Monday, April 30, 2012

WLC - Week 1

I would say it was a very successful first week as I dropped 7.1 pounds! Now I know, the first week is the easiest, and I know that 3 of those are alcohol pounds from Amanda's bachelorette weekend just before the first weigh in, and I know I still have a long way to go.  But, I LOST 7.1 pounds!  And I wasn't the only one.  I heard a lot of big numbers this morning at the Forum around the scale.  3 pounds, 5 pounds, 6 pounds.  As a matter of fact, the total weight loss for week one of the Forum Weight Loss Challenge was just about 475 pounds! So many motivated people, so inspiring.

I have to say, I did work really hard this week and I did make a lot of changes.  I started, by listening to what the trainer at the Forum said.  I ate a small breakfast every morning, within an hour of waking up.  1 scrambled egg or 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt to give my body the protein and energy it needs to get going.  After my workout I also made sure I had a little something that was high in protein and low in fat.  (Greek yogurt has really been my friend this week!)  Now I'm not sure if changing eating patterns or choices was the reason...but I really haven't even felt hungry this entire week. Personally, I think when you completely cut out the crap, you're body stops craving it.

I went food shopping and bought tons of fruit and veggies and whole grains.  Now, I generally do buy lots of produce and whole grains, but this week, I made sure I cooked the produce and grains and washed and cut up the fruit so there were a lot of healthy options to be eaten rather than tossed in the trash at the end of the week.

Exercise is key if you want to be successful.  I managed to get it in every day.  I even spent some quality time working out with Ben.  He kept me company on his roller blades while I ran along the bay.  (of course, he skated circles around me!)

Red RosaRita

Weekdays are pretty easy, but the weekend is always tough.  I did manage to stick with my healthy eating plan (I don't like the word diet) without feeling deprived.  On Friday I drank that Red RosaRita that I developed and spent Saturday at a family party, where I splurged on a few cocktails but avoided the chips and cupcakes.

Without a doubt, the hardest part of the weekend was lunch on the Boardwalk on Sunday.  A gorgeous summery day with my family at the Saw Mill.  EVERYONE ordered lemonades and Bloody Mary's and burgers and sausage and pizza and fries...with cheese AND gravy.  Ooh I wanted to be bad.  But I held on and ordered a big glass of water with a lemon and an Ahi tuna salad.   And do you know what?  It was delicious.  And when we finished lunch, I felt so, so good.
When I got on that scale this morning, it was all so worth it!

Pesto Pizza

Need an easy meatless Monday meal?
Here you go... 4 ingredients and 15 minutes; it doesn't get much easier than that.

1 12-inch Boboli Pizza crust
2 to 3 tablespoons prepared pesto*
1 large ripe tomato, very thinly sliced
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spread pesto evenly over Boboli crust leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the edge.  Then top evenly with tomato slices, then fresh mozzarella slices.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Place pizza directly on oven rack and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted, bubbly, and begins to  brown.  Remove from oven, let cool about 5 minutes, then cut into slices with a pizza cutter.

*If I don't have my own pesto on hand, Buitoni , which is available in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, is so close to home made, no one except you will know that it's not!  The price ranges from about $4 to $6 for the 7-ounce container or around $9 for the 11-ounce.  But even making you're own pesto is a little pricey, and  a little goes a long way.  Unused pest can also be frozen until needed.

Boboli pizza crusts are another great item to keep on hand.  They freeze well and are great for dinner in a pinch (or a late night snack).  Top them with almost anything in the pantry and you can have dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.   When the weather cooperates, toss them on the grill instead of heating up the oven.

I've used the 8-inch size for pizza parties for my kids.  Put out assorted pizza toppings and they have a great time personalizing their pizza.

Fruity Chocolate Pizza

Boboli even does dessert.
Check out  my Fruity Chocolate Pizza  recipe
for a unique and delicious dessert idea.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Taco Meatball Kabobs

Two favorites rolled into one ~ Tacos and Meatballs.  Perfect party food for this Cinco De Mayo or fun dinner idea for the kids.

1 pound ground beef
1 package taco seasoning mix
3/4 cup crushed tortilla chips
1 egg
3/4 cup water
8 ounces Pepper jack cheese, cut into 32 cubes
32 grape tomatoes
32 olives
shredded lettuce

Combine ground beef, tortilla chips, water, taco seasoning and egg in a bowl; mix well.  Shape into 32 meatballs about 1-1/2 inches each.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked.  Using 4 inches wooden skewers, skewer 1 each meatball, cheese cube, tomato and olive.  Serve with lettuce and salsa.

If desired, mix equal parts salsa and sour cream for a creamy dipping sauce.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Red RosaRita

Without a doubt, the toughest part of the weight loss challenge is limiting cocktail time.  But I've come up with a few rules so I can rationalize keeping cocktails in my diet:
Include fruit (fruit juice acceptable, but not preferred).

All mixers must be calorie free.
Follow these rules and I can have a cocktail, or maybe two, with just a little less guilt.

Red Berry Rita was created in honor of upcoming Cinco De Mayo and of course
 the NJ Devils successful first playoff round.  Go Devils!

2 ripe strawberries, cut up
1 ounce Don Julio or Patron Tequila
1/2 ounce Contreau
2 ounces club soda or seltzer
honey or stevia to taste, optional

Muddle strawberries in a glass.  Add remaining ingredients and fill with ice.  Garnish with orange wedge and strawberry.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Yogurt Berry Parfait

Weight Loss Challenge - Day One.
I never wake up hungry, so I thought I'd save my calories for when the hunger pangs set in.

But later in the day, I had a complimentary personal training session to kick off the Challenge, where  I learned something that I already knew, but nearly always ignore.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You need it to jump start your metabolism. 

I took the trainers words to heart, and better late than never, came home and whipped up a delicious breakfast.

Rich creamy yogurt, sweet berries and granola... simple, but so good.  Jazz up the presentation a bit and not only will you not feel deprived, you'll think your indulging. 

And go ahead, take out the fancy glasses, just for you.
You deserve it.

1/2 cup nonfat, vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh berries
2 tablespoons lowfat granola

Alternately layer ingredients in a martini or wine glass.

Makes a great breakfast or midnight snack.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels"

~ Kate Moss

Today marks day one of an 8 Week "Weight Loss Challenge".    $1000 to the Forum Fitness member who loses the greatest percentage of weight.  Game on! Summer bathing suit season was motivation enough for me, but throw in 1000 bucks to the winner and it really sweetens the pot.
So Forum Fitness...challenge accepted.

8 weeks to drop the weight equals 8 weeks of hard core diet and exercise.  I have confidence in myself that I can do this.  Why? Because I've done it before.  10 long years ago, I dropped 50, yes 50 pounds.  It took about 6 months of obsessive, compulsive diet and exercise.  People asked me, "How did you lose it?" with a hopeful look in their eyes that I had the easy, magic answer.  Unfortunately, my answer wasn't what they wanted to hear.  It was, "I did it the hard way".  Making smart food choices -  about every single morsel that went into my mouth.  And, of course, exercise - lots of it, every single day.  Oh, yes you can.  You just make it a priority,  like going to the market, going to work or going the doctor.  It becomes a non negotiable part of your schedule.  If you do these 2 very simple, yet very difficult things, you will lose weight.

My goal is not as lofty this time.  Dropping 20 pounds will make me more than happy, it will get me back to where I was 10 years ago.  It's not all about looking good.  It's about feeling good, being healthy and taking care of my body.

Care to join me?  The way I figure it, it's a win-win situation.  Even if I don't win the cash prize, getting healthy and looking slim and trim for the summer will be like winning the jackpot.

The next 8 weeks will obviously be filled with healthy cooking, so come back often and check out the recipes.  And I plan on coming up with many of my own versions of  'skinny girl' cocktails.  Dieting should certainly not be deprivation!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

“Stiletto, I look at it more as an attitude as opposed to a high-heeled shoe.”
 -Lita Ford

Monday, April 16, 2012

Panzanella Salad with Arugula and Two Tomatoes

This Panzanella Salad is inspired by wonderful summer vegetables.  Now I know the calendar hasn't quite reached summer months, but Mother Nature doesn't seem to be aware, as we have yet another summer-like day in mid-April.  Take advantage of the warm weather and the abundance of produce that's hitting the shelves.  This salad is just the thing for some early al fresco dining and is hearty enough to call it dinner. 


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
salt and pepper to taste  

8 cups arugula
4 cups cubed whole grain bread, lightly toasted (or left out to harden a bit)
1 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 cups sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup pitted kalmata olives, halved
2 cup chick peas
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces

For Dressing: Combine all ingredients and set aside.

For salad:  Add all ingredients to a large bowl.  Just before serving, toss with dressing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Blackberry Mojito

When I think of Mojitos I think of gardens in full bloom, long lazy summer days spent at the beach,  and sipping cocktails al fresco.   So when I noticed the early spread of mint in the garden and a nearly 80 degree day in mid April, well the natural thing to do was to break out the rum and muddle.  For a little twist and to make sure I'm getting the necessary servings of fruit in my diet, I decided to throw in some blackberries.  The only thing missing right now, is the sound of the ocean waves...

2 sprigs mint
1 half lime, cut into 2 or 3 wedges
6 to 8 large ripe blackberries
1 to 3 teaspoons agave nectar, Truvia* or sugar (depends on how sweet you like your cocktails)
2 ounces rum
2 ounces club soda

Muddle mint, lime and blackberries in a glass.  Add agave nectar and stir.  Fill glass with ice and add  rum and club soda and stir.  Garnish with fresh mint and blackberries.


*Truvia is a sweetener made from the Stevia plant. Stevia is a South American herb used as a natural sweetener for centuries. The leaves of the Stevia plant have a refreshing taste, zero glycemic index, zero calories and zero carbs. It is 25-30 times sweeter than sugar, and far more healthy!  You can actually grow your own Stevia.  If you do, you can use the Stevia leaves as the sweetener, just muddle them with the mint, lime and berries.

If blackberries aren't readily available raspberries, strawberries, or just about any fruit will work just as well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Celebrate... National Cheese Fondue Day

Ah yes, 2 of my favorite things...Cheese and Wine.  I never need an excuse to include either of these in my diet, but in case you do, today is National Cheese Fondue day! (Who makes up these lists?!) 

What originated as a peasant meal in Switzerland in the early 19th century became a popular entertaining dish in the 60's and 70's is now back as a fun, retro addition to party menus.

This recipe is a traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue, but I've also made fondues out of basically any bits of leftover cheeses that I find in the fridge.  Hot, melty cheese combined with really can't go wrong.

Classic Cheese Fondue

1 garlic clove
1/2 pound Gruyere, shredded
1/2 Swiss Cheese (Emmenthaler or Jarlsberg), shredded
2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
1-1/2 cups white wine
2 tablespoons Kirsch (cherry flavored brandy)*
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch of nutmeg

Rub inside of fondue pot all over with garlic clove.  Discard garlic clove.

Toss cheese with flour and set aside.

Add wine to a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.    Slowly add cheese mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.  Stir in in Kirsch, dry mustard and nutmeg.  Pour into fondue put and serve with cubed French bread, apples and blanched veggies for dipping.

*If you don't have Kirsch you can substitute Aperol, Applejack or any brandy or Cognac.

Ben and Julie-dog taking a Fondue break.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Orange Glaze

Here's a simple side to add to your Easter Menu.  The glaze can be made the day before and then poured over asparagus just after roasting allowing the flavors to enhance the asparagus.
This dish is perfect right out of the oven or serve it at room temperature to help take the pressure off getting everything to the table hot.

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Arrange asparagus on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper if desired. Drizzle with olive oil.  Place in oven and bake 6 to 8 minutes until tender crisp.  Remove from oven and arrange on a serving platter.

Meanwhile, combine vinegar, orange juice, brown sugar, and mustard in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes until mixture is reduced by about half.  It will be slightly syrupy.  Remove from heat and stir in butter.  Pour over roasted asparagus.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I would hate for someone to look at my shoes and say, "Oh my God! They look so comfortable!"...
~ Christian Louboutin

Monday, April 2, 2012

Easter S'mores

Easter Peeps are as abundant as tulips and daffodils at the moment.  Personally, I've never been a fan of the sugary sweet candies, but somehow I can't resist putting the colorful creatures in my kids Easter baskets.  Yes, even now that 2 of them are in their twenties, the little chicks and bunnies are still tucked into their basket of goodies.  I usually find them a month or two later, buried in the back of the pantry, uneaten, unwanted.  But now that I can turn those peeps into irresistible s'mores, I don't think these little guys will be hanging around too long.  After all, who can resist gooey marshmallow and melted chocolaty goodness.  You don't even need a fire, make these in the microwave!

These Easter s'mores, or maybe we should call them s'meeps, are a great way to make those cute little chicks and bunnies disappear.

3 graham crackers
3 1/2 ounce chocolate bars (or you can use leftover pieces of Easter bunny)
3 Peeps

Arrange 3 graham cracker halves on a plate.  Top each with a 1/2 ounce chocolate bar.  Place in microwave and cook on High for about 20 seconds until chocolate starts to melt.  Place one peep on top of each piece of chocolate.  Microwave on High and additional 10 seconds.  Be careful and don't leave in longer than 10 seconds.  Peeps grow to giant proportions when microwaving.

Remove from microwave and top with remaining graham cracker halves.
I'll have s'more please :)

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

I have to admit, I rarely cook dried beans, because it always seems so labor intensive... rinsing and soaking and draining... but with this easy slow cooker recipe, just toss the beans into the cooker with the rest of the ingredients and forget about them.  You can prep this the night before; simply add all ingredients except the broth.  In the morning pour in the broth and start your cooker. When you get home from that long hard workday, delicious aroma's will be wafting from your kitchen and dinner will be waiting. The beans are especially delicious, they're tender but firm, and the veggies are cooked to perfection.  Add a salad and cheesy quesadillas and this Meatless Monday meal will please the whole family, especially the cook.

1 package (16 ounces) dried black beans
5 carrots, sliced
5 celery stalks, sliced
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 32-ounce containers vegetable broth

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until beans are tender.  Garnish with avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream and sliced green onion.