Category Archives: Fitness

Je-diet Mind Tricks

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cakelette

Hi, friends. It’s the weekend. Woo hoo! Finally some time to catch my breath. It’s been a busy week. Let me catch you up in a hurry. Oh, and the photo at the top is a teaser. I’ll tell you about it in a minute. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I’ve just finished 10 days of level of one Jillian’s notorious 30 day shred workouts. So far so good. I’m trying to shock my body a bit with some new tricks in my weekly routine, so I’m replacing 20 minutes of my usual cardio with 20 minutes of shredding. I’m still working out with my trainer, and I’m not shredding on those days. I haven’t worked out without resting days in between in a long time, and I’m only planning to do it for a few weeks. I’m not out to create any overuse injuries, but I am trying to shake things up a bit. So far, I feel stronger and I have more energy. The workouts are tough, but I like a challenge. Have you shredded?? What did you think?
  • I just finished the second week of participation in a stair climbing contest at work. One of my favorite co-workers organized us into teams of five, and, each week, we compete to be the team to log the most flights (only ascending flights count). Prizes are awarded weekly. Last week, my team won the contest with nearly 700 flights!! This week, I wasn’t a very useful team member since I was out for training on Thursday and Friday, but I’m sure my team rocked it again this week anyway! They are awesome. Getting a little exercise throughout the day has given me a real boost. It has also made me realize how easy it is to park in front of the computer for hours at a time without moving. Honestly, I’ve also realized that it’s pretty easy to get up and move around too. I hope I can keep it up when the contest is over. 
  • Last Sunday, I went to the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show here in D.C. I attended Tyler’s Ultimate Food and Wine pairing, and had some very tasty nibbles.

The Stage is Set

TylerOk. So, Tyler wasn’t a nibble, but he is rather tasty. Yes? We were also treated to a visit by another Food Network favorite…

SamplingTyler has started making wine, and he was giving Paula a little sample of his wares. 😉 I had a great time at the show, and I sampled a ton of stuff at the expo too. I’m definitely going to try to go again next year!

Now that I’ve given you the quick catch up, I want to talk a bit about the title of this post “Je-diet Mind Tricks.” Over the past few years, I’ve looked for ways to make my food more enjoyable without piling on lots of extra calories. I’ve learned a number of tricks. For example, I’d always heard that serving your food on a smaller plate or in a smaller bowl would make you think you were having more. I’m sure I’d read that in magazines in the past and dismissed it with an “Oh please!! I’m way too smart for that” kind of attitude. The thing is, it does work. I have lots of small bowls, and I use them often. I like eating smaller meals off of smaller plates, and I tend to eat ice cream out of tiny little heart shaped bowls I picked up at Crate & Barrel.

My Heart is Empty?One fourth of  a cup of ice cream really does look like a lot more when it fills up my small bowl than it would if it were sitting in a little blob in the middle of one of my big oat bran bowls. These bowls are also great for little nibbles of granola, trail mix, almonds and that sort of thing. I’m a fan!

Another trick I’ve learned comes into play in my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cakelettes. I could just call them muffins, but they are much sweeter and more like cake. Truth in advertising, right? 🙂 Have you ever made a lightened up recipe involving chocolate chips? Often, these just seem to involve using a smaller portion of the chips you might use in a regular recipe. That’s not a bad strategy, but it can lead to a treasure hunt type scenario for the three little chips that might have made their way into your muffin. There is an easy solution to this, and I think it makes a huge difference with regard to the satisfaction factor– mini-chips!

Mini YummiesLook inside this muffin. See all those brown specks?

Chocolate Bonanza!Those are the mini-chocolate chips. There are several bits of chocolate in each bite, and a great deal of satisfaction. Employing another je-diet mind trick, I also used turbinado sugar in the topping because the crystals are bigger and add a nice crunch. I’ve made this with granulated sugar in the topping, and it doesn’t maintain its character nearly as well. It certainly seems like a bigger treat when I see the sweet little crystals and feel them crunch in my teeth. Tricky? You bet!!

I started with a recipe I’ve used for a long time, and I gave it some pretty significant tweaks. I love remaking an old favorite. The cinnamon and chocolate combo gives it a slightly Viennese twist, and the pumpkin just tastes like fall. Here’s the recipe:

YUM!!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cakelettes

Ingredients:

Dry Team:

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup teff flour (or 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour) 

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

Wet Team:

1/2 cup egg beaters (or two eggs, beaten)

8 ounces (1 3/4 cups) of canned pumpkin

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. canola oil

Team Chocolate:

1/2 cup semi-sweet mini-morsels

Topping:

1 Tbsp. turbinado sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 12 unit muffin tin with cooking spray. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients in the “dry team.” Make a well in the center.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the ingredients in the “wet team.” Pour the wet mixture into the well in the center of the dry mixture, and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Divide the mixture evenly among the 12 muffin cups. 

Mix the turbinado sugar and cinnamon together to form the topping, and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the muffins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when pressed lightly in the center. Remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

Based on my calculations, these come out just below 150 calories a piece. Not bad for a sweet treat in my opinion!

You could bake the batter in a 9×9 inch baking pan for 20-25 minutes if you would prefer to serve it like a cake. I kind of like the built in portion control I get by using a muffin pan, but I’ve made this as a cake many times. I’m also positive that cream cheese icing would be great on top if you were feeling more decadent or serving these to a festive crowd. 

Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe? Do you love pumpkin as much as I do? 🙂

Now, it’s time for me to take my first run at doing level two of Jillian’s shred. Wish me luck! I may need it!! Ciao for now, y’all!

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23 Comments

Filed under Baking, Cake, Chocolate, cooking, D.C., Fitness, Food, Pumpkin, Recipes, Squash, Uncategorized, Weight Loss Success Story

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

Adventures with Coby

CobyHi, Sweetie Pies! I’m just gearing up for the work week, and counting the minutes until tonight’s episode of Mad Men. How about you? Are you ready for Monday? Some people don’t seem bothered by Mondays, but I am NOT one of those people. Ugh. I have too much fun on the weekend. 

Speaking of fun, I went biking today, with my bike, Coby, on the Mount Vernon Trail. I rode about 25 miles round trip. It was such a nice and sunny day. In fact, it was so nice and sunny that everyone and their dog (literally) had the same idea. The bigger part of me is thrilled to see so many people out, enjoying the trail and being active. It’s great to see families walking or biking together, and it’s so nice to see people enjoying themselves. However, a part of me also gets frustrated because the trail isn’t all that wide and it has a number of hills and curves. It can be hard to enjoy the ride when you’re constantly worried about passing walkers or runners safely so that you have room to build momentum to climb the next hill, or trying not to run into people who don’t pay attention to the dotted yellow line separating the paved trail into a little two-way highway. I used to walk and run on the trail, and I hated worrying about whether I was going to get hit by a biker. It just gets too crowded for comfort for everyone!

I was reminded of why I’ve kind of avoided the Mount Vernon Trail this summer in favor of some trails that tend to be a bit less traveled. Last Saturday, I set out for a 30 mile trek from my place to Great Falls, MD and back home. It took just under four hours, but it was a fun trip. I was satisfyingly worn out by the time I got back home. Aaah. I love that feeling! To get to the falls, I got on the towpath along the C&O Canal in Georgetown, and rode the gravelly trail between the canal and the Potomac. To get back, I took a paved road, McArthur Boulevard, that had an awesome bike path. I thought I’d share a few photos.

One thing I love about riding on the towpath is the opportunity to see things like this:

BirdmanIt is a bit more secluded and much farther from the highway than the MVT, and that’s a plus. I saw this guy (or girl? not sure…) as well as a few big turtles and some tiny blue lizards. I was busy riding, so I didn’t stop to snap photos of them, but they made me smile. I love that I can enjoy nature so close to my apartment and to the city. You just have to know where to look!

There are lots of old lock houses all along the canal. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like when the canal was really in use. Here’s the sign on the front of one of the lock houses:

Lock House

After about 15 miles of riding, I made it to the bridge with a view of the falls, and I had to leave Coby behind. Why leave Coby?

No Bikes!Fair enough. Coby waited patiently. In case you have forgotten, “Coby” is short for cobalt, the color of Coby’s frame.

Waiting Coby

This was my view from the bridge:

Great FallsNo visit to a scenic overlook would be complete without a cheesy self portrait (nerdy but absolutely necessary helmet included). 🙂 

Self PortraitThe smile is big because the 15 miles it took for me to get to the falls seemed sort of endless at times. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of markers on the towpath, so it was hard to gauge just how close (or far) I was from the falls. I was so happy to finally be there!! I was also super glad that I had snacks to fuel my ride home! 🙂 

Biking is one of my favorite “exercises that don’t really seem like exercise.” With all of the beautiful scenery and fresh air, it’s easy to forget that I’m getting a workout. My heart rate monitor/calorie counter is my only proof! Do you have a favorite “exercise that doesn’t seem like exercise?” What did you do this weekend? I hope you had a great one!! 

Now, I’m going to make a bowl of oatmeal and get ready to watch Mad Men. Oatmeal seems to be my favorite evening snack lately. I love the flavor, and I really love how well it fills me up. Perfect! Have a good week, Sweetie Pies. Ciao for now! 🙂

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Filed under Arlington, Fitness, Great Falls, Mount Vernon Trail, 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

Making My ‘Scape

I finally made my ‘scape…. my garlic scape concoction! Hi!! I hope you had a great fourth of July!! My weekend has been quite busy, but I’ve had lots of fun. Here’s a recap!

Friday:

Having a Friday off is such a lovely thing. I got up, had a leisurely work out, and then I finally got around to mixing up a batch of garlic scape bean dip. You might recall that I bought some garlic scapes at the farmer’s market a long time ago, and I promised to share my favorite recipe. The original recipe was published in the New York Times last year, and the recipe can be found here. I’ve lightened it up a bit by using only 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, and I don’t think it’s missing a thing! The Times also had a very interesting article, that I really enjoyed. You can check it out here if you’d like to read more about scapes.ScapesScapes are the stems that grow out of the top of a garlic bulb, and they are the part of the garlic that would flower if left intact. They have a very strong garlic flavor, and can be used much as you would use garlic. The tips of my scapes had gotten a bit dried out from all of the time spent languishing in the crisper, but otherwise, they were good to go. 

I removed the dried out parts, and then chopped up 1/3 a cup of scapes. Those went into the food processor with 1/2 tsp. of sea salt and 1/4 tsp. of black pepper. The scapes have a pretty serious heat on their own, so it doesn’t take a lot of black pepper to spice it up. I also added the juice of a lemon. I whirred it around in the food processor until the scapes were pretty finely chopped.

BlitzThen, I added a can of great northern beans that I had drained and rinsed. I didn’t have cannellinis in the pantry, and I knew that these white beans would work just fine. Hooray for the pantry!!

BeansI continued to puree the mixture. When it was pretty well blitzed, I drizzled in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil with the processor still running and continued to puree until it was smooth.

Mmmm....I love this stuff and eat it as I would eat hummus! The scent of garlic really hits you when you take off the lid. Scapes are amazing!! If you can’t find scapes, you could make a similar mixture with a few cloves of garlic in place of the scapes. 

I put some scape dip into a La Tortilla Factory wrap (I was so excited to finally try these!!), along with some sliced cucumbers and Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar, and voila! I had  a tasty wrap to take to a little pre-National’s game tailgate. 

It's A Wrap!

I was wearing a new dress, and you can see part of it in the photo. It loved it because it had a lot of crazy colors, but… it might look like a tablecloth. 🙂 

I also made a batch of butterscotch blondies (sitting in the chair in the above photo), using a recipe from an old Cooking Light cookbook, “Low-Fat Ways to Cook Family Favorites,” and took some to share with my friends. Sadly, the recipe isn’t on-line and it isn’t my own, so the best I can do is tell you about the cookbook. It’s a good one, by the way!

Butterscotch BrowniesThe Nat’s lost to the Braves, but the game was still fun. The racing President’s are always a highlight.

Poor Teddy!Poor Teddy Roosevelt never gets a break. At least he keeps trying! Way to be a role model, Teddy!

Saturday:

Saturday morning, I went for a walk with my friend, Mrs. W, and then she and I went to the farmer’s market. I loaded up on berries this week, as well as cherries, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and some chive cheese. Yum.

After our walk and our visit to the market, we lunched on leftover gratin, garlic scape and white bean dip, farmer’s market cucumbers and tomatoes, and some Berry Cherry “Ice Cream.” It was a tasty lunch. I love having leftovers that I feel good about serving to a good friend. She happens to be a vegetarian too, so it was awesome that I had my vegetarian gratin to share. Yum!

Last night, I had another friend, MG, over for dinner. I “griddlered” a farmer’s market pork tenderloin, basted in a bit of barbecue sauce, along with some zucchini and yellow squash. I made some oven fries– both sweet and regular potatoes, and boiled up a couple of ears of corn.

Happy Fourth!It was a healthy dinner, but I think it had a fourth of July feel to it. Oh, Griddler. I love you! Did you eat something festive on the fourth?? I forgot to get watermelon, and I was bummed about it!

For dessert we had more blondies and more Cherry Berry “Ice Cream.” Then, we headed up to the roof of my building to watch the fireworks on the National Mall. There is a clear view of the mall and the monuments from our rooftop, and it’s fun to see all of the smaller displays along the banks of the Potomac as well. I wanted to show you my view, but I never figured out how to take a good photo. This should give you some idea:

Boom!!Directly below the fireballs, you can kind of make out the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building if you try. We have a great view, just not an awesome photographer. Ahem. 

While MG was over, I also made an overly gooey batch of brownies to repay him for watering my plants while I was in Alaska. I do have my kitchen flops, from time to time, and I shouldn’t have tried to do a minor tweak to a previously untested recipe! Silly junior mints. The brownies tasted good, but a spoon might not be a bad choice of utensil. 😦 Sorry, MG. I say– microwave them and top with with ice cream. Yes. I’d eat that for sure!

Sunday:

I woke up with a serious hankering for French toast. I haven’t had it in ages! I mixed 1/4 cup of eggbeaters, 1 1/2 T. of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, 1/4 tsp. of sugar and 1/8 tsp. of vanilla extract together. I soaked two slices of multi-grain bread in the eggbeater mixture, and then I cooked the slices in a nonstick skillet coated with butter flavored cooking spray. I had some lovely raspberries that I bought at the farmer’s market yesterday as my side dish, and there was a little bit of maple syrup on the top. I love that I could taste the vanilla in the egg mixture. I didn’t completely drench it in syrup, the way I would have back in the old days, and I like that it stayed a bit crisp as a result. It really hit the spot!

French ToastAfter my special breakfast, I decided to take Coby out for a ride on the Custis Trail. Get ready for a quick switch from French toast to feet. I thought I’d warn you. There was no good segue that I could think of for this one! 

Along the way, I did something rather ungraceful while turning abruptly onto a little wooden bridge on the trail. Yes. My toenail is purple. Coby is fine, and the rest of me escaped unscathed, but I’m just not sure what this purple toe is going to do. I guess we will wait and see. I strongly suspect the toenail will not be with me much longer. Ewww, right? I hope I didn’t gross you out too much. At least I didn’t post a photo. I thought about it. 🙂

Ok, back to food…

I wanted to use the rest of my garlic scapes as well as two eggplants I bought at the farmer’s market so I decided to make a quick stew for dinner. I had to improvise a bit to avoid taking my purple toe to the store, so I used things from the pantry. Here’s what I came up with:

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

Ingredients:

1 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

cooking spray

1/2 medium sized onion, chopped

1/4 cup of garlic scapes, chopped

2 medium sized eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (undrained)

1/3 cup dried red lentils

1 1/2 cups of water

Salt to Taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a deep sided skillet. Add the cinnamon, chili powder and cumin, and heat the spices, while stirring, for thirty seconds. They should become fragrant. Add the onions, garlic scapes and a few sprays of cooking spray. Cook over medium high heat for seven minutes, or until the onions start to soften.

Add the eggplant to the pan, along with 3/4 tsp. of salt, stirring well to incorporate the onions, and let the mixture cook down for eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the can of tomatoes, the lentils and the water. Stir well. 

Increase the heat as needed to bring mixture to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes, testing to be sure the lentils are tender. If the lentils need longer, make sure that there is still some liquid in the pan, adding a splash more water if necessary, and let it simmer a bit more. Mine were done in 20 minutes.

Give it a nibble and add extra salt, if needed, to suit your tastebuds.

Red lentils are key in this dish when it comes to using dried lentils. They cook the fastest of all of the lentils, and they will get tender in the time it takes for your veggies to nicely stew. If you wanted to substitute any other lentils, I would recommend cooking them first. If you decide to do that, I would reduce the water in the stew to 3/4 a cup.

Makes approximately 6 one cup servings

FinThis stew made a yummy dinner atop a bowl of rice, and my apartment smells amazing!! I’ve used the rest of the scapes, and my eggplants have been saved from a few more days in the crisper drawer. Hooray!

I worked out with my trainer this evening, despite the purple toe, and I think I may need to put some ice on it now. The pain wasn’t bad during class, but now it is not feeling so happy. I’m off to find an ice pack.

Thanks for making it to the end of this very long post. I had a lot to tell you about!

I hope you have a great week!! Ciao for now, y’all. 🙂

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Filed under Cooking Light, D.C., Farmer's Market, Fitness, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Recipes, Washington, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

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

Mr. Banana Man and Random Portion Size Reminders

Hi!! I hope everyone is having a good week. Tomorrow is Friday, you know. Woo hoo!!! As usual, I’m ready for the weekend. How about you? Any big plans? 

My big plans today included a big bowl of breakfast. I had oat bran, 5 grain cereal, Jay Robb’s vanilla whey protein powder, agave nectar, a baby banana, and some Trader Joe’s Peanuts, Berries and Almonds ((PB&A)) in the bowl. So good!! Baby banana, Sweetie Pie? Just wait. You’ll see….

Baby Nanners

The baby nanners are super yellow, and super good!

For lunch, I grilled a Trader Joe’s Chile Chicken Lime burger, and used it to make a quick taco salad.

Another Big BowlI put lettuce, red bell pepper and corn in the bowl along with some crunched up light Tostitos and some little cubes of Cabot 75% reduced fat cheddar. I topped it with the chopped up burger, and then added salsa, Greek yogurt and a bit of Tostitos Bean and Cheese Dip on the top. I love salads like this one! I don’t want to discuss the ingredients in the Tostitos dip. I’m sure it isn’t the greatest. Speaking of Tostitos products in jars, I have to confess that I love their cheese dip more than I should. Seriously. It’s perfect when I need a Taco Bell type powdered cheese fix. Sometimes it really hits the spot.

Following my big salad….

Mr. Banana ManIntroducing: Mr. Banana Man!! I bought this huge bunch of baby bananas at the international food grocery store last weekend, and I can’t seem to make a dent in them. I love baby bananas because of their smaller portion size. They’re also really cute! I have a feeling some of these babies are about to get frozen and dipped in some chocolate, since I have so many, but, um… I’m ok with that! I couldn’t resist playing with my food a bit. Mr. Banana Man has vanilla wafer features, a banana mouth and a PB& Company Cinnamon Raisin Swirl PB goatee. alternatively, he has a PB mouth and a big banana ‘stache. I’m not sure which it is. What do you think?

Later in the day, I sliced up a pretty pink lady apple, and then made a very tasty dip.

Hey, Pretty Lady!I mixed 2 Tablespoons of PB2 with a Tablespoon of Greek yogurt and half a Tablespoon of berry jam. It was vaguely cheesecakey, and totally delicious!! This might be my favorite use for PB2 so far. Too bad I’m out of apples. 😦 Luckily, I’m sure it would taste great on a baby banana, and goodness knows I have plenty of those!

Closer to dinner time, I had a little snack bowl.

Snickitty SnackI often have this mix in the evening, but I really wanted it for an afternoon snack today. I think this bowl is a great example of how quickly little bites of things can add up caloriewise. I put about half a serving of Quaker Essentials Crunchy Corn Bran squares, one fifth of a serving of Zoe’s honey almond granola and one third of a serving of Reese’s peanut butter chips in the bowl. This added up to 115 calories despite being little bits of this and that. That’s certainly not a bad total for a snack, but seeing the total is a great reminder of how the little bites add up!

For dinner, I was feeling the urge to use something out of the pantry. I had so much success with my little freezer clean out project, that I’m now trying to clean out the pantry. It was cool and rainy most of today, so it seemed like the perfect day for a bowl of Trader Joe’s turkey chili with beans.

TJ's Bowl of GoodnessThere is some roasted cauliflower hiding under there, and a couple of blocks of Cabot 75% reduced fat cheddar on top. Sometimes a simple dinner from a can is a nice thing. Finding a meal in the pantry is sort of like finding change in the couch cushions. I love a hidden treasure!

For dessert, I had a serving of the Breyer’s All Natural Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream that we bought while my parents were here.

Chocolate Minty GoodnessMint chocolate chip is such a perfect combo! There is a lesson in this bowl too. In case you haven’t noticed, I have ice cream almost every night. I love it!! I always weigh out a serving because it saves me from having a dirty measuring cup, and I know I get a more accurate serving. The other thing I always do is put it in a small bowl. Tonight, I grabbed a regular sized bowl, and I couldn’t believe how empty it looked! Using a little bowl really does make your brain think you are having more ice cream. This also is a good reminder of what a serving of ice cream looks like. The next time I find myself in front of a huge bowl, I should keep this in mind!

After my little dessert, I went to work out with my trainer and do some cardio. I loved reading about your favorite stretches in the comments on my last post! It sounds like the old classics rate pretty high with y’all. They do with me too! Sadly, I was still a bit sore from all of the Tuesday night lunges when I got to class tonight. Of course, there was more lunging. Ugh! I feel like both of my strength training work outs were really good this week, but I suspect that I have another day or two of soreness in my future. What’s that saying? “Pain is weakness leaving the body?” Well, I think I’m leaving a trail of weakness behind me. 🙂

After my work out, I treated some strawberries, 1/2 a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze and 1/2 a packet of Weight Watcher’s Chocolate Smoothie Mix to a little spin in the magic bullet. Yum!! I think this would be an interesting color for nail polish:

SmoothI love chocolate and berries together. Strangely enough, I’m still hungry. I think it’s time for a few almonds and then I’m off to bed. I’ve had a hard time falling asleep this week, so I’m going to have a nice cup of chamomile tea along with my almonds and I hope that will do the trick. 

Before I go, I wanted to tell you that Lucky Taste Buds is hosting a massive giveaway, so be sure to check it out. LTB is always a fun blog to read, and I’ve learned about a number of interesting eats from her site. I highly recommend a visit to Lucky Taste Buds!

Ciao for now, y’all and I hope you have a great Friday!

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Filed under Bananas, diet, Fitness, Food, Greek Yogurt, Salad, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story