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Diet free living: it’s not NOT about the weight

September 30th, 2011 · 35 Comments · diet free living

I haven’t weighted myself in many many months, but I know I’ve been gaining weight, slowly but surely. I can tell this because I keep outgrowing my clothes. Remember my closet clearing exercise? Even some of those items are becoming too snug to bear and my newly acquired pants I fear will have the same fate if I don’t stop this madness.

canstock3494746 Image source

I believe it was Geneen Roth (love her!!) that said: “It’s not about the weight, but it’s also not not about the weight.” The message was basically that you can be happy at any weight once you deal with what’s really bothering you instead of focusing on the weight. But at some point weight can make things physically uncomfortable, like when you can’t walk a block without being winded or when you can’t comfortably sit in a chair, and in that case, it’s important to deal with the physical weight. I am not that overweight. I know this. But the weight gain is causing me discomfort when I continuously grow out of my clothes. It makes getting dressed a painful exercise daily (we’ve heard this before, huh?). I can’t continue buying larger and larger clothes. I need to do something!

Here is the deal… I want to be very clear about this: I am not gaining weight because intuitive eating doesn’t work. I’m gaining weight because I haven’t been listening to my body. I’ve been ignoring its signals – eating things my mind wants vs. what my body needs. Eating things in amounts that at times cause me physical discomfort.

I know better. It’s time to get serious because I’m done sounding like a broken record. Here are the things I will focus on:

1. I will eat what I want but I will ask myself if I am physically hungry before anything goes into my mouth (tuning in to your body is very important here!). A little bite here and there may seem innocent but it’s habit forming and little things add up. “It’s so good, I can’t stop even though I’m stuffed.” Sounds familiar? You and I CAN stop. We need to choose to stop. Here is why it’s better to stop. You can definitely have something very delicious again, possibly the exact thing you “can’t stop” eating right now. You can make it again. You can go to that restaurant again. If it’s a one-time thing, you can make something similar… or you can make something different that can bring you the exact same level of pleasure (maybe more!!). You can stop. You should stop. This is important. It’s the difference between guilt, discomfort, crying over not fitting into your clothes and not worrying about your weight. This is how you lose weight without dieting!

2. Declutter. I’m not just talking about physical clutter (although I really should fold that load of laundry I did a few days ago!). As Steven Pressfield said in the The War of Art(which by the way I didn’t love, but this one message really stuck with me) – you need to make a distinction between what’s urgent and what’s important. Choose what’s important. I have a constant sense of urgency that’s cluttering up my mind with an unnecessarily long (and unimportant in the big scheme of things!) to-do list. It’s causing stress, often panic, misguided prioritization and a less-than-optimal life. Guess what else all of this leads to? Yup, eating. Eating food that my body doesn’t want or need. Why clutter up my mind with this non-sense? Identify each morning a few things that are important and do them!! No watching tv (while munching on cookies) instead of doing something that’s important. It’s time to take care of myself like I know I deserve (btw, I deserve tv too and it can be on my important items list for the day Smile ).

3. Work out. I’ve been feeling very sluggish lately which leads to general sense of “blah.” <—yes, that’s a technical term Winking smile Working out, for me, should be a top priority – not because it burns calories but because it makes me feel strong, energized and balanced. It’s like taking my medicine. Sometimes I’m too lazy to get up and get a glass of water, etc. but it’s important (here is that word again) in order to feel better. Don’t underestimate it when you feel overwhelmed by other little things you feel like you “need to” to do (as per (2) above.).

I wrote this list in my journal yesterday morning and had one of my the best days in recent memory. My list of “important items” for the day actually changed. For example, getting a manicure seemed important in the morning but coming home and making a healthy dinner for Adam (who is trying to lose weight) was more important. Today a manicure is getting back on the important list. Smile (I have chipped nail polish that is just driving me insane. I don’t care if some people think it’s silly and non-important. This is my list and I put whatever I want on it!)

So here we go. Sorry for writing a novel. I hope it’s helpful to some of you. It’s time to end this cycle for good!!

Any thoughts on the subject from my dear readers?

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Midweek entertaining do’s and don’ts

September 28th, 2011 · 28 Comments · appetizers, entertaining, game friendly, pizza

The past few weeks I had a few after work get-togethers, which taught me a few lessons about mid-week entertaining.  Last week went smoothly, while last night I was scrambling last minute and then ended up putting a few of my guests to work to help me push out some food (thank you Megan and Meghan – I couldn’t have done it without you!).

So here are my DO’s and DON’Ts based on my experiences:


  • Adjust your own expectations. This is a mid-week gathering and you have a full time job. No one expects a feast of all feasts. Which brings me to…
  • Have a manageable plan. Last week I gave myself the task of making 2 apps and 1 dessert which I quickly whipped up together the night before. Everyone was more than happy with just that and a cooler full of beer!
  • Get helpfrom your guests and your grocery store :) Guests always ask what to bring – give them specific instructions (beer, dessert, etc.) or go a step further and make it a potluck gathering. Last night the feast below (and more! we had to use a side table) was all put out by my guests!! A few items from the grocery store completed the table. You don’t have to cook every single thing from scratch. Cheese + cured meats went quickly. Crostini from fresh baguette + ricotta and sour cherry jam (all store-bought) was one of my favorite appetizers of the night! Even on the night of the party, get help from your guests with last minute touches if you need it. Many of them offer help, take them up on it if it’s going to ensure you’re not stuck in the kitchen all night while everyone else is having fun (although that shouldn’t happen if you actually plan right – see don’ts.)
  • Have a partner in crime – Adam buzzed people in and was making sure everyone had a drink in hand and enjoyed each other’s company while I was still finishing up my dish.


  • Make things ahead of time. I know this is obvious but man, was I reminded of this last night. I left a lot of things to last minute and paid the price. I like dips and dishes that can be warmed up or baked right before the party. Do the work ahead of time and you’ll be much more likely to enjoy the party you’re hosting!


  • Don’t over commit – seriously, don’t! I know you may feel like people have high expectations because you’re known as the food blogger or a really great cook, but remember – this is a midweek party. Keep it simple and manageable and your guests will be happy. I promise! :)
  • Don’t be cocky – Last party went so smoothly that you think you can just wing it and end up watching 5 episodes of Top Chef Just Desserts instead of prepping the night before? (totally hypothetical 😉 ). Nope – not a good plan. Have a plan and execute on it  – this is how you keep your reputation as the hostest with the mostest!
  • Don’t be a perfectionist – Last minute things at work so you couldn’t get off early to make sure everything was 100% ready before your guests arrived? It’s OK! As I was still making the pizza monkey bread below and needed my guests’ help, I kept rambling about how I was the worst host ever. Megan said something so sweet that really brought me to reality. She said: “Elina, look around. Everyone is having fun in the living room. You’re among friends. And you’re human.” Phew! It’s good to be among friends.

Last night’s guests were some of my favorite blogger friends: Meghan, Megan, Elizabeth, Cara (and husband Ben), Lizzy, Bridget, Shannon (and boyfriend Mike), Melissa and Josh, Kerstin, Ranjani, Tiffany (and husband Kyle). Check out their blogs if you don’t follow them yet!

I made this pizza monkey bread again last night but since this post is getting too long, I’m going to ask you to wait a little longer for the recipe. I promise you it will be worth the wait. Just ask the people above!! :)


And these Russian cheesecake lollipops will be shared on Russian Bites next week. Be sure to check back there! Edited to add: here is the recipe. Don’t miss it! :)


Speaking of Russian Bites, please give me some love on my post on vareniki (vegetarian Russian dumplings). Thanks! You’rethebestest. Winking smile

Are you an entertaining guru? Share your do’s and don’ts with us! Smile

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Making pretzel sandwich buns (+Christina’s spice shop)

September 25th, 2011 · 32 Comments · baking, bread, favorite recipes, sandwich

pretzel sandwich

Last month, Rachel of Boston Food Bloggers organized a tour of the Taza chocolate factory, followed by a trip to a few of her favorite spots in Somerville. I’m rarely in the area so I took up the opportunity to not only meet a few new blog friends but also check out some of Somerville’s hidden gems.

Christina’s spice & specialty food perfectly fit the bill.

christina's spice & specialty foods

The shop is small but is jam packed with spices, sauces, and… specialty foods (yeah, I’m original like that). The photo above depicts tables full of spices, alphabetically organized (!!). This makes it really easy to find that spice you’ve been looking all over for… and a few others you didn’t know you needed but could not walk out of the shop without having.

The shelves were full of other fun goods…

christina's spice & specialty foods-2

…like every kind of salt imaginable…

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How cool are these long peppers?

christina's spice & specialty foods-3

I’ve heard a lot about preserved lemons lately. I will be definitely picking up a baggie next time!

christina's spice & specialty foods-5

christina's spice & specialty foods-6

Spices and herbs as far as the eye could see…

christina's spice & specialty foods-7

christina's spice & specialty foods-8

It was exciting and overwhelming. They had sumac – a spice I often see in my Please to the Table cookbook. I also picked up a few kinds of paprika (again, the book always calls for smoked, sweet or spicy and I just had the generic “paprika” from Whole Foods before). Then pretzel salt and fleur de sel caught my eye and of course I had to grab those (btw, everything is available in little baggies or in bottles. They also have empty bottles if you need them – pretty awesome!). And then it was time to cut myself off before too much damage could be done! Winking smile


I’ve been using the paprikas ever since. I think sumac will first go into a traditional plov (I’ll blog over at Russian Bites when I make that). And pretzel salt of course had to be put to use over some pretzels. Actually better than pretzels – pretzel buns for pretzel sandwiches. Oh yes!!

I used Alton Brown’s recipe for pretzels but instead of twisting the dough into the traditional pretzel braids, divided it into ten 3.5-3.75oz balls.


With the help of instant yeast and my trusty KitchenAid mixerwith a hook attachment, this dough came together in about 5 minutes. 50 minutes later it doubled in size and was very easy to work with. As I said before, I divided it into 10 balls for large sandwich buns.


After a quick dip in a baking soda bath, an egg wash…


… and a sprinkling of salt, they were ready to bake!


Quick tip – don’t be shy with the salt. Your buns will further grow in the oven so the salt will spread out. I could have probably tripled the amount I used!

Hello gorgeous!


The whole thing came together so quickly, this little experiment for sure was the beginning of something beautiful. A pretzel filled beautiful life! Smile I will no doubt will be making mini ones for sliders or any time a pretzel craving or an amazing-bun craving hits!



Fresh fig buratta, tomato, basil and dijon mustard sandwich = heaven on earth


Incredibly soft on the inside, chewy on the outside. These were out-of-this world amazing… and easy enough even for a weeknight project. Seriously!


Make them now. They will change your life. They changed mine! Open-mouthed smile

Where do you go to for hard to find spices?

Ever made pretzels?

How should I use my fleur de sel?

Tell me, tell me, tell me!!

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