Saturday, December 29, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Final Posting

   Well, I haven't blogged in over a month, which brings me to the topic of my last blog for this blog. Blogging lately has become more of a chore than a joy. When I spoke to a counselor this year, she kept asking the question "And how does that serve you?" which was quite aggravating after the third or fourth time. Like "That made me mad!" and she would say "And how did that serve you?" But basically, it was another way of saying "So how's that working out for you?" If it's working, keep it;.iIf it's not, lose it. And so, this blog, which started out with a fascination that people out there in the world wide web could actually read my words moments after posting, and with much enthusiasm and glee, has dwindled down to something in the back of my mind I feel guilty about if I don't post regularly. So, to use the shrinks lingo, it's not serving me anymore.
   While I thought "Upsides to the Down Economy" was a good idea for a blog, it did actually incorporate a negative (Down Economy). I have had fun these last couple years blogging about food, finances, entertainment, ways to save money, philosophical meanderings and just stories of my past. So, with the old year, I say goodbye to this blog and perhaps I will start a new one. I would like to concentrate in the future on travel writing, inspirational writing and screenwriting. And, to end on a positive note, I would like to share an idea someone posted on facebook. Take a big empty jar, vase or bowl and each day write down one good thing that happened to you that day. At the end of the year, you will have a jar full of little bits of gratitude to be thankful for. And best of all, it's absolutely free. The best things in life often are.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Turkey Every Which Way

   It's the week after Thanksgiving and you know what that means! Turkey every which way. While of course there is nothing wrong with the standard turkey sandwich (on a soft roll with Miracle Whip, turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce), with a twenty pound turkey there are more leftovers than one knows what to do with.
   These are two recipes I have used over the years which are always a hit with the family. They are from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, whose recipes I enjoy for their simple goodness. These are recipes I imagine a farmer's wife cooking after a hard day's work. The turkey soup gets an added bonus from any stuffing that is clinging to the carcass, and I throw any leftover stuffing in as well, towards the end of cooking. This a kind of a labor-intensive recipe because when you heat up the leftover turkey and let it cook for hours, it falls apart and there are all kind of turkey bones and strange bits that end up in it, but there is really no getting around it. After I cook it, I drain the stock from the meat and bones,separate the bones and let them cool and then pick the meat off and discard the bones. Although it says to add any little bits of leftover turkey to the pot, I feel this isn't necessary, since there is a ton of meat that comes from the carcass alone. After the stock cools, scoop off the fat and add the turkey meat back in, with some egg noodles and heat up.
   I decided to go all out with the leftovers and chopped up some romaine lettuce and made a dressing out of the juice from the cranberries and olive oil. I mixed the drained leftover cranberries into the salad, with chopped walnuts and blue cheese and it was a yummy complement to the hearty turkey soup. With the turkey tetrazzini, I have made a note to double the recipe of Veloute Sauce, which is never a bad thing! Here they are:

Turkey Soup 7-8 cups

1 Turkey Carcass
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
2 stalks celery, cut up
6 crushed peppercorns
(I also add a couple bay leaves and a chicken bouillon cube.)

Break the turkey carcass into pieces and put them in a soup pot with any small pieces of turkey that you can spare. Add 8 cups of water, onion, carrot, celery and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover partially and simmer for 3 or 4 hours. Strain the broth and cool it quickly, uncovered. Chill it and remove the fat when it solidifies or scoop any fat off the surface with a spoon. Add salt to taste before serving

Turkey Tetrazinni

4 cups (1/2 lb) cooked spaghetti
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 TBL dry sherry
salt to taste
1 recipe Veloute Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
8 or more slices cooked turkey
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Butter a 2 quart shallow baking dish and spread the cooked spaghetti in it. Stir in the nutmeg, sherry and salt into the warm veloute sauce and set aside. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft. Spoon half the sauce over the spaghetti. Place the chicken slices and mushrooms on top, and spoon on the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

Veloute Sauce

2 TBL Butter
3 TBL Flour
1 cup hot chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Stir in the flour and blend over moderate heat until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook 2 minutes more. Pour in the cream, add salt and heat thoroughly.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ On Old Eggs and Iced Tea

Monday Monday... I realize it's not Monday, but Monday mornings I like to get a jump start on the week by preparing food and beverages for the week ahead. I brew some iced tea for my husband Zeke (with the handy dandy Ice Tea Maker Christopher got me for Christmas), whip up a pitcher of Gatorade for Christopher and hard boil some eggs for a quick and easy snack, mostly eaten by A.J..  Sometimes I also, make up a big pot of steel cut oatmeal, which I re-heat for breakfast throughout the week. Although it takes a little time and effort to prepare these items, it's easier to do it all at once, rather than making individual glasses of iced tea or Gatorade.  The hard boiled eggs- the incredible edible "perfect food"- are great to have on hand for an instant, high quality, protein blast.

To hard boil eggs: first try to use "old eggs"; eggs more than a week old peel easier. Place in a pan and cover with at least one inch of cold water. Let the water come to a boil (don't forget about them as I have done). Let boil 1 or 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Cover and let sit in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain, refrigerate and enjoy. You can eat them plain, with salt and paprika, devil them, or take out the yolk (the high calorie part of the egg), and stuff with hummus for a low cal snack. I sometimes throw in a slice of hearts of palm or a cherry tomato, for a little crunch.
   The old egg part reminds me of a story my mother told me about when her sister Cody was getting married in Tuscon, Arizona. She was helping my Aunt Lil was prepare food for the reception. Well, they were trying to make deviled eggs, but the first batch they attempted didn't turn out because the eggs stuck to the shells. So, my mom and Lil went out in search of some more eggs and wound up at a grocery store where the manager told them "Ma'am, I can guarantee these eggs are old."
Kind of like mine. On that note... happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Of Salt and Pepper

Remember the days when salt and pepper consisted of Morton's Iodized Salt (with the little girl with her galoshes and umbrella) and Black Pepper in a red and white can? Those days, thankfully, are gone but now the choices of salts and pepper can seem to be overwhelming. I never use pepper out of a can, now that I've discovered fresh ground pepper. The oils and peppery taste is released when you grind them, just like coffee. The stuff you buy in a can could have been ground a while ago, and to me, it's tasteless. I also enjoy crushed red pepper, especially on pasta and pizzas, to spice things up a bit. Salts can vary in size, color and taste depending on the body of water from which it was extracted;. they are like oysters in this regard. Good old table salt has its place, but I've come to really love Kosher salt, for its flaky texture and saltier taste, especially when cooking. Sea salt, now rather common, is more delicate and finer in texture. I find I need to use a lot to get enough salt. Super fine salt (Morton's) is perfect for popcorn, coating it more thoroughly than regular. We brought some coarse, red volcanic salt back from our honeymoon in Maui. It is supposed to be served with the Luau pig (but how often does that happen?) so I've put it my salt grinder for everyday use. My daughter A.J. brought some pond salt with goat pepper home from her trip to the Bahamas and it combines the best of both worlds- salt and pepper. It is a moist salt and needs to be kept covered, lest it dry out. A dash of it is the perfect addition for everything from scrambled eggs, to soups to grilled meats and veggies. The only problem is, we're going through it at an alarming rate! Salt, a rare commodity in ancient time, is a fun seasoning to experiment with, trying different varieties. It adds so much to any dish (as long as you don't overdo it) at negligible calories so- go crazy, and spice up your life!

My Collection of Salt and Pepper Shakers

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ BB Cream- Hype or Hope?

   I had been hearing buzz about BB Creams so plunked down $12.99 at my local CVS and tried Garnier BB Cream, which had been recommended by Oprah magazine. It was the cheapest of the bunch. BB Cream is a new idea in skin care- a hybrid product that provides sunscreen (SPF 15) with a moisturizer that remedies discoloration, dullness, blotchiness and dryness. Sometimes, before tennis matches, I would mix foundation in with my sunscreen, because the sunscreen alone was very white and made me look like a ghost. This is a similar idea, but in addition to sunscreen, there is Vitamin C and mineral pigments to brighten your skin. On the package, it claims to be a "Miracle Skin Perfector". Well, claiming anything other than something Jesus or one of the saints did to be a miracle is a tall order, but when I tried it I was pleasantly surprised at how much better my skin looked. I would use this every day for foundation, as it allows me to skip the step of putting Oil of Olay on first. I don't always use foundation during the day, but as I get older and my skin gets blotchier, with more sun and age spots, I feel I should do my fellow citizens a favor, and try to look presentable. I also found it brightened up my skin.

According to the back of the Garnier box
"90% had a more even complexion"
"93% saw a more healthy glow"
"96% saw smoother skin"
and, the best thing is, the results are immediate.

   So, my conclusion is, BB Cream, especially if you live somewhere where sun exposure is a concern (like Miami) is a great time-saving, life enhancing product. Not a Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich Miracle, but pretty darned close.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ What TO Wear This Fall

   I love looking through magazines like In Style and getting ideas for outfits, preferably with items I already own in my closet. Putting outfits together has NEVER been my forte. My sister Kelley wanted to sign me up for the TV show What Not To Wear, if that gives you any idea of my fashion (or lack of) sense. My solution to fashion-challenged genes? I look through the magazines and when I find an outfit I like, I tear it out and save it for future reference. These are either outfits I would like to buy, or outfits I can put together with existing items in my closet. I take the picture of the outfit and attach it with a safety pin to the item that would make it work. Sometimes I need to add an item to complete the look, othertimes I have everything I need. This way, it's a no-brainer when it comes time to get dressed. Since I usually just reach for the same old outfits time after time, this is a great way to mix it up.

I'm good to go with this outfit, substituted a Blue Blazer for a Camp Shirt

I need to get some Pants to finish this outfit

I need a Top to go with this skirt

   Fall is the perfect time to go through your closet and get rid of stuff that is stained, faded, frayed or just has to go! You can do your own version of What Not To Wear, although it helps to have a merciless friend (thanks Kelley) to help you. Donate to your favorite charity and get a tax write off as well.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ On Nuclear Medicine, Spaghetti Squash and All That Jazz

   Just a quick post to tell you another great thing about Melba Toast. It's cheap! Two boxes at my local Publix are only $3! That's $1.50 each. I just found a box hidden in my step daughter's closet. The cellophane was open and a couple crackers had fallen out and the Melba Toast still tasted fine- I guess since they are hard in the first place, they don't really get stale. I have had the opposite effect, while storing them in a cooler. They will get soft and mushy.
   Also, I did use the leftover spaghetti squash with some leftover bar-b-que pulled pork. I heated them up, added hoisin (Asian Bar B Que sauce), chopped cilantro, chopped scallions and some salted peanuts and mixed the whole mess together and it was delicious! Really yummy. I will be buying more spaghetti squash this fall, but will steam it next time, instead of microwaving it. On HcG, they wouldn't let you microwave food since it supposedly changes the molecular structure of foods and when you microwave stuff in plastic, you have to worry about the plastic leaching out into your food. I don't know if I buy into that whole argument, but I do believe, the closer we can do things the way our ancestors did (with no processing or microwaving etc...) the better off we are. With the increase of cancer, you have to think it's something we are doing (or eating) in our modern lifestyles. Looking forward to eating squash, pumpkin this fall, plus the beginning of tennis, bunko and all that jazz.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ In Praise of the Humble Melba Toast

I have seen the future of my Dieting Days and it's name  is... Melba Toast! Well, maybe not really but after being on the HcG Diet, I was reintroduced to the joys of Melba Toast, the dieter's Best Friend. Sometimes you just need something crunchy and salty to eat and a carrot or celery stick just doesn't cut it. Enter the humble, and many flavored, Melba Toast. I like the Rye and Sesame varieties. At 20 to 25 calories a slice, it is a Dieter's Dream and it's relative blandness is a perfect blank slate upon which you can paint a variety of toppings. Since I like to eat a carb with a protein, I had gotten used to slicing hard boiled eggs and putting them on Melba toast for an easy(and portable) breakfast. Branching out to be more creative, I added Siracha (Asian garlic chili sauce) and some sliced scallions to kick it up a notch. The other day, I put a teaspoon of peanut butter on a rye Melba toast before I went on a run and, four miles later, I still had plenty of energy. I usually run on an empty stomach and tend to run out of gas. Other toppings I have tried on little Miss Melba- Laughing Cow Cheese wedge (50 calories), chopped tomatoes with garlic and basil and tuna salad. Other options: Hummus, Roasted Red Peppers or guacamole. 

   Along with the Melba Toast, I've been enjoying my egg slicer. It was one of those gadgets that lingered in the kitchen drawer for a long time, but now I've been using it like crazy!

     One more diet related note: a new article on Oprah says if you put healthy foods on the middle shelf of your fridge you're more likely to eat them. I like to cut up veggies for the week to have them accessible, so when I'm hungry, all I have to do is reach in and grab it. Happy Labor Day to All! and prayers to the unemployed and underemployed.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Fear and Love in Miami

   Last week, very close to the 20 year anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, South Florida prepared for another storm- Issac. For days,  TV was filled with coverage of the Tropical Storm and what residents needed to do to prepare, whipping us all into a fearful frenzy. Well, as it turned out, Issac was a wet, soggy mess, but not much else for those of us in Miami. I lost a banana tree that flopped over and had a bunch of branches, leaves, twigs scattered across the yard and pool. But it kind of made me mad, how the news stations feed on the fear of the citizens of Miami, many of whom lived through Hurricane Andrew and had already seen a Big, Bad Category 5 Hurricane. While I absolutely believe in preparing- buy what you need to buy, put up shutters if necessary, evacuate if ordered to do so- after that, what's the use of worrying? Do what you need to do and put the rest in God's hands.
   Some people say that Fear is the opposite of Love. There was an experiment where two jars were filled with cooked white rice, and sealed. One was labeled Fear, the other Love. The Fear jar was talked to about scary messages and set in front of disturbing videos. The Love jar was spoken to about how much it was loved and set in front of beautiful music playing. At the end of the experiment, the Fear jar of rice was brown and mushy, while the Love jar relatively white and clean.
   I am not sure if the opposite of Love is Fear, but I do believe some people make bad decisions and react defensively, when they are afraid. But fear can also be a great motivator. If you are overweight and afraid you won't live long enough to see your children grow up, you might decide to exercise, diet and get into shape. If you're getting older and are worrying about how you are going to support yourself when you retire, you might start saving and set up a retirement account. I suppose both these decisions could also be made because you love yourself, or your loved ones, enough to initiate a change. Change is another thing that makes us afraid. Sometimes, even when someone we know decides to change for the better, it is scary. It is easier to deal with a known quantity, even a dysfunctional or painful one, than to leap into uncharted territory.
   FDR said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Jillian Micheals says "You feel that pit in the bottom of your stomach? That is fear leaving your body." If we have faith, absolute faith, I suppose we would never be afraid, because we would know, like Bob Marley sings "Don't worry 'bout a thing, every little thing's gonna be alright."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Breath- Your Best Friend

   I started thinking about breathing the other day when A.J. mentioned she went for a run and felt like she could run forever simply because she was concentrating on breathing in and out of her nose. Is this possible? I researched it and, according to Military .com, "breathing properly can mean the difference between actually completing the exercise more efficienctly and losing more weight in the process." Sacre Bleu! Breathing properly not only allows you to improve your athletic performance (faster times, further distances), it actually helps you burn more fat. After all the searching for a miracle pill to help us burn more fat, it was with us all along! While running, you should inhale for three seconds, exhale fully for two. This allows oxygen to get to all of your muscles and clears your body of carbon dioxide. When I listen to a deep relaxation video on You Tube, the soothing voice instructs to "Inhale fully and exhale fully"- both are important. While lifting weights, you just remember to exhale on the exertion part. And while doing ab work, Tony Horton (of Power 90 X fame), tells us "Don't forget to breathe" because you can't get through ab exercises without it.

   Yoga is "active meditation", so the breath is very important and you would think we would all be breathing like banchees in there, but such is not usually the case. When you are doing a difficult posture, the tendency is to hold your breath (like you do when enduring something painful), but this is actually counter productive, so we are constantly being told "It all comes back to the breath" and "Breathing is your best friend in Yoga". Breathing in and out in yoga helps us hold poses longer, get through challenging poses and balance better. Indeed, breathing is our best friend- our magic bullet to jump higher, run faster, go longer- so don't forget to invite your best friend to the party next time you work out.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Sneak Some Veggies In

Spaghetti Squash

Lean Cuisine with SS

Side salad of Arugula

You know that cookbook where the idea of it was to sneak veggies into your kid's meals? Well, obviously we all need to eat more veggies, so I sometimes "sneak" them into my food as well. If  I'm making a Lean Cuisine with pasta and sauce, I'll toss a handful of spinach leaves in, after it's cooked so it wilts and gives me a little veggie boost. I had a Spaghetti Squash sitting in the fridge from my no-pasta HcG diet. My plan was to eat the spaghetti squash as pasta, with tomato sauce, but never got around to it. I cooked it (prick all over with a knife and nuke for 16 minutes), sliced it, scooped out the seeds to roast, and scooped out the flesh. It is really cool the way the squash separates like spaghetti! I was going to eat it with a Chicken Parmesan Lean Cuisine, but it already had spaghetti with it, so I just tossed some of the spaghetti squash in with the pasta, mixed the sauce into it and Voila! a great veggie boost, and at 42 calories a cup, it's still a lean cuisine. Warning: Spaghetti Squash does not taste (or have the consistency) of real pasta. It is squash, after all. I have some left over and was thinking it would be good with some of the leftover Bar-B-Que pork stirred into it. One thing I love that I see a lot of restaurants doing lately is serving a little side salad with your meal. With this lunch, I cut some arugula from my garden, spritzed it with olive oil and a little lemon juice, salt and pepper and it added a nice little side touch to my meal. Arugula is super easy to grow, you can even just grow it in a pot and after it's gone, just re-seed and you'll have more in a couple weeks. Mesclun (mixted lettuces) works the same way and the baby lettuce leaves are especially sweet and tender.
The Incredible Edible Egg with Flax Seed
   Another thing I am trying to eat every day (from the Lean book) is flax seed. I toasted some and either sprinkle it into a smoothie, on top of yogurt and fruit or into cereal (hot or cold). It's nutty taste adds a little extra crunch to many things. I even had the ingenious idea of sprinkling it on my sunny side up egg. I have also put herbs, like chives, into the white of my egg, where it is suspended and adds some flavor. So, don't fool yourself! Add some veggies or flax seed to your diet every day and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

Mount Rushmore! Keystome, South Dakota
   Back from an awesome Road Trip! Had a great time with Kate and got some good ideas for new blogs. I just weighed myself and (drum roll please!) I am the same weight as when I left! which is pretty amazing considering most of the choices in the Wild West were meat, meat and more meat, with some fried food thrown in for good measure. We ate at a great vegan restaurant in Fort Collins, but after we left Colorado, it was slim pickins for healthy fare. I tried to make good food choices and exercised a couple times, and I guess it paid off.
   "For where your treasures be, there will your heart be."
   This quote from the bible reflects that we spend money on things that mean a lot to us. I have always found money to spend on a good trip. Zeke says I'm a trip junkie, and I guess he's right. Traveling offers a new way to see the world, people and new experiences and for me, is worth every penny.
   Lately, I have been swimming a lot and so, have been thinking about re-doing our pool. I just got it converted to salt water, so now while I'm swimming don't feel I'm poisoning myself, but as I see the holes in the finish and feel the sandy sides that need to be re-done, I keep imagining a nice, new pool with a smooth blue finish and new tile. Also, have thought about getting solar panels to heat the pool in the winter months and am thinking about taking a Master Swimming Class in the fall.
   Education has always been a top priority and is where a lot of our money (two daughters in private school, one starting college) goes these days. I believe as long as we are learning, and open to learning, we stay young and have always found money to take classes I really wanted to, whether they be Astrology, Photography, Spanish or getting my Masters in Screenwriting at UM (still paying for that one.)
   When I was a flight attendant with little money to spare, I spent my money on furniture, things for the house, books and music. I am still one of Amazon's best customers (books and music), so that hasn't changed and, while I hate shopping for clothes, I love shopping for things for the Home.
   During my first marriage, when I got a job at US Air (travel again), my husband disapproved and cut off all money to me. What did I spend my meager, minimum wage salary on at that time? Healthy food (since he was doing the shopping) and plants for my Garden. This gave me happiness, so this is where I invested my hard-earned cash.
    Also, I have always enjoyed going out to dinner. This month and next is Miami Spice, where you get an appetizer, entree and dessert for a set price. It is a great way to explore and experience restaurants that you could otherwise not afford. Last year, having little money, we did not go. This year, I hope to try at least a couple. Eating out is expensive, but you are paying not only for the food, but for the whole experience. You can discover new cultures with their cuisine.
   At the sermon where I heard this bible quote, Father Frank asked if what you are spending money on reflected what your values are. What do you spend most of your money on? Does it reflect properly who you are? If not, change it!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Spread the Good News!

Kotor, Montenegro
Wow! How did ten days go by without blogging? Some good news to report: Number one, almonds are not as fattening as they were previously reported to be, so you can eat more of them. Apparently they made a mistake when calculating how the calories were used as fuel. I love almonds, so this is good news.

 Number two, Sex burns calories. Well, we all knew this, but it has been broken down as follows:
  • Making out 30 minutes: 230 calories
  • Foreplay, 20 minutes: 87 calories for women, 107 calories for men
  • Unclasping a bra with both hands: 8 calories
  • Unclasping a bra with one hand: 18 calories
  • Unclasping a bra with your mouth: 67 calories
  • Strip tease: 60 calories
  • Oral sex: 100 calories (this doesn't specify men or women)
  • Missionary position, 10 minutes: 250 calories
  • Woman on top, ten minutes, 300 calories for women, 130 calories for men (I always knew this was a lot of work)
  • Sex standing up: Up to 600 calories for both people
  • Masturbation: Up to 150 calories per session
  • Orgasm: Between 60 and 100 calories
According to the Miami Herald (which got this from Chiara Atik of, instead of doing 30 minutes on the elliptical at the gym (around 335 calories), you can do a strip tease, have sex for 10 minutes and unclasp a bra with one hand for the same amount of calories! And we all know this is more fun than the elliptical. So get your groove on and Do it, do it, do it till your satisfied!

Kate in Montenegro last summer
Good news number three: I leave for my Road Trip with Kate today. We are going to Cheyenne, Wyoming, Custer, South Dakota, Mount Rushmore, and Deadwood! This is my graduation present to her for graduating from University of Colorado in the Spring and I can't wait. I will be crossing off two more states (Wyoming and South Dakota) on my list of states to see and checking off an item (Mount Rushmore) on my bucket list! Kate just got her first real job, so we have a lot to celebrate!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Think Outside the (Culinary) Box

Fiber Filled Veggie Burgers
   Along with "Fishy Fridays", I am going to try and do "Meatless Mondays." On a quest to put more fiber in my diet (we should have about 25 grams per day, most of us have 11 or so) I made a veggie burger filled with every fiber-rich food I could get my hands on. I wanted to think of it as the "makes you poop" burger (although that sounds gross) so mixed together: mashed potatoes, pureed peas, grated zucchini, Bulgar, flax seed, black beans, corn and added corn meal, ground whole wheat bread crumbs and egg whites to bind it together and cumin, garlic, onion, scallions, chili powder, jalapeno and hot sauce to season it. I put it in the food processor and gave it a little whirl (before I added the corn) to get it to bind as well. This was a total experiment, I kept adding things as I went along, especially to get it to hold together in a patty that could be pan sauteed in Pam. My daughter A.J. tried them, and declared them a success. I feel like it would benefit from a fresh sliced tomato, sliced sweet onion and some greens. Since I couldn't eat that many veggie burgers in one sitting, I baked them in the oven and will freeze them for lunch on "Meatless Mondays". I love making soup on Mondays, so will experiment with vegetarian ones in upcoming months. Grilled cheese sandwiches are an easy, meat-free, accompaniment. Although some people don't like being restricted to Dietary boundaries, I feel it pushes me to be more creative, culinary-wise. Like, when we were in school and I took Creative Writing, I loved it when we were given a topic to write about (as opposed to when the teacher said "write whatever you want"). It nudges you in a certain direction and spurs you on. Here's to "Meatless Mondays", "Fishy Fridays" and all the days in between.

Packed and ready for the Freezer

                                                  "Do or do not. There is no try." Yoda

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Weight Loss in My Back Pocket

   A slight detour into HcG Diet again. After attaining my weight of 117 at the end of Phase 2, I went off for a vacation in Washington D.C. Although I tried to be "good", it was hard without knowing how many calories I was consuming and without a scale to weigh myself. When I returned home and weighed myself, I had gained 4 pounds- a pound a day for each day I was gone. I immediately went on the protocol for losing 1 or 2 pounds on the HcG and that was: Skip breakfast, lunch and eat a big steak and tomato for dinner (after 7 p.m.). Voila! I lost 2 pounds the next day and eventually got back down to 117, just in time for a 5 day vacation to Club Med. Although I was trying to be "good" at the beginning of the trip, by the end I had surrendered to all the free wine and delicious bread Club Med had to offer. Once again, I gained 4 pounds. My solution? I did the steak day, but with modifications, because skipping breakfast and lunch gives me headaches. I had a protein shake (125 calories) for breakfast, hard boiled egg and 3 Melba toast (120 calories) for lunch and a medium apple (60 calories) for a snack, with a large steak and slice raw tomato for dinner. Result? Lost 2 pounds the next day, and this was with me drinking 2 glasses of red wine! Awesome! With this easy solution available, I feel the HcG weight loss is very easy to maintain.

   When Jeff Bridges had to portray a singer in Crazy Heart, T-Bone Burnett wrote him some songs that he told him he would have in his "back pocket"- aka songs that were within his range of singing, not that hard. With the steak day, I feel I have the solution to gaining weight "in my back pocket". I have one more vacation before the summer ends and I have a good feeling I will be back on the steak day when I return. That's fine, and my apologies to Bruce Springsteen for the take off on his Born in the USA album cover.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ (Vegetarian) Food for Thought

I was trying to find a gourmet vegetarian restaurant in Miami and that seems to be about as hard to find as the proverbial needle in the haystack. I was looking for best restaurants in Fort Collins, Colorado, for an upcoming road trip and a plethora of veggie options came up as the best places to eat. But in Miami? Not so much. Most, like The Last Carrot in the Grove, are earthy-crunchy hippie throwbacks. Other options, Italian or Middle Eastern, are not the point. Why can't someone in South Florida beautifully prepare and artistically present, vegetarian dishes that are delicious? I'm not even a vegetarian, but still.

   This made me think of the "Best restaurant in the world" (3 years running)- Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. While not vegetarian, per se, it is heavy on vegetarian options and is all about the local goodies, weather foraged or procured. This would be a great idea for South Florida, although of course, it would not be the same dishes. Instead of bread sticks in the shape of twigs, we could do them in the shape of palm fronds. And speaking of palms, with the wealth we have here, we could use every part- from heart to jelly. There are so many delicious exotic fruits we grow here- these could be utilized to full advantage. Sea weed, sea grapes, hibiscus- show us something creative with these items, normally forgotten in our tropical landscape for food sources. At Noma, they have a dish of live shrimp. Why couldn't we do that? And maybe little baby crabs (presented on a bed of seaweed), running around, waiting to be speared with a pointed sugar cane stick. OK, that sounds a little barbaric perhaps (hunger games, anyone?) but at Noma, how the food is cooked (eggs in straw) and presented (live shrimp in a mason jar), is of paramount importance.

   We have such a wealth of seafood here, but how many times do you see it creatively presented? This would be there chance, and no more mahi mahi please, unless you have an original way of preparing it. All food used should be organic, locally sourced and sustainable, whenever possible at my imaginary restaurant and the vibe would be tropical chic, kind of like the Raleigh Hotel. James Bond Caribbean, with bamboo, rattan, touches of black, relaxed vibe- very cool, very elegant, never cheesy. And I envision the chef to be part Euell Gibbons, part Ferran Adria, part the old Mango Gang. While I'm not a big fan of foams (I generally like my food to taste like food), touches of them in dishes are cool and keep it interesting. Here I have a photo of oysters from a recent trip to D.C. In my new restaurant, I can see one local oyster, beautifully presented, with some fish roe on top (or local caviar, if there is such a thing) and perhaps a vinegar (lychee or hibiscus?) dollop of foam to finish. I don't know exactly, I'm not a chef but anyone can feel free to use my idea. Just invite me to the opening!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Eat, Drink and Be Merry (While Traveling)

                                                      "Don't leave home without it."
 That was the tag line for an old American Express commercial. Two things I try to NEVER leave home without, especially when traveling, is a water bottle and a healthy snack. When I don't drink enough water, I get cranky, headache-y and lethargic. Come to think of it, these are the same symptoms I get when I get hungry, although not as bad. Humans can live without food for a while, but not without liquid. When traveling, I like to bring an empty water bottlewith me to fill once I pass security, and I love those little Ziploc snack bags that automatically portion controls your snack. I love almonds- but be careful with the amount you eat. While I used to gobble fist fulls, I've now controlled it to about 10 almonds per snack, which is about 70 calories. Sometimes we mistake hunger for thirst. If you drink a large glass of water and are still hungry, eat. Protein (like in nuts) quenches your hunger quicker and lasts longer than carbs. I was trying to find a quote I heard about eating enough to quiet hunger pangs, but not squelch them, but anyway, you get the idea.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Free Deals in the Land of the Free

   If you're looking for a vacation jam-packed with free attractions, you need look no farther than our Nation's Capitol, where I recently visited. The first trick to make your trip to D.C. budget-friendly is to find a reasonably-priced hotel. My sister was attending a work related event and found a hotel - The Capitol Hill Liason- for $159 a night, which I thought was a great deal, but, after looking around found even better deals ($99) on travel websites. Second trick, find a cheap airfare. After these two requirements are met, you are home free to a dirt cheap vacay in the land of the free. And free it is. All Smithsonian Museums (there are 17! ) are totally and completely free. I visited two- the U.S. Postal Museum and National Museum of the American Indian- that I had never seen before and, as a bonus, they have cafeterias that serve great food for a reasonable price. All monuments on the mall are free, as are Arlington Cemetery, the Pentagon, the White House Visitor Center, the National Archives and the Library of Congress.
   You can use the Metro to get around (it even takes you to and from the airport) for $9 for an all day pass, but we opted for the Big Bus Tour ($45 for 2 days) that stops at 60 different points of interest. Pitfalls you need to watch for, as you're watching your wallet are: stopping in for $13 lychee martinis, $4 (price-gouging) ice cream treats sold on the mall, taxis and anything at your hotel. We were there right after July 4th in record heat (107+), so it was hard to say no to anything cold and refreshing. Luckily, all the museums are air conditioned and our hotel had a rooftop pool, with free yoga in the morning and a container of  cool drinks in the lobby. I always try and take advantage of anything free a hotel offers, but this is the first one I've been to that offered free yoga- a great perk! So next time you find a cheap airfare and cheap hotel in D.C., get yee to the Nation's Capitol and enjoy all the free perks. As my son said, "It's not really free, we pay for it!" True, and all the more reason to take advantage.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Fishy Fridays

Nicoise Salad

   You know how people do "Meatless Mondays?" I am going to start doing "Fishy Fridays", Growing up Catholic, we were not supposed to eat meat on Fridays in Lent. Even though I'm not Catholic anymore, I liked the idea of eating fish on Fridays so much I'm going to try and make it a year long thing. Fish is a wonderful food for dieters, because most varieties are low in calories and fat and it has a lot of protein. We have always been told that fish is "Brain Food" and it turns out, they were right. A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh using 260 participants, showed that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week improved their brain health and cut the risk of developing memory problems or Alzheimer's disease.
   Yesterday (yes, I realize it was Thursday) I made a delicious Nicoise salad with tuna fish (in water), hard boiled eggs, green beans, cherry tomatoes, sliced onions, capers and romaine lettuce. I dressed it with a light dressing of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon olive oil, fresh thyme, oregano and basil leaves, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a small squirt of anchovy paste, salt and fresh ground pepper. It was the perfect summer salad. Put on a little Edith Piaf and imagine you're sitting seaside at an outdoor table in Nice. During the HcG diet, I had a hard time eating salads with no oil in the dressing; it was just simply depressing. Now, I read that eating salads with oil in the dressing, allows you to absorb more of the good nutrients the lettuce and veggies have to offer, than those without. Good news for me! I am also lucky in that I have a brother in law who is an excellent fisherman and keeps me supplied with plenty of fresh fish. When he gives me more than we can eat, I wrap individual sized portions in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and stick it in the freezer. Then, when I'm ready to eat, I take out as much as I need for dinner. Try to avoid farm raised fish, as they are often fed corn and do not offer all the health benefits of fish caught in the wild. Here's to Fishy Fridays!
Frozen Dolphin Filets

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day to all! I feel that this is especially appropriate and symbolic for me because this is the last day I will give myself the HcG shot and the last day of the 500 calorie a day diet! Yea!!!!!!!!!!!! I know I can't go too crazy with the yea, etc... because still limiting my daily calories to 1200, but that is much more do-able and I get to have a glass of wine, so yea again! I have now lost 12 pounds on this diet and am 117.8, as of today. I would like to lose 7 more pounds by the end of the summer, to get to 110. Anyway, as a parting gift I wanted to mention a couple recipes/ items I made in this low calorie phase of HcG that I will continue using.

Makings for Bruschetta
 Chopped tomatoes, with fresh basil and chopped garlic makes a delicious base for bruschetta with Melba toast crackers (20 calories each cracker). It can also be served over fish, a chicken breast or mixed in scrambled egg whites.

   I also made a lobster salad with leftover lobster the other day that included, chopped lobster, a little chopped red onion, a little chopped celery, a finely chopped green apple and half a lemon squeezed over it all. The soft lobster with the sweet crunchy green apple, was a very refreshing, clean taste.

   I made a rub for my chicken breast, because let's face it, plain chicken breasts can get BORING. I used garlic powder, onion powder. paprika, cumin, cinnamon and a little stevia to add some sweetness, rubbed it and let it sit overnight. You can vary the spices, according to your taste, as long as they don't have sugar in them. I love rubs because they really infuse meats with good flavor without adding many calories.

Chicken Breast with Rub

Another "trick" I've learned with this diet, is to have the veggie part of the meal ready to go, so all I have to do is cook the protein. To that end, I had steamed cabbage in the fridge, sliced cucumbers in vinegar and caramelized onions. So here's to "liberating" twelve nasty pounds of fat and here's to living in a country that is free where we can all pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness- whatever that means to each of us!
Sliced Cucumbers with Apple Cider Vinegar

Monday, July 2, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Hanging in There

Note to Self
I went to a tennis round robin the other day and not one person noticed I'd lost weight, except my partner, who didn't count because I'd already told her I was on this diet. I couldn't help but think "Really? I'm 5'2" and I've lost eight pounds, and no one notices?" To make matters worse, my partner who is the same height as me has lost weight and everybody noticed! She's lost more- twelve pounds- but still! So, I did get depressed, but then thought about it and remembered SOME people have noticed I lost weight- my husband, my sister, my daughter, my friend Susie, but most of all- ME!

With tennis friends at the Sony

I have noticed in my gut that there is less there, when I sleep on my side, there is not such a pooch and my face looks thinner. And, bottom line, I am doing this for me, no one else. Sick of feeling fat, sick of thinking about losing weight but not doing anything about it and, lastly, I refuse to go up another size- that is just admitting defeat. So, here I stand TEN pounds lighter than where I started, with five days left. Unfortunately, I have not lost the pound a day I was hoping for, more like a half a pound a day, but that's still good. I intend of staying on 1200 calories a day for the next three week phase to lose about five pounds more, and then we'll see. And I get to add in a glass of wine. That is Victory, in and of itself. Persistence, Perseverence, Sacrifice.