Category Archives: Cooking

Revival of the Fittest

So, like I said, I got my books and I’ve dug into them. However, just reading them isn’t going to get me where I want to be, now is it? I’ve got to put my fanny in gear and get with the program.

And, yesterday, that’s exactly what I did.

Sunday night, I looked through the recipe book, planned my menus for the next week (Actually, since many of the recipes make four servings and freeze well, the meals will last for more than just the one week.) and made my grocery list. Then yesterday, I grabbed my grocery bags and headed out to Aldi and Kroger. Many of the items I bought were larder stocking kinds of things like nutritional yeast, chia seeds, dried beans, canned diced tomatoes, and spices. I tell you that because I had to say it to myownself at check-out so that I wouldn’t hyperventilate at the totals. Nearly gave myself a stroke, I did! Now, normally, I look in my refrigerator and cabinets to see what’s there and I concoct something edible with the ingredients (the ketchup pizza being a notable exception to the edible thing). However, as I fully transition into this Whole Foods, Plant Based lifestyle, I wanted to make some proven recipes so that I can learn to cook without butter, oil, cream or even cheese. It’s not like I used cream or cheese all that frequently to begin with; but, I have no idea how to make sauces creamy without them. Using the recipes in the Forks Over Knives books, I’ll learn how to do that.

Now, let’s take just a minute because I can hear some of you rolling your eyes at me. I’ve gone off the deep end – no animal protein. What?! Have I lost my mind?! And I used to be such a nice girl! Well, the nice girl thing may be a bit of a stretch; but, otherwise, I can totally get where you’re coming from. I used to dig into a rack of ribs like someone was going to steal it. I enjoyed my steaks so rare that some of them may have moved. Hot, buttered bread, okay, hot, buttered anything was a favorite. Although allergic to dairy, I love ice cream enough to make the bathroom my home for hours after eating it. I was a carnivore who loved all things dairy. Now, what am I? Some kind of bean freak?!

Maybe not yet, but I can totally see myself getting there. Particularly since my cookbooks have arrived and I’m going to learn how to cook with new ingredients and how to use familiar ingredients in a whole new way. And, don’t even think I’m going to be eating grass and twigs.  My refrigerator and freezer are soon to be stocked with:

  1. Sweet Potato Pie Oatmeal
  2. Portobello Florentine
  3. Breakfast Fruit Crisp with mixed berries
  4. Red Lentil Dal
  5. Creamy Polenta with Wild Mushrooms
  6. Baked Ziti
  7. Polenta Pizza with pesto, caramelized onions and potatoes
  8. Jamaican Black Beans
  9. Pineapple Chutney
  10. Whole Grain Penne Primavera
  11. Stir Fried Bok Choy and rice in garlic sauce
  12. Black Bean Burgers
  13. Black-Eyed Pea Burgers
  14. Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Nope. No grass and twigs here, friends. It’s gonna be good eating at the Doty Hjem! And every single recipe is designed to give my body varied and complete nutrients for better health, and to give my taste buds a big, ole tent revival with every single bite!



Heroes and Villains

Superman has Lex Luthor. Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty. Spiderman has the Green Goblin. And Kermit has Miss Piggy. Every superhero has an archenemy – some villain that is a constant thorn in his side. Where Batman has the Joker, the Penguin, Catwoman, Two Face and Mr. Freeze (I don’t know how Batman rates all those villains, really. It’s not like he’s Superman, for crying out loud.), Resolve has Fatigue and his sidekick Convenience.

Capitan-America-obeseAs we’ve discussed several times, making healthful food choices isn’t necessarily easy and it certainly isn’t convenient. For whatever reason, last week, I got less sleep than usual. I also did not take the time I needed to take to prepare foods like I normally do. As a result, drive-thrus all over town talked to me as I drove past. It wasn’t that I even craved a burger or fries or a banana milkshake; I was just hungry and didn’t want to fool with making anything. While I resisted the temptations – even the milkshake, a heroic feat if ever there was one, resistance grew more difficult as the week wore on and my level of fatigue increased.

Well, there’s only one way to deal with that. That’s right. I had to put on my Big Goddess Panties and suck it up.

I went grocery shopping on Sunday to stock up on good fruits and veggies again. Some of those veggies, including a butternut squash, are roasting in the oven right this very minute. (I had to buy the biggest butternut squash they had to repair some soup I made with the gourd last week. I put WAY too much garlic in that batch; so, I have to dilute it. Good thing that soup freezes well!) Yellow squash, zucchini (staples in my kitchen) and eggplant also found their way into the basket. Sadly, they had no large portobellos that I can eat like a steak. The small ones still make for a great stir-fry, though.

In addition to the vegetables, I soaked and cooked some beans. I prepared chickpeas, black beans and lentils. The chickpeas will become hummus, soup and this wonderful chickpea salad that I just love. The black beans will be seasoned to serve with rice. They will also become black bean burgers as soon as I find a recipe that I like. The lentils will be a lentil loaf. I’ve never made one before; but, this recipe sounds wonderful!

I can’t say that this week I’ll get any more sleep and/or rest than I did last week; but, I can say that I’m better prepared to deal with the snacky feelings and temptations that the fatigue brings.

Fatigue Man and Convenience Boy, you’re on notice! I’m still in my Big Goddess Panties. You’ll not find me at your evil Drive-Thru lair, regardless of how tired I am or how strong that pumpkin pie milkshake tractor beam is.

You Take It On The Run, Baby

That thing in your kitchen or dining room, is it: A) a dining table? B) a desk? C) a filing cabinet? or D) all of the above?  I had to go with mostly B for my answer.

We eat at our desks, in our cars, over the sink, in front of the television, at the computer and generally everywhere else but at the table.  Even when we cook it ourselves, mealtime is something we blow through rather than something we enjoy.  Since HOW I ate was nearly as important as WHAT I ate, I found it crucial during my lifestyle change to make a HUGE shift in this habit.  Here are some things I did (and do) to help me get a handle on how I ate:

  • Beautiful outdoor table settingI eat most of my meals at the table.  This lets me concentrate on my food and on my dining companion.  If I’m eating alone, I am able to just appreciate my food, making the meal feel more like an event and less like a footnote.
  • I eat on a plate – a real one that has to be washed and everything.  I use metal cutlery and glass drink containers, even at work. Although my office supplies plastic cutlery and disposable plates, I bought an inexpensive set of cutlery, a glass plate and a glass bowl from Target. In total, I spent about six dollars and it was worth every penny.  My colorful salads look pretty on the plate and it feels like I’m eating a real meal.  The glass plate is also a little smaller than a standard plate; so, my portions can be a little smaller while appearing large. (Plus, I’m not throwing plastic and styrofoam into the waste system!)
  • I try to make my meals look appealing with lots of color and texture, as well as flavor. Use red bell peppers instead of green, or Swiss chard instead of spinach sometimes for a pop of color. Add a couple of crushed almonds, walnuts or a few chunks of apple to your salad for some crunch.
  • I eat slowly, chewing each bite and enjoying the different tastes and textures.  This is important so that my stomach has enough time to communicate with my brain, telling me that I’m full.
  • I experiment with new foods, new herbs, spices and preparation techniques.  I also use stronger flavors like cumin, red pepper, white pepper, garlic, cilantro, dark chocolate, etc.  A little feta or goat cheese on my salad adds a nice kick to those greens!  Those flavors wake up my taste buds and let them know we are having a treat! (If you do this, your coworkers will likely want you to keep a toothbrush, some toothpaste, mouthwash and sugar-free mint gum at your desk, too!  If you don’t much like those coworkers, skip the minty fresh and go double time on the goat cheese. The area of office space available for your exclusive use with increase proportionally.)

Food satisfies an appetite.  If you don’t enjoy the aromas, flavors, colors, and textures, you’re cheating yourself  out of three-quarters of the experience!  That email can wait.  Angry Birds will still be there after lunch.  There’s very little really worth watching on prime-time TV, anyway. Take those 20 or 30 minutes of mealtime to reconnect with your family, your friends, your food and your body. It will be the most enjoyable time of your day.

Vegetable Medley

1/2 grapefruit, dry toast, boiled egg.  Baked chicken, green beans, and salad.  Baked chicken, green beans, salad.

We’ve all tried this diet, haven’t we?  This one or another that was about as enticing as a dose of cod liver oil.  There’s no way anyone can stay on a diet like that in our society.  We are accustomed to too many choices.  Any plan to narrow food intake to just those items is doomed from the start.

During my lifestyle change, I wanted to keep mealtimes interesting.  To do that, I tried lots of new foods.  You saw some of the choices on the menu here yesterday.  There may be some things on that list that are unfamiliar to you or you may just not think of eating them often.

328134_10151065513318197_1002986048_oTo the list of vegetables I eat regularly, I added eggplant, kale, collards, turnip greens, edamame, rutabega, beets, beet greens, sweet potatoes, parsnips, purple carrots, butternut and acorn squash, yellow tomatoes, Italian rabe or rapini, etc.  I still keep broccoli, carrots, grean beans, tomatoes, salad greens, spinach, cauliflower, cucumbers, yellow and zucchini squash, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, asparagus, sweet peppers and some others I’m sure I’m forgetting.  Look at the variety there!  And there are still lots of things I haven’t tried – kohlrabi, fennel, to name two!  Switching up what I cook keeps mealtimes interesting.  It also switches up the nutrients I’m getting, making my diet more balanced. You might have noticed that I don’t list corn or white potatoes anywhere.  That’s because corn has very little nutritional value for humans – which is a crying shame, if you ask me.  I do enjoy corn on the cob or a corn salad every great now and then, but maybe only two or three times a year.  And white potatoes are really starchy.  Again, they are something I just don’t eat often.

My point is this: vegetables come in a huge variety! Try something new.  If you don’t like it, don’t eat it again.  If you do, you’ve just found something new to add to your rotation.

Let’s Eat – 2

It’s time again!  Here are some meal suggestions for the upcoming week with approximate calorie values.  Like I said last week, your calorie budget will likely be different from mine.  Make appropriate adjustments and EAT ENOUGH.  You will sabotage yourself by eating too little as surely as you will by eating too much. Our goals should be to be healthier, not to be the media’s version of beautiful.  We aren’t all built that way and it would be unhealthy for many of us if we did look that way.  My friend Amanda has beautifully delicate bones.  At a size 4, she looks fantastic.  With my medium bones, at a size 4, you can see where my ribs join my sternum.  It’s straight up nasty.  Let’s be healthy and be the beautiful we were made to be rather than the one we’ve been told to be.

For breakfast, you’ll see three meals of steel cut oats.  I like those for several reasons: 1. you can cook several servings at once and just warm them up when you need them, 2. by adding different things, you get vastly different meals, 3. they have a wonderful texture and flavor, and 4. they stick with you, providing good energy for busy mornings.

On this list, you will find crunchy natural peanut butter.  I use the natural kind because I don’t want anything other than peanuts and salt in my peanut butter. Smuckers makes a good one; but, Publix, Kroger and Walmart all sell a store brand.  It does cost a little more than homogenized peanut butter and you have to mix the oil in (or pour it off, like I do), but you’re not getting added sugar or palm oil.

Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning is listed a couple of times.  If you don’t have that in your kitchen, stop right now.  Go get some and don’t let yourself ever run out again.  It’s great on nearly everything and adds either mild or frightening kick depending on your taste buds.  I use it in eggs, on chicken, on fish, on steamed vegetables…..

Thanks for reading and, please, enjoy your food, enjoy your week and share your favorite menus and recipes with us!


  • 1 c. fat-free cottage cheese, 1 navel orange – 290
  • 1/4 c (uncooked) steel cut oats, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 2 tbsp ground flax seed meal, 1 tbsp raw honey – 324
  • 1/4 c (uncooked) steel cut oats, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 2 tbsp ground flax seed meal, 1 tbsp molasses – 324
  • 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites, 1/4 c. chopped onion, 1/4 tsp Tony Chachere’s sesoning, 1 c. raw spinach – 110
  • 1/4 c (uncooked) steel cut oats, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 2 tbsp ground flax seed meal, 1 sm. mashed banana – 354
  • 1 mini bagel, 1/2 tbsp crunchy natural peanut butter, 1/2 tbsp reduced sugar raspberry jelly – 171
  • 4 oz Jenny O sweet Italian turkey sausage link, 1 egg, 1/4 c. chopped onion – 237

Mid-morning snack

  • 1 apple – 72
  • 1 apple, 1 tbsp crunchy natural peanut butter – 167
  • 1 stick light string cheese, 1 c. seedless red grapes – 154
  • 4 tbsp hummus, 20 baby carrots – 280
  • 1 stick light string cheese, 1 c. red seedless grapes – 119
  • 1 large banana – 110
  • 1 grapefruit – 120


  • 2 c. iceberg lettuce, 1/4 c. onions, 25 g dark meat chicken, 3/4 c. black beans, 2 tbsp Marzetti Spinach salad dressing, 1 pc Laughing Cow semi-soft jalapeno cheese – 380
  • 1 c. raw spinach, 2 c. Italian salad mix, 10 boiled shrimp, 2 tbsp Ken’s Light Parmesan & Peppercorn dressing – 158
  • 1 c. fat-free cottage cheese, 1 navel orange – 290
  • 1/2 oz deli ham, 1.5 oz. genoa salami, 1/2 slice deli roast beef, 1 c. shredded lettuce, 1 tbsp. parmesan cheese – 221
  • 1 c. Italian salad mix, 1 c. raw spinach, 2 tbsp Marzetti spinach salad dressing – 88
  • 1 c. Italian salad mix, 1 c. raw spinach, 2 tbsp Marzetti spinach salad dressing, 10 boiled shrimp – 148
  • Wendy’s grilled chicken sandwich – 350

Mid-afternoon snack

  • 1 whole mango – 65
  • 2 oz English Walnuts – 370
  • 4 tbsp hummus, 20 baby carrots – 280
  • Fiber One chocolate peanut butter brownie – 90
  • 1 mini bagel, 1/2 tsp crunchy natural peanut butter – 158
  • 1 c. seedless red grapes – 69
  • 1 navel orange – 62


  • 1/3 serving grilled chicken nachos (El Pollo Loco), 6 grilled chicken wings – 582
  • 4 oz baked Swai, 2 thin slices bacon, 1 c. steamed collard greens, 1 c. steamed turnip greens, 1 medium baked sweet potato, 1/4 tsp Tony Chachere’s seasoning – 391
  • 1 c. collard greens, 1 thin slice bacon, 1/2 c. white beans – 242
  • 1 baked chicken leg quarter, 1 c. steamed yellow squash, 1 c. steamed spinach – 248
  • 6 oz baked chicken breast, 1 c. red seedless grapes, 1 c. iceberg lettuce, 2 tbsp Ken’s Light raspberry pecan vinaigrette – 324
  • 1 c. Italian salad mix, 1 c. raw spinach, 2 tbsp Ken’s light options balsamic vinaigrette, 10 boiled shrimp – 148
  • Ruby Tuesday’s Barbecue grilled chicken meal (fit & trim) – 345

Evening Snack

  • 1 pc string light string cheese – 50
  • 1 c. dark chocolate almond milk – 120
  • 1/2 c. fat-free cottage cheese, 1 navel orange – 142
  • 3 c. popped kettle corn (Pop Secret) – 105
  • 1 pc Babybel 70
  • 1 Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich – 140
  • 4 oz. Oikos caramel yogurt 110

Dressing Up

Yesterday, Christina commented, “Isn’t it crazy to look at nutrition facts and realize how many calories things can have?! Especially at restaurants!” Yes, yes, it is.  I think that salads are the biggest mine fields.

You go in, sit down, order a salad so that you can have a healthful meal. A Cobb salad – mmmmm.  Tasty and (at Chili’s) 720 calories.  You read that right. 720.  A Caesar salad with grilled chicken? 650. At Appleby’s, that same salad is 820! WHAT?!  It’s a salad!! The culprit, as you already know, is the dressing.  A grilled chicken Caesar salad at Appleby’s without dressing is a very reasonable 370.

Condiments are flavor boosters; but, we don’t tend to think of them as food.  As a result, we also don’t tend to think of them as having calories.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I pulled out some condiments from my refrigerator:

  • CondimentsKraft chipotle mayo – 1 tbsp – 35 cal
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s honey barbecue sauce – 2 tbsp – 70 cal
  • Sriracha sauce – 1 tsp – 5 cal
  • Vava hot ajvar – 1.4 oz (just over 2 tbsp) – 69 cal
  • Naturally Fresh bleu cheese dressing – 2 tbsp – 170 cal
  • French’s yellow mustard – 1 tsp – 0 cal

Obviously, mustard is a better calorie choice than mayonnaise and just about anything is a better choice than bleu cheese dressing.  Here’s the thing, though – you may adore bleu cheese dressing.  And if you do, there’s therapy available, I’m sure. Um, what I mean to say is that it may be worth it to you to cut something else out so that you can enjoy that on your salad.  Just like it’s your money in your bank account, it’s your calorie budget.  You can choose to spend it how you like.  Buying clothes on Rodeo Drive is going to blast through my budget faster than shopping at my local mall and leave my closet emptier.  Similarly, pouring that bleu cheese on is going to blast through your calorie budget faster and leave your belly emptier.  Still, Armani may be worth it to me and bleu cheese may be worth it to you.

There are ways to have a little of both worlds, though.  I can make my budget go further by dressing up an inexpensive dress with an Hermes scarf.  You can either thin your dressing or leave it on the side.  Rather than pour the dressing over the top, dip your fork into it before each bite.  You get a little of that taste you love without carpet bombing your calorie budget.

It’s your budget.  Just look before you eat so that you can be an informed consumer.

Nutrition and the Forty Hour Work Week

Until last week, I was unemployed for a few months.  During that time, I was shocked to discover how quickly I fell out of rhythm with the rest of the world.  It was so simple to go to bed a little later, sleep a little longer, take a quick nap after I got all caught up on Castle, NCIS, Property Brothers and  The Mentalist.  I was sedentary.  I ate what I wanted, when I wanted and how much I wanted.  I gained weight.

Last week, I started not only a new job, but also a new career.  I’ve gone from aviation to financial services and I am loving it.  I’m working with a tremendous group of professionals who are constantly training and helping me.

Clock made wih food

I have also gone from spending most of my time alone to spending at least nine hours a day with other people.  I’ve gone from an industry I knew a great deal about to one that is full of new concepts, new laws, new products and new opportunities.  At the end of a full day of interacting and learning, I’ve got to admit, I’m exhausted.

I take my lunch and my morning and afternoon snacks to work with me.  Those meals are well thought-out and balanced.  It’s the others that are falling between the cracks.

I have eaten an embarrassing volume of Cheerios this week.  More often than not, both breakfast and dinner have been cereal with unsweetened vanilla almond milk.  Evening snack is a stick of string cheese.  While I’m not killing my calorie count with this, I’m not helping my body.  I’m not giving it the fuel it needs to operate efficiently and healthfully.  And, isn’t that what this is about?  Getting healthy?  Giving my body what it needs so that I can live a longer, healthier life?  Yep.  The last time I checked, that was the ultimate mission.

To help me resolve this nutritional short-fall and to pluck out a bad habit before it takes root, I have been working on a menu for next week.  I will share that with you on Saturday.  For this menu, I’ll be breaking it down to seven breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as 21 snacks.  I’m not going to plan them out day by day this time.  To get it all really balanced, I’ll have to do that in the future, but if I wait to do anything until I can do that, it’ll be weeks.  So, since even baby steps in the right direction are progress, this will be my first baby step: a week’s worth of mix and match meals.

I know that the planning will be very helpful for me and I hope it will be helpful for you, as well.  Will it be?

A 4-Letter Word That Starts with C

Cook.  That’s right.  I said it – cook.

You know this without watching Super-Size Me.  It is difficult to eat healthfully at restaurants.  Their portions are enormous and they augment flavor with sugar, salt and fat.  Even healthier restaurant choices come with empty calories in the parmesan garnish on the broccoli or the butter finish on the carrots.  Cook it yourself and there won’t be bad or empty things lurking around.

Going to the grocery store is so expensive.  Compare it to the dollar menu and you might think so.  However, the the dollar menu just doesn’t list your downline expenses of bypass surgery or diabetic supplies.  You spend the money on nutritious food now, or you spend it dealing with health issues caused by poor food later. Either way, it’s going to cost you.  At least when you spend it on nutritious foods, you get the benefits of feeling better!

Basket of goodies from my local farmers' market
Basket of goodies from my local farmers’ market

Cooking is such a pain and so time consuming.  Prepare and freeze chicken, beef , pork and even rice and beans ahead of time.  When you’re baking one chicken breast, you might as well bake several and put the extras in the freezer for later.  The same thing goes for making a beef, pork, or rice and beans.  Cook them in quantity, divide into single servings and freeze.  This keeps you from eating the same things day after day, it cuts down on your prep time and decreases the likelihood that you’ll call out for Chinese spare ribs.  I usually don’t pre-cook any fish, though, since it takes so little time to cook anyway.

I also like to prepare a large salad (greens only) and put it in a bowl in the fridge.  Tomatoes, onions, peppers, whatever, are kept separately so that I can have an all veggie salad one night, but maybe a salad with blackberries, walnuts and brie the next night.

As far as cooked vegetables go, I steam nearly all mine (except root vegetables).  Steaming them takes just no time at all.  With beets or sweet potatoes, I dice those, put them in the oven and they’re ready in about 20 minutes.

That’s all fine and dandy for lunch and dinner, but what about breakfast?  Omelets are nutritious and, when put on some flat bread or rolled into a tortilla, portable.  To decrease prep time, become your own sous chef.  When you get home from the grocery store, go ahead and chop up those onions, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, etc.  Storing them in separate containers makes them easy to use in either salads or omelets.  

I’m also a huge fan of oatmeal – the old fashioned and steel cut kinds, not instant.  I’ve seen some crock pot recipes for oatmeal, but mine ended up just over the edge of charred; so, I cook it on the stove. I add chia seeds and flax meal for the Omega-3.  I add cinnamon as it cooks, then stir in a mashed banana before I eat it. (The banana has to be mashed to make it as sweet as I like.  Slicing it is also tasty, but not nearly as sweet.)  When I make one serving, I usually go ahead and make two. I can put the second one in the fridge for the next day.

Here’s the most important thing to remember, though: measure. Make sure you have measuring cups, spoons and a kitchen scale.  If you’re like most Americans, you have no clue what a proper serving size looks like and when you’re keeping a food diary like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt, you have to know what you just ate!