Tag Archives: vegetarian

Who Moved My Cookies?

cookies cover 3Jessie Newman was a smart, sexy, successful Weight Watchers leader, who had it all, until she caught her cheating husband, in the act. After tossing him to the curb, she had to quit the part-time career she loved and wound up stuck in a dead-end job, watching her butt grow. Now, married to a prominent and handsome neurosurgeon, who happens to think she’s cute, cellulite and all, Jessie is ready for a change.

Although it kills Jessie to leave her family, when her new husband, Dr. Tad Newman, gets offered a job in our nation’s capital, this former weight loss guru, still reeling after her failed first marriage, considers this the opportunity she’s been waiting for to quit job she hates, drop the twenty pounds she’s packed on, and embark on a new career.

Happily married at last, Jessie looks forward to letting go of her former life and embarking on a journey of self-improvement. In Who Moved My Cookies?, Jessie sets out to start a new career during a time when companies are downsizing, not hiring. In between tackling online job applications, Jessie works on figuring out the perfect diet while fantasizing about fitting into those clothes she’s been saving since shoulder pads were the height of fashion, even if it means giving up meat and cookies. But not M&M’s. She has her limits. Most importantly, Jessie is determined to make this marriage work, in spite of the many hours her husband is now spending with his sexy new assistant, who just happens to become the subject of the murder mystery she is writing????

As a former Weight Watchers leader who helped thousands lose weight on the Weight Watchers program, I know what it is like to stand in front of the freezer, sneaking a few bites, licks and tastes from the half-gallon containers of mint chocolate chip ice cream and tubes of frozen cookie dough I kept hidden behind the frozen broccoli.

If you can relate to Jessie, or just want a really fun Bridget Jones- type of read, please take a look at Who Moved My Cookies?

Food Porn and Weight Watchers

Did you ever notice how packaged ice cream is at its peak of perfection the moment you bring it home from grocery shopping? OMG…Stop me now.

My sixteen-year gig as a Weight Watchers group leader in the Cleveland suburbs was like doing eleven shows a week at the Improv. Standing in front of a packed house— 20 to 100 members on average— I would mime sneaking a taste of my newly purchased 1/2 gallon container of Pierre’s chocolate-chocolate chip. Opening the lid immediately after placing it on the kitchen counter, not even caring if my other groceries spoiled from neglect, I would attack the carton like a vulture going after his prey. I just needed one taste. One perfect mouthful. I’d swirl my plastic, (yes it had to be a plastic spoon so as not to give a metallic taste to the ice cream), around the top, savoring the creamy goodness at its peak of perfection. I would glance around the room, noticing my members at the edges of their seats, living vicariously through my experience. I’d watch their eyes tearing up, their lips quivering, as if they were watching pornography. In a way, this was our pornography. Food porn. And we loved it. We craved more. We needed to hear other members’ experiences to learn how to deal with our own issues with food. And to know we were not alone in our struggle with our weight.

During the sixteen years I taught Weight Watchers, I feared that if I no longer had to do my weekly/monthly weigh-ins, I’d put back on the weight I had lost years before. That was scary.

Eventually I had to give up my meetings and I have been struggling with the scale ever since.
I’m sharing some of my weight challenges, along with many experiences members have discussed in thousands of my meetings through the voice of my fictional character, Jessie Newman, in my novel: Who Moved My Cookies? available now on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G3Q91CS.

The Confused Vegetarian

Is it just me? Or does anyone else think it’s strange to offer bacon on a Gardenburger?

I asked if it would be possible to pay less than full price for my Gardenburger since I did not want the mandatory cheese and bacon. “Yes,” the nice server agreed. “I’ll go check to see if we can prepare for you a Gardenburger with just lettuce and tomato,” she said.
“Oh, thank you so much. ” I responded.

Why was I  looking forward to a vegetarian meal in a restaurant that served almost everything with bacon? I know it’s silly but they specifically listed Gardenburger on the menu. Since that’s where everyone wanted to eat I was a sport. I’m good at rolling with the punches. I was still optimistic. I even got excited when she offered healthy broccoli instead of the fries.

Gardenburger

Anticipation. Out comes my plate. The broccoli looks fresh. Yum. But the burger doesn’t look right or smell right.

Turkey Burger

“Would they cook this on the grill with the bacon and burgers?” I ask my server who seems to be losing patience with me.

“Of course” my server responds, smiling. Now she’s looking at me like I just stepped off the boat.

I look at my burger again. Being vegetarian for two years I know what a Gardenburger looks like. I touch the patty. “OMG, this is beef! ” I send it back.

The server comes back a few minutes later, laughing. “It wasn’t beef, it was turkey.”

It’s funny when people ask about vegetarianism. “Does that mean you don’t eat fish and chicken?” They ask.

Hummm. I think we need to work on educating the service industry.

Being a real trooper, I ordered a flatbread pizza. What I won’t do for my family:)

Pizza

It was yummy.
By the way,  “I don’t eat anything with a face. “

The World’s Best Cook!

I miss my Mom most at the holidays. After she succumbed to her two year battle with cancer years ago, we felt some relief knowing she would no longer wince in agony with each an every movement. The morphine helped alleviate some of the pain, but not all. I felt so guilty, wiping a tear from my eye, selfishly thinking I’ll never again taste her chicken soup. If it was such good medicine, why couldn’t it cure her cancer? Maybe the secret is having someone else make it for you. I tried to make it for her, but mine was not as good. It didn’t work.

My Mom was the world’s best cook, and the world’s worst cook. Although we spent countless hours cooking together in the kitchen while I was growing up, I had never realized that the secret to her cooking was in the burning. Yes, that’s right. It was the burnt foods that tasted the best. No, not the burnt parts, but the parts that were right next to the burnt parts that were the most flavorful. Before Food TV taught us to caramelize our onions, my Mom would almost burn them. They were delicious.

Standing at the kitchen counter by her side growing up I learned her secret to killer chocolate brownies was adding a little coffee to the batter. We would taste the batter over and over to make sure it was absolutely perfect before serving it to company. Maybe that’s why we both had a weight problem. We were perfectionists. Sadly, as the tumor attached to her spine grew, her appetite diminished. As I was the one cooking, she no longer got to enjoy the tasting part. Although she praised my creations, her appetite was gone. No matter how hard I tried to please her, eventually she found little enjoyment in food.

Instead of cooking, we began spending a lot of time shopping. The exercise was good for her. And with her diminished appetite, her clothes were starting to get loose. We splurged on vibrantly colored workout suits. She found the cutest gold purse to hold her portable chemo pump. She was by far the most fashionable patient on the oncology ward as well as most stylish shopper at the supermarket. With only a few months remaining in her life, we laughed as acquaintances, those who didn’t know she suffered from cancer, commented on how “she never looked better!” What a cruel irony.

After my Mom passed away, a mere five years after my Dad succumbed to heart failure, I found her recipe collection. In her memory I was determined to duplicate her fabulous chicken soup, her world renowned Mandelbrot and most important, her to-die-for chopped liver. I know, not everyone is a fan of chopped liver. But hers was killer. It was the only food I liked better than chocolate.

I tried and I tried to duplicate her recipe. I sautéed the onions and liver. I added the chicken schmaltz just like she said. I added a little raw onion and hard boiled eggs. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and chopped it by hand with the same chopping blade she had used for over forty years. It was close, but not perfect. Something was missing. I tried again, and again. Not ready to give up I put the onions and the liver in the pan, on low heat, and thought I was safe going to the bathroom for a few minutes. I was wrong. I smelled something coming from the kitchen and checked to make sure the house wasn’t burning down like the time I burned the kitchen as a teenager broiling lamb chops. But that’s a different story. I was worried about my kitchen, but mostly, my chopped liver. I got there just in time. The liver was dry and charred, but not ruined. The onions were black. I went ahead and finished making the recipe. Oh My God. It was perfect! The secret, I found out, was that the liver had to dry out and the onions had to almost burn to bring out the sweetness. Yum!

Since becoming vegetarian, I no longer make real chopped liver. But I developed a recipe that tastes really close. And since there is no liver involved, everyone is willing to try it.

Mock Chopped Liver – Vegan

2 cups water

1 cup lentils

2 teaspoons vegetarian chicken flavoring

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large onion

Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine water, lentils and vegetarian chicken flavoring in a pot and cook for about 40 minutes, until tender. Drain if there is any liquid left. Sauté the onion in the olive oil. Combine lentils and onion and “chop” with a handheld beater. Season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.

Serve on challah, matzo, crackers or toast. Enjoy!

This is perfect for break-the-fast. Happy New Year to all.