two pounds in two months!

Part A: dessert

So I made brownies. I am not always making brownies but they are easy to make and almost always good. I like fudgy brownies. I was thinking of making brownies all week but had run out of eggs. And we were not going to shop until the weekend. I waited. Then after buying 5 dozen eggs at the Walmart (the regular eggs were all packaged in Styrofoam which I do not like to buy) I made brownies. I decided to try Alton Brown’s cocoa brownies which claim to be fudgy and “ooiey”. https://altonbrown.com/alton-brown-brownie-recipe/ and/or https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/cocoa-brownies-recipe-2085484

I do not have a kitchen scale. I’m not that precise a baker. So I guess-timated the amounts of ingredients as he gives them in weights. These turned out very gooey. I did use the thermometer because I could not tell if they were actually done. We ate these while warm which meant they could not actually be picked up. They fell apart. Apparently that was not a problem in that we ate most of them! The next day they could be picked up and they were still very fudgy and very rich. Beating the eggs for a few minutes really does make a difference in producing the shiny crust on top. If I make these again I will bake them at 350 degrees F and not the 300 degrees in his directions. Here’s what I did.

  • 4 large eggs.
  • Scant 1 cup granulated sugar.
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar.
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour.
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (melted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Beat eggs for 2-3 minutes. Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add the sugar mixture and mix, then the melted butter and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. The pan is 9 inch square, sprayed and lined with parchment so the parchment overhangs two sides by 2 inches. This will be used to lift the brownies from the pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. Mine took 55 minutes and I had to use the thermometer to be sure they were done. Alton Brown says this should register at 195. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes and then lift out. Cut into 9 squares. Actually you could cut into smaller squares as these are very rich. Even letting them cool for that bit of time, lifting them out was difficult because they were so soft.

ooey-gooey brownies

Part B: two months of weight loss

Hah! Brownies are not good for weight loss. Eating Oreo cookies is not good either. And not counting calories appears to be my downfall. For the past two weeks I stopped counting calories. Counting calories makes me accountable for

  1. How many Oreos I eat,
  2. How many glasses of wine I pour myself,
  3. Portion controlling potato chips, crackers and cheese, and other late night-TV watching snacks,
  4. Not having seconds at meals.

So I have actually gained back the 2 pounds lost in January. I have a net loss of HALF a POUND! The good news is that I have lost 2.5 pounds since last summer and at times will weigh at a 5 pound loss since then. The inconsistency is frustrating.

So now I ask myself what to do. I want to bake and I want to enjoy my food. Yes, I should not be eating Oreos or Potato Chips, but I want to make a cake once in a while. I want to make new and interesting vegetable dishes.

Life is too short to not eat dessert!

Super Bowl “junk food” and Weight Loss

Part A: food

So I wandered around the library again and checked out 6 books; four of them were on food and cooking. So I made chili. I made this recipe because it has cocoa as an ingredient and I thought that was interesting. I read the recipe, jumped up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to cook. I had all the ingredients in the pantry. I rarely make chili the same way twice. I vary up the beans, or meat, and who ever heard of measuring spices!

  • Meat, one pound ground beef, browned in a skillet
  • One onion, chopped, sauté in large skillet with some oil
  • Add 3 cloves garlic, minced, along with the following
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and stir for about 30 seconds
  • Now add 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes with the juice
  • 2 cups pinto beans, drained
  • 2 ½ cups broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

Cover the pot, simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This is adapted from the book Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match by Ivy Manning (2017).

This freezes well and we also served this for our Super Bowl Junk Food Meal as a dip for tortilla chips. There it is in the bowl in the middle. We also made two kind of wings, a yogurt dip and veggie sticks.

Part B: thoughts on Weight Loss Journey Month One

I made a lot of changes to my routine in January. So the 2 pounds lost cannot be attributed to just one factor. I’m hoping month two will keep the momentum going. At times I had lost 2 ½ pounds but one cannot trust the ½ pound. It was not consistent.

Two pounds in a month’s time seems like paltry results to me. It is not enough to be a natural motivator. If it had been five…maybe. February adds the addition of more mental effort to keep going. I must remind myself it is not just weight loss but health I seek. Here are the things added/deleted last month that are all factors in the two pound loss:

  • Circuit training twice a week: 20-30 minutes
  • One vegetarian/vegan main dish for dinner each week
  • 45-60 minute hikes each weekend outdoors with Hubby
  • Counting calories daily
  • Taking an Apple Cider Vinegar capsule and a Turmeric capsule daily
  • Weighing self-several times per week, if not daily
  • Dry January eliminating all alcohol

Going forward into February what might change? Depending on the weather hikes may not always be feasible. I will add back a drink or two occasionally. I’m not ready to give up yet, but would like not to feel so restricted in what I plan for meals and snacks. Baking seems entirely out of the question. There is a birthday in February. though; I might bake a cake!

May blessings to all of you.

On Food and Drink and not-Drinking

In sticking with my commitment to Dry January my new mock-tail is the Not So Dark and Stormy. I like the taste of Ginger Beer. My sister does not. Ginger ale is okay but can be sweet tasting, even the diet version.  Ginger Beer tastes more grown-up. So my drink is really not a Not So Dark and Stormy from the internet recipes. I had to look that up so I would know whether I made this up. I probably made my mock-tail but apparently not the name.

I found a six-pack of diet Ginger Beer at my local Walmart and after a few seconds of deliberation put it in the grocery cart. When I make the boozy cocktail I use spiced dark rum. I think to myself, “Self, why not spiced tea?” I have been enjoying chai type spiced tea from various brands but I prefer the non-caffeinated types. So I brew a strong cup of tea and let it sit until room temperature. Basically leave the tea bag in this whole time. Put ice in a tall glass, pour to half full with the tea and top off with Ginger Beer. Nice and refreshing! A lime twist would be the finishing touch but I did not have any.

The above is not a dish one should have on a weight loss eating plan. Pie crust is fat and flour and how can that be diet friendly? But I have only the top crust on this pot pie which is mostly vegetables anyway. I was debating between a quiche and a pot pie. I tried to roast the veg but they just cooked in the oven. I had one small and thin frozen chicken breast and diced this up to sauté with half an onion. And it worked well in the cast iron skillet; goes from stove top to oven in seconds!

  • ½ very large bag Asian stir-fry vegetables ( discard or save sauce packet for later), roasted
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 chicken breast, or more if you prefer, diced
  • Olive oil for the skillet
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk + ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour
  • Seasoning of choice, I used a salt-free combination from a craft booth at the RV show similar to Mrs. Dash
  • One ready-made pie crust

Roast vegetables. Sauté onion and chicken in skillet with oil. Sprinkle with flour and add liquid and seasonings. Simmer slightly. Stir in the roasted vegetables. Make lattice with pie crust and put on top. I sprayed the crust with butter flavored cooking spray and sprinkled more seasoning on top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-45 minutes. Hubby said he wasn’t particularly hungry but he ate his portion happily.

Thoughts from my kitchen table:

What have I been thinking about these past weeks: Results of Dry January.

Dry January is supposed to have health benefits including improved sleep, improved mood, saving money, brighter skin, stronger immune system, more energy, and weight loss and better liver function. I can’t measure the liver function but let’s evaluate the rest.

  • I have not noticed any improvement in my sleep. Sometimes I sleep well, sometimes I don’t. This has not changed.
  • Improved mood: not particularly. But maybe. I don’t feel like going to work some days but that is because Hubby is home and I would like to be retired. I may have been feeling a little down at the first part of the month but that may have been post-holiday blues. My December was full of activities including a trip to Jamaica to see my son get married. And that was a fun time. My sister and her husband came out and we sat in the pool chatting, swam in the ocean, ate really good food and just relaxed. Flights got cancelled and trip home was two days instead of one. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s we had visits with all 4 children (all grown) and two grandchildren and Christmas Eve and morning in New Hampshire with the grandchildren. So the beginning of January was the start of quiet; all the activity was over. And then there is the news, of course, and that will dampen anyone’s mood!
  • Saving money: definitely. An O’Douls at the bar on Trivia night is $4 instead of $7 for a Guinness. The bottle of wine that was opened after Christmas still sits on the counter. I don’t think we’ve gone to the liquor store at all this month.
  • Brighter skin: I have no idea. I’m an older woman who has a few wrinkles as it is. I have few if any blemishes either. This one is probably a wash. Actually I only wash my face with water. I do not wear makeup so water is good, no drying soaps, and no goopy creams.
  • Stronger immune system: I had a nasty cold virus for 3-4 weeks but by the time I went to the doctor she said I was on the mend. She recommended the time honored use of turmeric, ginger, and honey from the wisdom of grandmothers. This depends on who is your grandmother. Mine would have recommended chicken soup and hot tea with lemon and honey, not to mention Vicks Vaporub!
  • More energy: maybe. I have started sewing again. I believe I have had fewer days of coming home from work and just collapsing on the sofa. Bedtime remains at 9-9:30 PM. I have also spent more time reading in the evening and a little bit less vegging out in front of the TV. But there may be more to this than the giving up of alcohol.
  • Weight loss: 2 to 2 ½ pounds. There are a lot of factors besides giving up the drink that contribute to this. But I won’t argue with this result. More on this weight loss journey and these other factors in another post.

What I did enjoy about Dry January was the “not feeling impaired” sensation after having a drink. Not that I get drunk or even tipsy, but I can feel the alcohol after even one drink sometimes, especially a mixed drink. This is probably the buzz that people seek and enjoy. The recommended about of alcohol for women is one drink per day and no more than 7 drinks per week. It is easy for me to have two glasses of wine in an evening and even if not every night this still can add up to more than 7 glasses a week. I also enjoyed the search for non-alcoholic drinks. I plan to seek out non-alcoholic beers to enjoy as well as drinking more Ginger Beer (diet, no need for empty calories). I’m sure my liver and brain will thank me.

Oh and I broke my fast on January 31st (as planned) with a glass of a nice red wine blend. at a gathering with friends over salad, pizza, and a fabulous dessert.

Now that my commitment is over I can have a drink whenever I choose to. But do I really want to? I am hoping that how much and how often changes.

A New Start

Hello readers. When I started this blog a few years ago I had never meant it to be all about recipes. Yet somehow it became a recipe blog and I appreciate all of you who follow and read. I sometimes do try out new recipes. I often try out your recipes. And I cook and bake the same things over and over again.

This is a new year and I want to make a new beginning. I titled my blog my kitchen/my thoughts because I like to sit in my kitchen and think. I don’t always think about food but I do a lot. I would like to do my essays in two parts, one is on food and one about thoughts of life. I’m going out on a limb here because I now have to come up with witty, profound, insightful, smart, sharp, keen, knowing, penetrative, and savvy essays. (See how I used a thesaurus there?) And are you all interested in reading these? I personally like to read books that are the memoirs of the author. They usually have a theme and are not a “stream of consciousness” rambling on and on. I am afraid that my thoughts may fall to the latter. We’ll see how it goes, shall we?

Part A: food, and drink, sort of

So I am doing “Dry January” out of curiosity and to jump start a bit of weight loss by eliminating the empty calories in booze. So far, so good. Only one Friday evening after a stress filled work week did I think it would be nice to have a glass of wine. But I refrained. I did read an article about how some folks are not abstaining completely for the month and are still feeling good about their choices. Hubby said to me “You’re an adult; you can have a glass of wine if you want.” This is true but I want to stick to my commitment to myself. I will be breaking this fast on the last day of the month as I have an after work gathering with friends. With that in mind I think I can hold out. The challenge will be if some work colleagues go drinking after work this week to celebrate/mourn the departure of one to another agency.

For a mocktail I was pouring myself a diet ginger ale in a rocks glass. Hubby suggested adding a splash of bitters for a grown-up taste. That worked out well. My new go-to mocktail. I wonder if the bartender will make that for me if I go out to Trivia night this week.

I have ginger beer and club soda in the fridge. I forgot the lemons and limes for the twist. I need to remember some of the drinks I was looking at on the internet. Diet coke with a lemon twist is also a staple.

Part B: on losing weight

In the new year I want to lose weight and get fit. Fit in my mind means exercise more and feel stronger than now. To do that I am counting calories using an app on my phone called Lose-it. I use the basic free app as it is enough for my purposes. I am feeling accountable by using this. Thus far I have gone over my calorie allotment only once this last week.

I was contemplating taking you lovely readers on this weight loss journey with me, checking in with you about how it is going. And then I thought about listing my beginning weight and got hesitant. Why is that? Do men have as much hesitancy to talk about the actual numbers?

I have always weighed heavier than other people guess me to be. I don’t really have “big bones” but I remember weighing 102 pounds in junior high with other girls my same size weighing 10 pounds less. Years ago I had joined TOPS as my mother had before me. At the weigh in there were older women obviously thicker and shorter than I and their weight was less than mine. Hmmm?

It is the same with clothing sizes. I have never worn a size 0 or 3 or 6 and barely an 8. The patterns I bought when sewing my own clothes in junior high were size 8 and then size 10. I was a standard size 12 (in sewing patterns) through high school, college, and up until I had my first child. Now standard patterns do not fit my body shape. The body morphs in lots of places as one ages. I have had adult friends who also wear smaller sizes and I thought I appeared trimmer than they. Sizes have changed over the years. My Cadette Girl Scout skirt back in the day was a size 10. It looks like a child size 6-7 when I look at it today! I know that pattern sizes run bigger in number than off the rack clothing but I’m not even going to tell you that number!

So I have measured my waist and weighed myself. I most likely will not share the exact numbers with you unless I make a significant change. Wish me luck!

Have a blessed and happy 2020!

Weight loss in ordinary life

Like most American women I can be consumed with the “need” for losing weight. About 15 years ago I was given the news that my cholesterol level was too high. Back then I was a single parent, one child in college and one in high school. I got motivated. One thing that was helpful at that time was that the son in High School was an athlete and also a picky eater, basically grilled meat, macaroni and cheese, and lettuce salad. Since my daughter had gone off to college we no longer ordered pizza and Chinese food alternating weekends. I was free to make a variety of meals for myself. I found then that counting calories was the only way to lose weight along with waking 20 minutes at lunch each day, at least 3-4 days a week. I lost 27 pounds and 87 cholesterol points. Over the years I regained 15 of those pounds and 17 cholesterol points.

I love to cook; I love to bake. How does one lose weight? The weight is mostly on my belly so that is the least healthy fat to carry. My husband has the same situation. What to do? Well, last winter a colleague of hubby told him about the Zero Belly diet (David Zinczenko’s Zero Belly Diet ) and raved about it. My husband who has never to my knowledge embraced any diet plan stated that he would be willing to try this. So it is my responsibility to read the book and plan how to put us both on this diet. We found that for the week of learning about the diet, reading the book, and looking at the foods we eat, we both lost a few pounds. We spend a great deal of money on vegan protein powder, vanilla flavor. We did not know it at the time of purchase but this makes the shakes taste like mud.

This is just around the time of Lent so we decide to follow this diet for the 6 weeks and end by celebrating with a big Easter feast. I use the menu ideas but not his recipes other than for the Vinaigrette and the Shakes which make up most of the diet along with apple cider vinegar, no dairy, lots of citrus infused water, minimal alcohol, minimal carbohydrates except for whole grains, no refined sugars. So the various testimonials say that the exercise plan is not necessary but half the book describes the exercises. The first half of the book reads like an infomercial but I read the book from cover to cover and we follow the cleanse week exactly but without exercise. I lose 4.5 pounds, hubby loses 6 pounds. ½ inch off my waist; 2 inches off hubby’s.

We miss bread and we miss cheese and are not very happy. Our first cheat meal was spaghetti with meatballs, Italian bread, big salad, and red wine. That was a taste of heaven.

So I research how to make protein shakes without protein powder because that stuff is processed and the diet is to avoid processed foods. But the alternative is dairy. Slowly over the six weeks we add a bit of dairy and morph it into the “Mediterranean diet”. We are happier. At the end of our six weeks I have lost 10.5 pounds, 3 inches off my waist, and no cholesterol points. Hubby has lost 7.5 pounds, 3 inches off his waist, and unknown cholesterol points. He has since been started on anti-hypertensive medications. I already take those and cholesterol meds.

So here it is 5 months later. I have maintained my weight loss give or take 3 pounds and the 3 inches is back on my middle. Hubby is back at starting weight and waist is also back at square one. We are planning a Zero Belly cleanse for the next 6 days and will have a cheat meal next Sunday. I will make a chocolate cake with mint frosting from the DessertforTwo (by Christina Lane) cookbook. Not sure what’s for dinner. I wonder how soon we will add a bit of cheese this time?

I have modified the eating plan. The key to Zero Belly is protein, healthy fat, and fiber at each meal. We will use whey protein powder (in our budget), dairy and animal fat in addition to nuts and oils, and have cheat meals every week. I found that the original plan is not a natural way for me to eat or to feed my family.

According to the CDC I am 8 ½ pounds into the “overweight” classification. My husband is 25 ½ pounds “overweight”. I suspect that this week will find him with greater weight loss than me because it will be a more drastic calorie reduction. I also walk on a treadmill at the work gym for 25-30 minutes 2-3 days a week and have the opportunity to walk to work which I do not make a regular habit, unfortunately..

weightlossblog 007I am dreading this already! Here’s what we eat this week:

shake for breakfast, shake for lunch, fruit and nuts for snack, and then dinner:

weightlossblog 009 Monday: Italian sausages with sauteed peppers and onions in homemade tomato sauce. What’s missing here is pasta noodles and a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

weightlossblog 010Tuesday: Steak salad with avocado and feta. What’s missing here is a loaf of crusty bread.

Wednesday: the plan is for grilled chicken breasts with corn on the cob and leftover salad.

But…I quit…I quit!

On Tuesday we gorge ourselves on watermelon and peanuts after our meal. I’m lying in bed dreaming about baked goods and am haunted by the thought that food is meant to be enjoyed. Sure a protein shake for breakfast is okay but not again for lunch. Yogurt with fruit and honey would taste so good. What’s wrong with a scrambled egg in a wrap with a piece of cheese? Irish soda bread fresh out of the oven with a bit of butter and jam? Banana muffins made with whole wheat four? The more I feel deprived the more I am likely to over indulge.

I quit in the middle of the night and the next morning I feel like a quitter which is not how I see myself. So I will take the yogurt for lunch. It will just be an unassembled shake, and we will continue on the no carbs this week only. These are no carbs in the form of bread, pasta, or grains. We eat fruit daily. But come Saturday all bets are off. Well not really. So for dessert and muffins this weekend they will be from Dessert for Two so as not to over indulge. Now see there, I’m not a quitter!

Look at all this healthy produce waiting to be consumed!

weightlossblog 002

Confession: On Wednesday both my husband and I took advantage of work provided lunch items including cheeseburger for him, and hotdog (no bun) and an ice cream sandwich for me.

Well eating healthy is not about following gimmicky diets even when those diets call themselves a lifestyle change and/or an eating plan. Let us eat, drink, and be merry!