Thursday, December 25, 2014

merry christmas!

At this time last year I was in my recliner watching A Christmas Story, unwrapping gifts, and sipping on my breakfast of Fuzzy Naval protein drink (BLECH!).  Oh, and suffering from a giant gas bubble from the CO2 they pumped into me during the surgery.  That was my whole day:  Christmas movies and protein drinks. No Christmas dinner and no family other than my husband and cats.

This year, I'm happy to report that I had one egg and two pieces of sausage for breakfast, I'll be able to eat Christmas dinner, and I'll see my family.  Bob has to work unfortunately, but we'll see each other later.

Max says, "Merry Christmas, everyone!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

happy one year surgiversary to me!

One year ago today I took a major step towards improving my health and well-being:  I had gastric bypass surgery.

At this time last year (around 7 am) I was in a hospital bed on the surgical floor waiting to be wheeled into surgery.  And I was STARVING!  I couldn't wait to be knocked out so I wouldn't be hungry anymore.   (I'm sure Bob couldn't wait either.)  Plus, I wanted to get going on the road to a thinner, healthier me.

Two weeks before surgery I had to do a pre-op diet.  The purpose was to help shrink my liver so they wouldn't have a problem getting to the organs underneath.  The first twelve days consisted of three protein shakes per day, one protein meal replacement bar, unlimited salad with fat-free dressing (whoopie! NOT!!), sugar-free Jello, sugar-free Popsicles, pickles, and fat-free broth.  The first few days were tough, but I quickly adapted to it.  Little did I know how tough the two-day pre-op liquid diet would be...

Surgery was on a Monday, so I had to spend the weekend before, the last two days of the pre-op diet, on a clear liquid diet:  sugar-free Jello, sugar-free Popsicles, fat-free broth, and disgusting protein drinks (not shakes).

Have you ever done a liquid diet before?  Do you know what it does to the mind?  Do you know what it does to your bathroom habits??  I was very hungry for most of the weekend .  Sunday morning I had a meltdown in the kitchen, because I was so hungry.  I felt bad afterwards, because Bob just didn't know what to do with me or for me.  What can you do when someone is that hungry, but can't eat, and is having a meltdown because of it?  He couldn't do the one thing that would make it better, which is to give me food.  I tried to keep busy, which is tough when food was my everything.  I went over my sister's house and drank a crap load of clear broth.  And remember I mentioned bathroom habits?  Let's just say that bowel movements don't cease just because you're not eating solid foods.  Imagine the other side of the 24-hour stomach bug, but everything down there is clear in color.  Yeah.  That was fun.  I was worried I wouldn't make it home from my sister's house without having to find a bathroom.  I made it just in time, though.  Anyway...

I went to my one-year post-surgery appointment last week.  A year later and I'm down 130 pounds so far.  I started at 343 lbs and I'm now 213 lbs.  My clothing sizes have gone from about 30/32 to 14/16.  4X down to XL.  Even my shoe size changed - I'm no longer a wide width.  I don't have sleep apnea anymore and I'm no longer pre-diabetic.  I can go all day, pretty much, and not get tired or have to sit down.  My knees don't bother me anymore.  I don't get winded going up the stairs.  I fit into a booth at a restaurant.  I don't have to scope out the whole room for a chair that I'll fit into.  I get full with one item from the dollar menu.  Actually, I couldn't even finish that one item last time I did that.

So, what kinds of problems have I had or do I have now?  No issues with any foods at all.  I don't ever throw up because a food doesn't agree.  Nitrates bothered me at first, but not anymore.  I've never gotten food stuck in my stomach.  I can only tolerate so much sugar, but that's probably a good thing.  I can't really tolerate alcohol, but that doesn't matter to me anyway.  I had some hair loss, but that's normal and it has stopped.  There were times when I cried because I couldn't have "just one more bite" of something.  (Weight loss surgery is really tough mentally.) I still struggle with taking too much food at one time.  Even though I know how much will fill me, I tend to load up my plate and waste a lot of it.  I have a lot of extra skin in my abdominal area.  I can exercise until the cows come home, but it's only going to help to a certain point.  Pants are a problem.  My waist is 14/16, but pants fit tightly because of the extra skin; if I buy a bigger size to accommodate the skin, the legs, hips and rear are too big. Unfortunately, that's the reality of what happens to the body when one loses weight and regains it several times over.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  Why wouldn't I want to use all the tools available to me in order to be healthy and feel good?  And that's what this is:  a tool.  It's not a magic pill.  I still had to work and will continue to work the rest of my life.  Although, when the weight just flies right off it's hard not to feel like it's magic.

My next goal?  To be under 200 lbs.

Monday, December 22, 2014

today's breakfast and lunch

Today I have a leftover boneless, skinless chicken thigh, which I made on Saturday.  Muenster cheese and peanuts for my snack.  And for breakfast I grabbed a couple sausage and goat cheese egg cups from the freezer.   I made a big batch of these a couple weekends ago and I grab a few when I want a quick breakfast.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

tonight's dinner

Tonight we had grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs marinated in teriyaki sauce (I used Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki).  On the side was Rice-a-Roni, Herb & Butter flavor (Oh how I miss having Rice-a-Roni all the time!).

I love using boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Although my favorite is breast meat, the boneless thighs are usually the perfect serving size.  I don't have to weigh it out or cut it in half like I do when I make boneless breast meat.  I know that one medium-sized thigh will fill me.  I go for the smallest one if I want a little of the side dish.  I like to put them in a freezer bag, pour some marinade in, and then freeze them.  That way when you thaw them, you can use them right away.  The marinade seems to penetrate a little more, also.

I had one thigh with a small scoop of rice.  I finished it all, but was very full.

Note:  I'm still using small salad plates for my food.  This is not a full size dinner plate.

Friday, December 19, 2014

mommy's little helper

This is what I get when I try to wrap gifts. 

today's lunch

Today's lunch is leftovers from yesterday's catered lunch at work. 

They had caterers come in and the executives had to serve us. It was pretty cool to see them all dressed in aprons and welding serving spoons.  They served roast beef, huge shrimp and cocktail sauce, stuffed shells, Caesar salad, green beans, roasted potatoes and carrots,  potato pancakes, rolls, dessert, fruit and chicken Francese.  I took a sample of everything except the shells and the beans. No dessert, either. Everything was delicious.As usual I took enough for three meals.  I find I still eat with my eyes. Although I know how much I can comfortably eat,  I tend to load my plate still.

I was lucky to be in the cafeteria today when they were putting out the leftovers.  I quickly grabbed some shrimp and some fruit. I made sure to tell my team right away so they could get some before all the vultures descended. It was funny to see people walking very quickly in an attempt to get to the shrimp before everyone else. There's something about office food that attracts people like nothing else.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

today's breakfast and lunch

I'm trying something different:  celery with chipotle hummus.

I've been in a rut.  I've been eating the same old thing for quite awhile and I need to stop.  I've been overloading on cheese, mostly.  It's a good snack, but it has a lot of calories and fat (I'm not a fat-free cheese kinda person).  Not to mention that it can be a little...binding..., if you know what I mean.

This week I bought some celery and hummus and I've been bringing it to snack on when I want something.  Mind you, I'm not hungry.  I just want to munch on something. Better this than cheese.  I wouldn't have thought of pairing the two had my good friend not served it to me during our visit.  (She made an awesome salad with grilled chicken and homemade dressing!)

So, here's my lunchbox for today:

  • Breakfast was a Dannon Light & Fit Greek blueberry yogurt.  I mixed in some dry roasted peanuts as usual. 
  • Lunch was some garlic & herb chicken breast and Virginia ham from Walmart.  I never thought I'd buy lunch meat at Walmart, but their Prima Della garlic & herb chicken breast is really good.  It doesn't bother my stomach either.
  • Snack was celery sticks and chipotle hummus.  The hummus has some zing!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

the week in review

Well, actually two weeks, but who's counting?

I started my new job on December 1.  I'm so happy to be done with my last job.  I was only there 10 months, but it was such a soul crushing experience.  I don't thing there's anything worse than having to get up and drive 45 minutes to a job you loathe and deal with a micromanaging boss.  When I went to see the psychologist shortly after I took the job, she said that I need to get out of that job because it would cause me to regain the weight I had lost.  I didn't regain, but I definitely stalled for a long.  I wanted to eat all the time while I was there.  Not only because I was trying to distract myself from the misery, but because that office was like a magnet for all kinds of food.  Bagels, Munchkins, chips, cookies, takeout, potlucks, pizza.  You name it, it made it's way to the office kitchen and into my mouth.  But at the new job, the cafeteria is down the hall and through two sets of doors.  I have to walk a fair distance just to get my lunch from the fridge.  So, I tend not to snack anymore.  Plus, I'm happy.  I don't feel the need to graze all day anymore.  As a result, my weight has started to go down again.

I visited my favorite cousin in Pennsylvania last weekend.  We saw an a cappella show, Straight No Chaser.  They were fantastic!  I strongly recommend seeing them if you like a cappella.  We also did some Christmas shopping and had a "jammies and movies" day.  That means we sat around in our pajamas all day and watched movies.  We watched The Notebook (my eyes were killing me for the rest of the day!), Slumdog Millionaire, Now You See Me, 42, and Chicago.  It was a great trip, but it went by way too fast.

My one year appointment with the bariatric surgeon is coming up next week.  I've lost 130 pounds in a year.  I wish I could have lost more than 30 pounds in the last six months, but it's still a a loss.  I have nothing to complain about:  I'm down to an XL/1X shirt size and a 14/16 pant/skirt size.  Now that I'm happier at work I will start losing again. In time I will make my goal.

Finally, we got our Christmas tree last night.  Apparently we don't know our way around yet, because we drove all over the place for a couple hours trying to find a place that sells trees.  We took one last chance and drove in the opposite direction.  Fifteen minutes later we had a tree!  Now it's time to drag out all the Christmas stuff...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

today's breakfast

Since it's the weekend, I decided to make an omelet with a side of MorningStar Farms Veggie Sausage.

Omelets just aren't the same since I had the bypass.  It tastes the same, but a one-egg omelet is a very different animal from a three-egg omelet:  it doesn't fluff up as much, one has to be very careful when cooking it and flipping it, and it has to constantly be watched because it cooks very fast.  I also have to be careful about how much filling I put in it.  If I put too much cheese or meat in it, that means I don't have as much room in my stomach for a piece of veggie sausage.  And that's true with any meal; it's a balancing act.

I added a wedge of Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Garlic & Herb cheese.  I've started using the Laughing Cow cheese wedges more often:  they're only 35 calories a wedge and one wedge covers 5 Ritz crackers or fills a one-egg omelet.  There's also 2g of protein. I always need more protein.  And they taste great.

I had a breakfast companion today.  Max sat on the big Amazon box next to my desk, while I enjoyed my omelet.  He was a good boy and didn't try to snag a bite.  Unlike his brother...

Monday, December 8, 2014

dinner: ham and potato casserole

I made this casserole last week.  It was very easy and I had all the ingredients on-hand, something that almost never happens to me.  Actually, I had another recipe, but it called for a few things I didn't have, like sour cream and Velveeta cheese.  When I looked at the second recipe, it called for making a cheese sauce from scratch, but I had all the ingredients.  I decided that making a cheese sauce wasn't hard and it was probably not quite as caloric as the first recipe.

It came out really good and didn't take long at all.  It took longer to heat up than it did to make the cheese sauce and put it together.

I had just one scoop.  I try not to eat too many carbs, like potatoes and bread, but they're kind of hard to avoid with this casserole.  You just have to decide that one serving won't derail you and stick to it.

Recipe below.

Ham and Potato Casserole

1 32 oz. bag of frozen diced hash brown potatoes 
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped fully cooked ham
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups 2% milk (or whatever you have)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp spicy brown mustard (more if you want a stronger flavor)
8 ounce package of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs, optional
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray a 9 X 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the ham and onion.  Cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir potatoes into ham mixture and then transfer to the baking dish.
  5. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk flour into melted butter until smooth. Cook for about 1 minute, whisking a couple times.  
  6. Gradually whisk milk into flour mixture.  Season with salt and black pepper. Add the mustard Continue cooking and whisking until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in Cheddar cheese until melted.
  8. Pour sauce over ham and potatoes.
  9. If desired, sprinkle bread crumbs and more cheddar cheese over the top.
  10. Bake uncovered until sauce is bubbly and browned, about 30 minutes.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

cold protein plate

I've been running out of lunch and dinner ideas lately.  I'm getting pretty tired of cheese and crackers, egg cups, or Greek yogurt.  I can eat many different things, I just tend to always buy or make the same stuff because it's easy and fast.  But I decided to be different.

I made cracked pepper turkey tenderloins over the weekend and had a lot left over, so I figured I'd slice it up for dinner earlier this week and eat it cold .  The tenderloins came from Aldi and were pre-seasoned.  They were very good.  I added some cheddar and pepper jack cheeses (I always have tons of cheese in the house) and some dry roasted peanuts.  It was a nice easy dinner and it had lots of protein.  I finished most of it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

dinner: turkey tenderloins

Last weekend I made Fit & Active Cracked Pepper Turkey Breast Tenderloins.  I bought them from Aldi and they were pre-seasoned.  Best part is they were only $5.95 for a package of two.  If you've had turkey tenderloins before, you know they're big.  Not like chicken tenderloins.

I baked them in the oven and made a pasta dish for the side.  It was such an easy meal and the tenderloins were very good.  A tad on the spicy side because of the black pepper, but I was fine with that.

Have you ever bought meat at Aldi before?  I go there quite often now that I live closer to one.   I have no idea why, but they seem to have really good meat and the prices are almost always lower than most grocery stores. Their sirloin strip steaks I find to be much better than what I get at the regular grocery store, and it costs less. Plus, each steak in individually vacuum-packed.

This was my dinner.  I had about a 4 oz. portion of turkey with a little of the pasta.  I wasn't able to finish all the turkey.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

headed to amish country with banana cupcakes

Tomorrow I'm driving to Pennsylvania to visit my favorite cousin.  We're going to see an a cappella show, Straight No Chaser, and also plan to do some Christmas shopping.  There's also a pajama day in there somewhere.

I love going to my cousin's house.  I look forward to it months ahead of time, kind of like a kid at Christmas.  Not only because she's my favorite and she has lots of hotel shampoos I like to raid, but because it's like hanging out with my mom.  And I mean that as a huge compliment (hopefully she feels the same way when she reads this).  She's very much like my mom:  she has a great sense of humor, likes to have fun, always has something comforting to say, and is more like a friend with a bit of mom-ness mixed in.

Every time I go to visit I bring her favorite:  banana cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.  Although lately I make cupcakes instead.  It's easier and less time-consuming.  This time is no exception.  The cupcakes are traveling with me right now, actually.  As a matter of fact, I purposely timed this post so that she'll know the cupcakes are coming and her anticipation will build throughout the day. :)

Anyway, this is the recipe I use for banana cake.  No one has ever said anything bad about it.  Even people who don't usually like banana cake seem to like it.  I usually make them and then freeze them.  They freeze very well and they also travel well.  This buttercream really doesn't need refrigeration.  Obviously if it's a mega hot day, they should go in the fridge.  And I wouldn't keep them out for a week.  But a couple days is perfectly fine.

Dawn's Banana Cake
Makes 2 - 8 inch round layers (12 servings) or about 36 cupcakes 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
  2. Grease and flour 2 - 8 inch round pans. 
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, soda and salt; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pans.  (I use Wilton Cake Release.  Awesome stuff!  But it's NOT calorie-free.)
  6. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean.  (Sorry, I forgot to time it!)  
Note:  For something really delicious, add a bag of chocolate chips.  Yum!  You could also add nuts if you want to.  

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (shortening-based)
This recipe frosts 2 – 10 inch cakes that have been torted into a total of 4 layers, plus some left over for decorating.  It generally will not melt or soften.  It holds up well.

1 2 lb bag of 10x confectioner’s sugar; sift if it's too lumpy
1 stick of salted butter, softened
2 ½ cups regular vegetable shortening 
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. vanilla (use clear vanilla from the craft store if pure white frosting is desired)
¾ cup milk

  1. Mix the salt and vanilla into the milk.  DO NOT ADD THE SALT AFTER MIXING THE FROSTING!  If you add it at the end, you will taste a sharp “bite”.
  2. Cream together the shortening and butter.
  3. Alternately add the milk mixture and confectioners' sugar into the shortening mixture.
  4. Mix until well combined and not lumpy.
If you want a stiffer frosting, add more confectioners' sugar or less liquid.  For the liquid you can use anything from skim milk to half and half.  I usually use 1% milk.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

pumpkin bites

This year for Thanksgiving I made something different for dessert:  pumpkin bites.  Normally I make stuffed mushrooms as a dinner side dish and brownies for dessert, but I was tired of making those things.  Plus, ever since King Arthur Flour stopped selling natural cocoa, my brownies recipe just isn't the same anymore.

I got the pumpkin bite recipe from a former coworker.  They're so easy, delicious, and moist.  You mix a box of yellow cake mix, a can of pumpkin (not the pie filling), and a bag of chocolate chips.  Bake in a mini muffin tin and that's it.  I Googled it to see where the recipe actually originated and found it's a Dunkin Hines recipes, although theirs called for spice cake mix instead of yellow.

Although these bites taste good as-is, I wanted to add something to give it a little more pumpkin flavor.  I decided to add some pumpkin pie spice.  The result was delicious!  I'm thinking that instead of a can of pumpkin, I could use a can of pumpkin pie filling, omit the pumpkin pie spice, and get the same result.  I haven't tried it though, so it's just a guess.

The recipe makes about 36 pumpkin bites using a mini muffin tin.

I can eat two of these without any issues from the sugar.

Pumpkin Bites

1 box yellow cake mix
1 can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 bag of chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Prepare a mini muffin tin.  I use either Pam butter flavored cooking spray or Wilton Cake Release.
  3. Mix the cake mix, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice until combined.  Batter will be thick.  
  4. Add the chocolate chips and stir.
  5. Spoon about a tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a bites comes out clean.

Monday, December 1, 2014

skinny syrups: mocha flavor

I went out last weekend and stopped at Home Goods.  I had a gift card I needed to spend and after getting the few things I needed, I still had funds left over.  I visited the food section (I seem to have an obsession with looking at and shopping for gourmet and specialty foods) and found that they carry Torani Sugar Free Syrups.  But I also noticed another sugar-free brand for about $3.00 less per bottle:  Skinny Syrups.  They had Mocha and Peppermint Mocha flavors so I grabbed one of each.

I decided to make a Mocha protein shake.  I made my shake as usual:  4 oz. milk (2% this time), 4 oz. water, 2 scoops of chocolate Bariatric Advantage protein powder, and three ice cubes.  I also added about 1 tablespoon of the mocha Skinny Syrup.  I put it in my bullet blender.

I was expecting more mocha flavor and this just didn't deliver for me.  Really, all it did was make the shake sweet.  I tasted very little mocha.  I'm wondering if it would have worked better using the vanilla protein powder.  But mocha is chocolate and coffee flavors mixed, so I would expect it to taste like mocha when mixed into chocolate protein powder.  I'll try it again and see what happens.  If there's no improvement I'll have to toss this bottle of syrup.