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Friday, November 30, 2012

The PARTIES are coming!

Although the Season of Eating has already started in earnest, it is now being combined with the Season of Making Merry.  Put them both together and it spells....

December arrives on your doorstep tomorrow.  And, with it comes the invisible EAT, DRINK and BE MERRY  LICENSE.  Followed by an avalanche of invitations to parties and eating and drinking events, trays of cookies at the office, bowls of candy on everyone's tables and fast food lunch breaks during hectic shopping days.  
What's a girl to do if she wants to continue to fit into her favorite PARTY CLOTHES?

Just because I have my beloved Lap band it does not mean that I don't think myself silly about these things.  Trust me, with everything on my Christmas list, I don't have a penny to spare to go out and buy myself an entirely new holiday party wardrobe.   And, even though I love, love clothes shopping---I don't love, love it enough to say that I want to buy bigger sizes of clothes.  

This holiday season marks my 6th Holiday Party Season with my Lapband.   Given that, you would think that I have the whole thing figured out like clockwork.   Not so fast.   Let's remember that I also lived 47 holiday seasons without my Lapband.   I had lots of time to solidify certain holiday party season behaviors and come to expect certain holiday party season foods and drinks and traditions.  So, if truth be told--the holidays do not feel right for me if I don't have certain foods, enjoy specific traditions that revolve around food and spend oodles of time planning, cooking and serving special holiday food.   Food is still a huge part of my holiday season.   As are parties.....

Given that I am in my 6th Lapbanded Holiday Season, I was thinking that maybe my old strategies of dealing with the holidays might need a little sprucing up.  Although in the past, I haven't had many issues with alarming weight gain, I have definitely been challenged.  Plus, I find that the further I go with maintenance, the more I have to stop and take stock of where I am and what I am doing to stay on track.  I have had my share of slip-ups!   So, I've been taking a little time to think of a few new things that I might want to do that would allow me to still enjoy the holidays but also not have to deal with the aftermath of that enjoyment.   Short of banishing peppermint bark and gin from my house and staying away from some of my favorite places, I have been struggling with figuring out the proper balance.  
Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another November to remember.......

My  92 year old father always tells me.....the older you get, the faster the time goes.
Yes....with age comes wisdom.
And, that man is so filled with wisdom that he's busting at the seams. 

I'm sure I've told you about my father a few hundred times.  
He's a true character.
One of the things that my father loves more than anything else is....FOOD.
That man just loves to eat. 
Always has.
I guess that explains a thing or two about where I get my foodlove from....
At this point of his life, food has taken on even more importance.....for more reasons than just nourishment and taste and something to do.
You see, eating time is also a time when he gets to interact with others---not just with his TV set or his books.
These days, he lives with my sister who is a single mom and she and my other sister and I care for him and take turns making sure he has his meals and  that all of his needs are met.
All he has to do is sit in his chair and watch TV and read his books and we take care of the rest.
So, as you can imagine--breakfast, lunch and dinner are huge events.
Holidays are even larger events....because there is even more food!
And, more people around to give him food!
Such was the situation at our annual Turkey Fry the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
We host a Turkey Fry each year at our house for family and friends.  It's more of a party type of atmosphere than a true Thanksgiving sit down dinner.   What that means is that there's lots of party type foods around---including lots of my dad's favorites---chips and cheese and crackers and nuts
Plus, there's lots of people milling about, filling their plates with food and eating it within his site.
Even though we make him a nice dish of  his favorite things as soon as he gets there, he is always eyeing for more. But, he knows that he is not supposed to eat so much of that kind of stuff.   And, he has a healthy fear of one of his daughters (not me!) about what he he knows that he has to be very cunning on how he gets what he wants.  So, he takes great care to plan it out---enlisting his grandchildren and other guests to get him his treats---instructing them to give it to him without anyone noticing.  And, he is very careful NEVER to ask the same person twice.  So, God knows how many plates of chips and cheese and crackers and nuts he actually eats.  And, then he eats the main course--turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc.... and the desserts.
And, he is happy. 
Very happy.
This past Tuesday as I was chatting with him during dinner, I asked him if he ate enough for Thanksgiving and at our Turkey Fry.   He told me that he didn't really eat all that much because he is watching what he eats---he doesn't want to gain too much weight. 
(Another thing I should mention about my father is that he always says he is on a diet.)
Of course, I didn't challenge him.   He is, afterall, my father.....

Our little conversation got me to thinking about how much I am like my father. 
When I was heavier and battling my weight---I would never admit to all the food that I ate.
In fact, I don't even know if I realized how much I ate.
But, I always found a way to eat what I wanted.  I just never admitted to it. 
Knowing the joy that food brings to my father now, I wonder if I will be the same way.
And, I wonder if I will come to resent my  Lapband for taking that joy away from me....when I'm 92. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time to start drinking!

With all the hub bub of getting ready for Thanksgiving and the comings and goings at my house associated with the holiday, I was neglecting some very important matters.
And, one of those matters was....drinking! 
A few days before Thanksgiving, I had a late evening hair appointment.  I had an extremely busy day at the office, I had a mountain of errands to run after work and I was completely consumed with everything Thanksgiving.   As the day wore on, I was feeling a bit odd.  I figured it was due to the effects of  this lingering cold and eye infection I've been battling since early October.  So, I soldiered on--with my goal of getting into that salon chair and taking a deep breath. 
By the time I got to the salon, I found myself feeling a bit fuzzzy---bordering on confusion.  The strangest feeling came over me---it's as if I could not complete a full thought.  I became a bit frightened by my inability to think straight. Plus, I just felt wierd.   As I waited for my appointment, I flipped through a magazine trying to get my mind off of  my certain terminal disease.  But, I just couldn't shake the feeling that something was horribly wrong with me.  I could not even concentrate on a magazine page and I began to feel woozy and shakey all at once.   Getting a fatal disease before I thawed out my turkeys just wasn't how my life was supposed to go....
My hairdresser---who also happens to be my sister--noted the sweat beads on my forehead and my quivering hands.   "Are you okay?'  she asked.  Naturally, being that she is my younger sister by 16 months, I wanted to shield her from the burden of my awful illness.  
"I think I am dying", I told her. 
At that point, my mouth was pastey dry and I felt like I could just lay down on the floor and sleep forever.
But, considering my roots were grey and my hair was ruining my life, I was determined to get  my beauty treatment--regardless of how close to death I was. 
"Just get me some water, I will be okay"  I told her in my best martyr voice.
She came back with a huge tumbler filled with ice water. 
I started out sipping it but as the water filled my mouth, the urge to gulp it was unavoidable.
It was like a gripping thirst that I just could not quench. 
When I was done with that, she brought me another.
Within moments, I felt so much better. 
Clarity soon returned.  And, when it did.....I realized.....I did not drank any water all day!   In fact, the only drink I had was during the early morning hours when I drank my morning protein shake. 
I was dehydrated....thus the feelings of confusion and shakiness had set in. 
That episode was a huge reminder that I cannot let anything stand between me and my water.
This posting is my reminder to you........DRINK UP!!!!! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I don't miss the Twinkies.......

because I have pumpkin pie and pumpkin ice cream and lots of whipped cream and lots of cranberry dunkers and a full container of white chocolate walnut biscotti and an unopened tin of peppermint bark....... 

Even if my treat pantry wasn't overflowing with all those wonderful things, I still wouln't miss  those Twinkies.
Those little cakes never did anything for me.  
Oh sure, I ate them....who didn't? 
But, did I enjoy eating them? 
Can't say that I did. 
Which brings me to a whole 'nother point!
How many things have we eaten that we really didn't enjoy yet we ate them anyhow....over and over again?
Did I  not get it that I deserve to eat things that I enjoy?
Did I not understand that foods we do not enjoy still have calories and fat and other stuff that's not so great?
When I think back to the weight gaining years and the weight fighting years, it's hard for me to imagine that I was that consumed with eating that I ate things that did not bring me pleasure.  In fact, eating them only brought me more misery (in more ways than one....).
Now, before anyone thinks that I do not have compassion for all of those people who are out of work because of this Hostess mess, let me clear----I care.  In fact, I care quite a lot.   It's my job to care about employment and the job market.   Plus.....Hostess Fruit Pies got me through my first pregnancy!  For that, I am thankful.  Those apple pies tasted amazing heated up in the microwave and covered in ice cream everyday at 10 am.   And, I wonder why I gained a wopping 80 pounds.....

Having just come off a food-infused weekend and dealing with all the remnants of that food-infused weekend, I am reflecting on how I could have cut back on all the food  to help me better prepare for the next 6 weeks of more food.  First, I should say that I did not really eat all that much.   I was too busy shopping for it and preparing it and cooking it and serving it to sit down and eat it.   So, I would say that Thanksgiving #1 and Thanksgiving #2 were not issues.   What is the issue is what I am left with now that those events are over and done with.   Now that all the work is done and my body and mind are taking a quick breather.....this is when the problems begin.   All of a sudden.....I want to eat all the food that's crammed into and teetering on top of each other in my fridge.  Well, not all of it.  But, quite a bit of it.  First of's good food.  Secondly, I slaved over it.... so yes, I deserve to eat it....right?  And, thirdly, I feel horrible wasting all of it.   It's economically wrong and it feels so disrespectful.
How can I stop the excessiveness of holiday foods and holiday cooking so that I am not back in this same spot in a few weeks?   
It feels like a viscous cycle since there are certain foods that are associated with holidays that I feel compelled to have in the house.   And, I truly do love the entire process of planning and cooking for special occasions and serving my loved ones foods that make them feel special and exude a certain feeling of comfort for them.   I think I am going to have to dig pretty deep to find a healthy balance here.  Ugh.  Just when I thought I could take a rest from all the planning.....

Geez......didn't I start out this posting by talking about Twinkies?
Now I've got myself so stressed that I might need a Twinkie!! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Anyone looking for a cute TURKEY?

It's seasoned and completely cooked!   It's a sassy, sweet and  petite little turkey dressed in a lovely silver lame jacket and just waiting in my fridge for a loving home......

Take me, I'm yours! All you have to do is CARVE ME!

Remember when I said that I made 4 turkeys?
Well, I was lying.
I made 5.
Blame it on my last minute panic attack (that I had on Thanksgiving #2 this past Saturday) that I would run out of turkey. 
Yes, I've got issues.....but we're not going to talk about all of my issues right now.
The only issue we are going to discuss is the one that's pressing at this precise moment.....the fact that I have a fully cooked turkey sitting in my fridge that needs a home. 
The other 2 tins filled with leftover carved turkey are not taking too kindly to this intact bird taking up valuable fridge space.  Not to mention how claustrophic the leftover stuffings, leftover mashed potatoes, leftover cranberry relish and all the other leftover foods are feeling right now.  Being squished in a fridge is not their idea of having a good time.....
So, if you know anyone looking for a turkey, let me know NOW. 
By 5 am tomorrow morning, this bird is going to turkey heaven......

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Presenting the STAR of the show.......

 Before I drown in a sea of dirty dishes or die from the aches and pains that are currently wracking my body or literally fall over from complete and utter exhaustion or  get sucked up into the holiday frenzy that is about to ensue, I wanted to share a recipe that took our Thanksgiving by storm.  It's an unlikely dish....since it contains not one speck of pumpkin or turkey or stuffing or gravy......(oh, and by the's so band friendly that it borders on indecent....)....
This is what I am dealing with RIGHT NOW.....this is the best this corner of the kitchen has looked in 5 days....

 Ricotta Fritters

I served these with a pesto mayo sauce for dipping (mix equal parts jarred pesto and mayo...let flavors in fridge for about 2 hours)

1 cup ricotta
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup grated pecorino
⅓ cup grated mozzarella
1 tsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ tsp. grated lemon zest
⅛ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 egg yolks plus 2 eggs
4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped
¼ cup flour
½ cup dried bread crumbs
Canola oil, for frying

Stir together ricotta, fresh bread crumbs, pecorino, mozzarella, parsley, lemon zest, nutmeg, egg yolks, and prosciutto in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate until firm---about 30 minutes.   Put flour, whole eggs, and dried bread crumbs into 3 separate shallow dishes; whisk eggs. Using your hands, form chilled ricotta mixture into 1½" balls. Working with 1 ball at a time, dredge in flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs, shaking off any excess. Transfer to a parchment paper–lined sheet tray. Pour enough canola oil into a 4-quart saucepan that it reaches a depth of 2". Heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer inserted in the oil registers 350°. Working in batches, fry the ricotta balls, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the balls to a paper towel–lined plate.

Have you had your fill of turkey yet?
Just nod your head.
No need to scream.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Eat, Drink and Be Thankful.......

My Thanksgiving blessing for you......

May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes ‘n gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize.
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs.

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Swaddle that Turkey! my case.....Swaddle THOSE TURKEYS!

Today is all about getting the STARS of the show ready!
Yes, the rumors are true.....we do 4 turkeys.  
Excessive?  Why, yes.  I know no other way to live....
So, while my cute turkeys are resting on the kitchen counter, waiting for their baths, I wanted to make sure I shared a recipe you might want to add to your  arsenal this weekend for your leftover's been taste tested and given the highest seal of approval. 
There's nothing fancy to it nor could it be considered gourmet.... but it's so yummy (isn't that all that counts?).  Everyone in my house goes ga-ga over it.  This is one of the reasons why I make 4 turkeys......

Turkey Enchilada Casserole

2 C. Diced cooked Turkey (or chicken)
30 Oz.Enchilada Sauce
1 ½ C. Diced onions
1 Tbsp Minced garlic
1 10 oz. Cream of Chicken Soup
1 C. Chopped Black Olives
1/2 C. Corn
6 Corn Tortillas
1 ½ C. Cheddar cheese
¼ C. Diced cilantro
1/2 C. Diced JalapeƱo peppers to taste
1 Tbsp Chili Powder (optional)
  1. Combine Enchilada Sauce with turkey, onions, olives, cream of chicken soup
  2. Cut tortillas into strips. Use half to line bottom of 9X9 1 ½ qt. Casserole dish.
  3. Pour half of filling. Cover with cheese and remaining tortillas. Pour on rest of filling  and top with remaining cheese.
  4. Cover and cook for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
  5. Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve with hot corn bread


Back to the kitchen........

Monday, November 19, 2012

Back to Talkin' Turkey......

Will my turkey defrost?
OMG, will my gravy be smooth?
How am I going to seat everyone around the table?
What if I forgot to add something to my stuffing?
Did I get enough oil for the turkey fryer?
How do I know if the turkey is really done?
Where are my gravy boats?
Do we have enough pumpkin pies?
Will I have enough room in the oven for everything?
Maybe we really don't need those pumpkin ravioli....
What if my cousin says something about______?
I'm pretty sure Carmen and I will have our annual extra-buffet-table-fight....I wonder if I can just sneak that table into the dining room without him noticing?  
How will I get everything done????????

Yes, it's the week of Thanksgiving once more......

No matter what those Food Network stars and food magazine stylists and cooks tell you---there is no easy, stress-free way to host Thanksgiving dinner.  
So, don't think you are less-than if you are feeling a bit stressed right now or ready to deck the next person who asks you anything related to being ready for Thanksgiving.....
Although chances are that everything will be just fine and you will be the star of  Turkeyday....getting to the big day is no small feat.  Right now, I feel like I am clawing and scraping my way.  And, I'm wondering just how much sleep I will get.....  
This past weekend, as I tried to wrap up as many last minute details as I could, I felt like I was always *forgetting something*.  Have you ever felt that way?  No to need to admit makes me feel better if we just go with....YES!  
Now that we have all of that moaning and commiserating out of the way.....let me tell you about this Sangria recipe that might make your day just  a little bit sweeter....
When I entertain, I do strive to have a fully stocked bar and lots of different wines and beers so that everyone is happy.  However, when you are hosting a holiday like Thanksgiving---with all the kitchen time that's required,  it's tough to be the cook and play bartender.  Thanksgiving is especially rough at our house because I can't depend on Carmen and Vince to be of any assistance in the making drinks department since they oversee the outdoor Turkey Fry portion of the event.....where all the menfolk and kids gather around the fire pit while the turkey fries (but, let's be honest here....even if Carmen wasn't out there with the turkey fryer....he enjoys being a guest and not a host so he stays as far away from me as he can when we entertain....).  So, given all of this plus the fact that I like to enjoy myself as well, I find that offering a signature cocktail is a nice way to cut down on the need to be a mixologist and a drink fetcher.   Plus, it's fun to come up with something......there's taste testing involved! 
This year, I assigned my newly minted 21 year old sorority girl to come up with a signature cocktail for our Thanksgiving festivities.  And, she didn't disappoint.   She gets an A for her research!   We did a little taste testing over the weekend....yummy!  
I am happy to share with you the fruits of our labor......a seasonal and festive drink you can whip up for a crowd! 

Apple Cider Sangria.....
......a nice little drink to sip in the will help with that frenzied feeling!  
  • 1 bottle (standard size) of  Pinot Grigio
  • 3 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
  • 1/2 cup ginger brandy (Jacquin's makes this)
  • 3 apples, seeded and chopped
  • 3 pears, seeded and chopped
  • Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir well.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
  • Serves 4-6--so you might want to double or triple!!

Now might be a good time to run to the store and pick up everything you need to make this......not that I want to add one more thing to your to-do list.....

Sunday, November 18, 2012


 also known as Sunday Meatballs..... 
Get it?  Sunday=Holy
This morning, I woke up wanting meatballs.  
Perhaps I was just feeling a bit nostalgic with the holidays upon us.
If you grew up  with an Italian mother, meatballs were a staple of your Sunday mid-day meal.  
Perhaps I was just missing the days when the comfort of a familiar food made me feel safe and loved. 
Or, maybe I just wanted meatballs. 

 This past summer, I tried out a recipe that called for topping meatballs and sauce with ricotta cheese and I fell madly in love with it.    
I just know you will love it too.....

Meatballs a la Ricotta

You can use your favorite meatball recipe or try this basic meatball recipe below.  I tend to make my meatballs a bit different every time--never really following a recipe.  One thing that never changes is the fact that I use lots of  fresh garlic,  fresh basil, good quality romano cheese and a hefty amount of chopped fresh parsley.  You can use your own tomato sauce or a jarred sauce or anything in between.  You could also use your favorite store bought brand of meatballs as well.  But, the one thing you cannot change is the fact that you have to use a whole milk ricotta......

3/4 pounds meatloaf mix (1/4 lb each ground beef, veal and pork), or you can use all ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs 
1/2 cup of grated parm or romano cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups of tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)
1 cup ricotta cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup slivered basil leaves

1. Make meatballs by combining meat, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and cream in a bowl. Mix together well and form into 12 meatballs. (These can be done ahead and refrigerated.)
2. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high, and add meatballs. Brown on all sides, turning gently, until they are browned but not cooked through, about 7-10 minutes total.
3. Pour sauce into a large saucepan. Carefully add meatballs, and heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until meatballs are cooked through.
4. Divide meatballs among plates, top with ricotta and slivered basil.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sick of talking TURKEY?

Yeah, me too.
Let's go visit the cows. 
Let me introduce you to this little number......
This jar is a bit pricey but for something that's going to save my sanity, it's worth it!

I've been pulling out all the stops with the Thanksgiving menu much so that I have been avoiding the other meals that have to happen over the next week or so.
As my house begins to fill up.....that means that there's more mouths to feed and  more meals to plan.
I've been so focused on the traditional foods that I haven't given a thought to much else.
These are the moments that I am happy that I am not so much of a food snob that I won't open a jar and make a meal from it.
The key to not being outted for serving something out of a jar  is to make sure that whatever is in that jar is something you would feel good about serving. If YOU don't like it, you can't expect your guests to like it!
 Oh, and yes, hide the jar.  

I can't remember if I told you about this product or not.  If I haven't---I apologize for keeping this secret to myself.  If I did---it's worth telling you again.
This braising base is sensational.
Yes, it's a little bit pricey.  However, during times like this---when a major cooking holiday is only days away and you have to make lots of meals for lots of people....cost needs to take a back seat to your sanity!
Let me start by saying a few things.....
First of makes the house smell incredible.  Which is always good.
Secondly, with a little bit of ingenuity, you can make this into a one pot meal that's easy and satisfying....for everyone.  It's  super comfort food and goes really well with football!!!
And, most importantly---it will make you look like the star that you are!!!

Here's what I do......I do not follow the jar recipe exactly.....I stretch it out a bit.....I'm such an economical gal....aren't I?

CROCK POT Belgian Beer and Onion Beef and Veggies
  • 4-5 lbs beef chuck 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 jar Belgian beer and onion braising base
  • 1 small can of beef broth 
Veggies that I add:
-1 bag of frozen pearl onions
-4 potatoes--cut in med size pieces
-2 stocks of celery--cut in med size pieces
-1/2 bag of baby carrots (raw)

Season beef with salt and pepper. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil until just smoking. Brown the beef on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to a slow cooker, add veggies, broth and the braising base. Cover and cook on MED about 8 hours.... until the meat and veggies are fork-tender. You can shred the beef or cut it up. 

 We can resume talking turkey tomorrow.....

Friday, November 16, 2012

The road to Friday.......

was exhausting.  But, I welcome it with OPEN arms......

Last week at this time, I was sporting the wonderful glow of anticipating a little road trip.  Right now, that seems like it was sooooo long ago.  So, before I get swept up by the chaos that will inevidably sweep me up these next few days, I thought I would share a few pictures from that little road trip....

A mother in her son's kitchen.....

An early morning trip to a lovely market place.  Carmen was in love with their artisan sandwiches and I got a little bit of shopping done.....lots of fun jewelry and fabric art.   Oh and wine too!!

The entrance to the little village where our son of the quaintest places ever!  I never knew a place like this ever existed!!!! 

A visit to a glorious bohemian town near our son's town where we got our "hippie" on!

Hiking on the scenic banks of the river at the end of our son's road.
 Just looking at those pictures brings a smile to my face.....

We all need to take a little break now and then from our everyday life. 
In fact, I'm so ready for another one!
No sooner did our weekend away come to a close, everyday life began in earnest.....catching up with emails and voicemails and  lots of work at the office and trying to get some semblance of order at home.  Carmen was summoned to DC by a last minute business trip early in the week so I made it my business to schedule lots of cooking and cleaning time these past two nights.  Although he is typically NOT home much anyway during the week, I knew that given this particular trip....he would want to come home to lots of down time and entertainment instead of work and projects this weekend (haha....just when I had planned  doing most of my prep work while he took care of several projects over the weekend). 
Plus, our sorority girl will be arriving on the scene tonight (WOOOO-HOOOO) for the holiday.  So, I wanted to get as much out of the way as I possibly could.  My girl's youthful energy and wonderful spirit will keep me very busy.... 
Plus, to be honest---cooking soothes me.  For me, the chopping and stirring and the entire process is very relaxing for me.  I just have to figure out how to feel the same way about the clean up...
Plus, I have to learn when to quit....going to bed so late...only to get up 2 hours later for 2 nights straight is not a good plan.....


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wake Up Call from a friend......

My Lapband called with some news.....


  • First, the good news----in the olden days (before I got my beloved Lapband), if I had a doctor's appointment, I would literally fast for 24 hours---no, not because of the bloodwork---but because of THE SCALE!  I dreaded the weigh-in.  I dreaded seeing that number staring me in the face.  I dreaded the look on the nurses's face.  I dreaded the look on the doctor's face. I was *this close* to positive that they were giggling about me in the break room and then went home and told their families at the dinner table about this fat woman who came into the office.  I guess I figured if I fasted I would magically lose like 50 pounds.   Considering that never happened, you would think I would have gotten the message and just stopped my ridiculous behavior.  But, I never did.  These days, I look forward to seeing the scale when I go to the doctor's office.  Evidently, I don't even think about what I am eating for the 24 hours leading up to a doctor's appointment.  I suppose that explains why I ate hot sausage smothered in onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers covered in provolone cheese and melted to a gooooey perfection the night before my 5 year Lapband appointment without giving it a thought!  Yes, it was very yummy!
  • Now, for the not-so-good news---clearly my very high-techy scale at home is trying to get on my good side because it's been telling me that I weigh *THIS* amount.   When in reality, I don't.  I weigh *THAT* much.  *THAT* much equates to 6 pounds over *THIS* amount!  My scale has been leading me me false information!!!   Bad scale!
  • Yet, there remains good news---Even in light of the fact that I weigh 6 pounds more than I have going around thinking that I weigh, I do not have a feeling dread or even a feeling of failure.  In the olden days, if the doctor's scale would have reported such news one week before the biggest foodie 6 weeks of the year--there's no telling what I would have done (more than likely I would have headed to a fast food restaurant to drown my sorrows....yeah I would have shown that scale a thing or 2!).  Naturally, I wasn't thrilled with the news.  But, instead of stomping my feet or taking an ax to the scale or slamming the nurse against the wall, I took it like a champ.   When I talked to the PA about it---I owned those 6 pounds.  In fact, I admitted to her that I already knew exactly where they came from (no, I didn't blame alien beings or severe I might have in the olden days).  I knew that I have been doing a little bit too much mindless snacking, celebratory eating and not planning well enough for when I eat in restaurants.    Plus, I admitted that there were times that I purposfully overate very band friendly foods (aka foods that slip righ through that band with no problem whatsoever....).  I confessed it all....and then some.   Impressed by my candor and my knowledge of my own behavior, she didn't lecture me or even offer advice.  Instead, she congratulated me on my long-term success and noted that at 5 years out, there is some expectation that there will be some weight gain.  She also told me that she strongly believes that the secret to my sucess has been the fact that I continue to come in for my appoinments and fully participate in the research study that they have going on.   But, most importantly, she told me that the key to anyone's long-term success with any weight loss surgery is to make it a part of your life.    Although I wholly agree with all of her statements---I feel strongly that my sucess with my band can be 75% contributed to the fact that I did make my Lapband a part of my life.  A very big part of my life.  It's like a part of my family---if you invite me to dinner, you invite my Lapband too, if you know me, you know my Lapband....and yadda, yadda, yadda.   I know myself well enough to recognize that if I didn't embrace this tool that I was given and I didn't truly consider it a giant gift then I would have found a zillion ways around it.  Believe me when I say that I am true blue when I make a commitment....for better or worse, richer or poorer.  I will make anything work if I dedicate myself to it.  My Lapband is my dear, dear friend, my partner in my journey and my support when I need it.... and I treat it as such.  These 6 pounds are just a blip in the we find in any relationship!  It's a wake-up call from a friend to tell me that I'm still a great friend but maybe I could do just a wee little bit more to be a better friend.  

Thank you dear friend, I appreciated the call! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Yes, there will be leftovers........

Just another reason to be THANKFUL......

The clock is ticking away!  Soon, Thanksgiving will be over!
And, you will be left with.....the leftovers and the dirty dishes.  

I know, I know, I'm jumping way ahead of myself here.....Thanksgiving is 8 days away.
Why am I talking about leftovers when I haven't even roasted the turkey or mashed the potatoes or stirred the gravy or popped open that jar of cranberry relish?  Or, ODed on pumpkin pie.....
Oh, I just can't help myself.  
I'm up to my eyeballs in Thanksgiving prep but I just can't stop thinking about these adorable little mini sandwiches that I made last year the weekend after Thanksgiving that just rocked our socks!
They not only rocked our socks.....they rocked our shoes too.
And, they rocked our house guests' socks and shoes.
Everyone was still talking about them on New Years' Day.  
They are that special.  
These little sandwiches are so damn amazing that I want to make sure you have this recipe before Thanksgiving so you can do like I do and over buy and over cook and have so many leftovers that you just have to make these.....
Plus, I want to be sure to remind you to go straight to your favorite bakery place today and pick up a loaf of sourdough bread and ask them to slice it a bit on the thin side (Panera is a good choice if you don't have a personal fav) and then I want you to hide that loaf of bread in the boughs of your freezer so it's ready to go next weekend.
And, I want you to be sure to add a nice little triangle of a decent quality brie cheese (doesn't have to be the best!) on your last minute Thanksgiving shopping list.  (Trader Joe's is a good choice to find a reasonably priced, nice tasting brie)
Believe me when I tell you that this little recipe is so damn good that you might not want to go to your Aunt Flo's this year just so you can stay home and cook up lots of turkey so you have enough leftovers to make this damn sandwich.
And, just so you don't think this is just any damn leftover turkey sandwich.....I'd like to remind you that it's so special that it's really called a PANINI..... 
You got all that? 
You won't be sorry.  Trust me on this. 

Mini Turkey, Brie and Cranberry Panini
(to make 12)
These are appetizer size....I served them on a platter  with mini potato cakes (made from left over mashed potatoes...see recipe below) and heated up left over gravy for anyone who wanted to dip their panini or cakes.

-8 slices of sourdough bread, buttered on one side
-leftover Thanksgiving turkey
-leftover Cranberry Relish (Williams Sonoma and Trader Joe's are good choices if you don't make your own)
-pieces of brie cheese

You don't need a Panini maker for this but if you have one, that's great

Assemble 4 sandwiches....
-Buttered bread
-Brie Cheese
-Cranberry Relish (do not overload sandwiches with the relish)

In your skillet---make these like you would make grilled cheese
Cut each sandwich into 3 mini

Mini Potato Cakes
(makes about 18-20 mini cakes)
  • 2 cups cold leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup flour (all purpose or self rising)
  • Heaping amount each of chopped parsley and basil
  • Nice sprinkling of parmesean or romano cheese
  • salt, pepper and garlic powder--to taste
Mix egg into mashed potatoes with a fork until well blended. Add flour and remaining ingredients--mix well. Pour approximately 2 T. oil into skillet and heat over medium heat. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of mixture into hot oil. Dip back of spoon into oil and mash potato mixture to flatten to about 1/4 inch thick. By dipping the back of the spoon into the oil, the spoon will not stick to potatoes making flattening them much easier. Fry until browned and then flip and continue to brown patty on other side.(DO NOT TURN THESE OVER UNTIL THEY ARE BROWNED) Remove to paper towel lined plate for about 3-5 minutes.  Serve!

Oh, and before I forget.....I served this for dessert that day......

Left Over Pumpkin Pie Brulee
  • Leftover pumpkin pie
  • 5 tablespoons sugar

Peel crust off the outside of overturned pieces of pie and line the inside of small ramekins of coffee cups with the pie crust pieces. Spoon pumpkin pie filling (straight from the pie!) equally into small ramekins or stoneware coffee cups. Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the filling in each ramekin. Using a mini-torch, torch the top until sugar is caramelized. The ramekins can also be browned under a broiler. If using a broiler, stick the cups inside a pan filled with 1/2-inch of water and place under the broiler until just browned on top. (I used my mini torch just because I wanted to play with it  and look like a fancy chef but you really don't need one--broiling would be just fine!)

Perhaps these recipes will help you NOT to overeat on you will have more LEFTOVERS!!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Yes, Judi, there is a FREE LUNCH.......and A FREE DINNER......

it's called.....going to Sam's and Trader Joe's and trying all the samples then heading to Williams Sonoma to taste test what they cook!


Although if truth be told.....with all the cash I dropped at all three places yesterday.....there was nothing FREE about those meals......  

Last night, by the time I rolled into the house, I realized that I did not have a real meal all day long.
I  happily survived on free samples and taste testing.  I was completely satisfied! 
Ah, another joy of Lapbanding.  
Then, I realized that I also managed to enjoy an entire Saturday afternoon of wine-ing and dining on tastey wines and wonderful little morsels of food this past weekend....without spending a dime.
Unless you count the cash I dropped on the 2 cases of wine, the 6 amazing artisan cheeses and the vast collection of spices and herbs I toted home with me......oh and let's not forget those truly delightful crackers that I didn't think I could live without.   Blame it on the wine!  
A fun little wine cafe in Yellow Springs, OH

This past weekend, we managed to escape our little suburban hamlet for a bit.
We made a mad dash out of town....we took a little time for ourselves---getting massages and then languishing over a 2 martini lunch.  Then, we hooked up with our son the doctor and spent the rest of the time discovering his little suburban hamlet and the villages and towns nearby. 
Our original plan was sidetracked a bit when Carmen's work schedule went topsy turvy on us.  Although the poor guy did try to make up for it by driving into town on Thursday night to surprise me at my office but since I was at a meeting off-site, that didn't go so well.
Thankfully, Friday worked itself out so that we could spend a little time away from his work obligations.....thus the massage and lunch.
However, it also meant that we had to leave to come home much earlier than originally planned...forgoing a few of the plans that I had so carefully made.  
But, work beckoned him back so that meant that I was on my own once I dropped him off for his meeting.  
Typically, when I have time on my hands, I find myself at the mall.
However, since I had done quite enough shopping on our little trip, I decided I should probably use the time more wisely---like getting a good deal of my Thanksgiving groceries.
Thus the trips to Sam's, Trader Joe's  and Williams Sonoma.
Because we left our son's in the wee hours and drove in a punishing down pour and Carmen was on a pretty tight schedule, we didn't stop for anything to eat or drink....there wasn't a Starbuck's in the middle of the cornfields.  I was not too happy about that.
So, by the time I found my way to civilization five hours later, I was in need of some major nourishment.  But, I had no time to waste---I wanted to get to Sam's to start checking things off of my long list of  Thanksgiving needs so that I could get home, unload them and then head to Trader Joe's for more necessities and get to Williams Sonoma in time for my cooking class.  
Fortunately, Sam's and Trader Joe's had some great samples that covered all of my dietary needs for the day....cheese, roasted turkey, cauliflower au gratin and cranberry compote.  
The parmesean mashed potatoes, herbed pop overs and cornbread stuffing at Williams Sonoma rounded out my day.
Thank you dear Lapband (and Sam's and Trader Joe's and Williams Sonoma)......I would not have had the energy to make myself something to eat last night. 
I was exhausted from our busy weekend......which I will tell you more about later.....


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Carry on......

It seems like the past few weeks have been a blur ......with Sandy and the election and everything that goes with two pretty major events. 
Hopefully, those who were affected by Sandy are finding their way out of the darkness and destruction.  And, hopefully--regardless if your candidate won or not--we are ready to unite with one common purpose--the betterment of our world.
Although none of it is as easy or simple as all that---I'm always hopeful for better tomorrows.
HOPE makes life so much better.....don't you think?
If you've been reading my blog for a long time (THANK YOU!), you probably know that HOPE is what I always hold on to.   Always having HOPE no matter what the circumstance gives me comfort. It keeps me moving forward.  I guess you could say it's what gets me up each morning!
 I HOPE for the best and I EXPECT the best. 
Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't work out.  And, when it doesn't work out, I HOPE there's a good reason why (and there usually is!).
I suppose HOPE is the reason why I always went on all those diets.  And, HOPE is what my Lapband gave me when those DIET HOPES didn't pan out too well.  
I guess you could say I'm a girl all about HOPE. 
Trust me, it's good to have HOPE.

I leave you with those thoughts.......I'll be back next Tuesday! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We are LARGE and IN CHARGE...........


The best is yet to come......

Sunday, November 4, 2012

IT'S Gastrodilirium Day!

Remember the other day when I told you that I'd be sharing some recipes that seriously rocked (causing some serious gastronomical dilirium among my guests!) my holiday tables over the years?
You remember....don't you? 
Okay....if ya go.....CLICK HERE....

Well, brace yourselves lovely cooks and's your lucky day.....I am making good on that promise and I am opening my recipe box and pulling out  some of those rockin' winners....just for you!!!

Yes, I had my extra hour of sleep and I'm ready to rock your recipe box!

Gingersnap Gravy
Yes, GINGERSNAP GRAVY.  I am telling you friends, this gravy is amazing!
I know. I know. I thought the same thing....GINGERSNAPS in my GRAVY? 
Believe me when I tell will lick the drippings that are left on the tablecloth this is so damn good!
And, it's so crazy simple, you will wonder where this gravy has been all your life!!!

1 quart turkey or chicken stock
Pan drippings/juices from your turkey (and any vegtables/fruits you use to roast your turkey--I use onion, carrot, celery, lemon, apple)
1/2 cup apple cider
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups crumbled gingersnaps
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Transfer the juices and veggies (and fruits if you use them) to a saucepan. Add the stock and apple cider and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Strain the mixture, discarding the solids. Return the liquid to the saucepan and stir in the lemon juice and gingersnaps. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, whisking frequently, until the gingersnaps dissolve, 8 to 10 minutes. Whisk vigorously to break up any lumps and season with salt and pepper.

Ina Garten's Baked Virginia Ham
I am 200% positive I told you about this 100 times before.  But, it's so good...I have to tell you again....just in case you didn't listen to me the first 100 times!  I mean...seriously folks....this baked ham will convert even the non-ham lovers at your table. Ham lovers will pass out upon the first bite from pure delight.  Have the smelling salts handy.  Trust me....this ham is simply scrumptious.  I mean....I don't even like ham allthatmuch and I'm saying this!  My forever friend Debbie turned me on to this and I can't thank that girl enough for introducing me to this ham recipe!  I use an uncured spiral ham from Trader Joe's (where else?) and I buy Trader Joe's (or course!) chutney as well.  But, feel free to use whatever brands make you happy or you can slaughter your own pig and make your own chutney if you are so inclined.  But, whatever you do....don't let this ham recipe slip out of your fingers....
Oh...and did I mention it's easy peasy?

1 (14 to 16-pound) fully cooked, spiral-cut ham, on the bone
6 garlic cloves
8 1/2 ounces mango chutney
1/2 cup Dijon mustard (I use a grainy Dijon....yummo!)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 orange, zested
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (you can use orange juice from the carton like I's no sin)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the ham in a heavy roasting pan.
Mince the garlic in a food processor.. Add the chutney, mustard, brown sugar, orange zest, and orange juice and process until smooth. Pour the glaze over the ham and bake for 1 hour, until the ham is fully heated and the glaze is well browned. Serve hot or at room temperature. Tip:  make extra glaze to pass with the ham or to drink straight from the pot.....

Pistachio Crusted Salmon with Lemon Cream Sauce
Confession time: I know this menu item doesn't scream Fall or Winter or Holiday but stay with me here. I promise, you will catch my drift.  Here goes--quite awhile back, I  had a similiar dish at one of my husband's business events that was held at a spectacular venue that is well known for their food--especially seafood. I was so taken with it that I immediately sought out the chef. The chef was as helpful as any chef who doesn't want to give away his recipe--telling me that it was crusted with pistachio and covered in a lemon cream sauce.  Duh.  Not to be deterred---I did hard time looking for the recipe online and trying out a few of them-- never finding just the right one.  Finally, last year, just as the holidays were in full swing, I tweaked a Paula Deen recipe with the same name.....and, wa-la--BINGO!  It was magnificent---so much so that I decided to use it to entertain dinner guests that weekend.   Everyone at the table went gaga over it---noting that it was a special treat since every meal between Thanksgiving and New Years either involved ham or turkey and heavy laden sauces and foods with many similiar flavors.  This dish was a welcome relief from all of that!  So, if you are looking to change things up a bit but still serve something super special....this might be your go-to.  This year, I'm thinking of sliding this into our Feast of Seven Fishes meal......

1/2 cup good quality mayo, diluted with a little olive oil + lemon zest (mix together well)
1 cup finely chopped pistachios, plus more for garnish
1 cup panko

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (4-ounce) fresh salmon fillets
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon minced garlic
Using a pastry brush-bush (almost like you are painting it!) salmon pieces with mayo/lemonzest/olive oil
In a shallow dish, combine the pistachios and panko, salt, and pepper. Dredge the "painted" salmon in the pistachio mixture, pressing gently to coat.
In a small skillet, heat the oil and garlic over medium heat. Add the salmon and cook until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium; turn the salmon and cook until salmon flakes easily with fork, about 2 or 3 minutes more. Transfer the fillets to serving plates. Serve with Lemon Cream Sauce (recipe follows), and garnish with chopped pistachios, if desired.
Lemon Cream Sauce:
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of parmesean cheese
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Splash of dry white wine at the end of cooking

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and parm cheese, whisking to combine and cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium; stir in the broth and cream and simmer until thickened, whisking frequently, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, whisking to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Pour into a serving dish, splash with wine and serve with the salmon.

Now that I've left you salivating at your computer, I gotta go whip something magical for breakfast.
Chai Protein Shake anyone? 

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Remember all those times you said...."if only I had more hours in my day"?
Well, here ya go.....
You are not getting extra hourS.....but you are getting ONE extra hour!
That is if you remember to set your clock back tonight. 
(consider this your friendly reminder)

Make that extra hour count! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday thoughts.......

Yes, Friday is here again. 
What took you so  damn long to get here?

A bunch of my banded blog friends do this thing called TTT---Ten Things Thursdays.  
I never got on that bandwagon (get it? bandwagon?).  I'm not sure why!
 I mean, I look forward to reading them all.....if they didn't know that.....they know now!
I probably didn't join in for the same reasons why I don't join those organized dancing routines like they do at weddings.
This morning, when I was thinking about what I would blog about today, I found myself sorry that it wasn't Thursday and that I couldn't do the TTT thing.  But, really, I was happy it was Friday.....
So, I figured....whatthehell, I will do my own thing today and just bullet away some things.
I'm not sure where this is going so bear with me as I just dump my brain right here on my no particular order....

  • In preparation for the upcoming holidays and to get ready for some house guests that we have coming to stay in a few weeks and all that goes along with everything that is going to happen between now and the end of the year, I decided I would get a new cleaning service to help me at home.  The last cleaning service was downright lousy but I put up with them because.....well.....because they cleaned. They were lousy but at least they showed up.   A dear friend of mine runs a very lucrative cleaning and catering service but up until now, I avoided using it just because I didn't want to mix business with friendship.  Well, I gave up that ship after I fired the lousy cleaning service and found myself living in a house that needed a good cleaning and no time to do it.  So, last night, she sent over 2 of her favorites to meet me and go over the house and see what needed done.  As I was showing them through the house, they kept complimenting me on the decor, the little touches here and there, my taste, etc.  I liked them already---they weren't scared off by all the stuff I have around!!!  Anyway, as we were going over the final details, one of them said that she felt like she was in a Bed and Breakfast!  "You don't run one, do you?"  she asked.  I don't know why but that just made my night.  I just love the fact that my home has a feeling of a B&B.  Can't wait until it's a  sparkling clean B&B!
  • I'm getting very nervous about the election.  Some of you may know my politics--others may not.  Some of you may guess it.  Yesterday, I came upon an article that is not only well written but speaks loudly to me.....  If you care to click the can.  I am not here to change anyone's views or go all politico---my blog is not about that at all.  I am just happy I had the opportunity to read it.  Maybe you will feel the same.  
  •  Sometimes I miss the weight loss journey.  I miss the thrill of seeing a new number on the scale or fitting into a new size.  Maintenance doesn't have that same thrill.  Even though I am thankful beyond words to have lost the weight, I miss it.   I guess I am just a girl who likes thrills. 
  • Hearing and seeing the devastation Hurricane Sandy brought to so many people humbles me.  I am embarrassed that I am complaining about the rain and the weather when there are people who were stripped of their lives by Mother Nature.  My NJ family is still without utilities. One has downed trees and power lines all over their property and it took the other (who is a physician in NYC) over 4 hours to get to work!    They are cooking hot dogs on their grills and worrying about basic things like gas for their cars and flushing their toilets.  And they tell us they have it good.....compared to so many.  Who am I to complain that this damn weather is getting to me?  
  • I have probably alluded to it many times but my husband is not home very much.  He works a lot.  When he is not physically at work, he is on the phone or the computer--with work!  He also has a lot of obligations and commitments outside of work that he has to do because of work.  Sometimes I go along with him--other times I don't.  Although I have a job that keeps me very busy,  his career is extremely challenging and demanding be honest... he is somewhat of a workaholic.  He's been very successful doing it but sure does take a toll on family life.  Although I have gotten used to it over the years and it easier now that the kids are older and on their own, sometimes I hate it.   I don't say that very often but for some reason I am saying it today.  The only upside of it all is that the time that we spend together is usually planned---like trips, dinners, parties, events, etc.  We don't do too many mundane things together.  I get to do all the mundane things all by myself. 
  • Speaking of my husband's work schedule and trips---we are supposed to be taking a little trip next weekend--leaving Friday and coming back on Monday.  Part of the trip is a business social thing and then we are heading over to spend some time with our son the doctor.  I can't tell you how excited I am about the spending time with our son part.  The business social part....notsomuch.  My sister and her husband will be visiting with my niece who lives about 45 minutes from my son so we will get to spend some time with them as well.  And,  I am  so looking forward to going back to that wonderful wine restaurant near my son's house that we found when I was there house hunting with him late in the summer. 
  • I have my 5 year Lapband appointment sometime in the next 2 weeks.  I can't remember the exact date.  I still can't believe it's been 5 years. 
  • It's time to put my day into gear.  I think I'm going to wear a black pants suit......

Happy Friday! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hello NOVEMBER!!!!!

Let the cooking begin........
This just makes me laugh! 

As soon as the calendar turns the page to November, my mind immediately begins holiday menu planning and plotting and scheming in earnest.
It's a nice deversion from all the regular menu planning and plotting and scheming that I do the rest of the year in earnest....

Although most of our holiday meals are all about tradition and the comfort that comes with the "familiar" foods that go along with the holiday, I do try to add one new menu item to each holiday meal.
 I'm fortunate enough (hmmmmm....ask me if I feel the same way on January 2) to have several  associated meals to cook around the holidays...whether it be for houseguests or my own children or family or for a party or an event.  So, I have several opportunities to try out new recipes and menus. And, trust me, I do back flips to figure those out too.   However, I am always looking for that one big splashy recipe that sends everyone into gastronomical dilirium to add to the BIG MEAL!  
Considering that is always my wonder I find myself in a slight panic now that November is here.  Although I seriously doubt that I had the menu item nailed down by November 1 in previous years, for some reason I always entertain myself with the falicy that last year I was so much more organized. 
Thankfully, I have my blog---which can act as diary of sorts--to remind me that I was not more organized last year on November 1. 
The truth of  the matter is---I didn't even have a clue.   And, if you want even more truth---the fact is that I am usually completely overwhelmed by all the ideas in my head from all the research I do ahead of time to prepare for the debut of November.  For some reason, I have myself convinced that by having so much to pick from, my choice will be so easy.  Notsomuch. Damn my addiction to Pinterest.   In reality---too much is just too much!  My head is swimming in pumpkins and sauces and squashes and potatoes and spinach and sausage and mushrooms and cheese and chestnuts and get get the picture....

So, anyway...

Here's some winners (recipes that *almost* caused gastronomical dilirium) from previous Thanksgivings......
(as you know....I keep detailed notes on everything that I serve so I know which recipes went over well.  This means that  you can be assured these have been taste tested by a variety of folks!) 
I'll be sharing more as the month goes on.....including the ones that caused gastronomical dilirium!

Butternut Squash Chowder
(This is velvety and yummy.  If you are serving this as a first course for a big holiday meal, you probably don't want to serve big bowls.... it's very hearty...)

4 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup chopped carrots
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage, plus small sage
leaves for garnish
Kosher salt--- to taste
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 jar (32 oz.) butternut squash puree
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until crispy, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towellined plate. Set aside.
Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the fat from the pan and return the pan to medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, bay leaf, chopped sage, the 4 tsp. salt and the 1 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the vegetables are soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Add the butternut squash puree and bacon and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Ladle the chowder into warmed bowls and garnish with sage leaves. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
(In addition to tasting great, this makes a beautiful can wow your guests' eyes and taste buds!)
3 medium acorn squash

2 tablespoons butter
3 cups chopped granny smith apples
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup golden raisin
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Slice squash in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds and discard..Place squash, cut edges down, in a large baking dish. Fill dish with hot water until 1/2 inches deep. At 350 degrees, bake, uncovered for 40 minutes; drain. In a large skillet, cook apple and onion in butter for about 10 minutes, or until apples and onions are tender. Mix together apple mixture, cheese, raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a big bowl.
Arrange baked squash, cut edges up, in the large baking dish.Fill squash with apple mixture.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until squash is tender and cheese is melted.
Soppressata and Cheese in Puff Pastry
(Yes, I know, this sounds hard to make....but it's easy, easy, easy!  Cut them in very small pieces for appetizers.  Be sure to steal yourself a piece of it before it's all gone!!!)

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm, defrosted

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
12 thin (not paper thin) slices soppressata salami (3 1/2 inches in diameter)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.
Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and lightly roll into a 10-inch square. Place it on the sheet pan and brush the pastry with all the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange the soppressata in overlapping layers on the mustard and sprinkle the grated cheese evenly on the soppressata, also avoiding the border. Brush the border with the egg wash. Lightly roll the second piece of puff pastry into a 10-inch square. Lay the pastry directly on top of the first square, lining up the edges. Brush the top with the egg wash, cut three large slits for steam to escape, and chill for 15 minutes.
When the pastry is cold, trim the edges with a very sharp knife to make a clean edge. Bake the pastry in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once while baking, until puffed and brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes, cut in squares, and serve hot or warm.