Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Weight Watchers Cocoa Brownies

Photo from Weight Watchers-The star with JH means that it's one of Jennifer Hudson's picks

I often overlook or underestimate Weight Watchers recipes.  I don’t know why....I typically love the recipes from their website when I make them.  I have been on a brownie kick lately.  I am perpetually on a chocolate kick, but lately it’s been brownies.  I tried making the Pumpkin Swirl Brownies from the Happy Herbivore last week, but I changed the sugar around so much, that they didn’t turn out right for me.  I love the Happy Herbivore’s recipes, but I am afraid I had to alter the sugar so much on this recipe that it just didn’t work.  So I have been on the hunt for another brownie recipe.  I found this one the other day on Weight Watchers and I decided to try it because I have some vanilla soy yogurt that needs to be used up before the expiration date.  The good news is that I still have some yogurt left, so I might be making this recipe again this weekend!  I will make note of any modifications I made to the original recipe. 

Weight Watchers Cocoa Brownies

-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
-3/4 cup sugar (I used ¼ cup of agave nectar and ½ cup Truvia…..I am planning on adding a little more sweetener next time. 
-1/2 cup all purpose flour (I used ¾ cup of whole wheat flour)
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt (I used vanilla soy yogurt-I am impressed that this was the only modification I had to make to make this recipe vegan)
-2 TBSP vanilla extract
-non-dairy milk (I used some almond milk because the batter was too dry-the original recipe does not call for this.)
-cooking spray
-powdered sugar (*optional* I sprinkled 1 tsp of powdered sugar on top of each brownie-definitely a nice touch.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the cocoa powder, sugar (dry-if using agave nectar for part of the recipe, add it to the wet ingredients), flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Then use a spoon to stir in the yogurt, agave nectar (if using) and vanilla.  This was when I added in some almond milk because the batter was too dry. 

Spray an 8 x 8 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread the batter evenly into the pan. 

Bake until toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.  The Weight Watchers recipe says for 20 minutes but for me, it was about 30-35 minutes.  Cool for 15 minutes (it was more like 5 for me) and then cut into squares.  When serving, sprinkle the powdered sugar on top of each square.  Another nice touch is to serve with vegan vanilla ice cream. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Non Scale Victories

The past 3 weekends I have been out of town....Atlanta, Oklahoma, and then Asheville last weekend.  Travel is definitely my biggest challenge with healthy living and weight loss.  During times like these when I don't see a lot of progress on the scale, I really have to focus on "Non Scale Victories."  It's this stuff that keeps me focused and motivated.  Here are some of my non scale victories:

My Wedding Ring
This ring used to be so tight that it would barely fit on my finger some days.  Sometimes I couldn't get it off when my hands would swell.  Now I can almost shake the ring off my ringer.  This is an everyday reminder of my progress and I love having that with me. 

Size 12 Pants
I know it doesn't sound like a very small size, but it is for me.  I have NEVER worn a size 12.  Well....not since elementary school (if even then).  I want to be smaller than a size 12, but I really have to stop and savor the moments along the way on this journey.  This means that I can go in almost any clothing store and find clothes that fit.  That's a great feeling!  When I wore my 12 jeans last weekend out hiking, they were actually a little baggy....WHAT?!  It's definitely motivating.

Shopping at Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe
A few weeks ago when we were in Atlanta, we stopped by Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe to see if we could find some hard-to-find vegan products.  They also had some cute vegan shirts in the store.  When the woman working was helping me find a shirt, she said, "I am not sure if we have a medium and I guess that's probably the size you would wear."  Once again, WHAT?!  A medium!  It was so funny to hear her say that.  I am starting to wear mediums in unisex t-shirts but it was such a good feeling to hear someone who doesn't know me say that.  

This picture was taken out on my 13 mile birthday hike.  It felt so good to do this hike for my birthday.  My fitness ability has definitely increased over the past year and 4 months.  I can do things now that I wouldn't have been able to do 2 years ago.  I can handle intense hiking and I can even handle running!  Running has always been something I hated....especially after the half marathon.  I swore I would never run again!  But now that I am not carrying around so much extra weight, I can handle it a lot better.  I have been doing a lot of walk/jogging lately and I actually enjoy it!  

These non scale victories keep me going.  They keep me focused when I feel like the scale isn't moving.  I know I am healthier, I know I am stronger and I know I am more confident.  Those are the things that are most important to me.  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin Pie French Toast

Now that it's fall, I have craving pumpkin all of the time.  And because I thought I might not be able to get canned pumpkin this season, I ordered a case of the organic Farmer's Market brand on Amazon.  We were planning on having french toast the other night but I kept thinking about pumpkin.  So I decided to make a pumpkin pie french toast.  I think it turned out great!  If I made it again, I would probably either half the "batter" or I would save half of it so I could have french toast two times in a week!  You can never have too much french toast.  You can also adjust the spices or just use pumpkin pie spice to simplify the recipe.

Pumpkin Pie French Toast
-1/2 container of silken tofu (I buy the Nasoya organic kind)
-1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
-1/2-3/4 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
-2 TBSP sweetner (sugar, agave, Organic Zero, whatever works for you)
-1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-1/8-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-pinch of nutmeg
-pinch of ginger
-8 slices of bread (or more)

Put all of the ingredients in the food processor except for the bread.  Process until smooth.  Put the mixture in a pie plate.  I use a griddle to cook the french toast on but you can use a regular skillet.  I put a little oil on the griddle, coat the front and back of a slice of bread and then put it on the griddle.  When all bread is coated and on the griddle, I cook each side for about 5 minutes or until it looks browned on each side.  Top it off with a little powdered sugar and maple syrup.  I also had some swiss chard and Gimme Lean "sausage" with the french toast.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Healthy at 100-Book Review

I was lucky enough to find a copy of Healthy at 100 by John Robbins at my local library.  It took me awhile to read this book at first, not because I didn't like it, I just don't typically sit down and read a lot at one time.  So I started reading this book at the end of the summer and just now finished it.  I took it with me on my trip to visit my parents and finished it up on the plane.  I loved it!  One thing I have found with veganism is that I am not really able to handle reading or watching ethical issues involving animals.  It's just too hard to watch.  I have always told myself that if I start to falter with my veganism, that I will force myself to watch Earthlings or Meet Your Meat or read Animal Liberation or something like that.  Luckily I have not gotten to that point.  :)  So I have really been interested in this division of veganism that solely focuses on the health aspects of a vegan diet.  I have been discovering so many authors promoting veganism in this way.  When I was at Whole Foods this past week, I noticed they even have a section near their deli with many of these books and DVDs-it's called Eat Right America.  I was amazed!  Below is a video clip talking about the Eat Right America program:

 I am not sure if I am just seeking out more information in this area or if people are starting to catch on to the health benefits of a vegan diet.  A documentary is even coming out in March of 2011 called Forks Over Knives which focuses on this-how veganism can reverse many deadly medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, blood pressure, etc.  Here's the trailer:

So, there's so much information out there to benefit our health.  Below are some of the doctors who are promoting veganism (or at least a mostly vegan diet).  Most of them have books, cookbooks or other resources to check out.

I am sure there are others to add to this list, but these are the doctors I have heard of.  Lots of good stuff to check out.  But back to Healthy at 100.  I love John Robbins.  I have also read Food Revolution-also an excellent book.  Food Revolution was harder to read because it does cover some issues involving the treatment of animals on factory farms.  I loved how the book covered different groups of people from around the world who live to be well into their 100s.  The first part of the books talks about these different groups of people while the second half of the group covers changes that we can make to live longer lives.  I would definitely recommend this book or any book by John Robbins for that matter.