Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Just move it move it

Now that I am two months into the New Me program, or OSHA as I titled it (I love acronyms), I thought I'd do a little studying on how long it takes to form a habit. Aristotle said "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Most of the reading I found on Google says that it takes 21-28 days to form a habit, although apparently there is no solid evidence for this. This article states that it takes over TWO MONTHS of daily repetition to ingrain a habit, although missing a single day did not reduce the chance of forming a habit.

I'm more in this camp. I know after three or four weeks of my new lifestyle, I could have easily given it up for cupcakes and naps. (mmmm....cupcakes and naps.....) But I knew there would be concrete (stronger, smaller sizes, more reps) benefits, as well as the less easy to quantify benefits (feeling better and stronger) so I kept at it.

I've been religiously (some may say compulsively) journaling my eating, and while I've been journaling my exercise, I've been not quite as religious at the performance of it. Except for one aspect. Remember the Fab Abs February challenge?

Well, I have completed EVERY SINGLE DAY WITHOUT MISSING ONCE. What's up with that?! And I've lost inches (or fractions of inches) on all the measurements. I'm measuring bust (in sports bra), waist, hips, right thigh, and right bicep on the first and 15th of the month and monitoring my progress. Sometimes I'm discouraged if the scale doesn't move as quickly as I'd like, but as my clothes are fitting w-a-y better, I need some concrete evidence that what I do is working. I like numbers.

But just when I thought I'd be able to rest my abs a bit, the new monthly challenge appeared on Pinterest:

And yes, I'll be doing it. I'll have to see on the side planks (shoulder issues); if those don't work, I'll just continue on with straight planks. I've already printed it out and am prepared to check off each box. (I like checking things off lists, too. A little compulsive, maybe?!)

And since every now and then there is a hint of spring in the air, that means sleeveless clothes are right around the corner. And you know what that means:

So I guess what I'm saying is that I am trainable. I really think twice (or three, or four times) before I put something in my mouth, knowing that I will have to write it down. And if I do make some questionable choices, I know it's not the end and I can get back on the wagon RIGHT THEN. And as far as the exercise goes, there are the sayings that have become my mantras "No one ever regrets a workout", and "You are only one workout away from feeling better." And the one that I have printed out and put on the wall by the treadmill: "It doesn't get easier. You just get better."

I know once the weather turns warmer and I can get outside more consistently, I'll be a much happier girl. After all:

Oh yeah, it's mine. I'll be rocking the spandex before you know it!

And just to leave you with something to smile about:

so true!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tastes like summer

There is absolutely nothing wrong with store-bought pesto. I buy it all the time. However, when there is fresh basil on hand and I have ten minutes to spare (oh wait, that last part would be ANY time), there is nothing like the taste of homemade pesto. We (and by we I mean I) grow basil outdoors in the summer, but when I stumbled upon that huge pot of basil last week at Whole Foods, I knew pesto would be in our future.

I use a slight variation on the recipe from my favorite (next to Debbie) Italian cook:

The directions that follow are for a single batch, but I doubled it so if it looks like I can't measure, that's the reason. I have tried making this in the blender as the recipe says, but my food processor works so much better.

First, start with 2 cups of packed fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup toasted (or not - I don't toast) pine nuts. (Show of hands - who has these Tupperware measuring cups?)

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper (is there any other kind?)
Put all the above ingredients in your food processor (or blender) and pulse until finely chopped.

While the blender is still running, slowly add about 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (remember, I am doubling the recipe)

and blend until a smooth, thick consistency is reached.

Then pulse in the cheese, taste, and add more salt and pepper to taste. I find I need to add just a pinch or two more salt.

Just a note on the cheese: I really like to use real Parmigiano Reggiano because I think the taste is just so much better. There are large salt crystals that when you bite into them gives your mouth a nice surprise. (This isn't to say that I don't have a shaker of Kraft parmesan - the shredded, not the fine grated powder - in my fridge for emergencies.) The real stuff is pretty expensive when you buy it at a cheese counter (I'm talking to you, Whole Foods), but while it's still expensive at Costco, you get SO MUCH MORE. And it freezes well.

And speaking of freezing well, that's what I did with the pesto I made. Except, of course, for having some for lunch. We had to taste it, you know! I had this pasta in my pantry, made half the bag for the two of us to share, then topped it with that glorious pesto.

Dinner tonight will be a salad topped with shrimp and some homemade Greek dressing that we bought at Katie's last night. (Note: the gyro was delicious, but about halfway through the first period of the hockey game, I leaned over and asked Dwight if he had some Tums. It wasn't so delicious then. My GI tract really must be changing.)

NOTE: Giada also has a recipe for fabulous spinach pesto. I make it when I really want homemade pesto and basil isn't available. It is a REALLY BRIGHT GREEN and tastes really fresh, possible from the lemon. The recipe is basically the same, substituting baby spinach leaves for the basil, and adding 1-2 teaspoons grated lemon zest and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Decrease the olive oil and parm to to 1/3 cup each. Blend it just the same. And enjoy! This is easy to make several batches of since the baby spinach is so plentiful and cheap. I've also found that you can substitute walnuts for pine nuts with very little change in flavor. You're welcome.

Let's hope the Mavs do better tonight. They lost to the Gophers in overtime last night.

Friday, February 24, 2012


My posting my workout schedule ahead of time is really keeping me on track. I have done everything I posted to date, with one more day before having Sunday off. And it feels really good! Today's Fab Ab Feb was 80 sit-ups, 22 push-ups, and a 60-second plank. If you had told me at the beginning of the month that I'd be able to accomplish this, I would have thought you were seriously mistaken.

During my indoor bike rides, I watch Sex and the City episodes on my iPad - usually only one but yesterday I bumped it up to two episodes. If I want to go on any epic rides this summer, I had better at least be able to do it indoors. And when I run on the treadmill, I watch Designing Women because that's the only thing on TV at that time that looks remotely interesting. I watched it all the time when it was on in the 90's and had forgotten what a great show it was. The writing is smart, the characters are wonderful, and Julia's rants are some of the best writing ever. You remember Charlene, Mary Jo, Julia, and Suzanne, don't you?

If you look past the perms and the shoulder pads, the writing is as topical as ever. And speaking of perms and shoulder pads:

I remember when that picture was taken and thinking that Jeanie and I looked so pretty!

Okay, so on to food. Yesterday's lunch was a two-egg omelet with half an avocado, a handful of spinach, and some black bean and roasted corn salsa. I made a great afternoon chocolate banana smoothie. I used chocolate milk - NOTE: all chocolate milk is not created equal. There is the whole fat chocolate milk, the 2% chocolate milk, the skim chocolate milk, and the lite skim chocolate milk. Guess what we drink?

It has the same calorie count as regular skim milk, due to sucralose as the sweetener. Regular skim chocolate milk uses sugar. The things I learn by reading labels.

But anyway, back to the smoothie. I used a cup of the chocolate milk, half a frozen (chopped) banana, half a scoop of protein powder, and some ice cubes. This is the protein powder I am currently using.

Doesn't this smoothie look just like a chocolate milkshake? Tastes like one too. I think the ice cubes give it a thicker texture, along with whipping it in the blender for about a minute.

Dwight had a dinner meeting last night, and as it was cold and rainy and snowy all day, I was in the mood for soup. But not for cooking. Luckily, I had frozen some of the chickpea, butternut squash, and red lentil stew from the other week that hit the spot.

I woke up hungry and wanting waffles - but not the healthy kind. I was all prepared to toast some Eggos, smear them with peanut butter, and douse them with maple syrup until I stepped on the scale (after peeing and stripping naked, of course) and had lost weight. (Down a total of 9.6 - go me!) What a great motivator! So I went and had - what else - a peanut butter bagel thin, fresh berries, a glass of milk, and some coffee.

We're going to Katie's, a great little Greek restaurant, before the hockey game (UNO vs Minnesota - go Mavs!) tonight, and I already know what I'm having: a gyro and a Greek salad. I think it's the only thing I've ever had there in the 20 years we've been frequenting the place. When I plugged the calories into My Fitness Pal and saw that the meal is darn near 700 (well, 693) calories, I knew lunch needed to be light.

I had found these little treasures at Trader Joe's the other week and thought I'd give them a try. Delicious! And a little spicy. And check out the quantity! I had the lentil chips with half a cup of cottage cheese and some carrots, and am I ever full!

So it's hockey tonight and tomorrow night, and then to Des Moines and brunch with the girls and Tim on Sunday. I've already checked the menu on-line and it may be a "free" meal. I guess nothing is free, but I will be pedaling and running my ass off next week to work those calories off. It's nice to know that I can.

Toodles! And have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dessert for breakfast, with thanks to MaryLu

I woke up hungry this morning, and the most filling breakfast I know is my friend MaryLu's protein pancakes. I told you about it a few weeks ago, and how she had mentioned - SEVERAL TIMES - that it is pretty delicious prepared as a waffle also. I decided to take her up on it and O. M. G. Stop reading and go make it right now. I'll wait. (The recipe is 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 cup oatmeal - not instant, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp almond extract. Blend it for a minute and then either cook it in a skillet as a pancake OR USE YOUR BELGIAN WAFFLER!)

It was pretty good as a pancake, but it is sinful as a waffle. I couldn't figure out what topping to use, and with the cinnamon, vanilla, and almond in there, I was thinking something sweet, so what did I decide?

That's right. Just a few spritzes of butter spray and half a packet of Truvia on each waffle and I was one happy girl.

I really should do this in chronological order: yesterday's breakfast was pretty yummy too. I had oatmeal with golden raisins and light vanilla soy milk. And coffee with soy milk. I could get used to this dessert for breakfast theme!

A note about the dishes: they are mine from when I was a baby. Emily posted something on my Facebook wall about wanting some Wedgewood Peter Rabbit dishes, and I remembered my Royal Doulton Bunnykins that were tucked away in the kitchen cupboard above the refrigerator with other things I never use. I decided to get them down and use them. Here's a close-up of the other side of the mug. (Not very large, but definitely charming.)

One of my friends, Lois, saw my FB post on the china and remarked that each of her children had a set of Bunnykins when they were babies, and she's wrapping up her daughter's bowl and cup for her new granddaughter's first Easter. I just love family traditions.

But back to yesterday. Lunch was the EXACT SAME as Monday's. I really need to work on lunches. They are the most difficult meal of the day for me to plan. It's either a salad (like today!) or whatever I can scrounge up. I need to plan this meal. (But the salad looks good, doesn't it? On the side is a whole wheat tortilla with some low-fat swiss cheese melted in the middle; a fast quesadilla.)

Dinner last night was another Abs Diet recipe - Colonel Mustard. I swear they have someone on staff just thinking up clever names. It is basically two thin-cut pork chops marinated in Dijon mustard, olive oil, and maple syrup, then saute├ęd for a few minutes on each side. The salad is included in the recipe; I added the roasted Brussels sprouts. I'm not a huge pork fan unless it's bacon, but this was pretty good. Dwight loved it, so I'll be making it again. And it's really easy.

So now I'm off to knitting. We didn't have it yesterday since it was Creighton's last home game and several people were going. It's been a few weeks since we've had knitting, so it will be a fun afternoon and evening getting together with friends. I thought I'd take one of our favorite treats to share with the group. (Thanks Kathy and Dave! Or maybe it should be damn you, Kathy and Dave!)

But the calorie count isn't THAT bad if you only have one, which is already factored into my daily count. The old me would have had several with a nice cabernet - which BTW is fabulous!

Monday, February 20, 2012


I would have posted over the past few days, but my life is basically blessedly dull. I'll just fill you in on meals and exercise, mostly to keep myself accountable.

For Thursday dinner, I made the Terra Ricotta from the Abs Diet. It is 3 tablespoons of ricotta cheese mixed with 1 teaspoon ready-made roasted garlic, spread on top of a Flat-Out wrap, topped with 3/4 cup chopped precooked chicken and 3 tablespoons reduced-fat mozzarella, and then baked at 375 for 6 minutes. I have to tell you, I was under-whelmed. I'm not really a huge fan of ricotta, and the taste came through in this recipe. It tasted as bland as it looked. But you did get a fair amount!

I do think the Flat Out wraps are a great invention. For 100 calories, you have a thin pizza crust or a great sandwich wrap. The first time I tried them, I got the Italian herb flavor and I HATED it. The multi-grain is w-a-y better.

Friday breakfast: chopped Canadian bacon, 2 eggs, and 2 tablespoons mozzarella all scrambled up and wrapped in a Flat Out for a breakfast burrito. Add a little salsa, and YUM! I had a glass of milk also - I'm just really thirsty in the morning.

Friday lunch: a 6-oz container of vanilla Chobani, 1/4 cup Grape-Nuts, 1 cup mixed berries all mixed together, and a hard boiled egg on the side

Friday dinner was the Superfood Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. I made it several weeks ago, and have been hungry for the flavors so needed to make it again. Still so good. And I served it with some parmesan bread: actually just a Flat Out wrap (again!) sprayed with some butter spray, sprinkled with a little parm and baked for a few minutes. It was a nice crunchy counterpart to the salad.

Saturday breakfast: peanut butter English muffin (out of bagel thins!), milk, and mixed berries.

Lunch: more Superfood Salad (1 cup versus the 1.5 cups I had for dinner) topped with 2.5 ounces of chicken.

I owe Mark Zuckerberg another thank you for Saturday dinner. One of my friends had noticed a friend comment on my Facebook page, and it turns out these two women knew each other (and their now-husbands) when they were growing up. Since they're both in the area (well, Elkhorn and Lincoln), we decided that the three couples needed to get together and go out to dinner and catch up. We went to Mark's in Dundee, which is always a treat. I had one of the nightly specials (a papardelle pasta in a pesto sauce with some Indian spices) and I think I was the only one somewhat disappointed with my meal. But as my friend Debbie often says, "I'll survive. It's not my last meal."

But I'll tell you what WASN'T disappointing:

That's right, the bread pudding with whiskey sauce. (I think the picture is blurry because I was so excited that my hand was shaking!) We had one order and six forks, although only five of us partook of the treat. I had two bites and really wanted to lick the plate, but since it was a classy restaurant, I had to restrain myself.

Sunday breakfast: PB English muffin and an orange
Lunch: Archer Farms chicken sausage, an apple, and Special K sea salt cracker chips. I think the K stands for Krack, because that's about how difficult they are to resist. But you get 15 chips for 55 calories!
Dinner was a big lettuce salad with grilled chicken.

Today's breakfast was (just guess), PB English muffin, a banana, and milk
Lunch was tasty: a chicken sausage again, with cracker chips (again) and celery and carrot sticks with Trader Joe's horseradish hummus. This stuff is delicious. You know how sometimes hummus is a little bland? Not this!

My cardio workouts have been sporadic. I stopped swimming when I had the epidural - no reason other than I couldn't swim for that day. The lap lane hours were really inconvenient (11:30-1:30) and I'm a morning exerciser. Also, the skin on my eyelids was getting really dry - couple that with the wrinkles, and I looked a mess when I put on eyeshadow. I am full of good excuses.

I'm walking / running, but not as often as I should be. One exercise regimen that I have been religious about is the Fab Abs February schedule. Today was 60 sit-ups, 18 pushups, and a 50 second plank. Those planks are getting more and more difficult. Dwight tried it last night since he thought it looked so easy; he made it 45 seconds before collapsing. I was actually pretty impressed since I think it's the first plank he's ever attempted. By the end of the month - next week! - I am supposed to be holding a two-minute plank. I keep reminding myself of what Emily says: my body is stronger than I think it is.

So after all that rambling, what I need to do is plan my workouts for the week instead of just doing what I feel like whenever. The cardio workouts are a minimum of 30 minutes. So here goes:

Monday: Couch to 5K run/walk, Fab Abs
Tuesday: stationary bike, Fab Abs
Wednesday: C25K, Fab Abs
Thursday: stationary bike, Fab Abs
Friday: C25K, Fab Abs
Saturday: bike, Fab Abs
Sunday: OFF - we're going to Des Moines to have brunch with the girls and Tim. Can't wait!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"You can't f*ck anything up"

I had writer's block when I was trying to come up with a title for today's post, until Dwight was showing me a few things on the computer and uttered the immortal line, "Don't worry. You can't f*ck anything up." I just started laughing and knew I had a title. Not that it has anything to do with anything I'm writing, but it made me laugh! (That's why I married him.)

Okay, so Valentine's Day dinner. We went to our favorite local sushi/Korean restaurant, Maru, where I ordered my favorite dinner. I've told you about the pork bibimbab (Dwight usually gets eel) before but didn't have a picture - now you can see what I'm talking about. You can't smell the aroma or hear the rice sizzling in the stone bowl, however. I hope you have good powers of imagination because this is incredible. The bibimbab is on the right (I always get a fried egg on the top), and the Korean relishes are in the little divided dish on the left. I went into it knowing I would only eat half the meal; at a whopping 644 calories I made the correct choice. 322 was perfect. Add that to the two pieces of Philadelphia roll that I ate, and it was a most satisfactory dinner. The restaurant was pretty crowded, something I really like to see at a local place.

Yesterday morning's breakfast was pretty yummy: raspberry Chobani yogurt, 1/8 cup Grapenuts cereal, and some berries. (And it looks pretty too, doesn't it?)

I mixed it all together, and it kept me full until lunch, which was yet another serving of the butternut squash and smoky black bean salad. It was still delicious, but I am ready to take a break from it.

I tried a new recipe last night, again from Cooking Light. I tell you, this issue (Jan/Feb 2012) has so many good recipes; I even put a note on it so I wouldn't put it in recycling. And sorry, Emmy, I'm keeping this one!

I made the chicken with lemons and olives. It was easy to prepare, delicious, and more importantly, looked just like the picture in the magazine. I love it when that happens.

I served it with some brown rice and some asparagus that I basically stir-fried in my medium skillet coated with cooking spray. There is hardly anything worse than over-cooked asparagus in my book, unless it's meatloaf. (So don't be looking for meatloaf recipes anytime soon. Or ever.)

I've been on a "smoothie cleanse" for the first two meals today, due to a run-in with some tequila last night. Remember how I said that I thought that the margarita Crystal Light would be really good with some tequila? Well, it wasn't. It was way too sweet. But that didn't keep me from drinking it. And eating a few handfuls of Archer Farms Sweet Cajun Trail Mix. Damn you, Super Target - it was way too delicious and I just couldn't stop eating. I rationalized that it has good nuts in it. And then consoled myself with some tequila.

For breakfast I made the Abs Diet kitchen sink smoothie, which I've made before. It truly DOES have everything but the kitchen sink in it, and it is filling and delicious.

I made a green monster smoothie for lunch. Darn near every food blog you read will have some version of the green monster; I mostly used Kristin's from Iowa Girl Eats with a little bit of Angela's from Oh She Glows. It is packed with spinach - and while I love spinach, I'm not sure I want to drink it. YOU CAN'T TASTE IT AT ALL! And look how much I put in!

I think it makes a seriously pretty smoothie, too. (It looks like a lot - and it is - because I pureed it for quite awhile to chop up the spinach, which fluffed up the volume a bit.)

My recipe is one sliced banana, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1/2 cup plain non-fat Chobani yogurt, 1 cup vanilla almond breeze (or any other kind of milk), 1 tablespoon chia seeds (ch-ch-ch-chia - I just can't say it without hearing the jingle), 3-4 cups baby spinach, and a few ice cubes. Whirl it all up and blend until smooth. (Nutrition stats: 350 calories, 10 g fiber, 21 g protein.)

Look at what I found at Whole Foods today for $7.95:

Think of all the pesto that will make! Next to the basil is my rosemary that I bought last fall and have used all through the winter, the latest time being last night. I really miss the summer when I just go out back and pick herbs. With the weather being so warm today, though, I know it's coming.