Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Black Bean Bowls

This is technically the filling for black bean burritos or enchiladas, but since I'm not doing the rice and tortillas, I used these beans as the base for a Tex-Mex bean bowl. The beans alone are pretty lean and low cal and the best part? It takes next to nothing in time and attention. Just put everything into a slow cooker, turn that baby on, and leave it alone for 8 loooong hours!

Slow Cooked Black Beans

1.5 C. Dry Black Beans
3 Carrots, chopped
2 Large Onions, chopped
5 Cloves Garlic, smashed
2-4 Birds Eye Chilies, sliced in half
4-6 C. Low Sodium, Low Fat Chicken Broth (enough just to cover everything in the crock)
1-2 T. Cumin, ground
1-2 T. Chili Powder
2 t. Salt

Rinse and soak the beans overnight in cool water. Discard water and simmer in fresh water for 20 minutes, or until they begin to soften (or, you can always substitute 4-5 cans of black beans and skip this step.) Drain and put into the slow cooker with remaining ingredients, except the salt. Cover tightly, and cook on low for 8 hours, or until beans are very tender. Add a little more broth if it looks like the beans are getting too dry. The long cooking time tends to mellow the spices, so you may find the need to add extra cumin and chili powder (and maybe onion or garlic powder) towards the end of the cooking time. This is also when you should add salt to taste.

Makes 6-8 Servings

I ate mine in a bowl loaded with other yumminess for garnish - salsa, low fat cheese, minced cilantro, and a dollop of low fat sour cream. What I love about this meal is that it's so filling and it really sticks with me through the day, so I'm less likely to want to snack. It's just a bonus that it's also cheap, easy, and the leftovers keep well.

Nutrition Roundup (not including garnishes): Calories 125.8, Total Fat 0.4 g, Cholesterol 0.0 mg, Sodium 111.2 mg, Total Carbs: 33.2 g, Dietary Fiber: 17.2 g, Protein: 12.0 g.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Asparagus and Eggs

Years ago I dated someone whose family was from Sicily. She taught me a traditional breakfast that her family enjoys - asparagus and eggs. I was inspired to make it this morning since I have so much wonderful produce from going to the farmer's market. This is a super quick meal that I eat any time I want something light but satisfying.

Asparagus and Eggs

1 C. Fresh Asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
2 Eggs

Scramble eggs in a small bowl until they are blended. In a large skillet, heat 2 t. of olive oil and cook asparagus until it turns bright green. Add eggs and scramble. Easy easy easy! Yum.

I couldn't actually eat all of this food, but I wanted to dress up the plate. ;)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Just 'Cuz

Just because sometimes I'm an uber geek and like to see things in charts and pictures, I've made a chart of my weight since 2009. I haven't included every single weigh in, but you get the general idea. I like looking at it because it helps me wrap my brain around the fact that it's totally normal for weight to go up and down over time. Naturally, the whole point of weight loss surgery is to have it go down (which it is doing - quite nicely, I may add) but in general, everyone's weight fluctuates to some extent. Also, since the weight loss has slowed down a little since the first 8 weeks post-op (also totally normal an to be expected), it's nice to see that the trend is still going in the right direction.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Farmer's Market

I went to the city's year 'round, 100+ year old weekly farmer's market yesterday. It was partly because I felt the need to go look at mass quantities of produce to get inspired to cook a little more, but it was mostly in an effort to save money. Most everything they sell is about 60% less than the local grocery store. Of course, that 60% is covered in the PITA factor of shopping there. There's no parking because it's in the center of one of the oldest sections of the city, so you have to take public transit. From where I live, that's about 45 minutes by bus and train. I don't drive, so this isn't really a big deal, I just have to plan my schedule accordingly. No....the PITA factor really comes in when I have to haul all my cheaply gotten delicious fresh fruit and veggies home on the train and bus for 45 minutes. Yeah. That part's not so fun, but when I have a refrigerator full of healthy, fresh, yummy food, it's hard to really be bothered too much.

Yesterday's haul cost $22 and comprised approximately 35 lbs. of produce. In case you're wondering, that's 1 bunch cilantro, 1 bunch scallions, 5 limes, 13 navel oranges, 4 lbs. onions, 5 lbs. bananas, 2 lbs. red seedless grapes, 2 lbs. asparagus, 3 English cucumbers, 4 pints of blue berries, and 4 bird's eye chilies a nice lady gave me for free when I told her I didn't want a 6 oz. bag of them because I only needed a few.

I strategically piled all this loveliness into my re-useable shopping bags (heavy/hearty stuff on the bottom and delicate stuff on top) and proceeded the short distance to the train. It occurred to me as I was making my way there that 16 weeks ago (the week before surgery), that walk would have been far more difficult for me than it was yesterday. I would have had to stop several times. I would have been sweaty. I would have been sore by the time I got home. I would still be hurting today. I have to remind myself (sometimes several times a day) that there are many more benefits to this surgery than what can be seen on the scale.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thug's Spinach Cooler

Some internet friends of mine have introduced me to a very funny (and totally not safe for work!) food blog called Thug Kitchen. Today after a particularly challenging work out at the gym, I decided to try TK's Spinach Cooler. I changed it a little by using only 1 banana, instead of 2, eliminating the flax seed oil (because I don't have any), a bit more pineapple, and a scoop of unflavored Syntrax Whey Protein Isolate. Between the fruit and veggies and the whey protein, it makes a full meal with loads of good things in it. I've reposted his recipe here, but you really should go read his blog. :-)

Thug's Spinach Cooler (w/Protein)

2 C. Fresh Spinach
1 Frozen Banana
1 C. Cucumber, chopped
.25 C. Frozen Pineapple
1 C. Coconut Water
.25 C. Orange Juice
6 Mint Leaves
1 Scoop Syntrax Whey Protein Isolate (unflavored)

Put everything except the protein powder in the blender and blend until completely smooth. Add protein powder and blend until just incorporated. Drink while fresh and cold.

This makes 2 10 oz. servings.

Nutrition Roundup: Calories 164.7, Total Fat 0.7 g, Cholesterol 2.5 mg, Sodium 69.1 mg, Total Carbs 28.5 g, Dietary Fiber 3.3 g, Protein 13.5 g.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Time At The Gym

I was thinking that I haven't really been talking about the other aspects of life since WLS.  Specifically, exercise. I recently went to one of the post-surgical support groups at the Weight Center and listened to an hour "lesson" on the importance of exercise. But they didn't like that word and made a big deal about how we shouldn't look at it as "exercise," but instead should focus on adding more "activity" and "movement" to our days in lots of little ways. We were also encouraged to look for "non-exercise" ways of getting exercise - things we enjoy, like dancing, so that we are more likely to do them regularly. While I agree with the general premise of all this, it wasn't the most stimulating hour of my life. ;)

My gym routine has changed a little from when I started. When I was cleared for full activity, about a month after surgery, I was doing 30 minutes on the dreadmill (I mean, treadmill) and 15-20 minutes on the recumbent bike and calling it good. The thing is...as you can probably tell, I don't really enjoy the treadmill. The bike is okay, but I don't love it, either. Listening to audio books or good music helped make it less painful (and they have TVs and radio at the gym you can listen to on headphones), but it didn't really help with the enjoyment factor.

More recently, however, I've been at the gym a few times with my friend, D, and her system (designed by a friend of hers w/a degree in exercise science) is to do 10 minutes cardio, 3 sets of 12 of 3 different weight training machines, another 10 minutes of cardio, another group of weight machines, and end with a last 10 minutes of cardio. I tried it one day and found it much more pleasant. I've elongated the cardio time by 5 minutes each round, to make a total of 45 minutes of cardio interspersed with a full routine of either arms/chest & back or legs & abs. It means that my full routine takes about 90 minutes, but it doesn't feel like it because it's all broken up. By the time I get to 12 minutes of cardio and I'm starting to want to stab my eyes out with boredom, I realize I only have 3 minutes left until I get to do something else. Not bad, not bad at all.

As far as the weights go, I won't get into loads of detail (unless someone comments and tells me they want loads of detail), but for legs & abs days I do leg press, curl, extension, hip ab/adductors, calf raises and crunches. On the arms/chest & back days I do bicep curls, tricep extensions, overhead press, row machine, lat pull down, chest press, and back extension. And I stretch every time.

I still can't say that I enjoy going to the gym, but breaking things up has really helped me to handle the tedium. And I admit, I'm starting to like having gone to the gym.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Not Potatoes

I've never been a huge fan of potatoes. In fact, if they weren't sliced, deep fried in fat, and sprinkled in salt (chips), I really actively didn't like them. That is, until a few years ago when I found Yukon Gold potatoes which are super yummy, with a lightly sweet/nutty flavor.

Since surgery, however, I've been avoiding most starches. I'm cleared to eat them in extreme moderation, but I've been trying to keep my carbohydrate consumption to nutrition-dense foods, like dairy, but, and legumes. (I have had a little sweet potato here and there, though. :-) ) Because of this, I've been exploring the other root vegetables and have discovered that while beets from a can are okay, fresh beets correctly cooked are fabulous! I got this recipe from a friend named "whipperton" on a message board community and wanted to share it with all of you. Talk about YUM.

Sesame Roasted Beets

2 large Red Beets
2 Large Golden Beets
2-3 T. Sesame Oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

Scrub the beets well, remove the green and trim the ends. Chop into 1" cubes and toss in sesame oil and salt (I used about 1/2 t.) Roast until a knife goes through them easily. If you want to punch up the sesame flavor, you can drizzle a little more sesame oil over them and/or sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving. (I didn't bother because it smelled too good to wait.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Boiled Dinner

I am not Irish and have never been interested in pretending to be just for the day on March 17th. It's not my style, I guess. And until recently, I did not like corned beef and had never even eaten boiled dinner, let alone cooked it myself. But lately I've learned that corned beef is pretty good! And it can be relatively lean if it's been trimmed well. So this year I've decided to take advantage of the extremely low prices on corned beef brisket at the market and give it a try. I've replaced the traditional potatoes in the dish with turnips because they have less starch and more nutrition and, even though I know it's not "traditional," I've added garlic and a fair amount of onions to the mix just because I like them. I also totally forgot to buy any cabbage, so we had this with some wilted spinach for greens.

I opted to cook this in the crock pot so that I could put in some quality time with the laundry. I used just plain water for the liquid in the crock, but if you have a nice stout or ale handy, I bet that would be really good. You'll notice that there is very little liquid in this recipe, even though it's a "boiled" dinner.

This is because I'm doing it in the crock pot. The veggies will release their moisture, as will the meat, and combined with a tight fitting lid on the crock pot, it won't be too long before everything will be practically swimming. I've learned that with slow cookers, adding a lot of liquid at the out set just dilutes the flavors. Instead, I added just enough water to steam up and get everything started.

Corned Beef Boiled Dinner

2 Medium Turnips, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
4 Large Carrots, cut into 1" chunks
3 Medium Onions, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and cracked with the flat of a knife
4-5 lb. Corned Beef Brisket with included pickling spices
1 1/4 C. Water or Beer (stout or ale)

In the crock of a large slow cooker, layer in turnips, carrots, onions, and garlic. Add beef and water and the sprinkle the spices over the beef. Cover tightly and cook on low 8 hours. Remove the beef and veggies to a platter and cover in foil. Transfer cooking juices to a sauce pan and simmer 10-15 minutes on high until reduced by about half. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve reduced jus drizzled over the roast and veggies.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Extremely Lazy Sunday Brunch

Extremely lazy Sunday brunch is when we sleep to a ridiculous hour (noon), enjoy a leisurely coffee, and eventually get to figuring out something for brunch. Today, it turned out to be a veggie frittata with a little goat cheese on top.

Mushroom Onion Tomato Frittata With Chevre

9 Eggs, beaten
1 Large Onion, sliced thinly
1 large tomato, sliced in thick slices
8 oz. Sliced Button Mushrooms
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
4 oz. Chevre
2 T. Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a large, oven safe, skillet heat 1 T. olive oil and cook mushrooms over medium-high heat until lightly browned and tender. Remove mushrooms from pan, add remaining olive oil, and add onions and tomatoes to the pan. Put the onions on one side and the tomatoes on the other. allow the tomatoes to begin to get soft (1-2 minutes) and the flip and allow to cook 1 minute longer. Cook the onions until lightly golden. Add mushrooms back to pan and spread everything out into an even layer. Layer in tomato slices and pour over beaten eggs. Crumble chevre and spread evenly over the top. When the sides of the egg look like they are starting to set, put pan in the preheated oven and bake 20-25 minutes, or until the eggs are almost fully set and there's very little movement in the center. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before turning out on a plate and cutting into wedges.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition Roundup: Calories 165.3, Total Fat 12.0 g, Cholesterol 214.8 mg, Sodium 147.6 mg, Total Carbs 4.9 g, Dietary Fiber 0.9 g, Protein 10.2 g.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Granny's Comfort Food

I don't remember a lot about my grandmother's cooking, mainly because she had a teeny tiny apartment and so we usually went to restaurants when we went to visit. This dish, however, is something I remember having and loooove. I think my dad made it a few times when I was a child, too. Technically, it's a pasta fagiole, but I didn't make the pasta, because I still haven't tried eating it. I'm not ready to go there in Carb World just yet.

Pasta Fagiole

3/4 - 1 lb. dried white beans - navy or cannelini (I usually make the whole lb.)
4-6 oz. Pancetta, in 1cm cubes
1 large/2 medium onions, sliced thinly
2-4 Cloves garlic, minced
1 C. White wine (optional)
Rind from 1 mediumish piece of parmeggian reggiano, cut in 2-3 pieces
Grated parmeggiano reggiano (1/2 C. or so for topping)
4-5 springs Fresh Thyme
2-3 medium tomatoes, chopped (optional)
4-5 C. Chicken broth
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

This can be made either in a Dutch oven (for a 1 pot meal) or first in a skillet and then a casserole dish for the baking.

Soak beans overnight. Rinse beans and simmer until soft in fresh water. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F-375F. In a skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and brown off pancetta. When brown, remove to a dish. In same oil, cook onions until just golden and then add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Deglaze pan with white wine, if using, and allow it to reduce by half. Otherwise, deglaze pan with 1 C. broth. If using a Dutch oven, just proceed with the one pot. If using a skillet and casserole dish, transfer onion-wine mixture to the baking dish. Add the cooked and drained beans, pancetta, thyme, tomatoes (if you want), salt and pepper, and pour in the chicken broth until everything is covered. Nestle the pieces of the cheese rind in a few places around the dish, drizzle the top w/a little olive oil, put it in the oven to bake until the beans are very soft and the liquid has reduced. The top may be a little browned. You can help this by sprinkling the top w/grated cheese. If it looks like it’s getting too dry and the beans aren’t quite soft yet, top it off with a little more broth and continue cooking.

Serve over your favorite cooked pasta.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Curried Chicken Salad

If you haven't guessed yet, I've been eating a lot of chicken salad. It's quick, high protein, I can sneak a few veggies into every serving, and it's highly portable for the days I'm running around the city doing errands and going to appointments. One half-cup of chicken salad, a dozen (1/2 serving) baked lentil chips, and a small clementine orange and I'm full for hours. I like to lower the fat a little by halving the mayo in the recipe with fat free plain Greek yogurt, but if you don't have any handy you can always make it up by using a bit less of the reduced fat mayo or a fat free mayo instead. (I don't personally like fat free mayo, but if you like it, knock yourself out!) I added some raisins for sweetness and finely minced carrot for moisture and color. You could always add a few toasted slivered almonds for some healthy fats and a little crunch, but I didn't have any in the pantry this time.

Curried Chicken Salad

1 Large Carrot, chopped finely
8 oz. Chicken Breast (cooked), chopped in small pieces (skin and fat removed)
1 Large Scallion/Green Onion, sliced thinly
2 T. Reduced Fat Mayo
2 T. Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt
1-3 T. Curry Powder (sweet curry powder, not hot)
1/2 C. Sultanas or Raisins
Salt to taste

If you have a food processor, combine chunks of carrot and process until mostly chopped, add chicken and process further until both are to your desired consistency. If you don't have a food processor, proceed as detailed above (carrot chopped finely and chicken into small pieces.) Combine chicken-carrot mixture with all remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix until completely combined. Adjust salt and curry powder to your taste. Refrigerate until serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Approximate Nutrition: Calories 171.4, Total Fat 4.1 g, Cholesterol 37.6 mg, Sodium 681.4 mg , Total Carbs 19.8 g, Dietary Fiber 2.4 g, Protein 15.3 g.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Just A Little Happy Dance

I've been feeling a little bummed the last few weeks because, according to the scale, I've not lost any weight. I know that plateaus are common and to be expected, but they still suck when you're trundling along on the weight loss at a pretty good pace and then wham! You've hit a plateau and you're there until...well, until you're not. It actually makes total sense that the scale isn't moving right now, since I started exercising more heavily and began the weight training. I'm very likely exchanging fat for muscle right now, which is actually a Very Good Thing. It's just harder to see at the moment.

Last night, however, I remembered that I had taken my measurements (yanno...with a tape measure) at the beginning of all this an I thought, "Hey! I should do that again! It's been 12 weeks, after all." So, after 10 minutes of rummaging around I unearthed a tape measure and did it again. Guess what? I'm down 4" in the waist and 5" in the hips! Woo! (Oh, and I had to buy  a pair of jeans in the next size down this weekend! :-) ) *Happy Dance*

As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Scale, you can bugger off.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sweat, Pain, and The Morning Hobble

I went to the gym a few times about a month after surgery and it was truly agony. I just felt like I had no energy, eventhough I had been given the all-clear by the surgeon and told that the anesthesia fog and surgical fatigue should have been wearing off. I admit that I kind of gave up on the idea of exercising in any structured fashion for a while after that.

That is, until this week. This week I realized that if I want to keep this weight loss going (and not end up a weakling in the process from the musscle loss associated with quick weight loss), I would need to get up off my rear end end get moving. It helps that I'm starting to feel like a normal human being as far as energy and enthusiasm. I went to the gym on Saturday and Sunday with the wife and did 20 minutes each day on both the treadmill (or the dreadmill as a friend of mine likes to call it) and the recumbent stationary bike. That was a pretty good start, but I definitely noticed a difference in my energy level and my muscle strength on the second day so I decided to take a day off to recover. No big deal, right? Just a little tired...been a while since I exercised regularly....I'll bounce back in a day or so and then return to the gym to make my 2 day trend into a Life Long Habit. (Why no, I don't set huge goals for myself, why do you ask?)

Then Monday rolled around and I quickly realized that my normal hop out of bed and shuffle to the coffee pot was going to be more like a Morning Hobble. I. Was. Stiff. And sore. What did I forget guys and gals? Yes! I forgot to stretch. Yowch. Sweet fancy Moses, my legs hurt! Mostly in the adductor muscles (the outside of the hip/top of the thigh) and my knees, but with a fair amount of soreness scattered everywhere else, too. So, taking the day off turned out to be a good plan and I gently stretched a few times throughout the day and felt better able to fathom the idea of returning to the gym yesterday, which I did with a bang. I did 40 minutes of combined treadmill and bike again, but added in a lower body strength training workout. Today I trundled on in there again and did the same cardio, but this time a complete upper body strength training work out. I really busted by  tail today, I tell you. I alternated 10-15 minutes cardio with 2-3 strength training exercises and I was at the gym for about 90 minutes all told. I left there tired all over and very sweaty. Like-please-get-me-to-a-hot-shower-ASAP sweaty. (Yick.)

...and now I'm realizing that even with the stretching I've been doing this evening, that the odds of The Morning Hobble returning tomorrow are very high. Very high. And I'm back at the gym for another leg workout tomorrow. It's ok, though, since I'll be taking Friday and maybe Saturday off. And not just off, I mean couch potato off. I need to exercise my movie watching muscles at least some of the time, right? ;-)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Best Roast Chicken

My wife absolutely adores roasted chicken. I like it, too, but she likes it even more than I do. There was a stretch last year when I was making one a week (usually on Sundays - how very 1950s of me!) I haven't made it since surgery but after a trial run eating some roasted chicken breast last week, I think this is a practice that may have to be reestablished. I found the roasted meat to be much more tender, moist, and flavorful than other ways of cooking chicken and it went down very well, without any discomfort or "sticking."

This recipe is based on one by Ina Gartner, though I'm way less fussy in my preparations. I strongly recommend the lemons and thyme for the fresh flavor they lend to the dish, but if you don't have any handy don't worry, this is still very yummy.

The Best Roast Chicken

5-6 lb. Roaster Chicken, giblets removed
2 T. Butter, melted
Carrots, Turnips, Parsnips, and Onions, cut into 2-3" pieces (enough to fill the bottom of your baking dish)
2 heads Garlic
6 sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Lemons, halved
Olive Oil Spray (I use regular olive oil in one of these)
2 t. Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.

Fill your baking dish with the chopped veggies. Slice the garlic heads in two along their equator, so all the cloves have been halved and nestle them in among the veggies. Add 4 sprigs of fresh thyme. Spray everything lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (about 1.5-2 t. for a 9"x11"x3" baking dish full of veggies.) Toss to coat.

Use kitchen shears to remove any excess fat or skin from chicken, but leave the skin over the breast and thighs/legs intact. Place the chicken on top of the chopped veggies and tuck the tips of the wings under so they don't burn. Pat dry as much as possible with paper towels. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the remaining 2 sprigs thyme and both lemons. Don't worry if the lemons are coming out the end, just mash them in the best way you can. Brush the cold chicken with the warm melted butter all over top, ends, and sides. The butter will congeal on the cold chicken, but this is what you want. Sprinkle the chicken lightly all over with garlic powder, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. Place in preheated oven and roast 1.5-2 hours, or until an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh reads 170F. Remove from oven, tent loosely in foil, and allow to rest 20 minutes before carving. When serving, squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins and mix into the veggies. Squeeze the juice of the roasted lemons over servings of the chicken.

I can't really give you nutrition on this one cuz there are too many variables (if you eat the skin or discard it, how many veggies you eat, if you consume the pan juices, what part of the meat you have - thigh vs. breast, etc.) I can tell you that 3 oz. of the breast of this chicken and about 1/3 C. of the roasted veggies went down like a dream, tasted divine, and filled me up.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Random Thoughts

I've been reading a lot on message boards and communitiers devoted to Weight Loss Surgery lately and I've noticed a very all-or-nothing attitude from many posters. Now, I'm not knocking it. If it works for you, then that's what you should do. But that view has never really worked for me. I approached things differently because whenever I give myself hard rules and then I don't follow them perfectly, I end up beating myself up about it and feeling crappy and then making further choices that aren't helpful to my goals. (Notice I didn't say "bad choices." That's because thinking in terms of "Good" and "Bad" gets me in mental/emotional trouble.)

So, I approach it by looking at every meal, every bite of every meal, as an opportunity for me to decide to move toward my goals...or away from them. There are still Rules - it's WLS and lifestyle changes after all - but I give myself permission to not be perfect at following the rules. I aim to follow the rules and make decisions that bring me closer to my goals at least 80% of the time. More is better, but less is okay as long as it doesn't develop into a multi-day trend. For instance, I was craving chocolate in the worst way last week. Instead of torturing myself with NO chocolate (I didn't have anything sugar/fat free that was chocolate flavored in the house), I allowed myself to have 8 morsels of the Ghirardelli 70% Cacao chocolate morsels - the little chips that you can buy in the bags to make cookies. I ate them 1 at a time and let them melt slowly in my mouth and it was heaven. It killed the craving, I didn't feel deprived, and I also didn't feel the need to beat myself up about it. In fact, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment that I was able to limit my portion to an appropriate amount and still enjoy it! Obviously, I can't do that every day, but allowing myself to do it once and really enjoying the experience, was a new and liberating thing for me. I felt less like food was in control, and more like I was in control of the food (and my body.)

As far as the Food Mourning issue goes...I'll tell you that it doesn't stop with surgery. I had it come and go for months before surgery and now 2-3 times in the 9 weeks since surgery. I've been dealing with it by just giving myself permission to feel sad and angry, no matter how "silly" it may seem. I communicate what's going on to my docs, close friends, and wife so that they can support me.

I think it's easy to forget that even after a major life change like WLS, we are still the same people with the same lives/issues/challenges that we were before the surgery - for all the good AND the bad of it. It's easy to fall into a pattern that life will be rosy after surgery....we'll be thin and attractive and everything will be perfect! But it's just not how life works and it can be a major disappointment when that sinks in after you get through the initial recovery and start to feel physically better. For instance, I'm still a person that really doesn't enjoy exercising, even though I do enjoy how it makes me feel. I still love bread. I don't eat it much these days (or at all, really) but I still love it. And I miss it. But I have to just ride it out like surfing a wave. I smell freshly baked bread from a bakery and I allow myself to feel sad and miss it. And then I move on. Sometimes I have to give myself a mental push to move on from the sad feelings, but I do it because it's a decision to do it. I make a decision to allow myself to feel sad, but then I also make a decision to not allow myself to get bogged down in it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

30" Inches!

You wanna see what 30" of snow from a true New England nor'east blizzard looks like? Of course you do!

This is where the snow blew in the front door of our building and created a mini snow drift indoors. The little bit of green you see in right side of the picture is the cap of a 1-gallon milk bottle that we put out in the hallway when we lost power in an attempt to keep it cold. (It worked beautifully - we had icy cold/partially frozen milk for 2 days!)

This was the snow piled up on the threshold of the front door to our building.
And the view to the left and right, respectively, from our front door. In the right hand view you can see a light pole with a fire box in the center of the image. That fire call box is approximately 5' off the ground, just to give you some reference for the height of the snow drifts.

And lastly, the view straight out the door. You can just see the top of the railling for the second set of steps almost buried in the dift.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Green Soup and Ham

A few weeks ago I made a massive ham roast at the request of my wife, which I glazed in brown sugar, cloves, and ginger and it came out beautifully. But then I had all this ham! And I'm not eating much these days. ;-) My wife ate what she could and then I put the rest of the meat from the roast (and the bone, natch) into the freezer for a later meal. One of those meals came this evening in the form of Green Soup and Ham. It's essentially a nutritionally ramped up split pea soup and it's got all the unctuous mouth feel and salty, hammy, flavor you would expect out of the original version. I halved the split peas with lentils because split peas have such a high carb count and lentils have more protein. I also added a little extra in the way of veggies to boost the fiber and vitamins. After pureeing the soup, you don't even notice them.

It would also be worth noting that I tend to make large amounts of soup and we eat off them for quick lunches and dinner for a few days before I freeze the rest for future lazy days when I don't feel like cooking. (Depending on the soup, sometimes there's nothing left to freeze!)

Green Soup and Ham

2 T. Olive Oil
2 Medium Onions, chopped
2 Medium Carrots, chopped
2 Stalks Celery, chopped
3-4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Bay Leaf
1 t. Thyme
32 oz. Fat Free, Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth
1 C. Dry Split Peas
1 C. Dry Green Lentils
2 C. Frozen Chopped Kale
3 C. Cooked Ham, fat removed and cut in to bite sized cubes
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pan, sweat the veggies with the bay leaf and thyme until they are very tender and have given up a lot of their moisture. Add the chicken broth, cover, and bring to a simmer. When the broth is hot, add the dried peas, lentils, and frozen kale and cook 20-30 minutes, or until the beans are very tender. The peas will start to break down. Remove soup from heat and use an immersion blender (or whatever you like) to puree the soup to a smooth a silky consistency. Return the soup to the heat, add the ham, and return to a simmer to heat the ham. Adjust the salt and pepper and serve.

Makes 8 1 C. Servings

Nutrition Roundup: Calories 192, Total Fat 6.3 g, Total Carbs 18.1 g, Fiber 5.9 g, Protein 16.4 g.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I'm Not Politically Correct

And I'm not sure I care! I made The. Most. Incredible. lamb shoulder chop for dinner tonight. I started by giving it a little rub down with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and garlic & herb Mrs. Dash and let it sit for 30 minutes before searing it in a red hot cast iron skillet. I let it rest under foil for 5 minutes while I cleaned the pan and then sliced it thinly accross the grain. It was nicely medium in the center and blackened evenly on the outside, giving it the smoky charred flavor you expect from a grill. (It created loads of smoke, but I have a pretty good vent fan over my stove.)

It was just about the most satisfying meat-involved meal I've eaten since surgery. Beef used to be my first love for red meat, but since surgery even the leanest beef feels heavy in my pouch and I feel icky for hours after I eat. Lamb, however, never feels like that. I know that lamb isn't particularly popular here in the US because everyone thinks of Bambi when they hear the word, making me one of a very small group of people I know who actually eat it , but it really is very tasty and pretty healthy, for a red meat. It's not quite as lean as beef, weighing in at 3g of fat and about 65 calories more per 3 oz. serving vs. the same amount of beef, but the fact that it doesn't weigh me down like buck shot makes it worth a few extra calories of compensation is another part of my day.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Reliable Chicken Salad

I heard from a friend this past Friday that the local grocery store runs a special on their precooked rotisserie chickens each Friday, marking them all down to $5. I had my wife go get one because it seemed like too good of a deal to pass up on, particularly on a weekend when I knew i wouldn't feel like cooking. But my intentions for a quick meal were thwarted on Friday night when we splurged on alare lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant and again on Saturday when I was in the mood for tofu and my wife wanted a bean & cheese burrito. And so that lovely rorisserie chicken just sat in the fridge looking tasty and forlorn until this evening when I realized that I could make chicken salad. Duh!

While I'm always game for new flavors and unique combinations, when I want something reliably tasty, I default to the Simple Is Better philosophy. This chicken salad falls into that category, with only 5 ingredients. I ran it through my mini food processor to get an almost baby food consistency (regular cooked chicken is still too tough for me to digest), but you don't really have to make it that way.

Reliable Chicken Salad

12 oz. Cooked Chicken, defatted and deboned
2 Large Carrots, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
1/2 t. Onion Powder
5 T. Low Fat Mayonnaise
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to your desired consistency. Spoon into a storage container and give it a good stir to ensure that all the mayo and onion powder is evenly distributed.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition (from sparkrecipes.com recipe calculator): Calories 180.2, Total Fat 7.3 g, Cholesterol 58.8 mg, Sodium 290.4 mg, Total Carbs 7.5 g, Dietary Fiber 1.6 g, Protein: 20.2 g.

I've taken to using canning jars for storage containers. I have loads of them in the house and they're convenient.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

PB2 Review & Coffee

By way of a mini update...I've been doing well, though the recent bitterly cold, grey, weather has really acted as a demotivator on leaving my house and getting to the gym. Today we are enjoying 50+F weather, but it's still yucky and grey and blah outside. Since it's warm, though, I'm going to put on some bright colored clothing, find some fun fast music on my ipod, and head out for a walk in about 10 minutes.

I've been pushing myself to stay on track with the water intake, vitamins, and protein and have been doing decently, though there is room for improvement. To that end, I've been drinking the Nectar Of The Gods: Coffee. Yes, yes, coffee has no nutrition. But I'm drinking decaf, so I can count it as a glass of "water" for the day and I've been turning it into Protein Coffee. What is protein coffee, you say? I'm glad you asked! It's a beverage phenomenon that I had not heard of prior to bariatric surgery and my stalking of various weight loss surgery message boards.

In essence, it's coffee with Things Added to it to make it high in protein. Things like protein mix. Some folks have all-out recipes for it and make a sort of warm coffee smoothie with stuff like sugar free flavor syrups, milk, protein powder, cocoa powder, etc. I haven't yet ventured into such high tech territory, but I have been adding a scoop of vanilla protein powder to my coffee with a dash of FF nondairy creamer in the mornings. It tastes a little like a vanilla latte and has been helping me get in my protein each day, since I suck at mornings and my appetite is basically nonexistent since surgery. I've been meaning to buy a tub of chocolate protein powder and I'm looking forward to a mocha in the mornings. I'll let you know how it tastes. ;-)

On to the review!

PB2 is another one of those things I had never heard of prior to the WLS message boards. It's essentially the byproduct of making peanut oil...as in, it's the flattened (pressed) remains of roasted peanuts after they squash them to extract the oil. Then they grind it up to a fine flour consistency, add a little sugar and salt for enhanced flavor, and sell it by the pound. It's roughly 85% fat free and around 45 calories per 2 T. serving. In other words: Much better for me than regular peanut butter. I bought some a week or so ago and my first foray into using it resulted in the Nutter Butter Smoothie.

Yesterday afternoon I had a mood for a peanut butter type snack and decided to test out the PB2 according to package directions. I put 2 T. in a small bowl and added a little water. The package says to add 1.5 T. water, but I didn't measure. I just added a little and then mixed, then added a little, then mixed...until it formed a peanut butter-like paste, which I spread on apple slices.

The Verdict: It needs fat. (kidding...sorta) It tastes peanutty, but it's a bit sweeter than regular peanut butter (I only ever buy the natural peanut butter, though, so it may be similar in flavor to something like Skippy, that has added sugar) and has a slightly...floury...taste. I'd say it tasted a little chalky, but the flavor wasn't quite so pronounced and the word "chalky" has a definite pejorative connotation that doesn't really fit. The peanut flavor is less prominent than in regular peanut butter, but I expect that's due to the absence of fat. The consistency was similar to a smooth homogenized peanut butter, but a bit less sticky and it worked well for scooping up with apple slices.

I don't know that I'll be using it as a spread very often (though it's better than no peanut butter when the craving strikes), but considering that real peanut butter is just too high in fat and calories to justify eating on regular basis, I can see PB2 sticking around in my kitchen. I wonder how it would be for a peanut dipping sauce for some baked tofu nuggets? Something along the lines of a Thai peanut sauce....hhm.... wanders off to contemplate the possibilities

Friday, January 25, 2013


I didn't plan on this post including a recipe, but I have one, so why not?

As a reward for tackling my anxiety and going to the gym consistently for almost a month, my lovely wife bought me the Oster My Blend Blender with an orange travel cup (have I mentioned I like orange? I do! It's just such a cheerful color.) It's similar to a Magic Bullet in that the ingredients are blended directly in the cup, which has a blender attachment, and inverted into the base and pressed down to activate the blender action (there's a travel lid for drinking.) I like that the base - about 6" wide - takes up very little room on my already cowded counter and requires next to no brain power to use (something very necessary first thing in the morning as I'm most definitely Not A Morning Person.) One cup comes with the blender and they sell additional cups in other colors for around $12 each, which might be good for the future. It really all depends on whether I'm the only one in the house drinking smoothies regularly. Isn't it cute?

Now I can start experimenting with protein smoothies! The first smoothie I made was strawberry banana and it was good but nothing special. The smoothie I made yesterday and today and that I will be drinking every day until I'm totally sick of it is my Nutter Butter smoothie. YUM. YUM! It's called such because it tastes like Nutter Butter cookies, but it's really a combination of almond milk, banana, vanilla protein powder, and PB2.

Which reminds me. Have I mentioned how excited I am that my PB2 has arrived?! For those who have no clue what I'm referring to, PB2 is essentially peanut flour left over from making peanut oil. Because the roasted nuts are pressed for oil before they are ground to make PB2, the product is basically all nut solids with very little fat. The company markets it as 85% fat free. There are about 45 calories in 2 tablespoons and it can be reconstituted w/water to make a peanut butter-like spread, or it can be used to flavor things.

On to the recipe! The banana in it helps to sweeten and thick the smoothie a little (and adds a nice infusion of fruit to my day) and the vanilla protein powder helps to give the "cookie" flavor, while the PB2 gives the peanut butter filling flavor. Use as much PB2 as you like until you're happy with the peanut action. I like it with 3-4 T. but I loooove peanuts and this is my substitute for real peanut butter right now. I didn't find that it needed any additional splenda, but your tastes may be different and your vanilla protein powder may not be as sweet as mine. I didn't include a picture of the smoothie because it's really nothing to look at - just a lightly tan milk shake lookin' thing. Meh. But trust me, what it lacks in looks it makes up for in flavor!

Nutter Butter Protein Smoothie

8 oz. Vanilla Almond Milk
1 Scoop Vanilla Protein Powder (I like the Syntrax Vanilla Bean Torte)
2-4 T. PB2
1/2 Large Banana (frozen or not, it's your choice)

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Enjoy the Nutter Butter cookie flavor.

Approximate Nutritional Roundup: Calories 298, Carbs 37 g, Fat 4 g, Protein 30 g, Fiber 5 g. (It's also got roughly 45 g of calcium, no saturated fat, and 569 mg of potassium, which is good for your heart.)

Edited to Add: It has recently been brought to my attention that the calorie and carb counts are a bit high for this smoothie, which is true. Looking into it, I saw that you can shave 50 calories and 14g of carbs off of this with a quick and easy swap for unsweetened vanilla almond milk. The other big culprit for carbs in this recipe is the banana, which has around 16g, but also provides around 5g of fiber (making 11g net carbs), for which your digestion will thank you. I personally try to incorporate a fruit or veggie into every meal, but you could always ditch the banana, which would lop off another 63 calories and 16g of carbs. If you go with both of these modifications, you may need to use a little Spenda to sweeten things up, but you'll bring the whole smoothie down to approximately 175 calories and 7g carbs. It won't be quite as thick as with the banana, but you could always add some ice cubes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mock (Mac) n Cheese

As I start to feel better from the surgery (and nasty head cold) and have more energy, I've noticed my interest in cooking and trying new foods has started to return. And after all the freezing cold weather we've been having, I seriously want some comfort food. As I mentioned a week or so ago, I have had in mind a pasta-free Mock Mac n Cheese - or Mock n Cheese as I like to call it. It's essentially a gratin with more cheese than is usual, but I'll take it! I've combined steamed broccoli and cauliflower and a few cups of frozen chopped kale for a nice punch of veggies in this cheesy less-fat sauce. I made it with skim milk, 2% cheddar, and just enough olive oil to form the necessary roux. This is by no means a "low fat" recipe, but it's better than it could be and the only significant carbs in it come from the dairy and the flour used in the roux.

A Note About Veggies: As I've mentioned before, I use frozen veggies and heat them in the microwave until they're tender and most of the water is gone. I like frozen veggies because they are a) cheap, b) don't rot in my fridge if I don't get around to using them, c) double nicely as an ice pack on sore muscles and joints, and d) did I mention they're cheap? You by no means have to use frozen veggies.

Mock N Cheese

3 T. Flour
3 T. Olive Oil
2.5 C. Fat Free Milk
1 Egg, beaten
1 lb. Cauliflower, frozen and cooked until tender
1 lb. Broccoli, frozen and cooked until tender
3 C. Kale, frozen, chopped
1 t. Mustard Powder
1/8 - 1/4 t. Onion powder (optional)
1/8 - 1/4 t. Garlic powder (optional)
1/8 t. Cayenne
1 C. Reduced Fat Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1 C. 50% Reduced Fat Extra Sharp Cheddar, shredded
1/3 C. Bread Crumbs - Italian Style
1/3 C. Parmesan Cheese
Black Pepper to taste

Put broccoli and cauliflower in a large bowl and microwave on high 15-30 minutes, or until the veggies are tender and most of the water is gone. Set aside.

Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add flour and stir to create a roux. Whisk to make it smooth and allow it to cook until it's just lightly tan. When the roux is nicely tan, whisk in milk and continue to whisk until the roux is completely dissolved. Add 2 T. of hot milk to the beaten egg in a small bowl and beat in the milk quickly, to temper the egg. Add egg-warm milk mixture to sauce pan and whisk to combine. Add cheese in 1/2 C. increments, whisking between additions until it's all incorporated. Add garlic and onion powder (if using), cayenne, mustard powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings as necessary and then pour over broccoli and cauliflower in the bowl and stir to combine. Add 3 C. frozen kale (I didn't bother thawing it, but just broke it up and added it directly) and stir. Mix Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Put cheese and veggie mixture into a 9x11 casserole and top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake at 375F until topping is golden brown.

Makes: 8 1 cup servings

Here's the nutritional round up (from sparkrecipes.com): Calories 260.7, Total Fat 13.3 g, Cholesterol 43.9 mg, Sodium 432.4 mg, Total Carbs 21.3 g, Dietary Fiber 4.6 g, Protein 17.5 g.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sausage Lentil Stew

I've been digging on lentils a lot lately which I am personally scandalized by, since before surgery I frequently declared that they tasted like little pieces of dirt. Now? I like them. A lot. (Will wonders never cease?) I've discovered that lentils have good protein, good fiber, healthy carbs, and they work well for strong flavors, like onion and curry. Plus, the new stomach (pouch) seems to be on good terms with them.

This stew was inspired by Stephanie O'Dea's Crockpot 365 recipe. I created a recipe for the stove top that had loads of veggies in it and a nice full flavored sausage. I opted for andouille sausage - which admittedly has more fat than many chicken sausages that you could choose - but I love the spicy, garlicy flavor. If anything will keep lentils from tasting like the earth they grow out of, it's andouille. But, as my grand aunt would say, "If you don't have the andouille, then use a little hot Italian sausage, or if you don't have that, then a little sweet sausage, or whatever you have that's cheap at the market." Yeah, my Aunt Rose was a big one for freewheeling substitutions in her cooking and so am I. ;-)

I wanted to keep this stew from being too tough to digest, so I chose to puree half the veggies after they had softened from cooking, but it adds to the labor and you don't really need to do that. I also used frozen chopped kale since it was in the house and to be honest, I tend to prefer to stock my house with frozen veggies, since I can't always be arsed to cook the fresh veggies before they compost in the bottom of my fridge. What can I say? I live a real life and stuff happens.

Sausage Lentil Stew

2 T. Olive Oil, divided
1 lb. Andouille Sausage (or whatever you like)
1 C. Chopped Carrots
2 C. Chopped Onions
4-6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
4 C. Chopped Frozen Kale, Thawed
32-40 oz. Fat Free, Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth (or veggie broth)
1 C. Lentils, rinsed and soaked 30 minutes
Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice sausage lengthwise in 4 pieces and then cross-wise into 1 cm pieces. In a large pan, lightly brown the sausage in 1 T. olive oil and remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Add 1 T. additional olive oil to the pan and cook the carrots, onions and garlic until soft. Add tomatoes with the juice, kale, and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes until the veggies are tender and remove half the veggies from the pan. Using an immersion blender, puree the other half the veggies right in the broth and return the pan to the stove. Return the remaining veggies to the pan with sausage and lentils. Cover and simmer until lentils are very tender (I prefer them almost mushy), 30-45 minutes. You may need to add a little extra broth or water as it cooks, depending on how much is absorbed by the lentils.

Including the olive oil, here are the nutrition stats (from the sparkrecipes.com calculator): Calories: 293, Total Fat 13.8 g, Cholestrol 33.3 mg, Sodium 1,118.8 mg, Total Carbohydrate 27.5 g, Fiber 9.2 g, Protein 17.9 g.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Overdoing It and Simple Can Be Good

I seriously overdid it on the heavy lifting, twisting, and bending in the process of unloading the groceries from the car, cleaning out the refrigerator, and putting everything away this afternoon. I didn't have any sharp surgical-type pain, but instead had this diffuse achiness all across my abdomen as if I'd done a very strenuous ab workout. I suppose, looking at it, I did do a strenuous ab workout in a way. I'm cleared for full activity as of this week, but clearly the muscles of my abdominal wall are a) still healing, and b) have lost some of their former strength. It's really amazing what you take for granted until you don't have it. Abdominal strength has never been something I really thought about - or even thought I had much of - but now that I have a bit less than before, it's making my everyday activities much more of a challenge.

By the time I had gotten through half of the household chores, I knew I was done. I left the rest and decided to eat lunch. Since I've started back on soft foods since the surgery, I'm learning to appreciate simpler meals. Lunch today was 3 Mini Babybel Light cheeses and 1/2 C. of really incredible fresh blueberries. That's it. It was so satisfying! I've been easing into the fruits and veggies very slowly and most of what I've been eating is cooked, so it was a delight to eat fruit that was cold and fresh and unprocessed in any way. I was a little tentative about eating them (skins, seeds) but chewed well and carefully and everything went according to plan. I'm thinking tonight will be a little broiled haddock and shrimp with some kind of steamed veggie. Wow! Look at the time. I should probably get on that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Apple Pear Sauce

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been having a hard time with eating over the past day or so. I learned the hard way that although fresh apples (peeled) are on the "approved foods" list from my surgeon for my current stage of diet, they are still well known for causing problems with digestion. Fun! *snort* Since I have been eating apples (and pears) for 2 weeks with no problems, I had just bought a nice selection of them when I went shopping this past Sunday. But given the events of the past few days I deiced that maybe I should try eating them cooked for a little while.

Now, I know that apple sauce - even the no sugar added type - is cheap and easy to find in any corner store these days, trust me when I tell you that home made is worth the 10 minutes of active work and 30 minutes of cook time. Trust me.

So, with my decision to cook the apples fresh in my heart, I went to my kitchen and was promptly reminded that I have pears, too! But only 2 of them. Not enough for a batch of pear sauce. A split second deliberation saw me tossing sliced pears into the pot with the apples. This inspired me to take the flavors in the direction of mulled cider and I dropped in some whole cloves, cinnamon, and a generous strip of orange zest. After all, if there's no added sugar, there should be added flavor some other way, right? Right.

I used a mix of apples that included Gala, Pink Lady, Macoun, and Honey Crisp and red d'Anjou pears. These are fruits that are best for eating out-of-hand - meaning that they are sweet and juicy and crisp - and I put in a little extra lemon juice to offset the sweetness a bit. That being said, if you're not adding sugar to your apple sauce, using naturally sweeter varieties will help give you the right flavor. You may have to taste and adjust your proportions of spices and lemon juice as you go, so I suggest starting out with a little less and adding it as needed until you get it how you like it. I left the skins on the fruit and pureed it after (I fished out the cinnamon and cloves stick first). I figure that there a good nutrients in the peel and if it's pureed, it won't cause digestive problems for me while I continue in my healing process.

Apple Pear Sauce

4-6 Apples
2-3 Pears
1-2 Cinnamon Stick
6-8 Whole Cloves
1 1" x 3" strip of Orange Zest
1/2 C. Water
Juice of 1/2 - 1 Lemon
Pinch of Salt

Core and slice the fruit and put in a medium-large sauce pan with half the orange zest, lemon juice, cloves, and cinnamon. Add water and salt, cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it all becomes very mushy and soft.

Taste for seasoning and add a little more orange zest, lemon juice, salt, cloves, and cinnamon as necessary. If you add flavoring, cook another 10-15 minutes to allow it to permeate the sauce. If your sauce is too watery for your preference, remove the lid part way through cooking and allow some of the moisture to evaporate.

When done, allow it to cool to room temperature and fish out the cloves and cinnamon. Puree the sauce until there are no lumps and all the skins are incorporated. You want a smooth consistency.

Makes approximately 12 2 oz. servings

Nutrition (from sparkrecipes.com calculator): Calories 83.0, Total Fat 0.3 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 97.5 mg, Total Carbs 21.7 g, Dietary Fiber 4.2 g, Protein 0.3 g.

Monday, January 7, 2013

NSV - Non-Scale Victory

I'm having a hard time with keeping food and fluids down today and I'm back on clear fluids for 24 hours and then full fluids for another 48 before I can try soft foods again. But since I feel so crappy, I thought I'd refocus on something pleasant that happen a few days ago.

In case you haven't been following the ticker (over there ----> ), I've been losing weight. Yay! I've adjusted the ticker to reflect the weight lost from my highest point of 347 lbs., but in case you're wondering, I've lost 25.6 lbs. since the surgery 27 days ago. Not too shabby. The real victory, though, isn't about the numbers on the scale. The real victory is that I tried on a pair of jeans in the next size smaller than what I was wearing before surgery, and they fit! Like a glove. Woo! :-)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Midwinter Seafood Fra Diavolo

I had a craving for shellfish today, so the wife and I splurged a little and picked up some fresh PEI mussels and wild caught cod filet during the weekly grocery shop. Well...I guess it wasn't so much of a splurge, since the mussels were on sale and we only bought 1/2 lb. of the cod - the whole thing came to about $9.

Anyway! I fixed my craving with this flavorful pasta-free Seafood Fra Diavolo. I've flavored the broth with tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper flakes, oregano and a smidge of basil. This is a quick 1-pot meal that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Seafood Fra Diavolo

1/2 - 3/4 lb. Cod Filet (skinless), cut into 2" or 3" chunks
4 lbs. Fresh Mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 28 oz. Can Tomato Puree
1 C. Fat Free Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth
2-6 Cloves garlic, smashed/cracked open
1 pinch - 1 t. Hot Pepper Flakes (to taste)
1/2 t. Basil
1 t. Oregano
Salt to taste

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large pan. Add garlic and cook on medium heat until it just starts to brown. Add  pepper flakes and cook 1 more minute. Add tomato puree and broth and heat to simmering. Add basil, oregan, and salt and stir to combine. Gently drop in the cod filet and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add in mussels, cover, and allow it to simmer for 3 minutes. Check every 1 minute after that and remove from heat as soon as the mussels have opened.

I served this family style in a big shallow bowl with all the broth and pan juices and I imagine it would be delicious with crusty bread for dipping. This serves about 4-5 hungry non-gastric bypass diners.

The nutritional info (from sparkrecipes.com): Calories: 288.7, Total Fat 7.5 g, Cholesterol 88.2 mg, Sodium 824.7 mg, Total Carbs 13.7 g, Dietary Fiber 1.3 g, Protein: 38.4 g.

My wife, stealing a taste during the photo shoot. :-)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pain and New Foods

The past few days I've been experiencing intermittent pain in the center of my abdomen, about 4cm above my belly button. After 48 hours (over the holiday) of worry that it was a gall stone or an ulcer, a conversation with my surgeon put my fears to rest. He told me it sounded like my body telling me it was hungry and to try eating every 3 hours instead of every 5 hours. I gave it a try yesterday and whaddayakno? It went away!

In another interesting post-surgical twist, I've noticed that not only has my taste for sweets greatly diminished since surgery (something I'd heard about and anticipated), but my taste for other foods has changed as well. I've never been a fan of lentils - I've always thought they tasted like little pieces of dirt - but I've been enjoying lentil soup several times a week since surgery. At first I thought it was just the joy of finally eating something hot that resembled normal food again after weeks of a liquid-only diet, but I've noticed that it's happening with other foods, too. Yesterday I peeled and sliced an Anjou pear and had about half of it with a couple ounces of 50% fat free sharp cheddar cheese and really enjoyed it! Previously, pears were something I avoided unless they were cooked to mush to get rid of the gritty texture. It's made eating more of an adventure and a positive experience than I had anticipated for myself after surgery. :)

And speaking of new foods, I've got designs on a pasta-free "Mock n Cheese" now that cooked veggies are allowed once again. I'm in the research stages, so it may be a few days before I get to posting it, but keep an eye out for a veggie based mac n cheese recipe!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Fish to Keep - Salmon Rillettes

As a child, I pooh-poohed all manner of fish. It smelled funny, it looked funny, it tasted funny, and the texture was....not beef. I have never been a picky eater, but up until my mid-20s the thought of voluntarily allowing anything past my lips that came from the ocean other than the occasional scallop or shrimp was just Not. On.

Since then, my palate has matured and my willingness to be adventuresome with things from the sea has greatly expanded. I ran into this particular recipe in a hand-me-down issue of Bon Apetit magazine (Sept. 2012, p16). I made a few minor adjustments for taste and fat and served it on cucumber slices for a lighter alternative to baguette. It's a delicious cold smoky salmon dip with just the right hint of onion from the chives and a powerful punch of protein. Apparently, this is a recipe that originally came from famous New York restaurant, Le Bernardin!

These incredibly rich smoky bites of heaven were the perfect way for my wife and I to ring in the New Year. Give them a try at your next gathering or special dinner. (Bonus: I'm only 3 weeks post-op and on soft solids and I was able to eat this with no problems and it's something my wife looooved!) Can't get better than a culinary win to start the year off right!

Salmon Rillettes

2 C. Dry White Wine
2 Small Shallots (about 1.5 T.), minced
1 lb. Salmon Filet, skinned and pin bones removed
3 oz. Smoked Salmon (lox), cut into 1/4" pieces
1/s C. Mayo (I halved this with Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt to reduce the fat)
2-3 T. Fresh Chives, minced
1-2 T. Fresh Lemon Juice
S&P to taste

Bring wine and shallots to a simmer in a small sauce pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and add salmon filet. Poach gently until salmon is just barely opaque all the way through (roughly 5 minutes.) Using a fish spatula or slotted spoon, remove salmon from wine and drain on paper towels. Strain shallots out of the wine, reserving the shallots and discarding the wine. Place shallots and salmon in a bowl, cover and refridgerate until cold.

Add all remaining ingredients to the filet and shallots and stir gently to break up filet slightly. Avoid overmixing - you want the filet to retain some flakiness. Adjust seasoning, adding additional lemon and mayo, as desired. Serve on toasted baguette, slices of cucumber, or fold into an omelette.

Servings: 6-8 (the original recipe says 6, I say 8 - this dish is rich and very satisying)

Nutrition (according sparkrecipes.com) based on 8 servings and using Greek yogurt in place of half the mayo:  Calories 145.8, Total Fat 7.1 g, Cholesterol 45.2 g, Sodium 586.3 mg, Potassium 397 mg, Total Carbohydrate 2.2 g, Protein 17.3 g.

Happy New Year and blessings to you and your family for 2013!