Posts Tagged ‘Cooking for One’

My Christmas Crockpot

April 20, 2013
My Christmas Crockpot

My Christmas Crockpot

My daughter says that she and I both have minds like steel traps. According to her, there still is a huge difference between the two of us. Her trap is set to capture new concepts and ideas and my trap is sprung so it locks out everything new to me.

This discussion started a few years ago when she first tasted my coffeepot cooking including, Caribbean, Indian and Thai cooking. Her comment then was, “You could pick-up woman by cooking for them if you get rid of the weird factor of cooking in your coffeepot.” Of course my granddaughters reinforced the weird factor because all their friends at school told them that I was weird for cooking in my coffeepot.

Well of course I told my daughter and granddaughters, that crackpots were all the wrong size; I couldn’t find one that would safely work for my needs, and I was not going back to cooking monster meals.

Naturally, my daughter Dagny just ignored me and found a proper size (2 to 2 1/2 quart) Crockpot for Christmas. By proper size, I mean it holds pretty much the same amount of fluid as my 12 cup coffeepot so there is no temptation to super-size a meal. Over the past few months I have been checking it out and there are good and bad features compared to coffeepot cooking.

On the negative side, it has poorer temperature control than my coffeepot. When cooking a meal all day, the coffeepot will pretty much hold 165 degrees Fahrenheit and not change. With an aluminum foil cover it gets to 190. When set on low temperature, the crockpot varies considerably and will boil liquid after several hours. On high, it will actually scorch some foods. You have to pay closer attention to cooking times, When the food is done in the Crockpot, turn it off. The coffeepot is an excellent slow cooker and it is still at low enough temperature to act as a warmer. I used a Kill-A-Watt to measure the cost of electricity for cooking a meal and the Crackpot costs about twice as much to do the job compared to the coffeepot.

On the positive side it is much easier to get a pot roasted chicken out of the Crockpot because of the wider opening than the coffeepot. If you get stupid and stir the pot with a heavy metal spoon, you are less likely to break the ceramic pot than a glass coffeepot. Of course it is still easier to see when the glass pot is clean than it is to see when your black ceramic pot is clean.

Still my friends and family, male and female, are glad to see that I am conforming with societies values and using a standard tool of the kitchen rather than “abusing” my coffeepot. All things considered, I believe this is the best possible Crockpot when cooking portion controlled meals for one or two people. However, when warming things that probably don’t need to be cooked yet might scorch (Kielbasa and Baked Beans), I will use my coffeepot to warm them up especially if I don’t have time to watch the pot.

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Kidney Stew, I Am My Mother’s Son!

July 8, 2012

Kidney Stew

I like Kidney Stew because my mother liked Kidney Stew. My brother and sister hated it and when we were poor under fed kids which was the last time I was underfed in my life until I adapted my new lifestyle of portion controlled meals, this was the only meal where I actually got enough meat to eat.

Seems, my sister and brother hated kidneys so bad that I could trade one piece of carrot or one potato for a couple of pieces of their kidneys. So I ended up with all their meat and still retained some of my potatoes and carrots. When I mention that I still make kidney stew, and have actually ordered kidneys in mustard sauce as an appetizer, it just confirmed to them that I am still nuts. Well, Mom lived to be 93 years old with her mind still functioning so she must have been doing something right with her diet.

The recipe is a standard stew recipe with a few adaptations to make allow for cooking in my coffeepot. The single biggest one being to stew the kidneys n olive oil and rum for a couple of hours to tenderize them and avoid that rubbery texture you can get when you cook kidneys too fast at high temperatures.

Ingredients:

1 T Butter
1 T flour

2 Potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
2 Carrots coined
1 tsp salt
6 cups water

1 pound kidneys (trim off all the fat and cut into bite sized pieces)
1 T crushed garlic or 3 cloves minced
1 onion rough cut
1 oz Rum
2 T olive oil
2 stalks of celery cut into small pieces
1 bay leaf
1 beef bullion cube
12 oz of water

Method:

1. Let the butter come to room temperature then mix in the flour until a smooth paste. Let sit at room temperature until needed.

2. Wash then peal the potatoes or not, it’s your choice. Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces.

3. Wash then slice carrots into coined pieces.

4. Add carrots and potatoes to coffeepot with salt and pass about 6-8 cups of clean water through the coffeemaker.

5. When done, cover with foil and cook covered for about 2 hours until soft.

6. While waiting, all of the fat has to be cut off the kidneys prior to cooking. This is a tedious process so go slowly until you get the knack of it. Cut the kidneys into bite sized pieces

7. When done drain the potatoes and carrots and set aside.

8. Add the kidneys,onions, garlic, olive oil, rum, bay and celery to the pot.

9. Cook covered for 2-4 hours, until tender.

10. Add bullion to the pot and then pass the 12 ounces of water through the coffeemaker.

12. When water is done steaming mix it into the flour and water mixture in the bowl until you get a smooth gravy.

13. Add the carrots and potatoes to the pot and return the gravy to the coffeepot. Cook covered for a couple more hours.

If you like kidneys, you will love kidney stew. If you have never tried it, they are very inexpensive to cook and you just may like them. They are in the same texture and flavor range as beef liver. For me, they also bring back fond memories of my Mother.

Is Over Eating a Cure for Chronic Pain?

July 2, 2012

Subjective Pain Measurement Scale

For the past 16 days, I monitored everything I ate with regards to my pain level. Anyone suffering from either chronic pain, back pain or specific joint pain has been introduced to the concept of the happy face pain scale and the one I am most familiar with was the scale that runs from one to ten. Of course this is a very subjective measurement but then pain is a subjective concept. What bothers you, may not bother me at all.

I started exploring the concept of the Inflammation Factor Diet when my pain level was consistently an eight last winter and it was starting to damage my sense of humor. The first thing I found when trying to work with Inflammation Factors was that some of the food ratings were counter intuitive with tomato products bouncing all over the place between good and bad and Turkey and chicken legs being inflammatory but chicken breast being good. All this was just too much for me to remember until I discovered my list of five spices that fight inflammation. Using the five spices in combination and at normal amounts, almost guarantees that your Inflammation factor will be positive by over 1000. Of course, I took some days and nights off from spicy food to grill outside so my daily Inflammation Factor from Nutritiondata.self.com wandered between negative 246 and a positive 2327 when I totaled all the foods I ate for the day.

Except for a few foods like beer and candy, most foods seem to have a greater impact on the following day’s pain levels especially since I ate my primary meal at night and this had my higher spice loading. As a scientist, I am familiar with multiple linear regression and so I checked the values of pain for both the current day and the following day with calories, protein, Inflammation Factor and Carbohydrates as the dependent variables.

The results were incredible but not what I expected. First these variables correlated much better for the following day’s pain so there is a delay factor for eating and adsorbing all of the food value. The effect of protein and carbohydrates were minuscule and ignoring them did not change the correlation coefficient significantly. This was actually surprising because there is an awful lot published about high protein diets being important in fighting chronic pain. Over my 16 day period, I ate a fairly decent low calorie diet which was well balanced and averaged about 95 grams of protein per day (range, 54 to131) and about double that for carbohydrates, 187 grams (range, 133 to 307). The highest carbohydrate day came from a modest sugar candy binge.

Two variables were able to explain about 75% of the reduction on low pain days. It appears that in my body pain is a continuous state of affairs and that increasing my Inflammation Factor in a positive way is accompanied by a slight decrease in pain. Since I already like, cook and eat spicy foods, it would seem that my primordial instinct was already at work protecting me. The totally unexpected and even dangerous result is that there is a five times greater impact from the calories I consume. So eating more has a therapeutic effect on reducing pain.

Since I had my disc replacement surgery, I have been cussing my doctors for messing up my back and causing me a severe increase in pain which occurred the winter after my operation. It would now appear that I caused my own increase in pain by greatly reducing the calories I consumed each day to lose weight.

What had not occurred to me, was the pain got more sever as I ate fewer calories and dropped from obese to overweight to near normal in weight. It got so bad I complained to my daughter and her only comment was does it hurt when I walked? Yes! Does it hurt when I don’t walk? Yes!. Then stick to the diet, stop complaining and keep walking. Her logic was that being lighter and physically fit had to be a lot easier on my joints, than than being obese.

It seems the opposite is true: overeating helps mitigate chronic pain.

Go figure, another counter intuitive result but this one could have dangerous consequences if I give up on a pain free diet and revert to overeating as I had in the past.

Coffeepot Lasagna: Oxymoron or Good Eating?

June 23, 2012

Rolled Lasagna: Coffeepot Style

When my parents started getting older, it seemed that all they wanted to talk about was the weather and their grandchildren. Now the first topic is boring and there is not much I can do about it, but I must admit that I spend a lot of time talking to my children about their wonderful and sometimes not quite so wonderful children. I also spend a significant amount of time talking to my children about business, exercise (their’s and mine) and cooking.

My daughter discovered a recipe for rolled lasagna in early April and was concerned that it was not quite perfect. We talked about it and it sounded like something that could be done in my coffeepot but I didn’t get around to it until just before Memorial Day and have been too busy since then with my anti-inflammatory diet to worry about publishing new recipes.

However, I get two of my three Granddaughters for the first three weeks in August and this is another one of those fun meals that shouldn’t be possible to make. Even the name Coffeepot Lasagna sounds like an oxymoron. One of the most important things I learned with his meal is that you can cook the whole box of lasagna noodles and the ones that you don’t use can be frozen between layers of wax-paper and are perfectly fine for another day.

Naturally, my daughter and I never cook anything exactly the same way. She tends to be aware and adapt to the contemporary interpretations of old recipes and I tend to do it the old-fashioned way. It’s all good. When I cook, she loves it. When she cooks, I love it. The biggest difference in this recipe is that she included crumbled cooked sausage in her cheese mix for the filling, I sliced cooked meatballs and made it a layer on top of the filling. If I were including sausage, which I have in the past, I slice it and include it with the meatball slices or in a separate layer. Oh well, to each their own.

Rolled Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 egg
4 oz shredded Mozzarella
handful fresh parsley minced

3 Lasagna noodles cooked as per box directions.

Method:

1. Cook all the noodles and freeze the ones you don’t use between sheets of wax paper.

2. Microwave one portion of frozen meatballs for the appropriate amount of time.

3. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

Spread the Cheese Mix on the Lasagna Noodles

4. Spread the cheese mix on the noodles.

5. Place the sliced cooked meatballs on top of the noodles and dab a little sauce on top of everything.

6. Roll and spike with toothpick to hold.

7. Put a little sauce in bottom of coffeepot so nothing sticks.

Cooked Rolled Lasagna

8. Place meatballs inside and cook for two to four hours.

9. Enjoy

I haven’t made this in the three years since Dolores died but I am definite I will make it when my granddaughters are here. Truth be told, I forgot to dab the sauce on top of the cheese and meatball layer before rolling because it’s been too long, but that is the traditional way to do it.

Ah, I remember it well!

Everything from Soup to Nuts – Spicy Foods in the Old World and Asia

June 22, 2012

Italian Pumpkin Soup

When I used to visit Aunt Adel, she used to prepare a six course Italian meal described by her as “Everything from Soup to Nuts.” Now any one of the courses could have been a meal unto itself but if you were really Italian, which I was not, you learned to pace yourself, which I did not. 

I never much thought about the purpose of each course and why some foods were alleged to go together until I first started thinking about the Inflammation Factor and healthy anti-inflammatory spices. Now as I mentioned before on the post on pumpkin soup, the addition of a chicken breast and some carrots makes this a hearty meal and since pumpkin is still on sale, I decided to check it out and find out how healthy it was.

I went to the Nutritionaldata site to check for the calories, protein, carbohydrates and Inflammation Factor for each ingredient including a chicken breast and carrots. I added up the totals for everything in the pot and was amazed at how healthy this soup really is and how high the anti -inflammatory qualities are. The results have been divided in two to reflect that the pot holds enough food for two people or two meals.

Calories 319
Protein 46
Carbohydrates 30
Inflammation Factor 709

Now this is a very impressive balanced low calorie anti-inflammatory meal, just the type I wanted to experiment with on my detox. Since I never do anything half way, I added fresh grated ginger, hot pepper and celery and more than doubled the anti-inflammatory properties without altering the other values by much.

I begin to see the concept of “Soup to Nuts” when I checked the anti-inflammatory properties of Almonds which Aunt Adel traditionally served at the end of the meal and found out they also had a positive influence. The concept would appear to be that if the meal started with and ended with foods high in anti-inflammatory properties, you could indulge in whatever you liked in the middle courses.

Pinto bean Curry

This new knowledge got me to thinking about other old world foods so I checked on some Indian Recipes while searching for a vegan recipe. The pinto bean recipe was also an original Indian recipe and unmodified by me as I don’t know enough about Indian Foods to alter the spice blends, but “I know what I like.” Once again I was utterly amazed at how high the anti-inflammatory properties are.

Calories 586
Protein 19
Carbohydrates 82
Inflammation Factor 1141

I guess in the old days, the people of the world did not have the luxury of picking and choosing what they were going to eat and just ate whatever was available to survive. To compensate for what might be the ill effects of refined flour and white rice, they just added spices and balance to the meals and got on with their lives. In many of these cultures, people live longer than Americans despite drinking too much wine and eating refined grains and starches so, I guess spices could be important.

In my mind, the jury on anti-inflammatory foods is still out but I intend to monitor what I naturally eat for the next year and make my decision after I go through a winter where my level of aches and pains traditionally increases.

Spices and the Inflammation Factor

June 16, 2012

Spicy Fish and Baked Potato

I decided this week when I went on my occasional detox for 2 weeks and 2 days to not only drop all wine but to completely modify my diet to see if I could reduce my aches and pains. I know I like what I eat and I have settled on a fairly healthy diet of whole grains, potatoes with the skins on, vegetables, fruits and fish and chicken. I also like spicy food. There is a cute tool over at Nutrition Data, which allows you to track, carbs protein, calories and the total Inflammation Factor for the days consumption.

Pretty much like most people, I eat what’s available and what I crave. I found my consumption of fruits and vegetables is fairly constant so my carbohydrate loading is 150 to 230 grams and I am not likely to change until next winter when fruit is less abundant. I intentionally eat a high protein diet as it is necessary to feed by brain and body for my manic lifestyle so that is not gonna change. The range is 73 to 127 because I like vegan foods once in awhile and that might actually be a little low. Hence, the only number I can focus on is the Inflammation Factor and I am doing pretty good at maximizing but prior to my detox, I was not consistent as I varied from about -300 which is bad to plus 2000.

The concept is that by avoiding foods that rise your Inflammation Factor level, your joints and body will ache less. This diet has not been well received because meats, dairy, fruits vegetables, whole grains and beans vary all over the place, sometimes in a counter intuitive fashion. The huge variation in my diet came not from what I ate but from the spices I used and this I found comforting.

In my heart I know that poor people will eat whatever is available on the prior list without being cave men or vegans and the biggest difference is that people in the poorer nations will use more spices. I tend too look at the foods we chose to eat  as those that heal us, those that are habits and those that are available. I believe that the use of spices and cooking evolved at about the same time and that spices were included in meals to solve some problem know by the Village Shaman.

I do suffer back pains and have suffered chronic pain in the past and the naturally chosen spices on my list seem to top the scale for positive Inflammation Factor and are allegedly helping me. So I did a search of Top Ten Spices for many nutritionists  and compiled a list of the 30 because there was little consensus in the area. After researching those spices and searching for the highest anti-inflammatory properties The following ones were the only ones that could counteract a day of bad eating with enough positive value to turn the whole day positive while using reasonable quantities.

Spice                             Quantity                          Inflammation Factor.

Fresh Ground Ginger    1 Tablespoon                             903
Hot Pepper                       1/2 tsp                                 740
Turmeric                       1 Teaspoon                              508
Crushed Garlic             1 Tablespoon                             500
Onion                             1 medium                               257

It amazed me that their was only one person, Dr. Jeremy Webster, had the most agreement with all the other experts and also got all five spices and herbs with the greatest anti-inflammatory properties correct. He had the best records of anyone for compiling a Top Ten List as most agreed with him in general more than they agreed with each other. Unfortunately, I already had these five items on my list of good stuff so got nothing else for my efforts except that Cinnamon with is almost neutral on the negative side for IF factor made everybody’s top ten list except mine. I rarely use it but I guess I’ll start.

Duck Rack and Fish placed on Grill with Baked Potatoes

The picture above is the setup for me grilling spicy fish on my duck rack because I forgot to show it last time and it is a easy way to grill fish fillets. The anti-inflammatory properties of the two Grilled Spicy Tilapia fillets is an incredible 1944 because I eat all the spices and always have. The first time I tried it because my daughter told me about a similar meal with fewer spices and I just liked the idea after adding a few more of my favorite spices.

I never knew that tasting good could be good for me, but I’m learning.

Fish is Brain Food – Fact or Fiction??

May 19, 2012


Salt Fish Marinara (Baccala alla Marinara)

My mother always said fish was brain food and ate a lot of fish. She snacked on sardines and tuna and loved any fish we caught and cooked it for herself if no one else wanted fish. She died at the age of 93 with her brain still functioning and her wit and wisdom intact. I eat a lot of Fish because I like it.

When I first started my lifestyle change, I went to a nutritionist who also supported the consumption of large amounts of fish and the use of a fish oil supplement for improved cardiovascular health and this was definitely not a problem for me. Now that I have been living my new life style for two and a half years I am satisfied with my weight and excercise program so I have started to focus on what I eat. Unfortunately, fish has a tendency to concentrate the highly toxic environmental pollutant methyl mercury. Methyl Mercury is so toxic that a few drops on the outside of a scientist’s protective rubber glove which was cleaned and disposed of instantly still caused death within five days by skin adsorption.

Around 2000, the FDA and EPA put out a joint advisory that women who wanted to get pregnant, were pregnant or lactating should stop eating fish. Many did and the results proved my mom knew what she was talking about. Seems that scientist found a benifit for children of women who ignored the warning and continued to consume ocean fish. Their children had advanced cognitive and motor skill development compared to the children of women who skipped fish in the diet. Moreover, resent research reports from the University of California at Berkley document that eating fish can play a positive role in mental health. Some interesting preliminary studies suggest that fish oil, usually in the form of supplements because they are easy to use in research, may be of some help in treating bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) and schizophrenia.

I never stopped eating fish as the probability of me being pregnant or lactating is remote and at least two (anchovies and tilapia) of the four fish that I regularly eat are low in mercury. I am not too worried about the high mercury level in ahi tuna as I can’t afford to eat it very often. The other fish I love has been worshiped in a bawdy calypso song by the Mighty Sparrow.

Saltfish,
Nothing in the world sweeter than
Saltfish
English, colloquial, Bajans
Saltfish,
It’s sweeter than meat
When you want to eat
All saltfish sweet

If you look up the health benefits of saltfish, people who are not familiar with cooking or eating this fish condemn it for it’s high salt content. If you check Mediterranean or Caribbean Recipes, you find the salt is extracted from the meat over 24 hours with multiple water washes and you sometimes have to add flavor to the pot because all the salt has been removed.

The meal pictured above was actually closer to my Perfect Puttanesca because after washing the saltfish, it had very little flavor. You don’t lose the protein or oil by soaking the fish just the salt. Since I was just starting the meal, I used the following ingredients to build more flavor.

Ingredients:

Tablespoon extra virgin Olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
1 large yellow onion -diced
Thin slice scotch bonnet hot pepper or crushed red pepper to taste
3-4 thin pieces of anchovies the size you get on pizza -diced
1 sprig basil with leaves
1 fresh bay leaf
T capers
Can of diced tomatoes.
4 to 6 ounces of well washed saltfish

Method:

1. The oil, garlic, onion, anchovies pepper, bay and basil are placed together in the coffee pot and and sautéed for about two hours
2. The capers are added to the pot along with the can of tomatoes. Stir and let cook 2-4 hours
3. About 1 hour before dinner, add the saltfish.
Serve with Pasta

A final thought is that all saltfish is not created equal. The three main variety of fish are Ling, Cod and Alaskan Pollock. Ling and Cod have high mercury levels so Alaskan Pollock is the preferred choice. Even at that, the recommended amount of Ling and Cod is no more than 12 ounces of fish per week I eat 4 to 6 ounces of saltfish about once a month so I guess it really wouldn’t matter which one I chose. Given that they are all available and all about the same price, I guess I’ll stick with Alaskan Pollock.

What does it take to Lose 101 Pounds? My Story!

May 12, 2012

Eric over at Health Demystified is young and serious and trying to save the world from the ill effect of obesity with a free product. More importantly in my mind one of the obese people he is trying to save is his father and he deserves all the help he can get. At my advanced age, I am not sure that there is a single product that would help people lose weight, and even if it were free, I’m not sure how many people would use it because of all the negative uses of the word free on the Internet.

However, his knowledge, sincerity and hard work make me want to help him so I took the time to assess what were the principle reasons I achieved a lifestyle change starting in 2010 which led to my 101 pound weight loss and as of today I am now stable around 173 pounds with a 37 inch waste when measured above the belly button. A waist above 40 inches is just as deadly as obesity and I have been as high as 57 inches at my peak weight of 265 pounds.

I apologize for the length of this post, but the following text described the knowledge gained from forty years of dieting and 3 years of lifestyle changes.

There are only a few elements to consider for a permanent weight loss and perhaps hundreds of ways to focus on them. Any holistic plan to achieve a permanent drop in weight from life threatening obesity must address all of the key issue and recognize where weight loss information is being compromised usually for commercial purposes. At the simplest level, your weight is governed by the calories you eat and drink and the amount of physical work you do. There are no magic drugs, exercises or food plans. When it comes to calories and the fat in your body, “in minus out equals accumulated weight.”

The biggest problem with this simple wisdom is that on the short term it doesn’t seem to work as our body fights our erratic behavior and tries to maintain stability. Up to a point, fat is good to provide energy when, and if, there are lean periods of reduced consumption or periods of increased activity. Yet if we eat or drink too much and exercise too little, there is no instantaneous weight gain because our body will get rid of those excess calories in our body waste. Eventually gluttony wins the battle and new fat is added to our body and a new higher weight plateau is reached.

Likewise, the reverse of the process is not instantaneous. Going to the gym without a lifestyle change probably won’t alter your weight very much. While exercise is an excellent lifestyle change to help you control the weight you are at and increase longevity, the results would be more realistically evaluated with a tape measure, a mirror and your wardrobe.

There is a very good reason to be concerned about your appearance beyond vanity. The chances of health problems double with people who have a big belly even if they have “normal weight”. Measured just above the belly button, a man should be below 40 inches and 36″ is the recommended size. For a woman to sustain good health, she should be below 35 inches and 31″ is recommended.

There is also no magic solution to shedding belly bulge. It simply involves eating and drinking less and exercising more but the gym alone won’t shed weight. An hour of moderate workout in the gym will burn about 300 calories and it would take about twelve days to lose a pound if eating and drinking habits remained the same. Even at this modest rate of loss, most grossly overweight or obese people are only capable of light exercise so they would have to workout for two hours every day to lose a pound in twelve days unless they reduce food consumption.

At 265 pounds with a 57 inch waist, I was too ashamed to go to a gym so I purchased a treadmill which I hated because I was bored to tears. I used it and controlled my drinking and eating and dropped to 225 pounds but was still bored to tears because the only way for me to cut back on food and alcohol was to cut back on socializing. My weight drifted all over the place because of my lack of commitment to a lifestyle change. When I started on my current path in December of 2009, I was 245 pounds and had a 47 inch waist, which was still in the deadly zone because of both waist size and obesity.

Now I am a cautious person and I never make a commitment without understanding everything about the nature of the endeavor. For me, a person should know enough about obesity to understand that obesity is not just about the length of time a person will live, it is also about the general quality of life and the ability to participate in family events. Also, the chance of a slow, lingering and painful death increases with weight. Morbid obesity is associated with a substantially increased risk of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

The hardest first step for an obese person is to accept they have real issues. When I was morbidly obese, I didn’t know anything about obesity, Body Mass Index (BMI) or a slow and lingering death and in the case of obesity, ignorance is bliss. I didn’t even own a scale. I got weighed on the doctors scale and at work so was generally aware of my weight range. The two issues which had the highest impact on family life bothered my wife and I different ways. Above 235 pounds, breathing became an issue and it stopped me from having an active sex life which didn’t seem to bother my wife very much. The issue which bothered her was sleep apnea.

Dolores had been trained as a nurse and my father had died from sleep apnea where he simply stopped breathing in his sleep at age 71. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder with abnormal long pauses in breathing during sleep. Individuals with low muscle tone and soft tissue around the airway (jowls because of obesity) are at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Old male couch potatoes, with jowls and weak muscles, are more likely to have sleep apnea than women and Dolores was worried about me.

So at that point in time, I got a scale and an education on obesity. Health problems relative to normal people start occurring almost instantly as people move outside the normal weight range. At the extreme of morbid obesity (BMI over 40; or for me 262 pounds at 68 inches tall), the odds of incurring any health care problem is twice as often and the cost goes up with the amount of excess weight. The penalty for morbid obesity is about $3000 per year more in medical bills than for a normal person. Only 2% to 3% of the nation is in this special group but I qualified.

It didn’t take me long to learn enough to abuse science. From the studies and BMI charts, I found that I only had to drop to Class 1, Obesity at a BMI of 30 to shed about 3/4 of my health problems and costs. Also the drop in weight led to an improved sex life. The problem of sleep apnea occasionally remained as I bounced around in a range between 220 and 240 but moistly above 230. This meant every time I did binge level eating or drinking and gained a couple of pounds, the sleep apnea returned. As long as Dolores was alive and sharing my bed, I was constantly appraised when I was on the wrong side of the line because my irregular breathing was ruining her ability to sleep. I stopped using the exercise equipment, and the scale wore out and was never replaced because of my lack of commitment. Thirty-six percent (36%) of the Nation is obese in all three classes

In my adult lifetime, I had a tendency to binge eat or drink when I was under severe stress. My first diet, the Stillman all protein diet, was in 1970 when I was starting a winery and trying to balance a full time job. The first gas crises in 1974 crushed my tourist winery that I had successfully started and which depended on people driving to reach it. In 1982, I lost a job and sought solace in food until I opened an outdoor beach club which did exceptionally well and I dropped to 182 for the last time until my current lifestyle changes . In 1988, it rained on 39 consecutive outdoor events at the Beach Club and I was broke and lost the business. By 2004, things were going reasonably well and I just got fat and lazy due to becoming a “desk jokey” and not engaging in any physical activity because I could hire people to do everything that needed to be done and take time off to go fishing and drinking beer with my friends.

Still after that zenith of 265 in 2004, I managed to hold between 220 and 240 using the Type O diet until Dolores died. Then I started seeking solace in food and cooking and eating too much. Drinking was no longer that big of a problem as I was not happy enough to enjoy socializing and drinking. Unfortunately, Dolores was no longer sharing my bed to tell me when I was too fat to breath at night. This is where My Daughter Dagny and My Niece Cait joined forces and convinced me it was time for a lifestyle change.

So what are the essential elements of my 101 Pound weight loss.

1. General knowledge about obesity and acceptance of the scientific data. You must understand the problem before attempting to solve it.

2. Strong Emotional support from family (Dagny, Cait and Carson). Non judgmental loving support and encouragement is needed. Very few can solve the obesity problem entirely on their own.

3. A strong and vocal Personal Commitment and let the world know. Commitment is a struggle especially at the start because your weight loss is so fragile and unstable. When I started my diet at 265 without a commitment to a lifestyle change I had dropped about 45 pounds in a few months just by starving and working at the gym. I went on vacation where there was no scale and gained 27 pounds in a long weekend eating 3 meals a day, drinking beer mid day and having wine and a big dinner in the evening. I brought a scale because I felt I was gaining weight and when I got the result, I knew it was flawed and returned the scale to the store. Eventually, I quit the diet because the diet failed me and the weight loss wasn’t permanent. The first three to five months of a lifestyle change are most critical and a lifestyle change of only three months will also fail.

4. A commitment to reduce the calories consumed with beverages and food.  My personal commitment is covered in my book “An introduction to coffeepot cooking: How I lost 101 pounds cooking Portion Controlled Meals” which is available in Kindle format from Amazon. You can get a free Kindle app for almost every computer and operating system.

5. A commitment to a minimum of a half hour of exercise everyday or worst case every other day. It is better and you lose more weight, if you do a minimum of a half hour everyday and an hour a day three times a week. It is also better if you do it first thing in the morning to jump start your metabolism and stay physically active all day.

I firmly believe That there is no substitute for the advice in the first three steps. And a great amount of flexibility in the last two. When it comes to exercise, it is the time you commit to exercising regardless of which form of exercise you choose. I like walking because almost everybody can do it. When you work with your heart monitor and push yourself to safely do only a half hour a day, you get stronger everyday and are able to do more. Everybody in my family has a favorite physical activity and mine just happens to be walking and not a chore at all because it fits my personality. When I miss two days because of rain, I’ll look for a break in the weather and go for it. If it rains, I don’t care because I am still walking and enjoying the sights and proud of my accomplishments.

When it comes to eating, you can eat and drink what you like as long as your total calorie count is around 2000 which if you pace it during the day with moderate amounts of fruit, vegetables and protein; and then eat a light dinner, there is still a 1000 calories left over for a few glasses of wine. If on the other hand you don’t drink, then stick with the light fruit and vegetables all day and have a slightly heartier dinner and you will lose the weight a little faster by skipping beverages with calories and carbonation.

I don’t believe in special diets or severely restricted diets because for me they simply create a repressed demand for the foods I want and the quantities I am used to. When I started holding about 2000 calories, walking in the morning, getting into yard work as much as possible, walking in the afternoon when possible, and going to bed relaxed on a full stomach, I didn’t feel deprived of anything and drifted into a steady routine right away.

The process isn’t fast. In the first month, I lost 20 pounds and in the second 15. In the third month I lost 5 pounds. Remember, from previous diets, I found those first three months are the most unstable and the easiest time to have a relapse and regain the lost weight. After that, I shed weight at the rate of about 3 pounds per month. If this was a diet, I probably would have quit after the second month because I would be bored with a steady special diet of meat, carbohydrates, vegetables, vegan, caveman food, or any other cult diet.

However, this was a lifestyle change which allowed for lapses while on vacation with planed sacrifices of more work and less food after vacation. I also started in January when I wouldn’t see my family and party with them for the next six months or so I planned. I have now stuck with the plan for about 3 years and see little reason to change.

A natural evolution is that I now eat vegan about once a week, vegetarian twice a week and chicken, turkey and fish the rest of the time. However, and this is important to my mental well being, if I get a craving for liver, kidneys, sausage or any of the other weird things like my mother ate which let her live to be 93, I eat them and don’t consider it a failure in my lifestyle, just part of it. The same is true if I have a few midday beers while hanging with my family or friends. The only results my family really cares about is what the scale says and how big my belly is and that’s fine with me.

My total diet was discussed in the book mentioned above but;

Remember continue to enjoy fine food, just less of it.

Vegan Black Beans and Tomatoes with Brown Rice

May 9, 2012

Vegan Black Beans and Tomatoes with Brown Rice

I simply like black beans and complex flavors and this meal just popped into my head. I have eaten similar meals with barley made with chicken stock but this time I had a cup of cooked brown rice made with no flavoring or salt so it could easily be accompanied by strong flavors. Since it was a vegan start and I hadn’t defrosted any meat, I decided to stick with the genera.

The starting point was the red beans and brown rice which I had done a while back. In that recipe, I had started with uncooked rice and used vegetable broth instead of water and cooked it all day. I also used less spices. This time I only had about 5 hours which is enough for canned beans and cooked rice. Well the meal was full flavored and complex, I loved it but only ate about half of the cooked beans and tomatoes. The rice was 200 calories and the rest of the pot was less than 800 so I only had about 600 calories and was very comfortable. Even if I had eaten all, it would have ended up at less than a 1000 calories for dinner.

Vegan Black Beans and Tomatoes with Brown Rice

Ingredients:

1-2 T of olive oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 T minced garlic
1 T thin sliced ginger
1 medium onion rough cut
1 thin slice scotch bonnet hot pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp oregano
1 package Sazon (optional)

1 can Black Beans
1 can diced Tomatoes

1 cup cooked brown rice or barley

Method:

1. Put all ingredients in the coffeepot and cook covered with a piece of foil for about 2 hours.

2. Add the Beans and tomatoes and all of the liquid to the pot.

3. Stir and let cook for another 2 hours.

4. Microwave cooked rice for 3 minutes.

5. Serve and Enjoy!!!

The most amazing epiphany I had with this meal is that 600 calories would really satisfy me. When I started my lifestyle change, I used to consume as much as 5000 to 6000 calories a day. including food and beverages and couldn’t concieve of a meal without meat.

Without thinking about it yesterday, I ate 1/2 coconut which has 700 calories, small amounts of celery probably less than 100 calories including dip, dinner 600 calories and wine 1000 calories or 2400 calories. I also walked 3 miles and worked in my yard for a few hours. Pretty much, I act like this everyday and I have lost all the weight I recently gained on vacations (about 10 pounds). I am now at 172 pounds with a 37 inch waste. That is down from 265 pounds with a 56 inch waist at my peak and 245 pounds with a 47 inch waist at the the start of my commitment to a lifestyle change.

Imagine that meatless days by choice and no perceived sacrifice. Amazing!!!

Grilled Pesto Stuffed Chicken Thighs

May 6, 2012

Grilled Pesto Stuffed Chicken ThighsIn St. Croix, the growing season is in the winter. It is cool for growing and there is usually ample rain. Not everything grows everywhere with all of the different soils and rain fall ranges on the islands. Still, you can get bumper crops of some vegetables. I have an abundance of Arugula, Bok Choy and Collard Greens. Like most gardeners, I have been giving excesses away, cooking new recipes for friends and just trying my best not to let anything go to waste.

On a calorie per calorie basis, arugula is not quite as healthy as spinach or even bok choy. However, it is a spicy green that adds a lot of flavor to a salad and is still fairly healthy for you with lots of vitamins and minerals. The biggest reason I cook it other than I like the taste, is with my combination of soil, water and sun it is growing like a weed in my yard. I was therefor fortunate to find a recipe for a small batch of arugula (also called rocket) pesto at Frugal Feeding

I have made and cooked with pesto before so I didn’t need a recipe. What I found useful was the suggestion to use arugula instead of basil and one of his commenters suggested almonds instead of pine nuts. Since arugula is abundant and I like almonds better than pine nuts, I jumped at the idea.

Arugula (Rocket) Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh arugula leaves, packed
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2.6 ounce package of shredded almonds
1 T minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 T lemon juice
¼ tsp ground black pepper to taste
salt as desired

Method:

  1. Put everything except the oil and cheese into the blender or food processor and pulse it a few times.
  2. Slowly add the olive oil a little at a time while contuing to pulse the blender. When stopped, scrape down the walls and force the arugula into the blend.
  3. When uniform, add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended.
  4. Taste and add salt as needed.

This batch was quite good and I gave some to a friend who gave me some pine nuts that she had intended to use to make her own pesto. Since I also have an abundance of Basil, I will probably make a batch of that in the near future to see if I have a strong preference either way.

Grilled Stuffed Chicken Thighs

When I grill, I usually prepare a baked sweet or Irish potato so I don’t have a mess to clean in the kitchen. The chicken is prepared and in this case, I skinned, deboned and defatted the meat. Since I didn’t add any salt to the pesto I washed the chicken in lime an sprinkled it with Adobo which is a Puerto Rican Seasoned Salt. Sometimes when you stuff the thighs, they will cooked closed and sometimes they open up. They are all good and if I really cared, I would hold them in place with a toothpick.