Derailed and delighted…

Early in my Photo-a-day experiment, I found myself derailed. The assignment of the day was “bright” and I just couldn’t decide on a photo that represented bright to me. I had a few ideas, but I didn’t settle on any of them. Instead, I avoided the assignment for that day. And the next day. And the next day. And…Well, you see where this is going.

For at least a week now I’ve been pondering whether to try to catch up (3 photos a day until I make up the deficit? One humung-oid post to cover all the missed days?) or give up. Today I decided to declare the project derailed. There will be other photo-a-day assignments, and I will give that a go in the future. For now, I just want to blog again and not stress about it.

So that is the derailed part of this post. Now what about the delighted part? There are many things that are delighting me right now (gorgeous September weather, great classes at my gym, fitting back into clothing I’d stopped fitting into over the Spring/Summer, a new colleague at St. A’s, a great bday weekend…), but the one that has caught my attention is a food discovery. It won’t be new to most people, but to me it was a new experience: Spaghetti Squash.

Growing up, I was not a fan of squash. But since joining Weight Watchers about 20 months ago, many of my tastes have changed. I love butternut squash, and had been encouraged by friends to try out Spaghetti Squash. Especially as an alternative to pasta. Today I was doing some grocery shopping and I stopped dead in my tracks with the thought: Oh, wow – I really want pasta sauce. This is always a bit of a challenge for me, because pasta is so high-carb which means high-in-points. Sure, there are the low-carb Shiritaki noodles, which are a pretty good alternative, but I haven’t found them in the grocery store where I was shopping. Then I remembered Spaghetti Squash. I decided to give it a go, and I’m SO glad I did. I know I will be buying and roasting this squash again in the future, whenever I want some pasta sauce.

This is what I did:
-1 Spaghetti Squash
-1 Jar reduced sodium Tomato and Basil sauce
-1 tin no salt added tomatoes
-a couple of big scoops of diced garlic
-a generous sprinkle of dried oregano
-1 pkg frozen diced spinach
-1 pkg of ground turkey
-3 cooking onions

In a large wok (what I use to cook all soups and sauces), cook turkey until brown, add sauce, tomatoes, garlic and oregano and bring to boil. Add frozen package of spinach and allow to slowly melt in the sauce, stirring occasionally. Suddenly realize you had onions you wanted to use up, chop them furiously and throw them in, allow sauce to simmer for a good half hour. Turn off heat and let sit for a while

Meanwhile, cut Spag Sq in half (this is no easy thing, but worth the effort), scoop out seeds, place cut-side-down on cookie sheet in 350degree oven. Cook for 10 min, flip squash over, cook for another 25min, then leave in hot (but turned off) oven while you rush off to a meeting that is beginning in 5 min.

Return home after meeting, and check on Spag Squash. Be relieved and thrilled to find it done and ready to be ‘forked’. Using fork, scrape out spaghetti-like strands of squash. Put in bottom of various freezer-safe dishes (I use Glass Lock). Spoon a couple of healthy ladles of sauce over squash, attach lids. Store some in freezer for easy-to-grab dinners and some in fridge for immediate future.

I had my first portion for dinner tonight and it was phenomenal! I loved the spinach in the sauce (just a little extra veg without TASTING the extra veg, or having to go to great lengths to prepare it).

I love discovering new foods that I enjoy. I love that there are still new experiences to be had in life…or maybe old experiences to be had in new ways? (I know I gave my Mom major grief over Spaghetti Squash the last time I ate it, but this time I loved every bite.)

The Bible is the story of God doing something new among us. The story of faith has always been on of seeing with new eyes, of hearing with new ears, of living life anew. Maybe that’s why I am so delighted by new experiences: they are a glimpse into the life of faith itself.

Back to it. Like, for reals..

So many of you know that I hurt my foot last week. (You know this because I am an Olympic-gold-medal complainer when I am sick or injured. This is probably something I should work on, but there are so many other things on that list, and only so many hours in a day.) The really frustrating thing about the injury was that it happened when I was doing something so mundane and average that I didn’t even remember doing it afterward. I am of the belief that if one hurts oneself it should be because of an event that was momentous enough to be remembered. Yeesh.

Anyway, because of the foot injury I was not able to get back to the gym like I had hoped last week. In fact, I wasn’t even able to go for a decent walk for a number of days. Now, at another time of the year, I might have just grinned and thought: oh well, I am going to have to take it easy for a few days…that’s not so bad. But at this particular juncture I was more than a little frustrated. You see, I chose to be fairly (read: incredibly) lazy during my summer holiday. I decided this vacation would be a true break from all of the things I have been disciplined about in the last year. I didn’t track my Weight Watchers points, I didn’t exercise with anything resembling regularity, I just took it easy. And that was a good thing on the one hand: I had been severely struggling to stick to my WW points in the weeks leading up to holidays. Having the break was apparently just what I needed to get back on track: in the past week I haven’t had any issue sticking to my points. Sometimes, you just need a rest.

On the other hand, I lost ground over my vacation. I gained weight and I lost muscle. While being laid up with the foot injury I began to gain some ground on the weight (down 3.5lbs when I weighed in on Sunday thankyouverymuch), but I couldn’t do much about the muscle. Today, I am very pleased to say, I was able to return to the gym. I did a 60min BodyPump class. It was tough. I couldn’t believe how tough it was! But it was also good. My muscles (such as they are), are pleasantly fatigued. I am sure they will be telling me off tomorrow. But I know that today I took another step towards improving my health. Another step towards getting back on track. Another step away from just talking (read: whining) about the ground I have lost in the past few months, and towards actually regaining that ground. I feel strong and I feel accomplished.

I write this down now, because I know in another few months/weeks/whatever something will happen andI will need to be reminded of what this feels like. And I hope some of my friends may point me back to these words.

Any journey has its ups and downs. The ups are usually pretty easy to deal with. The downs are when we need friends to surround us and to speak the truth we cannot utter ourselves. I believe that is why Jesus gave us the church. Because He knew there would be times when we needed each other. When we just couldn’t do it on our own. When the strength of another would be the thing that gave us the ability to keep going.

Messing up…

It’s been a tough week for me Weight-Watchers-wise. On the one hand I’ve had awesome success with Weight Watchers over the past year. On the other hand it has been a frustrating game of one-step-forward-two-steps-back since about January. If I have lost anything since then (and whether or not I have is arguable, because I have been up and down a lot), it’s been a very minor amount. Recently, I’ve found that I am letting myself get away with extra tastes and “just a pinch” of this or that.

This is not good. On the one hand, I am sticking to very healthy eating most of the time. My diet has improved leaps and bounds over this time last year. On the other hand, I have been sabotaging myself with all these little extras. This week, especially has been difficult. To the point that tonite I decided to pretty much scrap this week, understand that the scale may say something very nasty to me on Sunday, and start fresh after weigh-in on Sunday morning.

Sometimes we mess up. There’s no great reason for this slip-up on my part. I have kept my exercise up this week, I have been planning healthy meals, I have been enjoying my work and loving the weather. Perhaps this is just a culmination of some stress that has been piling up over the last several weeks. Maybe it’s emotional-jet-lag from a truly terrible week I had a few weeks back. Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to show some grace to myself.

After all, that’s what Jesus would do. That is what God has always done with us, his children. The Old Testament is full of moments when Israel messed up. When they turned away from God. When they lost the plot. And though God warned that turning away from Him meant turning away from love and life and goodness and turning towards the opposite of those things, He never stopped taking them back. The people of Israel never got to the end of God’s grace. God was always ready to take them back one more time. And when they got to the point where it might look like God was finished with them, God changed the rules of the game.

He sent his Son, to live and to die, to teach and to rise again, to break the bonds of sin and death forever and for everyone. I love that about God. This is the the thing that keeps my faith going even when I’m in a dry spell or  struggle. Because I know, no matter how badly I mess up, Christ has already paid the price for my mess-ups. God’s grace is THAT big.

So I am having grace for myself. This week, I have messed up. I recognize it, I own it, and I am sorry for it. I will be careful over the next two days and I will begin fresh with Weight Watchers on Sunday. And I will remember to be thankful that in Weight Watchers, as with God, it is never too late for a new beginning.

 

Inner Circle…

Tonite was the second Weight Watchers Party with some of my colleagues who are also trying to lose weight. We get together once a month and every body brings somethings WW friendly. Then we have a meal and talk about where we are at – in our ministry, with our WW journey, with life in general.

Tonite we had some good old-fashioned (or maybe new-fashioned?) girl-talk. And it was awesome. There are some people you just know you can trust with the honest truth about all things. And these girls are some of those people for me.

I am struck by the idea of how important it is to have an inner circle. Some folks with whom you can just be 100% you. I am blessed to include a number of folks in my inner circle. Some of them interact with each other, some of them have never met and the only thing they have in common is that they know me. Either way, it is good to know there are those who I can turn to when I just need to talk.

Jesus had an inner circle, too. They were less than perfect. They sometimes completely missed the point about where his life was leading. They abandoned him at his most painful hour. And yet he trusted them. And through them, the message spread. Through them the world came to know about the resurrection and the new life available through Christ.

I was reminded today that they were just “12 ordinary men,” but the face of history was changed by them. And in that I find a great sense of hope. Jesus doesn’t need perfect people. He doesn’t need people who’ve got it all together or who get it right all the time. He needs people who care and people who want to share what they’ve found with others.

He can do the rest.

Beans!

I have posted my recipe for Spicy Black Bean Soup recently, and I mentioned in that post that I wanted to make the switch to dried beans rather than canned. Today I made my first batch of no-soak beans in the slow cooker.

I picked over the beans, put them in the slow cooker, added 3/4 of a box of no-fat, low sodium beef broth. I added about 4 cups of water. Then I added a bunch of cumin (I didn’t measure, just sprinkled a fair amount over the top of the liquid), some dried red chipotle pepper, and a couple of tbsps of diced garlic. I turned the slow cooker on high. The beans were done after about 5hrs, though I let them cook for a couple more, to really seal in the flavors. I added a few more cups of water after the first 3hrs of cooking (the liquid level was low when I checked on them).

The beans came out great! They are flavorful and I can really sense the difference in texture as compared with the canned variety. Best of all, I know they are not loaded with unnecessary sodium.

Tomorrow I will make black bean soup and black bean dip out of the beans I made today.

Here is the recipe for the black bean dip, which is great with fresh veggies, crackers or as a topper on salad. this is based on a Weight Watchers recipe, and is about 1 PointPlus per 1/4 cup of dip.

Ingredients
2 cups black beans
1 cup fresh chopped Cilantro (or 1/3 cup of cilantro paste)
3/4 cup Salsa
1 tsp cumin

Instructions
Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor and process until smooth.