Thursday, February 25, 2010

Getting Fit (Again)

Back in the day, when I first started blogging, I wrote a lot about my weight loss successes (and struggles) and other topics revolving around my weight (hence the name Weight of My World). When I moved to Blogger and Writing: My Life, I decided to move away from "weight loss blogging" and more toward a general life blog where I could write about whatever struck my fancy in the moment.

I still blogged about health and fitness for other websites. Just not so much here. A big part of the reason for this shift was that my weight loss had stalled, and let's face it, no one wants to blog about their weight gain and failure to work out over and over and over again. Instead I focused on my new house, my writing and reading, what I was cooking, anything but my (lack of a) diet and fitness routine.

While I'm still not blogging about it much, I have been making some small, gradual changes that are heading me back in the direction of a healthy life. Which means you may start hearing more about my pursuit of a healthier, happier me. I'm going to try to be more open about my struggles and my successes. I won't overwhelm you with weight loss talk, but I wanted to warn you of what may be ahead.

This was all prompted by the fact that I'll be attending FitBloggin' 10 here in Baltimore in just a couple of weeks. I thought it would be a great place to connect with other people who enjoy writing about health and fitness, and it's in my hometown so I couldn't possibly pass it up. While there, I hope to get some inspiration from others who blog about healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss and to meet some amazing women (and men) who are making positive changes in their lives every day. I can't wait!

I've got my favorite magazines for the gym, and I'm hoping to win a subscription to Clean Eating over at YumYucky. I logged in to my Spark People account and updated my stats so I can track my food and exercise when I need some extra accountability.

On top of that, I'm considering joining the 30 Day Shred Challenge at Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans. (Check out that link and enter to win a copy of the 30 Day Shred video. You can also join in on their Spring Fling Challenge. ***UPDATE: I won!!!! The contest is over.****)

More than anything, I'm looking forward to connecting (or in some cases reconnecting) with people who are traveling this long and winding road with me. It feels better to know that I'm not alone on this journey.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Recipe: Asian Noodle and Shrimp Salad

It may sound odd, but I love to watch Food Network while I'm working out. Last week, I was sweating it out on the elliptical while watching Cooking for Real with Sonny Anderson and she made this great combination of Hawaiian and Asian dishes. As soon as I saw her Asian Noodles I knew I wanted to try making them. On my way home that night I stopped at the grocery store and picked up the ingredients I didn't have on hand.

I made a few tweaks for the purpose of creating a meal rather than a side dish, but the resulting salad was a spicy-sweet, satisfying treat.

Asian Noodle and Shrimp Salad
(Adapted from Sonny Anderson)
Makes 4 servings



1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 TBSP honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 TBSP cilantro leaves


12 oz. cooked shrimp
1 pkg. rice noodles (14 oz)
1 large carrot
1/2 large cucumber
1 large scallion, thinly sliced
3 TBSP dry-roasted peanuts


1. Prepare the noodles according to the package directions.

2. While the noodles are cooking, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat them. Set aside.

3. Grate the carrot and cucumber. Add them along with the sliced scallion to the bowl with the shrimp and dressing. Toss to coat.

4. When the noodles are done, drain them, rinse them with cold water and then drain them again. Add them to the bowl with the other ingredients, add the peanuts and toss everything together until it's well mixed. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review: Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson

I just finished Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson*. (Literally. I just put it down, not an hour ago.) I read it in just a few days, which isn't the norm considering my busy schedule. This book warranted late nights, early mornings, and skipped household chores. That's how good it was.

The memoir of a 19-year-old soldier in Iraq, Ghosts of War wasn't an easy read. There were moments when I wanted to put the story down and let it go. But I kept reading, recognizing that once they enlisted, Smithson and his fellow soldiers had no choice. They lived through those experiences, and if they could do it, I could certainly do it vicariously from the safety of my own home.

Smithson describes heart-wrenching, violent and everyday experiences in a way that even the most isolated and privileged of us can relate to. This book is for anyone who has ever wondered why someone would enlist during war time. ("The Twin Towers didn't fall in Manhattan. They fell on me," Smithson says.) It is for anyone who has ever grumbled, "We shouldn't be over there. We never should have started this war." It is for anyone who has ever thought the only thing happening in Iraq is death and violence.

Smithson recognizes that his tour isn't one that movies will be made from or that will be recounted as one of heroism and honor. He's part of an engineering unit after all, not on the front lines. But he's part of a war, just the same. He risks his life doing every day tasks like going to dinner. He couldn't be further away from his home in New York State.

There's an eight-hour delay between Iraq and the United States. Millions of content American families will be sitting down for dinner eight hours from now. ... They'll be hungry for dinner and for the evening news. They'll be ready for the daily body count, the daily Bush-bashing, the story from Iraq. And that's all it will be to them: a story, a dramatic saga full of twists and turns and epic heroism. It'll be entertainment, the only thing they'll ever learn about the Iraq war.

The experiences Smithson describes take the reader beyond what we see on the evening news to something more concrete. This book is not entertainment. It's an honest, first-hand look at the good and bad of war.

Don't let the only thing you know about the Iraq war be the stories of destruction and death and violence you hear on the news. Sure, those things are important to recognize. They make up much of the war's plot line, but there's rebuilding, generosity, and support, too. In Iraq, as much as there is fighting and killing, there is also hope and faith and love.

If you're an American, Ghosts of War should be required reading.

* In the spirit of full disclosure, you should know that Ryan Smithson is my cousin. I was, however, in no way compensated for this review.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Recipe: Vegetarian Kitchen Sink Stew

OK, so there isn't any kitchen sink in this stick-to-your-ribs vegetarian stew, but that's about the only thing I didn't put in it. This stew made good use of all those vegetables that were hanging around in my crisper drawer, along with some of the leftover beans from the batch I made for my red beans and rice. If you don't have some of the vegetables I used, you could substitute whatever root vegetables you have on hand.

I didn't snap a picture because, honestly, I wasn't expecting it to be blog-worthy. Surprisingly, it turned out to be one of the best vegetarian meals I've made. My carnivorous boyfriend even gave it his seal of approval, saying "That was pretty good considering it didn't have any meat in it."

Vegetarian Kitchen Sink Stew
(Adapted from Vegetarian Times)


2 TBSP olive oil, divided
1/2 large red onion, cut into 1/4" wedges
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
4 medium carrots, cut into 1" pieces
4 medium potatoes, cut into 1" pieces
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1" pieces
8 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 dry white wine
1 TBSP soy sauce
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp savory
1 1/2 cups red beans, drained and rinsed


1. Coat the bottom of the crock pot with 1 TBSP of the olive oil. Add the vegetables and toss them to coat with the oil.

2. Add the garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Cover with the broth, wine and soy sauce. Sprinkle with the sage, thyme and savory and then drizzle with the remaining TBSP of olive oil. Do not mix at this point.

3. Cover and cook on Low for 5 to 7 hours. Stir in the beans about 2o minutes before serving.

I cooked the stew long enough that some of the potatoes were very soft and created a thick sauce when I stirred in the beans, which I liked. If your potatoes aren't quite as cooked, the sauce will be thinner, but you could also mash a couple of potato chunks against the side of the pot and stir them into the liquid before serving. I ate the stew with biscuits, but it would also be really good with crusty French or Italian bread.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Learning to Feed Myself

There's a lot to be learned during 10 days in a house by yourself. In my case, there was also a lot to be eaten. It turns out that I eat when I'm feeling lonely. I also eat when I'm bored, tired, disappointed and, sometimes, hungry.

During the first twenty-four hours of feeling lonely and sorry for myself because my boyfriend was snowed-in across town, I ate just about everything I could get my hands on. I baked bread, I got the slow cooker working, and then I munched on everything that wasn't nailed down. I also took the opportunity to spend time doing the things I love but don't often have much time for.

About 36 hours into my home-bound weekend, I started to feel a bit more settled in this state of alone-ness and a little less lonely. I was actually enjoying myself. And immediately, my appetite decreased. For the majority of the following five days, I was able to eat when I was hungry, stop when I was satisfied, and avoid serious munch-attacks.

But what changed? Why was I able to turn off the binge and turn on the self-control?

First, I found myself submersed in things I loved: writing, reading, yoga, even shoveling. I wasn't bored. I wasn't mindlessly eating in front of the TV. I spent much of each day "in the zone", present and focused on whatever I was doing. Even the dishes and laundry didn't seem so bad.

Second, I recognized that just because I was physically alone didn't mean I had to be lonely. It wasn't quite the same as having someone in the room with me, but I made phone calls, visited blogs, sent emails and spent time chatting on Facebook and Twitter. I cuddled with my cat. I journaled.

I found the things that fed my spirit, my mind, and my body and I lived off of them. Instead of eating every half hour out of boredom or frustration, I vented my feelings through writing or a quick Tweet and then went about my business doing something I enjoyed. I met my emotional needs, indulged my creativity, exercised in ways that were appealing and ate when I was hungry.

Don't get me wrong, I still did some emotional eating now and then. Every day wasn't binge-free. But thankfully, my learning out-paced my eating and there is still food left in the pantry.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Recipe: Warming Up with Butternut Squash Risotto

I have to admit that the idea of making risotto has always scared me. I've heard all about how difficult it is, how long it takes, how only the best cooks should even attempt it. But a few months back, I saw a 12-year-old on the Today Show make risotto and claiming it was easy! Easy! Well, I thought, if a 12-year-old can make it, then certainly I can. So I went to the store and got the ingredients for a risotto I'd found searching the internet.

Then I promptly waited a couple of weeks (thank God squash keeps well) to try it. When I finally got up the nerve to make it, I did it in stages. Monday night, I chopped up the squash and onions. Tuesday night, I pulled the rice and stock from the pantry. Finally, on Wednesday I came home straight from work and got busy. In about 45 minutes, I had the most creamy, flavorful meal I'd ever had. And it really wasn't that difficult. (I will admit, though, that I undercooked the rice a bit this first time around. But because it still tasted wonderful, my mistake only encouraged me to give it another try.)

Fast forward to the week of the "snow-pocalypse" and here I am, snowed in with all the ingredients I need and nothing but time on my hands to give this risotto a second go-round. And so I did.

Creamy Butternut Squash Risotto
(Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman)


6 cups stock or broth
2 TBSP olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small butternut squash (abt. 1 lb), peeled and finely diced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 tsp nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper


1. Bring the stock to a simmer and keep warm throughout the process.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook until slightly softened. Add the squash, garlic and salt and stir. Cook until the squash begins to soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the rice and cook stirring constantly until grains crackle, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the sherry and stir constantly until almost all the liquid is evaporated. Add 1/2 a cup of the stock, stirring often until it is absorbed.

4. Continue adding the stock 1/2 a cup at a time as it is absorbed, stirring often, until the rice is cooked through (soft but not too mushy).

5. Add a final 1/2 cup of stock along with the Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, parsley and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and stir for a few seconds until well combined. Serve immediately, garnished with additional parsley sprigs.

This risotto is so rich and satisfying that my mouth is watering just typing this up. I can't wait to dig into the leftovers tonight. If you've been afraid (or just a little hesitant) to try making risotto, give this recipe a try. It's more labor intensive than some meals, but it's well worth the work.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Recipe: Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

I've been cooking away over the last few days, partly to pass the time and partly because of this strange nesting urge I've had since the snow started falling. Of all that I've cooked so far, I thought I'd share this recipe because I really enjoyed it and it makes use of my newest favorite (and ever useful) appliance, the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
(Adapted from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker)


1/2 TBSP olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tsp chili powder
3 cups red beans (or two 15.5 oz cans, drained and rinsed)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1.5 cups water or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cooked brown rice


1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper and garlic and cook until just softened, about five minutes. Remove from heat and add the tomato paste and chili. Stir to coat the vegetables.

2. Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker (at least 4-quarts). Add the beans, tomatoes, water and soy sauce. Season with a little slat and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

3. Just before serving stir in the rice (or serve over rice, if preferred).

This was a filling and flavorful meal. The green chilies gave it a little bit of a kick without making it too spicy, but you could use regular diced tomatoes if you prefer less heat. I served it with some fresh baked whole wheat bread, but it would have been delicious with a little crusty french bread or some warm corn bread (thanks to Kat for those suggestions!). And if you're only cooking for one or two people, don't worry, it was even better as leftovers!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

What Snowed-in Looks Like

In case you were wondering about our little storm here in Maryland...

It started off slowly on Friday and by 9 PM or so it looked like this:

Just a couple of inches:

Saturday morning it was still snowing and by the time it stopped we had quite the pile of snow. I shoveled out my back walkway late in the afternoon, which took me about 40 minutes. I'm not too tall, and the snow was about to my waist--I'd guess about 3 feet high or so:

Sunday morning I pushed my way out my front door and got to work on my front steps and sidewalk. Thankfully the tree acted as a bit of an umbrella and the snow wasn't nearly as deep as it was in the back. It was still a lot of work though:

I still need to clear off my car and dig it out. Friday night I pulled up the wipers so they wouldn't get frozen to the windshield. If you look closely you can see the tiny tips of them sticking out of the snow:

I'm waiting to dig out my car until later this afternoon or tomorrow morning. My back and arms are a bit achy and I'm still thawing out from my earlier shoveling adventures. I'm also secretly hoping that a little snow fairy will have pity and take care of it for me. I'm not holding my breath, but a girl can dream...

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Snowed-in Weekend

The snow is still coming down and now it's blowing, too. Swirling and floating, coating my windows so that I can barely see what's going on beyond the walls of my house. And honestly? I'm loving it. I'm listening to NPR's Saturday morning programming, drinking coffee spiked with a hot chocolate packet, still in my flannel pajamas.

I don't know if it's the snow falling or the fact that I've got no reason to leave my house (and couldn't even if I wanted to, at this point), but I'm feeling energized and creative. That happens a lot when I know I have essentially unlimited time to write. I get this feeling of electricity running through my body. I'm alert, focused, inspired. I suppose this is how I know writing is what I'm meant to be doing. Writing feeds my soul, makes me feel alive and connected to something bigger than myself.

So while the snow piles up outside, instead of worrying about how long I'll be stuck in my house with no one but my cat and the radio hosts to talk to, I'm grateful for the time alone to create and explore ideas that have been floating around in my mind for weeks without any outlet. I wouldn't be surprised if, come Monday, my wrists are sore and the keys on my keyboard are worn a bit more. In fact, if that's the case, I'll know it was a weekend well spent.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Recipe: Black Bean Chili with a Kick

One of my 101 Things involves choosing and preparing slow cooker meals. An advantage to the slow cooker is that during the week I can do all my prep the evening before and then toss everything together before I head to work in the morning. Or if I'm expecting a busy week, I can put something together over the weekend that will feed me all week long.

I started my slow cooker adventures with that Chipotle Chili I loved so much, and this weekend, I tried another chili that used up things I had in my refrigerator and pantry. It was easy and tasty, and totally vegetarian. I'm looking forward to trying something other than chili in the coming weeks. I've flagged several recipes that look interesting and I'll be sure to post the results as I prepare them.

Spicy Black Bean Chili
(Adapted from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker)


1 TBSP olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
2 TBSP chili powder (or more to taste)
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 15.5-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable (or other) stock
1 4-oz can diced green chiles
Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a large skillet, warm oil over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, celery, and garlic and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and stir until well combined.

2. Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker (4- to 6-quart). Add the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Stir to mix well. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

This chili came out thick and flavorful after about 7 hours in the slow cooker. I served it with a little shredded cheddar and a dollop of sour cream on top and had corn bread muffins on the side.

Clicky Web Analytics