Sunday, February 24, 2013

Anush's Bulghur Veggie Salad

This recipe started out as an attempt to make "Eech", a favorite Armenian lenten dish.  So I got the bulghur out, poured the water in, and then realized I didn't have 1/2 the ingredients I thought I did (tomato paste, green pepper, parsley...none of them).  So I thought about what I liked about eech.  I love the sauced taste of the bulghur and the crunch of the I used what I had ...added cucumber instead.  The end result was very delicious.  This packs really well for take along lunches.

2 cups fine Bulghur
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 bunch green onions, cleaned and finely sliced
1 Tbsp. Aleppo pepper
1 Tbsp. Sumac
5 Persian cucumbers
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp Olive oil

First off, boil your water.  In a large bowl, measure out 2 cups of fine bulghur.  Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water on top of bulghur.  Add an 8 oz can of tomato sauce, sugar, Aleppo pepper (sweet roasted pepper flakes), Sumac and set aside.

Saute onion in a large pan with olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent.  Stir often so as not to brown.  Add onion to the cooled bulghur mixture.  Now add the chopped cucumber, tomato and green onion.  This would also be great with chopped bell pepper and parsley added at this point.  I just didn't have any to add. Next time.  This salad is great to a bed of mixed greens.  

This recipe makes 9 cups of salad.  If you're following Weight Watchers, the points values are as follows:
1 cup serving:  5 points      1/2 cup serving:  3 points

I pack my lunch every day and I love having the right containers to take it are some I found that are cool:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Checking In: Getting Healthy One Ounce at a Time

Ta-Da!  Week 3 brings me a little
closer to my goal with a .8 pound loss
I realized that I reached the end of the work week and I never checked in.  So here I am.  I went to my weekly meeting with all these high hopes for a good weight loss, but alas, the scale went down only .8 ounces.  A half a pound.  Hey, at least it's movement in the right direction!  But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed.  I have been tracking my intake, staying within my allotted points and trying to get "some" exercise by walking - but, I also have to be honest.  I did manage to lose a half pound while still having a normal life: "normal" meaning that I wasn't on some freaky fad diet.  I did enjoy going to happy hour with friends, I did cook for my family and enjoy eating the same food that they did (just not in large portions).  So I'm on the right track.  It's a lifestyle change.

But just to pump myself up a bit, I started thinking of all the times that I had started Weight Watchers in the past, and then got discouraged because I lost .4 ounces here, and .2 ounces there...and then "just 1 pound"...and then stay the same, and then .2 ounces.  Okay, well, y'know, if I'd have just stuck with it, I would have been at my ideal weight, right?  And so let's say that I continued to lose .8 ounces a week.  That would be a loss of 26 pounds in a year.  So you say, a whole year, to lose just 26 pounds?  Excuse me?  JUST 26 pound?  Losing 26 pounds without killing myself doing it would be pretty awesome.  And hopefully there will be weeks where I lose more :::HOPEFULLY:::  So anyways, you get the idea.  I'm keeping the bigger picture in mind.  This is not a race. This is my life beautiful life that I intend to enjoy!

And.....I have lost now, a total of 4.2 pounds in 3 weeks.  YAY!!  Hopefully this week I will lose another .8 and hit 5 pounds in a month! (5 pounds in a month is 60 pounds in a year!) Wait, did I just say that?  (hoping for a .8 pound loss...hmmm, I must be learning something!)

I will get there!  Even if it's one ounce at a time!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Big Batch Mushroom & Barley Soup

This is a big batch soup recipe.  Enough for you to have some for dinner and freeze some for later.  OR, you can feed your family.  It's a vegan recipe, but it has a nice rich flavor because I used wine in the broth.
Serving size: 1 1/2 cups    Serves 9
Weight Watchers Points Plus Value:  5 points

1 cup barley
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, washed, trimmed and sliced
3 - 32 oz cartons of organic vegetable broth
1 pound of carrots, sliced  
1/2 cup. red wine (I used a cab that I had in the fridge)
2 large onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil (because I'm counting points, yes, I measured)
8 oz. chard, washed and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
                                                                Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, add the olive oil, chopped onion and sliced carrots.  Cook on medium heat around 10 minutes until the onions and carrots start to soften.  Add 1/2 cup red wine.  Continue cooking the onion/carrot mixture.  Add vegetable broth, barley, sliced mushrooms, garlic and chard.   This has to cook until the barley is soft and tender.  It's going to take about an hour.  Stir occasionally.  I added another 4 cups of water at this point because I like my soup brothy, but if you like you soup more stewy, you can leave it as is.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE:  I would normally have added chopped celery hearts to the onion & carrot mixture.  I just didn't have any to add.  


Monday, February 18, 2013

Baked Kale Chips - Light and Crunchy

 I went to explore the La Canada Sprouts Market today.  I've been curious since they opened, and I needed a break from making jewelry, so off we went.  It was very nice.  Great produce, and the prices weren't too bad.  I bought all kinds of veggies, one of which was kale.  I remembered a recipe for kale chips and thought I'd make a batch to snack on.  Needless to say, I haven't stopped eating them!  They're baked, so low cal, and they're fun to eat because they are very light and crunchy.  And simple to make. Here's what they look like when they're done. (see pic on left).  They should still be green, yet a little  brown on the edges.

One bunch of kale, washed and dried
Pam cooking spray (or the equivalent brand)
Garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wash your kale well, and pat dry.  If you have a salad spinner, this is a good time to pull it out and use it.  Use a sharp knife to cut away the stems from the leaves (see below).  Toss the stems.

With the stems gone, you should be left with a pile of leaves.  I baked my kale on a pizza stone, but you can use a parchment lined baking sheet as well.  Recipes I've read call for olive oil.  I'm trying to cut calories and maximize points, so I used PAM spray and lightly sprayed my kale.  Then I sprinkled with salt and a little garlic powder.
This is how it looked right before baking.  It's shiny from the PAM spray.   Once you've sprinkled with seasoning, bake in a 350 oven for 18-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on it.  My original recipe called for 10 minutes.  At 10 minutes, my leaves were still floppy and not crunchy.  So 18-20 minutes at 350.  Remove from oven.  They should be papery and crunchy.  If not, throw them in a while longer.

Cool.  Store in an airtight container.

0 Points!

Vegan Breakfast Idea: Tofu Scramble with Fresh Spinach and Sweet Peppers

Just because you can't eat eggs during lent, doesn't mean you can't enjoy a warm breakfast with your family. This is a simple recipe that everyone will enjoy.  You can change up the vegetables.  In the past I've used green onions to add a nice flavor.  Tomatoes are good, but they tend to add a little too much moisture...but they're good.  So are mushrooms.

I actually prefer my tofu scramble over traditional scrambled eggs.  It's a lot lighter than eggs, less fat, but more importantly, it doesn't have that funky egg smell.

This recipe serves 1 or 2.  If you eat it all, then it has a total of  4 Weight Watchers Points Plus.  If you share it with someone, you can count it as 2 points.

Here's what you'll need:

 8 oz of medium firm tofu, drained
2 sweet peppers, sliced
1 bunch of fresh spinach, washed well and chopped coarsely
1 tsp curry powder (for color and taste)
salt and pepper
Italian seasoning
Garlic powder (optional)

Spray a nonstick pan with Pam (or the like).  Saute your sliced peppers and spinach until they're softened.  Put your tofu on a flat plate and gently break it up with a fork.  Add the tofu to the pan and stir, getting it all nice and warm.  Add the seasonings and the curry powder, stirring gently to mix thoroughly.  NOTE:  Because of tofu's texture, you don't want to aggressively "stir".  Instead, gently turn it over on itself with a spatula.  You may want to cover it and just steam it to get it nice and hot.  I like adding a little hot sauce.  Serve as you would scrambled eggs....with toast, fruit, coffee...etc.  Enjoy!

 I actually have these Orgreenic pans and love them.  They truly are nonstick and work really well.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Anush's Veggie Pasta "Sauce" (or side dish)

I concocted this recipe on Valentine's day.  I'm lucky to have an organic farmer's market in the plaza at my workplace every Thursday.  This week I bought cherry tomatoes, spinach, brussels sprouts and mushrooms I was making pasta for dinner, but didn't want the traditional red sauce but instead a chunky vegetable dish to serve on top.  Here's what I ended up with:

1 pound brussels sprouts, washed, stems cut and cut in half
1 basket of cherry tomatoes, cut in half (about 2-3 cups)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 TBSP Olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
Once bunch spinach (washed well), not shown in picture
salt to taste
Herbs d' Provence (or good Italian seasoning 

In a large wok, add olive oil and minced cloves of garlic.  Cook til fragrant.  Add brussels sprouts and cook, stirring every few minute until brussels sprouts soften and get tender.  Add tomatoes and mushrooms and allow it all to cook until the tomatoes start to soften.  The tomatoes will create their own "sauce" and the mushrooms will add to the flavor with their liquid.  Add herbs, salt, pepper, and continue to cook a few minutes more until all the flavors are married together.
At the end, add the spinach (not shown), stir in to cover, and put a lid on the pan and let the spinach steam until wilted.

Serve on top of pasta (which is really delish) or just as a side dish (which is equally as delish).  I made 4 servings out of this for 4 points using weight watchers points plus.  But I like a LOT of veggies.  The serving size was about 1 1/2 cups.

If you try it, let me know how you liked it...what you'd add or remove, and how you served it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Checking in: Week 2

Ta-Da!!  Week 2 brings me .6 pounds
closer to my goal
Happy Valentine's Day!  How is your week going?  Mine went really well....considering.  I had a lot of challenges this week.  Dinner out with my friend, out to lunch for business, and had a friend pass away unexpectedly, but through it all, I managed to track everything I ate for a second week.  Despite my successful tracking, today's weigh in showed only a .6 pound loss.  Yep, only a 1/2 pound.  BUT, I was okay with that.  I will tell you why.

1.  The night before weigh in, I met my friend for our annual bday dinner.  We have mutual birthdays and we always meet at PF Chang's.  So losing .8 pounds the day after you went to chinese, with all it's salt....not bad.

2.  I was honest.  It would be different if I didn't track, or tracked only SOME of what I ate.  But I was honest.  I tracked everything...good and bad.  So it's okay.

3.  It's more than a number.  Has it really taken me all these years to come to this revelation?  I am more than a number on the scale.  If you base your success solely on that scale number...then when your number isn't what you'd like it to be you're going to throw in the towel and get frustrated.  Nope.  Not this time.

So, 2.8 last week, and another .8 this week.  That's 3.6 pounds lost in two weeks.  I'm good with that.

So it's Valentine's day!  What's on the agenda for today?  Every Thursday at my work, we have a Farmer's Market that sells great produce.  Today I bought fresh brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic and spinach.  My mom has been staying with us, so for Ned and mom I had cheese ravioli and for me, bow tie pasta.  I left the pasta plain and then I made this great "sauce" with the cherry tomatoes, brussels sprouts, mushrooms and spinach and served it over the pasta.  We had garlic bread (olive oil and crushed garlic), salad and grilled eggplant which I made on the Foreman grill.  The result was fantastic.

Here's a photo.  Tip:  I used my scale to measure out 2 oz of dry pasta to cook.  Once cooked it was about a cup and a half of pasta.  I piled the veggies on top and added the salad.  It was great.

That was it!  So what did you do this Valentine's day.  Whatver you did, I hope that you were good to yourself!

Here are links to some great Weight Watcher's Cookbook you might want to try out:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Diet Friendly Cilantro Hummus

I tried something new today.  With lent starting on Monday, I needed some good protein alternatives that wouldn't rob the Points bank.  Instead of using a base of garbanzo beans as in traditional hummus, I substituted one can of garbanzos for a can of Cannelini beans (white beans).  This cut the calories and fat.

I also opted to NOT add olive oil, since the tahini already has enough fat.  Do I have your curiosity? Okay, let's go:

1 - 15 oz can garbanzo beans drained
1 - 15 oz can white cannelini beans, not drained
1/4 cup sesame tahini (I measured for sure!)
Juice of one lemon
About 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, washed and removed from stems
garlic powder
cayenne pepper

In the food processor, combine garbanzo beans (drained) and white beans and their liquid.  Add 1/4 cup sesame tahini and lemon juice.  Add cilantro and spices and blend til smooth. Adjust the salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

This recipe makes 3 1/2 cups of hummus.
If you're on Weight Watchers and following the Points plus program, I calculated this through their recipe builder.

Serving size:  For 1/2 cup serving = 3 points (you can dip all kinds of veggies (0 points) and have a 3 point lunch or snack.

OR - if you just want a 1/4 cup serving, there is just 1 point.
I have it all divided up in little containers to "grab and go" for lunchtime! Give this a try and let me know what you think.  I would love to hear from you!

Here's a pretty cool spice rack  if you're looking for one.  I like the bottle shape and overall design. And here's a "Practice Makes Hummus" tshirt.  : )

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Checking In

Ta-Da!!  Week 1 Loss: 2.8 pounds!
Finally!!!  A time to just sit down and check in!  I've got my pot of jasmine tea, my Pandora radio is on my Joni Mitchell station, I've got my favorite fluffy blankie keeping me warm and am ready to let you know how it's going.    It's been a hugely busy week.  My days start at 5:00 a.m., and I need to be out the door by 6:15 to walk to the bus stop to catch my bus to downtown.  After a day at the office, it's back at home to fix dinner, spend time with Neddy and my mom, dishes, and then I'm getting ready for the Armenian Artists show in Orange County on March 2.  So you can see that the "balance" thing is just not happening in the sleep department.

But good changes happened this week.  Last week I made the commitment to join WeightWatchers.  There's a meeting at lunchtime and a couple of my friends and I decided to join and support one another.  So I followed the plan,  and I tracked everything that I ate, and for this, I was rewarded with a 2.8 pound weight loss for the week! Woot!

This coming week, my focus is going to be on exercise, which I don't seem to have time for (other than walking to the bus stop and back).  I know this is something, but I don't feel  it's enough.  Time becomes a factor since I have to wake up so early, and my evenings seem so full as well....but maybe baby steps.  A few crunches here, a few arm curls there.... We'll see what this week brings.

Challenges for the Coming Week:
1.  Staying on track with the program, i.e. being HONEST with myself and taking responsibility

2.  Preparing for Lent.  Lent begins this coming Monday, February 11.  The dietary restrictions of our Armenian Orthodox faith warrant a full vegan diet.  Although I am a vegetarian, I do rely on cheese and nonfat greek yogurt for protein.  Coming up with alternative vegan sources of protein is not difficult; but finding the low calorie/low fat versions...a little tricky.    In order to stay on my diet it's going to take some preparation.  I will cut up my fruits and veggies and pre-bag them for quick grab and go lunches.  And I will experiment with a new point-friendly hummus recipe.  : )

3.  Also preparing for the spiritual journey of lent: I am focusing on not gossiping...and not being on the receiving/listening end of gossip as well.  I wrote a piece on Looking Inward for Lent for my blog -  I was thinking about this today, and I'm also going to try to cut out the negative in my life.  Simply not allow negativity, negative thoughts about others (OR MYSELF!) .  This is really going to be a challenge as I am my worst enemy.  I think it's going to be a really rewarding lenten journey.  Join me??   If you're interested in a day-by-day lenten journey, please check out's Lenten Journey with Fr. Vazken podcast.  Click here!

4. Try to complete at least 1-2 jewelry pieces per day for the upcoming show.

How did your week go?  And what are some of your challenges for the upcoming week?  Check in and let me know how you're doing.   Have a great week!

  ....don't forget to pack your lunch!!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Balance - My February Progress

Last month, on my Inside the Pomegranate blog, I had a post on my One Little Word. (Click to see my original post on my other blog)  I chose the word "Balance" as what I was going to work on this year.  Balancing work and play, sleep and awake time is one of my biggest challenges.  I tend to overextend myself, committing to to much, and then getting burnt out.  So you can see how that word, Balance, is a good one for me.  It also has to do with my food choices.  Balance = moderation.  Balancing my choices is a challenge too.  So the whole idea was that by choosing this word, I would kind of make it my mantra for the year.

So we're one month into the new year and I wanted to check in and report on my progress.  How is my balancing going.  Um....well.....It's not really the best it could be. But I am a work in progress, right?  And it's all about small changes.  And I have another 11 months to work on this.  So let me report how things are going as of today.

Exercise:  I am still walking the 6 blocks to the bus stop and 6 blocks back.  This is going really well, and I'm liking that I am leaving a smaller footprint on the earth by doing this. BUT the downside is that I do have errands to run and do need my car for that, so I am averaging walking to the stop 4 x a week, and thenat 5th day I'm driving there, leaving my car and running errands immediately after I get off the bus.  I'm saving a lot of money on gas too.  Oh, and I signed up to walk the 39 mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in September, so I'm going to start my walker training next month!

Diet:  Last week I joined WeightWatchers.  And I'm on day 5 of the program and tracking EVERYTHING. Weigh in day is Thursday.  Because the plan has a 0 points values for fruits and vegetables, this works great for me.  I am learning that I have to measure out my portions for now. Because they were out of control.  Did you know that a serving of rice is 1/2 cup?  Tracking my intake is keeping me honest.  So that's going well.

Sleep:  This is where it all goes downhill.  I just have too much to do in the course of a day. But over the past month I've tried my best to get to bed by 11:00 p.m.   okay...11:30.  I even started making myself switch to decaf at night so that it would be easier to get to sleep.  I wake up at 5:00 a.m.   So I need work in this area.

Overextending myself:  This part is getting better.  I have an upcoming show for Pomegranate & Eye on March 2 so I'm getting ready for that.  And I'm coordinating a youth event at our church for Darfur awareness.  And blogging.  And my friend Suzie and I are still coordinating our homeless outreach.  But this part is okay.  :  )

I'm going to continue with this.  For February, I'd like to make more of a conscious effort to REMEMBER to BALANCE.  Because all too often my one little word becomes is an afterthought.  What's your One Little Word...and how's it going for you?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Beet and Black Bean Salad

This is just a quick, put-together recipe for a yummy beet and black bean salad.  It would be just as good with white beans, red beans, or garbanzos...but because of the color of the beets and the way they take over everything, I liked using the black beans.  I've calculated the WeightWatcher's points value on this and 1 cup = 4 points.  There's no oil in it.  (Woot!)
3 large beets, fresh (boiled, cooled and cut into 1/2" cubes)
1 cup hearts of palm (1 can/4 stalks), rinsed and sliced
3 cups canned black beans
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup shredded carrots
6 medium green onions, chopped
3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Juice of one lemon
cumin (about a 1/2 tsp)
a little dash of garlic powder

 Boil the beets til tender, about 45 minutes.  Cool in cold water, peel and cut into 1/2" cubes.  Combine all the ingredients.  Add the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.  Add seasonings and spices and tweak to your liking.

I ate this as a main dish with a 1/2 cup side of brown rice.  It would also be good on a bed of lettuce, or whatever.  It's good both at room temperature or served cold.  

The Never-Ending Journey

If you'd ever struggled with your weight, then you know where I'm coming from with the title of my post, right?  I have struggled with my weight my whole life.  I was a chubby little girl.  Throughout my life I must have tried every diet out there.  From full on fasting for weeks on end drinking nothing but tea, to cabbage soup, protein diets, and fruit diets.  You name it, I've tried it.  And they've all worked!!  Yep!  They've all worked, but they're not diets that are livable.  And so eventually, as time goes on and you get sick of eating only oatmeal or hard boiled eggs...the weight slowly creeps back on.  And that's what's been happening to me.
My kitty Zelda and Me
I have been heavier than I am now.  And I have been thinner than I am now.  Two years ago, I embarked on a giant weight loss journey...and then right in the middle of it, I got hit...hard.  I had emergency gall bladder surgery, and then two months later, I was diagnosed with colon cancer and had surgery.  And then the day I got back to work after six weeks of medical leave, I got diagnosed with breast cancer (my second time...first time was 19 years ago).  I had to have a mastectomy and reconstruction.    Okay, three surgeries in less than 6 months.  And just like those infomercials, I'll add the famous tag line, "But wait!  There's more!"  After cancer, I started feeling better (that's when I was at my thinnest).  Then the following year, we planned my daughter's wedding and trained to walk in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  It was crazy busy.  And then suddenly, it was all over.  We had the most beautiful wedding ever.  She moved out of our home and off to her honeymoon and settled into her new home.  And suddenly our home was empty.  And all the craziness subsided.  And I was faced with "The Empty Nest".

As happy as I was for my daughter and my new son-in-law (and truly, I am very happy), it was a huge change.  We are very close, and having her not around was...well....sad.  And an adjustment.  Enter emotional eating.  And factor in that the Avon walk and all the training was over...and there they came.  The pounds.  Again.    

Back in November, I changed my diet and became a vegetarian.  I decided to live this lifestyle because I wanted to live a more "peace" full life.  I didn't want something to die in order for me to live...not with all the great choices that we have.  Learning to balance my protein and carbs has been another challenge, and so last week, I decided that I was going to go back to Weight Watchers.  And here I am.

This blog is going to be about my journey on my lifestyle change.  Diet, exercise, motivation, vegetarian recipes, points values, and emotional eating.  It's my way of staying accountable to myself, and to you.  I look forward to sharing my journey with you.  Together we can help each other.