Monday, January 30, 2012

Something simple is sometimes the best

Sometimes a quick and easy salad is a perfect side dish, or even a main course. I try to keep a variety of greens on hand. I always have bags of baby spinach (we use three 9 ounce bags a week just as ingredients in our smoothies.) Aldi also has bags of what they call "Spring Mix Lettuces" but I always think it looks like someone just got done weeding a garden. (I don't know what the leaves are, but it makes for a nice salad, and always tastes great.)

I like to slice a few cherry tomatoes on top. If I have some berries, I will add a quarter cup (this time it was blueberries.)  I also like to add a tablespoon of cheese. Sometimes cheddar, sometimes mozzarella, sometimes a bleu, but the cheese helps to balance the acidity of the berries.

My vinaigrette is simple, and will also vary according to my whim, but it follows the same basic recipe:

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Teaspoon vinegar (I like balsamic, but I will also use red wine, malt or cider)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sweetener
Black pepper
1/4 tsp dried herbs (and as noted before, I like to use the salt-free blends from  This time I used their Mural of Flavor.)

Mix together. The mustard helps the oil and vinegar to combine without separating as quickly.

When I make my salad a main course, I add some smoked salmon, grilled shrimp, diced grilled chicken, or some leftover steak (about 4 ounces of each protein choice.) Another option is to add the vinaigrette to a can of tuna (drained), mix together, and top the salad with the tuna.

If you want to be vegetarian, slice a hard boiled egg on it and add an ounce of walnuts. If your personal diet choices allow it, a piece of hearty whole wheat or rye bread goes very well. 

Eating healthy can be interesting and exciting. You simply need to keep some basics on hand so that you will be able to make the foods that you want.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Flank Steak and the rest

I won't give any real recipes for this meal, just a description of my techniques.

The flank steak is lightly scored on both sides, rubbed with olive oil, black pepper and a lot of fresh garlic. I grilled it over high heat, about 6 minutes on a side. Normally that results in a medium steak, but the cold weather and wind reduced the heat. This steak turned our medium-rare to rare (which is also acceptable in my family.)

The mashed potatoes were peeled and boiled Yukon Golds, approximately 1 pound. After boiling, I mashed them, and then whipped them with an electric mixer, adding 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon low fat cream cheese. I topped my portion with 1 tablespoon Gorgonzola cheese.

A Kabocha squash is easy to make. I cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. I place it on a plate, cut side down, and microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Then I flip it over, add 1 tsp olive oil, and wrap with plastic wrap tightly, and microwave an additional 3 minutes (this keeps the steam trapped and helps it cook quicker.)  When finished, I scrape the flesh out of the shells, and serve with a teaspoon (or more) olive oil drizzled on each portion, with salt and pepper to taste.

The entire meal was 550 calories.

Grilled Jalapeno Poppers

Grilled Jalapeno Poppers
Makes 4 servings of 4 halves

8 jalapenos, halved and seeded
4 tablespoons low fat cream cheese
4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons minced green onion

1.  Prepare jalapenoes. If your hands are sensitive, wear gloves.
2.  Fill each half with approximately 1 tablespoon of the filling.
3.  Preheat the grill. Place peppers on grill, over direct heat, skin-side down. 
4.  Remove peppers when the skin begins to char.
5.  Serve warm or cold.

Nutritional Data
Calories:       64
Fat:               3.0g
Sat fat:          1.7g
Chol:             10mg
Sodium:       120mg
Carbs:           5.2g
Fiber:            0.9g
Protein:         4.5g

Pancakes and Frittata

The pancakes are my basic protein pancakes, topped with blueberry Greek yogurt and additional fresh blueberries.

Leek Frittata

Makes 2 servings.

1 leek, cleaned carefully, and slice thinly across the grain
4 whole eggs, large
2 Tablespoons shredded cheese (your choice)
Pepper as needed
Cooking spray
Diced tomato for a dressing

1.  Slice the leek the long way, fan it apart and rinse it under cool running water.  Slice it thinly across the grain.
2.  Turn your broiler on high.
3.  Heat a non-stick, oven-safe pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add leeks.  Saute until beginning to soften, 3-5 minutes.
4.  Crack four eggs into a bowl, whisk lightly.
5.  Pour over leeks. Let the eggs cook until beginning to set.  The surface will still be runny. Top with cheese. Place under broiler until the cheese browns and eggs finish cooking (2-3 minutes).
6.  Cut in half, serve immediately.

Nutritional data:
Calories:    219
Fat:           14.7g
Sat fat:        6.1g
Chol:         438mg
Sodium:    234mg
Carbs:        5.7g
Fiber:         0.6g
Protein:    16.6g


The TV was on this morning while I was making breakfast. I was just using the TV as a "white noise" generator, when a commercial for some brand of yogurt (I don't recall it) came on touting its yogurt as being a good alternative to other snacks. The premise of the commercial was a youth spelling bee, and the word was "swap-ortunity".

It got me thinking. What have I swapped in my journey to my current weight?

In terms of food, I made many changes. I drink water almost exclusively over any beverage with calories. I use olive oil instead of butter on my bread (and the bread is now homemade, with extra fiber from milled flax seed.)  Here is my most recent bread, a Rye/Flax loaf.

Formerly, I used to take 1-2 fish oil capsules daily (300mg omega-3 fatty acids per capsule), but one serving of flax seed (2 tablespoons) has more omega-3 than 8 capsules, plus fiber and protein.

I eat eggs frequently for breakfast, but toast rarely. Initially, I swapped whole eggs for egg whites in omelets, but as I went along I went back the whole eggs for the nutrients and fats. I used to worry about the fat in my diet; now I worry about too many carbs and not enough fat and protein.  Plain Greek yogurt has taken the place of low-fat sour cream for the same flavor and consistency but much more protein.
I've swapped salt for increased herbs and spices (I use a lot more fresh ginger and garlic now, and have many salt-free blends from to punch up the flavor without adding salt.)

Instead of 1-3 beers a day, I have 6 ounces of red wine 3-4 times a week. I swapped caffeinated beverages for decaf (another step toward getting my blood pressure under control.)

I've swapped many things related to exercise, too. I walk the stairs instead of elevators and use distant parking spots instead of a spot as close to the door as possible. I use an old-fashioned reel mower (the kind with no motor) instead of my riding lawn mower. I used to just time my walks when I took Ozzy out, but now my FitBit counts them far more accurately (and then transmits the calories expended to my LoseIt profile for me!)

Finally, and most importantly, mentally I have swapped things. I no longer assume that I am a non-athlete, so to reinforce that I registered for the 10K Bellin Run. I am going to buy a bike as spring nears, and will start training for long-distance rides. I will be making a hike this summer (a round-trip walk from my current city to my hometown and back, totalling 166 miles, with only what I can carry on my back for support) just to do it.  I am learning to believe in myself and that I deserve to be healthy, and that being healthy is a step toward being happy.

What are some of your swaps?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash and Cranberry Relish

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
2 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
3 scallions, diced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Pierce squash with fork. Microwave on high for 12-15 minutes, turning over halfway through the cooking. Slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds. Using a fork, remove the flesh. This will create strands that look like spaghetti. Place in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients, toss gently, serve immediately.

Make 6-8 servings, 1 cup each

Nutritional data:
Calories:     100
Fat:                 3g
Sat fat:            2g
Chol:            10mg
Sodium:      160mg
Carbs:           16g
Fiber:             2g
Protein:          6g

Cranberry Relish
1 pound fresh cranberries, washed
1 apple, quartered and cored
1 navel orange, peeled
3 packets Stevia (or other sweetener)

Place all ingredients in food processor. Process until evenly chunky. Chill and serve.

Makes 6 half-cup servings.

Nutritional data:
Calories:    44
Fat:            0.1g
Sat fat:          0g
Chol:            0g
Sodium:    1.1mg
Carbs:     11.6g
Fiber:           3g
Protein:     0.4g

(The pork is a 3 pound "half loin" roast. The portion size on the plate is four ounces. I season it with one of my salt-free blends from Penzey'  Today I used 33rd and Galena St.  I preheat my grill, and use indirect heat at approximately 300F for one hour, or until my instant-read thermometer reads 160-165F in the center.)

A nice day

The day started early this morning. I was up at 4am so I could get ready for the brewing seminar today. After the last seminar I taught, some students gave negative feedback because they expected sweet rolls for breakfast. So I bought a variety of sweet rolls and a gallon of orange juice, fresh from the bakery at 5am. Then I woke my son and we went to my school. (Well, the "waking my son" took a little longer than that, but I edited it for brevity.)

The class went well (but this group was not expected sweet rolls, and at the end of the class there were a dozen left.) We made successfully made four good beers and I think most will register for the advance brewing seminar in a month.

When we were done, we drove home (45 minutes) and had a good ride talking. He also asked if he could go to band practice (the heavy metal band) and if so, if he could take the leftover doughnuts. That was a great idea, because I really didn't need those at home. (Besides, a few teenagers can take care of those without even thinking!)

The afternoon was a nice day, so I fired up the grill and made a pork loin, served with cheesy spaghetti squash and fresh cranberry relish. I love grilling in the winter.

I really don't have anything motivational to talk about today. Sometimes it's nice to just  have some fun, and brewing is always a lot of fun, especially when I get to teach a few new people and spend the day with my teenager. I'll try to find something more significant to blog about tomorrow.

Mediterranean "Burrito"

1 Pita bread, softened
4 tablespoons roasted eggplant-hummus spread
1/4 cucumber
1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/4 medium tomato, diced

Spread hummus on pita. Top with remaining ingredients. Fold and enjoy!

Nutritional Data
Calories: 265
Fat:         6.7g
Sat Fat:   0.5g
Chol:         0mg
Sodium: 221mg
Carbs:    43.2g
Fiber:       4.1g
Protein:  10.1g

Roasted Eggplant-Hummus Spread

Makes approximately 12 servings, 2 tablespoons each

1 medium eggplant
1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves, peeled
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
Black pepper to taste

Make slits in the eggplant. Insert a clove of garlic into each slit. Heat your grill, and place eggplant over the heat. As the eggplant begins to char, turn. Remove when charred on all sides and it is beginning to get soft.  Let cool until you can handle it.

Slice the eggplant in half and scoop out the flesh and garlic cloves. Place in blender or food processor. Add the can of beans. Blend or process until beginning to get smooth. Add tahini (sesame paste) and olive oil, and process/blend until very smooth. Serve warm or cold. Can be frozen for future use.

Nutritional Data
Calories:  67
Fat:       3.7g
Sat fat:  0.5g
Chol:     0mg
Sodium: 69mg
Carbs:   7.6g
Fiber:    3.2g
Protein: 2.6g

Friday, January 27, 2012

Restaurants Are Our Friends!

Sometimes, you just need to eat out. I know in the past I have focused on only cooking for myself, but it is difficult to completely avoid eating out. There are foods that I just don't make. Like chicken wings.

I LOVE chicken wings. Deep Fried. Naked (unbreaded). With Inferno sauce on the side. Yesterday, I needed chicken wings. So, I went to my neighborhood pub, ordered my wings, and a beer.  And enjoyed every morsel. And only one beer (New Belgium's Snowy Day Winter Ale.)

How can that be a healthy meal, for a guy who is worried about not being able to maintain my current weight? Because I planned for the meal. It fit into my budget. I ordered the wings naked and unsauced. That let me control some of the calories, and a lot of the sodium. And the spicy Inferno Sauce blended well with the hoppy and bold beer.  It was a great meal.

That's how I plan to maintain my current weight and move into the rest of my life. I will make considered choices. I will still log my foods on LoseIt, and I will still try to eat only those food choices that are "10s" on the deliciousness scale. I will still be on a calories budget, and won't waste my budget on low-quality foods. You shouldn't either.

On a totally unrelated note, tomorrow I am teaching a class at my college, Introduction to Homebrewing. We have only six students, but it will be a fun morning as we learn how to take simple ingredients and turn them into beer. This beer will be served at a local brewfest on February 18. If you are interested and able to go, I will be pouring the four beers made by this class (an American Imperial Pale Ale, an Irish Stout, a German Hefeweizen, and a Scottish Ale.) I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The wonderful world of variety

Based on responses, both here and on my LoseIt feed, sardines are not the most popular food item in this country. (Ditto to calves brains.) That's okay with me. I never expect everyone to agree with everything I say, do or write. Nor should anyone else expect that of their personal beliefs, practices and opinion. This world provides an infinite amount of diversity, which is what makes life so fulfilling and interesting.

It is difficult on days where I am out of the house from early morning to late evening. I have no chance to really cook anything special. (What I mean by that, is that there won't be a new recipe or picture of delicious food today.) My main goal is to get to the clinical site on time and be able to eat healthy foods. Over the next few posts (which may take weeks or months, depending on which other ideas pop into my brain) I will give you other ideas for quick and easy meals that meet my goals of healthy, easy and economical. And as before, I will also continue to add to the growing list of recipes, as well as general discussions of life.

I still don't have my snow blower fixed. Part of me is hoping that maybe we just won't get any more snow. The rest of me knows that I better get off my butt now, before the snow flies. Hmm. Is there a corollary here with taking steps toward our goals? The broken chute on my snow blower won't heal itself. But this is Wisconsin and the snow will not stay away forever. Likewise, if you found this blog through LoseIt, or have a desire for greater health, it won't happen magically on its own. However, greater-than-desired weight and other health issues will happen without any intervention on your part.

We all have goals. We need to understand that goals require effort. And rarely are important goals easy to achieve.  I know that my weight loss seemed simple and easy. But it took constant focus, daily reminders of the importance of meeting my health goals. However, that was only the first goal.  Henry Kissinger is quoted as saying, "Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem."  That seems to be gloomy but it is accurate. In school, success in one grade level advances you to a more difficult level. On the job, success in a specific job role will usually result in gaining greater responsibilities.

My "more difficult problem" is maintenance of my current weight. I am happy to have graduated to this new level of difficulty. I will continue with my focus, but will also rely on my growing community of friends to help me achieve this new, lifelong goal.

You, all of you, can achieve the goals that you want, that are in your power. It takes focus. You CAN do it. The power is within you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's not always a gourmet meal!

I always bring my lunches to work. I'm frugal. I can make a lunch for less money than if I bought it anywhere. I am also careful with what I eat. When I pack my own meals, I know what I am getting. Even if it is a purchased food, ready-to-eat, I can read the labels to know what I am eating.

I am primarily a clinical instructor in our nursing program. When I am at the clinical site, I generally never have a long time to sit and eat. I might get five uninterrupted minutes. I need a good meal that can be eaten relatively quickly and still be a healthy meal. 

Today's meal is a good example:

It is certainly nothing gourmet.  I bought all this at my favorite grocery store (Aldi). A can of sardines in water, a non-fat Greek yogurt and a Gala apple. Nothing needs to be refrigerated (yogurt can sit out for the 8+ hours without harm.) It is a high protein meal (33g), moderate fat (7g total, 2 g sat fat, with 1200mg omega-3 fatty acids). Only a total of 355 calories with only 250 mg sodium. And the entire meal cost $2.20. 

And most importantly, it tastes great!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chicken in Garlic-Vinegar Sauce

Chicken and Garlic-Vinegar Sauce

Makes 6 servings  (Served as above with steamed broccoli and 1/2 cup whole wheat couscous.  The nutritional values below are for the chicken only, not the side dishes.)

Note:  I used 8 garlic cloves in this recipe.  The next time I will double it.  The garlic was very subdued by the vinegar and sour cream.  I wanted it to be more assertive.  I might also try malt vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, and use 8 ounces of beer instead of chicken broth, to reduce the sodium load, and bring out a different flavor.  As always, recipes are meant to be creative.

6 chicken breast 5 ounces each (approximately)
3 teaspoon Olive oil, divided
1 cup onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
2 tsp dried thyme
¼ cup reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tsp all-purpose flour
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chives

1.      Dry chicken.  Season with pepper (and salt, if desired)
2.      Heat heavy Dutch oven (or similar pan) over medium heat, spray with cooking spray and add 1 tsp olive oil.  Add the chicken, turning as needed until browned.  5-7 minutes.  If needed, cook chicken in multiple batches, if all will not fit at the same time.
3.      Remove chicken, add 1 tsp olive oil.  Add onions and garlic, stir over medium-high heat until the onion is lightly brown.
4.      Add vinegar, bring to a boil
5.      Return chicken to pot, add broth and thyme.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let cook until chicken is very tender, about 50 minutes.
6.      While cooking, mix sour cream, tomato paste and flour until smooth.
7.      Seed and dice tomatoes, add chives and the remaining olive in a bowl and reserve for garnish.
8.      When the chicken is finished, remove from the stock and place on a plate.  Stir in sour cream mixture until smooth, bring to a simmer and let cook for 1 minute.
9.      Return chicken to sauce, and gently stir to coat.
10.  Serve garnished with diced tomatoes.

Cal:           272
Fat:           3.5g 
Sat Fat:     1.0g 
Chol:       110mg
Sodium:  228mg 
Carb:         7.5g 
Fiber         1.4g 
Protein:   41.9g 

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I've been under the weather for the past couple days.  Not up to cooking food or blogging, or anything else.  Hope to get back at it tomorrow.  Stop back tomorrow!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mango Spinach Smoothie

Mango Spinach Smoothie

Makes one 24-32 ounce smoothie

1 cup frozen mango
1-2 cups water (depending on what consistency you desire, I use about 1.5 cups)
1 scoop whey protein powder
1 packet Crystal Light (I like classic orange in mine)
2 Tablespoons milled flaxseed (optional, but an important source of omega-3 fatty acids)
3 ounces fresh baby spinach

1.  Place first five ingredients in blender, and blend on high until smooth.
2.  Carefully add spinach, while the blender is running, a small handful at a time, until it is completely incorporated.
3.  Serve.

The above mug is a 28 ounce mug.

Calories:       344
Fat:                8.2g
Sat fat:           1.7g
Chol:              54mg
Sodium:        171mg
Carbs:           46.4g
Fiber:            15.3g
Protein:         27.5g

I WILL WIN (part 2)

Yup.  That is my first tattoo.  I've made it to almost 49 years old before finally getting one.  "Vincero" means "I will win" in Italian (in case you didn't watch the video in yesterday's post.)  It's inked on my right forearm, near the wrist. I will see it daily. I will be reminded daily.

I know I will succeed. I have learned that I am powerful, determined, focused and driven. But reminders never hurt. I like using calendars, and "to do" lists. They keep me organized. On task. (Remember my shopping list?)  And this event was a life-changing event. I achieved my goal, and have embarked on the next goal (maintenance.)

I decided to make this reminder permanent, because this new goal will be permanent. I will never leave maintenance. And I will never settle for "almost".

What are you willing to do as a reminder, as an incentive? It doesn't have to be a tattoo. Maybe you are going buy a new summer outfit in your new size. Register for a run? Join a gym and pay for a coach. How are you going to invest in your life? What are you going to do, right now, so that you can be better later?

If you are ever in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and feel the need to add some art to your body, ask for Steve here.

A couple of in-progress pictures:

Thursday, January 19, 2012


For those of you that do not follow my thoughts/comments on, I have achieved a milestone in my path to greater health. I reached my goal weight! This means that since May 25th, I have lost more than 76 pounds. Since I first began my path to better health, I have lost more than 100 pounds (since July 28, 2008) and more than 125 pounds from my greatest weight in 2006.

I now will begin the more difficult phase of weight management. I will keep it off, while increasing my strength and running endurance. It turns out that weight loss was only my first goal, although I thought it would be the only goal when I started this. As my success has progressed, my outlook has changed accordingly.

I do not listen to a lot of opera, in fact almost none, but I have developed a belief that every musical genre has value in the right setting. Everything fills a niche. The following is the late Luciano Pavarotti, performing one of the greatest tenor arias in all of the art, Nessun Dorma, from Puccini's Turandot. It is in Italian, but I have included the translation below. Please indulge me and listen to a master at his craft, as he performs his signature aria:

Italian Text
Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle
che tremano d'amore
e di speranza.
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun saprà!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò
quando la luce splenderà!
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
che ti fa mia!
(Il nome suo nessun saprà!...
e noi dovrem, ahime, morir!)
Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All'alba vincerò!
vincerò, vincerò!

English Translation of "Nessun Dorma"

Nobody shall sleep!...
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know...
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!...
(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I WILL WIN!

This aria was used in the 2006 Winter Olympic in Turino, which was "sung" by Pavarotti in his last performance (actually lip-synched due to grave illness.) I have adopted "Vincerò" (I will win) as my theme and motto for life. It is forward-looking and assumptive of success. I think that in any endeavor, if you do not assume success, you will not achieve it.

I have come a long way since 2006. I am not done yet. Future goals include maintaining my weight, building running and biking endurance, and increase strength. And to keep this blog fresh and active with my thoughts and recipes. Stay with me as I continue on this journey.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Moo Shu Vegetables on Shirataki Noodles

Moo Shu Vegetables on Shirataki Noodles
Serve 4

4 large eggs
12 ounce bag of Broccoli Slaw (or other shredded vegetable, approximately 4 cups)
1 cup bean sprouts (fresh)
1 cup shredded carrots
6 ounce bag snow peas, diced into ½ inch pieces
3 scallions sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger root, crushed

1 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce

14 ounces shirataki tofu noodles (2 bags)

1.   Empty bags of noodles into colander. Rinse. Set aside.
2.   Heat non-stock skillet with cooking spray. Lightly scramble eggs, and place in skillet.  Cook   until lightly set, remove from skillet, set aside.
3.   Wipe out skillet, re-spray with cooking spray over medium heat. When hot, add garlic and ginger, stirring, for one minute.
4.   Add broccoli slaw, carrots, bean sprouts and snow peas. Add vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil and let warm for 3 minutes.  Stir once or twice.
5.   Add hoisin sauce and eggs.  Stir to break up eggs.  Until heated through (3-4 minutes.)
6.   In a second non-stick pan, spray with cooking spray and add remaining 1 tsp sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add shirataki noodles and half of the scallions.  Toss until hot. (1-2 minutes)

Serve the vegetables (2 cups) over the noodles (1/2 cup).

Nutrition Data:
Calories:          204
Fat:                  10.5g
Sat fat:               2.1g
Chol:             211.5mg
Sodium:           230mg
Carbs:              18.9g
Fiber:                 8.1g
Protein:            11.7g


Sorry, this is a lengthy post.

If you have or know children, you know they long the question"why?" Usually it is an unanswerable question, like "why is the sky blue?" or "why do dogs bark and cats meow?" or "why do I have to have a baby brother?" About the only more annoying question is "are we they yet?" which can be rephrased as "why are we not there yet?"

"Why" is an important question to answer. We have all seen the police TV show, where they find fingerprints, and DNA evidence, but still can't solve the case until the detective uncovers the motive. The "why". Other questions (who, what, when, where, and how) can be answered with a picture or two. But can you find any pictures to answer the questions above?

I started this blog as a way to keep my focus on my weight management goal. I wanted to lose weight. Many people on LoseIt and followers of the blog can claim the same goal. But wanting to lose weight is only the first step, and is not the most important step. Like the TV detective, you need to answer the "why".

Why do you want to lose weight (or gain muscle, or reduce body fat, whatever your goal.) The reason is going to be primarily external or internal. An external reason, and one that I see on LoseIt frequently it so look good at an upcoming wedding, reunion, or vacation. He/she wants to look good on that beach in that new swim suit. This person wants to look good for others. Sure, ego is involved, but it is other people that are the focus.

An internal factor could be that your health is diminished, or is at risk of developing a condition. Personally, my blood pressure was greatly elevated, and my back and knees were in constant pain. I didn't like how I looked, but my motivation was more about being rejected for platelet donation because my blood pressure was VERY high (168/108). I really didn't care what the Red Cross worker thought, I just didn't want to think about a stroke or heart attack in my future.

Until you know why you are choosing to change your body, success will be difficult. Obstacles will be presented and will seem insurmountable. Or the goal will seem to be more effort than it is worth. And if your reasons are external, I believe long term success will elude you. Even if you lose the weight, and look spectacular in that new swim suit as you walk the Bahamanian beaches, as soon as the vacation is done and you have returned to the frozen winter, your reason for the workouts and logging will be gone. This is especially true for those of you who are following significantly restrictive plans to lose weight (extreme low carb, or extreme low calorie, or even extreme workout regimens.) Anything that requires a major paradigm shift from your "average day" will be challenging, (although not impossible) to maintain that change forever.

But if you have a strong internal motivator, do not have a rigid deadline for success, and use a plan that is only a variant of your usual life, you are more likely to reach your goal--eventually--and then stay there. In other words, use portion control for your meals, and add exercise in a natural fashion. Rather than buy exercise DVDs and rigorously exercise for 60 minutes a day, simply walk more in your daily life. Ignore elevators. Look for parking spots distant from your destination. Walk your dog a little longer or twice a day. Ozzy loves my new life. If you have a home and have a lawn that is 1/3 acre or less, get rid of the lawn service or self-propelled mower and buy a reel mower. You become the motor. You'll buy no gasoline and add no extra carbon to the atmosphere. You'll burn a lot of calories--quietly. And you'll be the envy of the neighborhood, because you will probably mow twice a week.

I'm not telling anyone that their choices are wrong. These are my opinions, based on a sample size of one (me.) Your plan may work for you. But I truly believe that if you don't have a solid and significantly personal reason for changing your life, you won't be ultimately successful.

I hope you identify your "why."

Later I will post tonight's recipe, Moo Shu Vegetable with Shirataki Noodles.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Some days are quick and easy. Some are long and laborious. Today was the latter. Well, not laborious in the sense of the labor that a farmer, lumberjack or the guys on The Deadliest Catch. I was sitting in a room with eight students, trying to orient them to a new clinical site, with an instructor that they only know from reputation, in a room that is cooler than comfortable. That type of laborious.

But I went into it with excitement and enthusiasm. I had all the necessary course documents in place, and was ready to handle every one's curious questions. I had a full mug of coffee in my system. I was going to take charge!

However, my well-laid plans were thrown for a loop.  I met everyone at the main entrance of the hospital, introduced myself, and then turned to lead them to the orientation room. Cool and in control! Until one student caught up to me, gestured to whisper in my ear and told me, "Mr. LaRene. Your fly is unzipped."

Yeah.  She was right. Now THAT is a way to start a new class! First impressions, et cetera.

I was able to laugh it off (and zip up) but that helped me transition to one of the important topics of the orientation. Communication. We need a constant two-way communication for a hospital clinical to succeed. And we all need to understand that while we strive for perfection, we will never achieve it. And how we handle ourselves when under stress, strain and embarrassment will help define who we are.

Mistakes happen. Vernon Law, former MLB player said, "Experience is a hard teacher, because she give the test first and then the lesson." Hopefully I was able to demonstrate to my students how to handle an embarrassment.

At the very least, they got a good laugh out of it.

Official weigh in on Thursday morning. Will I achieve my goal? I'll let you know then. We tried a new recipe tonight. Really good, quite filling. I hope you give it a try.

Toasted Quinoa and Scallops

Toasted Quinoa and Scallops

12 ounces scallops, cut into  ½ inch size pieces
1 cup raw quinoa
2 cups water
2 Tablespoon canola oil, divide
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
4 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce (low sodium, if possible)
6 ounces snow pea pods, sliced into ½ inch chunks
½ cup bell pepper, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced

1.      Heat a large skillet with 1 Tablespoon canola oil.  Add quinoa, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown. It will pop similar to popcorn.
2.      Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
3.      Stir in pea pods, cover for 5 minutes.
4.      Mix remaining canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and vinegar. Set aside.
5.      In a non-stick skillet, heat and spray with cooking spray. Place scallops in, sauté until beginning to brown.
6.      Put bell peppers and scallions on quinoa.
7.      Pour oil/vinegar sauce over quinoa. Stir in.
8.      Gently stir in scallops.

Serves 6 (1 cup portions)

Nutritional data:
Calories:          228
Fat:                  6.6g
Sat fat:             0.7g
Cholesterol:     23mg
Sodium:          155mg
Carbs:            26.9g
Fiber:               3.2g
Protein:          16.5g

Monday, January 16, 2012

Close. So Very Close.

Not everyone here is from LoseIt, so if you are, please bear with me as a repeat a few things. Since May 25, 2011, I have been working on a weight loss goal. Today's weigh-in leaves me just a mere 0.1 pounds away from that feat.

I have to admit, it seems simultaneously overwhelming ... and just another weigh-in. Sure, hitting the weight goal is awesome. When I weigh in next on Thursday, barring a disastrous week between now and then, I will have lost over 76 pounds since last May. And my original start to the loss actually began on July 28, 2008 and on the next weigh-in, I will have lost over 100 pounds since that date. That will also be over 125 pounds down from my highest weight in the summer of 2006.

But the reason this is both awesome and "meh, whatever" is that I have already begun altering my mindset to new goals. I want to run the Bellin Run on June 2012, and increase my running endurance. I want to get stronger and be able to lift more weight. I want to reduce my body fat percentage.

Most importantly, I want to MAINTAIN my weight!

I guess that last factor is why I am approaching this milestone with mixed feelings. In the grand scheme of things, losing weight is simple. (Not easy, but simple.) Eat fewer calories than you burn, and get more active, and almost everyone will lose weight. I've lost weight before. Many times.

That's the problem. Getting to the endpoint is one thing, but staying there is a whole different game, with different rules. I have NEVER achieved a weight loss goal. I don't know how to maintain. That will be the next major challenge. I know that increasing my running and lifting will help, because it is a new set of goals. It is a new game.

I know that with the help of my family and friends around me, and especially my friends on LoseIt, I will continue to achieve my goals, and in doing so, will find new goals to keep me moving forward.


Mushroom-Herb Chicken and Potatoes Alfredo w/ Gruyere

Mushroom-Herb Chicken

4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts, 5 ounce each (approx.)
8 ounces brown (crimini) mushrooms, sliced
½ cup onion, sliced
¼ cup white wine
Herb blend (your preference)
Cooking spray

Place chicken breasts in a heavy duty ziplock storage bag, and pound flat (to ½ inch). Season with pepper and herb blend (both sides.)

In a large non-stick sauté pan, spray with cooking spray, heat over medium-high heat and place chicken in pan.  Cook for 5-6 minutes per side.  They should be nicely brown. Remove from pan, set aside.  Spray with cooking spray again, add onions. Saute for 1 minute, add mushrooms.  Saute another 2 minutes, add wine and return the chicken to the pan. Cover, and cook over medium for another 3 minutes.  Remove, serve topped with mushrooms.

Serves 4

Nutritional data:
Calories:          187
Fat:                  0.1g
Sat fat:                0g
Cholesterol:     80mg
Sodium:           94mg
Carbs:              4.6g
Fiber:               0.6g
Protein:          31.4g

Potatoes Alfredo with Gruyere

4 potatoes (1 pound) I like using Yukon Gold potatoes
½ cup prepared alfredo sauce
¼ cup milk (I used 2%)
¾ ounce gruyere cheese, shredded
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350F

Wash potatoes.  Slice thinly (with skins is my preference.) Place in bowl. Top with alfredo sauce and milk.  Stir together.

Spray small baking dish (1.5 quart round worked for me, as would an 8x8 baking pan) with non-stick spray. Layer potatoes.  Top with shredded gruyere.

Serves 4

Nutritional data:
Calories:          205
Fat:                  5.6g
Sat fat:             3.3g
Cholesterol:      26mg
Sodium:          233mg
Carbs:            33.5g
Fiber:               2.2g
Protein:            6.8g

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Grilled Hamburgers

Grilled Hamburgers

16 ounces lean ground beef (I use 93% lean beef)
1 slice white bread, crusts removed
2 T milk
1 T onion, minced
Fresh cracked black pepper

Tear the bread into small pieces and place in a bowl. Add milk and mash. Stir in onion.  Add this to the meat, working the burger only enough to mix the bread into it.

Form the meat into 4 patties.  Flatten them into 3 inch circles.  Try to make the centers depressed a little on both side, to allow for the meat to expand as it cooks.

While you are preparing the burgers, preheat your grill on high for 10 minutes.  Get it HOT. Immediately prior to placing the burgers on the grill, carefully rub cooking oil on the grates. Place the burgers on the grill, season if needed and close the lid.  Turn after 4 minutes.  The burgers will be done in another 4 minutes (burgers will be cooked medium.)

The burger above is topped with 1 ounce Colby-Jack cheese, 1/4 mashed avocado, an tomato slice, sauteed jalapenos, and onions.

Your numbers will be different, based on the bun you use, the cheese (if any) or any other toppings that you wish to use.  The burger as pictured has 327 calories.

I Love My Grill!

Winter grilling is a blast!

I have a nice LP grill that I modified so that is connects to the natural gas line installed on our patio. That means that even in the coldest weather, when LP doesn't burn as hot, I can walk out my patio door and have a hot grill. 

I have owned LP grills and charcoal grills. I prefer both, depending on what I am making. Right now, I have my NG grill (above) and a charcoal grill/smoker.  If I am making burgers, steaks or salmon, I use the NG grill. If I am making my pulled pork, beer can chickens, or a whole turkey, then I use the charcoal grill (and usually add apple wood chips for smoke and flavor.) My grills are my tools for the creation of delicious foods.

You need the right tools for success. The tools for weight management are more than scales and measuring cups (which are critically important) but you can consider your plan to be a tool. Maybe you are eating paleo or primal. Maybe you are vegetarian. Those are the tools you have chosen to use to reach your goal. Exercise is another tool that should be in your plan.

But don't be welded to a single tool. Just as I have two different grills, used for different foods, you might need different tools as you make progress on your weight management path.  Add or remove food groups as you work toward your goal. Try different exercise forms. Take up swimming. Register for a race (like I did.) Buy a bike or roller blades. (I won't buy roller blades. I tried my son's one afternoon. I have never experienced that level of fear and loss of control. And the neighbors have never laughed so hard!)

A remember, weight management is a lifelong activity. You will not be able to reach a weight goal and then simply quit. You will need to find new foods and new activities continually for the rest of your life. (And that's a good thing!)

Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche

Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche

1 prepared pie crust (or your preferred pie crust recipe)

1/2 cup onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp olive oil

1 cup cottage cheese
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
12 ounce bag of frozen, chopped broccoli, thawed and drained.

Preheat oven to 350F

1.  Grease 9 inch pie tin, place pie crust in tin
2.  Sautee onions, mushrooms and garlic over medium heat in olive oil until soft (5-6 minutes)
3.  While onions and mushrooms cook, separate eggs.  Add egg whites and the whole egg to the cottage cheese.  Add mustard.  Mix until smooth. 
4.  Stir in cheddar cheese and broccoli.
5.  Stir in onions and mushrooms.
6.  Pour mixture into pie crust.
7.  Cook 35-40 minutes, or until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
8.  Let rest 5 minutes.  Serves 4

Calories:     382
Fat:              21.8g
Sat Fat:          6.4g
Chol:              66mg
Sodium:       534mg
Carb:           29.2g
Fiber:            2.6g
Protein:         16.2g

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Vegetables

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Vegetables
 1.5 pound boneless, skin-on salmon fillet

Heat your grill on high for 10 minutes.  Clean grate and rub with oil.  Lay salmon, skin side down on grill.  Season with your preferred seasonings.  Turn heat to medium.

Fish is done when it begins to flake as you lift it in the middle (10-12 minutes.)

If serving 4 ounce portions, this will feed six.

Calories:  190
Fat:         9.0g
Sat Fat:   1.5g
Chol:       70mg
Sodium:   50mg
Carbs:        0g
Fiber:         0g
Protein:    24g

Roasted Vegetables
6-8 cups of any vegetables (This time I used mushrooms, onions, leek, bell peppers and Brussels sprouts.)  Clean the vegetables as needed. (Leeks can hold a lot of mud.  Cut them in half lengthwise, and rinse completely under running water.) Place in large ziplock bag, add 3 Tablespoons olive oil and your preferred seasoning, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 450F.  Put vegetable in a 9x13 pan, and place in the oven.  Toss veggies every 10 minutes.  Veggies will be done in 30 minutes. You are looking for some vegetables to begin browning.

Serves 6-8 in one cup portions

Calories:   85
Fat:         5.5g
Sat Fat:   0.8g
Chol:        0mg
Sodium:   9.5mg
Carbs:      8.2g
Fiber:       2.1g
Protein:       2g