Women Cooking on TV

December 23, 2008

I learned to cook watching food television, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Back then, there was more Sara Moulton, less Sandra Lee. And of all the women I loved watching put spoonula to a cake batter, no one has influenced and inspired me more than Nigella Lawson, whose book How to Eat is a cherished favorite (though not the most used) in my collection.

What I love most about Nigella is that she’s uncompromising. She’s all-out sexy, all-out greedy, round as a renaissance sculpture, and totally confident. It’s like no one ever told her she’s a little overweight. Earlier this year, when writers and bloggers were criticizing her for gaining a few pounds while testing recipes for a new book, she said that her husband likes her figure and who cares what anyone else thinks?

I also loved watching Stephanie Izard kick dude and skinny-girl tush on Top Chef last season. From the moment the show debuted, people starting telling me I resembled her. We do look something alike. But if she struggles with not being thin, it never showed. (Or so it appeared on the show; maybe she, too, weeps in department store dressing rooms.) If she ever lands her own TV show and loses 30 pounds, I will be very disappointed.

The new crop of ladycooks on Food Network (including Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burell, and Sunny Anderson) all outweigh the new faces of seasons past.  (And none of them fall into the Paula-Deenish fat clown role.) Sunny, in particular, looks curvy, fit and fashionable–not like someone who thinks she should drop a few pounds.  All seem comfortable with their bodies and ready for the spotlight.

Could this mean that women in the audience like watching normal size, beautiful woman teach them how to cook? My female food heroes actually look like they love to cook and eat. There’s a limit on how much a I can trust a food expert who looks like she hasn’t eaten since the 90s. Give me more Barefoot Contessa and less Robin Miller please!



December 23, 2008

I am calling my efforts to avoid gaining holiday weight successful so far. Everyone knows it’s impossible to lose weight during the holidays.

I had planned to finish up a writing project this morning and then go shopping in Center City for a couple of outfits I can feel good about wearing at various events in the next week.

Historically, I only shop when I’m thinner. Over the years this has resulted in a wardrobe that doesn’t fit most of the time. I have numerous items I bought when the scale hit some new low and then I subsequently wore just once–that one day it fit. I have clothes in sizes 4, 6, 8 and 10 and only the size 10 items fit. Of course, those are the ones I have the fewest of. I do get into size 12 territory. Those are the times I stick to pajamas and sweatpants.

Nice, flattering clothes that fit make everyone look thinner. But I stop myself from shopping because I tell myself I’m just about to lose 10 pounds. So I resolved to go out today, take advantage of the sales and buy some things I feel good wearing. Now it’s just the fact that its 19 degrees that keeps me from heading out …


December 22, 2008

Really, I’ve eaten enough cookies. Stacked up on our kitchen table, we have two types of shortbread cookies, chocolate cookies, Italian cookies, oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies, and merginues. I have “sampled” each variety. For, you know, quality control. No more cookies.

I missed the gym yesterday and we ended up ordering takeout from Ekta–samosas and  vegetable curry for me. (But I only ate half; the rest is for dinner tonight.) I also polished off a half bottle of red in the cooking/eating process. So how much did I really want to see the 140s today? Not enough to skip the wine. Not enough to eat the last of the “health stew” for dinner.

Today I’m finishing up work projects and continuing on with cooking for Wednesday. No matter what happens, I’m going to go to spinning at 6:15. Spinning or bust!


December 21, 2008

Where did all those cookies go? I did have leftover (superlight and healthy) stew for dinner. I expect to eat at home today, too, so maybe tomorrow I’ll see the 140s. I have no meals planned today, which could lead to some fattening delivery later, but I intend to work it out in the next half hour. I’m definitely going to Whole Foods.

Dan and I were talking last night about how we plan meals out days–and sometimes a whole week–in advance. Before I got in the restaurant reviewing business, we’d plan what we were going to eat for the week, make a shopping list, and do advance prep on the weekends. And as laborious as that sounds, it’s the easiest way to keep your meals delicious and healthy and prevent emergency calls to El Jarocho or Ekta.

Tomorrow begins the official holiday crazies. I have given myself the week off–from work, not this blog. (Really, who will be in their offices anyway?) There’s quite a bit of planning and cooking in store for me…


December 20, 2008

Fine by me.

I’m hoping to get to the gym today, though it might not happen because this is the official 2008 Manning-Call holiday baking weekend.

What’s on tap? Well, Dan made his oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies last night. If I can get him to dictate the recipe, I will post it. He’s been making them since he was a kid.

Two from the December issue of Food & Wine:

Sugar-Crusted Chocolate Cookies


Butterscotch-Glazed Coffee Shortbread Bars

Finally, we’ll use up leftover egg whites (from all the times we made mayo and froze the whites) in meringues. I’m not sure what recipe I’ll use, but if you have one that yields a crisp exterior and still-a-bit-marshmallowy-and-soft interior, please tell me. I hate a rock hard meringue.

Happy Hour at Home

December 19, 2008

I can’t lie: I like going out for happy hour. But it is fun to do it at home from time to time (like today when Dan got home early on a Friday.)

What’s happy hour without a killer snack? Since election night, I’ve been on a gougeres tear, making these happy little cheese puffs by the three-dozen and stashing them in the freezer for when it’s unexpectantly necessary to celebrate. Here’s the recipe:

1 cup water

1/2 stick butter (unsalted, please)

2 heavy pinches kosher salt (divided)

1 cup flour (All purpose, of course)

4 large eggs

1 cup grated cheddar, packed (like as much as you can squish in your cup)

1 cup grated Romano, packed (ditto–unless you don’t like cheese)

Preheat the over to 425.

Prepare two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. (Actually, never mind, if you don’t have silpats, buy them, silly. If you are contemplating making gougeres you know you need them.)

Over medium high heat, bring the water, butter and one heavy pinch salt to a boil. Turn the heat low, add the flour, and mix–vigorously–until it looks shiny like a dough and you see no raw-looking flour patches. Less than five minutes.

Unless you are very strong, break out your stand mixer. Spoon the dough in the mixer, turn it on low, and beat the eggs in one at a time until it’s all pretty well incorporated. (Chef friends: Is it supposed to get perfectly smooth? Because for me, it’s pretty lumpy.)

Turn mixer to low, and stir in your cheeses just until combined.Plus, another good pinch of salt. And pepper, if you are Dan. I don’t really like pepper in these.

Now, what you really should do at this point is call my sister. She makes these incredibly perfect (yet not compressed) rounds using the quenelle-two spoons method, which I somehow taught her not knowing how to do it myself.

You don’t know Jill? OK, try to make reasonably round teaspoon-sized shapes and drop them onto your silpats. And don’t compress them.

Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and delicious. Please don’t eat more than three. (Unless Obama is in the middle of winning the election.) That wouldn’t be healthy. These freeze really well for at-home happy hours whenever you want you.

Motivated by Cabbage

December 19, 2008

Really, what situation can not be improved by going to the gym? Earlier today, my productivity outlook seemed bleak. But then I read this little article/recipe in the NY Times and motivation seized me. Since I’m out picking up a head a cabbage, might as well go to the gym anyway, right? Now–cabbage in hand, workout done–I feel like a new person.

I like these Recipes for Health that run in the Times, though I typically devise a way to make them more delcious and a little less healthy. I plan to turn this vegan lentil/potato/cabbage stew into a lentil/chorizo/extra potato/cabbage stew that even my cabbage-hating husband will like.

Stay tuned … my version of this dish is likely to become next week’s Meat Lite recipe on Serious Eats.com.