Sweet Potato – Pecan Cheesecake! — Diabetic Friendly!

Try this on for size — this may be the best sugar-free, high fiber, gluten free, high protein, reasonably carb’d recipe I’ve ever made. And it is sooooo yummy…. Holy crap. There will be variations on this theme but here’s the basic recipe:
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2 tsp(s), cinnamon, ground
0.50 tsp(s), Salt
2 tsp, Vanilla Extract
0.75 cup, Chopped pecans

80 grams, “Just Like Sugar for Baking” sugar substitute
1.25 cup, Farmers Market Sweet Potato Puree
2 containers (8 oz ea.), Cream Cheese (Light)
2 Eggs

Let the cream cheese and eggs come to room temp so they will mix well. combine eggs, sweet potato puree (or pumpkin), vanilla, Just Like Sugar, salt, cinnamon and mix until smooth. Gradually add cream cheese and mix until smooth and well blended.

Grease a pyrex baking pan (about 7″x9″) and spread pecans on the bottom of the pan.

Pour cream cheese mixture into the greased pan (or muffin cups) over the pecans, and bake in a hot oven/ with a water-bath at 400 for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm. (time will depend on the size of the dish — a smaller pan will take longer.)

Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Cover and refrigerate (or scoop out into single serving dishes to chill.)
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8 x 1/2c portions: 235 calories each
17g fat
328mg sodium
20g total carbs
11g fiber carbs
7g sugar carbs
7g protein
(and half a day’s Vitamin A because of the sweet potato)

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Real Banana Pudding & Type-2 Diabetes: A Love Story

My sweet-tooth has always been rather limited — I usually go for the stuff with cheese, gravy, or salsa on it when I’m looking to splurge…
but when I do crave desserts — it’s either banana pudding or this amazing cherry-pecan pie my grandma made.

I haven’t figured out the cherry pie, but I have found a way to do banana pudding that works out with my Type-2 Diabetes. And since portion control is the key to just about everything — notice that the dessert dishes hold 4oz (1/2c).IMG_2389

for 4 servings:

-1 package Fiber One Vanilla Pudding Mix
-2 Murray’s sugar-free Pecan Shortbread cookies (like Pecan Sandies), crumbled
-1 oz (weight, not volume) Brothers (freeze dried) banana crisps, crushed
-1c + 1oz (1 1/8c) whole milk
-4t Bob’s Red Mill Quick Rolled Oats
-4t chopped pecans

Put 1/2 crumbled cookie in the bottom of each dish. Add 1t each of the pecans and oats.

Mix the pudding mix and milk until thoroughly blended (I use a little stick mixer and let it mix until it whips a bit), then fold in the crushed bananas.

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Pour the pudding (evenly divided) over the cookie crumble in each little cup, then cover and refridgerate for at least 1 hr. It keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Each 1/2c serving will have 235 calories; 12g fat, 6g protein, 30g carbs, 7g sugar, 6g fiber
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By comparison, a normal serving of banana pudding (the kind I grew up on) would be closer to 5-6 oz (or 8-9 on holidays); nonetheless, the stats would still tell the tale: 1/2c serving:

265 calories; 12g fat, 6g protein, 32g carbs, 21g sugar, 2g fiber.

Not a lot of difference except where it counts: in the sugars and the fiber. The whole point of making something healthier to fit with a Diabetes focused menu is to cause food to metabolize into sugar more slowly so as not to overburden the system with sugar that it can’t either use, store, or process. Fiber slows down this conversion.

And the closer other numbers are (calories are close to the same; and fat/protein are identical) — means the dish will be just as satisfying and filling at the end of a meal . In this case — the revamped diabetes-friendly recipe gives my grandma’s banana pudding a real challenge — I really like the swap fo pecan sandies for vanilla wafers — and the addition of a few extra pecans. It gives it a little of that banana-bread taste and some crunch.

Could I make it lower calorie? sure. 1% milk would remove some of the creamy-ness. I could use just the oats and forget the cookie. I could omit the pecans. I could forget the whole thing and just eat 4 slices of freeze-dried banana and a sugar-free vanilla jelly bean. But that’s not really the point for a dessert. The whole idea was to satisfy a craving for a comfort food dessert that comes up once in a blue moon.

Put this dessert with a modest grilled tuna filet, a serving of roasted veggies and a small salad –> and you’ve got a dinner fit for a celebration! (of course, for a birthday or something, I would probably serve the pudding in teacups or wine glasses, instead of the brightly colored plastic cups….)

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Daily Bread — from a Bread Machine

Zojirushi 2lb loaf machine - click for link

Yep.

Here’s my current bread machine — number 4 in 24+ years.  I got it 3 years ago after my (then) excellent machine’s bread pan got bent to the point of being unusable.  That bread machine was no longer being made (it was 11 years old) and I couldn’t find a replacement for the pan.  So — I ended up with this Zojirushi machine instead.  It has many great features — but then so did its predecessor.  There are many bells and whistles available on various machine — some of which should be part of the decision process, and some that don’t really amount to anything but a bell or a whistle.

Let me start by pointing out some of this machine’s big wins in the PLUS column, and then a few notes about what’s missing that I think should be there — or should be there INSTEAD of some of the current whiz-bang features.  This is purely subjective — and know in advance that I use my machine at least 4 and as much as 8 times a week for cake, coffee-cake, bread, cornbread, and even for casserole-type meals.  So I think I’m giving this machine a fair test….

  1. You’ll notice that this machine has a window in the top.  However, the window is so small, and so dark, that I defy anyone, anywhere without a flashlight or a direct overhead light bulb to be able to see anything through it.  Which makes this feature useless.
  2. This is a very BIG machine. It has the biggest footprint of any small appliance in my kitchen except for the microwave.  It’s also incredibly heavy.  Don’t expect to be moving this one about, or storing it under a cabinet when it isn’t in use — to whip it out for a quick loaf.

    2lb loaf-sized bread pan with 2 paddles - Zojirushi

    I could lift it when I first got it, but with my hands as they are now — not a chance.

  3. Here’s the inside pan — notice that it has 2 mixing paddles.  I’m assuming that a bread machine big enough to make a 2 pound loaf couldn’t possibly mix all the ingredients with just one paddle — not and expect to get everything mixed properly.However, at least half the recipes I make in this machine require me to use a spatula to assist the paddles so everything gets mixed in (and doesn’t leave little pockets of dry flour and other bits in the corners and along the sides of the pan.)  This doesn’t happen so often with actual bread — where the dough is so sticky that it picks up stray bits as if it were made of duct-tape.  But it does happen with quickbread, coffee cake, and anything that approaches batter instead of dough.When I forget to check the machine during the mixing process — I usually get a bad surprise when I take the finished product out of the pan.

    The control panel as puzzle box.

    This isn’t good.

  4. Here’s the control panel.  I had a hard time making the switch from my old machine to this one. It seemed to complicate almost everything about the process.  After 3 years — and a lot of trial and error — I’m finally comfortable with the controls.Most of the features are pretty obvious — which is good since the instructions for this — like all of the Zojirushi products I’ve ever owned — are insufficient to the point of using them to line the cat’s litter box.  I’m not sure if the problem is Japanese tech writers who believe they speak English well enough for the American reader/cook, or Japanese tech writers who don’t know anything about cooking, engineering for the cook, or bread baking.  The bottom line is, don’t count on any Zo machine instructions to actually tell you anything you need to know.The most un-obvious thing you need to know about this machine is how to set the “home-made” options.  These are the 3 program-able “courses” you can define for yourself.  (What is a “course” you ask? — it’s the program options, of course.”  If you hit that ovoid “Select Course” button over and over again, you’ll see the little arrow (see where it’s pointing to BASIC in the picture?) move from Basic –> to Quick –> to Wheat –> to Dough –> to Jam –> to Cake –> to Sourdough Starter –> to Home made.  When you get to Home Made, it will show you Home Made 1, Home Made 2, and Home Made 3 — and you get to program each of these 3 options yourself with the TIME and CYCLE buttons.

Being programmable is what saves this machine from the obscurity reserved for badly engineered mechanical and computerized time and labor-saving devises — that don’t save time or labor.

It turns out — if you use the CAKE course (program) — what you get is 25 minutes of batter mixing followed by a standard  baking cycle.

What’s wrong with this? you ask.

What’s wrong is that when you are making a cake, quick bread, coffee cake, muffins, or other baking soda/baking powder leavened batter, you generally mix it by hand — for a very brief time and a very few strokes.  Why?  Because beating it longer causes chemestry-type changes in wheat flour.  Over mixing causes the cake to be less “tender,” moist, light, fluffy, etc.  It also causes the leavening (bubbling) process to exhaust itself before the baking begins — and therefore fewer air bubbles creating spaces between all those batter bits means no fluff and no rise, and creates and heavy, dense cake.

Why would the machine have this kind of a CAKE program?  Beats me.  But there is a fix for it.  Program the Home Made 1 cycle to suit your preferences for cake.  I programmed a 4 minute mix cycle, followed by a slightly-longer-than-average bake cycle, since my pumpkin bread, ginger bread, cinnamon coffee cake, brownies, and lemon-blueberry pound cake were all coming out a little under-done in the middle.

But here’s the only REAL problem with no decipherable remedy.

The Zo bread machines — like the Zo rice cookers and I assume many other Zo products — does not allow for correcting mistakes.

What if your bread or cake or whatever beeps DONE — and horror-of-horrors — it isn’t actually done….?  Whether because of humidity, air pressure, bad luck, gremlins, or power outage — if the beeper beeps — the machine is done until you reset it and let it cool off.  There is no “grace” setting that lets you immediately enter a timed “continue baking” for emergencies.  I’ve lost loaves of bread and every other kind of thing I cook in this machine to this bit of stupid under-engineering.

And I’ve had the exact same problem with my Zo Rice Cooker.

One more bit of programming — one tiny little button that lets you “Continue Baking” for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes — that’s all it would take.

This Zo bread machine has one more little quirk you need to be aware of if you use it.  There is no automatic shut-off.  If you  notice on the control panel — the button in the middle on the bottom says START/RESET.  By default, when this machine finishes baking — it shifts itself to a “keep warm” mode rather than shutting itself off.  I guess this is a reasonable option — in case you fall asleep while the bread is baking — but it never actually resets itself — even if the keep-warm cycle runs out and it stops heating.  You have to manually tell it — even if it has been sitting idle for 18 hours — that it needs to reset and be ready for the next command.  This is just silliness and dumb programming.  It’s also a pain in the ass.  It should know when it’s all finished running through a program — and reset itself.

Having said all that — I picked this machine because Zo — in spite of all its problems — makes excellent kitchen equipment.  In fact, I will probably buy another Zo when this one dies — provided it lives as long a life as I expect it will.  It’s expensive — you can buy 2 or 3 lesser machines for the cost — but those 2 or 3 lesser machines will not give you the options, performance, or reliable quality of the Zo. And, they (like my first ever bread machine back in the late 80’s) will probably drop dead inside of a couple of years.

In fact — if this were a lush economy — I’d be buying the little 1lb loaf machine to go with this one — just to have the option of making bread and cake at the same time.  Or bread and pasta dough.  Or bread and meatloaf.  Or bread and lasagna.  Or cake and tuna casserole.  Or cornbread and tamale pie.  Or baked grits and brownies…..

HANDS FREE BAKING

It turns out, there are problems associated with baking (for me and my lame-duck hands) beyond just not being able to knead bread dough.  Obviously, I haven’t done much of that lately — since I’ve been using a machine for over 20 years.  I did, however, make scones, muffins, biscuits, pie crusts, and popovers by hand all that time.  The days of cutting butter into flour are gone.  But unfortunately, so are most of the days of dipping a measuring cup into a flour bin or a sugar canister — or even carrying a cup full of water across the room from the sink.  Think about how you hold a measuring cup handle.  It’s a lever.  The weight of the contents of the cup has to be offset by pressure from the thumb — and the pressure from the thumb changes when you empty the contents out of the cup.  Add the weight of the water (or whatever) to the weight of either a metal cup or a (yikes!) pyrex-type glass cup — plus the pressure of scooping up a cup of this or that from a bin — all leverage issues — and baking, like all cooking, becomes a tricky proposition.

Physics is my enemy.  Torque.  Leverage.  Blagh.

However….

Yes, I know.  These are stresses of a very short duration on these stupid teeth-grindingly painful thumb joints.  And yes, I do just bite the bullet a lot of the time.  I’ve given up twist-off top sodas (or I let Jim open them.)  I’ve given up jars of applesauce and bottles of catsup (catsup, mustard, mayo, and salad dressing now  come in convenient squirt-top plastic bottles. hooray!!!!)  I’ve given up grinding pepper for an electric pepper mill.  I let Jim open cans of green beans and corn.  I’ve made a litany of changes in the kitchen.

And now I’ve made another.

Bread mixes.  Cake mixes.  Muffin mixes.  Brownie mixes.   Mixes mixes mixes mixes.

I know what you’re thinking.  “What about all those great bread machine recipes?”  Olive Bread.  PIzza Bread.  Baked Potato Bread.   Well — I save those for days when my hands are up to snuff.  But most of the time — I now default to the simplest and easiest (on the hands) possible route.  And I’ll let you in on a secret — if you start with a plain potato bread mix — and add sour cream for half the water, plus crumbled bacon, Penzey’s freeze-dried shallots, a cup of Kraft 2% Milkfat Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese and an extra teaspoon of rapid yeast — you’ll end up with Baked Potato Bread just as good as any scratch recipe.

Most of my other hard-fought recipes convert just as easily.  A tweak here — a little extra yeast there — easy as — well — pie.  Bread, actually.  Why the extra yeast? (an an equal smidge of extra sugar to feed the yeast…)  Because adding heavy olives, cheese, bacon, pepperoni, sun-dried tomatoes etc means adding a compensating amount of yeast to provide more lift.  More yeast, more lift.  More gluten, more elasticity.  More salt — kills off some of the yeast.  More fat — more weight and more savor.  Cheese and bacon both add salt — so more yeast is required to counter both the extra weight and the extra salt!  It’s all a big chemistry set…..

Did you know that almost all of the supermarket big-name brand cake, muffin and other mixes still use partially-hydrogenated fats/trans-fats?

Once you get away from the big mass-marketed grocery store shelf fillers, however — the trends are good.  Whole grains, high fiber, no-none-not a bit-zero-zilch- not one milligram of bad fats, msg, preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors etc seem to be the order of the day for mom-and-pop, all natural, and organic up-and-comers.  If they haven’t completely converted to these high standards, they are well on their way — especially compared to the likes of those brands we grew up with.

And — if your local big-name grocery doesn’t carry these boutique baking mixes, all you have to do is go online and have a browse at your local Amazon.com — because they carry EVERYTHING.

My first impulse was to hot online at the King Arthur Baker’s Catalog site.  And I bought several rounds of their products before realizing that their products were still infected with the bad fats and other pitfalls that traumatized me via Betty Crocker, Krusteze, and Dunkin Hines — and AND A-N-D they were over-priced!  At 5.95 per bread or muffin mix, plus at least 1.30 for shipping per mix, they peddle the less healthy stuff for roughly 2-4 times the going rate for the boutique organic and all natural mixes at Amazon.  And if you find mixes in the SUBSCRIBE AND SAVE option at Amazon — you save an additional 15% in addition to their already deep deep savings, no tax, and no shipping.

In my kitchen right now I have cake, brownie, quick bread, and bread mixes by 5 different boutique companies — with prices ranging from 2.20 per mix, to 4.10 per mix.  Beer bread, sour cream pound cake, parmesan and herb bread, pumpernickel, potato bread, honey wheat, oat bread, raspberry-chocolate chip quick bread, black forest cake, lemon poppy seed, vanilla bean cake, applesauce cake, pumpkin spice cake, carrot cake, cinnamon chip cake, double chocolate w/ chips cake, coconut cake — and it’s all good.

Tear open a mix, crack an egg, add water and or butter, add the yeast for bread — and voilà!  Good for you, hot out of the oven, add a few special ingredients if you like  — and this is the way to go.  Jim gets warm cake made fresh 2-3 times a week.  There’s always something fresh-baked when the kids show up at the door.  Fresh bread in the toaster is better than just about anything on the bread aisle at the market — it’s all good.

Add to that Amazon’s customer service — well let me tell you about Amazon’s customer service.  We got a box of bread mix delivered to our house this afternoon by UPS.  12 bread mixes inside — but instead of an Amazon shipping box, they were in a generic brown box, with a note hand written on the top — LEAKED ON / RAIN.  When we opened the box, we found it had been re-packed by UPS because evidently the original box was in a rainstorm somewhere on its trip here.  Inside were 12 boxes of bread mix in varying stages of collapse.  The mix boxes were still wet, disintegrating, and had already begun to mold from being sealed up in a heavy cardboard box with all that water.  A few of the yeast packets — which I would have supposed would be water/air tight — had begun to swell.  The mixes themselves seemed to be still sealed in plastic — but I had no idea how many would actually be useable.  Mold and its accompanying odor can usually penetrate even stout plastic bags.

So I used the CONTACT US feature at Amazon and within 3 minutes was talking to someone at their service center.  And within 5 more minutes, they were shipping me an entire replacement for the order, at no charge.

This is good customer service.  Add to that the other thing I know about Amazon — they sell so much stuff that it’s ALWAYS fresh — and this is the best deal going.  Even if none of those rain-soaked boxes of mix turns out to be usable, I’m still not out anything because the box got soaked in the rain somewhere between Amazon’s warehouse and my local UPS truck (because you know it hasn’t rained here in almost a 8 months….)

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BBQ Shrimp & Pasta Florentine

There are several gadgets and appliances in my revamped kitchen that make up for having a hand that doesn’t work as good as it used to.  One is the Little-Grill-That-Could — the Cuisinart Griddler.  Without the benefit of wide-scale advertising or the Home Shopping Network, word of mouth has made this one of the most widely used and praised pieces of kitchen technology since the KitchenAid Stand Mixer.  In fact, it’s so popular they now make 6 versions of it.  (Go for the G4)  It’s a grill, griddle, Panini press — the best use of a square foot of counter space in my kitchen.

serves 2
570 calories per serving
24 g fiber
58g protein
12g fat

20 ounces large (approx 3/4 oz-1 oz each), ready-to-peel raw shrimp
2 T Penzeys Barbecue Seasoning of the Americas
5 oz un-cooked Fiber Gourmet Spinach Pasta
5oz fresh (preferably organic) baby spinach
6 oz sweet cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 bunch scallions, chopped w/ 3-4″ of green stalk
1 clove garlic, crushed
2/3 c Newman’s Own Sockerooni Pasta Sauce
2 oz eta cheese, crumbled
1 T capers, drained
1 T butter
1 T EV olive oil
2 T cider vinegar
1/4 c parmesan cheese, shredded
salt, fresh ground black pepper

  • Peel and devein the shrimp and toss them with the Penzey’s BBQ of the Americas seasoning and set aside in a chilled bowl
  • Bring 4 qts of water to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes
  • preheat griddler, and spray with cooking spray
  • Melt butter + olive oil in a large skillet (4-5qt capacity) and sauté spinach with onions, garlic, and tomatoes together until the spinach is thoroughly wilted
  • spread seasoned shrimp on bottom plate of the griddler and close.  Reduce heat to med.
  • add cooked pasta, sauce, capers, vinegar and feta to the sauté veg mix in the large skillet and toss together w/ salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve pasta/veg on 2 plates and top with grilled spinach and parmesan cheese

Eat Breakfast Like a King/Queen….

Eat Breakfast like a king/queen;
Eat lunch like a commoner;
Eat dinner like a peasant.


That the old adage, anyway.  What does it mean?  Put your effort, expectations, and budget (both time and $$) into that first meal of the day — then scale down to a balanced, luncheon-sized plate at lunch, and move on to peasant food at dinner — meals of rice, beans, veggies, potatoes, soups, cabbage, breads, couscous, tiny servings of meat (if any!) and pasta with lots of veggies and meat-less / cream-less sauces.

This really isn’t the American way, is it?  We skip breakfast completely; grab a quick lunch on the run at work, school, or wherever we are at the time — then eat out, fix a big dinner, or go out with friends for a meal and drinks to unwind from our long day. — Or worse, we grab a bag of chips and a burger, followed by a box of cookies and a bag of M&Ms or something equally munchable, and we settle in for a long winter’s night in front of the television.

Either way — it doesn’t work.

Here’s the opening paragraph from a recent article in Mens Health Magazine called The 19 Best Breakfasts: (yes, they also have an article called The 19 Worst Breakfasts.  These guys reallllly like to make lists.)

Studies have shown that regularly skipping breakfast increases your risk of obesity by 450 percent. One study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found that people who regularly ate a protein-rich, 600-calorie breakfast lost significantly more weight in 8 months than those who consumed only 300 calories and a quarter of the protein. The big-breakfast eaters lost an average of 40 pounds and had an easier time sticking with the diet, even though both groups were permitted about the same number of total daily calories….

That’s one hell of an opening volley.   Skipping breakfast — just that one American bad habit — is enough to increase your risk of obesity (not your risk of being plump or pudgy — your risk of OBESITY) by a full 450%.  That’s what we get for hurrying out the door.  For not going to bed early enough to get up early enough to make a really well-thought-out meal.

So.  For those who need rules, here are the breakfast rules:

  1. No fried foods for breakfast. (you burn up too many of your 600 calories on something that doesn’t do you any good….)
  2. 1 serving of calcium (at least) every day for breakfast.  Best if it’s 2% reduced fat cheese or 2% or lower milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, cream cheese etc.
  3. 2-3 servings of a whole grain and high fiber bread/cereal.
  4. At least 1 serving of fruit for breakfast every day.
  5. At least 7 eggs a week.

So what are the best ways for this little list of rules to play out?

  • 1 McDonalds Egg McMuffin + 1 grapefruit + 8oz Organic Valley 1% chocolate milk  (how easy is that?)
  • 3 egg omelette w/ 1.5 oz 2% fat shredded cheese and any veggies you want + 4oz orange juice.
  • 2 packets of Quaker Lower-Sugar Instant Oatmeal + 1 sliced banana + 8oz 1% Organic Valley or Horizon Milk (use some of it in your oatmeal!) + 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 2 slices Oroweat Double Fiber Bread + 2 fried eggs (in a non stick skillet w/Pam) + 3 slices Oscar Mayer Smoked Ham + 1 slice Kraft Low Fat American Singles (this all makes a sandwich) + an organic apple + 8 oz V-8 Vegetable Juice
  • 1 whole grain bagel with 2 oz Neuchâtel cheese schmeer + 4 clementines (satsumas) + coffee + 1pkt sugar + 2T half&half
  • 2 6-7″ corn flour tortillas + 3 scrambled eggs + 1.5oz 2% sharp cheddar shredded cheese + 2 slices Oscar Mayer smoked ham + 1/3 c salsa + 1/4 c chopped avocado (about 1/2 of a sm. Haas) (makes 2 breakfast burritos) + 2 plums + café au lait made with 8oz 1% milk and stevia
  • 2 Double Fiber English Muffins + 2 poached eggs + 2 slices of crisp bacon + 2 slices of Kraft Low Fat American Singles (2 home-made Egg Mcmuffins) + 2/3 c fresh strawberries + 8oz V-8 Spicy-Hot Vegetable Juice
  • 10 ounces of Greek yogurt sweetened w/ 1 T honey + 1 med. sliced banana + 2/3 c grapes + 1 c cantaloupe chunks + toasted whole wheat English Muffin w/ 1 pat of butter + hot chamomile tea w/ 1t honey
  • 1oz Fiber One cereal + 1oz Grape Nuts cereal + 1oz Cheerios + 2/3 c fresh blueberries, + 10 ounces 2% Organic Valley or Horizon Organic milk + 2 sausage links + 6oz cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 1/2 c 2% milk fat cottage cheese sweetened with 1 T molasses + 1 peach, sliced + 1 apricot, sliced + 1/2c mandarin oranges slices — all dusted with Vietnamese Cinnamon + 2 toasted slices of Oroweat Double Fiber bread + hot green tea
  • 10 oz greek yogurt + 1 c fresh strawberries +1 med banana + 1 pkt Emergen-C +1/3 c water + 1c crushed ice (makes a fruit smoothie) + toasted whole wheat English muffin + 1 pat butter + hot rooibos tea
  • 1 large tomato (to stuff) +2.5 oz chunk light tuna packed in water, drained + 1 chopped hard-boiled egg + 1/4 c minced celery + 1 t capers + 1 oz minced onion + 1oz toasted sunflower seeds + 2T low-fat sour cream + 1/2 t dijon mustard + 1/2 granny smith apple, minced fine + salt/black pepper/dill (all this makes the stuffing) + 8 oz 2% Organic Valley milk + hot black coffee
  • 2 slices of lightly buttered Double Fiber toast + 2 poached eggs + 1/2 c orange juice + black coffee + 3 slices of crisp bacon
  • 3 egg spinach fritatta (made w/ 2 c fresh baby spinach, 2 slices of double fiber toast crumbled, 2oz crumbled feta, seasoning, and 1/3 c whole milk) + sliced granny smith apple + hot chai made with 2oz milk + 1t honey added.
  • 3/4 c cooked rice + 6oz greek yogurt + vanilla + 1T molasses + 1T honey + 1/3 c dried (unsweetened) cherries (or other dried berry) + 1oz chopped pecans + dash salt (this makes rice pudding) + 2 eggs over easy + hot genmai tea
  • med skin-on baked potato (about 10-12 oz) + 2oz 2% shredded cheddar cheese + 1 slice bacon crumbled + 2T low-fat sour cream + 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped, + 1t Trappy’s Red Devil Pepper sauce + salt and pepper + 1 med tomato, sliced + 2 T minced fresh red onion (all this makes a great stuffed potato) + 6 oz grapefruit juice

Yep.  All between 550 and 650 calories.  All high protein.  All with milk/calcium.  All with fruit.  If you want to see more choices for nation-wide chain restaurants, check out the 19 smart breakfasts listed in the magazine article.

If you start your day with any of those breakfasts (or any combination you figure out for yourself that comes in at about 600 calories) then you’ve definitely started your day like royalty.  Good protein, good fiber, good calcium, good vitamins — you won’t be hungry for hours!

End your day with hearty bowl of soup and a crusty piece of bread and some fruit — and your peasant meal will keep you going all night.  In between — go simple and healthy with fruits, veggies and vegetable proteins (and something small and yummy.)

Break fast like a king.

Lunch like a commoner.

Dinner like a peasant.

And it won’t hurt if the king is King Julian from Madagascar — who likes to “move-it move-it….”

Am I dieting and exercising? NO. Am I losing weight? YES.

So this has been the question.  What exactly am I doing to lose weight?

This is a complicated question with only 2 real answers that matter:

  1. I’m using an online calories-in/calories-burned tracker
    http://caloriecount.about.com (it’s free and very well designed and programmed), and
  2. I’m paying attention

Now, I realize that’s not what you meant.  You want to know the tips, tricks, secrets, and the rules I’m following.  The truth is, I’m not following any rules.  I HATE rules.  I resent rules.  I feel pressured and trapped by rules.  Especially considering that whatever I’m doing now — I’m going to have to do the rest of my life.

So I really don’t have a diet plan or an exercise routine.  Period.  I don’t need any more pressure or stress than comes naturally with each day.

But okay.  There are a few things that I know now that I didn’t used to know.  Here are a few:

Metabolism

I never eat less than 400-500 calories under my daily burn.  If I (or you) do — your body will think you’re in danger of starving, and will slow your metabolism so you don’t burn through as much of your fuel intake.  Your body will go into “conservation of energy” mode.

Well– I don’t want my metabolism to slow down.  I need to keep the burn up as high as I can — especially since menopause has already robbed me of some of my metabolic burn.

Additionally — just to keep my body from becoming too comfortable with any calorie (fuel) consumption level — I try to vary my daily intake number by at least 100 calories (up or down) every day.  And, at least 1 day a week, I try to eat exactly the calories I’m burning.

The key here is to have a resource that tells you how many calories you’re burning.  That’s where http://caloriecount.about.com comes in — they’ve got the baseline pegged based on your age, body type, sex, weight, exercise level etc.  As long as you answer their questions honestly — it will give you a usable guideline.  And — when you have days of unusually high exercise and exertion, you just enter the work you did by type, and the database adds that number to your calories-burned.  The more calories you burn — the more calories you can eat and still stay within the metabolic-advantage number of 400-500 below burn.

It’s also important to realize that as you lose weight, it takes less fuel to accomplish daily tasks — this means that your baseline “calories burned” number goes down!  When I started this process, I could eat almost 2800 calories a day and never gain or lose an ounce.   Not surprisingly — I recorded several days of “regular” eating before I started, and I was averaging exactly 2800 calories!  It’s not so surprising then, that I’d be at that exact weight for nearly 3 years.  My magic burn number now, after losing 26 lbs, is down to 2645.

😀  I love the way math and science works!

It’s also very important to note that if you let your metabolism slow down to starvation mode — by eating 800 or 1200 calories a day less than you are burning — the first 2-4 weeks WEEKS after you raise your calorie intake post-diet, your metabolism will still be burning on LOW — starvation setting.  This is an evolutionary characteristics of humans — developed because of long, food-scarce winters, and drought-plagued seasons with no available resources.  In the end, your starvation-metabolism will take your “normal diet” and use those extra, unburned calories to put weight on you in preparation for the next winter or dry season.

This is where we got into that nasty yo-yo dieting mess to being with !

—————————————

Exercise

I’m walking more.  I bought myself a little hi-tech pedometer so I can keep track.

Because all my joints are in danger of doing what the joints in my thumbs/hands/wrists have done (complete loss of connective tissue so that the nerves are unprotected and resting between bones — and hurting like hell if I don’t take very good care of them) it seems to me that waiting until there is less load for load-bearing joints is a good idea.

I will start exercising my knees/hips/ankles/feet more when there’s less of me to destroy the connective tissue I’ve got left.

In the meantime — walking, playing light games/sports on the Nintendo Wii will have to do.

—————————————

Fat, Carbs, Sodium, Sugar, Fiber, Protein, Calcium, Potassium, Vitamins, Cholesterol etc.  THE BIG CHEMISTRY SET

This is where the paying attention portion of living shifts from weight-gain/weight-loss/weight-maintenance to Pure Health.

Calcium and Vitamin D

I pay attention to calcium because all the women in my family history died 6-8 inches shorter than they lived.  And if you think those 6-8 inches were lost because they shrank, you’re an idiot.  They “shrank” because the bones in their spines, hips, and joints crumbled like old chalk on a blackboard railing.   Have you ever had a broken bone?  Well — imagine your bones breaking 1mm at a time.  Thousands of breaks every year.  Every morning — more breaks.  More crumbling.  Cell by cell.  It’s no wonder pictures of old women showed them hunched over, and using a cane or crutch to walk!

Prior to the 20th Century — hardly anybody drank milk once they left infancy.  My 5’5″ grandmother never drank a glass of milk of her own free will in her life.  And when she died, she was under 5′ tall.  Understanding that calcium and vitamin D are important really is a new thing.

So I pay attention.  I drink at least 1 glass of 1% milk (usually 2 — and usually organic chocolate 1% milk!), and eat at least 1-oz of low-fat cheese or a carton of yogurt (not that nasty mass-market gelatin crap– real live yogurt) every day.  And most of the time, I add a calcium/Vitamin D supplement.

Fat and Cholesterol

Talking about yogurt and milk and cheese brings up the topics of fat and cholesterol.

I am not on a low-fat diet.  I don’t intentionally buy fat-free anything.

I cook with whole milk, butter, olive oil, whole eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese.

OMG, NO!

Yes.

Several reasons.  Fats are what keep the neurons in your brain functioning smoothly.  Really.  And given a choice, I’d rather be a fat blob that thinks well, than a svelte and athletic mindless toad.

Fats are also what keep your skin healthy, your hair shiny, and your fat-soluble vitamins available.

Also, fat is one of the key ingredients that make other foods taste good.  And I’m really into tastes good as a deciding factor in what I’m having for dinner.

Okay — I do pay attention (there it is again) to how much fat I eat.  That’s where http://caloriecount.about.com comes in.  I enter what I eat, and it counts the grams of fat and shows me what percentage of my daily calories-in come from fat.  I aim for 30-35%.  Some days I may go as low as 20% — other days, I may hit 45%.  But the average is constant.

Because I pay attention.

I don’t eat fried foods but once in a blue moon (technically, that would be 3 times every 2 years) — and some years not at all.

And I add butter to veggies after they’re cooked, rather than during cooking as my mother and grandmother did.

I do use real butter — because it tastes wonderful — and the wonderful taste does not depend on using a lot.  A teaspoon of butter goes a long way, flavor-wise; whereas I could use a tablespoon of another fat and still not be satisfied with the flavor.

I feel the same about low-fat and fat-free cottage cheese, yogurt and sour cream.  If I’m going for the sour cream flavor in a soup or on a baked potato — better to use a small amount of the real thing than a whole tub of something that tastes bad, disappointing, or fake and has a slick texture because of the added gelatin or lecithin used to thicken it.  Cream cheese is the only exception — because neufchatal cheese (which is a lower milk-fat version of cream cheese) tastes exactly the same to me as its hi-fat cousin.  And on a bagel — well.  Neufchatal it is.

Cholesterol is a bit of a slippery slope (so to speak) in the American diet.  Most of the cholesterol we eat comes from meat, eggs, and dairy products.  I don’t want to cut down on dairy — because I need the calcium.  I don’t want to cut down on eggs, because they are so useful in cooking, they taste good, and recent research is attributing so many positive health benefits to whole eggs that I’m not sure we can afford to lose them.  So —

I eat less meat.

In general, I eat 4-8oz of meat and poultry a week.

Period.

Protein

Which leads us to protein.  Over the years, one of the things I’ve figured out about all those crash diets and starvation diets is that a shortage of protein gives me a headache and makes it hard to concentrate.

So if I don’t eat meat — how do I get enough protein?

Again, we’re back to http://caloriecount.about.com and their database.  I shoot for 20-25% of my daily calories to come from protein.

By rejecting the American hamburger and hot-dog diet, I go to fish and vegetable sources for my protein.  Beans, peas, nuts, and nut butter!.  — And yes, I realize many perfectly healthy vegetarians live decades on tofu, but I do not like tofu, and so do not eat tofu.

I eat fish and seafood once a week (even though I live in the land-locked panhandle of Texas where no scallop or lobster has lived since before the dinosaurs became extinct.)  I have a handful of either walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts or almonds every day.  And bean soup is one of my favorite foods in all the world.  I average 2 meals of beans or bean soup every week.

Fiber

I’ve talked elsewhere on this blog about fiber.  Weight Watchers talks about fiber.  Atkins talks about fiber.  Every diet that’s paying attention at all is talking about fiber.

The current batch of research has decided (in direct contradiction to the experts for the previous 20 years) that fiber really isn’t going to do us any good in preventing colon cancer.   Like so many other ideas that come and go — this one will probably be back.

But that’s not why I eat a lot a of fiber.  I eat fiber because it is FILLING, and it lets your body do a more efficient job of through-processing.  You eat good nutritional foods –> your body extracts all the benefits –> and discards the rest.  And it happens faster with a healthy supply of fiber.  In .  Out .  Done.

😀

You have to drink a lot of water/clear liquids for it work properly.  You have to be consistent.  Voila!  And it works especially well when ridding your body of all those fluids created by the dissolution of fat.

The nutritional guides say 20-25g of fiber a day.  I’m finding that I’m running more like 35-40g according to my handy online database — sometimes more.

Carbs and Sugar

I don’t bother with counting carbs.  If I’m getting enough protein and hitting my numbers on fat and fiber, my carb numbers run about 45%.

The only place I pay attention with carbs is to make sure they don’t come primarily from sugar.  This turns out to be a pretty easy turn as well — because if I’m eating my carbs as whole grains and potatoes/rice/pasta, plus at least 3 servings of veggies and at least 2 servings of fruit per day — then there’s not much room left for sugar.

Which is good.  Because I eat 4-8g of chocolate every day because of its unbelievably high antioxidants.  (yeah, right)  And because it tastes good.  72%-cocoa chocolate (or even higher) turns out to have more that 100 times the antioxidants of blueberries, pomegranate, or any of the other so-called superfruits.  This gets lost in the media because of chocolate’s bad reputation as candy (empty calories.)

As it turns out — candy — if it’s mostly dark chocolate, dried fruit, and nuts — is not the boogie-man it’s made out to be.  And if it’s 72% dark chocolate, dried blueberries / raspberries / cranberries / blackberries or poms plus walnuts or almonds — then it’s so dense with antioxidants and other nutrition that you might as well call it medicinal!

And even if it had no antioxidants at all — I’d still eat 4-8 grams a day.

Take that! Diet Police!

Potassium and Sodium

These are the last 2 things on nutrition labels that I pay close attention to.  (Yes, I know there is a lot more information that’s very useful — but these are the things I keep track of daily.)

Body chemistry is a complicated and amazing thing.  I don’t have nearly enough information to understand it.  But — there are some things we know for sure — and some newer bits that seem to be important, and are coming soon to a news-cycle near you.

Too little sodium, and your metabolism suffers.  Too much sodium combined with too little potassium, and it suffers.  Sodium makes you bloat and carry around more water in your cells.  Exercise too much without replenishing sodium and you dehydrate, pass out, or worse.  Eat too much sodium so your cells fill with fluid, and your heart has to beat harder to get the blood oxygen / fuel to all the places it needs to be.  Too much of a chemical imbalance like this and you put your hard-working pump at risk of massive fail.

The current wisdom on sodium is that a person who is moderately active, eating a 2000 calorie diet, with no high blood pressure history and no diabetes can safely consume 3500-4500mg of sodium a day.  That is considerably less that most people eat in the US.

Restricted sodium diets recommend a number closer to 1500-2000mg of sodium/day — regardless of how much you exercise, or how many calories you eat.

I shoot for 3500mg of sodium a day, but I rarely hit it.  Cheese has salt.  (it’s required to make milk become cheese.)  V-8 Vegetable Juice has salt.  Pasta sauce, canned veggies, olives, pickles, canned fruit, canned tuna — pretty much anything that’s preserved, in a can, cured, fermented, or aged has salt.  That’s a really high percentage of everything in a grocery store except for fresh.

And — while I really respect the idea of a mostly fresh diet — it does not lend itself to travel, workplace environments, college, volunteer work, or day-to-day living.  It’s also the most expensive way to eat in the USA.  (So why isn’t the government subsidising fresh organic food, instead of the petroleum industry?)

There are low sodium varieties of many processed foods — and that’s good.  Even cheeses can now be found with lower sodium.  The problem is — we like salt.   I like salt.  Read Alton Brown on salt and he explains why it’s important to flavor and taste buds.  We like it because of its taste and because we NEED it to function.   Even when we buy low-sodium foods — we miss it — and far too many of us waste the money we spend of the lower sodium foods by adding salt at the table!

Then — there is potassium.  Another component in the body’s self-diagnosing and self-treating chemistry set.  Turns out — it may be that when eating 4000-5000mg of potassium per day, AND 3000-4000mg of sodium per day –> the potassium may actually be cancelling out the negative effects of the sodium on blood pressure and heart function.  Potassium is important because it works with sodium to maintain the body’s fluid balance.  And diet’s that are high in sodium, but missing crucial potassium may actually lead to high blood pressure in people who have never shown tendencies in that direction. For more information on this, look at this write-up in Men’s Health Magazine on the relationship between sodium and potassium — and blood pressure.

Potassium is also important to maintaining BONE MASS (see calcium, above), concentration, and coordination — all of which are fairly important to me.

What we do know we is that we need a lot more potassium than most of us are eating.  And multivitamin potassium is nowhere as beneficial as getting it from food directly.  And athletes need even more.  So — here’s a list of naturally high potassium foods, ranked from highest to lowest:

  1. soy flour
  2. blackstrap molasses
  3. wheat bran/oat bran
  4. cantaloupe
  5. apricots
  6. cooked spinach
  7. winter squash
  8. pears
  9. tomato purée/sauce/juice
  10. papaya
  11. mango
  12. cucumber
  13. raisins
  14. figs
  15. sunflower seeds
  16. pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  17. walnuts
  18. peanuts
  19. prunes/prune juice
  20. lima beans
  21. brussels sprouts
  22. pinto beans (all legumes)
  23. potatoes w/skin
  24. green peas/lentils
  25. fresh yogurt
  26. sardines
  27. tuna
  28. halibut
  29. avocado
  30. cabbage
  31. broccoli
  32. bananas
  33. honey

For an even more complete list of foods rich in potassium, look here at drugs.com!

Here’s a link to my very best, high potassium, high fiber, high protien, reasonably caloried  recipe: WIFFA Green Bean Stew.  It clocks in at 220 calories per cup — with 14g of protein, 4.5g of fiber, and 700mg of potassium.

The truth is, we don’t really have much of a picture of how the chemistry set works.  On the coattails of Linus Pauling and his lifelong examination of Vitamin C, we’re being amazed and confounded by all the implications and nuances of each vitamin, mineral, and chemical that comes into play.  We’re starting to recognize that potassium, Vitamin D, B12, B3, — pick your B vitamin and prepare to be astounded — but they all are pieces of a puzzle — and the machine doesn’t work without all the puzzle pieces present and in the right combinations and amounts.

These are the ones I’m paying most attention to because I already know I’m not getting the right amounts.

You have to know your own body, and pay attention.  Pay attention.

PAY ATTENTION.

If your head hurts, that’s a clue.

If you are forgetting things — that’s a clue.

If you are tired all the time — that’s a clue.

If you are not sleeping at night, or if you fall asleep during work — those re clues.

Muscle aches?  Dry skin?  Puffy ankles?  Impatience where there hasn’t always been impatience?  Short Temper? Does your mind wander?  Has your breath or perspiration odor changed?  How about your feet?  Are your fingernails more brittle?  Are they harder?  Are your gums bleeding?  Is your vision blurry?  Is your hair breaking or falling out?  Having trouble concentrating?  Short winded?  More infections than normal?  Thirsty all the time?  Not thirsty at all?

All of these are clues.  They’re things you need to pay attention to.  Many of them are things you need to repeat to your doctor.

Pay attention.

Body mass, metabolism, body weight — all of this is chemistry and math.

Pay Attention