Saturday, March 22, 2008

March 27, 2008:Pizza Diet

My recent birthday as reminded me that although at times I still think of myself as twenty five, the harsh reality reveals forty looming on the horizon. The twenty plus pounds of baby weight that has taken up residence on my small frame needs to go to prevent a list of potential health issues (physical and mental) including the anguish I feel when summer arrives and I have to wear the required Cape Cod uniform. My dreaded bathing suit emerges from the back of the bottom drawer where it has been out of sight and out of mind for the better part of nine months and dares me to try it on my winter pale post baby (of two years, way to long!) flabby body. I'm ready to throw in a tent sized towel.

You may be thinking that I shouldn't be complaining. Based on my articles, it appears that I am constantly indulging. Yes, I recall the doughnut article (Falmouth Bulletin 3/20/08 and and yes, I do sample all of my recipes. (What kind of food writer do you think I am?) My behavior does not make it easy to shed the extra flesh. However the birthday mentioned before reminds me that now is the time to take another stab at it. But how? My love for all things fatty and naughty (extra butter, anyone?) as well as my work on the cook book and the column present challenges like brick walls I must hurl my Rubenesque body over.

A stack of mocking magazines showing gorgeous, super slim women in bikinis with uber abs on the covers litter my bedroom floor. Headlines scream, "Get Fit in 10 Days!", "Super Abs in 5 Minutes!" and (my favorite) "Eat Your Way to Thin!". The list goes on and they suck me in every time. The most annoying to me have to be the fashion magazines featuring the latest celebrity mom on the front photographed 2 days after giving birth and fitting perfectly into a size subzero designer gown. (Don't even get me started on the article inside where she is quoted about motherhood. That's a subject for another diatribe.) Obviously, for me, this magazine reading technique will not work.

Since my taste buds have a detrimental love affair with all things decadent, a touch of willpower is required. I must control myself at least a little bit and try not to dive in with such reckless abandon. Breakfast and lunch do not present a problem as I am at home with the "fighting Irish". My two year old and four year old make it nearly impossible to eat anything while it is hot or before the bread on my sandwich gets hard and stale. No, my friend, the witching hour for me arrives at 5:00pm when the wild ones are splashing in the tub and I give myself permission for the first glass of wine. It all starts innocently enough: I begin to cook dinner, nibble a few bites, drink a few sips, imagine, create, nibble, sip some more, create and taste again. By the time my husband gets home and "helps" by finding something for the children to watch on television, I've already had an entire meal consisting of tiny bites here and there accompanied by some glistening Merlot with nice legs. Now I'm ready to sit down and enjoy the meal I've made (this time on a plate) as well as another glass of wine. Let's not forget dessert.

Revamping my favorite recipes as well as developing new ones with less caloric ingredients is my only hope. (That along with counting calories, portion control and a stepped up exercise program, all way to boring to mention here.) Of course, reworking a recipe holds its own host of problems. I recently attempted a low fat version of cheesecake. The author of the article and recipe promised, "Once you have this one, you won't miss the real thing."

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Woman cannot live on celery sticks alone. So, here's the dilemma: find real food that satisfies which will also pass when doing the dreaded calorie count for the day. I'm talking about cookies made with real sugar, not some substitute, sandwiches put together with 2 pieces of bread and even PIZZA! Yes, I said, "PIZZA!" There must be a way to make a diet friendly yet flavorful version of the famous, so called, "junk food".

While I'm still searching for the ultimate guilt free cookie and I continue to ration slices of bread, I've managed to come up with a pizza recipe that will keep me from gaining 10 pounds by merely inhaling its cheesy aroma. It make not make the list of "Top 5 Diet Foods You Must Eat NOW!", but this recipe rocks. This is not a miracle pizza that has zero calories but tastes like 1000. However, you can eat a few small slices and have a glass of wine. If you have been really good for the day, eat a Dove Chocolate for dessert (only 42 calories for one). Just don't claim I gave you permission to eat the whole pie. I haven't yet lost enough weight to walk on water.

Basic Pizza Dough
makes 3 12" medium crust pizzas

I think King Arthur Flour for all types of flour mentioned below is the best brand.

A Kitchen Aid fitted with a dough hook is my favorite tool for this recipe.

2-3 cups all purpose flour, divided

1 teaspoon sugar

2 packages dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)

2 cups warm water, divided

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup self rising flour (substitute: 1 cup ap flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder)

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons olive oil

cooking spray

for brushing edges:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup all purpose flour, sugar, yeast and 1 cup warm water. Let rest for 15 minutes until bubbles form in mixture. Add remaining cup of warm water, whole wheat flour, self rising flour , salt, olive oil and 1 cup of all purpose flour. Mix well. Add enough remaining all purpose flour, one tablespoon at a time, until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Transfer dough to lightly greased bowl (use cooking spray) and cover with greased wax paper and kitchen towel. Place in warm area to rise to double its size for 30-45 minutes.

Place pizza stone on middle rack in oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Flour hands and punch down dough. Remove dough from bowl onto floured board and knead to remove air bubbles. Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Roll out into 12" rounds.

Using a pizza peel, place well floured dough round onto pizza stone and partially cook for 3 minutes until dough is just firm enough to hold its shape. Remove from oven. Keeping it on pizza peel, brush edge with olive oil, salt and pepper mixture. Continue with other desired toppings (see recipes). Place back in oven for 8-10 minutes until pizza crust is golden brown on edges and cheese is bubbling. Remove from oven and place onto cutting board. Let pizza rest for 5 minutes and cut into desired pieces.

Zoomin' Shroomin' Pizza

topping for one 12" pizza

2 lbs mixed mushrooms (I use white and bably bella)

6 slices turkey bacon

1 teaspoon butter

2 teaspoons olive oil

6 green onions

juice from 1/2 lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

5 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Slice mushrooms to 1/4" thick and set aside. Chop bacon into 1/2" pieces. Heat medium sized pan on medium high. Add bacon and cook until just started to crisp, about 5-8 minutes. Add butter and olive oil. Add mushrooms and stir once to coat. Let cook for 5 minutes and stir again. Add green onions and cook for 3 minutes. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Using a slotted spoon (to drain any juices), arrange mushroom mixture over prepared pizza crust (partially cooked and oiled on edge, resting on pizza peel.) Sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese. Cook in preheated 500 degree oven, on pizza stone for 8-10 minutes until cheese is bubbling and crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven, let rest on cutting board for 5 minutes and cut into desired pieces.

Mexicali Masterpiece (or, Debbie's favorite)

Topping for one 12" pizza

1 chicken breast

2 tablespoons tequila

juice from 1/2 lime

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon honey

pinch of cayenne pepper

1 cup salsa (I like Stop & Shop Simply Enjoy Black Bean and Corn Salsa)

5 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


sour cream

chopped black olives

chopped pickled jalapeno peppers

Place chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using rolling pin, pound until chicken is 1" thick all over. In a small bowl, combine tequila-cayenne pepper. Heat a grill pan to high. Brush chicken on both sides with tequila mixture and grill for 3 minutes on each side to sear. Turn down heat to medium and continue cooking until chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat and let rest on plate for 5 minutes. Remove to cutting board and shred into small pieces. Pour any juices from plate over shredded chicken. Set aside.

Top prepared pizza crust (partially cooked, brushed with oil and resting on pizza peel) with salsa , chopped chicken and cheddar cheese. Cook in 500 degree oven on pizza stone until cheese is bubbling and crust is golden brown (8-10 minutes). Remove from oven to cutting board. Sprinkle with cilantro. Let rest for 5 minutes then cut into desired pieces. Serve with list of toppings.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 13, 2008

The name says it all. Behold the birthday gift from my brother, Ethan. He's known me through the best of times and the worst of times (sorry, Charlie). Drunk in ecstasy over espresso martinis. (Really, the best of both worlds in my opinion.) Horribly hungover and jonesing for a strong, black coffee after a night of revelry that somehow got out of control. (It happens.) Caffeine: both a blessing and a curse. To little and your head throbs all day, to much and you are schizo, out of control.

In the immortal words of one of my dearest friends:

"Let's drink coffee until we shake."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 12, 2008

So, I just turned 39. Yesterday. Nothing exciting planned as I am the mother of 2 beautiful and unruly toddlers. I like to call them, "the fighting Irish" when they act the way they did all day on my birthday.

My sister, Karyn and I share the same birthday even though there is a four year difference. Now that we are adults, we like to celebrate together. (Sometimes we like to include our husbands and sometimes we don't like to even look at them.) This year, was no exception and we planned (or so I thought) to get together at her house with her family and mine.

Since she would be working all day, I offered to make dinner and bring it. O.K. settled.

The only problem, Karyn left and obscure message on my machine at about 9:30pm the night before stating "I can't stand my family and I really don't know what is going on for tomorrow night." (If you know her, this could really mean anything.) I thought it best to let it rest for the night and call her early in the morning.

Starting at 7:15am, I began calling and leaving messages on her cell phone. Unfortunately, even though I left about 4 throughout the course of the day, I never heard back from her. This could have meant a few things:

1. She forgot her cell phone (likely)

2. She forgot how to pick up her messages (highly likely)

3. She thinks the plan is in place and all is well. (also likely)

What would you do? Here I am essentially in charge of the birthday celebration so that all of our children (she has two) could feel that they had done something nice for their mother(s). I kept the faith and moved forward with the plan.

In an effort to simplify our lives at the "witching" hour (about 5:00pm when most children are ready to come completely unraveled and Mommy really needs a glass of wine), I prepared as much in advance as possible. This included baking chocolate cupcakes and mixing butter cream frosting so the children could decorate them. I proofed the pizza dough and partially cooked 3 large pizza crusts. While this was happening, I grated the cheese, cooked off some turkey sausage, caramelized onions and sauteed a gourmet mix of hamburger and spices. Once all was complete, it was packaged up and ready for travel. I continued to wait for the return call from my sister.

At 4:45pm, when I had decided to throw in the towel and have dinner at home, her call finally came:


(Car alarm honking in the background.)


So, I'm thinking dinner is off:

"Why don't you call me later?"

Fast forward to the rest of the evening:
My children eat pizza and have baths as if it was any typical night at our house. My husband arrives home with the spatula I wanted as a gift from the kids. I open it.

Karyn calls as I am on glass #2 of wine:

"I don't know what happened?!"

Now everyone at her house is bummed out that there is no celebration.

"Operation Crazy Bitch" goes into motion:

We get the Norris children into the car, cupcakes, frosting, sprinkles, remaining ice cream from Declan's party, hot fudge from the pantry...oh and a bottle of wine thrown into my purse (I have a big one...purse that is.) We arrive at Karyn's as the cleanup is happening for the coffee grounds that were spilled all over her kitchen. Don't ask.

Finally the wine is poured, the ice cream and cupcakes decorated and being eaten, we are relaxing with our make shift celebration.....

Wham! Blind sided again! One lone, full glass of RED wine not only gets knocked over and spilled down the front and inside the white cabinets, it shatters into a million shards of tiny knives. We spent the rest of the time, cleaning crevices in the kitchen, vacuuming up, comforting the hapless victim "No the birthday was not ruined, blah, blah, blah."

Oh, let's just go home and go to bed.