Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back in the (proverbial) saddle...

To be more accurate... back in my running shoes. I had a very successful exercise week! From Sunday - Saturday last week, I ran 5 times. It is a rare occassion that I am really looking forward to running, but 9 times out of 10, when I get out there I am really happy I did. I also tend to run more than I planned when I have low expectations for myself. For example, I'll get out the door and tell myself I'll just run for a few minutes and then walk... all of a sudden I've run 30 minutes. I must say that I'm pleased with how quickly it seems to come back when I'm consistent and push myself a little.

It's sad, really, how far I've regressed - the picture above was at my second half marathon, in September 2009 (18 months ago) with Richard in Chicago. Only 14 months ago I ran a stinkin' full marathon. We were in such great cardiovascular shape! A little time off after the marathon was followed up by house shopping, contract signing, getting engaged, house closing, wedding planning, settling into marriage... the running (and exercise in general) fell to the wayside. I am always aware that I should be exercising... I love how I feel when I am and hate how sluggish I feel when I'm not... so I've still exercised intermittently but often half-heartedly.

I had a Lifetime Fitness membership from September 2010 through February of this year which I ended up utilizing only for the treadmill. That is a really expensive membership if that's all I'm going to do, thus prompting my cancellation. The plan is to join the new 24 Hour Fitness that opens April 23rd really close to our house and significantly less expensive... plus its supposed to be really nice. I do like the option of a treadmill when the weather is not pleasant (6+ months a year in Houston!) and I like certain classes when they work with my schedule.

Not only do I want to undo some of the weight gain (I completely blame it on being so happy and content with Richard, so I guess my life could be worse!), I really want to re-establish the good, consistent exercise habits I've had in the past and just be healthier overall. I know my life will only get more hectic as our family grows (one day) and my responsibilities increase so I really need to get this under control and manage all my "excuses". Historically, my weight has fluctuated in a 15-20# range. That is a BIG fluctuation! Friends and family would never comment on my weight, but work is another story. For whatever reason, the staff (nurses, nurses aides, dietary aides) think they have free reign to comment on my weight! A friend of mine at work is in a similar situation... they do the same thing to her. I think it's cultural, they don't realize its hurtful - I don't hesitate to tell them "you don't say that to a white girl!" but it doesn't help. It is especially annoying when your profession should make you an expert on weight loss and of course automatically thin! Or at least I feel like that's the expectation - it is not a requirement for my license, however. I've always said that I think people go into the nutrition profession more often than not because they have at least a history of a food issue, either under or over eating or a body image issue/obsession. I do think that my view of eating is much healthier than it has been in the past, and for the most part I eat well. Unfortunately, I apparently have been eating more calories than my body needs, leading to weight gain. I am not one of those girls who eats a few bites of a meal and then puts down the fork! I'm trying, I'm trying, but I hate wasting good food! Also, I think, I'm just going to be hungry later if I don't eat this now! At home its not so bad because I'm pretty good at portioning and am aware of everything in the food I cook... eating out is something else. When I am exercising regularly, this balances out and I can even be successful in losing weight over time. I have never been successful in calorie cutting only (without exercise) to lose weight. Another thing that has contributed to gaining weight has been more frequent alcohol intake - I don't abuse it, but it slows down your metabolism and provides extra calories. Something else I frequently say is I'd rather eat my calories than drink them - so I rarely drink juices or sodas with sugar... but I've yet to find a calorie-free wine. Did you know that alcohol "provides" 7 calories/gram? It does. Carbohydrates provide 4 calories/gm, fat provides 9 calories/gm and protein 4 cal/gm but all three of those provide nutritients as well. I was also getting in a habit of having a glass of wine at the end of a stressful day instead of going for a run, so that was really counterproductive for managing my weight. I'm hoping the scaling back on alcohol for Lent will also help in re-establishing healthy habits. I have no intention of stopping alcohol all together, but think for me it is better in a special occassion setting.

On the exercise front, I have been very inspired by a few friends! My beautiful friend Courtney, mom of 3 who are aged 3 and under - has recently been really successful in getting down to her goal weight through eating better and exercising very faithfully (she is one of the few people who appreciate a good step aerobcis class like I do). She looks amazing! If anyone could say they didn't have time to exercise, it would be her - in additon to being mom and wife, she works a "part-time" job that is probably more full-time since she's in church ministry. Then there is Amanda J, who is the master of routine and exercises I believe 6 times a week - every morning except Sunday! She gets up in the 5s to make sure she gets it in. Amazing. I can't even get up in the 6s to accomplish that. Finally, my sweet friend Janet, who probably could be classified as addicted to exercise. She's always been an athlete, but even now she will go to classes on her lunch break and is often on multiple intramural sports leagues at a time in addition to running and biking. She is going to go into withdrawal from the adrenaline high of getting her heart rate elevated now that she is going to have a baby! I know it will be worth it, but expect she won't waste much time after the baby is born to start running again.

I've rambled enough for now... cooking this week was pretty mundane, so I'll spare you the details... or save it for another day :)

Is it really already the end of the weekend????

Love, B

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Catching up...

Meal planning has continued to be fun and successful.

Last Sunday I made Steph's Roasted Lemon Rosemary Chicken that is delicious! I made the gravy per her recipe (I added 1/2c of leftover chicken broth to make the gravy go a little further) and served it on the chicken and over some WHITE rice... With pasta, I can't tell the difference between regular and whole grain, but with rice I can... and its not that I dislike the whole grain, but sometimes the plain old white kind is a welcome change, especially if I know I got a good serving or two of whole grains already that day. To up the nutrients, and make my plate more colorful, I made this yummy veggie medley that I saw Giada make (yes, we're on a first name basis) - "Asparagus, Artichoke, and Mushroom Saute with Tarragon Vinaigrette".

Look at those veggies!
Garlic & shallots... so aromatic and they add such great flavor.

I know Grandmother would have raved about how beautiful the veggies were! No one appreciates great produce like she did :)

This time I seasoned the whole bird... huge improvement!


On Monday, I had good intentions of making spaghetti for dinner but Richard encouraged me to order pizza so I wouldn't have to cook and even though I actually enjoy the cooking... I gave in and accepted the offer. We enjoyed pizza and the Bachelor :)

Tuesday night was the last night of an 8-week Bible study on James that Beth Moore was teaching and Mom and I had been attending so we went to Zoe's before hand. I really wish there was a Zoe's closer to home! If you are ever in the Washington/Heights, SanFelipe/Galleria, or Shepherd/59 area, you should definitely check it out!

Wednesday night I made the spaghetti... this is one of my staple meals that is relatively inexpensive and easy to keep the ingredients on hand in the pantry or freezer. I started with a jar of sauce, 1/2 # ground turkey and threw in leftover onion, mushrooms, and bell pepper to increase the veggie content without really noticing a difference! The extra veggies also serve to stretch the sauce. Genius! Served it over whole grain thin spaghetti. Per Richard's request and to keep us from overeating the pasta, we had a side salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper and feta.

Thursday night I did a repeat of the Italian Chicken in the crock pot that I posted the recipe for in a previous post. It was just as good the second time around! We repeated our salad from the night before.

The leftovers for the week provided great lunches and dinner for Friday night.

This Sunday I had planned to make charro beans again and Jiffy cornbread muffins (so cheap, so delicious!) for dinner which worked out well because they do take a while to cook so I was able to leave them cooking while we worked in the yard and just come in to stir periodically. I did use a little olive oil in place of the bacon. Richard said he preferred it, it was closer to his mom's (she doesn't put anything besides beans, water, and salt in the pot) and I liked it too, but it was understandably not as tasty as the batch with bacon! This coming from someone who doesn't really care for bacon.

Richard had requested fish so I made salmon, sauteed spinach, and couscous for dinner Monday. It was simple, quick and delicious. For the salmon, I seasoned the 1# filet with salt and pepper and dotted it with 1 Tbsp butter. Baked it at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Awesome. The couscous I made according to the directions but used chicken broth in place of 1/2 the water. You bring the liquid up to a boil and then stir in the couscous, remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. So easy. For the spinach, I sauteed about 5 cloves of minced garlic in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and then added 3/4 of a 10oz container of baby spinach and stir until it wilts down.

This isn't the prettiest plate... the salmon flaked apart so it's a little hard to distinguish, but it tasted great! If you need perspective, the picture above and two pictures below is a lunch sized plate (you know, not the dinner plate and not the saucer...)

Tuesday night I made Shrimp Scampi with Artichokes from Ellie Krieger's cookbook The Food You Crave. She is another Food Network "star" - her show is Healthy Appetites - but I don't think she has new episodes. She is fairly dry but is a dietitian so I like her take on cooking healthfully. I had a small dilemna in preparing this meal. It called for 1/3 c of white wine. This is usually NO problem, I love the excuse to sip some wine while I cook and have a glass with dinner... alas, Richard and I decided to give up alcohol for Lent. The sacrifice is completely worth it... its nothing compared to the sacrifice Jesus made for me... but I have realized just how much we enjoy having a glass of wine. I had begun to notice how wine once a week with dinner had turned into an almost daily occurrence. I don't think there is anything sinful about alcohol in moderation... and 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men is actually shown to have health benefits, not that it is a reason to start or increase alcohol consumption in my opinion... but it does add extra cost to the grocery bill and add extra unnecessary calories. Plus I would never want to develop any dependence on an initially innocuous habit. Anyway, that was a tangent but that has been my thought process... I'm not legalistic enough about Lent to think I shouldn't add a little cooking wine, but I hate waste! To open a bottle of wine would be really hard to resist sneaking a glass and if we didn't drink any it would feel like a terrible waste of money. I could have substituted chicken broth but it just doesn't have the same flavor. I had a brilliant brainstorm and thought it might be helpful for other people who don't drink at all or just don't want to spend the money at that particular meal on wine: A few winemakers make 4-packs of "single-serve" (6 oz) bottles... I went this route and the 4 packs was only $4.50. I used one and now have 3 on standby.

Shrimp scampi goes well with pasta so I used the leftover whole grain spaghetti from last week's spaghetti dinner. Rather than serving it on top, I decided to mix it in together so the pasta would really soak up the sauce. We had side salads to accompany our meal. And water :)

That gets us to tonight... Wednesday. I made another "staple" meal: tacos. I used ground turkey, a packet of reduced sodium taco seasoning, corn tortillas, cut up tomatoes, lettuce, and avocado and some light sour cream and reduced fat shredded mexican cheese blend. We had leftover beans on the side. Very easy and filling!

Tomorrow night I'm planning to make roast and veggies in the crockpot! Hoping it turns out well.

Ooh! Ooh! One discovery I made this week: Special K cracker chips... Have you seen the commercials? I tried the sea salt variety and they were YUMMY! The best part is you get like 30 crackers for 110 calories... It is a great calorie bargain, but unfortunately there are only like 3.5 servings/box.

Hope you're having a great week... have you had any great discoveries lately?

Love, B

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This week's Cooking Highlights

Well, this week was pretty successful!

As I wrote last week, my charro beans were much more successful than previous attempts. I googled "how to make charro beans" and came up with this article. It called for 8 pieces of bacon, I used 6 and still thought that was too much and so did Richard. Next time, I think I'll try just using olive oil to cook the onions, cilantro, and garlic. Also, it took longer than it said. I soaked the beans for more than 12 hours overnight, but instead of only having to cook for 1 1/2 hrs on low, I had to turn up the heat to get the beans to finish. Richard chided me, telling me "you have to cook beans all day!" I was just going with the instructions. After eating the beans a couple times for leftovers his comments actually got more complimentary and he requested than I keep the beans on hand at all times.

Sunday night I made Thai Curry Shrimp with Basil Lime Couscous from a Rachael Ray recipe that I found. Thankfully, it was just as yummy as the first time I made it! In case you can't make out the ingredients, there are shitake mushrooms and roasted red peppers in there with the shrimp. Light coconut milk makes it creamy and the curry gives it a little heat (depending on how hot you get the curry paste). Its a little annoying to get the ingredients, but it was worth it. I didn't bother with the peanuts garnish (just one more thing to buy and I'm not crazy about peanuts). The leftovers were super delicious!

Monday I used the crock pot to make the pork carnitas. I got home around 5 and Richard and I were able to go for a run, come back and shred up the meat and eat! We did stop by HEB to pick up some more Roma tomatoes and avocado to dress up the tacos, which I hadn't planned for (oops). I put a little sour cream and mozzarella cheese on mine, Richard added onions. The leftover beans were a great side. Oh, and I insisted on getting a vegetable to go with our meal, but I was the only one who ended up eating the asparagus. Luckily, we were able to eat the leftover veggies with our Santa Fe Chicken on Wednesday.

The Santa Fe Chicken a la Amanda was Wednesday night, and also muy bien! I forgot to take a picture, but it shredded up beautifully and was great with some rice. I think I would add more tomatoes (or an extra can of Rotel) next time and the cayenne pepper that I left out because I didn't have any (oops!) It also didn't take the 10 hours that it said it would.
Thursday night I was planning to eat leftovers because Richard doesn't get home until later, but he called me when I was on my way home from running to say he was on his way. So I decided to go ahead and make the TexMex Calzones also from Amanda. For the black bean salad, I usually add some thawed frozen corn (I don't really like canned) and didn't use celery because I didn't have it. This was another winner, and Richard asked if I could also keep these on hand to take for lunch.
Now to plan for this coming week!
Love, B