Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Decadent and Classic Breakfast! (Fresh Berries and Cream)

Berries and Cream
Serves 1

1 banana, sliced
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup fresh blueberries (although frozen and thawed will work)
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl
  2. Stir together. 
  3. Enjoy!
Nutritional data:
Calories:       288
Fat:            15.8g
Sat fat:       10.6g
Chol:          60mg
Sodium:   17.4mg
Carbs:        38.7g
Fiber:           5.6g
Protein:        2.1g

A word about this breakfast:

When I was growing up (back in the 60's), I remember staying with a relative for a few weeks. It was a dairy farm and the meals were laden with fresh whole milk, butter, and of course, cream. My Aunt Ruth made me a breakfast that included a dish similar to what I have here (except the cream was freshly dipped from the bulk tank. That stuff is rich!) 

We never had cream at my house growing up, because my parents were always calorie conscious, and cream was just not part of the plan. I never ate a meal like this again, until last summer, when my wife and I were on vacation. One of the B&Bs served this for breakfast. The memory stuck with me, and I decided to share this exceedingly simple recipe here.

Many people who are trying to lose weight immediately start using low fat/ no fat versions of food, thinking that ridding fat from their daily menu will be the secret of weight loss. And that can work. But it is only one method. The likelihood is that most of my readers will have fruit in their house, but will not have "real" cream. 

This recipe uses heavy whipping cream, but only 3 tablespoons. If you haven't had a breakfast like this, the cream is thick and rich. It clings to the fruit, so that you only need a little because you will get some cream with every spoonful. The richness of the cream and the inherent sweetness of the fruit eliminate the need for any added sugar. It is also rich enough to fill you and satisfy your hunger for longer because of the fats.

If this recipe scares you, you can use half-and-half, and you will save 95 calories, but you will lose the flavor and texture that heavy cream brings to this meal. So, if this recipe scares you a little, go to your local market, buy a half-pint of heavy cream and try it. Push your boundaries and discover other tastes that you maybe thought were unavailable.

This also makes a killer dessert after your evening meal.

You can vary this recipe and use any ripe fruit or berry that you like. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I NEED Your Help!

It is official!

Based on this blog, I was asked to participate in a local Saturday morning news show (Good Day, Wisconsin) on their Cooking with You segment. It is scheduled for Saturday, August 17, 2013.

Another item from the bucket list:
Cook live before a television audience. Done!

There are two segments, each three or four minutes long. I need two different recipes. The format is pretty concise. I will quickly demonstrate the ingredients and processes (but not acutally prepare the entire recipe) and then show a finished product, which the show anchors and studio crew get to eat after the show. (Go ahead and watch a few of the recorded segments in the above link so you can see a representative example.)

I need recipes that:
Don't involve grills.  (Darn.)
Are "relatively" easy.
Are different.
Are fun.
Are colorful (hopefully) and visually appealing (definitely.)
Are from the blog.

I can (and will) go through the blog and look at the recipes, but I might be a little too emotionally tied to the recipes. I an asking for your help.

What recipes really spoke to you?
What recipes made your mouth water, made you go out and buy the ingredients, made you go "Whoa!"
What recipes do you think are both easy enough and yet would benefit from a quick visual demo?
What recipes are different, and yet not "weird?"

If you live in Northeast Wisconsin, you will be able to watch me live on Green Bay's Fox 11.  The first segment is at about 7:50am and the second is at 8:50am and ends the show. (The host has also offered to promote the blog.) If you don't live locally (and why not?) I will post links to the segments as soon as the station posts them.

So, I am giving you an important assignment: 
My readers are my "test market." You are the people that I want to connect with through the blog and on TV. You all have opinions and ideas (and I have learned enough to know that listening to others is a great way of gaining a deeper understanding.)

Please tell me your ideas of the recipes here that fit my requirements above. I've already received a few ideas from Andrew Carpenter (thanks for the ideas!) In the comment section below, give me one - three ideas. On Friday July 26, I will narrow the list down to three to five. Over the weekend, I will make them again (if I haven't made them recently) and post the pictures for your final voting. Then I will use the next two weeks to practice, practice, practice.

I am excited. But I'd be lying if I also didn't tell you that I have a few butterflies of panic fluttering in my stomach. They almost certainlay will calm as I get closer and know what I will be preparing. It is just the unknown.

So, please help!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Top 8 Blogs That Have Influenced Me And Keep Me Going

This is a minor change in theme for a day. I want to acknowledge some people and groups that have helped shape me into the person I am. For now, I am not going to talk about apps and devices (let's save that for a future blog post) but about people who are also blogging.

I am not the only blog out there! (I know, surprise?) Many of my recipes began as ideas coming from other places. I have found ideas in cookbooks and magazines, from friends and relatives, dining in restaurants and my wife has found some on Pinterest. I generally don't make any recipe exactly as I find it (unless I am trying to duplicate Julia Childs). I usually look at the recipe, consider it's appearance and ingredients and then make my own, in the spirit of the original recipe.

But I also read these blogs and they have helped me grow personally and as a blogger. I thought that I needed to give them full credit for their assistance and suggest that you might want to take a look at them, too. (But please don't stop visiting me! We are almost getting to be like family!)  Please note that these are not listed in any specific order, neither alphabetical nor preferential.

  1. Danica's Daily:  Danica Pike loves food--good food--and following the Weight Watchers plan has lost over 55 pounds. She focuses on living healthy by eating well. She has a very professional blog, and has been blogging since 2009. She offers life tips, recipes, food reviews and menus. She also writes about her travels, and was published in CharBroils "America Grills" cookbook. The pictures of her foods are wonderful, and I aspire to someday be as skilled. 
  2. Snack Girl: Lisa Cain has a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology, who over time became obsessed with the effects of food on health. She, and her husband Matt, believe in fresh food. and real food is the basis of good health and good living. Lisa also uses the Weight Watcher plan, and has her recipes categorized by both description of the food and the PointsPlus that each has, making searching very efficient. She also provide weight loss tips and suggestions on snacks that are healthy, even if they are packaged. If Lisa suggests it, I am convinced that it is a good choice.  
  3. In the Kitchen With Kath: Kath Dedon is a wonderful blogger and has been blogging since December 2009. Like me, she is her own photographer. Unlike me her photos are absolutely mouth-watering. (My photos are good, hers are great.) Her recipes are easy to follow and step by step (you wonder where I learned that from?) The subtitle to her blog really says it all:  "Old favorites...New discoveries. Fresh and easy!" 
  4. Greatist: In contrast to the first three, Greatist is not a single person, but a collection (I like to throw around big words, so here is one--it is an aggregator) of information from all around us. The staff and contributors are experts in their fields and therefore this one site can provide expert information in many areas. Their banner states "Fitness, Health, Happiness" and those are wonderful goals. Of course, I use the site mostly for food (well, what else?) and was the original inspiration for my Kimchi. As a nurse, one specific fact that really makes me trust this site is that if they state that XYZ is a fact, they have a PubMed reference and the fact is verified and expert vetted. They don't throw "garbage science" out as the gospel truth.
  5. Spunkisuzi: Suzi hails from Canada and started blogging in June 2008, as a way to maintain motivation and increase her own accountability in her weight loss plan (sound at all familiar?) She talks about life in general, and posts pictures of her healthy and delicious-looking meals. She also wears a Fitbit, is a Weight Watcher, and from what I can tell, lives a pretty darn nice life.
  6. Lifehacker: This source is another non-single-person blog, and another aggregator of general knowledge. Lifehacker covers everything from personal finance, to apps and technology to (of course) foods, recipes and cooking ideas. The extent of information at Lifehacker defies description, and this short paragraph does not do it justice. Go take a look for yourself.
  7. We Beat Fat: This is a husband and wife (Angela and Willie) team who document the course of their weight loss journey. While they are still working on their ultimate goals, from January 2011 2013 February 2013,Willie lost 300 pounds and Angela lost 200. In the process, they have reinvented themselves. They are now runners and live a healthy life. They did not do anything extreme. They learned how to change their life and live on the correct amount of food, and they learned to move more. (Have you heard that before?) The blog continues to show their progress, shares favorites recipes and gives good weight loss tips.
  8. Grill Talk: Fabienne opened her own custom mixed perfume company in 2006. To do that, you need a sensitive sense of smell. If you know anatomy and physiology, that means you will also have a sensitive palate of tastes. When you enjoy the aroma and taste of food--well, I think we all know where that leads, and in 2011 Fabienne realized it was time to lose some weight. She focuses on eating the correct amounts of healthy foods and loves to grill because the heat of grilling brings out and intensifies flavors (remember, she has a palate with a Ph.D. in taste!) She also writes about non-food life observations and has a very well-rounded blog. The subtitle to her blog is "Healthy, Fast, Succulent". Who wouldn't want to eat that?
I appreciate everyone who reads my words, but I also appreciate those who write the words that I read. If you have a minute, check out one or more of these blogs and websites. And if there is a blog that you know about and you think I need to read, leave me a comment here with a link. I will look at everything! I have lived long enough to know that I can learn from anyone, and I should listen to everyone.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Busy Week!

Sorry that yesterday's blog post was so long. The recipe had several steps and I wanted to include pictures at the various stages.

I also wanted to show you how to make minor modifications to other recipes. It is relatively easy to create good delicious foods that will fit in your calorie budget. In almost any situation, it is possible to reduce the fat and sugar in a recipe and still create a delicious end result. In the case of that cake, it was unbelievably moist as a result if swapping the oil for applesauce.

It has been a hectic week here at home. Our eldest son stayed at college all summer, working for one of his professors as a research assistant, and in addition to that, he is preparing to spend a semester abroad in the fall. That entails a lot of planning and organization. Yesterday, our youngest moved into his own apartment (with a fair amount of help from us, naturally.)

Hello, "Empty Nest!"

Well,  not quite empty. We still need to move some of his stuff out. Possibly by the weekend. And then....we will finally have a room dedicated to be our office!

More on that as it happens!

Thanks for reading. Keep coming back to see what is next!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Another Short Poll--One Day Only

The first poll was pretty conclusive, with 87% of respondent choosing the shorter digital ebook sooner rather than a traditional print book later.

I want to explore a little more:

  • My book will be an ebook which will be readable on any digital device: Kindle, Nook, iPod/iPhone/iPad, other tablets, and downloadable to your computer. That way there will  be no impediment to reading it simply because you don't have the right machine.

  • The book will be approximately 40-50K words. If I put that on paper, single-spaced in 12 point size font, that would be 100-125 pages, plus there will be another 20-25 pages with recipes and full color photos. 

  • As for the content, the focus will be how to stay on track to reach your weight loss goal. Some content will come from LoseIt posts, some from previous blog posts, and some will be original content that no one has read yet.

  • When this is published, I will make it possible to read 10% of the book before you buy it so that you know that what you are buying will meet your needs.
So here is today's poll question:

How much would you pay for that book?

1.  $0.99-2.99
2.  $3.00-5.99
3.  $6.00-8.99
4.  $9.00-11.99
5.  $12.00-14.99
6.  $15.00-$19.99
7. You think it is worth more than $20

I already have a an idea in mind, but I am curious about your opinion, because I value your opinion.

This poll will only be open for 24 hours (closing Thursday, July 25, at 1pm Central Time.)

After this poll, I will get back to excellent recipes and some motivational blah-blah posts!

Garlic-Olive Oil Paste for Steaks

Garlic Paste (it really isn't a paste, but it isn't a sauce either.)
Enough for a 1.5 pound steak

2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (I used 2 large cloves)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt (Kosher or the type you would need to put in a grinder)

Optional: 2 black pepper corns
               1-2 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
               5-10 whole coriander seeds (I used 10)

Special equipment: Mortar and pestle

This holds about 12 ounces (360ml) and I think this is as small as you should buy. I wish that I had a larger one. We'll see. I bought this at IKEA for about $10. It is heavy marble, and has a very smooth exterior and a slightly rough interior. The marble makes it very easy to clean.

Peel and roughly chopped the garlic, and place it and the salt, and 1 teaspoon olive oil in mortar (and the optional ingredients if you are using them).

With the pestle light crush the garlic chunks a couple times with an up and down action.

Then, holding the mortar tightly in one hand, grind the ingredients in a continuous circular motion, twisting it occasionally to pull the material under and between the mortar and pestle.

After about a minute of grinding.

Note: you need a mortar that holds at least 1 cup. If you can find one that holds 3 cups, it will be easier because the pestle will be larger with a larger grinding surface.

The goal is to mash the ingredients into a relatively uniform paste.

When you have a nice texture, add the rest of the oil. (If you add all the oil at once  before grinding, the garlic tends to float around and it is much harder to grind it.)

That's it.

The salt in here is necessary, because it acts as small grinding stones within the mash mixture. You also need a mortar that is light rough on the inside. I have seen some that were as smooth on the inside as on the outside. That would make grinding much more difficult because the roughness grabs the material and briefly holds it while you work out your day's frustrations.

The whole process will only take a couple minutes.

Don't forget to add the oil to your log. If you have three portions of meat, is is 40 calories of oil ,four portions is 30 calories of oil. 

This thin paste can be used on steaks of any sort, but I like using it on beef flank steaks, as they are relatively lean and benefit from having some added oil. I also use it on my pizza crust in place of a tomato sauce.

Preparing a flank steak takes a few additional steps.

Do you see the muscle fibers running from the lower left corner to the upper right? That is the "grain" of the meat, and when you serve a steak like this, you will slice it into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices across the grain (moving the knife from upper left to lower right, in this picture) when you plate this meat for your dinner guests.

To help further tenderize the meat, before adding the garlic-oil paste, score the meat. Using a VERY sharp knife, cut a series of 1/4 slices into the meat, parallel and 1 inch apart, at about 45 degree to the grain.

Then, cut it again, on the same side, but at right angles to the first cuts.

Flip the steak over and repeat the process on the other side. Then, rub the garlic-oil paste on both sides.

At this point, you can pause our dinner prep. You could do all this even a day in advance. Just wrap the meat in plastic film and refrigerate, and it will be ready as soon as the grill is hot. Using an oil paste like this will help keep the steak juicy and tender.

When ready to grill, preheat the grill on high for at least 5 minutes (gas grill) or let the charcoal burn down to gray embers. Brush the grates, and using tongs and paper towel, carefully rub vegetable oil on the grates to help prevent the meat from sticking.

This steak cooks quickly.  It is generally an inch thick at most, and when you criss-cross cut 1/4 inch on both sides, you open up a lot more cooking surface. (See how the heat opens the cuts?) About 4 minutes per side will be medium.

Last night, I accidentally let it go a total of 9 minutes and it went to medium-well. (When cooking something that goes so quickly, don't get sidetracked watering your herb garden.) For us, that was a disaster. An edible mistake, but not one that I will commemorate with pictures. (We like our steaks medium-rare, which is about 6-7 minutes total cook time.)

Nutritional data?  Depend on the size of the portion, and the exact cut of steak. The paste is enough to cover a 1.5 pound steak (above). I generally cut a flank steak into four ounce portions, so I can get about 6 servings per steak (many fewer if both of our boys are eating with us.) A four-ounce portion would have about 20 calories added from the oil.


Poll results:  87% of respondents preferred the idea of a shorter ebook available sooner.

An new poll will be out later today, to further refine that idea.  THANK YOU for helping me with my next projects. I hope that you will be as satisfied with them as you are with this blog.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Asian Chicken Salad

Asian Chicken Salad
Serves 2

Remember Last Friday's recipe? The Grilled Chicken and the Hoisin BBQ sauce?

Well, this recipe uses 2 left over chicken quarters and the remaining Hoisin BBQ sauce.

Skin the chicken and remove the bones. Roughly chop the chicken. Pour the BBQ sauce over the chicken and stir to coat. Warm in the microwave until it reaches the temperature you want.

Make a salad on a base of thinly sliced Napa cabbage (yes, the same as in the Kimchi recipe.) On the bed of Napa, add your preferred vegetables:

  • Peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber
  • Shredded carrots
  • Chopped bell pepper
  • Onion (white or green)
  • Chiles
  • Snow pea pods
  • Mushrooms
  • Bean sprouts
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Water Chestnuts
Think of your favorite Asian dish. If you liked the veggies in it, you will like it on the salad.

Top your veggies with half of the chicken/BBQ mix. If you want more dressing, you can use your favorite Asian-style salad dressing, or simply make more of the BBQ sauce.

Since the calories and other nutritional data will vary based on what you choose and the quantities used, I am not going to give any nutritional data. Like any salad, the calories are concentrated in the dressing. Use as little as you can get away with, and you will have an full-flavored, low calorie meal, that uses up leftover chicken in a way that maybe you never considered.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tuna BLT

Tuna BLT

I'm not going to give a specific recipe here. This is just a pictures to stimulate ideas. You can do this with any protein (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or fish. You could even use a piece of tofu or a black bean burger.)

For this sandwich, I used about 4 ounces of ahi tuna. I heated a heavy-bottomed pan until it was really hot then seared both side for about 30 seconds. That tuna is about 3/4 inch thick.

The last time I posted a BLT, I used Healthy Life's Whole Wheat English muffins. This sandwich was built on two pieces of their 100% Whole Wheat High Fiber bread. Depending on your personal focus, per slice it has 35 calories, 5 net carbs, 3g fiber, and only 85mg sodium.

Instead of mayo, I used mashed avocado as in the earlier sandwich. That drizzle in front is an excellent chipotle-infused olive oil from my friends at Olivada, in Sheboygan, WI. The smoky heat (but not too hot) of the oil nicely off-set the smoothness of the avocado and the meatiness of the tuna.

(No, I don't get freebies, commissions or anything else. I just enjoy supporting small businesses that offer great products and great service. You can visit in person or shop online.)

No nutritional data today. The sandwich will vary based on your ingredients. I just hope that I gave you a new idea.

You have until 11:59pm on Tuesday to vote in the poll. I have a couple other polls that I will post after this one, to further refine my plans. Why am I polling you? It's really for the same reason I do this blog. I want to create a product that you really want. I don't want to spend a lot of time (and money) making a book that will only be of interest to my Mother. I want to satisfy your needs more than my needs.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Just A Short Note Today


I added a brief, two question poll. It follows my "About Me" story. This is the first of several polls I will have here, to help me refine my immediate plans.

So I need your input! The poll is open until 11:59pm Tuesday evening (Central Time.)

Help me provide you with what you really want!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hoisin BBQ Chicken Quarter, with Grilled Potatoes and Home Made Kimchi

Hoisin BBQ Chicken Quarter, with Grilled Potatoes and Home Made Kimchi
Serves 2

(There are many steps, but nothing is difficult.)

Hoisin BBQ Chicken
4 chicken leg quarters
Chinese Five Spice Powder
Vegetable oil for the grill

Mix together and set aside:
2 teaspoon commercially prepared Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh minced and mashed ginger
1 clove garlic, minced and mashed

Grilled Potatoes
1 medium potato, sliced thinly
1/4 small onion, sliced thinly
2 medium carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
2 strip raw bacon, chopped
2 sheets aluminum foil each about 18 inches long
Cooking spray

Kimchi (this is a more complex--but not difficult--recipe and I will make that a separate posting)

  1. Preheat the grill on high for at least 5 minutes. Make sure that about 1/3 of your grill is only warm, to make a safe zone. (If you have a three burner gas grill, set two on high and one on low. If you have a two burner, one is high and one low. Charcoal? Most of the coals are under 2/3 of the grill and only a a couple are under the remaining 1/3.)
  2. While the grill is preheating, sprinkle the Chinese Five Spice powder on the chicken.
  3. Spray one sheet of aluminum with cooking spray.
  4. Place 1/3 of the potatoes on the sheet.
  5. Add in layers, half the bacon, half the onion and half the carrot. Season with black pepper.)
  6. Add another 1/3 of the potatoes.
  7. Add, in order, the remaining carrots, onions, bacon and potatoes. (The packet will be the same upside down or right side up.)
  8. Carefully bring the top and bottom edges of the foil together over the veggies and fold the edges together to seal. Then tightly roll the right and left edges.
  9. Place that packet on the second sheet of foil, seam side down, and repeat step 8.
  10. Note: I just saw that they now sell aluminum foil bags which would greatly simplify this part of the meal.
  11. Using tongs and a paper towel, wipe the vegetable oil on your freshly brushed grill to help prevent the chicken from sticking.
  12. Lay the chicken, skin side down, over the direct heat. Place the veggie packets near the chicken, on the edge of the hot and safe zones.
  13. Turn the chicken after 5 minutes, or if the flames of hell start to flare up.
  14. When both sides are browned (10-12 minutes) move the chicken to the safe zone. Let if cook, undisturbed, until it has an internal temperature of at least 165, but with legs and thighs, you can even go to 170 without drying the meat.  This will take 30-4 minutes.  If you don't have a thermometer, use  a meat fork or a skewer, and pierce the thigh in the deepest part. Pull it out. If the juices are red, it is still raw. If they are clear, it is done. 
  15. Turn the potato packets 1/4 turn (flat, right edge, upside down, left edge, flat) every 10 minutes. Remove 40 minutes after putting on the grill.
  16. Remove the chicken when done and immediately brush the Hoisin BBQ sauce over it. I don't brush this on while the chicken is still on the grill, because I don't want it to burn, or all run off and fall into the grill.
  17. Let the veggie packets and chicken rest for 5 minutes, then serve.
Nutritional data:
Chicken (an average leg/thigh quarter will yield about 4 ounces of meat)
Calories:     210
Fat:             15g
Sat fat:        4.5g
Chol:        90mg
Sodium:  150mg
Carbs:           0g
Fiber:            0g
Protein:       19g

Hoisin BBQ Sauce (less than 1 tablespoon of the sauce--save the remaining sauce covered in the refrigerator)

Calories:       67
Fat:            6.9g
Sat fat:          1g
Chol:          0mg
Sodium:    34mg
Carbs:        2.5g
Fiber:            0g
Protein:      0.3g

Grilled Potato (half the packet):

Calories:       136
Fat:             3.7g
Sat fat:        1.3g
Chol:        9.5mg
Sodium:   133mg
Carbs:       22.1g
Fiber:             3g
Protein:          5g

In the next couple days, I will show you how to make an Asian Chicken Salad, using the leftover chicken and Hoisin BBQ Sauce.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar
Serves 1

1/2 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup whipped cream (or whipped topping, which is what I used. I was out of whipping cream)
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  1. Layer half of the strawberries and whipped cream.
  2. Repeat with the remaining berries and cream.
  3. Drizzle vinegar over the top.
  4. Serve immediately.
Nutritional data:
Calories:      71
Fat:            2.2g
Sat fat:          2g
Chol:          0mg
Sodium:   2.1mg
Carbs:      13.3g
Fiber:         1.7g
Protein:      0.6g

I used a special balsamic vinegar, from Olivada Oils, in Sheboyan,Wisconsin which is about an hour from my home. 

This is their dark chocolate infused balsamic vinegar. It added a complex flavor of cocoa with some oak, and vanilla, and what tasted like a very dark beer in the background. It was WONDERFUL in this dessert (although I will admit not everyone will like it.)

If you are unfamiliar with balsamic vinegars, the aging process doesn't make them less sour than traditional vinegar, but adds flavors that bring a new balance, which makes the sourness seem appropriate and even, and more like tartness rather than truly sour.

Note to any beer geeks out there: if you really enjoy the sour beers of Belgium, you need to get a bottle of this. I think--but haven't tried it, yet--that drizzling this over a bowl of Bing cherries will end up tasting like a kriek, and over raspberries it will taste like a framboise. If anyone tries those ideas, please let me know, okay?

Go to Olivada's website and take a look at the olive oils and balsamic vinegars they offer. If you are near Sheboygan, go to the shop and taste. I spent about an hour (yes, I logged the oils that I tastes) tasting different oils and vinegars, and mixing them together for combined flavors. 

Here are the treasures I bought that day:

They will be featured in recipes to come.  Keep watching, and I hope you try today's recipe. When you do, let me know what you think, even if you don't like it. (But I am confident that you will.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's Old is Not Necessarily Obsolete (Part 2)

In the early 1900s a scientist (Wilber Atwater) discovered that burning a food will release energy. This energy is measured in units called--surprise!--calories. (I am not going to get too deep into this, and the fact that a scientific calorie is not the calorie that we count. We are actually counting kilocalories, or kCal. Whenever I refer to calories, I mean the calories that we count in food, the stuff on the food labels.)

But this is when food began to turn from the idea of pure sustenance into sources of energy. And further research showed that carbohydrates--all of them--release 4 calories per gram. Proteins also contain the same amount of energy, 4 calories per gram. Fats are huge energy stores, with 9 calories per gram. Alcohol is almost as energetic as fat, with 7 calories per gram. (This gives another reason why excessive alcohol consumption have be problematic.)

This is the basis of calorie counting.

I think back to my childhood in the late 1960s. I can remember watching my parents sit at the kitchen table after dinner with their notebook and a reference book, listing everything they ate and adding up the calories. This was about the same time that Weight Watchers began to grow. In the 1970s, other services arrived, such as Nutrisystem, followed by Jenny Craig in the mid-80s. Both were based on buying pre-packaged foods. In personal experience, Nutrisystem's food was processed, prepared, controlled....and very small. I remember dropping in small bags of rice to rehydrate it before eating and the bags were small. They offered cans of meat pate (okay, it was really paste) the size of a small can of cat food. The size of the can was not the only comparison to cat food (although, to be fair, the BBQ beef version wasn't bad tasting.)

Those companies continue and others have grown, all offering various levels of pre-packaged food. And they will work. Seriously! If you follow their plan, carefully, you will lose weight. It is expensive, and not exactly eating "clean", but it will be effective.

It will be effective because it carefully limits your calories. It is calorie counting, but you pay someone else to do the counting for you.

What about other methods that are not calorie counting?  Things like hCG? Medifast? Slim-fast? I remember in the early 80s wanting to lose weight with Dexadrine (before it became the relatively harmless Dexatrim). The pills made me jittery, and if I had followed the "included diet plan" I would have lost weight, because it was a 1200 calorie a day menu plan.They all revolve around one thing: a tightly control caloric intake, with other substances to "enhance" the method.

But guess what? You are still calorie counting.

How about prescription medications? Phen-fen was an appetite suppressant--with some pesky cardiovascular side effects for some people--but it only worked when I ate less. Xenical--later to become the over-the-counter medication Alli--helped block fat absorption. With that medication, you still needed to be careful of your dietary consumption (eat very low fat diet) which simultaneously reduced the gastroinstestinal side effects and reduced your caloric intake.

If you want to change your weight, you have many options, but they all involve eating less and moving more. I just believe that my method, using LoseIt, is very effective. Is it the best? I don't know. I haven't tried all of the different methods available. But honestly, I don't need to keep trying. I already reached my goal using LoseIt's approach to simple calorie counting and the LoseIt approach has me maintaining my loss for 19+ months. LoseIt is a new company, built on a century-old concept. It--and many other plans--can work, but only if you are careful, persistent, and focused. (And wow--focus was very difficult while taking Dexadrine.)

Next up tomorrow:  Another good recipe! (I'm just not sure which one yet.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Venison Burgers

Venison Burger
Serves 4 (four ounce patty, raw)

4 buns, lightly buttered
1 pound ground venison (or bison, or very lean beef)
1 tablespoon bacon grease (or coconut oil) plus more to oil the grill.
1 egg white
Salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, crushed mustard seed
Your preferred toppings

  1. Preheat your grill on high for five minutes
  2. While the grill is preheating, prepare your meat. (Here is the secret:)
  3. Spread the raw meat on a plate. Season as desired. 
  4. Drizzle the oil over the meat.
  5. Gently fold the meat together, and form a well. Add the egg white to the well.
  6. Again, gently fold the meat together, just until the egg white is incorporated. 
  7. Divide into your portions, and form into a ball.
  8. When the grill is hot, brush to remove residue and with a paper towel and tongs, carefully wipe oil on the grill. 
  9. Just before you place the meat on the grill, gently press them flat (but thick) between your hands. 
  10. Press into the center of the burger, not all the way through, but enough to make an indentation in the meat. Lay on grill. Let them grill, undisturbed until the edges of the meat are getting cooked.
  11. Carefully flip.
  12. Continue for 1-4 more minutes (depending on how well-done you prefer.) The indentation you made should have filled in by now. Making that indentation prevent the meat from return to a more rounded shape.
  13. In the last minute, lay the buns on grill. Watch carefully, they will go from untoasted to burnt quickly.
  14. Top and serve immediately.
Nutritional data for the patty alone (too much variability in different buns and toppings):
Calories:     193
Fat:            9.6g
Sat fat        4.6g
Chol:     89.5mg
Sodium: 93.3mg
Carb             0g
Fiber:            0g
Protein:    24.4g

The added oil in step 4 will help keep the burger moist. You can use different oils for different flavor. Bacon grease is excellent. You could use butter or lard if you wanted. 

If you use a lower grade of beef (anything less than 90% lean), you won't need to add the oils. So why don't I just buy the inexpensive meat? My brother-in-law gives me the venison, so I use what I have, and adapt as needed.

Never press on a burger while it is cooking, whether on a grill or in a pan. That simply pushes the juices out and you will have a dry burger.

I'm not going to list all possible toppings, but let me say that Jimmy Buffet has it close. Cheese, onion, pickle and mustard is all it takes! ("With a cold draught beer" of course!)

What's Old is Not Necessarily Obsolete (part 1)

There are cycles to almost everything. Think about fashion (although, thankfully men's polyester leisure suits were a "one hit blunder") and hairstyles. Skirt lengths go up and down, colors shift from earth tones to primary colors, hair goes from straight to wavy and back again, and men's ties and lapels get narrow and wide and then narrow again over time.

Right now in home decor, retro is big (think the TV show "Mad Men") and if you were in our house, you would see that our decor is morphing into that rather rapidly.

Here is how I make my morning coffee now. 
I gave up using my automatic drip maker in favor of a 1960's percolator. 
Hotter coffee with more flavor!

Our 1962 Magnavox Astro-Sonic Stereo. This is 60" of awesomeness and it plays our LPs perfectly.
(The Beach Boys "Endless Summer" is on display.)

Car makers try do it. Chrysler's PT Cruise and Chevy's HHR were attempts to bring back the feel of a 1930's street rod, although here is evidence that not every fashion retread--get the pun?--is successful. I'm still waiting for the 1957 Cheny fins to return!

Even ideas are almost never new. I teach a class called "Learning Strategies for Nursing Students", and I focus on simple methods to improve study efficiency. Using "brain based" and multiple intelligence theories, I teach students that studying will be more effective if they schedule study time each day and then when their "study appointment" is due, they should focus on nothing but studying. They should also employ multiple learning paths (reading, speaking, writing summaries and paraphrasing), review and renew information, using imagery to build more relevant memories, among other techniques. These ideas are based on recent studies (from the 1980s to present day) and my students report success.

Imagine my surprise when I was at a thrift store yesterday and found this book:
Published in 1915.

Page 21 
Exactly what I teach during the first lecture on day 1.

"Out of fashion" might accurately be rephrased as "not back in fashion yet".

Next, read about another old-fashioned idea that is still here and still works. (If you've read my blog before, there is no surprise that I am talking about calorie counting.)

And watch for another recipe. (I'm not sure which one--but it will be something good!)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Grilled Stuffed Lake Trout

Grilled Stuffed Lake Trout (served with a Creamy Cucumber Salad)
Serves 2-4

2 whole trout, cleaned (each about 12-16 ounces)
Fresh herbs

  1. Preheat your grill for 5 minutes on high heat.  Use a wire brush to remove any previous residue.
  2. Prepare your fish. I used fresh sprigs of rosemary and fresh basil in the abdominal cavity, with some sliced onion and lime. (I didn't have any lemon.) You could also simply sprinkle salt and pepper and any other seasoning in the cavity. I also sprinkled black pepper on the skin (but I don't think that added anything to the finished meal.)

  1. Turn the heat to low and carefully dip a paper towel in cooking oil (any kind) and with a pair of tongs, wipe the oil on the grill. Repeat that 2-3 times, because you really don't want the fish to stick to the grill.
  2. Turn the heat back to medium-high.
  3. Lay the fish on the grill. Let it cook until the skin begins to brown (mine got a little too dark, but it didn't make any difference in flavor, only appearance.) This will take 3-5 minutes.

  1. Turn the fish over for another 3-5 minutes.
  2. Remove from the grill. Let cool for a few minutes so it is easier to handle.
  3. With a sharp knife, I cut the head and tails off, and then peel the skin off from one side (see why it doesn't matter it the skin gets charred?)
  4. After the skin is off, place the edge of the blade along the spine (parallel to the spine) and ease it into the flesh. Gently pull toward you and the flesh will come off in large pieces.
  5. After you have the flesh off that side, beginning at the tail, pick up the spine and lift it off. The should remove almost all bones from the fish (but be careful, some can be stubborn.)
The flesh was lightly flavored with rosemary and basil. I served it with fresh lime and that was it. No need for any sauce or butter. Fresh trout is delicious!

Note: I bought two 12 ounce trout which yielded a total of 14 ounces of meat after you remove the head, tail, skin and bones. This recipe can be adapted to any fatty fish that you may have available in your region. ALWAYS try to find fresh fish. Before I buy a whole fresh fish, I ask to smell it. If it smells fishy, it will taste even more fishy, because it is already a few days old. The eyes should also be clear and shiny, not dull and hazy. (If you look at the pictures of the uncooked fish, you can see the shiny eyes.) My fish had no fishy aroma, and had been caught and delivered the morning I bought them.

Nutritional data (per 6 ounces of boneless/skinless flesh):
Calories:    323
Fat:          14.4g
Sat fat:       2.5g
Chol:       126mg
Sodium:  114mg
Carbs:          0g
Fiber:           0g
Protein:   45.3g

Creamy Cucumber Salad
Serves 8 (5 ounces by weight)

4 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use the full fat version)
1/4 cup Miracle Whip (I use the light version)
Black pepper to taste
Dill weed to taste (optional)
  1. Combine ingredients. Refrigerate until cold. Overnight is better for more flavor.

Nutritional data (per 5 ounces by weight):
Calories:      67
Fat:             5.1g
Sat fat:        0.8g
Chol:           59mg
Sodium:    159mg
Carbs:        4.6g
Fiber:         0.8g
Protein:      0.7g

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grilled Romaine Salad with Tomatoes and Grilled Corn

Grilled Romaine Salad with Tomatoes and Grilled Corn
Serves 2

1 heart of romaine, halved
2 ears of corn (or 1 cup frozen corn kernels)
10-12 grape tomatoes, halved
2 green onions (scallions) chopped, whites and greens
1/4 cup your preferred vinaigrette (I used the following recipe, mixed together in a jar and vigorously shaken):
           2 tablespoons olive oil
           2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
           1 teaspoon dried herbs mixture (I used Penzey's Tuscan Sunset.)
           1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  1. Place the ears of corn on the grill (I prefer husks on.) Grill over direct heat until the husks are charred and the kernels are beginning to caramelize. This will take 20-30 minutes. (Keep close by the grill with a spray bottle of water unless enjoy fire.) When caramelized, remove the ears from the grill, shuck the remaining husks, and cut kernels from the ear. OR  Heat a non-stick skillet with a bit of olive oil. Place frozen kernels in skillet and saute over med-high heat until kernels caramelize. then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  2. Combine prepared corn and tomatoes and cover to keep warm.
  3. Brush a small amount of the vinaigrette on the cut surface of the romaine. Reserve the rest.
  4. Place the romaine on the hot grill, cut side down. Grill until slightly charred and beginning to wilt (2-3 minutes.)
  5. Place each romaine on a plate, divide corn and tomato mixture on each, and top with remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle green onions and serve.
Nutritional data (per half):
Calories:        294
Fat:               15.2g
Sat fat:               2g
Chol:                 0mg
Sodium:           22mg
Carbs:          39.6g
Fiber:             6.5g
Protein:          6.2g

(The picture above also shows pan fried tilapia fillets.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

An updated BLT

An Updated BLT

(The recipe below is for two sandwiches, but the nutritional data is for one sandwich.)

2 English muffins (I prefer Healthy Life 100% Whole Wheat, for their flavor and only 60mg of sodium per muffin.) 
1/4 ripe avocado, mashed
2 strips bacon (preferably low sodium)
2-4 slices of tomato 
Onions as desired
Fresh baby spinach
  1. Fry your  bacon, and drain on plate covered with paper plate and paper towels. (You can save any residual bacon grease for later cooking or throw it out. I save mine.) Note: I have been having issues with out home smoke detectors lately, so I fry my bacon on my gas grill outside, laying them on a cast iron griddle. Works great, and no loud alarms!)
  2. Toast your muffins, or I lightly butter them and lay them on the gas grill for few minutes.)
  3. Spread half the mashed avocado on each muffin and layer the other ingredients. One slice of bacon torn in half is all that is needed on each sandwich for great flavor.
That's it. Simple as can be, and much healthier (in this case, especially in regards to the sodium content.) More importantly, this is a delicious sandwich and really quick to make.

Nutritional data (per sandwich):
Calories:     183
Fat:             6.7g
Sat fat:        1.6g
Chol:          7.5mg
Sodium:  161.3mg
Carbs:       22.5g
Fiber:             4g
Protein:       8.6g

To understand why this version is healthier, if you used Healthy Life 100% whole wheat bread, 2 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise, and 3 strips of regular bacon the numbers would be:

Nutritional data (per sandwich):
Calories:       237 (not bad)
Fat:               12.6g 
Sat fat:            3.3g
Chol:            26.4mg
Sodium:      1027mg  (Ouch!)
Carbs:          21.5g (the same)
Fiber:             5.7g  (better)

Protein:        13.3g  (more)

If you are not worried about sodium, the regular version is fine. But the updated version is 50 calories and 960 mg sodium less, and that can make a difference. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Last Night's Birthday Dinner!

Yesterday was a great day! In addition to restarting the blog, I enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the Republic Chophouse, in downtown Green Bay. We've never eaten there before, but this won't be the last time!

To make everyone drool just a little, here are the meals (sorry, no pictures):

Starters:  Bennett and Tammy enjoyed the bacon-wrapped scallops in a maple-jack glaze, Ethan had steak bites (bites of New York strip, wrapped in prosciutto, seared and served with garlic aioli, and I had chile-lime raw ahi tuna taco on Napa cabbage, avocado and habanero-sour cream.  Oh, that was good! I am going to try to replicate that tuna taco. When I do, I will post the results here.

Salad/Soup: Bennett was rogue and enjoyed the tomato-basil bisque while the rest of us had a green salad with a basil vinaigrette.

Main Course:  Ethan enjoyed citrus-cucumber salmon and garlic-cheese mashed potatoes. Bennett and Tammy loved the Ritz Cracker crusted rack of lamb (four bones) with a blackberry-veal demi-glace. Bennett also chose the garlic-cheese mashed, and Tammy went with grilled asparagus. And I...well, I went for the gold ring. I enjoyed a 16 ounce Irish New Yorker (an inch-thick boneless New York strip steak, marinated in Guinness stout, whiskey, and soy sauce, grilled medium rare, and served with truffle-Parmesan steak fries. It also came with a Jameson's Irish whiskey shooter which I saved for the after dinner coffee.)

Dessert: Both boys went with the caramelized pineapple custard, and Tammy got the spiced rum cake with port-wine poached pears, and I ordered the HUGE four-layer red velvet cake. Tammy and I were going to share each of ours, but the red velvet cake was easily large enough for four, and the rum cake was nearly that large. We ate the spiced rum cake and brought the red velvet cake home. It sits in our fridge, taunting us.

Oh, yeah...I completely blew my calorie budget, and I didn't care. You only turn 50 once, and this was a special meal.

Today, I am back on track (and only up 1.5 pounds, which I consider a victory because I planned for a two pound gain--sodium/water retention.)

If you are in Green Bay between now and July 18, you can enjoy Green Bay Restaurant Week, too. The meals are awesome (as are the prices.)  If you can't make it to Green Bay, well I guess my summaries will need to suffice. Tammy and I have two more meals (lunches, this time) planned at two other restaurants.  Keep watching here for details.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I'm Back!

Wow. It has been six months since I last posted here. Do I have any excuses--or more charitably, any reasons--for my absence? Yes. Are they valid? Maybe, maybe not. But they don't really matter. The past is gone. If we dwell on the negative, the "I wish..." we will gain nothing. If we learn from our actions, and make new choices going forward, then we ultimately win and can grow beyond what we were.

I choose to win!

So, I am back! And this time, I am here to stay! (More on that later.)

There have been a few major family events. Our oldest son is now 21, and although still in college, has moved out for this summer to work as a research assistant for his professor and then will spend 17 weeks studying at the University of Amman, Jordan. He is almost out of the nest. Our youngest son just turned 18 and he is feverishly looking for an apartment so that he, too, can spread his wings. Our only other "child", Ozzy, will turn 7 in August and he is still playful, fun and shows no signs of wanting to move away. Especially since we are so good at filling his food bowl.

And I am officially a member of AARP. Oh, this not based on employment status--I figure I will be working until 80 or more. But today I turned 50 years old.  Last night, my son asked me, "You're going to be 50. How does that feel?" I chuckled and said, "Well, it is a combination of 'how can I be that old when I feel this young' and "how the heck can I be that old?!?!?!"

But 50 is just a number and numbers are only relevant when you understand the context. In my context, "50" means I will get a discount when my wife and I stay in hotels on vacation. Nothing else changes. Here are two other numbers, that mean nothing out of context: 87 and 19. But here are the defining labels: 87 pounds lost, and 19 months maintaining that weight loss level.

What does all this mean? Well, I think that right now, today, with this birthday, I am starting the second half of my life and regaining my focus. I always enjoyed writing these blog posts. They helped me stay on track, to organize my thoughts, and to iron out details that seem elusive when just thinking about them. So the blog begins again, anew.

As before, this will be a combination of recipes from my kitchen with pictures that I have taken, discussions of travels we take and restaurants where we eat, and as Tammy describes them, "blah-blah" posts, where I will try to explain how I accomplished my goal and how I have stayed at (or under) goal. Those 'blah-blah" posts may be very blunt discussions of what I feel is incorrect information or techniques being used, but they could also be motivational posts to help you find another reason to stick with it. I still use LoseIt and have occasionally posted motivational thoughts there, and this blog will replace that venue.

Lastly, this blog will serve as a precursor to my next project. I think--based on feedback from readers of the blog and LoseIt--that my writing could be compiled into a motivational book. It may even sell copies to people who are not related to me by blood! As of right now, I have about half of the book roughed out (written, but not formatted.) As I go forward, I will complete the writing and properly format it. When it is done, I will first release it here.

I have a lot of recipes to post. I also have pictures. The challenge will be to match the picture with the recipe. But that is my problem. I hope to post at least three recipes a week here. I also look for feedback and ideas. If there is something you would like to see, let me know!

Again, thanks for coming back and feeding these feeble thoughts. It was fun before--it will be even more fun now!