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New Comfort Food: Pesto Roasted Cauliflower November 29, 2009

One of the great things about leading WW meetings is that I have to pay attention to all these elements of the program that are really, really helpful. This morning I said something along the lines of finding new foods or new ways of enjoying old foods, to keep things “fresh.”

I’m still sort of on the sick side. I’ve got pretty low energy and a sore throat. Yesterday I was surprised at how much I felt like eating. I wanted real comfort food, like mashed potatoes and pudding. Baby food.  I realized that if I keep going too long like this, without exercising, soon I’m going to be in trouble.

So on the way home from the meeting I stopped at the Farmers Market. I spotted a cauliflower. I didn’t really think about it much. But I brought it home, chopped it up and put it in the over (425) for half an hour. When the buzzer went off, it was crispy and browned, crunchy and yet soft on the inside. I mixed it with a little jarred pesto and put it in a big bowl. OH WOW. It was like… the best comfort food ever. I was so happy. And it happened spontaneously. This was one of the few things we discussed in today’s meeting and it felt so good to just implement it in a way that satisfied my need for comfort and yet is still really healthy.

Now, a nap. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

It’s Official!! I’m a WW Leader! November 6, 2009

Whewwwwww… what a DAY.

Got up super early because I couldn’t sleep. I think I was rehearsing/muttering my meeting points all night in my sleep. Showered, got dressed. (same dress/sweater combo as training weekend) Drove to meeting, got there about an hour early. Clipped up my flip-chart pages and then stood around and twiddled thumbs. Went to the bathroom. Paced the meeting room to and fro, loitered at receptionist desk, etc etc etc.  Finally the members began trickling in and the room filled up.  A few of my friends came in and I was so happy to see them: two who are already WW members, and one who decided to join TODAY. Yay! Then it was time to start. SHOW TIME.

All I can say is that it went well. I felt good. I was happy to have an eye on the clock so I was able to pace myself. I got everything in that I had wanted to.  People connected with the topic and with each OTHER, which is a key thing.  One of the things they did at training one day was to have us all stand in a circle and pass this ball of yarn back and forth; eventually it made this big criss-crossy web. Which was to demonstrate what we are supposed to be doing with our members, creating a web of connection between them. I felt like I could visualize this happening throughout the meeting time and it was way cool!

After the meeting, the leaders/manager sat down to give me Feedback. Overall, it was reallllllly positive. They had been taking notes (which they gave me) which said: “Very comfortable in leader role. Warm, enthusiastic, natural smile. Professional demeanor. Excellent approach to meeting topic, well prepared.” YAYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

Then they told me a few little “areas of improvement” which I totally agreed with and which were very helpful. But they were teeny tiny and just fine tuning. THEN they said, “So, how’d you like to lead an at-work meeting?” I said, “Sure, that would be great,” and then they said, “Starting today! In an hour?”

WOW. So I zipped out of there, did a quick errand I need to do at home, and zipped over to the office building where the At-Work meeting was. The reason for this incredibly rapid succession of events is that my leader was promoted to Territory Manager LAST NIGHT and now needs to find leadership for his 7 (!!) meetings. This was the first one. Now it’s mine!! So I led the meeting AGAIN, and he introduced me and basically turned it over to me.  It’s a small group and I really liked the people there.  That meeting had a totally different feel but I think it went well.

Then I came home and collapsed. Woweeeee!!!!!!!

I want to thank everyone for the great support you’ve shown me since I began this process. I feel like I’ve been so incredibly buoyed by everyone here and at Twitter. THANK YOU.

 

Pumpkin Yum and the Dress Rehearsal November 3, 2009

IMG_7295-Version-2I thought I’d dodged the bullet of Halloween, since my kids are past trick-or-treating age, and we don’t live in a trick-or-treating neighborhood… but then on Saturday, my daughter was bitten by the Baking Bug and she decided she needed to make some mini pumpkin cheesecakes! With cinnamon cream! Aghhhhhh!!!!  So she went ahead and made them. They were adorable. I decided to check out the points of this item using my handy WW online recipe builder (on the WW eTools site). I figured out that each little cheesecake was 5 points. I cut one down into one-point bites (small bites) and shared with some friends. Mmmmmm, that was yummy.

Then I had a pumpkin craving. So I took the extra canned pumpkin that was leftover. I added a box of fat-free, sugar-free vanilla pudding mix. Then I added some fat-free Cool Whip. And…. yum! It was like a pumpkin mousse. It was goooooooood. And I was able to eat a lot more than a teeny tiny bite.

It was a great experiment, and also a great self-demonstration of the options you can choose when you have some high-calorie treat facing you: you can either eat a little bit of it, or you can find ways to “lighten” it so that you can enjoy more volume. I did both this weekend, and both were satisfying, in different ways. Yay. (delicious photo from PinchMySalt.com)

In other news, I did my “dress rehearsal” of my full-on WW meeting today, at a smaller at-work meeting with only my mentor watching. Man, I was nervous. I felt like I was talking a mile a minute, and I was totally overheated (um, sweaty).  After the second page, all my flip chart pages fell on the floor, out of order. Ack. I recovered, but that was not fun. And I had kind of an awkward ending because after I did what I *thought* was my “ending,” someone asked a question, and I answered them, and then I had to end it again, and it just sort of… petered out. Ugh. But OVERALL I think if it was a pass-fail, I would’ve passed, and I guess if it were a letter grade, I’d give myself a… B or B-.

Then tonight, at my regular meeting, my leader did the same topic and I was listening/watching with one ear and eye while working the desk. Wow he’s good. He did touch on the meeting topic, but really he was mixing and matching and really masterfully working with everything the members were saying, and everything just seemed so beautifully orchestrated, and he just is smooooooth. Like he never stumbles. And he’s funny. He’s way funny. His version of the same meeting topic was so very different from what I’d come up with. Which is cool in a way, but also sort of scary. I think I have to think about all the ways that one can address the same issue, and just… breathe, and do my best.

I do think that some of my friends might show up on Thursday to lend some moral support and friendly faces. Which would be so nice.  Again, I know (or I feel pretty confident) that I’m going to PASS, but I want to do more than “pass.” Y’know?

In other OTHER news, I’ve decided to take the month of November off from (gasp) Twitter AND (double gasp) Facebook. Much as I love them both, they are huge time suckers. I’ll still be blogging though, still be emailing and answering the phone and such. So it’s not like I’m going off to some desert island. I will still be HERE and I really hope that people still visit this blog even if I’m not tweeting about it. It will be an interesting experiment.  How many people DO come here through Twitter, and how many come on their own?

 

GrownUps’ Chicken Pot Pie July 30, 2009

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WOW have I had a culinary experience tonight. First, let me back up and say that a month or so ago, I was contacted by the authors of a new cookbook, Almost Meatless, to see if I’d like to cook, photo and blog about a recipe from the book for an “Almost Meatless Blogger Potluck.” This sounded like great fun to me, and I really liked the premise of the book (using meat as more of a condiment than a heavy main ingredient) They assigned me (after I’d chosen a few from their table of contents) to “Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie.” This sounded yummy. I LOVE chicken pot pie, and have forever. But it’s generally not been either WW- or-diabetes friendly (mostly due to the pie crust) so I’d been resigned to not eating much of it in my future. I jumped at the chance to get a healthier version.

Well. Let me say. This cooking experience was memorable!

FIRST let me say that for a working mom, this recipe is neither cheap, nor easy nor quick. It is NOT something to whip up on a week night when one does not have all manner of ingredients in one’s pantry.

I left work at 5:15 pm. Went to store. Ended up having to buy almost $70 of ingredients because I didn’t HAVE a lot of this stuff. Whole wheat pastry flour. Wheat bran. Bottle of white wine. Leeks. Parsnips.  Etc. Here are my groceries.

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Got home at 6:15pm. Commenced cooking. Luckily, I had already bought several munchies which was a GOOD THING. The kids were not home. This was also a VERY GOOD THING. I had some friends coming over and they ended up being my very patient food-testing guinea pigs. Ditto, good thing.

I decided to follow the recipe as faithfully as possible, which I often don’t. But I wanted to be faithful to the original so I could give an honest assessment of both the process and the product.

It took me exactly TWO HOURS to make, start to finish. I had my mother chopping along as assistant. Without her, it could’ve been two and a half. Let me just say that was almost a deal breaker right there.

This could make a lovely, for-company, WEEKEND meal but no no no no no way could one sanely manage this on a school/work night. It was actually quite entertaining and laughable, and had there been offspring in the house, someone would have ordered pizza hours ago.

Anyway. I found the process not difficult, but VERY long. Very very long. It was an exercise in slow food. I kept thinking, this better be worth it.

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At 8:15, the timer went off (so did the smoke alarm, because it had bubbled over the top into the oven floor, causing a lot of smoke). I took pictures. I thought it was strikingly beautiful. We ladled it into bowls. There were 5 grownups in attendance. The comments were:

  • Needs more salt.
  • Delicious.
  • I would order this in a fancy gourmet comfort-food restaurant.
  • Complex.
  • It was okay, but it took so long.
  • The top was like a bran muffin.
  • The flavors and texture remind me of Thanksgiving and stuffing!
  • I couldn’t tell that the parsnips were not potatoes. This is probably a healthy substitution.
  • The broth is fantastic.
  • I would totally eat this. I AM eating this! Yum!

SO. I think the reviews (including my own) were generally VERY enthusiastic, but overall, this was all overshadowed by the insane amount of time and work that went into producing this dish.

When I make Chicken Pot Pie for my family, it’s five minutes of prep and five ingredients: a rotisserie chicken, Pillsbury pie crust, a bag of frozen vegies and two cans of Healthy Choice cream of chicken soup. Voila. My family loves it. (I actually got this recipe from the WW site, I think) I KNOW my kids would not be wild about the Grownup Version. But I would definitely make it for company. I would definitely make a leisurely afternoon of preparing it.

But this cookbook was not advertised to be quick, easy OR cheap. Just healthier, and delicious, which it delivered on in both areas.

Have a few hours to kill and a desire for some yummy healthy food? Recipe below the break!! (more…)

 

I Am Ungrateful. March 21, 2009

So, in my continued quest for healthy and yummy food, today I paid a visit to the (in)famous Cafe Gratitude. I first learned of this place when a friend of mine wrote about it in her novel, and I swear I thought she had made it up, it was sooooo crazy. But no, it is quite real.

There are so many aspects of this place that are really laudable, but really it like some bizarro New Age raw food experiment gone completely, completely awry. Just click through their website if you think I am kidding. But I did that before going, and it was nothing like the real experience. Believe me, I did this today so that none of you ever, ever have to.

First, the hostess. “Find where you want to sit, and I’ll follow you around and give you your menu.” She can’t just HAND me the menu and let me find a table. So I wandered through the front room, the back room and almost out to the patio and she’s trailing me like a puppy dog. Finally after perusing the entire place I decide I want to go back to the front room, which is quieter, less crowded and has smaller tables. She gave me my menu with an annoyed look like, “It sure took you long enough, and why didn’t you sit here the first time you saw it?”

The menu. Not only do they give everything a faux-New Age cutesy name like “I Am Satisfied,” rather than “small green salad” or “I am Sensational” for a bogus “pizza” (with no crust and no cheese) made with hemp seed – not only that, but they FORCE YOU to SAY “I’d like “I am Sensational,” or they will not bring you your food. You can’t just mumble, “Hemp seed pizza, please.” I AM NOT KIDDING. I had already learned this from reading some Yelp reviews, and I did not want to get into a whole power struggle with my server, so I just sucked it up and said, trying to snort back my laughter, “I Am Satisfied, I am Thriving, I am Refreshed.” (translation: small salad, small mushroom soup, small lemonade with agave syrup)

I could tell they were getting their hemp panties in a twist because I was Twittering into my iPhone rather than doing seated yoga while I waited for my food, but I did not care.

Finally it arrived. The mushroom soup, while pretty tasty, was only lukewarm. I should add that 90% of the food at Cafe Gratitude is raw, ie. uncooked. Even the pizza. (whyyyyyyyyyy do they even bother to call it pizza? I suspect just to completely enrage people. A buckwheat “flatbread” (ie cracker) topped with “cashew parmesan” (It’s crumbled nuts!!!! It’s NOT CHEESE!) and cold tomato sauce is not, by any stretch of any imagination, pizza.

I think they really believe that to heat a food is to mortally harm it. Thus, my soup was borderline room temperature. I really like my hot food hot and my cold food cold, so this was annoying. Then my salad came. It was no more than a handful of greens with some shredded carrots, oil and vinegar, more nut “cheese” and two delicately placed “teriyaki almonds” on top, as decoration. Almonds are very key ingredients over at Cafe Gratitude. All dairy products, like milk shakes and ice cream, are made with almond milk. What, they think almonds don’t hurt when you milk them? They think almonds don’t have SOULS just because they don’t have eyeballs, or footprints? Please.  My lemonade was the favorite part- lemony, sparkly, sweetened with agave which I have been curious to taste (one of the very few natural sweeteners with a low glycemic index) with a nice sprig of mint. Mmm! It WAS refreshing!

I happened to be sitting nearby the barista, who would prepare a drink, and then bellow out, “MARISAAA! YOU ARE REJUVENATED! (wheatgrass cocktail)” or “AMY! YOU ARE ECSTATIC! (vanilla latte)” It was actually too surreal for words.

This place takes Mindful Eating and shoves it down your throat. After I ate, my server took my dishes and said, “Our question of the day (QUESTION OF THE DAY?!?) is, ‘What makes your heart open?'” My jaw almost dropped to the ground. But again, not wanting to get into a scuffle or accumulate too much bad karma, I said, with a straight face, “My daughter.” (which happens to be true) She said, “Awww!! Great answer!” and glided (glid?) away.

She returned with my bill. I glanced at it. Then I took another look and my eyeballs almost popped out of my head. Unfortunately, I had not paid close attention to the pricing on the menu, so distracted I was by all the “I am Blissful” menu items.

My bill for a “small cup” of lukewarm soup, a “small salad,” and a Very Small Lemonade, however refreshing, came to $23.

I was like, not amused.

Nor were the blue-haired grannies who were sitting near me. They had been escorted into CG by their two ratty-haired twenty something granddaughters. They looked absolutely bewildered, appalled and frightened by the place (and rightly so). After getting a long-winded orientation to the menu by the server, I heard one of the granddaughters say, “Grandma, it’s ALL VEGETABLES.” And no, they don’t really cook them either. It’s going to be a long luncheon, ladies.

What could I do? I paid. I left. I went home and looked up the menu for world-renowned Chez Panisse, which is just a block or two down the street. Guess what? Their salads and soups (for the DINNER menu!) was the exact same price as this vegan nuthouse.

Mindful: I “checked in” with my stomach about 45 minutes after lunch, and I was a ravenous, gaping cavern of hunger. I was So. Not. Satisfied.

Went home and had some nice Irish Cheddar with Guinness Stout. (the stout is cooked into the cheese; it’s awesome) Felt better immediately.

 

Food Substitutions March 13, 2009

I was thinking a lot about “food substitutions” when I was at the grocery store today; what sorts of lower calorie switchoffs “work” for me, and which don’t. I’m still experimenting with a lot of things, but here are a few things I’ve figured out.

  • my morning coffee: I have to have half-and-half in my coffee in the morning. That’s about 100 calories. Ouch. So far I’ve been just using my WW weekly “extra” points on that. I’d seriously rather skip any sort of dessert than go without my coffee OR my half-and-half. I can’t even deal with whole milk in my coffee, so skim or lowfat milk is out of the question.  But today when I at the store I picked up a little can of Sugar-Free Chai Latte. I KNOW. It’s all chemicals. They are nasty chemicals. But it’s only 30 calories. Is it better to have 100 calories of cream, or 30 calories of chemicals? Hmmm…. I first started drinking that stuff many years ago, when I was living with a family in rural Nicaragua. There was no fresh half and half there (ha!), no refrigeration to speak of, and I just can’t drink black coffee, so I brought a big ziplock bag of this. They used to laugh and tease me and call it “cafe de mentira,” which translates to “coffee of the lie.” HA.  Wow, that was a long rumination on my morning beverage, wasn’t it?
  • Tuna melts. I happen to have a longstanding love of tuna melts, which I prepare open-faced on an English muffin. If I use Light English Muffins, they are 1/4 of the calories. I actually think the light ones taste better. And if I use light mayo and lowfat cheese (rrr, not so sure) it is a VERY acceptable, even very delicious facsimile. Hooray!
  • Dessert: I have developed an inordinate fondness for Kozy Shack no-sugar Tapioca Pudding. Mmmm. But I’ve been learning to really “check in” with my hunger and often after I eat dinner I am full. But still craving something sweet. I can have a hard candy which totally satisfies, and lasts about 15 minutes. Yay.
  • Lasagna: ha. I learned something this week. I made a super healthy whole wheat lasagna-with-veggies this week. It was good. But you know, NO WAY was it what I call “lasagna.” I could call what I made “layered pasta veggie casserole” and feel fine with it, but if I was getting psyched up for lasagne, it could make me CRY. I declared that I would rather have two bites of “regular” lasagne, than a big plate of the veggie kind.   So, that one was basically a thumbs down.
  • Egg beaters: For some reason I find yellow dyed Egg Beaters objectionable. It’s sort of like fat-free Half and Half, which I find unfathomably icky. I would rather have pure, regular egg whites. Or just a regular whole egg.
  • Lowfat cheese: I can accept this in a quesadilla, or on a tuna melt, but if I’m just plain.. eating cheese, I need the real thing. Lowfat or nonfat cheese tastes like candle wax to me. The only exception to this is this, which my family affectionately dubbed “moo-moo cheese” when my kids were in preschool. Still love them.
  • Hamburgers: I am totally psyched and happy to switch-out a hamburger for a portobello mushroom “burger” – not a real burger, but an actual mushroom on a bun. It’s super delicious and JUICY. Yum.

Things for which there ARE no acceptable substitute and so I must sadly do without for now:

  • macaroni and cheese. See low-fat cheese, above.
  • pizza. I think it also has something to do with the cheese.
  • chicken pot pie. One night we had grilled chicken breast, with diced veggies on the side, and my daughter sadly said, “This is like chicken pot pie without the crust isn’t it?”  The original light chicken pot pie recipe I got was from Weight Watchers. But what to do about that crust?
 

 
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