It’s not always a gourmet meal!

I always bring my lunches to work. I’m frugal. I can make a lunch for less money than if I bought it anywhere. I am also careful with what I eat. When I pack my own meals, I know what I am getting. Even if it is a purchased food, ready-to-eat, I can read the labels to know what I am eating.

I am primarily a clinical instructor in our nursing program. When I am at the clinical site, I generally never have a long time to sit and eat. I might get five uninterrupted minutes. I need a good meal that can be eaten relatively quickly and still be a healthy meal. 

Today’s meal is a good example:

It is certainly nothing gourmet.  I bought all this at my favorite grocery store (Aldi). A can of sardines in water, a non-fat Greek yogurt and a Gala apple. Nothing needs to be refrigerated (yogurt can sit out for the 8+ hours without harm.) It is a high protein meal (33g), moderate fat (7g total, 2 g sat fat, with 1200mg omega-3 fatty acids). Only a total of 355 calories with only 250 mg sodium. And the entire meal cost $2.20. 

And most importantly, it tastes great!

Chicken in Garlic-Vinegar Sauce

Chicken and Garlic-Vinegar Sauce
Makes 6 servings  (Served as above with steamed broccoli and 1/2 cup whole wheat couscous.  The nutritional values below are for the chicken only, not the side dishes.)
Note:  I used 8 garlic cloves in this recipe.  The next time I will double it.  The garlic was very subdued by the vinegar and sour cream.  I wanted it to be more assertive.  I might also try malt vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, and use 8 ounces of beer instead of chicken broth, to reduce the sodium load, and bring out a different flavor.  As always, recipes are meant to be creative.
6 chicken breast 5 ounces each (approximately)
3 teaspoon Olive oil, divided
1 cup onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
2 tsp dried thyme
¼ cup reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tsp all-purpose flour
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chives
1.      Dry chicken.  Season with pepper (and salt, if desired)
2.      Heat heavy Dutch oven (or similar pan) over medium heat, spray with cooking spray and add 1 tsp olive oil.  Add the chicken, turning as needed until browned.  5-7 minutes.  If needed, cook chicken in multiple batches, if all will not fit at the same time.
3.      Remove chicken, add 1 tsp olive oil.  Add onions and garlic, stir over medium-high heat until the onion is lightly brown.
4.      Add vinegar, bring to a boil
5.      Return chicken to pot, add broth and thyme.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let cook until chicken is very tender, about 50 minutes.
6.      While cooking, mix sour cream, tomato paste and flour until smooth.
7.      Seed and dice tomatoes, add chives and the remaining olive in a bowl and reserve for garnish.
8.      When the chicken is finished, remove from the stock and place on a plate.  Stir in sour cream mixture until smooth, bring to a simmer and let cook for 1 minute.
9.      Return chicken to sauce, and gently stir to coat.
10.  Serve garnished with diced tomatoes.
Cal:           272
Fat:           3.5g 
Sat Fat:     1.0g 
Chol:       110mg
Sodium:  228mg 
Carb:         7.5g 
Fiber         1.4g 
Protein:   41.9g 

Mango Spinach Smoothie

Mango Spinach Smoothie

Makes one 24-32 ounce smoothie

1 cup frozen mango
1-2 cups water (depending on what consistency you desire, I use about 1.5 cups)
1 scoop whey protein powder
1 packet Crystal Light (I like classic orange in mine)
2 Tablespoons milled flaxseed (optional, but an important source of omega-3 fatty acids)
3 ounces fresh baby spinach

1.  Place first five ingredients in blender, and blend on high until smooth.
2.  Carefully add spinach, while the blender is running, a small handful at a time, until it is completely incorporated.
3.  Serve.

The above mug is a 28 ounce mug.

Calories:       344
Fat:                8.2g
Sat fat:           1.7g
Chol:              54mg
Sodium:        171mg
Carbs:           46.4g
Fiber:            15.3g
Protein:         27.5g

I WILL WIN (part 2)

Yup.  That is my first tattoo.  I’ve made it to almost 49 years old before finally getting one.  “Vincero” means “I will win” in Italian (in case you didn’t watch the video in yesterday’s post.)  It’s inked on my right forearm, near the wrist. I will see it daily. I will be reminded daily.

I know I will succeed. I have learned that I am powerful, determined, focused and driven. But reminders never hurt. I like using calendars, and “to do” lists. They keep me organized. On task. (Remember my shopping list?)  And this event was a life-changing event. I achieved my goal, and have embarked on the next goal (maintenance.)

I decided to make this reminder permanent, because this new goal will be permanent. I will never leave maintenance. And I will never settle for “almost”.

What are you willing to do as a reminder, as an incentive? It doesn’t have to be a tattoo. Maybe you are going buy a new summer outfit in your new size. Register for a run? Join a gym and pay for a coach. How are you going to invest in your life? What are you going to do, right now, so that you can be better later?

If you are ever in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and feel the need to add some art to your body, ask for Steve here.

A couple of in-progress pictures:


For those of you that do not follow my thoughts/comments on, I have achieved a milestone in my path to greater health. I reached my goal weight! This means that since May 25th, I have lost more than 76 pounds. Since I first began my path to better health, I have lost more than 100 pounds (since July 28, 2008) and more than 125 pounds from my greatest weight in 2006.

I now will begin the more difficult phase of weight management. I will keep it off, while increasing my strength and running endurance. It turns out that weight loss was only my first goal, although I thought it would be the only goal when I started this. As my success has progressed, my outlook has changed accordingly.

I do not listen to a lot of opera, in fact almost none, but I have developed a belief that every musical genre has value in the right setting. Everything fills a niche. The following is the late Luciano Pavarotti, performing one of the greatest tenor arias in all of the art, Nessun Dorma, from Puccini’s Turandot. It is in Italian, but I have included the translation below. Please indulge me and listen to a master at his craft, as he performs his signature aria:

Italian Text
Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle
che tremano d’amore
e di speranza.
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun saprà!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò
quando la luce splenderà!
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
che ti fa mia!
(Il nome suo nessun saprà!…
e noi dovrem, ahime, morir!)
Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All’alba vincerò!
vincerò, vincerò!

English Translation of “Nessun Dorma”

Nobody shall sleep!…
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know…
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!…
(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I WILL WIN!
This aria was used in the 2006 Winter Olympic in Turino, which was “sung” by Pavarotti in his last performance (actually lip-synched due to grave illness.) I have adopted “Vincerò” (I will win) as my theme and motto for life. It is forward-looking and assumptive of success. I think that in any endeavor, if you do not assume success, you will not achieve it.

I have come a long way since 2006. I am not done yet. Future goals include maintaining my weight, building running and biking endurance, and increase strength. And to keep this blog fresh and active with my thoughts and recipes. Stay with me as I continue on this journey.

Moo Shu Vegetables on Shirataki Noodles


Moo Shu Vegetables on Shirataki Noodles
Serve 4

4 large eggs
12 ounce bag of Broccoli Slaw (or other shredded vegetable, approximately 4 cups)
1 cup bean sprouts (fresh)
1 cup shredded carrots
6 ounce bag snow peas, diced into ½ inch pieces
3 scallions sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger root, crushed

1 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce

14 ounces shirataki tofu noodles (2 bags)

1.   Empty bags of noodles into colander. Rinse. Set aside.
2.   Heat non-stock skillet with cooking spray. Lightly scramble eggs, and place in skillet.  Cook   until lightly set, remove from skillet, set aside.
3.   Wipe out skillet, re-spray with cooking spray over medium heat. When hot, add garlic and ginger, stirring, for one minute.
4.   Add broccoli slaw, carrots, bean sprouts and snow peas. Add vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil and let warm for 3 minutes.  Stir once or twice.
5.   Add hoisin sauce and eggs.  Stir to break up eggs.  Until heated through (3-4 minutes.)
6.   In a second non-stick pan, spray with cooking spray and add remaining 1 tsp sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add shirataki noodles and half of the scallions.  Toss until hot. (1-2 minutes)

Serve the vegetables (2 cups) over the noodles (1/2 cup).

Nutrition Data:
Calories:          204
Fat:                  10.5g
Sat fat:               2.1g
Chol:             211.5mg
Sodium:           230mg
Carbs:              18.9g
Fiber:                 8.1g
Protein:            11.7g


Sorry, this is a lengthy post.

If you have or know children, you know they long the question”why?” Usually it is an unanswerable question, like “why is the sky blue?” or “why do dogs bark and cats meow?” or “why do I have to have a baby brother?” About the only more annoying question is “are we they yet?” which can be rephrased as “why are we not there yet?”

“Why” is an important question to answer. We have all seen the police TV show, where they find fingerprints, and DNA evidence, but still can’t solve the case until the detective uncovers the motive. The “why”. Other questions (who, what, when, where, and how) can be answered with a picture or two. But can you find any pictures to answer the questions above?

I started this blog as a way to keep my focus on my weight management goal. I wanted to lose weight. Many people on LoseIt and followers of the blog can claim the same goal. But wanting to lose weight is only the first step, and is not the most important step. Like the TV detective, you need to answer the “why”.

Why do you want to lose weight (or gain muscle, or reduce body fat, whatever your goal.) The reason is going to be primarily external or internal. An external reason, and one that I see on LoseIt frequently it so look good at an upcoming wedding, reunion, or vacation. He/she wants to look good on that beach in that new swim suit. This person wants to look good for others. Sure, ego is involved, but it is other people that are the focus.

An internal factor could be that your health is diminished, or is at risk of developing a condition. Personally, my blood pressure was greatly elevated, and my back and knees were in constant pain. I didn’t like how I looked, but my motivation was more about being rejected for platelet donation because my blood pressure was VERY high (168/108). I really didn’t care what the Red Cross worker thought, I just didn’t want to think about a stroke or heart attack in my future.

Until you know why you are choosing to change your body, success will be difficult. Obstacles will be presented and will seem insurmountable. Or the goal will seem to be more effort than it is worth. And if your reasons are external, I believe long term success will elude you. Even if you lose the weight, and look spectacular in that new swim suit as you walk the Bahamanian beaches, as soon as the vacation is done and you have returned to the frozen winter, your reason for the workouts and logging will be gone. This is especially true for those of you who are following significantly restrictive plans to lose weight (extreme low carb, or extreme low calorie, or even extreme workout regimens.) Anything that requires a major paradigm shift from your “average day” will be challenging, (although not impossible) to maintain that change forever.

But if you have a strong internal motivator, do not have a rigid deadline for success, and use a plan that is only a variant of your usual life, you are more likely to reach your goal–eventually–and then stay there. In other words, use portion control for your meals, and add exercise in a natural fashion. Rather than buy exercise DVDs and rigorously exercise for 60 minutes a day, simply walk more in your daily life. Ignore elevators. Look for parking spots distant from your destination. Walk your dog a little longer or twice a day. Ozzy loves my new life. If you have a home and have a lawn that is 1/3 acre or less, get rid of the lawn service or self-propelled mower and buy a reel mower. You become the motor. You’ll buy no gasoline and add no extra carbon to the atmosphere. You’ll burn a lot of calories–quietly. And you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood, because you will probably mow twice a week.

I’m not telling anyone that their choices are wrong. These are my opinions, based on a sample size of one (me.) Your plan may work for you. But I truly believe that if you don’t have a solid and significantly personal reason for changing your life, you won’t be ultimately successful.

I hope you identify your “why.”

Later I will post tonight’s recipe, Moo Shu Vegetable with Shirataki Noodles.

Some days are quick and easy. Some are long and laborious. Today was the latter. Well, not laborious in the sense of the labor that a farmer, lumberjack or the guys on The Deadliest Catch. I was sitting in a room with eight students, trying to orient them to a new clinical site, with an instructor that they only know from reputation, in a room that is cooler than comfortable. That type of laborious.

But I went into it with excitement and enthusiasm. I had all the necessary course documents in place, and was ready to handle every one’s curious questions. I had a full mug of coffee in my system. I was going to take charge!

However, my well-laid plans were thrown for a loop.  I met everyone at the main entrance of the hospital, introduced myself, and then turned to lead them to the orientation room. Cool and in control! Until one student caught up to me, gestured to whisper in my ear and told me, “Mr. LaRene. Your fly is unzipped.”

Yeah.  She was right. Now THAT is a way to start a new class! First impressions, et cetera.

I was able to laugh it off (and zip up) but that helped me transition to one of the important topics of the orientation. Communication. We need a constant two-way communication for a hospital clinical to succeed. And we all need to understand that while we strive for perfection, we will never achieve it. And how we handle ourselves when under stress, strain and embarrassment will help define who we are.

Mistakes happen. Vernon Law, former MLB player said, “Experience is a hard teacher, because she give the test first and then the lesson.” Hopefully I was able to demonstrate to my students how to handle an embarrassment.

At the very least, they got a good laugh out of it.

Official weigh in on Thursday morning. Will I achieve my goal? I’ll let you know then. We tried a new recipe tonight. Really good, quite filling. I hope you give it a try.

Toasted Quinoa and Scallops

Toasted Quinoa and Scallops
12 ounces scallops, cut into  ½ inch size pieces
1 cup raw quinoa
2 cups water
2 Tablespoon canola oil, divide
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
4 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce (low sodium, if possible)
6 ounces snow pea pods, sliced into ½ inch chunks
½ cup bell pepper, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1.      Heat a large skillet with 1 Tablespoon canola oil.  Add quinoa, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown. It will pop similar to popcorn.
2.      Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
3.      Stir in pea pods, cover for 5 minutes.
4.      Mix remaining canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and vinegar. Set aside.
5.      In a non-stick skillet, heat and spray with cooking spray. Place scallops in, sauté until beginning to brown.
6.      Put bell peppers and scallions on quinoa.
7.      Pour oil/vinegar sauce over quinoa. Stir in.
8.      Gently stir in scallops.
Serves 6 (1 cup portions)
Nutritional data:
Calories:          228
Fat:                  6.6g
Sat fat:             0.7g
Cholesterol:     23mg
Sodium:          155mg
Carbs:            26.9g
Fiber:               3.2g
Protein:          16.5g