Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Verbal Abuse

You look fat today. Look at those cottage cheese thighs. Ugh, bad hair and skin day! Those jeans make your ass look huge.  How could you have eaten all that food?  What a pig!

Can you imagine saying such things to someone you care about, perhaps your Mother or your best friend?  Can you imagine hearing those words flying at you from a trusted friend or family member?  No, of course not.  Yet we have no qualms about saying these things to ourselves every day or even multiple times during the day.  

Even if you're saying it to yourself, it is still considered verbal abuse.  This  pattern of behavior can seriously interfere with a person's healthy emotional development.  A single exposure to verbal abuse can be enough to negatively impact self-esteem, emotional well-being, and physical state.
I do it, I call myself greedy and lazy.  I often have a good moan about my loose skin (especially that on my upper arms) whenever I get the chance.  What about you, do you find yourself saying negative things when you're in the kitchen, in a restaurant or looking at yourself in the mirror?  It doesn't take many instances of this abuse before we start believing it and stop believing that we are worthy, beautiful, smart and caring people.  How can we care for others when we verbally abuse ourselves? 

It's time to stop verbally abusing ourselves and start building ourselves up. Positive self talk can work wonders, it can turn the day around.  There's this person I know on the Internet.  I follow her on Facebook and Twitter because every morning she greets the day in a positive way, it's a reminder to me and it always makes me smile.

Start your day with a positive thought about yourself.  Smile at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that your smile is gorgeous and only yours.  That your hair is shiny and looks fabulous.  Tell yourself that no matter what the day will bring, you will face it with that gorgeous smile and make the best of it.  Tell yourself that you are beautiful and that you are worthy.  Because you are!

Monday, March 28, 2011


I am having the time of my life with Mother and Auntie, it has been a most wonderful few days.  I've only left the kitchen to go shopping (my Mother is an Olympic Gold Medal winning shopper) and back in the kitchen again. 

The Ducks are off home tomorrow.  I'm itching to get to Zumba and lifting and back to my routine.  And of course, back to regular blogging and sharing with you fine people. I have some nice foodie pics along with my laments of feeling bloated.  Things will be back to baseline soon.  Bear with me and take good care!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bedroom Project: Complete!

I love to see before and after photos of a decorating project.  Here is the pink guest room before...

We bought a new bed and mattress, bought the little side table, moved in the chest of drawers that was in the other guest room closet, put up some shades and hung some art work.  I bought some pretty frames at Garden Ridge and filled them with floral pics I took around the property last spring.  I moved the bedding from the other guest room and here is the after...

It needs a mirror and a few more things up on the walls, but overall I'm very happy with the result.  A million thanks to my super-handy husband for doing all the heavy lifting while I was at work.

And here is the other guest room.  I couldn't resist the Laura Ashley quilt, so I bought it for this room, it goes so well with the paint color and we found the gorgeous wrought iron piece at Garden Ridge to act as a head board.

So I can check the bedroom projects off the to-do list, yay.  The Ducks just phoned and they are about 2 hours away.  I've got the set the bread maker up and fix some lunch for Rob and myself.  I can't wait to see those ladies!

Bonus pic: The azaleas popped and I can't stop peeking out the window at them.  They are a rather unassuming shrub for about 50 weeks of the year, but for two weeks every spring they are the most beautiful sight to behold.

Have an awesome day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What's Cooking?

A big pot of deliciousness, that's what!  Mother requested kale soup so I've got that bubbling away on the stove right now.  Mother and Auntie (The Ducks) arrive tomorrow and I'll be serving the soup for supper with some homemade bread. The soup is very easy and the epitome of nutritious and delicious; onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil until very soft and fragrant, a bit of hot Italian sausage meat, lots and lots of carrots, a container of Pomi strained tomatoes, 2 pounds of chopped, fresh kale, a couple of cans of cannellini beans and lots of rich, homemade chicken stock. 

It has been an insanely busy 5 or so days, working to get the guest rooms (pics forthcoming) and the rest of the house in order in addition to working and cooking.  I've been out food shopping today and now I'm doing food prep.  I admit it is my favorite part of the day, just working in the kitchen.  I've got St. Louis spareribs in the oven.  It's stage one of this 3 part recipe that I can't wait to try.  I will put the rub on them later and stash them in the fridge until Friday evening.  Then I'll sauce them and finish them on the grill.  I wanted to serve a southern meal, so ribs, collards and corn pudding are on the menu.

I've got to get back to work, I still need to give the downstairs a cleaning and get the rest of the groceries put away but here is a bit more food porn to share with you as promised...

Behold, a real Italian sausage from Santarpio's.  There isn't anything else like this anywhere in the world.  Hot, charred, piggy awesomeness with the vinegary cherry pepper juice squeezed over the top.  Wicked!

Garlicky greens and spicy brown rice, love it, ate it for three days in a row and now we're sick of it.  It reheats so well, making it perfect to take to work.

I love "boiled dinner" this time of year.  Savoy cabbage, rutabaga, carrots, baby gold potatoes and corned beef.  My sister suggested that I make extra veggies to make root vegetable hash, so I did.  And it was so good!

Chop up all the veggies and cook them in a hot skillet until golden brown and delicious.

Serve with two eggs and a slice of rye toast and you have an unexpectedly delicious lunch!

A favorite breakfast, some medium boiled eggs sprinkled with 21 seasoning salute and some fresh strawberries.  Can't wait until it's berry picking time!  This was followed by a couple of slices of toast and jam.  One of life's simplest yet most satisfying pleasures.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Drive by Monday Motivation

The closet of the guest room we are redecorating is where I keep all the travel stuff; suitcases, backpacks, carry-ons, bathroom and cosmetic bags and the like.  We travel a fair bit and it had gotten messier than I can stand.  Can't have a nicely appointed guest room with a pig-bomb of a closet!  I was just mid-flow cleaning, organizing and chucking  in there when I came across an old friend.  The airplane seat belt extender I had "lifted" from a United flight in 1999 so I could have one at all times and never again have to suffer the extreme humiliation of having to ask for one.

I haven't needed it since 2008 and it was buried in the bottom of a bag full of other bags, plastic bags, zipper bags.  (I descend from a long line of bag ladies, it seems.)  My first instinct was to save it (Fat Andra has been around my head a bit lately,) file it away "just in case."  But then I got a hold of myself.  There is no just in case.  There is no going back.  I made my peace and tossed it.  Bye now, b-bye, thanks for flying the friendly skies.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring!

I never thought it would get here.  I used to dread spring, having to shed dark, bulky clothes that cover a multitude of sins.  But these days I have become a true lover of all things spring and this weekend did not disappoint.  Warm sunny weather perfect for Crocs, no socks, shorts, light colors and open window.  And of course all the natural beauty that spring brings...

The Japanese magnolia in full swing, perfuming the air so sweetly.

The hostas are making their way out.

A sea of blue grape hyacinths are in full bloom, I love how they spread!

The azaleas are starting to pop, I hope they are full throttle when Mother and Auntie arrive on Thursday.


Did you happen to see the Super Full Moon last night?  It was so big, like Cosmo's Moon in Moonstruck! Rob and I took a late night walk to do some moon gazing and it was quite the sight.  The pictures just can't do it justice. 

Rob and I had a very productive weekend.  Both guestrooms are just about done, we ended up  moving some things around and both guestrooms have a fresh, new look.  I'm so excited, I can't wait to show you the pics once the final touches are applied.

 I've got the root veggies, Savoy cabbage and corned beef working in the slow cooker, I'll have some food porn to share later in the week.  Tomorrow morning is the deep clean.  Do you think if I put a feather duster under my pillow tonight, the cleaning fairy send me a maid for the week?  Probably not.  It's all good, a deep, vigorous cleaning is always a great workout!

I hope the kickoff of your spring has been fabulous!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

For Cash

I want to introduce you to my nephew Cash.  He is 4-years old, knows more about dinosaurs than any other person I have ever met and fancies himself Captain Hook.  In 2010, at the age of three, Cash was diagnosed with Type 1 (Juvenile) Diabetes.  

Cash will have to spend the rest of his life having his fingers stuck with small needles in order to have his blood sugar checked multiple times every single day.  He will have to weigh and measure every single meal and snack to track the carbohydrates he consumes to make sure he gets the right amount of insulin.  Cash will spend the rest of his life wearing an insulin injecting pump, which has to have the infusion set changed every three days or more often if the tubing clogs or the small needle that has to remain present in his skin at all times becomes dislodged.  The simplest stomach bug will send him to the emergency room for IV fluids, which happened when I was visiting.  This disease effects every person in the family and is present every minute of the day.  There is no break from Type 1 Diabetes and there is NO CURE.

While Type 1 is a genetic disorder, Type 2 Diabetes is often referred to as a "Lifestyle Disease."  But the complications of both diseases are very similar and very scary.  Some of the main causes of Type 2 Diabetes include sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet consisting of processed, packaged sugar, salt and fat laden convenience, fast, comfort foods and sugary drinks.  Genes can play a role in Type 2 Diabetes but for the most part it is PREVENTABLE and REVERSIBLE through a diet of fresh, whole, unprocessed foods and regular exercise. 

If you are on a lifestyle path that is leading you toward Type 2 Diabetes please stop and think about Cash.  You may have a choice in whether you get Diabetes.  My smart and beautiful nephew did not.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Left My Gumption in Boston

I'm having a tough time getting back into my healthy routine and can't seem to get enough rest. My trip, PMS and the time change has proven to be a triple blow.  I do love the longer days, though, so losing the hour is definitely worth it. 

Side note:  I was off wine and sugar and processed grains (for the most part) for the majority January and February and had no PMS to speak of.  A couple of weeks imbibing and indulging has led to a rip-roaring case of it.  Interesting!

It seems like I ate far too many sweets while I was away but I don't have the same appetite that I used to.  This is a good thing to note!  I ate more fruit and veggies than sweets, which is still funny to me.  I came home knowing my weight was up but all my jeans fit just right which is a very good gauge of maintenance.  It's the getting my butt moving that's the issue.  Warmer weather will definitely help remedy that and get me out walking around.  

I feel a little better just by having typed this out.  I must never underestimate the power of blogging/talking about what's really going on, that way I can figure out how to move ONWARD and UPWARD! 

I'm off to the market a little later to stock the pantry.  I'm making a boiled dinner, a small corned beef with a butt load of veggies...carrots, rutabaga, Brussels, tiny yellow taters and sweet potato and then I'll transform the leftover meat into Ruben sandwiches.  If I can find rye flour at the supermarket, I'm going to make the bread.  

I'm craving greens so hopefully they will have some good looking rainbow chard.  I'm going to make a spicy brown rice dish to go with the greens.  Just a rotisserie chicken on a big chopped salad tonight because Rob and I have some errands to run this evening.  

There are lots of things blooming around Shady Dame, so I have lots of pics to post and will have some food porn to share soon, too, so watch this space.

I'd love to hear from you:  What do you do when you aren't feeling motivated?  How do you keep a few day slump turning into an all out backslide?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Catching Up

We're back and we're live! 

It was a good two weeks with my sister but it's very discombobulated living someone else's schedule for such a length of time.  I will miss my sister and my nephews so much but it was wonderful to get back to Rob and Shady Dame.  I arrived back in Atlanta nice and early Saturday morning and though waking up at 4:30am is a killer, it's worth it.  I was home, food shopped, unpacked, laundry started, showered and relaxing by noon.  

I'm back at work tonight, Zumba tomorrow and slowly but surely getting recombobulated.   I've got menus to plan and a project to finish.  We're getting the second guest room ready as we are having guests arrive in less than two weeks.  My Mother and Auntie are driving in.  They're on a road trip through Florida (think Thelma and Louise for the over 60's) and will stop by here for a few days before heading back to Boston.

We bought a new bed for the room yesterday and I just ordered the prettiest little side table.  We need to pick up the blinds and I can't wait to go out shopping for bed linens.  I'll post pictures as soon as the project is completed.  It will feel very good to have that crossed off the New Year's list.

With that, I'm off to empty the dishwasher and get ready for work.  Have a wonderful Monday!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Top Kitchen Goodies

I love to cook and my kitchen is my favorite room of the house, here are a few things that I just couldn't do without...

1. My Jack Lalanne's Power Juicer   The reviews on Amazon are mixed but it's been great to work with.  If and when it goes, I may venture out and try another brand.  I love the look of the Breville models.

2. My food scale.  It's an indispensable tool for baking, when precision is needed and it keeps my portions of energy dense foods in check.

 3. My Microplane Grater/Zester.  You ever wonder why Giada DeLaurentiis looks so happy when she zests a lemon?  Because she's rich and famous lemon zest is awesome!  It adds flavor to just about anything without adding any fat, salt, sugar or calories.  And the aromatherapy benefits of zesting any citrus fruit are fantastic.

4. My mortar and pestle.  I always feel like the ladies from Practical Magic when I get my hands on this beauty.  I use it to make flavorful pastes with dry spices, fresh garlic and ginger when I cook Thai or Indian food.  It's also great for making homemade salad dressing, try garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and evoo and that salad will sing.

 5. My knives.  It took me a long time to realize that I only need 3 good knives in the kitchen,  a good quality chef's knife, a really good paring knife, and a serrated blade for slicing bread.  I picked up my Icel chef's knife at a local kitchen supply store.  It was worth the splurge.  I keep it sharp and use it every day.

  6. My 20 Oz. Blender Bottle.  This is a fun gadget.  I use it for my pre-workout protein shakes.  But you can use it to make salad dressing and pancake batter, too.  I toss in a some ice cubes with the protein powder and raw milk and out comes a creamy, frothy and filling shake.

7.  Zip N' Steam Bags.  It makes getting my veggies when I'm on the run so easy.

8.  Last but certainly not least is my Cute PDF Writer.  How does this help me in the kitchen?  Well, the Internet is a vast resource for recipes.  But how to organize and store all these recipes you want to try?  Bookmarking is unwieldy, printing is costly and copying and pasting is time consuming.  

Enter the Cute PDF Writer, which Rob found for me.  When I find a recipe I want to save, I hit "print" and use the PDF writer option instead of my printer.  It saves the recipe as a PDF file.  I have literally hundreds and hundreds of recipes that I've stockpiled over the years all organized in a recipe folder on my desktop.  It's easy to search and organize recipes this way.

I hope this list has been helpful to you.  What are your top kitchen gadgets?

Note~these are independent reviews and not paid promotions from the companies.  I am a member of the Amazon associates program, so if you click through my blog, I do get a small credit for that.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Costo for Healthy Options on a Budget

I've had a Costco membership for ages, but I had become disillusioned with Costco during my switch to a healthier lifestyle.  Such huge packages of processed quick meals, inferior produce and factory meat.  It just didn't jive with what I was learning and applying.  I would still go for toilet paper and the optical department but really didn't buy food there much anymore.  

But recently Costco has  stepped up their game.  The produce department has been expanded to include many exotic and organic options.  The meat department has started carrying organic whole chickens, parts and boneless skinless breasts.  Even my beloved Laughing Cow Light Swissn (four wheel pack for $7.99) and Pom Wonderful juice (1.77 liter for $9.99.)  At a big savings over not only Whole Foods, but Trader Joe's and the regular supermarket.

This is what I picked up on my last trip...
  • La Tortilla Factory Smart Carb whole grain tortillas (double pack of 16) for $5.39 
  • Fruit and nut trail mix (raw walnuts, raw almonds, toasted pistachios, cranberries), one pound bag for $9.29
  • Avocados, five huge for $4.99 (I paid $2 each at Whole Foods the previous week and they were much smaller.)
  • Bananas, 3 pound bag for $1.47
  • Mini-peppers, super sweet, one of my favorite snacks, two pounds for $3.99
  • One pound of triple washed organic baby spinach for $3.99
  • One pound of triple washed organic mixed baby salad greens for $4.29
  • Frozen organic broccoli florets, this stuff is so good, four pounds in a zip top bag for $5.99
  • Two pounds of Roma tomatoes for $4.99 (this was the stinker in the bunch, I know better than to buy tomatoes out of season but I couldn't resist.)
  • Three pound rotisserie chicken for $4.99
My total after tax, $50.57.  That's a lot for the money and everything other than the tomatoes was excellent quality!  If you're looking for ways to eat healthier that's wallet friendly, it seems that Costco is becoming very good option.

Do you have a membership to Costco ( or Sam's or BJ's)?  If so, is your local store staring to offer healthier options?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Zumba, Interview with Beth Elder

As you know, I've been taking Zumba for several months now.  I love it because, although it is wonderful for the body, it's more like a dance party than a workout.  I had the opportunity to interview my instructor, so let me introduce you to Beth...

When did you become interested in Zumba?
I got into Zumba when my gym (Wellstar Health Place) first introduced Latin Cardio class back in 2007.  It was taught by Claire Dunaway, the daughter of the former Mayor of Marietta.  In early 2008, she got her Zumba license and changed the name of the class to Zumba.  We started off in the small aerobic room upstairs, and it got so big, they had to move class downstairs to the big aerobic room.  The class is currently one of the biggest in Cobb Co. with nearly 80 participants every Monday and Thursday PM.
How long have you been instructing?
I got licensed to teach in September 2008.  During one of the Zumba classes at Health Place we had a substitute who didn't know all the dance moves.  She asked for experienced Zumba participants to come up front to help her teach.  I didn't want to go up, but the rest of the class kind of "pushed" me up there.  I had a blast!  It was then that I really started thinking about becoming an instructor.
What makes Zumba something that you are so passionate about and why is it such a great workout?
I used to be very devoted to the most intense kind of workouts like Kickboxing, Boot Camp and Kombat.  I used to go run about 7 miles around Kennesaw Mountain in the heat of the summer.  I thought the more red I get in the face, the more out of breath I get, the more I'm drenched in sweat, the more calories I will burn. 
When I started doing Zumba, I really had to start slow and simple, just doing the basic steps until I figured out how to advance the moves and wiggle my hips.  My Zumba workout began to get more intense, but not the same intensity as the extreme workouts I was so used to.  But you know what?! I saw results just the same without the feeling like I was going to die halfway through the class!  I would have so much fun shakin it, and performing the moves, class would just fly by leaving me wanting more.  I thought,"How can working out really be this much fun?"

How do you come up with new routines and music choices?
All the best Zumba instructors pay a monthly fee to Zumba to belong to ZIN (Zumba Instructor Network).  With this membership, I get new music every month and a DVD with new dances every other month.  I can choose to use these dances and tunes for my class, or just download my own.  I really like the Latin songs they send me because I know they've cleaned them - no bad language.  This is important to me.  While I cannot speak Spanish a lot of my clients can, and I don't want to offend anyone - especially since one of my biggest classes is in a church! ZIN gives me a great selection of Latin tunes for my traditional Zumba steps like the Salsa, Cha Cha and Samba.
I try to introduce one new song every week to keep my classes fresh and energizing.  For the very best Zumba experience, make sure your Instructor is a member of ZIN.  You can plug in their name under "find instructor" a  If their page is in color with a listing of classes they are ZIN.  If the page and name are in black and white, they are not ZIN.  Without the new songs coming every month, I'd be forced to do the same songs and dances over and over, and would have a very limited selection of Latin songs if any.

Why do you feel that exercise is crucial to a healthy lifestyle?
Diet is half of an important factor for a healthy lifestyle, but exercise is the other half.  You've got to be able to burn off the calories you're putting into your body each day.  If you are trying to lose weight, you've got to burn more calories every day than your body is taking in.  It's that simple!  Other pluses of regular exercise include increased energy, increased metabolism, reduced stress, cardiovascular benefits and decreased risk of cancer - just to name a few. 
I've been a regular exerciser ever since I graduated from college, and especially found it a crucial outlet I needed every day when I was a mother of 2 small children.  It's so exhausting getting up all hours of the night to nurse them and change diapers and when they get older - running after toddlers.  Exercise helped me to keep up the energy and stamina I needed to face every day with little ones.  Now that my kids are older (and so am I) I need the energy for being a personal taxi service and keeping up with all the sporting events. I've also noticed that as I age, my body wants to hold onto more weight , which is a natural part of aging, and exercise is as important as ever so I can fit into my clothes comfortably.

Tell us about your class schedule and location.
Te location of my Due West United Methodist Church class is 3956 Due West Rd. Marietta, GA 30064. The class costs just $3!  The church is made up of a campus of 3 buildings.  My class is in the old sanctuary in building "C" that sits directly on Due West Rd.  The sanctuary is octagonal in shape, and I usually have a bright green side directing you where to go.  Class begins at 9:30 AM and goes for one hour.  Please arrive 5 minutes early for your first time. There is FREE nursery care provided in the "A" building, which faces Burnt Hickory Rd. in the back of campus.  Entry is through the "cross and flame" doors (you'll see the actually painting of the cross and flame on these double doors).  The nursery workers are paid for by our church budget and no payment is necessary.
 I have 2 new classes also open to the public at Boots-Ward Recreation Center at Lost Mountain Park.  The address is:  4845 Dallas Hwy., Powder Springs, Ga 30127.   The classes are 5:45 PM on Tuesdays and 9:30 AM on Thursdays and cost $4.  There is no childcare at this location at this time, but am considering adding that for the summer classes.
I want to thank Beth for taking the time to answer my questions.  If you are local to Cobb County, GA, come and join in one of Beth's fantastic Zumba classes.  You can usually find me at the Tuesday morning class. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Guest Post: My Vegetarian Lifestyle

Many thanks to my friend Alicia for kindly offering to share her story about living life as a vegetarian.  I cannot wait to try the lovely recipe she shared...
I have been a vegetarian for as many years as I am old, which makes it over thirty. I didn't start out as a vegetarian because my parents chose it for me, or because of ethical reasons; I actually just hated the texture of meat. Throughout my childhood I was the only vegetarian I knew in a land of meat-and-potatoes meals. Additionally, I had the unique position of belonging to parents who were very enthusiastic about healthy living. I was surrounded by juicing (and 50lb boxes of fresh carrots), supplements, kombucha tea, cleanses, and a home gym that sprawled across over 75% of the basement of our house.

As with most teenagers, I had to find something to rebel against when I reached adolescence. I chose to rebel against healthy eating and made a concerted effort to infuse my diet with nothing but chips, soda, candy bars, cookies, and popcorn. I tried skipping meals, including breakfast, not to diet but because I had never before skipped a meal. The idea of skipping breakfast was completely unheard of in my family as well as ending the day with nothing in me but soda, chocolate, and Chee-tos.

It took some time, but ultimately I had to admit to myself—and my parents—that healthy eating had its benefits. I had far less energy and verve on a junk diet. I was sick more often, my skin wasn't as clear, my PMS was worse, and I got far more headaches. All of which had affected my schoolwork, activities, and especially dance—something I was strongly dedicated to.
As I grow older (and hopefully more wise,) I can see the value of healthy eating even more than I did so many years ago. In recent years I have found great joy in skimming through vegetarian recipes before visiting our local year-round farmer's market. Because I did not ever eat meat, I never gained a taste for it, and thus I tend to focus on recipes that do not include meat substitutes. They're all based on beans, grains, rice, spices, good cheeses, and of course vegetables and fruits.

I'd like to share a favorite side dish recipe of mine which was found on For the Love of Cooking: Baked Zucchini Sticks. These are perfect with an Italian-style meal and I tend to make these more often than garlic bread, which means I end the meal with less of a carb overload. For dipping, I just pour out a bit of my pasta sauce into a small glass bowl so that the flavors of that blend well with the main dish.
No matter your diet, vegetarian/vegan or not, I think it is so important to make healthy eating decisions. Without it, I would never be able to keep up with running my own business, taking four advanced ballet classes a week, chasing after an energetic two-year-old, and keeping the household in order. So, here's to healthy eating and healthy living!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Recipe Review from Reader Kaki

A few weeks ago, when the lovely Andra offered a copy of the Light Issue of Martha Stewart Everyday Food to a reader in exchange for cooking and blogging one of the recipes, I jumped at the offer. I’m not sure the blog had even been posted for twenty minutes before I responded, so I should probably start this guest blog post with an apology to all of the other readers I beat out with my quick commenting skills. I admit that being online all day, every day for my job probably gives me an unfair edge.

I was particularly interested in this challenge because I no longer allow myself to buy the tempting food porn that lives by the check-out lane at the grocery store. I’m trying to be a more conscious consumer on many levels, from food to clothing, and cutting out magazines was one of the first steps I took. However, I still love them. I can’t help it. They’re so gorgeous and inspirational! And one chock full of light and healthy recipes seemed like it would be a keeper – something that could live on the counter with my cookbooks and not just end up in recycling.

When the magazine arrived, I spent a good hour curled up with it, reading each recipe in its entirely to decide what I should make. Then I couldn’t decide, so I turned it over to my husband asked what he would like to eat. Finally, we picked a recipe from the Grocery Bag column (which gives a shopping list for the week with meals for each day). The meal we selected was Parmesan Chicken with Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts. We picked it because it looked quite easy, with no cooking techniques we haven’t mastered, and because it took relatively few ingredients, which made it a nice choice for shopping on a budget.

Parmesan Chicken with Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

-1/3 cup panko or plain dried bread crumbs
-1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1 ½ pounds of chicken tenders
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 teaspoon dried thyme
-coarse salt and pepper
-3/4 pounds crimini or button mushrooms, trimmed and halved (quartered if large)
-3/4 pound Brussels sprouts trimmed and halved (quartered if large)

Preheat oven to 450 with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a small bowl, mix together panko and Parmesan. In a 9x13 inch baking dish, toss chicken with 1 teaspoon oil and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Arrange chicken in a single layer and sprinkle with panko mixture. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and bake on upper rack until topping is golden brown and chicken is cooked through. 15 to 20 minutes.

 Meanwhile, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss the mushrooms and Brussels sprouts with 2 teaspoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast on lower rack until golden brown and tender when pierced with a knife. 20 minutes.

Here is where I confess that I am not a by-the-book cook. I use recipes as a jumping off place and tweak them to suit my tastes and the ingredients I have on hand. This recipe was no exception.

First, I used half the amount of chicken specified (3/4 a pound) since I was cooking for 2. Since I had a tub of Progresso Italian bread crumbs in the cupboard, I used them rather than buying panko. And finally, I found when I got out the ingredients that I was out of thyme – so playing on the Italian bread crumbs, I used oregano instead! Otherwise, I followed the recipe to the letter. (I made the whole bread crumb/Parmesan mixture rather than halving it. I had some left-over, but not as much as I would have expected.) I also dredged the chicken in the crumbs prior to sprinkling the mixture on top – that way both sides of my tenders had some coating on them.

The prep time took longer than the recipe specifies. I started rinsing and trimming the sprouts at 5:35 p.m. and my dinner did not hit the oven until 6:05 p.m. However, I will admit that I have terrible knife skills (so trimming took me longer than it should have) and that my husband and I were chatting and drinking celebratory  wine the entire time because I’d gotten exciting news that morning. (I was offered a job in Michigan in the town where my sister and her husband, who are expecting their first child, live!) I can see how someone less distracted and with better knife skills could get the prep work done much more quickly, but I still think 10 minutes is pushing it. 15-20 would be my realistic best guess, especially if you are grating the cheese. (I never buy pre-grated cheese. It’s usually $1-$2 more expensive per pound and often contains fillers and anti-caking agents that creep me out.)

The 20 minute cook time is quite accurate, and I loved that both pans could go in the oven at the same temperature at the same time. There’s nothing more irritating than having one dish get cold while another heats because the oven temp has to be changed!

My husband and I agreed in our overall verdict on this dish: It was good, but a bit bland and could benefit by some tweaking. (I have to admit that we like SPICE. I add hot sauce to macaroni and cheese! So, for people with intact taste buds, this recipe might be perfect as-is.) My husband ended up adding Sriracha sauce to his chicken, which I think might be a good pre-baking tweak. I might squeeze some on the chicken just prior to drizzling the oil, or possibly add some directly to the bread crumbs to make them into a paste prior to applying them. I could also just add red pepper flakes to the bread crumbs. Red pepper flakes jazz up anything!

The sprouts and mushrooms were less problematic in their degree of blandness. The sprouts that cooked right next to a mushroom were especially delicious, and mushrooms themselves were lovely. However, next time I think I’ll add some balsamic vinegar to them along with the oil. It should give just a tad more pop. I might also add in some minced garlic and/or more the ever popular red pepper flakes.

All-in-all this a recipe I’ll repeat – but with changes that make it my own!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Guest Post: Kelli's Story

Hi Readers!  My name is Kelli and I’m a new mom.  I had my first child in December of 2009 and joined Weight Watchers for the bazillionth time four weeks later.  But this time…it’s working!  I’ve lost over 70 pounds in the last 13 months and I’ve still got about 100 more to lose. 

So, what is different this time from all the other times I’ve tried to lose weight? I think it comes down to three things:
  • I changed my thoughts about food. I always thought the way to lose weight was to buy "diet" products. Now I realize the way to lose weight is to eat REAL FOOD.   I have upped my veggie and fruit intake by about 500% over the last year while reducing my packaged foods by about the same amount.  I’ve switched to whole grain everything and brown rice. I’ve reduced our meat consumption drastically.
  • My motivation has changed…I used to want to lose to look better. Now I want to lose so that I can truly live life and never miss a moment with my daughter.
  • I am learning to accept, expect, and embrace slow weight loss. 
I’d like elaborate on the third point.  In all the times I’ve done WW in the past I have quit long before getting to my goal.  Usually after a few months, in fact.  Why?  In all my other attempts I’ve sat down with a calculator and said “Ok, if I lose 2 pounds a week between now and XX date I will weigh XX pounds for this event.”  I’d get that weight in my mind as the goal weight for a friend’s wedding or Christmas or graduation.  As the weeks passed by and the date got closer I’d find myself getting further and further behind on the goal.  I’d recalculate and see that now I had to lose 3 pounds a week to get there and then more.  Eventually it would seem impossible, I’d declare myself a failure who could not lose weight, and I’d give up.

A few weeks back I was in a low spot and was bemoaning slow weight loss to my husband. He, in his infinite rationality said “yes…but half a pound a week is 26 pounds a year!”  I just looked at him and rolled my eyes.  That would mean 4 years to lose 100 pounds you know!  Someone like me has to lose MUCH faster than that or what’s the point?

But then I thought "what was I doing four years ago?"  It was early 2007.  I was planning a wedding, working a pretty high stress job, recovering from the holidays, etc.  And I weighed around 320 pounds.  So, if I had lost that measly 26 pounds a year that I scoffed at I would now weigh 216 pounds.  WOW!  Guess what, those four years passed and instead I weigh significantly more than 216 pounds.  So, who am I to turn down 26 pounds a year?  Let’s think, if I lost 26 pounds a year for the next four years where would I be in February 2015? 178 pounds.  And I’m pretty sure that the 2015 version of myself would be very thankful that I didn’t just throw in the towel because the weight was coming off too slow and instead embraced the half a pound a week. 

I am not saying that my goal is going to be only 0.5 pounds a week.  But, what I am saying is that expecting an average weight loss of 2 pounds a week is completely unfair.  It’s nearly impossible to maintain and it leaves us feeling like failures.  Instead maybe we should accept that success can be an average of 1 pound a week, 52 pounds a year.  It’s doable. 

Unlike a biggest loser contestant, most of us don’t get to put real life on hold while we attempt to lose weight.  We have to continue working, caring for our families, attending celebrations, dealing with home repairs, car repairs, illnesses and the like.  Life keeps on happening and doesn’t take any notice of the fact that we need to cook and pack every meal, make time for exercise, and drink all of our water.  There are going to be ups and downs.  There are going to be occasional gains and plateaus and slow weight loss periods.  There will also be times when life cooperates and we can make big steps in our progress.  It’s OK. In fact, if we take the time to really consider this, we should expect it! 

And finally…embrace.  This one may be harder.  We may be able to say to ourselves “fine, I can accept and expect it but I refuse to be happy about slow weight loss!”  But, there ARE benefits to losing slowly.  The biggest one in my mind is maintainability.  The changes I have to make to attain an average one pound a week weight loss are not hugely drastic.  They don’t require me to spend 20 hours a week at the gym.  They still allow me to enjoy an occasional splurge meal.  They do not require me to put my life on hold.  I can do them for the rest of my life. 

Other benefits include less unwanted attention from co-workers as you lose, a more spread out effect on your clothing budget, and possibly less loose skin. 

So, my challenge to all is to spend some time and think about where you were two, three, or even four years ago and ask yourself “where would I be if I had lost 26 pounds a year since then?” Let’s try to accept, expect, and embrace slow weight loss!

If you’d like to join me on my journey as I shed these last 100 pounds please join us over at I blog there with my best friend Michelle.

Thanks Andra for letting me guest post! What an honor!