Monday, October 25, 2010

Four Pack Abs

You may recall my post a while back, about how I was going to get a six pack, because I wanted one.  Well, I'll spare you the bare belly photo of myself, but I have a four pack now.  Those elusive lower two may never show up.

I've been working out daily for at least an hour, and eating better.

I cannot seem to follow a strict diet.  I think part of that reason is that I am one of the lucky few who needs to get toned, but I don't really need to lose weight.  Most diets are just designed to shed pounds.  For me that's not good.

Here's what changes I've made:

Whole grains (whole wheat, wild and brown rice, etc.)
Half a plate of veggies with every meal.
Fat from natural sources like fish, avocados and nuts.

A lot less sugar (probably time to take my Jelly Bean jar off the counter though.)

I'm pleased with my results so far.  It's been a lot of hard work, but to see a change makes me really happy.  My competitor in this six pack race has won, but I'm a happy second place.  Now I think I'll actually take "before" pictures and start all over again.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I'm not a huge fan of soup, as a rule. Actually, I'm just not a huge fan of soup as the main course of a meal. It never really seems to fill me up. This one was an exception.  Serve it with homemade dinner rolls and it's meal.
Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Here's the original recipe (from


  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cooked, boneless chicken breast halves, shredded
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) package quick cooking long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream


  1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine broth, water and chicken. Bring just to boiling, then stir in rice, reserving seasoning packet. Cover and remove from heat.
  2. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper and flour. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in contents of seasoning packet until mixture is bubbly. Reduce heat to low, then stir in flour mixture by tablespoons, to form a roux. Whisk in cream, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Cook until thickened, 5 minutes.
  3. Stir cream mixture into broth and rice. Cook over medium heat until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.

I changed it a little, because I didn't have everything on hand.  I used whole milk, instead of cream.  Next time I may even use skim, because I don't think it would change the finished product the way it is used.

I also added large chunks of carrots, because I LOVE cooked carrots.  They added a nice change in texture and a sweet counter to the savory flavor of the soup.  I would have liked to add celery, but alas the only celery I had was molded and smooshy in the bottom of my vegetable bin.  (I've since cleaned and replaced the bin :-)

I didn't have Wild Rice with Seasoning Packet so I just used 1/2 c. wild rice (4.5 oz. is 1/2 plus 1/16th cup), and to taste (probably a quarter tsp. each) garlic, onion powder, fresh ground pepper, and poultry seasoning.  I let it boil a little longer than called for, because it wasn't a quick-cook rice.  Next time I'll cook the rice separately and add it in for the last five minutes.  I may add more rice too, I like wild rice's a lot!

One more thing to do differently, I would omit the salt.  Because I used chicken soup base with water, instead of chicken broth.  It was a little bit too salty.

I give it four stars, because I really liked it.  The fifth star will come with my changes next time.  It was really filling and stored well.  I'll be finishing it for lunch today.  Totally restaurant quality soup.

Do you have a favorite soup?  
Do you serve soup as a side or main dish?

Thursday is our scheduled Soup day, so this will be going on my Thursday menu.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I am determined to get good at yeast bread

As a result of that determination, I have been making a lot of bread.  See...
Potato Buns
Cinnamon Rolls
Sweet White Bread
French Bread
Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Biscuit Dough

I have learned a lot.  First of all, I really like the taste of home made bread.  Secondly, when I am good about thinking ahead, I'd rather bake the bread than buy it.  And thirdly, bread making is an art form!

I recommend reading about the process of sponging.  That article is pretty in depth.  There are plenty more.  Sponging the dough basically allows the process of fermentation to occur before the bread rises.  It adds a distinct and stronger flavor than just letting the bread rise by itself.  It also leaves you with only the need to rise the finished dough one time.  If you've ever had Amish Friendship bread, this helps make sense of the process a little bit.  A long time to ferment changes the taste.  Think in terms of beer.  A better fermentation, a better brew (or so I've heard, though nobody has been kind enough to spike my drink yet, so I may never actually know.)

This process is good for breads like sourdough, and French bread.  It is also helpful in a bread that takes a long time to rise because of a stiffer grain, like whole wheat flour.

My favorite new bread recipes:
French Bread (she has another of the same recipe, without sponging.  Do the sponged one!)
Honey Whole Wheat Bread (again with the sponging)
Perfect Cinnamon Rolls
Potato Buns
Sweet White Bread

I made the buns, following the recommendation to leave overnight.  This was the most time consuming of the recipes I tried.  Totally worth it!  They came out perfect both in looks (aren't they pretty?) and texture and taste.  I made some into hot dog buns, some into sandwich rolls, and some into dinner rolls.  They kept for four days and were really good every time.  I don't know how much longer they would have kept, because we ate them all!

I'll follow with a post on the Sweet White Bread and the Biscuits.  I can give pictures and step by step instructions.  These are both recipes that I've altered and tweaked so much over the years, I couldn't tell you where they came from or what the original looked like.  For me, they turn out perfect just about every time.

Do you like to bake bread?
Are you good at it?
What is your favorite yeast bread recipe?
Have you heard of sponging or tried it before?
Wanna see any of these in a step by step pictorial?

Go to,, and to find most of my favorite recipes.