Sunday, May 22, 2011


This was supposed to be a post about staying on plan when traveling.  But there's no way I can claim to have stayed on plan over the last week.  But I've learned that figuring out what went wrong can be just as valuable as what went right, so here goes...

When I got to the airport on Tuesday, things were going well.   I checked in for my flight, and walked past all the fast food.  I had mentally prepared myself for this walk.  I always get food at the airport, but when I really think about it, I don't need food at the airport.  I don't usually eat a whole meal at 4 in the afternoon, so why do I need something when I'm at the airport?  Armed with a good book, I settled in at the gate to wait for my plane.

I had planned ahead, and was planning on picking up dinner at the Whole Foods that I knew between the airport and my hotel.  Easy, less expensive than eating at a restaurant, and lots of low points options.

Easy, right?

Things started going downhill about 15 minutes before my flight was supposed to board.  I heard a garbled message that may have mentioned my flight, and when I saw people starting to line up at the gate, I asked around and realized my flight had been cancelled.  And the next available flight wasn't for another 5 hours!

Gone were my plans for an easy dinner in the hotel and a quick workout.  I had to eat in the airport.  There are not a lot of vegetarian options in the airport.  The only restaurant that seems like a good option is Panda Express, but their tofu dishes aren't actually vegetarian.  Also, I wanted a beer.  So I headed over to the bar.  Still not a lot of vegetarian options, and I was frustrated and already hungry, so I wasn't making good choices.  I ended up going with the nachos and, because I didn't understand what the waitress was asking me, a giant, $9 beer.  Even as I was drinking the beer and eating the nachos, I knew I didn't have enough points, but I ate it anyway.

This evening set the tone for the rest of my week.  WW wise, everything that could go wrong, did.  I forgot my workout clothes, so I couldn't take advantage of my hotel's gym.  The hotel didn't have a mini-fridge, so I couldn't pre-buy breakfast like I usually do.  After the airport debacle on Tuesday, I just stopped counting points, so I have no idea how much I ate.

I did make a point to eat smaller portions, but I don't think that will make up for everything else.

So what's the moral of the story?  Well, aside from not flying, it's planning ahead.  I should have has some snacks in my bag.  I like Larabars (Cashew Cookies are my favorites), fruit like apples and oranges, and almonds (especially the chocolate covered kind!).  I didn't pack these because it was only supposed to be a one-hour flight.  I also need to learn to not let my emotions order food.  I could have gotten a salad, and I would have felt better if I had, since the nachos weren't really that good anyway.

I also need to learn how to not let a bad day, or in this case, a bad evening, throw my entire week off.  I should have just tracked as best I could and moved on.  Also, I could have gotten some activity - I didn't have my workout clothes, but I did have my running shoes - there's no reason I couldn't have gone for a walk.  I need to learn that a bad day doesn't have to turn into a bad week.

I weigh in tomorrow morning.  I'm not looking forward to what I'm going to see, but if there is a gain, I deserve it.  But then it's a new week, so I can start over.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sweet Potato "Lasagna"

I was pondering some kind of baked, easy-to-reheat casserole situation for Liz to eat while I was out of town, while I was taking stock of the contents of the kitchen cabinets.

A jar of marinara sauce got me thinking about lasagna. I could make up a little cashew-tofu ricotta, maybe brown some mushrooms, that sounds good. Yeah.

Okay, dude, but you don't have any lasagna noodles. Okay, well, I've made a lasagna-like layered casserole with potatoes before, do I have any potatoes?

Well, you've got some sweet potatoes. And those would be a healthier option than white potatoes. Maybe this might come together into something real, here.

It's good, but I might not even use the L word to describe it. Let's call it a multilayer sweet potato marinara casserole, I guess.

To that effect, I rubbed seven smallish garnets with oil, baked them, let them cool, and then peeled and sliced them.

I also sliced ten fat white mushrooms into quarter-inch slices. I was contemplating some skinnier slices, but I decided I wanted a meatier bite. I cooked these with a splash of oil until I got a real good mahogany sear.

  • seven baked, peeled, sliced sweet potatoes
  • about 15-20 oz sliced button mushrooms, seared in oil
  • fist-sized ball of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 26 oz jar of marinara ( I used Trader Joe's)

I also made a batch of cashew-tofu "ricotta" by food processing:
  • 12 oz extra-firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup soaked raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • capful of apple cider vinegar
  • splash of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
Get a nine by thirteen glass pan and set your oven to 350.

Later any way that makes you happy, but I put a dollop of sauce on the bottom of the pan, then a layer of potato slices,

then half the ricotta, then the mushrooms and parsley.

Repeat these layers until you run out of ingredients, then arrange any remaining sweet potato slices as attractively as possible on the top of the casserole.

I sprinkled mine with a couple heavy pinches of almond parmezan, and then slid it into the oven.

Bake 15 minutes covered with foil, and then 15 minutes uncovered.

If I'd had some spinach, frozen or otherwise, that would have been a welcome addition, but I think it turned out pretty great anyway.

Going Quiet for a few days...

Matt's out of town at a graduation, and I leave on a work trip tonight, so needless to say, neither of us will be cooking this week.  I'll try to pop in this weekend with a post about staying on plan while traveling, but I can't promise much more than that.  Then, next week, we're off to South Dakota for a wedding!  So again, not a lot of cooking.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Planning Ahead

Over the years, I've found that one of my biggest obstacles to weight loss is my inability to plan ahead.  I wait until I'm hungry before I start thinking about what I'm going to eat.  Then, because I'm hungry, I eat whatever is easiest - usually pasta, take-out, or fast food.  This is probably even a bigger problem for me than stress eating.

Matt knows that about me.  That's why he was understandably worried when he was getting ready to be out of town for a week.  And that's why he left me this:

There is a sweet potato lasagna (recipe coming), falafel we found at Costco, homemade hummus, leftovers from last week, and a huge ziplock container of already cut-up vegetables.  So for lunch or dinner, I just have grab something and put it in the microwave.  Even I can handle that.

One of the most important things to do when you're trying to lose weight is to look at the behaviors that got you into this position.  For me, it was stress eating to a certain degree, but it was more a failure to plan ahead.  It would be easy to laugh it off and call it laziness, but I was doing other things while I wasn't grocery shopping or cooking, so it was more of a failure to prioritize my health and diet.

There are a lot of diets out there that just hand you the food you need to eat, to make it is as easy as possible.  And that works for a lot of people, but it never worked for me.  I did lose weight when I tried Slim Fast, I also lost weight when I was in college and all I ate were frozen dinners like Smart Ones and Lean Cuisine.  But as soon as I went off those diets, the weight came back on.  I realize now it was because I never really learned to prioritize my meals or my health.

Frozen dinners are handy to have in a pinch.  I keep Boca Burgers and frozen veggies in my freezer so we can make them if we don't feel like cooking.  But it's not a long term solution.  For one thing, frozen food is really boring.  And there aren't a ton of vegetarian options out there, fewer options if you want vegan or low-points.  

The long-term solution is learning to plan ahead.  It's realizing when I start working out at 6:00, that I'm going to be hungry when I'm done at 7:00, so I should have something ready to go.  It's understanding what is in the fridge and what is in the pantry, and knowing how to combine that into a meal, and thinking ahead to go to the store if I'm missing something.

And most of all, it's knowing your wife well enough to know that while she's figured a lot of this out in her head, she's still struggling to put it into practice, so it's providing her with the tools she needs to not slip back into her old habits.

What can I say?  I married an incredible, awesome man that takes care of me!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Potato, Olive and Caper Pizza with Silken Tofu Sauce

Halfway through a lazy Saturday and a glass of iced tea on the porch, we started brainstorming some dinner ideas.

It went like this: "hey, what about pizza" - "okay, yes."

Brainstorming complete, we conceived of a pizza pie in our heads and set about to the task.

I had been leafing through How to Cook Everything Vegetarian because I have a recurring dream where Mark Bittman and I are stranded on an island together and we make earnest-yet-wry observations about everything. Like, maybe we'll eat a couple of these coconuts. Maybe a couple of coconuts would be nice.

Anyway, in the pizza section, I read: you can just put silken tofu on a pizza.

Memories of a tasty tofu-based artichoke dip burbled up, and my pizza muse sang true and clear: a singular vision of a pizza sauce, complete and savory appeared, as if in a dream.

We got our dough ready: Pizza dough is super unforgiving if you are not some kind of weird Napolitana fetishist.

I like to proof about a tablespoon of yeast (which I get in big Red Star bricks from Costco for some negligible price) in a cup of water as hot as my faucet can make it with a tablespoon of sugar. I use organic, certified vegan, carbon-neutral unrefined evaporated cane juice because of guilt issues that are best left unexamined.

You whisk this all together with a cup of bread flour (I use Gold Medal All Trumps, again, from Costco), and then go watch the first twenty minutes of an episode of The Closer with your wife.

When it burbles up, then stir in a hefty pinch of salt and a hearty glug of olive oil and stir with a dough whisk. This is a transformative piece of kitchen equipment for me - I am overly skeptical when it comes to kitchen devices, but this is like, the best six dollars you're ever going to spend on a kitchen tool.

Eventually, you're going to have around two and a half cups of flour in that cup of water, but the amount of flour you add depends on the heat, humidity, phases of moon, etc., so add a cup of flour, stir, then add a quarter cup of flour, stir, and then knead in the flour a couple of tablespoons at a time until it's smooth and wonderful.

Set this aside in a warm bowl swirled with the smallest drop of oil you can manage to pour out of your economy-sized Costco bottle of extra virgin olive oil.

In two hours, you've got dough; make a pizza with it.

Meanwhile, I simmered a couple of yukon gold potatoes in water until they were tender, and set them aside to cool.

When it's pizza time in the P.M., turn your oven on as hot as it will go (likely 500 F).

I used to have an unglazed quarry tile like a total bread snob, but I've become addled in my old age and anyway it cracked and I can't find one at the hardware store here so whatever, I use a pizza pan.

Spray on some cooking spray, dust with cornmeal and set aside.

I sliced up some black olives, spooned out some capers, and sliced up the potatoes.

Next: the sawse.

  • 1 block soft silken tofu
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • pinch red chile flakes
  • hefty pinch oregano
  • tsp garlic powder
  • tsp onion powder (I use toasted granulated from Penzey's)
  • 8-13 grinds black pepper
  • hefty pinch salt (to taste)
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • glug of olive oil

whiz this up in the food processor.

Okay, so, you stretch out a pie, shmear on half of this mixture, top with toppings, sprinkle with thyme, pepper, and salt, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious. Pull it out, slice it, and sprinkle with some walnut parmezan.

It was incredible.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stir-Fried Green Beans with Tofu Cutlets

My sojourn through the cookbook collection that inspired last week's stir-fry led to another adventure in wok cooking.

I picked up some reasonably priced green beans at the international grocery store, and that triggered a memory of a recipe from my copy of of Chinese Cooking, from the Time-Life Foods of the World collection.

It seemed easy enough, so to make the evening more complicated, I also cooked up some tofu cutlets inspired by

So I sliced a block of frozen/thawed extra-firm tofu and marinated it in some soy sauce, water, nutritional yeast, and sage. Usually when you freeze tofu and then thaw it out, it gets spongy and firms up a little.

If you are a lazy cook, like me, you might try to get away with just freezing a whole block of it in the package without carefully draining out all the water to avoid big ice crystals from wreaking havoc on the interior.

This time, it turned out a little mushy. The flavor was good, and of course the crunchy-fried breading turned out good, but next time I make cutlets I'm just gonna use tofu straight out of the box.

I sliced up a pound of green beans into two-inch hunks, opened a can of sliced water chestnuts, soaked and sliced my last three dried brown Chinese mushrooms, and mixed up a little corn starch slurry - just a teaspoon.

While the vegetables were getting excited, I dredged the tofu slices in a mixture of one part nutritional yeast to three parts white whole wheat flour with a heavy pinch of salt, and then sizzled them in a pan with some sunflower oil until they were golden brown and delicious.

Because stir-frying is high-impact stuff, no images exist of the process, only the delicious conclusion: green beans and mushrooms fried for two minutes, then seasoned with a little sugar, fried for two more minutes, then deglazed with a splash of stock and stirred with the water chestnuts, then combined with the corn starch slurry and stirred until glossy and magnificent.

It turned out to be a pretty good way of cooking green beans - as a result of my unusual childhood, I can really only enjoy green beans when they are just crisp-tender, and stir-frying is a super-easy way to achieve this prized texture.

Next time I would try it with different mushrooms, maybe canned straw mushrooms, or even some fresh oyster mushrooms (although I might just eat those by themselves, in the dark, off of a gold plate, in some kind of special oyster-mushroom-eating room).

I plated a couple slices of tofu with some beans and drizzled with sriracha.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Simple Black Bean Salad

I usually try to have a light lunch so I can have a bigger dinner.  But occasionally life will get in the way of my carefully planned menus, and dinner time will come around and I'll only have a few points left for the day.  What's a girl to eat?  Salad, that's what!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo this week, we decided on a Mexican-themed black bean salad.


We usually like to make our own dressing - you can experiment with different flavor combinations, depending on what is in the salad itself.  Generally, you want 1:1 ratio of acidic liquid, like citrus juice, to oil.  (Some people prefer 1:2, but I think that makes it too oily).  Then add whatever other flavors you want.  Since this was a Mexican salad, we decided to make it spicy with a chipotle pepper, and to balance the spice out with a little bit of sweet raspberry jam.

Juice of 1 lime & juice of 1 lemon (makes about 1/4 c. of juice)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 tsp. raspberry jam
pinch of salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, and blend away.  Makes about 1/2 cup of dressing.


2 c. baby spinach
1/4 c. Trader Joe's fire roasted corn
1/2 c. black beans
1/2 tomato
1/2 cucumber
2 Tbsp pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
1 Tbsp vegan parmesan (recipe coming later)
2 Tbsp dressing from above

Assemble like you would assemble any salad, and enjoy!

I'm learning that I really need to figure out points values before I eat.  This salad would have been great for a normal dinner, but because I was low on points, I really should have skipped the dressing.  Medium salsa would have worked as a quick substitution, and cut down on the points.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tempeh Tacos and Fiesta Cole Slaw

Matt had a craving for Mexican food, and we had some cabbage and tempeh that needed to be eaten, so the answer was naturally: tacos and cole slaw!
First, the cole slaw:

1/2 head of cabbage
2 carrots

Shred the cabbage and carrots - we used the shredding blade on the food processor, but you could also just chop them up, it would just take a little longer.

For the sauce

1/2 cup Nayonaise (or the vegan mayonnaise of your choice)
Juice of one lime
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. of ground Annatto seeds
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce to taste

Whisk the sauce together, then coat the cabbage/carrot mixture with it.  You're done!  If you have time, let it sit in the fridge for 20 minutes or so to let the flavors blend.

Makes a lot of servings, depending on the size of your cabbage.  We made about 12.

Now, the tacos:

8 oz. tempeh
2 Tbsp. canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 tsp. canola oil
2 oz. tomato paste
12 olives
2 green onions

Make up a batch of Crunchy Crumbled Tempeh from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman.  Drain the tempeh on a paper towl, and set aside.

Dice the onions and garlic and saute them in 1 tsp. oil (there will be some oil left in the pan after making the tempeh).  Add tomato paste and enough water to mix the paste in.  Stir in the tempeh.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until it's the consistency that you want.

Heat taco shells, and serve with cole slaw, olives, and green onions.

Makes 6 tacos

Camping Food

Matt and I spent Saturday night on Assateague Island off the Maryland coast.  If you grew up reading the Misty of Chincoteague series, you'll know Assateague as home to a herd of wild ponies, as well as many different sea birds. 

Traditional camping food tends to be pretty pointy and pretty meaty.  So it's a challenge to find plan food for a camping trip.  Breakfast is easy - we usually just have instant oatmeal and coffee.

We cooked dinner over the fire.  Getting a fire started was the hardest part.  I have distinct memories of my dad teaching me how to start fires, unfortunately, I don't actually remember what he said.  It also didn't help that the wood we bought from the park was damp.  After a few false starts and a drive into town to buy some fire starter, we finally got it going.

Dinner was Tofu Pups and Hobo Pies.  To make the Hobo Pies, we chopped up two potatoes and onions, and added enough oil to coat, and salt and pepper.  We wrapped them in heavy duty foil.  Normally we'd put it in the coals, but by the time we got the fire started, I was pretty hungry, so we set up a grill over the fire itself.  Once everything was cooked, we added ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut.

Still a little pointy, but hiking on a beach will earn enough activity points to make up for it, along with the beer.  Beer and hot dogs - I love that I can have food I love and not feel guilty about it!