Notes From My Kitchen

I’ve been playing around in the kitchen a bit lately and thought I’d share a couple of my results with you. As always, I’ll include a warning that unstyled food photos follow.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

I eat a lot of barbecued chicken (and recently, barbecued tofu). A few months ago, I learned that my go-to BBQ sauce (Bullseye) ingredient list changed somewhere along the way and now includes high fructose corn syrup. I tried a couple of “natural” bottled sauces and didn’t like them, so I’ve been on the lookout for a sauce I could make at home. Easily. A friend sent me her variation on Veganomicon‘s Backyard BBQ Sauce (available online via that turned out to be quite easy to make. Messy, though. :)

homemade bbq sauce with chicken breast

I mostly followed the recipe as its shown on, but I included my friend’s suggestion to add a 1/3 cup of ketchup (I used reduced-sugar Heinz) along with the mustard and liquid smoke. I also subbed some of the white vinegar with apple cider vinegar just because I like apple cider vinegar. Then I tossed it all in the food processor to smooth things out a bit.

I pronounce this Very Good Sauce! And that’s a good thing, because the recipe yielded about 30 ounces of sauce. :) I do think that I’ll cut back a little on the liquid smoke next time, but other than that I’ll go with it as is. It’s a winner, and not a drop of HFCS in site!

Peanut Butter Banana Pudding for One

I made Banana Pudding (again!) for a combination Easter/sister’s birthday dessert. While I was stirring (and stirring and stirring!), I got to thinking about a recipe I’d seen that substituted Nutter Butter Peanut Butter cookies for the vanilla wafers. That sounds absolutely divine to me, but I really don’t want to get anywhere near an open package of Nutter Butters, if you know what I mean.

So then I wondered if there was a way I could make a lower calorie version of Nutters, which is crazy. Some things cannot and should not be messed with. One thought led to another and suddenly I was wondering what might happen if I used peanut flour in place of the regular flour. Would I get any semblance of peanut buttery goodness?

peanut butter banana pudding

Oh.Yes. It’s NOT a Nutter Butter, but it’s a close second. Third, at most. (Second might belong to the simple peanut butter-vanilla wafer combo.)

The single serve “recipe” for Peanut Butter Banana Pudding is super simple:
2 tbsp sugar (or equivalent. I used 1 tbsp of sugar/stevia blend)
2 tbsp peanut flour
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons milk (I used almond milk, unsweetened
splash of vanilla
small banana, sliced
3 or 4 vanilla wafers

Mix first 4 ingredients in a saucepan and stir over low heat for a really long time until it begins to thicken. This took about 15-20 minutes, which is a little longer than usual but that might have been due to the almond milk.

After the thickening happens, remove from heat and add a quick splash of vanilla. Pour over sliced banana and vanilla wafers. Devour and smile.

Serving Size: 1
Calories: Approximately 200-250, depending on how many vanilla wafers you eat while you’re stirring.

Stay tuned, because I’ve got some coconut flour in the fridge that’s begging to be put into service.

I’ve got more recipes and experimentations to share in the weeks ahead. When you’re trying not to overeat, it’s tough to play around with recipes too much. :)

Have you tried any new recipes lately?

Happy New Year II

It was about this time seven years ago that my weight loss efforts really began moving forward. I’d been slogging along for a few months, making a few changes here and there, but it wasn’t until the arrival of spring that I really began to feel the change. Fresh fruits and vegetables, warmer weather, more daylight hours for after-work exercise–all of these combined to give me just the push I needed to get into a higher gear.

red tulipSince then, I’ve viewed spring, and Easter in particular, as my more authentic new year beginning. It’s a great time to shake off the dreary winter, take stock of how things are going, clean up any areas that have gotten “messy”, and move forward with new schemes and dreams. Basically the same considerations I might go through in January, but I know now that it’s much easier for me to build momentum and/or make a fresh start when the weather matches my optimistic mood. :)

Several years ago I considered the idea of spring cleaning on the inside (clearing clutter and making a fresh start), and while I don’t read my own blog very often, this post is one I do revisit each year about this time as sort of a mental/emotional weigh-in. I can always count on finding one or two little (or not little) areas that need some attention. This year was no different. :)

Just in case you might want to do a check-in of your own and create a brand new new year, I’ll save you the trouble of clicking back to the old post and include the article in its entirety below. (I’m just helpful that way.) I hope you find something useful in it!

Spring Cleaning on the Inside

(originally posted on 3/16/09)

Think about your life (health, fitness, relationships, career, finance, etc.). Where are you now? Where do you want to be? Why aren’t you there? Don’t beat yourself up over it; just ponder the matter and see if any of these nasties have crept into your life:

Excuses: We’re probably all guilty of making excuses for ourselves when we’re trying to justify something we should or shouldn’t have done. Surely, it’s not just me. (Antidote: When you catch yourself making an excuse for something, ask, “Is this really true, or am I just making myself feel better?”)

Rationalizations: Did you know that another way to spell “rationalize” is “rational lies”? These are the thoughts and words we use to give ourselves permission to do something we know is wrong. (Antidote: Unrelenting honesty with yourself. YOU know the truth about your efforts.)

Unfair Limitations: Many, perhaps even most, of the limitations we face are self-imposed. Why we would do this to ourselves, I don’t know, but we do. (Antidote: Ask yourself, “If I didn’t have xxx in my way, what would be by next step? Then figure out how you can do it–or some form of it–anyway.)

Regrets and Resentments: Writer Malachy McCourt once said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Holding on to past haunts and hurts prevents us from moving forward. (Antidote: Forgive yourself and any others involved, and focus on the future. At minimum, let it go.)

Procrastination: “Someday” thinking is fun for thinking about the lottery. For managing our lives, it doesn’t work so well. (Antidote: See Makeover Monday: Getting It Done.)

RightThisMinute Thinking: We all want to see results fast. Whether it’s successful weight loss, financial security, starting a family, or any host of other desires, many of us have a tendency to want to get it done rightthisveryminute. We should be applauded for our energy, but doing things too quickly can cause us to do them in a way that’s unhealthy, inefficient, or ineffective. (Antidote: Patience. Focus on progress, not the goal line. Unless, you’re looking at the goal line, of course, and then it’s eyes on the prize time!)

These evil little habits have a way of creeping into our lives and derailing our progress. Join me this spring in spending a little time with a mental broom and dustpan, eliminating this clutter from our lives. Note that I didn’t say we’d eliminate it for good. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes, and I’m sure we’ll all face these pesky demons again at some time in the future. We’re savvy enough to know that and strong enough to defeat them.


Wishing you all a Happy New Year II! :)

On the Menu: Ghrelin Milkshakes and Placebos for All

I’ve known for a while now that my attitude is one of the biggest influences in my successes. My failures, too, but let’s keep this on the positive side. My point is that what I think affects how I feel and that affects how I act. It’s all very psychological. Or is it?

Monday’s Morning Edition reported on a study that suggests that there could be an actual physiological component in all this.

Specifically, Alia Crum‘s research focused on how nutrition labels affected the body’s processing of those foods. Her theory: “Labels are not just labels; they evoke a set of beliefs.” And she wondered how those beliefs affected the body.

Chocolate Milkshake at Bob's Big BoySo she did what any good researcher would do and made a bunch of milkshakes which she then poured them into bottles. Half were labeled as sensible (low calorie, no sugar, no fat) and the others were labeled as decadent (over 600 calories!), even though all were the same 300-calorie shake.

To monitor the effects of the shakes, Crum’s helpers measured the ghrelin levels of (lucky) study participants both before and after they drank the milkshakes. Ghrelin, in case you’re wondering, is the so-called “hunger hormone” that sends the brain those pesky I want cupcakes! messages from time to time. (Your ghrelin might send a different message; mine is all about the cupcakes.)

As it turned out, ghrelin levels dropped significantly more in those people who thought they were drinking a high-calorie, decadent shake than those who thought they were drinking lower calorie shakes. What each group thought affected how their bodies reacted. The high-cal group believed they were getting more and their bodies responded accordingly. The low-cal group’s bodies said, “We want more!” (Take that, diet food industry!)

Keep this in mind when you consider another of Crum’s research projects: Mindset Matters: Exercise and the Placebo Effect(with Ellen Langer), which I first read about in Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (an amazing book on its own, to which I have craftily attached my Amazon affiliate link. )

In this study, a group of hotel maids who believed they didn’t get enough exercise (say what!) were split into two groups. One group was given examples that indicated the work they did met the Surgeon General’s recommendations for daily exercise. The other group wasn’t given this information. They got to be The Control Group. Big whoop.

Checking in after a month or so, the researchers found that even though those in the informed group hadn’t changed their behaviors, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index compared to the control group. Apparently they weren’t doing their work differently; they were perceiving it differently, and that created physical change.

I’m no scientist (obviously), but I think Alia Crum and her co-workers are on the right track. This mindset thing is all I can think of that would explain how I could transition in a matter of days from eating a Snickers bar as an afternoon snack to eating a Snickers bite and being satisfied. I had convinced myself that a tiny bit of indulgence was enough, and so it was enough.

It also explains how my posture straightened and my chin lifted a little higher after I started exercising regularly. I was just walking on the treadmill (fairly slowly) and doing a simple yoga routine, which no doubt provided some physical benefits on their own, but the more far-reaching effect at the time was how I felt about my actions for having done them.

Even today, after 5+ years in maintenance, I see as much benefit from what I’m thinking as from what I’m doing. When I keep my mind focused on the right things, I do the right things. Or more of them anyway. I’m still me, after all. :)

Does this make sense to anyone but me? Or did I lose you at the milkshake? I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences on all of this.