Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zucchini in Full Bloom!!

Zucchini is one of summer's most popular bounties. Home gardeners know it is so easy to cultivate, so plentiful and hardy, in addition to being healthy, it's a great savory dish! I thought it would be refreshing to surf the blogs for some innovative and interesting spins on what everyone else does with zucchini!

Overly enthusiastic gardeners harvest zucchini in bushels. Even our super markets, produce markets, and farmer's markets are spilling over with summer squash! What to do with all that bounty? Cooking With Michele has a great way to make buckets of zucchini disappear in a truly delicious fashion... Baked Zucchini Chips! Slow baking seasoned zucchini slices that can be stored in a container for an oh so healthy snack is a great way to savor summer zucchini!

The summer flavors of corn and zucchini are a match made in culinary heaven. I particularly love this recipe because it has just the right balance of seasonings that don't overpower the delicacy of the corn or the zucchini. And who doesn't love the texture that something fried can yield! This recipe for corn and zucchini fritters is brought to us by the courtesy of Palate/Palette/Plate and they call them Summer Fritters and this recipe has a genius ingredient of chopped chick peas that give the fritter structure, served with a dollop of Greek yogurt for summer produce in all its glory! Definitely one to try!

Shredded zucchini has found its way into cakes, muffins, biscuits and quick breads...experienced cooks well aware of the added moisture and texture it brings to baked goods without masking flavor. No better representation that these Zucchini Cheddar Drop Biscuits, brought to us by A Cozy Kitchen and what a way to greet a Sunday morning with cheddar/zucchini biscuits...although we don't have to limit this to breakfast. These biscuits will delight the table at any meal. Simple and straight to the point. Whip them up in minutes!

Thanks to Prairies on Petals we have a great recipe for "fried" zucchini sticks, actually baked zucchini fries. Zucchini does the same thing egg plant will do SUCK UP OIL! It can ruin itself and create a greasy mess. This is oven "fried" but this smart cook added sesame seeds to the bread crumbs for added crunch and bolster the "crisp" factor in the oven. Some cayenne pepper and parmesan cheese add a pop of flavor. I used a misto to disperse the oil over the "fries" before they went into a screaming hot (480ºF) oven. On another note, Prairies and Petals has some amazing photography and that alone is worth a trip to this website.

Well here's another take on a fritter, The Zucchini With Garlic Fritter. Zucchini marries well with garlic and parmesan cheese...Oops, this recipe doesn't call for parmesan cheese, however, I managed to add 1/2 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese, reduced the flour down to 1/4 cup, then doubled the chopped garlic. It bumped this recipe up a few notches! I loved using this photo though because it shows that these fritters are not flat like pancakes. Thanks to Sugar 'n Pickles for the inspiration to adapt the recipe and they were inspired by Suni Vijayakar...etc., etc., etc. This is so much more interesting than a "cake" because the chunky texture of the zucchini is a big part of the appeal, when blended with garlic and cheese this wins all the way around.

And no collection of zucchini recipes would be complete without the queenly blossom! Prized by chefs, restaurants and home cooks, the blossom is fragile, temporary and utterly worth saving, cooking and relishing! These Zucchini Flowers Stuffed With Bocconcini and Lemon are stuffed with a fresh unripened cheese studded with lemon zest and fresh herbs, and as the author attests, worth all the effort!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jan's Chess Pie

It always seems like the simplest of dishes, with the least amount of ingredients, when handled deftly can yield the most superlative dish! Layering several sophisticated flavors to yield a complex dish is an art in an of itself, but sometimes a crutch for a lack of faith in the utter beauty of simplicity.

I think of that often when I remember my first taste of Chess Pie. It was simply referred to as a Coconut Egg Pie by my friend Jan. She is a very good cook and made the assembly of this pie look effortless and the resulting product was sublime! The taste was buttery, sweet, rich! There was no custard preparation on top of the stove, ingredients are mixed, poured into pie shells and popped into an oven. It is hard to mess up this pie. I am fascinated with old school southern pies, made with just a handful of ingredients because so often pantries were simpler in their staples. I love the ideas of Chess Pies, Shoefly Pies, Peanut Butter Pies, Lemon Pies...simply the best. After tasting Jan's I decided to make a couple of these pies, using her recipe which had a not so common ingredient: sharp cheddar cheese!

A plain chess pie has a mixture of eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, buttermilk (sometimes milk & vinegar), corn meal, salt & an uncooked pie shell. The variations to those ingredients can include: coconut, lemon, and chocolate. I wasn't sure with the addition of cheddar cheese if the pie needed any thickener, but I added the corn meal nonetheless, it was the only variation to Jan's original recipe.

Ingredients Preheat Oven 425º

Yield: 2 pies
2 uncooked pie shells
10 large eggs
3 cups sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
2 sticks butter, melted
1 t. salt
3 T. cornmeal
2 cups grated coconut
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Combine all the ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shells, place on baking sheet and cook in oven at 425º for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350º for 40 minutes, until golden brown and set in the middle. (no jiggles)

The pie is just that simple and just that delicious, enjoy!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

TOURING The Food Blogs: Black Eyed Peas

Many thanks to The Family Kitchen for that natural photo of the celebrated pea! Everyone knows that many culinarians, foodies, cooks, and folks who just love to eat relish a bowl of black eyed peas in the New Year for good luck. Good luck or not, black eyed peas are a love it or hate it dish. These peas have a very very distinctive taste, marked with an earthiness that marries well with aggressive seasonings, other vegetables, smoked meats and the ubiquitous slice of southern corn bread. Everyone has their favorite recipe for black eyed peas, but this is a versatile and often overlooked bean that can be delicious in a variety of preparations. For your viewing pleasure, let me take you on a tour of the blogs and how a variety of experienced cooks treat the noble black eyed pea! And if you are wondering what the mystique is about Hoppin' John, simply cook up a batch of rice and place the black eyed peas of your choice over the steaming rice, and voila...you've got Hoppin' John!
Hoppin' John

This picture and a link to the origins of Hoppin' John comes from Hungry Memphis: A Very Tasteful Food Blog


Our vegetarian and healthy version comes from The Country Tart Right on time for all of you who need a flavorful dish to help you stay on your New Years Resolutions and still pack a bunch of flavor! The Country Tart is a wellness and nutrition coach who can keep you on a resolution for 2011 to eat better. What better way than with a low fat, high fiber dish like black eyed peas. Packed with tons of flavor to compensate for omitting those fatty meats, she's seasoned them with chipotle, adobo, paprika, cocoa, turmeric, coriander, cumin and added extra virgin olive oil to help them slide down!

Truly Southern

The quintessential southern version of black eyed peas comes with a 3 punch: Black eyed peas, collard greens and pork, brought to us by Project Foodie Here is the ham hock in all its glory, paired with the sturdy collard green to round out this New Year's dish. The bonus with this version is that there are great instructions for cleaning and trimming collard green, taking out the spine and rolling the leaves to be cut chiffonade style...exactly the way I do it. Collards need slicing and chopping before cooking, it promotes tenderness.
...and more Southern

Even though the recipe for the black eyed peas is stunning, well seasoned and meticulous in detail, the photography is absolutely "must see!" Anyone who can make a ham hock look picturesque is worthy of a nod, and this nod goes to Pollywig.com This is another version of the three punch...black eyed peas, collard greens and ham hock. Another version with slightly different approach and seasoning. Check it out you will be stunned!

Black Eyes & Corn Bread

The perfect accompaniment to black eyes is some corn bread. This version by The Hungry Texan seasons the black eyed pea with salt pork and jalapeno pepper, and freely admits that even if you don't do scratch cornbread (recipe included) Jiffy works just as well for some. But just to cover all the bases a really good recipe for cornbread accompanies the recipe for some down home black eyed peas!

Budget Black Eyes

If your New Year's resolution was to trim the budget, here's a convincing story that the black eyed pea could keep you on track, and still give you a well seasoned dish. Thanks to Budget Bytes here's a tasty recipe with the costs included, so you can't argue with that logic!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer's Bounty of Roasted Vegetables

Back in the '80's ratatouille was all the craze. Blame it on Julia Child and her success at getting our attention to great French fare. A vegetable stew that was making good use of summer's bounty, a boon to vegetarians and could do triple duty as either an appetizer with French bread, a side dish or an entree. Making good use of eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, basil, herbs de provence, onions, tomatoes...the method varied from throwing it all into the pot at once, or as Julia taught us...slowly adding each vegetable to cook to its peak and yet maintain its integrity. We thought we were so cool, cooking like we were in Provence! It was okay to me, not something I was feigning for since I really don't like eggplant but hoped putting it in the ratatouille would make it more appealing. It didn't, but would it be ratatouille without it? Probably not. It was always just a bit too wet for me. The vegetable combination seemed to merge into a squishy, wet affair that as a side dish was just okay. My guests always raved about it, and I, the grateful hostess, took bows for my culinary prowess...even though I had doubts about the star studded quality of the dish. Something was off to me.

Fast forward to today, and over the last couple of years I have fallen in love with roasted vegetables. Let me clarify this! I don't mean grilled, I mean roasted! Grilled vegetables are great, don't get me wrong, but there is a difference I get from roasting that grilling doesn't achieve. I can adequately remove a lot of the moisture from a roasted vegetable, concentrate the flavor of the vegetable and still get a little char on it. I can better marry the combinations than I seem to be able to with grilling, but that may be a fault of the cook and not the method. I am not a grilling maven. The other thing I have done is combined cooking methods to round out the dish. I blanch harder to cook vegetables before roasting such as carrots and saute easy to burn veggies such as baby/knob onions, mushrooms and garlic cloves before folding into the finished dish.

There are some rules:

..Treat the vegetable you are adding with enough finesse to bring out their flavor to the fullest potential. That being said, don't roast green beans and carrots together, you get the picture. Almost any vegetable can be roasted, i.e., wedges of cabbage, asparagus, root vegetables, summer squash, bell peppers, a variety of onions, etc.
..High heat is a must to allow the vegetable's liquid to evaporate and create a bit of char or caramelization. This is what intensifies their flavor
..Spread the cut vegetables on sheet pans with shallow sides. This allows the radiant heat to move across the vegetables, something you cannot achieve as well in a pyrex or ceramic dish with high sides. Make sure that the vegetables are not stacked but in one layer to prevent steaming. You may need to do this in batches depending on how many sheet pans you have, how many racks in your oven(s) and how many ovens you have.
..Don't cut the vegetables too small, and cut them in uniform sizes. A nice chunk maintains its integrity at high heat and can stay in the oven longer to rid it of some moisture and when it shrivels it is still a nice bite.
..Salt liberally, this makes a major difference but don't over pepper.
..Don't shy away from combining cooking methods. If you need to blanch, do so. If you need to saute, have at it. You will achieve a better balanced dish texturally, with a more pleasing taste in the end.

You will need: Sheet pans (I cover my sheet pans with silicon liners or something similar because caramelized veggies will stick)
Preheat oven to 425º
Yield: A nice platter for 4-6 people as an accompaniment

Your choices vary and are personal, eggplant is extremely popular so feel free to use it, what follows is what I like in the summer, in the winter I cleave to root vegetables.

4-6 Bell peppers in a variety of colors if presentation is important - chunked
2-3 zucchini - diagonally cut into 1"
2 yellow squash - diagonally cut into 1" pieces
3 large carrots - diagonally cut into 1" pieces
1 bunch of asparagus - cut spears into thirds
2 pints mushrooms - halve or quarter depending on size
4-6 bunches of knob onions or two cups of pearl onions - trim knobs of greens, or peel pearl onions after blanching
1 head of garlic - peel cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
White Balsamic Vinegar
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Fresh herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley
Optional Parmesan Cheese - shaved

In a large bowl toss bell peppers, zucchini and squash in 2 T olive oil and salt and pepper till well coated. Spread on sheet pans that have been lightly oiled, or covered with silicon liners. Sprinkle with fresh herbs of choice. Roast in oven until done to your taste. This can vary from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through cooking. When done remove and let come to room temperature.

While the zucchini and peppers are roasting, bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the carrots for 3-4 minutes. Drain, and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a lined sheet pan, sprinkle with herbs of choice, and roast for 30-45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven and bring to room temperature.

Repeat same procedure with asparagus, except it will be roasted in 9-10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Take the trimmed onions and peeled garlic and saute in 2 T olive oil over high heat, stirring frequently until softened, and caramelized. Add cut mushrooms to the mixture and continue cooking until mushrooms lose their moisture. When done, toss with 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, set aside.

When ready to serve, transfer to serving platter, combine all vegetables and sprinkle with additional white balsamic vinegar, and shaved parmesan cheese. Now sit back and bask in the compliments to the chef!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tomato Power

From This...

To This...

To This...

My love affair with tomatoes harkens back to my childhood. Wandering through my Uncle Jimmy's tomato patch with a Mason jar of iced water, a salt shaker and a lazy summer day stretching in front of me I was in tomato heaven. All I had to do was pluck a juicy, ripe beefsteak, find a comfortable seat and take that first bite. POW! Tomato juice dribbling down my chin, arms, fingers didn't stop me from now being able to sprinkle some sea salt onto that expectant inner flesh. With not a care in the world, I ate salted tomatoes and drank iced water, knowing even then that I was a lucky little girl! I would forever be a tomato lover in each and every form.

My first blog was about roasted tomatoes, a way to intensify their flavor and preserve their "shelf life." Lately my interest has been piqued by powders. It started with Matcha Green Tea powder that I have been cooking with and using as a condiment, but that is another blog. Point is, there is power in powder...concentrating its flavor in a condensed version. Bigger bonus yet, is that powder has an indefinite shelf life. So many options!

So, I saw Ruth Reichl make tomato powder on Diary of A Foodie. It made such perfect sense, seems relatively easy and just had a few steps. And so I embarked on another journey into the world of tomato preparation. The big difference between me and Ruth was that if I was going to tie up my oven at 175º for 5-6 hours, I wanted to end up with more than 2 Tablespoons of powder.*

You will need:

20-22 vine ripened tomatoes
Silpat or Super Parchment
Sheet Pans
A Food processor or spice grinder
A fine mesh sieve
An air tight container

Yield: 2.5 ounces or 70 grams*

The process:
You spread thin slices of tomato onto a lined sheet pan, place in a warm oven for 5-6 hours, turning once during the process until thoroughly dried, so that there is no stickiness when you touch them and they peel off the liner. If there is any moisture left in the tomatoes they will not process into powder. It's that simple, and can also be that hard.

Preheat oven to 175º
Line your sheet pan(s)
Slice tomatoes into 1/8" slices
Spread onto the lined sheet pan in a single layer

Place in oven for 5-6 hours, turning to make sure they are thoroughly dry, if not adjust the timing.

I found that on my sheet pans I could fit about 5 medium sliced vine ripened tomatoes. For this particular recipe/exercise I prepared about 20-22 tomatoes in two batches over a 14-16 hour period when I knew my oven was not in high demand. NOTE: When I finished the first batch, I placed them in the food processor bowl and let them sit while the second batch cooked. Big mistake! Once they come out of the oven, process as soon as possible because they will suck up moisture and get a little tacky. I had to return them to the oven for about 45 minutes to dry out again. That was a little annoying, but really doable.

This was the result of about 20-22 tomatoes:

I did not have any luck processing this into a powder with my spice grinder. Number one, there was way too much bulk and would have taken too many small batches. So I used my Cuisinart and pulsed it again and again until it reduced to a powder. It will never look totally fine at this point because it will have to be strained through a mesh sieve to remove seeds, cores, etc. When I was finished this is what the rough product looked like:

Then I passed it through a fine mesh sieve, and removed the "big pieces"

...and the remaining fine powder looked like this...

At this point I put it in a tight fitting jar to keep out moisture
Some things take patience, infinite patience and although this is an easy thing to do, it does require patience. As with most "easy" recipes, any wrong move in any one step screws up the results. Cut the tomatoes too thin and you lose too much, cut them too thick and they take a lot longer to dry. You have to work straight through, making sure the cooked tomatoes don't have a chance to reabsorb any moisture. Passing the processed product through the right kind of sieve yields the fine powder you want.

So now that I have tomato power, here is what I use it for:

Tomato Mayonnaise
Tomato Butter
Tomato Vinaigrette
Tomato Salt
Sprinkle on pasta
Add tomato flavor to soups
Home made pizzas

With the impending bounty of tomatoes that the summer yields, it would seem fitting that this is an ideal way to capture summer in a bottle. In much the same way my grandmother did when she canned and jarred vegetables many many moons ago. It is nice to have in my pantry. Truthfully, I am not sure that I would ever undertake this again, next time I will buy my tomato powder, it's not that expensive. By the end of the preparation, I felt like I was jarring saffron! It was one of those things that sounded like a good idea, and works, but I think the stress, labor, time involved is a bit pricey for me. Glad I did it, may never do it again! Looking forward to biting into juicy vine ripened beef steak, heirloom, Roma, cherry, grape, brown tomatoes all summer long!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Weighing In

Here is the problem and it is ongoing. I don't like the Weight Watchers meetings. No offense, but the shared recipes/foods/products are items I would not feed to my dog, seriously. I am not interested in a cake made with artificially sweetened soda. I am not interested in recipes culled from opening 5 or 6 cans. I am not using fat free cheese, fat free salad dressing, or for that matter fat free anything, unless it is fat free in its natural state. I am not seasoning styrofoam substitutes for popcorn with Molly McButter! I also do not buy "diet meals," whether Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine, or Healthy Choice. The ingredients in these foods read like a bomb! I know that Weight Watchers says that you can do this using real sugar, real butter, etc. but that is "expensive" in their points system. Then in the meetings there are all the suggestions for fake foods, and nutsy recipes that are quite frankly not only scary but nauseating. It is only pushing me away. So I am back to the drawing board because if I cannot benefit from the meetings, then why pay to go?

So who the hell am I to fly in the face of the tried and true methods that have led people to so much weight loss success because it is not pleasing to my palate? I am the one who has to find a way to conquer satisfying my palate and keeping most of the things I like to eat off my fat ass. This is for life and a life of eating substitute/fake foods is really unappealing to me. This is why "diets" fail, it is a lifestyle choice/change you are looking for but one you can adapt to the rest of your life.

The other options (I have eliminated any liquid supplemental diets and diets that provide the food because the "foodie" in me could not sustain that) I have considered were:

1...Jillian Michaels - She is the trainer from Biggest Loser. This is a little intense, a little invasive with constant annoying e-mails, a food plan that is not especially creative, and exercises that are definitely high impact which is hard for me. I can substitute, but it throws off the plan. The biggest pet peeve I have with this program is the constant, "upgrade" suggestions and constant "buy this" suggestions. You feel like you may have signed on with a carnival barker! The results are impressive and fairly quick, but I am not sure that level of intensity can be maintained.

2...The South Beach Diet has a lovely menu/recipe suggestions and allows for some interpretation from an imaginative cook. There are no meetings that you have to sit through, no weigh-ins, and although being accountable is important, the meetings always have members who are ahead of you or behind you and someone is getting dragged down. It gets old. This plan makes you accountable to yourself. It is also a plan you can live with and a life style change that is palatable. But above all else it is beautiful in its simplicity without being austere and it is not fat free! It is a nutritional program that can be both indulgent and slimming, and that is proven. But again, they struck a chord with my pet peeve and lived up to carnival barker standards when you went online to look at support tools. These people don't know when to stop! You get the feeling you are just a mark using their online tools. I have to give kudos to Weight Watchers in this regard because their website doesn't do that.

3...Weight Watchers Online! No meetings, you weigh yourself and use online tools only. This is familiar to me, I would still track points, measure, weigh, etc. I could eliminate the meetings. There is a lot of support online, no side show barking, but still a lot of crutches, a lot of administrivia and I am wondering if I need to be more independent, move beyond these "crutches" grow up and adopt the lifestyle now, make it an unconscious choice.

These were the three contenders for me. The problem is that I know statistically those who follow WW and attend meetings, and use online tools have a higher rate of success. I just am ready to shed the gizmos, crutches, blah blah blah that are designed to reassure you that you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of fat ass compadres out there struggling and succeeding because they not only buy into the concept but they continue to buy in and pay and pay and pay.

Funny thing is I didn't pay anyone to get out of shape, so if I agree to change the way I do things I should be able to figure this out without paying anyone...except perhaps my gym, which is ongoing anyway. Bottom line, whatever you decide on is something you have to do ...you know, like just do the damn thing...for success both short term and long term, so it has to be something you like, enjoy and can live with...sorta like a marriage.

I think for now, I may stop blogging about this, and just do it! We'll revisit this at some point in the future. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Full Disclosure - How To Survive/Live With Weight Watchers

I need to lose weight, and I have great respect for Weight Watchers, but more than that for a cook/foodie, nothing is off the menu as long as you allow for it, and track how it impacts the amount of food you are allowed. It takes planning but it can be done. I like the program because it has absolutely cutting edge tools on the internet that help you track your activity, and intake. In addition there are blogs you can read, community groups you can relate to for chatting and exchanging ideas, success stories and mistakes. Do I have to tweak some of my favorite dishes? Absolutely, but every cook prides themselves on some degree of creativity and I am no exception. I intend to use my blog to track my progress weekly...like the weekly weigh-in I need full disclosure!

Here is what I have to work with: An initial weigh-in that allows me to establish goals, most of them are in small increments of 5%, 10% etc. and are rewarded along the way. Printed tools to track progress, suggest meal planning, encourage you to move your lard ass off the couch with reasonable goals of walking a 5K marathon in about six (6) weeks. The weekly meetings are chaired by a WW leader who has successfully used the program to lose a significant amount of weight, and kept it off successfully. Each meeting gives you the opportunity to weigh-in, share your successes or frustrations and engage in a discussion on the topic of the week. The team leader has a lesson plan of sorts that guides the discussion. That's it in a nutshell, except that as the weeks progress you receive new and refreshing information to add to your library of WW guidelines. Also, there are usually some really big losers in the group who have dropped major pounds so you know it is possible. For me, this is crucial because I am at heart a very competitive person. But at its core, it is sort of like playing golf, the person you really need to beat is yourself!

All of the food is measured in "points" and you get a weekly allocation based upon a set of questions regarding current weight, lifestyle and activity. These points will diminish as your weight reduces, but hopefully you will increase your activity level and balance most of it out as you also grow to eat smarter. Consensus of opinion states that you actually eat more on a program that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and high fiber foods. Hunger is not one of the problems on Weight Watchers. It is a discipline, but one you have to learn to live with to be successful.

My weigh-in day is Wednesday, and I have decided my blog entries will be on Tuesday night. So, how do I think I did this week? I tracked, I have a few issues that I need to address, but at no time have I not stuck to my program. One of the tenets of the program is to eat from the food groups in a minimum quantity: fruits/vegetables, milk, whole grains, lean proteins,
liquids, healthy oils, daily vitamin/mineral supplement, activity and limiting sugar and alcohol. I have some adjustments to make in the daily vitamin/mineral category and because I drink soy milk I bought light soy milk for the first time and it is vile. So I may have to sacrifice points to drink a regular soy milk. No big deal! I will occasionally drink a glass of wine with dinner, but I am trying not to imbibe daily until I have made significant progress.

I have purged my pantry of all cold cereals (thanks to Kellogg's blase attitude about bugs in the box) so I am relegated to oatmeal, fresh fruit and yogurt and those are pretty much no brainers. But some mornings I crave savory, hot breakfasts with eggs, toast, etc. You can easily blow 20 points if you are not careful. So my creation includes egg whites, sauteed veggies, fresh fruit and a slim bagel...looks pretty good, huh?

Well cooked vegetables are my friends. I love to roast veggies, and roasted asparagus is not "diet" food, it's the way I prefer to cook it. And how pretty and delicious it looks!

Lean proteins are simple if you stick to fish and chicken, but boredom will set in, for variety I brined and grilled a loin of pork. It was great for salads, tacos, sandwiches, etc. Brining it yielded a succulent and flavorful pork loin.

So tomorrow when I weigh in we will see how my Chicago Kitchen supported my efforts to stick to this program for the requisite time to get to my ideal weight and then challenge myself to maintain my weight, still turn out creative dishes and not throw in the towel of boredom.

Wish me luck!