Saturday, March 31, 2012

Success is ...

We all want success. We want to look good when we go to the beach, or the wedding, or just look good in general. We want to hit our weight loss goal (as fast as possible, of course) or maybe our body fat percentage goal. Maybe we want to run a mile just a little faster.

And, many of us will say, "Tomorrow I will ... " (Eat healthier? Start walking? Ride a bike? Start taking my own meals to work? Buy an exercise DVD?)

But what is everyone waiting for? Why did I need to wait until I was 45 to take my first steps along this journey, when I had been big for the previous 3+ decades, too.  Are we waiting for someone to become our cheerleader? Someone to encourage us, inspire us,  and hold our hands?  Someone to tell us "it's okay" when we get weak and eat that Cadbury egg staring at us in the store?
Inspiration is nice. We all need it. But inspiration can only take us so far. With apologies to Thomas Edison, who was giving his definition of "genius", I have altered his quote to read:

"Success is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."

In other words, get off your butt and get going! Don't talk about getting started ... just get started.  Don't talk about eating healthier--just eat healthier. Get rid of those foods that are your major weakness. If you have recently loss weight and no longer fit into your old size, donate the clothes, right now! Don't let that security blanket sit in your closet ("just in case") because if you think like that, you WILL be wearing that size again (and probably soon.)

And when you have the moment (or day) of weakness, don't throw your hands in the air, wail, and shout "I failed!" Start again. No one has every lost weight in a steady and unbroken line. And no one ever will. We are humans and our bodies and minds play nasty and evil tricks on us. Make sure you know your goal and keep working toward it.

If my words are inspiration to you, I am happy. That is most of the reason I put my thoughts out here. But if my words do not get you to accept your responsibility and log all your foods, to get off your butt and walk a little further, to not game the system (by taking credit for routine activities and counting that as exercise so you can eat that Cadbury egg) then that inspiration is wasted.

Nike refined Mr. Edison further. "Just do it."

YOU are in control of your body. You can do it. Or not. Your choice.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Many Lives of Beer Can Chicken

I try to be efficient with my time. Why only cook one meal when you can easily prepare for two meals simultaneously?

Beer Can Chicken (aka Beer Butt Chicken)
Serves 2? 4? 8? 16? Depends on how hungry everyone is!

Get your grill going to about 350F.

Take a whole chicken. Rub the outside with some olive oil. Sprinkle your favorite seasoning on it. I used Penzey's Bouquet Garni.

Find an empty beer can. If you don't have an empty one, buy some beer and pour half the can into a glass. Insert the can into the open end of the chicken. It will stand upright on its two legs and the half-full can of beer.

While working, drink the beer in your glass. Repeat as needed. Grilling is hot work!

If you prefer to not use beer, use any empty soda can and your choice of liquids. I have used orange juice, cola, ice tea, wine and margarita mix. The options are endless.

When the grill is hot, place the bird on the grate as in the picture. Use indirect heat if possible, and place the bird on a pie tin to catch the drippings and prevent a flair up. It will be done when the breast meat has an internal temp of 165F (or when the internal juices run clear.)  This will be approximately 90 minutes.

Nutritional Data (per 6 ounces of meat, skinless and boneless):
Calories:       180
Fat:                 4.5g
Sat fat:            1.5g
Chol:             128mg
Sodium:          75mg
Carbs:              0g
Fiber:               0g
Protein:          36g

The meal as I served it to the family.  Beer Can Chicken, Sweet-Sour Cucumbers, Corn on the Cob, and my Zucchini-Potato Pancakes.

Sweet-Sour Cucumbers
Serve 8 (Approximately 3/4 portions)

5 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, slice very thin
Kosher salt

In layers, slice one cucumber, add a slice of onion, and top with a sprinkling of salt. Repeat until the cucumbers are all sliced. Place a plate on the cucumbers and top with a heavy weight (a gallon of water is ideal.)  Let sit on the counter at room temperature. Occasionally drain off the liquid. The idea here is to dehydrate the cucumbers so that they absorb the dressing when you add it.

1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons table sugar
2 tablespoons Splenda

Dissolve together. You will probably need to microwave this to get the sugar fully dissolved.

After the cucumbers have been sitting for 3-4 hours, and all liquid is drained off, quickly rinse with cold water, and then press with the plate to remove the water. Pour the dressing in the bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Nutritional Data (per 6 ounces of meat, skinless and boneless):
Calories:          31
Fat:                0.2g
Sat fat:           0.0g
Chol:             0.0mg
Sodium:           3mg
Carbs:            6.5g
Fiber:             0.9g
Protein:          0.8g

After the meal, strip all the meat from the carcass of the bird. Add to a large kettle, with a medium onion chopped in large pieces, 2 large carrots chopped, 2 ribs of celery, a bay leaf, 2-3 cloves garlic crushed, and 1 tsp whole peppercorns.  Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 2 hours and pour through a colander. Chill overnight and remove the thickened chicken fat.  You should have about 1 quart of low-sodium chicken stock. (I doubled everything for my batch as pictured above.)

Then, the last step ...

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Serve 4 (1 3/4 cups per portion)

1/4 cup wild rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces raw mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
1/4 cup diced carrots
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1 tsp sage (or other preferred spices)
1/4 tsp table salt
8 ounces cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt

1.  Prepare wild rice according to directions. You will need about 1/4 cup dry rice. This will take about an hour.
2.  While the rice is cooking, prepare the mushrooms, carrots, onions and garlic.
3.  Heat the olive oil in a large soup kettle. Add mushrooms, onions and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic.
4.  Add flour.  Cook another 2 minutes, stirring.
5.  Add wine.  Mix, then add 1 quart chicken stock. Bring to a boil.  Add chicken, and reduce to a simmer. Add spices and salt.
6.  When the rice is done, add to the soup. Stir in Greek yogurt.
7.  Taste and adjust spices and salt as needed.

Nutritional Data (per 6 ounces of meat, skinless and boneless):
Calories:       257
Fat:                7.5g
Sat fat:           2.2g
Chol:              48mg
Sodium:         240mg
Carbs:              30g
Fiber:              1.9g
Protein:         20.8g

We just got done feeding this soup and a bowl of salad to four teenage boys and a teen age girl. They all agreed that the soup was a good meal.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lobster Tails, Shrimp Cocktail and Rye Bread

Lobster (Four 4 ounce tails, with the shell on, serves 2)
Add 1/2 cup white wine to a kettle.  Heat to boiling, lay lobsters in the wine. Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and wait 7-8 minutes. Serve with melted butter.

Nutritional data (6 ounces of lobster meat from two tails):
Calories:      167
Fat:                  1g
Sat fat:          0.2g
Chol:           123mg
Sodium:       647mg
Carbs:          2.2g
Fiber:              0g
Protein:      34.9g

Shrimp Cocktail
Serves 4

1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pound shrimp (any size)  Buying them peeled and deveined makes the work easier.

1.  If the shrimp are frozen, thaw them. If fully cooked, move to step three.
2.  If raw, bring a kettle water to a boil. When boiling add the shrimp. Shrimp are done in 1-3 minutes, depending on how big your kettle is (bigger kettles with more water will cook faster.)  Shrimp will be bright white and orange when done. Do not over cook.  Drain into a colander and let them drip.
3.  Mix remaining ingredients.
4.  Serve.  Enjoy.

Nutritional data (6 ounces of lobster meat):
Calories:      100
Fat:                  1g
Sat fat:             0g
Chol:           140mg
Sodium:       135mg
Carbs:             0g
Fiber:              0g
Protein:         19g

Homemade Rye Bread
Make four 1 pound loaves, 10 slices per loaf

3 cups lukewarm water
2 packets of bread yeast
1/2 tablespoon kisher salt
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup rye flour

1.  In a 4-5 quart container (with a lid that you can loosely cover--I like to use a 5 quart ice cream pail) add the water, yeast and salt. Mix together to help the salt dissolve and the yeast rehydrate.
2.  Scoop and scrape all the flour (both types) and add into the water.
3.  With a wooden spoon, or a dough hook on a mixer or your bare hands, mix the flour into the water until everything is evenly wet. This will take 3-5 minutes, and will get stiff rapidly. When the dough is evenly wet, stop.  DO NOT KNEAD THE DOUGH.
4.  Loosely cover and place somewhere (room temperature) for at least 2 hours. (As long as 4 hours won't hurt.)
5.  At the end of this time, the dough will have risen. DO NOT PUNCH DOWN OR OTHERWISE HANDLE THE DOUGH.  Place the container in the refigerator overnight. (The dough can be immediately made into loaves right now, but it is easier to handle when cold.)
6.  The next day, sprinkle flour on the surface of the dough and cut out 1/4. Liberally dust with flour, and shape into a ball.  Lay on a surface covered with corn meal and let it rest at room temp for 40 minutes.
7.  Place a baking stone in the oven, and a metal pan half filled with water in the over and pre-heat to 450.
8.  After 40 minutes of rest, slide the bread onto the baking stone (a pizze peel works best for this.)  If you remember, make some superficial cuts into the top of the dough for a nice pattern.  I rarely remember.
9.  Bake for 35 minutes. Remove, let cool and devour.

Nutritional data (1 slice, approximately 1.5 ounces):
Calories:      74
Fat:              0.3g
Sat fat:            0g
Chol:              0mg
Sodium:      117mg
Carbs:        15.2g
Fiber:             1g
Protein:       2.2g'

Note: the raw dough will keep in the fridge, covered, for up to 7-10 days. The longer it sits, the better then flavor as it will begin to pick up a sourdough quality. In other words, the last loaf of the batch will probably be the best loaf. And if you really want to make things easy, when you use the last of the dough, do not wash the bucket. Simply add all the ingredients for a new batch, stirring in any bits of old dough. In this manner, the sourdough character will develop faster.

Hoisin Pork and Grilled Bok Choy

Hoisin Pork and Grilled Bok Choy (Pak-choi)
Serves 4

1 pound pork tenderloin
Pepper to taste (Chinese 5 Spice powder is a nice addition)
2 medium bok choy
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Pepper to taste (Chinese 5 Spice powder is a nice addition)
Sesame seeds (optional)

1.  Slice pork down the middle (the long way) but not completely through the meat. Open it up, place it in a freezer strength Ziplock baggie and pound it flat to 1/4 - 1/3 inch. Remove and sprinkle with pepper and a bit of the 5 spice powder (optional.)
2.  Slice the bok choy down the middle (the long way), but this time, completely through. Rinse the leaves of any dirt. While still wet, place on a microwave-safe platter, and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, or until the stalks are hot but still firm. Set aside.
3.  While the bok choy is in the microwave, mix together the Hoisin sauce, vinegar, and honey. Set aside.
4.  In a non-stick skillet, spray with cooking spray and cook the pork 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the heat when done and cover with a piece of aluminum foil.
5.  In the same skillet, add the sauce mixture. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  When boiling, reduce heat to low, return meat to sauce and let everything get hot.
6.  In a large non-stick skillet (or a griddle is best) spray with cooking spray and heat over med-high heat.
7.  Sprinkle the bok choy with the sesame oil, and lay them cut-side down on the griddle.  Cook until it starts to brown (3-4 minutes), then flip and repeat.
8.  Garnish the bok choy with sesame seeds (optional.)

Nutritional data (4 ounces of pork and 1/4 of the sauce):
Calories:      170
Fat:                4.8g
Sat fat:           1.2g
Chol:              60mg
Sodium:        256mg
Carbs:         11.8g
Fiber:               0g
Protein:       23.2g

(I also served mine with steamed acorn squash.)

Plan Your Day ... But Have a Back-up Plan, Too.

The weekend was a nice one. On Saturday, I finally got my wife's bike adjusted. I raised the seat for her and that really made her pedalling more efficient. I also inflated her tires (they were about 25 psi under-inflated.) I checked mine, and found that they were also under-pressured by the same amount. I filled them and found that--surprise!--it rides better. I also noticed that my front tire is a lot more worn than my rear tire. I told her that I would need a new tire soon. (If you can, try to imagine the theme music to "Jaws".)

On Sunday, my wife and I took out eldest son back to college and did some browsing at bookstores before going home. I also picked up some bike riding gloves and was anxious to see how it changes my grip on the handle bars. So we planned to go for a nice ride before coming home and making our lobster dinner.

But those plans came to a screeching halt. I got my bike helmet and new gloves on, and walked to the bike only to find that my front tire was absolutely flat. The rubber on the sidewalls was shredding. Argh! No riding last night. (But, on a more positive note, can you imagine if the tire had catastrophically failed while I was rolling down the road?)

So our backup plan was activated. We took Ozzy for a two mile walk. Another enjoyable activity and Ozzy had fun sniffing at every tree, light pole and clump of grass. And by the time we got home, the oven was preheated for the loaf of homemade rye bread that we served with dinner.

Primary plans and back-up plans are needed when trying to change your weight, too. If you are using LoseIt, you are given a specific number of calories for your daily budget. If you are use Weight Watchers, you have your daily points. It all amounts to the same thing: your daily plan for success. But what happens when you have a flat tire in your plan? Maybe you unexpected gain some weight? Or maybe you develop joint pain that prevents you from running? Or maybe it is just that dreaded office "pig-out" that is happening today?

Successful people always have options, and they never quit. Unexpected weight gain? (Drink more water, make sure the scale doesn't need a new battery, walk a little extra.) Joint pain? (Start riding a bike, go swimming, lift weights.) Office pig-out? (Bring something that you know you can safely eat, eat a bigger breakfast so that maybe you won't be as hungry, grab the smallest plate you can find and only put one layer of food on it.)

My contribution to today's office pig-out: Caramelized Onion Hummus and Pita Chips

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Choices, Responsibilities and Anticipation

Wow! I am nine weeks into my  "target weight range" phase of my life. My eating practices are becoming well-entrenched habits. I am eating up to (or close to, or even slightly over) my budgeted calories everyday. And I am incorporating new exercises into my routine (walking, biking, and light weight lifting is my routine.)

When I read the posts that others make on, many people stop logging when they enter their maintenance phase. So I wonder, should I stop logging my food? Do I really need to keeping going to every day and check my friends' progress? Do I need to keep posting on the threads, providing helpful answers (well, I hope they are helpful) to others? I spend time everyday doing that. Is it time well-spent?

In my mind, yes, that time is very well-spent. I've been fat (a less politically correct statement--but more direct--than "I've had excess stores of fat in my body") since I was a child. I never had the ability to control how much I ate. I was good at sneaking food. As a teenager, I would walk to the local grocery store (well, at least I walked the one mile round trip) and come back with a pint of sour cream, a large bag of potato chips, and a one pound bag of mini-Tootsie Rolls. Then I would go into my room, turn the TV on, and eat all of that as an evening snack. When I have no accountability, that means I can do what I want.

Life is about choices. I chose to eat those Tootsie Rolls. No one was forcing me to buy the sour cream and chips. But if I choose to stop logging my food and stop interacting with my friends and supporters, I fear that my success will be short-lived. Based on the many attempts at weight management in the past (including Nutri-System in the 80's, "medically controlled" at a Phen-Fen clinic in 1997, hypnosis in 1995 and again in 2001, as well as several diet plans in the 2000's) I never was able to reach my target goal, let alone stay at that goal. But now that I am at goal, I realize that I need to take responsibility for my continued success. I need to keep doing the actions that brought success.

Others may have lasting success without logging their food, and to them I say "Congratulations, you have reached your goal and changed your life!" But I believe that I will be logging my food for decades to come, if only because for the past five decades I never really took responsibility for the food I ate. And as many people say in the forums "The weight didn't go on in a month, and it won't leave in a month." I think that LoseIt will be my activity for the remainder of my life, and that is okay with me. It is my continued acknowledgment that my actions have consequences, and a reminder that success is not guaranteed without effort and focus.

But I also have learned the joy of anticipating future events. Tonight, my wife and I will enjoy a meal at home, alone except for Ozzy.  Our eldest son will return to college by noon today and our youngest son is traveling with his high school band on a spring break trip to Tennessee. We will have a dinner featuring four ounce lobster tails, some drawn butter, wine and side dishes yet to be decided. And that meal, while serving as a celebration of some rare alone time, also acts as an appetizer for our upcoming summer vacation.

We (just the two of us--no kids, no dog) are driving to Boston, Maine, Niagara Falls and the wine country along Lake Erie this summer. And especially while in Maine, we will enjoy seafood. Real lobsters, fresh of the boats, drowned in butter and served with locally brewed ales. Steamed clams, fried clams, and lobster rolls will also be enjoyed. (And more beer.) It has been 12 years since my wife and I have taken a vacation without the children (and that was a short four-day cruise) and more than 20 years since the two of us have taken a vacation of more than a week's duration. And I can't wait! We chose these stops for historical, visual and cultural experiences. And for the food.

The trip is three months away. While on vacation, I will post pictures of the meals we enjoy, as well as any exceptional sights along the way. And I will log my food into LoseIt every day. We might be "free eating" but I will still take responsibility for my actions and log everything.

Life is about making a series of choices. Accepting responsibility for your actions. And anticipating life each day upon awakening.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I just wanted to show a picture of our "new" bikes. (New to us, that is.) It has been a long time since either my wife or I have ridden bikes and we did not want to spend a lot of money on something that might simply gather dust (or in the case of our first treadmill, turn into an auxiliary clothes rack.)

We picked them up at a local resale shop, paying $20 or less for each. They won't win races, but that isn't the point. They will get us out riding, and exercises our muscles in a different manner. That will help prevent a muscle routine from setting in and slowing our progress.

So far this week, I went for a 5.5 mile ride and 6.5 mile ride. And I have learned three things. The first is that riding a bike uses muscles differently than walking. Second, my butt gets sore after a ride!

But third, it feels great to ride around on it. I forgot how much fun I had as a kid, riding my old beat-up Schwinn. When I was growing up, we lived in a small rural-ish community. Only the main roads were paved. There was a lot of open space, trees everywhere and we all had bikes. We spent hours riding around the neighborhood. (Of course, when I got home, I ate like food was so going to be taken away. Far more than I really needed to health, which eventually got me to where I am, was!)

So, these bikes take me back. And I enjoy the places that they take me, literally and figuratively.

What activity could you add to your day, to help return some of the peaceful joy that so often is stripped away by daily living? Maybe it's walking. Swimming. Go kayaking. (Sleeping would be peaceful, but that won't help burn calories.) Take your dog out for another walk. Dig and plant a garden, the weed it weekly. Learn yoga or tai chi. Learn to dance!

If you can find an activity that helps bring essential peace and relaxation (even if it is strenuous work), you are more likely to continue that activity. And activities helps burn calories! (See? I finally brought this blog post directly back to weight loss.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Why Isn't It Working?"

I read the forum on and a common title for new threads is "I'm stuck!" or "I'm doing the same, but now I'm gaining!" Rather than comment to each of those threads, I thought I'd throw out my thoughts and ideas here. As with all my ideas, feel free to take them or leave them. I won't be offended either way. Pour yourself a mug of water, grab an apple or ounce of almonds, and relax. (This won't be too painful.)

I've said all along (as have numerous other people, far more educated than I am), the basis of weight loss is consume fewer calories than you burn (or burn more calories than you consume, it works both ways.) If you want to lose one pound per week, you need to burn 3500 calories more than you consume.  That's it. Right?

Well, yeah. Sort of.  But there is more. There is always more.

So let's say that you are eating at a moderate weight-loss level, yet above your BMR/RMR (Basal Metabolic Rate/Resting Metabolic Rate) and you are well-hydrated. You are also more active than you have been in the past. And the freakin' scale stays the same, or worse, starts moving the wrong way!

What else can affect your weight?
  • Medications. For example, I am using naproxen for my knee, and it caused a 3.5 pound gain in two days.
  • Hormonal changes.
  • General illness.
  • Lack of sleep. I can't remember where I read it, but people who sleep less than seven hours a night those weight at a slower rate than those who sleep more than seven hours.
  • Routine. If you always exercise in the same pattern, your body will develop more efficient movements to match, which in turn will burn fewer calories.
And stress. Stress can throw your entire body out of whack. And before you think I have lost my gourd, let's look at what stress/negative emotions can do to our bodies. Stress can cause flair-ups of irritable bowel syndrome (as attested to by some of my students!)  GERD (heartburn) can be attributed to stress, as can  nausea. Insomnia. Lethargy. Hair loss. (See? I'm just under stress, not getting old!) Acne. It can cause chest pain that mimics a heart attack (and could precipitate an actual attack if the person.) Personally, when I have increased stress, my eczema break out on my hands and in major stress I can have an asthma attack.thargy

Our minds are our most powerful machine and that machine has the levers to control every function in our body. Why should we think it can't limit our ability to change our weight?

So, what to do about it? If possible, reduce the stress in your life. (Yes, I know. Easier said than done.) But try to reduce the stressors that are under your control. And stepping on the scale is one of those. Stop weighing yourself for a few days. Keep eating and drinking the correct amount. Don't stop that, because that is what will get you to your goal. But stop looking at the scale. A watched pot never boils, is how the old saying goes (although, my variation is a watched oven never bakes ... until you remember to turn it on!) Ignore the scale, especially if you have been weighing yourself daily.  Stop for a week or two. If you eat properly, your body will continue to live with the calorie deficit which will drive your weight loss.

Just eliminate one piece of stress from your emotional load, and that may be just enough to bounce you back on track.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where Have I Been?

Okay, I'll admit it. I've been slacking here lately.

Oh, I am still working my plan, using to track my calories eaten and using my FitBit to track calories burned. But I haven't made a good post here lately.  I'm not sure why, but I think it is part of the edd and flow of life. When I started this blog, I was getting close to my goal. It was exciting, and a little scary to realize that I was close to succeeding.  I used the blog to celebrate my goal. When I experienced an emotional downturn (the depression at reaching my goal and losing my all-encompassing goal) I was able to talk here, and use everyone to help me through it. And now that I have enjoyed a stable weight for just over 8 weeks, it is starting to feel normal.

However, I do not want to get complacent. I guess I just need to get back to writing here. I enjoy putting my thoughts down here. It helps me stay organized and focused. So what I'm saying is that you need to prepare for me to babble a bit.

When I started running, I posted my running stats. But since I hurt my knee, the running is on hold. (I tried to run after taking naproxen. The first run went well. But during the second run, my left knee--the problem knee--started locking up intermittently in mid-stride. Not good!) It hurts. I guess I should have listened to others (and to my common sense) when it was mentioned that an anti-inflammatory only helps resolve the pain cause by inflammation, but does not necessarily heal the cause of the inflammation. My recent run (yesterday morning) seems to have been a serious mistake. It's a good thing I still have that appointment with the orthopedic surgeon!

On the other hand, yesterday evening I pulled my bicycle out of the garage and took it for a spin. That sounds so mundane, but I haven't ridden a bike since 1996 (and stopped when someone stole it.) I found a simple Huffy at a resale shop and it rides great! Last night I did a nice 5.5 mile ride and found out that I can still do it! And it didn't bother my knee at all (although I will admit, after getting off it, my legs were a bit like Jell-O for a few minutes.) My wife also got a bike from the same resale shop, and after we tweak hers a bit, we will be able to go for rides together. When I get home, I will post some pics of our inexpensive new wheels.

Remember, if you are trying to control your weight or to reach a specific goal, you need to control how much you eat and you need to increase how many calories you burn. That is the core belief behind the idea of "Calories In, Calories Out." Eat the correct amount and move more.

So, what are you doing for exercise? It's good to change it up occasionally. It's spring, and perfect walking weather. I still walk a lot (I love my Fitbit!) but walking is getting pretty routine. The only way to bump up the challenge is to increase the distance and that requires more time. However, I have found a couple local hiking trails (rails to trails) that are short to moderate to long in length. The short one is Devil's River State Trail, a 14 miles long former railroad line that is covered in crushed rock. At 25 miles, the Fox River Trail is a combination of paved and crushed gravel surface that starts parallel to the Fox River and then meanders through the countryside. The longest of the nearby trails is the Mountain-Bay trail, another "rail to trail" that is surfaced with crushed gravel, and is 88 miles from Green Bay to Wausau. Time is not always in great supply, but I would like to explore those paths, just to see different scenery. Ultimately, I'd love to hike Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail, but at approximately 1100 miles, that will need to wait until a) I retire, or b) I win the lottery (or ideally BOTH!) 

Riding the bike is a new activity for us, and really exercises the thigh muscles. I used to try to ride a stationary bike, but that just is not the same. (The same goes for walking on a treadmill as opposed to walking outdoors.) It's nice to feel the wind on your face, knowing that the wind it created by my work. I never plan to enter any races, but it is relaxing to ride. And given that it doesn't seem to bother my knee, it may become my primary outdoor exercise.

Here is something new! I would like some input from all of you. You know I like to prepare meals. I love cooking! But sometimes I need new ideas. If there is something you'd like me to make, and then post here, leave comment. It doesn't need to be a full recipe suggestion. Maybe you just want an idea of how to prepare turkey on the grill or a tasty vegetarian dish. (Don't suggest exotic meats, because I don't have access to ostrich, kangaroo or alligator meat.) I can't promise to make everything suggested, but I will do what I can.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blueberry Protein Pancakes

Blueberry Protein Pancakes
Makes 2 servings of 4 pancakes. 

Mix together:
4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup blueberries, pureed in a food processor or blender
¼ c water

½ cup dry oatmeal
½ tsp baking powder
2 T milled flaxseed
1 scoop (4T) whey powder

Pour scant ¼ c onto a non-stick skillet sprayed with cooking spray.  Turn when the batter starts to set (1-2 minutes over medium heat.)  This is thick batter, and bubbles will usually not form on the surface.

Serve with whipped cream, sautéed bananas, peanut butter or Greek Yogurt.

Nutritional data (for four pancakes):
Cal:  338
Fat:  6.7g 
Sat Fat: 1.2g 
Chol:  20 
Sodium:  248mg 
Carb:  44.9g 
Fiber 10.3g 
Protein:  25.8g 
(The nutritional data is without any toppings.)

Mushroom and Shallot Chicken

Mushroom and Shallot Chicken
Serves 6

6 chicken breast, boneless/skinless, approximately 5-6 ounces each
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
5 large shallots
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Your preferred seasoning (Italian herbs work well.  I use Penzey's Sunny Spain.)
4 ounces dry white wine

1.  Place chicken between thick sheets of plastic or in a large freezer Ziplock bag. Pound breasts flat (to less than 1/2 inch) with mallet. Sprinkle with your seasoning. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over each breast, return to Ziplock bag and let them rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
2.  Heat non-stick skillet.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  When hot, lay chicken breast in and cook over med-high heat for 5-6 minutes.  Remove from skillet, cover and keep warm.
3.  While the chicken is cooking, slice the shallots the long way into thin strips.
4.  In the same skillet, add remaining olive.  When hot, add shallots and mushrooms.  Saute until the mushrooms get soft (5-10 minutes.)  Remove from skillet, cover and keep warm.
5.  Add wine, and using a plastic scraper/spatula, loosen all crusty bits.  Cook down for 5-10 minutes. Return mushrooms/shallots to skillet, toss to coat.
6.  Serve chicken breasts topped with the mushroom/shallots, with a side of wild rice (cooked according to directions) and steamed broccoli (with 1 tablespoon olive oil over the broccoli) and some cherry tomatoes.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        225
Fat:                 8.7g
Sat fat:            2.2g
Chol:               65mg
Sodium:          47mg
Carbs:            6.9g
Fiber:             0.3g
Protein:        26.8g

Friday, March 16, 2012

Knees and Naproxen

A month ago, I reported that my left knee pain was bad enough that it prevented me from jogging more than three minutes. I decided to rest it for 10-14 days and then resume my training. Well, even after 14 days of rest, the knee still really hurt, even just walking. And this wasn't muscle pain, this was pain in the bones of the joint. (I know the difference.) So last Monday, I saw my doctor and told him. He took some xrays, and reported "degenerative changes to the bone" (I knew that from just feeling the joint move, there is bone-on-bone in the joint) and some spur development under the kneecap (and I knew that, because the type and location of the pain is the same as when I torn my right meniscus seven years ago.)

He asked me, "Which would you prefer, an appointment with a orthopedist or a stronger anti-inflammatory?"

My response: "Yes. Both."

So, now I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in five weeks. And I have a prescription for naproxen. Not OTC Aleve, but prescription strength stuff. I started taking it on Tuesday, and my knee is almost pain free. Not 100%, but at the level where it really is only there when I think about it.

Unfortunately, pain reduction comes with a price. Since Tuesday, I have gained 3.5 pounds. Now, I know that weight is not fat stores. That would have required 12,250 excess calories since Tuesday, and I was within budget all those days. (For comparison, that would mean I ate the equivalent of two of these.  Not two pieces. Two entire pizzas. AND three of these.) It is fluid retention. I can accept that. But I don't have to like it. And if it keeps up, I will call my doctor to ask for either an anti-inflammatory with less water retention (I don't think there are any) or a mild diuretic to help get rid of the water.

But I also want to see if the fluid retention is worth it. In other words, is the extra water a necessary evil that will enable me to return to training for the Bellin 10K Run? There is only one way to find out.

"Test run" (literally) of my knee while using naproxen:
Time:  11min 15 sec
Length: 1.0 mile
Average speed: 5.33 mph

Music: A little Karl Jenkins (Palladio, Dies Irae) and Springsteen (Born to Run.)

Result: Knee pain is minimal during and after the run, and certainly did not inhibit my jog distance or speed, in fact I could have gone further, but I had forgotten to use my inhaler, and I was getting very winded.

Conclusion: The knee is stable enough to jog on, but I will use a more balanced approach.  I will jog one day and then take the next day off, but if the pain comes back more than the current levels I will stop jogging completely. And I will use my inhaler about 5 minutes before starting my workouts.

Pan-Fried Shrimp and Asian Slaw

I found this recipe in Cooking Light "5 Ingredients, 15 Minutes" from October, 2010.  I linked to the Amazon site, simply so you can see the book, not buy it. Whoever is "selling it" must be not living in the real world. (Why do I say that? Check out the price.)

Cooking Light produces a lot of good cookbooks, and periodicals. We use this one frequently (and it is selling for a realistic price!) If you need new ideas for meals, Cooking Light is a reliable source.
As usual, I modified my version a touch from the written recipe. I used only the egg white and not the entire egg, and I added the spices to the breading. The end result tasted as though the shrimp were deep fried in  vat of oil instead of a skillet with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.

Pan-Fried Shrimp
Makes 2 servings (8 ounces each)

1 pound shrimp (if you can buy them P&D--peeled and deveined--that will save you some work)
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tsp lemon pepper (I used Penzey's Sunny Spain)
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water

1.  Put the bread crumbs and parsley in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Set aside.
2.  Put egg white and water in a medium sized bowl, and whisk together.  Set aside.
3.  Place the bread crumb mix in a 9x13 pan.  Add the lemon pepper and mix together.
4.  Put the shrimp in the egg wash, and mix well, ensuring all shrimp are coated.
5.  Place shrimp in the crumb mixture and toss to coat.
6.  Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil.  When hot, place the shrimp in a single layer in skillet.  Cook for 2-3 minutes per side. 
7.  Remove and serve immediately.

Nutritional data:
Calories:     368
Fat:              9.5g
Sat fat:            1g
Chol:          280mg
Sodium:      388mg
Carbs:        19.1g
Fiber:              1g
Protein:      42.8g

Asian Slaw
Serves 10 (1 1/2 cup portions)

1 head of Napa cabbage, shredded (approximately 10 cups)
1 bag broccoli cole slaw
6 ounces snow pea pods, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bunch scallion (green onions), sliced thinly, whites and green of the onion

Juice of one lime (2-3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons sesame oil
8 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
5 packets sweetener (I use stevia)

Mix all ingredients together.  Allow to dwell before serving, overnight is best.  Toss together frequently.

Nutritional data:
Calories:       76
Fat:               4.3g
Sat fat:          0.6g
Chol:               0mg
Sodium:         74mg
Carbs:           8.6g
Fiber:            3.7g
Protein:         2.2g

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Onion-Mushroom Tart and Roasted Asparagus

Yesterday's dinner was a new recipe, which I modified from the Best of Cooking Light 13 book. (More recipes will be featured in this blog from that magazine, so keep coming back here.)  The original recipe was a simple Onion Tart, but I added garlic (because when I use onion, I need to use garlic, too!) and crimini mushrooms (also called baby 'bellas because they are actually immature portabellas.)

Onion-Mushroom Tart
Serves 6 (or cut larger pieces if you want)

This recipe looks long and difficult, but in reality it is very simple to make.  Most of the time is spent waiting for the onions to caramelize and then for the tart to bake. The only real work is slicing the onions, crushing the garlic and grating the Swiss cheese.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds onions, sliced (a blend of sweet Vidalia and sharper yellow onions is excellent)
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
8 ounces of your preferred fresh mushroom, sliced
Black pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 tsp  of your preferred herbs (An Italian blend is nice here.  I used Penzey's Bouquet Garni.)
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) crumbled Feta cheese
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) shredded Swiss cheese
1 prepared pie crust (I used a store-bought crust.)
1 egg, beaten

1.  Preheat oven to 425F. 
2.  Heat oil in a non-stick skillet.  Add onions over med-high heat.  Stir/toss occasionally.
3.  When some of the onions start to brown (about 4-5 minutes), add garlic, mushrooms, pepper and herbs.  Reduce heat to medium.  Stir/toss occasionally, until the onions are fully caramelized, and the mushrooms are fully cooked.  This will take 15-20 minutes.
4.  While the filling cooks, remove the pie crust and unroll it onto a sheet of parchment paper, or onto a cooking sheet sprayed with cooking spray (spray is not needed when using parchment paper.) With a rolling pin, gently roll it out to a 12 inch diameter circle.
5.  Spread Feta over the middle of the crust, leaving about a 2 inch border without cheese.  There will not be a lot of cheese on the crust. That is okay.
6.  When the filling is done, pour over feta and spread evenly, maintaining that 2 inch border. Top evenly with the shredded Swiss.
7.  Gently fold the pie crust over the filling, making pleats as you move around the crust. You do not need to press the pleats together to make a tight seal.
8.  Brush the beaten egg over the crust.
9.  Bake for 25-30 minutes (or until golden brown as above), remove from oven, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

This was a delicious vegetarian meal, and I will make this again, but with further variations (not all changes will be in the same batch):

Bleu/Gorgonzola cheese instead of the Feta
A wedge of Laughing Cow cheese instead of the Feta
Smoked Gouda instead of the Swiss
Adding 2 ounces of wine (or beer) to the onions when I add the mushrooms (which is enough time to completely cook away, leaving all the flavor behind)
Adding sun-dried tomatoes to the filling
Adding sliced olives (probably green Spanish)
Shiitake and oyster mushrooms instead of crimini

Nutritional data, for 1/6 of the tart:
Calories:        252
Fat:               15.4g
Sat fat:            5.7g
Chol:               53mg
Sodium:         288mg
Carbs:           26.4g
Fiber:              1.5g
Protein:           5.5g

Roasted Asparagus
Served 3-4

If you want a much more detailed review of asparagus and many more ideas on how to prepare and use it, here is a great web resource: How to Cook Asparagus

Thanks to Lita Watson for sharing this information with the blog and all of my readers!

Now, the recipe:
1.5-2 pounds fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed off
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced onion (I prefer to use dehydrated onion for this recipe, but fresh would work)
Black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 425F.
2.  In a 9x13 pan, lay the asparagus and drizzle the oil over it.  Top with pepper and onion.  Roast it uncovered for 25-30 minutes.
3.  Roast this at the same time you bake the tart, and they will both be done at the same time.

Nutritional data (for 1/3 of the recipe)
Calories:         130
Fat:                 9.3g
Sat Fat:           1.3g
Chol:                 0mg
Sodium:             5mg
Carbs:              10g
Fiber:                 6g
Protein:              6g

If you want to a new podcast on your play list, listen to my show Make Your Someday Today (MYST). Here is a link to the first episode, where I tell my personal story of how I went from wearing a 3XL shirt down to a Medium, from 48" waist to 34", and my jacket went from a 54 Portly to 44 Regular.

Do you know--or maybe live with--a "food pusher"? Here are some ideas to help you handle that potentially delicate situation.

It's the Common Question ... and a Urgent Suggestion

I'm starting off with something that many of us have experienced:

"Wow! You've lost a lot of weight!"

My response now? "Thanks for noticing."  And then I stop and go on with what I was doing. I used to start a speech on how and why I lost the weight. (My wife, Tammy, calls those "Trev-itorials." If you REALLY want to experience a true "Trev-itorial" ask me which American beer is my favorite!) But eventually I realized that if people want to know, they will ask me.

And many do ask the Common Question:  "So.  What's your secret?"

And my answer is still the same. "I count my calories. I eat the correct amounts, and I walk more. I keep my eaten calories less than my burned calories." 

And the typical response to that is, "Oh. Yeah. I thought you did something special."

That's when I respond with, "Something special? You mean other than losing more than 75 pounds in eight months and then keeping it off the past for seven weeks? Other than working my butt off by walking everywhere, and making the right choices, and weighing/measuring my food, and logging it all on Well, no, I guess I didn't do anything special."

(Okay. That's not how I really respond. That's just what I would like to say. But I try not to be so openly snarky.)

But it is a little frustrating. People want an easy and fast method to reach their goal weight. They want the "silver bullet", the magic pill.  They watch The Biggest Loser and expect the same results in the same time frame as shown in television time.

But almost everyone reading this knows that the silver bullet of weight management is the same silver bullet for success in school, or on the job, or on the sports field. Focus, determination, and some hard work. You need to know what you want. You need to know why you want it. And you need to be willing to do what it takes to get it.

It's just that simple. It's just that hard.

Now for my urgent suggestion:

Yesterday I donated platelets at the Red Cross. The Red Cross (and many other organizations) collect whole blood, plasma and platelets for use in your local hospitals. Of the three blood products, platelets have the shortest shelf-life.  Packed red blood cells (PRBC) can last for 42 days after donation; plasma is frozen and used for up to 1 year. Platelets need to be used within 5 days of donation. Platelets are most commonly used for cancer patients, and the need is always great. If you are healthy, please consider donating platelets (or whole blood or plasma.) Call your local Red Cross or other blood bank to see if you qualify for donation, or go this link to read the Red Cross eligibility requirements. I have relatives with cancer, and others with heart disease. All needed blood cells and platelets during the course of their treatments. I gave then, and I continue to give.

It's relatively painless, and a very good thing to do.

Come back in a little while for a look at last night's meal (Onion-Mushroom Tart with Oven Roasted Asparagus.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wild Rice, Cheddar and Spinach Pie

 Wild Rice, Cheddar and Spinach Pie

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
3 whole eggs, whisked together
Cooking spray

1.  Preheat oven to 425F.
2.  Heat a non-stick skillet, add the oil. Saute the onions until beginning to brown (about 4-5 minutes.)
3.  Add garlic and spinach. Stir together for 1-2 minutes.
4.  Remove from heat, and put onion/spinach in a large bowl.
5.  Add 3 cups cooked wild rice and cheese.  Stir to mix.
6.  Add eggs, stir until evenly mixed.
7.  Spray a pie pan with cooking spray. Spread mixture into pan, smooth and place in oven for 25 minutes.  When baked, remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

My suggestions for improving/adding flavor:
Replace the cheddar with an equal amount of feta or bleu cheese.
Add Kalamata olive (especially if using feta cheese.)
Add green Spanish olive (especially if using bleu cheese.)
Add bacon or diced smoked ham.
Add jalapenos (especially if keeping the cheddar cheese.)
Increasing the cheese to a full cup.

Nutritional data for the pie as I made it:
Calories:         295
Fat:                  8.7g
Sat fat:             3.1g
Chol:              115mg
Sodium:          114mg
Carbs:            41.7g
Fiber:               3.4g
Protein:          13.2g

Sometimes It's a Home Run ...

... and sometimes "it's a swing and a miss!" (We are 17 days from the start of baseball season. Go Brewers!)

You've seen many recipes on this blog. They were all very good. I hope that you have tried some in your kitchen. But I hope you don't have the idea that the recipes that I use are all excellent, or that my execution of the recipes is perfect.

They aren't, and I'm not.

A case in point was today's meal. My wife and I took our dog for a nice walk on a beautiful river side path this afternoon, and that ate into my cooking time. I wanted to make something relatively quick and easy. The main course was a simple salmon patty, with a salad on the side. For a carb dish, I found a new recipe using brown rice, spinach and cheddar cheese, put together to make a baked rice pie. I modified it to use wild rice instead of brown rice. It's a simple recipe.  Nutritionally, it is a good choice.

But it just didn't work. Oh, I ate a piece, but the best I can say for it is that it made the salmon patty even more flavorful in comparison.

I'll post the recipe here. Maybe it will strike someone's fancy. I will also give a few ideas on how I would modify it further if I were to make it again (but I probably won't.) But this is an example of trying new dishes, expanding you horizons of my meal options, and running into a brick wall. To be honest, this doesn't happen often, because I am pretty good at anticipating how the flavors and textures will blend together, but every once in a while ... well, no one bats 1.000 in the kitchen! (I'm not normally this enthused about the start of baseball season, but the beautiful summer-like weather we are having is making me excited about it.  Maybe this summer I will actually go to Miller Park and watch the Brew Crew play a game there.)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Individual Chocolate Souffles

Individual Chocolate Souffles

Make 2 servings

Cooking spray
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
3 tablespoons low-fat chocolate milk
1 large egg white

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Fill an 8x8 pan half-full of water (water bath), and set in the oven to preheat.
2.  In a small saucepan, place the cocoa, flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Add the chocolate milk, and set over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth (about 2 minutes.) Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes.
3.  When you remove the chocolate sauce from the heat, whisk the egg white until soft peak form. Slowly add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and continue beating until soft peaks are present again.
4.  Fold in cooled chocolate sauce, a little at a time, until the egg whites and chocolate are completely incorporated together.
5.  Spray baking ramekins with cooking spray. Pour batter into each.  Place in water bath and bake until the tops look slightly dry (14-16 minutes.) Do not open the oven until you are ready to take them out.  A sudden burst of cold air can make them deflate.
6.  Remove from oven and top with whipped cream and instant coffee granules (or espresso powder.)

Other possible toppings are powdered sugar, cinnamon or shaved dark or white chocolate, or a raspberry or strawberry sauce. 

Other options are adding the instant coffee or cinnamon to the chocolate syrup, or making this a Mexican chocolate souffle by adding a touch of cayenne pepper to the sauce.

Nutritional data:
Calories:      123
Fat:               0.8g
Sat fat:          0.3g
Chol:            1.9mg
Sodium:        43mg
Carbs:           26g
Fiber:           0.8g
Protein:        3.4g

Too Busy to Enjoy the Moment?

Have you ever felt so busy that you can't enjoy life? Or that you feel if you stop and relax for a moment, life will run away from you? Or that you are juggling a dozen flaming logs while pedaling a unicycle, and people are tossing you more and more?

It happens to everyone at times. But we need to remember that while we can not always control the exact situation in which we live, we can control how we react to these situations. When we are overwhelmed with deadlines and demands on our time, we need to find a way to sit back and recapture a little "me time" and "us time." And dinners are a great way to do that. Especially dinners that are a little out of the ordinary. Tonight, we were all home for dinner (a rarity). My wife Tammy and our son Ethan (as well as our pug Ozzy) were home and I wanted to have a special dinner with the family.

The meal was partly an old favorite (grilled flank steak, rubbed with crushed garlic, rosemary and black pepper, with bleu cheese mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and a side salad) but then I decided to throw in a nice dessert.

Normally, dessert around here is a small bowl of ice cream, or maybe a strawberry shortcake in the summer. But I wanted to go outside the ordinary, and I wanted to make it myself rather than buying something at a bakery. I am more of a grill chef than a pastry chef, but I have some skills making baked goods, too.

I decided to make individual chocolate souffles based on a recipe that my wife gave me (just a subtle hint, right?) topped with fresh whipped cream and powdered espresso granules. I hope it does not sound too immodest, but this dessert was to die for. I don't make a lot of souffles (they are rather painstaking) but every time I make them, it turns an average to good meal into a meal worth remembering.

The dinner table is the heart of almost every home. Take time to enjoy your meals with family and friends. And take time when you sit there. Enjoy their company. Have good conversations. Laugh a lot. This is not where you "spend time" as if you are squandering a precious resource, but rather this is living in the moment, relishing a time that can never be regained once it is gone. And good food can help draw together the people that are most important.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A quick and easy meal for one

It helps to keep a moderately well-stocked pantry and refigerator. I got home from work today. Yesterday I was at the clinical site until 8:30pm, back at the site at 5:30am, and finally got home after lecturing about the economics of health care at 5pm.

I did not want to cook anything.

So, I poked my head in the fridge, and started pulling stuff out. I ended up with a salad. A nice, robust, flavorful salad. I built it with a sense of fun, thinking what ele can I add that will make it tasty and still healthy.  I started with a base of mixed lettuces, and then halved about eight cherry tomatoes.  Then I weighed out an ounce of walnut and an ounce of Gorgonzola (crumbled) cheese, and 1/3 cup of fresh blueberries. I layered each of those on top, and then made an ounce of balsamic vinaigrette.

Delicious! This is what I looked like:

Make it easy for yourself to make a quick meal. Unless you live next door to a grocer, keep some basic essentials in the kitchen. I always have lettuce on hand. Never iceberg (far too bland) but usually some romaine hearts (for crunch) and mixed greens (for color and flavor). A bag of baby spinach works well, too. When in season, I have fresh blueberries, blackberries or strawberries on the bottom shelf of the fridge. If you want to use raspberries, that would work, too, but that is one fruit that I don't like. Grapes would also be a nice salad addition, as would an apple, mandarin orange wedges, or dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins, cherries, or mango. (Dried fruit tends to add a LOT of sugars, to use sparingly.)

Walnuts are my favorite nut to add to a salads, but pecans, cashews or slivered almonds would be tasty. Remember, you are building this salad to your preferences, so use what you like. I like cherry tomatoes for their texture, but any tomato would be okay to use. Diced onion would also be a good addition, but I didn't chop any tonight.

If you want to avoid sodium, skip the cheese, but I was able to budget for it, and I like aged blue cheeses. An aged Parmesan or cheddar, or even shredded Swiss would be good. You'll need a robust cheese with the fruit and nuts or the cheese will get lost (so no mozzarella.)

Top it with your favorite dressing, or make my vinaigrette. It is a simple recipe.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar (or 1/4 tsp stevia or other non-sugar sweetener)
1/2 - 1/2 tsp of your favorite herbs

Stir together, pour over salad immediately.

The nutritional data, for the salad I have in the picture, and with the vinaigrette:

Calories:          489
Fat:                  41.5g
Sat fat:               8.8g
Chol:                  25mg
Sodium:            315mg
Carbs:                21g
Fiber:                6.3g
Protein:           16.1g

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Busy. Very busy!

It's mid-terms at my college. That means a lot of grading papers, meeting with students to discuss their performance (or lack thereof in a few isolated instances.)

But it also means that I haven't been very active here on my blog. It's not that I don't want to post my thoughts, ideas, and meals here, but I need to prioritize what NEEDS to get done over what would be FUN to do. However, I am almost through the pile of work, so I will soon be actively blogging here, hopefully on a daily basis.

Prioritization is the key to successful weight management. You need to ask yourself, "Which is more important? Staying within my calorie budget and hitting my weight target, or eating that piece of cake?"  Sometimes the cake will win, and that is appropriate. When you attend a special event, enjoy some of the treats. But limit yourself to one serving, and a small one at that. But most days, you should decide that your goal is more important to your health--both physical and emotional--than that cookie will taste.

Right now, I am still enjoying my maintenance er, my target weight range phase.   However, I am still slowly losing weight. That is not intentional, but it is a side effect of my mental inability to eat ALL my budgeted calories each day. After working so long and so hard to stay slightly under my weight loss budget, now I find myself still staying just a little under my current budget. I tell myself "Just a little under the budget, just in case I didn't accurately measure my food."

I need to stop that belief pattern. I know that I accurately measure my food. My Fitbit accurately gauges my caloric burn.

But old habit die hard. However, I taught myself to eat the correct portion sizes. I can teach myself to eat ALL my calories!

Rosemary Chicken and Tomato-Avocado Salsa

Rosemary Chicken
Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, 6 ounces each, boneless skinless
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoongs red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary crushed, or 1 tsp dried  (I used 1 tablespoon Penzey's Bouquet Garni.)

1.  Place chicken in a heavy-duty freezer bag, and pound with a meat mallet until approximately 1/2 inch thick.  Do this one at a time, then place the chicken in a second ziplock bag. (The first bag may have holes from the mallet.)
2.  Mis remaining ingredients together, pour over chicken.  Toss in the marinade to coat.  Place chicken in refrigerator for at 30-60 minutes.
3.  Heat a non-stick skillet, and spray with cooking spray. Place the chicken in the skillet over medium-hiigh heat for 3-4 minutes on the first side, and 3 minutes on the second.
4.  Serve with  Tomato-Avocado Salsa and roasted vegetables.

Nutritional data:
Calories:       307
Fat:               16.5g
Sat fat:            3.8g
Chol:               98mg
Sodium:          62mg
Carbs:              1g
Fiber:               0g
Protein:          38g

Tomato-Avocado Salsa

Serves 4, approximately 2/3 cup each.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or Bouquet Garni)
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 ripe avocado, peeled, and diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes (about 24), cut in half
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

1.  Whisk together first four ingredients.
2.  Gently stir in the remaining ingredients.
3.  Make this while the chicken cooks, as its texture is best when fresh.

Nutritional data:
Calories:        126
Fat:                10.9g
Sat fat:             2.6g
Chol:              8.3mg
Sodium:         112mg
Carbs:             6.3g
Fiber:              3.1g
Protein:           2.6g

Roasted Vegetables

Serves 4

Fresh vegetables, your preference.  I have used Brussel sprouts, onion, tomato, mini-bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, leeks, mushrooms and asparagus.  (If you use cauliflower, pre-cook it in the microwave for 3-4 minutes.)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Black pepper, and any spices you like.

1.  Fill a one gallon ziplock bag with your preferred veggies.
2.  Whisk together other ingredients, and pour over veggies.  Toss to coat.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
3.  While the veggies are resting, preheat oven to 450F
4.  Place veggies in a 9x13 pan.  Place in oven for a total of 30 minutes.
5.  Toss veggies after 15 minutes.
6.  Remove when the veggies are tender/crunchy and beginning to brown.

Nutritional data (will vary slightly based on your choice of vegetables):
Calories:       126
Fat:                10.g
Sat fat:           1.6g
Chol:                0mg
Sodium:          11mg
Carbs:          12.4g
Fiber:            4.7g
Protein:            5g

Friday, March 2, 2012

A new toy helps achieve goals!

New toys are fun!

I love to cook. I mean, I really love it! I find it to be relaxing, creative and joyful, especially when the end product turns out as expected and everyone enjoys it.  And while most of my kitchen equipment is simple and unchanging (my knives, my non-stick cookware) I do have some gadget.  A couple weeks ago, I bought a new toy.

My new panini press! Prior to this, I used an old George Foreman grill. It worked, but it was big and bulky and awkward to store. My new press is shiny stainless steel, smaller and easier to handle and it works great!

So, where did I find my press? A nice kitchen store or a cook's specialty shop? An online vendor?  Nope.
I got it at Aldi! Yeah, my favorite inexpensive grocery store occasionally has kitchen and household appliances. I picked this up for $14.99, and it makes two paninis using ciabatta rolls or one large sandwich using a hoagie bun.

This is the end result. Here are the recipes for my Portabella Panini and Spinach Pasta Toss.

Why is this press helpful for me to stay at my goal weight (or to actively lose weight if needed?) Because if cooking becomes easy, fast and fun, we are all more likely to cook for ourselves instead of letting a restaurant cook for us. That leaves us in control of the ingredients used. We can choose to use fresh vegetables, healthy oils and lower sodium components. We are also to make the correct portion sizes. When I used to eat a lot of takeout Chinese, I thought the container was one serving. In reality this little cartons hold two or more servings!

I hope my readers begin to enjoy cooking. Try new recipes. Buy some new kitchen toys. Make cooking a meal something to anticipate, not something to dread. When you do that, you will also start seeing more personal victories, and make more progress toward your goals.