Monthly Archives: February 2009

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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Pretty Pavlova’s and This Week’s BSI!!

Pineapple Topped Pavlova

As I mentioned earlier, I went to see Swan Lake on Friday evening and was distracted by thoughts of fluffy meringues as I watched the graceful “swans” flitting about on the stage in their meringue-y white costumes. I felt inspired to whip up some sort of fluffy creation at home. After giving it a bit of thought, I realized that I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than mini-pavlovas. After all, they are named after the famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. Apparently, I’m not the only one who ponders meringue while sitting at the ballet.

I made individual sized pavlovas, and since I have four pavlovas, I get to come up with four different ways to top them! Fun! The recipe for the pavlovas is naturally weight watcher friendly, so there was not even any tweaking required. Pavlovas are typically topped with fresh berries or some other fresh fruit and perhaps a bit of whipped cream. You could obviously “spend” as many or as few points on the toppings as you would like.

Last night’s choice of toppings was based on what I had on hand. I’m still feeling under the weather, and the weather is still freezing. That means that I’m averse to going outside unless it is absolutely necessary. Ideally, I would have liked blueberries and strawberries on top, but I ate all my blueberries with my yogurt last week. Among the choices in the kitchen, fresh pineapple seemed like the best idea. I did toss a bit of berry jam on top just for a little berry hit.  There is also a layer of fat free cool whip on there but you could obviously whip up some fabulously flavored cream of your own or leave it off altogether. You can top these however you want. Seriously. Trust me when I tell you, ahem, that the pavlova tastes pretty good naked too. Oh, and… did someone say… Nutella?

The recipe is a classic and is pretty basic. My version is based on a variety of sources. The one I found most useful, however, was this one at Dog Hill Kitchen. 

Pretty Pavlova with Pineapple and Berry Jam

Mini-Pavlovas

Ingredients:

2 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar (processed in the food processor to make the sugar finer, but not a powder)

1/2 tsp. vinegar (I used white balsamic fig vinegar)

1/2 tsp. cornstarch

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Beat egg whites in mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.

Add sugar to egg whites one Tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.

Continue beating until you can’t detect sugar crystals when you check it with your fingers.

Spoon meringue mixture into four mounds on a parchment covered baking sheet, placing a small depression in the middle of each mound.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn oven off, crack door open and allow pavlovas to cool until they can be handled.

Fill them with your choice of toppings. I filled last night’s pavlova with pineapple, berry jam and fat free Cool Whip. It was a lovely and light combination. 

Unused pavlovas can be stored in an airtight container for a couple of days, but should be kept out of humid areas. 

Each unfilled pavlova is 2 unofficial weight watcher points. The total for the dessert will depend on your choice of toppings.

Here are a few photos I snapped during the process including a before and after. As you see, the pavlovas are white when they go into the oven, but they turn a lovely creamy color as they cook.

Grinding the Sugar

 

Whip it. Whip it good!

 

Before

 

After

I can’t even begin to tell you how these hit the spot! The pineapple turned out to be a great choice as the fruit was fresh and flavorful, and the pavlova was delightfully crispy yet chewy in the center. AAaaaaahhhh. I can’t wait until I have another one this evening! I’m positive that I’m going to be making these quite often now that I know just how easy they are to make.

In other news, I’m so excited that Beadie has asked me to host this week’s BSI contest!! One of the best things about my blogging experience so far has been meeting so many new people who are passionate about healthy eating, and hearing about the wonderful things they cook in their kitchens. Sarah’s winning Kale Crust Pizza,from last week’s BSI: Kale, is a recipe I’m going to have to try! What a clever use of the BSI!

I can’t wait to see what y’all come up with using the ingredient I’ve selected as the blogger’s secret ingredient for this week’s contest. Are you ready? This week is the week of……… BSI: Black Beans!

They are humble and inexpensive nutritional powerhouses, and, as I find myself eating less and less meat these days, I’ve started incorporating beans into more and more of my recipes. I particularly love the look and flavor of black beans so they were an easy choice for this week’s ingredient. If you are interested in knowing more about black beans, please click on this link to see the information provided on the “World’s Healthiest Food’s” site. Here are a few little facts from their entry about black beans:

  • They are commonly referred to as turtle beans, probably in reference to their shiny, dark, shell-like appearance. 
  • Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry indicates that black beans are as rich in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins as grapes and cranberries, fruits long considered antioxidant superstars.
  • These smoky flavored beans are a good source of protein, and when combined with a whole grain such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice, provide protein comparable to that of meat or dairy foods without the high calories or saturated fat found in these foods. 
  • Black beans are a good source of the trace mineral manganese, which is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. 

Black Beans

Molybdenum… yum! I think the part about the antioxidants is especially cool! Aside from the fact that they are all yummy, what do black beans, grapes and cranberries have in common? Now you know the answer!

There are two ways to enter this week’s BSI contest. 

  1. E-mail a photo of your entry and your original recipe using black beans to me at melodylawgirl@yahoo.com or
  2. Post the recipe on your blog and e-mail me the link.

I’m looking forward to reading about your creative uses of this common little bean! The deadline to enter is midnight on Sunday evening, March 1st. You could be the first BSI winner in the month of March! This week’s BSI contest winner will receive a batch of my molasses crinkle cookies, a selection of my favorite teas and probably a couple of other goodies as well! 

I will be updating this blog post with links as I receive entries, so please check back often to see what people have been cooking up. I can’t wait to see everyone’s yummy dishes!!

This Week’s Entries:

Maggie at Dog Hill Kitchen: Black Bean “Tacos” with Smoked Paprika Shiitake Mushrooms

Erin at Life is Yumbo: Black Bean and Oat Burgers

Jessica at Johnstone’s Vin Blanc: Black Bean Brownies

Brandi at Bran Appétit: Cuban Pork & POM Black Beans

Mara at What’s For Dinner: Latin-Inspired Black Bean Chicken

Spiceaholic at One Bite at a Time: Spiced Black Bean and Potato Cakes

Hallie at Healthy Twists: Fish Tacos with Black-Bean Salsa

Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point: Black Bean Quiche

Ruth at Plentiful Plants: Black Bean Pasta

Sarah at Tales of Expansion: Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Black Bean Salmon-Patties

Beadie at What I Ate Yesterday: BBQ Black Bean Quesadillas

Emily at Super Caloric Chalk Dust: Stuffed Peppers

Becca at Bites of the Day: Black Bean Flatbread

THE WINNER!! Becca at Bites of the Day: Black Bean and Avocado Cornmeal Muffins

Sophia at Burp and Slurp: Black Bean and Pumpkin Pancakes with Coconut

Sophia at Burp and Slurp: Black Bean-Brownie Spread

Sophia at Burp and Slurp: Spicy Black Bean and Pumpkin Pancakes

Biz at Biggest Diabetic Loser: Chipotle Pepper Black Bean Potato Salad

Christina at Dinner at Christina’s: Rice and Beans

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“Big Batch” Broccoli and White Bean Bake

"Big Batch" Broccoli and White Bean Bake

It’s Sunday, and I’ve got a bit of a cold so I’m not feeling my best today. I’ve had a pretty healthy winter, so I guess I shouldn’t complain! Even though I’m feeling a bit under the weather, the work week is still looming, and it is time for me to make my weekly “big batch” food to have in my lunches. Often, when “big batch” day comes along, I go into the kitchen and do a little produce inventory. I hardly ever find myself running out to the store so that I can make a particular recipe. I usually just identify whatever items need to be used and then look for inspiration.

Last week, I ordered extra broccoli in my “Merry Produce Wednesday” box. If, by the way, you have found your way to my site thanks to the great newsletter prepared by Lisa at Washington’s Green Grocer, welcome to you!!! I’m glad you’re here!

Broccoli

I had a ton of broccoli, and I wanted to plan a dish around it. I considered making a lightened up broccoli cheese soup, but I enjoyed last week’s mushroom casserole so much that I decided to try something similar to that again this week. I wanted a casserole with a lot of flavor, a decent amount of protein and a hint of cheesy goodness. This is what I came up with:

“Big Batch” Broccoli and White Bean Bake

Ingredients:

Nonstick Cooking Spray

Salt (for sprinkling on broccoli and salting the pasta water)

1/2 pound broccoli, cleaned and prepped (stems peeled and sliced, florets broken apart)

4 ounces uncooked whole wheat elbow pasta (I used Barilla Plus elbows in my points calculation)

1/2 tsp. olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 tsp. dried thyme

1 egg

1 egg white

1 cup 1% lowfat cottage cheese

1/2 cup light sour cream

2 tsp. dijon mustard

3/4 tsp. salt

1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

4 ounces reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, diced rather small (I used Cabot 75% reduced fat sharp cheddar in my points calculation)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Roasting the Broccoli:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a pot of water on the stove to heat to a boil for the pasta.

Spray two baking sheets well with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange broccoli florets and sliced stems on baking sheets in a single layer. Spray the broccoli with cooking spray and then sprinkle it with a bit of salt. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. After the broccoli has cooled a bit, place it on the cutting board and give it a rough chop.

Cooking the pasta:

Cook pasta according to package directions, and be sure to liberally salt the pasta water. When pasta is done, drain the water and set the pasta aside.

Sauteeing the Onions and Garlic:

While pasta and broccoli are cooking, Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for 7 minutes. Add dried thyme to the skillet and saute for one more minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Combining the ingredients:

In a large bowl, beat the egg and egg white well. Add the cottage cheese, sour cream, dijon mustard and 3/4 tsp. salt. Mix thoroughly. Add the white beans, pasta, onion mixture and chunks of cheddar to the bowl and fold all ingredients in well. Add the broccoli, and stir it in combining all ingredients and making sure that everything is coated in the egg mixture. 

Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the broccoli mixture into the baking pan and smooth it out evenly. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the casserole from the oven, remove the aluminum foil, top with the parmesan cheese and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes until cheese is melted and edges are browned.

If you are a Weight Watcher, this makes 8 unofficial 4 point servings using the Barilla pasta and the Cabot cheese. You can certainly use other brands, but you may wish to recalculate the points. 

I find that one of the easiest ways to cook with less fat and calories is to really infuse each component of a dish like this one with flavor. That’s why I suggest roasting the broccoli rather than steaming or boiling it. It’s easy, and it gives the broccoli a lot of flavor that really punches up the taste factor in the casserole. I often roast my broccoli this way and have it as a side dish. Those little browned crispy bits make me happy!

I hate wasting food, so I always use the stems of my broccoli. I remove the tough outer skin with my vegetable peeler and then slice the tender flesh that lurks under that tough exterior.

Roasted BroccoliI’m not a big pasta eater at all, but, as I said, I’m not feeling great today and pasta is comforting. I find that I don’t need a lot of pasta in a dish like this, so I only included a rather modest amount. There are so many yummy things in here, that I didn’t see any reason to weigh it all down with a pasta majority. When you are using a small amount of pasta, a small pasta like these elbows is perfect because a handful of them can infiltrate a pretty big space. Salting the pasta water well will give the little elbows a good amount of flavor, so don’t forget the salt!

Barilla Plus Elbows

I decided to chop the cheese into little bitty cubes, rather than shredding or grating it, because I feel like it is less likely to get “lost” if I incorporate slightly larger pieces. I want to know that the cheese is in there, but I don’t want to have to use too much of it to accomplish that. If you can’t find the Cabot cheese I used where you live, no worries. You can use another cheese. Just try to find a reduced fat cheddar that is sharp or extra sharp, as the sharper cheese will provide more flavor in a smaller quantity. If you choose to use the pre-shredded type, it will be perfectly fine. I just think the little cubes are slightly better.

Cheese!

I added Dijon mustard to the “glue” mixture, because I find that a little bit of mustard really enhances the flavor of cheese.

GlueYou can see the bits of thyme used to infuse the onion and garlic mixture in here as well as the beans, which give this a creamy texture while adding fiber and protein. Win win! I used cannellini beans, but any small white bean will work just fine.

Ready to get cookin'!Cooking the casserole covered for half the time and then cooking uncovered after adding the cheese is another good way to enhance the presence of the cheese. Parmesan is a great topper because of its strong flavor. Here’s what the finished casserole looked like in the pan:

Done!

Now, I’m all set with something hearty and healthy to have for my lunches this week. I’m going to be eating luncheon food (plus my own snacks I’m sure…) on Thursday and Friday at an ABA conference, so I think I’m going to put a few servings of this casserole in the freezer. I love using the freezer! I’d much rather pull out a container of this than a sad store bought microwave dinner any day!

They say that as long as you are only sick from the neck up it is ok to work-out. I’ve found that sometimes it even makes me feel better. I’m going to finish polishing off my piece of casserole and then head to the gym. We’ll see how it goes. If it isn’t going well, I’ll abandon the effort in favor of a cup of tea. Hopefully, that won’t be the case.  

I hope you try this recipe (let me know if you do!!), and I hope you have a great week!!

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Crispy Kale Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Pomegranate Drizzle

Good to the last bite!

I’ve found so many inspiring, entertaining and creative blogs since I started writing my own. I’m amazed at the number of people who love food as much as I do!! While reading one blog that I particularly enjoy, What I Ate Yesterday, I learned about a weekly contest where a secret ingredient is chosen by a host blogger, and then other bloggers are given the opportunity to submit recipes using that ingredient. It just so happens that this week’s secret ingredient is kale, which is one of my favorite greens! Of course, I couldn’t resist entering. I know I’m kind of new to the party, so I hope they don’t mind!

The recipe I came up with uses my favorite technique for cooking veggies: oven roasting. Oven roasted kale? You bet! A few years ago, I had a meal at Rasika, a restaurant in DC, and one of the appetizers involved crispy fried spinach topped with a little bit of creamy dressing. It was so good!  It had never occurred to me to have crispy greens! Mine were always slow cooked or wilted down in a skillet.

Since I’m not really one to fry things in vats of oil, I was looking for another way to get nice crispy greens. The answer, as usual, involved some oven roasting. As for the salad toppings, I was thinking of what would go well with the slight bite of kale, and sweet and tangy pomegranate seeds seemed like a good choice. I’m trying to eat as many pomegranate seeds as I can before they disappear until next season! I had the pomegranate molasses from a previous cooking adventure, and it was just the thing to add some sweetness and tang to my little drizzle. Finally, I always love toasted nuts in my salads, and I decided that while I was having a bowlful of super foods, I might as well have some toasted walnuts on the top!

Crispy Kale Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Pomegranate Drizzle

Crispy Kale Salad with Walnuts and Pomegranate Drizzle

Ingredients:

1/2 pound kale, rinsed and patted dry

2 tsp. olive oil

Cooking spray

1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt (or 1/8 tsp. regular table salt)

1/4 cup Fage 0% nonfat Greek yogurt

4 tsp. pomegranate molasses

4 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds

2 Tbsp. walnuts, toasted and chopped

Directions:

Cooking the Kale

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking sheet well with nonstick cooking spray. After washing and patting the kale dry, remove the tough stems and tear kale into medium sized pieces. Toss the kale on the baking sheet, and drizzle with 2 tsp. of olive oil. After adding the oil, spray the kale with more nonstick cooking spray. Use your hands to mix the kale around on the baking sheet making sure it is coated in the cooking spray and olive oil.

Massaging the Kale

It is ok if the kale isn’t in a single layer as it is going to cook down rather quickly. Pop the baking sheet in the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes. The kale is going to cook for a total of 15-20 minutes, but it is really important to give it a stir every 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven and stir the kale. Put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes. After a total of 10 minutes, remove the kale from the oven and stir it again. Then sprinkle it with 1/2 tsp. of coarse sea salt. Return it to the oven for another 5 minutes. After a total of 15 minutes in the oven, take it out and stir it again. You may find that it is tender and crispy enough to suit you at this point. If you think it needs a little more time, pop it back into the oven for a couple more minutes but keep a close eye on it. After it is cooked to a crispy browned loveliness, remove from the oven and set aside.

Crispy Roasted Kale

Pomegranate Drizzle

This is so easy that it hardly even merits a separate section! Place the 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt and the 4 tsp. of pomegranate molasses in a small bowl, and mix well with a fork. If you can’t find pomegranate molasses, you might try mixing in a small amount of pomegranate juice and honey. 

Drizzle Makers

Assembling The Salad

Divide the kale among four medium sized plates. Top each plate of kale with 1/4 of the pomegranate drizzle. The mixture is rather thick, but I used a fork to make sure to drizzle it around fairly evenly. Next, top each bowl with 1 Tbsp. of pomegranate seeds and 1/2 Tbsp. of toasted walnuts. 

Pomegranate Seeds

Enjoy!!!

This makes 4 unofficial 2 point servings.

If the idea of a kale salad seems odd to you, trust me on this one! The kale was light and crispy and went so well with the creamy and crunchy toppings. The flavors were amazing together. The kale, by the way, would also be great roasted and eaten plain. I would serve this is a starter or a side dish along with a nice piece of grilled tilapia or a juicy pork tenderloin. This is a salad that I would be proud to serve to guests, and that I’m thrilled to be serving to myself today!

In other news, I went to the Kennedy Center last night to see Swan Lake performed by the American Ballet Theatre. Before going to law school, I taught music in public schools in southern Missouri for four years. My undergraduate degree is in vocal music performance, and, although I am just a spectator these days, I very much enjoy attending events and supporting the arts. 

The Kennedy Center is a fun place to go, and I’m always happy to walk through the doors into the grand hall of nations which is lined with flags from every country with which the United States has diplomatic relations:

Hall of NationsThe red carpet is so festive! I like getting the red carpet treatment!! Our seats were pretty high up, but that just means that I was closer to the gorgeous ceiling of the opera house. When I find myself sitting in the opera house rafters, I can never resist snapping pictures of the ceiling spangles. I always think that I’d like to have a necklace inspired by them. The spangles are deliciously extravagant and, well, sparkly!

Ceiling SparklesI wasn’t allowed to take pictures during the performance, but my friend snapped this picture of me holding the program. Pay close attention to the ballerina’s costume:

MeI enjoyed the ballet, but I must have been a little bit hungry. The fluffy white swan costumes made me think of… meringues!! 

I think that the ballet is kind of like the sporting event of the arts world. The dancers flit, twirl and leap around weightlessly on the stage making it look so effortless and so beautiful. If you are close enough (or if you remember your opera glasses), it is impossible to miss the rippling muscles. The dancers are so fit and have such amazing control over every little movement. Sometimes my mind tends to wander… it happens… and I think of what it would feel like to move in the same way. My kickboxing class wears me out, and I’m not even trying to look good or depict a graceful swan. It amazes me!

I also love the melodrama of the story. I was thinking about how I would have pitched it to my music students back in the day. “Swan Lake: A Ballet About Hunting,” is the possibility that came to mind. You see, kids, this hunter goes out into the woods to shoot a swan. Instead, he encounters a swan who turns into a pretty girl and falls in love with her… You get the idea. That might have worked. Who knows! I certainly had plenty of students who liked to hunt.

I had a great time, and I think I’m going to have to make some meringues now. Those fluffy swan skirts have inspired me to cook! Inspiration, athleticism and lovely music– what a great way to spend my evening!

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