and garlic until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes. Return shredded chicken to the skillet. Stir in the chicken broth, water, oregano, salt, and chili powder and other seasonings. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 90 minutes. Stir in the hominy and cook until tender, about 15 minutes more. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt and chili powder, if desired. Serve in soup bowls with1 tostada shell per serving. Garnish as desired (I use sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped olives and chopped onions).


As far as I am concerned, a party always needs a martini!!! And, what's the use of going Mexican if you can't have a little tequila! Here's a Mexican Martini that will get the amigos going.....

Ole Martini

1 ounce premium tequila
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce fresh lime juice
salt
lime wheel

  1. Place all ingredients, except salt, into a cocktail shaker half filled with ice.
  2. Shake ten times and strain into chilled glass with salted rim and ice, both optional.
  3. Garnish with lime wheel.



Until next year's Tastey Tuesday Recipe Exchange.... here's one more for The Road.....

I just couldn't wait to share this recipe with you! They are so damn good and so damn easy. Yes, I saved the best and the easiest for last!!!
Mexican Sweet Potato Fries
1 pound bag of frozen sweet potato fries--defrosted
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. In large bowl whisk together egg and spices until frothy. Add potatoes; toss to coat well.
  3. Place on nonstick baking sheet in single layer.
  4. Bake until golden brown and crisp. About 20 minutes stirring once during baking.
Serve these with Ranch dressing for dipping...fantastico!!!



Feliz cocina!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Party on!

We're headed into another week of eating, drinking and making merry.
But, first I have to take a quick break to go to work and do everything that goes into a regular week in Judiland......

The responsibilities of Judiland don't stop just because there's one.more.party......

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weekend update......

I think I was run over by a reindeer.
Or, perhaps I was doing swan dives from Santa's sleigh.
I'm pretty sure my house was invaded by drunken marauders.
I might even have a nasty case of the flu.


My entire body hurts.
I doubt very much I could walk from *here* to *there* without assistance.
My house is in a complete and utter shambles.
There's empty bottles and dirty glasses and litter as far as the eye can see.
And, my head feels like it's two times it's size.
It's pounding and burning and feeling not so good.
My entire digestive system is very disrupted.
I'm sure you can hear the gurgling in Topeka.


I'm either experiencing a string of very bad luck.
Or, it's the Day after Christmas.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa was here!!!!

Yes, Santa arrived in Judiland in the wee hours of the morning....bringing with him a sleigh full of goodies and gifts.
So, I cranked up the fire, put on a pot for hot chocolate (with a shot of Frangelica for extra warmth), turned on the Christmas carols and then basked in the magical beauty that is Christmas morning......

May you also be basking in that magic.


From my door to yours.....

Merry Christmas to you...
my lovely blog readers.

Thank you for traveling this journey with me.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's beginning to look alot like Chistmas!



Probably because it's Christmas Eve!

Gee, I wish I could party with all of you but I am up to my eyeballs in Christmas preparations.
By the time I get to this point of the holiday season, I often wonder why I didn't do all this stuff when I had the time.
Oh yeah....probably because I never had the time.....

I love Christmas Eve...it's one of my favorite holidays.
I finally figured out why.
I am a girl who loves the a.n.t.i.c.i.p.a.t.i.o.n..............

Merry Christmas Eve.....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ghosts of moments past.......

Sometimes the best gifts don't come wrapped up in bows and fancy papers.....they find their way to us at the most unexpected times.

Last week, at a holiday luncheon, I ran into an old colleague who I worked very closely with for many years. We traveled together, we ate lunch together, we went out on the town together, we celebrated the births of our children together and climbed the slippery ladders of our careers together. It was always good to have someone so supportive and smart and fun to spend the long hours of those early career days with.
It was fun to catch up on what was going on in our lives and reflect on how fast the years have gone by. We laughed about the fact that we were not talking about promotions or career moves or work challenges or the world of balancing work and home life. Instead, we raised our eyebrows as we overheard the younger professionals at the luncheon discuss those things.
We whispered about when we might retire, what kinds of things we'd like to do with our free time and we marveled at the fact that we both lasted so long---30 years and counting.
As we bid each other farewell--we promised to keep in touch and to get together.....soon.
Promises I hope we keep.
Thankfully, my friend took the first step in staying in touch by sending me a lovely Christmas greeting.....with the following pictures.....from a conference in 1988.
Once you look at these pictures....you will have no doubt that I was a true 80's girl.
They were good years.

Here's a picture of my grad student Walt and I......



Here's my colleague Linda (in the blue dress with pearls) and I with someone who I don't remember. Well, I remember her face but I can't recall her name or what college or university she came from.


Here's me giving a speech. I wonder what I was talking about. I am sure it was very important. At the time.
And, here's me with someone who I don't remember either. I'm guessing we took this picture since we were dressed similarly. You know, I always loved that dress....

God Bless Us.....everyone of us!



There's a special beauty in reminiscing about the past and having the chance to peak into it.
What a beautiful gift.

Now, I must return to the present.
Christmas is only days away.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Minus 115....give or take a few.....

That's my 'Tis the season response to the question......"how much weight did you lose?"

You know how it is during the holidays.....it's the time to gather together with friends and family.
Many of whom you don't see all that often.
Others you see quite a bit.
I'm not sure if it's just because I've lost all this weight or if it's because my family and friends are obsessed with weight in general but no matter where we are and no matter when we are together--the topic of weight always comes up.
Holiday weight talk is a definite.
And, because my Lapband surgery went public from the moment I decided to do it....my weight loss story always comes up.
This does not not bother me one bit.
Yes, I was a fat girl....I own it.
I'm happy to share my story, strut my stuff and give advice to anyone who wants to hear it.
The wonderfully wacky thing about the people I run with...family and friends alike...is that my weight loss is always big news.
It never gets old.
As soon as I walk into a room....sometimes even before the kissing begins.....it starts.
Loudly.....
"There she is, our skinny Judi!"
"Look at Judi, she lost so much weight!"

"Judi, I still can't believe you lost all that weight!"

"Oh my God, you just get thinner each time I see you!"

"Judi, come over here, tell everyone how much weight you lost!"

"Judi, what size are you wearing NOW?"

and my all time favorite.....courtesy of my almost 90-year-old father...who I might add....recites this very loudly...to no one in particular.....as long as he has an audience!
"There's my daughter Judi, she had weight loss surgery, thank God! Best thing she ever did! She thought I wouldn't be happy about it but I told her that she needed it! She was very big! She had a pretty face but oh boy was she fat! She got my mom's weight problem. She looks good now, doesn't she? She might need some skin removed though. From all the weight loss, you know. "

I am (and hopefully will be forever) known as the girl who got a Lapband and lost 115 pounds.
It's who I am these days.
It could be worse....right?

When anyone asks me how much weight I've lost--I tell them--115 pounds.
It's a nice number.
People gasp.
Others applaud.
Some people cover their mouths in shock.
I feel victorious.
It's all good.
And, for all intents and purposes, I did lose 115 pounds.
But, in real life-- I've got this body that never weighs the same exact amount all of the time.
It's never steady over a one week period, let alone a 24 hour period.
But, I consider any jump within 5 pounds up or down as a visiting weight.
My real weight is 115 pounds below the day I laid down on the operating table and had my Lapband inserted.
So, as I'm partying and holidaying and making merry through the season and hob nobbing with my tribe of spirited friends and amazing family--I'm sticking with the I lost 115 pounds story.
We'll keep the visiting weight thing between you and me.
It's our little Christmas secret.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tastey Tueday Recipe Exchange.....the 4- days- before- Christmas edition.....

We're prancing into the final hours of Christmas preparations.
Are you holiday-ready?
Are your cookies baked? Are your menus figured out? Is your fridge stocked with all those special ingredients? Are your pantries filled with everything you need? Are your holiday linens and dishes and glassware clean and ready to go?
Yeah, me neither.
I'm getting a bit woozy just thinking about it all....
So.....
Today is all about making lists.
Because I seemed to have forgotten what I wasn't supposed to forget.
I know you feel exactly the same way.
Just another reason to reach into my Santa sack of easy but festive recipes and share them with you.
If you've got a minute to spare......why don't you share some of yours?

Classic Crab Dip
This is so yummy!
Take it with you to your next party and you will be the center of attention!
Trader Joe's has a good price on crab right now!
Btw....I adapted it from a recipe on foodtv.com

Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup plain panko bread crumbs
Lots of freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened at room temperature
1/2 cup light mayonnaise 1/4 cup fat-free milk
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1 (8-ounce) container lump crabmeat, picked through

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a small 6 by 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the panko, cheese, and parsley in a small bowl. Whisk the cream cheese in a large bowl until completely smooth. Stir in the mayonnaise, milk, shallot, chives, lemon juice, Worcestershire,salt, and hot sauce. Gently fold in the crabmeat until just blended. Spoon the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with the panko mixture. Bake on the top rack until the topping is browned and the filling is hot and bubbly, 35 minutes.
Serve with celery or other crudites.

Cauliflower Goat Cheese Gratin
OMG....this is to die for!
It's the only way to eat cooked cauliflower!
Do you have to bring a side dish to a dinner party?
THIS IS what you MUST take!

Print out a few copies of the recipe...everyone will be asking for it!
BTW....I adapted it from a Bobby Flay recipe.....

Ingredients
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (don't use frozen)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated
1 cup grated Romano
1cup grated Parmesan
6 ounces goat cheese, cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper, nutmeg

Directions Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Layer the cauliflower, heavy cream, and the cheeses in a medium casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and the sauce has thickened slightly.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Chili-Lime Shrimp
I use Aldi's large precooked shrimp for this.
It's perfecto!


This is a family favorite! Plus, it's taken on a life of it's own in social circles. Each time my girlfriend's husband greets me--he says "did you bring me some of that shrimp?". The greeting and the recipe has caught on so much so that now I've got other people greeting me this way! It's gotten so popular that I have to come up with good responses when I don't have this shrimp with me....

Up to 2 days before serving.....marinate all of this together in your fridge....
2 pounds of precooked, frozen shrimp
2 small cans of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilis
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 shot of Frank's Hot Sauce
a few shakes of Old Bay seasoning
1 can of corn with peppers and onions (drained)
liberal sprinkling of chili power
1/4 cup of bottled lime juice
1 lime cut up, plus a tsp of grated lime zest
1 tbls. of crushed garlic (I use the kind in the jar)
Salt and pepper to taste
Add the following dried or fresh herbs: oregano, cilantro, cumin

Drain before serving. I serve this is an oversized martini class rimmed with limes and old bay seasoning. It makes a beautiful presentation.

Apricot and Chicken Bruchetta
This is one of Giada's recipes. Trust me, you will get a standing ovation and lots of adoration for this one. It's simply dazzling and delish!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf ciabatta bread
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 5 ounces fontina cheese, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces roasted chicken breast, cooled and thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces (about 5 slices) prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the bread into 10 slices, each about 1/2-inch thick. Brush the bread slices with the olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until crisp and golden. Cool to room temperature.

Spread each slice of the toasted bread with the apricot preserves then place a slice of the cheese on top. Arrange the sliced chicken on top of the cheese. Cut each piece of prosciutto in half and place on top of the chicken. Transfer the bruschetta to a serving platter. Drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil and serve.

Tuna and Pasta Puttanesca
A Feast of Seven Fishes staple. This version is easy and delizioso! Serve this in a rustic pottery bowl and you will feel 150% Italian even if you are just a 50 percenter like me.....

Ingredients
Salt
1 pound penne pasta (use DeCecco brand, please)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cans (about 5.5 to 6 ounces each) Italian tuna in oil, drained well
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (depending on your tolerance for heat)
A generous handful olives (kalamata or oil-cured), pitted and chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can crushed tomatoes (recommended: San Marzano)
A generous handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Ground black pepper

Directions
Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring up to a boil. Salt the water and cook penne to al dente. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet with 3 turns of the pan extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cook a minute or 2, then add tuna and break it up with your spoon. Add olives and capers, cook a minute or 2 more, then add white wine; stir and cook down a minute. Add tomatoes. Add parsley, zest and black pepper, then simmer the sauce a couple of minutes more. Add a couple of ladles of starchy pasta-cooking water to the sauce. Drain pasta, add to the skillet and toss to coat. Serve with good quality grated romano cheese.

Italian Manhattan Punch
A throw back to my childhood Christmas Eves. This will make Uncle Sammy sing Silent Night in Italian. Cousin Phyllis will chime in after a few sips.
I promise.

In a punch bowl, mix.....

  • 16 ice cubes
  • 8 orange slices
  • 20 maraschino cherries
  • 1 bottle Kentucky bourbon whiskey (recommended: Maker's Mark)
  • 8 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 6 ounces Italian bitters (recommended: Campari)
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
Stir it up and serve......



Cheesey Onion Dip
DELISH!!!! I'm head-over-heels in love with this dip. I had this dip at the party we went to on Sunday night. Let me tell you---it is amazing. I had a weekend filled with amazing food but this is the food I remember most. I can't wait to make it on Christmas Day. I'm craving it right now....it's that good. I can't believe I've never had this before. It's a Lap bander's dream food. Heavenly.....

Ingredients

  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a medium baking dish.
  2. In the prepared dish, mix the cream cheese, onion, Parmesan cheese and mayonnaise.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned.


So, what are you cooking up????

Monday, December 20, 2010

Heading into the final stretch........

completely exhausted but filled with the spirit.
Well, I think it's the spirit that I'm feeling.
Either that or it's a holiday hangover.
Because we sure did overindulge in holidaying this weekend.
From one end of Judiland to the other.
I drove over the river and through the woods, through tunnels and over bridges.
From the moment my feet hit the ground on Friday morning until the moment I slid into bed last night, it was a holidayfrenzied, Christmas-on-crack kinda weekend.


Here's just a few scenes from yesterday as we headed out to a Steeler Christmas Party.....
Carmen and I......with me in my new Seven Brand Size 8 petite jeans.....


And, here's my girl and I.......the Steelers might have lost but we looked good.....


And, away we go......Christmas here we come!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Next stop.....


We arrived at Friday.
Ho ho ho!
It was a week of holiday happenings here in Judiland--breakfasts, lunches, dinners, receptions, parties.
All of it was tucked inside a week that had my office overflowing with every cookie, every candy, every snack and every treat imaginable. Dangerous for sure.
But, I came out unscathed.
No bad Lapband moments. No terrible hangovers. No extra pounds.
Just lots of good cheer.
Now, it's time to jump in the car and head to the Christmas Tree Capital of the World to pack up my little girl and bring her home!
Then....it's on to another kind of holiday road trip......where I'll be making merry for the next 48 hours.

I'll tell you all about it on Monday.
My sleigh awaits me.....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"She doesn't eat much..." he said......

Words Carmen repeated over and over again trying defend me from a party full of concerned guests....
The other evening--smack in the middle of this awful frigid, snowy weather wave we've been having-- I traveled the dark and windy roads to this incredibly lovely restaurant on the river banks to meet Carmen at a holiday business dinner he was hosting.

It wasn't an easy thing. I had to fly home from work and quickly change, update my hair and makeup and be out the door in moments. Then, I had to make the one hour drive. Plus, I had to arrive on time looking spouse-of-the-host-ready. Thankfully, my new figure hugging LBD (little black dress) with black maribou fur trim on the 3/4 length sleeves (it had a real "grown up cocktail dress" look to it) made it all worth while! I wore it with black and grey leopard print tights and a pair of the most wonderful grey and black shoes with a big bow. When I left the house--I felt amazing. I felt grown up and even kinda sexy in a business-y party kinda way. I would have taken a picture but time was short. Maybe next time. And, there will be a next time.

Anyway, it was one of those events that started with heavy appetizers and cocktails, followed by a gourmet four course meal and ending it all with amazing desserts. All the while, the booze and the wines were flowing.

Because Carmen was hosting the event, the 2 of us were on center stage. Everyone was watching if we would order drinks, what kind of alcohol we would order, if we would eat, etc. They were just being good guests.
Carmen was doing his make-nice business chatting while I was shaking hands, making merry and sipping on my gin martini. We hadn't made it over to the appetizers quite yet with all the hosting activities we were doing. Although I hadn't noticed it at the time, everyone else was following our lead. At one point, during the cocktail hour, one of Carmen's colleagues offered to get me a plate with appetizers. I declined, thanking him politely and told him that I was waiting for my dinner. Carmen chimed in and invited he and his wife to please eat. The colleague's wife looked over at me and said "oh, let us get you something too". Again, I declined politely, telling her I was waiting for my dinner. Carmen smiled a bit and said "my wife doesn't eat much".
Hmmm.
His response made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Not so much because of the fact that he said that I didn't eat much but because I was concerned about how that made the colleague's wife feel. Add that to the fact that I said I was waiting for my dinner so I was not eating appetizers--I didn't like the way it portrayed me.
Was I a non-eater? Was I one of those people who judged others who ate appetizers and dinner???
I didn't want anyone to think any of those things.
But, I didn't know how to turn it around.

Without telling my Lap band story.

As the party moved along and people started eating the appetizers, not one, not two, not three or four---but FIVE people came over to me and offered to get me a plate. Each time...Carmen smiled and said "she doesn't eat much". Again, I was feeling a bit uncomfortable. But, given the situation, I couldn't pull Carmen aside and tell him the shut the hell up nor could I figure out what else to do or say.
Then, at dinner--when everyone had finished their meals and I was sitting there with a plate that was 3/4 of the way full---the man across of me asked if I didn't like my pesto salmon with risotto. His wife looked on with interest. "No, it's amazing!" I responded. "I'm saving room for dessert, I hear they are great!" I told him. His wife laughed a bit..."It's the holidays! Just eat for heaven's sake!" Just then, before I could kick Carmen under the table, he said "She doesn't eat much."
The entire table looked at me as if there was something very wrong with me.
I just smiled.
Then, I ordered the New York cheesecake and proceeded to eat the entire thing, making sure I made comments after every three bites.

I wanted them to see that I do eat much.






Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brrrrrrr...............

My little office off of the kitchen is a little too cold this morning.
We're having a bitter cold wave here in my little suburban hamlet.
I can hear the wind howling outside the window.
There's frost on the window pane.

I can't think.
I can't type.
I can only shiver.

I'm thinking this might be the only downside of being a thinner girl.
But, you won't hear me complaining.
Especially because my mouth is frozen shut.....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tastey Tuesday Recipe Exchange RETURNS for a third season!

.....a little late but oh what the hell......
In the spirit of hustle and bustle and holiday mania, this year's Tastey Tuesday Recipe Exchange will focus on easy yet elegant and fast but fantastic recipes.
As evidenced by the fact that I am one week late in starting my annual Tastey Tuesdays--it's been a busy few weeks here.
Judiland is whirling and twirling and spinning and rocking and going upside down and right side up as the calendar whizzes along.....
No matter.
It's still the season for eating, drinking and making merry.
And, I'm all about being seasonal!

So, foodie friends and entertaining enthusiasts, let's all pitch in and share all those secret easy but dazzling recipes that make us the stars of every holiday and every party everywhere!
No one has to know our dishes don't take hours and hours to make......
We'll keep it between you and me.

The first recipe I want to share is one that sort of just happened on it's own this past Thanksgiving. I had a jar of cranberry-orange relish (Williams Sonoma) sitting on the counter as I was putting together my cheese tray. I was frustrated that the tray was lacking color. As we know---it's all in the presentation. So, I went to the fridge to find something to bring my cheese try to life and there--right in front of my eyes--sat a log of goat cheese.
The rest is reciphistory.....
Goat Cheese with Cranberry Orange Relish.....
*Put a log of decent quality goat cheese on a pretty dish
*Pour cranberry-orange relish over top
(I'll bet other relishes and/or preserves would be great too)
Serve with fancy crackers
It took center stage on my cheese tray and got such rave reviews from everyone that I just had to taste it myself. Oh yeah....it's yummy.

This next recipe is a real winner. It looks gorgeous when sliced and tastes like something from a 20-star restaurant! Honestly....when you serve this, get ready to be worshiped and adored! Be sure to wear really great shoes as your guests praise your culinary skills!

Stuffed Pork Loin
Ingredients
*Butcher's string
*Pork Loin (whole)--you choose how big or small
*Sliced length-wise, open like a book
*1 jar prepared basil pesto
* 1 jar prepared sun dried tomato pesto
*handful of good quality romano cheese, asiago cheese, parmesean cheese
*handful of Italian panko crumbs (Progresso makes this)
*Olive oil, salt, pepper
Directions
Slather all pestos on one half of pork loin, sprinkle with cheeses and panko
Put the pork loin back together and tie it to hold in place
Brush olive oil over pork loin, sprinkle with salt and pepper
Cook your pork loin according to poundage

I usually make this a day or two ahead of time, wrap it in foil and freeze.
On the day you are serving, take it out of freezer, let it defrost about 75-90%
Slice medium thick pieces while pork is still partially frozen (cuts much neater and prettier)
Arrange slices in a casserole dish to bake at 350 for about 15-25 minutes or until heated through
Note: To change things up a bit, I sometimes serve this with a side of either good quality jarred Alfredo sauce or marinara


And, now for one of my favorite recipes that I like to pull out of my magic chef's hat......

Chicken Cutlets with Pesto Cream Sauce
*Thinly sliced boneless chicken breast (they sell it like this in the meat section)
*Buttermilk--seasoned with salt and pepper
*Equal parts panko and seasoned bread crumbs
*mix in a handful of good quality parmesean and romano cheese to the crumbs
*jar of good quality Alfredo Sauce
*jar of good quality basil pesto
*1 can petite diced tomatoes (liquid drained)
*more grated cheese for dusting

Dredge chicken cutlets in buttermilk then in the crumb mixture
Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet--bake for about 15 minutes on 350
Combine Alfredo Sauce and pesto
mix and heat through for about 5 minutes (just until flavors mix)
In a lightly greased casserole dish--put a little bit of the sauce
Place chicken in dish, cover with pesto sauce, arrange the diced tomatoes in a random fashion
Bake for 12-15 minutes on 350
Dust with grated cheese before serving.




Now, it's your turn!!!!
Share your dazzling deceptively easy recipes!

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Christmas in Judiland!

It sure is......
Come on in and see for yourself.
I'll just sit here and pass out if you don't mind.








But.....it won't be officially complete until my 2 little elves arrive later this week to decorate this.....
Oh Christmas Tree!


Let the season begin......

Sunday, December 12, 2010

All will be merry and bright........

sooner or later.

It's all gotta happen TODAY!

I've got my Santa hat on, I've already downed 2 chai lattes and now I'm on to a protein shake.
I need all the help I can get right now.
I'm on a decorating, baking, wrapping, laundry-doing, cooking, cleaning, wardrobe-planning, holiday-making blitz.
Once my feet hit the floor tomorrow morning, there will be no time for anything other than going to work and parties and lunches and dinners and celebrations and all that good stuff.

'Tis the season to be merry and bright.
No matter what.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sex, drugs and rock and roll.......

Such is life in the land of obesity....

Have you heard?
The FDA is on the brink of approving yet another weight loss drug.
Contrave.


Even now, when I'm happily at a healthy weight, I'm interested.
Hearing that there's a new weight loss drug makes my heart go pitter-patter and my toes curl just a little bit.
Beads of sweat form on the back of my neck and there's this funny sensation in my earlobes.
It's as if I've been kissed by Bruce Springsteen.

Obesity did that to me.

It's a side effect that I doubt will ever go away.
We've talked about this before---the dieting girl behavior.
I own it. I admit to it. It's one of my things.
The promise of thinness in a bottle is enough to make me orgasmic.
Hell, the promise of thinness period is enough to make me do cartwheels and belt out female-freedom ballads while moaning with pleasure.
In a swing-from-the-chandeliers kinda way.
Following it all up with a smoke.
If you know what I mean.

Whether this new drug will be approved is anyone's guess.
There's lots of side effects and cautions and concerns.
Which we will leave to the experts.
Thank God for those Phd-types.
They are the smart ones.
Because if it were up to me--I'd vote to approve any drug, any salve, any potion, any anything that promised weight loss.
My mind is blinded to the consequences and risks when it hears the words--weight loss.
That's what years of desperation does to a girl.

Anyway, after my initial thrill ride, my mind returned to it's typical state of being.
As it always does.
I scoured the internet for news of the drug, looking for more info and reading it all with interest.
I spent a good few hours--time I was stealing from sleep--to get myself up to speed on Contrave.
But, the more I read, the more I wanted to read.
I needed more.
I wanted more.
Sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The fine art of doing nothing......

is what I am going to do right now.

I'm giving you permission to do the same.

In the spirit of giving.....donate the time you normally spend reading Stories from the Road to your education in the Fine Art of Doing Nothing.




In this hectic world we live in, doing nothing somehow translates into laziness.
If we aren't going faster, getting smarter or doing more, there's something very wrong with us.
Add that notion to the month of December and it is distorted to the point of criminality.

I give you permission to....
throw away those thoughts.....if just for these few moments that we spend together each day! Clear your mind, close your eyes and just sit. Think of nothing. Do nothing. Just breathe.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

If there really is a Santa Claus......

then I need him pronto.
Why?
Well, other than the fact that I would love to have a sleigh full of shoes and clothes and jewelry and maids and butlers and plane tickets and laundry boys and personal bartenders and professional organizers and stylists and more shoes and lots of boots and a winning lottery ticket and a crystal ball that tells the future and world peace....I need a long winter's nap.
I'm completely exhausted.
I think it's time to sit down and make my list for Santa.
I hope he's okay with everything I want.
Okay....I hope he's okay with everything I NEED.
I do need all those things.
Especially if there really is a Santa Claus.



If there really is a Santa Claus?
What do you want?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Back to work.......

As if all that decorating and shopping wasn't work......


Here I am ready to battle the stores and mall early yesterday morning.

Yes, I was decked out in my Christmas shopping attire and showing off a peek at what I finished up of my outdoor decorating.
I still have a little way to go with it all.
Hard to believe. But, yes, there's still more decorating and shopping to do.
As always, December 25th will come whether I am done or not.
When it's does....that means I'll be done.

Right now, I am just exhausted.
Off to work I go to get a little rest......

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm just the QUEEN OF CHRISTMAS.....

.......48 hours of straight decorating and now I'm heading into a shopping marathon.
Yes, I'm suiting up to shop til I drop.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tangled up in lights.......

here in Judiland.


Release me!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Excuse me while I deck the halls....

and make things MERRY.....

Here in Judiland, making merry consists of over 5 thousands little white lights all tangled in a ball + bags filled with squashed garland that needs fluffed + having the annual Christmas decorating fight with Carmen. And, that was only before 6 am.....


From the looks of things right now.....it's very MERRY here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What's a nice girl like me

doing without a martini in her hand?
Ho. Ho. Ho.

'Tis the Season!


Happy Friday.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The snow was falling.......

and I was seeking warmth and comfort.



Why can't I just put on the fireplace, curl up with a soft furry throw and a cup of herbal tea?
What is it about softly falling snow, a howling wind, the chill of a winter's night and TV Christmas specials that made me need those damn chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes my niece brought over for Thanksgiving?

Last night was just an ordinary night.
Fought rush hour traffic.
Stopped off at the grocery store---had to fight the crowds trying to use their $10 coupon before it expired.
Drove home, trying to figure out what to make for dinner, listening to Christmas carols.
Unloaded the car in the blustery cold.
Put away the groceries.
Got a quick dinner organized.
Went upstairs to put on something warm and comfortable.
Got everything organized for today.
Read the paper.
Ate dinner.
Chatted on the phone.
Watched Food Network's TV specials as I cleaned up the kitchen.
Finished up some laundry.
Cleaned the snow from the front steps and walkway.
Answered email.
Sat down to watch the news.
I was cold.
I was tired.
I was a little bit lonely.
Then, I heard the cries of the buckeyes I put in the freezer.
They were cold and lonely too.
Misery loves company. Right?

And, the snow was falling.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hello December......

it's me, Judi.
No, I'm not the Victoria's Secret Model you were hoping for.
But, I am wearing my fabulous new black bra encrusted with diamonds on the cleavage.....well.....they aren't real diamonds.....I just pretend they are.
After watching last night's show.....it's the only thing that will make me feel worthy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So long Turkeys!

It's time to make way for every other damn food on the planet.....
Oh November.....I'm so over you....

Yes, my friends.....now that we've digested the turkey and the stuffing and the pumpkin pie and the gravy and the mashed potatoes.....it's time to get our systems ready for the eatathon that defines December....

I'm throwing away the leftovers.....right. this. minute.
Along with the containers they are stored in.
Yes, I'm being sinfully wasteful and environmentally unfriendly.
A girl has to do what a girl has to do.
Especially with a refrigerator filled to the brim with all of her favorites....


Finally, I'm coming out of my Thanksgiving weekend food and wine coma.
Without a moment to spare!
When I enter December, I want to remember what I felt like yesterday.....dragging, drugged and a wee bit nauseated.
All of which had nothing to do with the shingles.

Why do I want to remember feeling so pitifully yucky?
To remind myself what it feels like when I eat more than I should, eat the wrong things and wash it all down with more than I should.....if you know what I mean.
Because, honestly, I want to enjoy December.

Yes, it's true--my niece's chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes (a salute to her coveted new job at OSU) were to die for. But, did I need to eat 10 of them late Sunday night? And, just because there was that little bit of wine left in the bottle....did I have to have one last glass as I did yet another round of dishes?
As for that pumpkin pie--that second piece tasted the same as the first. I didn't need it.

So, I am declaring...right here....right now...

I don't want to have any December days when food and booze contaminates my body, fogs my brain and slows down my pace!

I'm not as young as I used to be so it all takes a little while longer to bounce back.
Hence the fact that I am just feeling alive today.
And, I'm not as able to partake in that third glass of wine as I did in my preband years.
Hence the fact that I had the fourth one.
And, I'm not as overweight as I used to be.
Hence the reason why I don't feel guilty over all the indulgences. But....still....I don't want to feel so lousy.

Feeling lousy is no fun--whether it be the result of too much food or too much wine.
Being obese is no fun---and I don't want to find myself heading in that direction....ever. ever. again.
I want to have fun.
Comatose obesity is no fun.

Bring on the fun.......

Monday, November 29, 2010

I overdosed on what?

Underwood Chicken Spread Dip.

This is so hard for me to even talk about.

What exactly is Underwood Chicken Spread Dip? You ask.....
It's this stuff.......


Mixed with this stuff......



Let's just say, Williams Sonoma did not teach the art of making it at any of their Sunday morning classes.
And, my friend the Barefoot Contessa surely wouldn't be serving it to her stylish and fun friends.
And, if truth be told---I never once made it here at my house.
It's just not a Judi food.
But, yet, it found it's way to my Saturday night annual turkey fry appetizer table.
When my cousin asked what she could bring.....I said......"bring your specialty"....
Evidently, Underwood Chicken Spread Dip is her specialty.
(she would be the first person to tell you that she does not enjoy any type of kitchen activity)
So, yesterday morning as I forced myself to get my mojo going and slowly packed up leftovers for trips back to Collegeland and PhDLand and I washed the last of the 3 zillion wine glasses we used.......I spotted the container with the leftover Underwood Chicken Spread Dip.
And, there, in my overflowing kitchen, while wearing my leopard print robe with my hair askew and remnants of Saturday night's mascara flaked about my face--I leaned on the kitchen counter and with a spoon the size of my head, I devoured the Underwood Chicken Spread Dip.
Not gourmet.
But damn good.

I'm ashamed.
So ashamed.

I haven't been the same since.


Let the Season of Eating begin.............

Sunday, November 28, 2010

We ate, we drank, we sang songs, we laughed......


I cooked, I cleaned, I cooked again, I cleaned again.
We shopped, we shopped and then we shopped again.
I cooked, I cleaned, I cooked again, I cleaned again.
Another Thanksgiving break come and gone.
It's back to Collegeland and PhDland.
After I cook and clean....again.

But, before I go.....here's a few scenes from Judiland at our annual Saturday-after- Thanksgiving Turkey Fry...

Here's a shot of the kitchen eaters.....my brother-in-law Rich--the turkey carver, my sister-in-law Teresa--who survived years of torment at her brother's hands (Carmen) and lived to tell about it and sympathize with me, and a side view of my darling niece Rosa who reads my blog and goes to college at my alma mater.
Look who I let eat in the living room....my nephew Brett--who waited patiently to get the first crack at the fried turkey skin, my niece Alexa--home from her new city and her new job, my cousin Skip--who managed to stay in the family against all odds and my father who just loves to eat so much that he wears his bib from the minute he gets to my house until the moment he leaves.
And, then...the civilized dining room eaters...a back of the head shot of my sister Denise--the hairdresser who made a boatload of desserts then refused to take them home at 1 am this morning, cousin Cindy---who got called to the hospital to work the night shift but still managed to sneak in some turkey, cousin Annette--who made the most amazing chicken dip for the party, my sister-in-law Jean--who always wears leopard print, neighborhood-friend guy Richard--who spends holidays with us, great friend Martha--who is probably blaming me for her wine headache right now, cousin Rick--who was supposed to get Lapband but chickened out, Toni--who I will miss so much when she returns to collegeland today (we had a great week together...despite my shingles) and Brittany--who somehow manages to look good no matter color her hair is!

And, little more of the same.....from a different angle....

When I finally climbed into bed at 4 am this morning....there wasn't a pain-free bone in my body.
But, I was happy.


On to the next road of my journey.......Christmas.....here I come.
After I cook and clean, of course.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkeyfied!

A few shots from Thanksgiving in Judiland......






That was Thanksgiving Day at our house!
Carmen drank Scotch.
I made a turkey.

It was so much fun that I'm doing it all over AGAIN today.......

Shingles be damned!!!!!!!!!