Thanksgiving Appetizers Transformed

What I Did with My Left Over Crudites

Thanksgiving Appetizer Crudites Platter

Thanksgiving is always celebrated in the home of Cousin’s Ilene and Elliot. They make the most amazing smoked turkey, and never disappoint with their healthy and thoughtful side dishes and desserts, some of which are long standing family traditions. This year Ilene asked me to make the appetizer. I used our Grandma Kate’s antique platter to put together a fun, colorful, and healthy start to the meal. It was all really so simple. I used whole bell peppers as dip bowls. In the red pepper is hummus. In the yellow pepper is Trader Joe’s Spinach & Kale Yogurt Dip, and in the orange pepper is onion dip mixed with fat free plain Greek yogurt. On the side I had Trader Joe’s 3 Seed Beet Crackers and their Bite Size Everything Crackers. Make note: The spinach kale dip on the beet crackers is a GREAT bite.

There were only 9 guests, and although they loved the tray, and made a dent, I had a ton of vegetables left over. This is how I solved that today – most of the celery and carrots got diced and went into a vegetable soup with a diced yellow onion, a can of diced tomatoes with fire roasted peppers, and a 5 oz bag of baby kale. I seasoned the soup simply with salt, pepper, and a couple of cubes of frozen minced garlic. The broth is Trader Joe’s low sodium chicken stock. You can make this a vegan soup by using vegetable stock instead. The broccoli and cauliflower had already been blanched for the appetizer tray (I don’t like raw cruciferous vegetables). I preheated my oven to 400 degrees. I tossed the veggies with a little olive oil and Montreal Steak Seasoning. I roasted them for 20 minutes, tossed them, then roasted them for another 10 minutes. Both the soup and these roasted veggies will be part of my desk lunches this week. I also pan roasted chicken breast for my lunch prep. I made them very simply, as well. I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder. I preheated my oven to 450 degrees, and roasted it for 20 minutes. I took the temp with my quick read thermometer to make sure it was 165 degrees, then removed it from the oven to rest. Desk lunches prepped!

Mirepoix Soup with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Baby Kale
Easy Roasted Veggie Prep

The mini bell peppers were a little more challenging. I ended up pickling them! I had never done that before, but always wanted to. Here is the simple recipe I found online: https://www.simplywhisked.com/quick-pickled-sweet-peppers/. This will preserve them and we can use as need as sandwich accompaniments. I also had left over carrot sticks even with using most of them in the soup, and jicama, so I made veggie snack bags out of those. As for the tomatoes and cucumbers, they went into our salads this weekend. The olives will keep, and the grapes have been snacked on already. And that’s that! All veggies transformed to reuse, and no waste!

Easy Pickled Peppers
Veggie Snack Bags

Thank you for stopping by! As always, your comments, critiques, and questions are welcome.

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Enjoy the holiday season!

As Time Rushes By

Reminder to Take a Deep Breath.

It’s Thanksgiving week. How did the year fly by so fast? I just want to take a moment to remind myself, and you, dear readers of the real things that matter in life. Not tangible things, not material things, but things that matter in our daily lives – having a positive attitude, kindness, gratitude, being good to yourself, just to name a few. Take a few minutes to ponder what is meaningful to you this season, and give yourself a hug.

Since this is a short work week, I made a delicious, healthy, hearty Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Soup. It will work for desk lunches, and will just be good to have in the house all week. Oh yes, and my house smells amazing. The recipe is called Keto Cabbage Soup. I don’t know anything about Keto or Paleo and all that. As you know, I am a Lifetime WW member, and follow the low fat, low carb, low calorie/ points meal plan that works for me. I picked this recipe because the ingredients are mostly plant based, and fit in with the flavor profile I wanted for myself. Here is the original recipe: https://www.savorytooth.com/cabbage-soup/.

I actually did follow the recipe pretty much to the letter. I cut the quantities of the liquids in half and only used 10 oz of shredded cabbage instead of 16 oz. I did use a hole pound of ground chicken in place of the beef. I wanted it hearty, as I said. I used chicken broth in place of beef broth. I slightly cut down on the amount of seasonings as well. I can always re season the soup and add more, but I wouldn’t be able to take it out.

Unstuffed Cabbage Soup Baby Boomer Mermaid style

Thank you for stopping by . I want to wish you all a meaningful and Happy Thanksgiving.

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True Confessions – I Don’t Track

Why WW’s Simply Filling Technique Works for Me

It is true that food tracking is the basis of most successful weight loss programs. Since this blog is about my journey, and this is “Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mermaid” I thought it time for me to own up and tell you that I have not been successful at tracking, but have, however, mastered the WW Simply Filling method. My meal plans are and always have been based on zero point foods, which back in 2012, when I joined WW, were called power foods. As I review that list now, it has become the zero point foods we all enjoy today on WW Freestyle, or the Blue or Purple plans as of last week. The philosophy behind Simply Filling is eat as much as you need, not as much as you want. And there in lies the key for me. It did take me 3 years to lose 50 lbs. I was definitely part of the turtle club. But slow and steady did win the race for me. 5 years later, my weight is still off, and I am confident in sharing my journey and meal prep ideas with you.

The reason I found out about Simply Filling was Peggy. Peggy is this wonderful woman who manned the weigh booths for many years at our 7:30 am Saturday morning meetings. I was expressing my frustration about tracking to her, and she confessed to me that she had lost all of her weight using Simply Filling. It changed my whole perspective, and to this day, and grateful to Peggy. And by the way, we all miss you at the meetings, Peggy.

The first major change I made in my eating habits was adding either fruits or vegetables to every single meal or snack. I still do that today. The thing that took so long to click for me was the part about eating just as much as I needed vs how much I wanted. If you go back into the archives in the blog you will find “The Comfort Zone”. This is an old school chart that our coach, the great Amy B. brings in every year. It is a great illustrated reminder of how important it is to keep ourselves in the zone between being slightly hungry, sated, and not stuffed.

Re posting the all important “Comfort Zone” chart

For today’s meal prep I decided on a chicken curry stew of sorts. I had a box of the packaged vegetable tikka masala in my cabinet that I had bought at the WW workshop on sale some time ago. The box contained 3 single serve pouches which are 160 calories/ 3 points each. In my slow cooker today I incorporated 2 of those pouches, a little chicken broth, just over a pound of chicken breast, about a half cup of red lentils that I also had in the cabinet, and fresh baby spinach. I cooked this all together on high for about 2 1/2 hours. My house smelled so good. I shredded the chicken, when it came out of the pot, and re-placed it back into the curry mixture.

Chicken Curry Stew is what’s for lunch this week

Breakfast is another version of my egg white veggie fritatta. I had fresh mushrooms in the house, and the fresh spinach I bought for the curry, so I sauteed the mushroom with diced red onion in about a teaspoon of good olive oil. I seasoned the vegetables with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a little of Trader Joe’s Umami seasoning. I tossed the cooked veggies in with the spinach, liquid egg whites, flaxseed meal, and chia seeds that I always add for the health benefits. AND I added a special treat for myself – I tore in 1 slice of Trader Joe’s Lite Jarlsberg cheese, which is 50 calories/ 1 point for the entire recipe, which will be breakfast for the week.

Spinach, Mushroom, and Onion Egg White Fritatta with Lite Jarlsberg Cheese

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope that I have inspired you to think about what is working and not working for you in your own program, whatever that may be. Seek out advice, or research alternatives on the interwebs. The most important thing is to remember WHY you started in the first place. Remember too, that if you focus only on results you’ll never see change. Focus on change, and you will see results.

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Make it a great week, my friends.

Gearing Up for the Holidays

How to Manage Holiday Parties and All of that Delectable Food!

Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away, then come Christmas and Hanukkah. BOOM! These are the biggest and best food holidays of the year. Let me help you put things in perspective. These are just 2 or 3 meals you are going to enjoy over the next 6 weeks or so. At 3 meals a day, that is 3 x 42 days = 126 meals. That is 2 or 3 celebration meals out of the 126 meals you will eat in the next 6 weeks. We have plenty of time to plan for them. The most important thing is to stay on track during all of the days leading up to these special celebrations. Stay within your calorie or point budgets, and continue to be mindful of your portion sizes. I know this isn’t easy. We have “Friendsgiving” parties, we have office parties, we have cocktail parties at friends homes, just to name a few. Be smart with your choices. And don’t go to any of these parties or dinners hungry! This is one of the most valuable tips I can give you this time of year. Eat something healthy and a little filling before you leave your house! You won’t arrive famished, and ready to grab every fried, or processed appetizer that is put in front of you, not to mention the cheese and crackers (my downfall). With regard to alcohol, be mindful. Add soda water to your wine glass and make it a spritzer. Alternate with glasses of water between drinks, especially if you are more comfortable having a glass in your hand. Most importantly, remember WHY you started this journey to begin with while you are enjoying your friends and family during this special time of year.

I went Asian this week for my lunch prep. I made an easy Asian vegetable soup and teriyaki roasted chicken breast, using my husband’s famous savory teriyaki recipe, but with a healthier twist. In place of soy sauce, the base of my marinade is Coconut Aminos, which is made from coconut blossom nectar and sea salt. It is gluten free, soy free, and lower in sodium than soy or even tamari sauce, but lends itself to the soy flavor you are looking for here. Here is the original teriyaki recipe (which actually came from a friend’s mother back when my husband was growing up in the 60’s): 1/2 c soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tsp mustard, 1/2 tsp ginger, pepper, 2 cloves garlic. That’s it. It is hand written. There are no other instructions. But it works. We add a little Sriracha to it too.

My Asian veggie noodle soup is seasoned with coconut aminos, ginger, garlic, dry mustard, and granulated onion, and a dash of Sriracha . In addition to the frozen stir fry starter, I added frozen, shelled edamame, and the rest of the bag of frozen riced cauliflower I had in the house.
My juicy 1.22 lb chicken breast cut into 4 servings. This was marinated in coconut aminos, garlic, ginger, dry mustard, and sriracha for about 4 hours, then roasted at 450 for about 25 minutes. Your chicken breast must reach a temp of 165 to be cooked through. A quick read thermometer is a valuable tool to have on hand. It’s important to remember to let any protein rest for about 20 minutes before slicing to retain the juices. The last thing you want is a dry chicken breast or piece of beef.

Breakfast this week is a egg white fritatta which includes turkey sausage crumbles, chopped spinach, and roasted red bell peppers, diced. I always add chia seeds and flax seed meal for their health benefits. I only used freshly ground black pepper to season this today, as the sausage has plenty of salt in it.

Healthy, hearty egg white fritatta with spinach, roasted red bell peppers, and turkey sausage crumbles

An important part of my meal planning includes my snacks. I always bring snacks to eat between meals. I eat breakfast early, so around 10 I’ll have a banana and a cup of 80 calorie/ 2 point Greek yogurt. In the late afternoon I’ll have an apple, and a piece of low fat string cheese, or a WW nut bar, which I always have handy.

Thank you for stopping by! I hope I have inspired you to take care of yourselves! Your comments, critiques, questions, and meal prep ideas are always welcome.

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Make it a great week!

Speed Meal Prepping

It’s All In The Planning

My Sunday’s are lovely, but usually pretty much all the same. I lap swim at 8 when the pool opens, and of course stay to socialize a bit, then go home to shower and meet my husband at our favorite deli, where everyone knows us, for breakfast. I then do my grocery shopping, and come home to meal prep and write this blog. I love this routine, but sometimes things come up and interrupt the routine. An old friend was in town and it was important that I go meet her for coffee this morning.

I planned ahead. Yesterday, I made all of my meal prep decisions, and did a portion of my grocery shopping. Early this morning, I had a light breakfast of cottage cheese & blueberries so I wouldn’t starve, then ran to Trader Joe’s to finish my grocery shopping for the week. I then met my friend, had a great visit, then met my husband at that deli for brunch. About an hour and a half after arriving home, all of my meal prep is finished, and the blog is being written. I will make it to the pool late this afternoon, enjoy my time there, then come home to wind down the weekend, and get ready for the coming week.

This week is still going to be hot in So Cal, so for lunch I decided on my favorite gazpacho recipe, which I have published before here (0 pts). It’s so good, it bears repeating. Any vegetable based soup, hot or cold is a great way to power down lots of veggies at once, plus it is cleansing and hydrating. To go with the gazpacho, I went with one of the seasonal Trader Joe’s frozen specialties, Riced Cauliflower & Butternut Squash Risotto (70 cal/ 2 pts for a 1 cup serving) and a TJ’s favorite, their Sweet Italian Style Italian Sausages (110 cal/ 3 pts for 1 link). Both can be made using the handy microwave.

My gazpacho. I know you see the olive oil there with the ingredients, but there are only 2 tablespoons in the entire recipe, so I’m calling it a 0 point dish.

When you peruse gazpacho recipes on the interwebs you see many that include bread in the ingredients. Years ago, I discovered this bread free recipe in Cooking Light magazine, then found it online. Here is the link to the original recipe: https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/gazpacho-lemon-garlic-shrimp. On this go round, I just roughly chopped up all of the fresh vegetables (I did not bother with the measurements as listed in the recipe), and blended them in 2 batches, while dividing up the oil, vinegar, garlic, and seasoning, as well. Also, I squeeze the juice of the entire lemon into the recipe. That and the sherry vinegar really balance the acidity of the dish.

To go with my gazpacho are an easy meal put together at Trader Joe’s, Riced Cauliflower & Butternut Squash (cooked in the microwave) with Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage, which are precooked

Breakfast this week is veggie egg white fritatta squares (0 pts) on Everything Bagel Thins (3pts). I put defrosted, drained frozen chopped spinach in my square Pyrex pan with chopped red onions, and cut up roasted red bell pepper from the jar. I added in a little ground flaxseed and chia seeds for their health benefits, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I poured in 1/1/2 cups of liquid egg whites (equals about 8 eggs), then baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Every oven is different. Check to make sure the eggs are set before you remove them from the oven. I allowed them to cool, cut into squares, and stored in the refrigerator. So fast and easy.

Egg white veggie fritatta squares

It was fun changing it up today! Meal prep for the week is complete and stored in the refrigerator. I’m off to the pool now!

Thank you for taking time to read my blog today. I hope there is something here that inspires you. Your comments, critiques, questions, and recipe suggestions are always welcome.

Make it a great week, and take care of YOU!

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Thrive With Your Tribe

+ A Tried & True Fall Favorite Recipe

If you are lucky like me you have life long loving, supportive friends in addition to a loving, supportive family. Throughout the last 10 years or so, since I began swimming, then becoming a member of Weight Watchers, I have become a part of 2 separate tribes. There is my swim tribe, and my WW tribe. These are friendships that have been developed over time, with people I might not have otherwise met, if not for stepping out and starting to swim or joining WW. These friendships started out based on the things we have most in common, but now we are like little pseudo families. Both are incredibly dear to me, and been there for me through thick and thin. Don’t be afraid in life to open yourself up to new experiences. Wonderful things can happen. You will get to know yourself better, become stronger inside and out, and you will meet wonderful people that you will cherish, possibly for the rest of your life, who are your tribe.

Even though it is currently 80 degrees here in Santa Monica, CA, I am finally giving a nod to fall recipes. I love fall foods. I love all of the different squashes you start to see in the market, and all of the beautiful root vegetables. Here is a comprehensive list of fall vegetables from http://www.kitchn.com, and how to cook them: https://www.thekitchn.com/12-fall-vegetables-you-should-know-how-to-cook-211234 I also have a lot of great squash recipes on my SQUASH board on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/marshaleeg/squash/. Check it out.

Today I made my favorite Turkey Chili and Spaghetti Squash. Who doesn’t love chili over spaghetti? I am using spaghetti squash as a swap out for pasta, and my meal will be just as tasty and decadent, as if I were eating real spaghetti. Believe it. It will be low in calories (and WW points). I’ll be able to eat a full bowl of it, and not feel stuffed. Let’s start with the spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti Squash straight from the grocery store. They come in a range of sizes.
This one is medium sized.
The easiest prep I have found is to cut the squash down the middle with your sharp chefs knife. I also cut off the core end so that it will stand up for me when I am ready to pull the meat out of it. I removed the seeds before cooking, but you don’t have to. For me it is easier. To cook, place the squash face down in a microwave safe dish, filled with about an inch of water. The cook time in the microwave can be 10 – 15 minutes depending on your microwave oven. I set mine for 10 minutes, but had to put it in for 5 more.
When the squash is ready, you should be able to pull the strands out with a fork. Pull the meat of the squash out all the way to the edge of the shell. See how that really resembles spaghetti?
My yield on my medium sized spaghetti squash was almost 2 quarts

My turkey chili recipe is over 10 years old. I found it in a Cooking Light magazine, pre interweb. I read several turkey chili recipes on line this morning in preparation for today, but none of them sounded as good as I know this one is. And here it is (with my notes):

Monterey Turkey Chili

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 green bell pepper, chopped (I used red because I like it better)

1 large onion, chopped, 3 celery ribs, chopped, and 2 large carrots peeled, and chopped small (I used Trader Joe’s MirePoix mix instead)

2 lbs ground turkey ( I bought 93% lean; 7% fat; but you can use the type with 1% fat if you like. Trader Joe’s only had 20 oz packages of turkey today. That wasn’t quite enough, but I didn’t want 40 ounces either, so I bought an 8 oz package of turkey bacon to add volume, and the added bonus of that smoky flavor).

2 cloves of garlic (I used 2 cubes of Dorot frozen minced garlic)

2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, and cumin, then a pinch of cayenne pepper, which is optional (I used it).

8 oz can of chopped green chilies

15.5 oz can of white beans, drained, and rinsed

28 oz can of diced tomatoes

The original recipe calls for salt & pepper to taste, but I don’t add any. I like the flavors as is. They also have chopped cilantro as optional, but I opted out of it today.

My ingredients today

Directions:

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or stock pot until hot over high heat. Add the bell pepper, and mirepoix mix, and lower the heat. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes (I added the turkey bacon during this first step so that it would caramelize a little and also season the vegetables).

Add the turkey and garlic, brown for about 10-15 minutes. For a chunkier chili, do not break it up with the spoon too much. Drain off the excess fat (no I didn’t).

Add the chili powder oregano, cumin, and cayenne pepper (optional), and saute for another minute.

Add the green chilies, beans, and tomatoes (including the juice).

Stir in the cilantro if desired. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.

The original recipe also calls for optional fixings: grated cheddar cheese, chopped red onion, and sour cream. I will top mine with chopped scallions and a little light sour cream (plain non fat Greek yogurt will work perfectly as well).

The finished product. Love seeing the loads of veggies there.
The plated meal (without my fixings of chopped scallions and sour cream)

October is Breast Cancer awareness month. If you haven’t done so already, please schedule your yearly mammogram. Ask your doctor or radiologist about digital mammograms. They may cost a smidgen more, but they are more accurate. Mammograms save lives.

Thank you for stopping by today. Your comments, questions, and critiques are always welcome, as are your chili recipes!

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Make it a great week! Take care of YOU!

Image result for heart emoji

On Topic – Dealing with Stress

If you attended your WW workshop this week, you discussed stress, and strategies for how to cope with it. My job situation has been a source of extreme stress for me for about a year now, and is not letting up. I have to say that this blog has been a therapeutic project for me. It keeps me accountable and focused on my journey and goal to not only continue to maintain my 50 lb weight loss, but to exceed it, and to continue to become physically stronger, and as fit as I can be. And hopefully, it allows me to inspire you to reach your weight, fitness, and overall health goals.

If you are new to the blog, please take a few minutes and scroll through the archives. There are many tips and inspirational stories to help you through life situations that may arise during your journey. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed. Remember why you started your journey in the first place.

It helps when you start to feel so stressed that you are on your way to a panic attack to avert your attention. First, breathe. Take a series of 5 second breaths in through your nose, and slowly exhale through your mouth. Feel your throat and jaw unclenching, and your stomach relaxing. Feel your body against the surface you are sitting on. Feel the cushions, feel your feet on the floor. Slowly you will feel centered again. This has been working for me while sleeping as well. When I wake up in the middle of the night, instead of following my head to all those dark places, I do this breathing exercise, and fall back asleep.

These are a couple of strategies that have worked for me lately. Other strategies are to get outside and go for a walk. Or go somewhere that makes you happy and meditate or read. Exercise. Go to a yoga or zumba class, or an aqua aerobics class. Be with people. If you are dealing with something really serious, seek out a professional to help you through.

Meal prep this week was a little more ambitious than usual. I was in the mood for fresh ideas. Again, I was inspired by recipes I found on the interwebs. Honestly, these days, why not?

Breakfast was found on FB. It’s Breakfast Stuffed Peppers from Recipe Rebels. Here is the link to the original recipe: https://www.thereciperebel.com/breakfast-stuffed-peppers-oven-or-slow-cooker/

Breakfast Stuffed Peppers Baby Boomer Mermaid Style
No matter what ingredients you use here, these are going to be gorgeous, tasty, and healthy

I wanted to keep this dish as low in calories and fat as possible, but to taste delicious, be nutritious, and full of protein. I used egg whites, defrosted, drained, and dried frozen spinach, chopped fresh scallions, and chopped fresh dill as my main ingredients. I seasoned with salt, pepper, and Trader Joe’s Umami Seasoning Blend, then added flax seed meal and chia seeds for their health benefits.

Lunch is salmon cakes! I’ve been wanting to make these for some time. I finally found a recipe that didn’t call for bread crumbs. Here is the link to the recipe I used (I actually followed this one, as I had never made these before): https://www.eatthis.com/salmon-cake-recipe/. I gave this a taste when done, and they are delicious! I would not change a thing in this recipe.

Healthy Salmon Cakes with Tzatziki on the side
Made with simple, clean ingredients.

I will pair this with Trader Joe’s Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup to complete my lunch.

My morning snack this week will be a 2 point fruit flavored yogurt and a banana. My mid afternoon snack will be my favorite – a gala apple and a light string cheese. I also always keep shelf stable snacks in my handbag, as sometimes I get caught away from the office longer than expected, so need something handy. I want to mention that my game plan of smaller main meals, mixed with healthy snacks between meals has worked for me. The scale is going the direction I want it to go, and I never feel too full. I have come to hate that stuffed feeling. Smaller meals and snacks throughout the day keep me satiated, and feeling on my game. And goodness knows, I need to be on my game at work these days.

While doing my #sundaymealpreps, I often have the Food Network on in the background. Today The Kitchen had a segment on healthy smoothies with surprise ingredients. I wanted to share those with you, because they looked good to me:

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sunny-anderson/oatmeal-cookie-smoothie-5462885

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/katie-lee/red-velvet-smoothie-5462883

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/geoffrey-zakarian/zucchini-bread-smoothie-5462881

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I want to wish you all a wonderful and successful week. Take care of yourselves, my friends!