Adventures in Baking

Man, I’ve been on a baking jag the past few days.  I think its because I was trying to organize my bookmarks, so I moved all my saved recipes over to one ‘folder.’  Which made me review some recipes to see why I kept them.

So here’s what I’ve made in the past few days.  Some of them were so good, and the recipes were a bit unusual, so I wanted to share that information with you, in case you got on a baking jag.

First off, I made an old recipe of mine–Apricot Oatmeal Bars.  These are very lightly sweet, and they have additional protein powder in the recipe, so they are a most worthy breakfast treat.  The only thing I want to recommend about these is the dried apricots I got recently at Costco.  They are the best dried apricots I have ever gotten–naturally sweet and flavorful, and still pretty moist, not all dried out like a lot of dried apricots that I have bought.  There is no added sugar in them either.

Next I tried this recipe for “Amazing Chocolate/Banana Oat Jumbo Muffins.”  LOL, you know the word that caught my eye was JUMBO, don’t you?  I followed the recipe exactly, except that I made 8 muffins instead of 6, which brought the calorie count down to 275.  Still pretty significant in my eye, because the muffin wasn’t THAT jumbo (I know you volume eaters will understand.)  Still I found the recipe intriguing enough to try.  A bit of butter, which I rarely use, and flax seed meal and chia seeds!  Finally, a use for that little package of chia seeds I’ve had in the cupboard forever.  The verdict?  These muffins are EXCELLENT.  So delicious, just like a really great bakery muffin.  And best of all, they did hold me for 3 1/2 hours, so that is a most worthy use of 275 calories.  I used spelt flour, just because I like it, and I think next time I would leave out the very small amount of chocolate chips (1 TBSP for the whole recipe) and substitute walnuts.  The chia seeds reminded me of poppy seeds in lemon poppyseed muffins.

Next up was this recipe for “healthy cookies.”  The description said “butter-less, flour-less, egg-less, and potentially sugar-less.”  Hmmm.  Interesting.  Plus the picture looked absolutely decadent.  The list of ingredients was interesting.  A little almond meal and oats. Lots of banana.  Coconut and coconut oil.  And LOTS of chocolate.  (for sugar free, they mentioned unsweetened carob.  Anybody ever tried this?)

So again, I followed the recipe exactly.  Well, I halved the recipe.  I didn’t need 36 of these babies laying around the house if they were good.  And if they weren’t good, I only had to toss 18 instead of 36.  Oh, the only thing I changed was the chocolate.  When I got to that part I thought it was actually a ridiculous amount of chocolate to add, so I used half of what was called for, and I added–let’s all say it together–WALNUTS.  Hey, if I’m going to make chocolate chip cookies, I AM going to have them with walnuts.  THESE WERE SO GOOD.  Their stats say 75 calories/per cookie.  I didn’t re-check the stats with my changes, but figure its close to that.  I have to admit I eat three at one sitting.  But if I save for it, that is a reasonable dessert calorie allotment for me.  They are safely in the freezer for now.

And last, but not least, I tried this recipe on Cammy’s recommendation.  Again, I followed the recipe as written (what has happened to me?)  They came out of their little muffin molds so nicely.  This is the only recipe I took pictures of, because the other two, while tasting fantastic, did not look as pretty as the pictures in the original recipes.

Okay, I just went and tasted one so I could give you a review.  Tasty, but not as ‘fantastic’ as the other baked goods.  However, I love the stats on these.  That 100 calories of treats on that plate?  TEN GRAMS OF PROTEIN!  Now that is a good deal!  Also, I used frozen fruit (that I thawed before adding.)  I think the frozen fruit is juicier and might have affected the texture somewhat.

I’ve got more to say, but that’s enough for tonight.  I’ll leave you with this picture of Noah being stupid.  It rained all day today.  Most of the day he relaxes and stays inside.  And then its like he JUST. MUST. CHECK. THINGS. OUT.  He just goes and sits in the pouring rain for hours sometimes, staring at the neighbors house, just in case there might be ANY action over there that he might need to bark at.

He noticed the camera.  It only distracted him from his ‘guard duty’ for a split second.  That guy should try out for the Buckingham Palace guards.  Oh.  The Queen reminded me that he already had a similar job.

Three Weeks from Today

Three weeks from today, at this very moment, I will be in Knoxville, Tennessee!!!  I can hardly believe it.  It seems funny but I don’t really think about the trips I am taking on a daily basis.  Maybe its a defense mechanism I’ve developed to keep from obsessing about details.  So when I do think about them, it kind of comes as a surprise that it is approaching so quickly.

Sooooo…..what am I doing in Knoxville?  Well, this trip started as a “dream trip.”  I’ve dreamed about going to the  AQS quilt show in Paducah, Kentucky for a long time.  There are other big shows in the country, but this is one of the oldest and biggest and something about Paducah, Kentucky–I just wanted to go there.  Well, when you start investigating, you can’t rent a room closer than an hour away from Paducah even a year ahead of time!  So I checked out some of the tours that are offered.  The one I chose started in Nashville, Tennessee for some reason.

Hmmm, don’t I know some bloggers who live in Tennessee???  Yep, I’m gonna have another blogger meet-up!  Started emailing with Sharon.  I’ve also always wanted to see the Smoky Mountains.  And now I’m going to get to take a hike with an expert on those mountains!  So an extra day turned into several extra days!  Then started emailing the fabulous and funny Cammy–gotta get my laughs in on this trip!  All three of us will get together at some point for a day of great fun I am sure.  I also contacted an old friend from my spinning/knitting days, and we are also going to rendezvous!  And all this before the quilt show tour even starts!

In the middle of all that planning, I got a little mixed up in my dates, and it turns out there is an extra day in there.  I am going to use that day to rest up for the quilt show tour.

If any of you have been to Paducah, KY, and know about any place I need to see or experience, please leave me a comment!  I’m sure there will be more to do than I can possibly fit in, so to have personal recommendations would be a good thing.

So tonight I’m thinking, I really want to keep exercise at the forefront during this trip.  I really feel better when I am exercising very consistently.  Oh, I started my new job this week, and that is working out great–I get to the gym an hour before my job so I have enough time to do my weights exercises and spend at least 20 minutes on the bicycle.  So far this is really a no-stress job.  I am enjoying the structure, and as friend Shelley said, sometimes that helps you to be more productive.  It certainly has done that for me this week.  So back to the trip.  I am sure there is a good gym at the Marriott where I will be staying in Nashville and Paducah.  I know there’s one at the hotel Sharon recommended (how much do I love that she scoped out the hotels for me and found one that had a kitchenette in the room  and a Starbuck’s across the street.  What more could a girl ask for?)  And of course there will be at least one hike, and maybe two.

So, back to the homefront, here’s a couple of the meals I have enjoyed this week.

I made my fabulous quinoa breakfast (have I told you before this is fabulous LOL?)  It makes 3 servings, so one of those I mixed half and half with the Abundance oatmeal for a change.  I still like it best without the oatmeal.  But I have a feeling that some people would like the oatmeal mix better.

I finally tried Helen’s crockpot BBQ chicken–THANK YOU HELEN!!  Yummy stuff.  And enough to last me quite a few meals!  I put most of it in the freezer, and have had it a couple of times this week.  Here’s tonight’s salad.  I had to go looking for a BIG bowl for my salad.  Tired of the salad spilling over the side of the regular salad bowls.  When I have a salad, its usually the whole meal.  This had baby greens with apple, carrot, raisins, sunflower seeds, and BBQ chicken.  Good to the last bite!

Another thing I’ve been enjoying the past few weeks is microwave popcorn a la Cammy! I had heard about the paper bag method before but was skeptical.  But if Cammy says it works, well then, maybe i should try it.  It tastes really good to me.  I spray it with a little vegetable oil spray and sprinkle with popcorn salt.  yummy.  Thanks Cammy!

Also in production this week, but not pictured, I made another big batch of my homemade yogurt.  This method seems to be foolproof for me.  It is so much tastier (and less tangy) than any store-bought yogurt I’ve ever had.

And to wrap up this disjointed post, here is a silly picture of Sophie.  I couldn’t figure out what she was doing, and then I saw that she was just trying to catch a few rays LOL.


Tidbits from the NWCR

So you know I joined the NWCR last year.  “Joining” means you fill out pages and pages of questionnaires about food, exercise, psych stuff, etc.  I filled out the follow-up questionnaire earlier this year.  And apparently forgot to fill in one line.  These people are serious about the accuracy of their research.  Because they sent me  back the page and asked me to fill in the blank line:  “How many days a week do you put chocolate syrup in your milk?”  Um.  NONE.  So I filled in the blank and sent it back.  And they sent me a mimeographed page from their research findings as a thank you.  I think those people have a shoestring budget.  Still, they are serious about their research, and there is no larger data base of weight loss maintainers around, so we need to glean all we can from them.

We know most of the  basics:

To maintain their weight loss, members report engaging in high levels of physical activity (about 1 hour/day,) eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet, eating breakfast regularly, self-monitoring weight, and maintaining a consisten pattern across weekdays and weekends (interesting.)

Most of us have heard that very few people maintain weight loss.  That original perception came from a study done in 1959(!) and a pessimistic editorial was recently published in the  New England Journal of Medicine titled Losing Weight:  An Ill-Fated New Year’s Resolution.

In this paper, on “Long Term Weight Loss Maintenance,” the NWCR presents some data that as many as 20% of people have successfully lost weight and kept it off for one year.  Hmmph.  We all know one year is just the tip of the iceburg, right?  Still, 20% is a lot more hopeful than the 2-5% we usually see quoted.

Participants in the registry have lost an average of 72 pounds, and they have maintained the minimum weight loss of 30 pounds for an average of 5.7 years.  Wow!  But only 13% have maintained this minimum weight loss for 10 years.  Continued vigilance needed!

Remember when I wondered if continuing to try to lose weight was a strategy for maintaining weight loss?  Yep.  I think so.  “55% of registry members report that they are still trying to lose weight.”  

They say that most members report eating 1381 calories per day.  Then they say that most people underestimate their calories, so that is probably close to 1800 day.  I agree with that.

Registry members report consuming 2.5 meals per week in restaurants and .75 meals per week in fast food establishments.

Really?  This is one factoid from the NWCR that I will NOT be putting into practice LOL.

Nothing new–the members report exercising an hour a day, and most report brisk walking.  This is encouraging.  Even though it is a lot of time, everyone can walk.  And surprisingly, only 20% report weight lifting, and another 20% report cycling.  Really?  Get with the program, people!

Ah.  Interesting.  44% report weighing themselves DAILY, and 31% report weighing themselves weekly.  Okay.  I’ll continue with my twice a week regimen for now.  Gotta stay average.

Okay, here was the one sentence in the whole paper that was most interesting to me.

These findings suggest that successful weight loss maintainers continue to act like recently successful weight losers for many years after their weight loss.  (italics mine)

Bear with me.  There are a few more things worth mentioning, and I don’t want to write two posts on this.

Another predictor of successful weight loss maintenance was a lower level of dietary disinhibition (what???,) which is a measure of periodic loss of control of eating.  (oh.)

So, the less frequently you lose control of your eating, the more likely you are to be successful in maintaining weight loss.  Okay, noted.

Along with this, people were more successful if their eating was the same on weekends and holidays.  Oh brother, this is a hard one, right?  They make the statement that “allowing for flexibility in the diet may increase exposure to high-risk situations, creating more opportunity for loss of control.”

And finally, a bit of depressing (but its reality) news to end this review.  “Few people (11%) recovered from even minor lapses of 3-5 pounds regained.”  ay-yi-yi.  Don’t we all know it.      It seems like the biggest mystery in the world that someone can lose 100 pounds, and then for two years continue to ‘try’ and yet be unable to lose 5-10 pounds.

Three Syllables

Three syllables–  FAB – U – LOUS!  That’s what today was!  As promised, I went to the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles to view the special exhibit of Quilt National.  It was so wonderful to see art quilts in a museum setting, where you could view the quilt as a whole from across the room, and then get up close to see the beautiful detail work in the quilt.  It really was very inspirational to me.  And encouraging.  These quilts are different than the quilts entered in most quilt shows.  To me, they seem more “doable.”  They are not as ‘perfect’ as show quilts, but they are truly works of art.  I was so glad I went.  And since it was the last official day of my ‘spa week,’ I had great food all day.  Took one of my blueberry scones and picked up a coffee at Starbuck’s for the drive down.  Had a quest bar and a pear for the middle of the day.  And ended with a stop for my favorite ‘side-by-side’ salad at Baja Fresh (really, you have to try this salad, if there is a Baja Fresh near you.  It is not on the menu any more, but it is still on their cash register,) and a froyo at Blush (first cousin to Pinkberry.)

Three syllables– GLA – DYS KNIGHT!!!  I want me some false eyelashes and spangles!  Is everyone watching Dancing with the Stars?  Its the best season ever.  I love that show.  And Gladys Knight was just fabulous.  She is 10 years older than me, and she has a typical 67 year old body, meaning that she is thicker through the middle–that weight that all of us love to despair over.  And she was not worried about that one bit!  She was DAN – CING!  And she was beautiful.  I wish her confidence for all of us. I’m gonna have to go watch it one more time!

Three syllables–  L – O – L.  Is that three syllables?  Well, you get my drift.  Head on over to Cammy’s blog for her latest adventure.  Cammy is always funny, but I about fell off my chair laughing at this one.  Its extra funny because its so true.  Well, you young’uns won’t know how true it is, but just you wait.  Your time is coming.

Hope all of you are having a THREE SYLLABLE weekend!  I am off for a little cuddle time with the lap warmers, while stitching and daydreaming about future quilt creations.

A Couple of Good Days and a Really Bad Night

Yesterday was a terrific day.  First Spa Day.  I stayed right on track with my schedule.  Got a bit of reading done, and quite a bit of quilting done, and then took a 30 minute brisk walk with Noah.   Headed to the gym for 35 minutes on the weights and 25 minutes on the bicycle.  No Starbuck’s but came straight home with my sack of food from Vicky, and enjoyed watching the  Biggest Loser while having coffee and a Quest bar.  THEN, I put a yoga episode on the computer (from Netflix) and did 35 minutes of that!  That was just right, because it was called Healing Yoga: for Aches and Pains.  Not too strenuous, but some really good stretches, breathing, and posture reminders.  I had my dinner that Vicky had prepared.  I was all ready to dislike it–veggie meatballs with marinara sauce.  I don’t like meatballs, and I don’t particularly like vegetarian meat substitutes.  But I made myself take a bite.  Surprise yumm!  They were full of nuts!  What’s not to like LOL.  After dinner we all went for the doggie stroll.  I watched a new movie documentary “Hungry for Change.”  They had some interesting information in there.  All in all, a really great day.

I was super tired before 9pm, and I headed to bed.  AND I COULD NOT SLEEP.  Which reminded me that that movie had made a point about how important sleep was for our health.  Anyway, thought I would share some of the things I do that usually help me to have a good night’s sleep.  And then some of the things I do that probably don’t help.

Things that help me to sleep:

  • A bath or a shower before I go to bed.
  • No caffeine after 6pm.
  • Reading in bed (usually fall asleep in 5 minutes.  Not much reading gets done.)
  • Bedding not too hot and not too cold.  This one can be very tricky LOL.
  •  Sometimes I take melatonin, usually only when I am having trouble falling asleep.

Things that probably don’t help:

  • Playing games on my kindle in bed.
  • Going to bed too full or too hungry.

Oh well.   I am lucky.  I usually don’t have too much trouble sleeping.  I kind of wondered if the extra exercise had something to do with the sleeplessness.

So this morning got a bit of a slow start.  But after weighing my options exercise-wise, I decided to take an extra long walk-hike.  I’m glad I did.  Sometimes I start worrying that I won’t be able to walk long distances any more.  And I have a special hike coming up with a certain blogger known for her hiking abilities!  (more on that later.)

So now I’m off to the gym.  Not sure what exactly I’m going to do.  Mostly I just want to get in the spa and relax.  Its such a pain in the butt to get your clothes all changed and get wet and stuff though.  I AM very sure that I am going to go to Starbuck’s and relax afterwards.  So far today I’ve had Vicky’s Chia muffin–very tasty, kind of had a ginger flavor to it, a pear, and a beet, goat cheese and walnut salad.  Good eats!

Do you have any special tricks to help you sleep better?

Spa Week, Take 2

Once again I am calling it Spa Week, and once again it is not going to be a full week.  But since it starts tomorrow, I thought I’d better make some sort of a plan.  I looked up the post I did on the plans for the previous spa week, and I see that having my food made for me is going to be a great advantage.  I’ll pick up three days worth of food tomorrow morning.

What I’m dealing with the most is the persistent thought that I don’t want to spend quite as much time exercising as I did the last time.  Then I had the idea to spend some time doing yoga.  I’ve been wanting to do it for quite a while, but just haven’t taken the time to do it.  So I’m excited about that.  Then my friend reminded me that I went in the spa at the gym and liked that.  Ooh, yeah.  That would be a great treat, even if it is too cold to actually swim.  I think I’ll pick up a few things to have fun with, like one of those facial masks, and maybe some bubble bath or something.

Spa week will run from Wednesday through Saturday.  Here’s the tentative schedule:

  • 7-9am:  Morning quiet time/reading/praying/Breakfast
  • 9-11am:  Creativity practice (LOL, that’s spa code for quilting)
  • 11am-12pm:  Long walk with Noah
  • 12 pm:  Lunch
  • 1-3pm:  Gym for weights, biking, swimming, and/or spa.  Starbuck’s if there’s time.  Afternoon snack.
  • 5pm:  Yoga and stroll with dogs.
  • 6pm:  Dinner and evening relaxation

Saturday will be the end of the spa week, and if the weather is okay, I will paint my toenails in the morning, put on my sandals for the first time this year, and take a trip to see a special quilt exhibit!

Well, that still seems pretty ambitious to me, but I’ll give it the old college try.  I’m much more likely to actually accomplish something if I have a plan written down.   Off to bed to rest up for  SPA WEEK!

Crazy Day and A Little News

Yesterday, while my friends back east were enjoying a nice springtime day, I woke up to this:

Looking out the door at 6am.

Noah was quite enthusiastic about the stuff.

All day long it snowed, rained, sleeted, hailed, snowed, and rained and snowed some more.  This was the grand finale to six consecutive days of rain.  There was a very short lull in the storm, and me and Noah got out for a walk.  It even looked like the sun was going to come out.

Here’s my secret weapon:

Those, and a big umbrella keep me pretty darn dry.  Noah is waterproof.  He only gets wet on top.  So we towel him off, and sometimes I blow dry him a little bit.

Chopped veggies three ways:

I already showed you this one thing–the veggie/meat bread roll thingie.

I actually had a lot of fun chopping all those veggies up and cooking them.  I think it was the first time I had used my mini food processor to chop vegetables.  Slick!  The next day I was going to make another of the breads and add marinara sauce.  Well I found some bruchetta sauce in the fridge, and then I thought, why roll it up?  Just make a pizza, or flatbread.  Then you’ll have two versions to eat.


And the third way?  Well, I had a sweet potato wasting away in the veggie bin.  I always buy one sweet potato at a time.  And I really like sweet potatoes.  But I don’t often eat them.  Not sure what’s up with that.  I bet they were a lot of WW points and that’s stuck somewhere deep in my brain.  ANYWAY, I still had a bit of the veggie mix leftover, and I had the idea that it would be a good topping on a baked sweet potato.

And I was right!  Served with a forest side of broccoli.

A little news.

And now for my little bit of big news–I HAVE A JOB!!!!  Yes indeedy.  I’m going to be a working girl again.  Vicky (my former personal trainer who now has a thriving gourmet health food business) has been talking to me about helping her with some administrative stuff.  She works out of the gym that I go to (they had a little cafe/restaurant in the gym that they were not using, so she rents that part for her business,) so today I went in to work out, and she had time to talk.  We worked out a deal, and I am going to work for her two hours a day, three days a week.  I KNOW.  Its two hours more than I wanted to work in one week LOL.  But seriously, it will work out great to keep me on track going to the gym to work out three days a week, and then I can just walk on over to my two hour job.  Thank goodness I am not much of a sweater.  Another plus–being around Vicky is always an education.  She insists on knowing all the latest research, and presenting a truthful whole picture of nutrition and weight loss.  I’ll keep you posted on how it works out.  I’m starting next Monday because this week, starting Wednesday, I’m having my SPA WEEK!  I will get Vicky’s food plan for three days of complete meals, so it will be like a spa in that no decisions/no cooking.  All good nutritious food.  I will do three or four days this time.  I don’t know why I call it a week.  I honestly could not keep up that exercise schedule for a whole week.

And now its late, and I’ll leave you with a shot of the two lapwarmers.

Sophie is actually half the size of Monk.  But because she is ALWAYS in front of him, she looks larger than she is.

Some of you might be interested in a follow-up to my last post, where I was feeling too full. I did indeed have a very balanced eating day the next day (Sunday.)  I did want to eat some more after dinner, even though I was full, and really had to talk myself down from there.  Today has been an even better day, with good choices all day long.  Topped off by a good workout at the gym and a short walk with the doggies when I got home.  Oh !  The gym.  Must tell you–I went in the free weights room to do bench presses when there were TWO MEN in there!  First time in what?–two years at that gym?  Anyway, I was very happy with myself for doing that.  Next up:  deadlifts.


Tonight I am too full.  I find that very disappointing.  It makes me not want to write on here.  I had a fun subject all composed in my mind, and then I ate too much today.  I could pretend that I hadn’t, and just write what I had been planning.  But that seems dishonest.  And not fun anymore.

To be fair, I was going to say at the end (of what I originally was planning to write) that being overfull was something that still occasionally happens, and that I do not like at all.  So there.  I guess I got it out of the way at the beginning and I can go ahead and write about what I originally planned to write about.

Yesterday I mentioned being amused by the contents of my basket at Costco.  Honestly, in the distant past, it would have contained some kind of baked treat, some candy, and some type of processed frozen food.  Thursday it contained green beans, butternut squash, pears, mangos, and yogurt.  I carefully considered each item–did I need it?  Some of them I bought ‘as a treat, ‘ like I would have done with the three pound bag of candy in the past.

Yesterday I needed to clean out my high shelf (wanted to put that trail mix up high like Lori does to see if that works.)  I took down a bunch of boxes of cereal, a box of crackers that had never been opened, and FIVE boxes of cake mixes.  All of them way out of date.  But all of them bought at some time when I was well on the way of my weight loss journey.  And that’s what made me think of the word “evolution.”  There really has been an evolution in the foods I eat.  But it has been a slow slow process.  The cake mixes really made me think.  What on earth did I need all those cake mixes for?  Well, that was the ‘lo-cal, lo-fat’ treat that I substituted for some of my other regular consumptions, like brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  You could mix those cake mixes with beans or diet 7-up to make some pretty tasty desserts.  I wonder if I would have stayed the course if I had not had those cake mix treats to fill in the gap.  That evolution was a S-L-0-W process.  The cereal and the crackers weren’t necessarily bad.  But in the evolutionary process, they, along with the cake mixes,  went by the wayside when I started working with Vicky, and started eliminating most processed foods.

I think one of the most important things during the WHOLE evolutionary process was educating myself.  Not taking someone else’s word for it.  But reading a lot, comparing research, trying certain things.  Learning what worked for me and what didn’t.  NOT throwing away anything I learned along the way.  Using all that knowledge as a base to make decisions about how/what/when to eat.  How much and what exercise to do.  I’m still learning.  I learned something from Vicky’s lecture the other night.

As this evolutionary process has allowed me to lose a large amount of weight and maintain a good chunk of that weight loss, I am aware that the evolutionary ladder could swing the other direction and I could ‘evolve’ right back into the very overweight woman that I once was.  That is why I am distressed when I am too full.  I really really do not like the feeling itself, and to me it signals that I might be heading in the wrong direction.  So far I seem to self-correct the very next day, thank goodness.

The other thing that I have currently identified, and am working on, is that feeling that I am ‘bad’ when all I have done is THINK about eating something.  I am trying not to identify foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’  And to not think of myself as ‘bad’ when I think of those foods.  There is certainly nothing wrong IMO with identifying foods as worthy or unworthy based on their nutritional value.  Man, if we were to eat all of the nutritious foods that are recommended by some experts all day every day, there would be no question of choosing ‘unworthy’ foods.’ We would definitely be too full.  But we are ‘defective,’ as this doctor so cleverly points out.  Check it out.  That is a good article.