Friday, November 28, 2008

Top This Rachael Ray

What's the best way to get a healthy and delectable dinner on the table in 15 minutes? In two words, meat salad. It's one of my favorite meals and a staple in this house. The trouble with meat salad is making it interesting as well as quick and easy. Keeping marinated chicken breasts in the freezer and an interesting variety of nuts, cheese and bag salad stocked is the key. The more interesting the salad, nuts and cheese the better. I like a variety of goat cheese, marcona almonds and lightly salted cashews and Trader Joe's organic herb salad blend. Add some homemade salad dressing and dinner is as good as done.

For the homemade salad dressing, mix together equal parts (about a tablespoon of each for one bag of salad) of Dijon mustard, honey and balsamic vinegar. Whisk in a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil until it's emulsified.

For the meat salad, heat the grill or broiler and pull your ingredients. Toss chicken on the grill and make the dressing and toss the salad. In five minutes , turn chicken. Plate greens and dress with nuts and cheese. Five minutes later, pull the chicken and let rest a couple of minutes, slice and place on the salad and serve. You can add any manner of raw veggies to bulk up the salad. I always have snap peas, baby sweet peppers and green onions in the crisper. It's so simple but so delicious.

Toxic Fat

I'm obligated to work one major holiday per year so I always request to work 7-3 on Thanksgiving. It's great because Rob puts on the apron and we sit down to dinner when I get home. It was a lovely meal (I highly recommend Barefoot Contessa's herb roasted turkey breast) but I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't feeling so poorly by the time I left work.

I've been doing some reading about how toxins are stored in our body fat and since I've got lots of fat and no doubt, more toxins than your average nuclear power plant it's no wonder that I'm feeling a bit under the weather. For the past six weeks, I've been eating clean, juicing and taking supplements in order to detoxify but as I burn fat, the toxins are getting stirred up. I've got some mild flu-like symptoms to enjoy over the long weekend.

I made a special juice this morning with double ginger and four cloves of garlic for the immune system boost. Needless to say, it did not taste good, nor do I smell very good right now. I also made liter of green tea infused with fresh ginger root to sip on. I sweetened it with raw honey. I should be resting but I can't seem to ignore the irresistible call of pottering around the house. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It was Bound to Happen

At some point yesterday between my morning exercise and lugging two grocery stores worth of bundles in the house at the end of a very long but very enjoyable day, I pulled something in the right side of my back. It's not unbearable though it pinches me when I move, walk, sit. I'm no stranger to aches and pains, but I'm going to take it easy today. This may be my body's way of warning me to slow down a bit and recharge. It's hard for me to do since I've been on such a good roll of progress and who ever wants to admit they aren't Super Woman? I hate to break my stride but I'm back at work for the morning shift tomorrow and Thursday and to do my job, I really need to be feeling my best. I have some reading to catch up on and some presents to wrap and maybe I'll have a soak in the tub with some Epsom salts. No matter where your Tuesday takes you, be sure to do something caring for yourself. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Monday Weigh-In

Another week another 3 pounds! I don't know how that's even possible but here I sit at 257 pounds. We have a digital scale and always do the best out of three just to make sure. After six weeks, I hit the 20 pounds gone mark and it feels so good. I know I won't have consistent losses like this all the time, but knowing they are possible will keep me motivated when I hit a plateau.

I've always thought that there was no magic formula to losing weight and getting fit (no matter how many times I fantasized about finding that hot genie in the lamp) but there really is a magic formula. Cut out the crap and go for a walk.

Weekend Food

It's been another lovely weekend of fun in the kitchen. I'm glad I cooked enough to have leftovers this week, because I'm pretty beat right about now. When I made the turkey meatballs for the Italian Wedding Soup on Tuesday, I separated out half the meat for a spicy turkey meatloaf. I got it all seasoned and formed, wrapped it in freezer paper and foil and popped it in the freezer.

Saturday night~

Spicy Turkey Meatloaf with cauliflower mash and roasted asparagus.
(click on picture for larger view of the deliciousness!)

For the turkey meatloaf, I used a bit over a pound of ground turkey, a tablespoon of spicy steak seasoning, a couple of tablespoons of grated cheese and an egg. I formed it into a 2-inch thick rectangle and then "frosted" it. I usually coat meatloaf with ketchup or barbecue sauce but I wanted to try something different so I used hot red curry paste. I baked it off and served it with cauliflower mash and roasted asparagus. Cauliflower mash is so delectable and a fantastic stand-in for mashed potatoes. Just chop and boil a large head of cauliflower until soft, drain it well, puree it in the food processor, mix in a pat of light butter, a dollop of Daisy (light sour cream), salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.

Sunday night~
Garlic and Herb Roast Pork with chunky fennel, apple and pear sauce.
This meal was so good, we didn't stop long enough to snap a photo.

Bone-in pork sirloin is an excellent cut of meat. It's inexpensive, tender and flavorful. It's just awkward to carve because of the odd shaped bones, but it's so good, it is definitely worth the interesting carving. I used a 3.5 pound roast and used fresh thyme in place of the dried herbs in the recipe. The technique that Big Daddy used made for a cooked to perfection little piggy.

The chunky fennel, apple and pear sauce was a last minute creation. I bought a fennel bulb but wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. I love fennel, it's wonderful shaved in salads and turned out really well cooked this way. I quartered and cored the fennel bulb and then cut it up. Then I cored and cut up two granny smith apples and two ripe Bartlett pears. I put it all into a covered casserole dish, added a half cup of fat, juicy raisins and tossed the fruit and fennel with a squeeze of lemon juice, kosher salt, black pepper, a dribble of olive oil and honey and some freshly grated nutmeg. I baked it covered alongside the pork until the pears had broken down and the apples and fennel were tender. It was thick, chunky and saucy and was the perfect foil for the succulent pig. If you've never had fennel, you must try it.

Zevia!

Tonic, soda, Coke, pop...how ever you call them, fizzy drinks are refreshing and delicious. But whether it is due to the sugar and high fructose corn syrup, the artificial sweeteners or the phosphoric acid, carbonated beverages are also very unhealthy. The book Skinny Bitch even references a study about how diet soda when consumed with carbs (one Big Mac meal with a diet Coke, please) will cause serotonin levels to drop. AHA! No wonder fat people are depressed. It's not just because of the size of our arses.

While we've never been a big soda pop household, I did buy it occasionally and I definitely loved to indulge in an icy cold Coke when we went out to eat. But it's something that I've had to give up in my quest for a healthier lifestyle. And when it comes time for a splurge, the empty calories of soda pop is not going to be my top choice. But what happens when I want to have a "can of tonic" or make myself a Dark N' Stormy? Zevia, that's what!

Zevia is the first soda pop sweetened with stevia that I've ever come across. I picked up a can of the lemon twist and a can of ginger beer when I was last at Whole Foods. They've been chilling in the fridge for a week or so, but I just cracked open the lemon twist to give it a try. I am impressed. It's light, crisp and refreshing with much less aftertaste than I get with aspartame. It's not something I'll keep stocked all the time but for when I really want a fizzy drink, I'll know where to go. And I'm definitely going to enjoy my Dark N' Stormy on Thanksgiving weekend. :)


I Heart Costco!

Midway through making juice this morning, my beloved juicer went boom. I was shocked because my Mother and Auntie have had their power juicer for years and it's still going strong with daily usage. We threw on some clothes and shot off to Costco like a rocket for a new juicer. I mentioned the broken juicer to the lady at the register and she said to bring back the broken one, no box, no receipt it didn't matter. So we came home, bundled the broken juicer in a bag (I did have the receipt, because I'm a control freak about most things,) drove back to Costoc and got the full purchase price plus tax credited back to my AMEX. Costco is the best!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Closet Goals

We just returned from a brisk walk half hour walk around the block, it was just what I needed. I worked last night and by the time I got home, settled down and got in bed it was just after midnight. I was not rearing to go this morning so we enjoyed a late breakfast and had a leisurely morning with a little telly. By 2pm, the sun was high and bright and I really wanted to get outside. I love the weekends when I can have my cake (putting my feet up) and eating it, too (a lovely outdoor walk with my husband.)

Like most fatties, I have a range of sizes of clothing in my closet. My range is from 18 to 26. Normally, keeping too small clothes around is an epic failure as weight loss motivation for me but now I'm starting to look at my smaller things as "closet goals." First up, my light blue with white eyelet trim size 2x scrub top. I saw it in the catalog when I last bought new uniforms though they didn't have my size thanks to my wishful thinking, I had to have it. I couldn't even get it over my head when it arrived so I shoved it at the back of the closet and tried to forget about it. Now that my current uniforms are starting to fit more loosely, I pulled it out and tried it on. It almost fits! It's a bit snug but it won't be long before I'm sashaying down the halls in my adorable new top.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Turkey Trepidation

Why did I embark on a lifestyle change so close to The Most Fattening Time of the Year? Because in the midst of my depression after returning from our September vacation, a very bright light was switched on inside my head. I was finally seeing clearly after being blinded by Twinkies for so many years. I promised myself that I wasn't going to let the upcoming festively fattening season deter me. I wasn't going to wait until January 2nd to "start my diet." I wasn't going to carry on gaining weight and feeling fat, sluggish and miserable while we're visiting my family.

So what am I going to do to make sure that I don't set off all my triggers, binge like a lunatic and undo all the positive changes I've made? Planning and resolve. The menus are planned for the entire long weekend, which will be festive yet sensible. We're also going to make sure that we get plenty of activity Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps we'll take that walk round Kennesaw Mountain that we've been meaning to do for the past 7 years. I'm going into the long weekend with a resolve to enjoy myself, make sure I get my juice intake, get some moving in and trying to keep any Monday weight gain to an absolute minimum. Then I will strive for a few more pounds loss in the weeks leading up to the trip to Boston.

Spending two weeks with my sister is going to be a far more difficult challenge. I'll be in the land of my soul food, home of the best pizza in the Universe, Kowloon, where the egg rolls are so good they could made a grown man cry, home of J. Pace's fabulous Italian pan bread, Luberto's irrepressible cannoli, home of my Mother's ravioli and Sunday gravy and my beloved sister, my partner in Chardonnay and fellow foodie. Here's where planning and resolve come in.

I'm going to enjoy all my favorite things because I don't get up north nearly as often as I'd like to. I'm going to enjoy cooking and baking with my sister and imbibing in our favorite bevvies. My sister has a juicer so I won't be missing out on my morning enzyme boost. Exercise will be on the menu, too. What there won't be is throwing all caution to the wind, the four golden rules will be practiced daily and upon returning it's business as usual.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Brrr!

When the sun came back on Sunday it brought some bone-chilling cold with it. I'm a total cream puff (haha, you are what you eat) and since moving from Boston to Atlanta 7 years ago, I've become even softer when it comes to the cold. I will need to make exercising indoors part of my daily routine.

I've been doing the 2-mile power walk with Leslie Sansone and surprisingly, I like it. Like any fat girl worth her salt, I hate skinny fitness dvd bitches. I hate their perky mannerisms, the size zero matchy-matchy workout outfits, the way they never seem to sweat, and the makeup. C'mon, who wears makeup to workout? Skinny-matchy-matchy bitches apparently. Leslie Sansone is actually quite likable and fun to work out with. She's cute and a little goofy and her workout is really adaptable for beginners. I picked up her dvd called Walk Slim: Fast and Firm 4 Really Big Miles on eBay. I'm going to be sure and take it with me to Boston when we head up there to spend Festivus with my family. At the very least, I hope to keep on top of working out during that beloved and ever so fattening time of the year.

I'm in the midst of cooking up a batch of homemade Italian Wedding Soup. It's one of my favorites. I made up some adorable turkey mini-meatballs and loaded the broth with celery, carrots and kale. For the pasta, I tried Quinoa gluten free veggie curls. Quinoa is really tasty and quite nutritious, it will get it's own blog post soon. :)

Hail to The King!


My sister had to put the beloved family dog down yesterday. This is a shout out to Elvis. You were stinky but you will be missed!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

PMS on the Milk Carton

I've read many articles over the years about how a poor diet can exacerbate PMS and how eating healthfully and exercising can ease and even eliminate it altogether. Eat healthfully for PMS? Are kidding me? I need massive amounts of chocolate to calm that savage beast. I need a bag of Milano cookies to ease those blues. Exercise for PMS? WHAT!?! I need to ride my couch with a bag of Chik-fil-A and a bottle of Aleve in my lap to make me feel better. Screeching at my husband really helps, too (do not touch my boosies, they hurt!)

Well, color me surprised when I started my period this morning. I ran to the computer to check my cycles calendar, lo and behold, there was the litte red box over today. I couldn't believe it. NO PMS! No bloating (I lost 2.5 pounds last week), no cravings, no mood swings, no cramps, no sore low back, no tears, no screeching, no sore boosies, no exhaustion. I'm thrilled! I'm a believer. I feel like I discovered the New World! Eating healthfully and exercise can and does ease and even eliminate PMS.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Weigh-In

It's Monday again, I can't believe how fast these weeks are flying by. Moment of truth~260 pounds, another 2.5 pounds??? I swear I thought Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out of my closet and say, "Haha, we rigged your scale!" That's 17 pounds gone. I'm speechless.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend Food

Fall flavors are my favorite, especially on cold days. This weekend was definitely cold so I spent some time in the kitchen cooking up some fall favorites.

Saturday night~
Over the years, many people have told me that they make the best roast chicken. Well, I'm pretty sure they're all lying. As far as I'm concerned there is only one way to roast a chicken and that comes from Thomas Keller. If you're not familiar with Chef Keller, he's considered the celebrity chef to all other celebrity chefs. His Simple Roast Chicken is error proof and the results are perfect. The butter is decadent but I omitted it this time though I never omit the Dijon mustard, it's the best part. Follow his recipe to the letter and you will never look at boring old chicken the same way. It is divine. I have to credit my friend Donna's husband Jeff for turning me on to this recipe a few years ago.

I love winter squash and acorn squash is my favorite. I experimented with my own version of stuffed acorn squash to serve alongside the chicken and came up with something I'll definitely be making again.

I sliced a medium acorn squash in half lengthwise, scooped out the seeds, brushed the flesh with a bit of Land o' Lakes light butter and sprinkled it with pumpkin pie spice. I baked it face up until it was tender at 400 degrees. After 30 minutes or so, I lightly covered the squash with foil so it wouldn't get too brown and dry out. Meanwhile I prepared Trader Joe's brown rice medley. I sauteed half a small onion in a bit of extra virgin olive oil then added the meat from one hot Italian sausage and cooked it until it was crumbly. I stirred in 3/4 cup of the rice medley and then added about 1 and 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock and ended up adding 1 and 1/2 cups water as it cooked. Brown rice needs lots of liquid and lots of time to cook. The directions are pretty useless, I started off with the chicken broth and had to keep adding water and keep checking it until it was the right texture. I like it toothsome but not crunchy.

When the squash was tender, I scooped out most of the delectable innards, being careful to leave enough to make sure I had a sturdy cup to stuff. I mashed up the squash and stirred into the rice mixture. I filled the skins with the rice, sausage and squash mixture. No need to bake again unless you're making it in advance and putting in the fridge.

The dish was very tasty but I'd omit the sausage next time. It didn't need it and despite using low sodium broth cut with water and adding no additional salt, it was a bit too salty for my taste. I liked the spice the sausage added so I will try adding some crushed red pepper to the oil and onion mixture when starting the rice.

Sunday~
One of the first cookbooks I ever bought for myself was The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. I purchased when it was first released in the UK in 1999. Tray Baked Pork Chops with Herbey Potatoes, Parsnips and Pears from the original Naked Chef book is an old standby and a household favorite.

I love parsnips and used a pound to just one Idaho potato and two pears. I cut everything into same size wedges but start the parsnips and potato about 25 minutes before adding the pears and pork chops to the tray. This way the parsnips get all caramelized and potatoes get a nice crust on them. Once everything is in the oven, start checking the pork for doneness at 20 minutes, 30 can be too long depending on the thickness and heat of the oven. Nothing worse than overdone pork.

I enjoyed every bite of food this weekend. Despite devouring half a roast chicken like some sort of fat werewolf who stumbled on to a chicken farm on a full moon, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's weigh in.

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String...

These are a few of my new favorite things. Sorry.

Many of these are what I consider healthy convenience foods, which is pretty much an oxymoron these days so they are good finds.

My Jack LaLanne Power Juicer~ I seriously could not live without this dream machine.

Tea, tea and more tea~ Herbal teas, chai teas, Morning Thunder, Yerba Mate, you name it and I'm drinking it. Sweetened with honey and it's a perfect bed time soother, sweetened with stevia and it's a perfect appetite suppressant. The ritual is so centering and with so much information on the health benefits of tea, it's a no brainer.

Food for Life Ezekiel Bread~ The sesame and raisin flavors are the best. Cutting back on bread is tough for me but good bread is one of my triggers and must be enjoyed cautiously. But who can live without soft egg on toast on weekend mornings or go without ham and cheese sandwiches on weekday afternoons? I sure can't and this nourishing and satisfying bread does it for me.

Organic baby carrot snack packs~ like these and other brands. I usually put up snack bags of various snack veggies for myself, but these are so great to keep in the fridge when time is short or I get lazy.

Laughing Cow Light cheeses~ mmm, cheese.

Trader Joe's Just a Handful raw almonds~ a pack of these with baby carrots and a wedge of cheese is a more than satisfying snack.

Larabars~ Not for every day but when I want something sweet but don't want to feel like crap afterward, one of these beauties does the trick. Just too good. The pistachio of my favorite.

Kashi five cheese and tomato pizza~ Sometimes you just gotta have pizza! Until I can master making my own whole grain crust, half a Kashi pizza with a veggie salad makes a nice supper for when Rob is away and I just don't feel like cooking.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Month in Review

The sun is still hiding from me. It was so wet and foggy this morning, there was no way I was going out in it again. But thanks to Exercise TV On Demand, I was able to do a 2 mile power walk right in the warmth of my living room. If you think marching in place is easy, try doing it for 3o minutes straight while adding in side squats, kick out/kick back and lots of power arm movements.

My month in review is about a week late, but I wanted to review some of the changes I've made, what I've learned and plot a few more goals for the coming weeks.

Eating healthfully requires lots of planning. I cannot let myself get hungry (that's where the constant preparing and planning comes in) and have managed to stay very satisfied while eating some wonderfully tasty and healthy food.

It's early in the fitness part of my journey and exercise still sucks, but I can't deny how good it makes me feel. That first step was so hard and it's still tough to get up and go, but the benefits far outweigh the small time commitment and the aches and pains. Joan Jett's 80's songs are perfect for walking to. Those simple, hard driving drum beats are kick-ass!

Almost three weeks into it I can finally say that I've noticed that the anti-candida supplement routine is working. My mind is much clearer, more focused. My skin looks really good and my eyes are slowly but surely burning and itching less and look much clearer.

I want to start adding more raw vegetables into my daily routine. I have to do some reading on the best way to do this and start implementing. I also want to start having more veggie-centric meals on weeknights. I don't think Rob is going to be too thrilled with this at the start, so I'll have to be sneaky.

Women are caregivers and it is tough for us to put ourselves first. I know with me, everything else always came first and because I felt neglected I would use junk food, chocolate and chardonnay as a band-aid for those feelings. I had to make a pact with myself that my health and fitness would come first. I had to reconcile that in doing so, I was not being selfish in the negative sense of the word. My husband benefits with each healthy meal and snack that comes out of my kitchen. Working on my health and fitness has given me more energy to tackle all those things that used to take time and energy away from me. I have more energy for my friends and for other enjoyable pursuits. And just ask Rob about how my moods swings have swinging to the pleasant since detoxing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Friend or Foe?

My scale is both, really. I love it on Monday when it tells me that I had a loss but I hate it today. I got on to measure the percentage of fat I'm lugging around on my poor bones every day. In addition to the weekly weigh-in, I'm going to start doing a monthly fat % measurement. Yeah, so I'm 51% fat. Ugh!

Where's the Sun?

The weather is so gloomy. I got up and peeked out the window and saw that everything was wet from overnight rain and the air was thick with mist. My legs were aching and I just wanted to crawl back in bed. Instead I threw on my work out get up and off I went. I was regretting it about 5 minutes in, it felt like I was walking through mud. But I carried on and walked the whole circuit including the two new segments added yesterday. It seemed such long walk today but in actuality in only took me 30 minutes, which was the same time it took me to do the initial walk last Friday without the three additional segments. I just finished my fresh juice and I'm really glad I went. I still want to crawl back into bed, but I have a few things to attend to. I have the premier of Top Chef waiting for me on the DVR so I can curl up on the couch and watch it as my treat my later today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review: Skinny Bitch

Skinny Bitch: A No-Nonsense, Tough-Love Guide for Savvy Girls Who Want to Stop Eating Crap and Start Looking Fabulous Skinny Bitch: A No-Nonsense, Tough-Love Guide for Savvy Girls Who Want to Stop Eating Crap and Start Looking Fabulous by Rory Freedman


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is cross-posted from my Good Reads library. Everyone should have a read of this book. I finished it in under two-hours, so it's definitely a quick read. Much of the information was a refresher for me (when you're a fat bitch, you tend to read lots about health and nutrition) but it was presented in a fun and irreverent way. Any book that has a chapter titled "Pooping" gets high marks from me. The slaughterhouse chapters will stick with me for sure, though I don't know if I'll be taking up veganism anytime soon. Give up cheese? I'd rather give up all meat and fish before giving up my goat cheese. But seriously, read this book, it will make you rethink everything you put in your mouth.


View all my reviews.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Greedy is as Greedy Does

In an earlier post, I linked to Paul McKenna's four golden rules. I just visited his website to find all the useful information that was free to the public locked up and packaged as part of a weight loss club for a fee of $60. I'm so glad that I printed off the information when I first came upon it.

They are still available on other websites (thanks Google) and were presented on his TLC mini-series, I Can Make You Thin , so I don't think it's out of line for me to post them here. They have become a daily mantra for me with each bite of food I take and even while I'm not eating. His four rules may sound like little more than simple common sense, but for a food addict and compulsive, emotional over-eater such as myself who has become so disconnected with body signals over the years it's like learning to walk again. I may stumble a few times but I'm going to keep at it.

Thank you, Mr. McKenna putting such a concise bit of common sense out there but bollocks to you for going greedy on us.

Eat When You’re Hungry

Eat what you want, not what you think you should have

Eat Consciously – Enjoy Each Mouthful

Stop When You Think You’re Full

As Good As It Gets

Every Thursday we get a free supplement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution called The Evening Edge. It always has at least one really good recipe in it, but often more and they are always seasonal, usually healthy and/or easily adaptable. Tonight I made the Chicken Noodle Salad and it was phenomenal. It really hit the spot for Asian take out food.

Here are modifications/notes for what will now be dubbed the
As Good as it Gets Noodle Salad ;)

For the chicken, I marinated boneless, skinless breasts in garlic, olive oil, cayenne pepper and a splash of tamari before poaching and shredding.

I used three tablespoons hot red curry paste so it was super spicy.

To up the veggie factor, I doubled the amount of snow peas, green onions and cilantro. Next time I will add bean sprouts and since I've decided that I'm not a fan of canned water chestnuts (gag, they kind of taste like the can no matter what brand I try) I will swap them out for some fresh, sliced mushrooms.

Next time, I'll add more lime juice to the dressing and less fish sauce to decrease the sodium.

For the noodles, I used Notta Pasta gluten free rice linguine and I'm so impressed. The texture was perfectly toothsome, not mushy at all and they absorbed the dressing ever so well.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Weigh-In

Another loss! 262.5, two pounds gone and a running total of 14.5 pounds. Not too shabby. I'm finally down half a pound less than I was when I had lost weight last year being ill and in hospital. How is it that I "comforted" myself with so much food that it made me gain 14 pounds in 18 months? More like punishing myself. I need to do a bit more reading as to what makes people like me feel the need to punish ourselves with unhealthy food. But for now, I need to walk.

I was considering skipping my walk this morning as I am heading back to work tonight after a nice long break and will inevitably be on my feet for the better part of 8 hours, but I'm feeling pretty peppy this morning so I'm hitting the pavement.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Spa Day

I treated myself to a Citrus Spa Day for getting up early and walking for the past three mornings. I ran a hot bubble bath and put on my favorite relaxing music. I exfoliated my face and whipped up a homemade face mask (recipe to follow), then I had a long soak using all my favorite citrus scented bath and body goodies. My skin is soft and my muscles are feeling a lot better than they did yesterday morning.

Honey Rose Clay Mask
1 tablespoon honey (a great humectant)
2 ounces of well steeped rose herbal tea or your favorite herbal or green tea
2 packets of Stevia (scroll down the linked page for information on stevia and skin care)
French green clay

Mix honey, tea and stevia until well blended. Stir in enough clay until it becomes a thick and spreadable consistency. Apply to clean, dry facial skin, rinse after 15 minutes. Makes enough for 4 masks. Store in an airtight container in fridge and use it up within 2-3 weeks because of the lack of preservatives.

Saturday Night Supper

I always try to make something special for Saturday's evening meal. It's especially nice in the fall and winter when my husband makes a fire and we eat beside the crackling warmth.

I came across these recipes in Southern Living Magazine. One for Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders (sometimes you just gotta have chicken fingers!) and the other for Spinach and Mushroom Saute. Adapting recipes to fit my healthier way of eating is going to become part of my daily life, so I made a few changes to the above recipes and came up with what has become a keeper.

(Cue the choir of angels)
The Crunchy and Delectable Chicken Finger Salad

I followed the spinach recipe pretty closely only I didn't cook the spinach all the way. I wanted more a warm spinach salad consistency so after I cooked the onions and mushrooms, I added half the bag of spinach to the pan, took it off the heat and gently tossed it until it wilted down slightly. I put the rest of the spinach in a large salad bowl and tossed it with the warm spinach and mushroom mixture and the lemon juice.

For the chicken fingers, I used my food processor to grind one cup of pecans with 12 sesame crisp crackers instead of saltines, a couple of tablespoons of (insert my best Giada DeLaurentiis affectation here) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and some cayenne pepper. I omitted the flour and used a beaten egg to dunk the chicken tenders before pressing the nut mixture onto each one. I baked them on the rack as directed and served them on a bed of the warm mushroom spinach salad. This isn't intended as a foodie blog, but it looked so nice plated that I had to grab my camera.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Morning After

It's no secret that I'm out of shape, but you never know just how out of shape you are until the morning after the first day of exercise. When I first stepped out of bed this morning, my legs felt like hundred-pound lead pipes, my low back, like a rubber band stretched to within a millimeter of its life and don't even get me started on my no-good hips and knees. But did that stop me from getting out and walking? Hell to the NO! Rob joined me and I can't believe how fast it went by. I even managed to get in two 30-second sprints. I'm actually feeling that mythical "exercise high" despite my aches and pains. Wow!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Just Did It

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step~Lao-tzu, Chinese Philospher

This morning I got up, put on my favorite big hair band playlist and went for a walk. I did the half mile block around my house. With the cool down and stretches it took 30 minutes. I walked in the direction with more gentle down slopes, though the one big up slope back to my street was a killer. I was feeling pretty confident until that point. But I did it and it didn't kill me, in fact, I really enjoyed it. Our neighborhood is so pretty and the fall leaves dappled with morning sun was just about as beautiful as it gets. Maybe Rob will join me tomorrow.

Chocolate Cravings on the Milk Carton

I am a bona fide chocaholic. I knew I wanted to marry my husband the day he took me to Cadbury World for one of our first dates. Chocolate plays a supporting role in my life, like a faithful companion always there when things get rough. Rarely a day goes by without having a bit of chocolate to soothe my emotional pangs. But in the past four weeks I have eaten chocolate just once, two small squares of a Dairy Milk bar that one of the lovely forum girls enclosed in a BPAL swap package.

And now sit here trying to figure out exactly when my chocolate cravings disappeared. Sometime in the past four weeks, I stopped needing my cocoa crutch. This is completely foreign territory for me. The constant pull to the tin where I keep a supply of various chocolate truffles, treasures, turtles or kisses has ceased. In fact, the tin still sits in the pantry holding a stash of creamy confections.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fresh Juice

The American Cancer Society suggests 5 or more servings of fresh vegetables and fruit a day for good health and disease prevention, other sources say it should be 9 servings a day. Dr. Mercola recommends that 1/3 to 1/2 of our diet should be raw. Finding a balance in all the information is key, but one thing I know for sure is that I don't eat enough fresh produce.

One surefire way of upping my servings of raw produce each day is by making fresh juice. My mother and my Auntie have been juicing for many years. They turned me on to it when I was ill with my gallbladder and pancreas last year. I went to my local Costco and purchased the Jack LaLanne power juicer. It's perhaps some of the best money I've ever spent. Other than a few bits of time where it fell by the wayside, I've been making fresh veggie and fruit juice for my husband and myself pretty much daily since the spring of last year.

Juicing definitely adds to the grocery bill, but as my friend Lisa so nicely put it this morning, "It's less money I'll be spending on medications in the future." It can be time consuming until I got a system going. Once a week, I wash the entire week's worth of juicing produce in the sink with produce wash and then pack it in zipper bags, one for each of the next 7 days. This small investment of effort makes the morning juicing routine a total breeze.

It amazes me at just how much fresh produce my husband and I are actually consuming through juicing, up to 20 pounds! We'd never eat that much of the raw stuff if we tried. And benefit to effort ratio of juicing is very high. I feel so good after having my juice each morning and it gives me a good foundation for fostering healthy habits.

My favorite cocktail is spinach, summer squash, zucchini, lemon, root ginger, celery, carrots and apples. The juicer is a great way to make sure no fruits or veggies in the fridge go to waste.

Here are some sources for more information on the benefits of juicing and some fantastic recipes that I have to try out myself.

Healing Daily
Juicing for Health
Juicing Recipes

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hot Italian Chicks

The staffing coordinator seems to have forgotten that I work there because she's yet to call me to book my shifts for November. Good thing I have some personal time off stocked up to cash in next pay period. I'm also on a self-imposed "no-buy" to save money up for the upcoming holidays, so no work and no shopping means that I'm spending time doing things around the house like catching up with my blog and all the others that I enjoy reading, batch cooking and trying new recipes. I'm enjoying myself immensely.

I had this can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) that I bought for a recipe I never made so I was looking up something to do with them. I came across this recipe for Chickpeas Roasted with Tamari and Sea Salt over at Kalyn's Kitchen. I love the idea but wanted to try something more suited to my taste preferences.

Hot Italian Chicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 can chickpeas
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs good balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tbs good honey
1 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning
crushed red pepper to taste
kosher salt to taste

Rinse and drain chickpeas well. Mix oil, vinegar, honey and seasonings well to combine. Marinate chick peas for 30 minutes then bake them on a parchment lined baking sheet for 60 minutes until dried, golden and crunchy. Toss a few times during baking. Cool, then let the snacking begin! These crunchy little morsels are as addictive as they are delicious.

Spicy and Satisfying Breakfast Muffins

I've not been craving baked goods, but sometimes it's nice to have something other than eggs or oatmeal for breakfast, especially when my friends are coming over for coffee. I've never attempted any alternative grain or gluten free baking, so this is my first dive into unknown waters. This is a recipe I adapted from Women's Health Magazine Carrot Ginger Muffins.

I have to scream with joy from the rooftops that these muffins were a success, though I would add more fresh ginger and spices next time. I thought they were going to be dry, hideous lead sinkers. Although the batter tastes nasty, the muffins came out moist with a fabulously satisfying texture and a lightly sweet, nutty flavor. I hope my friends enjoy them.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line muffin tins with paper muffin cups
Makes 24 muffins (some to serve, some to freeze)

2 cups
whole-grain flour
1/2 cup organic rice flour
1/2 cup flax meal or bran meal (I used the flax but for a milder flavor go for the bran)
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground dried ginger
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
1 tsp orange extract or 1 tablestoon orange zest (optional but recommended)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup yogurt (such as Dannon Activia)
1 cup unsweetened organic cinnamon apple sauce
1 cup shredded carrots
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup good quality raw honey
1/2 cup golden raisins or any other dried fruit or nuts of your choice

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours and meal, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum and spices.

3. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, apple sauce, yogurt, carrot, fresh ginger, honey and extracts. Combine wet and dry mixtures and then fold in golden raisins.

4. Spoon batter paper-lined muffin cups to about 3/4 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool on a wire rack.

Notes: Spray muffin liners with baking spray so the muffins won't crumble when removing it from the liner. I topped mine with a sprinkle of Bear Naked Granola as an alternative to streusel topping. Just press it lightly into the top of the batter.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Skin Effect

I'm still going through yeast die-off, but it's slowly getting better. I hope this means that the supplements that Dr. Eidem suggested are working. I have not noticed any change to my eye allergies, but I have noticed one fabulous benefit of the supplements, my facial skin looks so good! It's clear, smooth and glowing. I haven't made any changes to my skin care routine (which is basically just natural oils like jojoba and grapeseed with some essential oils for both cleansing and moisturizing) but my skin is looking great. This makes me happy.

Stevia Love

The first time I tried stevia I absolutely hated it, but after cutting way back on sugar and completely eliminating high fructose corn syrup, I became quite fond of the slightly bitter and very sweet taste. While I have no scientific proof to back this up and your mileage may vary, stevia has proven to be a very effective appetite suppressant and craving buster for me. I had been starting my day with a mug of herbal tea with a packet of stevia for the past few weeks but yesterday I found myself with a hungry feeling even after eating pretty much the same amount of food I've been enjoying in the morning and afternoon. I even had a snack pack of raw almonds, to stave off that hungry horrors feeling. It wasn't until I realized that I hadn't had my stevia laced tea did things start to click. I had my stevia and tea and felt that pleasant fullness again which lasted well into supper time. Needless to say, I had my tea and stevia this morning.

Batch Cooking

I'm doing some batch cooking today. It's really the only way to make sure that I'm eating healthy foods. Sure, it takes time but in the end it's worth it especially when I have food, freshly prepared by my own hand, ready for dining later in the week.

I've made a huge batch of homemade Minestrone soup. I used Mark Bittman's book How To Cook Everything, my friend Lisa bought it for me several years ago and it's got so much use. His recipes are simple and easily adaptable.

I'm in the midst of preparing a Ratatouille bake with feta cheese, I added summer squash and made a double batch. We'll have it tonight for a side dish to some "breaded" pork chops (I'll trim them well and dredge them in gluten free baking mix and saute them) and again later in the week as a vegetarian main. It smells so good in here right now.

The girls and I like to get together for coffee but I've invited them here on Thursday so I can control what I eat rather than tripping over a minefield like Starbucks pastry case. I'm going to attempt some healthy breakfast muffins. I'm going to use this recipe as a guideline but I'm going to add a bear naked granola topping and use gluten free baking mix. Unsweetened apple sauce will go in place of the juice concentrate and honey for the molasses. And flax seeds, too.

Veggie juicing packs and crudite snack packs are also on the menu for today. I better get back to it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday Weigh-In

Wow, still losing! 264.5 pounds this morning, 12.5 pounds gone. This is very encouraging considering I had a lovely brunch out with a dear friend yesterday, in addition to having dessert with my husband both Saturday and Sunday evenings after supper. A little portion control seems to go a long way. I'm not the type of person to weigh and measure every bite of food that I put in my mouth but with sweets it seems to be a great strategy. Talk about having my cake and eating it, too.

Thanksgiving is coming, just three weeks away and for the first time in my life, I'm looking forward to a holiday as a time for a few smart splurges, not an all out blow out. I'm actually daring to start thinking about small goals. This may be dangerous because if I miss the mark, I don't want negative thinking to sabotage me. Would aiming to lose 14.5 pounds before leaving for Boston on December 18th be too much of a stretch? We'll see.