Thanksgiving Review

Home again, and looking forward to getting back to normal (in the food arena.)  All the festivities went better than I could have hoped for.  I really like the way I did the cooking.  I prepped a few things on Tuesday, then drove to my dad’s house.  Wednesday was designated for cooking, the idea being that if most stuff was done, it would be more relaxing on Thanksgiving day.  And I think that worked pretty well.  

Wednesday evening, my sister and I met my mom at a restaurant for dinner, and that can be an especially stressful time.  But I actually prayed for a magical moment, and it really was.  We had so much fun laughing, and my mom enjoyed it so much.  Yah, I enjoyed it so much that I ate that whole gigantic slice of French Silk pie in one sitting.  That is the most I have overeaten in a long time!

For a review of the low-cal recipes I said I was going to try:  I thought the butternut squash trade-out for the sweet potato casserole was fantastic.  I didn’t tell my dad that it was squash til after he ate it, and he loved it.  I thought the gravy was fantastic, didn’t seem any different than regular.  Did I mention that I use those yellow potatoes (Yukon Gold) for mashing?  I think they have the best taste and texture.  The Pumpkin Turtle pie was very good.  Probably wouldn’t repeat it though…waiting for Linda’s light pumpkin cheesecake recipe!  And honestly, I am still stuck on Pumpkin Custard, and with a little granola on top, I am good to go. The stuffing I won’t report on, since I did not even taste a lick–I hate the stuff.  My dad said it was good, ‘different than any he’d had before.’  If my sis stops by, I’m sure she’ll leave a review in the comments.  I know that it was extremely low in fat compared to most stuffings.

I have to be honest.  For me, the hit of the week was my sister’s lemon tarts.  She makes them with our grandmother’s traditional English recipe, and this year they were absolutely the perfect combination of flakey crust and lemon curd, with a dollop of whipped cream on top.  I had two after dinner, and took two to the hotel room for the evening.  There is nothing diet, low calorie, sugar free, or low fat about these.  But they are definitely worthy…

I was happy that I did go to the hotel fitness room after Thanksgiving dinner and tried the exercise bike.  I went 10 miles in 30 minutes.  I don’t know if that is good or not, but I was sweating afterwards!

Well, I am glad to be home, and glad to be able to check in with all of you.  One good thing about this kind of Thanksgiving is–NO LEFTOVERS!  I actually have some pumpkin custard in the oven for tonight!

Mitochondria, Shmitochondria

Oh brother, what made me think I could give you a ‘synopsis’ of a scientific article???  Anyways, this is the main idea, and when the article is available online (from Nutrition Action Healthletter,) I will give you a link to it.

“Mitochondria are the power plants of our cells.  They convert food into energy, which the body uses to live.”  Some researchers speculate that, over a lifetime, damage to the mitochondria may be the ultimate cause of aging.  Weakened mitochondria may leave people more susceptible to several serious aging-related diseases, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and sarcopenia (muscle wasting with age.)  

So the question is, can you protect or restore your mitochondria?  Several studies have been done (and fairly large, well-documented studies) that show that you can increase the mitochondria in your cells by 50% in just 6 weeks by aerobic exercise OR strength training for about 20 minutes 3 times a week.  Most of these studies were done on older individuals (60-70 years.)  This just seemed remarkable to me.

Of course, we all already knew that exercise was a key to prevention of diabetes, heart disease, etc.  But the hope that increasing my mitochondria will slow the aging process?  Well, that just makes me want to go jump on my bike!  Of course, as I told my friend Robin, the article didn’t say anything about improving the appearance of your neck  ;=(  

Well, all, I have a busy day of getting ready to leave for Thanksgiving.  This is going to be a grand experiment in family gatherings.  I am going to my dad’s house and am going to cook Thanksgiving dinner there.  I have my menu plan, and lots of good tasting low calorie recipes to try.  Stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes from Hungry Girl, A pumpkin turtle pie from the W.W. magazine, and my cherry popovers for breakfast (see sidebar.)  I’m gonna make some pumpkin custard to snack on on Wednesday.  I even googled a recipe for low fat gravy.  

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone.  We have so very many things to be thankful for in this great country of ours.

Some Weekend Recipes

Breakfast has become my favorite meal of the day.  If I am not careful, I could eat breakfast 3 times a day!  And the weekend seems like a good time to indulge in some guilt-free but delicious breakfast recipes.

As promised, here is the recipe for the ‘cottage cheese muffins.’  I have renamed them Cherry Popovers because that is what they are like. Mmmmm Mmmm Good!  I think it’s so much fun to see how we can take an original recipe and adjust it to our own ‘food intake’ needs.  This was a recipe I found on Lori’s website, which she had adjusted from another website to fit into her low-carb life.  I adjusted Lori’s recipe just a little to fit into my low-fat, high-fiber life.  So there you have it- the same recipe three ways.  Take your choice.  I also looked up this link on how to make the perfect popover.  If you want to work at it, you could probably use a few of her hints to make these even better.  But I decided they were just fine with my simple recipe. BTW, originally I was attracted to these because I love cottage cheese.  But when baked there is no trace of cottage cheese texture or taste left.  So those of you who don’t like cottage cheese should still try these!

CHERRY POPOVERS

1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese

3/8 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

4 egg whites, or 2/3 cup egg beaters

pinch salt 

Tbsp splenda

3/4 cup cherries (fresh in season, frozen ‘sweet cherries’-no sugar added type)  If using frozen, partially thaw.

Pre-heat oven to 400.  Spray muffin pan with Pam or spray oil.  Mix egg whites and cottage cheese with a whisk.  Add dry ingredients and whisk in.  Divide evenly into 6 muffin cups.  Divide cherries evenly into cups.  Bake 30 minutes.  Should puff up quite a bit, will be golden brown and crispy outside, very moist inside.  I think they might puff up more if you use real egg whites, but they worked fine with the egg beaters.  Delicious.  And only 1 point each!

This recipe could be varied a million ways.  Lori’s recipe was for savory muffins, with dried tomatoes, cheese and herbs added.  I might try the batter plain, and then make a fruit ‘syrup’ to pour over the top with some lite cool whip, for a great dessert. 

I was reminded this morning of one of my all time favorite recipes, from Hungry Girl. This is one recipe I used as is, no adjustments of my own.  It makes 3 blueberry pancakes for 3 points, and honestly, they always hold me until lunchtime, which is very unusual for me.  Probably just the right combination of protein and fruit.  I will just put that recipe in my sidebar.

My new subscription to Nutrition Action Healthletter came the other day, and they have some very interesting, very scientific information, that I think might be very motivational to most of us in regards to keeping up the exercise.  I will try to give an easy to understand synopsis of the article tomorrow.

Checking in

Well, I’m frustrated again.  I’ve tried for 2 days to upload some pictures to the blog, but just couldn’t do it.  I think I had beginner’s luck when I first started the blog.  I was trying to (finally) post a before and after picture of me.  You all will just have to wait for the ‘big reveal’–what tv show is that from?

Anyways, today, I noticed several bloggers not feeling so good–physically and/or psychologically– about themselves.  And right now, I am feeling particularly good about myself.  I feel like I am in good shape, like there is more firm and less wiggly, like I am strong, and even my eating is more in control.  I am not that hungry, but I am not overeating, and I am making good food choices.  I could point to several factors that might contribute to this–I am walking/running more because the weather has been so nice, and my back doesn’t hurt anymore.  But really, I know I will have days and weeks where I don’t feel so good about myself, and have doubts, and want to eat junk.  If we could figure out how to contain this confident feeling we’d all be millionaires, right?

I made some ‘cottage cheese muffins’ adapted from Lori’s recipe.  They were like popovers I think.  I need to tweak the recipe a bit, but will try to post it by the weekend.  Absolutely fantastic, and, only 1 point!!!!

A Delightful Day

Today turned out to be ‘a delightful day.’  It didn’t start out that way, but partway through the day, I decided that was what it was going to be.  Work has been especially hard and very stressful lately.  So last night on the way home, I knew I was out of half and half for my coffee this morning (which is a VERY BIG DEAL,) but I decided I was too tired to stop at the store.  I knew I absolutely had to go to town for a big box for shipping some stuff, so I made a plan.  My plans are always subject to change unless they involve a commitment to another person.  But this one stuck.  Because of the half and half.

So I started my morning having a great Zen Bakery mango-blueberry bran muffin from Trader Joe’s.  These things are really terrific.  I did have coffee and used Almond Breeze in it (tolerable.) AND I had some greek yogurt with walnuts and dried pears.  A pretty hefty breakfast, but I really wanted to eat that stuff.  And I had my traditional Saturday morning talk with my brother.  Since we live in two different time zones, it works out good for us to talk (me at 6am and him at 8am.)

So my plan was to leave the house to work out at Curves, and then go to Raley’s, which had sent me a notice that they now served Peet’s Coffee in their store, and they gave me a coupon for a free pumpkin spice latte!  (This would make up for not having half and half for my coffee this morning.)  I decided to take a Clif bar with me to enjoy with the latte.  Can you believe it was 78 degrees here???  So I sat outside at a little cafe table and enjoyed my (nonfat) latte and bar and a magazine I had bought at the grocery store.  That is actually when I decided that this would be ‘a delightful day.’

On to the next grocery store because they really have great produce, and a lot of the time they are actually one-third the price of the other grocery stores.  I got a whole bunch of my favorite red grapes, some oranges (first of the year,) a butternut squash, pineapple, and some brussel sprouts– I know, its weird, but I love the little vitamin balls (that’s what my brother calls ‘em.)

On to Wal Mart, which I have studiously avoided, because I tend to spend too much money there.  But I took my shopping list with me, found everything on my list, and even allowed myself a few ‘splurge’ purchases–like a ‘Dancing With The Stars’ workout video!!!  You all know that is my favorite tv show, right?  I also was looked at whey protein powder to experiment baking with, but decided to wait on that. I did buy one of those very high protein bars (also very high calorie) to try.  So by the time I got done, I was beginning to lose a little of my zest.  It was WAY past lunch time, and I wanted to eat that protein bar, but really, I wasn’t hungry, (those Clif bars hold me way better than any of my other ‘energy’ bars…) so I tried to get home without eating the bar. (Because of course, there was more food that I wanted to eat at home.)

Part of my original plan was to make some of Roni’s Big Simple Chocolate Cupcakes.  I REALLY WANTED one of these.  And since they had a can of pumpkin in them, I decided to make a w.w. vanilla chai smoothie with one spoonful of pumpkin out of the can, and some unsweetened vanilla almond breeze–mmmm mmmm!  I put the cupcakes in the oven, and drank the smoothie while I waited for the brussel sprouts to cook.  So this was my dinner:  cottage cheese and grapes, brussel sprouts, and 9 all bran crackers (these are great crackers.)  At about 8 o’clock, I enjoyed the cupcake (BTW, thank you Roni–of all the configurations of cake mix, pumpkin, water, and other various ‘healthy options, these are absolutely the best–they maintained their chocolate-ness better than the rest.)  I used–what else–lite cool whip for frosting, and I had some Jolly Time Healthy Pop Kettle Corn–this is the best, and the lowest calorie kettle corn around.

So, as you all can see, food is still a very big part of ‘a delightful day’ for me.  But the difference in choices that I make now, and my willingness to have a non-traditional dinner, and my ability to say no to the big chocolate energy bar (it was right there in my purse) are all a part of what made the day delightful for me.  Don’t get me wrong.  The day was delightful for a lot of other reasons…the beautiful weather, the trees turning colors, a good workout, fun shopping, and just time to relax and read and knit.

I hope each of you thinks that you are worthy of having ‘a delightful day,’ and will plan one for yourself soon.

My Favorite Food Finds

I’ve been thinking about adding this as a page to my blog for a while, but a question on the last post made me decide to at least start with writing a post about a few things.  Juice asked about Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze.  Almond Breeze is, I guess, the almond people’s answer to soy milk–the Blue Diamond people make it.  It is found next to the soy milk in those square boxes that last forever and don’t need to be refrigerated until they are opened.  Then you have to refrigerate them and  use them up within 2 or 3 weeks.  Anyways, just like soy milk, it comes in a variety of flavors and calorie counts.

Here is what the box says about it:  “The luscious taste of Almond Breeze Unsweetened is smooth and creamy with a mild hint of real almonds.  It is a delightful and delicious unsweetened beverage without any sugar or added sweetener.”  To which I can only say ‘amen.’  I really do love the taste of this stuff.  I use it on cereal, and it tastes like something really luxurious compared to my non-fat milk.  I have used it in recipes instead of non-fat evaporated milk, and I think it works very well.  It does work very well in smoothies.  I could drink it just straight, but I don’t.  And here is the reason:  I actually don’t think it has much nutritional value.  It is only 40 calories PER CUP (fantastic value!), 3 grams fat, 2 carbs, 1 fiber, 1 protein, 20% daily calcium.  The ingredients list:  purified water, almonds, tapioca starch.  These are the first 3 and main ingredients!  (BTW, “not for use as an infant formula” haha)

For a comparison:  nonfat milk:  90 calories per cup, 0 grams fat, 13 carbs, 9 protein, and 30% daily calcium. I don’t use soy milk, so don’t have that info for you.

Anyways, there you go.  I can find it at Trader Joe’s regularly, although once in a while they are out of it.  Have also found it at all the regular grocery stores, but only sporadically.  They always have Almond Breeze, but sometimes only have the higher calorie sweetened stuff (not worthy…)

The Time Consuming Hobby of Blogging

Don’t have any earthshaking blog topic in mind, just thought I should check in before 2 more days of work…

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I spend too much time reading and commenting on blogs.  But then also I have realized how much I have learned and benefited from bloggers.  One of the side effects is how some of the blogs are really thought provoking, and they challenge me to think a little differently than I would have, and also make me work on putting my thoughts into a concrete, understandable post or comment.  Its always good to make the brain work.

Another thing I realized is how influenced I am by the food mentioned on blogs.  Sometimes I am frustrated, because when someone mentions something really good they ate (like cake) I kind of obsess about that for a while.  Fortunately, I usually don’t get the chance to act on it.  So, in that vein, sorry ’bout the description of the apple dumpling the other day.  But, also, I have been extraordinarily influenced by all the descriptions of good food, new combos, new recipes, etc.  I am thinking often about Vickie’s comment on another blog about ‘eating clean’ and its importance in maintenance.  I think frequently about Lynn’s descriptions of, and her love for, her big salads.  Lyn got me on this jag of baking and eating pumpkin custard practically every week.  I also LOVE her combo of mac and cheese with the butternut squash mixed in.  Amy Jo introduced me to the joys of applesauce and cottage cheese.  Lori has intrigued me with South Beach type baked goods.  And of course, there is the never ending supply of good recipes from Roni–of late, I have been enjoying her berry oatmeal cups and the flatbread pizzas and, O.M.G. the butternut squash fries are absolutely fantastic.  She even did a great video about how to cut and peel the butternut squash which makes it a lot easier.

This morning Lynn asked about how you try to incorporate healthy food choices into your diet, especially omega 3′s.  This was part of my answer to her.  

Wow, all the commenters seem a lot more ‘techno-savvy’ about food than me. I was just going to say that I try to eat salmon more often, (and I really do eat it way more often than I used to) but sometimes I find it frustrating to fit in ALL the ‘important’ nutritious foods that are recommended for a healthy life into every single week. So I don’t really keep track, but I do have all that advice in mind, and I try to make most of my food choices with my health in mind. And even tho I take a ridiculous amount of supplements, I am of the opinion that it is WAY better to get any nutrition from food than from a pill.

I guess that is all for now.  I really do appreciate my bloggy community.  You make me laugh, which is an excellent thing.  And you make me think, which I guess is a good thing-hehe.  Have a good rest of the week.  Have some pumpkin custard, and the world will look rosier  more pumpkin colored(?) to you.  What I mean to say is, THAT STUFF IS GOOD.  You won’t miss cake so much!