Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our Disconnect with Digestion

All my life I have had digestive issues. For some unknown reason this is the weakest link in my body and I am prone to all sorts of miserable maladies. Since this blog is more about eating than the results of it, I won't go too far into the gory details, but those who share these problems know what I mean: constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, flatulence, irritable bowel, you name it, I've had it. To make matters even worse I have food allergies/sensitivities and hypothyroidism. Even if these problems only plague you once in a while they are a sign that food isn't being processed the way it should and that is not a good thing for your overall health. Our digestive system is comprised of some of the largest organs in the body, the intestines alone are, on average, 25 feet long or ten times the length of the body. When they aren't working right it's going to be pretty noticeable. Right up there with the heart and brain, the digestive system is what keeps the body running. It must take all the food and drink that we consume and turn it into something our bodies can use. Not just energy giving fuel but nutrients to renew and replace every cell in our bodies. Think about this for a moment, really think about it. Whatever you eat or drink is ALL your body has to accomplish the monumental task of  making all new cells, nourishing all the organs, provide internal heat, growing nails, hair, etc.and having enough left over to give you the energy to get out of bed every morning and think about your day. That's a pretty tall order. This is the thing that stops me dead every time I start to eat a donut or a bag of chips. I ask myself: "Is this going to help my body with it's goal of keeping me going and feeling good about it? What am I providing for the processes it must get done today?" We've got to have some sympathy for this vehicle of ours, working so hard to keep us moving so we can live our lives the way we want to. When I hear people say things like: "I don't eat much I just live on diet soda" or "The only vegetable I'll eat is potato" I cringe. How can their bodies work without the variety of foods it so desperately needs? We hear a lot about eating right to prevent disease but there isn't much discussion about eating for the daily regulation of the body. This is the most basic and supremely important thing to eat for; to help your body thrive. If you do this you don't have to worry about diseases.    
Although it doesn't feel like it, maybe I've been lucky to have had digestive problems since age 4 because without them I may not have found the will power to change my 50's era diet into something healthier. When you collapse on the bathroom floor in pain you don't run back to the table to have another slice of pizza. When the digestive system revolts you can't fight it you have to work with it. My system certainly has made me aware of it, what it needed and where I was going wrong. For everyone else not on the bathroom floor there's a difficulty in comprehending what the body needs or is asking for. When it ain't broke we don't fix it. Except that it is broke. The incidence of diseases rising every day are telling us that we are doing things wrong, but as long as we are able to get up and get going we won't think about it until we get that life changing diagnosis. Then it's too late. Now don't get me wrong, I am not a saint. I love pizza and cookies and chips just as much as the next guy. I just do my darndest to cram my diet as much as possible with fresh veggies, fruit, and whole grains. Then I have a cookie or two or a handful of chips (putting them in a small bowl so I don't pig out, because I will if I am not careful!) I just try and remember that my body needs me as much as I need it. I want to feel good every day, I want to have a lot of energy to accomplish my goals. To have quality of life, that's what we all want. So please think of your body, of all it's doing for you every day of your life and give it something good to go on today and always. You'll be glad you did.          

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Unusual Foods that Freeze Well and a Couple That Don't.

One thing about living a ways out of town is you learn how to keep food in the house for as long as you can. Since running to the store is not a quick trip for me I have discovered some surprisingly successful things to  freeze. Most people don't realize that bananas can be frozen, they can, and they hold up pretty well.
Bananas: Peel, cut in half, (so you don't have to have a whole one every time) throw in a Ziploc and freeze.It's that easy. Use the oldest first and you will know because after a few weeks they start to turn a little darker. They taste fine, they just don't store indefinitely. Nice to know when they go on sale too. Now, of course you probably don't want to eat them naked out of the freezer but they work well for smoothies and desserts.
Canned tomato paste: How many times have you cooked something and didn't use all the can? I do that a lot. What to do? Freeze it. I just put a baggie over the top and a rubber band and it goes in the freezer door. It doesn't even freeze solid so it is very usable the next time you need it. Or even better, freeze scoops of the paste in ice cube trays and throw in a Ziploc. A great way to use up tomato paste is in canned soup with a tomato base. Canned soup can be so blah. I deepen the flavor by adding paste.
Wine: leftover wine is a problem in our house. Freeze in ice cube trays and then pop out and put in Ziplocks.Wine cubes are great to add to sauces, stews, gravy and soups.
Instead of freezing your leftover home made soup (or stew) in a big plastic dish and forgetting about it, freeze it in metal muffin tins. You don't need to grease the tins. After the soup is frozen, just run your warm wet hand on the bottom and then pop right out. (I sometimes use a dull table knife to pop) Freeze in a Ziploc. You have smaller portions that are easily heated up for one or two people and a quick satisfying lunch on a cold winter day.
Peppers: I do a lot of gardening and have these around. I like odd types you can't get at the grocery store. The surprising thing about peppers is you don't have to blanch them. Just cut and freeze. They will be ready for cooking though, not eating.
Tomatoes: Another vegetables that doesn't require blanching, you can even freeze whole in a Ziploc. I prefer to strip the skins off by submerging in a pot of boiling water for a minute and then freezing in dishes because I make a lot of tomato sauce.
Fresh Herbs: Almost all herbs freeze very well. Basil is a little picky because it can turn black. You can freeze basil by chopping by hand or blender/food processor and mixing with oil or water and freezing in ice trays again and then transferring to Ziplocs. 
Mushrooms: You must saute them in a little oil or butter and freeze on a cookie sheet or in little containers. You'll always have some on hand to add to soups, stews or spaghetti sauce.
Berries of all kinds: No processing required, just freeze on a cookies sheet so they are nice and loose when frozen and throw in a Ziploc. Later, you can dip your hand in the bag and grab any quantity you want.

Now a couple things that don't freeze well even if they are in the grocery store!
Potatoes are terrible when they have been frozen. They get rubbery. Maybe you can get away with it if they are mixed with a lot of other veggies in a soup but even then, the taste is flat and the texture worse.
Green Beans: Yep, that's right, even the bags of green beans in the grocery store freezer are awful. Why? Because they never cook right again and when you reheat them they are like hard, spongy, little tubes that taste like grass. The solution I find is to buy French style green beans at the store and add those to my soups and stews. They do not hold that hard shape and the taste is acceptably better. Even when I freeze my beans from the garden I "French" them now.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Volumetric style Quesadilla

Here is an example of increasing the volume in an otherwise fattening and less healthy dish. Everyone loves Quesadillas, all that melted cheese! However, if you add veggies and other better-for-you items like beans for fiber, you get a very satisfying dish, filling, healthy and still delicious!                                                                              
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadilla

Can of Black Beans
Sweet Potato or Yam
Poblano Peppers
Can of chopped Green Chilies
Fresh Spinach
Jack Cheese, grated 
Flour Tortillas, plain or flavored
Butter or Butter Substitute 

Roast Poblano pepper under broiler until skin is black, put in paper bag for 10 minutes to sweat. In the meantime roast sweet potato in 365 degree oven until soft (about 30 minutes). Using a paper towel pull blackened skin off of the pepper, core and strip seeds out and slice into strips. You can do these steps earlier in the day or night before for faster dinner prep later. Mash sweet potato in a bowl with salt, pepper, paprika and a little chili powder. Drain black beans and rinse. Heat all these items in the microwave if they are cold. Butter a tortilla on one side and set buttered side down on a plate, on ONE HALF of the UN-buttered side of the tortilla, spread the sweet potato, layer black beans, Poblano pepper strips, green chilies, fresh spinach and Jack cheese. Set buttered side down tortilla in medium heated large frying pan and fold over. Fry until tortilla turns golden brown and then flip over and brown other side, by that time the cheese has melted. Slice into wedges. Serve with your choice of low fat sour cream, salsa or sliced avocado.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Portion Control

The more time and energy I devote to my diet the more I am convinced that the real key to weight loss for anyone is portion control. Since I don't believe in diet"ing" eating less must be where the calorie factor is figured in. I am also quite aware through personal experience that putting less on your plate is an exercise in panic and frustration. My body knows and remembers how much food it has been getting and it wants that same amount today that it had yesterday. When it didn't get it, it made me feel like I was starving. This is the thing that makes losing weight so dang hard. Depending on how much we have been over eating the feeling of lack when we trim it down can really amount to torture. Fortunately I found a book with an idea that really helped me in that department. It's called The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan by Barbara Rolls PhD. Her point of view opened my eyes to new possibilities. I will say right up front here that I do not follow this book religiously, as this is not my only regime. I just took some of the great ideas she had and apply it where I can because they are brilliant. Basically it boils down to this. Eat more of the foods that are dense, (or low in calories but filling), like vegetables, fresh fruit and beans and less of foods that are higher in calories but lighter so they don't fill you up like crackers, chips, french fries and cheese. I am looking to increase the volume in my meals while lowering the calories. For example: I love spaghetti, well, who doesn't? Now, I can switch to a better made pasta with some grains added and that is a fine idea but it's still pretty much a heaping plate of the higher calorie stuff. If I eat only half of my usual portion I will feel cheated and hungry. So what if I take out half the the noodles and then add back in enough tasty vegetables to bring the amount back up to snuff? Instant satisfaction! So, for a year now I make spaghetti sauce, adding to it chopped tomatoes, roasted eggplant, sauteed zucchini and mushrooms. Toss with the pasta and cover with Parmesan cheese. It's delicious and I can eat till I am full with the added advantage of getting my daily dose of recommended vegetables as a bonus.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Here are some of my recipes for easy, healthy, and delicious smoothies but remember: just use the fruit, water and vanilla extract for the lowest calorie count and they are still very good!

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

1 Cup of strawberries
½ C Mango
1 small or a half banana
Vanilla yogurt or soymilk or just water for low calorie
1 tsp Vanilla extract or more
Berry Good Smoothie

½ Cup Chai Tea
½ tsp Vanilla extract
Can make or buy in carton, I use “Oregon Chai” brand)
½ to a Cup of Mixed berries (blueberries, Raspberries, boysenberries)
1 Banana
Optional addition soy milk or yogurt
Or skip the tea and additions and just use water

Blend in a blender      
Peach / Mango

½ to 1 container Vanilla Yogurt,
OR ½ Cup Vanilla Soy Milk
OR Orange juice
OR just water with maybe teaspoonful of vanilla extract added
½ Cup to 1 Cup Frozen Peaches
OR Frozen Mango
OR both combined (that’s what I do)
1 Banana
1/4 tsp Anise seeds optional ( I like the flavor)
Blend in a blender.

Liquid Fruit, A Smooth Idea

   I first noticed a discrepancy in my diet when my daughter came along 18 years ago. Fruit is her favorite food. So much so she is practically a Fruititarian and watching her gobble up every apple and berry that came her way got me thinking: why isn't fruit part of my diet? We hear about the dietary recommendations asking us to eat at least 5 servings of fruit a day but I've never been much of a fruit fan. I really don't know why exactly, maybe it's the texture of the skins. That's why whoever invented smoothies has my undying gratitude. I know eating whole fruit is better for you than grinding it up but, hey, at least I am eating (drinking) fruit. Smoothies can be made in many different ways with almost any fruit and a blender. For the liquid, there are smoothies that use Vanilla Soymilk, vanilla or other flavored yogurt, fruit juice or even Chai Tea which is wonderful with mixed berries. Occasionally I do use one of these fillers when I'm not eating anything else and I am hungry. Most of the time though, all I use is water! It's makes the drink low in calories and still so good. This, with a half of a peanut butter sandwich is my typical lunch. The combination goes well together and keeps me until dinner. I vary the fruit for variety and use fresh fruit where I can in the summer and frozen in the winter. I even buy some quantity of the fresh, like strawberries, in the summer when they are cheap, freeze them on a tray and pop them into a large Ziplock for use over the winter months.I never use fresh Mango because it is so expensive, luckily there are bags of frozen mango pieces in almost all the grocery store's freezers.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Thinking about drinks

When it comes to calories, 'drinking counts' and it's so easy to forget the calories in liquids. Sometimes it hardly seems fair that something so innocuous can pile up the pounds. The worst offender is soda pop. I got in the habit of drinking it with meals and snacks when I was young. It was a relatively new concept in the late 50s and 60s and what a treat it was. Of course back then I was thin, I was active, and portions of everything were a heck of a lot smaller. Soda sneaks calories into your day. Soda and fruit-flavored drinks can rack up to 250 calories per 12 ounces. Ginger ale and dark cola are the lowest in calorie at about 120 calories per 12 ounces, and cream soda is the highest with about 200 calories per 12 ounces. Portion size does really say it all! When these sugary liquids are sold in 20 ounce, 48 ounce, 1 liter and 2 liter bottles, it would be easy to work up to 800 calories in drinks a day if you're not being conscious of your choices. (Big) gulp!

From http://www.sparkpeople.com
Juice" drinks (flavored, sugar-sweetened juice) can rack up more calories per ounce than soda! Orange, grape and cranberry juice drinks have about 216 calories per 12 ounces. But they seem so healthy! Don't let the fact that a portion of the ingredients in those bottles come from fruit fool you. The calories in these beverages should not be overlooked. Thankfully, food labels make it easy to check out the calorie content prior to purchasing a drink. Flip over labels before buying anything, and, of course, check the portion size!

Even 100% fruit juice, be it orange, apple, grape, pomegranate, cranberry or another flavor, can contribute calories to your diet. It’s great that all the sugar in fruit juice is natural and direct from the fruit, but unlike a whole piece of fruit, fruit juice is very concentrated in sugar, which makes it high in calories. Juice can also count as a serving of fruit if you’re getting about 6 ounces, but if you’re filling a big 24 ounce cup, you could be pouring about 320 calories of OJ with your breakfast. Go for grape juice or pineapple juice and the numbers are even higher. The key here is to stick to a 4 to 6 ounce serving of juice with your breakfast, and enjoy a large glass of water to hydrate yourself! If you’re worried about getting in your vitamins, grab a whole piece of fruit for a snack or add some berries or sliced fruit to your yogurt or cereal in the morning. Anytime you can eat fruit or vegetables rather than drinking them, you'll be better off. Milk, including non-dairy milk alternatives, is often overlooked when it comes to calories. Although the beverage tastes great and is great for you, it does still contribute calories. A single serving of milk is 8 ounces, which is probably less than what many people pour at meals or on a big bowl of cereal in the morning. A tall dinner glass is about 12 to 16 ounces, which provides 132-168 calories if you choose skim. Fill your glass with 2% milk and that number jumps to 240 calories. These facts don’t discount the key nutrients found in milk that are healthful, but they hopefully encourage a proper serving size.

Many of us can’t function before 11 a.m. without our coffee. The brewed beverage is, by itself, calorie free, which makes it seem innocent. But with all the enticing additives offered by java joints, the numbers rise sharply. An 8 ounce latte made with whole milk is about 130 calories, but add flavored syrup, sugar and whipped cream on top and your drink now tops 200 calories. But when was the last time you ordered a latte that small? Once we bring up the tall, grande and venti sizes it’s a whole new ball game. A venti gingerbread latte with whole milk and whipped cream packs 440 calories into the cup. Granted, this is a large size, fully loaded, but it does a fine job of painting the picture of how many calories you could be drinking if you don't look up the facts beforehand. 
 Those who don’t drink coffee may turn to energy drinks to put pep in their step. Exercisers may also tend to favor energy drinks and sports drinks pre- or post-workout. These drinks may look tiny and taste light, but they can have up to 112 calories per cup. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade come in at about half that, around 60 calories per cup. But watch out: the bottles they come in can contain up to 32 ounces—not 8 ounces—which adds up to 240 calories per bottle.

Considering how cheap, accessible and delicious sweetened and caloric beverages are, it's easy to see how the average person consumes hundreds of calories per day from drinks alone. Those liquid calories add up fast for another reason, too: It's so easy to mindlessly drink beverages. If you’re sitting at your desk, driving your car, or watching a movie, it’s not hard to suck down a supersize beverage in 5 minutes without even feeling full or satisfied. Couple this with free refills, and you’ve completed an equation for calorie over-consumption!

Now as previously stated I enjoy an alcoholic drink from time to time. Here is a handy chart from 
http://www.weightlossforall.com/calories-alcohol.htm to help keep track of that damage:

                    Alcoholic Drink
Beer half Liter 184
Lager half Liter 180
Cider half Liter 200
Whisky 100ml 220
Gin 100ml 220
Brandy 100ml 220
Rum 100ml 220
Wine red 100ml 70
Wine white dry 100ml 65
Wine white medium 100ml 70
Wine white sweet 100ml 90
Wine white sparkling 100ml 74
Rose 100ml 62
Champagne 100ml 126
Pernod 100ml 140
Tia Maria 100ml 155
Southern Comfort 100ml 184
Drambuie 100ml 184
Sherry dry 100ml 110
Sherry medium 100ml 112
Sherry sweet 100ml 130
Port 100ml 160
Martini 100ml 175
Malibu 100ml 204
Baileys Cream 1 glass 120
Bacardi 1 glass 118

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Praise of Peanut Butter

Well, I have lost another couple pounds and am now the lowest weight I've been in years. All the time I wonder if I can keep it up or will it creep back up again? Especially with the holidays coming up. That will be a challenge. I just read an article (can't remember where!) that said that eating at the same time every day and similar meals for breakfast and lunch helps to keep weight gain in check. I began to do the breakfast and lunch thing more out of convenience and the fact that I don't like to spend a lot of time on those meals while I am working. Breakfast has always bored me and since I am mostly vegetarian there are not a lot of fast, easy options for lunch without making a study of it. I fell into a routine. Every week day I have 2/3 of a cup of my granola (recipe below) for breakfast, and for lunch a half a peanut butter sandwich (open faced) on whole wheat or whole grain bread and some kind of fruit. My favorite fruit is a combination fruit low cal smoothie (recipe later). On the weekends I eat whatever I want including pancakes for breakfast and leftovers for lunch. I just try and watch the calorie count. The grains in my granola hold me until lunch and the peanut butter is very filling. Peanut butter is not low calorie yet the trade-off is in the hunger department. 2 Tablespoons is 190 calories but you don't need more than that to feel pretty full. I don't really get tired of it, it always tastes good and when I change the fruit it is a nice lunch. This has really worked for me. I think the key is to find something you like (if peanut butter is not your thing) that has:
a) reasonable caloric content
b) fairly healthy
c) filling (whole grains really help in departments b and c)
Enjoy it 5 days a week. During hectic weekdays you'll always know how many calories you are eating and that it will keep you satisfied until dinner time. That's nice to know.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Very Illuminating Film: Thank you, Peter.

This is the best film I've ever watched on why our will power is not enough. It is fascinating, discouraging and a call to arms. I highly recommend it:

ABCNewsstore.com: SPECIAL: Peter Jennings Reporting - How To Get Fat without Really Trying...

In this important hour-long special, Peter Jennings reveals how government policies and food industry practices are helping to make Americans fat. 

Obesity is fast on its way to becoming the nation’s largest and most costly public health problem. While much of the public debate about obesity has focused on personal responsibility, PETER JENNINGS REPORTING: HOW TO GET FAT WITHOUT EVEN TRYING reveals how federal government agricultural policies and food industry practices are contributing to America’s growing obesity epidemic.
In this program, Jennings demonstrates for the first time how more federal agricultural subsidies are going to foods Americans should be eating less, while few subsidies go to foods we should be eating more. Jennings investigates the type of food products the packaged food industry introduces each year and finds that the vast majority of new food products are those that dietary guidelines say Americans should be eating least.
Jennings also takes a bold look at the marketing of unhealthy food to children. Studies reveal that young children are not capable of understanding the intent of advertising and Jennings questions the ethics of such marketing, raising the question: should children be protected from junk food marketing—despite the economic impact that might have on food companies and broadcast networks?

This was a special program in 2003 and sadly every bit of it is still true today!
You can buy this film at ABC news or watch it in segments on Youtube.com OR here:


Whole Food and Food Cravings

Talked to my Aunt and Uncle today and they reminded me of something. When I started to really get serious about eating better food, something odd happened. The more whole grains and vegetables I ate the less junk food I wanted. Although this intuitively makes sense, I don't know if it's just me or a medical fact. Whatever the reason it is good to know. To my family I jokingly call our favorite foods (burritos and spaghetti) junk food. When I have those meals though, later on that night, I do feel a lot more like having chocolate, chips or any kind of snack. I blame it on the white flour and cheese but it could be all in my head. The jury is out but the subjects look very guilty and I am suspicious.With that in mind I developed a healthier burrito that is great when the weather is hot because there is very little cooking. It's very satisfying and in spite of the white tortilla- (and you could certainly use whole wheat) no cravings later.

Fresh Burritos   
Makes 2 fairly fat burritos for 3 or 4 people
This recipe is better and easier if you have the rice cooked and frozen ahead of time. It dries out the rice a little, makes it fall apart when cooked and kinda crisp. Cook desired amount of rice. Freeze in 1 pt or 2 pt containers. I usually use 2 pts total in my recipe. If you cook a bunch of pints ahead of time you always have something ready to make a fast (and practically a no cook) delicious dinner!  

2 Pints brown cooked rice, thawed. If you forgot to take out rinse it in hot water, slide them out into Pyrex bowl and thaw in microwave. (It happens.)
2 Tb Veg Oil or more
1 ½ TBL Sp Chili Powder, 1 ½ TBL Sp Paprika, 1 ½  tsp + Seasoning Salt,
½ tsp Cumin, salt and pepper to taste.  

5 tomatoes (approx) Chopped fine
1 Lrg Sweet Onion chopped fine
Red or yellow peppers Chopped fine or specialty green peppers like Banana peppers
1 jalapeno pepper chopped (optional)
½ Lime squeezed
1 Can Kidney Beans
Pkg Flour Tortillas
Guacamole or Avocado sliced
1/2 lb. Cheddar cheese, shredded fine (optional, doesn’t need it)
Lt. Sour Cream (optional)
Taco sauce (optional)
Lettuce, shredded (optional)
Cilantro (optional)

Heat Oil in Large fry pan. When hot add the Chili powder, Paprika and Cumin. Fry the spices until you can smell them, about a minute. Add more oil if necessary. Add Rice and fry around until they are coated with spice. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. I am GUESSING on the Chili powder and Paprika amounts. I add a lot. Rice should be rusty color. Set aside. Open Kidney beans and rise, set aside.
Make the Salsa: Add all the chopped vegetables to a big bowl and pour lime juice over. Salt a little. I add a little Tabasco or taco sauce sometimes, Cholula brand, etc. It is not necessary but I like things intensely flavored. Put a couple Flour tortillas on a dinner plate, place a clean linen or flour-sack type dishtowel over the tortillas and mist spray with water a couple times. Microwave for 20 to 30 seconds to soften.
To make: Take a tortilla and start with rice, put a thick line on one side and add the beans, fresh made salsa, Avocados, Guacamole, and any of the optional ingredients. Enjoy. Note: This burrito does not need cheese, we leave it off.

Et tu Milk Bone?

Over the past few years, I've noticed that my dog's Milk Bones no longer have the green vegetable flavor in the box. How symbolic and pathetic is this? I guess someone decided that since we weren't interested in vegetables anymore our dogs don't want them either.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Weekday Routines

I found something that I consistently like to eat for breakfast on the weekdays. It's become my routine. Every morning I have my homemade Granola. Here is another recipe where I deviate from worrying about calories and focus more on health and satisfaction but it seems to be working. Granola is something we are always told to stay away from because it isn't a diet food. Well, I am not on a diet, I don't believe in diets, I believe in eating well, being sensible and reducing my portions. The basic recipe for this granola came from a book but I added spices and every nut/grain that I thought would work. The result is very healthy and really delicious. I have 2/3 of a Cup every morning with 2% milk. That doesn't sound like a lot but the whole grains keep me fine until lunch. The recipe looks overwhelming with all the ingredients but once you have them in the house it's easy to prepare. I just get out a big bowl and start dumping the dry ingredients in. Then I use a glass measuring cup for the honey, heat it up in the microwave to make it easier to mix and add the vanilla and oil. To me, it's worth the time to get these grains and nuts in my diet with something that tastes this good and it isn't adding any weight to me.

Nighthawk's Granola
Basic recipe from Fred Rohe’s book:
“The Complete Book of Natural Foods”, then embellished by me.

6 cups Oatmeal                       ¾ C Flax Seed
1 ¼ C sunflower seeds            ¾ C Oat Bran
¾ C sesame seeds                   1 ¼ C Almonds chopped
¾ C Wheat Germ                    1 ½ tsp Cinnamon
½ C Wheat Bran (opt.)           1 tsp Coriander
½ tsp Nutmeg                          1 tsp Cardamom
½ tsp Allspice                         1tsp Dried Orange Peel (opt.)    
½ C veg oil                              1 ¼ C Honey, Molasses or Maple Syrup
1 tsp Sesame Oil                       or Combo (I use ALL Honey)
3 tsp Vanilla extract

In a big Bowl combine all the dry ingredients and stir well.
Mix the liquids together and pour over dry, mixing well. 
Spread on cookie sheets sprayed with oil, and roast in over 325 degrees
(no hotter) stirring often (about every 10 minutes or so) to
roast evenly. Remove when a golden brown (about 20 to 30 min.)
Allow to cool before storing. May add raisins or
other dried fruit when cool, I don’t.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Weekends are the weak link for any kind of disciplined regime I may have successfully put myself on. I am not overly obsessive about what I eat anyway, not really. I just keep "eating well and a little less" in the forefront of my mind.

I let myself drink alcohol on weekends. My husband and I have what we call "Happy Hour" at 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday. This consists of a game of Dominoes, a cocktail, wine, or beer, and we might even have a few crackers and cheese with it. As you can see this isn't a very low calorie habit.

Now I used to have a drink every night. It was a great way to relax and start the evening. I soon found that this ritual had to change. I realized after a frustrating few months that that one little drink a night was the contributing factor keeping my scale stuck at 164. I sadly gave up my weekday drink.

Of course I could give it all up and lose even more I suppose, but here is where I draw the line. I think making some sacrifices is a good thing but I also think you have to have some fun too. If life is all focus and discipline then I feel the quality of it suffers. It's all about balance and doing the best we can and then letting the guilt go. As long as I can stay reasonably healthy having a drink once in a while, I'll do it. I'll just try and trim how often I indulge. I think we all have to have our Happy Hours, be it a cocktail or a Sunday sundae, whatever it is that adds a little flavor to our life. I wouldn't cut it out just to cut down. I'll just make it up when the work week starts again!  

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Salad Dressing Switch

On my quest for a lower calorie, whole food diet everything I eat these days has become an experiment. For example, I see how little dressing I can put on my salad and still feel fine about it. Some days I'm okay with a sprinkling and other "what the heck" days I pour it out. Here is something I started doing that helps me on those latter days. If you don't like vinegar, it may not work for you.
I make the "Good Seasons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing" adding Balsamic Vinegar instead of white AND I reverse the oil and vinegar amounts. Of course oil is the fattening part of the dressing. It ends up being 1/4 Cup of Oil to a 1/2 Cup of Balsamic. I've tried those low cal store-bought dressings and they are awful. I am sorry but salad dressing needs some oil to be good. Today was a good day because my vegetables were so fresh I didn't need a lot of dressing. No one is going to be satisfied with a salad for lunch is the veggies are less than tasty and sweet. It's one of the reasons I grow a garden. I am lucky that I have the place and time (barely) to do it. Still, I don't have that kind of culinary perfection all year. So what to do in the dead of winter? Surprisingly (maybe not), organic vegetables in the supermarket come really close to having that garden fresh taste. Especially carrots, once you tried organic you'll never go back. If we have to eat more veggies it's essential that they be freshest we can find because the flavor will encourage us to go back for more and we won't need a gallon of dressing to cover it up. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I am going to the grocery store today. For me the grocery store is a cross between a mine field and a scavenger hunt. We have four grocery stores in town and they are all nice. I should know, I usually visit at least three of the four on grocery day. I have to, to find everything I need. Grocery stores are the battle zone for our weight problems. The products they stock are there after years of marketing research, taste tests and sales projections. Foods were invented and companies begun because someone found some magical ingredient or ingredients that tickled our taste buds and we had to have it. We are seduced by our own senses every day into eating these manufactured products, engineered to appeal to our cravings. We hardly stand a chance. So much of our weight and health problems start right here. I am the first to admit that I am a total sucker for Sweet Chili Doritos. They have my number there. I like grocery shopping but it takes so long to read the boxes and cans when shopping to see if it is good to eat, to see if there is any food in our food.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tasty Low Calorie Food Alert

Now that that big speech about whole foods out of the way, I am going to sound like I am contradicting myself here, but I am a practical person too. Of course whole foods are the best thing to eat but we don't live by lettuce alone. When I find something at the grocery store that helps me hold the calories down and tastes great I go for it. Here are a couple of items that fit that description. 
The first one is The Laughing Cow Light spreadable cheese wedges. They come in wonderful flavors like Garlic and Herb and Sun Dried Tomato and only 35 calories a Wedge. The Wedges are a generous size and the fat content is also low: 1 gram saturated fat, no trans fats.

The second one is Skinny Cow Low Fat Ice Cream Bars. These are sooo good and only 100 calories per bar. They have several flavors but I highly recommend the Caramel Truffle. Saturated fat only 1.5! These treats will really help with the cravings with a minimum of guilt.
The "cows" have it going on!

Treat Yourself to the Good Stuff

The only way we can reduce the amount of food we eat is to make sure we leave the table feeling on some level, satisfied. If not in quantity than in quality. So taste matters and it matters a lot. We have to eat the foods we love. Favorite foods could include a lot of healthy items that we may not buy because they are expensive or out of season or maybe we just don't think about them anymore because the junk food has taken over our taste buds. A few salted nuts can never stand up to the intense flavor of Doritos, Frito Lay is counting on that. Yet. if we stop buying the Doritos and keep a can of nuts on the pantry shelf instead, the next time the munchies hit we may find that those nuts hit the spot pretty well.  Everyone loves something that is healthy. What is it for you? Strawberries? Popcorn? Avocados? Consider keeping those items around to tempt you into eating right.

If you love to eat something that is unhealthy then take it slow. Wean yourself off of it by offering yourself a healthier replacement of some kind. For example. we all drink a lot of soda pop these days. I loved soda too and drank it a lot. I consumed a lot of empty calories that way as I never could abide diet soda, the taste of those chemicals just made me sick. Soda just isn't good for you not matter what form it takes. I had to give it up. So, the first thing I did was to cut back on the amount of soda I drank. Then I invented substitutes like club soda mixed with fruit juice or even sweetened herb tea. Over time I stopped missing the soda. I sure don't miss the calories. I will still have a soda once in a great while but as a dessert treat only.

Find your favorite whole food and keep it in the kitchen. Treat yourself with it and it will keep the feeling of deprivation from your door. If it's a real food the damage to your body will be minimal. Worry about the calories later. The main thing is to get off the phony, high calorie, processed food. If you keep eating bananas or berries or sunflower seeds, the junk food might start to to taste...well, like junk. 

Monday, September 06, 2010

Acknowledging changes

Today I changed the title of my blog and am ready to begin this conversation with myself that can be overheard by anyone else who is interested. I am going to put my height and weight in a separate column and update it as I can. This way I can see which way the pounds are headed. My goal is not only to lose more weight but continue to eat the best food possible for my body's health. My ongoing philosophy is that: 

Diets don't work - Going on a diet means altering your eating habits temporarily. Yes, you lose weight and then you go back to your previous life and gain it all back.

Fanaticism isn't healthy - I don't want to get obsessive about this, I think that if you want to have an ice cream sundae sometime, you should have it. The trick is to make it a special treat and not have one every night. My personal weakness is potato chips, I could eat the whole bag, so I don't buy them. I save them for parties or holidays and then eat what I want.

Moderation in all things - This is similar to the fanaticism statement but I want to remember to keep balance in my life. An equilibrium of common sense that includes movement (not exercise per say) and rest, food intake variety that includes all the best categories: nuts, fruits, vegetables and grains, emotional tranquility, occasional treats, and a good even split between work and play.

Make less more - This is about portion control and I think it's a big component in keeping us all fat. We just plain eat too much. So, my goal is to make my food so delicious that I feel satisfied eating less. 

Movement - A resolve to get out of the chair (I write a lot) and move. To keep up a certain amount of physical movement every day to help burn calories and improve muscle tone. 


Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Weigh to Eat

I am going in a new direction on this blog. I was never much of a blogger as anyone can see,  I don't have a lot of time for extra writing chores as I am working diligently on an Astrology book with hopes for publication. 

Now I have grown too frustrated not to vent somewhere and a blog seemed to be the right place. What I see everyday and everywhere are the people I love getting fatter and further away from healthy long lives. No one wants to gain weight or be unhealthy but it's become a terrible struggle for all of us to do otherwise. 

I am constantly angry at food manufacturers, restaurants, grocery stores, and even the government! They are the people who present us with food options or make laws that determine how healthy our food will be. At the same time I know it is not all their fault either. Some of the time they only give us what we've asked for, but there are other instances when they have been downright devious at their manipulation of our taste buds and desires. So, in the end, it all comes down to us and what we want: the public. We are the ones that will ultimately dictate what food product stays on the supermarket shelf or how big the portions are at a restaurant. At home we hardly cook anymore because fast food is too easy an answer when we're confused, tired and short on time. In addition we work long hours and money is tighter than ever. 

Now we can't turn on the TV or pick up a magazine today without hearing about the obesity epidemic. What are we supposed to do? Where do we turn for help?  I think we are all between a rock and a hard place.

Last year I got fed up with my constant weight gain and really tried to, once and for all, lose the extra pounds that have been creeping up year after year. The idea was to add more whole foods to my meals and take away as much junk food as I could without feeling deprived. It turned out to be a much greater struggle than I thought it would be, to even lose one pound. I kept thinking, if this is taking up so much of my mental and physical energy to just lose a few pounds (I am about 35 pounds over weight) how the heck do people who find themselves on the other side of obese ever manage? Sometimes it seems completely overwhelming and even useless to try and that can't be because if we give up then we are doomed to lose our quality of life, suffer from debilitating illnesses, and die younger than ever. 
There were (and still are) days of total frustration for me where the scale doesn't seem to make any sense in comparison to what I am consuming. Finally I have made a little progress, having lost about 10 pounds over this last year. I am still far from slim but I have found a few things that have helped me. Some were recipes, some were products and a few lifestyle changes.

This is a very touchy subject to discuss with anyone. What we eat is a very personal choice but I don't want to stand by and watch my friends and family get sick. What can I do? I can share what I have learned and what I am learning and how hard this is for me too and hope that it makes some difference in the world. This problem of constant weight gain and consumption of unhealthy food scares me because I see no sign of a permanent solution yet. I am scared for us all because if we can't fix the way we eat we are all headed for very bad times. So, I will start this blog segment and see if I can find the time for regular postings. I hope to put out here what has worked for me and what hasn't, to try and inspire not only myself but anyone else who might read this to just keep trying to: 
Eat a little less and a little more healthy every day.