Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

Well, the adventure started on Wednesday. Naomi and I took Sue (the roomie) out for her birthday. We had a lovely dinner at Teresa’s in Brooklyn Heights. We shared an order of potato pancakes (lovely and crisp – almost crepe-like). Naomi had cherry and cheese blintzes, Sue had a chicken cutlet with kasha and beets, and I had goulash with kasha and beets and a small mushroom barley soup. All were delicious, as food at Teresa’s always is. We even got parking right in front of the restaurant, which was an amazing feat!

After dinner, we tried to get to Max Brenner, then Veniero’s, then Cha Cha’s In Bocca al Lupo, but we were too late to get to any of them. So we headed back to the Mirage Diner in Brooklyn for cheesecake. We agreed to pick up the slack on Friday, when things tend to be open later.

So today, Naomi and her friend Paula picked us up and we headed to a place called Brooklyn Ice House that had been recommended by a friend who shall remain nameless. It was horrible. The dive bar was so dark that standing under one of the lights it was still impossible for the menu to be read. It was, in fact, so dark that Sue could not see the legs of my chair and tripped over one of them. None of us felt comfortable there, so we walked back to the car. On the way, we found a place, Red Hook Lobster Pound, that seems to have a great lobster special on Wednesdays. We do plan to try it, but at that point we were all starting to get hungry.

Our alternate plan took us to Manhattan – Harlem to be exact – to a place called Harlem Shake. My friend Limore Kurtz Dooley is running for Miss Harlem Shake 2015, and I wanted to vote for her. Well, we should have gone there in the first place! Outside (they have outdoor seating) the place was packed because it was such a nice night. Inside, however, there was plenty of seating when we got there. The menu is burgers, salads, fries, shakes, mac ‘n cheese — pub food with a twist. Naomi and Paula had classic burgers with cheese fries (Paula), sweet potato fries and mac ‘n cheese (Naomi). Sue had a chicken sandwich and the mac ‘n cheese. I had a chili cheese dog, a Sonoran (bacon-wrapped dog with Deep fried bacon-wrapped dog, with pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish, chipotle mayo and onions)and the chili cheese fries. Paula’s meal came with a mini chocolate shake, Sue had water, Naomi had a clear birch beer, and I had the Gertrude (a lemonade/watermelon non-alcoholic cooler that was delicious and refreshing). The food was excellent; the prices were right (mine was $20.09, Sue’s was about $14, and Naomi and Paula’s was under $40). Inside is open seating, so tables could be arranged if we want to do a group dinner up there. Further, they have vegan options and various other choices that are actually healthy, so it looks like it will be able to meet the diverse food issues my Friday dinner group has! The only downside we saw is that the lighting is shielded fluorescents. We all decided we want to head back there and try other menu items.

We tried getting to Max Brenner’s once again, but between construction and traffic that bombed out. Instead, we hit van Leeuwen Artisanal Ice Cream in the East Village, finding a parking spot just one store past the ice cream store. Three of us were pretty stuffed, so we just had two scoops each (Sue had mint chip and chocolate, Paula had strawberry, and I had mint chip and salted caramel). Naomi had a delicious looking sundae.

I grabbed a watermelon juice for the road, and we headed off to Naomi’s place so she could pick up some stuff she needed. Sadly, between construction, traffic, and various rude drivers, it took us forever to get uptown as far as the Midtown Tunnel. I suggested we take that, we did, and once we exited we had pretty much clear sailing the rest of the night.

So, the main takeaway was the discovery of a wonderful, inexpensive eatery (even if it is halfway to the ends of upstate Manhattan) that all four of us want to visit again.

I finally bought a multi-purpose cooker.


I’ve wanted to get rid of a couple of my slow cookers, so when I read on The about the Instant Pot, I thought I would get one and give it a try.

Found it through quickly enough and, when it came, I offered my two largest slow cookers to two different friends, each of whom gave one a good home.

My first attempt was one of the recipes that came in the booklet that accompanied the pot – turkey wings braised in stock with cranberries and walnuts. There is a learning curve with this thing. The dashboard isn’t quite as complicated as the space shuttle, but there are things I need to remember to do each time I set it up. However, in my opinion, it’s going to be worth learning. The turkey came out moist and tasty (although I would have spiced it differently). My next project will be either stew or soup – not sure which yet. Not in much of a rush either, being summer.

In other health news, I’ve been dropped by Medicaid. They claim my income is too high because of the disability award. I think they counted the retroactive payment, but try to prove that…. In any event, the Medicare kicks in on 1 August, so I am learning the ropes of yet another bureaucracy. I have chosen a supplement plan that almost fits my budget (it covers a number of medical possibilities that I need to – as a cardiac patient – keep in mind). The problem is the prescription plan. The one AARP is offering requires that I use a by-mail service to fill prescriptions, although I can – in an emergency – use any of a list of specific chain pharmacies. I have had bad experiences with by-mail prescription services in the past, and I have no reason to believe they have improved over the years. I also don’t want to use a chain pharmacy. I have a perfectly good local pharmacist, within walking distance of my house and my doctor’s office. I have been using this drugstore for a decade, and I want to continue using them. So unless I can find a Part D plan that will allow me to use my regular pharmacy, I am looking at having to pay for my meds out of pocket. Fortunately, my most expensive med is $38/month, the next most expensive is $24/month, and the others are $15/month. I have discussed these things with the roommate, and she agrees that the cost of the meds is not excessive. However, I am told that I have until the end of October to choose a prescription plan, so I will keep looking.

I got some serious – for me, anyway – walking done at the Northeast Floating Filk Convention in June. Almost five days of close to or over 1000 steps. I need to keep it up, so I don’t lose the ability, but it’s hard to get myself moving.

I’ve also done a bit of decluttering lately. Spent much of Thursday shredding old papers I no longer need. On Wednesday, the housekeeper helped me tackle the last big pile of stuff in my bedroom. Laundry has been taken in, and when it comes back, I will do some more culling. I am trying to follow Marie Kondo’s dictum that if it doesn’t spark joy it goes out. I also got my sock drawer organized so I can find socks and open the drawer without problems. The next big purchase I make will be either a chest or dresser. The one I inherited from Marc’s mom is slowly falling apart. The bottom drawer is totally unusable. If I can fit it into my room, I’d love an eight- or nine-drawer dresser, with a mirror. If not, I would be okay with a five- or six-drawer chest that fits into the space my old chest uses.

So, that’s what’s been going on in my life lately — in between dealing with various friends being in hospitals. Hopefully, this month will provide a bit of breathing room.

NOTE: Image courtesy of Instant Pot

The pot of soup coming to a boil on the stove is not particularly green, except for the soup greens and extra celery, but it is rich. This pot started with some leftover liquid from the corned beef and cabbage I had made the other day. I had decided that it would be a good base for soup, so I saved it. Today, I skimmed the excess fat off and strained out the pickling spices. I put that in my French Oven, along with a package of soup greens, a cut up butternut squash (thank you, Glasser & Sands), about a pound of cubed beef, an extra onion, and two extra celery stalks. Tossed in a bit of salt, pepper, and cumin, and a box of low sodium beef broth. Added water to cover the solids, and it is now wafting a gorgeous scent across the kitchen. This is going to be soup like my mom and grandma used to make — the pot sitting and barely simmering overnight, with broth or water added as needed. I expect it will actually be a rich stew by the end of the week.

The roomie notes I’ve been on a cooking jag. Yesterday, I made chicken salad out of the leftovers from a rotisserie chicken we had gotten. Chicken salad is easy – just chop up the leftover chicken (remove the skin), add some celery, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and enough mayonnaise or mashed avocado t hold it all together. Sue says her mom, who disliked mayo, used to do it with ketchup instead of mayo. If she had told me before I had put the mayo in, I would have put a bit aside to try it. Oh, well; next time.

I also made a loaf of whole wheat bread. I found a no-knead recipe that turns out a nice, crusty, artisanal loaf using the French Oven. When Glasser dropped off some groceries earlier, I gave him the first slice, and he thought it was pretty good.

The thing is; I like to cook. Before I got sick, I used my newfound ability to turn out tasty stuff to help support my weight loss efforts. After my surgery, however, I could barely stand. I still can’t stand for too long, due to the sciatica and spinal issues, but I’m at a point where I can sit and chop things, and get things out of the cupboards. The roomie is turning into a fairly capable sous chef – handing me the stuff I need and running back and forth between me and the stove to add things when necessary.

I’ve promised my aunt that when I visit her I will do some cooking. Neither of us is rich, and my doing the cooking will pretty much ensure I can stick to my food plan. It also means I can treat my aunt to some good homemade bread – something she says she has never had.

As for today; dinner is some lovely, garlicky chicken salad on a slice of homemade whole wheat bread, and a bowl of my soup, with a bit of parmesan grated over it (I’d’ve put a cheese rind in, ala Rachael Ray, but I don’t have one to hand.)

Gwen Raftery wrote a poem about me.

Deb Wunder

Cast on.
Arrange Needles
One by one
Ribbing Leg and heel-turn
Talk love.
Fifty grams
Of thoughtfulness.
Call out
Cry loud
Feet that felt
After some years
Don’t stop
Cast off.
Turn again
To make the pair.
Two hands
Two hearts
Talk shop
Don’t stop. plan
Fifty grams
Not such a weight
What a friendship
We create.

I may be biased here, but I really love this poem.

In other news, I’ve lost 5.3 pounds in my first week back on Weight Watchers. I’m trying the Simply Filling plan right now because I can’t be arsed to count PointsPlus, which is why I was having trouble getting back on program.

I feel like I’m finally getting back to where I want to be in terms of having my will to succeed back. Don’t know if it will last, but I am happy it seems to be back.

I am a sucker, especially in winter, for a good, hearty, homemade soup or stew. A stoup, as defined by Rachael Ray, combines the best of both worlds. It’s real comfort food. I adapted this from Simple Nourished Living‘s recipe for “Mom’s Simple Hearty Lentil Sausage Stew”. I used a cooking method my friend Mamadeb had mentioned in her blog, Steadily On. It is a Weight Watchers friendly recipe; most of the ingredients are power foods. Beef and Lentil Stoup works for the Simply Filling plan and is 5 Points Plus per 1-cup serving for those doing tracking.

Beef and Lentil Stoup
Adapted by Deb Wunder (otherdeb)

12 1-cup servings
5 5 Points Plus per serving

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: About two hours


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, choped rough
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped rough
  • 1 lb beef chunks (round, trimmed)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 1-1/2 boxes broth
  • 2 10-oz cans Ro*Tel, undrained
  • 5 ribs celery, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper

1. Chop the ingredients that need chopping, cutting, or dicing
2. Put the olive oil into a Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally
3. Add the beef chunks and cook for about 8 minutes.
4. Stir in the lentils, broth, tomatoes, celery, carrot, parsnips, Ro*Tel, and spices.
5. Partially cover pot and bring to a boil.
6. Preheat oven to 300∘ F.
7. Cover pot, and put in the oven on a rack for approximately two hours, or until stoup is the thickness you desire. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water or broth.
8. Divide into one-cup portions and serve.

I bit the bullet and rejoined Weight Watchers this morning. Chose a three-month, online-only plan that gives me access to a coach at all times. I had a discussion with one of the coaches today – a lady named Janet, and we spoke about how I was feeling. I’m not sure how it will work out, but the pain of being out of shape and obese is, perhaps, finally stronger than the pain of doing the program again.

I finished an interesting book today: Fuschia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fin And Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. She covers how she ended up becoming a certified Sichuan chef and a food writer specializing in the cuisines of China. IF you are interested in a look at the foods of China – in a context of life in China – I recommend it.

Anyway, that’s it for now.

I finally got to do a little cooking last night. Made two recipes from The Kitchn: Chicken Ragù with Bacon and Fennel and Cauliflower Couscous.

**Chicken Ragù with Bacon and Fennel**

6 ounces thick bacon, about 3 strips, diced
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into large pieces
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cook the bacon over low heat in a Dutch oven or heavy pot for 5 to 10 minutes, until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is getting crispy. Stir in the onion, garlic, and fennel until coated with the bacon fat, and cook over low to medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes or until soft and glistening.

Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Sear the chicken thigh pieces in the center of the pot for about 3 minutes, turning frequently. The goal is not to develop a dark sear or crust on the chicken, but just to start the cooking.

Stir in the flour. Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook for 1 hour or until the chicken is very tender. Vigorously work through the pot with two forks to shred the meat fine.

Taste before serving and add salt or other seasonings if needed. Serve with gnocchi, as seen here, or pasta, brown rice, or roasted vegetables.

Leftovers keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator and they also freeze extremely well.

**Recipe Notes**
On Seasoning: I do not add any salt to this dish until the end of cooking, as bacon can be quite salty enough.
Fennel Tops: If your fennel bulb comes with its stalks and fronds, trim away the fronds and reserve for garnishing the dish. The stalks can be diced and added to the pot with the bulb.



Makes 6 servings (about 1 cup each)

1 head cauliflower, any size
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter, optional
Salt, optional

**What You Need**
Chef’s knife
Food processor or box grater
Skillet with lid, optional

Cut the cauliflower into large pieces: Cut the head of cauliflower into quarters, then trim out the inner core from each quarter. Break apart the cauliflower into large florets with your hands. If the core is tender, you can chip it into pieces and add it with the florets.

Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor: Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor. Don’t fill the food processor more than 3/4 full; if necessary, process in two batches.

Pulse the cauliflower until completely broken down: Process the cauliflower in 1-second pulses until it has completely broken down into couscous-sized granules. (Alternatively, grate the florets on the large holes of a box grater.)

Pull out any unprocessed pieces: Some florets or large pieces of cauliflower might remain intact. Pull these out and set them aside. Transfer the cauliflower couscous to another container and re-process any large pieces.

Serving raw cauliflower couscous: Cauliflower couscous can be used raw, tossed like grains into a salad or in a cold side dish.

Cooking cauliflower couscous: Cooking makes the cauliflower more tender and rice-like. Warm a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the couscous and sprinkle with a little salt. Cover the skillet and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the couscous is as tender as you like. Use or serve immediately, or refrigerate the couscous for up to a week.

**Recipe Notes**
Freezing raw cauliflower couscous: The couscous can also be sealed in airtight containers or bags and frozen for up to three months. Thaw on the counter for a few minutes before using or cooking.


Both were very tasty, although the roomie preferred hers without the sprinkling of fennel fronds on top and had hers over rice.

The bad news is that I had a fair amount of trouble standing for longer than about five minutes at a stretch. My lower back was not happy with me at all. The damage at L5, S1 is enough to keep me in pain when I have to stand.

I’m in a quandary. I need to lose weight. I am now over 300 lbs. This is the heaviest I have ever been, and I feel it. I know Weight Watchers works, but the idea of counting every bite is just more than I can deal with right now. I know Atkins works, but I don’t like the idea of cutting out whole food groups — even for short periods of time. I need to figure out how to eat for where my body is now. I know I want to get back to being more flexitarian. I know I need to lose some weight to begin to do exercise. I want to get either a treadmill or an elliptical so that the weather is not a stop for me in terms of being able to exercise. (I have spoken to two cousins about this — one a pediatric gastroenterologist and one a sports medicine specialist, as well as my cardiologist).

I know that if I wanted to jump through hoops for a year, Medicaid would approve bariatric surgery, but I really don’t want to go that route.

I will get this figured out. It may take time, but I will. I didn’t go through an incredibly risky surgery just to end up vegetating.

In good news, I used some of a small windfall to get something I have wanted for about ten years: a Le Creuset 5.5 quart French Oven. I got very lucky one day and found it for sale on Zulilly for about 2/3 of the retail price and ordered immediately. Last night’s ragù was its initial use, and I was quite pleased with it. My next use will be a lentil and beef stew, which I will probably try tomorrow since my back is not up to standing today.

One other thing I’ve done is to decide that I need to get back to blogging more regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I like providing web content – at least most of the time. but I really miss blogging about the things I like, and I need to not let the web content writing take me away from the writing that keeps me sustained.

So that’s what’s happening over here in Brooklyn.

It’s been a while but I’m still here.  I mostly haven’t written because I figured no one needed to hear me whine while I tried to sort out what was left of my life after the surgery. It hasn’t been an easy road. I tried the cardiac rehab and it was working until the therapist decided that fact shaming me was more important than listening. I was able to do the cardio work just fine but she refused to acknowledge that the problems I was having on the treadmill were due to my sciatica. I tried arguing with her for about a month, but eventually it got more upsetting and aggravating to go then to not go. Unfortunately, all that really happened from it was that I ended up having to fight depression on top of everything else.  It also meant I lost ground on the walking progress as my sciatica was just getting worse and worse.  It also meant that I lost ground on my freelancing, because I was spending a lot of time sleeping because I was so depressed.

Anyway, that being said, it’s time to get over myself and get my tuchis back in gear.  Last week, for the first time, I was able to turn in a reasonable amount of work on all my projects. I was also able to get a little of the organizational stuff I really needed to do accomplished. I’m still having trouble standing and walking, but once it gets warmer I intend to remedy that.

Right now my brain is not up to knitting so I picked up a couple of cross stitch projects to work on.  I’m just waiting for the thread  and some embroidery hoops to arrive.

In other news, the roomie’s friend, Pat, passed away in October. As a result, we now have two more cats.  While they are very nice cats, we really didn’t need to more cat. On the other hand, I now have a cat that actually likes me.  Archie is a 19-pound, orange, diabetic Maine Coon mix with the personality of an adorable puppy. He likes nothing better than to lying on my bed and get skritched. He gets along with the other three cats nicely.  Annie, known as “The Vonce,” is another story. While she and Archie get along, she and Fat Louie tolerate each other, and she and Kitt do not get along at all.

I finally was able to get my Disability approved, so I am now getting enough money to live on. I’ve paid back a portion of my student loans, and have given a couple of folks I owed money to the money. I am grateful my friends were there to help me out, and more than grateful that I was able to make a dent in what I owe.

Thanks to an old friend, Moshe Feder, I found an interesting app for my tablet.  it’s called “Waterlogue” and it lets you turn your photographs inSelf-Portrait December 2014to watercolors. This is a self-portrait I made the other day. I quite like the program, and expect to have a lot of fun with it. I’ve done a couple of pics of the cats with it, too, but they can get posted some other time. I’ve also been playing with an app called “Paper,” which lets you draw in a “notebook” on your tablet with various “brushes,” as well as a stylus that you can purchase separately. I’m not real good at that yet, but hopefully 2015 will bring me lots of opportunities to get better at it.

One thing I really missed this year was making Christmas dinner for my friends who don’t have where to go. I was not up for cooking, though, and I was not gonna ask the roomie to do it all, so this year it had to fall by the wayside. Hopefully, this will be the only year that I have to drop that little ritual.

So. I’m hoping to get back to posting three days a week again in 2015. I’m also hoping to get back to getting rid of all the weight I gained while being ill. I know myself well enough to know I can’t force myself to get back to doing the right things. I am hoping that the way I’ve felt this week means I am pulling out of the depression, so I can start making progress because, frankly, I want my life back.


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