Monday, March 21, 2011

Slimming down, swimsuits and... SNOW?!

Good morning all!  Spring has arrived (although Mother Nature seems to be ignoring the memo) and yesterday I went to Lane Bryant to try on some new bathing suits as mine is just shot!  I'd still like to lose 20lbs before I actually buy one but I'm happy to say this is the first year I didn't feel like stomping around crying before curling into the fetal position and rocking in a corner with my thumb in my mouth;)  

Anyway, as promised I've been perusing the cookbooks I took out of the library last week and so far my favorite books are the ADA's cookbook for Diabetics and much to my surprise, the Biggest Loser family cookbook!  My first recipe to try came from the Biggest Loser and this book had me chuckling a few times.  It talks about being budget friendly and a few tips are just that with suggestions like breaking down a large packet of chicken breasts and freezing them separately for later use.  But then there are suggestions like picking up short grain brown rice from your local health food store, buying fresh herbs and investing in a deli meat slicer to cut up whole roasts that you make at home to avoid all the preservatives and fillers you get from regular deli meat.  I'm not saying these aren't healthier alternatives but really, who has the budget to run out and get a deli slicer and where would you put it if you did?  It also felt at times like the reader was being talked down to in the blurbs between sections like their average reader is a complete idiot rather than a functioning adult.

Nevertheless, the first recipe I tried was the Broccoli Cheddar Mini Frattata.  It was extremely easy to make so of course I had to screw it up a little he.  You spray olive oil into a standard muffin tin (of course I decided to use my popover tin instead) and divide 1 cup of chopped steamed broccoli among the cups.  In my infinite wisdom I broke open a bag of broccoli steamers and popped them in frozen:-p  Then you divide 2 cups egg substitute evenly among the cups.  Now I do NOT recommend using egg white substitute like All Whites because the flavor and consistency just isn't the same.  If like me you're not a fan of Egg Beaters (I can taste the onion powder unless it's something like Southwest blend, which I think would be fantastic in this recipe) then try using Better N Eggs.  

Anyway, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 7-9 minutes or until almost set.  Sprinkle 1 cup finely shredded low fat cheddar over the top of the frattatas and bake for 8-10 more minutes or until the egg is no longer runny and the cheese is melted.  Then transfer to a cooling rack and rest for 2 minutes before serving.  Now it could be because I used egg whites and frozen broccoli but I ended up having to bake for 20 minutes before it started to set 5 minutes to melt the cheese so fair warning.  This recipe yields 4 servings of 2 frattatas each and check out these nutritional facts per serving: 102 calories, 18g protein, 4g carbs, 2g fat (less than 1g sat), 5mg cholesterol, 1g fiber and 362mg sodium

Unfortunately, I did find myself hungry again in about an hour so I suggest pairing this with some fruit and yogurt or something to help tied yourself over.

My absolute favorite breakfast recipe in the book so far is the Apple Turnover Breakfast Sundae!  This involves apple turnover or other apple flavored yogurt, crunchy, high fiber low sugar cereal like Grape Nuts, chopped apple, cinnamon and raisins (optional).  Again, simple recipe and very quick to make.  You spoon a 1/2 cup of yogurt into a small deep bowl, sprinkle the cereal, then the apple, top with cinnamon and raisins if you're using them.  Now, for the life of me I can't remember the last time I've seen apple flavored yogurt (it just doesn't seem to be done) but I couldn't find any during my trip to the store so I substituted vanilla flavored yogurt instead (don't go unflavored, it'll clash with the apples and taste bitter).  

If you decide to use a little sundae glass like I did I suggest alternating the layers of apple, Grape Nuts and yogurt so you're not having to fight off an avalanche like I did;)  I was a bit leery of using Grape Nuts as when I tried it in the 80s I felt like I would break all my teeth but it seems the yogurt softens it enough to be edible (either that or my teeth have gotten stronger).  I used my favorite apples, Pink Lady, which is a nice sharp but sweet apple.  If you don't have access to Pink Ladies, I think MacIntosh or Fujis would work too.  I also added the cinnamon but left out the raisins and the end result was a very satisfying breakfast that surprisingly kept me content for 3 1/2 hours!  It tasted like a nice apple pie or cobbler too and I will definitely add this recipe to my list:)  Each serving is 147 calories, 6g protein, 31g carbs, trace fat (and sat), 3mg cholesterol, 3g fiber and 154mg sodium.

I've been reluctant to try the lunch recipes as many of them involve salad and while I can munch on fruits and vegetables all day I hate, hate HATE salads!  I did try two of the non-salad lunch recipes last week though and was less impressed with the results.  The Grilled Chicken Smothered Nachos fell a bit flat and needed a bit of tweaking.  It involves 1 oz baked tortilla chips, 1/4 cup drained black beans heated (I used Goya), 4oz grilled extra lean boneless, skinless chicken breast cubed, 2 tablespoons salsa con queso (couldn't find anywhere so I combined Pace mild salsa because I like the chopped peppers and onions it contains with 2% Velveeta) heated, 3 tablespoons tomato and 2 tablespoons thinly sliced jalapenos (wear gloves when handling or you're in for a world of pain).  What I didn't like about this recipe was everything had to be reheated multiple times but the chips left cold so the whole thing was pretty flat tasting and soggy.  

Now I didn't use the jalapeno and maybe should have put a few drops of tabasco instead to liven it up but it felt like the book was saying look, this is going to be really really good I swear and look it even looks fattening!  It has potential though so I'm not giving up on it completely.  I want to play with it again to see if there's a way to jazz it up without adding calories, fat etc.  Nutritional value: 321 calories, 32g protein, 36g carbs, 5g fat (less than 1g sat), 65mg cholesterol, 5g fiber, 498mg sodium

The other recipe I tried was the Chicken Salad Dijon With Grapes and Apple.  This one came out better than the nachos but still had a funny flavor, possibly because I wasn't about to buy two containers of yogurt and used vanilla flavored yogurt instead of plain.  Anyway, you take 1lb trimmed, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and rub all over with 1tsp of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill for 3-5 minutes per side (I love my George Foreman grill because I didn't have to flip it so it was ready in about 5 minutes) or until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear.  Allow the chicken to cool and cut into bite sized pieces.  Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together 2 tsp olive oil, 3 tablespoons fat free plain yogurt and 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard.  Add the chicken, 1/3 cup chopped celery, 1/3 cup seedless grapes each cut in half and 1/3 cup chopped red apple.  Gently toss well to combine, season with salt and pepper and serve.  Again, I made a few adjustments, some intentional and some not.  

I'd forgotten to add the oil to the mix and the salt and pepper seasoning at the end (remembering to garnish has always been my problem), I used Grey Poupon Dijon mustard (the white wine seems to give it an extra zing although possibly too much as the mixture tasted a bit too mustardy.  So if you're going to use Grey Poupon I suggest 2 tablespoons or maybe an extra tablespoon of yogurt.. oh and don't use vanilla;).  I omitted the celery because I hate celery in anything salad, I used red globe seedless grapes and my favorite Pink Lady apple.  You can either eat this as a sandwich with a nice wheat or multigrain bread (I LOVE Fiber One personally) or on a bed of butter lettuce (suggested) or fresh spinach.  I do like the crunch and flavor of the sandwich though and any fault I think lies with me so I'll definitely be trying this again.  Serves 4, Nutritional value per serving: 173 calories, 27g protein, 4g carbs, 5g fat (less than 1g sat), 66mg cholesterol, trace fiber, 361mg sodium.

This week I'll be trying more breakfast recipes from this book and a few from the ADA book that caught my attention as well as a few interesting looking dinner and dessert recipes.  I may even suck it up and try some salads for lunch.  There's an especially nice looking creamy carrot soup that I'm really anxious to try as well.  I also revamped my Wii list on Gamefly and placed a few dance and fitness games at the top since we'd just returned the games we had.... Gamefly just shipped Mortal Kombat and GoldenEye 007!

Have a great week everyone, ciao for now!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The heart attack that wasn't... AGAIN!

"I'm not fat, I'm FLUFFY!"  LOL I love Gabriel Iglesias:)

Graduate of Brookdale Community College 2009

So three weeks ago and for the second time in 10 years I was hospitalized for what was thought and felt like a minor heart attack.  Zillions of tests later it turns out my heart is perfectly fine, "Textbook" as my doctor told me.  Of course I was relieved as tests 10 years and 100 lbs ago revealed several murmurs and I'd made it my mission to not only lose all the extra weight but eat, drink and do every heart healthy thing imaginable to fix what I'd started.  At least my efforts were not in vain and I was happy to hear that the murmurs were gone and my heart was perfect.  

What I was not happy to hear however was that my pressure was still up despite being on a medicine that for the last three weeks, while lowering my pressure significantly, had always drained every ounce of energy from me and made me sick and dizzy a majority of the time.  And while my Triglycerides were a far cry from the evil 285, my doctor wanted to see it lower still.  

I was a tall skinny kid growing up.  Weight gain didn't really become an issue until about high school and by the time I'd left college it became a major factor in my life.  Weight Watchers made me realize I was an "emotional eater."  For those of you who may not be aware, this means whenever I was bored, sad, depressed, or upset about something I turned to food.  My favorite method of comfort was usually a combo of General Tso chicken with white rice, a bottle of Snapple Lemon Iced Tea and a carton of Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice Cream.  Anyway, thanks to Weight Watchers I managed to kick the habit and substituted food with time at the gym or some kind of craft or creative project.  And so I steadily brought my weight down from 398lbs to 287lbs.  My ultimate goal is 200lbs.  Sure modern medicine insists my ideal weight should be 170lbs but with my large 5'11" frame that weight would only shift my battle with weight loss to a battle with Anorexia, something I am not about to do.  With the snow and ice finally melting outside I hope to begin walking again shortly but finances and location dictate my lack of access to any sort of decent gym which means I have to be creative.  Over the next few weeks I hope to finally receive the dance and exercise games that have been collecting dust on my Gamefly list but which Gamefly seems determined not to send me.

Original size (actually 324lbs, the model wouldn't do 398)
Goal Weight

I also decided it was time I got off my butt and tried alternative meals.  Bear in mind I do not eat beef or fried food, rarely get fast food and I don't snack and have limited soda to once a week but I do eat several smaller portioned meals throughout the day of normal food.  I don't believe in eating Fat Free, LowFat etc. foods as they're loaded with chemicals that I don't want to put in my body.  These methods have enabled me to lose the weight that I have.  Unfortunately this past year has found my weight ricocheting between 287 and 310lbs which means something's gotta give.  So my approach is now to increase my fruit, vegetable and water intake, putting the culinary skills I've acquired in school to good use and checking out some new cookbooks for ideas.  

As soon as I left the doctor's office I headed for the Food and Nutrition section of Borders where I found myself staring at several walls packed to the gills with gimmicky books with shiny happy skinny people staring back at me.  Lose 10lbs in Two Weeks!  Eat This Not That!  The Raw Food Diet! The 4 Day Diet!  The 10 Day Diet!  The Idiot's Guide to Weight Loss!  I felt like I was reading a tabloid!  Even the schlubs from Food Network were in on it.  Instead I dropped $5 on a piano lesson kit and headed straight for the library.  I figured rather than wasting thousands I didn't have on books that may or may not work and could injure me in the process I'd try them out first.  So in my attempt at getting fit again, I parked 6 blocks away and walked to the library where I found my old culinary friends staring down at me.  Cookbooks from Julia Child, James Beard, the Chez Panisse restaurant, I even found Larousse Gastronomique, the biggest bastard of a cookbook you ever did see.  I swear the thing weighs 10lbs on its own!  No it's not a dietary cookbook but just seeing it made me tingle the way the sight of a clean stainless steel kitchen does (only true foodies understand that tingle).  I also picked up Cleaving the sequel to Julie Powell's Julie and Julia because I understand it covers her affair with the local butcher.  Yeah ok, I don't watch reality tv or read magazines about celebrities, I prefer my human drama from actual books, sue me:-p

Anyway,  I decided to start with The New Family Cookbook for People with Diabetes by the American Diabetes Association (I understand taking up a Diabetic diet can really help with weight loss and health issues so I figured it was worth a crack), The Best Life Diet Cookbook by Bob Greene which is all green and happy looking so I'm assuming it has something to do with a happy, green, new agey lifestyle.  Then there's The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook.  Now I don't like The Biggest Loser, that Jill chick gets on my last nerve, but I've heard their books have some decent recipes and the "budget friendly meals for the whole family" thing got my attention.  Last but not least I picked up The French Women Don't Get Fat cookbook.  I'd heard about the original book and in my own experience I've noticed no, European women in general aren't nearly as large as American women and I've always been curious about the dietary habits especially those in the Mediterranean.

Of course all these books were on the second floor and I decided to take the elevator as, exercise or not, I could just envision myself careening head first down all those stairs in a shower of large heavy books.  By the time I got from the elevator to the desk I realized the six block walk back to the car would involve a balancing, weight lifting act and ended up investing $10 for a cloth bag that was larger than it looked and with strong rope handles from my local library and alternating the now 30lb+ sack between my hands as I trudged back to the car.  The sun was shining but winter's icy wind (you see Maine didn't get the memo that Spring is due in a few days) kept finding its way down the hood of my coat.  My right calf muscle moaned at me by block #3 "Shut up and walk you cow, this is why you're fat!" I told myself.  "You're not fat, you're beautiful!" I heard my loving husband's admonishment in my head.  See, not only do I talk to myself but I have whole arguments involving other people.

So here I sit surrounded by books and wondering which I'll try first.  I'll be posting and taking pictures of these meals and my experiences with them as well as any exercises I try in lieu of going to an actual gym.  I get the feeling my Wii will become my best friend.  To all my fellow foodies and non-foodies struggling with weight, good luck to you all, feedback, questions and suggestions are welcome:)