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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

(oh, go ahead and shout!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


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

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


-Glass of wine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

MERRY ME.......

I definitely need this coat......

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All I want for Christmas......

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

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Yes, I know "tastey" is spelled wrong on Santa's but.  Hell, it's been spelled wrong for 7 years...why fix it now? 


Sorry that I'm a week late in getting us started! 
Welcome back Tasty Tuesday Recipe Exchange Fans!
I am so happy you are back for more recipe sharing!
And, a big HELLO THERE  to new Tasty Tuesday Recipe Exchange readers!
I am excited you are joining us.
I promise all of you 4 Tuesdays of  taste tested recipes that will surely make you the star of the holidays......!  I try not to repeat recipes from previous years or ones that I may have posted throughout the year.  But, I can't promise that for certain!  Some recipes are just worth repeating.....
Thankfully, it's been another year of good eating here in Judiland.
So, I'm armed with an arsenal of taste tested and fabulous recipes!
For those of you who are Tasty Tuesday know the drill.
For those of you new to the drill---here's how it goes:
Beginning today and each Tuesday in December I share a recipe or recipes from my ginormus pile of tasted and tested holiday-worthy recipes.   And, I ask you to do the same.....share a recipe in the comments section of the posting. It's a great way to help each other get ready for all the kitchen olympics that go on this time of the year and the perfect way to make you the FOODIE STAR of your holidays!
So, dig out your best recipes to share!  

Let's start out this season of recipe-sharing with a recipe that I made this past summer and then again over the Thanksgiving holidays.  It might be one of my most requested recipes of the year!  People love mushrooms....who knew?

Marsala-Dijon Mushrooms
(this version serves about 15 people as a side dish)
This recipe is super yummy.  There is a real richness to the sauce. I am not exactly sure how I came up with this recipe but I do recall that the first time I served it was way back in the summer.  At that time, I paired it with steaks on the grill and baked potatoes.  Over Thanksgiving, I served it along side the turkey and all the trimmings. It was equally adored both times.  Our vegetarian Thanksgiving guests really loved it.....

-5 lbs of mushrooms--cleaned and sliced thick.....I used a combo of baby bella, shitake and white
-1 1/2 sticks salted butter
-swirl of olive oil
-1 small onion--diced small
-handful of  coarsley chopped or juilliened) rosemary, sage or basil (rosemary is great for summer, sage is great for fall or winter and basil is great anytime)
-handful of Italian parsley
-4 cloves of garlic...smashed
-1/2 cup marsala wine (you might want to add more at the end, before serving)
-2 heaping tablespoons of dijon mustard
-Salt, pepper to taste

 In a large saute pan....on medium heat
-Saute onion, garlic in butter and olive oil (about 3-5 minutes)
-Add dijon mustard and stir well--until you have a "gravy-like" consistency
-Add mushrooms in small batches, stirring as you go....coating with liquid
-Once all the mushrooms have been added and reduced a bit, add the wine....stir well
-Add herbs
-Reduce heat to simmer, cover and let simmer for 5-8 minutes
Can be made ahead of time and reheated before serving
Add additional wine if needed
Toss with additional parsley is desired

This second recipe is one that I worked hard to recreate after having it at RPM in Chicago.   As a rabid polenta fan, I am always beyond thrilled when I see it on the menu.  This polenta did NOT disappoint.   It was probably the best version of soft polenta I have ever, ever had. I know you think you heard me say this before about several other polenta recipes but this time, I mean it!   From the moment this polenta hit my taste buds, I was on a mission to make my own version and let me tell you....I came pretty darn close.  If you love polenta as much as I love polenta, you will be doing back flips over this rendition of this godly food.  And, for those of you who don't have a penchant for polenta, I challenge you to make this and eat it and then tell me that it's not one of your top favorite foodie loves of the year! 

Polenta with Marscapone

This recipe can be served on it's own or alongside any main course. It serves 4 people as a main course or 6-8 as a side.   I tinkered with several recipes from so many different sources online that I can't really give credit where credit is due for this one. Let's just say it's the marriage of many recipes.  Please be warned that making polenta is a labor of love...there's lots of stirring involved!!!  You'll need this extra exercise.....butter and heavy cream warning!!! 
  • 8 cups  chicken broth 
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 2.5 cups  Italian polenta(I purchase mine at a local Italian deli but there are good ones on the market)
  •  1 stick of salted butter, cut into cubes 
  •  3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup  mascarpone cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 basil leaves cut into strips

In a 4-quart (4-l) soup pot over high heat, bring the broth and cream to a boil. While stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, add the polenta in a thin, steady stream until incorporated, then continue stirring to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the mixture bubbles occasionally. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the polenta is thick and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the butter a few cubes at a time, then stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheeses. Season the polenta with salt and pepper. Divide the polenta among warmed bowls, sprinkle with more grated cheese and a few strips of fresh basil and serve immediately.

Happy Cooking!!!  

Friday, December 5, 2014


I have hit a few detours but all is well....
Now, that I'm back.....fingers crossed that we can get on with December at Stories from the Road..... 

Time to deck the halls, shop and all that December jazz!! 

You know, life has a way of reminding me sometimes that I am not always in charge of how my time or my energy is spent. 
Let's start with where we left off....
-If you recall, I was heading into a weekend brimming with the excitement of a date night-- going to a new restaurant with some fun friends.  So, here we are at that wonderful restaurant overlooking our beautiful city..........
A great time was had by all......
-Within hours of that picture being taken--poor Carmen got very, very ill.  After a scarey few hours and a trip to the hospital, he was diagnosed with a pretty hefty strain of the flu and double pneumonia!  He was one very, very sick guy.  Needless to say, our home turned into Judiland Hospital with me as the head nurse.  I am not a nurse nor did I ever profess to be!  And, if truth be told--nursing is not my thing.  I am very impatient with illness.  Yet, somehow I became a nurse who had to develop patience.  There were moments when I am sure I could have been sued for malpractice or lose my nursing license.  But, I am happy to report that my husband and my marriage survived it all....
My recovering patient and me--his NURSE.... on Thanksgiving.....

-In the midst of Carmen's illness, my dear Uncle and Aunt needed my assistance.  My Uncle has been suffering with Alzheimer's for several years now and it was becoming obvious that the end was near.  With both of them being 93 and their children living out of town and me being incredibly close to them, I was called into service.  Thankfully,  they were blessed with the means to employ around-the-clock in-home care to attend to all of my Uncle's needs.  However, my Aunt was becoming increasingly anxious and in need of support and there were other issues that needed addressed during this difficult time.  So, I took on the role of making sure hospice was called in, directing all the comings and goings of the many medical team folks and making sure that my aunt was eating  properly and that there were friends or family with her throughout the day and evening when I couldn't be there.  
-Then came Thanksgiving.  House guests and cooking and more cooking and cleaning and more cleaning.  
Two of my Thanksgiving weekend houseguests---my Granddog Bandit and his friend from Denver--Breck
-Then, my dear Uncle Passed away......
This was the man we adored......
-And, you can probably guess the rest of the story.....with plans to be made, cousins coming in from around the country and everything else that goes with it.   Amid it all, we were reminded how blessed we all are to have  each other.  We come together in happy and sad times and share the gift of family.  Although the years go by and we all scatter....we are family.  

-And, now, I shall take the weekend to regroup and hopefully hang some holly......

Counting my blessings as  I embark on December......

Friday, November 14, 2014


I don't know why I am doing mental cartwheels and make-believe jumping jacks just because Friday is here.   Because I know all too well that my weekend is already burdened with an almost impossible to-do list that must be completed by the time the clock strikes 4:45 am Monday morning......

So, for the moment, I am going to forget completely about all of that and focus on the weekend plans that will take the edge off that ridiculous to-do list....
 So.....TO-DO-LISTS should be abolished!!! 
*My sister and I are going with a bunch of other groupies to see a singer that we really like at a comfy and fun little local pub.  Music and martinis can cure lots of things. 
*My spirited gal pals and our lucky-to-have-us husbands are going to a much-buzzed-about  new restaurant that we have waited quite some time to get into.  This particular restaurant opened in the old Georgetown restaurant where Carmen and I had many dressed-up date nights in the early days of dating and marriage...oh so many years ago.  So, I'm super excited to see the transformation....I hear it's spectacular!  And, we are huge fans of the chef since she is also very involved in the creative menu and cooking at a wonderful little place in my neighborhood where we go quite often.  Good friends+Good food+Good wine+ A view of our GRAND city=HAPPY.  
*My forever friend and I will be attending the 3rd installment of our Thanksgiving cooking technique's our annual November tradition.  Old friends and traditions are the best.

Sometimes all I need is a reminder that even though it feels like it's all work and no play.....I really do play. 

Hello Friday......

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fashionably late......

If I am going to be late.....I might as well do it fashionably so.....
An Autumn Visit to North Market....what a Judi place!

Autumn is flying by.....the world is already knee deep in the Christmas holiday season.
Everywhere I look, it's Christmas.
What happened to that other holiday.....Thanksgiving?
I'm still trying to get ready for THAT ONE!!! 
I'm trying super hard to get out and organize my Thanksgiving china (thank God I found it hidden in a place where I put in a fit of being organized last year!) and linens (where in the hell is my new Thanksgiving table cloth???), make sure we have enough comfy places for our visitors to sleep (are air mattresses tacky? I ordered the ones that have the highest rankings on Amazon for pete's sake!) and figure out when the hell I am going to get everything done. 
And, I am majorly consumed by Pinterest's tablescaping ideas.   (which might explain why I'm not getting all the things done I should be getting done each night!)
I can't even think about Christmas until I can at least set a few Thanksgiving-inspired tables!
And, then, there's the food.
The way I figure it, I have to be prepared for several meals for guests other than the regular Thanksgiving meal.
Breakfasts, lunches and at least 2 other dinners.
So, excuse me if I'm still firmly planted in Autumn.  

Baked Pumpkin Cream Cheese French Toast
This easy, easy recipe was hi-jacked from a friend who served this last year at a Fall brunch that she hosted. So, let me assure you that it's been taste tested and deemed worthy from men, women and children!  And, it has the most amazing cream cheese filling. Prep the night before and bake right before serving. Oh yeah......

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-count) package King'sHawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls, cubed
  • For the crumb topping
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • For the cream cheese filling
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Beat cream cheese, sugar and cinnamon on medium speed until light and fluffy, approximately 2-3 minutes; set aside.
  • In a  bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin puree, eggs, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla.
  • Lightly coat an 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Place a layer of bread cubes evenly into the baking dish. Pour half of the pumpkin puree mixture evenly over the top. Spread cream cheese filling in an even layer. Top with remaining bread cubes and pumpkin puree mixture to completely cover the filling.
  • Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • To make the crumb topping, combine flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add cold butter and toss to coat, using your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the bread cubes.
  • Place into oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Serve immediately, sprinkled with pecans and confectioners' sugar--if you want...I suggest you want! 
 Oh yeah....and I also hi-jacked this recipe from my friend too.....yes, it's super yummy and a great brunch goes super great with the Pumpkin French Toast! 


Apple Pie Moonshine Cocktail

Makes 8 drinks


  • 8 oz apple pie moonshine (available at liquor stores)
  • 8 oz apple juice
  • Cinnamon simple syrup (recipe follow)
  • 2 fresh squeezed lemons
  • apple slices, to garnish
  • cinnamon sticks, to garnish

Cinnamon Simple Syrup:

  • 4 cup water
  • 4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 cinnamon sticks


In a large pitcher with lip or large cocktail shaker, combine apple pie moonshine, apple juice, cinnamon simple syrup, and lemon juice.  Fill shaker 2/3 full of ice.  Stir for 10-15 seconds to chill drink.  Strain ice.  Serve cocktail with new ice.  Garnish with sliced apples and cinnamon sticks.
Cinnamon Simple Syrup: In a medium sauce pot, add water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks.  Set over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Cover pot and let mixture steep for 30 minutes.  Strain out cinnamon sticks.  Allow cinnamon simple syrup to cool to room temperature.  Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge until ready to use.  Keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Did YOU gain a few pounds?

Now, who in the hell asks that question?
If  you guessed my 94 year old weight-watcher father asks that question, you would be correct. 
If you have been reading my blog since day one, you already know that my Lap band and my weight has been one of my father's favorite spectator sports.  He loves to ask about it, talk about it and tell everyone all about it.  Sometimes, I think it gives him something to live for....
So, perhaps I'm keeping him humming along.  Me and my never ending battle of the bulge has kept him on alert and interested in living.   Considering I may be single--handedly responsible for his longevity, you would think he would cut me a break......
Well, friends, I can double guarantee you, it ain't going to happen. 
He's tougher than a scale.  And, that's no lie.  He puts you face-to-face with the truth...along with that look of parental disappointment....
And, he's also much more aware than the common guy on the street.
He sees extra weight through sweaters and coats....with his 94 year old xray Dad eyes.....
Maybe he bought these from the back of my 70's TEEN magazine....

Yes, I have gained some weight. 
Leave it to a parent to keep us honest. 
You heard it here folks.....Judi is dealing with a weight gain.  
No need to wait for my father to give you the news.
DID YOU HEAR?  Judi gained weight!  Judi gained weight!  Get the news here! 

It's teetering on about a  20 pound weight gain and it's squarely placed in that one place that I inherited from my stomach (and some of the surrounding areas....).   Thank you Daddy. 
Somedays it's 17 pounds, other days it's 18 pounds and other days it's 21 pounds.
So, we are going with 20. 
When your body is fickle, it's best not to commit to any one number because the next day you will be proven wrong. 
So, I will  pose the same question that my father asked me last night....
 First, we will go with the version I told my Dad....
Well, it's like this---I haven't been as religious as I should be about eating.  And, I have this thing that I thought was a corn on my toe--which is really a bad infection that is very very painful---that has made it hard to walk every day, let alone fully continue with my running program. 

That rendition is truthful.  But, its not the whole truth.  Even if I wanted to tell him the whole truth, he didn't give me a chance.  Once I said all of that, he went off on a lecture about my weight and how I don't want to get that fat again and  then badgered me with questions about my toe and the infection....which spiraled into him warning me that I might have to have it amputated.  Who wants to be a fat woman with an amputated toe?   The thought of it sent me directly to the freezer to get both of us some ice cream.  I knew that might be the only way to shut him up.....and give me a little taste of peace and pleasure....

Now, for what's really going on......
It's tough, friends.   Really tough.  Maintaining a weight loss on a body built for obesity gets harder and harder.  The Lap Band keeps it from spiraling into a 50 pound or a 60 pound or a 100 pound weight gain.  But, still.....20 pounds is NOTHING to take lightly....
It's just that  I am tireder than tired.  Overwhelmed.  Over stressed. Over scheduled.  And....if truth be told.....over it all.   At least that's the way I am feeling right now....
Keeping up with everything that needs kept up with is not an easy task.  It's beats me to the bone some days.  There are moments that I look around at what needs work and at home and even in my very scheduled, demanding life and I can't even process it all.   
So, yes, I might eat mashed potatoes.  Or ice cream.  Or candy.  
I try to schedule in things like massages and trivia nights and martinis and girls nights out and visits with friends.... but even then.....when I am enjoying those little mind is on what I am not doing and what I need to do.....and all the guilt and panic that comes with all of that!  
It's playing havoc with my band.  The stress is tightening it so much that eating a normal meal is not exactly without it's own brand of stress.  So, I eat other things....things that go directly through my beloved band....and they are NOT the best choices.  But, I figure....a girl has to eat.  
And, then, there's the other issues that not serving me well.....not planning daily lunches since I am so rushed all of the time....putting me at the mercy of the faculty dining room, eating late at night because that's when I finally have a chance, not drinking my morning protein shakes because it's so damn early and I am running so damn late....not to mention that every so often weeknight glass of wine.....oh....and a little cheese.  And, some crackers....

So, what am I going to do about it? 
 I know the answer.
You know the answer.  
Hell, even my dad knows the answer.  



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One day is not enough.........

To honor and thank all the men and women who sacrificed their lives and to their families who missed days and weeks and months and even years with those they love so that they can keep us safe and free.....

Remembering them all today and everyday!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Get your own damn bottle!!!


Remember I told you that this weekend was all about PUMPKIN?
Yeah, well, I should have been a little more's all about squash. 
Pumpkin is a squash so it wasn't like I was lying or anything.
You see, I have given myself the weekend task of coming up with hearty vegetarian, Thanksgiving-worthy dishes.
Lucky for me, I remembered a very specific dinner party hosted by one of fabulous friends last fall where she made this absolutely amazing Butternut Squash lasagna roll up dish that everyone went ga-ga over.  Although pasta is not usually my friend (because of my Lap band and all), I do recall eating the yummy filling out of the roll up and being smitten by the butternut squash sauce so much so that I nearly licked that plate clean.
So, I called my fabulous friend and asked for her recipe.
She hesitated a bit.
Then, she said...."Okay, promise you won't judge me..."
"Um.  Okay.  I won't..."  I replied.    
"It is a jarred sauce I get on Amazon...."  she revealed.  "It's gourmet and know!"  she said, trying to make it all seem legit....
"Well, I can do jarred sauces from Amazon...I know that recipe."  I laughed. 
"Yeah, but you've never used a jarred sauce in your life!"  she chirped.
"Ah, you would be surprised ...."  I told her.
Anyway....she gave me all the info on the jarred sauce and I immediately ordered my supply.
And...her recipe for the roll-up....."I don't know....just  GOOGLE lasagna roll ups with butternut squash..."  she said...
I just love my girlfriends.
So, I followed her instructions and GOOGLED 'lasagna roll ups with butternut squash' and what to my wondering eyes did appear?
THIS recipe from one of my all time favorite recipe bloggers.....The Proud Italian Cook. 
It was like the moon and starts aligned and I was living in OZ!

Buy this sauce.
Make these roll-ups.
You can thank me later.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

If it's must be FRIDAY!!!!!

Prolific....don't you think?

Friday has arrived in Judiland with a HUGE THUMP!
Now that it's  on my doorstep, I need to make the most of it.
Schedules have been a bit tospy turvy this past week and it's kept me in a constant of of
confusion.  But, with my typical make-lemonade-out-of-lemons-then-add-gin attitude,  I weathered the turmoil.
Thankfully!  Because it's just in time for a road trip......TO.....drum roll please.....the thriving metropolis of .Zanesville OH........population 25K.
Yes, blogfriends, my life is nothing if it's not exciting.
My reasons for this less than 24 hour trip are multiple....but, I won't bore you with the details of me needing to drive to meet my son the doctor  half way to  deliver a kegerator and a trunk full of Christmas decorations.....
Because, really, that's the boring part.
The not-so-boring part is that the 2 hour drive will be a nice, calm respite from the never-ending jockeying of schedules and demands of life in Judiland and then there's that promised dinner at a renowned seafood restaurant on the river with an early morning trip to an antique mall.
Yes, all in Zanesville, OH.
Perhaps you'll want to plan  your next exotic vacation there.....

Don't be jealous!!


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Don't be fooled by RUNNERS!

I'm trying, I really, really, really am......

Clearly, I am not IN THE ZONE quite yet......
Because I want to give up more than I want to run.
There's always dishes to do, laundry to do, projects to tackle.....
And, geez, I am tired at the end of the day.
Some days I am tireder than tired.
And, my knees hurt.
And, my legs hurt.
And, I have this corn on my little toe that is ruining my life.
I watch runners effortlessly glide by me as I struggle to go that next 90 seconds.
They look so content and at peace.
I am so pained and at war with myself.
Sometimes I fight with my thoughts of failure.
Other times, I fight with my body of pain.
And, every day.....I fight with the idea of not doing it.
I'm trying not to give up.
Really, really trying......

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

If you know PUMPKIN like I know PUMPKIN.....

I send you my sympathies.......

My pumpkin lovin' is raging......
There's more than pumpkin pie, my friends......
Oh yes there is.....
My latest  Starbuck's swoon is something called Pumpkin Cream Frappe or PCL for short.
My forever friend innocently introduced us this past Sunday.
So far, I have indulged in.....yikes...... three....yes....1-2-3 of them.
It's good, good stuff. 
And, have you ever indulged in a Trader Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream with Trader Joe's Pumpkin Carmel Sauce topped with  broken pieces of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Seed Brittle sundae?
If do not know what you are missing.
I insist that you go  straight to TJ's, pick up that stuff and come home immediately and whip one up.
You might want to eat it in the dark, behind closed doors.....just sayin.... 

Now, I am preparing for a weekend of pumpkin trials.  
I am going to try my hand at making pumpkin ravioli with a sage butter sauce.
And, then I'm going to experiment with a pumpkin parmesean sauce recipe that comes highly recommended and then on to a pumpkin sage polenta....
These trials are all in preparation for serving at least one hearty Vegetarian option for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.....for a special vegetarian who will be joining us.....!
Have no fear, I shall share the recipes that I deem sharable......   

Onward Fellow Pumpkin Lovers!  
Do not be ashamed of your lust!!!  

Speaking of LUST........

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Decisions, decisions, decisions......

FRIEND OF A FRIEND:   I'm considering some kind of weight loss surgery in 2015.  I heard I should talk to you first.   
ME:  Sure, what do you want to know?
FRIEND OF A FRIEND:  I have about a thousand questions.  First, I have to decide if I really want to do it.  Second, I need to figure out what kind of surgery.  Third, I need to find the right surgeon who could do it.  

Okay, friends, let's back up a little here...... 
A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I would be open to talking to her friend who was considering weight loss surgery.  Of course, I said yes.  First, she and I had the phone conversation that you see above.  Considering that she said she had a thousand questions, I thought it best that we meet up in person to talk.
A few evenings ago, this friend of a friend and I met at Starbucks to have our little chat.
Although I never met this friend of a friend and I had no idea what her story was, I was prepared to meet a woman who  was very overweight.  Yes, I was profiling....
How wrong I was!
Who I did meet was a 37 year old woman who clearly did not have a weight issue that could possibly need addressed with weight loss surgery.  She was definitely not 100 pounds overweight (which is the typical criteria that most surgeons use to first evaluate a patient's need).  
After a bit of small talk, I asked her...without judgement....why she was considering weight loss surgery.
Her answer was quite interesting....
She shared that she comes from a very long line of morbidly obese people.  She gave me a quick synopsis of the weight issues of her parents, her grand parents, her siblings, her cousins and on and on....complete with rattling off health histories, relationship issues and other assorted commentaries about the problems they face as morbidly obese people. 
"I can't be like them....."  she finally said. 
To be honest, I was a bit lost for words. 
Because, you know....I did get it. 
But, on the other hand, I was sitting there with a woman who clearly did not need weight loss surgery and who I truly believed would not be cleared to have the surgery by any self-respecting doctor. 
"Well, I am not sure what to say....."  I said, after gathering my thoughts.  "First...have you done any research on the criteria used by doctors to assess the needs of surgery candidates?"   I asked, hoping to initiate a conversation about the fact that she would probably NOT be considered a viable candidate. 
"Yes.  I know I don't fit  weight-wise.  But, I have all the other issues.  Family genes.  High blood pressure.  High cholesterol.  I have gained over 25 pounds in the past 10 years.   My knees hurt. I snore.  I have done every weight loss program on the planet and I still can't lose the weight.  My mind is constantly preoccupied by my weight which makes me depressed and unable to do normal things.  I can't exercise due to the discomfort  and I am out of breath from walking just a flight of steps...."  she said with a very strong sense of conviction.
She had just told me that she tried every weight loss program on the planet and couldn't lose the weight so of course, I wasn't going to ask about her weight loss efforts.  It seemed futile.
I wasn't quite sure where to go with the conversation so I shared my story with her in hopes of helping her to understand where I was coming from and perhaps to spark further conversation about her own situation.
"So, your life is changed due to your surgery?"  she asked.... her question clearly indicating that is what she got out of my story.
"It was the tool that helped me tremendously, yes.  But, I have to tell you honestly that it's not a magic bullet.  I had to work at it every day and I still have to do the work everyday to maintain it.  It is a tool,"   I told her with my own strong sense of conviction.
"Then, maybe a Lap Band isn't for me.  Maybe I need bypass or the sleeve..." she said, seemingly thinking out loud....
"I am sure that they are also tools that can be helpful."  I told her. "How much weight do you want to lose?"  I asked, hoping to spur a more concrete discussion.   
"It's not about really losing the weight.  I guess I want to lose the 25 pounds I gained.  But, I need something to help me NOT TO BECOME MORBIDLY OBESE!"  once again, with conviction.
"Like Angelina Jolie.  She had a mastectomy because she had the gene for breast cancer.  I have the gene for obesity.  I want to stop it while I can.  Before it gets so bad that I can't!"  she shared. 
Again, I wasn't sure where to go with the conversation.  I didn't want to draw the comparisons between cancer and obesity because I do truly believe that obesity can be a life threatening disease just as cancer can be a life threatening disease. 
Here was this woman telling me she wanted to have 'preventative surgery and I was sitting there thinking "there's no way, this is crazy, I don't think weight loss surgery is for you......"
I never want to be that person who sits in judgement of another's decisions when they are working towards better health or a better life and I definitely don't want to be the person who is suspicious of their reasons for their choices........
"Well, I am not sure what at to say to that.  I just have some concerns about you being approved," I finally said. 
"Oh, I don't need insurance approval.  I would pay out of pocket or take a loan depending on how much I need.  I just don't want to go to Mexico but I guess if I had to....."   she reasoned. 
"It's not the insurance thing.  I don't think a doctor will do the surgery unless it's necessary.  You have to go through several evaluations leading up to the surgery. There's a consult with a nutritionist and there's a psych evaluation.   And, they do make you go on some kind of monitored weight loss program prior to approval.  It can be a lengthy and time consuming process..."  I explained. 
She shrugged her shoulders...."well, how will I know if I don't try...right?"  she asked. 
I nodded in a hesitant agreement and asked her if she needed any more information. 
"Yes.  What do you think about me getting this surgery?"  she asked with emphasis on what my personal opinion was. 
I could have given her more opinion than she ever wanted to hear.
But, I refrained.
Part of me was feeling a little frustrated that she didn't have the understanding that there are people like me who truly needed the surgery due to their current issues.  Part me wanted to explain that having weight loss surgery is a decision not to be treated casually and that is important surgery.  It is not cosmetic surgery!  And, I wanted her to know that Weight Loss Surgery is for people who were OBESE....not people who might become OBESE.  There were moments that what I heard her saying was "I just don't want to fat...."   but I was ashamed that I was feeling that way about another person after only one quick encounter and after she shared her story.  
What if everyone who didn't want to be fat decided to get weight loss surgery before they got fat.....?????  Imagine the waiting list!!!!!  The people who really needed  it would be bumped by the people who don't want to be fat!
My mind was swirling with these thoughts.....
Yet.....don't ask me why but I felt a responsibility to try to shake her into thinking about this a little more.  And, I wanted to do it without judgement and without being insensitive to what she believed to be her destiny without the surgery.
"Well, if you want my opinion.....I think that maybe you need to talk at length with your doctor and share everything you have told me about what options are best for you.  I'm not sure if I am the best person to ask since I was obese when I decided on the surgery..." I said, trying not to let my frustration show....
"It's a hard decision, you know.  But, I wonder if you would have had the surgery before you got obese....."   she mused.
Funny thing, I wanted to throw my Chai Latte on her.
And, you know....I never want to waste my Chai Latte......

Monday, November 3, 2014


Here they come.......
It happens every year.....the calendar tells us that it's time.  We stare wide-eyed at the calendar and all of a sudden, there's that familiar rush of panic.
It's called NOVEMBER.....

Considering we've been together here for the past 7 Novembers, you know what this means in Judiland.   It's all about Judi going a little bit bonkers, cooking up a storm, foofing and fussing and decorating with wreckless abandon, entertaining, cleaning, cooking some more, getting beds ready for guests and doing the traditional moaning and groaning while trying to continue on with the day-to-day of what needs to happen in Judiland.  
Yeah, it's getting kinda old....don't you think?
Me think so too.
Do you ever read those magazine articles that map out a plan for you to elegantly and effortlessly glide through the prep with the outmost of ease?
Do you have a friend or a family member that's notoriously ready for every holiday weeks ahead of time...without a hair out of place?
Don't you hate that shit?
Me too. 
Well, you won't find any of that here.  I promise.  
What you will find is me making you feel pretty good about whatever corner you have got yourself painted into this GET-READY SEASON.   Because..... I can double guarantee you that I'll be painted into my own corner with hair askew, mascara flaking and hands shaking....
You will not be alone in any predicament you get yourself into...whether it's being buried under mountains of laundry or trying to squeeze a turkey into an already overflowing freezer or nursing a wine headache....I'll be with you all the way.  
So, keep coming back for that little dose of madness, that big helping of make-you-feel-better, maybe a few recipes and lots of whatever else I can share.....


 Now, repeat after me.....

And, again.....

 Carry on.....