Category Archives: diet

The Peaches Made Me Do It

When you see what this post is about, you might be convinced that all I’ve eaten this week is dessert. I assure you that is not the case. Although, several food photos on my camera won’t help with that misperception. 🙂 First of all…

Beautiful BowlThe applesaucy pie from my last post was SO good mixed in with my morning oat bran and topped with walnuts. I’ve had this bowl every morning since I made my Great G-ma’s recipe, and today I ate the last of it. What would happen tomorrow? Would there be an oat bran crisis? Luckily, the peaches were super ripe and they were screaming for attention. This should make tomorrow morning’s oat bran bowl super sweet:

Peachy Keen!I love the original recipe, but it could certainly be a bit healthier. I’m taking on the challenge of experimenting with the recipe to see what I can do to retain the flavor and texture, but improve the specs. I’m moving slowly on this one, but I’ll certainly be updating you. I don’t want to make drastic changes all at once, so I’m experimenting a bit with each batch. The changes this time were minor, and I couldn’t tell any difference! I figure every little bit helps. 🙂

  • I used 3 1/2 Tbsp. of butter instead of 4 (I plan to try 3 Tbsp. next time. I couldn’t tell the difference, so I’ll bet I could definitely use less.)
  • I traded out 1 Tbsp. of my regular flour for a Tbsp. of whole wheat flour. I’ll probably swap out even more next time.
  • I added a splash of vanilla extract to the batter.
  • I (obviously) used peaches instead of apples, and I’m sure that I used more than a cup of peaches. I put two whole peaches on top. Mo’ fruit is always mo’ better. 🙂

PeachyliciousI’m sure that, with all of the awesome cooks in blogland, I am certainly not the first person to lighten up an old family recipe. What was your most successful experience with lightening up an old favorite? Sometimes it is as easy as replacing regular cheese or sour cream with lighter cheese or Greek yogurt. Since this recipe is a little bit weird, I’m hesitant to make a big change all at once so I’m easing into it. I often like the lighter versions better, so we will see what happens with this one! I will say that I would never ditch the butter. It’s a key to the flavor, and it’s a real treat to my taste buds. However, if I can use less and still get the dish I love, I certainly will.

So, in keeping with sweet eats, I should mention that I went to a beautiful wedding in D.C. on Saturday night. I had some of this gorgeous cake:

Congratulations!!That cake was followed by an amazing red velvet cupcake that I took home from the wedding in a cute pink box (what an awesome favor!!), and enjoyed on Sunday. I savored every bite. Yum! Each cupcake had a fondant medallion with the couple’s last initial perched on the top. I thought that was a great idea for a favor!

I also enjoyed the centerpieces, although I didn’t enjoy them with my tastebuds. 😉 I love hydrangeas, and I had to snap a photo:

Pretty!The wedding was beautiful, and I hope my friends will have many happy years together! 🙂

Otherwise, this week has been kind of boring in the food department. I made a big batch food on the weekend, but it wasn’t really the type of thing that merits sharing a recipe. It was an attempt to rescue some produce from the brink. I cooked up a pound of 96/4 ground beef and sauteed in some squashes, slightly overripe heirloom tomatoes and a ton of herbs (oregano, thyme and basil) from my little balcony patch.

Mish MashI mixed it with a batch of Barilla plus elbows, and I’ve been having it for lunch each day topped with a bit of TJ’s light provolone.

Big Batch Munchy MunchI like Barilla plus pastas a lot, and they provide enough protein and fiber that they rank as more “valuable” than regular pasta in the nutrition department. This makes for a hearty and satisfying lunch. I cooked enough pasta so that I would have about half a serving of the pasta in each serving of the dish. It’s amazing how far the pasta goes when it is mixed with lots of tasty veggies and topped with cheese. Sometimes cleaning out the produce drawer turns out even better than expected. 🙂

Here’s something else I’ve been enjoying this week:

Dippity DooHoneycrisp apples and PB2 mixed with Almond Breeze! Honeycrisps are my very favorite apples. ILOVE them so much. I look forward to them every year. PB2 is, however, not my favorite peanut butter product. 😦 I bought some awhile ago, and it has been languishing in the pantry. It’s fine, but it doesn’t rock my socks off. I’d rather have a dab of real peanut butter (or almond butter… or cashew butter…) than a whole glob of PB2. Yes, in my world a glob is bigger than a dab. Do you agree? Anyway, I may have finally found a use for PB2 that I can get excited about. I mixed two Tbsp. of PB2 with enough almond breeze to make a rather thin dip. It went a long way, which was a good thing since this apple was ginormous! This will likely be the preferred method for consuming what’s left of my PB2 stash. Yum!

That basically covers my eats this week. Now, let’s play a game. Which of these pairs is not like the others?

New Shoes!I got an e-mail from Pacers yesterday reminding me about a 10K that will be happening on Saturday on the road in front of my apartment. Hmm… I haven’t really been running a lot as part of my cardio line-up lately, but it still seemed like a pretty good idea for me to sign up. I did that race a couple of years ago, and it was pretty fun. When I went to pick up my race packet this afternoon, I decided it was time to pick up some new shoes too. I’m an Asics girl, and I love my old 2130s. Today, I learned that the 2140s have arrived, and I’m happy to have a new pair of shoes that look different than the past three pairs I’ve had. They even have a cute little design on the tongues. Yay!!

I took my new shoesies for a test run this evening, and they felt great. I’m planning to just take my time on Saturday, and to walk part of the way if I feel like it. Since I haven’t really been training to run a 10K, I’m not out to set any new personal records, but I thought it would be a fun way to get in a Saturday workout. Sometimes, I still can’t believe that I’m fit enough to sign up for a 10K and actually plan to run most of it. I remember the days when I would have had a hard time walking that distance. At 340 pounds, I started out by walking for a few minutes at a time, and then built on that a little each day. The fact that I can bike and kickbox and run and lift weights and just do what I do is still sort of weird to me. Sometimes, I’m so amazed at how far I’ve come, even when the scale is being stubborn, and that is always followed by a huge feeling of gratitude. Anything is possible, blog friends. Never forget that!

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week– all in one mondo post. I’ve also been getting caught up on a lot of blog reading/commenting, and I’ve checked out some new blogs (and new to me blogs) that I’m excited about. Although, I still get pretty excited about some of the oldies! Speaking of which… check out this happy anniversary giveaway at Green Dog Wine! Congrats, Green Doggie! 

Ok, Sweeties. I have to go and empty the dishwasher. I need to get my act together for FRIDAY!! YAY! 🙂 Here’s wishing you a great Friday, and an awesome weekend too! Ciao for now. 🙂

31 Comments

Filed under Applesauce Pie, Baking, Cheap Eats, cooking, diet, Fitness, Food, PB2, Peaches, Uncategorized, Weight Loss Success Story

New Tricks

Scones!

Hi, Sweeties! This week has been so busy. I’m so glad the weekend is almost here! I’ve had basically the same thing for breakfast and lunch day after day, but I’m not complaining! Luckily, I’ve had a new breakfast up my sleeve (or… actually… in the freezer), and it has been getting me off to a good start in the mornings. What is your ideal breakfast for a busy day?

I’ve always loved the overly sugary and often frosted scones for sale at local coffee shops, but I’ve learned that they make a better dessert than meal. The hit of sugar gives me energy for a little while, but they aren’t very good when it comes to staying power. If I have one for breakfast, I’ll be hungry again in no time. I saw a scone recipe in a Prevention newsletter a few weeks ago that looked as if it might be a bit different. Whole wheat flour, a wealth of nuts, no sweetener aside from what is found in the protein rich vanilla yogurt, and a smattering of dried fruit makes for a delicious, but not too sweet, breakfast treat!!

Eight Meals in a Pan

The link to the original recipe can be found here.

I changed it a bit by using:

  • Regular whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour for a nuttier and chewier texture
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. of canola oil instead of 2 Tbsp.
  • Lemon zest in place of orange zest 
  • Dried cherries instead of dried cranberries (b/c that was what I had in the pantry)

I like to have one of these scones with a big pile of fruit and my morning coffee.

BrekkieThe scones are yummy, and, thanks to the healthy fats and protein, they keep me full until lunch time!! I will be making these again, and, undoubtedly, experimenting with variations. I had a few fresh ones, but I froze most of the batch. I had my first scone from the freezer this morning. I zapped it for about 20 seconds, and that was long enough to thaw it out and warm it up just a bit. Tasty– and quicker than my bowl of oats!

I’m so sad that the summer peaches are almost gone. If the farmer I spoke with at the farmer’s market last week was right, I may not have any more of these little gems until next season:

Peachy KeenI’ve been stocking up each Saturday, and then using the paper bag trick to ripen a few at a time. I was spoiled by the peaches from Swihart Orchard, near my hometown, as a kid, and I never find peaches at the grocery store that are worthy of my spoiled taste buds. The peaches from the farmer’s market have been amazing, and I’m going to miss them so much!  🙂

Speaking of the farmer’s market, I happened to catch this fuzzy little guy frolicking among the blooms on Saturday:

BuzzzzzzzzzzI love blogging because I always seem to have my camera when I need it! 🙂

In other news, I tried a “new to me” product this week, and I’m a big fan! I’m sure many of you already keep these in your freezer, but, for those of you just starting to explore the realm of frozen veggie burgers, I thought I’d tell you about these:

Spicy!I always keep a variety of soy and veggie burgers in my freezer. While I like most of them just fine, there are only a few that I really get very excited about. These spicy black bean burgers are on that list! I had them crumbled on top of my lunchtime salads this week with lettuce, tomatoes, fresh corn, reduced fat Mexican cheese blend, fat free Greek yogurt and salsa.

EnsaladaYUM! Seriously, I even love the way these burgers smell while they are cooking. The only problem is the fact that I’ve eaten them all. I need to buy more!!

The other fun thing I’ve had this week is the result of a little griddler experiment. I was cooking a pork tenderloin on the griddler, and I wondered what would happen if I tossed some thinly sliced potato on with the pork.

Griddler Me ThisI’ve never tried to grill potatoes, and I wasn’t sure what would happen. I love making fries in the oven, but sometimes I just hate the time it takes to heat the oven to temperature. I would also hate to heat the whole oven to cook one little potato. If this worked… oh my! I’d have a whole new quick method for making something fry like! My fingers were crossed!!!

I sprayed the thin potato slices on both sides with cooking spray, and then sprinkled them with a little bit of salt. The end result:

YES!! Griddler Fries!Yes!!! We have griddler fries!! They were crispy on the outside, and nicely cooked in the center. A few of the thinner pieces got super crispy and tasted like potato chips. I’m so happy I tried this, and I’ll be making more… and more… and more… of them in the future! They went well with my sauteed swiss chard and pork tenderloin. Don’t be fooled by the photo, however. I did decide to have some ketchup with my fries. What could be better?

What’s your favorite way to eat a potato?

P.S. Mara is having an insanely awesome and cheesy giveaway. You should definitely check it out!!

Christina is also having a celebratory giveaway (Congrats, Christina!!) and you should check it out too!!

17 Comments

Filed under Baking, cooking, diet, Farmer's Market, Food, Greek Yogurt, Nuts, Recipes, Uncategorized, Weight Loss Success Story

Soup Weather

Lying MugThe mug. It lies. If I had a “Curried Carrot and Squash Soup” mug in the cabinet, I would have used it, but this seemed like a good alternative. 🙂

It seems like Labor Day flipped the switch on fall weather in D.C., and I’m not complaining! The weather this week has been decidedly fall like, and I’m loving every minute of it. In fact, it inspired me to make a warm, cozy and spicy soup with things I had on hand, and I wanted to share it with you.

I had a pile of yellow summer squash, a partially eaten bag of baby carrots and the usual staples of broth, onions, nut butter (of course!) and Greek yogurt (as always!!). Add to that, the variety of spices in my spice drawer, and a creamy soup was imminent. I used lots of spice, because I love a little burn, but if you aren’t a fan of spice, you could certainly use a bit less curry powder, give it a taste, and add more if you decide you want to kick it up a bit. What’s better than roasted veggies? They are always just the way I like them– nice and sweet!

Carrot Roast

Squash Roast

Pot of Coziness

Sweetie’s Curried Carrot and Squash Soup

Ingredients:

Cooking spray

3/4 pound baby carrots

1 1/2 pounds yellow squash, quartered and cut into 1/2 inch slices

salt

1/2 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground red pepper

1 Tbsp. almond or peanut butter

1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Layer the baby carrots on one baking sheet. Spray the carrots with cooking spray and then sprinkle them with a bit of salt. Layer the squash chunks on the other baking sheet. Spray the squash with cooking spray and sprinkle it with a bit of salt.

Place both sheets in the oven. Roast the carrots for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they become soft and start to brown. Roast the squash for about 25 minutes, stirring the mixture at the halfway point. 

Heat 1/2 tsp olive oil in a 3 1/2 quart saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the onions and a sprinkle of salt. Reduce the heat and cook the onions for seven minutes, or until they become soft. Add the squash, carrots and broth to the saucepan, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Add the curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, red pepper and nut butter to the veggie mixture. Using a blender, carefully puree the veggie mixture in batches. I usually remove the stopper from the top of the blender container and hold a dish towel loosely over the opening to allow some steam to escape while the veggies are pureeing. They are hot and they will spatter so be careful!

Add all of the pureed vegetables back to the saucepan. Stir in the Greek yogurt, and heat the mixture through on medium heat. Add salt to taste.

This makes 5 or 6 servings

The roasted veggies make it slightly sweet. The spices make it cozy, and the nut butter and Greek yogurt add creaminess as well as protein. This soup is low calorie with a high satisfaction factor. That’s a match made in heaven!

I’ve been having this for lunch over the past few days, and I’ve been looking forward to it each time. While packing my lunches this week, I realized it has been awhile since I have made a big batch type food for my lunchtime munching. I love having a hearty and filling soup ready to go in the morning, and then being able to match it up with whatever suits my whim– peanut butter on an Arnold’s sandwich thin, hummus and pita, cheese and crackers, whatever! I know that the soup will guarantee that I will have a full tummy, and that’s a good thing! Soup is also one of my favorite ways to eat my veggies. 🙂

Since the weather is cooling off, I thought I’d give you a little flashback with links to some of the soup type things I’ve made and blogged about in the past:

“Big Batch” Bulgur Chili

Cleaning Up the Apartment Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Creamy Cauliflower and Cannellini Soup

Just Sweet Enough Pinto Bean Soup with Tomato Chipotle Ketchup

“Not Going to the Store” Garlic Scape, Eggplant and Red Lentil Stew

“Project: Clean Out the Freezer” Spinach and Sausage Soup

Super Quick Lentil, Carrot and Tomato Soup

My little trip down memory lane reminded me of several things I need to make in the cooler months to come. I see bulgur chili in my near future for sure.

Bulgur ChiliMmmmm…..

Most of the soups I make are created using what I have on hand. How about you? Do you have a favorite soup, stew or type of chili? Is there one ingredient that always inspires you to whip up a pot of comfort?


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Filed under cooking, diet, Food, Greek Yogurt, Lowfat, Recipes, Soup, Squash, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

New Perspectives

Hi, Sweeties! Remember those photos I promised you of my ziplining adventure in Alaska? Well, get ready because here they come. They actually are a pretty good illustration for some of the points of today’s post, so I thought it would be quite appropriate. Also, I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. This post should explain my absence. 

I was excited about ziplining in Ketchikan, Alaska, but I didn’t know what to expect. Before taking the leap off of the platform, the instructor made sure I had the proper gear and an understanding of how to use it. I was harnessed up and the trolley attached to the harness was clipped to the line. The instructor explained how I should use my hand to steer the trolley if  I found myself spinning off to the side and needed to straighten back up. He also explained how to press down on the top, which works like a friction brake, when it was time to stop. Stopping proved to be the challenging part.

Geared UpEach leap into weight loss started with gathering gear and trying to understand how to use it properly. If you want to read about my journey in greater detail, please check out this page. Just to briefly summarize, you might recall that my experience went something like this:

Date: 2000 Weight: 340 pounds Gear: knowledge of fat content in the foods I ate, a well stocked kitchen and good walking shoes

Results: Loss of 110 pounds and gall bladder problems due to, according to my doctor, the restriction of fat in my diet

In 2001, I started law school, had to have my gallbladder removed, discovered that I didn’t have time to make all of my own food, and got out of my walking habit. I gained back 60 of the pounds I’d lost and ended up weighing about 280 pounds.

Date: 2005 Weight: 280 pounds Gear: Weight Watcher’s On-line tools, fancy food scale and all sorts of exercise gear, including a heart rate monitor to measure calories burned during exercise

Results: I lost 120 pounds and gained the ability to rattle off the points values for food like a superstar. I learned to really enjoy all sorts of exercises and discovered that my body was strong and capable. I also hit a plateau and became frustrated when my meticulous counting wasn’t providing results on the scale. 

I started this blog in January of this year and by March, I decided that I was sick of counting points and I was tired of beating myself up when the scale refused to budge. I decided that a change would be a good thing, so I switched to counting calories and started using the Sparkpeople on-line tracker in place of my ww on-line tracker. I thought that the new approach would be a bit more flexible and would shake things up a bit. I viewed it as a sort of transition to something that was less of a diet, and more like normal life. WW claims not to be a diet, but I never totally bought that idea. For a short time, I did revel in the flexibility of calories versus points. Calories are calories, and I didn’t need to use a calculator to convert things into points. That was somewhat liberating. The scale immediately dropped from 160 to 153 in reaction to the changes in my eating, and I started thinking about whether it was time to stop trying to lose and to start trying to maintain. That brings me to this:

Zipping AlongOnce you leap off of the platform and start zipping along, you build up speed and just sort of fly through the air. It’s a bit like cruise control. I think that dieting can be very similar. You just kind of zip along, counting your points or calories or whatever, and then you decide for one reason or another that it might be time to stop. That’s where things got tricky during ziplining, and that’s where things have gotten tricky for me with my weight loss. Here’s a photo of me getting ready to land. 

StoppingTo stop yourself, you have to use the friction brake. If you press down too early, you may have to use your hands to drag yourself along the line to the platform. If you press down too late, and the friendly instructor doesn’t use the back up brake, you could find yourself pulling a “George of the Jungle” and crashing into a tree. Each platform is actually built around a tree, kind of like a tree house. If you stop too early, you will make it to the platform eventually. Stopping too late has a worse consequence.

Unfortunately, the ultimate weight loss stopping point isn’t always clearly defined like the strong and sturdy tree. Yes, I set a goal weight for myself, once upon a time, and I haven’t reached it. However, I was basing it on a BMI chart that doesn’t know how much muscle I have in my 160 pound make-up. It also doesn’t know how much deflated skin I have. Yes. I do have some. I don’t think it’s possible to lose more than half of your body weight without that unwelcome side effect. 

I think my bottom line this year has been that I’m not unhappy at my current weight. Sure, I wouldn’t mind losing more, but I could be happy right here. Rather than letting the scale determine whether it’s time to stop, I’ve started looking at other factors too. I’ve realized a few things.

1) I’m sick of counting points/calories and of weighing my food. This was becoming a bit of an unhealthy obsession for me, and I’ve only become more obsessed and frustrated as the scale has stayed steady despite my best efforts. To quote the old saying, it might have been “like beating a dead horse.” 

2) Despite allowing myself treats along the way, I’m definitely suffering from diet deprivation and the backlash eating it can cause. I ate like nobody’s business on my Alaskan cruise. I ate until I was sick on more than one occasion. I had the feeling that I’d been freed from prison for one week in order to eat everything that wasn’t on the menu in the prison cafeteria. It wasn’t a pretty sight to see, and that’s when the scale jumped back into the 160s where it has been ever since.

3) While I have certainly felt deprived of certain foods, I think the bigger sense of deprivation was coming from the inability to go out with friends and to do things spontaneously. I spent a lot of time and energy wondering if there would be anything I could eat within my rules when I found myself out with friends. Often, I would just stay home. Sometimes I would find something that would work. Other times, I would toss my rules out the window only to feel guilty later about breaking them. 

4) My perfectionist tendencies have been making me crazy. By giving myself a set of strict rules or limits, I drive myself to stay within the framework I’ve created in order to avoid feeling that I’ve failed and to feel that I’ve succeeded. I was to the point of weighing the lettuce in my salad so that I could calculate the calories and subtract them from my daily allowance. Lettuce!? Did the scale budge thanks to those efforts? No. Did my frustration level grow? You betcha. 

5) I can’t spend the rest of my life weighing everything and counting calories or points if I want to stay sane, happy and avoid smacking into the tree of endless dieting despair.

6) I like sanity and happiness.

7) I need to figure out a way to “stop” that is not a restrictive diet but that will keep me from reverting to my old habits. As funny as it sounds, I need to learn to eat.

That brings me to the last three weeks and my absence. I’d been reading about intuitive eating throughout the blogosphere for some time now, and I had a vague idea of what it meant to eat intuitively. I decided it was time for me to check out some of the literature on the subject. Forever the student, I picked up a few of the more well known IE books. The two most useful ones I’ve read so far are: Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. and The Rules of Normal Eating: A Commonsense Approach for Dieters, Overeaters Undereaters, Emotional Eaters, and Everyone in Between by Karen R. Koenig, ICSW, M. ED. A useful website that lists the 10 principles found in the book by Tribole and Resch can be found here.

Both of these books really resonated with me. I think the basic idea is quite simple. You should eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied/full. If you are already an intuitive eater, that might sound quite obvious to you, but my eating was not typically driven by hunger or fullness. Aside from, perhaps, being driven by an effort to avoid hunger completely. IE is a more novel concept for me. Back in the heavier days, my eating was likely driven by emotions or boredom. In recent years, it has been driven by the external rules and limits I’ve imposed on myself. I’ve watched plenty of my friends use this “eat when you are hungry method” in their daily lives, with positive results. It makes a lot of sense to me, and it seems like a natural way of giving your body what it wants and needs.  

The books go beyond that basic idea with a number of other very useful principles. One of these principles involves legalizing foods that you have forbidden yourself. Vani had an excellent forbidden foods challenge sometime back, and I happily participated. I think I’m just beginning to understand why this is so important. It’s human nature to sometimes want the very thing you can’t have. If you know that you can have those forbidden foods, their power is greatly diminished. I’ve been experimenting with some of these foods over the past few weeks, and the funny thing is, many of the things I’ve really been sad to pass up over the past few years aren’t even that great. I had a pretty lousy cupcake from the store yesterday, for example. It looked pretty, but it wasn’t all that good. When I really concentrated on the taste and texture while savoring it, I realized that the frosting was too sweet. I think that’s the first time I have EVER determined that something was too sweet. Apparently, “Just Sweet Enough” has an even greater meaning than I had realized. 🙂 I’ve been amazed at the things that I have built up into some sort of mega treat in my mind only to find that they really aren’t that amazing after all. 

So, basically, I haven’t been cooking as much lately as I’ve started working through the principles in these books. I’m not sure what the scale is doing, but I do know that my pants still fit after three weeks. I’m trying to spend less time, energy and focus on food and the scale, and that has resulted in less blogging. I haven’t been sure how to explain what I’m up to, and I’m not sure this really does a great job. I would never want to discourage anyone from the path they’ve chosen, but I do think it’s important for me to tell you about my experience. I’m still not certain how IE will work for me, but my stress level around food and eating has already decreased by about a zillion percent. That’s right. A zillion percent. Math was never my strong suit. 🙂 That, to me, has made this effort worthwhile. I think it is also a good experiment to try to get a new perspective on eating, and I’ve been pleased with the results so far.

I’m not going away, but, at this point, I do not plan to post full days of eats anymore. I find that putting that much attention on the things I eat is not a good thing for me. I do plan to share plenty of recipes and reviews with you, as well as updates on how this IE process is going. I just hope you will understand why I’ll be posting less frequently and why my recipes may not all be “light” ones. I know that my body prefers healthy and nutritious foods, and there will certainly be plenty of that in the days to come. I do plan, however, to keep experimenting with previously forbidden foods, which could lead to some interesting kitchen experiments. 

This blog has been so useful for me during the past 7 months as I’ve tried to find a way to stop my diet merry-go-round and find a comfortable resting spot, and all of the supportive comments from my wonderful readers have really made all the difference. The ultimate goal, after all, is not to fit into a certain pair of pants but rather to be happy in life. That might look something like my post-ziplining mug:

HappySince one of my favorite things about this blog has been the opportunity to learn from many of you, I just have to ask: Have you had a period in your life where you counted calories/points/fat grams/whatever and then decided that there was a better way to find balance? What’s your story? Are you still counting? Do you have an exit strategy for when you get where you’re going? 

As always, I wish you all the best wherever you may be in your life’s journey. 

Before I go, I want to send a few birthday wishes. My little brother turned 30 on Tuesday. I can’t believe it!!! It’s really hard to believe that he just turned 30 since our mother is just turning 28 today. 😉 Here’s a photo of my mom and me during the Christmas holidays:

Mom and MeHappy birthday to both of you and lots of love! XOXO 

Now, I’m off to have an air conditioned work out in the gym. It’s a scorcher of a day, and I’m glad to have an indoor option. Ciao for now, sweeties and have a great week! 🙂

19 Comments

Filed under Alaska, diet, Fitness, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

Lightened Squash Casserole a la Sweetie Pie

Squash Casserole

I try to eat a healthy diet. Really, I do. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up eating lots of vegetables. They were just typically smothered in cheese or pork fat. I’m so happy that I now enjoy my vegetables naked or with simpler preparations. That’s not to say that… sometimes… I miss some of the old recipes.

Yellow squash might be one of my favorite vegetables. What’s your favorite veggie?

SquashAs a kid, we would sometimes have it boiled down and mashed with butter. Other times, it might find its way into a stir fry with other things from the garden. My faaaaavorite way to eat it, however, was in a cheesy squash casserole. 

I was recently reorganizing my pantry as part of my pantry clean out effort, and I came across a forgotten can.

Mysterious and DeliciousI bought these when making a green bean casserole for a holiday get together sometime back. Yes, the can has the word “New!” on it, but these are anything but. Anyway, I feel like this is a true confession of some sort. Yes. My name is Sweetie Pie, and I had a can of fried onions, that strange ingredient that shows up frequently in casseroles and at southern potluck parties, hanging out in my pantry. I decided to ignore the list of somewhat mysterious “ingredients” and whip up a lightened version of an old favorite. I can’t tell you for certain what these are really made of, but, um… I can tell you that I kind of dig them in a casserole. 

Din Din

Sweetie’s “Lighten Up” Squash Casserole

Ingredients:

1 pound summer squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 cup chopped onions

cooking spray

3/4 cup egg beaters

2 Tbsp. skim milk

4 ounces grated light sharp cheddar (I used Cabot 75% reduced fat cheddar but any cheese (reduced fat or not) would work)

1/2 cup French fried onions

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried mustard

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Steam the squash until it is tender. It took about 8 minutes for my slices to steam in a metal steamer basket set into a pot of boiling water. 

While the squash is steaming, saute the onion in a skillet coated with cooking spray or a bit of olive oil.

Spray a 2 qt. casserole dish with cooking spray and set it aside.

When the onions are tender, probably after about seven minutes of cooking, add the steamed squash to the onions and continue to cook for about three minutes. During this time, use the edge of your spatula to break up the squash and incorporate it with the onions. This will also help to dry the squash out a bit which should help to prevent a soggy casserole. Remove from the heat.

Squash chopperyWhile the squash cools a bit, set aside half of the cheese and half of the onions to use as a topping. Combine the remaining half of the cheddar cheese and fried onions in a medium sized bowl along with the eggbeaters, milk, salt, pepper and spices.

Gradually add the squash and onion mixture to the egg beater mixture, stirring while you add the warm ingredients to keep the egg from scrambling.

Pour the mixture into your casserole dish, and then top it with the remaining fried onions followed by the remaining cheddar. Pop it into the oven and bake it for 35 minutes or until the egg is set and the cheese starts to brown on the top.

Oven Ready

I divided mine into six servings. 🙂 

I’ve got to get to bed, but before I go I want to say a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Aunt Nancy. I ate some of my homemade ice cream this evening and had a little celebration of my own in her honor. 🙂 It was always so nice having my aunt and uncle close by, and I always looked forward to spending time with them in the Ozarks each summer. My brother and I would get to go swimming in nearby creeks and rock quarries, visit Branson and Silver Dollar City, pick blackberries in the woods, feed the flying squirrels and just generally have a great time at their house each summer. As the song goes…. “Thanks for the memories…” and a very happy birthday to you!

Now, I’m off to bed. Tomorrow is Friday. Woo hoo!!! Ciao for now, y’all and have a great weekend!

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Filed under Casserole, cooking, diet, Food, Lowfat, Recipes, Squash, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss

Ice Creamy Holidays

Hi, kids! Keeping my vow to put my gadget to good use, I put my ice cream maker to work today, and I wanted to tell you all about my easy formula for making a tasty frozen dessert. I also wanted to say “hello” as it has been a few days since my last post. Summer seems to be flying by, and I’m staying nice and busy. That means less posting for now, but I do hope you guys will continue checking in with me anyway! 

Check out today’s batch of ice cream in my very special bowl:

Berry Cherry "Ice Cream"

Some of my favorite food memories from childhood involve homemade ice cream eaten out of the very same bowls I used for my little treat this evening. I was thinking about my family while making my ice cream today, and wishing they lived closer so I could share it with them!

My grandparents had a wooden White Mountain ice cream maker with a crank that you turned by hand. It looked like this one:

White MountainMy mom, aunt and brother all have summertime birthdays, and since there are plenty of hot weather holidays too, we often had a great reason to make a batch of homemade ice cream. Sometimes I would just pester my memaw and papaw for homemade ice cream on any old random Saturday too. Ice cream making was always a festive holiday of its very own!

My favorite recipe was (is) a custard style vanilla ice cream from an ancient Southern Living magazine. I was most excited when we used that recipe, and, just to be sure it didn’t get lost, I wrote it in the margins of my mother’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. It’s there for safe keeping and peace of mind. 🙂

My memaw would keep empty milk cartons filled with water in the freezer so we would have plenty of ice on hand. When it was time, my papaw would get out his red handled hammer and break the ice into chunks in a big metal bowl that served many purposes. Sometimes that bowl was full of green beans for snapping, purple hulled peas for shelling or laundry headed to the clothesline. Talk about a multi-tasker! I loved watching the hammer tear the cartons into shreds and looking at the interestingly shaped chunks of ice. My papaw and my dad would pack the ice all around the metal canister full of our custardy ice cream mix, layering it with dingy, grey rock salt (I’d steal bits of it for nibbling purposes, of course… despite the dirty color… ) and then my papaw, my dad, and my uncle, if he and my aunt were in town for the weekend, would take turns cranking the ice cream.

I remember waiting and waiting and waiting until the handle became hard to turn. That was the signal that it was nearly done! Then, they would wrap an old quilt around the bucket and let it sit for a few minutes to let it firm up a bit more. This was always the hardest part for me. Oh, the waiting. It was torture!

There were lots of opportunities to have little science lessons during this process too. It seemed counterintuitive to me, as a kid, that putting a blanket on the ice cream would make it get colder. How could that be?? Blankets made you warm! What was the deal with the salt? Why would you want to melt the ice? Until I learned the reasons behind those things, it all seemed very mysterious and magical. Who am I kidding? Even after those science lessons were learned, it was still very magical to me!

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the salty ice water would be emptied out of the big wooden bucket, and the gleaming silver canister of ice cream would be brought into the kitchen. It would go straight into the kitchen sink, it’s metallic surface fogging up as it got hit by the hot and humid air of an Arkansas summer. Then, the lid would come off, and the bowls would come out of the freezer where they had been chilling. These bowls with their little grape pattern:

Bowl, Sweet BowlI love that I have these bowls, and that I can use them for my own little homemade ice cream.  

It took me years to wise up to the fact that my memaw would always volunteer to take on the tough task of scraping the ice cream off of the metal beater because the ice cream was more solidly frozen in the spots where it was stuck to the metal. She was wily for sure!!

She was also a great cook. We would often have brownies and cookies with our ice cream, and some favorite ice cream toppings were blueberry pie filling, a buttery praline pecan mixture that she would make on the stove, and fresh strawberries. Oh my! I will never forget those lazy summer evenings, and the celebration we would create by cooking together. 

When my parents were here a few weeks ago, we had a slightly different “citified” ice cream making experience when we made a batch of watermelon sorbet using my countertop ice cream maker. There were no milk carton shaped blocks of ice and no hammers were needed, but it was still… fun! Remember this?

Sweet Watermelon SorbetI shared the sorbet recipe with you, but I kept the recipe for what we did with the other half of the watermelon to myself. My mom and I seeded the whole watermelon and pureed it all at the same time. Half went into the sorbet, and we made another little batch of frozen goodness with the other half later in the week. We mixed the pureed watermelon, lime zest and lime juice with my special ingredient and, like magic, it made sweet and creamy watermelon ice cream. I wanted to experiment a bit more to see if it really was as easy it seemed. 

I’ve learned that it’s possible to make a tasty “ice cream” with pureed fruit, a bit of lemon or lime juice and this special ingredient:

Mmmm....Ah yes– one of my favorite summertime ingredients often found in recipes like lemon ice box pie and strawberry pizza. No southern picnic or church potluck is complete, in my opinion, without a dessert involving sweetened condensed milk! Mmm… I could eat it with a spoon, but I wouldn’t. No. I’d never do that. I might run my finger around the inside of the can, but never my tongue. Too dangerous. I might know from experience. 🙂 Anyhoo… 

I decided to use some cherries and berries from the freezer in today’s batch along with a few fresh blueberries to fill out the mix. Since the farmer’s market is still two days away, I was glad I had some nice frozen fruit in the freezer. If you catch them on sale, frozen berries and cherries can be a cheaper alternative for fresh berries when they aren’t in season. Plus, I love being able to keep some berries on hand.

Frozen FruitiesSince I only had about 3 1/2 cups of fruity goodness after I pureed my frozen and fresh berries, I added a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze. I’d skip the almond breeze unless you are running a bit short of fruit like I was today. We had plenty of watermelon for our melon batch, and didn’t add any extra milk at all. It was still nice and creamy!

In addition to the berries and cherries, I added the juice of one lemon to the blender. A little bit of lemon or lime really brightens up the flavors. I could have added some zest, but I was feeling a bit lazy. 🙂 After I had my fruit, lemon juice and, in this case, almond breeze, all ready to go, I stirred in the little can of love. Then, I put the whole shebang into the ice cream maker, and let it do its thing for thirty minutes.

Cherry Berry Love

No hand cranking required! Once it was done, I scraped it into a freezer safe container and weighed it on my food scale in grams. If you notice, containers of store bought ice cream typically tell you the number of calories in cups and in grams. I plugged the nutritional information for my ingredients into the Sparkpeople recipe calculator, divided by the number of servings I wanted, and then divided the total number of grams of ice cream by my chosen number of servings. That allows me to measure out a bowl in grams and to know how many calories are in a serving. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s a great way to enjoy a treat responsibly. Since I’m probably going to be eating the whole batch over the next week or so, I knew that I would like to have some idea so that I could avoid going overboard, but still enjoy my little bowlful of berry cherry yum.

Weighty but Tasty

The grand total of grams was 1216. I calculated the NI for 10 servings, so I know the number of calories in a 121 gram serving. That made for a pretty nicely sized bowl! Perfect! Since I used the fat free sweetened condensed milk, it’s virtually fat free too. 🙂 Y’all know I really watch what I eat in order to avoid gaining back the 180 pounds I’ve lost, but I refuse to give up treats. Eating them responsibly is my compromise.

Drumroll Please...Now that I have a container of this in the freezer, continuing to firm up, I’m all set for dessert for the holiday weekend. Yay!! I would share this with friends in a heartbeat. Of course, if I end up eating it all myself, no tears will be shed. 🙂 Just to recap, here’s today’s recipe:

Super Simple Cherry Berry “Ice Cream”

3 1/2 to 4 cups of pureed berries and cherries (or melon, or peaches, or mangos, or bananas, or… you get the point)

1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze or skim milk (If you have 4 cups of pureed fruit, you could leave this out and still get a creamy result.)

Juice of one lemon or lime (you can add the zest too for more zing)

1 14 ounce can of fat free sweetened condensed milk

Combine all ingredients, and process in your ice cream maker following the directions for your machine. My Cuisinart ice cream maker took 30 minutes to freeze this to a nice consistency. Place it in the freezer to continue firming up until it’s time to serve! 

Makes 10-12 servings that are about 1/2 a cup each

Here’s wishing you all a very festive fourth of July! Tomorrow night, I’m going to the Nats game with some friends, and I’ve heard that there will be fireworks. Wheeee!!!! On the fourth, I will be watching the fireworks on the National Mall from the roof of my building on the other side of the Potomac. We have a pretty awesome view of the monuments and the Capitol from my little piece of Virginia, and it’s always fun to see the smaller displays going off in communities all along the river too. What are your plans?

Whatever you do to celebrate the fourth, I hope you enjoy some good food, friends, fireworks and family. Ciao for now, y’all!

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Filed under cooking, Cooking Light, diet, Food, Recipes, Sorbet, Uncategorized, Watermelon, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Zucchini-Feta Gratin from Cooking Light

Zucchini-Feta Gratin

It seems like I haven’t made a new recipe in ages. I may be exaggerating a bit, but I’ve just sort of been making a little of this and that. I haven’t made a “big batch” recipe in weeks! With the warmer weather, I’m just happy putting fresh things together and calling it a meal. I ended my little kitchen hiatus today by making a Zucchini-Feta Gratin using this recipe from Cooking Light Magazine. 

This was an easy recipe, and it resulted in a dish that could be a great choice for entertaining too. I love dishes that look more complicated than they really are. Mwa ha ha ha. Tricky. 

I followed the recipe with only a couple of tweaks.

  • I grilled my squash on the griddler instead of steaming it. Extra flavor? Yes, please!
  • I used a mix of yellow squash and zucchini for a more colorful dish. Plus… that’s what I had in the crisper.
  • I used fresh mint from the pot on the balcony instead of using dried mint as directed in the recipe. Why use dried when I have fresh out on the balcony?!

Let me show you how easy it was:

First, I layered the rice and feta mixture in my pie plate, after spraying the plate well with cooking spray:

Rice CrustI made extra rice this morning when I was cooking the rice for this recipe, and I had one of my favorite little breakfasts– rice, sugar, almond breeze and berries. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving rice, milk and sugar. YUM! It was a favorite when I was a kid, and it has stood the test of time for me.

Brekkie BreakOk. Back to the recipe. Sorry about that! I love my milky sweet rice! After I had the rice crust in the pie dish, I grilled my squash on the Griddler. Y’all know I love my Griddler. Here he is:

Griddle me This...While the veggies were getting tanned, I chopped up some balcony pot mint:

Minty Fresh GoodnessThe mint went into a bowl along with some freshly ground nutmeg. Nutmeg and eggs are a match made in heaven! I bought some lovely brown eggs at the farmer’s market yesterday (along with the squash and the feta!!) This was a farmer’s market dish for sure!

Eggs

I love pretty brown eggs! 

Once the veggies were grilled, I mixed them with the other half of the feta, the salt and the pepper, and then filled my little rice crust. I sort of used my fingers to spread the veggies around in a nice even layer before I poured the egg mixture on top. After I added the egg mixture, I gave the dish a little tilt–this way and that– to make sure the egg mixture made its way all around the dish.

Ready To BakeIt went into the oven, and forty -five minutes later, I enjoyed a nice wedge of gratin with some TJ’s turkey meatballs (my answer to quickie “meatloaf” for one), and some sliced fresh tomato.

Lunchy LunchWhen I was a kid, I remember how my parents and grandparents would cover a whole plate with fresh tomatoes from the garden after a big dinner. They would add a little salt and then tear into them. It was kind of like the salad course. Me? Did I appreciate the gorgeous, red, homegrown Arkansas tomatoes? Nope. I hated them. What was I thinking??? Crazy.

I got the tomatoes on my lunch plate at the farmer’s market yesterday from some Hanover, VA farmers. They were SO good and very flavorful! I just added a little salt. I wonder where I got that idea? Ha! I think my tomato experience is a good example of why you should try foods that you might have hated as a kid! 

The gratin had a nice flavor, and I love that the edges of the rice crust got a little crispy and browned. I loved the flavor of the fresh mint contrasted with the salty feta. YUM!! I’m sure this would be great made with brown rice, but I’m trying to use up some things from the pantry. This seemed like  great time to use some white rice that has been around for awhile. I’m sure this would be good with steamed veggies, as directed in the recipe, but I’d encourage grilling them if possible. It was delicious, and I can’t wait to have it on my dinner plate over the next few days.

Now that I’ve had a nice lunch, I think I’ll take my bicycle out for another spin. I don’t believe I’ve introduced you. Meet Coby:

CobyYou can’t tell in this photo, but he is sort of a Cobalt blue color– hence the name: Coby. Coby and I went out yesterday for a ride, and it was not smooth sailing. I can’t believe it, but it was our first trip out this summer. Time is getting away from me! Before we left, I aired up the tires using a new pump I bought awhile back. Before I was even a mile from home… the front tire blew out. Ugh! We’d barely gotten started.

Feeling the need to take care of the problem ASAP, I walked Coby to a nearby bike shop. While there, they repaired the tire, and they also adjusted the derailleur because I mentioned that the chain always pops off when I try to shift down into first. I live in an area with some pretty big hills, and downshifting definitely makes them easier to tackle. Forty minutes later, thinking all was well, I hopped back on and resumed my trek. I couldn’t wait to shift down into first. I just knew it was going to make the hills much more tolerable. Feeling confident on the first big hill I came to, I clicked my little gear shifter and… the chain popped off again. Aargh!

I put the chain back on, wiped my greasy paws on some bright green grass, and then enjoyed a pretty nice ride. I did not try to change gears again, but I’m sure that just made me burn more calories on the dastardly hills. 

I bought Coby last summer after being passed by bikers while walking/running on the local trails. It looked like fun! How about you? Do you have a bicycle? Do you ride to work?… for fun?… as a serious athletic endeavor? Does your bicycle have a name? 🙂 I like to go on long rides on the weekends for a bit of a break in my cardio routine. I also love riding down to Old Town Alexandria and having a little picnic by the water. Riding to places that always seemed far away certainly made my world feel smaller. I kind of like that feeling sometimes!

Oh, I almost forgot! I had another Coconut Cream Pie Holey Donut yesterday before my ride. I promised to try to take a photo since the last couple of tries have failed. Here it is:

Coconut Cream PieThis one is my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE of all of the flavors I’ve tried. I’m enamoured.

Speaking of my being enamoured… don’t forget that you still have a few days to save on hottie Jay Robb’s products using a promotion code especially for Just Sweet Enough readers. Check out the bottom of this post for more info.

Now, I’m going to pack a snack and take Coby out for another spin. Wish me luck!

I hope you are having a stellar weekend! I also hope you’ll try the yummy Cooking Light gratin recipe if you are looking for something new to do with summer squash. If you have a garden (or a neighbor with a garden), a bumper crop (or a big bag of squash left on your doorstep in the dead of night) is always a possibility. I know you will want to have this recipe up your sleeve! Ciao for now, y’all! 🙂

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Filed under cooking, Cooking Light, diet, Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story