Thanksgiving 2011

I am so late posting these that I seriously thought about posting them next year.  Instead I decided to post the pictures now and wait until next year to post a full menu with recipes for each dish.  These turned out wonderfully, so much so that my mother-in-law said that this was her best Thanksgiving EVER!  (Also, for those of you who were wondering after this week I have officially gained back all of the weight from the 6 weeks @ 1200 cals experiment–it only took me 5 weeks!)

First the table and appetizers:


The Bird.

Picking fresh rosemary

The pumpkin pie. Made from scratch, from a real pumpkin.



Let’s Make a Date Muffins

I decided to whip up some of these Let’s Make a Date Muffins for pre-Thanksgiving breakfast and snacking. I decided not the follow the Epicurious recipe by omitting the streusel top because I wanted to make them a bit lighter given the amount of food we have planned for later in the day. They turned out great! Here’s some pics of the process:

these are the ingredients needed
pitted dates soaking in boiling water

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 5, Day 1/Day 29

8:30 AM–morning coffee with a splash of milk 20 cals along with a Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax Bar @ 180 cals

11am couldnt wait any longer to try the 200 cal DiGiorno pizzas that I picked up, but then I accidentally burnt it (is this a sign?) so I only ate about half of it after cutting off the burnt edges for approx. 100 cals It is Pizza Month after all!

I followed this by a serving of cottage cheese @ 90 cals and a Diet Root Beer

By 1pm I needed to get out so I walked up the street for a coffee with a splash of milk 20 cals and impluse bought a loaf of bread with which I decided to make a turkey sandwich

The particular type of bread that I got (Sarah Lee Honey Wheat) is 150 cals for two slices, lucky me.  I added about 60 cals worth of turkey to it and about 10 cals of alfalfa sprouts and tomato slices for a 220 calorie sandwich. very low cal for a sandwich and so satisfying!

Around 5pm I started to make dinner–I decided to make Roasted Beets, aromatic rice and field peas–AKA Hoppin John, and I even posted the recipe as well. I had about a cup of rice which is about 250 cals, plus the beets with the oil they were cooked in probably came to about 150 cals, and the field peas should be about 80 cals.

Dinner comes to a total of 480 cals!  But it was good and good for me too.  I had plenty of energy for my workout and had 90 calories to spare for the post-workout snack…I decided on a pumpkin beer which is 150 cals but whatever.  Today’s total comes to 1260.

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 2, Day 7/Day 14

AM–camping coffee–YUM

It rained in the night so we had to forgo campfire breakfast for propane stove breakfast–scrambled eggs with some of the left over onion and green pepper from last night, with hot dog bits, wrapped in a tortilla which should be about 300 calories.

Lunch was a little more complicated. . .we didnt actually eat a proper lunch, so I had like a handful of chips, a quarter of a bag of beef jerky, some Chex mix, and a diet soda. I’m going to estimate 300 calories, since it really wasnt much food and I was pretty hungry all afternoon.

On the way back into LA I got an Americano at Intelligencia it was amazing and the only reason that I made it through the rest of the day.  Before heading home we had some of a California Pizza Kitchen Garlic Chicken Pizza, about a servings worth which they estimate to be 240 calories and I kind of dont believe it because it was so greasy.

Then it was off to another Silverlake friend’s Peach picking and cobbler making birthday dinner party, where I had a serving of some very yummy fresh peach cobbler and a small glass of the mystery punch they were serving that was supposedly Martha Washington’s recipe–check out this version here. I think between the cobbler and the punch I probably downed another 500 calories, but it was well worth trying out the new yummy dishes and spending some time with quality company.  So that’s 1340 for the day, not too shabby but still over 12oo cals 😦

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 2, Day 4/Day 11

Breakfast 8:30 AM-

I had these awesome Morning Star Sausage meatless aka fake meat patties with maple syrup flavor, which strangely have the same calories as the non-maple flavored ones. . .isnt it nice when you realize that you’re eating substanceless flavor chemicals?  These were 80 calories each and 10g of protein each–which is awesome–two of them gave me 20 g of protein and 160 calories.

I washed those babies down with some OJ, which I used to drink every morning but haven’t since this 1200 calorie thing and man have I missed juice.  Juice is good. I had about 8oz for 110 calories.

I had my AM coffee at Fratelli Café on Melrose and Formosa, no splash of milk today, I’m feeling bold.  While I was drinking it, two different dudes actually craned their necks out of their car windows to “holler” at me, one of whom was blasting Kenny Rogers. . .that was GOLDEN!

I wandered up the street and went into the “T” Salon near the corner of Melrose and La Brea and I sampled a bunch of their “on tap” teas. . soooo good.  I felt really bad that I had just bought a bunch of tea at Lupicia earlier this week, next time I will go to the T salon!

Then I had a meeting at M cafe with some other local foodies and I had. . .MORE COFFEE!  Yay.

1PM Back home for lunch I cooked up the rest of my steak tips and heated up some of the sautéed veggies from earlier this week, which I ate with a serving of cottage cheese. The steak serving was about 180 calories, the veggies about 70 cals, and the cottage cheese 90 cals, for a good lunch total of 340 calories.

This afternoon I decided to make the Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt brownies.  It comes as a mix and you just add 2/3 of a cup of non-fat yogurt to it, they turned out really good @ 120 calories each they are a great diet dessert. . .if you can eat just one.

Tonight we had an event at The Foundry (last time I was there I spotted a gaggle of hobbits. . .well a bunch of actors who play hobbits anyway, and I had the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich that they refer to as “fat on fat on fat” (how about yum on yum on yum!?) which was featured here !)

Apparently, if you didnt know this already, I have two major weaknesses–free stuff and cheese.  During the night of free drinks and appetizers, I had three glasses of wine (which, for me, was majorly holding back) and one of each kind of appetizer–a mini crab cake, a sliver of a grilled cheese sandwich, spinach en croute, this really cool beet pancake thing with goat cheese and beet slices on top of it.  So I am going to estimate 200 cals for the appetizers and a whopping 600 for the wine, since they were hefty pours. So 800 calories later, the problem was that we were still hungry. . .and they had run out of grilled cheese!  So we left the event and went to Campanile on La Brea, which if you havent been there you must check out.

Here’s what they say about it: “Campanile is housed in an historic and dramatic structure built in 1929 by architect Roy Sheldon Price for Hollywood legend Charlie Chaplin. Mr Chaplin originally intended to use the building for personal offices, but surrendered ownership to his second wife, Lita Grey, as part of their divorce settlement. In the late 1980s, following decades of neglect, the building was purchased by Executive Chef Mark Peel, former Pastry Chef Nancy Silverton and former Wine Director Manfred Krankl. Architect Josh Schweitzer supervised a complete remodel, converting the structure into a magical space intended for a bakery and restaurant. La Brea Bakery opened in January of 1989, with Campanile following six months later.

Over the past twenty years, both the restaurant and its Executive Chef, Mark Peel, have received numerous awards, including: the James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Restaurant Award – 2001,” the “Los Angeles Culinary Master of the Year,” and Food & Wine‘s “Best New Chefs.” We have also been nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Wine Service Award,” its “Best California Chef Award” and, most recently, their “Outstanding Restaurant Award – 2008.”

We have been wanting to go here for a while, but it’s always booked when we try to go. I’ve been hearing a lot about Mark Peel lately too, so showing up late on a Thursday was the way to get a table here.  But the best part is that Thursdays they have a special grilled cheese menu.  We shared the grilled onion and tomato grilled cheese, which the waiter put on split plates with a huge bed of lettuce and brought us complimentary fries since he took so long to get to us.  We tried really hard to resist the fries, but ate all of the salad and each of our gilled cheese halves.  It was not nearly as good as the Foundry, I would even venture to say that Norms is more to my liking–and at 15 dollars a pop, I doubt that I will venture back there on grilled cheese night, but maybe for some of their other entrees.  (someone else agrees with me) So I’m going to say that it was 300 for the half of the grilled cheese sandwich, making the day’s total a whopping 1830~!

How to Caramelize Sugar on the Stovetop

I’ve noticed lately that in a lot of cookbooks the recipes that require caramelized sugar often just say “add 2 cups caramelized sugar” but they don’t tell you how to actually make the caramelized sugar yourself.  It seems like a simple process, but actually it’s really easy to mess up and its really really easy to burn yourself making caramelized sugar.

I believe that you really do need a candy thermometer to do this right, because it may look like it’s a caramel brown but still be in the soft crack stage when you really want it in hard crack stage, so its best to know for sure what the temp is before you pour it out.

You will need:

A med saucepan

A candy thermometer

A wooden spoon



Lemon Juice

A cooking brush (or a small paintbrush)

First, for every Cup of sugar that you are making add 1 tablespoon of water and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.  I find these proportions to work best, the lemon juice helps to stop it from crystallizing.  Place in saucepan on high heat. Stir often but not continuously.

While its first heating up get your brush wet with warm/hot water–you might just want to keep a bowl of water on the stove to dip it in.  As you stir your sugar mixture some will cling to the sides and start to crystallize, you want to just take the wet brush and brush that back into the mix as it happens.

Once the mixture is liquid and starts to bubble check the temperature.  Around 250 degrees it should be a squishy ball when it dries.  Be VERY CAREFUL the liquid is really not now, so don’t touch it or do something silly like lick the spoon –I almost always end up doing this and it really hurts!

So once the mixture has boiled for about 10 mins it should shrink down and start to turn a golden brownish color.  It looks like this from about 275-350, so you need to check your temp before you stop cooking.  Also be sure to keep brushing the edges down throughout the whole process.  You need to get it to 302 degrees and then you can turn off the heat and pour it into your pan, or do whatever you’re going to do with it.