Saturday, October 31, 2009

Better Jillian workouts-and free shipping

Ok to my fellow Jackie devotees - since her new dvd is almost here, and it's unacceptable to pay shipping, I thought I'd review a couple Jillian DVDs I tried recently. I suppose you could buy some books for the kids or something to get the free shipping as well.

I know some of us weren't thrilled with the Shred. I actually remember liking it, at least level 3, but I never seem to choose it. Maybe I'll give it another shot. At any rate, I agree that Jackie's supportive and encouraging manner is far more pleasant than Jillian's admonishing drill sergeant tone. I tried two older and longer Jillian workouts and liked them both - and her tone, while not as supportive as Jackie, is not nearly as bombastic as the Shred. One is circuit training, the other cardio. Both are about 45 minutes of hardcore workout, with warm-ups and cool-downs making them longer so they're a nice choice when looking for a longer workout. I usually don't do cardio dvds, but since I've been running less lately I decided to try it.

No More Trouble Zones:
As for the circuit training, this is a better review than I could ever provide. Very hard with 5 or 8 lb weights. 3 lbs are too easy.

Boost Your Metabolism:
This is the cardio workout - NO props required, and much less mean tone or voice. At the end she even says that it's not about just looking good in a bikini but also about bringing intensity to everything you do in your life. Kind of refreshing. Although after 50 minutes of pain anything she said while we were stretching and relaxing would have been music to my ears. I outlasted Dave on this one.

Dave's favorite is the ultra-hard Sean Burch. I think he's too hard and too complicated. Kind of the male version of Jackie. I actually got Dave the book for his birthday one year and he's obsessed now. May get the dvds one day but they're very expensive and as far as I can tell require too much equipment for me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Portion size

OK...I will warn in advance that this post is kind of ridiculously introspective about my eating habits...

I read in a book once that we only really taste the first several bites of what we eat. After that our tastebuds dull and we're just eating on autopilot. I employed this tactic when I started my diet, partly on purpose an partly by accident- For the first few days I was eating REALLY small portions. They were too small even for a dieter because I wasn't yet measuring, and additionally they were just WAY smaller than I was used to. The effect was definitely that my food tasted much more strongly - I never got to the place where my mouth was bored of what I was eating.

I still employ the idea of not eating a huge massive pile of something, even if it's low-calorie. I don't always do this, but I try to. It's much harder to eat lots of small portions of things - when I eat salads I try and eat some of the components separately, so I'm not just getting the dressing flavor for 30 bites of food or whatever.

Anyway, while it's kind of a pain, as you can't just throw together a big salad, ala Elaine, and be done with making lunch. But there is some merit to this practice. It really does help me naturally stop eating before I've overeaten - you know those times when the brain and stomach aren't quite communicating until it's too late and you're overly full? That doesn't happen too much to me anymore - not never, but not often.

And more than that - especially when I was eating so little, it was really important to me to eat foods I loved. Eating seemed like such a rare treat, in comparison to my former constant grazing and craving-indulging. But even now, I still want to love everything I eat. Life is too short to be bored. Thirty-five bites later, whatever you're eating just can't be that exciting any more. Calories are better saved for other tastes.

I don't always follow this - sometimes my salads, soups and bowls of cereal are too big. But I do try and keep this rule in the back of my head. I also considered posting this idea a while ago, but didn't as it's a little, um, not crazy exactly, but perhaps overly thought through and not for everyone. I'm kind of saying don't eat a huge salad just on principal, even if it's not too many calories. But I think that after months and months of this practice it really did rewire my brain to make better choices without too much thought - along the lines of Kessler's theories.

USAToday Health Twitter feed...

USAToday seems to have a lot of interesting health articles in a little Twitter sidebar.

1. Some good news on the supermarket choices front - simplifying ingredients.
2. Another push for the diet and exercise combo.
3. And this one raises something I think is ridiculous - the idea of selling a bunch of crap with added fiber and vitamins and calling it health food.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Easy dinner all around

Indeed, with all the weekend prep, dinner was a snap last night, and my fridge is much more cleaned out.
I made two soups in about 5 minutes. Of course I should have just made the mushroom - two separate soups for dinner is kind of ridiculous, but I was so curious about the pumpkin that I made that too. I heated up the mushroom soup, much of the fat skimmed, but much remaining. I really made this for Dave and he certainly didn't mind a little extra richness. I also made the pumpkin soup, but had to add about 4 times the suggested red Thai curry paste and also added in about 2 teaspoons each of a store bought ginger paste and lemmongrass paste. These are kind of cheats and not super fresh tasting, but they're massively convenient and pretty good. I must say the pumpkin soup was FABULOUS - and I'm only mad that I didn't have 2 cans of coconut milk to make a double batch. I used light coconut milk which tasted fine. It is one of those pea-soup like consistencies that gurgles all over the stove though.

So realizing that it would be unreasonable to ask the kids to eat either mushroom soup or spicy pumpkin soup I decided to make a second dinner for them - boxed whole wheat macaroni and cheese. We have inadvertently gotten away from having them each pick a meal once a week and need to get back to it. It makes a huge difference in their attitudes on the non-kid meal nights. At any rate - I did not doctor the mac and cheese with anything healthy and they both happily gobbled it up, not complaining that it was whole wheat, but instead seeing it as a treat - actual kid food! My was that peaceful! Maybe making two dinners isn't such a bad idea! Watching them shovel in the pasta, I couldn't help myself, and I did throw a few cold edamame beans on their napkins and insist that they get eaten. One quick complaint from each of them and they the beans were gobbled up so fast I actually thought they hid them. Interesting though as the kids ate easily twice as much mac and cheese as they do grown-up food - the two of them finished the whole box no problem.

Tonight we will eat the already prepared chicken and barley, and some zucchini, yet to be roasted - I need some sort of unifying sauce, often my downfall. Dave and I each got soup at work for lunch. I guess my weekend efforts were helpful after all.

I didn't even eat much of anything as I was not hungry from having overeaten the entire rest of the day. I need to get back on track with a more routine eating plan. Today I'm trying that. Also I still have about 8 cups of pumpkin left. Must get going on using or freezing it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekend cooking efforts

I bit off more than I could chew or fit in my refrigerator yesterday. I had a plan to make mushroom and barley soup, pumpkin waffles to freeze, sausage and burgers on the grill, and pumpkin soup of some kind - all with homemade chicken broth. It was also a beautiful day and my neighbor implored me to go to a special Star Wars Halloween exhibit.

So - I made the broth, pulled off most of, but not all of the chicken, roasted and scooped out an entire pumpkin, made a huge mess of my oven, but that's another matter, made barley in the rice cooker (this was my first attempt at cooking barley in my whole life, with barley having been the poster-child for gross '70-era health food. My mother never cooked it but I had a distasted for it anyway, just from growing up near it), sauteed the mushrooms and other veggies for the soup, sauteed the peppers and onions for the sausage dinner, and ended up with almost nothing to actually eat. I couldn't finish the mushroom soup as I wanted to skim the fat off the top and I was waiting for it to solidify in the fridge, but that took too long. Eventually I poured the broth, fat and all, over the veggies as I couldn't fit everything in the fridge in separate bowls (and I have a big fridge), and I hoped the fat would rise to the top and not soak into the veggies. Remains to be see what happened - will report back later. Pumpkin waffles will have to be made as a dinner treat, maybe tomorrow night. But I did discover that there truly is a blog for everything.

Sausage, burgers and sautéed pepper/onion mixture got eaten for dinner (my husband really does eat a lot - easily ate 2 burgers and 3 sausages), as well as some past-prime plain steamed broccoli, which the kids preferred to the sweet, oily, gooey, caramelized pepper strips. What is wrong with them?? Natasha started to complain about the burgers too but Dave let her have it before the whining really got under way and she actually stopped - nothing like throwing in a mild swear word at the table to startle kids into behaving. Anyone see this? Perhaps the closest the NYT will get to writing an article about me.

As for the pumpkin soup, I decided to make this recipe, offered by Elissa, but first I have to run out and get Thai red curry paste and cornstarch. Unfortunately I just went to the incredibly busy and inconveniently located Asian market to get rice and I'm not going back - so I'll try something like Whole Foods first.

Currently I have a big soup pot in the fridge with some untested soup, as well as a huge bowl of pumpkin, and medium sized bowls of barley and soft boiled chicken, and still not much to eat in the way of a proper dinner. In theory, dinners will be sort of fast this week, with my prepared staples, but we'll see. 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Delish Salads and hodgepodge dinner

Everyone sees my salads and says they look good. Here is what I ate the past two days.

Yesterday - Halfway Cobb Salad
Romaine lettuce - chopped up whole bag and put in Tupperware with wet paper towel on top. Will last for several days that way. Mom's trick I learned years ago! Each evening I make a salad up for the next day.

-Trader Joe's "Just plain chicken" This is flavorless and mushy and comes cut up in chunks already - almost like solid babyfood! For some reason I like it. My tastes really have declined. I think because of my TMJ I'm drawn to mushy foods.

-2 Tbs crumbled Gorgonzola dried cranberry blend from TJs - saves a step!
-1/2 cut up small orange pepper

-For dressing I used a TJs bottled olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing I keep at my desk. I prefer it to be disposable as washing a cruet out at work is kind of icky. Lasts a few weeks and gets tossed.

-Can't remember the carb - must have been a slice of some whole wheat bread.

-I had some walnuts after as I was hungry.

Today - Lazy Woman's Thai Salad
-More leftover Romaine
-more plain chicken, and a few leftover steamed shrimp from dinner last night
-1/2 cup brown rice leftover from dinner, thrown right into the mix
-several pea pods, would have been nice if I actually cut them up, but again getting lazy.
-1 Tbs peanut butter - just glopped it on for added "peanut sauce" flavor
-few slices mango (sadly I must admit I have taken to buying this fresh, pre-sliced and in a plastic container. Horrible, I know)
-another bought dressing - TJs spicy peanut something - not fantastic but making from scratch is pretty labor intensive and I often don't have fresh limes. I actually put this on the night before but tried not to get it on the lettuce, so it wouldn't wilt.

This one was delicious.

Poor Dave got a bowl full of various leftovers - taco beef bits, baby lima beans, brown rice, cabbage strings. I haven't heard any complaints yet.

BTW - To make baby cabbage strings - a great garnish or side...
-Buy one bag shredded cabbage for coleslaw
-spread on baking sheet
-very lightly sprinkle with oo and salt
-roast at 400 for 10-15 min or so
-kind of like a dietetic onion string. Ok sort of - it's no Outback or anything. I made kind of as an after thought as it was getting sad looking, but It would be a great garnish, in the way restaurants do that with onion strings - a nice dinner party trick!

Dinner last night -
-Roast pork loin with garlic, soy and sesame oil
-steamed shrimp
-brown rice
-peanut tofu
-broccoli-slaw salad (can buy broccoli stems shredded like cabbage in a salad bag)

I know this was 3 main dishes but I didn't expect them to all get eaten at once. I was also kind of planning to make "combination pad thai" but with broccoli slaw instead of noodles, and some rice to fill people up. I ate the tofu over the salad, and since I was too hungry to wait for the rice to finish cooking I decided to have extra dessert. Um, not sure about that decision but oh well - ended up eating 240 cals of dessert in 4 bites. Dave ate a lot of everything. Kids complained about all choices. The kids wanted the plain boring overcooked steamed shrimp of all things. Why didn't they want that delicious pork with the homemade sauce???

Of course I gave everyone more choices than they should have had and ended up with far fewer leftovers than I expected. Pork gone. Shrimp - 4 left. Lots of rice. Small amount tofu. Some salad.

Alex ate a bit of rice, a couple bites each of shrimp and pork chopped up orange pepper, which he declared he liked more than he thought he would and Natasha ate a couple pea pods and some shrimp. Neither kid ate much. They were allowed small desserts and I was positive they'd be complaining of hunger later but they didn't. I guess they weren't that hungry.

New jeans

To everyone who wanted me to buy fancy jeans - I finally did -
$30 for a pair of Lucky's at Filene's Basement. They're nice! But not worth $150. I also found a super-soft long cashmere sweater for a good price. And it has long sleeves. What is up with short-sleeved sweaters? Not a practical trend. Now I have to return 4 items at 4 different stores that I don't like. This is a full-time job. I need to go to Loehman's, Target, TJMax and Filene's Basement. Obviously I'm very fancy. I also have a sweater vest that I love that is 2 weeks old and already ripping - and that's from Banana Republic. I'd rather sew it than return it, but I'm pretty annoyed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A before photo found

Someone I work with saw me in a meeting in someone else's office and said, "Please stop by my office when you're done."

Then she showed me this horrible photo - I couldn't believe it. The scan is very hard to see but the original has plenty of detail.

Someone said I look too thin today. I think it's when my hair is up my face and neck are too scrawny. I haven't lost weight in a few weeks so it must be what I'm wearing/hairdo. I also have kind of clingy, legging-like pants with a tunic top and boots - a new look for me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How did I do?

The intensive partying is over, and I'm worn down. I had a lovely weekend away, seeing family and even some dear friends. My mom and I spent 14 hours in the car, most of it during rain storms and didn't hit any excruciating traffic until we were literally 3 miles from my house, at which point it stopped dead. My mom drove all of it so I can't even complain about being tired from driving.

I must say I was very happy in Cindy's beautiful silk/wool blend dress. It fit as if it were made for me - and that is a bit better than it fit when I initially tried it on to borrow it. I guess that last 3 pounds makes a difference. Of course she needs to get it taken in, but the fact that we are near the same size is astounding to me. See lame iphone photo.

The wedding was beautiful and a treat. Once again long lines at buffets and a tardy dessert made temptations easier to handle. But I was certainly worn down and was tempted by way more food than normal. I just wanted the stuff more, which of course makes things harder. I tried to have small tastes of things, in general, but did eat dessert on Saturday night. It was Saturday after all. I don't actually know for sure how much I can eat for maintenance, versus weight loss, because my time since reaching my final weight has been so chaotic, but I think I have it figured out - basically I eat a little more at dinner and after dinner.
I meant to stop at 140 and am now 137 and have fluctuated between these two numbers since August. Truth be told, I don't want to lose any more weight, but I am between 2 sizes, which is mighty irritating. I can't bring myself to either gain or lose 3 or 4 pounds, which would solve the problem.

Anyway, the wedding was so beautiful. The bride (my cousin) looked lovely, her sister also looked amazing, as did their mother. The sister of the groom was not supposed to be at the wedding as she was 10 days past her due date and the poor woman was the ultimate good sport. She looked adorable wobbling down the aisle. Three of the brides maids were 1 month post-partum and pumping together in the bridal suite during the cocktail hour. Ahhh to be 33 again.

I did feel badly for the one or two heavy brides maids. I'm not sure if they were the post- partum ones, but it must be embarrassing to walk down the aisle with all sorts of size 2 cuties when you're on the overweight/obese line. Now when I see women like that I just feel so badly that they are spending their 20s in such a state. Perhaps they are happy as clams but I would bet money that they aren't.

I see heavy people in their 20s or early 30s and want to shake them and say, "You have so much free time and you can't even possibly imagine what you're in for later!!! Please use it wisely! Please work on some healthier habits now!!!" I'll just keep that monologue in my head.

Perhaps the most amazing site was the litany of people in their late 80s to late 90s who WALKED unassisted down the aisle, including my great aunt. Talk about brave. Of course the people who make it to that age are trim and fit and seemed far more energetic than the new moms. Despite my potentially very bad genes, I will hope for good luck, continue on my good habits and hope to walk my great grand-children down the aisle one day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

These look good

I found these recipes on and they look quite good.

Tuna and beans

I think this one looks really nice for winter, but as previously discussed, I'm partial to butternut squash and pumpkin dishes.

Andean stew

There was a longer slideshow of many recipes under the title of cleaning out the pantry. Now for the life of me I can't find it. Oh well.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I had two sometimes conflicting theories about how a diet (lifestyle change?) should impact my friends and family.

The first is that I had to be able to fit my diet or healthy lifestyle into whatever existing life I was leading. This means I had to be able to say no to some temptations, plan to spend splurges on social events, and plan ahead for when to indulge or not in general. I tried not to be a total killjoy (um, kind of successful) and I tried not to fall apart the minute I was in a place with food I didn't want to eat.

The second idea is that it was ok to ask friends and family to alter certain behaviors in order to support me. It is ok to ask for help or accommodation sometimes - not all the time of course! It is ok to suggest healthier snacks at book club, to suggest a walk instead of lunch at a restaurant when meeting a friend, to bring a fruit plate for dessert to a party, to ask your family to not eat out so much, or to say no to parties that aren't going to be that fun. Every event does not need to focus so intensively around food, and every event with food does not need to involve so MUCH fattening food.

In the end it worked out ok for me because my husband and I have a lame social life, which I kind of relish, and because I wasn't tempted by a lot in my hardcore losing period. I don't think I made too many demands on my family and I saved all my extra points for when we went out so I wasn't a tense monster. It is also extremely economically advantageous to eat out less - a point lost on no one.

Some special occasions warrant special foods - a person deserves to go out on her birthday, but I did change my norms about what is socially acceptable in every day life. I have had dinner parties where I served fruit and a small batch of No Pudge Fudge brownies for dessert (horribly high in sugar but the key was in not having enough for people to have seconds). I actually think the guests were kind of grateful for healthy dinner parties. Fruit plates at work parties are always gobbled up.

I did fine at my recent weekends away (last one is tomorrow!), but definitely the constant temptations wear a person down over time, and the more I gave in the more I wanted to give in the next day. It's kind of a vicious cycle. And this applies to a season of holiday parties, or a weekend away equally.

Kessler's theory is that the that the brain becomes conditioned to the stimuli and immediately responds in a specific way, which is basically impossible to over come. He feels no one has enough willpower to overcome these conditioned responses and the key is to get away from the temptations in the first place. Removing the temptations, and not eating those foods very often is the only way to break the cycle of those learned responses. He summarizes his theories very nicely here in the first part of the show.

Anyway, listening to all the temptations people will have over the holidays is sobering. I started my plan on Jan 7. Perfect timing! Really, it was a good time to start after I figured out an indoor exercise routine. Maybe just maintaining is the most reasonable approach to the holidays. But long-term, the balance between fitting in and asking for change is tricky. I think as the obesity crisis becomes more understood the gratuitous parties will become less pervasive.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I am often criticized for not shopping with a list. I really can't stand lists, and if I do use one I put things like, "lunch stuff" anyway. So on occasion I forget things and send my husband off to forage for my remaining items. Even if I need two items this requires a text message list. This week I forgot only staples that I don't purchase weekly.

So I asked him to go to our local market and buy the following (verbally no texted list):
  1. natural peanut butter, creamy, the kids don't like chunky
  2. jelly, low sugar, but not with artificial sweeteners
  3. dried cranberries
  4. natural dishwasher soap (I did not specify powder, but I only buy powder)
He came home with:
  1. natural peanut butter, chunky
  2. fancy jelly with loads of sugar but no artificial ingredients
  3. two bags fresh cranberries
  4. natural liquid dish soap
  5. two containers ice cream
  6. six-pack beer
Basically every single item was wrong. I was cracking up. He wanted me to go return all the stuff and get what I wanted. I'm so tired and refused to do this, even though it's about 300 yards away, but it's cold and rainy and I want to start the kids' bedtime (instead I'm writing this blog post). He insisted that the fresh cranberries were dried and wouldn't admit to knowing what a dried cranberry is. This is a man who has trail mix in his lunch every day. Often with dried cranberries in it.
"So, what does a dried cranberry look like?" he asked
"You know. Like a raisin," I said.
"OOOHHH," recognition sunk into his face. "Well you should have told me to get cranberry raisins."
Well I could have explained that a raisin is a grape but I chose not to beleaguer the point. At least he goes to the supermarket when I forget things., even if it is usually just an excuse to get ice cream or beer.

This was all after a relatively unsuccessful dinner. It was an amalgamation of vegetables I cooked earlier in the week, along with some ground turkey that Dave made, and some plain pasta. I got home and it was suddenly time to eat and I didn't have the wherewithal to pull it all together in a cohesive manner, which usually I am able to do. Even opening a jar of red sauce might have helped. I threw some shredded parm on things and called it a day. The kids were unimpressed and grumpy. Dave and I were happy enough (after a bit of a pumpkin freak-out on Dave's part) but I had even run out of olive oil, which is a problem. Perhaps that should have been on the list.

All in all, a pretty disorganized dinner time, despite my pre-cooking. This constant travel is really taking it out of me! One more trip then back to normal.

One thing I noticed though is that I have taken to eating "rabbit food" or at least roasted rabbit food. I can be perfectly happy with a lunch of a bunch of roasted veggies thrown together and re-warmed in the microwave. I couldn't possibly advocate anyone else eating the meal plans I've eaten this week. I don't know why I find the roasted salty oily veggies so comforting, but I do. Perhaps it's just the cold! And I can't tell you how many bowls of that plain pumpkin I've eaten. Usually I come up with some kind of unifying sauce, spices included, perhaps an ethnic themed flavor. Really my cooking is becoming pathetic. I think I have run out of brain space for the creativity that cooking requires. And while I'm fine with, and even savoring the roasted rabbit food, I must get back to some extra flavor in my cooking the sake of my family.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


What a great weekend. A huge family reunion in the form of my adorable nephew's bar mitzva. First of all, he did a fantastic job and had such poise. Second of all, heading to Texas really was a fun culture shock. It was amazing to see all the 13 yr old girls in their flowey spaghetti strap dresses with cowboy boots. We're not on the East Coast any more!

I loved seeing my cousins, and spending lots of time with them. Of course eveyone said I looked great, which was nice, but no one was over the top, thank goodness. There was a lot of other stuff to talk about! I only have a few grainy photos from my iphone. Mainly I was too busy talking or asking where my children were and my brother kept handing me his camera - so there should be some good ones on his...

We also saw former neighbors from MD who moved to Dallas. We spent the night and then then we went jogging in the morning. How fun! It was great to be able to do something like that as an activity - we killed 3 birds with one stone - a time for the moms to chat, a tour of the neighborhood and morning exercise. I also took a jog with Dave earlier in the weekend, and let my cousin serve as personal trainer another day. It was fun, even though he said I was squirming like a stuck pig when trying to do bench presses. I'm used to my girly workouts with the 8 lb dumbbells. Traditional bench presses with 55 lbs are hard! As much as I eschew gyms, it was kind of fun to have all the choices of equipment and general gym atmosphere. But most days are way too busy for gym workouts.

I definitely ate too much, but I didn't go crazy or anything. Although I did notice that my willpower wore off as the long weekend and endless temptations continued. And now I'm so tired that I have completed about 20 minutes of exercise a day. Not enough for me any more.

I kind of want to get back into a routine but first Alex has a fever, Natasha is exhausted and I'm leaving again for a wedding on Saturday!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I love pumpkin season for so many reasons.
But one big one is that I love pumpkin and squash of all varieties, and it's such a versatile, filling, low-calorie, nutritious food. In fact it's listed as a "superfood" although I find that designation a bit hokey. Regardless, today I was home in the afternoon, for a long period of time so I roasted a whole pumpkin, a whole cabbage but cut up, a bag of broccoli tips, and sauteed 3 bags of mushrooms and some pesto chicken. I made individual pizzas for my family, and put the chicken on Dave's. The pumpkin pictured is a "peanut pumpkin" as it looks like it has peanuts growing all over it.

Two hours later of roasting on 400, I have a huge bowl of pumpkin, and must figure out things to do with it. I did find this interesting web site....although I haven't tried any recipes yet. It seems like a great vegetarian resource.

So far I have eaten it "sliced" and with a tad of cinnamon, salt and the tiniest drizzle of real

maple syrup, as pictured, and added it to oatmeal. I love it plain and fibrous, or in my opinion al dente, although I realize the more traditional thing to do is puree it into baby-food consistency and add it to soups, stews, sauces, pancakes, muffins. I have about 10 cups so I should be able to do all of the above.

I can't get my kids to like it as pictured so I'll have to get creative.
I should be able to make some pumpkin muffins or pancakes pretty easily.
I will also freeze some, because even though there isn't much to making pumpkin aside from needing a good 2 hours of oven time, it is nice to have it all ready to go, especially for when pumpkins aren't so plentiful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chopped frozen spinach

Just a quick pitch for this versatile freezer staple. While it would be nice to always eat fresh vegetables, we all end up low on food, with a missed trip to the store sometimes and frozen veggies and beans can be extremely handy. I also have some of that frozen cooked brown rice around for emergencies too.

I especially like frozen chopped spinach. The kind that is all in chunks and you can pour, not the huge brick of ice. I microwave the spinach for a few minutes, squeeze out the water and then add it to pizza, sauces, wheat berry type salads, pasta dishes, under fried eggs - whatever. It's always good with feta. It will make whatever you are eating twice the size and only add heft, nutrients and fiber, no calories. So you get to eat a nice mound of food, not just a small scoop, so to speak.

I also like sweet corn and peas, which I don't count nearly as accurately as I should, and frozen baby lima or soy beans. These can be thrown into or on anything for added protein, fiber and nutrients. These do add a certain amount of fat, carbs and calories but they are quite filling. I use them to make a vegetarian entrée more of a meal.

As for the whole fresh versus frozen debate, I just split the difference by eating both. The debate is about which are more nutritious. Nutrients degrade over time so the question is do you eat fresh and local, or frozen, which is frozen immediately before the nutrients have time to degrade. There is also info about how some veggies retain their nutrients more in raw form, while others release the nutrients more easily when cooked. It's all so overwhelming and indecisive that I just eat a variety and assume the best.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Week night family dinner goals

I would say my goals for week night meals are as follows, not in order.
  1. serve the entire family a healthy meal, using as few processed foods as possible.
  2. make dinner in less than 20 minutes
  3. eat together
  4. reduce whining about what is eaten
  5. don't make entire kitchen dirty
  6. make one meal for everyone
This week is a bit odd as I'm deep into "use up food before going on vacation" mode even though we're only leaving for 4 days. So one night the boys were out late at karate and I made Alex and Dave individual pizzas, using already cooked ground beef for Dave. Alex got his own plain pizza and was so excited. I'm not sure why it never occurred to me before to break up the mound of dough I buy each week. Natasha was at a friend's house and I kind of used up various bits leftovers, eating standing up in a very unsatisfying way. But making the pizzas with the already browned beef was fast and not messy.

Last night called Dave and asked him to make rice in the rice cooker, which took a full 5 minutes, much to the amusement of my next door work neighbor. When I got home I heated up the tofu-veggie mix in the microwave. I also warmed up some frozen corn and pre-made TJs chicken meatballs. So we all ate the corn and rice and the kids ate the meatballs (well Dave ate a few too) and Dave and I ate the tofu-veggies. I count this as making 1.5 meals. So this was an admitted defeat of sorts. The chicken meatballs were undoubtedly in the processed category, even though TJs doesn't use a lot of preservatives and junk. I actually bought them for this very purpose - which is to feed to the kids when I feel like making something un-kid friendly for me and Dave, such as tofu, or something really spicy.

Tonight Dave and are eating at a neighbor's, and I'll have to scrape something up for the kids. They'll probably get sandwiches or eggs in a tortilla. Thursday will really be scraping the bottom of the barrel and then we leave Friday mid-day.

So I realize that we're still all eating too many processed foods, such as chicken sausage for the adults or turkey meatballs for the kids. I had kind of let the relative normal sounding list of ingredients on TJs frozen foods lull me into denying that they are still processed foods. I mean at one level, if the ingredients really are, "chicken, bread crumbs, salt" that's not so bad. But of course they use all sorts of junk I'm sure, even within those foods. Actually, I'm sure the fresh chicken sausage at Whole Foods is much healthier than anything frozen and in shrink-wrap, but I don't shop at Whole Foods much. And while I don't want to feed my kids frozen meatballs every night I also really don't like the idea of being overly ideological, ie crazy, about what "processed" means. I mean you could argue that whole wheat flour is "processed" as opposed to wheat berries. But that's just silly.

I should note that my mother and sister-in-law both make home made meat balls often - with my sister-in-law even grinding the meat herself. I have always found this to be very labor intensive and messy, and the kids don't notice the difference between frozen and home made. But Dave does. Perhaps I'll try making a huge batch one weekend and freezing them myself. I guess I've never done this because I don't really like meatballs or meatloaf. Perhaps this is a bad reason.

I kind of abide by the Dr. Oz rule, which is to not eat anything with more that 5 ingredients listed on the package. I should clarify, I think that is a rational goal, I don't always abide by it, but I try. But sometimes goals 2,4 and 5 beat out goal 1.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I signed up for my first ever sporting event that requires a registration. This was not really a goal of mine, but I have to say that when my friend asked if I was interested in doing a very low-key family/pet-friendly Thanksgiving morning 5k it did feel good to want to say yes, and not get agitated and nervous. Of course if it were even 5 miles I would have said no, and the friend will be 3 months past her second c-section (baby was 10lbs/23 inches!) at Thanksgiving so it' s not really a scary challenge for me. She'll be happy to walk 5k and I don't blame her. I'm pretty impressed that she's interested at all. If only I had been so determined after my second child was born!

Still, the idea of getting a "number" and t-shirt is very exciting to me! I plan on running all 5k (3 mi) even though I still walk parts of my 2 mi daily runs. I'm hoping the adrenaline of the group run gets me going. I have heard that picking a discernible goal, such as running a 5k or hiking up a mountain is a good way to start a diet program. I didn't do that - my goal was getting into a healthy bmi range, which translated into 25 lbs. I guess a 5k is a nice goal in retrospect - but really, I'm not a competitor and never will be. I just like feeling fit and healthy. I hope I make it!

Monday, October 5, 2009

What I bought this week...

Sunday I tried an experiment. I had a few kids at the house, and was kind of stuck hanging around so I tried cooking anything I could. Normally if I cook on the weekend it's big complicated things, not simple sautées I can do after work. I thought I'd get ahead for the week.

I made tofu with sautéed spring onions and mushrooms, and a soy/sesame sauce. I roasted zucchini spears, peppers, turnips (not together, the turnips were just like chips that I ate. Yum!). I sautéed ground white meat turkey and super-fatty but organic grass-fed ground beef, a new offering at TJ's. It's actually too rich for me to even eat. I also had a whole tub of whole wheat pasta already cooked in the fridge.

Well by the time dinner was over on Sunday, we had eaten all the roasted veggies, most of the pasta, all the ground turkey and broken into the ground beef. I kind of put it all together for Dave and I, minus the beef, and gave N some beef as she really likes it. So much for getting ahead. Then like a dummy I took apart the bits and separated them on the plate for the kids. They don't like all their food glopped together so I should know better than to do that.

I do have more ground beef, which will go on my now at least once weekly home made whole wheat pizza, I have the tofu dinner, but unfortunately I'm out of the nice sticky rice from the Asian market. We're also going to neighbors' homes at least twice this week and Friday are leaving for Texas, so we better get eating. As of now I have no plan for tonight! Maybe we'll eat the pizza.

We'll see if I saved us any hassle this week at dinner time.

I also over-bought lunch options, so we may have sandwiches one evening. I had a spicy chicken sandwich for breakfast today! I have enough sliced cheese to feed us for a month. One of the perils of not shopping with a list. Luckily for me since the airlines don't serve food I'm making a huge picnic of sandwiches to take on the plane. Just like my Czech exchange family did back in the 1990s - except they would pack all their food for a week's holiday!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Get Ready Ladies!

New Jackie Video!

To all my fellow Jackie disciples who have been touting her prowess lately: good news....the new Jackie Warner video will be available in November.

I may even pre-order, I'm such a dork.

I have also been doing lots of Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser, as well as some of the exercisetv in-house trainers.

All the workouts I do use a circuit system of a few minutes of weights and then a minute or so of cardio, with the intention of burning out muscles to almost complete fatigue. Jackie likes to focus on single muscle groups more, she feels that the mind-body connection leads to better concentration, performance and form. The Biggest Loser trainers do more multi-muscle-group exercises, which they say produce maximum calorie burn. So they do various types of squats combined with arm weight exercises. The Jillian Shred video has a method of 3-2-1 which is circuits of 3 minutes of weights, 2 minutes of cardio and 1 minute of core. Keeps things changing for sure.

Personally I like both the combined idea or the singular muscle method, and switch them out based on mood. Generally if I run I do one Jackie routine and if I don't run I do a more comprehensive-type exercise.

All these videos are kind of focused on becoming strong and building a healthy body, but more than that the trainers seem unabashedly focused on creating a body that looks cut. It's so California and so strange, but it works like a charm!