Category Archives: Cooking

CHICKEN VESUVIO

When I went home for my Mother’s Memorial party I wasn’t expecting to eat like she cooked it herself. My sister’s and their friends out did themselves. All of our family recipes were served, and just like Mom did, my sisters made enough for guests to take home; in jello containers to be completely authentic. When you came into my Mother’s home you were always well fed, and sent home with leftovers.

Because I moved away I have not had the pleasure of one of my Mom’s home cooked meals in quite some time. However, I cooked by learning over the phone speaking to my Mother. My sisters really knocked it out of park it was just like she made. The food was just fabulous. It was truly a testimony of her life and her gift of cooking for others. My sisters have her gift of cooking and continue her traditions, and I’m still learning. 

Chicken Vesuvio was always one of my favorites. I was excited my sisters included it, it was always so delicious. I did some thinking, it is relatively healthy too.  Here is the recipe like my Mom and my sisters cooked. I like to sometimes add wedged zucchini and onions to the dish and serve it with a crisp tossed romaine salad with oil and vinegar. So good! 

Ingredients
8 pieces of chicken. (2 wings, 2 breasts, 2 legs, 2 thighs)
1 teaspoons salt or salt substitute 
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
2 clove garlic, peeled and mashed (I used a garlic press) I actually use a lot more garlic.
3 tablespoon dried oregano

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Season chicken with salt and pepper Place chicken and potatoes in large roaster pan, coat with olive oil, oregano and garlic and toss well. (I like to also add wedged zucchini and onions too).

Place the roaster pan in the oven, and roast uncovered for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. (20 minutes per pound)

It is a simple yet comforting dish. I sometimes try it with boneless chicken breasts but it’s not the same. Just like Mom made.  

I was so lucky to be born her daughter, and I miss her every day. i love you More Mom. 

Manga’ 

Rose

 

 

 

EASY WINTER SOUP

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It has been so cold here in LA, San Francisco cold. When it is chilly like this you want comfort food to warm your body and soul. Soup is cold weather food but it is also a wonderful opportunity to cook with a lot of vegetables. Last night my hubby requested I make healthy soup and I obliged because we are trying to get back to eating clean and healthy in the new year.  I was planning on making my vegetarian Split Pea Soup ( Here is the recipe) http://mychangeforaten.com/how-to-make-vegetarian-split-pea-soup/

Trader Joe’s did not have any split peas so I decided to make Chicken Sausage soup with lots of fresh vegetables. I am on a quest to eat less meat, and I am limiting my use of animal products with hopes to transition to vegetarianism and later veganism. In the meantime, I do use some animal products and this soup is one of those times. Below is the recipe given to me by my friend Cameron. I am back on track for the new year, and soup is my go to meal. Here is the link to the workout I am doing tonight after work. http://www.benderfitness.com/2017/01/arm-leg-sculpting-home-workout.htmlreciperecipe1

Cameron, like me rarely eats pasta so we both substituted shredded cabbage for the pasta. I used two cartons of low sodium vegetable broth for the chicken broth. I used spicy chicken sausage and it really flavors the soup so I just seasoned it with very little salt, some dried basil and black pepper. We skipped the Parmesan Cheese. 

This soup is as easy as it is written out. We had a simple salad of romaine, tomatoes, red onion and oil and vinegar. I am really trying to limit our sodium intake. 

This meal was healthy and so satisfying. We completed the meal with sprouted bread topped with Miyokos non dairy creamery spread, made out of Coconut oil and organic Cashews. It was delicious, but of course we used portion control. I read about it in the Magazine VegNews and when I went to Trader Joe’s I was delightfully surprised to see it on the shelf, and it really was a hit with my husband James.

I hope you are having a wonderful beginning  2017, and if you find yourself needing healthy soup to warm you up, give this a try and let me know how you like it. Every day is a new opportunity to get inspired and chase your goals, even when it is cold outside.

Much love and light,

Rose 15870575_10154786151473617_1135422458_n

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Trader Joe’s Lentil Dip

 

 

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If you have followed me or you know me, you know I am often inspired when I walk into a Trader Joe’s. I love it and love their products. I sometimes think I am their biggest fan.

I had the opportunity to sample this Trader Joe’s recipe at one of my local Trader Joe’s some time ago, and I decided to recreate it at home and serve with all natural plantain chips. The original recipe calls for plain feta, but as the suggestion of a Trader Joe’s crew mate I used Mediterranean feta instead. This could be served over fish or chicken, or as a side dish as well as a dip. It was so delicious, both James and I loved this dip and we will be having it again. We killed it!!

INGREDIENTS

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1 package Trader Joe’s Steamed & Fully Cooked Lentils, rinsed to remove extra sodium

1 package Trader Joe’s Mediterranean feta cheese

1 container (7.25 oz) Trader Joe’s bruschetta Sauce

 

DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, combine steamed lentils,  Mediterranean feta and bruschetta sauce, then stir. Serve cold with homemade or store-bought plantain chips. Trader Joe’s has two types of plantain chips and both only have two ingredients, a clean eating win. I am absolutely hooked on this healthy dip as I know you will be as well.  

You can treat your body as a temple and still enjoy the pleasures of life. Healthy does not equal boring.  As with everything I practice portion control.

Manga’

Rose

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MASTERING THE ART OF FRUGAL COOKING

“Life itself is the proper binge.”
Julia Child

It was the movie Julie and Julia that inspired me to write a blog. I was living in NYC and already on my way to really delving into my poetry and writing. I saw the movie and fell in love. I felt such a connection to the film.  I was living in NYC but I have always dreamed of Paris. NYC was my first dream and I was living in the midst of it. In the film Julia Child seems to just eat up life, and I totally related to her attitude and outlook of the beauty of being alive. The food in the film, and the locations were definitely the co-stars. I admit I have seen it over a 100 times. Food does really bring people together.

When I moved to LA I tried to write a few other blogs but I was lacking definition. I did not wish to have a poetry blog since I hoped to one day have a book. That dream did come true and you can find my poetry book here. https://www.amazon.com/Camellia-Snow-Rose-Bruno-Bailey/dp/1515347141 

Back to blogging. As I settled in LA I put on a lot of weight, and I finally realized it and decided to do something about it. Here is my blog story http://mychangeforaten.com/about/

Update to now, I am down almost 60 pounds, I have been through a few moves and I am back in LA stronger than ever. I am on a quest to lose more weight and I am also on a fitness journey and as soon as we settle in I will be back at doing charities.  I am not cheating on my diet until my 50th Birthday December 21st. I started on the summer solstice and I am continuing until the winter solstice. I got this and I am going strong. Committing to no cheat days is really a game changer for me. We have been through a lot and this personal commitment has made all the difference for me. I have taken to cooking at home because of finances. Finances will not stop my goals. I am mastering the art of frugal healthy cooking, for my fitness goals. Last night I made cauliflower and zucchini nachos, inspired by delish.com. I think you will absolutely love them, The addition of the rotel tomatoes is a game changer I believe. These gluten-free nachos are my new go to recipe when I feel I need a semi splurge and they are so easy and economical. I think Julia Child would approve.

Bon Appetit’

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Inspired by a recipe on delish.com

I head of Cauliflower

i cup of sliced zucchini

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Half packet of gluten free mild taco seasoning

sprinkle of garlic powder

1 bag cheddar/jack cheese shredded

1 can mild Rotel tomatoes (makes the recipe)

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half jar of mild salsa

1 sliced avocado

Greek yogurt or sour cream

Pre-heat oven to 425

Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray. Spread out sliced cauliflower and zucchini, coat with extra virgin Olive Oil, and half packet of mild taco seasoning and garlic powder and mix and coat generously.

Bake for 20 minutes

Add bag of cheese and bake another 5 minutes.

Add one can of Rotell tomatoes, generous amount of salsa.  I put on greek yogurt and avocado for each personal serving.

This was the most amazing dish and so yummy. You could add meat or meat substitute if you wish.

I can see why they call the website delish. Thanks Delish. com and of course Julie Child for inspiring me to do this dish.

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HOMEMADE BREAKFAST BARS

Hello to all. I have not posted in a while, my computer was down but I am happy to say it is working once again. In the time it was down I updated my Instagram and my Facebook page and I have been going strong. You can find me on Facebook here  https://www.facebook.com/MyChangeForATen/ 

It has been almost one month since the Summer Solstice and I have not cheated once, and I am killing my workouts. I am combining my http://www.benderfitness.com workouts with what I learned from my trainer Mike and working out outdoors at the park. I am doing cardio six days a week and my park workout three to four times a week. Just because funds are tight does not mean you cannot get out there and move. I am running in the direction of my goals, and it is all free.

13645262_1186978708014260_6086342984746418617_nI am also coming up with economical ways to eat clean and healthy on a budget. I like eating breakfast bars with my coffee, so I decided to take my clean eating chocolate chip recipe and make breakfast bars.

Here is the recipe

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees

3 bananas mashed with a fork

1/4 cup applesauce

1 cup raisins

4 tablespoons flaxseeds

2 cup oats or oat flour

1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla

half cup  dairy milk, soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk

In a large bowl combine mashed bananas, apple sauce and oats. Mix well. Add all remaining ingredients and spread in a small brownie pan or bake in muffin tins. I use an olive oil spray to keep them from sticking. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool and enjoy.

These are fantastic and so much economical than store bought bars. Delicious with coffee or crumbled in Greek yogurt

 

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FRUGAL IS NOT AN F WORD

Good day, it is a good day. Today is day two of my countdown and challenge and leads me to my winter solstice 50th Birthday. Lately I have been contacted and asked to be an ambassador for some really cool yoga and fitness clothing lines. I fell in love with one of them, but I let them know I do not feel I am in a place yet to represent their line. I would like to get into the nitty-gritty, and get to work first. I plan to revisit the invitation in three to four months when I am well into this challenge of mine. More to come on this subject and opportunity when we are closer to the Autumn Equinox. In the meantime, work, work, work.

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Yesterday was the summer solstice, six months until my challenge ends on my 50th birthday, and a brand new beginning for a lot of us. Days are longer and nights are shorter. We are a long way off until the winter solstice which leaves us with plenty of time to achieve our personal goals. Are you with me? Do you believe?

Are you chasing your goals while being in a financial crisis? It can be devastating. We have lived in many of the most expensive cities in the USA and we have been struggling. I know what it can do to your self-esteem. Don’t get me wrong, I am the first person to say material gains in life do not define a person; it is their kindness, soul and love that does that. You cannot take it with you, and that is true. I have always said all I need is a pen, notebook, trees and the ocean and to be surrounded by animals and loved ones.

To survive in this modern world today is so different in comparison to what it was for our parents and grandparents. Gone are the simple days in life.

In the movie Meet Me in St Louis they are spending the dog days of summer making homemade ketchup. Such simple times are long gone. I have always wondered what it would be like to live in such a simple era. It seems simple, but they did not have our modern-day resources and conveniences. Do you really want to spend all day making ketchup?  It would be clean eating and organic but really? 

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Back to reality. Money seems to define a person today, which is truly tragic. Getting fit, dieting, losing weight all seem to come with a hefty price tag. if you cannot fund your fitness you are destined to be unfit and overweight?  Everything seems to have a cost attached to it. I do not agree with this and I am going to achieve my goals despite our situation. 

I am here not only traipse through my own weight loss and fitness journey, to sponsor charities;  but I will also be sharing my wisdom, experiences, and resources as I get to my goals the frugal way. I have no other choice. At the end of the day if you let the stress and struggles consume you and you let your health go, you will have far more problems to deal with than finances. So, let’s do this.

This Gaiam mat was found at Marshalls for only ten bucks, the 8 lb weights at KMart. That’s the only equipment you need.

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Lace up your running, walking, or crawling shoes. Whatever you choose, get a pair and just move it. That’s the beginning secret, just to start moving. These Asics were only 38 bucks and good running shoes cost well over a hundred. I suggest you visit a running store and get fitted, if you can afford to purchase your first pair there go for it. Break them in, feel them as you move.

After a few months you will learn the mechanics of your own feet and you will be able to compare the running shoes from the running store to those found at discount stores. That is what I did and these discount running shoes are actually the same as the previous pair I bought at the running store, for a fraction of the price.

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My workouts are free thanks to Melissa Bender Fitness. She has countless videos, information and resources. She is my trainer of choice and I am learning a lot.

http://www.benderfitness.com/

Today is International Yoga Day and I love the being outside and I cannot afford a regular yoga class. Give yourself time in nature, grab a mat and do some outdoor yoga. You mind, body, and spirit will thank you. Yoga can be free, there are countless yoga videos online. Sun Salutations is the best way to begin.

Here is a link I love. http://www.benderfitness.com/category/yoga

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A more involved post will include what I am eating to get there, and all the resources I am finding to eat on the cheap all while eating clean and healthy. Yesterday was day one, and I did wonderful. I swapped my protein Bars for Melissa Bender Fitness energy balls. My protein bars were costing me 58 bucks a month, these are a fraction of the cost. The recipe is below the photo. Enjoy them with your morning coffee or before a run.

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I swapped agave for honey, and did not use chocolate chips. I used unsalted natural peanut butter and raisins as the dried fruit. 

A little tip, put the agave in first, and pour the peanut butter in the same measuring cup and it will be smooth and not sticky and pour right into the bowl. Make sure you chill well, they will form better. Save some of the batter and crumble with apples and blueberries, great with Greek yogurt. I may try to bake it and make it a clean eating blueberry crumble.

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Here is her recipe.

Ingredients (makes 20 balls):
  • 1 Cup Dry Old Fashioned Oatmeal
  • 1 Cup Dried Cranberries or other dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips ( I actually used about 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, a tablespoon of sesame seeds, and the rest trail mix for this batch)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
I combined all of the dry ingredients, then added the peanut butter and stirred. Add the
honey, continue stirring. Add the vanilla and stir until all of the ingredients are coated. 
 
Chill for 20-30 Minutes, roll into balls, and serve or store in an air tight container. 
Thanks Melissa Bender Fitness
Happy Tuesday,
 
Namaste’
 
Rose

 

 

HAPPY SUMMER SOLSTICE


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With but few exceptions, it is always the underdog who wins through sheer willpower.

Johnny Weissmuller

                                                     Ready to run and work out.
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Happy Summer solstice to all. Today is the day I begin my six month program, and since I am from Cleveland Ohio I will use the slogan of the underdog championship Cleveland Cavaliers. #All in.

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Today is the day I begin my six month challenge and countdown to my 50th birthday. I was born on the winter solstice, and that is six months away. The last year and a half has been a series of ups and downs, transitions and new beginnings. My plan is to get to my 50th birthday being the best me inside and out. I have a lot of work to do. My husband James does not think I can pull it off. So I will take inspiration of the underdogs of the world and work even harder and with more heart to make it happen. 

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The plan:

My diet will be completely clean. I can tell you now, there will be no cheat days. Quick overview of my diet will be almost gluten-free, lots of fruits and veggies, minimal grains and lean protein. I will not be consuming sugar and I will not be eating sweets of any kind. The only grains I plan to eat are oatmeal and Ezekiel bread in moderation and occasional beans. I will eat healthy fats and no processed foods. I will still consume dairy but rarely will I eat cheese. I will do separate post on diet. My protein bars will just be an occasional treat and not my daily breakfast.

Here is a sneak peek at my grocery haul.

 

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I am following the Four F’s. Frugality, Fitness, Food, Fashion.  It can be done and I plan on making this next six months count and I plan to make it happen on a budget. Being financially strapped should never hold you back.  We are f’n fabulous.

This running jacket was less than 20 bucks and found at Marshalls.

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The fitness.http://melissabenderfitness 

Melissa Bender Fitness is fabulous and free and I will be sharing my workouts as I go. Here is month one, today is day one.

http://www.benderfitness.com/2013/02/my-first-bikini-competition-prep-month-1-workouts.html

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I am also beginning my running training again.

http://www.benderfitness.com/2015/05/5k-training-for-new-runners.html

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When the scale starts moving, I will be doing charities again.

and again….NO CHEAT DAYS

My husband James doesn’t think I can pull it off. He thinks the summer, the fall and all the special occasions are occasions to eat. Whatever, the more you doubt me, the harder I will work.

I am all in. I am after all from Cleveland Ohio. Congrats to my hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.

Happy Summer Solstice

Namaste’

Rose

 

MIGHT AS WELL JUMP

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.

Lao Tzu

Happy Thursday to all. It’s been well over a month since I posted, things literally changed in less than a months time. I always say change comes on slow and then runs you over. We wanted to move back to West Hollywood so I decided to make it happen. Blogging had to take a hiatus so I could take the time to find a new home and move back to Los Angeles where my blog began. I decided it was now or never. Now was the time to make things happen and move in the direction of our dreams.

James and I were listening to Van Halen one night after I got home from work. I admit, I was never a fan of the band my husband adored until this particular moment. The lyrics “Might As Well Jump” resonated with me deeply. I started to think, why are we here and what would it take to make a big leap and move back to the city where we were at our most happiest? We wished to move back to West Hollywood but finding an apartment while you are living in a different city can be daunting.

James happened to find a listing and we spontaneously called and set up an appointment to see the apartment. Within hours of getting home from a long shift, I got on Caltrain to San Jose and took a bus to Hollywood. There I met my friends and saw the apartment. Not too thrilled with it, and the process took longer than I expected so I was forced to stay the night. That night  James happened to come across an email about an apartment right in the heart of our favorite neighborhood and by the end of the next day I had the keys to our new home. It was perfect in every sense, and the whole process was Kismet.  (Kismet, that moment when everything just seems to align perfectly, right time, right place, right people).  We were renting from lovely people in a prime location. I loved the apartment and already pictured us with our cats there. Flash forward to today, we have been here almost a month and we could not be happier. 

Might as well jump. It took me less than 48 hours to get to LA, find a place and come home with the keys to our new castle and future. Angels above must have been guiding me to move back to the city of angels because it all came together too flawlessly.

I jumped, took a huge leap and landed on my feet back home in Southern California where I belong. Where we both belong.

Of course moving and setting up a brand new home from the ground up does take its toll on your routine. For me I slacked off a little on my clean eating. I was happy and I indulged in foods that normally would never cross my lips. My workout and running routine was compromised as well. I knew this, so I decided to do something about it sooner rather than later. I accidentally stumbled upon a Weight Watchers Group near where I am working. I went in, I joined, and I faced the scale and my inner insecure demons. Yes, I gained 13 lbs back but that is fine. I am now in control, and really looking forward to the next phase of my weight loss journey. I hope I can meet my goal with the help of Weight Watchers and  MelissaBenderfitness.  My leader Susan is absolutely fabulous,which makes all the difference in the world. The group is supportive, loving and most of all lighthearted and non judgemental. It was hard for me to admit that I slipped but I am human and flawed. With my humanity comes a strength that urges me to pick myself up and get right back to what makes me tick. My health, my writing, the charities I help along the way. I love this blog and I will continue on even as I take one step forward and two steps back. Eventually I will have to take another step and move forward or I may find myself stagnant and miserable. I will never give up.

So, today I weigh 13 lbs higher than my lowest weight I reached on my blog which was 165 lbs. It is day two of Weight Watchers and my new starting weight is 178 lbs.  I will be blogging all about my recipes, my weight loss and fitness, my goals,  and most important my new charities. I am in contact with a local well-known charity I admire and I will be posting about my nest ten pound charity event soon. In an essence I feel like today is my new day one, and back in Los Angeles where it all began.

I have never called myself an after, and I am forever a work in progress. Learning, evolving, and becoming the best me I can be; inside and out.

Namaste’ Love and Light

Rose

 

 

 

HAPPY ST PATTY’S DAY

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”
Sophia Loren

 

Happy St Patty’s day, eat your greens.  I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and my Italian father had a restaurant in  the downtown. My memories of St. Patty’s Day was watching the parade from the front windows, all while stuffing little green petit fours in my mouth. Eating and food was celebration in my childhood household. 

As a child growing up with an Italian father, and with a Mother who learned to cook like she was born in Napoli, I can say I can totally relate to Sophia Loren’s words about spaghetti. To this day, it is the one food I cannot control portions over, so I choose to just eat it on rare and special occasions. When I began my weight loss blog I tried to portion spaghetti, and on one occasion  my hubby James caught me with my face deep in the pot of spaghetti  at 3am. Pasta seems to rule my willpower with an iron wooden spoon.

I found out what works for my body. When I don’t eat gluten, my skin looks radiant and I drop the pounds with much more ease than when I try to portion out processed foods. For me eating clean is a lifestyle, but I am not above occasional cheat days and splurges, well until now.

I announced a week ago that this week begins my ten month countdown to my 50th Birthday on December 21st. I decided since my blog is called My Change For A Ten  and I helped charities per every ten pounds lost, that I would do the same but change the format for the next months. I dropped my initial 50 lbs, and then the weight slowed. Now I am taking a different route to the same destination. Ten months, ten charities, no cheat days, workout, running and yoga. The point is I want to arrive confident and strong to my 50th Birthday. I want to be the best me inside and out.

So, with that said this is a quick primer on what I am doing. 

My food will consist of non processed, clean real food. No cheat days. I have been asked what I consider a cheat day. So this is what I will be eating, and if it is not there I will not consume it for ten months. Yes, this is a challenge, and my husband James is already looking ahead to Fourth of July and Thanksgiving and telling me I have to cheat on those dates.

The bulk of what I eat will be eating is plant based,  as much produce as I like, fresh or frozen.Occasional fresh juices and coconut water.  Lean proteins, fish, chicken, and occasional red meat. No processed meats. As for Dairy I will include milk, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese on occasion as well as occasional eggs. Nuts, seeds, nut butters, dried fruits. Olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oils. Occasional baked potato, sweet potato, and Ezekiel sprouted bread. Coffee and dark chocolate, within portion control, are my treats. I will still allow my protein bars because I just cannot give those up. Basically my plan is almost grain free, if I ever feel weak I will eat the occasional bowl of steel cut oats. I drink water all day long. I am taking some supplements, all natural and I will talk about those in a future post.

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My plan will be low salt and sodium, and I will make my own dressings. Low sugar except for a teaspoon in my coffee every am since I cannot have the fake stuff and I am not giving that up.  The dark chocolate I buy is 85% dark chocolate. Above are some photos of my meals I ate this week.

I will be posting about the fitness, running, yoga and charities I have planned in a future post. I also plan to start doing YouTube videos talking about my weight loss and fitness goals. Today my weight was 169 lbs. I am up from lbs which was my lowest weight I achieved on this blog and journey of mine. I have not yet decided, but I may put the scale away until I reach my 50th Birthday on December 21st. I am ready for my challenge and today is day four and I feel like I am going to be fabulous at 50. I want to look like Sophia Loren when I am her age, but this Italian girl will get there without spaghetti. 

Happy St Patty’s Day, eat your greens.

Namaste

Rose

 

MY NUMBER ONE INSPIRATION ( in the black bathing suit)

That’s my beautiful Mother in a black bathing suit and the age of 15. 

A lot has been going on here. My book Camellia in Snow is out and getting great reviews and feedback.  I am working on my Benderfitness workouts and my diet and my running training. I did a 5k and beat my best time.  My weight is still in the mid 160’s but I will keep going and get to goal. I am looking for another 5k and a 10k to do before the year is out.  I have a lot of book promotion events and to do’s on my list. We are probably moving again, there is a lot happening on that front but we decided moving during the holidays is not an option.

Through it all I am looking for charities and volunteer options and I am also working a lot more than I wish to, but I am grateful for the opportunity to make money and get ahead. I feel lately I am wearing too many hats, and sometimes it feels like those hats are too tight, cutting off the circulation to my brain and causing my muddled mind to go a little insane from the chaos of everyday life. In those moments I try to meditate, do yoga and breathe. I  go running, removing the metaphorical hats and I get lost in the music and the beauty of the bay. Exercise is the best way to let go and let your problems be. As my friend Linda said, run it off.

Today I was going to post race photos, but those can wait for now, Some are on my Facebook page. I beat my best time and I am so proud of the accomplishments I am making and goals I am working on.

My dear Mother was admitted to the hospital today, she is either having a stent or bypass surgery.This happened suddenly and  I will know more tomorrow. I decided since I am always talking about inspiration I would share my number one inspiration of strength and survival, my Mother Shirley. I wrote this in 2005 the year she had her first triple bypass, join me in healing thoughts and prayers that she comes through with the same fighting flying colors she did in 2005.  Mom, I always love you more.

shirleybb

My Beautiful Mother in black with a friend and my big sister Dona Tony.
PRICELESS LESSONS

Dedicated to my Mother Shirley Bruno. Below is my Mother in black.

mommm

My sisters and I used to love to go to the grocery store with my mother. We would follow like little disciples, contributing our wish list of meal choices for the family dinner. This was the one thing that kept us together, the family meal; the one thing that protected us from the ominous storm that was about to brew.

Growing up in Cleveland Ohio was not an easy feat, with my fathers disappearance at the age of ten, well lets just say things were bleak to say the least. After that fateful day, memories of that time are a mish-mash in my head. My father was an Italian Restaurant owner, and the one thing he did well before he vanished was to pass on one last gift to my family; he taught my mother to cook with passion. We were far from well off, and we had many tough struggles, but there was always something delicious waiting for us at the end of the day; comfort food personified.

When my mother was growing up, she had artistic abilities, talents that she never had the opportunity to fulfill. She could pick up a pencil and sketch a portrait, and sing like a songbird, but her mother taught her dreams were unrealistic and unattainable. Over the years those dreams were left at the wayside, replaced with children to raise, and the constant need to just get through a day and survive. When my father first met my mother, her cooking skills were so lacking, she could not even boil an egg. I believe when she picked up that wooden spoon for the very first time, the artist in her was reborn; the wooden spoon was her pencil, and the food she created was her masterpiece. Her cooking would be the light that kept us from despair during those challenging years of childhood, and I believe her culinary talent became the basis of her identity and our lives together.

Our home did not have many creature comforts, and we lived in sparse spaces lacking color and light. However, our humble kitchen was my mom’s oyster; and a place we all came together and connected, a place where we all came alive. I can remember coming home from a long day at school, pre-teen angst causing confusion within, and my mother would whip up my favorite meal, roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli and homemade biscuits with butter. Suddenly all the grief I felt from not belonging disappeared, and was replaced with something that would stick to my ribs along with the meal; my mother nurtured and loved me, and showed it through her passion of cooking.

My mid age school days were turbulent to say the least, yet I always knew no matter how my day went, as soon as I walked in the door my mind would clear. My Mother would whip up something fabulous, even if it was incredibly simple. She had a way of taking whatever ingredients she had on hand and turning them into a culinary work of art. Home was a place that may have been lacking material possessions, but we made up for them in love and spirit and there was plenty of laughter and love to go around. We were nourished in more ways than one.

As we grew into our teens, birthdays meant big meals with spaghetti with meatballs, and all the accompaniments that go with a a huge Italian meal. Our friends were always welcome, and there was always enough food to share with anyone who stepped on our doorstep; kindness to others always came first. We might not have had much, but there was always enough to share. Through my mother I learned it is so much more important to give than to receive. A value I believe has shaped me through the years.

As the years went by I never took a liking to cooking, I was always off doing my own thing and lets face it; who needs to cook when you have someone always doing it for you. I could never compete nor did I want to; that was her arena. Then the day came when I wasn’t within driving distance of my mother. My husband had an opportunity too good to resist and we had to relocate to Hartford Connecticut. It didn’t dawn on me until  that Thanksgiving when I found out my husband had to work that first holiday away from home. I had an ethical dilemma, do I go home and see my family or stay and attempt Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings? I decided on the latter, I could not leave him alone, that would be wrong; but what to do now? I had not the slightest idea what to do with a turkey, let alone a whole Thanksgiving meal.

I consulted my mother and through the phone she guided and taught me how to cook my very first Thanksgiving dinner; and oh what a challenge it was. She always made it look so easy and simple. I was a wreck that day, literally calling home every five minutes. It was like a comedy, me with flour in my hair totally clueless. The first challenge was when my Mother told me the first step, to remove the neck from the main cavity.Excuse me? I was totally repulsed, I had been a vegetarian for almost ten years and here I was removing a neck from a body cavity…I took a deep breath and conquered the cleaning the turkey; next I had to baste it and place it in the oven for hours. I mastered the stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, yet I burned the sweet potato casserole. The last step was to remove the turkey and make sure it was cooked thoroughly and finally make the gravy. To this day gravy is not my forte. Both my sister and mother in law called to check on me, and asked if I remembered to remove the other bag from the other crevice. Pardon Moi? What other bag from what other crevice? I cooked the bird with the bag of giblets in tow. The bag burned, I removed it and the turkey was no worse for wear, but I could not say the same for me.. I questioned myself how she made it look so effortless.

The meal was on the table when my husband finally walked through the doors at seven pm tired from a long day at his new job. The table looked lovely, I on the other hand, well I was a disheveled mess.. How do women time and cook such a large elaborate meal and find the energy to make themselves presentable and pretty? He didn’t care about my unruly hair nor the fact I was wearing sweat pants, he just wanted to sit down and eat Thanksgiving dinner with me, his family.

It was just the two of us, and it was a bit melancholic being so far from our family and loved ones. Traditions are so hard to break, and you can either wallow in your woes or find ways to remember your far off loved ones. We chose the latter, sat down to try my very first culinary feast courtesy of my mothers teaching via the phone. I sat nervous wondering if I had pulled off a success. The look on his face when he took the first bite said it all as he proclaimed ”this tastes like Cleveland Ohio.” I smiled wide, took my first bite and giddily. agreed, I had cooked a replica of my Mothers famous Thanksgiving dinner and did so on my first try.


Lights went off in my head. I cooked much more than a meal. I cooked memories of Mom and I realized what I had learned that very first Thanksgiving away from home, and it was priceless; I would have my mothers traditions for the rest of my life and the lessons that came with them. My mother taught us to be kind to others, to share your gifts even if you do not have much, because it is far more important to give rather than receive. I could not have had a better teacher of life and I am grateful for my treasured upbringing. I wouldn’t trade those memories for all the money in the world. Those teachings have been the basis that has shaped my identity as cooking shaped hers.
In the years since that first Thanksgiving away from home I moved to NYC and now I reside in Los Angeles California. I have mastered most of my mothers beloved recipes, with her famous spaghetti and meatballs to be my next challenge. Everything I have cooked and learned I did on the phone with my remarkable mother who could put even the food network to shame, and I do so with love and gratitude. I am farther than ever from my mother in distance, yet I feel closer in heart because of the new connection we have formed. We bonded over cooking,sharing, and the blessings of life. We are two very different individuals yet we found such a common ground built of tradition, family,giving, and love.Tomorrow I think I may cook Sunday dinner, roast beef with all the trimming ala Mom, and sit down to a meal and be transported to a modest yet magnificent kitchen somewhere in Cleveland Ohio; never forgetting to make enough in case someone shows up hungry on my welcome doorstep.