Friday, May 15, 2009

Food (b)Log

Ok, here's today's foods:

A McDonald's Mocha. Probably a hundred million calories. Nonfat.

Mexican food for lunch. I tried to be as healthy as possible: rice, beans and guacamole (just a little)

Dinner: whole wheat pasta with vegetables. There was a little olive oil. That's it really.

I had 3 beers too.

That's about it for the day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Busy Life

I'm sorry I've been so remiss about posting lately. I'm trying to hold down a couple or three jobs, sell a house and not go crazy in the mix, so it's been difficult to find time and energy to write, to cook, and to eat well.

I am still trying though. This weekend I wore a dress that hasn't fit for two years. Yea! It's cute and retro and I bought it at a hip flea market in the East Village in New York about five years ago. I am glad I can fit my fat ass into a dress at last. Cheers for small victories.

The money situation is getting so desperate, it's difficult to go out and buy fresh produce when I want and need it, so a lot of times, these days, meals are a hodge podge of what I have left because I need to reduce the number of trips to the grocery store. I only go when I've ran out of nearly everything and then I don't go again until I run out again.

Here's a breakdown of the past couple of days though:

Yesterday, I had a veggie sandwich from Quiznos, courtesy of Hillary, with an unsweet tea. For dinner, I made baked cod with a little olive oil and seasoning with baked veggies (eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms) and baked purple sweet potato. It was pretty yummy. Not so bad except for the two glasses of wine and three beers I had during and afterwards. I'm working on that though. I'll try not to tonight.

So far today I've had a veggie Italian sausage hotdog with homemade coleslaw and mustard, a handful of pecans and chocolate chips, and an orange. I'll keep you posted on later.

I kind of overdid it on the fish tacos this weekend, but at least I had the grilled ones and not the fried :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Where you been B?

Um so, haven't seen a food journal in forever.
Wassup with that?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Food Blog Revisited

Ok, here's my totally honest, if not all that great food blog for today.

2 slices TJ's rye bread: 120 calories
1 tsp. butter

1 salmon burger (170 calories)
2 slices TJ's rye bread (120 calories)
Assorted veggies
1 tsp mayonnaise

Small House Salad at Jim and Nick's BBQ with honey mustard on the side (not the creamy mayonnaise kind, more of a vinegarette)

3 little cheddar biscuits at Jim and Nick's.

Here's the bad bit: 5 beers. I know. This was bad. But, hey, at least I'm writing it down, right?

Come On, Take a Joke!

The Challenges of Living in a Museum

Eating well is challenging for me at the moment. My budget does not allow me to eat out, especially because restaurants that serve healthy food tend to be expensive, so I have to eat in most of the time. As I may have mentioned earlier, I am in the process of selling my house. This means that the house has to look as if nobody lives in it, including the one person and two cats who do. So how exactly is a person supposed to cook meals every night and leave the kitchen looking and smelling like it is a showroom?

I'm having a lot of problems with this. I find I don't want to cook at all, so I've been eating more salads and sandwiches because I just can't deal with messing up the kitchen and bringing it back to perfect every single time I want to eat. I think this has had an effect on my eating habits and I will relish the day my house sells and I can go back to cooking and not worrying so much about what the kitchen looks like or worrying about eating eggs or salmon because they'll stink the house up!

The agents who want to show the house sometimes don't give me a lot of notice, so the house has to be ready to show at any moment, which sucks if I'm in the middle of making myself a yummy, yet many pot using, messy meal.

Life happens, and although diet books and plans will spell out what you're supposed to do, there always seems to be something getting in the way of that idyllic plan of cooking healthy, gourmet meals every night.

If anyone has any ideas for healthy things to eat that don't require a lot of clean-up or even cheap, healthy eating-out options, please let me know because this is driving me crazy.


This blog post is a direct response to Ms. RD's last one. I agree with everything she says, but I think there's also a dirty little secret that dieters don't admit to their dietitians: they get complacent. I can feel it happening to me and I am going to have to kick my bottom back into shape.

At the beginning of the weight loss journey, we measure everything and write everything down. Then as we get used to what we are eating, we stop doing that. It becomes more clockwork and natural. That's good, right? Lifestyle change and all that. It is good in a way, but you have to go back to measuring and writing down and general accountability every so often because otherwise the portion sizes start getting bigger and before you know it, you're using tablespoons of olive oil instead of teaspoons and drinking 16oz of juice instead of 8 and slowly the pounds stop coming off.

You rationalize it. You say, "I changed my lifestyle like they told me to and it's just not working. I could have told them it wouldn't work for me. I'm just doomed to be fat." But at the same time, we know inside we just don't want to do the work and we want to make excuses instead. I've done all of this, so I know that other people do it too. It's hard to reign yourself in and make yourself accountable and I am going through this right now. This week I am starting the food journal again, so you, my readers, can keep me on the right track. I promise to be honest about what I eat and drink and as a result, I hope the pounds will keep coming off.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hitting the Wall

An issue I hear not infrequently in those trying to lose weight is this: Initially weight loss is quite rapid and regular, then little to no further weight loss comes despite keeping up the good eating habits that lead to the weight loss to begin with. How completely frustrating right!?
The reason this happens is that your body has kind of adapted to your new lifestyle, your metabolism isn't in shock anymore and your body can maintain itself with less calories coming in. Therefore, weight loss slows... major bummer.
So what to do? Now is the time to change things up. I wouldn't suggest a lower calorie level at this time. The secret weapon is doing some different exercises that works your body in ways it hasn't become accustomed to yet. For instance, if you've just been eating better, start some power walking too. If you've already started walking, try some jazz dancing, pilates, kickboxing, or something that makes your body work in new ways. Get that body thinking again, and you can press through that brick wall that often comes with well-intentioned weight loss effforts :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chocolate Cravings

As our regular readers may already know, I gave up alcohol for Lent, which has mostly gone well other than that I held the rather naive opinion that simply x-ing out alcohol from my life for a few weeks would magically turn me into a fabulously motivated person who gets up at 5 a.m. to run miles every day while munching on carrot sticks. Guess what? It didn't happen.

I thought this magical transformation would lead to some sort of spiritual and physical epiphany and I would experience some sort of cleansing of body and soul. Yeah right.

What really happened? I didn't drink, but I missed my wine. I didn't get anything more done and I still procrastinated as much as I always do. I went to bed later. I got up at the same time (i.e. when I needed to get up). I exercised less, amazingly enough. All in all the experiment was lacking the great chunk of meaning I was supposed to get from it.

I've also craved chocolate like mad and eaten more of it instead of drinking wine. I guess a person just needs to allow for a certain amount of vice and it's going to come out somewhere. I won't fight it in future. I'll take Ms. RD's advice and just allow for it. And next year, I'll find something else to give up, like unrealistic expectations, for example.

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's the Power of ... Food

Something Ms. RD said in a recent post got me thinking, as her comments often do. I recently read a book called Death by Supermarket, which basically said that regular grocery store processed food is poison. There have been numerous books written on this subject, most of which I have perused over the years. The most recent, which I have yet to read, is called Swindled, and it compares the poisonous ingredients in food in Upton Sinclair's (The author of The Jungle) time to now and makes the point that we think that our food is safer now because of our "modern" technology; however, that technology might actually make our food more dangerous.

I digress, but the author of Death by Supermarket insists that we eat poisonous food, then take drugs to "fix" the harm we are causing to our bodies because we deny them fresh and unadulterated, chemical free food.

This leads me back to Ms. RD's comment about her dad's management of his diabetes: "[He] chooses to think that as long as he takes his pills he'll be fine." I know other diabetics in my family who are exactly the same - they eat a piece of chocolate cake and then complain because they have high blood sugar the next day, like that should come as a surprise.

Being overweight puts you at risk for so many health problems, even if you're otherwise healthy and active. I guess the point I am slowly arriving at is that if you lose weight, you don't have to take pills. You can control many health issues by simply changing your eating habits.

I got scared a couple of weeks ago. Now I am wary of eating too much fat. The scare was good for me and now I have another reason, other than vanity, to watch what I eat. I'm scared of an early grave. I'm scared of illness. I'm even scared of being reliant on medication. I'll stick with food and I'll eat good stuff.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Paella Pan - Worth the Investment

I love my paella pan. It might sound like a strange extraneous piece of kitchen equipment, but believe me, it's worth the money. I use mine all the time. Occasionally, I even make paella in it!

Because I usually cook for one, I tend to use this pan to make all-in-one dishes like fish, vegetables and perhaps polenta. A paella pan is perfect for this because you can cook it all together and only dirty one, if rather large, pan. It also has a lid, which makes it perfect for sauteing and for making dishes with sauces.

The other night, I actually used it for its intended purpose: paella. If you've never made paella, you should. It's really easy and if you make it and you control what's in it, it can also be healthy.

I threw this together the other night because I was hungry, didn't have a lot of ingredients, or patience, and it came out great. There's no exact rules for paella, but here are some basic guidelines:

I used the Seafood Medley from Trader Joe's. It has shrimp, calamari, and bay scallops. You can use any shellfish or other fish too. Mussels are cool because they make it look pretty, but I didn't have any on hand.

Just saute the shellfish from frozen (if necessary) in a spray of olive oil. At the same time, add about 3 cloves of garlic and 1/2 to a whole onion (depending on preference). Next, and this is so easy, it should be illegal: dump in a large can of diced tomatoes (the big fat can) with the juice and everything. Then dump in 1/2 cup uncooked brown medium-grain rice (long-grain won't work). Add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup wine or cooking wine or broth (I like using wine) but you could just use water. This isn't strictly necessary, but I wouldn't make a paella without it: add a sprinkling of saffron. It gives a rich color and an aromatic taste that is unmistakably paella. Without this, I think, it's just another rice dish (although probably a reasonably tasty one). Now you can add any vegetables you like. I added some frozen artichokes and a yellow pepper, but experiment away. Pop the lid on the pan, turn it down to medium and let it simmer away for about 30 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the rice is cooked. You do want to check for burning (and add more liquid if necessary) but you don't want to stir it too much because a good paella has a crust on the bottom where the rice has almost stuck to the pan.

This is a great dish to impress your friends with. You don't have to tell them how easy it is. Just act like you've been slaving over it all day and add some fresh chopped parsley to it a few minutes before you take it off the stove. You also don't have to tell them it's good for them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mixed Berry Fool to Foolya

This dessert is so good, even the cat wants some! Well this particular cat will eat anything, but that doesn't detract from the deliciousness of the above creation.

"Fools" are usually a messy dessert made with a combination of whipped cream, fruit puree and sometimes whole fruit. While I do love whipped cream, I am swearing off such indulgences lest I have to return to the hospital, so I decided to make this fancy dessert using frozen mixed berries and Greek strained yogurt (2%). I am not a huge fan, as you probably know already, of low-fat dairy, but honestly, with FAGE Greek Strained Yogurt, I cannot tell. It's fabulously creamy and indulgent. The whole pot yields only 130 calories. So far, I've had a dollop in soup and a couple of spoons in the above dessert.


Puree about 1 cup berries (frozen are fine). Pour some of the puree into the bottom of the glass. I like to use a cocktail glass just to make it all fancy and make me feel special. Then mix remaining puree with a couple of generous spoons of the Greek yogurt. Then mix in the whole berries (I used about 1/2 cup or so). Pour the mixture on top of the puree and top with a couple of whole berries for decoration. You could get really fancy and garnish with a mint sprig!

Oh and if you don't have time to puree the berries, don't worry about it. Simply microwave the berries on defrost (watch they don't get too warm) and mix with the yogurt and serve. It's just about as good and much less effort.

No, Don't Touch That!

You gotta love The Onion: "Woman Upset at Herself for Feeling Hungry."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cauliflower and Tarragon Soup Recipe

I've had a cauliflower sitting in my fridge for a while now, so as I am cooped up at home and not allowed to work today, I figured I might as well try and do something with it. I mentioned making a cauliflower soup to some people a couple of weeks ago and got scrunched up "ew" faces, so I felt it might be a challenge. However I did some searching on (see link at side) and found a couple of basic recipes, so I didn't feel it was such a weird idea after all, and which of course, I adapted to the ingredients I had on hand

As with most of my recipes I post here, this is just a basic guide. Please feel free to "pantry cook" or improvise based on what you have at home.

You'll need:

1 head of cauliflower
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
3/4 cup or so of white wine, or white cooking wine
dried or fresh tarragon, to taste
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Boil a pan of water and drop in the florets of cauliflower. Add a little pinch of salt and boil for about 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is just tender. Don't overcook. Then drain the cauliflower while reserving the liquid!

Meanwhile, saute the chopped garlic and onions in a little olive oil. As they start to cook, add the cooking wine and continue to cook until the garlic and onions are tender. You don't have to cook all of the liquid out.

Pour the garlic and onions into the saucepan you used to boil the cauliflower. Then add the cauliflower and the reserved liquid (enough to cover the contents). Add some tarragon. Just sprinkle it on according to your own discretion. I found a couple of sprinkles was adequate (it will depend on the age of your dried spices, or if you are using fresh, as to how much you'll need). Add a little salt here, and you might even add a couple more splashes of wine. (Keep in mind that if you are using cooking wine, there is salt added to it, so you will need to use less salt accordingly. When making soups, it is best to taste less salt than more, so go easy.) Bring soup to the boil and then simmer uncovered at a medium/low temperature for about 10 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender (I highly recommend getting one if you want to make a lot of soups: you can pick one up for less than $30), then dip your blender in the saucepan and blend until soup is smooth with no lumps. If you are using a regular blender, then tip soup into it in batches and blend until smooth.

I simply went with what I had to make this soup, but I think only the garlic, cauliflower and onion were necessary, but you could subsitite leeks, shallots, or other unusual members of the onion family for yellow onions. You could choose to use vegetable stock or Vermouth instead of the wine, and a number of herbs and spices other than tarragon would work too. I would suggest parsley, sage, or thyme. I saw some recipes that incorporated parmesan cheese and potatoes. If you search the cooking links to the right of this blog, you'll no doubt find lots of inspiration.

I have made this early, but I have some ideas for dressing it up for a light dinner tonight:

I have some Greek yogurt that I may dollop on the top. I also have some herbed goat cheese that I may put in the middle of a shallow bowl and pour the soup around. I anticipate that I will attempt to make rye-bread croutons (baked, not fried) to accompany the soup. I am leaning towards a combination of goat cheese and almonds to add a little fat and creaminess to my soup. I'll post pictures later.

Remember from an earlier post what Ms. RD said about cauliflower. It has a TON of vitamin C, and a lot less calories than orange juice.

(P.S. - a picture has been added as promised)

The Warning From On High Hath Been Heeded

Yesterday morning I found myself in the emergency room. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning feeling awful. I couldn't quite describe it at first: a vague nausea, slight stomach pain, thirst, but I just thought my stomach was a bit off. I got up for a glass of water and went back to bed.

Then I started to feel worse. My stomach started churning. I thought it was the Indian food I had eaten for dinner upsetting my stomach. I ate a packet of Rolaids. That was when it got interesting. My stomach started growling and rolling and at about 5 a.m. I began a series of throwing-up sessions. I still thought it must be the Indian food and continued to think I'd feel better once it was all out of my system.

With all the food gone, I then started to feel really bad. I laid in bed writhing from the stomach pains. I kept getting up, pacing around the house, trying to throw up, and going back to bed to continue writhing and screaming. I felt so alone in the house all by myself.

I made it until about 6:45, when I called my parents for help. I was crying and screaming on the phone. I'm not a big fan of the doctor even, but when my mother suggested the ER, I didn't argue.

We arrived at the ER at about 8 a.m. The nurses gave me an IV with anti-nausea medicine, strong painkillers and fluids. They took blood and began a barrage of tests. They thought it was a stomach virus or food poisoning.

The tests all came back negative, so that ruled out the viruses and food poisoning diagnoses. The doctor then ordered an x-ray. Somewhere during all of this, I vomited Exorcist-like neon green bile. The doctor couldn't find a definite cause for the pain and vomiting, but hypothesized that my diet of rich foods over the weekend, combined with the Indian food could have triggered something in my gall-bladder. He wants to refer me to a gastro-specialist to do an ultrasound. Once again, I'm not going to argue. I don't want to go through that pain again. He told me to stay away from rich foods for the time-being, so I'm heeding his warning, staying away from large amounts of saturated fats, meats, and spicy food.

Since returning home yesterday afternoon, I've felt fine, and I resume my healthy eating regime. I now have yet another reason not to stuff my face with unhealthy food!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baaaad Weekend

Imperfection from me once again, I'm afraid. This weekend, I've been focused on getting my house on the market and have worked morning 'til night Friday, Saturday and Sunday getting ready for my open house today. I haven't had too much time or opportunity to cook. My kitchen has been a mess. I've had my parents over, who won't eat "rabbit food," drink tea ALL the time and are pretty driven individuals, so it's been hard to take a break to make food or snack.

My mother and I have managed this quite well over the past month or so that we've been working on the house and we've mostly made healthy choices and meals, but the past couple of days have been really down to the wire. Yesterday, I ordered pizza for the parents. Today I made fruit tea and cookies for the open house (I ate a couple of cookies!) and when it was over, my mother and I went to Logan's for dinner. I wasn't too well behaved there either. I ordered a good meal: petite steak vegetables and rice, but I did eat two rolls before dinner arrived.

Tomorrow, life returns to routine more, so I am getting up and going running in the morning before I go to my 1st job. No excuses from me now. I am penitent and determined to do better this week.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Children Are Starving in Africa

A comment Ms. RD made about "The Clean Plate Club" in an earlier post got me thinking: how many of us were told to finish everything on our plates as kids?

Last semester, in the Freshman English class I taught, we watched Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock's documentary about his experience eating McDonald's for three meals a day, for thirty days. One of the topics we discussed involved where our attitudes towards food come from. We decided that while parents do have a lot of influence over the food choices their kids make (especially younger kids), older kids and teens are often influenced by their peers, teachers and school staff, the families of their friends, and advertising.

As a child, my mother would let me munch on raw vegetables as she chopped them for dinner. My grandma would always complain that I wouldn't eat any vegetables when it got to dinnertime. My mum would say, "so what, she's getting the vegetables either way, and they're probably better for her raw!" My parents didn't make me eat everything on my plate, but they did make it clear that if I didn't eat what was there, then I didn't get to pick anything else instead. Either eat what everyone else is eating, or have nothing. I didn't get the "Clean Plate Club" attitude at home.

However, this message did sink into my pysche somehow. One courier of the message was Catholic school. I wasn't a picky eater, but the dinner ladies could be pretty mean about making you eat everything on your plate, even if you didn't like it. One day, an older boy, a "server" at our table, made me eat liver (which I hate) and then blancmange (which if you have never heard of, is this vile wobbly pudding with a skin on top). I proceeded to puke all over his shoes. They never made me eat anything I didn't like again.

I did hear this message also perhaps from my grandma, who now wouldn't dream of saying such things, but did when I was younger, and I know I heard the "children are starving in Africa" line from various adults. I remember learning how far away Africa was and trying to make the connection between the leftover brussel sprouts on my plate and the children Bob Geldoff sang about. I could go ahead and leave the brussel sprouts and give them to the starving children, but wouldn't my brussel sprouts be both cold and moldy by the time they flew them to Africa? Or, I could eat them, but if I ate them, how did that help the starving children? They didn't get the brussel sprouts either way. This mode of thinking doesn't teach children healthy eating habits or social and global responsibility. It just, rightly, confuses them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mild Food Porn

Out of nowhere today, I got a craving for a cold Asian noodle salad. I don't even know where I've had anything like this dish before, or if I have, but I was thinking about it all the way home before lunch today and decided that I did have most of the ingredients at home to make it. The "recipe" below is more of a general guideline, as there are several things you could add to this or substitute and still get similar results taste-wise. Just adjust as you need to for taste. I did measure, but your preferences may be different to mine. This makes enough for about 3 servings.

6 oz whole wheat spaghetti (or you could get fancy and use Japanese buckwheat noodles, but it's not necessary)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 cucumbers sliced into long pieces
1 red, yellow, or orange pepper diced
2 green onions
sprinkling of sesame seeds
about a handful chopped cilantro
about 1 inch cube of fresh ginger, grated into dish
sprinkling slivered almonds
1 serving pre-baked tofu - I used teriyaki flavor cut into small chunks.
garnish with lime if desired.

Just boil the noodles until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Combine noodles with all the other ingredients and enjoy. This really is a yummy recipe and it could be made the night before for easy transportation to work or as a side dish for a party.

Some variations that might work:

crushed peanuts
mandarin oranges
thai basil
red cabbage
daikon radish
dried red chilis
snow peas

By the way, it was totally delicious and I will make it again, soon!

For dinner, I was equally adventurous. It must have been writ in the stars today. Here is the recipe for chickpea cutlets I keep seeing everywhere posted on the interwebs: Chickpea Cutlets. I also made multi-color chard sauteed with garlic and fresh lemon juice. The chickpea cutlets are delicious, almost like a giant falafel. Next time, I will bake them instead of pan fry because I think this will give them a firmer, more meaty feel. Even if you're a die-hard meat eater, try these because they're good and they have an interesting taste and texture. They remind me of these gravy-filled deep fried breaded meatball things (I don't really have a clue what exactly they were) I once had in The Netherlands.

To Meat or not to Meat

My unhealthy weight requires me to lose weight. To do this, I don't need to give up meat, but early on in the process, I decided to give it up, for the time being. I'm not sure exactly why I made this decision and I'm trying to analyze my reasoning for it.

As I started to eat healthily, I found that most of the meat I like is fattening. I'm not a huge fan of chicken, unless it's breaded and fried - then it's really good - but there's really nothing about a boneless, skinless chicken breast that gets me culinarily excited. I also think that somewhere in my mind, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are synonymous with diet. I think it's those early-nineties super low-fat diets with their "zesty chicken" recipes. Dry chicken marinated in gloopy, chemical-laden non-fat Italian dressing. Seriously, this was enough to put a person off weight-loss efforts for life. My mother's weight loss efforts around this time centered on recipes like this. Yuck.

I also began to think that meat engenders other fattening ingredients. It just goes well with them. Perhaps this line of thinking was perpetuated by me reading The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics at the time, which I picked up from a used bookstore on a whim after a conversation with a friend about macrobiotics and what it entails. I was really confused by the practice until I read the book. I thought that macrobiotics don't eat meat or fish, and were some sort of really extreme vegans, but then I discovered this wasn't true. In trying to explain the practice to a friend recently, I said that all food is a balance. Macrobiotics believe that you should eat in balance and some foods, like meat, are extreme and require that you balance them out with food or drink from the other end of the spectrum, thus creating a balance, but one that can create mood swings and health problems. The dietary restrictions of macrobiotic eating come from the person's desire to eat foods from the middle of this spectrum, foods that don't create extreme physical reactions within the body. Therefore, macrobiotics usually eschew meat, dairy, some "extreme" vegetables, and hard liquor. They do eat lots of whole grains, fermented foods, some fish, beer, pickles, vegetables, and beans. All of these foods, in theory, do not tax the body and keep the body and mind on an even keel.

After reading this, I decided I probably couldn't go, as Jessica Porter puts it, "whole hog," but I could start to incorporate some elements of the good ideas in the book. I liked the author's approach. Her lack of pushiness and judgementalism helped me to keep an open mind about the practice. She suggests just cutting down on extreme foods like dairy and meat, and introducing more whole grains and seeing where that leads you. That's basically the approach I've taken. I'm trying little by little to eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less stodgy foods (what she calls "sludge") like dairy and meat. I love dairy. I love it very much, and I don't see myself ever giving it up completely, but I'm using it now in moderation, as a carefully thought out addition to a meal, rather than a default.

The restriction of meat in my diet has led to more creativity. Even if you're eating fish, eventually you get sick of the whole fish, grain, vegetable plan for a meal, even if you vary the fish, grains and vegetables. This is how I've felt for the past week or so, so I'm now trying to explore other options, like tofu, tempeh, homemade meat substitutes, and also simply using more legumes in my cooking. Legumes have been severely looked over in my diet and I've recently allowed them to play catchup a little. Tomorrow I plan to make a recipe for chickpea cutlets with wilted chard and a bean and corn salad. This is going out on an extreme culinary limb for me, so we'll see how it works out.

I also plan to make hummus this week and come up with creative ways to use tempeh and tofu in sandwiches and salads. Wish me luck and inspiration!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nutrition Month

So March is National Nutrition Month, and honestly as a dietitian, it's a month I've always loathed because it means more lame projects at work for me. And I can't help but wonder...does anyone really give a damn that this is National Nutrition Month? I mean sure, it's great to spread good messages about health, but sometimes I feel like the general public is so overwhelmed with health and especially diet advice, that the good stuff just gets drowned out. Of all the patients in the hospital I've educated, about 90% of them know what they should be doing, they just aren't doing it! I feel like I'm wasting my breath sometimes.
What many people need is not a dietitian with a set of rules, but a personal motivator/psych expert. Not at all to say that those who struggle with eating need a shrink, but there is no denying that there is a strong emotional link to eating. This is one of the reasons that I like to add as part of a food journal the column of "what were you feeling/doing at the time" when it relates to meals/snacks. When I think about the emotional tie to eating, I often think of people with eating disorders. The typical eating disorder person is someone who feels like they lack control in their lives and they use food as the one thing that THEY can control alone. Although dietitians no doubt play a role in recovering from eating disorders, its more of a psychologists job than anyone.
Now for the non-anorexic/bulemics out there, the psychological link to eating is still a factor, but often for different reasons. Eating out of boredom is a big one. Eating out of habit, just like smoking when drinking. Eating during nightly TV shows. You've got to stop and ask yourself, "am I even really hungry?". So often when we find ourselves reaching for the not so great foods, the answer is no. If the answer is no, then you're eating out of emotion. I try to teach people to listen to their bodies. If you're hungry, eat! If not, don't! And by all means, screw the clean plate club. This is the worst idea ever, especially considering that restaurant portions are 3-4 times as big as they should be. I don't care how much food you feel you'd be wasting, if you're full, stop! And one other thing, in order to give your body time to send the "I'm full" message to your brain, you can't shovel in the food like it's a pie eating contest. Eat slower! Also, don't be distracted when you eat your meal; focus on your food. Don't watch TV, drive, etc while eating your meal. It takes your mind's focus off of how your stomach is feeling and turns it to whatever other activity you're doing.
OK, I'm done ranting for now :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vegetarian Sandwich Idea

I have groceries again! Yippeeee! Inspiration has returned. Here's an idea for a yummy vegetarian sandwich:

This serves 2

4 slices Sprouted Rye Bread (60 cals per slice)
1 oz herbed goat cheese
flat leaved parsley
1/2 packet pre-baked tofu
1 cup arugula (how effete of me)
1/2 red pepper
sprinkling of walnuts

First, spray a baking sheet with olive oil. Slice tofu thinly and lay on sheet. Put the 1/2 pepper in the middle of the sheet, skin side up. Spray olive oil across all. Broil on high until one side of the tofu is golden. Turn the tofu, but keep the pepper the same side up until it starts to blister (that's what gives it that lovely roasted taste).

When the tofu and pepper are done, lay both on the bread. Top with 1/2 oz crumbled goat cheese, a sprinkling of walnuts, some parsley and the arugula. Spritz with olive oil if you need some wetness to keep the sandwich together.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Thanks Alexandra

My friend Alexandra, of the blog Sweet Tempered, attempted to leave this lovely comment and was unsuccessful, so she e-mailed me these wonderful helpful hints, which I thought I would pass on to you too:

Hey Claire! I'm loving your blog and get excited about new posts. For some reason (probably something with my computer) I'm not able to leave a comment although I try frequently. Anyhoo- way to go on losing a stone! Well done indeed:) In response to your latest post I thought as a fellow fresh foods approach eater and cook I would offer some of my favorite things for eating healthy on a budget. First off this lady inspires me all the time, and she has gorgeous cookbooks too (although, I feel like you probably already know about her)

and some of my other favorites....

Also, check out Mark Bittman and his blog on the NYtimes. He's a fucking genius.

Again, you probably already know about these, but if you don't they are great little sites of inspiration. Other things I suggest are:

Homemade soup: you can never go wrong with a big pot of veggies (especially hearty greens), veggie broth, beans and tons of ethnic spices. You can eat on it all week long and soup freezes wonderfully. A good chance to make homemade bread too for dipping:)

Homemade veggie burgers: all that rice and vegetable stuff you make? Make extra sometimes and with the leftovers (best with leftovers because it's more solid) form it into little patties and shallow fry them on the stove. Can throw it in the food processor for a more consistent texture, although I really like the big bits of veggies in the homemade patties. Add a poached egg on top and it's heaven. Kind if like bubbles and squeak?

Breakfast for dinner: Nothing says you can't make a pot of porridge with fresh fruit and a bit of maple syrup and call it dinner.

Try the asian aisle for things like soba and udon noodles toss with them with cabbage, soy sauce and chili garlic sauce....easy and yummy.

I could go on and on about this but I leave it at this. Hope this helps for inspiration. Keep up the great work!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More Minus!

Just wanted to tell you: I'm a couple of pounds lighter! For all you anglophiles out there, that's almost a stone!

Groceries for Granted

I'm probably, time allowing, going to go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods to do my big grocery shop for the next couple of weeks tomorrow. I try to buy enough stuff to last for a couple of weeks, and I think it's been over two since I last shopped. The supplies are looking rather lean and have required some creativity on my part to fashion a varied group of grains, veggies and proteins into a somewhat edible, pleasing meal.

I find that I'm getting a little bored with my fish/grain/veggie combinations I've been making lately. I've fallen into a rut of cooking a piece of fish, usually sauteed, with some veggies and either rice, polenta, or quinoa. Although these are usually delicious, I am going to have to branch out a little this week to avoid getting bored with these fabulous foods.

I digress a little here, but what does it say about our society that I'm complaining about getting bored with my food, which is by no means cheaply made or produced? I could go on and ask what it says about our society that I'm even overweight? I could write another blog on that though because processed food has so skewed the perception that obese/overweight = wealthy. In fact, the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be obese or overweight because the more likely you are to buy cheap processed foods with harmful, fattening ingredients and chemicals, and the less likely you are to have access to inexpensive fresh vegetables. I can't find the link for you (I did try) but I read an article in the Nashville Scene perhaps a year ago about large poor urban areas of town that are not near any grocery stores and are not on direct bus routes, so the people who live there can mostly only shop at gas stations and fast food restaurants, unless they make a two hour bus trip or have a car, so most people living in these areas have no access to fresh foods.

I'm complaining right now about all the foods I've had to give up or limit. I'm complaining that I don't have a decent job and I don't have much money, and groceries are expensive. At least I have a car though and at least I can drive to the grocery store of my choice and buy, within reason and strict budget, enough healthy fresh food to last me for a couple of weeks. I should be grateful, right?

O.K., Lenten mental self-flagellation aside, I do run the risk of getting bored, so any suggestions of delicious recipes that don't take the fish/vegetable/grain format are very welcome. I am going to try a Gillian McKeith (of BBC America's You Are What You Eat) recipe for a vegetable "meat"loaf that looks delicious, but beyond that I just don't know. I don't want to run the risk of going to the grocery store tomorrow and buying all the same things and then getting them home and not wanting to eat them. Help!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Food (b)Log #12

I still need to do these every once in a while, just so I can let Ms. RD know what I'm eating and she can check up on me and make sure I'm still doing everything right.


1 small whole wheat roll with 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp jam.
Mandarin Orange


1 bowl of leftover spaghetti carbonara (made with minimal olive oil, 1 beaten egg, and about 1/2 tablespoon parmesan cheese per serving). I made the carbonara with vegetables instead of meat, so it contained onions, mushrooms, green beans, green onions and tomatoes too.

I pear


4 oz Mahi Mahi, sauteed
1 serving Polenta, also sauteed (there were about 3 slices)
1 tomato, sauteed
About 2 cups fresh spinach, wilted
About 1 tablespoon olive oil (I "misto"ed, but quite liberally as the polenta was sticking).


1 banana
1 tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon pecans

Things to do With a Banana

First, get your mind out of the gutter! I am suggesting that you eat it. I bought some bananas a couple of weeks ago and I've kept them in the fridge, but they are starting to go brown and it's no fun to eat a banana that's gone all brown and slushy. So what can you do apart from throw them away or make fattening banana bread?

Well, I stole this idea from my Girl Scout days. Take the banana and slice into it vertically all the way down lengthwise, so you have a huge slit. Open up the banana and stuff it with a tablespoon of chopped nuts and a tablespoon of chocolate chips.

You can be lazy, like I was tonight, and put the stuffed banana in the microwave for 1 minute, or you can wrap it in foil and bake it at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. However, the best way to cook this is wrapped in foil and nestled in the embers of a fire, or the coals of a charcoal grill. That way you also impart some smokey flavours. Yum.

This is a great antidote to a sweet craving, and it's even mostly healthy, except for the chocolate chips.

You'll also be pleased to know that the moratorium on alcoholic beverages is going well. I haven't freaked out yet. I'm hoping though, that the calorie reduction is worth it. I had better lose some weight for giving up my precious Savignon Blanc. I sound like Gollum:
"my preciousssssss." I went out for a 30th birthday party on Saturday night as the virtuous DD and had a great time, sans booze. I think I might be more obnoxious without it, if my singing along to eighties videos loudly and dancing badly is anything to go by.

I haven't had a chance to blog much in the past few days. I'm putting my house on the market in the next few days, so all efforts have been devoted to that. Happily for my metabolism, this has involved much physical labour, including many hours yesterday spent digging, raking, pruning, weeding, bagging leaves, and hauling around bricks and rocks. I became aware of many muscles in my buttocks and thighs I had forgotten I owned.

I also have a little side job at my friend's flower shop (Brocade Design Arts) in downtown Nashville. Most of the deliveries are on foot, so I get to jaunt around town carrying flower arrangements, which gives me a little exercise here and there. So I've been getting up off my arse and moving around, even if I haven't had time to schedule dedicated work-outs. I hope to be able to resume my walking/running very soon when my house is finally listed, but until then, I continue to wield paintbrush and rake.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Skinnying Your Pocketbook?

You might wonder how much it costs to do this "diet"? You might look at some of the ingredients I'm using - the abundance of fish, the fresh vegetables and fruits - and think you could never do this because surely it would cost a fortune.

Well, I am currently just out of graduate school and chronically under-employed. I'm working a couple of part-time jobs to survive, trying to unload an expensive mortgage, and trying to find someone who'll give me a forty-hour job with benefits. Yet, I'm still managing to eat pretty well. You might think I'm crazy, but I argue on a regular basis that my way of eating is actually cheaper than buying processed foods or take-out/fast food.

There are a couple of tricks to eating well on a budget. I love fresh, natural food and I'm not about to give it up and start hitting the $1 value meal at Wendy's or McDonald's because I'm a little skimpy about the wallet. Here are some hints to keep you healthy during the lean times:

1. Grains are cheap. Try buying grains from the bulk bins. This means you will have to invest in some containers for them and some stickers to remind yourself what they are, but it's a one-time investment that you can pick up pretty inexpensively at Wal-Mart or Big Lots. Try bulk quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, cornmeal polenta, wheatberries, or bulgar. All are about $1.50 - $2.00 a pound at Whole Foods or a couple of the local natural food markets.

2. Legumes are cheap too. The same applies as above. Even with buying some in cans, like black beans and chickpeas, you'll still get a lot of bang for your buck. Now if you decide to go hardcore and purchase big packets of lentils and dried beans, or, as above, purchase them from the bulk bins, you'll save even more. Keep in mind though, that a lot of dried legumes have to be soaked overnight.

Fresh vegetables that are in season are cheaper. Look for these deals. In winter, carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, and leeks, to name a few, are pretty cheap, even the organic versions. If you can find a way to buy locally grown, at a farmers' market, a natural grocery, or even your local market, do, because you'll probably get better produce for as cheap if not cheaper. Organic, locally grown produce has more nutrients too, so you're getting a better nutritional bargain overall, and that's the best kind of bargain. Corn, salad greens, peppers, basil, spinach, and eggplants are all plentiful during the summer and spring, so stock up on the fresh versions of them during the warmer times. Just watch the prices and what your local market has a lot of, and you'll start to get an idea of what is in season.

4. Don't totally discount frozen fruits and vegetables. In winter, when you can buy fresh corn, but here in Tennessee, it doesn't taste anything like the fresh local corn you can get in summer, so I get frozen. Frozen is fine to add to dishes like chili, pastas, and mixed vegetable dishes. I also buy frozen peas. I can't really taste the difference. If I'm making a spinach dip, lasagna, or ravioli, I'll use frozen. Again, I can't tell the difference, so why not go with the cheaper option? In any other season but summer, berries are ridiculously expensive and they come from far, far away, leaving a great big carbon footprint. However, having frozen berries handy for adding to cereal, yogurts, for snacks, for smoothies, is great, especially if you're having a sweet craving.

5. Shop the deals: Even swanky grocery stores like Whole Foods have deals. Look in the meat and fish sections and see what's on sale. Sometimes you'll be surprised at how cheap things are if you're willing to be flexible and creative. I got an unbelievable deal there last year on sirloins. It was only around for a week, but I scooped up enough of them on sale to feed me for a couple of weeks.

6. Buy condiments. If you have a good supply of condiments and seasonings at home, your home-cooked creations will be tastier and you can express more creativity in your cooking. Even with basic ingredients, spices, herbs, oils, mustards, seeds, nuts, and vinegars can help you create unusual dishes. I like to just pick up a couple of these items with every major shopping trip so I have a good supply on hand. If you try to buy them all at once, obviously this could get expensive, but just picking a couple makes this expense manageable. Some condiments, especially Asian and Mexican ones, are cheaper at Asian or Mexican markets, so don't be afraid to go in and check out their selections.

7. When you can, shop at the best place for the best item. No one has unlimited time to go grocery shopping, but you have to admit there are some places that have a great selection of some items, and a horrible or expensive selection of another category. I try to shop around a little. In the summer, I buy limes and cilantro from the Mexican market down the street. Year-round, I buy fish, olive oil, and parmesan cheese in bulk from Costco. Aldi has great and constantly changing deals on a variety of items. Whole Foods sells bulk grains for cheap. They also sell Lavash, unusual fruits and vegetables, and specialty items you can't find anywhere else. I buy local farm milk from The Produce Place down the street. I also stop in there for things that need replenishing often, like eggs, bread, and some veggies. My major shop I do every two weeks at Trader Joe's, but I stop into the aforementioned places throughout that time too.

6. Don't buy ready-made, processed meals. These are expensive. If they are not expensive, they are probably no where near real food. There is also no possibility for leftovers (which are big moneysavers) and this is where stores make most of their profit. There is a reason for that. You are paying for the convenience with your wallet and your waistline.

8. Know the price of everything you buy. Some items can be surprisingly and inexplicably expensive. Watch the cashier ring them up and check your receipt. I recently didn't follow this advice and brought home a $7 container of orange juice I thought was $2.99.

I generally spend under $40 a week on groceries, all stops and all places included, and since I eat over 90% of my meals at home, this represents the bulk of what it costs to keep me running. I consider the expense worth it and I don't think that the equivalent of what it costs to eat two meals out is too outrageous for supplies to make approximately 21 meals, sometimes more.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Less of Me

There's a pound and a half less of me! Yea! People are saying they can "see it in my face," which to me means I must have lost one of my chins. I think there are still a couple of superfluous chins to go though. I'm happy with this, although I am typically weight-loss greedy. I'm not just naturally greedy for food, I'm also greedy for pound-reduction. What does that say about my psyche, I wonder?

I've been working more this week, which is good for my wallet, but more challenging for my eating habits. Yesterday and today I had to scoff down a hurried lunch. Yesterday I managed the time to heat up a bowl of soup, but today's lunch consisted of a slice of bread and butter, a quickly put together bag of trail mix and an orange. I didn't like being so rushed because that's when I make bad decisions, usually. However, the trail mix held me over until dinner time quite well. This then, is my challenge of the week: be prepared for extremely rushed meal opportunities, especially at lunch; carry snacks at all time; have drinks available, either fizzy water or water bottle; find quick meals that travel well. In other words, get organized.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

We Can't All Be Perfect All Of the Time, Even Me.

This weekend I indulged a little. A friend I recently went to Ireland with got drunk and browsed the Internet looking for a Tea Cosy, but ended up buying it and an entire Full Irish Breakfast kit complete with bread shipped to his house. He text-messaged me late that night (I was already asleep) and said he had a surprise for me (see other blog about people sabotaging my diet!) and when he told me, initially I was panicked because I really wanted to eat it with him, but I was worried about packing on the pounds. However, I thought, screw it, I'll do what Ms. RD says to do with alcohol and fit it in. I'll just go light the rest of the day. Plus, I gave up alcohol this week, so I'm saving calories anyway. I love a good Full Irish Breakfast, and it's such a rare treat for me living in this neck of the woods that I had to jump at the opportunity. I googled the calories (a Full Irish with rashers, sausage, black and white pudding, grilled tomatoes, eggs, and Brennan's bread) and came up with a 1000-1300 calorie range. I bet on the higher range and ate with gusto. I wasn't hungry until later that night, so I had a little snack before bed. I enjoyed it. I relished it. I also planned for it, and didn't treat the rest of my day as having gone to shit just because I ate a big breakfast, which normally I would have done. I went back to healthy eating today too.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Southwestern Something or Other (recipe)

Originally, this was supposed to be Southwestern Pasta, as seen in the picture here. My mother found the recipe in another of my most-used cookbooks, The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet, which is a great cookbooks for herbivores and omnivores alike. I have found that many healthy recipes using unusual ingredients hide in vegetarian cookbooks and never see the light of day in cookbooks too focused on meat or fish. Because the meals in this book only contain five ingredients, at the most, you can easily add to and embellish the recipes. A lot of the dishes work well as side dishes and you could simply add fish, chicken, or another meat.

The original recipe calls for:

1 can black beans (drained)
Fresh corn (from two ears) or 1 cup frozen
3 scallions, chopped
1 jar salsa

I added:

1/2 cup olives
1 tomato, diced
Seafood medley

In these quantities, it would probably feed 3 people, but I scaled it back just to feed me.

Put your pasta on to boil. When it boils, dump in the pasta and start cooking the rest.
First saute the seafood medley and the frozen corn in a pan until defrosted and they begin to cook. When the shrimp are pinkish, add the black beans, onions, olives and tomato and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add the salsa and stir gently - you don't want to mush up the beans too much.

Serve over the pasta.

This was how I had it the first night. Feel free to try it this way, but I think it goes much better with bulghar wheat, which is also much quicker to make. Brown rice, or wild rice medley would also work well for this dish. You could also experiment with polenta and make a southwestern seafood grits dish. Oooh, I will have to try that!

Food (b)Log #11

Ok, so I haven't done one of these for a while, so here goes:


Trader Joe's Mini Shredded Wheats with 3/4 cup milk

Snack: Cafe Americano with 1 tsp real cream (I know, very naughty)

Lunch: Southwestern medley with bulghar wheat (1/2 cup bulghar, 1 cup mixture shrimp/bay scallops and shrimp, 1/2 cup corn, 1 tomato, 2 green onions, about 6 olives, mixed with 1/2 cup salsa).

An apple

1 square dark chocolate

Dinner: Stir fry (about two cups vegetables with two ounces spaghetti noodles and 1 serving baked tofu, plus about 3/4 cup beansprouts)

And I had better add about 3 teaspoons olive and sesame oils in there for lunch and dinner to be fair.

And no booze!

Go on, you know you want to....

Here's a random list of new things I've tried in the past year (although most are from the past month) that are healthy and undeniably delicious!

1. Baked Tofu: I am totally useless at cooking tofu. I have tried many times and by several different methods, but it always comes out burnt on the outside and mushy and gross in the middle, so pre-baked, seasoned tofu is a godsend for me. It's also a great way to rustle something up quick. Throw it in a stir-fry or slice it and put it in a wrap or sandwich. I like Trader Joe's Savory Baked Tofu, but I believe many supermarkets have their own brands, and there are some national organic brands too.

2. Tempeh: What a great substitute for meat! It doesn't matter if you're not a vegetarian, apparently they still let you buy this stuff. It has a meaty texture and absorbs seasonings well, yet is less bland than unseasoned tofu. It's also ridiculously filling. I have also used this in sandwiches and stir-fries, but there are myriad ways you could prepare it.

3. Turbot: Like the oh-so-trendy tilapia in that it is a flaky white fish, but one with a little more meatiness and flavour. I buy mine preseasoned at Trader Joe's in the freezer section. It's fabulous lightly dredged with flour and sauteed, but it would be just as great to add your own seasonings.

4. Almond Butter: Not a fan of peanut butter? Me neither, but I do love almond butter. Still contains the benefits of peanut butter - it's loaded with good fats - but has different benefits too.

5. Whole Wheat Lavash: A giant wrap-type bread from Persia and surrounding areas, much like an enormous rectangular tortilla. I have used the whole wheat kind, available from Whole Foods, to make wraps stuffed with cups and cups of vegetables. These are excellent if you're really hungry and want a large vehicle for conveying huge amounts of sandwich stuffings into your mouth.

6. Bulghar Wheat: This is the grainy stuff in tabouli, but the grains on their own are fantastically versatile and super-quick to cook. You can even wet them and soak them for 30 minutes to make a salad. Eat these hot or cold, or make hot and eat cold for leftovers. Add vegetables, seafood, spices, herbs, whatever. Quick, cheap, easy, filling, versatile. If you can't find a box of it, find a grocery/natural foods store with bulk bins. You will often find it there.

7. Sesame Oil: Go easy on this stuff because a little goes a long way! Add it to stir-fry or fried rice for an extra nutty tang. It also just smells fabulous when cooking and you will impress your friends with the exotic smells eminating from your kitchen. Add it to Asian salads too for an extra kick.

8. Blood Oranges: I like these to eat, but they also make an excellent mimosa! I even had a blood orange and basil sorbet last summer. They are not as sweet as regular oranges and somehow seem more filling too.

9. Smoked Mackerel: I'm cheating here a little bit, because I have eaten this for years, but this year marks the first time I have found it available in my neck of the woods. It's a very strong flavoured smoked fish with an oily texture. I like the peppered kind the best. It's yummy for snacking with crackers and other goodies, or on little pieces of toast in the morning (although you probably will smell like it all day). It mixes will with sliced tomato, cucumber, arugula, or watercress. A little of this also goes a long way because of its strong and distinctive taste, but I find it kind of addictive (I am a flavour junkie!).

10. Greek Yogurt: I tried these first almost a year ago. They are a thick, creamy yogurt with a consistency close to soft cheesecake (but better for you). You can buy them plain, with fruit or honey, and in no, low, and full-fat versions. What I like about them is that I feel like I'm eating a piece of cheesecake, especially when I eat the full-fat version with strawberries, and this indulgence is still better than actually eating the cheesecake!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Forty Days and Forty Nights

Now I'm not trying to go all goody-goody on y'all, but I'm a givin' up the booze for Lent. Yes folks, for forty days and forty nights, not a drop of the fermented grape or distilled grain will cross my lips. Totally teetotal. No beer. No Liquor. No Wine. I'm not doing this for religious reasons but because I believe that giving something you love up for a finite amount of time once a year is good for the soul, the mind, and the body. It forces you, even in little ways, to explore a different way. I will have to go out without drinking, not drink with my meals, or entertain in a way that revolves around drinking, all of which I am so accustomed to doing. It will also help my weight-loss campaign. As Ms. RD pointed out in her last post, booze contains a lot of empty calories, and those calories are really something I could do without for a while. I don't need them and it won't kill me to go without them for a while (at least I'm telling myself that now!).

Wish me luck. This will be difficult.

But, there's a special treat at the end for me because Easter Sunday (the end of Lent) is on my birthday this year. What a blowout I shall have!

Happy Mardi Gras!

I know more than a few people who are out enjoying the joys of Mardi Gras, namely the alcoholic joys. So I thought I would take this opportunity to shed some light on the whole alcohol calories subject.
Alright, carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, as do proteins. Fats have a whopping 9 calories per gram, which is why to lose weight, its best to cut fat grams as well. So where does alcohol fit into this mix? A gram of alcohol is 7 calories, almost as much as a gram of fat!! Shocking, I know, and very disheartening for those of us who enjoy a night cap or 5 ;)
Here's one of many sites that brings to light just how many calories that super fun night out with the girls contributed:
So I decided to look into some of my favorite libations: a pint of Blue Moon = 228 calories. I must say, this is a damn shame, because one measly pint of my favorite brew is twice as much as a glass of white wine and almost as much as a WHOLE BOTTLE of sauv. blanc! Speaking of wine... I found another interesting site: where you can calculate how many glasses of wine (or other beverage) you drink and see how many calories this adds up to over the course of a year and what that translates into pounds. Scary right?! So apparently drinking a wimpy 3 7oz glasses of wine a week = 24000 calories a year, which could be 7# of weight gain a year if I don't compensate for these calories. Yikes!
I wouldn't dream of telling anyone I know to stop consuming alcoholic beverages, so it's got to be a matter of evening things out. For example, I know I'm going to have some Blue Moon's one evening, so I try to leave myself some wiggle room to fit them into my overall caloric plan. Don't get me wrong, I do NOT go around calculating my calories all day, but I do make one choice over another when I know that I'll be treating myself later. After all, we still have to enjoy life right, and not just obsess over calories.

I Wish I Were on the Beach!

I'm not, unfortunately, but I can make a tropical dessert and pretend I am!

This makes 2 servings. You can freeze one for another beach-wishin' day.

1 large Mango
1 large Banana
1 banana or vanilla flavoured yogurt (I used 4 oz Trader Joe's Bananas and Cream)
Crushed Ice

Put all ingredients into a blender and zap until smooth. Yummy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Motivate This!

One of my favourite blogs, Weighty Matters, had an interesting post today about motivation and inspiration. The brainchild of two Yale professors who discovered people are, guess what, motivated by money, (duh, right?), is a motivation bookie. You set your goal, give it a timeframe, and essentially bet on whether you'll succeed. You can collect the money at the end, give it to charity, or my personal pet choice, give it to an anti-charity, somewhere you would hate to see the money go if you lose.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cookin' with Cukes

A few days ago I mentioned a recipe from the French cookbook I had acquired and promised I'd tell you how it worked out. I list the recipe below (it's super-simple) and tell you that if you've never considered cooking a cucumber before, you should try it. They turn out kind of like zucchini, but lighter and more refreshing. This is a delightful dish.

You will need:

4 oz seabass per person
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
Flour to dredge (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1 cucumber (I used English, but that's not necessary) per person
1 tomato per person
A few slices polenta per person

First, cut your cucumber up into segments about 3 inches long. Then take an apple corer and core out the seeds. Chop the cucumber into rings (see picture). In a colander, generously douse cucumber in salt. Leave to drain for 15 minutes. Then rinse the cucumbers well with cold water and pat them dry really well.

At this stage, start grilling your polenta slices on high. Spritz them with olive oil and seasoning if desired.

In a large saute pan, put the 1/2 teaspoon oil and butter into the pan and cook the cucumbers on high for two minutes. Turn the cucumbers, attach a tight fitting lid, turn the heat down to medium and allow to cook for nine minutes.

Take the cukes out of the pan and keep warm. Add the rest of the oil and allow it to get hot. Lightly dredge the seabass fillets in flour and drop them into the pan. Sear them on each side for about four minutes. Be careful when turning, as the fish will flake.

Lay out your polenta slices, top with the seabass. Arrange the sauteed cucumbers around both, and top with the diced tomato.

Work With Me Here!!

After discussing the progress of Miss B, my sister who would also like to lose weight has asked me for some assistance too. She wants to try to lose 30 pounds by July, which is very reasonable. So tonight I'm trying to plan some meals for her, and I find myself banging my head against the wall. She likes lasagna, so I thought, I'll make up a veggie filled lasagna with whole wheat lasagna; it would be delicious! However, my dearest sister is a meal planning nightmare. She is soooo picky and the foods that she will eat is very limited in type and preparation method. For example, I say "do you like zucchini?" and she says "yes I love zucchini." I'm encouraged for just a moment before realizing that I'm sure she is thinking of the lovely fried zucchini appetizers found at Olive Garden. So I clarify, "not fried" and I get an "eww" response... "not even pan fried??" "I don't want it all nasty and steamed," she states.
I'm just beginning with meal planning with her, and I'm already throwing my hands up. If you aren't willing to stretch your comfort zone, try new things, and make a damn effort, then it will never work. It ticks me off that people think that they can eat the way they always have and see any kind of success. You've got to be open minded at the least.
So, at the present time, I'm trying to plan a menu for someone who: doesn't like salad (its a texture thing), doesn't like soup, rice, or any vegetables other than corn, green beans, peas, and carrots, unless they're fried of course! This is a super challenge, even for me :(

Friday, February 20, 2009

Food (b)Log #10

Yesterday was a challenging day hunger-wise. My cold has me hungrier than usual so I really felt like stuffing my face all day. I left the house to go to work (only for a few hours though) without bringing the snacks I had laid out for myself, so by the time I finished work at 6:30, I was out in the suburbs and starving. My mind started wandering to all the places around Donelson in which stuffing my face was possible. If you know the area, you know that finding quick healthy food options is a challenge.

I had only had some Weetabix and milk, and orange, a slice of bread, and some lentil and carrot soup (140 calories), which usually would suffice, but I think the combination of my cold, the temperature outside, and the stress of the day combined to make me ravenous. I called up a friend (who is very anti-blog, so I know she won't read this) and suggested we meet at the Chili's out there. I thought perhaps Chili's might have some healthy options, and vaguely remembered something about a Guiltless Grill, but I thought, well, there's over 1000 calories left to this day, so big deal if it's not as "good" as homemade. Here are a couple of things I learned about Chili's. They do indeed have a Guiltless Grill. On the menu it says that these selections are guaranteed under 800 calories and 25 grams of fat (still sounds like a lot to me!), but it doesn't give the menu reader specific counts for each item on this guiltless menu. In fact, some of the items almost hit the maximum calories, and some, like the grilled tilapia, contain about 200 calories. That's a whopping difference. Knowing this would have made my choice much easier and I probably could have ordered a much more filling meal had Chili's armed me with this information. Also, some items that qualify for the Guiltless Grill criteria are not listed as such and just appear on the regular menu, like the Spicy Garlic and Lime Grilled Shrimp Salad. Unmodified, it undercuts the maximum calories by almost 200 (and without cheese, it comes in at way under and qualifies for the maximum fat gram allowance). I ordered it without cheese, dressing on the side, and picked out the tortilla strips. While this fastidiousness allowed me some extra leeway for the beers I chugged down to accompany the salad, it wasn't strictly necessary. The salad was actually delicious without both. Chili's had Happy Hour going on, so I ordered two beers (four really).

My friend pointed out that Chili's posts their nutritional content on their website, for which I applaud them, but what good does that do the customer stuck sitting at their bar, miles away from home and internet connection, starving, and trying to make intelligent food choices? Think it through, Chili's, and take my very logical suggestions. Put all the items that belong on the Guiltless Grill on it (have a version of the grilled shrimp salad without the cheese and with just a sprinkling of crunch tortilla strips) and give nutritional information for everything on this section of the menu. Help a girl out!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hanging in Critical Balance

Yesterday, I should have weighed myself, but I ate breakfast and did a million other things before I thought about it, and as every seasoned dieter knows, you should only weigh yourself first thing in the morning. As I went running yesterday, I thought about the possibility that I hadn't lost any weight this week. How would I deal with that, emotionally? Would a failure to lose any weight on only the second week cause me to give up on the whole thing and believe that I'm doomed forever by my uncooperative metabolism to be fat? I wasn't feeling it yesterday. I did feel fat and bloated and I went over in my head, as I ran, all the things I had eaten (and drank - that's far worse) during the past week, picking over my choices with a critical fine toothcomb.

The ridiculousness of this arrested me and stopped me in my tracks. How had I got to this point in only two weeks? It's a question of extremes. I've gone from stuffing everything down my neck without any heed to its caloric content to monitoring every little morsel. Extremes like this will drive a person crazy, I thought.

It's difficult to maintain a balance mentally with food. When you are driven to extreme lifestyle changes physically, it naturally follows that your thought patterns will mimic these changes. As I continued to run, I decided to consciously monitor the balance I keep between my former throw all caloric cares to the wind-approach and my new awareness of the food and drink I intake. I can't become either too carefree or too critical. Being careless about eating has made me unhappy, but being uptight and overly critical of my eating habits will do the same.

By the time I huffed and puffed my way back into the house, I had made peace with the impending confrontation with the scale and woke up this morning ready to face the music.

I lost 3 more pounds.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Loneliness of the Not So Long Distance Runner

I may have mentioned walking in this blog, and I am trying to walk as much as possible. In my semi-employed state, I definitely have the time. In order to condense more my caloric burnage, I have tried to start "running." I put this in quotes because it's actually like walking at a faster pace. I run approximately .8 miles and then walk the rest of the way home. I think the walking home is sometimes harder than the running, although when I start out, the running seems quite easy. Around the 8th block, my breathing is heavy and I feel like I'm pulling a very heavy oxen, and not the other way around. I usually walk home.

Here's my goal. Let's see if you can help me. I want to be able to run to 51st St, and run back to my house. Right now, I can get to 51st, but I get winded and have to walk back. Cheer me on folks. I don't know how far it is to 51st St. and back to my house, but I'm guessing about 2.5 miles, almost a 5K, so put in your support, even if I run like a very large cross between a donkey and an octopus.

Monday, February 16, 2009

So how does this all work anyway?

OK, so people all know that in order to lose weight you have to drop calories. But how many? How many calories should I be eating? Here's the deal: It takes 3500 calories to equal one pound. Therefore if you were over consuming 500 calories more than your body needs then you could be gaining a pound a week. On the other hand, cut 3500 calories a week, and you can lose a pound a week! Now the beauty of this is that those 500 calories a day don't have to just be from less calories eaten, but also calories burned in exercise. So if you were to burn 200 calories from walking for 30 minutes, you'd only need to drop 300 calories to lose a pound a week. Now if you've been overconsuming for a while now, you may be able to cut more than 500 calories out pretty easily.
So, how many calories to eat?? This is very individualized, but here's a general rule to go by:
Take what weight you want to be, and multiply by 10. So say you want to get down to 130 should shoot for 1300 calories. It may not be a great idea to go straight from 2000-3000 calories per day to 1300, but you can work your way down. Plus, if you start getting more active, this whole process is a lot easier.
The "reasonable" goal is 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week. To begin, many people lose more than this, and that's a great boost to the motivation. But when it drops to just 1-2 pounds a week, that is still excellent progress. So you may say, "1-2 pounds a week is too damned slow!" but I say, hold on a minute Miss Impatient. By losing weight in the "slow and steady" manner, you're body is less likely to gain weight back, the ever-dreaded Yo-Yo effect. Think of it like this, if you starve yourself, that is exactly how your body will react accordingly. Your body will say, "Holy crap, I'm not getting much energy (aka calories), so maybe I should slow down my metabolism and conserve what energy I am getting." Your body conserving energy = calories stored as fat rather than being burned for energy. Think of a hibernating bear and you'll be on the right track. So you may lose decent weight initially, but you won't be able to maintain it. Depressing right? Well not if you remember: slow and steady wins the race. :)

Food (b)Log #9 (or, Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This)

Today I suffer from a general lack of motivation, a Monday malaise perhaps. I have not gone for my usual walk (yet - the guilt may get me soon), haven't cleaned or vacuumed, washed the dishes, or done the laundry. It's just one of those days. To accompany the malaise, there's a side-dish of ravenous hunger. Nothing but hunger all day, since getting out of bed this morning. There was the usual Weetabix and milk for breakfast, a cuppa tea, then a smoked mackerel and cucumber sandwich for lunch, followed by an apple, a spoon of almond butter, and then a pear, and then dinner. Dinner was ahi tuna with the rest of my Trader Joe's stir fry, some beansprouts, a sprinkling of sesame seeds, and 1/2 cup egg fried rice, harriedly thrown together as soon as I entered the house, famished. Delicious, but still there's an unsatisfied little demon inside. I'm not even sure what he wants: wine perhaps? chocolate? surely not more fruit? I'm going to ignore him and go wash the dishes. I hate getting in this snacky mood, because I'm generally so not a snacker that I'm afraid I'll just eat all day.

Oh well, here's a picture of my sloppy stir-fry for your enjoyment.

There's Nothing Like Free Stuff

Yesterday I helped my mother sort out her books. She's following my lead and taking the ones she doesn't want to a used bookstore to sell. This is surprisingly profitable, as I learnt last week. In the process of sorting out her cookbooks, I found two or three she didn't want. I would like to highlight one gem that has sat inconspicuously on her shelf for years, unbeknownst to me. The French Culinary Institute's Salute to Healthy Cooking contains many delicious-looking recipes with a wide range of ingredients and difficulty levels. It is a healthy cookbook that has real food, classy dishes, and comfort cooking as well as truly healthy vegetarian-friendly whole grain-using dishes. For those relatively new to cooking, or those who wish to increase their skill level, there is a section of basic recipes (stocks, sauces, vinegarettes) and basic techniques. A quick browse through this section alone should sharpen up anyone's repetoire of kitchen skills. I am looking forward to making the Sea Bass with Sauteed Cucumbers. I'll let you know how it goes. The book is available used in hardback from for $1.99 plus shipping, so it's a true bargain.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Me vs. The Cauliflower

I won. I neglected to mention this in my food journal yesterday, but I was craving vegetables so I washed and munched my way through an entire cauliflower. I devoured the delicious cruciferous. Did you know that cruciferous vegetables are actually named after the crucifix because they have four equal petals arranged crosswise?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Evil of Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day. I am pretty unhappy because everyone I know is coupled up and probably going out somewhere. I am home eating leftover pizza and shortly I will be drinking wine. What makes me unhappy is not the fact that I don't have a boyfriend, but that everyone else does and I want to go out and have some fun, but there's no one to do it with. On the bright side, this does give me time to tell you what I have eaten today.

Pumpernickel bread with 2 0z smoked mackerel

Coffee with 1 tsp real cream

1 slice multigrain bread (60 cal) with Heinz Baked Beans (90 cal) (Beans on Toast)
1 cup raw cauliflower

1/2 last night's leftover pizza

I anticipate some wine-drinkage to come.

Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 13, 2009

Food (b)Log #8 (or, Resist the Resistance)

I have not posted a list of what I've eaten for a couple of days, although I have kept up with my food log on, so I'm fully aware of my caloric intake, well as much as I can guess with my limited dietary calculating skills. If you haven't checked out Fitday yet, I urge you to. I keep playing around with the features, which include an activity log, a food log, various graphs and charts, body measurement statistics over time, and a weight goal tracker. It's everything you would pay WeightWatchers for for free!

So I thought I would list my foods for today so you can get a continued idea of what I'm eating. Today has been an o.k. day, although I have not eaten as much fruits and veggies as I would have liked to, and I'm too full to eat any now.


German Pumpernickel Bread (120 cal, 6 grams fiber)
1 tsp butter
1 tsp homemade blueberry jam
1/2 cup milk


1 Whole Foods Whole Wheat Lavash Wrap (220 calories)
8 thin slices Tempeh
About 1 cup raw spinach
2 thin slices avocado
1/2 cup beansprouts
a few roasted peppers
1/2 cup cucumber
1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts
1 tbsp Trader Joe's Soyaki


1/2 Pizza (with the same crust recipe) I worked out the crust to have about 250 calories per half pizza, plus 1 oz mozerella and assorted veggies. Veggies included spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped garlic, red onions, and mushrooms.

1 piece dark chocolate (70 calories)
1 very small glass white wine

Resist the Resistance, or Let Me Do Something Good

You can't please people. This is something I have learnt. No matter what you do, someone will always have a way you could be doing it better, differently, or not at all. With diets, as with so many other things, people are always willing to put in their two cents, or cash out your two cents.

Over the past week, I've experienced something different from all the other times I have tried to lose weight. Even in the hopeful honeymoon stage that begins every diet, my mind is usually preoccupied with all the things I can't have. I dream about meatballs and cream cakes, bacon-wrapped stuffing, and flaky pastry, and wonder when I will be able to devour large servings ot these things again. In short, my usual rationale is: how can I get skinny so I can start stuffing my face again?

The problem is entitlement. It's the silver, sugar-dipped spoon in the mouth attitude. I thought somehow that I was entitled to eat whatever I wanted and it was "unfair" and "not my fault" that I put weight on. This week I told myself to grow up. I'm thirty years old now and it's about time I did. It's about time I took some accountablility for what I put in my mouth and learn to recognize that every choice has consequences. Perhaps it isn't fair, or perhaps I do have insulin resistance or a slow metabolism, or I'm really a 6 foot 4 svelt blond Swedish guy who was unfairly dumped into a 5 foot 2 woman's body. Whatever the case may be, I still can't eat whatever I want and be a healthy weight. No ifs, ands, or buts. And no excuses.

That's what I can't do, but what's the other side of the coin? What I can do, right? I can learn how to live a healthy, fit life. I can learn which choices make me feel good, full, energetic, clear-thinking and positive. I stopped smoking a few weeks ago, and I've been criticized for trying to start to lose weight. "It's too soon," they say, or "You're trying to do too much at once," or "You'll fail because your expectations are too high." Perhaps they are right and I should just give up. I should say, "Screw real lifestyle change. I'll just fudge through this. I'll just substitute low-fat versions of the foods I'm used to. I'll eat processed imitations. I won't try anything that might change my body chemistry and my outlook. I'll find ways to cheat around having my 4 cups of fruit and vegetables every day. I'll drink diet sodas because they have no calories. I won't exercise because that's just too hard for me. I'll just diet instead of try to become healthy."

If you have a friend who is trying to make real change in her (or his) life, please try to applaud those changes, even if they seem out of character, and even if you feel threatened by them. This is a difficult journey, even harder than breaking up with a bad boyfriend or quitting smoking or drinking. You don't have to see the boyfriend, and cigarettes and alcohol are not necessary to existance, but you can't go cold turkey on food. You have to learn to control what you eat. As Ms. RD said in one of her comments, everyone is different, and some people are more extreme than others. I think there is no absolute right way. Please be supportive. Don't try to sabotage our efforts, we beg you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm Such a Big Loser!

I lost six pounds this week! Yea me. I realize that this won't happen every week and it's probably my body going into shock, so I have to remind myself not to be disappointed when that doesn't happen next week. I'm feeling a little better already. I mentioned my energy level, but my mood is also elevated. I'm feeling happy about things overall, even though I have no reason to be particularly optimistic, after all, I'm under-employed, the bills are mounting, and I'm stressed out about it, but since I started eating this way, I can't seem to feel depressed or as stressed. It's only been just over a week, so its early days yet, but I can feel definite and quite drastic improvements in my mental state and general energy level and motivation.

I promised pizza recipes a few days ago, and a couple of days ago, I finally made a pizza. A friend gave me a pizza crust recipe last year and I had only made it with white flour up until Tuesday. I merely substituted whole wheat flour into the usual recipe and cut the salt and sugar. Wheat flour, I discovered, acts differently, and there's still some tweaking to be done, but I'll give you my recipe in progress below:

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 3/4 cup warm water
1 package or about 1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp olive oil
(makes TWO nine inch round pizza crusts)

I make this using a Kitchenaid Mixer, but you could also do it in a food processor, or if you're really talented, by hand.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook. Pour in the flour and salt and mix around with your fingers. Into the approximately 3/4 cup warm water, pour the yeast and the sugar. Stir well, and leave to froth for about 15 minutes. When the water is good and frothy, pour it and the olive oil into the mixer and start the kneading with the dough hook. You may need to occasionally wipe flour off the sides of the bowl by hand. You'll know when it's ready. Adjust the water as necessary for the dough to come together.

Put a kitchen towel over the mixer bowl and place the bowl in a warm place for about 30-45 minutes. When the dough has risen to about twice it's original size, it's ready.

Here's something optional but yummy. While the dough is rising, roast some garlic cloves in the oven. Let them cool down while you knead the dough. To knead the dough, you can do it with your hands or roll it out. I try and do it hand-tossed style.

When you have a pizza shape, spread your roasted garlic over the crust before you spread on the sauce. The easiest way to distribute sauce is with the back-side of a spoon. Then add your toppings. I used 2 oz fresh mozzarella (for the whole pizza), spinach, roasted eggplant, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes and a host of other things I can't remember. The important thing is to use lots of veggies and less cheese.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ah, that's why!

I came across this today and it cracked me up. Have a chuckle and be happy for the heart attack you're not currently having!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Food (b)Log #7

This is the first day I've spent on "the diet" not actually actively thinking about it. I got up, felt full of energy, took my ipod and went for a walk, not really because I had to, but because I had energy, because it was a beautiful day, and because I wanted to. I had a great time too. It's good to have time to yourself that's not spent sitting on the couch and wallowing. Having oxygen flowing through your brain is helpful and makes you feel like you can conquer the world, even though you may be underemployed, bills overdue, and stressed out.

I have felt for the past few months, like everything is an effort: getting out of bed, having a shower, making food, eating, watching TV, taking care of the cats, cleaning, washing laundry. Everything.
Yet in the past few days, since I started changing my diet, I have felt much more equipped to deal with the world. I have energy and have completed more in these days than I have in the past two months. It's a good feeling, and I think it is too big a coincidence not to be related to what I have eaten. My energy is sky high.

Here's what I've eaten today:

Pumpernickel bread (see yesterday)
1 tsp. butter
1 tbsp. Jam (all natural, local blueberry, from Franklin, TN)



Tortilla Wrap
2 oz Turkey
Smoked Tabasco
2 thin slices avocado
Pico de Gallo
Spritz of olive oil

A couple of segments of a blood orange

A French Truffle from Trader Joe's (dark chocolate)


4 oz Mahi Mahi (pre-marinated, seemed like the sauce had some oil in it)
1/2 cup brown rice/barley/wheatberry medley
1 cup zucchini/squash
1/2 cup eggplant
Spritz olive oil

3 1/2 glasses white wine plus good company (Carrie)