Wednesday, January 25, 2012 Getting Ready For Apollo!

This past weekend we braved the snow to meet our puppy Apollo for the first time. At 4 weeks old he is a tiny little thing! He and his sister Star are just the sweetest little things I've ever encountered.

Long story shortened, the breeder was Nutmeg's breeder - our dearly departed bunny. When he died I contacted her looking for another bunny, but as time went on we realized no bunny could replace our Nutmeg. Apparently my follow-up e-mail expressing our love for Nutmeg, and our desire to get a puppy that was somewhat related to him, won the breeder over and (because we were previous customers) we were moved to the top of the list. So, yes, Nutmeg is still dictating our lives from beyond the grave - or beyond the ash box.

Apollo is the god of music, poetry and healing (among many other things) and once the name popped into my head it was hard to think of another. I know, it's a big name for a little dog, but I know he will grow into it. I have big plans for this little puppy. I'd love for him to be a therapy dog. That's my wish. I just think it would be great to spread the love and bring smiles to the faces of folks in nursing homes. But the most important therapy will be healing us. And we're ready!

We've moved around our living room furniture to make room for him to play. We're overhauling the entire house, cleaning and organizing every bit making it "puppy-proof."

And, as you can see, Apollo already has a bunch of toys and such thanks to his aunts and uncles :) It seems we've got a bit of a brown and blue color scheme going. We bought a brown and blue baby blanket and slept with it so he could get our scent. And I've already picked out a nice brown and light blue spotted chair for kids that will fit right in with the rest of my living room.

Oh yeah. My brain is infected.

By the way, notice the stars on the collar? For his sister Star.

Infected I tells ya.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012 Diet Update - Three Weeks In

Five pounds of me are gone. Bye, bye! I stood on the scale three times trying to get it to tell me I've lost six pounds, but five it is. Not bad for just over three weeks on my diet.

People keep asking me what my weight-loss goal is, and while I'd love to be back at my fighting weight of 105, I'll settle for 110. It's more about clothes fitting me, getting my flat tummy back and being able to look down and see certain parts of my body... You know how it is.

I've been doing the high fiber thing. Some of the products that are helping me in my quest are...

Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Oatmeal Bread - throw a slice in the toaster and smear it with some natural peanut butter (no added sugars!) or some apple butter (also no added sugars) and it fills me up pretty well and gives me the sweetness I'm craving.

Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta - I've plugged this stuff on numerous occasions. Love it! Tastes just like regular pasta but with five grams of fiber in every two ounce serving. We had some friends over for a roast duck/chicken dinner and you can bet the leftovers found themselves in a tasty pasta salad brimming with chopped veggies like carrots and celery and peppers, even a few chopped gourmet olives. The trick with pasta salad is keeping the dressing light. Use olive oil, of course, but don't drown it. You can blend some olive oil with red wine vinegar and chopped onion in a mini-blender with some salt, pepper and fresh herbs to make a nice dressing that'll keep your salad moist without all the crap from commercial dressings.

Kashi - Kashi, kashi, kashi. GoLean, baby, they ain't lying. Their cereals can have as much as ten grams of fiber in a serving. Mixing it with yogurt makes a nice crunchy/sweet snack reminiscent of my skinny days. They even make granola bars with four grams of fiber!

I'm getting back into the eating habits of my skinny days, that's what it is. Back then I was fueled by my desire to be a famous actress, now I just want to see my gig.

My metabolism isn't what it used to be, so I've pretty much cut out the candy, sweets, junk food and ice cream I used to be able to get away with eating. I'm not going to say I don't miss it, sometimes at night I crave caramel and/or Cheetos, but I'm able to fight off the urge because I already feel the benefits of eating right. I'm not winded when I walk uphill, I don't feel big folds of fat in my back when I'm doin' the peaceful warrior, I LOOK GOOD! Eating like this isn't completely foreign to me, I guess I have that advantage.

And, of course, once a day I have a really good meal. I'm seriously piling the veggies on my plate. As I learned months ago, 50% of your plate should be fruits and veggies. Last nights beef roast dinner was cooked with red skinned and sweet potatoes flavored with apples and onions and accompanied by cauliflower and brussle sprouts roasted with red peppers and duck stock. Does that sound like diet food?

Monday, January 23, 2012 The Little Miss Project Book

Who remembers my Little Miss Project video? It's hard to believe it's been a year since Sugarland chose to share my video with their fans and my YouTube views blew up into the thousands.

The creator of the original Little Miss Project video, Erica Jean Bjork, has now compiled the Little Miss Project Book and I am proud to say I have a recipe included in the book taking up two shiny full color pages. Please order a copy of the book for your coffee table. Five dollars from every purchase goes to one of Sugarland's favorite charities.

Check out the Little Miss Project blog post for a nice preview of the book.

And, on a somewhat unrelated note, sign up for my classes at Trumbull Continuing Education - Dinner for Two and Dinner Parties Made Easy.

Big thanks to everyone for supporting me these past few years and making accomplishments like these possible.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012 Celebrity Morality or "Oh, Myth?"

By now you've heard the earth shattering news, Paula Dean has type 2 diabetes.

If you click on the red words above you'll be brought to a well thought out article by a diabetes professional. If your interested in what I think about the subject, read on.

Every person who has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the past three years (since Paula Dean's diagnosis) AND has watched an episode of Paula Dean on the Food Network, or has watched any other show on the Food Network (which exists due to the efforts of Paula Dean,) has the right to sue Paula Dean for damages due to her ongoing conspiracy to keep silent the truth about the connection between her cooking and her ailing health!

Why, you ask? Because this is America, we're sue happy. Am I serious? I'm the Headbanging Hostess, you tell me how serious I am. If I may quote Pink Missile front man Danny Acedo, "This is serious!"

You know I'm being serious when I quote Pink Missile front man Danny Acedo.

I'm a student of the Howard Stern School of Celebrity. You tell your audience the truth, all the time, no matter how painful.

At the very least she's done her audience a disservice, for three years. But to "come out" when the deal with the pharmaceutical company is already set in stone? Krikey, I want to take a shower! It just feels wrong, smarmy, dirty, dishonest, greedy and a bunch of other shower-worthy skeevy descriptors.

Granted, my most popular posts are "How to Make Cake Balls on Pretzel Sticks" and "Cadbury Creme Eggs Baked in a Biscuit." But I've also been quite candid about my weight struggle. Tasty tempered with reality. And krikey again, I only influence 30 or so people (maybe more according to Klout, not quite sure I understand that site still.) Caring about your audience means not lying to them. And, yes, even a lie of omission is still a lie.

Already Paula Dean is being unclear in her statements to the press regarding the relationship between diet and diabetes. Triple krikey. Tell yourself the truth woman! You ate yourself into disrepair! And as a food professional/entertainer you have a duty to your fellow man. There's an unspoken contract - you give us information and we adore you. But by keeping the diagnosis from us, and continuing to feed the public a steady diet of butter, sugar and what-have-you you have been dishonest and disingenuous.

Now, of course, anyone with half a brain cell knows the kind of food Paula Dean showcases isn't health food. But not everyone knows about the link between an unhealthy diet and diabetes. And someone with that kind of influence; given the opportunity every time she stepped in front of a camera to educate her audience about a health issue that both she herself and millions of Americans were suffering with; given that opportunity she said nothing. For three years.

It's sad. And outrageous.

I'm curious to see what happens next. Will she change her shows? Her eating? Her lifestyle? Or will she continue to do what she does and just control her diabetes with the drugs she's selling. Yick, I need to take a shower.


Friday, January 13, 2012 Black Bean and Barley Lettuce Wraps

Mmm... This DDelicious dinner was made without any additional fat! No oil was used in the cooking process, instead I opted for a flavorful veggie stock that I whipped up during the day. Black beans with peppers and onions, barley with mushrooms, a little cheddar cheese, an little cilantro. It was almost like Chipotle but I didn't have to leave the house, and this had a little more fiber.

The barley I cooked in the stock - 1 1/4 cups stock and 1/2 cup rinsed barley. I cooked the sliced mushrooms in a pan with some more stock, transferring the barley to the pan when it was almost done cooking and adding more stock as needed.

In another pan I simmered the chopped peppers, onions and garlic in a little more stock and then added a small can of black beans. The whole can, black bean sludge and all. Let that cook until the onions are clear, let the other one cook until the barley is done.

Lettuce cups are pretty self-explanatory. Make sure you wash them, that's my advice.

My husband added a little sour cream and hot sauce to his. I realized as I was plating that I hadn't used any additional spices, but they weren't really needed on my end. I loved the flavor of the cilantro and the black beans, the texture of the lettuce and the barley. These were quite good! And I ate four of them without any guilt. Lots of fiber, beans are a good source of protein and fiber. I added very little cheese to mine - I felt good about the whole meal!

Stay tuned for more of my "diet recipes" - they're tasty!


Thursday, January 12, 2012 Diet Update - Two Weeks In

Since it was couple days before New Year's that I began my diet I have reached the two week mark. Two weeks of eating "right," eating "healthy," and I might add not eating "boring."

Sure, there's nothing too exciting about high fiber cereal. Mixing it with half a container of yogurt makes it slightly exciting, and finishing the yogurt later makes me feel as if I've cheated the system. I've been writing down everything I've eaten at the end of the day, almost more of a memory exercise than a food diary. Every entry had something along the lines of...

High fiber cereal
PB on whole grain toast
Apple Butter on whole grain toast
cheese stick (Weight Watchers cheese. It's not fantastic, but it's a small snack)

A few times, like yesterday, we had a nice late lunch/early dinner that was large enough to keep us full well into the evening. Yesterday's purple cabbage, kielbasa and perogies wasn't exactly diet food, but I did what I could to keep the fat down. First I boiled the kielbasa for about 1/2 an hour. This takes out some of the fat, but I also cooked the perogies in the same water - they didn't absorb all the fat, maybe not even the flavor. I did save myself the trouble of having to boil another pot of water. The purple cabbage was sliced thin by my husband and cooked in water and red wine vinegar - it could have cooked a little longer, but I like it crunchy. The kielbasa we finished up quick outside on the grill, it just gives it a nice flavor and crunch.

I've also been putting in the exercise effort. When I can't go walk at the beach (which is like always because the cold wind freezes my inner ear) I'll try to do some yoga at home. Just 1/2 an hour of whatever moves I remember from my hour long sessions at the Y. My heart rate really does go up, I'm not flexible so it could be a fear of falling over that gets my heart racing, but whatever it is I sure hope it's burning some calories! I can feel I'm getting stronger, and I can feel my muscles getting a workout, so I've gotta be doing something right.

And in the end? Let's call it 3 pounds. It's very hard to tell. I stand on the scale with one foot and my hand on the towel rack, ever so slowly lifting my weight onto the scale, trying not to jostle the numbers up, down and around. It's an old scale, older than some of my friends probably, that never quite zeros out right. You can start at zero, get on and get off and it's at 3 - know what I'm saying? But my goal is 2 pounds a month, so three pounds in two weeks ain't bad!

Do I feel better? Yes. Do I look better? Not sure. Am I starving myself? Not at all. Sure, sometimes it takes super human strength to fight off the munchies, but I'm doing it! Not eating for two hours before bedtime (which is 8:00 because I'm asleep by 10:00) hasn't always been easy, but it has surely relieved me of the nightmares that have been plaguing me. Thank goodness.

How's your diet going?


Sunday, January 8, 2012 Parents of Picky Pipsqueaks Prepare for a Pummeling, Please

It all started innocently enough. A friend posted on Facebook, asking for easy dinner ideas for picky eaters. I wanted to help, I started racking my brain for kid-friendly foods. Seeing as I'm a "baby-free expert" I came up blank.

I suggested the crock pot, I had a few other semi-lame suggestions. There were a number of suggestions from real-life working moms. Some of them seemed okay, some of them... There's no way to finish that sentence politely. I was flabbergasted. Disgusted is a strong word but I'm going to use it anyway. One recipe that I would never disclose called for a cup of soy sauce. A CUP! That's 5 days worth of sodium if you're under 40 years of age, 8 days if you're over. That is mad crazy, yo!

A number of recipes called for jarred sauce, something that is not allowed in our house as my husband is Italian. But other than those pureed tomatoes the suggestions were surprisingly void of veggies. Void of variety - pasta, meat, tomato sauce. Pasta, meat tomato sauce. Pasta, meat, tomato sauce, cheese. One recipe called for canned pineapple, and then there was the cup-o-soy sauce. But every recipe involved some "convenience food" - jarred salsa, packets of taco seasoning. Nothing personal.

I mean that, nothing personal...but you're robbing your kids. Nutritionally speaking you're doing them a disservice. A colorful, diet rich in grains, plant materials and various sources of proteins is healthy for our bodies. And you're robbing them of texture, variety and the spices of life. By not introducing them to the wide variety of foods the world has to offer you're possibly condemning them to a life of chicken nuggets and french fries. We all know a person like that, with only a handful of foods in their comfort zone. If those five foods are pasta, ground beef, cheese, tomato sauce and canned pineapple that person is looking at a pretty unhealthy life.

When I was a kid (yeah, I know. F when you were a kid, Miss Headbanging Child-Free Expert.) When I was a kid I ate whatever my parents ate. The idea of making a separate meal for me never entered the house. Even when I was a baby, I ate what they ate, they just put it in the blender. Pigs ears, sardines, squid, smoked bacon fat, smelts, little neck clams, wild boar - I ate all of those things as a kid. It never occurred to me not to eat them. I did draw the line at tongue, I remember that. And I ate liver until I found out no one else did. But that's the key right there. People do what they can get away with. Yes, even kids. Especially kids. They're constantly testing their limits, and yours! They're kids, that's their job. But it's your job as a parent to see that they get their nutritional needs met and that you expose them to the world through it's bounty.

Food is history. You can follow ingredients and spices around the globe for a peek into our past. It's an opportunity to learn about humanity. It sustains us, nourishes us, fuels us through our day and into the next. Food is nostalgia, memories. A familiar taste can bring comfort, quiet and bliss. Food is love. Sitting and sharing a meal with family is an immeasurable, priceless experience. There will come a time when they're all grown and gone, when getting together for the holidays isn't easy or even an option.

And where do you want them to be? Opening a jar of sauce?

I'm being harsh, I know.

Tough shit.

America's children are obese! Unhealthy! Big fat tubs of lard! Pasta, meat, sauce and cheese? Are you kidding me? Hey, it's not my fault. I'm not a parent. I'm not the one who signed up for the humungo responsibility, YOU ARE! Step up! Put some steamed veggies on that plate, some brown rice. Salmon, green beans, whole grain bread, sauteed spinach, summer squash - you may have to expose your kids to a different food 10-15 times before they try it, but SO WHAT? No kid presented with a balanced meal night after night has ever starved to death.

What you feed your kid tonight will stay with them for the rest of their lives. How's that for a profound scare tactic? But it's true, both nutritionally and emotionally. Growing bodies need trace amounts of every vitamin and mineral. Eating the rainbow is the best way to do that. Vitamin supplements usually come out in the same pill form they went in as. And emotionally speaking, our brains bond flavors with memories. When I taste liver I'm back in my high-chair. When I eat steamed little necks I'm in my backyard, showing my friends how to pull the icky black part off so you can dip the clam in the hot water and then the butter and slurp it all up in all it's buttery-salty-sweet yumminess. I wonder if they go back to my yard when they taste steamers today?

Do you see what I'm saying? Kids are people. These memories are the things that make life worth living. You can't deny them that. When they're 40 they'll thank you for making them try lamb or quinoa or chitlins as a child. I promise. But you have to do your part. You signed up for it. You wouldn't introduce them to only 5 letters of the alphabet, would you?


Kettle Corn in the Dutch Oven

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways... Of course, I'm talking to both my dutch oven and my kettle corn.

When carnival season arrives it's the kettle corn that drives me out of the house and into the general public. I love the sweet and salty. I can eat a whole large bag, the size of a first grader, within a day or two.

With my New Year's diet in full swing I needed to abandon microwave popcorn. It's cancer anyway, why expose myself to all that crap when I have the tools to make my own awesome popcorn.

The dutch oven.

Heavy lid, heavy bottom, heavy all around. This isn't the popcorn making from my youth, burning kernels and shaking pots on electric stove tops. I barely have to move it, I probably don't have to move it at all but I burn a few more calories in the prep and I don't feel so bad eating the entire bowl.

I followed Rachael Ray's recipe for the most part. I halved the amount of sugar so it was...

1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/8 cup white sugar
salt sprinkled over the top <-- That I did not measure

Put the pot on the stove at 7 1/2 (electric stove.) Put in the oil, the popcorn, put the lid back on. When the oil starts to sizzle sprinkle the sugar in there and put the lid back on. Then you just wait for it to pop, pop, pop. I haven't been too good at judging when it's done, it seems I have a lot of leftover kernels. But I'm pretty sure that's not the end of the world. The whole two pound bag only cost me $1.50, so wasting money is not an issue.


I am thrilled at the prospect of never having to go to another sub-par street fair for a taste of kettle corn. Never again will I be forced to hang with the commoners in order to experience the salty sweetness. Thank goodness.

I can see lots of experimenting on this front. Colored sugar, candy flavors... And popcorn is a whole grain so I'm not totally blowing my diet. YAY!

How do you rock your popcorn?


Friday, January 6, 2012 Roast Leg Of Lamb Dinner

I've been promising my friend Marc a roast leg of lamb dinner for a while. Last night I delivered. Of course, I forgot to take pictures of the final product, so you're looking at a raw piece of meat.

My husband picked up the ingredients of the way home. First he went to Fairway where the lamb cost 130 bucks! Then he went to Grade A where it was 45 bucks. I know, I know, good meat costs more, but 130 bucks was way out of our budget. Maybe I need to start raising lamb out on the porch.

He also got a bunch of baby potatoes and a handful of big carrots along with rosemary and garlic. Everything I needed to make lamb...for the first time.

I've never liked lamb, but at a friends wedding this year I went for it during the cocktail hour and I LOVED IT! It was roasted to perfection, almost bacon like in it's crispy-fattyness. Reminiscent of my childhood holidays spent at "The Hungarian's" eating what he'd shot. DDelicious.

To make this lamb I started off by removing all the netting keeping it together. I gently rinsed it in the sink and flipped it over onto a cutting board. I made numerous incisions in the underside with a boning knife and stuffed the holes with garlic and rosemary sprigs. In a 6 pound roast I made 6 well spaced incisions. I carefully arranged the peeled (yet whole) carrots in the center of a roasting pan along with about half an onion sliced into 4 pieces and a few more rosemary sprigs. I put the potatoes around the edge and placed the lamb right on top of the carrot/onion bed. I dusted it all with sea salt, pepper and powdered rosemary and put it in the oven at 450 for 15 minutes. Then I turned it down to 325 for the remainder of the cooking time, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

For rare lamb the internal temperature should be 145, 160 for medium rare. Meat can be taken out of the oven 5 degrees before the intended temp, carry-over heat will keep the temperature going up even after it's out of the oven. When I checked the temp the first time it was barely at 130, the second time (15 minutes later) it quickly soared to the 160 mark. I quickly took it out of the oven to rest. The veggies I put on the platter and covered them up to help retain the heat.

While the meat rested I put the finishing touches on some gravy. Veggie stock, rosemary, small amounts of apple butter and the pan drippings deglazed with a spot of Pinot. It was a nice, rich sauce. Beautiful color with a deep, caramelized flavor.

My husband carved the lamb. I was afraid it was overdone, but no one complained. Maybe they were just being polite. I thought it tasted amazing. It wasn't pink, it wasn't tough. It had a real nice flavor, texture. Actually, I'm not sure why I didn't like lamb before. It was real good, yo!

Dessert was one of my fabulous concoctions. Semi-cheesecake, semi-pumpkin pie bruleeish... 1 cup pumpkin pureed with 2 eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg and two generous spoonfuls of ricotta. Shame on me for not measuring, but whatever the ratios it turned out just scrumptious.

A very nice dinner. I think this year will include many more of these small dinners for four. And I'll document them better, maybe even make a video :)

Rock on! \m/


Wednesday, January 4, 2012 Light Italian Fare

In my house I don't attempt to make "sauce" - an interchangeable word with "gravy" which is Italian code for tomato sauce. My husband is Italian, he makes the sauce in this house. When I want to make sauce I have to make a conscious attempt to NOT make sauce. It's all very confusing. When Arcane Malevolence came for Italian Night my husband made his sauce and I made mine, a roasted pepper/tomato sauce that is different enough from regular sauce to elicit a "good sauce" compliment instead of a "good sauce" comment. See, it's confusing.

So yesterday, when I was in the mood for some spaghetti, I had to go outside of the sauce-box yet again. Diced tomato (from a can), onion, garlic and a basil cube. I let it simmer on the stove for close to an hour. While that was going on I marinated some organic chicken breasts in olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, dried oregano, granulated garlic and onion powder.

As the dinner hour approached I put a big pot of water on the stove to boil the pasta. Smart Taste angel hair, I do love that brand, I'll admit it. I set up the George Foreman Grill to cook the chicken. As soon as that heated up I put the chicken on for 9 minutes. When that was done I put the pasta on for 4 minutes, giving the chicken time to rest. See how nicely this meal times out?

I plated the pasta, poured the chunky sauce over the top, shredded the chicken and topped it all with a dash of Parmesan.

It was really good, filling. All the familiar flavors but in course form, a hearty yet light meal. I felt no guilt. Small amounts of olive oil were the only sources of fat. My husband ate a whole chicken breast, I ate about half, but the leftovers (they come three to a package) will end up in a Smart Taste pasta salad today.

Rock healthy, yo!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012 Collard Green Chips

The year has started off good for me. I've already lost 2 pound in 5 days of seriously watching what I eat. It is TORTUROUS not snacking myself to death at night, but the payoff is the nightmares that were plaguing me are gone.

These delightfully crispy chips are made with collard greens. I've made kale chips before, but the spines always got painfully stuck in my teeth. I took the time with these to cut around the larger spines.

I washed the greens in warm water very thoroughly twice and then spun it dry in the salad spinner. I transferred it to a larger bowl and then tossed it with some olive oil, salt, pepper, chipotle powder and smoked paprika. I probably put too much salt on it, but it helps take out the bitter taste of the greens. Be careful though, too much salt will burn your mouth, it's a delicate balance. You can add Parmesan cheese, too. Use your imagination. I bet it would rock with some Old Bay.

Bake in as single a layer as possible on parchment lined cookie sheets at 300 until they dry. It took about 1/2 an hour for these guys. Stir them up every once in a while so they dry evenly.

I think they're really tasty. My neighbor loves them. But other people have said they're too bitter. Not everyone is going to like these, that's what I'm saying. But they're worth a try.