Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trying to do the Next Best Thing

I have been undergoing all sorts of medical tests to see why I was having chest pressure and stomach aches in the month of December. The good news is that as of around January 6th I haven't had any more chest pressure and so far, tests are coming back normal. Well, everything but one small thing, which I'm not going to go into here. In any case, the one thing that's a little off has prompted my doctor to go from "I'd like you to lose some weight" to "I want you to join a weight loss program like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or Thin's In" (that last one is a local one).

Yeah OK - or I should did say NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Like our friend Fran, just the thought of Weight Watchers makes me squirm. Don't get me wrong, I realize that it works for many people but I already know I don't like their points program therefore I'd just be wasting my money.  As for the support side, I know I have several blogging and IRL friends I can reach out to if necessary.

The doc's insistence got me doing some research and I've decided I'm going to do Dr. Oz's Two Week Rapid Weight Loss Plan as a jump start. (And yes, Lori, I hate the name of it.)  I've been feeling a bit like an old car battery that's going "rrrrr rrrrr rrrrr" before it starts properly so I feel a jump start is what I need to get my focus where it should be.

I respect Dr. Oz and I really like how he believes naturally and organically we can heal our bodies by eating correctly (and in no way am I saying eat vs. medication because many times medication is necessary). Additionally this two week plan is vegetable-centric, which suits me well. I also like that this is a short-term plan that should also serves as a bit of a detox. Not to mention that while I do this - there will be no calorie counting or tracking of food, which I'm so tired of.  I already know from past experience that I can do anything for two weeks.  

I'm planning on starting this on February 3rd - and yes that's specifically because we've already made food plans for the Super Bowl.  I've been using this week to plan out my two weeks of meals using a print out of the guidelines, which also has a shopping list. Additionally, the comments on the website are full of ideas on how to eat.  I've already ordered and received the brown rice protein powder from Vitacost and while I'd rather chew than have a smoothie for breakfast, as I said, I can do anything for two weeks. Also, one of my IRL friends who is having some medical challenges of her own right now has decided to join me in this.

I've talked it over with Mr. Helen, because he hates when I do a strict diet plan, and he realizes this is important. He has told me he'll do whatever he can to support me.  We'll just see how this plays out.  My plan right now is to make him a giant meatloaf (which he loves but I do not) to help him get over all the chicken I'll be making.

I have one more set of test which will happen in the next couple of weeks and a doctor's appointment for followup on March 10th.  I'm hopeful for a change in her scale by then but for once in my life I am not going to set a goal to lose _____ pounds by that date.  I'm just going to try to do the next best thing for myself every day.

I'm putting this out there because I want to be accountable to do it.  Now that I've said it out loud, I have to, right?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chinese Chicken and Vegetable Soup

I'm posting this just for Debby.  I put a photo of it on the blog a while back and she immediately wanted the recipe.  I always struggle with recipes that I don't follow exactly... do I post the original recipe or do I post my changed recipe?  Such a hard decision!

Generally I follow a recipe exactly the first time I make it but in this instance, I just wanted to add some vegetables and I wasn't interested in the wonton crisps they put with it. I just wanted a veggie heavy soup for work.  Then I didn't like that it had regular old peas in it and I wanted to sub pea pods.  Can you believe I'm blaspheming a Sara Moulton recipe?

So my compromise is I'm giving you the link to the original - right here.  And this is how I made it:

Chinese Chicken and Vegetable Soup, Helen's Way
Serves 4

6 scallions
4" piece of fresh ginger, peeled
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
4 cups low sodium, low fat chicken stock
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots
8 oz sliced mushrooms - any kind you want
8 oz. pea pods - also known as snow peas
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
2 cups sliced bok choy, savoy cabbage or red cabbage
3 T low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark toasted sesame oil

3 Tablespoons cornstarch whisked with 1/4 cup water

Put the scallions on a cutting board.  Using a meat mallet, rolling pin or large knife, lightly smash. Cut the ginger into thin rounds then into match sticks.

In a large pot over medium heat, combine the smashed scallions, ginger matchsticks, garlic and broth.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove and discard the solids.

Add the carrots and mushrooms and simmer gently, covered for 5 minutes,  Bring the liquid to a boil then slowly add as much of the the cornstarch and water mixture as you would like for thickness whisking the entire time.

Add the chicken, your choice of cabbage, snow peas, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  Cook gently for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

4 servings, 2 cups per serving

Nutrition: 242 calories, 2.9 g fat, 19.5g carbohydrates, 4.2 grams fiber, 34.9 grams protein

Oh, and a whopping 956.5 mg of potassium!


Personally, I did not like how thick the soup got with all that cornstarch so I will add very slowly next time and only make the broth as thick as I want!

I used shredded red cabbage because my store did not have either bok choy or napa cabbage and I had bought red for my fabulous Red Cabbage Salad with apples and walnuts.  It worked great but the soup turned pink after a day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Eating at the Table

I know that many times I have mentioned in this blog my distain of eating in front of the TV.  Well, shortly after the beginning of the year, I made a lovely meal and Mr. Helen had set up the TV trays down in the family room before I even had it finished.  I wasn't happy about it, but as those of us who are married know, you pick your battles.  I called him to come get his food and he said OK.  Five minutes later I called again... then a couple minutes later I called again.  Around 10 minutes after I initially called, he finally shut off the stupid video game he was playing and came up.  Right that minute I decided I was done.  I had a complete and total meltdown and pretty much told him I felt disrespected and that I was never going to eat in front of the TV again.  Guess what?  Since that night, every single time we've been home together for dinner, we've eaten at the table - even when he is the cook he has automatically been setting the table.  Mind you there are 2-3 nights a week where we eat separately (because of his karate classes) and he still heads for the TV but I'm not eating with him so I don't care a bit.  I'm thinking after 20+ years together we may have finally found a compromise on this issue!


I've been experimenting with making my own granola.  I kept trying lower fat recipes and nothing came out decent. I did however discover that dried strawberries are not a good fruit to use.

During this process I also discovered I like granola clusters mixed with loose granola.  I found a recipe online that claimed clusters so decided I would give it a try.  Let me just tell you, this recipe lives up to its hype - absolutely delicious!  I know I've got a hit when I see Mr. Helen putting handfuls in a baggie and carrying it to work.  The man never takes anything to work!

Same granola, photos taken in different light!

Sweet Olive Oil Granola Clusters
slightly adapted from Prevention RD

3 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (not shredded) 
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 300 F.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans, almonds, coconut, and fruit; mix well until combined. Sprinkle the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon on top and stir again. Add in the maple syrup and olive oil, stirring well until everything is well mixed and wet.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until it becomes frothy and foamy; mix into the granola mixture.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray with cooking spray. Pour the granola out onto the prepared pan and spread so it is even thickness. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
 Remove from heat and let cool completely. As it cools, it will begin to harden and form into one large piece.Once it is cooled, using your hands, break up the granola into clusters of your desired size.
I actually let this sit overnight and broke it up the next morning.  If you don't like clusters you can just break it up so it's loose.  I did a mixture of both.
Store in an air-tight container or resealable plastic bag.
Makes 9 cups/18 servings 1/2 cup per serving. (Although I probably only use a couple Tablespoons on yogurt.)
Nutrition per 1/2 cup serving: 237.5 calories; 14.2 g fat; 27.7 g carbohydrates; 3 g fiber; 3.3 g protein

Thursday, January 23, 2014

This and That

I made a big pot of sauce with meatballs and sausage over the weekend.  We have artic air sitting over us right now and I knew it would taste delicious and comforting.  But here's the thing with me and spaghetti - not the sauce, the actual spaghetti noodles.  I love it.  When I was a child, I always requested that as my birthday meal.  I was allowed to have it with just butter and cheese!  As an adult, I have grown to like sauce more but I've never lost my true love of spaghetti, therefore it's super easy for me to overeat.  The other night I finally remembered to put spiralized zucchini in with the spaghetti and I have to admit, that did the trick for me.  I was plenty full but still had the satisfaction of having spaghetti, all for only 240 calories for a full cup of spaghetti and 2 1/2 cups of spiralized zucchini (not including the sauce, etc.).  I need to plan to do this every time.

See the zucchini sticking out right at the top?


Speaking of arctic air, here's the screen shot from my weather app when I checked it this morning before running.  No worries - there's still too much snow/ice out there so I went in the garage where it was a whole 12 degrees which was a full 25 degrees warmer than the wind chill!


I've been using the Cilantro Avocado Dressing on so many things!  The other day I had tortilla soup for lunch and again, instead of putting some avocado on it, I just plopped a tablespoon of that on top of the tortilla chips.  So good!

Chris Powell, who you know I admire, was on Dr. Oz a few days ago and showed a quick all over body workout that can be done with no equipment.  As I've been looking for some quick body weight exercises to combine with my running, I was intrigued.  I've tried it a couple times this week - it's harder than it sounds but I love it.  I am even going to increase the time an intensity as I get better at it.

Set a timer for 5 minutes, then do as many reps as possible of each of these: 10 chair squats (literally put a chair behind you and squat until you just touch your bottom on it), 10 jumping jacks, 10 knees to chest crunches (he suggests sitting on a chair but I prefer to be on the floor), 10 high knees.  Lori and Shelley, I particularly thought of you guys since you both are wanting to add some stuff and this only takes 5 minutes! Go here: and go to the 5th segment to see Chris Powell demonstrate.

Groupon also had a deal on 20 minute workouts from The Firm - 13 DVDs for only $18.99, so I ordered those as well.  I guess when it comes to this sort of stuff, I just have a short attention span.


I have gotten kind of picky about plain non-fat Greek yogurt.  To me the various brands are not equal - not the same thickness, some are more sour, etc.  I had pretty much gotten to the place where I'd only buy Fage - which as we know is usually the most expensive also.  Recently my grocery had Stoneyfield Organic Non-Fat Greek Yogurt on sale 10/$10 so I decided to buy a couple.  You'll be delighted to know this made my list of approved yogurts.  Even better, is that usually I can get one or the other on sale.  I hate paying full price for yogurt!


Here I am dressed for my company holiday party.  Right down to the under garments this is the same outfit I wore in 2012 when I got to go to the White House. Except for the pantyhose.  I splurged on a pair of Spanx pantyhose ($16) and I would do that again.  They felt and wore even better than my regular control top hose and I loved how their "nude" color really did make my legs just look smooth and not falsely tanned.  I was glad to get a second use of this dress and accessories!

Manicure, Shoes, Handbag, Jewelry

The Ensemble

Monday, January 20, 2014

Lime Quinoa with Chipotle Chicken and Cilantro Avocado Dressing

I love avocado.  It's nice to love healthy things, right?  Avocado is a healthy fat source and has anti-aging properties amongst many of it's attributes.  I most definitely can eat a whole avocado in one sitting.  Just cut it up and put a little lime juice and salt and pepper on it and I'm good to go.  Not bad if that was all I was eating, but a whole lotta calories otherwise... it IS possible to have too much of a good thing.

Last week my grocery store had avocados on sale for $1 each.  Hard for me to pass that up so I bought a few.  I knew I'd make a batch of Helen's Holy Guacamole for Mr. Helen as it might be his favorite thing in the world.  He eats it as a dip and he eats it as a spread and he eats it non-stop once I make it.  Often I never get one single bite of a batch, as was the case this time around.

I also knew I was going to try a Cilantro Avocado Dressing that a friend had shared from her friend's website.

I started by making Lime Quinoa and then adding some chicken.  Normally, I'd add cilantro and avocado to that - which is where I'd get in trouble as a couple of avocado slices are never enough for me.  Instead I topped it with a couple tablespoons of the dressing and holy moly was it delicious.  It gave me the exact flavor I was looking for at only 32 calories!!  I will be using this dressing on other salads where I want that avocado flare, it's really delicious.

Cilantro Avocado Dressing
from FitLivin'

1/2 ripe avocado
3/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt (I used a 5.3 ounce container of Stonyfield 0% Greek)
2 scallions, chopped
1 clove garlic, quartered
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place avocado, cilantro, yogurt, scallions, garlic, lime juice, sugar and salt in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth.

Per Tablespoon: 16 calories, 1 g fat, 2 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein

Chipotle Chicken Lime Quinoa Bowl with Avocado Lime Dressing
Serves 4

Chipotle Marinade
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 T olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, pour over 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Let marinate at least 2 hours. (I usually mix in the morning and let it marinate all day while I’m at work.)  Or, as a shortcut, buy a package of Weber or McCormick’s Chipotle Marinade, mix according to package directions and use that!

Once chicken is marinated, grill, broil, or use a George Forman grill to cook through.

Lime Quinoa
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken stock (or water)

Bring quinoa to a boil then cover, reduce heat and cook for about 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, in a medium bowl:

1 small red onion, shopped
1 red, yellow, or orange pepper, chopped
Zest 1 lime and squeeze out the lime juice
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt

Once quinoa is cooked, dump it over the onion, pepper and lime and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Stir well to combine.

To make bowl, put a bed of lettuce in a bowl (or a handful of spring mix), top with 1 cup Lime Quinoa, ½ cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes, then dice or slice 4 oz chicken.

Top with 2 Tablespoons (or more to taste) Cilantro Avocado Dressing.

Per serving: 419 calories, 44g carbohydrates, 8g fat, 45g protein, 6g fiber (includes calories from dressing)