Sunday, January 27, 2013



"I like to brush the biscuits with mustard before baking because it gives a tangy flavour, but this can be omitted. Keep in a tin for one week or in the fridge for two."

1/2 cup soft butter
2 and 1/2 cups grated old cheddar (I use Imperial Cheddar)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)
Optional: 1/2 cup crushed potato chips

1/8 cup sesame seeds
3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (brush on first if using)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor or by hand, cream the butter until soft. Add the mustard and process until well-combined. 
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, cayenne and potato chips if using. Add to cheese mixture and combine just until dough holds together.
Divide into two, roll into cylinders about 1-2 inches in diameter. Roll in sesame mixture. Refrigerate to harden. Cut into 1/4 inch slices. 
Place on cookie sheet, brush with additional mustard and sprinkle with extra herbes as desired. Bake 12-15 minutes. Makes 60 to 80 1 and 1/2 inch biscuits.


(My Adaptation of) MOM'S BROWN SUGAR FUDGE

Warning: this stuff is like crack. Seriously. I only make it when giving it as a gift or when I know others will be around to help me inhale it. Because I WILL eat an entire recipe over the course of a few days. This does not fit into my current fitness and nutrition program AT ALL but one of my son's teachers requested the recipe after I gave her some for Christmas. So here it is; proceed with caution! My mom, Christine Buckham, adapted this recipe from one for frosting when I was a kid, and I recently added the salt, taking into crazyville on the delicious scale.

(This is a small recipe and can be doubled). 

1/4 cup butter 
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons of milk
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Around two teaspoons sea salt 

Optional: 3 tablespoons wheat germ (gives a fine crunchiness, though I prefer it without)

Bring butter, sugar and milk to a full boil on a medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to boil for four minutes, stirring frequently. 

Do not leave the stove - this boiling time is crucial and the sugar cannot be allowed to burn.

Remove from heat and stir the bubbles down. Add vanilla, sifted icing sugar and the wheat germ if using.

Stir and gently whip the fudge with a wooden spoon for a few minutes. When the fudge begins to harden onto the sides of the pot, scrape it into a low- sided dish or pan. 

Optional: My personal adaptation is to sprinkle an even, light layer of sea salt into the bottom of the pan before I pour in the fudge. The feedback I have received about this trick is that it makes the fudge even harder to stop eating! 

Cut into squares while still soft. Allow to cool. Share with friends before your pants become too tight.



3 cups rolled oats
3 cups all purpose flour (I use whole wheat)
1 cup granulated sugar (I use brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups butter
1/4 cup cold water
Optional: your choice of dried herbs for a savory touch. I like to add lavender and/or thyme.

Combine dry ingredients. Work in butter with fingers; stir in water. Dough should be crumbly and just barely hold together. Place it on a greased 18x12 inch jelly roll pan or baking sheet (I use a baking sheet). 

Spread evenly over pan and into corners. Use a rolling pin to make it flat, smooth and firm. With a greased knife, cut into two-inch squares. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until light brown. Let cool. Squares should snap apart easily along cut lines.

Makes 60 squares.

Monday, January 21, 2013

2013, Here I Come!

So. It's been a while since I posted. I think I mentioned last time I was having a difficult couple of months through the fall, and I really was. I had gotten off my fitness and nutrition program. I wasn't eating very well and I was drinking too much wine, too often. The existing challenges of motherhood and running a household, combined with my general lethargy and depression left me feeling like things were spiraling downward, and not within my power to turn around. Even the weather had its impact. It got colder and in turn I just wanted to eat sandwiches and drink hot mugs of things while sitting on my butt under a blanket by the fireplace, with a cat or two on my lap and a good book. It really seemed unfair that life had other plans for me. That my family needs me every minute of every day. That they couldn't just all start taking care of themselves with no warning. Sheesh.

I am a creative and sensitive individual and there are times when a combination of lack of self-care and just being overwhelmed by the details of living put me in this state of mental paralysis. Even while feeling it, though, I was thinking "suck it up, buttercup!" 

I have had to do this before. Pick myself up, dust myself off and take the steps required to rise above. To have fun anyway. To make better choices even if it means an annoying dose of self-discipline and no sugar in my coffee. And all this aside, I owe it to my family to be better than this. I owe it to myself.

So. With all the goings on of two little boys in two different schools, a working husband, a household to run and maintain, and the various neurotic dramas that crop up from time to time when you have, well, people around (boy does that part of life make me appreciate my amazing family)...I decided to reign it in.

I got in touch with my Jazzercise favourite, the amazing Vicki Waters. I have talked about Vicki before. Her classes lift me up and work me over and give me the physical release that is so important when I am carrying what I do. She has such a large following that I know I am not alone in feeling this way. Last spring, I did "The Program" with Vicki. This is separate from her Jazzercise classes. As a fitness and nutrition expert she has devised a seven week program that resets your body's metabolism through dietary change and exercise. As she says, "it's not new information." But it's about more than just making changes for the seven weeks as outlined in her plan. Each week we attend a meeting where she teaches us about the science behind this stuff. We weigh in while we're there, but are not allowed to at home. She wants us to move beyond the numbers on the scale and adopt a new way of thinking about how we fuel our bodies, and how we move them. 

I did well last spring. Lost some weight. And I knew I was on the brink of something important, which I will discuss in a moment. But I was SO excited about the number on that scale. I knew I had some work to do yet to get to where I really ought to be, but it took me years to get to where I was at that point. I was elated. 

And then, there was summer. Houseguests almost every week. Celebrations. Food, drinks, food, drinks, food, drinks, rinse, repeat. It was less of a falling off track than a careless leap into a landslide. I kept thinking "Oh, I'll get back on track next week. I'll pull out my program guidelines and start at week one again. No problem." But things were busy and that didn't happen. Then it was fall. And much of the weight had returned, and I was miserable, and that went on for a few months. As Christmas approached I knew it was time to get back on it. And beyond that, to make a more complete mental shift for the long-term. 

Vicki sent me back an email saying she had two programs lined up for the new year. One was to begin the day before our return from our vacation, and the second not until mid-February. I opted for the first one. While I had to miss the first meeting, I knew I couldn't put it off any longer.

When you sign up for The Program, you sign a contract. You agree to follow the food and exercise guidelines she gives you each week. And, if you don't have a partner, she connects you with one. I have been fortunate enough to find a new friend at my son's preschool. A mother to twins and a full-time doctor, Corrie has little time for herself and felt this was a good fit for her to make some positive change. So in we jumped. It's turned out to be such a good match!
We are both emotional eaters and with her at work all the time, my recipes and cooking tips have been a help to her. Her support and feedback have been consistent and devoted and it has made a huge difference to me. I feel accountable and valued and love that her scientific mind can follow my tangents about all of this stuff. I think our partnership will continue to be mutually beneficial even after we finish the final week.

We both struggle with the emotional eating. I mean, of course eating is emotional. We have to eat to live, and our first experiences with food are tied into being taken care of. It's pretty hard to separate the two - especially now that the tables are turned and we are taking care of our families - and I notice even the most rigid practitioners of the "clean eating" approach still post recipes for "comfort food" from time to time. With that in mind, I made this Italian Wedding Soup this weekend (with a few modifications) when she and her family came for dinner:
It was delicious!

Cellular communication. This is just one thing Vicki discusses at our meetings. What and how much you eat affects how your cells talk to each other. For real, people. I thought I was listening last spring, and I did take in a lot of what she said. But on this second round I am really getting into the macro and micro of what these lifestyle choices do for our bodies. More than that, I have become very focused on what this is all doing for my mind, and in turn for my whole freakin' life! I really do think it's that monumental a shift. Not just about getting rid of the muffin top, though that of course is a side effect I won't reject.

When I work out regularly and eat properly, I am reminded that I, ME, I am the one driving this vehicle. I have control over how I do things and how I respond to others. I have choices that can make or break the impact I make in this one life of mine. More than that, I can FEEL how my mind and body are connected, in a way that literally makes me smarter. Does that make
sense? It's hard for me to articulate what I mean because I am not a scientist. I am not sure I can describe the physiology of this mind-body connection.

Related to this is what a sense of empowerment and accomplishment and pride can do for one's sense of happiness and even to their decision-making processes every day. I am more myself and more sure of myself and hell, fitting into my skinny jeans doesn't hurt either. There is a fundamental way of BEING that comes out of this that can change you. Who you are may fundamentally be the same. It's what you DO, though, that really determines the course of your life and how you feel about it. Let me repeat Vicki's words of wisdom: "This is not new information." Yet it seems to be information people are fundamentally lacking. If everyone had this information, maybe we wouldn't be in the midst of an international obesity epidemic. But therein lies the rub: to really HAVE this information, you need to put into practice a different way of living. Because only then does it really start to make sense; to sink in as hard fact. So what comes first? The chicken or the egg? No wonder it's so hard to get people to make the change.

Adding to this are the automatic responses to proper exercise and food intake that allow my entire body to function better. From my muscles to my brain (technically a muscle as well, if i am not mistaken), I am drinking more water. Having fewer cravings. Making better decisions when cravings do arise because I understand the real, long-term consequences I will face otherwise (the wrath of Vicki aside, ha ha). 

Making the time IS hard. But so very worth it, and of so much benefit to my family as well. So, can we do this long-term? I think for the first while it can be a kind of two-steps-forward, one-step-back sort of thing. After the final week of The Program, life will continue. There will be celebrations, and libations, and dessert. Slowly, we can retrain ourselves to enjoy those times with a new kind of moderation. I think it will be kind of fun coming up with new recipes and rituals for those times when we do want to "partake." Movie nights, holiday meals etc. can all be
enjoyed, and done in a way that lightens the caloric load without getting ridiculously deprivational.

Will we fall off? Yup. But with focus we can train ourselves to hop back on quickly before we end up in a self-destructive avalanche.

This is changing what I want to feed my family, too. My husband is happier and feels better because he is eating cleaner, more nutritionally dense food. My kids are surprisingly compliant, most of the time. I am also reading "Wheat Belly" right now, and I have a feeling that by the time I finish it, I will have further motivation to make healthier adaptations in our diet.

That's all for today, but I am going to be aiming to post every Monday from now on - at minimum. The new year is full of great stuff which I will discuss next time! Unfortunately our three year-old stomped the laptop that holds our photos, so I will have to wait to post them. Have a lovely Monday and thank you for reading.

Please do leave comments! I would love to hear what you think about all of this. If you want to try Vicki's program or a Jazzercise class, she can be reached at, or on her Vicki Waters Jazzercise page on Facebook.