Category Archives: BSI

Out of the Frozen Jungle…

We’ve nearly made it to Friday, and, as always, I’m so glad! The weather is supposed to be warm this weekend, and I can’t wait to get out in it!! Today was gloomy and rainy, and I was happy to be working from home. I started off in the exact same way I have every day this week– with this bowl:

Oat BranI had oat bran with banana, Jay Robb’s vanilla whey protein powder, maple syrup, berries and Dark Chocolate Dreams PB. I’m loving this bowl! I also had the last of my cherry tea with some milk and Torani. I’ve now finished one big canister of tea. I only have five to go…

I went to kickboxing today, and I had my usual pre-workout bowl of Greek yogurt. I’m so enamored with this combination!

Bliss in a Bowl!I love the mix of Fage with dalmatian fig and orange spread topped with chopped up vanilla roasted almonds. Oh my goodness. This is really one of my favorite things. I’ve also decided that it smells vaguely of cake. Weird? I’m down to the last of my fig and orange spread and I’m going to have to pick up some more ASAP!

The usual kickboxing instructor was out today, and the workout we got with her husband, the owner of the gym, was one of the toughest ever. To make matters even more challenging, there were only two of us in the class. I usually do my best to keep up, but I tried extra hard today. There was no place to hide! Needless to say, I was starving when I got home. I decided to have one of my favorite lunches. This could also be called “an ode to Trader Joe.”

Lunch!

I always keep some of Trader Joe’s frozen naan in the freezer in case I need an emergency pizza. I usually heat the naan in the oven for a couple of minutes, take it out, and then turn on the broiler. While the broiler is heating up, I top the naan with whatever sounds good. Today, I added some roasted vegetable tapenade, turkey pepperoni, and more of my awesome smoked mozzarella. I pop it under the broiler to melt the cheese, the edges of the naan crisp up and it’s just so good! I had it alongside a bowl of Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup. That is, hands down, my favorite non-homemade soup. The crispy edges of the naan are so perfect for dipping in the soup, and I always save a piece to wipe the bowl clean. I was a happy girl! I nibbled on a bit of chocolate after lunch and followed it up with a fudgy peanut butter vitatop:

Vita loveI never used to be a big chocolate fan, but here lately, I can’t get enough of the stuff! I started getting hungry about an hour before dinner time, and decided to dig into the depths of the freezer for one of my Very Strawberry Almond Butter Bars.

Very Strawberry Almond Butter BarI individually wrapped and froze about half the batch back when I made them for the BSI contest, and I’ve been neglecting them. In a semi-frozen state, they kind of remind me of refrigerator cookie dough that comes in a tube. Yum!! That brings me to this:

AAARGH!!A glimpse into my freezer reveals a place that is low on space, lacking in organization and full of all sorts of things. I’ve decided that one of my goals for April is to do something about this mess! Why should I keep buying new food, when there are so many things in here just waiting to be put to use? I may not be making as many new recipes, but I know I will still be eating well. Project “Clean Out the Freezer” got off to a pretty good start today. In addition to the berry bar, the naan and some frozen banana that went into my oat bran, I ate the last two of my Trader Joe’s turkey meatballs.

Din DinI also had some leftover Spiced Zucchini with Bulgur and a few leftover roasted green beans from the dinner I made last night. After that, I decided to really endure some suffering by cleaning a couple of other items out of the freezer. Wow. It was soooo hard!

Cookie LoveA good friend at work gave me a couple of these very cute shortbread cookies back around Valentine’s Day. I ate one then, and saved the other for later. I was so happy to have it this evening. It was so buttery and good and you can never go wrong with sprinkles!! Thanks, BDK!! I had some Edy’s Slow Churned Cookies and Creme ice cream along with it. Man, this freezer clean-out is tough. :-) After that, I finished off the evening with a little chocolate sampler:

Chocolate SamplerI got a little carried away in the chocolate section at Whole Foods the other day. That seems to happen now that I’ve changed my approach to eating. I parcel out my treats in a reasonable manner, but I certainly don’t skimp on variety. I was so amused by Berkshire Bark’s Pretzelogical bar, that I decided to try Midnight Harvest. It has some nuts and dried fruit in it, and it is quite good. I have to say, however, that the pretzelogical is still my absolute fave! I also wanted to try the dark chocolate Theo bar, and the Green & Black’s milk chocolate toffee bar. I realized that I don’t eat milk chocolate very often. It tasted so sweet to me! I think that having a little plate of chocolate like this one is a great way to satisfy my sweet tooth in the evening. Once I’ve fed the beast, I’ve noticed that I don’t snack nearly as much. There is much to be said for eating what you are really craving. It seems to be a better tactic in the long run. 

Sorry I’ve been a but lax about posting this week. Things have been busy, but good! I’ll try to do better. I promise! I also promise to keep you updated on the freezer progress. I’m a little bit scared about what might be hiding in there, but I guess there’s only one way to find out! 

Do you have an organized freezer with nice labels and orderly stacking… or does your freezer more closely resemble my frozen jungle? Sweetie Pie wants to know!

Speaking of busy, I need to take care of a few things so that I’ll be ready to hit the ground running in the morning. Before I go:

Check out this Zoe’s granola giveaway hosted by Lucky Tastebuds!

Congrats to Becca on making it through her first week at the CIA. She’s having a cool giveaway to celebrate. Check it out!

Have a great Friday!!! Ciao!

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Filed under BSI, Cookies, cooking, diet, Fitness, Food, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Loafing Around

Plays Well with Peanut Butter!Going back to work after a lazy weekend is always tough. It makes it a bit better when you have yummy eats to look forward to all day. Another thing that can vastly improve a Monday is finding out that you are the winner of the past week’s BSI contest! I was so excited and honored when I found out that my Very Strawberry Almond Butter Bars were declared the winning recipe this week. I know that the competition was tough. Thanks so much for hosting, Laura, and thanks for choosing my little bars!! Thanks to all of you for the positive comments on the post as well. I’m really enjoying the bars, and, if you decide to make up a batch, I hope you will enjoy them too! Don’t forget to check out Christina’s site, Dinner at Christina’s, to find out about the BSI for this week’s contest. I already peeked, and she chose a good one!

I had a yummy bar this morning, bulgur chili in my lunch, and I had last night’s loaf of bread waiting at home as an incentive to make it through the day. I love cooking all weekend long. It makes for a week of good eats!! I saved room to have a couple of slices of the bread after dinner with, well, what else?? Peanut butter! Last night I had the deconstructed PB&J you see above. Tonight, I had one slice with regular peanut butter and another with PB&Co Dark Chocolate Dreams. I just love having fresh bread, and this is an interesting loaf. As I mentioned, I’m trying to bump up the protein in my diet. I decided to make a simplification of a recipe from the same book I used for my “Big Batch” Bran Bread: Martha Rose Shulman’s Great Breads. This recipe is great because it has a ton of cottage cheese in it, and that gives it a little protein boost! The end result is a loaf with a nice crisp crust and a very moist interior.

PBs!!

The original recipe was for an herbed version of this bread. I’m sure it would be good, but I didn’t really want to be wedded to dill for an entire loaf, so I decided to leave out a few things and just make the basic bread. Here’s the recipe:
Yum!
     

Cottage Cheese Bread

adapted from Great Breads by Martha Rose Shulman

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar

1 3/4 cups 1% lowfat cottage cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup egg beaters, at room temperature

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup all purpose flour (plus extra if you are kneading by hand)

1/4 cup teff flour (you could use another flour or just use more all purpose flour if you don’t have teff)

nonstick cooking spray

 Directions:

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl (the mixing bowl if you are using a mixer), and stir in the agave nectar or honey. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, until creamy.

Press the cottage cheese through a sieve or give it a zip in the food processor. Stir it into the yeast mixture. Beat in the egg beaters, olive oil and baking soda. 

Combine the flours and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add all at once to the yeast mixture. Use a spoon to stir the flour into the liquids until the dry ingredients are moistened. Place the mixing bowl on the mixer stand, and, using the dough hook, mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Then increase to medium speed and mix for 8-10 minutes. The dough will be sticky. After kneading it in the mixer, it should be fairly smooth and elastic and should spring back when indented with the fingers.

If you choose to knead the dough by hand rather than with the mixer, you should incorporate the flour and then knead on a floured work surface for 10 minutes adding extra all purpose flour as needed, up to 1/2 a cup. If you are a points counter, you may want to keep track of the additional flour and refigure the points using the recipe builder.

Scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl and onto a lightly floured surface or a nonstick mat coated in nonstick cooking spray. Knead for a minute or so by hand. I sprayed my hands with cooking spray as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Form the dough into a loaf by flattening it into a rectangular shape and then folding it like a business letter, pinching the seems to seal. Tuck the ends toward the center and pinch to seal those seams as well. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make a loaf. 

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Place the loaf in the pan with the seam side down. I placed the loaf pan over my bread and then flipped the baking mat over rather than trying to lift the loaf off of the mat. Spray the top of the loaf with cooking spray.

Cover with a towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours, or until the top of the loaf curves above the side of the pan. 

About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with the rack in the middle.

Bake the loaf for 35 to 40 minutes, until it sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

This makes 12 unofficial 2 point slices or 24 unofficial 1 point slices (when made using teff flour and no additional all purpose flour)

I decided that I’d rather use a sieve for the cottage cheese than dirty up my food processor. It didn’t take me too long to press every last bit of this through the mesh.

Cottage Cheese in a SieveI can never resist taking a photo of the dry ingredients. I think they are so pretty. The darkest part is the teff flour. I bought a bag the other day, and I’m having fun mixing it in to all sorts of things. As I said above, you could just use 3/4 of a cup of all purpose flour instead of the AP flour and teff flour combo if you don’t have teff flour on hand. 
The Dry Team
I love using my dough hook, but kneading by hand obviously works well too. I’ve certainly made my share of bread without the luxury of a dough hook. A benefit of the mixer is that you don’t need to add as much extra flour in order to work with the dough. Extra flour adds calories, but also makes for a heavier bread in some cases. As you can see, this is a pretty sticky dough, and I’d rather let the mixer do the work than get my hands stuck in the middle of it.
You don't "knead" the mixer, but it makes it easier!
This bread is a bit easier than some because it only has to rise one time. I can never resist buying old pyrex with funky designs like the one on this loaf pan when I spot one at Goodwill. I just think they are fun! Here’s how it looks before it rises:
Before the Rising
 Here’s how it looks after it rises and right before it goes into the oven:
After the RisingOops! That one was a little blurry, but you get the point. Finally… here is the finished loaf!
Loafing Around
My workout was great last night, and it was nice to come home to a loaf of fresh bread and the aroma of baking. I think that there’s nothing like it! I see a lot of peanut butter toast in my near future, and I’m planning on making a special sandwich filler for tomorrow. That will have to wait for now… 
What would be on your ideal slice of toast??? Sweetie Pie wants to know!

Now that I’ve posted two bread recipes, I can honestly say that I think the bread recipes are the hardest to write. If you have any questions or find anything to be absolutely confusing, please let me know. 

Before I go, I want to tell you to check out Missy’s awesome granola giveaway at Missy Maintains in celebration of her new domain name. Check it out! 
Also, there is a fun British bar giveaway over at Thinspired. Happy Blogaversary!

I’m shooting for an early bedtime this evening, and I need to fix some of this bread up for the freezer before I crash so I guess I’d better get to it. Have a great evening, and don’t forget to check out this week’s BSI over at Dinner at Christina’s. Ciao!!

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Filed under Baking, Bread, BSI, diet, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Very Strawberry Almond Butter Snack Bars

Berry LusciousHappy Saturday evening! After last night’s evening out, I’m enjoying a quiet evening at home! I had fun at my friend’s birthday soiree, and, I have to say that the club offered some of the best people watching opportunities I’ve had in a long time. I’m certainly not the fashion police, but, let me just tell you that there were some sights to behold at the K Street Lounge. Wow! Men, is a BMW belt buckle really necessary? It may not send the message you’re hoping to send. 

Since I’m staying in tonight, I decided it was time to come up with my entry for this week’s BSI contest. BSI: Strawberry is being hosted by Laura at Hey What’s For Dinner Mom? I don’t know how I will fare in this week’s contest, but I think I came up with a winner nonetheless. I had several things in mind. First, I needed to use strawberries. That’s not a problem! I love them. Second, I’ve seen some amazing looking homemade almond butters on several websites lately, and I thought it might be fun to find a way to incorporate that as well. While catching up on some blogs this morning, I ran across a recipe for a tahini breakfast bar on Limes and Lycopene. I used the basic idea, but not the same ingredients. Here’s my recipe!

Very Strawberry Almond Butter Snack BarVery Strawberry Almond Butter Snack Bars

Ingredients:

The Goo

1/2 cup chopped dried dates

1/2 cup water

The Honey Berry Almond Butter

1/2 cup raw almonds, toasted

6 strawberries

2 Tbsp. Honey

The Dry Team

3/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/4 cup teff flour (or whole wheat flour)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (not in the shell)

1/2 cup dried fruit (I used a berry mix that had blueberries, cherries, cranberries and strawberries)

1 ounce dried strawberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Date Goo

Place the dates and water in a small pan. Bring to a low simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.

Strawberry Honey Almond Butter

Place toasted almonds in a food processor, and process until they become smooth and creamy. It only took about 3 minutes for this small amount in my machine, but it may take longer depending on your equipment. Be patient! It will eventually turn into a butter. After the almonds have become smooth and creamy, blend in the strawberries and honey. Add the cooled date goo and blend well.

The Final Mix

Combine the dry items in a medium sized bowl. Add the almond mixture and stir well making sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Press into the 9×9 inch baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Allow the bars to cool in the pan.

This makes 12 unofficial 3 point bars. 

The date goo isn’t pretty, but it makes good glue!

Date Goo

The almond butter looked so good with the honey and strawberries that it was hard not to abandon the project and go in search of a loaf of bread. Seriously. I’m going to have to mix up a batch of this to eat on its own. Who needs jam when you can blend the berries right in with the nut butter?

dscn2022Here’s what it looks like when date goo marries honey berry almond butter:

Date Goo + ButterOf course, I had to lick the food processor bowl, and I can attest that this would have been awesome on some bread too. Even so, I charged onward and mixed up my dry ingredients.

The Dry TeamI often have dried strawberries on my morning cereal, and when I was thinking of a way to get more berries into this bar, the dried version seemed like the perfect choice. Here’s the kind I used:

Just StrawberriesI love when berries smile! These really bumped up the berry in the bars, and gave them a nice splash of color too! After the dry ingredients were combined well, I added the almond butter goo mixture and stirred it all up.

The MixI pressed it in the pan and then popped it in the oven.

Pressed and ReadyThe bar you saw in the picture at the top of the recipe was consumed warm. After being taunted by the gorgeous ingredients, I was too impatient to let it cool! I can say that is was moist and chewy in its warm state, and I’m sure it would have come out of the pan more nicely if not for the steam coming out of it. Hee hee. I’ll probably check out a cool bar after I finish tonight’s post. :-) I must! It’s for science or… something. Anyway, I can say that the strawberry flavor really comes on strong with the mixture of fresh and dried berries. The pumpkin seeds add a nice pop of color and a pleasing little crunch. The nutty goo holds everything together nicely and is sweet, but not toooo sweet. I’m really happy with the way these turned out! I have a feeling that this is another of those basic recipes that I will be making with a number of variations in the days to come. 

I had a nice long workout this morning, and then took a stroll to Whole Foods to pick up a few little items. I used one of the coupons for free Oikos Greek yogurt that I received from the nice folks at Stonyfield Farm. I’m planning to try it tomorrow, and I’ll let you know how it goes. I also picked up a jalapeno pepper. I’m pondering this week’s big batch recipe, and I think that the jalapeno is going to play a role. We’ll see. Tomorrow should be a day full of yumminess! Right now, I hear a cool bar calling my name, and I need to go and silence it with my teeth!! :-)

I don’t usually make my own bars (although… after this batch…I may start…), but I do enjoy a number of different types that I pick up at the store. What’s your fave? 

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!! 

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Filed under Baking, BSI, diet, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Sunny Basil Orange Salad

Beautiful BasilHappy Humpday Night!! Only two more days until the weekend! I got my weekly produce box this evening, and it came complete with a beautiful bunch of basil. I hadn’t planned to make an attempt at a BSI recipe just yet, but I couldn’t help myself. I came up with a quick and easy salad that is light, bright and tasty! I had another dish in mind, and if I have time, I may give that a shot too. You can’t have too much basil! Here’s tonight’s creation and a BSI: basil entry:

Sunny Basil Orange SaladSunny Basil Orange Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 cup boiling water

1/4 cup loosely packed basil

1 Tbsp. Turbinado Sugar

2 Medium Carrots

Zest of one orange

2 Naval Oranges

1 Tbsp. basil, thinly sliced

Directions:

Making the Sugar Syrup:

Very roughly chop the 1/4 cup of basil. The goal is to bruise the leaves a bit but not create a bunch of little pieces that have to be picked out later. Four or five passes with your knife should be enough. Place the basil in a heat safe cup or bowl. Pour the boiling water over the basil, cover, and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Place the turbinado sugar in a small pot and add the basil and water. Give it a stir. Bring to a boil. Boil for 3-5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the sugar is dissolved. Scoot the basil to the side of the pot, separating it from the liquid. Allow the syrup to cool for five minutes.

Preparing the Carrots and Oranges:

Peel the carrots and grate them into a medium sized bowl. Remove the zest from one of the oranges and add that to the carrots. Cut the tops and bottoms off of the oranges, slide your knife down the sides to remove the peel, and then separate the sections of the orange from the membrane. Add the orange sections to the carrots and the zest. 

Putting it together:

Drizzle the sugar syrup over the carrot and orange mixture. Use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to press the excess liquid out of the basil and on to the carrot mixture. Sprinkle the tablespoon of sliced basil over the top. Allow the salad to stand for a bit so that the flavors can blend— at least 10 minutes.  

This makes 2 unofficial 1 point servings!

I love to infuse a syrup with the freshness of herbs. Yum! It’s kind of like making basil tea!

SteepingI used turbinado sugar, but plain sugar would work too if that is all you have on hand.

dscn1899

Make sure to squeeze the extra liquid out of the basil. It is nice and… basilly! You could use a strainer, but I thought it was easier just to scoot the basil to the edge of the pan. Plus, it dirtied up one less dish.

Syrup

Orange zest adds so much flavor without racking up the calories!

ZestyI had cara cara naval oranges from my produce box. I think this would be awesome made with red grapefruit too! I thought this orange was so pretty!

Cara CaraI love that this salad is so basic and has such a short ingredient list, but yet packs a huge punch! It’s light, refreshing and sunny!

Yum!I ended the day with this salad, but I started it by making tea… in my French press. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to make tea in my French press! I bought a ton of loose black teas from Adagio Teas awhile back, and I haven’t made much of a dent. I decided that, rather than buy more coffee, I would start having tea lattes in the morning and use up some of my surplus! I wanted to make enough to fill up my thermos and have some to sip on while getting ready this morning. The French press worked perfectly! Pay no attention to the dishwasher spot. Oops!

French Pressed Tea!This morning’s tea was a mix of black teas in chocolate, cherry and coconut. I added it to my usual half and half mix of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze and skim milk. I also added a splash of vanilla sugar free Torani. It was so yummy! I’m excited about making some more in the morning. I’m also excited to use up some of this tea and make some room in the pantry. 

Do you start your morning with tea or with coffee? Inquiring Sweetie Pie wants to know!

Before I go, I want to remind you about my CONTEST! You have until tomorrow night to comment on the post. Link back to that post if you have a blog or send me an e-mail for a second bonus entry. The snacks are ready and waiting to come to your door!!

I’m off to bed to read some more of Diet Girl’s book and sip some tea. Have a good night and a lovely Thursday!

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Filed under BSI, diet, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

“Big Batch” Bran Bread and BSI: Black Beans Winner

Sampling the Bran Bread

I was struggling with an idea for my big batch this week. When I thought about what I would really like to eat, I came up with a rather unusual answer for me: Bread. I wanted a nice, hearty, substantial bread that I could have in my lunches this week with hummus, with peanut butter, with a bit of cheese and veggies… I decided to break out of my usual big batch trend, which is to make something that is veggieriffic, and give in to the desire for freshly baked bread.

This led me to my cookbook shelf, and a long neglected book by Martha Rose Shulman. In the book, I found a recipe for Bran Bread that sounded like what I was looking for, and it fared pretty well when I calculated the points. Indeed, it is tasty, and I’m quite happy with it. 

I briefly owned a bread machine about ten years ago, but it seemed to have a death wish. One day I left it humming away on the counter, and it lost its balance. During a vigorous kneading cycle, it rocked its way to the edge of the cabinet and took a leap over the edge. It wasn’t a pretty sight. That’s when I resumed my job as the bread machine. That’s ok. I like breadmaking! If you’ve never made bread, I don’t think it is as hard as people sometimes make it out to be. If you have fresh yeast, and treat it nicely, you should end up with something good. It does take awhile and a bit of patience, but I usually find plenty of things to keep me busy while the dough is rising. Last night, I spent part of that time in the gym! 

There are lots of great recipes in this cookbook. I’m so glad that I pulled it off the shelf and spent some time flipping through it. It has been a long time! Here is my recipe based on the one in the book:

Bran Bread

Bran Bread from Great Breads by Martha Rose Shulman

Ingredients:

1 packet (about 2 teaspoons) of active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon honey

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup wheat bran

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 tsp. salt

1 1/2- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 1/2 cups in both my loaf and my points calculation)

Directions:

1. Combine the yeast and water in large mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve the yeast, then add the honey and let it sit for 10 minutes to allow it to become creamy.

2. Using an electric mixer: Combine bran, whole wheat flour, salt and 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour in a bowl and mix well.

After the yeast mixture has been sitting for 10 minutes, add the dry ingredients and the oil all at once. Mix together using the paddle attachment just until combined. Switch to the dough hook and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and continue to process using the dough hook for 8-10 minutes. If the dough seems wet and sticky, you may sprinkle in up to a cup of all purpose flour. (If you are counting points, do this by Tablespoons so that you can recalculate the points total. I didn’t need any additional flour.)

 Kneading by hand: (according to the cookbook) After the yeast mixture has been sitting for 10 minutes, fold the oil and the bran into the yeast mixture. Meanwhile, mix together the whole wheat flour and the salt in a medium bowl. Fold the whole wheat flour/salt mixture into the yeast mixture, one cup at a time. Then begin adding the 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour a little bit at a time and knead the dough right in the bowl, adding more flour as needed for 10 minutes. The dough will continue to be sticky.

3. Form the dough into a ball while it is still in the bowl.

Meanwhile, spray a very large bowl with cooking spray. If necessary, you may dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, wash and dry the mixing bowl, and put the dough back into the mixing bowl. Place the dough in the bowl coated with cooking spray, and spray the top of the dough with more cooking spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and leave it in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours or until doubled in bulk. A good way to check it is to press into the dough with your finger. If the indentation remains after a few minutes, your dough has probably risen enough.

4. After the dough has risen, flour your work surface and lightly spray your hands with cooking spray. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto your work surface and knead for 1 minute, adding cooking spray to your hands as necessary. Shape the dough into a ball.

5. Give your large bowl another spray of cooking spray and then place the dough back in the bowl and spray the top with cooking spray. Cover again with the plastic wrap and the towel and allow it to rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until nearly doubled in bulk again.

6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack in the middle about 30 minutes before the time that the dough should be finished rising. Place a small shallow pan of water in the back corner of the oven or on the bottom rack to create a bit of steam and allow the water to preheat along with the oven. 

7. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on a baking stone. Gently turn the dough out onto your baking sheet/stone and spray your hands with cooking spray. Use your hands to gently reshape the dough into a ball. Right before you put it in the oven, use kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to make a few slashes in the top of the loaf.

8. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the loaf has a hard crust and sounds hollow when tapped.

This makes 14 unofficial 2 point servings.

Photos of the process:

The yeast should start to bloom and look sort of creamy/cloudy. If it doesn’t, you may be using yeast that has lost its punch. This step is always a good way to make sure that your yeast is still good before you incorporate all of the other ingredients.

Testing out the yeastThe dry ingredients looked pretty, and I couldn’t resist snapping a photo!

The Dry TeamI used my mixer, although I’ve made plenty of bread kneading by hand so either way should work fine! I found this dough easy to work with and it nicely pulled away from the edges of the mixing bowl and formed itself into a ball. How cooperative!

Kneading by MixerAfter the 1st rise, the dough was kneaded for one minute and formed into this lovely ball:

Ready for the Second RiseAfter the second rise, the dough was shaped into a ball once more and then placed on my pizza stone for baking. If you don’t have a pizza stone, a baking sheet will work just fine! I will tell you that pizza stones are quite useful– even if you are simply heating up a frozen pizza!

Ready for the OvenAfter it was finished baking, I gave it a tap and it sounded hollow. It also had a hard and crisp crust on the outside. Done!! Wow, did my house smell goooood!! Of course, I had to sample it while it was warm. I added a bit of dalmatian fig and orange spread. It was YUMMY!!

Sampling the GoodsAs you can see, this is a pretty dense bread. The crust is nice and crispy and it toasted up nicely this morning for breakfast. I had some with a bit of peanut butter and a couple of scrambled egg whites on the side. It was hearty and cozy and lovely! 

A Closer LookI hope you will give it a try! Who needs fancy candles when you can make your home smell like fresh bread. Why doesn’t Yankee offer that scent?? 

Now! The moment you’ve all been waiting for (or scrolling quickly to reach…)

BSI!!!!!

I’m amazed at all of the awesome recipes submitted for this week’s BSI!! I picked black beans because they’re great for you, they’re inexpensive and easy to find, and I really love them!  Now I have a bunch of cool recipes using my favorite bean in a number of new ways!! I might be the real winner! Of course, all of the fabulous entries made it ridiculously hard to pick a black bean champ.

After consulting with a couple of friends and a giving it a lot of consideration, this week’s winner is: Becca at Bites of the Day with: Black Bean and Avocado Cornmeal Muffins. 

Becca’s muffins are chock full of delicious things (including yummy avocado), look beautiful and would be great on their own or alongside a bowl of soup or a pot of chili. Yum! Thanks again to everyone who entered. I’m sure I won’t be the only person enjoying the recipes you came up with in the future! Becca, I’ll be e-mailing you to find out where to send your prize! Congrats!!

That concludes my week of hosting the BSI, and I’m passing the torch to Spiceaholic over at One Bite at a Time. Her BSI entries the last couple of weeks have caught my eye, and I love the spicy dishes she features on her site. If you haven’t checked it out, now is your chance. I can’t wait to see what she picks as this week’s BSI and start planning my own entry!

Other Contest News:

Don’t forget about the contest I’m hosting to celebrate my 50th post! You can win two of my favorite yummy snacks that were previously featured in Friday weigh-in/featured snack posts. For information about how to enter, please go here.

We are having an exceptionally snowy day for the DC area. I hope you are warm and cozy wherever you are. I’m off to make cocoa and to decide what to have for lunch with my chunk of bread!! Have a great day!

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Filed under Baking, Bread, BSI, diet, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Colorful Swiss Chard and Four Sweet Angels

Colorful Swiss Chard

I can’t believe that the weekend is already half over! I’ve had a good one so far, but it has been a bit busy. As a result, I spent plenty of time cooking yesterday, but I have yet to tell you what I made. To make up for my tardiness, I have two really great recipes to share today. Then… I need to get busy making my “big batch” food for this week! I also need to remind you that today is the last day to submit your entries for this week’s BSI. If you haven’t checked out all of the awesome black bean recipes that have been submitted so far, you can do that by scrolling to the bottom of the post at this link. I’m very excited about all of the great dishes!

A friend of mine came over for dinner and a movie last night. This friend is usually pretty game to try out my healthy fare, and last night was no exception. I had some beautiful Swiss chard from last week’s Merry Produce Wednesday box, and I wanted to build a dish around that. I love goat cheese or blue cheese along with chard. There is something about the combination of the slightly tangy cheese with the earthy flavor of the chard that I just really love. I also love how pretty the chard is. As you can see in the picture at the top of the post, there are bright flashes of color amidst the green. It almost seems like something out of Dr. Seuss! It is really good for you, and very delicious in addition to being beautiful. Perfect! Here’s the recipe for the dish that we enjoyed last night. It was an easy one, and one that can be done in little more than the time it takes to boil the pasta!

Just Sweet Enough Swiss Chard Pasta Toss

Just Sweet Enough Swiss Chard Pasta Toss

Ingredients:

2 ounces of uncooked rotini (I used Barilla Plus in calculating points)

Water and salt (for boiling the pasta)

Nonstick Cooking Spray

1 Link of Hot Lean Italian Turkey Sausage

1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

2/3 pound of Swiss chard, stems thinly sliced and leafy parts chopped 

1/4 tsp. salt

2 1/2 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted

3 Tbsp. soft type goat cheese

Directions:

Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. When the pasta is cooked to your satisfaction, immediately drain it and set it aside. 

While the pasta is cooking, spray a skillet with nonstick cooking spray and place it over medium high heat. Brown the turkey sausage in the skillet, chopping it into small bits as it cooks. When the sausage is browned, add the chickpeas to the skillet and cook for an additional 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the sausage and chickpeas from the skillet.

Spray the skillet with nonstick cooking spray again, and place it on the stove at medium high heat. You could use olive oil, of course, but I was trying to save a point or two. I find that nonstick cooking spray works just fine. Add the Swiss chard to the skillet in batches until it all fits, stirring frequently. Add the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Allow the chard to wilt down and become tender. This will probably take four or five minutes, but you will know it is ready when it looks wilted, and has shrunk quite a bit in size.

When the chard is nicely wilted, add the sausage and garbanzo beans back to the skillet along with pasta and give it  stir. Heat through for about one minute.

Divide the mixture into two serving bowls, top each with half of the goat cheese, then sprinkle half of the pine nuts on top of each bowl. Enjoy!!

This makes 2 servings at 7 unofficial WW points each.

Lovely ChardI was very happy with this dish. There are so many flavors and textures at play, and I think they work together quite well. I also think that it is a good example of a dish where I used higher points value ingredients more sparingly (the pasta, sausage and pine nuts), and mixed them in with some lower points items (the chard, chickpeas and goat cheese) in a way that let me enjoy some of my favorite flavors, while having a filling dinner at the same time. I also think you can’t go wrong with toasted garbanzo beans, toasted pine nuts and goat cheese. Yum!

Dinner was really good, but I was most excited about dessert! Not surprising, right? After last week’s pavlovas, I was itching to make another favorite that involves nice fluffy egg whites– angel food cake. As usual, I was concerned about finding myself with an entire cake sitting on the cabinet that needed to be eaten, frozen or given away. I really don’t worry that I’m going to eat the whole cake myself. I’m careful with my daily points, and that isn’t much of a problem for me. I just hate getting to “Angel Food Cake: Day 12″ and having some really old cake that I hate to waste, but that isn’t really worth eating.

I decided to see if I could make a very small batch of angel food cake batter and bake them up cupcake style. I’m SO happy! I looked at a few different recipes on-line to get an idea of the basic cake ingredients, did some math, and tweaked things a bit. I ended up making a batch of nice fluffy angel food cupcakes, and my recipe just makes four!! I’m happy to report that, after last night’s dinner and movie watching, there were no survivors.

You might think it seems like a lot of trouble to go to for four cupcakes. You could certainly double, triple or quadruple the recipe if that’s the case. I find that my daily eating can’t keep up with my love of cooking so I don’t mind making small batches like this if it means that I get to avoid “Angel Food Cake: Day 12″ and enjoy some quality time with my Kitchen-aid. I think fresh baked goods are the best! So, without further adieu, I give you:

Sweet Angel

Just Sweet Enough Angels with Strawberries on Top

Ingredients For the Cupcakes:

1/4 cup cake flour

4 Tbsp. powdered sugar

3 egg whites at room temperature

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1/4 of a vanilla bean

3 Tbsp. sugar

Ingredients for the Glaze:

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. butter, melted

4 strawberries, cleaned and chopped

Directions for the Cupcakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place four paper cupcake wrappers on a baking sheet and set aside.

2.  Sift the cake flour and powdered sugar together into a bowl and set aside.

3. Beat the egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and the seeds scraped from the inside of the vanilla bean at high speed in an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

4. At the soft peak stage, continue beating the egg white mixture while adding the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until the mixture becomes firm and glossy.

5. Sift about half of the flour mixture over the egg whites and gently fold the flour in using a rubber spatula. Repeat with the remaining flour. Of course, it is important to be gentle in order to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites. 

6. This was the really fun part! Scoop the mixture into the four cupcake cups, and continue piling the batter on until it has been fairly evenly divided them. They are going to be very tall, and you may feel as though you are operating the soft serve machine at Dairy Queen. Trust me on this one.

7. Place the cupcakes in the oven and bake for 20-23 minutes or until the cakes are golden on top and spring back when pressed lightly with your finger. 

8. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack. 

Directions for the glaze:

Place the chopped strawberries in a small bowl and use a fork to mash them well. Then, sift the powdered sugar on to the berries, add the melted butter and stir it well. Divide the glaze among the four cooled cupcakes and allow it to set for 5-10 minutes. 

This makes 4 cupcakes at 3 unofficial Weight Watcher points each. 

Here are a few photos from the process. This is a picture of the batter piled up on top of the cupcake cups. It may look precarious, but it will work out just fine! It did make me hungry for soft serve. I love the little black flecks of vanilla bean!! So sweet!

Before the baking:

Soft Serve?

After…
After

Here are some before and after berry photos from the glaze making:

Beautiful Berries

Berry MashedOne more…

Glazed OverI thinned my glaze with a little orange juice this time, and it got a bit too thin. I think that it would have been fine without any extra liquid, so I’m not recommending that you add any. I just thought I should explain in case you find yourself with a thicker glaze than what you see in the photos. That’s a good thing if you do! 

I’m so excited about the cupcakes, and I’m already thinking of all sorts of variations that I can make in the future. Yum! There were just enough sweet little angels to satisfy my sweet tooth and my love of baking without leaving me with endless leftovers!! Yay!!

Before I go, I have a few contests to tell you about, including the one I’m hosting to celebrate my 50th post. If you are interested in entering to win some yummy snacks previously featured in my Friday weigh-in/snack posts, please go to the this link and follow the directions. Good luck!!

In addition, you should check out all of these great contests:

Jessica is giving away a very cute Kath Eat’s (KERF) t-shirt at Johnstone’s Vin Blanc

Lindsay is giving away some very awesome prizes (but you only have until 6 p.m. today to enter) at For the Love of Oats

Michelle is giving away Barney Butter (which I’ve been dying to try… don’t enter… I want to win!) at Lucky Taste Buds

and

Katie is giving away a whole BOX of Jocolat bars at Chocolate-Covered Katie

I’m going to get busy on this week’s “big batch” now, and I hope to tell you about it tomorrow. I think that carrots are going to be my featured ingredient, but we’ll see. Have a lovely Sunday!!

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Filed under Baking, BSI, Cooking Light, diet, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Friday Weigh-in, My Weekly Snack Idea, A Celebratory Contest and a BSI Reminder!

Laughing Cow Light Wedges and Wasa Crisps

Some title, right? I have a lot to tell you today! Make sure you check out my fun little announcement at the end of this post. First– the weekly snack. This week’s featured snack is one that I enjoy quite often: Laughing Cow Light wedges and Light Rye Wasa Crisps. My friends and I love Laughing Cow wedges so much that we have nicknamed them. One wedge, or one “moo ha ha” as we call it, is 1 Weight Watcher point. Two “moo ha has” will cost you 1.5 points. Don’t ask me why. I do enjoy WW math, and I’m not complaining!! “Moo ha has” are wedges of soft and spreadable cheesy goodness that go well with a host of things. They also come in a fun package! 

Today’s suggestion involves smearing some yummy “moo ha has” on some Light Rye Wasa Crisps. Again with the interesting WW math: a serving (2 crisps) is 1 point. A serving and a half (3 crisps)… is also 1 point. I like to have 3 crisps and 2 “moo ha has” for a lovely crispy and cheesy afternoon snack. If I don’t have an extra point to spare for the crisps, I eat my “moo ha has” on celery or grape tomatoes. 

Laughing Cow light wedges come in three different flavors: Light Swiss Original, Light Garlic and Herb, and Light French Onion. I love all three! You can see two types in the photo along with the crisps and my fun little piece of Laughing Cow paraphernalia. I spent some time in Portugal back in September, and I had the pleasure of grocery shopping while I was there. It’s always so much fun to check out grocery stores when I’m traveling! The supermarket where we bought our beach grub had a few little freebies for us. One of those items was a cute little insulated bag featuring my favorite cow with the Portuguese words for “the cow that laughed” (according to my free translator.) I knew that the bag was meant for me! 

I know that Laughing Cow wedges are pretty widely available since my mother is able to find them in my little hometown. I bought some Wasa crisps while I was home for the holidays, which makes me think that those aren’t too hard to find either. I’ve also had crisps of the same sort made by Ryvita and Kavli, and I enjoy them all pretty much equally. If you can’t find one brand, perhaps you can find another. Just make sure to check the points as all varieties are not created equal.

Ok, now on to the Friday business of telling you how my week went on Weight Watchers. First, my points stats:

Points Stats

Daily Points Target: 22

Weekly Points Remaining: 0/35

Activity Points Remaining: 24.5/27

I ate my weekly points, as usual, and had most of my activity points left at the end of the week. I think that’s pretty good and pretty typical.

Workout Schedule

Friday: off

Saturday: 65 minutes of cardio combo (elliptical, running and walking with incline on the treadmill, jump rope intervals and stairmaster) with 10 minutes of core exercise and stretching

Sunday: 45 minutes of strength training,35 minutes of cardio combo, 5 minutes of stretching

Monday: off

Tuesday:  45 minutes of strength training, 35 minutes cardio combo, 5 minutes of stretching

Wednesday:  60 minutes of kickboxing

Thursday: 65 minutes of cardio combo with 10 minutes of core exercise and stretching

Once again, this was a pretty typical week. Because I was sick for most of the week, I didn’t earn as many activity points as I sometimes do, but I was in the ballpark. Too bad you don’t get points for napping or blowing your nose! If you are wondering why I keep mentioning how “typical” the week was– keep reading.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have mentioned how stubborn the scale has been, and lamented the fact that I’ve been hovering around the same number for so long. I’ve been trying to rethink the way that I decide what to eat (or not to eat) during the course of a day, and I’m trying to decide how many more pounds I really want to lose. I have been thinking things through a lot, and I think I’m making some good progress. I don’t know if my body just decided it was time to let go or if it was responding to the positive changes occurring in my mindset. I also don’t discount the fact that I was fighting a cold. What I do know is that, following a pretty typical week, I had a very atypical week on the scale. Last week, I weighed in at 160.4. This week, I weighed in at 155.8 with a 4.6 pound loss!! Whatever the reason, I am, understandably, excited! This is a brand new number that I’ve never seen before. I also haven’t had such a large loss in quite some time. Will it stick? Time will tell. For now, I’m claiming it and doing a little happy dance!!

In other news, I’ve realized that this is my 50th post!!! I feel like I just started doing this yesterday! How is that possible? I’m having so much fun that time (and posts) are flying by. I decided that a little contest (my first ever) was in order to celebrate my 50th. Since this is a Friday snack post, I thought it only appropriate that I give the winner a couple of snacks featured in previous Friday snack posts. The winner of my little contest will receive a bag of Lesser Evil Black and White Kettlecorn and a bag of Gerbs pumpkin seeds in your choice of mild, spicy or lightly salted. 

Lesser Evil Black and White Kettle Corn

Pumpkin SeedsHow to Enter:

There are several ways to enter, but I’m sorry to say that this is only open to U.S. residents.

  1. You may enter by commenting on this blog post and answering the following question: When are you most likely to experience a snack attack?
  2. If you have a blog, you can earn a second entry by linking back to this post in your blog.
  3. If you do not have a blog, you can earn a second entry by sending an e-mail to melodylawgirl@yahoo.com with “50th Post Snack Giveaway” in the subject line.

On Friday, March 6th, I will randomly choose a winner. That’s right– a whole week (well…almost) to enter and to spread the word! All entries must be in by Thursday, March 5th at 11:59 PM EST. These snacks are yummy ones, and I hope you will be the winner!! Thanks for celebrating with me! 

In other important contest news, here is your BSI reminder!! BSI entries need to be in to me by midnight on Sunday, March 1st. This week’s featured ingredient is the lovely black bean. I hope you can find some time in your weekend to come up with an awesome creation!!

Alright, now it’s time to get on with the business of the weekend! I hope you will be having fun in your kitchen cooking up something good (with black beans, of course). I have some weekend kitchen plans of my own, and I can’t wait to share them with you over the next couple of days. Happy weekend!

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Filed under BSI, diet, Fitness, Food, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

A Balanced Day

Molasses Cookie Oat Bran with BerriesCould the reason for another “day in the life” type post be because it is Thursday? Could it be because I think it only fair to show you what I eat on a “non-routine day?” Could it be because taking photos of food is fun? Whatever the reason, I decided to go ahead and do another food journal post today. 

One thing I’ve realized lately is that I’m not making the most of the flexibility that Weight Watchers allows me. I can be strict to a point that is a bit ridiculous. I’m great at holding the reins tightly, or letting them go altogether. I’m not so good at trying to have a good balance between sticking to my plan and enjoying myself. On the one hand, I want to make progress with my weight loss. On the other hand, I don’t want to be so obsessive about every bite of food that I feel like I’m depriving myself. I think it is hard to find a middle ground for me, but I think I did a pretty good job today. 

I ate the bowl of oat bran at the top of the post before leaving for the conference this morning along with a cup of skim milk and coffee. I had my oat bran “molasses cookie style” with some fresh berries. It was filling and yummy and I knew it would help me to avoid any pastry temptations. Before we get to that, I’d just like to let you know that the National Potato Council was meeting next door to my conference. I considered crashing to see if they were munching on chips, but I’m not much of a troublemaker… most of the time.

National Potato CouncilOk– Back to the breakfast offerings. I was delighted to find this little chest of teas on the table alongside the inevitable pastries, bagels and sad looking fruit. I had about three cups of the green this morning. Yum!

Pretty Tea!On my first break, I did a little survey of the spread. There were various things that weren’t that appealing. There were also chocolate croissants and these little chocolate chip scones that were appealing. I didn’t plan on having anything, but, by the time I made it to the second break, I decided that I truly did want to try the scone (not just wanting it out of boredom… it looked good!) so I let myself have two bites. That was enough to satisfy my curiosity and my tastebuds, which, of course, helped me to avoid feeling deprived. So far so good. I wasn’t completely avoiding the food, but I was sampling it in a reasonable way.

Chocolate Chip SconeI mentioned last night that I was going to take snacks. I was also expecting a buffet for lunch since that was the situation last year. My “snacks” actually included a Dark Chocolate Dreams/Reduced Fat PB sandwich, which would have made for a filling enough lunch when supplemented with whatever healthy finds I could glean from the buffet. As it turns out, there is no buffet this year. Instead, I found my way to my seat and was greeted by this sort of strange salad, and my little dessert lying in wait. There was also a basket of rolls. Again, I thought about avoiding them completely, but the ones with the sunflower seeds just looked SO good! Sorry I didn’t snap a picture. I decided to skip the salad dressing, and have a roll. The roll was fine, but, after a couple of bites, I realized that it wasn’t really worth the points. It was kind of cold, and I left 3/4 of it on my plate. Again, I’m happy. I tried it. I didn’t feel deprived, but I did choose not to finish it. This seems like progress!

SaladAfter the odd salad and the roll, they brought out the main course. I’m sorry these pictures look so weird, but the light was not so great. Anyway, the main course was two chicken breasts on top of a pile of orzo with mushrooms, asparagus and some sort of buttery creamy sauce. I briefly considered running for the hills with my PB&J, but then I decided to just roll with the flow and not obsess. I scooted one of the chicken breasts off to the side, ate the other piece of chicken and decided that the orzo and mysterious sauce tasted good enough to eat. So I did. It was actually good, and the mushrooms and asparagus were quite tasty. I don’t think, however, that I needed two large pieces of chicken, so I’m happy that I left the one behind. Again… balance. 

Main EventAfter the chicken, it was time to eat the little tiramisu. It was so nice of them to provide a chocolate “tiramisu” label. It was not very big, which means it was about the right size for me. It was pretty good, not at all heavy, and I enjoyed it. 

DessertI used my on-line tracker to try to figure out how I did with my lunch/scone choices. As best I can tell, I think that I did ok. I was pretty proud of myself! I think another sign that I made decent choices was the fact that I was full until about 3:00. I get hungry around that time every day. It must be some longstanding “after school snack” thing buried deep in my brain. I decided to have a few of the snacks I’d brought so I had some baby carrots (I ate about 4 before I remembered to snap a picture) and some Trader Joe’s fibery cereal mixed with pumpkin seeds.

I also had water. Actually, I had a lot of water. My goal each day is to drink 100 ounces. I usually just fill my Nalgene bottle up 3 times and sip away. Today, I drank 8 of these little Fiji waters. The little bottles are cute, but I’m not a “little bottle” kind of girl when it comes to water. I felt a bit water greedy, but no one seemed to care. The great thing about drinking so much water is that it keeps you awake. It also gives you, ahem, a reason to get up and move around from time to time. Thank goodness for this big binder! I’m sure the information inside is totally helpful, but I appreciated it most for its ability to serve as a makeshift table.

3:00 Nibble timeFor dinner, I ate the PB&J that had spent the day in my purse along with some yummy grape tomatoes and celery. 

PB&J and FriendsI also realized that I hadn’t had my usual 2 servings of dairy. I did have 1 cup of regular skim milk in my coffee this morning, and there might have been some cheese in the mystery sauce at lunch, but I had some yogurt and little glass of milk just to cover my nutritional bases.

The CowI’m really glad that I decided to do a post like this one today. I needed to see this post for myself. I think that I did a pretty good job of rolling with the punches in a situation where I was faced with eating what was placed before me. Situations like that can really stress me out, and I will admit that I often avoid them. I also think I had a nice healthy approach when it came to eating only what I really wanted and only enough to fill me up. I really do want to get better at eating intuitively rather than eating in such a restricted way, and today seems like a day full of progress. I think I might just need to relax a bit. That doesn’t mean ditch my plan or eat anything and everything that I want. I just need to find some middle ground and a bit of balance.

In addition to feeling very good about the choices I made today, my cold seems to be a good bit better too. What a good day! I have much to be thankful for. Now, I’m off to the gym for my last pre-weigh-in workout. 

Before I go: BSI!!! Don’t forget to get your black bean entries in to me at melodylawgirl@yahoo.com. You have until Sunday night, the 1st, at midnight. I know you have a great black bean recipe just waiting to come to the party. I hope to hear from you soon!!

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Filed under BSI, diet, Food, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

A Tale of Two Pavlovas and a Day in the Life

Baklava Pavlova

Yesterday, I mentioned that I was excited about my pavlova plan for last night. It’s a little creation I like to call “Baklava Pavlova”… because that’s fun to say, and because it has the nut and honey combo that makes baklava so darn tasty! I mixed 1/2 a tsp of Tupelo honey with 2 Tbsp. of Greek yogurt to make the creamy topping, topped that with chopped cinnamon almonds, and then drizzled another 1/2 of a tsp of honey over the top. I think this one might have been my favorite of the four pavlovas, although tonight’s was pretty awesome too!!!

Since I have to sit through a lawyeriffic conference for the next two days (whilst trying to avoid munching on the breakfast and lunch buffets out of boredom…), I decided to just go ahead and do my weekly “day in the life” food journal post today. I was also working from home, which typically results in less interruptions. So, here it is…

Breakfast was a latte made with unsweetened vanilla almond breeze and a bit of sugar free Torani white chocolate syrup. Unsweetened vanilla almond breeze is, hands down, my favorite non-dairy milk. I really love the stuff! I also had a bowl of oat bran topped with five strawberries, 1/2 an ounce of chopped cinnamon almonds from Trader Joe’s and 1/2 of a Tbsp. of honey. I’m so excited about the oat bran purchase, and this bowl was delicious. Amazingly, it kept me full until lunch, and I didn’t need to go looking for an 11:00 snack.

BreakfastI love oat bran!! I’m also a big fan of anything involving honey and nuts. Speaking of honey, do you know the Van Morrison song, “Tupelo Honey?” I’m a fan of it. I was thinking of it when I chose the Tupelo honey over the other honeys at the store. If I need to laugh, I just listen to that song and focus on the back up singers. They make the song. Their part is hilarious. Speaking of focusing…. Sorry about that…. 

Oat Bran, Strawberries, Cinnamon Almonds and HoneyFor lunch, I made a salad with Boston butter lettuce, roma tomato, carrots, onions and celery and then topped it with my favorite creamy dressing. 

Hummussy SaladMy dressing is made of 1 Tbsp. of Greek yogurt, 2 Tbsp. of Forty Spices Hummus, and a little bit of salt and then thinned out with a bit of lemon juice. Since there are about a zillion flavors of hummus available, the possibilities for this dressing seem endless.

Hummus, Yogurt and Lemon... Yum!I also had a serving of my “Big Batch” Broccoli and White Bean Bake  and some leftover spinach and mushrooms topped with a bit of parmesan cheese. I think the casserole is getting better by the day, and I’m really loving the beans!

Broccoli and White Bean Bake

For lunch dessert, I had a bowl of TJ’s fruit and fiber cereal with some dried peaches and a little skim milk.

Lunch DessertTime sort of got away from me this afternoon. I spent a lot of the day on the phone with my boss and with the analysts I work with trying to get things squared away before my two day hiatus. At some point,  I realized that I was past due for a snack so I doubled up and had a bowl of fresh pineapple and a piece of peanut butter toast with sugar free jam.

PB&J Toast and PineappleAfter that, I had a vitatop…

Chocolate Vita TopThat was followed by one last snack before I went to kickboxing. Despite being sick, I’ve mostly kept up with my workout schedule. It has been tough to muster up the energy to go, but I find that I feel better afterwards. At the very least, my nose unstops for a little while. I went to class tonight since I can’t go tomorrow during lunch, and I needed something that would hold me past my usual dinnertime and through the class. Siggi’s Pomegranate and Passion Fruit (with its 16 grams of protein) was the winner along with some Fiber One. I tried the orange and ginger flavor last week and posted about it. I tried the blueberry yesterday, and really liked it. I’d been saving this one since it involved pomegranate (which I LOVE), thinking that it would be “blow my mind” good. Unfortunately, the passion fruit flavor is predominant, and, well, I don’t love passion fruit. I think that the orange and ginger is my fave, and I’ll definitely be stocking up on it and the blueberry in the future. 

Siggi'sAfter class, I made dinner: crispy kale and tacos made with 96/4 ground beef, Cabot 75% reduced fat sharp cheddar, Pepitos corn tortillas (2 for 1 point!), and some salsa. I love tex mex, and I can usually get a fix with something as basic as this.

Crispy Kale and TacosFinally…. Pavlova’s swan song. I ate the last of my four little pavlovas this evening. I’m going to be sad when I don’t have one to eat tomorrow night, but I’m determined not to get into a pavlova addiction/dessert rut. The last pavlova was topped with some fat free cool whip, a Tbsp. of Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter, and fresh strawberries. It was a pretty classic flavor combo with a bit of peanut buttery goodness mixed in, and it was yummy. I think that the Baklava Pavlova was my favorite, but this one is probably the runner up.

Pavlova's Swan Song

If you were dressing a pavlova, what would yours be wearing? 

I had a pretty yummy day!! Now I need to pack a bunch of snacks for tomorrow and head off to bed. These conferences always seem to involve buffets of pastries in the morning and buffets of mayonnaisey salads and cardboardy desserts at noon. I’m not planning to avoid the free food altogether. I just suspect that, if this is similar to other events I’ve attended, most of the food may not really be worth my points. That means I need to be prepared with things that I would prefer to eat so that I don’t eat the other junk out of boredom or hunger. I may sneak a few photos, and I will definitely tell you how it goes tomorrow including whether any of the food makes the cut and finds its way onto my plate!!

A few tidbits to wrap up:

Tina– you will be getting some interview questions from me tomorrow or Friday so get ready! I can’t wait to learn more about you!

BSI!!!

Don’t forget to submit your BSI entries to me at melodylawgirl@yahoo.com by midnight on Sunday, March 1st. This week is BSI: Black Beans. I’ve received one luscious looking entry so far, and updated the post so check it out!

Other Awesome Contests!!

Check out this awesome granola that Heather is giving away at Hangry Pants.

Also check out this fun giveaway going on at Mara’s site!

Goodnight, y’all!

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Filed under BSI, diet, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Pavlova’s First Encore and My First Blog Interview!!

 

Berry Strawberry Pavlova

As you can see above, my second little pavlova was wearing “Very Strawberry Couture” with accessories by “Fat Free Cool Whip” to dinner last night. I think she looked awesome in red, although I’ve come up with an idea for her “outfit” for tonight’s dinner that takes a bit of a different approach. I can’t wait to share it with you tomorrow!

I decided to take a little walk to the store yesterday for some berries to go on my pavlova, even though I was still not feeling 100% better. I can only stand to be cooped up for so long! I picked up a box of Yogi Cold Season Tea too, and I’ve been sipping it non-stop just because it is pleasant and somewhat soothing. I stayed home from work yesterday rather than share my germs with my colleagues, but I went in to the office today. I think it was a bad choice. The looks I got from my boss and colleagues confirmed it. I’m planning to work from home tomorrow, and I’m so thankful that I will not have to wake up in the morning and play the “do-I-go-in-or-do-I-stay-home?” game. This tea is a good one if you are feeling under the weather, so I thought I’d mention it. I hope, however, that you are feeling right as rain!

My Yogi

Now, that you’ve seen what pavlova is wearing, it is time for the interview! I’ve been pondering my answers to the great interview questions I received from Brandi at Branappetit. Thanks for the interview, Brandi! I’ve never been interviewed via blog before, so I’m excited! If you think you would like to be interviewed, please read the directions at the bottom of this post. It is my duty to pass the torch, and I might just pass it to you!

Here are Brandi’s questions and my answers:

1. What is your favorite thing about blogging? 

If I have to pick just one thing, I think my favorite thing has to be the sharing of information and ideas that goes on within the community. While cooking, writing and photography are all fun things to do, they aren’t nearly as much fun if I don’t share my recipes, thoughts and photos with others. I love presenting my ideas and thoughts and then seeing how people respond. There are so many awesome commenters and bloggers out there, and for every idea I share, I seem to receive twenty great new ideas and a well of endless creative inspiration for myself. 

Speaking of new ideas, I read about oat bran on several different sites recently (including Heather’s) , and decided to pick up a container of it yesterday while I was on my little shopping excursion. I had no idea what I was missing all this time! The nutritional profile is amazing, and the flavor and texture are so filling and comforting! A serving of the kind I bought is only 1 ww point (you get an insane amount of yummy goodness for 1 point!!!!), and it had plenty of protein and fiber to really get me through from breakfast until lunch. Oat bran has probably been laughing at me as I’ve reached for the oatmeal at Whole Foods for the past 5 years. Now– I know! I mixed up a bowl with Better ‘n Peanut Butter and jelly last night, and I had a bowl “molasses cookie style” for breakfast this morning. I’m hooked!

Oat Bran with PB&J

 

Molasses Cookie Style

Ok, now back to the questions…. sorry about the oat bran distraction…

2. When / how / why did you start your blog?

I just started blogging in January of this year, although I’ve tried it a couple of times before. This time, the experience has been completely different, and I’ve determined that I just wasn’t ready to share my story with the world up until now. I’ve lost 180 pounds in the last ten years, and I’ve certainly learned some things about food, exercise and my relationship with both of those things along the way. Over the past couple of years, I’ve started getting earnest questions from friends, family and co-workers about what I eat, how I’ve lost weight, how much I exercise and that sort of thing. I realized that people could benefit from what I’ve learned from my own challenges and struggles, and if I can use that knowledge to help other people, there might be some silver lining to what I went through when I was carrying around so many extra pounds. 

The funny thing to me is that I didn’t expect my blog to really be a “food blog,” but it has quickly and naturally evolved in that direction. I have to say that it makes perfect sense. I really am passionate about food! I started cooking when I was 8 or 9, and I’ve always loved it. As I have overhauled my eating habits, I’ve overhauled my cooking habits as well. Blogging has shown me that I really want to spend my time writing about all of the delicious foods that I enjoy rather than coming up with tips about things that you should avoid eating at all costs. As I strive for moderation, I know that there is room for everything. Hopefully, the positive feelings I have about the way that I eat come shining through. Food = good = yum! 

3. What is your favorite food?

My answer could probably change minute to minute, but the overall trend would be leaning in the direction of….

Cheese!…CHEESE! I love it. This was the cheese course at my birthday dinner at The Inn at Little Washington, and it was one of my very favorite parts of the meal! Runny, crumbly, spicy, mild, blue, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, cow’s milk…. I love me some cheese. I will admit, that there are a few types that are a bit too smelly for my nose to tolerate without concluding that something has gone awry (gotta love our natural defense mechanisms…), but I’m always willing to at least give the stinky ones a shot. I love a course like this with jam, nuts and dried fruit on the side. It is so elegant, simple and delightful!

4. What is your favorite thing to cook?

Great question! I love baking– muffins, cookies, breads, pies, tarts, cakes… you name it! There is something so magical to me about taking a lot of random ingredients, mixing them together and then finding that they have melded into one. They become transformed after spending a little time in the oven, and that magic never ever ceases to amaze me. I love the finished product, of course, but I truly love the process as well.

There is also something so cozy and inviting about a rack of freshly baked muffins or cookies or other baked yummies cooling on the counter. These are the kinds of things you enjoy while having coffee or tea with a friend. Growing up in a small town in the south, there were plenty of church potlucks, births, deaths and events that usually called for the sharing of food with friends and neighbors. I firmly believe that baked goods scream “we love y’all” louder than anything else. 

Here are some muffins I made recently. If you find some blueberries hanging out at your place, you should give this recipe a try. It is one of my favorites!

Muffins

5. What are 3 tips you can give to others that are losing weight or maintaining a weight loss?

This is such a great question.  Here are three things that I’ve learned that have kept me going, and that I believe will continue to help me on road to losing and maintaining.

1. Pick a strategy that you enjoy and can live with… forever!

I’ve seen some pretty weird diets over the years, and I don’t know how anyone can expect to do well over the long run on a diet where you are only allowed to eat grapefruit… or foods that start with the letter X or… [insert strange restriction here.] That’s just not normal or practical! The world is full of tasty food, and I want to be able to enjoy it! A balanced approach that allows me to have some flexibility, eat healthfully, and munch on an endless variety of foods is the only kind of approach that works for me, and, I’m convinced, it is the best type of approach for most people. 

 I know that I can’t expect to reach some magical goal weight and then ditch the eating habits that got me to that number without expecting to see the scale go back in the heavier direction. I like the foods I eat. I like them A LOT! I’m not sad in the morning that I am going to eat healthy food all day. If I really want a donut, I can have one. I adjust elsewhere. The point is, as cheesy as it sounds, my journey started as a diet and ended as a lifestyle change. The fact that I am happy with the way that I eat gives me confidence that I can maintain my current loss and lose a bit more if I choose to do so. 

2. Actively fight boredom!

I hate boredom when it comes to my food and my workouts! I think the easiest way for me to start to feel deprived is if I’m uninterested in the healthy foods I’m eating. By constantly seeking new things to try and new recipes for old favorites, I keep things interesting and stay content with my healthy fare. I’m convinced that this helps me to stay on track. 

By the same token, if I had to go and spend an hour on one machine in the gym every day, I’m sure that I would go crazy. My exercise schedule has sort of evolved in this way: I started out walking, then I added the elliptical. Soon after, I started running and doing a couple of strength training sessions each week. Following that, I bought a jump rope and a bicycle. My pink boxing gloves were soon to follow.

Hawaiian Punch?

My living room looks a bit like a sporting goods store and my kitchen is usually full to overflowing– thank goodness! I couldn’t be happier with all of the variety. I also just think it is good to try new things and move out of the good old comfort zone from time to time!

3. Set smaller achievable goals on the way to your ultimate goal and reward yourself for your successes.

One of the best ways I know to stay motivated while working hard to reach a long term goal is to set smaller goals along the way. By giving yourself attainable goals on the road to your ultimate achievement, you set yourself up for success. I find that success leads to motivation which leads to more success which leads to motivation… and… you get the point.

I celebrated many small victories (both on and off of the scale) while losing the 180 pounds I’ve lost. One of my first goals was to lose 15% of my body weight– a fairly large amount of weight. I decided that I would buy myself the little silver bead bracelet from Tiffany’s that I had wanted for some time when I reached that goal. Now, when I wear my shiny bracelet and feel it sliding around on my wrist, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. I wear it every day. I’ve also rewarded myself for reaching small goals with a variety of other things and experiences including new jeans, a heart rate monitor, workout clothes, pedicures, horseback riding, and, most recently, a new chrome trash can for my kitchen! I think it really makes a difference to have a prize in mind, even though I wouldn’t take any of those things over the joy I have with my new healthier body!

The other thing I wanted to mention is that this doesn’t have to be a reward tied to the scale. If you are struggling to get to the gym, set a goal you can reasonably achieve like: I’ll go to the gym three times this week. Decide on a reward for yourself if you reach your goal like… downloading three new workout songs from iTunes. I think if you find something to celebrate every day, you will inspire yourself to great things!

Well, I guess that’s about it for me. Brandi, that was a lot of fun. Thanks so much for sending me such awesome questions!!

If you are interested in being interviewed by me:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”  If a few people want
interviews, I will randomly pick 2.
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the
questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others
in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them
five questions.

I’m excited! If you want to be interviewed, you know what to do!

One more thing, and then I’m going to make dinner (tacos… yum!):

BSI!!!!! Don’t forget that I’m hosting this week’s BSI: Black Beans.  You have until midnight on Sunday the first to submit your original recipes to me!! I do hope you will participate. I’m excited to see everyone’s dishes!

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Filed under BSI, Cooking Light, diet, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers