Friday, December 14, 2012

#NSNation, Week 15 and 16 #Spon

I have decided that the goal during the Christmas Month is going to be not gaining.  It took me until this week to lose the 2 lbs I gained at Thanksgiving.  Isn't it funny how long it takes weight to come off, but it jumps back on you in two days?

I am truly thankful for Nutrisystem because I simply couldn't do it through the Holidays without the "no-brainer" diet!  I have been so very busy with life that if I didn't have a system that does the thinking for me, I simply wouldn't have time to do it.  I just grab my food, eat, run, and do it all again!

Christmas should be easier on me than Thanksgiving was because my husband has to work 24 hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas Night.  I will cook him something special to take with him, but it's just me and two of the kids so I am sticking to my Nutrisystem!

All in all, I have lost a total of 20 lbs, and maybe would have lost more if I hadn't put some on at Thanksgiving that set me back.  However, I am thrilled to be a size smaller than I was when I started!

Want to lose weight and get healthy on Nutrisystem? Join today by calling 1-888-853-4689 or by visiting Nutrisystem

*Nutrisystem is providing me with  free food and support service as part of the Nutrisystem Nation Blogger program. In exchange, I will be posting each week with my progress. All thoughts expressed are my own, and my experience using the system may vary from that of other participants.*  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Two Savory Ideas for using Thanksgiving decoration Pumpkins that will Leave your Mouth Begging For More!

So, I'm guilty.  Guilty as a dog caught lying on your bed!  That's right, I just took down my Thanksgiving Decorations yesterday and replaced them with Christmas decorations.  Go ahead, call me Scrooge, and I will reply with a hearty Bah Humbug!  I actually love Christmas, but I hate going in the attic, so procrastination combined with lack of much time put off decorating until now.

In the process of switching, I discovered I still had a couple of pumpkin pie pumpkins that I had used for decorations that are in perfectly good condition. What to do with them?  Well, I could use them for compost to make nice rich soil for next year or I can cook with them.

Cooking won round one!   I have to tell you though, that after making 6 homemade pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, the last thing I wanted to make was a pumpkin pie or bread.  Like most people I thought dessert is all you do with pumpkin.  However, I remembered that pumpkins are in the same family as squash so I started thinking outside the pie tin!

Here's what was for supper yesterday:  Roasted Pumpkin with a Hint of Brown Sugar and Pumpkin Ravioli in a Browned Sage Butter.  Recipes to follow, and I promise you won't be disappointed!

How to Roast a Pumpkin

Cut your pumpkins in half, or smaller pieces if you have  a large pumpkin, scoop out all the seeds, and roast in a 350 oven for 90 minutes.  It may take more or less time depending on the size of your pumpkin, but your pumpkin is done when the shell pushes in and gives.

Now, scoop all the pumpkin away from the shell, puree in the food processor, and you have perfect pumpkin puree to use for anything you like.

Roasted Pumpkin with a Hint of Brown Sugar

Roasted Pumpkin with a Hint of Brown Sugar

Roasted Pumpkin
Salt and Pepper
Nutmeg
Heavy Cream
Brown Sugar

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Take about 3 cups of roasted pumpkin, and 3 Tablespoons of Heavy Cream and heat them on medium in a pan.  Add 1 tsp of Nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar.  When heated through serve on a platter with a sprinkle of brown sugar and butter curls for garnish.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Browned Sage Butter

1 cup of Ricotta Cheese (Click to view easy make your own Ricotta)
1 cup roasted pumpkin
1 tsp of Nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Ravioli dough (Click to view recipe for easy homemade Pasta)
1 organic egg white

Mix together the Ricotta Cheese, Pumpkin, Nutmeg and Salt and Pepper.

Roll out the Ravioli dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick.

Place a scant teaspoonful of mixture on the dough leaving an inch in between each dollop on one half of the dough.  Fold the other half of the dough over to cover the dollops and press your fingers lightly around each pocket to seal the top of the dough to the bottom.

Take a small biscuit cutter or small drinking glass and cut out the ravioli.  Use a fork to crimp the edges together to seal the ravioli.

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Brush the top and edges of the ravioli with egg white and bake in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes or until dough is cooked through and they are golden brown.

In a saute pan, melt 1/2 stick of unsalted butter with 1 tsp of dried sage or 3 fresh sage leaves.

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Cook for about a minute or two until the butter is a nice brown color and has taken on a nutty flavor.

 Add ravioli to the pan and brown each side for 30 seconds.

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Place on a platter and top with the Brown Sage Butter.



Easy Homemade Pasta

I think I was 30 years old before I realized that not all pasta comes in a box, is hard, and includes preservatives.  What's more, now that I know how incredibly easy homemade pasta is, and that my 3 year old can do it, I feel quite silly for having put all those preservatives and extra ingredients in my children's bodies for all those years.

I am here to start a movement called "Just say no to the box." Let's Boycott, let's start a petition, or better yet, let's just make our own pasta.  It's not only so easy you'll want to smack yourself, you can pronounce every ingredient and you can even remember the recipe without writing it down!  Don't believe me?  Here we go!

Homemade Pasta

4 Cups of unbleached all purpose flour (half the recipe if you have a smaller family)
2 tsp salt
6 free range eggs

Pile your flour on a cutting board or clean surface and make a well in the center making sure you have a thick wall of flour on every side

Crack the eggs in the center of the flour

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Using a fork, scramble the eggs, gradually grabbing flour from each side until the dough is still very wet, but too thick to stir with a fork.

Now, gradually knead in the rest of the flour until a ball has formed and it isn't sticky.

 NOTE:  Weather, humidity, rain and other things you can't control effects both bread making and candy making so how much flour you need may change each time you make this dough.  You may not need to use all the flour. If a solid dough ball forms and isn't sticky, but you have left over flour, no worries, just toss it.  If you use all the flour and the dough is sticking to the surface, add a little more flour.

Once the dough is the right consistency, knead it an additional 10-15 minutes until it is smooth.

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Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out, and let it rest at room temperature for at least 2 hours before trying to roll it out.  This is very important to allow the gluten to rest or your dough will be springy and refuse to roll out. It will be as useful as brushing your teeth while eating an oreo cookie!

Divide your dough into four pieces because working with smaller pieces is easier.  Roll the dough out until it's about 1/8 inch thickness. If you have a pasta machine, you are a lucky dog and you can just run it through the machine about 3-4 times and viola-pasta.  The rest of us have to bring the gun show to the party and just roll that dough with your muscles and a rolling pin until it is the right thickness

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Now decide your shape.  Medium strips for fettuccine thick strips for lasagna, or 4 inch strips for ravioli.  Bon App├ętit !


Easy Homemade Cottage/Ricotta Cheese

We live about 30 minutes from the nearest town.  So, of course we shop once a month other than certain items, and I often have to figure out how to make do without something because I just don't want to drive that far or waste that much gas to pick up one item.  Greek Yogurt is an item I can purchase at the store (or make my own as I mostly do) and it usually has an expiration date a month later.  If I know I am going to have a busy month like, say, December (so busy I can't see straight) I purchase 6-8 quarts on shopping day because it will last all month and I use it in most of my bread recipes.

Out of sheer need, I learned how to make my own cottage/ricotta cheese out of Greek yogurt a little over a year ago, and I would like to share my knowledge with you.  First of all, I want to explain that I am not an expert cheese maker, so go ahead and argue with me the difference between Cottage and Ricotta cheese.  Honestly, I don't really care the difference, and neither do my recipes that call for one or the other.  If I were eating it for a meal, I may would want something exact, but this stuff is so very close, I promise you that you won't taste the difference in your Lasagna or even your Ravioli!

Items you will need 

Double boiler or two stockpots, one larger than the other
1 quart of yogurt (click here for recipe)
Rubber spatula
Thermometer-optional but advised
patience

Fill the bigger pan with water, but make sure it isn't touching the bottom of the smaller pan when you sit it on top.


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Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium low

Add Yogurt, and heat, stirring very frequently for about 20-30 minutes until you have achieved thin small curds.  It will be a bit runny even when done, but it will be a thick runny that thickens right up after about 10 minutes in the Fridge.


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You can enjoy as is, salt it, season it, or use it in recipes!  Next time you need some cheese for a recipe, grab that leftover yogurt and make some!


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