Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken Stew

It's Wednesday, not Thursday, but since I'll be taking a little Christmas vacation beginning tomorrow, I want to squeeze in one last slow cooker recipe this month. I'll be posting to my goals every day, but I won't be back to blogging until January 4th. In the meantime, I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas, a happy holiday season, and a joyous and healthy new year!

Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken Stew

This is one of those rare recipes that my entire family enjoyed the first time I made it. It's a wonderful combination of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors. It takes beautifully to all sorts of changes and alterations, so have fun experimenting!


1 (29-ounce) can sweet potatoes, drained
1 1/2 cups frozen seasoning blend
1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added corn or hominy, drained
1 (14-ounce) can white beans, drained (and rinsed, if desired)
1 (6-ounce) can mild green chiles
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, lowered-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano flakes
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine sweet potatoes, seasoning blend, tomatoes, corn, beans, chiles, chicken broth, cumin, and oregano flakes in slow cooker. Place chicken on top. Cook on HIGH 4 - 6 hours, or on LOW for 6 - 8 hours, until chicken is tender. Shred chicken with two forks. Stir well to combine.

Cook's Notes:

Frozen seasoning blend is a mixture of sliced red, green, and yellow bell peppers and chopped white onions. If you prefer, you can use half an onion and one large green bell pepper instead.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

Yes, it's already that day of the week when I hand the mic to you. What's up? Do you have a weight management question or concern? Have you enjoyed a weight management success? Are you stuck in a plateau? Today's the day to ask your questions, seek support, or celebrate your successes, so let's hear from you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Weekly Goals for December 21st -- January 3rd

My dance performance was yesterday, but we're already talking about a springtime show -- maybe Valentine's Day, maybe Mother's Day, but soon, so I'm pretty much keeping things as they are:

1) Planner/praise every day -- especially the weekends!

2) Dance 1/2 hour and Gazelle 1/2 hour, or run

3) 3 liters of water every day

4) Breathe 3 times a day

I'm finding this process of daily posting to be incredibly helpful, so if you'd like to jump in and post your goals and observations, please join me! I'd love to hear from you :).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Surviving Holiday Stress

We're past the mid-month mark, and for many of us, it's crunch time. Between buying and wrapping presents, decorating, parties, cards, dinner party planning and preparation, and religious celebrations, it's easy to get overwhelmed. It's ironic that many of us get so "into" the holiday season that we end up feeling angry, frustrated, tired and anything but joyous and celebratory.

If you're already feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to take five minutes today to just stop. Spend five minutes just sitting still. After the five minutes have passed, ask yourself what you need to do to truly enjoy the holiday season.

As you're considering, keep in mind you're still human. That means you'll be healthier and happier if you're eating healthfully, getting enough rest, drinking enough water, managing your stress effectively, and exercising regularly. These tenets of successful weight management are also the foundation of healthy, happy living...and it's hard to enjoy life to its fullest when they're not in place.

Today I'm going to keep plugging away with my 3 liters of water, make a favorite (easy ;) dinner (using an ingredient my sister sent me--I'll be thinking of her as I'm cooking and eating), dance for a half-hour twice, use my tai chi chuan breathing three times, and get to bed early.

I'm also going to ask my husband for help with a few last Christmas presents, finish up a Christmas gift for a friend with my kids' help, and spend a half-hour listening to Christmas music and finishing up a few last cards. I'm going to skip the Christmas cantata at 7 PM tonight, and instead go to bed early.

What are you doing today to maintain your health and happiness? And what do you really need to do today to enjoy the holidays? Leave a post and let us know!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Date Chicken

As we get closer to the end of this month, it gets more and more challenging to stay on track with good nutrition. Here's another slow cooker recipe that's quick and easy to prepare, and will fill your house with the aroma of Middle Eastern cooking.

Slow Cooker Date Chicken

This is one of the few recipes that everyone in my family enjoyed the first time I prepared it. It's a wonderfully complex blend of sweet, savory, and tart flavors that come from the dates, chicken, and tomatoes.

The cayenne helps counteract the tinny flavor common to canned ingredients, and adds a hint of mouthfeel to balance the low fat content. The recipe isn't spicy at all.


1 (8-ounce) package chopped dates
1 (14-ounce) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
2 dashes ground cayenne
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
4 cups cooked rice or couscous, if desired


Combine dates, tomatoes, onion, cumin, coriander, pepper, and cayenne in slow cooker and stir to mix well. Place chicken on top and cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours, or on LOW for 6-8 hours, or until chicken is tender. Shred chicken with two forks. Serve on cooked rice or couscous, if desired.

Cook's Notes:

Thanks to the dates, this recipe has enough carbs in it to make it a complete meal without the couscous or rice. If you're not carb-counting and you'd like to incorporate carbs right into the recipe, simply add 2 (14-ounce) cans of drained chickpeas before adding the chicken.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can You Be a Weight Loss Failure?

"The great question is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure." -- William Shakespear

For the most part, I agree with Shakespear's wise words. You can't change the past, but you can move on from where you are. Failure, like success, is a verb, a journey. It's not something that you are, or someplace that you can arrive at.

In fact, when it comes to weight management, I wonder if it's even possible to truly fail. You can fall short of your goals (I know I do!). You may weigh more than you'd like. Your weight may even negatively affect your health. But because there's something you can do right now to change your weight-related behaviors for the better, is it really possible to fail at weight loss? Or do you learn and grow from mistakes?

What do you think? Let us know :)!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

It's that day of the week when I hand the microphone to you, so let's hear from you! How's it going? Are you keeping up with your weight management goals? Is there a particular challenge you're wrestling with? Do you have a question, want some support and encouragement, or just want to share how things have been? Today's the day, so jump in and speak up!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weekly Goals for December 14th -- December 20th

Although I don't stray far from my goals on weekends in terms of behavior, developing the habit of stopping by my blog obviously hasn't happened yet :). I'll try again this weekend, although this upcoming weekend will be even more hectic than this one, so I'll admit I'm not making promises!

1) Planner and praise every day, including weekends

2) 3 liters of water 5 days a week, 2 liters 2 days a week

3) Dance, run or gazelle for 1 hour every day

4) Breathe 3x a day

So, what's your game plan as we approach the mid-month mark? Feel free to post what you're planning. I'm finding updating my post daily to be very helpful and informative, so if you'd like to do so as well, join in!

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Tis the Season to Be Indulgent, Part II

I'm trusting that you're convinced indulgence is a bad thing. That said, it's almost impossible to move through the holiday season without taking a little vacation from weight loss or weight maintenance habits. If you deviate once or twice a month, you'll probably continue to see weight loss. If you eat more, sleep less, drink less water, feel more stress, or exercise less on a regular basis, you can still maintain your weight--if you take steps to ensure you're enjoying, not indulging, in the holiday season.

So how do you enjoy the holidays without going overboard? Here's a baker's dozen of tips and tricks to help you navigate all the temptations and balance out the occasional indulgence:

1) Many people justify their eating by saying, "Well, I won't be able to enjoy this again until next year." That's an excuse, not a reason! Eating more of it now doesn't mean you won't get a craving later. You can't save the flavor for later! And if you really have a craving for eggnog or marshmellow chicks in June, chances are you could either make it yourself, or find it online somewhere any time of year.

2) Your taste buds stop registering flavor after three bites. So take just three bites' worth of those foods you love that aren't your best nutritional choices, and enjoy every bite!

3) Eating and socializing is challenging under the best of circumstances. And, interestingly, many people end up not even tasting all those delicious holiday treats because they're so busy talking and listening! Don't mix eating and socializing unless you can manage it. Get your plate, and go somewhere peaceful to enjoy your meal. Or, get a glass of water or a calorie-free beverage, and get to socializing!

4) Be aware of how alcohol affects your choices. If you know that a spiked eggnog is likely to lead to a big food binge, consider avoiding it unless you won't be able to, or won't be tempted to, overindulge.

5) Keep in mind that alcohol is a high-calorie choice. With 7 calories per gram, it's almost like fats and oils, which have 9 calories per gram. If you imbibe, don't forget it's not calorie-free!

6) For some people, not being with family, mourning the loss of a loved one, or being single can make the holiday season a miserable experience. If you're feeling isolated and alone, come up with a plan to ask for help. Your health care provider, spiritual advisor, or a trusted friend or family member can be a good place to start. And, of course, if you're here, you've got support! Post and let us know how you're feeling, and what you need.

7) For others, the holiday season brings up old unhappy memories, brings together people who otherwise avoid one another, and generally kicks up the stress response, which affects appetite and weight gain. If you can't change the circumstances, change your response to them. Ask for support, use assertive communication skills, set limits with others, and nurture yourself.

8) Sleeplessless wreaks havoc on appetite and mood. Be proactive and take responsibility for your sleep needs. If you'll be traveling, consider bringing your favorite pillow, blanket, or a room spray with you so you can connect with your life back home. And don't forget to be proactive about food and water needs if you'll be flying or taking a long car trip. Thinking ahead to snacks and hydration can make all the difference between gaining, maintaining, or even losing weight during the holiday season!

9) Choose to take responsibility for your own feelings. No one can make you feel a feeling. If you don't like how someone makes you feel, take charge. Often, we feel unhappy with others when we think they should think, act, believe, or feel the same way we do. As tempting as that belief may be, it's not especially realistic, or even all that desirable. Most importantly, it's not true, and holding on to it is only hurting you. Why not try something different, and allow others to be who they are? Trust they're doing the best they can with what they have at their disposal, and focus on doing your best instead.

10) You can't control others' behavior, but you can control yours. Avoid taking or assuming responsibility for what you can't control, and focus on what you say and do. If you're speaking and acting in accord with what you believe is the right thing to do, you're good!

11) There's a saying that goes, "It's easier to save $1 a hundred times than save $100." The same goes for time management! Reduce your stress by being proactive and managing your spare time effectively. Don't just watch a TV show--fill out a few cards during the commercials, or lift weights while you watch. Make a list of the gifts you need to purchase, and take all the information you need with you when you shop. Keep gifts and receipts in one place. Make time to plan ahead, and you'll save time in the long run.

12) Take advantage of every opportunity to get up and move. Put on music and dance at your next family get-together. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. Walk through the mall first before you begin your shopping, just for the exercise. Don't worry about whether it counts--just move! All of those little bits of exercise add up every day, week, and month, and help counteract the days when you have to cut exercise short or skip it altogether.

13) The holiday season is a wonderful time to experiment with new ways to nurture yourself. Ask friends and family for ideas. What nurtures them? Bonus: You'll get a great jump-start on ideas for your gift list!

If you try any of these ideas, I'd love to hear how they work for you. If you've got a tip you'd like to share, please post it! Enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you Monday!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Chicken Florentine Pasta

Busy with holiday shopping, decorating, and socializing? That's no reason not to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal! I'm devoting the month of December to slow-cooker meals that will get you in and out of the kitchen quickly, without compromising your nutrition needs and goals.

This is a slow-cooker version of a recipe from my online class "Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Quick Meals." If you've taken the course and tried the stove top version, I'd love to hear how you think this version compares!

Slow Cooker Chicken Florentine

Spinach haters will change their mind about it after they try this recipe! The long cooking time gives the flavors time to blend, the chicken is supremely tender, and of course, the slow cooker makes it oh-so-easy...luscious, low-fat, and lightning-quick, indeed!

Nutmeg, usually used as a so-called "sweet spice," is used only as a seasoning, not a flavoring, in this recipe and gives the sauce a wonderful depth. The cayenne helps counter the tinny flavor often encountered in using canned ingredients, and also acts as a fat replacer. It doesn't make the recipe spicy at all.


1 (10 3/4 ounce) can reduced-sodium, lowered-fat cream of chicken soup
1 small white onion, quartered and thinly sliced (or one cup fresh or frozen pre-diced onion)
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic (or one garlic clove, minced)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 dashes ground cayenne
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (6 ounce) package pre-washed spinach leaves
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese (or 2 1-ounce slices crumbled Swiss cheese)
4 cups cooked pasta, rice, potatoes, spaghetti squash, OR 4 slices toast


Combine soup, onion, garlic, nutmeg, pepper, and cayenne in slow cooker. Place chicken on top. Cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours, or on LOW for 6-8 hours, or until chicken is tender.

When chicken is done, shred chicken with two forks. Add spinach and cheese, and stir to combine. Allow spinach to cook until it wilts slightly.

Serve over cooked pasta, rice, potatoes, spaghetti squash, or toast points.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Tis the Season to Be Indulgent...

"The greatest crimes do not arise from a want of feelings for others but from an over-sensibility for ourselves and an over-indulgence to our own desires." -- Edmund Burke, British statesman and philosopher (1729-1797)

Between October and February, there are ample opportunities to indulge. Most of us have to cope with cold weather, which can make taking a day off from exercise especially tempting. You may be socializing and spending more time with family, which can ramp up stress and make it easy to rationalize indulgence. With shopping, decorating, and so on, it's all-too-common to get less sleep, and then compensate with caffeine, carbs, or skipping exercise the next day. And, of course, there's food. Need I say more?

Fortunately, it's not impossible to navigate the holiday season, and still manage your weight. Avoiding indulgence is the component that underpins holiday weight management success--or failure.

I find the most common challenge in understanding indulgence is grasping the idea that indulgence is bad. I once had a student in a class share that he "nurtured" himself by going to a buffet and eating until his pants button literally popped off! Perhaps not surprisingly--but sadly--his comment met with approval from many of his classmates. Over-meeting your needs is just as perilous as under-meeting your needs, but we live in a time when indulgence is not only accepted, but encouraged.

And that's too bad, because although indulgence may make you feel better right now, it doesn't help you feel better in the long run. Weight management is perhaps the best place to clarify this truth. Overeat, and you'll gain weight in short order. And for most of us, gaining weight doesn't make us feel better in the long run.

We'll talk Friday about some specific things you can do to balance out your behavior this holiday season. Until then, I encourage you to pay attention to how you talk to yourself, especially when it comes to your particular areas of challenge. Is your self-talk indulgent? Do you speak to yourself harshly? Or do you bounce back and forth between the two? Post a comment, and let us know!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

That's right, it's Tuesday. Do you have a question about weight management or healthy cooking? Have you prepared a recipe from here or from "Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Quick Meals" and want to share how it went? Are you stuck in a weight loss plateau, or enjoying a particular success? Well, we want to know, and today's the day to ask your questions, post your comments, and share your challenges or successes. Let's hear from you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekly Goals for December 7th - December 13th

I'm a perfect example of how true it is that, as I'm so fond of saying, "You don't have to do weight loss perfectly -- you have to do it consistently." I rarely step on the scale, but I know from how my clothes are fitting that I'm losing size. And if you've been following my blog, you know I haven't been doing weight loss perfectly :D! So, onward I go...

1) I've noticed that when I'm away from home it's much harder to get in 3 liters of water -- and this week, I'll be out and about almost as much as I'll be at home. So, this week my goal is 2 liters of water daily, as I'm out and about every day this week except Friday and Sunday.

2) I'm loving my 1/2 hour of dance and 1/2 hour of cardio daily.

3) I timed my breathing exercise. It takes about 1 minute. This week, I'm setting a goal to breathe 3 times a day -- again, I'll be out and about quite a bit. I'll amp it up next week.

4) Spending that 15 minutes a day with my planner, and focusing on praise for what I've accomplished, has been tremendously beneficial. No change here!

5) I've been posting on weekdays with my challenges and successes, and I plan to not only keep it up, but ramp it up and start posting on Saturday and Sunday, too.

So...what are your plans for weight management this week? If you'd like some accountability or support, feel free to post your goals, too. Have a great week!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Maintaining Your Weight During the Holiday Season

We talked Wednesday about planning to maintain your weight this year during the holiday season, even if you're currently losing weight. For most people, weight loss during this time of year is a real challenge. Chances are, you're busier than usual, making exercise and adequate rest less likely. You'll probably face both more frequent and higher-calorie temptations food-wise. And the holidays bring a mix of both positive and negative stresses.

All of this means that maintaining weight during the holiday season can be a more realistic goal, even if you're currently losing weight. Maintaining weight means you'll need to keep it up with what you're doing, of course. But, just as with weight loss, you don't need to do weight maintenance perfectly.

In fact, with maintenance, you have a little more leeway than you do with weight loss. It's okay to stay up late a few nights, enjoy a half-cup or two of eggnog, have a few candy canes, and cut back on your workouts a few times a week. You won't lose weight, because you're not keeping up with the behaviors that lead to weight loss. But as long as you don't get too carried away, you won't gain weight, either.

That said, I want to point out that the holidays tend to encourage getting carried away, whether the topic is shopping for gifts, partying, or food choices. And, of course, that's why so many people gain weight during the holiday season.

So, this holiday season, I encourage you to consider how you can change what you're doing a little bit. Not a lot, just a little -- just enough to give you some leeway to enjoy the holiday season, without crossing the line to abandon. It's crucial to give it some thought now, and to plan ahead for the challenges you're likely to face.

We'll talk about that more next week, and discuss some ways to overcome some common holiday challenges to weight maintenance. If there's a particular situation you're anticipating that you'd like to discuss, please post! Until then, have a happy, healthy weekend. See you Monday :)!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Between the cooler weather and frantic pace of December, this seems like the ideal time of year for discussing slow cooker recipes. This recipe kicks off the first of several slow cooker recipes I'll be posting this month. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

My family loves chili, and because chili in the slow cooker is so quick and easy to prepare, I'm always looking for new recipes. Here's a slow cooker adaptation of a stove top recipe on The rich, spicy sauce is a perfect foil for mildly-flavored turkey.


1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 (14-ounce) cans white beans, drained
1 pound cooked turkey meat, coarsely chopped


Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 3-5 hours, or on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Cook's Notes:

To make this recipe even faster to prepare, use 1 cup frozen chopped onion.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be used instead of turkey. Shred the chicken with two forks after cooking and stir well to combine.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Should You Plan to Lose Weight During the Holidays?

It's December, and the holiday season is upon us. For many people, the holidays are anything but a time of comfort and joy. Instead, it's a season of stress and weight gain.

If you're dreading the holiday season, especially because you usually gain weight during this time of year, I encourage you to keep reading, and to stop by often during the month. I'll be turning my focus on Thursdays to healthy slow cooker meals, and discussing ways to handle the holidays healthfully on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Today I want to connect with those of you who typically gain weight this time of year. Many people -- especially those who have been successful recently with weight loss -- plan to continue their losing streak and keep the weight loss going.

That's a great idea, and for some people, it works. If you're successfully putting into play all of the necessary components of weight loss on a regular basis, you may need to make a few adjustments to help you manage the holidays and keep your weight loss going. But for most people, that's not realistic. The holidays offer so many challenges to weight management that weight loss can be incredibly challenging.

Instead of setting yourself up for failure by expecting weight loss, I have a novel suggestion. How about planning to maintain your weight this year? For most people, maintaining is a realistic goal. Maintaining means you'll need to keep it up with what you're doing, but at a less-intense level.

We'll take a closer look at this idea on Friday, but for now, I'd like to hear what you're thinking. Are you planning to continue with weight loss goals? Or do you think you'd be more successful planning to maintain your weight? Let us know :)!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

That's right, it's Tuesday -- your day to speak up and share. So, what's new? Have you enjoyed a success? Are you struggling with a particular challenge? Hit a plateau? Want some encouragement or accountability? Or just have an interesting observation? We want to hear about it! So post a comment, and let us know what's new with you!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Weekly Goals for November 30th -- December 6th

I'm finally over the flu! -- just in time, as I've got a belly dance performance on December 20th. I maintained my weight over the Thanksgiving holiday, but with the house all decorated for Christmas, it's not easy getting back on track with weight loss. Nevertheless...

1) Drink 3 L H2O daily!

2) Work out for 1 hour every day: practice dance for performance/new steps for 1/2 hour daily; do 1/2 hour of cardio daily

3) Breathe every hour

4) Planner/Praise every day

So...what are your goals for this week? If you're looking to lose weight, how can you step it up a notch? If your plan is maintenance, how will you stay on track? Let us know :)!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thinking About Thanksgiving, Part II

"Gluttony and surfeiting are no proper occasions for thanksgiving." -- Charles Lamb

I'm sorry I wasn't able to post on Friday. I've been wrestling with the flu for over a week now! I'm feeling much better, and I'm ready to follow up on last Wednesday's post, in which we discussed some of the hazards that often trip people up during the Thanksgiving season. Today, let's consider some ways to make this a more successful Thanksgiving from a weight management perspective:

1) Focus on the journey, rather than on perfection. People often set themselves up for food failure with goals like, "This will be the year I eat only 1,200 calories the whole day!" Instead of setting an arbitrary goal based on what you wish was true for you, reflect back on last year. Set a goal that's both realistic--something you know you can do--and an improvement over what you did last year.

As the day progresses, your small successes add up, both nutritionally and psychically. Ironically, but not surprisingly, I've had many clients return to the office after the Thanksgiving holiday saying, "Donna! This was the first time I ever planned to eat 2,500 calories--and I actually ate just 1,200 like I've always wanted to!" Even if you do eat 2,500 calories, that's so much better than 3,500 calories--and you can use the same tool to improve a little bit more next Thanksgiving.

2) Interestingly, although food is a major focus for people during the holiday season, most people eat without really enjoying the food! Don't let that happen to you. When you're eating, really pay attention to how the food tastes. Pretend you're a food critic! Put your fork down between each bite, put your hands in your lap, and describe the food in your mind. Challenge yourself to make mental notes that are memorable enough so that when you have a moment, you can come back here and share with us what you ate and how it tasted!

3) One oft-overlooked element of holiday season weight management is exercise. People often think, "I can't keep up with my usual workout. Oh well! I guess I won't work out at all."

Yikes! If you don't have time, space, or energy to follow through with your usual workout, that doesn't mean you have to eliminate activity altogether. Instead, focus on getting as much activity as you reasonably can. If you can't go to the gym for an hour, try a half-hour. If you can't make it to the gym, try going for a walk or picking up a new exercise video. Go outside and toss around the football, play tag with the kids, or take the dog for a longer-than-usual walk. Don't worry about whether it's enough. Instead, ask yourself, "How can I do just a little bit more?"

I'm thankful for many things--among them this opportunity to connect with each of you here, and share our weight management challenges, successes, and experiences. Thank you for being a part of my weight loss journey, and allowing me to be a part of yours! Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving Day. See you next week!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's Up? Tuesday

That's right, it's Tuesday already. That means it's your turn to take the floor! How're things going for you this week? Have you enjoyed a success? Hit a plateau? Or maybe you've just got a question. Either way, it's all good. We're all here for education, encouragement and support, so please don't be shy--grab the mic and speak up!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekly Goals for November 23 -- November 29

I'm still recovering from being sick and having a sick child at home last week, so my weight management goals will be modest this week:

1) Drink 3 liters of plain water every day!!

2) No PM TV -- go to bed instead!

3) Spend 15 minutes in planner every day

4) Planner praise

5) Walk with kids, housecleaning, rehearse for December performance

As always, if you'd like a little accountability or encouragement with your weight management goals this week, please post 'em!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Pasta in Garlic-Walnut Sauce

Here's another recipe that, like last week's recipe, calls for 6 ounces of silken tofu. It's very different from the Seafood Linguine, so you can easily enjoy them both in the same week.

Pasta in Garlic-Walnut Sauce

Serve this smooth-and-creamy pasta dish with grilled chicken or steak, with poached or grilled salmon, or place small fully cooked, shelled and deveined shrimp in the strainer before draining the pasta.


1 pound pasta (bow ties or linguine work well)
6 ounces silken tofu
1/4 cup 1% milk (or 1/4 cup water and 1 tablespoon oil, butter or margarine)
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
3/4 cup finely shredded strongly-flavored Italian cheese (or a blend),
such as Asiago, Parmignano, or Reggiano
1 cup walnut halves
1 teaspoon chopped parsley (or parsley flakes)
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper


Prepare pasta according to manufacturer's directions. Drain and set aside.

Combine tofu and milk in blender and puree until very smooth.

Microwave garlic for about 1 minute, or until just fragrant. Add garlic, cheese, walnut halves, parsley and pepper to blender, and combine until well-blended.

Combine pasta and sauce in large bowl, and stir to coat pasta.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Are You Thinking About Thanskgiving?

"Thanksgiving is possible only for those who take time to remember; no one can give thanks who has a short memory." -- Author Unknown

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for many people, the thought of turkey and all the trimmings brings up not feelings of thankfulness, but fear and shame. Many people come up with interesting schemes to restrict calories, often with unfortunate consequences. Here are some common scenarios I've heard over the years:

"I nibble as I cook...and then I sit down at the table stuffed."

"I can't help nibbling on the appetizers...and then I'm stuffed before the turkey and trimmings arrive, and end up eating dinner anyway."

"I starve myself all day long..then stuff myself at dinner. My stomach hurts for hours."

"I plan ahead to overeat, and I always end up feeling sick for a day or two, but it's okay because I starve myself for a few days before."

"I behave myself while everyone's at the table...but then I eat the kids' leftovers as I clean up and put everything away."

"I behave while everyone's at the table...but sneak into the fridge later, just to have a bite, since I was so good while I was eating and everyone else was stuffing themselves."

One thing these scenarios often have in common is a desire to do weight management perfectly. Some people restrict calories before Thanksgiving day; others aim for not eating until dinnertime; while others expect themselves to behave while everyone's watching.

Whichever route people choose, it's unfortunate. The truth of weight management is that you don't have to do weight management perfectly--you have to do it consistently.

So, instead of planning ahead to do it perfectly this year, I encourage you to plan ahead to stay reasonably consistent with what you're currently doing now to lose or maintain your weight. I'll offer some specifics on Friday (sorry for the Blogger's Surprise spoiler!), but until then, I encourage you to consider looking back on previous Thanksgivings. Ask yourself these questions:

* What usually happens with food on Thanksgiving?

* Why?

* What one thing could I do differently this year that would make the biggest difference?

I'm wishing you an abundance of health and happiness this holiday season. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

It's that time of week again--it's your turn! Today's the day I set aside for you to share, so if you've enjoyed a success, experienced a challenge, have a question or a suggestion, please post away!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekly Goals for November 16 - November 22

I'm feeling a little congested this morning, and unfortunately, being less-than-healthy coincides with a busy week work-wise. So I'm modifying my goals slightly:

1) Spend 15 minutes in planner planning; continue with planner praise every day

2) Drink 3 liters H2O daily!!

3) Practice t'ai chi chuan breathing (3 reps) every hour

4) Exercise daily -- Monday belly dance routine/new steps; Tuesday routine/new steps or Wii tennis; Wednesday "Fat Burning" belly dance vid; Thursday Wii tennis; Friday run; Saturday gym; Sunday run

As always, if you'd like some accountability or support for your weight management goals this week, please post them below! And now, if you'll excuse me...I gotta get to 'em :)!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blogger's Surprise: New Book, New Video

I've had a happy, productive week, but it's been unusually busy. That's in part because I stopped by the library with my kids on Monday, and checked out an excellent book and an excellent video.

I've been interested in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's ideas about flow, sometimes called "being in the zone," or as he refers to it, optimal experience, for a while. I'm sorry I didn't follow up sooner! His book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" is an outstanding book for anyone, but I particularly recommend it for anyone who struggles with weight management.

In the book, Csikszentmihaly (pronounced, according to the author, "Chicks-send-me-high") explains what flow is and how it is created. Using these ideas, it's relatively easy to create more flow in your own life.

I've been experimenting with it this week, with extremely good results. When you have more flow, you need less "nurturing" from food or other activities that keep you from following through on your weight management goals. It's also wildly empowering to plan ahead for flow -- and then experience it. That said, it can be overwhelming to find a lot of happiness all at once, so if you read the book and start creating more flow, consider pacing yourself!

I've also been interested in t'ai chi for a while. I took a t'ai chi class last year and I loved it, but I didn't continue on with t'ai chi because I couldn't find a video that supported what I learned in class.

I'm happy to say that Bill Douglas' video "T'ai Chi & QiGong: The Prescription for the Future" has me back in the groove of t'ai chi. Douglas' manner is casual and pleasant, and he explains both the hows and whys of the various exercises. My children (ages 7, 8, and 10) were able to follow his directions for the first three steps of the t'ai chi routine with very little coaching, and Douglas' tips make it easy to remember them, too. Here's a clip from the video:

You'll need to look for the second and third videos (which I haven't seen yet) to learn the complete routine, but the video is well worth the viewing just for the relaxation, breathing, and stretching exercises and suggestions that are provided.

If you check out the video or the book, I'd love to hear what you think of them. Let us know :)! Here's to a relaxing weekend of optimal health and happiness!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Seafood Linguine in Tomato-Caper Cream Sauce

In my online cooking class, we spend some time experimenting with tofu. One of the most popular of my tofu-based recipes is Fettuccine Tofredo, which uses tofu as a replacement for cream in the sauce. Students are so enamored with the recipe they often ask for more tofu-based cream sauce recipes.

So, by request, here's a recipe for tomato cream sauce that's tofu-based. If you've never tinkered with tofu before, don't be intimidated! If you have questions--and students in my online class usually do--feel free to ask. I'm happy to help!

If you're wondering what to do with the other half of that package of tofu, wait until next week to prepare this recipe. I'll publish a recipe for Garlic-Walnut Sauce that also calls for 6 ounces of silken tofu next Thursday.

If you can't wait, check out these Web sites for more info on what to do with tofu. These are my two favorite brands of tofu, so if you're looking for tofu for the first time, I suggest checking out their sites so you know what you're looking for:



Now...Let's get cookin'!

Seafood Linguine in Tomato-Caper Cream Sauce

This elegant recipe uses silken tofu as its base. For a more classic flavor, substitute a heart-healthy margarine or butter for the olive oil.


1 pound linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 tablespoon capers
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
6 ounces (about ½ package) silken tofu (preferably Mori-Nu or House brand)
½ cup fat-free milk
2 dashes ground cayenne
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorn
1 pound fully cooked, shelled and deveined small shrimp


Prepare linguine according to manufacturer’s directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and capers and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir well. Reduce heat to low.

Puree tofu and milk until very smooth. Add pureed tofu, cayenne, and pepper to tomato mixture and stir well. Add cooked linguine and shrimp, combine, and cook until shrimp is just heated through.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do Low-Carb Diets Make You Grumpy?

I have many risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and if I were my own client, I'd guess that a lower-carb diet would be more effective than a lower-fat diet. And yet, the reverse is true for me. When I tried the South Beach Diet with my husband, he lost weight rapidly and felt great while on the diet. Meanwhile, I was cranky and fatigued--and I didn't lose a single pound in a month!

So I was delighted to see this article heading in my e-mail this week:

Low-Fat Diet Makes People Less Angry Than Low-Carb, Study Says

The study found that people lost the same amount of weight on the low-carb and low-fat diets, but people on the low-carb diet were more likely to be angry, depressed, and confused. They weren't sure why, but observed that perhaps people were so acclimated to the carbs in a typical Western diet that they suffered withdrawls when they switched to the low-carb diet.

I think that's pretty unlikely, as the typical eating pattern has been carbohydrate-based for centuries (Native American and Native Alaskan diets being exceptions to the rule). And there's ample research to suggest the carbohydrate-based Mediterranean diet is a healthier (and perhaps, happier!) long-term alternative to lower-carb eating.

I probably shouldn't be so pleased by a study's results when the researchers fail to acknowledge that perhaps they saw these results because ketosis is a non-natural body state. The possibility that some people's bodies feel worse when they're in ketosis, or work harder to get out of ketosis, is a more logical reason low-carb diets make some people cranky than the possibility that they're addicted to carbs.

Nevertheless, the study backs up the perspective I share in my online class. Weight loss is about eating more healthfully, moving more, adequate hydration, getting enough rest, managing stress, etc. How you decide to eat more healthfully should be based on how you feel and how you fare when you change your diet's structure--not on the latest trendy diet.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

Tuesday is the day I've set aside for you to share what's new with you. Do you have a success to share, or a challenge to overcome? Feel free to tell us all about it!

At the very least, you're taking a step forward in your journey toward health and happiness as you surf my blog. Congratulations, and keep up the good work :)!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Weekly Goals for November 9 -- November 15, 2009

So far, so good. More of the same...onward march!

1) Drink 3 liters of water 5 days; 2 liters of water 2 days

2) Exercise every day (Monday Wii tennis, Tuesday dance class, Wednesday run, Thursday Wii tennis, Friday - Sunday run or dance video)

3) Get to bed by 11 PM -- begin bedtime routine at 10:30 PM

4) Practice breathing exercises before meals

5) Keep up the good work with planner praise :)!

As always, if you'd like a little accountability or support with your weight management goals for the week, feel free to post 'em below, then update us next week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Blogger's Surprise: Joys of the Mediterranean Market

Last week I posted the recipe for "Indian Chicken with Sweet Potatoes." One of the more exotic ingredients is garam masala, an Indian spice blend. I've seen garam masala a few times in the spice section of larger grocery stores, but not often. The recipe also incorporates ginger, an ingredient that I know from my online class "Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Quick Meals" can be challenging to find.

If you're looking for either of these ingredients, I encourage you to consider heading out to your local Mediterranean market. I used to think Mediterranean meant Italian. Italy is indeed bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, but so are several other countries, including Spain, Morocco, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. India isn't on the list of Mediterranean countries, but you're more likely to find garam masala at your ethnic market than at the grocery store.

At a recent trip to my favorite Mediterranean market, I ran across something I'd never seen before--dried gingerroot. Years ago, bottled minced ginger--similar to bottled minced garlic--was widely available and reasonably priced. In the past few years, however, it's become difficult to find (and pricey when I do find it, unless it's on sale). Fresh gingerroot isn't difficult to use--just wash it off and mince or shred it--but it lasts about a week in the fridge, and my favorite grocery store doesn't stock it.

So, I bought a good-sized bag of dried gingerroot for under $3. After experimenting a bit, I've settled on microplaning it and using it 1/2 dried:1 fresh. It's inexpensive, convenient, easy to use, provides that delightfully unique sweet-hot ginger flavor, and lasts indefinitely. What's not to love?

I enjoy hearing about others' adventures at local markets almost as much as I enjoy adventuring myself, so if you've been to your local ethnic market and found something interesting or unusual, I'd love to hear about it! Have a wonderful weekend, and happy cooking!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Greek Salmon with Orzo

Greek Salmon with Orzo

I developed this recipe when experimenting with orzo for the first time. Orzo is rice-shaped pasta associated with Greece, so I went with a Greek flavor profile. It makes about 10 cups, so if you're cooking for 1 or 2, you may wish to halve the recipe.


1 (1-pound) package orzo
1 pound salmon fillets
Water (about 4 cups)
½ cup bottled minced garlic
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon basil flakes
2 teaspoons oregano flakes
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 (6-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese
1 (6-ounce) can black olives, halved or sliced
1 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water


Prepare orzo, following manufacturer’s instructions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, place salmon in large skillet. Add enough water to just cover. Add garlic, parsley, basil flakes, oregano, and rosemary to water, and gently stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until salmon is cooked through. Drain and set aside. Using a slotted spoon, drain out garlic and other seasonings and reserve with salmon.

In a small measuring cup, combine vinegar, olive oil, and water. Mix with a fork or whisk to emulsify. To prepare, combine orzo, salmon and seasonings, tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, fresh basil, and vinegar mixture in large bowl, breaking up salmon into bite-sized chunks and mixing well to combine.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quote of the Day

"It's not called kidding--it's called parenting." -- Donna Acosta

As children, we learn many things from the people who raise us. Among the most important things we learn are how we should treat others, and how we can expect to be treated by others. We also learn what to expect from life.

If the people who raise us do a reasonably good job, we learn that we treat others with respect, others should treat us with respect, and life is worth living. Unfortunately, many of us had caregivers who weren't especially skilled in these areas...and now you may be treating yourself, or allowing others to treat you, the same way your caregivers did.

So how are you doing with parenting yourself? Do you treat yourself with respect, or do you neglect or indulge yourself? Do you treat others with respect, or do you neglect or indulge others? What do you expect from life? Are your beliefs about life positive or negative?

You can't go back and recapture your childhood, but you can commit to being an excellent parent now. I'm amping up my positive parenting this week by focusing on praise. Every day, as I use my planner, I praise myself. This morning I noted that I completed 15 of the 19 items in my planner list. In the past, I would have focused on the 4 items I didn't complete. Today, I'm complimenting myself on the 15 I did complete.

What can you do to parent yourself more effectively? Do you need to set limits in a more loving way? Be more consistent? Praise yourself for doing a great job, or just for being you? If you take one small step each day toward more effective parenting, you'll see and feel a significant change. Happy parenting :)!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekly Goals for November 2 -- November 8, 2009

I'm shifting focus this week toward weight loss, for several reasons (more on that in a later post). So, here are my goals this week:

1) Drink 3 liters of water 5 days; 2 liters of water 2 days

2) Exercise every day (Monday Wii tennis, Tuesday dance class, Wednesday run, Thursday Wii tennis, Friday - Sunday run or dance video)

3) Get to bed by 10:30 PM -- begin bedtime routine at 10 PM

4) Practice breathing exercises WITH FAMILY before meals

5) Keep up the good work with planner praise :)!

Whew! What are your goals for this week? If you'd like some accountability or support, feel free to share your goals. Don't forget to check back in with us next week, and let us know how it went :).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Indian Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

If you've taken my online class "Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Quick Meals," I bet you've already dusted off your slow cooker, and you're ready for more easy and delish recipes for it. You're in luck! I had this recipe in the slow cooker when an acquaintance stopped by for a few hours. She couldn't get over how the aroma filled the house as it cooked, and wanted the recipe to take with her. I saw her again this week, and she mentioned it turned out fantastic when she prepared it. If you try it, I'd love to hear what you think of it!

I'll post more tomorrow about how I developed this recipe, and talk about ginger and garam masala. If you happen to have all the ingredients at home, happy cooking!

Slow Cooker Indian Chicken and Sweet Potatoes


1 (29-ounce) can sweet potatoes, drained
1 (14-ounce) can reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons bottled minced ginger
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
3 dashes ground cayenne
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups fresh spinach


Put sweet potatoes, chicken broth, onion, ginger, garlic, garam masala, peppercorn, and cayenne in slow cooker and stir to combine. Place chicken breasts on top and cook on LOW for 6 - 8 hours, or on HIGH 4 - 6 hours, or until chicken is tender and shreds easily with two forks. Shred chicken. Add spinach and stir to combine. Turn heat to LOW and cook until spinach wilts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quote of the Day

"The way we see the problem is the problem." -- Stephen Covey

Do you see your weight as the problem? Or do you see the things you do (or don't do) as the problem?

Just for one month, experiment with letting go of your dress or pants size. Shift your focus from your body's size and shape.

Instead, try focusing on what you're doing that affects your weight. Track what you eat, drink at least 2 liters of plain water a day, increase your activity, get more (or better-quality) sleep, and manage your stress. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it's really not. Your weight is not the problem; it's a symptom of a problem. Focusing on the real problem will automatically correct the symptom -- and result in lasting weight maintenance.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekly Goals for October 26 - November 1, 2009

New week, new goal! -- and I'm finally ready to commit to this one. I'm going to praise myself for what I've accomplished every time I check in with my planner for this week.

What are you planning for this week? If you'd like some accountability or support, let us know!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Goals for the week of September 20th - 27th

SMART goals are powerful for a variety of reasons. For me, they really work because they help me clarify what, when, and how I'll accomplish a goal. This week, I'm focusing (as usual) on getting in 3 liters of water daily; maintaining my exercise routine; and busting stress before I eat. So, here are my goals for the week:

1) Drink 3 liters of water daily. Write it in my planner so if I forget, I can squeeze it in before bedtime!

2) Plan out exercise for the week. Take 15 minutes every morning to plan ahead for the day and the week.

3) Type up the controlled breathing techniques for my planner. Teach the family how to do three different techniques. Use the three techniques, three times each, before every meal.

4) Pay closer attention to my appetite, and be sure to eat only when hungry and stop when just satisfied.

There -- my weight mangement goals for the week!

What are *your* goals for the week? If you want a little extra accountability, post your goals here! We'll be rooting for you -- and checking back to see how it goes :).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Enjoy the Journey!

I often encourage people to reward themselves with something tangible when they reach a particular weight management goal. Interestingly, many people are surprised by the idea. "What?!" they say incredulously. "Reward myself for doing something I should already being doing? Are you crazy?"

I'm reasonably normal, but irrespective of my sanity, I'm on to something here. Consider this: The tasks you undertake to lose weight are things you'll have to do for a lifetime, right? So, hopefully, your goal is to get to the point where things you're not doing -- quite often because you don't care so much for them -- become habitual. You've got a pretty significant hurdle to overcome, right?

So how about rewarding yourself for your little accomplishments? Wouldn't it be a lot easier to follow through on a tough goal if you were looking forward to going out shoe shopping, hitting the golf course, or getting a massage as a treat for your hard work? Wouldn't it be encouraging to start out your day getting dressed in the new tie, earrings, or gorgeous little ring you bought yourself last week as a reward for meeting a goal? You bet it would!

I suspect that what holds people back from the idea of a tangible reward for progress is the idea that they've been bad, and they deserve to suffer for gaining weight. Pish. Here's what I've observed:

  • Many people gain weight because they're using food as a tool to manage their feelings. They're just doing the best they can with the skills they have.

  • Others have fallen prey to society's diet mentality. Their lifestyle habits and metabolisms are suffering as a result.

  • There are plenty of perimenopausal women who truly don't appreciate what their bodies are going through, and they don't know how to cope with those changes.

  • Baby boomers are going through changes related to aging, and don't know what to do differently.

I could go on, but you get the idea: Most of the people with whom I work need information or skills. I don't believe a lack of information or skills makes you bad, wrong, or wicked. And if you're here, reading this, I'm willing to bet you want more information and skills. That makes you the opposite of bad, wrong, and wicked, doesn't it?

What do you think of the idea of a small, but meaningful, tangible reward, so you enjoy the process of weight loss? How big of a hurdle is it for you to appreciate your accomplishments that lead up to your ultimate weight management goals? And, most importantly, how will you reward yourself -- today, tomorrow, next week, at the end of the month -- for what you're doing?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Woman on Page 194

Okay, so I'm still talking about the woman on page 194, but I can't help it. What, you haven't heard about her? There's an article in the September 2009 issue of Glamour featuring a so-called plus-sized model:

(Walter Chin for Glamour (left); September 2009 issue of Glamour)

At first glance, this article made me feel hopeful. Isn't it great that, at last, we see a woman with a cute little belly roll, real thighs, and maybe even a stretch mark or two enshrined on the glossy pages of Glamour?

But then I couldn't help but think...maybe this article is discouraging. This woman is considered a plus-size model? She looks healthy and happy to me!

Maybe it's time for us to shift our focus from the woman on page 194 -- and not just because I've finally blogged about her. Maybe a better question all along has been: Should we be calling women with a BMI well below normal "models"?

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boston Cream Pie Update

My birthday came and went, and I'm happy to say my version of Boston Cream Pie turned out terrific! If you're craving a slice, or if you've never tried it and you're wondering what all my fuss is about,'s your chance. If you don't mind using convenience products, you can whip one up in the same amount of time you'd need to make any other box mix-canned frosting cake.

Easy Boston Cream Pie Cake


3/4 cup egg substitute (or amount provided on cake mix)

1 (18.25-ounce) yellow cake mix, any brand

1 1/3 cup water (or amount provided on cake mix)

1/3 cup oil (or amount provided on cake mix)


Preheat oven per cake mix directions. Prepare 2-8" or 9" round cake pans per cake mix directions. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, use a mixer to beat egg substitute until stiff peaks form:

Slowly add cake mix and gently fold in, so you don't deflate the eggs (the mixture will be thick). Then add the water and oil, and continue mixing until it's just mixed (the mixture will have lumps). Pour into prepared pans. (I deliberately make one a little thinner than the other, but you can make them even if you prefer.) Bake and cool according to cake mix directions.

While the cake is baking, prepare the filling and glaze:

Easy Boston Cream Pie Filling


1 (3.9-ounce) package vanilla pudding mix

1 1/2 cups 2% (or lower-fat) milk


Combine pudding mix and milk in medium bowl with a whisk for 2 minutes. Refrigerate until needed.

Easy Boston Cream Pie Chocolate Glaze


1 (3.9-ounce) package chocolate pudding mix

1 1/2 cups 2% (or lower-fat) milk

1/2 cup chocolate syrup


Combine pudding mix and milk in medium bowl with a whisk for 1 minute. Add chocolate syrup and whisk for 1 additional minute. Refrigerate until needed.

When the cake is cooled, remove from the pan. If one cake is thicker, use it for the bottom of the cake. Put it on a large plate or cake platter. Gently stir the Filling just enough to ensure the consistency is even. Spoon it on to the center of the cake and spread it to about 1/2" away from the edge. Gently place the other cake on top. Stir the Glaze well, spoon it on to the center of the cake, and spread it to the edges of the cake. You can either use all the glaze, and let it drizzle artistically down the sides, or use it like frosting and "frost" the sides with it, as I did.

Work gently but quickly, and as soon as you're done, refrigerate it. It's best to let it refrigerate for at least 2 hours, so the filling can congeal nicely. When you're ready to serve, cut it gently so it maintains its shape, and keep it cold so the filling and glaze don't get too soft. Enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Be Consistent!, Part I

It's Monday, the fateful day many people choose to start dieting, exercising, drinking more water, getting more sleep, seeing the doctor, or making some other change to support weight management. If today's the big day for you, I'd like to offer you a thought to ponder:

Successful, long-term weight management is not about perfection. It's about consistency. Weight management isn't about starving yourself, exercising every single day, or doing anything else perfectly. It's about staying on track most of the time...and getting yourself back on track when you get distracted.

No, really. I'm not kidding. Consistency is all about making better choices -- not perfect choices. And here's the best part. You can do that. You can make a better choice right now. Why wait?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"White Tea: Solution to Obesity Epidemic?"

Lately I've been enjoying a tall glass of iced tea in the afternoons -- a blend of an inexpensive white chai tea and Tazo's delish Passion tea, with a little fresh mint from my herb garden as a garnish. So when I saw the title of this article on Science Daily's Web page, it caught my eye:

White Tea: Solution To Obesity Epidemic?

ScienceDaily (2009-05-07) -- Possible anti-obesity effects of white tea have been demonstrated in a series of experiments on human fat cells (adipocytes). Researchers have shown that an extract of the herbal brew effectively inhibits the generation of new adipocytes and stimulates fat mobilization from mature fat cells. ... > read full article

Now isn't that a compelling title? White tea as a possible solution to obesity? Wow, those people who have had gastric bypasses are gonna be furious! I mean, how tough is it to enjoy a cuppa every day, especially for the sake of weight loss? And given my recent enthusiasm for white tea lately, the pounds should just start melting off, right?

Well, maybe not. As it turns out, the researchers looked at human fat cells (adipocytes) all right, but not while the those fat cells were still in someone's body. In addition, the researchers were looking at the effect of an extract of white tea, not a cup of tea with a little cream and sugar. Injecting white tea extract into fat cells did have an effect. If you've got some white tea extract and a hypodermic handy, you might see a similar effect if you inject the extract into your fat cells. However, drinking white tea might -- or might not -- have the same effect. The jury's still out on that one.

So, if you enjoy relaxing with a cup of white tea, it just might help you with weight management. After all, taking time out to relax and unwind will help you manage stress more effectively, which does indeed affect weight management...assuming, of course, you're balancing stress management with a healthy diet, appropriate exercise, and adequate rest and hydration.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Boston Cream Pie

August seems like a perfect month to start a blog, if for no other reason that it seems I don't need to put too much thought into a particular theme for this first blog post. After all, not much happens in August. Sure, some people are headed back to school. But plenty of people aren't headed back until September -- and those who aren't are still thinking summer. (I could argue that even those who are headed back to school in August are still thinking summer, but that would be digressing.)

One thing that does happen in August is my birthday, which is not only as good a reason as any to bake a cake, but an excuse to bake whatever kind of cake I want! And on a whim, I decided to go with one of my favorite desserts, Boston Cream Pie.

I've been thinking about preparing a Boston Cream Pie (to be referred to as BCP from this point henceforth) for years. My kids have never had BCP. For that matter, I don't think my husband has, either. It's not exactly wildly available, which puzzles me.

But the dearth of BCP is another blog post, another time. In this post, I'll recap where I'm at with making a quick-and-easy, somewhat-healthier version of BCP.

Those of you who share my passion for BCP know that it's not a pie at all, but a dense, two-layer yellow cake. Instead of frosting, there's a thick layer of vanilla-flavored custardy goodness between the layers. All of that deliciousness is then drizzled with a chocolate glaze.

I started by doing some research. When I took those two years of food prep classes in college, bake shop was a separate class. If we did any baking, it didn't leave an impression (unlike the day I started a kitchen fire making wontons, or the day I burned rice in the microwave, but those are blogs for another day, too).

So I hauled out my worn copy of Gisslen's "Professional Cooking" and got to reading about cake. It turns out there are two methods of making cakes. One method makes cakes light and fluffy. The other method -- the foaming method -- produces a light-but-denser cake. Since that's what I was looking for, I kept reading. Although cake mix doesn't allow you to exactly reproduce the foaming method, it seemed as though I could come pretty close. I decided to adapt the foaming method to preparing cake mix (more on that later).

I then turned my attention to pastry cream. Those of you know who me personally, or know me from my online cooking class, are probably well aware of issues? Well, let's call it my "preference" for smooth-and-creamy food. Mmmm! I spent quite a while considering how to make a healthier, easier pastry cream, and thought about the various BCPs I've had over the years.

While I was rummaging around to see if I had a cake mix on hand, I found a package of instant pudding. It might sound like selling out, but I got to know, they make pies with this pudding stuff. It's thick, smooth, creamy -- kind of like custard.

So I experimented with a spice cake made using the foaming method, and I followed the directions on the pudding to make pie filling as a replacement for pastry cream. The cake turned out perfectly -- dense and light at the same time. And the pudding turned out about the same consistency as pastry custard. I didn't feel like bothering with glaze or ganache, so I used the leftover pudding as "frosting," which didn't work out as well as I hoped. I experimented a bit with adding chocolate sauce, which helped with the flavor. I may break down and make ganache or glaze from scratch, but we'll see.

And now you're caught up with where I'm at with the BCP. I'll provide the recipes, directions, pics, etc., next week, and let you all know how it went. Until then, eat great :)!