Clearing a path out of the Haze

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After a great weekend, I pulled a muscle in my back on Sunday while doing housework and cooking. I didn’t know it until I sat down after it was all done (I’d been going for six and a half hours!) When I went to get up – I was like a pretzel. I walked like I was trying to transform into a question mark and my back was killing me. I suspect that it was due to an older injury which I’d sustained using the ab roller. In any case – it was so painful that I took two days off work and tried different things – like the heating pad, Icy Hot spray, ibuprofen, massage, hot showers etc. On Tuesday I went to the docs and got a shot. It cleared up – but then I felt like I was getting sick again, with fevers and feeling like crap.

I did my best to continue exercising but could only manage planks (still 10 reps of 20 seconds each) and little bursts on the elliptical – due to sleeping in and not having enough time. I slid backwards a little – in regards to food. We had take-out two nights and on Thursday we had an all-staff meeting where lunch and snacks were provided. I did discover that having eggs for breakfast helped stave off the hunger and that smoothies just couldn’t cut it. So I’m having a smoothie every now and then as a snack – once per day, every other day.

Last night I came home feeling like I was going to collapse. (According to the doc, allergies and viruses have been on the increase, but he tested me and found that at least I don’t have the flu.) After crashing into bed and sleeping for a few hours, I got up starving, so Robert kindly ventured out and got me some kind of a Jalapeno burger. It was awesomely delicious – but I had to try not to think about the carbs, salt, fat etc. I watched some t.v. for a while and went back to bed. When I woke up this morning I felt a lot better – with little to zero fevers! Then it dawned on me. Chili peppers have anti-septic qualities.

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I love spicy food – so it will be a no-brainer for me to include it in my cooking, although Robert doesn’t like it too spicy. Without having to cook separate meals, I will simply make my own relish to use as a condiment – or will marinate my meats with chilies etc.

According to Webmd.com:

“…Peppers have a lot going for them. They’re low in calories and are loaded with good nutrition. All varieties are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Plus, the spicy ones liven up bland food, making it more satisfying…Green peppers are harvested earlier, before they have a chance to turn yellow, orange, and then red. Compared to green bell peppers, the red ones have almost 11 times more beta-carotene and 1.5 times more vitamin C…

Capsaicin: Found in hot peppers (including chilis and cayenne powder), capsaicin has been shown to boost metabolism as well as suppress appetite, at least slightly. Over time, this effect might give you an extra edge when it comes to weight loss. But it won’t melt the pounds away. Research shows that people who don’t typically eat spicy foods are most likely to benefit from turning the heat up a notch. Capsaicin seems to affect metabolism by raising body temperature, which uses up more energy.”

According to Nutrition-and-you.com

“…capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals…They are also good in other antioxidants such as vitamin-A, and flavonoids like ß-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help protect the body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress, diseases conditions…

Chilies carry a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure…Chilies are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that human body requires them from external sources to replenish…

Chili peppers have amazingly high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just 100 g provides (in % of recommended daily allowance):

240% of vitamin-C (Ascorbic acid),
39% of vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine),
32% of vitamin A,
13% of iron,
14% of copper,
7% of potassium,
but no cholesterol.

…capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese persons.”

Here’s a recipe for Hot pepper relish I found at: Chilipeppermadness.com

Hot-Pepper-Relish4

Hot Pepper Relish Recipe

Ingredients

3 cups chopped hot chili peppers – You can use a mix of peppers if you’d like, anywhere from mild bells to superhots like Morugas or Scorpions, though I like to keep the thickness of the peppers about the same so the overall consistency is even. Lean toward hotter peppers. For this, I used some sweet Italian peppers but included a couple ghost peppers.

3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
Salt to taste

Cooking Directions

Add all ingredients to a large pan and heat to medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a light boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer about 25-30 minutes, or until liquid is reduced and absorbed into the mixture.
Add to a jar and allow to cool. Serve!

Now – I’d like to explain why I called this post, “Clearing a path out of the Haze.”

This healthy lifestyle journey has been an education and a half. I’ve learned so much, so far – and I know that it will continue to be an education for the rest of my life. Having said that, I will say that I have found myself wandering in a haze, in regards to what food is best to eat for health and weight loss. I’ve see-sawed up and down and zig-zagged back and forth over pro’s and con’s.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to obsess more about food, now that I’m focusing on a healthier diet. My menus have been – for the most part – filled with complicated and “fancy” recipes, that require a lot of obscure ingredients and complex steps that take up a lot of time and energy. While I was deviating from the path last week, I contemplated a simpler menu that includes easy recipes which I’ve used in the past.

I decided that – even though I’m still up for experimenting and trying new things – it might be more beneficial to keep it simple and manageable, with only one or two complex meals per week. This is not so much for cost – as it’s mostly about time and ease of preparation – so I can go off and spend more time doing what I love. Writing!

I thought about soups and casseroles – now that the weather is getting colder. Even though I wouldn’t be satisfied with soup for dinner every night, I decided to make two – three soups for the week, which can be eaten on alternate “soup nights” – with a casserole or simple meat and three veg or vegetarian on the other nights. My breakfasts will now include eggs – as I have proven to myself that I am more satisfied and less likely to snack in between meals. Here’s an article that helped change my mind about eggs every day – as I was worried about cholesterol:

http://authoritynutrition.com/eggs-weight-loss-food/

I also discovered the Happy Egg company – where the eggs are from hens that are free to roam outside – not just cage free: http://thehappyeggco.com/

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They have some great recipes – including this one (although I would probably use ham instead of bacon and fresh, grated potatoes rather than hash-browns):

http://thehappyeggco.com/recipes/cheesy-easy-breakfast-casserole.html

EBC

One of the things that has frustrated me is the idea of filling up on fats to keep the carb cravings away. I don’t want the added problems associated with eating a high fat diet, even though I enjoy building up on the proteins to feel more satisfied. I’m substituting turkey where a recipe calls for other meats (especially when making an omelette or sandwich).

I’m still trying to only eat red meat once every two weeks or once a month and will be incorporating more sardines and fish, as well as vegetarian recipes. I need to get back into doing a full program of planks and the elliptical – so I’m going to try and get up a half hour earlier during the week to be able to do so.

I’d like to note that my dreams have been more vivid and easier to remember – since my ritual last weekend. The messages seem to tie in with my purposes – so I will probably start writing for my dreaming blog again. (See: http://yourfaceinmyhands.com/) Also – the synchronicity has been interesting – with opportunities and insights seeming to link directly to my ritual. I don’t want to go into it here – but I might share at a later date!

Here’s my menu for the week:

Menu 111415

Until next week – stay happy and healthy!

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Tweaks and Modifications

4.1.1

Well, I received good news on both fronts when I saw the doctor on Monday. I’ve lost nine pounds and my sugar count has reduced. Both could’ve been better – but my doctor was pleased and said that she was proud of me! I hadn’t taken the pills she prescribed – Metformin – but at least my sugar levels dropped, even if only slightly. Three months ago I was at 8.7 – now I’m 8.4 – so she wants me to take the Metformin.

She advised that she doesn’t need to see me until the six month mark – which will make it around early March 2016. I picked up the pills – and was horrified when the first day had me bolting to the bathroom. Luckily it subsided and now I’m back to normal. She wants my sugar to be at least 7 by the time I go back, so it’s time to be a bit more serious about the carb and sugar intake.

I told her how ice cream was the biggest demon in my regime – as the cravings were intense. What’s funny is that I’ve noticed that my ice cream fetish has scaled back dramatically since I’ve started having fruit smoothies for breakfast! After discussing my food intake with her, we realized that I was eating too much fruit per day. After my fruit smoothie in the morning – which includes approx 4-6 strawberries, a small handful each of blueberries and blackberries, a banana, a tablespoon of raw, unfiltered honey, a tub of carbmaster vanilla yogurt (less sugars than Greek non-fat), a splash of Coconut milk and two tablespoons of flax seed meal – I was eating nearly a cup of raw pineapple as well – in the afternoons.

That equaled nearly two cups of fruit per day – which is twice what I should’ve been having. So now I’m only having one serve of fruit per day – and feel fine for it – so hopefully that will help towards lowering the sugar even more. (I would like to continue this before starting the Metformin – but this time I’ll do what I’m told!) I’m sticking to either two slices of wholewheat bread or 6 – 8 crackers per day, with potatoes once a week and rice once a month. I might sneak in noodles here and there – maybe once every two weeks.

My thyroid test came back normal – so I’ll continue taking my 100mg per day of Levothyroxine – but my cholesterol was slightly bad. Apparently my good levels are a little low and my bad levels are a little high. Ironically – the suggestion was to cut out butter and things like coconut oil – which is okay as I mostly use olive oil in my cooking anyway. I just discovered – however – that the other oils (seeds and nuts) are very bad! I was looking into grape seed oil and discovered this:

“…Grape seed oil has a high smoke point. For this reason, it is advertised as a good choice for high heat cooking like frying. This is based on a huge misunderstanding… the smoke point of an oil is NOT the determinant of whether it should be used for cooking or not. The number of double bonds in the fatty acid molecules is much more important. Polyunsaturated fats are called poly (poly=many) because they contain many double bonds.

These double bonds are reactive and tend to react with oxygen when heated, forming harmful compounds and free radicals. Because grape seed oil is so incredibly high in polyunsaturated fats, it really is one of the worst oils you could possibly use for cooking. The healthiest cooking oils are those that contain mostly saturated fats (like butter and coconut oil), because they don’t have double bonds and are therefore less likely to react with oxygen when heated…”

Well!

Here’s the link to AuthorityNutrition.com – which is apparently a “just the scientific facts Ma’am” kind of site:

http://authoritynutrition.com/

If you subscribe to their mailing list you get a free ebook called “11 Nutrition mistakes”. I learned about increasing protein, good carbs and bad carbs and so on.

I always like to lean towards the moderation rule – or as the Buddhists say – “The Middle Way”. I told my doctor about how hungry I get between breakfast and lunch, so she told me to have a boiled egg or something with protein that will hold me over. I started doing that – but found that I wasn’t totally satisfied. (Apparently 30% of your daily intake of calories should be protein – such as meat, dairy, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.)

What I did discover was Roasted Pepita butter and celery. Lordy – I was so full – I couldn’t even eat my lunch, so I’m reducing it to maybe three small pieces – or one stick of celery.

RPCS

I know that it looks like shit on a stick – but they were scrumptious! I took 2 cups of raw pumpkin seeds, spread them on a baking sheet and roasted them in the oven for ten minutes. Then I let them cool for ten minutes before processing them with a little olive oil, until smooth. I filled the celery with the Pepita butter as I needed them. A great, filling, healthy snack!

One of the recipes I’m going to try is Roasted Sunchoke Soup. (Sunchokes are Jerusalem Artichokes – also known as “Fartichokes” – if you usually have a problem with digesting those sorts of carbs – like apples!)

SSPP

Here’s a link to the recipe:

http://ahouseinthehills.com/2014/1/23/roasted-sunchoke-soup-with-caramelized-shallots/

I’m also going to try these Paleo Sandwich Rolls:

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Here’s the link for the recipe:

http://lexiscleankitchen.com/2014/08/24/the-ultimate-paleo-sandwich-rolls/

(Almonds give me migraines so I’m going to substitute it with Sesame Seed Flour and instead of palm shortening I’ll be using coconut oil.)

Here’s one of my smoothies – this time with half a cup of raw pineapple, a banana, small tub of carbmaster vanilla yogurt, a splash of coconut milk, one tablespoon raw, unfiltered honey and two tablespoons of flax seed meal.

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I made two Asian-style dinners – starting with Sweet and Sour Chicken (shallow frying was bad – but I dried them with paper towels before putting in the oven to continue baking with the sauce – also naughty, but better than junk food!)

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Sweet and Sour Chicken

Chicken Breading:
3-5 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch (or Arrowroot)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup canola oil

Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes. season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken into cornstarch and coat all the way and then into eggs. Heat oil in large skillet. Cook chicken until browned. Place in baking dish.

Sauce:
1/2 cup coconut sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Whisk until smooth. Then pour evenly over chicken. Turn chicken so the sauce gets on both sides and then put in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn chicken and then cook for 15 more minutes.

This Beef and Broccoli was gorgeous – we had it without rice – just served it with steamed carrots on the side. Robert said it was better than what he’s had in the restaurant!

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Beef with Broccoli

1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch (or Arrowroot powder)
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp oil
1 1/2 lbs flank steak, sliced into thin strips

Mix the baking soda, sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, water, and oil in a large bowl. Toss the steak with the marinade to coat. Put in the fridge for at least 1 hour, then continue…

1/2 c low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp coconut sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp Apple Cider vinegar
3 tbsp oil
2 heads broccoli, chopped

In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, flour and vinegar until smooth. Set aside. In a large wok or skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over high heat. Add broccoli and saute 3 minutes, stirring often. Transfer broccoli to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium-high. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the marinated meat and half of the sauce mixture and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until the meat is cooked through. Stir in the broccoli and remaining sauce. Saute 1 more minute, then serve.

CTS
Delicious, homemade Cream of Tomato Soup!
Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup - better than canned!
Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup – better than canned!

I continued with the exercise regime of 25 minutes per day on the elliptical (Mon-Fri) – but the ab roller still hurt my back. I tried different things, like a pad on the floor and positioning my hands and body in different ways. Then I tried the Ab wheel roller and found it hurt my shoulders and elbows – leaving my abs alone!

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When I researched it – I found a fitness site that said it was one of the top ten worst exercises for abs! It stated what I had suspected – does little if nothing for Abs. The same went for the Ab roller I was using. I am going to start some other exercises – like good, old fashioned lunges and plank lifts. We’ll see how that all goes!

I wish I could find a swimming pool close by that wasn’t so expensive to use (like the one at the YMCA – where I got a nasty dose of pink-eye). I don’t mean to bitch – but in Australia there are public swimming pools everywhere that are cheap to use and you can guarantee a lane to yourself, early in the morning. I asked Robert if I could swim in the river and he said, “Don’t you dare! There’s no telling what’s been dumped in it – chemicals, old cars, bodies!”

Here’s my menu plan for next week:

Menu 101715

Until then, stay happy and healthy!

Shapeshifting: Dispelling the Myths

A while ago, I wrote about creatine and how it helps to heal your muscles after workouts – among other things. I decided that I would stop taking it, after being told that it can actually make you gain weight and retain water. It has only been a week, but I can tell the difference already. Not that I was overly bloated before, but I have noticed that I feel “lighter” and for the first few days of withdrawing – I was peeing like a racehorse!

During the first eleven weeks, I knew that I was losing weight – but not at the rate I would’ve liked. We were sticking to our new healthy eating regimen – with only a few blips on the radar – and I was exercising religiously. Now that I’ve stopped taking the creatine, I’m feeling better and more people are noticing that I’m losing the weight. I’ll report back in a couple of weeks to see how it goes.

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The main myth I’d like to dispel is the one we’ve all hidden behind – from time to time – which is, “It’s too expensive to eat healthy.” Let’s break it down. When we’re not eating healthy foods and decide to start checking it out – we usually go to the health food section of the store and balk at the high prices of certain ingredients – in comparison to the ones we normally buy. We don’t take into consideration that healthy eating usually means unprocessed/whole foods – like fresh fruit and veggies (even organic), good quality meat and other products.

We also don’t stop to think about the amounts of processed/pre-packaged food we have to buy to catch up to the volume that whole food can provide. For example: I find that canned or frozen meals never fill me up. After zapping them in the microwave, I plop them onto my plate and feel deflated with the pitiful, sloppy mess – which includes scant amounts of meat and veggies. Usually, when I have a pre-packaged meal, I have to follow it up with something else to fill the void.

It’s those hidden extras we turn a blind eye to – that add the dollars to our weekly food bills. I spend approximately $150 per week on food – for two adults (and two naughty cats – although their total averages $54 per month, which is included in that weekly average of $150.) As we are not buying junk food or snacks – the total remains at $150 per week. Before I started this healthy regime, I also spent $150 per week on food – which was a lot of processed and pre-packaged items and smaller amounts of veggies, fruit and meat.

On top of that, we ate out at least three times per week, along with snacks such as candy, chips and ice-cream. Taking into consideration that each take-out meal (for two) averaged between $15 – $20 and snacks averaged between $5 – $10 at least two times per week – the extra food bill came to approx $65. That doesn’t include the times we might go out for dinner at a restaurant – which is not that often anyway. All up, that’s a total of at least $205 that we were spending. It was probably more like $220 – $250 some weeks.

Now, when I say I spend $150 per week on groceries – that also includes the occasional cleaning product, kitty litter, toiletries etc. We are actually saving money due to not eating junk food and our shopping bill is at least the same – with more benefits – such as being and feeling healthier, fewer trips to the doctors and no need for medications to deal with inflammation, gas, heartburn, bowel problems and so on. We’re saving anywhere from $65 – $150 or more per week – taking all those extras into consideration!

When I look at my shopping list now, the fruit and veggie section is nearly triple the length – while the “other” section has reduced by two thirds. The conclusion is: spend more on healthy food – spend less on crap. Pretty elementary, my dear Watson! A wonderful byproduct of the healthy lifestyle is – I can now spend more on those “luxury” items in the health food section if I so choose to – as in the old days, I would’ve spent those extra dollars on junk.

As I’ve said before, when I go around the supermarket and spy those overly processed and pre-packaged foods, all I can think about is how far removed those products are from actual food. Also – how many chemicals, fillers and additives, how much salt, sugar and fat those products have and how horrible they would make me feel. It’s now easy to stay away from them – which is a miracle for me!

Having said that – let me say this. I will not go without certain “naughty” foods. See my last post, where I discuss guilty pleasures. The thing is – they are a treat once in a while – not every week or whenever I feel like it. Yesterday – I decided to go to my favorite Indian food vendor and got my usual “evil” platter of chicken biryani, chilli chicken and butter chicken with dal. In the old days, I would’ve eaten the whole thing for lunch (oink, oink!) It’s so delicious – but I was able to eat only half and saved the rest for lunch today. Extra stomach crunches help alleviate the guilt – but I found that being healthy to begin with, made this small deviation only a mere blip.

This reminds me of another myth I’d like to dispel. It’s one I’ve noticed since I arrived here in 2008 – in Nashville, Tennessee. There seem to be certain misconceptions about Southerners – including Tennesseans, of course. Such as: Southerners eat a lot of unhealthy food and they’re all stupid, right-wing, racist, sexist slobs. One of the meme’s I’ve seen, is a photo-shopped picture of the cast of ‘Friends’ – all made to look obscenely obese – with the caption: “If Friends was made in Tennessee.”

I’m not even from here and it made me angry. Yes – they like biscuits and gravy and deep fried stuff as well as cakes and candy – but then, who doesn’t? I’ve seen fat people everywhere – including other states in this wonderful country. I’ve also seen stupid, racist, sexist people everywhere. I used to think that the Southern accent meant automatic moron – but that was due to the caricatures that film-makers, cartoonists and meme-makers enjoyed creating. Once I moved here, I was pleasantly surprised to meet intelligent, progressive people (including my husband!) and delighted in the fact that even the religious ones can be easy going and tolerant.

Of course, there are factions of the above-mentioned morons – but I’ve found that they are the exception – not the rule. Tennesseans pride themselves as supporters of locally grown and produced food, as well as healthy and/or alternative lifestyles. Fair enough – it’s a majority Red state – but politics don’t always go hand in hand with personal taste or opinion. The cultivation of industrial hemp is an option for Tennessee farmers and Farmer’s Markets are very popular. There are also many health food stores, artisan producers, Amish stores, Flea markets, progressive schools, arts communities, secular groups, festivals and more.

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Here’s a couple of great links for more info:

http://www.tnvacation.com/

http://www.picktnproducts.org/

The Nashville Farmer’s Market is a great place for food and produce.

http://www.nashvillefarmersmarket.org/

That’s where my favorite Indian restaurant is. (I’ve been told there’s better – but I’m hooked on Swagruha!)

SWR

http://www.swagruhaindianrestaurant.com/

Every second Thursday in Nashville, the street where I work is lined with local food trucks serving a variety of food. You can get healthy wraps and smoothies, Mexican, Italian, Thai, and other cuisines. I find Nashville very cosmopolitan, but you can also go to local bars and restaurants that serve good, homestyle, Southern food. Like everything else – the trick is moderation.

Well, I’ll get off my soapbox now!

I’ve been fine with my exercising and am amazed that it has become such a part of my life. I know for sure that I will never go back to how I was before. This regime has set in as a way of life for me and it feels great. I’m actually looking forward to my doctor’s visit on October 6th – rather than dreading it. Then I will find out how much weight I’ve lost and how my sugar’s doing.

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Above is a photo of one of the meals I made last week – Five Spice Blackberry Chicken and Summer Veggie bake. I must buy some dishes for food presentation – as you can see – the chicken almost disappears into the plate! I had to get Robert to shine his flashlight on it.

The Five Spice Blackberry Chicken is a recipe I found on Pinterest – but I modified it to make it quick and easy. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon five-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 chicken thighs (I used with bone-in)
  • 3/4 cup Seedless blackberry jam – local and organic if you can
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Fresh blackberries (optional)

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine first three ingredients in a bowl – then rub over the chicken. Place in a baking dish and cover with foil or lid. Put it in the oven and bake for approx 45 minutes or until juices run clear.

While chicken bakes, combine jam and next 2 ingredients in a nonstick skillet or small saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat 8 minutes or until glaze is reduced to 1/2 cup. Drizzle glaze evenly over chicken; garnish with blackberries, if desired.

Note: The original recipe calls for 8 pieces of chicken – but I like the stronger flavors when using 4 pieces, so it’s up to your own personal taste. Also, I omitted the ginger in the sauce (recipe called for 3/4 of a teaspoon.) I like ginger but it doesn’t agree with me! Lastly – I didn’t grill the chicken as I wanted the spices to have time to mingle.

SVB

I also modified the Summer Veggie Bake recipe. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

1 large yellow onion

1 tsp minced garlic

2 medium zucchinis

2 medium yellow squash

1 large sweet potato

3 Roma tomatoes

to taste salt & pepper

1 cup shredded Italian cheese

2 tbsp fresh or dried parsley

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Thinly slice the veggies (other than garlic.)

Spray the inside of an 8×8 square or round baking dish with non-stick spray. Place the thinly sliced vegetables in the baking dish vertically, in an alternating pattern. Sprinkle with the garlic, onions, salt, pepper and parsley.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, top with cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown and veggies are cooked.

*Note: You might want a little water in the bottom for the steam to help cook the veggies. I didn’t bother. The original recipe said to dice the onions and saute along with the garlic, then spread on the base of the dish before adding the veggies. I wanted to save time – so it’s up to you.

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This started as Stuffed Zucchini Boats – but ended up more like a Zucchini Sausage Lasagna. I found that I couldn’t get much of the filling to stay in the ‘boats’ – so I went ahead and treated it like a Lasagna. (Zucchinis were not pre-boiled – just thinly sliced.)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups quick marinara sauce

4 medium zucchini

1/2 small onion, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

14 oz lean Italian Sausage (I used Sweet – loose mince, not actual sausages)

1/2 cup part skim shredded mozzarella

8 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

(Re: Cheese – more or less is fine)

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large saute pan, sweat the onions, garlic and pepper, then add the sausage, breaking up as it cooks into smaller pieces until browned. Cook on a medium-low heat for about 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 2-3 minutes.

Cut zucchini in long, thin slices. Place 1/4 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 12″ baking dish, then cover with a layer of zucchini slices, approx one third of the meat mixture, then sprinkle some of the cheese and repeat until all used up – finishing with another sprinkle of cheese.

Cover with foil and bake 35 minutes until cheese is melted and zucchini is cooked through.

It might only be 2 – 3 layers – depending on the size of your baking dish etc. With the cheese and the sausage – it wasn’t the healthiest of dinners, but sometimes you have to splurge.

Here’s my menu plan for next week:

Menu 092615

I went back to having my yogurt and banana in the mornings. I found that I got a little heartburn with the yogurt at night and have cut back on frozen yogurt as a dessert. I’ve trained myself not to need something sweet every night – but I will be making Chocolate energy bites as a healthy treat – with just a touch of naughtiness – two nights in the week! I’m sure Robert will appreciate them.

Something else I discovered. To cut the late morning cravings – (pineapple is lovely but just doesn’t bridge the gap – even though I’m still having it), I’ve started having a few crackers with peanut butter after my bananas and yogurt. It did the trick!

Well that’s it for now. Have a great week!

Shapeshifting: Deviations and Guilty Pleasures

The subtitle of this post: Deviations and Guilty Pleasures, is to indicate diversions in my regime for the past week – even though I was mostly good! For the most part – if I wasn’t doing the elliptical (only three times) – I was doing stomach crunches, sometimes along with the elliptical. Every day I did something, at least. After having said that, I will admit that I succumbed to temptation. As from Friday, I’m back on course – but Sunday to Thursday saw me wandering off – chasing tastes and urges for naughty food.

How do I define naughty food? For me, it’s the cheeses (especially gooey and good quality cheeses), chocolate, salty things, sugar and spice and all things nice – but naughty too! It started on Sunday – the day after my birthday. I decided that I would have a glass of red wine as I cooked – which turned into a bottle. I made Dhal Curry with Coconut Milk, Apricot Chicken and Stanley Tucci’s Milanese Casserole. The soundtrack was provided by Faun – awesome German folk band. Listen here:

https://youtu.be/U10ftE4XQvo

The Dhal Curry with Coconut Milk was heavenly:

Dhal 3

I also took a photo of the ingredients – took a long time – but was worth it!

DCIng
Coconut milk, bay leaves, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, red chilli flakes, salt black mustard seeds, chopped tomatoes, sliced green chillies, diced shallots and chopped garlic. (I used yellow lentils.)

I didn’t take pictures of the Milanese Casserole or Apricot Chicken. I had omitted the bacon for the Milanese Casserole and was glad that I did, as it was quite fatty. Next time I will probably just use one meat – even chicken or lamb – and I might grill the sweet Italian sausage and cut it up before putting in the casserole towards the end. The ribs were lovely as well as the veggies.

Having been my eleventh week of a new health regime, I discovered that I am now totally aligned with the routine as I missed not exercising. It wasn’t exactly guilt – but a knowledge that I would get back into it – even going a little harder to make up for it. Completely abstaining from the guilty pleasures make healthy eating seem like a punishment – at least, for me. Although I’m enjoying the healthy meals I’m preparing – certain flavors and textures seem to lure me back for another taste. I find that as long as I remind myself that it’s a short detour and that I will get back on the proverbial horse once satiated (and not to the verge of being stuffed!) – I can “work it in” without it being a huge deficit.

Having things in smaller amounts helps, like this Antipasto plate I made – with all the things I love – in moderation. (Antipasto means “before the meal” – but I had this for lunch last Sunday.)

AP1

It has the lovely Castelle Saga – a fresh, creamy blue – like a Brie. I read somewhere that the harder the cheese – the better for you – which is why I only have a few small chunks. Along with the Milanese salami, one medium pickle, 3 slices of white Vermont cheddar and 6 black, marinated olives – it was a wonderfully decadent lunch – without going off the deep end and polishing off the remaining cheese and meat. On my father’s side, my cousin and I call this type of meal a “Nanna and Pa Snack” – only because these were the kinds of things they’d lay out for visitors or a late night nibble.

I also like to pick and choose from other delicacies which include carrot and celery sticks, good liverwurst or pate, dips, other varieties of cheese and meats, tinned sardines, cocktail onions, smoked oysters, pickled artichokes – whatever takes my fancy. Chopped tomatoes help clear the palate and it’s important to remember salt and fat contents. This would be something for every now and then – as a treat!

I had previously written about taking Creatine to help heal the muscles etc after exercise – but spoke with a man who said that his brother was told by his doctor to stop taking it – as it makes you retain water. I discovered the following info on this website:

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/6-side-effects-of-creatine-myths-debunked.html

“Fact: Creatine loading may lead to an initial weight gain of 0.8 to 2.9 percent of body weight in the first few days due to water being pulled into the muscle; however, this is less likely to occur following a low-dose protocol. There is a common claim that all the weight gained with creatine supplementation is due to water weight. Indeed, several researchers have found acute increases in total body water as a result of creatine supplementation.2,15

However, while an initial weight gain may be a result of an increase in water, research consistently shows that creatine supplementation, in addition to resistance training, results in an increase in lean body mass and a decrease in fat mass, leading to improvement in body composition.26,27 This is likely due to a higher concentration of PCr and ATP stores, allowing for higher training intensities and volume.1,28”

To be safe – I’m going to stop taking creatine – to see if I notice the difference. I felt like I was losing weight extra slow – but I’m not sure. We’ll see after a few weeks!

Another dish I made during the week was Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs (recipe posted last week.) We had it with steamed carrots and Zucchini, Garlic and Parmesan Frittata (which was supposed to be fritters but I didn’t want the oil). It was delicious – even without the wine. (I used half a cup of Apple Cider Vinegar to de-glaze the skillet.)

CilChi

Seeing as Monday was labor day, I went to visit some friends who put on some food – incl slow-cooked pork and a nice simple coleslaw with cabbage, red onions and a light dressing. Where I went bananas was with the lemon pie. I had two helpings. Felt bad – for a short while – but then remembered that I had exercised that morning. Not that it’s an excuse to go nuts – but I would have felt worse if I hadn’t exercised.

On Thursday night we broke down and had burgers and fries. The first few mouthfuls were delicious, but then I noticed that I felt bloated and could detect the chemicals and other non-food or over-processed elements. It might have been psychological – but I could sense the extra salt and fat as it went through my body. I have been quite sensitive to certain things and can tell the difference when I’m not eating good food, however I tend to swing straight back to the “good” side once I realize that I’ve deviated – happy that I spend the majority of my time there – rather than the wrong side of the tracks!

On Friday night – to correct the swing of the pendulum – we had Roasted Vegetables for dinner. Surprisingly wonderful and very satisfying.

RV2

Delicious beetroot, Acorn pumpkin, potatoes, carrots and asparagus. Tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with freshly cracked, black pepper and a teaspoon of Himalayan Pink Salt. Baked at 425 degrees for approx 30 minutes. (If you’re funny about beetroot – try it with a little honey mustard. My husband loves it.)

The funny thing about guilty pleasures, is the fact that we consider them unworthy of praise when on a diet or healthy eating regime. Yes – they might be loaded with bad things – but why would you go through your whole life not tasting those morsels every now and then? Treating them as treats and making them special, allows for wonderful experiences and memories, without going overboard and feeling guilty. As long as the processed versions have smaller portions and the regularity of the times you deviate are far and few between – then you should be okay. Well, that’s my philosophy – for now!

I changed my menu a little – due to the deviations! I made Teriyaki Salmon for tonight – with leftover roast veggies and sauteed zucchinis, green peppers and green onions.

TSRV

Yummy!

Here are some more of my guilty pleasures – in random order:

castellosaga

Liquore Strega - gorgeous liquer
Liquore Strega – gorgeous liqueur
Cashew Butter - from http://www.edibleperspective.com/home/2010/6/9/cleveland-bound.html
Cashew Butter – from http://www.edibleperspective.com/home/2010/6/9/cleveland-bound.html
Creamy Indian Curries
Creamy Indian Curries
Ham and Cheese Croissants
Ham and Cheese Croissants

I could go on – but my stomach is already lashing a whip! It is remarkable though – how just a little knowledge about ingredients and how things are made can make a difference when choosing food.

One of the meals I will be making next week is Cream of Mushroom Soup:

homemade mushroom soup

Here’s the link for the recipe:

http://blog.seasonwithspice.com/2011/12/cream-of-mushroom-soup-recipe.html

Here’s a useful list of Metabolism boosting foods:

7cd592f212a29331bbe8655fd815c9f7

Take care until next week!

Here’s my menu:

Menu 091915

Shapeshifting: Twists, Turns and a Frumpy Birthday

I’m still on track with using the elliptical Mon-Fri – even stepping up with speed bursts. I can feel it in my joints so I’m still taking creatine to help with the healing (although I take a break on the weekends – no elliptical or creatine.) I’ve started doing stomach crunches with the ab-roller on Mon, Wed, Fri as well as Sat, Sun. That’s a total of 500 crunches and 2 hours, 5 minutes on the elliptical per week. I will also seriously incorporate the resistance training on the weekends – probably 15 minutes per day – focusing on my upper body.

What made me smile – and grimace at the same time – was the fact that a skirt I was wearing kept falling down at work. Thank goodness I didn’t flash anybody! Even though I’d decided that I wouldn’t buy new clothes until I get to my goal weight/size (which probably won’t be at least until June 2016) – I’ll either have to just make do with dresses – or buy skirts and pants that can be worn once I’ve achieved my goal.

Now – I know that I haven’t posted the photo of how I looked when I first started this regime – due to shyness and embarrassment over sharing my “fatness”, but I will share these photos now. Please keep in mind, that while I’m far off from where I want to be – just imagine what I looked like ten weeks ago! (Or not, if you’d prefer!) On the one hand, I despise larger people being made fun of, but on the other hand – there’s nothing wrong with trying to be healthy. It’s such a struggle – especially being female – as I know that I will never be what the media dictates as perfect, considering the fact that I don’t have a personal trainer or airbrush expert at my fingertips. So – here goes!

090515

Yes, it is my birthday today, and I’m hoping that by the time I turn 50 next year – my birthday card to myself will be Fantastic instead of Frumpy!

As you can see, I have a long way to go, however – it’s a lot better than ten weeks ago. I’ve decided to take photos of myself every two weeks – and I will post them once a month. *sigh*

Even though everyone posts pictures of themselves on the internet – I do not – so this was a big deal for me, seeing as we are all judged by our looks. I’ve decided that, once I reach my goal weight – I will not turn around and degrade my former fat self by making fun of who I was. It took a long time to get to this point and I have a lot more going on in my life that doesn’t involve primping, preening and worrying incessantly about how I look and what I eat. I think we should always keep in mind what we do and who we are – outside of how we look. Every step in our lives has many factors in the background – notwithstanding the way we are perceived by others and how we are judged.

Okay – I’ll step of my podium of sorrow and self-righteousness! I’d like to share what I discovered during the week.

Hefeflocken_Naturata
Nutritional Yeast

A colleague told me about nutritional yeast and how it can be a replacement for cheese – such as sprinkles on veggies etc. She came into the break room with a small, plastic deal-bag and I freaked for a second – thinking that she was giving me illicit drugs! When she explained that it was nutritional yeast – I was relieved, to say the least. I brought it home but haven’t tried it yet – as something about it made me think of candida and other yeast infections. I looked it up on wikipedia and it says that it’s a deactivated yeast that’s popular with vegans and vegetarians. Here’s the link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutritional_yeast

Seeing as I’m an Aussie and love Vegemite – it seems that I can get the same benefits with the spread I love – without having to sprinkle strange powder onto my food. Vegemite is high in salt – so I have to be careful and spread it thin. Also – with Vegemite – you have to have it with butter, so I eat it sparingly. I think I’d still rather stick with the spread rather than the powder. Having said that – I do plan to make Cheesymite Scrolls for a treat – taking the carbs, salt etc into consideration – in regards to my recommended daily amounts. Here’s the link to the recipe:

http://www.bestrecipes.com.au/recipe/Cheesymite-Scrolls-L4392.html

Vegemite

(Vegemite is made from leftover Brewer’s yeast extract and is one of the richest sources of B vitamins – not including B12 – and has no fat, added sugar, animal content. It does contain gluten.)

Last week I talked about Kimchi – being great for digestion, etc. I bought a jar of it and opened it in my kitchen – which began something akin to a horror movie. The contents started rising up out of the jar – like Cthulhu emerging from the deep! The red liquid ran down the sides of the jar – forming what looked like a pool of blood on the counter-top. Horrified – I stepped closer and waited until a third of the contents sat perched on the top of the jar – wondering how long it would be before it lunged for my throat.

After mopping up the mess and tipping the excess into a plastic bowl, I gingerly took a fork to the fermented veggies and tentatively took a small piece to my quivering lips. I made sure it was a section of the hard cabbage spine – rather than the limp, rotten looking leafy bits. I slowly chewed the spicy mouthful – deciding that I liked the flavor – but would not eat the festering compost that remained. It sits in my fridge like an abandoned science project. I might take it to work for my colleague who likes it so much. I think I’ll stick to sauerkraut and red wine!

Here are a few photos of what I cooked during the week:

SP
Turkey Sausage and Peppers

This is a quick meal which also includes onions, garlic and zucchinis. My husband likes to eat it with BBQ sauce but I prefer a little hot sauce called “Nando’s Hot Peri Peri Sauce”. It is so delicious but the salt content is a little high – so I use it sparingly (to a degree. I could drink this stuff. It’s far superior to other hot sauces that are flooded with vinegar – yuck!)

periperi

Lentil and Veggie Soup
Lentil and Veggie Soup

I know this looks depressing – but it was actually delicious and very satisfying. I’m going to have to step up my game when it comes to taking photos of my cooking. One meal I made – a chicken and veggie casserole – was scrumptious, with red peppers, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and sweet potatoes. When I took some photos of it – at many different angles – I realized that it looked just like vomit in a casserole dish! Horrible to look at – wonderful to eat! I guess it’s because I didn’t use any thickening agents or creamy sauces – just the natural juices from the chicken and veggies. Oh well!

WCS
Watermelon and Cherry Fruit Salad

We had this as a dessert, with half-fat, frozen yogurt. I don’t know why but I’m craving sugar a lot – and have found that I have to have a dessert after dinner. I’m being careful through the day – no chocolate, candy, cake or cookies – but I do have approx 1/2 a cup of pineapple as a snack every day, along with my banana, honey and yogurt for breakfast. I’ve decided that, since I’m noticing how hungry I get before lunch, I’m going to switch my breakfast to dessert – to satisfy my cravings for sweet things after dinner – and have my tomatoes or avocados on toast in the mornings. This (I believe) – will give me the carbs I need to carry me through to lunch time and cut the cravings. Then I can have a healthier dessert at night – with the non-fat Greek yogurt, banana and 2tbsp honey. We’ll see how that goes!

Here are two recipes I am going to try next week – including the links:

Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs
Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs

http://www.themediterraneandish.com/cilantro-lime-chicken-thighs-recipe/

Teriyaki Salmon with Zucchini
Teriyaki Salmon with Zucchini

http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,10000000523893,00.html

MJCB

My Uncle gave me this cookbook in 1987. I absolutely adore Indian food – it’s my favorite cuisine. I love the way Indian cooking has turned the combination of herbs and spices into an art form. As much as I love Italian, French, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican and Indonesian food – Indian reigns supreme for me. Yes, I do love subtlety and simplicity in food – but when I want to lash out and flood my taste buds with exotic, sensual flavors and aromas – nothing holds a candle to Indian food. (Well, maybe the other cuisines hold a tiny candle with a tiny wick!)

I’ll be making something spicy for myself, as my husband doesn’t like it too hot and I tend to go without for his sake. Lately I’ve been craving something tantalizing – so I’m going to prepare a slightly modified version of Madhur Jaffrey’s – “Dhal Curry with Coconut Milk”. Here’s the recipe:

Dhal Curry with Coconut milk

1 cup yellow dhal

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

4 shallots – finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

4 whole, fresh green chillies – slit down the middle

2 tbs oil (I used olive oil – better with ghee and/or coconut oil)

½ tsp whole, black mustard seeds

12 dried curry leaves

2 whole, dried, red chillies – broken into 4 pieces

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cups coconut milk

Wash and drain the dhal, put in the pot with 3 ¾ cups water and the turmeric. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover partially. Simmer for 45 minutes, then stir in half the shallots and all the cumin. Partially cover again and cook for 15 minutes. Add the green chillies and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until the dhal is tender. (If dhal is too thick at any point, add up to half a cup of boiling water.) The dhal should – at this stage – be a thick, paste-like soup. Leave on a low heat while you complete the next step.

Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. After a few seconds, the seeds will begin to pop. As they start popping, add the curry leaves and red chillies. When the chillies darken, add the remaining shallots and garlic. Stir and fry until the shallots turn a dark reddish brown color, then add the tomatoes. Stir and fry until they are soft.

Pour the entire contents into the dhal, add the salt and mix. Add the coconut milk and stir until combined.

Serve with or without rice. (If without – over steamed veggies – such as carrots, zucchini, broccoli, or whatever takes your fancy. Also nice as a thick soup on its own or served with flat bread for dipping!)

I’m going to be making a dish from Stanley Tucci’s cookbook:

cvr9781451661255_9781451661255_hr

Delicious. So is the recipe – although I’ve modified it slightly. (Please forgive me, Mr Gorgeous!)

Milanese Casserole (Modified from Stanley Tucci’s recipe)

2 tbsp Olive Oil

1 coarsely chopped onion

6 coarsely chopped shallots

Handful chopped parsley

2 tsp sweet paprika (I like Hungarian Sweet Paprika)

2 bay leaves

1 pound cabbage (1 small) – trimmed, cored and coarsely chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

Freshly ground black pepper and Pink Himalayan salt

6 lean pork ribs

6 links sweet sausage

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

2 Idaho potatoes – peeled, halved and each half cut into 6 pieces

Saute onions and shallots in the oil for approx. 8 mins, then stir in parsley, paprika, bay leaves, cabbage and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Season ribs with salt and pepper and add to onion mixture with the sausage links. Then tip into a slow cooker and press down to compact ingredients. Pour in broth and water and cook on high for 1 and a half hours. Then add the potatoes and cook for another hour or until potatoes are soft and meat is cooked through.

Note: Mr Gorgeous did this in a flameproof casserole dish on the stove top. As I don’t have one (must get one!) – I will do it in the slow cooker. Also – I will omit the slab bacon and swap out beef ribs for pork ribs – as I’m funny about mixing meats. Not because I’m trying to conform to religious laws – I just prefer meat to be uniform in my dishes. (I’m sure the original is heavenly – but I’m also trying to cut down on salt and fat.) He also used Kosher salt and flat leaf Italian parsley (I prefer curly leaf – just my preference!)

I will post my photos next week. Until then, here’s my menu plan.

Menu 091215

Stay happy and healthy!

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!

Shapeshifting: The Sugar Monster

The Sugar Monster!

sugar-1427253

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:

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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!

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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/

asparagus_avgolemonocrop_041-300x200

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:

veg 2

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: My zigzag week

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I’m happy to say that I stuck to the exercise regimen – 25 minutes on the elliptical for two days, then two days off and back into it for two more days etc. On Wednesday I was able to keep going for 11 minutes straight, without slowing down or pausing! (If my hip or knee hurts – I pause for approx 30 seconds before starting up again.)

I’ve noticed that every time gets easier and easier – and the aftermath of jelly legs is dwindling. I’m not dragging my carcass off the machine now – but I’m not exactly bounding off like a rabbit either. What I found surprising was – I miss it when I’m on my off days. This is new for me! I’ve decided that I’m going to try and do it every day – at least through the work week. I was amazed that – when I passed by the machine on my off days – I was a little sad I wasn’t doing it.

I noticed that I’m not sleepy in the afternoons anymore – and not nodding off at my desk, which is a bonus. I’m not out of breath when I use the stairs – so I’m deliberately using them more often without trepidation. My hip and knee are not hurting nearly as much as they were when I first started – so that proves that using sore joints as an excuse to get out of exercise is null and void (for me anyway!)

I go for my check up on Monday – so hopefully my sugar came down, somewhat. I don’t want to have to take medication – but my husband tells me that exercise is one of the best things to do for diabetes – and if it turns out that I do have it – I will try to battle it with diet and exercise before I opt for the meds.

When it comes to eating – well – for the most part I was good. Tomatoes on toast for breakfast – 3 days. Bananas and yogurt – 2 days. Home made banana muffins for breakfast – 2 days (using wholewheat flour, real butter, free range eggs and brown sugar, etc.) I did splurge yesterday morning – a ham and cheese croissant and a donut for breakfast. My husband and I had the day off and we went to pick up our new lounge suite. The whole day was a workout! I now have sore biceps and my right shoulder hurts – but I feel good for not working out on the machine – as it was a sustained session with the moving of furniture etc.

My husband told me to take Creatine to help the muscles heal – which did help with the pain. Here’s some info from Webmd about Creatine – and the link:

“…In addition to improving athletic performance, creatine is used for congestive heart failure (CHF), depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, diseases of the muscles and nerves, an eye disease called gyrate atrophy, and high cholesterol. It is also used to slow the worsening of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, McArdle’s disease, and for various muscular dystrophies…”

Link to article about Creatine

I also cheated a bit – having Domino’s pasta last night (after a hard slog with the furniture moving) – but at least I didn’t go for my usual pepperoni pizza *sigh*.

One night we had baked salmon and leftover Irish Colcannon – which I modified greatly – as the original recipe calls for cabbage (my husband abhors it – so I used spinach) and you’re supposed to put eggs on the top. (By making wells in the mash then dropping the cracked egg in.)

Here’s what I did:

3 large potatoes and two sweet potatoes – boiled and mashed with a little butter and milk. Steamed spinach stirred through the mash, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg – then spread in a baking dish and sprinkled with cheese. Baked for about 10 mins.

I know it’s got carbs and fat with the dairy – but as a side dish it was lovely with the baked salmon. I don’t want to go nuts with food – just trying to cut out junk and processed products.

We also had grilled Sea Perch and steamed veggies one night, and Meatballs and salad another night, etc.

I’ll be making a vegetable soup tomorrow – with all the veggies I didn’t use through the week, such as:

Broccoli, carrots, zucchini, sweet potato, green onions, sweet corn, tarragon – and whatever else I can find at the bottom of the fridge – that hasn’t morphed into a science project! I will be using Kroger’s free range, organic, low sodium chicken broth – as I haven’t had the time to make my own stock.

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Here’s my menu plan for next week:

Menu 7-11-15

Let’s see if I can stick to it – even though it’s not severe – at least it’s all home made with minimal processed ingredients and no junk food.

Here’s my recipe for Apricot Chicken (the picture is not mine – it’s from Simply Recipes and I will try their version next time!)

apricot-chicken-b

My recipe:

2lbs chicken thighs (you can use breasts – but thighs are cheaper and just fine)

2 boxes (4 sachets) of dry Onion Soup

1 large onion

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 Zucchinis – chopped thickly

2 tins Apricots in light syrup

Optional: two dessertspoons of Apricot Jam (ramps up the sugar though!)

You don’t have to cube the chicken – it’s fine if you just throw the thighs in whole. Coat the chicken in the Onion soup mix. Saute the onions and garlic, then throw in the chicken pieces and cook for approx five minutes, then turn the heat down to simmer and add the zucchinis and apricots – including syrup. Add a little water or chicken stock and stir. Cover and simmer for a further 20 mins – stirring occasionally.

Alternatively – to make it even easier – after coating the chicken, toss all the ingredients in a baking dish and bake for approx 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Yummy on it’s own or with rice and steamed broccoli.

Here’s the link for Simply Recipes version

With the sausage and peppers recipe – which I created on my way home from work one day – I use a smoked sausage like Hillshire Farms smoked beef sausage – or any others that are good quality.

Beef-Smoked-Sausage-Hillshire-Farm

Here’s the recipe:

1 package of smoked sausage (beef, chicken, pork or turkey – or a combo) – thinly sliced

1 large onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Red pepper and 1 Green pepper, sliced

2 Zucchinis, sliced

Optional: A handful of Greek marinated olives and a tablespoon of oregano (fresh or dried)

*As this is quite a salty dish, I find you don’t need to add any seasonings.

Start sauteing the onions and garlic. Before they brown, add the peppers and saute for about 5 minutes, then add the sausage and zucchinis. Saute for a further 5 – 10 minutes, or until the zucchinis are cooked – but not soggy!

Serve on its own or in a pita pocket with salsa or hot sauce. Yummy!

Here’s my recipe for Roasted veggies – which is made with homemade Honey Mustard. (Again – this picture is not my own – but see the link after my recipe.)

Honey-Mustard-Roasted-Vegetables-recipe

Use a variety of chopped root veggies – such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato – as well as onions, peppers and zucchinis. Make the Honey Mustard in a large bowl – equal parts seeded or non-seeded mustard and good local honey (if you can get it.) I usually use approx half a cup of each and then mix together before throwing the veggies in to toss and coat.

Spread on a baking tray (or two, if needed) and bake in the oven for about 30 – 45 minutes at 390 degrees.

I find this is a great meal on it’s own – or as a side dish. You can sprinkle sea salt and cracked black pepper if you like.

Recipe from Cheap Recipe Blog

*When I make Potato Salad – it’s very simple. I don’t throw pickles, onions or eggs into it (gives me gas every time!) – and I don’t use mustard. I simply boil the potatoes then spread them on a tray to cool for about ten minutes or so. Then I stir through mayo and chopped green onions and season lightly with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Delicious!

Here’s the recipe for Zucchini Crusted Pizza – from Mollie Katzen’s website (of Moosewood fame!)

zuchini.166

I love their recipes and have “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” cookbook. Great for eating exciting vegetarian meals – without worrying about losing the meat!

9780898156010I will endeavor to take photos of my own cooking – and will share them next week!

Bye bye ’til then!