Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Couple Rough Days

     Monday presented an especially tough challenge for me... It was vegetarian day, but my mom really wanted chicken casserole for dinner. On any other day my parent's dietary habits are of little concern to my own, but on Monday my Mom had outpatient surgery and I wanted to make her something comforting. So I set out to get what I needed to make Betty Crocker's Chicken Rice Casserole and to make myself something as well.
     Having made plenty of casseroles in my 26 years, I figured a simple salad for myself and a casserole for everyone else was going to be about the extent of the work I felt like doing for dinner. And maybe I was feeling a bit bummed that I wasn't having casserole too.... because I really like casserole. So pitty party salad for me. Though, I make an awesome salad in my opinion. It's made with baby greens, carrots, peppers, cucumbers (not pictured), dried cranberries, mozzarella cheese, and sweet and spicy nuts. I eat it without any dressing, I just don't think it needs it.

     The casserole was fairly easy to make, basic direction following. The biggest challenge was to not taste it as I went. I work as a chef, we're trained to taste everything. But I promise I didn't taste anything.... until Tuesday, yay for leftovers! But damn is it hard to watch everyone else eat something you wish you could. But I did it!

    Then Tuesday rolled around. I was free to eat my yummy casserole! Yay! And it was my turn to make snack for my daughter's Girl Scout troop. I like making snacks for my daughter, so this should be no big deal deal, right? I even enlisted my daughter to help. She put the berries and granola in and I piped the yogurt in.

Even good the next day for breakfast
     The big deal is, I didn't take into account how other parents feed their children. I made yogurt parfaits, a nice healthy but kid friendly sort of thing. Low fat vanilla yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, and granola are apparently not on these girls radars. To say they didn't like their snack is an understatement. I think my daughter is the only one who ate her snack. The rest didn't even try theirs. One girl even made a snide comment about the middle looking like puke, which was quickly the new funny thing for all the other girls to repeat.

     I think this whole thing bothered me for several reasons. The first is that my daughter's (and my own) feelings were hurt. She put thought and love into making these for her friends and they turned up their noses at her efforts. Secondly, as far as snacks go, while not expensive, these cost more than an off the shelf junk food item and to see them uneaten in the trash was hard. Thirdly, I'm mad that the troop leader or her assistant didn't say anything to stop the rude comments. One girl may be able to slip a rude remark in, but it certainly shouldn't be repeated by all the other girls as well. Fourthly, it turns out another troop (older) troop made a cake and brought it in for everyone. So even after misbehaving, the girls were rewarded with huge pieces of cake. My daughter on the other hand, asked for only a small piece just to feel included. And finally, I didn't get a thank you.

     But, to focus on the positives... My daughter is awesome. She insists that we bring a healthy snack again, because she likes how she feels after eating healthy food. She didn't give in to her peers and ate her snack because she liked it and wasn't going to let them tell her what to like. She also, on her own, decided that she'd probably had enough to eat that night and didn't pig out on cake. And finally, when I joked about bringing carrot sticks next time, she fires back, "Mom, I don't think those girls eat carrots. Like ever."

Monday, January 28, 2013

My First Guest Reviewer - Red Beans and Rice

     A few weeks ago I had a friend coming over to hang out on a Wednesday. He's been following my blog, so he knew he was taking a chance by coming on a vegetarian night and I was a bit nervous cooking for someone besides my daughter when I'm still obviously struggling through this vegetarian thing. I've been getting more hits than misses (in my opinion, not in my daughter's) but every once in while a dish will fail or need some tweaking. Nevertheless, I went out shopping after my training session to find something to inspire me.

     It is a very rare thing for me to go to Trader Joe's but everyone keeps telling me that I have to try their soy chorizo, so I went out to pick up a pack. After a bit of hunting around the store I leave with some soy chorizo and a new found love for that store. I'm going to have to make it a habit to bring my wallet to the gym so I can hit that place up after my workout. It's just a bit too far from my home otherwise especially with two chain stores within a mile from my house... yes I am that lazy when it come to grocery shopping.

     From TJ's I head home to figure out what the heck I'm going to make. I had no idea what kind of groceries I was sitting on at that point so I wanted to do an inventory before picking anything else up. Turns out I had a whole lot of not much. A little bit of brown rice, some risotto rice... that's about it. My cooking habits tend to leave little in the way of partial anything. So I do a quick search on vegetarian red bean recipes   and hit up my local store to get the rest of dinner.

     Turns out 'good' red beans take a day or more to make, what with soaking the beans and all. I cheated and bought a couple of cans instead. Though, come to find out a few brands add bacon without putting that information on the front. Good thing I've been a label reader for the past year plus, otherwise I might have accidentally ate bacon (mmmm... it would be a tasty accident though). Also grabbed a can of crushed tomatoes and the holy trinity of veggies (onion, green pepper, celery). Then it was some to get started on a dish that I should have started hours ago.

     I didn't follow a recipe when it came to the actual making of the red beans. Just kinda took the veggies, sauteed them up with some garlic, mixed them with the beans and tomatoes, then put the whole mix into a large casserole dish and into the oven at 300 to let it simmer until dinner. The whole point is to cook the beans until they start to break apart. Mine just didn't have that sort of time though. Next time. Maybe.

    The chorizo itself was a bit weird to work with. I've never worked with a sausage type meat that didn't either hold its shape or have an edible casing. This stuff has to be removed from its plastic casing and then just falls apart to a ground meat like appearance. As I said, strange. I was kind of hoping to have slices of meat-like goodness, oh well.

Looks like dinner to me

     As I'm cooking, my friend arrives and is quite eager to try out what I made fore dinner. Turns out he is a huge fan of chorizo and is quite curious about this impostor. With a stroke of luck (and some mad kitchen skills) my rice finishes up at the same time as the chorizo and dinner is ready. We all layer our bowls with proportions we find pleasing, toss some cheese on top, and dig in.

     Individually, everything was pretty good. As I said, maybe the red beans could have cooked longer, but they tasted pretty good. The chorizo was spicy and very meat like, I'm sure it would fool an unsuspecting taste tester. Mixed all together with a bite of everything though, and this dish was awesome. Thumbs up from me, thumbs up from my friend, and an almost up thumb from my daughter. It was a bit spicy for her. 

     This is one dish that I happily ate away at the leftovers for a few days. I even ended up sharing some with my Dad, and he liked it as well. Though, by that point the dish had morphed slightly. I had mixed everything together and added a can of crushed tomatoes to help cut down on the spice. So it was maybe a bit more chili like by that point. Which my Dad is a fan of for sure. Even though I just fished this dish off a few days ago I'm considering a similar dish for the upcoming Superbowl... even though it isn't on a Monday or Wednesday. That's how much I like this meal.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mini Veggie Lasagnas - And a Guest Cook

     Over the last few weeks it seems that vegetarian eating is taking up more days than I originally planned. I think I'm eating meat now only twice a week. And I don't miss it as much as I thought I would. Sure the bacon is always tempting me at work, but it's not unbearable. I'd wager that I've had one piece since the beginning of the year, a huge improvement from one piece a day.

     Usually days that I had planned to have off from my vegetarian diet are spent eating my vegetarian leftovers. One dish for lunch and another for dinner. I really need to work on batch sizes I think. Or maybe con my parents into eating meals with me more often. But tonight wasn't a leftover dinner. My daughter didn't have Girl Scouts and she was tired of last week's red beans and rice (that's a story I'll tell another time). So we had time to enjoy something new and I was dying to try something I found while random clicking through another blog that was suggested to me. By the way, check out Oh My Veggies sometime if you haven't already. So many ideas!

     Tonight I decided to try my hand at making Mini Veggie Lasagnas. They just look so cute! "But", a little voice warned me, "your daughter doesn't like vegetables." Then again, this poor girl has had a hard time finding much of anything she really liked since this new journey began. So I decided to try a slightly different tactic to the eat your dinner, get a cookie. 

     She is getting to the point she is very helpful in the kitchen, we bake together all the time, so maybe she could help make tonight's dinner. So I ran that idea by her and she was all for it. She helped me shop for the ingredients, to the point of picking the vegetables we were going to use. I did twist her arm a little for the zucchini, "Just a really little one?" I request. "Well, as long as it's a reeeeeeallllllly little one", she concedes. We also picked up a teeny onion, an orange pepper, four small mushrooms, and a bag of spinach to round out our veggies. She also wanted homemade alfredo sauce instead of red sauce or pesto, so we picked up those ingredients as well. Then it's back home to get to work.
Almost tastes like the real thing.
     I get to work making sauce and browning some mock sausage. I should add, this is an addition she was not happy about. She was ready to eat straight up veggie lasagna before risking another meat like product. She came around after I had her try a piece. "Pretty good!" was her verdict.
      The sauce was simple enough to make: 1 Tablespoon margarine, a small spoon of chopped garlic, 1/4 Cups flour, 3 Cups skim milk, salt and paper to taste, then about a cup of shredded Parmesan and some Romano I had laying around. Pretty tasty and lower in calories than anything from a jar. Less creamy though. But in a dish like this I don't think I would have noticed if I hadn't been tasting my sauce off the spoon.

     As I was busy on the stove, I handed my smallest chef's knife to my seven year old and had her cut all of the veggies. It's not her first time cutting anything, in case you were worried. She learned to cut with her Pop-Pop a while back. She wanted to be shown the best way to cut each veggie, but after an initial cut or two from me, the did the knife work. And a really good job of it too.

Chopping peppers
And onions

     After that we put her vegetables in the skillet with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and more fresh garlic. As those cooked down I taught her the easy way to chop spinach. She then stood at the stove and stirred everything until the veggies were al dente. Turned off the heat, added the chopped spinach, put in about half of the Italian sausage, and set our eyes on assembly.

Looks good already
Chopping spinach by rolling the leaves first

Patiently stirring, and making a small mess

Final mix
     This stage was a little difficult for her, but she helped out for a little while. But it was a simple layering procedure, won ton wrapper, tablespoon of ricotta  tablespoon of veggie mix, tablespoon of sauce, repeat. On top we sprinkled some mozzarella and tossed our muffin pan into the oven at 350 for about 15 mins.

Part of the first layer
Oven ready

     As our lasagnas were in the oven we had a good chance to discuss making dinner tonight. Turns out she really enjoyed the whole process, even if it did mean we were eating dinner later than usual. Much later in fact. She has officially requested that she gets to cut our veggies from now on, and I think it's a great idea honestly. Maybe her involvement will make this all more pleasant for her, and it's never too early to learn good knife skills.

     About then the oven beeps and the moment of truth has arrived, will cooking dinner make eating dinner more enjoyable for her? This is certainly a meal with enough vegetables that she would have protested slightly if I just gave it to her. I give her one to start and watch her take her first bite.... "Mmmmmmmm!" She exclaims. As for her thumb rating? I mistakenly took it for two thumbs up at first. She corrected me though, it's "all the thumbs up, in the whole world". This dish is a winner and then some.

Make a batch for yourself tonight!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tofu Take Two

     A few months back I had my first attempt at making tofu and it was a serious flop. I'd say that I probably didn't squeeze enough water out and maybe they could have used a bit more time crisping up. Live and learn, right? Sadly though, this incident will forever stay in my daughter's mind and effect her opinion on tofu.

Nothing fancy, but it sure works great!
     Nevertheless, I tried my hand at making a tofu dish again. This time I had some help though. Firstly, after reading this helpful guide I went out and bought a tofu press. I figure if I'm going to be making tofu more often I don't really want to have to buy a roll of paper towels every time. I also loosely followed this recipe. I left out the fruits at the end though since I was going to be putting my tofu on some veggie stir fry.

     The stir fry itself was made a bit off-the-cuff. Half an onion, half a pepper, a small bunch of broccoli, some aging but still good mushrooms, half a pack of snow peas, a can of baby corn, garlic, ginger, and a pack of Chinese style noodles found in the produce section of my grocery store. Seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce, and a little sesame garlic sauce. Yum!
My veggie mix for the night
     The tofu itself cooked up really well, nice and crispy on the edges, firm on the inside. About as meat like in texture as I think it could be. The sauce I picked had some kick, but not too much. I enjoyed it far more than my previous attempt.

     This time around the 'green things' weren't my daughter's concern, the tofu was. She ate away at the stir fry without complaint, but she consistently avoided the tofu on top. Though I didn't get an individual score from her, I'd guess it came in at not quite a thumb up, but more than a sideways thumb. When I was finally able to convince her to try the tofu... she didn't hate it. But she didn't like it either and she would have been happy to not have had to finish the mere two pieces I had given her. But she did finish it all without playing "let's make a deal". I do believe she had some cookies later on though. Mimi's are always good for cookies.

     As I said at the beginning of this post, I think her previous experience tainted her opinions. It may take a few more dishes like this to get her to have a positive view. For now I think the sideways thumb the tofu got was quite an accomplishment.
Even reheated two days later this dish is awesome in my book

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dinning Out

     As I have only recently decided to dive into the world of vegetarianism it's never occurred to me how difficult eating out may be. I was given a quick glimpse into that this past Wednesday though. I left the restaurant feeling like a bit of a failure... until I justified it. Then I was okay. Mostly.

     Normally my daughter and I have a 'Mommy & Daughter date' every Thursday night. We head to a chain  restaurant that is just over a mile from the house and have dinner. We've been there so frequently the hosts recognize us now. Anyway, this past week we had to change the day of our date night because I was scheduled to work a special function. We shuffled it up a day to make the next night more bearable for her. Unfortunately for me, this meant I was supposed to eat vegetarian.

     I didn't think it would be that hard, maybe get a veggie burger, a salad, or worst case a pasta dish. There was surely one dish, right? Unfortunately not. There was no mention of veggie burgers, plus every burger came with bacon too. Every salad had chicken. Every pasta dish came with shrimp or chicken. Even the 550  calories and under menu had meat on every dish. The only two vegetarian options came on the appetizer menu, fried green beads and bar pretzels. Great.

     I considered getting my usual dish, a salad, without the chicken. But I know (approximately) what a salad costs to make and without the chicken they would be making a really good profit margin off my dish. Everyone knows that the protein is the most expensive part of the dish. I just didn't feel right paying full price when about half the cost was missing. So... I gave up. I got my usual salad as is, with dressing on the side. My daughter happily was allowed to have her usual mini burgers and fries.

     As for my justification? I ate vegetarian Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday already. And I could do it again easily on Thursday, I would just pack my dinner for work. So surely those 'extra' days would make up for my failure on Wednesday right?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Redemption Through Revamp

     At this point I feel a bit trapped, I have a bowl of leftover tacos, a near full package of corn tortillas and  an unhappy 7 year old. I don't think any amount of bargain making could get her to eat those tortillas again. But I refuse to throw them out either, especially after reading this post. Wasting food has been a small problem in this household as well. Eating what I buy is a great goal to work towards. With these thoughts swirling in my mind I head to work Tuesday morning.

     I am lucky in a way that I work in the food industry at this point, I can easily get ideas from everyone around me. We discuss using the tortillas as 'noodles' in a taco lasagna dish. Cutting strips and frying them up to make a crunchy addition to a salad. Tortilla bowls. Tortilla soup. You name it, it was suggested.

     But, Tuesdays are a bit more crunched for time. I have to help my daughter get her homework done, get dinner on the table, and get out the door for Girl Scouts. I needed a low fuss, healthy, kid friendly solution. I finally settled on baked corn chips. No extra fat and it solves the texture issue she and I were having. And I've always been more of a crunchy taco/taco in a bowl person anyway.

     Turns out baked corn chips are really simple. Cut your tortillas into desired size, I like eighths personally. Lay them out on a couple sheet pans like so:

The spacing is the important part no chips on top of each other!

     And season as you wish. I chose two salt grinders that I got for Christmas from my brother.

A little spice for my tray, just salt and pepper for hers

     Bake in the oven at 400 until the edges are just turning brown , nine minutes in my oven, and tada!


     I pull these out of the oven just as her bus drops her off at the door. "Mmmm... what's that Mom? It smells good." Small victory already!
     "Oh, I made chips out of those tortillas you didn't like last night. I don't think you want to try these." That last sentence had her jumping up and down begging to try one. After a small show of denying her, I 'cave' and let her try "just one". As she bites into her first chip I hear a little yum noise and the quickly the rest of the chip is gone. I finally win a round!

     Dinner is a few hours later and I serve up a small scoop of last night's tacos with 12 chips, equivalent to  one a half tortilla shells, and a sprinkle of cheese. This dinner was such a hit that she didn't even ask for dessert. And it looks so good you would hardly believe it was vegetarian.

Now that's what I'm talking about!

     I did only get one thumb up, but she also said it's a meal she would happily eat again. I would too, semi-homemade chips and all. As an added note, this was a very filling dinner, so if you decided to make this yourself maybe scoop a bit less then you normally would. You can always get seconds after all.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tortilla Disaster

     After a disappointing risotto review from my daughter I decided that maybe I should take a step back into more familiar territory and ease the transition into vegetarian foods. This girl is after all very used to meaty meals and casseroles. I ponder over previous favorite dishes and come up with a simple idea. She loves tacos, I love tacos, it's a no brainer!

     So I enter the grocery store Monday convinced there has to be a way to make a tasty vegetarian taco that is similar to the tacos I've given her for the past few years. Something that I could sneak past her taste buds. I think I found a promising ally in this product:

I forgot to snag a picture before cooking... Sorry

     They did sell one all seasoned up for tacos already, but I didn't want to chance it being too dissimilar from our previous life tacos, so I pick up a packet of low sodium taco seasoning. I also pick up a jar of medium salsa, green pepper, onion, and corn tortillas. Those were my downfall. I should have known a girl who grew up eating flour (and eventually whole wheat) tortillas would not be thrilled with another change to her favorite meal. In my defense, the corn tortillas are much healthier. No sodium, gluten free, and fewer calories.

     Under her watchful eye I cook up our dinner. The veggie protein cooked up beautifully, though maybe next time I'll let it crisp up a little more, it was a tad on the spongy side. I chop my veggies and sautee them with my 'meat'. I add my seasoning packet and recommended amount of water, then a little more as it seemed a bit dry. Around this time the peanut gallery pipes up that dinner is "smelling pretty good". I dump the jar of salsa into the pan, splash some into my eye, jump around the kitchen for a minute with tears coming down my face (which was no end of amusement to her), and serve up with some shredded cheese.

Looks like tacos...

     Immediately she starts poking at the tortillas, "What are these things?", she asks with disdain. 
   "Corn tortillas, I thought we'd try something a bit different", I reply doing my best to not sound exasperated, "Give them a try.". 
     After a tentative bite she puts her taco down and declares, "I don't want to eat that. It's gross."
     We play another game of lets make a deal. She gets her tortillas cut up and everything in a bowl instead. Better, but not good enough. She still didn't want to finish her meal. And sadly I couldn't disagree too much with her, I didn't like the tortillas that much either. The texture was just a bit off-putting. But I'm an adult and have learned from my mother (HI MOM!) how to eat every meal joyfully. So with the promise of a small homemade oatmeal toffee cookie shake (that she had to share with me, I earned it too!) in exchange for a clean bowl she slowly picked away at her dinner without further complaint. I always remember to add that clause, complaining (excessively) will make her forfeit her treat.

     As it stood, this meal got two thumbs down. To the floor. She literally put both her thumbs on the floor and told me she never wanted to eat those tortillas again. "But the filling is good", she informs me. Well, that's a step in right direction I guess.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Year; New Habits

     First thing I knew I had to do for myself was set some ground rules. Eating vegetarian twice a week sounds great, but it's wishy-washy and I knew I'd find myself wiggling out of it as time went on. So instead I promised myself that Mondays and Wednesdays would be my two days a week. It's harder to say "I'll do that tomorrow" when you've stated "I'll do that today". Mondays and Wednesdays are also my days off work, so I can more easily control the temptations around me. Bacon is just everywhere at work! I also promised I'd avoid dinners that were simple heat and eats. I'll save those for nights I'm in a true hurry or feeling sick. It just feels like cheating to grab a meal off the shelf now when I'd previously been making meals from scratch.

     Admittedly, I am a bit intimidated by vegetarian cooking. It seems so foreign for some reason. Maybe it's all the training that dinner is a protein, vegetable, and starch. Take away the proteins I'm familiar with and the only dinners I can immediately think of are mac&cheese and spaghetti. Those two for a year may be a dream come true for my daughter, but they aren't what I have in mind and are more of a treat food than health food. Never-the-less I am determined to make it work. Somehow.

     Breakfast and lunch on that first Wednesday of the new year were easy; dinner was another story completely. I work out with my trainer on Wednesdays and after the gym I went to the mall to do some last minute birthday shopping. After doing more shopping for myself than for the person I was supposed to be shopping for, I check my phone and realize that time is running out! The school bus was coming in two hours, I'm across town from my grocery store, I have nothing in the fridge except tuna casserole, and I have yet to figure out what to make! On the drive to the store I wracked my brain for a single healthy idea. All I could think of was veggie burgers. But that goes against my second rule and I couldn't just give up on the first day! I needed help fast.

     After parking the car I pull out my phone and do a search for vegetarian dinner ideas. After ten minutes of searching I had come across lots of dishes that would never make it past my daughter's lips. Portabella burgers? Brussels sprouts? Grilled eggplant? I don't think either of us were ready for that sort of meal. After more searching I finally, finally, find something easy, vegetarian, appealing, and healthy... veggie risottoI breeze through shopping, alter the recipe to include asparagus and baby bella mushrooms, and head home reasonably sure that I picked a winner. 

     Having never made a risotto before I was pleased with how easy it was. Maybe a bit more attention needy than my standard fare, but only because it needed constant stirring. In my opinion the end result came out perfectly. Good balance of flavors, not over or under cooked, full of vegetables, and even better looking than the online picture:


     Big thumbs up from me. My daughter on the other hand was unimpressed. "Too many green things", she says. So we made a deal, if she finished her one bowl without further complaint she wouldn't have to help me eat the leftovers and she could have a cookie for dessert. Worked like a charm. As she munched away on her cookie I did dare to ask for a rating from her. She gives this dish a thumb half down, so not among the worst dishes I've made her eat, but not something she wants to see again either. Oh well, can't win them all. And maybe this was a bit ambitious for 7 year old. I happily finished this dish off over the following days while she ate away at that tuna casserole I made for New Years Eve.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Weight Loss Journey So Far

     For most of my life I've struggled with my weight. I can recall years of going to the doctor and being told I need to shed some weight, years that I was picked on in school and called a whale, times that no matter what anyone told me I just couldn't believe that I was pretty. Over the years I tried different diets, even had a personal trainer for a brief stint, but nothing seemed to stick. I'd lose weight only to gain it back plus some. Eventually it seemed easier to just not care. I just wasn't made to be average sized.

    I held tight that attitude for 6 years. I thought if I kept telling myself I didn't care that I eventually wouldn't. But it just Did. Not. Work. Deep down I wanted to feel attractive; I wanted to be noticed in a positive way; I wanted to have the energy to run around with my daughter. 

     The harder I tried to ignore those inner thoughts, the louder they became until nearly two years they just couldn't be ignored any longer. I was recently single and decided that for the first time in six years I was going to be single and spend some time bettering myself. I was already back in school to get my bachelor's, and I threw myself into my schoolwork. I stopped eating out most of the week and started cooking at home again. That alone caused me to drop a good bit of extra weight, about 30 pounds over the course of a year.

    Eventually I plateaued and needed to put in a bit more effort into loosing weight. I started with baby steps that didn't seem too scary. I made more poultry dishes frequently by buying ground turkey or turkey sausage and putting them into favorite dishes like tacos; I stopped drinking cow milk and drank almond milk instead; I stopped buying as much junk food and found healthier snacks; I started drinking more water. I started slowly losing weight again. Another 20 pounds gone and I didn't feel like I was suffering this time around. Weight loss finally felt possible!

     As school ended and graduation was in my future I thought about what was next for me. I had hit another weight loss barrier and this time I didn't feel like my journey had to be over, I just had to shake it up again. I was already a member at a local gym, I just never went because I hated the thought of going alone. I knew I'd never find that motivation within myself to awkwardly work out alone even once a week. I didn't even know what I would have to do to achieve the results I wanted. 

     After much inner turmoil I forced myself to just try the gym alone. I hated it every bit as much as I thought I would. I didn't know how to use most of the machines and was far too intimidated to ask for help. I hid myself away in the movie room and used the elliptical machine for almost 45 mins. Just long enough that I figured people wouldn't judge me as I walked out to my car. As I tried to slink out the door a sign caught my eye: Personal Training 50% Off! I continued on my way out the door as it seemed awkward to head back into the gym that I was obviously trying to get away from, and I wasn't sure I wanted a trainer again anyway. The last one was effective but as an overweight, shy, ungraceful teen girl it was hard for me to workout and be judged by an attractive, fit, only slightly older male.

    Weeks went by and I failed to return to the gym. I couldn't do it. I could not put myself through that alone again. But the idea of a trainer wouldn't go away. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. This time would be different I told myself. So with much trepidation I went back to the gym to get a trainer. I almost didn't do it. I walked past the desk and hid away in the movie room again. Another 30 minutes on the elliptical alone and feeling like nothing was going to get accomplished. 

     I internally cursed at myself for being a wuss. I wanted a trainer didn't I? So just go to the desk and get one! But the guy working the desk is so in shape! He's going to make fun of me! No he won't... you're being silly. But.. But... But... Oh FINE! I swallowed my fears and approached the training manager. He was a decent guy and after some paperwork I was set up to train once a week with Mary. I was worried and nervous, but the money was going to be taken out of my account every month so I better make the most of it.

    Some of the best money I've ever spent! With further diet changes (bye bye daily bagels, hello yogurt and granola) and working out once a week with Mary I've lost another 30 pounds so far. As well as 2 pants sizes, 3 shirt sizes, a bunch of inches, and for the first time in maybe my life I'm at a healthy body fat percent and BMI. Admittedly the high end of healthy, but still healthy!

     As the new year begins I'm getting to the point I need to adjust my lifestyle again if I want to loose those final pounds and inches. I'm now working out with Mary twice a week and I'm making a huge and somewhat scary step in my diet... I'm going to try and eat vegetarian at least two days a week. 

     It won't always be easy considering that I also have to get these meals past a discerning 7 year old palate. I'm sure there will be days where I wonder "What was I THINKING?", flopped meals, and bargains made. But there will also (hopefully!) be days where new favorites are discovered, vegetarian meals aren't a chore, and my daughter gives me a thumbs up for a job well done. We'll see about that last one...