Butternut Squash Soup

One of the first signs of fall at my house is the smell of homemade soup in the kitchen.  The quickest and easiest soup that I make is likely butternut squash soup.  Despite its creamy texture, this soup is light and healthy!

Image

Ingredients
(Makes approximately 8 1-cup servings)
1 butternut squash (approximately 3 pounds), peeled, seeded and cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1 TBS butter
6 cups chicken stock
chives, optional
Greek yogurt, optional
nutmeg
salt
pepper

Add butter and onion to a large pot and sauté over medium heat until onion starts to become translucent.  Add chicken stock and squash to pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until squash softens, about 15 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, then transfer in batches to a food processor and purée until smooth.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, to taste.  Top with chives and a dollop of Greek yogurt, if desired.

(By my calculation, a 1 cup serving is 2P+ for Weight Watchers followers.)

ImageImageImage

This soup freezes well, so consider making an extra batch to pull out when you need a quick meal.  My kids would want you to know that warm corn bread is the perfect compliment to this butternut squash soup.

Advertisements

“Do you really like running”?

I get asked this question often.  In the beginning, my answer was “No.  It’s hard and I don’t enjoy it.  But it’s a personal challenge and I just want to run one 5k.”  Towards the end of the Couch to 5k (C25K) program, my answer became, “I like having run,” followed by a giggle.  (The truth usually is pretty funny.)  After finishing the C25K program and a few weeks into the 10K Trainer program, the answer surprisingly became, “Yes!  I like running.  A lot.”

Running is my “me” time.  It’s how I clear my head, organize my priorities and challenge body.  It energizes the remainder of my day.  The bonus is that it gives me a little wiggle room in my weight maintenance journey.  (While I was actively losing weight, walking and running played a large role in helping me meet my goals.)

If you’re wanting to start your own Couch to 5K journey, here’s where to start:

1.  Check out the various C25K programs available.  There are many online ones that you can print out, as well as many free smartphone apps.  (I used C25K Free, by Zen Labs.)  The general premiss of a C25K program is to do intervals of walking and running.  The walking intervals eventually become shorter and the running intervals become longer, but it happens at a manageable pace.  The app queues you at the appropriate time to begin walking or running, and each session is usually between 30 and 40 minutes.  You’re even able to listen to your favorite music playlist or app (i.e. Pandora, Spotify, etc.) over the top of the C25K app.

2.  Invest in a pair of running shoes that are right for your feet.  The best way to do this is to be fitted at a local running store (not a big box sporting goods store).  You’ll probably be offered ‘aftermarket’ insoles as an add-on.  The advice that my physical therapist gave to me that I’ll pass on to you is to invest in a good pair of running shoes and skip the aftermarket insoles, unless you have a foot condition that necessitates using them.  (If in doubt, of course, ask your physician for advice.)

3.  Only run three days per week, no more.  The C25K programs that I’ve seen are broken down into weeks, with each week having three days of running.  You may find the earlier runs to be easy and think that it would be fun to check those  off faster.  Don’t.  Especially when you’re new to running, your body is going to need time to adjust and your muscles are going to need time to heal.  If you’re eager to log more miles, try walking on the off-days.

Here’s a picture with two friends and their little ones.  One of us dislikes running, but is determined.  One of us is enjoying having run.  And one of us loves running.  (Two are just along for the ride!)

IMG_9456

If you’re thinking about walking or running a 5k, you’re in luck!  You have just enough time to complete your own C25K program before the many Thanksgiving “turkey trots” that take place around the country.  Gobble, gobble!

Tomato, Toe-mat-toe

As summer is winding down, if you’re lucky enough to have a backyard garden, you probably have tomatoes coming out of your ears.  Never fear!

Did you know that you can freeze tomatoes to use all winter long?  Simply give the tomatoes quick rinse, pat dry and place in a resealable plastic bag.

These frozen tomatoes make a perfect topping for home-baked pizzas.  You can throw a handful into veggie soup.  Or even add some into jarred pasta sauce to liven up the flavor.

Image

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning… a Very Nice Place to Start

In the months that I have been on my weight loss and weight maintenance journey, I’ve had many people approach me and share their stories and thoughts on weight loss.  More than once, I’ve heard people express an interest in learning how I started my weight loss journey.  So I thought I would explain how my personal journey began, in hopes that it might spark something in someone else.

In its most elementary form, weight loss, weight gain and weight maintenance is simple.

  • Calories in + calories out = change (or lack thereof)

While the calculation may be simple, weight loss is certainly not.  If it were, let’s face it, I wouldn’t be typing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.

The “calories in” part of the equation is my topic du jour.  (The “calories out” part will bask in its own glory another day.)

For me, an early step was to quantify my “calories in.”  Putting it matter-of-factly, you don’t know what you don’t know!  Until I closely examined what I was consuming, I really didn’t know.

There are many free and paid products that can help users become aware of and quantify what they’re eating.  A few of the more popular ones are the websites and apps from MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople and Weight Watchers.

I joined Weight Watchers, but at the time that I began following their program, I didn’t put any thought into which program to use.  My decision was an impulsive one.  I only knew that I wanted to try to shape up and I was *not* interested in dieting.  (Been there.  Done that.  Doesn’t work.)  There had been a friend who was following Weight Watchers and referred to it once it as a “lifestyle.”  That apparently made an impression on my brain.

Though I can assure you that I’m receiving no compensation from Weight Watchers, I think their program is fantastic.  It’s a comprehensive program that, if followed as intended, gently guides you into a healthier lifestyle.

If you’re considering starting a journey of your own, but don’t know where to begin, and even if you’re not interested in modifying your eating just yet, I would suggest examining and tracking what you’re putting into your body.  After all, the first step toward change is awareness.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words ~ Before & After

 

It occurred to me that to gain street cred, I need photographic evidence that I’m living the tips that I intend to write about in my blog.  While true beauty undoubtedly lies within, I’ve come to understand that our physical bodies outwardly express the love that we’re showing our bodies on the inside.

In the first 9-ish months of 2012, I lost about 75 pounds.  In the year since then, I’ve maintained my new weight, while continuing to improve my nutrition and fitness.

The first photograph is me, shortly before turning that metaphorical corner back at the beginning of 2012.  The second photo was taken during the summer of 2012, as I was finishing a Couch to 5K (C25K) program.  And the final photo was taken recently by a sweet and talented photographer friend.  (If any local friends would like a referral, I’m happy to put you in contact with her!)

My mind has been racing with blog entry ideas and I have many fun and useful topics in the works.  Of course, I’m open to special requests blog entries as well!  Stay tuned… and either subscribe to Just a Dot, Not a Lot through WordPress or “Like” my Facebook page to be notified of new posts.

So here it goes….

Before (December 2011):
Image

During (Summer 2012):
Image

After (Summer 2013):
Image

 

Just a dot, not a lot

That’s a strange title for a blog, no?  No!

It’s an expression that my kids and I used when they were little.  “Just a dot, not a lot” of _____________ (glue, ketchup, toothpaste, milk, etc.).  It’s a very useful expression, especially when speaking with little ones who are learning to do things on their own.

As time has marched on, I’ve found it to be a very useful expression for life in general.  Almost anything is alright in small doses.  After the first “dot,” however, the economic law of diminishing marginal returns comes into play.  The law states that  adding one additional production variable, while holding all other variables constant, will at some point yield lower per-unit returns.  You’re probably wondering how that relates to the theme of my blog.  Fair enough.

That first bite of chocolate is good.  Sometimes it’s really, REALLY good.  And that second bite is pretty satisfying as well.  The third bite is nice.  The fourth… well, it is still chocolate.  The fifth, eh, whatever.  From then on out, not really worth it.  The key for me has been to savor that first bite, then to stop.  I go out on top.  I win!  I enjoyed and was satisfied from that one first bite, then I move on.

You may have also noticed the subtitle of my blog.  As my brother likes to say, “All things in moderation, including moderation.”  That is sage advice, as well.  During my journey there have been a few times where just a dot wasn’t enough.  While it sounds counterintuitive, those lapses in moderation have kept me on track.

Food for thought.

P.S.  There’s a “Just a dot, not a lot” Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/justadotnotalot) that I welcome you to Like.  In the coming weeks, look for pictures, tips, tricks and observations, as well as guest bloggers.