Sunday, May 31, 2009

Try Something New: Succotash

Growing up in an Italian-American family, succotash was never on the menu. In fact, I've only had succotash once before, the frozen variety made with edamame in a vegetarian Asian style dish. But in the spirit of opening up my culinary horizons, I'm always looking for something new to cook up. When I came across this recipe for Classic Succotash in Better Homes and Gardens, I couldn't wait to try it. I had the wonderful Ham of God leftovers to use up, so it was a perfect excuse.

Traditionally succotash is made with Lima beans which I detest, so I was hoping to get butter beans. I was disappointed that there were no fresh beans at the market but the frozen section provided an embarrassment of riches. I came across "butter peas" which I've never seen before. From the name and the photo on the bag, they gave the impression of being delicate and creamy. And they were! Absolutely delicious. I substituted the heavy cream for the same amount of 2% Greek yogurt. It was a gamble that really paid off. It saved over 20 grams of fat in the dish and worked a treat. I added some fresh snipped chives from my garden and served it up with grilled sirloin. Here's my recipe, inspired by BHG Classic Succotash, I hope you'll try it. It's fast, easy and utterly moreish.

Butter Pea Succotash
2 cups frozen butter peas
2 cups freshly shucked corn kernels (I used 4 small ears of white corn)
2 tbs. Smart Balance 50/50 olive oil butter blend
1/4 cup 2% Greek Yogurt
3/4 cup diced ham
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt

Cook butter peas as directed on package. Drain and set aside. Shuck corn, remove silks and cut kernels from cobs. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a skillet and then add corn, stir well and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a 2-3 minutes and then add beans. Check seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir another minute or two, taking care not to overcook the corn, it should be tender crisp. Stir in the ham, yogurt and chives and stir just until combined and heated through, another minute. Serve warm. Devour!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Excellent Reminder

Eating (carby junk food quickly) as a stress reducer has played a big role in my life long battle of the bulge. I think it's because the faster you cram the food in, the faster you get what I like to call the "serotonin dump." That's the payoff for slamming that chocolate cake, that instant but short lived happy and relaxed feeling.

I've noticed that eating slowly seems to be a hallmark of naturally slim people. It's something that I've been working on and it's hard because fast cramming is hard to unlearn. I constantly have to remind myself to slow down, taste, enjoy. Noshtopia made a wonderful post about slowing down to savor our food. It was an excellent reminder for me and I wanted to share it with you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Weekend Food

The weather may not have been spectacular for our long holiday weekend, but the food sure was. Saturday kicked off the weekend with a chili-lime marinated pork tenderloin. I used the Gina's marinade as inspiration, though I made mine a bit spicier with cayenne pepper and used olive oil, too. I grilled the tenderloin and served it with Ina Garten's Guacamole Salad. You must try this salad, it would go well with just about any sort of grilled meat or fish. I added cumin to the dressing and added a bunch of chopped, fresh cilantro to the salad, but otherwise it is a perfect recipe! A chilled Riesling complemented the spicy flavors beautifully.

Sunday company was coming so I wanted a really nice meal. I'm a big fan of Honey Baked Ham so when we saw a Peach Glazed Rotisserie Ham with Sweet Georgia Chutney in our Weber's Big Book of Grilling we knew exactly what to serve for Sunday Dinner. Oh, so easy and wonderful. The ham was tender and juicy with a sweet, glazed crackled edge that was yummy.

Ham of God, take away sins of the World

I was so excited that I found vidalia onions and ripe Georgia peaches for the chutney at the Marietta farmer's market on Saturday morning but I found the ginger overwhelmed the recipe. I would make the ham again but would seek out a different chutney recipe. The side dish inspiration came from a broccoli salad recipe in Eating Well magazine married with the original recipe of Sweet Tomato's Joan's Broccoli Madness (my favorite salad of all time.)

Andra's Broccoli Deliciousness
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup low fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon raw honey
fresh cracked black pepper
4-5 cups chopped broccoli crowns
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
4-5 slices of crisp cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup unsalted cashews, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup craisins (I used a golden raisin, dried cranberry, blueberry and currant blend from Trader Joe's)

Whisk together crushed garlic, mayo, yogurt, vinegar, honey and black pepper until smooth and well combined. In a large salad bowl, add broccoli, red onion, bacon, cashews and craisins and toss with dressing. This makes a lot and it sits very well for leftovers. It was a huge hit and I'm making it again this weekend.

Sunday saw the completion of our outdoor room and lots of wine was consumed. Due to the weather, most of the wine was enjoyed inside. We did get to sit out for a bit and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Sunday dessert was a lightened version of a traditional fruit crumble. I can't wait to share this recipe with you. My new found love of fruit has me looking for excuses to make the recipe.

Juicy Sweet Fruit Crumble
Oven to 375 degrees

For the fruit
two pounds of fresh or frozen thawed fruit, coarsely chopped. You can use a combination of fresh and frozen. I used frozen peaches, frozen black raspberries and fresh strawberries.
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons brown rice flour

Mix fruit, sugar and flour in bowl and turn into your favorite deep pie dish.

For the crumble
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold butter (I use Smart Balance 50/50 olive oil butter blend), cut in small pieces

Mix first five ingredients in a bowl then add butter. Rub butter into mixture with your fingers until small crumbles form. You can use a pastry blender but I like to play with my food.

Top fruit with crumble and bake for 25-30 minutes until fruit is bubbly and topping is GBD (golden brown delicious.)

Memorial Day was a rotisserie chicken that I marinated in herbs from the garden, spicy mustard, lemon juice and evoo. I haven't mastered the technique yet because the skin was burnt beyond recognition. The meat was flavorful and fairly moist considering. I'll be making a second attempt this weekend with the saffron orange chicken recipe from the grilling book along with the broccoli salad.

The ham was so good that I used the leftovers in last night's supper, diced ham, feta and green onion crustless quiche. I hope you'll try some of these recipes. If you do, please let me know how they turn out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Case for Exercise

We all know the health benefits of physical exercise but have a read of them again just in case. As you can see from the title of the blog, I'm not a lover of exercise. I've heard all the excuses for not working out, directly from my own mouth. Too tired, not enough hours in the day, I don't like it. Blah, blah. Of course life is busy, full of work and doing stuff we don't want to do and we need leisure time but do we really need to spend hours at a time staring at Facebook?

Here is where honesty and accountability play a major role. When I sat down to have an honest look at what I did with my time, I saw that I really did have time to work out. Most mornings, upon waking I would make a huge coffee drink and then sit for 2 or more hours in front of the computer then I'd eat lunch and go to work. I didn't realize how much time I was wasting. 2 hours a day 5 days a week! I decided that I could build a workout into my schedule. I started carving out 30 minutes a day a few days a week and increased from there. The computer goes off at bedtime and does not get turned back on until I get back from my walk or back from the gym. This has become a habit for me now.

We are creatures of habit and making exercise a habit is an effective way to become more active. And as Newton's Law tells us, a body at motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by the direct force of Facebook quizzes. Well, that's not totally accurate but you get the idea.

Work was obnoxious last night and a night like that can effect my sleep. I woke up this morning feeling like I wanted to roll back over and sleep until noon. And there was no way I was going to the gym because after a stressful shift and less than stellar sleep, the idea of the gym felt like a choke hold. So I grabbed my music and hit the streets of Saddlebrook. Halfway out of our cul-de-sac I felt transformed. The dewy morning air felt so good. The air smelled amazing, grass, pine bark mulch, magnolia and lilies and wildflowers. I was inspired to do a different route and tackled the big hills of the front of the neighborhood. I just kept going until I got home and found that I had done a vigorous 50 minute walk. I'm feeling so good now and my workout is done for the day. 50 fast minutes, and did I miss anything on Facebook? Not.

Have an honest look at where you can squeeze in a 30 minute walk just three days a week. Your body and mind will love you for it. Regular exercise has made me more active in general, more energetic, more productive. Because of this, I enjoy my leisure time so much more.

New Goodie: Kashi Frozen Dinners

Have you tried the new Kashi frozen meals yet? I don't rely on frozen meals as a rule but I work 3-11 and if I'm running low on healthy leftovers, I do need a frozen dinner to take along with me. Frozen meals are tricky, they can be full of garbage, expensive and not very satisfying. Leave it to the folks at Kashi to remedy the situation.

The varieties I've tried have proven to be tasty, pretty healthy and just the right amount. Rounded out with a snack pack of almonds and a snack bag of baby carrots or a piece of fruit, and I'm satisfied. My favorite is the Chicken Florentine, it's a really well seasoned and balanced dish with nice flavors and textures. Not like a frozen dinner at all. I also like the Black Bean Mango, Coconut Lemongrass Chicken and the Chicken Pasta Pomodoro.

Like most frozen meals, they are a little high in sodium but not too bad compared to some other brands. If you need a portion controlled yet great tasting meal in a hurry, give them a try. Check out the nutritional information at Kashi's website.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fat Acceptance

I've been reading a bit about the fat acceptance movement and am having mixed feelings about it. It's a loaded issue to say the least. Discrimination of any kind is an ugly part of our society and having spent the majority of my life fat, I know exactly what it's like to be on the receiving end of such treatment.

Despite the debates and arguments, I feel that obesity is a disease and that too much fat is unhealthy. If it causes you to get winded going up a flight of stairs, how can that be considered healthy? I'm not a doctor or a scientist but I've been a Geriatric nurse for over 15 years and I've seen the effects that obesity has on the body. I've also spent time in a hospital bed due to obesity related health problems. 2007 was not a good year for me. Apparently it's wrong to say that fat is unhealthy, that it is judgmental to think so. My personal experience tells me otherwise.

Diets don't work, that is one point that I truly believe, but I also believe that obesity, the kind of fat that leads to metabolic syndrome, immobility, COPD, heart disease, is a curable disease. Of course it's not easily cured, the approach has to be kind, nurturing and has to be sought out at the roots. It's not a one-size-fits-all cure, either. But the cure is inside each of us. Our bodies have amazing healing powers that can be released if we choose to embrace good health.

Don't let anyone tell you that you are any less of person because you don't fit some media-generated ideal. But by the same token, don't let unhealthy fat get in the way of living the happiest, most vibrant life possible.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Weigh-In and Measurements Update

I hope everyone is having a safe and beautiful long weekend. We worked our butts off to get our deck ready for the season and ended up with a rainy weekend. I need to call Mikkos Cassadine and learn his secret for controlling the weather. We did get to sit out and have a glass of wine yesterday and despite the weather it's been a productive and pleasant weekend. I'm still in weekend mode but wanted to keep up my routine and share my weekly weigh-in. Still at 211, but it's been a weekend of planned indulgences coupled with lots of physical activity so it's a win-win situation.

This past 30 days of working out has paid off with an additional 4.92 inch loss. I lost another inch from my waist and fractions off my thighs, hips, ankles and arms. The biggest thrill for me is the flappy bingo arms are down one-half an inch. This made my week!

It looks like it might be a nice morning with some rain later, so we're taking our coffees out to our lovely "outdoor room" to relax and enjoy. I'll be making a weekend food post as well as sharing some pictures of the deck later on this week. Have a wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day, put your feet up and enjoy life!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Putting Yourself First

What does "putting yourself first" mean to you? Does it mean you are selfish, putting your needs before others? Does it mean that you are so into yourself that you can't see past your own circumstances? Or does it mean to take good care of yourself so you can take better care of others, be a better friend, live a better life?

Many years of putting my health and fitness at the bottom of the list (ha, they weren't even on the list) and not putting myself first had taken its toll. I became obese, depressed, sluggish, hard to get along with and just plain unhappy. I think women in general have a hard time saying no and putting themselves first. I also think we put pressure on ourselves to be perfect. No wonder we don't get enough sleep, don't eat right, get constipated, get stressed out and overeat.

The moment I decided to make my health and fitness the top priority in my life, the moment that I learned to say no to things that weren't absolutely essential and would take time away from what needed to be done, was the moment things started to change for the better. I started to become a better person, a better wife, a better nurse. I started to see that happiness was within reach, that I had the power to make it happen.

It's okay to put yourself first, it's okay to say no! Take charge of your health, put yourself on the list. No one will do it for you. You have the power to make it happen, to make a healthier you, to give you (and your spouse/family) a happier existence!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Weeknight Food

It's seems like ages since I did a weeknight food post. I didn't do any cooking last week as Rob was away so I lived on salads, wraps and eggs on toast. The highlight was a late lunch on Thursday with the girls at La Parilla, excellent fish tacos!

Last night was adaptation of Real Simple's Orecchiette with Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts. I used Dreamfield's penne, substituted the walnuts for pecans because that's what I had on hand and tossed in some fresh basil from the garden at the end. It was absolutely delicious and a keeper! If you've never tried Dreamfield's you must, it's a perfect balance of low GI and wonderful, real pasta flavor. This way, I don't have to dirty two pans, because Rob likes it, too. Having a sensible portion of pasta usually on a Monday is a great strategy for me. It's after the weigh in with an entire week of workouts ahead of me. It's nice to be able to have my cake and eat it, too.

For tonight, I have a London broil marinating since yesterday in ginger beer, garlic, tamari and apple cider vinegar. I'm going to grill the beef and slice it very thinly against the grain, saute some peppers, zucchini, onions and fresh ginger then toss in the beef and add some reserved marinade (not which the beef was in) and a bit of cornstarch to get it all saucy and coated. Instead of rice or noodles, the beef and veggies will be served in lettuce cups. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday is food shopping day and I'm going to bring home a rotisserie chicken to make Real Simple's Chicken Salad with Potatoes and Arugula. I love an easy supper after having been food shopping all day plus it will be a great excuse to harvest some of my tarragon.

I'm working Thursday and Friday is going to be the kick off for the long holiday weekend, so it's definitely going to be something on the grill. Haven't decided yet. What you are having this week?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Weigh-In

THREE POUND WEEK! I thought those were well behind me since the loss is slowing down some, which is fine because I know I'm making lasting changes. But 3 pounds is still exciting to see, that makes me 211 pounds with 66 pounds gone.

It was a really good week, I got in three vigorous workouts and deep cleaned the house (which is a kick ass workout on its own!) I also got some shopping done and found a few very nice pieces to supplement my ever shrinking wardrobe. I even found an adorable tankini. But alas, it's going back because the bra was sewn in backwards, I probably didn't notice it at the shop because I was so thrilled at being able to finally wear a two piece swimsuit. I hope I can find one similar this afternoon.

The sun is finally shining after a rainy weekend, so my veggies and herbs should be happy. Rob's plan to stain and seal our newly pressure-washed deck was thwarted but he's going to get to it this week. We want the deck sorted before the long weekend because we want to be sitting out there with our feet up and a glass of wine in hand. It's Memorial Day weekend, y'all!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Free for Everyone!

I was recently approached through this blog to try a weight loss "product" (one that's available through one of those sort of spammy looking websites, you know the ones I'm talking about) and then heavily advertise it on my blog. The approach started out by saying that I had good weight loss information on my blog, it was very polite though very money-centric.

I'm sure I wasn't the only blog approached and this person obviously did *not* read all the information presented in my blog. Had they actually done so, they would have realized that I truly believe with all my heart and mind that there is no magic pill, potion, tape or whatever for weight loss. Weight loss can only be achieved by putting your health first. By being very conscious of what you put into your mouth (avoid processed junk and fast food and enjoy moderate amounts of lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains, lots of fresh fruit/veg and fiber, lots of water), getting some daily physical activity and getting plenty of rest. This is the only magic bullet there is.

While there are some useful tools out there like food scales, treadmills and books, I loathe the diet industry. They prey on the obese who are so fed up with being fat and feeling like shit that they will pour out billions of dollars to find an easy way out. If I had all the money I've spent over the years on doctors, pills, potions, tapes, shakes, weight-loss centers put away in a bank, I'd be loaded. If any of them had worked, I'd be thin and healthy. Sensible health and nutrition information should be free for everyone. Want to read the latest "diet" book? Go to your local library and take it out. Read it and if it's a plan that you can make work for the rest of your life, then buy a copy.

I know there are people who actually make an income off of blogging, but I'm not here for the money. I decided early on that I didn't want my blog cluttered with cheap looking ads, I don't like seeing them when I'm surfing. This blog has been a wonderful tool for me to help take back my health and if I can help just one person along the way, that's payment enough.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I was at the gym this morning and CNN was on one of the televisions. There was a story out of California where an office had to be evacuated and seven people were sent to the hospital because of a filthy fridge. I was completely disgusted by it. How did a group of seemingly intelligent beings allow this to happen? No other reason than not taking responsibility for a shared space in an office. Can you imagine letting your own fridge get so filthy that you had to call a haz-mat crew to deal with it? Of course not.

What is it about our society that makes it acceptable to not take responsibility for one's own actions? There is no one answer and I will likely make myself crazy by dwelling on it too long, but it is something that each of us needs to look at if we're going to make something wonderful of our lives.

For a long time I didn't want to be accountable for my health, be responsible for my fitness. I wish I knew why, I'm sure the social climate and my upbring has something to do with it, though in the end it falls to me. I started to realize that I had an obligation to my body, to my life, to the vows I made my husband. I didn't want "in sickness and in health" to be "in sickness" because of something that I could have prevented.

Take some time to think about what it means to be accountable. For me, it means that I am the one in charge of my health and well being. That I can most likely prevent a future full of depression and disease by taking care of myself now. That I can most likely avoid trips to the doctor or hospital, avoid being a victim of Big Pharmacy by treating my body with respect and love and nourishing it with healthful things, plenty of water and giving it lots of rest. My body is a gift that I was entrusted with. I'm not going to treat it like some filthy fridge in San Jose, California.

We're only given one body, one set of organs, one chance to make this life as happy and healthy as possible. We don't get a second chance if we let it slip away by avoiding responsibility.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Photo

I attended a Black Phoenix event at Harry's Whole Foods in Roswell, GA last evening. A good time was had by all. We had a group photo taken and there I am front and center, wearing bright colors and not hiding behind anyone. I actually look like a normal sized person (at least I think I do.) I feel another squee! coming on.

Monday Weigh-In

Happy Monday, everyone! Can you believe how fast these Mondays roll back around? It never ceases to amaze me. Another good week considering I wasn't feeling up to exercise on Thursday or Friday. My body said, "You have some stressful shifts ahead of you, conserve what energy you have for them." And it was just what I needed. That's one of the things that I've been working on, separating out the actual physical needs of my body vs. the emotional "feelings" side of me. I've been trying to be very honest with I not up to exercising because I really don't have the steam or do I not "feel" like it? The emotional side has been running the show for far too long but I've got the reins now. I just returned from a great workout and I know I'm doing right by my body every day.

So 214 this morning, that's a 1.5 pound week and a 63 pound total loss. My breasts are finally getting in on the act. They seemed like the only thing not getting smaller for so long and just the other day I noticed that they are simply lost in my bras now. Squee! I have to go bra and bathing suit shopping this week and for the first time I'm totally not dreading it.

I have a bunch of half-written posts that need to be fleshed out and finished off. I'm hoping to get to at least a couple of them this week. So watch this space for more juice talk! I know you can't wait. ;)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Million Thanks

I just wanted to take a moment to thank the readers and followers of this blog and special thanks to those of you who take the time to post lovely, supportive comments. I never thought anyone would take the time to read my ramblings and to see that you are means a lot. It's helped me in ways I can't even describe. So keep the comments coming and thanks for reading.

Have a beautiful Thursday, I hope the sun is shining where you are.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Weigh-In

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. I got all my plantings done, four different varieties of tomatoes, strawberries, squash, bell peppers, cukes and a huge variety of herbs. It's going to be a summer filled with fresh flavors and I can't wait!

It was a one-pound week, down to 215.5 and I had been feeling fabulous until this morning. I'm just back from the gym, it was so humid in there it was like doing Bikram cardio. I stayed long enough to get my 62 minutes on the treadmill completed but felt so overwhelmed by the humidity I had to get out. I'm starting to feel better now, though. I'm going to have to pester the fellas to crank the A/C if it's like that again tomorrow. I'm hitting such a stride with building exercise into my daily routine, I don't want anything to interfere.

Must hit the shower, make juice and get ready for the day. Happy Monday, everyone. Be safe!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

For One of Those Days

There is not beauty that hath not some strangeness about its proportions.
~Francis Bacon

This lovely quote has become a mantra for me when I stare too long at my stretch marks and become annoyed by my flappy bingo arms. My body has been through too much to ever be magazine cover perfect, but it's my body and it's getting stronger and healthier every day. It carries me to the gym, around the neighborhood on a sunny day, to work, to market, it allows me to hold my husband close and yesterday it got all the gorgeous herbs and vegetables planted for summer. It may not ever be "perfect" but it is beautiful.