A win-win

Quinoa for beginners

I’ve had quinoa once in my life before, and I liked it. Red quinoa. It was side dish at a Mexican spot on the Upper East Side called Cascabel. I’ve been itching to make Jessica’s roasted sesame quinoa with chicken, and a dinner date with one of my oldest friends presented me with the perfect opportunity last night. Man, I love having unpicky eaters as friends. Oh, and ones that allow me to experiment on them, too. Continue reading

The morning I met Ann

Yesterday I met a woman named Ann.

I had stopped at Starbucks in the morning to get my coffee fix and a jumpstart on work before breaking for my podiatrist appointment. After picking up my misto from the bar (which I finished off deliciously with a bit of mocha powder), I sat down at a small table next to Ann.

If I had to guess, Ann is probably in her early forties. Her short brown hair was sort of frazzled, she was without makeup, wearing sweats and a light pink sweatshirt circa 1992. I distinctly recognized her Weight Watchers name tag, which she must have forgotten to take off from an early meeting. She was sitting across from a friend, who I never got the name of. The friend, who was much slimmer than her coffee sipping compadre, was clearly another WW. Ann seemed frustrated.

“I just can’t get over this damn plateau.” I heard her say, as she sat there drinking a venti iced coffee. “Nothing effing works.”

Ooh, hostility. Man have I been there. I was intrigued. Ann’s friend went into the standard comforting shpeel that these things take time and that she’s doing so well and she can’t help it that the kids love to snack on potato chips and that they’re tempting … yadda yadda yadda.

Welp. Ann wasn’t having it. She fired back. “That’s easy for you to say. People look at you and they wonder why the hell you would ever want to lose weight. People look at me and think what the hell is wrong with this woman.”

Ouch. Her friend looked speechless. Call me intrusive. Call me Ms. Don’t Know How To Mind My Own Business. I took it upon myself to step in. Whoops.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I know this is kind of annoying, but I just wanted to tell you that it looks like you forgot to take your name tag off.”

Just so you know, I never do this. Sure, I’ll talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. But butting in? Totally outside of my comfort zone. To be honest, I dont know what came over me. It just, well … happened.

Anyway, back to Ann. She looked legitimately mortified. Also been there. She blurted something out along the lines of “Oh my GOD. I always forget to take this damned thing off.”

I told her I used to do the same thing, to which she asked me if I used to go over there, pointing at the shopping center next door.

At that point, I was in. After some small talk, I found myself spilling my story about how it’s been four years since the night I decided to change everything, and how it was never easy. I told Ann that I was like her, and wanted to quit about a bazillion times. I found myself sharing so many random details about my personal journey — and every single second of it Ann looked captivated, interested. At one point, she even asked me to show her an old picture of myself — which I avoided.

Before I knew it, a half hour had gone by, and I had an appointment to get to. Ann’s friend had to go relieve a babysitter and the two women got up and walked out of Starbucks with me. We said our goodbyes, I wished them both good luck, and went digging through my bag for my keys. I didn’t even find them before I heard Ann calling my name.

“Emily?” I turned.

“Thank you for sharing that with us.” I smiled. Ann smiled back. Then off she went in her silver Lexus.

… And that was the morning I met Ann.

Strawberry & watermelon angel food split cupcakes

I like strawberries, a lot. I especially enjoy them when they’re buy one get one free all summer long at the grocery store. So when Dad asked me to bring over a healthy dessert to Sunday dinner, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to make, but I did know one thing: It was going to include berries, hands down.

During our Ikea trip Sunday, my friend suggested strawberry shortcake. And as good as that sounds, it didn’t exactly fill the healthy credential. But angel food cake, that does. At around 130 calories a serving, it’s light, airy, and the perfect way to add some substance to a dessert of fruit.

I don’t have a real reason why I opted for cupcakes instead of a bundt cake. I like cupcakes better. They’re cuter. Get off me.

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Strawberry and watermelon angel food split cupcakes
Makes 16+ cakes

Ingredients:
- 1 3/4 cups white sugar
- 1 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups egg whites (it’s roughly 10 egg whites)
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon of sugar
- 1 pint of strawberries, chopped
- 1/4 of watermelon, chopped
- 1 tub of light Cool Whip

Directions: Beat the egg whites together using a and electric mixer until they form stiff peaks. Then stir in both extracts and the cream of tartar.

Sift together your dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Make sure to do this very thoroughly to get rid of any large particles. I’d say sift three or four times to be safe.

Gently pour your egg whites into your dry ingredients and mix together. It’s natural for the batter to rise a little bit at this point, so the large bowl is important!

Once the ingredients are combined, spoon your mix into your pan with cupcake liners in place. Each cup should be about 3/4 full. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, or until the cracked tops of the cakes are golden and the cake inside the cracks feels dry. If you don’t use all of the batter at once, refrigerate the mix in between baking sessions to help it retain it’s consistency.

In a medium bowl combine the chopped strawberries and watermelon, and top them with a tablespoon of sugar. I let the mixture sit for about an hour before serving. I though it let the flavors meld a little. You know, get to know each other.

Let your cakes cool completely before carefully slicing the tops from the bottoms. Since the cake itself is sort of spongey, you’ll have to do this very delicately. Top the bottom half with a spoonful of Cool Whip, a heaping serving of strawberries and watermelon, and finish it off by capping your cake.

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Like I said, I love these because they’re light and I don’t feel like a fatty-no-friends eating this after dinner. The best part? If you’re still hungry when you’re done, theres plenty of fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Is it too early in the day to be craving one of these?

“The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places” [Author unknown]

I’m exhausted. The day so far in numbers:

4 The number of miles I’ve run today (It’s 8 a.m. for those following along at home)

6 Hours of sleep I got last night

13 Number of people standing in front of me at Starbucks as I sit here writing this

310 Songs on my “Just chillin’” playlist. Breathe in, Exhale: Namaste.

What better way to kill time between my early morning workout and the office than with a grande sugar-free caramel iced coffee and some quality time with my Macbook Pro.

This morning, I have some comparisons for you. I’m going to throw this out there – catch it if you’re interested.

In today’s economy – the job hunt is a lot like hitting a weight loss plateau.

FirstThere’s a lot of effort. Every day, I wake up – search my three main job websites, and go from there. Like a fitness aspiration, there is always that one main goal. Whether it be losing 20 pounds, starting to see definition in your calves or running more than a mile without huffing and puffing – all of the aforementioned take focus, concentration and determination. At the beginning of each week, I wake up – attempt putting my best foot forward and say to myself: “I will get an interview this week.” Since every position is unique – cover letters are constantly changing, the standard resume needs tweaking and of course: once you land the interview – you’ll need a brand new outfit, to reprint your resume and do a fair share of research.

Second: It’s frustrating. When you hit a plateau, you feel like you’ve stopped making progress. Often, individuals gauge their efforts by the numbers on the scale. Big. Mistake. The truth is, when your body is going through a huge change, like dropping pounds, there are other ways to manage success. Perhaps one week, you’ve put on some muscle, and lost an inch in your waistline. The numbers on the scale won’t reflect this change, because muscle weighs more than the fat it’s replacing.

Third: You’re not alone. In terms of the job hunt, everyone is looking right now. I keep telling myself that this will get better, that it’s going to work out and what is supposed to happen, will. With weight loss, it is so SO important to realize that SO many others are struggling with many of the same scenarios as you. Plateauing is part of the whole process. It is your job to accept it, set goals to help you work through the angst and focus on small wins.

Do not to give up. Yes, I understand this concept. Is it easy? Of course not. The truth is this: Whether or not you’re immediately successful in either realm, appreciate what you’ve got. I may be frustrated, but I’m learning a lot: How to interact with editors, what’s appropriate to wear to an interview, how to perfect a cover letter, not to put on my heels until I’m strolling up to the office (Blisters? No thanks), what stylistic tone fits different types of media outlets and so much more.

… one day at a time. That’s what I keep telling myself.

What’s the best thing to pull you out of a rut? A fiesta of course!

I cooked chicken and shrimp fajitas for both of my parents Monday night – and they were absolutely delicious! After doing a bit of research, I decided to cook onions, green and red peppers in the oven instead of on the stovetop.

The ingredient list:

  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 1/2 sliced onions
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper

I put my concoction into the oven at 450 for around 15 minutes, stirring up the veggies twice throughout the cooking process. On the stove, I took chicken strips (marinated in taco seasoning), sauteed them, added some frozen thawed shrimp ($8.99 at my local Stop&Shop) and seasoned to taste.

After taking the veggies out of the oven, I combined them in the pan with the proteins – and they got along pretty well, if I do say so myself. With Pandora’s John Mayer Trio channel (personal favorite track: “Good Love Is On The Way”) playing, I was reading to set the table.

The fajita mixture, fresh guacamole, salsa, black beans, sour cream and mexican rice (from a box, I’ll admit it). Oh – and some white wine. As for the whole wheat tortillas, I simply brushed them with a little bit of olive oil, sprinkled (literally, less than a quarter cup for all three wraps) them with some 2 percent reduced-fat cheddar cheese and popped them into the 450 degree oven for about six minutes, or until the edges were golden brown. Mmmm, the perfect added crunch to our dinner-time fiesta.

I have to confess: I actually had a ton of fun making this meal. Eeeeek, I’ve gotta run - Just peaked at the time and I’m pretty sure my parking meter is about to expire.  What’s your favorite meal to cook for family and friends? Are you a fan of early morning workouts? Have you ever felt like you were in a rut?

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live” [Flora Whittemore]

Well … I have a bit of an announcement (again, I know – enough already).

First of all – day one on this “diet” wasn’t so bad. I was only really hungry mid-afternoon, but then again – I always am, and was able to suffice this hunger with a protein bar which was actually quite scrumptious.

Tonight’s announcement has two parts:

1. I may have to abandon this diet and put it on hold until next Monday.

… and this is only because: 2. I’m going to work here until next Sunday:

Okay … let me be a bit more honest. Where I’m working is in this beautiful town, but well – it looks a bit more like this:

No … I’m not working at a bakery. Unfortunately, I can’t find any good pictures of my former home away from home (for 14 years) on Summerhill Road on my computer or on Facebook – but I will snap some and find some, I’m sure. Yeah – you read that right: I’m going to be working at my old summer camp for the next 11 days for a few reasons, but mostly because:

I really need a change of pace.

The last time I worked there, I looked like this:

August 2008; Rachel and Levy, please don't hate me for posting this fantastic picture of us!

… sometimes when I’m frustrated with how I’ve eaten, or angry at my legs when they want to stop after two miles – I come home and look at pictures like this one, and feel thankful for where I am now.

I know what you’re wondering: so what does this mean for the blog?

Well, I’m going to try and take pictures. I’m going to try and keep posting. And I’ll apologize now, in advance, for any absence throughout my small “vacation.” The good news: I’ll have computer access! So – don’t stray my loyal readers.

Tonight: I also want to give a special thanks to a lot of the newbies who have been following my blog lately. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback and sweet comments from old and new friends a like throughout the last few days – and it means a lot! Keep on reading, keep on commenting – and I promise – I’ll keep posting :)

Where is your happy place? The most spontaneous decision you’ve made lately?

“A fool is a man who never tried an experiment in his life” [Erasmus Darwin]

So, about that announcement:

My dad got a new hot tub!

.. Okay – so that wasn’t it.

Newly refurnished adirondack chairs!

Okay … that isn’t it either.

Some things run in the family. Maybe it’s creativity and a knack for color. Or – maybe you were fortunate enough to inherent the dormant gene for ginger hair. Maybe – you got the tall gene from your grandfather, and have model like legs that propel you through your morning runs like a gazelle.

For us – besides my dark hair, jewish nose and formerly large bosoms … it’s weight loss. Last year, my father was able to lose a considerable amount of weight using a weight loss system based on a few key principles:

  • Minimizing refined sugar
  • Ensuring the appropriate amount of protein in your daily diet
  • Controlled portion size
  • Mostly low carbohydrate

When he was on the system, I used to get angry with him (he knows this). I was worried he wasn’t eating enough – although I wasn’t there during every meal and snack. And as a WW fanatic who has learned weight loss is possible through portion size and still being able to eat your favorite foods in moderation – I felt like he was restricting himself. I was skeptical, but he told me he was never hungry – and achieved fantastic results.

So … here I am, a year later – and I am going to experiment. Last night’s movie sesh inspired me to try something knew. Elements in this program are very different from my general diet, I know I don’t drink enough water, and I definitely don’t eat enough protein (my boyfriend always tells me I should use recovery protein post workout). And as cute as he looks posing next to a bottle of whey protein (I’ll refrain from embarrassing him) - it’s not my thing.

I am going on a similar weight loss plan for seven days. Allegedly, you are able to lose up to ten pounds in two weeks.

Now – if you or a friend have ever been on a diet, you know that changing your lifestyle and eating habits always ensues in a large weight loss during week one. When I was younger, I remember losing 7.4 pounds after one week on WW. When I went back to WW meetings with a good friend of mine before this year’s spring break, I remember her telling me that she expected to lose at least eight (she lost 6.5).

Do I expect to see the same progress here? Again – I’m skeptical, but we’ll see. My skepticism is not based on whether or not the program has the potential for success. I think hunger may get the best of me. All of my old worries about my father, are in the works for me. But if I never try – I’ll never know.

Today’s breakfast:

Sliced strawberries, a chocolate coffee protein shake and (not pictured) a large glass of water. I’m going to head off the the trail and log a few more miles with my new best friends (yes, my sneakers). Have a good day all!

Have you ever tried a diet like this? Want to share success or failure stories? Have you seen remarkable results in a short period of time, and had positive or negative feedback about the experience?

“Every day is a winding road” [Sheryl Crow]

This weekend was just what I needed and included some of the following:

Tuna steak (medium rare) sandwich with avocado, lettuce and tomato on ciabatta, a bellini for me and a bloody Mary for my galpal, my first fish taco experience with yucca fries (interesting, not much of a yucca fan) and of course: a Hamptons sunset over the bay looking off of the deck. After reading magazines – we divulged in trends and invested in some OPI – only after taking the kayaks out for a spin and consequently sinking the boat after jumping into the bay for a dip. We danced until the early morning hours, watched a few too many episodes of Trading Spaces: Home Edition, drank medium iced coffees and even ate some brie.

Oh … and I casually sat next to Sharon Stone on Friday, and Tyra Banks (yes, the ANTM queen herself) on Saturday.  You read that right, I’m serious.

Celeb sightings aside – as I sit upstairs in my grandparents house and enjoy some Law and Order before catching up on necessary winks – something feels a little off despite my fantastic weekend. I digress:

I interviewed a woman not long ago who had an amazing attitude about weight loss. Through a supervised program, she was able to lose more than 120 pounds, and has completely revolutionize her life. I listened to her in awe as she laughed and cried; I listened to her as she told me a moving story about vacationing with her husband, and finally being at a safe, healthy weight to do something she’d always wanted to: parasailing. And I too teared up, when she told me about reaching new height. She told me that she stared into her husbands eyes as they soared above the clear blue waters and through the air sitting next to one another, and hearing him say “finally,” and her saying “yes, take me higher.”

And as uplifting it was to hear her story, one other thing stuck out during out conversation. Talking about her cruise – she told me that just because she was on vacation – her disease wasn’t.

… Never have I ever been to Canada had an eating disorder (commonly shortened as ED). I read a lot of blogs discussing recovery, post-ED, it comes with the healthy lifestyle niché. And I realize now that binge eating and  obesity, that may be a disease in itself. I guess – I never thought of it that way.

If I identify portions of my past as overcoming a disease, then I think I have a confession:

Lately I feel like I’ve been relapsing.

When I’m home, I’m in control. I’m learning to love cooking (if you couldn’t tell already). I love finding new healthy ways to combine my favorite basics with creative twists. But when I go away for the weekend and stay out overnight – I feel like the switch flicks on, and I forget where I’ve been, and the hard work I’ve been working so hard to maintain.

Throughout the three years that I lost my weight with the help of WW, I learned how to eat well no matter where I was. And now, as a lifetime member, I think I’m invincible. The truth is: I’m not. No one is.

Over the next few days, I’m going to get back on track (and back home, tomorrow). In an effort to help both myself – and some of my followers who may also have similar problems – I’m going to post some suggestions on how to stay on track while out of your element.

Today’s suggestion: Water. It’s easy really, and we’ve all heard it a thousand times. If you’re out to dinner, enjoy the food and not overload it with excess calories. If you’re going to drink something, get it when you can enjoy it – and only it. Whether it be a fruity drink (margarita, perhaps?) or a morning smoothie – get them solo rather than with a meal when it’s only adding insult to injury. Enjoy the taste of your choice, rather than using it to wash down a breakfast wrap or lobster roll.

Hungry after dinner? Have two glasses of water, and then reevaluate. Often many, myself included, people confuse boredom for hunger. A little H20 may convince you otherwise.

What are some things that you do differently while on vacation? I know I’m not alone: given in to any trends lately?

“There are no mistakes or failures, only lessons” [Denis Waitley]

I’ve been learning a lot lately.

Lesson #1: It’s OK to indulge every once in a while

It’s no secret that I lost all my poundage through WW over the past few years. The foundations of the WW plan include being able to eat what you want – when you want – in moderation. Throughout the last week, I’ve been on assignment for my freelance job to take photos of ice cream throughout Connecticut. And as you can imagine, I’ve seen some yummy things.

… Like this:

Sunny Daes: Fairfield, Conn.

Or this:

Scoopy Doos: Milford, Conn.

With an assignment so delicious, it’s hard to stay on track. But, I’ve done well. I’ve tried everything that I’ve taken a picture of – and didn’t feel guilty. Throughout the past week I’ve kept my ice cream adventures in mind, and eaten salads instead of sandwiches, grilled veggies instead of french fries.

Romaine salad with sliced chicken, tomato, hot sauce and a little bit of fresh mozz (couldn’t ditch the craving post-Italian festival), then topped with fat-free ranch post-photo.

Grilled chicken sausage (a summertime favorite of mine) with green peppers and onions, two tablespoons of Island Soyaki for flavor. Yum!

Summer is a time for fruity beverages, frosty treats and good home-grilling. Allow yourself to enjoy these times with friends and family by scaling down other meals to compensate! Looking forward to a backyard barbecue at your grandmother’s tomorrow night? Squeeze in a three-mile run, hit a zumba class and be mindful of your meals leading up to the event! It’s OK to have fun, and it sure as hell is OK to enjoy a margarita every once in a while!

Lesson #2: Not everything is as it seems

… I’ll resist the temptation to go into a full analysis of The Hills/ Laguna Beach over the past few years. However – I will say: what was with the finale?! Sure, a few years ago I heard that a friend of a friend’s uncle or second-cousin twice removed helped write the script for the show. But – that never really mattered when I was sitting sipping green tea or white wine with my friends debating LC or Kristen’s next move. The end of an era? I feel like when SATC ended. What’s next … a movie? We’ll see.

Rant ended. I’ve done two days of marathon prep so far, with three miles on Monday and four miles this morning (a special thanks to the rain gods who must have heard my prayers, allowing me to huff and puff through the humidity, down the beach and back through my front door without a drop). My right knee has been bothering me, and I’ve been a bit worried about what this means for training. But then, I took a closer look at my sneakers.

On the surface: a pair of New Balance 1225 sneakers that literally saved my stride last October. A little back story: I bought these beauties after a minor setback on Wednesday, September 30, 2009. My last half marathon brought a few challenges:

  • A fundraising debacle: After a friend of mine passed away last October, and I decided that for my second half marathon, I would raise money for a scholarship fund in his name. However, after some shady organization on fundable.org, I had to cancel my “auction” before the end date and lost all the money raised by my contributors.
  • A foot complication: With 12 days to go before the race I experienced some serious foot pain and I knew that there was no wasting time. I went to a personal trainer who told me that it was my old sneakers (Under Armour) that were the culprit to my foot problem. After buying my current sneaks, I was able to walk and run again within days – and complete the marathon 32 minutes faster than my time in 2008.

Anyway – I took a closer look at my sneakers yesterday – and saw this:

They are officially worn down. With holes in the back of both heels, I think I’ve found the culprit of my knee problems.

… anyone have sneaker suggestions for me? I’m a flat-footed lady who needs moderate stability.

Lesson learned though, don’t go running to the doctor (literally) before taking a closer look the possible causes for pain. Looks like I’ll investing a few dollars in my feet. What’s your biggest fitness investment? I know my girl Hill splurges on the unmentionables. Do you look for style, comfort or price?

    “We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance” [Harrison Ford]

    Some days are harder then others.

    Last night was one of “those days” – sitting on the couch switching between Huge (did you watch it?!) and Cake Boss (I’ve already proclaimed my obsession) I felt elated to see the six digit number that pops up on my cell once every other day. For those of you just joining us, my boyfriend is currently deployed in Afghanistan. While generally I’m a busy bee – moving to Milford has not exactly broadened my social scene, and nights at home on the couch – while relaxing, tend to make me miss him, wishing that he could be doing absolutely nothing, just with me.

    … After I hung up with him last night, I realized that something bigger is frustrating me. And while I’ve been blogging away – I’m slowly realizing that I don’t feel as happy, in a fit way, then I have in summer’s past. I used to have a routine, wake up, eat breakfast, run the valley – start my day.  Looking forward from my spot on our small red loveseat, I decided that today would be the beginning of a new fit initative. I need something to keep me occupied, and more specifically, something to keep me sane.

    Why not start off a commitment with a delicious breakfast. My friend Brynne has inspired me to try eating more egg whites in the morning. In all honesty, she’s inspired me to try a lot of other stuff (hugs). After googling a bit, I decided I’d try this recipe for egg white puffs.

    So I started …

    The recipe called for a silicone mini-muffin pan. Considering (I assume many of you will agree) the average household doesn’t have a silicone mini-muffin pan, I improvised with small glass dishes. Then, I microwaved …

    And well, I failed. Appearance aside, I attempted eating a bite of one of these beauties. Unfortunately – despite the paprika and pepper sprinkle, they tasted rubbery and lacked any decent flavor.

    Starting off slow, no big deal. Let’s try again.

    Take two: egg whites on a whole wheat english muffin with sliced tomatoes and one piece low-fat American cheese, paired with some sliced peaches sprinkled with cinnamon (again, thanks to Brynne for encouraging me to add some pizazz to my peaches!) This breakfast attempt was MUCH more successful, and very delicious. The spiced fruit made me think of a Passover sedar (charoset anyone?) and really tasted refreshing.

    Now that I’m fueled, it’s time to start my day. And what better way to start it, then with a note from mom:

    Happy Tuesday.