Month: March 2011

Philly for the Weekend

Friday during work, I spontaneously decided to take off early and go up to Philly to visit my sister and nephew. I still had a little comp time left from my trip to San Diego, and though Wil and I had plans to go up on Sunday just for the day, I really had nothing else going on during the weekend. I found a bus that goes from DC to Philly for $15  (!) with free wifi, so I ended up being on that bus within 2 hours of deciding to go up!

I was SO glad I did that. The bus allowed me to read and nap and was pretty painless overall, and I made it to Philly by 6pm on Friday. I spent as much time as possible during the weekend like this:

And had such a nice, relaxing time! We cooked, ordered Vietnamese food, and just tried to lay low a lot of the weekend.

Harper is doing great, by the way. He still has oxygen and getting off of it is his next big hurdle, but given the miracle that he is I have faith. He’s up to almost 9 lbs and doing a lot of eating, sleeping, farting, and burping like any other baby. Smile

Though I did get a lot of relaxation in, I also go in a nice long run in absolutely gorgeous running weather. My sister is also into running, so we took her dog Sadie out first thing on Saturday. I ended up doing just over 10 miles, but my darn Garmin wouldn’t pick up satellite for the first 1.6 miles of the run and it was making me crazy. I ended up stopping for a bit at the separation point (where Wendy was turning to make a shorter loop home) and it finally picked up signal and kept it for the rest of the run.

8.63 + 1.6 miles = 10.23 total

I was really happy that the 8.63 that the Garmin picked up were at a 9:30 pace – very fast for me! That’s my stretch goal pace for my half marathon, so fingers crossed I can stick with that pace on race day.

Sunday, my parents ended up coming to meet us for brunch, before I got on the bus home. Brunch was great, but the bus ride home was not nearly as pleasant as the ride up. I had the most ridiculously obnoxious person sharing my bus seat, and he would not leave me alone. I would close my eyes to try to sleep and he would just keep talking to me. I put my headphones in – same story. I had to literally say “I am going to read now” about 3 times before he’d let me read my book/stop talking to me. During one point I was passed out, and I had to say “I’m sleeping!” because he was just talking to me constantly. He then said he was just talking to himself, nto to me. Ok…

Towards the end of the trip, he finally let me finish a really awesome book called I’m With Fatty (full review coming soon because it was amazing and deserves it’s own post) and the SECOND I closed the book I closed my eyes. I always like to stop and take a few minutes to think about a book after I read it, especially if it really resonates with me like this one did. This time though, that was not an option. “So what is that? A diet book? It can’t just be a diet book. I need to lose weight, I should be the one reading that.” It would not end. As soon as the bus pulled in I practically trampled over him to get off the bus and power walk towards the metro. Argh!

Besides the rocky bus ride home though, the weekend was really great and I was glad to get some quality time with my sister and little nephew.

How was your weekend? Did you travel somewhere or stay put? Have you ever had an annoying companion on a bus or train ride?

Ingredient Spotlight: Lotus Root

One advantage to dating a chef, besides the obvious fact that it’s nice to have a man who can cook, is that exotic ingredients sometimes make their way into my kitchen unannounced. Like the other night when he walked in with these.

They basically look like skinned potatoes with the ends cut off – nothing special.

But then when you glance a little closer…

You can see something special is going on with these things.

Never in my life had I seen or even heard of anything like it before. I had no clue what it was, and after looking at it, all I could tell was that it was pretty.

When Wil told me it was Lotus Root, I immediately googled it and here’s what I found out:

  • Lotus root is popular in southern and eastern Asia
  • It’s loaded with fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and lots of other vitamins and nutrients
  • It has a crisp, slightly crunchy texture, like a water chestnut
  • It’s a starchy root veggie, similar to a potato
  • They brown pretty quickly just like a potato after being exposed to air, so soak it in water with lemon juice or vinegar until you’re ready to cook it
  • They are 0 pts+ on Weight Watchers (score!)
  • You can get them at most Asian grocery stores, or if you score a chef for a boyfriend (or girlfriend!) 😉
  • You probably shouldn’t eat it raw

It’s kind of sad how excited I was all day yesterday to go home and experiment with the lotus root. I use the term “kind of” loosely to mean extremely.

I ended up slicing up one of the roots thinly. I seriously could not get over how gorgeous it was.

I prepared the lotus root in the simplest way – by sauteing it in 2 tsp canola oil.

They soaked the oil up right away and I flipped them when they were barely browned and cooked them evenly on the other side.

Then I set them aside off the heat while I chopped up some Asian-esuqe things to go with the lotus root that I had on hand to make a stir fry.

Tofu, carrot, green onion, garlic, and ginger. I cooked that all together plus a little nonstick spray and some soy sauce.

Once that mixture was cooked through, I tossed the lotus root back into the mix, and served the stir fry over some coconut rice (recipe coming soon).

This was seriously the best dinner I’ve made at home in a long, long time (and I’ve made some pretty incredible dinners recently!). The texture of the lotus root was perfect – a little softer than a water chestnut, but still slightly crisp. From cooking them the oil, they took on a caramelized flavor and were edging on sweet. And the coconut rice I served them with? We won’t even go there. Heaven.

I seriously cannot wait for lunch so I can eat the leftovers. Let’s see how long I can make it.

Have you ever heard of or seen lotus root before? What’s the most exotic ingredient you’ve ever experimented with at home or been served at a restaurant?

PS: This is my 500th post!!! Crazy.

Mini Mexican Casseroles

Boy do I have an awesome recipe to share with you guys today! But first, two things:

  1. I lost 1.4 at weigh in this week, putting me at 166.4 (!). That means I’m only 6.4 pounds from my goal weight and have lost 15.2 pounds since recommitting in December!!!!!
  2. I recently realized that today is my two year anniversary with Weight Watchers! I joined March 3, 2009 and my life has changed so dramatically over these past two years – I couldn’t be happier.

And now, onto the important stuff. A new recipe.

Corn tortillas are a staple in my kitchen. I ALWAYS have them on hand because they are super versatile, so cheap (just 79 cents at Whole Foods for organic ones!), delicious, and very points+ friendly (1 pt+ a piece). When I saw a corn tortilla casserole on Caitlin’s blog, I knew I had to have it. She got the idea from Tina, and the idea has been circulating around the blog world ever since.

You all know by now that it’s nearly impossible for me to follow recipes, but I wanted to use the basic premise. It’s basically like a Mexican lasagna, with tortillas in place of noodles, and the best part is this dish is super easy, economical, and absolutely incredible. I had been dreaming up what exactly I would put in my version of the dish, and last night was finally the night. It did NOT disappoint.

Mini Mexican Casseroles

Entire recipe is 2 servings, 7 pts+ per serving. Printable version here.

Here’s what you need for success:

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  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (or fresh)
  • 1 cup black beans (you can use canned, I used these)
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 4 corn tortillas, quartered
  • 1/2 cup light shredded mozzarella

First, preheat your oven to 400º.

Next, heat up the canola oil in a pan over medium heat. Once that is hot, add in the bell pepper.

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Let the bell pepper cook for 3-4 minutes until it’s starting to get soft, and then add in the corn and mushrooms.

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Sautee for another 3-4 minutes until everything is cooked and heated through, and then add in the black beans.

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Since the beans are already cooked, you just want to get everything hot and then your filling is complete.

Next up is the fun part – assembling the casseroles. I have this set of pyrex glassware and I always use the 2 cup casserole dishes to make mini casseroles – one for dinner, and one for lunch the next day. I highly recommend them because you can cook in them and they come with lids so they’re perfect for storage too. If you don’t have individual casserole dishes, you can use a larger casserole dish and divide it up how you want, but getting to eat the entire casserole gets me going so I prefer these. 🙂

Start by splitting about half of the filling mixture between the two casseroles.

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Next add in 1/4 cup salsa to each dish and top with 4 pieces of the tortilla each (one tortilla in each dish).

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Now divide the rest of the filling, the rest of the tortillas, and the rest of the salsa evenly between the dishes.

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Finally, top each with half of the cheese.

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Check out all those layers!

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Put it on your preheated oven for 20 minutes, then turn up the heat to 450 and let cook for 5-10 minutes more until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Garnish with scallions if you like.

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I ate it with a serving of chips and extra salsa on the side for 10 pts+ total.

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Heavenly! It was seriously SO good. The corn tortillas soak up the salsa and take on this incredible texture. The casserole was a pretty large serving too, and it was really filling and hearty. I also loved how much flavor the salsa gave to the whole dish. Notice there was no salt, pepper, or any spices, but it was bursting with flavor. I will absolutely be making this again, and I suggest you do the same!

What’s your favorite kind of casserole? Feel free to share links in the comments section!

Finding the Motivation to Get Motivated

Many people have approached me over the last couple years to ask where it is that I found the motivation to change my life so drastically. Most of them knew me from before as a (funny) obese, chain-smoking couch potato and are fascinated by my transformation into to a (funny) healthy living advocate and runner.

Before I get to the answer just yet, I think it’s important to establish what exactly motivation is. By definition, motivation is “that which gives purpose and direction to behavior.” (Source) With this in mind, it basically means we are looking for something to drive us to exercise and eat well – something to get us going.


Everyone has their own reasons that motivate them to want to change their life. They can include anything like losing weight, breathing better, running faster, reducing the amount of medication needed, feeling sexy, fitting in smaller clothes, finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, lowering blood pressure. I could go on.

I was young enough when I started to change my life that I didn’t have any serious medical issues yet, but knew I was on the road to an early grave. My father, who I largely take after (pun intended) has every disease under the sun related to being obese – Type II Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea.

While avoiding a future full of medications and complications from something that was preventable was definitely one reason I wanted to lose weight, I was also getting to the point where I was simply sick of being fat. I had been obese for so many years of my life, but the trouble was I was blaming other things and people even though I really did want to change.

I blamed my parents for fostering my obsession with food and for not leading by a healthy example.

I blamed the food itself for being so delicious and for being hard to resist.

I blamed the clothes that didn’t fit because they were made so small and not true to size.

I blamed moderation for not being a part of who I was.

You get the idea. The bottom line was that all I knew was it wasn’t my fault.

Then one day in late 2008, I was visiting my gyno for an annual appointment, and she straight up asked me what was going on with my weight. I didn’t know how to respond at all, and so she asked me what my plan was and why I didn’t just join Weight Watchers. I do NOT like being told what to do, and certainly not from someone who didn’t understand the true reasons behind my obesity.

I was humiliated. I left the office feeling defeated, embarrassed, angry, mad, sad and like I had been seriously wronged. After tossing these negative feelings around in my head for several days and then letting the anger subside a bit, I started to reconsider what she had said.

I realized that maybe she was in tune with the reasons for my obesity. She asked me what my plan was. What was I going to do to fix the problem.

It was then that it clicked.

Motivation is not something that happens to you – it is something you make happen. Those who are motivated are not waiting for something or someone else to get them motivated; they are making it happen for themselves.

I was only successful in changing my life this time around because I finally accepted personal responsibility for my obesity, rather than succumbing to the excuses I had developed a true knack for making over the years.

So now back to the original question – where did I find the motivation to change my life?

Right here.

I just wish I had known it was within me all along.

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this. Was accepting responsibility a turning point for you? What would you say motivates you to live a healthy life?

Marvelous March?

I cannot believe it’s already March… but in hopes of not sounding like a broken record on the first of every month, that’s all I’ll say on that subject.

Since its a new month, its time to see how I did on the goals for last month and set some new ones for this one! March is a big month for me because its the month of my half marathon, but first…

For February:

1. Continue to following my training plan, building up to a 10 mile run and continuing with speed training. Check! I only missed one or two weekly runs, and none of the long runs or the speed training. I also went from 7 miles to 10 miles on the long run!

2. Continue to stretch after every run for injury prevention. I’m happy to report that this now feels like it’s become a habit and I don’t even think about NOT stretching. So weird for me considering it was SO hard at the beginning to get myself to do it!

3. Try to do The Shred each week on Mondays or Thursdays. FAIL. I only did The Shred once during the whole month… I have to be more consistent about strength training because I know it will only make me a better runner.

4. Go back to Bikram at least once. I did this one!

5. Get down to 168. Yes! I weighed in at 167.8! I didn’t weigh in last week but am going this week so hopefully it’ll be the same or lower.

6. Keep up with menu planning. I’ve done pretty good with this one! New meals included Tempeh Tacos, Skillet Souffle, and Peanut Sauce with Summer Rolls.

7. Read another book. Check – I read Service Included.

8. Focus on going to bed earlier. Fail. I’ve been staying up until midnight still during the week and it makes getting up in the morning a lot less fun than it could be.

9. Cash Only Spending Policy. I didn’t do this, BUT, I did come up with a great system that works for me. I opened a second checking account that I’m using strictly for spending money, and every Monday I’m transferring in $150 to use for the week. This includes groceries, gas, drinks/dinner/happy hours. All my bills are coming out of the other account, and this system seems to be working really well so far.

So all in all, I did pretty well with my goals but definitely have some areas for improvement. I’m especially proud of being so dedicated to my training plan and keeping up with the speed work and long runs. I’m also proud that it feels like I’ve made stretching into a habit rather than a reach goal like it was before.

And now…

For (a hopefully) Marvelous March:

1. Kill the half marathon on March 26th!! My goal is to PR in the half, which should be doable based on my current pace with long runs and the training.2011 National Half Marathon Logo

2. Follow my half marathon training plan, continuing to focus on speed work and long runs!

3. Focus on strength training at least once a week, hopefully twice. I’m going to count The Shred, free weights, and/or Bikram all as strength training.

4. Post one new step-by-step recipe on here each week.

5. Stick to under $75 per week in groceries and post the shopping trip goods on here to show how to eat well on a budget! You can see the first trip that I posted yesterday here.

6. Get below 166 pounds – even 165.8 will be great. I weighed in at 166 in January 2010, and haven’t seen the weight since. I think it stuck for all of 30 seconds. Getting to 165 will be my lowest weight of all time, and put me under 6 pounds from my goal weight.

7. Start researching marathon training plans to get excited about the full marathon at the end of October. We’ll see if this one works.

So those are pretty lofty goals but I think taking things one at a time will really help. I’m actually getting super excited about the half marathon and am looking forward to crushing my time in my first (2:16:18).

How was February for you? Any big plans for March?

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