Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recipe Of The Day: Butternut Squash Mash

Funny thing: I never liked squash until I was 7 months pregnant with my first child.

Then I got a hankering for it - out of nowhere - and I couldn't get enough. I ate so much, it is a small wonder she didn't pop out looking like she had a bad spray tan.

Every since, I've made up for my misspent, squash-less youth and have enjoyed it immensely. Buttercup, butternut, delicata (oh, delicata), acorn, you name it.

I recently found this recipe via Grace Got Healthy: Butternut Squash Mash. Of course, it seems so simple. Why didn't I think of that?

I'd do the old standy, boil butternut, mash and douse with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (or as I think of it: Yes, I Can Believe It's Chemicals), kosher salt and pepper. Yum.

However this, this looked even better because it's roasted, a favorite way to cook veg for me, and has, wait for it, real butter.

I know! I hardly ever use real butter, but then I remembered that the butter my husband uses is only 1 Points+ per tablespoon (Land O Lakes Light Butter With Canola Oil), which is more than you think (that's 1T in the bowl above).

Ignore that noise, it's my father, somewhere in Eastern Massachusetts bellowing: "THAT'S NOT BUTTER!" He is a purist.

Anyway, I gave the recipe a go and it was really good. Since you only count the butter, it's 1 Points+ for the whole thing. I bought the already peeled and cut-up squash because I am lazy. I am also concerned that left up to me to peel a butternut squash, I would take off a thumb. But, primarily, I am lazy.

A note: If you buy precut, cut it up more, into tinier pieces. It makes it faster to cook and easier to mash, see below:

In which my back - and butt - are back

I've always enjoyed the remake of Oceans Eleven, and my favorite quote is a total throwaway line.

During the last act, one of the thieves is a Chinese acrobat who's folded himself into a cart in order to break into the casino vault. He has had no lines the entire movie.

The rest of the gang is late getting him out of the oxygen-less cart, and when he extricates himself and catches his breath he yells:


Cracks me up every time.

Anyway, if you visit here regularly, you may be wondering the same thing.

When a weight loss blogger who normally posts frequently doesn't post for a while, it's rarely good news. Usually the person is off the grid, off the reservation, off plan. Something is wrong.

And that's what happened to me in December.

Everything is cool now but, hoo boy, December was rough, the worst month I have had since starting Weight Watchers in September 2010.

I posted earlier about tweaking my back, which lead to a gluteus medius strain and I spent pretty much the entire month in a pattern of resting it and then accidentally reinjuring it. I had to take two entire weeks off from working out and I'm still unable to run - now 2 months later.

I went from a person for whom "sedentary" was a generous description to one who loved to get up first thing in the morning to work out. Believe me, I was as surprised as anyone. And then, for that ability to be taken away - even temporarily - was devastating. Add to that loss the overall pressure of December and, man, I was so down, physically and emotionally in pain.

Few people in my life seemed to understand how personally difficult this was for me, which lead to real feelings of isolation. "Oh, you hurt your back? That sucks. It will get better. But you get a week off from exercise!"

Well, I don't want a week off. A couple days a week, yes. Two weeks? Hell, no. I need it for my physical health, for my mental health, for my overall well-being - it's like oxygen to me now.

And, then, my inability to stop reinjuring my glute and back when all I was trying to do was ease back in and, wow, so unhappy.

It made eating right hard, and for a week I just said, "Screw it" and ate whatever I wanted.

It was horrifying how quickly all my bad habits rushed back. It had been 15 months of clean living, muscle building. sound eating. And, then, whoosh, back to whatever I wanted, which was baked goods, carbs and sitting on the couch.

A few pounds piled on, and one of my main tools for combatting weight gain - exercise - was unavailable. It was like trying to do Weight Watchers with one hand tied behind your back and, let's face it, living that life is difficult with both hands fully functional.

More sad feelings. More eating. More wearing of pants with elastic waists that were getting tighter. More low self-esteem. All bad. Just bad, bad, bad.

Then I ended the pity party after Christmas. I was able to go back to bootcamp and the elliptical (still no running) and start getting back to being 100%. I gradually felt better and better and, finally, just a week or so ago I finally felt strong and fit, 100%.

I still haven't run - yet - more on that in a future post.

So, anyway, that's where I was. December: Crawling into a hole. January: Crawling out. I didn't especially feel like writing with either endeavor. Should I have? Yes. But, frankly, I just didn't want to.

However, we're behind that now and, wow, do I have a shit-ton to share. At least I have a lot to write about.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Recipe: Butternut-Apple Soup

I'm one of those people who gets annoyed when others walk around in January in New England and complain, "It's so cold!"

However, it really was cold this morning. A pitiful 6 degrees when I ventured out in the cold dark to drive to bootcamp, so everyone gets a pass from me today.

I have had the ingredients for Butternut-Apple Soup on hand for 5 days and never had the time to make it. Today seemed like a good day because not only did I have the time, but we're also experiencing prime soup weather.

I got the recipe out of the excellent cookbook Appetite for Reduction, which I've been perusing because I am now a vegetarian. I wanted a new food challenge for the new year. I'm sick of eating the same-old, same-old and in theory this will get me to try new recipes, something at which I am traditionally pretty darn lazy.

I thought perhaps the transition may be hard because I love meat, yet I realized that I hardly eat meat anymore, thanks to Points Plus. More fruit & veg = more food for me? All righty.

Aside from chopping (see Notes below), prep was relatively quick and easy. The soup came out thick, creamy and spicy (again, Notes).

I calculated 5 Points Plus for 6, 1.5-cup servings. However, if you don't subscribe to WW's "Fruit And Veg By Themselves Are 0 Points But If You Put Them In A Recipe They Suddenly Count" Rule, the Points total would be much lower. Observe in whatever fashion you are comfortable.


1t olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
1T minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red pepper flakes
2t dried rosemary
1/2t salt
3 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1lb red apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch slices
2C apple cider
2C vegetable broth
1T freshly squeezed lime juice


Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add onions to the oil for 5-7 minutes, until translucent.

Add ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary and salt and saute for a minute more.

Add the squash, apples, apple cider and broth.

Cover and bring to a boil. When boiling, lower the heat and simmer briskly for 20 minutes or until squash is tender.

Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Add lime juice and season to taste.

NI per serving

Calories: 200; Total fat: 1.5g; Total carbs: 41g; Fiber: 7g; Protein: 3g.


  • Chopping 3 lbs of squash and 1 lb of apples into 3/4-inch chunks takes some time, so it's not an I'm Starving And I Want Lunch NOW endeavor. And whining while chopping will not make it go faster. Ahem.

  • The soup will be very hot, so if you, say, lick a metal ladle out of impatience, you will burn your tongue. Or so I am told...

  • It's only 1/2t of red pepper flakes, but they give the soup a very nice kick. Nice if you like said kick, not so much if you don't (I'm in the former category).

  • Eating a bowl will make you drink a ton of water because the red pepper makes it spicy. This is good if you're trying to drink more water.