September 20, 2021

What I've Been Eating As I've Been Losing Weight

Several people have asked me to do a "what I eat" post recently. I don't normally like to post these because I get a lot of criticism for my food choices. But as I'll explain below, I just do what works for me. I'm not at all saying that this is how other people should eat!

I still feel like posts like this are premature because I am not at my target weight (goal weight, comfortable weight, happy weight, call it what you like). I'm still in the process of losing the weight I'd gained over the last few years.

Thankfully, it's going very well! I've lost just over 30 pounds in 16 weeks, going from a 10-year-high weight of 197 to 163.8 at my most recent weigh-in.

To lose the weight, I've just been counting calories (something that has never failed me in the past). There is no cookie cutter weight loss plan for everybody; we all need to find out what works for us (that took a lot of trial and error for me).

I've learned quite a bit about my body over the last three decades of dieting! Here are just a few things I've learned:

I lose weight very consistently when I reduce the number of calories I'm eating. If I just try to eat less food, I still tend to eat too much; that's why I count the calories.

My body likes to run on carbs and fat. Whenever I tried to get the recommended-at-the-time ratio of macronutrients in the past, I was miserable. It caused me to binge eat and quit altogether. I don't even look at my macronutrients now; I just trust that my body will crave what it needs.

I feel best when I eat a small volume of food, but still keep the calories at a "normal" number. In other words, I prefer calorie-dense foods. When I eat a large volume of lower-calorie food, I just don't feel good. Eating smaller, higher-calorie foods satisfies my appetite and hunger without making me feel overly full and bloated.

I do best without a calorie limit. This is always hard to explain, but I don't have a particular number that I aim for each day. I find that when I do, I don't listen to my body's cues. Some days, I have no appetite and I eat very little; other days, I'm ravenous and I eat a lot. I find that if I have a target, I'll continue to eat until I reach that number whether I'm hungry or not. Or if I have already used my calories for the day and I'm super hungry, I'll binge eat. So, I choose not to have a calorie limit. I find that I average anywhere from 1300 to 1900 a day. But still, sometimes more and sometimes less.

Finally, I much prefer to use my calories on a meal that I really look forward to (which is dinner). So, I save the majority of my calories for dinnertime and a snack a few hours later. I eat dinner very early (between 3:30 and 4:30 ish). So I'll eat very lightly until dinner.

Okay, I just wanted to explain all that before I get into what I tend to eat day-to-day. To someone who is used to eating 5-6 times a day, it would sound like I'm starving by eating only 2-3 times. Or to someone who likes 3 square, balanced meals, my food choices seem odd.

Note: My serving sizes may vary from what is shown here or listed in recipes. I base my serving size on how hungry I am--I just make sure to measure it and count it.

Breakfast

For a while last year, I got into doing intermittent fasting and I skipped breakfast and lunch. I really liked that, because I found it freed my mind from thinking about food all day! I don't do fasting (deliberately) anymore, but I also don't mind missing meals if I'm not hungry or I'm just busy.

Breakfast is the same for me every day. I have black tea with a teaspoon of honey and a tablespoon of heavy cream. Most days I don't eat anything with it, but when I do, it's fruit. I'll have a big bowl of grapes or a couple of plums or peaches. Whatever I have on hand. I love fruit!

Asian Pear (These are my very very favorite fruit! But I can never find them and when I do,
they are $2-3 EACH. I'm hoping my Asian Pear tree will give me fruit one day!




Lunch

I've never enjoyed lunchtime. It seems so inconvenient--it's always when I'm busy doing other things, and I don't like to cook just for myself. Also, I never know what to eat for lunch.

If I'm really busy, I'll just skip it. Otherwise, I almost always have a couple of pieces of string cheese and either crackers or fruit. I can't remember the last time I had something other than that, actually!

The jalapeƱo string cheese is my favorite!



Dinner

I'm always hungry for dinner, which is how I like it. If I'm not very hungry, then the food doesn't taste as good. By 3:30 or 4:00, I'm definitely ready to eat. Since I eat very lightly throughout the day, I like to plan a satisfying dinner. Satisfying doesn't always mean "big" (as in volume) but it's almost always something high in calories. I don't skimp on using oil or butter, cheese, pasta, rice, etc.

Also, I don't like eating a typical "meat and side dishes" type meals. I almost always make one-pot meals, skillet dinners, and casseroles. Clearly, I don't eat enough vegetables. I like to mix them into whatever the dish is that I'm making. If I was to cook a side of veggies, I'd be the only one in my family to eat them!

Here are some examples of dinner (I've linked the photos to my recipes, if they are posted on the blog):

Chicken Fajita Bowl


Fried Rice


Gnocchi and mushrooms with pesto cream sauce



Some sort of Asian chicken with rice (I can't remember)


Chicken Taco Soup


Spicy Chicken Taco Pasta


Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein


Pork Bibimbap


Mushroom Stroganoff (I give the family beef, but I prefer just mushrooms)



I'm not sure what this is, but it was good! Some sort of Asian-flavored skillet meal.



Meatball subs on garlic bread


Spaghetti Pie


White Chicken Enchiladas


Sesame Chicken


Tortellini with pesto cream


Chicken Pot Pie Bubble Up


Margherita Pizza


Spicy Peanut Noodle Bowls


Steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, and mushrooms


Hawaiian Fried Rice


Spicy Black Bean Enchiladas


Jerry's Favorite Pork and Rice with applesauce


Grilled cheese (muenster) with bacon


Chipotle chicken and cheese quesadillas (the kids like me to make this when they have
friends over for dinner--it's a teenager favorite!)


Ground turkey and cabbage with peanut sauce


General Tso's Chicken


Smoked sausage hash with a runny egg

Pesto Cream Gnocchi (we LOVE this! I usually make it with tortellini now, though)


A lot of the dinners are deceptively high in calories. Like the gnocchi above, I think it's something like 800 calories. It has heavy cream, parmesan cheese, and pesto sauce, which is a lot of fat. So even a small portion is very filling. That's what I am referring to when I say "calorie dense" foods. My dinner is almost always 700-1,000 calories. If I want to have less calories for dinner, I'll just eat a smaller portion of whatever I'm making rather than try to alter the recipe.

Snack

Since I eat dinner so early, I like to have a good-sized snack at around 8:00 or so. And this is where I basically just eat anything that sounds good. From a big bowl of grapes to a piece of homemade dessert to a couple of ounces of cashews to salami and string cheese. Anything goes--it just depends on my mood. But here are some examples of snacks:

Almonds and dried cherries


A candy bar of any sort--I love candy bars!


A Larabar with chocolate peanut butter and strawberries


Chips Ahoy cookies and milk (Chips Ahoy cookies are a vice of mine--
I like them more than homemade cookies a lot of the time! ;) 



Animal crackers and salami slices


A cookie sampler... I ended up not liking these ones, so I didn't finish them.


Cashews and string cheese (cashews are a go-to when I need more calories;
most of the time, I'll have 2 ounces, which is 340 calories; shown above is only 1 ounce).


Peach cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream


Imitation crab in butter with applesauce (yes, this is weird--it was a craving!)


Popcorn with fake butter (you know that butter flavored oil? That.) and salt


Cheez-its and string cheese


Marshmallows and cashews (marshmallows only have 25 calories each!)



Apple with cinnamon raisin peanut butter


Cap'n Crunch cereal (or any kind, really--I love cereal!)

As you can see, my snacks are a big smorgasbord of stuff. Sometimes I have as many calories as a full meal, other times just a couple hundred. Again, it all depends on how hungry I am and/or how much I ate during the rest of the day.

Drinks

As far as drinks, I only drink tea and water. I quit drinking alcohol in February and I don't like to spend calories on other drinks like soda or juice. If we have friends over or something, I might have Heineken 0.0, but other than that, I just stick to water. Occasionally a La Croix if I can get them on sale for cheap! Haha.

So there you have it. My diet is far from perfect, but it's a million times better than it was when I was 253 pounds. I eat what I enjoy and I don't obsess about getting in the perfect numbers. I eat too much sugar, not enough vegetables, too many processed foods, and all the other things that I've heard before. But I eat how it works best for ME. And I'm cool with that.

Also, my tastes change over time. I usually go through phases for months at a time, or even a year or more. (In 2015-2016, I probably ate 2,000 packs of fruit snacks! And in 2017, I ate probably 400 bowls of cereal. In 2012-2013, I ate oatmeal probably 700 times. One time, I even went through a salad phase--and I don't even like salad, for the most part! Lately, it's been string cheese, pickles, and crackers (Goldfish, Cheez-its, animal crackers, or plain old saltines).

Like I said, there is nothing special or exciting about my diet. I just eat whatever sounds best to me :)

September 19, 2021

HERITAGE RECIPE: Apple Delight


Since I didn't post a heritage recipe yesterday, I decided to find something simple from the heritage book to make today (with ingredients I already had on hand). The name "Apple Delight" sounded kind of retro and it looked simple enough.

It wasn't until just now, as I'm writing this post, that I realized I'd posted one of this woman's recipes recently. I typed her name into Google, and when the results popped up, I saw the first link was an ancestry site that had been clicked on (you know how they show up in a different color when you've already visited the links?).

Then I noticed that the second result on Google was "Creamed Ham, Asparagus, and Mushrooms (in a noodle ring!)" I thought, "Hey, I just made that... how funny."

THEN it hit me: "Waiiiiit a second.... that's my blog post!"

This recipe was submitted by Jean Eagal in memory of her mother, Elizabeth LaBo. I wrote a little about them in the post for Creamed Ham, Asparagus, and Mushrooms. Unfortunately, I couldn't find much--but I did post a couple of photos of them (both have passed away).

As I started making the recipe for Apple Delight, I started having some hesitations (which I'll note below). As always for the heritage recipes, I did not substitute ingredients or alter the recipe at all and I prepared it to the best of my understanding from the recipe. In the "printer friendly version", I've rewritten it with my notes included for clarification.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Here is the recipe exactly as written in the heritage cookbook:

Apple Delight

Beat 2 eggs till lemon color and stiff. Add 1 cup sugar, slowly. Add 2 tablespoons flour, sifted, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 cup chopped nuts, 1 diced apple (more if you want) and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour into baking dish. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Crust will rise up into a beautiful brown, then will fall. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


My Notes:

I got out the ingredients and as soon as I started prepping, I had a question: to peel the apple or not to peel? I really wanted to peel it first, because I just felt like that would be better in this case, but I left the peel intact because the recipe did not say to peel it.

It didn't say how small to chop the apples, but because the nuts are chopped, I assumed the apples should be on the small side as well. 

What size baking dish? This was totally up in the air. A pie plate? An 8x8? 9x9? 9x13? Based on the amount of batter, I guessed a smaller dish. Rather than choosing between square or round, I chose a 1.5-quart oval CorningWare dish.

And the biggest question of all: Do I grease the dish? Every instinct in my body was telling me to grease it! There was no butter or lard of any kind in the dish (the only fat came from the eggs--which stick to everything--and the nuts). But I don't have "baker's instincts". I have amateur cook's instincts. So, in the spirit of following the recipe instructions to the best of my ability, I did not grease the dish.


I put it in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes, hoping that I wasn't going to be scraping egg off a baking dish for an hour tonight. (Ask me how I know how much work that is! Haha)

While it was baking, I made some whipped cream. I didn't have any ice cream, but I wanted to serve it how the directions specified. So I just whipped 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 Tbsp. sugar until I had a delicious whipped cream.

When I pulled the dish out of the oven, it was indeed a beautiful brown color and it was puffed up high.


As it cooled, though, the center wasn't sinking. I gently touched the top with my finger, expecting it to be spongy, but it broke apart and I could see it was hollow underneath. (The top was like meringue.)




That's when I noticed that the center didn't appear to be cooked. I turned the oven back on, even though I knew that would probably mess it up, but I wanted to at least try to get it right.

After 10 more minutes, the center no longer looked like the yellow-ish brown batter. This "Apple Delight" isn't cake-like. I'm not really sure how to describe it. There are chunks of nuts and apples with a REALLY good meringue holding it together. But it's not something you slice; it was something to be scooped out. I scooped it out onto a plate and topped with the fresh whipped cream.


HOLY SMOKES. I was absolutely shocked that 1) I managed not to screw this up and 2) It was SO good! There was definitely no need to peel the apples--I didn't even notice the peel at all. The pecans gave most of the flavor--they were perfectly toasted. And with the sugar, it was basically like eating candied pecans with warm apples and a meringue crust--with freshly whipped cream!

"Delightful" is an understatement. I thought for sure when I read through the recipe that it was missing cinnamon or something, but after tasting it exactly as-written, I don't think it needs any changes whatsoever. It didn't even stick to the baking dish! This is a very light dessert (in the sense that it doesn't sit heavy in your stomach or make you feel sick after eating it). I definitely think that the choice of nuts will make all the difference. I don't think I'd like this as much with walnuts or almonds. The pecans were perfect.

This is going to be my go-to when I need to make a dessert. Clearly, it's fool-proof because it worked out for me even after I underbaked it at first. I bet it would be amazing with ice cream, too; but ice cream doesn't last more than 30 minutes in this house. However, I think the whipped cream complimented it really well.

Definitely make this if you're looking for a light but delicious dessert--it's amazing! (Jerry and Eli loved it; Noah said it was good, but he doesn't really like apple desserts, so it's not his favorite.) I will absolutely be making this again!

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