Tag Archives: Weight Loss

Soup Weather

Lying MugThe mug. It lies. If I had a “Curried Carrot and Squash Soup” mug in the cabinet, I would have used it, but this seemed like a good alternative. 🙂

It seems like Labor Day flipped the switch on fall weather in D.C., and I’m not complaining! The weather this week has been decidedly fall like, and I’m loving every minute of it. In fact, it inspired me to make a warm, cozy and spicy soup with things I had on hand, and I wanted to share it with you.

I had a pile of yellow summer squash, a partially eaten bag of baby carrots and the usual staples of broth, onions, nut butter (of course!) and Greek yogurt (as always!!). Add to that, the variety of spices in my spice drawer, and a creamy soup was imminent. I used lots of spice, because I love a little burn, but if you aren’t a fan of spice, you could certainly use a bit less curry powder, give it a taste, and add more if you decide you want to kick it up a bit. What’s better than roasted veggies? They are always just the way I like them– nice and sweet!

Carrot Roast

Squash Roast

Pot of Coziness

Sweetie’s Curried Carrot and Squash Soup

Ingredients:

Cooking spray

3/4 pound baby carrots

1 1/2 pounds yellow squash, quartered and cut into 1/2 inch slices

salt

1/2 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground red pepper

1 Tbsp. almond or peanut butter

1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Layer the baby carrots on one baking sheet. Spray the carrots with cooking spray and then sprinkle them with a bit of salt. Layer the squash chunks on the other baking sheet. Spray the squash with cooking spray and sprinkle it with a bit of salt.

Place both sheets in the oven. Roast the carrots for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they become soft and start to brown. Roast the squash for about 25 minutes, stirring the mixture at the halfway point. 

Heat 1/2 tsp olive oil in a 3 1/2 quart saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the onions and a sprinkle of salt. Reduce the heat and cook the onions for seven minutes, or until they become soft. Add the squash, carrots and broth to the saucepan, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Add the curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, red pepper and nut butter to the veggie mixture. Using a blender, carefully puree the veggie mixture in batches. I usually remove the stopper from the top of the blender container and hold a dish towel loosely over the opening to allow some steam to escape while the veggies are pureeing. They are hot and they will spatter so be careful!

Add all of the pureed vegetables back to the saucepan. Stir in the Greek yogurt, and heat the mixture through on medium heat. Add salt to taste.

This makes 5 or 6 servings

The roasted veggies make it slightly sweet. The spices make it cozy, and the nut butter and Greek yogurt add creaminess as well as protein. This soup is low calorie with a high satisfaction factor. That’s a match made in heaven!

I’ve been having this for lunch over the past few days, and I’ve been looking forward to it each time. While packing my lunches this week, I realized it has been awhile since I have made a big batch type food for my lunchtime munching. I love having a hearty and filling soup ready to go in the morning, and then being able to match it up with whatever suits my whim– peanut butter on an Arnold’s sandwich thin, hummus and pita, cheese and crackers, whatever! I know that the soup will guarantee that I will have a full tummy, and that’s a good thing! Soup is also one of my favorite ways to eat my veggies. 🙂

Since the weather is cooling off, I thought I’d give you a little flashback with links to some of the soup type things I’ve made and blogged about in the past:

“Big Batch” Bulgur Chili

Cleaning Up the Apartment Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Creamy Cauliflower and Cannellini Soup

Just Sweet Enough Pinto Bean Soup with Tomato Chipotle Ketchup

“Not Going to the Store” Garlic Scape, Eggplant and Red Lentil Stew

“Project: Clean Out the Freezer” Spinach and Sausage Soup

Super Quick Lentil, Carrot and Tomato Soup

My little trip down memory lane reminded me of several things I need to make in the cooler months to come. I see bulgur chili in my near future for sure.

Bulgur ChiliMmmmm…..

Most of the soups I make are created using what I have on hand. How about you? Do you have a favorite soup, stew or type of chili? Is there one ingredient that always inspires you to whip up a pot of comfort?


18 Comments

Filed under cooking, diet, Food, Greek Yogurt, Lowfat, Recipes, Soup, Squash, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

New Perspectives

Hi, Sweeties! Remember those photos I promised you of my ziplining adventure in Alaska? Well, get ready because here they come. They actually are a pretty good illustration for some of the points of today’s post, so I thought it would be quite appropriate. Also, I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. This post should explain my absence. 

I was excited about ziplining in Ketchikan, Alaska, but I didn’t know what to expect. Before taking the leap off of the platform, the instructor made sure I had the proper gear and an understanding of how to use it. I was harnessed up and the trolley attached to the harness was clipped to the line. The instructor explained how I should use my hand to steer the trolley if  I found myself spinning off to the side and needed to straighten back up. He also explained how to press down on the top, which works like a friction brake, when it was time to stop. Stopping proved to be the challenging part.

Geared UpEach leap into weight loss started with gathering gear and trying to understand how to use it properly. If you want to read about my journey in greater detail, please check out this page. Just to briefly summarize, you might recall that my experience went something like this:

Date: 2000 Weight: 340 pounds Gear: knowledge of fat content in the foods I ate, a well stocked kitchen and good walking shoes

Results: Loss of 110 pounds and gall bladder problems due to, according to my doctor, the restriction of fat in my diet

In 2001, I started law school, had to have my gallbladder removed, discovered that I didn’t have time to make all of my own food, and got out of my walking habit. I gained back 60 of the pounds I’d lost and ended up weighing about 280 pounds.

Date: 2005 Weight: 280 pounds Gear: Weight Watcher’s On-line tools, fancy food scale and all sorts of exercise gear, including a heart rate monitor to measure calories burned during exercise

Results: I lost 120 pounds and gained the ability to rattle off the points values for food like a superstar. I learned to really enjoy all sorts of exercises and discovered that my body was strong and capable. I also hit a plateau and became frustrated when my meticulous counting wasn’t providing results on the scale. 

I started this blog in January of this year and by March, I decided that I was sick of counting points and I was tired of beating myself up when the scale refused to budge. I decided that a change would be a good thing, so I switched to counting calories and started using the Sparkpeople on-line tracker in place of my ww on-line tracker. I thought that the new approach would be a bit more flexible and would shake things up a bit. I viewed it as a sort of transition to something that was less of a diet, and more like normal life. WW claims not to be a diet, but I never totally bought that idea. For a short time, I did revel in the flexibility of calories versus points. Calories are calories, and I didn’t need to use a calculator to convert things into points. That was somewhat liberating. The scale immediately dropped from 160 to 153 in reaction to the changes in my eating, and I started thinking about whether it was time to stop trying to lose and to start trying to maintain. That brings me to this:

Zipping AlongOnce you leap off of the platform and start zipping along, you build up speed and just sort of fly through the air. It’s a bit like cruise control. I think that dieting can be very similar. You just kind of zip along, counting your points or calories or whatever, and then you decide for one reason or another that it might be time to stop. That’s where things got tricky during ziplining, and that’s where things have gotten tricky for me with my weight loss. Here’s a photo of me getting ready to land. 

StoppingTo stop yourself, you have to use the friction brake. If you press down too early, you may have to use your hands to drag yourself along the line to the platform. If you press down too late, and the friendly instructor doesn’t use the back up brake, you could find yourself pulling a “George of the Jungle” and crashing into a tree. Each platform is actually built around a tree, kind of like a tree house. If you stop too early, you will make it to the platform eventually. Stopping too late has a worse consequence.

Unfortunately, the ultimate weight loss stopping point isn’t always clearly defined like the strong and sturdy tree. Yes, I set a goal weight for myself, once upon a time, and I haven’t reached it. However, I was basing it on a BMI chart that doesn’t know how much muscle I have in my 160 pound make-up. It also doesn’t know how much deflated skin I have. Yes. I do have some. I don’t think it’s possible to lose more than half of your body weight without that unwelcome side effect. 

I think my bottom line this year has been that I’m not unhappy at my current weight. Sure, I wouldn’t mind losing more, but I could be happy right here. Rather than letting the scale determine whether it’s time to stop, I’ve started looking at other factors too. I’ve realized a few things.

1) I’m sick of counting points/calories and of weighing my food. This was becoming a bit of an unhealthy obsession for me, and I’ve only become more obsessed and frustrated as the scale has stayed steady despite my best efforts. To quote the old saying, it might have been “like beating a dead horse.” 

2) Despite allowing myself treats along the way, I’m definitely suffering from diet deprivation and the backlash eating it can cause. I ate like nobody’s business on my Alaskan cruise. I ate until I was sick on more than one occasion. I had the feeling that I’d been freed from prison for one week in order to eat everything that wasn’t on the menu in the prison cafeteria. It wasn’t a pretty sight to see, and that’s when the scale jumped back into the 160s where it has been ever since.

3) While I have certainly felt deprived of certain foods, I think the bigger sense of deprivation was coming from the inability to go out with friends and to do things spontaneously. I spent a lot of time and energy wondering if there would be anything I could eat within my rules when I found myself out with friends. Often, I would just stay home. Sometimes I would find something that would work. Other times, I would toss my rules out the window only to feel guilty later about breaking them. 

4) My perfectionist tendencies have been making me crazy. By giving myself a set of strict rules or limits, I drive myself to stay within the framework I’ve created in order to avoid feeling that I’ve failed and to feel that I’ve succeeded. I was to the point of weighing the lettuce in my salad so that I could calculate the calories and subtract them from my daily allowance. Lettuce!? Did the scale budge thanks to those efforts? No. Did my frustration level grow? You betcha. 

5) I can’t spend the rest of my life weighing everything and counting calories or points if I want to stay sane, happy and avoid smacking into the tree of endless dieting despair.

6) I like sanity and happiness.

7) I need to figure out a way to “stop” that is not a restrictive diet but that will keep me from reverting to my old habits. As funny as it sounds, I need to learn to eat.

That brings me to the last three weeks and my absence. I’d been reading about intuitive eating throughout the blogosphere for some time now, and I had a vague idea of what it meant to eat intuitively. I decided it was time for me to check out some of the literature on the subject. Forever the student, I picked up a few of the more well known IE books. The two most useful ones I’ve read so far are: Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. and The Rules of Normal Eating: A Commonsense Approach for Dieters, Overeaters Undereaters, Emotional Eaters, and Everyone in Between by Karen R. Koenig, ICSW, M. ED. A useful website that lists the 10 principles found in the book by Tribole and Resch can be found here.

Both of these books really resonated with me. I think the basic idea is quite simple. You should eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied/full. If you are already an intuitive eater, that might sound quite obvious to you, but my eating was not typically driven by hunger or fullness. Aside from, perhaps, being driven by an effort to avoid hunger completely. IE is a more novel concept for me. Back in the heavier days, my eating was likely driven by emotions or boredom. In recent years, it has been driven by the external rules and limits I’ve imposed on myself. I’ve watched plenty of my friends use this “eat when you are hungry method” in their daily lives, with positive results. It makes a lot of sense to me, and it seems like a natural way of giving your body what it wants and needs.  

The books go beyond that basic idea with a number of other very useful principles. One of these principles involves legalizing foods that you have forbidden yourself. Vani had an excellent forbidden foods challenge sometime back, and I happily participated. I think I’m just beginning to understand why this is so important. It’s human nature to sometimes want the very thing you can’t have. If you know that you can have those forbidden foods, their power is greatly diminished. I’ve been experimenting with some of these foods over the past few weeks, and the funny thing is, many of the things I’ve really been sad to pass up over the past few years aren’t even that great. I had a pretty lousy cupcake from the store yesterday, for example. It looked pretty, but it wasn’t all that good. When I really concentrated on the taste and texture while savoring it, I realized that the frosting was too sweet. I think that’s the first time I have EVER determined that something was too sweet. Apparently, “Just Sweet Enough” has an even greater meaning than I had realized. 🙂 I’ve been amazed at the things that I have built up into some sort of mega treat in my mind only to find that they really aren’t that amazing after all. 

So, basically, I haven’t been cooking as much lately as I’ve started working through the principles in these books. I’m not sure what the scale is doing, but I do know that my pants still fit after three weeks. I’m trying to spend less time, energy and focus on food and the scale, and that has resulted in less blogging. I haven’t been sure how to explain what I’m up to, and I’m not sure this really does a great job. I would never want to discourage anyone from the path they’ve chosen, but I do think it’s important for me to tell you about my experience. I’m still not certain how IE will work for me, but my stress level around food and eating has already decreased by about a zillion percent. That’s right. A zillion percent. Math was never my strong suit. 🙂 That, to me, has made this effort worthwhile. I think it is also a good experiment to try to get a new perspective on eating, and I’ve been pleased with the results so far.

I’m not going away, but, at this point, I do not plan to post full days of eats anymore. I find that putting that much attention on the things I eat is not a good thing for me. I do plan to share plenty of recipes and reviews with you, as well as updates on how this IE process is going. I just hope you will understand why I’ll be posting less frequently and why my recipes may not all be “light” ones. I know that my body prefers healthy and nutritious foods, and there will certainly be plenty of that in the days to come. I do plan, however, to keep experimenting with previously forbidden foods, which could lead to some interesting kitchen experiments. 

This blog has been so useful for me during the past 7 months as I’ve tried to find a way to stop my diet merry-go-round and find a comfortable resting spot, and all of the supportive comments from my wonderful readers have really made all the difference. The ultimate goal, after all, is not to fit into a certain pair of pants but rather to be happy in life. That might look something like my post-ziplining mug:

HappySince one of my favorite things about this blog has been the opportunity to learn from many of you, I just have to ask: Have you had a period in your life where you counted calories/points/fat grams/whatever and then decided that there was a better way to find balance? What’s your story? Are you still counting? Do you have an exit strategy for when you get where you’re going? 

As always, I wish you all the best wherever you may be in your life’s journey. 

Before I go, I want to send a few birthday wishes. My little brother turned 30 on Tuesday. I can’t believe it!!! It’s really hard to believe that he just turned 30 since our mother is just turning 28 today. 😉 Here’s a photo of my mom and me during the Christmas holidays:

Mom and MeHappy birthday to both of you and lots of love! XOXO 

Now, I’m off to have an air conditioned work out in the gym. It’s a scorcher of a day, and I’m glad to have an indoor option. Ciao for now, sweeties and have a great week! 🙂

19 Comments

Filed under Alaska, diet, Fitness, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Greek Yogurt: Kitchen Superstar

Hello sweeties! I hope this finds you enjoying your summer! I’m enjoying mine. 🙂 As you know, part of my summer fun involves visiting the farmer’s market. I went to my market in Courthouse on Saturday and made a major haul:

Market BootyI bought peaches, one little nectarine, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, an onion, yellow squash, zucchini, Brandywine tomatoes, beets, garlic scapes, tomatoes, some silver queen corn (my childhood favorite!!!), a container of Blue Ridge dairy Greek yogurt, and a pork shoulder that is barely peeking into the picture on the bottom right hand side. There’s also a little piece of cherry pie that I just couldn’t resist. It was a little one, I swear! 😉

I had a plan for the peaches, and they’ve been sitting in the box with their nectarine buddy and ripening a bit this week.

What a peach!

This was all gone. 😦

Cherry Berry "Ice Cream"Time to make more frozen loveliness! I peeled all but one of the peaches and the nectarine (5 fruits), and gave them a blitz in the blender along with 1/4 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, the juice of a lemon, the scrapings from a random vanilla bean I had in the fridge and a little can of fat free sweetened condensed milk. Today, I added a bit of extra love to the batch too: 1/2 cup of fat free plain Greek yogurt. I put the mix into the machine and flipped the magic switch.

Magic MachineWhile my mix was going for a spin, I peeled and chopped the remaining peach. It was SO ripe and juicy. YUM!

Peachy KeenAfter the freezer had been running for 30 minutes, I added my ripe peach chunks and let it run for 10 more minutes. 

ChunkyTake a look at this!:

Peachy Creamy LoveThis batch is bursting with fresh peach flavor, creaminess and tang from the Greek yogurt, and the smooth sweetness of the condensed milk. I will be sure to add Greek yogurt from now on. I couldn’t believe the difference it made! This is the creamiest batch I’ve made so far. I’ve tried more traditional recipes using eggs and full fat dairy before, but I can be quite happy with a slightly less creamy dessert that still tastes great and is virtually fat free. The Greek yogurt really upped the creaminess (as well as the protein!) without adding extra fat. Me likey. Me likey a lot!

Seriously, I don’t know how I made it for so long without Greek yogurt in my kitchen! It’s great for making potato salad, chicken salad and tuna salad creamy. It works well in baked goods. It makes a great salad dressing when mixed with a bit of mustard/vinegar/pomegranate molasses/hummus. It’s yummy with honey/maple syrup/agave/jam/nuts and fruit. It works great as a sub for sour cream. It adds creaminess to curry. It makes a great dip for fruit when mixed with a bit of PB2 and jam. I’ve never asked it to make my morning cup of coffee, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it could do that too. Yes. I believe Greek yogurt has officially become a staple in my kitchen. In case you can’t find it where you live, you can always make your own! Making your own might be a cheaper alternative as well, and that’s a good thing these days.

Aside from my frozen deliciousness, I’ve had a pretty uneventful week in the kitchen. I mentioned that I bought a pork shoulder at the market on Saturday, and I’ve been eating leftover pulled pork all week. While not as lean as a pork tenderloin, it isn’t too bad, and I tried to minimize the fat as much as possible. First, I trimmed off all of the visible fat using my kitchen scissors, and rubbed the pork with some mesquite grilling spice mix:

Pork!Then, I put it into the slow cooker with 1/2 an onion, 1/4 cup of apple juice, 3/4 cup of water, and 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Then I let it cook on high for two hours. After two hours, I flipped it over and let it cook for a couple of hours more. 

In the PoolAt that point, my meat thermometer told me that it was done, and I pulled it out and let it rest. Easy! 

Yum!

I let it cool and then gave it a good shred with a couple of forks. 

This pork shoulder was about 2 1/4 pounds before cooking. I put in enough liquid to keep the meat moist, but the meat was really just dipping its toes in the puddle. My goal was to allow the fat and juices to run off into the bottom of the pan instead of later appearing on my plate. I grew up eating Memphis style barbecue, which isn’t typically swimming in grease or sauce. I saw a number of recipes on line for cooking a pork shoulder in a slow cooker, and most of them involved adding bottles of barbecue sauce. I think that is no bueno from a calorie perspective and also from a yumminess perspective. I didn’t need that much sauce, and there would have been no way to avoid any of the fat that had cooked off if the drippings and sauce were all incorporated. I wanted to be able to taste the meat, and I was surprised at how much I liked this given that I cooked it without the benefit of a smoker. It was moist, delicious and, maybe by virtue of its ecofriendly upbringing, it really tasted like pork. Perfect!

My friend, Inga’s mom, came over for dinner Saturday night, and we each had a big plate of summer:

Plate o' SummerI’ve enjoyed something similar for my dinners this week, but now it is all gone. 😦 I’m going to have to do this again sometime soon!

I’ve had one other blogworthy eat this week. I picked up a little package of this wondrous stuff at Whole Foods over the weekend:

Awesome!I nibbled some by itself, but quickly realized its proper place:

Outstanding Oat BranThe. Best. Oat bran. Ever. It has chocolatey nibs, coconut, sweet raisins, berries and oat bran goodness all in one big bowl. Sadly, I’m out of this yummy little mix, but I will definitely be buying more on my next Whole Foods visit!!

So, now you’ve seen the highlights from my week. I know I’ve become a once or twice a week blogger this summer, but I’m finding so many nice outdoor activities to keep me occupied. Last night, I decided to walk home from work instead of taking the metro. It took two hours, and I was pretty pooped when I got home. However, the weather was great, I enjoyed my stroll through the city, and I got some exercise without hitting the gym. I’m trying to find more opportunities for that sort of activity, and it was a fabulous day for a long trek home. What’s your favorite way to get in some exercise without going to the gym?

I’m also trying not to focus so much on food. I think that, while useful, keeping a photo journal of my eats each day was putting way too much of a focus on my food and making me a little crazy. I’m sure to go back to that eventually, but, for now, I want to focus on new dishes and treats in my posts. I loved everything in this post, and I loved telling you about it!

Now, it’s time for me to head to bed. I did something weird to my shoulder the other evening, and I don’t think this evening’s strength training workout did me any favors. I believe that some ice may be called for, and then I’m heading to bed. 

I hope you have a great weekend, and I hope you stick with me and my infrequent posts. I think I just need to take it easy a bit and go from there. I’m sure I’ll be in the kitchen this weekend, and I’ll want to tell you about it for sure. Until then, ciao for now, y’all! 🙂

21 Comments

Filed under Arlington, Farmer's Market, Food, Greek Yogurt, Recipes, Slow Cooker, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Lightened Squash Casserole a la Sweetie Pie

Squash Casserole

I try to eat a healthy diet. Really, I do. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up eating lots of vegetables. They were just typically smothered in cheese or pork fat. I’m so happy that I now enjoy my vegetables naked or with simpler preparations. That’s not to say that… sometimes… I miss some of the old recipes.

Yellow squash might be one of my favorite vegetables. What’s your favorite veggie?

SquashAs a kid, we would sometimes have it boiled down and mashed with butter. Other times, it might find its way into a stir fry with other things from the garden. My faaaaavorite way to eat it, however, was in a cheesy squash casserole. 

I was recently reorganizing my pantry as part of my pantry clean out effort, and I came across a forgotten can.

Mysterious and DeliciousI bought these when making a green bean casserole for a holiday get together sometime back. Yes, the can has the word “New!” on it, but these are anything but. Anyway, I feel like this is a true confession of some sort. Yes. My name is Sweetie Pie, and I had a can of fried onions, that strange ingredient that shows up frequently in casseroles and at southern potluck parties, hanging out in my pantry. I decided to ignore the list of somewhat mysterious “ingredients” and whip up a lightened version of an old favorite. I can’t tell you for certain what these are really made of, but, um… I can tell you that I kind of dig them in a casserole. 

Din Din

Sweetie’s “Lighten Up” Squash Casserole

Ingredients:

1 pound summer squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 cup chopped onions

cooking spray

3/4 cup egg beaters

2 Tbsp. skim milk

4 ounces grated light sharp cheddar (I used Cabot 75% reduced fat cheddar but any cheese (reduced fat or not) would work)

1/2 cup French fried onions

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried mustard

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Steam the squash until it is tender. It took about 8 minutes for my slices to steam in a metal steamer basket set into a pot of boiling water. 

While the squash is steaming, saute the onion in a skillet coated with cooking spray or a bit of olive oil.

Spray a 2 qt. casserole dish with cooking spray and set it aside.

When the onions are tender, probably after about seven minutes of cooking, add the steamed squash to the onions and continue to cook for about three minutes. During this time, use the edge of your spatula to break up the squash and incorporate it with the onions. This will also help to dry the squash out a bit which should help to prevent a soggy casserole. Remove from the heat.

Squash chopperyWhile the squash cools a bit, set aside half of the cheese and half of the onions to use as a topping. Combine the remaining half of the cheddar cheese and fried onions in a medium sized bowl along with the eggbeaters, milk, salt, pepper and spices.

Gradually add the squash and onion mixture to the egg beater mixture, stirring while you add the warm ingredients to keep the egg from scrambling.

Pour the mixture into your casserole dish, and then top it with the remaining fried onions followed by the remaining cheddar. Pop it into the oven and bake it for 35 minutes or until the egg is set and the cheese starts to brown on the top.

Oven Ready

I divided mine into six servings. 🙂 

I’ve got to get to bed, but before I go I want to say a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Aunt Nancy. I ate some of my homemade ice cream this evening and had a little celebration of my own in her honor. 🙂 It was always so nice having my aunt and uncle close by, and I always looked forward to spending time with them in the Ozarks each summer. My brother and I would get to go swimming in nearby creeks and rock quarries, visit Branson and Silver Dollar City, pick blackberries in the woods, feed the flying squirrels and just generally have a great time at their house each summer. As the song goes…. “Thanks for the memories…” and a very happy birthday to you!

Now, I’m off to bed. Tomorrow is Friday. Woo hoo!!! Ciao for now, y’all and have a great weekend!

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Filed under Casserole, cooking, diet, Food, Lowfat, Recipes, Squash, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss

Making My ‘Scape

I finally made my ‘scape…. my garlic scape concoction! Hi!! I hope you had a great fourth of July!! My weekend has been quite busy, but I’ve had lots of fun. Here’s a recap!

Friday:

Having a Friday off is such a lovely thing. I got up, had a leisurely work out, and then I finally got around to mixing up a batch of garlic scape bean dip. You might recall that I bought some garlic scapes at the farmer’s market a long time ago, and I promised to share my favorite recipe. The original recipe was published in the New York Times last year, and the recipe can be found here. I’ve lightened it up a bit by using only 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, and I don’t think it’s missing a thing! The Times also had a very interesting article, that I really enjoyed. You can check it out here if you’d like to read more about scapes.ScapesScapes are the stems that grow out of the top of a garlic bulb, and they are the part of the garlic that would flower if left intact. They have a very strong garlic flavor, and can be used much as you would use garlic. The tips of my scapes had gotten a bit dried out from all of the time spent languishing in the crisper, but otherwise, they were good to go. 

I removed the dried out parts, and then chopped up 1/3 a cup of scapes. Those went into the food processor with 1/2 tsp. of sea salt and 1/4 tsp. of black pepper. The scapes have a pretty serious heat on their own, so it doesn’t take a lot of black pepper to spice it up. I also added the juice of a lemon. I whirred it around in the food processor until the scapes were pretty finely chopped.

BlitzThen, I added a can of great northern beans that I had drained and rinsed. I didn’t have cannellinis in the pantry, and I knew that these white beans would work just fine. Hooray for the pantry!!

BeansI continued to puree the mixture. When it was pretty well blitzed, I drizzled in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil with the processor still running and continued to puree until it was smooth.

Mmmm....I love this stuff and eat it as I would eat hummus! The scent of garlic really hits you when you take off the lid. Scapes are amazing!! If you can’t find scapes, you could make a similar mixture with a few cloves of garlic in place of the scapes. 

I put some scape dip into a La Tortilla Factory wrap (I was so excited to finally try these!!), along with some sliced cucumbers and Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar, and voila! I had  a tasty wrap to take to a little pre-National’s game tailgate. 

It's A Wrap!

I was wearing a new dress, and you can see part of it in the photo. It loved it because it had a lot of crazy colors, but… it might look like a tablecloth. 🙂 

I also made a batch of butterscotch blondies (sitting in the chair in the above photo), using a recipe from an old Cooking Light cookbook, “Low-Fat Ways to Cook Family Favorites,” and took some to share with my friends. Sadly, the recipe isn’t on-line and it isn’t my own, so the best I can do is tell you about the cookbook. It’s a good one, by the way!

Butterscotch BrowniesThe Nat’s lost to the Braves, but the game was still fun. The racing President’s are always a highlight.

Poor Teddy!Poor Teddy Roosevelt never gets a break. At least he keeps trying! Way to be a role model, Teddy!

Saturday:

Saturday morning, I went for a walk with my friend, Mrs. W, and then she and I went to the farmer’s market. I loaded up on berries this week, as well as cherries, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and some chive cheese. Yum.

After our walk and our visit to the market, we lunched on leftover gratin, garlic scape and white bean dip, farmer’s market cucumbers and tomatoes, and some Berry Cherry “Ice Cream.” It was a tasty lunch. I love having leftovers that I feel good about serving to a good friend. She happens to be a vegetarian too, so it was awesome that I had my vegetarian gratin to share. Yum!

Last night, I had another friend, MG, over for dinner. I “griddlered” a farmer’s market pork tenderloin, basted in a bit of barbecue sauce, along with some zucchini and yellow squash. I made some oven fries– both sweet and regular potatoes, and boiled up a couple of ears of corn.

Happy Fourth!It was a healthy dinner, but I think it had a fourth of July feel to it. Oh, Griddler. I love you! Did you eat something festive on the fourth?? I forgot to get watermelon, and I was bummed about it!

For dessert we had more blondies and more Cherry Berry “Ice Cream.” Then, we headed up to the roof of my building to watch the fireworks on the National Mall. There is a clear view of the mall and the monuments from our rooftop, and it’s fun to see all of the smaller displays along the banks of the Potomac as well. I wanted to show you my view, but I never figured out how to take a good photo. This should give you some idea:

Boom!!Directly below the fireballs, you can kind of make out the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building if you try. We have a great view, just not an awesome photographer. Ahem. 

While MG was over, I also made an overly gooey batch of brownies to repay him for watering my plants while I was in Alaska. I do have my kitchen flops, from time to time, and I shouldn’t have tried to do a minor tweak to a previously untested recipe! Silly junior mints. The brownies tasted good, but a spoon might not be a bad choice of utensil. 😦 Sorry, MG. I say– microwave them and top with with ice cream. Yes. I’d eat that for sure!

Sunday:

I woke up with a serious hankering for French toast. I haven’t had it in ages! I mixed 1/4 cup of eggbeaters, 1 1/2 T. of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, 1/4 tsp. of sugar and 1/8 tsp. of vanilla extract together. I soaked two slices of multi-grain bread in the eggbeater mixture, and then I cooked the slices in a nonstick skillet coated with butter flavored cooking spray. I had some lovely raspberries that I bought at the farmer’s market yesterday as my side dish, and there was a little bit of maple syrup on the top. I love that I could taste the vanilla in the egg mixture. I didn’t completely drench it in syrup, the way I would have back in the old days, and I like that it stayed a bit crisp as a result. It really hit the spot!

French ToastAfter my special breakfast, I decided to take Coby out for a ride on the Custis Trail. Get ready for a quick switch from French toast to feet. I thought I’d warn you. There was no good segue that I could think of for this one! 

Along the way, I did something rather ungraceful while turning abruptly onto a little wooden bridge on the trail. Yes. My toenail is purple. Coby is fine, and the rest of me escaped unscathed, but I’m just not sure what this purple toe is going to do. I guess we will wait and see. I strongly suspect the toenail will not be with me much longer. Ewww, right? I hope I didn’t gross you out too much. At least I didn’t post a photo. I thought about it. 🙂

Ok, back to food…

I wanted to use the rest of my garlic scapes as well as two eggplants I bought at the farmer’s market so I decided to make a quick stew for dinner. I had to improvise a bit to avoid taking my purple toe to the store, so I used things from the pantry. Here’s what I came up with:

Din Din“Not Going to the Store” Garlic Scape, Eggplant and Red Lentil Stew

Ingredients:

1 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

cooking spray

1/2 medium sized onion, chopped

1/4 cup of garlic scapes, chopped

2 medium sized eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (undrained)

1/3 cup dried red lentils

1 1/2 cups of water

Salt to Taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a deep sided skillet. Add the cinnamon, chili powder and cumin, and heat the spices, while stirring, for thirty seconds. They should become fragrant. Add the onions, garlic scapes and a few sprays of cooking spray. Cook over medium high heat for seven minutes, or until the onions start to soften.

Add the eggplant to the pan, along with 3/4 tsp. of salt, stirring well to incorporate the onions, and let the mixture cook down for eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the can of tomatoes, the lentils and the water. Stir well. 

Increase the heat as needed to bring mixture to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes, testing to be sure the lentils are tender. If the lentils need longer, make sure that there is still some liquid in the pan, adding a splash more water if necessary, and let it simmer a bit more. Mine were done in 20 minutes.

Give it a nibble and add extra salt, if needed, to suit your tastebuds.

Red lentils are key in this dish when it comes to using dried lentils. They cook the fastest of all of the lentils, and they will get tender in the time it takes for your veggies to nicely stew. If you wanted to substitute any other lentils, I would recommend cooking them first. If you decide to do that, I would reduce the water in the stew to 3/4 a cup.

Makes approximately 6 one cup servings

FinThis stew made a yummy dinner atop a bowl of rice, and my apartment smells amazing!! I’ve used the rest of the scapes, and my eggplants have been saved from a few more days in the crisper drawer. Hooray!

I worked out with my trainer this evening, despite the purple toe, and I think I may need to put some ice on it now. The pain wasn’t bad during class, but now it is not feeling so happy. I’m off to find an ice pack.

Thanks for making it to the end of this very long post. I had a lot to tell you about!

I hope you have a great week!! Ciao for now, y’all. 🙂

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Filed under Cooking Light, D.C., Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Washington, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Ice Creamy Holidays

Hi, kids! Keeping my vow to put my gadget to good use, I put my ice cream maker to work today, and I wanted to tell you all about my easy formula for making a tasty frozen dessert. I also wanted to say “hello” as it has been a few days since my last post. Summer seems to be flying by, and I’m staying nice and busy. That means less posting for now, but I do hope you guys will continue checking in with me anyway! 

Check out today’s batch of ice cream in my very special bowl:

Berry Cherry "Ice Cream"

Some of my favorite food memories from childhood involve homemade ice cream eaten out of the very same bowls I used for my little treat this evening. I was thinking about my family while making my ice cream today, and wishing they lived closer so I could share it with them!

My grandparents had a wooden White Mountain ice cream maker with a crank that you turned by hand. It looked like this one:

White MountainMy mom, aunt and brother all have summertime birthdays, and since there are plenty of hot weather holidays too, we often had a great reason to make a batch of homemade ice cream. Sometimes I would just pester my memaw and papaw for homemade ice cream on any old random Saturday too. Ice cream making was always a festive holiday of its very own!

My favorite recipe was (is) a custard style vanilla ice cream from an ancient Southern Living magazine. I was most excited when we used that recipe, and, just to be sure it didn’t get lost, I wrote it in the margins of my mother’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. It’s there for safe keeping and peace of mind. 🙂

My memaw would keep empty milk cartons filled with water in the freezer so we would have plenty of ice on hand. When it was time, my papaw would get out his red handled hammer and break the ice into chunks in a big metal bowl that served many purposes. Sometimes that bowl was full of green beans for snapping, purple hulled peas for shelling or laundry headed to the clothesline. Talk about a multi-tasker! I loved watching the hammer tear the cartons into shreds and looking at the interestingly shaped chunks of ice. My papaw and my dad would pack the ice all around the metal canister full of our custardy ice cream mix, layering it with dingy, grey rock salt (I’d steal bits of it for nibbling purposes, of course… despite the dirty color… ) and then my papaw, my dad, and my uncle, if he and my aunt were in town for the weekend, would take turns cranking the ice cream.

I remember waiting and waiting and waiting until the handle became hard to turn. That was the signal that it was nearly done! Then, they would wrap an old quilt around the bucket and let it sit for a few minutes to let it firm up a bit more. This was always the hardest part for me. Oh, the waiting. It was torture!

There were lots of opportunities to have little science lessons during this process too. It seemed counterintuitive to me, as a kid, that putting a blanket on the ice cream would make it get colder. How could that be?? Blankets made you warm! What was the deal with the salt? Why would you want to melt the ice? Until I learned the reasons behind those things, it all seemed very mysterious and magical. Who am I kidding? Even after those science lessons were learned, it was still very magical to me!

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the salty ice water would be emptied out of the big wooden bucket, and the gleaming silver canister of ice cream would be brought into the kitchen. It would go straight into the kitchen sink, it’s metallic surface fogging up as it got hit by the hot and humid air of an Arkansas summer. Then, the lid would come off, and the bowls would come out of the freezer where they had been chilling. These bowls with their little grape pattern:

Bowl, Sweet BowlI love that I have these bowls, and that I can use them for my own little homemade ice cream.  

It took me years to wise up to the fact that my memaw would always volunteer to take on the tough task of scraping the ice cream off of the metal beater because the ice cream was more solidly frozen in the spots where it was stuck to the metal. She was wily for sure!!

She was also a great cook. We would often have brownies and cookies with our ice cream, and some favorite ice cream toppings were blueberry pie filling, a buttery praline pecan mixture that she would make on the stove, and fresh strawberries. Oh my! I will never forget those lazy summer evenings, and the celebration we would create by cooking together. 

When my parents were here a few weeks ago, we had a slightly different “citified” ice cream making experience when we made a batch of watermelon sorbet using my countertop ice cream maker. There were no milk carton shaped blocks of ice and no hammers were needed, but it was still… fun! Remember this?

Sweet Watermelon SorbetI shared the sorbet recipe with you, but I kept the recipe for what we did with the other half of the watermelon to myself. My mom and I seeded the whole watermelon and pureed it all at the same time. Half went into the sorbet, and we made another little batch of frozen goodness with the other half later in the week. We mixed the pureed watermelon, lime zest and lime juice with my special ingredient and, like magic, it made sweet and creamy watermelon ice cream. I wanted to experiment a bit more to see if it really was as easy it seemed. 

I’ve learned that it’s possible to make a tasty “ice cream” with pureed fruit, a bit of lemon or lime juice and this special ingredient:

Mmmm....Ah yes– one of my favorite summertime ingredients often found in recipes like lemon ice box pie and strawberry pizza. No southern picnic or church potluck is complete, in my opinion, without a dessert involving sweetened condensed milk! Mmm… I could eat it with a spoon, but I wouldn’t. No. I’d never do that. I might run my finger around the inside of the can, but never my tongue. Too dangerous. I might know from experience. 🙂 Anyhoo… 

I decided to use some cherries and berries from the freezer in today’s batch along with a few fresh blueberries to fill out the mix. Since the farmer’s market is still two days away, I was glad I had some nice frozen fruit in the freezer. If you catch them on sale, frozen berries and cherries can be a cheaper alternative for fresh berries when they aren’t in season. Plus, I love being able to keep some berries on hand.

Frozen FruitiesSince I only had about 3 1/2 cups of fruity goodness after I pureed my frozen and fresh berries, I added a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze. I’d skip the almond breeze unless you are running a bit short of fruit like I was today. We had plenty of watermelon for our melon batch, and didn’t add any extra milk at all. It was still nice and creamy!

In addition to the berries and cherries, I added the juice of one lemon to the blender. A little bit of lemon or lime really brightens up the flavors. I could have added some zest, but I was feeling a bit lazy. 🙂 After I had my fruit, lemon juice and, in this case, almond breeze, all ready to go, I stirred in the little can of love. Then, I put the whole shebang into the ice cream maker, and let it do its thing for thirty minutes.

Cherry Berry Love

No hand cranking required! Once it was done, I scraped it into a freezer safe container and weighed it on my food scale in grams. If you notice, containers of store bought ice cream typically tell you the number of calories in cups and in grams. I plugged the nutritional information for my ingredients into the Sparkpeople recipe calculator, divided by the number of servings I wanted, and then divided the total number of grams of ice cream by my chosen number of servings. That allows me to measure out a bowl in grams and to know how many calories are in a serving. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s a great way to enjoy a treat responsibly. Since I’m probably going to be eating the whole batch over the next week or so, I knew that I would like to have some idea so that I could avoid going overboard, but still enjoy my little bowlful of berry cherry yum.

Weighty but Tasty

The grand total of grams was 1216. I calculated the NI for 10 servings, so I know the number of calories in a 121 gram serving. That made for a pretty nicely sized bowl! Perfect! Since I used the fat free sweetened condensed milk, it’s virtually fat free too. 🙂 Y’all know I really watch what I eat in order to avoid gaining back the 180 pounds I’ve lost, but I refuse to give up treats. Eating them responsibly is my compromise.

Drumroll Please...Now that I have a container of this in the freezer, continuing to firm up, I’m all set for dessert for the holiday weekend. Yay!! I would share this with friends in a heartbeat. Of course, if I end up eating it all myself, no tears will be shed. 🙂 Just to recap, here’s today’s recipe:

Super Simple Cherry Berry “Ice Cream”

3 1/2 to 4 cups of pureed berries and cherries (or melon, or peaches, or mangos, or bananas, or… you get the point)

1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze or skim milk (If you have 4 cups of pureed fruit, you could leave this out and still get a creamy result.)

Juice of one lemon or lime (you can add the zest too for more zing)

1 14 ounce can of fat free sweetened condensed milk

Combine all ingredients, and process in your ice cream maker following the directions for your machine. My Cuisinart ice cream maker took 30 minutes to freeze this to a nice consistency. Place it in the freezer to continue firming up until it’s time to serve! 

Makes 10-12 servings that are about 1/2 a cup each

Here’s wishing you all a very festive fourth of July! Tomorrow night, I’m going to the Nats game with some friends, and I’ve heard that there will be fireworks. Wheeee!!!! On the fourth, I will be watching the fireworks on the National Mall from the roof of my building on the other side of the Potomac. We have a pretty awesome view of the monuments and the Capitol from my little piece of Virginia, and it’s always fun to see the smaller displays going off in communities all along the river too. What are your plans?

Whatever you do to celebrate the fourth, I hope you enjoy some good food, friends, fireworks and family. Ciao for now, y’all!

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Filed under cooking, Cooking Light, diet, Food, Recipes, Sorbet, Uncategorized, Watermelon, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Zucchini-Feta Gratin from Cooking Light

Zucchini-Feta Gratin

It seems like I haven’t made a new recipe in ages. I may be exaggerating a bit, but I’ve just sort of been making a little of this and that. I haven’t made a “big batch” recipe in weeks! With the warmer weather, I’m just happy putting fresh things together and calling it a meal. I ended my little kitchen hiatus today by making a Zucchini-Feta Gratin using this recipe from Cooking Light Magazine. 

This was an easy recipe, and it resulted in a dish that could be a great choice for entertaining too. I love dishes that look more complicated than they really are. Mwa ha ha ha. Tricky. 

I followed the recipe with only a couple of tweaks.

  • I grilled my squash on the griddler instead of steaming it. Extra flavor? Yes, please!
  • I used a mix of yellow squash and zucchini for a more colorful dish. Plus… that’s what I had in the crisper.
  • I used fresh mint from the pot on the balcony instead of using dried mint as directed in the recipe. Why use dried when I have fresh out on the balcony?!

Let me show you how easy it was:

First, I layered the rice and feta mixture in my pie plate, after spraying the plate well with cooking spray:

Rice CrustI made extra rice this morning when I was cooking the rice for this recipe, and I had one of my favorite little breakfasts– rice, sugar, almond breeze and berries. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving rice, milk and sugar. YUM! It was a favorite when I was a kid, and it has stood the test of time for me.

Brekkie BreakOk. Back to the recipe. Sorry about that! I love my milky sweet rice! After I had the rice crust in the pie dish, I grilled my squash on the Griddler. Y’all know I love my Griddler. Here he is:

Griddle me This...While the veggies were getting tanned, I chopped up some balcony pot mint:

Minty Fresh GoodnessThe mint went into a bowl along with some freshly ground nutmeg. Nutmeg and eggs are a match made in heaven! I bought some lovely brown eggs at the farmer’s market yesterday (along with the squash and the feta!!) This was a farmer’s market dish for sure!

Eggs

I love pretty brown eggs! 

Once the veggies were grilled, I mixed them with the other half of the feta, the salt and the pepper, and then filled my little rice crust. I sort of used my fingers to spread the veggies around in a nice even layer before I poured the egg mixture on top. After I added the egg mixture, I gave the dish a little tilt–this way and that– to make sure the egg mixture made its way all around the dish.

Ready To BakeIt went into the oven, and forty -five minutes later, I enjoyed a nice wedge of gratin with some TJ’s turkey meatballs (my answer to quickie “meatloaf” for one), and some sliced fresh tomato.

Lunchy LunchWhen I was a kid, I remember how my parents and grandparents would cover a whole plate with fresh tomatoes from the garden after a big dinner. They would add a little salt and then tear into them. It was kind of like the salad course. Me? Did I appreciate the gorgeous, red, homegrown Arkansas tomatoes? Nope. I hated them. What was I thinking??? Crazy.

I got the tomatoes on my lunch plate at the farmer’s market yesterday from some Hanover, VA farmers. They were SO good and very flavorful! I just added a little salt. I wonder where I got that idea? Ha! I think my tomato experience is a good example of why you should try foods that you might have hated as a kid! 

The gratin had a nice flavor, and I love that the edges of the rice crust got a little crispy and browned. I loved the flavor of the fresh mint contrasted with the salty feta. YUM!! I’m sure this would be great made with brown rice, but I’m trying to use up some things from the pantry. This seemed like  great time to use some white rice that has been around for awhile. I’m sure this would be good with steamed veggies, as directed in the recipe, but I’d encourage grilling them if possible. It was delicious, and I can’t wait to have it on my dinner plate over the next few days.

Now that I’ve had a nice lunch, I think I’ll take my bicycle out for another spin. I don’t believe I’ve introduced you. Meet Coby:

CobyYou can’t tell in this photo, but he is sort of a Cobalt blue color– hence the name: Coby. Coby and I went out yesterday for a ride, and it was not smooth sailing. I can’t believe it, but it was our first trip out this summer. Time is getting away from me! Before we left, I aired up the tires using a new pump I bought awhile back. Before I was even a mile from home… the front tire blew out. Ugh! We’d barely gotten started.

Feeling the need to take care of the problem ASAP, I walked Coby to a nearby bike shop. While there, they repaired the tire, and they also adjusted the derailleur because I mentioned that the chain always pops off when I try to shift down into first. I live in an area with some pretty big hills, and downshifting definitely makes them easier to tackle. Forty minutes later, thinking all was well, I hopped back on and resumed my trek. I couldn’t wait to shift down into first. I just knew it was going to make the hills much more tolerable. Feeling confident on the first big hill I came to, I clicked my little gear shifter and… the chain popped off again. Aargh!

I put the chain back on, wiped my greasy paws on some bright green grass, and then enjoyed a pretty nice ride. I did not try to change gears again, but I’m sure that just made me burn more calories on the dastardly hills. 

I bought Coby last summer after being passed by bikers while walking/running on the local trails. It looked like fun! How about you? Do you have a bicycle? Do you ride to work?… for fun?… as a serious athletic endeavor? Does your bicycle have a name? 🙂 I like to go on long rides on the weekends for a bit of a break in my cardio routine. I also love riding down to Old Town Alexandria and having a little picnic by the water. Riding to places that always seemed far away certainly made my world feel smaller. I kind of like that feeling sometimes!

Oh, I almost forgot! I had another Coconut Cream Pie Holey Donut yesterday before my ride. I promised to try to take a photo since the last couple of tries have failed. Here it is:

Coconut Cream PieThis one is my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE of all of the flavors I’ve tried. I’m enamoured.

Speaking of my being enamoured… don’t forget that you still have a few days to save on hottie Jay Robb’s products using a promotion code especially for Just Sweet Enough readers. Check out the bottom of this post for more info.

Now, I’m going to pack a snack and take Coby out for another spin. Wish me luck!

I hope you are having a stellar weekend! I also hope you’ll try the yummy Cooking Light gratin recipe if you are looking for something new to do with summer squash. If you have a garden (or a neighbor with a garden), a bumper crop (or a big bag of squash left on your doorstep in the dead of night) is always a possibility. I know you will want to have this recipe up your sleeve! Ciao for now, y’all! 🙂

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Filed under cooking, Cooking Light, diet, Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story