A Wavering Eye on a Distant Prize

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I didn’t post last week due to lack of time. Robert’s company held a Xmas party and they paid for everything – including a room at the Embassy Suites in Nashville. We had a great time and I was careful with what I ate but I had three glasses of Pinot – divine!

We stayed overnight and had a wonderful breakfast before heading back home. I was too busy with catching up on housework etc, and had to focus on my writing projects during the week as well as working, blah blah blah.

I will have some exciting news to share in a couple of weeks – so stay tuned for that!

I tried an experiment for the last two weeks, after reading about how exercising can drain your adrenals – even though it wasn’t like I was over-extending myself. I stopped doing the elliptical and planking, which seemed to have zero effect in terms of weight gain, however I felt the lack.

I started getting tired in the afternoons and had less energy, with the breathlessness creeping back in. In general I felt more fatigued so I started back up yesterday. Felt better immediately – so – there you have it.

Most days, I was drinking Kombucha tea in the mornings and felt better for it. I’m going to start making my own, so I saved the bottles and will purchase the alien-looking scobie next week. I continued with alternating smoothies in the mornings – fruit one day and green the next – but I’m starting to find it incompatible with the weather changing.

Cold mornings call for a hot breakfast, so I’m going to start preparing it the night before. I just have to get up a little earlier to eat it before I leave the house. (I’ve been drinking my smoothies on the way to work, which is convenient.)

Here are a few breakfast ideas I’m going to try:

wild-mushroom-and-tatsoi-bowl-with-a-poached-egg-eatandrelish
Wild Mushroom and Tatsoi with a Poached Egg

IMG_9048-PM600sqc

Broccoli Cheese-Quinoa Bites

(I’ve made these before – scrumptious!)

coconut-pancakes

Low Carb Coconut Pancakes

 

(I would use Coconut milk as Almonds give me headaches.)

I’ll also be making frittatas and on the weekends we’ll have scrambled eggs or tomatoes on toast, etc.

I’ve been sticking to the plan I spoke about last time – with two eggs around 9:30 a.m. It’s amazing how they curb the cravings – especially for carbs – even though it’s been tempting of late, regarding the goodies that my co-workers bring to work. Tis the season – but that’s no reason to stuff myself stupid!

I’ve been far better at only having a sliver rather than a slab of cake or other naughties. There have been several times where I’ve walked away from the table or avoided going near it.

I’ve also started making my own granola bars as Robert discovered (after years of eating store-bought granola bars, even though they are zero High Fructose Corn Syrup) that he might be allergic to them. When he stopped eating the store-bought ones, his allergies reduced dramatically. We love my granola bars – which I’m calling:

Kelly’s Seedy Oat Slabs!

Ingredients:

2 Cups Old fashioned Oats

2 cups Raw Sunflower Seeds

1 Cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1 Cup Honey

4 tbps Peanut Butter (I use creamy, but crunchy would be just as good)

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/4 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt (Optional)

1/4 – 1/2 Cup Sesame Seeds for sprinkling (Optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan (or thereabouts)

Spread the oats, coconut and sunflower seeds over two baking trays. Place in oven and toast for approx ten minutes, checking halfway and stirring them up if toasting is uneven.

Meanwhile, melt the honey, peanut butter, vanilla extract (with salt, if using) in a small saucepan.

Take the trays out of the oven and tip the contents into a large mixing bowl. Stir the honey mixture through until combined. Spread in the greased pan and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional). Then grease the bottom of a glass or flat-bottomed jar (they make the rockin’ world go round – sorry – couldn’t help myself!)

Using the glass or jar, press the mixture down into the tray to make a compact and even surface. Then place in the oven and bake for fifteen minutes – unless you prefer crunchy – in which case you’d need to leave it for another 2 – 5 minutes or so.

Take it out of the oven and let it cool completely before cutting into bars.

Here’s a picture!

Seedy Oat Slabs

They are delicious, if I do say so myself! No flour or eggs. You can cut them smaller, to suit yourself. One of these when I get to work (after a smoothie) has been a nice filler which keeps me going until around 9:30 – 10 a.m. Sometimes I save it for the afternoon, depending on how my appetite is going.

Here’s a picture of my Zucchini Crusted Pizza –

ZCP

Recipe posted here:

Scroll down for Zucchini Crusted Pizza recipe

I doubled the amounts for the zucchini crust – as I find the normal amount too thin. For the toppings I used:

Half a small can of tomato paste, mixed with a tsp of dried oregano and two garlic cloves – chopped. (Sometimes I just spread slices of tomato – sprinkled with oregano and garlic.)

Then I sprinkle some Romano cheese over the tomato (just a small handful), then I spread a layer of pepperoni, followed by half a chopped onion, red and green bell peppers (half each – depends on how much you prefer), black, marinated olives (pitted – I used Greek), and a generous handful (or two!) of cheese – whatever you fancy.

I’m not posting my menu this week – too busy – so here’s a picture of a Red Tailed Hawk we saw from the window at work this week! (Awwww!)

Hawk

Pity he didn’t have a beautiful forest to look over!

Well – until next week – stay healthy and happy!

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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:

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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: The Skinny – Short and Sweet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPVC

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

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

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

tortillachips

Cumin Spiced Baked Tortilla Chips

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Serves: Serves 4

Nutritional Information (per serving):

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

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

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

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

‘Til then – take it easy!

Shapeshifting: Steady as she goes

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

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

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

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

PotJac

Here’s the link to the recipe:

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

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

The Morroccan Chicken Casserole was lovely:

MorChi2

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my menu plan for w/e 8/7/15:

Menu Plan 8-7-15

Until next week!

Shapeshifting: Slowly but Surely

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This last week was better in terms of eating and exercise. I didn’t use the elliptical for five days – as planned – but I managed four (Mon, Tues, Wed and Fri) at 25 minutes each. The last two days I was able to go straight through without any pauses! This is a big deal for me and I am proud – even though I skipped Thursday, due to being tired.

Someone told me that when you do something for 3 weeks, it becomes a habit – and I love the fact that I now have an exercise habit. That’s something I have never achieved, before I started on this shape-shifting quest. Now I just want to figure out where I can go to swim without paying through the nose for it – and without battling crowds! My husband will show me the new exercises (resistance – with bands) this weekend – as my shoulder has been hurting all week. (I think I injured it when we moved some furniture a while ago.)

For the most part, I stuck to the planned menu and when I cheated, it was with healthier choices – such as vegetable chips. I discovered that it’s still cheating (to a degree) as they still have a high salt content, even if the fat and carbs are lower. I made the Tamari Kale Chips – kinda okay – but my husband took one taste and turned his nose up. The flavor was fine and I didn’t mind the texture of the crispy sections of kale – but the tough “veins” made them chewy. I think that next time – I will cook them at a lower heat for longer and not just remove the stems, but take the thick veins of the leaves out as well.

On Monday night I came home ill (possibly heat stroke) – after standing at the bus stop in the heat. I went straight to bed and my husband went out to get burgers so I didn’t have to cook. The only thing relatively healthier were the onion rings in batter – rather than chips. I felt bad but got back on the horse the next day.

group-fruits1

I’m finding that I tend to shy away from fruits (apart from bananas in my yoghurt) – as I worry about the sugar content – but what I discovered is that I’m more likely to reach for chocolate or ice cream, so it’s back to fruit next week (in moderation!) I love all the berries, cherries, peaches, apricots and pineapple – not so fond of apples, kiwi and grapes – however I do incorporate them in my cooking. Apparently grapes are high in sugar anyway, so it’s not much of a loss.

I made the Shrimp and Lemongrass soup – but (as usual) it didn’t turn out exactly like the picture in the original recipe – but it was delicious!

ShLem

The Chicken and Mushroom Casserole was lovely!

ChMush

(See previous posts for recipes)

cropped-img_05541

Click to go to The Lotus Blooms in the Mud WordPress site for details about Meditation in Nashville

(Also – “Reflections on life, dharma and art with Lisa Ernst”)

I will be starting meditation on Monday at the Nashville Library – and will endeavor to incorporate meditation into my schedule. Looking forward to it!

One of the vegetarian recipes I will be cooking next week is from “The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking” by Adiraja Dasa. I have been using this cookbook since my early twenties – after having eaten many times at Gopal’s in Melbourne. They have the best Vegetarian Lasagna in history!

the-hare-krishna-book-of-vegetarian-cooking-adiraja-dasa-700x700-imadmh728wrxgjpq

The recipe is for Dal Tarkari – which is a Dal and Vegetable Soup:

 Dal TarkariDTrecipe

Another recipe for the week will be Morroccan Chicken Casserole from “The PWMU Centenary Cookbook”. Many Australians have this book as a mainstay in their kitchens. It’s my go-to book for all the basics – with a “just the facts ma’am” kind of philosophy. (PWMU stands for the “Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union” of Victoria, Australia.)

PMWU

MorChi

 Here’s my menu plan for w/e 7/31/15:

MP0731

I’m hoping to behave myself when eating dinner at my friend’s next saturday night – but I fear the temptation will be too great! There will be drinking too – so I’ll have my usual red wine (loving Francis Ford Coppola’s Diamond Collection Pinot Noir!)

bottle_pinot-noir

Also – there is a luncheon at work that will involve BBQ and all the trimmings – so – crossing my fingers that I’ll restrain myself!

Until next week!

Shapeshifting: Old habits and New ideas

tape-measurer-1-1234185

Well – I was mostly good last week. I exercised 3 out of the five days – even though I wanted to make it Mon-Fri. I don’t want to use the same excuses – but I slept in Mon and Fri due to staying up late the nights before. Sometimes I can’t tear myself away from my writing etc – so I go to bed late and pay for it in the morning. I did my 25 minutes on the elliptical Tues-Wed – each day getting better and better at no pause and going at a faster pace.

I actually enjoy it and am continuing to feel better throughout the day and am more likely to eat more sensibly on those days. Yesterday – not so good. On top of not exercising before I went to work – I picked up donuts to share and had two myself, as well as a ham and cheese croissant for breakfast. Naughty!

One thing that is helpful as well as harmful – is when others try to make you feel better about breaking your diet. A sweet colleague advised, “You have to have one cheat day per week – or it will be too hard.” I kind of agree with her – but it doesn’t mean you have to go all out! I took another colleague out to lunch – as I stubbornly decided that I was already downhill – might as well keep rolling! Foolish.

I had a Cuban sandwich complete with pulled pork and a nice coleslaw. Full of carbs – there were several times I nearly fell asleep at my computer. The silver lining was that I felt awful and resolved to never do that again. Moderation is key. I decided that next time – I would only have one donut – but continue with my healthy eating for the day. Also – if I hadn’t exercised that morning – no cheating!

On tuesday – I decided that I wasn’t in the mood to cook as it was so hot – but didn’t want to get takeaway. I stopped at the supermarket and picked up a rotisserie chicken, wholewheat wraps, tomatoes and lettuce. We had chicken and salad wraps that night – which was easy – and at least it wasn’t junk food.

On wednesday night I made the roast veggies. I posted the recipe before but here it is:

Roasted Veggies

Use a variety of chopped root veggies – such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato – as well as onions, peppers and zucchinis. (I didn’t use peppers for this one.) 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 – adding a little salt and freshly cracked, black pepper.

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.

I’m going to try these Kale chips for a snack: (found on – http://www.health.com)

tamari-kale-chips-20133004-x

Crispy Tamari Kale Chips

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons tamari
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 pound kale, coarse stems removed and leaves torn (about 6 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

(Tamari is a rich soy sauce with little or no wheat. If I can’t find it in the store – I’ll use my low sodium soy sauce and apple cider vinegar instead of sherry vinegar.)

Preheat oven to 425°. Combine 2 teaspoons each olive oil, tamari, and sherry vinegar; toss with 1/2 pound kale, coarse stems removed and leaves torn (about 6 cups). Divide kale mixture among 2 shallow baking pans; bake until crisp and golden (about 15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

I’m wondering if some Cumin seeds tossed through might be nice?

I’m also going to making this dish from: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/poached_cod_asparagus.html

(Click link for recipe)

MF7603
Poached Cod and Asparagus

Here’s a recipe from River Cottage – for Chicken and Mushroom Casserole with Cider:

(Click link for recipe: https://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/chicken-and-mushroom-casserole-with-cider)

ChMus

Here’s a soup I will make on friday – to go with toasted cheese sandwiches (using Swiss). I know it’s carbs with the toasted cheese – but it’s better than pizza or burgers! The soup is made with sweet potatoes and ginger – yum! (Also from Moosewood – here’s the recipe link: http://www.moosewoodcooks.com/2013/11/potage-jacqueline/)

potage_resized-300x199

Here’s my menu plan for w/e 7/24/15:

Menu 7-24-15

Also – I haven’t been meditating – but found a group near work that go every 2nd monday to the local library for lunchtime meditation. Going to start doing that and hopefully pick it up at home. I need to get into it as I’ve been scattered and unfocused with my writing, marketing and promoting.

Til next week!

Shapeshifting: So far – kinda good

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I had decided to exercise (on the elliptical) every day during the week – starting monday – and sacrificed two days. Monday was fine, tuesday I slept in due to staying up too late the night before. Jumped back on wednesday and thursday, however friday was a no show due to once again sleeping in after staying up too late thursday. Kinda made up for it by doing a session this morning and plan to do it again tomorrow morning and again – through the week. I originally planned to do it Mon – Fri, with a break on the weekends. Hopefully I’ll stick to it as from this monday!

I’m finding that I’m getting better at longer stretches. This morning I only had one pause (approx 10 seconds) – through my 25 minute session at a good pace, so that’s one milestone. I plan to include some resistance training soon as well as getting back to swimming, which I love.

It’s interesting how much better I am when I listen to music during the sessions. Especially if it’s metal – or something like Tool or Filter. Soulfly, Sepultura and Machinehead are helpful. Listening to music takes you away from the “ordeal” of exercising. Before you know it – you’re done!

We stuck to my menu plan – for the most part. We did cheat one night and had burgers – and yesterday someone brought donuts in to work. Hit me on the nose with a rolled up newspaper – Universe! One of the nights though, I made the Carrot and Zucchini Kugel and Pork Chops with apples and onions. Very nice and satisfying without too many carbs. Here’s the recipe for the Kugel – lovely! (From “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” cookbook.)

Carrot-Zucchini Kugel

Kugel

Ingredients:

7 medium Zucchinis – grated

5 medium carrots – grated

2 large onions – minced

3 large onion cloves – minced

2 tbsp butter or oil

3 eggs – beaten

1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs (I used panko)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Sprinkle the grated zucchini with half a teaspoon of salt and place in a colander over the sink. Leave for 15 minutes, then squeeze out excess moisture. (You might not have to do this with the salt if trying to reduce your intake.)

Saute the onion in the butter (or oil) until soft, then add the garlic and saute 2 more minutes. In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, carrot and onion mixture, then add the eggs, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper. Mix together and spread into the prepared baking dish – smoothing the top. Place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. If you like – brush with oil halfway through to crisp up the top. Cut into squares and serve.

We decided that the Kugel could be a meal on its own – or with a salad, but it’s a nice side dish. I wondered if parmesan would make it even tastier – but that adds fat, so – you know – *sigh*

Here’s my menu plan for the week:

menu plan 71815

Here’s the Moosewood recipe for Pumpernickel Croutons:

pc

Until next week – Tally Ho!