Well folks, I know it's a big secret, but I'll spill the beans: next weekend is the Big Game. Shocking, I know. I thought I might offer an interesting twist on the typical pizza you might be planning to serve. Don't get me wrong, I love-love-love pizza. But perhaps after a whole football season of pizza, you might be interested in something a little different. Well, this casserole is the one for you! The toppings are what makes it. On top of the meaty, cheesy pasta you sprinkle spikey, salty olives, pepperoni, and a little extra cheese to top it all off. Ah, it's wonderful. Try this soon.
I love January. I love the New Year. I'm quite sad that January is almost over. Over the last few years of losing weight and focusing on healthy eating, I have come to look on the month of January as a celebration of healthy eating and healthy habits. It's a time of recommitment to living a healthy lifestyle. It's especially refreshing after the November and December. Don't get me wrong, I love special holiday foods. Thanksgiving and Christmas are wonderful times for food. However, as much as the previous two months are given to celebration and excess, the following month is centered around getting your excess back in check...establishing healthy patterns. Perhaps for the first time.
January is also special for me because January 2008 is when I decided to start losing the baby weight, and then some. So it's only fitting that this January I am recommiting myself to being healthy. I am going to try and make it to the "official" Weight Watchers goal weight, and then see what I think. I'll be honest, I'm quite pleased with my weight (apart from a few extra holiday pounds). But there's that little part of me that wonders what would happen if I made it to "goal"? I don't want to give up on the process, especially right before the finish line. So I'm back. I'll see what happens, and assess whether "goal" weight is the right one for me, or something else.
My other commitment, which is new for me, is to exercise. I have managed to lose 35 pounds so far without excercise. But quite frankly, it's time to get my butt in gear. One of my coworkers gave me a free pass to check out a certain exercise class. I starts with a "J" and ends with an "azzercise". Very skeptically I decided to give it a try. I've never been a sporty person. In fact, I've never experienced the excercise-related "high" that people talk about. The rush of endorphines that comes with expending lots of energy. Never happened. But at Jazzercise, I did. I think it's because I pushed myself further than I would have working out on my own. So I decided to commit to this for a year, and see where it takes me.
Those are the two commitments I've made. How are you doing on yours? Did you make any commitments this year? Comment and discuss.
So...I changed my mind. I joined Weight Watchers again. I just couldn't resist. And I couldn't be happier. I was hearing such good things from friends about the new system that I couldn't stay away for long.
My earlier concerns about having to learn a brand new point system after having come so far with the old system? No worries. This point system is so much better than the old one. After following it fully for a week, and steeping myself in the new plan, I see how this PointsPlus program gently nudges me toward choosing veggies, fruits, and lean proteins as my first line of defense against hunger before I go for the empty calories of carbs. I really appreciate that. Especially when it comes to snacks, I've always been a big proponent of the power of protein. Perhaps it's the remnants of the Atkin's days. In fact, to this day, my mother's cure for everything is, "Take some ibuprofen and eat some protein." I guess I've taken that to heart. Well, now I can have a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit for a healthy, sustaining, and low points snack that will last me until dinner. God bless Weight Watchers. This is the plan I want to use to maintain my weight loss.
I went to the grocery store with my dad and son over the weekend, and I looked down at the full cart and felt such pride. In fact, I made my dad stop and appreciate it as well. The cart was filled with fruits, veggies, a few canned goods, and lean proteins. There was very little processed junk. I was so proud of the cart, I actually thought about stopping a stranger to admire. But I didn't.
In a later post, I'll discuss my goals for the program. As for the blog, since I'm back on the Weight Watchers plan I will be including approximate PointsPlus values for each of my recipes.
But wait...there's more! I can't leave without offering a recipe. Here's a quick and easy lunch option:
I owe everything about this recipe to my sister Trish. She found this gem of a Paula Deen recipe and shared it with the rest of my family. It's gooey, and caramel-y, and gooey, and buttery, and gooey. Did I mention it's gooey? Seriously, this is the coffee cake to make all other coffee cakes swoon. It's sort of a cross between cinnamon rolls and monkey bread, and yet it's better than either of those.
The best part of this recipe is that it is incredibly easy to make. You assemble the ingredients the night before without breaking a sweat, and let it rise overnight. The next morning, you simply stumble out of bed, pour yourself some coffee (Important: Do NOT skip the coffee step), preheat the oven, and bake the coffee cake.
I can't rave enough about how this is the perfect balance between decadent treat and amazingly simple. Your family and friends will assume you slaved over it, but you'll know that it took mere minutes. That is, of course, until they ask you for the recipe. But do everyone a favor and share the recipe. You never know when someone will make this for you out of sheer gratitude.
I will be serving this on Christmas morning in my house. It's the perfect holiday splurge. That's right, I said SPLURGE. Don't think for a minute that this is a "light" recipe. It's a real, honest-to-goodness, lip-smacking holiday recipe that you pull out for special occasions. I fully believe that in order to maintain a healthy eating plan, you need to indulge. It will keep you sane and you'll be glad you did!
In the words of my sister when she emailed me the pictures, "I want coffee cake."
If you're a current Weight Watchers member, you already know the "big" news: they unveiled an updated program for weight loss called the Points Plus program. It's based on the latest science behind weight loss and there are some major changes to the program. The first thing is that they have changed the way points are calculated. In keeping with this new method, most foods have increased in points values, except fruits and vegetables: most of those are now 0 points. Awesome! The daily points target has increased, as have the weekly flex points you get. In my opinion, the most important change is that Weight Watchers is encouraging members to eat more whole, unprocessed foods, and lean meats (what they are calling "Power Foods") rather than filling our bellies with junk while staying within the points range. A piece of fruit is a better choice than a 100 calorie snack pack, and now the points values will finally reflect that.
So...what does that mean for this mom?
A while back, over the summer, I decided that I needed to shake things up regarding my eating plan. I decided to stop actively tracking my points each day, since I have the system pretty well ingrained into my very being, but instead I would focus on eating an overall healthy plan. I continue to use points values as a reference for what is a healthy choice or not. However, I don't track religiously, and I [deep breath] cancelled my Weight Watchers membership.
That being said, I really don't want to have to learn a new system. I don't want to have to go back to Weight Watchers and pay again to learn a new weight loss system in order to maintain my weight loss. For that reason, I am going to continue to use the old points system personally. Should I ever need to lose more than 10-15 pounds again, I will certainly go right back to Weight Watchers and learn the new system. But for now, the old one works great for me.
So...what does that mean for this blog?
As for the blog, I have decided that I will offer nutritional data on each recipe and let you decide how you use that information. I will slowly be updating my old posts as well. I will continue to use this nutritional data to calculate the old points. Feel free to use the new Points Plus system, or track your calories, or do nothing at all. Whatever suits you best.
I originally tried this recipe last winter and loved it. It has the perfect balance of the creamy sweetness from the sweet potatoes, and the smoky and spicy adobo sauce, and the tangy zip of lime juice. It's excellent to feed any vegetarians you might have running around the house. Or how about instituting one meal a week where you eat a vegetarian meal in order to save on the household grocery budget? This dish is the perfect one to try and win the family over on that idea.
I served this on a bed of torn baby spinach leaves, extra lime wedges to squeeze over everything, and a dollop of light sour cream on top. Fantastic! There's really not much more to say about this, other than that it's delicious and healthy. Life doesn't get much better than that. On to the recipe!
I am a Food Network fanatic. You're not surpised? Huh. Well, I know all of the stars on a first name basis. We're all very tight. Rachael Ray and I especially go a long way back. Years ago, when I was living in Los Angeles, her show was on during the time that I would make dinner, so Rach and I cooked together. We'd chop, stir, and saute together. It was a wonderful friendship. Although, to be honest, I have not even ONCE managed to make one of her dishes in 30 minutes. Go figure.
One of my all-time favorite pasta dishes is her Pasta with Sausage and Wild Mushroom, from her book 365: No Repeats. (It's a follow-the-recipe-to-the-letter kind of good.) I usually make it sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sort of as a splurge dish. It's rich, creamy, and amazing. So when I saw that my one of my favorite bloggers, Roni Noone, recently posted a lightened up version of the dish on her website, I heard the heavens open up and the angels sing! OK, maybe not. But I knew I would be trying it.
Of course, being true to myself, I fiddled with Roni's recipe, making it a little bit more aligned with Rachael's recipe. And I added a few things to suit my own taste. First, I used fresh sage, rather than the ground sage Roni suggested, because the knew how much of a flavor punch it adds. It's woodsy and earthy and delicious. However, if you want to make this dish tonight, go right ahead and use dried sage. No harm done. Secondly, I added celery. I wanted to bulk up the veggie content of the dish, and searched my fridge for something mild and unassuming. Celery jumped right out at me. It's adds a mild herbal-ness, that almost turns sweet when it's cooked. It was the perfect addition.
ABOUT THE GREEK YOGURT: Instead of the heavy cream that Rachael uses, Roni substituted non-fat greek yogurt. But alas, I had only plain non-fat yogurt, not greek style, in my fridge. My version turned out well enough. However, greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt. I have a hunch that if you use greek yogurt, you might end up with a more velvety, creamy sauce. It's just a hunch though.