Today’s Simple and Easy Dinner

Simple and Easy Beef Stroganoff
Makes 6 servings
1 package Hormel beef tips and gravy (17 ounces)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
6 ounces Greek yogurt (fat free is what I used)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups uncooked whole wheat wide noodles
Prepare the pasta as directed on the label. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet, saute the onion for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic and mushrooms. Continue to cook over medium-high until everything is soft.
While preparing the onion-mushrooms, heat the beef tips in the microwave according to label directions (about 4 minutes). Remove from the microwave, and with two forks pull the meat into smaller chunks. When the mushrooms are ready, add the meat and gravy. Stir well. 
Turn the heat off, and stir in the Greek yogurt.
One serving is 1 cup pasta and 3/4 cup stroganoff.
This entire meal took 15 minutes to prepare, from filling the pot for the pasta to serving it. Having one of those Hormel dishes in the fridge is a life-saver on busy days.
Nutritional data:
Calories:            367
Fat:                    9.3 g
Sat. fat:              2.4 g
Cholesterol:       34.4 mg
Sodium:             426 mg
Carbs:                51.3 g
Fiber:                 6.8 g
Protein:              23.8 g
Mint Chocolate Cake
One 18.75 ounce package Devil’s Food Cake mix
One 12 ounce can diet cola
20 Andes candies, chopped
1 Tbsp. milk
One 8-ounce container fat free Whipped Topping
Preheat oven to 350.
Place cake mix and cola in a large bowl and mix with beater at low speed until moist. Increase speed to medium for 2 minutes until smooth. Stir in half of the Andes candies. 
Pour into one 9×13 or two 8×8 pans, sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool cakes. 
Melt the remaining Andes candies with the tablespoon of milk in the microwave. Stir until smooth.  Fold into the whipped topping, and spread evenly over the cakes when cool.
Makes 24 servings. Note: You could also make this into 24 cupcakes.
Nutritional data:
Calories:          128
Fat:                  3.1 g
Sat Fat:            1.5 g
Chol:                0
Sodium:           195 mg
Carb:                23.6 g
Fiber:               0.6 g
Protein:            1.2 g


I was asked to talk about the obstacles I’ve encountered on this journey, the journey that we are all sharing. This blog is a new creation, but I guess it is time for a little soul-baring.

I remember back to middle school and high school physical education class. Those classes were the bane of my existence. I was never fast enough. Or strong enough. Or knew enough about the sport we were playing. I couldn’t shoot a lay-up if my life depended on it. And then, inevitably, during a co-ed sport, some butthead would pants me.

Yeah.  I freakin LOVED high school phy ed. 

And then spring would bring Track and Field! Throwing heavy shots. Running fast on the track. Trying to jump high. And the dreaded hurdles, which combined running fast and jumping high, and usually resulted in tripping and falling.

I thought I got rid of all that as I aged. And now I am making new choices and taking new actions, which are bringing old obstacles back. See, I have already registered for the 2012 Bellin 10K Run. Last year 18,701 runners participated last year. And in June, I will be one more. I have not run a race since my past phy ed class in high school. I know I can do it. (And I am going to keep telling myself that.)

See, obstacles come in two forms. The obvious ones are external, like the hurdles. These are the easiest to deal with. You can jump them. You can run around them. Or, if you want to be like me, you can just knock them down. And all of us experience external obstacles in our quest for a better weight. Friends offer us donuts when we arrive at the office. We park in a distant spot in the grocery store parking lot (good exercise) but then we walk past the deli with freshly broasted chicken. We have the obstacle of cost (gym memberships, new clothes, healthy foods.) And we have the obstacle of time (food preparation and exercise.) But, if you think about it, all those are fairly easy to resolve. You shop when the deli is closed. You get up a half hour earlier. You clip coupon and shop resale stores.

However, the other obstacles are the ones that are my biggest problem. Internal obstacles, the ones that my mind builds in my path. The little voice that says, “Your knees won’t make 10K” or “You have never been able to maintain a loss in the past, why will this be different?” Or “You are a fool for getting rid of all those clothes! What happens when you gain 15 pounds! And you always have in the past!” Or, perhaps the most deadly thought, “You don’t deserve this.”

These obstacles are the deadly ones, because I am creating and using them against myself. I can’t ignore the sight of the donuts or the smell of the chicken. Getting up early doesn’t help. All I can do is to keep on doing what I am doing. This is where my stubborn attitude will get me through. Intellectually, I know that I have earned and deserve every one of the 73.7 pounds I’ve lost since May 25, but emotionally, I am still coming to grips with it, and what it means.

And I still wonder if these losses are permanent. That’s my other obstacle. I am afraid that when I stop losing, I will start gaining. In all the previous attempts, with many different weight loss plans, that was ALWAYS the end result. Weight loss, followed by regaining everything (and more, usually.)

My only belief–because since I have no evidence, I must act on belief–is that this WILL BE PERMANENT, because this time it is different. I am not doing this alone, I am changing my body and my life with hundreds of supporters. And I am reinforcing my beliefs by blogging daily. And I am using LoseIt now and will continue well into maintenance. The old saying is “Dance with the one that brought ya” and LoseIt has brought me this far. I don’t think it is the right time to try to dance solo.

I’m going to be logging–and blogging–for a long time to come! And I will try to keep the mood a little lighter in the next posts, to compensate for today’s post.

Good food all day!

It was a nice food day, trying new recipes with a few old standbys. For breakfast, we tried a new recipe (Asparagus, Bacon and Cheese Strata), which I served with Peppermint Mocha coffee.

Asparagus, Bacon and Cheese Strata

4 strips of bacon, diced
¼ cup onion, diced
2 cups fresh asparagus
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, divided
2 pieces whole wheat bread
2 eggs
2 egg whites
¼ cup milk (2%)
¼ cup cheddar cheese

Fry bacon in an oven-safe and non-stick skillet. As it cooks, add onion and asparagus and a touch of pepper. Turn heat to medium low until the asparagus is hot and softened (3-5 minutes.)

Whisk eggs and milk. Cut the bread into quarters. Turn your broiler on high.

When the bacon and veggie mix is done, remove from the skillet. Place the bread in the skillet and cover with egg mixture.  Wait 1-2 minutes for the bread to absorb the mix. Sprinkle half the Parmesan cheese. Turn the heat to medium-high until the eggs are nearly cooked through. Place the skillet under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, until the eggs are cooked. Layer the asparagus/bacon mix over the eggs, and top with the cheddar and the remaining 1 Tbsp. Parmesan. Return to broiler until the cheese melts (1-2 minutes.)

Remove and cut into four servings.

Nutritional data:     
Calories:          161
Fat:                  9.8 g
Sat fat:             3.7 g
Cholesterol:     123 mg
Sodium:           352 mg
Carbs:              7.5 g
Fiber:               2.1 g
Protein:            12 g

Peppermint Mocha Coffee

Brew a batch of strong dark coffee.

Heat over medium heat:
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
½ tsp. peppermint extract
3 packets stevia sweetener

Stir often. Do not boil.

Finely chop one square Baker’s Unsweetened chocolate (1 ounce). Place in a mixing bowl.

When the milk is hot, pour over the chocolate, and whisk until dissolved. Divide between 4 mugs, top with coffee and optional whipped cream.

Nutritional data:
Calories:          70
Fat:                  4.2 g
Sat fat:             2.7 g
Cholesterol:     9.8 mg
Sodium:           60 mg
Carbs:              6.9 g
Fiber:               0.5 g
Protein:            4.6 g

Lunch was simple scavenging of leftovers. Nothing too special there. 

Dinner was Vegetable Soup and Homemade Artisan Bread.

(It’s out of focus.  I’d re-shoot it, but we ate all the bread.  It was really good!)

Simple and Easy Vegetable Soup

2 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 cups water
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 leek, sliced
2 cups cabbage, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
½ tsp. dried basil (or oregano, thyme or your favorite)
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
After it is done simmering, add 2 cups (3 ounces) fresh baby spinach leaves, torn. Stir in and serve with a piece of crusty bread.

Makes 10 one-cup servings.

Nutritional data for the soup:
Calories:               70
Fat:                       0.2 g
Sat fat:                  0.0 g
Cholesterol:          0mg
Sodium:               244 mg
Carbs:                  14.2 g
Fiber:                    2.6 g
Protein:                 3.4 g

And speaking of bread, this was my first attempt at artisan bread. It went okay. I am a perfectionist, and the bread did not turn out exactly like the cookbook cover.  I know that is foolish and unreasonable, but that’s me. However, my stomach doesn’t have eyes, and it really liked it. So did my wife and son.

Here are a few photo of bread in progress:

This is the point at which the bread was brought out of the fridge and is formed into a beautiful boule (French for ball). I failed miserably at that and resorted to thinking bad thoughts in my head and dropping it on the silicone mat. Later snafus occurred when I tried to move the blob to the baking stone. I didn’t have a nice peel, so I used two flippers, further distorting the shape.  No pictures exist of that debacle.

It’s out of the oven and cooling. Beautiful round ball shape? Nope. Clever little scallop or cross cut into the top? Nope.  Fortunately it smells better than it looks. 

Cut and ready to eat. The moment of truth. Very crusty bread, with chewy crumb. And it was delicious. I served it with a tablespoon of olive oil, a half tablespoon balsamic vinegar and some dried herbs. I could have eaten the whole loaf by myself, but I try to not be too greedy.

I have enough dough for one more loaf of this white bread, but tonight I am going to start a second batch, this one a whole wheat loaf. Details when they develop. I WILL master bread making!

A new day, a new closet

Well, it’s not actually a new closet, but most of the clothes are new. When we embark on this journey, our goal is to find a healthy weight. If you are just trying to lose those pesky 5 holiday pounds, you probably won’t need a new wardrobe. But if you are like many people on LoseIt (and elsewhere) you may have a goal of 25, 50 or 100 pounds. You will need to buy new clothes.

However, as I noted yesterday, we all live in a world of budgets, both calorie and financial. Shopping for new clothes is not one of my hobbies and I am not a fan of spending a lot of money. But that is not much of a problem when you have sources. My wife and I are fans of resale shops. Not consignment shops where prices are only marginally less than the original price tag, but shops that are used to benefit social causes. Saint Vincent de Paul is a national organization, and Green Bay has two resale shops that they run. Another national service is Goodwill.  Both have stores that offer clothing, household good, books, and other items. The only way of finding what they have to to go there on a regular basis because their selections are constantly changing. And there are many smaller stores that are only local. Search them out and you can find treasures.

Some people that I work with refuse to shop at any store which is not name brand. And if that works for them, great! But I would rather spend money at a service organization to help others and still get quality goods at yard sale prices. Yesterday, I managed to find a suit, two tweed blazers, 11 dress shirts, t3 sweaters, 3 casual shirts, and 8 dress pants, for less than $60. Some of the brands were Dockers, Land’s End, and Van Heusen. 

So, step one, get new clothes. Now, step two is even more important. PURGE the old stuff. Get rid of the big things. Don’t “save them, in case I gain my weight back”, because I guarantee if you think like that, you WILL regain the weight. (And then give them back to the stores where you purchased your new outfits, to help them reach their social goals. And it might be a tax deduction for you, too!)

Always look ahead with optimist. Assume you will succeed. Act as though success is already evident. Baseball great Satchel Paige is quoted as saying, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” In this case, he’s right. It’s your butt! (Or gut, or wherever you store the excess fat.) Don’t look back. Look forward to a new you. To a new summer in that swim suit that has been hanging in your closet for years. Or that suit that you need to wear for an upcoming event. Or to the walk on the Caribbean beach resort.

We do not act out of fear of failure but out of confidence of success. That does not mean success is guaranteed, and it certainly does not mean success is easy. But it is within our control.

My next post (a little later today) will have three new recipes, and will also include photos of my first attempt at from-scratch bread from my new cookbook.

Salmon Patties with Basil Mayo and Mexican Chop Salad

Speaking of hungry, this was last night’s meal. Two pan-fried salmon patties, with a bit of basil mayo and a Mexican chop salad. With the homemade vinaigrette, the entire meal was 626 calories. I don’t know how much the meal cost, but it is not much. A can of salmon is inexpensive and full of protein and healthy fats. A couple eggs, a bit of onion and some bread crumbs. The salad was made with ingredients that were not needed in recipes from earlier in the week, and just sitting in the fridge. The basil mayo is prepared Hellmann’s and dried herb.  I had the meal made, start to finish, in 15 minutes.  Inexpensive in time, money and calories.

Salmon Patties  (Makes 6 patties, approximately 3 inches in diameter)

1 can (14.75 oz.) salmon, drained.  (Any type of salmon)
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 eggs

Mix together with your hands. It should be wet, but not dripping, and should form into a ball and hold its shape. 

Approximately 1/3 cup per patty.  Scoop, form into a ball and press flat. Heat a non-stick skilled with a little olive oil. Place patties in skillet on medium for 3-4 minutes per side. Patty should be nicely browned, but still moist inside. Serve with your favorite tartar sauce or this basil mayo.

Nutritional data per patty:
Calories: 146 
Fat: 7.6 g 
Sat Fat: 1.7 g 
Chol: 117 mg 
Sodium: 401 mg
Carbs:  3.7 g
Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 16.6 g

Basil Mayo (1 serving)
2 Tbsp. Hellmann’s low fat mayo
1 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Mexican Chop Salad (1 serving)
2 cups mixed greens (or whatever you have)
2 Tbsp. black beans (leftover from a prior meal)
2 Tbsp. whole kernel corn
1/2 avocado
1 small red bell pepper
1/2 jalapeno chili
Dressing of your choice

Planning, Organization and a touch of OCD?

I’ve talked about how to start cooking, why you should cook and how to develop a plan. But Kristoe pointed out on my LoseIt page that most of us have to not only worry about a calorie budget, but also a financial budget. How do you feed a family when money is tight? (And I understand that question.  With two teenage boys, it’s like trying to keep ahead of the locust swarms at every meal.)
Fortunately, in addition to be determined (aka stubborn) I am also organized. Not about everything in life, but when the organization bug bites, it bites hard. My wife and I set the menu for the week together, but I do the grocery shopping for the family. In fact, last night, as I was making the evening meal detailed below, we were also looking at recipes and cookbooks to plan next week. Today, I will get the grocery shopping done and start some of the prep cooking. 
I shop for groceries at two stores. I don’t know what is available where you live, but I’ll tell you about mine. I have a great store ALDI that serves about 80% of my food needs. ALDI is a company based out of Europe (Germany, I think) and it carries almost everything we need at great prices. Most of the food is “store brand” but is made by name brand companies for that label. The quality of the food rivals any other brand in comparison. Additionally, our stores get a supply truck daily, which means the produce and meats are always fresh. The downside is that produce and meats are not heavily stocked every day, so if you shop in the evening, your selections will be fewer. But the prices are 40 to 50% of what I find in other stores. ALDI does not have a deli, a bakery, or anything like that. It is a simple grocery store.
My other store is a local chain that offers a very wide range of services, from a bakery, deli, huge meat department, and sushi bar, to a liquor store, bank and postal services. They even have a “Tot Spot” where you can drop off your children and they will be supervised while you shop – and since the Tot Spot has video monitoring, the video feed is broadcast to monitors all over the store so you can see what the children are doing. Of course, these services result in higher costs, so I only shop there for items that ALDI doesn’t carry. 
I will sometimes vary my shopping and pick up things at Walmart, but that is only if I am already at Walmart for other items. I try to maximize my efficiency by making as few trips as possible. In general, the ALDI/Festival combination works best because they are in close proximity to each other and my house.
But the real key to successful budgetary control is the shopping list. Ah, this is where the OCD enters the picture!
I think I am probably the only shopper that walks the store with a clipboard in hand and preprinted shopping list clipped to it. But this is what gets me through the store quickly, efficiently and without spending too much money – because even though I am a tightwad, I can spend money when the mood hits me. Here is a close-up of one section:

I use black and red to indicate ALDI (black) and Festival (red). I circle what I need, and then when I put it in the cart, I cross it off. If I were really anal about this, I would create a spreadsheet listing a par level (the amount needed on hand at all time) and a current inventory count, which would populate a shopping list automatically. I learned inventory control and ordering at several of my earlier jobs. But I think a clipboard is OCD enough, don’t you?

If you want to make one for yourself, they are easy. I broke mine into basic categories of food, and then got specific within each category. Everyone’s list will be different, and mine has been refined over the past several years.

So. Sit down and plan a menu. Be specific. Indicate exactly what you are making, as well as the sides that will accompany each meal. If the recipes are in a cookbook, indicate the page and book on your list so you can easily find it when you are ready to cook. And use a shopping list, buying ONLY what you need that week. Use coupons if possible (ALDI doesn’t accept them) but only clip the coupons AFTER you have created your list. Buying something just because it is on sale is not a good way of being financially responsible. And then shop, but only after you have eaten. Never shop when you are hungry.

And speaking of hungry, see the next post for last night’s meal.

Cooking for Yourself

A few housekeeping items:

I am working on developing a RECIPES tab and hope to have that up and running yet today. In that tab, you will find the recipes to anything that I have pictured, and eventually many, many other recipes as well. This will take some time, because I have a lot of recipes, but I also have other obligations on my time, as we all do. So that is a site that will certainly grow over time. I will include recipes for all sorts of main dishes (meats, poultry, fish), sides, desserts, breakfasts and beverages. Not all will be strictly “diet-friendly,” but all will be delicious in my opinion. (Of course, I once made a recipe that the Frugal Gourmet made on TV. He LOVED it. I never made it again! Pan-fried cabbage with Granny Smith apples, bacon and fennel seed. Not sure why I decided to make it in the first place …)

Also, I am just learning about this site and how to blog. Consequently, you can expect changes to the layout and design as I try to find how to best present my “voice” on this blog. I welcome suggestions (although, I can’t promise I will use all of them) because I know that there are many of you that follow other blogs or write your own. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that I need to listen to others more, because there are many people that have good information and insight.

I was shown how to link items in the blog to external sites. Cool! (I am so easily amused and impressed.) So, you will see links to things that are important (important in my mind, at least) or can better illustrate a point. I’ll try not to over-use it … but no guarantees. 

Lastly, I realize that these blog posts are long. And when I look at myself with a hard, objective eye, I come to the conclusion that they will always be long. I like to talk (pity my students!). And I like to write. 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.

Do you like to cook? Do you know WHY you should cook? Maybe a more basic question is: Do you know HOW to cook?

Cooking for yourself is the key to successful weight loss. Yes, it is more work than getting Chinese delivered or stopping at the drive-through at Taco Bell. But when you make your own food, you are in complete control over what you are eating. If you want to control your sodium intake, like I do, you are able to make your food with less added salt. You can use healthy fats in your food, rather than cheap fats that restaurants use. You can buy ingredients in season, or buy organic, or locally grown food, or grass-fed beef and free-range chickens. Those are variables that YOU control, and when you eat out, you surrender that control to the chef of the restaurant – or more commonly, to the manager of the restaurant who only is concerned with the bottom line.

When you decide to make changes in your life, you need to realize what is under your control and then take advantage of it. Or, make modifications when you can’t control everything. If gas prices go up, I really have no choice. I must pay the price. But, I can choose to not drive as much, or I can create a plan where I make the most efficient use of my driving miles, or I can carpool. I still have some control.

But what if you don’t know how to cook? Are you destined to eat microwaved frozen meals? No. You just need to start. Cooking is an art. And like any art, you can only develop it by doing it. I am learning how to take better still-life pictures. I know they are not professional quality, but the pictures of my food are my learning tool. Everyday, I think I am getting incrementally better, taking more things into account and getting better results. However, I am REALLY in awe of the professional artists that take the pictures in my cookbooks. I never really realized how difficult it is to get a beautiful shot of plated food.

So, you need to practice. I’ll going to provide recipes for you. Very few will be difficult. I don’t like to work hard when I cook, and it’s not necessary. When you are starting, you will burn some food. You will end up with bad meals – I did, with that cabbage-apple-bacon nightmare. But you will learn, and you will take pride in your meals. And most importantly, you will gain more control over your body.

For the best success in the kitchen, you need a good knife and some cookware. And of course measuring cups, spoons and a scale, but you already have been using those, right? For knives, there are many options, sizes, shapes and brands. I don’t like stainless steel because they don’t sharpen well.  And I don’t use a lot of different knives, so I’ve learned that those blocks of knives look nice on the counter but are wasted. I prefer a really nice 8-inch chef’s knife for everything. It just works! And my current knife is from IKEA. Oh, this is a beautiful knife.  It’s moderately expensive ($49) but in my opinion, it is worth it. (There are many knives that are far more expensive. When I have more free cash, these are my dream knives.  But he makes each knife individually, by hand, and charges an average of $400.00 per inch of blade.  And I want 8 inches … so those knives are on my bucket list.)

Cookware? If you are starting out, get inexpensive non-stick pans. They won’t last more than a year or two, but by then you will want better tools anyway. 

And start buying cookbooks. Lots of them. Follow the directions exactly, or just use them for ideas. I mentioned three new cookbooks yesterday. I will try the bread book this weekend (Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day), as well as trying recipes from Eating Well 500 Calories Dinners. Yesterday’s Huevos Rancheros came from Eating Well on a Budget.

So: Today’s theme is to take control when possible, and cook for yourself for greater health and happiness (and a bit of fun!).

Two recent menu items. Last night, I tried a Mediterranean-Spiced Quinoa Stuffed Bell Pepper. It’s not a hard recipe and I will include it as soon as I have the RECIPE page ready. (300 calories and very filling.) 

This morning, I whisked two eggs (plus an extra egg white), poured them into a skillet with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and when they were almost set, I added 1/2-ounce crumbled blue cheese, and about 1/4 cup of the leek-wine topping from the baked cod a couple days ago. I folded it, and topped it with the remaining 3/4 cup of topping. That’s an example of making extra recipe components for later use. I frequently make “Leftover Omelets.” The blue cheese paired well with the leek, tomato and wine. (290 calories)

Oh, and what did I do with that extra yolk? Ozzy had an extra breakfast today.

Have a great day. Take charge of your life, in all aspects. And keep stopping back here often to see what is developing. (And don’t be afraid to mention this blog to others.)

Have a plan … but don’t be afraid to modify it

This blog started because of my activity on I think everyone here knows me through that site. And I started using LoseIt because, obviously, I wanted to lose weight. My goal was to be healthier and my process to gain health was going to be weight loss.


And I lost weight. I made a decision. I was not a “fat” person anymore. I was a healthy person with bad eating habits. You can change a habit. You have a harder time at long-term success if you only focus on the fat. So, in a case where I used my powers of stubbornness for good instead of evil, I stubbornly held to the idea that I was not fat anymore. I took a journalist’s view of myself. I looked at HOW I ate, WHAT I ate, WHERE I ate, WHEN I ate, and most importantly WHY I ate. 

You can’t change a habit if you don’t understand why you are doing it. I ate fast (I’m still working on that … a bad habit learned from 16+ years as an RN in a hospital). I ate anything and everything (and lots of it!). I ate standing over the sink, sitting in front of the TV, and in my car driving to work. I ate when I woke up, right before bed, and sometimes in the middle of the night I would wake up and have a PBJ sandwich. I ate because I was bored. Tired. Angry. Nervous. Happy. Scared. We celebrated happiness with food. We mourned losses with food. Food was a reward.

But food is … just food. It’s fuel for our bodies. Sure, we want it to look good and taste good and smell good. But at the bottom line, it is just something that our bodies need to live, grow and heal.

When I realized all that, the weight loss challenge was reduced. (Not eliminated, but reduced. I still struggle with wanting to eat more, but everyday that struggle eases a bit.) My new choices made sense. They didn’t seem to be restrictions, as much as they seemed to be rational. It took a while of getting used to lower calorie intakes, but that’s the way it is with any change. And now, seven months later, I am nearing my goal. I am less than 4 pounds from my goal weight. I am almost done, right?

However, I find that I am modifying my plan. Yes, I still want to reach my goal weight, but now I want more than that. I have learned new things about myself, my body and my spirit. I am nearly at my goal, but I am still carrying a high percentage of body fat. I want more muscle and less fat. That’s a new goal. And I want to be able to run. That’s why I registered for the 10K next June. By registering and paying my fee (I am a tightwad sometimes, so paying is a way of forcing my commitment) I am making a statement that I am going to run that 10K. I will win (in this case, “win” = “finishing without walking”).

Make goals. Make a plan. Follow it. But just as when you build a home, sometimes you need to tell the contractor to make changes to the original plan. Be prepared for that because as you continue toward success, your view of the world will change, opening up options that you never even considered in your prior life.

Speaking of changes, I bought three new cookbooks and they arrived last night. I love cookbooks.  Two were from Eating Well (a very good magazine!): 500 Calorie Dinners, and Eating Well on a Budget. The third is Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I’m going to learn how to make bread! (You know I will post pics as I go. I’ll even take pictures of breads that were less than successful, because those are learning lessons, too.)

In paging through the Budget book, I found a recipe that triggered my taste buds. Huevos Rancheros. I took their recipe, tweaked it a little and made this for breakfast:

The Huevos Rancheros are a big breakfast at about 560 calories, but you can easily drop 165 calories by using a 6″ La Tortilla Wrap, one egg and 1/4 avocado instead of an 8″ wrap, two eggs and half the avocado. (The remainder of the ingredients are 1/2 cup black beans, slightly smashed, half of a jalapeno diced, and 1 ounce of sharp cheddar cheese.)
The smoothie is Blueberry. No spinach in this one, but only because I wanted to take a picture of it. In all honesty, adding spinach to most smoothies really detracts from the beauty of the drink … this one (and I usually do add the spinach) looks … er … really nasty. But tastes great! This smoothie is about 165 calories.
It was a big breakfast, but I prefer a big breakfast. I find that is gets me going for the day with less hunger throughout. (But that’s just me.)
Let’s take one more look at the star of today’s breakfast:
Again, thanks for reading this. I hope that you are able to make good choices today and really look at WHY you are taking the actions that may be slowing your progress, or diverting your attention from your goal.
And always remember, that YOU are worth anything you really want. What do you want? And you can have anything you really want …mbut the most important things are not free. Are you willing to work for what you want? When you answer those two questions, your path will become a little more clear.
Enjoy! And I’ll see you tomorrow!

Plan your work, then work your plan. And don’t stop.

Yesterday, I talked about growing up cooking and eating. It set a pattern for most of the rest of my life.  When I went to college at that liberal arts school, I had no concept of self-control. From everything to getting up in time to attend classes (no Mom to wake me up) to eating in the cafeteria (unlimited amounts of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), I was completely lost. I didn’t know how to decide what I needed to do, when I needed to do it, or how much I needed.
Does that sound familiar to anyone else?
It took a lot of growing up before I realized that no one can decide for me. I love to cook. I love to brew beer. I love to eat what I cook, and of course, drink what I brew. And that was killing me. That’s not a figure of speech. My blood pressure was far too high. My knees were in constant pain. I had no stamina (a single flight of stairs was cause for me to stop and catch my breath). I wasn’t sleeping well.  I felt awful. In 2006, I was at my peak weight. On my driver’s license, I claimed 295 pounds, but that was only what the scale said the last time I stood on it, many months earlier. By October of that year, I looked like this:
By the way, that’s a 3XL shirt, and I was straining the buttons across the belly.
July, 2008 was my turning point. My wife and I decided to change our lives. We changed our pattern of eating, adopting a Mediterranean-type diet, focusing on portion control. It was delicious, and over the next year, I went from 286.5 to a low of 217. 
(Me, February 2009, at about 223 pounds.)
Success! For a little while. Then I stopped remembering portion control, and stopped thinking about good choices, and stopped being as active. And the weight returned. (Welcome to the “yo-yo!”)

Me, May 2011, at 262.5 pounds. Wearing my “fat suit” again. I was smiling in the picture, but depressed, frustrated and ashamed inside. (Can everyone relate?)

On May 25, 2011, I found (and most or all of my followers are from there). I relearned the idea of portion control, but more importantly of planning my meals, my day, my life. Every Saturday morning, my wife and I sit down over some good coffee and plan the next week’s meals. We schedule them so we don’t have to make another decision at the end of the day. Planning ahead also makes grocery shopping easier and cheaper, because I am less likely to buy random stuff. And when we cook, we try to cook efficiently. If I am making chicken breasts (as for my meal posted yesterday morning), I make extra breasts for tonight’s chicken enchilada verde. Tonight’s dinner will be easy to assemble, which make me more likely to follow the plan.

I always try to look at what I am making and decide how else the ingredients can be used. Over the weekend, the boys wanted Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches. My wife and I made ours with portabella mushrooms instead of beef. However, I sauteed extra onions and green peppers, and saved some. This morning, I made scrambled eggs, and added 1 cup of sauteed peppers/onions. Delicious. (It was supposed to be an omelet, but the darn think stuck to the pan, and didn’t flip, so I made them scrambled. Adapt to the changing conditions! I would have taken a photo if the omelet had worked.  Oh well. I’ll make it again.)

When I ran my restaurant, prep and planning was vital. Decide what you need, and prepare what you can in advance. It is a lifesaver … and for me, that turned out to literally be the truth.

Last night was a simple meal of baked cod in a white wine-leek sauce, quinoa with lemon and kalamata olives, and roasted asparagus with olive oil and garlic. (362 calories) Plus a piece of rye bread and olive oil (another 200 calories).

Breakfast was the aforementioned omelet-turned-to-scrambled eggs, and this awesome pineapple-spinach smoothy:

That’s a one-liter mug. 1 cup pineapple, 1.5 cup water, 2 scoops whey powder, 2 tablespoons milled flaxseed, 1 packet of crystal light. Blend until smooth, then add 3 ounces of baby spinach, a little at a time, until creamy and smooth. (300 calories.) Absolutely delicious! I wish the camera had picked up the real color. It’s the color of a perfectly ripe avocado. I’ll try for a better shot another time.

Finally, let me know if you like photos of my meals. I probably won’t take pictures of everything I eat, but I think it’s good to see what can be eaten in a healthy diet. And I will start including photos of other things important to my plan. Lastly, I’ll try to start making my posts a little shorter, but right now I seem to have a lot of stuff to say (and I don’t have that stupid character count limit that LoseIt sets).  However, I will try to have a new post every day. As I begin training for my 10K, you can assume I will be talking about that, as well as my menus.

Thanks for reading this.

Who am I?

When I attempted college the first time, I took a philosophy course (doesn’t everyone at a liberal arts college take at least one?). We never attempted to answer that question, because of course, there is no answer. 

Who we are changes, day by day. With every choice, we change our potential outcomes. And if we don’t make a choice, that too is a choice that will affect us. We are governed by what we do. Therefore, it is not “we are what we eat,” but, “we are what we choose.” And obviously, choosing what we eat makes a lasting effect on our future options.

For example, when I was a child, instead of watching Sesame Street and learning my numbers and letters, I would come home from school and watch Grahan Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet) and learned that wine, butter and cream make food taste delicious. Instead of running around outside playing football and tag, I stayed indoors and read my encyclopedia. A to Z. Oh yes, I was THAT much of a geek/nerd, even then.

I was four when my mom bought me my first cookbook. When I was 20ish, I got hooked on PBS and the cooking shows, especially the Frugal Gourmet. Yup … Saturday afternoons were not spent playing sports, or even watching them on TV. I watched cooking shows. And then bought the cookbooks and practiced. And a good cook eats what he makes. 

Did I mention that I used to be a big boy? And a portly man? No wonder. I was set up as a child to LOVE cooking and LOVE eating. As an adult, I still feel that way, but have added a LOVE of cooking for others. It’s a challenge. To do what you love, when what you love is slowly killing you, is not a good choice for the long term. 

I made a choice. I changed “me.” I’ve been eating better. And by better, I mean AWESOMELY GREAT food. Not low-cal, low-fat, low-cholesterol foods. But REAL food! I just eat less of it. Last night, I pan-fried a chicken breast and topped it with a tomato-kalamata olive topping, and served it with a lemon-leek whole wheat fettuccine and oven-roasted vegetables. Total calories: 626. Delicious! Full of flavor, protein, good fats, and fiber.

This morning, I toasted a mini whole-wheat bagel in the pan with some olive oil, then fried two eggs in the residual olive oil, and topped everything with a quarter of an mashed avocado. 370 calories.

By the way, I am not a professional photographer. Er … that was obvious, I suppose.

So, back to the beginning of this post. Who am I? I am a guy who was fat and not fit. I am becoming a man who is normal sized and more fit. And I am making my choices, rather than letting my lack of choices make me.

You can all do this. It’s not easy. It requires first that you know what you want, and what it means to you. That will tell you if you are willing to pay the price to achieve your goal. But always remember this one thing:

You are worth it.

Final note: In yesterday’s post, I made an off-hand comment about never having said “someday I will run a marathon.” Well, I decided to move way outside my comfort zone, and I registered for my first race that was not part of a hated physical education class. On June 9, 2012, I will participate in the 2012 Bellin 10K Run. I paid for the registration, and ordered the t-shirt. If you are in Green Bay on that day, stop by at the local hospital to visit me! 

My first race. About a month before I turn 49.

You can do anything! I know you can. Now … you need to know you can, too.