Thursday, July 2, 2015

On My Hearth: Cashew Tofu Quinoa Bowl

It's rare that my hunny makes any special dinner requests. For the most part, he happily eats what I cook unless it's something he really hates (chickpeas, for example).  On those rare occasions, he'll make throw a frozen pizza in the oven or boil a vegan hot dog. He's not a picky eater, nor much of a foodie, making meal time pretty easy around here. So, when he asks for something specific, I try to make it happen.

Last week he came home with this baked tofu, on sale at our grocery store.

A couple days later he brought home this rice.

Hmm..I could see where this was going. He asked if I could make "something like the cashew tofu stuff we get at the Thai restaurant."  Sure, why not?  So I started searching. It didn't take long for me to find this yummy-looking recipe over at Oh My Veggies: Cashew Tofu Quinoa Bowl. Hey, I have all of the ingredients, I can do this! Before I started cooking, I sent Chip the link and photo for his approval. He shot this back: "Go easy on garlic and broccoli. Leave out edamame if we don't have it; ok if we do. "  Ha ha! Ok, here goes!

Even though the tofu is already baked, I knew that Chip would want the fried version he's accustomed to. So I cut the strips into smaller pieces and lightly pan-fried, making sure all sides were brown and toasty. The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of oil which is not excessive compared to what is used in traditional restaurant dishes, but that's still a lot for me/us who are mostly oil-free.  So I used only 1 tablespoon of sesame oil which was more than enough.

I then moved on to the veggies.  I  used the full 2 cups of broccoli but cut back on the edamame to only 1/2 a cup, added a few extra strips of red and yellow bell pepper.

Since he isn't a big fan of quinoa, I served it over "his" rice, as requested. The end result?

Pretty as can be and absolutely delicious! Chip gobbled up every bite, actually cleaned his plate which is rare for him. He gave the dish high praise, said it was restaurant-worthy. Woo hoo!

For the record, I had a small portion and really enjoyed it as well. If cooking just for myself, I'd probably have just used baked tofu and eliminated the oil completely, making it more McDougall-compliant, but this was just fine for an occasional treat. Oh, and I'd serve it over quinoa for the added protein.

Big thanks to Oh My Veggies for the inspiration!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Tales from the Road: St Augustine, Florida

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Chip is working in St Augustine once again, allowing us to spend time in one of our favorite Florida cities. We have the motorhome parked at Indian Forest Campground, as usual, can't beat the location for the price.

We headed north yesterday morning, rolled into town by lunchtime. One of the best things about RV travel is the ability to store and prepare your own meals, especially if you're on any sort of "diet." While I can find something to eat at most restaurants, I enjoy the security of knowing that my own healthy food back at home should I need it. Most of the time, I like my own cooking better anyway!
So, while Chip got everything hooked up outside, I popped my meal in the microwave and gobbled it up.

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Indonesian Stir-Fry  Noodles

We walked around town for a bit and then stopped at OC White's for lunch. Since I'd already eaten, I was content with a snack, or so I thought! This Caribbean Citrus Salad was a huge pile of spring greens topped with pineapple, mandarin oranges, toasted coconuts and almonds. So good and refreshing on this unseasonably hot day!

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After lunch we walked over to the Lichtner Museum, spent some time soaking up the beautiful art & culture.

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Happy Hour was spent at the Tiny Martini Bar, best Cosmo ever! Chip gives rave reviews for his Manhattan as well.

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In addition to delicious drinks, we also enjoyed great conversation with new friends: Matthew and Courtney from Charleston, SC and Brooke, a newly-graduated University of Florida Mechanical Engineer. (Go Gators!)

I hesitate to share with you our dinner experience because it was a mix of good and bad. While the food at The Tasting Room was satisfactory, we had a little issue with our coupon that soured us a bit. Since the manager eventually honored the certificate, I'll refrain from elaborating, but we probably won't be going back there. Oh, and I'd like to mention one thing: too much oil spoils an otherwise delicious dish! So many chefs make the mistake of compensating for lack of meat with extra oil! My vegetables and grains taste just fine without drowning them in fat, thank you very much!

Today we are headed back home, looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Hope you have a nice one as well!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Progress Report

I composed this about a week or so ago and never posted it, oops! Well, I'm happy to report that since then I've lost another 2 pounds, bringing my total to 19. I hope to reach that 20 pound mark by next week! 

I thought it was time I checked in and gave a little progress report. Since I subscribed to the Meal Mentor plans, I've lost a couple more pounds, making my total loss seventeen. Slowly but surely, I'm getting there! Perhaps more important than the number on the scale is how I'm feeling, though. The structure the plans provide has given me such a sense of control and calm, it's amazing! I prepare several meals (or sometimes a weeks' worth) in advance, and then I'm done! I no longer have to think about what I'm eating for lunch, what I'm cooking for dinner, and how many calories I'm "spending." All of that is done for me, what a relief!

Another change I've made, and this is a biggie: I've cut waaaaay back on alcohol. If you know me, you're aware of my chardonnay love, and that no matter what "diet" I've been on, I've never given up my nightly glass of vino. Lately I've been thinking long and hard about that "habit," and what impact its having on my life. While I don't think I have a "problem," per se, I do think that alcohol, even in moderation, has become too much a part of my regular routine, and it's not good for my health or weight loss goals. Also, as we all know, alcohol lowers our inhibitions so I often found myself making poor food choices along with the wine. So, I decided to experiment, see what would happen if I cut down on the cocktails. I'm on Day 4 of this project, and so far it's been quite enlightening. I've learned that I can still go out socially, even to bars, and have fun without drinking. A glass of club soda with a twist feels special and fancy without adding hundreds of calories and a headache! I've already seen a difference in my sleep patterns and energy levels, feel less sluggish and bloated. I'm really shocked at the change, especially after such a short time. Now, I'm not saying I've gone from wino to teetotaler...grin...and I plan to have wine or a mixed drink at some point in the future, but just not as often, or as much. I can see having a glass or two on a Friday or Saturday night, and then that's it. Party over, back to club soda or even the occasional diet cola.

I must admit: the breaking of "bad" habits isn't easy.  I recently had a crappy day, a situation came up that had me feeling sad and anxious, and triggered some old emotions.  My first reaction was to shove those feelings down with food and/or wine, just numb myself out. I resisted the temptation, instead chose to talk it out w/Chip, take a bubble bath, have a little cry, and then simply went to bed. The next morning I still felt some residual "stuff," so I dusted off my yoga mat and did a quick workout. I felt so much better, and no residual guilt/shame for stuffing my face and my emotions. This was a huge deal for me, and I feel really proud of myself for the way I handled it. Now, I need to make that behavior a habit, letting go of the other one.

So, that's where I am right now. Still journaling, still cooking, still eating, still moving. This is a process, and I'm bound to have some setbacks, but overall I'm really happy with the progress I've made over the past month and know that these good habits will build on each other and will eventually become easier.

That's about it for me, have a great day!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Girl Talk

This has been PMS week, and all that that implies. I can hear the collective groans from the women reading this, and imagine you nodding your heads in understanding and solidarity.

What that means, if I have any male readers who have somehow avoided this experience with female partners or family members, is that a monster takes over our bodies for a few days. Many of us lose complete control of our emotions which leads to some very unflattering behavior. There are mild cases, of course, and some women are able to ride the hormonal roller coaster relatively unscathed. I am not one of them.

For 39 years I have had the worst menstrual cycles of anyone I know. I will spare you the intimate details but suffice it to say, it ain't pretty. Not only do I feel like crap, but I am not very pleasant to be around. I want nothing more than to sit on the couch with a bottle of Motrin, bread, chocolate and Lifetime TV. By Day 29 I am wishing I could retreat by myself to a quiet hotel with room service, and hubby is packing my bags. In my younger days, I had my husband trained well; when told that it was that time of the month, he came home from work with a Cosmopolitan magazine, and a Snickers bar. And then he left me alone. Nowadays, Chip brings flowers and wine which is better for my psyche if not my liver.

Now, I admit that getting older has helped a bit, as has cleaning up my diet. I no longer have the extreme mood swings I once did. There are fewer rages and crying jags, and I don't give in to the junk food cravings because a) most of it isn't vegan and b) I don't keep it in my house and I'm too lazy to drive to a store to buy it. However, when that PMS monster shows up and makes his demands, I'll find something to feed him; this week it was French baguettes that I keep in the freezer for Chip. Never mind that they aren't on my Eating Program, that they have to be patiently defrosted and baked which gives me plenty of time to reconsider my actions. I prepared and consumed two of them, liberally slathered with Earth Balance, washed with a big glass of Chardonnay. *groan* Oh, they were delicious, I admit. Crunchy and buttery and warm, they shut up the monster and all was well, for a couple hours. all know how I felt the next day, right? Yep. Like hell. Bloated and nauseated and guilty and just overall rotten. So, you know what I did?

I got right back on track.

My "penance," if you will, was waking up, getting dressed, and walking. Despite the grey clouds and drizzling rain, I walked 3+ miles, half of it against the wind. It was not fun, and I was not happy. But I did it anyway.

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Lest you think I'm always gorgeous and glamorous, haha!

I came home and had my usual veggies-for-breakfast, wrote in my journal and logged into Sparkpeople, and all was well. I had a tiny setback, a few hundred calories of less-than-perfect food. That's all. It's not a crisis, just a lapse, and now it's over. Next month I'll try to do better. Period. (ha ha)

Despite all of that, I still managed to drop a few ounces and had a really good week. I'm walking 5 - 6 days per week, about 3 miles per day, and have been consistently meeting my 10,000 steps per day.  I've been keeping my food simple, haven't felt like cooking as much.

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Oh, and to make up for that awful selfie above, here are some cuter pics of me & Sweetie. These were taken on Sunday just before going to see the Cirque Italia. (great show, highly recommend!)

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So, that's just where we're at, as my Georgia friend is fond of saying. The coming days/weeks will be more of the same eating/exercising, hopefully with positive results. The weight is coming off, ever-so-slowly, and I feel great when I stick to my program. I just need to find a better way to deal with those hormonal cravings.

Any suggestions?

Have a great day,

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

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Good morning and Happy Thursday! I should be walking right now but since yesterday was sooo foggy, I decided to wait for the sun to come out.

The past few days I've been taking care of my Grand-dog, Lucy. She and Loki have had so much fun, but they do tend to wear each other (and me!) out after a while!

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I have been walking a lot, averaging an hour per day and even 2 hours on Tuesday! The weather is finally warming up and I'm enjoying it immensely.

Food-wise, as you know I've been (somewhat loosely) following Chef AJ's Ultimate Weight Loss Program. I've been about 80% compliant, having not given up coffee nor a little bit of wine. The 21 Day Challenge has come to an end, and here are my thoughts on the experience.

  • I am still not planning to give up my 1-2 cup a day cup of coffee, but am considering dumping the creamer and/or the Stevia I use in it.
  • I can't see myself ever being a teetotaler, but I did cut way back on my wine consumption and was no worse for wear. I'm gonna be honest here: wine drinking is part of my lifestyle, and I think it's fine for me in moderation. The problem with alcohol is that it does tend to lower one's inhibitions, and can lead to some unhealthy food choices. The key is to plan ahead. This past Sunday, for example, Chip and I met a dear friend at a local bar where a favorite band was playing. Before leaving the house, I packed a baked potato and a banana in one of these adorable insulated bags and left it in the car while we enjoyed our afternoon. When hunger hit on the way home, I simply grabbed my snack and gobbled it right up, thus avoiding the I-Want-Junk-Food-Now craving that often hits in such situations. Perfect solution, and that plain little tater tided me over til dinnertime. Ta-da!

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  • While eating this way, I have been much, much less consumed by thoughts of food. When cravings do strike, which is rare, they are manageable and easily avoided or satiated with something healthy. I have been cooking a bit less, but since there's only two of us here most nights, I always have leftovers in the fridge and freezer. It's really freeing, and gives me a lot more time to do other things that don't involve food!

  • Though I've only lost a couple of pounds, I feel lighter. My clothes are a bit looser and my tummy seems flatter. 
  • Veggies for breakfast is not weird anymore! I've found these wonderful bags of microwavable vegetables, ready in 3 minutes, and now enjoy starting my day with a big bowl of 'em! I will definitely continue this habit as it really starts the day off on a good note. 
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  • Now, let's talk about the "unprocessed" part, really the core of Chef AJ's program.  I've been reading tons & tons of stuff about processed foods, including this book which goes into great detail about how and why we got hooked on this stuff in the first place. It's enlightening and infuriating and makes me want to avoid anything that doesn't come directly from Mother Nature! However..I do live in the real world and enjoy the occasional veggie burger, Gardein product and restaurant meal. I'm not willing to forgo those things entirely, but I will be eating much, much less of them in the future, and sticking to companies I feel I can trust. I will be writing more on this later when I'm finished with the book. 

So, last night I "celebrated" the end of the program with a less-than-perfectly-compliant meal: Stir fry in my new wok, a treat to myself for achieving my latest weight loss goal. No recipe here, just took a bag of stir fry veggies and added a package of Gardein Szechuan strips, served over brown rice. I'm sorry I don't have a pic of the finished product because Kristyn and I gobbled it up too quickly, but it was delicious!

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Ooh, just looked out the window and the sun is shining brightly. Off I go, have a great day!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Progress Report

The past few days have been pretty much the same, eating (mostly) whole low-fat foods with minimal processing.

Breakfast is about a pound of veggies and some type of starch, usually potatoes.

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Lunch is a salad and leftovers from the night before.

And dinner is a low-fat soup/stew, sometimes served over a potato.

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I walked a few times, actually met a fitness goal of mine by reaching a certain spot on the beach I've been eyeing for a while now!

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I am still having my morning coffee and a glass of wine here & there, but have cut back substantially on my salt intake. I ordered these salt-free spices from Benson's and have been enjoying experimenting with them.

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Overall, things are going very well. I'm experiencing fewer cravings for junk food and even though the scale isn't moving much, my clothes feel looser and my tummy looks flatter! I'll take that progress any day!

I'll pop back later in the week with some recipes.

Have a great day,