Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

I just realized that all my posts lately are about food. Hmmm. Must think about that after I post this oatmeal recipe!

I cooked a 4 serving batch of steel-cut oats as per directions. While it was cooking I mixed up:

4 servings of Nectar Sweets Vanilla Bean Torte protein powder
1 can Libby’s pumpkin  – no sugar added
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger (I buy the tubes for the fridge)
Fresh nutmeg to grate over the top

You may want to experiment with the spices – I like it strong but half that amount may be fine for you.

After letting the oatmeal rest for 20 minutes, I mixed in the pumpkin mixture. This makes about 8 weight loss friendly 3/4 cup servings.

I think a little brown sugar splenda would top this off beautifully, if you are not concerned about the extra carbs. But since I am, I’ll skip that, because this is pretty fabulous without it!

After breakfast I’m starting a new movie for my treadmill walk since I finished Julie & Julia. I really enjoyed it – I just had to suppress the stuff I read about Powell’s affair and focus on the movie as a movie, not two semi-true stories.

This morning I’m making 4 miles my new standard and plan to finish it in under 60 minutes. To do that with a 5 minute warm up at 3.6 miles per hour, that’s 1/3 of a mile at the slow pace and the remaining 3.7 at 4.1 miles per hour. (I had to pull out Excel to figure that out. How sad is that?)

I think that sounds like a good plan for this week. One hour a day, 4 miles a day, then Friday off and the big walk on Saturday. This Saturday I’ll be shooting for 7 miles uninterrupted. This weekend I did 6.5 (maybe a bit more) but I stopped halfway through to do some shopping. I won’t really be taking a half hour break during the marathon for shopping. I don’t think I will, anyway. Nah! It’s at night – no shops will be open except newstands!

The observant will notice that I’m STILL not doing any weight training. I don’t know what is going on with my head there. I know I need to do it, I enjoy it when I do it, but I am just not making it out to the gym. Today I’m going to take a weight with me onto the treadmill and do some tricep dips and curls while I walk. Then some planks and situps afterward.

If Karen won’t go to the gym, the gym must come to Karen.

Kroger’s Fat Free Sugar Free Hot Cocoa

I am not a big Kroger fan. There are some amazing Kroger grocery stores in Atlanta, but the one walking distance to my house is not one of them. It is jumbled and confusing and the produce and meat departments have gone to hell in a handbag since we first moved here in 1996. The recent produce department upgrade/renovations has helped, but it will take me a while to be convinced it is a consistent trend. Also, their dairy department is HORRIBLE. There is always something spilled, cartons are always crushed and it smells. So I do run their for last minute emergencies, but that’s it.

On the other hand, the Publix that opened up a few miles further away is always clean and organized and their meat and produce are good. Their fresh seafood department doesn’t really work for me, for some reason.  I think it is the overwhelming smell of bleach. I appreciate the cleanness, but the smell of bleach and fish is not one that inspires me to cook or eat. We usually go to the Farmer’s Market for fish and lately we’ve started buying it frozen from Costco.

But I just had to buy every single box of the Kroger fat free sugar free dutch hot cocoa that was on the shelf. It is sweetened with splenda, which most of them are NOT and only 1 Weight Watcher’s point on the new system and completely satisfying for a hot, chocolately drink morning, afternoon or evening. I am having one every day and I just love it. Finally! Something that tastes pretty darned good that I didn’t have to mix up myself.

French-style Apple Tart

I was in the mood for beautiful layers of apples baked into a tart yesterday, so I modified Linda’s recipe for caramel apple crisp and it was really terrific.

My Adaptation:
Vegetable cooking spray
4 large Granny Smith apples, cored, but not peeled. Sliced into thin wedges on the mandolin slicer.
1/2 cup Splenda Granular
3 tablespoons splenda
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons Half & Half

I sliced the apples into as near perfect half moons as I could. Then I tossed them in a bowl with the filling so they were lightly covered with the filling. Then I carefully fanned them out in a circle around my ceramic tart pan. In the center I piled all the bits and pieces that were not perfect, then covered that with another, flatter layer of fanned apple slices. I baked this for one hour at 375. I forgot to take a picture (the smell was INSANELY good and we could NOT wait to eat it!) but it looked a lot like this one, only, no crust of course, and well, my slices were not as perfect. Plus, I left the apples unpeeled for some color. I really have to make another one. Just so I can take a picture, of course.

Enjoy!

Eggnog and Biscotti

Eggnog: I really wanted some eggnog yesterday, so I checked out Linda’s no egg recipe on Eating Well Living Thin. But I didn’t have Cinnabliss and I really wanted something more traditional. I found this recipe on about.com under low carb eggnog recipes. So what I did was merge the two. Here’s what I made and it was delicious:

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs – separated
  • 4 cups fat-free half and half (post-ops be careful – there is a lot of sugar in the Land o Lakes version I just discovered)
  • ½ cup splenda or more to taste
  • 1 tsp McCormick’s rum flavoring
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (I used more)
  • Fresh Nutmeg for grating

Separate the eggs. In a small bowl, beat the yolks with the splenda, rum flavoring and cinnamon until light. In another bowl, beat the whites until they form soft peaks. In a big bowl, whip the half and half until frothy. Then combine everything with a whisk (don’t overmix) and grate fresh nutmeg on the top – about 1 tsp.

This made 6 servings of the most fabulous eggnog I have ever had, except for this one really memorable occasion at Yale when Cricket made a traditional 150 proof version. Of course, I don’t really remember much after the first sip.

Biscotti

Another thing I have been craving lately is biscotti. That crispy snap that melts beautifully into a cup of fat-free sugar free hot cocoa. Today I’m going to experiment with the flourless chocolate cake I made last week and bake it thinner. Then after it cools, I’m going to cut it into finger sized pieces and bake it AGAIN, but in a very cool oven. For about an hour. I will also add some almonds and craisins to the batch for a little variety in texture. I’ll come back later and post how it went and a picture.

Update: the biscotti turned out great. I used Linda’s flourless chocolate cake recipe again but added in some chopped almonds and some cranberries (craisins that I soaked in hot water and rinsed to remove as much sugar as possible).

I baked them in a rectangular glass pan and then when they were cooled, I cut them into 1 by 2 1/2 inch pieces and baked them again, this time in a cool oven at 200 degrees for about 3 hours. Half way through I rotated them onto their sides. They came out crispy and hard and perfect for dunking!

Sick Days and Protein Pancakes

Thank goodness for technology. I remember the old days when I was sick and working as a contractor. I don’t get paid for sick days, so I would dose myself up and cover up the symptoms with drugs and makeup and go in anyway. Just call me Typhoid Mary.

Now I’m super vigilent about staying home when I get the first signs of being sick, but that’s because I know I can use my VPN and remote into my desktop. Considering I spend most of my day working with a team based in Seattle, my being at my kitchen table instead of my desk just isn’t that big a deal. So I get my hours and I don’t (intentionally) contaminate anyone.

About two months ago I got a sore throat AFTER I went to work. I came home, but apparently, not before I gave it to almost everyone in the office. For weeks people were dropping like flies, one after the other, same symptoms.  So this time when I got a sore throat, I stayed home and yep, it morphed into a cold/flu last night. I’m so glad I didn’t put it down to seasonal allergies and post nasal drip. I hate it when I’m Typhoid Mary!

So today I’m sitting with a cup of tea, trying to get past the sore throat so I can eat some breakfast. I think I’m going to treat myself to a protein pancake that is supposed to blast away belly fat.  This is from Coach Josh’s bellyblasting site and makes one pancake:

Slim Body Protein Pancake Recipe

1 scoop of Slimbody Matrix Shake (I like the Vanilla Cake Batter Flavor the best)
1 large egg
1 tbs organic multigrain pancake mix
1/2 tbs ground flaxseed
1/2 cup Quaker Oats slow cooked oats
1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk (adjust to desired thickness)

Optional:
1/4 cup of blueberries (or other favorite berry)
1 tbs of pure maple syrup
Dollop of real whipped cream

I don’t have any almond milk, so I Googled how to make it at home, since I have raw almonds. This is from Wikihow:

Almond Milk

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups or 220 grams of raw almonds (unsalted, uncooked)
  • 4 cups or 940 millilitres of filtered or spring water
  • 1 vanilla bean; scoop out the seeds; alternatively, use 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence or extract
  • Soak the almonds in water overnight. Do this for at least 8 hours, up to about 12 hours. The soaking softens them well for use, but is optional. Drain the water from the almonds.
  • Blend the almonds in 4 cups of fresh spring or filtered water. Add the vanilla extract and continue blending until well mixed.
  • Sweeten to taste if desired. If you want to sweeten the almond milk, add agave syrup, rice syrup, honey or other reasonably healthy sweetener, to taste.
  • Strain. This is very important or you will be drinking almond pulp as well as the milk. Using something like a very fine strainer or sieve, or several layers of cheesecloth (muslin), pour the almond milk through the filter into a large bowl underneath. The filter will retain the almond pulp and the liquid will go through.
  • Squeeze the remaining pulp to remove the last of the liquid. It is easier if done using a cloth; otherwise, use your very clean hands.   The almond meal left over can be dried and used to add more fiber to your diet 
  • Store. Almond milk can be kept in the refrigerator for 4-7 days, covered. It will usually need shaking before serving, to remix the liquid.
  • Use. Almond milk can be used with a range of foods where you would use dairy milk, such as for cooking, for cereals, for drinking, etc. Those who love almond milk often find drinking it is best.

I want to put on a big pot of chicken soup, but we are out of chicken. How can that be????

Have a great day!

Crockpot Recipes

There was a question about crockpot recipes on the board this morning and before I knew it, I’d written my blog:
For me the crockpot is a blank canvas and what is in my freezer, fridge and pantry are the paints that I play with – depending on what’s there! Once you get the basics down, you can mix and match to create hundreds of variations you and your family will love. 

Meat or beans: I usually have either one or a combination of meat and beans. Tough, cheaper cuts do beautifully, while the leaner, more expensive cuts do poorly. Also, if I know something is too fatty, I’ll cook it in the crockpot, then let it cool and refrigerate it. The next day, I can just lift off the layer of fat so that the recipe is a lot healthier. You can put in whole roasts, whole chickens, big old loins of beef or pork. Leave a little fat and skim it off later. You can also cut up your meats, but reserve 1/4 for putting in right before serving and if the chunks left in the whole time are too dry, you can pull those out. (I usually leave them all in – so you get some dry, some fresh bits)

Liquid: is key to crockpotting. I buy the Pacific organic free range chicken broth by the case, so that’s my go to liquid. You can use water, wine, beer or whatever liquid your recipe calls for. With the lid on, the liquid is going to increase, not decrease, so keep that in mind. Tomato juice is great for toughening up and/or flavoring meats and soups. Tomato paste will make it thicker, so experiment with that to see if you should add it last.

Herbs & Spices: I typically add my spices to the crockpot, and any dried herbs. But fresh ones I’ll save to chop up and add to the finished dish or the last 30 minutes of cooking, but just depends on the recipe.

Vegetables: I love slow cooked veggies – they get soft and the flavors blend. Not everyone does, so again experiment. Some things, like hard squash,tough onions and sweet potatoes and other root vegetables are just perfect for the crockpot.

Pasta and Rice: NO! Cook this separately or if you insist, add for the last 30 minutes of cooking. It gets mushy and can ruin your whole dish. Plus, it makes the leftovers a lot less useful and cuts their storage life.

Here are some of our families favorites and if you search my posts, you’ll find the Mexican Crockpot Chicken recipe I posted before:

Pot Roast: layer in one or two sliced onions, then place your frozen or fresh pot roast (chuck roast, etc) on top of the onions. Season as desired, I use salt and white pepper and sometimes sage. Then dump in one or two cans of drained green beans on top of the roast and a few reserved bits of onion, chopped really fine. No extra liquid, as the beans and onions will add a lot of liquid as they cook. Cook on low for up to 8 hours. The meat will be falling apart and the beans and onions almost like gravy.

Chicken soup: put in a whole or all the parts of a chicken (I like fryers – less fatty) and dump in all the veggies in the house: carrots, onions, celery, green beans, herbs, spices or just salt and white pepper. Cover with chicken stock and let cook on low all day. Then I usually drain out the broth, bring to a boil and make noodles or matzo balls for the boys. Then I take apart the cooled chicken and put it back in, with a second batch of thinly sliced carrot rounds. Makes a beautiful soup.

Chili is one of my favorites: brown the meat and drain it, then add with diced tomatoes, onions, celery, beans (or not if you like no bean chili) and whatever spices I feel like: chili powder, cumin, white pepper – go for it. You can add lots of vegetables if you like: red, yellow and orange peppers, fresh tomato that you need to use up, hot peppers if you like the punch. Top up with beer, broth or tomato juice and let it cook all day.

For a white chili, I use white beans, cooked turkey meat, zucchini, onions and sage. MMMMM.

Did this yesterday: took a leftover ham bone and put it in with a bag of washed black beans. Covered with chicken broth, added in a tiny bit of salt (careful ham is salty) and white pepper and bay leaves, sliced carrots, diced celery and some leftover carmelized onion from the onion soup I made Saturday. Put on the cover and let it cook all day. it was fabulous and made enough to restock the freezer for leftover nights for the next couple of months. Inexpensive meal, too! A bag of beans is less than a dollar, the ham bone and onions were leftovers and the other veggies and spices were probably only a few dollars.

I served this with Fage 0% yogurt and shredded cheddar, though my husband assured me that it didn’t need anything added to it.  I was going to make up some cornbread, but I was out of eggs.

So play with your crockpot and have fun!

Sunday Ramblings

Found a great recipe this morning on a blog for an artichoke, onion and feta omelet. WordPress is apparently having problems with links, so must post it out in the open: http://www.thehealthyhousewife.com/2010/07/artichoke-omelet/

I’m just finishing up my cup of tea, then I’m going to get out the pans and start cooking. This recipe is perfect, since I happen to have a lot of onions left from the french onion soup I made yesterday, there is a hunk of feta in the fridge that needs to be used soon, and lo! a jar of artichokes. Are there eggs? Yes! Score! Okay, we have a fabulous breakfast entry this morning and I’m going to make it huge so that I have leftovers all week long. I’ll pack the leftovers up and heat them for breakfast all week.

I’m taking a break from my usual oatmeal because I am worrying that having the morning oatmeal is setting me up for cravings all day. This hasn’t been a problem for me for the last 9 months or so that I’ve been eating oatmeal for breakfast, but I can’t help wondering if either the SAD or the weight loss or some increased sensitivity to carbs is at work. So, an experiment. I did a mini version on Thursday and Friday last week. Thursday I had all protein for breakfast and morning snacks  – no cravings, lost a pound. Friday, had oatmeal for breakfast, a little snacky all day. So this week, the big experiment. I’m going to go all week with an all protein breakfast, keep my daytime carbs to dairy (non-fat greek yogurt and cottage cheese), lots of veggies and a tiny bit of fruit. Then for dinner I’ll add in some quinoa, brown rice or whole grain bread. I am not going to give up carbs – I really think my body needs them and I would prefer to get them through real food than some sort of powdered form to help my digestion. Just saying.

I’ve got my therapy light going – brought it home from work this weekend. Next I’m supposed to take my B12 shot. But I think I’m going to push it until tomorrow morning and get a new b12 level taken, just to see where the level is after almost 3 weeks of no shot. Don’t want to go back to the dark side, so I’ve been taking the daily sublingual very consistently for hte last two plus weeks. And I don’t feel ANY b12 side effects right now. So one more day shouldn’t hurt.

Last night’s dinner party on the road was a success. It is so nice to cook for people who are HUNGRY! Got a lot of compliments, which is nice. When I cook for my extended family, they tend to say things like “Did Karen cook this?” – so I couldn’t help wondering if they were being polite. In any event, most of it was eaten and the rest was given out as take away except for the ham bone, which I’ll toss in with some beans for a nice ham and white bean chili at some point soon. A cup or so of the leftover onions, which I’m going to turn into a frittata in a few minutes and enough mac & cheese to make my son happy for lunch today. Left all the trifle as we have TWO pies in  our fridge right now.

Yes. I said that. Two PIES. One sweet potato and one pumpkin. “They were on sale” is what my husband said when I saw them. I don’t care if they are on sale. Don’t for god’s sake, don’t, don’t please don’t bring them into the house!!! Of course, I have already had a small slice (about 1/16) of the sweet potato (my favorite) and I can hear it calling my name for breakfast. Boy, talk about setting me up for cravings for the rest of the day.

Must stop now and cook healthy breakfast before Pie-Head takes over. Belly dancing later todya, plus I want to get in some roller blading time this morning.

Have a great day – get outside and LIVE!

The Gaintenance Quiz

I’ve never really been on maintenance before. I’ve gone right from losing to gaintenance. Okay so that’s not a word. But it should be.  It perfectly describes the act of not watching what you are eating, not exercising and therefore purposefully going right back to where you were.  But I looked it up and even Wikipedia hadn’t heard it before. I’ll have to submit an article!

So if you aren’t on maintenance and you aren’t losing weight – are you on gaintenance?

Here’s a quiz to find out:

  1. Did you weigh yourself this morning?
  2. Have you weighed yourself lately?
  3. Have you measured yourself lately?
  4. Did you exercise this morning?
  5. Will you exercise later today?
  6. Have you exercised lately?
  7. Did you plan this week’s menus?
  8. Did you go shopping with a grocery list?
  9. Are you taking your lunch and a healthy snack to work?
  10. Did you eat on plan today?
  11. Do you even have a plan?
  12. Did you track what you ate yesterday?
  13. Will you track what you ate today?
  14. Have you tracked what you ate lately?
  15. Are you  eating at the table?
  16. Are you taking small bites, putting down your fork and chewing?
  17. Are you stopping when you are full?
  18. Are you drinking enough water?
  19. Did you take your vitamins?
  20. Did you eat a variety of healthy foods?
  21. Did you get enough protein?
  22. Did you eat enough healthy carbs?
  23. Did you get enough fiber?
  24. Are the messages in your head kind or killing?
  25. Did you notice the sunrise this morning?
  26. Did you see the sunset last night?
  27. Did you spend time doing something you love this week?
  28. Did you spend time with someone you love this week?
  29. Do you have a dream?
  30. Are you working on that dream?
  31. Have you worked on that dream lately?
  32. Have you been accountable to anyone for your weight, measurements, food, exercise and attitude lately?
  33. Are you doing everything you should be to take care of your health and happiness?

For every Yes answer give yourself three points.

If you scored 99 points or more – you are on Maintenance and may even be losing weight.

If you scored 50 or higher, you are on Maintenance, but don’t expect much weight loss.

If you scored less than 50 points then you, my friend, are on gaintenance.

What are you going to do about it?

Maintenace – Week Two

Starting Stats: Weight: 175, Waist: 34 inches, Hips (really belly button): 37 inches, Pants size: 12 (some 10’s); Tops: size 10/Medium
Week Two Stats: Weight 176, Waist: 34 inches, Hips(really belly button: 39, Hips: 41, Pants size: 12 (no 10’s); Tops: size 10/Medium

Am I doing the math right? A year of “maintenance” like last week will put me at 52 pounds higher and 104 inches bigger on my stomach! Okay, maybe not that bad, but bad enough. Here’s what I did and didn’t do last week, on my plan:

 

MOVE PLAN: 30-45 minutes of exercise 5-6 days a week. Long hike or bike ride, start riding my bike to work, swimming once, weight lifting twice a week

Actual: I made it to the gym twice for weight lifting – check! 1 swim – check! Several walks, 1 easy run, 1 short bike ride. 5 days – check! On the other hand – I don’t think it was intense enough. I feel a bit flabbier and my belly measurement supports that. Need to crank it up a bit. M/W: Weight lifting; T.Th: Running; Fri: Swimming; Sat: yoga or kickboxing class; Sunday – long bike ride.  Walk at lunchtime every day. Bike to work at least once this week.

EAT PLAN: Concentrate on the Weight Watchers’ Simply Filling technique. Stick lean protein, and add as many veggies as I can eat until I feel SATISFIED.

Actual: I feel as if I was constantly eating, stuffing something into my mouth. I ate mindlessly, I ate poorly, I did all the things I said I would not do.  This week has to be different. Period.

LIVE PLAN: Starting to explore my dream job. Spend as much fun, active time as I can with my son and husband. See my girl friends more frequently and have people over more. We need to socialize as a family.

Actual: Did more with Fred and Jacob: bowling, baseball, more evenings at home, dinner together, time in the mornings. Did a little research on the dream job. Didn’t see any girlfriends, but talked to them. No friends over.  Still needs work.

THINK PLAN: Working on my book – finish the first draft by December 10th.

Actual: Not a word. I did blog a bit, that was all. Put in 10 extra hours at work, I think that is where my time went.

With that down in black and white, I’m going to the gym to work out and focus on getting more exercise into my life this week. The sun is up and the sky is filled with pink and blue streaks. It’s a good day to ride my bike to work, but I need to finish the weight lifting.

Maintenance – Day One

Today was officially Day One of maintenance for me. I got up, made my protein drink, went to the gym where I did a 16 minute/4 mile warm up on the stationary bike. Then I hit the weight lifting room to do the workout that Cathy created for me. This is the first time I’ve been able to do the whole thing since I got sick and it felt good to be back to full capacity. The last few reps of each set were REALLY hard and I had to breath and push through, but that’s the way it is supposed to be if you are going to build muscle.

As soon as I get a few words down on paper, I’ll get my shower and then have my protein power oatmeal while I finish straining my greek yogurt. Then I’ll pack up one of my mini meatloaves and some yogurt and veggies in my lunch bag and get to work.  I’ll get in a walk at lunchtime and then, because my husband is still feeling under the weather, we’ll have leftover beef stew and veggies from the freezer for dinner.

Sounds like every other day, doesn’t it?  I think that’s the point of life style change over dieting. You don’t stop. I guess the difference is that I didn’t start my day standing on the scale, feeling either good or bad based on what it said. And yes, I stood on it and yes it was down a tiny bit, but that’s just because I’m addicted to the scale and I didn’t remember to move it out of the bathroom. Automatic pilot took over and I was standing on it before I thought about it.  I moved it to my husband’s bathroom, which I try not to enter unless I’m brave enough to clean it.  I will go to Weight Watchers on Friday and get my official weekly weight then. It would be nice if it was the same as last week, since that is my goal. But whatever it is, is good data that I can use to look at what I’m doing (must journal this week to make that work) and tweak it if necessary to maintain the status quo.

I also felt a little different at the gym. The walls are all mirrored of course, and usually I spend my time ignoring the progress I’ve made and focusing on that belly or those bat wings or the sagging boobs. Today I focused on how that woman in the mirror really looked. She looks healthy. Strong.  She looks relaxed and happy. No one who sees her would ever think of her as weighing 321 pounds.  She looks good. And she feels good.

She is – I mean I am – going to ride my bike to work this morning – cool fall day, with the sun shining bright and the sky bluer than blue. I can already feel the cool air flowing past my face and the sun shining on my helmet.

Life is good. Enjoy it!