Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hiking Boots

After trying on several brands of hiking boots over the last few days, I decided on these:

Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid.

I found the women's Merrells were too narrow for my feet, and tried the men's instead.  They fit better and except for the "periwinkle" inside on the women's they look the same.

I'm still looking at walking sticks.  I find the prices somewhat offensive.  I might just look around our forest for a good staff and trim it to a pleasing length.  Or convert one of our ski poles to a walking stick by removing the basket.  

On the subject of food, I have been doing very well on choosing snacks.  Edamame, sliced peppers, and celery have been pleasing afternoon munchies.  

Yesterday, after boot shopping, I was able to "pass" on a fast food lunch by popping into a grocery store and buying a pint of grape tomatoes.

Ate the whole thing while driving home! 

 Before the change I would have bought a bag of chips, a couple of candy bars, doughnuts, or a burger and fries. 

I have also been sure I have had a filling healthy breakfast before leaving the house.  

 I often went out of my way to stop at a small local cafe that made the best burritos to go,  but they stuck to my ribs, and belly, and thighs long after the grease was wiped from my hands. 

No more Nonno's burritos for me!

Have you made any healthy changes lately? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I've started playing with Pinterest.  I want to use it to help plan trips, and to collect information about RV parks around the country as well as interesting and unique places to go.

If you are a "pinner" I'd love to visit and follow your boards, but I'm not sure how to find you.  

I was able to find Karen because I knew her last name and searched for her on Pinterest, then on People.  There were three Karens with the same last name, but I recognized her picture.  

If you pin can you send me an invite? 

My username is Merikay MacKenna, and email is  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Really Good Dinner Recipe

My primary reason for trying to eat  more "healthy" meals remains to lower my cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Losing weight is of secondary importance, but I'm not kidding myself about really wanting to drop the fat!  

Last night and tonight we had a wonderfully healthy and tasty dish for dinner.  Craig urged me to share it because he says it was one of the best foods he has had in a long time.  The recipe is not a "diet" meal, but for a pasta based meal it is very healthy.  It came to me as one of the "daily dishes" I get as emails from  

I'm posting the full original version below. 

The changes I made were to use whole wheat penne pasta, to add two peeled and cubed Japanese eggplant to the vegetable mix, and to use cubed Roma tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes because they were less expensive. I did not use any butter to saute the onions, but I did use the Romano cheese. I figured 1/2 cup divided by six servings is not a lot of cheese.

12 oz. of penne plus all the vegetables made a huge pot of food.  We will be eating it for a third night tomorrow, so next time I will cut the pasta to 6 oz. but still use all of the vegetables and other ingredients.

One other thought is that since I'm still in a house I had no problem with  using a large tray in the oven for roasting the veggies.  In an RV you might have to do two batches, or roast them on the grill.


Servings  (Help)


Original Recipe Yield 6 servings


  • 1 (12 ounce) package penne pasta
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 5 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  3. In a bowl, toss squash, zucchini, carrot, red bell pepper, tomatoes, green beans, and asparagus with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning. Arrange vegetables on the baking sheet, and roast 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until tender.
  4. Heat remaining olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Stir in the onion and garlic, and cook until tender. Mix in cooked pasta, lemon zest, basil, parsley, and balsamic vinegar. Gently toss and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with roasted vegetables and sprinkle with Romano cheese to serve.

Nutritional Information open nutritional information

Amount Per Serving  Calories: 406 | Total Fat: 15.4g | Cholesterol: 15mg

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I'm going to try a BBQ Pizza soon

Next time I make a pizza it will be on the BBQ. I think the whole wheat crust will hold up to grilling better than a regular thin-crust. 

From your comments, it seems like there is some interest in making it that way, and I'm willing to give it a try.

 Although using a whole wheat crust is an improvement, the best thing you can do to make a pizza healthier is to not include the sausage and cheese. 

Has anyone made a pizza on a Webber Q or other gas grill? How have you done it? Do you use a pizza stone?

I've seen something on the web about par-grilling the crust.   

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

RV, House, Pizza

On the subject of the RV: I have started to make some boards on Pinterest  to use in planning future trips.  I haven't done much, but it seems like an interesting way to organize things.  Much like visual bookmark folders.
I have been pinning possible RV parks, and ones where I have made reservations for our June-July trip.

On the subject of the House: it seems we continue to take one step backward for every two steps forward.  The refurbishing of the first of three bathrooms is coming along nicely, but now the on-demand, propane hot water heater that will provide hot water for the shower is being temperamental. (The main hot water heater for the rest of the house is a large electric one.)  I sure hope we don't have to replace the tankless one, it was quite expensive. But there is no value to having a pretty new cultured marble shower enclosure with no hot water! Fortunately we have had an excellent response from a telephone service tech from the manufacturer, but he keeps referring to it as an "old" model.  

On the subject of Food: I made a whole wheat pizza crust in the bread machine yesterday and it worked very well! 
I used the same basic recipe as I have for regular white flour pizza crusts, but I substituted whole wheat flour, used Agave Nectar instead of sugar, and added a heaping table spoon of the dough enhancer (you could also  use gluten) to help the whole wheat be stretchy.

The topping is one we have enjoyed many times in the past.  Caramelized onions with Balsamic vinegar, three ounces of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, and a scant quarter cup of finely chopped walnuts.  

Although I'm avoiding dairy, this is one exception. 

 Our more traditional, cheese, sausage, mushroom pizzas would have had at least eight to twelve ounces of full fat Italian cheese.  It's so easy to dump on with those nice pre-shredded cheese!

With the Gorgonzola we each ate about one and a half ounces of a full flavor cheese.  I would rather do without than eat the "vegan" cheese substitutes.

The whole wheat crust was different, but good.  We like thin crust pizza, and although not as thin as some I've made, it did roll out easily.  The trick for any pizza dough is to mix it in the morning and put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to proof for several hours. 

I have also changed my mind about Agave.  My impression that it was chemically treated seems to apply to the cheaper brands.  The "Raw" Agave Nectar from  Madhava, is pressed, filtered, and concentrated by heating it to no more than 180*.  It is no more "processed" than cane sugar or maple syrup. The chemical that was referred to in an article I read was Chlorine, use to clean the filters.  Hey, isn't that what is in our drinking water to kill the bugs?

And, we both like the taste!  That is a critical point.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

For Marilyn "More Fiber"

In a comment, Marilyn asked me how I was increasing the fiber in my diet.  Before I list a few of the things I'm doing, I'd like to recommend an excellent article by the Mayo Clinic about why to get more. 

For me the three most important factors are:
  • Lowers blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol levels. Epidemiological studies have shown that increased fiber in the diet can reduce blood pressure and inflammation, which is also protective to heart health.
  • Helps control blood sugar levels. Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, can slow the absorption of sugar, which for people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar levels. A diet that includes insoluble fiber has been associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Aids in weight loss. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you're no longer hungry, so you're less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fiber diets also tend to be less "energy dense," which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
No other dietary change has as big an impact on your overall health.  Trying to eat "low-carb" you end up eating too much fat. "Low fat" often means high sugar, and "sugar-free" foods are usually full of fat or artificial, chemically created sweeteners like Splenda.

So these are a few ways I have been able to go from the usual American fiber intake of less than 20 grams a day, to a healthier 30 - 35 grams a day.

I start the day with a very high fiber, whole grain cereal.  Uncle Sam's, sold at Safeway and Trader Joe's, has a whopping 10 grams of fiber in a 3/4 cup serving.  Oatmeal is good too, as are many others.  You have to READ the labels and find one you like!

I don't use any sugar, but I do top the cereal with 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (I put them in the cereal bowl and microwave it for a minute or so to defrost them.
This gives me another 2 grams of fiber. I use Almond Smooth non-dairy beverage instead of milk. 

Strawberries are also a very good choice over cereal.

I usually have one other fruit during an average day.  A banana has 2 or 3 grams of fiber, an apple has 6,
and an Asian Pear has 10. I choose an apple or pear.

If I want a sweet, I'll have some dried plums (AKA prunes) or a few dates or dried figs. Cookies don't have fiber!  Fruit does.

Now, I also have a stash of what I have jokingly called "chocolate covered cardboard", but are really tasty, and quite satisfying with a cup of afternoon tea. (6 grams of fiber for 140 calories.) 

No more white bread.  A slice of my bread or Orowheat Double Fiber gives me another 5 grams.

I look at the fiber content of every single thing I eat.  I've been eating a lot of alternative grains instead of white potatoes.  It is not the fiber count for potatoes as much as the carbs and fat from butter and gravy one tends to dress them with.

Lentils, quinoa, bulgur, and brown rice are all better than white potatoes.  But if you eat potatoes, eat the skin because thats where the fiber is! 

Yesterday I found a box of whole wheat couscous that I'm going to try.  I haven't tried whole wheat pasta yet, but then I haven't had any regular pasta either for a long time.

I have a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough that is on my list for this week.  The topping will not be traditional cheese and sausage!

I generally cook from scratch using fresh ingredients. One cookbook and online recipes that I use a lot are from "EatingWell". I have their cookbook for serving two, and I find a lot of the recipes I choose online are from them as well. This is not "diet food."  It is just healthier choices.

Other suggestions:
  • Add beans to your salads or soups.  Chick peas, Lima beans, and kidney beans all come in those little 8 oz. cans.  4 oz. of Lima beans have 100 calories and 8 grams of fiber.  Divide a can between two salads or bowls of soup. 
  • Bell peppers: red, yellow, green, and orange have a good fiber count and are easy to add to salads, or eat as a snack. If I put a plate of pepper strips on the table with a meal, they disappear very quickly.
  • Tomatoes: cut a tomato in half and bake or grill it and you add 2 more grams of fiber to your meal. Cooked tomatoes are better for you than fresh.  
  • Cabbage is an easy fiber booster.  I have a recipe that adds shredded cabbage to chili, which lowers the calories and increases fiber. I have been making coleslaw with a low-cal dressing as a side dish more often.
  • Barley: you can cook up a few cups of it and keep it in the refrigerator.  Add a half cup to a bowl of tomato soup for lunch or an afternoon pick-me up.
  • Sweet potatoes and squash: not all squash, but some like acorn squash are very high in fiber.  I make sweet potato oven fries and garlic fries that we both love more than potato fries.
  • Edamame: the trendiest bean on the planet!  Good for snacking but can be used in cooking in place of other beans.
  • Crackers?  Read the labels.  16 Wheat Thins (Reduced Fat) have 130 calories and 3 grams of fiber.  Sometimes you just want a crunch.
Etc.  Etc.  Etc.   I have increased my fiber intake by reading and making choices. Nothing fancy.  No pills, no supplements, just good simple foods.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thinking about our next trip

Every day Craig has been getting something done on the house.  But there are still some very big jobs ahead, and we have not even talked about getting rid of stuff, so I don't feel hopeful about putting it on the market anytime this year. 
I on the other hand have been doing nothing.  I would like to be working on refinishing the kitchen cabinets, but see no sense in doing it until we are closer to getting out.  I'm depressed about how the painting I did is no longer "new," and will need to be retouched in places.

March - April is always a disturbing time.  The dining room table is covered with papers and receipts as I try to get things organized for taxes.  We took the first pass at them last week, and things don't look too bad.  It looks like we won't have to pay too much. 

 Next year will be so much easier with no income to speak of! 

I've ben thinking about our next three or four day Alfa trip after the taxes are done. Possibly up to the "Gold Country" in the Sierra foothills.  It would be the first time we took both the RV and the Prius.  I want to see how it will be to drive separately because that is what we will be doing for our Oregon trip in June-July.

On the food front, everything is going very well.  I have more interesting foods I'd like to share, but not today.

Although I am trying to limit my intake of meat and dairy, I don't think I will ever be  100% vegan.

 Limit has got to be the operative word. 

 At first I fussed about portion sizes of 2 or 3 ounces of chicken or fish as being way to small. 

 Now it is feeling like quite enough. 

I have been making daily use of my food scale and measuring cups.

I am not eating any "diet" meals, shakes or special foods. 

Sometimes the best I can do is make small adjustments or omit part of a  past menu.  
Yesterday's breakfast was an example. We have always enjoyed our "American" breakfast at least once a week.  Fried or scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon or ham, hash brown potatoes, and white toast with lots of butter or "I Can't Believe it's Not Butter." 

Yesterday I made scrambled eggs using two less egg yolks, used only the whites, onions and peppers, and 4 ounces dice ham. (for two of us) The onions and peppers gave it a little extra fiber.  We skipped the hash browns, and I had only one thin slice of my high fiber bread for toast. I've switched to Benecol for the toast, but actually like a bit of All Fruit better.

 Dinner was very light, and I did not make my fiber goal for the day. Small changes.  Not every day is perfect.

Most days I just have a high fiber cereal, blueberries and Almond Smooth instead of milk for breakfast. It is a good, simple filling start and I'm usually more satisfied for longer than I was with the eggs and ham.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Craig snacks

This post should not be confused with my wife Merikay's recent posts about home cooking for healthy eating.  I decided to guest-blog on her site about some snacks that I really like, weeks before she met her new doctor who talked her into losing weight via a healthier lifestyle.  I'm eating better along with her, but there's no way that such concerns will make me totally reject the three great snacks below.  All three are available from food chains that are pretty widespread.

The first is Safeway's White Chocolate Blueberry, a fairly thin bar of white chocolate that includes what the ingredient list calls "blueberry granules’.  I've always loved white chocolate, but in this case Safeway (actually Lindt) has outdone any other candy I've ever had.  The bar size and foil wrapping are identical to those on Lindt-branded chocolate bars.  What's magical about the granules is that they have little or no water content but bear all of the goodness that people love about blueberries.  They may also cost less than similar Lindt-branded bars (my lousy memory makes me waffle about this claim).

My second heavenly snack is Archer Farms Dill Pickle naturally flavored Cashews, available at Target stores.  At first mention you might think this is a joke or total novelty, but the flavor scientists of the world have been busy creating what I think of as "synthesized flavors".  Frito-Lay and other snack makers have been introducing interesting and sometimes strange flavors of classic snacks for years now, but most of them are (to my taste) overstated and tend to overwhelm the taste of the basic product that people have come to love.

Not so with these cashews.  The dill pickle taste is unmistakably good, but is subtle enough that the wonderful flavor of cashews comes shining right through.  OBTW, please ignore this whole recommendation if you don't like both dill pickles and cashew nuts...

Merikay tells me that my third recommendation has already been introduced to the RV blog world by Rick & Paulette's RV Travels.  Trader Joe's sells these amazing Scallops Wrapped in Uncured Bacon with Brown Sugar Glaze.

Like many things that include scallops, they're a bit pricey but to my taste they're worth every cent.  The word "succulent" definitely applies, also "sweet", "juicy", plus if you leave them in the oven a little too long, "carbonized".

Finally, I really have to praise Merikay's new wonder bread.  It's a shame that that Holsum Foods spread this name so widely when we were little, because she really has hit upon a terrific-tasting recipe for healthy bread that deserves the name.  Those of you who were put off by several unfamilar ingredients or "we don't have a bread machine" are really missing the best-tasting bread in the world!

Bon appetit,
Craig MacKenna

Chocolate Covered Cardboard

I found this recipe for these on the back of the Fiber One Box!

I call them Chocolate Covered Cardboard so I won't be tempted to eat more than two of them a day!

Because they need to be chilled to set, I used a couple of layers of waxed paper on top of each other.  I was trying to imagine a limited space in an RV refrigerator!  After they were set I put half in a tightly closed container well out of sight, and the rest in a container in the kitchen fridge.  In the past they would have been left out in plain sight and I would have been eating them without thinking about it!

Each cluster has 70 Calories, 18 grams Carbs, and 3 grams of Fiber.  OR  a big SIX grams of fiber in two for only 140 Calories.  Basically the fiber gives this an excellent low Glycemic Load ratio. 

They are also very SATISFYING.  Two pieces will give you a full tummy feeling and the chocolate feels like a little indulgence.  

12 oz. package chocolate chips.
1/2 cup reduced fat peanut butter
3  3/4 cups (1 pouch) Fiber One cereal

  • Put a waxed paper sheet onto a baking tray that will fit into your fridge.  Keep the roll out.

  • Melt peanut butter and chocolate chips in a large bowl in the microwave (a couple of minutes) stir after 30-45 seconds, then every 15 until it is melted and smooth.
  • Stir in Fiber One, and drop by rounded teaspoons onto waxed paper.  
  • Chill until set. 

Safeway also has a cheaper version of this cereal.  It is called Fiber Active, but looks and tastes just about the same.  Like cardboard! But think of the fiber.

I have also found Fiber One  to be a great base for an evening snack.  When I make a strawberry shortcake for Craig, I make mine with a cereal base instead of the Hostess cake I grew up with.  Then I put a splash of Orange juice on the cereal to soften it a bit, and top it with Strawberries and Kool Whip (Free.)  

I admit I haven't read the label on that stuff yet.  It will probably kill me, but I will die looking like I ate whipped cream! 

I'm really getting into this and am feeling GREAT!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Say Cheese

Cheese ... Delicious or Deadly?

On my current eating protocol I have decided to avoid dairy.  For me, milk is not a problem, I don't like milk. But many recipes I love include milk or cream.  I will have to evaluate them as I go. We rarely use butter, nnd I have recently switched to "Almond Smooth" as a liquid to wet down my cereal in the morning.

But avoiding cheese may be harder. Before I started this I would often eat cheese on a daily basis.  In salads, in soups, on sandwiches, or just as an easy snack.  I know night eating is very bad, but sometimes a few ounces of cheese would find themselves in my tummy after midnight. You know, get up, visit potty, open fridge, eat what is easiest.  For me, that would have been ice cream or cheese!

Why avoid cheese?  Calories from fat. Most cheese is at least 75% fat, and that means lots of calories without much redeeming nutritional value.  If I want to stay under 1500 calories and get at least 30 grams of fiber, I cannot eat cheese.

I've been reading articles on both sides.  I may still eat or cook with a very limited amount of cheese from time to time.  But not as much as before.  Mac and Cheese, cheese sandwiches and cheese burgers are definitely out. Vegetables are to good by themselves to smoother with cheese sauces. 

Pizza on the other hand may be the exception.

 Small, thoughtful changes are often the ones that will stick.

One thing I do know is that since I have started this new way of eating, my knee is no longer swollen from arthritis.  I expected joint pain after our hike in the Pinnacles, but it didn't happen.

No cheese ... No joint pain and swelling? Or maybe it is not drinking wine.  Or both.

By the way, last night I got up hungry.  I ate four "Ones" the individually wrapped prunes from Sun Sweet.  120 calories, 3 grams fiber, 24 grams carbs.  GI 29.  GI = Glycemic index.  >50 is low.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why Now

I told you that my next few blogs were going to be about food and my new eating protocol. (I'm NOT calling it a diet because I want the changes to stick and not be a temporary thing.)

So why now?  In January when we came home from our trip I was really no more overweight than I had been for the last couple of years.  Based on some chart or other, I was about 44 pounds overweight.  I had tried to lose weight a couple of times last year, but got nowhere.  

After my colonoscopy, the gastroenterologist told me I needed to eat more fiber. When I discussed the results from my regular annual blood work with my new doctor, she told me my cholesterol and blood glucose numbers were too high. Actually they were lower than last year's, but the Kaiser doctor said no more than "you could lose a little weight, but otherwise you're doing fine".

I knew what I had to do about it.  Lose weight.  I knew how to do that as well.  Many fat people know as much about nutrition as someone who has a degree.  It's not a mystery.  Eat too much and you will gain weight.  Eat a lot of fat and you will get fat.  Get moving and use more calories than you take in.

Jerry put it very well in one of his comments. "You will find your path, but it will probably be a straight and narrow one!"

Right now my path is this:  I have a food journal and track every bit of food I eat.  I read the labels or look things up in a "Food Counts" book. I am recording three elements:  calories, fiber, and carbs. I aim for less than 1500 calories a day, and 30 or more grams of fiber a day. If I stick with that, I find I usually am consuming less than 200 grams of carbs a day. 

I'm not tracking fat or sugar because if I keep the calories down, both of those will be in acceptable ranges.  

Because I'm trying to consume more fiber, I have almost completely eliminated all dairy, and any serving of meat I eat is small and lean. I had already eliminated most red meat over the last year.

With only 1500 calories a day there is no room for alcohol.  I have also eliminated white potatoes, white rice, white bread, and pasta.  

I think of it as having a calorie "budget."  If I'm trying to get up to 30 g of fiber, I can't afford to spend many of my calories on foods that are low in fiber.  Meat, cheese, candy, and wine, all are high in calories but have no fiber. I can't afford them.

So far it has not been hard.  Giving up potatoes and wine has been a challenge, but as of today I am only 29 pounds over the highest end of what I should weigh for my age and height.  The pounds have been slipping away!

And I've also been walking on the treadmill every day again.  I had let it get dusty.

I told the doctor I wanted to do this and get retested after three months. I keep picturing her surprise when I have lowered those numbers with nutrition.