Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekend Road Trip and Mini-Cupcakes for a Special Baby Shower

It's been a busy weekend for me.  Yesterday morning I drove to Hatfield, Massachusetts (just outside Northampton)  to spend some long-overdue time with my good friend Jan.  We always have a lot of fun together.  Soon after I arrived, we took her golden retriever, Leila, for a walk along the banks of the Connecticut River.  It was bright and sunny and very COLD!  Later yesterday afternoon went to the movies, followed by dinner out at a pub near her house.  When we got back, I was pretty tired.  We watched a little TV before I fell asleep on the couch!


It had been an early morning; before heading to Hatfield,  I delivered over 100 mini-cupcakes to my friend Sue for her daughter Lisa's baby shower.  Lisa and her husband are expecting a son, their first child, to arrive in just a few weeks.  Lisa is the same age as my daughter Meghan, and I remember her as a baby and little girl.  She was an adorable little thing.  She's grown up to be a lovely and still very petite woman, and is so cute pregnant!  I bought a tiny outfit for the baby and I hope that he can wear it for a while before he outgrows it.  The other part of my gift to them was cupcakes for the baby shower.  Lisa mentioned she'd like mini-cupcakes, for a boy baby, with little ducks and flowers, etc.  I used some artistic license and just kind of created as I went.  Here are photos of the cupcakes, before and after.

Mini-cupcakes, beore getting dressed for the party!

Decorated with flowers and ducks!

Ready to go!

After all the baking, it was good to be on the road.  I love getting away, even if it is only for a day.  We did a lot yesterday.  This morning, after a yogurt-fruit-granola breakfast at Sylvester's in Northampton (where I also bought a loaf of their home-made oatmeal sunflower bread), Jan and I rode around the charming and historic streets of Hatfield.  It was soon time to go back to reality, so I said good-bye and was on my way, arriving home in the early afternoon.  I was happy to have time to play with Henry and Peter.  Something smelled wonderful -- Katie was making potato corn chowder for dinner (recipe on tomorrow's blog post!).  It was delicious! 

Now, reality is starting to set in:  I have to get in the mode for Monday.  The most difficult aspect of a Sunday night, for me, is shifting the awareness of being in the weekend to preparing for everything I have to do on Monday.  That means finishing up a load of laundry, getting my gym clothes, and work clothes, ready for the morning, setting my phone alarm for 5:30 a.m., and leaving the house by 6:30 to get to the gym on time.  Sunday nights are always a little overwhelming.  Glad I have happy weekend memories to distract me from the ominous Monday about to arrive!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yoshi Birthday Cake for Breanna

Last night I made a cake for my friend Anne's granddaughter, Breanna, who's celebrating her twelfth birthday by having a party tonight for seven of her friends.  Breanna had requested a Yoshi cake.  First, I had to learn just who or what Yoshi is.  Yoshi, it seems, is a cute little dinosaur from the Super Mario video game.  I checked him out and thought, "I can do this."  My son Jeff was visiting so I asked, "Want to help me get creative with fondant?" and, as usual, he cheerfully agreed.

The night before, I had baked two 8-inch rounds, which were ready for frosting.  Using my standard decorating buttercream, I tinted 3/4 of the batch a sky blue and left the rest white.  I evened the layers with a serrated knife, filled them with white frosting, and covered the cake in sky blue.

With the fondant, Jeff and I crafted clouds, stars, flowers, shrubs, a mushroom, a potted tulip, and, of course, Yoshi.  If you've never worked with fondant before, don't be intimidated.  Wilton makes a ready-to-use fondant, in white and also a variety of colors, that rolls out beautifully. (You can also make your own, if you are so inclined!).  Fondant can be formed like edible clay to craft all kinds of cute little figures.  We opted for Wilton's basic white fondant and colored it ourselves with gel food colorings (which can be a messy process and I suggest vinyl gloves), rolled it into clouds, shrubs, stars, and flowers, shaped with cookie cutters.  Then we shaped the fondant into a potted plant, a mushroom, and finally, the star of the show, Yoshi. 

This is Yoshi

Jeff and I had a lot of fun playing - I mean creating - last night.  I hope Breanna and her friends have as much fun deconstructing Yoshi as we did putting him together!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

College Classes and Family Dinners

Skidmore College Entrance
Yesterday I was the visiting blogger in my friend Anne Breznau's English 105 classes at Skidmore College.  I had visited her class last semester and Anne asked if I'd consider doing it again, and I was very happy to repeat such an interesting experience.  I met with Anne's  4 p.m.  class and also with her 6:30 p.m. class.  The students were so engaged and curious.  Each, as part of this class, has started a blog.  It was great to hear about their topics which varied widely to include music, riding (equestrian), snowboarding, theater, food and restaurant reviews, and much more.  One writes about "rediculousness."  Some students' blogs are simply reflections on their lives as they happen.  One student, JP,  writes a letter to himself and responds to it (from his future self) from the year 2049.  How smart is that?

I was asked technical and process questions:  How did I get started?; What's my inspiration?; Do I have a bake shop?(no); What do I see my blog becoming in the future? (cook book/s).  Do I track data? (yes, somewhat obsessively); Do I consider myself more a writer who likes to bake or a baker who likes to write? (I am a baker who likes to write with the goal of one day being the writer who happens to bake!)

I had the same question for the students in each class:  Do you have regular family dinners?  Many do not.  Most responded that their families used to, but then schedules, life, etc. seemed to put an end to that.  One student noted that her family didn't start having dinner together until she went to college, and now when she goes home, they do sit down together to eat, but that will probably fall to the wayside over the summer.  Others talked about how, in their families, they eat individually and that's the way it's always been.  Of those who do have family dinners, it seems the ritual is sacred.  Some families have breakfast and dinner together every day.   One lovely student, Kyle, talked about actually placing a laptop at her sister's seat one time when she couldn't be there for dinner, and Skype-ing her sister in to the meal!  It was interesting to watch and hear students react to the descriptions of others' routines.  Some may be inspired to start their own version of the family dinner here at college, and perhaps revive them at home.  That'd be terrific!

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to sit with these students, and with Anne, to discuss food and family.  They were so enthusiastically engaged in the conversation.  It makes me wonder if I should have been a teacher!

Thank you, Anne, once again!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Potatoes Romanoff from the Strip House

Recently I received the latest catalog from Williams-Sonoma.  I LOVE Williams-Sonoma for many reasons:  the store, the catalog, wonderful wares, great recipes, etc.  I appreciate the history and legacy of the company.  It's not unusual for me to drive forty-five minutes south just to buy a favorite vanilla bean paste there, even when I can order it on-line.  There's something about experiencing Williams-Sonoma that justifies the time and gas it takes for a road trip. 

Page 7 of the March 2011 W-S catalog (titled Steak House) features a recipe from Greenwich Village's Strip House.  It is for potatoes Romanoff, "...a delicious take on twice-baked potatoes that exectutive chef John Schenk learned from his mother.  The potatoes are baked a day ahead, chilled overnight and then grated and baked again with sour cream, shallots and cheddar for a rich, satisfying gratin." 

If you receive Williams-Sonoma catalogs in the mail, take the time to find the recipes, tucked subtly among beautiful photographs in the pages featuring avocado pitters and pepper mills.  The March 2011 catalog alone has eleven recipes from steak houses all over the country, for such things as Gruyere Popovers, Cavatappi Mac 'N Cheese, Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs, and Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry.


Potatoes Romanoff
from the Strip House, Greenwich Village

3 large russet potatoes, about 2 lb. total, unpeeled and scrubbed
3/4 c. minced shallots
2 1/2 c. grated white cheddar cheese
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground white peper
1 1/2 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pierce each potato several times with a fork.  Place directly on onven rack; bake until tender, about 1 hour.  Remove; let potatoes cool.  Place on plate; wrap with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using large holes of box grater or food processor fitted with large-hole grater, grate potatoes, including skins.  Transfer to bowl; sprinkle shallots, 1 3/4 cups cheese, salt and white pepper on top.  Using your hands, gently toss together to combine, then fold in sour cream in 2 additons.

Transfer potato mixture to 1 1/2 qt. gratin dish; do not compress.  Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup cheese on top.  Bake until potatoes are hot and cheese is gold brown, about 30 minutes.
Serves 6.

Photo credit:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sick Day Pasta

It's been such a busy time at work recently that I look forward to weekends with more happy anticipation than I ever have before.  Working in a college's Admissions office means that spring time is exceptionally hectic.  While others go on spring break or take a week to go south, we're busy working to put next fall's entering class together.  So, by the time 4:30 Friday afternoon arrived, I was ready to turn off my computer, flip the light switch, and leave the building.  Unfortunately, early on I realized that I wasn't feeling well, and that feeling only intensified as the day progressed.  Any day that I turn down a lunch hour, or lunch for that matter, means that something is very wrong!  Once I arrived at home, I settled in and had a very quiet night, having to cancel on babysitting for my two little grandsons (another clue that I am not well! - I'd never miss the chance to spend time with my boys). 

Having not eaten for the day, by late last night I was hungry but couldn't stand the thought of food - an odd conflict within.  So, I made what my mother might have made me when I was a little girl - some little pasta with just a touch of butter, salt, and pepper, which caused no problems and eased the hunger pangs. 

Today is a new day. 

Sick Day Pasta - so simple, yet so soothing

Small pasta, like acini de pepe or ditalini, cooked and drained
Pat of butter
little salt and pepper

...and, if you're feeling up to it, transform this simple dish to Pastina:
one beaten egg
grated parmesan, romano cheese
a little sprinkling of your favorite herbs
(beat egg and stir with drained, hot pasta, cheese, and herbs over low heat until egg is cooked through).

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Photo image:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

Last weekend my friends Liz and Sandy took Claire and me out for our birthday breakfast to the Jonesville Store, in Jonesville, New York.  For locals, it's about a mile west of exit 10 on I-87, the Northway.  Our breakfasts were delicious.  I had an omelet with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, diced potatoes, and cheddar cheese.  On the side was toasted sour dough bread.  My friends ordered cranberry walnut pancakes that were light and fluffy.  Everything was delicious.  It's a casual and easy place to go for breakfast.  Orders are placed at the cash register and the staff delivers right to your table.  I'll go back again.

Claire took this photo of us (Sandy, Jeannie, Liz) Katie's wedding, Oct. '05

After breakfast, we decided to head south down I-87 to Latham to visit the new Fresh Market.  It's a beautiful store, similar to Whole Foods or an upscale Trader Joe's.  I liked it, alot.  Liz bought me a loaf of Irish soda bread and a block of real Irish butter.  When I got home later that day (after working that afternoon) Katie had a full Irish dinner cooking in her dutch oven (the dutch oven I covet!).  She made corned beef and cabbage with carrots, turnips, and potatoes.  It was delicious.  The Irish soda bread was a nice addition to the meal.

Here's a recipe for Irish Soda Bread.  It is very highly rated on  I've made a few changes based on reviewers' suggestions.  I'm baking it tonight.

adapted from

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 c. butter melted
3/4 c. raisins
optional:  2 tbsp. caraway seeds
3 tbsp. brown sugar/1 tsp. cinnamon mixture for topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9x5 loaf pan or two smaller loaf pans - or - line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda.  Blend egg and buttermilk together, and add all at once to the flour mixture.  Mix just until moistened.  Stir in butter.  Fold in raisins or caraway seeds.  Pour into prepared pan - OR - flour hands and shape into a round loaf on parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle tops with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the leavening agents to do their thing.

Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack.  Wrap in foil for several hours, or overnight, for best flavor.

Original Recipe:

Monday, March 14, 2011


In just a few minutes, on March 15, 2011, my 57th birthday will be upon me.  At this age, birthdays arrive without a lot of fan fare, with barely a thought before they arrive.  I don't know about other people, but personally, I don't mind having a birthday and have no problem acknowledging my age or growing older.  It's natural and as they say, "better than the alternative."  But birthdays are different now.  Unlike the happy anticipation and excitement we experience as children, I am actually a little ambivalent about this annual acknowledgement of the day I was born.  It may truly be "just another day."  And that's not bad.  The older I get,  the focus of the day seems more appropriately shifted to my mother, the amazing woman who brought not only me, but six other children into the world, all within the span of ten years.  (I'm the middle child!).  Ever the trouble maker, I surprised my mother by arriving a month earlier than anticipated, just one year, one week, and one day after her third child, my brother Steven, was born.  Steven and I missed being "Irish twins" by just nine days.

My birthdays, from this point on, are becoming more a grateful nod to the generous life of Virginia McGeehan O'Farrell, and to my father as well.  They were such loving and devoted parents.  My brothers, sisters, and I were exceptionally fortunate to be their children.

So tomorrow, if there are candles to be blown on a cake (with Henry's help, of course) I will make the secret wish I always make, and quietly say "thank you" to my Mom, lost nine years ago, in April of 2002.  Happy Birthday Mom - it's as much your day as it is mine. 

Clip art:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Banana Bread, Healthified

This morning I have banana bread in the oven.  It still has about a half-hour to go, but already the aroma is beautiful and it is rising  nicely.  I took my usual recipe and made it healthier by using whole wheat flour and low-fat sour cream.  Originally, the basis for this recipe was for a sour cream coffee cake that I make all the time.  I took three overly-ripe bananas and mixed them in with the sugar and canola oil, and switched the all-purpose flour to a mixture of whole wheat flour and some cornstarch.  The addition of nutrition-rich walnuts adds to both the delicious and healthy factors as well. 

Banana Walnut Bread, Healthified

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 over-ripe bananas
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs or 1 c. egg substitute
2 cups low-fat/non-fat sour cream
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts for batter, plus another 1/4 cup for topping

Oven - 350 degrees F

Prepare two loaf pans with baking spray

Beat sugars with canola oil and bananas until smooth.  Add vanilla, and eggs, one at a time until well mixed.  Add sour cream and mix until smooth.

In separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/2 cup of the chopped almonds. 

Add flour mixture to wet mixture and mix until completely incorporated.  Divide batter between two loaf pans and sprinkle tops with the rest of the chopped walnuts. 

Bake 45-55 minutes or until loaves test done with a knife or skewer.

Cool in pans for at least 20 minutes and turn out onto wire rack to complete cooling.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Whole Wheat Scones to Settle the Spirit

It's been a day of nervous energy, as good friends and relatives weathered the distant repurcussions of the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami that followed.  My sister Patsy and her husband are vacationing on the Big Island of Hawaii.  My friend Val lives there as well.  My daughter Meghan lives on the coast of southern California, and my brother Danny and his wife Suzette are near San Francisco.  My good friend Sue and her husband Pete flew out of Oahu yesterday, just in time.  A professor friend of mine is in Tokyo, but reports are that he is fine.  With all these people in coastal Pacific areas, it was a day of worry and concern.  Thankfully, all are well and I am so very grateful.  To dissipate the day's fretful energy, I invited little Henry upstairs tonight, a nice diversion from the horrible and incredibly sad images on the news coming from Japan.   I don't remember a time when I've been so concerned about so many people, so far apart from each other, all because of one singular geologic event.  It's a very strange feeling.  To settle my uneasy spirit, Henry is helping me make whole wheat scones.  As usual, Finding Nemo is playing in the background, and he's already had his popsicle.  We have a routine for Henry's after-dinner visits, much like the movie, Groundhog Day, we do the same thing over and over!  There is comfort in the familiar, which is why Henry and  I are doing some baking tonight.

We're making whole wheat scones for tomorrow's breakfast.  This recipe calls for currants and orange zest.  I'm substituting raisins and a brown sugar/cinnamon mixture (post script - they're done!  See photo, above left.  I added a thin confectioners sugar glaze).
I found this recipe on Eating Well's Web site, and thought I'd give it a try.  These scones are quite a bit less indulgent than my regular recipe, but with all the work I've been doing to exercise and lose weight, I like the idea of a scone that doesn't require so much work to burn off, as well as one that offers some good nutrition in the way of whole grains, little fat, and barely any sugar.

While there are only three reviews of this recipe on Eating Well's site, they are three enthusiastic reviews, so I'm giving them a shot.  My batter is in the fridge chilling (I always chill my scone batter before shaping) and pretty soon they'll be baking in the oven.  I'll let you know how they turn out!

Whole-Wheat Scones

From EatingWell: April 1998 "This simple scone is sure to become a regular addition to your brunch menu."
16 scones
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour


•4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese, cut into small pieces
•2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
•2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
•2 tablespoons light brown sugar
•2 teaspoons baking powder
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•3/4 teaspoon salt
•1/4 cup currants
•1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
•2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, divided


1.Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet or coat it with nonstick spray. Place cream cheese and butter in freezer to chill, about 10 minutes.

2.Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut cream cheese and butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Add currants and orange zest and toss to incorporate. Make a well in the flour mixture. Add 2/3 cup buttermilk, stirring with a fork until just combined.

3.Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and knead gently 7 or 8 times. Divide dough in half. With floured hands, pat each piece into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. With a floured knife, cut each circle into 8 wedges. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Lightly brush tops with remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk.

4.Bake scones for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden and firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.


Per serving : 87 Calories; 2 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 0 g Mono; 6 mg Cholesterol; 14 g Carbohydrates; 2 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 261 mg Sodium; 28 mg Potassium

1 Carbohydrate Serving

Exchanges: 1 starch, 1/2 fat
Tips & Notes

•Make Ahead Tip: Store well wrapped in the freezer for up to 1 week. Thaw at room temperature. Warm slightly before serving.

Photo:  my own

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday is Spaghetti Night

One of the nice things about having my home within my daughter's home is that when relatives are invited for dinner, we can decide which kitchen we want to cook in.  Tonight my neice Lauren and her three beautiful children -- ages one-and-a-half, five, and eight -- came for dinner, and Katie and I decided to do  the cooking in her part of the house.  That way the kids could play and have more room (and my kitchen wouldn't get messed up!).  The menu was decided on while I was driving after work to the closest grocery store.  I wondered what I could throw together fast that was welcoming, home-made, and that everyone would like.  Lauren and the kids would be arriving within the hour.  I decided on spaghetti.  I remembered that commercial from my childhood, "Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day."  Well, I didn't have Prince spaghetti.  I had an imported Italian buccatini, the long spaghetti shape with a hole down the middle.  There was no time to create sauce from scratch, so I bought Paul Newman's marinara and a loaf of french bread, which was later sliced lengthwise down the middle and broiled with butter and garlic for a crunchy, toasty garlic bread.  A bag of romaine salad mix and a couple of choices for salad dressing had everyone happy, and some going for more.  Lauren, Katie, and I sat long and talked about everything while the kids played.  It was a lot of fun and made me realize how much I miss the everyday contact I used to have with Lauren and her family as the kids were growing up, just a few houses apart from each other.  We have such terrific and enduring memories of those years living in the same neighborhood. 

I'm glad we had dinner together tonight.  Wednesday evenings are great for company.  Last weekend and next weekend seem equally far away.  When weekends do arrive, they are usually so jam-packed of have-to-dos and want-to-dos that I'm hesitant to add any more to them.  If I had company coming on a weekend night, I'd spend all day getting ready.  That's not possible on a Wednesday night.  It's come as you are, come as we are, enjoy what we have to offer, and enjoy the casual comfort of a home that welcomes you in, if not dressed in its Sunday best. 

One of my favorite quotes of the evening was when Will, age 5, looked at Katie as she was holding 4-month old Peter and said, "That baby looks like a meatball."  I think that was the perfect statement on Wednesday, spaghetti night.  Can't wait to do it again. 

Photo credit:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Food On My Mind

Because I'm weight-watching and exercising alot, all I can think about (when I'm not obsessing about my job or other of life's demands) is food.  I read cookbooks for fun, and when shopping my head is turned by tantalizing (food, mind you)  magazine covers at every check out.  I look forward to every meal and snack, and I want each bite of everything to be not just good, but incredibly delicious.  Of course, that isn't always possible.  Still, I don't want to waste my "points budget" on food that isn't worthy!  This is why I love Ellie Krieger's recipes.  I've written before about her book The Food You Crave, a great offering of transformed comfort foods that will have you asking yourself just what you're missing.  Pretty much nothing.  It's all there -- flavor, texture, substance -- only infused, ever so subtly, with really good nutrition that keeps itself quiet in the background but whose presence takes comfort to a healthier level.  My favorites are Ellie's Sloppy Joes and her Pumpkin Walnut Muffins.   If you don't tell your family that you've healthified their favorites, they may just never know!  Not that you should keep your efforts at improving their lives a's just that some people don't want anyone messing with comfort foods.  They are comfort foods for a reason, foods that we can indulge in with a devil-may-care attitude, because we want it, we deserve it, and tomorrow is another day.  So let them think they've been indulged if you sense pull-back at the notion of a healthier rendition of a favorite meal.

Here's Ellie's recipe for one quintessential comfort food:  meatloaf.  She uses ground turkey breast (all white meat) and traditional seasonings to create a meatloaf that has only 3.5 grams of fat/1" slice.  Ellie calls it "Mom's Turkey Meatloaf" and writes: "First, it's made with lean ground turkey.  Second, instead of bread crumbs, I use a secret ingredient that binds everything together and keeps the meatloaf wonderfully most: quick cooking oats, a  healthy whole grain that blends in undetected.  All that meaty goodness is covered in tomato sauce and crowned in onion rings that turn golden brown, making for a beautiful presentation."  In addition to making a great meal, I love meatloaf sandwiches, as I went on and on about a few posts ago when writing about ketchup! 

Forgive me for this minor interruption: just had to fit in today's photo of my grandsons, for no recipe-related reason (though Henry is checking out one of my cookbooks on cake design)!

Peter (l) and Henry (r) hanging out at Grandmas!

OK, back to business...Ellie's meatloaf recipe gets four stars on The Food Network Web site, and that is good enough for me, and I bet for you, too.  Here's the recipe:


3/4 c. quick-cookingoats
1/2 c. nonfat milk
1 medium onion, peeled
2 lbs. ground turkey breast
1/2 c. seeded and chopped red bell pepper (1/2 medium pepper)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
One 8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

In a small bowl, stir together the oats and mil and allow to soak while you get the rest of the ingredients together, at least 3 minutes.

Thinly slice one-quarter of the onion into rings and set aside.  Finely chop the rest of the onion.  In a large bowl, combine the turkey, oatmeal mixture, c hopped onion, bell pepper, eggs, Worcestershire, ketchup, salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Mix just until combined.

Transfer the mixture to a 9x13 baking dish and shape into a loaf about 5 inches wide and 2 inches high.  Pour the tomato sauce over the meatloaf and sprinkle with the sliced onions.  Bake until an instant-read meat thermomenter inserted into the thickets part registers 160 degrees F, about 1 hour.

Remove from oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Photo credit:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Early Mornings, Exercise, and Play

For one month now, I've been participating in an exercise science study at Skidmore College.  Four mornings a week, through the next sixteen weeks, two groups of participants show up at the gym; the first group arrives at 6 a.m., the second at 7 a.m.  I'm in the 7 a.m. group since waking up to make it by then is early enough, and quite an accomplishment for a former night owl like me.  This new ritual has forced changes in my life.  No longer do I stay up through the 11 p.m. news and then another  hour and a half of late-night entertainment.  Nope, my routine has changed  completely.  Now I get up around 5:30 a.m. just to have a little time at home before I leave, and at the other end of the day I am yawning and ready for bed by 9:30 p.m.! 

Preparations for the following day are taken care of the night before.  In order to be ready to go, I pack my work clothes before I go to bed, so by morning all I have to do is throw on my exercise clothes and go out the door (I'm not a morning person yet.  I've been known to show up with my shirt inside out and backwards!).  Usually, getting out the door is a pretty simple thing, but this winter has been exceptionally unfriendly, and many mornings I've had to battle the elements to arrive at the gym on time.  On cold, dark winter mornings, I find it really hard to get out of bed, and I've resorted to placing my alarm phone (cell phone alarm) across the room.  As much as my circadian rhythms are protesting, I am never so grateful for morning exercise as the moment it is over, having accomplished an hour of heart-pumping activity.  After that, the day starts with most anxious energy abated, and whatever challenges waiting on my desk suddenly seem less daunting.  I don't have to think about exercising, or that I should be exercising, for the rest of the day, because it is over and done with.  Our work-out schedule is a mix of various aerobic and weight-resistance exercises, all sessions one hour, as follows:

Mondays:  sprints (I use the stationary bike)
Tuesdays:  Yoga (yet to find the peace, though noticing slight increased flexibility)
Wednesdays:  off - sleep until 7 a.m. - yea!
Thursdays:  fundamental training (circuits)
Fridays:  endurance (tomorrow we're snow-shoeing at 7 a.m.!)

I've lost weight before dieting, and I've lost weight before exercising, but combining these efforts is a one-two punch that accelerates results and leaves me feeling like I'm doing pretty much everything I can to improve my health and to provide me with the ability to get on the floor and play with my grandchildren until I am old(er) and gray(er).  The more time I spend in the gym with my morning buddies, the more it seems like play and less like work.  Jump-roping this morning was not the torturous experience it was four weeks ago.  It was more like those mornings at recess at St. Clement's School, when we got in lines, waiting for our chance to jump rope for fun, knowing it was nothing more than play. 

I have hated organized exercise, but I love to play.  Soon, it will seem more like play.  I'm looking forward to playing with my grandchildren.  We're going to have so much fun! 

Photo image: