On a Roll (hold the butter)!

Day Four (4) of my Low Cholesterol Meal Plan is going well.  The three areas of concern are cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrate, in that order.  Fortunately, I’m finding many foods which can be easily prepared, depending on specific criteria.  My biggest challenge is hiding the leftover Halloween candy which looks so pretty in its festive holiday bowl.  I try to reiterate, “A minute on the lips; a lifetime on the hips” each time a Snickers catches my eye.  Damn willpower!

I’ve discovered it’s more challenging to prepare a low cholesterol meal that is also low carbohydrate than one with merely lower fat and sodium.  Last night, I prepared Sea Scallops with Broccoli Rabe, Sautéed Mushrooms and Garlic.  The dish was served over brown rice. 

It was a quick meal to prepare and only required a few ingredients.  Recipe follows:

Sautéed Scallops with Broccoli Rabe and Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 1 8 oz. pkg. sliced fresh mushrooms (baby bella or button)
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Hot cooked brown rice

Directions:

  1. Bring several quarts of water to boiling. Remove any tough or damaged outer leaves of broccoli rabe and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Peel thick, lower stems and tear into large pieces.
  2. Blanch broccoli rabe by pouring boiling water over it while it is in a colander.  Drain well and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Sauté garlic about 30 seconds, being careful it doesn’t burn.  Add mushrooms and broccoli rabe to the pan and toss to coat with garlic/pepper mixture.   Heat thoroughly, about 3-4 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.
  3. In a separate pan, heat about a tablespoon of rice bran or extra virgin olive oil.  Meanwhile, season scallops with black pepper and a pinch of salt.  When oil is hot, add scallops and sear 2-3 minutes on each side, being careful not to overcook.  Watch carefully.  When nicely seared (browned) on each side, remove from pan and serve over mushroom/broccoli blend and hot cooked brown rice.

This was a tasty meal.  Although the directions I posted call for searing scallops in a separate skillet, last night I cooked them in the same one as the vegetables.  (See Photo)  I do not recommend this as they were a little overcooked and slightly dry and the vegetables were a little too tender for my liking.  Separate pans are the better way to go with this dish.  That being said, it was a very tasty, satisfying meal and I would definitely make it again.

Tonight I made sautéed chicken breasts, seasoned with lemon and garlic, served over a garden salad with homemade raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

The salad dressing recipe follows:

 Low Sodium, Low Cholesterol Salad Dressing (I adjusted basic recipe from Cooks.com)

  • 1/2 c. oil (I used rice bran but you can use olive, canola, etc.)
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar (I used raspberry wine vinegar)
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. sugar (or equivalent sugar substitute such as Truvia®)

Combine all ingredients and whisk well. Refrigerate in covered jar. Shake well before use. I added 1/8 tsp. dill and marjoram for added flavor.  Yield: 3/4 cup.

For dessert, I had a small bowl of cantaloupe chunks with fresh blueberries and several walnut pieces.  Delicious! 

Breakfast and lunch have been pretty much the same since I began this meal plan:  oat cereal or light English muffin with fruit and coffee or tea for breakfast; yogurt with fruit or salad with hard-boiled egg white or tuna for lunch.  Snacks are low cholesterol, low carb chips, fruit, nuts or the occasional piece of dark chocolate (am I bad!)

Remember to drink at least six glasses of water daily.  Buon Appetito!

 “Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.”  ~William Shakespeare

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“There is no rest for the weary .” Prov

Another of my father’s favorite quotes…

It’s November; the weather was unusually mild and Thanksgiving is only 11 days away.  What happened to August?  It seems as though yesterday we were driving our daughter to college and now I’m scheduling her trip home for the winter holidays.  Did the days always fly by this quickly or am I only beginning to notice it as I grow older?

The phrase “grow older” doesn’t agree with me.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m still in my early thirties raring to go.  Actually, when I was about 42, I was in the best shape of my life; lean and mean.  I am trying to stay on the right path as far as nutrition and physical exercise are concerned but now it seems like such a chore.  What happened to all the fun I used to have raking leaves, shoveling show, trimming shrubs and bushes, painting, decorating and cleaning?  I suppose I’m in a new life cycle, or so I’ve heard.

Today was a busy one for me, which is always a good thing.  While my husband was cleaning up debris from the yard and blowing leaves, I helped by clearing out our pond, trimming bushes and cleaning up the flower beds.  When I paused to prepare lunch, I decided I’d bring all the Halloween storage bins that had yet to be put away, back up into the attic by myself.  It wasn’t that I minded so much, lifting all the boxes up the narrow stairs to the attic, what concerned me was I felt I had no arm strength.  This was the first time I ever felt weak and I didn’t like it.

I can still lift the 42 lb. package of cat litter fairly easily.  I carried the heavy Halloween props in and out of the house and onto the lawn by myself.  Yet I had trouble lifting the boxes up into the attic.  It occurred to me that I need to incorporate a lot more strength training in my workout routine.

After the boxes were stacked in the attic, I figured, since I was already up there, I may as well bring down some Christmas lighting.  The weather was calm and my Christmas decorating usually begins in a couple of weeks anyway, so what the heck.  I managed to put up several strands of lights around our garage and a couple of trees as well as assemble our outdoor music light show.  All the lights worked however I won’t be turning any of them on until the weekend after Thanksgiving.  It felt good to get some of them up before the colder weather sets in.

Between doing yard work, decorating and cleaning, I feel I got a lot accomplished today.  The first day of my Low Cholesterol meal plan is going well:  ½ Grapefruit, ½ English muffin with lowfat spread and tea for breakfast, lowfat yogurt, banana and walnuts for lunch and a large salad with 2 hardboiled egg whites and lowfat dressing for dinner was pretty satisfying.  My husband had somewhat more substantial meals today: Oatmeal w/skim milk, yogurt, melon, turkey sandwich, baked flounder with LF/LC dressing, brown rice and green beans were on his menu.  Not too bad for the first day. 

The box-lifting incident motivated me and I think I’ll change up my exercise routine tomorrow.  I still can’t believe Thanksgiving is around the corner and Christmas right on its tail.  There is still so much work I would like to finish before mid-December including the traditional decorating, baking, shopping, gift wrapping and writing cards.  I’d really like to have the foyer painted before my daughter comes home to make it more welcoming.  I just wish sometimes, there were more than 24 hours in a day. 

I have to say that I am satisfied with what I accomplished today.  It’s now time to relax for the remainder of the evening.  Fuzzy slippers, green tea and two soft furballs on my lap sounds like a plan.  I am surely blessed.

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” ~ Ovid

Low Cholesterol Cooking with Rice Bran Oil

My latest research into low cholesterol meal plans led me to a new type of cooking oil.  I first heard of rice bran oil from a Dr. Oz show earlier in the year.  He again mentioned its benefit at a health symposium I attended this past June.  After further study, I discovered rice bran oil is especially versatile.  My own personal decision to use it comes from my desire to reduce cholesterol.  After using it in the preparation of several meals, I enthusiastically endorse it.

 Everyone should realize our body needs a certain amount of dietary fat for optimum health.  However, the most beneficial ones are mono and polyunsaturated fats.  Most popular cooking oils or fats, including butter, are high in saturated and trans fats.  They are also higher in calories; an important consideration if you are seeking to lose weight.  Rice bran oil contains phylosterols which help reduce cholesterol absorption, is rich in gamma oryzanol, Omega-6 fatty acids, Vitamin E and antioxidants, all of which have been shown in clinical research to help lower cholesterol and benefit overall health.

 One of the reasons I consider rice bran oil a new favorite is its high smoke point; another is its slightly nutty (almond) flavor.  I enjoy using it when stir-frying which is now becoming one of my “go to” choices for cooking.  Stir-frying enables me to pack more punch into a one-dish dinner than broiling, baking or grilling. 

 The other night, I made chicken stir-fry using rice bran oil, with a pepper, onion, carrots and broccoli.  If I had mushrooms, I would have added those too!  I chose reduced sodium chicken broth and soy sauce.  Next time, I may try the reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce to see if it makes a noticeable difference in overall flavor.  As a note, in the reduced sodium varieties, the Worcestershire has only 135 mg of sodium per tablespoon compared to 575 mg in the soy sauce (Lea & Perrins vs. Kikkoman).

My husband said he enjoyed the dish, which is important.  The basic recipe is easy.  Feel free to pick and choose a veggie or two of your own to add.

 Ingredients:

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth 2 cups broccoli florets  
2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce 1 green pepper (thinly sliced)  
2 tbsp. water 1/2 onion (thinly slice)  
1 tbsp. cornstarch 2 peeled carrots (thinly sliced, not shredded)  
2-3 tbsp. rice bran oil 1 pinch red pepper (dried crushed, optional)  
2 garlic cloves (chopped or diced)1/8 tsp. ground ginger or 1 TBSP grated fresh    
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves(cut crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips or chunks) Brown rice (hot cooked)  
   

 Directions:

  • If desired, season chicken with a salt substitute such as Nu-Salt® and pepper.
  • Whisk broth, soy sauce, water and cornstarch together until smooth.  Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat.  Add garlic and ginger and stir about 30 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry until white, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add broccoli florets, pepper, onion, carrots and red pepper and continue stir-frying until vegetables are crisp-tender and chicken is just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Push chicken & veggies to sides of pan and add cornstarch mixture to center.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Blend with chicken & veggies until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Serve over rice.

Some people have also used rice bran oil in baking as a substitute for vegetable oil.  If I want to eliminate fat in baking, I generally do so with applesauce.  But it would be fun to experiment with the rice bran oil next time.  I’m trying to watch my carbohydrate intake as well, so sweets and other high carb foods may be off my list for a while (except on Thanksgiving…and then, only in moderation!)

I hope you consider trying rice bran oil in the future.  The cold-pressed varieties are best.  If you do, good luck and Bon Appetit!  I’m looking forward to creating lots of new recipes for my upcoming low cholesterol dietary adventure; my husband, not so much…he’ll miss his C’s…chocolate and cheese!

“Tout est question d’équilibre” ~ Mireille Guiliano

A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish ~ Antoine de Saint Exupery

First, I’d like to apologize to any readers who may have noticed I’ve been somewhat sidetracked lately.  This blog is about living life to its full potential.  Occasionally other passions put me off target.  Having said that, I’m back to writing about things in my life which I have limited control over but are important to me: love, family, good health, proper nutrition and exercise, fond memories, good friends, spirituality, adventure and community.

 Notice I did not mention weather.  We were hit with another Nor’easter today; however it’s not nearly as bad as the hurricane was.  Our first snow fell this afternoon and actually the sight of white snow blanketing our green lawn and orange pumpkins was quite pretty.  Pretty does not mean I want it to linger; I hope it will melt soon.

Now back to concentrating on the next meal plan I’m going to tackle.  I’ve done quite a bit of research and found a site (U.S. World and News Report) that summarizes some of the best plans to date.  I’ve decided to try the TLC Plan (#2).  Notice the numbers at the end of each diet indicating whether or not people found the plan to be effective.  Of the first ten diets, only three, 2 Vegetarian and Weight Watchers, had more positive feedback than the others.

 The remaining 15 on the list, which I am not illustrating here, were:

  • Eco-Atkins Diet                      Abs Diet
  • Flat Belly Diet                         Medifast
  • Jenny Craig                             Nutrisystem
  • Macrobiotic Diet                    Glycemic Index Diet
  • South Beach Diet                   Atkins Diet
  • Raw Food Diet                        Paleo Diet
  • Slim-Fast Diet                        Dukan Diet
  • Zone Diet

The challenge for me is finding a plan I believe I can stick with.  If I have to avoid a certain type of food that I’ve enjoyed all my life, it will only make me crave it more.  That’s part of my addictive personality I suppose.  Of more concern is trying to find a plan which my husband can manage, as he needs to keep his cholesterol under control.  As it is, convincing him to eat more fruits and vegetables will be no easy task.

Here is an overview of the TLC Diet:

  • Type: Low-fat.
  • The aim: Cutting high cholesterol.
  • The claim: You’ll lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol by 8 to 10 percent in six weeks.
  • The theory: Created by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet (TLC) is endorsed by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy regimen that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cutting back sharply on fat, particularly saturated fat, (think fatty meat, whole-milk dairy, and fried foods), strictly limiting daily dietary cholesterol intake and getting more fiber, can help people manage high cholesterol, often without medication.

Our goals are to both lower LDL and lose weight.  Therefore, I’m planning daily caloric intake of approximately 1,800-2,000 for my husband and 1,200-1,300 for me.  Saturated fat intake will be less than 7 percent of daily calories and no more than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol a day.  On TLC, we’ll be eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish, and skinless poultry.  I’ll be working with a dietitian to formulate daily meals that are feasible for our lifestyles as well as working in an appropriate exercise schedule we both can enjoy.

The goal is to reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 8-10 percent and lose between 10-20 lbs. within six weeks.  At least with this plan, we’re in it together.  I won’t have to prepare separate meals all the time.  My biggest challenge is being creative; incorporating fruits and vegetables into meals without being obvious. 

I have a few more days to prepare my meals and get ready to begin anew on Sunday.  Thank goodness for whiteboards; they’ll come in handy to chart daily meals and weight loss.  I’m looking forward to engaging in another plan which will help encourage healthy eating and physical exercise.  Time to get out the ball, band and weights again!  Just as long as I don’t have to get out the shovel…yet.

“To lengthen your life, shorten your meals.” ~ Proverb