Perfect Potato Wedges

The key to great potato wedges is not to wedge them.  Instead, slice them.  That way the pieces are uniform thickness, so they’ll be the same done-ness throughout.  I get pretty much perfect results using this recipe/technique every time.

Ingredients:

  • Russet  potato
  • Oil of choice (I like to use cooking spray as the potatoes don’t stick as much with it)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Other spices as desired

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Slice the potato into approximately 1/4 inch slices
  • Spread/Spray small amount of oil on a small sheet pan.
  • Sprinkle oiled pan with salt.
  • Place potato wedges on pan and press into oil.
  • Spread/Spray a small amount of oil on top of the wedges.
  • Salt, pepper, and use any additional spices (rosemary would be nice)
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the wedges and cook an additional 10 minutes*.
  • Remove, and allow to cool long enough not to burn your mouth.
  • Serve and eat.

*10 minutes works 90% of the time.  If the slices are thicker than usual, or if you live at high elevation, try letting them go for another 5 minutes.  The tops should be brown.  If you see the tops blister, then pull them out; they’re done.

Calories/Macros

When I used to make this with coconut oil or olive oil, I used about half a teaspoon of oil.  With the cooking spray, the bottle is anywhere from 0-5 grams lighter after using it.  Either way, you’re talking probably less than 3-4 grams of fat (30ish calories).  So the vast majority of calories come from the potato.

Even a massive 350g potato only has 62g of carbohydrates and 260 calories (including a bonus of 7g of protein).  Compare that to 350g of French Fries (using Wendy’s fries as a comparison) with 1192 calories (partly because cooked potatoes have less water).  Okay, let’s do an apple to apple…uh…potato to potato comparison.  If you eat the same amount of carbohydrate (62g) of French Fries, you get 475 calories.

So the potato wedges have about 200 calories less than an equivalent amount of fries due to the lower amount of fat.  This let’s you eat more chocolate!

Swiss Chard au Gratin

Swiss Chard au Gratin

Who knew that Swiss chard was amazingly awesome and delicious?  I didn’t…until we got some from one of those “meal box” services.  So I had to cook it, and it turned out to be so good that I’ve made the dish four more times.  So without further ado, here’s the recipe.  I’ve modified it to have slightly less fat (as I prefer to eat mine in the form of chocolate).

Ingredients:

  • One bunch Swiss Chard (rainbow or single color)
  • 8 oz of cubed butternut squash (we use the frozen organic stuff from BJs)
  • Onion or shallot diced
  • One clove garlic minced
  • 2 oz shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup of milk (preferably whole)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Cut the stems off of the Swiss chard and chop into pieces about the same size as the squash or onion
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the chard stems and onion and a large pinch of salt.
  4. While the stems and onion saute, slice the chard leaves into smaller pieces (I usually go about 1.5 – 2 inch squares)
  5. When the stems and onion has softened, add the garlic, and thyme.  Stir until squash begins to soften.
  6. Add the huge pile of chard leaves and more salt.  Turn until it wilts (about 2-3 minutes)
  7. Stir in the gruyere and milk. Turn the heat to low and allow to thicken a minute or two.
  8. Taste the sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Transfer the mixture to a small casserole dish and top with panko bread crumbs.
  10. Cook covered for 10 minutes and then uncovered for 5-7 minutes until bread crumbs are brown
  11. Remove from oven and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

You’re welcome.

I usually eat half the recipe.  Macros on this are approximately:

  • 365 calories
  • 16g protein
  • 36g carbs
  • 19g fat

And yes, you just ate half of that enormous bunch of greens.  Don’t you feel so healthy?  Almost virtuous.

Earlier I mentioned that this came from a food box service.  Jen and I have tried several of these including HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Sun Basket, and Plated.  By far, my favorite one is Plated where this recipe came from, and the top photo is from their recipe card.  Apparently there’s no way for me to refer you to them and get credit for it, so this post is free of commercial interest.

Livin la Vida Extreme Sports addition

Although I’m known at work as a mild-mannered pharmacology nerd with mad computer skillz, my first love is “extreme” sports and physical challenges.  Recently, Jen treated me to two fun physical challenges, flying trapeze and flyboarding.  Here are the videos:

Flyboarding

This was my first time flyboarding. It’s really fun, but has a bit of a learning curve.  This video is the result of a 25 minute session cut down to two and a half minutes.  The key is to somehow lock your ankles and knees but keep your body relaxed.  You can see on my better attempts that my ankles/feet stay in the same position.  On my less stable attempts, you can see how unstable my ankle angle is.  I hear that the second and third time sessions are dramatically easier than the first attempt.  It’ll be fun to do this again.  This was at SoFlo Flyboarding. Kids have to be 80 lbs minimum.  Can’t wait till the kids are little heavier…Jen! Can we feed Logan more?

Flying Trapeze

This was actually my second time doing the trapeze, but the first time was more than two years ago.  This was an Aerial Trapeze Academy Groupon.  With the Groupon, you only get to do the beginner session, which is three practice swings, where you try to get into the knee hang/transfer position.  If you can successfully get into that position, then on the fourth swing, you get to to try for a mid air catch.  They also do birthday parties and private groups.  Kids can do it as young as 4 years old, and they work with autistic kids.  Once you’ve done the beginner session, you can do more advanced stuff.  This is really easy and fun if you have any amount of athleticism/body control.  Highly recommended. PSA: Hanging from the bar with your knees can give you friction burns.  If you have leggings or tights, you should wear them.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Who doesn’t like chicken tortilla soup?  Nobody.  That’s who.  So let’s make some delicious high protein, soup.

Step 1.  Make start with my Taco Shredded Recipe
Step 2. Make the soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 cans green chiles (these or these)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
  • 3 tbsp masa (more for a thicker soup) (Masa is corn flour, NOT corn meal.)
  • 2 ancho chiles (dried poblanos)
  • 2 guajillo chiles
  • 1.5 lbs taco shredded chicken*
  • 1 can corn (Or 2 cups frozen corn)
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • Cilantro
Note: I usually make it with a pound and a half of taco shredded chicken for Jen and add extra chicken when I serve it for me.  But you could start with more chicken if you like.

Directions:

  1. Sweat onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil (medium heat with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent)
  2. Add garlic and sweat another minute or two (don’t let it burn)
  3. Add green chiles and allow the juice to evaporate a bit before doing the next step, or it will clump.
  4. Add masa and stir until evenly coated
  5. Add tomatoes and then pour in chicken stock and being to a boil
  6. Rip up chiles and toss them in (or cut them with scissors)
  7. Add chicken
  8. Turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes
  9. Add corn, simmer 10 more minutes
  10. Add lime juice
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
  12. Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream and cilantro (Nonfat Greek Yogurt works pretty well instead of sour cream if you just have to up your protein)
 And voila!  Or should I say Olé!  Chicken Tortilla Soup fit for a king with macros to boot.

To log it in MyFitnessPal,

1. Create a recipe
2. Log all of the ingredients
3. Measure the total volume of soup in cups or mL or whatever you use.
4. Now when you serve it up, just log the number of cups you dish out.
5. Log extra chicken and garnish separately.
A Fat Loss Year in Review (with before-after photos)

A Fat Loss Year in Review (with before-after photos)

It’s been almost a year exactly since my weight loss journey began (if you start the year from my bout of the flu).  Just a warning.  At the end of this post there will be before and after photos.  If half-naked, middle aged men offend you, don’t scroll down.

The Beginning

I started out the year at 212 pounds give or give a few pounds.

The Flu

I lost 6 pounds on the Flu (no appetite plus fever plus diarrhea will do that to you).  No telling how much of the weight was just water.  But hey it was a start.  I’d better capitalize on it.

Going Keto

I lost 8 more pounds on three weeks of Atkins/Ketogenic diet.  Ketogienic diets cause a fair amount of water loss, so not all of it was fat, but it was fairly effortless.  Ketogenic dieting is pretty brainless.  “How many carbs are in this food.  Okay, I can’t eat it…or I can only eat this much.”

But after I started tracking my calories, I realized the real reason I was probably losing so much weight is that when you have a hefty soda, junk food, and dessert habit, when you cut out those carbs, you also cut out all that fat too, leading to a massive calorie restriction.  You just don’t realize how few calories you’re eating…or at least I didn’t  I guesstimated that on average I was only eating 1200-1600 calories per day even though I thought I was eating way more.

Flexible Dieting/IIFYM

On February 21, I switched to a flexible dieting/”If it fits your macros” approach along with strength training.  I can eat whatever I want (within reason) as long as I hit my calorie and protein targets.  This leads to the concept of tradeoffs.  For example, almonds are often touted in the Paleo/Keto world, but chocolate has fewer calories and is more satisfying. SOLD!

I immediately gained 2.5 pounds, which I attribute mainly to increased water retention as I was no longer in ketosis.  I stayed on Aggressive Fat Loss until September 1, when I weighed 166 pounds.  I hadn’t weighed  166 pounds since I worked as a Lifeguard and Beach Attendant in 1995.  Only this time I had better abs.

Bulking up

On September 2, I officially started bulking.  I kicked off the bulk with a two day cruise where I just ate whatever I wanted which happened to include two entrees for dinner every night.  This was the first time I had eaten breakfast since starting Aggressive Fat Loss.  I later estimated that I ate 2000 calories just for breakfast on the cruise.  I gained an impressive 10 pounds on the cruise although a large part of it was water that I lost over the next few days.

I bulked through Christmas ending up at 184 pounds (18 pounds heavier than my lightest on September 1).  I absolutely LOVED the eating, but I didn’t like the look.  Yes, I gained muscle as was the plan, but I also gained fat, and I much preferred having more defined abs.  I could have gained a bit more muscle, but I tweaked my shoulder (while playing, not while lifting) and was unable to push the weight on bench press and overhead press.

The Final Countdown

The Monday after Christmas, I started cutting again.  As of this writing, I am 176 pounds.  I plan on continuing to cut until I have a true six pack.  I guesstimate that if I was able to put on 5 pounds of muscle during the bulk and keep it through my cut, that I will end up around 165 pounds.  If I was able to gain and keep more muscle, it will be little heavier.  From there, I plan to do a series of very lean bulk cycles, gaining no more than 10 pounds over six months and pretty much stay between 165 and 175 for as long as I can.

Some final thoughts

I am incredibly thankful that I found flexible dieting.  It works and is very sustainable.  When I started the journey I would have been happy with just losing 10-15 pounds.  I never dreamed that I would end up looking better at 42 than when I did at 22.  And I have flexible dieting to thank for giving me the hope to not only make it a goal but see it through to fruition.

Before and After fat loss

At 42, I had better abs than when I was 22!

But this isn’t just about looks.  I’m much stronger, have better blood pressure, resting heart rate, fasting glucose, and cholesterol levels than before.  I have more energy now and generally feel better.  And most importantly I know I can keep this up for years.  (Note that I mean the lifestyle, not the calorie deficit.  You only need a deficit to lose weight.  After that you can eat more.)

My brother had a lot of success with a ketogenic diet.  I had always had a not-so-secret love affair with low-carb diets, so based on his experience, I did it too.  Despite the initial weight loss, it just wasn’t much fun after a while.  So I left it for flexible dieting, which I was able to stick with until my goal.  My brother on the other hand eventually stopped from not being able to sleep well and leg cramps.  According to him, if you google “Atkins le” or “ketogenic le”, Google will suggest leg cramps.

Most people who diet fail to keep the weight off, and I can understand why.  You can’t just go back to whatever you were doing before and expect to keep the weight off.  You have to maintain your lifestyle changes for the weight change to become permanent.  And the beauty of my current diet is that I can truly eat whatever I want within reason.  I can have a large cheat meal or cheat cruise…as long as I adjust my calories before or after.  I can eat dessert every day (much to the chagrin of my wife who thinks treats aren’t treats if you get to eat them every day).

There’s nothing magical about any particular program.  All you need are the following components:

  • A solid caloric deficit
  • Adequate protein to maintain muscle mass
  • An eating plan that you enjoy so you can make the process sustainable.
  • Strength workouts to convince your body to hold on to muscle (otherwise you’ll lose quite a bit of muscle along with that fat)

I should also give a shout out to Radu Antoniu, whose videos are some of the most informative, entertaining, and well edited out there in the fitness world.  His program Shred Smart is also worth looking at even though you can learn everything you need to know from this free videos.

Heck you if you want to pay me to hold your hand through the process, I’d be happy to do it.  Just e-mail me at holdmyhand@patheyman.com.