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Cake, Take Two

Friday, September 10, 2010

My first attempt at making a pineapple cake failed in misery. The cake was completely inedible. I tried again tonight.

It came out better - at least it was edible! Still not quite right, though. The 'pineapple' cake didn't taste like pineapple. It was just like a sweet, fruity muffin. While yesterday's attempt was too wet, this was a little dry. It was still moist, but I would have liked a little more moist. I think I overcompensated - lol.

There was success, though. I made an icing with greek yogurt, and mixed in shredded coconut and pecans. Delish! The icing is definitely a keeper.

The SO thought it was delicious, even if it wasn't quite what I was after. He ate it all before dinner was even finished - lol.

Scaling down a recipe for two small servings is hard - arg.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VHALKYRIE 9/11/2010 11:56PM

    FLASHTHEDOOR: Thanks! :)

WHITNEYBROOK: Sure! Will do!

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SNOWHIT 9/11/2010 11:55PM

    Still love your pans. I hope you post the icing recipe. It sounds great.

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FLASHTHEDOOR 9/10/2010 9:05PM

    oh that icing sounds good! I might have to give it a try!

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Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal of the Day?

Friday, September 10, 2010

10 years ago when I was at my heaviest, I didn't eat breakfast. I'm not much of a morning person, so I wasn't motivated to make something to eat. I'm lactose intolerant, so milk and cereal was out. I would roll out of bed, into the shower, and into the car for work. Just didn't 'have time' for breakfast.

I love variety in my diet. I cook a different dinner almost every night. The menu is wide and varied, from standard American, to Indian, to Asian, to Mexican - my house menu is almost anywhere in the world! I try to make enough to make 2-4 servings. Leftovers tend to get thrown out, and as I've discussed lately, I'm trying hard to eliminate food waste. I only make enough that will get eaten for dinner, then lunch the next day.

I eat breakfast every morning for the past six years. While I love variety, my breakfast is very consistent. I eat the same thing every morning, with the exception on the weekends. Saturdays we tend to go out for brunch. Sunday mornings I make scrambled eggs, bacon and french toast at home.

During the weekday, it's the same thing every day - greek yogurt, blueberries, and whole grain cereal. Greek yogurt doesn't upset my stomach like milk. I do not like the sweetened packaged yogurts - they have way too much sugar in them. I just buy the plain yogurt, and sweeten with blueberries and a little sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. This saves me an extraordinary amount of calories since I eat it every day. It really adds up.

I would get bored eating spaghetti for dinner every night, but for some reason, my daily breakfast never gets old. Sometimes I'll sub a different fruit for the blueberries, but it's pretty much the same every day.

Maybe it's because of just rolling out of bed, but the consistency is just easier. I can start the coffee pot, and put my cereal, yogurt and fruit in a bowl while half asleep. Whatever it is, these days if I don't have breakfast by 8 or 9am, then I definitely feel sluggish and unproductive. Even if I don't feel hungry, I can't concentrate. My mood suffers. I don't get work done because all I can think about is what I'm going to eat for lunch - lol.

I lost 30 lbs 6 years ago, and my weight has been pretty stable. While it's impossible for me to know whether eating breakfast everyday is the reason why, I definitely believe that it is part of the equation. I don't know that it is the most 'important' meal of the day, but it is important enough that I never skip it. I do not function well in the morning if I skip it.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KAYOTIC 9/10/2010 9:37PM

    I have a similar breakfast almost every day, sometimes I'll use kefir instead of yogurt, but if it's yogurt it's always plain (unless I didn't pay attention at the store and accidentally picked up vanilla, like I did last week!) It starts my day right, and if I didn't have it, I'd be starving by lunch. Not a pretty picture...

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SNOWHIT 9/10/2010 3:31PM

    I go through periods where I eat the same thing for a while for breakfast, but I have several that I rotate through. I couldn't skip it.

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THINRONNA 9/10/2010 1:30PM

    I thing breakfast is the most important meal...if I don't eat it I find myself making all kinds of poor food choices later in the morning. I have to admit I do eat the same thing every day for breakfast but I like it and it takes the guess work and calorie counting out of my morning routine. Great job on maintaining your weight loss by the way!

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LADYROSE 9/10/2010 12:21PM

    LOL! I'm with you... need massive variety in my acutal 'day' food, but my breakfast is boooo-rriiiing but filled with lots of happy protein and fat to keep me going till lunch and a bit of fruit or toast to round out the macros. :)

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ARCHIMEDESII 9/10/2010 10:25AM

    Personally, I consider breakfast the most important meal of the day because it's the "fuel" for my morning. I'm definitely a morning person. I get my best work done before 12pm.

This is a mantra I heard a long time ago that made so much sense to me,"You eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch and a pauper at dinner". This has worked for me. I am much happier having a large breakfast, midsized lunch and small dinner. I don't like eating a big meal at night. It just doesn't work for me anymore.

My cousin (whom I love dearly) has a weight problem. she doesn't eat breakfast. As a result, she binges after she gets home from work. She doesn't understand that if she ate a healthy breakfast, she'd be less likely to eat more later on.

That's what I think at any rate.


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GRACEFULIFE 9/10/2010 10:15AM

    I've found that breakfast is pretty important for me, too, and I also gained a bunch of weight when I used to not eat it. I figured I was saving calories by not eating... then again that is a bit indicative of my approach to weight loss at the time. Which I now see as pretty much epic dysfunctional. Better late than never to get it right!

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Total Fail at Cake Baking

Thursday, September 09, 2010

I'm a pretty good cook. I can whip up a number of meals in no time mixing and matching things in my kitchen and fridge. However, I'm not so hot as a baker.

I can make no bake cakes and puddings, no problem. But cakes? I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's because I'm chemistry impaired. I did great in math and engineering classes, but squeaked by in chemistry. Baking is a type of chemistry. You need exact ratios of flour to liquid to rising agent, and I totally suck at it.

At work, I'm known for being very thorough and accurate. I'm very precise, annoyingly so sometimes, say my coworkers. I nitpick the details until its done right. Perfectionist, they say. I am not satisfied with 'good enough'.

With cooking, I'm the opposite. I wing it most of the time. If I don't have an ingredient, I'll substitute something else. A little of this, a little of that, and it comes out great. Baking? Not so much. Can't substitute. It's got to be exact.

Tonight I tried making a pineapple cake. I bought these cute little ramekin baking pots, and I tried scaling down a recipe to fit into them. I guess I didn't scale it down right, because the batter was WAY too watery, and it didn't bake right. I ended up having to throw it out because even after 45 minutes of cooking, the batter was like pudding. It tasted like dough, and was terrible.

Well, at least my pot is cute. Oh, and the coconut pecan icing is delicious.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VHALKYRIE 9/11/2010 9:29PM

    SLIMMER150: No, it was definitely a mistake in scaling my recipe. See my follow up post about Cake, Take Two. Though I don't doubt that the dish has *some* properties that require adjustments. I'm not a seasoned baker, so I don't know!

Le Creuset are amazing little dishes. I have a terrine, that is usually used for making pates, and I bake bread in it! I got an amazing tip from the Le Creuset salesman who suggested making lasagna in it!

In martial arts, we saying that the most dangerous opponent you'll face is a white belt. When sparring with a black belt, you're more likely to know what to expect. A white belt - anything can happen! I guess I'm like that with baking. I don't know what the rules are, so I'm breaking a few here and there. ;)

Comment edited on: 9/11/2010 9:34:43 PM

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SLIMMER150 9/11/2010 7:40PM

    Interesting experiment... I have the same dish you have... but I never would have thought one could bake a cake in it. Could it be the pot... I use it more for stews and chicken cooking etc. Hmmmm....

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VHALKYRIE 9/10/2010 12:55PM

    When I follow a recipe exactly, it usually works ok. But I don't want to make a cake that has 24 servings. I want to make 2 single serve portions in my cute ramekins!!

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LADYROSE 9/10/2010 12:19PM

    I've always held to the theory that "Cooking is an art, baking is a science"... and honestly, till I discovered the joy and wonder that is kingarthurflour.com, I had less than consistent results baking. Now? ROCKSTAR!

The big key is to weigh your dry ingredients (the site has conversions for you), and it also makes it easier to scale the recipe up or down...

Or you can just leave it the professionals. ;)

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VHALKYRIE 9/10/2010 11:29AM

    GracefulLife: Thanks so much for the recommendation on that book! That sounds right up my alley!!

I think you are right. Good bakers know what the consistency of their dough/batter should look like. I can do this with cooking because I've been doing it for many years. Baking is only something I do on occasion, so if things don't look/taste right, I'm not experienced enough to know how to fix it.

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GRACEFULIFE 9/10/2010 11:17AM

    Cute pots!

You could try a book like this: http://www.amazon.com/Ratio-Simple-

Also, try to find recipes with all ingredients by mass (weight) such as Alton Brown's book on baking. The straightforward number measurements for everything that really matters that much, and a calculator, should make scaling recipes pretty simple really.

But yeah, one of the barriers to really becoming a good baker is that really good bakers do a lot by how doughs and batters look - are they wet or dry, held-together or watery, stretchy or just come apart. While anyone can become a good baker with reasonable training and experience, I don't think I'll ever be half the baker my GF is -- I'm simply not dedicated enough to become such.

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ARCHIMEDESII 9/10/2010 9:59AM

    It's not you. I'm a wonderful cook, but a lousy baker. I tell people that if I ever offer them my "homemade" cookies, they should refuse them. LOL !!! The last cookies I tried making bore a striking resemblance to a hockey puck ! No more baking for me. I'll leave the baking to the professionals.

Ask me to make a stew, chili, tomato sauce, turkey, etc... My sauces and soups are amazing. I just can't bake. can't explain it.

So, I feel your pain, although a pineapple cake recipe sounds yummy. let us know how it turns out.

emoticon emoticon

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VHALKYRIE 9/10/2010 9:23AM

    You can substitute sometimes. For instance, you can sub baking powder for baking soda, but you cannot sub baking soda for baking powder. Just as hydrochloric acid will result in a different reaction than sulfuric acid in certain experiments.

I got into trouble with this recipe because it used canned pineapples and I used fresh pineapples. I thought I had to make up for missing canned juice with water, but it looks like I used too much. Since this wasn't in the recipe, I tried to 'wing it' and it didn't work.

Comment edited on: 9/10/2010 9:27:50 AM

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VHALKYRIE 9/10/2010 8:01AM

    55Walker: Yes, they are Le Creuset! I got them on sale at an outlet store near Atlanta!

The original recipe used canned pineapple. I had fresh pineapple, so I blended it. The recipe said to use the juice from the canned pineapple. I added some water, but I guess I added too much. I'm going to try again later today, without adding extra water, and see what happens.

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55WALKER 9/10/2010 3:47AM

    I'm not a baker at all but someone I know who has lived in both Colorado Springs CO and in Charleston SC told me the geography has an impact on baking ingredient needs because of the effects of altitude on rising (or something like that; they got all scientific and lost me).
Love the ramekins. Are they Le Creuset?

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TOWHEE 9/9/2010 11:41PM

    One of our exercises in cooking class (7th grade, early '60's) was to halve a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Well I halved everything but the baking soda. They were the strangest cookies, they had a top, but no bottom or middle. I learned to write the amounts next to the printed recipe from that experience. It sounds to me that you put in the full amount of liquid. Yes, baking is chemistry, but just as in chemistry you can substitute like ingredients. If you don't have "Joy of Cooking" get a copy; it has a wonderful section on substitutions.


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KAYOTIC 9/9/2010 11:25PM

    That cake does look sad... emoticon but the pots are cute! emoticon better (or batter?) luck next time! emoticon

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SNOWHIT 9/9/2010 10:33PM

    Cut pots! The problem with changing the size of a recipe is that I'll think, half of sugar, half milk, half flour, and then I'll to some ingredient and forget to half and put in the amount written. Better luck next time.

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PISHKA4ME 9/9/2010 9:25PM

    Lol, I'm an exact opposite of you. I love to bake and it comes out pretty well the first time. Cooking is like a mystery to me but I have managed to feed my husband and I through 10 years of marriage...with a few burnt dishes here and there, lol.

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Old fashioned values in modern times

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

When I was little, I was taught to clean my plate. It was wasteful not to eat all the food on your plate, I was told. So deeply is this ingrained in me, that I still cannot leave food on my plate without twangs of guilt.

I've learned to live with this. When I eat meals at home, or at buffets, I don't put on my plate more than I intend to eat. This way, I can satisfy that part of me that must finish all food on my plate.

It may seem strange that I do better with buffets than I do meals that are served to me. Restaurant meals that are 2-3 portion sizes larger than they should be are a problem. My family did a good job of ingraining 'finish everything on your plate' because I still battle with it every time.

I often think back to my depression era grandmother's stories about how they couldn't afford to be wasteful. Food was scarce, and nothing could go to waste. Even being resourceful, they still went hungry many days. Uneaten food was taboo. Moldy bread had the mold cut off. Dry bread was soaked in a broth for soup. Sunday roast was the only day of the week they had meat.

I used to rationalize that as my excuse to overeat. I couldn't leave food on my plate because it was wasteful, so I ate all of it. Take home box? What's that? It wouldn't taste as good the next day, I would tell myself.

I wonder if my grannie would find it a strange thing that today the biggest killer is overeating, and not starvation. Obesity is directly related to health and mortality issues. An obese friend of mine from high school had a heart attack at 32. She had the heart health of someone twice her age.

Back in grannie's day, being a little overweight was considered a sign of wealth. Today, ironically, obesity is common among the poor. With government subsidies for the dairy, corn, poultry and cattle industries, a fast food meal costs less than a bag of apples and a head of lettuce. A bag of potato chips costs less than a bag of potatoes. Those who work two or three part time jobs can't cook three healthy meals for themselves a day, as they grab food from a drive in and head to the next shift. Those on limited budgets tend to spend their money on the most calories for the dollar, and that means junk food.

I've come to realize that overeating IS being wasteful. Eating more than my body needs is waste. Excess gets converted into fat. It wastes money because I'm eating more than my share. It is wasteful use of resources for the environment in terms of packaging, disposal, and land use. It makes pharmaceutical companies rich developing drugs. High blood pressure and diabetes for more than 90% of American women is preventable with nutrition and exercise.

I still hold grannie's values of not being wasteful to heart, but they are applied just a little differently.

- I will not put more food on my plate than I need to feel satisfied.
- I will not eat just for the sake of eating.
- I will not continue eating even after I am already full.
- I will not buy more food than I will eat, then throw out moldy, rotten, uneaten food.
- I will make more frequent, smaller trips to the store, rather than one big trip. More food bought at once is more likely to turn into food in the trash.
- I will make use of what I have before buying more.
- I will use take out boxes when going out to restaurants.
- I will order half sized plates, when available.

Resourcefulness is now more about managing temptations of excess, rather than deprivation.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VICIOUS421 9/9/2010 2:48PM

    emoticon emoticon

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JILLWILSON2102 9/8/2010 9:52PM

    Funny how the times change the priority. Way to go on setting a new example for the next generation!

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S3XYDIVASMOM 9/8/2010 9:20PM

    I agree absolutely with your approach. Throwing food away is still wasteful; we should make the best use of this resource. Another thing I might add:

- Don't continue eating it if it doesn't taste good. This is obvious, if it tastes really bad, but if it is a pleasure food and it simply does not meet the wonderful criteria, stop eating.

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TOWHEE 9/8/2010 8:00PM

    Both of my parents graduated from high school during the depression, so of course we got the "clean plate" lecture regularly. However, we also learned to bring food home in "doggy bags" ( now referred to as "go boxes"). Those "leftovers" were transformed and made into a new meal. It's part of the reuse/recycle trend of today. Overripe fruit becomes smoothies or purees, over ripe vegetables become soup or purees, anything that doesn't move fast enough goes into the stew pot. The only problem we have is that I'm so good about using everything, that we don't have kitchen scraps for the compost pile.

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SUGARSMOM2 9/8/2010 7:41PM

  the thing to do is learn to feel full and know you are full and stop then . big lesson . yes my mom told me about all the people in the world that where starving and clean your plate was the motto . Restaurant meals can be spilt with a friend or taken home to eat lunch the next day . emoticon emoticon

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55WALKER 9/8/2010 5:15PM


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PS343MAMA 9/8/2010 5:08PM

    Great perspective.

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FITTERLIFE4ME 9/8/2010 4:49PM

    Wow, I feel inspired!! emoticon

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MRS_4EVER_AFTER 9/8/2010 4:38PM

  Good for you!

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Not Worth the Calories

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I'm not really a picky eater. In general, I'm on a "See Food" diet. It's a big part of why I had weight trouble to begin with. I love food! All kinds of food! Even food that people typically turn their nose up at. Sauerkraut, kimchee, brussel sprouts, broccoli, liver and onions, stinky cheese - it's all fine with me. I have to stretch into the really obscure in order to find something that I absolutely will not touch. Norwegian lutefisk is an example. I love fish, but it's got to be really fresh fish. My taste buds are very sensitive to more than day old fish, nevermind lye soaked fish - bleh!

If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you know one of my biggest downfalls was restaurants. I would go to restaurants several times a week, and eat all the food on my plate. Restaurant portions are typically 2-3 times larger than a normal serving size.

This past weekend, my fiance and I spent in Atlanta. We hadn't been to Atlanta before, and we needed some things that we can't easily get in Savannah.

While there, we enjoyed some of the wonderful restaurants of Atlanta. We kept it pretty frugal, but splurged one night at a Brazilian steakhouse. I love a rodizio! This one in Atlanta was particularly good. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

We took a short day hike in the mountains, which we haven't done since leaving Seattle! After the hike, we were completely wiped and didn't feel too adventurous to search for something to eat. There was a chain restaurant nearby that we haven't been to in many years. We decided to go there.

I'm not going to mention this restaurant by name, because the point of writing this is not a bad review. We did not have a bad experience there. The food was prepared to the best of the kitchen staff's ability. What I am trying to say could apply to other similar chain restaurants, so it isn't necessary for me to single this one out.

Since learning to cook at home, I realize that food is really only as good as your ingredients. There is a difference between farm fresh veggies pulled straight from the ground, and those that are shipped under ripe from a truck. This is a truism. If your base ingredients don't taste good, what you make from it will only be as good. This is why you never use something called 'cooking wine'. If you won't drink a glass, then you don't want to put it in your pot either.

I used to love this restaurant. I'm sure it was a major player in my weight gain. The portions are large. I didn't know how to balance my meals properly 10 years ago, so it was very carb heavy. I couldn't help but think while eating the meal that I could make a better sauce. The sauce tasted canned, like part of a mass produced formula. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. I would give it 2.5 stars out of 5.

I used to go to restaurants just for the sake of eating. I didn't know how to cook, and didn't know how to appreciate it. These days, I enjoy going to high quality restaurants because it gives me ideas on how to make my own meals better. My favorite tex-mex restaurant in Seattle has this incredible carne asada that I have been trying for years to figure out how to make at home. I love the challenge.

Note this doesn't necessarily mean fancy black tie restaurants. There's an incredible professional chef owned deli in South Charleston - 4 star restaurant food at deli prices. There's a backhole award-winning BBQ near Tybee Island that has knock your socks off ribs at $5 per plate. Fine food doesn't necessarily mean suit and tie.

I spend a lot of time these days looking at desserts or fatty breakfast sandwiches, and ask myself, "Is it worth the calories?" Sometimes, the answer is yes and I'll splurge. It's got to be a splurge that is really fantastic. Like award winning key-lime pie; best tex-mex in Seattle; 5 star restaurant chef turned deli owner.

My fiance and I both walked away from our dinner agreeing it wasn't worth the calories.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SNOWHIT 9/8/2010 1:00PM

    Great blog. Learning to walk away from food that isn't worth the calories is a good skill. Sometimes it's so easy to eat what's in front of you. It seems like you actually appreciate food more now.

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JILLWILSON2102 9/7/2010 9:35PM

    Do you see the paradigm shift in your thinking - is that awesome or what! emoticon

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55WALKER 9/7/2010 4:41PM

    Yay for being able to make choices and for recognizing the pleasure to be had from truly good food.

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40PLUSANDFIT 9/7/2010 11:42AM

    You are so right on this. Same thing happened the other day, somebody brought in some brownies or something. I took one bite, Bleck, tasted the processed stuff and chunked it. Of course I'm Ms. Picky when it comes to chocolate, but I want to make sure it's worth the calories. Award winning key lime pie.. now yes ma'am, I'll go for that. We had homemade cheesecake here at work the other day... and yes I did partake and ate my whole baby slice.

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    It's funny. I love food and I love to cook. I see a lot of good recipes in american sites that I try home, but I notice that you use a lot of ingredients that are not fresh. In Brasil we still have a lot of good fresh ingredients and they are relatively cheap, well cheaper than to processed food. I think it makes a huge difference.
Unfortunately we discovered the power of cakes, ice creams and canned food. We are becoming fat and with bad alimentary habits.
Menawhile, in USA people are starting to look for organic food and trying to leave unhealthy food. Good for you.

Comment edited on: 9/7/2010 11:29:32 AM

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ARCHIMEDESII 9/7/2010 10:57AM

    Do you live in Savannah ? Ever since I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I've wanted to visit Savannah. The closest I came was Rock City in TN. At the time, I didn't know that Lookout Mountain was in TN and Georgia.

Anyway, learning portion control is probably one of the hardest things to do. Like you said, restaurant portions are absolutely insane. one plate could easily feed 2-3 people. One strategy I have is to share a plate with a friend. At least, that's what I try to do. Some of my friends would rather have their "own" plate then whine later about how much food they ate later. harrumph.

Another thing you could do is eat half and save half for lunch the next day. This way, you get to enjoy the meal twice.

I try to look forward to eating out because I don't do it that often. I love eating a well cooked meal and like you, I've been to a few restaurants where the food was disappointing.

I agree with your notions on splurges. If I'm going to eat cheesecake, it had better be a really awesome piece. Back in my eating days, I would have eaten an entire piece of cheesecake regardless of how good or bad it was. these days, if I bite into a lousy piece of cheesecake, I'll toss it out.

Now, that's a change !! me tossing out food ! Here's to good quality food that you can indulge in.


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    It is all about satisfaction. If an average meal fills you, but doesn't satisfy you--there is a potential for overeating. Thanks for a very interesting blog! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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