Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

There is some very good news this week. I spoke to my surgeon, Dr. Soriaya Motivala, on Thursday. She says that I do not have to wear the bone-growth stimulator anymore and that I can start using my Peloton exercise bike again, so long as I go slowly and do not overreach.

In other good news, I dropped six pounds this week, so I am cautiously optimistic that I am getting back on track. Wednesday, I decided that on days that I’m not going out I will go back to tracking my food for a while. but may switch to “Simply Filling” on days that I am going out. (I did track last night’s dinner – it was pretty easy to do since I planned what I was going to order before I left the house.

Dinner last night was wonderful. We ate at an old favorite, El Gran Castillo de Jagua, at 355 Flatbush Avenue, which makes some of the best Dominican dishes around. I had the fillet of salmon with a side order of sweet plantains. I did sneak a bite of Marc Glasser’s mofongo with pork (mashed plantains, usually with some meat or fish added). For a change, I managed to get through dinner without ordering any soda. The attendees were Marc Glasser, Cyndi Cascanti, Joe Sullivan, Sue Levy (the roomie), Maury Kestenbaum, Chuck Hancock, Ariel Winterbreucke, Mark Blackman, and me. Joe was kind enough to drive Marc, Sue and me to Marc’s afterward
deb-lucys-carrot-stewOkay, I promised I would post the carrot stew recipe. Let me start by posting what Lucy had to say about it that inspired me to make it:

“I’ve started adding what I call ‘carrot stew’ to my repertoire. The name comes from a picture book we had when our kids were small, The Tawny, Scrawny Lion, in which a hungry lion encounters a fat little rabbit, but before the lion can gobble him up, the rabbit invites the lion to come home with him and share a dinner of carrot stew with him and his five fat rabbit brothers and six fat rabbit sisters.  So this lion goes home with him, thinking that 12 little fat rabbits will make a better meal than just one, and the rabbits throw carrots and onions and mushrooms and some other vegetables and some fish into a pot and when it’s cooked they share it with the lion and then serve bowls of berries for dessert. And afterward the lion walks home, whistling to himself in the moonlight.”

Lucy and Deb’s “Carrot Stew”


Frozen (pre-cut) or fresh veggies

(I used frozen spinach, 2 diced onions, a bag of baby carrots, a can of new potatoes, 2 ribs of celery, pre-cut bagged zucchini and butternut squash, and canned mushrooms)

1/2 cup pearl barley

2.4 lbs of salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

tarragon, to taste

dill, to taste

Auntie Arwen’s Ultimate Garlic Insanity, to taste (Auntie Arwen has a shop on Etsy, and her spice blends are magnificent and reasonably priced.)

Water to cover


I swear this recipe is pretty much fool-proof. You just put all the ingredients into a large pot, cover, and simmer until the fish is cooked and the vegetables are tender. It is a very forgiving recipe. I made the whole recipe, without the mushrooms, then added them after Sue had taken her portion, then reheated it until the mushrooms were also warm. Cooking took about two hours, and the resulting stew is wonderful – even after being reheated four days later for today’s lunch.

The recipe is also incredibly Weight Watchers friendly: only 3 Points Plus for a one-cup serving.

Last week, I made a commitment to Robert, my WW coach, that I would meditate at least once a day. He suggested that I use the free trial at Headspace to get started. Even though I have done meditation many times in the past, I figured I’d give it a try, and I love their method, so I have added it to my routine (I don’t talk about this much, but I try to remember to meditate twice a day already). I actually like meditating; it’s refreshing to take a little time to not have my brain running around like a madwoman. I’ve also noticed that on days when I do take the time to meditate, I seem to have less trouble reacting to things that happen.

So that’s where things are today.See you all next time!






As most of you know, there are three measures by which I know I’ve taken back my life from the health issues of last year: walking, cooking, and blogging. Slowly – far too damned slowly – I am doing all three.

Yesterday, I went to a most excellent housefilk at the home of some friends. Not only was I able to sit up for the whole thing, but I was able to get the rollator up the front steps to their building by myself (normally, Sue or Marc drags it up the steps, while I use the banister to haul myself up)! I was also able to walk to the car after the housefilk, and survive the car rides to and from Josh and Lisa’s place. I was even able to walk around their apartment a little without using any support at all.

But that’s not today’s accomplishment. The roots for that actually go back to a job I had from 1977 to 1987. Back then, I worked for Rialto Management Company, a small real estate firm in midtown owned by Ruben Shulsky. One of the best parts of that job was the little kosher meat restaurant across 30th Street and halfway between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. It had no name, but had some of the best food I had ever eaten. One of my favorite dishes there was cholent – a beef/bean/barley stew. Cholent is one of those things observant Jews eat for Shabbos lunch, because it can be started on Friday before sundown and kept on the top of the stove over a very low heat until they can turn the light off after sundown on Saturday. Well, I loved that cholent, but not being an observant Jew, I didn’t know how to make it. Over the years, I asked observant friends and looked on the Internet for recipes – and there were some interesting ones – but they never quite tasted like the cholent from that restaurant. Cholent is one of those things where everyone has a slightly different recipe, usually learned from their mom.

lucys-cholent-picA few months ago, an acquaintance of mine posted about cholent in an APA we both belong to (AWA, or A Women’s APA). I asked for her recipe, and she posted it in the following collation. I started it yesterday after we got home from the housefilk, and when I tried it for lunch today it was exactly the taste I remembered! I even put it into the Weight Watchers recipe calculator and discovered it’s 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving, which is not bad for a meal! Without further ado, here is the recipe for Lucy Schmeidler’s cholent, as written in AWA:
Lucy Schmeidler’s Cholent

1 – 1 1/2 lbs lean beef, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium large Idaho (russet) potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 – 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
6 – 10 baby carrots
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 4-oz can mushrooms
1/2 cup pearl barley, soaked
1/2 cup navy or small white beans, soaked
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp minced garlic
Cooking oil
Water to cover
3-qt heavy pot

Friday morning: Brown onions in oil. Add meat, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery and water to cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. (Deb’s note: We did this for about an hour. Also, since the roomie is allergic to mushrooms, we made it without, and when she had taken what she wanted, I added the mushrooms and reheated it thoroughly.) Add barley, beans, seasonings and more water to cover. Cook covered overnight over low heat without stirring. Serve for Shabbos lunch.

So, I want to thank Lucy for helping me solve a  – to me – 35-year search!

In other “taking back my life” news, my surgeon says that I am doing amazingly well – far better than she had expected. I went to lunch with the roomie to a place we often order from over on Emmons Avenue, the Opera Cafe. The food was excellent, as always, and it was good to get out. I’ve also started up the fannish dinner group again, although we have been sticking to places in Brooklyn so far. Future plans include maybe doing a Monday night dinner so the Kosher Krew can join us, and possibly some weekend brunches. There are just too many great places to eat around New York City. (And if anyone reading this is in the area and wants onto the list for the dinners, please leave a comment, email, or otherwise message or call me. I’d be happy to add you to the list. Attendance is not mandatory at all; all I ask is if you are joining us on a given week, let me know in case the group for that week is big enough to need reservations.)


I am a sucker, especially in winter, for a good, hearty, homemade soup or stew. A stoup, as defined by Rachael Ray, combines the best of both worlds. It’s real comfort food. I adapted this from Simple Nourished Living‘s recipe for “Mom’s Simple Hearty Lentil Sausage Stew”. I used a cooking method my friend Mamadeb had mentioned in her blog, Steadily On. It is a Weight Watchers friendly recipe; most of the ingredients are power foods. Beef and Lentil Stoup works for the Simply Filling plan and is 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving for those doing tracking.

Beef and Lentil Stoup
Adapted by Deb Wunder (otherdeb)

12 1-cup servings
5 5 Points Plus per serving

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: About two hours


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, choped rough
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped rough
  • 1 lb beef chunks (round, trimmed)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 1-1/2 boxes broth
  • 2 10-oz cans Ro*Tel, undrained
  • 5 ribs celery, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper

1. Chop the ingredients that need chopping, cutting, or dicing
2. Put the olive oil into a Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally
3. Add the beef chunks and cook for about 8 minutes.
4. Stir in the lentils, broth, tomatoes, celery, carrot, parsnips, Ro*Tel, and spices.
5. Partially cover pot and bring to a boil.
6. Preheat oven to 300∘ F.
7. Cover pot, and put in the oven on a rack for approximately two hours, or until stoup is the thickness you desire. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water or broth.
8. Divide into one-cup portions and serve.

I bit the bullet and rejoined Weight Watchers this morning. Chose a three-month, online-only plan that gives me access to a coach at all times. I had a discussion with one of the coaches today – a lady named Janet, and we spoke about how I was feeling. I’m not sure how it will work out, but the pain of being out of shape and obese is, perhaps, finally stronger than the pain of doing the program again.

I finished an interesting book today: Fuschia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fin And Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. She covers how she ended up becoming a certified Sichuan chef and a food writer specializing in the cuisines of China. IF you are interested in a look at the foods of China – in a context of life in China – I recommend it.

Anyway, that’s it for now.

I finally got to do a little cooking last night. Made two recipes from The Kitchn: Chicken Ragù with Bacon and Fennel and Cauliflower Couscous.

**Chicken Ragù with Bacon and Fennel**

6 ounces thick bacon, about 3 strips, diced
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into large pieces
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cook the bacon over low heat in a Dutch oven or heavy pot for 5 to 10 minutes, until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is getting crispy. Stir in the onion, garlic, and fennel until coated with the bacon fat, and cook over low to medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes or until soft and glistening.

Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Sear the chicken thigh pieces in the center of the pot for about 3 minutes, turning frequently. The goal is not to develop a dark sear or crust on the chicken, but just to start the cooking.

Stir in the flour. Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook for 1 hour or until the chicken is very tender. Vigorously work through the pot with two forks to shred the meat fine.

Taste before serving and add salt or other seasonings if needed. Serve with gnocchi, as seen here, or pasta, brown rice, or roasted vegetables.

Leftovers keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator and they also freeze extremely well.

**Recipe Notes**
On Seasoning: I do not add any salt to this dish until the end of cooking, as bacon can be quite salty enough.
Fennel Tops: If your fennel bulb comes with its stalks and fronds, trim away the fronds and reserve for garnishing the dish. The stalks can be diced and added to the pot with the bulb.



Makes 6 servings (about 1 cup each)

1 head cauliflower, any size
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter, optional
Salt, optional

**What You Need**
Chef’s knife
Food processor or box grater
Skillet with lid, optional

Cut the cauliflower into large pieces: Cut the head of cauliflower into quarters, then trim out the inner core from each quarter. Break apart the cauliflower into large florets with your hands. If the core is tender, you can chip it into pieces and add it with the florets.

Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor: Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor. Don’t fill the food processor more than 3/4 full; if necessary, process in two batches.

Pulse the cauliflower until completely broken down: Process the cauliflower in 1-second pulses until it has completely broken down into couscous-sized granules. (Alternatively, grate the florets on the large holes of a box grater.)

Pull out any unprocessed pieces: Some florets or large pieces of cauliflower might remain intact. Pull these out and set them aside. Transfer the cauliflower couscous to another container and re-process any large pieces.

Serving raw cauliflower couscous: Cauliflower couscous can be used raw, tossed like grains into a salad or in a cold side dish.

Cooking cauliflower couscous: Cooking makes the cauliflower more tender and rice-like. Warm a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the couscous and sprinkle with a little salt. Cover the skillet and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the couscous is as tender as you like. Use or serve immediately, or refrigerate the couscous for up to a week.

**Recipe Notes**
Freezing raw cauliflower couscous: The couscous can also be sealed in airtight containers or bags and frozen for up to three months. Thaw on the counter for a few minutes before using or cooking.


Both were very tasty, although the roomie preferred hers without the sprinkling of fennel fronds on top and had hers over rice.

The bad news is that I had a fair amount of trouble standing for longer than about five minutes at a stretch. My lower back was not happy with me at all. The damage at L5, S1 is enough to keep me in pain when I have to stand.

I’m in a quandary. I need to lose weight. I am now over 300 lbs. This is the heaviest I have ever been, and I feel it. I know Weight Watchers works, but the idea of counting every bite is just more than I can deal with right now. I know Atkins works, but I don’t like the idea of cutting out whole food groups — even for short periods of time. I need to figure out how to eat for where my body is now. I know I want to get back to being more flexitarian. I know I need to lose some weight to begin to do exercise. I want to get either a treadmill or an elliptical so that the weather is not a stop for me in terms of being able to exercise. (I have spoken to two cousins about this — one a pediatric gastroenterologist and one a sports medicine specialist, as well as my cardiologist).

I know that if I wanted to jump through hoops for a year, Medicaid would approve bariatric surgery, but I really don’t want to go that route.

I will get this figured out. It may take time, but I will. I didn’t go through an incredibly risky surgery just to end up vegetating.

In good news, I used some of a small windfall to get something I have wanted for about ten years: a Le Creuset 5.5 quart French Oven. I got very lucky one day and found it for sale on Zulilly for about 2/3 of the retail price and ordered immediately. Last night’s ragù was its initial use, and I was quite pleased with it. My next use will be a lentil and beef stew, which I will probably try tomorrow since my back is not up to standing today.

One other thing I’ve done is to decide that I need to get back to blogging more regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I like providing web content – at least most of the time. but I really miss blogging about the things I like, and I need to not let the web content writing take me away from the writing that keeps me sustained.

So that’s what’s happening over here in Brooklyn.

Yesterday, I ran across some old challah bread that the roomie had left in the fridge. It hadn’t gone moldy, and I was looking for tuff for breakfast, so this is what I did.

Individual Bread Pudding



  • 1 slice challah (old is better)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fat-free half and half
  • 1/2 pinch lite salt
  • 1-2 slices of ham
  • Leftover taco seasoning
  • Handful of shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Tear up the challah and the ham and put it in the bottom of a shallow baking dish
  2. Beat together the egg and the half and half to make a custard. Add the salt and the taco seasoning
  3. Pour the custard over the bread and ham
  4. Top with shredded mozzarella
  5. Pop into microwave for 2-3 minutes (I put it in for two minutes, then checked it and put it back for another minute)
  6. Enjoy

It was everything a good savory bread pudding should be, without a lot of muss and fuss. I suppose I could have stuck the dish under the broiler for a few minutes at the end to brown the cheesy top, but it was just fine without doing so.

In other news, cardiac rehab goes apace. I managed 6 minutes on the treadmill this morning – my sciatica wasn’t acting up – and 30 minutes on the cross-trainer at a workload of 7. The SciFit Power Trainer got 15 minutes.

I’ve been getting out a bit more than before, so I’m pretty pleased with that. Yeah, I wish the healing was going quicker, but I’m trying to not be an idiot and overreach because I don’t want to burn myself out. I’m planning to go see the Walking with Dinosaurs thing with a friend, and also have a mammogram coming up, so life is busy.

Went to dinner with my sister yesterday, and had a nice time, and I made it into Manhattan for one Friday night dinner, and to downtown Brooklyn for another.

I’ve also been getting some writing, which makes me very happy.

The not so great news is that I seem to have become a picnic ground for a mosquito, who has left a number of bites across my back under the bra-line. They are not fatal, clearly, but they are uncomfortable. Sadly, they are not in a spot I can reach to put aloe or lotion on, so I will just have to live with it.

So that’s what’s been happening with me. How are you guys doing?


And likely to get colder as this new spate of polar air and snow sets in. In fact, this is a hearty soup for breakfast kind of day, which works because when I couldn’t sleep overnight, I made a big batch of soup. Not my usual formal recipe kind of soup, but a Use-Up-A-Few-Things soup.  This one had leftover pork shoulder, an older bag of 16-bean soup bean mix, the drippings (minus the fat) from the pork shoulder, some farro that needed using up, a can of beef broth a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of Ro*Tel, and one tomato can of water. Came out delicious. I’m planning to – when I package it for freezing and fridging – pull the pork out of one container, puree it in the NutriBullet, then add the pork back for a thicker soup, although I like it just the way it is. Heck, it’s cold enough that I’m seriously thinking of keeping the pot on the stove, and adding things over the course of the day, like some pierogies and some kielbasa. However, I’ll probably just do the pierogies and kielbasa separately for lunch.

Mostly, I’m waiting to call the hospital to postpone my consultation with the surgeon. Their office was closed yesterday, so I left a message, but I want to confirm the cancellation, and get a new date, preferably after the end of this cold spell. One of the things I found out over the last few months is that it’s much harder to travel when it’s cold like this, because the cold is likely to trigger the asthma on top of the heart issues. UPDATE: Appointment has been moved to next Tuesday, at 2 pm.

So, to catch up on my life since the 16th…

I’ve been reading, when I can concentrate enough. One of the books I was able to concentrate enough to read was Lawrence Block’s newest Bernie Rhodenbarr book, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, which I enjoyed greatly. It’s no secret that Block is one of my two favorite mystery writers (the other being the late Robert B. Parker), and that Bernie is one of my favorite series of Block’s. This one did not disappoint, and I recommend it to anyone who likes a good, NYC-based tale, with a witty protagonist and cool support characters,  full of sly humor.

 Mostly, though, what concentration I have is reserved for things like writing press releases, editing theses, etc. I need to get more work, but right now it’s a balancing act, and I hate not being able to push myself beyond a certain point. Other than that, I’m mostly online, talking to people, so that I’m not eating my own tail over the whole situation. The mostly good news is that I have adjusted to having had to cut my sister out of my life, even though I’m still very sad that I had to do so. On the other tentacle, my fannish sisters have let me know I’m not alone. The roomie continues to be as helpful as she can – running errands for me so I can conserve energy – being my voice on the phone when my voice gives out, etc. The odd thing is that my voice seems to be coming back very slowly, in fits and starts. There was a whole morning when I sounded like myself. I am hoping that this just means that I strained something, and my voice will eventually come back totally. One of the worst things about this whole mess has been losing my voice so badly. I have a hard enough time making myself understood when people *can* hear me; when they can’t, life becomes that much harder all around.

Most of my friends were at Arisia this past weekend, which I was glad to hear went well for all of them. However, one of my Boston friends had decided that – for various reasons – she would rather skip Arisia and come and visit both me and some of her family in the area. It was delightful to see her, and I wish we could have hung out longer, but we had the whole afternoon together, including lunch at my favorite Indian restaurant (roomie, friend, and me), and then the friend driving me to the fannish party I was going to that evening, since it was on her way to her family’s place. The party went well, and Marc drove me home afterwards, along with pretty much the rest of the guests.

Sunday was pretty quiet, except for a surprise: delivered the cookbook I had ordered (Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger  and Julie Kaufmann). Four different cooking blogs had recommended this book at different times, and I finally took the hint. I’m glad I did, too; I want to make everything in the book! In fact, I told Marc that I foresaw a lot of soups, stews, and braises in his future.

So, that’s where things are at for the moment. I’ve planned a warm pasta dish for dinner, based on a recipe I found on the Web: Northwest Edible Life’s Cabbage and Pasta with Mustard Cream Sauce. Sounds yummy, and both the roomie and I like cabbage. The roomie and I have been trying to cut down our meat consumption a bit, and this sounds just right for a hideously cold evening. Mind, we are not cutting meat out entirely, and I just downloaded a meat recipe from a friend that I will try when we can next get to the local market. One good thing about our local market, Silver Star on Nostrand Avenue, between Avenues Y & Z, is that it started out as a meat market/butcher. This means that the meat we get there is nice and fresh which is a wonderful thing.

See all of y’all in a couple of days, hopefully.



Okay, I had planned to do a braise of some brisket in the oven, but while chatting with some friends online, one mentioned she did her braising in a crock pot. I figured, “What the heck, I’ll give it a try.”

I used the 6 qt. crock pot, and cut the brisket in half (it was a huge whole brisket – cut in half it was four lbs).


  • 1 can new potatoes, drained
  • 4 medium carrots, washed
  • 2 parsnips, washed
  • 3 stalks celery, washed
  • 4 lbs. brisket
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • Auntie Arwen’s Opa! Greek Lamb Seasoning (this is the only seasoning with ginger in it where I can tolerate the ginger)
  • 1 cup red wine of your choice


  1. Put the new potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot.
  2. Cut the carrots, parsnips, and celery into pieces about 1 inch long. Add to crock pot.
  3. Rub brisket with spices, then add to crock pot.
  4. Add red wine to crock pot.
  5. Set crock pot to low and let cook for eight hours, stirring very occasionally.

The meat should be tender, but firm enough to cut without making a hash of it.

It was delicious.  We got two days’ worth of dinners out of it, plus a couple of sandwiches apiece, so I’d say it was a really good deal for the money. The brisket cost about $21 for just under 8 lbs., the veggies were about $3 in total, so four dinners and four sandwiches (plus a taste for a dear friend who happened to drop by the next day) cost under $25.

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