Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sharing my Laughter

Anyone who knows me at all knows that the past, let's say, 8 years, of my life have been non-stop battles, physically. While I don't even count the day I was diagnosed with MS(13 years ago) because I am so very, very blessed to have it mildly and truly it is not an issue MOST days, the past 8 years have been a constant battle with my body.

Oddly enough I was the Poster Child for "Perfect Health" as a child. Never sick, not even colds, athletic, always a bit chubby but not HUGELY obese, not even as much as chicken pox!

Then the battles with cancer started. Slowly but surely my body just seemed to fight me tooth & nail with everything from gall bladder issues to the 5 bouts of cancer (of which really pissed me off and I beat it over and over again... so don't come back.. or I'll kick your ass again, just so ya know). Sorry, I always have to remind the "Big C" that I'm boss!

So, that quick synopsis brings me to yesterday.......

Always sort of a joke that my body is always falling apart, just finding new ways is the norm for me. Yesterday I had a friend that went to the ER with bronchitis & I offered to not only pick up his 'scripts for him but some snacks he felt certain would help him feel better. I do not recommend Cheetos & Coke to anyone for getting better, but we'll let him think it was the Cheetos and Coke as opposed to the meds ok?

So while waiting for the 'scripts to be filled the clerk informs me "Well, if you're not shopping, perhaps you'd like to take advantage of the free bone density testing we're doing?" I laughed, thinking "Oh if you only knew, I'm certain it would confirm my bones are nearly gone and I will become gel soon", but I smiled and said "Well, perhaps after a 'pottie' run". Yes 'pottie'... I can't help I'm still a kid at heart and will always be a mother!

So I come back, still a good 10-15 minutes to wait so I see this poor girl twiddling her thumbs, looking around and glancing at me sitting there waiting with these "oh please just come get this done so I have something to do" eyes. I smile and politely say "Well, you look bored, I have 15 minutes to waste, let's do this!"

First off, for anyone who has not had a bone density test done it's very non-evasive. There's no real "undressing" (ok, naked foot, that's the most) and no pins or pokes or stuff. It's pretty blase as "medical testing" goes but hey, after 8 years of everything but blase I was thinking... wooohooo!

So now the great part.... and I'm telling you, for ME this is a celebration! LOL

The results of the test were remarkable. The woman says to me "Um, how old did you say you are? I think I put the wrong age down", at which I immediately responded, "Oh my goodness, so I'm more like a 95 year old than a 45 year old?" She chuckled and said "Just the opposite. As she pulls the results off the machine she shows me where a... now read these words well.... YOUNG ADULT FEMALE would rank and points those words out to me. I respond with, "So, I'm like way down here then at the other end of the scale?" She cracked up and said "Actually, you're ABOVE that! Your bones are more like an 18 year old! I about died laughing. I quickly announced that I would need a copy, signed affidavit and frame to put it all in that ONE PART of my body was NOT falling apart! LOL We talked about why my bones could be so strong, especially since my spine is "crumbling" from radiation (huge doses of radiation) and cancer treatment which I assumed broke down all my bones.

So the joke for the day, heck for the rest of my life is, "While I'm falling apart, at least I know I won't break a hip!"

Perhaps this is my sign from God that my body is finally going to start behaving? I've been eating healthy, most times, losing weight on the Weight Watcher program & slowly trying to become active (as active as my body will allow at this point with my chronic pain).

So I say "Thanks God! Thanks for the reminder that I AM doing SOMETHING right!"

Buffalo Wing Lasagna (6)

Going to a picnic, want something you can eat without being "obvious" about trying to get healthy? Here's one rockin' casserole that will knock their socks off and at 6 pts, gives you some extra room for a big ol' slice of watermelon and salad on the side!

Buffalo Wing Lasagna (6)

Serves 10


12 piece(s) no cook lasagna noodles

1 pound(s) cooked chicken breasts (boneless, skinless, shredded/pulled apart)

3 cup(s) bottled/jar spaghetti sauce

1 cup(s) hot pepper sauce *I Use Franks Brand
(can be reduced to taste, I prefer to make it 1/2-1/4 Cup and add to my own piece of lasagna on my plate)

1 1/2 cup(s) water

15 oz fat-free ricotta cheese

1/2 cup(s) fat-free egg substitute

1/2 cup(s) Athenos Blue cheese crumbles


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Spray skillet with Non-Stick cooking spray

Stir in sauces & water to cooked chicken (chicken should be "almost done, not too dry")
In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese and egg substitute

Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray

Spread 1 Cup of sauce in the bottom of pan

Arrange 4 noodles over the sauce

Spread more sauce then a layer of ricotta mixture

Add another layer of sauce and repeat the whole profess until you end with a layer of sauce.

Cover and bake 70 minutes

Uncover and place cheese on top, then back another 15 minutes uncovered

Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving - Cut into 10 Pieces


Don't forget to check out my Daily Menu Planner - generally updated new at the end of each day, but I must confess I do miss some days! It's a nice way to get new ideas and see products that perhaps you've missed! And hopefully you will share new ideas with me!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Crockpot Pineapple Luau Chicken (4)

Nothing is better than coming home to a meal, all ready to eat! Using my crockpot or slowcooker as many call it, makes my life so much easier! As a working mom it was more often than not my dinner savior! Even now that I don't work outside the home, I love to have dinner done & ready, making it a well planned day - easier to stay on program!

I love to serve this over a bed of brown rice with a side salad. I use a fat free sweet/sour dressing (Wegman's) for my salad, to compliment the "Luau Chicken"

Crockpot/Slowcooker Pineapple Luau Chicken(4)
serves 6

6 chicken breast halves without skin -(I use the frozen boneless, skinless breasts - unthawed)

1 dash pepper

1/8 tsp. paprika

20 ounces pineapple chunks in natural juice -- I use the Dole canned tidbits

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 clove garlic -- minced

Place frozen chicken in bottom of crockpot. Sprinkle with pepper and paprika. Pour drained pineapple tidbits, mustard and soy sauce over chicken. Add minced garlic. Cover and cook on LOW 7-9 hours or HIGH 4-5 hours. Makes 6 servings.

It's also great to sear/brown the chicken pieces & pineapple tidbits to make the dish seem authentic. Not necessary but gives a great presentation. I simply place it in a fry pan for about 5 minutes before serving & even serve it from the deep dish fry pan I use. But believe me, it's not necessary!

You can also add frozen broccoli to the dish when cooking, it's wonderful & gets in some extra veggies!

Per Serving: 194 Calories; 2g Fat; 28g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 68mg Cholesterol; 483mg Sodium.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Using the New Juicer

So I purchased a fruit juicer from one of our local "recyclers" lists. A nice 450 Watt GE Juicer that I'm quite amazed at since I got it for only $20! It was used once and she wasn't lying, it truly looks brand new.

I'm completely new to the juicing thing. I'm doing it for health reasons, obviously, but it all started because I am completely addicted to Naked Juices. I purchase them at $3 each nearly every day, yes, add that up and gasp! Ok, some days I don't get my Naked but I'm not pretty those days. I get grumpy and cry a lot about how I really need some Naked! LOL

So today's first attempt was the "lazy" way. I had found some "reduced", already cut trays of fruits at my local Wegman's store. While they were a little more than I'd normally pay, because they were reduced for use within the next 2 days I figured why not try it. So armed with my already diced watermelon, kiwi, pineapple, honey dew & cantaloupe slices I pulled out the machine!


I added all of the above, mainly watermelon as I've been craving some of that but added a bit of everything. Let's suffice to say I need to work on presentation because in the end it was not a "pretty" color (HOW DOES NAKED DO THAT?) but the taste ROCKED! I added a Tablespoon of FF Vanilla Yogurt for some substance, sort of a smoothie effect. End result... delish!

What would I do different? Next time I'm going to try putting the juice in my shake/bullet type machine with the yogurt and some ice. It would have been better colder, I suppose I could have simply put it back in the fridge & waited but that takes patience!

Tomorrow's juice, pineapple watermelon.

So while it was a little work, it was well worth it plus it saved me from running to the store for my Naked. I have this thing where I can't stand to buy like 6 at a time because I gasp (same price as if I run to the store 6x but don't try to reason with a woman). It also allowed me to play with my own flavors, etc. I cannot wait until locally we have actual fruits available! Hopefully cheaper!

One cup (8oz) cost 2 pts plus the 1 Tbls of yogurt, I just let that slide because it was FF and to be honest not really accountable points wise. No pics because, to be honest it was pretty ugly brown. LOL But I swear it tasted like the nectar of the Goddesses!

I added to that delicious juice (which I poured into 2 fancy glasses, making me feel even more special) a slice of Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Bread, Honey Apple Oat toasted & buttered with Omega 3 ICBINB ( I can't believe its not butter). It was to die for! YES, one slice was 2 pts but the slices are large and so worth it for the flavor alone! Bread is one of my fave things in life and I will often forgo the extra point for flavor. I'm not only full but happy with the high quality of everything I got for my quick and somewhat easy breakfast! Total for this morning 5 pts!

If you get the chance, check out the Wegman's Honey Apple Oat Bread. Stats are 110 Cal., 2g Fat, 2g Fiber per slice. A slice is truly like a double piece of bread & makes the worlds best roasted turkey and feta sandwich!!!!!!! That's lunch by the way... I will post pics!

You can check out my "Daily Food Log" now too!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Battling Fatigue

I'm not sure why I'm battling fatigue so extreme lately. Could be a change in meds, could be that I'm not eating properly, or could be that I'm lacking something.

Just wondered what you all do when you literally aren't tired but EXHAUSTED to the point of not being able to function properly.

I know it has to do with my MS somewhat but I've never been THIS bad. Any ideas? I'm not asking for medical advice, honest, just ideas of how you handle fatigue. I have blood work scheduled but just had some that came back "fairly" ok and nothing that showed a reason for fatigue (although at the time I wasn't experiencing it either). Could be many medical things... God knows I'm a walking medical dictionary.. lol but I just wondered how others battle this issue!

No blogging other than this for today I think. Will post some great recipes later this week though. And BTW.. I'm BACK on following program and eating right again! I have to do this and do this right!

I have set my next goal... and I WILL achieve it!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

So why so quiet?

I haven't posted since May 17th and for good reason. I'm in a slump. Not a, whoops I ate that extra piece of cake slump but a "I've been totally NOT on program for 2 weeks now" slump and I'm angry.

I KNOW what I have to do and I KNOW how to do it. I can't seem to motivate myself or more so, CONTROL myself. Of course, like most over eaters control is the biggest issue.

So I decided to sit down and figure out WHY I'm in this slump and HOW to get out... and NOW!

First, let me start by saying my "Why" section is not to be confused with an "excuse" section... it's a realization of what's making me make the choices I am, not giving "good reason" for doing it!

That being said, let's start with the WHY LIST:

  • Stress - within the past few weeks I've had a car break down beyond repair, had my pain meds changed so that my chronic pain is back to the exact same place it was when I started the pain management and finances are (as most always) challenging.

    Stress eating is one of my biggest issues. I have to learn how NOT to turn to food for comfort, but it's hard when alternate methods (exercise for example) aren't easily obtained by me because of physical issues right now. Kind of a Catch 22.

  • Dining Out Too Often - I seem to be opting for the quick, convenient ways to fill up or giving in to a "friend" (I did however just break up with him so that's a plus! LOL) that is a HUGE over eater but is lucky enough to never have a lump of fat show on his body. He can eat like a horse and detests anything "healthy" so often fights my desire to dine at places that are more healthy in options. I give in to him too often, but again, that's not a real issue now is it? But I find that when I dine out, I just simply allow myself to make poor choices. There's no excuse for them, but I make them.

  • Poor Planning - I don't plan ahead. When I first started my WW Program I planned at least the "next" meal. I always knew what I'd be grabbing for breakfast (not a big breakfast fan so it was often different than a typical breakfast people would eat but I was fine with that and it kept me on program). Now I find that I just sit back and wait until I'm hungry or over hungry to decide what's for lunch or dinner or even breakfast. I even have begun to forgo breakfast completely again, a definite NO NO!

  • Getting Too Hungry - I put off eating. I keep busy, wanting to get so much done in a day and wanting to run here and there. Instead of planning (see above) and packing a 2 pt bar or snack in my purse I'll wait until I'm famished, then drive thru and make a poor choice. End result, full, sick to my stomach, over points and so disgusted with myself I make another poor decision because "what the hell I already screwed it up today". This thinking used to be VERY rare for me and the fact that I'm thinking like this again angers me. I have to figure out WHY!

  • Finances - I know we're all feeling the financial pinch and while it is a somewhat reasonable excuse, I cannot allow it to be an excuse. I have to find cheaper, alternative methods to fill my belly with point friendly foods without busting the bank. Instead, I'm opting for quick fix shopping at "dollar style" stores, with fat loaded and tasteless garbage that's cheap. Not only is it not good for ME but it's not good for my family! We had just begun to start not only looking forward to, but enjoying the healthy eating lifestyle!
So what can we do to break these barriers that are keeping me from being successful? I'm sure I'm not the only one out there with these dilemmas, in fact I'll bet some have the same exact ones I do, over and over. We are NOT alone, we are VERY much human and very much in this together! Let's find the fixes!

  1. Remove yourself from the situation. The simple answer to dealing with stress and not using food is to find alternatives to eating. That's often easier said than done. Here are some things I've been trying to do instead of eating and the one that works best for me is this remove myself from the situation, even if it means driving away to another place, away from food, taking a huge drink of zero calorie water/flavored drink, etc. to fill me - while relaxing with a book.

  2. Reading - for me, reading takes me away from the situation of life. If I can do it for 15 minutes or 15 hours, I'll take it.

  3. Exercise - for me, this is not a huge option. I have health issues from my cancer that keeps me in chronic pain but for many you can decide to do something as simple as walk around the block, the floor of your office, up the stairs of your office/work area, or out to the parking lot. A simple 5 minute walk will not only help relieve your stress a bit but get you away from the situation, perhaps enough to make you breathe and accept other options. If you're an "at home" mom, check out your tv/dish/cable stations. Most have an array of "exercise" shows you can turn on and just do some of the exercises. You're in your own house, nobody looking, sweat, breath heavy, moan, do what you have to but move! Doing it for 15 minutes will help and keep you from getting bored with a "routine". These exercise/health stations also help financially by keeping you from costly gym memberships and contracts that you end up paying for when you can't make it to the gym!

  4. Dance - while it is a form of exercise, it often is one that you don't even realize that you are doing! I use to be able to dance for hours on end, now I can boogie for a bit, then sit, but either way, I'm up and moving at least SOME! You lose yourself in music and next thing you know, you forget your stresses! Because of my own physical limitations I'll often turn on the music while in bed and just get the booty moving and arms going, etc. while I have some support on my back!
Second Problem to tackle Dining Out Too Often:
  1. Don't give in to others who sabotage your healthy eating. If they won't give in and go someplace that is more WW Friendly, point wise, perhaps they're not worthy of your dining company? YOU are worth the extra cost, time and effort of finding a restaurant (and yes there are fast food ones that have healthy options). Explain how important it is to you to eat healthy, not "lose weight" but to EAT HEALTHY and if they're truly friends or anyone who cares about you they will not only understand but support you.

  2. Use the internet to plan your dining experience. Most chain restaurants offer nutritional information about their menu. Eat 'N Park actually offers a special planner where you can individually plan your meal, adding or taking off items to get exact nutritional info to figure your points! This option ROCKS and makes it so easy to know ahead of time what you're going to order & how it's going to count! Dotties Weight Loss Zone offers a great listing of restaurants, although use the actual restaurant site first because theirs is most up to date and accurate.

  3. Don't be afraid to special order your meals, asking for no butter/margarine, extra veggies, no cheese or 1/2 portions of cheese, etc. Small changes can make HUGE changes points wise, we all know that! Taking off one slice of cheese drops your average sandwich 2 pts or more!

  4. Learn to say NO to going out to dinner! If you're planning ahead and have something already cooking in the crock pot or something "cheaper" point wise in the fridge, say NO and go for eating at home instead!

  5. Eat your dinner/meal ahead at home and order a "side salad" or simply an unsweetened iced tea or coffee while your friends dine. You'll be full but still have something in front of you. My fave is to order the side salad (generally very cheap) and just pick at it while we talk and laugh. They take in the calories & fat, I enjoy the company without the extra pounds!
Our Third Issue, tackling Poor Planning:
  1. Pack up snacks and keep them handy in your purse, car or desk at work. When you're dying to grab something, even for stress eating, it's better to chow down a 2 pt. bar or veggies & fat free dip as opposed to a 12 point candy bar from the vending machine!

  2. Use that crock pot! Coming home to the entire or most of the dinner already made will make it a lot less of a chore to have a point friendly, healthy dinner on the table in no time! Check out the many recipe options on the internet for point friendly crockpot cooking. My tip, always use FROZEN meat because you can cook it longer in today's crockpots without getting dried out meats (especially frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts).

  3. Cook ahead! When you have some extra time (ok, quit laughing now) cook up batches of point friendly foods. Grill up chicken breasts and freeze them for a quick fix for a chicken salad. Cook up casseroles and freeze them for a faster dinner when you get home.

  4. Fire up that grill! Grilling veggies and meat on a skewer or even in a foil pack with some wonderful herbs is just simply wonderful! Little mess, little fixing needed and lots of flavor! It's summer, take in the fresh veggie options while you can!

  5. Wash veggies and pre-package them in zipper bags when you get home from the grocery store, for quick grab snacks or salads.

  6. Buy pre-diced veggies like onions and peppers (I buy mine at GFS - Gordon Food Service) for very little. I always have onions and peppers to toss into any dish I'm cooking without all the chopping & mess! They don't cost any more, actually sometimes less, than fresh ones and when cooking there's no real difference!

  7. Set up a weekly or monthly menu. If you can be a "planner" (I simply cannot) take the time to set up a week's worth of dinners and lunches. You will know ahead what needs to be prepared and taken out to thaw, etc.

  8. Make breakfast easy with your own pre-made breakfast items! Premake low point bagels with egg whites & FF cheese & freeze them in zipper bags. Pull them out for quick breakfasts on the run. Do the same with Fiber One pancakes, 3 in a bag, nuke them to grab a quick fix breakfast! I love the Special K Grab Bags to munch on while on the run. I've been buying mine at the "Green Dollar", or as it's truly known, Dollar Tree for $1 a box/6! Not bad!
My Fourth Issue at hand to tackle is Getting Too Hungry:
  1. Keep snacks handy. Much like "planning", keeping snacks handy will help keep you from getting too hungry.

  2. Schedule "snacks" if you have to. Set your phone/alarm to beep and remind you to grab something and make that "something" healthy!

  3. Don't put off eating meals, just to accomplish things. Instead, get a few things done, then take the time to grab some food. Sometimes it feels like wasted time but continuing to put off eating will only get you to the point where anything is game and you blow the entire plan!

  4. Drink! Keep calorie free, caffeine free drinks with you all the time (aka get your water "in"). This keeps you full and keeps you from over eating when you suddenly realize how "starved" you are!
And Last but not Least... Financial Issues
  1. Learn to shop at dollar style stores. Dollar Tree offers a lot of great point friendly items off and on. You have to make sure you bring your point counter with you to know what you're getting. My fave right now are the Special K Cereal Packs with Yogurt bites. They come in at 2 pts and are a great, quick breakfast option or snack! They also often carry some of the point friendly "cereal" style bars, but be sure to check points on these!

  2. Don't be afraid to buy in bulk! While some items, such as fresh fruits and veggies may not be an option if you're buying for just one or two people; if you use them to make fresh juice & tons of salads it may be worth it! Most of my "bulk" buying is done at GFS (Gordon Food Service), a store that is much like the Sam's Clubs but without the cost of membership. It's geared towards "food service" industry, therefore sometimes not always point friendly in what they offer so you have to pay attention to the labels. What I get there most often is a 6 lb. bag of boneless, skinless chicken breast for $10.99, fruits 'n veggies, sometimes fresh but often frozen, cereal/grain bars, seasonings (*my fave is the maple cinnamon sprinkles - 0 pts.), sweet potatoes, salsa & frozen diced onions and diced green peppers for cooking (saves me so much time). I know Sam's Club offers a lot more "point friendly" options but I don't want to have to buy an expensive membership. That $40 can buy a lot of food at Aldi's or GFS!

  3. Discount Grocery Stores or "No Frills" style stores have some great options for healthy food items and are getting better. Aldis has been carrying a brand called Fit and Fiber which is a copy of most of the Fiber One style foods. In particular a box of their high fiber bars (chocolate drizzle or peanut butter) are $1.99 as compared to a sale price of $2.50 for Fiber One at WalMart. Our local Aldis store also carries some excellent items like turkey hams (so low in points you will be amazed & tastes just like ham but better with no fat or bone), turkey bacon, low fat yogurts, frozen fruits and veggies, Fit and Fiber snacks such as mini rice cakes with caramel flavor and more! WalMart often carries some excellent options too but you have to be careful price wise, what seems to be a bargain there can sometimes cost less in an off brand that is similar or just as good in taste.

  4. Some things are just worth the extra money. For me, buying produce is something that I don't skimp on. If I'm going to buy produce I want it fresh and good. My local Wegman's Grocery Store carries the best produce in town, sometimes even better than the local growers, at prices that are usually comparable to other stores. Yes, sometimes slightly more expensive, but definitely worth it! If there's something you think is worth the price, YOU are worth spending it on something you enjoy. Skimp on other things that just don't really matter to you.... a cheaper paper towel, cheaper laundry soap, or cheaper cereal if those items aren't a big deal for you. Everyone has their own ideas of what's worth the price and what's not! Don't be ashamed to spend more on something "healthy" if you enjoy it and look forward to it. For me, my one big splurge are the $1.50 each sweet potatoes that are wrapped and ready to nuke. I figure I didn't used to bat an eye at spending a buck on a crappy, greasy burger so why should I get upset over 50 cents more for something that makes my life easier and tastes sooooo wonderful with my Maple Cinnamon Sprinkles from GFS on top!

  5. Use coupons! I know, easier said than done but you cannot begin to imagine the amount of money you can save on brand name items that are healthy when you take the time and effort to clip the coupons! Don't just clip them, clip them and put them in a container that you take to the car after you've finished clipping the Sunday paper! Don't forget Weight Watcher meetings often have coupons available, some on the daily planner, some in books they offer as a special incentive to purchase items, etc. ASK when you weigh in if they have any! And use brand name sites to print your own coupons too! Using coupons you can often get brand name, healthy options for less than generic/store brand or even for free! Last week I had 2 coupons, one for a free box of Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs and one for $2 off a pack. They were on sale 2 for $4, which meant I got 2 boxes for free! Can't beat that price now can ya!?
Ok, so now that we've decided WHAT the problems have been and HOW to solve them.... I know I'm getting back on the wagon!!!!!!!

I did not lose 27 lbs to simply gain it back again and feel crappy, get my unhealthy body back and feel bad about myself.

I'm not losing weight to make others look at me. I'm losing weight to make ME look at me and say "WOW". I'm losing weight to feel better. I'm losing weight to stop taking medication for high blood pressure and chronic pain and so many other things that I know my weight adds to the issues of! I'm losing weight for ME and nobody else! You can too!

And as always...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Broccoli Casserole

3 c. chopped broccoli, fresh or frozen
1 tbsp. + 2 tsp. light butter, divided
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
3 tbsp. plain flour
1 1/4 c. skim milk
1 3/4 c. cooked rice, lightly salted
4 oz. shredded fat free cheddar cheese
1/4 c. non fat mayonnaise
1/3 c. crushed unsalted Melba toast (about 5), or dry bread crumbs
Cook broccoli until crisp tender. Drain. Melt 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon butter; add onion and saute. Add flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Combine broccoli, milk mixture, rice, cheese and mayonnaise and mix well. Spoon into a shallow 2 quart casserole sprayed with Pam.

Combine remaining butter and bread crumbs and sprinkle over mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. 170 calories per serving.

Vidalia Onion Season Here I Come!

I am a confessed "non" fruits and veggies eater. Long story short it stems from growing up with a father who had an illness that didn't truly allow the fresh fruits and veggies to be eaten. For that reason we rarely had them around and I, obviously, didn't develop a taste for them. I don't blame anyone for this faux pas, I see it as a reason for my dislike and often confusion when it comes to Striving for Five but I also see it as a clean slate to learn HOW to eat fruits and veggies.

Something I find quite useful in my quest to learn how to eat my 5 a day is a printout offered by Wegman's. It's called Fruit Veggie Cup Calories. A wonderful little quick fix when shopping or looking for the best options and comes in pdf format.

Wegman's stores are my favorite place to get my fresh fruits and veggies. I've rarely, if ever, been disappointed in anything I've purchased there. Many other grocery stores here locally haven't been so wonderful, often offering produce that has little to no flavor, too ripe or over ripened and even "rotted" on the inside produce that left me feeling ripped off. I've never had that happen at Wegmans, so I stay there! Sure, I'll pop into some of the local produce stands but face it, here in Erie, PA the growing season is truly remarkably short and a good 1/2 of the produce some of these little stands have are actually shipped in bulk to them for resale. Our strawberries, corn on the cob, squashes, potatoes, etc. are generally grown locally and I don't mind buying them from the local farmers at all but things like melons and various fruits in particular are often not a locally grown item! Knowing that Wegman's has a large system in place to provide the most produce possible at greatest quality & as often as possible from local farmers is enough for me!

May and June bring the OH SO LOVED Vidalia® Onion! These are, by far, the best onion you will EVER eat in my book! And yes... "Vidalia" is a registered trademark! And we all thought it was just where they were grown!?

My favorite way to use vidalias® are simple.... saute' them up in a little olive oil, some sea salt & cracked pepper. Cook up a huge batch, place in the fridge for instant gratification to any dish! Place these babies on a slice of toasted bread of any type and you have an instant sweet, mouth watering delight. Add them to a burger, a grilled chicken breast or a toasted cheese sandwich and you are in heaven!

Toasted Cheesy Vidalia Sandwich (4)

Yes, a toasted cheese sandwich and YES it's points friendly with reduced fat sharp cheddar (2), diet bread (1) and all the sauteed vidalias® you can pile in between, grilled on your indoor style grill with a spray of ICBNB or my fave 1 tsp. olive oil for a pannini style (1) to keep it from sticking! Add that to a cup of creamy tomato soup made with skim milk (1) and you can die a happy eater all for under 6 points!

Va-Va-Va-Voom Vidalia Chicken (4)

3-4 large vidalia onions, halved and sliced
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
4 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts
sea salt
cracked fresh pepper
1/2 Cup fat free chicken broth
1 tsp. flour

Spread olive oil in fry pan and add Balsamic vinegar,& vidalia onions. Cook on med/high heat until clear & slightly browned, stirring often. Add flour, stirring to make a "roux", slightly thicker & golden brown.

Add fresh ground sea salt & cracked fresh pepper to taste.

Add chicken broth, stirring. Heat until bubbling. Add chicken breasts on top of onions, cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.

Push onion mixture around to come on top of chicken; leaving chicken on bottom of pan, covered in onions. Increase heat to medium/high. Cover and keep a close eye on it so as not to burn onions. Cook until juices run clear from chicken (generally 20 min). Serve with 1/4 of the onions on top of each breast.

Great side dish, baked potato. I serve my chicken and onions right on top of the potato!

Some other Great Vidalia Onion Recipes From Other Sites

The Vidalia Onion Site - Recipes

(not always WW friendly but many can be easily tweaked to come out quite point friendly in the end!)

Onion Tart

Cooks.Com has Tons of Vidalia Recipes
(again, not always WW friendly, but tweak them to work!)

Life Line to Water!

A huge part of creating a healthy body is learning to keep your body nourished and replenished. Water is a big part of that replenishing.

Did You Know?
"Because most food contains a large amount of water, you obtain approximately 3 1/2 cups from what is eaten over the course of a day. Interestingly, the body's metabolism itself is another source, since -- as it makes and uses energy -- one of its daily byproducts is about 1/2 cup of water. So, if you add up your losses (two cups for the lungs, two for sweating, and six for the intestines and kidneys), you come up with a total loss of ten cups ... not counting any excess lost through perspiration during exercise. Therefore, taking into account the approximately four cups provided by food and metabolism, the average person needs to drink six to eight cups of water daily just to keep functioning well."
-- Mother Earth News
I will be the first to tell you, I am not a fan of drinking water. Plain ol' tasteless water over and over, quart by quart, all day long?! Paaahlease!!!!

But I finally found something that helps me get my water in and doesn't load up on empty calories and flavorings. What I like most about it is that there is a hint of flavor, but not overwhelming like drinking a Kool-Aid® type drink.

Sobe® Life Water (0 cal) has truly become one of my best friends! There's Fuji Apple Pear, Black and Blue Berry and a Yumberry Pomegranate currently available in my area.

I used to be known for always carrying around a huge diet Pepsi® with me no matter where I went. I was never without it. Now, I'm the "Life Water Queen" and I have to admit, losing 6 lbs. in one week just by giving up that bloating diet soda was well worth it! Not to mention I now have something that truly quenches my thirst available at my side 99% of the time!

And, locally at least, the stores have been running wild sales on the stuff! What used to cost $1.79 a bottle in most places has been on sale for $1 a bottle at Target, Tops, Circle K Stores (local chain I think), Kwik Fill & Country Fair Stores, and more! So stock up (not that I can do this because I can buy 20 at a time and they're gone in a day with 3 teens and me!) and become addicted to something that really helps you lose the weight! You might find that getting in 8+ glasses of water a day isn't so tough any more!

Here's some good reading and fact finding info on water and your body... via the net!

Lemon Lavender Pound Cake

Ahh, pound cake... the name itself says "weight added" but what if we could create a lighter, yet still delicious version? Look no more! I found a Lemon Lavender Pound Cake recipe that was "re-worked" to be "slightly" lighter in Woman's World magazine but that's never enough for me... so I re-worked it again and came up with an even friendlier point version! Original recipe (8), their re-make of the original version (5), my version (4).

This is one of those "special" cakes that you create when you have a lazy summer day with friends in the yard and need just a little something extra. Nobody will even guess it's a low cal, low fat version and the "lavender" makes it just a touch eclectic, or gourmet! It honestly isn't that hard either. The hardest part is "straining" the lavender out of the milk before using! (I use cheesecloth)

Lemon Lavender Half-Pound Cake (4)

1 1/2 Cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 Cup Splenda® Sugar Blend (NOT REGULAR SPLENDA®)
1/2 Cup I Can't Believe It's Not Butter 70% Vegetable Oil Spread
1/2 Cup reduced fat Sour cream (fat free makes this too chewy)
1/4 Cup Egg Substitute (Works better than just egg whites equivalent)
1/4 Cup + 1 Tbs. Skim (fat free) milk
2 Tbs grated lemon zest
1 tsp. dried edible lavender (McCormick's has a great product line if you don't have your own)
2/3 Cup confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)

Preheat Oven to 350F
Spray 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" LOAF pan with cooking spray and dusting flour.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt & baking soda; set aside.

On medium-high speed, beat Splenda Blend & ICBINB (margarine) until blended. Add sour cream, egg substitute and 1/4 cup milk. Beat until combined. Add reserved flour mixture & beat until fluffy.

Stir in lemon zest.

Transfer mix to baking pan & bake 35 minutes or until center comes out clean when toothpick is inserted.

Cool IN pan for 10 minutes, then flip onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once cake is completely cool it can be frosted:

Heat 1 Tbs. milk and lavender in small saucepan, careful not to scorch! Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain & discard lavender.

In small bowl, mix confectioners' sugar & lavender milk until smooth.

Place cake on plate & pour "glaze" over cooled cake.

Serves 12
Each Serving approx. nutritional value:
Cal 186, Fat 7g, Fiber 1g

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chocolate Oreo Milkshake

One of my life lines on Weight Watchers® is their own WW Smoothie. I love the chocolate most, as I am a confirmed chocoholic! They offer the smoothie mix in a new berry flavor also, which is quite yummy! They have Vanilla Chai, Chocolate, Vanilla, and Berry at the moment, at least at my meetings. So, today I decided to do something a little different with my smoothie mix.

I prefer to make the WW Smoothies with water, not milk. It uses less points, provides a milk serving anyways and is not as "odd" in texture. The only word I can come up with to explain the texture when made with milk is "slimy" and that's not a word we should use when it comes to food!

So today I decided to use both a vanilla and a chocolate smoothie packet to 16 oz. of ice and water. Tossed in the blender it gave me the world's largest "milk shake" I've ever seen! I decided to go for the decadent side and add a 1/2 pack of Oreo 100 Calorie Packs. At this point I'm at 4 Pts for a 24oz. or larger glass! The more crushed ice you use, the thicker the milkshake is, so don't worry about putting in too much!

Blended all together the Oreo pack gave it just a hint of Oreo flavor. The combination of the vanilla and chocolate seemed to make it a creamier, smoother almost "white" chocolate flavor.

I've been "bad" lately, although I did lose 2 lbs. this week, and I just feel like I need to make some changes in my choices. This was a slightly different option that I knew would fill me so full for breakfast and yet be very point friendly. I've been having horrible sweets cravings, could be for a variety of reasons, and I know the more I put them off the more I crave so it was time to tackle that desire the proper way!

So next time you're "hungry" and craving something sweet and chocolaty... go for one of these Oreo Milkshakes! Not only is it filling but very point friendly! Remember presentation accounts for a lot also. Placing the milkshake in a HUGE glass and topping it with 2 mini Oreo pieces just made me feel like it was a "special" treat... almost forbidden! But reality was, it was not only VERY good, tasty and special... it was so point friendly and filling that I felt a secret success in just making the choice!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Making Muffins for Desserts & Breakfast

Time for Muffins!

Fiber One is a "Weight Watcher's" friend! They offer some wonderful high fiber options of foods that can often be a little less than we realize, health wise! These awesome Apple Cinnamon Fiber One Muffins at a cost of under $4 a box, which makes 12, are a very reasonable financial AND nutritional choice!

Homemade anything just seems to scream out comfort food. Yes, I know our grannies and great-grannies were in the kitchen all day making true from scratch food. A boxed cake or dessert item was used in dire emergencies when company dropped in. Gone are those days, THANK GOODNESS! Now, you get great homemade taste with simple basic boxed mixes and there's something about "comfort food" that makes your eating experience so wonderful. These little muffins are no stranger to the "Comfort Food" style of eating but do so while remaining healthy! What more could you ask for?

A box of Fiber One Apple Cinnamon Muffin mix makes 12 average sized muffins. They also offer an even lower fat version, substituting apple sauce for the oil and egg whites or egg substitute for the eggs, taking off one entire point per muffin! Created the "lower fat" way these lovely creatures come out sweet, tender and delightful and extremely point friendly! (2)

My own special touch to make them even better was to add a sprinkle of the GFS (Gordon Food Service) spice "Maple Cinnamon Sprinkles". As a spice and used in small quantities they add no extra points while adding tons of extra flavor. Sprinkle the Maple Cinnamon on top of the muffins while still warm to get a slight melting reaction, creating a sticky sweet, delicious treat.

I love using the muffins for breakfast. They're a great quick "Grab 'n Go" option as you're running out the door. The kids love them, enjoy the sweet treat to get them going in the morning. As a "snack" they rock too! Add a glass of milk or a container of yogurt to get a wonderful, filling sweet treat.

I found my box of Fiber One muffin mix at Big Lots locally, making them a good $1 or more less than the grocery stores but most all stores carry them in my area.

So if you get a chance and have 20 minutes before bed, you might want to whip up a batch for a homemade treat that will leave you feeling so very delighted! It's just like "homemade" comfort, only made simple! My kids love them too!

Some other options to try while eating them....
  • A teaspoon of reduced fat peanut butter spread on top. Rocks!

  • Crumbled over top a low fat, point friendly ice cream & topped with some fat free whipped cream. Add a Tablespoon of sugar free, fat free caramel (don't forget to add the points up) and you've created an "a la mode" style dessert to die for!

  • Drizzle a thin line of sugar free, fat free caramel along the tops of these muffins for a decadent treat!

  • Add 3 or 4 cinnamon hearts on top of the muffins just as you take them out of the oven. Cute decorations and a touch of cinnamon sweetness makes each bite taste a bit like a candied apple.

Hope you find a box of Fiber One Muffin Mix and make the time to create these easy special treats for you and your family! You'll wow them, I'm sure! And feel free to share the different ways you too create a sweet treat for yourself and your family!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dining Out

One of the hardest parts of eating healthy is learning how to "Dine Out" with friends and family and still remain "on plan". Life as an American happens to focus around getting together with friends and eating. It is just second nature for us. Social functions all too often gather around food and most often food that others prepare, often leaving us wondering how it was prepared and what all of the ingredients are.

As a Weight Watcher® I do benefit from the fact that I can eat anything, as long as it's counted in my points. I don't have to eat prepackaged food. But dining out can often pose some issues, especially if you end up going to some place very UN-healthy (buffets kill me), it gets even worse.

So what's a healthy eater to do?

Re-learn "Dining Out" techniques. Re-learn how to find the lower point, fresher, healthier foods, even if they're hidden amongst the high fat, high calorie, low taste options!

This past week seemed to be one of those weeks that I was just running non-stop. End result, nearly every meal was done in a restaurant. Sometimes it was easy, other times it was very difficult.

One of my absolute most despised places to dine is an "All You Can Eat" buffet. I'm sorry, I'm not up for mediocre, at best, food in huge quantities. Points wasted, taste buds abused and in my opinion money wasted. Unfortunately, friends all too often want to do the buffet and you end up having to go for it.

The other day, we ate at Golden Coral. To me, this place is a joke in the food industry. I know many just love this place but I'm pretty certain it is because they prefer quantity over quality. That's definitely not how I eat any more, although I must confess I've rarely preferred quantity over quality when it comes to eating. GC offers beef that I'm pretty sure was found laying on the side of the road instead of in a field. Fat content so intense that while they grill the "all you can eat steak" flames are so bad they have water containers to keep them down. End result, a completely charred, over cooked, hunk of fat with an ounce of edible meat at best. Half the time it's even half raw on the inside while the outside is so charred you can't begin to eat it! Worth the points? Hardly! Add to that the buffet itself, which is loaded with fat laden, high carb, starchy, tasteless side dishes. If I'm going to waste points it's going to be on something so decadent I'm going to say "it was worth it". Starchy, tasteless glue like substances, created to look like dishes they claim to be. That's not going on my plate!

So what do you end up doing?

For me, I loaded up at salad bar first. My "appetizers" consisted of simply veggies, a few of them even looked like they were supposed to and not all brown or withered! A small, slightly plain, salad helped fill the empty spot keeping me from grabbing unhealthy items to fill the void.

Fill up with the obvious healthy choices. To some it may sound like torment, but to me.. when I saw the options on the buffet itself I knew it would provide the most flavor for the least points. Some of the items on the salad bar weren't too bad. While the choice of fat free dressings was limited to one, I suffered it out. A nice sized salad, good start at keeping on track.

Time for a "main dish". What are some of the best choices? It's an obvious fact that most of the choices are not going to be real "point friendly". I found some chicken that wasn't loaded with butter or breading and happens to be the only one thing I enjoy at this particular buffet.. Bourbon Chicken. I took about 1/4 cup for a serving (one large serving spoonful), & while I didn't know the exact points I was pretty sure I stuck to about 3pts total or less.

Generally you can find some type of boneless, skinless chicken to load onto your plate while avoiding the very low end beef options they have that are, at best, 30% fat. Avoid the beef dishes if you can. Meatloaf was offered on the buffet but I could see by it laying in it's own puddle of grease that it had to be very high in fat content, not a good ground beef that was low fat. The steak they offered was not trimmed at all. I trimmed the fat off the one piece I was given and end result was literally 2 bites of true steak without all the fat. Definitely not worth wasting my points on. The roast they had was just as fatty, not an option for me either. Ribs were being grilled too but to be honest they didn't even look good. I passed.

"Side dishes" were not as easy. The general consensus at a buffet seems to be if it looks like paste and resembles the color of what we are calling it, it can be a side dish. I found some "roasted" veggies that actually were in a pot roast dish. The pot roast was seriously about 60% fat with a little meat and gravy; however, the veggies were awesome and while I'm sure they had a few extra calories and fat, getting them roasted gave them a little flavor and the veggies themselves made it a lower in points than most other sides they offered. I was happy with that choice rather than trying to eat one of those paste like side dishes they had!

"Dessert" is my weakness. What I tried to do here at the buffet was remind myself that what THEY call dessert and what I would call dessert, flavor wise, would not even be REMOTELY close to the same. I scanned their dessert bar for options. They had tons of stuff, none of it was truly too awesome looking to me, so I decided to ask about their "ice cream". I was glad I did. The "ice cream" is actually an "ice milk", lower in fat. I had a nice size dish (about the equivalent of a McDonald's ice cream cone) with a teaspoon of chocolate coating (the one that gets hard and makes it's own shell). To be honest, this was the best option I saw all night and probably the most point friendly! Odd, but true!

End result:
  • Definitely a "less than desirable" eating adventure
  • Stayed well within points
  • Was "full" enough to be "satisfied"
  • Remembered why I hate buffets & their less than edible foods with more than desired calories & fat!

So it wasn't a total loss. I was reminded of why I am now eating the way I am. I was given a challenge that I conquered.

I'm hoping that my techniques and ability to make better choices will help someone else out there in the same spot. Hey, if I can do it, you can do it! AND we can do it TOGETHER!