Hi, friends! Sorry I've been away for so long. And to those of you who landed here from The Skeptic Bride, welcome! This is where I used to write up my own recipes and adapt cookbook recipes to my economical tastes. The blog--not the cooking--fell under severe neglect after I met Special Someone, since who wants to spend their evenings sitting in front of a computer screen when there's an adorable boyfriend to play with? Once he became my adorable fiance, though: PANIC! I needed a new outlet dedicated entirely to wedding madness. Ergo, the Skeptic Bride was born.
Our wedding is now just three months away and I've recently been inspired to start trimming down my physique a bit in preparation for it (I'm fully aware that I sound like I've been corrupted by The Knot, and it's probably true.). Longtime readers of this blog may recall that when I used to feel fat, I would eat massive amounts of cabbage salad. However, cabbage can only do so much to keep you alive. Despite being fibrous and requiring a lot of chewing, it does little to help one feel full for a long time. (Trust me, I've laid awake many a night, post cabbage dinner binge, craving a steak and a baked potato.) So now I'm getting a little smarter: adding more protein, controlling my portions, and getting up from this chair once in a damn while.
Well, duh. Everyone knows that's how you lose weight - eat better, eat less, and move more. To prove I'm not just all hat and no cattle, I'll provide some details (probably more than you care to know), complete with a few recipes. Now, I must admit that this new weight loss program, if you can really call it that, has been going on for only about two weeks. Okay, so maybe I am all hat and no cattle. I don't even know what I weighed to begin with, so I can't provide any numbers proving this thing works. Still, my clothes are fitting better already, I feel more energetic during the day, and I'm convinced my back flab has depleted ever so slightly. So here's what I've been doing:
1. Not going to the Ethiopian lunch buffet near my newish office in NoNoPe (North of NoPe). Another "duh," but it was getting to be a real problem. Still, it's delicious and a great deal at $7.95 on weekdays. I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn't care what they weigh or can exert good self control at a buffet table.
2. Going for thirty minute "power walks" before I eat lunch. Work gets demanding and weather in these parts is strange, to say the least, so I can't do this every day. But when I do, it involves putting on tennis shoes with whatever business casual outfit I'm wearing (since my work clothes are not nearly dorky enough to begin with), pumping my arms wildly, and admiring all the pretty flowers in residential NoNoPe while walking as fast as I can for a timed half hour. It's an enjoyable, if ridiculous-looking, part of the day.
3. Cooking as much as I can. I've always cooked fairly often, but now I make a conscious effort to cook larger quantities so that I have delicious leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. This helps me avoid Item 1. Some good old standbys that have been enjoying a revival in my kitchen include: Cream of Poverty soup, sweet potato chili, Seth Quinoa Salad, other assorted vegetarian one-pot meals, the occasional peanut butter & cabbage sandwich (now made even more delicious with the addition of Geeta's chili-lime chutney) and, as often as possible, lots of hearty greens like kale and collards on the side or mixed into the pot.
4. Eating as big a breakfast as I can stand (helps control mid-morning fatigue and lunchtime binging). Actually, I made this change awhile ago, but am now expanding upon it. I used to eat, at most, a granola bar or maybe a croissant from 7-Eleven. I would wait until around 10am to eat it; otherwise, if I ate when I woke up, I would be hungry again an hour later. Now, I try to eat a huge bowl of high-fiber, high-protein cereal, drink a glass of milk AND a glass of orange juice, and maybe even top it all off with a fried or hardboiled egg. All this is consumed before I have my first cup of coffee, since coffee supposedly interferes with the absorption of iron that you get from cereal, and I'm iron-deficient to begin with. I would like to start adding smoothies to my breakfast repertoire--my favorite, easy combo is one banana, one plain yogurt, a spoonful or so of sugar, and a cup of OJ--but my blender is broken. (Hello, wedding registry!)
5A. Speaking of breakfast, eating more eggs! But eggs are not just a breakfast food any more. I've gotten really into hard-boiled eggs ever since I learned how to cook them perfectly--who knew they didn't have to have putrid grayish yellow yolks and an aroma of fart?--thanks to another great Pam Anderson technique. You just put enough water in a pan to cover them, as many as you feel like cooking but not so many that they are crowded, then place the pan on the burner and crank it up to medium-high. As soon as the water reaches a rolling boil, immediately remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes is up, rinse out the hot water and run the pan under cold water until it's completely cooled. Then peel your eggs or keep them in their shells if you don't want to indulge right away. Really, I never knew hardboiled eggs could be so delicious, and they're only 70 calories each. I like to bring them to work for a filling snack or chop them up and add them to salads and pasta. And now I don't have to worry about my coworkers being like "Who farted?"
5B. Did I mention I'm eating more eggs? So yeah, omelets! They are not as fattening or as troublesome to make as many people think. Using my method it's just two eggs and one egg white; you don't need to use any butter or cheese; you fill them up with as many delicious cooked veggies as can fit; and then you eat the rest of the veggies that don't make it into the fold. Omelets do not require any talent, just a nonstick pan and a big spatula. Whisk together your eggs and egg white (you could also use all egg whites if you're gung-ho) for about a minute, add a couple teaspoons of vegetable oil to a frying pan and set it on medium to medium-high heat, dump in the whisked eggs once the pan is hot, scrape around the sides as they begin to set, then--once the middle starts to set--flip the whole thing over as best you can. Don't worry if it falls apart, it will still be highly edible. Then add your precooked veggies (lately I've been using a combo of sauteed spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, and tomatoes) to one side of the omelet, flip over the other side like you're folding over a taco, and slide it onto a plate. The whole process, if your vegetables are ready to go, takes less than 5 minutes. And you can save the veggies to use in an another omelet the next day.
6. Eating smaller portions and eating more often. You always hear this bit of advice from the diet cheerleaders, but I've found it's a good one. Lately, when I pack my lunch, I divide it into two containers. I'll eat one around noon and then the other one around 3. It just doesn't work for me to put it all in the same container and attempt to eat only half, like I used to - I would inevitably finish every bite.
7. Telling the whiny food-craving part of my brain to shut the eff up. This is where the "eating less" part is extra hard because my brain always thinks I'm hungry. Like, an hour after I've eaten a full meal. This is not because I'm actually hungry, but because I just love to think about food. When this happens I'll drink lots of water or go for a little stroll around the office. If that's not enough to refocus my brain, I'll have a piece of fruit and then usually forget about food until my next meal.
8A. Not cooking so many "man-pleasing" meals. Just typing this makes me feel lame. For a long time, when I would cook for Special Someone, I would stick to those kinds of meals that guys supposedly love: roast chicken, burgers, steak, pork roast, etc., usually all prepared with some kind of irresistible buttery potato dish. This style of cooking was misguided, fattening, and more expensive and time-consuming than it needed to be. While Special Someone is by no means a foodie (though he claims to disagree with that statement), he has expressed he is happy to eat my hippie-dippy bean/green/whole grain vegetarian melanges. Not that I believe there's anything inherently wrong with a roast chicken or beef stew (they're delicious!) - it's just that, like my skinnier, single gal old self, I'm now cooking these types of meals more occasionally, and am once again saving calories, time, money, and a few innocent cows and chickens.
8B. Or, finding low-fat substitutions for "man-pleasing" meals. Once again: lame. But wait till you make this delicious alfredo (alfred-faux?) sauce. To make enough for six servings of pasta (lately we're enjoying Trader Joe's brown rice penne - it's the most delicious hippie pasta I've found), heat together in the microwave one half cup of 1% milk, one half cup of chicken broth, and two minced cloves of garlic for two minutes. In a small pot, mix together a quick roux: melt 1 tablespoon of butter and whisk in 1 tablespoon of flower. Dump in the milk/chicken broth mixture and stir it until it gets thick. Add grated Parmesan and salt and pepper and serve over pasta (the other night I mixed in sauteed shrimp, white beans, and kale, and it was great). Also brought to you courtesy of that genius Pam Anderson.
9. Trying to cut the booze. Um, not really working. Beer is one of my favorite food groups, and I am loathe to eliminate an entire food group. Still, cutting back is something I need to do. One thing that's good for people to avoid when watching their weight is sugary mixed frozen drinks. As delicious as they are, a frozen margarita has around 700 calories. Dios mio! I'll stick with beer, thank you - hopefully just one.
10. Not obsessing. Wait, what? That seems a bit contradictory to this whole long list I just wrote. Why do so many diet manifestos always end with "Don't obsess" or "Enjoy life"? Because otherwise you go crazy, that's why. When I go out to dinner, I want to be able to enjoy myself, not just order a side salad and stare longingly at everyone else's entrees. I figure, as long as I'm cooking most of my meals--all of which are nutritious and low in sugar and fat--I can indulge on those occasions when I do go out. Otherwise, this eating plan becomes a true diet and, as everyone knows, diets don't work.