2008-06-17

Classic double-crust apple pie



Classic double-crust apple pie

Tart apples and sweet ones come together in this all-American favorite.

Servings: Makes 8 servings.


Ingredients

Crust
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons (about) ice water

Filling
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 3/4 pounds sweet apples, such as Spartan or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored, thinly sliced (about 5 1/2 cups)
1 3/4 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Pippin, peeled, cored, thinly sliced (about 5 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon plus large pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 tablespoon whole milk

Preparation

For crust:

Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and shortening and rub in with fingertips until very coarse meal forms. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons water; toss until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Flatten into disks. Wrap in plastic; chill at least 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Soften slightly at room temperature before using.)

For filling:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray 9-inch-diameter deep-dish glass pie dish with nonstick spray. Stir all apples, 3/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Let stand until juices form, about 15 minutes. Mix in flour.

Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Place dough in prepared pie dish. Spoon in filling; dot with butter. Roll out second dough disk to 13-inch round. Using small bottle cap, cut out ten 1/2-inch-diameter circles from dough for decoration; discard circles. Drape dough over filling. Seal top and bottom crust edges together; trim to 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang under; crimp decoratively. Brush pie with milk. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and large pinch of cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle over pie.

Transfer pie to baking sheet; place in oven. Immediately reduce temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until crust is golden brown, apples are tender and filling is bubbling thickly, covering edge with foil if browning too quickly, about 2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely; store at room temperature.)

Bittersweet chocolate pecan pie


Bittersweet chocolate pecan pie


Here we've taken pecan pie above and beyond its usual corn-syrupy incarnation. A layer of bittersweet chocolate adds richness to the dessert while simultaneously balancing its sweetness. And an abundance of pecans makes for a supremely satisfying filling.

Active time: 40 min Start to finish: 3 hr (includes making pastry)

Servings: Makes 8 servings


Ingredients

1 (3 1/2- to 4-ounces) fine-quality 60%- to 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate bar, finely chopped
Pastry dough

2 cups pecan halves (7 ounces), toasted and cooled
3 large eggs
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup dark corn syrup

Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.


Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring. Remove from heat.

Roll out dough into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang under and press against rim of pie plate, then crimp decoratively.

Spread chocolate in bottom of pie shell with back of spoon and let it set, then cover with pecans.

Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl, then whisk in corn syrup and pour over pecans.

Bake pie until filling is puffed and crust is golden, 50 to 60 minutes. (If pie is browning too fast after 30 minutes, loosely cover with foil.) Cool pie on a rack to warm or room temperature. Serve with whipped cream.

Cooks' note: Pie can be baked 1 day ahead and chilled, uncovered, until cool, then covered. Reheat in a 350°F oven until warm, about 10 minutes.

Chocolate cream pie


Chocolate cream pie



This beautiful pie is great for entertaining, since the rich, creamy filling will be a surefire hit with anyone who likes chocolate pudding.

Active time: 45 min Start to finish: 8 hr (includes cooling and chilling)

Servings: Makes 8 to 10 servings.


Ingredients

For crust

1 1/3 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (from about 26 cookies such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

For filling
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

For topping
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Preparation

Make crust:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together crumbs, butter, and sugar and press on bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate (1-quart capacity). Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes, and cool on a rack.

Make filling:

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks in a 3-quart heavy saucepan until combined well, then add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 1 minute (filling will be thick).

Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter, and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely, about 2 hours.

Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.

Make topping:

Just before serving, beat cream with sugar in a bowl using an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks, then spoon on top of pie.

Cooks' note:

Pie (without topping) can be chilled up to 1 day.

2008-06-14

Wedding cake with blackberries and Roses


Wedding cake with blackberries and roses


We wanted to make a cake that would look wonderful, taste great, but still be manageable. The layers are a basic pound cake, and the frosting is a simple cream-cheese variation. Sandwiched between the layers is store-bought jam.


We know the thought of freezing your showpiece layers can be a little scary. We've tested several, however, and want to emphasize that it’s infinitely better to freeze the layers up to one month (don't refrigerate them) than to have them dry out at room temperature.


Finally, you'll need some sort of base for the assembled cake. This can be anything from a very large platter to a piece of wood covered with tulle.


Important: Two separate batches of the following batter are required in this recipe. You’ll need twice the quantity of the batter ingredients below, but do not double when mixing the ingredients.


Active time: 5 to 6 hr. Start to finish: 1 day


Servings: Serves 50.


Ingredients

For each batch of batter
12 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
6 sticks unsalted butter (1 1/2 lb), softened
3 cups sugar


For assembly
4 cups lemon syrup
2 1/3 cups rose hip, rose fruit, or seedless blackberry jam (about 3 jars, 12 oz. each)
Cream-cheese frosting
8 (1/2-pint) containers blackberries (about 8 cups)


Special equipment:
1 (12- by 2-inch) cake pan
1 (9- by 2-inch) cake pan
1 (6- by 2-inch) cake pan
2 packages Magi-Cake or homemade foil strips
1 (12-inch) serrated knife
4 (11-inch) cardboard rounds
4 (8-inch) cardboard rounds
4 (6-inch) cardboard rounds, trimmed to 5-inch rounds
1 medium-size piping bag and 3/16-inch plain tip
Cake base or large platter
5 (8-inch) plastic straws
Cake-decorating turntable (optional but very helpful)


Garnish: petals from 3 large organic and nontoxic roses and blackberries (optional)


Preparation

Bake cake layers:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cake pans and line bottom of each with a round of wax paper. Grease paper and dust pans with flour, knocking out excess. Wet Magi-Cake strips and fasten around each pan.


Whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk salt into flour in another bowl. Beat butter (it should be room temperature) with sugar in a 5-qt. standing electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add flour and egg mixture alternately in 3 batches, ending with egg mixture and beating on low speed just until incorporated.


Divide batter among pans so each is filled to 1 inch from top. (If you have a wall oven or other small oven, see cooks' notes, below.) Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, with 12-inch pan on upper rack, 20 minutes. Gently turn pans in place so that part of cake that was toward back of oven now faces front and bake cakes until a tester comes out of each with a few crumbs adhering, 10 to 20 minutes more, depending on cake size. Transfer each cake as done to a rack to cool. Cool cakes slightly (9-inch and 6-inch cakes for 10 minutes; 12-inch cake for 20 minutes) and invert onto racks, peeling off paper. Turn cakes right side up and cool completely.


Clean pans. Make second batch of batter; bake and cool cakes in same manner.


Assemble cake:

Work with 12-inch cakes first. Trim top of each with long serrated knife to make level, then cut cakes horizontally in half. Put each 12-inch layer, cut side up, on an 11-inch cardboard round. Brush cut sides generously with syrup. Stir jam until smooth and spread about 2/3 cup on a 12-inch layer. Invert another 12-inch layer (with cardboard), cut side down, onto jam. Discard top cardboard round and spread about 2 1/2 cups frosting on top. Sprinkle with 1 layer of blackberries to cover frosting. (If berries are 1 inch or larger, halve them lengthwise.) Slide the third 12-inch layer, syrup side up, onto berries, discarding cardboard, and press gently. Spread about 1/2 cup jam on layer and invert the last 12-inch layer (with cardboard), cut side down, onto jam, then discard cardboard.


Spoon 2 cups frosting onto 12-inch tier and cover cake with a thin coating. (This is called crumb-coating. It tamps down any loose crumbs to keep them out of the top layer of frosting and fills in any crevices.) Chill 12-inch tier while working on remaining tiers.


Trim and halve 9-inch cakes similarly and put on 8-inch rounds. Brush cut sides generously with syrup. Assemble and crumb-coat 9-inch tier in same manner (use about 1/3 cup jam and 1 1/4 cups frosting between layers; crumb-coat with about 1 1/2 cups frosting). Chill 9-inch tier.


Repeat procedure to make 6-inch tier (use about 2 1/2 tablespoons jam and about 3/4 cup frosting between layers; crumb-coat with about 3/4 cup frosting) and chill until firm.


Reserve 2 cups frosting for piping. Place 12-inch tier on cake base (preferably on a cake turntable) and frost. Then frost remaining tiers. Chill frosted tiers (do not stack) at least 4 hours.


Cut 3 straws in half and insert 1 straw piece in center of 12-inch tier all the way to bottom. Insert remaining 5 straw pieces in a circle about 1 1/2 inches from center straw and trim straws level with top of tier. (Straws support tiers.) Carefully put 9-inch tier (still on cardboard) in center of bottom tier. Cut remaining 2 straws in half and insert into middle tier in similar manner, with 1 straw piece in center and remaining 3 straw pieces in a circle around it. Carefully put 6-inch tier (still on cardboard) on top, in center of middle tier.


Fill in any gaps between tiers and any imperfections with frosting and transfer the remainder to pastry bag fitted with 3/16-inch tip. Pipe a decorative border around the bottom edge of each tier. Save remaining frosting for touch-ups—just in case.


Cake should come to room temperature before serving (it may stand at cool room temperature about 6 hours). Garnish cake with roses and serve slices with blackberries.


Cooks' notes:

• Cake layers may be baked and frozen, wrapped well in foil and sealed in plastic bags, up to a month ahead. Thaw wrapped layers a day before assembling the cake.

• If you can't fit the entire assembled cake on its base into your refrigerator, a good place to stop is after assembling and crumb-coating the 3 tiers but before stacking them together. Go to that point 1 day ahead and keep the tiers chilled. Cover each loosely with plastic wrap once the frosting is set. (No smelly things in the fridge, please!) After frosting the tiers, chill them overnight.

• Some of our ovens are wall ovens, which tend to be small (ours are about 19 inches wide, 15 inches high, and 17 1/2 inches deep). We found that the cakes cooked more evenly when we cooked the 12-inch cake alone on the middle rack, then the 6-inch and 9-inch together on the middle rack. If you do this, fill all the pans at the same time but leave the 2 smaller cakes at room temperature while baking the 12-inch.

Chocolate panna cotta layer cake

Chocolate panna cotta layer cake

A creamy chocolate pudding fills this rich cake and an easy-to-make chocolate band wraps it up in style.

Servings: Makes 12 servings


Ingredients

Cake:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Panna Cotta:
1/2 cup water
5 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, such as Lindt or Perugina, chopped
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

Chocolate Band:
2 16x3-inch strips waxed paper
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preparation

For cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 10-inch-diameter springform pans with 2 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee and hot water over; whisk until smooth. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in another medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat oil and both sugars in large bowl 1 minute (mixture will be crumbly). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Beat in sour cream. Mix in half of dry ingredients. Beat in chocolate mixture. Add remaining dry ingredients; beat on low speed just to blend (batter will be thin). Divide batter between pans (layers will be shallow).

Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pans on rack.


For panna cotta:

Place 1/2 cup water in small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over; let soften 10 minutes. Place both chocolates in large metal bowl. Combine cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract in large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla beans; add beans. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves; remove from heat. Add gelatin mixture; whisk to dissolve. Pour cream mixture over chocolates in bowl; whisk until completely melted. Place bowl over a larger bowl of ice water. Stir often until mixture thickens like pudding, draining off water and adding more ice to larger bowl as needed, about 30 minutes. Remove from over water.


Pour 1/2 of panna cotta over cake in 1 pan (mixture may drip down sides of cake). Freeze 45 minutes. Keep remaining panna cotta at room temperature.

Remove pan sides from second cake. Using large metal spatula, carefully slide cake off of pan bottom and place atop panna cotta in cake pan. Pour remaining panna cotta over, filling pan completely. Chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be covered and frozen for 2 weeks. Defrost overnight in refrigerator before continuing.


For chocolate band:

Line large baking sheet with foil; set aside. Place another large sheet of foil on work surface; place waxed paper strips atop foil, spacing apart. Stir chocolate in medium bowl set over pan of simmering water until smooth. Pour half of melted chocolate down center of each waxed paper strip. Using small offset spatula, spread chocolate to cover strips evenly, allowing some of chocolate to extend beyond edges of paper strips, making sure strips are completely covered. Using fingertips, lift strips and place on foil-lined sheet. Chill until chocolate just begins to set but is still completely flexible, about 2 minutes.


Cut around pan sides to release cake. Remove pan sides from cake. Using fingertips, lift 1 chocolate band from foil. Wrap band around cake, waxed-paper side out, lining up 1 long edge with bottom of cake (band will be higher than cake). Repeat with second band, arranging so ends just meet, pressing band onto uncovered side of cake. If bands overlap, trim any excess paper and chocolate. Using fingertips, press top edge of band in toward cake, forming slight ruffle. Chill until chocolate sets, 5 minutes. Gently peel off waxed paper. Chill cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.

Toffee crunch caramel cheesecake


Toffee crunch caramel cheesecake

"Each year we receive hundreds of reader requests for recipes from restaurants around the world. And this past year there was a clear favorite — cheesecake. One of the best we tested is from Zoom in Park City, Utah. Here's their delicious version. — The Editors


At the restaurant, this is served with roasted pears. The cake needs time to set up in the refrigerator overnight, so begin making it at least one day ahead.

Servings: Makes 10 to 12 servings.


Ingredient

Gingersnap crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies (about 7 1/4 ounces)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar


Cheesecake
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel topping
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream

4 1.4-ounce English toffee candy bars (such as Heath or Skor), chopped


Preparation

For gingersnap crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom of 9-inch springform pan with 2 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Stir ground cookies, butter, and sugar in medium bowl until moist clumps form. Press cookie mixture firmly onto bottom of prepared pan. Wrap outside of pan with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil. Bake crust until firm and beginning to darken, about 14 minutes. Cool crust. Maintain oven temperature.


For cheesecake:

Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in butter, then eggs, 1 at a time, until just blended. Beat in vanilla. Pour batter over crust in pan. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake cake uncovered until filling is puffed around edges and moves slightly in center when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove pan from water; remove foil. Place hot cheesecake uncovered in refrigerator overnight.


For caramel topping:

Stir sugar, water, and lemon juice in large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes. Add cream (mixture will bubble). Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Chill until thickened but still pourable, about 15 minutes.


Spoon caramel over top of cake just to edges (do not allow caramel to drip down sides). Garnish top edges with chopped English toffee. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.


Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides.

Raspberry-Lemon Trifle


Raspberry-Lemon Trifle

This summery trifle is simple to make since it calls for a purchased pound cake. Begin preparing the trifle one day ahead.

Servings: Makes 16 servings.


Ingredients

Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water

Curd
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

Fruit and topping
4 1/2-pint baskets fresh raspberries
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

1 16-ounce frozen pound cake, thawed

2 cups chilled whipping cream



Preparation

For syrup: Combine sugar, lemon juice, and water in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 minute. Cover and chill.


For curd: Whisk eggs, sugar, and lemon juice in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Add butter and lemon peel. Stir over medium heat until curd thickens to pudding consistency, about 10 minutes. Transfer to small bowl. Press plastic wrap onto surface of curd. Chill until cold, at least 4 hours. (Can be made 3 days ahead.)


For fruit and topping: Combine 2 baskets raspberries and 1/4 cup sugar in bowl. Mash berries coarsely with fork. Let stand until juices form, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.


Cut cake crosswise into 8 pieces. Cut each piece into 3 strips. Line bottom of 3-quart trifle bowl with 8 cake strips, trimming to fit. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons syrup; spread with 2/3 cup curd, then half of mashed berries. Repeat layering. Top with remaining cake, syrup, and curd. Cover; chill overnight.


Beat cream and 3 tablespoons sugar in bowl until peaks form; spread over trifle. Mound remaining berries in center.

Shows

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50 Weight Loss Tips

I lost 30 pounds in three months. If you wanted to know how I did it, and how I intend on maintaining my current weight, then these 50 weight loss tips are for you. I’m not an expert, but I do speak from experience. If it helps you attain your own weight loss goals, then I’m happy to have helped (if only to serve as a reinforcement of knowledge you already possess). Most of this, I learned on my own or through close friends and family members. Ponzi’s been a great help through the entire process, being a model partner in the weight loss process. Feel free to add your own tips to this list, too! If someone wants to help me extend these points into a full-on eBook, I’m all ears.


1. Dietary control and exercise. It’s true what they say - all you need to do is watch what you eat, and expend more energy than you consume. It’s really that simple. You can quit reading this list now, you now know everything you need to know and didn’t need to fork over $500 for the privilege of me telling you the secret of losing weight. You don’t need to read a 4,000 page book, you don’t have to buy a tape series, you don’t need to stay up late at night to watch infomercials to understand this basic premise. It’s 100% true.

2. Change your lifestyle. If you’re calling this a “diet,” then you’re going to gain all the weight back (and more) within a few months of losing it. Diets do not work. Diets are temporary. When you change your dietary lifestyle, however, you’re changing your habits - and you’re putting yourself on track for long-term / continued success and weight maintenance. Don’t ever tell anybody you’re on a diet - ever. I’m speaking from experience, here - a reformed low-carber. Worked out well for a while, but ultimately failed because my entire lifestyle didn’t change (permanently).


3. Join an online support group. In my case, I created my own - FatBlasters. It’s essential that you not feel alone, and reaching out to friends (new or old) is typically a smart move. I just heard about PeetTrainer, but didn’t know about it when I began down the road to weight loss. You have to know that others are out there for moral support - they know things that you couldn’t possibly know, and they’ve probably been “in your shoes” at some point in the past (or present). Share stories, laughter, tears, successes, and failures - share them. There are thousands of communities out there, so keep looking until you find the one that fits you.


4. Take before and after photos. I know it sucks to see yourself as a chunky monkey (sorry, that’s what I called myself - if only to get myself motivated to meet my weight loss goal). However, there’s no easier way to illustrate your progress. The “after” photos are far more fun to capture and share, admittedly. Find yourself on Flickr! It’s good to see yourself how others see you. Do you like how you look? In many ways, Flickr helped me lose weight.


5. Hire a substitute teacher. Don’t reach for the brands you know and love immediately - or without thinking first. Eggs are “good” for you, but consider using egg substitutes instead (in fact, many restaurants will let you order lower calorie foods). There are countless “lower” alternatives for you to try. If something different doesn’t taste good, by all means - find a better substitute, or eat less of the original. In some cases, the substitute may be worse for you than the regular version of the product. The good news is, healthier choices are silently replacing their “normal” counterparts - and they taste just as nice.


6. Start reading labels. I know it sucks, but you have to do it - and there’s no way to avoid this tip. If you don’t know what you’re putting in your mouth, you’re flying blind. Don’t assume, either - triple-check the ingredients list and serving sizes. You must rely on yourself for this; nobody else is going to be able to lose the weight or do the math for you. It’s not that complicated a task, but it will require effort. If nothing else, just pay attention to the calorie count.


7. What’s so funny about bovines? If you like cheese, you must buy the Laughing Cow brand, and keep several of the suckers in stock at all times. The individually-wrapped wedges make for excellent snacks, and are wonderful when melted over just about anything edible. I’d be careful about straight-up American cheese, though - it’s oil, but not necessarily as good for you as (say) a slice of cheddar would be. I have yet to find something as calorie-light and filling as Laughing Cow (I don’t know how they do it).


8. Tell your family. You’re not going to lose the weight alone, even if you ARE alone in losing the weight. If you’ve got a family at home, talk to them about it - initially, not incessantly. Let them know what you’re going to do, and that you want (and need) their support. If you don’t let them know, you’re running the risk of them inadvertently sabotaging your efforts. You want them to help you get to your goal(s). You want them to share in your happiness when you’ve made it past a certain mark. Who knows? Maybe some of your new habits will rub off on them and they’ll become healthier people, too?


9. Go public. I didn’t want to admit that I had screwed up, but admitting the problem in public was the first step on the path to eventual success. I was now accountable for my actions, and all my friends knew what I was doing. There was no turning back, otherwise I’d be risk damaging my integrity. I didn’t want to disappoint the people who read me on a regular (or semi-regular) basis. Plus, it’s an easy way to find out which of your friends have gone through the process before - and glean tips from their own experiences. Then, other friends might become inspired to do the same thing you’re doing once they see that you’ve taken the first step.


10. Identify your exercise. No exercise was created equal. You might like running, so run. You might like jogging, so jog. You might like stationary bikes, so bike stationarily. Find the one that works best for you - that isn’t too much of a chore for you to do regularly throughout the week. Don’t pick a routine that you don’t like - or you won’t want to do it, and you certainly won’t stick with it for long. I also wouldn’t recommend buying into that whole “no pain, no gain” mantra. I’ve lost weight without hurting myself, and you probably can, too.


11. Become a Gazelle. You’ve probably seen Tony Little on TV, selling his Gazelle glider - a low impact exercise machine. I can tell you: it works. It’s easy on my legs, and really gives me a workout when I apply myself on it. Some people say it’s awkward to use, but I love mine - and would consider recommending no other home exercise equipment at this point. Then again, I’m a wimpy geek who only wants to burn calories.


12. Zone out. There’s a reason why people exercise to their favorite music - listening to external stimulus takes your mind off of the physical activity. That’s the secret to making “exercise time” fly. If you’re concentrating on what your body is doing, the session is going to drag on for what will seem like days. Buy a portable music player, or situate yourself in front of a television.

1) The Carb Rotation Diet.
2)
Eat-Weight-Off- Lose 10 Lbs In One Week.
3)
Diet & Fitness.

13. Never count on live programming. It’s important to stimulate your mind while your body is exerting itself in other ways. However, never rely on “what’s on TV or the radio” at the time. Instead of zoning out, you’ll find yourself flipping between channels - and that’s going to make the time drag as much as it would if you weren’t keeping your mind busy in the first place. “Live” is a very bad idea. Go with pre-recorded programming or go without.


14. Video games helped me lose weight. I can keep my balance on the Gazelle (which some might find difficult to do). As such, I plugged an Xbox 360 into the TV and started to play it while I was working out. Immediately, I found that I was sweating more than I was when I was only watching TV passively! The reason boils down to a single word: adrenalin. Now, the only way I’m able to work up a sweat is when I play a fast-paced game on the game console. Yes, even game genre is important; avoid any diversions that require long pauses between tasks. Racing games (like Burnout) have worked very well for me. The more mindless the game, the better your burn, the faster the exercise session will go.


15. Set realistic goals. You can lose 50 pounds in a week if you work out 12 hours a day and eat nothing but celery - but not if you’re human. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t bite off more than you can chew - literally. Make small goals on your way to the bigger goal(s). In the end, you’ll have achieved more (and more frequently, might I add).


16. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. I offer this suggestion for a few reasons. First, they’re not good for you anyway. Second, you’ll eliminate a lot of the “bad foods” outright - no questions asked. You’ll have to become more selective in what you eat by avoiding these two nasty ingredients - which are in more foods than you probably care to know.


17. Don’t always listen to your mate. I’ve already suggested that you tell your family - but sometimes members of your family will try to dissuade you from trying to lose weight. It’s simple: they might not want you to succeed where they may have already failed, whether consciously or inadvertently. Your loss is not always their gain. Watch out for statements like: “You’ve lost enough weight.” or “I like you just the way you are.” Fact of the matter is, if YOU don’t like the way that YOU are - then YOU are going to have to do something about it, no matter what anybody says. They still love you, though (in theory).


18. Don’t compare yourself to others. Every body is different. It stands to reason that everybody will lose weight differently. Even if you do the exact same things that I do, you won’t lose weight at the same rate. The key is in finding your triggers. Keep your goal in sight, and do whatever you have to do to meet that goal. When you start looking at someone else’s habits, you’re only going to become discouraged and quit without even realizing that it’s physically impossible to be anybody but yourself.


19. Women aren’t men. It’s been proven that men can lose weight more rapidly than women can, which is likely due to our physiological makeup (women are supposed to have more fat than men, because they’re the birthing gender). This isn’t a sexist statement to make - it’s pretty much the truth. As such, females should expect to set separate goals than males - especially if you’re working on losing weight together, side by side.


20. Take a magic pill. Nonsense! There is no such thing as a magic pill. Don’t fall victim to the hype of the latest fat-burning drug commercial. If you listen or read closely, you’ll see that every single one of these things is effective when combined with proper diet and exercise (which they even state in their advertisements). The side-effects for these drugs are usually worse than your additional weight, anyway.


21. Vitamins are good for you. If you’re going to take any pills, let them be natural supplements (like Essential Fatty Acids or multivitamins). Be careful about overdoing it, though - especially with herbal remedies. Too much of anything is a bad thing. You can consult a nutritionist, but always buy on your own - and keep these supplements to a minimum. Remember, too, that specific vitamins are no good without specific minerals.


22. Deck your desktop. In the beginning, some of my friends sent me complicated spreadsheets to help chart progress. Uh, no - not for me; I’m the kind of guy who likes taking the easy route. As such, I scoured the Web for the best desktop tool and remembered CalorieKing. You won’t find anything easier to use. Trust me, this is the one; I can keep track of everything I eat and expend (without hassle). While the statistic-addicts will love CalorieKing for its thoroughness, the utility was truly designed with non-geeks in mind. The CalorieKing Web site and service are fine on their own, but the downloadable client is what you really want to get. Pay the registration fee, man - how much is your health worth to you?


23. Identify your ideal weight. If you’re 5′5″ with a certain build, there’s an ideal weight that matches your body type. Find it - and make that your goal. And if you don’t know what that might be, try searching the Web for a calculator (though results and calculations will vary by a small margin). Now you have a weight goal to shoot for.


24. Consider the source. I’m going to make a gross generalization here, but… why would I trust an overweight doctor or nutritionist to give me proper advice on weight loss? “Do as I say and not as I do” is not a maxim I’m willing to accept from anybody who would be qualified to tell me how to do something. Talk to people who are doing it, or who have done it and been successful. You don’t have to mirror their regimen, but at least you’re getting help from someone who’s really been there. Or, as they said in the Christmas episode of “Two and a Half Men,” people who live in fat asses shouldn’t throw waffles.


25. Ignore Ronald McDonald. You don’t have to eliminate fast food completely, but you should avoid it at all costs. Most of it is nasty, bad stuff anyway - if you’d even go as far as to call it food. If you’re looking for convenience, find a more convenient meal source. Besides, most of what they serve would be considered “food product,” not food. There’s a gigantic difference as far as your body is concerned. Your bloodstream does not have taste buds, need I remind you?


26. Scale up. If your measurement tool sucks, upgrade it. If it’s analog, dump it. I’ve talked to many geeks about their choice in scales, and most of them (myself included) recommend something in the Tanita family. They’re high-quality, rugged, accurate devices. Make sure you set your scale on a hard surface, too (as carpet foundations do not make for accurate weight measurements).


27. Watch your weight. Some people say that you shouldn’t weigh yourself more than once a week. I’ve been much happier charting my progress every day. No matter what, you need to weigh in at the same time, every time. For me, that’s 10am every morning (or somewhere thereabout). If you decide to weigh yourself every single day, understand that your weight will fluctuate by one or two pounds - and that you should only keep a serious eye on the lengthier trends.


28. One pound a week. If you’re not losing at least one pound a week on your chosen weight loss regimen, you’re (a) stalled, or (b) finished. You might need to push yourself even harder, or (in some cases) let up a little bit while your body plays catch-up. If you lose more than one pound a week, then you’re doing better than average. Expecting to lose five pounds a week just isn’t realistic, though.


29. Maintain your priorities. Sure, your sandwich would taste amazing with an extra tablespoon of mayonnaise… but do you really need it? Rather, is it more important for you to reach your weight loss goal quicker - or have this sandwich taste marginally better? What’ll happen the next time you’re faced with this decision - will you cave again? It’s a slippery slope; don’t lose sight of what’s most important to you.


30. All weight is not equal. Muscle weighs more than fat, but the last thing you want to lose is muscle! For this reason alone, it’s important to have a regular exercise routine somewhere in your schedule. Without exercise, your body is going to burn through muscle first - and you’ll wind up more imbalanced than you were to begin with. You want your body to burn fat, not muscle. You want to lose weight, but you want to lose “fat” weight - not muscle mass.


31. Counteract the “Rainy Day” principle. If you decrease your calorie count without necessarily increasing your physical activity level, your body is going to crash. It’s going to say to itself: “Holy sh*t! I better store these calories as fat, because I’m not getting enough of them - and I don’t want to die.” When you exercise, you set your body’s process to “burn” instead of “save.”


32. Don’t overdo it. If you change something in your lifestyle, you’re probably going to see results - but there’s a law of diminishing returns at play. You can exercise for an extra hour a day for a week and still lose the same amount as you had when you were only exercising half as much. Give your body time to adjust - don’t push yourself too hard or you’re just going to spend your energy on something that’s not necessarily going to give you immediate and direct benefit. This, of course, only applies to those of you wanting to lose fat - not for those who are training for a triathlon.


33. Patterns are good. Once you’ve found your workout groove, do your best to stick with it. Exercise no less than three times a week for 40 - 60 minutes each time, but don’t feel the “need” to do it more than five times over a seven day period. Your body will likely appreciate a burn-off in the morning more, but if you need to relieve stress in the evening - don’t be afraid to adjust your workout schedule accordingly. Schedule making and keeping are important for other areas of your life as well.


34. Sleep it off. To be an efficient fat-burning machine, your body requires at least eight hours of sleep a night. If you think that you’re doing yourself a favor by sleeping less, you’re mistaken. Give your body time to rest itself, both mentally and physically. Sleep is very, very important (if only for mental alertness for the following day). If you feel tired, that’s likely your body’s way of saying: “Shut your eyes, stupid!”


35. Remember that the fork is not a shovel. I eat fast (I swear I can’t help it). Even if I’m not hungry, I want to shovel everything into my mouth in less than a minute. But my brain doesn’t know that my stomach is full until twenty minutes after it actually is. As such, I could stuff myself silly before realizing I didn’t need to consume as much as I did. Try eating half of what’s on your plate, wait ten minutes, then continue to eat if you’re still hungry. You never want to feel full - ever. That’s when you know you’ve eaten too much. If you want a real hunger-stopper, try an Omega 3 and Omega 6 supplement (EFAs) twenty minutes before a meal.


36. Become your own snack fairy. It’s okay to snack between meals, really. Small meals throughout the day are enough to keep you satisfied, as (much like the sensation of being full) you never want to feel hungry. Let your body know it’s going to get a regular regimen of calories. Plus, if you starve yourself for the regular meals, you’re probably going to eat more before your brain tells your mouth to stop. Think about it: breakfast, lunch, and dinner are social constructs at their very core.


37. Love the oil companies. Just like your car needs high-quality oil, so too does your body. Not all oils were created equal, though it’s hotly contested which ones are better for you than others. Personally, I love a good olive oil - it’s 100% natural and is rich with Omega 9 fatty acids. Enova is another one that we’ve found to work quite well in our lifestyle at home. Choose your oil wisely, though - your weight loss goal should be more than simply cosmetic. It’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to food: the more natural something is, the better it is for you.


38. Fat is where it’s at. If you think you can lose weight and keep it off by avoiding all fats, you’re sadly mistaken. In fact, if you think that low fat eating is the only way to go, you might as well just quit now. Your body (and your brain) needs fat to survive! This is why the scientists call “them” essential fatty acids - Omegas 3, 6, and 9. These fats have been stripped from many supermarket shelf items, and it’s your responsibility to put fat back into your dietary plan. Don’t avoid eating fat, embrace it - equally.


39. Bring balance to the force. If you eat the same foods over and over again, you’re going to get bored - unless they’re foods you really, really like. Feel free to change it up - keep your tongue happy. Balance carbs with proteins with fats, though. If you have more of one nutrient for one meal, try more of another nutrient for the next. And for heaven’s sake, don’t just shop in the “diet” section of the store. You can still (likely) eat the same things you’ve always eaten, just not so much of them at any one time.


40. Know your daily calorie limit. When I was in the process of losing weight, it was suggested that I stay under 1700 calories a day. Knowing that number was half the battle. I could eat anything I wanted throughout the day, so long as I would stay at or beneath that number. While I couldn’t track 100% of the items I ate, I was able to make intake estimates - and adjust my schedule and ration my remaining calories accordingly. In this sense, you’re given extreme freedom - so long as you stay at or beneath that suggested calorie level for your plan. If you don’t know how much you’re supposed to take in, how are you supposed to know how much you’re supposed to take in?! Sounds redundant, but it’s a situation that many “dieters” are in (which is why they fail)!


41. Fiber good. When you start to lose fat, you’re probably going to get constipated. Yeah, it happens more frequently than we care to admit (or share). You should have a good amount of fiber every day, anyway. Fiber is very important to your health (and your weight loss goals). Try the Metamucil snack wafers for a quick fiber infusion. Then, magnesium citrate for those… “stuck” moments, in which you’ll find yourself from time to time. Stick a bottle or two of that in your fridge for safe keeping, and don’t plan on going anywhere for 24 hours after taking a dose (trust me, trust me, trust me).


42. Walk the walk. You burn calories when you walk, did you know that? Certainly, you don’t expend as much energy as you do when you run, but you burn it nonetheless. Consider picking up a good pedometer, if only to gauge how many steps you take in the average day. According to others, the Omron HJ112 Premium Pedometer is the one to beat. If nothing else, knowing how many steps you take on the average day will give you a better idea as to your regular activity level - around the home and/or the office. Plus, you can count those steps as calorie deficits in certain programs (like CalorieKing).


43. Train wrecks will happen. One of these nights, you’re going to go out with friends and eat your weight in steak (likely blowing any kind of progress you had made for that day). Instead of repeating the overindulgence, just put yourself back on track the next day. You’re allowed to “mess up” every now and again, so long as you don’t make a habit out of consuming an excessive amount of food. Right the dining injustice immediately. You’ll be okay. You’ll be fine. Just don’t do it again. And again. And again. And again.


44. Satisfy cravings with extreme prejudice. If you’re hungry for something, eat it. Don’t deny yourself the simple pleasures. If it’s possible, eat only half of what you want. Is your craving satisfied, or are you addicted to the flavor? Losing weight shouldn’t be torture for anybody. You have to ask yourself: Is it more important for me to eat this entire case of fudgesicles, or to look good for my brother’s wedding? Only you have the answer to that question, and if you ignore logic, you’re going to hurt yourself in the long-run. Just take a nibble or two - I won’t tell a soul.


45. Water you waiting for? If you’re not drinking enough water, your body will let you know. Thirst is an amazing sensation - quench it. If you’re not hydrated, your body won’t be working at peak levels. Most of your body happens to be water, by the way. If you’re worried about “water weight,” remember that you’re likely to retain more water when you’re not giving your body enough of it in the first place. Besides, that’s what those workout sessions are supposed to help with every other morning. I’m not going to dictate how many glasses you should drink, though - as that’s going to vary from person to person.


46. Join the soda club. Like most people, I love carbonated beverages. However, unlike most people, I love unflavored carbonated beverages - and if your tongue is attune to sugary-sweet drinks, you’re also the kind of person who believes that club soda tastes salty (even when it contains no sodium). Make the move to an unflavored drink sooner rather than later. If you need help along the way, lemons and limes can be your best friends. If you’re going to drink something more than water, at least make sure it’s not going to hinder your progress. If you’re a sugary-soda drinker, dropping it from your daily routine altogether will help you drop ~5 or more pounds in a single week (WITHOUT doing anything else).


47. Sugar is evil that tastes good. You probably don’t want to hear this, but sugar is a bad thing. The more refined it comes, the more your body is going to react negatively to it. Sugar, sugar, sugar is in everything, everything, everything. If it’s sweet, it’s got sugar in it. There are all sorts of sugars out there, and all of them are ultimately metabolized by the body. It’s a good bet that the sugars in an apple are better for you than the sugars in a candy bar, though. If you’re addicted to sugar, this is going to be a horrible hurdle to overcome.


48. Sugar substitutes are just as evil as sugar itself. Do you really think your body knows how to handle something that was man-made? Seriously. These chemically-adjusted products do not occur in the wild; there are no Splenda trees in warmer climates, nor are there NutraSweet plants in the Arctic. In some instances, taking in sugar substitutes may actually increase your levels of hunger! Let’s not forget about all the health issues that might arise from these unnatural substances. If you’re given a choice, it’s almost better to go with something your body knows how to deal with (real, unprocessed sugar). No, it’s much safer (and healthier) to stay away from blue, pink, and yellow packets entirely. Do a Web search for “Artificial Sweeteners May Damage Diet Efforts.” Then sit there and tell me they’re okay? No way.


49. White bread can’t jump. Did you know that white bread isn’t good for you? Oh, it’s true - just ask any diabetic. Research has shown that people who eat more refined products (like white bread) are more likely to have belly fat. Why? It’s simple: your body isn’t getting what it needs. The food industry isn’t the health industry, okay? You can’t trust that they’ve got your best interests at heart (despite all their marketing efforts). If you want the flavor of white bread, please eat the whole grain white bread instead? Sara lee makes a wonderful loaf, as I can personally attest (even though I like rye more than white or wheat). Repeat after me: whole grain white bread, whole grain white bread.


50. Hasta la pasta, baby. Much like its cousin, white bread, refined pasta can damage your health and pinch your weight loss plans. I’m not saying you should quit pasta altogether, but I will suggest that you change your pasta pusher to Barilla. They have a new wheat pasta that’s a dead ringer for the ol’ crappy white stuff you used to eat. “Barilla PLUS” is absolutely fantastic, as well as a good source of fiber and protein. You’re usually going to be better off with a “wheat” option, although traditional wheat pasta has a texture that you might not like (even though I find it perfectly acceptable to my palate).



Now, once you’ve achieved your weight loss goals, what are you going to do to keep the fat at bay? The worst thing you can do is something I’ve done countless times over: get lazy. I’ve conveniently forgotten about all of the aforementioned rules a few times, and it’s put me back in the same situation I don’t want to be in - ever again. While I don’t have to be as careful as I was during the weight loss period, I’m still measuring myself and recording my daily activities. This may turn into a weekly weigh-in soon enough, as it’s easier to correct yourself at 5lbs than it is at 50lbs. Good luck!