dinner, a movie & memories

Is there anything better on a cold winter night than a big bowl of pho?

After a nice dinner at our local Vietnamese restaurant we headed to AFI to see Blue Valentine. It was a good movie- the acting was amazing. But I’ll admit it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I knew it was about a young couple trying to save their marriage, and I won’t reveal any spoilers, but it was a lot more intense than I had anticipated.

One scene was quite difficult to watch on a personal level. There is a short scene where the main character (played by Michelle Williams) is taking care of her elderly grandmother. She helps her change into her pajamas and then brushes her hair. Today, January 22, is the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s death. She suffered from pancreatic cancer and required around the clock care at the end of her life. While difficult and sad, spending time with her and helping take care of her are some of the memories that will stay with me forever. I found myself overcome with emotion in the theater. It brought me right back to that time a year ago when I was in the midst of losing her.

I think about her all of the time…I pray for her, I ask for her guidance. She was truly a role model wife and mother. I have so much to thank her for, especially my relationship with God. My grandmother was a devout Catholic and has always been an inspiration to me because of her faith. Today I received the sacrament of penance….one that I do not receive nearly often enough. But I don’t think that I am alone in that. Confession is not an easy thing to do. Bringing to mind and expressing our sins is difficult. When we bury them in the back of our mind, it is so easy to forget. And if we forget we are just bound to repeat them. Confessing our sins and sincerely asking for forgiveness is such a humbling experience. But the other side of forgiveness is a wonderful feeling. Having a pure heart, mind and soul feels so light.

The best way that I could think of to honor my grandmother is to receive communion. I remember when my grandmother’s priest would come to her house to give her communion when she was too sick to attend mass. Once she said, “it is amazing how I feel so much better after I receive communion.”

It is amazing.

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recipe review: dijon pork chops

A girlfriend of mine introduced me to Gina’s recipe website: Skinny Taste. I just love this recipe website for a few reasons. First, Gina follows Weight Watchers and provides all of the Point values for her recipes. And second, the food is real, family friendly and delicious. They aren’t about making low fat versions of junk food and many are old favorites just lightened up.

I’ve made a few of her recipes with great results so tonight I tried her Pork Chops with Dijon Herb Sauce.

Like most recipes, I took some of my own liberties with the ingredients. I used boneless pork loin chops and added some wine white in the sauce along with the chicken broth. It was a wonderful and quick weeknight meal. We had it with roasted acorn squash for perfect winter night dinner.

Pork Chops with Dijon Herb Sauce
Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 4 • Serving Size: 1 chop • Old Points: 4 pts • Points+: 4 pts
Calories: 166.5 • Fat: 9.2 g • Carb: 2.6 g • Fiber: 0.2 g • Protein: 16.4 g

* 1 tsp butter
* 4 pork chops (22 oz with bone, fat removed), 1 inch thick, trim all visible fat
* 1/2 tsp salt
* fresh ground pepper
* 3 tbsp chopped onion
* 3/4 cup fat free chicken stock
* 1 tbsp dijon mustard
* 2 tbsp chopped, fresh herbs like parsley, chives, tarragon

In a large frying pan heat the butter over moderately low heat. Season pork with salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium and add the chops to the pan and sauté for 7 minutes. Turn and cook until chops are browned and done to medium, about 7-8 minutes longer. Remove the chops and put in a warm spot.
Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and boil until it reduces to 1/2 cup, about 3 minutes. Stir in the mustard, herbs, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Put the chops on a platter and pour the sauce over the meat.

Food and Wines says it is ok if the pork chops are pink in the center. Trichinosis is killed at the relatively low temperature of 150°. I use a thermometer to check the center and usually leave it until it hits 160°. Don’t overcook or they will become dry.

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eggplant puttanesca

Mr. Librarian comes from an Italian family who make and jar their own homemade sauce every year.  No Prego, Ragu or Bertolli can even come close.  To say he is picky about his sauce is an understatement.  So instead of competing, I try to make different sauces for us to enjoy.

Puttanesca sauce traditionally does not have eggplant but I am always looking for new ways to get vegetables in our diet.  We made this together and it turned out great.

Eggplant Puttanesca

Serves 4. Weight Watchers Points+ value= 11

1 medium eggplant, large dice
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400.  Toss eggplant, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Roast on a sheet pan until lightly browned, about 20 mins.

For the sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 t red chili flakes
4 anchovies
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 c chopped olives
2 tbsp capers
32 oz can crushed tomatoes

10 oz whole wheat pasta

In a large pot, saute onions, garlic and anchovies over medium heat until cooked, about 5-7 mins.  Add red chili flakes, olives, capers and tomatoes.  Simmer over low heat for about 15 mins.  Stir in eggplant when cooked.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary, but I found the olives and anchovies had plenty.

Add pasta to sauce and toss.  If sauce is too thick, thin with pasta water.

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monday morning weigh in

My resolution this year (as it is every year) is to finally lose weight and keep it off. The latter has proved much harder than you would imagine.

I’ve tried every diet known to man and have lost the same 10 lbs a 100 times. The closest I have come to being a normal weight was when I lost almost 70 lbs following the Atkins diet. It works for me so well but it has proven to be utterly unsustainable.  Especially when your husband is Italian and his mother teaches you the most amazing pasta dishes…

I gained it all back, slowly but surely, after I started dating my husband.  It took 5 years but here I am.

So this year I decided to try the new Weight Watchers Point Plus system. I’m doing the e-tools since the in person meetings just aren’t convenient with my schedule. I just finished week 2 and I’m feeling great!

So my total loss for this week:

3.2 lbs!!!

A total loss of 8.2. 55 left to go…

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finally…a blog

I’ve been meaning to start a blog for a long time now.

First, I wanted to start a cooking blog.

Then I had the idea to blog about moving to DC and our adventures here.

Or maybe I would write about my resolution to finally lose weight.

Eventually I wanted to write about our journey to start a family…so maybe I should just wait for that?

Unable to decide on anyone of those- I started lifeaftervows, where I can write about all of it in one place. It is strange how I thought getting married wouldn’t change much in my relationship or my life. I was wrong. Being a wife is a wonderful thing. Different and amazing in ways I can’t quite describe. In my blog, I’ll write about our daily adventures, struggles, and triumphs. From the mundane to the exciting in my quest to be a better woman and wife.

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