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My new weight loss plan…crochet? (check out my new hoodie scarf, with instructions!!)

Yeah, it’s true. It’s the middle of winter, and an insanely stressful one at that.  I have been stress-eating, too often, too much, and not on good foods. My belly poodgeth. My thighs doth stretch the fabric of my jeans. My back-fat appeareth over my bra strap.

So I’ve pulled out one of my old stop-snacking tricks: a crochet hook and a few balls of yarn.  The thing is, along with stress-eating I also do a good bit of stress-sitting-like-a-vegetable-in-front-of-the-tv, and when I do that, I am especially prone to snacking mindlessly. So when I start crocheting in front of the tv, I am able to produce something useful, keep my hands busy, and have a reason to not want anything messy around my project. And even when I feel that urge to snack, this is where my innate procrastinator sense kicks in–I go, “Okay, I’ll finish this row and then I’ll go get some popcorn…okay, maybe this row. Or in a little while,” and usually the urge passes before I’ve gotten off my rear to do anything.

Now of course healthy self-discipline and a little more exercise (“I will treat my body well! Instead of snacking, I shall do 20 minutes of Zumba and then another half hour on the Wii Fit!”) would be preferable to using one’s innate laziness to justify sitting there some more…but hell, whatever works, right? Once spring comes, I usually gain a little more get up and go, but I’m one of those winter folks who gets the exact opposite of cabinfever–I would happily hibernate quietly in a little room under a quilt till the pussywillows come out and I can start my garden.

Anyway, check out my latest project! I had been wanting a hoodie-scarf (I’m told it’s called a “scoodie”–I think that’s just, um, weird.) for some time, and finally discovered how easy they are to make. (They keep heads and necks warm without messing up your hair; I’m all about that!)

First I crocheted just an ordinary scarf–about a foot wide and 6 feet long. I used two skeins of Lion Brand Homespun, with an N hook (this crochets up faster but also leaves a lot of holes–but my wrists always start hurting if I crochet with small hooks), in a fairly simple stitch pattern whose name I don’t know, but honestly what kind of stitch you use is irrelevant. Any crochet or knit pattern for a basic rectangular scarf will work. I did a fringe on the ends, but it wasn’t really necessary.

I folded it in half at the 3-foot point, and then single-crocheted the two halves together for about ten inches down one side, forming the hood.  I turned it right-side out so the crochet-seam didn’t show, and bingo, I was done.

I really like it! And I think I want to make more…but out of warmer yarn, because this really isn’t warm enough for a Chicago winter.

Obviously, if what you want is just a scoodie, this could be easily just sewn out of fabric or fleece–check out some good instructions here. This could also be a good use for repurposed wool felt sweaters…but that won’t help with the snacking urge, unless you sew by hand or have the tv in your sewing room.

What should I make next?


Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies: lightened and health-ened

It’s fall, which means pumpkin starts to sound just YUMMY.

So I went looking for a recipe for pumpkin-oatmeal cookies, the hope being that this could be a breakfast-cookie kind of thing I could munch on the go or have as a desk-drawer snack here and there.

The original recipe was found here, and it looks absolutely delicious…but that cup of butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar thing had to go.  So  played around with it.

So here’s what I tried:

Guiltless Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies (makes about 2 dozen)

Just so you know what I did–I substituted nonfat yogurt for about half the butter, and stevia for about half the sugar. I used whole wheat flour instead of white.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ tsp stevia
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ tsp each nutmeg and ginger
  • ¼ tsp cloves and cardamom
  • ½   cup (1  stick) unsalted butter – softened
  • ¼  cup plain yogurt
  • ½  cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup currants, raisins, or other dried fruit of choice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper (I used parchment)

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, stevia, salt, and spices in one bowl. (Or skip this step, which I always do…you just have to be more careful when combining them with the wet ingredients so you don’t get all your baking powder in one little lump in the cookie to the front of the baking sheet…)

Cream butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add honey, yogurt,  pumpkin, egg and vanilla – mix well.

Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add dried fruit; mix again. Do not over mix. Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Drop cookie dough onto baking sheets by spoonful, depending on how big you want them; remember larger cookies will take a little longer.  I sort of made each one golf-ball-sized and then flattened them a little.

Bake 20 minutes for this size cookies, or a little longer for bigger ones. Cool on baking sheets for a couple minutes and then transfer to wire cooling rack.

VERDICT: A keeper;  I like them a lot.  It should be noted that they definitely taste more breakfast-y than dessert-y–soft and cakey, rather than crunchy. Husband and son sort of squinted and said, “It’s okay.” Daughter, “Delicious! But I don’t want any more.” Which also means she’s not bowled over. I think they are very good, though, and this means I just don’t have to share them.  I made some with currants and some without; the ones with currants are definitely better.  I can very faintly taste the stevia-aftertaste, but mixed with real sugar in the recipe it is almost invisible. Next time I might leave it out all together and throw a mashed banana in there for extra sweetness. Someone wiser than I would have to do calorie calculations on this–but there’s really not much to complain about in this ingredient list.

Breakfast on the go.  A good thing.

UPDATED VERDICT: unfortunately, these don’t taste anywhere near as good the second…or third…day.  They get sort of gluey and dry.  I think the currants or other dried fruit would need to be upgraded from “optional” to “necessary” to make them a decent thing to keep on the list…

Forget thin–just get healthy

A friend of mine sent a link to this article.  I find it very problematic, for a whole bunch of reasons.  Someone commented on it (my response is below):

Funny – I have heard this from a couple of different sources recently. Perhaps there is a new “public” strategy to just get people to reduce their intake and control weight as an easier first step to a healthier society. Obesity is a major problem for the western world. I suppose the concept is that someone who goes from 300 pounds down to 180 pounds is going to be better off (whether they have exercised or not).
In fact, some of the so called medical weight loss programs focus 100% on reduced calorie intake with little or no exercise component. Then once the pounds are off, I guess the question would be whether the non-exercising 180 pound person is as healthy as the exercising 180 pound person – my guess is that the exercising person would be “healthier”. But it seems to make sense that both of the 180 pounders are overall healthier than the fatty…!
And what about the choice of foods that make up the reduced calorie diets…?
My two cents,
My own response to the comment:
The whole slant on this article I don’t have faith in is the “thin equals healthy, exercise equals thin, therefore exercise to be thin” non-logic.
How about, moderate and healthy eating + moderate and healthy exercise (+ other moderate healthy variables)=healthy? If we think of exercise as only a route on the way to losing weight, and weight loss as the key to health, I think we’re missing the boat.  Because exercise is JUST A GOOD THING. 
The 300 lb person who shifts to a regimen of healthy, balanced, moderate eating is probably going to lose weight. And be healthier. Ditto if that person exercises, as long as they are safe and careful about it.  The 200 lb or 175 or whatever technically overweight person might not lose weight, or much of it, doing either of these things–but they’d still be healthier.  And I suspect they’d be much healthier than the really thin person who eats garbage and doesn’t exercise at all.  The problem is that we as a society look at a thin person and think they are healthy and “take care of themselves” and a not-as-thin person (I’m not talking morbid obesity here–that is its own set of health problems) and think they are less healthy, and don’t.  Doesn’t always follow.
(I know lots of healthy exercising good-food-eating overweight people, lots of eat garbage don’t exercise thin people, and not a single healthy exercising good-food-eating obese person. Just for the record. I’m not advocating obesity at all, or dismissing its importance as a huge health problem in this country. But I firmly believe that focusing on lifestyle, not weight, is the key to addressing it.)
Off soapbox now.

How many calories does a dancing deer burn?

About a month ago, I decided I needed to lose about 30 lbs.

I adopted this really bizarre and radical diet plan; it goes something like this: consume fewer calories than I burn.  I know, amazing, isn’t it? Eat a balanced diet, healthy whole foods, just fewer calories than I am burning.

In that month, I lost 10, and then I pretty much stopped.  Probably because I couldn’t deal with obsessing about food that continuously.  And I think my metabolism must have caught up…or down…with the reduced calorie intake, because I’m still eating something like only 1500 calories a day and not an ounce has come off in the past week…

Anyway, one of the challenges has been to find ways not to feel too utterly deprived while still keeping the calories down.  There are, of course, all the delightful “100 calorie snacks,” most of which are highly processed and generally quasi-food versions of partially hydrogenated cookie products (and 100 calorie oreo snacks that are just little vaguely chocolaty cookies without the cream? For God’s sake, even if one is going to indulge in the crap that is Oreos, why would one do it without the white creamy goop in the middle? I mean, really.), and other specifically “diet” “treats.”

Then there are the really delicious things, the stuff one really shouldn’t be eating…

Which brings us to brownies.  Specifically, if one isn’t going to make them onesself, the ones made by the Dancing Deer Bakery, sold at our local Whole Foods.  Again, I don’t mean to go in for heavy product placement, these just happen to be my personal vice of delight.  (They can be purchased online at although the prices there are slightly ridiculous, something like $20 for 8 brownies. They are actually almost worth it, but Whole Foods sells 4 brownies for I think $6.)   The only brownies I’ve ever had better than this are when my mom makes them from unsweetened chocolate and God knows how many sticks of butter.  These come in packages of 4, yellow label on the wrapper…give them a try.

So here I am on a “how I’m losing weight” entry rhapsodizing about my favorite brownies…what’s that about?

It’s about the fact that, once I checked out the nutrition label and did a little pre-planning, they were suddenly within reach again.

Okay, here’s the deal: one of those big 3-inch square brownies is 300 calories.  Too much to take at one go, especially if I’m trying to stay at 1200-1500 in a day.  But…if I buy the package, open it, and immediately cut all 4 brownies in half, I then have 8 desserts at 150 calories apiece; my discretionary calories do allow that.  If I were feeling really virtuous, I could cut them into 4 pieces, at 75 calories apiece.  Cut them, bag them, put all but one away, and then head to wherever I’m gently gnoshing and slowly, blissfully, eat my delicious concoction of butter and chocolate and eggs and peanut butter. (Peanut butter is my favorite…the peppermint ones are lovely too…then again, there’s the caramel pecan…see what I mean about obsessing over food?)

This doesn’t work, of course, when I’m premenstrual, or when I’m having a really crappy “give me chocolate and give it to me now” kind of day, but most of the time it flies okay.

And Trader Joe has their little tins of chocolate wedges, 35 calories apiece…there’s one with chili powder and cinnamon in it that’s lovely and has a nice little bite to it…

(Okay, who am I kidding? I just want more…)