Saturday, November 29, 2014

11 Months of Weight Changes

You know me.  Periodically, I go into weight and weight changes on this blog.  It is a "healthy" blog, after all, and weight is one component of health (certainly not the most important component).

I have been struggling with baby weight #2. With my first baby, I was 35 when he was born and 37.5 when I finally was able to lose the weight. I had stopped nursing 6 months before and had gone part time.  So I took it as a part time job to lose the weight.  Cardio, calorie counting (with weight watchers on-line).  20 pounds in 3 months, all over the holidays (November 1 through Feb 1).

I had my second child at 42, and it's been a struggle. For one thing, I gained more weight (this is common - there is a memory effect to pregnancy weight.  It's why you are 4-5 months pregnant before you can buy maternity clothing in your first pregnancy, but need to move into them almost right away with the second.)

The other thing is - I have been full time since he turned one, and I have two children, and I'm older.  Okay, that's 3 things.

Here's what I have found:
1.  What worked when I first lost weight in my 30's and after the first pregnancy, doesn't work now.
2.  Weight watchers stopped working after about 39.
3.  I cannot do the amount of cardio that I had done before - knee issues.
4.  Fat is stubborn.  I have finally gotten down to my *STARTING 1ST POST PREGNANCY WEIGHT* and I'm THRILLED!!  (Meaning, my final weight after pregnancy #1 is a full 20 lbs less than I weigh now.  My goal weight now is about 10 lbs down from now.)
5.  I have to experiment.

The first several pounds came off pretty easily with calorie counting (and a stomach bug).  But stresses have a huge effect on my weight - EVEN WHEN CALORIE INTAKE DOES NOT CHANGE.  So, I'm an engineer and I love charts - I made a chart.  And I labeled it.

There are labels for:
1.  What program I was following (red ellipses and notes written below)
2.  Notes on major life stresses (green arrows and notes written above)

One important note is that my work stress has gone down/ leveled off since the summer, allowing me to focus on my weight and my eating habits.  Experimenting with different methods of eating takes BRAIN POWER and can be an added source of stress.

The 21-Day Fix seems to be a successful program for me.  More successful on the second round, I think because I've come to terms with the lower carbohydrate intake.  I was very resistant to cutting carbs in the first round (March).  After reading What to Eat by Luise Light in the summer, I understand that I was eating way too many grains.

Understanding that you are eating too many grains and correcting that is a different thing.  I used Chris Powell's Carb Cycling twice this year (it's only listed once because I do not remember when I used it the first time, but it was probably early Feb).  The useful thing about this was I got used to planning meals that we low-carb.  After that 5 weeks, it was MUCH easier to go back to the 21 Day Fix "moderate" carbohydrate plan.

The "21DF + NOvember" refers to the fact that I re-started the 21 Day Fix AND gave up: wheat, sugar, fried food (tortilla chips), and alcohol for November.  I LOST 6 POUNDS IN 4 WEEKS doing this.  My goal, really, was to be a total of at least 20 pounds down from last year's doctor's appointment, when I go next week.  Looks like I did it!  I had at least 5 pounds to go at the beginning of November and I was doubtful I was going to make it.

I generally eat 1-2 servings of high-carbohydrate foods (those would be the "yellow" containers, for you 21 Day fixers) these days.  These tend to be (in order):
1. beans
2. potatoes
3. brown rice
4. oats

1/2 cup cooked is one serving.

And I still eat 2 servings of fruit.  One cup is a serving, except for bananas - one large banana is two servings.

A typical daily intake would be:
B: smoothie with protein powder and a banana
S: 1 cup carrot or celery sticks, 2 Tbsp hummus, 1/2 cup yogurt or cottage cheese
L: Salad with 2 Tbsp nuts or seeds, 2 hard boiled eggs, 1 Tbsp blue or feta cheese, a few olives, homemade vinaigrette, 1/2 cup beans
D: 3 oz protein (chicken, turkey, beef), and 1-1.5 cups cooked vegetables - steamed, roasted, etc. in olive or coconut oil.  Or soup.  And sometimes a carb, like potatoes or rice or beans.  But this is generally only 1/2 the time.

Also, because I love beans and lentils, about once a month (so, 3 straight meals), I'll make a lentil or black bean soup, and that will be our dinner instead of meat.

My typical weekly workouts would be:
M: Burpees in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
T: Swim 43 min in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
W: Burpees, squats, pushups in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
R: Swim 43 min in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
F: Burpees, squats, pushups in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
S: One hour walk
U: ??  Varies.

Ideally, I'd do at least 2 days of PiYo or 21DF videos a week, but the children.  They are not letting me do that right now in the mornings.  Burpees, pushups, etc. can be done in 30 second bursts and do  not require a 30 minute commitment.

Here's to hoping I can take off those last 10 pounds!  My plan is to continue NO-vember - avoiding wheat and alcohol, sugar and fried foods, for awhile longer.  If I re-introduce them, I have to set a number of times a month or week.  Unfortunately at my age and reduced metabolism, I have to assume I can only have 8 servings a month (TOTAL among the four).

Saturday, November 22, 2014

3 days of Indian Feasting

So Sunday was a big day.  I tried a new recipe for Crockpot Butter Chicken.  I'd share it here, but it wasn't great.  I mean, it was okay but not OMG THIS IS AWESOME.  I looked up many recipes, picked the one that matched what I had in the house (mostly), substituted Trader Joe's Thai red curry sauce for the red curry paste + coconut milk.  I know what you are thinking - Thai curry in an Indian dish?  Yeah, maybe that should have been my first clue.  Anyway, I think the problem was *mostly* the garam masala.  I don't really care for it, and this recipe seemed to have a LOT of it.  Even though I cut it down, it was still too much.

So back to the drawing board for butter chicken.

I served it with red lentil curry and roasted potatoes and cauliflower, and we ate it for days.  It was still pretty good.

Funny, when I searched my very own blog for cauliflower to see if I'd posted the roasted potato/cauliflower recipe, I found a link to a crockpot butter chicken recipe, that I apparently made 2 years ago.  I never repeated it, so it also must have been "meh".  Ah well, the search continues.  I don't know why I'm obsessed.  Well, not obsessed, but - I attended an Indian wedding about 10 years ago, and they had butter chicken, and it was awesome.

In any event, the roasted cauliflower and potatoes recipes is pretty simple: chop your veggies.  Start the oven at 400F.  Toss with the following spice mix and oil of your choice (coconut, olive, etc.):
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
3/4 to 1 tsp salt

Roast until your desired amount of doneness, for me, that's 30-40 minutes.  It's especially delish tossed with chopped cilantro.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Easy Frittata

So we have a neighborhood potluck almost every Sunday. Apparently this group of neighbors have been meeting for 14 years.  Kids have grown and gone to college in this time.  Our friends up the street joined 5 or 6 years ago and they invited us to join 2 years ago.  Well they invited us before then, but we kept forgetting.

Our two families are the "newbies" now - we are the two families with young children (8 and under).  Every year it starts up around mother's day and ends mid-October.  That works with the weather and the time change.  It's a 5:30 pm event at a local park (walking distance, 1/2 mile for us, and more or less for the other families).  This local park has a lot of picnic facilities that can be reserved, plus soccer fields, softball fields, etc.  So we all just wander up there and find an open spot.  There's a hierarchy of good spots.

For a few years the group would try to switch to people's homes when it got too dark to do it outdoors, and it never really "took".  This year, someone came up with the great idea for a brunch!  So for the last month, that's what we've done.  It's a smaller group - some are at church, some are busy with the church of Sunday Football. (And today we canceled because the park is super busy.)  I've really been enjoying the brunches.

It makes it a little bit trickier to figure out what to take though.  For much of the summer, the Sunday evening dinner was my "meal off" for the week.  And it was easy to prep for it.  Salad, appetizer, chips and guacamole, bruschetta and bread, cheese and crackers, crockpot ribs, pizza.

Brunch is trickier for a couple of reasons: 1. People aren't as interested in as much variety for brunch.  And 2. I'm not taking any "meals off" anymore.  So I'd have to figure out what to take that would work into my regular eating pattern.  Plus there are a couple of vegetarians, and a few people who eat seafood but no other animal.

So the first week I took roasted potatoes.  The next week, I took a frittata.  Eggs and vegetables and cheese, cannot be easier.  At some point one of my regular weekly emails from the kitchn linked to this recipe, and I saved it in the back of my head.  The reason I like this recipe is that it's made in a 9x13 pan.  I don't have a pan that will work with a traditional "cook on the stovetop and finish in the oven".  I also like to make them in muffin tins, but muffin tins are a lot harder to clean.

The other advantage to frittatas is that you can "use up" lots of ingredients.  We are in "greens" season again at the CSA, which means kale and chard.  I love kale!! I don't love chard. Chard ends up in soups, in beans, or in frittatas.

Yesterday's frittata was for dinner, not brunch.  Chard from the CSA, tomatoes from our plant (don't hate me, it is still producing!), sauteed onions, and little bits of cheese.

(Pardon the ugly photography)

Easy Frittata:
1 Tbsp olive oil: 0.35
1 onion, diced: 0.40
1-2 medium or 4-6 small tomatoes, diced: free!
1 bunch chard, washed, torn into pieces: $1.50
  (I did not use the stems, but you can - just separate them and dice them and add them to the onion)
4 oz of cheese (I used mozzarella, some "Quattro formaggio", blue cheese, and cheddar): 0.75
1 dozen eggs: 1.79
1/2 cup milk: 0.10
Salt and Pepper

Total: $4.89 for six to eight main-course servings.  I generally consider two eggs to be a main course, so that would be $0.82 per serving.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Steam the chard until soft, 5-10 minutes.  Let cool, squeeze dry, and chop.

Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft and starting to brown a little.  Add the diced tomatoes and cook until they have given up most of their liquid.  Add the chard.  Stir well until mixed.  Add S&P to taste.

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray or grease with butter.

In a medium to large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, S&P.

Spread the vegetables on the bottom of the 9x13 pan.  Pour egg mixture on top.  Drop the cheese on top of that.

Bake 45 min.

Let cool, cut into squares, enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A couple of frugal, healthy, one-pot meals

You really can't beat the simplicity of one-pot  meals.  Fewer dishes, fewer things to stir, piece of cake.

Last weekend my one-pot meal was black bean soup.  I flavored it with pork fat and stock leftover from a pork shoulder I'd cooked in the crockpot.  It was some pork from a local farmer, and expensive, so I didn't want to waste the leftover juices!

I opted for black bean soup because I have a 10 lb bag of black beans.  I've been working hard at losing weight, and have been cutting carbohydrates.  I've given up bread and pasta for November.  But I love beans, so I decided to make them a big part of my November diet.  I try to eat about 2 servings of carbohydrate foods per day (grains, beans, potatoes), more beans than anything.

I also happened to get a lot of chicken this week from Zaycon chicken, in addition to the chicken I already had from Trader Joe's.  So I've had to figure out a lot of chicken recipes.  I was thinking chicken and rice, and remembered a dish I made from the newspaper years ago that was ground beef, marinara sauce, mushrooms, and instant rice.  Oh how times have changed.  I decided to combine that recipe with my "one-pot pasta" concept using brown rice.

First, the soup.  This base of this soup came from The Pioneer Woman.  Because, google took me there.  I made mine in the pressure cooker because it was faster.

Black Bean Soup, adapted from The Pioneer Woman
1 lb dried black beans: 0.90
1 onion, diced: 0.50
2 peppers, chopped: 1.00 (one red, one yellow, farmer's market, smokin' hot deal!)
1 bunch cilantro: 1.00
3 stalks celery, chopped (because I had them): 0.20
3 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.15
1. 5 tsp each chili powder and cumin: 0.30
1 tsp salt
1 few tomatoes from my plant
2 pork fat: free (can use olive oil)
2-3 cups pork stock (use water or chicken stock): free
water: Your total liquid will be about 6 cups

Total: $4.05 for about 10 cups of soup, or $0.41 per cup

Soak the beans all day or overnight in water.  Drain.

Heat the fat in a pot.  Saute the onions, peppers, celery, and garlic until soft.  Add the beans, stock + water.  Bring to a boil, put lid on the pot, bring to pressure.  Cook at pressure for 9 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow pressure to release naturally.  Remove the lid.  Add the spices, salt, and tomatoes.  Continue to cook for 30 minutes to an hour.

At this point, I used the immersion blender for a few seconds to grind up some of the beans and make the sauce "thicker".

I served this with some cheese and diced avocado - and some bread for the boys who aren't giving up bread.

Chicken and vegetable marinara rice
1 onion, chopped: 0.50
2 peppers: 1.34 (no smoking deal this time)
2 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.10
1 package sliced mushrooms: 2.29
1 jar marinara: 1.79
1 cup water
1.5 lb frozen chicken tenders; 3.50
1 Tbsp olive oil: 0.40
3 cubes homemade pesto: 1.00
1.5 c. brown rice: 0.95
10 kalamata olives: 0.50
4 oz shredded mozzarella: 1.00
7 small tomatoes from my plant
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $12.97 for about 10 cups, or about $1.30 per cup.

Saute onions and mushrooms in olive oil until soft and mushrooms have given up much of their liquid.  I use my dutch oven.  Add peppers, garlic, pesto, and tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes, until they start to soften.

Add marinara and water and bring to a boil.  Add rice and chicken tenders (yes, they can still be frozen).  Stir, put lid on pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until rice is fully cooked.  It took about an hour.  At that point the rice was well cooked and the chicken was fully cooked.  I used the spoon to cut the chicken into smaller pieces.

Add the olives and stir.  Top with shredded cheese, put lid back on pot to let it melt.  Serve!

I thought for sure that I took pictures of at least the soup, but no such luck.  Anyway, you guys don't read my blog for my photos.  They suck.