My First Ever Interview!

Yes, I know, you are surprised to find out that I have not had many interviews. You probably think that someone as awesome as myself is probably in high demand for interviews and speaking engagements. After this interview hits the Internet, Dr. Phil and Oprah are probably having their assistants find my contact information so that they can talk to me!

(Psst! If you work for Dr. Phil or Oprah, you can contact be by email from my profile page.)

However, lasts Saturday a LoseIt friend interviewed me for her blog. It was fun and considering that I am not real good at spur-of-the-moment questions (Dr. Phil, have your assistant send me your questions in advance, okay?) I think it went very well.

Here is a link to her blog post.

If you don’t know my history, this is a good snapshot of where I was, and how I got where I am.

Next up from me: recipe for Caramel Cashew Chex mix. (Watch for it soon!)

How To Survive Thanksgiving (And Other Feasts) And Still Enjoy Everything!

I LOVE the Thanksgiving Feast. I always have, and always will. It features all my favorite foods in one meal. It is one very large, very delicious, seemingly never ending meal.
In the past, I would be busy all morning, with my breakfast and lunch consisting of coffee. Then I would serve our feast, which in our family is traditionally around 2pm. (That allows the hunters in the family to spend 6-7 hours in the woods and make it back in time to eat.) Then I would clean up, watch some football (American style, not soccer for you Europeans) and eat some more. I would loosen my belt, take a nap, wake up and eat some more. Then, later in the evening, I would just snack on a little more.
But why am I hungry? I clearly ate a day’s worth of calories in that first meal. In total, I probably ate 5000 calories or more (I never logged a Thanksgiving feast before I started LoseIt so I am not sure. I might have to test that theory—not actually eat it, but log the food as if I ate it.)
A lot of the reason I ate that much was the old enemy: habit. I always ate like that, as did everyone around me. It’s easy to get sucked into a mindless morass of endless eating, when you are acting and reacting mindlessly. When you live with your eyes open—living mindfully—you can break those habits.
Another problem was what I was eating, and how it works in the body. At my traditional feast, I have turkey, dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a green vegetable like Brussels sprouts, gravy, cranberry relish, homemade bread, wine and beer, pumpkin and pecan pies, and homemade whipped cream. In other words, the meal is protein, carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs/fat, carbs, carbs, carbs/fat, and fat.
Do you see the problem? Carbs—starches—metabolize quickly, usually within 2 hours of eating. Eat a coffee, donut and OJ for breakfast and see how you feel 2 hours later. You crash and are hungry again. The same happens with this feast. Sure, I eat some protein, but most of the feast is variations of carbs. When you eat carbs, your body will pump out insulin to help move the sugars out of the blood and into your cells. (This assumes you have a healthy insulin response. I am simplifying the process a lot. I don’t want this to be a metabolic physiology lecture.) And those are burned off quickly. So about the time I have everything cleaned up and maybe watch a bit of the game, I am hungry again. Not because my body needs calories, but because the available sugar in your blood is low, and your brain only runs on glucose as its fuel. (Your body can make glucose from non-starch foods, so eating a diet high in protein and fat will still give your brain it required glucose. That is called “gluconeogenesis”.)
After you eat, you get hungry again. You will go to the leftover food, and eat more of it. But since most of it is carbs, the cycle continues. Eat, wait, and get hungry again.
How can you fight that? With proteins and fats! Make the turkey the center of your meal. Eat a larger portion of turkey, and then reduce the portion sizes of the carbs. If you make sweet potatoes don’t put marshmallows on them (ugh) but instead top them with real butter, or high quality coconut oil. When you make your mashed potatoes, add butter, or sour cream or heavy cream, or buttermilk. Adding those ingredients will make for creamy mashed potatoes, but also hide some extra fat to help mitigate the starches. (But let’s be real. If you make a mound of potatoes like Richard Dreyfus in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” you are still getting too many carbs at once.)
If you are going to serve bread, choose whole grain bread with a lot of fiber. Pies? I’m not sure how to work with the pies. Just eat a smaller slice.
Yes, I know. These tips to hide fats in foods fly in the face of calorie reduction concepts, but I am not teaching calorie reduction here. I am teaching you how to control your eating for this type of meal. You will be challenged to eat within your budget, and as long as you log it, I believe that it’s okay to exceed your budget. But you need to do it with your eyes wide open and with an understanding of eating over budget is not the same as a feeding frenzy. These tips are designed to help prevent that out-of-control binge feeding.
Here are other hacks to help with this meal and the aftermath:
  1.   Use a measuring cup or scale to accurately portion your food. Eat controlled quantities of the foods you love, even if the total calories are more than normal.
  2. Use a plate smaller than usual (instead of the common 10-11” plate, use 7-8” plates.)
  3. Fill it with your favorite foods, but only once. You really do not need a second portion, even with the smaller plate.
  4. Wait 20 minutes before serving the pie. A simple way is to announce that dessert will be served when the coffee is ready. Start making the coffee only after everyone is finished eating. While it is brewing, you can either whip the cream (ideally) or thaw some whipped topping (it works, but isn’t as good). This will take about 15-20 minutes if you time it correctly, and that is how long it takes our minds to realize that our stomachs are full. If you wait the 20 minutes, you and your guests will be less likely to want a lot of dessert.
  5. Do not serve alcohol before the meal. Alcohol will stimulate our appetite.
  6.  Do not skip breakfast. Eat a modest breakfast, but one that is high in fats and proteins. You certainly won’t need toast or cereal grains at breakfast prior to this feast. But getting enough slow-digesting proteins and fats will help prevent uncontrollable hunger, which is common when you decide to “not eat breakfast and lunch so I have room for dinner.”  That practice will frequently lead to that accidental binge, because by the time you eat, you are so hungry that self-control is lost.
  7. Log the entire meal and any other eating. The number will probably be large, but not logging the food won’t make it not affect your body. Your body logs everything you eat, whether you acknowledge it or not.
  8. Don’t serve any alcohol. The meal is caloric enough, and these are truly empty calories.
  9. After eating pack the food it in take home containers for your guests, or put it in your freezer for future meals. If it is not easily accessible in the fridge, you are less likely to graze on it.
The last thing is how to handle family issues.  When a large family gathers together, conflict is inevitable. When compared to eating habits, this is a real challenge. Following my suggestion #8 (above) is a start. Try to find a universal focus. Discussion the merits of the Affordable Care Act, or who may run for President in 2016 would not be suggested topics of discussion. In our house, the focal point will be the Green Bay Packers/Detroit Lions football game. In other homes, maybe you can go “old school” and break out a deck of cards or a board game. Seriously, sometimes lighthearted family fun goes a long way in maintaining happiness. Maybe you want to take advantage of all the hands available and decorate for seasons that you celebrate. If you are crafty (I’m not) you can use the afternoon to create holiday greeting cards as a family.
Or maybe take a nap. I will be up late tonight preparing the meal. I have a detailed timeline if what goes in the over, at what temperature and for how long. I lay out the food on our kitchen island so I know how much room I need. And I will make the inevitable last-minute grocery store run, sometime tonight before I go to bed. I NEVER go to a grocery store on Thanksgiving morning. Insanity! By the time I am done cooking and cleaning, packaging, labeling and freezing food (and sending more home with our son who is living on his own) I will be tired. And when I get tired, I get the “munchies.”

Do I have all the answers? No. But I think these ideas will help. But in the end, you need to enjoy life. And regardless of how large the meal is, it is only one meal out of the year.  That is 1/100th of 1 percent of the total main meals you eat in a year (assuming three meals a day.) One large meal will not wreck your weight plans. In fact, learning how to live with this situation will give you a greater chance to succeed in the long term, because we will always be confronted with feasts. If we panic and act improperly, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
What tips would you recommend, for this and other feasts? What worked for you this year? Let us know below!

The Big Feast Is Three Weeks Away!

Thanksgiving. (The US version, for any Canadian friends who are reading this.)

My absolute, number one, most favorite meal of the year. (Okay, maybe it comes in second to any meal with my wife.) But I love cooking and eating my Thanksgiving feast.

And while I have a calorie budget and log everything I eat, this is one meal where I really don’t care. Oh, I don’t eat to the point where I am physically ill (like I used to) but I also do not avoid really good food. I log it all, and then move on.

What do I mean by good food?

Turkey. Stuffing/dressing. Mashed spuds. Sweet potatoes, but only dressed with some butter, no ridiculous marshmallows in mine, thank you very much. (Yes, I serve both tubers in one meal.) Gravy. Cranberry relish (probably the healthiest part of my meal.) Crusty bread with butter. More gravy. Maybe a vegetable, but something simple like steamed green beans.

And pies. Always the pumpkin pie, but lately I’ve added a fantastic bourbon pecan pie. And the crusts are made from scratch, using lard as the fat. The pies are served with real whipped cream or a high quality vanilla ice cream. Or both.

For beverages, I have sweet and hard ciders available, both of which go well with the meals. And coffee, hot, black and rich. I make my coffee in a stainless steel percolator (vintage early 1960s), and believe it or not, that is some of the best coffee you will taste.

But I have a dilemma. Do I roasted my turkey in the oven, like I did last year (delicious and juicy) or do I buy a smoked turkey and reheat it?

Roasting is traditional and delicious, but takes hours. The smoked turkey is equally tasty, and only needs to be warmed through.

What would YOU choose? Let me know in the comment section below.

Poached Egg on Pulled Pork Chili

Poached Eggs on Pulled Pork Chili
A hearty breakfast for one

Pulled Pork Chili
Serves 8

8 ounces prepared pulled pork
6 medium tomatoes diced (or 2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained)
One 6 ounce can low sodium V8 (omit if using canned tomatoes)
3 cups kidney beans (I used dried beans that I cooked in my pressure cooker) You can substitute 2 cans.
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper (sweet or hot)
Spiced and herbs to taste (I like Penzey’s Chili Powder

  1. Mix together in a soup pot. Heat until evenly warm.
  2. Serve alone or with other toppings like cheese, sour cream, and extra jalapenos.
Nutritional data for the chili (each serving is approximately 1 cup)
Calories:       235
Fat:               5.9g
Sat fat:             2g
Chol:        48.2mg
Sodium:       52mg
Carbs:          21.6g
Fiber:             5.9g
Protein:        23.7g

Note about the chili: this is a very simple and delicious recipe. You can alter the meats however you would like (chicken, beef, sausage, etc). I like to use this recipe as a vehicle for leftover meats. Or omit the meat altogether.

How to make a poached egg:
Bring 1 liter of water and 1/8 cup white vinegar to a rolling boil.
Turn the heat down.
Crack each egg into a small dish. Set aside. You will make one egg at a time.
When the water stops boiling, swirl the water until you get a small vortex in the middle of the kettle.
Gently and slowly pour the egg into the middle of the vortex. If done correctly, the whites of the egg will quickly thicken and solidify. (The vinegar helps speed that process.)
Cover the pot and let simmer for 4 minutes, and then remove with a slotted spoon.
Serve with toast, or as the topping for this chili. 

A Reminder to Anyone Local

I will be cooking on Green Bay’s WLUK Fox11 tomorrow morning for their “Cooking with You” feature. The segments will air at approximately 7:50 and 8:50am.

Tomorrow, I will be making grilled French Bread pizzas and Grilled Jalapeno Poppers. (The four varieties of pizza will be Cheesy Garlic, Pepperoni, Mushroom&Olive, and Reuben.)

For the many of you who do not live local to me, I will post links here so you can watch me at your leisure.

Another Short Poll–One Day Only

The first poll was pretty conclusive, with 87% of respondent choosing the shorter digital ebook sooner rather than a traditional print book later.

I want to explore a little more:

  • My book will be an ebook which will be readable on any digital device: Kindle, Nook, iPod/iPhone/iPad, other tablets, and downloadable to your computer. That way there will  be no impediment to reading it simply because you don’t have the right machine.
  • The book will be approximately 40-50K words. If I put that on paper, single-spaced in 12 point size font, that would be 100-125 pages, plus there will be another 20-25 pages with recipes and full color photos. 
  • As for the content, the focus will be how to stay on track to reach your weight loss goal. Some content will come from LoseIt posts, some from previous blog posts, and some will be original content that no one has read yet.
  • When this is published, I will make it possible to read 10% of the book before you buy it so that you know that what you are buying will meet your needs.
So here is today’s poll question:
How much would you pay for that book?
1.  $0.99-2.99
2.  $3.00-5.99
3.  $6.00-8.99
4.  $9.00-11.99
5.  $12.00-14.99
6.  $15.00-$19.99
7. You think it is worth more than $20
I already have a an idea in mind, but I am curious about your opinion, because I value your opinion.
This poll will only be open for 24 hours (closing Thursday, July 25, at 1pm Central Time.)
After this poll, I will get back to excellent recipes and some motivational blah-blah posts!

What’s Old is Not Necessarily Obsolete (part 1)

There are cycles to almost everything. Think about fashion (although, thankfully men’s polyester leisure suits were a “one hit blunder”) and hairstyles. Skirt lengths go up and down, colors shift from earth tones to primary colors, hair goes from straight to wavy and back again, and men’s ties and lapels get narrow and wide and then narrow again over time.

Right now in home decor, retro is big (think the TV show “Mad Men“) and if you were in our house, you would see that our decor is morphing into that rather rapidly.

Here is how I make my morning coffee now. 
I gave up using my automatic drip maker in favor of a 1960’s percolator. 
Hotter coffee with more flavor!
Our 1962 Magnavox Astro-Sonic Stereo. This is 60″ of awesomeness and it plays our LPs perfectly.
(The Beach Boys “Endless Summer” is on display.)

Car makers try do it. Chrysler’s PT Cruise and Chevy’s HHR were attempts to bring back the feel of a 1930’s street rod, although here is evidence that not every fashion retread–get the pun?–is successful. I’m still waiting for the 1957 Cheny fins to return!

Even ideas are almost never new. I teach a class called “Learning Strategies for Nursing Students”, and I focus on simple methods to improve study efficiency. Using “brain based” and multiple intelligence theories, I teach students that studying will be more effective if they schedule study time each day and then when their “study appointment” is due, they should focus on nothing but studying. They should also employ multiple learning paths (reading, speaking, writing summaries and paraphrasing), review and renew information, using imagery to build more relevant memories, among other techniques. These ideas are based on recent studies (from the 1980s to present day) and my students report success.

Imagine my surprise when I was at a thrift store yesterday and found this book:

Published in 1915.
Page 21 
Exactly what I teach during the first lecture on day 1.

“Out of fashion” might accurately be rephrased as “not back in fashion yet”.

Next, read about another old-fashioned idea that is still here and still works. (If you’ve read my blog before, there is no surprise that I am talking about calorie counting.)

And watch for another recipe. (I’m not sure which one–but it will be something good!)

Last Night’s Birthday Dinner!

Yesterday was a great day! In addition to restarting the blog, I enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the Republic Chophouse, in downtown Green Bay. We’ve never eaten there before, but this won’t be the last time!

To make everyone drool just a little, here are the meals (sorry, no pictures):

Starters:  Bennett and Tammy enjoyed the bacon-wrapped scallops in a maple-jack glaze, Ethan had steak bites (bites of New York strip, wrapped in prosciutto, seared and served with garlic aioli, and I had chile-lime raw ahi tuna taco on Napa cabbage, avocado and habanero-sour cream.  Oh, that was good! I am going to try to replicate that tuna taco. When I do, I will post the results here.

Salad/Soup: Bennett was rogue and enjoyed the tomato-basil bisque while the rest of us had a green salad with a basil vinaigrette.

Main Course:  Ethan enjoyed citrus-cucumber salmon and garlic-cheese mashed potatoes. Bennett and Tammy loved the Ritz Cracker crusted rack of lamb (four bones) with a blackberry-veal demi-glace. Bennett also chose the garlic-cheese mashed, and Tammy went with grilled asparagus. And I…well, I went for the gold ring. I enjoyed a 16 ounce Irish New Yorker (an inch-thick boneless New York strip steak, marinated in Guinness stout, whiskey, and soy sauce, grilled medium rare, and served with truffle-Parmesan steak fries. It also came with a Jameson’s Irish whiskey shooter which I saved for the after dinner coffee.)

Dessert: Both boys went with the caramelized pineapple custard, and Tammy got the spiced rum cake with port-wine poached pears, and I ordered the HUGE four-layer red velvet cake. Tammy and I were going to share each of ours, but the red velvet cake was easily large enough for four, and the rum cake was nearly that large. We ate the spiced rum cake and brought the red velvet cake home. It sits in our fridge, taunting us.

Oh, yeah…I completely blew my calorie budget, and I didn’t care. You only turn 50 once, and this was a special meal.

Today, I am back on track (and only up 1.5 pounds, which I consider a victory because I planned for a two pound gain–sodium/water retention.)
If you are in Green Bay between now and July 18, you can enjoy Green Bay Restaurant Week, too. The meals are awesome (as are the prices.)  If you can’t make it to Green Bay, well I guess my summaries will need to suffice. Tammy and I have two more meals (lunches, this time) planned at two other restaurants.  Keep watching here for details.

I’m Back!

Wow. It has been six months since I last posted here. Do I have any excuses–or more charitably, any reasons–for my absence? Yes. Are they valid? Maybe, maybe not. But they don’t really matter. The past is gone. If we dwell on the negative, the “I wish…” we will gain nothing. If we learn from our actions, and make new choices going forward, then we ultimately win and can grow beyond what we were.

I choose to win!

So, I am back! And this time, I am here to stay! (More on that later.)

There have been a few major family events. Our oldest son is now 21, and although still in college, has moved out for this summer to work as a research assistant for his professor and then will spend 17 weeks studying at the University of Amman, Jordan. He is almost out of the nest. Our youngest son just turned 18 and he is feverishly looking for an apartment so that he, too, can spread his wings. Our only other “child”, Ozzy, will turn 7 in August and he is still playful, fun and shows no signs of wanting to move away. Especially since we are so good at filling his food bowl.

And I am officially a member of AARP. Oh, this not based on employment status–I figure I will be working until 80 or more. But today I turned 50 years old.  Last night, my son asked me, “You’re going to be 50. How does that feel?” I chuckled and said, “Well, it is a combination of ‘how can I be that old when I feel this young’ and “how the heck can I be that old?!?!?!”

But 50 is just a number and numbers are only relevant when you understand the context. In my context, “50” means I will get a discount when my wife and I stay in hotels on vacation. Nothing else changes. Here are two other numbers, that mean nothing out of context: 87 and 19. But here are the defining labels: 87 pounds lost, and 19 months maintaining that weight loss level.

What does all this mean? Well, I think that right now, today, with this birthday, I am starting the second half of my life and regaining my focus. I always enjoyed writing these blog posts. They helped me stay on track, to organize my thoughts, and to iron out details that seem elusive when just thinking about them. So the blog begins again, anew.

As before, this will be a combination of recipes from my kitchen with pictures that I have taken, discussions of travels we take and restaurants where we eat, and as Tammy describes them, “blah-blah” posts, where I will try to explain how I accomplished my goal and how I have stayed at (or under) goal. Those ‘blah-blah” posts may be very blunt discussions of what I feel is incorrect information or techniques being used, but they could also be motivational posts to help you find another reason to stick with it. I still use LoseIt and have occasionally posted motivational thoughts there, and this blog will replace that venue.

Lastly, this blog will serve as a precursor to my next project. I think–based on feedback from readers of the blog and LoseIt–that my writing could be compiled into a motivational book. It may even sell copies to people who are not related to me by blood! As of right now, I have about half of the book roughed out (written, but not formatted.) As I go forward, I will complete the writing and properly format it. When it is done, I will first release it here.

I have a lot of recipes to post. I also have pictures. The challenge will be to match the picture with the recipe. But that is my problem. I hope to post at least three recipes a week here. I also look for feedback and ideas. If there is something you would like to see, let me know!

Again, thanks for coming back and feeding these feeble thoughts. It was fun before–it will be even more fun now!