Harsh Realities of Losing Weight

This blog is called the Incredible Shrinking Whimsigal. It is so titled because I’ve long been on a journey to shrink my size. That has been slow in happening. 🙂 It’s not just my dress size that I want to shrink though. If I can shrink the portions I serve on my plate, if I can shrink my grocery budget, those count as little successes, too. The harsh reality is, I have not been focused on reducing my portion size and as a result, my own size has not reduced in any way. That must change. I absolutely believe that you can eat delicious food and lose weight, it just requires a little more sense when you eat and some activity as well. For the last few months, I’ve been lying to myself because I eat McDonald’s once a week and just plain eat out a lot. In order to lose weight that cannot continue. In order to be healthy that cannot continue. There is just so much junk in processed, prepared food that no one can live a healthy lifestyle by eating that all the time. It’s time for me to get serious and be brutally honest with myself. As long I as I don’t make any changes, I won’t see any changes and it’s as simple as that. It’s time to get back to basics. Eat good, whole food. Prepare as much as I can on my own, even snack foods like chips. This is not a difficult task, I just haven’t been serious about it for a while and have been lazing along, telling myself, “Oh I’ll start tomorrow,” and that tomorrow never comes. Until today. Today, I’m making a commitment to myself to be serious about getting healthy. No excuses, no procrastination. You will continue to see delicious meals here and I will break down for you what size portion I ate. I am going back to the tenets of Dr. Will Clower and am going to slow down when I eat. So many times, my meals are rushed, or eaten in the car and that has all got to change. Will you join me in living a more mindful life? Can you commit to sitting down at the table at least once a day and enjoying a slow meal? That is the commitment I’m making and I hope you’ll stick around to watch me do it. For those of you who are in the same boat I am and need to lose some weight, don’t give up. It’s so easy to get frustrated and we tend to be harder on ourselves than anyone else but please, don’t do that. It’s a recipe for failure. If you fall down, just get back up. You can do it and I can, too. We just have to honor the commitment to ourselves to do so. Now that all of that is out of the way, would you like to see what I made for lunch yesterday? Great! Right this way!

One of my favorite things to do with beef and beef leftovers is make Shepherd’s Pie. It’s a dish that I grew up eating and have long loved and whenever I make it, the house smells amazing and transports me back in time to my childhood. Usually, I make it with ground beef because it’s not often that I have leftover roast beef on hand On this occasion though there was leftover London Broil so I decided to give it a shot as the star of one of my favorite meals.

Because the meat is described as London Broil, one might think that those words describe the cut of meat when, in fact London Broil describes the manner in which the meat is cooked. The cut of London Broil is usually Top Round and here is the nutritional info, in case you’re interested, as noted by The Daily Plate:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 ounce (28g)
Amount per Serving
Calories 49 Calories from Fat 11
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 17mg 6%
Sodium 12mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sugars 0g
Protein 9g 18%
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0%
Iron 4%
Est. Percent of Calories from:
Fat 18.4% Carbs 0.0%
Protein 73.5%

You can see that it is a fairly lean cut of meat and it is generally prepared in the following manner:

marinate the beef
broil or grill to medium rare
slice across the grain at a 45-degree angle

If not prepared correctly, it an be a horrible dining experience. On this particular occasion, I did not marinate my London Broil and it was fine but I did cook it under the broiler for 6 mins per side, after generously seasoning it with McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning. I was the only one home to eat it so there was quite a bit leftover and that’s when I decided to use it in shepherd’s pie. It was divine! The montreal steak seasoning really added a lot of kick to a dish that can be comfortable but less than exciting to eat. I wholeheartedly recommend that spice blend and use it ALL the time. Here is my recipe:

Shepherds Pie
Serves 6-8

1-1.5 lbs top round, London Broil, cooked, seasoned with Montreal Steak Seasoning (i was using leftovers)
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 – 3/4 cup of frozen chopped onion, (or fresh)
1 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 yukon gold potatoes, prepared as mashed potatoes
3/4 can beef broth

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a casserole dish with Pam.

First, cube the leftover london broil, not too fine, but into very small, bite-size pieces. Next, over medium heat in a large saute pan, heat up the 1 Tbs of olive oil. When it’s hot enough, add the onions and saute until the begin to soften. At this point, add the cubed london broil and the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. This gives the beef some time to warm up and release some of the fat that has grown cold in the fridge. At this point, begin adding flour in 1 Tbs increments until the meat is covered well but not too much. You’re going to add the beef broth to make a gravy but you don’t want it too thick. Cook for a couple of minutes to give the flour a chance to cook down a bit and then add the beef broth. Continue to cook and add the frozen peas. You can microwave them first but it’s not necessary if you want to skip that step. Once the mixture begins to thicken, it’s ready to go into the casserole dish. Carefully transfer it from the pan to this dish, if it splatters you’ll get burned so watch out! Once the mixture is in the dish, top it with the mashed potatoes you made, or, if you’re lucky you can use potatoes you had leftover, too! Sometimes, I take 2 Tbs of butter and dice it and place it on top of the potatoes before putting it in the oven. This time however I did not do that and it was still delish. One other thing, I always place my casserole dish on a foil covered cookie sheet because sometimes the gravy will bubble over the top. This will prevent a messy oven! Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes then take it out and let it cool down for about 20-30 minutes. Serve in a small bowl and enjoy!

shepherds pie.jpg

Liz - Ok, that sounds awsome. I’ve been trying to ‘cut back’ on my portions as well. But when I’m eating egg/ham/melted cheese sandwiches, it kind of defeats the purpose. 🙂

carri - I love shepherd’s pie! I think I’ll look into a veggie version since I’m cutting beef out for a while.

Joie de vivre - Day by day, meal by meal. You can do it!

Meg - Looks amazing!

Lena - Portion control is sooooo hard. Even me, who had gastric bypass over 4 years ago still has a hard time with it. It’s a never ending battle. But you an always win a battle!

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Recent Eats

This week has been filled with good eats. On Sunday, I had big plans for watching football, even though I would be doing it by myself. The planned menu was homemade buffalo wings with ranch, chips and dip, and chocolate cake. None of that came to fruition because I spent all of Sunday morning helping my two boys clean their rooms. By the time that chore was done, I sat on the sofa with a ham sandwich and a pickle and watched the games. Fine by me, I really didn’t need all that food to myself anyway. On Monday though, Ryan (my youngest) and I decided to get in the kitchen and make some chocolate cupcakes. He and I sat together on the sofa and looked through Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking, and picked a recipe that looked pretty scrumptious to us both. Baking generally is not my forte. In the kitchen my tendency is to be haphazard and not measure things exactly. Cooking is forgiving of this method where baking needs precise measurements. As a result, I don’t bake things from scratch very often. These cupcakes though were simple and absolutely divine when they were done.

Here is the recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes as adapted form Dorie Greenspan in the book, Baking From My Home to Yours.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a 12-cup muffin pan, fill each mold with a paper cup.

In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa, whisking them together. Then in another bowl or in your stand mixer, cream the butter on medium speed. Add sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Then add the egg, mix well then add the yolk and beat until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl between egg additions. Beat in the vanilla, reduce speed on mixer to low and add half of your dry ingredients. Again, scrape down your bowl, add the buttermilk and mix well, then add the rest of your dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl once again and add the cooled, melted chocolate. Using a cookie scoop or your choice of instrument, scoop the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups.
Place on the center rack of your oven and bake for a minimum of 22 minutes. In my oven this was plenty so be sure to keep your eye on them. Let them cool on a wire rack and frost if you desire. We just have been eating them plain!! Y’all, the batter alone was heavenly.
The cupcakes were beautiful and delicious. So simple to make and I will absolutely make these again. Why use a box when you can create something so good from scratch?

If you’ve read here before, you know I love to eat biscuits. Now that the temps are cooler in the morning, it’s hard to beat the fresh, steamy goodness of a made-from-scratch biscuit. Again, why use biscuits in a can when you can quickly whip up a good, wholesome biscuit yourself. I use White Lily flour, which is the BEST, and their recipe on the back of the package. Simplicity defined. 2 cups White Lily self-rising flour, 1/4 cup butter or shortening, 2/3 to 3/4 cup of buttermilk or milk. They say to bake them at 500 degrees but in my oven, that will cremate your late Uncle George so instead, I cook them at 450 or 475. Know your equipment. It will help you get wonderful results. One thing that is interesting about these biscuits is, depending on what the weather is like, you may need more or less liquid. Today I think I probably used a cup of buttermilk and my dough was almost too sticky to roll out. ALMOST…it worked out wonderfully.
Oh, the smell of your house once you bake these in the oven is to DIE for!!! When my husband is home and I make these while he’s still sleeping, the smell alone will wake him from the deepest slumber and lure him downstairs.

My favorite way to eat these is with a touch of salted butter on each half, and then a bit of either grape or cherry jam:
Oh…mercy day. So, SO good!!!

On the weight loss front, right now, I’m at 198. My goal is to lose 5 lbs a month and I think that seems pretty doable. I just have to get my butt in gear and start walking on my treadmill. NO more excuses! It’s time to get it done!

Tomorrow I’m going to show you what I do with leftover london broil and mashed potatoes. It’s a recipe you’ve seen here before but a teensy bit different because of the meat.

See you then!

VanderbiltWife - Cremate Uncle George!! Really LOL. I love making biscuits. They were one of the first things I learned to cook and I have happy memories of cutting them out as a kid. Yours look divine! Self-rising flour kind of scares me but I think I have some White Lily hiding out in the pantry…

EC - V-Dub! Seriously, my oven gets HOT. I’d have to chop up Uncle George though because my oven isn’t much bigger than an Easy Bake.

You know, I don’t use self-rising flour for anything other than these biscuits and peach cobbler. I have tried making cookies with it and they get too sticky. It’s weird. You’re so fortunate to have been making them for a long time. I just learned how to do it within the last year. LOL How sad is that??

Hope you’re feeling well!!!

Bridget - You’re right….the batter alone looks divine! Mmmm…reminds me of the days when my mom would use her hand-held mixer with the pop-out beaters and we got to lick all of the batter of of them. 🙂

EC - Bridget, yes indeed, I remember those days, too, quite fondly!! The batter was almost like a whipped frosting. It was glorious.

Liz - YUM!!!

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Sweet Potatoes – Not Just for Thanksgiving

As more and more Americans are trying to find ways to get more whole, nutritious foods into their diets, many are branching out and trying things that might otherwise be reserved for specific purposes. Take the sweet potato for example. For years, this vegetable has been prepared as a sweet side dish during our most gluttonous holiday of the year- Thanksgiving. Whether cooked into a Sweet Potato Pie or baked in a casserole topped with mini marshmallows, this vegetable has long adorned the holiday tables of many an American family. I’d like to invite you now to try this root vegetable in another incarnation. I like to use sweet potatoes to make soup.

Sweet potatoes in soup was not my creation. When Sean (my husband) and I went on our honeymoon 10 years ago, we ate a bowl of this in Disney World. I was never a fan of sweet potatoes and would rebel should anyone dare to put them on my plate but, on this particular occasion, my throat was sore and soup was the only thing I could imagine eating. The only soup on the menu utilized sweet potatoes as the main ingredient so, in desperation, I ordered it. That soup was the most heavenly soup I have ever eaten and last year, I decided to try and recreate it. While I haven’t been able to do that, my recipe is tolerable and my husband and I actually enjoy it quite a bit. Now that the weather has turned a bit colder, tonight seemed like as good a time as any to prepare this soup. Be warned, it looks like baby food. I can’t lie to you about that but it is good and it will warm you up when things are chilly outside so here is my recipe:

Sweet Potato Soup
serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes (baked)
1 tbs butter
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
chili powder
salt and pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups of GOOD chicken broth like Kitchen Basics brand
milk or cream (optional)

  1. I baked the sweet potatoes in the oven because I think this caramelizes the sugars in the potato. Is this true? I have no idea but it’s in my head that it does so this is how I prepare them for the soup.
  2. I take the potatoes out to cool and while this is going on, I melt the Tbs of butter in a saucepan over medium high heat and add the chopped onion and 1 minced clove of garlic.
  3. To this, I add 1/2 to 1 tsp of cumin, 1/8 to 1/2 tsp of chili powder, 1/2 tsp pf cinnamon, a generous pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper. I let this cook over medium heat until the onions are soft but be careful not to burn the garlic as it will get bitter.
  4. When the onions are soft, I scrape the flesh from the sweet potatoes and add it to the saucepan with the onions.
  5. To this, I add the chicken broth. Please use good chicken broth. I used Swanson’s and it is just too weak to be useful in this situation. Kitchen Basics is the best but I was being cheap. Don’t make the same mistake.
  6. After I added the broth, I used my immersion blender to smooth together the potatoes and the onions. My taste leans towards a thicker consistency but you may prefer a thinner soup. If that is the case, just add more chicken broth. In the event that you don’t have an immersion blender, you may use a food processor or a regular blender.
  7. When using a regular blender, PLEASE BE CAREFUL. You must cover the top with a towel when blending hot liquids or else it will splatter and you will get burned. Not good! Be safe and spend the $20 on an immersion blender!!
  8. At this point, taste your soup. Is it spicy enough for you? If not, add a couple of shakes of tabasco. Make sure it is to your liking.
  9. At this time, you may add milk or cream if you like. It is quite good this way. Tonight, I just went for plain jane without milk and it was still good.

sweet potato soup.jpg

Serve this with a side salad and you have a wonderful, light, healthful dinner. It only takes about 30 minutes to put this together, not including the baking time for the potatoes.

As far as nutrition is concerned, you can’t go wrong with these little beauties. Sweet potatoes contain twice the daily recommended allowance of Vitamin A and nearly half the daily requirement of Vitamin C. It’s low calorie yet chock full of nutritious goodness. For more information on them, go HERE. Sweet potatoes are such a wonderful vegetable and they don’t have to be slathered in butter and smothered in brown sugar and mini marshmallows. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but if you’re looking for a different way to prepare these, give this a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Nicole - Looks wonderful! I’ll be making this as soon as the weather cools off just a bit!

Sophie - I’ve had butternut squash soup, but I’ve yet to try sweet potato soup! I’m missing out :D. It sounds so tasty! I’d like to include your recipe on our blog, please let me know if you’re interested :).

Sophie, Key Ingredient Chief Blogger

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(tap, tap) Is this thing on?

It has been a while and things have been crazy as hell around here but, what’s new right? Everyone’s lives are crazy these days and it seems like much of my time is spent trying to keep myself from eating my way through a bad economy. LOL Seriously though times are hard all over and trying to lose weight while keeping the grocery bill down is not exactly the easiest thing to accomplish.

I’m off to watch my oldest child play baseball but I am planning to write a more in depth post tonight. Fall is here and it is my favorite time of the year. So many good things to eat and so many good recipes to share! I have a wonderful one to share with you this evening and, if you like soup and if you like sweet potatoes, you will like this recipe for sure.

Stay tuned!

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Liar, Liar :)

So. I told a lie this week. Well, is it a lie if you say you’re going to do something and then don’t? I don’t know the technicalities involved but this week I failed to follow through on the menu. Not good. We went to the grocery store unprepared today and hungry, too which is NEVER a good idea. $117 later, we left. I have some vague ideas about what we’ll eat but nothing written down. Oh well, we’ll just have to post our eats daily, I guess. 🙂

In other news, tomorrow I go back to my doctor for a follow-up appt. Can’t wait. Here’s hoping I get a good report.

This has been a crazy week in our state. On Monday, the remnants of Hurricane Fay worked their way here and our yard suddenly looked like it had a pond in it. Not only that but for some reason, the rain drove all these flies inside and that was nothing but madness and mayhem for two days straight! I felt like I was in a video game, in a stage where I’m fighting these things but they keep coming back. It was unreal and very disturbing. Finally today we are fly-free and I’m cooking for the first time this week. I didn’t want to be anywhere near the kitchen because the flies kept congregating around the window over my sink. SHUDDER! You have no idea how happy we are that the rain has stopped.

I hope wherever you are that you and your family are safe, dry, and comfortable. Getting ready for the long weekend? We’ll just be glad to be together for three days straight. I love it when Sean has a day off.

More tomorrow!

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