Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ratatouille Pizza with Whole Wheat Crust

Matt loves pizza, I love veggies, and we all enjoy a little cheesy-cheese. I have an unhealthy lust for cheese and eat it by the brick. Matt once said, "You know, you're really just eating a block of fat, you know that right?" Damnit Matt. Thanks for putting a damper on my cheese fest. And, are you insinuating I should not be eating this cheese? AND ARE YOU SAYING I'M FAT? That made him shut up.

Regardless, last night we made ratatouille pizza, topped with luscious roasted tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and cremini mushrooms. Oh, and loads and loads of garlic; that goes without saying. I diced and danced to
All Songs Considered Listener's Countdown (best podcast ever) and put Matt in charge of the crust because he's much more precise than me about things: he's the better baker, so I rightfully acknowledge he was the guy to deal with the exact measurements and directions for this finicky yeast crust. He didn't disappoint, and sniffed upnosed at my veggies saying, "Pizza is all about the crust; the rest doesn't really matter." What can I say: he's been in a bit of a persnickety mood lately.

The crust recipe was found on
All Recipes, and I swiped the pizza recipe from Vegetarian Times. However, the original recipe didn't call for mushrooms or peppers, and that was simply uncalled for. I won't lie and say this is a regular pizza: it's not greasy and dripping with cheese, but if you're looking for a healthier alternative, or a Crohn's-friendly alternative (I mean this loosely: if you minus the tomatoes and some of the veggies) then go for it: it's delish. Oh, and the vegetables definitely make this dish. (Imagine me saying that with an upturned nose.)

Rustic Ratatouille Pizza with Homemade Crust

Ingredients for Crust:

  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


  1. In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining all-purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes (or use the bread hook on your Kitchenaid). Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled. (We chose to do one thick crust.)
  4. Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a well oiled pizza pan.

Ingredients for Topping:

  • 1 28-oz. can peeled whole tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small eggplant, quartered and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (2 cups)
  • 2 small zucchinis, sliced into rounds (2 cups)
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 10 baby portobella or cremini mushrooms, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups of diced bell peppers (I used tri-colored baby bell peppers)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced plus 4-5 whole cloves to roast
  • 2 Tbs. herbes de Provence
  • 1 Tb. oregano
  • 1 Tb. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup prepared marinara sauce
  • 2-3 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup black olives or capers, optional


1. Preheat oven to 450°F.

2. Drain tomatoes, and discard liquid. Halve each tomato lengthwise. Toss together all veggies and herbs, and oil.

3. Roast vegetables 25 minutes, or until beginning to brown, tossing every 5 to 10 minutes. Cool 5 to 10 minutes, or store in refrigerator up to 3 days. (This recipe makes leftovers: I think they would be suburb with crackers or folded into an omlette.)

4. Spread crust with sauce, and top with vegetables and cheese. Sprinkle with olives or capers, if using.

5. Place on middle rack in oven, and preheat oven to 425°F with pizza in oven. Bake about 20 minutes, or until done.

I really think vegetables have to be the envy of every other food group: look how gorgeous they are.

Crust, ready to go. (And not nearly as intoxicating as the photo of the veggies.)

You think we'd make a boring pizza like this? Fo' no!

You know there's that sub par movie "Must Love Dogs"? If I had a movie, it would most definitely be entitled "Must Love Vegetables". Nevermind, definitely entitled "Must Love Dogs, Vegetables, and Cleaning." There; perfect.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The lazy girl's guide to New Year's resolutions

I do not understand New Year's resolutions. They exist to mock you, to heckle you, and to just make you feel lousy. That's why I don't make them. Oh, and also the fact that for me they never last more than 3.5 days.

Take "I'm going to lose weight" resolution, a feel-bad classic. A couple of years ago, while eating some Peanut Butter Oreos (What?! They weren't "Double Stuffed" or anything!) I decided why should I set myself up for failure? Big aspirations always lead to disappointment, which is also precisely why my only career goal is (for real), "Have a job that doesn't make me want to gauge out my eyeballs." When I'm feeling ambitiously optimistic I add, "Make enough cash so mama can enjoy some shrimp tempura rolls guilt-free." That is it. Nothing more, nothing less.

So, as I was polishing off another row of cookies with milk, I decided my New Year's resolution would be (and continues to be to this day) to "Try to be healthy." Notice the "try". Notice the ambiguity. I mean, what is "healthy" anyway? If I said, "I will go to the gym three times a week and eat vegetables with every dinner" I would of broken my resolution on day three. And that's just silly.
I like life easy: I don't want a challenge. I want a resolution that I can adhere to without really trying. A real resolution has specifics like that with numbers attached, a Kathryn resolution is really made to be interpreted and reinterpreted continuously. Say, for example, it's January 2nd and I want to eat a mega muffin for breakfast (this is really each and every day). With my Kathryn resolution, I can argue that although a muffin is far from healthy, it must certainly be better than a donut, and thus, today, I have "tried" to be healthy. Genius, right?

In the same vein, by not stipulating how much I will work out, one weekly gym appointment can be viewed as a success. Or, eating eight Oreos instead of ten can be viewed as an accomplishment (that's a personal best for me).
The Kathryn resolution doesn't just work for weight loss: you can adapt to avoid failure in any scenario. Making a resolution to read a book a week? Silly you. Just say you'll "read more" and then read the nutritional label on your pantry staples. You just were healthier, and upped your reading to boot. Sometimes I amaze myself.

Now some people like challenges. This program is not for them. (Scratch that: this blog is not for them.) Take Matt for example: he loves learning new things and "experimenting" with new ideas and pushing himself in odd ways. He is a programmer and spends his nights coding and learning new computer languages. There is one word for this: LAME! I, on the other hand, spend my nights watching "So You Think You Can Dance?" and eating, yes, Oreos. Don't lie: you know you wish you were on my couch doing the same.

Now you may say, "Kathryn, you big gorilla, there is no point to life if we don't strive to be better." I agree, but I just think life on a daily basis brings us enough challenges. Here is a short list of some of these challenges:
  • Getting out of bed
  • Remembering brown-bag lunch as you are "trying to be healthy"
  • Finding a good parking space, because walking 20 additional feet is simply not an option (no worries, you were already being healthy by packing that lunch)
  • Ignoring the fact that your "healthy" lunch is leftover pizza
  • Only checking once per every two hours (the agony...)
  • Making small talk with loathsome coworkers
  • Avoiding the temptation to gossip with awesome coworkers
Whew! And that's just before lunch! So this year, take it from me, and just "try" to take it easy. And us girls and guys with Crohn's have enough to worry about. Now excuse me, as there's a pomegranate with my name on it (it's like a palate cleanser before my next batch of Oreos).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays from The Gutsy Girl

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Another year, another issue (also known as "Intimacy with a speculum, part 2")

It's almost my blogiversary! I started this blog in January, late at night, crying, in pain, mad and a little defiant. Now it's morning on Christmas Eve, and I'm not in pain, but still a bit mad and defiant. Some things never change (like the fact I once again ate leftover truffles for breakfast....oh, Kathryn....).

The focus on the blog this past year was my deciding to have my first Crohn's surgery, the preparation for that surgery, and my recovery. Now it would be a sham to write about any pain: I'm feeling pretty terrific. I have my good and bad days, and skipping to the bathroom will be a forever indignity, but I am blissfully pain-free. Because of that, and knowing this wretched little disease has a nasty cyclical nature, Matt and I decided - with the encouragement of my GI, surgeon, and ob/gyn - to push our "let's have kids!" timeline up by a few years and start at the ripe old age of 27. I never once thought I'd want a baby in my 20's (the expense! the sleep deprivation! the utter exhaustion!), but once I make up my mind about something, there's little else I think about, so let's take a deep breath and get going, shall we?

Which brings us to now. For a girl who talks about defecation, her ass, and all the naughty bits in between, I still gave pause to writing about sex (yikes!) and procreation: poop is funny, but making a baby is something you do behind closed doors (well, I guess pooping is too, but come on now, it's still funny). But, because nothing is easy, and I possess little to no decorum, and Matt gave his blessing, and ah, yes, this is Crohn's related, some posts on this blog will now focus on the anticipatory song and dance of trying to conceive. Let me explain:

Yesterday Matt and I went to the ob/gyn. (Insert your own joke here.) I was ready to go into battle. I was ready to lay it all out on the table and say, due to my situation, we should "look into things" before the usual "one year of trying". As soon as I said "scar tissue", "six months", and currently "feel well", she was writing out four scripts. Suffice it to say, I love this doctor, plus we share the same first name, so extra kudo points for her. I also was feeling a bit hypocondraticy (I know that's not a word, ok?) but now feel validated. (Last year when I wasn't feeling well I ignored it for a month, while chugging OTC pain pills, and look where it got me. So now I run for the hills when I get a cold.)

First, Matt is going to get tested. Strangely, Matt was very excited about this, and immediately said to me, after the doc left, "I'm gonna ACE this test!" So basically they're going to test how many sperm he has and their mobility and all of that, so we can finally put to bed whether they're "lazy" or not. Matt said they have the speed and agility of Michael Phelps. I said only after he was caught smoking marijuana. So we'll see.

Next, I have two blood tests: pre and post ovulation. On top of that, I'm having an HSG done, also known as a Hysterosalpingogram. Say that ten times fast. Basically, in the hospital, they shoot dye up your yahoo and make sure it can easily flow through your tubes and scar tissue is not blocking the way. Because I've been told I have a lot of scar tissue down there, and my abscess was wedged on one of my Fallopian tubes, there is some cause for concern. If those babies are clogged, then we may look into surgery or IVF. The blood tests will confirm that everything is working properly and I'm ovulating. If things are functioning, then we might move to Clomid, which increases egg production. Basically, there are a lot of "if's": it's very reminiscent of last year.

A colleague, who has gone through all of this, told me to get ready to "be naked and have your everything out there for everyone to see" and that it "hurts". I told her she's obviously never been to a colo-rectal surgeon, and while some women fear their yearly pap smear, it's vacation-time for me (last year, we had a very nice conversation on Northern California's wine region during my exam, thank you very much). A speculum in your vagina is one thing, a speculum in your you-know-what is another ballgame entirely. I lost any sense of shame many years ago. Trust me on this one.

Although I joke (come on, how can you not?!), I don't take any of this lightly. First of all, it's sobering that I didn't have to talk my ob/gyn into taking investigative measures: she obviously sees that there can be a problem, here. Secondly, if there is a problem, the cost of fertility (and I'm talking in the most literal way) is mind-boggling and not covered by insurance. The same women who told me about the HSG also spent over $30,000 last year on fertility treatments...and has yet to conceive. So, "yahoo" jokes aside, no, I don't take this lightly.

I know I'm opening up myself for ridicule, but that's nothing new, but if I have a very typical case of Crohn's, then perhaps other women with the disease are having tough times conceiving, too. Heck, maybe I'm fine, and I'll get pregnant next month. I don't know, but I'll be sure to take you on the ride with me, speculums and all...

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 21, 2009

To tip, or not to tip?

Awww….the holidays…the time of mulled cider, bedazzled trees, and…tipping? I am posting this out of purely neurotic selfishness. I never know who, and how much, to tip. There are the basics: I understand you tip extra for your hairdresser, and from reading on Emily Post it seems only the truly Grinch-like don’t get a small gift for their young children’s teachers, but what about the mail carrier? The garbage collectors? And everyone in between?

Last year we did not tip our mailman. I took an informal poll at work, and it seemed maybe two-thirds of my department did tip, and I guess the rest of us were just heartless. I don’t know our mailman (we are never home when the mail is delivered), but we did receive a card in the mail right before the holidays from him wishing us a merry Christmas. Since I am raggedy old cynic I quipped that he must be digging for a tip. Matt, my angelic other half, said he was just wishing us a nice holiday. I told him to “shut it” and said he is now most certainly not getting a tip, citing things like 1) the card (obviously), 2) the fact he probably makes more than me anyway (who knows, but checking the USPS rates – yes, which my sick self did – it’s possible), and 3) we were poor (we are not really poor, and it’s an insult to those who are, but I say it anyway in order to snatch free food from my mom’s pantry).

Now a year has passed, and my cold heart has melted a bit. Maybe it’s finally wanting kids, or just another year with Matt, who won’t say a mean word about anybody (except about the Guidos and Guidettes on “Jersey Shore”, which I make him watch, and you betchya he enjoys it, and for the actress Katherine Heigel which he has an odd fuming distaste for), so I’m re-evaluating my coal-in-the-stocking ways.

Then there’s the trash collectors. They have a truly awful job, but we pay an arm and a leg for trash pick-up (although I’m sure that never sees their pockets), and we only put our trash out every OTHER week since we don’t have a lot. I’m also puzzled at the logistics of tipping the trash collectors. Do you tape an envelope to the can? What if they don’t see it, or worse, it goes in the truck with the rest of the garbage? I’m also rationalizing not giving them a tip because we only put our trash out every other week, giving them a “gift” on weeks off. Don’t say it, I know: I’m awful.

And it’s not about the measly 20 bucks, or anything, and when Matt and I eat out we always, always tip 20%, but I guess it runs on principal. There has to be a cut-off: for a hair dresser, a personal trainer (which I think I will purchase a small gift for), or a newspaper delivery person, they are providing a service for you that is extra, right? It’s right to acknowledge them during the holidays, but where does it end? Looking online, it doesn’t. Also, that Emily Post MUST be a multi-millionaire.

So please let me know what you do to acknowledge the mail carrier and any other folks in your tipping/gifting arena. I put a snazzy poll on the side of the blog (well, it’s snazzy for me, anyway). And please leave a comment if you have good gift ideas. I’m thinking a gift card to Wawa or Dunkin’ Donuts may be nice. Oh, and Happy Holidays (isn't that what it's all about?!)!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow day!

Today it snowed more than a foot (18 inches in Philadelphia so far) on the Eastern seaboard (and it's still snowing into the night)! Matt and I spent 6 hours (6!) watching The Tudors, and thought we should finally venture outside to stage a doggie photo shoot (well, the photo shoot was my idea, he was all about "shoveling" or some such hogwash). After some homemade hot chocolate with no less than 36 mini marshmallows apiece, we took to the driveway. Here is Penny, not very happy in the storm. But we thought it was sort of magical.

I said to Matt, "Let me take your picture!" I thought he was just posing.

Until he hit me in the face. Here is the gruesome after shot. My winter wonderland suddenly turned very dark. Vengeance was mine. (Coincidentally, this photo is entitled "Sexy Face, Number Two")

Matt thought this was all very funny. Even when I held a pile of snow he mocked me and called me a "sissy".

Until I hit him with the snowball. Then everything felt a little better...for me.

Back inside, I made some impromptu "Christmas Pizzas" with a toasted Italian loaf of bread, pasta sauce, pesto, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and of course, cheese.

Continuing the Christmas spirit we're watching Elf and wrapping gifts.
I hope your snow day was just as jolly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No, not the heirloom tomatoes!

I took a break from political posts because, frankly, it's just all too depressing. And food posts are just more delicious. So I was excited to hear the following news today, which combines juicy polito gossip AND food. Christmas came early, indeed.

Costco Protects Palin from Tomatoes by Taking Them Off Shelves

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Veggie Korma

I don’t have a tried-and-true method for coping with a bad day.   Maybe it’s blogging?  Eh, no, I’m much more of a cliché than that: I’m sure it’s food.  Yesterday I had a particularly angsty day (one of those “What do I want to do with my life?!” and “This is all I’ve accomplished so far?!” melodramas that is in no way unique).  Ah, the cries of the passionless….

Anyway, Matt and I have ate out four times last week, and indulged in brownies, cookies, cakes, and chocolates, and oh, the holidays are most definitely here.  So I had to take the ladle by the handle and say, “Enough!”.  I decided what we needed, in fact, was more food, but home cooked this time, and there is no other cuisine that I am more obsessed with lately than that of India.

On one of our many culinary excursions we dined at an Indian buffet for lunch on Friday.  I could positively bathe in curry.  That’s how much I adore it.  It was a sea of browns, oranges, and reds, mixed with cream and tomatoes and fried onions.  I had channa masala, then a rich dish with paneer (which is cheese, and which you have to be crazy not to love), then vegetable korma, then veggie masala.  And don’t forget the fried veggie fritters and the naan and heaps of basmati rice flecked with peas.  If you’re trying to eat vegetarian, there is no better place to start than with Indian food: the land of lentil dhals and chickpea curries.  Matt, of course, helped himself to some goat.  I think they are the most endearing creatures (after dogs, of course), and he thinks they are the most delicious.  We also made a deal that if we are to eat vegetarian at home, he could eat whatever he damn well pleases when we’re out, even if it includes, yes, goat.  Oh, and steak.  The boy has been eating his fair share of that lately, too.

So last night I threw myself into this dish: Vegetable Korma.  It’s simple but probably the most involved Indian dish I made to date because 1) I had to grind cashews to a fine powder which I found sort of thrilling, and 2) the spice list is a bit out of control.  I even, get this, tried to make it with tofu.  That’s how out-of-my-mind I was.  I love tofu out, namely because they fry/bake-that-bean-curd-to-a-crisp – what’s not to love?  My forays into tofu have been disgusting, at best.  Years ago we tried to make it in a stir-fry but DID NOT DRAIN IT, which is a fool’s mistake and tofu 101, but we’re amateurs.  Yesterday I put paper towels above and below that wobbly white cube and then, in a moment of divine inspiration, but my Kitchenaid Mixer above the whole mess for 45 minutes.  A Kitchenaid is quite possibly the heaviest thing in your home, let alone in your kitchen.

I then cut the tofu into rectangles and fried the darlings.  After eating one I screeched, “Psf!”  I know I had to marinate those suckers in the sauce, and that tofu can take on many flavors, but I was just so turned off by it, and not to mention I made something healthy into a fatty fry-y mess, I threw it out.  (Although Matt and Penny helped themselves to some.  That doesn’t say much as Matt, as you know, eats goat, and Penny has been known to devour banana peels.)

But nevermind the tofu, because this has broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, peas, and carrots to help keep you satiated (forget I ate an apple and some cereal later in the night).  Next time I’ll probably throw in some boiled potatoes to boot.  The recipe I followed didn’t include the broccoli and cauliflower, and I thought that was a travesty (and I had two near-rotting heads in the fridge), so I put them in.  The gravy is thick and flavorful and mimicked what I’d had out at restaurants.  The recipe, with the whole tofu debacle, took me over an hour to make, but was therapeutic in its own aromatic way: and that’s what I’d consider a culinary success.  My interpretation of Veggie Korma is below.

Vegetable Korma

  • 2/3 - 1 cup unsalted cashews or almonds (gently toasted in dry skillet)
  • 3 tsp poppy seeds (gently toasted in a dry skillet)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 TB ginger paste (or 1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped)
  • 2-3 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 cup cooked peas
  • 4-6 cups steamed broccoli and cauliflower
  • 1 56 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried fenugreek 
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 2 tsp red chili powder (to taste)
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • chopped cilantro to garnish

Using a spice grinder, grind together the cashews and poppy seeds into a fine powder. Set aside.

In a skillet with 1-2 Tb. oil, cook onions until soft. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir fry an additional 2 minutes and add the spices (salt, pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, red chili powder, garam masala and the fenugreek). Stir fry for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the carrots, stir fry for just a minute and add the bell peppers. Continue to stir fry for a few more minutes. Then stir in the ground cashews.  Mix well and add the crushed tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas.

Add 1/2 - 1 cup water and let simmer on low uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Then squeeze the lemon juice over the dish and granish with cilantro.  Serve with rice or naan. 

 The dish before the tomatoes were added.  Those colors are like Christmas!

 The ground cashews and Matt's now-dirty coffee bean grinder.  Bwhaha!


Proof that it's freezing in our house...

Even Penny is making herself at home in front of the space heater.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Swirly Cream Cheese Brownies

So I love brownies; sue me! There is nothing much better with milk, and not a whole lot more decadent. Matt isn't a huge dessert person (what guy is?) but he craves two things: apple crisp, and brownies. When he makes the latter, I insist he put nuts in at least 1/2 of the pan, because I like my brownies without 'em and god knows I'd eat the whole pan if I could.

Last weekend I made these cream cheese swirl brownies, sans nuts, and ended up eating the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. Matt came downstairs 30 minutes later and I said, "I did something bad." Without pausing he said he assumed I would eat the brownies; it was a given.

I like that we have that sort of understanding.

Swirly Cream Cheese Brownies
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, in pieces
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, in pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8 to 9-inch square baking pan. Heat butter and chocolate in a saucepan, stirring until just melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and a dash of salt until well combined. Whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan.

Then whisk together cheesecake batter ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Dollop over brownie batter, then swirl with a knife. Sprinkle chocolate chips over mixture. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until edges puff from pan.

Butter or chocolate?: I really don't know which one is more delicious.


And post.

I had six of these for breakfast the next morning. NO JUDGING!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It really would be easier if they came from a stork.

I got my period yesterday. I attribute my being upset to my want-it-now generation. The generation of text-messaging and the “Buy it Now” button on Amazon. Matt and I have been trying for six months. Six months is not very long, and terrifically short for a 27-year-old, but realizing you once again got your period, in your work bathroom, after no less than half a dozen friends or colleagues mentioned they got pregnant “without really trying”, is still a lonely experience.

And it’s not for a lack of trying. On our second month I bought a fancy ovulation machine and pee on sticks half the month. (It goes without saying how very sexy that is.) My GI said I sure do like to drain the romance out of the situation, and I had to smile sheepishly. I have gone back to the gym, and although I’m stronger, I’ve combating any weight loss progress with double helpings of curry when I return home. You know I’m getting serious when I put the serving spoon down. (Well, that part hasn’t happened yet, but I swear, on all that is holy and my reproductive system, I will stop eating leftover brownies for breakfast and eschew white rice, I swear it!) On a related note, why, oh why, must fertility be tied to weight?

People always say it happens when you’re not stressed, se la vie, go on a vacation and wham bam, it will happen! I know they mean the best, and I’m sure there is some science to it, but I notice it’s always people with kids who say that. Regardless, we went to update our passports three weeks ago. I’m thinking a cheap all-inclusive in the Caribbean, although Matt is stuck on Machu Picchu. I told him that altitude is not conducive to romance, but mainly I just want to get out of having to walk the arduous Incan Trail.

Even with my obsessive, worry-wart personality, there’s levity in the situation. First of all, it’s been six stinkin’ months! I mean, really, Kathryn, calm the hell down. Secondly, it has created a lot of off-color bedroom talk between Matt and I. Jokingly I’ll say it’s Matt’s fault, he must be sterile, and he’ll laugh and shoot back I’m barren. Or I’ll say his sperm are lazy and probably taking a smoke break, and he’ll say something about it being an epic journey for them and they’re heading for almost certain death, so I should be nice. Okay: maybe you have to be there.

I told my GI that my surgeon said I have knots of scar tissue flanking and circling my fallopian tubes, and you know what her response was? “I wouldn’t worry about that so much; I would be more concerned about that raging infection you had in your body.” Matt and I like to joke about that too. We know having, or not having, a biological child isn’t the end-all, be-all. We know we’d wouldn’t do rounds of in vitro if we do indeed have any issues: it is what it is. We’ve always talked about adoption (being a fertile Myrtle or not), but have brought it up even more so now. But I can’t deny it wouldn’t be, at least at first, disappointing to not see what our biological child would look like, or how he or she would behave, because obviously they would have a lot of panache, be blazingly witty, and be tall and oh-so-elegant.

Or, heck, maybe they would just be really hairy, like Matt. It’s on those days I hope for a boy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Zhu Zhu Pets, really?!

Oh man oh man, my favorite stock photo ever found, bar none. I love this guy!

"Press 1 is you made a purchase today for $200 at Leather Goods in Staten Island, NY. Press 2 if you did not authorize this purchase."

Motherf'in A! 2 2 2 2 2!!!!!!!!!! Click. Human voice. "Hi, Ms. Hopkins. My name is Karen. You've reached with fraud investigation department at Citibank. How are you today?"
What am I supposed to say? "Fine, thank you." Now kindly get to the point, Karen.

"We'll get this taken care of right away. Can you tell me if you have your credit card in possession?" I said I did. "Did you make a purchase online for $1200 of Zhu Zhu Pets today ma'am?"

"You have got to be kidding me, why would I want those stupid..." Karen continued. "Did you visit a McDonald's in Brooklyn, NY and spend $250? We also have a salon purchase in Brooklyn for $300."
I said no, and asked Karen how anyone could spend $250 at McDonald's. Karen wasn't as curious as me.

You see, my credit card number was stolen and the thief made a fake card and programmed my number in their magnetic strip. I'm irked but I gotta say, I find this highly impressive. Petty crooks aren't what they use to be. I'm thinking this guy should work at NASA.

I've never had my card stolen. I feel very violated, and now I'm questioning everywhere I shopped. On Friday I picked up lunch at Whole Foods and paid via credit, and it there's one thing I think when I imagine Whole Foods, it's FRAUD! Oh, and vegan cookies. Obviously.

The point of my nonsensical ramblings is this: triple check your bank and credit card accounts! Or go off the grid and live in the woods. Your call.

Lentil Soup

Doesn't lentil soup just feel healthy? Well, that's what I like to think, anyway. Last week, amidst my bean escapade, I made a vat of the stuff. It lasted for three days and became a short-lived joke ("What are you having for lunch?" "Lentil soup." "What are we having for dinner?" "Lentil soup." And so on and so forth.)

I meant to use Alton Brown's recipe, which has rave reviews online, but as I was adding the lentils I very ungracefully dumped two times the amount the recipe called for of those little suckers into the pot. Unfortunately, I didn't have all the other ingredients to simply double the recipe, and improvised. It's hard to mess up soup, and it's hard to mess up something so simple as lentil soup.

The soup was delish. My version, of course, had to oodles more cumin and a whole bunch of chopped cilantro - there is just no other way in my book and the soup took on an Indian undertone. In fact, we had it with roti. (For a girl with Crohn's, I have a very questionable affinity for all things Indian food.)

Below is Alton's recipe in its pure form. My notes follow in italics.

Lentil Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • 2 quarts chicken or veggie broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise

Place the olive oil into a large 6-quart Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and sweat until the onions are translucent, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the lentils, tomatoes, broth, coriander, cumin and grains of paradise and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook at a low simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree to your preferred consistency. Serve immediately.

My notes: What the heck is "grains of paradise" anyway?! I opted to use canned tomatoes, a 30 oz. can, and omitted those crazy grains of paradise. I added MORE CUMIN, a dash of garam masala and coriander, loads of freshly chopped cilantro, a few dashes of chili powder, and garlic. I don't have a fancy stick blender so I dumped half the soup into my food processor (where I also had diced the veggies) and pureed. I left the other half in its whole form because I never recalled my mother ever pureeing her lentil soup. I also felt some of the lentils should remain in their true form. I know, I have no shame.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My own winter wonderland

Arch nemesis #1's alien-like glow.

Arch nemesis #2 (looking very proud with his homemade naan).

I dearly love my husband, and I want to be environmentally-friendly and avoid those winter heating bills that make me queasy, but a house should not maintain a steady temperature of 57 degrees (when we’re home, and much lower – sorry, Penny – when we’re out). Matt took it upon himself to buy a space heater when he was at Lowe’s, supposedly picking up a bit of wood for a homemade spice rack, last week. He was very pleased with himself as he showed me the box and said it was “infrared”. I told him it was ugly. He said it was space-like. I told him it doesn’t go with our decor. He said it has a “neat, alien-y” quality to it. He then unpacked it, plugged it in, and said it was “beautiful” as it became hot and gained an eerie, orange glow. Penny and I looked on in begrudged acceptance.

So for the past week we’ve been living with this thing pointed at our couch. It looks exactly like an oscillating desk fan, although it does not blow any hot air: it simply radiates warmth. During this past week we’ve also had thermostat battles so our house temperature was a balmy 64 degrees at times (my doing) and, like I said, 57 degrees when Matt got whiff of my doing.

We find our own ways to cope. Penny curls up in a tight ball and burrows her face in her underbelly; from afar you just see a black circular object on the floor, the whiteness on her muzzle beneath her. I’ve taken to long, hot showers, effectively increasing our water bill (and I suppose our gas bill to heat the hot water heater, too, although Matt does not see the irony in this) and cooking hot simmering meals on the stove. Matt is just Matt: he has adapted well to living at 57 degrees. I joke he has rhino skin: nothing penetrates it – he is never hot nor cold.

Matt has also proposed we do without air-conditioning. He grew up without this modern marvel and in a buzz of fans, and said you eventually are okay with it, and simply “sweat it out”. I told him “Kathryn doesn’t ‘sweat it out’” and hippie social trends be damned, I could not live without my air-conditioner (I had already absconded to a house temperature in the high seventies in the summer months). It also takes a good deal for me to sleep: OTC sleeping aids, a white noise machine, and in the warmer months, a fan and semi-cool temperature. Matt can fall asleep, I’m quite sure, on a bed of sticks. He might even enjoy it.

When I told him this, he said we could sleep in our sun room with the windows all open and the fan on. In fact, the summer before he had already hooked up a hammock in the room “just for fun” and had slept there on occasion with Penny laying on the floor beside him. Although he won’t admit it now, he always returned to bed the following night with a sniff neck and back.

We entertained friends (hi Lauren!) this weekend and I said there is “no way we’re subjecting them to this cold house of horrors!” Matt agreed and carried his “alien” heat contraption upstairs and I turned the temperature – oh, the thrill! – to 67 degrees. Typing this, I realize I still have to ask him why subjecting friends to a cold house is not acceptable, but doing the same to his wife is perfectly rational, so I just did ask him. Our undoctored IM conversation follows:

Me: (asking the above question, I posed to you, the reader)
Matt: (again, this is verbatim) many reasons
Matt: first, because they have the little kids
Matt: also, because it doesn't cost much to have the heat high for a day, but it does for the whole winter
Matt: also, they're guests, so they get preferential treatment.
Matt: like, we use our nice napkins
Matt: that we don't use on our own
Matt: and we clean for them
Matt: we don't clean for ourselves (Editorial note: This is true. We’re pretty slovenly. Fine, I am.)
Kathryn: but don't you care about your wife's comfort?
Matt: why do I feel like whatever I say is going to be rewritten and misrepresented on the blog?
Kathryn: i will quote you
Kathryn: no misrepresentation
Matt: if you really want we can turn the heat up
Kathryn: so it takes a threat of public humiliation to offer that?
Matt: it can be your christmas present
Matt: hehe
Kathryn: i see. you'll see parts of his conversation on the blog

So there you have it. He wasn’t happy I reposted that conversation, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. The space heater is nothing new, and not at all surprising. I agree with it, I do, but I think the house can be a bit warmer and the heater can take the place of a few degrees. I told him a few degrees could be hundreds of dollars in the span of a cold winter, but has a more “all or nothing” approach. In fact, he stated he already compromised with the 57 degree setting.

So it is no wonder I asked my grandmother for a Snuggie this Christmas.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My fleshy perspective

This morning I had my usual Friday ditty at the gym, and a friend who attends mentioned her husband told her she’s gained weight. This girl – and I am not exaggerating – is absolutely gorgeous; she could be a fitness model!

We’re doing crunches on the mat, my trainer in the middle, and she tells us what her husband, of a month or so, said. And then says it’s probably true, the cookie dough didn’t help, or the cupcakes, ad nauseum. If a girl like this – so physically “perfect” – can have these hang-ups – where does that leave the rest of us? And where the hell is her husband so I can beat him down, because although I do not know him, there is no way this boy didn’t marry up.

So there I am, a comparatively frumpy mess next to these two model-droids, and they asked if Matt would ever say that, and I let out a hoot and a holler and think, “Are you kidding me?” Look, Matt isn’t some scared, suppressed little boy who can’t voice his opinion, but he realizes I – and so many other women – are already our own worst enemy when it comes to outward appearances. He doesn’t have to say anything, because I already noticed…four weeks ago. We, as women, are already acutely aware of any so-called “imperfections”, real or imaginary. And he’s told me he’s not going to play that game. He washes his hands of this whole, sick obsession. No amount of baiting or whining or insisting would get him to say I was fat. Or my hair was bad. Or anything equally ugly.

So if a gorgeous girl, who works out daily and actually looks GOOD in spandex, thinks she’s fat, where does that leave the rest of us? (And I’m thinking in my head, “If you think you’re fat, what does that make me?”) It’s taken me 27 years to get more comfortable with my body, and I still struggle with my weight. I lose five pounds, I gain five pounds. I am overweight: I have stretch marks and a dimpled butt and, count them, two stomach rolls (three depending on if I’m slouching). And it’s taken almost six years with Matt telling me I’m beautiful for me to finally stop saying, “Shut up”, and just….thank him.

I grew up tall and chubby and just BIG – I was off those growth charts – and was called “walrus” on the bus in middle school by the seventh grade boys. I cried (I like to think, proudly now, never in front of them) and prayed for the year to end so they would move up to our intermediate school and I wouldn’t see their rotten faces. Every day for a year they would taunt me, throw gum in my hair and tell me I should change my name to Jenny, as in Jenny Craig. As a kid, and now, I cannot believe the viciousness of their endless bullying, yet I know my situation was nothing unique. So, yes, like most girls, I grew up with a weight complex. And although I know nothing can be done about bullies and – although childless – I already am nurturing my mother-hen mentality: I know I will never let my child feel inferior in any way based on her physicality. It upsets me that girls are already too painfully aware of double chins, or flat chests.

I have my demons: I hate women who say, “Ooo…I’m being so bad eating this!”, but (and I hate admitting this) I occasionally do the same. I will always struggle with the scale. Just a few weeks back I wrote how I gained a few pounds, when instead I should have been thinking of the muscle I was gaining (seriously, I may have a jelly belly but my thighs are out of this world), and the home-cooked meals I was eating. Not that I’m celebrating fat – it’s unhealthy and I damn well know it – but something has got to give. We’ve all heard it before: we’re the fattest nation and the must obsessed with weight. Something isn’t gelling.

So I’ve been concentrating on more mindful eating, although portion control will always be a challenge (I mean, hello, fresh baked naan is waiting!!). And, oh yes, I will eat that Andes mint (thank you for offering) and I did partake in the “Espresso Explosion” ice cream, and I damn well enjoyed it. But then we eat a heck of a lot of colorful fruits and fibrous veggies. We eat out maybe once a week. We’re working on limiting our meat. We enjoy spending time in the kitchen.

There’s one small consolation since getting sick: I’ve been easier on myself, and happier. As clichéd as it is, it put things in perspective, as in, “Yeah you got some rolls and a zipper scar down your abdomen, but you just walked six miles with the dog and for once, she’s more tired than you. Take that!” And this morning, as I was blow-drying my hair in the locker room and thinking about what was said, I made a point to look at the other women in the there, and realized I was the largest. And I was happy for two reasons: I didn’t care, and above all, I’ve never even noticed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This would bring casual Fridays to new heights...

Holy shinizzle! Look at what I just found! Now that's some fashion I could get behind.

I love legumes.

There they are. All my lovelys...

I am having an affair with beans. And Indian food. And lots of it.

I am perpetually stuffed, and I swear on all that is holy my stomach is sticking out more. Beans are fibrous and filling, so you don't need to eat huge plates full of the stuff, but I still do. With naan. And chopped cilantro. Let me explain: these past few weeks I've been increasingly enamored with legumes. I cannot help it. Maybe it's a gastronomic rebellion of sorts: I had to limit my fiber while I was sick, and now I'm having a gluttonous free-for-all with nuts and beans and tomatoes. And chocolate. Oh, and cheese. Help me.

Every night I whip up another curry or Indian dal or whatever, and, oh lord, I cannot stop. Beans are so damn versatile. And cheap. And healthy. Like I said, I'm having an affair with legumes. And baby, they're gooooood.....
That being said, more bean recipes will be posted shortly. Sorry.

Tonight we had channa masala, an Indian chickpea and tomato dish. One of my favorites at Indian restaurants, second only to chicken saag. (Really, it's better than it sounds.) And to make matters worse, Matt just made a huge batch of homemade sesame naan. Perfect for scooping up more beans! Hey, when we get into something, we really get into it.

Here's to hoping you can stomach more beans...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuna Melts, all grown up

Last year I started receiving Food & Wine magazine out of nowhere. Since I'm not one to question things, I immediately started flipping through and eyeing all the fancy recipes I would make once I had, a) a gourmet kitchen, b) no job, and c) a culinary degree. Then a few months ago I came across a tuna melt rendition that was positively refreshing: oil and balsamic vinegar in lieu of mayo? Why, yes! I love diner tuna melts, but I wanted to eschew the norm. To be all fancy-like. So this tuna melt is all grown up, and delicious to boot.

I used cheddar cheese, but I could see it with Gruyere. In fact, next time I'm making it with Gruyere. Another idea is to throw some capers into the tuna mixture, or perhaps some chopped roasted red peppers. Wow...this tuna melt is inspiring, indeed.

Oregon Tuna Melts
  • Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil (Although a totally different flavor, I used Italian parsley and it was a perfect substitution.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Dijon mustard and mayonnaise, for spreading
  • Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Swiss or cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
  • Sixteen 1/8-inch-thick lengthwise slices of kosher dill pickle
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  1. In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil(or parsley) and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. *Heat a panini press or griddle. Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and mayonnaise and top each roll half with a slice of cheese. Spread the tuna salad on the bottoms and cover with the pickles. Close the sandwiches and spread the outsides of the rolls with the butter.
  3. Add the sandwiches to the press and cook over moderate heat until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.
*Note: Panini press, smanini press. Although it doesn't produce picture-perfect results, we used a skillet and flattened with a big ol' pot.

Delish. I started eating it out of the bowl. Would be great on top of a salad, as well.

Mid-prep. This would have been a great time to invest in those flat "sandwich" dill pickles, but since I'm sort of ghetto (or what I like to call industrious), I did my best with slicing up some spears.


(Mostly) Black Bean Chili

My favorite spices are cumin and cilantro (coriander) without a doubt. I adore them, relish them, and all my culinary dreams center around them. We've also been eating a lot of beans lately, and our all-time favorite bean is the black bean. We have black beans in veggie enchiladas, on top of nachos, in Indian dishes, and, sadly enough, Matt tops his hot dogs with them.

So it is only fitting, as the winter chill sets in, that I should make a black bean chili loaded with cilantro and cumin. This chili calls for all black beans, but I threw in a can of pink beans JUST TO GO A BIT CRAZY! We do not discriminate when it comes to beans.

This chili is meatless and takes no more than 30 minutes to cook: perfect for a quickie pantry meal after a long day at work. It's also delicious, has a terrific balance of spice, and can be made without the heat by omitting the cayenne pepper. We served with honey corn muffins I found in Real Simple, but I think it would even be better with tortilla chips (oops, that's another thing we love!).

Black Bean Chili
  • olive oil, for sauteing
  • 2 medium to large onions, chopped
  • 2 medium bell peppers
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, drained, 1/2 cup liquid reserved (or a mixture of black beans and pink)
  • 1 32-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 16-ounce can hominy (optional)
  • cilantro to taste (We adore cilantro; I used about 1 cup chopped and very loosely packed, and then topped with additional cilantro.)

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté until onions soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne; stir 2 minutes. Mix in beans, 1/2 cup reserved bean liquid, hominy (if using), and diced tomatoes. Bring chili to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend and chili thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Top with cilantro, sour cream, grated cheese, and scallions. Gobble up!

Chopping set-up. All the peels go in the compost pail, which is a nice change from the fruit fly-laden jar Matt used to keep. Thank you, Crate & Barrel.

Muffins out of the oven.

Makes awesome leftovers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

An early "Happy Thanksgiving!" to everyone! Right now I'm baking pumpkin bread pudding (just got done melting brown sugar, butter, and cream for the caramel la la), and am caramelizing spiced pecans. It doesn't get more decadent than this. I hope you're able to partake in all the turkey, stuffing, and sinful desserts your heart desires with family and friends.

Nuthin' like like some early-morning B12

So I'm still waiting for this supposed energy I should acquire after getting a B-12 shot. Where is my energy, damnit?! I should be leaping tall buildings by now. Instead I'm sitting at my desk wondering why I have heartburn.

This morning I received my fifth B12 shot. It's a minor - albeit forever - inconvenience. Your terminal ileum is the only part of your body that absorbs B12, which is necessary for "normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood" (thanks Wikipedia!).

Because I had the whole of my terminal ileum removed (plus some) back in April, a blood test a month and a half ago showed I was B12 sufficient. Since then I've been off to my PCP for early-morning shots. I received a shot every week to get my liver stores up, and now am on monthly maintenance. Shots are necessary - the pills just don't cut it.

On the Internet, B12 enthusiasts claim it gives them loads of energy, and can even assist in weight loss. I emphatically say both these claims are untrue: I'm pudgy AND tired. (Again, let's ignore my nacho habit and lack of a regular sleep schedule.)

What I'm wondering is this: Does anyone do home B12 injections? Since it's something so benign, and I'll be doing it forever, I thought I'd ask. I also want to freak Matt out with my sharp needle.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Oh my GOD! You chopped off ALL your hair!"

On Saturday I got my hair cut – I mean, big time cut. I now have a pixie cut – it’s as short as my husband’s – and I’ve gotten a lot of strange, albeit well-meaning, comments. Comments like, “If you were ugly it would it wouldn’t look good, but you’re pretty so it works.” Thanks? Or, “You have a lot of guts! But it looks good” (emphasis on the “but”). Someone said, “It’s so cute; it works because you have a feminine face!” Well, thank you; I’d be a bit worried if my face wasn’t feminine, so I appreciate that. Other comments were very flattering, “You look so sophisticated!” or “You look like Audrey Hepburn!” (I wish, but thank you).

The back-handed compliments made me think about the relationship women have with their hair. Why is long hair deemed sexy, whereas short hair is always “cute”? And why did I get asked – no less than half a dozen times – what my husband, Matt, thought about it? Frankly, honey, I don’t care what he thinks (fine, maybe a smidgen of care, if we’re going to be 100% honest here). And anyway, like a good husband, he’s been trained to say I always look beautiful, so I’m guessing he’s fearful of ever saying anything lukewarm. (On the record, he said he loves it, said I’ve never looked better and seemed very genuine.)

Even I fell into the, “Well, it’s perky and cute but not exactly pretty” trap. Matt said I was being ridiculous, and I hated myself for making that comment, but said it anyway. Now, it’s not like I had lush, long hair before the big cut: I had slightly-below-shoulder-length hair that was baby fine and always (always) pulled back. I put it up in a clip, puffed it at the top (not to the height of the Palin poof, mind you), and thought it looked good pulled back. So, having a cut so short that it’s essentially pulled back isn’t that far out of line. But, yesterday, at the grocery store, I made it a point to seek out short-cropped women. There were three, and two of them were above the age of 60.

I was wearing sweats and sneakers and, again, felt…boyish. Again, I blamed society and not my own insecurities. I went home and looked in the mirror – it’s a big change – but I know a lot of women who use their hair as a security blanket and decided I wouldn’t be one of them (let’s forget I never had fabulous hair). Now, I’m not without hypocrisy: I wear make-up almost daily, and that’s just as much a security blanket. But hair is just silliness. It grows back, and should be fun. Why the, “Oh my god, you chopped off all your hair!” comments?

So, today, I’m rocking it. I have a black headband on and a berry lipstick. My hair took three minutes flat to blow-dry and style. And next week? Maybe next week this 5’10” girl will wear heels…but let’s not push it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Roasted Veggie Lasagna

I try to stay away from cheese-tastic dishes for obvious reasons, but once in a while a girl just wants lasagna. Matt and I have been making a concerted effort to eat much less - if any - meat, so this is a roasted veggie version, adapted from (Actually, Matt isn't so on-board with the no meat thing, and he told me - with devilish delight - that he opted for the filet mignon over the pasta primavera for his holiday work party. He then laughed sadistically and ran away, screeching, "Men like meat!!!")

So, anyway, when I was at the doctor last week, I was weighed, which used to be an emotionally-wrought 30 seconds, until I began barking to the poor nurse/medical assistant to not tell me what I weigh. This time I looked: I was going to the gym, my golly! Well, I had gained five more pounds from a few weeks ago. Oops! I would like to attribute it to "more muscle" (hardy har har) but then I thought about this lasagna I had just made, and those Illini Bars.

I told myself "no more lasagna! no more sweets!" but by the time I got home I was re-heating these yummy leftovers. So much for will power.


Roasted Veggie Lasagna
  • 1 pound eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1/2 pound medium fresh mushrooms, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 small zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) container reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 (26 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles (1 package)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • chopped fresh basil (optional)


  1. Coat two 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pans with nonstick cooking spray. Place eggplant and mushrooms on a prepared pan. Place the zucchini and pepper on the second pan. Combine the oil and garlic; brush over both sides of vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Turn vegetables over. Bake 15 minutes longer.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg. Spread about 1/4 cup pasta sauce in a 13x9 baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Layer with four lasagna noodles (noodles will overlap), half of ricotta cheese mixture, half of vegetables, a third of pasta sauce and 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese (sprinkle basil, if using). Repeat layers. Top with the remaining noodles and pasta sauce.
  3. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until edges are bubbly and cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.
Check out those...knife skills.

Those zucchinis sort of look like eels.

Like you wouldn't eat the leftovers, either.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mid-November in Valley Forge Park

Some photos from the ill-fated tick excursion. Scenic? Yes. Dangerous? ABSOLUTELY! (Melodrama has always been my strong suit.)