Saturday, January 23, 2010

Burning calories

It's been raining and stormy in Northern California this week, grounding my husband and I from our daily walks. It's been a convenient excuse to not exercise, and though I've done Jillian Michaels' 30-day Shred a number of the days, it just hasn't been the same.

Today I found a moment when the baby was asleep *and* the rain abated, so I threw on my heart-rate monitor watch and grabbed my hand weights and ran out the door. As I started up, my hip was sore and tight and my knee grumbled and I was tired. What was I doing? The baby was napping for another hour and I could use that time for something better--like reading my new books. Or figuring out what was for dinner. Or napping.

I pushed on. I thought about all the nice compliments I've received lately. I pictured my next goal--to hit 60 pounds lost. At the time when I normally turn up my street to head home, I kept going. I walked past the farm that's lush and green right now, and the hills past it were verdant and dappled in sunlight. Thinking about completing the Bay to Breakers, I kept going. Every time my heart rate dipped I reminded myself of the cocktail party I went to last night, where I ate and drank with abandon. By the end I logged 625 burned calories, and I was invigorated.

For the party I brought Cauliflower "Poppers" which are bite-sized pieces of cauliflower tossed with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and a touch of olive oil, then baked in the oven for 10 minutes. I *also* brought a fancy little appetizer that are super-easy to make. Amounts are flexible, depending on how many you want to make:

Caesar Salad Frico Bites

About 3 cups 4-cheese shredded Italian cheese mix--note: SHREDDED, not grated
1 to 1.5 shredded Parmesan or asiago cheese
Approx. 2 heads romaine lettuce
Garlic-herb croutons (you can make your own, but in the interest of time, you can certainly get store-bought)
Caesar dressing--again, make your own if you prefer, but I use Newman's Own Creamy Caesar dressing
Other materials: cookie sheet, non-stick aluminum foil, measuring cups, thin spatula

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cheeses together in a medium bowl. Line a cookie sheet with non-stick aluminum foil. Using a 1/8 measuring cup, put six rounded cupfuls of cheese on the foil. Gently tap down cheese. Cook for 7-8 minutes, watching for browning at the edges. When browned, use a thin spatula (like a fish spatula) to remove the cheese and insert it into 1/3 to 1/4 cup measuring cups. Be sure to get the cheese flat against the bottom so that your cups will sit properly. MOVE QUICKLY! If your cheese cools so that it isn't easily pliable, pop the tray into the oven for 30 seconds.

When the cheese has cooled in the measuring cups, remove to cool further on a rack. Use two cookie sheets to keep the process going.

Salad--crush the crutons by hand into a bowl (don't grind them in a food processor, it will pulverize them which you do not want). Chop the lettuce very fine and add to the crutons. Add enough dressing to season the salad, but you don't want it drippy. Season with crushed black pepper. There is probably enough salt in the cheese and crutons that you won't need to add more.

Spoon the salad into the cups and enjoy!

The cups can be made a day or two ahead of time.

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