October Sunday from our deck

Picking from last brilliant flush of zinnias yesterday, flashed back decades to my habit of crying whenever my mother said anything nice to/about me — yes, compliments were that rare. I was literally starved for affection, and it takes no  keen insight to see why I’ve overeaten my entire life. I remember asking once, as a so-called adult, why no praise whatsoever and her answering she didn’t want to give me a “big head,” that I would “just know” how she felt. So I have a big body and a husband who thinks I “just know.” (He argues he has said all the things I want to hear, that I just don’t listen. Hmmmm.)

So, yesterday as well, feeling ill-treated by one of the children and anxious about everything, I managed to keep my eating in line through dinner with friends and then toss down an extra 1,000 calories late afternoon and early evening. Only plus: It was all healthy food if eaten when I hadn’t already consumed a day’s worth of calories. Sigh and sigh again.

From realage this morning comes the advice to reduce stress and get enough sleep for weight loss success. So if I’d stayed off the phone yesterday and gone to bed about 6 p.m., I might have avoided overeating. Actually, that’s probably true, but I’d have been up for the day at 2 a.m. Eating, no doubt.

Dinner was fun, if fat-laden. I tried to arrange my (full-size) dinner plate as my friend Eleanor P. does: a pie chart/plate that’s mostly non-starchy vegetables and fruit, never more than one-quarter whole grains and one-quarter protein.

For yesterday that meant lots of garden greens with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette, that darned homemade applesauce, green beans from the garden stir-fried with shallots and slivered almonds in olive oil and just a pat of butter, chicken sausages simmered with Cubanelle peppers and just a dab (hah!) of pumpkin macaroni and cheese.

I drank water and coffee but lost it when it came to the chocolate pots de creme for dessert. I’d intended to eat just a spoonful of someone’s but found an entire ramekin at my place with an enticing dab of real whipped cream plus a shortbread cookie (another 80 calories!). Whom do you suppose I’d have insulted if I’d tried just a bite of the creamy chocolate instead of licking the dish clean?

Years and years ago, a wise friend in his 80s told me I could do the daily pub thing in East Anglia or the tea thing with the clotted cream and sugared berries, not both. Yesterday should have been the macaroni thing (as you’ll see by the recipe) or the dessert thing. Not both.

The macaroni recipe is a prize-winner from Ms. Susan Telleen of Minneapolis in the current issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It is a tiny bit sweet, but you can counter that with your vegetables and strongly dressed greens. (What’s more unsettling is the Velveeta-ish color.) The directions say it serves 8 as a side dish, but it’s so rich you could serve it as an entree to at least 6. And rich enough to grease your slide into an equally caloric dessert!

Pumpkin mac and cheese

2 cups elbow macaroni (whole-grain is fine)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

1 cup shredded Fontina cheese (4 ounces)

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf sage, crumbled

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sage leaves for optional garnish

Heat oven to 350. Cook pasta following directions; drain. In empty pasta

Pumpkin mac and cheese

pot melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add cream and milk, stirring. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and beginning to bubble. Remove from heat. Stir in Fontina, pumpkin and sage until cheese melts. Add cooked pasta and toss gently. Transfer to ungreased 2-quart baking dish.

In empty pot (can you tell I hate washing cooking pots and pans?) combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, walnuts and oil; sprinkle over pasta-sauce mixture. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage leaves if desired (I had these sitting on counter and forgot them, darn it!)

Oldest daughter Joanna, the cooking goddess, says she often uses whatever cheeses she has on hand for mac and cheese. Following her lead, I made this using reduced-fat Havarti and Cabot Cheddar, Parmesan and even some blue cheese crumbles for a little extra whang.


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