Tag Archives: healthful

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Ever wondered why restaurant whole wheat pizza always tastes better?  And why the at-home whole wheat pizza comes out of the oven hard and brittle, stony enough to break off a front tooth?  Well, last night I finally figured it out.  And let me say, the answer is not more olive oil in the dough.  No.  It’s the combination of two things…a little bit of white all-purpose flour mixed into the whole wheat flour and more water than you would think makes sense.  You would have thought I’d have figured this out by now.  I’ve only been making pizza at home for years now but I confess.  Every time I made whole wheat pizza using only whole wheat flour it came out hard as a flat brick.  I strove for a crisp crust with a chewy center while maintaining a relatively healthful dinner.  These pizzas were made palatable with generous toppings of turkey pepperoni, arugula or spinach and the great compromise of 2% reduced fat mozzarella.  Finally I just stopped preparing pizza altogether.  Months and months went by without it being served at our house.  But last night I had a hankering for it and, by gosh, I was going to get it right.  It had been such a long time since I had mixed up the dough that I couldn’t remember the recipe I had cobbled together and, boy, was THAT liberating.  I felt such freedom not having any rules or even any do’s or don’ts to follow.  I had escaped the confines of the culinary box I’d been living in!

I began in the afternoon with a free-flow of ideas and hunches rattling  around my brain.  Two thoughts remained front and center. 1.  White flour is produces a soft and tender product.  2.  Enough water will produce a sticky, floppy dough that won’t dry out.  After a few tries I believe I nailed it.  And the beauty of this dough is it’s so wet and unmanageable it can be mixed in a bowl with a spoon thus eliminating any kneading and messing up of your counter tops.  Life’s small blessings.  In any case, I sure hope you try this recipe out.  Look at it this way, whole wheat flour, turkey pepperoni and greens make for a more healthful pizza which means you can eat it more often!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

  • Servings: two 12 inch pizzas
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water, tap is fine, no more than 115°
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour, plus additional to flour baking sheet etc.
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cornmeal
  1. 1 hour prior to baking, pre-heat oven to 500°.
  2. In a large bowl mix all-purpose flour, yeast and warm water.  A wooden spoon works best.  You’ll a few have some lumps of flour but they’ll work their way out when you mix in the whole wheat flour.
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and honey/agave to the mixture and combine well.
  4. Add 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour and salt and mix well until all the lumps are gone.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm corner and allow to rise for 45-60 minutes or until double in size.  Now is a good time to pre-heat your oven.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gather the dough into a ball while still in the bowl.  If you don’t have a bench scraper you can cut in half the plastic top of an oatmeal can then cut off the rim or use a butter knife that’s been covered with a bit of olive oil.
  7. Cut the dough in half and using the bench scraper or butter knife, push the sides of each ball of dough into rounds.  To keep the dough from sticking, dust the rounds and bowl with some whole wheat flour using as little as possible.  The wetter the dough, the more chewy the pizza.
  8. Dust your hands and a baking sheet or pizza paddle with a good handful of cornmeal and quickly transfer one dough round to the center of the baking sheet.
  9. Gently pat out the round, moving the round on the cornmeal to avoid it sticking to the baking sheet, until you have an 11″ to 12″ pizza.  If you prefer a thicker crust make the pizza smaller.
  10. Top the pizza with the sauce of your choice then add your toppings.
  11. Bake 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  12. Allow to cool 4-5 minutes before slicing.
  13. Serve immediately.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Blue Ribbon Broccoli Salad

I have always hated broccoli.  The smell of it cooking made me gag.  My older sister, Cynthia, felt exactly the same and to this day we both run at the mere sight of broccoli on the stove.  As little girls we sometimes fought like cats and dogs but, regarding broccoli, we were always in agreement.  It did not go unnoticed by the two of us that Puerto Ricans didn’t embrace vegetables; red beans and rice, sliced tomatoes and avocados were the only vegetables to grace our grandparents’ dining room table.  Our summers on the island were stress free and complete indulgence.  It was during one of our summer sojourns our neighbors, Don Juan and Dona Angelita Orta, issued an invitation to dine with them that evening.  It was understood the summons was for Cynthia; I was not included.  I believe we were around the ages of eight and six and, regrettably, I was sassy, impulsive, unconcerned with hygiene and may have had a slight tendency to lie.  It goes without saying, Cynthia was the golden grandchild and I was the disgraced, six year old ne’er-do-well.  And Cynthia took full advantage.  She made certain I overheard her discussing which of our matching dresses she should wear.  Seething with impotent anger and pea green with jealousy I retreated to our bedroom.  I’d rather loll on my bed, stare at the ceiling and let the mosquitos bite me than endure her smug and simpering side eyes.  Late in the afternoon she was bathed, her hair brushed until it shone like mahogany and she  was dressed in one of her many party dresses.  I remained on my bed…most certainly smelling like a child who had spent the morning playing outside in the heat of the day and most definitely with the attitude of a defiant, petulant schoolgirl.  The time came for her to leave and while she ran a hairbrush one last time through her hair and told me goodbye, I replied with a hateful hiss, “I hope they serve you broccoli! Lots of it.”  She blanched at my comment knowing if they did, she would be obliged to eat it.  And eat it with a smile on her face.  Good manners are everything.  I didn’t look at her nor did I say goodbye as she left the house escorted by one of my aunts.  My nasty outburst had been heard by my family but seeing how dejected I looked and how low I felt, they said not a word and left me alone.  I stayed on that bed sulking, allowing the occasional mosquito to whine past my ear before finishing it off with a fast slap of my hand, for once not feeling satisfaction after the kill.  The phone rang in the other room and, after a moment or two, quick footsteps were heard.  “Alicia, levantate!” “Alicia, get up!” “The invitation was for both of you!”  My heart soared…then quickly filled with fear and apprehension.  “Titi, do you think they’ll serve us broccoli?”, I asked as I was hastily bathed.   I didn’t want to go next door where I knew, in my heart of hearts, we would be served a gleaming platter of emerald-green nasty.  Off I went dressed to match Cynthia, little white socks and Mary Janes on, not ready to face my comeuppance or eat humble pie in the shape of, gag me, the dreaded cruciferous known as broccoli.  The Orta’s housekeeper, Tata, whom I adored, answered the door.  I was welcomed with unconditional love from all.  And broccoli was not served.  I learned my lesson, though.  Hence forth I have tried to wish others well and, yes, over the years there have been many, many lapses in my thoughts and behavior but I will keep on trying!

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I only eat broccoli raw but I love it and this is one of my favorite ways to have it.  This salad is both sweet and savory; the carrots and dried cherries lend sweetness, the bacon and scallions are savory and while the toasted almonds provide a flavor link.  It needs no time to marinate, however, is equally delicious served the following day.  Cranberries may be substituted for the dried cherries although I feel the cherries bring much more flavor to the dish.  I cook my bacon in the oven.  The oven baked method is time-saving and clean up is a snap.  I rough chop almonds, cut about into thirds, then roast them in the oven.  I find I scorch too many nuts pan roasting them.    This salad may be served as a side dish or entrée but, regardless how it’s served, it will make a broccoli lover out of all!

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Blue Ribbon Broccoli Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup mayonnaise, I use reduced fat
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 bunches of broccoli, there are typically 2-3 heads per bunch
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 5 scallions
  • 3 carrots
  • 3/4 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  1. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, celery seed and salt and whisk until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in refrigerator to chill.
  2. Cut broccoli into bite size florets and put in a large bowl.
  3. Cook bacon, drain well and chop or crumble.  Add to broccoli.
  4. Finely slice the scallions using all of the white and pale green.  Discard any tough, dark green ends. Add the scallions to the broccoli bowl.
  5. Using the large holes of a grater, grate the carrots into the bowl of broccoli.
  6. Rough chop the almonds, toast them, either in the oven or stove top, and add to broccoli.
  7. Rough chop the cherries then add to broccoli.
  8. Drizzle the mayonnaise dressing over the salad and toss well to completely combine.  Make certain all ingredients are covered with dressing.
  9. Serve each plate with a fresh grind of black pepper.

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Apple Pie Oatmeal

I have been preparing Apple Pie Oatmeal for my son, James, for 24 years.  My 94-year old father requested some the other day so I made up a huge batch, warm and fragrant with cinnamon, apples and vanilla.  I packaged them up in individual portions and popped them in his freezer ready to be heated in the microwave and enjoyed for breakfast or a nutritious snack.  I made an even bigger batch for my niece, Meg, and her brother, Christopher, as part of their Christmas presents.  Both are students at University of Florida, living off campus in apartments and probably starving all the time.  While chopping and stirring James passed through the kitchen and asked, “What ‘cha makin’, Mama?  Sure smells good!”  “Why, apple pie oatmeal, son.  Here, have a taste.”  He had always loved it and asked if I would make some for him to take to his office.  Please!  Why would I ever stop now?  I started making this when he was a baby and he loved it from the first bite.  When he could feed himself I pulled a chair up to his high chair and read to him, often from the A. A.  Milne boxed set of “The World of Christopher Robin” and “The World of Pooh” that Mama gave me when I was just a little girl.  Never leaving our little house in Victoria Park, we traveled to London often, sometimes India and occasionally  Spain.  Enjoying his oatmeal and sneaking sips of my cafe con leche,  James loved it all!  We read poems of naughty children and grumpy kings, of traveling down the Amazon and the glory of butter.  We laughed at runaway balloons and big, red india-rubber balls.  And always, always delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red).  Here’s to you, boy!

“FORGIVEN”   by  A. A. Milne

I found a little beetle, so that Beetle was his name, And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.  I put him in a match-box, and I kept him all the day……………………………………………………………………………..  And Nanny let my beetle out…………………………………………………………………….  Yes, Nanny let my beetle out……………………………………………………………………..   She went and let my beetle out………………………………………………………………..   And Beetle ran away.

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This is an incredibly healthful yet mouth-watering recipe.  I use only organic apples, organic oats and almond milk instead of cow’s.  For sweetening I use stevia and a bit of honey to cut any bitterness the stevia may impart but all of these ingredients may be substituted for conventional products.  I freeze individual portions in baggies, just make certain all the air is squeezed out of the plastic bag,  then transfer the oatmeal to a microwave safe plastic bowl to defrost overnight in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I add a cap of almond milk to the defrosted oatmeal to thin it out a bit.  I don’t peel the apples but feel free if you don’t care for the peel.  I love this recipe…I even like it cold.  I mean, really…it’s apple pie!

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Apple Pie Oatmeal

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 pounds apples, cored and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 cups almond milk or conventional milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • stevia or sugar to taste
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Add apples, milk and water to a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil.  Drop the temperature to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes or until apples are firm but fork tender.
  2. Add the oats and mix in well.  Simmer the oats for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3.  Add the stevia or sugar, cinnamon and vanilla stirring well.  Taste for any adjustments needed.
  4. Serve with a drizzle of milk.
  5. If freezing allow to come to room temperature.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

1 Hour Mediterranean Chicken, the midweek save

This is my new go-to, middle of the week, what the heck am I gonna feed ’em dinner.  I love to cook, yes, but often I feel irritated and uninspired and just plain resentful that, once again, I’M in charge of dinner.  Want to blow those dark feelings away?  Well, here’s my solution.  Mediterranean Chicken.  My boys love, love, love it.  We’ve had it maybe four times in the past week and a half and they are thrilled  every single time.  They hang over the pan, big, sad eyes wanting a taste.  Every time I hear another story, “I just need a little taste to tide me over.”  Or “Mama!  Please!  I never had lunch!”.  I love it.  And Lawdy, it is one easy recipe; most ingredients are probably lounging in your pantry waiting to be used.  Redolent with the flavors of the Mediterranean, this dish is ready from start to finish in about  one hour.  Other ingredients may be added such as olives and capers but I tend to stay away from adding more ingredients with strong flavors as they take over and obliterate the more subtle notes of artichoke and lemon.

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Mediterranean Chicken is heavenly served over noodles, mashed potatoes or rice and, my favorites, roasted spaghetti squash or mashed boniato, a kind of white sweet potato loved by Hispanics.  This dish is perfect for all you gravy lovers and delicious the following day.  Another quick dinner is to serve it with a few bags of fresh spinach sautéed with garlic, seared asparagus and hot, crunchy bread.  Enjoy!

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Mediterranean Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1/2 packed cup sun-dried tomatoes, dried not in oil, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 1 8.5 ounce can artichoke heart, drained, moisture squeezed out and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups white wine, chicken broth or water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Pour olive oil into a large, high sided frying pan and heat over medium to medium high heat.
  2. Salt and pepper chicken thighs and place all of them “skin” side down.  Do not spread open the chicken.  They’re best bunched up as they are packaged.
  3. When chicken has browned turn all the pieces over to the other side, the side where the bone was.
  4. When the bone side of the chicken has browned remove to a bowl and set aside.
  5. To the pan juices add the onion, garlic and chopped sun-dried tomatoes and stir until well combined.
  6. When the onion is clear add the grated lemon and artichoke hearts and stir well.  Pour in the wine, broth or water.  I’ve even done combinations of the three when I didn’t have much on hand.  It all comes out great.
  7. Return thighs to the pan, moving the onion artichoke mixture around and spooning it over all the chicken.
  8. Cover and lower to a simmer.  Cook the chicken over low heat for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Healthful Grab ‘n Go Breakfast Cookies

I should have known when I put sunscreen on my toothbrush that I was moving waaaay too fast.  I was behind schedule, running late to take my father to a routine doctors appointment.  I knew he would be uptight and, as many elderly people can be, ready to hit the road early.  Dressed and clean-shaven, Dad would be watching and waiting for me to pull up.  He’d be sitting on the sofa in the living room, eyes fixed on the big front window, on the lookout for my Mini to whip into the driveway and I was probably still racing around the house in my pajamas.  Actually, I wasn’t that late.  I would be a few minutes early however it meant no makeup (who cares?) and no breakfast.  That, I knew, would eventually be a problem for me.  I couldn’t go from 6:00am to 11:00am with only a cup of coffee and a spoonful of coconut oil.  I just can’t.  I get cranky and head-achy.  I run stop signs and snap at people.  So I needed to eat something.  Fast.  Anything.  But I didn’t have any hardboiled eggs, avocados or apples.  No quick bite of steak or chicken available either.  I didn’t even have a banana! Then and there I realized I had to come up with a recipe for some sort of ready-made, nutritious, grab ‘n go breakfast.  I was pleased with that revelation knowing my son, James, would be able to take advantage of some sort of grab n’ go and enjoy it on the train ride into work.  When I got home from Dad’s doctor appointment, (and, btw, all went well), I set about making up a tasty but nutritious breakfast cookie that would keep in the refrigerator, be low in fat and tide me over for at least three or four hours.  Plus it couldn’t crumble.  I was thrilled with the outcome.  Now I have plenty of time in the morning to poke around instagram, facebook, NewYorkTimes, and BBC!

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These cookies are quite filling and I consider them a meal…not so much a snack.  They are meant to be thick so as to be sturdy and not crumble into a handful of granola.  I used my 1/4 measuring cup to make 9 equal portions then scooped the batter into my hand to pat into shape and finished with cookies about 1/2″-3/4″ thick.  They were baked about 25 minutes but each oven is different so check them for doneness at the 20 minute mark.  Gently touch the top of a cookie to check for firmness and also under the cookie to make certain they’re not browning too quickly.  I used mini chocolate chips not only to distribute them more evenly but because regular sized chips will not allow the cookie to hold its shape.  Enjoy!

Grab 'N Go Breakfast Cookies

  • Servings: 9
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  1. Pre-heat oven to350°.
  2. In a large bowl combine almond flour, coconut sugar, salt and baking soda and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl mix coconut oil, egg and vanilla, stirring until completely combined.
  4. Add coconut oil mixture to almond flour mixture, along with the dried coconut, chocolate chips, almonds and flaxseed.
  5. Mix to combine.  The dough will be somewhat crumbly.
  6. With 1/4 measuring cup measure 9 equal portions.  Press and shape by hand; place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm and golden on the bottoms.
  8. Store in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Easy Poached Eggs… perfect for girl’s weekend

 

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Yes, it’s that time of year again.  When the three of us, Dana, Andrea and I head down to Hawks Cay for fun in the sun… a girl-cation.  We’ve been going for five or six years now and we have our weekend down pat.  When we first started going to the Keys we’d load the car up with our Vera Bradley bags almost bursting at the seams, stacks of pillows would take up most of the back seat and the stuffed trunk of the car barely closed crammed tightly with all our Publix provisions.  Well, I’m here to tell you we’ve got this thing down to a science.  We’ve streamlined and pared down to the essentials.  Cases of wine and champagne and handles of vodka and rum now take room in the trunk.  In small bags we each pack two bathing suits, (nobody likes to put on a wet one), two sarongs, (they can also double as towels), one loungy outfit, jammies and undergarments.  Our travel outfits include flip-flops and, in the unlikely event we go out, the travel outfit would also serve as our party wear.  But we never, EVER go out.  We’re always too ripped.  The three of us are early risers so by 8:00 a.m. we’ve had too much coffee, our suits and sarongs are on and the champagne has started flowing.  And that’s when Andrea’s breakfast magic begins.  The three of us love eggs, any way, any time.  Being proficient and well trained girly-girls we want and expect a clean and lovely breakfast and my girl Andrea delivers.  Poached organic eggs with nutty, toasted 7-grain bread to sop up the runny, velvety yolks and heirloom tomato slices to cut through the richness.  Heaven!  When one is going to be drinking in the sun, poolside, from say 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. one must have sustenance and a solid, healthful start.  Poached eggs are fast, easy and a ripping good way to round out your first meal of the day.

Our pool from the second story balcony. We were enjoying a splendid early A.M. sun shower when this was taken!
Our pool from the second story balcony. We were enjoying a splendid early A.M. sun shower when this photo was taken!

Here are a few tips to make the preparing of poached eggs seamless.  Use the freshest eggs you can.  The fresher the egg the more it will hold it’s shape in the poaching liquid.  The addition of a teaspoon of white vinegar to the simmering water is optional but I feel it makes all the difference in the world.  You won’t taste it at all but the egg will stay tighter and more close together thereby ending up with a much prettier poached egg.  Without vinegar it’s easy to end up with a pan full of wispy, cloudy streamers of egg whites.  Crack each egg into a small cup so that any bits of broken shell can easily be taken out.  The simplest way to nab any pieces of broken shell is to scoop them out with the empty half shell in your hand.  Good luck using your finger or a spoon…the errant shell will be repelled and you’ll be chasing that thing all morning.  But a large piece of egg shell is almost like a magnet to grab shell shards.  At a soft simmer, 3-4 minutes will yield an egg with a firm white but still runny yolk.  This next step is also optional but most people don’t care for their poached eggs sloshing about the bottom of a bowl in warm water.  So, after letting the water drain from the egg through a slotted spoon, hold a folded paper towel in your other hand, gently turn the egg onto the paper towel and from there slide it into your bowl, onto your toast or over your salad, (very French!).  If you are preparing breakfast for several people make certain to add an extra 20-30 seconds cooking time per egg.  Last of all, this is not the time to bypass salt.  Poached eggs sing when well-seasoned.  You don’t need much salt and pepper but the inclusion makes all the difference in the world.

It's Tito time!
It’s Tito time!

 

Poached Eggs

  • Servings: allow 2 eggs per person
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • fresh eggs
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • freshly cracked pepper and ground salt to taste

He is NOT part of girl's weekend so scuttle yo' ass on up that palm 'cuz you can't sit with us!
He is NOT part of girl’s weekend so scuttle yo’ ass on up that palm ‘cuz you can’t sit with us!

Have ready your eggs.  Fill a skillet with 1 1/2 inches of water and bring to a rolling boil.  Add the vinegar to the boiling water and drop the heat to a quiet simmer.  Break an egg into a cup and gently slide it into the pan getting as close to the surface of water as you can.  Do this with each egg and simmer eggs 3-5 minutes or until the whites are firm and the yolks appear pink.  Using a slotted spoon remove eggs from skillet, drain and serve.  Season well with salt and pepper.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Empties from Day 2. Sigh.
Empties from Day 2. Sigh.

 

Strawberry, Arugula and Feta Salad Drizzled with a Balsamic Vinegar Syrup

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I’ve got another Girl’s Weekend coming up the end of July so while I was in TJMaxx this morning doing errands, (I was. I was at the cobbler’s next door dropping off an alligator bag and some Lily sandals. Truth.), I thought maybe I would look for a cute, black bathing suit, one that might cover up a multitude of sins.  Big, BIG mistake.  I am a barrel.  A great, big, snowy-white barrel.  You know, you think you hit rock bottom but you really haven’t.  Not when you’re still thinking about that outrageous cupcake you so delicately scarfed down last night.  It was bad, people.  The only reason I didn’t throw myself down on the dust-bunny covered linoleum dressing room floor was that my legs still look pretty good.  Small consolation but I’ll take it.  And I thought, “That’s it.  No more.  You’re done.  You know what you have to do.”  And I do.  I was raised in an almost completely vegetarian household.  I’m perfectly aware of what I should and should not be eating.  I’ve just not been paying heed to my “little voice”.  The “little voice” that continually reminds me that I weigh AT LEAST 20 POUNDS more than MY FATHER.  Ugh.  It’s all so unfair.  So back to loads of salads and vegetables, raw and grilled fruits and lean, mean proteins.  Clean, boneless, brainless chicken breasts, preferably organic, need to be at hand at all times; either grilled or poached.  That always makes a salad better.  I’ll even make wraps with it using  romaine or leaf lettuce instead of a tortilla.  Grilled shrimp and wild salmon, none of that fatty farm raised stuff.  I told myself driving home that it was GOOD I didn’t find a bathing suit this morning.  I have two beautiful, sexy La Biancas at home and there’s not one damn thing wrong with them.  It’s me that’s got the problem.  I have to tell you after I yanked and pulled and tugged to get the TJMaxx bathing suit on I was exhausted.  I turned and looked sideways at myself in the full length mirror.  How did I get here?  My shoulders slumped down, I let my spine curve and allowed my stomach to become COMPLETELY distended.  Oh, sweet Jesus.  I looked like Fred Mertz from the “I Love Lucy” show.  Well, Fred Mertz in drag.  Not a pretty picture and no one’s fault but my own.  So.  Taking the bull by the horns I came home to a kale salad and watermelon for lunch.  This afternoon my snack will be all the Greek mountain tea my heart desires.  Right now I’m on cup number two.  Sweetened with Stevia and completely caffeine free this will jump-start my weight loss.  And dinner will be this salad –  strawberry, arugula and feta with a drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction, a LIGHT scattering of toasted almond slices, a few chunks of good, Greek feta tucked in, all topped with a piece of roasted chicken.  And yes, I will rip that luscious, crispy piece of heaven off, known as the skin of roasted chicken, and lickety-split  deposit it in the garbage can underneath, I don’t know…coffee grounds or something.  I’m able to do that because this salad will satisfy me.  Aesthetically and physically.  Every girl loves shiny, scarlet berries sitting atop arugula, toasted almond slices and the rich purple of reduced balsamic vinegar.  Crown it with blackened or grilled chicken, fish or shrimp and most ladies will be quite happy especially if accompanied by a glass of wine in one hand and an enormous Tory Burch or Michael Kors shopping bag at their feet. When I finish writing today I’ll go to the market for my salad ingredients and a whole watermelon.  Tomorrow, hell, tonight, when I want to tuck into another of those smokin’ cupcakes I made I’ll have sweet, cold watermelon already cut up, protecting me from the evils of Fudgy Cupcakes with Orange Cardamom Cream Cheese Icing.  The photos have already been taken for the next post so I don’t even have to look at them.  And although I’ve succumbed to the temptation of those little cakes I’m stronger now.  Nudity will do that to you.  But in two weeks?  Look out, girls, ‘cuz I’m ‘a crunch those bathing suits!

Strawberry, Arugula and Feta Salad drizzled with a Balsamic Syrup

  • Servings: 2 dinner servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 5-ounce box baby arugula
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, each in 4 slices
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, PLEASE don’t buy that already crumbled stuff!  Buy a chunk of good quality feta and crumble it yourself.  Makes a world of difference.
  • 1 handful almond slices, lightly toasted
  • 4-5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar syrup, recipe follows, dress salad to your taste
  • shrimp, chicken or fish served along side is optional, a warm, crunchy whole grain roll is great with this also.
  1. Place arugula in a large bowl and drizzle olive oil over it.  Toss so all the leaves are coated with the olive oil.
  2. Mound arugula on two dinner plates.  Divide berries in half and place them evenly through out the greens.
  3. Divide the cheese as well between the two plates of salad.
  4. Scatter half the almonds over each salad.
  5. Lightly drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar syrup over each salad and serve.

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Balsamic Syrup

  • Servings: approximately 1/3 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. Pour vinegar and honey into a small saucepan and mix until honey is completely incorporated into the vinegar.
  2. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, but keep your eye on it so it doesn’t cook down too far and burn.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside.  Syrup will thicken further as it cools.
  4. When completely cool, store in a clean glass jar and refrigerate.
  5. You can change up the dressing by adding a few fresh bay leaves, smashed garlic cloves or cinnamon sticks to the saucepan while you’re simmering it.  Strain the dressing before serving or storing.

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