Monthly Archives: February 2015

On the Road to Weight Loss

A couple years ago Jody and I bought an elliptical trainer used from one of his coworkers. It worked well enough, but my pet name for elliptical trainers has always been “death machine.” As you may guess, I’m not a fan. But Jody liked it and used it every other day and I was just more comfortable doing work-outs from OnDemand.

Sooner or later, though, the Death Machine started to sound like it was on death’s door itself. HORRIBLE squeaking. Finally it got so bad that even Jody wouldn’t use it — for which I was thankful because I sleep in the room next door and that screeching was hard to sleep through. The Death Machine became a place to, literally, hang your hat.

So a couple weeks ago, Groupon had a pretty good deal on a Hybrid Trainer. It was half recumbent bike and half Death Machine. It was a price we just couldn’t turn down — and it helped that I got 6% back through Ebates.  Man, I love Ebates! My plan, which so far I’ve followed, is to use the machine 3-4 times a week and to do some sort of weight training, probably kettle bells twice a week.

I grew up on the upper side of a “healthy” weight. I was never overweight as a child but I also wasn’t skinny. Then I got married, got divorced, and lost about 30 pounds in 30 days (not something I would recommend) when I was about 23 then I gained a bit of weight and I stayed about 108 pounds from about age 23 until about 43. Then I quit smoking. Need I say more? I quit smoking on August 1, 2007 – using the book The Easy Way to Quit Smoking by Alan Carr — and I gained weight. Then I gained a little bit more weight. Then a little more. And some more. Etc., etc., etc.

So here I am in February 2015 and I’m knocking on the door of 190 pounds after spending my entire adult life underweight. So I’m faced with the prospect of having to diet. Despite the fact that I quit smoking cold turkey using Alan Carr’s book, I have no willpower. How I made it through quitting smoking I have no clue. I guess I was just ready.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve half-heartedly attempted to watch what I eat, count calories, and lose weight with absolutely no success. My husband and I decided that, while we aren’t the best at “eating right” we generally do eat healthily. I cook just about everything from scratch. More than anything else our problem comes in when we consider portion size.

I can’t blame McDonald’s. I don’t want to blame fast food restaurants. Eating at them certainly didn’t help my waistline, but no one had a gun to my head. My love for McDonald’s and my overly generous portions at home of pasta, especially with cream sauces, helped me along.

I’ve tried Weight Watchers and I love that. But I didn’t exactly stay within the proper portion sizes so it didn’t really work for me.

So starting Monday I’m going on a test run of Nutrisystem. I bought two 5-day boxes of Nutrisystem meals at Walmart. So for five days I’m going to eat as Nutrisystem says I should. Then I’ll have the weekend during which I hope I will make good food choices and then another five days of Nutrisystem meals. This is my way trying it out. I’ve read a lot of reviews and I honestly don’t know who to believe. Some people raved that the food is great and others that it was horrible. You and I will find out together. Most of all I’m hoping to get a better grasp on the proper portion sizes. I know philosophically what they should look like but I want to live them.

If the food is good, or even not horrible, I’ll probably sign up for a couple months of the real thing. If it’s not good, I’m going to take away what I learned about portion sizes and about the composition of meals and try to do my own version of Nutrisystem with frozen meals by SmartOnes, Lean Cuisine, and Healthy Choice to reinforce the proper portion sizes while eating something that palatable.

So for the next two weeks you’ll probably hear a lot more about Nutrisystem that you really care to. I’m hoping that I can add to the information that’s out there about the quality of the food. I did a lot of googling and there were pages that claimed to be neutral but were obviously advertisements for Nutrisystem and there were those that claimed to be neutral but were obviously advertisements for Nutrisystem’s competitors. There are also some websites that seemed really honest but the data was from eight years ago or more.

I’m falling on the sword for all of us so please wish me luck.

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Cream of Chicken & Vegetable Soup for Two

You may have noticed that I have a very high regard for America’s Test Kitchen’s recipes.  I found some that weren’t my favorite, but they were still good.  Another magazine that I find usually has very good recipes is Cuisine at Home.  I don’t cook as many of their recipes as I do ATK, but similarly, I’ve never found anything of theirs that is bad.

This past week at the grocery store I saw Cuisine Tonight: Thinner Dinners for Two.  Basically it is a collection of 84 recipes that are sized for two people and are lower in calories than “regular” versions.  Absolutely perfect for us!

So I decided to try their Cream of Chicken and Vegetable Soup.  What was interesting, I thought, about this recipe is that it called for smoked paprika.  The smoked paprika gave it a really nice taste that you wouldn’t necessarily equate with a vegetable soup.

Also with the soup I made homemade rolls to make turkey burgers out of.  That’s a different blog post, though.  The picture I have included with this blog post is from the magazine.  We all should know by now that I’m terrible at remembering to take pictures before I devour my meal.

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Cream of Chicken and Vegetable Soup

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast about 8 ounces
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup each diced onion, carrot and celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon each minced fresh garlic, kosher salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon each dried dill weed and dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup frozen broccoli florets, quartered

Simmer the chicken breast in 1 cup of water in a 2 1/2 to 3 quart pot for about 15 minutes or until the chicken breast is cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the broth and put it on a plate to cool.  When the chicken is cool enough to touch, shred it with two forks..

In the same water that you boiled the chicken, add the broth, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, salt, paprika, pepper, dill, and thyme over high heat.  Bring to a boil and then simmer over medium low heat for 15 minutes.  Once you turn the heat to a simmer, add back in the chicken that you have now shredded.

In a measuring cup whisk the cornstarch into the milk.  Stir the milk/cornstarch mixture into the soup.  Add the frozen broccoli and simmer for about 10 more minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand for about five minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley.

According to the magazine this makes approximately 3 cups of soup which is two servings.  However, since we had a sandwich with it we opted to have only one cup of soup each so for us it made three servings.

As written, assuming two servings, each serving is 287 cal, 7 g total fat, 77 mg cholesterol, 711 mg sodium, 24 g carbs, 3 g fiber, and 32 g protein

I would definitely make this recipe again.  I might use a little bit more cornstarch next time just to make it a little thicker.  I did use 1% milk instead of 2% milk but I don’t think that made much of a difference in the thickness of the broth.  All in all it was a very good soup.

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And so the world chugs on

I wonder if in in the 1950s life seemed as out of control as it does today.  We look back on the 50s and 60s as almost a golden age.  Have things changed so dramatically or are we looking at those decades through rose colored glasses?

I’m not sure if I would be willing to trade the grand strides that women have made in society for the idyllic peace of the 1950s but I’m not sure that I wouldn’t.

I will tell you that I’m tired of the politics of the group of folks I, not-so-lovingly, call RWWs or Right Wing Whackos.  They voted for the 56th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Fifty-six times!   As much as I would like to say that I’m open-minded and tolerant enough to overlook someone’s politics, I just can’t imagine ever having a close friendship or other close relationship with anyone whose sole purpose in life is to take away health care from 19 MILLION Americans.

I’m also at my wit’s end (not that there are a lot of them) when it comes to ISIL/ISIS. I don’t understand the mindset behind what they are doing.  I hate that it’s also ratcheting up anti-Muslim sentiment in the rest of the world.  The vast majority of Muslims are as appalled as we are at what ISIS is doing.  The RWWs here in the US are fanning the flames.

I am too young to have any first hand knowledge of the experience of Jews during World War II and in the decades leading up to it.  I imagine that it must have started similarly to what I see around me here in the United States.  Politicians whipping folks into a frenzy about the Muslims, working hard to classify them at the “other.”  “They are trying to take over our country, the evil Muslims.”

I can’t help but wonder, did we learn nothing from the Holocaust?  Am I overly sensitive to what I perceive to be happening because I am Jewish and I’ve had decades to learn about how evil demonizing an entire people because of their religion actually is.

And to everyone who still thinks that ISIS represents main-stream Islam…. Jordan is a Muslim country.  If ISIS were for Muslims, they wouldn’t kill their own and Jordan wouldn’t have had a pilot of theirs brutally murdered.


Charred Lemon Chicken Piccata, a Cooking Light recipe

I love chicken piccata.  There really isn’t any way that you can mess up chicken and lemon especially when it’s served over pasta.  When I saw the recipe in Cooking Light Magazine in the January 2015 issue for Charred Lemon Chicken Piccata, I knew I had to try it.  This is what you end up with:

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First you slice up 2 small lemons thinly, add some garlic and some sugar and let that mascerate.20150130_154042

The recipe, which I will give you at the end of this post, calls for you to pound out chicken breasts to about three quarters of an inch thick.  I don’t like to do that.  But luckily I buy my chicken breasts at a meat market which usually has boneless skinless chicken breasts that are between 12 and 14 ounces for a split chicken breast.  They are huge!  So I take my very sharp chefs knife and I slice the chicken breasts horizontally into two or three much thinner chicken cutlets.20150130_155547

These three chicken cutlets all came from one huge chicken breast.  However, when I do cut them this way they do end up closer to a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick so I have to adjust the cooking time a little to keep from having overcooked, dry chicken.

Anyway, this recipe turned out very well and I really enjoyed it.  For those of you who are on Weight Watchers, the chicken, one cutlet, and about 3 tablespoons of the sauce comes out to about 8 Point Plus.  The pasta is extra.  Now without further ado here is the recipe:

Charred Lemon Chicken Piccata

2 small lemons, cut into thin rounds
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
4 garlic cloves, halved
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded to 3/4-inch thickness
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon grated shallot
1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
1 oregano sprig
1 thyme sprig
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Directions
Combine the lemon slices, sugar, and garlic in a medium bowl.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 teaspoons of oil.  Cook chicken for about four minutes on each side or until it is done.  Remove the chicken to a platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil.  Add the lemon mixture to the now empty pan and cook for one minute or until the lemon slices are slightly charred, turning occasionally.  Then return the lemon mixture to its bowl.
Wipe the pan with paper towels. Over medium heat add 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter to the pan.  When the butter has melted, add the shallot, 1/2 teaspoon of grated garlic, the oregano sprig and the thyme sprig.  Cook for about one minute.  Add the wine to the pan to deglaze.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes or until the wine has almost evaporated.
Add the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt, the chicken stock, and the flour to the pan, stirring with a whisk.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer three minutes or until liquid is reduced to about 2/3 cup.
Remove the pan from the heat, discarding the oregano and thyme sprigs.  Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and the capers, stirring until the butter melts.  Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and coat the chicken with the sauce.  Top the chicken with the lemon mixture and sprinkle with parsley.