Monday, November 22, 2010

Savoring--Maintaining Our Weight Over the Holidays--Happy Thanksgiving!

Several years ago, a Woman's Day article about maintaining one's weight during this treacherous season started me on a course that helps year-round. Although I have mentioned it before, it seemed worth posting again this year. At my age (old enough to know better, thank you), losing weight is harder than ever, so over-indulging for a couple of months and then trying to lose those extra few pounds is very difficult.
The genius of this particular program is that it does not involve depriving ourselves of anything at holiday meals and parties. Of course, limiting or skipping certain foods can help maintain weight, but it's not fun. These suggestions all involved adding healthy foods to our diet over the six weeks or so of the season. How cool is that? Beginning with fruits and vegetables, they increased one food group each week, the list including lean protein, dairy products, high-fiber foods, and others. The idea is that the more we fill up on good stuff, the less likely we are to go way overboard on other foods. It may not work for everyone, but it helps me--and is more satisfying than worrying over eating less of special holiday foods and then feeling deprived.
The first week, the article advised adding more fruits and vegetables to daily intake--especially vegetables. Although we have all heard this advice before--and many of us do eat several servings of veggies each day--there is always room for more. We eat a variety of fresh fruits and some dried fruits at breakfast and several servings of fresh vegetables with every dinner. However, our lunch is less likely to include vegetables. If you frequently have a salad for lunch, you are way ahead of me--making salad seems like a lot of work during a busy day, and unless I also make a healthful dressing from scratch (more work!), topping the salad reduces its nutritional value.
For us, keeping a platter of cut-up fresh vegetables in the refrigerator simplifies grabbing them for lunch and snacks. I also try to make large batches of stir-fried vegetables, ratatouille, etc. at dinnertime so that there might be leftovers to warm with lunch. The platter in the photo includes a few of our favorites (aren't the colors appealing?). Another favorite treat is jicama, cut into crunchy sticks--give it a try if you are not familiar with its mild, slightly radish-like flavor. Having the platter ready guarantees that we will eat these healthy treats frequently.
Question of the day: Do you have a strategy for controlling weight during the holiday season?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Growing--Cypress Swamp Painting Is Finished

The final version of this painting of a cypress swamp based on photos from our visit to a wildlife preserve in Punta Gorda, Florida may not look dramatically different to you from the "in progress" view in a previous post. However, in "person", the adjustments are quite noticeable. The background was developed more fully, then a wash of greyish blue softened it and pushed it back so that the cypress trunks stood out more. Additional texturing draws attention to the trunk furthest to the right, where the ripples from a critter that briefly surfaced create a subtle center of interest.
Although this 8" x 10" acrylic piece on canvas board started as a study, I have invested a fair amount of effort in its development as it became more interesting to me. I hope that it represents the tranquility and beauty of our precious wetlands for viewers, as it does for me.
Thank you to all of you who continue to check in regularly. It looks as though my postings will continue to be irregular for the next couple of months, but I will post as often as I can.
Question of the day: Why do swamps get such a bad rap in stories and movies, always serving as a setting for sinister activity, when they are actually quite wonderful?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Savoring--Black Bean Pinwheel Appetizer Recipe

Our newest daughter-in-law, Ashley, (she and Pete live here in Jacksonville, FL) loves to organize and throw a party, especially for Halloween, and her parties are wonderful. This year's party was her biggest ever, and we enjoyed it very much (isn't she sweet to invite her parents-in-law along with their many young friends?).

Be sure to check out my new 2013 feature, a blog recipe index.

I haven't posted a recipe for awhile and always get rave reviews for the appetizer I brought to the Halloween party, so thought you might enjoy it, too. NOTE that it is a MAKE-AHEAD recipe; for best results, you need to chill the cream cheese filling for a couple of hours before spreading and then chill the rolled "logs" before slicing. I have trimmed some of the fat from the original recipe, and it still tastes great--have also spiced it up a little. Of course, you will adjust ingredients to your own taste. I serve these with a bowl of salsa; spooning a bit on top of the pinwheel adds a little zing. Some guests like the pinwheels best just as they are.
You need a light touch to spread the cream cheese layer over the black bean layer. Just drop spoonfuls onto the bean layer and gradually spread it over. Of course, they taste fine if the layers mix, but look nicest if they stay mostly separate. You can see that I am far from being a perfectionist about them. I include a photo showing the tortillas spread and ready to roll. The other little photo shows my favorite spreading tool, which we have in several sizes. My own mother-in-law introduced me to this efficiently shaped spreader, which is super for many uses (frosting, anyone?). The platter shown is about 2/3 of the total number the recipe makes--I had a second, smaller plate full, too. And the family loves snacking on the trimmed ends from each roll.

5 10” flour tortillas or wraps (or about 6 or 7, 7” ones)—I like using the mixed grain tortillas or the sun-dried tomato wraps (which I think are a little thinner than tortillas)
2 15 oz. cans black beans (30 oz. total), drained and rinsed—Place in food processor & process until smooth, adding cumin to taste (I use about ½ tsp.). You may also mash the beans—they don’t have to be perfectly smooth.
Cream filling:
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened (I use Neufchatel, the lower fat kind)
1 cup low fat sour cream
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack (or other) cheese
1 bunch green onions, chopped or about 1/3 cup chopped red onion
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ cup drained, chopped green olives with pimento
1. Cream filling spreads best if it is chilled a couple of hours after mixing. I do not always have time, and it still works—they are just harder to roll.
2. Warm tortillas if they are stiff—
Otherwise, just go ahead & spread thinly with black bean mixture.
3. Then, spread a thin layer of cream cheese mixture over beans. Don’t spread either mixture all the way to the edge.
Roll up tortillas tightly, wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate until well-chilled.
Cut into ¾” slices. Serve with salsa.
Question of the day: Sometimes I think I could live on appetizers--how about you?