The Healthy Coastal Lifestyle Continues

A couple of weeks ago, I shared how my journey toward the healthy coastal lifestyle began with exercise.  As I began this journey, I determined to keep a food journal in my phone.  This helped me see what I was eating, how much I was eating, and how healthily I was eating.  After sweating through my first months of exercise, I decided to start getting serious about eating healthily.  If I was doing all this work, I definitely wanted to make sure I wasn’t sabotaging my efforts.

Now, for my caveat…  I don’t have any dietary restrictions or health conditions that prevent me from eating whatever I want.  I do have a genetic predisposition towards high cholesterol, which often sucks, given how much I like eggs, shrimp, and liver pudding, so I do limit myself on these foods.  If you have questions or concerns about how to adjust your diet, talk to your doctor first.  These tricks are what have worked for me.

Things to be aware of…  Sugar is the basic source of energy for us people.  Our bodies burn off simple sugars first – sucrose, fructose, glucose.  Then they go to carbohydrates, converting carbs into sugars.  Once our bodies don’t have any carbohydrates to consume as energy, they start attacking fat, converting fat into sugars for its use.  Keep that in mind, as it is very important for how you eat.

The food journal/diary is very important.  It’s an old trick, it’s fairly simple with today’s technology, but it’s still important.  You can go old school and write down what you eat with pen and paper.  There are computer programs and device apps that keep track of your meals, your calorie and nutrient intake, and whatever else you could want.  Mine also keeps up with my nutrient score and rewards me with a badge when I hit 80 or above (the closer to 100, the better).

Focus on carbs earlier in the day.  This gives your body time to burn it off throughout the day.  Shoot for absolutely no carbs after 5 p.m. (way easier said than done!).  Each gram of carbs is worth 4 calories, so remember that when you’re ready to dive into that Cinnabon.  I hit another plateau in my weight loss, so I started cutting back on carbohydrates, forcing my body into fat-burning mode with the twice-weekly aerobics classes and thrice-weekly walk/jogs.

Working, exercising, straining muscles need protein.  Proteins help repair muscles after workouts, though a protein hit an hour before your workout will boost you gloriously through it.  I grab milk, peanuts, a protein bar, or a cheese stick.  Proteins will also help you feel fuller for longer, so you won’t be as tempted to snack.

We can’t forget the fats, though.  It’s gratifying seeing that I truly am cutting carbs, but it’s also disheartening to see the fat grams stacking up.  Our bodies need fat, though.  It’s essential to the metabolism of vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Keep it lean as much as humanly possible, though, avoiding saturated fats and embracing unsaturated.

I honestly deny myself nothing.  If I want dessert, I eat dessert – but only if I’ve kept the eating limited throughout the day.  When I know I’m going to be eating heavily, such as at special dinners, I just go with some lean protein for lunch.  I learned several years ago that when I crave something, I should enjoy it in moderation and get rid of the craving.  Otherwise, that craving becomes an obsession.  At the same time, I listen to my body’s cravings, because usually it craves foods with nutrients it needs.

Working out paired with dietary changes has made a huge difference in how I’ve felt and in my healthy lifestyle journey.  I had to make a wardrobe transition, donating too-big clothes and buying new clothes that are already feeling loose.  But it’s all good, because I see the changes in my body, both in the mirror and when I feel the new muscle tone in my back, arms, abs, and thighs.  And just Sunday, a friend/aerobics instructor said she could see in my face that I’ve lost weight.  When I washed my face last night, I could see my cheekbones have reemerged – those lovely cheekbones that bely my Cherokee heritage.  It’s so good seeing them again!

What steps will you make towards embracing the healthy coastal lifestyle?  Here we are, early in the year with New Year’s resolutions and Super Bowl junk foodin’ behind us.  It’s a great time to get serious!  We’ve got this!


Lazy Dieting Works!

Along this health and nutrition journey I’m on, I have discovered something very important about myself.  When it comes to dieting, I’m lazy!  As Dad would put it, I have a terrible case of Yzal Syndrome (that’s lazy spelled backwards).  The funny part is, this laziness works for me.  Let me explain.

When I started this journey back in October, the mess got real!  Not only did I start walking and doing more resistance training and toning, but I also began to use the food tracker in my phone’s health app.  It has an impressive amount of food already in it; it’s nothing to find a Trader Joe’s cinnamon raisin bagel or one of the half-dozen varieties of Canadian bacon we could have in the fridge and with which I’d make a breakfast sandwich (with a blend of egg whites and Egg Beaters, also in the app).  Basic foods, especially my typical breakfast choices, are pretty easy.

Then there are those dishes that reflect our family’s love for cooking.  Around Christmas especially, we made a variety of cookies and confections, plus we were given some homemade goodies, as well, and

English: Plateful of Christmas Cookies
English: Plateful of Christmas Cookies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

each and every one had to go into the app.  That means, I had to figure out all the nutrition information (I do that at Spark Recipes), putting every ingredient in the computer and seeing what I get.  Oh my gosh, who has time for all that?  Dinners and lunches are one thing, but it’s just not worth it for snack foods.  This is the point where I get lazy.

Let’s say I’m feeling peckish, and my choices are a couple of cookies whose recipes I’ll have to input, or a half-serving of cereal.  I will literally determine if I want to go through the trouble of dealing with the recipe, or if I want to take the cereal option before committing to the snack.  The cereal will have far less sugar than the cookies, less fat, and fewer calories, plus have a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals added.  Even better, if it’s one of my usual breakfast cereals, it’s already in my phone.  Being lazy like this has saved me a lot of empty calories over the past few months.

Do I eat cookies and sweets?  Yes, but only if my calorie allotment leaves room for them and I really, truly want them.  My health app gives me 2100 calories a day; I personally strive for close to 1600.  If I’m sitting at 1543 after dinner, then the sweets aren’t happening.  On the other hand, if I think I want sweets because I’m bored, I’ll pick up the knitting.  (So far since Christmas I’ve knitted a scarf and two hats, and am working on a prayer shawl.  I fight a lot of boredom munchies.)

Give yourself permission to be lazy in some areas as you’re striving to meet your goals for the year.  Unless your goal is to be more ambitious, in which case, this won’t work for you.  Be diligent in working towards your goals, but also know that you’re going to miss your mark some days.  There is grace for those days; shrug off the disappointment and tell yourself, “Tomorrow is another day and another chance to get it right.”  It’s better to start over anew each day than to quit completely because of one screw up.  You’ve got this!

Divine German Chocolate Brownies

I guess I was feeling the withdrawal from not being able to do my usual Christmas cooking, so, right when I usually stop baking for a few months, suddenly I had the insane urge to make some brownies.  Since we don’t keep brownie mix in the pantry, the girls and I whipped up some brownies from scratch, but we wanted to kick these bad boys up a few notches, so we scrounged through the pantry and freezer to see what we could find.

First, we grabbed a can of condensed milk and stuck that in a pot of boiling water for 4 hours.  The result?  A divinely rich dulce de leche; it tasted very close to caramel, and would be perfect for dipping tart apple slices.

The girls whipped up the brownies we found here.

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup baking cocoa

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 tablespoons water

3/4 cups butter or margarine, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla

Chocolate chips and nuts, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 deg.  Grease 9×9″ baking pan (use a 9×13″ if just making plain brownies).

Combine dry ingredients in large mixer bowl; stir.  Add wet ingredients and stir well.

We spread half the brownie batter in the pan, then spread half the can of dulce de leche over it and sprinkled it with 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut and 1/2 cup chopped pecans.  Then we spread the remaining brownie batter on top of that, topping it with the rest of the dulce de leche, coconut, and chopped pecans.  We baked our brownies for 18-25 minutes (ours ran 25 minutes), then let them cool.  The toothpick came out a little sticky; this is normal.

German Chocolate Brownies, fresh from the oven
German Chocolate Brownies, fresh from the oven

Suffice it to say, these didn’t last long, but what a wonderful treat they were!

Looks absolutely amazing!
Looks absolutely amazing!

Embracing the Summer Harvest

It’s not that cold here, thank goodness.  In fact, it’s still warm enough to enjoy fresh tomatoes and fresh basil, sun-warmed out of the garden.  After purchasing 30 pounds of tomatoes last weekend and putting most of them up hot-packed, I still had a dutch oven full of peeled, quartered tomatoes.  What was going to be more hot-packed tomatoes ended up turning into the most fabulous tomato soup I’ve ever had.  After tormenting my Facebook friends with pictures of our dinner Saturday night, I thought it’d be only kind to share my recipes with them and with you.

First up, my homemade Tomato Basil Bisque.


2 T. Butter or Margarine

1 medium onion, chopped (about ½ cup)

3 small carrots, grated (about 1 cup)

2 T. all-purpose flour

1 cup half-and-half

1 jar (26 oz.) chunky tomato pasta sauce

1 can (14.5 ozs.) diced tomatoes, undrained

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Additional basil for garnish (optional)


  1. In 3 qt. saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots, cooking 3-4 minutes or until soft.  Add flour; cook and stir until moistened.  Gradually add half-and-half, cooking and stirring about 2 minutes until smooth.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover; cook for 15 minutes just until coming to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. If desired, top with additional fresh basil leaves

Serves 4.

Can use 2% milk.  When I made this, I made my own tomato sauce from cooked down tomatoes, adding 1 tsp. salt to that.  I also used fresh tomatoes instead of canned.  I added ½ tsp. salt and 1 T. of Italian seasoning to the soup.  It was a tad too salty, though, so I recommend adding only 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the homemade sauce.  I found a pouch of this Italian seasoning blend in the pantry that I’m going to use next time.

Homemade tomato basil bisque
Homemade tomato basil bisque

I made that bisque to accompany these Chicken and Cheese Stuffed Shells.  These feature my homemade pesto, made from basil I harvested from our garden.  I still have at least 6 thriving basil plants and 6 plastic pint containers of pesto in the freezer.  It’s going to taste like summer all winter!

Chicken & Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Pesto


24 ounces chicken, cooked and diced

1 cup Italian-blend cheese, divided

16 ounces pesto

½ box jumbo pasta shells


Cook shells according to package directions; drain.

While the pasta is cooking, combine 1/3 cup cheese, all the chicken, and ¼ cup pesto in a bowl.

Fill cooked shells with chicken mixture and place in a 9”x9” or 11”x7” pan.  Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 5 minutes at 350o, or just until cheese is melted.  After removing pan from oven, cover shells with pesto.  Let sit for 5 minutes to warm the pesto.

Serves 4.

2015-10-24 19.33.32
Chicken & Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Pesto

When we’re not making soap, we really love to experiment in the kitchen, trying out delicious, easy, inexpensive dishes that are well-suited to our busy life.  I’m hoping to make up some of that bisque (minus the milk) to can for the winter.

Rewards of Limitations

It’s one thing to tell myself that I won’t do an event.  I can list the reasons why it’s a good idea to skip it.  I can identify all the affirmations of the decision.  The real test comes, however, in the moment:  How will I feel knowing the event is happening and I’m not doing it?

Friday, the feeling that I was doing the right thing in not vending Saturday’s event continued.  I felt so relieved!  I commented to Mom later that that must have been what she felt the first day after she retired.  She commented, “It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of you.”  Yes!!!  That’s it exactly!  Friday, the girls and I ran some errands around town, and I know I had the biggest, dopiest smile on my face.  We went to the bank to withdraw some money.  The teller took my check and started pulling out bills.  Then she looked at the check again.  She looked at me with some confusion.  Then she looked at the check yet again.  She said, “You usually get more money than this.  Are you doing the festival?”  I replied, “No, which is why I’ve got this huge smile on my face.”  It was getting almost comical.

Friday night, I was sitting on the sofa knitting and watching TV with the Swirl God.  I said, “You see this?  You see what I’m doing?  Or, more specifically, what I’m not doing?”  He didn’t quite get it.  I said, “I’m sitting.  And knitting.  And watching reruns of TV shows I missed the first time.  I’m not sitting at the table labeling a bunch of stuff.  And later I’ll be heading to bed at a decent time, and maybe I’ll even sleep in in the morning.”  My best friend who usually waits up with me while I’m doing my last-minute show prep was also looped into the giddiness.

The day of the festival arrived, and I did, in fact, sleep in.  I pretty much slept until the start of the festival.  Then it was on!  I made cinnamon roll waffles for breakfast, then I started potatoes for potato salad.  Long story short, I made potato salad and a batch of oat bran zucchini chocolate chunk muffins before lunch, and made a batch of pickles afterwards.  The girls and their dad went to the festival, but they were back in about an hour; it was just too hot.  By all accounts, attendance was down and people weren’t parting with their money easily.  It also seems like it was another one like last year when it died 4 hours before the end.

Yummy sandwich slices!

It felt a little bad not being at the festival, not seeing one of my private label customers (another vendor), and potentially not serving my repeat customers.  But only a little.  I got over it.  It just felt so good all weekend!  There was the happy, relieved feeling of all week.  There was the family time before the girls scattered for the week.  There was having the energy to hang in until late with my best friend after his mom got hurt.  There was the simple sweetness of celebrating Father’s Day on Saturday with a movie and a special dinner.  And then there was Father’s Day itself, the first in a few years where I actually got to see my dad on Father’s Day.

Telling myself no to this event was risky; I stood to lose a good deal of potential revenue.  I gained so much more, though, far more than that money is worth.

No Soap in Arendelle!

Ever have one of those weekends that end and you think you could really use a weekend to recover from your weekend?  That’s me today as we begin yet another week of work and school.  We had a great weekend, but we’re totally wiped out!  Saturday, the girls, Mom and I went to see a production of the play, The Little Mermaid.  After sitting in ridiculously, unnecessarily jammed traffic, we finally made it to Raleigh.  The play was highly enjoyable, and we went out to dinner afterwards.

My youngest daughter’s birthday weekend continued into Sunday with church and her family party.  Of course, like most little girls this year, the theme had to be Frozen.  Mom set an adorable table with a white tablecloth and blue snowflakes; my daughter chose a delicious menu of ham, macaroni and cheese (Click for the recipe – soooo good!), crescent rolls, and raw vegetables with dip; and my older daughter and I made the cake.

Frozen Cake
Hannah’s Frozen Cake

Look at this!  Devil’s Food cake (from a box this time) iced with homemade buttercream frosting.  To seal the cake and prevent crumbs from getting into the icing, I applied a sealing layer of thinned icing lightly flavored with clear Creme de Menthe.  My older daughter did the blue trim, and we made the ice palace with rock candy.  The figurines came from The Disney Store.  I told Mom I’d save the rock candy for when they took the girls to the mountains next month; they could eat it in the car.  (Yes, I’m slightly evil like that.)

I have a week to make my way from Arendelle to Hogwarts, navigating through school, work, and a girly sleepover between now and Sunday.  Whew! 🙂