Saturday, June 30, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ A Feast for the Eyes

It seems with this diet, I have been serving a lot of proteins on "a bed" of vegetables. First, vegetables as vehicles, and now vegetables as beds? What gives? It just seems to make sense, in the combination of the foods I am permitted to have. It looks pretty (like a restaurant presentation) and tastes good. The Japanese believe we must first eat with our eyes, before we eat with our mouths and with HcG, there is so little food allowed, you want to make sure it looks as good, and tastes as good as possible. They recommend organic food, whenever possible, so the highest quality of food is being ingested and those nasty hormones, chemicals and pesticides are not entering your temple.
So, here I have had cumin-scented cod on a bed of sauteed spinach, grilled chicken on a bed of roasted fennel, veal with lemon sauce on a bed of sauteed red cabbage and a bison burger on a bed of carmelized onions. These are all recipes that I have adapted from other recipes I have. Although they are not as delicious as their full fat brethren, they are quite good, so I am passing them along.

Cumin Scented White Fish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with Pam.
Sprinkle 4 ounces of fish with cumin and chili powder. Slice fresh jalapeno peppers into thin slices and lay enough over to cover, along with a squirt of lemon juice and some chopped fresh cilantro.
Roast fish 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness.
Remove. Serve over a bed of spinach, with additional lemon and cilantro.

Veal with Lemon Sauce

Pound 4 ounces of veal as thin as possible. Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat skillet over medium high heat. Spray with Pam.
Add veal and cook 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Add 2 minced garlic cloves to pan and saute one minute. Add a teaspoon of capers, juice from half a lemon and two tablespoons of no fat chicken broth. Reduce a bit (about a minute).
Place veal over a bed of vegetables (I used red cabbage), pour sauce over and sprinkle with some chopped Italian parsley.

Bison Burger

Take 4 ounces of Bison Burger, and coat with freshly ground pepper. Let sit 30 minutes.
Heat a skillet to medium heat. Sprinkle a light layer of salt in pan. Let it heat.
When hot, add the bison burger and brown well on one side. Turn over.
Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and cook until done.
Serve over a bed of carmelized onions.

Lemon Mint Chicken

Take four ounces of chicken breast and place in a non-reactive container.
Squeeze 1/2 lemon over chicken. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped mint, 1 teaspoon red pepper. Let marinate a couple hours.
Remove from marinade, salt and pepper to taste and grill till cooked through.
Slice and serve over a bed of roasted fennel.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ The Heat is On!

 I almost gave up this diet Monday. I had gone with my daughter AJ and neice Allison to the big Miami Heat Party for winning the 2012 NBA Championships. The party was fun, it was great being with AJ and Alli, but I was on "apple day" again, due to the scale being stuck on the same weight three days in a row. After the celebration, the streets were full of revelers, the public transportation packed and I had a headache. By the time I got home I was hot, sticky, cranky and sick of the whole diet thing. When my hubby walked into the den with a big glass of refreshing white wine, I really wanted to quit.

     "Should I just quit?" I asked him. "No," he said. I called my sister and asked "Should I quit?" Once again, "No, you look great."

    I was sick of being stuck at the same weight, even though I stuck to the diet perfectly and, frankly, sick of apples, but then I thought about the Miami Heat players. Last year Lebron James, Dwayne Wayde and Chris Bosh, "the Dream Team" was supposed to win the NBA championship, but they didn't. After that, by their own admission, they retreated into a cave, lay low and felt bad as people trash talked them for not living up to their potential. At the party at the American Airlines Arena, they all talked of this time and of coming back this year with Persistence, Perseverance and Sacrifice.  They had a goal, they kept their eye on the prize and they made it happen. It wasn't easy and they spoke of the blood, sweat and tears it took to hang in there, but hang in there they did and the result was : Victory! So, I'm going to hang in there. Congrats to the Miami Heat on their win and congrats to me. When I went to get weighed the next, the lady asked "Have you been really active this week?"
and when I asked why, she said "You lost six pounds this week. That's great." Then she gave me a shot of B12 for being such a good patient. If I'd given up, I never would have had that moment. Staying on a diet to see results is hard, no doubt about it. But most things that are worthwhile don't come easily, or without sacrifice.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Treats Redefined

New Treats!
  Before I started this diet, 12 days ago (not that I'm counting), a "treat" at the end of the day included a glass of wine (or two) and a piece (or two) of dark chocolate. Now that those are no longer permitted, I struggled to find something to look foward to. While I can't drink wine, I can drink tea and have been enjoying many different kinds, including Chocolate Bliss by Celestial Seasonings. It smells and tastes faintly like chocolate. A glass of sprakling water, with a wedge of lemon, is also a nice break from the plain old tap (filtered with Brita) water I drink all day. A hot bath has always been my refuge of choice, and that hasn't changed. Massages, recommended on the HcG diet, are a welcome treat, as is meditation, yoga and pilates, all feel-good activities that are healthy and benificial. While I was doing yoga the other day, I noticed it was easier to reach around my waist and it was a great feeling. Other "treats", buying a new Organix Shampoo flavor, getting a mani pedi and buying a string bikini as motivation to hang in there. I've lost six pounds so far- not the pound a day I was planning on, more like a half a pound a day. That's fine, probably a little healthier in the long run and since I don't have THAT much to lose, I guess it's to be expected. Going to the Heat Celebration at the Miami Airlines Arena tomorrow! Can't wait!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Six Apples a Day!

   My blog has turned into an HcG blog! Sorry. I will stop when it is over. Anyway, after three days at the same weight, I realized I had hit a plateau. I called the nice lady at Vital Balance and she told me to go on the apple day. I had read that was only if you got stuck on the same weight for 5 days, but she said to go ahead and do it. "It" is six apples in one day with very little water. Although it sounds awful, I am actually not more hungry than on the regular diet. If anything, possibly, a little less. Being on this diet and not obsessing about cooking etc... has left me time to pursue other projects. Some of these include starting my Rosetta Stone Spanish, weeding my yard and planting some seeds, finishing the USTA video from when our team went to Nationals in January and getting our pool converted to a salt water system, from chlorine. Future projects include: organizing my closet, organizing newsletter articles into the four season and getting new garage doors. I have had time to catch up on a back log of magazines sitting by my bed. I find that, without drinking, I just want to take a hot bath and hit the sack early. When she told me I had to eat only apples, I had one thing to say: "Good thing I like them."  Hopefully, I will still like them after this day, and diet are over.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  I made some grilled shrimp for Father's Day and turned it into shrimp salad for lunch the next two days. I adapted an Ina Garten recipe for the HcG diet by used the grilled shrimp, with orange peel (one orange), a tablespoon of red onion, a tablespoon of capers, some chopped dill and the juice from half a lemon. The result was surprisingly good (I think because the shrimp already had a good flavor) and I barely missed the mayo. I stuffed the shrimp salad into a hollowed out cucumber one day and into a hollowed out tomato the next. This got me thinking about using vegetables as vehicles to carry foods and how, when I get out of this phase of HcG, I should think about using vegetables (as opposed to crackers) as surfaces to hold spreads and such. Sliced cucumbers work well for this- you could spread low fat cream cheese and top with shrimp or smoked salmon, and so do cherry tomatoes, which could hold piped low fat cream cheese, chicken or tuna salad or a marinated mozzarella cube, with basil. Other vegetables as vehicles could be mushroom caps, hollowed out peppers and lettuce leaves, wrapped around a protein. In addition to thinking about this, I went through my recipes and separated the healthy ones out from the rest and separated those into various categories. This way, once this phase of HcG is over, I'll be ready to go.
Here's a recipe for shrimp that almost works with the first phase of HcG (if you eliminate the OJ). You could also grill the shrimp, my favorite way to cook those pink little buggers.

Sicilian Marinated Shrimp

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 pounds shrimp, jumbo with tail on

In a large bowl, combine the citrus juices, garlic and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the shrimp, toss to coat and let marinate 5 minutes.
   Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the marinade and add to the hot skillet. Cook, stirring until they turn bright pink. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Makes 8 servings. 84 calories each

Shrimp salad in Tomato

Shrimp Salad in Cucumber Boats

Healthy Recipes

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ A Matter of Perscpective

Needle used to inject HcG each morning.
While some programs recommend injecting the stomach, I do it in alternating thighs.
People may be sick of hearing about the HcG Diet I am on, but I blog about what I am into and lately I am into HcG (or maybe I should say HcG is into me!). My friend asked if I felt pregnant, since HcG is what your body produces when you are pregnant so the body doesn't reject the fetus.
 I said I kind of did. Maybe it's psychosomatic, but the need to pee and just the FEELING of being pregnant seems to be there, along with a dry mouth and mood swings. At any rate, I had my first real test last night, which was a dinner party at a friend's house who is a wonderful cook. I stuck to my guns, pretty much, but when I turned down a glass of Dom Perignon, had to fess up to the reason. My hostess, who knew before I was on a diet, told me she had done it and felt terrible while she was on it. She said the reason people lose weight on it is because it's only 500 calories and that she was hungry the entire time (she did it for two weeks). Also, that she felt dizzy and lightheaded because she kept exercising (Zumba) throughout. Well, I'm on day 6 and I feel much less hungry than I did the first couple days and, as I mentioned before, my body FEELS different, like a chemical change is going on inside. I spoke to other guests at the party, one of whom has a friend that has lost a lot of weight on the diet.
   "It changed her life," Gema said. "You're going to love the way you look and feel." 
   And so, I think it's a matter of perspective with this diet. If you are committed, if you think it's going to work for you and if you think you will be able to adapt to a changed lifestyle after it's over,
it probably will work. As for me, I plan to give it a go. And the two other women at the party asked me to e-mail them the information about the HcG. Since this is Upsides to the Down Economy, I should mention that this diet is not cheap, but I did get it in a Groupon type deal, so paid about half (or less) than the going price.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Forbidden Fruits

   OK, not to beat a dead horse but while on this HcG diet (I've lost 3 pounds in three days) it really makes me appreciate all the foods I normally have access to, that now do not. What do I miss? Number one: milk in my coffee. On this diet you are allowed one tablespoon in your coffee, which doesn't even change the color from black.
Number two: different fruits. On the first phase of HcG, you are allowed grapefruit, oranges, strawberries and apples. Apples are one of my favorite foods, and the others are fine but it's mango season in Miami and I love mangoes. Also miss grapes, cherries, blueberries and pineapple.
Number three: different vegetables. The veggies you are allowed on this diet are limited and you can't mix them. I don't mind the vegetables listed, but wish you could have more than one and I miss baby carrots, potatoes (sweet or regular) and the delicious steamed, mashed cauliflower with garlic my husband makes. I also miss popcorn, pasta, nuts and sushi, but this too will pass. The good news is, most of what I miss is healthy, so I can eventually re-incorporate it into my diet, post HcG.
   Eating healthy has let me explore different ways of cooking. I did an article on Seasons 52, a restaurant where no item is more than 500 calories, and they use creative cooking methods to get the most flavor from their foods. So I am trying: roasting, baking, grilling and caramelizing. I caramelized some onions today to be used for the flat iron steak for Father's Day tomorrow. Also, garlic, vinegar, herbs, chicken broth and hot sauce are allowed as a way to spice things up on HcG.
I am kind of surprised, but so far, I don't miss wine or dessert. Dessert has been a cup of herbal tea, so I'm getting to drink my stash of Celestial Seasonings  tea that has been lingering in the pantry.
Fruits I can have

Forbidden Fruits

Carmelized onions

 And did you know that tea can also be used as a seasoning? I found recipes using green tea as a marinade in teriyaki chicken and as an aromatic (with garlic, ginger and orange peel) in orange peel scallops. It is also used, brewed, for sauces to go with the dishes. I can't have scallops, but can have shrimp and the peels of lemons, oranges and grapefruit have a ton of flavoring from the oils, without adding any calories. So I shall sip my tea and crunch on my Melba toast and dream of the day, when as a skinny minny, I can go back to the plethora of good eats God has provided.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ On HcG and Good Things


   I started to write a post about Summertime and the livin' is easy blah blah blah... but who am I kidding? I started the HcG diet Tuesday and have a raging headache and that's all I can think of. The first two days of this diet, you load up on the most fattening food you can imagine- chocolate, eggs and bacon, pastries, fried pork etc... You can also load up on "good" fats, like salmon and avocado, but I didn't do that. At any rate, today is the first day of the 500 calorie phase. I had black coffee and an apple for breakfast, sliced steak over spinach for lunch and a Melba toast (whoopy!) for a snack. Dinner, which of course I have already planned, will be a chicken breast grilled, which has been marinated in garlic, red pepper, mint and lemon juice with romaine lettuce. While it is easy to feel sorry for myself and dwell on the deprivation (especially of wine), I choose to look at it as an opportunity to finish projects that have been lingering and to get my focus on something other than food. It also encourages creative cooking, since there are limited foods available, so I am exploring new ways to use herbs, lemon juice, vinegar, chicken broth and garlic to the maximum flavor possible. For lunch, I made a dressing from roasted garlic cloves, salt, lemon juice and black pepper. It was actually quite good (although a little olive oil would have made it better). Fennel is one of the vegetables I can eat and since I've never really cooked with it, I am looking forward to blanching it, roasting it and using the delicate leaves as seasoning. It is supposed to be good with fish so I plan on trying it with the sea bass, sole, halibut and flounder allowed on the HcG diet. I love shrimp and lobster, especially grilled, and both are on the diet and are perfect summertime foods.  I weigh 128. I somehow gained almost 20 pounds since I got married in 2004. You are supposed to lose between 1 and 2 pounds a day on this diet. I don't really have a goal weight, but will re-assess how I feel at 115 (my old "fat" weight) and then 110, the weight I was 8 years ago. The nice thing about diets is they remind you how lucky we are usually to have such a wide variety of foods to choose from in our normal lives. It teaches us gratitude and self restraint. And, like Martha says, "that's a good thing."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ What's Trending This Summer

Makings for the Easy Goat Cheese Appetizers

Today I want to let you know about What's Trending... for me. Cajun Shrimp by OPI nail polish is a beautiful orange shade my friend Lisa York turned me on to. I had a pedicure and choose an orange shade that looked good in the bottle (Bazooka in the Paparazzi Series by Esse) but when it went on my toes was BRIGHT orange, neon-like. Cajun Shrimp is a much more subtle shade and while I'm watching the French Open, it looks the color of the clay in Paris. Mais oui! I wrote a recent blog on freezing fruit, so froze some raspberries with the intent of using them in a smoothie, but when I had some champagne that wasn't quite cold enough, I had the idea to put them in my glass to serve as little frozen ras-cubes. Brilliant! The raspberries make the champagne fizz even more, cooled down my bubbly and turned it a beautiful rose shade. And when you're done with the drink, they make delicious apres-drink, champagne-soaked treats. Boozy bonus! I recently recommended the Kind Bar as a good energy bar to try. A tennis friend, Ellen, recommended Fiber One Chewy Strawberry P B & J bar as delicious, low in Weight Watcher Points and a way to make you "regular", so I shall try it. It has 110 calories, and 5 grams of fiber, 20% of the daily amount needed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Today is our Eight Year Anniversary. Zeke thinks it's neat, the number of our anniversary is 06,05,04, which we didn't even think about when we said our vows eight years ago. While I was researching gifts to get for the 8th (Pottery, Bronze or Lace), one of the things I read mentioned the number 8 is also the symbol (sideways) for infinity, so some people get each other items with the infinity symbol on it. What is it about the infinite that fascinates us so? Perhaps it's because it's a concept our little brains can't handle. I remember learning the meaning of it in Math class and not being able to process how certain numbers would never stop. And, when we look into the night sky and see the depth and blackness of the universe, we are reminded of infinity and our small part in it. "To infinity and beyond!" is, of course, the ever-optimistic Buzz Lightyear's motto. But I think that the reason we are most fascinated by this symbol (and I just heard today that Emma wants an infinity ring and A.J. wants an infinity tattoo) is because it reminds us of love. A love without a beginning and without an end- a love that will never die. I also think we are fascinated by it is because it represents something bigger than ourselves, something that will outlive us and our mere mortal lives. As for me, we've gotten past the seven year itch and are closing in on a decade of marriage, so I'm going to Pop the champagne and break in our new toasting glasses, which I got for Zeke for our anniversary. Yes, I totally went off the list but got what he wanted. Here's toasting to many more! To Infinity and Beyond!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Think Inside the Box

   I like blogging about whatever I'm excited about at the moment. At this moment, it's Lean Cuisine's Delicious Rewards Program. With 3 teenage step daughters, my 26 year old daughter and moi, we go through a lot of Lean Cuisines at our house. While on the website recently, I discovered the Delicious Rewards Program, where you enter a code located inside your meal's box, and get points for them. With these points, you can get items, such as a lunch bag or Free Lean Cuisine. You sometimes also get asked to answer a survey and get Bonus points for that. I've already ordered my first item- white salt and pepper shakers shaped like little birds. It's kind of like the old S & H Green Stamps program, if you remember those.
Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli
Red Code Located Inside the Box
   Speaking of Lean Cuisines, they have a new Culinary Round table, comprised of 7 chefs that are working to spice things up a bit with new meals and recipes. One of them is Michelle Bernstein, a Latina from Miami who owns and operates one of my favorite restaurants-  Michy's. There are four different "collections" of Lean Cuisines to choose from, so it's hard to get bored. In the culinary collection, (with 65 meals), my new favorites are the Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli and Ranchero Braised Beef with Chipolte Sweet Potatoes. My old favorites from this category are  Chicken in Peanut Sauce and Beef Portabello. My daughter A.J. loves the Garlic Chicken Spring Rolls and Roasted Garlic Chicken. In the Spa Collection,(with 17)  I really like the Butternut Squash Ravioli and in the Simple Favorites category, I enjoy Stuffed Cabbage, Swedish Meatballs (loved by more than me in the family) and Chicken Enchilada Suiza. Now, after I eat my Lean Cuisine, I rush to enter the numbers into my Delicious Rewards. A little thing, that makes me happy.

   "I believe the key to happiness is: someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to."
                                   Elvis Presley

I look forward to figuring out how to rotate my photos on my new computer.