The “Ps” of Long Term Success, Part 8

You’ve got PASSION, are PLANNED and PREPARED. You’ve PROCEEDED towards your goal with PERSISTENCE and you PAY ATTENTION with PATIENCE.

5.  Presentation

Presentation is more than a bit of parsley on the plate. Proper presentation helps us anticipate what we will experience when we eat. We taste our food with our eye first. Then we smell it. Then we taste it. But our eyes are first.

And when we truly enjoy our food, we are more likely to feel satisfied, and less likely to keep eating. Think about all those cookbooks and cooking magazines that we read. Absolutely beautiful pictures, right? Those food photographers are true artists. When I try to duplicate the recipes, I am happy if I am even close to the professional photo. Still, I’d like to think that I am not horrible at food presentation.

I think the Spinach Lasagna (foreground) and Beef Lasagna is an okay picture.
This Chocolate Pumpkin Torte looks tasty!
And my BBQ’d Chicken Thighs, Mashed Potatoes and Cheesy Broccoli looks edible, too.
My Dublin Lawyer with Beer Carrots and Steamed Asparagus looks good.
Even something with an appearance as boring as Baked Tilapia, Mashed Parsnips and Zucchini Fries looks okay with it’s contrasting textures and service on a colorful plate.
All those recipes are from my blog. I do NOT claim to be a professional photographer, nor a professional chef. I don’t use exotic techniques or ingredients. I just make good food and try to make it look good. And I have fun doing it, and am able to feed a happy family, which all helps.
But what about food that is poorly plated and presented?  Will that change the flavor, texture, and enjoyment? Take a look and tell me. The following pictures are from a restaurant’s website, and are NOT my pictures, nor what I ordered. These photos are used by the restaurant to entice new customers. (Note: normally, I would give full credit for other’s pictures. But these are bad shots and I don’t think the restaurant would like to have their name identified.)

Petite Cut Sirloin Steak with Onion Frills

Okay. They are trying to sell a steak. Where is it? And the part I see looks a bit burnt. And a half piece of toast, blending in with the onion frills? It probably tastes good, but would you order this? Is it worth the $13 they are charging? Where is the side salad that comes with the meal? Even some steamed dilled carrots (not an available option) would be a welcome addition to the meal.

Chicken Cordon Bleu ($14)
All I see is a yellow sauce covering something lumpy underneath it. Is it meat? It is vegetable? Who knows? Ideally, this should have been cut open to show the chicken under the sauce. Even better, the chicken could have been plated ON the sauce, allowing us to see the chicken. (What I think when I see this is “what are they hiding from me?”) But this picture is all about the sauce. And a slice of orange? Come on! What about something with contrast, such as a tomato-cucumber salad?

Baked Cod  ($12)

I don’t know what to say about this. Well, actually yes, I really do know what to say. The plate is too large. The fish is white on a white plate. The piece of lettuce and lemon wedge look old and anemic (and are almost the size of the fish portion!) Where is the starch to give it some color? Maybe they could have put some some sweet potato fries on the side (except this restaurant doesn’t offer them.) How about a portion of butternut squash puree in the center of the plate with the fish placed on it (again, not offered as an option) would be better. Maybe pair the butternut squash puree with a fresh and tart broccoli slaw? But this plate? Ugh.

Food needs to look good before it will taste good. And it needs to both look and taste good to be satisfying. Otherwise, you are just chewing and eating something that will physically fill you but emotionally leave you still hungry.

That is the difference between “full” and “satisfied.” Eating food that energizes all our senses will more likely leave us feeling satisfied and complete because we are experiencing it through multiple sensory pathways in the brain. (Likewise, when you are learning something new, you will have greater recall if you are able to learn the information using your eyes, ears, hands and voice. But that is a completely different lecture!)

Besides tossing a bit of greenery on a plate, what can you do to enliven your meal? Go to a thrift store and find some colorful plates, in different shapes sizes so that you can use a smaller plate for a smaller portion size and not have the food look inconsequential. Prepare your food nicely. Find menu items with contrasting colors, textures and tastes and combine them in a meal. Try new foods! Explore the culinary world. Read new cookbooks and magazines for ideas, and pay attention to what is paired together.

More importantly, eat what you love. Eat the correct amount of calories (or if you are in Weight Watchers, eat all your points.) And feel satisfied when you eat, so that you do not feel the urge to graze your way through the pantry an hour after dinner.

Next: The LAST “P” of Long Term Success! (And more recipes, of course!)

Warm Bourbon Egg Nog

Warm Bourbon Egg Nog
Serves 3

1 egg
1 ounce Irish cream liqueur
1/2 ounce bourbon whiskey (the original recipe called for Irish whiskey)
2 cup milk
Cinnamon to garnish

  1. Heat milk over low heat until hot, but not boiling.
  2. While the milk is heating, in a 1 quart bowl whisk egg, Irish cream and whiskey until very smooth.
  3. When the milk it hot, slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking while pouring.
  4. Divide between mugs. Garnish with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Nutritional data:
Calories:       148
Fat:               6.3g
Sat fat:          3.4g
Chol:             86mg
Sodium:      108mg
Carbs:        10.3g
Fiber:              0g
Protein:        7.8g

This tasted good, but personally, I didn’t think it was rich enough. Maybe it needed an additional egg or two, and some cream would help it (but then the calories would skyrocket!) However, for a once-in-a-while treat, the extra calories may be worth it. If I try that adaptation, I will post the results here.

Mushroom-Spinach Baked Eggs

Mushroom-Spinach Baked Eggs
Serves 4
4 pieces bread, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 cups baby spinach (4 ounces)
¼ cup milk
4 large eggs
¼ cup shredded cheese
1.   Preheat oven to 350F
2.   Spray 8×8 baking pan with cooking spray
3.   Preheat 10” non-stick skillet. Add olive oil
4.   Saute onions until they get translucent (4-5 minutes)
5.   Add mushrooms. Let them cook, undisturbed for 4 minutes. Then stir together, cooking another 4 minutes.
6.   Add spinach, stir together. Let the spinach begin to wilt.
7.   Lay the toasted bread in the pan in single layer, trimming the bread to make it fit if needed.
8.   Spread mushroom-spinach evenly over the toast. Make 4 wells in the topping, one for each piece of toast.
9.   Pour 1 tablespoon milk in each well.
10. Carefully crack eggs and place 1 egg in each well.
11. Bake for 25 minutes.
12. After 25 minutes, sprinkle cheese evenly. Return to oven for 5 more minutes
13. Remove, cut into four portions and serve.
Cooking it a total of 30 minutes will give you a warm but still liquid yolk. Adding 5 more minutes will give you a yolk that is very thick, but not yet solid.
Nutritional data:
Calories:      171
Fat:              8.1g
Sat fat:         2.7g
Chol:          216mg
Sodium:      232mg
Carbs:       15.9g
Fiber:          3.6g
Protein:     12.1g

The “Ps” of Long Term Success, Part 7

Getting back to the previous topic:

You’ve PASSIONATE about your goal, are well-PLANNED and PREPARED. You ‘ve PROCEEDED and have demonstrated PERSISTENCE, and you PAY ATTENTION to yourself and your surroundings.

5.  Patience!!

It won’t happen overnight.

You didn’t gain all the extra weight overnight. It crept on slowly. Stealthily. Ninja-weight. (Sorry. I’m a guy, and sometimes I need to throw a ninja in here.) But my point is that you gained your weight, one bite at a time.

What makes you believe it will leave your body any faster? When people set their goal, it is common to say “I will lose X pounds, by Y date” and then they follow it with “… because I need to look great for Z.”

Writing a goal like that is a great way of shooting yourself in the foot. Our bodies don’t like to lose weight. Our bodies will fight back. Random gains after a few days of eating good, followed by a sudden loss the day after the office party. You might know how fast you should lose weight based on your calorie budget, but your body is illiterate. It can’t read the weight loss books. Your body’s fat cells (in nurse-speak, “adipose tissue”) are stubborn, irritable, and cantankerous. (Sounds like one of your relatives, right?) You need to force the weight loss attitude on them.

But still, your body will never shed weight as fast as you want. You will need to accept that fact. It will always take a little longer than you want. Just like most construction projects, they don’t finish on time, and are generally over-budget. Your weight loss journey will take you longer than you expect, and will be harder than you planned.

But you will succeed. The only way you won’t succeed is if you quit. Even if you show minimal or no losses for a few weeks (months even?) just remind yourself that staying the same weight is better than gaining. Stick with your plan. Keep your eyes focused on your goal, which should be a weight, or a set of inches, or a level of physical fitness and should not include a date.

I saw this turtle on my long hike in May, 2012

You CAN succeed. You WILL succeed. Eventually. To mix a few metaphors, the tortoise will win the race
as long as the little engine never gives up.

Questions for my readers (and the first will separate the men and women from the boys and girls):
What do I mean about the “little engine that never gives up?”
What keeps you going when the challenges pop up?

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta
Serves 4
2 cups warm, shredded cooked chicken (or about 8 ounces)
6 ounces dry pasta, some sort of short variety (penne, rotini, etc)
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup Vidalia onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 cup (10 ounces by weight) plain Greek yogurt
6 ounces baby spinach
  1. Prepare pasta according to directions. When the pasta is done, save 1 cup of the pasta water.
  2. Heat the shredded chicken in the microwave (or any other preferred method.) Keep hot.
  3. While you are boiling the pasta, in a small non-stick skillet, add olive oil. When hot, add onions. Saute until they are beginning to become translucent (4-6 minutes over medium-high heat.) Add garlic and stir for an additional minute.
  4. Add yogurt to the onions and garlic. Stir to combine. If it seems too thick for your preference, add small amounts of the hot pasta water.
  5. To quickly and easily thaw the peas, place them in a large colander, and pour the cooked pasta over them. Quickly drain the pasta, and add back to the pasta pot. The pasta does not need to be fully drained.
  6. Add half of the spinach.  Top with onion/yogurt mixture and chicken.  Stir to combine.
  7. Add remaining spinach.  Toss to combine. The spinach will partially wilt under the surrounding heat of the dish.
Note: You could easily use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. Simply shred it and reheat in the microwave, or in a saute pan with some broth and a bit (1/4 cup) of gravy.
Nutritional data (each portion is approximately 1 1/4 cups):
Calories:      279

Fat:             7.7g

Sat fat:           2g

Chol:            36mg
Sodium:      130mg
Carbs:       32.5g

Fiber:             3g

Protein:        20g

Note: This was the first time I made this dish. Next time, I will add something with another color, maybe some diced fire-roasted red bell peppers.

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 1 or 2 (depending on the size of your salad)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin)
1 teaspoon Penzey’s Raspberry Enlightenment
Seasoning of your choice (I prefer Penzey’s Sunny Paris.)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Briskly whisk (or if you used a container with a type cap, shake vigorously.)
  3. Serve.

If you prefer a different oil (grapeseed or walnut) or a different vinegar the process is the same. Balsamic vinegar has a bit of sweetness to it, so if you use a red wine vinegar, you may need to add a little sugar/Splenda to help balance it. If you don’t like raspberries, you could mash a few blackberries into it, or mash and mince a couple tart Montmorrency cherries.  Like many of my recipes, this is a basic type that can be infinitely varied to your tastes. However, keep the mustard if you don’t want the vinegar and oil to rapidly separate.

It is really that simple. The mustard is used not for flavor, but as an emulsifier. It helps keep the vinegar and oil from separating.  Here is a picture of the dressing taken 15 minutes after whisking. (Try that without the mustard for comparison.)

Penzey’s Raspberry Enlightenment
It is an awesome ingredient, adding a bit of tartness and sweetness with the raspberry flavor.
It is not a syrup. It is more like a thin jam.
(I’m not trying to be a salesman for Penzey’s. It is just that I find their spices, herbs and blends to best fit my needs at a reasonable cost.  Also, I have frequently mentioned that Penzey’s Sunny Paris is my preferred salt-free seasoning blend. The reason is that is contains such a well-rounded flavor profile, which marries well with eggs, chicken, fish, soups, stews, and just about anything else. It is a blend of shallots, chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, basil, tarragon, chervil and bay leaf. How can that get any better?)

Tomatillo-Radish Salsa

Tomatillo-Radish Salsa
Serves 8 (1/4 cup portions)

1 pound tomatillos (6-8)
6 radishes, shredded
3 celery stalks, minced
1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Peel the husk off the tomatillos. Rinse them under cold water to remove the stickiness. Dice all but two tomatillos.
  2. Place the remaining tomatillos in a food processor or blender. Process/blend until they are smooth.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight, to let the flavors blend together.
  5. Optional: add 1/2 to 1 minced jalapeno (not used in the above picture.)

Serve on fish, chicken or turkey. Use as a topping on tacos and burritos. Serve as a salsa with chips.

Nutritional data for 1/4 cup of salsa:
Calories:          16
Fat:                0.4g
Sat fat:           0.1g
Chol:                0mg
Sodium:          16mg
Carbs:           3.2g
Fiber:               1g
Protein:         0.5g

Note: The next time I make this, I will add one teaspoon lemon zest for a bit of color and bright lemon character.

Spaghetti Squash Boat

Spaghetti Squash Boat
Serves 4

1 medium spaghetti squash
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red (or green) bell pepper, sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional ingredients: jalapeno peppers, diced cherry tomatoes, diced ham

  1. Pierce the skin of the squash in many places. Place in microwave and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. While the squash cooks, pre-heat a non-stick saute pan.
  4. Add oil and saute the onions and peppers until the onions begin to get translucent and soft (4-6 minutes). Turn the heat off.
  5. When the squash is done in the microwave, cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.
  6. With a fork, pull out the squash. It will come out in long shreds, similar in shape to strands of spaghetti. Pull the squash out of both halves and place in a bowl.
  7. Combine squash meat, onions, peppers and cheese. Place in one of the squash shells.
  8. Place in an 8×8 baking pan (or similar). If the squash will not rest without tipping, use a piece aluminum foil, rolled into a tube, and then shaped into a ring to use as a base. (In fact, just plan to need it.)
  9. Bake 25-35 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.

Nutritional data:
Calories:       90
Fat:              5.9g
Sat fat:         3.2g
Chol:            15mg
Sodium:      115mg
carbs:          6.3g
Fiber:          1.4g
Protein:       3.7g

Note: If you are making this for a large meal and are very busy with other menu items, this could be prepared in advance. Follow the directions above, but stop after step 7. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate1-2 days. When ready to finish, preheat oven to 350, and cover the squash loosely with aluminum foil for 25 minutes. Then remove foil, and let it finish for another 15. (That should get it entirely heated. The foil will prevent excess browning.)

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin
Serves 8 (average 6 ounce portion by weight)

Meals like this are great for cool days, or when you need to feed many people on a budget. It is fast, simple (with a few easy steps) and is a healthy choice. On my podcast, Make Your Someday Today, a common topic regarding health and weight loss is finding meals that taste incredible and are still easy to fit into a calorie budget. This recipe works!

Special equipment: Pressure Cooker

1 chicken (4-5 pounds), cut into 10 pieces (remove the wings from the breast, Cut the breasts in half, separate the drumsticks from the thighs.)
Flour, for dusting the chicken pieces
1 tablespoons cooking oil (canola or olive)
3 strips of bacon, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, mashed and minced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 large (3″) potato, peeled and diced
6 ounces baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup dry red wine
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper as needed

  1. Dust the chicken parts with flour. 
  2. In the pressure cooker, add canola oil and heat the oil until very hot and brown the chicken pieces. 
  3. Remove the chicken to a warm platter. 
  4. Add to the pressure cooker the bacon, onion, garlic, carrot, celery and potatoe, and saute until the onion is wilted. 
  5. Carefully whisk in the 1 tablespoon of flour, then gradually add the wine and stir until thickened and smooth. 
  6. Add the thyme, parsley, bay leaf, salt and pepper, then return the chicken to the pressure cooker.
  7. Lock the lid in place and bring to pressure, then lower heat and cook for 8 minutes under pressure. 
  8. Allow pressure to drop by the naturally and remove the lid. 
  9. Add the mushrooms and simmer, uncovered, 3 minutes.  Discard the bay leaf.

Nutritional data (for 6 ounces of chicken, average of white and dark):
Calories:     434
Fat:           25.8g
Sat fat:        7.4g
Chol:         137mg
Sodium:     285mg
Carbs:       14.5g
Fiber:          2.1g
Protein:     31.7g

Optional: if you want this creamy, stir in 1/2 cup (5 ounces by weight) plain Greek Yogurt when you add the mushrooms and heat through.


My podcast, Make Your Someday Today is a twice-weekly show, where we talk to successful people in all walks of life and around the world on Monday, and then on Thursday, I take a specific message from the previous guest and give my “Trevitorial”, where I help you apply that message to your life. The entire purpose of the show is to help all of us overcome our challenges and fears and become the person we want to be, the person we deserve to be. I hope you give it a listen! 

Somali Bizbaz Sauce

I found this recipe while listening to a podcast of American Public Radio’s The Splendid Table, and made a few minor changes to suit my personal tastes. This is based on a common Somali condiment.  It is creamy with a sharp garlic bite and some nice heat to back it up. Excellent as a spread on meat. (Be prepared to need breath freshener!)

Somali Bizbaz Sauce
Serves 12 (1 tablespoon portion)

1/2 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1 cup (tightly packed) fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 – 1 jalapeno chile (depending on how spicy you want this)

1. Combine all in a food processor. Process until well mixed. The cilantro will be coarsely chopped.

That’s it. How simple is that?  Serve on fish, chicken, vegetables, pork, eggs–just about anything!

Nutritional data (per tablespoon):
Calories:        9
Fat:                0g
Sat fat:           0g
Chol:             0mg
Sodium:         5mg
Carbs:         0.9g
Fiber:             0g
Protein:       1.3g

You can make this spicier by using more jalapeno or different chiles, such as a serrano or habanero.
This is how I used it last night, on grilled salmon, zucchini-potato pancakes and fresh pomegranate.