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Cold Snap Chicken Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

May 18, 2014 Comments off

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The past couple of days have brought a rare mid-May cold snap to Atlanta. After the winter of 2014 that just wouldn’t end, I thought we were home free, but walking out of my place to go to dinner last night, I realized I need a coat! In mid-May! Argghhhh. I returned home only to get into a bed made with sheets as cold as ice, and I ended up sleeping in a sweatshirt with a space heater on. I mean, I know I’ve gotten more cold-natured since I lost weight, but this was ridiculous. Did I mention already it’s mid-May?????

Anyhow? Today as I literally chilled in my apartment, I decided it was a soup or stew kinda day. So I went to the kitchen and looked around to see what I could throw together with what I had on hand. I came up with a chicken soup that has just a little sweet potato, onion, and broccoli, with frozen chicken breasts and broccoli and stock from a carton making it easy and convenient, and a touch of sherry giving it an elegant and balanced richness (the sherry is really the secret weapon in this quick and easy, yet ultra-flavorful soup).

I wasn’t expecting it going in, but this Cold Snap Chicken Soup is the best soup I’ve ever made! The flavors were just perfectly balanced, the chicken was exceptionally tender, and it was perfect on a chilly day. I also had a chance to use my brand new red, white, and blue “Fireworkfetti” Temp-tations stoneware that I recently bought from QVC (click here to take a look)! If I was going to eat soup on a cold day in mid-May, I at least wanted it to look, summer-y! I served this with sourdough that I bought from Costco that you then reheat in your own oven for a fresh-baked effect. Yum. I thought I’d share my recipe for the soup with you in case you have a cold snap, or just want a nice bowl of quick and easy chicken soup. You can see it by clicking more. Enjoy! Read more…

Weekly weigh in – a holiday loss!

December 20, 2012 Comments off

Among the hustle and bustle of the holidays, this week has gotten away from me! I weigh in again tomorrow, and I still haven’t posted my weigh in from last week. So here it is, last week I weighed in at 222.7!!! That’s 1.1 pounds down from the week before, and that’s even including my weekend in NYC!

I’ll write a longer post about my weigh in tomorrow before we get to Christmas – there’s a lot to share, including shopping for new clothes and resisting holiday treats… Enjoy this season!

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Emotional Eating: How to Not Devour That Bag of Uneaten Candy Corn

November 27, 2012 2 comments

First things first, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve checked in here.  It’s actually been a good couple of weeks on the weight loss front!  On Friday, November 16, I weighed in at 228.0 pounds, which was a 1.3 pound loss from the week prior.  Last week, I decided to move my weigh in up to Thanksgiving morning instead of Friday morning, so that I wouldn’t get discouraged by weighing in after the Thanksgiving meal.  That weigh in on Thursday, 11/22 was 227.1 pounds, which is .9 pounds less than the week before.  So 2.2 pounds lost over the last couple of weeks!  Not bad.

I’ll be honest, I don’t expect to post a loss this week.  Thanksgiving was a day of indulgence.  I wasn’t so bad with the meal, but our family sweet potato casserole recipe is like crack – and like the addict that I am, I ate way too much of it throughout the day.  I wish my body weren’t so sensitive to one day of high calorie eating, but it is.  I’m already up from last week (yes – I weigh every day, “official” weigh in day or not), and I threw my back out on Friday, so exercise, while I’ve tried to keep it up, has been lacking.  That concerns me a bit since exercise is already a struggle this time of year, but it is what it is.

And that leads me to tonight, sitting here after midnight, writing this blog while I drink a diet soda.  Why am I doing this?  Because frankly, this is what’s keeping me from burying my face in the leftover bag of candy corn from the fall holidays that’s in my pantry and hasn’t been eaten yet.  You see, I’m an emotional eater.  I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink to excess, and I don’t gamble.  The fact of the matter is, I’m not even the least bit tempted by those things, no matter how bad my day or how much stress I’m under.  BUT…  find me at home on a Monday evening after a stressful day returning to work after a holiday break, with my back hurting still from injuring it last week, and combine that with the butterflies and such that go along with the beginnings of a new, albeit seemingly fantastic, relationship, and I just want to inhale that damn candy corn like a human dustbuster.

Since re-starting my weight loss journey in July, I really haven’t been tempted to eat emotionally.  This is a huge sign of progress for me, since I used food to numb emotion for decades.  But as my night began to wind down tonight, I felt that familiar longing for the first time in a long while.  My new beau had been over for dinner and left to go home,and next thing I knew, my mind started wandering to how cruddy going back to work from the holiday had been, to how my back hurt when I moved, and to other various and sundry anxieties – both good and bad.  Emotional eaters use food like an alcoholic uses whiskey – to numb emotions, good and bad.  And all of a sudden, I really wanted to raid my pantry and fridge…particularly for that leftover bag of hardened, sugary candy corn.  So what’s the difference?  What stopped me? Read more…

‘Tis the Season: Five Tips for Taming Holiday Weight Gain

November 11, 2012 Comments off

I’m sitting here as I type watching a Hallmark Christmas movie.  Yes, it’s saccharin and laden with fantasy…and I love it.  These will become a weekend staple for the next six weeks or so.  And as the holidays are about to kick into high gear, it’s time to strategize for all the amazing, rich food that will be tempting us.  But first, an update on the last week…

A week ago, I weighed in at 232.1 pounds.  This was a gain over the week before, and honestly for the few weeks prior, I had kind of felt like I was at a bit of a plateau.  Exercise has definitely become more challenging with the time change, and I do plan to break down and join a gym soon.  But this week, I was back on track!  I weighed in at 229.3!!!  That’s a 2.8 pound loss from last week, and a 29.6 pound loss from when I re-started my weight loss efforts in July.  From my all time high of 315, it’s about an 86 pound loss now!  Being out of the 230’s is truly uncharted territory for me…  I think it’s been pre-high school since I’ve been this light!  That’s great motivation!!!

My goal is to reach 215 pounds by New Year’s.  That would be a 100 pound loss for me.  That’s about 14 more pounds in the next 7 weeks, or a two-pound a week loss.  With Thanksgiving and Christmas thrown in, along with my trip to New York in early December for the Cyndi Lauper Holiday concert, and the various parties I’ll be attending, I will NOT be beating myself up if I don’t reach my goal exactly on time.  However, I do want to ensure that I continue a downward trend, and certainly not gain any weight.  So here’s how I’m planning to do that – with my five tips for taming holiday weight gain: Read more…

Healthy Cooking: Chicken Eggplant Marinara with Whole Wheat Rotini

November 3, 2012 3 comments

Chicken Eggplant Marinara with Whole Wheat Rotini

This week I thought I’d share with you a staple recipe in my kitchen.  Cooking something healthy and delicious at home can be easy and rewarding, and this recipe for Chicken Eggplant Marinara incorporates protein, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains in a quick and satisfying way that has become a weekly part of my nutrition routine.  It makes four servings, so for a single guy like me, I cook once, and have four lunches and dinners!  But first, let me give you an update on the last week.  I weighed in yesterday at 232.1 pounds.  This was a gain of 1.3 pounds from the week before.  I was disappointed, but I also know why it happened.  I was sick with a cold/allergies for the first part of the week, and I also had plans after work almost every night between my birthday and Halloween this week.  This led to zero exercise this week, a homemade apple cake my mom made me for my birthday, and a couple of high calorie meals that may have included onion rings.  Oh well.  It was one week.

By the way, my 33rd birthday on Tuesday marked 3 years of being on this health and fitness journey!  It was on that day that I stepped into the office of a nutritionist, and began to take the reigns of my life.  What a three years it’s been!  Not only have I lost about 85 pounds, I’ve gained the confidence to change careers, to come out of the closet and begin living authentically, and to live my life with greater purpose and vision.  Reconstructing my life at 30 really took off and became a lasting theme for me!

Del Grosso’s Sunday Marinara

So below is my recipe for Chicken Eggplant Marinara with Whole Wheat Rotini (pictured above).  This recipe uses clean ingredients and whole grains, but also takes advantage of a healthy store-bought jarred marinara.  When choosing a marinara, I like to look for something with no added sugar.  This can be difficult as most mass-marketed brands do add sugar as a way to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.  For me, I don’t like the flavor, and I don’t want the extra calories and carbs. My absolute  favorite brand and flavor of jarred marinara is La Famiglia Del Grosso’s Aunt Mary Ann’s Sunday Marinara (pictured at right).  It is SOOOOO good!!!  The ingredients list is all natural with no sugar, everything can be pronounced by a five year old, and it tastes like it’s been simmering on an Italian grandmother’s stove all day.  It’s a little pricey at $6-7 a jar, but I promise you it’s worth every penny, and for Atlanta locals, I actually found it on sale at Publix this week as a Buy-One-Get-One-Free deal – It made my day, and I stocked up!  So here’s the recipe; I hope you enjoy!

Chicken Eggplant Marinara with Whole Wheat Rotini

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium to large eggplant

2 medium onions

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove fresh garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1 jar marinara with no added sugar (typical size, 24-30oz, I use Del Grosso Sunday Marinara)

8 ounces whole wheat rotini (measured dry, approximately 3 cups)

Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano as a topping, optional

Begin by peeling your onions and then cutting them in half lengthwise.  Lay the flat sides down, and slice each onion half into thin (1/4 inch) half moon slices (This gives your sauce a more interesting texture than diced onions).  Take the ends off the eggplant, and then slice into three planks lengthwise.  Cut each plank into three or four strips, and then chop into approximately 1 inch pieces, leaving the skin on.  Also chop your chicken breast into bite size pieces (3/4 to 1 inch), and toss the chopped chicken in 1 teaspoon of reduced sodium soy sauce.  This small amount of soy sauce will not add an Asian or soy flavor to the dish, it will simply give the bland chicken a richness as it cooks that will add to the depth of flavor of the entire dish – almost like a quick and easy brine.  Don’t worry – the flavors are Italian, through and through!

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, and when it is hot, add the olive oil.  Begin boiling your pasta water/preparing your pasta during this time, as well, according to package directions.  (As a side note, I use a microwave pasta cooker called the Fasta Pasta.  If you follow their cooking chart it really does come out al dente every time, and there’s no waiting for water to boil, or cleanup of a separate pot and colander, etc.)

To the olive oil add the sliced onions and chopped eggplant, seasoning with the salt pepper and dried herbs.  The eggplant will absorb the olive oil at this point, which is why it is important to use a non-stick pan.  As the eggplant cooks down, it will release the oil into the sauce once again.  Sautee, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is cooked through and tender and has a little color.  At this point, add the chopped chicken breasts that have been tossed in the soy sauce, as well as the garlic powder or chopped fresh garlic, and sautee until the chicken is white with a little color on the outside and just cooked through.

When the chicken is cooked through, add the jarred marinara, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Just before serving, add the cooked whole wheat rotini and toss gently until well combined.  This makes four approximately 2 cup servings.  Top with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, if desired.

Busting Plateaus

September 30, 2012 1 comment

The past couple of week’s weigh-ins, while headed in the right direction, have been a little underwhelming.  So this past week, I decided it was time to bust through this plateau in a mach three with my hair on fire kind of way.  I’ll tell you what that looked like in a minute, but first things first, what were the results?

Last week, I weighed in at 239.4 pounds.  This week…drumroll, please…I was down to 235.7 pounds!!!!!!!  That’s a 3.7 pound loss from last week, 22.9 pounds lost since July, and almost 80 pounds lost from my estimated highest weight of 315!!!  I couldn’t be more pleased.  In the summer of 2010, I had gotten down to 235.2, and my initial goal this go-round was to reach 235.0 before my birthday in late October.  I think it’s safe to say at this point that I will surpass that goal!  So my new goal is to reach 215 pounds, another 20 pounds lost, and what will mark a 100-pound total loss from my starting weight, by New Year’s.  That’s a tall order, no doubt, with the holidays thrown in, but I’m going to shoot for it, and be gentle with myself if I come up a little short, but hopefully it will keep me from giving myself carte blanche to eat anything over the holidays (though I will be enjoying myself in moderation).

So how did I break through this plateau?  The easy answer is “diet and exercise,” but the more nuanced answer is Read more…

Creatively Cooking at Home

September 8, 2012 Comments off

Italian Barbecue Chicken Tacos on the Stove

I’m sitting here on a rainy Saturday in Atlanta, with the weather people promising this rain is leading to lovely fall temperatures, and I decided to take part of my day to cook what turned out to be a surprisingly delicious and healthy lunch.  I thought I’d try something I haven’t done on this blog in quite a while, and share my recipe with you, but first things first…my weekly progress report.

Yesterday was another great weekly weigh in!  I was at 241.0 pounds!!!  That’s a 1.9 pound loss from last week, a 17.6 pound loss since I restarted my efforts in July, and about 74 pounds down from my estimated highest weight of 315 pounds!  I’m extremely happy with my progress, and highly motivated to continue.  I really think meeting my first goal of 235 before my birthday in late October is within reach, and after that, my next goal will be to reach 215 – which will be a loss of 100 pounds!  It’s amazing to me that a 100-pound weight loss is now within my reach.  And I calculated last night, too, that at my height of 5 feet 10.5 inches, when I reach 212 pounds, I’ll no longer even be considered obese, but merely overweight according to the BMI charts!  That’s really a goal I want to reach.

So part of how I continued my loss this week was something that was a tad unintentional.  Late last week, I bought a plane ticket to take a trip to New York in early October (I can’t wait to spend some time in New York in the fall!), and I decided that I should cut back on my eating out a bit to help offset the expense.  I went grocery shopping, and I made a decision that buying fresh vegetables would help me stick to my plan to eat at home more, both because they’re much more appealing than frozen, and because I’d feel badly if I let them spoil without using them.

Turns out that was a great plan!  I enjoyed cooking healthily and enjoying the fresh flavors of what I made.  And the calories were well within what I needed to continue losing weight.  So today when I was deciding what to do for lunch, I decided to survey the refrigerator and pantry and see what I could throw together with what was left.  I use pasta fairly often, in very small quantities (using only about an ounce or two at a time as part of a mainly vegetable and protein based dish), but today, I wasn’t really feeling like pasta.

I had some flour tortillas in my pantry that weren’t going to last too much longer, and I had chicken breasts in the freezer.  I also had some fresh broccoli and carrots, and some canned tomatoes.  I started to think about some sort of taco with the chicken, and I wanted to do something a little different with the broccoli, so roasting came to mind.  I just got into the kitchen and started cooking with just the barest skeleton of a plan.  First the vegetables went into the oven to roast, and then I got started on the chicken filling for the tacos.  I didn’t really have the right

Italian Barbecue Chicken Tacos with Simple Roasted Vegetables

seasonings for something with a Mexican or Latin flavor, but I always have the right ingredients on hand for Italian flavors, and what I ended up with was actually pretty delicious.  At right is the finished plate, of what I came to call Italian Barbecue Chicken Tacos, with Simple Roasted Vegetables on the side.  If you’ve never had roasted broccoli, by the way, it is simply transcendant.  The tips of the florets transform into something light and crispy, while the stalks and stems take on a wonderful woodsy flavor.

If you don’t really cook much, go take a basic class to learn some techniques!  The food network is good for recipe ideas, but they’ve taken more of an edu-tainment route that doesn’t truly teach people how to cook anymore.  If you’ve got the basic techniques down, it’s great entertainment and a way to get new ideas, but if you need the basics, I highly recommend getting your hands on DVD’s of Julia Child’s PBS shows.  She actually wanted to teach us to understand why we do certain things in the kitchen.  Some of the PBS cooking shows today, though far outnumbered by Food Network, also still really try to teach, so check them out, as well.   And smelling your kitchen filled with the lovely scents of a good meal is very satisfying.  As Julia said best, “I like to smell something cooking; makes me feel at home!”  Give the recipes below a shot, and maybe this will inspire you to get creative in the kitchen, too!

Italian Barbecue Chicken Tacos

(Yields 4 Tacos – Serves 2)

  • 2 medium chicken breasts
  • 2T herbs/spices of your choice to season chicken breasts (I use Paul Prudhomme’s Poultry Magic)
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes, well-drained
  • 1T tomato paste
  • 1T balsamic vinegar jelly (or other savory jelly of your choice)
  • 1/4t garlic powder
  • 1/2T dried basil
  • 1/2T dried oregano
  • 4 small (fajita size) flour tortillas
  • 4t freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

Rub chicken breasts with herbs/spices of your choice.  Heat a medium sautee pan over medium heat, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and then pan sautee the seasoned chicken breasts until cooked through, turning once during cooking and browning both sides.  Remove chicken breasts from pan, and let rest.  Drain the petite diced tomatoes well.  Add the olive oil to the hot pan, and add the drained tomatoes, along with the tomato paste.  Stir until combined and add basil, oregano, and garlic powder.  Lastly, add the balsamic or other savory jelly and let it melt into the sauce (I use a wonderful Balsamic Vinegar and Vidalia Onion jelly that I buy from a fantastic local Atlanta jelly maker called One Screw Loose – they also have an AH-MAZING orange cranberry pecan jelly that I love with roasted turkey or chicken.  Take a minute to visit their website by clicking here, or if you’re in Atlanta, look for them at local festivals and such).  Lower the heat and allow the tomato sauce to simmer while you slice the chicken breasts thinly and heat the tortillas in a dry skillet.  Add the chicken to the tomato mixture, combine well, and allow the entire mixture to heat and simmer for a few more minutes.  When the tortillas are warm, divide the chicken mixture evenly between the tortillas, and top each taco with 1t freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Simple Roasted Vegetables

(yield – approx. 1c – serves 1-2)

  • 1 stalk broccoli
  • 1/2c baby carrots
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1t coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
  • 1t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2t crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Cut the broccoli florets off the stalk, rinse and dry.  Peel the woody skin off the lower portion of the broccoli stalk, and then slice the stalk into medallions.  Slice the onion into fairly large pieces.  Place the cut broccoli, whole baby carrots, and sliced onions onto a shallow roasting/jelly roll pan with sides.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, and toss with clean hands until well-coated.  Roast in the oven on a middle rack until the broccoli has begun to brown, and the carrots and and onions are tender and somewhat caramelized.  Approximately 25-30 minutes.  The amounts in this recipe are somewhat unimportant.  Just use a larger pan for more vegetables and make sure you only have a single layer of vegetables so they can roast properly.  Also be careful to use just enough olive oil to barely coat the vegetables so you don’t burn excess oil in the oven – this can lead to a smokey kitchen!  Feel free to play with herbs and spices, as well, though I personally like just salt and pepper to allow the intensified flavor of the roasted vegetables to shine.  If the vegetables are a bit dry for your taste when done, toss with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and/or lemon juice.

BEFORE – Raw Vegetables Cut, Tossed in Oil and Seasonings, and Ready for the Oven

AFTER – Light and Crispy Broccoli Florets with Caramelized Carrots and Onions