Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Variety is the Spice of Life

Hope you are enjoying a great day!  Mine is particularly great - especially after my weigh-in.  I was down 4 pounds this week - which more than made up for the 1 pound gain from last week!  Its amazing how motivating a great day at the scale can be!  Plus, we finally are getting a little sun after days and days of rain.  I love how whenever I feel great, I make better choices.  So welcome back, sun!

I watched as my husband, Chuck, fixed his own breakfast this morning - and was inspired!  Looks good doesn't it?  2 frozen waffles (4pp) with zero points bananas and blueberries and 1 Tbsp regular pancake syrup (1pp).  Five pointsplus for the whole thing!  If you need more syrup, you can easily substitute low-calorie syrup and get 2 Tbsp for 1pp.  You probably guessed that I made the same thing for myself - if you did - you were correct!

Ever notice how easy it is to slip into a rut where we eat the same 4 or 5 things for breakfasts, the same tired lunch selections, and how we struggle finding inspiration for family dinners?  I think that is why we start searching the internet for inspiration and motivation...and why some of you may be checking out this blog.  Our leader discussed that subject last week at the meeting, too.  Its typical for everyone to feel they are in a rut once in a while.  But its really important that we choose not to dwell in those ruts.  Face it, in everyday life, every family often eats the same favorites over and over - but then we venture out and try something new.  Why should we expect our new eating habits to be any different?  Remember, its not all about taking the weight off...although we love when that happens!  Its not all about the finish line.  Its about learning to do things differently from the way we've been doing so that once the weight is off, we keep it off.  Its about learning the types of food that we can eat that will keep us full, satisfied, nourished and happy...and will support us staying at goal weight.  Embrace your choices - learn to love to eat this way - and learn to want to eat this way forever! 

So take some time each week and think about the great things you are eating and enjoying.  Don't you just love having all the zero points fruits and veggies?  Its like "mom tricked us" into eating foods that are good for us!  Haven't we been told over and over that a healthy diet incorporates at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables - yet WeightWatchers is getting us to do it!  Good for them and Great for US!

Don't you love having snacks each day?  If you are feeling hungry all the time, you are miserable!  What a breakthrough - you can have some snacks to keep hunger away - so plan some great ones! 
About those food ruts, though - if you need some help to shake it up a bit - check out these links to some of my previous posts:  "Breakfast does a body Good""Building a Satisfying Lunch" -and the post that hopes to inspire you to choose better snacks.  They are full of photos of foods my family has eaten on program...and I have to say, just looking back at them has re-inspired me!  Also - there are menus, grocery lists and many recipes on this site to try -just see the tabs above- and even some ideas to inspire your own creativity!

Try a quick exercise like I did last night...make a 1 minute list of every type of healthy sandwich you can think of that you could make or order out and save your list for when you need inspiration:
Tuna salad, egg salad, chicken curry salad, tarragon chicken salad, ham salad, shrimp salad, roast beef, turkey, ham, chicken, bbq chicken, buffalo chicken, corned beef, BLTs, etc.  Then list the bread assortments like whole grain, flat breads, wraps...then list toppings like lettuce, tomato, pickles, hot peppers, mayo, lite mayo, ranch dressing, mustard, spicy mustard, cranberry mustard, dijon mustard, honey mustard, oil and vinegar, etc.  Don't forget the pull out section of your Getting Started Book - it has great ideas to help you build your meals!  If you really want to go crazy - think of it like you are creating your own Menu! 

So - what will your menu look like?  After choosing the graphic above, I'm thinking I may need to make a "Specials" section for my "menus" and a section for Desserts and Beverage ideas, too, ha ha - sometimes that's all it takes to shake things up!  Please be sure to come back and share your great inspirations by way of comments to this post!  And don't forget to check out Jared's Story tab above - he keeps updating it every week - and I'm sure he'll appreciate your ideas and encouraging comments, too!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Points Plus for Dining at your favorite Restaurants

Its always fun to eat out, but it can also be scary if you have no idea what you can choose to eat on the menu and remain on program.  Its important that we learn to make wise choices if we are going to keep the weight off once we get it off.  For that reason, I'm not too hard on myself during this learning process.  We're going to make some mistakes in what we order, but we can learn from it.  Its also good to learn that so many restaurants actually offer food that can fit into our lives, so there is no reason to avoid having fun with friends dining out.

So how do we figure it all out?

 Many of the big chain restaurants offer their nutritional data online.  Some even have it on their menus.  You can look up the restaurant online, or just Google "menu".  A whole host of restaurant menus come up. But what do you do when the restaurant menu you need is not available?  Here are some tips:

*Skip over the appetizers
*choose a garden or side salad instead, with the dressing on the side
*order a small steak or if the smallest they offer is 8oz - cut it in half and ask the server for a "doggie bag"
*order any grilled meat - cut off a regular size portion (about the size of your palm) and get the doggie bag for the rest
*order a baked potato - and it's easier to count the points if the butter/sour cream is on the side.
*be careful of the "big salads" with lots of "stuff on it" - it can be very difficult to calculate and can be deceivingly huge in pointsplus.
*share a dessert if you feel you really need something sweet - or just order fruit

If you cannot find the points value for your favorite local restaurant - perhaps you can find a similar menu item from a chain and use their pointsplus value as a way to guess-timate the points.

Of course, you may choose to use your Weekly PointsPlus Allowance for the night out - we all get 49 of them, but keep in mind that one large order of fries at 5 Guys restaurant contains 39pp, or the Chicken and Broccoli Pasta at Ruby Tuesday's is 42pp- so its always best to educate yourself before you go or you could bust through the 49 WPAs pretty quickly.

One final peice of advice - I'm giving you a link to a website that has a huge amount of restaurants and the pointsplus values for their menu items.  Many of the restaurants may not be from your area, as I found out for my area, too - but there are lots to choose from, so maybe you'll find what you are looking for:

I find that there are usually several selections that "work for me" at the restaurants we frequent.  Breakfast is usually McDonalds egg mcmuffin without cheese (6pp) and coffee...lunch there is usually the southwest salad with grilled chicken for 11pp with the entire package of salad dressing!  I am in love with the Steak and Potato Salad at Applebees - Fresh spinach, red peppers and onions, tomatoes and fresh basil tossed in a creamy Dijon vinaigrette, then topped with hard-boiled eggs and tender grilled sirloin steak, sliced and served over herb-steamed potatoes... 9pp!  Mmmm...yummy!

Tell me - what have you discovered "works for you" at restaurants?  I'm always looking to expand my options!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

People in 74 Countries Have Been Checking Out This Blog!

Welcome to all my new readers!!  To date we have readers from 74 countries!  This is awesome!  We are truly united in our desire to attain a healthy weight and lifestyle!  Some of you have reached out to tell me a little about yourselves and how you found me.  I LOVE to hear your stories!  Please feel free to let me know what you'd like to see me add to my blog - and also if you have any great recipes you'd like to share with other Weight Watchers, comment below and I'll be happy to post them.  Here is an updated list - if you don't see your country listed here - let me know and we'll get you added right away!

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Congo (DRC)
Czech Republic
Hong Kong
New Zealand
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
Sri Lanka
Trinadad & Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Asparagus Risotto - A great spring recipe!

Every week we receive a WeightWatchers Weekly booklet at weigh-in.  Its funny, but I read them practically from cover to cover, but I don't always try the recipes.  Laura, our leader, mentioned a booklet we received a couple of weeks ago that featured a recipe which paired arugula and fruit in a salad and said she usually cringes at the thought of combining fruit and vegetables - but she went on to rave about that recipe!  I still have to try that one, but her comments made me take a closer look at the recipes we are given.  This past week, the feature recipe was for an asparagus risotto.  This one I DID try - and it was a hit with my family.  Every last morsel was cleaned from the serving bowl.  If you haven't tried it yet, I encourage you to do so.  It has a creamy, fresh taste and would be a great side to something fresh off the grill.

Serves 6
5pp per serving

1/2 tsp salt, for cooking water
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size peices
2 sprays cooking spray
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 small shallots, minced
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 cups canned chicken broth
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste

Bring a large pot of sated water to a boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Add asparagus to pot; blanch for 2 minutes.  Immediately remove asparagus from pot and place them into ice water (to stop them from cooking and help retain their bright green color); set aside.

Coat a meduim pot with cooking spray and set over medium heat; melt butter.  Add shallots; cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 5 to7 minutes.  Add rice and toss to coat; cook for 2 minutes.  Add lemon juice; cook, until all lemon juice has been absorbed, stirring continuously so rice does not stick to sides of pot, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, bring broth to a simmer; keep warm.

Add 1/2 cup of hot broth to pot at a time; stir until absorbed.  Repeat with remaining broth, making sure each addition of broth is absorbed before adding more.  This process takes about 20 minutes.

When rice turns creamy and just done (should be slightly chewy and not mushy), remove pot from heat; add cheese and stir well.  Stir in asparagus; season with salt and pepper.  Yields 1 scant cup per serving.

Note:  If you like, use white wine instead of lemon juice and swap spinach for the asparagus.  Could affect PointsPlus value.

I fully expect to be reviewing some of the older booklets for recipes I failed to try - so keep an eye out for them in up-coming posts!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

UPDATE: Foil Packets on the Grill...

I posted earlier today an idea I saw at the doctor's office in a magazine...grilling food in foil packets.  Usually we do this type of cooking when we're camping - which I love to do -but now I'm wondering why do we wait to go camping to do it?  Although I didn't do the "make-your-own-combo-foil-pack" type of entertaining ...it was just my family and a house guest...I did cook our dinner in individual foil packets on the grill tonight.

I knew I planned to have pork chops on the grill, some type of potato, and a frozen veggie, but as the day progressed, my mind kept going back to today's post...so here is what I put into each of OUR foil packs:

1-boneless pork chop, seasoned with garlic powder, salt and pepper (6oz - 6PP)
1-sprig each of fresh rosemary and thyme (0pp)
1- sliced potato (5PP)
several slices of onion (0pp)
frozen green beans and frozen bell pepper mix -(I emptied both bags into a collandar and ran warm water over them to thaw, then drain) (0/0 pp)

Once the main ingredients were in place, I drizzled some olive oil  (1tsp - 1PP)over each just to ensure the veggies wouldn't stick to the foil - and besides, I need to get more healthy oils into our diet.  So far - that was soooo easyyyy!!

I folded up the packages, and made them pretty flat so there would be little "air" inside.  Chuck had the grill pre-heated on high, but when we put the packages onto the grill, he turned it down to medium heat.  Our 4 foil packs took up almost all the grill surface - just a note so if you choose to entertain guests, you may want to have a second grill handy or food to snack on while some guests wait their turn for theirs to cook...but its not bad because they only take about 15 minutes to cook.  If you have a second "warming rack" in your grill, you could probably rotate packs every 5 minutes and just add a few extra minutes to the cooking time.  I'll have to figure that out another time (and there will be another time).

We just sat back and had a nice chat while it all cooked.  After just a few minutes, we began to get little whifs of the food cooking -  it was incredible!!  Within about 15 minutes we tested one package, and the pork was cooked through, the veggies were all soft and steamy - and the smell was wonderful!  We put each person's foil pack onto doubled-up paper plates and we opened them "campfire-style" and ate right from the foil pack around our fire pit...

Total for OUR packets - 12pp for the entire dinner!  That left points to use for more roasted jumbo marshmallows over our fire - 2pp each ;0)

I know, you were expecting photos of the FINISHED PRODUCT...and I'm sorry...I'm really bad about taking pictures when I'm so hungry.  Were they any good?  Maybe this next photo will give you a clue...

The smile on Justin's face tells it all.  We all sat around for several hours with no TV, no stereos, no game-devices or cell phones...just talking, eating, roasting more marshmallows and basically enjoying being a family.  And like the comment at the bottom of the original post about grilling foil packs...the best bonus is that there are no dishes or pots and pans to wash up when you are done!  Life is Great!!

Outdoor Cooking - Foil Packets!

I have to share a great idea I found in a magazine at the doctor's office this week.  I've been meaning to create a weekly menu of outdoor cooking ideas, but this one just can't wait ;0)   The magazine Just Fun had a spread about making foil packets on the grill. 

You start with one large square of heavy duty foil per person.  I would recommend having a can of cooking spray to spray the foil before putting ingredients on them, but that wasn't mentioned in the directions.  Then you put out a spread of the following ingredients for each person to customize their own layered creation:

1) the protein selections: any combination of chicken strips, steak strips, hamburger patties*, sliced kielbasa, uncooked shrimp  *(boost your burgers by adding 2T worchestershire sauce, 2T mayonnaise, 2tsp Montreal steak seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper to 1 pound of hamburger - mix thoroughly and shape into patties)

2) add up to 2 cups of veggies - any combo: sliced raw potato, sliced red onion rings, sliced bell pepper rings, sliced carrot coins, sliced zucchini coins, sliced summer squash coins, cherry tomato halves, sliced mushrooms, asparagus spears, corn kernels, black beans...anything you wish!

3) the seasonings:   Herbs ~ add 2 tsp per foil pack:
    Regular: 2T chopped parsley, zest of one lemon, 1 clove of garlic, minced
    Asian: 2T minced cilantro, 2T orange zest, 1 1/2 tsp grated, peeled ginger, 1T sliced scallion greens
    Tex Mex: 3T minced cilantro, 2T minced chipotle in adobo, 1T sliced scallion, 1/2 tsp minced garlic
                    OR   Sauces ~ 1 1/2 tsp per packet
    Mustard Madness: 1 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard, 2T lemon or lime juice, 3T Vegetable oil, salt & pepper
    Vinegar Splash: 2T balsamic vinegar, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt & pepper

I'm thinking you could easily use A-1 sauce on steak and burgers or your favorite BBQ sauce on steak, burgers, chicken...again, here's your opportunity to be creative.
Once everyone has assembled the layers above, they fold and seal the foil to make packets - leaving no air space - it makes for better cooking ~ then write each person's name on theirs with a sharpie marker and place them in a pre-heated grill (high or 400 degrees) - and cook for 10 minutes each for shrimp or 15 minutes each for all other meat selections.

What is great about this is that you can really impress your friends with this casual cookout idea and get everyone in on the fun!!  Just have one awesome dessert ready and a signature drink or bottle of wine and relax!!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

News Flash: Found you another great Give Away

You all know I'm a big fan of http://www.danicasdaily.com/ - and just wanted to alert you to her site today.  Danica is offering a great give-away:

*1 Box Annie’s Organic Shells & Aged Cheddar (orange box!)
* 1 Box Annie’s Organic Shells & White Cheddar (purple box!)
* 4 Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks (one of each flavor)
* $1 off Coupons for Annie’s CEREALS!
* Additional Annie’s Coupons for good measure Open-mouthed smile

Use the link below to enter, and please let Danica know you found her through my site!

I'm a big fan of the Shells and White Cheddar   Open-mouthed smile

Friday, May 6, 2011

Grill your next Pizza!! Its the Best!!

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you know I promised to grill some pizzas to show you how its done.  I just wish you could smell and taste these, too!  After a very stressful day at our new office trying to get our phones and Internet hooked back up - only to find out the problem was with our carrier and not our equipment - I knew I had better plan something to end the day on a high note. Talk about frustrating!!  You have no idea.  Anyways...turns out it was a lovely day for grilling...
We got started with a fire in the firepit.  There is nothing like a crackling fire outside...You will notice we have not opened up the pool yet, or done the general yard work and gardening out there yet either...but here in NY State, there is no rush...its too cool to swim yet and keeping the dark cover on it helps the water absorb some of the sun's heat.  I do plan to start some of the gardening soon...so in time I'll share photos of the finished area.

On to the pizzas...I use store made pizza dough. One pound of regular for the boys and one pound of whole wheat for us WeightWatchers.  I cut each mound of dough into fourths...making each pizza crust 8pp.  Keep the dough covered until you are ready to use it.

Next, I cut up and prepare all the toppings pretty quickly...and opened a can of crushed tomatoes with Italian spices and also a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes with basil and oregano.  Put everything on a tray so its really handy...

Counterclockwise from bottom: crushed tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced pepperoni, fire roasted diced tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, green peppers and spices - dried oregano and crushed red pepper.  The sky is the limit with these...you can totally make white pizzas, bbq chicken pizzas, buffalo chicken pizzas...you are the boss here! Keep your tray handy by the grill, but keep the spoon handles pointed away from the grill...we learned the hard way! They really got hot!!  On the other side of the grill was the bowl of pizza dough and a small bowl of olive oil and a basting brush.

Next, take one portion of the dough and an oiled baking sheet...press the dough out on the baking sheet to make a thin, round-ish crust.  Don't worry about perfection...freestyle is great.  Carry it carefully to the hot grill and place it oiled side down.  Don't worry about the edges falling in between the grate...the dough stiffens up pretty quickly.  Next take a basting brush and brush the top side lightly with olive oil.  Close cover for a few minutes to toast the bottom of the crust.

The crust will bubble a little, and get brown-ish along the edges.  This one is ready to flip...

You can see we already started the "happy hour" without you...sorry...

Ladle some sauce or diced tomatoes onto the cooked side - totally your choice which you'll use.  This one is our friend Mike's pizza...he's 18 yrs old, and goes for the 'normal' stuff...

Mike added some fresh basil...then some pepperoni slices...

Then a little cheese...

He was a little shy about the cheese, so when he turned his back, I heaped more on top!  Here are a few more shots of our pizzas in no particular order...

The one on the left is made with the whole wheat crust...mmm...see it below, too...

Did someone say "happy hour"?  Of course, we needed something refreshing to go with the pizzas...

Gin and Tonics, anyone?  4pp for the gin and we used diet tonic water...so it was a great choice!

Wait a minute...you have to measure it so you know how many points you're drinking!

It was a tough day, so Chuck certainly earned an opportunity to relax tonight...
                                            On to dessert....
 I love these jumbo sized mallows when near a fire...

Yummy - and only 2pp per Jumbo marshmallow - good deal.

Points Plus for Grilled Pizzas - depends on how you make them, but here is a general guide:
1 oz refrigerated pizza dough = 2pp...I made ours 4 oz each...so 8pp each for the crust
Tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms - all ZERO pp
Pepperoni - 1/2 oz = 2pp
Part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded - 1 oz =2pp

I definitely would save this meal for after your weigh-in...By the way, Chuck was down 0.6 lbs today and I lost another full pound!  I love that we can eat like this, enjoy ourselves, and still lose weight.  Like the Weight Watcher slogan says...Its a New Day!!  I'm loving it!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How to handle Buffet-style meals

My advice is to AVOID THEM! 
But really, most of us find that buffets get us into trouble...from the many tempting offerings to the "unlimited" nature of the meal...I'm just not a big fan.  BUT sometimes the buffet comes in the form of a wedding reception, graduation party, family reunion...

so face it - they are a part of our lives and we need to learn to deal with it.  Believe it or not, when I used to work for WeightWatchers many moons ago, we'd sometimes have training sessions at a hotel that served only a lunch buffet.  Can you imagine the pressure of making the right choices and not having seconds when eating with the upper management of WW sitting at your table? Here is what I learned that helps me to this day:

*Take a walk along the buffet and scope out what REALLY looks great, but then fix your first plate with only a garden salad with dressing on the side.  This works for me because it takes the edge off hunger before I start filling my plate so I make better choices and don't over fill it and so I'm not so tempted to eat two plates full of those higher calorie offerings.

*Sit as far from the buffet as possible.  The peer pressure of having to walk past every other table with another plate of food may help you - or - you may be too lazy to get up for one more trip ;0)

*While eating your salad - you have made time to listen carefully to the conversation of others about what doesn't taste as good as it looked and avoid those foods - and just head for what they say is "to die for".  That way you will feel more satisfied.

*Breakfast buffets are a real challenge because of all the baked goods offered as "food".  Focus on power foods here - eggs, meat, fresh fruit and veggies.  They will fill you up fast and keep you satisfied for a long, long time.

*If you are at a dessert buffet, look for the fresh fruit and put that on a small plate first.  If you can just eat fruit and wait until others comment on what is "unbelievablely great" - this might save you a truck load of points on the not so great offerings.  Maybe you can enlist a friend to 'share' a small sample of the really tempting baked goods.

I have to admit, some of these LOOK very tempting - but I'd find someone to share a sampler plate of them with me!

*When all else fails, if you know you're going to be tempted beyond what you can bear, plan to use your Weekly Allowance Points for that event and simply enjoy yourself within reason.  Don't beat yourself up - its not worth it.  Just jump back onto program the next day.

How do you deal with the temptations on a buffet?  Comment among yourselves ;0)

Building a satisfying lunch

Is it lunch time yet?  There are so many great ways to enjoy lunch - where do I begin?  Often I'm
packing up leftovers and bringing them to the office for lunch - just to make room in the fridge at home for more leftovers ;0)  But there are days that there are no leftovers around, making planning lunch a necessity.  Here are a few of our lunches from my archives to inspire you.  Some are ones I packed - some are eaten out at a nearby restaurant or fast food establishment.  I'll try to include PointsPlus values wherever I can remember them easily enough.

Turkey wrap with this fabulous Cranberry Mustard!  Made with an Ole Extreme Wellness Wrap (1-2pp per wrap depending on variety), 3 oz cooked turkey 3pp,  lots of veggies like lettuce, tomato, roasted red peppers - ZERO pp and the Cranberry Mustard ads ZERO pp to the sandwich - total for this plate full = 5pp!

I don't remember the brand of bread I used here - for anyone ambitious, its listed somewhere among my 120+ posts - but I find for ME, bread can be an expensive proposition.  For the guys who have way more points to use -its a no brainer.  I typically will make my sandwich on a half slice to keep the points down, but fill up the middle to make the sandwich filling for me.  This honey mustard is sweet and hot...a real flavor boost to a ham sandwich!!

ZERO pp WW Garden Vegetable Soup - recipe on this site!  You can add 2 TBSP of grated parmesan cheese for just 1pp!

Chicken Salads with cucumbers, olives, carrots, a hard boiled egg and some pepperoncinis on the side.  For a snack afterwards, plain, fat free yogurt with fresh strawberries and bananas.

I loved this lunch!  Egg salad made with lite mayo, served on Romaine lettuce leaves with cute pimento stuffed green olives on top - really a winning combo - and makes a pretty presentation.  A small serving of carrot salad and some fresh grapes.  All recipes for this plate are on my recipes page!

McDonald's Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad with the entire package of dressing - 11PP and yumm-o!!  For me, this counts as a lunch for 8pp with a snack for 3pp, but its so worth it.
This was great but had to be made at home - it was a lite ham and swiss "quesadilla"made with one wrap - then once toasty, I cut it in half and stacked it with some lettuce, tomato and honey mustard between the two peices.
Barbacoa Beef and Cole Slaw Sandwich made from week one recipes! 

PANERA BREAD - Pick Two Menu Options: a cup of Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup with a Thai Chopped Chicken Salad for 8PP  (I didn't eat the bread since I didn't know how to count it)  Loved this lunch, though!

Garden Salad with leftover Rotisserie Chicken Breast on it - all you count is the 3 oz of chicken for 3pp and whatever salad dressing you choose to put on it.  (This photo is from a dinner I ate, so the wine would not really be part of my lunch - but if it WERE - it would be 4pp for 1/2 cup)

*Always look for low points plus options to bulk up your lunches - fresh veggies are one way for ZERO pp.

*Mustard instead of Mayo saves points.

*If you still want to eat but your brain tells you that you've eaten your portion of points for this meal - finish with a peice of fresh fruit.  The fruit cleans your palate and gives your stomach enough time to register fullness - ZERO points.  Or you can suck on a peppermint and usually get the same results.

I'm always looking for new ideas for great lunches to be eaten at home or packed for the office.  What are your favorite lunches?  Inspire me!