Nine???

Recently, I googled “does eating sugar make my joints hurt?” I think this is often over-stated in blogs. I do not believe that if you eat a teaspoonful of sugar you will immediately be stricken with joint pain. But, my search led me to arthritis.org, where they did state that when you have arthritis, your body is in an inflammatory state. And sugar is a food that causes inflammation. There is enough information out there about this that I agree with that. Okay. Less sugar.

That search led to an article about “the ultimate arthritis diet.” Interesting. They say that a Mediterranean type diet helps stop pain and inflammation. Here are their recommendations:

  • Fish–salmon type. 3-4 ounces two times a week. I can do that. I like salmon. So I’ve started buying a half pound piece of salmon and having it on Sunday and Wednesday. Approximately 🙂
  • Nuts–especially walnuts. Oh my. I love walnuts more than almost any other food. But they are high in calories, so I usually measure out about 1/3 of an ounce. They recommend 1 1/2 ounces a day! That’s a lot of calories. But I have started having 1 1/2 ounces of walnuts in yogurt for my lunch almost every day. It feels very luxurious.
  • Olive oil–especially EVVO. They recommend 2-3 Tablespoons per day. That’s not happening. I can’t even imagine eating that much oil. But, I could eat more salads, and I could use real dressings with olive oil instead of my low calorie dressings. I’m working on that one.
  • Beans. Again, not happening. I DON’T LIKE BEANS.
  • Whole grains. They are recommending 6 ounces. I know I won’t eat that many whole grains, but I do have oatmeal almost every day in some form or other.
  • Fruits and veggies–all kinds, but especially the colorful ones. They recommend NINE servings a day! Now this is not a new number. Many diets recommend that many fruit and vegetable servings per day. I like fruits and vegetables. But I have yet to eat nine servings in a single day! I am being more cognizant of that. So far the most I’ve eaten in a day is seven. I mostly only like fresh fruits and vegetables, so you have to shop a little more often to keep stocked, or just remember to buy more when you’re at the store.

Notice there’s no mention of dairy or other animal meat sources. I guess Mediterranean’s don’t eat that stuff. I’m not stopping eating those things, because I enjoy them. But its fun to try a few changes in your diet. My arthritis pain seems to have decreased, but I’m not convinced its the dietary changes. It could just be the changes in the weather. Nevertheless, these are healthy changes, so they’re worth a try. I also think that some of the amounts are probably based on a “normal” 2400 calorie diet. If I ate that much, my arthritis pain might be decreased, but I’d have to buy a whole new wardrobe in a much larger size 🙂

A Simple Special Dinner

Most of the time I am cooking for one. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the whole world who does this, so I thought I’d share how I made a special dinner for myself without breaking the calorie bank. Yes, I know its just one meal. But of course, you do end up making enough for several meals, and so for me, its just a good thing to lighten up some of my favorite foods, and also to limit the number of foods I prepare. Don’t feel bad, I did have more than my fair share of sweet treats this Christmas 🙂

So here’s the two recipes I adapted from old favorites. The first was an old recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. My copy is 40 years old! It still has a lot of great basic recipes and instructions, and I am very happy to have it. These are called Buffet Potatoes, and are kind of a simple version of potatoes au gratin. I looked at the recipe and there were a few simple obvious changes and substitutions to make, and still have a delicious side dish. I left out the butter (why do you need cheese AND butter,) and instead of half and half, I used whole milk. That made my version a very reasonable 130 calories per serving. I made a recipe that had 4 servings instead of the 8 in the original recipe.

Here’s how I did it:

I had an 8 oz block of cheese, so I just marked 1/4 of it with a knife, and then shredded that much of the block. I actually weighed out 12 oz of potatoes (I almost always use Yukon Gold because they have more natural flavor,) and I sliced 1/2 an onion as thinly as I could.

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Assembled them in layers with salt and pepper, per the recipe.

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Sprinkled the milk over all, and baked according to recipe, and here are my lightened up buffet potatoes. Perfect with ham!

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I used to make jello with frozen raspberries in heavy syrup, and I used that syrup to make regular jello, and then added the raspberries, cream cheese and plenty of walnuts. For my lightened up version, I used SF raspberry jello, laughing cow lite wedges, and walnuts. I forgot to buy some fresh raspberries, so I used pears this time, which are also delicious in this combination. I have compared, and laughing cow lite has less calories that light cream cheese, and I think its delicious in this kind of preparation. When I had it all combined, I was very happy that I came up with the idea of portioning it out into serving dishes, saving me one more step when it came time to eat! Each serving has about 100 calories.

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And here was my Christmas Eve dinner! The only thing that was missing was some kind of green vegetable. Just some broccoli or green beans would have been great.

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Late to the Party

I know I’m the last person in America to discover the joys of potstickers! Before, they just seemed like a pain in the butt to prepare–trying to heat pasta in a pan with some oil, and they always STUCK TO THE POT. And then I discovered the toaster oven. I put them on a piece of foil sprayed with Pam and Bam! They cook up with just a bit of crispiness and not only do they NOT stick, they tend to slide around on their little aluminum foil sheet pan. Weird, but it works so well.

But I need to back up. I discovered these potstickers through Biz’s recipe recommendation for won ton soup. I love that soup. And then I got the giant economy bag of the mini potstickers at Costco, and I thought I might like to eat them without the soup. After all, they are only 100 calories for eight of them!! And THEN, I found the recipe for dipping sauce on the bag, and I adjusted it for my own purposes. And I had the makings for a quick and easy and very low calorie dinner, just like that.

Here’s what I had for dinner the day after Thanksgiving. The shrimp are good dipped in the sauce too!

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The Feast and the Days After

Thanksgiving was quite tasty this year. My niece’s husband did one of those deep fried turkeys, and I swear, that was the best turkey I’ve ever had! I had seconds on turkey and mashed potatoes, and all the other stuff I just had mini-servings of, or skipped altogether.

It was a shame, but most of the folks present didn’t like nuts, so I left half of the pumpkin cake for my sister and mom to take home, and I took the other half home myself. I guess I didn’t need that little cake after all 🙂

Anyway, I did have one piece of the layer cake that night, and then I cut it into serving sizes, and put it safely in the freezer. And that was it. The next morning I got up and went right back to counting my calories on LoseIt. I didn’t really want to keep overeating. I guess I’m finally getting over that whole thing.

I ate carefully that day, and saved enough calories so I could have my mini-cake for dessert that night. I had my “leftover” turkey breast that I had cooked for myself, and so I had my salad with romaine lettuce, cranberry sauce, turkey, and laughing cow lite cheese–I love that combo! And I cut up that turkey breast and put it in a couple of containers in the freezer so I can have it whenever I want between now and Christmas.

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Today I had an old favorite of mine. The original of this was at a wonderful restaurant that served gigantic mashed potatoes in all kinds of original combinations. One of my favorites was the italian potato, which of course was loaded with butter, sour cream, mozzarella cheese, italian spices, olives, and a bit of parmesan.

One day I realized I could have this same combination of flavors if I would just pare it down a little. I start with a small yukon gold potato, about 4 ounces, and I spray it with Pam and sprinkle garlic salt on it, then wrap it in foil and bake it for a long time. That makes it soft and extra flavorful. Then I spray some fake butter on top, put about 1/3 cup of cottage cheese, sprinkle some italian spices, and about a Tablespoon or so of chopped olives. So yummy! And probably one-tenth of the calories of that giant baked potato 🙂

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Here’s how I had it for dinner–with a big helping of those baby green beans, baked in the oven with Pam and salt.

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Fun With Strawberries!

I am so lucky! Usually, strawberries are grown in the valley, and little strawberry stands pop up along the highways this time of year.Trouble is, the valley is about an hour away from where I live. But last year, Mr. Lee, who regularly sold at our local farmer’s markets, bought a plot of land up here in the foothills, and put in his strawberry patch. So now I can get the best strawberries any day of the week, only about five miles from my house. And it just happens to be on the way to the gym, so strawberries are the fruit for me this time of year!

Here’s a couple of fun ways I’ve eaten them the past few days.

My own “fruit on the bottom” yogurt. When I have too many strawberries, I just mash them with my potato masher, and put them in the freezer, kind of like freezer jam. I thaw some out when I need it, spoon a little bit in my bowl, and plop half a cup of homemade yogurt on top, and then finish off with Shelley’s hippie granola. Yumm.

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Yesterday for my afternoon snack, I made “stuffed strawberries.” Just hollowed out the big ones, and cut a wedge of Laughing Cow Lite in 4 chunks, stuffed them in the middle, and finished off with a sprinkle of Splenda. Yumm yumm 🙂

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Favorite Food Finds

This is my favorite popcorn! Of course I like that it comes in a huge bag at Costco for almost the same price that a little bag costs at Walgreen’s. Three ingredients: popcorn, coconut oil, and sea salt. And the best is that it is 130 calories per ounce, which is a nice sized snack bowl.

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This is my favorite dark chocolate. When I first started W.W. 11(!) years ago, my sister said that I could have one of these bars for 4 points. I still think they are the best dark chocolate, but now I eat one or two little squares instead of a whole bar 🙂

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This is my favorite milk chocolate. Yeah, nice that it is sugar free, I guess its good that they are low carb, but I really like this milk chocolate because of its super smooth texture and excellent chocolate taste. I like to have two small squares with my bowl of popcorn.

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This is a new product at TJ’s. They have been selling the cacao nibs in small metal containers, and I really liked them. LOL, I liked them because they were 1 calorie per nib, and they had an intense chocolate flavor. Sometimes, just five nibs was all I needed.

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One more TJ’s product–fresh edamame from their produce department. I really like edamame. My former trainer used to make an edamame tofu salad that was just delicious. I made this simplified version of it, using chicken instead of the tofu. No recipe, but it has an Asian accent to it–soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, salt and pepper. And obviously corn.

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And then there’s Shelley’s Hippie Granola! Making a batch of this stuff makes me very happy. It smells absolutely delicious while it is baking, and tastes just as good when its done. I’ve been making more yogurt lately, so yesterday I made another batch of Shelley’s granola. Yumm. Yumm. Yummmmm.

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This ‘n’ That

You know how one of the first things we learned as dieters was to READ THE LABEL!? Well, that is still good advice. It helps me to make wise decisions. Recently I made myself a strawberry protein smoothie (1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 cup yogurt, etc,) and I remembered I had some spinach in the freezer. I got that out and added a handful. I love to make a frozen protein smoothie for lunch so I can drink it on the way to the gym. I am all about saving time. I took a taste of it before I left, and thought “that spinach tastes like basil.” I thought about re-doing it, and leaving the spinach out, but, being all about the saving time, I took it and left. It was okay, but I made a mental note to toss that spinach when I got home. Later that night, I remembered to get the spinach out of the freezer. There was the bag, clearly marked “basil.” Read the labels!

Follow-up to the dog food discussion.  After re-doing my stats on the cost of making my home-made dog food, I discovered that it cost quite a bit more than I had figured at first. I decided to make a visit to the local “canine cafe” to see what they knew about the raw food diet. I was pretty sure it would be way more expensive than I wanted to spend. Turns out, they had it all ground up and pre-frozen for almost the same price that it was costing me to make it myself! That will save me a couple of hours each week. But there’s a lot more hand-washing going on around here. I don’t particularly like handling all that raw chicken every day. I’m still going half and half. They get the raw food in the morning, and kibble and carrots and sometimes apples at night. It didn’t seem to have any ill effects on their digestive system…

Some foodie notes: I started listening to a quilting podcast. They include a recipe each week. I noticed this one for “Mary’s Rice Pudding of Death” and noticed that it didn’t have added fat or that much sugar in it. I did the stats, and decided it would be worth a try. SOOOO delicious, and so very worthy. I did use brown rice, because that’s what I had on hand. Mine didn’t look like the picture, but it was so very tasty. Yesterday I woke up with an urge for baked oatmeal. Only I didn’t feel like making a whole recipe. I decided to try making a single serving. It was a HUGE success, at least in my mind 🙂 Here’s how I made it. I also simplified the ingredients from what most baked oatmeals include. Last night I made Biz’s Chicken Cilantro Won Ton Soup again. I had found the chicken cilantro pot stickers at Trader Joe’s and wanted to try them out. This is such a good bowl of soup, and those pot stickers are much better than the ones I got at the local grocery store.

Here’s the final shots of the dye studio. J. the contractor came back and put the subway tile backsplash up. I actually went out there and dyed some wool this week! Very fun. I had my first dye spill on the granite, and it cleaned up well. I do envision the granite and backsplash eventually being multi-colored. We shall see.

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