Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Excuses, excuses

Has it really been three weeks since I posted? I could blame it on the computer virus that attacked my hard drive and left me without a computer for two weeks. Or that I had gotten out of the habit of posting each day, and did not make the time to post.

But those, like everything, are just excuses. There is no good reason why I have been ignoring my blog. And this morning, while I was doing my three-mile Walk Away the Pounds with Leslie Sansone and her posse, I decided I had to post, because I heard something last night that is too good not to pass on.

But first, I want to share some exciting news: I have actually been a very good diet girl since last I posted. I went back to Weight Watchers, have taken two yoga classes a week at Yoga4Everybody in Fairfield, and start my Saturdays at 7 a.m. at Penfield Beach doing Qi Gong and Tai Chi. And I walk at least 45 minutes a day.

But what I really wanted to share is something my Weight Watchers' leader Karen told us last night. The topic was uncontrollable eating -- when you cannot stuff enough food in your mouth in a certain period of time. Been there, hope to never do that again. But Karen said if you ever feel an attack coming on -- or if you ever find yourself reaching for something better left on the plate -- STOP, DROP and STROLL.

  • STOP what you are doing
  • DROP the food and
  • STROLL away!!!!!!!!

Thank you Karen for your wise words -- and for giving me something short to write about today. Until tomorrow....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pick of the Week: A new book!

When I was writing Pick of the Week for The Advocate and Greenwich Time newspapers, I would often mix things up by mentioning a new product or a new cookbook. Today, it's a cookbook, "125 Gluten-Free Bread Machine Recipes" by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt (Robert Rose, $24.95; $16.47 on Amazon).

Fifteen years ago, I got the horrid news that I had a
bad wheat allergy. I eliminated wheat from my diet, and within a month, my weekly allergy shots and my asthma were gone. My allergy is not to gluten, but it might as well be.

The news hit me hard when I really analyzed my then diet, heavy on pasta and bread, two things I really have almost completely eliminated. Every now and then I'll have some commercial wheat bread -- but if I eat too much, my eyes start watering and my breathing gets labored. It's just not worth it.

Washburn and Butt are Canadians, and for years have been writing gluten-free cookbooks and giving lectures on the subject. There really is no better pair to turn to if you ever get this diagnosis, because their recipes are terrific -- and they work. They spend each day in their test kitchen perfecting the recipes that will eventually make it into their newest tome, so you know that if you follow them to the letter, you will not be disappointed. They are perfectionists and it shows in their writing.

Of course, if you do get this diagnosis, never before heard ingredients such as amaranth, bean and sorghum flours will soon become your best friend. And don't despair because this diagnosis is getting so
prevalent, most markets now have a designated section for gluten-free or wheat-free products.

Washburn and Butt are incredible teachers, explaining these unusual ingredients, which are much better for you to eat than the over-processed ones we are too used to in America. Their cookbooks are filled with recipes AND important information that can spill out into all your cooking.

For example, I loved the section on instant-read thermometers, how to buy one, and the easy test we should all be doing to make sure our thermometer is registering the correct temperature. If it's not, they explain how to adjust. Just one little pearl of wisdom. There are many.

This book is perfect for new machines, especially those with a gluten-free cycle. You know gluten-free is the new
it allergy when the small appliance manufacturers jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. It made me yearn for a new model. So now I have two goals:
  1. Soon, I will buy a new bread machine
  2. I will start at the first recipe in the book and keep on going, filling my house wit wonderful scents and our bodies with nutritious breads/

I am including a recipe for Square Pizza Crust, a thin pizza crust that is big on texture and flavor, followed by directions for a Sausage and Leek Pie.


2/3 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup quinoa flour

1/3 cup potato starch

1/4 cup tapioca starch

1 tsp. granulated sugar

2 tsp. xanthan gum

1 Tblsp. bread machine or instant yeast

3/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cups water

1 Tblsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. cider vinegar

  • In a large bowl or plastic bag, combine sorghum flour, quinoa flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, sugar, xanthan gum, yeast and salt; mix well and set aside.
  • Pour water, oil, and vinegar into the bread machine baking pan.
  • Select the Dough Cycle. Gradually add the dry ingredients as the bread machine is mixing. Scrape a rubber spatula while adding the dry ingredients. Try to incorporate all the dry ingredients within 1 to 2 minutes. Stop bread machine as soon as the kneading portion of the cycle is complete. Do not let bread machine finish the cycle.
  • Gently transfer dough to a 15-by-10-inch lightly greased jelly roll pan and, using a moistened rubber spatula, spread evenly to the edges. Do not smooth top.
  • Bake in 400-degree preheated oven for 12 minutes or until bottom is golden and crust is partially baked. Use right away or wrap airtight and freeze up to 4 weeks. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using to make pizza. Makes 10 pieces. Per serving: 100 calories; 2g fat; no cholesterol; 178mg sodium; 19g carbohydrates; 2g fiber; 2g protein; 8mg calcium; 1mg iron.


1 lb. gluten-free sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled

3 carrots, finely chopped

3 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 Tblsp. crumbled dried rosemary

2 Tblsp. dry white wine

1 partially baked Square Pizza Crust

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  • In a large skillet, over medium heat, brown sausage meat until no pink remains. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a plate and set aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet.
  • In the fat remaining in the skillet, over medium heat, cook carrots, leeks, mushrooms and rosemary, stirring for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender. Drain off fat. Return browned sausage to skillet with wine; mix gently and set aside to cool slightly.
  • Spread filling over crust to within 1/4 inch of the edges. Sprinkle with mozzarella.
  • Bake in 400-degree preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and top is golden. Transfer to a cutting board, let coo slightly, then cut into 10 pieces. Per slice: 332 calories; 17g fat; 37mg cholesterol; 509mg sodium; 32g carbohydrates; 7g fiber; 11g protein; 250mg calcium; 5 mg iron.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Joy Bauer, author of "Slim & Scrumptious," posted an interesting article on Yahoo Health recently that really got me thinking. She was writing about her clients who admit they are professional dieters. I never looked at my eating issues using that term, but guess what: I sure fit the profile:

  • I’ve tried every weight loss plan, scheme and promise.
  • 9 times out of 10, my attempts fail.
  • And here’s one from me: the one that works ultimately fails.

So here are her painful reasons, not one of which I disagree with. But she puts a positive spin on it by telling us how to overcome each hurdle. Oh – and by the way – there is NOTHING new here.

    1. You're not fully committed. Bauer claims weight loss is at least 50 percent attitude. If you’re not fully committed to it, you will fail in the long term.

How to Prevail: Do some serious soul-searching and identify a significant and enduring source of personal motivation for finally shedding the extra weight. She suggests: better managing health conditions; to be around for your kids and grandkids; or to finally feel more comfortable in your own skin and boost your energy level. Here’s the key: Whatever the motivation, it has to come from within. Then, strengthen your resolve daily with positive self-talk and daily or weekly goals. She favors short-term goals over long-term ones because because they reinforce success every step of the way.

    1. You expect miracles. We (I) have unreasonable expectations about how much weight we (I) will lose each week. When we (I) don’t lose 10 pounds each week, we’re (I’m) disappointed and start eating.

How to Prevail: Beginning weight loss can be dramatic, followed by one to three pounds a week from then on. And if you are on a fad diet that has you shedding lots of pounds each week, chances are as soon as you go back to normal eating – and most of us will – those pounds come back. Accept this fact: Slow and steady weight loss is the only way to lose weight. Hate that!

    1. Your plan isn't sustainable. Extreme weight loss plans are not real world. So a month of this eating can show big results on the scale, but those pounds will probably return.

How to Prevail: A diet should be based on appropriate amounts of healthy foods that keep you feeling satisfied and energized — not cranky and deprived. Most importantly, a diet should be viewed as a launching pad for a long-term lifestyle change. To lose weight forever, you have to permanently change your eating habits. So find one you can live with (Weight Watchers?) and start following it to the letter. (The last sentence is all mine.)

    1. You can't forgive your slip-ups. Diet blown – it’s back to eating with abandon. Personally, I am sick and tired of blowing a diet: stuffing huge amounts of food down my throat while telling myself that tomorrow I’ll be good – I might even fast. Ha! I wake up the next day hungrier than ever.

How to Prevail: Joy tells us to not dwell on your mistakes. Instead, we should shake it off and get right back on track at our next meal or the very next day. It sounds so easy. But it’s not. And we all know that. But there is something that Joy wrote that really hit home: “Always remember, nobody gains weight from one rich dinner or a single slice of cake. The real trouble starts when you allow that one ‘splurge’ to snowball into an all-out eating frenzy.” For me, that is really a powerful concept. I actually can gain lots of weight from one meal, but I also know that if I get right back on track, ultimately, that meal will not reflect in my weekly total.

So maybe I really need to just take it one meal at a time and to learn to forgive myself. Carting around extra weight does not make me a bad person. It might make me unhappy, but not bad.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Alone time

Last week was a whirlwind, partially because of the July 4th holiday, but mostly because my computer died. And when that happened, all was not well with the world.

I wish it didn't set my world on such a tilt, but it did, and I decided I needed to do something nice for myself, so I signed up for some yoga classes at Yoga 4 Everybody in Fairfield. My first class was a gentle yoga class last Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m., a time I find it difficult not to overeat. Not sure why, but after dinner is when all my best intentions go out the window.

I swear that gentle yoga class was life changing. My dead computer became just that -- a dead computer that is annoying, but something I can work around. I breathed deeply and stretched like I haven't stretched in years, and before I knew it, 75 minutes had passed and I was on my way home, looking forward to the next class I had signed up for -- restorative yoga on Friday afternoon, another bad time for me. Friday at 5 I am usually rewarding myself with my first glass of weekend wine. Again, another 75 minutes passed, and again, I was at peace with the world. Saturday morning at 7 I was at the beach, taking a class in Qi Gong and Tai Chi, and ever since, at least five times a day, I have been practicing the one pose our teacher asked us to perfect.

So I was amused when today's "meditation for weight loss" that I subscribe to, suggested I need to spend some time alone each day to develop an internal friendship with myself -- an important component of any weight loss journey.

It is something I really have not thought about before. But since Wednesday -- OK it's only been four days -- I am making better food choices because I want to, not because I feel I have to. And I am calmer, more centered, and really liking myself a whole lot better.

All this proves that an old dog really can learn new tricks. You just have to find the tricks that work. And of course, stick with them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pick of the Week: Chocolate

Everyday Health left the best super food for the end: Dark chocolate. We're not talking milk chocolate, but dark chocolate, and the more bitter, the better. It seems the benefits of chocolate come from the flavonols and antioxidants -- the same disease fighting chemicals found in cranberries, apples, strawberries and red wine. Can you think of a better dessert: chocolate dipped strawberries with a glass of hearty red wine? My kind of eating.

But when you pick your chocolate, remember it's got to be real cacao, so look for chocolate with a high percentage of cacao — 60 percent or higher. More good news: Dark chocolate has fewer calories than other varieties, and when eaten in moderation, it lowers unhealthy
LDL cholesterol and helps prevent plague from building up in your arteries. The only problem is that it does take some getting used to, especially if you crave sweet things, but once you develop a taste for dark chocolate, there is no going back!

Storing: Once opened, chocolate should be stored tightly covered in a cool, dry place, at temperatures between 60 degrees and 78 degrees. In hot weather, consider storing chocolate in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in foil and then sealed in a plastic bag so it will not absorb the odors from other foods. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before eating.

White bloom: Has your chocolate ever turned gray? That’s called white bloom, and although it looks unattractive, it does not change the taste of chocolate. Bloom happens when chocolate is stored in a humid or too warm place.

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 lb. big strawberries with stems, washed and dried very well
  • Put the semisweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl that can sit over the rim of a saucepan. Fill the bottom of the double boiler or the saucepan with a couple of inches of water and bring to a simmer.
  • Place the bowl with the chocolate over the pan. Turn off the heat and stir chocolate until smooth. Remove from the heat.
  • Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment.
  • Hold the strawberry by the stem and dip into the chocolate. Lift and turn the berry so the excess chocolate falls back into the bowl.
  • Place dipped strawberry on the paper. Repeat until all berries are dipped.
  • Let chocolate set about 30 minutes. Eat within a day.
The next recipe is from the American Heart Association. Find it -- and many more -- at

Cake Layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 chopped pecans
Tblsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
Tblsp. canola or corn oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pudding Layer
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
Tblsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Dust the bottom with 1 teaspoon cocoa powder.
  • For the cake layer, in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, pecans, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add the evaporated milk, oil, and vanilla, stirring until well combined. Using a rubber scraper or the back of a large spoon, spread the batter in the pan. (The batter will be very thick.)
  • For the pudding layer, in another medium bowl, stir together the sugar, brown sugar, and cocoa powder. Whisk in the water and vanilla. Pour over the batter. Do not stir.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched lightly in the center. (A cake tester or wooden toothpick doesn’t work well for testing doneness here.) Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, spooning the pudding over the cake.
  • Makes 12 servings. Per serving: 175 calories; 4g fat; no cholesterol; 105mg sodium; 33mg carbohydrates; 1g fiber; 23g sugar; 3g protein.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Flatten that tummy!

Most of the emails I get I skim, but every now and then, one arrives that catches my eye. And an exercise you can do to flatten your stomach while driving -- who can resist that?

It came from former fatty Jon Benson, who has capitalized on his weight-loss success the all-American way: he sells himself and his products. But he also gives some great advice, like this tip he got from a good friend of his, Mike Geary, described by Benson as a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer.

The exercise comes with this disclaimer: Be sure it doesn't distract you from driving safely. I tried it yesterday -- on our day trip around Connecticut visiting wineries -- and it's not as easy as it sounds. My tummy got really tired, which says a lot about the shape I'm in.

According to Geary, this exercise does not increase fat burning, but it can help flatten your stomach by strengthening the deeper transversus abdominis muscles, pulling in a lazy stomach, aka beer belly or pooch belly.

He calls them ab vacuums, and you can do them standing, seated, kneeling in a four-point position or lying flat on the floor. Guess that means you can do them anywhere.
  1. Start by inhaling deeply.
  2. Then, as you exhale, start pulling in the belly button in towards the spine.
  3. Hold it for 10-20 seconds while just taking short breaths.
  4. Repeat for several holds.

Now all I have to do is remember to do them.....

Friday, July 2, 2010

Eric Clapton

I owe Eric Clapton big time. Not for his wonderful music, which I have enjoyed for years, but for his autobiography, which I just finished reading.

It was such an honest pouring out of his life, the scattered affairs he enjoyed or endured, depending on his mood, the amazing artists that have all influenced him and is music, and his drug and alcohol addictions, which ruled the first part of his life.

He's been clean for about 25 years now, but as I was reading about how hard it was for him to stop drugging and drinking, I thanked God that those are not my issues, but honestly, staying on a healthy diet and not eating what I shouldn't is my life's greatest challenge. And when I give in and start eating everything in sight, I have the same feelings of guilt, the feelings of worthlessness, the feelings that I am letting my loved ones down that Clapton talks about in his life's story.

Sunday was when I became immersed in the healing part of Clapton's autobiography. And Monday, each time I wanted to eat something I knew I shouldn't, I thought of Clapton and said: if he could change his life, so can I.

So the rubber bands I wear daily, the ones that I snap when I want to eat something loaded with calories, now have a name: Eric. And like Clapton, I am surrendering to a higher being, and thanking God each night for helping me get through the day, and asking his help each morning.

This really is something I have never done before.