The Faulty Filter











{August 8, 2007}   Heat…

Well folks, the padding is melting under all of this heat. The lack of activity on my scale is rather alarming, however it is counterbalanced by loose-fitting clothes and one hell of a great fitting wedding dress! If there was ever anything to help me lose weight, it’s the crushing heat we’ve had this summer. Nothing like writing about the weather but truthfully, we’ve been rendered a savage beating by Mother Nature this year. Ah, if that wasn’t enough, I’m about to leave for my tropical beach wedding. Hello beach, goodbye appetite!

The only thing weighing more heavily on me than the air is the staggering amount of work I have left to do in the next two days. Minor detail! I will get it done and I will survive another fabulous work crunch.

Wow, the Gods really are smiling upon me today. My computer just crashed and the draft of this post was miraculously saved! Better not push my luck…back to work!

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{April 16, 2007}   No more padding…

No, I’m not talking about padded bras or shoulder pads. I’m talking about the fat padding my ass, my stomach and my life. A few years ago I began a journey to find my “happy”. In the process, I quit my job, got divorced and moved to a different city. Like the moving blankets that protected my belongings in the moving truck, the padding I carried around prevented further bruising of my spirit. It also prevented my spirit from being lifted out of the sadness and feelings of being left behind by people who I once thought were my friends.

Lucky for me, it was in the cards that I also met Mr. Wonderful. I understand that few are as lucky as I am to have been blessed with another opportunity to share my life with someone special. I was driving along the other day when I made a very important connection. I had unpacked a lot of stuff and cleaned house, but I hadn’t unpacked myself. I still had my padding, just in case someone or something should come along and try to scratch my finish. Who knows why I’ve kept it around for this long, but until I acknowledged why it was still there, it wasn’t going anywhere.

All of my wanting to lose weight and become the slinky, sexy goddess I remember from years ago would be pointless. Pointless, that is, until I had the strength to reach in, deep down in my soul and give myself permission to let it go. I realized that I didn’t need, didn’t want to be padded from my life anymore. Why would I want to have anything separating me from the man I love? That’s when I decided…no more padding.

There is a difference between saying you want to lose the weight and understanding why it is still there. I am speaking only for myself here. I know that many people struggle with physiological barriers to weight loss, but for most it is another emotional burden that hasn’t been released. Let’s relate it to self-defense. It’s only natural to protect oneself from harm, but what if the danger is gone and you are still on the lookout for an attack? Paranoid much? That is what I am talking about. Acknowledging that I am out of danger and it is time to come out of the bunker and start living.

No more padding.



Spring is being completely obtuse in my neck of the woods. All I want to do is run. Run outside with the wind in my hair and dry ground beneath my runners. Of course, Spring has other plans.

Yesterday was the most glorious day. Went for a long walk and basked in the sun all the while. Today? Grey, gloomy and rainy with a 100% chance of snow overnight (at least 10cm/3″ of it). I’m a big skier and all, but there is plenty of snow still in the mountains where it belongs! We don’t need anymore in the city. I was even getting so excited about open-toed shoes on Saturday that I started primping my tootsies, only to shove them unceremoniously into thick socks this morning.

With my impending nuptials less than six months away, I have some serious running and weights to do. I have been staying relatively on-track with my clean eating and have managed to lose a few inches. Since “the dress” came home, I steeled my resolve to not be the blushing butterball on my special day. However, my love for chocolate cake did prevail yesterday and I enjoyed a gorgeous piece on my non-cheat day.

My attempt at using the fitness room at work today in lieu of being outside was pitiful. I lasted about 15 minutes in the dust-infested, non-ventilated, cramped room in the basement of my office. That dust-hole is too unbearable right now, so unless they send the cleaners in there I think I’ll have to scrap that plan. The best part was the fumes while someone was moving palettes with the forklift. Fan-*!@#&%*-tastic. Not to mention that I’m not sure when the shower room was last swept. Even better. Really, it’s not that I don’t have any other means of doing cardio. It simply would have been so convenient to workout at lunch.  Oh well – I tried. Time for a piece of cake…



{March 7, 2007}   The Filter lives on…

Although you may not have been able to tell, the Filter has not died. It has just been sifting through a pile of work. Funny how you start to feel like there is no end to the things you don’t like and not enough time for the things you love. That’s how I’ve been feeling for the last couple of months. A solution has presented (more like manifested) itself. How? I just kept putting it out there.

I believe that your intentions, once released into the universe, have to go somewhere and eventually be answered or accounted for. Sometimes the answer is “No, dumb-ass, you’re just not there yet”. Other times, like last week for example, the answer was “You need to revisit what you just left because your work there isn’t done yet” or something like that. How so? Stay tuned…



“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat”…but I’m not planning getting fat! ‘Tis the season of cookies and cakes, eggnog and
overindulgence. I love my Christmas treats as much as the next gal, but this year I am on a mission: to stay on track with my fitness goals and not gain a pound over the holidays. Not only is there strength in putting pen to paper (or in this case, finger to keyboard) to express my vision of a happy, svelte me in the New Year, but I have secret weapons in my armada that make me feel good about myself and satisfied at the same time. These snacks will leave your guests feeling guilty, but you’ll know the truth. Can it be true? Is there more wisdom contained in the annals of the Filter? By golly, yes!

**Disclaimer and Warning: The following recipes may contain nuts. If you, your kid, your brother, sister, parent, dog, mother’s-cousin’s-aunt’s-daughter’s parakeet is allergic to nuts…OMIT them! The Faulty Filter will not be held responsible for you stupidly feeding your loved-ones substances that may be toxic to them! (Read: Don’t put nuts in the food, dumbass.)***

Not Your Average Turkey Salad

1 can reduced-salt turkey flakes, drained (or the real stuff after the holidays)
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 dill pickle, finely chopped
Dried cranberries (not those “Craisin” things as they have added sugar)
Slivered almonds or sliced filberts (hazelnuts, to you culinary neophytes)
Ultra Low-fat Miracle Whip
Celery salt
Poultry Seasoning (Contains Marjoram, Savory, Thyme and Black Pepper)
Fresh ground pepper (Yes, you do need this. Even though the PS contains pepper, the freshly ground stuff adds a different taste altogether.)
Whole Wheat or Multigrain Pita Bread

Mix ingredients to desired consistency and flavor. To me, it tastes like good ol’ turkey stuffing when it’s all done. This is great in a pita, for canape stuffing, on a salad or on it’s own. How good is it? Suffice it to say that it left my co-worker salivating…

Terrific Tuna Melts

1 can tuna
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 dill pickle, finely chopped
Ultra Low-fat Miracle Whip
Prepared Horseradish
Celery salt
Dill
Fresh ground pepper
Sharp cheese, thin slices or grated (suggestions: Parmesan, Monterey Jack, Emmenthal, Gruyere or Aged White Cheddar)
Whole Wheat or Multigrain Pita Bread

Mix ingredients to desired consistency and flavor. Spread mixture on the pita and cover evenly with the cheese. Place in a toaster or regular oven until cheese melts and finish under the broiler to brown the cheese. You’ll know it’s ready when the cheese is bubbly in the middle.

My favorite combo is Emmenthal and Gruyere together. If these don’t appeal to you, just pick your favorite strong cheese. The secret here is that you use less of a more pungent cheese than a mild cheese to achieve the same flavor. This too is great stuffed on the inside of a pita served cold. This can also become canape stuffing, a salad topping, or on it’s own.

Super Fast Spinach Dip

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed in cold water and drained
1 cup Ultra Low-Fat Miracle Whip
1 cup Fat-Free Sour Cream
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1 envelope Knorr Vegetable Soup Mix
1 Round Sourdough Bread Loaf, top cut off and loaf hollowed. Reserve bread for dipping.
Fresh ground pepper

Mix ingredients together and put in the hollowed loaf. Serve with the bread removed from the loaf and other crackers or pita bread. This is the fastest thing to make, but does taste better if it can be refrigerated overnight prior to serving. If you have the time, to make it the day before, put the dip in a plastic container until it is time to serve. This will save your bread from getting soggy. This is also great for canape stuffing, a salad topping, or on it’s own.

Note the theme here: these three have multiple uses and can be prepared ahead of time. Spend one hour making these beauties and have lunches for the whole week! This recipe is courtesy of a super gal who is now a super-mom!

Last, but not least….. a little sweet to finish it off. This is the best fudge I have ever had, but remember: a little piece goes a long way. I cannot claim any credit for this recipe – it is a classic Eagle Brand Magic Milk recipe. My only contribution is using the low-fat Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, which does add some social redeeming value to the fudge, but it is still fudge.

Magic French Fudge

3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 can Low-Fat Eagle Brand condensed milk
Dash salt (1/8 tsp. – 1/4 tsp.)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. chopped nuts

In the top of a double boiler, melt chocolate chips over boiling water, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in Eagle Brand milk, salt, vanilla and nuts. Spread mixture evenly onto waxed paper lined 8″x 8″ pan. Chill 2 hours or until firm. Turn fudge onto cutting board, peel off paper and cut into squares. Store in an air tight container.

Whatever you end up doing to this recipe, do not omit the salt! Fudge without salt is like pizza without cheese. The small amount of salt used is essential to balancing the sweetness of the chocolate and sweetened condensed milk. Trust me, it will not make you grow cankles overnight, or wake up looking like the Goodyear Blimp. As a suggestion for portion-control, use a larger, rectangular pan and spread the fudge in a thin layer on the waxed paper. After the fudge has set, cut it into rectangles, then again on the diagonal to make triangles or points. The best tool for this job is a sharp, non-serrated knife (like a chef’s knife). This makes a nice embellishment to other fancy deserts, or served with a cup of your favorite coffee.



I have finally started my novel. Yes, yes…I know – I’m only a week late! Oh well. Trying is the exercise, is it not? I am feeling happy that I’ve got the first couple of paragraphs out. However, I do feel the age of my character coming on. She’s extremely old and tired and just wants to chat. She’s a great gal though, so it’ll be fun to hang out with her for the month.

I have so much admiration for those also participating in NaBloPoMo. There is no way that I could have posted anything in the last week. My mind has been fixed on other enterprises. Kudos to you, super-bloggers!



{October 22, 2006}   Stupid people

I just about lost my mind on Friday. Since I was having a not-so-stellar week to begin with, the way Friday went was almost unbearable. I must admit that I did have the pleasure of meeting some really enlightened folks….perhaps I appreciate them a little more because of the severe contrast.

First off, I can’t stand self-righteous I-am-better-than-you types who seem to believe that the whole world should be filled with clones…of themselves, of course. Quite frankly, there is one jackass in particular (oh, yes, there is more than one in my midst) I’ve nearly had it with. I am usually diplomatic and able to brush certain things off. Not this time. Let’s just say that I’m ready to speak my mind because it’s interfering with my daily activities.

Second, being short-staffed does not entitle ANYONE to be rude and uncooperative. A friend of mine had a new one ripped for him for no reason other than the dirty, rotten b-hatch was short-staffed and had her knickers in a twist. Bad form, I say. Perhaps “going commando” for a day would solve the issue with her skivvies. There is no cure for b-hatching other than beheadding…and a really big shot of good Tequila.

The whole entitlement thing is really what’s getting me down. Some folks just don’t get the fact that acting like a big shot does not make you one. It takes a whole lot more and the real big shots usually fly under the radar. As for me, I’m just a girl trying to get through some serious stress without going SuperNova.



I know it’s early to be talking about shopping for the holidays. However, there is a good reason for it. There’s a great group of people in India who are handcrafting all sorts of nicey-nice things to give as gifts. Visit the Village Artisan website and read about their people and their story. A fried of mine spent nearly a year out of her life living with these folks and working hard alongside them. You don’t need to adopt anyone, or give up your first-born. Just buy some aromatherapy candles or some soap. Maybe their handcrafted coton paper will fit the bill. You know you’ll be buying something like that at some point over the holidays – why not do it and make a difference at the same time?

If you’re interested in purchasing anything, leave a comment. If you get in contact with them personally, let me know so I can pass the good news along to my friend. Remember, timing is everything – these products are coming from India!



Having a hard time finding snacks that are both interesting and healthy? I run into that one all the time. So, I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorite snackages that come in interesting packages…or no package at all!

1. Avocado Power!

Okay, let’s start with the subject of FFT…Part 2; our bumpy little green friend the avocado. While most people equate avocados with guacamole and end it there, I offer you a few easy, low-prep alternatives. If you don’t know the simplest way to navigate to the yummy parts (flesh) of the avo, read on for a couple of quick tips.

Avocado Preparation Tips

* Have a sharp knife and a spoon on hand before you start.

* Cut the avo from the tip to the bottom and back around to the tip. Chef’s knives are brilliant for this because the blade will get all the way down to the large seed in the middle.

* Twist each half in opposite directions and they will separate. To remove the seed, either pry it out with the spoon, or give it a good whack with the chef’s knife and twist it out. (PLEASE be careful when handling any sharp kitchen tools!)

Now that you’ve got two beautiful halves, what next? If you wish to slice up the avo, I suggest you first run your spoon along the inside of the skin to loosen the flesh and remove it from its shell. That yields the most aesthetically pleasing result, particularly if you are using your avo as a pretty garnish. Once sliced up, try your avo on some toast or pita bread. I find this just as satisfying as cream cheese.

If you’re just feeling the need to eat something green, use the cavity left by the seed as a built in sauce dish and pour some soy sauce in, grab your spoon and have at ‘er! If soy is not your thing, try lemon juice, worchestershire sauce, salsa or whatever tickles your tastebuds.

Guacamole is always best when it’s made fresh, so if you’ve only ever bought it at your favorite grocery store, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make. If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating guacamole before, you are in for a treat! (**Please note that no self-respecting guac contains yogurt or sour cream!! This is sacrilege punishable by death.**)

Start with the basic ingredients:

1 ripe avocado
Ground cumin
Salt
Lemon or lime juice
1 or 2 cloves fresh garlic

Start by mashing the avocado with a fork, press the garlic into the same bowl (I’d start with one clove) and mix together. Add small amounts of cumin and juice to the mix and adjust seasoning to taste (if you are not sure how much to start with, 1 tbsp juice and 1 tsp cumin should be a safe start). Add a little salt at the end and voila! All ready to scoop with some of those yummy baked tortilla chips (see below for my picks on baked chippy things).

If you’re feeling adventurous, try adding some freshly chopped tomato, jalapenos, onions or cayenne pepper. Start with small quantities and remember that the flavor will intensify if it is stored before being eaten. You can always add more, but it is nearly impossible to remove too much spice, short of adding another avo.

Storing Mr. Avo

Your new-found green friend does not like to be exposed to air for very long. The best way to stop your avo from turning brown is to cover the surface with plastic wrap. Yep, press the plastic lightly to remove small airspaces from the surface of the avo/dip that you wish to refrigerate. Guac seems to enjoy having the seed put in the bottom of the bowl as well to help preserve it. Although lemon/lime juice will help to keep it fresh, the plastic wrap works best to stop it turning brown.

2. Hummuna Hummuna Hummus

This is the chickpea/garbanzo bean at its finest. If you are not familiar with this tasty dip, it is simple to make and is very satisfying. Nutritionally, it is a great balance of carbohydrate and protein with some fat. How much fat is really up to you. You may choose to forego the olive oil, but it does add another layer of flavor to this savory dip. I’m not going to include a formal recipe because I find it is a matter of personal taste. Start with the basic ingredients and go from there. Food processor or Braun hand mixers are indispensible for making a smooth, creamy-textured dip.)

1 can Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
Water
Olive oil
Garlic
Tahini (sesame paste)
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice

The intensity of each flavor is really up to you. I personally like a lot of tahini in my hummus, but not so much as to make the dip bitter. Striking a good balance between the ingredients will result in a flavorful hummus that is not runny and has smooth texture to it. Also, add lemon juice carefully as it can easily overpower the other flavors.

3. Baked Chippy Goodness

I’ve eaten pretty much every baked chip under the sun and not all baked goods are equal. I’ve chosen to include some of my favorites – store-bought and homemade. These are my personal tastes and I do not claim that they taste the same as their full-fat or deep-fried counterparts. I choose baked stuff because I know it is better for me, not because it tastes better than the original. Also, be prepared to pay a little extra for these treats. What you won’t find in this list are products fried in low-fat oils/substitutes. If you wish to try these, do your research first, then form your own opinions. I do, however, cook with low-fat cooking sprays. I fully understand that some people regard these as the anti-christ of the cooking world. If you fall in that category, just get yourself an oil mister/spray bottle and use your favorite oil…sparingly, of course.

Make your own Baked Pita/Tortilla Chips – Whole wheat pita bread or tortillas cut into wedges, a little butter-flavored or olive oil flavored cooking spray, seasoning and baked at low heat for about 20 minutes. Easy, fresh and your guests will think you did a lot of work. Try using flavored flour tortilla shells to have homemade baked tortilla chips.

Tostitos Baked Tortilla chips – There are other brands out there, but none that live up to these little guys. Served out of the bag with your favorite dip or baked into a platter of nachos, these chips stay crisp! Some of the other baked chips out there taste okay when they’re made up as nachos, but they develop a rubbery, chewy texture after being baked again. Not so great.

Baked Lays Chips – These might remind you a little of Pringles sans-excess salt and fat. These even passed the taste test at my office full of deep-fried-eating-no-health-food men. A word of caution to those sensitive to MSG – Lays produces several different baked product lines, including Baked Cheetos and Baked Doritos and some do contain MSG. These are very tasty, but MSG gives me a tummy ache. Just be sure to read the ingredients before purchasing any of the flavored ones. If I recall, the BBQ and plain flavors are safe.

Flavored Mini Rice/Corn Cakes – I find that brand does not matter here, they’re pretty much the same as far as flavors go. Just be sure to read the labels for the cheese flavored ones – some are not as low fat as they might seem.

Kettle Bakes Potato Chips – If you want something that looks like a chip, feels like a chip but isn’t greasy, try these. They are super!

4. “…But what I really want my favorite, homemade [insert name of favorite baked goodie here]!!!”

Okay, okay…quit whining! If you really must have it, who am I to stop you? Before you break out the cookie sheets, loaf pans and muffin tins though, here are a couple of tricks (and their pitfalls) for substituting out sugar and fat in your recipes. Remember, with any substitution, the texture or consistency may be affected and may not be exactly as remembered. Also, I would avoid trying all of the substitutions all at once. Take a more scientific approach and try them one at a time. Ensure that you’re a good little scientist and take notes on how your goodie was different than before so you know what to expect next time you make it.

Cholesterol-free baking

1 whole egg = 2 egg whites

This one is by far the easiest to use or avoid. Yes, I said avoid. This substitution is ideal for pancakes, loaves,muffins, cakes (you get the idea), but not for custards and items depending on the emulsifying power of Mr. Egg Yolk. If you’re unsure it will work, chances are you’re right. An already cholesterol-free cake (usually) is Angel Food, which uses only egg-whites.

Lard/butter = vegetable shortening

Since there is no good source of cholesterol in the plant world, just ask the basic question: Is it animal or vegetable? The latter will always be safe for your cholesterol woes. It does, however, have just as much fat. So, don’t try to pawn your favorite pie off as health food just because you didn’t use butter or lard to make the crust.

Fat-free or reduced fat baking

Quantity of fat = 2 x quantity of applesauce/mashed bananas

If you didn’t get good grades in Math, use this example: 1/2 cup butter = 1 cup applesauce/mashed bananas. I have used the applesauce substitution more frequently than bananas with great success. Remember that applesauce and bananas add moisture to your batter and the end result will be a spongier one. I have made chocolate chip cookies using applesauce and they taste great, but they are softer and more cake-like. Also, if you try to use applesauce in a recipe that uses baking soda, your end result will have a slightly more pronounced baking soda/salty taste.

Dairy
Quantity of sour cream = quantity of fat-free sour cream/yogurt
Quantity of whole milk = quantity of buttermilk or skim milk

This one is pretty self-explanatory. All the taste with much less fat. You do have a choice!

*A word to the wise
I do not recomment the use of low-fat or reduced-fat margarine as an option for baking. The reason is that these generally have a much higher water content and will make baking, well, icky. Example: Have you ever spread some of that on a piece of toast? The end result is a piece of toasted bread that tastes like it’s been misted with buttery water. Gross.

Another one I’d avoid is light peanut-butter for making cookies. They just end up looking and tasting weird and don’t seem to bake properly. If you must have peanut-butter cookies (as one does, from time to time), make a batch of the real thing. Just eat one or two and throw the rest in the freezer. Better yet, throw two cookies in the oven and put the batter in the freezer. Makes it more labor intensive to eat a dozen cookies if you have to thaw the whole bucket of batter!

“Sugar..aw, honey-honey…you are my candy girl…”

If you want to be someone’s Sugar-Momma (or Daddy) without looking like a rotund lollipop, here are a few words about what’s out there.

Sucralose (aka Splenda)

For those of you anti-Splenda folks: move on, you’re in the wrong place – nothing for you to see here.
I love Splenda! This is my choice if I am going to substitute out the real thing. Its granulated texture allows you to go measure-for-measure with little to no error. Some recipes need minor adjustments, however there is a multitude of recipes on the Internet for baking using Splenda.

Honey

Popular amongst many for baking, I have limited experience with using honey as a substitute for granulated sugar. I found a website that does offer the more complicated substitution details, as well as some other baking tips. I have not tried their recommendations, so use your own judgement.

Stevia

It comes from plants, can be purchased in liquid or granulated form and if used too liberally, will give anything a sickly sweet taste. I’ve never tried baking with it other than adding stevia-sweetened chocolate protein powder to pancakes. That did go well, but I ended up using the rest of the protein powder in that way because I couldn’t handle the taste of it on its own as a protein shake.

Fruit Juice, Maple Syrup, etc.

Yes, these do steer you away from what some think is the evil of refined white sugar. Please remember though that sugar is sugar. Fructose, honey and maple syrup are still sugars, just in a different form. If you’re trying to reduce calories, my bet is still on Sucralose. I invite you to form your own opinions and experiment at will.



AvocadosGorgeous hair, sensational skin and a satisfied tummy? No, it’s not shampoo or a monster bag of movie popcorn. It’s the wunderkind of all fruits – the Avocado. If you’d like to skip my enlightening comments, I suggest you go straight to the “I eat avos” section of the Australian Avocados website. The link can be found in my Blogroll. Don’t forget to get your beauty recipes while you’re there. There are countless sites that are all about avocados out there, but I found this site to be more fun and interactive than others. (FYI: the last time I popped the word “avocado” into my favorite search engine, it turned up almost 10 million results!) Now, is it really worth my time to write a whole Food for thought segment? You bet your granny-panties and boxer shorts on it!

It’s loaded with fat…

This little guy often has the dark cloud of “fattening” hanging over his head. However, his monounsaturated fat is the kind that will help you lose yours. Satisfying and full of fibre, adding an avocado to your diet will help you steer clear of your favorite greasy snack.

Rock hard Avo? Just go bananas!

Follow the link above for an excellent fruit selection guide. If you don’t believe the bit about cozying your avos up to bananas, let me tell you a little story. Before doing some serious reading on my favorite snack, I had a couple of avocados at home that were too hard to eat. So, I put them next to the bananas in the fruit dish on my counter and didn’t give them another thought for the better part of a week. I grabbed one for a snack one day and noticed how soft it was. The next day, I went to get the other one only to find my little bumpy friend sporting a beard. Now knowing that Mr. Avo goes weak in the knees for Ms. B, I am buying fruit that are very firm so I can soften them at will. They keep in the refrigerator quite well without going soft as fast as when they’re with their yellow-skinned friends.

Mirror, mirror…

These days, there are more beauty products containing some form of the avocado than I could possibly mention. Do you need to buy these products to receive the benefits? No! Just go to the supermarket and buy some avocados and test out a couple of home-spun concoctions…and have a snack at the same time. Again, there are some great tips and recipes on the Australian Avocados website, under “Beauty” (and that’s what you’ll be when you’re finished pampering yourself – a real beauty!).

A word of caution… (a.k.a. Covering my Ass)

Please remember that adventures are always exciting, however, the best adventures are the ones where no one gets hives! If you have never eaten and avocado or used it as a beauty treatment, remember to do a patch/sensitivity test before embarking on a three-day avocado spa binge. Also, if you have any four-legged friends or other pets, please be aware that avocados are toxic to non-humans! (Please see “Toxicity” at the Wiki for Avocados.)



et cetera