Friday, December 30, 2011

He Made it to Goal! A Guest Post by "Mr. Second Helpings"

Dear Readers, I have often mentioned my husband and our mutual weight loss success.  On Monday he weighed in at his Weight Watchers goal weight.  Here is his story, in his own words...

Reflections on my Journey

On Monday (December 26th) I gave myself a great late Christmas present. At our weekly Weight Watcher’s meeting, the scale read 199.6 pounds; I had reached my WW goal! Rose had asked me some time ago if I would write a guest post when I got here. I’m not a blogger, so I’m definitely feeling out of my element writing this.  Here goes...

Regular readers of Our Lady will already know much of our story. Three and a half years ago, Rose and I were both extremely overweight. We didn’t have a healthy lifestyle. Much of our food came from restaurants where we would clean our plates. Snacks would usually be sugary sweets. We didn’t - couldn’t - do much of anything that required physical exertion.

June 2008
Rose had brought up dieting several times, but I was reticent to do anything about it. It’s kind of difficult at this point to understand why. I think the biggest part was low self-esteem; I just wasn’t worth working hard for myself. I had in the past dieted, and even lost significant weight, but I hadn’t kept it off. It seemed like my body just wanted to be fat.

At the same time, we were talking seriously about starting our family. I wanted to have children, but the thought of chasing after a toddler or just playing on the floor was frightening to me.

“Change will only happen when the pain to stay the same is greater than the pain to change.”
I might modify the saying to include “the perceived pain to change.” Occasionally we commit to doing something, discover that it is harder than we thought, and persevere to reach a sense of accomplishment. Frequently we avoid something because we fear it to be more difficult than the reality, and ultimately regret not doing it earlier.

Rose finally said that she was going to join Weight Watchers. She pleaded for me to join her, but would do it without me. I could see that Rose really wanted to do something about her weight and mine. She was in pain, and she needed my support.

I knew that if we did have children, they would need me to be active in their lives.

Finally, I needed to do something, and I didn’t have any better ideas.

It was difficult for me to say yes, but at that point, it would have been even more difficult to say no.

Losing weight was not as difficult as I thought it would be.
Not to say that losing weight was easy. But once I had committed, I discovered that many of the tools I needed were readily available. Also, I didn’t have to change everything all at once.

At about the same time, I had a reassignment to a work location with terrible parking. After I rode the company-provided shuttle bus on the first day, I chose instead to walk the 15-to-20 minutes from my car to my desk in the morning, and again in the afternoon. I didn’t enjoy the walking, but I knew I needed to do it and now that I am back in an office with great parking, I miss it!

July 2009, enjoying an afternoon of hiking and playing outside.
Rose has been an amazing partner along the way. I’m not much of a cook, so I have depended very much on her to plan and prepare healthy meals. I love that she has been adventurous, and have discovered many foods that I would have avoided previously. (Tofu, anyone?) I hope she inspires you to try new things!

As we have progressed, we have needed to up the game to keep going. We have done a handful of 30-day challenges. For example, we both enjoy lattes. We would drink them on a near daily basis, which cost us additional calories and cash. We challenged ourselves to no lattes for 30 days. I made up for it by making a fresh pot of drip before leaving the house. After the month was up, we both broke the habit, and a latte is now an occasional treat - which is even more enjoyable.

A lifetime of healthy living!
Our big secret is that the changes we have made over the past few years are sustainable. They have become new habits, and have redefined “normal” for us. We make a conscious selection of healthy, balanced meals. When we make our own food, we don’t put more on our plate than we need; if we are dining out, we don’t have a compulsion to clean the plate. Physical activities are part of most every day.

Keeping up with our toddler!
Reaching my Weight Watchers goal, this last week in particular, put an underline on the importance of these good habits. In the four days prior to weigh-in, I had been to four different parties. I ate delicious foods, drank beer and wine, and enjoyed a variety of treats! Meanwhile, I was keeping an awareness of eating balanced meals, and stopping when I was full. (Well, maybe one more cookie...) Simply not gaining weight would have been an achievement! Losing weight in such a week is incredible, especially to myself.

Birthday Celebration!
Rose was very puzzled by my subdued reaction to the weigh-in. While this milestone has been met, I do not feel like I am “done”. I still want to lose 20 more pounds for my personal target, and be more muscular as well. I want to keep learning and keep healthy every day for the rest of my life. I want to do this with Rose by my side!

December 2011, down 167 pounds and feeling more confident than ever!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Time to Celebrate

Saturday at midnight we will be ringing in a brand new year but our family is already celebrating.

I am a bit late with this announcement - On Monday my husband weighed in at our Weight Watchers meeting at his goal weight!  Yes, for those playing along at home that was the very next day after Christmas!  It was also three days after his 40th birthday and a long weekend of birthday and holiday parties.  On Monday we also rocked the scale (in a good way) by reaching a collective 302 pounds shed since August of 2008.  These successes on their own are fantastic and together make a monumental way to round out the current year and move into the next with more possibilities than ever!

A few months ago I asked my husband to write a reflection on his weight loss journey once he reached his goal weight.  He is working on collecting his thoughts and I hope to be able to share his post by the end of the week.

It's not too late to check off a few health goals in 2011.  Eat mindfully, find a fun way to work in some activity, and give yourself a pat on the back.  The new year looks bright and we can all hit the ground running!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Exception to My Rule

When I write a post for this blog I am speaking from the best resource I have, my own experience.  In my last post, Feeding My Mind Changed My Body, I said that our bodies become our own to care for as we mature into adulthood. I want to go back and qualify that concept, the statement does not encompass my current reality.

Six months into our weight loss journey I became pregnant with our son.  The pregnancy began just as I achieved my first fifty pound loss.  A few weeks ago we celebrated our son's second birthday.  I now have the joy of mothering a busy, nursing toddler.  My body has not been mine alone since February 2009 almost 3 years but I have lost 134 pounds, as of Monday (84 pounds since becoming pregnant).

Dining al fresco - Nursing my toddler in Beverly Hills
I don't want to stray very far into the realm of parenting blogs; many others are doing an excellent job in that genre.  I know that many mothers of young children are struggling to find a way to improve their health while fullfling the needs of their family.  It is not an easy task but everyday I make sure to put a reasonable amount of nutritious food in my mouth and get activity in where and when I can.  This commitment allows me to be a more present and active wife and mother than when I was tired and uncomfortable all the time.

In our house, healthy choices are a constant part of our dialogue.  I relish the times my son requests healthy snacks and he happily eats a variety of foods at meal times.  We dance together and in his world video games are most often played by jumping around the room.  I recently adopted an exercise I call, "Shaun Squats." I hold him around the waist then squat down and stand up while lifting him up in front of me. We repeat these while counting to ten together.  He loves it and at a very solid 35 pounds he is helping me tone and build muscle.

Getting excited about the kale and mandarin tree outside Whole Foods.
As a mother my body is not wholly my own, but that is how I choose to be. By choosing this way of living, in a way it still is. So in that case I guess I'm back to my previous point. Be good to your body, for yourself and everyone who counts on you to be your best.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Feeding My Mind Changed My Body

I have one body and it is mine to care for.  My parents were responsible for my first years, but it was their role to teach me how to care for my body myself.  When I entered my teen years, my parents began to fully release their control over my body and I was able to begin calling all the shots.  I chose everything about my body.  Fashion successes or missteps were mine alone to make and any piercings, tattoos, nail polish, or other forms of self expression were up to me.  I certainly had my fair share of bold hair and wardrobe statements.

I also get to choose what I put into my body.  My food choices are a large part of feeding my body.  If I want my body to work to the best of its ability I need to put quality fuel in it.  I drive a car that requires premium-grade gasoline and because I want it to run great for a long time I fill up accordingly.  I could fill my gas tank with regular-grade fuel but I could not ask my car to run as well for as long if I did.  My body, like my car, requires premium-grade fuel.  

My mind also requires premium-grade fuel.  It is as important for my mind to be fed well as my body.  The television I watch, the things I read, and the people I surround myself with are all important parts of my mental nutrition.  I also need to make sure that I am telling myself nutritious things.  

I feel very lucky to have spent several years as a Mary Kay consultant.  During my time in the company I was surrounded by positive messages.  Mary Kay Ash, the company founder, was a beautiful speaker and wrapped big ideas in inspirational little packages, like this one, Those who are blessed with the most talent don't necessarily outperform everyone else. It's the people with follow-through who excel. Surrounding myself with this constant stream of positive messages and women cheering each other on were vitamins for my soul.  The other side of the Mary Kay coin is a strong work ethic.  There is no beating around the bush that people who are successful put in the hours.  Hard work will be rewarded but you have to do it. I do not think it is a coincidence that I joined Weight Watchers two years after becoming a Mary Kay consultant. 

In July of 2008 I was able to visit the Mary Kay Corporate Headquarters in Dallas, TX and attend the annual Seminar.  Many people told me the experience would be life changing and it was, just not the way I expected.
Posing outside of Mary Kay Ash's personal office.
We joined Weight Watchers less than a month after this photo was taken.
For a long time, I made excuses about why I didn't need to treat my body with the respect it deserves.  Being uncomfortable and tired makes it seem easier to remain stagnent than to make any changes.  Without realizing what was happening, I changed my mental diet long before changing my physical diet.  I found role models that inspired me to want more.  I was able to hear how they pick themselves up when they failed and keep looking forward to the bigger prizes to keep motivated.

Click Here to see more motivational Mary Kay Ash quotes.  What are some of your favorite quotes to lift your spirit and feed your mind?

Coming Soon!
During the month of January I am going to launch a series of posts I am calling "Nuts and Bolts."  These posts will center around the tools and tricks I learned in my early days of losing weight.  I promise to share both what worked and what didn't so you can learn from (and laugh at) my experiences.  I hope to show how my journey has been about adopting small changes one at a time.  I also hope to help provide a little bit of a road map to turn those earnest New Years resolutions everyone is about to make, into sustainable actions. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Granola for Giving

 There are just two days left until Christmas.  I'm confident my readers have finished shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, traveling, etc. and are now relaxing with a cup of tea and a low fat cookie.  However I happened to hear in a local news report that twenty five percent of people haven't begun shopping.  That's a pretty big group of people and you may know of someone who is still looking for ideas so just pass this one along from your comfy chair.

I am giving my family homemade granola and because I made it, they have to like it.  It is really good so I am pretty sure they would like it anyway.  The recipe comes from a friend, who has a friend, who has a B&B in Seattle's Greenlake neighborhood.  They serve this granola to guests of the B&B.  The finished granola is sweet and cinnamony with a touch of saltiness.  I had a hard keeping my taste tests to a minimum.  This is not a lightened recipe and it is a bit calorie dense so I would think of it more as a great topping for yogurt.  I would also measure a small amount and just nibble it for a small snack.

The recipe is pretty simple to whip up and many of the ingredients could be swapped around to suit a taste preference.  I also recommend making a batch, or four, just for the smell, amazing!  After it's all packaged nicely, I'm sure anyone would appreciate a tasty gift from your kitchen (ahem -I mean your friend's kitchen, the one who hasn't started shopping yet).

Super secret packaging resource: The Dollar Store!

 Greenlake Granola

Prep time minimal, cooking time aprox: 25 minutes

2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 scant teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole almonds
¼ cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds 
1/3 cup pecan halves
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/3 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt.
In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined.

Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and combine. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the pecans and sunflower seeds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the dried blueberries and dried cranberries or cherries over the granola.

Transfer it to an airtight container. 
The granola will keep for about 1 week.

Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving: about 1/2 cup
Calories 232.4, Total Fat 12.4 g, Cholesterol 0.0 mg, Sodium 168.1 mg, Total Carbohydrate 37.9 g,  Dietary Fiber 5.0 g, Sugars 14.3 g, Protein 3.9 g

UPDATE: The B&B that serves this granola is called Greenlake Guesthouse and It looks beautiful.  Check them out if you are in need of a place to stay in a great part of Seattle.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happiest Holidays to All

On This Eve

One candle for Advent. One candle for Chanukah. 
A candle to brighten the longest night.

Light a flame to remember, a flame for the future, and a flame to illuminate now.

Let a flame glow for peace, unity, and hope.

A spark for love. A flare for wonder. A blaze for warmth and joy in the New Year.

May your home and heart be filled with peace and your celebrations filled with joy.  
May we all be blessed, every one.

Happy Holidays from Our Lady of Second Helpings

Monday, December 19, 2011

Emotional Eating During the Holidays is Not ALL Bad - Grandma's Nanaimo Bars

Last week our Weight Watchers leader gave us a great tip for holiday treats.  Keep a mental list of all the foods you have an emotional connection with, and as you go through the holiday season enjoy the foods you love - once - then check them off your mental list.  For instance, if Grandma's Pumpkin Pie is your absolute favorite and she always makes it for St. Nicholas Day, you can look forward to having it then and easily say "no, thank you very much" to an offer of a lesser version at a different time.  It may also mean saying "no, thank you very much" to foods not already on the list.

When I allow myself one (or two) indulgences at a time, I enjoy the experience of the food and better remember it later.  Since I mindfully try to eat only what my body needs for nourishment, I want to really mark those times I choose to eat a treat because I really do enjoy eating.  On Christmas Eve I will have an opportunity to eat several of the treats on my list and believe me I will savor them.

One of those treats are the Nanaimo Bars my Grandma is finishing up today.  These are a staple on our family dessert table at Christmas and for a very long time I thought they were unique unto my Grandmother.  The bars are not unique to our family but they do come from a small town on Vancouver Island, Canada and that is pretty close to where we live and local, after all, is almost as good a family.  There is a fun little article on Wikipedia if you'd like to read the history of Nanaimo Bars.

These bars are chocolatey-creamy-ooey-gooey-sticky-yummy goodness and I absolutely have an emotional association with eating them.  The great thing is I can have a warm fuzzy feeling with just a few bites then I am good for another year.  It is completely normal and okay to have nostalgic happy feelings tied to food, especially foods that only come out at certain times during the year.  I simply make these foods part of my plan and practice moderation.

If we shutter ourselves away from tempting foods we may miss out on wonderful opportunities to enjoy our family and friends.  As you go through this week of celebrations be present in each moment.  Choose what you will enjoy and enjoy what you choose!

Naniamo Bars on the lower half of the tray,
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars and Frosting Dipped Pretzels on top.
from Our Lady of Second Helpings' Grandma's Recipe Card

Base Layer:
½ C. Butter  - Softened
¼ C. White Sugar    
5 TBSP Cocoa
1 TSP. Vanilla          
1 Egg
2 C. Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 C. Coconut
½ Chopped Walnuts

Place softened butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and egg into a bowl over a sauce pan of boiling water.
Stir well until butter is melted and mixture looks like a custard.
In a large bowl -Combine crumbs, nuts, and coconut.
Add cooked ingredients to crumb mixture folding together until blended.
Press combined ingredients into a 9” pan
Chill 15 minutes to overnight.

Middle Layer
¼ C. Butter
3 TBSP Milk
2 TSP Vanilla Instant Pudding
2 C. Powdered Sugar

Mix together first three ingredients and fold in powdered sugar until completely blended.
Spread over chilled base and chill an additional 15 to 30 minutes.

Top Layer:
When first two layers are chilled: Melt 4 squares of Semi-Sweet (or Unsweetened) Baking Chocolate with 1 TB Butter.

Spread melted chocolate over the chilled layers.
Fully chill completed bars before cutting into squares.
Keep the bars cool until ready to serve.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ho, Ho, Oh Dear...

Bah Humbug!  Okay that is a little strong, but, I have suffered yet another disappointment in the kitchen.  I was really looking forward to producing an array of slimmed down holiday baked goods to share with all of you and my friends and family.  Unfortunately I am striking out left and right.

Yesterday I went in search of a sugar cookie recipe that I could tweak a little to reduce the fat and calories.  I found one geared toward diabetics that had a huge list of ingredients including brown sugar and corn syrup, far too fussy for my mood.  Then, I came across Alton Brown's Sugar Cookies on and felt sure that his straight forward and moderately scientific approach would yield just the cookie I was in the mood for.  It seemed a little heavy on the flour and oddly did not include vanilla, or any other flavoring, but I went ahead and followed the recipe.

I, as always, changed a few things.  The cup of sugar became a half cup of sugar and a half cup of sugar blend (xylitol, maltodextrin, and sucralose), I substituted Smart Balance for the unsalted butter, and I added vanilla bean seeds.

The cookie dough came together easily, despite my less than efficient hand mixer.  I thought it tasted very plain and not particularly sugary but I wrapped to chill for a couple of hours.  Alton instructs bakers to roll the dough out using powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  I generally use flour but since the dough was not particularly sweet I tried it, sparingly.

The dough cracked and crumbled while I was trying to work it and then stuck to my rolling pin as I attempted to get it to a consistent 1/4 thickness.  It cut and transfered to the cookie sheets decently and baked quickly without losing to much of the shape.

The resulting cookies were cute but tasted more like a dry shortbread than the slightly sweetened cookies I imagined.  I did have fun squirting on the icing from little store bought tubes.  The icing sweetened them up enough to be okay but not great.

I think it is time for me to hang up my baker's hat for awhile and get back to cooking.  Reinventing baked goods seems more scientific than I can manage at the moment.  The realization brings me back to high school chemistry.  I had a terrible time with the math and without my lab partner I am pretty sure I wouldn't have passed the class.  Not surprising, Venessa, my former lab partner is now a stellar pastry chef and here I am, still trying to figure it all out!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Redirecting with Sugar Cookies

I was supposed to go to a cooking class tonight taught by a chef and nutritionist.  The topic was festive holiday treats and desserts that were lightened up and fresh.  I was super excited to see what tricks she uses and get some new techniques.  Not enough people signed up so there will be no class.  Boo.  Since I was all geared up to learn some new recipes and I still haven't made a treat I could decorate I am going to dive into making a revamped rolled sugar cookie.  Using a basic recipe for my launch point I will reduce the sugar and fat to make it a little lighter but hopefully keep the texture and taste.  Check back soon to see the results and the recipe (if it works).

In the mean time I hope everyone is remembering to share a smile with a stranger while you are out and about.  Those little acts of kindness really do go a long way!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Birthday Smoothies

This morning I was sitting on the floor at a friend's house watching my son run around the room and two things struck me.  First, I am so grateful that I am now physically able to sit on the floor.  For so many years it only took a minute or so before I lost feeling in my legs or had to lean back to take a full breath.  The second thing that struck me, I can't believe I am the mother of a two year old!

Frequently my husband and I are told how great it is that we will be able to share our healthy changes with our son.  I really appreciate the comments but at times it feels like an overwhelming commission.  When it came time to introduce solid foods into my son's diet I wound up doing a lot of soul searching.  I didn't want to do anything that would set him off on the wrong foot with food.  After a few months I relaxed and have been delighted to watch him grow into a toddler who loves to eat a wide variety of foods.  His favorite is fruit.

Saturday morning my son woke up just in time to be wished happy birthday at his time of birth, 7:05 a.m. Shortly after we all piled out of bed to begin a day of birthday activities.  I wanted to make a breakfast that was light and healthy to balance the cupcakes we were planning to eat in the afternoon.  I also wanted to have a breakfast that was quick but still special in honor of the day.

Smoothies are so easy and so many fruits and vegetables can get tossed in to make a vitamin filled treat.  We keep it simple and generally stick to fruits and yogurt but I know many people who add protein powder, leafy greens, and many more ingredients to their smoothies.  I really like to have a smoothie on a day I will have less control over the food available, for instance a day with a party in the middle of the afternoon/evening.  By starting with a breakfast full of fruit I know I have consumed most of my daily servings before the temptations begin.

Early in our relationship I taught my husband a basic method to make smoothies and since then he has been the chief smoothie maker in our house.  I stole a little of his thunder by making them this week but I still let him make the coffee (because I am giving like that!).  Here is how we make them:

Basic Smoothie
1 cup of non-fat plain yogurt
1 banana
1 - 2 cups assorted frozen fruit
add water to thin to desired consistency

This is just a platform to try new flavor combinations.  The frozen fruit helps to make it more thick and creamy but a smoothie can absolutely be made entirely from fresh fruit with some ice tossed in.

With a slice of toast on the side we were all fueled up and ready to go celebrate our newly minted two year old on his day... after a shower.

Healthy Food - Eat it, Wear it, Love it!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Meringue Cookies or The Snowmen Debacle

The other day I got a great idea for a Christmas confection, sort of a cookie, but a light and guiltless one.  I thought it would be super fun to make meringue snowmen.  My hope was to have cute little snowmen with the same crisp and airy texture as the pre-made puffs I have bought in the past.  Most importantly I wanted something I could decorate.  I poked around on-line to find a recipe and found a few variations so I went with the simplest one to start.

On a quiet afternoon with frost still glittering on the grass I got busy turning my brilliant idea into an edible delight.  As I staged the ingredients and mixed the meringue I photographed my progress, already envisioning the amazing final product.

Room temperature egg whites, 1/3 of a cup of Splenda Sugar Blend, 1/8 of a teaspoon of cream of tarter, and the seeds from a vanilla bean.  Scrapping the insides out of the vanilla bean made me feel like I really knew what I was doing.  Whipping the egg whites into stiff peaks was so rewarding.  The tiny vanilla bean seeds clearly defined by the stark fluffy whites already tasted delicious.

I don't own a pipping bag so I cut the zipper off of a gallon sized storage bag and snipped away a small piece of one corner.  As I began to pipe the snowmen on to my parchment lined cookies sheets I felt like I might be able to submit my genius idea to a culinary magazine.

The recipe called for the meringues to bake at 175 degrees for 2 hours.  I placed the two pans of snowmen into the oven, set the timer, and sat down to finish stamping my Christmas cards while Miracle on 34th Street (with Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood) played in the background.  I felt like the crowned Queen of Christmas.

After an hour I peeked in the oven and found the snowmen just sitting there as though nothing had happened with perhaps a few extra little bubbles on their surface.  Another half an hour later I was concerned that the snowmen did not have any sort of a crust forming on them.  One of the recipes I glanced at used a slightly higher temperature so I turned the heat up to 200 degrees.

Twenty seven minutes later I pulled two pans of sticky, soft, peed on snowmen out of the oven.

They firmed up a little after cooling for a few minutes but were no where near my vision.  This caused me to frown, then sigh, and then I handed one to my son who smiled, gobbled it up, and demanded another.

Things do not always go the way I envision them.  I am not The Queen of Christmas and sometimes life sends me "peed on snowmen" but, at the end of the day, I am queen of my own kitchen and that's about all I can handle right now.

*Got any tips for making a crisp meringue cookie?  Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pomegranates - Super Delicious Super Food

Maybe it is just me but, I find it hard to get excited about the fresh fruit that is available this time of year.  I feel limited to a rotation of cold storage apples, oranges, or bananas.  This is precisely why I was so motivated to pick and freeze fruit during the summer.  I enjoy having a variety of frozen fruits on hand but prefer to eat fresh fruit as often as possible.  That is why I was so excited a few weeks ago to walk into the grocery store and see a display of fresh pomegranates 2 for $5.  This time of year the price for the fruit comes down and I like to pick up one or two a week to eat alone or use to jazz up other food.

Pomegranate's light red leathery exteriors unassumingly enclose hundreds of ruby colored juice filled seeds (arils). They take a little effort to eat but it is absolutely worth it.  The juice is sweet and rich, vitamin packed, and when you eat the arils whole they are full of fiber.  I like to sort of peel the leathery skin away from the clusters of arils and then gently pop them out onto a cutting board or a bowl.  The juice can stain so it is best to wear an apron or dark clothing when seeding a pomegranate.  (It is possible to purchase arils that have already been removed from the skin but I have found them to be pricey and past their peak every time I have tried them.)  Once you have liberated them, eat the arils alone or get creative.  

Here are some ideas:

For breakfast: The other morning I was feeling the need to try something new with my oatmeal.  I have mentioned before how much I like oatmeal in the morning both plain with cinnamon or as a platform for other flavors.  This week I poked around in my freezer and found a bag of nectarines that I froze a few months ago.  I mixed them into my pot with pomegranate balsamic vinegar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and just a pinch of cardamom.  It smelled amazing but needed some color and texture.  I seeded just one section of a pomegranate and sprinkled the seeds on top of the finished oatmeal.  The result was a bowl of warm spicy goodness that definitely chased away the winter blues.

A Snack: Fat Free Greek Yogurt with pomegranate arils and a drizzle of amazing raspberry syrup from Four Seasons Gourmet Foods (seriously good if you are able to get your hands on some).  I made this for my son but almost kept it for myself!

Lunch or Dinner: Top a plain salad with pomegranate arils.  

I had some mixed greens that needed to be used up but not much else to go with them.  I sliced some green onion and tossed the salad with a homemade vinaigrette inspired by Kernels and Seeds last post.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

2 TB olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 TB balsamic vinegar
1 TB pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 TB dijon mustard
salt and pepper

I poured it all in a small mason jar and shook to combine. I only needed about 1 1/2 TB to dress the salad so there is a lot left for future salads or marinades.  YUM!

However you eat a pomegranate I hope you will have fun.  Not only is it beautiful and delicious, it is a SUPER FOOD!  I for one can use as much "super" as I can get my hands on.

For more fun facts and recipes check out the POM Council website at

Monday, December 5, 2011

Do It Yourself "Thin" Bread and Turkey Apple Cranberry Sandwich

When we started paying closer attention to how we "spent" our calories my husband and I found that we ate significantly less bread than we were used to.  In many cases I skipped bread because it would have used up all the food budget for my meal before I even put anything on it.  Additionally by skipping bread I also passed on most of the condiments I would have put on the bread. When we grilled brats or burgers at home I would skip the bun in favor of some multigrain chips or a whole grain side dish.  Similarly our sandwiches turned into low fat / low carb wraps. I usually don't mind giving up bread in favor of using my calories for other food but sometimes, gosh darn, I just want a sandwich.  

About two years ago major bread manufacturers released their "thin" sandwich breads and bagels.  I was skeptical but after trying Thomas' 100 Everything Bagel Thins I fell back in love with bread.  The thin products are a great way to have a sandwich or toast and use most of your calories on the filling.  The small down side to the "thin" products is their limited flavor options.

Around the same time the "thin" bread became widely available, we started to see some bread on our local grocery store shelves with a really catchy package.  Dave's Killer Bread, out of Milwaukie, Oregon, is a delicious product with a fantastic story.  Their vision, according to their website is, "to make the world a better place, one loaf of bread at a time." My husband and I began choosing Killer Bread over sandwich thins for all the reasons I just mentioned.  Problem is we would have to choose a half a sandwich to keep the calories reduced.  They do make a light bread but we really like the full on seed covered version.  So we resumed our life with sandwiches few and far between.

Then one day we got a tip from fellow Weight Watchers bread enthusiasts.  Their tip made me laugh when I heard it because it was so obvious but hadn't ever occurred to me.  Cut the bread in half.  Not to make two small pieces but more like filleting a fish.  The bread should be toasted at least a little and it is important to use a good knife but with a little bit of practice it is not difficult to make any bread "thin."
Last Saturday using homemade Killer Bread "thins" I made some really awesome turkey cranberry sandwiches.  

I began by throwing together a batch of low sugar cranberry sauce.  I went heavy on the orange zest and light on the sugar so it would be really tangy.

While the sauce cooked down, I tossed together a mix of white and dark turkey meat, half an apple, thinly sliced green onion, about 6 large basil leaves, a generous shake of dried dill, and some dry mustard.  I mixed in about 1/3 of a cup of plain non-fat yogurt to make it creamy but not heavy.

I built the sandwiches with the toasted side out and heaped the turkey and apple mixture onto a bed of mixed greens with the cooled cranberry sauce on the opposite side.  The filling was a little bulky for the thin slices of bread but they still did a decent job of holding together.

Served with a few pretzels and the remaining apple I don't think this sandwich will be featured in Gourmet Magazine but for a Saturday afternoon it was just the ticket!

*Major Update! - I was just checking out Dave's Killer Bread's website and saw new light versions of both Good Seed (75 calories a slice) and 21 Grain (65 calories a slice)!!!  The original versions are 130 and 110 calories, respectively.  It is still a little lighter to make them thin but I am very excited about these new versions of their original flavors.  I now *heart* Dave's even more!