Friday, October 28, 2011

Disfigured - A Movie and a Mindset

"I wish I had your problems.  You don't know how lucky you have it!"

At many times in my life, I have found myself thinking that another person's problems would be so much easier than my own.  I listened longingly to people moan about being too busy to eat or lamenting their inability to gain weight.  In some of my darkest moments, I would pray to wake up anorexic so I wouldn't have to feel the pain of being obese just the emptiness of not eating.  I would look at skinny people and envy their ability to go through life not worrying about what they eat or if their clothes fit.  I was so wrapped up in my own body issues I assumed I was in a significant minority.

How naive and self absorbed I was to think that only a few people in extreme situations have food issues!  The longer I am on my own journey, the more I feel the true minority are people who don't wrestle with their own body issues.

About a year ago I came across an independent film called Disfigured, and it really struck a chord with me.  The film follows the two main characters: one an obese woman who is attempting to deal with her own body image issues through attending a Fat Acceptance support group, and a recovering Anorexic woman who attempts to join the group because she sees herself as fat.  As their tentative friendship grows the two women begin to open up and share their distorted body image issues with each other.  Eventually coaching each other with lessons on anorexia and compulsive eating.  The women are desperate to shed their own disorder and see the other extreme behavior as a possible cure.

This film does a good job of probing the deep dark places that people with eating disorders go in their own minds.  I could see myself clearly in their desperation to be fixed.  It is so easy to understand, intellectually, that there are no easy fixes to weight and food issues.  Emotionally speaking I have, in the past, fantasized about having an opposite eating disorder.  In the end no one has an easy time overcoming their demons but they gain new perspective on what it means to have body image issues and it is clear their hearts have been opened and healed, if only a little.

Heavy people wear their body and food issues on the outside for all to see, while many who don't eat get to blend in.  My hope is for people to start to open up and talk to each other.  I share my own experience to inspire conversation and motivation.  The process of living well is much easier to navigate in a community that will cheer when you succeed and encourage when you falter.  Talking to other people about their own struggles has both expanded my perspective and bolstered my self confidence.  I no longer feel isolated with my very obvious issues; instead I feel liberated and part of a vast community of people all striving to be their very best self.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our Lady of Second Helpings News and Events!

Hey everyone there are a couple of things that I would like to share with you, my readers.

First - If you haven't already, take a moment to "like" the Our Lady of Second Helpings Facebook Page.  You can link to it from here on the blog or type into your web browser.  When you like the page you will get updates in your Facebook Newsfeed when there are new posts on the blog.  I will also be sharing recipes, photos, and twitter posts that may not appear here, on the blog itself.  When you try one of the recipes I talk about, I invite you to share your experience in words or photos on the Facebook page.  I like to think of the page as my kitchen table, a cozy place to chit-chat, share a cup of coffee, and enjoy each other's company.  Stop by anytime!
Next - I am so excited to be participating in this year's Will Bake for Food Event in Seattle.  On Saturday November 12th I will be joining many notable and accomplished Seattle food bloggers to raise money and collect non-perishable items to support, Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King County.  This is the second year for the event and judging by last year's turn out it is sure to be a rousing success!  The event will take place at University Heights Center, 5031 University Way NE Seattle 98105, from 11am-2pm - unless we run out earlier.

I haven't fully nailed down what my baked goodies will be but I assure you they will be both delicious and easy on the waist.  As for the other bloggers I am confident that their treats will be amazing but potentially sinful.  Please come and support this great cause and fun event.  Parking will be a little tight so plan to make walking your penance!

For more information click the cute little badge or visit

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stripetti Squash Another Winner!

This week we tried another new squash and once again it was a complete hit! All the squashes I bought recently have a little sticker on them with a brief description of their flavor and uses.  I was excited to try the Stripetti because the sticker let me know it was a hybrid of Delicata and Spaghetti Squash.  I was in the mood to use a few of our garden fresh tomatoes. When I grabbed the Stripetti I crossed my fingers that it would share the Spaghetti Squash's noodle like texture so I could serve it like pasta.  Oh man did it deliver!

The exterior of the Stripetti is very hard.  I gave it about 8 minutes in the microwave to soften but even then I really had to work to get my knife through the skin.  Just as I had it split open I realized I could use my handy little pumpkin carving saw, the one that came with my $2.99 plastic kit.  I scooped out the seeds and stringy bits then used the little serrated pumpkin saw to cut the halves into three pieces each. 

The two halves looked like great little baking vessels so I made a mental note to stuff the squash in the future. (The day was cooking, I was under a bit of a time crunch so I reduced the cooking time with smaller pieces. I also should have used a larger baking dish but I was really attached to the idea of my green oval so this time aesthetic trumped function.) 

Before baking, I seasoned the sections with some butter flavored spray, McCormick Perfect Pinch Vegetable seasoning, and cracked pepper.

The squash baked in a 375 oven for about an hour and a half but could have used another 15 minutes.

While the Stripetti sections baked, I made a sauce of Italian Chicken Sausage (casing removed), chopped fresh tomatoes, baby bella mushrooms, and my favorite jarred garlic & basil pasta sauce made by Rising Moon Organics.  The smells of sauce simmering and squash baking made my little kitchen very cozy.

The finished squash scooped easily out of its baked shell and mixed with the sauce as well as any al dente pasta.  Compared to a basic Spaghetti Squash the flavor was much fuller and the texture felt denser.  The completed meal tasted amazing and while light on the tongue it still delivered the soul-warming essence I look for in a winter squash dish.

The final selling point was the leftovers.  This squash reheated really well and made two great lunches the next day.  When my husband came home from work he let me know how much he enjoyed his leftovers and invited me to make the dish again, "anytime".

This squash was really easy to prepare, once I cut it open, and I can see a lot of possibilities for using it in place of pasta.  I even thought about cooking it, chilling it, and then making a 'pasta' salad.  I absolutely recommend trying Stripetti Squash especially if the starchier winter squashes don't appeal to you. This was another tasty Fall Squash Challenge success!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tricky Treats - calorie free goodies that won't get you egged!

This is the time of year many people throw their hands in the air and their resolve to be healthy out the window.  DON'T DO IT!!  Take a deep breath and keep reading.  We are all going to make it through together one holiday at a time.  There can be a lot of emotional triggers tied to these next few months both joy filled and stressful.  My hope is for readers to find some ideas here to help make the coming season one that is filled with good memories commemorated by photos, not flab.

If you have kids, or if you are a kid at heart, I'm sure you are well aware that Halloween is nearly here.  In addition to the dressing up and doing the Monster Mash there is going to be candy everywhere you turn.  I want to share my family's plan to avoid as much candy as possible.  We are not going to buy any.  We will be handing out treats to all the little ghosts and goblins that knock on our door, they just won't be edible.  We have done some variation of this for the last three years and our trick-or-treaters have been both surprised and delighted to choose from spider rings, temporary tattoos, jack-o-lantern pins, novelty rubber ducks and mini play doughs.  I have enjoyed offering something fun, and the leftovers just get stashed in a cupboard for the next year.

We have given out some candy but it was either something novelty shaped that we found completely unappealing or a lower fat treat like mini Swedish Fish.  The fish are something I enjoy but can trust myself to just have a few at a time.  I don't trust myself not to plow through several bags of mini chocolate bars in the weeks before and after Halloween so I don't even look at them in the store.  If I want chocolate I'll pick up a small individually wrapped item but not a 2 pound bag.

Many stores that sell Halloween candy also sell novelty items that you can surprise your trick-or-treaters with.  I bought baggies of cute little ghost and bat shaped erasers at Target a few weeks ago for $1 each.  For more selection there are fun on-line catalog stores that will allow you to shop at your leisure and deliver right to your door.  My favorite is Oriental Trading.  They have an amazing selection of grab bag items at reasonable prices and, per the website, orders placed by Oct. 21st with standard shipping will arrive by Halloween.  If you are really attached to handing out candy I recommend checking out their edible novelties.  There is an abundance of treats that only someone under the age of 14 would ever consider putting in their mouth.

Another on-line company to check out is Accoutrements.  Known locally as Archie McPhee this is the ultimate retailer for all things whacky and wonderful.  The items here tend to be a bit more large scale than Oriental Trading but take a look around, even on-line it is fun to just browse.  If you can't find some really unique alternatives to candy for your treat bowl here, you just plain aren't looking.

Now to address the plan to bring leftover candy into work the next day.  Please reconsider, they probably don't need the leftover calories either.  Do bring in the leftover novelty items.  I imagine most office mates would enjoy decorating their space with rubber eye balls or typing memos wearing spider rings far more than sneaking into the break room when they think the coast is clear to guiltily scarf down a handful of fun size chocolate bars.

I for one am looking forward to the challenge of the holidays.  With a little creativity and thinking outside the box these next few months could be the most fun and healthful yet!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trying New Foods - The Fall Squash Challenge

I like to call of myself an adventurous eater but, I am embarrassed to say, I have not ventured very far into the colorful world of squash.  This fall and winter I have assigned myself a fun little challenge - try all of those bumpy, warty, unusual looking squash that I have shied away from in the past.  I already know that I enjoy pumpkin, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash and now thanks to my challenge I have a new favorite, buttercup squash.  For those who enjoy botany here is a Wikipedia article that includes buttercup squash.

I picked up this little warty gem at a great farmer's market in Richland, Washington.  The seller had a whole array of squash and I wanted to try them all but managed to narrow it down to one.  The reason I went for the buttercup was simple, there were a group of us standing there wondering what to do with this fantastic looking produce and the seller pointed to the buttercup and told us it was her favorite.  She gave a brief description of how she cooks them and all four of us reached in and grabbed her remaining squash!

Review:  This squash is AMAZING!!!!  Delicious, easy to prepare and enjoyed by both my sisters husband, who would prefer not to eat vegetables, and my toddler. The texture was so smooth and creamy and the flavor was fantastic all by itself.  It was starchy and substantial like mashed potatoes without needing any cream or whipping.  The smooth texture and full flavor would make it a great option for both savory and sweet applications.  I could see using it in place of pumpkin to make a pie but also topping with some sour cream and onions like a baked potato.  In short, TRY THIS SQUASH!

So here is how I cooked it:
  • Rinse the outside and then pop the whole squash into the microwave for a minute.  This softens the skin and makes it easier to cut.
  • Cut it in half horizontally and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.
  • Place both halves in a baking dish with about 3/4 of an inch of water in the bottom.
  • Drizzle squash with some olive oil, about a tablespoon for each half and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake at 375 until the meat is soft enough to cut with a butter knife - around 45 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the size.

The woman at the farmers market said she likes to top hers with butter and brown sugar before she bakes it.  I was looking for a more savory flavor and that is why I chose olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Once the squash was cooked through I let it cool just a few minutes before scooping all the meat from the rind into a serving bowl.  It was so creamy all it needed was a brief stir to smooth out the texture before it was ready to eat.  
I'm not sure how big the squash was, perhaps 3 pounds, but it fed four people with a little bit leftover. (I ate the leftovers as a mid morning snack the next day!) I have been thinking longingly about this squash for the last couple of days and you better believe it will be on my dinner table again very soon.  I hope you try it and let me know what you think.

Some humongous Pink Banana Squash!  I have added these to my list of new squash to try, stay tuned.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Chew, a Review and a Recipe - Apple Pancake Rings

This week, ABC launched a new daytime talk show called "The Chew".  I caught the first two episodes, and while it has a bit of a frantic pace it has the potential to settle into an entertaining and informative program.  The set is a large kitchen including a breakfast bar that seats around a dozen members of their live audience.  Those seated at the bar are able to taste several dishes throughout the broadcast and provide brief feedback to the five co-hosts.  This audience participation directly ties into one of the show's overarching themes, family.  

The hosts, most already familiar faces on television, were going a mile a minute during the two episodes I've seen.  Food Network's "Iron Chef" personalities Mario Batiali and Michael Symon provided most of the cooking demonstrations.   From TLC's "What Not to Wear", Clinton Kelly gives the audience entertaining and presentation tips.  Diet book author Daphne Oz (daughter of ABC's Dr. Oz) refreshingly contributes health tips that are actually healthful.  Rounding out the quintet is former "Top Chef" contestant and fan favorite Carla Hall, who more than any of the others succeeds in making the viewer feel welcome and engaged.

Saturday morning our family sat down to a breakfast taken directly from The Chew's second episode, Carla Hall's Fried Apple Pancake Rings.  These were a fantastic way to round out our apple filled week.  Click on the link to see the recipe and a video of Carla making them.  I made the recipe simply based on watching the show and had great success.  The written version on the website seems a bit over complicated.  

Of course I deviated a little from the recipe as presented.  Here's my version:

Carla Hall's Fried Apple Pancake Rings

2 medium apples (I used honey crisp) - washed, peeled, cored, and sliced into thin 1/8 inch rings.
2 - 2-1/2 cups of your favorite pancake batter (homemade or a mix) a little on the thin side with a generous dash of pumpkin pie spice

Preheat a pancake griddle or large non-stick frying pan to medium heat.
Using toothpicks dredge the apple rings through the batter so they are well coated.  
One at a time, place the rings on a pancake griddle or large non-stick frying pan.
From here cook the rings as you would any regular pancake.  Flip when the top stops bubbling and the bottom begins to turn golden.
The pancakes are finished when both sides are golden and the middle is fluffy.

Unlike the original recipe, by using a non-stick griddle I made ours with no additional fat.  They were amazing!!!  The apple rings were perfectly soft in the middle and they were delicious all on their own.  We drizzled the tiniest bit of sugar-free syrup over them and I had a few with a touch of almond butter.  My toddler ate his plain and probably had more than I did. YUM!!!

I love this idea.  I would serve these any day of the week, to company, for a snack, or even as a dessert.  It speaks to so much of what I strive for when picking recipes for my family.  Making food healthful, simple and delicious doesn't have to be complicated or look unfamiliar.  Put these in front of a crowd and no one will be the wiser!

*editors note: Sorry for the lack of pictures.  By the time I thought to blog about the pancakes they were nothing but crumbs and sweet memories!

*Update*  We had these for breakfast again this weekend and this time I snapped a few photos while I was making them.

A melon baller works really well to remove the core from apples.

After the apples are peeled and cored, slice into rings around 1/8 of an inch thick.

Cooking on a non-stick griddle means larger batches and no oil required.

Cook until golden brown on each side.

So yummy they are ready to eat straight off the griddle, but you can add some toppings if you like.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Boot Camp - SURPRISE!

On Tuesday I got up and left the house in time to get to a Pilates class at the YMCA.  It was a rushed affair getting myself and my toddler out the door but I was feeling good that I made it in time to rush in before the class began.  As I reached the door of the exercise room I realized the Pilates class is regularly on Wednesdays and I had arrived just in time for BOOT CAMP!

I had a quick mental wrestling match with myself to keep from bolting from the room.  My instinct was to call the experience a failure since I mixed up the class days.  I would just go to my comfort zone of the treadmill and do my same boring workout.  Then something else occurred to me.  What if I stayed for boot camp and what if I could do it?!

So I stayed.

The class started with jogging in large circles around the room, then skipping, walking backwards, and side stepping.  After some stretching and balancing the remainder of the class was a combination of circuit activities.  There was hula hooping, jumping rope, obstacle course laps, squatting lunges, balance work and finally some core work with free weights.  

Well, I made it through the jogging and skipping with no trouble and started to feel really great about staying for the class.  The stretching and balancing confirmed something that the Wii Fit keeps telling me, I have terrible balance.  The hula hooping was just silly and I got more exercising bending over to pick it back up than swinging it around my hips.  Jumping rope was good but that's when I started to notice my legs getting tired.  The obstacle course reinforced by lack of coordination and I was going a little slower than before.  By the time we started lunging and squatting across the room my legs were on fire! I kept going, step by step feeling my sense of determination building even as my legs were threatening to give out beneath me.

After the lunges we were supposed to side step back and forth with a resistance band under our feet and pulled up to our waists.  Tired as I was this one really had me puzzled.  I could not for the life of me figure out how to take two steps to the side without the band tightening up under me and tangling around my legs.  If I hadn't been focusing so hard on staying untangled, I probably would have just collapsed from laughing at myself.

Next more hula hooping (read bending and flailing).  She also had us grab a large Pilates ball and attempt to kneel on the ball with both feet off the floor and then sit up so our hands weren't touching the ball and remain balanced in that position.  Goofy as this exercise sounded I actually liked attempting to balance on the ball.  I had a flicker of hesitation before starting that I would be too heavy and it would pop under my weight.  Then I shook it off and began to attempt to become one with the ball.  I kept thinking, "be a statue" and I finally got both feet up and began using my hands to balance the ball and just when I thought I might actually be able to let go and sit up, the ball rolled forward and I did a slow motion sideways face plant onto the gym floor.

We ended the class doing some insane alternating knee lift, ab crunch, weight lifting move that try as I might were just not happening.  And that was it.

It was an hour of hopping, running, twisting, falling, and I must admit it was really fun!  Being in that room doing all of those silly exercises and feeling the impact on my body I couldn't help but think about all of the years of P.E. when I sat on the sidelines and watched.  I was scared to participate.  I knew I wasn't very good at the activities so I didn't try very hard and was never picked to be on a team.  I often tried to get out of activity in school by needing to go to the nurse or just doing my best to blend in with the floor boards.  Participating just plain didn't feel good.  I was out of shape by third grade and as much as my body needed to move doing so made me uncomfortable.

After the boot camp I went to the instructor and thanked her for the class.  As I spoke the words started to catch in my throat.  I told her that going through the exercises had helped me make a bit of peace with gym class.  She was really sweet and assured me that I had done a good job for my first time.  I am not sure if I am going to make boot camp a regular part of my work out routine but I will forever be proud that I stayed.  

I had no idea what was waiting for me when I left the house that morning.  The experience was just another reminder that journeying toward a healthy weight is so much more than just cutting calories.  I have miles to go both literally and figuratively.