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Volume 38 Issue 15, August 7 - 13, 2008
now in our 38th season

Weight a Minute

by Maryjane Mojer
Executive Chef, Bartlett's Ocean View Farm

As an executive chef, when we are in season as we are now, I hit the ground running very early in the morning, (though many would consider 4:30 a.m. still night time), and I run around a lot. I don’t actually cook very much these days as the duties of running a kitchen are many, and we are fortunate to have Scott Enterline as our Chef de Cuisine at the farm. My job is essentially to make sure Scott has food to cook, and to make sure other people show up to help him. I move quickly, and I zip through the kitchen and the market on the well honed legs of a former waitress. I can buzz through a crowd like nobody’s business. I maneuver and bob through a very busy, sometimes very full kitchen like a game show contestant with her eye on the prize; getting to the customer on the other side of the door. This keeps me on the move for a good six months of the year, and sitting at my desk, which is where a good part of my daily grind is supposed to take place, takes a back seat to customers and staffing.

That said, the other six months of the year is spent sitting, for long hours, albeit in a very comfy chair or on my couch, on the computer with spread sheets, schedules and inventory lists. While I am quite delighted, at my age, to know that I am able to still learn new skills and retain more than just water, the act of sitting for long periods of time, particularly in a kitchen where quality control is one of my favorite parts of the job, had led this winter to a remarkably large backside. The front side wasn’t lacking in size either, much to my dismay. It was quite easy when looking in the mirror to think that the weight gain wasn’t so much as it wasn’t fully obvious from the front view presented in the mirror.

Then came that fateful day when a friend emailed me a side shot taken at a demonstration I had given. Ouch. At first I thought, “who is that woman and does she know she‘s being followed?” and then realized that it was me, and it was just more of me that was following me. After a few days of wallow and blame, it dawned on me that as of this past October, I became a mother-of-the-bride-to-be, and finding a mother-of-the-bride dress to fit over my grand exterior would not be a fun task. I am not a good clothes shopper to begin with, and, honestly, I think that one of the many joys of my job is that I can wear a uniform or a reasonable facsimile and not have to think too much about what goes with what. Knowing that I would need to wear something presentable, even elegant and dressy for my daughter’s wedding…well, let’s just say there has never been a bigger motivator.

I’ve tried many a diet in my day. I’ve certainly gained and lost enough weight to populate a small village. Okay, perhaps not quite that much, but it sure seems like a lot. I’ve fasted, ate lots of grapefruit, mixed honey with apple cider vinegar, gone high protein, low protein, no carbs, only carbs; you name it. I had (yes, past tense, as I gave them all away) shelves of books related to weight loss. The key for me over the years, whenever I was successful, was motivation. I can do whatever I set my mind to, if I have a reason to do it. I am not a woman, who would climb a mountain simply “because it was there.” Nope. I needed to know how it got there, why it was there, and what possible reason there could be for climbing it. Was there a great pie shop or ice cream counter at the top? Well then, count me in.

Now, please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I am a forty-eight-year-old woman with a very healthy appetite, and a big, happy event to feel good and look good for. As we all know, any time you want to make changes, you should talk to your doctor.

My first step was to start walking. I started slowly, and the first week was the hardest. After the first week, however, I would come home from work, grab my shoes and head out the door before I had a chance to think about it. For me, planning ahead makes all of the difference. If I have to stop and look for my jacket, shoes, the right pants, and so on, I’ll sit myself on the couch and set my sights on tomorrow.  Now, as soon as my walk is done, I put fresh socks in my shoes and lay out the next day’s walking clothes.

Planning ahead has also become important when thinking about what to eat. When changing my eating habits, I knew that I needed to make certain to have food available that didn’t require a lot of preparation, would give me the energy that I need and would fulfill any cravings so that I didn’t just grab something to eat. At the same time, I need to have snacks on hand that I can enjoy without guilt. For me, walnut halves, unsalted and roasted almonds, something crispy and salty with salsa, string cheese, and apple slices with peanut butter fill that gap.

In the morning, I usually eat a couple of times. I’ll start first with an apple or a glass of soy milk to give me a bit of fuel to get started. After a couple of hours, and when I have time to actually sit and eat, I’ll have a bowl of whole grain cereal with a cup of berries and soy milk or yogurt. I do drink water, and lots of it. Oh, I know, the latest studies have shown that it doesn’t make a difference, but I think that’s hogwash. You can pretty much find a study to support any opinion, and for water consumption, I go for the more is better perspective. I also have what some might consider an unhealthy love of coffee. My belief is that, if I keep refilling the same cup all morning, it counts as just one cup. I’m certain that if I look hard enough, I can find a study to support that belief as well.        

 I’ll also have a snack late morning, a hard boiled egg, yogurt, string cheese or a handful of nuts. I keep apples and nuts in my bag, so that I always have something. I am a stickler for quality, and will pay dearly for a good bottle of olive oil or a great jar of salt. When it comes to my own meals, I am also a fiend for quantity. Eating two carrot sticks or a half cup of pasta will simply not cut it for me, and when I feel deprived, I “reward” myself with a poorly chosen snack. I make an effort (and on a very busy day, it can be a big effort) to think about what I’d like to eat. Lunch is often a sandwich or a big, big salad. I always make sure to have some protein, either deli meat, leftover chicken or the very convenient small cans of white tuna packed in water. I don’t use a lot of bottled dressings, and am very happy with a good olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice and salt and pepper.

One snack that I find myself going back to time after time is Salsa Fresca and pappadums.

Pappadums are an Indian flat bread. They are available in the grocery store in the Ethnic Foods aisle. They don’t look like much when you open the box: basically hard, flat discs. I spray them with a bit of olive oil, place them between two paper towels, and after about sixty seconds in the microwave, have a crisp cracker with no fat that is low in carbs and great for dipping. Salsa is my dip of choice. Many, though not all, store-bought salsas are high in sodium and have sugar and corn syrup added. These ingredients are not my friends. After several weeks without any additional sugar, when I do have it I know. I get a quick and very short-lived burst of energy followed closely by the need to nap. Homemade salsa is very quick and easy to make, fun to share if you feel so inclined and a great way to get a few servings of vegetables into your day.

This recipe is basic and flexible. The grocery store has a wonderful assortment of hot and sweet peppers. This is a great way to try different types of peppers. Remember to wear gloves when working with hot peppers!

This can easily be made in a food processor, or rough chopped by hand.

Salsa Fresca

  • 4 medium, ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • One quarter of a medium red onion, finely diced
  • Juice of one half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons (about six sprigs, leaves only) fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • One half teaspoon salt

Moving and eating right has resulted in twenty five pounds gone and better choices for mother-of-the-bride dresses. I still have miles (and pounds) to go, so I haven‘t actually bought the dress, but I sure have one in mind.

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