January 29, 2010

Healthy Living Tips From Our Pets

I'm not sure how anyone can resist a small little kitten . . . sweet, energetic, athletic bundles of fur bounding to amazing heights and hiding away in the smallest of places . . . kitties that turn into warm, loyal and quiet house companions that require little but warm your lap and your heart with just one little purr. How do you resist that?

I've been thinkin' lots lately about kitties again because, as it turns out, Siberian cats in all their beauty and smartness also have a unique quality ~ folks with allergies to cats (that would be me) don't react to, or react much much less (I want that to be me!) to this breed! So, I'm ecstatic because we're thinking about the possibility of having a little meow friend again. I think having pets really does help us to be healthy...in lots of ways.

Then, I was reading a blog post over at Fighting An Enemy Called Average about how dogs seem to have the innate ability to look at every day as the best day ever . . . every walk is the BEST walk, every meal is the BEST meal, every snack is the BEST snack, every playtime is the BEST playtime. You get the idea. Sounds like a pretty healthy attitude, doesn't it? Adopting that attitude could keep us very busy!

It's Friday, so it's time to have a little light-hearted fun with our healthy endeavors. Sit back for a few minutes, indulge yourself a little and watch this 2 minute cute video on the education we can get about healthy living from our little furry friends.

Happy weekend everyone! See you Monday.


January 28, 2010

Pants On The Ground ~ Almost

I may do my fair share of complaining about the cold weather here in Minnesota, but yesterday I was one happy chic to live here. And, not because spring arrived early or I have a trip planned to the Bahamas. The reason I was happy, even relieved to live in the land of uneven snow pack in between parked cars and single digit temps is because of my pants.

Here's what happened. The hubs called me from work to say he was coming down with a bad cold, so I ran to the store to pick up stuff to make some homemade chicken noodle soup. And, as I was walking the aisles at my local grocery, I felt it...my pants....they were like baggy saggy around my butt! I even had to hike them up, and you can bet I smiled every time.

Ok, so they weren't as drastic as pants on the ground, but still, they were noticeably saggy. I was a saggy bottom girl and so very proud.

Now, if I lived in Manning, South Carolina I could have been given a $25 ticket for that! That's right, a city ordinance was proposed last year to start handing out tickets for wearing droopy drawers. Seriously! Read all about it here.

So, I celebrated a little, right there in the chicken stock aisle by doing a little dance, just letting the sag wag on. And, I spent my $25 on a yummy dinner for my sick husband with some change to spare. It's great to live in Minnesota.

Celebrating another victory,

January 27, 2010

Are You An Outlier?

out-li-er, noun
1: a person who lives away from his place of work
2: an extreme deviation from the norm

I went to the doctor today because I've been having some weird pain behind my left knee. While he was poking and prodding, we got talking about what I'm doing for my health. He noticed, bless his heart, that I am down 10 pounds from the last time I saw him, so he wanted to know how I did it.

I just love these kind of doctor visits, don't you?!

So, I told him I've been visiting different places, namely the gym, and dining with different folks lately ~ vegetables, protein, water and a lot less carbs, quickly adding in "usually, but not always cuz I'm not perfect." And, he said to me "That's great! Most people can't do that." He actually said it twice.

And, in that moment I felt like an outlier, someone who is doing something extraordinary, and living so counter-culture so as to actually be an extreme deviation from the norm. I felt proud to be among such an elite group of people, happy to have the opportunity to join them, and day after day earn my membership status.

It's true you know. Those of us setting out to lose more than 10 or 20 pounds have to have some kind of bent toward rising to remarkable challenges. It's not that it's so hard to eat vegetables, protein, water and a lot less carbs, but rather what we won't be eating that is plastered all over the television screen, magazines, our mail box, and the menu at the average American restaurant. (Just try to remember that the food almost never tastes as good as the pictures look!)

It's the stuff that gets brought to work and is left in the break room for your "enjoyment".

It's the parties we go to where a celery stick might be the only healthy thing around but it's stuck in a cocktail.

It's like an alcoholic being constantly offered a beer.

We're not having any of that, at least not usually.

So yeah, my doctor is right. Most don't make it.

I don't know about you, but I like that kind of challenge! I like the fact that I am doing something that most can't do, that I stand out from the crowd, and that as my body fat dwindles away and my muscles and bones emerge in all of their beauty and form, that I am doing something truly remarkable.

Cheers to all my fellow outliers!

January 25, 2010

Don't Be Afraid To Screw Up

Would you believe that these screws are the same ones that usually keep my head on straight? Somehow, someway nearly all of them fell out this past week.

It all started last Wednesday ~ it wasn't such a good day as far as eating healthy goes. Somehow pizza snuck in (I ordered it) our door, and pizza is a BIG weakness of mine (I know this). And, I demonstrated that weakness with perfect rhythm and rhyme. And, a little regret too.

But, it takes more than a pie to keep this girl down! So, to make up for it, Thurs-Sun I thought I'd adopt a new approach: When I eat bad {piggish} one day, the next couple of days I go really light {rabbity}. Makes sense, right? To me it does ~ I can see myself sustaining this approach as a way of dealing with the ups and downs with food.

Started out well Thursday and even Friday, but something kicked in Saturday and I got sort of carried away with mimicing our furry friends. Then, my body protested IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT (read crashing blood sugar, leg cramps, sleeplessness, splitting headache, etc. etc.). So, I sat down Sun morning and figured out how many calories I had the day before. Turns out I ate 1030 calories, burned 350 of those working out for a net of 700 calories.

Now, I'm a big girl, and according to some websites that calculate how many calories I need to maintain my present weight, I should be eating around 3600 calories a day. So, I created a calorie deficit of 1,900 calories on Saturday. But, I didn't know this because, honestly, I don't count calories. I was just trying to eat light and healthy.

As a result of all this ickiness in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, the rest of the day was a wash in terms of energy. I had NONE. ZIP. NADA. I ate pretty well, making sure to get enough protein and some complex carbs to stabilize my blood sugars, but working out was just out of the question. And, I had a sinking feeling like my new little approach was going to fail. Through tending to my body needs, by the end of Sunday my body felt normal again, but wow, what a trip.

I actually think what I did to my body on Saturday was worse that what I did to it Wednesday evening!

Guess my little plan didn't work so well. :( And what was my result? I lost the same amount of weight that I probably would have had I not been so {insert your favorite word for extreme here}, 1.2 pounds down for the week. Not really complaining about the number, but after all that??? Just wasn't worth it.

So, I went a little crazy like I said, but I really wasn't trying to be crazy about it. I sincerely felt GREAT on Saturday, thus an amazing workout ~ wasn't hungry, but ate when I was, small things like veggie salad, an egg white, half a grapefruit, and drank lots of water. What didn't I do? I'm pretty sure I didn't have enough protein. Or, really plain and simple, enough calories.

I guess some of this journey is about trial and error, learning new things as I go along, listening to my body. I know I will never be perfect when it comes to always eating exactly what I should, so compensating either before or after the fact seems smart to me. But, I messed up royaly and really didn't end up with much to show for it. Just a bunch of screws on the floor. Ugh.

What do you guys think? What else could I have done or done differently?

January 22, 2010

Fun Friday Video

This is first for the person who loves me more deeply and purely than anyone ever has, my dear husband!! Thanks honey for choosing me and loving me more today than the day we met!

And second it's for all of you out there that support and care for me just the way I am . . . in all of my imperfection and craziness.

Love you all,

January 21, 2010

Good Enough For Me

I've been in love with Starbucks for a very long time ~ everyone who knows me knows this. If it were possible to marry Starbucks I might even consider it, but then I'd have to move to Utah, so maybe not.

But seriously, I believe their coffee is roasted to perfection, their cups for sale are distinctive, very cool and always changing, and they put neat little sayings on the sides of their to-go cups instead of dumb marketing jargon that doesn't mean anything.  They call these sayings The Way I See It, and here's an example:

{Just in case you can't read that:}

The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you're not good enough. On occasion some may be correct. But do not do their work for them. Seek any job; ask anyone out; pursue any goal. Don't take it personally when they say "no" - they may not be smart enough to say "yes"."

- Keith Olbermann

Now, as if the drink inside the cup isn't enough to perk you up, don't those words just make your day, inspire you to live your very best life, motivate you to say "I can!"?  They do me.

Forget the naysayers, they are just average people who maybe have just forgotten how to dream.  I love it, "pursue any dream"!  Besides, who wants to be average?

I think I'll grab me another cuppa SB just to reward their smart marketing. And, because I'm madly in love.

Good enough,

January 20, 2010

Write Goals In Pencil

Recently I had a conversation with a friend whose 2010 resolutions/goals have already gone by the wayside.  And, I just felt her frustration and her almost maddening bewilderment with every fiber of my being.  She made sure that these goals were not just a bunch of must-do's and should do's, but rather things that she really really wants. Still, somehow they didn't stick. Anyone relate? Yeah, probably everyone.

A lady I met on twitter last year was talking to me one day about goals, and she said that goals always require adjustment, tweaking....and for a simple reason.  When we set out to accomplish something, there is just no way for us to anticipate all the variables and how life will go. . . and how the people/circumstances that we don't have any control over will affect us and our goals.

So, I was thinking about all this. And, I hate it when goals that I worked really hard to come up with, write down and start implementing have to be adjusted because sometimes I just want to be like a linebacker and put my head down and plow through. And, sometimes if I do tweak the goals I get tired of it all, it just feels so cumbersome and I begin to feel like it isn't even worth this much trouble.  So, when my friend shared her frustration, I could really really feel it because I'd been there sooooo many times.

Also, I used to think that "tweaking" goals was a cop out, like an excuse for not doing what I said I was going to do, an escape clause. And, so I'd feel like a quitter if I tweeked.  But, then when the goal didn't work out, what would I do?  Quit.  And, then think there was something really wrong with me, when the main thing that was off was the goal AND the fact that I gave up too quickly and didn't tweak it.

I decided in 2010 to not feel threatened anymore by the need to tweak and just tell myself the truth about whatever it is I'm working toward, which in 2010 is to lose 120 pounds.

The truth is:
I cannot tell the future, so my plans will need adjusting.

The truth is:
There are lots of ways to reach the same goal, & finding the one that'll work for me is my first action step.

The truth is:
I need other people to know about what I'm fighting for; they'll see things I don't and cheer me on.

The truth is:
No matter how hard this is, I am worth it. Every. Last. Ounce. Of. Effort. Worth. It.

The truth is:
"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

So, if you are feeling at all like my friend (and like me for so many years in a row), I just want to encourage you about the goals you've made at the beginning of this year...don't abandon them now. Pull them out, dust them off and rework them. 

Even if you are still reworking the goals at the end of 2010, you will not have wasted ANY time.  But, if you let them go too easily now, well, December 2010 will still come.

January 19, 2010

Two Bean Pasta e Fagioli

Nothing better than a bowl of hot & healthy soup on a cold winter day! And, did you know that one of the ways that french women stay so slim is that they have soup as one of their courses?  Fills the tummy with so much yumminess and makes you feel full.

This recipe is adapted from none other than Rachel Ray, one of my favorite TV chefs.  Guy Fieri is another.  I just love it when I can watch two cooking shows on a Sunday morning and have my menu made for the first part of the week.  So, thank YOU Guy and Rachel!

It has become rare that I don't end up tweaking a recipe, even from famous chefs like Guy or Rachel. We all have different tastes, and, sometimes I don't have everything that the recipe calls for, so I improvise.  And, this week's recipe, an Italian bean & pasta fagioli, did get the ol' c-swee treatment.  You can find Rachel's original recipe here if you're interested.  I'm sure hers is good too . . . just a guess! ;)


2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3-4 ribs celery from the heart, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 stems of rosemary, stripped and chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1/4 t sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1 15oz can cannellini, navy or great northern beans
1 15oz can chick peas
1 6oz can tomato paste w/basil, garlic & oregano
4 cups chicken stock (I used Emeril's All Natural)
2 cups water
1 cup mini brown rice penne, uncooked
1 lemon zested and juiced
Handful of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

  1. Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium to medium-high heat.
  2. Chop the carrot, celery, onions, garlic, and rosemary, dumping them in as you go. Add bay leaf, salt and pepper, and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 7-8 minutes.
  3. Stir in the beans and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the stock and water, then cover and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the pasta and let simmer in the soup for 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
  6. Turn off the heat, and add the lemon zest, lemon juice and the parsley.
To serve, ladle the soup into shallow bowls and garnish with cheese.

(NOTE: The photo above and to the right is day 2 - you can see that it is more like a stew than soup because the pasta absorbed lots of the broth. To avoid this, cook the pasta in a separate pot and add as needed. If you like it thick, Rachel says you can fry up the thick stew in a skillet for a completely different kind of meal, too!)

Bon appetit!


January 18, 2010

Resisting Temptation

On the heels of an amazingly successful week of work, parties, and NOT succumbing to even just a taste of the birthday cakes (yes, there were two), munchies, and left over sweets from Christmas, I was kind of worn out on Saturday morning. The last party of the week broke up just before 11 Friday night and as I laid my head on the pillow next to my happy husband, I felt quite proud of myself for not giving in to all the temptations I had faced.

But, Saturday came and I relaxed . . . didn't do any planning for the day's food. Unfortunately, my trusty fall-back salad was also gone, and wouldn't you know it, I woke up hungry, really hungry.

Thus, the end of a week that was filled with victories started to come undone. Like Big Mac undone. And a mini $100,000 candy bar undone. And, chips and salsa undone.

As I sat thinking about it all, I realized that the Big Mac could have been replaced easily with a Subway sandwich for a fraction of the fat, and the chips that accompanied the healthy salsa could have been what my friend Heidi made, Kale Chips, a recipe I've been really wanting to try. And the candy bar? Just totally not even worth it.

But, I was tired. And feeling a bit of entitlement after resisting so many things all week. After I finished licking my fingers and enjoying the lingering taste of my chosen sins, I decided that while a Big Mac (metaphorically speaking of course) doesn't add much nutrition to my body, maybe the whole faux pas could teach, even inform my 2010 goals of a thing or two.

Seriously? I was skeptical too that a Big Mac would have anything valuable to say. But, here's my takeaway from my drive-thru snafu:

A PLANNED afternoon of indulgence is better than an unplanned one.

Not too deep I know, but what can we really expect from a Big Mac anyway?

What do you guys think? When we have a particularly challenging week and succeed at resisting the temptations, should we schedule a reward?

Talk to me,

P.S. Seriously, guys, I messed up but thankfully all the resisting that I did manage netted me a nice weight loss - down 3.6 pounds this past week! Woo hoo!

January 14, 2010

Victories All Day Long

Yesterday was hubs birthday ~ he worked just half a day and while he did I whipped up a Pineapple Upside Down Cake (one of his favorites) that we'd share later on with friends.

As I was mixing it up, I was thinking about all the calories I used to consume without even thinking...specifically from licking the spoon, the beaters, the bowl when baking. True confession: if what I was making was chocolate, I might even dip that spoon back into the batter for more.  I know, horrible.  Please don't tell anyone.

Well, not yesterday. Not even one lick!

I don't really know how many calories are in those seemingly insignificant licks, maybe not that many. But, getting that little taste of sweetness on my tongue would almost always make me want more of it (as evidenced by the redipping of said spoon), more of the batter, the cake and anything else sugar-laden I could get my hands on for the rest of the day.

So, that was kinda victory #1, wouldn't ya say?

So, onto the day. Hubs and I ate lunch together at Axel's Bonfire, a casual but fine dining restaurant that specializes in yummy south western fare. We love the place, we even had our rehearsal dinner there 2 1/2 years ago, and it's fun to go back when we get the chance. I had the BonTon Bites, basically a wonton wrapper around chipotle chicken that you dip in a sweet/sour/spicy sauce. Mmmmmmm. And a glass of diet coke and another of water.

The server discovered it was hubs birthday so at the end of our meal, she {sweet girl that she is} brought a giant, thick chocolate chip cookie with a scoop of ice cream on the top. Hubs ate most of it (really), I had 2 or 3 small bites with just a tad of ice cream. {smiling proudly}

Typically (ok, not his birthday, but other times) its every man/woman for himself, no strict halvsies practiced on sweets. If you could manage to eat faster than the other person, you got more. Easy. Works for us.

But today, and every day since Jan 1, 2010 is a brand new day. Old habits are being looked at, shifted, and it seemed like the decent thing to do yesterday, being his birthday and all, to just have a nibble or two. In years past, we woulda ordered a second so nobody would have to share. :-/

Victory #2? I think so.

But, the biggest test was yesterday evening while hanging out with friends with that Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Everyone there knows what my goals are for 2010, but nobody would have criticized me for having a small piece of my husband's birthday cake.  I surprised us all (me included) and didn't have a single bite!  Yah! I think they were all, honestly, amazed.

I sipped on my black coffee and simply sat back, and enjoyed the friendships represented and counted the victories (THREE!) won throughout the day. And, THAT tasted really really good.

Savoring my sweet feelings,

January 12, 2010

I Don't Like Salads

But, THIS is what I have been enjoying lately . . .

Underneath the luscious red tomatoes,

the brilliant orange bell pepper,

the refreshing cucumber,

the crunchy bean sprouts,

and the pile of thinly sliced red onions

are mounds of chopped romaine lettuce and spinach. Depending on which meal I'm having, I top it with a sliced hard boiled egg and/or chicken breast, and a little of Brianne's All Natural Poppyseed Dressing. I am telling you, I am quickly becoming a salad girl!

And, I'm asking myself, how is this happening? I am the girl who has NEVER been into salads . . . EVER. Could this also be the result of a mind that has been set, that even my taste buds have begun to change?

Whatever the reason, I am loving it! And, my body seems to be loving it also. Anybody else experience these kind of amazing changes?

Scratching head while smiling,

January 11, 2010

How To Stay On A Diet

So, I was thinking about this whole weighing in thing, and realized that what I'm really after when I hop on the scale is some kind of a visual that will keep me going. We know ourselves too well . . . all the times we've started a diet only to fall off the wagon a few weeks later . . . and desperately wanting this time to be THE time that it actually happens, we get the weight off and change the way we look forever.

On the other hand, I really respect what others have said about the deception of the scale. Depending on our fluid intake, when we last ate, what we last ate, how much salt we've had, and a host of other variables, the scale just doesn't tell the whole story. But, as many problems as the scale seems to have, it is still one of the most concrete ways of gauging our progress.

But, is there a better way, or maybe an additional way? In one of my past weight loss attempts, I did a couple of "visual" things that didn't involve the scale. This particular time I was desperately wanting to get into a size 16 jeans.

So, I went to the store and bought a really cute pair and hung them on a hook on the back of my bathroom door. Then, every day before stepping into the shower I would pause at the mirror and look at my body. Yeah, while naked, no clothes to cover up or camouflage anything, just bare nakedness. It was like how I told myself the truth about where my body actually was. Then, a couple of times a week after my shower I'd try those new cute jeans on.

I was successful that time in getting a bunch of weight off I think because I kept a constant visual in front of me, both in the form of actually seeing my body for what it was and seeing those jeans that I wanted to look good in. I was working out hard with both cardio and strength training, and was gaining muscle while losing fat, so the scale wasn't always showing the kind of loss I really hoped for. But, those jeans!! I'll never forget the day I tried them on, and voila, they fit like a glove.

So, what do you guys think? I personally don't think I could give up the scale completely, but maybe adding other visual reminders in will help us stay on track this year. Would love to hear if anyone else has tried this visual thing and if it worked.

Workin' it,

January 10, 2010

Rule #1

So, my personal trainer talked to me about how often to weigh in. After being down 4 pounds earlier in the week, I got on the scale Friday morning only to see that the total loss was now just 2.6. Hmmm, what happened?

There's a lot of things I have to work at to be good, but one thing I have down pat is analyzing. So my little mind went to work right away trying to figure out what happened, in between bouts of discouragement and, uh, obsessing. I mean my head was in overdrive analyzing every little bite of food, every moment I wasn't exercising, and wondering what I could do differently to get the results I'm looking for.

So, as I'm thinking about all this, I start wondering if the scale is off. To test it, I decide to weigh my 5 pound free weights. Then I weigh myself again. Then I drink a glass of water. And weigh myself again. Then I pee. And, yes, weigh myself again. Uh huh.

Ever heard the phrase paralysis by analysis? Ah-emmm. Yeah, too much thinking about things creates giant mind potholes to fall into and it can get very dark in there, you might think you are seeing something new and brilliant, and feel so enlightened. But, then you realize what you're seeing is just the other side of your rut,.

Ashley, my personal trainer said "if you weigh yourself every day you are going to get very obsessed and very discouraged." {I nod knowingly.}

I know everyone must do what works for them, but I made my first rule . . . weighing in happens on Monday morning as soon as I get up. Not before. For no reason. Ever.

And, this is helping me breathe again. And to trust the process. Because when I create a calorie deficit, the weight will come off.

Workin' it,

January 8, 2010

My Body Is Talking

Not gonna use a lot of words tonight . . . partly because it's Friday night but mostly because this short video featuring a well-loved song from a great movie sums it up so nicely.

I admit, I haven't always paid attention.  I heard recently that our bodies are always talking to us, telling us what they need, that all the information is there if we will just listen.  Seriously?  Sounds so simple.

So, what am I really hungry for?  And, am I really hungry?  What do I really want, a sweet or rich and savory  treat now or that luscious feeling of jeans that are no longer tight?

It's up to me, nobody else, what I pay attention to and what I do about it. Gonna chew on that awhile.

Working it,

P.S.  You may have noticed that my total weight loss yesterday was 4 and today it is 2.6.  Not sure exactly what is going on, but it has my attention.  Guess this post is more timely than I thought.

January 7, 2010

PJ Thursday

For some reason, I just didn't seem to be able to get going this morning.  Or this afternoon.  I spent most of the day reading and wondering why I felt so down.  Finally at around 4:30 I scooted myself out the door to the gym where I had a good cardio workout along with some strength training.  That perked me up a little.  But, today was definitely one of those lazy days where jammies-all-day was very tempting.

And, for the first time since I began this, I felt my resolve weaken just a tad.  But as I pondered eating a breaded and deep fried chicken strip, I thought about what I wanted more than that....a thin, healthy body.  So, instead I made myself a really nice, gorgeous salad, kind of like the one we had on New Year's Day.  Mmmmmmmm.  Can't say that the chicken strip wouldn't have tasted good, but what's that saying . . . nothing tastes as good as thin feels.

So, the journey now feels real...and I'm glad that I've experienced the first dip.  Just means that the education of a lifetime has already begun.

As you can see I have already posted a weight loss at the top of the right hand column. I just couldn't wait to see! And, woohoo, I think it was a successful first week!  I'll still get on the scale tomorrow morning and report in, but I'm going to move the official weigh in day to Monday.  So after tomorrow, the next weigh in and report will happen on January 18.

See you tomorrow,

January 6, 2010

Inspiration: A Coat of Many Colors

I spent the noon hour yesterday with Heidi, a friend I met a couple of years ago.  We haven't seen each other for several months, but both of us are valiantly fighting the battle of the bulge this year AND both of us decided, independent of one another to go public with it.  When we learned we were following a similar journey, we made a date for coffee.

It was so cool to get together with her...Heidi is the proud mom of two beautiful children, adoring wife to a talented, amazing man and owner of at least one small business.  And, she's one of those energetic and real people that you just love hanging around.  What has always struck me about her is how transparent she lives her life, a trait that I greatly admire.  With Heidi, there is no guessing what she thinks or believes and wants, she's just right out there with it.  Not in an over-the-top sort of way...just the opposite.   She's one of the most affirming women you'll ever meet, and always sincere.  And, it'd been too long, in my opinion, since we spent any time together.

We had a great time talking about our individual journey's, the struggles, the victories, how we're feeling, recipes, strategies, all of it.  (You can check out her blog here.)  And, we had a chance to catch up with what else is going on in our worlds.  I left encouraged, inspired and happy . . . it was just what I needed early on in my journey when the motivation is still high and the desire to keep it that way is strong.  Just felt like that extra little boost that keeps the tank full and moving forward instead of running on empty and sputtering to a halt.

Who inspires you in your life and how do they do it?  Have you ever had a time in your life when you didn't have a "Heidi"? (I have.)  How did you manage?  Please share something in the comments....lets encourage each other along the way.


January 5, 2010

Veggie Lasagna

I made this masterpiece of a dish yesterday, crossing my chubby fingers that I would like it since we'd be eating it regardless for two nights in a row.  Soon my hopes would be answered ~ the savory aroma wafting to my office after being in the oven for less than 30 minutes was tantalizing, producing much mouthwatering and grins, and convincing me that I had found a winner of a recipe.

Still, I wanted to actually taste it before I gave you all my review and recommendation.  And, since lasagna happens to be hubs favorite dinner dish (besides me of course), I wanted to be able to include a non-dieter's perspective and recommendation.

Review:  First off, we BOTH loved this dish.  It had all the wonderful basil/oregano/tomato italian flavors and despite the cheeses being low fat, they were so very tasty.  The recipe called for shredded carrots, and I chopped mine instead simply because all I had were those mini carrots and didn't want to add blood from my knuckles into the recipe.  But, shredded would have been better because the carrots were still a little crunchy.  And, so was the cauliflower.  However, I quickly add that if you like crunch, chopping the carrots is a good move, adding some interesting texture to the dish.

Instead of semolina noodles, I used brown rice lasagna noodles because of their superior flavor and healthy properties, and because the package said there was no need to precook them...just lay them in the dish right out of the box. I was skeptical, but followed the instructions anyway.  The top and botton noodles were just a little chewy, so if you don't precook your noodles, make sure you add extra tomato sauce on the bottom and reserve plenty for the top...having them enveloped in moisture would've probably produced better results.  Still, not bad at all.

Do NOT skip the fire-roasted tomatoes on the top.  This was my own little adjustment to the recipe, and it added so much extra flavor.  The cheese mixture with the spinach was spectacular, absolutely perfect.

Recommendation:  Both Hubs and I HIGHLY recommend this dish whether you are dieting or not.  It is delicious, healthy and filling.  I plan to make it again for guests very soon and for sure for my two step daughters who are both into vegetarian meals.  Here's the recipe:

Vegetable Lasagna
9-12 lasagna strips (brown rice preferred)
4-6 cups mixed fresh vegetables chopped (cauliflower, shredded carrots, bell pepper, whatever you have)
1 30-32 oz. can meatless tomato sauce
1 15 ox. can fire roasted tomatoes
12 oz. low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
12 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 eggs
8 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
Italian dried herb mix to taste
2-3 cups chopped fresh spinach

1.  Boil lasagna strips to al dente (unless you are using brown rice noodles in which case just skip this step).  Drain and set aside to cool.

2.  Combine cheeses, eggs, chopped spinach, garlic and italian herb mix (1-2 tablespoons) in large bowl.

3.  In 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom.  Sprinkle with italian herb mix.  Put 3 strips of lasagna noodles on top.  Then layer as follows:  1/3 cheese mixture, 1/2 of the mixed vegetables, sauce and italian herbs.  Repeat.  End with lasagna noodles, fire roasted tomatoes and cheese on top.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours or until top browns.

Can be made ahead, covered with foil and left in warm oven for several hours before serving.

Bon appetit!

P.S.  This post is a part of the Fight Back Fridays where there's always some yummy reading.  Check it out.

Recipe adapted from Recipes for Life by Beth M. Ley

January 4, 2010

Pain and Pleasure

Is it humanely possible for every muscle to feel stretched, worked and uh, even beat up and AT THE SAME TIME feel happy about it? Ha! Yes, yes it is!!!  All those endorphins are hugging me tonight big time.

I met with Miss Ashley Carlsen this afternoon at Lifetime Fitness for my first personal training session.  Ashley said she might stop by the blog to see what I would say about her, so I guess I need to watch myself...who knows what she'd do to me next time if I say something bad about her!  Ashely, you are great, and thanks for not yelling at me Jillian-style!

Seriously, it was a grueling workout for me, but I learned soooo many new exercises that are going to increase both my strength and flexibility.  Some of them I couldn't even do, but that won't be true for long! I love having something to work toward, a challenge, so this is all good.  When I walked out of the club and down the steps, my legs were like jello ~ made me laugh right out loud!

On the food front, I made some veggie lasagna when I got home in an effort to drastically increase my veggie intake . . . fire roasted tomatoes, Italian no-meat sauce, cauliflower, carrots and bell pepper, layered with a mixture of cheeses, spinach, garlic and Italian spices in between brown rice lasagna noodles.  It's in the oven right now and smells AMAZING!

So, as I recover tonight from Ashley's abuse expert advice and wisdom, all of me feels like this journey is totally underway. 

Sore and smiling,

Gathering Support

Doesn't that just make you smile?!  We all need friends like that whether we're in a really good place in our lives, struggling or facing big challenges ahead.  We all need that kind of love!

And, so I've been thinking about contingency plans for the year, pondering how to handle the days with the natural ebb and flow that I know my feelings are going to ride.  Yes, it's amazing to feel so motivated at the beginning, and yet I've been at this place enough times to know that feelings just don't stick around and are not terribly consistent.  Conclusion?  I can't depend on my feelings to get me through.

So, I'm reaching out, gathering support first from all you amazing friends and family as well as taking advantage of opportunities to join other groups of people who are rallying this year too.  Today I registered with the Pound For Pound Challenge.  I've seen the on-air segments during The Biggest Loser show, but never knew what it was really all about.  So, today when I realized that I needed some kind of a group style challenge, I googled for ideas.

PFP is pretty amazing actually.  For every pound I lose, the organization will donate one pound of food to a local food shelf in my area.  There's no cost to register, and there's a ton of support!  So while I'm becoming lighter and healthier, I am also helping someone in need of food to survive.  Beautiful! I was all over that and got all signed up.

Another resource of support is my local gym.  Tomorrow I have an appointment with Ashley Carlson, a personal trainer at Lifetime Fitness.  We've already done an initial assessment, and tomorrow she'll be setting up a plan for me for the coming month to begin moving more and in a way that won't cause injury.  I got so pumped this past summer when I started feeling better that I completely overdid my routine and ended up in physical therapy and off my feet.  Lesson learned!  I am really excited about tomorrow's meeting, and will let you guys know how it goes and what I'm doing.

If you know of other groups or resources for support...or if you have other ideas of how to stay on the path, I would love to learn about them.

Movin' out surrounded,

P.S.  Beginning January 11 and every Monday after that, there will be updates on the number of pounds and inches lost.  Hope you'll come back and check up on me and hold me accountable. ;)

January 2, 2010

The Lost Art of Planning

As I sit here and write this blog post, in the background is the Food Network talking about pizza . . . why do I torture myself so?  Actually, pizza does not have the hold on me that it once did.  There was a time that I could head over to Broadway Pizza and polish off a thin crust medium 5 topping pizza.  No kidding.  I never intended to eat the whole thing, in fact I'd go in planning to eat half and even asked the server for a box when the pizza came so I could put half of it away immediately.  Somehow someway I never left with a box. Oink oink.

It's different now, tho.  Hubs and I will get a pizza maybe twice a month now, always a small, and we split it, often with several pieces left.  I'm not really sure what happened to be honest.  I never tried to change this, but maybe my body starting telling me something that my otherwise good sense wouldn't hear of . . . slow it down Cheryl.  Slow it down.

And that reminds me, today I picked up my mail and in my box was my Good magazine.  Ever heard of this publication?  When I subscribed, I got to pick what I wanted to pay for it.  Seriously.  And, some (I don't remember what the percentage was) of that subscription fee went to the non-profit of my choice.  I chose Kiva, a cool organization that puts together people who have money with individuals in third world countries with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to escape poverty.  The money is "given" as a loan and their payback percentage is something like 99%.  Pretty cool way, I thought, to give a hand up to someone that the banks would never consider credit worthy.

Anyway, back to Good and their slow issue.  The anchor article tells the story of Oxford University back in the 19th century when the roof of the dining hall needed repair.  When the dons approached the school forester about securing wood for new beams, he informed them that when the college dining hall had been built centuries earlier, a stand of oak had been plantd in anticipation of just this moment.  Five hundred years later, the roof was failing, and the trees were ready!

There's of course a lot that can be said and written about this.  But, what I want to focus on is the seemingly lost art of planning.  Losing weight that lasts forever requires it as does anything that we want to last.  This whole thing I'm doing this year is NOT something that I want to finish just so that I can rinse and repeat.  No, I want the weight I'm going to lose to be permanent...because that's really the only kind of progress that is, well, progress.

So, I'm giving careful thought to the method of my madness . . . we're getting back to basics, moving toward what Michael Pollan has called an eater's manifesto:

Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.

Doesn't get much simpler than that. And by doing this I'm planning to be around for another 30-40 years.  I want to stop making my life about the immediate and instead practice a little slowing down, experience more often the excitement and pleasure of delaying gratification, and doing things in a quality sort of way so that when they have served their purpose and need replacing, the trees will be ready.

Slowing down to plan,

January 1, 2010

My First Victory of 2010

Besides celebrating a brand new day, week, month, year, decade AND the first day of my 2010 adventure today, tonight I am celebrating my very first victory of 2010!! Woohoo, I am excited about this!!

Ok, here’s what happened. Hubs and I spent the day with Mom Sweeney at her place in Hutchinson, Minnesota, a remote, sweet little country town about 80 miles west of the twin cities. We celebrated a belated Christmas, Mom Sweeney’s 82nd birthday (yesterday!), AND New Year’s, all in one fell swoop. And going to Mom Sweeney’s always involves food.

The meal before us was Stouffer’s Italiano Lasagna, Salad, Olives, Coconut Cream Pie, Cake, Ice Cream. Seriously? Are you freakin’ kidding me? Yeah, no, I’m not. Lasagna, a favorite of mine since high school, served on the very first day of the rest of my life . . . one of those meals that I find it incredibly easy, almost natural if you will, to gorge on.

But, today isn’t like in high school or any other day in my past where it was almost second nature to eat without thinking. No, today is a brand new day and I’ve begun a journey. And, gorging myself on lasagna . . .  well, it is just no longer an option. I decided to look at it as an opportunity to try out a simple strategy for healthy eating.

I recalled a book I read a few months ago about the composition of a healthy meal, you know, ratios. The author suggested we fill our plates ½ full of veggies, ¼ with meat and the other ¼ with starch/carb. So, that’s what I did.

Half the plate was a chopped salad (mmmmm, lettuce, sweet grape tomatoes, carrots, orange bell pepper, cucumber, red onion), ¼ was a small piece of lasagna, and about 10 black olives (I love my olives and they are actually good for me!) sat bopping each other in the other ¼.   I topped my salad with an amazing all-natural dressing I found at the grocery store in Hutchinson – Briannas’ Home Style Poppy Seed Dressing.

Can you see what the sticker above the label says? Yes, “Delicious on Peaches”. Now, that intrigued me! I’ll warn you, this dressing was not cheap, but as I perused the ingredients on the back I decided the cost was worth it. Completely and thoroughly natural. No bad oils, no high fructose corn syrup, no preservatives. I had to get me this dressing. And, I am telling you, it was worth every penny. Very subtle yet so flavorful, a tiny bit goes a long way. I felt like I was eating a gourmet salad at a fine eating establishment.  And, I will definitely try it on peaches in the summer.

After I finished the food on my plate, I realized I wanted more salad. Pretty amazing for a girl who just isn’t that into salads! So, again, I filled my plate half full with that yummy mixture of fresh veggies and a shy tablespoon of my new dressing. And, two more bites of lasagna.

And, then? I was full. Not stuffed. Pleasantly and comfortably full. And so very proud of myself!

So, victory #1 is under my belt. And I sit here tonight feeling really, really, REALLY good.

Cheers to an AMAZING 2010!

P.S.  I failed to tell you guys about the dessert part (thanks hubby for catching that!) . . . I DID have a very small piece of cake, like 1" x 2", but I passed on both the coconut cream pie and the ice cream.  Another victory. smile. smile. smile. smile.