Party Planning

Strategize to Keep Yourself on Track

This weekend I was invited to a rare event. One of my very best friends, whom I met in the 8th grade, graciously hosted a reunion party at his home last night. The guest list included people I had literally known since the first grade. Some of these girls were in my Brownie troop! I was both excited and nervous, but it turned out to be a love filled hug fest. I need to tip my cap to Facebook for this. FB gets a lot of guff these days, but for people like us, who have spread all over California, in this case, it really is a blessing. It brought us together so that we could reconnect in this phase of our lives.

I knew I needed a game plan with regard to the food situation. The host was bringing in Bar B Q from a well known restaurant in LA. I also knew that several guests were contributing vegetarian dishes, such as salads, Tabbouleh, homemade Hummus, and Baba Ganoush. Eggplant Parmesan and minestrone soup were also brought in by others.

I started the day with a healthy, hearty breakfast with my WW tribe after our 7:30 am workshop. Early afternoon I had a small lunch, but at about 3, I had another snack of low fat cottage cheese and apricots (protein & healthy carbs). I actually felt too full after that, but I did not want to go to that party hungry. In between, I went to the pool to water jog for about an hour. Besides the workout, it helped calm my nerves about seeing all of these people after so many years.

My game plan worked! I wasn’t starving by the time dinner was served, but I was ready to eat. I served myself small portions of the various vegetarian selections, and dodged the BBQ, as tempting as it was. I also indulged in a couple glasses of wine, and a small serving of a homemade cake for dessert, which was definitely worth it. I felt light, and on my toes the entire evening.

For today’s meal prep, I made cottage cheese muffins with pumpkin inspired by fellow blogger, nadiiag, who I discovered here on Word Press. I have already saved several of her recipes on my Pinterest boards. Her original recipe is titled Cottage Cheese Casserole with Pumpkin Protein & healthy carbs seem to be my theme this week.

Pumpkin is not just for fall, you know. It’s a delicious low calorie fruit filled with fiber, minerals, and anti oxidant vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Canned pure pumpkin puree is available year round in super markets everywhere.

Cottage Cheese Muffins with Pumpkin
(ingredients not shown: baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon)

First of all, since this was a test, I decided to just make half of the original recipe. Instead of a casserole, I thought that muffins would be more practical for me. I did a little arithmetic, and came up with the right ratio of cottage cheese to pumpkin. Here is my recipe:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Makes 6 muffins.


3/4 cup cultured low fat cottage cheese (you can use the cottage cheese of your choice)

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 tbsp gluten free baking flour (you can use any type of flour you like)

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 egg

1/4 tsp baking powder

about a 1/2 tsp each of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt to season.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Check them with a toothpick. Insert it, and if it comes out dry, they are ready. Remove from oven, and let cool so that they are easily removed from your muffin tin.

Notes: I did not use a sweetener. After tasting the final product, I feel that I would heat these up a little, and maybe drizzle a little low sugar or sugar free fruit jam to this before eating. I would also add a little vanilla to the recipe next time. I am going to eat these with breakfast or as a snack. They come out dry, like any muffin, so are easy to pack if you are on the go.

Thank you for stopping by. Your comments, critiques, and questions are always welcome.

Wishing you a great couple of weeks. I’m taking next week off, as I will be celebrating my birthday with friends and family next weekend! And when you hear from me again, I will be back meal prepping for the office. I’m going back to work!

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Mid-Summer Check Point

Try Something New! Take Time for Yourself!

And WHOOSH! It’s already the middle of summer! I hope you have taken some time to care for yourselves and try some new things. I did! As you know, almost all of my workouts are in the pool, although I do some walking workouts as well. At the beginning of the summer I participated in a free trial at The Perfect Workout It’s circuit strength training, but in slow motion. With a trainer. I loved it. I’m so glad I tried it. I plan to make it part of my workout mix soon.

Water Jogging & Swimming. Now is the time to get in the pool!
Proper water jogging technique video:

This week’s new food discovery is Bolt House Cole Slaw dressing. For the 4th of July we made baby back ribs. I know, a little bit of a cheat day for me, but it had been so long since I’d had them, and they were so good. Worth it. My husband seasoned them with Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Seasoning Blend, then baked them, lightly covered with tin foil in a slow oven (250 degrees) for about 2 1/2 hours. During the last 1/2 hour he removed the foil and basted them with our favorite bbq sauce, and increased the temperature to 350 degrees. It’s important to allow them to rest a bit before serving. A perfect prep if you like your ribs falling off the bone like we do. Our side dish was coleslaw made with this dressing, celery salt, and celery seeds. Every flavor of Bolt House dressings I have tried have been delicious. They are rich, and do not taste low cal at all They are located in the refrigerator section in the produce department of the grocery store.

This week I’ll be making the same slaw using broccoli slaw

I’ve gotten back into cottage cheese over the last couple of weeks. I was craving a change from non fat Greek yogurt. I bought the low fat cultured cottage cheese, and really enjoyed the creaminess and texture of it. So far I’ve only used it with fruit for breakfast, but am looking forward to using it for savory meals and snacks as well. I want to try it with Everything But The Bagel seasoning, for example. I also want to try it layered with steamed vegetables, as was suggested to me by a good friend. Watch for those preps in later blogs.

Low Fat Cultured Cottage Cheese topped with apricot and blueberries.

At the beginning of today’s blog, I brought up the importance of taking care of ourselves, taking time for ourselves. Make that facial or massage appointment. Read that book. Go to the beach by yourself or with your best friend. Take time to care for yourself and give yourself a big loving hug. You deserve it.

That’s all for today! As always, your comments, questions, and critiques are welcome.

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Have a great week, my friends!

A Moment of Clarity

Just want to share this awesome moment in time that happened yesterday. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go for a rare mid week swim. As happy as I was to be at the pool, my head was cluttered with “to dos” and the general weight of my current situation. As I was getting ready to get in, I noticed the gentleman in the water that I had seen from time to time since I’ve been swimming, over the last 12 years or so. This man had had a stroke. When I first saw him all those years ago, he could barely move. He needed help getting in and out of the water, and was in a wheel chair. He was definitely using the pool as physical therapy at that time. Over the years, I have seen him slowly improve to the point where he now walks with a cane. He also now swims just like any of us. So I sat down to swim in the lane beside him yesterday. He looked up at me with the biggest smile you have ever seen and said, “Hello beautiful person”! All of my cares dropped away at that moment and I was filled with pure joy. Oh what a feeling! And how grateful I felt to be healthy and free to live my life, financial and job problems aside. This is the true meaning of life, I thought, as I went on to swim my laps.

Today, starting a new day, I am carrying that joy with me, feeling grateful for everyone and everything. I am healthy, I am happy, I am loved, and I feel love. What else is there?

The beautiful Santa Monica Swim Center
My “Magic Place”

Happy 4th of July, y’all!

Finding Your Comfort Zone

The WW Comfort Zone Chart

This subject may sound familiar. I wrote about this several weeks back, in the blog titled “What Level are You At?” I’m bringing this back up, because I, myself, have been struggling with this during this time of working at home, and it seems to come up a lot on the various WW groups on Facebook. I find it a worthy subject to bring up again. Also because my WW coach, the great Amy B. brought this invaluable chart out again. For me, this is the key to remembering to eat mindfully.

Many of us were brought up to clean our plates, not to waste food. But when we over eat, we feel sick, and then we also beat ourselves up for it. The challenge is to realize what that sweet spot is for us which is satisfied, satiated. Some things we can do to help with this are to eat more slowly, to eat without distraction, and to really notice how we are feeling as we eat through a plate of food, healthy or otherwise. The new WW Freestyle program is based on 0 point foods, which is wonderful, but we have to remember that all food has calories. Portion control is key, even while eating those 0 point foods.

On the other side of the spectrum is not to allow ourselves to starve either. If we allow ourselves to get that hungry, we tend to lose complete control over our food choices and portion control. We all need to work on finding that balance.

I hope you save this chart that I posted in your phones, or print it and put it up on your refrigerator. Somewhere that will remind you to stay within that comfort zone. Being self aware, and learning about our bodies will help with our weight loss and maintenance journeys, I guarantee you.

Today’s meal prep focuses on the nightshade varieties of fruits and vegetables. I kind of started this last week with the tomato blog, but took it a step further today. Nightshades have gotten a little bit of a bad wrap. There is a myth out there that nightshades can cause inflammation, but there is no scientific evidence to support that claim. For the most part they are nutritious, healthy foods. Some people are sensitive to them, as they contain a chemical called solanine, which can aggravate arthritis pain and inflammation. If you feel any mouth tingling or itching when eating these foods, consult your doctor. For more information on nightshades and their health benefits and risks, please consult the following articles:

Here is a list of common nightshade vegetables and fruits, most of which are components in the roasted ratatouille dish I made today:

  1. potatoes
  2. tomatoes
  3. eggplant
  4. bell peppers

So I had a package of Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi in my freezer calling my name today. I also had left over tomato sauce from the can of Italian tomatoes I used in my gazpacho last week. And I love me some ratatouille. And I love a roasted eggplant. Today I combined all of this deliciousness into my lunch meal prep for this week.

This gnocchi is 4 points for a 1 cup serving, or 140 calories
The only points in this dish are in the gnocchi

I really kind of made this up as I went. I roasted a whole eggplant yesterday. It baked in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. After it cooled, I scraped out the meat and stored it in my refrigerator. Today I took a red onion, a red bell pepper, a zucchini, and a summer squash and roasted them together. After spraying them with canola oil, and seasoning them with salt & pepper, I roasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, stirring them a couple of times. I took some of that reserved tomato sauce that I had, put it on a low heat, then seasoned it with dried basil, thyme, and rosemary. I also added 3 cubes of Dorot frozen garlic to the sauce. I cooked the gnocchi according to the instructions on the package, then tossed them with the sauce. I then layered the veggies and sauced gnocchi s in my dish to store in the refrigerator. I cannot wait to eat this tomorrow. It smelled so good!

Yesterday, I was gifted a bag full of home grown lemons by my friend Marcy who came out to have lunch with me. Today I used them to make strawberry lemonade popsicles. I substituted the sugar in the recipe with Stevia. So fun. I had some of the mixture left over, so it’s in the freezer in a Pyrex pan becoming a granita of sorts.

Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles; Recipe below:

I also had a slew of pitted cherries left from last week, so I Googled Healthy Cherry Recipes. I found this great link, and was inspired by the chocolate cherry oatmeal recipe they had listed:

Chocolate Cherry Overnight Oats Baby Boomer Mermaid Style

I used what I had in the house, and kept it very healthy, and low in points and calories. I combined 1/4 cup of Old Fashioned Oats per serving with 1/2 cup of chia seeds, and 2 tablespoons each of Splenda Brown Sugar blend and Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. I layered in a couple of cups of chopped, pitted fresh cherries, and unsweetened vanilla almond milk. When I serve myself, I’ll top this with about a teaspoon of toasted sliver almonds. I do still have cherries left over, but those will go great with my fat free plain Greek yogurt, or fat free cottage cheese snacks.

Note the tip for filling snacks here: combine a small portion of a healthy protein with a fruit or vegetable. String cheese and an apple is another good example of this. Circling back to The Comfort Zone, don’t allow yourself to get so hungry that you lose control. Healthful snacks during the day or after dinner are essential.

Thank you for visiting my friends. As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and critiques.

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Make it a great week, my friends!

Tomato Tomahto

Continuing The Celebration of Summer Fruits

Heirloom Tomatoes on Display at The Farmer’s Market
Bentwood, CA, today

If you didn’t already know this, tomatoes are a fruit disguised as a vegetable. They are low calorie and low carb. They provide vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and potassium.

There are so many varieties of tomatoes to choose from: beefsteak, cherry, roma, green, grape, to name a few, and of course the many varieties of heirloom tomatoes as well. For a complete list of tomato varieties, visit this link:

Fresh San Marzano Tomatoes found at The Farmers Market today

Tomatoes are so versatile. They are great raw in salads, sandwiches, and in cold soups, which is what I did with them today. They can be scrambled into eggs, chopped into a salsa, made into jam, oven roasted, sun dried, stuffed, and made into sauces and soups.

Today I made my favorite gazpacho recipe. I found this years ago when I first started with WW. I began my WW journey back in May 2012. In my first meeting/ orientation, my leader, the great Amy B. told me about the magic of soups and weight loss. I immediately began meal prepping for my workweek that weekend, with the classic WW vegetable soup, which I loved, and did start losing weight immediately with. I began to experiment with the vegetable soup concept, and developed flavor profiles for Italian, Mexican, and Asian varieties of that basic WW soup recipe. As summer approached, I began to investigated cold soups. Since I have always loved tomatoes, I gravitated towards classic gazpacho soups. I read many recipes, and tried several. I ran across this one in my Cooking Light Magazine, loved it, and have stuck to it since. Here is the link to that recipe:

My tried and true gazpacho recipe

This recipe is so easy, that there are no shortcuts needed. Note in the photo above, that this recipe is made in the blender. No cooking involved whatsoever. I have never made the lemon shrimp part of the recipe. I use this as a lunch meal prep, and enjoy adding cooked frozen shrimp to this, or whatever lean protein I have available at the moment. I follow the recipe as written, but I add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice for additional acidity.

I am continuing my love affair with stone fruit this week. I bought cherries, which I pitted (see link below) so they are ready to add to my yogurt bowl in the morning. And this week, I bought donut peaches (also known as Saturn peaches), and apricots, as well.

This week’s stone fruit varieties

Thank you for stopping by. I hope I have inspired you to try a new meal prep at home. I welcome your comments, critiques, and questions.

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Have a good week, my friends. Take care of yourselves!

Celebrating the Fruits of Summer

I got so excited at the grocery store this week to see the stone fruits!
Summer is definitely in the air

Summer is my favorite season. It may be partly because my birthday comes in mid-July, and I always look forward to celebrating another year. This one will be #65. I am very proud of the person I have become, as I truly have gotten better and stronger with age. I am definitely a classic late bloomer. The other reason summer is my favorite season is the fruit we get to enjoy. Stone fruits, watermelon, strawberries, cherries, to name a few. YUM!

Don’t avoid fruit because of the sugar content. The fiber in fruit minimizes the effect they have on blood sugar levels. In addition, fruit contains antioxidants, raises your potassium levels, fight disease and inflammation, and helps to control blood sugar. If carbs are a concern for you, low sugar fruits include raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, watermelon, and grapefruit.

Fruit is a nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth. In my WW workshop we always talk about non scale goals. I need a little something sweet after dinner. Summer is the perfect time for me to achieve my goal of eating fruit instead of processed products made with sugar substitutes. Or at least to make my desserts fruit forward. I do enjoy baking, so you may see a banana bread or peach & berry crisp sometime soon….

Ready to eat. Here is what is in my fridge right now

For some reason, I got a hankering this week for a fresh broccoli salad. Probably something I saw while perusing Pinterest. I read many recipes for “light” broccoli salads. Mine is a compilation of the best 2 I found online. Here are the links to those 2 recipes:

Here is what I did – I don’t like raw broccoli, so I blanched 6 oz of fresh florets in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes, then placed them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. This keeps them crisp, and bright green. I combined them with about a cup of diced red onion, about a cup of halved red grapes, 1/4 cup of slivered toasted almonds, and 3 rashers of turkey bacon, diced. The dressing is made of 1/4 cup each of plain non-fat Greek yogurt and light sour cream. For sweetness I chose a squeeze of honey. Maybe a quarter of a teaspoon. I did not measure it, but I did taste it, and it was plenty for me. If you want it sweeter, by all means use more. And again, remember, I used a combination of ingredients I already had in the house, and ingredients I love. That’s why I posted the links to the other 2 recipes, so you can do what makes you happy.

My broccoli salad ingredients (not shown are the diced red onions I added)
Fresh, Creamy Broccoli Salad

I roasted the rest of my broccoli florets with rainbow baby carrots for my veggie snack bag this week. Those will be great dipped in hummus. I roasted the veggies at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. I did not turn them mid way, but you may want to.

Roasted broccoli and rainbow baby carrots veggie snack bag

And I have a plan for some of my watermelon – not gonna lie. I did not come up with this on my own. Last week at my local Trader Joe’s that had a table set up with slices of fresh watermelon sprinkled with their Chili Lime Seasoning Blend. I had tried that blend before on veggies with lime, but never on fruit. Man, it was good! I recommend you give it a try.

Even though I’m still working from home, I did a little breakfast prep this week. I needed to use up my carton of liquid egg whites. I made an egg white veggie fritatta with spinach, roasted red peppers, and red onions. I plan to make them into little sandwiches using my left over cooked turkey bacon on 100 calorie multi grain English muffins or Ole Whole Wheat Tortilla Wraps. I combined 2 cups egg whites with the veggies (I just seasoned them with fresh ground black pepper, since I knew I’d be eating this with the turkey bacon, which has plenty of salt). I baked this in a small square pan that I sprayed with a little canola oil spray for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Easy breakfast prep: Egg white veggie fritatta
Use on a sandwich, as is, or roll in an Ole Tortilla wrap
I’m going to pair this with my left over cooked turkey bacon

Wishing you all a great week! Please join the conversation, and send me your comments, critiques, and tips.

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After my first week working from home, I have come to realize that having your regular routine stripped away is a huge challenge. At this point, I am taking it one day at a time. I don’t know what each day is going to bring, and sometimes I won’t know until the day unfolds. It’s disconcerting for someone who has been so rigid in her routine for so many years. And here in lies the challenge and the lesson. The lesson being to adapt and move forward.

Some days I end up home on the computer. The other days, which are nomadic, to say the least, I work out of my car. During the days spent at home, I can at least simulate a normal office routine. I can drink all of my water, and eat the “safe” foods I have here. I can even take breaks where I can get up and stretch, or go out for a 20 minute walk, which I never did at the office. That’s all well and good, but I really do miss having people around, and movement, and noise. Have I mentioned how much I miss my coworkers?

The other days, when I am working out of my car are hectic and exhausting. I can’t drink my water, for lack of access to clean restrooms at all times, and meal times and places are not planned. Luckily my WW habits are well ingrained and I am good at making the best choices with what I am dealt as far as lunch goes. I did, however, get into a situation one day where I did not have chance to eat, nor did I have snacks in my car. Thirsty, starving, and stuck in traffic does not a happy camper make. I will adjust.

The most important thing I do for myself is keep my workout routine solid. I water jog every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the late afternoon. That is non negotiable, and the perfect way to decompress. That, and my normal evening routine at home with my husband are keeping me grounded, so I have some semblance of normalcy.

At this time, I am not doing weekly meal preps for myself. As I previously mentioned, and detailed in last week’s blog, I am keeping a safe pantry, refrigerator, and freezer in my home with the things I enjoy eating, as well as plenty of water, and tea. I have a new, fun breakfast sandwich that my husband invented. I had it today, and plan to make it for myself a couple of times this week, and switch off with my yogurt, berry, and cereal bowl that I also mentioned last week.

The sandwich is one egg fried in canola oil spray inside a metal ring, so it’s perfectly shaped. I place it on a toasted 100 calorie multi grain English muffin with a meatless patty, a little sliced tomatoes, and mustard. It is filling and delicious. The English muffin is 3 points. The meatless patty I used today was 3 points, and the egg, tomato, and mustard are all 0 points. Today I bought Trader Joe’s meatless breakfast patty to use during the week that is just 2 points. So that will be a 5 point breakfast. I also have to have my small organic banana every morning as my after breakfast treat.

Perfectly proportioned breakfast sandwich

The Sweets Conundrum

I have been wanting to bring up this topic for a while now. Sweets are so important to us. And why not? Sugar is delicious. And addicting. Of course, those of us on healthy lifestyle eating plans, weight loss plans, or who are diabetic are constantly either working to stay away from sweets altogether, or are always looking for viable substitutes. That’s me. I have to have my “after dinner treat”, or I don’t feel satisfied.

Some of my go-tos are simply sweet fruits, like my beloved Cara Cara oranges, or fresh strawberries topped with real whipped topping out of the can (15 cal for 2 tblsp/ 1 point). My favorite store bought sweets include Jello Sugar Free Chocolate Pudding cups, sugar free frozen fudge pops (just 40 calories each, or 3 points for 2 pops), and my favorite, any low calorie ice cream or novelty by Enlightened. I am a huge fan of their products:

Last week I made tropical mango popsicles using Stevia, and today I made chocolate chia pudding, also using Stevia. I want to dispel the myths about Stevia. Unlike other sugar substitutes it is derived from a plant. To me, it is as sweet as sugar, and doesn’t have the aftertaste that you associate with sugar substitutes.

Chia Seeds, by the way, are packed with omega-3s, protein, and antioxidants. They go in everything – yogurt, oatmeal, baked goods, smoothies. I even put them in my veggie egg white fritattas.

Chocolate Chia Pudding

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Have a great week, my friends!