OK, the holidays are over and it's time for a little postgame analysis. Did you move the ball toward the endzone over the holidays? Or, like me, did you give into the temptations that moved into your path and give up some yardage that you're going to have to make up through clever play over the next few weeks?
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I entered this holiday season weighing 160. This is very close to my original goal weight (153) and would actually be an acceptable long-term weight for me, so my goal for the holidays (defined as that period beginning with my birthday -- Nov. 24 -- and ending on Jan. 2) is to simply maintain that weight within a pound or two.
This week I went home to visit my family. While none of us need two airplane seats (yet) we're an enthusiastic bunch of eaters who like to cook and to seek out great food. There are always more restaurants that we want to try than that we actually have time to visit, plus Appleton is home to plenty of delicious old favorites that have to be visited as part of the family ritual. Throw in the home cookin' and that mom openly acknowledges that for her food=love and love=food, and even without the temptation of a major holiday, a visit to the family is fraught with danger for the determined dieter.
Team Delicious Calories: 2
Yep, inside of a week, I gained 2 pounds. Sure, there could be some transient water retention and stuff going on here, but still, it bears watching. So I really have to step up my game in the next phase of the holiday season, Stressful End of Semester Rush (finals-graduation-getting 3 papers out-friends' parties and neighborhood shenanigans) if I'm going to regain ground and finish strong.
And now, the play-by-play
This year the damage really started on Nov. 19 when I finished up an NSF grant proposal at 8:30 p.m. and rewarded myself with a delicious Five Guys cheeseburger and fries. It continued on Nov. 22 when my grad students took me out for dinner at Lulu for my birthday and we drank plenty of wine. On Nov. 23 I pretty much had to skip Zumba if I was going to get packed and make my early flight the following day, but I did get in a walk and a ballroom dance lesson so I at least hit 2400 calories burned.
On Tuesday we were pretty restrained. I got in an epic walk -- more than two full laps on concourse A, carryons in hand -- during my stop in Detroit, and ate healthy, seafood-laden Korean soup for lunch and just a little dainty dish of mom-made dumplings for dinner.
Wednesday I went for a long walk (about 5 miles) in my hometown, but Team Delicious Calories definitely upped its game to match me. Mom made apple pie slices, which are difficult to resist to say the least. We had a real birthday dinner at Koreana, Appleton's should-be-legendary Korean restaurant, with purple rice hwe dup bop (healthy) and a couple of glasses of wine (maybe not so much).
Thursday was a total loss exercise-wise -- sitting around with the relatives at my uncle's house, chowing down on smoked fish, turkey, all the usual trimmings, and five kinds of pie. And wine. My mom made a token effort to healthify things by bringing a couple of green vegetable dishes, but we all left the scene with The Itis, and dinner at home consisted of medicinal doses of high-fiber cereal and apples.
Friday we started off with the best of intentions. Breakfast was light. My sister and I went for a long walk. But then the fates landed us at Dong Po for lunch at almost 2 pm, and the Hunan Crispy Duck is hard to resist, and we fell off the wagon. In fact, by Friday evening, we were laying in the road groaning from The Itis, and the wagon was nowhere in sight, because there was a bowl of soft molasses cookie batter in the fridge and I had to bake those suckers up, and then so that dinner wouldn't be just cookies, I made a batch of curried turkey soup, which at any other time is a delicious and reasonably healthy winter meal.
We never even got around to the much-touted boar shanks at the Old Bavarian, and I was leaving just a little too early on Saturday to be able to go to Antojitos with the familia for gorditas. No doubt this was for the best.
Yesterday I really started thinking about dialing it back. I had a bunch of cookies before I left, but the rest of my calorie intake for the day was in the form of whole grain cereal, sushi, and miso soup, and I kept it under target. I also used Concourse A as my treadmill for a 4-mile walk in Detroit. Now the wagon has pulled into sight with a low-calorie day of restraint, a 3 mile walk, and a couple of hours in the yard raking and bagging leaves. And next week (and for the rest of the month) I've got a zumba attendance contest to win.
This recipe comes from the Prairie du Sac cookbook, one of those little municipal fundraiser cookbooks from the place my mom grew up. Mom says it's much better with real lard and I'd tend to agree.
11 x17 cookie sheet
2 1/2 c flour, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tsp salt, 1 cup lard -- cut in lard as for pie crust, put 1 egg yolk in enough milk to make 2/3 cup and add liquid. Form into ball, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate a couple of hours Roll out half the dough. (Tip: use a flexible cutting board the size of pan to roll it out and flip it over onto the pan.)
Crush 4 handfuls of corn flakes, or other corn cereal and sprinkle over crust.
Slice 6-9 apples (thin). I use a combination of Golden delicious, Granny Smith, MacIntosh. and spread apples evenly over crust. Mix 1 1/4 cup sugar with 1 Tsp cinnamon and sprinkle over apples.
Roll out other half of dough and cover apples. Crimp edges. Beat the egg white until stiff and spread over crust.
Bake 45 minutes on lowest rack of the oven at 400 degres.
Mix 1 cup powdered sugar with hot water for glaze over top. Drizzle off of a spoon in a diagonal pattern while still hot.
These cookies originated with the mother of one of my mom's college friends (known to us as children only as "Ma Watke"). It is not the holidays without at least one batch of these. They can be made gluten-free without losing too much of their charm; I usually use a mixture of 3 cups white sorghum flour, 1 cup arrowroot, and 1 cup soy flour.
1 c organic butter
1 c packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together and add:
1 c buttermilk
1 c dark molasses
Sift together and stir in:
2 c flour
3 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
Add and stir in:
3 more cups of flour
Chill overnight or for at least several hours. Roll out to about 1/4″ thickness and bake at 350.
This soup is modeled after a soup served at The Great Impasta in Champaign-Urbana during holiday seasons, when I lived there in the 90s. I noodled around trying out recipes until I arrived at this. It's been so long that I can't remember how close a match it is for the original inspiration but it's delicious. And it won't give you The Itis.
4 cups cooked turkey (chopped)
1-2 cups turkey pan juices (fat skimmed)
2-3 cups turkey broth
1 tbsp turkey fat (saved from pan)
1 tbsp white flour...
2 large onions
2 tbsp (more or less) butter
1/2 cup golden raisins
zest of one lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp (more or less) capers
2 tbsp (more or less) Bolst's curry powder
salt to taste
- Make a blonde roux with the turkey fat and white flour. Let stand.
- Slice onion and shallot and caramelize in butter along with golden raisins and lemon zest. Add turkey pan juices and simmer until soft.
- Start cooking rice.
- Puree vegetable/raisin mixture in a blender. Return to pan or soup pot. Add cooked turkey, turkey stock (save 1 cup for adjusting thickness), capers, lemon juice, curry powder, and salt. Let simmer for 1/2 hour or so.
- Adjust flavors with additional salt, curry powder, and lemon juice, to your taste.
- Return roux to heat just until it loosens and bubbles. Add reserved stock slowly and stir. Use this mixture to thicken the soup, adding a bit at a time until your desired thickness is reached.
- Put a small amount of rice in the bottom of the bowl and add soup.