Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Food for Thought

I had to drive to Union City last night and stopped on my return trip home to get something to eat. In the past I would have grabbed a cheeseburger from the drive thru at McDonalds. I saw a brightly lit sign for a Hawaiian BBQ joint that sounded good so I stopped. Before entering I had visions of a grilled chicken kabob on a scoop of rice and iced tea with lemon. That was what I really wanted. Something grilled, clean, light and filling.

I should have taken a clue from the gigantic menu pictures over the counter that this place was not going to have what I wanted... but partly because I was so hungry and partly because I had just spent 5 minutes looking for a place to park, I decided to stay.

There they were in all their full color glory, oversized portions of brown, fried, fat ridden,highly processed uninspired food. This place encompassed everything I hate about our fast food culture... yet I decided to stay. I was already there and could surely find something that would satisfy my hunger without pushing me over the cliff.
After letting 4 people in line go ahead of me and not seeing anything I wanted, I described to the guy taking orders my kabob over rice vision. He recommended the BBQ chicken "mini meal" so that's what I ordered.
My first observation was that my "mini meal" was huge. There were 3 big pieces of chicken, rice and macaroni salad all served over a bed of steamed cabbage. At first sight, not a bad looking meal. I ate one piece of the chicken, all of the rice and some of the cabbage. The macaroni salad had an intense artificial / chemical induced taste to me so I didn't eat any of that. The chicken was disappointing and had a highly processed taste as well. I kept having visions of institutional chicken operations where 6 chickens are stuffed into cages and forced fed until they reach maturity. It looked good but it wasn't.
I ended up pitching the remaining food in the trash and walked out feeling bad about having just consumed such an unsatisfying meal.  
I think about our society and how much our eating patterns have changed over the years. About how it is so easy and accessible to eat out all the time now. Things like the dollar menu at McDonalds and how that plays out in our present economy?  How places like Costco have changed how we shop and how we buy large quantities of food items and then have to eat it all. How much money we spend on junk food with little nutritional value. How our taste has changed and is more a product of big money marketing studies into things that create chemically produced textures that are more about "mouthfeel" and less about the integrity of a quality product. In short, our present day society is designed to encourage impulsive behavior. Instant gratification will always come at a price.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday Hangover

I'm so over eating rich foods and looking forward to getting back into the eating light mode. I woke up this morning and cleaned out my refrigerator of all the rich festive foods left over from Christmas. I placed them all in a box on the lower refrigerator shelf for my son to eat. Things like left over chocolate soufflé, blue cheese, stuffed olives, artichoke dip...

I found some beets, carrots and a butternut squash in the produce drawer that needed to be used. Roasted vegetables...Yum! Just the thing to get me back into the healthy eating mode. I love having roasted anything around. Roasting intensifies the flavors and the charred roasted areas add an element of crispiness that tastes so good!

For the beets and carrots, once they are finished roasting, I toss them with some balsamic vinegar, salt, rosemary and fresh cut parsley. Sometimes I will add cherry tomatoes cut in half. The freshness of the tomatoes pairs well with the roasted vegetables. The butternut squash gets cut into smaller pieces when cooled and I like it just sprinkled with some salt and pepper as a side. Sometimes I make it into soup.

Anyway you serve them up, they are fantastic to have around! Served cold or heated up, they are filling, nutritious and great tasting... what more can you ask for?

I also found quite a few grapefruits that were a  little past their prime for eating so I juiced them. I bought a rather expensive juicer two years ago but frankly it was cumbersome, hard to clean and I found that I liked the carrot juice I bought from Trader Joes more than the stuff I juiced myself. It was a real hassle to use and the results were not what I wanted so I sold it and bought a cheap squeeze juicer that I love! The fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is so refreshing.

Out with the old and in with the new. Looking forward to a new revitalized 2014!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Letting Life Happen...

With all the baking, eating out and general festivities, it’s been easy to stray from my dieting mindset and weighing myself this morning I’m up 4 lbs. I’m OK with that but don’t want to get over 4 lbs. so today will be a “get back on track” day for me. I find that dieting is more successful for me if I allow my body to adjust to periods of weight loss occasionally instead of continuous losing. It lets my body level off, get adjusted and re-group. It may be more for my mind than my body. I feel great when I’m on a roll with losing weight but I need that period of leveling off every 10 – 15 lbs. or so to gear up for the next big push. That’s just what works for me. I will gain a few lbs. back during the level off period and that’s just part of the deal. The important thing is to not get back into poor eating habits! There is a difference between leveling off from dieting and leveling off from poor eating habits. If I’m eating chips at night I’m in trouble. If I’m eating a lovely pot roast dinner with mashed potatoes I’m allowing myself to enjoy a wonderful meal. I don’t need to stuff myself, but it’s OK to go ahead and enjoy a nice “non-diet” meal occasionally especially during a holiday.

I have a great Christmas dinner planned for this year. My family is all in the Midwest and East Coast so it’s just going to be my son and myself. I bought a couple of really beautiful swordfish steaks to marinade and grill. The asparagus in the stores looks great so I think some grilled with tomatoes would make for a nice side dish. For dessert I want to make something simple and light yet spectacular. Maybe a chocolate soufflé with fresh raspberries. My son loves bourbon so would be nice to have some good bourbon on hand for after our meal.

It’s important for me to lose weight but it’s also important to acknowledge good times with friends / family in a spirit of togetherness for the Holidays. There will be plenty of opportunities for me to stick to a more regimented diet after Christmas but for now it’s important to let the good times roll...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Spreading Good Cheer

I'm thoroughly enjoying the Holiday season! Had an ornament making craft project at the Boulder Creek Library yesterday and the kids all had a great time. It's great to see so many people participating and having fun. I love making these ornaments and make them every year. They are just small fruit, ribbon, whole cloves, cranberries, straight pins and anything else you would like to add, like sequins or currants. I use two types of straight pins. Use the longer dressmaker pins for pinning on cranberries and use the shorter heavier pins for securing ribbon. I buy the whole cloves in bulk from the local health food store, otherwise they are really expensive if you buy them in the little jars! I also use a toothpick to create the hole in the fruit before sticking the clove in. This keeps them from breaking so easily. These ornaments do not last long, but they are so much fun to make together and look and smell fantastic on the tree or hanging around the house.

I made caramels yesterday to send off to relatives and friends in tins with the cookies. I could not for the life of me find my candy thermometer and so had to wing it with testing for the correct consistency. I think they got a little bit harder than what I usually make. Also, the color was very dark. They are still good but I cut them into smaller pieces than normal since they were harder. I'm glad to be done with all the baking stuff and to have the tins sent off. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Meal Replacement

My weight has been holding right around 241 for the past 4 days. I have to remember that it is the Holidays and that I've been engaged in more than usual exposure to large quantities of rich food. I should be happy that I haven't gained anything! Still, I would like to at least get down below 240 if for no other reason than to say that I have lost the 20 lbs. I've gained since moving here last March. I feel like I need to at least lose 2 lbs. a week to feel like I'm making some progress. That's just my personal feeling. I can play a lot of games with my psyche to justify staying at 241 through December but the bottom line is Holiday or no Holiday, I'm in this to lose weight and I have made a pact with myself to keep on track with that. So here it is Wed. and I still need to lose a couple of lbs.by Sunday in order to honor my commitment.

One sure way for me to lose weight fast is to replace one meal with the fat burner soup. I have two versions of this soup that are both delicious. One is chicken based and the other "original" version is  tomato based. I'm going to make the tomato based one today because I can add meat and spices that will turn it into a fat burner chili, which is awesome!

The soup is packed with nutrition and the cabbage provides a lot of fiber that aids in burning the fat. You can eat as much of this soup as you want and still lose weight. However if adding the ground beef to make the chili version, you should limit yourself to two bowls a day for weight loss. Still, it is a guaranteed weight loss meal that is filling and satisfying. I make large amounts of this soup, (8 quarts at a time), and can it to have around. There are plenty of versions of this soup on the internet but I prefer my version because it has mushrooms which I love, and they add so much taste without adding calories. If I'm going to go to the trouble of making and canning 8 quarts of something, I want for it to be something flavorful that I am absolutely going to enjoy eating. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Abundance

I love all things mushrooms and belong to the local mushroom society. They are a fun group and throw an annual Holiday Potluck Dinner, which happened to be last night. As to be expected, there were a lot of dishes with a mushroom theme. One of the stand out dishes was a pulled pork with candy cap mushrooms. Incredible! I brought a dish I make a lot... phyllo triangles. They are so satisfying, the crispness of the outer phyllo dough contrasting with the creaminess of the inner filling. The filling varies depending on the occasion and what I have available. For this event I made a ricotta, feta, mushroom and spinach filling. It was more on the savory side and the combination of flavors were fantastic. I used chanterelle mushrooms, but you could easily use any more readily available mushroom from a grocery store.

After last nights potluck, I thought I'd never eat again! There were so many fantastic dishes and I basically filled my plate with lots of small tastes. Still, it all added up to more food than I had eaten in a while. My stomach has been shrunken for some time now and I have become accustomed to eating smaller portions. Last nights feast definitely expanded my stomach and I can really feel it today!
There are more feasts to come and as much as I enjoy eating and trying new things, I'm not going to let the over-abundance of the season throw me off track. I still need to stop when I feel full, even if it's after only a couple of bites. I don't need to feel pressured into trying everything that looks great. I can pick and choose what I want to taste. It's interesting being on a diet during a holiday filled with excessive amounts of food everywhere! On top of that, I will be making home made carmels and cookies to send to my relatives this week. My son is on my case to make home-made eggnog, which he loves, and there is our trip to San Francisco later next week to the House of Prime Rib. I have a lot of bullets to dodge!
The important thing is to focus on the spirit of season and not all the calories. To have fun doing things together and spending good times with people I enjoy being with. It's all about what we choose to focus on. So I am wishing everyone who struggles with weight loss a holiday season focused on spreading good will and the spirit of Christmas out into the world.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


It's taking less food to fill me up and I'm able to say, "Enough" after a small portion. It's fair to say that I have cut my portions in half of what I used to eat. It takes awhile to get to this point and once you have arrived, cherish it! I find myself thinking less about food in general. I frequently don't eat lunch until around 2:00 because I'm not hungry for it until then. The cravings for late night snacks have pretty much subsided.

Last night for dinner I was craving steak. I grilled a NY steak to a nice medium rare and had 1/3 of it with some left over potato salad. A light drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, some summer salsa and a generous squeeze of lemon over everything and I was set! This is not a lot of food but it was totally satisfying and filling on so many levels. I rarely use my dinner plates anymore. The smaller plates are the perfect size for holding an acceptable meal portion. It's the little adjustments like these that are making a difference. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dutch Baby

I was first introduced to this remarkable culinary creation through Sunset Magazine. They published a recipe for a similar dish using brown sugar, apples and lots of butter. I used to make it probably 3 times a week until I noticed that I was rapidly starting to gain weight. So I quit making it all together. Then I thought about eliminating all the sugar except for the dusting of powdered sugar. I drastically reduced the amount of butter used and re-proportioned the batter to use two eggs instead of three. I also cut the amount of flour back from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup and used 1/4 cup less of lowfat or 2% milk.

The result was just as spectacular and satisfying as the Sunset Magazine version with less than half the calories. For the topping I use fresh cut strawberries, blueberries or any fruit I happen to have around. One of my favorite toppings is sliced apples with a few golden raisins sauteed with sherry. I find that you really do need the powdered sugar sprinkled on before serving. It imparts just the right amount of sweetness needed to bring all the tastes together. It's just too bland without it...

It's really important that you make this dish using a 10"cast iron skillet that has been preheated in a 450 degree oven for at least 5 minutes. The skillet needs to be super hot for the batter to "puff" up properly. I've tried making it using casserole dishes and pie tins but it never works out quite the same. So if you don't already have one, go out and purchase a 10"cast iron skillet just to make things like Dutch Baby and cornbread in. The results are so fantastic that you will never regret it!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Happy Anniversary

It's been exactly one month today since I first set out on my weight loss journey. As of today, I've lost a total of 14 lbs. and more importantly, I've managed to develop much healthier eating patterns. Things like I no longer buy a bag of chips when stopping for gas. I've quit eating fast food entirely. I used to stop at McDonalds for a quick cheeseburger or chicken sandwich occasionally. I've cut back on the portions I eat. I actually stop eating when I feel full and not when my plate is cleaned. I've developed some routines, like drinking a glass of sparkling ice water with Emergen-C in the morning with a light breakfast. I never used to eat breakfast at all.

I try not to get too hung up on counting calories. I basically know what is going to be too much and try to avoid that. I try to have already prepared healthy food easily accessible so when I need a quick snack to curb my hunger, I can have something healthy instead of a bunch of empty calories. Basically, I try not to buy into fads and quick weight loss products. Ultimately, it's the day to day effort that is going to matter. I've learned to not live by the scale because my weight fluctuates dramatically. As long as I keep at it... that's what is really important. To not give up when I experience a set back and to stay the course.

So today on my one month anniversary, I can honestly say that I am proud that I have been able to stick with it. I think about why this is. Why didn't I give up early on like I did so many times before? I have to say that this blog has been very instrumental in holding me accountable. It keeps me focused and gives me a format to talk about the journey. If I go 4 days without losing any weight, I know that I need to get back with the program. If I'm having a set back, I can gain inspiration from reading some of my past posts. All my favorite light calorie recipes are ending up in one location!

My favorite quote is, "All things come about through effort". Anything can be achieved if you match the amount of energy /effort to the task. I think of how many distractions there are in the world we live in and how we allow ourselves to be distracted in order to not have to address the issues at hand. I think we tend to over-think things too much. We look for reasons to justify our short comings instead of addressing them head on.

So here's to staying the course! My knees are thanking me. My heart is thanking me... and most of all I am grateful for finding the power within myself to continue to make the effort.

Monday, December 9, 2013


I love chili! My recipe is for the type that is made with ground beef in a tomato based broth. When I make the tomato based fat burner soup, I will sometimes add ground beef and chili powder to transform it into a light chili. It's still low fat and very satisfying. I have a recipe for a lighter version of chili that tastes very similar to Wendy's chili. It's also the chili recipe close to what my Mom used to make. Maybe it's because I grew up eating it, but my Mom's chili was the best and the one I strive to replicate.

This recipe is also good for canning. I triple the recipe to can about 8 quarts so I can have it around.
It's my number one go to for rainy day comfort food. With the rain finally upon us, those 8 quarts won't last long...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Smooth Move

I love drinking smoothies! They always make me feel clean and fresh. They are light, nutritious, filling and addictive. Drinking a smoothie in the morning really wakes me up and gets me going. I love the surf rider smoothie at Jamba Juice and have experimented around with my own version to get the correct balance of sweetness to tang. They use lime sherbet in their version. I skip the sherbet and add a packet of lemon lime Emergen-C for tang and flavor. The Emergen-C is jam packed with antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients and at only 25 calories per packet…well it's a no-brainer.

You can use any combination of fruits, Emergen-C flavors and juice to make whatever flavor you desire. I almost always add a banana for taste / texture and because it adds bulk that fills me up. I use frozen fruit whenever possible because it creates a different texture that I like, plus it makes it colder. I keep bags of frozen bananas, blueberries and strawberries in the freezer just to make these delicious breakfast smoothies with.

Here are a variety of smoothie ideas from Chris at Tales of a Kitchen website

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Old Habits Die Hard

Since Thanksgiving it's been challenging to get back on track.  Eating at night is creeping back into my life again.  It's so easy to totally un-do a whole day of staying on track just by eating an extra 200-300 calories at night. Tonight I ate a slice of sour dough bread with a very light spread of butter and blackberry jam at 10:00. I just went for it, like an old comfortable pair of slippers... I looked in the refrigerator first to find something quick and non-fattening but I haven't been shopping since returning from Thanksgiving and was low on everything.  Had there been some already prepared pickled veggies or even an apple or half a grapefruit on hand, I would have chosen to eat that instead. Right now I need to be very aware of  what I eat at night. I don't want to completely cut off eating all food after my dinner meal, but need to develop more will power so it doesn't get out of hand.

Here are my mini goals for the rest of the week:
  • To get back on track of not eating past 8:00 PM.
  • To have some already prepared healthy low fat food items ready for a quick snack.
  • To lose 3 lbs. by Sunday.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holiday Rebound

I had a fantastic Thanksgiving! Lot's of cooking and spending time with good friends that I hadn't seen for a long time. Spent one day riding bikes on the Ventura / Ojai trail. It was a beautiful warm day in the mid 70's. The trail is about 40 miles round trip and so it is a work out! It was great to spend a day outside winding our way through such beautiful scenery.

I spent all of Thanksgiving day cooking, sipping sherry and talking. For me it was the perfect day. Our meal consisted of Turkey, fresh herb stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry orange sauce,  baked yam & apple casserole with a citrus sherry glaze and peas.  Everything was made from scratch and was delicious! We were so full and tired after the meal that we decided to forego the dessert.

I had a recipe for a pumpkin soufflé that sounded like the perfect finish to a Thanksgiving meal. It was a new recipe for me and we ended up making and eating it Friday night instead of for Thanksgiving. The soufflé calls for a bourbon sauce to drizzle over it just before eating. I thought about serving the soufflé without the sauce to cut back on calories, but the recipe reviews insisted that the dessert needed the sauce so I went ahead and made some. I will definitely be making this dessert again! It was the lightest most satisfying dessert I've ever had. The reviews were correct about the sauce. The bourbon paired perfectly with the pumpkin and the light drizzle of sauce totally made the dessert.
My friends significant other loves pot pie and mentioned making one from the Thanksgiving left overs. I thought it was a great idea and so yesterday morning I got together all the left over peas, carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, turkey, gravy and made a pot pie. I used puff pastry for a top crust only, (no bottom crust). The puff pastry puffs up from the steam and creates a fantastic crust that is light, crunchy and flavorful.
This morning was the first time I've weighed myself in 3 days and I weighed in at 148. Yikes! Guess I have some catching up to do... It was totally worth it to have a great holiday with my friends and will work to get back on track this week.