Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poor Clarence

"You will someday make a large fortune, 
in some easy way,
and have one horse for your carriage, and one for your wife…
and a pretty gate to the front yard, and plenty of shrubbery…
your wife will come dancing down the path to meet you…
she will wear white dresses, with a blue sash--

Poor Clarence,
it never occurs to you that even Madge may grow fat,
and wear check aprons, and snuffy-brown dresses of woolen stuff,
and twist her hair in yellow papers!"

from Dream Life by I K Mavel

Once upon a time, as the decade changed from the Happy Days of the 1950s to the Mad Men year of 1960, there was a slim 17 year old girl. At 5 ft. 7 1/2 inches tall she weighed 128 pounds.

Being slim was not enough. Her first prom was coming and she wanted a 22 inch waist for her prom gown. By eating lettuce for supper, she lost almost 8 pounds. With a panty girdle, which all ladies wore then, the girl's waist measured 22 inches.

By graduation the next year her weight was back up to 128 pounds. The first two years of marriage saw her weight creep up to 132 pounds. She was a woman now and no longer eating her mother's well-balanced meals, and she was sitting at a desk all day as receptionist for a publishing company.

Another two years passed and her weight went up and down between 130 and 136 pounds, depending on whether or not she was on her Canned Corn Diet.

At 24 she had her first baby and less than two years later, her second. After that her weight ranged from 132 to 145 pounds as she went on and off doctor-prescribed diet pills.

There followed years of countless diets. One that seemed to promise much brought heaps of guilt when she dropped out of the Vanderbilt Rotation Diet where she had reported weekly to Vanderbilt University thinking they had the perfect and final solution to losing weight.

As always, she lost weight--in the beginning.

The young woman and a million other dieters could repeat the rest of the story in their sleep.

The Beverly Hills Diet, Air Force Diet, Scarsdale Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, the Atkins Diet (that one left her ready to take a fork and stab the fingers of anyone near her bringing mashed potatoes to their lips), Stillman, Nutri-System, Dial-a-Meal (remember the nice young man in the spangled shorts?), and Pritkin Diet (she almost fainted just reading that book).

The healthiest diet she tried was probably Weight Watchers, but she absolutely hated going to the meetings, any meetings.

The most dangerous diet the woman tried, now with 4 children,  involved going every few days to a diet center for an injection of magical potion in her hip. The diet was very low calorie and she even had to wear rubber gloves when handling raw chicken because raw chicken fat would be sucked up through her pores.

These trips ended after the "nurse" let the needle roll off the paper towel and onto the desk before injecting her one day. A day or so after that there was a bright red bull's eye on her hip, fever and flu-like symptoms. Her thin family doctor shook his head and said, "You got a dirty needle."

That was pretty scary and the woman spent the next 15 years rarely dieting.

In 2007 her health began to fall apart and she began to focus almost entirely on losing weight, following the Mediterranean Diet. Being the all-or-nothing kind of person she was, she carried it even further and for 7 months didn't eat anything sweet, not even fruit, no dairy products, white flour or processed foods. She lost 50 pounds.

Then came Thanksgiving Day and she had one piece of her special pumpkin pie. Christmas followed and she was miraculously holding her own and her lab numbers were terrific. So she made an Amaretto Trifle for the family Christmas party and ate one serving--that is, one serving a day for four days. 

And there began the Slippery Slope.

That is the long of My Story, and the Short is that I vowed never again to go on a fad diet. I just did not have the heart or the energy for it. What I do have now, however, is a lately reborn desire to focus on what I can do.

I can plan healthier meals. Cut portion size. Try to be more active.

I can satisfy my sweet tooth or snack attack by throwing some nuts in a pan with olive oil to sauté and a light sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt. I can have a piece of fruit or berries with it. I can add a piece of cheese if I have to.

Nuts satisfy a sweet craving for me--if I remember to eat them! I've always loved walnuts and pecans but now I'm adding almonds to my meals and snacks. 

Almonds contain gamma-tocopherol, protein, Vit E, folic acid, magnesium, copper and zinc. They have a whopping amount of fiber. Best of all, the tryptophan may help my insomnia.

I made a recipe for a dip from the American Heart Association for this post. It was full of cucumber and scallions and herbs and toasted chopped almonds, all done in the food processor. Next it said to add fat free or light sour cream to the food processor.  So easy but such a waste. It's still sitting in my fridge. I think pulsing the sour cream in the food processor was not a good idea. I'm talking major gag.

So there I was with a crisper full of fresh vegetables but no dip. What to do? 

I found one of my favorite dip recipes and simply added almonds to it. And it occurred to me that I can do this with so many of my own recipes. So many things would be better and healthier with nutritious almonds in it.

This one is based on a recipe from my favorite Nathalie Dupree cookbook. She calls it Lime and Cilantro Salsa, but it's really a dip.

Lime, Cilantro and Almond Dip

1. Chop fine, 1 bunch of cilantro. 
2. Chop fine 1 or 2 jalapeños.  
3. Add juice of 2 limes to cilantro and jalapeños,
4. Add salt and fresh ground black pepper.
5. Stir in 2 cups of sour cream or Creme Fraiche.
6. Adjust seasonings to taste. 
7. Stir in 1/2 cup toasted chopped almond slices.

Okay, so this is not a diet recipe, not with sour cream as an ingredient but it is delicious and served to a group of people with a pretty platter of raw vegetables, not chips, how much damage can the sour cream do, especially if you use light sour cream? I'm not saying if I did.

Here's a recipe for Spiced Almonds from Ellie Krieger. We love to snack on these! Wonderful with a glass of wine outside in our picnic shelter before supper.

1. Toast 2 cups whole unsalted almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring
         frequently until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
2. In a small bowl, stir together:
          1 teaspoon ground cumin
          1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
          1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
          1/2 teaspoon salt
3. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil on medium heat in the skillet the almonds were toasted
         in for about 30 seconds.
4. Add the almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are warm and the 
        spices evenly distributed.
5. Add 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce and stir.
6. Remove almonds from pan and allow to cool before serving.

I'm going to look for more ways to add almonds to my meals. Remember Trout Amandine? I often ordered that when I was young when my father took us out to eat. I see another almond recipe in my near future, and I could use almond flour in it!

I'm going to try to go back to the Mediterranean Diet I was on in 2007 but not cut out all the dairy products and fruits that I did then. And don't think you won't be seeing future food posts from my beloved vintage cookbooks. I just hope to choose the more nutritious ones, and they have got to taste delicious or they're just going to sit in my fridge until trash pickup day.

My kitchen never will be devoid of any treats, but they have got to be homemade and not loaded with chemicals.

Here's R.H.'s favorite Christmas sweet, a longtime family recipe, maybe from Southern Living, and it has lots of almonds in it. Okay, it has sugar in it too but R.H. has volunteered to eat all of these himself. This one begins as a meringue and ends up tasting like pralines.

Sugared and Spiced Nuts

1. In a rimmed shallow baking pan combine 1/2-pound each of blanched whole almonds
        and pecan halves, and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Roast in 350 degree oven for
        8 minutes and cool.
2. Melt 1 1/2 stick butter and let cool.
3. In mixing bowl beat 2 egg whites until they hold soft peaks, then beat in gradually
        1 cup of sugar mixed with 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
4. Continue to beat until mixture forms a soft meringue.
5. Pour the melted butter over the nuts in the baking pan and stir.
6. Pour the nuts into the meringue and stir gently.
7. Pour the mixture back into the baking pan and bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes,
         turn nuts over and bake for 10 minutes more, take out and turn once more,
         bake for 5 to 8 minutes more, or for a total of about 27 minutes.
8. Cool and store tightly covered in refrigerator.

Poor Clarence! 

Madge may have grown fat and wear snuffy-brown dresses of woolen snuff, but she's going to get herself on the Mediterranean Diet!

Maybe Madge does wear check aprons but she refuses to twist her hair in yellow papers. 

Besides, it's naturally curly!

So there, Clarence!

This post was cheerfully done at the invitation from the nice people at, without compensation. The timing was providential as I've been searching for ways to add more of the Super Foods to my meals--and almonds are on that list. Go here to find out more about the health benefits of almonds.

I ordered pine nuts from last summer and I love's site. I know you will too. I'm in awe of their almond page! I've never seen so many amazing flavors of almonds as are on this page. I want to order a dozen, at the very least. And they've been a family-owned company since 1929. I really like that fact.

But perhaps I'd better not buy any more Amaretto, even if it does have almonds in it?

Dear readers, here's your chance to share with me ways that you incorporate almonds into your diet--please pass on your ideas!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

To Pergola Or Not To Pergola

Just curious…

Would you have done what our client did 5 years ago?

This is their back porch.
They asked us to change their pergola to a 
covered roof porch.

I couldn't believe they wanted to get rid of the pergola.

They wanted to be able to use the porch when raining
and be able to keep it cleaner.

It was an unusual request and required building a slope that would accommodate the upstairs windows.

They already had a screened porch attached,
and we had to seamlessly tie the two together.

They were thrilled to have a usable porch.

What would you have done?

Kept the pergola?

Or preferred a covered porch?

Just curious.

[Sorry for the poor pictures but it was 5 years ago!]

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pie in the Sky

Well, not really. Pie on the table here today.

Can you believe it?
After my last post was about healthy eating?

I did take it seriously, friends, and printed out every one of your comments.
So many good ideas there--thank you!

But today is Father's Day,
and R.H.'s request was coconut cream pie.

That's our wedding china there,
Copeland-Spode Blue Bird.

I had leftover pie dough so I made a pecan pie too.

But wait, what did our daughter-in-law bake for him for Father's Day?

A chocolate meringue pie!

Three pies!
R.H. is in pie heaven and he sampled the chocolate for lunch.

I think I will freeze the pecan for July 4th
as Christy and Bryan will be here and Bryan loves pecan pie.

Have I ever showed you our vintage pie rack?
We've had it for over 40 years
and one Thanksgiving we filled up all pie pans.

My favorite vintage pie pan is the top one, "Golden Boy."
It is what I used to call our firstborn when he was a toddler:
"You're my golden boy!"
Because he had bright blonde hair.

Here's the few silver pastry forks I have and they really are nice for eating pie.

It's been a nice Father's Day.
I actually succeeded in getting R.H. to rest for once.

Here's a picture we got from our youngest son today,
a picture of our granddaughters!

Happy Father's Day!

These orange double day lilies were here when we bought the house,
planted on one side of the house.
Don't they look pretty with the Queen Anne's Lace?

Friday, June 19, 2015

I'm Trying

It's not that I don't try to eat healthier.

I've been trying to eat more fresh vegetables and lean meats.

I do best when I start preparing supper early in the day.

I turn on HGTV and start chopping.

Is there anyone other than R.H. and me who likes sardines?

They are as good for you as wild caught salmon, and cheaper.

I put them in pasta salad for protein.

I watch television and chop away,
keeping an eye on Katie Belle right outside.

What is she up to?

It's the continuing game of Catch Me If You Can.

Guess who always wins?

The show outside is even better that HGTV.

Back to my salad.

Adding fresh herbs now is only a matter of going to the front porch.

And pasta sardine salad is ready for supper.

I'm going to try red lentil rotini the next time I make this
as so many of you are having success cutting out wheat.

I don't think I'm willing to give up homemade bread yet,
but I could pass up grocery store bread.

I made Mireille Guiliano's recipe for Chicken au Champagne one night,
from her French Women Don't Get Fat book.

It was amazing with mushrooms and rice!

Even if my champagne wasn't French.

Having to fix supper at the last minute causes me the most problems.

I try.

I start some chicken breasts in the oven.

Then I wash my favorite frisee--
most people just put sprigs of this in a salad,
but I love it so much I use it for the whole salad when I find it.

I serve the chicken breasts on the greens with a vinaigrette
and the chicken drippings.

Healthy so far, right?

But then what do I put on the table?

A baguette and Irish butter.

And a big baked potato and sour cream.

Could I have given up the baguette? Absolutely.

The baked potato? 

I don't know but maybe a smaller one next time.

Some last minute healthy suppers are a cinch.

Anytime I can buy wild-caught Copper River salmon and fresh spinach,
I have no problem fixing a quick and healthy supper.

It's just those frequent nights when I have no idea what to cook,
and R.H. suggests chili dogs,
that we end up eating junk food.

And no, I didn't take a picture of that meal, or others like it.

Last minute cooking is a problem for me.

Giving up bread and pasta and potatoes is so hard.

And come Friday nights, which when our kids were young was 
always pizza and a movie night, 
guess what I crave?

It comes from this….

Yes, that's what I really want.

What do you throw together at the last minute for a healthy supper?

When I can plan, shop and begin early,
even I can fix a healthy supper.

But what are some easy last minute, satisfying suppers?

I'm just not an eat a bowl of cereal and go to bed kind of girl.