Shapeshifting: Patience is an inconvenient Virtue

Well, today is my nine week, healthy lifestyle anniversary! This is the longest I’ve ever gone – in my life – with exercising and eating healthy (98% of the time – approx.) Even though I’m not weighing myself, I know that I’ve lost weight and I’m feeling much healthier and happier. Yesterday – however – I was annoyed with the fact that it seems to be slow going, in terms of the weight loss. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a fad-crash diet. This is a lifestyle change that I will continue to maintain throughout the rest of my life. Realistically, I will probably not be down to the size I’d like to be, until at least the middle of 2016. That will be the first year milestone.

Going slowly but surely is the only way that most of us can lose the weight and keep it off. I don’t know if I expected to be trim, taught and terrific after two months – but I’m still annoyed with myself when I look in the mirror. I don’t want to blame the media and society’s expectations – but I still feel like a blimp. I’ve been trying so hard and doing so well with educating myself about healthy eating and exercising regularly – even stepping it up last week with the stomach crunches on the ab roller and going harder on the elliptical. When I looked in the mirror last night, I could see that I’ve lost weight – but the cellulite is still there and I’m far from where I want to be.

I had to tell myself that I must not give up and admit defeat – as it would be a lie. I am getting there and feeling better. My clothes are a lot looser and people are noticing. I have more energy and have more control over my urges. To give up now and return to my unhealthy lifestyle would be disastrous. Baby steps!

I have decided to try a little harder when it comes to salt and sugar. I remember when I was strict with my sodium intake last year – noticing that the cellulite in my bum and thighs reduced dramatically. I don’t like being too anal about measuring every grain, drop and particle – but being mindful of recommended daily amounts and when I’m reaching the threshold will keep me on track and help with my choices at the supermarket and dining out.

Here’s something I’ve put together for myself – as a guide: (Note – for women – see links for info re: men)

Nutrient intake

Canned food – especially soups and tomatoes – contain a high amount of salt. Here’s a great link:

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/fda-recommended-sodium-intake-1873.html

Carbs are more confusing – but here’s a good link explaining them:

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/recommended-amount-percent-carbohydrates-per-day-7287.html

There are a lot of great charts and information on the web re: foods and nutrients, so I won’t bother posting any here – unless I find one that encompasses all food groups – whole and produced, with info on sugars, carbs, sodium and fat.

I was talking to a friend at work about probiotics and digestion last week. She advised that anything fermented is good for digestion and contains probiotics, like red wine (I’ve always been a Pinot Noir girl – now I have an excuse!), Kimchi and Sauerkraut. I love Sauerkraut, but I stay away from it due to the salt content, which means I must try and find one that’s low sodium. In regards to Kimchi – I saw an episode of “No Reservations” with Anthony Bourdain, where he took his assistant to her home town in Korea and watched Kimchi being made. They ferment cabbage with many spices and other ingredients in pots that are buried in the ground for months, then pull it up and bottle it.

I love that show but turned my nose up at Kimchi – even though I love Sauerkraut and spicy things. Sometimes it’s better if you don’t know how things are made – but I’m going to try it soon!

Here’s a recipe for Kimchi – I might try to make it myself!

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-easy-kimchi-at-home-189390

Kimchi
Kimchi

Here are some of the meals I made during last week:

Loaded Mac and Cheese
Loaded Mac and Cheese

This is a healthier version of Mac and Cheese – using wholewheat pasta (fewer carbs) and loaded with things such as onions, garlic, zucchinis, mushrooms, tomatoes, fresh parsley – as well as bacon and homemade cheese sauce. Not exactly fat free – but at least it was made from scratch with good quality ingredients. It’s something we might have once a month as a treat! (I used the tomatoes sliced on top – but it’s wonderful to have some scattered throughout the mac.)

The recipe was posted last week – here’s the link:

https://lilithu.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/shapeshifting-the-sugar-monster/

Pumpkin "with the lot" Soup
Pumpkin “with the lot” Soup

I made the Pumpkin “with the lot” Soup in my slow cooker – but think I prefer it in a pot. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

I Butternut squash pumpkin – peeled and diced

2 large potatoes – peeled and diced

1 large onion – peeled and diced

2 Leeks – (washed, topped and tailed) and sliced

2 Sweet potatoes – peeled and diced

3 Large Carrots – peeled and chopped

5 Garlic cloves – peeled and chopped

1 Quart of Chicken or Vegetable stock –

(I prefer Krogers “Simple Truth” Free Range, Organic, Low Sodium chicken stock – unless homemade!)

3 Bay Leaves

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

Light sour cream to dollop when serving

Method:

Sweat the onions, Leeks and garlic in a small amount of butter in a large pot. Add the rest of the veggies, stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer with the lid on. Cook until the veggies are tender, stirring occasionally. Place in a blender in batches, pulsing until smooth (adding more or less liquid to the desired consistency.) Pour back into the pot and taste before adding the salt and pepper. Then stir in the nutmeg and serve with light sour cream (optional).

*If you don’t want to blend the soup – you can mash it for a slightly less smooth soup.

Dark Berry Crumble
Dark Berry Crumble

This crumble (or cobbler) was so decadent and rich – it was almost chocolatey! I nearly fell on my knees after the first mouthful. It felt mysterious and magical as I was eating it – like I should’ve been in a dark forest in the moonlight with small, furry creatures – ready to slip into a wonderful adventure. (Yes – it was that good – if I do say so myself!)

I used organic Coconut sugar – what a find! Apparently it has some nutrients in it (Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants) and is slightly better than normal sugar (like honey) – and is also being touted as being lower on the Glycemic index. For me – it was the flavor of it as well as the fact that it was organic and Non GMO. I used a third less sugar than the recipe advised (which I modified from the PWMU cookbook).

MDH-21600-5

Dark Berry Crumble (Serves 8)

Ingredients

5 cups washed berries – strawberries (halved), blueberries and blackberries

2/3 Cup Coconut Sugar

1/2 Cup Water

(For the topping)

2/3 Cup Coconut Sugar

1 Cup Self Raising Flour (can be wholewheat)

1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut (dried)

1/2 Cup Old fashioned Oats

2 teaspoons Cinnamon

1/2 Cup Melted Butter

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the fruit with the sugar and water until soft. Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish and pour the cooked fruit in. Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle over the fruit. (Roughly is fine – it will spread and form a crust during baking.)

Bake for 30 minutes.

*Note – it will come out dark. Don’t worry – you haven’t burnt it if you followed the directions. It could be nice with cream or ice-cream – but I found it was perfect on it’s own. Great for a treat – I wouldn’t be making it every week!

Here’s my menu plan for the week:

Menu 090515

Until then – stay happy and healthy!

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Shapeshifting: The Sugar Monster

The Sugar Monster!

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I’d like to start by saying that I kept on track with exercise – doing 25 minutes per day on the elliptical – Mon to Fri, even squeezing in some crunches on the ab roller on Thursday. I also stuck to my menu plan – with a couple of aberrations. We had a coworker retire, so I went to her luncheon on Thursday – at the hotel across the street from work. I could have chosen a salad, but decided that – since I’d done my crunches and cardio in the morning – it would be okay if I had the chicken tenders, as well as the waffle fries. Oh my god they were good – and evil at the same time! I squeezed lemon juice all over the chicken – instead of honey-mustard or ketchup. I thought to myself – “At least I’m mindful of what I add to this naughtiness.”

I was also naughty enough to partake of the cake – a vanilla cake complete with gooey frosting. I thoroughly enjoyed it – until someone mentioned that the frosting must’ve been made with Crisco. I nearly gagged with the thought of Crisco in my belly. Back at the office, I thought about my culinary deviation and felt so bad about myself. Then I marveled at the fact that I felt so bad, as I have been really good with sticking to my “diet” with only a few blips on the radar – as I’ve mentioned before. My old self wouldn’t have thought twice about the meal I’d had, however – I fretted over the added fat, carbs, sugar and salt that I had ingested.

I do not want to end up being one of those diet and exercise freaks who becomes so anal about every crumb and drop that I ingest – that I punish myself with exercise to try and restore the balance. Even though I got back on the horse that night and only ate salsa – with celery sticks instead of tortilla chips – I continued feeling bad about the naughty meal. I decided that the damage was already done, so I treated myself – on the same day – with a bowl of icecream after dinner. I kidded myself that at least it didn’t have High Fructose Corn Syrup in it.

I went back to my menu plan Friday morning and was careful about having veggie chips when I started craving something salty – but then I even felt bad about the veggie chips. We had Tuna Salad in lettuce wraps for dinner Friday night – but again, I lapsed and had a bowl of icecream for dessert. Even though I’ve been eating fresh pineapple for a snack during the week, the end of the week found me craving salt – but mostly sugar – to the point of being ravenous for it.

I know that your body craves what it’s missing – and I have been cutting out a lot of crap and processed food – but the sugar thing was the one that bothered me the most. I haven’t made my chocolate chip cookies since we started this regime seven weeks ago and I have only had sugar in terms of fruit or where it occurs naturally in other foods. Maybe I do need it more now – I’m not sure – so I did some research.

sugar
Sugar is a crystalline carbohydrate that makes foods taste sweet. There are many different types, including glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose and sucrose.

Here is an interesting article about sugar – discussing whether or not it should be totally cut out of your diet:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288088.php

Here’s the skinny:

“…Last year, Medical News Today reported on numerous studies associating sugar intake with increased aging, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even cancer.”

“..Some of these sugars, such as glucose, fructose and lactose, occur naturally in fruits, vegetables and other foods. But many of the foods we consume contain “added” sugars..”

“…The most common sources of added sugars include soft drinks, cakes, pies, chocolate, fruit drinks and desserts. Just a single can of cola can contain up to seven teaspoons of added sugar, while an average-sized chocolate bar can contain up to six teaspoons…”

“In support of these associations is Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California-San Francisco and author of the book Fat Chance: The Hidden Truth About Sugar, who claims sugar is a “toxic” substance that we are becoming addicted to….researchers from Princeton University, NJ, found rats used to consuming a high-sugar diet displayed signs of binging, craving and withdrawal when their sugar intake was reduced.”

They basically say that sugar should be a treat food – not a diet staple. Considering that “..Fruits, vegetables, dairy products and dairy replacements, eggs, alcohol and nuts all contain sugar..” – it doesn’t make sense to say that you’re cutting all sugars out of your diet. The recommended daily amount is now 5% per day.

“Yikes” – says my inner sweet tooth – which I didn’t know I had, seeing as I’ve always preferred savory over sweet. So I’m going to try and go with their recommendations re: reducing sugar intake – by cutting back and going for sugar free options, reducing the amount of sugar in cooking by a third and replacing the flavoring of my food with cinnamon, ginger and vanilla.

Having said all that – I will be incorporating dessert recipes in my menu plans – in place of having ice cream as a “treat” – taking into consideration all of the above, especially reducing the added sugar and/or using other things such as spices.

I haven’t started my meditation yet – and am so annoyed with myself. I don’t know why I keep avoiding it – as the benefits are enormous. I will do my best to start this weekend. 20 minutes here and there can easily be slotted into my schedule – seeing as I don’t have a problem plopping down in front of the giggle box (television!)

On top of people noticing that I’m losing weight and feeling so much healthier and alert – I find that I don’t have such a compulsion for naps. Mind you – I do nap on the bus ride to and from work – and find that it gives me an added boost for the day. I notice that I don’t sleep in late on the weekends and don’t feel the need for naps. Before I started this regime seven weeks ago – napping on the weekends was normal. It’s nice not to waste my valuable time and do more of the things I love – especially writing!

Here are some photos I took of the week’s meals:

SSOR
Seafood Salad and Onion Rings

Seafood Salad and Onion Rings – recipe for the Herbed Buttermilk Dressing used in the Seafood Salad can be found in my previous post: (I also included thinly sliced radishes and fresh parsley in the Seafood Salad – as well as Lobster seafood extender.)

https://lilithu.wordpress.com/2015/08/15/shapeshifting-morphing-mind-and-body/

Here’s the recipe I used for the Buttermilk Onion Rings:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/crispy-vidalia-onion-rings-in-buttermilk-batter-recipe.html

AsAv
Asparagus Avgolemono

The Asparagus Avgolemono from Moosewood turned out lovely and fresh. A wonderfully light soup!

Here’s the link for the recipe:

http://www.moosewoodcooks.com/2012/04/asparagus-avgolemono/

TunLet
Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad in Lettuce Wraps:

I used to make this with mayo – but have opted for the fresher (and healthier) taste of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cans 12oz Tuna packed in water

2 Roma tomatoes – small dice

Half onion – small dice

2 medium sized pickles – small dice

Juice of two lemons

Pinch salt

Freshly ground black pepper – to taste

Mix together and serve with lettuce leaves – unless you prefer crackers, etc. We loved the Tuna salad wrapped in lettuce leaves – making little parcels. (When we had the Seafood Salad earlier in the week – we used Romaine lettuce as “boats” – but it was very messy to eat. Iceberg lettuce was easier to control!)

I’ve discovered healthier chips – although the salt still has to be taken into consideration.

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I loved these Simply Sprouted Sweet Chili Tortilla Chips:

way_better_snacks_sweet_chili_tortilla_chips

I’ll be making a Loaded Mac and Cheese for dinner on Sunday night – as we are only having Soup on Saturday night. Even though it’s carbs etc – I like to include things like grated zucchini to make up the volume. The “Loaded” component includes sauteed mushrooms, onion and bacon – with chopped tomatoes throughout. I’ve always hated plain Mac and Cheese – as it’s so gluggy and boring.

Here’s my recipe:

1 Cup Macaroni noodles – cooked

2 cups homemade Cheese sauce (see further down for recipe)

Half cup grated cheese (I like sharp white cheddar – suit yourself)

Extra cheese to sprinkle on top

Handful of fresh parsley – chopped (or two tablespoons of dried)

4 – 6 rashers of bacon – chopped

3 Roma tomatoes – chopped

2 – 3 zucchinis (depending on size) – grated

1 large onion – chopped

2 large cloves garlic – minced

1 large handful mushrooms (your choice) – chopped

*Cheese sauce recipe:

2 tablespoons flour (preferably unbleached organic)

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup milk

Half a cup of grated cheese – a sharp cheese is best

Salt and pepper to taste

Half teaspoon of Cayenne pepper

Half teaspoon dry mustard

Melt the butter in a pan, then incorporate flour and stir quickly – cooking for about 1 minute. Add the milk and whisk until smooth and cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper, cayenne and mustard and stir until smooth.

For the Mac and Cheese:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan/casserole dish (or closest to it.)

Saute the onion for a few minutes (I like either a small knob of butter or splash of olive oil), then add the bacon and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until bacon starts to crisp – then add the mushrooms. Continue stirring until the mixture re-absorbs the moisture leaked from the mushrooms and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir the macaroni noodles with the grated zucchinis, parsley, diced tomatoes, grated cheese, cheese sauce and bacon mix until combined. (Some like to put breadcrumbs on top of their Mac and Cheese – I personally don’t like it – plus – it adds more carbs! Also – you can add more cheese if you like, or modify the added ingredients.)

Pour the ingredients into the greased dish and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until set.

I’ll post my picture next week!

I will also post my pictures and recipes for the desserts and Pumpkin “with the lot” soup then.

Here’s my menu plan for the week. Til then – take care!

Menu 82815

Shapeshifting: Morphing mind and body

ShapeShifting Banner

How do you like my banner? I found the picture on http://www.freeimages.com/ – and added the heading myself, using the Harrington font. Small things like this make me happy – and I know I’m an amateur – but I was proud to find this treasure to use on this blog. I was thinking about changing my WordPress theme too – but I’m kinda attached to it!

Another thing I’m proud of (which is no small thing!) – is that I have maintained healthy eating and exercising (with only a few blips on the radar!) – for seven weeks now! As I said in a previous post, I’m not weighing myself, but I can tell that I’m losing weight due to my clothes being looser and others telling and asking me about losing weight. It’s funny – but the fact that I can pull my underwear up higher is also an indication!

I’m too shy to share pictures of before and after – especially ones that show my “fatness” – but I will be showing them once I feel better about myself – or at least, once I’ve reached my desired goal. I haven’t figured that out yet, as I do not agree with the ideals set for us by “the medical field” – who say that someone who is just a little pudgy is morbidly obese. For those unscrupulous “doctors” – who are pissing in the pockets of pharmaceutical companies – it makes sense for them to tell people that they are morbidly obese, so that their patients can continue spending money, going back for check-ups and taking pills and supplements (which they might not need.)

This is not to say that you shouldn’t have regular check ups with a good doctor who monitors your healthy diet and exercise regime. It’s also not to say that certain supplements etc are not beneficial. To each his/her own. I just don’t like being dictated to by a gaggle of so-called specialists, pseudo-scientists and chemists – either in the employ or in cahoots with multi-national companies – who are linked with the media in order to sell their bogus ideas and products. We all know how people (especially women) are targeted by the media etc, to make them feel fat, ugly, stupid and in desperate need of new fads, diets, pills and programs – which are short term and most of the time – do not work.

I know I’m on my soap-box, but I think it’s really important for people to understand that everyone is different and the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes whole foods and exercise. Reduce the crap – increase the goodness – move regularly. Sure – there’s nothing wrong with exploring different methods and products – to tailor-make a program that works for you – but that’s the whole point. Make it specific to your life, your body and your needs. Always consult a good doctor before starting anything that might be an issue for you particularly – then use yourself as an experiment.

It’s all trial and error – but it’s important to keep on track and get back on the horse the next day – if you make a mistake or deviate from your plan. I’ve found that starting slow and building up – with healthy eating and exercise – has made it easier for me to maintain. Some things that I’ve tried and tested are still part of my regime – some I let fall by the wayside, as I found they either didn’t work, cost too much or made me ill. That’s what it’s all about!

I only took one photo of a meal I prepared last week – as I was focusing on work and my writing – but I will endeavor to do more next week. On Tuesday – I had a hankering for salsa – so I made it myself. It was delicious! Several people gave me recipes – but they either had sugar or vinegar – or bizarre ingredients that I didn’t want to include. I used the following ingredients – without salt – which I discovered wasn’t needed anyway.

4 Roma tomatoes – finely diced

Handful of chopped Coriander

2 large Garlic cloves – finely chopped

Half a large onion – finely diced

2 Jalapeno peppers – most of the seeds removed – finely chopped

Juice of two lemons (Lime would’ve been nice)

Half teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

Pinch of Cumin

I loved this so much – spicy and tangy – without any salt, sugar or vinegar. I found that these ingredients weren’t needed – due to the lemon juice and the fact that the fresh garlic and roma tomatoes added their own sweetness. I ate the salsa with a handful of tortilla chips – and was satisfied – which surprised me!

One thing I’ve learned to do is to give myself smaller servings and to eat slower – as well as increasing the time I chew my food. My old self would’ve wolfed down unhealthy food – not giving my stomach a chance to tell me when I was full. I don’t believe in leaving the table a little hungry – as my brain tends to say “You can always come back for more” or “You only had half a meal”. I leave the table when I’m satisfied – not over-stuffed. Eating slowly helps you listen to your stomach – as it takes a few minutes for the food to actually get there!

Fossilized   Floral Fauna765.jpg

I know that the Paleo and Primal diets are big, but I was talking to my husband about them (he used to be a personal trainer) and he scoffed – saying that it might’ve been fine for the cavemen – but it wasn’t like they were the epitome of perfect health. He said that after a few weeks or months of zero carbs and little or no fat, the body weakens as it needs some carbs and fat to create energy.

The funny thing is, we have stayed away from rice and noodles with this regime, but we do have two slices of wholewheat bread per day (with no High Fructose Corn Syrup) and occasionally (maybe once or twice per week) – we have potatoes or another starch or two. We don’t want to go crazy – where our energy levels become so low that we can’t exercise or feel sleepy all the time. He also said that eating too much meat etc – can give you protein poisoning – or lead to gout! Here’s an interesting article:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/519284-what-is-protein-poisoning/

I have maintained 25 minutes per day on the elliptical – 5 days per week, for the last 3 weeks! My husband and I are going to start yoga on the weekends and I will be doing sit ups with our ab roller on the weekends too. Robert (my husband – I’m sick of saying “my husband” – like he’s a thing!) – advised that you have to rest your body at intervals and that mixing up the exercising – such as focusing on one or a couple of muscle groups in one session, is better for you. Your body has to repair itself, so using the ab roller and doing some resistance training etc on the weekends will mix it up a bit.

Speaking of the ab roller – I’m going to do a session now – for the first time!

aB

Well – that was an experience! First, my cat – Thor – decided that he wanted to get in on the act!

Thor - naughty boy!
Thor – naughty boy!

As I worked out, he first tried to sniff my face – several times – then paced around me, played with my toes, meowed a lot and then proceeded to get on the arm of the sofa and prepared to jump on my belly! Luckily I know his antics very well – and reached my foot out to block him!

Anyway – I did ten minutes – alternating ten crunches with ten seconds in-between. I wheezed like an old man – but pushed forward, understanding that it will get easier with each go. It’s funny how you can kid yourself that the exercising you’re already doing (cardio with the elliptical) – makes you invincible and impervious to the strain of other types of exercise. I thought this would be a cinch – but my belly told me otherwise! I will persist – as I am definitely more dedicated and determined to lose this weight than I was when I first started.

Also – maintaining a healthy diet and exercise is just that – maintaining. These are things that I will do for the rest of my life – as long as I can physically do it. The weight loss and increased stamina are a by-product – with a cumulative effect. It doesn’t happen overnight – but it does happen – gradually. I assume that when I get to my desired result (when I figure out what that is!) – I will modify the regime to ensure maintenance and a happy medium.

Now – recipes for next week (well – a few of them!)

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During the week, I have non-fat Greek yogurt with a banana cut into it for breakfast. I have a squeeze of honey stirred through – as the yogurt on its own tastes like I’m eating sour cream – which I don’t mind – but not in mouthfuls on its own! As I’m not having much (if any) sugar throughout the rest of the day, I don’t mind including the honey. Besides – it’s local honey and honey is good for you.

For breakfast, on the weekends, I like to have my two (per day) slices of wholewheat bread toasted, with real butter scraped on (I reduce the oils/fats in my cooking – so I don’t mind having the small amount of butter on my toast) – topped with sliced tomatoes, a small pinch of salt and cracked pepper. Sometimes I’ll have an avocado smashed on my toast instead of the tomatoes, with a little salt and lots of cracked pepper. (No butter needed.) I hope to get to a point where I don’t need the salt.

On Monday night, we’ll be having Seafood Salad with Onion Rings. I’ll be making my own dressing for the Seafood Salad (made with shrimps, celery, red peppers, green onions and thinly sliced zucchinis). The Herbed Buttermilk Dressing recipe found here: http://www.chow.com/recipes/13740-herbed-buttermilk-dressing

butt

 Herbed Buttermilk Dressing

  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk, shaken well
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I’ll use low fat or non fat Greek yogurt)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar (Think I’d rather use Apple Cider vinegar)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a medium nonreactive bowl and whisk until smooth and evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

(Found this info re: nonreactive vs reactive on Google:

“The terms “reactive” and “nonreactive” are referring to the type of metal from which your pot or bowl is made. Aluminum, cast iron, and copper are all “reactive.” Stainless steel, ceramic, glass and metal cookware with enamel coating are all “nonreactive.”)

On Thursday we’ll be having an Asparagus Soup – called “Asparagus Avgolemono” from the Moosewood restaurant.

Here’s the link to the recipe:

http://www.moosewoodcooks.com/2012/04/asparagus-avgolemono/

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It has pasta in it – so we won’t have any crusty bread – which I’d like! We’ll probably have a simple salad or maybe carrot and zucchini baked fries with it.

I made a Vegetable Soup last week – made from all the leftover veggies. I’m doing my best not to waste anything and if we have any leftovers – we either eat them for lunch the next day or freeze for later. With this soup (I called “Bottom of the Fridge Soup!”) I used cauliflower, celery, broccoli, carrots, garlic, fresh corn, onions, parsley, sweet potato and zucchinis. I used the Simply Organic Low Sodium, Free range chicken broth from Krogers, as I didn’t have time to make my own. *sigh*

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I also used Himalayan Pink Salt.

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Here’s a link to an article about the benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt:

http://fitlife.tv/10-amazing-benefits-of-pink-himalayan-salt/

For flavoring of the soup, I added 3 bay leaves, a small pinch each of dried sage, thyme and cardamom. The result was a slightly sweet and delicious vegetable soup (for vegetarians – vegetable stock could have been used.)

Here’s my photo:

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Here’s my menu plan for w/e 8/21/15:

Menu 82115

Well, til next week – take care!

Shapeshifting: The Skinny – Short and Sweet

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This week I maintained my Mon-Fri exercising – 2 weeks in a row with no gaps. 25 minutes per day on the elliptical. I know that I can do more and have incorporated using stairs at work, etc – but I’m happy enough at this stage just to have a routine – that doesn’t involve wasting time, trying to come up with excuses not to do it!

I find now that I’m happy to do it and can’t see a weekday morning without it. If I could teleport back six weeks ago and tell my non-exercising self that I would achieve this – I would’ve shook my head and sniggered. I would’ve said, “I don’t want to become one of “those” people!” – and then plopped down in front of the t.v.

One thing I discovered is that you can become so bogged down in the details when switching to a healthy lifestyle – that it can become too much. Last week’s post included a lot of info re: supplements, probiotics, foods that increase your metabolism, etc. Even though it was interesting, I noticed that it would’ve become a nightmare if I’d tried to incorporate everything I researched. I find that a “Just the facts, Ma’am” approach makes it easier to stick to it – especially if you’re going to maintain it for the rest of your life.

It’s hard when you decide to cut out the baddies – the fats, the sugars, the carbs and the salts – as it would seem that what’s left is just the plate! I find that sticking to the basics – unprocessed and raw foods – helps make it simple enough so that you can dictate what is added, after the fact. Even trying to choose organic – where possible – can help with ensuring that what you put in your mouth is pure and unadulterated.

Fair enough – some natural foods contain some baddies (or can be bad for you in large amounts) – so it’s important to remember balance. What I now default to, when feeling overwhelmed by choices and decisions, is the basic rule of less processed (if not zero) and more whole foods. Regular exercise and smart food choices, or moving more and eating less crap, are the skinny – for me.

I’ve included a picture above (not made by me – from freeimages.com) to show a revelation that might seem daft – but made me think about healthy eating. I went to Chuy’s in Nashville with some colleagues, and as we waited for our meals, I started eating the salsa and their lovely, light tortilla chips. The chips were great – but I could’ve eaten a big bowl of the salsa all on my own. I love all the ingredients – including tomatoes, cilantro, onion – and thought to myself, “I could eat this every day – even without the chips!”

Now – I assume there’s a lot of salt – but that can be modified. I loved the freshness of it and could see myself eating it wrapped in lettuce leaves. It dawned on me that I should be making it myself – so I will try next week. Then I’m going to see how many ways I can incorporate it into other dishes. It might sound stupid – but the basic lesson I learned was that you have to find something you love, that is either already low fat etc – or modify it to make it so.

I’ve been trying recipes out over the last 6 weeks and for the most part, haven’t had any issues. We’ve been trying to have vegetarian meals every 2nd night or so – and last week I made a Moosewood recipe, “Upside-down Vegetable Cake”. I thought it would be wonderful – which it wasn’t – due to the “cake” part being so dry. Come to think of it – so were the vegetables. I spent nearly an hour preparing it – probably due to being a perfectionist and following the recipe to a “T” – which I’m likely to do if it’s the first time I’ve tried it. Here’s the picture:

UPVC

I think next time I will do less veggies – or at least – use the veggies I like the most, and put more herbs in the “cake” bit and sauce up the veggies. My husband said it was fine – but he used a lot of BBQ sauce! I thought it was too dry, but – oh well. You live and learn.

I haven’t been weighing myself – as I’ve never enjoyed doing that. A bad day can throw you off, and you have to take into consideration water retention, building of muscles etc. Like most women – I fluctuate – depending on the time of the month, and I think I’d rather wait until I see the doctor again in October. I do notice that my clothes are getting looser – along with increased stamina and less cravings.

It’s interesting to be able to walk past things I used to love – like potato chips, dips, cake etc. I find I tend to think about all the chemicals, the salt, sugar and other nasties and fillers that the manufacturers pump into processed food. Sometimes you can find great alternatives, sometimes not. One thing I discovered was home made chips, like this:

tortillachips

Cumin Spiced Baked Tortilla Chips

(from: Spices Inc – http://www.spicesinc.com/p-957-cumin-spiced-baked-tortilla-chips.aspx)

Ingredients:

  • 8 6″ white or yellow corn tortillas
  • Pan Spray or 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Stack tortillas and cut into 6 wedges.
  3. Spread wedges in 1 layer onto a baking sheet (Use 2 baking sheets or cook in batches, but do not stack or overlap the chips)
  4. Lightly spritz the chips with pan spray or brush 1/2 of the oil onto the chips. The oil is intended to give the spice something to stick to – so go light with this step. No need to ‘grease’ them up.
  5. Sprinkle 1/2 of the Ground Cumin over chips
  6. Turn the chips and repeat with oil and Ground Cumin
  7. Bake for 7-8 minutes, turn and bake an additional 7-8 minutes.
  8. Chips are done when they are crisp and slightly browned. Chips will continue to crisp a little when removed from oven, so be careful not to over bake them.
  9. Serve warm or store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Serves: Serves 4

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories 90
Protein  2.0 g
Carbs 18 g
Fat  1.0 g
Sat Fat  g
Trans Fat  g
Fiber  3.0g
Sodium  10mg

*I found that mixing up the spices and sprinkling them with a little lemon juice helped boost the flavor, without going overboard with the sodium.

I included fresh pineapple as a snack when I had the taste for sugar. Heavenly! The apricots were dry – not so heavenly. I’ll look into dried apricots – hopefully without sulfur! Might also see about getting a food dehydrator – and check into the pros and cons of dried food.

Anyway – I’m not posting my menu this week – so busy! Next week I will post some of the recipes I use for the week.

‘Til then – take it easy!

Shapeshifting: Steady as she goes

ship-1570088

Well, this was the first week of five straight days on the elliptical – 25 minutes per day without pausing! This is a big deal for me, and I will continue to strive to maintain this regimen – as well as introduce other exercises down the track. It’s a good feeling to have stamina all day; walking and using the stairs without huffing and puffing. I’m also pleased that I’m not falling asleep at my computer in the afternoons. I am snoozing on the bus to and from work (approx 35 out of 50 minutes each way). It’s better on the way home and I tend to have a second wind to help get the evening meal done, etc.

I used to drag my butt home and contemplate takeaway due to being tired, so this is a bonus! I will admit that we weren’t so strict with the diet – but when we did break it, we went for healthier or smaller options. The homemade Lemon Tuna was lovely and fresh. We had it with a few crackers. I didn’t take a photo but here’s the recipe:

2 large cans of tune packed in water, Juice of 1 lemon, half an onion – chopped, salt and cracked pepper, handful of parsley. All mixed together – takes less than 10 minutes to prepare! It would have been nice wrapped in lettuce leaves – which I will do next time.

Here’s a photo of the Potage Jacqueline (Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger):

PotJac

Here’s the link to the recipe:

http://www.moosewoodcooks.com/2013/11/potage-jacqueline/

It was nice – but I feel it would have been better with green onions stirred through for added flavor and texture.

The Morroccan Chicken Casserole was lovely:

MorChi2

The recipe is in the previous post. It was more of a dry casserole – so next time I might use more stock and add another vegetable – even if it ends up less authentic. I was horrified with the price of Saffron – so used turmeric instead – which was nice enough but I think the Saffron would’ve added more color and a slightly different flavor. I love Saffron and will pick some up the next time I visit the World Market in Nashville, or the Indian Mart in Rivergate. The reason why it’s so expensive is that it comes from the Saffron Crocus flower – the stigmas – which takes a lot of flowers to get even a small handful.

They didn’t hold the meditation class on Monday and I haven’t done it at home yet. There really is no excuse as I have experience with meditation and always find it helps regulate my moods and gives me a clearer perspective. I’ve got to find a time in the day where it will be beneficial – but I already get up early to exercise and pack my lunch for work – as well as getting ready for work (the bus leaves at 6:30am.) I will do my best to start soon!

I clicked on a link for one of those “3 foods that are bad for you” articles, and waded through all the claptrap to discover that your digestive system is the thing to focus on when trying to loose weight. I already kinda knew that – but the information I gleaned gave me some ideas and led to more research, without being locked into paying $49 per month for a bottle of pills – with a reduced level of legal recourse if something goes awry. After reading independent reviews and sorting my notes, here’s the skinny:

  • No more yogurt unless made at home or without the added nasties – such as sugar. Natural or Greek yogurt is best – but Greek yogurt has a high fat content – even though it’s lower sugar and higher protein. Opt for low fat varieties with less than 20 grams of sugar. *The American Heart Association recommends that women eat 6 teaspoons of sugar or less per day (men – 9 teaspoons). 6 tsp = 24 grams and 9 tsp = 36 grams. A 6 ounce serving of plain yogurt contains slightly less than 12 grams of sugar. Good to know!
  • Watch out for High Fructose Corn Syrup – which is in practically most products! The brain doesn’t know what to do with this sugar so it turns it into fat – which stays put! This is why staying away from processed foods and adding more raw and natural foods in your diet is so important. Apparently wheat bread and cereal bars are loaded with this and other types of sugars. Now – I prefer wheat bread – so I’m going to have to find one without HFCS. Here’s a great list I found with products that don’t contain this pervasive additive:
  • http://www.celestialhealing.net/foods_with_no_HFCS.htm
  • A lot of fat free products (especially fat free or light potato chips) contain a fat substitute called Olestra (now Olean as the company that manufactures it was sued.) According to Time Magazine – “… It not only removed unwanted fat from foods but also negated the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins. Side effects included cramps, gas and loose bowels…” Check the packaging!
  • The digestive system needs all the help it can get, in order to eliminate things such as preservatives and to process the food we eat properly. Digestive enzymes such as Amylase, Bromelain and Lipase help the digestive process. Get these naturally from pineapples, bananas, avocados and apricots.
  • Also – Probiotics are the go for good bacteria that help restore balance in the gut. According to Livestrong: “…a probiotic with one to two million CFUs is recommended. However, if you are taking antibiotics, or if you have symptoms of a bacterial imbalance such as diarrhea, you can take a probiotic with up to 10 billion CFUs until the problem clears up. Probiotic brands differ as to how many CFUs they contain. You should not take five probiotic capsules containing two billion CFUs because this may not give you the proper balance between strains. If you’re having a problem and need more CFUs, you should always purchase a brand that contains that many in one capsule….To correct a problem, probiotics containing 10 million CFUs can be taken daily for up to two weeks….When you purchase a probiotic, read the label to find out if the microorganisms are alive or freeze-dried. They have to be one or the other to do you any good. If they’re live, the label should give you instructions for keeping them that way, possibly by refrigeration.”
  • EGCG is an antioxident found in Green Tea, which is also a good metabolism booster. 5 or 6 cups per day is the recommended dosage – however there have been some warnings. If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have heart problems or high blood pressure, kidney or liver problems, stomach ulcers or anxiety disorders – you should avoid it or consult your doctor. Here’s a great article about Green Tea: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269538.php
  • Here’s an interesting article on 5HTP – which is an appetite suppressant and not found in food, unless a combination of foods are eaten.
  •  http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/5hydroxytryptophan-5htp

To sum up – I will be including these in my eating regimen: Pineapple (juice and fruit), apricots, (I already eat bananas and avocados), Green Tea, natural or homemade yogurt and a good probiotic. I will avoid products with HFCS and Olean.

Here’s my menu plan for w/e 8/7/15:

Menu Plan 8-7-15

Until next week!