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My Hips Don’t Lie Either . . . Bummer

Shakira and I have a lot in common (I know, you were just thinking the same thing, right?) My hips don’t lie either. And that’s a problem around this time of year.

Strange things start to happen in my kitchen in late Fall. Daylight savings ends and my oven flames on of its own accord and sings irresistible songs about cinnamon and cloves and butternut squash. I have no defenses. Must bake. Or make soup. Sadly the baking gene surfaced in each of my children as well. Heather made killer Soft Molasses Cookies (click on the photo for the recipe, you’ll cry they’re so good) and pumpkin bread (my sister-in-law Jen’s recipe is also on the page–best ever) this week. Have mercy.

Every Fall I wish my hips could lie. If only that zucchini muffin didn’t go straight to my lower regions and settle in for the winter I would have no problem. Why can’t my hips find some cunning way to hide the apple crisp and the Belgian waffles and the hot biscuits with pear butter? Is full disclosure kind or necessary?

I suppose I should be grateful to my hips for their brutal, tell-all honesty. When it reaches the point that I have to hold my breath in order to zip my jeans I turn away from the KitchenAid and head out the door for a run (I use the word “run” in its absolutely loosest sense.) Yep, I show those hips who’s boss. They regret their tattle-telling now, I’ll wager.

Ouch. My hips don’t lie, but they do whine a little after our run. They speak the truth as I hobble stiffly up the stairs: “You’re getting old . . .”  Thanks for the reminder. A couple of Advil will shut them up. With a pumpkin bread chaser.

What’s your favorite Fall recipe? Share it in a comment or just leave a link. I’ll add it to the recipes page.  I will also make it and eat it and let my hips say whatever they want. 


Help Me Pho-bi Wan Kenobi, You’re My Only Hope

Don’t tell Emeril, but four days in the culinary mecca of the South drove us to the brink. One more heavy Southern meal or Creole fry-fest would have pushed me into complete gastrointestinal meltdown. That’s how we found ourselves fleeing the French Quarter yesterday and driving across the Mississippi in search of salvation–a simple bowl of Pho. I know, I know. Vietnamese food in Dixie? But it was our only hope of survival. Minerva, our trusty GPS, found Pho Tau Bay for us. Yes, it was a dive, but I almost cried with joy when the waitress brought a heaping basket of fresh raw bean sprouts and crisp purple-green basil to the table. The steaming bowl of fragrant broth that accompanied it soothed my angry stomach. I’m sorry, but Southeast Asians are the Jedi Masters of food. The Force is strong with Pho.

What is it about New Orleans that makes fried foods sound like a good idea? Not to mention the fact that bacon and pecans each constitute their own staple food group there. I tried to make healthy choices, like ordering a side of greens or mashed sweet potatoes instead of fries. Right. The menu should have read, “A bowl of crumbled bacon garnished with incidental collard greens” or “butter and candied pecans topped with a dollop of sweet potatoes.” My arteries are hardening just thinking about it.

Frog legs and alligator appetizer. It is as sick as it looks! 

Full disclosure. I have eaten all of the following in the past five days: Jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, shrimp creole, alligator, frog legs, cheese grits, black eyed peas, red fish, drum fish–and that was the lighter side. Disturbing quantities of deep-fried-anythings made their way past my common sense and straight into my belly: batter fried shrimp, crawfish, calamari, mushrooms, oysters, powdered-sugar-coated beignets. And don’t even get me started on the pralines–a confection whose only three ingredients are butter, sugar, and pecans–go figure. They really shouldn’t be as utterly delicious as they are, but there you have it.

I woke up this morning in my own bed, delighted to open my battered-and-deep-fried-free-zone fridge and eat a pear. Period. Aaaaah. My close encounter with Cajun cooking didn’t kill me after all. So, if you’re traveling this summer and find yourself completely maxed out on rich foods–use the Pho, Luke. Let the Pho guide you to a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant and you’ll be fine. It’s an old Jedi trick.

Praline Photo Credit:[IMG][/IMG]

>Say Cheez!

>My weekend trip to the grocery store left me with some deep questions about the meaning of life. OK, not life exactly. How about the meaning of food labels? Seriously. Do you have any idea what the following food-packaging terms mean?

Boneless ribs: Isn’t a rib, by definition, a bone? That’s what I thought. But who would pay $2.49 a pound for a Styrofoam tray of  meat labeled “Really Fatty Hunks of Raw Pork that Aren’t Big Enough to Sell as a Roast”? I wouldn’t. Slap two of my favorite meat-related words on the package though —boneless right next to ribs–and I’ll buy eight pounds of it without batting an eyelash. Brilliant.

Fat Free Sour Cream (not to mention Fat Free Half and Half): Hold on. Implicit in the very concept of Sour Cream is the presence of, uh, cream. And we all know that cream is just a fancy word for FAT. Ain’t no such thing as fat-free fat. So for the sake of accuracy, this white substance in the cute cow-spotted tub should be called “Sour Cream Free Sour Cream.” Which begs the question–WHAT AM I ACTUALLY EATING? I probably don’t want to know.

Froot: (an all-purpose fun misspelling used as a prefix for other exciting words like loops, snacks, and the super-snappy by-the-foot) If the FDA won’t even allow the term “fruit” on the box, doesn’t that give us a clue? Froot is actually code for “high-fructose-corn-syrup-plus-artificial-coloring.” Now that’s a naturally wholesome snack. Think “Five-A-Day”. How can you tell if you’re eating real fruit or froot? Hint: Fruit will never turn your teeth blue.

Cheez: (another useful prefix, commonly paired with It or Whiz)  The wonder-child who thought of froot got promoted from the snack department and wham! Another brilliant word twinkles in the food-aisle firmament. But don’t be fooled by the phonetic similarities. Cheez is not, by any stretch of the imagination, cheese. In fact, I don’t think it can even legitimately count as food–unless your definition of “food” is broad enough to include artificially flavored petroleum products. Hint: If it comes in a can with a push button, it’s not cheese. But cheez has its place. One squeeze will lubricate that squeaky hinge or the sprocket on your bicycle–in bacon or sharp flavor.

I’m out of time, and we haven’t even scratched the surface. So many questions left unanswered: Jello– salad or dessert? Who named them “sweetbreads?” Does the Cap’n Crunch box really have more nutritional value than the cereal inside? All this philosophical effort makes me hungry. I think I’ll go fix myself a frooty-cheezy-fat-free-boneless snack.Yum.